Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/2/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/2/2009There’s interesting news tonight out of Russia. On the one hand, Russian Muslims have issued a fatwa against intermarriage between Muslims and Jews or Christians. On the other, Russian prison officials are alleged to have burned Korans to intimidate prison inmates.

Concerning the financial crisis as it affects the Middle East: unemployment in Turkey is reportedly at now at 25%, and Iraqi Kurdistan is no help, having banned vegetable imports from Turkey in order to protect its own agricultural sector.

In other news, the piracy industry allows Somali coastal communities to live high on the hog. Also, Ayman al-Zawahiri has denounced Barack Obama.

Thanks to ACT for America, C. Cantoni, CB, Fausta, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, LN, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Turkey: Unemployment in the Country at 25%, Not 16.1%, Expert
UK: Sheikh Breaks City Record With £1.5bn Profit on Barclays Bailout
A New Iran Overture, With Hot Dogs
Dennis Prager: The Speech President Obama Won’t Dare Give in Egypt
GM to Sell Hummer to Chinese Company
Islamic Speakers Bureau Backed by Radical Profs
Maine: African Mob Goes on Rampage After Police Confront Shoplifter
Canada: Voters to be Flown to Lebanon for Elections
Europe and the EU
Barry Madlener, EU Candidate for Geert Wilder’s PVV, is Elected by Opinion Panel as the Best Debater
Blondes March in Latvia ‘To Cheer-Up Nation’
Czech President Klaus Says EU Election Pointless
Danes Want Out of European Union
Denmark: More Troops to Afghanistan
Denmark: Youth Violence Surge
EU: Declan’s Democracy
Italy: Premier Says He Will Last Full Term
‘Outlaw Forced Marriages in Sweden’
‘Swedish State Should Not Educate Imams’: Report
Sweden: Refugee Facility Hit by Arson Attack
Switzerland: Unions Push for Six Weeks of Vacation
UK: ‘Chilli Hot Stuff’ Immigration Judge Paid Nearly £300,000 for Sitting at Home
UK: Black Immigration Worker Who Suffered Racial Discrimination at Refugee Charity Wins £65,000
UK: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith Set to Quit (Before She’s Pushed) as Two Ministers and Two Labour MPs Step Down in One Day
UK: Humiliation for Brown as Prince Charles Agrees to Attend D-Day Anniversary
UK: MPs to Get Chance to Call Early General Election Next Week
Mediterranean Union
Energy: ENEA Looks to Egypt for Desertec Project
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel Fears Obama Backing Out of U.S. Commitments
Middle East
Books: Al-Neimi, After ‘Honey Proof’ Wants to Surprise
Eight Shot Dead in Turkish Flat
Gas: Iran Begins Construction of Pipeline Through Turkey
Lebanon: Spying for Israel, Another Colonel Arrested
Muslims Want Tangible Shift on Mideast Policy
Obama Says Iran’s Energy Concerns Legitimate
Trade: Iraq Temporarily Bans Vegetable Imports From Turkey
Turkey: ‘Just Being Able to Talk About Alevi Problem is Important’
Russian Muslims Issue Fatwa Forbidding Marriages With Christians and Jews
Russian Prison Officials Burn Koran to Intimidate Muslim Inmates — NGO
South Asia
Indonesia, Malaysia Face Off at Sea
Indonesian Teen Model Escapes From Malaysian Prince
Tensions High Between Indonesia and Malaysia
Far East
Thousands March in Hong Kong to Remember Tiananmen
Sub-Saharan Africa
Mogadishu: New Clashes, Residents Fighting Insurgents “On Way to Work”
Pirates’ Glossy Lives Win Admirers in Somalia
Latin America
Venezuela: Hugo Gets a Tummy Ache… and Missiles
Finland: Government Calls for Stricter Rules on Family Reunification
Al-Qaeda Deputy Denounces Obama
Blueprint for New World Order
Journalists Who Don’t Kiss Obama’s Feet

Financial Crisis

Turkey: Unemployment in the Country at 25%, Not 16.1%, Expert

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 29 — The first problem to solve in Turkey is the rising unemployment, reports today daily Hurriyet quoting a top industrialist who said the government’s temporary tax cuts on various goods should continue. Speaking at the assembly meeting of the Istanbul Chamber of Industry, or ISO, Chairman Tanil Kucuk noted that The Economist magazine ranked Turkey third in unemployment worldwide. “The widest description says the number of jobless in Turkey stands at 6.5 million, while the unemployment rate is 25%,” Kucuk said, disputing the official figure of 16.1%. Kucukk said industrial output declined 22% while exports plummeted 26% in the first quarter. “Government-initiated private consumption tax and value added tax cuts helped raise the capacity usage to 58.4% in April. These cuts should continue, embracing other sectors too,” said Kucuk. While the Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low of 9.25%, banks still demand 20-25% for credits, Kucuk said. “Which company can bear such a burden?” he asked. “Unless this problem is solved, the blood loss in the real economy will continue”, he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Sheikh Breaks City Record With £1.5bn Profit on Barclays Bailout

Barclays’ white knight Sheikh Mansour entered the record books today with the quickest billion-pound stock market profit.

The owner of Manchester city and ruler of Abu Dhabi was almost £1.5 billion better off after he sold a share in the High street bank only seven months after bailing it out.

The sheik and the rulers of Qatar helped Barclays to avoid a UK bailout by stumping up £7 billion last November.

City observers said no one in the world had ever made so much money so quickly from buying and selling shares.

David Buik of brokers BGC Partners said: “No single investor has been able to go in and out on this scale. But then we have never experienced volatility like this, and I don’t think we will see anything like this again.”

Barclays shares plunged 13 per cent to 274p in early trading on the London Stock Exchange as investors saw the move as a sign to take profits following a recent strong run for the stock.

The Sheikh was, alongside investors from Qatar, one of the major backers of Barclays’s £7.3billion bail-out last October at the peak of the global financial meltdown.

His investment helped Barclays avoid the humiliation of partial nationalisation suffered by fellow high-street lenders Royal Bank of Scotland, HBOS and Lloyds TSB.

But the deal was controversial as many City investors complained the Middle Eastern rescuers had been allowed to buy into Barclays too cheaply.

There was further ill feeling over the £40million fee paid to the deal’s British “broker” Amanda Staveley, a former girlfriend of Prince Andrew, and her private equity firm PCP Capital Partners.

Today’s dramatic sale is also an embarrassmentfor Barc lays Chief Executive John Varley, who last October described the Sheikh as a long-term investor.

Today’s stock market sale means the Sheikh has sold around half his investment in Barclays. He effectively bought shares in the bank at -153p each when they stood at 205p in the market.

They later plunged as low as – 51.2p in January leaving the Sheikh nursing a paper “loss” running to hundreds of millions of pounds.

However, Barclays shares have recovered dramatically since as fears of a catastrophic financial collapse have receded.

Today brokers Credit Suisse placed around 1.3 billion shares in the stock market at £265p a share, giving the Sheikh a profit of £1.48billion on his original £2billion investment.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


A New Iran Overture, With Hot Dogs

SAN SALVADOR — Having sent the Iranian people a video greeting on their New Year, President Obama is now inviting them to help celebrate a quintessentially American holiday, the Fourth of July.

Last Friday, the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates around the world notifying them that “they may invite representatives from the government of Iran” to their Independence Day celebrations — annual receptions that typically feature hot dogs, red-white-and-blue bunting and some perfunctory remarks about the founding fathers.

Administration officials characterized the move as another in a series of American overtures to Iran. The United States has not had relations with Iran since the American Embassy in Tehran was seized by protesters in 1979; the country’s diplomats have not been formally invited to American events since then.

“It is another way of saying we are not putting barriers in the way of communicating,” said one administration official. “It is another way of signaling that there is an opportunity that should not be wasted.”

A second official said the ban no longer made sense, at a time when the United States was actively engaging with Iranian officials elsewhere. In March, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, chatted with Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh, at a conference in The Hague.

The authorization to issue the invitations was disclosed by a senior State Department official on the eve of a three-day visit to Latin America by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the new policy was not public.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Dennis Prager: The Speech President Obama Won’t Dare Give in Egypt

This week, President Barack Obama is scheduled to give a major address in Cairo to the Muslim world. He is likely to reiterate what he has stated previously to Muslim audiences, that America has no battle with Islam, deeply respects Islam and the Muslim world, and apologizes for any anti-Muslim sentiment that any Americans may express.

Here is what an honest address would sound like:

“Thank you for the honor of addressing the Egyptian people and the wider Muslim world.

“I am here primarily to dispel some of the erroneous beliefs many Muslims have about America and to thereby reassure you that America has no desire to be at war with the Muslim world.

“To my great disappointment, many Muslims have come to believe that my country has declared war on Muslims and Islam.

“Because of this widespread belief, I said in an interview with al-Arabiya a few months ago, that we need to restore “the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”

“Lets’ look a little deeper at that relationship. For the truth is, as noted by the Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for the American newspaper the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer, in the last 20-30 years America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for Muslims. We Americans engaged in five military campaigns on behalf of Muslims, each one resulting in the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as the failed 1992-93 Somalia intervention to feed starving African Muslims — in which] 43 Americans were killed — were all humanitarian exercises. In none of them was there a significant U.S. strategic interest at stake. So, in fact, in these 20 years, my country, the United States of America has done more for suffering and oppressed Muslims than any other nation, Muslim or non-Muslim.

“While I recognize that gratitude is the rarest positive human quality, I need to say — because candor is the highest form respect — that America has not only not received little gratitude from the Muslim world, it has been the object of hatred, mass murder, and economic attack from Muslim individuals, groups, and countries.

“Just to cite a few of many examples from the last 40 years…”

[Return to headlines]

GM to Sell Hummer to Chinese Company

[Comments from JD: Watch for a beefed up Hummer design to become part of China’s military.]

