Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/23/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/23/2009Reports from Israel indicate that up to 30% of the population would emigrate if Iran obtained nuclear weapons. That’s a catastrophic level of depopulation, roughly equivalent to the effect of the Black Death in 14th-century Europe.

In other news, experts on Islamic law in Indonesia have concluded that Facebook is dangerous and un-Islamic because it encourages illicit behavior.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, Islam in Action, islam o’phobe, Reinhard, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Sell US Stocks, Bonds, Dollar NOW: Strategist
Obama Plans More Open Government
Obama Treaty Push Hinges on Global ‘Listening’ Net
Restaurant to Sell Alcohol Next Week Despite Mosque Concern
US CO2 Goals ‘To be Compromised’
US Energy Sec: World Wants Stable Oil Prices
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi: Noemi Harrassment Unacceptable
EU Has Led to Job Losses, Say Cypriots
EU Voters Don’t Have Turkey on Their Mindsby Perro De Jong*
Guantanamo: Frattini to Consider Accepting Detainees
Italy: Fini Replies to Berlusconi’s Attack
‘Lynch Mob’ Prompts Refugees to Flee Town in Northern Sweden
Navy Warships Dispatched as Spain Invades Seas Around Gibraltar
Second Day of Greece Clashes Over Quran Incident
Sweden: Suspected Infiltration at Detention Centre
Sweden Offers Asylum to Iraqi Who Aided US Military
Sweden: Malmö Likely to Reimburse International Tennis Federation
Switzerland: Suicide Risk Higher Among Young Gay People
UK: How BNP ‘Backers’ Are Really Foreign Actors and Models
UK: Is the Archbishop a Wee Bit Nervous?
UK: More Overseas Students ‘Found’
West Must Show Respect to Gain Muslim Trust: Miliband
Women ‘More Active’ on Swedish Neo-Nazi Scene
Croatia: Local Elections Produce Divided Result
No Going Back for Kosovo, Says US
Mediterranean Union
Culture: Ibn Khaldun-Machiavelli to Understand Med
Med Union: Kouchner, Union Blocked by Conflict in Mid East
North Africa
Algeria: 4 Billion Euro Transferred Every Year by Emigrants
Egypt-EU: Partnership Agreement for Veterinary Services
Morocco: Cheddadi, Arabic Should be Language of Science
Tunisia: Leads Arab World for Quality of Life
Middle East
Arab Media Forum: Arab Journalism Under Scrutiny
Environment: Greenpeace Blames Turkey Over Tuna Fishing
Indonesian Presidential Elections: Yudhoyono Seeks Votes Among Radical Islamists
Iran: Nuclear; Israeli Alarm, Allusions to Exodus
Iraq: Christian Missionary Freed in North
Lebanon-USA: Biden in Beirut, Hezbollah Slams Visit
Syria-Turkey: Ankara Asks NATO Aid to Clear Mines on Border
Syria: Israel’s Iranophobia Plot to Sow Discord
Turkey: Honour Killing, Similar to Romeo and Juliet
Turkish Religious Directorate to Teach Europe About Islam
Russia Alarmed Over New EU Pact
Russia Favors Keeping Up Talks With Hamas: Foreign Minister
Video: Islamist Insurgency in Dagestan
South Asia
Afghanistan: Italian Copter Rescues Besieged Afghan Troops
Indonesia: Voters Bank on Islamic Parties, Study Says
Indonesian Muslims: the Facebook “Virus” is Lethal
The Courage We Ask of Non-Radical Muslims
Far East
China: Stiffer Penalties for Migrants Who Do Not Respect the One Child Policy
Australia — Pacific
Sudanese Youths in Court Over Cop Attack at Rugby Union Club
EU: Italy Seeks Broader Approach to Fight Illegal Immigrants
Human Trafficking, 25,000 “Slaves” in Italy
Today is an Important Day With Libya, Maroni
Second OIC Annual Report on Islamophobia Released
Socialite, Nobel Economist Push Foreign Aid Plan

Financial Crisis

Sell US Stocks, Bonds, Dollar NOW: Strategist

Sell U.S. stocks, sell U.S. bonds, sell the dollar and protect your wealth by going abroad, said Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital.

“When [the U.S.] decouples, the world will thrive,” Schiff told CNBC. “The world doesn’t need our consumption, we need their production. The global economy is fine without propping up the U.S. economy. We are in serious, serious trouble.”

Schiff said it’s not only a possibility, but “it’s inevitable” that Brazil and China are eventually going to dump the dollar as the international currency of choice. (Watch interview for more of Schiff’s reasons why the U.S. dollar is in trouble.)

“As far as I’m concerned, the U.S. has already lost its AAA rated status,” said Schiff.

He said emerging markets continue to be strong and had great gains since they bottomed in October 2008.

“Americans are going to lose their wealth if they go down with this ship,” he said. “I’m trying to help by getting their stocks abroad, out of the dollar and protecting them from Ben Bernanke, Obama and the congress.”

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]


Obama Plans More Open Government

Americans are getting a say in the way the Obama administration opens up the policy making process.

Via a website, Americans are being asked for ideas about making government more transparent.

The best ideas, from this first stage, will be debated online and then used in central discussions about moves towards more open government.

Finally, citizens will help draft the wording of recommendations about what the administration should do.

Three stages

The proposals to include citizens make good on a promise laid out in a memo, issued by the Obama administration, on its first day in office.

In that memo the President Obama “committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government” saying that it should govern in a manner that was transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

How it should go about doing this will be explored in May and June as Americans are invited to give their opinions and advise the Obama administration as it draws up plans.

The first phase involves “brainstorming” ideas and runs until 28 May in which citizens can send in ideas via post, e-mail, or a website.

From 3-14 June, the ideas generated in the first phase will be debated online via a centrally-hosted blog.

Finally, from 15-19 June, via a wiki, Americans will be able to help draft the language used to describe the best proposals.

Following the public collaboration phase, the US government plans to consult with its agencies on the final wording. After this an Open Government Directive will be issued that will guide agencies in adopting the ideas.

“The process of making policy must benefit from the best available information in society,” said the White House in a statement announcing the plan. “Much of the expertise we need can be found among the nation’s citizens.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Obama Treaty Push Hinges on Global ‘Listening’ Net

VIENNA — In high-rise offices along the Danube, scientists riveted to computer screens “listen” to sounds no one can hear, “feel” every rumble in the Earth, “sniff” global skies for exotic gases — on alert for signs of a newborn atomic bomb.

Governments over the past decade have quietly built up a $1 billion International Monitoring System to enforce the treaty banning nuclear weapons tests. At more than 200 stations around the world, from deep in the Pacific to high in the Bavarian Alps, they have deployed advanced technologies to detect secret explosions.. And they have waited.

Since 1999, when a Republican-led U.S. Senate rejected it, the treaty has languished in a diplomatic limbo, and this unequaled — and growing — system of global sensors has remained in long-running rehearsal.

Barack Obama wants to change that.

“After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned,” the U.S. president said in a pivotal speech April 5 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Major nuclear powers, including the U.S., have observed moratoriums on testing since the 1990s, but India, Pakistan and North Korea all have tested bombs since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was negotiated.

Obama vowed to “immediately and aggressively” pursue treaty ratification by the Senate, now in Democratic hands. If other holdout countries follow suit, the “CTBT” would come into force, putting the power of international law and the U.N. Security Council behind a ban.

A new report from a divided U.S. congressional commission, however, signals that the debate will be a difficult one — between those who see a test ban as a step toward de-nuclearizing the world, and those who see it as a risk for U.S. national security. And that debate will focus on how verifiable the treaty is, on just how good a global alarm system all that money has bought.

The French engineer in charge of completing it says it’s very good.

“We can already see the network is providing much better performance than envisaged at the time the treaty was negotiated,” Patrick Grenard said. “It’s extremely sensitive.”

Three-quarters of the planned 320 stations are built, certified and on line, each using one of the system’s four technologies: seismic, sensing the shock waves of an underground blast; hydroacoustic, listening for underwater explosions; infrasound, picking up the low-frequency sound of an atmospheric test; and radionuclide detection, sampling the air for a test’s radioactive byproducts.

From the Arctic to Antarctica, from dozens of islands in the world’s oceans, from forests, mountaintops and cities on every continent, the stations transmit data via six satellites back to the Vienna headquarters building of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

Seismologists, physicists and other specialists among the agency’s 286-member staff review the stream of information — readings of earth tremors and mining explosions, of undersea volcanos and discharges from nuclear power plants. They then package the data and relay it to the treaty’s signatory nations, including the U.S., which signed the pact in 1996, only for the Senate to reject it three years later.

While not yet fully accepting the treaty, the U.S. government benefits by obtaining data from monitoring stations in China, Russia and other sensitive places, even Iran. In fact, the U.S. itself hosts more stations than any nation — 38 when the network is completed — and pays 22 percent of the treaty agency’s operating costs.

Installations at tiny Wake Island, a U.S. territory in the remote mid-Pacific, typify America’s commitment to the infrastructure of a treaty it isn’t fully committed to.

In 2006-2007, the Vienna agency and the U.S. Air Force built an $18 million hydroacoustic facility at Wake, the costliest single station in the global system. Three hydrophones in globular nodes were moored to seamounts in each of two locations about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the coral atoll’s shores, linked to Wake by undersea cable.

Some 750 meters (2,500 feet) down, the listening devices take advantage of a layer of ocean that, because of temperature and salinity, “traps” and transmits sounds over vast distances.

“Blast fishing” — use of a couple of kilograms (pounds) of dynamite to kill fish — “can be heard 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away,” said Andrew Forbes, a British hydroacoustic specialist here.

Wake rounded out the “hydro” network of 11 stations, enabling the Vienna monitors to listen in to all the oceans, confident of detecting an explosion down to the unlikely micro-level of one ton of TNT equivalent, 15,000 times smaller than 1945’s Hiroshima bomb.

Above ground, plans call for Wake also to host an infrasound station, a sprawling array of microbarometers that detect minuscule changes in air pressure — in effect, “hearing” atmospheric vibrations at frequencies below the human ear’s 20-hertz minimum.

The sound of an aboveground blast dies quickly in the atmosphere, but its “infrasound” can circle the globe, to be picked up in Australia, the Azores or any of 58 other locations.

Because of its strategic location, Wake also has a radionuclide station, sampling air currents for strontium-90 and other radioactive fallout, smoking guns of a nuclear explosion. Half the system’s 80 radionuclide stations, including Wake’s, are also being equipped with gear to detect gases such as xenon and krypton, which are created in nuclear blasts.

Fallout from underground tests usually is absorbed in surrounding rock, but the gases seep out. Xenon was the smoking gun in North Korea’s nuclear test.

Shock waves from that October 2006 explosion registered at half the monitoring system’s 40 operating seismic stations. Then an agency radionuclide post in northern Canada detected trace amounts of xenon-133 in the air. Computerized wind models enabled the Vienna team to track the gas back to North Korea, confirming the explosion was nuclear.

The monitoring system is operating on a provisional basis.. If the treaty enters force, it authorizes onsite inspections of suspicious events. Together that “will enable us to detect any possible test which is militarily significant,” Hungary’s Tibor Toth, the treaty organization’s executive secretary, said in an interview.

That statement may be challenged on the U.S. Senate floor.

On May 6, a congressional commission on nuclear policy, led by two former defense secretaries, William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger, issued a final report in which one faction asserted the test-ban treaty is “wholly unverifiable” for very low-yield, clandestine underground tests. The other faction said such concerns were “overstated.”

As in 1999, treaty opponents are expected to contend that “decoupling” a small blast, conducting it in an underground cavity so large its shock waves are muffled, will defeat the seismic monitors..

But a 2002 U.S. National Academy of Sciences study listed 10 logistical difficulties a nuclear newcomer would face in attempting such decoupling. Another study by U.S. government advisers said a very small test — in the range of 500 tons TNT equivalent — would produce little of military significance. Besides, said physicist David Hafemeister, a 2002 study participant, the latest satellite radar technology would spot even a slight depression in the earth caused by an underground blast.

Next month in Vienna, the treaty organization will assemble scores of scientists from around the world to assess the International Monitoring System.. Their endorsement would be a boost for treaty supporters. But a new, all-American assessment might prove more important to a Senate debate.

Geophysicist Raymond Jeanloz, chairman of the National Academy’s Committee on National Security and Arms Control, favors conducting a new study of a system now nearing completion.

