Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/2/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/2/2009George Galloway was not allowed into Canada, so he appeared before his adoring Canadian fans via an internet video connection. He told them he was not a terrorist, despite his ties with Hamas.

In other news, North Korea is fuelling a rocket in preparation for launch.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, LJH, Nilk, Steen, TB, Tuan Jim, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Brown Unveils Historic $1 Trillion Deal as G20 Vows to Rescue World Economy and Crack Down on Reckless Bankers
Eurozone Unemployment ‘Rises to 8.5%’
Feds May Seek Stimulus Funds for State
Obama’s Budget Director Says Only Governor Can Seek Stimulus Funds
Real Estate: Turkey to Simplify Purchase for Foreigners
Russia Backs Return to Gold Standard to Solve Financial Crisis
Stimulus Ruling Puts Pressure on Governors Who Oppose it
Turkey: Elections, AKP Support Falls, Premier Party Just 39%
‘Income Redistribution’ Coming in Dem Budget
Mexico’s Fox Wants European Union Here
Robert Spencer: Shariah OK With Obama’s Top Lawyer
The Crackpot Mentor of State Department Nominee
“I Am Not a Terrorist, “ Galloway Tells Ottawa Crowd
Canada: Conservatives Renew Bid to Holster Gun Registry
Ottawa Judge Given RCMP Protection
Europe and the EU
Anti-Iran Movement Gains Momentum in Europe
Decision of the Davis Cup Committee
Denmark: Veiled Woman Removed From Bus in Denmark
Denmark: Fear Threatens Freedom of Speech
Easter: Spain; Processions Among Sacred, Profane, Politics
Gambia: Dutch Man Faces Prison for Gambian Insult
Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party Rises to 32 Seats
Ireland: Electronic Tagging for Exiles of ‘High Net Worth’ Proposed
Most Migrants in Vienna Schools
Munich Museum Opens IKEA ‘Democratic Design’ Exhibition
Netherlands: Report Points to Increased Animal Rights Violence
Netherlands: MPs Question New Moroccan Citizenship Rule
Norway Anti-Immigration Opposition Party Wins Support
Sweden: Glass Found in Falun Sausage
UK: Father-of-Two Beaten to Death by Gang After Police Ignore Six 999 Calls From Victim and Neighbours
UK: G20 Protesters Pay Tribute After Demo Death
UK: Jacqui Smith Allows in Hizbollah Man
UK: Man Who Died During G20 Protest Was Walking Home From Work
UK: Riot Police Storm G20 Protesters’ Squats Amid Fears of Fresh Violence in City of London
UK: Undercover With the Anarchist Mob: How the Mail Infiltrated the Group at Heart of the Violence
UK: Veteran Faces Homelessness After Return to Home Town
Balkans: Italian Troops to Remain in Kosovo
North Africa
Egypt: NATO Sec.Gen. Must Understand Muslims
Nuclear: Algeria, France Should Decontaminate
Terrorism: Algeria, No to Ransom Payments for Kidnapped
Transport: Suez Canal Revenues Down 9.2% in February, Idsc
Israel and the Palestinians
Ax Attack Kills Teen in West Bank
Jordan: Water; Desalination Plant to End Supply From Israel
Mediterranean Games: Pavoncello (Maccabi), Protest in Pescara
Middle East
Lebanon: Hariri Court; Assad, No Guarantee on Politicization
Saudi Court Upholds Canadian Beheading Sentence
Turkish Honor Killings
Bomb Blows Hole in Lenin Statue
South Asia
Afghanistan: National Post Editorial Board: Hamid Karzai’s Giant Step Backward
Energy Nepalese Prime Minister in Norway and Finland to Seek Investment
Indian Ocean Former Colony Votes to Become French
Indonesia: President Eyes Decree to Save Corruption Court
Indonesia: Christians Fear Gains by Islamic Parties in Elections
Indonesia: Polygamous Indonesia Politicians May Lose Female Votes
Singapore: ‘Singaporean’ Linked to Crisis
Tajikistan: New Synagogue of Dushanbe to Open Soon
Video: Radicals Beat Girl, 17, in Islamic Stronghold of Swat, Pakistan
Far East
Asia: North Korea Threatens to Shoot Down U.S. Planes in Its Airspace
China Toughens Stance on Role of Rich Nations in Climate Effort
N. Korea Fuelling Rocket
Australia — Pacific
Australian Defence Minister’s Free Trips to China
Latin America
Venezuela: Chavez Officials Set Trial for Hounded Venezuela Opposition Leader Rosales for April 20
Venezuela: Prisoners From Guantánamo Would be Welcome in Venezuela
Immigrant Landings Will Stop May 15, Maroni
Mediterranean: Roy, Europe Should See Migration Differently
Mexican Asylum Seekers on Rise in Vancouver
Spain: 54 Arrested for Human Trafficking

Financial Crisis

Brown Unveils Historic $1 Trillion Deal as G20 Vows to Rescue World Economy and Crack Down on Reckless Bankers

  • $5tn to be injected into global economy by 2010
  • $100bn committed to freeing up trade
  • clampdown on hedge funds, tax havens and credit rating agencies
  • a clean-up of the banking system
  • worldwide curbs on bankers’ pay and bonuses

A historic $1trillion (£683billion) deal to boost the global economy was agreed today after a tense day of negotiations at the G20 summit.

The huge package, signed off by world leaders after the key meeting in London, will be used to boost growth, prop up struggling economies and try to save millions of jobs.

Measures were also agreed to clean up the financial system, clamp down on tax havens and hedge funds and to curb reckless bankers.

Gordon Brown said: ‘This is the day that the world came together to fight back against the global recession, not with words but with a plan for global recovery and for reform and with a clear timetable for its delivery.’

As part of the package, the International Monetary Fund saw its reserves more than tripled to $1trillion.

Another $100billion will be used to open up new lines of credit in the hope of encouraging countries to increase trading.

And an increase in ‘special drawing rights’ made available by the IMF worth $250billion was also agreed.

These can be converted into currency for a swift cash injection to boost confidence.

There was no co-ordinated global fiscal stimulus, as had been originally hoped by Gordon Brown and President Barack Obama.

France and Germany had been vehemently opposed to yet more spending. They also insisted on far tighter financial regulation and curbs on bankers’ pay and bonuses.

The cap was a key issue for the two countries, who had threatened to wreck the deal if their demands were not met.

Banking regulation is also due to be strengthened to avoid another financial crisis and there will be a worldwide crackdown on bankers’ pay and bonuses and tax havens.

The cap was a key point for France and Germany, who had threatened to wreck the deal if their demands were not met.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Eurozone Unemployment ‘Rises to 8.5%’

BRUSSELS (AFP) — Unemployment in the 16 countries using the euro rose in February to 8.5 percent to hit the highest level in close to three years, according to official EU data on Wednesday.

The unemployment rate hit the highest level since May 2006 in February as an estimated 319,000 jobs were shed across the single currency bloc, the European Union’s Eurostat data agency said.

The eurozone joblessness rate stood at 8.3 percent in January and 7.2 percent in February 2008.

“Extended and now deep economic contraction, extremely weak business confidence and deteriorating profitability is weighing down ever harder on labour markets,” IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer said.

After gradually falling in recent years to a record low of 7.2 percent in March 2008, unemployment in the then 15 eurozone countries began creeping higher from April 2008 in the face of a deteriorating economic outlook.

For the 27-nation EU as a whole, unemployment rose in February to 7.9 percent from 7.7 percent in January and 6.8 percent in February 2008.

Eurostat said that it estimated that 19.156 million people were without a job in February across the EU, of which 13.486 million were in the eurozone.

Economists said that unemployment was likely to keep marching higher, which would weigh heavily on the European economy, putting even more pressure on already timid consumers.

“Indeed, given the usual lag between developments in the labour market and those in wider activity, we see the unemployment rate rising to 10 percent by around the middle of this year,” said Jennifer McKeown at Capital Economics.

“Unfortunately, such a rapid deterioration in the labour market looks set to offset the positive impact of falling inflation on real incomes,” she added.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Feds May Seek Stimulus Funds for State

COLUMBIA — A White House official said Wednesday that only Gov. Mark Sanford can apply for nearly $700 million available in federal stimulus funds, but U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that even if Sanford turns down the money he still plans to seek funding for the state because of the poor condition of South Carolina education.

“To stand on the sideline and say that the status quo is OK there and that the children are well served, it simply defies logic and is not reality,” Duncan told reporters.

Asked if he was developing a plan to send the money to the state in the event Sanford didn’t ask for it, Duncan replied he was, then rattled off several facts about education in the state that bothered him.

Duncan said that only 15 percent of African-American children in the state are proficient at math and 12 percent at reading. He said the state has the nation’s fourth worst graduate rate for freshman.

“Those are heartbreaking results,” he said. “Those are children that if we don’t do something dramatically different for them will never have a chance to compete in today’s economy.”

Duncan’s agency said Wednesday that only Montana and South Carolina haven’t applied for the funds.

Sandra Abrevaya, a spokeswoman for Duncan, said the White House was correct that only Sanford could apply for the money. She said Duncan plans to work with the state’s congressional delegation to find another way to get the money. “There would have to be some sort of congressional amendment or bill,” she said. “The intent would be to get the funding that was intended for the classrooms in South Carolina.”

Duncan’s comments came on the same day that state senators took to the floor to beg the governor to accept the funds or fumed about his stance; some members of Congress urged Sanford to take the money; and hundreds of citizens rallied at the Statehouse to try to change the governor’s mind.

He has until midnight Friday to accept the funds.

Sanford has said he will only accept the $700 million — part of $2.8 billion in stimulus money available to the state over two years — if lawmakers agree to spend the same amount to reduce the state’s debt.

Sanford for months has protested the federal stimulus legislation, arguing it will only heap debt on taxpayers and not cure the economy. He said accepting the $700 million for the budget will only postpone dramatic pain to agencies for two years, when the money runs out.

Lawmakers argue that rejecting the money will in effect send South Carolina taxpayers’ money to other states without any of the benefits. And without the stimulus, they argue, thousands of teachers will lose their jobs, tuition will be hiked by double digits at state colleges and prisons will close.

Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, met Wednesday afternoon with Sanford in his Senate office about the issue and told reporters afterward that the meeting was “utterly fruitless.”

“He offered no compromise, no stepping back from the cliff upon which he has plunked our state,” Leatherman said, who accused Sanford of becoming “personal” in the meeting and telling Leatherman he just wanted “to grow government.”

Joel Sawyer, a spokesman for Sanford, said Leatherman’s complaints were an attempt “to distract from the real issue here: the governor has offered a very reasonable middle ground in taking a quarter of the stimulus money and using it to pay down debt.” Sawyer said the governor is continuing to work with some legislators on a plan to spend the money on debt.

Leatherman said he told the governor the state couldn’t afford to use the stimulus on debt and is already in a bind over the potential loss of federal matching dollars if further cuts are made to education and Medicaid agencies.

One of Sanford’s closest allies in Congress, Rep. Bob Inglis of Travelers Rest, on Wednesday urged Sanford to accept the funds.

“It’s like this,” he told the Gannett Washington Bureau, “a table full of food has been prepared. And South Carolina is going to join the other 49 states in paying for the food. That being the case, it seems irrational to me to refuse the sustenance.”

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has also urged Sanford to accept the money, on Wednesday released a letter to him by Peter Orszag, the White House budget director, who said Sanford, not lawmakers, has to apply for the stimulus money. But Orszag said Congress should change the law.

“It would be unfortunate (and we believe unintended) policy outcome if the children of South Carolina were to be deprived of their share of federal stimulus dollars, which South Carolina citizens have already paid for,” he wrote.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the House Majority Whip, had tried to head off this week’s crisis by inserting language in the stimulus legislation allowing legislators to bypass governors who don’t accept the funds.

Clyburn on Wednesday said in response to the White House letter that Sanford’s refusal of the money would cut education funding for two-thirds of the state’s children who would have been helped by the money.

Meanwhile, on the state Senate floor, Sen. John Land, leader of Senate Democrats and the Senate’s longest-serving member, displayed what he called the “countdown clock to chaos,” showing the time left before Sanford has to make a decision.

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler asked the governor to change his mind, “pretty please with sugar on top.” Others called Sanford “Don Quixote” or suggested his actions were influenced by White House ambitions.

Sen. Michael Rose, a Dorchester County Republican, pleaded for a compromise.

“This is mutually assured destruction. That’s what we’re headed for,” he told the Senate. “This is too serious to risk brinksmanship.”

But three of Rose’s resolutions, non-binding statements that he said were attempts to reach out to the governor, were sent to Leatherman’s committee, where he predicted they would die.

Leatherman said if Sanford doesn’t apply for the money Friday, he will seek passage on the first available legislative day afterward of a resolution asking for the stimulus money, as allowed by Clyburn’s provision.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Budget Director Says Only Governor Can Seek Stimulus Funds

A senior Obama administration official has told U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham that he agrees that the $700 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds for South Carolina can be drawn down only by Gov. Mark Sanford.

Graham voted against the federal economic stimulus bill, but he has since said he thinks South Carolina should accept the money, because state taxpayers will have to help pay it back and the money is likely to be spent in another state if it is not spent here.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell agreed. Greg Foster said that, though many Republicans opposed passage of the federal stimulus bill, it is now law, and S.C. taxpayers are on the hook to repay the money, whether they spend it or not.

Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to Graham that, in the opinion of federal attorneys, only the governor can apply for the funds.

“I don’t think this is a partisan decision at all,” Foster said about the administration’s interpretation. “The law is clear. Where this money is concerned, it’s the governor’s decision.

“The solution to this is very simple: Gov. Sanford needs to certify that money by midnight Friday because South Carolina taxpayers are going to have to repay it,” Foster said.

Foster noted that the state House of Representatives voted 108-8 to accept all funds available to the state from the federal stimulus law. He also added that Sanford already has approved and asked for hundreds of millions of dollars from the stimulus bill.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., has said he put language in the law that would allow the state Legislature to apply for the funds if the governor failed to do so.

But Orszag cited “significant ambiguities” in the law and an analysis by the Congressional Research Service and said, “Legislative action pursuant to Section 1607(B) would not suffice for a state to accept stabilization fund monies absent the governor submitting the required application.”

