Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/5/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/5/2009Below are several news stories tonight with details about the local elections in the UK. There’s a smoking crater where the Labour majority used to be, yet the general consensus is that Gordon Brown will hang on as PM until next year’s mandatory elections.

In other news, Haaretz reports that President Obama met with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood earlier this year in the USA.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, CSP, Frontinus, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, MD, Paul Green, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
No Jobs: Moroccan Migrants Return Home
Signs of a New Financial Storm for September Coming From Dubai and Saudi Arabia
A Win for the Good Guys and a Setback for Sharia-Compliant Finance in America.
Clinton Call on Obama’s Speech Includes Jihad Advocate
Frank Gaffney: Deciphering Obama in Cairo
Lawyer: Arkansas Attack Suspect ‘Radicalized’ in Yemen
‘Obama Met Muslim Brotherhood Members in U.S.’
Speaking Flattery to Power
Europe and the EU
CDA Candidate: Muslim Countries More Pleasant Than Netherlands
Italians: 60% Reject Nuclear Energy, 75% Approve Renewable
Italy: PM Defiant on Flights Flap, Teen
Italy: Army Sent to Palermo to Fight Rubbish Crisis
Italy: Five Accused of Plotting Terror Attacks
Netherlands: 140 Juveniles Arrested for Shoplifting
Outrage Over Swedish ‘Negro’ Neighbourhood
Paper Uses Sweden Democrat Ad Money to Fight Racism
Sweden: Security Police Arrest ‘Refugee Spy’
UK: College Bosses Smuggled Heroin
UK: Labour Wins No County Councils in England as Tories Seize Control of Heartlands in Local Elections
UK: Young Girl Looked Like ‘African Famine Victim’ After Being ‘starved to Death by Mother and Step-Father’
UKIP ‘Outrage’ on Folded Ballots
Mediterranean Union
Algeria-Italy: Work on Galsi Pipeline to Start in 2010
Tunisia: Possible Council of Europe “Partner for Democracy”
North Africa
Algeria: EU Commission, 10 Mln for Sahrawi Refugees
Muslim Brotherhood Falters as Egypt Outflanks Islamists
Israel and the Palestinians
60% of Israelis Mistrust Obama, Survey Says
Gaza: Hamas Exponent, Obama Sincere But We Need Deeds
Middle East
Islam: Turks Pilgrims to Mecca Increased Fivefold Since 2002
Love-Hate Relationship of Turkey With the EU, Survey
Obama’s Speech in Cairo, Islam is Part of America
Turkey Praises Italy as “Most Actual EU Backer”
South Asia
Indonesia: Country Among the ‘Most Corrupt’
Islamic Extremist Held Over Mumbai Attack is Released, Indo-Pakistani Tensions Rise
Pakistan: Christians, Hindus and Sikhs Forced to Pay the Taliban “Protection” Money
Far East
US-Taiwanese Relations Improve as Mainlanders Go on a Shopping Spree in Taiwan
Amnesty to EU, Common Standards Needed
Germany: Berlin’s Roma Conundrum
Maroni: EU Proposal Not Enough But Step Forward

Financial Crisis

No Jobs: Moroccan Migrants Return Home

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, JUNE 4 — The economic crisis is forcing thousands of Moroccans to go back home. An increasing number with cars with European number plates are seen in the streets of Morocco and in the first months of 2009, 38% more Moroccans arrived by airplane than in the same period last year. The countries where most Moroccans live are France (1.2 million), Spain (800,000), Italy (350,000) and Belgium (250,000). According to the general consulate in Spain, already 30,000 Moroccans have lost their job. The website Maghrebia quotes Younes who returned home after working in Marbella for five years. “I lost my job six month ago and haven’t been able to find another one, also because of the catastrophic situation of the Spanish construction sector” he said, “I haven’t been able to sent anything to my family for four months”. Also Abdellah and Khalid returned after working in Italy for two years. “We worked in Turin for a company that recycles tyres, we earned 25 euros per day” said Khalid. “We started earning half of that due to the crisis and we preferred to go back because of the high cost of living and because we feared we would spend all our savings”. Some Moroccans open small businesses with the money they earned in Europe: car washes, small bars or telephone centres. The economic crisis in Europe is also starting to have an impact on immigrant remittances, the only source of income for many families and an important item on the state budget. According to Treasury director Zouhair Chorfi, in 2008 a 2% decline was recorded to a total of 53.65 billion dirham (around 5.1 billion euros) and in March 2009 another slide reached 15%. “Things could have been worse”, said Chorfi in a press conference he gave two weeks ago, “many people who have lost their job use their savings in Moroccan banks to survive in Europe, waiting for better times”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Signs of a New Financial Storm for September Coming From Dubai and Saudi Arabia

Dubai calls on the Rothschild bank for help, perhaps out of desperation. In Saudi Arabia a Saad Group company defaults. US, European and Asian banks are struggling. The end of Ramadan in September might mark the start of an economic depression worse than that of the 1930s.

