Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/11/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/11/2009I was out most of the day; that’s why posting has been light.

Muammar Gaddafi got a “rock star’s welcome” in Rome. There are four articles about the occasion below.

Also notable: after first attempting to resettle the Uighur Guantanamo detainees in Australia, the USA managed to persuade the tiny Pacific nation of Palau to take them in. China, needless to say, is not happy.

Thanks to ACT for America, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, Nilk, PatriotUSA, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Union Confederation Supports Hungarian Army Demonstration
DMN’s Slater Lumps Tea Party Protesters With Holocaust Museum, Tiller Shootings
Miranda Rights for Terrorists
Europe and the EU
Berlin Mosque Invites Homophobic Imam
Berlusconi: Possible Vote of Confidence Over Wiretaps
EU Court Voids Asset Freeze of UK Terror Suspect
EU Members Fear Lisbon Guarantees May Reopen Whole Debate
EU Security Proposals Are ‘Dangerously Authoritarian’
Gaddafi in Rome: America Wants to Colonise the Globe
Italian Police Conduct Anti-Terror Operation
Italy: Premier Urges No Vote on Referendum
Spain: Andalusia Gov. Approves Law for Dignified Death
Spain: Town Hall, Referendum on Catalonia’s Independence
UK: Fined £50… for Dropping a Tenner
UK: Home Educators Made to Register
UK: Prison Magazine Withdrawn Because Satirical Swine-Flu Article Offends Muslim Inmates
Kosovo: Still Impunity for Missing Persons, Now Up to EU
North Africa
Algeria: Like Morocco, Berber Surnames Blacklisted
Algeria: Rise in Child Sex Abuse Causes Alarm
Algeria: Al-Qaeda Had ‘Contacts’ With Militants in Italy
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel: Gay Pride in Tel Aviv Planned by University Students
Israel: Ministers’ Opposing Views on Palestinian State
Meshaal Welcomes Obama’s ‘New Language’
Middle East
Analysis: Obama: An Innocent Abroad
Defence: Turkey and Iraq Sign Military Cooperation Accord
EU Elections: Turkey Worried Over Results
John Bolton: What if Israel Strikes Iran?
Middle East: US Envoy Insists on ‘Two-State’ Route to Peace
Stakelbeck: A Dissident’s Escape From Iran (Plus Moshe Ya’alon
Terrorism: Turkey; Life Sentences for Six Al Qaeda Members
Turkey: Journalist Faces 28-Year Prison Sentence for Book
Turkey: 54 Turkish Mayors to be Tried for Supporting PKK
In Russia, a Recession-Plagued Town Revolts
Russia Agrees to Take Nuclear Waste From Serbia
Why it is Hard to Sack a Person… by Vladimir Putin
South Asia
Afghanistan: Italian Soldiers Injured in Clashes in West
Thailand, Fresh Violence in the South. Victims From the Mosque Attack Now 12
Far East
China: Almost Heroine Status for Young Woman Who Killed Official Who Tried to Rape Her
China Demands US Return Uighurs
N. Korea Demands 4-Fold Raise in Wages From South
Vietnam: Catholic Teacher Fired for Encouraging Students to Get Information on the Web
Australia — Pacific
Palau to Take Guantanamo Uighurs
Tale of Broken, Battered Kids Shows System on Brink
Latin America
Air France Chief Questions Sensor Role in Crash
Mexican State Bans Cops From Carrying Cell Phones
Was Terrorism Behind Air France Crash?
Hungary: Not Enough for Lynching
UNHCR Awards Turkish Ship for Saving 142 People
Oil Price Leaps to Year’s High
Typhoons Trigger Slow Earthquakes

Financial Crisis

Union Confederation Supports Hungarian Army Demonstration

Budapest, June 10 (MTI) — The LIGA trade union confederation supports the demonstration members of the Hungarian armed forces are planning on June 22 to protest against the government’s austerity measures, the union told MTI in a statement on Wednesday.

The 12,000-strong army union called the protest in front of Parliament to demand the reinstatement of the 13th month salary for public employees that the amendment of an austerity bill.

Liga already protested against the measures when they were first announced in April, the union said.

“Placing further burdens onto public administration workers, pensioners, families, young people and the poor, or employees in general, is not an unacceptable way to manage the economic crisis,” the union wrote.

Liga has 82 members representing all major professions across the country.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


DMN’s Slater Lumps Tea Party Protesters With Holocaust Museum, Tiller Shootings

Dallas Morning News’s Wayne Slater become one of the first pundits after the shootings at the Holocaust Museum on Wednesday to hint that there was a connection to mainstream conservative activists. On CNN Newsroom, about two hours after the story broke, Slater linked this incident and the murder of abortionist George Tiller with “anti-tax secessionists in Texas,” his label for Tea Party protesters.

Anchor Rick Sanchez moderated a panel discussion on the Holocaust Museum shootings after the bottom of the 3 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, in which Slater participated. Sanchez asked the Dallas Morning News political writer if criminals like this suspect are “motivated or do they need to be motivated?” He replied, not including the shooting of Tiller, but reaching back to include the Oklahoma City bombing perpetuated by Timothy McVeigh:

SLATER: They absolutely need to be motivated and are being motivated. Each of these episodes in recent weeks- whether it’s [the] killing of an abortion doctor- whether it was this Holocaust denier today, or whether it was others- whether you’re talking about Tim McVeigh or anti-tax secessionists in Texas- the interesting thing is they’re all separate, but they’re all hearing portions of the same echo chamber, a kind of dialogue- a toxic dialogue that’s subterranean in large parts. Remember, the man who was accused- who is accused of the most recent shooting of the abortion doctor, according to his ex-wife, had connections with the Montana Freemen, a kind of wild radical secessionist group. You hear not only these conversations about blacks and Jews, but about the government and about other hate-filled issues. It is- although they are separate- they are connected by a kind of dialogue of toxic ideology.

           — Hat tip: PatriotUSA [Return to headlines]

Miranda Rights for Terrorists

When 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was captured on March 1, 2003, he was not cooperative. “I’ll talk to you guys after I get to New York and see my lawyer,” he said, according to former CIA Director George Tenet.

Of course, KSM did not get a lawyer until months later, after his interrogation was completed, and Tenet says that the information the CIA obtained from him disrupted plots and saved lives. “I believe none of these successes would have happened if we had had to treat KSM like a white-collar criminal — read him his Miranda rights and get him a lawyer who surely would have insisted that his client simply shut up,” Tenet wrote in his memoirs.

If Tenet is right, it’s a good thing KSM was captured before Barack Obama became president. For, the Obama Justice Department has quietly ordered FBI agents to read Miranda rights to high value detainees captured and held at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan, according a senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “The administration has decided to change the focus to law enforcement. Here’s the problem. You have foreign fighters who are targeting US troops today — foreign fighters who go to another country to kill Americans. We capture them…and they’re reading them their rights — Mirandizing these foreign fighters,” says Representative Mike Rogers, who recently met with military, intelligence and law enforcement officials on a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan.

Rogers, a former FBI special agent and U.S. Army officer, says the Obama administration has not briefed Congress on the new policy. “I was a little surprised to find it taking place when I showed up because we hadn’t been briefed on it, I didn’t know about it. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of it, but it is clearly a part of this new global justice initiative.”

That effort, which elevates the FBI and other law enforcement agencies and diminishes the role of intelligence and military officials, was described in a May 28 Los Angeles Times article.

The FBI and Justice Department plan to significantly expand their role in global counter-terrorism operations, part of a U.S. policy shift that will replace a CIA-dominated system of clandestine detentions and interrogations with one built around transparent investigations and prosecutions.

Under the “global justice” initiative, which has been in the works for several months, FBI agents will have a central role in overseas counter-terrorism cases. They will expand their questioning of suspects and evidence-gathering to try to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option, officials familiar with the effort said.

Thanks in part to the popularity of law and order television shows and movies, many Americans are familiar with the Miranda warning — so named because of the landmark 1966 Supreme Court case Miranda vs. Arizona that required police officers and other law enforcement officials to advise suspected criminals of their rights.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.

A lawyer who has worked on detainee issues for the U.S. government offers this rationale for the Obama administration’s approach. “If the US is mirandizing certain suspects in Afghanistan, they’re likely doing it to ensure that the treatment of the suspect and the collection of information is done in a manner that will ensure the suspect can be prosecuted in a US court at some point in the future.”

But Republicans on Capitol Hill are not happy. “When they mirandize a suspect, the first thing they do is warn them that they have the ‘right to remain silent,’“ says Representative Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “It would seem the last thing we want is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other al-Qaeda terrorist to remain silent. Our focus should be on preventing the next attack, not giving radical jihadists a new tactic to resist interrogation—lawyering up.”…

           — Hat tip: ACT for America [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlin Mosque Invites Homophobic Imam

An Islamic cleric who has called for the death penalty for homosexuals has been invited to speak at a mosque in the Berlin neighbourhood of Neukölln, the daily Tagesspiegel reported Thursday.

Imam Bilal Phillips, a Canadian of Jamaican descent, will speak Saturday on the topic “Islam, the misunderstood religion.” He will be joined by Pierre Vogel, a prominent German convert to Islam. Phillips is well-known on the internet for videos in which he explains homosexuality is a “very normal mortal sin” because it endangers the family structure.

Phillips was invited to speak by the Al-Nur mosque in Neukölln, which is under surveillance by Germany’s domestic intelligence service for its associations with radical preachers, the newspaper reported. Saturday’s lecture is part of an apparent nation-wide tour by Phillips and Vogel.

In a letter to Berlin’s interior minister, Ehrhart Körting, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Berlin (LSVD) demanded that the city’s government take all legal measures to prevent radical imams preaching hate.

“So far as we see it, this man’s statements fulfill the legal criteria for racial incitement,” a crime under German law, LSVD spokesman Alexander Zinn told the Tagesspiegel.

On the mosque’s web site, the event invitation says: “The picture average people have of Islam is influenced by terror, forced headscarf wearing and honour murders. In a country where freedom of the press is synonymous with a license to lie, this fact can’t really be surprising.”

Calls to the Al-Nur mosque by The Local for comment were not returned.

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

Berlusconi: Possible Vote of Confidence Over Wiretaps

(AGI) — Rome, 4 June — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi does not rule out a vote of confidence on the wiretap bill.

Speaking to SkyTg24 he stated that “It would be better not to have a vote of confidence, but if we run into the slightest opposition we will immediately call a vote of confidence”.

Berlusconi pointed out that wiretaps cost the State 400 million euro every year, and that “the right to privacy is fundamental”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Court Voids Asset Freeze of UK Terror Suspect

LUXEMBOURG — An EU court on Thursday voided a 2001 European Union decision to freeze the assets of a suspected Jordanian terrorist held in Britain, saying the case lacked a proper judicial review.

The freeze was imposed in accordance with a U.N. Security Council decision to seize money and other assets of terrorist suspects.

The EU Court of First Instance ruled Thursday the seizure was illegal in the case of Omar Mohammed Othman saying the lack of judicial review amounted to a violation of his fundamental rights.

It gave the EU two months to appeal and make a specific case against Othman.

Also known as Abu Qatada, Othman is an extremist Muslim preacher from Jordan who has been described in Spanish and British courts as a leading al-Qaida figure in Europe.

He has lived in Britain since 1993, has been arrested several times there under anti-terrorist legislation and now faces deportation to Jordan.

Othman is challenging that deportation in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Thursday’s ruling mirrored one issued by the EU high court last September, which also voided a 2001 EU decision to freeze the assets of a Saudi businessman and a Sweden-based charity suspected of funding al-Qaida terror groups. That ruling was reversed on appeal.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

EU Members Fear Lisbon Guarantees May Reopen Whole Debate

THE GOVERNMENT faces opposition to its demand for legally binding guarantees on the Lisbon Treaty because some EU states fear it will reopen the treaty debate in their own countries.

EU states have also raised concerns about the implications of the Irish guarantee on the right to life, education and family and a separate declaration on workers’ rights.

A meeting of EU ambassadors to discuss the text of the guarantees was scheduled for today but it was cancelled last night because of problems that emerged at bilateral meetings between Irish officials and their EU counterparts. Britain, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden have all raised concerns about the text, which is due to be agreed at an EU leaders’ summit next week.

“What kind of concrete form that legally binding document could have is something that is subject to discussion. Some parts of the concrete texts are also still under discussion,” said Czech Europe minister Stefan Fule, who is chairing the delicate negotiations on behalf of the rotating EU presidency.

He said EU states had agreed to give guarantees on the specific areas of family, right to life, religion, neutrality and taxation. But he said there was also a consensus that there is a “red line that cannot be crossed”, which is that member states do not want to have to ratify the treaty again.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen made clear at last December’s EU summit he wanted the guarantees to be enshrined in the EU treaties at the earliest possible opportunity to provide a cast iron assurance to Irish voters. When the guarantees are written into the EU treaties they become primary law, which gives them extra validity in the eyes of the European Court of Justice.

Mr Cowen’s request was seemingly granted when French president Nicolas Sarkozy told the media an Irish protocol with the guarantees could be ratified by all states with the next EU accession treaty, probably Croatia.

But it is understood Britain, in particular, is very nervous about reopening a national debate on Lisbon by agreeing to ratify an Irish protocol through the House of Commons. The Conservatives made the Lisbon Treaty a key issue in their European election campaign, which saw Labour beaten into third place by the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party.

“There are huge sensitivities around Lisbon for the British government,” said one EU source.

Britain is not alone in fearing that agreeing to ratify a protocol through national parliaments could cause complications. Several states are worried that agreeing to the Irish demand could provoke the Eurosceptic Czech president Vaclav Klaus to refuse to sign the Lisbon Treaty to prevent its ratification even if the Irish public votes yes in a second referendum.