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Orszag’s letter confirms what the governor has always believed: that he had the final say over this part of the stimulus money.

“The governor has consistently said he would take this portion of the stimulus money, less than 10% of the total, or about 25% of what’s coming to state government, if we can avoid the $740 million annualization trap by instead paying down debt,” Sawyer said. “We’re hopeful that the Legislature will agree to pay down debt, and the ball is very much in their court.” Orszag’s letter said that some stimulus funds can be allocated by the Legislature but that the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund allocation must be requested by Sanford.

“Administration lawyers have considered the various provisions at issue and, based on their advice, we have determined that Section 1607(b) does allow the state Legislature to make available to a state recovery act funds in a number of areas in the event that the governor does not certify acceptance of recovery act funds,” Orszag wrote.

“However, for a state to access its allocation of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the governor must submit an application to the secretary of education, and there currently is no provision in the recovery act for the state Legislature to make such an application in lieu of the governor for the state’s allocation of the State Stabilization Fund,” he continued.

“It would be an unfortunate (and we believe unintended) policy outcome if the children of South Carolina were to be deprived of their share of federal stimulus dollars, which South Carolina citizens already have paid for, because the governor chooses not to apply for the available funds, especially in circumstances where the state Legislature would be willing to make application on behalf of the state if it were allowed by statute to do so,” Orszag wrote.

Graham said Orszag’s letter supports his view of the law’s provisions.

“OMB’s opinion is in line with what I believe to be the correct interpretation of the law,” Graham said.

He agreed with Foster, Harrell’s spokesman, that despite his disapproval, the stimulus package was made law, and the money must be repaid, so South Carolina should use it.

“I voted against the stimulus package because it was too large, unfocused, created too much debt and too few jobs. However, the choice for South Carolina now is whether to accept the stabilization funding or see the money go to another state,” he continued. “We can refuse to accept it, but we cannot refuse to pay it back. Based on that dilemma, I believe it is in South Carolina’s best interests to apply for these funds. They will do some good.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Real Estate: Turkey to Simplify Purchase for Foreigners

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 25 — The Turkish government has launched efforts to simplify procedures and minimize formalities hindering real estate purchases by foreign buyers in Turkey, the Anatolia news agency reported. Representatives from the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Treasury Undersecretary, the Land Registry and Cadastre General Directorate, the Security General Directorate, the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), the International Investors Association (YASED) and the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) met recently to find solutions for the problems foreign buyers face during real estate purchases. Reports indicate that demand for real estate from foreign companies and individuals has dropped significantly as a result of the ongoing global financial crisis as well as a recently introduced regulation requiring that foreign buyers secure approval from the governor’s office in the province where the real estate they are purchasing is located. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia Backs Return to Gold Standard to Solve Financial Crisis

Russia has become the first major country to call for a partial restoration of the Gold Standard to uphold discipline in the world financial system.

Arkady Dvorkevich, the Kremlin’s chief economic adviser, said Russia would favour the inclusion of gold bullion in the basket-weighting of a new world currency based on Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund.

Chinese and Russian leaders both plan to open debate on an SDR-based reserve currency as an alternative to the US dollar at the G20 summit in London this week, although the world may not yet be ready for such a radical proposal.

Mr Dvorkevich said it was “logical” that the new currency should include the rouble and the yuan, adding that “we could also think about more effective use of gold in this system”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Stimulus Ruling Puts Pressure on Governors Who Oppose it

White House budget director Peter Orszag says a state legislature can’t apply for funds from a key pot of education money from President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan if its governor fails to do so.

With governors facing a Friday deadline to seek their states’ shares of $48.6 billion in the recovery package’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Orszag’s opinion puts more pressure on a handful of Republican governors who oppose the stimulus plan Obama signed into law Feb. 17.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and the White House on Wednesday each released Orszag’s response to Graham’s request for an administration ruling on the thorny issue.

“For a state to access its allocation of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the governor must submit an application to the secretary of education, and there currently is no provision in the Recovery Act for the state legislature to make such an application in lieu of the governor for a state’s allocation,” Orszag wrote to Graham.

Last month, the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress, concluded that it likely would be unconstitutional for a legislature to supplant a governor in accepting and using economic stimulus money.

Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who directly challenged Obama over the stimulus plan before his presidential inauguration, last month became the first governor to say he’d reject $700 million from the fund intended for his state.

Republican Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska, Rick Perry of Texas and Haley Barbour of Mississippi have said they’d reject some of the stimulus money. Sanford, though, is the only governor to date who’s said he’d turn aside the education funds to rebuild schools and hire or retain teachers.

The Republican-controlled South Carolina General Assembly has crafted legislation to request the money, but Orszag’s letter suggests the Obama administration wouldn’t recognize or act on such a law were the legislature to pass it.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, crafted a provision in the stimulus bill that authorizes state legislatures to seek stimulus money that governors reject.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Elections, AKP Support Falls, Premier Party Just 39%

(by Furio Morroni) (ANSAmed) — ANKARA — The Islam-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP, led by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan) has won the administrative elections which took place yesterday in Turkey.. AKP remained the country’s foremost party, but has emerged from the ballot much reduced compared to the 2004 administrative elections and the 2007 political elections. Erdogan’s image has also suffered, as he had been referring to the vote as a sort of referendum on his last six years of government. This morning, with 99% of the votes counted, the AKP was at 39.02% — two points lower than in 2004 and a hefty eight points down on 2007. The result puts Erdogan in the uncomfortable position of having to turn the microscope on himself to explain why his political line up ‘has begun to lose blood” for the first time. Experts say that amongst the possible causes for the decline is the ire of tens of thousands of Turkish workers who wanted to ‘punish” a government which has been widely accused of having underestimated the global economic crisis for too long, with Erdogan himself insisting that the crisis will only have a marginal effect on the country. But perhaps the fact that thousands of orthodox Muslims feel betrayed by the premier, who has often denied the Islamic roots of the party in pro-European circles, has also dragged the party’s support down. This hypothesis would appear to find proof in the fact that the small pro-Islamist Felicity Party (Saadet) won 5.6% of votes yesterday, more than double the miserly 2.6% the party achieved in 2007. The Republican People’s Party (CHP, social democrat, opposition) won a notable 23.27% of votes compared to the 18.30% taken in 2004’s administrative elections and the 20.80% won in 2007’s political elections. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also made gains, winning 16.16% compared to the 10% it received in 2004 and 14.25% in 2007. Looking at the mayoral appointments in the country’s main cities, the AKP kept hold of its seats in Istanbul and Ankara despite losing ground. The CHP stayed on top at its Izmir (Smirne) stronghold, whilst the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) won the biggest city in south-eastern Turkey, Diyarbakir, with 65% of preferential votes. Election day was marred, however, by serious clashes of supporters of opposing political parties in various localities, particularly in south-eastern Turkey, which caused at least six deaths and about a hundred injuries. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


‘Income Redistribution’ Coming in Dem Budget

The nation needs to face the fact that income will be redistributed and health care rationed under a federal budget plan being moved through Congress at the behest of President Obama, according to an official who served under President Clinton.

The plan, according to Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, said Obama “wants to make permanent all the tax cuts from those years [2001 and 2003] for people making up to $250,000 a year and frankly to redistribute income a bit in a fair way so he would raise taxes on those above $250,000.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mexico’s Fox Wants European Union Here

Tells Texas audience he wants ‘integration’ to speed up

The former president of Mexico told a Texas audience he envisions a European Union-like plan working well across North America, and he would like the “integration” process to speed up.

The comments raised red flags for officials with Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who wrote, “Does everyone understand now why they have let over 15 million illegal aliens enter and remain in the U.S.?”


The report said Fox acknowledged the difficulty of establishing such a union in the Americas because of opposition, but he noted the ascent to the White House of President Barack Obama and his administration.

“Hope is back again,” Fox said.

He said the North American Free Trade Agreement, which already is in place, has been a “success,” raising the annual per capita income in Mexico from $3,500 to $8,500.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Robert Spencer: Shariah OK With Obama’s Top Lawyer

President Obama has tabbed the former dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, to become the legal adviser for the State Department. Among numerous questionable and controversial statements, Koh has said that the “war on terror” — a term which the Obama Administration has already quietly abandoned, was “obsessive.” And in a 2007 speech, according to a lawyer who was in the audience, Koh opined that “in an appropriate case, he didn’t see any reason why sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States.”

Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Koh waved the incident away: “I had heard that some guy…had asked a question about sharia law, and that Dean Koh had said something about that while there are obvious differences among the many different legal systems, they also share some common legal concepts.”…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

The Crackpot Mentor of State Department Nominee

[Comments from JD: Lots more nightmarish views of these World Federalists at the article link.]

With the nomination of Harold Hongju Koh, the Dean of Yale Law School, as the Legal Adviser for the State Department, President Barack Obama is putting a world government team in place under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The other key appointment was Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as Director of Policy Planning at State. Slaughter wrote the 2004 book, A New World Order, and believes in an international system dominated by the U.N. and other global institutions and networks.


Koh’s acknowledged mentor was Harvard Law Professor and international lawyer Louis B. Sohn, who was not only a key author of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), now waiting for Senate ratification, but offered a detailed proposal to transform the United Nations into a world government in his book, World Peace Through World Law.

The fancy academic titles and affiliations sound impressive. But even a casual reading of Sohn’s views would conclude that he was a dangerous crackpot.

Sohn said that he wanted this world government to maintain hundreds of thousands of troops, military bases, and be armed with nuclear weapons. The purpose, he said, would be to disarm “each and every nation and to deter or suppress any attempted international violence.” This “world authority” would also require a “United Nations Revenue System,” drawing taxes from “each nation” of the world, he said.

The term “world government” is too benign for what Sohn proposed. The term “global dictatorship” would be more appropriate. But this is the direction that Koh apparently would take us.


In addition to a U.N. Ocean Authority, Sohn urged creation of:

* A United Nations Outer Space Authority * A World Development Authority * World judicial tribunals * A United Nations Peace Force, with a strength of between 200,000 and 400,000 * A United Nations Peace Force Reserve with a strength of between 300,000 and 600,000 * United Nations military bases * A United Nations Revenue System

Sohn believed that the U.N. Peace Force would have “the most modern weapons and equipment,” including nuclear weapons. He wanted the U.N. to produce and supply its own weapons through a United Nations Military Supply and Research Agency.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


“I Am Not a Terrorist, “ Galloway Tells Ottawa Crowd

Amid bravos he couldn’t actually hear, George Galloway, the British MP who was controversially barred from Canada for his ties to Hamas, told an Ottawa crowd Thursday he is no terrorist.

“I have instructed my lawyers in Canada to bring an action for defamation against Bernie Farber, the CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and CTV, for comments he made that they allowed him to make,” he said via an Internet connection. “I am not a terrorist. I am not a threat to Canada’s national security.”

The Galloway controversy began in mid-March, when he received a letter from a senior Canadian government official, informing him he wouldn’t be allowed in Canada for his speaking tour because of his “material support” of Hamas, which Canada considers a terrorist organization. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the Conservative government didn’t make the decision, but indicated he would not overturn it. An action brought to the Federal Court by Galloway’s supporters failed Monday

The outspoken Galloway is known for his support of the Palestinian movement. He was recently in Gaza Strip with a humanitarian convoy, donating money and supplies to the Hamas-led government.

“We gave it to the elected government of Palestine,” Galloway said. “Should we have driven around Gaza looking for opposition parties?”

He told the crowd that, after Israel’s recent 22-day offensive, Gaza looked as if an earthquake had hit. He said Israel had committed war crimes “with the full backing of the Canadian and U.S. governments.”

Before the speech began, Larry Rousseau from No-War-Paix said the Canadian government didn’t “think everything through” when it barred Galloway from entering the country.

“Since they made the decision, everything has been about freedom of speech,” he said.

“When (Galloway) talks, people really get upset about what he has to say. That usually happens when people tell the truth.”

But a group of men handing out sheets entitled “Galloway In his Own Words” said it wasn’t about free speech.

James Cohen said he wasn’t representing any organization, but wanted to provide some reading material in the “interest of fairness.”

He was getting a mostly negative reaction.

“They don’t seem that interested in fairness if it’s not a view they like,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Canada: Conservatives Renew Bid to Holster Gun Registry

OTTAWA — The Conservative government will make its third attempt to shoot down the national gun registry for rifles and shotguns with legislation introduced in the Senate yesterday.

The proposal, the same legislation that died with the election call last fall, would leave regulations related to handguns unchanged, but would end the registry that has languished under the Harper government after it cut off funding for the program and allowed a series of amnesties for gun owners.

“There is a growing consensus that the gun registry has been ineffective in reducing crime,” Peter Van Loan, the Minister of Public Safety, told reporters after question period.

“The problems with crime are quite clearly overwhelming with handguns, with illegal handguns.”

Mr. Van Loan went on to say that rifles and shotguns “in the hands of law-abiding farmers and hunters have not been a major source of crime. Putting all kinds of resources into that is simply not a productive use of resources.”

To date, the registry has cost roughly $1-billion, while the price tag originally promoted by the Liberals in 1998 was $2-million.

“We need to target our resources at fighting crime. We have serious problems with organized crime in our cities, serious problems with organized crime involving handguns in Vancouver, in Toronto, in Mont-real. We’re continuing to step up that fight against organized crime,” said Mr. Van Loan.

Meanwhile, opposition MPs are concerned the bill will have a negative impact on public safety.

“The bill that’s in front of the House of Commons would make it easier to carry semiautomatic weapons through school zones in our cities,” said NDP Leader Jack Layton. “I would be very surprised if it ever makes it to the House of Commons because I don’t see the Senate adopting that bill.”

Liberal MP Mark Holland was also critical. “It’s an important tool… It’s supported by the chiefs of police. It’s supported by the Canadian Police Association. It’s something that we feel needs to be protected,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Ottawa Judge Given RCMP Protection

Break-in reveals marriage of judge’s son, Khadr’s sister

OTTAWA-Why did thieves pump three bullets into the back door and window of an Ottawa tax court judge’s house?

That’s the question at the heart of the police investigation into a break-in last month at the west Ottawa residence of Judge Patrick J. Boyle, whose family remains under RCMP protection.

The gunshots suggest the March 20 break-and-enter was not random or routine. The RCMP’s decision to keep two cruisers parked near the judge’s house Thursday indicates police also have an unusual level of concern.