Milan (AsiaNews) — Rothschild’s Dubai office has been retained by Dubai’s Department of Finance for advice on the US$ 10 billion financial support fund (FSF) the emirate raised on the bond markets.

Nakheel, the property development arm of Dubai World, was the first to benefit, but is likely to be the last of its kind because funds will be handed out on the basis of two criteria: urgency and strategic importance.

In fact government-related corporations deemed essential for the long-term development of Dubai’s economy will be eligible for FSFs. They include firms involved in infrastructure, transportation (ex. the Metro and Maktoum airport projects), aviation, ports, shipping and tourism. Banking might be included and the Rothschild guidelines might be flexible with regard to real estate.

This said Rothschild is not getting directly involved but will act through commercial banks in which it has equity or has connections with, like JP Morgan and other ones. Moreover, through the same commercial banks, Rothschild has a say, and a powerful one, over the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY).

By law the latter plays a key role in the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and thus has a crucial role in making key decisions about interest rates and the US money supply.

Through the FRBNY Rothschild is in a privileged position to influence US monetary policy and shaping US monetary supply, crucially important since the US dollar remains the main reserve currency in the world.

Dubai’s choice is also part of a ongoing dispute between the Saudis and the Emirates over the location of the single central bank of the Gulf States and what direction to give it.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), especially Abu Dhabi, has recently put the breaks on the whole thing, and on the short run no solution seems to be in sight.

The Saudis are considered too close to the United States and thus indirectly to Israel. Gulf States, especially the UAE, favour a Euro-Asian axis that runs from China to Russia that includes Germany, a relationship best illustrated by Opel’s sale to the Austro-Canadian Magna group, which stands in for the Russian state bank Sberbank.

The Rothschild family has have been closely associated with the Zionist Movement. The 1917 Balfour Declaration was in fact addressed to Lord Rothschild in which the British government committed itself to the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

By choosing this banking group, Dubai is distancing itself from the other emirates, perhaps out of desperation.

But the Saudis too are facing their own serious problems. The Saad Group, which is linked to The International Banking Corp (TIBC) and the Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Brothers Co, is in difficulty.

Saudi Arabia’s central bank has frozen all the accounts of Saad chairman, Saudi billionaire Maan al-Sanea, who owns 2.97 per cent of the HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank based in London.

Once known by its full name of Hong Kong & Shangai Banking Corp., HSBC Holdings Plc is also one of Asia’s main banks.

The decision by Saudi Arabia’s central bank comes after an Algosaibi-owned company defaulted on a billion dollar debt.

Maan al-Sanea’s Saad Investment Co. had also received a US$ 2.82 billion loan from a group of 26 European, US, Asian and Arab banks in 2007.

Such troubles might be a sign of more bad things to come for the banks, especially those in Europe and to a lesser extent in Asia.

Conversely, although US banks were hit by the subprime credit crisis in real estate, they are not that involved in emerging markets and eastern Europe.

As in the spring of 2008 when the first signs of the coming September financial storm were visible, today’s signs, albeit not front page news, might herald another major storm this fall.

But this year’s crisis could be worse than last year’s because of the multiple points of origin. In addition to the weak situation of the US Federal Reserve, whose financial commitments in support of the US banking system are equal to the total US GDP, European banks could go in tilt because of their exposure to emerging markets whilst those of Asia (especially Japan’s and China’s) could suffer because of Asian economies’ heavy reliance on now declining exports.

As for Dubai real estate values in the city-emirate have dropped by 50 per cent since before the crisis[i]; insolvencies here and across the Gulf region are rising.

At the same time two contradictory trends appear to be coming together. On the one hand, we see that “creata ex nihilo”[ii] e-money might lead to hyper-inflation; on the other, collapsing prices in real goods could lead to deflation and an economic depression worse than that of the 1930s.