“Very reasonably, a political leader might ask, ‘Is it performing up to standards?’“ he said. “The scientific community is in a position to give an answer.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Restaurant to Sell Alcohol Next Week Despite Mosque Concern

KNOXVILLE — The Hill restaurant in Fort Sanders, which has been the source of controversy over sales of alcohol, will open Wednesday despite concern by members of an adjacent mosque.

The Hill owner Trevor Hill said he found out this week that his request for a liquor license has been granted by the state.

Members of Anoor mosque, which is 191 feet from the restaurant at 1105 Forest Ave., have been upset about the possibility of a business that sells alcoholic drinks and stays open late being located on property next to their mosque.

Some mosque members tried to block Hill from getting a liquor license but were unsuccessful. Knoxville’s local beer ordinance establishes a 300-foot buffer zone around churches and other community institutions for a beer permit but waives the requirement if the establishment is granted a state liquor license.

According to Nadeem Siddiqi of Anoor, mosque members aren’t surprised that the liquor license request went through because they received word from Nashville that the process was a purely administrative one by the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Siddiqi said mosque members continue to have concerns about the proximity of Hill’s business but intend to let the matter rest for now.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action [Return to headlines]

US CO2 Goals ‘To be Compromised’

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the US will not be able to cut greenhouse emissions as much as it should due to domestic political opposition.

Prof Chu told BBC News he feared the world might be heading towards a tipping point on climate change.

This meant the US had to cut emissions urgently — even if compromises were needed to get new laws approved.

Environmentalists said Prof Chu, a Nobel physicist, should be guided by science not politics.

The American political system is in the throes of a fierce battle over climate policy. President Barack Obama says he wants cuts in greenhouse gases but has left it to Congress to make the political running.

The House of Representatives is debating a climate and energy bill but even if it passes it may be rejected by senators, many of whom are funded by the energy industry.

Prof Chu is a Nobel prize-winning physicist and a world expert on clean energy. But he said it was impossible to ignore political reality.

“With each successive year the news on climate change has not been good and there’s a growing sensation that the world and the US in particular has to get moving,” he said.

“ If you could convert (with photovoltaic cells) 20% of the Sun’s energy into electricity you would need 5% of the world’s deserts. This is not much land “

Steven Chu, US Energy Secretary

“As someone very concerned about climate I want to be as aggressive as possible but I also want to get started. And if we say we want something much more aggressive on the early timescales that would draw considerable opposition and that would delay the process for several years.

The US energy secretary said that awareness of climate tipping points had increased greatly only in the past five years. He added: “But if I am going to say we need to do much, much better I am afraid the US won’t get started.”

To the anger of environmentalists, he said that one compromise would be approving new coal-fired power plants without obliging them to capture and store their carbon. The UK government has made this a stipulation for new coal plants but Prof Chu declined to explain why the US government would not follow suit.

‘Tough standards’

The first step in America, he said, should be a massive programme of efficiency for commercial buildings. This could save 80% of their energy demand, he said. He said the government would provide the research and encourage states to adopt tough standards.

He envisaged a future in which the US was largely p

owered by wind and solar but admitted there were technical difficulties.

On solar he explained: “The challenge is to make solar energy cost-effective. The amount of energy hitting the Earth — if you looked at it, if you could convert (with photovoltaic cells) 20% of the Sun’s energy into electricity you would need 5% of the world’s deserts. This is not much land. So the opportunity is enormous.

“The question is whether we can make it cost-effective. You have to transport this long distances because people don’t live in deserts.”

Similarly, on wind, Prof Chu told BBC News: “The good news is that many of the areas with good wind are where there aren’t many people, so there are fewer objections to wind farms. The bad news is that there aren’t many people. So we are planning to look at how you get an interconnecting (transmission) system, to allow us to develop these great resources.”

An overriding challenge for both technologies was the need to develop storage for energy from renewables.

When informed about research from HSBC suggesting that China had invested twice as much in greening its economy with its fiscal stimulus as the US had done, he said he had not seen the figures but that he wished for more money for clean energy.

‘Pressing challenge’

He said the challenge was pressing, and agreed that the world could face future spikes in energy prices because the recession had halted investment in many energy projects. This would be an issue at the upcoming G8 finance ministers meeting, he said.

Damon Moglen from Greenpeace USA was alarmed by Prof Chu’s comments. “Obama has had something of a honeymoon with environmentalists,” he said.

“But we are getting very concerned. Professor Chu is a good man and a good scientist, but the science on global warming is clear and he should be guided by the science not the politics.

“It is out of the question that the US should agree new power stations burning coal — the dirtiest fuel. Our targets on emissions are too low anyway — and there is no way we will meet even those low targets if we allow more coal to be burned.

“Professor Chu’s comments on coal are contradictory and illogical. This administration should give him the head to develop the sort of energy policy he knows we really need.”

But Prof Chu said: “I am optimistic for the first time in my life that the US will start to move in this direction (of cutting emissions) and that’s why I am heartened by these efforts. If you had asked me two or three years ago what’s the possibility we could move in the direction of reducing carbon emissions in the US I would have said I don’t know.”

When asked whether he was frustrated, he said: “No, I am realistic about the politics and as in time we can make adjustments.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

US Energy Sec: World Wants Stable Oil Prices

ROME — U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Saturday that the world wants oil prices to remain stable, warning that a new spike could harm the economic recovery.

Speaking in Rome where he is attending an energy meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized countries opening Sunday, Chu said that both the oil producing and the oil consuming countries have an interest in keeping energy prices stable.

“Another spike in oil certainly will have very big consequences” on the world’s economy, he said at a joint news conference with Italian Industry Minister Claudio Scajola.

Last year, prices for crude oil and other energy products reached record highs, fell sharply when the global financial slowdown hit and then rose again at the first signs of economic improvement.

Oil supplies have been in flux recently. OPEC countries have boosted exports by an estimated 200,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to June 6.

Also on Saturday Chu signed a bilateral agreement with Italy to cooperate on carbon capture and sequestration — a process to store greenhouse gas carbon dioxide underground.

“The issue of carbon capture and sequestration are issues that the world has not solved,” Chu said. “We need to capture the carbon … and sequestrate (emissions) safely and we have to do this in an economically viable way.”

The cooperation deal includes common projects, development of new technologies and exchange of experts and researchers. It also provides cooperation on developing green coal technologies.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi: Noemi Harrassment Unacceptable

(AGI) — L’Aquila, 19 May — After “my presence at that girl’s party, she has been harrassed by the newspapers in an unacceptable way” said Premier Silvio Berlusconi, talking about Noemi Letizia. “One paper” said Berlusconi, without actually naming the Sole24Ore “even went to see the the properties which her parents got for her over the years. It is a really shameful thing. I am embarrassed about these papers when I read these things, with fabricated interviews and with invented replies”.

According to Berlusconi, the Letizia family “had no experience and sent a denial to an agency denying that interview made by the girl and thought they had done enough. No, the interview was performed by an actress on ‘Annozero’. It was the worst and more than that. Shameful, shameful, shameful” said Berlusconi three times.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Has Led to Job Losses, Say Cypriots

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 13 — A new survey shows that a vast majority of Cypriots believe Cyprus’ accession to the EU and its integration with central and eastern Europe has greatly contributed to job losses on the island. The Eurobarometer survey shows that just under 73% of those questioned believe unemployment has increased due to the influx of foreign workers. The survey was carried out on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, which led to the enlargement of the EU with the integration of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Some 55.9% of those Cypriots questioned also believe that the changes brought by the fall of the Iron Curtain and the consequent enlargement made life more insecure in their country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Voters Don’t Have Turkey on Their Mindsby Perro De Jong*

To one voter, the forthcoming European Union elections are a veiled referendum on Brussels as Big Brother. To another, a veiled referendum on Turkish EU membership. Or on immigration. Who’s right?A selection of remarks from the Dutch campaign:

  • “If it’s a choice between torture or saving civilian lives, then I say torture” — Eline van den Broek of Libertas.
  • “The interests of the Netherlands always take priority” — Hans van Baalen of the conservative VVD party.
  • “Turkey: never in the EU” — Barry Madlener of the rightwing Freedom Party.

If politicians can’t agree what the European elections are about, no wonder the voters are turning away in confusion. But ask the same voters to say what they see as important themselves, and it turns out they do have clear priorities…

           — Hat tip: Reinhard [Return to headlines]

Guantanamo: Frattini to Consider Accepting Detainees

(AGI) — Borgo La Bagnaia (Siena), 22 May — A US request to accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay “is a request that should be considered,” said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during a conference named ‘Crescere tra le righe’. Frattini said that this “with a positive spirit, but obviously evaluating the individual cases, which we are not aware of, based on the European framework, because in Europe there are laws of free circulation, Schengen, and therefore we cannot take a person and put them in prison. There must be a regulation that allows all 26 counties to share regulations.” Frattini announced that next week the US Attorney General will be in Rome and they will meet on Friday the 30th, and “I suppose we will talk about it”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Fini Replies to Berlusconi’s Attack

Parliament ‘neither useless nor counterproductive’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 21 — Italy’s parliament is “neither useless nor counterproductive,” Lower House Speaker Gianfranco Fini said Thursday in reply to criticism of the assembly by Premier Silvio Berlusconi earlier in the day.

In an address to the national association of industrial employers Confindustria, the premier complained that his office had too little power because it was all in the hands of a parliament which he defined as a “plethora”.

Parliaments like Italy’s, he added, “are totally useless and even counterproductive”.

Fini later issued a statement in which he said that his assembly of 630 members “can be criticised for being plethoric but it certainly cannot be defined as either useless or counterproductive”.

It would be “unacceptable,” he added, to “deprive parliament, which is an expression of the people’s sovereignty, of its function which includes controlling the performance of the government and exercising it legislative powers”.

In response to Berlusconi’s call to reduce the number of MPs, Fini recalled that this was a goal shared by both government and opposition parties.

In his address to Confindustria, Berlusconi said Italy’s parliament should be cut to 100 or so “like the US Congress”, which he confused with the US Senate which has 100 members while the House of Representatives had 425.

Berlusconi also used his appearance at Confindustria’s annual assembly to renew his attack on the judiciary and said criticising judges was “a right of every citizen”.

In regard to a recent sentence which found that Berlusconi’s former corporate lawyer David Mills perjured himself to protect his business empire, the premier said he remained “outraged” over the “scandalous” sentence and vowed to reform the judiciary.

Berlusconi did not to have stand trial in the same case because a law pushed through by his government gives immunity to the four highest offices of the state: the president, premier and two parliament speakers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Lynch Mob’ Prompts Refugees to Flee Town in Northern Sweden

Nearly half of the predominantly Iraqi-refugees residing in Vännäs in northern Sweden have decided to permanently move out of the area after being terrorized by what police called “a lynch mob” in early May.

“I thought that Vännäs was the perfect place for us. And there are many, many friendly people here. But we still don’t dare to stay; I’m seriously concerned about my children’s safety,” said father of five Ismail Ramadan to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Ramadan’s family and several others have decided to abandon plans of starting a life in the small community outside of Umeå less than two weeks after a group of 30 to 50 young people assembled outside the apartment building in which the refugees lived and began shouting threats and throwing stones.

The May 9th incident resulted in several windows and many frightened refugees.

“I can’t even describe to you how horrible it was. ‘Now it’s over, here they come!’ I thought,” Ramadan told SvD.

“We all cried and screamed. We spent the whole night lying in the hall and held each other tightly.”

The weekend of harassment prompted municipality refugee coordinator Ingrid Lindroth to evacuate the refugees to safety.

“I made the decision after speaking with a number of refugees who were extremely scared — simply terrified. It was an easy decision,” she told SvD.

But the move was criticized by police, who characterized the decision to evacuate around 40 refugees as “significantly more drastic” than necessary, adding that it complicated the police’s investigation into the incident.

“We don’t believe this is a racially motivated dispute, but rather a disagreement between a number of young people, some of whom live in the refugee building and others from the area,” said local police commander Uno Nilsson to SvD the at the time of the incident.

The day following the attacks, several hundred Vännäs residents gathered to demonstrate in support of the refugees and to denounce what they perceived to be racially motivated attacks.

While the families were welcomed back to Vännäs with flowers after the evacuation, about 30 out of the roughly 70 refugees have ultimately decided to move out of the community of 4,000 residents, much to the dismay of local politicians.

