Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/10/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/10/2009Russia announced that it may swap U.S. Treasury securities for some of its IMF debt, and thereby drove down the value of the dollar. Meanwhile, President Medvedev has established a commission whose job is making sure that history is not “falsified” in a way that discredits Russia.

In other news, Muammar Gaddafi is visiting Rome, and Goldman Sachs has been hired to help The New York Times sell off The Boston Globe.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Diana West, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, JL, KGS, Paul Green, Steen, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Audit the Federal Reserve
Russia May Swap Some U.S. Treasuries for IMF Debt
UK: Govt Fights EU Pressure on Financial Supervision
Debate Erupts Over Muslim School in Virginia
Diana West: Is Petraeus an Islamic Tool?
Gunman, Guards Exchange Fire in DC Holocaust Museum
Jimmy Carter’s Moral Turpitude
New York Times Hires Goldman to Sell Globe: Report
Obama’s Islam: Now He Tells US
Radioactive Cheese Grater Found in Flint
Sotomayor is an Anti-Constitutionalist
Swordless Sailors
The Muslim in the Oval Office?
Canadian Hunger Striker Being Force Fed in U.S. Prison
Canada’s Obamacare Precedent
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi: I’ll Sue El Pais and Repubblica
Brown Plan to Reform UK Politics
France and Italy Renege on Pledges to Aid Africa
Gaddafi in Rome
Italy: Black Woman Elected Mayor in North
Romanian Judges Bar Populist MEP
Saramago vs Silvio: Nobel Laureate Rails After Italian Publishers Axe Book
Suspects in German Terror Plan to Confess
UK: Law Lords Ban Use of Secret Evidence
UK: NHS ‘Faces Huge Budget Shortfall’
North Africa
Algeria: Death Sentence for Former Anti-Islamic Leader
Israel and the Palestinians
Barry Rubin: Stopping Settlement Construction Won’t Build Peace
Business: ICE Mission to Gaza to Promote Collaboration
Nazi Salutes Cause Row at Hebrew U.
Obama Confronting Israel to Appease Arab World?
PNA Captures Female Hamas Bomb Suspects in West Bank
S. Craxi in West Bank With 40 Italian Businesses
Middle East
EU Human Rights Court Rules Against Turkey in Abuse Case
Reports: Russia Says Bank Problems Delay Bushehr
Third of Turkish Women Report Abuse
Turkey: Support for Premier Erdogan’s Party in Decline, Poll
Turkey Must Speed Up Reforms to Keep EU Bid Alive, Rehn
Turkey: Governments Urged to Protect Press Freedom
Turkey: 20 Years for Murder, 28 Years for Murder Book
Alarm in Baltic as Kremlin Seizes Control of Soviet Past
Russia Drops Unilateral WTO Bid for Ex-Soviet Pact
South Asia
Thailand: Muslim Militants Blamed for Deadly Mosque Attack
Far East
China’s Computers at Hacking Risk
Australia — Pacific
When Police Look the Other Way
Sub-Saharan Africa
Beijing and New Delhi at Loggerheads Over the Sale of Fake Chinese Drugs in Africa
Kidnapped Alberta Reporter Fears Dying in Captivity
Somalia: Italy Offers Aid to Improve Coastal Security
EC Lists Improved Immigration Policy Among Priorities
Spain: Contracts Fall in Immigrants’ Home Countries
Culture Wars
‘Gay’ Family Kids 7 Times More Likely to be Homosexual
‘Hate Crimes’ Strategy? Slip Through as Amendment
School Board Breaking Federal Law With ‘Gay’ Day?
UN’s Marxist Plan for Global Government

Financial Crisis

Audit the Federal Reserve

Most Americans believe the Federal Reserve is part of the federal government. It is not.

If you ask who creates our money, most answer “the government” or “the treasury.” Neither is true. Today that responsibility falls to Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

America’s founding fathers were very specific about the creation of money. Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution charges the Congress with “the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof.” Many argue it violates the Constitution to turn these powers over to a non-governmental, privately-owned, highly-profitable, outside third party like the Federal Reserve — structured very much like any world cartel — OPEC is a good example. Though it is defined by some as “a government entity with private components,” its structure and lack of transparency make it appear more like OPEC than any government agency.

The Federal Reserve is a cartel of bankers and investment bankers who coordinate the production, pricing and marketing of money in the United States. This particular cartel also utilizes the police power of the federal government to enforce its agreements.

Thomas Jefferson once said that a private central bank (like the Federal Reserve) which issues the public currency was “a greater menace to the liberties of the people than a standing army.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Russia May Swap Some U.S. Treasuries for IMF Debt

June 10 (Bloomberg) — Russia may switch some of its reserves from U.S.. Treasuries to International Monetary Fund bonds, the central bank said today. The comment drove Treasuries and the dollar lower.

Alexei Ulyukayev, first deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank, said some reserves may be moved from Treasuries into IMF debt, reiterating comments made last month by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. Ulyukayev’s remarks were confirmed by a Bank Rossii official who declined to be named, citing bank policy.

Treasuries fell, pushing 10-year yields toward the highest level in seven months, in response to Ulyukayev’s statement. The dollar fell against the euro on speculation that Russia will reduce its holdings of U.S. debt.

About 30 percent of Russia’s international reserves, which stood at $401.1 billion on May 29, are currently held in Treasuries, Ulyukayev said. Kudrin said on May 26 that Russia planned to buy $10 billion of IMF bonds using money from its foreign reserves.

The IMF securities would give countries a different way to contribute to the fund and are unlike traditional bonds because they pay an interest rate pegged to the IMF’s basket of currencies, known as Special Drawing Rights.

China is expected to buy as much as $50 billion of the bonds, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said yesterday.

The IMF, which has rescued economies from Pakistan to Iceland in the past year, has never issued bonds before and is seeking more cash to finance loans and aid to member countries during the worst economic slump in the fund’s 64-year history.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Govt Fights EU Pressure on Financial Supervision

LUXEMBOURG (AFP) — The government said it had fought off European pressure on Tuesday to yield some of London’s powers for overseeing its vast financial services sector to EU authorities.

The European Commission last month proposed to set up new EU authorities to oversee banks, insurers and other financial groups, which would have powers to overrule national regulators.

However, London, which is home to the biggest financial sector in the world, fears the new authorities would be able to order governments to carry out costly bailouts of financial groups with taxpayer cash.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling said he had convinced his EU counterparts at a meeting in Luxembourg, to revise the proposals to ensure the new authorities could not impose such decisions on governments.

“What we can’t have is an extreme situation where somebody outside a member state is telling a particular government that it’s got to take some fiscal action,” Darling told journalists after the meeting in Luxembourg.

Britain, which does not use the euro, also has qualms about a commission proposal for a new “European Systemic Risk Board” to be chaired by the president of the European Central Bank. Darling also managed to get that issue left open.

However, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia voiced confidence that Britain’s opposition to the ECB chairing the new risk watchdog could be overcome.

“The ECB is not only the central bank of the 16 countries of the euro area,” he said. “The ECB is the head of the European system of central banks that includes the 27 member states.”

Despite the government ‘s concerns about EU intrusion in regulating its financial sector, Darling insisted that London was otherwise broadly in favour of greater cooperation among supervisors at all levels.

“We’re very clear that we must have greater cooperation between European regulators and we must make sure that we plug the gaps that have become apparent in recent years,” he said.

Britain found support from Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania and to a certain extent Finland for London’s reservations towards the commission’s proposals, which are supposed to be implemented over the course of 2010 after Brussels revises them later this year.

Although the financial crisis is rooted in the US housing market, European banks have suffered dearly from the turmoil, especially since many had liabilities supported by less capital than some of their US counterparts.

As a result, many European countries rushed to bail out banks and guarantee lending between them in the midst of a crisis of confidence in the sector last year.

However, EU governments have struggled to coordinate their support for struggling banks, with no pan-European authority really in charge of overseeing the sector.

Ahead of the meeting, the International Monetary Fund threw its weight behind the shake-up of the financial sector.

“The crisis has indicated beyond doubt the need for new financial stability arrangements in Europe,” the head of the IMF’s European department Marek Belka told eurozone finance ministers on Monday.

“The considerable momentum that has been built in recent weeks to make historic changes to these arrangements should be fully seized.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Debate Erupts Over Muslim School in Virginia

FAIRFAX, Va. — For years, children’s voices rang out from the playground at the Islamic Saudi Academy in this heavily wooded community about 20 miles west of Washington. But for the last year the campus has been silent as academy officials seek county permission to erect a new classroom building and move hundreds of students from a sister campus on the other end of Fairfax County.

The proposal from the academy, which a school spokeswoman said was the only school financed by the Saudi government in the United States, has ignited a noisy debate and exposed anew the school’s uneasy relationship with its neighbors.

Many residents living near the 34-acre campus along Popes Head Road, a narrow byway connecting two busy thoroughfares, say they oppose it because they fear it will bring more cars, school buses and flooding of land that would be paved over for parking lots.

But others object to the academy’s curriculum, saying it espouses a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. A leaflet slipped into mailboxes in early spring called the school “a hate training academy.”

James Lafferty, chairman of a loose coalition of individuals and groups opposed to the school, said that its teachings sow intolerance, and that it should not be allowed to exist, let alone expand.

“We feel that it is in reality a madrassa, a training place for young impressionable Muslim students in some of the most extreme and most fanatical teachings of Islam,” Mr. Lafferty said. “That concerns us greatly.”

School officials and parents say they are bewildered and frustrated by such claims. The academy is no different from other religious schools, they say, and educates model students who go on to top schools, teaches Arabic to American soldiers, and no longer uses texts that drew criticism after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Kamal S. Suliman, 46, a state traffic engineer with three daughters at the academy, called the accusations “fear tactics and stereotyping.”

“Ideological issues do not belong in this matter,” Mr. Suliman said. “I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail,” and that a decision about the expansion “will be made based on facts.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is to vote Thursday on the school’s request for a zoning exemption to allow construction of the classroom building. Regardless of the outcome, the request is voted on by the county Board of Supervisors.

Hazel Rathbun, who has lived near the Fairfax campus since 1971, said she worries about traffic safety and flooding on her winding road, and called criticism of the school’s Muslim focus “hate filled” and irrelevant. “It’s detracting from what we see as a very real issue for us,” Ms. Rathbun said.

The Saudi government bought the property, formerly the site of a Christian academy, in 1984. It also rents a county school building in Alexandria.

In the 1990s, the academy bought property in Loudoun County, about 25 miles northwest of Fairfax. Over the protest of local residents, they planned a campus for 3,500 students through grade 12, but they scrapped the plan in 2004. They decided to build instead on the Popes Head Road site, where classes were held for youngsters from pre-kindergarten through first grade.

In 2007, the academy notified the county of its building plans, and last year, transferred the young pupils to the rented building in Alexandria. Academy officials hope to consolidate both campuses into a “state-of-the-art” school in Fairfax, said Abdulrahman R. Alghofaili, the school’s director general.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, the academy drew minimal attention, but shortly after the terrorist attacks, Israel turned away two graduates over suspicions they were suicide bombers. One was charged with lying on his passport application, and received a four-month prison sentence.

In 2003, the academy’s 1999 valedictorian, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, was arrested in Saudi Arabia, where he had gone to study, and two years later was convicted in Federal District Court in Alexandria of conspiracy to commit terrorism, including a plot to assassinate President George W. Bush. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Mr. Abu Ali’s family called the accusations “lies,” and his lawyers say he was tortured when he was held in Saudi Arabia.

Besides, academy officials and parents contend, an entire school should not be condemned for the actions of one or two students. They point out that no one laid the blame for the massacre at Virginia Tech on the high school alma mater of the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho.

Last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan federal agency charged with promoting religious freedom in United States foreign policy, concluded that texts used at the school contained “exhortations to violence” and intolerance.

School officials rejected those findings, saying the commission misinterpreted and mistranslated outdated materials. The school now prints its own materials and no longer uses official Saudi curriculum, said Rahima Abdullah, the academy’s education director.

“We have hundreds of students and hundreds of parents who send their students to this place to get ideal education,” said Mr. Alghofaili, the director general. “It doesn’t make sense that their parents would send their kids to a place to learn how to hate or to kill others.”

The Fairfax Planning Commission chairman, Peter Murphy, said questions about religion, politics and diplomacy were “distractions” that did not belong in deliberations about whether the academy should be allowed to expand.

“Whatever happens, some people are going to be happy and some people are not going to be happy” with Thursday’s vote, Mr. Murphy said. “I’m not basing this on happiness. I’m basing it on land-use issues.”

           — Hat tip: JL [Return to headlines]

Diana West: Is Petraeus an Islamic Tool?