One alternative that member states may offer the Government is a legal decision on the guarantees issued by the European Council. This would have legal standing but would enshrine the guarantees in the EU treaties.

Several EU states such as Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden are also concerned about the implications of the Irish guarantee on ethical issues. Warsaw secured its own opt-out from the charter of fundamental rights on ethical issues. More liberal EU states such as Netherlands and Sweden want to ensure that the Irish guarantee on ethical issues does not override existing EU rights that Ireland has signed up to such as the freedom to work or travel abroad in EU states.

“The guarantees should not give primacy to the Irish Constitution over existing EU rules that Ireland has already signed up to,” said one diplomat.

Several states are also concerned about a declaration the Government is seeking on workers’ rights, a hugely sensitive issue at EU level. EU states have already agreed to Ireland’s demand that every member state should retain a commissioner. But a final agreement on the legal guarantees will have to be found at next week’s summit to enable a referendum to be held in the autumn.

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

EU Security Proposals Are ‘Dangerously Authoritarian’

Civil liberties groups say the proposals would create an EU ID card register, internet surveillance systems, satellite surveillance, automated exit-entry border systems operated by machines reading biometrics and risk profiling systems.

Europe’s justice ministers will hold talks on the “domestic security policy” and surveillance network proposals, known in Brussels circles as the “Stockholm programme”, on July 15 with the aim of finishing work on the EU’s first ever internal security policy by the end of 2009.

Jacques Barrot, the European justice and security commissioner, yesterday publicly declared that the aim was to “develop a domestic security strategy for the EU”, once regarded as a strictly national “home affairs” area of policy.

“National frontiers should no longer restrict our activities,” he said.

Mark Francois, Conservative spokesman on Europe, has demanded “immediate clarity on where the government stands on this”.

“These are potentially dangerous proposals which could interfere in Britain’s internal security,” he said.

“The chaos and division in Gordon Brown’s government is crippling Britain’s ability to make its voice heard in Europe.”

Critics of the plans have claimed that moves to create a new “information system architecture” of Europe-wide police and security databases will create a “surveillance state”.

Tony Bunyan, of the European Civil Liberties Network (ECLN), has warned that EU security officials are seeking to harness a “digital tsunami” of new information technology without asking “political and moral questions first”.

“An increasingly sophisticated internal and external security apparatus is developing under the auspices of the EU,” he said.

Mr Bunyan has suggested that existing and new proposals will create an EU ID card register, internet surveillance systems, satellite surveillance, automated exit-entry border systems operated by machines reading biometrics and risk profiling systems.

“In five or 10 years time when we have the surveillance and database state people will look back and ask, ‘what were you doing in 2009 to stop this happening?’,” he said.

Civil liberties groups are particularly concerned over “convergence” proposals to herald standardise European police surveillance techniques and to create “tool-pools” of common data gathering systems to be operated at the EU level.

Under the plans the scope of information available to law enforcement agencies and “public security organisations” would be extended from the sharing of existing DNA and fingerprint databases, kept and stored for new digital generation ID cards, to include CCTV video footage and material gathered from internet surveillance.

The Lisbon Treaty, currently stalled after Ireland’s referendum rejection last year, creates a secretive new Standing Committee for Internal Security, known as COSI, to co-ordinate policy between national forces and EU organisations such as Europol, the Frontex borders agency, the European Gendarmerie Force and the Brussels intelligence sharing Joint Situation Centre or Sitcen.

EU officials have told The Daily Telegraph that the radical plans will be controversial and will need powers contained within the Lisbon Treaty, currently awaiting a second Irish vote this autumn.

“The British and some others will not like it as it moves policy to the EU,” said an official. “Some of things we want to do will only be realistic with the Lisbon Treaty in place, so we need that too.”

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

Gaddafi in Rome: Only Fulfilling Agreements, Muslim Blogger

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 10 — “The Colonel has been accused of everything and more, in a vile diplomatic slogging match, just because he’s keeping to agreements made with all the powers within the Italian government itself” said Sherif El Sebaie, a blogger and representative of the Islamic community in Italy. He was addressing what he calls “the mass of insults aimed at President Gaddafi on his first visit to Italy. Isn’t it perhaps the Italian navy who escorts poor migrants onto boats, telling them that they will be taken to Italy?” asks El Sebaie. “The opposition is losing its support, including that of immigrants, because it does not do its job where and when it should”. Instead of getting angry “with the Arab president who signed the agreement, let them get angry with the person who wanted it”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi ‘Rockstar Welcome’ Slammed

Libyan leader’s human rights record ‘forgotten’, critics say

(See related story.) (ANSA) — Rome, June 10 — Politicians across the divide on Wednesday slammed the Italian government’s “rockstar welcome” of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi in light of his human rights record.

Contravening city laws, a huge tent has been pitched in a Rome park for Gaddafi to stay in during his three-day state visit, during which he is being ferried around in a white limousine.

On Thursday the Libyan leader will address the Senate in his role as the rotating chairman of the African Union — a privilege that was refused to the Dalai Lama and has enraged critics.

Centrist UDC party leader Pier Ferdinando Casini described the government’s treatment of Gaddafi as “humiliating” for Italy.

“There are ways of reinforcing diplomatic links with a country without overstepping the limits of decency and good taste and without forgetting years of repeated violations of human rights,” Casini said.

Democratic Party (PD) senator Roberto della Seta slammed as “indecent” the “rockstar welcome” and the privileges being extended to “a despot who for 40 years has kept his country under a ferocious personal dictatorship”.

“He should naturally be treated like a head of state, but without going overboard,” he added.

Criticism came from across the political divide, with right-wing La Destra President Teodoro Buontempo saying it was “unacceptable” for Italy to “genuflect in front of a Libyan despot known above all for his lack of respect for human rights”.

“Gaddafi was met at the airport with a guard of honour and the government has opened all its doors for him, forgetting that the colonel came to power 40 years ago in a coup,” he said.

Marco Pannella of the Radical Party hit out at government figures for failing to make “the smallest reference” to Libya’s human rights record, despite the fact that Italy will be paying out five billion euros over the next 20 years to Libya as part of a landmark friendship accord.

Angelo Bonelli of the Green Party described the pitching of the Libyan leader’s tent as an “act of arrogance”.


Human rights groups including Amnesty International were set to lead a demonstration against Gaddafi on Wednesday evening as he met with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Left-wing students have also vowed to stage protests on Thursday, when Gaddafi is set to take part in a debate with students at Rome’s La Sapienza University.

Other protests, including one in reaction to the decision by Sardinia’s University of Sassari to give the Libyan leader an honorary degree, are planned elsewhere in the capital.

PD senators meanwhile announced they would boycott Gaddafi’s address to parliament’s upper house on Thursday.

Italy of Values Senate whip Felice Belisario asked on Wednesday why a “dictator” (Gaddafi) was allowed to address the Senate, which he defined as a “temple of democracy”, and not the Dalai Lama. Reference to the Tibetan leader was also made by a government People of Freedom (PdL) MP, Benedetto Della Vedova, who recalled that “two years ago, despite a request by over 100 MPs, the Dalai Lama was not allowed to address the lower house because of protocol”. “Given this precedent, the appearance of the Libyan leader in the Senate appears both unjustified and inopportune,” he added. “It makes no sense to honor Gaddafi for what he is not nor appears ready to become: a democratic leader worthy of speaking in the house of Italian democracy, which is the parliament,” the PdL MP said. The only other foreign dignitaries who have addressed the Senate are former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Spain’s King Juan Carlos. Radical Party leader Emma Bonino, who was elected to the Senate with the PD, expressed her hope that the address would be cancelled.

By allowing Gaddafi to address the Senate, the former European Union commissioner for human rights said, “we are sending a disturbing message to those in the world who are fighting for democracy and human rights. And that message is that we welcome dictators even into our most democratic institutions”.

However, former foreign minister Massimo D’Alema of the PD said he found “nothing scandalous” about Gaddafi addressing the Senate, in both his roles as the leader of a former Italian colony in Rome for the first time and as current African Union president.

Gaddafi’s address was not an official Senate sitting, so those “who want to come can come, those who don’t, don’t have to,” he added.

The leader of government ally the Northern League, Umberto Bossi, also spoke out against the critics.

“Gaddafi is helping Italy, he’s stopping immigration a bit,” said Bossi, referring to a recent agreement with Libya whereby illegal immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean are intercepted and returned to the North African country.

“He’s come all the way to Rome: he can’t be stopped from speaking”.

Photo: Gaddafi (second left) arriving at the Quirinale.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi Speaks in Senate

Libyan leader slams migrant policy critics, Iraq invasion

(ANSA) — Rome, June 11 — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi spoke in the Italian Senate Thursday in his first keynote address on an historic visit to cement stronger ties between the North African country and its former colonial ruler.

Gaddafi did not address the chamber of the Senate because of protests led by opposition Senators, but spoke in an adjacent hall.

However, only one opposition party, Italy of Values, boycotted the address.

The Libyan leader devoted much of his speech to immigration, a hot topic since Libya agreed to take back migrants rescued by Italy at sea under the terms of a $5 million deal on colonial reparations. Addressing humanitarian critics of the controversial new policy, he said: “Let the Italian government stop defending you from immigration, let millions of people in, and then you’ll need a dictator to protect you”.

Human rights organisations have criticised Libya for not providing adequate facilities to process pleas from asylum seekers fleeing conflicts in Africa.

But Gaddafi countered: “Leave it up to the human rights organisations to find a job, medical treatment and the other needs of the immigrants that could swamp your country”. He also said that Libya needs much more money from the European Union to help curb immigration from Africa.

“Many billions of euros are needed to stem the flows of immigrants into the Mediterranean,” Gaddafi told the Senators.

He described the one billion euros the EU currently gives Libya to contain immigration as “insufficient”.

Echoing Italian officials, Gaddafi said the two countries “could not tackle this problem alone”.

He said the EU should do more because “the problem concerns the whole of Europe”.

Gaddafi said immigration should be given greater attention by all international bodies including the United Nations and the African Union of which Libya is currently president.


In other remarks, Gaddafi condemned terrorism but stressed that “the true reasons for this pernicious phenomenon should be understood” and said that the United States invasion of Iraq had turned the country into “an arena for al-Qaeda”.

He also likened the US retaliatory bombing of his quarters in 1986, in which an adopted infant daughter was killed, to al-Qaeda’s attacks.

“What is the difference between the American attack on our dwellings in 1986 and the terrorist actions of Bin Laden?,” he asked.

“Bin Laden is an outlaw while America is a state with international rules”. After his speech, Gaddafi headed off for Rome’s La Sapienza University where riot police were out in force to control angry students.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi in Rome: America Wants to Colonise the Globe

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 11 — America does not want people to be free, they want to colonise the entire world and they turn against anyone who “prevents this”, said Muammar Gaddafi at La Sapienza University in Rome, stressing that the US wanted to kill him “because he did not want to submit to them and wanted his country to remain free”. “Our objective is to prevent the colonialism of the past from repeating itself,” added Gaddafi, referring to Italy’s colonial period in Libya. The colonel returned to the issue of terrorism: “terrorist actions against innocent, unarmed victims are reprehensible, but the reason for them is tied to colonialism of the Islamic world by Christian states. Christ is innocent, he is a prophet of peace. The problem is that in addition to the aggression of the states promoting Christianity, they also tried to made the colonised states dependent on them. They fought those who opposed them”. Gaddafi cited the case of Nasser, who “tried to free himself because he wanted his people to be free and he gave the Suez Canal back to Egypt, taking it away from France”. Terrorism, he concluded, “is a reaction”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italian Police Conduct Anti-Terror Operation

ROME — Italian police say they are carrying out arrests in Rome, Milan and other cities as part of an investigation into the activities of suspected radical leftist terrorists.

Police in Rome did not give details of its anti-terror operation Thursday, saying it was under way.

Italian news agency ANSA said the group had been planning an attack in La Maddalena, an island off Sardinia that had originally been selected to host the Group of Eight summit next month. The summit has been moved to L’Aquila in central Italy.

ANSA said five people were arrested and one placed under house arrest. Among them is a man who had been close to the Red Brigades, the leftist group that plagued Italy with attacks in the 1970s and 1980s.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Italy: Premier Urges No Vote on Referendum

Berlusconi under fire after accord with Northern League

(See related election coverage). (ANSA) — Rome, June 9 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi urged his People of Freedom (PdL) party supporters on Tuesday not to vote in favour of a referendum to change Italy’s electoral law, drawing accusations he was paying political ransom to his Northern League allies. The referendum, which coincides with local run-off elections taking place on June 21, is staunchly opposed by the League but was previously supported by the premier.

A brief statement issued by Berlusconi’s office said voting to approve changes to the current electoral system “does not appear opportune at present”.

The premier’s stance came in the wake of a meeting late Monday with Northern League leader Umberto Bossi whose party was mulling the idea of urging its supporters to shun run-offs not involving League candidates. PdL candidates will be waging a number of tough battles with centre-left candidates in the municipal and provincial run-offs and Bossi has agreed to back them. Monday’s meeting, held after European parliamentary elections which signaled a slight setback for the PdL but saw the League rise to 10.2 percent from 5 percent in 2004, focused on strategy for the run-offs, PdL sources said.

Italian political pundits said Monday’s meeting had cemented an agreement for the League to back PdL candidates in the run-offs in exchange for Berlusconi’s explicit call to PdL supporters to vote against the referendum changes.

Referendum supporters want Italians to approve three changes to the current electoral system, which was pushed through parliament in late 2005 by the then centre-right government led by Berlusconi.

The first two changes would award an extra packet of parliamentary seats to whichever party won the most votes. At present this packet goes to the winning coalition.