“It’s not confirmed that they will leave yet, but if they do, it is obviously a failure on our part. No one should need to leave Vännäs because they are afraid or worried,” municipal council member Johan Söderling told the newspaper.

Police are also still investigating the matter in hopes of clarifying exactly what took place and who or what may have lay behind the attack.

Prosecutor Lotta Sundström expected it would take at least several more days for her office to make sense of the more than 20 different complaints which have been submitted.

“No one has yet been informed that they are suspected of a crime,” she said to SvD.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Navy Warships Dispatched as Spain Invades Seas Around Gibraltar

Royal Navy warships have forced heavily armed Spanish ships to retreat from British waters around Gibraltar.

Relations between the 30,000 residents of the British outpost and mainland Spain have become strained following what the Foreign Office described as ‘a violation of British sovereignty’.

The warships were dispatched after Spanish ships sent boarding parties to inspect fishing boats in British waters, despite having no authority to do so.

The Rock’s inhabitants fear Spain could damage their economy by making moves to seize control of its sea and air traffic.

The incident on May 8 is the latest in a long series since Britain was handed Gibraltar in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

The Spanish Government has refused to recognise that territorial waters were a part of that agreement and made repeated attempts to reclaim them.

For centuries Gibraltar has been a key strategic base for the Royal Navy.

The latest incident followed a day after Gibraltar’s government vowed to block EU moves to give responsibility for the environment around the Rock to Spain.

A spokesman for Gibraltar’s opposition GSLP/Liberal party said: ‘The latest incident is far more serious than anything that has happened before. It represents a frontal challenge to British sovereignty, jurisdiction and control over Gibraltar’s territorial sea.

‘As such the UK must not only respond to Spain, but must also extract guarantees from Madrid that it will never happen again.’

The Government said it had made strong protests to Madrid.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘It’s a violation of British sovereignty and something we take very seriously indeed.

‘We hope they will stop doing it.’

Madrid has not yet reacted.

A week before the latest incident a Spanish launch manned by paramilitary police was sent into Gibraltar’s waters before being seen off by a Royal Navy patrol boat.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Second Day of Greece Clashes Over Quran Incident

Muslims take to the streets after officer tears up holy book

Muslim immigrants clashed again with Greek police Friday during a second day of protests in Athens over charges that officers tore up a Quran during an identity check of immigrants.

About 1,500 Muslim protesters, mainly men in their 20s and 30s from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria and Somalia marched through Athens to protest against the incident, chanting “Allah is great”, carrying banners reading “Hands off immigrants” and holding up copies of Islam’s holy book.

The Greek capital’s main streets were closed amid a heavy police presence.

Violence broke out at the end of the demonstration as around 120 protesters threw projectiles at police, who tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas.

“They started throwing rocks and sticks at police guarding parliament and the officers responded with tear gas and percussion bombs,” a police official said.

The protesters pulled up pavements, smashed about a dozen shop windows and damaged cars, leaving some overturned in the middle of streets. Bus stops and traffic lights were destroyed and shocked tourists ran into hotels on the central Syndagma Square for cover.

Police said 46 protesters were arrested. Seven Muslims and another seven policemen were injured and brought to hospital for treatment. About 75 cars, five stores and one bank were damaged, according to a police statement.

Second day of riots

Around 1,520 Muslim immigrants launched a demonstration on Thursday one day after hearing word of an incident involving the Quran.

Demonstrators said that when police stopped four Syrian immigrants to check their papers on Wednesday, one of the officers tore up a Quran and stamped on it.

The Greek police has opened an investigation into the allegations.

The Muslim Union, representing thousands of immigrants in Athens, said it had filed a lawsuit against the unidentified policeman.

“Police told us they need more time for the internal investigation so we went ahead and filed a suit,” union president Naim Elghandour told Reuters.

Deputy Public Order Minister Christos Markogiannakis said that the incident was isolated and that it didn’t justify the immigrants’ violent outburst.

“We call on the economic migrants who live in Greece to respect the rule of law and we point out that the state won’t allow such extreme behavior,” Markogiannakis said in the statement.

Greece is faced with a daily influx of immigrants from Asia via Turkey, many of whom are trying to reach Western Europe. Rights groups have complained of cases of police brutality against immigrants.

Interior ministry figures for 2208 show that more than 146,200 illegal immigrants were arrested in Greece, of whom 57,200 had arrived from Turkey.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Suspected Infiltration at Detention Centre

Due to a large number of escapes from a secure refugee detention centre outside of Gothenburg, the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) and border police in western Sweden believe the facility at Kållered has been infiltrated by leftwing activists.

In addition, the police have also experienced a difficult working relationship with staff at the centre, with blame falling on the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket).

Between 2008 and the present, around 50 individuals have escaped from the centre, according to Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper.

An official working at the centre has also been found guilty of rioting during the EU protests in Gothenburg in 2001.

“We have long questioned the facility’s operations and there have been several strange escapes,” Lars Skoglund, head of the Västra Götaland border police, told GP.

Mistrust between staff and the police came to a head in February. Police suspect a deportation of a Libyan man was sabotaged by centre employees. On a subsequent attempt to deport the same individual, police elected not to inform the staff.

With almost 20 men and a warrant, police arrived at the detention centre to pick up the Libyan. An uproar occurred, one of the reasons being that the facility staff at first refused to open the doors.

They only allowed the police in after they threatened to force their way in. The incident was reported but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.

Paul Fågelberg, one of the directors of the Kållered detention centre, told TT he maintains total confidence in his staff.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden Offers Asylum to Iraqi Who Aided US Military

An Iraqi man who assisted the United States military during the war in Iraq has been granted asylum in Sweden.

The man, who currently resides in Halmstad on the Swedish west coast, arrived in the country in 2007. In Iraq, he drove tanks for the American military. After receiving death threats, and after a relative who had worked with him was killed, the man chose to flee his home country.

The Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) didn’t deem the man’s story to be believable, but the decision was overturned by Swedish courts.

The court was of the opinion that there was sufficient proof that Iraqis who worked for the US military are at risk of serious attacks, and therefore approved the man’s petition for asylum.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö Likely to Reimburse International Tennis Federation

Malmö will most likely have to pay $15,000 to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), following a decision to hold the Sweden-Israel Davis Cup match in March behind closed doors.

Betting on tennis matches by

In a report about the Davis Cup match between Sweden and Isreal, Malmö recreation director Bo Sjöstöm and event director Per-Olov Bergqvist said the city will most likely have to pay the ITF despite the fact that no tickets were sold to the event.

In March, Israel defeated Sweden 3-2 in a tight Davis Cup match in Malmö, advancing to the quarter-finals for only the second time despite a nearly empty stadium and hostile demonstrators outside.

Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu elected to hold the match between Sweden and Isreal behind closed doors, much to the outrage of players and fans, due to security concerns.

According to the agreement between ITF and the Swedish Tennis Association (STA), ITF was entitled to half of the ticket proceeds, or at least $15,000, if the match was played in front of an audience.

Since no tickets were sold, STA has petitioned to avoid paying the fee. ITF has rejected the appeal, leading Sjöström and Bergqvist to say it is likely the city will have to cough up the cash.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Suicide Risk Higher Among Young Gay People

Young homosexual people show a higher suicide risk than their heterosexual counterparts, often suffering bullying and lack of support, a Swiss study has found.

The Suicidal Tendencies and Sexual Orientation report is being made public on Saturday at a special seminar in Zurich on dealing with sexual-orientation issues in schools.

The report was commissioned by several groups, including Pink Cross, Switzerland’s largest organisation representing gay men…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: How BNP ‘Backers’ Are Really Foreign Actors and Models

They are the leaflets the British National Party hope will bring them success in the European elections.

They feature a doctor, a trio of builders and an elderly couple, proudly backing Britain and echoing BNP policies. But the pictures have been exposed as a sham.

Far from living up to the BNP slogan of ‘British Jobs for British Workers’, the ‘voters’ have been revealed to be Americans and Italians. Naturally they never uttered the words they are supposed to have said.

Even a wartime Spitfire pictured in BNP literature was flown by Polish pilots.

Not real: Many of the pictures on this BNP leaflet are ‘stock images’, featuring unknowing actors and models

Now the models and photographers involved have reacted angrily to their images being linked to a party many people deem to be deeply racist.

The three ‘British builders’ are actually models who posed in Portland, Oregon. The men have not been named but photographer Boone Rodriguez finds the BNP message particularly insulting as he is the grandson of a Mexican immigrant to the U.S. He said: ‘It sounds like this group is considered quite racist, which is despicable.’

Mr Rodriguez managed to find some humour in the situation, however, saying: ‘It is ironic that they ended up choosing images from an American photographer whose grandfather moved here from Mexico.

The ‘doctor’, part-time actor Bob Cousins, 47, from Atlanta, Georgia, has never had any medical training and has never spoken to the BNP.

His picture is one of the most popular ‘doctors’ on the website of the Canadian iStockphoto agency and has been sold some 25,000 times.

He said last night: ‘It is my personal policy not to publicly endorse any political party, regardless of their views, or platform. iStockphoto is investigating this misuse.’

Photographer Kelly Talele has been bombarded with emails over the BNP leaflets.

She said: ‘If I’d known, I really wouldn’t have wanted one of my pictures to be used like this. It’s not something I would want to be associated with.’

The two ‘UK pensioners’ are actually Italians and the picture was taken by their son, who now lives in London.

The use of the photograph has alarmed him so much that he has asked not to be named for fear of repercussions.

He said: ‘I am very unhappy that this image has been used. This is not something that I or my parents agree with.’

A spokesman for the BNP defended their use of stock photographs and said it did not matter if the people pictured were genuine supporters or not.

He said: ‘All political parties use stock images like this. It’s common practice.’

He insisted that the quotes attributed to the models were genuine comments from BNP supporters.

The spokesman added: ‘We would like to have our supporters in the leaflet. We still have them — members of the police and medical profession — but if they appeared they would get the sack.

‘This makes no difference to us or our policies.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Is the Archbishop a Wee Bit Nervous?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned the “systematic humiliation” of MPs is a threat to Britain’s democracy.

Dr Rowan Williams said the daily revelations risked making it impossible for people to regain their confidence in the democratic system.

Writing in the Times, he said: “Many will now be wondering whether the point has not been adequately made.”

The archbishop’s comments come after Tory MP Nadine Dorries complained of a “McCarthy-style witch-hunt” for MPs.

The archbishop said: “The continuing systematic humiliation of politicians itself threatens to carry a heavy price in terms of our ability to salvage some confidence in our democracy.”

‘Completely unbearable’

Dr Williams said it was important to preserve the idea that serving as a politician could be what he described as “a calling worthy of the most generous instincts”.

But Labour MP John Mann told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the public had “a right to know” about MPs’ expenses and that, ultimately, British politics could be strengthened by the affair.

He said: “Clearly there’s major embarrassment, there will be casualties, we don’t know politically who the casualties will end up being, and so it’s major trauma for the political system and for politicians.

“But if we handle it well from now on, we’ll recover confidence and we could have a far better political system even within a matter of months.”

Mr Mann was speaking after Tory MP Nadine Dorries described the situation at Westminster as “completely unbearable” and suggested an MP might commit suicide under the pressure.

She was swiftly admonished by the party’s leader David Cameron who said MPs should primarily be concerned about what their constituents were thinking.

Mr Cameron told the BBC: “Of course MPs are concerned about what is happening but, frankly, MPs ought to be concerned about what their constituents think and ought to be worrying about the people who put us where we are.”

The new leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said earlier this week that the expenses scandal showed that people needed their own moral sense as well as rules in order to guard against such transgressions.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: More Overseas Students ‘Found’

There are many more international students at the UK’s universities than previously thought, a study by the British Council suggests.

The figures suggest there were 513,570 such students in the past academic year not 389,330 as previously thought.

Many had been classified by the UK address from which they had applied, not the country on their passport.

The increase means the UK rivals the USA as the top destination for overseas students, the council says.

The US, which is the world leader for global student recruitment, has 623,805 international students.

New counting method

The study by the British Council follows the decision to include nationality for the first time in 2007-08 as a compulsory field in data submitted by universities to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

Previously the agency has counted international students on the basis of “domicile” — the country where they lived when making their application.

It brings the UK in line with most other countries which count students on the basis of the passports they hold and helps to explain the large gap between the number of student visas issued and the smaller number who enrol on courses.

Simon Kemp from Hesa said: “We have not so far made any plans to change the way we publish the data. We will continue to use domicile.