I’ve never been a huge fan of Gen. David Petraeus due to 1) his elevation as an advisor of David “Accidental Guerilla” Kilcullen (whose Islam-free war analysis blinds the US to this day), 2) his PC reliance on “hearts and minds” (at one point in Iraq, he ordered posters hung in every barracks asking, “What Have You Done To Win Iraqi Hearts and Minds Today?”), and, not least, 3) his abject failure to force the belligerency of Iran into the national debate over US strategy in Iraq. Talk about Vietnam Redux: Ignoring Iranian (and Syrian) safe havens for anti-American fighters has led to I don’t even want to think of how many US casualties. Meanwile, I still don’t see “the surge” as more than stolid police work — as in, put more men on the streets, crime goes down — assisted by throwing $$ at Sunni mercenaries. It strikes me as more stopgap measure than genius strategy, as Iraq’s ever-parlous state as a non-ally bears out.

So churlish me wasn’t all that surprised by Petraeus’s recently revealed MoveOn-ish take on Guantanamo Bay (aptly skewered and dubbed “vapid” by Andy McCarthy). But now there’s more…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Gunman, Guards Exchange Fire in DC Holocaust Museum

WASHINGTON — A gunman exchanged fire with security guards inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday.

U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said the gunman walked into the museum with what he described as a “long gun.” The gunman and a security guard were shot. Both were taken to the hospital, but the extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately known.

U.S. Park Police initially gave slightly different information, saying three people had been shot. Fire department spokesman Alan Etter told CNN a third person was hurt after being cut by broken glass. Several witnesses said they saw the security guard on the floor and bleeding.

The museum normally has a heavy security presence with guards positioned both inside and outside. All visitors are required to pass through metal detectors at the entrance, and bags are screened.

Schlosser said park police SWAT teams were doing a secondary sweep of the building, but they didn’t believe there was another gunman.

The museum, located just off the National Mall near the Washington Monument, is a popular tourist attraction. It draws about 1.7 million visitors each year.

Roads surrounding the museum have been closed and blocked off with yellow tape. Several police cars and officers on horses surround the area.

Mark Lippert of Lasalle, Ill., said he was at the museum when he heard several loud pops and saw several schoolchildren running toward him, three with horrified looks on their faces.

He said when he saw the kid’s faces, he knew someone had been shot.

Sandy Perkins of Massachusetts said her daughter, Abigail, called her shortly after the shooting. The teen was on a school trip to the museum and told her mother students heard several shots before they were told to leave the building.

Abigail said some of her friends from Holton Richmond Middle School in Danvers, Mass., were very shaken, but all were otherwise fine, Sandy Perkins said.

The teens did not see where the shots were coming from.

Linda Elston, who is visiting the museum from Nevada City, Calif., said she was on the lower level of the museum watching a film when she and others were told to evacuate.

“It was totally full of people,” Elston said. “It took us a while to get out.”

She said she didn’t hear any shots and didn’t immediately know why there was an evacuation. The experience left her feeling “a little anxious,” she said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Jimmy Carter’s Moral Turpitude

Jimmy Carter is climbing back into the moral sewer this week, where he loves spending most of his time.

He’s back in the Middle East, continuing his love affair with Islamo-fascists.

This time around, having just monitored Lebanon’s elections, he’s on his way to visit his pals in Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. Don’t expect him to be giving anyone in those places a hard time about stopping hate and terror against Israelis. But do expect his contempt for Israel to come full surface when he visits the Jewish state — which is also on his itinerary. It will be no surprise when Carter’s reprimands for Israel will begin, seeing that this sole democracy in the Middle East is the country for which Carter holds particular disdain and, therefore, has called an “apartheid state” — an “apartheid state,” mind you, where Arabs are treated better than in any other country in the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

New York Times Hires Goldman to Sell Globe: Report

NEW YORK (Reuters) — The New York Times Co has hired Goldman Sachs to manage the possible sale of The Boston Globe, and plans to request bids in the next couple of weeks, The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday.

The report comes after the Globe’s largest union, the Boston Newspaper Guild, rejected a $10 million package of concessions aimed at cutting costs at the city’s largest daily newspaper.

On Tuesday, the Guild petitioned the U.S. government’s National Labor Relations Board to block the Times Co’s plan to slash union members’ pay by 23 percent to get the savings the newspaper publisher says it needs.

Media industry watchers have been expecting the Times Co to put the 137-year-old Globe up for sale, saying the cost-cuts were designed to streamline the newspaper and attract bidders. The Times has said the Globe is on track to post an $85 million operating loss this year.

The Globe’s Wednesday story quoted an unidentified potential buyer as saying the Times was willing to entertain bids on “any and all” of its New England properties, including the Globe and the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

According to the report, another potential buyer said the process may take time, with the Times Co exploring options over the summer. Two other people involved in potential bids did not expect submissions until the Guild situation is resolved.

The newspaper guild said it wants to meet with any potential buyers of the paper to discuss its contract and the future of the paper, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We recognize that we are all facing difficult economic times and understand that any future owner of the Globe would require changes to our contact,” Guild President Dan Totten said.

“We would like to explore with any potential new owner the possibility of an equity stake for the newspaper for its guild employees and would work with any ownership group to be positive dynamic in any sale process,” he said.

Most U.S. newspaper publishers are reeling from sharp drops in advertising revenue, as the weak economy added to pressures caused by competition from Internet news sites and other new media outlets.

The guild in its statement said it likes the idea of union members getting a stake and board representation along with the paper’s owners.

It pointed to a similar situation at the Portland Press Herald in Maine, which the Blethen family is selling to a group of investors. The Portland Newspaper Guild is getting a limited ownership stake in the Press Herald.

The Times is trying to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, and is looking for someone to buy its 17.5 percent stake in the company that owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team, the Fenway Park ball field and other properties in Boston.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs is fielding offers on New England Sports Ventures, the Red Sox’s parent company. It also is working on the Globe process, the paper reported.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Islam: Now He Tells US

If anyone thinks that Barack Obama is a Muslim now, there is no one to blame but Barack Obama. In his speech in Cairo, Obama said that he had “known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed..” Obama didn’t say that he had come to the region where “Muslims believe that Islam was first revealed,” or where Islam “began,” or was “founded.” Revealed.

Obama referred to “the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization [that] led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.” Yes, the West is hostile to misogyny, honor killings, racism and Jew-hatred. Obama also preached about religious freedom — speaking in a country where there is none. Yet he did find time to mention “civilization’s debt to Islam.” The president said that Islam “carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment,” and praised “innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Radioactive Cheese Grater Found in Flint

Last year a Chinese-made EKCO brand cheese grater set off radiation alarms at a Flint scrap yard — it was emitting the equivalent of a chest X-ray every 36 hours.

A new investigative piece published by the Scripps Howard News Service explores official responses to the discovery of the radioactive cheese grater and finds that there is no government agency in charge of tracking radioactive consumer products.

According to the report, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has no authority to force the seller of the cheese grater — World Kitchen — to cooperate with an investigation. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency only regulates nuclear facilities that it licenses, the Department of Homeland Security only tracks radioactive materials at the borders, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not tracking radioactive consumer products.

[Return to headlines]

Sotomayor is an Anti-Constitutionalist

Even a cursory examination of the public statements, speeches and judicial opinions of Judge Sotomayor based on the little information we already have characterizes her as a shameless, anti-constitutionalist judge.

Why did Obama nominate her over all the other great judges and legal minds in the nation?

Obama is many things, but above all he is an irredeemable narcissist and a fascist. Like his predecessor Bill Clinton, Obama subsumes everything and everybody for his own self-aggrandizement. So it is with his nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. This woman is merely Obama in a skirt, Obama with a Spanish accent. Sotomayor possesses the perverse socialist worldview he has in constitutional law and political philosophy. She is a macabre reflection of Obama’s alter ego; his fascist conception of the Constitution where “redistributive change” and overcoming of the Constitution’s “negative rights” (Obama-speak for his utter contempt of the Constitution’s framers) will be obeyed to the letter by Sotomayor, especially on the abortion question.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Swordless Sailors

Graduating midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis are being told in writing to leave at home or in their vehicles all “ceremonial swords” and anything else “that might be considered a weapon or a threat by screeners” for Friday’s outdoor commencement ceremonies featuring an address by President Barack Obama.

Inside the Beltway has obtained the academy’s list of prohibited items for this year’s graduation exercises, which, besides ceremonial swords, includes umbrellas.

Yes, cell phones and texting are still allowed.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]

The Muslim in the Oval Office?

There is an old saying, “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you can figure it’s a duck.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, rumors circulated that Also Known As (AKA) Obama was a Muslim; that he had studied Islam extensively while an Indonesian citizen attending school in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In response to these rumors, AKA’s website fightthesmears posted the following:

“Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years. But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack’s religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone’s faith to denigrate them politically, that’s an attack on people of all faiths. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this deception.”

Unfortunately, it seems, fightthesmears is the one “fabricat[ing] stories.” The more the American people watch AKA perform, the more convinced they are that AKA is a closet Muslim. A few of the incidents that give indication…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Canadian Hunger Striker Being Force Fed in U.S. Prison

A Canadian serving a life sentence in the United States for terrorism is being force-fed through the nose after going on a hunger strike, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Mohammed Mansour Jabarah has refused to eat since mid-April and prison officials are allegedly pumping food into his stomach using a tube inserted in his nose.

The convicted al-Qaeda terrorist is protesting restrictions on his mail, his lawyer said, but his father said Jabarah and other Muslim inmates also want to pray together.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons declined to comment for privacy reasons. Prison officials can intervene when a hunger striker’s life is at risk but the force-feeding of inmates is controversial.

“They shove a tube up your nose down into your throat,” said Kenneth Paul, the lawyer who represented Jabarah at his trial in New York. “It’s like torture.”

He said the prison officials begin force-feeding once an inmate has lost a certain percentage of body weight. The feeding is done by a physician or a physicians’ aide, he said.

Jabarah, 27, immigrated to Canada from Kuwait as a boy. After graduating from high school in St. Catharines, Ont., in 2000, he travelled to Afghanistan, where he trained at Osama bin Laden’s camps.

He was one of a small core of dedicated terrorists who formally joined al-Qaeda by swearing an oath to bin Laden. In 2001, Bin Laden sent Jabarah to Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, who gave him additional training in Pakistan and tasked him to bomb the American and Israeli embassies in Singapore.

Before the attack could be executed, Jabarah was arrested in Oman and brought back to Ontario by Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers. He later surrendered voluntarily to U.S. officials and pleaded guilty to charges in New York.

In 2007, the Security Intelligence Review Committee scolded CSIS for violating Jabarah’s rights by arbitrarily detaining him and helping transfer him into U.S. custody without consulting a defence lawyer.

U.S. prosecutors argued he was irredeemably devoted to the cause of bin Laden. As proof they cited a letter in which he wrote, “And if they release me, then I will kill until I am killed.”

A sentencing memorandum claimed that while feigning cooperation with investigators, Jabarah had plotted to kill the FBI agents and prosecutors working on his case, stashing away steak knives and nylon rope as well as bomb plans.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment last January. His appeal was dismissed. He is serving his sentence at one of the country’s most secure prisons, 145 kilometres south of Denver.

Last March, Jabarah filed a complained against U.S. justice and prison officials, blaming them for his depression and other health problems. In the complaint, he accused officials of withholding family mail, including a Koran, for up to 41 months.

“I know that he was objecting to mail restrictions,” Mr. Paul said. “He was not getting his mail, his mail was not going out, it would take forever to get mail that was mailed to him many, many, many months earlier.

“I think that that’s the basis for the hunger strike and I don’t know if it’s limited to just mail. I think there are several issues that are being violated by the Bureau of Prisons,” he said. Canadian consular officials are aware of the hunger strike, he added.

His father Mansour Jabarah, who now lives in Kuwait City, said in an e-mail that his son wanted to be able to phone his family and attend group prayers. “He and the other Muslims in his section would like to be able to pray together, especially Friday prayer

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Canada’s Obamacare Precedent

Governments always ration care by making you wait. That can be deadly.

Congressional Democrats will soon put forward their legislative proposals for reforming health care. Should they succeed, tens of millions of Americans will potentially be joining a new public insurance program and the federal government will increasingly be involved in treatment decisions.

Not long ago, I would have applauded this type of government expansion. Born and raised in Canada, I once believed that government health care is compassionate and equitable. It is neither.

My views changed in medical school. Yes, everyone in Canada is covered by a “single payer” — the government. But Canadians wait for practically any procedure or diagnostic test or specialist consultation in the public system.

