Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/13/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/13/2009Palestinian reaction to Obama’s speech in Cairo has been favorable. According to Palestinians interviewed for the Jerusalem Post, they are very pleased and consider him to be the best friend they have ever had in the White House. Obama-Hu Akbar!

In other news, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a landslide victory in Iran’s presidential election, amidst protests by supporters of his principle opponent. Also, a major Australian bank is trial-marketing shariah-compliant loans.

Thanks to Brutally Honest, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, Judith Apter Klinghoffer, The Observer, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Crime and Racial Profiling
Divided We Stand
Europe and the EU
France: Paris Bailiffs Chase Saudi Princess for Unpaid Bills
Gaddafi in Rome: Boos and Protest at Sapienza University
Hungary: Outrage Over Obscene Anti-Semitic Internet Post by Morvai
Italy: Kercher Defendant ‘Imagined Things’
Spain: Arms; Morocco 3rd-Largest Market, Israel Sales Up 60%
UK: Feminist Who Thinks Men Should Bring Up Babies is New Labour Family Guru
UK: Miliband Nearly Quit Last Week: Report
UK: Max Hastings: BNP in Power — Immigration and This Insidious Conspiracy of Silence
UK: Science Policy Scrutiny ‘At Risk’
Albania: Corruption in Decline, More Transparency
Serbia-Slovenia: Protocol Signed on Readmission
North Africa
Algeria: Military Expenses Top USD 5.2bln, Highest in Africa
Israel and the Palestinians
Israeli Right-Wingers ‘Will Topple’ Benjamin Netanyahu if He Backs Palestinian State
Palestinian Affairs: Obama-Hu Akbar!
S. Craxi in Jenin for Region’s Economic Potential
Violence Rising in West Bank Settlements, Israeli NGO
Middle East
Ahmadinejad Confirmed Victor; Violent Protests Erupt in Tehran
Environment: Emirates Launch Underground Waste Collection
Environment: Abu Dhabi Plans to Recycle Koran Pages
Iran Election Protests Turn Violent
Riots Flare as Ahmadinejad Wins Landslide in Iran
Turkey: Landmark Ergenekon Trial Marks 100th Session
Kremlin Wants Closer US-Russian Anti-Terror Ties
Russia Snubs U.S. Call to Consider Hosting Radar
Former Official Killed in Russia’s North Caucasus
South Asia
India: Andhra Pradesh: Dalit Archbishop Wants Equal Dignity for Christians and Hindus
Indonesia: Thousands of Children Exploited for Sex Trade, Says UN
Pakistan: 7 Thousand Cases of Violence Against Minors in 2008
Far East
China: Authorities Fear High Number of Unemployed College Graduates
Fighting the War on Terror With Outsourcing
Australia — Pacific
Climate Laws Add to Police Workload
NAB to Trial Interest Free Muslim Loans
Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa’s Top 10 ‘Big Men’
Latin America
Air France Probe Suggests Plane Broke Up in Air, Estado Says
Gaddafi Says Tide is Difficult to Stem
Gaddafi in Rome: Libya Needs More EU Money for Immigration
Internet Free Ride Soon Over


Crime and Racial Profiling

It would be illuminating if the NYCLU suggested what the proper percentage of stops should be for the various racial and ethnic groups. Doing so might force it to acknowledge the following facts about crime in New York: Blacks commit about 68 percent of all violent crime in the city, according to police records, though they are just 24 percent of the city’s population. According to data from victims and witnesses, blacks commit about 82 percent of all shootings and 72 percent of all robberies. Whites commit about 5 percent of all violent crimes, though they make up 35 percent of the city’s population, and commit 1 percent of shootings and about 4 percent of robberies

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Divided We Stand

Remember that classic Beatles riff of the 1960s: “You say you want a revolution?” Imagine this instead: a devolution. Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society.

There might be an austere Republic of New England, with a natural strength in higher education and technology; a Caribbean-flavored city-state Republic of Greater Miami, with an anchor in the Latin American economy; and maybe even a Republic of Las Vegas with unfettered license to pursue its ambitions as a global gambling, entertainment and conventioneer destination. California? America’s broke, ill-governed and way-too-big nation-like state might be saved, truly saved, not by an emergency federal bailout, but by a merciful carve-up into a trio of republics that would rely on their own ingenuity in making their connections to the wider world. And while we’re at it, let’s make this project bi-national—economic logic suggests a natural multilingual combination between Greater San Diego and Mexico’s Northern Baja, and, to the Pacific north, between Seattle and Vancouver in a megaregion already dubbed “Cascadia” by economic cartographers.

Devolved America is a vision faithful both to certain postindustrial realities as well as to the pluralistic heart of the American political tradition—a tradition that has been betrayed by the creeping centralization of power in Washington over the decades but may yet reassert itself as an animating spirit for the future. Consider this proposition: America of the 21st century, propelled by currents of modernity that tend to favor the little over the big, may trace a long circle back to the original small-government ideas of the American experiment. The present-day American Goliath may turn out to be a freak of a waning age of politics and economics as conducted on a super-sized scale—too large to make any rational sense in an emerging age of personal empowerment that harks back to the era of the yeoman farmer of America’s early days. The society may find blessed new life, as paradoxical as this may sound, in a return to a smaller form.

This perspective may seem especially fanciful at a time when the political tides all seem to be running in the opposite direction. In the midst of economic troubles, an aggrandizing Washington is gathering even more power in its hands. The Obama Administration, while considering replacing top executives at Citigroup, is newly appointing a “compensation czar” with powers to determine the retirement packages of executives at firms accepting federal financial bailout funds. President Obama has deemed it wise for the U.S. Treasury to take a majority ownership stake in General Motors in a last-ditch effort to revive this Industrial Age brontosaurus. Even the Supreme Court is getting in on the act: A ruling this past week awarded federal judges powers to set the standards by which judges for state courts may recuse themselves from cases.

All of this adds up to a federal power grab that might make even FDR’s New Dealers blush. But that’s just the point: Not surprisingly, a lot of folks in the land of Jefferson are taking a stand against an approach that stands to make an indebted citizenry yet more dependent on an already immense federal power. The backlash, already under way, is a prime stimulus for a neo-secessionist movement, the most extreme manifestation of a broader push for some form of devolution. In April, at an anti-tax “tea party” held in Austin, Governor Rick Perry of Texas had his speech interrupted by cries of “secede..” The Governor did not sound inclined to disagree. “Texas is a unique place,” he later told reporters attending the rally. “When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.”

Such sentiments resonate beyond the libertarian fringe. The Daily Kos, a liberal Web site, recently asked Perry’s fellow Texas Republicans, “Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America? It was an even split: 48% for the U.S., 48% for a sovereign Texas, 4% not sure. Amongst all Texans, more than a third—35%—said an independent Texas would be better. The Texas Nationalist Movement claims that over 250,000 Texans have signed a form affirming the organization’s goal of a Texas nation.

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

Europe and the EU

France: Paris Bailiffs Chase Saudi Princess for Unpaid Bills

PARIS (AFP) — A Saudi princess alleged to have run up unpaid bills worth millions of euros in a Paris shopping spree has agreed to settle a 125,000-dollar tab after bailiffs turned up at her hotel, a lawyer said.

Upmarket clothes store Key Largo filed suit in a Paris court this week against Maha al-Sudairi, wife of Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, over an outstanding bill of 89,000 euros (125,000 dollars).

Bailiffs turned up on Friday at the luxury George V hotel, which is owned by Sudairi’s nephew Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, after a court order authorised the seizure of her belongings, the store’s lawyer Jacky Benazerah said late Friday.

“The Saudi Arabian consul was called out in person,” he said.

French media reported the princess was holed up in her room at the four-star hotel just off the Champs Elysees while her staff wrangled with the bailiffs, although the George V would not confirm she was on the premises.

After three hours of talks, the princess’ aides had handed over a guaranteed cheque of 89,000 euros, with a pledge the money would be transferred by Wednesday, said the lawyer.

Benazareh said he was told the bills went unpaid due to an oversight by her staff.

But the Saudi princess is alleged to have left a trail of unpaid bills at top Parisian locations including one for 10 million euros at the Crillon hotel, according to French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

Benazareh said Paris jewellers Chaumet has also taken legal action against the princess. The Journal du Dimanche says the store is owed more than 600,000 euros.

The manager of luxury lingerie store “Aux caprices de Lili,” which is just opposite the George V, told AFP the princess had run up a slate of 70,000 euros’ worth of designer underwear, silk bathrobes and swimwear.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi in Rome: Boos and Protest at Sapienza University

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 11 — The visit of Libyan leader Gaddafi to Rome’s ‘La Sapienza’ University was accompanied by the expected chorus of protest. A group of students greeted his arrival with boos and shouting, the setting off of red smoke-bombs and waving protest banners — some of them in Arabic. But he was given an ovation by a group of around fifty Kurds who awaited him with banners showing pictures of the PKK leader Ocalan. In the university’s main hall, while the Colonel was answering a question, a group of students interrupted him, shouting “Let us speak, let us speak”, after the microphone had been snatched away from a female student of the Onda movement by men of Gaddafi’s staff just as she was about to pose her question. When things quietened down, Gaddafi was beginning his reply to another question when a group from the Onda movement started whistling and shouting. Covered by his staff who started clapping to hide the sound of the booing, Gaddafi made his exit from the hall earlier than planned. Also at Sapienza University, some Maghrebi women claimed that they had been “threatened” by ten or so Libyan men in dark suits. “They asked us why we weren’t wearing our veils. Yoùre Muslims, aren’t you? Why are you protesting against our leader?”. The police moved the group of Libyans along. For his part, university chancellor, Luigi Frati, said: “There is no Inquisition at Sapienza and nor is there censorship: we guarantee everyone the opportunity to speak in a civil manner, to express their ideas, even if they go against the grain, on the model of the Greek agora”. In Frati’s opinion “those who give voice to a high legal status,” have a right to speak at Sapienza “as it is necessary to build bridges and knock down walls”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi: Welcomed by Frati, “Leader of Great Nation”

(AGI) — Rome, 11 Jun. — Muammar Gheddafi has made his entrance into the hall of the Academic Senate of Rome’s La Sapienza University followed by the institution head, Luigi Frati. “He is the leader of a great Nation,” stated Frati, and we believe “that culture, research and technology might be a bridge toward the future. With these feelings of friendship we welcome the leader Gheddafi”. In some minutes the Colonel will be given a chance to speak in La Sapienza’s ‘Aula Magna’, where he will be given a chance to debate with students.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Hungary: Outrage Over Obscene Anti-Semitic Internet Post by Morvai

Jobbik chief MEP candidate Krisztina Morvai has written in a message to Hungarian Jews posted on an online forum that: “I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised d***s, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kind of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now OVER. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country.”

She made the remarks on the Deák Ferenc Civic Forum website.