“Nationality has not been a compulsory field until now and we don’t know what these figures mean.

“We don’t know to what extent the number of non-UK nationals recorded as being UK domiciled have lived here for a short time or whether most of them might have lived here for a long time and kept a different nationality.

“We are talking about only 5% of the 2.3 million students in UK higher education. We don’t know who they are and there isn’t anything in the data which tells us.”

He said universities were told to take the domicile information from the admissions service Ucas for undergraduates and those postgraduates who apply through Ucas which they are now allowed to do for some courses.

It would be up to universities how they get the information from other students, he said.


Many of the 124,240 international students missing from the data will have made their applications while completing foundation or English language courses in the UK or at British boarding schools..

Others will be moving from undergraduate to postgraduate study.

The figures on overseas recruitment have become more significant since Tony Blair launched the second phase of the Prime Minister’s Initiative in 2006.

This five-year strategy, which has been continued by Gordon Brown, aims to increase the number of full-fee paying students from abroad who bring important revenue for universities and closer links with other world economies.

Countries sending the most students to the UK, based on domicile, are even more important suppliers of graduates and undergraduates under the new nationality measure.

The number of students from China goes up from 49,090 to 55,185 and those from India from 27,905 to 35,245. The number from Nigeria almost doubles from 12,680 to 21,010 and the figure from Zimbabwe increases fourfold, from 2,105 to 9,805.

The new figures also reveal a significant increase in the number of nationals from other European Union countries whose postgraduate and undergraduate fees are subsidised by the UK authorities.

Those on first degree courses are offered zero interest rate (in real terms) loans from the British government to fund their fees on the same basis as home students.

Using the domicile criteria there were 17,425 students from Germany in UK higher education in 2007-08, which rises to 21,285 on nationality.

The number of Polish nationals goes up from 9,160 to 15,450 and Italians from 7,290 to 11,300.

Course subjects

The British Council has yet to apply the nationality data to the choice of courses, but even under the old domicile measure full-time postgraduate overseas students outnumbered the UK students in three fifths of subject areas.

In business and administrative studies 83% of postgraduates were from overseas and in social studies it was 73%. In two key areas — biological sciences and engineering and technology — they accounted for 72% and 62% respectively.

The British Council’s director of higher education, Pat Killingley, said the inclusion of the additional foreign students was good news for UK higher education.

“It is only now that we can see the full picture showing the extent of the UK’s success in global recruitment, particularly from some of the world’s most important emerging economies,” she said.

“We have believed for some time that we have many more international students than were being counted and we can now see that the UK is challenging the USA and meeting the objectives of the Prime Minister’s Initiative for international education by bringing enormous economic benefit, expanding the knowledge base and helping to build positive relationships with people around the world.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said the figures were proof of the success of the UK’s higher education sector.

“Students are attracted to study here because of the world class reputation of our universities and by the high quality degrees that are valued across the world.

“International students pay the full cost of their study and contribute significantly to the UK both financially and socially. That is why we are proud that the UK remains a top destination for international students and why we are proud of our success in recruiting them. “

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

West Must Show Respect to Gain Muslim Trust: Miliband

LONDON: The West has to “show greater respect” for Muslims if it wants to rebuild relations with the Islamic world, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Thursday.

In a speech delivered in Oxford, Miliband listed the Iraq war alongside the medieval Crusades and colonial-era division and subjugation of the Middle East as drivers of “bitterness, distrust and resentment” in the region. He also said relations had been damaged by the use of “lazy stereotypes” by Western officials, and conceded that his own use of the labels “moderate” and “extremist” showed a lack of understanding that risked “undermining the force of our own argument,” according to an early text of the remarks released by the Foreign Office.

The speech, at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, was intended to build on an address delivered in Mumbai in January in which the foreign secretary conceded that the idea of a “war on terror” had done more harm than good by uniting otherwise disparate groups in common antipathy to the West.

“Organizations with different aims, values and tactics were lumped together. Little or sometimes no distinction was drawn between those engaged in national territorial struggles and those pursuing global or pan-Islamic objectives; between those that could be drawn into domestic political processes and those who are essentially anti-political and violent,” he said.

“If we want to rebuild relations — to forge broader coalitions — we need to show greater respect. That means rejecting the lazy stereotypes and moving beyond the binary division between moderates and extremists,” he added.

He appeared to pave the way for a more conciliatory policy toward militant Muslim groups, arguing: “That means being prepared to encourage reconciliation with organizations whose values we may not share but who are prepared to pursue common interests.”

However, Foreign Office officials said Miliband was not signaling a change in policy toward the Hamas movement in Gaza. They said Britain remained committed to the “Quartet principles” which dictate that the international community will not talk directly to Hamas about the Middle East peace process until the Palestinian movement renounces violence and accepts Israel’s right to exist.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Women ‘More Active’ on Swedish Neo-Nazi Scene

Women are playing an increasingly active role on the Swedish neo-Nazi scene, a new book has revealed.

Authors Maria Blomquist and Lisa Bjurwald found that the notion of women as passive neo-Nazi group members, simply following their boyfriends into the movement, was largely a myth.

“Women are active in everything from distributing propaganda material, writing articles and takng part in white power concerts, to releasing their own collections of poetry, standing for election and speaking at public demonstrations,” Maria Blomquist told The Local.

The book, Good dag kampsyster (‘Good day, sister in arms’), also looks at the growing numbers of women signing up to the burgeoning right wing extremist movement in Sweden.

“At the neo-Nazis’ national day march last June we counted 200 women, making up some 20 to 25 percent of the total participants,” said Blomquist, adding that women often find their way into neo-Nazi circles in much the same way as their male counterparts.

“They get involved via the internet, by attending concerts or following the lead of a famly member, to name just some examples.”

Blomquist and Bjurwald’s book tracks the development of 111 members of the National Socialist Front (NSF) from 1997 to 2003. By analysing membership registers and cross-referencing them with public records, the authors examine the women’s lives at the time they joined the NSF, followed by a snapshot of the same women’s circumstances in 2008.

According to excerpts published in the Swedish magazine Expo, the median age of women who joined NSF was 19, with just a handful over the age of 30.

Expo is the publishing arm of the Expo Foundation, “a privately-owned research foundation founded in 1995 with the aim of studying and mapping anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society.”

On average NSF’s female members — the majority of whom lived in southern Sweden — remained members for a year and ten months. Few of the women had jobs, and though their circumstances had improved by 2008, their incomes and education levels were generally low.

A lot of the women had left the organization by autumn 2008 but there were some who had remained members for over 10 years.

The National Socialist Front (NSF) disbanded in November 2008 and re-launched itself as the Folkfronten (‘People’s Front’) party.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


Croatia: Local Elections Produce Divided Result

Only 35 percent of Croatia’s four million registered voters cast ballots in municipal elections on Sunday.

Zagreb, 18 May (AKI) — Croatia’s municipal elections failed to produce a clear result at the weekend with the main opposition party, the Social Democrats winning in most of the major cities, and the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), doing better in rural areas.

The first unofficial results were reported on Monday, and are seen as a preview of parliamentary elections due to take place in 2011.

Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader’s HDZ — who won his second mandate in late 2007 — won seven governorships, as well as 14 of 21 counties, while the SDP won five, officials said.

However, the SDP won in the capital Zagreb, as well as the major cities of Rijeka and Split, and was leading in most other cities.

Iin the eastern city of Osijek where the regional party, Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB) showed strong support.

The HDSSB is led by local boss Branimir Glavas, who was recently sentenced to ten years’ jail for crimes against Serb civilians during Croatia’s 1991-1995 war of secession from the former Yugoslavia.

Glavas had earlier acquired Bosnian citizenship and escaped to Bosnia to avoid justice.

The Serbian Independent Democratic Party (SDSS), which represents the country’s minority Serbs, won in several traditionally Serb-populated municipalities.

Over 200,000 Serbs fled Croatia during the war, but some 5,000 had used the right to vote in local elections and travelled from Serbia to cast their ballots in their former municipalities.

Only 35 percent of Croatia’s four million registered voters cast ballots on Sunday.

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

No Going Back for Kosovo, Says US

US Vice-President Joe Biden has told Kosovo’s parliament its independence is “absolutely irreversible” and the only viable option for regional stability.

“The success of an independent Kosovo is a priority for our administration,” Mr Biden said in a speech that received several standing ovations from MPs.

Earlier, he received an enthusiastic welcome from crowds of ethnic Albanians in the capital, Pristina.

However, the Serb minority said it was planning to hold anti-US protests.

The US played a leading role in the Nato bombing campaign which expelled Serbian forces from Kosovo a decade ago.


On the final stage of his three-day tour of the Balkans, Mr Biden became the most senior US official to visit Kosovo since it declared independence in February 2008.

“ Your independence, is irreversible, absolutely irreversible “

US Vice-President Joe Biden

The US and more than 50 other countries have recognised its independence, but more than 100 have not, including Serbia and Russia.

“Kosovo’s independence was and remains today in my view, in the view of my government, the only viable option for stability in the region,” he told a special sitting of the parliament in Pristina.

“And your independence — as I’ve said in the countries I have visited — your independence, is irreversible, absolutely irreversible,” he added to applause from the ethnic Albanian-dominated assembly.

Earlier, after holding talks with President Fatmir Sejdiu, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other leaders, Mr Biden said he had been awarded the Golden Medal of Freedom, Kosovo’s highest honour.

“I don’t deserve it, but I received it on behalf of the United States,” said the vice-president, who many Kosovans credit with helping them gain independence while he was a senator.

Earlier, thousands of schoolchildren waved US flags along the route his motorcade took from Pristina airport, while posters lined the route declaring “Welcome, and thank you”.


His reception contrasted markedly with that in his previous stop, Serbia, where police lined the streets amid nationalist anger.

MPs from the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party held up banners in parliament saying: “Biden, you Nazi scum, go home.”

Serbian President Boris Tadic told Mr Biden on Tuesday that his country would never give up its claim to Kosovo.

But despite that outstanding issue, and the antipathy of many Serbs to the US because of the Nato bombing campaign in 1999, Mr Biden and the pro-Western Mr Tadic exchanged warm words.

Mr Biden said: “The United States does not, I emphasise, does not expect Serbia to recognise the independence of Kosovo.”

“It is not a precondition for our relationship or our support for Serbia becoming part of the European Union,” he said.

Mr Tadic said Serbia and the US could move their relationship forward “on the basis of dialogue rooted in mutual respect”.

The rare visit by a top US official marks a new effort by President Barack Obama to re-engage with the Balkans, BBC Eastern Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe says.