The problems were brought home when a relative had difficulty walking. He was in chronic pain. His doctor suggested a referral to a neurologist; an MRI would need to be done, then possibly a referral to another specialist. The wait would have stretched to roughly a year. If surgery was needed, the wait would be months more. Not wanting to stay confined to his house, he had the surgery done in the U.S., at the Mayo Clinic, and paid for it himself.

Such stories are common. For example, Sylvia de Vries, an Ontario woman, had a 40-pound fluid-filled tumor removed from her abdomen by an American surgeon in 2006. Her Michigan doctor estimated that she was within weeks of dying, but she was still on a wait list for a Canadian specialist.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi: I’ll Sue El Pais and Repubblica

(AGI) — Rome, 5 Jun. — “I am going to proceed with legal action and a civil damages case against El Pais and Repubblica,” which “used trickery to publish the pictures” in the Spanish newspaper. Pictures that “constitute a criminal offence”, announced Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to Matrrix.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Brown Plan to Reform UK Politics

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set out wide-ranging proposals to “clean up” and modernise British politics in an effort to reassert his authority.

He promised a consultation on changing the voting system — but he said there were “no plans” for a referendum on this issue before the next election.

He also pledged tougher sanctions for MPs guilty of misconduct, including the power for constituents to recall MPs.

Tory leader David Cameron said the “real change” needed was an election.

And he accused Mr Brown of trying to “fix” the electoral system in his party’s favour by scrapping the current first-past-the-post system, which allowed voters to get rid of “weak, divided and incompetent governments and that is what we should be doing now”.

He said proportional representation was a “recipe for weak coalition governments” and Mr Brown had only started talking about it “because he fears he is going to lose”.

Expenses scandal

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg — whose party has long argued for electoral reform — welcomed Mr Brown’s “deathbed conversion” to the cause “from the man who has blocked change at every opportunity for the last 12 years”.

The SNP and Plaid Cymru are to hold a debate on calling a general election now, backed by the Tories and Lib Dems.


MP code of conduct Independent regulation Electoral reform Complete Lords reform Recall bad MPs Written constitution Lower voting age Extend freedom of information

But Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the scandal about MP expenses has increased the public’s appetite for further constitutional change.

He told the BBC News channel: “The responsibility of this House of Commons, of the people in the House of Commons, is to sort out the expenses scandal first.

“It’s completely disingenuous of David Cameron to say have a general election — that will sort it out. It won’t sort it out at all. It’s a precondition of having a general election to sort it out.”

Mr Brown made his statement to MPs on constitutional reform as he seeks to regain the political initiative after a week of turmoil.

‘Seize the moment’

In his statement, Mr Brown confirmed plans for a new independent Parliamentary standards authority and a new bill to be introduced before MPs break up for the summer recess setting out a legally binding code of conduct for MPs.

This would set out what the public could expect from their MPs and make it easier to expel those who misbehaved.

He also pledged a crackdown on misconduct in the House of Lords and vowed to press ahead with democratic reform of the Upper Chamber and he promised to give urgent consideration to lowering the voting age.

He said Labour MP Tony Wright, chair of the public administration committee, would work with a cross-party Parliamentary commission to discuss constitutional reform.

This will look at other reforms such as making select committees “more democratic” and a mechanism to allow the subjects of petitions handed in to Downing Street to be debated in the House.

He also pledged to consult on extending Freedom of Information laws to bodies spending public money that were not currently covered by it and said official papers would be published after 20 rather than the current 30 years — excluding Cabinet papers and material relating to the Royal Family.

‘Stand together’

A review headed by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre recommended lifting the veil of secrecy after 15 years.

In the midst of all the rancour and recrimination, let us seize the moment to lift our politics to a higher standard

Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Mr Brown repeated his commitment to consult on a written constitution — something he said he personally supported — and House of Lords reform.

He told MPs: “In the midst of all the rancour and recrimination, let us seize the moment to lift our politics to a higher standard.

“In the midst of doubt, let us revive confidence. Let us stand together because on this at least I think we all agree: that Britain deserves a political system equal to the hopes and character of our people.

“Let us differ on policy; that is inevitable. But let us stand together for integrity and democracy; that is now more essential than ever.”

Tory leader David Cameron said he supported some of the proposed measures such as a Parliamentary standards authority and more power for local government.

But he repeated his call for unelected regional quangos to be scrapped and the number of MPs to be cut.

‘Prepared to do it’

He said Mr Brown had promised constitutional change before and “nothing ever happens” and his current enthusiasm for it was merely a “relaunch distraction strategy” designed to get Mr Brown out of trouble.

Mr Cameron said a Tory government would introduce true reforms such as referendums on council tax increases and the “right of initiative” — allowing voters to propose new laws.

He also called on the PM to back select committee elections to end the power of prime ministerial “patronage”, adding: “I am prepared to do it, is he prepared to do it?”.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said he welcomed many of the changes proposed by Mr Brown but said they had to be put in place before the next general election rather to put out to yet more committees.

Anything else would be a “betrayal of the British people who are angry and demanding that we change the rotten way we do politics for good,” added the Lib Dem leader.

On electoral reform, Mr Brown said he did not favour proportional representation for Westminster elections as he did not want to break the link between MPs and constituencies.

But he said a debate on whether the vote system should change.

Ministers are thought to have discussed an “alternative vote” system to replace the current first-past-the-post method.

Campaign group Unlock Democracy said they welcomed Mr Brown’s “rhetoric” on constitutional reform but it was no substitute for action.

Unlock Democracy director Alexandra Runswick said: “This afternoon, Gordon Brown was reduced to performing the role of a bingo caller, listing a whole series of potential reforms yet offering almost nothing of substance

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

France and Italy Renege on Pledges to Aid Africa

Britain praised, but only a third of G8 Gleneagles money has been paid out

The rich world is failing to deliver on its side of an historic pact to improve the living conditions of millions of people in Africa, according to an assessment released today.

Only a third of the aid promised by the G8 group of industrialised nations has made its way to sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s Data report describes the collective G8 assessment as “grim”, blaming “exceptionally poor progress” by France and Italy, which were singled out as being responsible for 80 per cent of the funding shortfalls.

Almost a decade since they were set, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, designed to eradicate extreme poverty by 2010, remain out of reach and rich nations are in danger of “defaulting” on their commitments..

The G8’s self-imposed deadline is 18 months away but only $7bn (£4.3bn) of the $21.5bn in aid that was promised at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 has been delivered, according to One, the authors of the Data report.

The auditors are scathing in their assessment of France under President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italy under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “Certain members of the G8 are meeting and even beating the targets they set for themselves”, says the report, which praises Germany and Britain, but “France’s delivery is disappointing, and Italy’s performance is an utter failure”.

Foreign investment and trade has fallen as a result of the financial crisis. But the Africa Progress Panel, whose members include Kofi Annan and Graça Machel, argues in a separate report that the crisis has increased the importance of assisting those most in need.

Mr Annan, a former UN secretary general, says that poor Africans are hit by the costs of globalisation but “decoupled” from its benefits. After two years in which food and fuel crises dominated concerns on Africa, the US-led slump has hit African exports. In words that echo the effects of climate change, Mr Annan states: “Those who have contributed least to the crises have been affected most.” African growth, which was forecast at 6.7 per cent for 2009, has been slashed to 1.7 per cent.

The reports, deliberately released back to back, also highlight the irony that aid flows have been curtailed just as real progress was being made..

Successes included extending Aids treatment to nearly three million people, reducing deaths from malaria, and ensuring 34 million more children attend school. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the economies of sub-Saharan Africa grew in 2008 by more than 5 per cent for a second consecutive year.

Germany, which has now surpassed France in terms of aid to Africa, is praised for expanding its assistance. Britain is singled out “as the first G8 country to meet the UN goal of spending 0.7 per cent of national income in overseas development assistance”.

The reviews mention the need for good governance but do not seriously address concerns over the impact of aid flows into corrupt African regimes.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi in Rome

Visit caps rapprochement with former colonial rulers

(ANSA) — Rome, June 10 — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi arrived in Rome for a historic three-day visit Wednesday capping a rapprochement between the north African country and its former colonial rulers.

Ringed by his all-female bodyguards, Gaddafi was greeted at Ciampino Airport by Premier Silvio Berlusconi who said: “a long and painful chapter in our history is closed”.

The Libyan leader hailed “this generation of Italians, who have resolved the questions of the past with extreme courage”.

Gaddafi arrived with a photo pinned to his breast of the Libyan resistance leader who fought Italians during the Fascist occupation of the country.

The large black-and-white photo of ‘Lion of the Desert’ Omar Mukhtar sat among Gaddafi’s array of medals.

Libya was first invaded by Italy in 1911 and occupied by Mussolini’s Fascists from 1930 until 1943.

Mukhtar was hanged at the peak of the so-called ‘Reign of Terror’ in 1931.

A frail and elderly man who followed Gaddafi down the airplane steps was identified as Mukhtar’s descendant Mohamed Omar Mukhtar.

Despite this gesture, Gaddafi hailed last year’s cooperation and friendship accord which has led to Libya taking back rescued immigrants in a policy criticised by human rights organisations.

Under the accord, Italy will pay Libya $200 million over 25 years to fund various projects including the Italian construction of a coastal highway linking it with Egypt and Tunisia. Rome will also clear Libya of landmines left from the colonial period. The claims of 20,000 Italians expelled by Gaddafi from Libya in 1970 are also addressed in the accord. The treaty also opened to the door to more investments in Italy by the oil-rich North African country. As is customary, Gaddafi will stay in a giant Beduin tent, which has been set up in Rome’s vast Villa Doria Pamphli park, where the Libyan leader is expected to receive visitors. After talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Gaddafi was set to confer with Berlusconi late Wednesday afternoon.

Leftwing Italian Senators were the first to protest the visit, saying they would boycott an address to the upper house Thursday.

A range of other protests against Gaddafis human rights record are planned and security is tight in the Italian capital.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi in Rome: Democrats Will Not Attend Speech to Senate

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 10 — Senators belonging to Italy’s Democratic Party (PD) will not be present tomorrow at around 11am, when the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, will speak in his role as president of the African Union. The decision came out of the meeting of the group of PD senators. It is understood that the group’s president Anna Finocchiaro is to write a letter to the Speaker of the Senate, Renato Schifani, explaining the reasons for the decisision. In particular, it is understood that Finocchiaro will point out that the conference of party whips has always been unanimous when particularly important decisions need to be made, such as the case of Gaddafi’s speech to the Senate. In fact, during the conference of party whips yesterday, the PD group, represented by vice president Nicola Latorre, voted in favour of Gaddafi’s speech to the Senate. The only member to vote against was president of the Senators belonging to the Italia dei Valori party, Felice Belisario. Today, People of Freedom (PdL) party representative Benedetto Della Vedova also expressed his opposition to the speech. “Two years ago, despite requests by hundreds of members of parliament, the Dalai Lama, who was visiting Italy, was not allowed to speak in the House, because protocol, precedent and the sense of political appropriateness advised against a step of this kind”. Magdi Cristiano Allam, a convert from Islam and a Union of the Centre (UDC) member of the European Parliament expressed his opposition to the speech in the Senate, and to the permission for Gaddafi to pitch a tent in Villa Pamphili. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Black Woman Elected Mayor in North

Milan, 9 June (AKI) — A black woman backed by the anti-immigrant Northern League has been elected mayor of the small Italian town of Viggiu close to the Swiss border. Sandy Cane, elected in local elections held across Italy at the weekend, won by a slim margin of only 38 votes.

The 48-year-old mayor will govern the town and surrounding district of Valceresio, on the border of Varesotto and the Swiss canton of Ticino.

The daughter of an American soldier and a woman from Viggiu who emigrated to northern France, Cane was born in Springfield in the US state of Massachusetts.

She told Adnkronos that the Northern League had “welcomed her warmly” and that she “was in love with Viggiu”.

“In Italy I have been insulted for the colour of my skin only once, by a drunk guy in a nightclub,” she said.

Cane was backed by the Northern League and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom coalition, elected with 28.2 percent of the vote.

“I am very happy to have been elected, even though it has been a tough fight — I won by 38 votes,” she said.

“I became a candidate because I love Viggiu, for me it is fantastic, it is my city.”

Cane spent the first ten years of her life in the United States and moved to Viggiu in 1971 after her parents divorced.

“As a child it was fantastic because I could go everywhere, not like Springfield,” she said. “I always lived in Viggiu until about five or six years ago when I had to move for work reasons.”

Now she said the town which she described as “the pearl of the Varesotto” province was dirty and did not attract any visitors any more.

“I want to bring it back to life,” Cane said. “The first thing I want to do is clean the town and then little by little create shows and tours to rediscover Viggiu.”