Morvai’s wrath was unleashed by comments from Gábor Barát, finance manager of a New York radiology institute, who called her a psychiatric case and a monster. Barát, referring to himself as “a proud Hungarian Jew,” said Morvai foments hatred and said she should be banned from politics for her dangerous remarks.

Morvai did not deny that she wrote the message, but declined to comment further.

Antall-era foreign minister Géza Jeszenszky said in a message posted on the same forum that “this tone and style are astonishing, unworthy of Hungarian traditions and a woman. All decent Hungarian people can only condemn this contribution. Such words were not written even by Csurka”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Italy: Kercher Defendant ‘Imagined Things’

Amanda Knox blames testimony on police pressure

(ANSA) — Perugia, June 12 — American student Amanda Knox, on trial here with her ex-boyfriend for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, told the court Friday she had been pressured into “imagining” things during police questioning.

“Everything I said I said under pressure. It was suggested to me by the public prosecutor. They suggested the way,” she said, responding to the lawyer of Patrick Lumumba, a Perugia-based musician who Knox falsely accused of being the murderer.

“Under pressure I imagined lots of different things,” the 21-year-old Seattle-born student added.

Knox repeated claims she had been called a “stupid liar” when she was questioned a few days after the murder.

When Lumumba’s lawyer, Carlo Pacelli, asked Knox whether police had hit her to make her say that Kercher had had sex on the night of the murder, she answered “yes”.

Earlier in the trial Knox claimed she was “cuffed on the head” at a police station and told to “try to remember something else” before blaming the murder on Lumumba, at whose bar she worked.

Democratic Republic of Congo national Lumumba, 38, was arrested after Knox allegedly told police “he did it, he’s bad”, although she later withdrew her testimony.

Lumumba was released after 15 days in jail after an alibi confirmed he had been working in his city-centre pub on the night of the murder and police failed to find any forensic evidence linking him with the crime scene.

He is suing Knox for damages as a civil plaintiff as part of the murder trial.

As a defendant, Knox has the right not to answer questions, but took the stand Friday at the request of her defence team and of Lumumba’s lawyer.

Knox’s father, Kurt, said before the hearing began Friday that people would see “a new Amanda, not that dark angel that has been described so far”.


Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are on trial for murder and sexual violence as well as for simulating a crime to make it look like an intruder had broken into Kercher’s house.

Exchange student Kercher, 22, was found semi-naked and with her throat slit on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared in Perugia with Knox and two Italian women.

A third defendant, Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede, 21, was sentenced to 30 years for sexually assaulting and murdering the British exchange student at a separate trial last October.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has told the court that Kercher, who was found semi-naked in her bedroom with her throat slashed on November 2, 2007 was killed when Guede, Knox and Sollecito tried to force her to participate in “a perverse group sex game”.

In Mignini’s reconstruction of events, Sollecito and Guede held Kercher’s arms while Knox slashed her throat with a kitchen knife.

The public prosecutor said Guede had also tried to rape Kercher.

But Guede’s lawyers claim that the crime was carried out by Knox and Sollecito alone.

Guede has always admitted to being in the house on the night of the murder but says he was in the bathroom when Kercher was murdered.

The defendants deny wrongdoing and their defence teams claim their clients were not in the house and that the crime was committed by a single attacker.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Arms; Morocco 3rd-Largest Market, Israel Sales Up 60%

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 10 — Exports of arms from Spain were slightly up in 2008, and Morocco has become the third-largest customer of the country’s military industry, as well as its biggest non-European client. The figures were released in a report presented to Congress by Secretary of State for trade, and previewed today in El Pais. Some 40.7% of sales of Spanish weapons went to EU countries, and 70.5% to NATO member countries, including Norway and the USA — traditional purchasers of hunting weapons and pistols made in Spain. However, a significant portion of Spain’s arms exports went to Morocco, with supplies worth 113.90 million euros. The increase in export volumes is due to the supply of 1,015 off-road military vehicles, tanks and ambulances. There was also a significant increase in exports to Colombia: 31.7 million euros compared with 16 in 2007, including a transport aeroplane and military vehicles. One section of the report is devoted to sales to Israel, a controversial topic in Spain, given that the figures relating to the first six months of 2008 coincided with the Israeli bombing of Gaza. During the past year Spain sold a total of 2.4 million guns to Israel, 60% more than the 1.5 million of 2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Feminist Who Thinks Men Should Bring Up Babies is New Labour Family Guru

A hardline feminist has been chosen as the Government’s new chief spokesman on families. Dr Katherine Rake, who wants to see men bring up babies, will head the Family and Parenting Institute, a heavily state-financed organisation set up by Labour to speak for parents and children. Dr Rake, who will take over from the Institute’s founding chief executive Mary MacLeod, has long declared her intention is not to support parents as they are, but to revolutionise their lives. Writing in The Guardian three years ago, she said: ‘We want to transform the most intimate and private relations between women and men. ‘We want to change not just who holds power in international conglomerations, but who controls the household budget. ‘We want to change not just what childcare the state provides, but who changes the nappies at home.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Miliband Nearly Quit Last Week: Report

LONDON (AFP) — Foreign Secretary David Miliband indicated in an interview Saturday he nearly quit in a wave of resignations which left Prime Minister Gordon Brown fighting for his job last week.

Highlighting the ongoing threat to Brown’s authority, Lord Peter Mandelson, effectively his deputy, predicted separately he would face another leadership challenge at the ruling Labour party’s annual conference in September.

Brown endured the worst week of his rocky premiership after Labour suffered historic losses in European and local elections on June 4 which saw the resignation of 11 ministers amid calls for him to quit.

But he managed to hold on to power as no alternative candidate put themselves forward. Some commentators say that had Miliband — reportedly behind a plot against Brown last year — gone, Brown would have had to follow.

“Sometimes you can make your decisions with great planning and calculation and sometimes you have to make them rather more quickly,” Miliband told the Guardian newspaper.

“I made my decision (not to resign) in good faith… we all have to live with our decisions.”

Meanwhile, Mandelson told the Daily Telegraph there was a “small group” of rebels who “won’t be reconciled to the prime minister’s leadership” but added that he would not “lose any sleep” over the threat posed by them.

Opinion polls suggest Brown’s government will be defeated by the main opposition Conservatives, led by David Cameron, in the next general election, which must be held by the middle of next year.

The Brown administration’s popularity has been hit hard by a scandal over lawmakers claiming generous expenses from the public purse for the upkeep of their homes, which has dominated news headlines here for several weeks.

In a sign of how the story has angered Britons, the country’s new poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy released her first verse in the job to the Guardian Saturday — and it seemed to be a bitter reflection on the expenses row.

The poem from the royal family’s official bard, entitled “Politics”, includes the lines: “How it takes/the breath/away, the piss, makes of your kiss a dropped pound coin/makes of your promises latin, gibberish, feedback, static”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Max Hastings: BNP in Power — Immigration and This Insidious Conspiracy of Silence

Britain’s body politic has been shocked to the core by this week’s election of two British National Party candidates to the European Parliament.

Their success is described as ‘the ultimate protest vote’. It has been attributed to public disgust with MPs of all parties following the expenses scandal.

Few, if any, Parliamentarians of any persuasion admit what is self-evident to the rest of us: that many thousands of voters back the BNP because it opposes further mass immigration to Britain.

We live in an age and a society allegedly committed to openness as the supreme virtue. Yet our politicians show themselves no more capable of frankness about the massive problems posed by immigration than about the future of an insolvent NHS, the absence of any sensible energy strategy for the future and the gradual collapse of pension provision which will soon start hitting the state sector as well.

In the face of deafening silence about migration from Tories, Labour and LibDems alike, some desperate people vent their bitterness by backing the only group they think willing to speak up for them, even though its character and attitudes are repulsive.

Polls show that most BNP voters are male and working class. More than one-third of them are manual workers. This means that they live among migrants, in a way that the liberal middle class does not.

Some 77 per cent of BNP voters believe that white people in Britain are now victims of discrimination. Many are former Labour voters and think their old party has betrayed them.

Only about half of BNP supporters explicitly admit to being racists. The rest are simply people who believe that their traditional communities are being destroyed, jobs lost or put at risk, by uncontrolled immigration.

Before considering how much of this is true, we should acknowledge that the perception is now widespread. It extends far beyond those who brought themselves to vote for the BNP.

The main parties, and especially the Tories, believe that by saying little or nothing about immigration, they escape the charge from the Left that they are promoting racial hatred, going back to their bad old Powellite ways.

Instead, however, there seems a powerful argument that they are thus failing in their duty as an opposition, to lay bare the failure of government policy.

They ignore a matter which deeply troubles voters. Some 80 per cent of people questioned in a YouGov poll for the independent think-tank MigrationWatch say that they are ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about levels of immigration.

Many thoughtful, educated people who would not dream of voting for the BNP nonetheless daily use such phrases as ‘It’s not our country any more’, and ‘I don’t feel I belong in the place where I grew up’.

Only a tiny handful of people, notably the brave and impeccably liberal figures of Labour MP Frank Field and Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman Trevor Phillips, have shown themselves willing publicly to acknowledge the huge social and political strains which immigration imposes on our society.

Scarcely one of Britain’s mainstream politicians is anywhere to be seen in a debate of vital concern for our national future.

The figures show clearly that this Labour Government has sanctioned and promoted a vast increase in migration, and thus in Britain’s population, without the most tenuous mandate for its policy from the nation.

For 20 years before Tony Blair became Prime Minister, immigration averaged 54,000 a year. It then rose steeply to 97,000 in 1999. In 2007, the last year for which figures are available, 333,000 more foreign nationals entered Britain than left.

In addition, there are estimated to be 725,000 illegal immigrants in the country, 518,000 of these in London.

On the Government’s own, almost certainly understated, numbers, our population will pass 70 million by 2028. It could reach 80 million in the course of the century.

We are the most overcrowded country in Europe, save Malta. Some 24 per cent of all births in this country are to foreign-born mothers.

Asylum-seekers now account for only 10 per cent of newcomers — though still 30,000 a year. Nor, contrary to popular myth, are most migrants East Europeans, the fabled Polish plumbers. Only 87,000 of the 2007 intake came from Eastern Europe, less than a quarter of the total.

Most new arrivals come from the Third World, at a rate which is increasing the national population by almost one per cent every two years.

How has this state of affairs come about? First, since 1997 the Government has quadrupled the number of work permits issued to foreigners. After five years here, permit-holders have a right to apply for permanent residence.

Second, Labour greatly eased restrictions governing the rights of anybody married to a resident to enter Britain. Numbers of those entering with a certificate of marriage, real or fixed for the purpose, have doubled.

Finally, there are students — 360,000 a year. There are no effective checks, first on whether they come to attend bona fide places of learning, and second upon ensuring their return home after completing their courses.

There were dramatic revelations last month about the major industry of phoney ‘colleges’ which teach nothing and exist solely to enable economic migrants, at a price, to enter Britain.