As well as Serbia and Kosovo, he has also visited Bosnia-Hercegovina.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Culture: Ibn Khaldun-Machiavelli to Understand Med

(by Severine Kittler) (ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 14 — Promote the free flow of ideas and works between the southern and northern shores of the Mediterranean by introducing a “triangular intellectual cooperation” between France, Italy and Morocco is the new challenge coming from Paris, while the Mediterranean Union suffers the effects from the tension following the Israeli attacks against Gaza. The activity starts off in Rome, with the conference ‘Ibn Khaldun and Machiavelli. Europe and the Muslim World: lessons for the 21st century’ scheduled on Monday and Tuesday of next week at Villa Medici. The conference, sponsored by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Rome City Council and Naples Orientale University, originates from a vision by Bruno Aubert, cultural advisor at the French Embassy in Italy, and the Moroccan historian and philosopher Abdessalam Cheddadi, a professor at Rabat University. The idea is to analyse today’s social and political differences between countries in southern Europe and those in North Africa and Middle East, by using the works of two great thinkers — Ibn Khaldun (Tunis, 1332 — Cairo, 1406) and Machiavelli (Florence, 1469 — 1537) — as a starting point. With about a century between them and at a time when new horizons began opening up in Europe and Islam, both philosophers studied the reality of their time with an objective eye and unhindered by ideologies of any sort, focusing on the relationship between man, society and political systems and the processes which lead from prosperity to crisis and decline. “Khaldun and Machiavelli are two authors that stand out for the modernity of their thought and whose works may help us to overcome misunderstandings and cliche’s which are too often present on both shores of the Mediterranean,” Aubert commented. Though a diplomat, Bruno Aubert studied as an Arabic scholar and anthropologist, and has often worked in North Africa and the Middle East. His experience has allowed him to get in touch with the young people of the area, and “the younger generations have received a better education than the previous ones. At the moment they are unable to study the European classics because they have not been translated into their language, and they suffer because of this”. The same can be said for the classic texts of Arabic culture in Europe: Ibn Khaldun’s works, for instance, have already been translated in various editions in France (the latest, by the prestigious publishing house Pleiade, in a translation by Cheddadi himself), but in Italy his works have never received the same attention. “It is to respond to this cultural demand for text availability that we have gathered together here in Villa Medici — with the ‘intellectual patronage’ of Ibn Khaldun and Machiavelli — historians, scholars, journalists and editors,” Aubert noted. He would like to see the creation of cultural ‘ateliers’, to promote the translation of literary works between France, Italy, Morocco and other Mediterranean countries. After an introduction by the French Ambassador in Italy, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, and the Director of the French Academy, Frederic Mitterrand, on Monday at 6.30 pm a series of conference will take place at the Villa on various themes such as ‘The Logic of Violence: lessons for today” and ‘The Languages of Globalization’. The conferences will continue through Tuesday afternoon and will be followed by debate which will be open to the public. Among those taking part to the event, the writer and scholar Khaled Fouad Allam, Francesca Corrao, Maria Donzelli and Francesca Izzo, all lecturers at the University L’Orientale, Lucio Caracciolo, director of the Limes magazine and French journalist Jean Daniel, director of the Nouvel Observateur. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Med Union: Kouchner, Union Blocked by Conflict in Mid East

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 20 — According to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the Mediterranean Union, the ambitious project set up by the rotating presidency of the EU in Paris a year ago, has been “blocked” due to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Kouchner was speaking to the National Assembly. “I am sorry to announce the blocking of the Mediterranean Union,” said Kouchner, “but until the situation in the Middle East is clarified, it will be difficult to continue”, he pointed out, alluding to the paralysis in the peace process caused by the conflict in Gaza. Amongst other things, Kouchner mentioned the Mediterranean Union conference on the environment, scheduled to take place in Monaco but which has been put back to an as yet unconfirmed date. “It is not encouraging,” said the minister. “Until there is decisive progress in the peace process in Gaza as in the whole of the Middle East, there will be no ministerial meetings,” concluded Kouchner. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 4 Billion Euro Transferred Every Year by Emigrants

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 14 — Algerian emigrants in Europe transfer “more than 4 billion euro” to Algeria every year. The figures, quoted by El Khabar, were announced by Radhi Medab, director of Mediterranean Studies in Paris. According to Medab, Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans send approximately 10 billion euros to their countries of origin. In first place are the Moroccans with 5 billion euros per year, followed by Algerians with 4 billion euros and Tunisians with 1 billion euros. “A figure”, said Medab, “which exceeds funding allocated by the EU, which amounts to approximately 1 billion euros”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt-EU: Partnership Agreement for Veterinary Services

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, May 21 — Egypt and the European Union entered into a partnership agreement that aims to develop veterinary services and help preserve livestock in Egypt by restructuring the General Authority for Veterinary Services. The program will also set up an emergency plan to face animal diseases and develop human skills in veterinary medicine offices across Egypt’s 28 governorates, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Amin Abaza said. The agreement also allows all Egyptian agriculture products to tap European markets. The EU donated about EUR 1.6 million and Egypt around LE 2 million to develop animal wealth, which contributes to Egypt’s GDP by nearly 30-35 percent. The conference is organized by the General Authority for Veterinary Services, in cooperation with the Ministry of International Cooperation and the EU, with representatives from the European Commission, Netherlands and France participating. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Morocco: Cheddadi, Arabic Should be Language of Science

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 19 — Education in Morocco remains worryingly underdeveloped despite the fact that even in an economic crisis, the country’s economy is expected to grow 5% in 2009, annual Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is regularly over 5 billion euros and a whole series of plans are in place to modernise infrastructure, such as the port in Tangiers. At least, this is the view of the country’s education system expressed by Abdesselam Cheddadi, an historian and philosopher at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, who was speaking at the conference ‘Ibn Khaldun and Machiavelli. Europe and the Muslim World: lessons for the 21st century’, currently taking place at the French Academy in Rome. “It is not enough to promote economic development”, claimed Cheddadi. “If we want Morocco to really make progress we need to concentrate on the education and training citizens”. The academic — a leading expert on Ibn Khaldun (Tunis 1332 — Cairo 1406) — says that for fifty years “education has been managed pathetically, with awful results: under-trained teachers, ignorant students and really low-quality diplomas”. Other than illiteracy — which in Morocco reaches rates of 44.9% of the population in rural areas and 24.9% among young people — there is a linguistic issue to be addressed. “Until today, despite the fact that Arabic is the official language of Morocco, higher education and scientific literature is mostly in French”, remarked Cheddadi, who himself has translated several important historical and philosophical works. “Arabic”, says the scholar, “must speak the language of modern science”, implying a need for the spread of the language, leading citizens to learn the language. So translation, he says, could be most useful. “The policy of promoting the French language is absurd”, Cheddadi stressed, reiterating: “Arabic and Moroccan culture must be put first and must be spread even to young people who live abroad”. In this vein, Cheddadi has recently published a collection entitled ‘Comment peut-on etre marocain?’ (a nod to the Lettres Persanes di Montesquieu ‘Comment peut-on etre persan?’). In the book, writers, essayists and artists who have Morocco as their common denominator explain what ‘being Moroccan’ mean. How though can you link to second-generation immigrants to the cultural heritage of their homeland and learning Arabic? Cheddadi reckons that “we need to attract them with an arsenal of modern and captivating tools like the Internet, recommending interesting sites which offer Moroccan content, giving them books as support and magazines which talk about Moroccan literature and which also deal with contemporary themes relevant to their problems”. “For my part,” concluded Cheddadi, “I am preparing a magazine to be called ‘Le Magazine Litteraire du Maroc’, which will be published in both Arabic and French”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Leads Arab World for Quality of Life

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 13 — The ‘Quality of Life index’ provided by Irish society International Living, ranks Tunisia as the top place to live in the Arab world. Tunisia was ranked 92nd out of 192 countries examined, France was ranked first. The rating, based on a scale of 1 to 100 applied to a series of factors, awarded Tunisia, compared to other Arab countries, with the best climate (84/100), environment (65/100), healthcare (65/100), cost of living (70/100), and basic infrastructure (40/100). All of this led them to beat out, in order: Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Qatar, Kuwait, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and Sudan. Positive data for the telecommunications sector came from “The global information technology report 2008-2009”. According to this study, Tunisia is rank 38th globally for information technology and communication. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Media Forum: Arab Journalism Under Scrutiny

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MAY 13 — Opening with an appeal-reprimand from the Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, to focus on “news that unites rather than divides”, the two-day long Arab Media Forum concluded yesterday evening with heated debate over media coverage of the Israeli offensive in Gaza in December and January. “When the Arab Foreign Ministers recently met to discuss the Israeli occupation, in the next room Transport Ministers were discussing a railway network to connect Arab countries,” stressed Mussa, adding that “all of the media’s attention was focused on the discussion of the peace plan, neglecting other efforts to unite Arabs.” Differences within the Arab media regarding the debate on Gaza was the focus. Al Jazeera defended its choice to provide an unobstructed view of what was occurring in the attempt “to provoke”, and to “stop wars and reduce suffering”, as Ahmad al Shaikh, the editor in chief of the most popular Arab satellite news channel, argued in response to the criticism accumulated in recent months. This choice was supported by Nassim al Khoury, a professor of media and politics at Lebanon University who asked the pointed question as to why “it is acceptable to broadcast violent American films, but coverage of the killing of our people must be limited”. Not only images were under scrutiny but also words. While denouncing “useless verbal tactics” by various TV networks, Nabil Katib (editor in chief of Al Arabiya, one of the most popular news channels) criticised the use of the word “martyrs” — frequently employed by Al Jazeera to describe civilians killed — since it blurs the line between political and religious content. TV networks on the whole — in their nature and in the growing alliance between technology and religion — were important topics of the forum. There are now over 80 Islamic channels in the MENA region (Middle East and Northern Africa), but the programmes broadcast and the fatwas (religious decree) proclaimed are not always the same. “We are in complete chaos,” said Jamil Al Theyabi, managing editor of Al Hayat, who added that “religious celebrities on satellite channels try to outdo each other in ‘fatwa sales’,” and at times this brings to light “eccentricities and the fact that some do not correspond to Sharia (Koranic Law)”. However, the “TV fatwas” are perceived by others as “a gift from God”, “because without them, many Muslims would be ignorant about Sharia Law,” said Ahmad al Haddad, the director of the Fatwa Department of Dubai. The event concluded with awards handed out to 12 of the top journalists, editors, and opinion makers in the Arab world. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Environment: Greenpeace Blames Turkey Over Tuna Fishing

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 21 — Turkey government has been criticized by Greenpeace for setting its own catch limit on the endangered bluefin tuna, disregarding internationally agreed quotas set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), daily Hurriyet reports. Although the bluefin tuna season has only just started, Turkey has been caught illegally landing between 5 and 10 tons of juvenile blue fin tuna. Alongside the ICCAT quotas, a minimum landing size is set at 30 kg. According to Greenpeace, Turkey currently operates the largest Mediterranean fleet fishing for bluefin tuna G a species facing imminent collapse as a direct result of overfishing. Greenpeace has proposed an end to blue fin fisheries immediately. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Indonesian Presidential Elections: Yudhoyono Seeks Votes Among Radical Islamists

In July the country votes for its’ President and his deputy. The candidacy of three ex-military men stokes fears of a drift towards “nationalism” that could “lead to fundamentalism”. The PKS demands more representatives in government; Catholics and industrialists concerned for the future of the nation.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The race is on for the July 8th presidential elections in Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and it is being characterised by a “nationalist” stamp that could lead to a “fundamentalist drift”, led by Muslim parties. Catholics are concerned for the education system that would come under Islamic influence. For many voters the presence of three army generals indicates a propaganda campaign aimed at “defending national interest and national unity”, which these three figures represent at a “political and moral” level.

In the list, alongside these three former military leaders, is the current head of state Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democrat Party, is favoured to win; for the post of vice president Susilo has indicated the governor of the Indonesian Central Bank Boediono. General Wiranto —former army chief of staff —would be number two to Jusuf Kalla for Golkar. The former army general Prabowo Subianto is also running for the vice presidency with the Indonesian Democratic Party — Struggle, whose leader is the former head of state Megawati Setiawati Soekarnoputri, whose presidential term ran from 2001 to 2004.

Wiranto’s political performance has already been “tainted”: in May 1998 he proved incapable of stopping mass rioting against Chinese; a year later he was found to be indirectly involved in the massacres of East Timor. Prabowo Subianto instead has been cornered by minority groups for his close relationship with Fadli Zon leader of the Moon and Star Party (Pbb), which is also linked to a current of Islamic extremism. The country’s attention however, is concentrated on the current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the electoral deal he has signed with the radical Islamic movement Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). Public opinion sees Susilo as “weak” and “indecisive”, incapable of distancing himself from the pressures of the more radical political fringes in the country. The PKS, for its part, wants at least eight ministries, among them agriculture and education. No chance decision in a nation in which the primary resource remains agriculture and the youth represent its future.

A Catholic priest sounds the alarm: if education is entrusted to a radical Islamic wing, the education system and minds of the young people will change. One bishop adds: “If the report is true that PKS will hold the education ministerial post, the future of education will be totally changed and it will jeopardise the country’s political stability”. The industrialists too are concerned: according to the catholic Chairman of the Indonesian Businessman Association Sofyan Wanandi, the nation’s “tradition of tolerance” is at risk.

In April elections to renew the provincial assemblies, voters rejected religious fundamentalism. For the Presidential vote the favourite is seeking the support of the radical wing of Islam. The PKS has already made known — for the future — that it will not be content with a backseat role: for elections in 2014 Hidayat Nurwahid has already promised to candidate his own man. Taking over the education system “to brainwash students” and obtaining “consensus among the rural masses” are the first steps in the parties plan to achieve power.