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

Romanian Judges Bar Populist MEP

One of Romania’s most flamboyant politicians has been barred from taking his seat in the European Parliament because he is facing a police inquiry.

Gigi Becali, a former shepherd who made a fortune in land deals, is accused of attacking thieves who stole his car.

Judges upheld a travel ban imposed on him while the case is investigated.

He says he intends to travel to Brussels to begin his five-year term anyway, and has challenged the Romanian authorities to arrest him there.

Public sympathy

Mr Becali — a devout Christian who owns Romania’s biggest football club Steaua Bucharest — got into trouble with the police earlier this year when a group thieves stole his car and demanded a ransom for its return.

He initially paid the ransom, but the thieves claim they were then trapped, roughed up and dumped outside Bucharest by Mr Becali’s men.

The thieves took their complaint to the police, and Mr Becali was arrested.

He announced his candidacy for the European Parliament from his prison cell — though he has since been freed.

Mr Becali — who is sometimes described as a Robin Hood figure in Romania — said he would travel to Brussels regardless of the judge’s ruling.

The BBC’s Eastern and Central Europe correspondent, Nick Thorpe, says many Romanians see him as a victim of crime rather than a perpetrator.

Sympathy about the case undoubtedly helped him to win a seat in Brussels for the nationalist Greater Romania Party, our correspondent says.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Saramago vs Silvio: Nobel Laureate Rails After Italian Publishers Axe Book

By Elizabeth Nash in Madrid

Jose Saramago has launched a blistering assault on Silvio Berlusconi, whose publishing house has dropped the Portuguese Nobel laureate’s latest offering because it describes the Italian prime minister as a “delinquent”.

The Einaudi publishing house, which is part of Mr Berlusconi’s Mondadori empire, has published all Saramago’s works in Italian for 20 years. But it declined to publish El Cuaderno (The Notebook), a compilation of Mr Saramago’s blog entries, because it contained “accusations that would be condemned in any court”.

The offending passage reads: “In the land of the Mafia and the Camorra, how important is the proven fact that the prime minister is a delinquent?”

Mr Saramago, who won the Nobel literature prize in 1998, said yesterday he was relieved to be no longer contributing to Mr Berlusconi’s fortune.

The 86-year-old then let rip: “I find it strange that a man like that who uses the worst methods and wins millions of votes hasn’t produced a social movement of revulsion in protest at the simple fact that he’s ruined the prestige of his country,” he told El Pais. “How much longer must we put up with him?”

Mr Saramago, long a scourge of the establishment, moved to Spain in 1991, after Portuguese authorities tried to censor his work.

El Cuaderno, which has already appeared in Portuguese and Spanish, lashes out against George W Bush, Tony Blair, the Pope, Israel and Wall Street.

Another Italian publisher has already snapped up the work

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Suspects in German Terror Plan to Confess

DUESSELDORF, Germany — Four men accused of belonging to a radical Islamic terror cell that plotted to attack U.S. targets in Germany announced during their trial on Tuesday that they are prepared to confess to some or all of the charges against them.

Adem Yilmaz, an alleged member of the group, was the first to announce during the 15th day of the trial that he wanted to confer with his three co-defendants and then offer a confession. Yilmaz said through his defense attorney, Ricarda Lang, that he wanted to “explain comprehensively.” Lang said the lengthy trial had influenced his change of mind: “He’s bored.”

Judge Ottmar Breidling allowed a recess, while the defendants conferred under the watch of federal police.

Fritz Gelowicz, the alleged ringleader of the group that allegedly was planning bombings for the fall of 2007, said he also wanted to confess and would then submit to questioning. “There will be surprises,” said his defense attorney, Dirk Uden.

But it could be two weeks before such confessions are given, since the trial is not set to resume until June 23.

Gelowicz, 29, and co-defendant Daniel Martin Schneider, 22, are German converts to Islam. They and Adem Yilmaz, 29, a Turk living in Germany, and Attila Selek, a 23-year-old German national, are suspected of operating as a German cell of the radical Islamic Jihad Union — a group the U.S.. State Department says was responsible for coordinated bombings outside the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan in July 2004.

Prosecutors allege that they were plotting bombing attacks in Germany against American citizens and facilities.

Prosecutors said the group was considering attacks in many cities, including Frankfurt, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich and Ramstein — home of a large U.S. Air Force base — which were to be carried out before Germany’s parliament voted in October, 2007, to extend the country’s commitment of troops to Afghanistan.

Gelowicz, Schneider and Yilmaz all were arrested in Germany on Sept. 4, 2007, and have been held in custody ever since. Selek was arrested a month later in Turkey. They face charges of membership in a terrorist organization, preparing bombing attacks and conspiracy to commit murder and a bombing attack — which together carry a 10-year maximum sentence.

Schneider faces an additional charge of attempted murder, which carries a possible life sentence, because he is alleged to have fired a police officer’s gun in a tussle during his arrest. No one was injured.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Law Lords Ban Use of Secret Evidence

Blow to anti-terror control orders as lords rule process breaches human rights

The controversial use of control orders to limit the freedom of terrorist suspects without a trial has been dealt a serious legal blow after law lords ruled the use of secret evidence breached human rights legislation.

In a unanimous decision, a panel of nine law lords found in favour of three Libyan men, who argued that the Government’s refusal to give any details of the evidence against them made a fair hearing impossible. The men have not been named for legal reasons.

While the control orders against the men have not been quashed, their cases will have to be heard again. But the Government now faces having to lift orders granted using secret evidence. Suspects can be banned from meeting certain people, stopped from using mobile phones or computers, or even forced to adhere to a strict 16-hour home curfew under the orders.

They were introduced in 2005 after the law lords ruled that the previous practice of locking up foreign terrorist suspects who had not been charged with an offence breached their human rights. There are 17 terrorist suspects who are currently subjected to control orders, six of whom are British citizens.

Lord Philips of Worth Matravers, the senior law lord, said: “A trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him.” Alan Johnson, the newly installed Home Secretary, called the ruling “extremely disappointing”, adding that it would make it more difficult to protect the public from terrorism.

“All control orders will remain in force for the time being and we will continue to seek to uphold them in the courts. In the meantime, we will consider this judgment and our options carefully,” he said.

The control orders have had a troubled existence since being introduced in 2005. An original power to impose an 18-hour home curfew on suspects was ruled to breach the Human Rights Act by the law lords in 2007. Human rights campaigners said yesterday’s ruling was a major victory. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, called for an end to the orders. “I can think of no better way for the Prime Minister to make a fresh start for his Government than to abandon the cruel and counter-productive punishments without trial instituted by his predecessor,” she said.

The ruling has also increased the pressure on the Government to allow the use of intercept evidence, including information obtained by monitoring phone calls and email accounts, in British courts.

“It is now a matter of extreme urgency that the British Government makes it possible to use intercept evidence in terrorism cases,” said David Davis, the former shadow home secretary. “This will allow conventional British courts to lock up those people who are real terrorists on the basis of real evidence after a proper trial, rather than continue with a system that has failed both legally and practically.”

Chris Huhne, the home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, also called for intercept evidence to be made permissible, calling the use of control orders a “fundamental infringement of human rights”.

But Mr Johnson said: “We have put strong measures in place to try to ensure that our reliance on sensitive material does not prejudice the right of individuals subject to control orders to a fair trial.”

How does a control order restrict a suspect’s life?

Q. What are control orders, and what are they designed to do?

A. They allow the imposition of restrictions on any person suspected of involvement in any terrorism-related activity.

Q. How do the restrictions work, and what do they stop people doing?

A. House curfews for up to 16 hours a day; control of internet and telephone access; electronic tagging; bans on foreign travel; daily reporting to police; bans on associating with certain people.

Q. When were control orders brought in?

A. In March 2005 after a House of Lords ruling that holding terror suspects without charge or trial was in breach of their human rights. The Lords ruled against a provision of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 — introduced following 9/11 — which allowed foreign terror suspects to be detained indefinitely. Ministers had claimed that such detainees could not be prosecuted because a trial would put secret intelligence at risk, so control orders were introduced to restrict their movements.

Q. Do all control orders work in the same way?

A. No, there are two types. Non-derogating control orders do not require the Government to opt out of article five of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to liberty. These last for 12 months and can be renewed each year. Derogating orders infringe the right to liberty and require an opt-out. They have never been used.

Q. How many people are under control orders?

A. At least 35 people have been made the subject of non-derogating control orders.

Q. What do critics of the orders say about them?

A. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, says: “Control orders constitute permanent punishment without trial and one of the worst legacies of the ‘war on terror’. The innocent can be placed under permanent house arrest on the basis of secret intelligence, possibly flowing from torture — the guilty may easily remove their plastic tags, disappear and do their worst.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: NHS ‘Faces Huge Budget Shortfall’

The health service will face the most severe and sustained financial shortfall in its history after 2011, a report by NHS managers warns.

The NHS Confederation report says the health service in England will not survive unchanged, the BBC has learned.

Managers at its conference will be told they face an “extremely challenging” financial outlook.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said NHS funding had tripled since 1997, putting it on a strong financial footing.

The report, to be published on Wednesday, warns any modest cash increases could be outstripped by rising costs within the health service.

This would leave the NHS in England facing a real-terms reduction of between £8bn and 10bn over the three years after 2011.

‘Urgent action’

The cost of new treatments and the ageing population are two of the factors causing the inflation in the health service, the report says.

The shortfall means a cut in staff numbers is unavoidable and it may be time for a cap on the budget for new drugs to be considered, it adds.

The confederation says urgent action needs to be taken to find innovative ways of making the service more efficient before the financial pressure increases.

Unions representing NHS staff are warning that short term cuts and increased use of private companies is not the answer.

The head of policy at the NHS Confederation, Nigel Edwards, said: “Having had seven years of plenty it now looks like seven years of famine from 2011 onwards.

“We are really going to have to think very deeply and carefully about everything we do and subject it to very rigorous scrutiny — and enlist all of our doctors, our front line clinical staff in rethinking the way we do things.

“This is a situation affecting health systems all across Europe as governments experience a mismatch of income tax and expenditure budgets.

“The NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face the same issues this report outlines for England and the whole system must make sure it is adequately prepared to keep providing a high quality of care to patients.”

The confederation warns against previous strategies such as “slash and burn” indiscriminate savings, letting waiting lists grow or allowing health service pay to fall out of line with the rest of the economy.

“Pull more funding from the NHS and we will be doing surgery in camping tents with pen-knives and vodka for anaesthetic”

Dr Rufus Herring, Exeter

But it says it may be time to look again at the idea of putting a financial limit on what NICE can recommend to the NHS.

It says if the health service can not find solutions it could open the way to more challenging debates, such as the idea of limiting NHS care to a basic package that might exclude care such as IVF, homeopathy and elements of dentistry.

The budget for the NHS in England in 2010-11 is forecast to be just under £110bn, so the predicted shortfall between rising costs and the budget is substantial.

‘Maximise efficiency’

The chief executive for the health service in England, David Nicholson, has warned the service that closing the gap could, in practice, translate into a need for efficiency savings of up to £15bn in the three years after 2011.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham admitted that the health service would face a “challenge” over the next five to 10 years — but said raising concerns of closures or job cuts was “completely premature”.

He said: “The NHS is well-placed to deal with the tough economic times ahead. I will make it my priority to focus the NHS on prevention, quality and innovation.

“That way it will be best placed to get the most out of every pound the public puts in and better placed to maximise efficiency.”

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “We are committed to real terms increases in spending on the NHS because as our population ages demand will increase.

“But if we are going to improve the quality of healthcare in this country we will need to make substantial improvements using current resources. The idea of getting more for less must apply in the NHS just as in any other public service.”

Health service unions are concerned about what they believe will be a financially challenging period ahead for the NHS.

After years of significant expansion the NHS is unlikely to be able to simply grow to meet demand, raising the prospect of more difficult decisions ahead.

Both Unison and the BMA have expressed concern that a drive for greater efficiency could lead to greater use of private sector companies to provide NHS care.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum, said: “The imminent funding crisis could be very dangerous for the NHS, and has the potential to seriously threaten patient services. We agree with the NHS Confederation that difficult choices will have to be made.”