There’s speculation that the shots could have been a warning related to one of the judge’s cases, or perhaps to the recent marriage of the Boyles’ son, Joshua, to Zaynab Khadr, a prominent member of Canada’s notorious “al-Qaeda family.”

Ottawa police are also investigating a possible connection to the unsolved slaying of retired Tax Court Chief Justice Alban Garon in June, 2007.

Garon, 77, was bound and beaten to death in his Riverside Drive condominium along with his wife, Raymonde, 73, and a neighbour, Marie-Claire Beniskos, 78.

The brutality of that triple murder shocked the city.

Ottawa police Det. Greg Brown, of the major crime unit, said investigators have not yet concluded whether the cases are linked.

“It’s still under investigation, and if there is a connection, it’s not something we want to make public,” said Brown, lead investigator in the Garon case.

The break-and-enter, which occurred while the Boyles were out of town, has left the family shaken.

A computer monitor, some video games and other items were taken, but nothing of great monetary or sentimental value, the Boyles have said. One report suggested documents were taken from the house.

Patrick Boyle, a leading expert on income tax law, was appointed to the Tax Court of Canada in April, 2007 after a 25-year career with the Ottawa office of Fraser Milner Casgrain.

Boyle, 51, also spent two years as a special advisor to the finance department’s tax policy branch and has co-authored several books on tax law.

The Boyles live in a rambling, square-timbered heritage house in the countryside west of the city. The house sits on several hectares of land, ringed on two sides by vintage barns and out-buildings. The closest neighbour is hundreds of metres from their home.

Thursday, RCMP officers in two cruisers — one parked on the roadside, the other behind the house — watched over the property. One officer acknowledged he was there to guard the home, but would not provide further details. “I can’t discuss it,” the officer said.

The RCMP’s protective services unit is responsible for the safety of Canadian dignitaries and federal judges.

Meanwhile, Ottawa police spokesman Const. Alain Boucher said he could not say much about what is an ongoing investigation: “This is an open file,” he said, “and we’re looking at all the leads on this one.”

The break-and-enter has made national headlines because it brought to light the marriage between the Boyles’ son, Joshua, and Zaynab Khadr.

Zaynab, 29, is the eldest daughter of Ahmed Said Khadr, a former University of Ottawa engineering student who went on to become part of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. He was killed in a firefight with Pakistani forces in October 2003.

Zaynab outraged many Canadians with her comments in a 2004 CBC documentary in which she criticized the way children were raised in this country and suggested that the Sept. 11 terror attacks were justified.

“He (bin Laden) really wanted to hit the American government where it hurt,” she told the CBC. “Not the people, but it. But I mean sometimes innocent people pay the price. They deserve it. They’ve been doing it for such a long time, why shouldn’t they feel it once in a while?”

Zaynab has apparently softened her views since then.

On her website,, Zaynab said her siblings are proud of their Canadian heritage even though they’ve been “on the receiving end of a lot of very un-Canadian xenophobia, racism and smear campaigns.”

Zaynab met Joshua Boyle, 25, last year after the University of Waterloo graduate became interested in national security and human rights.

He later worked as a spokesman during Zaynab’s Parliament Hill hunger strike, staged in October to bring attention to the case of her brother, Omar, who remains in detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Zaynab and Joshua were married in a private ceremony three months ago and now make their home in Toronto, where they live with Khadr’s nine-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Safia.

Joshua Boyle has said his wife has been unfairly vilified because of comments she made at a difficult time in her life.

The Boyles have welcomed their new daughter-in-law into their family.

“While we recognize that both Joshua and Zaynab come from different backgrounds and grew up in different cultures, it is our hope that love will prevail over these unique challenges,” Linda Boyle wrote in an e-mail published Wednesday.

“Zaynab is part of our family now. She refers to me and my husband as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad,’ and she treats us with all the respect you could hope for from a daughter-in-law. She has brought into our lives the gift of her daughter, now our granddaughter.”

On her website, Zaynab maintains the Khadr family lived in Afghanistan and knew bin Laden, but did not belong to al-Qaeda.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in a declassified assessment of Ahmed Said Khadr, describes him as a “well-connected Islamic extremist” with links to terrorism.

“Khadr was declared by the UN to be Osama bin Laden’s moneyman, described by his own sons as al-Qaeda’s ‘secretary of state,’ and accused by the RCMP of indoctrinating his own children to create his personal terrorist cell,” the CSIS assessment concludes.

Two of the Khadrs remain in custody. Omar has been in Guantanamo Bay for more than six years awaiting trial on charges that he killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan by throwing a grenade. He was 15 at the time of the July, 2002 incident, and his defenders contend he should be treated as a child soldier.

Another sibling, Abdullah Khadr, is fighting extradition to the U.S., where he has been indicted on terrorism charges

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Iran Movement Gains Momentum in Europe

Anti-Iranian demonstrations are scheduled to take place Wednesday in Vienna, Berlin and The Hague to mark the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, amid budding signs of a grassroots protest movement in Europe against Iran and European cooperation with it.

Simone Dinah Hartmann, the spokeswoman for the Stop the Bomb Coalition in Vienna, said her group in Austria is a made up of conservatives, Greens, Jews, Kurdish exiles, representatives of Christian organizations, gays and lesbians, who will be protesting not only Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but also its human rights abuses.

Hartmann made news last year when she bought a single share in the Austrian energy giant OMV so she could attend a stockholders meeting and protest the company‚s plans for massive investment in Iran’s South Pars Gas Field.

She said the group aims to apply steady pressure on the Austrian government and the country’s main economic concerns, so they resist doing business with Teheran. The OMV deal has been shelved for the time being.

The goal of the organization is to impress upon public opinion in Europe — which has, up until lately, been largely apathetic regarding the Iranian threat, that Teheran’s menace is real, she said.

“Europe doesn’t see Iran as that big of a threat,” she said. “It is so far away, that people just shrug and say, ‘Why care?’“

Austria is Iran’s ninth largest business partner in Europe, with Italy, Turkey, Germany and France leading the list, followed by the Netherlands, Greece, Spain and Russia, according to Stop the Bomb figures.

Stop the Bomb also has a group in Germany, and a similar organization was set up on Tuesday in the Netherlands.

An Israeli government source, asked about the anti-Iranian protests, said the sense in Jerusalem is that the last few months there has been an awakening of grassroots opposition in Europe to Teheran.

The source said that the groups were made up of numerous different constituencies who have decided to make public awareness of the Iranian threat an overarching goal.

The source said that a seminar in Berlin organized by the local chamber of commerce to promote trade with Iran had been scheduled for the end of March, but was cancelled following public opposition.

A Munich-area university also cancelled an invitation it granted to three Iranian academics to visit and discuss the “picture of God in Islam,” again because of public opposition.

These actions are significant, the source said, because they indicate to governments and economic leaders that the local population was taking notice of the ties with Iran, and was expecting officials to fall in line with the sprit of the UN Security Council resolutions on Iranian sanctions.

“There are a lot of people in Europe who are very concerned about human rights,” the source said, adding that the various declarations about Iranian human rights abuses made by the Czech Republic recently were having an impact on public opinion.

“Some governments have tried to tie the graduated nature of their pressure on Iran to what they say their publics can stomach at any given point,” the source said.

The source added that a leading economic figure in Germany warned that harsh sanctions against Iran could cost some 10,000 German jobs, something he was using as a scare tactic against the government.

Criticism of doing business with Iran from the grassroots could take the air out of these types of arguments, the source said.

In addition to the protests, the source said that the public criticism of Iran that has been heard in recent weeks in certain Arab countries, from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt, has also had an impact on European public opinion.

If the Gulf states are beginning to speak out, according to this school of thought, then some in Europe are coming to the conclusion that the Iranian threat is genuine and serious, and that Europe must take stronger action.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Decision of the Davis Cup Committee

The ITF’s Davis Cup Committee, at its regularly scheduled meeting in Amsterdam on Tuesday, 31 March 2009, considered at great length the situation surrounding the recent Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie between Sweden and Israel, played 6-8 March. The Committee strongly condemned the decision by the city government of Malmo to refuse to allow spectators to attend the matches and the resultant fact that the Swedish Tennis Association played the tie behind closed doors.

The Committee imposed the following penalties against both the city of Malmo and the Swedish Tennis Association in connection with this tie:

1. A five year suspension, commencing immediately, was levied against the city of Malmo as a host city for Davis Cup.

2. Sweden will suffer an automatic loss of Choice of Ground for the next tie if a similar situation occurs in the future.

3. All host city contracts entered into by the Swedish Tennis Association must include a provision guaranteeing that the tie will be open to the public. This must be confirmed in writing by the Sweden Tennis Association to the ITF eight weeks before the commencement of each tie.

4. The Davis Cup Committee denied the request of the Swedish Tennis Association to waive its obligation to provide a minimum of $15,000 against gate receipts and levied an additional fine of $25,000.

The Davis Cup Committee is chaired by ITF Executive Vice President Juan Margets (ESP) and also comprises Pierre Darmon (FRA), Neale Fraser (AUS), Enrique Morea (ARG) and Alan Schwartz (USA).

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Veiled Woman Removed From Bus in Denmark

[Comment from Tuan Jim: This is related to the cphpost article I posted a few days ago — at the time I suspected it was a niqab rahter than a “headscarf” — and apparently I was correct.]

A 41-year-old Somali woman has been kicked off a bus more than once in Denmark for refusing to bare her face to the bus driver. The case echoes a similar problem last month in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city.

For Amina Farah Suleiman, it was the fourth time in a few months that she has been kicked off a bus in the harbor city of Odense. Her Islamic niqab only had a small opening for the eyes, and the driver refused to accept her season ticket, saying he could not see who she was.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I guess she didn’t learn after the first 3 times. — a second thought — presumably her season ticket had a photo of her face on it — which is odd…not complaining about photo IDs (ie. license issues in the US)]

She ignored him, and was ordered off the bus.

“I will not drive unless you get out,” the driver said, according to Amina Farah Suleiman. “Out of the bus. Now!”

“I was very angry and began to cry,” she said.

Torben Andersen, who heads the bus network Fynbus, said the driver’s reaction was unsatisfactory. “I don’t think the judgment shown in this case was good enough,” he said, adding that there were also no clear guidelines for a driver’s behavior when confronted with a fully-veiled Muslim woman who refuses to show her face.

The incident echoes a similar story last month in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, when a driver refused to move his bus unless the veiled mother of a Muslim family stepped off. In that case, though, there was no practical problem of a season pass, and some passengers accused the driver of racism. “I have lived in Denmark for 12 years and have never experienced anything like it,” the woman’s husband, Mohamed Belgacen, said at the time.

‘Gray Area’

The incident in Odense presented “a gray area,” according to Torben Andersen, “where the (Fynbus) board has not said exactly what it wants.” But he added that proposals would be presented at the next board meeting, to establish guidelines so “it will be possible to use a season ticket when you are veiled.”

The Fynbus Board may not agree with the driver’s rejection of Amina Farah Suleiman, but Alex Ahrendtsen — a member of the nationalist Danish People’s Party — does.

“The driver did the right thing and I hope the Fynbus board and management uphold the decision,” he said. “Anything else would be grotesque. We live in Denmark, and in Denmark you show your face.”

The Danish transport minister, Lars Barfoed, said that if a rider would rather not show her face, she should simply buy another type of ticket — rather than a season card — and accept the extra costs involved.

“You can buy a regular cash ticket or a punchable ticket coupon,” he suggested.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Guess you need to follow the rules for whatever kind of ticket you buy.]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Fear Threatens Freedom of Speech

The value of freedom of speech was questioned as the Danish Free Press Society failed to find a single Danish printer to print a limited edition series of a controversial Mohammed cartoon

The Danish Free Press Society will soon be selling signed reprints of the infamous Mohammed cartoons to raise money for its daughter organisation, the International Free Press Society.

The controversial cartoon originally appeared in Jyllands-Posten newspaper on 30 September 2005 causing a national and international debate on the freedom of speech and the press.

The 1000 reprints, signed by cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, are of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. They will be available for sale on the society’s website at $250. However, the project to promote the freedom of speech and the press faced an unexpected hurdle when the society was unable to find a Danish printing company willing to reprint the drawings for them.

The society contacted six different printers, all of whom turned the job down. In the end, a foreign printer was contracted to print the 1000 signed samples.

President of the Free Press Society, Lars Hedegaard, said that one of the printers told them that they would not be successful finding a Danish printer, because rumours of the controversial printing order had spread.

Hedegaard told Jyllands-Posten newspaper that, despite the freedom of speech being protected in the constitution, he feared that one day printers would avoid printing certain books out of fear of reprisals.

‘I’d like to ask the Danish politicians what they plan to do to ensure that constitutionally-protected freedom of speech does actually exist. A right that people do not dare use has no value.’

The Danish Free Press Society was founded in 2005 as a private organisation with no state funding, which champions the cause of freedom of speech in society.

In conjunction with its coverage of the society’s latest news today, Jyllands-Posten newspaper chose to print the Mohammed cartoon in question. Editor Jørn Mikkelsen said the decision was ‘purely journalistic’ and was not intended as a sign of support or otherwise.