David Blunkett, as Home Secretary, was one of the villains of the piece. He is one of many New Labour standard-bearers who both proclaim the value of large-scale immigration to this country, and greatly eased the path of those seeking to come here.

In 2004, he asserted defiantly: ‘Migrants don’t just come to fill jobs — they also create jobs, helping our economy grow and giving us a more vibrant culture.’

These arguments were brutally dismissed last year in a report by the House of Lords’ Economic Committee, one of the very few political bodies to have dared to conduct a serious review of policy. The peers concluded that, contrary to New Labour propaganda, immigration has had ‘little or no impact’ on the economic well-being of Britain and offers ‘insignificant’ benefits to the existing UK population.

The argument that we need masses of immigrants to compensate for our ageing domestic workforce is nullified by the reality — obvious to all except Labour ministers — that immigrants, too, get old and become pensioners.

The social impact of migrants on existing communities is enormous, of course. Almost all choose to settle in England rather than the Celtic fringes. Anyone who walks the streets of London or any major English city today hears 20 languages spoken as readily as English.

This may be ‘richly culturally diverse’, as New Labour-speak puts the matter. But it causes many English people to feel deeply disorientated in their own home towns.

Because we are vastly less assertive than the Americans in imposing our own culture on migrants, many newcomers resist learning English.

Today, there are 300 primary schools in England where more than 70 per cent of pupils — nearly half a million children — use English only as a second language.

It is unlikely the virtuous liberals of any major political party send their own children to such schools. I doubt that they would be happy if they had to do so.

It is sometimes suggested that migrants offer useful cheap labour. But there is no really cheap labour in a welfare state. Each new arrival represents an additional burden on policing, health, education and infrastructure which must be paid for. Many police forces have expressed concern about the pressures and costs imposed by the huge influx of migrants.

Police officers in Cambridgeshire, for instance, must deal with cases in almost 100 languages. The county’s translation costs have risen from £220,000 in 2002-3 to £800,000 in 2006-7. Its drink-drive figures show a 17-fold increase in arrests of foreigners.

Of the 94,200 people predicted to move into Cambridgeshire by 2016, 69,000 are expected to be foreigners. And this is just one county.

There are also heavy health costs — which seem especially relevant in a week when new figures show the NHS heading for a major financial crisis by 2011.

A few years ago, tuberculosis was all but extinct in Britain. Today, there is a striking increase in reported cases, 65 per cent of them involving patients not born in Britain, with 21 per cent Africanborn. Hepatitis B cases have almost doubled in six years, to 325,000, 96 per cent of these involving patients born outside the UK.

Even the Government halfheartedly and unconvincingly acknowledges that too many migrants are coming to Britain. Yet nothing effective is being done to check to the flow.

Ministers have committed themselves to what they call ‘an Australian-style points system’ for assessing candidates for entry. Yet this will lack the indispensable feature of Australian policy — a defined upper limit on overall numbers.

Scrutiny of visa applications at British embassies abroad has become less rather than more stringent, because much of the work is now handled by local rather than British staff.

The Government lies again and again about its real commitment to address immigration. This is partly because it fears to tangle with its own Left-wingers, who are viscerally committed to the ideal of open borders.

The Government’s carelessness on this issue can scarcely fail to be influenced by the fact that ethic minorities vote pretty solidly for Labour.

In some constituencies, socalled ‘community leaders’ of minorities exercise significant influence, because they are able to deliver a block vote at elections which can amount to 2,000 or more ballots.

The Tories have raised the prospect of introducing a specified upper limit on migrants, but have given no hint of what this might be. Most Conservative front-benchers maintain a trappist silence on an issue which the leadership fears can be used by Labour to raise once more the spectre of themselves as ‘the nasty party’.

In a pitifully mute Commons, one of the boldest and most reasonable initiatives came last September from Labour MP Frank Field and Tory Nicholas Soames, who together published a pamphlet calling for a policy of ‘balanced migration’ — allowing into Britain each year no more people than leave — in 2007, some 96,000.

‘Our concern,’ they wrote, ‘is not the principle of immigration, but its scale. This rate of arrival is 25 times higher than any previous influx of immigration in nearly 1,000 years of our nation’s history. Nor is this influx due to globalisation. It is largely the result of government policies.’

Yet there is no evidence that, since the publication of Field’s and Soames’s report, the Conservatives are any more wiling than Labour to grasp the issue with conviction.

Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch, whose relentless, but calm and objective, barrage of statistics is often criticised but never plausibly disputed, says: ‘The Tories decline to discuss immigration at all. The LibDems have no policy except for an attack on illegal immigration. The Government gives an appearance of activity, but has not yet taken effective action.

‘We have been warning until we are blue in the face that if the major parties fail to address this issue, extremists would start to gain public support.’

And thus it was, this week, the repulsive BNP gained more votes in the European elections than Sir Oswald Mosley’s fascists dreamed of in the 1930s Depression.

Whether Britain’s mainstream politicians admit it or not, a major cause of public disillusionment is their bland, frankly craven refusal to address an issue about which a vast number of British people care deeply: the perceived alienation and transformation of their own society.

The latest YouGov poll shows that many voters feel ‘insecure’ in their own homeland. How could they not? The BNP will only be erased as a force from Britain’s political landscape, as we should all hope that it will be, when those parties which seriously aspire to govern Britain present coherent, realistic immigration policies; when they address an issue about which much of the country cares more than the recession, health, education, Europe — the cultural identity and population stability of the island in which we live.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Science Policy Scrutiny ‘At Risk’

Scrutiny of science policy is at risk, say MPs who have urged the government to establish a House of Commons science and technology committee.

The warning comes in a report by the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee (IUSS).

With science and business merged into the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, “science could be lost in a black hole”, they say.

They want the science committee, which was abolished in 2007, re-established.

The Science and Technology Committee was discontinued with the creation of the Department for Innovation Universities and Skills.

This recent merger appears to be the final straw for IUSS committee MPs, who fear that science could disappear in what committee chairman Phil Willis MP called the “all-encompassing ‘super department’ of Business, Innovation and Skills”.

Mr Willis said that the “desire to exploit the UK’s world-class science base in order to contribute to economic recovery” was “commendable, valid and not in dispute”.

But, he added, “establishing a science and technology select committee is critical both to reassure the science community that proper examination of science and engineering across government remains a priority, and to ensure MPs have an effective and transparent arena in which to hold the government’s science policy to account”.

The Campaign for Science & Engineering (Case) welcomed the IUSS report.

Nick Dusic, Case’s director, said: “The abolition of the Science and Technology Committee was a mistake that the government should rectify.

“Letting parliament re-establish the Science and Technology Committee would show that it is handing power back to the House of Commons.

“Incorporating science scrutiny within a business, innovation and skills committee would severely limit both the scope and frequency of inquiries on science and engineering issues within government.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Albania: Corruption in Decline, More Transparency

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, JUNE 10 — Efforts by Albanian authorities in their fight against corruption has achieved results. In its latest report, Transparency International (TI) reports that the Corruption Perception Index for Albania has improved. In 2008 the country ranked 85th in the world rankings of countries in terms of perceived levels of corruption, while over the past few years — as the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Tirana noted — Albania had climbed from 126th (2005) to 111th (2006), and then to 105th place (2007). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Serbia-Slovenia: Protocol Signed on Readmission

(ANSAmed) — BEGLRADE, JUNE 9 — Interior ministers of Serbia and Slovenia, Ivica Dacic and Katarina Kresal, respectively, signed a protocol on readmission in Ljubljana, reports Tanjug news agency. Dacic told Tanjug that Slovenia and its Interior ministry support abolition of visas to the EU countries for citizens of Serbia and its path towards European integrations. “We believe that such a stand will be important for the European Commission’s decision on the visa regime abolition for the citizens of Serbia by the end of the year,” said Dacic. According to him, Serbia has an excellent cooperation with Slovenia and its police. Dacic recalled that Serbia has an agreement with the EU on readmission but that it will sign protocols on the implementation of the process with each individual country. Minister Dacic also underlined that the process had so far been successful, adding that it is one of the prerequisites for the visa liberalization for Serbia and its European integrations.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Military Expenses Top USD 5.2bln, Highest in Africa

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 10 — According to the latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), military expenses in Algeria have reached record levels of USD 5.2 billion in Algeria. “With Algeria’s 18% increase in military spending, they spend the most in all off Africa on their military,” was read in a report published by the Algerian press, and they are following a global trend. Since 2007, military spending globally has increased by 4%, exceeding 1.46 billion dollars, 2.4% of the world GDP. According to the SIPRI head of the sector, Sam Perlo Freeman, cited by Le Quotidien d’Oran, “Algeria’s increased military spending is due to the government’s choice to respond militarily to the fundamentalist insurrection”. “Algeria is the African country with the highest spending in the sector,” continued Freeman, “and they could attempt to increase their importance in the region by becoming a military power in the area”. Furthermore, “there are also public reasons,” he concluded, “soldiers have traditionally had an important role in the Algerian political landscape”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Right-Wingers ‘Will Topple’ Benjamin Netanyahu if He Backs Palestinian State

“We will try to topple him,” Arieh Eldad, head of the National Union party, a coalition member, told The Sunday Telegraph. “We will work to recruit all those who are loyal to the Land of Israel. He cannot lie to his voters.”

Against the backdrop of intense US pressure on Israel to make bold moves for peace, Dr Eldad’s comments underscore the opposing pressures on Mr Netanyahu.

Some aides have indicated that Mr Netanyahu does intend to give guarded approval for Palestinian statehood in a speech that commentators are describing as a “moment of truth” for the hawkish prime minister.

He met over the weekend Israeli president Shimon Peres, the former Labour leader who was condemned last week by right-wing coalition partners Jewish Home and National Union for calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The speech follows President Barack Obama’s sweeping address to the Muslim world in Cairo in which he made it clear the United States expected Israel to accept a Palestinian state — a development against which Mr Netanyahu has been an outspoken opponent throughout career.

Mr Obama also said Israel’s building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank — on land where the Palestinians plan to build their state — undermined peace efforts and must be stopped.

In his speech, Mr Netanyahu faces the task of both placating the new US administration while fighting to save his government whose survival is dependent on nationalist parties.

There are already indications that Washington is dissatisfied with what Mr Netanyahu plans to say. An Obama administration official said the message of the planned speech, the outlines of which they were informed of by US envoy George Mitchell, was”not adequate”.

Meanwhile in Israel there have been reports of secret outreach efforts with potential rebels from the opposition Kadima party, many of whom are former members of Mr Netanyahu’s own ruling Likud party but support Palestinian statehood, in the hopes they might break ranks and join his government.

One of the concerns among critics in Israel is even if Mr Netanyahu supports a Palestinian state, is that he might only do so only in what is perceived by them as the more sluggish framework of the U.S. and European-backed “road map” Mideast plan formulated in 2003 which calls for a gradual and conditional creation of a Palestinian state.