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. took a key step toward its downsizing on Tuesday, striking a tentative deal to sell its Hummer brand, while also revealing that it has potential buyers for its Saturn and Saab brands.

GM has a tenatative agreement to sell its rugged Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. of China, said a person briefed on the deal.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Islamic Speakers Bureau Backed by Radical Profs

by Jonathan Schanzer, The American Thinker

A California nonprofit dedicated to “teaching about Islam & Muslims” at U.S. high schools and college campuses features a board of advisors that is stacked with some of the most controversial activist professors in the field of Middle Eastern studies today. The imprimatur of these scholars may signal a troubling shift toward the support of proselytizing efforts and the further unraveling of Middle East Studies in America…

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

Maine: African Mob Goes on Rampage After Police Confront Shoplifter

Crowd confronts police making shoplifting arrest

PORTLAND — Several juveniles and adults face charges following a melee at Franklin Arterial and Fox Street that began when police stopped and arrested a shoplifting suspect and an unruly crowd gathered.

Police responded to a report that a man had stolen two bottles of vodka at 7 p.m. Friday at the Hannaford on Forest Avenue.

Workers at the store provided a description of the suspect and the car he left in, and police pulled the car over at Franklin Arterial and Fox Street a couple of minutes later, police said.

As police were arresting Jimmy Odong, 19, of Portland and recovering the stolen merchandise, a group of about 15 to 30 people gathered, with about 10 of them becoming aggressive toward police, officers said.

A number of other officers were dispatched to the area, which is alongside the Kennedy Park housing development. Members of the gathering group, some of whom are Sudanese, like Odong, and some who are from other African countries, began calling the officers names, including “killers” and “murderers,” in apparent reference to the police shooting of a Sudanese immigrant, David Okot, last month.

When police prepared to tow the car Odong had driven, some of the crowd jumped on the car to try to prevent it from being taken, police said.

Three juveniles eventually were arrested, two of them on charges of assault after they allegedly punched the officers, police said.

Police also charged Yannick Mulongo, 21, of Clark Street with unlawful interference with a law enforcement dog, after he allegedly taunted a police dog named Taz; and Sara Langoia, 18, of Anderson Street with obstructing government administration.

Police said they had to use pepper spray in making the arrests.

The shift commander reported that additional arrests were warranted, but officers opted not to arrest others so the confrontation would not escalate.

Police said the minors were referred to juvenile corrections authorities, who planned to release them to the custody of their parents.

           — Hat tip: LN [Return to headlines]


Canada: Voters to be Flown to Lebanon for Elections

Western governments fear that the Iran and Syria-backed Lebanese Shia party and militant movement Hezbollah could gain a parliamentary majority in the election.

Ottawa, 1 June (AKI) — Dual Canadian-Lebanese citizens eligible to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lebanon are being flown free of charge to the country so they can cast their ballot, Canadian state media reported on Monday.

According to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, corporate sponsors are paying hundreds of supporters of the Sunni pro-western Future Movement in the western city of Calgary and other cities to vote in the 7 June elections.

According to CBC, dual citizens must be in Lebanon to cast their ballots.

“This is a big election, and there are a lot of people who [would] love to vote but they cannot vote because of finance … so those companies are making it easy for them,” said Faouzi Salem, a Future Movement coordinator in Calgary, quoted by CBC.

“There [are] sponsors in the world who [pay] for those tickets … European companies, Middle Eastern companies who … they would love to see a free Lebanon, an independent Lebanon.

“They want to see a democratic government in the future, so they’re dedicating all their support.”

According to CBC, the party has rented an office in a Calgary mosque where volunteers are matching people of Lebanese descent with tickets to Beirut.

The elections are expected to be one of the closely fought in decades and will feature the Shia, Hezbollah-led coalition, called the March 8 coalition which opposes the March 14 coalition headed by Saad Hariri (photo) of the Future Movement.

Saad is the son of slain prime minister Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in a massive car bomb attack in Beirut in February 2005.

However, CBC claims that there are rumours in the Lebanese-Canadian community that the pro-Hezbollah side is also paying to fly supporters to Lebanon for the election.

“The other side too, they’re doing the same thing, aren’t they? They’re taking people from all over the world,” said Fouzi Salem.

Canada has a substantial Lebanese community in Halifax, Vancouver, Windsor, Calgary, Toronto as well as the capital Ottawa and Edmonton.

Hezbollah, a paramilitary and political organisation is listed as a terrorist group by the Canadian, Israeli, United States and Dutch governments.

Australia and the United Kingdom consider the group’s military wing a terrorist organisation.

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

Europe and the EU

Barry Madlener, EU Candidate for Geert Wilder’s PVV, is Elected by Opinion Panel as the Best Debater

[Translation by VH]

During a live TV debate among six political parties that are running in the EU Parliament elections, Barry Madlener of the PVV tonight was voted the best debater. Over 1500 members of the EenVandaag Opinion Panel chose him during a live online vote.

The debate was broadcast by the news-opinion show EenVandaag and organized in cooperation with the Economic Faculty Association of the Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Blondes March in Latvia ‘To Cheer-Up Nation’

Several hundred blonde women marched through the Latvian capital Riga yesterday in a bid to cheer up the crisis-hit Baltic nation, suffering the worst recession of all 27 EU member states.

Led by an orchestra, the first-ever blonde parade featured women dressed in pink and white, some accompanied by lapdogs, in a charity fund-raising event that organisers hope will become an annual event.

“I’m not stupid. I’m beautiful and I’ll prove it,” Ilona Zigure, a participant, said.

Organisers said they were determined to bring positive energy to their country, expected to see its economy contract by 16 per cent this year.

The parade was part of a “Blonde Weekend” which also featured a blonde golf tournament, a little lady fashion show, an evening ball, and a children’s drawing competition.

“It’s a great time to spend in the parade and contribute to a charity,” said Ieva, one blonde spectator.

“Finally something different, something positive because I’m tired of hearing about the crisis,” said another, 70-year-old Ausma.

The event attracted many locals and puzzled tourists.

Following the parade, blondes climbed into open-topped cars and drove to the local shopping centre.

The money collected during the event will be donated to support children’s safety and playgrounds for disabled children in Riga and across Latvia.

The organisers want to make May 31 official Blondes’ Day in Latvia.

Latvia, a small Baltic nation with the population of 2.3 million people has been going through the deepest recession in the European Union, which it joined in 2004.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Czech President Klaus Says EU Election Pointless

PARIS (AFP)—President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said Tuesday that this weekend’s E.U. parliamentary elections would be a waste of time.

In Paris to promote a new book calling into question the dangers of climate change, the eurosceptic Klaus said: “I’m afraid that people living in Europe don’t feel the importance of the European elections.”

Asked what politicians might do to interest voters in the upcoming June 4-7 poll, which will elect representatives from the E.U.’s 27 member states to the European Parliament, Klaus said it would be useless to try.

“I don’t see any way, because there’s not a real European community of people, and they are not Europeans: they are French, Czechs, Germans, Poles,” he said.

“My understanding is that there’s no way how to create an artificially European ‘demos’, so I have no suggestion,” he said, using the Greek term for a national political community.

“For me the European elections are not necessary. I would be quite happy to send parliamentarians elected into national parliaments represent their countries in Brussels.”

Supporters of the European Parliament fear the poll will be marked by low voter turnouts, after campaigning in most of the member states failed to catch the public interest.

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

Danes Want Out of European Union

Morten Messerschmidt, a candidate for the European Parliament for the Danish People’s Party, wants Denmark to pull out of European Union immigration regulations.

“We can see that there are a number of policy areas where Danish regulations are watered down by the EU,” says Messerschmidt. “We’ve seen the European Court of Justice get involved in our immigration policy and I think it is important that we stop that sort of thing with an opt-out.”

He said secrecy surrounding new regulations for the free movement of labor expected to be announced by the European Commission this summer meant the opt-out was necessary.

The European Union is gearing up for its largest parliamentary elections ever, with nearly 375 million European citizens in 27 countries voting for 736 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) between June 4 and 7.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Denmark: More Troops to Afghanistan

Denmark will send additional troops to Afghanistan to bolster security ahead of the national elections in August

The Defence Forces will be sending further specialised military and naval personnel temporarily to Afghanistan ahead of the national elections on 20 August.

Public broadcaster DR reports that majority support was reached in the parliamentary foreign policy committee today to send the 65 members of the Hunter and Frogmen Corps (Special Forces units of the army and navy) on the temporary mission.

Many other member countries of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition are sending additional troops ahead of the Afghan elections.

‘The Brits have temporarily increased their force from 8,300 to 9,000 troops,’ said Afghanistan expert Peter Dahl Truelsen from the Defence Academy.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Youth Violence Surge

The past decade has seen an increasing amount of youth violence in Denmark.

A countrywide survey on youth violence shows that the past decade has seen a doubling of youth violence, despite increased sentences for violent crime and threatening behaviour.

While there were 2,700 cases of violent crime among 15-20 year-olds in 1990, that figure grew to 5,200 in 2007, according to the survey carried out by Ugebrevet A4 for the Economic Council of the Labour Movement .

The Crime Prevention Council Chairwoman Eva Smith is worried at the development and says one reason may be that an increasing number of youths hang out in the streets.

Street robberies

Justice Ministry Research Office Chief Britta Kyvsgaard says that there have been more street robberies, in which young people steal cellphones and money.

“It seems that in some youth sub-cultures, young people achieve status by demonstrating power and dominance in the streets — and that can result in attacks on other youths,” says Kyvsgaard.

Copenhagen — Århus

The survey also shows that the country’s two main cities of Copenhagen and Århus are at the bottom of the youth violence league, with the number of charges per thousand young people down at between seven and eight percent. In Gribskov in North Zealand the figure is 15 per thousand, 13 per thousand in Norddjurs and 12 per thousand in Ishøj.