‘It is nothing special. We shouldn’t be afraid of showing a cartoon,’ said Mikkelsen. ‘In the same way as when our front page story about President Obama required having a photo of him, if we talk about a cartoon in a story, then we should show it.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Easter: Spain; Processions Among Sacred, Profane, Politics

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 31 — Are the traditional processions of Holy Week in Spain expressions of religious fervour or Pagan celebrations? A sociological study published by the Centre for Sociological Investigation (CIS) reveals that only 25.9% of Spanish take part due to their religious faith, whereas 42% have never participated and 31.8% have only taken part occasionally. In secular Spain, 80% of those interviewed said they were Catholic, but only a quarter of these go to mass on Sundays, according to the survey, this shows a “high level of heterodoxy in religious practice and belief” in a country which was considered to be the “spiritual repository of the West” until the last century. Only 33% said that their religious beliefs had an influence on important decisions, and just 19% take faith into account when the elections come round. Alfonso Perez Agote, who holds the chair in sociology at the Complutense university in Madrid, announced to the EFE news agency that “the large majority of Spanish people, while describing themselves as Catholic, do not seem to be conditioned by the Church in terms of their behaviour or their expressed opinions.” The processions of Holy Week are “a collective celebration of faith which, from the beginning of Christianity, has always tended towards public demonstrations,” said Manuel Feijoo, who holds the chair in the Philosophy of Religion at the University of long-distance learning. These are rituals which are also a “social event”, which represent “the Mediterranean tendency to externalise feelings.” From Andalusia to the Basque countries, from April 3 to Easter Sunday, tens of thousands of people, dressed as citizens of Nazareth, take part in the traditional Via Crucis in Seville, Valladolid, Cuenca, Zamora, Malaga and Cordova, events which have been significant tourist attractions for some years. Some, such as Albert Riba, President of the Union of Atheists and Freethinkers, consider the fact that civil and political agnostic authorities often lead the processions is “wholly disgraceful.” However, according to Manuel Feijoo, such celebrations “are an important moment of unity and collective identity.” Juan José Tamayo, director of the chair of Theology and the Science of religions at the University Charles III in Madrid, argues that the processions cannot today be considered “a demonstration of religious fervour”, but rather a “means of freedom for citizens to express their own feelings.” And so, Tamayo suggests that the processions “should not include the participation of political or religious authorities.” And yet, from this year on, the crusade against the reform of the abortion laws in Spain, will take part in some of the traditional processions of Holy Week: in Alcalà de Henares (Madrid), and in Segorbe (Castellon), where confraternities taking part in the Via Crucis will be able to wear a white flower as a sign of their defence of life. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gambia: Dutch Man Faces Prison for Gambian Insult

A Dutch man has been arrested in The Gambia for insulting President Yahya Jammeh. A spokesman for the Gambian foreign ministry has confirmed the arrest.

The man was held on Saturday at a police checkpoint where he had complained about an increase in taxi fares for white people. He is accused of saying that President Jammeh was “too greedy and corrupt”.

When taken into custody, he said he was British but, after being visited by British diplomats, admitted being Dutch. Police say he has been living in the UK for a number of years.

Criticising the president is considered a serious crime in Gambia and those found guilty face up to one year in prison and a fine. In December, a British couple were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment with hard labour for a similar misdemeanour.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party Rises to 32 Seats

The Freedom Party of populist right-wing leader Geert Wilders has climbed again in the polls, this time to a record of 32 seats in the 150-seat parliament. The Freedom Party is in first place and is now four seats ahead of the Christian Democrats, the largest of the three parties in the governing coalition. Pollster Maurice de Hond attributes the rise in popularity to his departure from a parliamentary debate on Thursday. He walked out of the debate in a huff, describing the debate on the economic crisis as “a sham”.

His ratings began to soar in February, when the British government refused to allow him to enter the country. Sixty percent of voters who describe themselves as right-wing say they will vote for Wilders’ Freedom Party.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Electronic Tagging for Exiles of ‘High Net Worth’ Proposed

ELECTRONIC TAGGING for “tax exiles” is being considered by the Department of Finance in advance of next week’s budget.

The measure is aimed at monitoring the presence in the State of individuals who claim to be non-resident for tax purposes.

Last year, 5,803 people claimed non-residency for tax. The Revenue believes that 440 of those are “high net worth” individuals. “These are the people who we’d be aiming this proposal at,” a spokesman for the department said.

Foreign-based Irish millionaires can avoid Irish tax if they spend fewer than 183 days in the State. Last November, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan abolished the so-called “Cinderella” rule, whereby an individual is not deemed to have spent a day in the country if they leave by midnight.

“We’re still concerned that there are a few fairy tales being told about where people are actually living,” said the spokesman.

Electronic tagging is a form of non-surreptitious surveillance consisting of an electronic device attached to a person, usually certain criminals, allowing their whereabouts to be monitored.

The devices locate themselves using GPS and report their position back to a control centre via a mobile phone network. The devices are usually built into ankle monitors, which are designed to be tamper-resistant and will alert the authorities to tampering attempts. According to the spokesman, certain technical issues remain to be resolved before the plan is implemented.

“For example, many of these people have ‘panic rooms’ in their homes to protect themselves against criminals,” he said. “We’re not absolutely sure of the technicalities, but if these rooms are lead-lined, they might block the signal from the electronic tag.

“In theory it might be possible for a high-net-worth individual to remain in a panic room for days or even weeks without us knowing.”

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners is in discussions with a US-based high-technology security company, FailProof, on providing the service.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Most Migrants in Vienna Schools

A report issued by the Ministry of Education states that almost all students are migrants in a fifth of primary schools in some Vienna districts. The 474-page report, issued in response to 69 parliamen- tary questions by Freedom Party (FPÖ) education spokesman Walter Rosen- kranz, defines migrant students as those who are foreigners or whose mother tongue is not German. The report says migrants make up 90 per cent of the total number of students at 8.1 per cent of the capital’s 262 primary schools, compared to one per cent for Austria as a whole, and are almost a majority (49.6 per cent on average) in half of city schools. Leopoldstadt is the district with the highest percentage (60.9 per cent), followed by Brigittenau (58.6 per cent). In Vienna, one-third of all students are migrants at 59.8 per cent of city schools, compared to 13.7 per cent in the entire country. Overall, Vienna has 40.4 per cent of Austria’s migrant students, with Vorarlberg next with 19.6 per cent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Munich Museum Opens IKEA ‘Democratic Design’ Exhibition

The International Design Museum in Munich launched a debut exhibition on Thursday dedicated to the concept of “democratic design” as seen through the lens of IKEA, the world’s biggest furniture store.

“For IKEA, design is one of the central factors that contribute to realising the idea of functional, well-designed furniture that is affordable for most people,” the museum said in a statement. The International Design Museum

The institution is the first to feature IKEA’s furniture in an exhibition that combines various themes, including “the IKEA principle of do-it-yourself,” “sustainability and ecology,” and the “design process,” among others.

Different sections will showcase examples of IKEA furniture from the 1950s and 1960s, classics from the 70s and 80s, as well as a number of items from the PS Collection design series from IKEA to document how the company transformed from a one-man business concept in southern Sweden to the world’s premiere home furnishings giant. Some 565 million people visited IKEA worldwide during the last business year, more than 100 million of them in Germany.

According to IKEA, furniture design has to “be beautiful, good, and well-priced. Design must not be elitist; rather it must be affordable for everyone.”

“A further aspect is the commitment to ‘Swedishness,’ which manifests itself in ‘country house’ design inspired by homeland traditions,” the museum said.

The Swedish design house is also releasing a book timed to coincide with the exhibition titled “Democratic Design: IKEA — Furniture for Mankind” by Heiner Uber.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Report Points to Increased Animal Rights Violence

The national security service (AIVD) says militant animal activists have increasingly resorted to violence since 2007. In a report published today, the AIVD concludes that animal rights extremism is fragmented but on the increase.

People guilty of committing acts of violence in secret often belong to organisations which legitimately promote animal rights without violence. The victims of crimes perpetrated by animal rights activists find their experiences acutely threatening, but preventing such attacks is difficult, according to the report.

One of the reasons for this is the awareness of security issues shown by the militants. Their operations display careful planning, with background research being done on the target and surrounding area. The report also points out that solo activists or ‘lone wolves’ often plan and carry out attacks in total isolation.

The AIVD says it is easy for the militants to get information, such as the names and addresses of potential targets via sources including the Chamber of Commerce. They tend to work at night and hit the homes of scientists, managers and board members of companies and other organisations involved in animal research.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: MPs Question New Moroccan Citizenship Rule

MPs have called for government clarification concerning a new Moroccan law which grants automatic Moroccan citizenship to children who have a Moroccan mother and Dutch father. The opposition conservative VVD says it is unacceptable that Dutch officials should actively cooperate in implementing the new Moroccan rules. The ruling Christian Democrats and Labour Party as well as the opposition Socialist Party, Freedom Party and Green Left have also called for an explanation.

The matter came to light on Monday, following an appeal by a Dutch father in the southern city of Tilburg. He discovered that his teenage daughter had suddenly become listed in the municipal register as having Moroccan citizenship. It appeared that in response to the new Moroccan legislation, local government officials have been registering people as having Moroccan citizenship without consulting their parents. Under the previous Moroccan rules, only fathers automatically passed on their nationality to their children.

Dual nationality is not usually permitted under Dutch law, but Moroccan citizens are among those who are exempt from this rule, as Morocco does not permit its citizens to relinquish their Moroccan nationality. Parties on the right have repeatedly objected to the right to hold dual nationality, claiming it results in conflicting loyalties.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Norway Anti-Immigration Opposition Party Wins Support

Support for Norway’s Progress Party rose this month, with one pollster ranking it the country’s biggest political group, as voters backed its anti-immigration stance less than six months before parliamentary elections.

While governments in other parts of Europe lose support as voters condemn their handling of the financial crisis, Norway’s Labor government is struggling in polls after it tried to push through laws banning blasphemy and allowing police women to wear the hijab. The laws were withdrawn after a public outcry. Justice Minister Knut Storberget, whose ministry issued the proposals, has since gone on sick leave.

“People are losing their jobs, the economy seems to be going into recession but people are focusing on these issues instead,” said Torkel Brekke, professor of culture studies and oriental languages at the University of Oslo. “It tells you how important issues of identity are to small European countries and how people feel insecure about immigration.”

The Progress Party has support from 27.9 percent of voters in a Norstat poll published in the Vaart Land newspaper today, compared with 22.1 percent in the 2005 election. Backing for the ruling Labor Party fell to 31.7 percent from 32.8 percent in 2005. The poll, which had a margin of error of 2-3 points, was conducted March 17-22 and based on interviews with 1,000 people.

A survey by Opinion, published by news Web site Hegnar on March 18, gave the Progress Party a backing of 30.9 percent after gaining 6.4 percent in March, making it the country’s largest party.

‘Radical Islam’

The government of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in February had to retract a proposal to restrict verbal and written attacks on individuals based on their religious or spiritual beliefs. The law would have “done the bidding of radical Islamic states” such as Iran, Progress Party Chairman Siv Jensen has said. Jensen has warned Norway is in danger of “sneak-Islamization.”

Muslims account for 1.8 percent of Norway’s population of 4.8 million, where citizens enjoy the world’s second-highest gross domestic product per capita, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book. That compares with 3.7 percent in Germany and as many as 10 percent in France, the CIA estimates.

Norway’s Red Cross said there had been a 26 percent increase last year to 581 phone calls received from men and women subjected to forced marriages, broadcaster NRK reported on Feb. 4.

No Such Threat

The ruling Labor Party’s response has been mixed. Party Secretary Martin Kolberg this month vowed to combat the threat of radical Islam in Norway. That drew criticism from fellow party member and president of parliament Thorbjoern Jagland, who said no such threat existed.

The Progress Party’s popularity rose because it’s “had the clearest stance on these policies and has credibility in this regard,” Jensen said in an interview. “The government has been marked by so much mess and chaos recently. Kolberg’s comments have revealed the disagreements within the Labor Party.”

A poll conducted by InFact for Verdens Gang this month showed that 51 percent of Norwegians believed radical Islam to be a problem in Norway, with 26 percent saying it constituted a significant terror threat.

‘Completely Off Track’

“I vote for the Progress Party because of their policies on transport, elderly care and not least immigration, as the current policy has veered completely off track,” said Anita Marie Dahl Solheim, a port document controller from Sandefjord southern Norway. Immigrants “generally do whatever they want and nobody ever puts their foot down.”

Norway’s Muslims warn the debates on the hijab and radical Islamists may lead to a long-term rift between local and Islamic communities.

“The debates have had an unfortunate effect and many Muslims feel shut out from the Norwegian community,” said Shoaib Sultan, general secretary of Norway’s Islamic Council. “This is regrettable for any society in the long-run.”

While the party’s surge forward in the polls is mainly due to its stance on immigration, Jensen says the financial crisis has also helped them gain popularity. The economy of the world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter will contract 1.7 percent this year sending unemployment up to 4.7 percent by 2010, compared with a jobless rate of 1.5 percent in the middle of last year, according to the government statistics agency.

“I certainly do believe discontent is spreading,” she said. Norway is scheduled to hold general elections on Sept. 14.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Glass Found in Falun Sausage

A fragment of glass has been found in a Falun sausage bought from a store in Karlsborg in southern Sweden. The incident has been reported to police, according to TV4 Skaraborg.

The sausage was bought on March 20th but it was first when the sausage was about to be eaten that the glass fragment was discovered. The sausage has now been confiscated by police.

A further police report was made on Wednesday that glass had been found in chicken drumsticks bought in a store in Falköping in southern Sweden.

The Local reported on Wednesday that several commercial kitchens had removed chicken from their menus.

County hospitals in Halmstad and Varberg have now decided to join Malmö, Lund and Stockholm South hospitals in finding alternative meal options.

“It feels safer to not serve chicken at the moment,” Britt Hedström at Varberg hospital said to TV 4 Halland’s news program.

Reports of glass fragments in chicken products began to emerge in Sweden on March 20th. The latest reports bring the number of cases to 19, with 14 of the cases traced to Kronfågel’s factory in Valla.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: Father-of-Two Beaten to Death by Gang After Police Ignore Six 999 Calls From Victim and Neighbours

A father-of-two was beaten to death by a gang of drunken thugs just minutes after police told him they were too busy to help. James Straiton, 59, and his neighbours dialled 999 six times after being threatened in their own homes by the gang. But police operators said the force was experiencing a ‘high volume’ of calls and suggested they call a non-emergency number. Tragedy struck when Mr Straiton, a taxi driver, decided to leave his flat and chase the thugs away himself.

Once outside in the street he was repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on in an horrific and frenzied attack. Two men, one 6ft 4in tall, jumped and stamped on his head leaving Mr Straiton unconscious on the ground with horrendous head injuries. The father-of-two suffered a brain haemorrhage, damaged neck vertebrae, fractures to his face, arm, and three broken ribs.

He was found by police lying in a pool of blood and rushed to hospital before being transferred to a specialist neurology unit where he died two weeks later. Today Joshua Spruce and 6ft 4in Nigel Goolding, both 20 of Northwich, wept when they were convicted of murder at Chester Crown Court. Paul Blower, also 20, who was also at the scene but did not take part in the attack was acquitted.