Avishai Braverman, a Cabinet minister and member Israel’s Labour party, said he has recommended that Mr Netanyahu act boldly and accept the time has come for a Palestinian state, despite opposition to the idea from not just more hard-line nationalist parties but his own Likud.

“The role of leader is to think what is right for future of our children and therefore what’s important is that he decides to embrace the Obama initiative and move forward. I think its an historic moment and if Israel does not move towards partitioning the Holy Land than it could be a call for one person, one vote and that could ultimately be the end of the Jewish state,” he said.

Nitzan Horowitz, a lawmaker representing the Left-wing Meretz party, agreed.

“There is a clear majority in Israel that supports the creation of a Palestinian state and the longer Netanyahu delays this and puts up obstacles, we all going to suffer. We expect him to acknowledge that and lead.”

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

Palestinian Affairs: Obama-Hu Akbar!

‘For the first time, we feel we have a friend in the White House.” This is what a Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah had to say this week, after listening to US President Barack Obama’s address to Arabs and Muslims from Cairo.

The official’s sentiments reflected those of many Palestinians who are beginning to talk about a “new era” in relations between the Arabs and the US under the Obama administration.

Words of praise for an American president are extremely rare in the Arab world. But Obama appears to be headed toward making history by becoming the first US president in modern history who is not being accused of bias toward Israel, and who is being hailed for his “balanced” approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

For some Palestinians, Obama may even turn out to be better than most of the Arab and Muslim leaders. As one woman in Ramallah put it, “When I heard Obama speaking [from Cairo], I felt as if I were listening to the head of an Arab or Islamic state. He’s really a great man.”

Like many in the Arab and Islamic world, the Palestinians are fond of Obama, first and foremost, because he’s not George W. Bush. As far as they were concerned, Bush was more pro-Israel than many Israelis, and that’s why he was reviled by most Arabs and Muslims.

“After eight years of Bush, anyone would be better received,” said As’ad Abu al-Hayat, a physician from Hebron. “Obama speaks in a different language, and is obviously more respectful of Islam and Muslims.”

Obama has apparently also won the hearts and minds of some Islamic fundamentalist groups. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal heaped praise on him, because he had refrained from calling “resistance attacks” against Israel “terrorism.”

“Obama is talking in a new language, one that is different from the voice we used to hear from the previous US administration,” Mashaal said in an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Kuds. “Obama avoided branding our resistance operations terrorism, but he made a mistake when he compared the situation of the Palestinians to that of blacks in America.”

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh also went on the record praising Obama’s “even-handed” approach. He said he was especially encouraged by the US administration’s position vis-à-vis settlement construction, the two-state solution and the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip.

According to sources close to Hamas, the Egyptians this week told Mashaal that the Obama administration would exert pressure on Israel to lift the blockade and launch indirect talks with Hamas, if the Islamic movement agreed to a long-term cease-fire, and ended its power struggle with the rival Fatah faction.

Mashaal, the sources added, was told by the Egyptians that calm in the Gaza Strip would make it easier for the Obama administration to put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to make far-reaching concessions. Mashaal is reported to have expressed his movement’s readiness to pursue reconciliation talks with Fatah and maintain the relative calm in Gaza.

THE PA, too, wants to facilitate Obama’s mission. The recent escalation in anti-Hamas raids by its security forces in the West Bank is aimed at showing Obama that Fatah is serious about fulfilling its obligations under the road map, particularly with regard to fighting terrorism.

The anti-Hamas offensive — which resulted in the killing of four top Hamas militiamen in Kalkilya — coincided with Obama’s address, and came on the eve of a visit to Ramallah by US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, who met separately with Mitchell, are said to have heard words of praise for their recent measures against Hamas in the West Bank.

Under the Bush administration, the PA was under tremendous pressure to fight terrorism, end financial corruption and establish proper governing institutions. But now there is a sigh of relief among senior PA officials in Ramallah because, they say, they are no longer facing the same pressure as before.

The Obama administration knows that the ball is actually in the Israeli court and not the Palestinian court, remarked one of Abbas’s aides after this week’s meeting with Mitchell. “The Americans now understand that it’s Netanyahu who’s the obstacle to peace,” he added. “Netanyahu’s refusal to accept the two-state solution and his insistence on building in the settlements are the major threats to peace. We Palestinians, on the other hand, remain committed to the peace process, the two-state solution and to fulfilling all our obligations under the road map.”

FATAH AND Hamas appear to differ on almost everything — except when it comes to Obama. Both parties are pinning high hopes on the new American administration.

Hamas is desperate to end the state of isolation it has been in since the movement came to power in 2006. It feels there is a good chance that the Obama administration, through its conciliatory approach toward radical Muslims and Arabs, would assist it in winning recognition and legitimacy in the international arena. So far, the messages that Hamas has been receiving from Washington — through the Egyptians, Saudis and Qataris — are, as far as Mashaal and Haniyeh are concerned, very positive and encouraging.

Similarly, the PA leadership in the West Bank has every reason to be satisfied with the apparent shift in US policy on the Middle East. Some PA officials emerged from this week’s talks with Mitchell with big smiles on their faces. The Obama administration, one of them boasted, has almost entirely endorsed the Palestinian stance on major issues like settlements, the two-state solution and Jerusalem.

A number of officials in Ramallah predicted that the looming crisis between the Obama administration and Netanyahu would either force Israel to make radical changes in its policies or bring down the new right-wing coalition. The feeling among many officials in the Mukata presidential compound is that Netanyahu has no choice but to succumb to the American pressure or face new elections — in which case, they say, they would prefer to see Tzipi Livni and Kadima in power.

“For now, Obama is our man in Washington,” commented one official. “But if he fails to follow up on his nice statements with deeds on the ground, we and the rest of the Arabs and Muslims will turn against him very quickly.”

[Return to headlines]

S. Craxi in Jenin for Region’s Economic Potential

(ANSAmed) — JENIN (WEST BANK), JUNE 11 — Italy is promoting the industrial area of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, with “the strategic objective of focusing on the area’s potential for local economic development and to attract investment.” This is what the undersecretary to the Foreign Ministry, Stefania Craxi, stressed today at a conference of Italian and Palestinian entrepreneurs in the Haddad Centre in Jenin, to conclude a mission to the Palestinian Territories. The objective was that of favouring private sector contacts for Italian small and medium sized businesses with possible local partners, especially in the food, marble, construction and building sectors. Jenin is located in a “strategic position,” Craxi stated, “40 km from the port at Haifa, 30 km from the Jordanian border and 40 km from that of Syria.” It is another Palestinian city to be inserted into the EuroMidBridge, a logistical corridor that will connect Northern Europe and the Middle East, based around Verona’s freight village. Italy contributed 200,000 euros to initial research for the project. “None of us,” Craxi said, “intends to substitute the peace process with ‘economic peace’. We are convinced that the political dimension of the peace process must remain intact.” However it will be economic development to “make it last”, she repeated on more than one occasion to the people that accompanied her on the two day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Stefania Craxi also invited the Palestinian Premier, Salam Fayyad, to a presentation forum for investment opportunities in the territories that is scheduled to take place in Milan in November. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Violence Rising in West Bank Settlements, Israeli NGO

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 10 — Episodes of violent and intolerant behaviour against the Palestinian population by radical groups of settlers in Jewish West Bank settlements are on the rise. The claim was made in a report by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, published today by Ynet, an online newspaper. The report provides an account of all the episodes of aggression, marches and provocative raids made by Israelis into Arab areas, as well as other hostile incidents, all of which have been on the rise in recent months. This behaviour, partly fed by the international community’s growing firmness with Israel and the Obama Administration’s call for the freezing of the settlements, has however found political support from the National Union, a far-right nationalist opposition party in the Israeli parliament. Furthermore, the behaviour has given rise to tension, recriminations and, at times, threats to Israeli police and military. What Yesh Din particularly denounces, however, is the growing amount of attacks being made on Palestinian farmers and the farms, from which many draw their only form of support. Indeed, the recent destruction or burning of hundreds of fruit and olive trees has been noted. On the other hand, Ynet reports the news that a Jewish settler and his young son were recently rescued to by several Palestinians after they had a road accident near Bethlehem. Ahmad Allam, one of the men that came to the settlers’ rescue, has said that “Our sense of humanity showed itself, at that moment, to be far stronger than the sense of animosity that the Israeli settlements give rise to”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Ahmadinejad Confirmed Victor; Violent Protests Erupt in Tehran

TEHRAN — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei annointed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of Friday’s presidential race, triggering violent protests across the nation and allegations by his nearest challenger of widespread vote rigging.

The violence ratcheted up the stakes in the most contentious election since the founding of the Islamic Republic 30 years ago. Prolonged strife or a political standoff would heighten the uncertainty hanging over a country that is one of the world’s biggest oil producers and Washington’s main irritant in the volatile Middle East.

As night descended on Tehran, supporters of main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi clashed with anti-riot police and plain-clothed militia. The city resembled a military zone as thousands of Special Forces units and anti-riot police stormed streets waving their electric batons and hitting rioters and onlookers.

Military cars blocked large swaths of main throughways and instead of traffic police, the para-military Basijis—trained volunteers in plain-clothes—were directing traffic. Vali Asr, the long Tehran avenue where Mousavi supporters last week formed a giant human chain during presidential campaigning, was covered in smoldered black ash—from burnt campaign posters that had been ripped from walls—and shattered glass. Dark smoke hung in the air from garbage dumpsters that were set ablaze on many streets.

On Motahari Avenue, one of the major streets in central Tehran, three public buses were set afire by demonstrators. Syamak Izadi, 62 years old, said he was riding on the bus in central Tehran when a group of men, dressed in Mr. Mousavi’s trademark green, stopped the bus and told passengers to get off. They then doused it with gasoline and set it afire, he said.

Protestors played cat and mouse with the police. They gathered on corners throwing their fists in the air, then ran away when riot police descended. On Hafteh Tir square, several hundred people, including men and women, young and old, marched blocking traffic shouting “God is Great” and asking the public to join them. People gathered on pedestrian bridges and encouraged the protestors while drivers honked their horns.

There was unconfirmed shooting reported in northern Tehran with reports of one woman injured from stray bullets.

“The results are not acceptable to us, Mousavi needs to lead the crowd and depose this government,” said a 37-year-old biologist who gave his name only as Kasra.

Shouts of “Allah o Akbar” rocked Tehran, reminiscent of the revolution where residents take to their rooftops and shout God is Great in order to show their protest.

Mobile phone service was suspended across the capital. BBC’s Persian language service, which many Iranians listen to for news, was jammed. Social networking site Facebook, used by Mr. Mousavi’s young supporters to organize, was blocked. On Vali Asr, a pedestrian bridge was set ablaze near Mellat Park.