A government commission is to report in September, with proposals on how to limit youth crime.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

EU: Declan’s Democracy

You know the “unelected commission”, so often referred to by those less than enamoured with the European Union: what about electing them?

I’ve just been sent an interesting little booklet called The Fight for Democracy: a series of interviews with Declan Ganley, the founder of Libertas, which is standing as a pan-European party in 14 of the 27 EU countries. What interests me about Mr Ganley is that he does have some genuine ideas for making the EU more democratic. Most of those who say they are campaigning for reform have long ago come to the conclusion that the EU is not transformable. Therefore, they argue, less should be done at a European level and powers should be returned to national parliaments. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and Mr Ganley stresses it is one option for those who want a more democratic EU. But he also suggests that the European Parliament could elect the whole commission, or that the nation states should hold elections for the job of commissioner.

At the moment commissioners are simply appointed by the head of government of each country. Of course, no president or prime minister would wear this reduction in their power of patronage, let alone risk a political opponent ending up as their man or woman in Brussels. But it’s an intriguing idea.

And just a plug for imaginative coverage of this election: find out how they will vote down Brussels Way.

That’s Brussels Way in Luton… But who would they elect as a commissioner?

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

Italy: Premier Says He Will Last Full Term

Berlusconi says press whipping up smear and hate campaign

(ANSA) — Rome, June 1 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday railed against the foreign and Italian press and accused the centre-left opposition of whipping up a hate and smear campaign against him ahead of the weekend elections for the European parliament.

The premier dismissed talk of resignation, saying he planned to complete the remaining four years of his term as premier, stressing that he had strong support from his Northern League party allies and his own People of Freedom (PdL)Party.

Speaking on a state-run Rai radio talk show, Berlusconi compared the centre left’s values to those of Novella 2000, Italy’s best-known gossip magazine, saying his popularity was not waning in the wake of a flap over his private life, but stood at 73%.

“I think we’ve really hit rock bottom”, said the premier, referring to ongoing polemics following a public divorce feud with his wife Veronica Lario who has accused him of “consorting with minors”.

The Italian left-leaning dailies have repeatedly urged the premier to provide information on his relationship with 18-year-old would-be showgirl Noemi Letizia after she was quoted calling him ‘papi’ (daddy) and admitted she had received an expensive necklace for her birthday last month.

The premier, 72, has gone on television to deny there was anything “spicy” in his relationship with Letizia and he has since categorically denied “steamy or more than steamy relationships” with teenagers after it emerged he had invited showgirls to parties at his Sardinian villa.

During the weekend, the premier’s lawyer got an injunction to block the publication of some 700 photographs which reportedly show that dozens of young women were invited to his villa.

Berlusconi told the RAI interviewer that “the left-leaning dailies have covered up the (opposition’s) lack of a programme with gossip and calumny”.

“The centre-left has nothing to offer, it can only ride on the wave of calumnies and violate other people’s privacy. I’m sure this campaign of envy and hatred will boomerang against them because I see that Italians who support us have a clear idea of what’s happening and are still closer to me”. Berlusconi, who has also come under increasing criticism from the foreign press, shrugged off an editorial by the London Times on Monday which lamented “the utter contempt with which he treats the Italian public”.

“Foreign newspapers are closely linked to the Italian leftist papers: their reports are inspired and blown up by the Italian left,” he said.

Berlusconi told the interviewer he had nothing to explain, stressing that he had “already cleared things up”.

“Showgirls? Not true. Teenagers? “Oh, come on!”,” said the premier.

A sentence by a Milan court who found his former corporate lawyer, Briton David Mills, guilty of perjury was based on “lies”, said the premier.

“These are pure and simple falsehoods which will backfire against those who sparked them,” he added.

In February a Milan court sentenced Mills to four and a half years in prison for taking a $600,000 bribe.

Judge Nicoletta Gandus, who the premier says is leftist, said in a written motivation for the verdict last month that the lawyer had acted “as a false witness…to allow Silvio Berlusconi and his Fininvest group impunity from the charges or, at least, to keep their huge profits”.

The premier, who was removed from the trial under a new immunity law approved by his government, has said repeatedly that Gandus is biased against him.

Both Mills and Berlusconi deny wrongdoing and the lawyer has said he will appeal the verdict.


Meanwhile, a group of politicians from the largest opposition party made a formal request for Berlusconi to explain himself in parliament after it was alleged that he flew party guests not in public office to his Sardinian villa using state-funded flights.

“What are the criteria and rules that the prime minister has adopted to determine the means and limits of using such flights?” seven senators and MPs from the Democratic Party asked.

Former Milan graftbuster Antonio Di Pietro, who heads second-biggest opposition party Italy of Values, also hit out at the reports, stressing that this was a matter of public interest.

“I don’t act as the opposition by looking through keyholes, but the use of state planes to transport musician friends is not a private affair,” he said, referring to the Neapolitan musician Mariano Apicella, with whom the premier has recorded several albums.

“It’s this sort of behaviour which shows who is in power for their own benefit,” he said.

Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of the centrist opposition UDC Party, voiced concern for a “moral pollution infecting politics”, warning that the government was not focusing on the real problems of the Italians.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Outlaw Forced Marriages in Sweden’

Nearly 70,000 young Swedes feel they aren’t able to freely choose whom they want to marry, according to a new study, leading the report’s authors to propose Sweden outlaw forced arranged marriages altogether.

“To be able to marry whoever you want to is actually an important human right. For a large group of young people, that isn’t an absolute certainty,” said Per Nilsson, head of the Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs (Ungdomsstyrelsen), in a statement.

The study, entitled Gift mot sin vilja (‘Married against their will’), was carried out by the youth board at the request of the government as part of a broader effort to highlight “honour-related violence and oppression” in Sweden and was handed over to integration minister Nyamko Sabuni on Monday.

It revealed that around 5 percent of young people in Sweden between the ages of 16- and 25-years-old, or about 70,000 young people, don’t feel they have the ability to choose with whom they want to get married.

In addition, 8,500 young Swedes are concerned that they won’t have any say at all when it comes to choosing a spouse.

“Arranged marriage is connected to norms about virginity and the control of one’s sex life, especially for girls,” said Hanna Linell, who helped carry out the Ungdomsstyrelsen study, in an interview published on the organization’s website.

“The girls’ ability to act freely is limited and boys are raised to control their sisters. These gender-specific expectations impact these young peoples’ life as a whole.”

The youth board submitted a number of suggested legislative changes to the government along with the results of the study.

Specifically, the group wants the government to criminalize child and forced marriages in Sweden and to bolster efforts to offer affected youth advice and counseling.

In addition, Ungdomsstyrelsen wants Sweden to scrap the provision in its marriage laws which allows someone under 18-years-old get married upon receiving permission from a county administrative board.

After receiving the report on forced marriages, Sabuni indicated she was prepared to change Sweden’s laws to counteract the problem.

“We were aware of the figures, but it’s good to have them confirmed so the scope of the problem becomes known. Our mission must be to protect individuals; we can’t let parents marry off their children,” the minister told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

“It’s such a serious violation of children’s rights that society needs to act.”

While Linell admitted that there are occasions when young people don’t automatically view arranged marriages negatively, she added that it’s easy for problems to arise.

“Problems arise when the young people don’t follow existing rules. Problems also arise when parents don’t let young people influence their own lives in such important questions,” she said.

The study’s results are based on responses to three surveys: one sent by Ungdomsstyrelsen to 6,000 young people ages 16- to 25-years old; a survey of first- and second-year high school students conducted by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen); and a survey of Stockholm area ninth graders carried out by Stockholm University.

[Return to headlines]

‘Swedish State Should Not Educate Imams’: Report

The Swedish state should not engage in the education of imams, a commission of inquiry into the issue has concluded in its report submitted to the government on Monday.

The Imam education commission, headed by Örebro University professor Erik Amnå, argues that a state education for imams would be in contravention of the principle of the separation of church and state and constitute an incursion into the internal affairs of the Muslim community.

Among the other conclusions in the report, submitted to the Minister for Higher Education and Research Lars Leijonborg on Monday, is that a state sponsored education for Muslim religious leaders would constitute special treatment for Muslims in relation to other faith groups.

The commission of inquiry recommends that the further education requirements of imams should instead come under the standard education system which includes for example, Swedish for Immigrants (Svenska för Invandrare — SFI), and university courses in political science.

[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Refugee Facility Hit by Arson Attack

A refugee housing facility in Karlskoga in central Sweden was subject to an arson attack early Tuesday morning, according to police.

Residents of the facility, which is operated by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) were forced to evacuate the premises, but could later return.

“It seems as if someone poured flammable liquid in through the mail slot and then set it on fire,” said Thomas Ginghagen of the Örebro county police to the TT news agency.

The door caught fire, with flames ten spreading to an office shortly after 2am. The refugee facility, which is housed in the same building, was evacuated because of the heavy smoke.

The refugee centre is in the process of being emptied and the only current residents include a family and one more individual.

The building has been cordoned off in preparation for a forensic investigation.

The facility has been subject to several other small fires and vandalism in the past, according to Ginhagen.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Unions Push for Six Weeks of Vacation

More than 125,000 people have signed a petition calling for six weeks of paid holiday a year to cope with increasing stress in the workplace.

Swiss law currently allows for four weeks of paid vacation a year. But Travail Suisse, the country’s trade union umbrella group, has collected enough signatures to force a nationwide vote on extending time off to six weeks a year.

“In the past two decades the workplace has become increasing hectic,” Travail Suisse said in a statement, adding that well rested employees are more efficient and productive.

The petition began in December 2007 to collect the 100,000 signatures needed for a people’s initiative. Proponents plan to hand in the signatures to the federal authorities at the end of June.