Indeed in Dubai many expect the next storm to hit at the end of Ramadan, 21 September.

[i] According to AsiaNews’s own sources, the drop in real estate values could actually be higher, of the order of 60 to 70 per cent.

[ii] Such an almost blasphemous expression refers to money created by accounting decisions and practices made by existing computerised banking methods and which do not reflect actual available goods.

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


A Win for the Good Guys and a Setback for Sharia-Compliant Finance in America.

By Frank J. Gaffney Jr. and David Yerushalmi

Last week’s news on the judicial front was dominated by the California supreme court’s ruling on gay marriage and President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Largely unremarked was another potentially seismic decision, one made in federal court regarding Islamic law, which is called sharia.

Eastern District of Michigan judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff handed down the decision, in a case involving an alleged violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. The issue is whether a government-owned company, AIG, can market sharia-compliant insurance products. (To be sharia-compliant, an investment vehicle must be created and structured in ways that do not violate Islamic law.) In a well-reasoned and cogently argued opinion, Judge Zatkoff refused to dismiss the case prior to factual discovery.

Kevin Murray, an Iraq War combat veteran, Catholic, and American taxpayer, brought the lawsuit, Murray v. Treasury Secretary Geitner and Federal Reserve Board. Mr. Murray’s taxpayer status affords him “standing” to bring the claim against the government, which has acquired nearly 80 percent ownership and total control over AIG through an $80 billion cash infusion orchestrated by the Fed last fall. Shortly thereafter, Congress created the TARP Fund, which allocated billions more to bail out “distressed,” too-big-to-fail institutions. AIG was first at the trough, getting another $40 billion. The giant insurance concern has returned to that trough several times since, for a total taxpayer exposure to date of more than $150 billion.

The problem with all of this public largesse is that AIG sponsors, pays for, and aggressively markets sharia-compliant insurance products. The practice of sharia finance has created lucrative advisory positions for often radical imams, who get paid to guarantee the religious “purity” of sharia-compliant products. Such vehicles typically follow the Muslim principle of zakat and donate a slice of their profits to charity. Unfortunately, many of the charities receiving these funds have links to terrorism. Mr. Murray objects to his funds’ being used to legitimate and promote sharia law, when that is the same law that calls for jihad. For that matter, sharia allows Saudis, Iranians, Sudanese, Somalis, Afghans, Taliban members, and other adherents to justify the following: the execution of apostates who decide to abandon the faith; the criminalizing of “Islamophobic blasphemy”; the punishment of petty crimes with amputations, floggings and stonings; and the repression of “non-believers” from practicing their respective religions freely and openly.

AIG — read the federal government — now is in the business of selecting which sharia-adherent “authorities” shall be enlisted to determine whether or not a given product is sharia-compliant. In early maneuvering on Murray v. Geitner et al., the government moved to dismiss the case on two grounds. First, its lawyers argued that Mr. Murray did not have standing to bring this lawsuit. Second, they contended that, even if he did have standing, the government acted in buying AIG without any intent to promote or become involved in religious questions…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Clinton Call on Obama’s Speech Includes Jihad Advocate

Excerpt from The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT)

On the eve of a Democratic primary election in Virginia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has handed a public relations bonanza to an Islamist candidate who has praised Palestinians for choosing “the jihad way” to liberation.

Esam Omeish is considered a dark-horse candidate in the Virginia House of Delegates District 35 race. The primary is Tuesday.

On Thursday, Clinton invited Omeish to participate in a national conference call to discuss President Obama’s Cairo speech aimed at repairing America’s image with Muslims.

           — Hat tip: MD [Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Deciphering Obama in Cairo

By and large, President Obama’s address yesterday in Cairo has been well received in both the so-called “Muslim world” and by other audiences. Nobody may be happier with it, though, than the Muslim Brotherhood — the global organization that seeks to impose authoritative Islam’s theo-political-legal program known as “Shariah” through stealthy means where violence ones are not practicable. Egyptian Muslim Brothers were prominent among the guests in the audience at Cairo University and Brotherhood-associated organizations in America, like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), have rapturously endorsed the speech.

The Brotherhood has ample reason for its delight. Accordingly, Americans who love freedom — whether or not they recognize the threat Shariah represents to it — have abundant cause for concern about “The Speech,” and what it portends for U.S. policy and interests.