Mr. Mousavi said there was an organized effort to block his campaign staff from communicating with one another and the public on Friday. The Ministry of Telecommunications imposed a nation-wide block of text messaging from mobiles. Mr. Mousavi’s supervisors at polls were planning to report discrepancies by text messages.

Thousands of Mr. Mousavi’s volunteer supervisors were not issued credentials by the Interior Ministry, which runs the elections, and were barred from polling stations, Mr. Mousavi said. Internet speed was slower than usual all day and by noon nearly all Web sites affiliated with Mr. Mousavi were blocked.

The campaign said that a group of people, who identified themselves as intelligence officers, entered Mr. Mousavi’s campaign headquarters in northern Tehran on Friday evening demanding that the young strategists at the campaign, responsible for much of deploying new media techniques, leave the premises.

Mr. Mousavi’s campaign lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh, said in an interview that Tehran’s chief prosecutor informed Mr. Mousavi’s campaign lawyer that security agents would arrive Saturday morning with a court order to shut down all their communication operations.

Mr. Obama and many of his advisers had been voicing optimism in recent days that the U.S. president’s outreach to the Islamic world, including his speech in Cairo last week, was helping facilitate a more moderate trend in the Middle East. They cited the victory in Lebanese elections last week of a pro-Western coalition against a political bloc led by Hezbollah.

“We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran,” Mr. Obama said Friday at the White House before the dueling claims of victory came out.

U.S. and European officials involved in Iran policy fear Mr. Ahmadinejad’s re-election could raise the prospect of sustained conflict between the West and Tehran in the coming months.

           — Hat tip: Judith Apter Klinghoffer [Return to headlines]

Environment: Emirates Launch Underground Waste Collection

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JUNE 9 — Tomorrow Abu Dhabi will activate a new hydroelectric system able to compress waste below street level, the city’s high-tech response to the need to optimise costs and quality of its waste collection. There will be three ‘waste stations’ to start with and this number will gradually rise to 31 in several areas of the capital. The waste material will be thrown into new rubbish containers which are linked to the new underground containers in which it will be compressed. If the underground containers are full, a signal will be sent to the control centre. The compression of the waste means it will have to be collected only twice a week instead of every day, saving on the number of garbage trucks, on fuel and reducing traffic and pollution. Majdi al Mansouri, director of the waste management centre, also told the press agency WAM that the centre is studying the world’s first recycling system for paper with representations related to the Islam on it, which therefore is sacred. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Environment: Abu Dhabi Plans to Recycle Koran Pages

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Green is a symbolic colour of the environment, but also of Islam. In a program uniting the environment and religion, the Abu Dhabi waste management centre is preparing a new system, the first in the world, to collect and recycle sacred texts and all paper with religious content. Islamic tradition dictates that copies of the Koran, like other religious texts, should not be thrown on the ground or thrown away when they are worn out and must be burned. “We are preparing a system that will allow for these texts to be destroyed and reused according to Islamic law,” explained the manager of the Majdi al-Mansuri waste management centre to ANSAmed, “paying attention to Islamic and ecological practices”. Currently, in all mosques, there is a specific container for sacred texts, but the waste management centre is proposing to guarantee the complete separation of the text from all material starting with the initial phases of recycling. Mosques will be equipped with specific containers to deposit the materials. They will be closed from the outside and usable only by specific individuals, and will hold an internal shredder that will reduce the holy texts into thin strips. A sensor will go off when the container has reached capacity and a special mobile unit will collect the “sacred waste”, which will be recycled and reused, since it will be ‘uncontaminated’. Still in the planning stages, the project is making use of funds from about 250 mosques in the Abu Dhabi area, and will be discussed with the Religious Affairs Ministry. But the original ideas of the ‘green’ revolution, which with billions in investments, are transforming the working arrangement in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will not stop here. A pioneering group of young architects, led by Professor Ahmad Mokhtar of the American University of Sharjah, inspired by Masdar City, a self-sustaining and zero pollution city which is taking shape near Abu Dhabi, has developed a series of projects for ecological mosques. The first objective is to optimise the use of electricity and water in mosques, which, due to the requirement to carry out ablutions before each prayer, use large amounts of water. The mosques have also been studied to exploit the solar potential of the country, making use of solar panels and wind, by using “wind towers”. Older mosques, open on all four sides due the architectural style in the UAE, have allowed for cool air to enter naturally and for warm air to exit, keeping them cool for centuries. This style disappeared with the creation of air conditioners, the towers will be used in mosques in various ways, starting with the high minarets. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iran Election Protests Turn Violent

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Angry crowds in Moseni Square in Iran’s capital Saturday night broke into shops, tore down signs and started fires as they protested the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to CNN employees at the scene.

They were yelling the name of Mir Hossein Moussavi, who the government says lost Friday’s presidential election by a wide margin.

Protests broke out in Tehran earlier Saturday after Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the vote.

The announcement brought thousands of Moussavi supporters onto the streets where they were met a strong police presence and the threat of violence.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said she saw riot police fighting “running battles” with protesters, who were shouting “death to dictatorship.”

The government said on Saturday that Ahmadinejad won Friday’s presidential election with 62.63 percent of the vote and Mir Hossein Moussavi received 33.75 percent of the vote.

Before the vote count ended, Moussavi issued a sharply worded letter urging the counting to stop because of “blatant violations” and lashed out at what he indicated was an unfair process.

Moussavi said the results from “untrustworthy monitors” reflected “the weakening of the pillars that constitute the sacred system” of Iran and “the rule of authoritarianism and tyranny.” Independent vote monitors were banned from polling places.

           — Hat tip: Brutally Honest [Return to headlines]

Riots Flare as Ahmadinejad Wins Landslide in Iran

TEHRAN (AFP) — Hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was on Saturday declared winner by a landslide in Iran’s hotly-disputed presidential vote, triggering riots by opposition supporters and furious complaints of cheating from his defeated rivals.

Baton-wielding police clashed with protestors in unrest not seen for a decade as thousands of supporters of main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets shouting “Down with the Dictator” after final results showed Ahmadinejad winning almost 63 percent of the vote.

Moderate ex-premier Mousavi cried foul over election irregularities and warned the outcome of the vote could lead to “tyranny,” as some of his supporters were beaten by riot police.

The interior minister said Mousavi had won less than 34 percent of the vote, giving Ahmadinejad another four-year term in a result that dashed Western hopes of change and set the scene for a possible domestic power struggle.

Iran’s all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailed Ahmadinejad’s victory and urged the country to unite behind him after the most heated election campaign since the Islamic revolution,

The vote outcome appears to have galvanised a grass-roots movement for change after 30 years of restrictive clerical rule in a country where 60 percent of the population was born after the revolution.

The international community had also been keenly watching the election for any signs of a shift in policy after four years of hardline rhetoric from the 52-year-old Ahmadinejad and a standoff over Iran’s nuclear drive.

Mousavi protested at what he described as “numerous and blatant irregularities” in the vote which officials said attracted a record turnout of around 85 percent of the 46 million electorate.

“No one can imagine such rigging, with the world watching, from a government who holds commitment to shariah-based justice as one of its basic pillars,” said Mousavi said in a letter posted on his campaign website.

“What we have seen from dishonest (election) officials will result in shaking the pillars of the Islamic republic system, and a dominance of lying and tyranny,” he said in a separate statement.

In the heart of Tehran, thousands of Mousavi supporters voiced their disbelief and frustration at the results, with some throwing stones at police who struck back with batons.

Angry crowds first emerged near Mousavi’s campaign office in central Tehran, where protestors, including women, were hit with sticks as riot police on motorbikes moved in to break up the gathering, an AFP correspondent said.

There were no immediate reports of violence elsewhere in the county.

Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who came a distant fourth with less than one percent of the vote after ex-Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai in third, also declared the result “illegitimate and unacceptable”.

“They have ruined the country and they want to ruin it more over the next four years,” shouted an irate mob outside Mousavi’s office.

But Khamenei hailed Ahmadinejad’s victory as a “feast.”

“The enemies may want to spoil the sweetness of this event… with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations,” he said. “The president elect is the president of the entire Iranian nation and… all should support and help him.”

Mousavi had been hoping for a political comeback on a groundswell of support among the nation’s youth, with pledges to ease restrictions particularly on women, and fix Iran’s ailing economy.

Ahmadinejad’s supporters had earlier taken to the streets in triumph, honking their horns and waving Iranian flags.

The election highlighted deep divisions in Iran after four years under Ahmadinejad, who had massive support in the rural heartland, while in the big cities young men and women threw their weight behind Mousavi.

The elite Revolutionary Guards had warned of a crackdown on any “velvet revolution” by supporters of the 67-year-old who was prime minister during the war with neighbouring Iraq in the 1980s.

Iran has long been at loggerheads with the West as Ahmadinejad delivered a succession of fiery tirades against Israel, repeatedly questioned the Holocaust and vowed to press on with nuclear work despite UN sanctions, denying allegations Tehran was seeking the atomic bomb.

“The results of the election show, now more than ever, how much stronger the Iranian threat has become,” said Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon.

US President Barack Obama, who has called for dialogue with Iran after three decades of severed ties, said he saw the “possibility of change” in relations with the regional Shiite powerhouse.

“Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there’s been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways,” Obama said.

Former US president Jimmy Carter, who was in power during the Islamic revolution, said he believed there would be no change in US policy “because the same person will be there.”

Even if Mousavi had won, it was doubtful there would be any major shift in Iran’s nuclear and foreign policy as all decisions on matters of state rest with Khamenei who has been in the nation’s top job for 20 years.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Landmark Ergenekon Trial Marks 100th Session

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — The 100th hearing of the Ergenekon trial, where 88 suspects stand accused of membership in a clandestine organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government, was held today. With today’s trial, the court will have completed 100 sessions in seven-and-a-half months since the trial began in October of last year. Given how things normally progress move in Turkey’s higher criminal courts — on average four hearings are held annually per trial — the Ergenekon trial has, in relative terms, managed to complete 25 years worth of trial sessions in less than eight months. An alleged criminal network that came to be known as Ergenekon was revealed after police seized 27 grenades, TNT explosives and fuses in a shanty house in Istanbul on June 12, 2007 and Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into weapons. The first session of the Ergenekon trial being heard by the Istanbul 13th Higher Criminal Court at a courthouse inside Silivri Prison started on October 20, 2008. There are about 30 charges against the defendants, amongst them former generals, nationalist politicians, extreme right-wing sympathisers, show business personalities, writers, journalists and local mafia. The three most serious are: organising terrorist groups, incitement to revolt and attempting to overthrow the government. The public prosecutor says that they are all responsible in different degrees for trying to destabilise the country with anti-government protests, political murder and attacks against the forces of order with the aim of overthrowing the AKP government, in power since 2002. The controversial case, however, has divided Turkey, as many believe it has turned into a witch hunt targeting government critics. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Kremlin Wants Closer US-Russian Anti-Terror Ties

MOSCOW — A top Kremlin official said Thursday that Russia is ready to expand cooperation with the United States in combating international terrorism.