Switzerland’s 20 days of paid vacation rank among the fewest in Europe. Denmark currently allows the most with 31 days. Elsewhere, the United States allows for just ten days. Mexico has the fewest with six.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Chilli Hot Stuff’ Immigration Judge Paid Nearly £300,000 for Sitting at Home

An immigration judge who had an affair with his illegally employed “chilli hot stuff” cleaner has been paid nearly £300,000 even though he has been off work for the last two-and-a-half years.

Mohammed Ilyas Khan has been paid more than £280,000 of taxpayers’ money since an inquiry was launched into his conduct, after it emerged that the cleaner was an illegal immigrant.

He was paid £170,000 while a 19-month inquiry was undertaken into his conduct, and has been paid his full salary of £111,155 since it concluded last May.

Last year Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, then the Lord Chief Justice, said that the 63-year-old showed poor judgment by giving a cleaning job to Roselane Driza, 40, without checking her right to work.

The arrangement came to light when Ms Driza was accused of trying to blackmail a fellow immigration judge, who had formerly been in a relationship with Judge Khan, by stealing home-made tapes of them having sex.

During her trial in 2006 it emerged that Judge Khan had sent Ms Driza text messages calling her “chilli hot stuff” and telling her how much he enjoyed having sex with her.

Furthermore, it emerged that the female judge, referred to only as Judge J, had also employed Ms Driza as a cleaner.

After the trial concluded the Office for Judicial Complaints launched a 19-month inquiry into Judge Khan’s conduct, headed by Lord Phillips.

When the disciplinary report was published last May it concluded that no further action should be taken against Judge Khan, as employing an illegal immigrant was not strong enough grounds to sack him.

However, Lord Phillips described the decision of both judges to employ Ms Driza as “ill-judged, particularly in the light of the jurisdiction within which they both worked.”

He also said Judge Khan’s poor health warranted against there being a more in-depth investigation.

Judge Khan went on sick leave as soon as the inquiry concluded, being paid his full annual salary of £111,155.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the case was being “urgently reviewed”.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Black Immigration Worker Who Suffered Racial Discrimination at Refugee Charity Wins £65,000

A black man who was made redundant by the British Refugee Council, leaving only white people at the immigration centre where he worked, has been awarded more than £65,000 compensation.

Emmanuel Obikwu, 45, was unfairly singled out when his unit was earmarked for closure, an employment tribunal ruled.

While he and a Tanzania-born colleague lost their jobs, white colleagues were moved on to new posts.

Mr Obikwu, who has two British Masters degrees in law, suffered stress, anxiety, sleeping disorders, depression, and flashbacks to his own time as a refugee as a result of his treatment.

He has now been awarded £65,475 for unfair dismissal, racial discrimination, injury to feelings, psychiatric injury, and loss of earnings.

The payout follows £30,000 awarded in January to a former colleague, Tanzania-born Zaina Ukwaju, who also lost her job.

Speaking yesterday after the tribunal’s judgement was published, Mr Obikwu accused his former employers of racism.

‘This was a charity that I believed was dedicated to equal treatment of its employees and committed to human rights and the welfare of refugees,’ he said.

‘All I had ever wanted from the British Refugee Council was to be treated equally and fairly.

‘The racism and unfairness meted out to me by this organisation affected my health and damaged my well-being psychologically and psychiatrically.’

Mr Obikwu was born in London but his Nigerian parents returned with him to their homeland when he was a baby.

They came back to the UK a few years later after fleeing the country’s brutal civil war.

Mr Obikwu was educated in Britain and went on to work as an asylum support advice worker at the Oakington Immigration Centre, near Cambridge.

He lost his job in May 2006 after plans to close the unit at the Home Office-run centre were announced.

But he was horrified to learn later on that his white colleagues had been allowed to take jobs elsewhere.

During the eight-day hearing last year, the tribunal was told the council had failed to follow its redundancy rules in ‘the most extreme way’.

It was alleged by Mr Obikwu and Miss Ukwaja that the operations manager Anne-Marie Leech was ‘consciously biased’ when selecting members of staff to be made redundant.

They highlighted the fact that no one who attended a party at her home had lost their job.

The tribunal rejected this claim but said it was likely Ms Leech ‘subconsciously’ favoured colleagues she was friendly with — particularly those at the party.

Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal in Suffolk ruled Mr Obikwu deserved compensation for his psychiatric trauma and refused to accept the council’s claim that he would have lost his job regardless of his skin colour.

In their judgement, the three-man panel commented: ‘We are quite satisfied that the ill health which the claimant suffered was caused by race discrimination for which the respondent is responsible.

‘There has been a total failure by the respondent to offer any form of apology to him at any time.’

After losing his job, the tribunal heard, Mr Obikwu took a post as a night project worker with the Salvation Army. But he left in May last year as his psychological problems mounted.

A psychiatric report published with the judgement said he suffered flashbacks to the Nigerian Civil War.

It said: ‘These are pictures coming into his mind, certainly two or three times a week, of them moving from place to place.

‘He was also doing some studying but found his mind always wandering back to what happened at Oakington. He felt demotivated and it was pointless to study.’

A GP’s report added Mr Obikwu’s attitude to employment had also suffered.

‘He has had a major change in his attitude towards colleagues, particularly becoming very resentful of white women, who he feels have been given work in preference to him,’ it said.

‘This depression has been a disabling condition, particularly affecting his motivation and concentration, but also his attitude to work and relationships within the family.’

The British Refugee Council yesterday insisted its managers had acted ‘in good faith’.

A spokesman added: ‘We have reviewed our procedures to ensure that all staff are treated equally and fairly. We regret the distress the process has caused Mr Obikwu.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith Set to Quit (Before She’s Pushed) as Two Ministers and Two Labour MPs Step Down in One Day

Gordon Brown was plunged into crisis today after it was revealed that Jacqui Smith is to resign as Home Secretary.

The Prime Minister’s plans for a Cabinet reshuffle after Thursday’s European and local elections fell into disarray as Labour saw not one but five resignations in a single day.

Children’s minister Beverley Hughes and Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson revealed they are also standing down from their posts.

Meanwhile, shamed Labour backbencher David Chaytor resigned over his expense claims and former health secretary Patricia Hewitt said she was also quitting Parliament.

Chaytor, along with three other Labour MPs caught up in the expenses scandal — Ian Gibson, Margaret Moran and Elliot Morley — have been barred from standing for the Party at the next election by a Labour panel.

But the four have not been expelled from the party by Labour’s ‘star chamber’ or had the whip removed.

The series of resignations started to leak as the Prime Minister was rallying his Cabinet in Downing Street, ahead of Thursday’s elections.

The apparently uncoordinated series of disclosures were seen as yet more evidence of Mr Brown’s collapsing authority and signalled a dramatic escalation of the MPs’ expenses crisis.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Humiliation for Brown as Prince Charles Agrees to Attend D-Day Anniversary

Prince Charles will attend the 65th anniversary of D-Day celebrations this Saturday following months of prevarication by Downing Street.

The heir to the throne, who sources say has been following the Daily Mail’s campaign with interest, personally telephoned the Queen yesterday to offer his services.

His office subsequently put in a call to the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who ‘warmly’ extended an invitation to him.

Sources insisted that Charles’s decision to attend had nothing to do the intervention of US President Barack Obama in the row, saying: ‘The genesis of this is that the Princes of Wales has been following this issue in the media and taken an enormous personal interest in it.

‘As a result, he spoke to the Queen and they agreed together yesterday that it would be appropriate for him to attend.

‘The prince enjoys a close personal relationship with President Sarkozy who was more than happy to extend an invitation to him to attend.’

In a hastily-arranged move that will embarrass the Prime Minister, the official invitation was received today from the French Ambassador.

Gordon Brown has insisted that if the Royal Family had wished to attend, he would have arranged it. But it was Charles’ strong relationship with Mr Sarkozy, that enabled him to set the wheels in motion to attend.

A Clarence House spokesman said this afternoon: ‘The Prince of Wales will be attending the commemorations on D-Day in Normandy on the invitation of President Sarkozy.’

Hasty talks were arranged between Buckingham Palace and Downing Street to sort out the diplomatic mess, and Prince Charles will now attend alongside the Prime Minister.

The decision came after the White House revealed it was lobbying to get the Queen an invite to the commemorations.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs indicated last night that pressure was being put on the French to rectify the situation.

The Royal British Legion welcomed the u-turn, saying they were ‘absolutely delighted’.

‘This day is about the veterans and as many people that can be there to show their thanks the better. The veterans are such heroes,’ a spokeswoman said.

But Eddie Slater, national chairman of the Normandy Veterans Association, argued that the decision had come too late.

‘It’s been turned into a circus,’ he said.

The 85-year-old from Colchester, Essex, who was on a frigate at Sword Beach on D-Day, added: ‘It’s totally unfair that this decision has been made at this time.

‘If we had been told months ago we would have rejoiced but it’s poor judgment on somebody’s part.

‘This has been made into a political matter. It’s not a pilgrimage now. All the focus will be on the politicians, not the veterans. It’s too late.’

Charles will attend the main commemoration with Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. It is not yet known whether he will be accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall.

The absence of the Queen from the guest list was perceived by some as a deliberate snub by the French authorities, with the President focusing on hosting Barack Obama.

Gordon Brown claimed at the weekend that the Royal Family could have attended if they wanted to.

But protocol dictated that the Queen and other members of the Royal Family were unable to attend France’s anniversary celebrations without a formal invite.

Although French President Nicolas Sarkozy claimed the Royal family were ‘welcome’, officials said it was up to Britain to decide who would attend.

It turned pressure on Gordon Brown by opposition parties who criticised him for not securing the Queen an invitation. And it will further embarrass him that it has taken the attentions of the U.S. President to finally secure an invite.