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

Iran: Nuclear; Israeli Alarm, Allusions to Exodus

(by Alessandro Logroscino) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 22 — On the streets it doesn’t seem as if the worry being felt by Israelis about Iran’s nuclear plans — albeit widespread — is about to descend into blind panic. And its not as if any confidence has been lost in the deterring power of Israel’s armed forces, which has been underlined recently by impressive air force demonstrations. But the spectre is hovering in the background and there are some — including a public opinion surveys firm — who do not rule out that if it were confirmed that an atomic bomb was in the hands of the ayatollah, this could provoke a ‘Great Escape’. Evoking a new biblical exodus for the Jewish people, confronted by Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the improbable role of pharaoh, frankly seems a bit excessive. And anyway, if the results of a study by the Centre of Iranian Studies at the University of Tel Aviv are to be believed, a good 30% of Israelis are ready to consider abandoning that country if and when Tehran reaches what Israeli leaders believe is their goal: obtaining unconventional weapons. 81% of those interviewed believe that this will happen despite the diplomatic efforts of Barack Obama’s Administration or any other international player. The survey was not affected by the latest threat reverberating from Iran two days ago: the launch of a new mid-long range Sajjil-2, intended to strike against the ‘Zionist enemy’. There is however a growing worry: particularly amongst women, old people and Leftish voters, explain the researchers. “If Ahmadinejad intended to create worry in Israel, he has certainly succeeded in his aims”, commented an expert from the research centre, Uzi Rabi, to Israeli military radio, despite adding that he believes that “Iran’s leadership, extremist from a religious point of view, is not lacking at a political level either”. Fighting back against the most alarmist rumours are noted analysts. Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, General of the Reservist Army and former head of the Israeli administration for arms development, who says that it is “worrying” that Iran military capabilities have increased so much as to think that they can “reach Europe and the West” with the Sajjil-2. He does however remain calm on Tehran’s immediate operational capacities and underlines that the new missile does not aggravate “the threat to Israelis at all”. Such a threat — says Uzi Rubin, former high official in the Ministry of Defence and the brains behind the Arrow missile project — is something that Israel is “prepared to deal with”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iraq: Christian Missionary Freed in North

Kirkuk, 22 May (AKI) — A Christian missionary and teacher Namir Nadhim Gourguis, has been freed in northern Iraq after just over a week in captivity, according to the Catholic missionary news agency Asia news. Mediation by tribal chiefs and local imams led to Gourguis’ release just over a week after he was abducted by a gunmen last Thursday at an elementary school near the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

No ransom was paid for the release of 32-year-old Gourguis, according to Asia News.

The archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, declared Friday a holiday for Christians to celebrate Gourguis’ release.

“After eight days in captivity, Namir is free. We thank God — today joy reigns in Kirkuk’s Christian community.”

Last year saw a wave of sectarian attacks against the Christian community in Iraq. The northern city of Mosul’s archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was found dead last March after having been kidnapped and held captive for about two weeks.

At least 14 Christians were killed in the northern city of Mosul in Nineveh province between September and November and thousands of Christian families fled the city, according to the United Nations. Many have now returned.

Mosul is home to the second-largest community of Christians in Iraq after Baghdad.

Iraq is home to the Chaldean Catholic Church, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. But hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Iraq since the US-led invasion of March 2003 to escape the violence and the economic crisis caused by the war.

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

Lebanon-USA: Biden in Beirut, Hezbollah Slams Visit

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — USA vice-president Joe Biden has arrived in Beirut for a short visit in which he will meet with Lebanon’s high level leaders and representatives from the Western backed coalition, which will run for the elections on June 7 against an alliance led by Hezbollah. At the airport, Biden met the country’s Foreign Minister, Fawzi Salloukh, then he was immediately transferred to the presidential residence in Baabda. Biden will meet President Michel Suleiman, Premier Fuad Siniora, the head of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, Defence Minister Elias Murr and then with the leaders of the so-called ‘March 14’ coalition. Biden’s official visit, the first for an American vice-president to Lebanon, comes just one month after that made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and represents, local analysts believe, a clear expression of support for President Suleiman from the American administration. Hezbollah slammed his visit as “interference” two weeks before the elections in the country. “We ask all Lebanese to prevent this interference which clearly violates Lebanon’s sovereignty”, said Hassan Fadlallah, a deputy of the Shia movement. “This visit is part of the American supervision of the electoral campaign of a Lebanese party which feels politically threatened by regional changes and by the results of the previous elections” he added, referring to the anti-Syrian majority backed by Washington. According to Fadlallah, the US administration “will try to impose its vision of the future on the government”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria-Turkey: Ankara Asks NATO Aid to Clear Mines on Border

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — NATO must help Ankara to clear the minefields which still exist along the border between Turkey and Syria. The mines date back to the years of tension between the two countries. General Metin Gurak, spokesman for the Turkish Defence chief of staff, was speaking during the customary Friday press conference. Relations between Ankara and Damascus have been better for about 15 years. Since then, many humanitarian groups and farmers in the area have called for the region to be cleared of mines. According to reliable estimates, there are around 615,000 unexploded mines scattered in the area surrounding the Turkish-Syrian border. Most of them were laid at the end of the 1950s during the cold war period which saw the involvement of Turkey, a member of NATO, and Syria, allied to the then Soviet Union. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria: Israel’s Iranophobia Plot to Sow Discord

The Syrian Foreign Minister urges certain Arab countries not to be deceived by Israeli media hype which tries to spread Iranophobia in the Middle East.

“Iran, as a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), has stood behind Arabs and supported our demands,” Walid al-Muallim told Syrian TV ahead of an OIC ministerial meeting in Damascus.

With the main goal of diverting international attention from a peace settlement with the Palestinians, Israeli officials have strived to disseminate the idea of a so-called “Iranian threat” throughout the Arab world.

Syria’s top diplomat said Israel is doing its best to put Arabs against Iran and spread “Iranophobia” in the region adding that Tel Aviv is attempting to create divisions between Arabs and Iran to “weaken our stances in acquiring our rights.”

Muallim called on Arabs not to forget that “the main enemy of Arabs is the Zionist regime.”

He also blamed those who pursue a policy to sow the seeds of discord among regional countries.

Iran relations with some Arab governments including Egypt and Saudi Arabia became tense after Tehran criticized their silence and lack of action against Israel’s military onslaught against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which left nearly 1,400 dead, most of them civilians.

Relations soured even more when Egyptian and Saudi leaders accused Iran of trying to take control over the Middle East.

With a watchful eye on Israeli efforts to drive a wedge between Arabs and Iranians, Tehran says it does not constitute a threat to the Middle East.

In mid-May Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that Tehran is not looking for a fight with Arab countries.

“We have always supported and respected Arab countries,” said Larijani. “We believe regional countries should set aside their differences and join forces to ensure Middle East’s security.”

Larijani rejected recent claims suggesting Iran is trying to dominate the entire region as “absurd” and asserted that the country seeks nothing except cordial relations with its neighboring states.

The Speaker warned that Israel aims to turn Arab states against the Islamic Republic to advance its own political agenda in the region.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Honour Killing, Similar to Romeo and Juliet

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 21 — A few days after the attempted honour killing of a young women, Yildiz A. — whose nose and ears were cut off in order to disfigure her — another honour crime has been reported in the same region in Turkey, which resulted in the death of a man and the injury of a girl, as reported by Turkish daily Hurriyet. The most recent episode, a sort of Turkish-style Romeo and Juliet, took place in Dogubeyazit (also in the Agri province), which has a large Kurdish majority and is located in eastern Turkey on the border with Iran and Armenia. Orhan Topkac, 26, and O.T., who just turned 16, belong to two families that have been involved in a bloody feud for years. Nonetheless, they fell in love and since they both knew that they would never be allowed to marry ran away to Izmir (Smirne). Their escape was not accepted by the man’s family, which proclaimed that both of them must die. Orhan’s older brother Mehmet was given the responsibility of performing the honour crime. He called the two lovers and convinced them to return to Dogubeyazit, where he promised that he would give them a ride to Iran where they would be safe from the conflict between the two families. As soon as the two young lovers returned to their town, Mehmet shot them both. Orhan died immediately and the girl was injured. This did not satisfy Orhan’s family members and, after the girl was put in an ambulance, they followed and tried to stop the vehicle while she was being brought to the hospital. The Red Crescent (the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross) driver managed to escape to a local police barracks. The girl was then brought to a hospital in Erzurum, which is where Yildiz A. is currently under observation.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkish Religious Directorate to Teach Europe About Islam

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 14 — The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs will open an office in Brussels next month to teach Europe about Islam in accordance with a decision made during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey in 2005, daily Today’s Zaman reported. During the Pope’s visit it was decided that Turkey’s presence in Europe proves the possibility of the peaceful coexistence of Islam and Christianity. Starting from there, it was concluded that Turkey, with its secular state and Muslim identity, could be a good reference for Muslims living in Europe. In order to block efforts to create misunderstandings about Islam and stir up Islamophobia in the continent, the Directorate of Religious Affairs decided to open a bureau in Brussels and the decision was supported by the pope, too. The bureau, which will work as a research center, will be opened by Religious Affairs Directorate head, Ali Bardakoglu. Primarily targeting Turks living in Europe, the office will also organize interfaith dialogue activities. Five secretaries and 30 theologians will be employed in Brussels for these purposes. (ANSAmed).

2009-05-14 11:28

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Russia Alarmed Over New EU Pact

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned the European Union not to turn a proposed partnership with former Soviet countries against Moscow.

Mr Medvedev was speaking at the end of a Russia-EU summit held against a background of deep divisions over security, trade and energy supplies.

He also signalled a new gas crisis may lie ahead, suggesting Ukraine lacks the money to pay for gas Russia provides.

A row over prices severely affected supplies to Europe in January.

The BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says divisions between Russia and the European Union seem to be growing ever wider, and this latest summit, held in the far east of Russia, made that abundantly clear, with little sign of progress on any significant topic.

‘Anti-Russian bent’

“We would not want the Eastern Partnership to turn into partnership against Russia. There are various examples,” Mr Mevedev told a news conference at the end of the summit.

“I would simply not want this partnership to consolidate certain individual states, which are of an anti-Russian bent, with other European states,” he said.

Moscow has accused the 27-member bloc of creating new dividing lines in Europe by offering closer ties to six former Soviet republics.

The Eastern Partnership Initiative aims to forge close political and economic ties in exchange for democratic reforms.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have signed up to the initiative, which seeks to bolster stability in the region.

However it does not offer the prospect of eventual EU membership.

Divisive issue

On the divisive issue of energy supplies, President Medvedev raised questions about whether Ukraine can afford billions of dollars to top up its gas stocks.

“We have doubts about Ukraine’s ability to pay,” he said.

He also proposed that Moscow and the EU should help Ukraine get a loan for gas payments.

Ukraine has denied there is any problem.

Russia supplies 42% of EU gas imports. Its decision to cut all gas to Ukraine — a vital transit country — meant that many EU member states also lost their supplies of gas for two weeks in January.

Speaking in Khabarovsk, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned there should be no more disruptions to gas supplies from Russia.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Russia Favors Keeping Up Talks With Hamas: Foreign Minister

DAMASCUS (Reuters) — Russia believes in the need to maintain contacts with the Palestinian group Hamas, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday, despite a cooling of ties between the two sides.

“We are certain that this is needed,” Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying after meeting Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Syrian capital, where he lives in exile.

Diplomats in Damascus said new Middle East peace moves by U.S. President Barack Obama may have helped spur the meeting between Lavrov and Meshaal after tension between Hamas and Russia over the last few months.

Lavrov was on a brief visit to Syria to attend a foreign ministers meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and meet Syrian officials.

Russia is the only member of what is known as the Quartet of Middle East negotiators that does not boycott Hamas.

Moscow, however, has criticized Hamas for not doing what Moscow considers enough to achieve reconciliation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.

Hamas had shown little enthusiasm for Russian plans to hold a Middle East peace conference that would have been a follow-up to one organized by the United States in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007, partly because the Palestinians would have been represented by Abbas.

The Quartet, which comprises the European Union, United Nations, Russia and the United States, wants Hamas to renounce armed struggle, recognize Israel and accept agreements concluded between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Video: Islamist Insurgency in Dagestan

What is being described as a full-scale Islamist insurgency is building in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan.

Russia recently ended its decade-long “counter-terrorism operation” against separatist rebels in the neighbouring republic of Chechnya, but the fighting has spilled into other regions.

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Dagestan.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Italian Copter Rescues Besieged Afghan Troops

Herat, 22 May (AKI) — Two Italian military helicopters came to the aid of a convoy of Afghan soldiers who were under Taliban attack on Friday in Bala Murgab in Bagdhis province.

Baghdis borders the province of Herat, where international troops in the NATO-led force are under Italian command.