Right out of the box, Mr. Obama mischaracterized what is causing a “time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world.” He attributed the problem first and foremost to “violent extremists [who] have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims.” The President never mentioned — not even once — a central reality: The minority in question, including the Muslim Brotherhood, subscribes to the authoritative writings, teachings, traditions and institutions of their faith, namely Shariah. It is the fact that their practice is thus grounded that makes them, whatever their numbers (the exact percentage is a matter of considerable debate), to use Mr. Obama euphemistic term, “potent.”

Instead, the President’s address characterized the problem as a “cycle of suspicion and discord,” a turn of phrase redolent of the moral equivalence so evident in the Mideast peace process with it “cycle of violence.” There was not one reference to terrorism, let alone Islamic terrorism. Indeed, any connection between the two is treated as evidence of some popular delusion. “The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.”

Then there was this uplifting, but ultimately meaningless, blather: “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity.”

More often than not, the President portrayed Muslims as the Brotherhood always does: as victims of crimes perpetrated by the West against them — from colonialism to manipulation by Cold War superpowers to the menace of “modernity and globalization that led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.” Again, no mention of the hostility towards the infidel West ingrained in “the traditions of Islam.” This fits with the meme of the Shariah-adherent, but not the facts.

Here’s the irony: Even as President Obama professed his determination to “speak the truth,” he perpetrated a fraud…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Lawyer: Arkansas Attack Suspect ‘Radicalized’ in Yemen

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The lawyer for a Muslim convert accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock recruiting center says the man was “tortured” and “radicalized” in a Yemeni prison.

In an interview with The Associated Press, lawyer Jim Hensley also said that Abdulhakim Muhammad did not tell police that there would have been more bloodshed in Monday’s attack had more soldiers been outside the recruiting station.

Muhammad has pleaded not guilty to a capital murder charge in the death of Pvt. William Long of Conway. Another soldier was wounded in the attack. Little Rock police said Muhammad told officers he could have killed more.

The lawyer says Muhammad went to Yemen to teach English to Afghani war refugees but was detained because of problems with his visa. In prison, according to the lawyer, “hardened terrorists” abused him.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Muslim convert accused of fatally shooting an Army private and wounding another had previously been arrested on a weapons charge in Tennessee, but that charge eventually was dropped.

Police say Abdulhakim Muhammad, then known as Carlos Bledsoe, was arrested in February 2004 after a traffic stop in Knoxville. He was found with an SKS rifle inside in the car, with five rounds in a clip and one round in the rifle’s chamber. Officers also found a sawed-off shotgun and another shotgun inside the car, as well as an ounce of marijuana, a switchblade knife and two shotgun shells on Muhammad.

Muhammad is accused of killing Army Pvt. William Andrew Long and wounding Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula in a shooting Monday at a Little Rock recruiting center. After the attack, Little Rock police confiscated from Muhammad’s truck an SKS rifle believed to be used in the shootings.

President Barack Obama said in a statement Wednesday that he was “deeply saddened” by the shootings and that the two soldiers were working to “strengthen our armed forces and keep our country safe.”

Muhammad has pleaded not guilty to a capital murder charge, which could carry the death penalty if he is convicted. Federal agents are also considering charges.

In the 2004 arrest, Knoxville police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said Thursday, Muhammad told officers he planned to sell the two shotguns for $100 apiece to another man who ran from the car during the traffic stop. The other man, later identified, faced no charges in the incident, DeBusk said.

Muhammad faced weapons and drug charges after the arrest, though court records show prosecutors filed only a single misdemeanor charge against him. That charge was dismissed four months later.

DeBusk declined to say whether Muhammad worked with police after his arrest.

“We charged him appropriately and all of the case information was presented to the DA’s office,” DeBusk said.

John Gill, special counsel to Knox County District Attorney Randy Nichols, said Thursday that the legal circumstances surrounding Muhammad’s 2004 case prevented him from speaking about it.

“This is a weird situation in which we can’t say anything and we can’t explain why,” Gill said.

The Knox County Criminal Court does allow defendants to request their court records be expunged. However, court officials said Thursday they had a record of Muhammad’s case.

Material seized from Muhammad’s truck and apartment this week included guns, ammunition and Molotov cocktails. An FBI-Homeland Security intelligence assessment document obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday suggested Muhammad may have considered targeting other locations, including Jewish and Christian sites.