Anatoly Safonov, the Kremlin’s top envoy on the issue, said President Barack Obama’s visit to Russia in early July should help boost joint U.S.-Russian efforts to combat terrorism and prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“The world is getting increasingly vulnerable and unsafe, and both Russian and U.S. leaders are worried about that,” Safonov said at a briefing. “We will preserve our achievements and move forward.”

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S., Moscow and Washington traded information on al-Qaida and other terrorist groups and worked jointly to prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Disputes over the war in Iraq, U.S. missile defense plans and other issues strained ties and hampered these exchanges.

Obama has moved to “reset” relations ties with Moscow which plunged to a post-Cold War low under George W. Bush’s administration.

Safonov said Moscow now is particularly concerned about the situation in Afghanistan, which has produced an increasing amount of drugs flowing into Russia.

“We are working together with our Western counterparts to find efficient ways to stem drug-trafficking,” he said.

Safonov said that Russia is also worried that terrorists who fought in Iraq would move elsewhere, including Russia. He said the war in Iraq served as “Harvard for terrorists,” who now may move to other areas, including Chechnya and other provinces in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus, where Islamic militants stage regular raids on police and other authorities.

Safonov said the U.S.-Russian cooperation has been hampered in the past by what he called “double standards,” and voiced hope that it would improve under the new U.S. administration. Russia in the past has been annoyed by Washington’s reluctance to brand Islamic militants in Chechnya as terrorists.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Russia Snubs U.S. Call to Consider Hosting Radar

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russia on Thursday spurned an offer from the United States to participate closely in its planned European anti-missile system, instead urging Washington to drop its proposals and start afresh.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday he was hopeful Moscow might consider hosting either radars or a data exchange center as it recognized the growing threat from Iran.

But Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that Moscow would not entertain any novel ideas until Washington dropped its intention to place ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

“Only a rejection by the United States of plans to create a … missile Defense system in Europe could lay the groundwork for our fully fledged dialogue on questions of cooperation in reacting to potential missile risks,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters.

Moscow has protested against the anti-missile system, which it perceives as a threat to its own security and has also linked the scheme to negotiations on a new treaty to curb strategic nuclear weapons.

Nesterenko added that Moscow still hoped to find a way to reach a compromise with Washington.

U.S. officials have consistently stated that the planned deployment is aimed at preventing potential attacks from countries like Iran. Gates went further at a U.S. Senate hearing on June 9, saying Russia increasingly shared this view.

“The Russians have come back to us and acknowledged that (we) were right in terms of the nearness of the Iranian missile threat,” Gates told a senate appropriations hearing, according to the U.S. Federal News Service transcript.

“And we’ve made a number of offers in terms of how to partner, and I think there are still some opportunities — for example, perhaps putting radars in Russia, having data exchange centers in Russia,” Gates was quoted as saying.

Gates said he hoped there could be progress on this topic when U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Moscow from July 6-8, where he hopes to build on repeated calls from both capitals to ‘reset’ relations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Former Official Killed in Russia’s North Caucasus

By SHAMSUDIN BOKOV, Associated Press Writer Shamsudin Bokov, Associated Press Writer 2 hrs 29 mins ago

NAZRAN, Russia — Gunmen killed a former top government minister in Ingushetia as he stood outside his home in the violent southern Russian region Saturday, law enforcement officials said.

Bashir Aushev’s killing was the latest in a string of assassinations — and the second to hit Ingushetia this week — to highlight North Caucasus’ continuing turmoil.

Two gunmen sprayed Aushev with automatic weapon fire as he got out of his car at the gate outside his home in the region’s main city, Nazran, around 6:30 p.m. (1430 GMT), the regional Interior Ministry’s press service said.

He died en route to the hospital.

Aushev was vice premier under former Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, a KGB agent who was widely reviled by many Ingush for his repressive policies.

Aushev, who was responsible for relations with law enforcement agencies in the region, resigned from the government when Zyazikov was replaced by the Kremlin in October. Russian news agencies said he had not worked since leaving government.

While in office, Aushev was attacked several times, and his home was hit by mortars, according to the government’s service, but he was never wounded.

Ingushetia is home to hundreds of refugees from the wars in Chechnya, to the south, and is one Russia’s poorest regions. Like other North Caucasus regions, it has seen an alarming spike in violence in recent years. Much of it is linked to the two separatist wars that ravaged Chechnya over the past 15 years, but persistent poverty, corruption, feuding ethnic groups and the rise of radical Islam also are blamed.

On Wednesday, gunmen killed a deputy chief justice of the regional Supreme Court opposite a kindergarten in Nazran. Five other people were wounded in the attack.

On June 5, the top law enforcement of another North Caucasus region, Dagestan, was killed by a sniper as he stood outside a restaurant where a wedding was taking place.

That killing prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to travel to Dagestan to meet with federal and regional police officials and showcase the Kremlin’s campaign to bring calm to the North Caucasus.

Earlier this week, Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov, said in an interview that the United States was to blame for the North Caucasus’ problems.

“It is precisely from the side of America that work is being carried out aimed at the disintegration of the sovereign Russian state. It is not terrorists, not Islamists,” he said according to transcript posted on his government Web site.

The Americans “are creating problems for Russia; they want to pull Russia down… They have such a system working — all sorts of social organizations created to spread rumors and gossip, to agitate people; they know that in the Caucasus the only way to create problems for Russia is on a religious basis,” Kadyrov said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Andhra Pradesh: Dalit Archbishop Wants Equal Dignity for Christians and Hindus

Only the Church “treats us like a family, without discrimination of any kind,” says Mgr Marampudi Joji. He leads a delegation from the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches to meet Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy. He calls on the authorities to defend religious freedom and the right to convert; he wants Christian Dalits to enjoy the same rights as other Dalits, whether Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.

Hyderabad (AsiaNews) — “I am the first Dalit bishop of India and I have a duty to ensure that most Dalit Christians can enjoy the same privileges on par with other Dalits,” said Mgr Marampudi Joji, Catholic archbishop of Hyderabad and executive vice-president of the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC). In speaking to AsiaNews he explained what he and Christians throughout the state must do to uphold the rights of Dalits.

Last Friday he led a 40-member APFC delegation to meet Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy who just started his second mandate.

The APFC called on Rajasekhara Reddy to defend freedom of religion and the right to convert so that Christian Dalits can enjoy the same rights as Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits.

The chief minister reassured them that he intends to discuss the issue with Union authorities in New Delhi, especially with the ministers of Law and Justice and of Social Justice and Empowerment

Rajasekhara Reddy also said that he would be available to lead a delegation of Churches to the Union capital to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 19-20 June.

At the bottom of the problem is a 1950 presidential order which introduced a quota system to benefit Dalits in education and public service employment.

The same order denied Christian and Muslim Dalits or anyone who converted to those religions the right to claim any benefits that might accrue to them as members of scheduled groups.

For Archbishop Joji even a cursory reading of the order shows its discriminatory nature because it violates articles 15 and 25 of the constitution.

“By restricting the benefits to a particular religion, the order has divided the entire Dalit community on the basis of religion,” he said.

Christian Dalits are effectively denied the same protection and rights offered to other Dalits, and this constitutes a violation of religious freedom.

For the Indian Church APFC’s commitment to the Dalit community constitutes a cultural challenge in a country like India’s.

“When the Holy See announced my appointment as the first Dalit archbishop, there were a lot of rumblings in society,” the prelate said. But only Church “treats us like a family, without discrimination of any kind.”

“However, in Indian society this issue is also a socio-economic issue.” In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled “that a change of religion does not change caste and that the disabilities of the Scheduled Castes converted to Christianity continue even after conversion, on par with Dalits in other religions.”

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

Indonesia: Thousands of Children Exploited for Sex Trade, Says UN

Jakarta, 12 June (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — The global economic crisis has forced a greater number of Indonesian children into the workforce, particularly girls, many of whom are exploited for commercial sex, the United Nations specialised agency, the International Labor Organization said.

“Recent global estimates indicate the number of child workers had been falling. But the financial crisis that began in late 2008 is threatening to erode this progress,” Patrick Daru, chief technical adviser at the ILO’s Jakarta office, said Thursday at a media conference.

The crisis has exacerbated the income problems of poor families around the world, including in Indonesia, making them tend to send their children to work rather than to school.

“This is the supply and demand theory at work,” he added.

“Employers use child labour because they’re cheaper, while families also need additional income.”

ILO data from 2007 shows that of the 1.1 million Indonesian working children under the age of 14, 40 percent or 440,000 are girls. Of this number, an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 are victims of sexual exploitation.

“Girls are more likely to be the victims of trafficking into prostitution. Approximately 21,000 prostituted children, both boys and girls, are located in Java,” said Arum Ratnawati, the ILO Jakarta technical adviser.

Child prostitutes can be found easily in public places like streets and parks, or in “hidden” places of prostitution like beauty and massage parlours, discotheques, cafes and hotels, as well as karaoke lounges, leaving them vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS or forming a drug habit, Arum said.

Indonesia is also trying to solve the problem of child trafficking, which is rife in the areas of Indramayu and Karawang in West Java and Blitar and Banyuwangi in East Java.

Indonesia has a population of 235 million people and 90 percent of them are Muslim. Most practise a moderate form of the faith.

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

Pakistan: 7 Thousand Cases of Violence Against Minors in 2008

Today is the World Day against Child Labour. Despite government proclamations conditions for minors in the country remain difficult. The wound of child soldiers is added to a low level of education, violence and a lack of health care.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — In 2008 in Pakistan 6,780 cases of violence committed on minors took place: sexual abuse, targeted murders, abductions, forced labour and suicides are only some example of this, to which the exploitation of “child soldiers” in the war between Islamic fundamentalism and the army, must be added. The 2008 report on the “Condition of Children in Pakistan” —released by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) — underlines the governments failure to apply national and international law in protection of the rights of minors.

Today marks World Day against Child Labour. The Pakistani rights group report lists corporal punishment, the wound of street children, child brides and acid attacks, that mark the young lives forever. It urges a clamping down on child pornography and demands that the minimum age to marry is raised from 16 to 18.

The document reports that almost 30% of children under the age of five are malnourished. There are approximately 70 physicians for every 0.1 million people and a mere 1,000 government-run hospitals to cater to the entire population (circa 173 million). It claims that 30-40 percent of children of school going age across the country, are not attending schools; that 4,million babies are born in Pakistan every year but 40,000 die before reaching five.

The report cites a study by the Initiator Human Development Foundation in 2008, saying children from the lower strata of society studying at the madrasse religious schools also fall victim to sexual violence. The study claims seminary teachers sexually abused 21 % of sample students. The report says about 40% schools in the public sector are without boundary walls, 33 % without drinking water, over half without electricity or lavatories and 7 % without buildings. The tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, the theatre of violence between the army and the fundamentalists, have the least infrastructure for education; the few remaining resources are targeted by the Taleban, who have destroyed hundreds of schools above all female institutes.