Gordon Brown only announced he would be attending himself after President Obama promised to be at the gathering.

The Queen is thought to have been embarrassed when Gordon Brown said he had ‘done his duty’ by accepting an invitation for himself.

He told Sky News yesterday: ‘I have said before, if members of the Royal Family wanted to go to the D-Day celebrations I would make sure it would happen.’

Buckingham Palace had made clear that the Queen was willing to join the 800 British veterans paying tribute to their fallen comrades.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: MPs to Get Chance to Call Early General Election Next Week

Lib Dems to join Plaid Cymru and Scottish National party in voting to force dissolution next Wednesday

MPs will be given an unexpected opportunity next week to dissolve parliament and call an early general election.

The leaders of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party are to use their allotted time in parliament to force a dissolution debate next Wednesday.

It aims to put David Cameron, the Tory leader, and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, on the spot over whether they want to go to the polls.

Last night support for the motion seemed to be growing. Clegg announced that the Liberal Democrats would back the nationalists and call for the dissolution of parliament.

Clegg said: “The next general election will be about two big questions: who can fix our politics and who can fix the British economy. The sooner people get a say on this the better.”

The timing, just three days after Labour is expected to take a drubbing in the European and county council elections, is difficult to say the least for the prime minister. The move will also put pressure on Cameron, who has repeatedly called for a general election, to show his hand. He will have to decide whether to support the move by the nationalist parties or abstain on the grounds that he is not going to let minority parties dictate the pace of politics.

The debate would take place after prime minister’s question time, where the two party leaders can be expected to exchange harsh words after the European election result.

Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru’s leader in Westminster, said today: “We aim to see whether David Cameron and Nick Clegg really want to call an election now or just talk about it.

“We would also argue that the time has come for changes to our democracy and what better way to have a debate than hold a general election. There are a raft of issues from more devolution to Wales, to reforming the House of Lords, the MPs’ expenses issue, that need to be debated by the public.

“I don’t want this to be seen as a vote of confidence in the Labour government. It should be a vote of confidence in the whole political system in Westminster, which has become tarnished by the expenses scandal.”

The motion will be backed by Alex Salmond, the SNP leader.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said: “This dissolution motion is about confidence in the whole Westminster political system, which has been mired in the expenses scandal.

“The only way to sort this mess out is for parliament to be dissolved and for the people to have their say in a general election. There can be no argument against the entire House of Commons submitting itself to a vote of the people who elected them.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Energy: ENEA Looks to Egypt for Desertec Project

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 28 — To help launch the Desertec project, launched by the EU in 2007, the Italian institution for new technology, energy and the environment ENEA is looking to Egypt. Where soon it will be possible to export the solar-thermodynamic technology implemented by the company to produce energy and desalinate water. The move was declared by ENEA’s president, Luigi Paganetto, who hinted at the signing of a possible agreement with Cairo by the end of June for the creation of a pilot plant, he explained, that “will allow us to experiment our technology in another country and at the same time allow Egypt to verify possibilities for cooperation.” The signature could come between June 14 and 15 in Cairo, Paganetto said, who in recent days met with the Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Energy, Hassan Younes, to examine the possibility that this pilot plant could lead to the creation of others, “industrial plants in every sense of the word, allowing for Egypt, with us, to offer this technology to third countries.” The Desertec project, which includes involvement from research institutes to companies that operate in the energy sector, aims at harnessing the desert’s solar energy to give cleaner electricity to all of the MENA and European area countries. In synthesis, clean, renewable and re-sellable energy. Egypt, who over the next years hopes to develop its renewable energy sector, in particular wind and solar power, represents for ENEA a lighthouse in the Mediterranean area. “It has a good level of skill and training, as well as the adequate technology for the creation of a bilateral relationship,” he emphasised. The beginning of this partnership with Cairo, which will see the participation of many Italian companies, for example Angelantoni and Donati, is also a way to spread technology and knowledge that can increase development for the entire country. A model that can also be applied to Morocco, with whom ENEA has already made contact, and maybe Tunisia. “Algeria,” Paganetto remarked, “has not yet taken a step forward.” Among the initiatives for the Med area organised by ENEA, there are also projects for the exploitation of biomass fuels (the waste from agricultural work for energy ends) and of course solar energy “which of course does not create vast amounts of energy,” Paganetto said. Regarding the decision adopted by some countries of the southern shore, like Algeria and Egypt, to look to nuclear energy for electricity, the ENEA president said that he was concerned about security and the necessary controls. “There is a great difference between the technology necessary for the construction of a solar-thermodynamic plant and that needed for the construction of a nuclear plant, which requires a level of knowledge, competence and security and is a specific expertise. That would require years.” A problem which we also have in Italy, Paganetto concluded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel Fears Obama Backing Out of U.S. Commitments

Strategic territory within rocket-range of country’s central population centers

TEL AVIV — Jerusalem officials are concerned the Obama administration intends to abrogate written pledges made by President Bush that Israel would be able to keep main West Bank settlement blocs in a future deal with the Palestinians, WND has learned.

Real estate in the West Bank is key. The strategic territory borders Jerusalem and is within rocket-range of Israel’s central population centers..

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Books: Al-Neimi, After ‘Honey Proof’ Wants to Surprise

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 1 — “Thanks to ‘The Proof of the Honey’ young people from the Arab world can come to terms with their own bodies. Finally they can live freely and with a greater understanding of their sexuality”. Salwa al-Neimi, Syrian author of the best-selling work of erotic fiction translated into 20 languages, was speaking in her role as president of the International Short Story Festival , which ended yesterday at Trevignano Romano. Two years after the publication of ‘Borhan el asal’ — the original title — the book continues to cause controversy among readers in the Arab world. Thousands of readers were shocked to read the story of the main character (an Arab Muslim woman who decides to take her own sexuality to the limits), which leaves nothing to the imagination, including even the most risqué details. “Arab literature is full of ancient texts which describe love and sex. But many people in the Arab world do not know them and what’s more, cannot imagine that these famous treatises on carnal love were written by men of faith”, she said. Sex “is part of religion, and is not just meant for reproduction. In fact the main reason for it is enjoyment, a foretaste of what we will feel in heaven”. In 2007, the first Arab house to publish Borhan el asal was the prestigious Lebanese publishing house Riad el Rayes, which includes among its authors the famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwich. “I remember sending the manuscript in on Friday and receiving a letter from the publisher complimenting me on Monday”. Until now, explains the author who moved from Syria to Paris, where she has lived and worked since the mid 1970s, “in the Arab world and elsewhere they still ask me why I wrote this story”, which is banned from minors in Lebanon and the Maghreb, and also from adults in Egypt and Syria. “However it can be found on market stalls and on the internet” smiles al-Neimi calmly. Her irreligiousness has influenced her, as the writer describes her way of living her spirituality, the result of being the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother. “Between the two of them my mother was the ayatollah. My father was very open”. With this first book Salwa al-Neimi — who had already published several collections of poetry on the subject — wanted to break some stereotypes, laying claim to her membership of a tradition — that of Arab literature — which has always sung the praises of sex. Can the Arab woman thank her for this work then? “What is an Arab woman?” says the writer. “The Arab woman does not exist. There are many Arab women, and each of them must be judged for what she is and what she does”. Al-Neimi will not return to Syria from Paris — where she studied Islamic philosophy and Theatre at the Sorbonne, and where she works at the Institut du Monde Arabe. “My roots are in Syria, but I left all the problems of daily life there”. She does not want to talk about her next book, out in 2010 in Lebanon. But listening to her it seems that she has a taste for shocking the Arab public. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Eight Shot Dead in Turkish Flat

Eight members of the same family, including three children, have been shot dead in a flat in the southern Turkish city of Adana, officials say.

Adana Governor Ilhan Atis told NTV television that a man had been arrested and had confessed to the killings.

The victims, who were shot in the head, were the suspect’s parents, sister, brother, sister-in-law and three nephews, the Anatolia news agency said.

Adana’s mayor said the killings appeared to be linked to a family feud.

Mayor Aytac Durak said the bodies had been discovered on Tuesday morning in the 11th-floor flat by firemen alerted by one of the victims’ colleagues, who feared she could have been poisoned by gas after she failed to show up for work and did not answer her phone.

Media reports described the suspect as a 38-year-old drug addict. He was still carrying a weapon when he was captured by police, Mr Atis said.

The suspect is currently being questioned by investigators, he added.

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

Gas: Iran Begins Construction of Pipeline Through Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 29 — Construction has been started on a 1,740 kilometer pipeline from Iran through Turkey and on to consumers in Europe to carry Iranian gas, daily Hurriyet reported quoting the head of economic affairs department at the Iranian embassy in Ankara. Turkey, which has announced plans to produce an annual 20.4 billion cubic meters of gas in Iran’s South Pars gas field and export it over its territory, already has one gas pipeline through which it imports 28 million cubic meters of gas daily. “The Pars Pipeline will go from Turkey to Greece, through Italy and on to other European countries. Another route could go through Iraq and Syria and then go through the Mediterranean to Greece and Italy”, Ahmad Noorani, the Iranian embassy’s chief of economic affairs, said. Preliminary contracts for Iran’s planned 1,740 kilometer pipeline were signed in an agreement between Turkish and Iranian officials in 2007, but a final agreement has not yet been signed. “Current talks are ongoing regarding the development of phases 22, 23, and 24 in the South Pars field”, Noorani declared. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Spying for Israel, Another Colonel Arrested

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 1 — A Lebanese army colonel has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel. He is the second officer of this rank to end up behind bars on this type of charge, following last week’s arrest of Colonel Mansour Diab, special forces commander. According to reports in the daily Beirut newspaper An Nahar, which in turn quoted military sources, units from the army intelligence services arrested Colonel Shaid T, originally from the north of Lebanon, on suspicion of establishing contact with Israel approximately ten years ago. Daily newspaper As Safir reports that Colonel Shaid T. has five brothers — all of whom are officers in either the army, the internal security forces or the customs service. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslims Want Tangible Shift on Mideast Policy

CAIRO — On the eve of US President Barack Obama’s critical visit to Cairo on Thursday, Muslims expect tangible change from the American leader. While Obama’s softer tone largely differs from George W. Bush, raising the prospects in the Muslim world for a change in policy, many Muslims are still hesitant, saying they will judge him by his actions

Respect for Islam, a prescription for Palestinian statehood and assurances of a speedy U.S. pullout from Iraq — that’s what Muslims from Morocco to Malaysia say they want to hear from President Barack Obama this week when he addresses them from Cairo.