The referendum campaigners believe that this change will encourage small parties to merge into bigger ones, alleviating the perennial fragmentation of the Italian political scene.

The third question aims to stop the current practice of high-profile candidates standing in more than one constituency, using their visibility to attract more votes.

The Bossi-Berlusconi agreement came under immediate fire from the centre-left opposition which accused the premier of being “Bossi’s hostage” and backtracking from an earlier pledge to vote for the referendum changes.

“It’s obvious that after the (EP) election results he (Berlusconi) has to favour his ally Bossi, of whom he is increasingly the hostage, to secure a commitment for the run-offs,” said Democratic Party Senator Giorgio Tonini and one of the key promoters of the referendum.

Tonini said the current law had been “tailor-made for the centre right and for the PdL-League alliance”. Centrist UDC party leader Pierferdinando Casini scoffed at Berlusconi’s turnabout, saying “politically, the League is in charge and Berlusconi is forced to bow”.

Referendum organisers urged Italians to support their cause, saying the current electoral law was “a mess”.

The changes will guarantee a bipartisan system, they said, stressing that the two main political parties — PD and PdL — were now “being blackmailed” by their smaller allies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Andalusia Gov. Approves Law for Dignified Death

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 9 — The regional government of Andalucía has today formally approved their plan to allow people the right to a dignified death, a pioneering initiative in Spain announced several months ago. The “Law of Rights and Guarantees of the Dignity of Dying People” limits futile care and allows the patient to decide on the removal of life support must now be definitively approved by the regional parliament. As he outlined the law in a press conference, regional councillor for health Maria Jesus Montero explained that it develops one of the rights in the Statute of Regional Autonomy regarding terminal palliative sedation and the determination of brain death. The text does not regulate euthanasia, nor assisted suicide, which form part of the penal code and cannot be altered by a regional government. The spokesperson for PP in the Andalucían parliament, Esperanza Oña, has noted that the law approved today with the consensus of the PSOE, IU and PE, is part of the mandate of the Autonomy Statute and recognises that ‘all people have the right to a dignified death”. Oña said that such a right was being “recognised by the PP group” through the new legislation which essentially ‘regulates normal medical practices”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Town Hall, Referendum on Catalonia’s Independence

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 10 — “Do you agree that Catalonia is an independent, democratic and social state with the right to exist, and is part of the European Union?”, is the question that the residents of the town of Arenys de Munt, near Barcelona, will answer in the September 13 referendum. The referendum was agreed upon by the political parties in the town council, with the exception of the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), in a recent town council meeting on a proposal by the Popular Unity Candidates (CUP). CUP councilman Josep Manuel Ximenis, quoted today by Publico, explained that the objective of the referendum — an initiative of the Areynec movement for self-determination — is to open up a debate to exert pressure on the regional parliament to call a referendum by 2010, also insisted upon by the Catalunuya Estas Lliure’s (Catalonia Free State) platform. Among the parties in the local government of Renys that are opposed to the referendum (in addition to the PSC) are the Esquerra Repubblicana de Catalunya (ERC), republican independence supporters and members of the socialist three-party coalition in power in the regional government. CUP presented a motion requesting the regional assembly to call for a referendum on Catalonia’s independence in October 2008 during a referendum announced by Basque President Ibarretxe. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Fined £50… for Dropping a Tenner

A SHOPPER who dropped a £10 note in the street by accident has been fined — for littering.

Arthritis sufferer Stewart Smith was leaving a charity shop when the banknote fell from his hand, without him realising.

Stewart, 36, at first expressed his gratitude to the two officers who approached him to point out that the note had fallen to the ground.

But moments later, after recovering the note, he was stunned to be accused of littering and slapped with a £50 fixed-penalty notice.

Mr Smith, who was forced to give up work because of his illness, receives just £98 a fortnight in benefits. But the former warehouse worker has just 14 days to pay up or could face further action.

It is thought the police were implementing a zero-tolerance approach to littering as part of a concerted effort to clean up their local area in Ayr.

But law and order campaigners last night slammed the move, describing it as petty and a waste of police resources.

Mr Smith, who is single, had popped into his local charity shop to look for a bargain.

He bought a £3 T-shirt and had been struggling with his shopping and a handful of change when the banknote slipped from his grasp along with a receipt.

He said: “I came out of the shop, with my T-shirt under my arm. I put £7 in coins into my front pocket, as I was going to buy some juice. I thought I was putting a £10 note and the receipt in my back pocket.

“But my shirt was hanging over the pocket, and the £10 note, along with the receipt, fell onto the street.”

Two officers stood nearby called out to him, pointing to the cash and the receipt on the ground.

He gratefully retrieved the money, but could not believe it when the officers approached him and accused him of littering.

Insisting it was an honest mistake, Mr Smith tried to explain but was told he was being fined £50 for littering. He has now sought legal advice and is hoping to have the fine overturned.

Mr Smith, from Dalrymple, Ayrshire, said his faith in the police had been shattered.

His solicitor Peter Lockhart said: “I will be taking up this matter on his behalf. This is a scandalous use of police resources.”

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken called on Strathclyde Police to explain the actions of its officers towards Mr Smith.

He said: “Clearly no-one is going to throw away a £10 note. From what he says it would seem fairly clear that he dropped both items by mistake.”

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the action was a waste of police time and resources.

He said: “It’s bizarre that the police officers saw fit to fine a man for dropping money. It was clearly a mistake and they should show understanding.”

Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “This seems on the face of it to be a very petty action. This sounds like a case where common sense has been ignored.”

Strathclyde Police last night insisted Mr Smith had dropped several papers and ignored a warning to pick them up.

But the fixed-penalty notice reads: “You did drop a price ticket”, appearing to contradict the force’s version of events.

A force spokeswoman said: “An individual was seen throwing papers on the street. When he was approached and spoken to about it, he recovered the money he had thrown away but repeated his actions with the papers. He was therefore ticketed.”

[Return to headlines]

UK: Home Educators Made to Register

Home educating families in England are going to have to register annually, as the government has accepted the recommendations of a review.

The review also says local authorities should have the right to visit any child taught at home.

The government commissioned a review to find out whether local councils were monitoring home educated children, or offering parents enough support.

It has also been concerned that home education could be a cover for abuse.

The review, conducted by former director of education for Kent, Graham Badman, says that parents who home educate should have to register annually on a scheme administered by local councils.

A parent’s right to home educate will not be challenged, ministers have said.

But parents will have to submit a statement of their intended approach to the child’s education.


Local authorities currently have no statutory duty to monitor children educated at home.

But they must ensure that all children are receiving a suitable education, either in school or otherwise.

The government was concerned that current legislation was not allowing them to do this effectively, and it wants local authorities to provide better support to home educating parents.

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said: “We will ask local authorities to provide easier access to extra support for those home-educated children who need it — particularly the relatively high proportion of home-educated children who have special educational needs and others who need or want to access services that would otherwise be provided through their school.”

He said asking home educators to register would bring England into line with other European countries.

Scotland differs slightly from the rest of the UK in that local authorities are encouraged to inspect home educating families at least once a year.


But home educators say authorities should stop treating them with suspicion and concentrate on giving them support.

It’s a shame that some children do not get to have the interaction of the classroom and other children of their same age Helen, Leicester

Ann Newstead, spokeswoman for home education group Education Otherwise, said: “If one thing could come out of this review which would mean it was not a complete waste of public money, it would be that the decision to home educate is treated with respect and as a positive choice.”

The review has not found any evidence that home education was being used specifically to conceal trafficked children, or forced marriages.

Children’s charities had urged the government to tighten up rules regarding home education.

NSPCC head of policy and public affairs, Diana Sutton, said current legislation was “outdated” and a system was needed to deal with cases where local authorities had concerns.

Estimates of how many children are home educated vary from between 20,000 and 80,000 children.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Prison Magazine Withdrawn Because Satirical Swine-Flu Article Offends Muslim Inmates

The Jailhouselawyer’s Blog carries news that Inside Time, a monthly magazine distributed free to prisoners in the UK, has recalled 50,000 copies of its latest issue because of fears that a humorous article on swine flu and an accompanying cartoon could be offensive to Muslim inmates.

The column by Andy Thackwray, a prisoner at HMP Hull, was entitled “Porky’s Revenge”. It hypothesised that swine flu was the result of a failed plot by Osama Bin Laden “eradicate every pig in Christendom”:

Yes, not too long ago in a cave somewhere in deepest Afghanistan, our bearded foe created his halal flu virus to totally wipe out the pigs of the Western world, and hopefully see the end of pork as we know it. Only trouble was, the young terrorist Bin Laden hand-picked to fly across the Atlantic to carry out the wicked deed was not only a goat short of a full flock, he’d also never ventured out of his village before. So, with geography not being one of his strong points, coupled with his poor command of the English language, it’s not surprising that he got off the plane one stop early thinking he was in Kansas, America when really he was in Cancun, Mexico. There, he set the Bin Laden flu virus free on a Mexican pig farm instead of on an American one as planned — what a knob!

The article was accompanied by a cartoon of a bearded, turbanned pig standing on its hind legs and sneezing.

John Roberts, Operations Director and Company Secretary at Inside Time, was contacted by Diversity at Wormwood Scrubs and informed that the article and cartoon “might be offensive to Muslims”. Consequently, all 50,000 copies of the magazine have been withdrawn and will be reprinted without the offending pieces. Apparently this will cost the charity which runs Inside Time £15-20,000.

The Jailhouselawer also reports that the Mr Thackwray has been charged with a Disciplinary Offence, put in the Segregation Unit, and will be transferred out of HMP Hull.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Still Impunity for Missing Persons, Now Up to EU

(by Chiara Spegni) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 8 — Ten years after the end of the war in Kosovo, thousands of victims are still missing without trace. EULEX, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo active since December 2008, plays a vital role in the uncovering of the serious violation of human rights in the country. Amnesty International has asked EU member states to intervene, urging their cooperation in its new report presented today in Brussels: “Burying the past: 10 years of impunity for missing persons and kidnappings in Kosovo”. “Around 1,900 families in Kosovo and Serbia have no information on the remains of their missing relatives” explained Sian Jones, researcher and Kosovo expert of Amnesty International. More than 3 thousand Albanians, according to Amnesty, have disappeared, taken away by Serbian police and military forces. The organisation estimates that around 800 Serbs, Rom and members of other ethnic minority groups have been kidnapped, by the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) according to eye witnesses. Most people disappeared after the end of the conflict in June 1999, “under the eyes of NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo”. Why have these war crimes escaped justice so far? Amnesty mentions serious institutional barriers and the power of some people who would like to see the truth “buried”, like former KLA leaders and Serbian police officials, as the main reasons. Bringing people to justice is made even more difficult by the fact that many Serb officials and policemen of 1999 “are still working in the Interior Ministry and therefore the police are unable to investigate the issue independently” explained the Amnesty expert. In Kosovo “Amnesty had asked the UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) for adequate witness protection” added Jones “but this has not been done. UNMIK has carried out few investigations, with around 46 trials for war crimes”. The reports of the UNMIK investigations, “today handed over to the EULEX mission, are a complete chaos” explained Jones, “and The Hague’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (TPI) has not supplied all information on the graves”. Meanwhile families are waiting for news on their loved ones. Amnesty, which approves the start of the EULEX mission, has turned to the EU member states to introduce a witness protection programme. The organisation has asked for sufficient resources for EULEX, as well as the possibility to form an independent police force to assist the attorney. Amnesty has also asked the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to make official statements to get a real change started, in the interest of the future EU membership of the two countries. Political and not only financial support by the EU, according to the expert of Amnesty, could be the right solution, for example in Serbia. “We have seen in the case of Croatia” Jones concluded “how much European pressure has contributed to increase the number of trials for war crimes”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Like Morocco, Berber Surnames Blacklisted

(by Laura De Santi) (ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 10 — Syphax, MassTyass and Massiles are just some of the names rejected in recent months by the registry offices of several cities in Algeria because they do not appear in the State’s official list. All of these names are Berber in origin and a petition has been launched today by Berber intellectuals to call for a halt “to the surname nomenclature and to reclaim the right and freedom to name our children as we wish”. A list of banned Berber names has been in force in Morocco since February, as they violate law number 99-37 which allows only the use of Arab-Moroccan names. In Algeria, while there is no explicit law which forbids the names, there is a list of approved names which is supposed to be updated periodically taking account of new trends. This decision, however, often rests with officials at the registry offices of births and deaths. “At a time in which the Amazigh (Berbers from Cabilia, ed.) are paying dearly in their fight to be recognised by their detractors, (a national language in 2002, but not official, as is Arabic, ed), and while the head of state says that he is an authentic Berber…the State continues to reject Berber-origin and Berber-sounding names”, says the petition for “the recognition of all of Amazigh names”. The latest rejection came a few days ago from the registrar’s office of El Harrach, a suburb of the capital, where they did not want to register a new-born named Syphax, the name of a King of western Numidia (now western Algeria) who lived between 250 and 202 BC. “I was asked to present an application to the public prosecutor’s office” explained the baby’s father. “I have to provide proof of the existence of this name”. One of the most unexpected rejections was made by the registry in Tizi Ouzou, the district capital of Cabilia with a Berber majority, and a stronghold of the struggle for the identity of the region to be recognised. Several parents were denied the possibility of calling their sons MassTyass, the name of a prince of the Giugurta family, or Massiles, a variation of the name of the Massinissa tribe, the historic king of Numidia (238-148 BC). While the Berber names are defined as ‘foreign’, radical-Islamic names which have nothing to do with Algeria, such as Seif El Islam, or clearly subversive names like Oussama Bin Laden, are accepted, writes daily newspaper la Depeche de Kabilye. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Algeria: Rise in Child Sex Abuse Causes Alarm

Algiers, 10 June (AKI) — There is growing concern in Algeria about the incidence of sexual violence against children. The director of the National Office for Algerian Children, Khayra Masuda, says there have been 805 alleged cases of sexual abuse against children since the beginning of 2009.