Taliban militants on Thursday opened fire on a patrol of Italian soldiers and a 23-year-old paratrooper, Alessandro Iosca, was lightly wounded in one arm.

Italy has 2,350 troops in Afghanistan, the fifth largest deployment after the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany.

There are currently some 58,000 international troops from 42 nations stationed in Afghanistan.

The US is due to deploy a further 17,000 troops in Afghanistan this year to curb the increasingly violent insurgency being fought by an emboldened Taliban.

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

Indonesia: Voters Bank on Islamic Parties, Study Says

Jakarta, 15 May (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — Indonesian voters uncertain of a political party’s economic policies are more likely to vote for Islamic parties than nationalist alternatives, according to a new research study.

The research entitled Testing Political Islam’s Economic Advantage: The Case of Indonesia, was conducted by Thomas B. Pepinsky of Cornell University and R. William Lidle of Ohio State University in the United States and the Indonesian Survey Institute.

“We found that Islamic parties offering good policies are less popular than Pancasila-based parties offering the same, while Islamic parties offering bad economic policies are equally as popular as Pancasila-based ones offering the same,” Pepinsky said in Jakarta on Thursday.

Pancasila is Indonesia’s state ideology designed to promote tolerance amongst diverse religious and ideological groups.

“But respondents were significantly more likely to support an Islamic party than a Pancasila-based party under conditions of economic policy and uncertainty,” Pepinsky said.

Experts believe that under conditions of economic hardship, Islamic parties and social movements in secular Muslim countries have an inherent power to attract voters that non-Islamic parties and movements simply do not have.

This phenomena is referred to as “political Islam’s economic advantage”.

However, despite its so-called “economic advantage,” Islamic ideology has not been particularly marketable in heterogeneous Indonesia — where the predominantly Muslim population prefers good economic policies over anything else.

While Pancasila-based parties have been proven much more popular, the survey shows that 56 percent of Muslim respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that national laws must be consistent with Islamic law.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies researcher Sunny Tanuwidjaja said the findings showed that religion still plays a pivotal role in Indonesian politics.

“The clearer their economic platforms, the more the Islamic parties stand to gain, as long as they can present their economic platforms remarkably,” he said.

The research involved 2,548 respondents, surveyed in May 2008.

Although the country has the largest number of Muslims in the world, Indonesia has substantial Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. The country’s constitution recognises five religions.

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

Indonesian Muslims: the Facebook “Virus” is Lethal

The social network provokes “illicit dreams” and “flirting” with people of the opposite sex. Indonesia ranks fifth in the world for membership counting for 4% of the global total. The President of the Ulema Council ready to launch a “total ban”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Experts in Islamic law in Indonesia have launched a campaign against Facebook. The popular social network, which has won over millions of people throughout the world, apparently favours “illicit dreams” among young people, including the chance to “flirt” with friends of the opposite sex and have “illicit relationships” with married couples.

With its whole population of 235 millions, Indonesia has registered a boom in Facebook users: in 2008 with 831 thousand users, a growth of 645% compared to last year. Indonesians represent 4% of global users, taking fifth place behind the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

On May 21st last — in Lirboyo Female Educational Boarding House Institution, in Kediri East Java — a meeting was held by 700 experts in Islamic law. They described the social network as a “potential threat” comparing its diffusion among young Indonesians to a “lethal virus”. According to Institute spokesman Nabil Haroen, a new fatwa on this virtual networking is urgently needed: “Lust and illicit sex — he affirms — is forbidden in Islam”. He adds that Facebook should not be banned but used instead to promote “Islamic values”.

Any eventual “edict” against the social network — as in the past against yoga, smoking and voting for non Islamic candidates — would be the equivalent of indicating the moral behaviour of practising Muslims and would not have legal consequences. The situation could deteriorate if the crusade against Facebook is approved of by the powerful Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI). Amidan, President of Mui, explains that “very fast growing use” creates “is a controversial subject among Muslim leaders” and “easily stirs youngster to practice illicit behaviour”. He does not exclude the possibility of a “total ban”, because “a ban would be more effective”.

Children rights activist Seto Mulyadi has also broached the subject, inviting parents to keep their children “away” from Facebook, because it could damage their growth: “Parents — he clarifies — should keep the balance between virtual communication and interpersonal communication”.

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

The Courage We Ask of Non-Radical Muslims

In Afghanistan recently approved laws abolish all the most fundamental rights given to women in recent years. Emma Bonino has yet again launched an appeal from the website of Resetdoc (a website devoted to dialogue between civilisations) asking the Afghan Parliament and President to abolish this legislation and asking everyone with human rights close to their hearts, to sign the petition with her. At this point I believe it is absolutely necessary that the appeal should also be signed by those Islamic intellectuals who in recent years expressed positions advocating the modernisation of Islam. As Muslims speaking to other Muslims one must state that Afghanistan’s return to Taliban positions in Family Law does not respect the Koran. On the contrary it violates it and is instead a reaction to the exasperation of a backward culture with which no one should any longer identify.

This article was originally published by the daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, on April 5th 2009

Readers will forgive me if, this week, I do not discuss the economy, in spite of the fact that the G20 has just ended, offering many ideas for comment and analysis. There will no doubt be opportunities for addressing these topics. However, in the meantime I feel the need to address another issue, one that, no less than the economy, affects the future of the world. I refer to our relations with Islamic societies, and in particular to the dangerous gap that may arise between us, should extremism end up not so much a winner, but above all remain unopposed by Muslims themselves in terrible events such as those now damaging women in Afghanistan, after what has been happening in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

We all know what is at stake here with recently approved legislation abolishing all the most fundamental rights given to women in recent years…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Stiffer Penalties for Migrants Who Do Not Respect the One Child Policy

Higher fines are imposed on those who have more than one child. Migrants are 150 million, 70 per cent in child-bearing age. Imposing controls on migrants working in cities is hard to do. One child policy is increasingly challenged but it has already led to 90 million people without siblings.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Chinese authorities have stiffened penalties for migrants who violate the country’s one child policy. Hitherto fines varied according to home town average incomes which are generally much lower than urban revenues. Yesterday China’s State Council (cabinet) decided that penalties for those having an extra child illegally will be based on what migrants earn in the cities.

Since the late 1970s China has pursued a one child policy, but rural couples with a girl or members of ethnic minorities have had the right to a second child.

However, migrants who work in cities without official residency papers (and without access to social services like health care and public school) have been able to get around the law and have more than one child.

According to official figures, there are about 150 million migrants, 70 per cent who can are of child-bearing age.

The new rule was approved on 29 April and is set to come into effect on 1 October.

Migrant workers who comply with the new rule would be entitled to a string of new benefits including, including a paid vacation if they spontaneously undergo sterilisation and free contraceptives.

For China’s authorities controls are essential to check population growth. But the effect of the policy has been to distort the country’s demographic profile and favour selective female abortions because of traditional preference for boys.

Despite the crackdown dissatisfaction has been growing. In January a survey commissioned by the National Population and Family Planning Commission showed that 70.7 per cent of Chinese women would like to have two or more children.

At present some 90 million people have no siblings and sooner or later a small number of young adults will have to bear the burden of a very large older age cohort.

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

Australia — Pacific

Sudanese Youths in Court Over Cop Attack at Rugby Union Club

FOUR Sudanese nationals seriously injured two senior off-duty police officers at a Brisbane football club after having first threatened to rape their wives and children, a jury has been told.

A Brisbane District Court jury was told the four also allegedly assaulted the manager of the Southern Districts Rugby Union Club at Annerley about 12.30am on November 24, 2007.

Magid Santino Agwaig, 25, Marier Majur Amour, 22, and brothers Doctor Martin and Hakuma Martin Mirich-Teny, 21 and 25, all yesterday pleaded not guilty to two counts each of grievous bodily harm and one of common assault.

Prosecutor Catherine Birkett said off-duty officers Senior-Sergeant David Ewgarde and Inspector Stephen Munro, who is also the football club’s president, were at a Christmas party on the evening of November 23.

Ms Birkett said the officers and manager Donald Godfrey had been standing on the clubhouse veranda when they heard loud banging sounds nearby.

The court was told Godfrey and Munro went to investigate and found a group of men kicking metal signs.

Ms Birkett said Godfrey and Munro asked the group to desist and move on, but were then subjected to a string of loud expletives and racial slurs.

The jury said members of the group made comments such as “you white pieces of s***”, “get back on the boat” and “go back to England”.

Ms Birkett said one comment heard was: “We are going to rape your children.”

She said when Godfrey tried to entice them to leave he had liquid, possibly cheap wine, thrown in his eye and was then repeatedly hit. The jury was told both Ewgarde and Munro were then assaulted by one or more of the group.

Ms Birkett said Munro later required surgery for several fractures to his eye-socket, while Ewgarde required dental treatment to remove teeth smashed in the alleged attack.

Munro testified he was “king-hit” when he tried to move the youths off the club’s grounds.

“The next thing (I know) I am king-hit straight into my right eye,” he said.

Munro said he later required 13 stitches for three lacerations around his left eye and required surgery to correct his eye-socket fractures.

The trial before Judge Michael Forde is unfinished.

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


EU: Italy Seeks Broader Approach to Fight Illegal Immigrants

Brussels, 15 May (AKI) — The Italian government wants to put illegal immigration on the agenda at next month’s summit of European Union heads of state and government, Italy’s ambassador to the EU, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, said on Friday. Italy has the support of other Mediterranean ‘frontline’ states including Malta, Cyprus and Greece, Nelli Feroci said.

“We also have the support of Spain and Belgium,” Nelli Feroci said after a meeting of ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member states in Brussels.

Italy will make a formal request on Monday that EU heads of state and government discuss joint measures to combat illegal immigration, Feroci said.

“This is a European problem that requires the adoption of concrete measures in a spirit of solidarity,” Feroci stated.

Italy is one of the southern European countries bearing the brunt of a surge in illegal immigration across the Mediterranean Sea from North African ‘transit’ countries such as Libya.

Curbing illegal immigration is one of the conservative government’s stated priorities and it has drawn international criticism for its hardline policies, which recently included returning boatloads of migrants to Libya without screening them first for possible asylum claims.

Under a bilateral accord, Italy and Libya are poised to begin joint maritime patrols in the Mediterranean this month.

Libya has agreed to take back illegal immigrants intercepted by the patrol vessels

Nelli Feroci said Italy is likely to propose that the cost of patrolling the European Union’s borders be more equitably shared by its various member states, and that the EU’s border agency Frontex be strengthened.

“Italy will also be looking to improve cooperation between the EU, transit countries and illegal immigrants’ home countries,” he said.

The Italian government is currently seeking repatriation agreements with various North African countries.

According to official figures compiled by the Italian government and the United Nations’ refugee agency, around 36,000 boat people arrived in Italy last year — a 75 percent increase over the number of arrivals in 2007.

Around a quarter of illegal immigrants enter Italy aboard people-smuggling boats, with the great majority arriving by land or air, often overstaying their tourist visas.

Long a country of emigrants, Italy in recent years has become a target for mass immigration, especially from Africa and Eastern Europe.

Surveys have shown many Italians perceive a link between immigration and crime and also fear a loss of national identity.

Interior minister Roberto Maroni said in mid-March more than 3,000 illegal migrants had been expelled from Italy since the beginning of the year.