His speech Thursday from Cairo University will try to soften the fury toward the United States among so many of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, ignited by the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the hands-off attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of his predecessor George W. Bush.

Obama’s offer of a new beginning is seen as an attempt to stem the growing influence of extremists G particularly Iran, with its regional and nuclear ambitions — and to bolster moderate Muslim allies.

It comes just days ahead of crucial elections in Lebanon and Iran — where the appeal of militancy will be put to the test — and amid worsening violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The American leader’s soaring oratory and Muslim roots have kindled hope among Muslims. But they will judge him by his actions, not his words, said 20-year-old Mohammed Wasel, sipping sugar cane juice with friends after mosque prayers in Cairo’s Abbasiya neighborhood.

“There will be a lot of talk, but I seriously want to see something real coming out of this speech, something tangible,” Wasel said, expressing a view shared by an Eritrean social worker in Rome, a retired teacher in Baghdad and a Palestinian mayor in the West Bank.

Obama “has to walk the talk,” said social activist Marina Mahathir, daughter of Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

But with rising hopes come the risk of disappointment. Obama isn’t expected to present a detailed vision of a Mideast peace deal — potentially the most effective antidote to anti-Western sentiment — until later.

And there is doubt the U.S. president can change entrenched foreign policy, particularly what is perceived in the Muslim world as Washington’s pro-Israeli bias. What Muslims see as America’s repeated failure to hold Israel to its international obligations is a sore point. A construction freeze in Israeli West Bank settlements — Obama wants it, Israel rejects it — is shaping up as a major test.

“It’s true that Obama’s election created a new wave of hope,” said Jordan-based political analyst Mouin Rabbani. “But if he pulls the same tricks as his predecessor — making some nice statements and doing the opposite in practice — people will be disabused of their illusions quite quickly.”

Obama will also go to Saudi Arabia and meet King Abdullah on his Mideast trip. But he is not visiting Israel, though just a short flight away. The president’s initial actions have earned him good will. He’s reached out to Muslims in an interview with an Arab satellite TV station, in video message to Iranians on the Persian new year and in a speech to the Turkish parliament. He ordered Guantanamo prison closed within a year and said the U.S. would not engage in torture, reversing two Bush policies seen here as having targeted Muslims. After the Bush years, one of the darkest periods in U.S.-Muslim relations, there is now a chance for reconciliation, said Shibley Telhami, a Mideast scholar at the University of Maryland who conducts annual public opinion surveys around the Middle East. “The most striking is the openness toward President Obama and the expressed hopefulness about American foreign policy, something profoundly new, given the last eight years,” he said.

In the latest survey, 73 percent of 4,087 respondents felt positive or neutral toward Obama. The poll had margins of error ranging from 3.6 to 4.5 percentage points, in the six Arab countries where it was conducted in April and May. The positive results for Obama seem remarkable for a region where four in five people still hold unfavorable views of the U.S. Obama gets some credit up front for just being himself. Many were inspired by his victory, emotionally connecting to his African and Muslim roots and his childhood in Indonesia. “It’s so exciting to have a black man run the entire world,” said Awni Shatarat, a store owner in the refugee camp of Baqaa.

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

Obama Says Iran’s Energy Concerns Legitimate

LONDON — President Barack Obama reiterated that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy _ provided it takes steps to prove its aspirations are peaceful.

In a BBC interview broadcast Tuesday, Obama also restated plans to pursue direct diplomacy with Tehran to encourage it to set aside any ambitions for nuclear weapons it might harbor.

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. But the U.S. and other Western governments accuse Tehran of seeking atomic weapons.

“Without going into specifics, what I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations. On the other hand, the international community has a very real interest in preventing a nuclear arms race in the region,” Obama said.

The comments echo remarks Obama made in Prague last month in which he said his administration would “support Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections” if Iran proves it is no longer a nuclear threat.

Iranian state television described the news as Obama recognizing the “rights of the Iranian nation,” a phrase typically used to refer to Iran’s nuclear program.

The president has indicated a willingness to seek deeper international sanctions against Tehran if it does not respond positively to U.S. attempts to open negotiations on its nuclear program. Obama has said Tehran has until the end of the year to show it wants to engage.

“Although I don’t want to put artificial time tables on that process, we do want to make sure that, by the end of this year, we’ve actually seen a serious process move forward. And I think that we can measure whether or not the Iranians are serious,” Obama said.

Obama’s interview offered a preview of a speech he is to deliver in Egypt this week, saying he hoped the address would warm relations between Americans and Muslims abroad.

“What we want to do is open a dialogue,” Obama told the BBC. “You know, there are misapprehensions about the West, on the part of the Muslim world. And, obviously, there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West.”

Obama leaves Tuesday evening on a trip to Egypt and Saudi Arabia aimed at reaching out to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. He is due to make his speech in Cairo on Thursday.

Obama sounded an optimistic note about making progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although he offered no new ideas for how he might try to secure a freeze on new building of Israeli settlements. The United States has called for a freeze, but Israeli leaders have rejected that.

Asked what he would say during his visit about human rights abuses, including the detention of political prisoners in Egypt, Obama indicated no stern lecture would be forthcoming.

He said he hoped to deliver the message that democratic values are principles that “they can embrace and affirm.”

Obama added that there is a danger “when the United States, or any country, thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture.”

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Trade: Iraq Temporarily Bans Vegetable Imports From Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 1 — Iraq has placed a temporary ban on vegetable imports from countries including Turkey, Iran and Syria in a bid to boost its neglected farm sector, daily Hurriyet reported. Acknowledging the move could fuel inflation, the Agriculture Ministry said it had also decided to take over from private buyers the purchase of vegetables from abroad. It will also require private sector firms to procure licenses to buy set volumes of vegetables when the country needs additional supplies. “The ban began on 1 May”, Subhi al-Jumaily, a senior deputy agriculture minister said in an interview. “We don’t want to shut off imports completely but to arrange them through official agreements for all different food items”, he added. “The vegetable import ban will be in place whenever Iraq’s domestic supply is deemed sufficient, and will be lifted for foreign purchases if there is a shortfall”, Jumaily noted. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: ‘Just Being Able to Talk About Alevi Problem is Important’

Alevi Bektasi Federation (ABF) Vice Chairman Ali Kenanoglu has said an Alevi workshop to be held in Ankara on June 3 is very important and that “just being able to talk about the Alevi problem is of the utmost importance to us.

We see the discussion as a step toward resolving the problem.” The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) pioneered fast-breaking dinners (iftars) in 2008 and 2009 on the occasion of the month of Muharram, a time of fasting for Alevi Muslims, in an effort to reconcile long-standing animosities between the state and the Alevi community. This year’s fast-breaking dinner, held in January, was attended by a number of politicians and representatives from Alevi organizations. However, the ABF had not been invited to the iftars on either occasion. “The organizers didn’t even ask us for our views, let alone invite us. It was clear that there was a problem on the representative level in that event. This was understood by the government as well. Many representatives from Alevi organizations will join the workshop on June 3, which is also an important stance,” Kenanoglu said.

Kenanoglu explained that handling the Alevi problem as a whole would contribute to Turkey’s process of democratization and added that rather than asking for the electricity bills of cem houses (Alevi houses of worship) to be paid or being allowed to teach the saz (a Turkish stringed instrument) in music classes, they are going to make more serious requests over fundamental issues. He appealed to the government to remove religious classes from the curriculum, saying that these mandatory classes were against secularism. Among the others issues the ABF will discuss with the government will be replacing the Directorate of Religious Affairs with a Religious Affairs Supreme Council, giving cem houses legal status, accepting cem houses as places of worship like mosques and synagogues and making the Madimak Hotel a museum of tolerance.

Attacks against Alevi citizens in Gazi, Sivas and Kahramanmaras were part of provocations by a dark organization, Kenanoglu said; plans to assassinate ABF Chairman Ali Balkiz and Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Foundation (PSAKD) Chairman Kazim Genç were organized by the same people. The vice chairman went on to explain that when they first heard about the assassination plans they didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation. “I was with Mr. Kazim — we joked about it. But we realized the seriousness of it after we saw the sketches of our friends’ homes and workplaces in the files. It gave us the shivers,” Kenanoglu said, adding that dark forces wanted to spark off a clash between Alevis and Sunnis to create chaos in the country. They started to believe in the existence of the Ergenekon organization, a clandestine network charged with plotting to overthrow the government, after they saw documents describing assassination plots against the ABF chairman. “We know that there is much dirty work involved with Ergenekon. There is such a gang and this gang has a role in the [events in] Gazi, Sivas and Kahramanmaras. This needs to be exposed. We witnessed the events in Gazi. Planning an assassination against the head of an organization like the ABF that houses an important segment of the Alevi community, means pushing hundreds of thousands to take to the streets. This would lead to serious domestic disorder.” Assassination plans aimed at fomenting chaos in the country were seized by the police in a raid held in January 2009 as part of the Ergenekon investigation.