Masuda, who is also a police officer, said these children were among the 1677 minors picked up by police from the side of the road suffering from extreme poverty.

“There is not one day that passes in this country that we don’t register a case of sexual violence against children,” Musada explained to the local paper El Khabar.

“Unfortunately, we are registering an increasing amount of these specific crimes.”

Despite cultural perceptions that the children are school dropouts, police revealed that 90 percent of the children regularly attend school.

However, police said the incidence of criminal offences has increased in school and in particular drug trafficking.

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

Algeria: Al-Qaeda Had ‘Contacts’ With Militants in Italy

Algiers, 9 June (AKI) — Algerian police have said that Al-Qaeda militants in the capital Algiers are in contact with members who live in Italy and Germany. According to the Algerian daily el-Khabar, members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb include young people in their 30’s who are living abroad.

The Algerian daily does not specify the number of members in the group, but it mentions Nasim, also known as Abu Sayyaf, who currently lives in Germany and was recently in Algeria to make contact with AQIM leaders.

Police said inquiries revealed a link between the AQIM cell in Algiers and some Algerian citizens recently arrested in Italy.

Last week, Italian police issued arrest warrants for five North Africans accused of plotting terror attacks in the northern cities of Milan and Bologna in early 2006. It is not known whether the arrests were linked to the cell in Algiers.

The five were alleged to have planned attacks against the subway system in Milan and the San Petronio cathedral in Bologna which dates back to 1390.

Police claimed the five were part of an international group which is active in Algeria, Morocco and Syria.

The Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb evolved from the Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat, initially formed to create an Islamic state in Algeria, but is now believed to have more widespread goals.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel: Gay Pride in Tel Aviv Planned by University Students

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 10 — Tel Aviv is increasingly gay-friendly: “iPRiDE: Israel’s GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual) culture” is the name of the event due to be held in Tel Aviv up to June 14, and which will climax on June 12 with its eleventh Gay Pride parade. The event was organised by StandWithUs, a student association of Tel Aviv’s university which aims to turn Israeli students into “well-informed and active future leaders”. StandWithUs project manager, Noa Meir, stated that “We chose this project because it is a great opportunity to show a relatively unknown aspect of Israel and to show Israel for what it is away from the conflict between Israel and Palestine: a democratic, pluralistic and multicultural society. iPRiDE aims to raise international awareness about the cultural diversity of Israel’s society, focusing attention on the gay community an on its challenges. We expect to see thousands of people fly in from all over the world”. A statement reads that the event, which was also sponsored by the local authorities in Tel Aviv and Jaffa as well as by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be attended by “journalists, academics, students and activists” from various Countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel: Ministers’ Opposing Views on Palestinian State

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 10 — Two of the most authoritative ministers in Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu’s government have diametrically opposed views on a future Palestinian state and the efforts of US president Barack Obama’s administration in this direction. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Labour Party leader (minority in the government), is confident that he can get the government to accept these efforts, while Minister for Strategic Affairs and Likud member, Moshe Yaalon, dismissed them as unrealistic. “If we don’t accept the two-state solution (which Netanyahu hasn’t accepted yet, editor’s note), then we will be confined to political apartheid” on the international stage, said Barak in an interview published today in Haaretz. On the day after meeting with Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell, Barak is confident that he will be able to convince the premier as well: “This government,” he said ,”will surprise people”. According to Yaalon, like Barak a general and former chief of staff, the peace plan the press attributes to Obama — to create a Palestinian state in two years — is hasty, to say the least. “Instant peace is bound to fail,” he said from Washington, claiming that trying to impose peace in a short time would mean creating the conditions for “the birth of an Hamas enclave in the West Bank”, as well as in Gaza. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Meshaal Welcomes Obama’s ‘New Language’

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 10 — Khaled Meshaal, leader of the fundamentalist Palestinian movement Hamas — still considered a “terrorist group” by the United States — said yesterday in a Cairo press conference that he appreciated “the new language used by US president Barack Obama”, in the latter’s June 4 speech to the Muslim world. “But a change of language is not enough,” he stressed. The White House’s Middle East “policies must also change”. Meshaal added that “certain generally accepted ways of doing things in the West Bank” — which criminalise the resistance — are the result of “commitments to Israel”, and they must be changed for inter-Palestinian dialogue to be successful. The Hamas leader harshly criticised Israel, the governments which criminalise his movement and the Palestinians of Al Fatah. But at the same time he praised Obama’s speech, following other Hamas leaders in Gaza who had already expressed their approval. For the first time in months, Meshaal left his place of exile in Damascus to visit Cairo for talks with Egyptian leaders — in particular with the very active secret services chief Omar Suleiman — on a possible reconciliation with his Palestinian rivals after his movement forcibly took power in the Gaza Strip in July 2007. In the Arab League headquarters, after his meeting with secretary-general Amr Mussa, Meshaal said: “the resistance (mukauama, in Arabic ) is an application of the road map’s security aspect, since Israel has never kept its promises. Not only is the resistance persecuted, but also uprooted on an organisational and political level. This obstacle for reconciliation must be eliminated”. “We have nothing against starting talks,” with the US administration. There have been “unofficial” talks, he underlined, “with Americans like former President Jimmy Carter”. “But no actor in the region or of the international community,” he concluded ,”will be able to make progress on the Arab-Israeli conflict without negotiating with Hamas”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Analysis: Obama: An Innocent Abroad

by Jonathan Spyer

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi has published what it claims are key details of the new Middle East peace plan to be presented by President Obama in his speech in Cairo on June 4. Details of the plan made the front page of two leading Israeli newspapers.

If the revelations prove accurate, they reveal a US administration as yet unacquainted with several basic facts of life concerning politics and strategy in the Middle East.

There were those in Israel who suspected Obama of being a kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing, preparing with a friendly smile to offer up Israel as a sacrifice to its regional enemies.

The picture emerging from the alleged details of his plan suggest a different, though not necessarily more comforting characterization: When it comes to the Middle East, Obama is an innocent abroad.

Observe: We are told that the new plan represents a revised version of the 2002 Arab peace plan and is to offer the following: a demilitarized Palestinian state approximating the armistice lines of June 5, 1967. Territorial exchanges may take place on the West Bank. This state will be established within four years of the commencement of negotiations.

On Palestinian refugees: The refugees and their descendants will be naturalized in their countries of current residence, or will have the right to move to the new Palestinian state. In parallel to the negotiations with the Palestinians, separate negotiating tracks with the Syrians and Lebanese will be established.

If the Obama plan does indeed include these elements, its failure is a certainty, because it has been formulated without reference to regional realities…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Defence: Turkey and Iraq Sign Military Cooperation Accord

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 10 — Turkey and Iraq have signed a memorandum of understanding for military cooperation, Anatolia news agency reports today. Turkish General Staff announced on Wednesday that the MoU for technical, training and scientific cooperation between the two countries were signed by Deputy Chief of Turkish General Staff Gen. Hasan Igsiz and his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Nasier Abadi. An information note published on General Staff’s website said proceedings for the MoU had been going for over a year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Elections: Turkey Worried Over Results

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 9 — One day after the creation of the new Strasbourg Parliament Turkey has found itself a long way from EU membership. The victory of the centre-right parties, which won 263 seats, has confirmed the primacy of the populists and a defeat of the socialists — who passed from 217 to 163 representatives and would seem to forshadow difficult times for Turkey’s negotiations for membership in the European Union. Still, that which seems to bear heaviest on public opinion in Turkey is the heavy presence of far right parties, who will be capable of forming a coalition for the first time in Strasbourg. The country’s secular paper Vatan published a front page headline reading, “All We Needed was More Racists”. The ataturkist paper Cumhuriyet wote, “Europe forms a blockade”, while the secular Hurriyet writes “European dreams shattered”. Turkey has seemed to express a widespread fear of a Europe which may become colder in its attitude toward its eastern neighbour. The country’s Foreign Ministry has voiced its “dismay” regarding xenophobic campaigns run in many European countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

John Bolton: What if Israel Strikes Iran?

The mullahs would retaliate. But things would be much worse if they had the bomb.

Whatever the outcome of Iran’s presidential election tomorrow, negotiations will not soon — if ever — put an end to its nuclear threat. And given Iran’s determination to achieve deliverable nuclear weapons, speculation about a possible Israeli attack on its nuclear program will not only persist but grow.

So what would such an attack look like? Obviously, Israel would need to consider many factors — such as its timing and scope, Iran’s increasing air defenses, the dispersion and hardening of its nuclear facilities, the potential international political costs, and Iran’s “unpredictability.” While not as menacingly irrational as North Korea, Iran’s politico-military logic hardly compares to our NATO allies. Central to any Israeli decision is Iran’s possible response.

Israel’s alternative is that Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs reach fruition, leaving its very existence at the whim of its staunchest adversary. Israel has not previously accepted such risks. It destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and a Syrian reactor being built by North Koreans in 2007. One major new element in Israel’s calculus is the Obama administration’s growing distance (especially in contrast to its predecessor).

Consider the most-often mentioned Iranian responses to a possible Israeli strike:

1) Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz. Often cited as Tehran’s knee-jerk answer — along with projections of astronomic oil-price spikes because of the disruption of supplies from Persian Gulf producers — this option is neither feasible nor advisable for Iran. The U.S. would quickly overwhelm any effort to close the Strait, and Iran would be risking U.S. attacks on its land-based military. Direct military conflict with Washington would turn a bad situation for Iran — disruption of its nuclear program — into a potential catastrophe for the regime. Prudent hedging by oil traders and consuming countries (though not their strong suit, historically) would minimize any price spike..

2) Iran cuts its o wn oil exports to raise world prices. An Iranian embargo of its own oil exports would complete the ruin of Iran’s domestic economy by depriving the country of hard currency. This is roughly equivalent to Thomas Jefferson’s 1807 embargo on American exports to protect U.S. shipping from British and French interference. That harmed the U.S. far more than the Europeans. Even Iran’s mullahs can see that. Another gambit with no legs.

3) Iran attacks U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Tehran hard-liners might advocate this approach, or even attacks on U.S. bases or Arab targets in the Gulf — but doing so would risk direct U..S. retaliation against Iran, as many U.S. commanders in Iraq earlier recommended. Increased violence in Iraq or Afghanistan might actually prolong the U.S. military presence in Iraq, despite President Barack Obama’s current plans for withdrawal. Moreover, taking on the U.S. military, even in an initially limited way, carries enormous risks for Iran. Tehran may believe the Obama administration’s generally apologetic international posture will protect it from U.S. escalation, but it would be highly dangerous for Iran to gamble on more weakness in the face of increased U.S. casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan.

4) Iran increases support for global terrorism. This Iranian option, especially stepping up world-wide attacks against U..S. targets, is always open. Assuming, however, that Mr. Obama does not further degrade our intelligence capabilities and that our watchfulness remains high, the terrorism option outside of the Middle East is extremely risky for Iran. If Washington uncovered evidence of direct or indirect Iranian terrorist activities in America, for example, even the Obama administration would have to consider direct retaliation inside Iran. While Iran enjoys rhetorical conflict with the U.S., operationally it prefers picking on targets its own size or smaller.

5) Iran launches missile attacks on Israel.. Because all the foregoing options risk more direct U.S. involvement, Tehran will most likely decide to retaliate against the actual attacker, Israel. Using its missile and perhaps air force capabilities, Iran could do substantial damage in Israel, especially to civilian targets. Of course, one can only imagine what Iran might do once it has nuclear weapons, and this is part of the cost-benefit analysis Israel must make before launching attacks in the first place. Direct Iranian military action against Israel, however, would provoke an even broader Israeli counterstrike, which at some point might well involve Israel’s own nuclear capability. Accordingly, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards would have to think long and hard before unleashing its own capabilities against Israel.

6) Iran unleashes Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel. By process of elimination, but also because of strategic logic, Iran’s most likely option is retaliating through Hamas and Hezbollah. Increased terrorist attacks inside Israel, military incursions by Hezbollah across the Blue Line, and, most significantly, salvoes of missiles from both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip are all possibilities. In plain violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, Iran has not only completely re-equipped Hezbollah since the 2006 war with Israel, but the longer reach of Hezbollah’s rockets now endangers Israel’s entire civilian population. Moreover, Hamas’s rocket capabilities could easily be substantially enhanced to provide greater range and payload to strike throughout Israel, creating a two-front challenge.

Risks to its civilian population will weigh heavily in any Israeli decision to use force, and might well argue for simultaneous, pre-emptive attacks on Hezbollah and Hamas in conjunction with a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Obviously, Israel will have to measure the current risks to its safety and survival against the longer-term threat to its very existence once Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

This brief survey demonstrates why Israel’s military option against Iran’s nuclear program is so unattractive, but also why failing to act is even worse. All these scenarios become infinitely more dangerous once Iran has deliverable nuclear weapons. So does daily life in Israel, elsewhere in the region and globally.

Many argue that Israeli military action will cause Iranians to rally in support of the mullahs’ regime and plunge the region into political chaos. To the contrary, a strike accompanied by effective public diplomacy could well turn Iran’s diverse population against an oppressive regime. Most of the Arab world’s leaders would welcome Israel solving the Iran nuclear problem, although they certainly won’t say so publicly and will rhetorically embrace Iran if Israel strikes. But rhetoric from its Arab neighbors is the only quantum of solace Iran will get.