The FBI said Muhammad “conducted Internet searches related to different locations in several U.S. cities” including Atlanta, Little Rock, Louisville, Ky., Memphis, Tenn., New York and Philadelphia and notified authorities in those locations.

Long’s funeral is set for Monday. He will be buried at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]

‘Obama Met Muslim Brotherhood Members in U.S.’

U.S. President Barack Obama met with members of Egypt’s Islamist opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, earlier this year, according to a report in Thursday editions of the Egyptian daily newspaper Almasry Alyoum.

The newspaper reported that Obama met the group’s members, who reside in the U.S. and Europe, in Washington two months ago.

According to the report, the members requested that news of the meeting not be publicized. They expressed to Obama their support for democracy and the war on terror.


The newspaper also reported that the members communicated to Obama their position that the Muslim Brotherhood would abide by all agreements Egypt has signed with foreign countries.

Obama landed in Cairo on Thursday to deliver a conciliatory speech as part of his outreach to the Arab and Muslim world.

The Muslim Brotherhood is considered a Sunni-dominated fundamentalist Islamic organization that has spawned numerous factions across the Arab world that have engaged in terrorist activity, including the Palestinian rejectionist group Hamas.

It is also the main opposition bloc to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose regime is viewed favorably in the West due to its adherence to the thirty-year-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

The Cairo University setting in which Obama will make his Middle East speech is spectacular and will accommodate a highly unusual audience.

Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, who had been specifically invited by the White House, will be seated not far from Iran’s representative and the 11 members of the Egyptian Parliament who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Also present will be a group of Egyptian artists who oppose normalization with Israel, including film stars Adel Imam and Leila Alawi.

Just hours before the speech, the hall in which Obama will speak was nearly filled to capacity.

Egyptian sources said Ambassador Cohen was invited by the president of the university, Prof. Hossam Kamel, who told journalists the instruction to invite Cohen came from “on high” and was “impossible to refuse.” The White House constructed the guest list together with the director-general of Mubarak’s office, and the Egyptian president personally authorized the result.

The Muslim Brotherhood MPs had requested an emergency debate in parliament on the invitation of the Israeli ambassador, and university lecturers threatened to block Cohen from entering the campus. However, the protests were said to have subsided when the Muslim Brotherhood MPs found their names on the guest list as well, along with the name of recently released opposition activist Ayman Nour.

           — Hat tip: Frontinus [Return to headlines]

Speaking Flattery to Power

by Barry Rubin

Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo is one of the most bizarre orations ever made by a U.S. president, not a foreign policy statement but rather something invented by Obama, an international campaign speech, as if his main goal was to obtain votes in the next Egyptian primary.

That approach defined Obama’s basic themes: Islam’s great. America is good. We’re sorry. Be moderate (not that you haven’t always been that way). Let’s be friends.

Here, Obama followed the idea that if you want someone to like you agree with almost everything he says. Obama also gave, albeit with some minor variations, the speech that the leader of a Third World Muslim country might give, justifying it in advance by claiming America is a big Muslim country, after all.

Of course, the speech had tremendous—though temporary—appeal combined with its counterproductive strategic impact. It will make him more popular. It may well make America somewhat less unpopular. But its effect on Middle East issues and U.S. interests is another matter entirely.

The first problem is that Obama said many things factually quite untrue, some ridiculously so. Pages would be required to list all these inaccuracies. The interesting question is whether Obama consciously lied or really believes it. I’d prefer him to be lying, because if he’s that ignorant then America and the world is in very deep trouble…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

CDA Candidate: Muslim Countries More Pleasant Than Netherlands

AMSTERDAM, 05/06/09 — A Christian democratic (CDA) candidate for the European Parliament believes that living in Muslim countries is more pleasant than in the Netherlands. More respect reigns there and because men and women do not shake hands, this prevents the spread of diseases, she said in an interview with a controversial Islamic website.

The CDA candidate, Ria Netjes, gave the interview a few days ago. website had already paid extensive attention to her controversial views. On the morning of the elections, the country’s biggest newspaper, De Telegraaf, yesterday also ‘discovered’ the interview on the site.

Netjes is already a CDA member of Amsterdam city council. For yesterday’s European elections, she was the 13th candidate on the CDA list. She is married to an Egyptian and lives by turns in the Muslim world and in the Netherlands.