The SPARC report says the government, despite its claims, has not favour polices to protect minors. In 1988 funding for education was equal to 2.4% of the Gross National Product (GDP). In the two year period of 2007-8 it grew little, arriving at a miserable 2.9% of the GDP. Pakistan is still far from reaching the Millenium Development Goals (MDG): among which is the guarantee of education for all by 2015.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (Hrcp) also warns of abuse and mistreatment of minors. The 2008 document on human rights reports that that at least 114 children were killed for various reasons, including for honour killings, and at least 221 girls and several hundred boys were reported to have been raped, gang-raped, subjected to sodomy or stripped in public. In the nations cities an estimated 700,000 children live and work on the streets; while in rural areas across Pakistan children are being recruited by armed militias and trained for terrorist attacks.

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

Far East

China: Authorities Fear High Number of Unemployed College Graduates

China’s economic crisis is hitting college graduates hard for the first time. For many job anxiety leads to depression, but what concerns the government is that too many unemployed graduates might cause street protests.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A few months ago, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that about 12 per cent of last year’s graduates had still not found jobs. This year more than 7 million college and university graduates are facing grim employment prospects and will have to fight for jobs with the 1.5 million graduates from last year who are still unemployed. And for many, unemployment will be such a shameful burden to bear that they will descend into depression or even take their own lives.

In an export-driven economy like China’s plunging exports have led to thousands of plant closures and weaker contacts with foreign firms. This in turn has reduced the demand for new graduates.

Growing unemployment among new graduates is becoming a source of concern for the government, worried that a large number of jobless college students might lead to disaffection and social unrest; a fear that is compounded by the fact that 25 million migrant workers have also lost their jobs.

China’s leaders are also quite cognizant that the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square began when a large number of dissatisfied students took their grievances to the streets.For this reason the Communist Party has been trying to find them jobs.

The State Council has also issued a five-point guideline for helping graduates find jobs. These include urging provincial and lower-level governments do all they can to create more employment. For instance, in the city of Weifang (Shandong) local officials have been asked to use all their contacts and influence to find jobs for at least three graduates. In Beijing the city government has just announced a scheme to employ 1,600 graduates on three-year contracts as assistants to officials in the villages around the city.

During a visit in Shaanxi Premier Wen Jiabao told about 2,500 students that his government will make job creation for graduates one of its top priorities this year. On Sunday in a speech he delivered at Xian Jiaotong University he encouraged students to widen their employment search to include grass-roots jobs.

Chinese President Hu Jintao also urged students to work at the grass-roots levels instead in an address he made on Saturday at the China Agricultural University.

The Ministry of Education said last week that about 48 per cent of the mainland’s 6 million graduates had managed to land jobs.

But joblessness is not just about not finding a job. For students from poor areas whose families took on major financial burdens to fund their studies, it can cause a sense of dishonour. For years they dreamt of landing a great job so that when their aspirations are not fulfilled, unemployment becomes a reason to be ashamed.

Official figures indicate in fact that joblessness is the main cause of suicide among students.

At the same time the number of students who abandon their studies before completing their education is up from under 10 per cent in 1998 to 23 per cent.

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

Fighting the War on Terror With Outsourcing

MARAWI, Philippines (AFP) — When American consumers dial a toll-free hotline for customer service support, they may not be aware they are helping bring an end to a long-running insurgency half way across the world.

Some of the calls are routed to a call centre in the Philippines’ southern Muslim heartland, the Southeast Asian theatre of the US-led war on terror where part of a new strategy is to smother the insurgency with job empowerment.

The US Agency for International Development through its Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) programme has teamed up with a business process outsourcing firm, known as a BPO, in a novel venture to train and employ youths in this Muslim stronghold.

The rationale is to teach them English and hire them for backroom jobs outsourced by American firms seeking to cut operational costs at home.

Those behind the scheme hope that with more money and improved living standards, many will be weaned away from violence and contribute to developing a region racked by 40 years of insurgency.

“We are hoping to give them stable, long-term employment,” said Rene Subido, a GEM official who helped devise the plan.

“By giving them a stake in the development here, they will have more to lose if the war continues.”

Subido said the Nevada-based BPO firm, the Hubport Group, had initially been apprehensive about setting up in the Muslim Mindanao but was won over by the talent and eagerness of the region’s youth.

They set up a 24-hour back-room operation at Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) where 42 employees churn out web designs, software programmes and medical transcriptions for American clients.

Others specialise in technical support, guiding clients thousands of miles away as they trouble-shoot web pages.

No one had ever thought of setting up in the southern Philippines because of the violence, said Hubport chief operating officer Eric Manalastas during a recent tour of the facility by visiting diplomats.

He said the firm — which also has offices in Singapore, Canada, Britain, Japan and Saudi Arabia — believes the south has enough manpower “who if given the room to grow, can be harnessed into a highly efficient and competitive force that can match global standards”.

A large part of the manpower will come from MSU’s main campus in Marawi, an impoverished city on the shore of the picturesque Lanao lake where Arabic is widely taught and spoken.

It also is the heart of Islam in Mindanao, the Philippines’ main southern island where Muslim separatists have been waging a decades-long rebellion to carve out an independent state.

Militants with links to Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) are also known to operate in the area, which intelligence experts consider fertile ground for recruitment.

A small room inside a brick building has been transformed into a speech and computer laboratory, where local tutors teach English..

For computer programmer Muhammad Husshan, 20, working for Hubport means he will be able to send money to his parents and seven siblings living elsewhere in the south.

“I hope more young people will be given jobs and will be trained in companies like this,” he said.

Like many here, Husshan believes that Muslims have been unjustly sidelined by the Manila government, but he added: “I think people would not pick up guns if they are busy with jobs.”

Small numbers of US troops have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2003, when President Gloria Arroyo sought help to crush Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for high profile kidnappings and bombings.

Remnants of Abu Sayyaf still roam the south, while tens and thousands remain displaced by 10 months of fighting between troops and the main insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The US government meanwhile has given millions in development aid, with promises of more funds if insurgents signed a peace accord.

“I think that shift in policy is helping more in the anti-terror war than the fighting,” says Virgilio Leyretana, chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council.

“Of course, nothing can be solved overnight. And for as long as Mindanao is pictured as a troublesome place, businesses will shy away.”

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

Australia — Pacific

Climate Laws Add to Police Workload

EXCLUSIVE: FRONTLINE police will be forced to become “carbon cops” under the Government’s blueprint to cut greenhouse emissions.

The Herald Sun can reveal Australian Federal Police agents will have to prosecute a new range of climate offences.

But they are yet to be offered extra resources, stretching the thin blue line to breaking point.

“The Government is effectively saying to us, ‘Ignore other crime types’,” Australian Federal Police Association chief Jim Torr said.

The group had been trying for months, without success, to discuss the issue with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, he said.

Interpol has warned the carbon market will be irresistible to criminal gangs because of the vast amounts of cash to be made. Possible rorts include under-reporting of carbon emissions by firms and bogus carbon offset schemes.

“If someone is rorting it by even 1 per cent a year, we’re talking about many, many millions of dollars,” Mr Torr said.

Ms Wong’s office said AFP agents would be expected to enter premises and request paperwork to monitor firms’ emissions reductions. They would act on the 30-strong Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority’s orders.

It said the authority could appoint staff members or police as inspectors.

She said the Department of Climate Change had spoken to the AFPA and the parties would talk again. Carbon trading involves carbon emissions rights buying and selling. Businesses can offset emissions by investing in climate-friendly projects, or carbon credits.

Ms Wong’s office said provisions had been made to ensure compliance. “Inspectors may enter premises and exercise other monitoring powers,” she said. “The inspectors may ask questions and seek the production of documents. There is provision for the issue of monitoring warrants by magistrates.”

The AFP’s 2855 sworn agents are involved in law enforcement in Australia and overseas, investigating terrorist threats, drug syndicates, people trafficking, fraud and threats against children.

Mr Torr said breaking carbon trading laws would be like breaking other laws. “These offences will constitute another federal crime type, along with narcotics importing, people smuggling and all the rest of it, that the AFP will be expected to police,” he said. “I can see very complex, covert investigations . . . a lot of scientific expertise required.”

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is facing Senate defeat unless it can secure the support of key cross-benchers or the Opposition.

Opposition climate change spokesman Andrew Robb said the scheme was problematic.

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

NAB to Trial Interest Free Muslim Loans

ONE of Australia’s major banks is planning to introduce “Muslim-friendly” loans that do not charge interest to comply with sharia law.

Instead, the National Australia Bank will structure an Islam-approved line of finance to make money from alternative methods.

These include profit-sharing on the transaction, joint-ventures or leasing-type arrangements.

For example, to get round the Islamic ban on usury — or unfair lending — a Muslim mortgage often works by the bank buying the property, then selling it to the customer at a profit. The customer then repays the sum in instalments.

In this way the profit margin is built in from the start. It also makes the loan immune from future interest rate rises.

NAB said the loans would have to be cleared by a Sharia Advisory Board to ensure they met strict criteria.

“We are dipping our toe in the water and thought we may be able to offer this product in high-density Muslim areas,” said Richard Peters, head of community finance & development at NAB.

“We suspect there is demand out there but we don’t know how big it is, so we will trial a few products first.”

NAB will pump $15m from its not-for-profit finance division into the program, which will distribute funds through various community finance schemes around the country.

Interest-free loans of up to $1000 will be available, which are intended to help finance household items such as washing machines and fridges.

“It’s a small step but we are trying to raise awareness about the need for Islamic finance,” Mr Peters said.

The loans would be available to non-Muslims as well.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa’s Top 10 ‘Big Men’

President Omar Bongo of Gabon died this week after nearly 42 years in power — who inherits his title as Africa’s longest-serving leader?

The BBC’s Peter Lewenstein has compiled a list — in reverse order, by length of continuous time in office — of the 10 African heads of state who have stood the test of time.



President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali came to power in a bloodless coup in November 1987.

He took over from Habib Bourguiba amid claims the latter was unfit to govern owing to senility.

Mr Ben Ali marked the 21st anniversary of office by releasing 44 political prisoners.



Mystery still surrounds the death of President Blaise Compaore’s predecessor and friend, Thomas Sankara.

But after he was shot dead by a group of soldiers in October 1987, Mr Compaore, as his number two, stepped into the breach.

President Compaore has since won three elections, scraping in last time round in 2005 with 80% percent of the vote.



King Mswati came to the throne in April 1986; as son of Sobhuza, he was heir to the Swazi throne.

But it took a three-year power struggle following his father’s death before he was crowned.

As an absolute monarch, elections are not really his thing — he has allowed people to vote for members of parliament, but political parties are not recognised.



After years in the bush fighting a rebellion, ex-army officer Yoweri Museveni led his National Resistance Army into Kampala in January 1986 to seize power.