On the other hand, the Obama administration’s increased pressure on Israel concerning the “two-state solution” and West Bank settlements demonstrates Israel’s growing distance from Washington. Although there is no profit now in complaining that Israel should have struck during the Bush years, the missed opportunity is palpable. For the remainder of Mr. Obama’s term, uncertainty about his administration’s support for Israel will continue to dog Israeli governments and complicate their calculations. Iran will see that as well, and play it for all it’s worth. This is yet another reason why Israel’s risks and dilemmas, difficult as they are, only increase with time.

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

Middle East: US Envoy Insists on ‘Two-State’ Route to Peace

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, JUNE 10 — Barack Obama’s administration is firmly convinced that the ‘two-state’ solution — the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel — is “the only one possible” for the peace process in the Middle East. The White House’s special envoy, George Mitchell, repeated this when he met the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) today in Ramallah (West Bank), following talks with Israeli political leaders in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem yesterday. “The President and the Secretary of State have laid out our policy clearly: the only possible solution to the conflict (Israeli-Palestinian) is the realisation of ambitions both sides nurture for their own states” said Mitchell. The envoy was also clear in reminding the “Israelis and Palestinians of their responsibility to respect the obligations laid out in the Road Map” (the peace process outlined at the time by international mediators from the Quartet): which means, for Israel in particular, ending the expansion of Jewish settlements into Palestinian territory and, for the PNA, tackling terrorism. Mahmoud Abbas — who is currently grappling with renewed internal tension with Hamas separatists, as well as with attempts to mediate between the various factions within Fatah, the moderate party of which he is head — confirmed that he welcomed what appears to Ramallah to be a change in the American stance. Abbas reaffirmed that the PNA is committed to building on security, but that without an immediate stop to settlements, negotiations could not begin again. In his meeting yesterday with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, Mitchell confirmed that the USA’s alliance with Israel was firm, without giving an inch however, neither over the two-state objective nor over the total freezing of settlements: including construction projects which the current Israeli government justified as “natural growth” in the population of the settlements. Over the coming days, Obama’s envoy will make surprise visits to Lebanon and Syria (a country which the current US administration is trying to get back on good terms with after a long period of frost), with the aim of enlarging negotiations to include a wider number of Arab states. This is in line with the provisions of a draft peace plan which sets itself the objective of creating conditions for two parallel agreements in the Middle East — bilateral and multilateral — within two years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: A Dissident’s Escape From Iran (Plus Moshe Ya’alon

With Iran’s elections coming tomorrow and the Obama administration committed to direct dialogue with the Islamic Republic, now is a perfect time to take a closer look at how the Iranian regime operates.

My latest piece for CBN describes the journey of Ahmad Batebi, a young Iranian dissident who spent nine years being tortured in an Iranian prison before escaping to the U.S. last year.

Batebi’s story provides a much-needed glimpse into the brutality of the Iranian regime.

You can watch it at the above link.

[Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Turkey; Life Sentences for Six Al Qaeda Members

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 10 — A Turkish appeals court upheld today a verdict sentencing six al Qaeda militants to life in prison for the deadly 2003 bombings in Istanbul, daily Hurriyet’s website reports. The court in Ankara said it approved the life sentences for the six of the 74 suspects for their involvement in the attacks on 15 and 20 November 2003. Those bombings killed 63 people and targeted two synagogues, the British consulate and the London-based bank Hsbc).The six included Syrian Loai Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa who was charged with masterminding the bombings. The court has sentenced 33 other suspects to between three years and nine months in prison to 18 years. It acquitted 15 of them, citing lack of evidence, while ordering a retrial for 20, requesting further investigation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Journalist Faces 28-Year Prison Sentence for Book

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 10 — Milliyet daily newspaper gives today front-page coverage to a suit filed against Turkish journalist Nedim Sener who published a book on the killing of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Sener faces 28-year prison sentence for writing a book, while the murderer of Hrant Dink faces a 20-year prison sentence, Milliyet notes. Sener’s book dwells on negligence and mistakes of the police and the intelligence organizations in the process that led to the killing of Dink. The trial of Sener starts today in Istanbul. Sener is accused of revealing secret information in his book and of attempting to influence the judiciary. The indictment demands 20 years in prison for Sener who is charged with obtaining and revealing secret information and making security officials a target. Prosecutor demands additional eight-year prison sentence for violating the privacy of communication and attempting to influence the judiciary. In addition, Sener is charged with insulting the state and an investigation I carried out in connection with this accusation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: 54 Turkish Mayors to be Tried for Supporting PKK

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 10 — Fifty-four mayors from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) who released a joint statement in 2007 arguing that jailed outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was being poisoned in prison will be tried before a high criminal court, Anatolia news agency reported. The mayors face charges of “praising a criminal and crime”. The 2nd Court of Peace in Diyarbakir had earlier ruled the case was out of its jurisdiction and sent the dossier to the 5th Criminal Court which has special authority. In its reasoned opinion, the Diyarbakir court ruled that Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir, who made the statement on behalf of 54 DTP mayors, referred to the PKK as the “Kurdish opposition”. The prosecution claims that the defendants act in line with the goals of the PKK and spread its propaganda. A jail term of up to three years has been demanded for the 54 mayors. In March 2007 the DTP brought forward allegations that Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence on the Island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara, was being slowly poisoned; the allegations were denied by Turkish authorities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


In Russia, a Recession-Plagued Town Revolts

After waiting half an hour in a line of 20 people at the dusty ATM, Eduard Markov finally walks away with his old leather wallet bulging with rubles. Like thousands of others in the northern Russian industrial town of Pikalyovo, the 44-year-old clay quarry worker had not been paid in three months. But now he at least has enough to buy the basics — meat, vodka, noodles, oil and fruit — from shops that just a few days ago were empty of customers.

For three months, Pikalyovo’s citizens had been living in crippling poverty after the town’s recession-hit cement and brick factories started closing down. Thousands of workers were laid off and almost overnight nearly 25% of Pikalyovo’s 20,000 residents were unemployed. After making several pleas to their employers for back pay — at one point crashing a meeting at the mayor’s office to demand their jobs back — the workers turned to desperate measures. On June 2, they staged a strike along a major highway linking the city of Vologda to St. Petersburg, blocking the route for hours. Finally Moscow took notice and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew in by helicopter to force local politicians and factory owners to pay the town’s workers the money owed to them. Now Pikalyovo’s shops, cafes and banks are doing good business again, but as the recession sweeps across Russia, small single-industry towns all over the country are just one factory closure away from suffering the same plight. (See 10 things to do in Moscow.)

“You wouldn’t have seen anything like this — people were fed up and angry,” says Alexander Plush, 41, another former factory worker standing in line at the ATM. Plush had worked for 17 years at one of the Pikalyovo’s cement factories until it closed a few months ago. “Before we got paid, people were living on bread and water and the food they could grow in their gardens this early in the year,” he says.

The situation was so bleak that, according to Russian media, people in Pikalyovo were forced to eat wild plants, while the city’s hot water was shut off after residents couldn’t pay their bills. When Putin came in to save the day, he saw PR potential in Pikalyovo’s distress. During a nationally televised meeting in the town, the prime minister scolded local officials and factory owners, including billionaire tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a onetime Kremlin favorite whose investment company Basic Element owns the town’s BaselCement factory. “You have made thousands of people hostage to your ambitions, your lack of professionalism — or maybe simply your trivial greed,” Putin said. (Watch a video about a Russian roadtrip.)

Yet even Putin’s harsh words and the disbursal of pay have not put an end to the feeling here that the crisis will continue. “It’s unlikely the situation will change. Receiving our pay was a small gesture, a short-term solution,” says Denis Yershov, a former employee at the local electricity plant who helped block the road last week. “I’ll be happy when we have work again. I’ll be happy when we have stability and I’m able to feed my family.”

Yershov’s sentiments — and those of nearly everyone else TIME spoke to in Pikaylovo — are playing out at checkout counters in shops all over town. “People are only buying the cheapest brands. It’s like they don’t believe the change will last,” says Oksana Gavrilova, a staunch Putin supporter who had worked at the EuroCement factory for eight years before she was laid off. Leaning down into a nearly empty cooler to grab a kielbasa, she says, “Without the factories, Pikalyovo is nothing.”

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

Russia Agrees to Take Nuclear Waste From Serbia

BELGRADE, Serbia — Russia agreed Wednesday to take 3 metric tons of spent fuel from a closed Serbian nuclear reactor to ensure the radioactive waste does not end up in terrorist hands, officials said.

Thousands of fuel rods are now stored in poorly guarded storage areas just east of Belgrade. The rods contain radioactive material that could potentially be used in a bomb.

The Vinca Nuclear Institute’s reactor was built with Russian technology in 1959 and shut down in 2002.

“If some 3 tons of nuclear waste would end up in terrorist hands, the consequences would be very serious,” said Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state nuclear agency..

Kiriyenko signed the US$54 million (euro38 million) transfer agreement Wednesday in Belgrade, but officials did not say how the funds were being provided or when the fuel rods would be moved.

Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic, who also signed the deal, said the transfer would abolish fears that Serbia could be a potential target for terrorists seeking nuclear material.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been working to make the Vinca Nuclear Institute less attractive to thieves. Officials from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, based in Vienna, said after their last inspection that the facility was “almost like a candy store” for would-be terrorists.

Serbia sent about 48 kilograms (100 pounds) of weapons-grade fuel to Russia in 2002 when Washington, Moscow and Belgrade mounted a joint operation to remove it. The fuel — enough to make at least two simple nuclear warheads — was transferred by truck under tight security from Vinca to Belgrade airport, and then was flown to a Russian government plant about 470 miles (760 kilometers) east of Moscow.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Why it is Hard to Sack a Person… by Vladimir Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reveals his sensitive side in an article on management techniques that hit Moscow newsstands last Friday.

Although the billionaire former KGB officer is often thought of as a kind of Machiavelli without the sense of humour, in his first ever Russian-language article, which is entitled “Why it is hard to sack a person”, Putin advises “managers of all levels” that he is always ready to forgive officials who have made mistakes, even if they have “snivelled” or “burst into tears”.. He adds that wishing an underling “happy birthday, when he is surrounded by his family, means leaving a trace in his soul. That’s just my style.”

The editor of glossy lifestyle magazine Russky Pioner, Andrei Kolesnikov, who is also a Kremlin correspondent for Russian daily Kommersant, first suggested that Putin contribute an article to his recently launched publication after noticing “his seeming inability to fire people”, adding that “I don’t know how I pulled this off: any editor dreams of publishing such a columnist on his pages at least once in a lifetime.”

Not only is he a caring boss, he is a model employee too, as he had reportedly filed his copy within days. The PM also reveals his approach to situations when he is finally forced to wield the axe: “To fire a person is a very serious thing

“If you have to fire someone, you have to be civil about it. I usually call the person into the office and look him right in the eye,” he writes. “In contrast to former, Soviet leaders (note the operative comma) I always do it myself, I usually call a person into my office and tell them directly. If you think it’s wrong… please argue it, defend yourself.”

Held government together

Managing a large team is no easy task, even for one the world’s toughest leaders, and Putin acknowledges that “conflicts within a team, especially a big team, always arise, every minute, every second. Simply because there are always clashes of interest between people.” The article also strongly hints at the rumoured titanic power struggles that he skilfully kept from public view during his eight years as president: “I can say honestly that while I was president, if I hadn’t intervened in certain situations, there would long ago have ceased to be a government in Russia,” the steely eyed politician claims tantalisingly.

In a section straight out of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Putin advises readers that “you should never bad-mouth someone behind their back, and it is not permissible to fire somebody and throw them aside just because somebody has told you something bad about them.”

Surprise, surprise again

Putin, who is already considered a Renaissance man in his homeland, has now added writer to a CV that already included painter — his work has sold at very respectable prices in Moscow auctions — singer, fisherman, and fighter pilot. Last year he also released the DVD Let’s Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin. It remains unclear, however, if Putin will be a regular columnist for the magazine, or whether we can expect a self-help book in the vein of The Management Secrets of Genghis Khan.

As Russian history textbooks were recently amended to state that former Soviet leader Josef Stalin, who killed 20 million of his own people, was an “effective manager”, perhaps we should only expect the 56-year old to deliver the unexpected, as he has once again succeeded in doing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Italian Soldiers Injured in Clashes in West

Farah, 11 June (AKI) — Three Italian soldiers were injured, one of them seriously, in clashes with militants in the western Afghan province of Farah on Thursday. Military sources told Adnkronos that one of the soldiers was injured in the foot, another in the hand and the third under his arm while they were conducting a joint patrol with Afghan soldiers.

“The action of the insurgents seems to have been meticulously prepared, to hit our troops at the end of a search, in an area known for the presence of hostile militias,” the ministry of defence said in a statement.

“The Afghan military and paratroopers of the 187th Thunderbolt regiment…immediately responded to the fire and positioned the troops against our enemy.”

The ministry said it was unclear how many militants were killed in the exchange.

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

There are currently some 58,000 international troops from 42 nations stationed in Afghanistan that make up NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

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

Thailand, Fresh Violence in the South. Victims From the Mosque Attack Now 12

Rebels have attacked diverse areas on Yala province. Police officials denounce attempts to “spark conflict between the Buddhist and Muslim communities”. Thailand and Malaysia ready to cooperate to resolve the issue of Islamic separatism.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) — Bomb attacks, bins set on fire and streets barricaded, entire areas under attack: voice and unrest in the south of Thailand continue and this morning erupted in the province of Yala. Yesterday an armed command raided a mosque in Jawairong district of Narathiwat province, killing 12 people including the imam; 17 were injured, 11 of whom are in a serious condition.

This morning at 8 am local time a bomb exploded at an oil depot near the Yala transport company terminal in Muang district; two people were wounded in the attack. Three schools in the district of Raman —Yala — were closed down for security reasons. In many areas throughout the province the insurgents have started fires and blocked traffic.