Netjes finds it “more pleasant than in the Netherlands” in Muslim countries, De Telegraaf reported. She likes Lebanon and Egypt best. “I am there every month.” She finds it normal that most men and women do not shake hands there, but also hygienic. “Most diseases are transmitted because we shake hands with each other.”

Netjes also suggests that the West has called down terrorist attacks by Muslims on itself. “If these people (Muslims) wanted to attack our way of life or our democracy, why have they then not made attacks in Tokyo, Shanghai or Oslo. Why actually in the United States, Spain and Great Britain, three countries that had meddled in the Middle East?” is the Internet page of Sheik Fawaz Jneid, the Imam of the As Soennah mosque in The Hague. This Syrian pronounced a curse on Islam critic Theo van Gogh a few weeks before he was brutally murdered by an Amsterdam-born Muslim.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Italians: 60% Reject Nuclear Energy, 75% Approve Renewable

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 27 — 60% of Italians object to nuclear power, seven out of ten citizens view it as dangerous. But eight out of 10 Italians approve of alternative energy sources: 75% favour energy being produced by solar and photovoltaic methods. Generally speaking, environmental issues concern 68.7% of the population, more than the risk of war and terrorism (22.1%) and housing problems (4.9%). These are the results of a survey carried out by Lorien Consulting and monthly newspaper “La nuova ecologia” that were illustrated this morning in Rome during the “Qualenergia” forum, an initiative promoted by Legambiente and the Kyoto Club and supported by the Ministry of the Environment and Economic Development. 57% of the population is prepared to pay extra to have clean energy, while nuclear power is viewed by the majority as being more dangerous and expensive. It is only preferred by 14% of the population, which however would rather not live in the vicinity of a nuclear power station or radioactive waste disposal site. The survey indicates that it is the younger generation that is most worried about the future of our environment. Legambiente President Vittorio Cogliati Dezza stated that “energy qualification, CO2 savings and new technologies are the three measures which Italy should focus on”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: PM Defiant on Flights Flap, Teen

Berlusconi blames media muck- raking on centre- left

(ANSA) — Rome, June 4 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday fended off claims he used state planes for private trips and remained defiant about a media storm linking him to a teenage girl.

Brushing aside the flap over his use of state-funded flights to transport party guests to his villa in Sardinia, he said it was a sign that the opposition “has nothing to propose” ahead of this weekend’s European Parliament elections.

“I’m happy to see the small-mindedness of our opponents emerge once again,” he said.

Berlusconi is being investigated by the Rome public prosecutor’s office after consumer group Codacons on Monday presented an official complaint against his allegedly “inappropriate” use of state flights in May 2008 to transport private guests to the villa.

Neapolitan musician Mariano Apicella, with whom the premier has recorded several albums, was among those reported to have been flown over.

However, legal sources have said the investigation is “a due act,” a phrase used by Italian judicial officials to say they are forced to respond to suits even if there no evidence of wrongdoing.

“It doesn’t mean anything and it will soon be shelved,” Berlusconi said Thursday.

Speaking a day earlier, he insisted he had “followed the rules”.

“If from time to time there was an extra passenger onboard, it didn’t cost a lira because the aeroplane was already being used to make the journey: it’s a question of practicality and pragmatism,” he said.

Opposition politicians continued to rail against the premier Thursday with former graftbuster and Italy of Values leader Antonio Di Pietro criticising “the use and abuse of military aeroplanes and pilots trained like in Top Gun, at a cost of 40-50 million euros a year, to transport jesters, ballerinas, minstrels and showgirls to the villa of our very own (Emperor) Nero”.

Berlusconi hit back at accusations that he had wasted state funds, saying he paid to host foreign heads of state at the villa out of his own pocket, “without a single euro from the state”.

“When there are guests I organise a dinner and put on a show with artists, who certainly don’t come free, and then there are the presents: since I’m a leader I don’t give scarves, but presents that cost around 10,000 euros,” he added.


Berlusconi meanwhile slammed critical articles in the foreign press about him and his alleged relationship with an aspiring teenage model, 18-year-old Noemi Letizia.

The 72-year-old premier denies anything improper in the relationship, which has prompted his wife, Veronica Lario, to seek a divorce. Lario said last month she was asking for the divorce because her husband was consorting with “minors”.

Berlusconi said a list of ten questions about him and the girl, published daily by left-leaning paper La Repubblica and taken up by the foreign press, had drummed up “an anti-Italian campaign… based on a complete libel”.