In Scotland any reduction in the NHS budget in England would be reflected by a reduction in the overall government budget under the Barnett funding formula. It will then be for ministers to decide whether that cut should be applied to the health service.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Death Sentence for Former Anti-Islamic Leader

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 9 — Mohamed Gharbi, former head of the ‘Patriots’, civil self-defence groups which took up arms in the ‘90s in order to defend themselves from Islamic militias, has been sentenced to death by the Court of Guelma for the assassination of the ex-emir of the armed wing of the FIS, the Islamic Salvation Front, Ali Merad. “It is a demonstration,” writes the El Watan newspaper, “of the degree of power which lies in the hands of ex-terrorists who wanted to provide an exemplary punishment to this ex-head of the ‘patriots’, who had long fought against them”. Gharbi, now 72 years old, led the self-defence group in the eastern Algerian region of Souk Ahras from 1994. Gharbi killed Merad in 2001, but was released from prison due to amnesty granted by the Civil Concord. The ‘patriot’, continues El Watan, was unable to accept the continuous provocations of the emir — a freed assassin who had returned home with “all honour” and had threatened Gharbi’s life on multiple occasions. After having notified the police several times, Gharbi killed him in front of his own house. Yesterday’s verdict, received by cheers of joy by the numerous ‘penitents’ present in the court-room, follows the previously allotted sentences of 20 years, and life imprisonment. The death penalty is normally ruled with the defendant in absentia, almost never in his/her presence, as was the case with Gharbi. The country’s last execution was held in 1993, when seven terrorists accused of attempting an attack on the Algiers airport were killed by a firing squad. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Barry Rubin: Stopping Settlement Construction Won’t Build Peace

Although somewhat quieted by the successful Netanyahu-Obama meeting, a predominant theme in current talk about U.S. Middle East policy is that there will soon be a U.S.-Israel confrontation. This is so expected that there are daily misinterpretations or fabrications of events implying some anti-Israel step by the Obama administration.

Such things might well-almost inevitably will-happen at some point. But by the end of May 2009, there had still been no material action hostile to Israel undertaken by the administration.

What is curious, and counterproductive for the administration, is the one area which might be the scene of direct confrontation: the settlement issue.

Israel does not start new settlements. The issue is a narrower one: adding a building or even rooms or floors onto buildings in existing settlements. A second potential issue is over construction in the east Jerusalem area.

So far, there is a consensus in Israel that the same policy as has been held since 1993 should continue: no new settlements but construction on existing settlements.

From the administration’s standpoint, making this the big push doesn’t make sense and is likely to lead to looking foolish in the future no matter how it comes out.

First, if Israel refuses, is the United States going to apply disproportionate diplomatic force on the issue? Will huge threats or actions be deployed to make a small change?

Second, there is no implication of an enforced reciprocity. That is, Israel is not being offered anything for making such a concession on a policy held by the last six prime ministers. The United States, for example, urged the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stop incitement for murdering Israelis in its media and other institutions but there was no statement that this was a high priority or that the United States would punish the PA for not doing so.

How, then, will the United States get Israel to take steps of much greater importance it will want in future if a lot of political capital is used up on this one?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Business: ICE Mission to Gaza to Promote Collaboration

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 4 — Promoting direct collaboration between Italian and Palestinian companies in the sectors of logistics and transport, food and construction through projects financed by international organisations. This is the objective, from June 9 to June 12, of the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) designed trade mission in the Gaza Strip, for the visit of the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Stefania Craxi. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Nazi Salutes Cause Row at Hebrew U.

A student organization that promotes Zionism on campus is fuming after its members were given the Nazi salute by left-wing students during student elections at the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus last week.

Members of the Im Tirtzu (If You Will It) group said that as they made their rounds on last Tuesday, singing songs and waving the national flag, a member of another student organization — Campus L’kulanu (Campus For All) — approached them and made the stiff-arm Nazi salute as they passed.

“We were walking by, singing songs like “Am Yisrael Hai” and “Yerushalaim Shel Zahav,” and she stood nearby making the salute,” said Amit Barak, the deputy director of Im Tirtzu, who sent a letter concerning the incident to the university’s President Menachem Magidor and a number of Knesset members.

“Later in the day, another member of their group did the same thing,” Barak said. “He approached us and made the salute — it was shocking, and a lot of other students, who aren’t members of either organization, were looking on in horror.”

“Later on, other members of their group also tried to block our path as we were walking,” he continued. “It was all very provocative, and I could tell they were trying to provoke a violent reaction.”

Campus L’kulanu, which is made up of students who support the Meretz and Hadash political parties, among others, did not offer an explanation on Tuesday. One member declined comment, saying he had not been on campus during the incident, while phone calls from The Jerusalem Post to members who were on campus that day were not returned.

In a written response, however, a Hebrew University spokeswoman said that one of the students involved had come to the Dean’s Office to apologize for the incident.

“After receiving the complaint from the Im Tirtzu organization, the student approached the Dean’s Office on his own initiative, and asked to apologize. The student claimed that his actions were done as an individual, and he realized it had been a mistake.”

Barak said neither he nor his organization had been informed of the apology, and rejected the idea that the saluting student was “acting alone.”

“I remember both of them,” he said. “It was a girl first and then the guy who’s apparently apologized. She was wearing a Campus L’kulanu shirt while she gave the Nazi salute, I can’t remember if he was or not. But it doesn’t matter, they obviously weren’t acting alone.”

In his letter to Magidor, Barak also said that regardless of any political point the students may have been trying to make, “the use of Nazi symbols in a place like Israel, where the Holocaust is still a very sensitive issue, offends the feelings of many people and is extremely intolerable.”

Barak also cited a bill that was proposed in the Knesset in 2007, which would have prohibited the use of Nazi symbols except for educational, historical or other informational purposes, or to protest against the racist nature of Nazism itself. That bill, which was sponsored by then-Labor MK Colette Avital, wasn’t approved, but Barak wrote in his letter that to the Campus L’kulanu students, it would make little difference if it had.

“I am sure, regardless of the bill or any other bill like it, these students would continue to act in an offensive way that expresses such a lack of values,” he wrote.

The Hebrew University itself has come under fire in recent days, as its annual Board of Governors meeting has drawn increased criticism from right-wing groups saying professors at the institution are increasingly anti-Israel.

An ad sponsored by the group Isracampus that appeared in Monday’s Post called on the board of Governors to become aware of “what is really taking place inside the Hebrew University.”

The ad goes on to say that professors and lecturers at the university “endorse terrorist attacks against Jews, call for international boycotts against Israel, collaborate with anti-Semites and openly call for Israel’s destruction,” among other allegations.

Isracampus did not return e-mails from the Post on Tuesday, but the university addressed the issue in an e-mail.

“The university will not respond to baseless claims made by organizations or individuals via paid advertisements that are published in the press,” it read. “If the university happens to receive any legitimate complaints, it will handle these accordingly.

“The university is very proud to allow freedom of speech on campus — which includes the voicing of opinions from across the political spectrum — as long as it is in accordance with Israeli law.”

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Obama Confronting Israel to Appease Arab World?

‘Part of larger strategy of putting the screws on to build relations with Muslims’

President Obama’s administration has been “putting the screws” on Israel as part of a larger strategy of enhancing U.S. ties with the Arab world, according to an assessment from a senior aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Generating this controversy and pressure on Israel regarding settlements right before his address last week to the Muslim world was a way for Obama to spruce up his credentials with the Arabs,” said the aide, who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity.

“This seems to be part of a larger and even long-term strategy of putting the screws on Israel to help endear the U.S. to the Arab world,” the aide said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

PNA Captures Female Hamas Bomb Suspects in West Bank

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, JUNE 9 — Three women believed to have ties to the armed wing of Hamas and suspected of wanting to carry out suicide bombings against Palestinian National Authority (PNA) police have been arrested in the West Bank in the last few hours by PNA police. The news was announced by a spokesperson in Ramallah, who said that the suspected kamikaze bombings were already being planned. The episode forms part of a state of renewed tension between the PNA (which controls the West Bank under moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a Abu Mazen) and the hard-line Muslims of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Indeed, groups of Hamas militiamen in the West Bank have been hit by Abbas’s forces over the last few days in a number of raids leading to bloody fire fights. Hamas has called the PNA’s actions as proof of their rival’s alleged “complicity” with the “Zionist enemy”, casting further shadow on the tortuous process of Palestinian reconciliation being mediated by the Egyptian government. Also today in the West Bank, an Israeli military raid ended with the arrest of 12 Palestinians including two presumed Hamas activists from whom were confiscated weapons and ammo near Hebron. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

S. Craxi in West Bank With 40 Italian Businesses

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 9 — Italy’s Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Stefania Craxi, is set to undertake an economic mission to the Middle East, but one which also has “a political significance, because political peace and economic peace must go together”. Craxi and around 40 Italian businesses will set off for the trip around Israel and the West Bank on 11 June. The aim of the trip is to facilitate contact between Italian small and medium-sized businesses who intend to invest in the region (particularly in the Jenin industrial area) and Palestinian and Israeli businesspeople operating in sectors from textiles to agriculture, mining, infrastructure and transport. Italy, convinced that commitment to the peace process must go hand-in-hand with the economic development of the future Palestinian state, thereby intends to “show the way” for the ‘Marshall Plan for Palestine”, which Italy will also re-launch at the G8, said Craxi. Tomorrow in Ramallah, Craxi and the president of the Italian trade commission (ICE), Umberto Vattani, and the president of Simest, Giancarlo Lanna, will take part in a seminar on the “Economic Opportunities in Palestine and the Gaza Strip”. The following day in Jenin, Craxi will address a business convention being held as part of the EuroMidBridge initiative — a logistical corridor running between northern Europe and the Middle East, and for which Italy is financing a feasibility study. Alongside such business-orientated meetings, Craxi will also hold political talks in Ramallah with the President of the PNA, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whilst in Jersulem the undersecretary will meet with her Israeli counterpart, Daniel Ayalon. Craxi’s visit to the Territories will also provide the chance to launch — with PNA Health Minister Abu Moghli — an oncology centre in Beit Jalia (West Bank), which has been partly financed by Italy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

EU Human Rights Court Rules Against Turkey in Abuse Case

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 9 — The European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR, ruled Turkey had denied a citizen her “right to life” by failing to prevent her murder by her son-in-law and ordered it to pay damages. It was the first time the court ruled against a state for failing to protect a citizen against domestic violence, Turkish broadcasters reported. Turkey was also found to have violated the convention on human rights which prohibits torture, inhumane treatment and discrimination in Opuz vs. Turkey. It was ordered to pay 36,500 euros ($50,670) to the applicant, whose ex-husband killed her mother, according to a ruling on the ECHR’s website. “The general and discriminatory judicial passivity in Turkey created a climate that was conducive to domestic violence,” the court said in the statement. As many as half of Turkish women face violence in the home, Amnesty International has said, and dozens of women are killed in so-called “honor killings” each year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Reports: Russia Says Bank Problems Delay Bushehr

MOSCOW — The head of the Russian company building Iran’s first nuclear power plant said Wednesday that it is unclear when the reactor will be switched on, Russian news agencies reported, potentially casting doubt on Iranian hopes for a startup before the end of the year.

The nearly finished plant near the city of Bushehr is part of a nuclear program Iran says is purely peaceful but the U.S. and Israel claim is meant to develop atomic weapons. Russia has close ties with Iran but also says the country must not acquire nuclear arms.

The refusal of some Russian banks to work with Iran has slowed the project by complicating financing, Interfax and state-run RIA-Novosti quoted the head of Atomstroiexport, the Russian state-run company building the plant, as saying.

“This causes delays … and this is certainly not Iran’s fault,” Interfax quoted Atomstroiexport chief Dan Belenky as saying. He did not name the banks or discuss details of the problem.

Atomstroiexport officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but company spokeswoman Olga Tsyleva said some Russian banks choose not to do business with Iran because of political risks, RIA-Novosti reported.

Belenky suggested the problem was not severe, although it has forced Atomstroiexport to seek alternative ways of handling financing for the project. But he also said sluggish supplies of equipment from other countries, which company officials have mentioned before, were still a problem.

“I think it is too early to talk about specific dates for the startup. But we have quite tight deadlines,” Interfax quoted Belenky as saying.

Iran has said it aims to operate the reactor by the end of the year, and cast a test run in February as a major step toward starting it up.

The opening of the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor, under construction for 14 years, has repeatedly been delayed by construction, supply and payment glitches that Russian officials insist have been purely technical.

But the delays have prompted speculation that Russia has used project as a lever to prod Iran into less recalcitrance in the face of international demands that it halt separate nuclear activity, such as uranium enrichment, that could lead to weapons development, .

The United States for years urged Russia to abandon the $1 billion deal to build Bushehr, citing concerns the cooperation could help Iran develop nuclear weapons. But American opposition to the plant eased when Iran agreed in 2005 to return spent fuel to Russia to ensure it can’t be reprocessed into plutonium

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Third of Turkish Women Report Abuse

ISTANBUL — A total of 34 percent of married women participating in a survey said they were victims of domestic violence while 88.6 percent of married male respondents said they had never engaged in physical violence with their spouse.

The study conducted by respected pollster Adil Gür’s A&G polling company showed the contradiction in the responses between men and women when it comes to domestic violence.