The court was told a high-level inquiry had been launched into the police handing of the 999 calls on the night of the murder…

…In all, between 1.11am and 1.30am, six calls were made to the police but officers only arrived at 1.35am. The disturbance went on for another 15 minutes before Mr Straiton decided to take action himself.

Armed with a hammer, he went outside to tell the thugs to leave but was sent sprawling to the floor. A final 999 call was made to the emergency services saying a man had been attacked and he was lying on the floor. Police arrived shortly afterwards…

….Sentencing was adjourned until tomorrow but Judge Roderick Evans said: ‘The inevitable sentence is one of life — all I have to consider is the minimum term they must spend in custody.’

A report had also been passed to the court about the police response to the 999 call and Judge Evans said: ‘The public will know that the police were very concerned about the response that was made to those calls.

‘There has been a high-level investigation into their responses. It is apparent from the information gathered that there was an extraordinarily high degree of police commitment at the time which was responsible for this matter.’

Superintendant Graeme Sims of Cheshire Police today said: ‘At the time of this tragic incident we were dealing with 21 different incidents — more than twice the average we normally get at that time on a Saturday night. ‘Our operators logged every call and told the caller officers would get there as quickly as they could.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: G20 Protesters Pay Tribute After Demo Death

Demonstrators are holding a vigil in central London to mark the death of a man during the G20 protests.

G20 Meltdown, the group behind four parades that converged on the Bank of England yesterday, announced a “slow march” would set off from Bishopsgate towards the bank at 12.30pm.

A post on the organisation’s Twitter account announced that the march would take place “to mark the death of a protester and demand answers”.

Demonstrators have also started congregating outside the bank, where a vigil will take place at 1pm.

The unnamed man was found unconscious in a street near the bank just before 7.30pm yesterday evening.

Police said they were pelted with missiles believed to include bottles as they tried to save his life.

He was taken to hospital but later died.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Clearly the police are at fault here :rolleyes:]

One man hit an officer with a large pole amid ugly scenes as a large crowd of protesters confronted a line of police outside the bank…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Jacqui Smith Allows in Hizbollah Man

The Home Office has refused to act over the presence in the UK of a Hizbollah fighter and leader of a radical Muslim group, despite accepting that his presence was not conducive to the public good.

The president of the Board of Deputies, Henry Grunwald QC, wrote to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith last week about Lebanese-born Dyab Abou Jahjah, who fought for Hizbollah against Israel before moving to Belgium, where he started an organisation called the Arab European League that became involved in riots after the murder of a Moroccan schoolteacher.

Jahjah has spoken at two meetings in London this week. On Monday evening he addressed the Stop The War Coalition and on Tuesday he spoke in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons, at the launch of a British branch of the International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine.

The meeting, attended by about 60 people, was hosted by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and also featured a speech by Lebanese Hizbollah MP Hussein el-Hajj Hassan — “the first Hizbollah MP to speak in the House of Commons”— according to Mr Corbyn.

Mr Grunwald said: “I wrote to the Home Secretary raising concerns about Jahjah. I now understand that she was sympathetic to the view that his presence here was not conducive to the public good. But he was already in the country and I further understood that consideration was being given as to how to put the Home Secretary’s views into effect operationally.

“If my understanding about that was correct, I am really disappointed that nothing appears to have been done to put those views into effect.”

Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust, said: “The government has been very firm in its claims to be tackling extremism. Sadly, in the case of Dyab Abou Jahjah, their actual actions speak far louder than mere words.

“This should have been an open and shut case for a permanent exclusion order to be issued, but instead there has been nothing; not even a public statement. The last thing that we need domestically right now is for Hizbollah to add its malicious impact to the damage that has already been done by British-based Hamas activists and apologists over the last ten years or so.”

Both the Home Office and the Borders and Immigration Agency refused any comment on Jahjah’s case.

Meanwhile the dispute between Hazel Blears and the Muslim Council of Britain over its deputy general secretary Dr Daud Abdullah seems to have reached stalemate.

Ms Blears called on Dr Abdullah to resign after he attended a conference in Istanbul and signed a controversial final declaration. It stated that sending foreign warships into Muslim waters to halt arms smuggling would be seen as an act of war.

Dr Abdullah responded to Ms Blears on the Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free site, saying her attempt to control MCB affairs was “misguided and ill-advised”. He said: “I have no intention of bowing to the pressure from Hazel Blears to resign.” A DCLG spokesperson said that there had been no developments since Dr Abdullah’s Comment is Free response and that the department was “in discussions” with the MCB.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

UK: Man Who Died During G20 Protest Was Walking Home From Work

A man who died during the protests in the City of London yesterday was on his way home from work when he collapsed and is not thought to have been part of the marches.

Ian Tomlinson, 47, was found unconscious near to St Michael’s Alley off of Cornhill near the Bank of England just before 7.30pm yesterday.

He had been returning to his home near by from working at a newsagents.

His family said that he came from a “large, loving family and he will sadly missed by us all. The police are keeping us informed of any developments”.

His death is being assessed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The matter was referred to them by both the City of London police and the Metropolitan Police service.

A member of the public called police to see to Mr Tomlinson and officers, wearing helmets and protective clothing, formed a barrier around him as police medics tried to resuscitate him.

The Met said that as the officers tried to revive Mr Tomlinson they came under attack from protesters who threw bottles at them.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said that officers arrived on the scene to help and had to move the casualty away for urgent treatment.

Mr Tomlinson was eventually pronounced dead at hospital and a post-mortem examination will be carried out this afternoon.

Witnesses said that the incident happened on the outside of the police cordon, in which officers were holding the main body of demonstrators.

A spokeswoman for the IPCC said: “IPCC investigators will be assessing the circumstances throughout the day. They will be examining CCTV and attending the post-mortem this afternoon, as is usual in cases of this nature…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Riot Police Storm G20 Protesters’ Squats Amid Fears of Fresh Violence in City of London

Police have detained 80 people and arrested another four in a series of raids on homes linked to violence at the G20 protests, amid fears of a new wave of terror and carnage in the City of London.

Hundreds of officers also formed a ring of steel around the Excel Centre as protesters swarmed around the summit site.

Two east London squats were targeted by 240 officers just after midday by officers searching for suspects wanted in connection with yesterday’s violent disorder.

Dozens of police and an armoured police van blocked Earl Street, near Liverpool Street station, where a disused office block was raided.

Senior officers said the three-storey red-brick corner property, which includes an underground car park, was suspected to hold some of those involved in yesterday’s disturbances.

At least 70 people were led out of the building and made to sit in the street outside as they were questioned and searched by officers.

The officer in charge of policing the G20 protest, Commander Bob Broadhurst, said police were using video footage gathered yesterday to track down violent activists…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Undercover With the Anarchist Mob: How the Mail Infiltrated the Group at Heart of the Violence

Penned in among a fearsome group of thugs outside the Bank of England, dressed head to toe in black, I was one of the mob.

Our faces covered with scarves and balaclavas, we were part of a surging wave of violence. Glass bottles, bricks and chairs went flying through the air.

As units of riot police attempted to gain control by charging into us with their shields and batons at the ready, I was urged to join my ‘comrades’ by fighting back.

‘Whose streets?’ a threatening character in a face mask shouted inches from my ear. ‘Our streets,’ the mob replied.

As I struggled to maintain the pretence that I was one of these hate-filled anarchists, I found myself plunged deeper into an alien, volatile world, where protesters either side of us were falling with nasty head wounds…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Veteran Faces Homelessness After Return to Home Town

Lance Cpl Paul Baker, 25, who has guarded Buckingham Palace, said he was “fighting the toughest battle of his life” to get a council house in his hometown with his wife Michelle, 25, and 14-month-old baby Owen.

The field medic grew up in Exmouth, Devon, and is eager to return when he leaves Bulford Camp barracks next week in Wiltshire.

But East Devon District Council said that under new government legislation housing is the responsibility of the council where his barracks are based to house the family.

Lance Cpl Baker said today: “You join up, serve your country and expect you will be allowed to come back to live where you grew up then you find you’re not allowed.”

The shattered former soldier wants to go back to the seaside town where he went to school, married and even signed up for the Army.

Paul’s wife, Michelle, is also from Exmouth.

Lance Cpl Baker, who joined up after seeing an army recruitment road show in Exmouth, served as a field medic and frontline soldier in the 4th Battalion of the Rifles in Northern Ireland.

He then saw action in Iraq as well as guarding Buckingham Palace.

A council spokesman said: “As he is relatively new to the register it will be some time before accommodation may be found for him and his family.

“We have advised Mr Baker to approach the local authority responsible for the Army base where he is stationed. Unfortunately, his desire to return to his roots in Exmouth does not mean that we are obliged to put him to the top of our waiting list.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]


Balkans: Italian Troops to Remain in Kosovo

Pristina, 31 March (AKI) — Italian deputy defence minister Giuseppe Cosiga said on Tuesday Italian soldiers will remain in Kosovo within the framework of NATO’s international contingent (KFOR). Winding up a two-day visit to Belgrade, Cosiga was quoted by its Serbian counterpart Dusan Spasojevic as saying that the “protection of Serbian churches and monasteries is one of main priorities of the Italian contingent within KFOR”.

The Italian contingent protects one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Serbs, the 13th century monastery of Decane in western Kosovo, among other religious sites.

Italy’s KFOR force is made up of 2,019 soldiers, the second largest after Germany with 2,129. It is part of the Multi-National Task Force West, in charge of the western part of Kosovo, along Spain, Slovenia, Hungary and Romania.

The Italy-led MNTF-W is also in charge of maintaining a safe environment for the residents of the area, allow the freedom of movement to all Kosovars, and the protection of religious sites among other tasks.

NATO deployed 17,000 soldiers in Kosovo after Serbian forces were pushed out of the province by NATO’s bombing in 1999, when Kosovo was put under United Nations control.

However, Spain’s has already announced they would withdraw their 632-strong contingent from Kosovo. which declared independence last year.

NATO has helped train the 2,500-strong Kosovo Security Force (KSF), which is seen as an embryo of a future Kosovar army.

Serbia continues to oppose Kosovo’s independence, which has been recognised by 56 United Nations member states, including the United States and most European Union countries. In addition, Belgrade claims the KSF is a threat to regional security.

Cosiga held talks with Serbian deputy defence minister Dusan Spasojevic and the chief of the general staff general Miloje Miletic on bilateral military cooperation.

“For political and security stability in the region of south east Europe it is essential that the two main countries in the region have good cooperation,” Spasojevic said.

He said Italian and Serbian military experts were working together on de-mining a military airport in the southern Serbian city of Nis, which was heavily bombed by NATO.

Italy’s embassy in Belgrade said Italy has provided 1.5 million euros to train for other jobs members of Serbian military which have been laid off in the process of army reforms and downsizing.

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

North Africa

Egypt: NATO Sec.Gen. Must Understand Muslims

The Egyptian embassy in Denmark has entered the fray regarding NATO’s next secretary-general. There is a cloud over Denmark’s relations with the Muslim world.

The Head of Mission at Egypt’s Embassy in Denmark says that it is important that the next secretary-general of NATO has good relations with the Muslim world and that there ‘is a cloud over Denmark’s treatment, and the way things are handled, in relation to the Muslim world.”

“Let me make it clear — Egypt is not a member o NATO and we can therefore neither protest nor have influence on the NATO countries and who will be secretary-general. Having said that we feel — and I am speaking in general terms and not about Anders Fogh Rasmussen or any other individuals — that the person who gets the job must have a certain credit in relation to the Muslim world,” says Head of Mission Medhar El-Meligy.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Nuclear: Algeria, France Should Decontaminate

(by Laura De Santi) (ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MARCH 25 — Algeria has reacted coldly to news from Paris of possible compensation for victims of nuclear testing which was carried out by France in Polynesia, and between 1960 and 1966 in the former French colony, even after independence. While the government is keeping silent on the issue during this election period, considered one of the most uncomfortable episodes in the colonial era, experts and victims’ organisations are sceptical about the compensation. “France should admit that it committed a crime against humanity and should decontaminate the region” of the Sahara where “radioactive waste can still be found today”, waste from nuclear experiments, said president of the ‘February 13 1960’ organisation Abderrahmane Ksaci, speaking to ANSA. At 7.04am that day, France joined the club of nuclear powers with its first test, ‘Gerboise Bleu’ (Blue Gerboa), which it carried out in Hamoudia, close to the Reggane oasis (1,000 km south-west of Algiers), three times more powerful than Hiroshima. In just over a year another three tests were performed in the atmosphere in the region. Up to 1966, 13 experiments were carried out in underground tunnels in Ekker, 150 km from Tamanrasset, mostly after Algeria gained independence (1962). Several secret clauses in the Evian Treaty in fact allowed France to keep its nuclear, chemical and ballistics testing bases in the Sahara for a further five years. Some say that the chemical experiments continued until 1978. “Of course the news of compensation for victims is a step forward” said Ksaci “but the French authorities have never made contact with us. The figures given yesterday have been surpassed given that every year there are new cases of contamination caused by radioactive waste.” So “a small pension for the few survivors” is insufficient, he added “medical treatment and a specialist centre are needed to treat the illnesses which continue to arise.” It is also “fundamental to get rid of the radioactive waste, purify the water and the contaminated land”. Statements from the local population say that farm produce is lower, there are many cases of blindness among animals, and several doctors have reported higher percentage of tumours than the regional average, but no official investigation has been made by the authorities. Kadhem El Aboudi, who is professor of experimental physics at the University of Oran, says that “there has never been any census of victims, or serious analysis of the environmental impact. Algeria has never even asked officially for damages from France. Because it would mean asking the politicians and those who negotiated the Evian treaty” he said. Following a mission by the IAEA in 1999, it was only in 2006 that point zero of the first explosion was isolated. The explosion was said to have been felt as far as Bamako (Mali) and Portugal.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Algeria, No to Ransom Payments for Kidnapped