Yesterday evening in Jawairong, Narathiwat province, an armed gang of six men raided a mosque during evening prayer, and laid waste to worshippers. The gang opened fire killing 12 of the 100 people who were gathered in prayer at the moment of the attack. Among the death was Imam Waelau Woowaekama head of the Ipayae community. Major Gen Therachia Nakawanich, described the incident as “outrageous”; “We believe the criminals are aiming to create conflict between the Thai-Buddhist and Thai-Muslim communities within the area”.

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, on a state visit to Malaysia, has announced “a special 3-year economic program to develop the area”. Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, says they “are ready to cooperate” with the Thai government “to resolve the issue”. Under discussion is a project sponsored by Malaysia to provide “additional professional training to Muslims so they return to their homeland with to earn their living and contribute to the local economy”.

3400 people have died in years of attacks and unrest in the southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, all majority Muslim in a Majority Buddhist nation. Islamists want autonomy from Bangkok. The rebellion is also a result of former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s harsh policies enacted in the south to quash the insurgents. Emergency rule favoured army and police abuse of power, while the government, to date, has failed to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

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

Far East

China: Almost Heroine Status for Young Woman Who Killed Official Who Tried to Rape Her

Deng Yujiao, 21, killed an important official after he assaulted her for rejecting his sexual advances. Internet is swamped by messages of solidarity for the humble woman who reacted to the violence of a public official.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Deng Yujiao, a 21-year-old pedicurist from Badong (Hubei), killed a Deng Guida, a major town official in Badong county on 10 May, wounding another. The young woman said she was asked to perform special (sexual) favours and tried to defend herself against rape after she refused to comply. For many in China she has almost acquired heroine status, the symbol of a population that has grown tired of widespread corruption in government.

Deng Yujiao’s predicament began when she tried to defend herself against an official who wanted sexual favours and who pushed her onto a sofa when she refused. In fighting back she grabbed a fruit knife and fatally stabbed Deng Guida.

Her arrest on murder charges sparked a public outcry because many saw her as acting in self-defence against officials who were abusing their privileges.

Last week police in fact dropped murder charges, saying she had acted in self-defence, albeit with “excessive force”.

Now she is in a psychiatric hospital but those who have visited her say she is doing well.

A group of women human rights activists went to Badong to determine what happened, but they were followed by police throughout as if there was something sinister about their trip.

The case has generated a wave of sympathy across the country and the web has been swamped by messages of solidarity and sympathy for the “daughter of the people” who fought back against an important official.

Women’s groups, human rights organisations and lawyers have also come out in her favour.

Newspapers initially covered the incident but fell silent once the government decided otherwise out of embarrassment for another scandal involving public officials.

For years Chinese leaders have pledged zero tolerance against corruption. Arrests have been made and trials involving people in high places.

But for experts the war against corruption in China can only be won if citizens’ rights are protected against the frequent abuses by corrupt officials.

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

China Objects to Palau Resettling Guantanamo Men

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Palau’s president said Thursday that his tiny Pacific nation’s tradition of hospitality prompted the decision to take in 13 Chinese Muslims in limbo at Guantanamo Bay, but China called them “terrorist suspects” and demanded they be sent home.

The other four Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, left U.S. detention for a new home in Bermuda on Thursday.

Palau President Johnson Toribiong denied his government’s move was influenced by any massive aid package from Washington, saying that the Uighurs have become “international vagabonds” who deserve a fresh start. China said it opposes any country taking them.

It’s the first time since 2006 that the U.S. has successfully resettled any of Guantanamo’s Uighurs. The U.S. government had determined they weren’t enemy combatants and should be released. But China objected, and it had been unclear where they would go free.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference the United States should “stop handing over terrorist suspects to any third country, so as to expatriate them to China at an early date.” He did not say if China would take any action in response.

Palau, a former U.S. trust territory in the Pacific, is one of a handful of countries that does not recognize China, instead recognizing Taiwan.

Toribiong said Palau did not consider China’s reaction when it accepted the U.S. request to temporarily resettle the detainees, who were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001.

The Pentagon later decided they were not enemy combatants. Even so, the Obama administration faced fierce congressional opposition to allowing the Uighurs on U.S. soil as free men and so it sought alternatives abroad.

The Justice Department on Friday issued a statement thanking the government of Bermuda for helping resettle four of the detainees. Ilshat Hassan, vice president of the Washington-based Uighur American Association, confirmed that four of the Uighurs arrived Thursday morning in Bermuda.

The U.S. has said it feared the men would be executed if they were returned to China.

Palau had agreed to take all 17 remaining Uighurs in Guantanamo, but the resettlement of the four in Bermuda leaves only 13 left.

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

China Demands US Return Uighurs

China has demanded the return of 17 Chinese Muslim Uighur detainees held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.

America should “stop handing over terrorist suspects to any third country,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

Palau, a former US Pacific territory which does not recognise China, has agreed to accept the ethnic Uighurs.

US President Barack Obama has ordered the Guantanamo detention centre closed by early next year.

Some 22 Uighurs were captured by United States forces during their invasion of Afghanistan and taken to the detention base in Cuba but were found not to be enemy combatants four years ago.

Albania re-settled five of them in 2006 but, correspondents say, fear of Chinese retaliation has prevented Tirana from further cooperation.


Ethnically Turkic Muslims, mainly in Xinjiang Made bid for independent state in 1940s Sporadic violence in Xinjiang since 1991 Uighurs worried about Chinese immigration and erosion of traditional culture

The US has been reluctant to send the Uighurs back to China for fear they will be tortured or executed.

There are more than eight million Uighurs living in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, a vast area of western China that borders Central Asia.

Correspondents say many members of the mainly Muslim community say they suffer Chinese political and religious persecution.

Beijing says Uighur insurgents are leading an Islamic separatist movement.

China says the 17 due to be sent from Guantanamo to Palau are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is on the United Nations list of terrorist groups.

“China urges the US to implement the UN Security Council’s relevant resolutions and its international obligations on counter-terrorism,” Mr Qin said.


US officials asked Palau President Johnson Toribiong on 4 June to accept some or all of the remaining 17 Uighur detainees due to strong US congressional opposition to releasing them on US soil.

Mr Toribiong said his government had “agreed to accommodate the United States of America’s request to temporarily resettle in Palau up to 17 ethnic Uighur detainees … subject to periodic review.”

In a statement, he said his tiny country is “honoured and proud” to resettle the detainees, who have been found not to be “enemy combatants”.

He said the agreement was a “humanitarian gesture”, which had nothing to do with the upcoming review of the Compact of Free Association, under which the US gives large sums to Palau.

Palau, with a population of about 20,000, is an archipelago of eight main islands plus more than 250 islets located some 800 km (500 miles) east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean.

Palau has retained close ties with the United States since independence in 1994 when it signed the Free Compact of Association with the US. It relies heavily on the US for aid and defence.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

N. Korea Demands 4-Fold Raise in Wages From South

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea demanded Thursday a four-fold increase in wages for its workers employed by South Korean-owned companies at an industrial park at the center of a major dispute roiling their relations, an official said. It also demanded a 31-times increase in the rent for the site.

The unexpectedly large demand is likely to set back reconciliation moves between the two countries, which have been slowed down enormously by North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile tests and the detention of a South Korean worker at the industrial park.

A total of 106 South Korean companies have factories in the park in Kaesong, a North Korean border town, employing some 40,000 North Koreans. They are paid about $70 a month on average.

The increased wage demand was made during a 90-minute meeting between civilian officials from the two sides at Kaesong — only the second such meeting in more than a year, a reflection of their deeply frayed relations.

Pyongyang demanded that South Korea raise the monthly wages of the workers at the complex to $300 in the first year, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said..

She said North Korea also wanted a 10 to 20 percent wage increase in subsequent years and a rent of $500 million for the 35 million-square- feet (3.3 million-square-meter) site. Under an agreement between the two countries, North Korea has already received $16 million as rent for 50 years.

Although it was expected that North Korea would ask for higher salaries during the talks, an increase of more than four times was a surprise and is unlikely to be accepted by the South Koreans who pay about $170 a month to Chinese laborers in their factories in China.

“That’s nonsense!” Park Jung-ho, a former official of a shoe factory operating in Kaesong, said of the North’s wage demand. “We have to look at the productivity of North Korean workers. If South Korean workers produce, say, 100, North Koreans only produce 30.”

The corporate council of the South Korean companies in Kaesong said it has no immediate comment on the North’s demand.

When it was set up in 2004, the Kaesong Industrial Complex was seen as the most potent symbol of reconciliation between the two nations on the divided peninsula. It combined the South’s capital and technology with the North’s cheap labor. But today, the only remaining reconciliation project appears to be on its last legs.

North Korea blames the situation on the hard-line attitude of a pro-U.S., conservative government that took office in Seoul last year, advocating a tougher policy on the North. In retaliation, the reclusive regime cut off ties, halted all major joint projects except the Kaesong complex and significantly restricted border traffic.

Thursday’s demand came as Western powers agreed with North Korea’s allies on a proposal to punish it for its latest nuclear test on May 25. The new sanctions would put tough restrictions on Pyongyang’s exports and financial dealings, and allow inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas.

The agreement awaits approval by the U.N. Security Council.

During Thursday’s talks, South Korean officials demanded the release of a compatriot detained at the Kaesong Industrial Complex since late March for allegedly denouncing the North’s political system, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said.

The communist regime has rejected South Korea’s repeated requests for his release, and details of his status remained unclear.

The South Korean government says it was committed to developing the Kaesong complex despite the problems between the two countries.

But some companies appear to be losing patience. Earlier this week, a South Korean fur-garment manufacturer announced that it was pulling out of Kaesong, citing security concern for its employees.

Experts said Thursday’s meeting would not achieve much as the North will likely use the case to show how badly relations between the two sides have frayed because of Seoul’s hard-line policy on Pyongyang.

“I think the North is trying to show that it cannot free Yu unless the South drops its hostile policy and turns back toward a reconciliation and cooperation policy,” said Paik Hak-soon, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute, a South Korean think tank.

Some experts say the North’s recent actions are largely aimed at mustering support for the country’s absolute leader Kim Jong Il as he reportedly prepares to announce his successor — his third and youngest son Jong Un.

Kim, 67, is said to have suffered a stroke, and underwent brain surgery last summer.

Little is known about the workings of the insular nation, and most of the information comes out through occasional defectors, South Korea’s spy agency and South Korean media sources in the North.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Vietnam: Catholic Teacher Fired for Encouraging Students to Get Information on the Web

Literature teacher is accused of spreading “anti-revolutionary” ideas and promoting anti-Communist websites. In reality she encouraged her students to read stories and poems written before the advent of the Communist regime. In fact Vietnamese authorities are tightening the screws around Internet. A group like Reporters without Borders considers Vietnam one of the main “enemies” of internet, whilst Amnesty International has reported the arrest of people for their online activities

Hanoi (AsiaNews) — A Catholic teacher has been fired from her school for encouraging her students to visit “politically sensitive internet sites,” and might even face criminal charges for her action.

The People’s Public Security Newspaper, which is published by Vietnam’s police force, accused Nguyen Thi Bich Hanh (pictured), 28, of “taking advantages of her teaching position to disseminate counter-revolution thoughts, speaking ill of Communist leaders and distorting their images in the heart of children, seriously offending state policy on education, and advertising for anti-communist Web sites which spread slanders against the government.”

The newspaper also reported that Hanh, a literature teacher at Nguyen Binh Khiem Special High school for Gifted Students in Tam Ky, Quang Nam, a province in central Vietnam, was harassed after her students started looking for information on websites deemed “anti-revolutionary” by Vietnamese authorities.

Speaking to Radio Free Asia, Hanh said she did nothing wrong and that she was sacked due in good part to her Catholic background.

In her version of the facts, she just wanted to discuss with her students the benefits and pitfalls of the internet as more and more young people in Vietnam go online to play games, download music, write blogs, send e-mail or use instant messaging services to chat on a daily basis.

As a teacher, she felt duty-bound to educate her young students on how to use the internet in a constructive way, and how to search for, gather and analyse useful and correct information found online.

Inspired by her own experience, Hanh encouraged her students to look for stories, poems, and other writings published prior to the Communist era when Vietnamese authors were free to express their thoughts and emotions. With her students she shared the belief that freedom is the essential condition for artists’ creative work. Many of the writings in question are not available in Vietnam, but can be accessed online.

Internet is indeed going through an exponential growth in Vietnam. Last November, a report from the Vietnam Internet Network Information Center reported almost 21 million internet users in the country (24 per cent of the population).

Another report said that Vietnam government is planning to increase the country’s internet penetration to 35 per cent by 2010.

Along with the plans to increase internet users, Vietnamese authorities are also planning to enforce strict online political censorship. The extensive regulation of internet access using both legal and technical means has filtered out sites that contain sensitive materials that might undermine the Communist Party’s hold on power.

While Reporters without Borders considers Vietnam one of 15 “internet enemies”, Amnesty International reported many instances of internet activists being arrested for their online activities.

Most websites run by overseas Vietnamese, and most Western Catholic media outlets, have been blocked by the government. However, the sites Hanh introduced to her students can still be accessed in Vietnam.

“The local authority had accused me of having such a different mentality as a result of being a Catholic, with a questionable background,” she said.

She also said that her father had been sent to a Communist re-education camp for his apostolic activities and Catholic faith.

A gifted Mathematician Hanh’s father, Nguyen Quoc Anh, wrote articles relating to linear differential equations, which were so thought-provoking that he was invited to speak at Hanoi University. Never the less, his thesis has never been publicly acknowledged by the Education Ministry for the same political charged reason.

Having outstandingly completed a postgraduate degree in Vietnamese Literature at Dalat University, Hanh was hired by the Provincial Education Department of Quang Nam—Da Nang under a special policy of talented people recruitment in 2002.