A&G spoke to 2,466 people face-to-face on Dec. 20-23 last year in 35 provinces around the country.

When asked about whether there was any domestic violence in their marriage, 88.6 percent of men and 63.6 percent of women said never. Among women, 25.1 percent said sometimes and 9.3 percent said always. When it came to men, 10.8 percent said sometimes and 0.7 percent said always.

According to the survey, there is a general trend when it comes to age and education, with the highest percentage of those facing or engaging in domestic violence being among those over the age of 44. 33 percent of elementary school graduates said there was domestic violence at home, with the figure dropping to 21 percent for high school graduates and 14.5 percent for university graduates.

Regionally, 40.1 percent in the Southeast said there was violence at home while 9.9 percent of those in the western Aegean region said the same.

When asked what they saw as a reason for divorce, 78.6 percent said cheating, 49.6 percent said domestic violence, 36 percent said failure to adhere to spousal responsibilities, 16.1 percent said pressure from in-laws, 11.2 percent said economic difficulties and 6.1 percent said health problems and the necessity of constant care.

When it came to cheating, 61.7 percent said their response would be a divorce, while 14.5 percent said they would kill their spouse. About 13 percent said they would give their spouse another chance, while 8.6 percent said they would be very upset but would put up with it. Among those married, those who would give their spouse another chance was higher than average while among singles, divorce and murder were above the norm.

Financial independence

Professor Nilüfer Narlı, the head of the Istanbul BahçeÅŸehir University Faculty of Sociology, said that when hypothetically asked whether violence could be a reason for divorce, most say yes but once married and facing the reality, violence drops as a cause for separation because of women’s lack of financial independence.

When it came to special anniversaries, Turkish women tend to be a little less punctual than men, with 32.1 percent of men saying they always remembered the special anniversaries while the figure was 27.9 percent for women.

On average, 29.8 percent said they always remembered special anniversaries, while 35.4 percent said they never did while 34.8 percent said they sometimes marked them. As the ages dropped and education level increased, the portion of those marking such days increased. When asked about their opinions on polygamy, 85.7 percent of the respondents said they were against it, while 7.3 percent said they were partially in support of it and 7 percent said they were fully for it.

Polygamy found more supporters in rural Anatolia and especially in the Southeast, where 70 percent said they were in support of it.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Support for Premier Erdogan’s Party in Decline, Poll

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 8 — In Turkey, support for the Premier Tayyip Erdogan’s pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) is in decline. According to a poll conducted by secular newspaper Milliyet, support for the AKP (in power since 2002) has fallen to 36.9%. Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul’s party has lost two points since the local elections on March and ten points since political elections held two years ago, though support for Erdogan is still strong. The Premier is still the most popular politician in Turkey with 36% backing, followed by President Gul with 9.7% and Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Mustafa Sarigul with 8.3%. The fourth most popular politician for readers of Milliyet is Deniz Baykal, the head of the major opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP, secular, Ataturkist and social democratic). Among the reasons for AKP’s slide is mainly the management of the economic crisis by the government and a slowing of the reform process that should promote Turkey’s EU membership. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey Must Speed Up Reforms to Keep EU Bid Alive, Rehn

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 5 — Turkey must speed up long-delayed reforms to keep its bid to join the European Union on track amid fatigue over expanding membership of the 27-nation bloc, the EU’s enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn said late Thursday, according to Turkish media reports. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said there was “plenty of work” for Turkey to do on issues such as freedom of expression and the media, as well as trade union rights, if it wanted entry into the bloc. “Turkey needs to seriously resume reforms enhancing fundamental freedoms,” Rehn said in Washington, where he was meeting U.S. State Department and World Bank officials to discuss a range of issues, including Turkey. He said Turkey must adopt a law on trade unions respecting the standards of international labor organizations — a demand made for the past three years. “It was last promised in January and then by April and we have not seen it. Therefore we cannot open a chapter (negotiations) on social policy in employment as there is no agreement,” Rehn said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Governments Urged to Protect Press Freedom

ISTANBUL — Forty-eight journalists from 19 countries, including Turkey, sign a charter on the role of governments in ensuring and protecting freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to perform their jobs without obstruction. The charter on press freedoms has been created over a period of two years and has been applauded by EU officials.

A charter has been created by some Europe-based journalists on the role of governments in ensuring and protecting freedom of the press and has received the backing of European Union officials.

The charter, the idea of which emerged in 2007, was signed on May 25 by 48 journalists from 19 countries, including some from Turkey. The charter formulates the main values that authorities should respect when dealing with journalists and is said to be the first European charter of its kind.

“We are very grateful to Viviane Reding [EU commissioner for Information Society and Media] for supporting unreservedly from the outset the idea of a European charter on freedom of the press. We therefore assume that the commission will itself comply with this charter and will contribute actively to ensuring its recognition throughout Europe. At the same time, we expect recognition of the charter to be made a condition for candidate countries in future accession negotiations. The charter’s main concern is at last to unify Europe journalistically and to enable all our colleagues to invoke its principles if press freedom is violated,” said Hans-Ulrich JÃrges, editor-in-chief of the German magazine Stern and initiator of the charter.

10 articles

The charter’s 10 articles outline basic principles that governments must respect when dealing with journalists.

The articles are as follows:

1. Freedom of the press is essential to a democratic society. All governments should uphold, protect and respect the diversity of journalistic media in all its forms and its political, social and cultural missions.

2. Censorship must be absolutely prohibited. There must be a guarantee that independent journalism in all media is free of persecution, repression and of political or regulatory interference by government. Press and online media should not be subject to state licensing.

3. The right of journalists and media to gather and disseminate information and opinions must not be threatened, restricted or be made subject to punishment.

4. The protection of journalistic sources shall be strictly upheld. Searches of newsrooms and other premises of journalists and the surveillance or interception of journalists’ communications with the aim of identifying sources of information or infringing on editorial confidentiality are unacceptable.

5. All states must ensure that the media enjoys the full protection of an independent judiciary system and the authorities while carrying out their role. This applies in particular to defending journalists and their staff from physical attack and harassment. Violations of these rights and any threats to violate these rights must be carefully investigated and punished by the judiciary.

6. The economic livelihood and independence of the media must not be endangered by the state, by state-controlled institutions or other organizations. The threat of economic sanctions is unacceptable. Private enterprise has to respect the independence of the media and refrain from exercising pressure and from trying to blur the lines between advertising and editorial content.

7. The state and state-controlled institutions shall not hinder the freedom of access of journalists and the media to information. They are obliged to support them in their mandate to provide information.

8. Media and journalists have a right to unimpeded access to all news and information sources, including those from abroad. For their reporting, foreign journalists must be provided with visas, accreditation and other required documents without delay.

9. The public of any state shall be granted free access to all national and foreign media and sources of information.

10. The state shall not restrict entry into the profession of journalism.

The European Charter on Freedom of the Press and the list of its signatories can be accessed at

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Turkey: 20 Years for Murder, 28 Years for Murder Book

ISTANBUL — More than two years after Agos editor Hrant Dink was shot dead, a reporter stands trial for writing about the circumstances surrounding the murder. For his alleged crimes, he faces 28 years in prison, eight years more than what the murder suspect would serve if convicted.

A reporter who wrote a book about the intelligence failures before and after the murder of Hrant Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian weekly Agos, is facing a prison term of 28 years if found guilty. The chief murder suspect in the case could serve a maximum of 20 years if convicted.

Milliyet daily reporter Nedim Åžener’s book “Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies” focused on the intelligence deficiencies by security agencies before and after Dink was shot dead, leading to a police officer and three senior Police Department intelligence chiefs filing complaints against him.

Dink, who was prosecuted for insulting Turkishness, was killed in front of Agos’s office. The chief suspect, a teenage nationalist, is currently on trial along with several alleged accomplices who are accused of influencing the culprit.

Milliyet daily reported that the complaints have led the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office to charge Åžener with publication of secret information and turning anti-terrorism officials into targets. The reporter faces a maximum prison term of 28 years if found guilty.

Åžener, speaking to Anatolia news agency on his way to the opening hearing yesterday, said he is facing a total of 28 years in prison if convicted in two cases on charges of obtaining classified documents and insulting government officials.

Åžener has two trials pending as a result of the complaints. Yesterday’s trial at the Istanbul Second Court was on violating official secrets. Åžener, who faces up to eight years in jail on this charge, defended himself by saying that the information in his book was from phone conversations that were made public on televisions and newspapers months before his book was printed. “These conversations are also on the Internet and can be found when one searches Google,” he said.

Åžener said the trial aimed at preventing the public from learning the facts about Dink’s murder and press freedom. He asked the court to find him not guilty. The judge decided to postpone the trial to another date for the defendant’s lawyers to prepare for the prosecutor’s case.

Milliyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin told Anatolia news agency his presence at court was to support not only Åžener but also press freedom in Turkey. “We are showing this solidarity in order to ensure press freedom in respected,” he said. The Turkish Journalists’ Association, or TGC, released a statement on the case, seeing it as “worrying” and a problem for democracy.

It said it was necessary to reassess a law that prosecuted a journalist for trying to uncover the facts behind Dink’s murder, reported Milliyet. “Expert journalists like Nedim Åžener uncovering crimes and making the facts public is a service to address the public’s anger about such crimes,” said the TGC. On the issue, Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review’s Editor-in-Chief David Judson said: “Institutions of free expression and individuals expressing themselves freely have collectively made great strides in recent years. That some institutions of the state lag behind in understanding the nature of these important democratic concepts in unfortunate. But we are confident at the Daily News that they will mature along with the rest of society.”

After the book’s release in January of this year, Muhittin Zenit, a police officer working at the intelligence division at Trabzon at the time Dink was assassinated, filed a criminal complaint about Åžener for “targeting personnel in service of fighting terrorism, obtaining secret documents, disclosing secret documents, violating the secrecy of communication and attempting to influence fair trial” through his book.

Case for three other accusations

After the investigation’s end, Prosecutor Selim Berna Altay charged Åžener with “making targets of the personnel in service of fighting terrorism, and obtaining and declaring secret information that is forbidden to be declared,” asking for a prison term of 20 years. Since they do not fall under his authority, Altay sent the dossier on “violation of the secrecy of communication” and “attempting to influence fair trial” to the Istanbul Second Court. In the meantime, it was also claimed the book contained the offense of “insulting governmental institutions,” and that too was added to the second investigation. Prosecutor Ä°smail Onaran handled this investigation and filed a second case against Åžener asking for his imprisonment for three to eight years.

There is another case ongoing in a Trabzon court against eight personnel from the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command who are accused neglecting their duties regarding Dink’s death. The accused are facing up to two years in prison if found guilty.

“Some of the security personnel that sued me are under investigation for neglecting their duty for Dink’s murder. They want to punish the journalist writing about the responsibilities of those people,” said Åžener.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Alarm in Baltic as Kremlin Seizes Control of Soviet Past

Medvedev bans the ‘falsification of history to the detriment of Russia’

In Russia it is not only the future that is unpredictable; often the past is equally in doubt. One minute Leon Trotsky was a hero of the Revolution, the father of the Red Army and a strong contender to succeed Lenin; the next minute he never existed. Until the late 1980s, the 1917 Revolution was the pinnacle of human achievement; suddenly in the 1990s it was seen as an utter failure.

And today again history in the region is turning into an ideological battlefield. When the Red Army poured into the Baltic states at the end of the Second World War, it liberated them from Nazi tyranny — but from the perspective of the subsequent decades of Soviet domination, was it liberation or merely another invasion?

The Russians, of course, have no doubt on the matter: for them it was an heroic national achievement. But for the states which less than two decades ago managed to crawl out from under the Soviet boot, things are not so simple. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, an imposing black box of a building in the heart of Riga, tells the story of Latvia’s time inside the Soviet Union. The Soviet soldiers, glorified as heroes in Moscow, are portrayed as criminals and occupiers, no better than the Germans they defeated.

But now, slamming shut a stable door through which its former subject states long ago bolted, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the creation of a body with the Orwellian title of the Commission to Counteract the Falsification of History to the Detriment of Russian Interests. A linked law is also likely to be passed that will outlaw the “rehabilitation of Nazism” on the territory of former Soviet republics.

Pressure to stop their much smaller neighbours telling recent history the way they see it has been building for some time. When authorities in Estonia removed a monument to Soviet soldiers from the centre of Tallinn two years ago, riots between police and ethnic Russian citizens of Estonia ensued, and the Kremlin made furious noises. With its new commission and law, Moscow is upping the stakes. Russia accuses the governments of Estonia and Latvia of glorifying partisan regiments which fought on the side of the Nazis.