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MARCH 30 — Algeria has once again firmly refused the possibility of giving in to pressure from terrorist organisations, in particular al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and has asked “certain states not to pay ransoms in return for the release of its kidnapped citizens”. “The money collected by the terrorists for kidnappings,” Rezag Barra, an advisor to the President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, said, “is a way of financing their organisations”. “We respect the lives of all citizens”, Barra said during an international conference on Terrorism and Organised Crime, currently under way behind closed doors at the African Centre For Study And Research On Terrorism (CAERT) in Algiers. “We have a strategy to protect the lives of people kidnapped without however paying a ransom which would only serve to strengthen terrorist and criminal organisations”, he added. According to the director of CAERT, Boubeker Diarra, the kidnapping phenomenon in the Sub-Saharan region “where there is increasing evidence of connections between terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking” is becoming “terrifying”. It is a real “instrument for blackmailing states and governments”. The North African wing of al Qaeda in January claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Canadian diplomats, Robert Fowler, special UN envoy for Niger, and his colleague, Louis Gay, and 4 European tourists (two Swiss, a German and a Briton) who, according to the Algerian press, are prisoners in the desert on the border between northern Mali and Algeria. According to local press, European countries have paid al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (formerly the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) around 10 million euros in ransoms in four years. The Austrian government allegedly paid 5 million euros for the release of 2 tourists kidnapped in the Tunisian desert last October. Another 5 million euros were paid in 2004 for the release of 32 western tourists kidnapped in the Algerian Sahara. Some 50 Algerian, Spanish, US and EU experts are present at the conference organised by CAERT in collaboration with the Spanish government. The institution of the African Union was founded in 2004 in the framework of the AU action plan for the prevention of and the fight against terrorism, adopted in Algiers in 2002. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Transport: Suez Canal Revenues Down 9.2% in February, Idsc

(ANSA) — CAIRO, MARCH 31 — Suez Canal revenues dropped in Febtuary by 9.2%, to USD 301.8 million from USD 332.4 million in January, and USD 407.7 million in February of last year. A monthly report by the Cabinet Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) said total number of vessels transiting the international waterway, also dropped by 3.1% in February to 1,272 vessels, from 1,313 vessels in the previous month and 1,676 vessels in February 2008. The number of oil tankers crossing the Canal increased by 10.9% to 306 tankers last month from 276 tankers in January compared to 280 in February 2008. Other vessel types decreased by 6.8% to 966 in February from 1,037 vessels the previous month and 1,396 vessels in February last year, the monthly report said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Ax Attack Kills Teen in West Bank

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian attacker wielding an ax and a knife killed a 13-year-old Israeli boy and wounded a 7-year-old in a settlement in the West Bank on Thursday and then escaped, according to local officials.

Several groups took responsibility, including Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group linked to the Fatah movement of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. The group said it was avenging “crimes of occupation,” Reuters reported.

The assailant carried “one or two axes” when he attacked in the settlement of Bat Ayin, according to Shaul Goldstein, head of the regional council in the Gush Etzion area south of Jerusalem. Shots were fired and the man escaped, Mr. Goldstein told Israel Radio.

Israel’s emergency services said the teenager died despite efforts to revive him, Israel Radio said, adding that the Israeli Army had asked residents in the area to remain indoors as the attacker was still on the loose.

Bat Ayin is home to around 1,000 Israelis. In 2002, three of its residents were jailed for between 12 and 15 years for trying to bomb a Palestinian girls’ school in East Jerusalem. Another resident was killed two years ago as he walked alone outside the settlement.

The attack was the first of its kind to be reported since the new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Jordan: Water; Desalination Plant to End Supply From Israel

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 25 — Experts in Jordan called today for the construction of a desalination plant in the port city of Aqaba to solve the kingdom’s chronic water problem. Former water minister Mohammad Kilani said the desalination plant at the Red Sea would cost around USD 200 million annually, a price within reach, considering the importance of water resources to the population. “Jordan will no longer be hostage to fluctuating rainfall levels,” he said today during the final day of a seminar marking World Water Day organised by the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA). “The government can fund this project in cooperation with the Water Ministry,” he said, noting the population will be able to get water on regular basis. Currently citizens get water once a week as part of a rationing programme to manage the meagre reserves around the country. Jordan’s fragile water situation was exposed at full earlier this month when Israeli born contamination forced authorities to stop pumping water to the capital until the contamination was put under control. Jordan gets nearly one third of its water needs from Israel as part of an agreement to share water resources of the Yarmouk River. Other resources of water include dams that collect water in the rainy winter season and underground wells. JEA President Wael Saqqa called on the government to enhance its monitoring policy over water pumped by Israel to avoid a repetition of the recent water contamination the canal. “The government must find alternative sources for water and not depend on water pumped by the enemy,” said Saqqa. This year’s rainfall was less than average, with the kingdom’s dams filled up to less than half their capacity, raising concern of possible shortage in the summer. Experts believe the country needs continuous water supply that can put an end to this debacle once and for all. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Games: Pavoncello (Maccabi), Protest in Pescara

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 27 — “I’m appealing to everyone, sportspeople and otherwise, to be with us in Pescara on June 26 to protest against the exclusion of Israel from the Mediterranean Games”, urged Vittorio Pavoncello, president of Maccabi Italia, the organisation of Italian Jewish athletes. Pavoncello also announced his intention to gather the whole sporting delegation who will take part in the Jewish Olympics in Israel in July outside the stadium in Pescara. “If Israel will not be physically present,” Pavoncello explained, “it will be in the hearts of all the people who believe in sport and its universal values. Everyone will fly the Israeli flag on the opening day of the games in Pescara: each one,” he repeated, “must bring the flag with the Star of David on it and embrace the stadium symbolically”. Pavoncello went on to describe the exclusion of Israeli and Palestinian delegations, as “discrimination”. He said that “security reasons or, worse still, diplomatic reasons which violate the Statute of the Games, cannot prevail. It is up to sporting Italy, as the organising country, to make sure that the aims set out in the Statute are respected, and it cannot be complicit, not even indirectly, in such a hateful discrimination by those who want to isolate Israel and undermine its right to existence and security”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanon: Hariri Court; Assad, No Guarantee on Politicization

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 25 — There is no guarantee that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which has responsibility for judging those accused of committing terrorist attacks in Lebanon since 2005, led by Italian Judge Antonio Cassese, will not be politicized, said Syrian President Bashar al Assad in an interview published this morning in Beirut daily, as Safir. “We cannot say whether (the tribunal) will be politicized or not, because no guarantees have been made,” said Assad. In the initial reports in the fall of 2005 written by the UN investigation commission on the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, some members of the security forces were accused of being involved in the crime. Damascus has always rejected these accusations, raising doubts that the STL and ongoing investigations can be used to fulfil political objective to exert pressure on the Syrian regime. In an interview published today, Assad confirmed that Syria will cooperate with the tribunal if an agreement is reached between the STL and legal authorities in Damascus.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Court Upholds Canadian Beheading Sentence

OTTAWA — The Jidda General Court in Saudi Arabia has upheld a beheading sentence issued last March against a 23-year-old Canadian charged in the death of a man during a schoolyard fight, according to Amnesty International Canada.

Mohamed Kohail, of Montreal but living temporarily in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to death by public decapitation after being convicted of killing an 18-year-old student in a brawl in Jidda in January 2007.

Amnesty International contacted a Saudi source to confirm a story in Thursday’s Arab News, an English language daily newspaper in Jidda, which reported that the general court had “upheld the death penalty verdict.”

In February, the Saudi Supreme Judicial Council ordered a lower court review of the beheading sentence. However, according to the Arab News, the council, which endorses all capital and corporal punishments issued by lower courts, made a number of inquiries and sent the case back to the Jidda General Court.

Aubrey Harris, who works on a campaign to abolish the death penalty for Amnesty International, said the general court has upheld it’s initial ruling to impose the death penalty. However, he said because the case must now go back to the Supreme Judicial Council, — which is essentially an appeal court — for a final ruling, there could still be a positive outcome for Kohail.

“The lower court is refusing to change it’s decision,” he said. “But what it mean is Kohail’s case must now go back before the Supreme Judicial Council, which had originally felt that his case should be overturned so it is a matter of waiting and seeing.”

Mr. Harris said it’s unclear if the delay will allow for more evidence to be presented in court.

The Kohail family has urged the Canadian government to intervene because they argue the investigation and trial were unfair.

The Kohails have maintained evidence — not permitted to be entered at the separate trials of their two sons -suggests the two were trying to escape from a mob and did not cause the injuries that led to the Syrian man’s death.

“It hasn’t been a fair run,” Mr. Harris said. “The court system is undergoing modifications and a number of them haven’t taken effect yet, but (may have the power to overturn lower court rulings.”

Mr. Harris said the court’s final decision will likely be made “in a few weeks” and hoped the Canadian government would push for Kohail; s release.

“The Canadian government must intervene,” he said.

The Kohails settled in Montreal after emigrating to Canada in 2000, becoming Canadian citizens in 2005. The family’s nightmare began soon after they left Canada for Saudi Arabia in late 2006 to celebrate the marriage of their daughter.

After a 19-year-old Syrian man died during a schoolyard fight in January 2007, Mohamed Kohail was charged in his death. Last March, a lower Saudi court ordered him executed with a sword.

There was no word on developments regarding his brother, Sultan, who was charged in the same incident.

Sultan was originally tried in Saudi youth court and sentenced to 200 lashes — but now faces trial in adult court, where he could also face a death sentence.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Turkish Honor Killings

“Nearly all the men in the village say they would kill their wives and daughters for honour — life without honour is not worth living.”

Unreported World travels to Turkey to investigate honour killings, which have now reached record levels with more than 200 girls and women killed in the past year alone. The programme highlights a chilling new development in which a new law outlawing honour killings may have led to a huge increase in girls being forced to commit suicide instead.

Reporter Ramita Navai and Producer Matt Haan begin their journey in the south east of Turkey, an ethnically Kurdish region. They’ve been invited to a traditional Kurdish wedding between two 18-year-old-cousins, arranged by their families. One guest tells Navai that Kurds have their own marriage traditions, and that marriage changes the way a woman behaves.

The team moves on to Karacada, an area renowned for its blood feuds, where there have been several honour killings over the last year. One local tells Navai that a woman can dishonour her family by standing too close to a man she is not related to and that some women aren’t allowed mobile phones in case they receive a call from a man.

He says women can be killed for violating the rules of honour. When a woman is accused of dishonour, a family council will decide her fate. He says that honour killings are really effective in sending out a strong message to everybody. Local women tell Unreported World that they live in constant fear and that their brothers would beat them over mere rumours.

The team meets Husna, who is willing to talk openly about an honour killing that happened less than five weeks previously. She says she suspects her niece’s new husband was unable to consummate the marriage and killed her to spare his honour. She claims that these killings are common and three have happened in the area recently.

Moving on to a village close to the Iranian border, the team hears about Nazime Alir, who was 21 years old when she was murdered. Her father-in-law tells Navai that his son gouged out her eyes, cut her tongue off and put her remains in a plastic bag before burning her. Nearly all the men in the village say they would kill their wives and daughters for honour — life without honour is not worth living.

Until recently, under Turkish law honour killers could get a reduced sentence by claiming provocation. However, four years ago, as part of Turkey’s campaign to join the European Union, it introduced a mandatory life sentence for the crime. But the change in the law hasn’t reduced the killings. Instead, as Unreported World reveals, it appears to have given rise to a sinister new twist.

The team travels to the city of Batman, nicknamed ‘suicide city’ because in the last few years hundreds of women and girls have committed suicide. Like other areas of the country, female suicides rocketed after the change in the law. Batman’s chief prosecutor tells Unreported World that he believes many of the suicides in the town are forced, but that they’re almost impossible to investigate. Those women who escape the attempt flee into hiding.

One young woman, Elif, claims that when she was 18 years old, her parents wanted to force her into marriage. When she refused, she claims her family told her that if she didn’t marry him, she would have to kill herself. She says her father told her if he, or her brother, was forced to kill her they would go to prison so she should think of them and kill herself. She said she considered doing it because she loved her father so much, but she realized she didn’t want to die. Instead, she ran away.

Ending up in Istanbul, the team finds that even the most modernised city in Turkey hasn’t escaped the tradition. According to a government report, it now has one of the highest levels of honour killings in the country, with one happening every week. The Government has condemned the killings and launched a commission with the aim of reducing them. Yet, the Unreported World team see twelve cases in the press as the murders continue unabated.

           — Hat tip: LJH [Return to headlines]


Bomb Blows Hole in Lenin Statue

One of Russia’s most famous statues of Vladimir Lenin has been bombed, leaving the Bolshevik revolutionary with a gaping hole in his rear.

The bronze statue, in the city of St Petersburg, was badly damaged before dawn on Wednesday, when the blast blew a hole in Lenin’s coat.

No-one was hurt in the attack, the motive for which was unknown.

The statue, outside the Finland Station, marks the Bolshevik leader’s return from exile in April 1917.

“Today at 0430 [0030 GMT] there was an explosion at the Lenin monument at the Finland Station in the city centre,” a spokesman for the Saint Petersburg branch of the Russian emergency situations ministry told the AFP news agency.

“As a result of the explosion a crater of 80-100cm [31-39in] appeared on the monument,” he added.

Lenin gave a speech at the railway station after his return from exile.

Later that year he would lead the revolution that overthrew the government and would take the Communists to power for more than 70 years.

St Petersburg was the cradle of the Russian Revolution and was renamed Leningrad after Lenin’s death in 1924.

Lenin’s embalmed body remains on display in a mausoleum in Moscow.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: National Post Editorial Board: Hamid Karzai’s Giant Step Backward

Even as military news from Afghanistan has become more bleak in recent years, supporters of Canada’s mission in that country — including this newspaper — have always been able to fall back on one very strong talking point: NATO’s presence in Afghanistan has helped protect the rights of women in a nation where women were once treated as chattel.

But now, even that argument is faltering. According to United Nations officials who have seen it, a new Afghan law backed by President Hamid Karzai would hurl many of the country’s women back into the Taliban era.

The Shia Personal Status Law, as it is called, reportedly would permit Afghan males within the country’s Shiite minority to rape their wives with impunity. The law also declares that women can work, educate themselves or receive medical care only with their husbands’ permission. In the event of a marriage break-up, only fathers and grandfathers are eligible for custody.

The law is a travesty, especially, coming as it does, at a time when Western nations are seeking to rally the international community to an invigorated military and aid effort in Afghanistan. The world already knows Mr. Karzai’s government to be corrupt and ineffective. Now we also know that the President is willing to sell out the country’s women in a crass bid to buy votes from Afghans whose world view is still locked in medieval times.