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


Russian Muslims Issue Fatwa Forbidding Marriages With Christians and Jews

Dagestani legal scholars (alims) have issued a legal pronouncement (fatwa), strongly advising Muslim men against marrying Christian or Jewish women, reports website, citing the canonical department of Russia’s Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims.

The religious ruling was adopted after a young Dagestani man residing in Moscow had inquired if he could marry a Russian girl he met there. Basing their decision on Shariat, spokespersons from the Dagestan’s Spiritual Governance canonical department ruled that the present day Christian and Jewish women differ greatly from “the people of the Book” and cannot be considered acceptable marriage partners, as approved by the Koran.

“If a girl goes to church, it does not necessarily mean that she is a true woman of the Book, because these religions have undergone severe distortions, “ the Dagestani fatwa says.

Following the adopted pronouncement, alims have reasoned that Muslims should be very cautious about marrying Christian and Jewish women, the Russian website reports.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Russian Prison Officials Burn Koran to Intimidate Muslim Inmates — NGO

Officials at a Russian prison have been burning copies of the Koran as part of abuse against Muslim prisoners, a rights protection group has said.

The People’s League of Tajiks, a migrants’ rights organization, said the incidents happened at a jail in the Tambov region, south-east of Moscow, BBC News reports.

It said prison officials had also destroyed a mosque set up by inmates.

The organization said four prisoners from Tajikistan, two from Uzbekistan and one from Kyrgyzstan had complained that they were assaulted by guards.

The group called on the Russian Justice Ministry and state prosecutors to investigate the accusations.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia, Malaysia Face Off at Sea

[…] An unlikely naval confrontation has broken out between Indonesia and Malaysia, with warships from the two nations challenging each other repeatedly in the disputed oil-rich waters of the Celebes Sea east of the island of Borneo this week.

Indonesian navy officials told local media their ships were minutes away from firing on Malaysian warships, which they charged were 12 nautical miles inside Indonesia’s territory. However, they said, they called off the attack when the Malaysian ships pulled back. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Indonesian Teen Model Escapes From Malaysian Prince

After a dramatic escape from her Malaysian prince husband over the weekend, 17-year-old Indonesian-American model Manohara Odelia Pinot said she had been abused, tortured and subjected to sexual abuse in the prince’s Kelantan redoubt, and that neither the Malaysian or Indonesian authorities bothered to help her.

Accompanied by her mother, Manohara told a packed press conference that she had escaped from the Royal Plaza Hotel in Singapore after she and her 31-year-old husband, Tengku Muhammad Fakhry had accompanied Fakhry’s father, Sultan Ismail Petra Shah II, to Singapore after the latter had a heart attack.

Her escape to Indonesia, she said, was [for the mayor part of the splendid operation] through the assistance of the United States [Embassy and intelligence service] and [to a much lesses extent] the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore as well as the Singapore police.

“Their guards tried to catch me but they were afraid of having their action recorded by the escalator’s camera that would leave their tracks, so they let me go,” she said when asked how she could escape from the supervision of the Kelantan Sultan’s guards.

After her arrival in Jakarta, Manohara and her mother, Daisy Fajarina, took to Indonesian television to tell a horrific tale of intimidation and torture including having her breasts sliced with a razor, forced drug injections and other abuse. The local media had a field day, running the press conference continually throughout Sunday.

The media circus, however, didn’t make it to Malaysia, where the story was studiously ignored by the mainstream press, which is controlled by the major political parties of the national coalition. The independent website Malaysiakini ran the story, carefully noting claims that Fajarina had attempted to extort RM600,000 from the prince.

“We are owned by a political party. We are not a foreign newspaper,” said a reporter for one of Malaysia’s English-language dailies. “Do you want us to get into trouble with the party? Do you want us to get into trouble with the palace?”

The jet-setting teen model, named one of Indonesia’s “most precious people” by a fashion magazine, met her husband when she was only 16 at a gala dinner thrown by then-deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Her story was a dramatic counterpoint to the prince’s claims in Malaysia earlier this month she was happily married and that her mother was demanding money from him.

A spokesman denied the story of Manohara’s escape, saying Prince Fakhry had decided to divorce her. For her part, Manohara on Monday threatened to sue the prince. “I am still traumatized by all that happened and it has left an impact on me,” she told the press conference, accompanied by her mother, her sister Dewi Sri Asih and a staff member of the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore.

The plight of Manohara and her wrecked fairy-tale marriage raises grim questions for the Malaysian government, which refused to grant Fajarina and her second daughter a visa to visit the country to attempt to rescue Manohara. The mother claimed Manohara had been kidnapped in Saudi Arabia after a February visit to the Muslim holy land to and hustled back to Malaysia aboard a private jet, leaving the mother standing on the tarmac.

The refusal of the Malaysian immigration department to allow the two into the country again raises questions of the disappearance of the immigration records of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu and her two companions after she was murdered in 2006 by two of Najib’s [Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak] bodyguards.

It is also the latest blow to the credibility of Malaysia’s sultans, who have been the subject of years of reports of abuse of the public purse and refusal to accept accountability. Many have been repeatedly accused of demanding that the states they rule pay huge gambling debts run up in casinos in London.

At one point in the 1980s, the Sultan of Johor was accused of beating a golf caddy to death with a golf club [the golf caddy laughed when the Sultan missed a golf stroke, and was murdered on the spot]. He was also not brought to justice for shooting a trespasser on his property. Then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused the sultans, among other things, of giving away parts of the country to the British, oppressing the people, breaking civil and criminal laws, misusing the money and property of the government and pressuring government officials, asking in 1993 that the body strip them of their immunity before the law. Mahathir used the incident in a parliamentary move to limit the sultans’ prerogatives

It also poses problems for the United Malays National Organisation, which over the last six months has tied itself closely to the sultans. In a squabble over the dissolution of the legislature on the state of Perak, UMNO has made criticism of the sultans a bone of contention with the opposition, accusing them in effect of insulting the ethnic Malays’ birthright, with UMNO members filing more than 100 police complaints against an opposition lawyer who filed suit against the Sultan of Perak. The sordid revelations now attached to the Kelantan royal house make it difficult to justify the sultans’ immunity from criticism.

Manohara, in her press conference, called attention to other ‘Manoharas’ who got ‘locked up’ in Malaysia,presumably by other royal families. “Sexual abuse and sexual harassment were like a daily routine for me, and he did that every time I did not want to have sexual intercourse,” she said. “I could never think a normal man could do such things.” […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Tensions High Between Indonesia and Malaysia

The crisis at the Indonesia-Malaysia border over the Ambalat Block in East Kalimantan has erupted once again. State-secretary Minister Hatta Rajasa confirmed that the government will put up a fight over contested land. “Don’t ever say we are weak or that we don’t care,” Hatta said yesterday. “This country is not like that.”

The Indonesian Armed Forces have declared their preparedness to fight should Malaysian battleships enter Indonesian waters. “We have reminded them that Ambalat is ours,” said Admiral Sagom Tamboen, Information Chief of the Indonesian military.

The Indonesian Navy has deployed seven armed battleships to carry out patrols on the waters between Sulawesi and Kalimantan. The Indonesian Air Force has prepared two Boeing 737 and one Sukhoi 27/30 based in Makassar to support naval operations. “They are prepared 24 hours,” said Balikpapan Air Base Commander Lt. Col. Agus Pandu Purnama.

Malaysian Ambassador in Jakarta, Zainal Abidin Zein, refused to comment on the tension or Malaysia’s maneuvers on the Ambalat waters.

War does not have to happen there. “If there is any physical conflict, no party would benefit from it,” said the House of Representatives’ (DPR) Defense Commission deputy chairman, Yusron Ihza Mahendra. For the time being, everyone must be patient and wait for the results of both countries’ negotiations.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Far East

Thousands March in Hong Kong to Remember Tiananmen

Last year there was one thousand, this year there were 8 thousand. Many are expected to turn out for the Victoria Park vigil on June 4th. Xiong Yan, the leader of Tiananmen, now in exile in the USA, got his visa a day before, after a series of rejections. Some students from China present. Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where Tiananmen is publicly commemorated.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — At least 8 thousand people marched through the streets of Hong Kong yesterday afternoon to commemorate the demonstrations and massacre of Tiananmen Square that took place on June 4th 1989. Among the demonstrators there was also Xiong Yan, one of the leaders of the movement 20 years ago, who today lives in the USA as an army chaplain. Xiong Yan says he only received a visa to enter the territory a day beforehand, after numerous rejections.

The march wound its way from Victoria Park to government offices and was opened by a group of 20 young people born in ‘89. In this way the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, that organises the commemoration every June 4th, wanted to underline the continuity of the event. Among the slogans shouted during the march; “Pass the torch on, relay the message of democracy to those who come after us”.

The presence of 8 thousand people — many dressed in the colours of mourning, black and white — was a great success: last year one thousand took part. According to a survey carried out by Hong Kong University, 61% of its students want the Chinese government to reverse its judgement of Tiananmen and 69% believe Beijing to wrong to have used violence against the defenceless demonstrators. Last year the percentages were 41% and 58% respectively.

Recently a book of the memoirs of Zhao Ziyang, party secretary in 1989 who was put under house arrest for the rest of his life because of his opposition to the massacre, was published in Hong Kong. The book, in English and Chinese, has already sold out. All of this interest in the history of the massacre and Beijing’s responsibility points to the likelihood of increased participation in the vigil that takes place in the evening every June 4th in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park.

Yesterday’s demonstration also saw the participation of Students from China. Lee Cheuk Yan, a trade union leader and one of the organisers of the annual march and vigil says that Hong Kong “is the only place on Chinese soil that can commemorate June 4. Hong Kong has become the conscience of China to remember… the crime of the Tiananmen Square massacre and push the regime (in Beijing) to admit their mistakes”.