Even though she was regarded as one of the most respected teachers at her school, she did not receive any recognition or promotion because she was an active catechist in her parish.

For many Catholics in Vietnam incident is a sign of the tough road they must face, evidence of the difficulty and hardship Catholics must face when they work in the public sector.

Under normal circumstances the firing of a high school teacher would not make the headlines. However, the fact that the People’s Public Security Newspaper and other state media outlets reported the news of her termination is the Vietnamese government’s way to send a threatening message to all teachers with ties to religions.

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

Australia — Pacific

Palau to Take Guantanamo Uighurs

The tiny Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to a US request to temporarily resettle 17 Chinese Muslim ethnic Uighurs held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for more than seven years.

In a statement on Wednesday Johnson Toribiong, the country’s president, said he had agreed to resettle the Uighur detainees “subject to periodic review”.

The 17 were cleared for release from Guantanamo four years ago after US officials ruled there was no evidence to hold them as “enemy combatants”.

Last year a US federal judge ordered the men released into the US, but an appeals court halted the order, and they have been in legal limbo ever since.

The US state department has said the Uighurs cannot be returned to China, despite requests from Beijing that they be handed over, because of fears they will face persecution and possible execution.

Instead US officials have been trying to find a third country willing to take them in, but in the meantime they have been kept in Guantanamo, spending up to 22 hours a day locked in their cells.


In 2006 Albania agreed to accept five Uighur detainees from Guantanamo, but has said it will not take others due to fears of possible diplomatic repercussions from China, one of its main trading partners and investors.

Germany had been considered a possible destination as it has a large Uighur community, but no agreement was reached.

Last month two US congressmen called for the Uighur men to be allowed to resettle within the Uighur community in the US, saying that their continued detention without trial and after being cleared of any wrongdoing was an injustice.

However, that call was met with fierce opposition from other members of congress.

Earlier this month Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, formally asked Palau to accept some or all of the detainees.

In a statement on Wednesday Toribiong, the Palau president, said his country was “honoured and proud that the United States has asked Palau to assist with such a critical task”.

“Palau’s accommodation to accept the temporary resettlement of these detainees is a humanitarian gesture intended to help them be freed of any further unnecessary incarceration and to restart their lives in as normal a fashion as possible,” he said.

Toribiong said Palau officials would travel to review the situation at Guantanamo Bay, which Barack Obama, the US president, has said he intends to close.

Palau, with a population estimated at about 21,000 is one of the world’s smallest and youngest countries having gained its independence in October 1994.


Prior to that date it was governed as a United Nations trusteeship administered by the US, which remains responsible for Palau’s defence and the country’s principal source of aid.

The country, made up of eight main islands and dozens of smaller islets, is located 800km east of the Philippines and 3,200km south of Tokyo.

Palau is one of a handful of countries that does not recognise China and maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The Uighur detainees were captured by US forces mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the war in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Uighurs are mostly Turkic-speaking and Muslim, and many say they have long been repressed by the Chinese government.

China says Uighur nationalists are leading a separatist movement in the country’s western Xinjiang region and are responsible for a series of terrorist attacks.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Tale of Broken, Battered Kids Shows System on Brink

THEY were eight children living in a three-bedroom house with mice and rubbish in every room.

Four had disabilities: some couldn’t hear properly; some couldn’t walk properly; all were malnourished and had head lice. Several had broken bones, and none could use a knife and fork.

Their mother, a young Sunni Muslim woman, veiled from head to toe, found caring for the children impossible, especially as the older ones grew wilder, and then violent. Her husband, an Iraqi, is believed to have at least two other women he refers to as his “wives” and they, too, have children.

He moves between their different houses. None had paid work.

The NSW Department of Community Services has known of the situation for years; and has surely also known that it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Last October — that is, more than eight months ago — the crisis came.

One of the youngest children, a boy, was taken to Westmead Hospital with broken bones. He came out with a cast from chest to knee, so heavy that it took two people to carry him.

What has happened next provides perhaps the most graphic example of the child welfare system in NSW which, despite the billions spent and the reports written, the speeches given and the promises made, teeters on the edge of collapse.

None of the eight children — the bruised, broken and, in one case, burnt children — were sent to a safe haven. Instead, they all had their heads shaved to remove the lice, and they were then farmed out.

Seven of the eight at first went to next-door neighbours, a Muslim couple who have five children of their own — meaning that there were, at one point, 12 kids in the house, five of them disabled.

The little boy with the broken bones and the body cast went to that carer’s mother, a 55-year-old woman who couldn’t at first lift the boy, so heavy was the plaster.

Three of the children — including a baby that had at some point been burnt with petrol, possibly at the hands of his developmentally delayed brother, and two other toddlers — later went to a friend of the first neighbour.

None of these people had been trained as foster carers; none had a police check done; none were registered as carers, as is required by law. All have put their hearts and souls into the mess, but at least one is now at breaking point.

The story came to The Australian’s attention via the Foster Care Association — a body defunded by DOCS last year, after raising a great ruckus about the state of foster care in NSW — which took an anguished call from that carer. We can’t name her, or any of the children, so let’s call her Nareeda.

Like the children, she is a Muslim (not Sunni, but Shi’ite. She does not wear the veil and has removed the veil from the girls now in her care). Nareeda said she had been living next door to the children’s mother for about a decade, before “it became too much and I had to act”.

“If you could see the state of the house where they lived, you wouldn’t believe it, there were holes in every wall,” she said. “The screaming never stopped. So many of the kids had problems. I couldn’t work out what was going on there.”

Finally, one day last October, one of the boys from next door told her that he had deliberately broken his brother’s leg. “It didn’t surprise me,” she said. “Look at them — they’ve all had a broken nose, a broken arm. The children beat each other.”

Nareeda called the police, and the DOCS 24-hour hotline. The boy with the broken bones was taken to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Nareeda then took six of the other seven children into her own home.

“I said, ‘I can’t leave them there any more’,” she said.

“And their father thanked me. Their mother kissed my feet.”

Nareeda says DOCS workers dropped by her home soon afterwards and gave her $150 for food, and told her that the eight children would never return to their mother.

“But they said: ‘We don’t know where we are going to put them’.”

It is departmental policy to place Muslim children with Muslim carers where possible, and there are very few Muslim foster carers.

It is also departmental policy to keep siblings together where possible, so the search was on for Muslim foster parents who could take eight children, four of whom had disabilities, including Fragile X syndrome, who needed to go to special schools.

“You would not believe how those children were when they came to me,” Nareeda says. “They could not dress themselves. They could not feed themselves, shower themselves. I had to wash them. They go to the toilet on themselves. They were wild.

“I said: ‘Who will take them?’. And they said: ‘Do you know anyone?’.”

Nareeda says she agreed to call a friend and her husband, who agreed to take the three youngest children — the baby, and two toddlers — into their home. The Australian understands that they are now thriving, and this couple would be pleased to keep those children with them. Nareeda’s mother, who is 55, agreed to take the boy with the broken leg. They have bonded, and she wants to keep him.

That left four of the eight children, including the two with the most serious disabilities, with nowhere to go, so Nareeda took them in, to live alongside her own five kids. Given that neither she, nor the people she found to take the other children were actually registered as foster carers, the department had to move quickly, to get them on the books.

“They said, ‘Here, we’ll make you a foster carer’,” Nareeda says. “They got me to sign this form, and then started paying me some money.”

Since the start of December, she’s been receiving $1770 a fortnight or about $220 a week per child, the base rate in NSW. “They didn’t want to pay more because they said it’s not permanent,” she said.

But weeks went by, and then months, and the children are still with her. In that time, she has grown to love them, but says four are too many. She says she has made at least 30 calls to the DOCS hotline, begging them to remove the boy, saying he was violent and abusive.

“He hits my kids and he took my gold rings and buried them somewhere,” she said. “He says to my daughter: ‘You have big boobs’. I told them he can’t stay here.

“I want the other three but he can’t stay here. He needs special help. I have five other children. He needs to be with somebody who can take the time.”

She said the department’s response was to threaten to remove all the children from her care, and remove the boy with the broken bones from the care of her mother.

“That is actually cruel because he wants to stay with her. He clings to her,” Nareeda says. “But they have come to me now saying, ‘There are problems here. You’re not coping. You are not a proper foster parent. Your mother is too old.’

“I told them, ‘I can keep the three. I cannot keep the boy but I can keep the three. Don’t take them.’

“I told them, ‘I saved these children’. But now they are saying, after 10 months, ‘No, we are coming for them’.”

When The Australian contacted DOCS head office yesterday, it seemed not to know where the children were living. In a statement, it said it believed the children were with “extended family members”.

Told that The Australian had visited Nareeda’s home, where eight children were sitting around a rug eating rice and green beans with their fingers, they said they’d have to check it out. Nareeda said neither she, nor any of the other carers, are in any way related to any of the children.

DOCS would not comment on the long-term plan for the children, because “the matter is currently before the Children’s Court”.

The president of the Foster Care Association, Denise Crisp, says the case highlights “just how appalling the situation is for children in NSW.”

Opposition spokeswoman Pru Goward said she fielded calls daily about the department and the plight of children in its care.

“You have a situation where children are being farmed out to whoever in the street might take them.

“The department says: ‘We’ve got no carers’. Do they ever ask why? Is it because the system has collapsed?”

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Air France Chief Questions Sensor Role in Crash

PARIS (Reuters) — Air France is not yet convinced that faulty speed sensors were to blame for the loss of one of its planes over the Atlantic, but it is replacing old sensors as a precaution, the airline’s chief executive said on Thursday.

Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told reporters that Air France was in a state of shock over the worst disaster in its 75 year history and expected more information about what happened within a week.

An Air France Airbus 330 crashed into the sea on June 1 enroute from Brazil to Paris, killing all 228 aboard.

Air accident investigators have said the Airbus registered inconsistent speed readings just before contact was lost, raising speculation that the pilots might inadvertently have flown at the wrong speed and precipitated the disaster.

Air France subsequently reported that it had noticed temporary loss of air speed data on previous Airbus flights due to ice collecting in the sensors, known as pitot tubes, and said it was speeding up a pre-planned replacement program.

“As circumstances would have it, the first replacements arrived practically on the eve of the accident, on the Friday,” Gourgeon told a news briefing, adding, “I am not convinced that speed sensors were the cause of crash.”

The French air accident agency has said it is too early to pinpoint any possible cause for the crash, saying there were only two certainties — that the plane had hit stormy weather before the crash and that the speed readings were incoherent.

Airbus denied a French newspaper report that it was considering grounding its fleet of A330 and A340 planes in the wake of the disaster, saying they were safe to fly.


Gourgeon said the planemaker had reassured clients that all three types of speed sensors available for its jets were safe, including the one used on the downed A330.

Industry sources said the planemaker had also ruled out for the time being that there was an electrical power failure or loss of cockpit instrument display on the Air France jet.

Air France said at the weekend it had noticed the icing problems on the speed sensors in May 2008, although Gourgeon said these “incidents” had not been deemed catastrophic.

The airline said tests had later convinced it that probes developed for another model would be more efficient and that it had decided to go ahead and start fitting them from April 27 without waiting for further testing proposed by Airbus.

The speed sensors on the Air France A330 were supplied by France’s Thales, which has produced two versions of the pitot tube for the Airbus aircraft. A third model made by U.S. firm Goodrich have not been called into question.

The crashed plane had an earlier Thales model, which is being replaced by a more recent probe.

Brazilian and French search teams have recovered 41 bodies and debris from the Atlantic some 1,000 km (620 miles) from Brazil’s northern coast. A nuclear-powered French submarine is leading the search for the plane’s sunken flight recorders.

Gourgeon said more information about the crash would be available once autopsies had revealed the exact cause of death and after experts had scrutinized the debris.

“I think we will have a little bit more information in a week,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Mexican State Bans Cops From Carrying Cell Phones

MEXICO CITY — First local police in Monterrey lost their assault rifles after an armed confrontation with federal agents while protesting the arrest of cops for alleged gang ties. Now officers in Mexico’s third-largest city will be stripped of cell phones.

The legislature in Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located, unanimously approved a bill banning city and state police from carrying personal cell phones while on duty in an effort to prevent corrupt officers from communicating with drug gangs.

Lawmakers approved the measure late Tuesday, a day after municipal police in Monterrey pulled guns on masked federal agents during a standoff that sent motorists scrambling for cover — and underscored tensions over a crackdown on drug corruption among lawmen.

Earlier this month, federal forces raided police stations in 18 towns in Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, and detained 78 officers suspected of working with drug smugglers. The operation came after soldiers found lists of police names in the possession of suspected drug traffickers in May.

State lawmaker Mirthala Castillo said the cell phone ban would take effect later this month. City police spokeswoman Sidlayin Robles said it was not clear how the ban would be enforced.

Officers in Monterrey complained that they are finding themselves unable to do their jobs.

“We patrol certain areas and we have a cell phone so the neighbors can call us if there is trouble,” said one officer, who declined to give his name. “If they take away our cell phones, they’ll have to call the station first and it will take more time to get there.”

He argued that any officers who have taken payoffs from Mexico’s brutal drug gangs have no choice: They either have to turn a blind eye to trafficking or be killed.

Federal forces have been conducting sweeps across Mexico to round up local officers and politicians accused of collaborating with drug cartels. Among those were 10 mayors in Michoacan, the home state of President Felipe Calderon. Many retired army officers have been called on to run local police forces.

Many city police are furious at seeing colleagues disarmed and dragged away in handcuffs. The friction boiled over Monday evening in Monterrey when local officers protesting the arrest of a police woman who authorities say is a high-ranking member of the Gulf drug cartel blocked streets and then aimed pistols and assault rifles at federal agents who tried to disperse them.