Afghanistan is a different place from Canada, with a different religion, and a vastly different culture; and it goes without saying that the country’s social landscape will never be anywhere near identical to ours. Even so, when Canadians hear news like this, they can’t be faulted for wondering: What, exactly, are our soldiers fighting — and dying — to protect?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Energy Nepalese Prime Minister in Norway and Finland to Seek Investment

Despite the delicate domestic political situation, Prime Minister Dahal leaves Kathmandu in the hope of signing agreements for the development of the country’s hydroelectric resources. Nepal has unused energy potential equal to 83,000 megawatts, but the lack of infrastructure forces it to import electricity from India.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — The prime minister of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (in the photo), is on an official visit to Norway and Finland. Together with a delegation of businessmen and government representatives, he will be in the northern European countries until April 4 in an attempt to sign agreements in the hydroelectric energy sector, and obtain help for the country, which two months ago declared a “national energy crisis.”

The use of its energy resources has become a chronic problem for Nepal. It is calculated that the country has unused resources equivalent to 83,000 megawatts. This wealth could contribute to the development of industry, which is forced to rely on the importing of energy from neighboring India, and to the expansion of electricity distribution for private use, since more than 80% of the population still depends on wood and other natural fuels.

The ten years of civil war that characterized the life of Nepal from 1996-2006 led to a paralysis of infrastructure development, which the country is no longer able to resolve on its own.

The visit of the Maoist leader comes on the eve of the beginning of the winter session of parliament, known also as the “session of the amendments,” in which the government will discuss three delicate topics: which public service sectors should be maintained, the institution of a commission to investigate the hundreds of cases of disappearance and kidnapping; and the modification of the electoral rolls.

The coinciding of the prime minister’s trip with the beginning of the winter session of parliament has created perplexity among political forces. Nonetheless, Dahal says he received the opposition’s support for the trip, which had been postponed in January for reasons of domestic politics, in order to avoid harming Nepal’s image.

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

Indian Ocean Former Colony Votes to Become French

The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte voted Sunday to become a full part of France in a referendum that will end local traditions like polygamy and curb powers of Islamic courts.

More than 95 percent of those who voted supported Mayotte becoming France’s 101st department, the French government announced. Mayotte is currently an overseas “collectivity” with specific autonomy powers.

The vote means that by 2011 the Muslim-majority island will complete an integration with France begun in 1974, when Mayotte split from three other islands in its archipelago which chose independence and became the Comoros. The African Union and the Comoros administration — which sees Mayotte as a territory “occupied” by France — have denounced the referendum. Several hundred people marched Sunday to the French embassy in Moroni, the capital of the Comoros, and burned a French flag as they sang their national anthem to protest against the Mayotte referendum, a diplomat there said.

The Comoros have seen frequent coups since independence and are poorer than Mayotte, whose relative wealth makes it a magnet for illegal migrants who make a perilous boat journey there. About a third of the 200,000 residents of Mayotte have arrived illegally from the Comoros.

“Our elders fought so that we we could remain part of France. It’s up to us to finish that work,” said Youssoufou Majouai, a 39-year-old gym caretaker, as he cast his vote in a school in the capital Mamoudzo.

“We have wanted this for a long time, to be like mainland France, with good schools and good salaries,” said Inoussa Abdallah, 58, as he voted in Mamoudzou town hall. French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the referendum as a “historic moment for Mayotte,” his office said.

The vote follows unrest in three of France’s four overseas departments, with the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe being the worse hit by rioting during a lengthy general strike for pay rises that ended this month.

All political parties and trade unions on Mayotte, which lies between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique and where French is spoken by less than half the population, called for a yes vote.

The only dissenting voices were some Muslim clerics who fear their influence will decline if French ways are imposed on the population, most of whom speak a dialect of Swahili.

When Mayotte becomes fully French, men will no longer be allowed to have several wives, Islamic courts will lose most of their power and equality between the sexes will be enforced.

Mayotte is seen as a strategic asset as Iran seeks to boost its influence on on the Muslim islands off the east coast of Africa. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month visited the Comoros on a brief trip aimed at boosting cooperation.

The Comoros federation’s president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi trained as a religious leader in Iran. France has four overseas departments, the far-flung remnants of an empire that once spanned the world.

Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean, French Guiana on the northern coast of South America, and Reunion in the Indian Ocean, are all integral parts of France and thus of the European Union.

Between them they have nearly two million residents. Pacific territories such as New Caledonia and French Polynesia remain overseas collectivities that are also designated as ‘overseas country’ by the French government.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: President Eyes Decree to Save Corruption Court

Jakarta, 31 March (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia’s resident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has unveiled a plan to issue a government decree to retain the country’s embattled corruption court if MPs fail to legislate by the end of the year.

Yudhoyono’s toughened stance over the court comes ahead of parliamentary elections next month.

“The President will issue a Perppu (decree) to save the Corruption Court if the House cannot create the law before 19 December,” Denny Indrayana, an advisor to Yudhoyono on legal issues, said in Jakarta.

In 2007, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court concluded ruled the Corruption Court’s establishment in 2002 that its legal basis was unconstitutional.

The court then ruled that a new law on the Corruption Court had to be enacted by December 2009, or else the existing Corruption Court would have to be dissolved and forced to hand over trials under its investigation to district courts.

Observers and civil society groups have expressed concern that corruption cases be handled district courts when they are widely regarded as one of the country’s most corrupt institutions.

The current Corruption Court is the only court of its kind where prosecutors from Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) bring the accused to trial.

However, the Indonesian parliament, the House of Representatives, appears reluctant to pass a law on the court by the end of the year, sparking outrage among anti-corruption campaigners.

With parliamentary elections just over a week away, legislators have been accused of ignoring the deliberation process of crucial bills, including the Corruption Court bill, to focus on their campaign efforts.

The Corruption Court must be saved by either a law or a decree, Indrayana said.

“If we issue a Perppu, we can use the draft bill currently being discussed in the House, with some adjustments and input from the public,” Denny said.

Two articles within the bill are of particular concern to corruption watchdogs, however. One designates district court heads to chair regional corruption courts while another assigns to the district court chief the authority to select judges overseeing certain cases, such as those under review.

Importantly, the bill also grants the Supreme Court head and district court chief the right to decide on the balance of career and non-career judges sitting in district-level corruption courts.

The bill states the number of judges be odd, either three or five.

District court and career judges have a notorious history of colluding with corruption suspects appearing before them, which has created a veritable “court mafia” embedded in the country’s judicial system.

Many anti-corruption activists say the bill could be a strategy to weaken Indonesia’s fight against graft.

It is feared that if the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is defeated each time it presents cases to the Corruption Court, its power and authority could be undermined.

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

Indonesia: Christians Fear Gains by Islamic Parties in Elections

There is an expansion of Islamic-inspired parties promoting the institution of Sharia. The young are less and less drawn by the nationalist ideology based on the secular pillars of Pancasila. The Christians are less than 10% of the population, and fear further marginalization.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The Christians of Indonesia are worried about the national and regional elections on April 9. Among the 38 parties going to the polls, an increasing percentage of voters are turning to the confessional groups promoting Muslim ideology. Especially noteworthy among these are the Partai Bulan Bintang (PBB) and the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), whose stated political goals include the institution of Shyariat Islam, an Indonesian expression for Sharia.

The Christian communities of the archipelago are a little less than 10% of the population. There are about 12.5 million Protestants, and 7.5 million Catholics: a minority compared to the more than 182 million Muslims.

“Their worrying feelings [of the Christians] have their rationale,” says J. Kristiadi, a Catholic and a politic analyst from the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Cases of discrimination on the part of Muslims are on the rise, and there are concerns over the recent increase in public ordinances based on Shyariat Islam.

To the political invasiveness of a confessional nature, Kristiadi also adds the silence of the country’s ruling class: on the occasion of the ministerial decree that blocked the construction of any place of worship in Indonesia, no politician objected that this was a limitation of religious freedom.

The growing success of parties of Islamic inspiration is also documented by the latest provincial elections in West Java. Groups like the PKS, thanks in part to an electoral campaign centered on the fight against corruption, obtained unexpected results that many analysts are interpreting as a first test in view of the national elections on April 9, and the presidential election next July.

For Kristiadi, the reason for the success of these parties of clear Islamic inspiration are connected to the progressive abandonment of the Pancasila, the five pillars of secular nationalism on which Indonesia built its history after independence in 1945. With the end of Suharto’s dictatorial regime in 1998, a revival was seen of the ideology inspired by Shyariat Islam in the period from 1999-2002, so much so that the parties were able to modify the constitution, which in the past banned the promotion of Sharia in their political platform.

“A survey has revealed that at least 80 percent of university students are hoping to choose in upholding the sharia over Pancasila,” says Kristiadi. These are the young people enrolled in the universities in the large cities of Jakarta, Malang, Yogyakarta, and Bandung. Only 4.5% of them hope for the maintaining of the nationalist ideology.

In the process of marginalization targeted at them, Indonesian Christians are paying, among other things, for the lack of authoritative voices within the country’s political panorama, and some of the faithful are lamenting the inability to create a single party of Christian inspiration.

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

Indonesia: Polygamous Indonesia Politicians May Lose Female Votes

JAKARTA (Reuters) — Polygamy is turning into an election issue among some women voters in officially secular, predominantly Muslim Indonesia, after a feminist group listed several Islamist politicians alleged to have more than one wife.

The list could potentially hurt the election chances of politicians from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamist party positioning itself as a potential ally or coalition partner for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ahead of the April 9 parliamentary elections and July 8 presidential poll.

Indonesia allows polygamy but a man can only get court approval to take a second wife if his first wife agrees, or if she is disabled or cannot have children.

The practice is frowned on by many educated, middle class women.

“Women pay attention to this issue,” said Yeni Rosa Damayanti, coordinator of the Indonesian Women’s Solidarity which compiled the list.

Several politicians from the PKS and other small Islamist parties feature on the list, but party leaders were quick to dismiss it as a smear tactic.

“This is part of a black campaign,” said PKS chairman Tifatul Sembiring, who is named as one of the polygamous candidates, along with PKS party officials Didin Amaruddin, Anis Matta, and Zulkieflimansyah.

Sembiring declined to say if he and the other three PKS members were in polygamous marriages.

“This is a political party, we don’t control the private lives of cadres,” he said in a telephone text message to Reuters. “I say ‘mind your own business’.”

But Damayanti said polygamy is a turn-off for female voters, adding that politicians were right to be concerned.

“Their response shows they are worried. We are still collecting names for the list and in the long term, yes, we think it will damage their political interests,” she said.

Nasaruddin Umar, the director general of the office of Islamic Guidance at the Department of Religion, said there are no statistics on how many Indonesians are in polygamous marriages there, but that more Indonesians are citing polygamy as a reason for divorce these days.

Data from the Department of Religion showed that in 2005, 105 listed polygamy as the reason for divorce, rising to 502 couples in 2006. Figures for 2007 and 2008 are yet to be released.

The list released by Indonesian Women’s Solidarity also named a member of the Islamic National Mandate Party (PAN) and two members of Islamic United Development Party (PPP).

Chozin Chumaidy, deputy chair of PPP, could not confirm whether PPP members on the list were in polygamous marriages.

“But even if they were, it would not be a problem for us as long as the marriages are in accordance with Islamic law and state law,” he said.

“Many Indonesian women don’t see polygamy as a problem.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Singapore: ‘Singaporean’ Linked to Crisis

MANILA: A man believed to be from Singapore is said to be acting on behalf of Islamic militants in the Philippines’ 76-day Red Cross hostage crisis. Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno told local television that the ‘Singapore’ militant served as an interpreter for the Abu Sayyaf group in its negotiations with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Manila government.

He said ‘the Singaporean’, whom he did not identify, could also have made contact with the relatives of a Swiss and an Italian hostage, two of three Red Cross workers abducted on the southern island of Jolo on Jan 15.

The Philippines’ Red Cross head, Senator Richard Gordon, told The Straits Times last night that he first spoke to the man by mobile phone eight days after the kidnapping.

From his accent, it was not immediately clear whether he was Singaporean or Malaysian, said Mr Gordon, who spoke to the man ‘three or four times’.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Tajikistan: New Synagogue of Dushanbe to Open Soon

It will stand in a building given to the Jewish community by a rich banker. The old synagogue was demolished to build the new presidential palace. There is great fear in the country for religious freedom, especially for non-Islamic faiths, after the restrictive law promulgated last week.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Jewish community of Dushanbe will soon have a new synagogue, thanks to a donation from a prominent businessmen. Serious restrictions of religious freedom are underway in the country, and are more severe for non-Muslims.

The synagogue will be built in a few months, in the building (in the photo) donated by Hasan Assadullozoda, owner of Orient-Bank and the brother-in-law of Tajik president Imomali Rakhmon.

The Jewish community is expressing great satisfaction. Its rabbi, Mikhael Abdurahmonov, has said that the new synagogue will be better than the previous one.

The only synagogue in the capital was demolished last June, together with an entire neighborhood, in order to build the grandiose new presidential palace. The few hundreds of Jews in Dushanbe protested, in part because they did not have the money to build a new place of worship, and the government had promised to take care of the matter but then did nothing.

The old synagogue was built at the beginning of the 20th century, when there were at least two Jewish neighborhoods in Dushanbe. It survived the Soviet period, and for the Jews was always a place not only to pray, but also to gather and carry out social activities on behalf of the needy.

A restrictive new law on religious freedom went into effect in the country last week. It prohibits religious education for children under the age of seven and in private homes, permits the celebration of religious services only in places approved by the authorities, and allows the recognition of non-Muslim religious groups only if they have at least 400 faithful in rural areas, 800 in the cities, and 1,200 in the capital. 95% of the 6.5 million inhabitants are Muslim.

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

Video: Radicals Beat Girl, 17, in Islamic Stronghold of Swat, Pakistan

This grainy footage appears to show a 17-year-old girl being beaten by Islamic radicals in Pakistan’s northwestern region of Swat, where Sharia law was introduced after the government reached a truce with the Taleban in February.

A local Taleban commander in the militant stronghold of Matta, 25 miles from the regional capital, Mingora, ordered the girl to be flogged a week ago after accusing her of adultery, according to local reporters.