Xiong Yan comments that “there is hope, because increasingly people in Hong Kong know what freedom means. They aspire to and pursue freedom and put it into action”.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mogadishu: New Clashes, Residents Fighting Insurgents “On Way to Work”

At least 8 people were killed, including five policemen and three civilians, in fighting this morning in Mogadishu between insurgents and security forces. Ali Mohalin, vice-director of the Medina Hospital in the Somali capital, confirmed to MISNA that the policemen were killed in a roadside bomb blast at KM4, along the road that takes to the airport not far from a base of the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM). “The attack comes just hours after government forces took back control of the police station of Yaqshid”, added the source, referring to the neighbourhood in the northern outskirts of Mogadishu seized in the past days by the al-Shebab (literally youths), which heads the armed insurgency against the government. Three people were killed and numerous wounded in fighting around the police stations. “Despite widespread fear, the people have continued their normal activities. People are going to work, the market is open and all are going about their business”, added Ali, saying that “this is the best way to support President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed against the insurgents. The people are with him and show this by trying not to relent to fear. Somalia must not return to the situation of the past years and the hard earned progress must not be wiped away”. Fighting is reported also in central Somalia: the ‘Ahlu al sunna wa al Jama’a’ anti-government group has imposed a curfew in the Guriel town. Witnesses said that forces of the group warned residents overnight on loudspeakers to respect orders of the new administration. Somalia has been “taken hostage” by fighting, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told a news conference in New York on return from a visit to the nation. ““It is very sad to see how the city, the population and the country are taken hostage by those who have been fighting and destroying their country over the last 20 years”, added the top UN envoy, calling on reporters “to talk about the plight of Somalia — how many orphans, how many handicapped how many maimed, how many people are silenced”. “We cannot say we don’t know”, he said. “We should look we should not look the other way”. “One overriding problem in Somalia not often reported or talked about is still there. It is the problem of impunity”, Ould-Abdallah said. “People who have killed, displaced, maimed are still around in Somalia, or in Nairobi, or in their new country home”, he added. “Impunity to me is a very overriding issue to be addressed”.

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

Pirates’ Glossy Lives Win Admirers in Somalia

HOBYO, Somalia, June 1 (Reuters) — An extravagant convoy of forty 4x4s and four motorbikes escort a young bride to her nuptials at a sandy beach in the Somali village of Hobyo and are used to light up the twilight celebration.

Her pirate commander groom has no eye patch — but a sword and knife hanging from his belt do create a swashbuckling effect.

“I am proud to be the leader’s wife,” said Sahra Ali.

Piracy is a big draw for many in the tiny fishing village, awash with ransom cash but lacking running water or power.

The impressive returns and flashy lives of the pirates mean that even children and young women want to jump on the bandwagon, either by joining one of the sea gangs or marrying a well-heeled pirate.

Ali is the envy of local girls, but she is all too aware that one wrong move by her husband means she could be a widow.

“After a week, he will go to the high seas and I am not confident he will return safely,” she said.

So far this year, Somali brigands have hijacked nearly 30 vessels, meaning 2009 could be even worse than last year, when pirates from the Horn of Africa nation seized 42 ships.

Foreign nations have finally taken notice and deployed their navies to the east African coast but even the threat of capture is not deterring some of the pirates or new recruits.

Walking along a sun-drenched beach in Hobyo, two men shake hands to seal a new joint venture deal in piracy.

They hope to combine resources and launch their own piracy outfit once they receive their ransom cut for the Greek-owned MV Ariana their gang is holding.

“This is a done deal. No more consultation,” said 28-year-old Roble in a loud and excited manner. “When I become an investor and I am successful on two or three more attacks, then I will retire, but not now.”


The village of Hobyo is awash with role models for aspiring buccaneers.

Roble said a former colleague retired early and invested his piracy dividends in the business of supplying khat, a mild leafy narcotic well-loved by many Somali men.

Flourishing business ensures he can afford the daily charter flights that deliver the perishable commodity from neighbouring producer Kenya.

“Thanks to him, we get khat everyday,” Roble said.

The trade is lucrative but Roble has written it off as a business idea. Friends tell him that his face was broadcast on television while he was on the Ukrainian ship MV Faina, one of the most high-profile hijackings off Somalia.

“I would like to do the same and join him, but some of my former colleagues scared me. I am very afraid to travel.”

The TV images also make it impossible for him to leave the country for Europe as a refugee. Another pirate forked out $16,000 to be taken to Sweden, he said.

While he wants to leave the dangerous trade after a few more attacks, there are others who will happily take his place.

Abdihafid, 13, dropped out of school, ran away from home and has taken up chewing khat and smoking cigarettes like the many brigands he sees in Hobyo.

“I want to be a commander of a pirate group,” he said. “I know I am far too young, but I will wait until the right time.”

Like many Somalis, Hobyo’s mayor says piracy has been fuelled by illegal fishing and dumping off the anarchic country’s coast.

Somalis say that because they have no navy or coast guard to protect their waters, trawlers from Europe and Asia fish there without permission and foreign ships carrying toxic waste dump their cargoes unchecked.

Although he agrees something needs to be done, Mayor Saed Aden said piracy is not the solution. “We have tried to expel them but we do not have man power or weapons to face them.”

Meanwhile, local girls are finding it hard to resist the monied pirates.

“I don’t want to marry a pirate but time is flying and pushing me to have a pirate boyfriend because he is rich,” said Halima, who at 24 is considered a bit too old to be single.

[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela: Hugo Gets a Tummy Ache… and Missiles

Adolfo was noticing that after Hugo Chávez chickened out last Saturday and Sunday he has remained a no-show for a couple of days now. He didn’t even show up for the president of El Salvador’s inaugural.

Fret no more: It was all due to a tummy ache. Coincidentally, he had been discussing diarrhea in his Friday Aló Presidente show. If you must, here’s the video of the show,

However, Hugo should make sure his interior minister Nicolás Maduro and one of the Venezuelan governors get the same memo for the excuses, since Monday evening the governor was saying Chávez was visiting his former wife while Maduro claimed that Chávez’s absence was due to security concerns on an attempt on Chávez’s life.


In more serious news, via Brian, Missile buildup in Venezuela has U.S. on edge…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]


Finland: Government Calls for Stricter Rules on Family Reunification

Migration and European Affairs Minister Astrid Thors is calling for tighter family reunification policies for asylum seekers. The recommendations stem from a government report on Finland’s refugee policy.

In the future, parents seeking reunification with their kids must be able to prove that they lived together with their children as a family prior to seeking asylum in Finland.

Other suggested changes to current asylum procedures include authorities having the right to turn down asylum applicants who provide false information, for example in regard to family ties, when applying for refugee status.

The number of police stations accepting refugee applications will also be reduced in an effort to streamline asylum procedure. Refugee reception centers will be housed in the capital city region as well as in Turku and Oulu.

Thors says the proposed guidelines will align Finland more closely with asylum policies in the other Nordic countries.

The bill will come before Parliament this autumn.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]


Al-Qaeda Deputy Denounces Obama

A message attributed to the deputy leader of al-Qaeda has denounced Barack Obama as a “criminal” on the eve of the US president’s Middle East trip.

Ayman al-Zawahiri said Mr Obama’s “bloody messages” would not be concealed by “polished words”.

The US president is due to make a major speech on relations with the Muslim world in Egypt on Thursday.

The authenticity of the audio message, posted on a website linked to al-Qaeda, could not immediately be confirmed.

In it, Mr Zawahiri said Mr Obama would not be welcome in Egypt, and referred to US campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Obama’s “bloody messages have been received and are still being received and they will not be covered by public relations campaigns or theatrical visits or polished words”, he said.

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

Blueprint for New World Order

If you want to know what the globalist elite really have in mind for us, you should keep your eye on Foreign Policy Magazine, as I do.

The May-June issue is nothing short of a blueprint for where the powers that be plan to take us — and it ain’t pretty.

Never before have I seen this crew let their hair down quite so obviously.

The cover sports a photo montage of Karl Marx’s face made up of bread, tools and fruit. The headline reads: “Marx, Really? Why he matters now.” The edition is called “The Big Think Issue” — but it’s actually much more than that, more like a wish list.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Journalists Who Don’t Kiss Obama’s Feet

The London newsies of Fleet Street have no respect — for very much at all, including the Queen, PM Gordon Brown or — shock! — not even for His Utterliness Barack Hussein Obama, He Who Must Not Be Laughed At. This lèse majesté will no doubt upset the ranks of the American media, which has transformed the fine art of butt-kissing into a veritable mob frenzy at any appearance of the One.

The White House press corps is now completely supine, utterly shameless in its groveling cowardice. Stalin himself couldn’t have wished for a more slobbering press corps. Rather than mailing them nice little Lipton tea bags, millions of sane Americans might consider sending air sickness bags to our Reigning Media.

But not, thank haven, across the broad Atlantic. There free speech and even laughter are still alive, among the well-lubricated scribblers of Fleet Street. The journos of Britain show little respect for American Presidents regardless of race, creed or color. They laugh hysterically at all of them. Not that it takes much imagination.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

4 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/2/2009

  1. Obama Says Iran’s Energy Concerns Legitimate.

    LONDON — President Barack Obama reiterated that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy _ provided it takes steps to prove its aspirations are peaceful.

    By which means BHO firmly proves to the conscious world that he is utterly ignorant of how it remains impossible to prove a negative.

  2. Obama’s either a moron or suffers from wishful thinking as he told the world earlier that America does not consider herself a Christian nation. Now he calls her a big Muslim nation at 1.5% of the population but 80% of the population identifying as Christian does not make a Christian nation…

    He’s so far out in left field that even the right seems stunned into submission, finding it hard to believe their eyes and ears. Is a Muslim ideologue really running amok in the White House and torching the economy?

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