Nuevo Leon’s state public safety secretary, Aldo Fasci Zuazua, said state officials stripped municipal police of their automatic rifles because of the incident. He said such weapons would be given out to city officers only with special permission.

Mexico’s drug violence has claimed more than 10,800 lives since 2006, when Calderon launched his anti-drug campaign. About 45,000 soldiers have been deployed to drug-plagued areas.

On Wednesday, federal police coordinator Gen. Rodolfo Cruz said a shootout in Durango state killed one federal officer and three gunmen. Federal forces detained three alleged members of the Sinaloa cartel after the confrontation late Tuesday in the city of Durango, the state capital..

Cruz said one of the gunmen killed was the top man for the Sinaloa cartel in Durango.

Also Wednesday, federal authorities said they have arrested nine state police officers in the state of Morelos, just outside Mexico City, for their alleged ties to the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Was Terrorism Behind Air France Crash?

By Annie Jacobsen

On Wednesday morning, news emerged out of Paris that two Muslim men aboard Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, were Islamic radicals listed on France’s terrorist watch list.

French foreign intelligence agents from the DGSE (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure) released this information to the Paris weekly L’Express. Immediately, the story became headline news around the globe. And then, just hours later, those same French terrorism investigators recanted.

“No Terrorists in AF447,” read the second L’Express headline posted on Wednesday evening at 5:35 p.m. local time. Translated from the French, the flip-flop was explained as follows:

Failing to have the date of birth of passengers, it was impossible [for DGSE agents] to know if they were real terrorists or homonyms. Refining their “screening,” the investigators said, raised doubts. The theory of the accident, which killed 228 people, remains privileged.

Why did DGSE agents release potentially “doubtful” information ten days into an investigation when they could have waited only a few more hours to verify facts? Before this information was released, terrorism as a cause for the crash was at the bottom of most experts’ guess lists. Investigators had been focusing on mechanical failure, namely faulty speed sensors, as well as lighting strikes. Satellite photographs suggest that the aircraft flew into a violent storm. At first there was no crash site, which only enhanced the mystery. Then the site was found. Headway was being made. Why bring terrorism into the mix so late in the game, only to say excusez-moi, our mistake…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Hungary: Not Enough for Lynching

Jobbik’s Krisztina Morvai told a press conference in Budapest last Thursday that she intends to file a complaint to the authorities over the Olaszliszka court case, as dozens of Roma were involved in the lynching, but only eight people had faced charges.

In a sentence passed in the Olaszliszka murder case a week earlier by a Mikolc court, one man was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the lynching of a teacher who was pulled from his car and murdered in the north eastern village of Olaszliszka in October, 2006.

Szögi Lajos, a 44-year-old teacher from a nearby town, was beaten to death in front of his two children by a mob of enraged villagers after he had bumped into the convicted man’s 12-year-old daughter as he drove through the village. The girl fell into a roadside ditch but suffered no significant injuries, and a subsequent forensic examination of the teacher’s car found no evidence of impact. Described by the judge as “a menace to society with a string of previous convictions”, the girl’s father will spend a minimum of 30 years in jail. Seven other defendants in the case were also sentenced for joining or abetting the attack. Five of them, including the girl’s mother and older brother, were given 15-year prison sentences, while two others who were minors at the time of the murder were sentenced to ten years in a juvenile detention centre.

The Borsod county prosecutor’s office last week said it would appeal, demanding that four of the five who received 15-year terms get life sentences.

Passing sentence, the leading judge in the trial, Attila Czibrik, described how the victim had been systematically beaten for 10 to 15 minutes before he died, as reported by the news agency MTI. “The victim was subjected to a prolonged, extraordinarily brutal beating, entirely devoid of humanity,” Czibrik said.

The case caused shockwaves across the country and, as the attackers were Roma, led to a dramatic increase in racial tensions between Hungary’s majority population and its ethnic Roma minority, and has been used by the extreme right to drum up support for its anti-Roma stance. The controversial far-right paramilitary group, the Hungarian Guard, even staged an anti-Roma demonstration in Olaszliszka as part of a self-styled crusade against what it calls “gypsy crime”. In the past 18 months there have been over a dozen armed attacks against Roma homes across Hungary, and since November five Roma have been killed in three separate attacks in which guns and petrol bombs were used. Similarities of method suggest the cases are linked, and the murders are thought to have been racially motivated.

The father of the murdered man, along with his granddaughter, who witnessed her father being killed, were in court. The man’s father said he was satisfied that the court had imposed the maximum possible penalty, but added that he would like to see the death penalty reinstated, as imprisonment “cannot be compared” to how his son suffered. The verdict is subject to appeal.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UNHCR Awards Turkish Ship for Saving 142 People

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 10 — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey has awarded the Turkish cargo ship “Pinar E” captain Asik Tuygun and owner Baris Erdogdu with the “Hope Refugee Award” for saving 142 migrants off the coast of Malta when the refugees were about to die in the sea, Anatolia news agency reports. Tuygun and Erdogdu are the first recipients of the “Hope Refugee Award” in Turkey. “The award is given to those individuals who help refugees in difficult conditions and make their lives easier. We hope that the behaviour of captain Asik and owner Erdogdu will be a good role model”, Michel Gaude, UNHCR’s Turkey representative, said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Oil Price Leaps to Year’s High

Predictions of $250 a barrel on fears for oil reserves, hopes of economic recovery and hedging against weak dollar

Oil will last for decades, according to BP, but advocates of ‘peak oil’ believe reserves are dwindling Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

The price of oil burst through the $71 a barrel mark today amid revelations that proven reserves had fallen for the first time in 10 years and predictions that the price could eventually hit $250.

The latest high — from lows of $30 only four months ago — came on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where the cost of July deliveries rose by $1.35 to $71.36.

This comes on top of a $2 rise the day before as investors rushed into the market on the back of lower stockpile figures, higher demand estimates and speculation against further falls in the dollar.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re testing $80 in a week or two,” said one analyst, while BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, questioned whether $90 could be the “right” value.

Kuwait’s oil minister, Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, put some of the rise down to signs of recovery in Asia but warned that overall demand was still weaker than last year. Opec would not raise supply at current oil prices but did not rule it out “if it reached $100”, he said.

Alexei Miller, chairman of the Russian energy group Gazprom, raised the stakes further when he reiterated last year’s estimates of $250 a barrel. “This forecast has not become reality yet, given that the [credit] crisis gained momentum and exerted a powerful impact on the global energy market. But does this mean that our forecast was unrealistic? Not at all.”

The latest surge has also raised fears that higher energy costs could snuff out the nascent economic recovery. Shares on Wall Street’s Nasdaq index fell 1%.

The febrile atmosphere in oil markets was fed by the publication of BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, which showed that the world’s proven crude reserves had fallen by 3bn barrels to 1.258tn by 2008 from a revised 1.261tn in 2007.

Declines in important producers such as Russia and Norway offset rises in new areas such as Vietnam, India and Egypt. The figures did not include Canada’s tar sands, which are put at 150bn barrels..

The drop is partly attributed to a drop in exploration drilling due to the precipitous fall in oil prices last year but also to the end of “easy” oil. Conflict this week in the Amazon and speculation about Arctic drilling underlined how oil companies are pushing into environmentally sensitive places to find new reserves.

Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, insisted there was enough crude to last 42 years at current consumption levels, roughly the same as last year. Adherents of “peak oil” — the theory that the maximum rate of oil production has been reached — believe supplies will run out much sooner because of growing demand.

The BP boss said: “Our data confirms that the world has enough proved reserves of oil, natural gas and coal to meet the world’s energy needs for decades to come.” Higher prices allowed companies to invest in finding further reserves while not choking off demand, he said.

“There is a rational argument to say that somewhere between $60 to $90 a barrel is the right sort of level,” he said.

Global oil consumption fell 0.6% to 81.8m barrels a day in 2008, the first decline since 1993 and the largest drop for 27 years. North Sea output dropped 6.3% to its lowest level for three decades..

By contrast, gas use rose by 2.5% globally and 16% in China. The use of coal, the heaviest emitter of climate-changing carbon, rose 3.1%, with Chinese demand up 6.8%, leaving it with a market share of 43% despite more high-profile announcements about its commitment to renewables.

BP says it is difficult to compare “primary” carbon fuels with renewable sources of electricity. BP notes that globally solar capacity rose nearly 70% and wind by 30% year on year but says renewables only generated 1.5% of global electricity and therefore began at a low base.But it notes these sources are playing an increasingly important role in some countries with wind power providing 20% of total electricity generation in Denmark, 11% in Spain and 7% in Germany.

Despite the 2008 rise in coal consumption, the BP data showed growth in the use of the fuel continued to decline compared with 2007 when it rose 5% and five years ago when it went up by 8%.

But the coal figures will alarm environmentalists and increase the calls for companies and governments to speed up trials on “clean coal” technology and the use of carbon capture and storage.

China has promised to increase its use of renewables: Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of the China’s national development and reform commission, says the country may produce as much as 20% of its energy from wind and solar by 2020.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Typhoons Trigger Slow Earthquakes

Typhoons can trigger imperceptible, slow earthquakes, researchers say.

Scientists report in the journal Nature that, in a seismically active zone in Taiwan, pressure changes caused by typhoons “unclamp” the fault.

This gentle release causes an earthquake that dissipates its energy over several hours rather than a few potentially devastating seconds.

The researchers believe this could explain why there are relatively few large earthquakes in this region.

Alan Linde from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the US and colleagues monitored movement of two colliding tectonic plates in eastern Taiwan.

They used three borehole “strainmeters” — highly sensitive instruments deep below the ground.

“These detect otherwise imperceptible movements and distortions of rock,” explained co-author Selwyn Sacks, also from the Carnegie Institution.

Gentle relief

The instruments picked up 20 “slow earthquakes”, each lasting from several hours to more than a day. Of these, 11 co-incided exactly with typhoons.

The authors described the possibility that this coincident timing was by chance as “vanishingly small”.

For the typhoon to be a trigger, the fault must be precariously close to failure

Alan Linde Carnegie Institution for Science

“It’s rare that you see something so definitive, especially when it’s something new,” Dr Linde told BBC News.

Their findings could provide clues about why there are relatively few large earthquakes in this region.

Here, the colliding plates move so rapidly that they build mountains at a rate of almost 4mm per year. Dr Linde said that in geological terms that was almost like “growing mushrooms”.

“It’s surprising that this area of the globe has had no great earthquakes and relatively few large earthquakes,” Dr Linde commented.

“By comparison, the Nankai Trough in southwestern Japan has a plate convergence rate of about 4cm per year, and this causes a magnitude 8 earthquake every 100 to 150 years.

“The activity in southern Taiwan comes from the convergence of the same two plates, and there the Philippine Sea Plate pushes against the Eurasian Plate at twice that rate.

“This fault experiences more or less constant strain and stress build-up.”

He described how the fault “dipped steeply” westward from near the east coast so that it is under the land area. So the landward side is under constant strain to move upward.

When a typhoon passes over the land, the air pressure on the land is lowered. That slight change in force “unclamps” the fault and allows it to move.

“But this change is quite small,” said Dr Linde. “So for the typhoon to be a trigger, the fault must be precariously close to failure.”

The frequent, slow earthquakes this causes are “totally imperceptible” from the ground. And Dr Linde thinks it is sensible to assume that they may reduce the frequency of larger, more damaging earthquakes.

But this is extremely hard to show because, as he puts it, “how do you prove something that doesn’t happen?”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

6 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/11/2009

  1. China has a modern blue-water navy now. As a gesture of China’s determination to cooperate with the international community in the war against global terrorism, China can despatch some warships with an onboard diplomat to Palau humbly to request the return of those Uighurs. The Uighurs are Chinese citizens after all, so it’s only proper for Palau to accede to China’s diplomatic overture.

  2. Regarding the “Italy: Premier Urges No Vote on Referendum” headline,

    “The changes will guarantee a bipartisan system, they said, stressing that the two main political parties — PD and PdL — were now “being blackmailed” by their smaller allies.”

    What they really mean is that it will change Italy’s multi-party system into a defacto two party system similar to what we have here in the US. Considering how detrimental the two party system has been to America, I can only hope that the referandum is DOA.

  3. Re. the Holocaust Museum shooter, it turns out that he had links, however tenuous, to the BNP, via the now defunct AFBNP (American Friends of the BNP), which, in turn, was linked to other U.S. white supremacist organisations (there are photographs of Nick Griffin alongside Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Stephen “Don” Black, for example, which shows the kind of company he kept when he was in America on his fundraising tour and speaking to AFBNP meetings):

    Von Brunn BNP link

  4. According to Milan’s “Il Giornale,” citing London’s Pan-Arab daily, al Sharq al Awsat, it seems that among the meetings Ghedaffi will be holding in his Doria Panfili Park bedouin tent (said park presently closed to the usual joggers, dog owners and al fresco lovers), there will be one with the leaders of Rome’s Jewish Community. The purpose of the talks is to discuss the possibility of compensation for the Jews that had been expelled from Libya. The same paper went on to state that the idea had been announced by Seifualislam, Gheddafi’s second-born son.

  5. Oops the Italian paper was “Il Corriere della Sera”… Il Giornale instead reported that at dinner he drank wine. Compensation to Jews and Ghedaffi drinking wine, might be connected. Contracts for 50 billion dollars are in the offing. (I’m not entirely sure whether it depends on his other son being allowed to play calcio for Juventus). And nobody except Frattini flinched when he likened the USA to Al Quaeda. He also declared that the Billion Euros that EU forks over to Libya to stop the illegal immigration boats from leaving his North African shores, is plainly not enough.

    There was no mention of the type of wine drunk at the dinner. But to lead him to want to compensate Jews, my guess is a Barbaresco 1997.

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