But some residents of Matta have accused the commander of ordering the beating to get revenge after the girl refused to accept his proposal of marriage, the reporters told The Times.

“Please! Enough! Enough!” the girl is heard crying in Pashtu, the language of the tribes who dominate northwestern Pakistan — now the main hub of Taleban and al-Qaeda activity.

At another point, she cries: “I am repenting, my father is repenting what I have done, my grandmother is repenting what I have done…”

The man flogging her is also heard abusing his colleague as he struggles to hold her down and stop her covering her backside with her hands.

“You should hold her tightly so she doesn’t move,” he is heard saying.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Far East

Asia: North Korea Threatens to Shoot Down U.S. Planes in Its Airspace

North Korea accused the United States of spying on the site of an impending rocket launch and threatened Wednesday to shoot down any U.S. planes that intrude into its airspace.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

China Toughens Stance on Role of Rich Nations in Climate Effort

China raised the price of its co-operation in the world’s climate change talks yesterday by calling for developed countries to spend 1 per cent of their domestic product helping poorer nations cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The funding — amounting to more than $300bn (£190bn, â‚240bn) based on Group of Seven countries — would be spent largely on the transfer of “green” technologies, such as renewable energy, to poorer countries.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

N. Korea Fuelling Rocket

WASHINGTON — NORTH Korea has started fuelling a rocket ahead of a planned satellite launch that could come as early as this weekend, CNN television reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed US military official. Fuelling would confirm the regime is entering the final preparations for the launch which it has announced will occur during an April 4-8 window.

A senior defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Wednesday afternoon there was no clear sign yet that fuelling had begun.

North Korea has said it will send up a communications satellite over northern parts of Japan, but the United States and its Asian allies suspect the launch is a cover for testing a long-range ballistic missile test that could — in theory — hit Alaska.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned during a visit to Tokyo that the North Korean launch would have consequences at the UN Security Council, saying: ‘It is an unfortunate example of provocation by the North Koreans.’ Pyongyang threatened on Wednesday to shoot down any US spy planes if they violate its airspace to monitor the imminent launch, in a statement carried by state radio.

Recent commercial satellite pictures suggest preparations for a launch, with the removal of tarpaulins that had covered the shape of the rocket’s tip, according to weapons experts.

The rounded shape of the rocket nose indicated it was a satellite, as North Korea has announced, and not a warhead, two arms analysts said. A warhead requires a narrower outline, resembling a sharpened pencil, to allow it to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, said Bruce Bennett, a senior defence analyst at the Los Angeles-based Rand Corporation.

‘Unless the front end of the missile as we’re seeing it now is just a nosecone covering the warhead — which is a possibility — unless it’s that, then it doesn’t look very much like a warhead,’ Bennett told AFP.

‘A warhead would not be as rounded,’ he said. A satellite can have a simpler design and ‘a relatively blunt nose’ as it is headed into space, he said.

The latest commercial photos were ‘pretty grainy’ but ‘it doesn’t look like a warhead re-entry vehicle,’ said David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australian Defence Minister’s Free Trips to China

Revealed: Fitzgibbon’s other free trip

CHINESE-BORN businesswoman Helen Liu paid for Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to travel first-class to China in 1993 before they had ever met, giving him access to top Communist Party officials.

One of Ms Liu’s companies paid for Mr Fitzgibbon and his father Eric Fitzgibbon, a then federal Labor MP, to fly to China in June 1993 to mark the start of work on a tourist development.

During their seven-day stay, Mr Fitzgibbon and his father were guests of Shandong province Governor and top Communist Party official, Zhao Zhinhao, and Ms Liu’s company, Diamond Hill International.

Last week, Mr Fitzgibbon put his ministerial career in jeopardy by failing to declare Ms Liu paid for two trips to China in 2002 and 2005 when he was an opposition frontbencher.

The relationship between Ms Liu and Mr Fitzgibbon has been the subject of an alleged covert inquiry by Defence Department officials who believe her connections in China pose a security risk.

As he was not an MP at the time of the 1993 trip (he was a senior NSW ALP official and an electorate officer for his father), he was not obliged to declare it to Parliament. But he also did not mention the 1993 trip last week when asked about claims he had received expensive gifts from Ms Liu.

Mr Fitzgibbon’s spokesman said yesterday Ms Liu had told Eric Fitzgibbon he could bring a guest on the 1993 trip.

Two years later, Ms Liu gave Joel Fitzgibbon $20,000 to use in his campaign to succeed his father as the member for the NSW electorate of Hunter.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela: Chavez Officials Set Trial for Hounded Venezuela Opposition Leader Rosales for April 20

CARACAS — In lightning speed extremely uncharacteristic for the pedantic Venezuelan justice system, the trial of opposition Mayor Manuel Rosales of Maracaibo on corruption charges dating back to his days as governor of Zulia state earlier this decade has been scheduled to start on April 20.

Rosales, whose party, Un Nuevo Tiempo, announced earlier this week that he had gone into hiding to “safeguard” his physical wellbeing, will face charges stemming from alleged misuse of state funds between 2002 and 2004. On conviction, he could face a prison sentence of three to 10 years.

Prosecutors are reported to have drawn up a case consisting of 26 points, 12 originating from their own investigation and the other 14 submitted by Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russián. Russián is an object of opposition suspicion after banning 270 individuals, mostly critics of President Hugo Chávez, from running for or holding public office.

The trial was originally to take place in Zulia, but was abruptly transferred at the first hearing there to Caracas. This was after Attorney General Luisa Díaz Ortega claimed there could be “irregularities” if the case was heard in Rosales’ home state.

Rosales, who unsuccessfully challenged Chávez for the presidency at the elections in 2006, has become a centerpiece for the opposition. There’s speculation that efforts will be made to issue an arrest warrant for Rosales after a petition to the effect was included in the case first brought by prosecutor Katiuska Plaza in Zulia.

National Assembly Deputy Carlos Escarrá, a Chávez supporter like the great bulk of legislators at national level (after the Opposition refused to compete in elections it felt were unfair), continued to maintain that Rosales had fled the country “first by Colombia and then Panama.”

This was refuted by Rosales’ wife, who presented her husband’s passport at a press conference. “Manuel is in Maracaibo with us, as has always been the case,” she said. “I don’t understand why they don’t leave this man in peace, when what he does is work and work.”

She went on to disclose that Rosales was working at the mayor’s office in Maracaibo, and meeting with his lawyers. She said he went into and came out of the city every morning and night for reasons of safety. “He’s not frightened of a man or the military, he fears for the security of his family and children,” she declared.

Public Defender Gabriela Ramírez said that Rosales was “evading” justice. When he had appeared before a committee at the National Assembly, his denials had not matched “the gravity of the accusations imputed against him,” she said. “He hasn’t shown his face to justice,” she said.

Magaly Vásquez, another member of Rosales’ defense team, said it was “absurd” to say he was evading justice when, “at this moment,” no summons had been issued for him to appear before a court.

Vásquez put forward a complicated legal argument to the effect that a petition for an arrest warrant could not be based on the case as it stood at present. Much the same could be said about an order preventing him from leaving the country, she said, adding that Rosales had appeared on every occasion when he was required to do so in the past.

Likewise, the head of the scientific and investigative police, CICPC, earlier this week confirmed that he’d received no instruction to take Rosales into custody. Vásquez brought the military intelligence directive, DIM, and the state security service, DISIP, into a supposed plot to imprison Rosales.

“Would we like to know why DIM and DISIP are making a persecution of Rosales?” she asked out loud. “This is a totally and absolutely irregular act.”

While the drama of Rosales’ case kept him in the headlines, plans were afoot at the National Assembly to zero in on two other opposition state governors. The legislature voted that the interior policy committee should investigate Governor Henrique Salas Feo of Carabobo, who defeated Chávez’ ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) at the elections last November.

The motion for an investigation was proposed by PSUV Deputy Iris Valera, a fiery individual who’s at odds with the leadership of her own party in her home state, Táchira — which also crossed to the opposition at the last elections.

Varela justified her move by pointing to statements made in Táchira by Salas Feo, a member of Proyecto Venezuela, a regional opposition party, during a meeting against Chávez’ recent use of the recently reformed Decentralization Law to take over ports, airports and highways, mainly in states controlled by the opposition.

Salas Feo had spoken of organizing a movement to defend regional autonomy. To Valera, this reeked of secessionist talk.

Deputy Mario Isea, who leads the PSUV in the legislature, called on prosecutors to investigate Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski — arguably the biggest opposition victor at last November’s elections.

Isea has questioned the governor’s choice of a company to manage health services for employees of the state government. He went with a delegation from the Miranda Legislative Council (state parliament) to the Attorney General’s Office with what they claimed was evidence against the company in question, BanValor. Isea alleged that the company had submitted the highest bid of the 18 on offer, but still got the contract.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Venezuela: Prisoners From Guantánamo Would be Welcome in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is willing to receive prisoners from Guantánamo detention center and wished Washington to return to Cuba the territory where the US naval base is located.

“We do not mind receiving a human being,” said Chávez during an interview on Wednesday with Qatari TV network Al Jazeera, including questions from the local audience, Efe quoted.

President Chávez clarified, however, that his country has played no role in the prison dismantling and the possibility of some inmates being transferred to other nations in the short and medium terms.

The president, who attended the Second South American-Arab Summit (ASPA) held in Qatar on Tuesday, said he expected that the new US President Barack Obama will release all the prisoners from Guantánamo “and return to Cuba the Guantánamo Bay and end with that miserable prison.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Immigrant Landings Will Stop May 15, Maroni

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MARCH 30 — Illegal immigrant landings on Italy’s southern coasts will stop on May 15 when Italy and Libya begin joint patrols of the Libyan coast to dicourage boats setting off, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Monday. The joint patrols form part of a historic friendship accord between Rome and Tripoli signed in August 2008. The Libyan coast is the point of departure for most migrants, who make for the southern Italian islands of Lampedusa and Linosa or the coast of Sicily. Maroni made his remarks on the same day more than 400 migrants arrived in two boats off Siracusa and Ragusa on the Sicilian coast. “We have done everything possible to stop the landings. The Libyan government has committed to begin patrolling the coasts with six motor boats from May 15. On that day I expect the flow of people entering Italy from the Libyan channel to stop and the problem will be resolved,” Maroni said. “Between now and then, I will continue to ask the Libyan authorities to intensify controls, but I imagine there will be other landings,” he added. According to figures released by the interior ministry earlier this year, around 37,000 people landed on Italian coasts in 2008 — a 75% increase on 2007. This is over half the total number of migrants who arrived in Europe by sea last year, which totalled around 67,000. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean: Roy, Europe Should See Migration Differently

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 27 — Faced with the transformations brought into being by the trends seen in migration, Europe, “instead of trying to create a vague multi-culturalism or imposing a sort of assimilation based on a mistaken view of its own ‘common values’, should base itself on its founding principles.” This is the view held by Oliver Roy, the orientalist and French political expert who made the opening speech at the annual conference on Mediterranean studies sponsored by the European University Institute in Montecatini Terme (Pistoia). Roy believes that religion should be treated as an individual’s choice and not as the expression of an ethnic and religious group, in this way drawing a distinction between ethnic-linguistic minorities and religious communities. “The freedom of religion is not the same as the rights of minorities,” said Roy, research director at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and professor at both the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and the Institut d’Etudes politiques (IEP) in Paris. In his view, confusing the two concepts means laying down the premises for Islamophobia, and the confusion between religion and ethnic origins “puts the very way in which citizenship and personal freedom form the founding principles of our political life at risk.” The paradigms in which we usually see migration phenomena, stressed Roy, do not reflect the reality of movement and settlements in the Mediterranean area. It would be much more accurate to speak of the “mobility of labour” and “of professions” than using the traditional term “migration”. The reality is ever more that, for example, of “young, educated Moroccans, possibly with a French passport, who find a job in London and then go back to their home countries to set up a business or fly to Abu Dhabi.” In contrast, he said, governments tend to “pin down” the population inside and outside of its national borders, with visa restrictions and working papers. However, this “territorialization” has in no way been effective in halting illegal immigration, and has instead prevented many potentially positive dynamics for development from coming into being for the countries involved. At the Mediterranean Research Meeting, underway until March 28, over 250 researchers will be taking part in 18 workshops on various aspects of current issues affecting the Mediterranean area. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mexican Asylum Seekers on Rise in Vancouver

Large number of those hoping to stay in Canada are affluent professionals claiming to be on the run from warring drug cartels

Professionals on the run from Mexico’s brutal drug wars are beginning to appear in Vancouver in search of a safe haven.

This new class of would-be refugee includes lawyers, doctors, police officers and businessmen who say they are being chased out of their country by warring drug cartels whose members have resorted to torture, execution, dismemberment and decapitation to warn their enemies.


According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of asylum requests filed at U.S. border entries by Mexican nationals nearly doubled in the last fiscal year, and the pace continues to increase. In Canada, 8,069 Mexican nationals requested refugee status last year, up from 7,028 in the previous year, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Statistics provided by the Canadian Border Services Agency to a French-language newspaper, meanwhile, put the 2008 number higher at 9,456 — a figure representing nearly one-quarter of all asylum requests made that year.

The sudden spike in refugee applications from Mexico is a direct consequence of the drug wars between cartels, as the Mexican government tries to break up crime rings, CBSA documents provided to La Presse state.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain: 54 Arrested for Human Trafficking

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 30 — Over 54 people of Chinese origin have been arrested as part of a huge police operation to tackle human trafficking, which took place in Barcelona, Badalona and San Adrià del Besos (Barcelona). Sources from the chief of police in Catalonia reported that some of those arrested have been charged with offences related to human trafficking, illegal immigration and the falsification of documents, and are thought to have links to Chinese mafia organisations; others are the victims of the network of exploitation but are in any case illegally resident in Spain. Many searches were carried out during the course of the operation, and those investigating have not ruled out further developments in the case. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/2/2009

  1. Isn’t the story “Ireland: Electronic Tagging for Exiles of ‘High Net Worth’ Proposed” an April fool ?

    The link did not work, so I was not able to check.

  2. Robert M.,

    It must have been. It appeared in the print edition as well but I didn’t cop on to it. It’s similar enough to a lot of real news stories that should be jokes but aren’t.

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