He toppled Basilio Okello, who had himself overthrown Milton Obote in a military coup six months earlier.

Mr Museveni has also won three elections, but only last time, in 2006, were candidates allowed to run on a party-political basis.



In November 1982, Cameroon’s first post-independence leader, Ahmadou Ahidjo, formally resigned due to ill-health, and handed the presidency to his Prime Minister, Paul Biya.

Since then Mr Biya has won five elections, which — say the opposition — is not surprising, given that the votes have always been overseen by senior ruling party figures.



Hosni Mubarak took over after the assassination of President Sadat by Islamist militants in October 1981.

He was confirmed as president by a referendum.

In the last election in 2005, he squeaked through with 88% of the vote.

There has been plenty of speculation in Cairo that he is grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.



The world cheered when, after leading a long guerrilla war, Robert Mugabe led his Zanu party to victory at the elections in February 1980, after Zimbabwe had won its independence from Britain.

But he is no longer a global favourite and the opposition accuses him of destroying his country in a bid to stay in power.

He is now sharing power — but remains president.



President Jose Eduardo dos Santos assumed power on the death of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, in September 1979.

But for much of the time after that, he ruled only over half the country, as his MPLA fought a civil war against Unita.

Now, with the war over, and Unita crushed at last year’s parliamentary elections, he is being called on to hold an election for the presidency. No firm date has yet been set.



President Teodoro Obiang Nguema came to power in August 1979 in classic style, deposing his uncle, Macias Nguema, who fled but was later captured and executed.

Despite its new-found oil wealth, 60% of the people of Equatorial Guinea live on less than a dollar a day.

But they clearly all love President Nguema, as he won 97% of the vote at the last election in 2002.



And finally, Africa’s undisputed newly crowned longest-serving ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, who was in office a decade ahead of his nearest rival.

Col Gaddafi led a coup by young army officers in September 1969, then set about establishing his own political system, as laid out in his Green Book; and he’s been there ever since.

Last year, he was named “king of kings” by a meeting of Africa’s traditional rulers.

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

Latin America

Air France Probe Suggests Plane Broke Up in Air, Estado Says

June 12 (Bloomberg) — The Air France plane that crashed June 1 may have partly broken up in the air before hitting the Atlantic Ocean, O Estado de S. Paulo reported, citing investigators it didn’t identify.

Most of the 16 bodies examined in preliminary stages of the probe into the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris were found naked or with minimal clothing, suggesting the wind may have removed the garments, the newspaper said. The possibility of an explosion or fire in the jet is also unlikely because the bodies showed no sign of burns, Estado said.

Almost all of the bodies had multiple fractures, the paper reported. Investigators haven’t found water in the victims’ lungs, which would indicate drowning, Estado said. Bodies were found 85 kilometers (53 miles) apart, which may also indicate the Airbus A330-200 broke up before reaching the ocean, Estado reported.

Representatives from Brazil’s legal medical institute, which is conducting the body examinations in the northeastern city of Recife, weren’t immediately reachable when Bloomberg News called for comment before regular working hours.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Gaddafi Says Tide is Difficult to Stem

(ANSA) — ROME, JUNE 11 — “It is a difficult tide to stem — a form of immigration that forcibly imposes itself,” said Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on the ever increasing flow of immigrants departing from Libyan coasts trying to reach Italy and beyond. “There are strong attractions pulling them towards Europe,” said Gaddafi yesterday during a joint press conference with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. But in Africa, he added, “there are no political problems”, and the issue of asylum seekers “is a widespread lie”. “Millions of people are attracted by Europe, and are trying to get here. Do we really think that millions of people are asylum seekers? It is really a laughable matter”. “If you try to send them back,” he added, referring to the Italian government’s recent decision to send migrant boats back to Libya, “they accuse you of acting against human rights. Are we then going to leave all Europe’s gates open and let the whole of Africa sweep into Europe?”. The Libyan leader then talked about the population “living in the desert, in the forests, having no identity at all. Let alone a political identity. They feel that the North has all the wealth, the money, and so they try to reach it.” According to Gaddafi, this phenomenon is mostly linked to “organized crime, as well as drugs and terrorism”. “There are government officials being investigated on charges of conniving with criminal organizations. There are international networks behind it and we need to assess who is responsible. But please,” he asked once again, “do not see it as a political issue”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi in Rome: Libya Needs More EU Money for Immigration

(ANSAmed) — Rome, June 11 — Libya needs much more money from the European Union to help curb immigration from Africa, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said Thursday. “Many billions of euros are needed to stem the flows of immigrants into the Mediterranean,” Gaddafi told Italian Senators. He described the one billion euros the EU currently gives Libya to contain immigration as “insufficient”. Italy and Libya have recently started joint patrols and Tripoli has agreed to take back intercepted immigrants in a controversial policy criticised by human rights groups. 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. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Internet Free Ride Soon Over

WITHIN five years internet users will have to pay to access content now free, according to Barry Diller, chief executive of InterActiveCorp in the United States, which runs about 30 websites and turns over $US1.5 billion ($A1.8 billion) each year.

“I absolutely believe the internet is passing from its free days into a paid system,” he told the Advertising 2.0 conference in New York this week.

Mr Diller said the paid model would include subscriptions, one-time purchases for access to sites and micro-payments.

But not all agree. “That’s quite a prediction,” said Neil Ackland, managing director of the Sound Alliance Group, the largest independent online publisher in Australia. Its niche music and lifestyle sites — such as FasterLouder, SameSame and Mess+Noise — attract 500,000 unique hits a month.

“We’ve been doing that for more than 10 years and manage to make a profit out of advertising as our model — why would we want to change that?”

Mr Ackland said people would be willing to pay for some content “but I think people are already paying for that content: finance, investment, dating, real estate information, high-end information. People already recognise that value.

“But a news story that is on 600 websites around the world simultaneously doesn’t have any value to the end user. It doesn’t have any exclusive value they can’t get elsewhere.”

Andrew Sims, general manager of marketing and products for Melbourne-based internet service provider iPrimus agrees: “If one of the big newspapers today wanted to make everyone pay for content, people would go elsewhere … there’ll be another two, three maybe five sites out there that’ll provide the services (free).”

The demise of respect for copyright on the internet plays a role. Canny consumers can find their way around information toll booths; once someone has access to content they can put it out there for others to access.

“We see that with all types of things,” said Mr Sims, “(such as) illegal downloads of video content and music.”

Companies must learn to survive on revenue via advertising on their sites, he said.

“Advertising companies are moving away from traditional media — print and TV — and putting their money online because they feel they get better bang for their buck. As that trend continues you’ll see more and more people spending online, which will certainly help websites whose ultimate goal is to deliver quality content.”

The shift in how young people, especially, found information was also a factor, said Mr Ackland.

“A lot of people now already get a lot of their news and information from forums and blogs — when they happen to stumble across news that’s been posted in forum threads …

“Twenty years ago there was a limited number of places where information could get published and distributed. Now there’s an infinite number … The idea of putting information behind a walled garden? I just don’t see it happening.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

6 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/13/2009

  1. Palestinian Affairs: Obama-Hu Akbar!.

    For some Palestinians, Obama may even turn out to be better than most of the Arab and Muslim leaders. As one woman in Ramallah put it, “When I heard Obama speaking [from Cairo], I felt as if I were listening to the head of an Arab or Islamic state. He’s really a great man.”.

    As always, Muslims are not very careful about what they wish for.

    BHO has ZERO military experience. Couple this with his ability to send all of the exact wrong signals to our Islamic foes and the potential for another, even larger, terrorist atrocity on American soil grows at an alarming rate.

    Unlike someone with at least a modicum of military experience, BHO more than likely has a profoundly diminished understanding of options and countermeasures in the face of any renewed terrorist attack upon our nation.

    Although many are prone to believe that BHO might simply surrender in the face of any significant assault, there is another equally disturbing possibility. Given that he is lacking in strategic knowledge, his immediate response to a major terrorist atrocity might just as easily be to order a full-scale nuclear launch.

    In its hallmark modus operandi, Islam over-reaches itself. This tendency manifests in a most dangerous form as Muslims embrace the product of America’s most corrupt political machine―Chicago’s ward system―in the figure of someone who has risen to office with a blank resume and scant knowledge of real life global politics.

    Woe betide anyone who relies upon BHO to act in their own interest when things go all pear-shaped. How sad that Americans, more than anyone, would be wise to remember this caveat.

  2. Ahmadinejad Confirmed Victor; Violent Protests Erupt in Tehran.

    TEHRAN — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei annointed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of Friday’s presidential race, triggering violent protests across the nation and allegations by his nearest challenger of widespread vote rigging.

    As an apocalyptic “twelver”, one can only imagine that Ahmadinejad will carry away from this supposed “landslide” re-election a sense of mandate with respect to “wiping Israel off of the map”.

    Rigged elections or not, this outcome once again highlights the magnitude of Muslim stupidity.

    If Iran’s political machine purposefully swayed the results, they could have done little more to assure that Israel will now feel obliged to pre-empt Ahmadinejad’s cataclysmic vision. It is as if the once great Persian nation has been transformed into one giant suicide bomber.

    This would be in exact keeping with Ayatollah Khomeini’s sentiment of: “Let this land [Iran] burn, so long as Islam emerges triumphant.”

    Almost more disturbing is the notion that Iran’s people voluntarily re-elected someone who has led their nation into complete financial chaos with his policy of “khodkafa’i” and, blinded by their genocidal hatred for Israel, somehow managed to overcome their political dissatisfaction in order to seal Iran’s fate.

    Neither explanation is very flattering but, then again, there is nothing about Islam that lends itself to praise in the first place.

  3. Kremlin Wants Closer US-Russian Anti-Terror Ties.

    MOSCOW — A top Kremlin official said Thursday that Russia is ready to expand cooperation with the United States in combating international terrorism.

    In other news: Fox seeks greater cooperation from chickens regarding improvements to henhouse security. Tape at eleven.

  4. Pakistan: 7 Thousand Cases of Violence Against Minors in 2008.

    There are few more damning indictments than:


  5. Africa’s Top 10 ‘Big Men’.

    The BBC’s Peter Lewenstein has compiled a list — in reverse order, by length of continuous time in office — of the 10 African heads of state who have stood the test of time.

    Without wishing these particular specimens of humanity any ill will, imagine how much further all of the African nations might have gotten were they not saddled with such blood ticks posing as leadership.

    That the ANC (African National Congress) could not bring itself to condemn Robert Mugabe and his plundering of Zimbabwe merely exemplifies how forceful removal of these parasites represents one of the only true hopes for reform that any of these “Dark Continent” nations might hope for.

  6. Internet Free Ride Soon Over.

    “I absolutely believe the internet is passing from its free days into a paid system,” he [Barry Diller] told the Advertising 2.0 conference in New York this week.

    He said, wiping traces of salivation from his lips before cameras could focus upon them.

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