In recent years, relations between Latvia and Russia have normalised in many spheres, but the Second World War is still a thorny issue. “The one issue which divides us is our interpretation of history,” says Ojars Kalnins, director of the Latvian Institute, a think-tank linked to Latvia’s Foreign Ministry. “Russia could demonstrate a lot to the world if it did what Germany did, and apologised for the actions of previous governments.”

Apologising, however, is the last thing the Kremlin plans to do, and the new commission and law suggest that Russia is moving in the opposite direction, seeking to glorify the Soviet past and silence critics of Soviet communism.

The commission, say critics inside Russia, smacks of a Soviet attitude to history, and the most worrying aspect to be inferred from its bizarre title is that falsifying history in Russia’s interests is quite acceptable.

Last week, a scandal erupted over an article written by a Russian military historian that was posted on the website of the Russian Defence Ministry, blaming Poland for starting the Second World War. The article absolved the Soviet Union from any role in contributing to the start of war, and instead blamed Poland for not acceding to “reasonable” demands from Nazi Germany. The paper was removed after an official complaint from Poland.

A key pillar of Vladimir Putin’s eight-year presidency involved exhorting Russians to feel proud of their history, and he once said that foreign countries should never be able to make Russia feel guilty for its Soviet past. The public appears to agree. A recent survey by a leading Russian polling agency showed that 77 per cent of Russians consider the Red Army to have liberated eastern European countries and given them the chance to develop, while only 11 per cent felt that there was an occupation.

“Those trying to turn everything upside down and portray the Nazi liberator states as invaders have to suffer punishment,” said Valery Ryazansky, a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and one of the law’s sponsors. The Russians remain determined to stem the tide of what they see as anti-Russian propaganda. “Such attempts are becoming more hostile, more evil, and more aggressive,” said Mr Medvedev in his online video blog last month.. “We must fight for the historical truth.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Russia Drops Unilateral WTO Bid for Ex-Soviet Pact

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russia threw its 16-year bid to join the World Trade Organization into jeopardy on Tuesday when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Moscow would only join the trade body in partnership with two former Soviet republics.

Putin, announcing plans to form a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, blamed tortuous WTO accession talks for blocking integration with its ex-Soviet neighbors, only days after the European Union said the Kremlin’s wait could be over this year.

The surprise move by Russia, the largest country outside the 153-member WTO, implies talks will start afresh on the basis of a new agreement between the three former Soviet states, which intend to form the customs union from January 1, 2010.

Russia has previously accused the United States and the European Union of hindering its WTO bid for political reasons.

Putin, speaking at a joint news conference with the Kazakh and Belarussian prime ministers, Karim Masimov and Sergei Sidorsky, said the three countries would notify the WTO that their separate negotiations will be stopped.

“It’s a sign of frustration on the Russian side, but it’s also recognition that WTO membership is no longer such a priority,” said Roland Nash, chief strategist at investment bank Renaissance Capital.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned this month that Russia’s bid to join the WTO was losing momentum.

Five days ago, EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said she had agreed with Russian Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina that Moscow’s WTO accession should be completed by year-end, saying the two sides had a “common understanding.

But the creation of a customs union with countries whose WTO negotiations are less advanced may force the EU to think again.

“This could create a new situation, which we would first need to carefully analyze to determine the potential impact on Russia’s WTO negotiations,” said Lutz Guellner, spokesman for Ashton.

The decision is also a slap in face for U.S. President Barack Obama ahead of his visit in Russia next month. Obama and Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev agreed in April to instruct their governments to work on finalizing Russia’s accession.

Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as BRIC, will also hold their first summit in Yekaterinburg next week and officials have said the four were willing to look into trade initiatives outside the WTO framework.

Kazakhstan started WTO talks in 1996 but has continuously put off the accession deadline. Russia, still running the world’s third-largest gold and forex reserves, has used the economic crisis to increase influence in the post-Soviet space.

“Our priority remains WTO entry, we confirm this, but already as a united customs union and not as separate countries,” Putin said. He said trade talks with the European Union would also be held within the framework of the new deal.


Russian negotiators had been expected in Geneva next week for a new round of bilateral accession talks. Masimov said the three countries would now create a new group of negotiators.

Trade experts said the timing of the move was puzzling. No group of countries has ever joined the WTO as a single customs union, and the proposal is likely to delay the accession of the former Soviet states even more.

Although Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin flagged the move at the International Monetary Fund conference in April, his statement was not taken seriously at the time. On Monday, Kudrin said new accession talks will start in 2010.

Internal disputes within the proposed customs union could also complicate matters. Russia on Tuesday expanded its ban on dairy products from Belarus, which earns billions of dollars from its milk exports and had a 4 percent share of the Russian market last year.

“The Russian desire to form a customs union with the CIS — and obviously to become the dominant partner — is a more important objective in the short term,” said Nash.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Thailand: Muslim Militants Blamed for Deadly Mosque Attack

Bangkok, 9 June (AKI) — At least 10 people were killed and 12 others injured when gunmen opened fire on a mosque in southern Thailand during evening prayers on Monday. Several gunmen armed with assault rifles entered the mosque in the Cho-ai-rong district of restive Narathiwat province and fired on worshippers, police said.

“They opened fire indiscriminately at about 50 worshippers inside the mosque,” a police official said on condition of anonymity. The dead included the local imam, he said.

The attack in the Muslim-majority south comes amid a recent spate of violence in a five-year insurgency that has left at least 3,400 people dead.

Police said at least five gunmen carried out the attack, one of the deadliest incidents since an Islamic separatist insurgency was launched in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces in early 2004.

Last week two teachers, one eight months pregnant, were killed in the same province in an attack blamed on insurgents.

Thailand annexed the three southern provinces — Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani — in 1902, but the vast majority of people there are Muslim and speak a Malay dialect, in contrast to the Buddhist Thai speakers in the rest of the country.

Southern Muslims have long complained of discrimination, especially in education and job opportunities.

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

Far East

China’s Computers at Hacking Risk

The first independent tests of screening software that will be installed on all Chinese computers finds it opens users to serious security risks.

Every PC in China could be at risk of being taken over by malicious hackers because of flaws in compulsory government software.

The potential faults were brought to light by Chinese computer experts who said the flaw could lead to a “large-scale disaster”.

The Chinese government has mandated that all computers in the country must have the screening software installed.

It is intended to filter out offensive material from the net.

The Chinese government said that the Green Dam Youth Escort software, as it is known, was intended to push forward the “healthy development of the internet” and “effectively manage harmful material for the public and prevent it from being spread.”

“We found a series of software flaws,” explained Isaac Mao, a blogger and social entrepreneur in China, as well as a research fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

For example, he said, tests had shown that communications between the software and the servers at the company that developed the program were unencrypted.

Mr Mao told BBC News that this could allow hackers to “steal people’s private information” or “place malicious script” on computers in the network to “affect [a] large scale disaster.”

For example, a hacker could use malicious code to take control of PCs using the software.

“Then you have every computer in China potentially as part of a botnet,” Colin Maclay, also of Harvard, told BBC News.

A botnet is the name given to a network of hijacked computers that can then be used to pump out spam or launch concerted attacks on commercial or government websites.

No one from Jinhui Computer System Engineering, the company that developed Green Dam, was available for comment.

‘Naked pig’

The software has also caused a backlash amongst privacy experts, academics and some Chinese citizens. It has also raised the scorn of the blogosphere inside the country who feel the system is no match for tech-savvy teenagers.

One blogger posted a screenshot of the software purportedly blocking an attempt to visit a porn site using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

But, he said, there was no problem accessing the site using the Firefox web browser.

Others have reported that the system only runs on Microsoft Windows, allowing Mac and Linux users to bypass the software.

It is thought that at least 3m computer users have already downloaded the software, opening them up to potential security problems.

Another formal study by the Open Network Initiative into the risks posed by the software is expected soon. However, many people in China who have been forced to use the software are already reporting other problems.

For example, the system reportedly blocks legitimate as well as banned content. For example, it designed to identify the proportion of skin colour in a picture to determine whether it is pornography.

But comments on a bulletin board run by the software company that designed the system, suggest the system does not work perfectly.

“Once you’ve got government-mandated software installed on each machine, the software has the keys to the kingdom”

Professor Jonathan Zittrain

“I went on the internet to check out some animal photos. A lovely little naked pig was sent onto the black list. Pitiful little pig!,” read one comment.

“I was curious, so I looked up some photos of naked African women. Oh, they were not censored!”

Another message read: “We were ordered to install the software. So I have to come to this website and curse. After we installed the software, many normal websites are banned.”

The forum was taken down after it was seemingly flooded with complaints. A message on the site said says it is being “upgraded”.

Mr Mao told BBC News that they believed there was a new guideline from the country’s central propaganda department “to comb all media and online forums to block critics and discussion over the issue.”

Firewall flaw

The government may be keen to shut down discussion to quell rumours that the system could be used to monitor its citizens.

“Once you’ve got government-mandated software installed on each machine, the software has the keys to the kingdom — anything can be logged or affected,” said Professor Jonathan Zittrain, also of Harvard’s Berkman Center.

“While the justification may be pitched as protecting children and mostly concerning pornography, once the architecture is set up it can be used for broader purposes, such as the filtering of political ideas.”

In particular, the system could be used to report citizens’ web habits..

“It creates log file of all of the pages that the users tries to access,” Mr Maclay told BBC News.

“At the moment it’s unclear whether that is reported back, but it could be.”

A twitter user in China claims that the software transmits reports to Jinhui — the maker of the software — when the user tries to access blacklisted websites.

However, Zhang Chenmin, general manager of the developer of Green Dam, told the China Daily newspaper last year: “Our software is simply not capable of spying on internet users, it is only a filter.”

Although many countries around the world routinely block and filter net content, China’s regime is regarded as particularly severe.

“There is no transparency about what they are blocking,” said Mr Maclay.

Free speech campaigners are concerned that the list could be tweaked to suits the government’s aims.

Recently, there has been a web black out across China in advance of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Website such as Twitter and the photo-sharing site Flickr were blocked in an attempt by the government to prevent online discussion on the subject.

However, some users were able to bypass the filters to distribute pictures and commentary including links to photos of plain-clothes policemen blocking the lenses of foreign journalists with their umbrellas.

The country is able to take action like this because it already has a sophisticated censorship regime, including the so-called Great Firewall of China. However, it is known to have some flaws.

A 2007 study by US researchers showed that the system was much more porous than previously thought.

It found that the technology often failed to block content banned by the Chinese government, allowing web users to browse unencumbered at least some of the time.

Filtering and blocking was “particularly erratic”, they said, when large numbers of people were online in China.

Despite the failures, the researchers said, the idea of the firewall was more effective than the technology at discouraging talk about banned subjects.

This kind of social pressure was also key to another tactic used by the Chinese government to make sure its citizens only use sanitised portions of the web.

In 2007, the government introduced virtual policemen that pop-up onscreen when web surfers visit many of China’s popular website to remind them to stay away from illicit content.

In addition, the government expects internet service providers in China to actively monitor and censor published content, such as blogs.

Experiments have suggested that this approach is hit-and-miss, with some organisations more proactive than others.

However, these systems, combined with the new software, will allow the Chinese government to sanitise the web for most of the 300m of China’s population of 1.3bn have access to the net.

“I think this is intended as a sort of belt-and-braces approach, said Professor Zittrain.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

When Police Look the Other Way

It’s a rich irony that the Prime Minister and police commanders in Sydney and Melbourne are now admonishing Indian students who have decided to take responsibility for their own security instead of continuing to be passive victims of violent crime.

Sound familiar?

Assistant Police Commissioner Dave Owens warned Indian students protesting at Harris Park not to be “vigilantes” and “leave the detection of offenders and their arrest to us”.

In Victoria, a police spokeswoman said Indian students doing their own security patrols at crime-ridden western suburbs railway stations should “leave and let police do their jobs”.

Well, if the police had done their jobs in the first place Indian students wouldn’t feel like they have to escort each other home from railway stations late at night. Nor would 1000 Indian students have gathered on Sunday at Town Hall and this week in Harris Park to protest about the lax policing.

But now that Australia’s not-so-secret suburban law and order problem has become an international scandal, it’s remarkable how vigilant the police can be.

The Victorian commissioner, Simon Overland, was this week boasting about a “major crackdown” on crime, with uniformed police, rail transit officers, the dog squad, mounted police and the air wing to patrol the stations where Indian students have been mugged with impunity for years. In Harris Park, Sydney’s new Little India, police were out in force this week as young Indians gathered to protest about the latest harassment by what they described as a gang of “Middle Eastern men”.

Regardless of whether the attacks on Indian students are racially motivated, or whether the violence is being committed by Middle Eastern, Caucasian or any other ethnic group, the fact is our governments and police forces have been turning a blind eye to it.