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

Human Trafficking, 25,000 “Slaves” in Italy

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, MAY 21 — Victims of trafficking in human beings are estimated to sit somewhere between 600,000 and 4 million globally, but only a small part of these are discovered, helped and protected. In Italy, workplace, sexual and domestic exploitation claims thousands of victims. Just the victims of sexual exploitation number 25,000, particularly Nigerians, as well as the new addition of some Chinese. Sex ‘slaves” in every sense of the word which now contribute an enormous share of business for human traffickers. The issue was discussed today in Palermo during the conference ‘Trafficking in Persons: 10 years after the formation of the intergovernmental committee for the formulation of the Palermo protocol”, organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), UNICRI (the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute), the University of Palermo and AICCRE (the Italian Association for European City and Regional Councils). The objective of the meeting is to ascertain the effective application of the UN Convention against international organised crime and the two protocols on the prevention, repression and fight against trafficking human beings, opened by the signing of the agreement in Palermo in 2000. ‘The spotlight”, affirmed the head of the IOM mission, Peter Schatzer, ‘often shines on people seeking asylum when they arrive in Lampedusa but we mustn’t forget that on the immigrant boats there are many victims of this phenomenon.” A IOM official, Teresa Albano, who has worked specifically on the problems connected to the human being rackets stated, ‘until this moment, considerations on the Palermo protocol have been focused on sexual exploitation which we confused and lumped together with prostitution. The hope is that by the end of this meeting we will be able to change the focus. The protocol should be reformulated, for example, on exploitation in the workplace which is still focused on very little.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Today is an Important Day With Libya, Maroni

(ANSAmed) — GAETA (LATINA), MAY 14 — ‘Today is an important day, yet another step forward in the change already underway in the fight against illegal immigration,” commented Interior Minister Roberto Maroni during a ceremony in which three patrol boats were handed over to Libya. “Italian security forces,” Maroni explained, “have a great number of resources available for the fight against illegal immigration, but these will not be sufficient without international cooperation — indispensable for fighting the very worst form of human trafficking.” The six patrol boats which are to be transferred to Libya “will build a monitoring and surveillance system to aid the Italian naval ships already present in international and European waters”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Second OIC Annual Report on Islamophobia Released

The OIC Observatory on Islamophobia released its Second Annual Report covering the period from June 2008 to April 2009 today at the commencement of the 36th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Syria. The Report has dwelt extensively on the worrying trend of Islamophobia as a clear and present danger to global peace and security.

The Report includes six chapters that have identified contemporary manifestations of Islamophobia acknowledging both the negative trends as well as the good practices monitored by the Observatory over the reporting period. The Report clearly lays out the sound legal basis in terms of the international law of the OIC’s case on defamation of religions, particularly Islam, as a form of racism. In elaborating on the human rights framework as a concrete basis of engagement in its third chapter, the Report highlights the imperative of sustaining this engagement with the West with a view to yielding positive outcomes in the interest of interfaith harmony that could underwrite peace, security and stability in the world

In his foreword to the Report, the Secretary General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu states that Islam is a religion that implies peace by its very nomenclature and reaffirms the preceding prophethoods. It advocates respect for all relegions and should not in any way be misconstrued as a contender to either Christianity or Judaism. Characterizing Islamophobia as a contemporary form of racism and discrimination, the Secretary General highlights the urgent need to effectively address the issue of interfaith intolerance. To that end the foreword to the report contends that “a serious engagement aimed at a historical reconciliation process between Islam and Christianity as two great Abrahamic faiths would help them set aside their deep-seated animosities and misperceptions and start a new era of mutual respect and understanding”.

The Report concludes that proliferation of Islamophobia runs contrary to the fundamental values of mankind that must be embedded in a firm commitment to human rights and the recognition of inherent dignity of all human beings regardless of faith, color or creed. It articulates the OIC’s proposal of a frank, sincere and result oriented dialogue geared to curbing Islamophobia through promoting better understanding of different cultures and religions as well as better integration of Muslims in the West. It further contends that the need for such a ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’ has never been as urgent and important, as at the present, and that the opportunity afforded by globalization must not be squandered. The Observatory Report offers a clear set of recommendations aimed at evolving a common strategy with a view to stemming the rising trend of Islamophobia through an inclusive approach with all stakeholders.

The Second Annual Report of the OIC Observatory on Islamophobia presents an authentic account of the unfortunate trend of Islamophobia, its causes, manifestations and the solutions based in a common understanding of the problem and the collective will on the part of the international community to address the issue in a comprehensive manner. It also provides an account of the various activities undertaken by the OIC General Secretariat with a view to highlighting the issue of Islamophobia on the international agenda and efforts aimed at engaging the Western partners against incitement to religious hatred and the intolerance in the West of Islam and Muslims. An annex to the Report catalogues selected incidents of Islamophobia monitored by the Observatory during the reporting period. A spokesman of the Observatory informed that the Report was submitted to the Council of Foreign Ministers in accordance with the OIC Ten-Year Programme of Action and the relevant resolutions adopted by the subsequent Summit and the Council of Foreign Ministers.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Socialite, Nobel Economist Push Foreign Aid Plan

LONDON — An unlikely duo of a fashion heiress and a Nobel Prize-winning economist is pushing a controversial plan to boost aid to the developing world by giving wealthy donors a greater say in how the money is distributed.

Backed by the head of the United Nations and a bevy of billionaires, supermodels and pop stars, socialite Renu Mehta and economist James Mirrlees say a private-public partnership on foreign aid is the only way to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, since governments are falling short of U.N. targets.

But the notion sits uneasily with critics already unhappy about the juxtaposition of champagne-fueled fundraisers and the poverty of those they are supposed to benefit. Critics argue it would set a dangerous precedent for the super-rich to determine foreign aid policies.

On its face, the Mehta-Mirrlees plan is simple. They are calling on the Group of Eight industrialized nations, which are meeting in Italy in July, to agree to match private donations with state aid. For every $100 pledged by the private sector, a government would add a matching $100 from existing aid budgets.

The plan seeks to address the fact that governments are falling behind in their commitments to the United Nations to donate 0.7 percent of gross national incomes to meet eight goals, including halving extreme poverty by 2015 from its 1990 level.

In 2007, only five countries — Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — met the commitment. Collectively, all U.N. members delivered $103.7 billion, just 0.3 percent of gross national income and far short of the goal of $155 billion.

“The U.N. Development Goals are widely recognized as the most comprehensive template to address these issues, but the program is in jeopardy because governments are not meeting their commitments,” said Mehta, who launched her Fortune Forum charity in 2006 at a glitzy London dinner with former U.S. President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker.

Mehta, the daughter of an Indian textile magnate, added: “What we need to do is come up with a new model, find a new way to meet these targets, on the one hand. On the other hand, we need to make sure that the money is deployed to the maximum effectiveness.”

Mirrlees and Mehta estimate their plan could raise $75 billion, even in the current economic climate, arguing that people will donate if they know their contributions will be doubled.

“We see a number of countries cutting back on government assistance … that inevitably makes things more urgent” since developing countries are suffering further from the falloff in global trade, Mirrlees said.

The World Bank has warned that millions more people will fall into poverty and as many as 400,000 more babies will die each year because of the economic crunch.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has welcomed the pair’s attempt to find a new aid financing mechanism, saying cooperation between public and private sectors can make a difference.

Mehta and Mirrlees propose that private contributions, along with matching public funds, should be channeled through a new organization of both government and private sector representatives. That body would monitor how money is spent “so as to meet the private sector’s performance expectations,” which they argue would attract further donations from the private sector.

But it is that element of private involvement that has many critics worried.

“There are so many potential problems and issues with this. The biggest problem is a question of ethics,” said Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research LLP. “Just because you’re rich and you give to charity doesn’t mean you necessarily make better decisions. Also, what if a company that specializes in retroviral drugs says its money must go to HIV funding, to AIDS funding?”

Another sore point is the plan’s proposal for governments to match donations from assets held in offshore tax havens.

Murphy questioned whether many people would welcome an aid fund accepting money from tax haven accounts, considering U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leaders of the other Group of 20 nations just pledged to clamp down on the offshore vehicles.

Murphy said if officials instead forced the shifting of funds in offshore accounts into taxed accounts back home, some $250 billion could be raised annually — five times the money needed by governments to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

Without any firm agreement on the plan, there is no estimate of how much it might cost to administrate the proposed aid fund. Nor is it clear what the impact might be for private foundations.

Mehta and Mirrlees have already had to revamp their proposal after earlier criticisms that the original plan included a 50 percent tax break for the wealthy. For example, a private donation of $100 would have attracted $50 in tax relief, funded from the government’s existing aid budget.

That idea was received coolly at Britain’s Treasury, which said this is not the time for tax breaks.

Mehta said discussions are being held with the Treasury on the revised plan. The pair have also taken the incomplete project to Italian officials ahead of the G-8’s July 8-10 meeting, where they would like to present the proposal.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

9 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/23/2009

  1. Indonesian Muslims: the Facebook “Virus” is Lethal.

    He does not exclude the possibility of a “total ban”, because “a ban would be more effective”.

    Lethal? Isn’t Facebook just a bunch of very well organized electrons? What are they going to do, electrocute the world’s entire Muslim population? Mighty Islam, threatened by tiny little electrons. Maybe they should just learn to live without them and every other item discovered or invented since the death of Mohammad.

    The fragility of Islam is so astonishing. Facebook, Bibles, dancing, non-liturgical music, kites … the list of things that threaten Islam’s existence is infinitely longer than the list of those that do not. What does that tell you?

    And yet, the West is so gullible as to believe that this dysfunctional and violently totalitarian autocracy will magically recast itself into a compassionate, benevolent force for good if we just coddle and appease it enough.

    What in the Hell brand of rope is Western leadership smoking?

  2. Switzerland: Suicide Risk Higher Among Young Gay People.

    Young homosexual people show a higher suicide risk than their heterosexual counterparts, often suffering bullying and lack of support, a Swiss study has found.

    Speaking as someone who has staunchly supported gay rights for most of my adult life: I wonder how long the psychiatric community will continue to ignore the possibility that gays experience substantial emotional and mental cognitive dissonance by knowingly opting for what amounts to a genetic box canyon.

    Going to war with your own DNA seems like a particularly messy situation.

  3. West Must Show Respect to Gain Muslim Trust: Miliband.

    LONDON: The West has to “show greater respect” for Muslims if it wants to rebuild relations with the Islamic world, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Thursday.

    “Muslim trust”, another fine oxymoron, just like “Arab unity”.

    I’m still waiting for Milliband or any other person on this entire planet to explain one simple thing:

    What is the upside to appeasing Islam?

  4. Iran: Nuclear; Israeli Alarm, Allusions to Exodus.

    There is however a growing worry: particularly amongst women, old people and Leftish voters, explain the researchers. “If Ahmadinejad intended to create worry in Israel, he has certainly succeeded in his aims”, commented an expert from the research centre, Uzi Rabi, to Israeli military radio, despite adding that he believes that “Iran’s leadership, extremist from a religious point of view, is not lacking at a political level either”.

    Isn’t it long past tea to make all the worrying happen in Iran?

    Imagine a world without the destabilizing influences of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. This “Tripod of Terrorism” must be dismantled post haste.

  5. Syria: Israel’s Iranophobia Plot to Sow Discord

    The Syrian Foreign Minister urges certain Arab countries not to be deceived by Israeli media hype which tries to spread Iranophobia in the Middle East.

    “Iran, as a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), has stood behind Arabs and supported our demands,” Walid al-Muallim told Syrian TV ahead of an OIC ministerial meeting in Damascus.

    As usual, the pretense of Muslim solidarity trumps even the most concrete of realities.

    Given that just a single WMD attack against Israel could trigger its “Samson Option”, which would glass and Windex™ the entire MME (Muslim Middle East): I fail to see how belligerant Iran “has stood behind Arabs”, save in the way that Palestinian “freedom fighters” stand behind women and children to use them as human shields.

    If Muslims were paying even scant attention to their collective survival instincts, they would have snuffed that lunatic Iranian dwarf years ago. He may quite possibly end up getting the bulk of Arab Muslims killed in a single stroke.

  6. Russia Favors Keeping Up Talks With Hamas: Foreign Minister.

    Russia believes in the need to maintain contacts with the Palestinian group Hamas, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday, despite a cooling of ties between the two sides.

    Priceless. Russia continues to fight foreign policy fires with its sole tool, a tanker of gasoline.

  7. The Courage We Ask of Non-Radical Muslims.

    In Afghanistan recently approved laws abolish all the most fundamental rights given to women in recent years

    In other words … We liberated Afghnistan from the Taliban just so they could enact the same sort of Abject Gender Apartheid that was practiced by the Taliban.

    I’m beginning to wonder if we might have accomplished more by simply nuking these countries instead of liberating them only so that they could re-enact shari’a law. Shari’a = terrorism.

  8. Sudanese Youths in Court Over Cop Attack at Rugby Union Club.

    FOUR Sudanese nationals seriously injured two senior off-duty police officers at a Brisbane football club after having first threatened to rape their wives and children, a jury has been told. [emphasis added]

    Can you say, “P U S H B A C K” ?

    Very good, I knew you could!

    [/Fred Rogers]

  9. Second OIC Annual Report on Islamophobia Released.

    In his foreword to the Report, the Secretary General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu states that Islam is a religion that implies peace by its very nomenclature and reaffirms the preceding prophethoods. [emphasis adde]

    Which goes such a long way towards explaining why Islam is so busy killing all who follow those “preceding prophethoods”.

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