It seems that allowing our cities to become no-go zones at night is easier than enforcing the law.

Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne have simply decided they have had enough.

Saurabh, who has just completed a masters at the University of Western Sydney, has been aware of attacks on his fellow Indian students since at least 2004. In an email in response to my column last week, he described a bus trip from the city to western Sydney late one night when “a group of five teenage guys were troubling this lone nightshift Indian worker who was sitting in the front … He didn’t resist and just ignored them … Right when they left the bus they spat on the Indian guy and ran away laughing.”

He says that in Harris Park, “muggings are a common occurrence”.

“I see the police as very vigilant only during protests like the G20 and the recent one by the Indian students … Also, the traffic police are very vigilant in giving tickets. But the normal police are not in giving public protection.”

It’s not just Indian students complaining about police inaction. It’s young Chinese as well.

Yuening, for instance, a student from China studying at the University of NSW: “I can tell you that every international student studying in Australia is worrying about safety every day. I think more than one-third of us would have the unpleasant experience.” Recently, he says, two friends were robbed on campus, on the main road. But he claims police “tolerate modest robbery”.

Murtaza, an Indian student, was mugged 18 months ago on a Saturday night about 8.30 in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. “They broke my nose and ran away and as I called the police little did I know that my complaint will be just going to deaf ears and blind eyes,” he said.

He went to the police station the next day but was told the offenders had not been found. “I went to the police station two more times in the same week to get my complaint in, not because I expected the police to actually nab those guys, but just wanted a recognition by the law that such an incident had occurred. But every time I went there, I was greeted by a different officer who told me that they were too busy.

“It’s funny how the police seem to be so busy, considering that such incidents keep occurring in various parts of the city, with the lawbreakers getting away on most of the occasions.”

Another Indian student, Ajay Kumar, who was at the Harris Park protest this week, says he is so afraid of being assaulted on his way home from work at night, he doesn’t go home.

“If I finish my work, I stay there,” he told the ABC. “Why? Because I know if I come back, someone will smash me, someone will take my money. I know. Because I’m not safe here. Because Australian police is shit, fully shit.”

In a strange twist of fate, Superintendent Robert Redfern, the Parramatta local area commander who was hard at work at the Harris Park protests at midnight on Tuesday, was also police commander at Cronulla during the 2005 race riots. We saw then the dangers of vigilantism.

Back then, Cronulla locals had been complaining for months that police were playing down assaults and menacing behaviour by what they described as “Middle Eastern” youths from south-western Sydney. There was a protest, which turned into an ugly riot with racist violence against anyone who looked Middle Eastern, followed by revenge attacks as young men from the south-west drove to Cronulla damaging property and assaulting people, with police nowhere to be seen.

In Harris Park, the script is familiar. Police play down crime problems, victims lose faith in the authorities to protect them, start to protest, take matters into their own hands, attack innocent passers-by. So far there have been no revenge attacks but it’s unlikely police can guarantee they won’t occur.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Beijing and New Delhi at Loggerheads Over the Sale of Fake Chinese Drugs in Africa

Nigerian authorities slam the sale of fake generic anti-malarial drugs labelled ‘Made in India’ which are, in fact, made in China. New Delhi complains that this is not an isolated incident and that “there is no reason for Nigeria to be the only country to be receiving such consignments.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China is selling counterfeit drugs in Africa with the ‘Made in India’ label. Nigeria’s National Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) issued a warning about a large consignment of fake generic anti-malarial pharmaceuticals that have a ‘Made in India’ label when in fact they are made in China. New Delhi has registered a “strong protest” with the Chinese mission and China’s Foreign Trade Ministry.

“While this is a case of a Chinese company exporting fake ‘Made in India’ labelled medicines which has been accidentally exposed, it is unlikely to be an isolated incident,” India’s High Commissioner in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Mahesh Sachdev wrote in a letter to his country’s Commerce Secretary GSK Pillai. “Indeed there is no reason for Nigeria to be the only country to be receiving such consignments,” he said.

“Fake foreign-made generics carrying ‘Made in India’ label can do tremendous harm to our interests. It not only dents our image and takes our legitimate market share, it also erodes the distinction between generic and fake medicines that we have been campaigning for at WHO and WTO,” the high commissioner’s letter said.

India and China have been accused of exporting drugs to Africa that fail to meet international safety standards or those set by the main patent holders. The main markets involved are Ghana, South Africa, Ivory Coast and West Africa.

Such accusations have usually come from multinational drug companies. But both Asian nations have rejected the latter’s claims, arguing that their drugs are safe. Indeed India has been trying hard to get the WHO and WTO seals of approval. Instead Beijing and New Delhi have complained that criticism of their products is due to their lower prices which cut into the monopolies multinationals have in developing markets.

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

Kidnapped Alberta Reporter Fears Dying in Captivity

[includes video]

A woman claiming to be Amanda Lindhout, a freelance Canadian journalist being held hostage in Somalia, called CTV’s National newsroom Wednesday afternoon, appearing to be reading from a statement in which she says she fears dying in captivity and pleads with the Canadian government to help bring her home.

“I’ve been held hostage by gunmen in Somalia for nearly 10 months. I’m in a desperate situation, I’m being kept in a dark, windowless room in chains, without any clean drinking water and little or no food. I’ve been very sick for months without any medicine,” she told CTV News.

She said she’s in need of “immediate aid” and begs the Canadian government to help her family to pay her ransom. “Without it, I will die here,” she said.

“I also tell them that they must deal directly with these people, (for) my life depends on it.”

Lindhout is a freelance print and television journalist from Sylvan Lake, Alta.

She travelled to Somalia on Aug. 20 to cover the famine and violence in Sudan for a French television station.

Three days after arriving in the capital city of Mogadishu, she and a group, including photographer Nigel Brennan of Australia, left a hotel to visit a refugee camp about 30 kilometers to the south. They were stopped on the road and abducted.

The kidnappers have been identified as a group called the Mujahedeen of Somalia, They originally demanded $2.5 million but have lowered their ransom price to $1 million.

According to reports, it’s believed the pair’s captors are moving them from location to location — and that negotiations for their release have broken down a number of times.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Somalia: Italy Offers Aid to Improve Coastal Security

Rome, 9 June (AKI) — The Italian government has offered to help Somalia fight piracy and improve its coastal security by providing support for a police force and a local coast guard. The initiative was announced by foreign minister Franco Frattini after meeting Somali prime minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke at the foreign affairs ministry in Rome on Tuesday.

“We have offered Italy’s willingness to create a Somali police and coast guard, and to also improve the capacity for prevention and reaction in Italy,” Frattini said.

Referring to the African country, Frattini said there was a problem that “is not only humanitarian, but above all about politics and security”.

“We have to support this government and this president whom we appreciate and we help,” he said.

The minister opened the 15th summit of the International Contact Group on Somalia which was meeting in Rome on Tuesday to discuss the growing incidence of piracy and other security issues.

“Italy will carry a political message to all of Europe, promoting help and also finance,” he said.

“The government of Somalia is fighting against a serious criminal phenomenon, but surveillance is not enough because we have to fight the problem at its roots,” he said.

The minister said that piracy is linked to phenomena like the “criminality and infiltration of extreme elements easily recruited also by Al-Qaeda”.

“Piracy is only the tip of the iceberg,” Frattini said. “We are convinced that piracy is related to the political and socioeconomic crisis on land, not on the sea.

He said piracy and terrorism, illegal immigration, human trafficking are “ a threat not only to Somalia but to the entire international community”.

US president Barack Obama has said that Somali piracy must be brought under control.

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and western Indian Ocean is just a sample of a complex web of challenges inside Somalia, — a former Italian colony from the late 19th century until 1936 — which is one of the poorest, most violent and least stable countries anywhere on earth.

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


EC Lists Improved Immigration Policy Among Priorities

The EC said that it planned to mprove the evaluation of European judicial policies and support the efforts of member states to improve the quality of their judicial systems.

It would “ensure a flexible immigration policy that is in line with the needs of the job market while at the same time support the integration of immigrants and tackle illegal immigration” and would enhance solidarity between member states for hosting refugees and asylum-seekers. [..]

“It must establish a flexible migration policy enabling it to respond to its employment needs and make use of the opportunities provided by foreign labour. It must also uphold its humanitarian tradition by offering its protection generously to those who need it.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Spain: Contracts Fall in Immigrants’ Home Countries

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, 9 JUNE — In the first quarter of 2009 Spain granted 6,946 stay and work permits for immigrants who were granted contracts in their countries of origin, the lowest figure in 10 years. EFE press agency reported that Secretary of State for Immigration Consuelo Rumi made the statement during today’s presentation in Madrid of the ‘2009 Immigration and work market’ report put together by sociologist Miguel Pajares for the Permanent observatory on immigration. In 2007 a total of 178,340 stay permits were issued to immigrants, but in 2008 the number dropped to 136,604 (-38.8%). Q1 figures do not however include seasonal workers. Rumi emphasised that despite the crisis “there is still demand for foreign labour”, even though to a lesser degree, and for unskilled labour. The demand is greatest for watchmen, warehousemen, caretakers and doormen, home workers, staff for geriatric clinics, electricians, electronics workers, IT workers, and renewable energy workers. Pajares made reference to Q4 2008 unemployment figures which were processed according to the active population survey carried out by the national statistics agency, which recorded 900,000 Spaniards and 400,000 foreigners that joined the ranks of the unemployed in Q4 of 2008. But the sociologist complained about the lack of ‘reliable statistics’ to trace the number of immigrants who returned to their county of origin. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘Gay’ Family Kids 7 Times More Likely to be Homosexual

But report shows researchers concealing information

A licensed psychologist with both clinical and forensic practice outreaches is warning that it appears children of homosexual couples are seven times more likely to develop “non-heterosexual preferences” than other children, but lawmakers establishing policy often don’t know that because the researchers have concealed their discoveries.

“Research … although not definitive, suggests that children reared by openly homosexual parents are far more likely to engage in homosexual behavior than children raised by others,” said the online report by Trayce L. Hansen.

Studies she reviewed suggest children raised by homosexual or bisexual parents “are approximately seven times more likely than the general population to develop a non-heterosexual sexual preference.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

‘Hate Crimes’ Strategy? Slip Through as Amendment

‘Gay’ publication cites plan to avoid hearings

The strategy to push the so-called “hate crimes” plan — dubbed the “Pedophile Protection Act” by critics — through the U.S. Senate is to attach it as an amendment to another proposal, according to a homosexual publication.

The Washington Blade has quoted the Human Rights Campaign explaining the plan for the legislation condemned by many as a “thought crimes” proposal.

According to the Blade, HRC official Trevor Thomas said, “We understand that Senate leadership does not believe a hearing or mark up on the bill is necessary and plans to bring it directly to the floor as an amendment to another moving vehicle.”

That is what Senate leaders believe is “the most efficient way” to advance the issue to President Obama, who has expressed strong support, the report said. The Blade cited a Democratic aide who spoke on condition on anonymity saying that has been the plan for some time, specifically to prevent amendments from being attached to the “hate crimes” plan.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

School Board Breaking Federal Law With ‘Gay’ Day?

Homosexual curriculum pushed on students without letting parents opt-out

A California school district is being accused of violating federal law after it approved a mandatory homosexual curriculum for children as young as 5 — without allowing parents to opt-out of the lessons.

As WND reported, the mandatory program, officially titled “LGBT Lesson #9,” was approved May 26 by the Alameda County Board of Education by a vote of 3-2. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade are scheduled to learn about “tolerance” for the homosexual lifestyle beginning next school year.

Parents will not be given an opportunity to opt-out of lessons that go against their religious beliefs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


UN’s Marxist Plan for Global Government

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann intends to leave his mark on the United Nations and the global economic-political picture before his one-year term ends in September. D’Escoto, a longtime top official in the communist Sandinista government of Nicaragua, has chosen as his primary vehicle for making this mark the UN Conference on the World’s Financial and Economic Crisis to be held June 24-26 at the UN headquarters in New York.

The D’Escoto-UN plan, which has received scant media coverage, is nothing short of s full-blown call for world government administered through the UN. The Draft Outcome Document issued by D’Escoto on May 8, 2009 on behalf of the “G-192” (the representatives of the 192 Member States of the UN), decries the evils of “a profit centered economy” and the current “prevailing socio-economic system” and declares: “The anti-values of greed, individualism, and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion.”

How do D’Escoto and his UN comrades propose to accomplish this? The 19-page document lays out a Sandinista-style Marxist-Leninist program for the entire planet that involves global government, with a huge new global bureaucracy exercising vast powers over all human activity.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]