The Times, The Independent and The Guardian have been among the British broadsheets criticising the premier.

The premier linked critical articles about him and Letizia in The Times to his government’s decision to hike VAT on Italian satellite group Sky, which like the London daily is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp group. “I don’t mean to be unfair but with the Sky VAT episode there was a rift with Murdoch’s group and there was a series of critical articles about me,” Berlusconi said on the Canale 5 TV channel, one of three commercial channels he owns. Berlusconi and Murdoch have had friendly relations in the past and the Australian-American news magnate was once tipped to buy out the Italian premier’s media conglomerate. They are now rivals for the growing Italian pay-TV market.

In an editorial on Monday entitled The Clown’s Mask Slips, The Times chided Berlusconi for alleged womanising and supposed unbecoming behaviour with Letizia.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Thursday it was time to counter the allegedly muckraking campaign by talking to the international press about more serious matters. He said the country could not “leave the last word to the network of those who hate Italy”.

Both Letizia’s father — a Naples municipal clerk and friend of Berlusconi — and her mother have strongly defended the premier over the flap, backing up his claims that there is nothing improper about his relationship with the teenager.

Marina Berlusconi, the premier’s eldest child and chairman of the family’s Fininvest empire, has also staunchly defended her father, describing the Letizia row as “a mountain of lies built on nothing”.

In addition, the premier was backed by his first son and deputy chairman of family TV empire Mediaset, Pier Silvio, and Luigi, the premier’s son with Lario, who said he was “proud of how (he) was raised and the values instilled in (him) by (his) family”.

Nevertheless, the premier has come under fire from the Catholic Church which has expressed dismay over the divorce spat and reports that he had planned to field former starlets for the June EP elections.

While the Letizia scandal has shocked the foreign press and has had considerable coverage in Italian newspapers, it does not appear to have dented Berlusconi’s popularity to the extent that he risks losing the elections, according to pundits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Army Sent to Palermo to Fight Rubbish Crisis

Rome, 3 June (AKI) — While garbage collection has resumed in the Sicilian city of Palermo, the Italian government has sent the army into the city to help resolve its refuse crisis. Defence minister Ignazio della Russa said he was dispatching around 100 soldiers to the city as rubbish bins were set on fire for the fifth consecutive night on Tuesday.

Piles of waste as high as two metres have built up beside apartment buildings and churches since the garbage collectors took industrial action over redundancy fears.

Meanwhile, in central Italy, a local government leader was among 15 people arrested by police in and around the southern city of Naples on Wednesday over alleged irregularities in that region’s garbage disposal.

Anti-Mafia investigators as well as Italy’s finance or tax police issued warrants against Aniello Cimitile, president of Benevento province, university professors and regional officials about irregularities in the testing of several plants in the region of Campania.

In Palermo, around 100 large bins filled with garbage were destroyed late Tuesday and firefighters were called to several locations in the centre and on the outskirts of the city.

Police arrested two people on Monday accused of setting fire to mounds of garbage that have been piling up on Palermo streets due to the garbage collectors’ strike.

Rome also dispatched its top emergency official, Guido Bertolaso, to the area this week to get the garbage off the streets and head off a health emergency.

For over a week, workers of the Amia garbage collection agency refused to clear the rubbish without proper equipment, such as boots and gloves.

The workers for garbage collection firm Amia, which has more than 2,000 employees, agreed to resume garbage collection after some of their demands were met.

Officials from the finance or tax police in Palermo have identified and seized control of an illegal rubbish dump, alleged to contain tyres, plastic containers and dangerous rubbish in the area of Vicari.

“We realised the action was necessary to prevent the most serious danger to the environment and public health,” said police officials.

“The rubbish had almost obstructed the flow of the San Leonardo river under a bridge the 121 Palermo-Agrigento state highway bridge.”

The Campania arrests, part of raids known as the ‘Green’ operation, were conducted early on Wednesday. They are part of an ongoing investigation into irregularities into local garbage collection begun in 2005.

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

Italy: Five Accused of Plotting Terror Attacks

Milan, 4 June (AKI) — Italian police have issued arrest warrants for five North Africans accused of plotting terror attacks in the northern cities of Milan and Bologna in early 2006. The five are alleged to have planned attacks against the subway system in Milan and the San Petronio cathedral in Bologna which dates back to 1390.

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

They are facing several charges including association with the objective of carrying out terrorism in Italy and abroad and funding international terrorism.

They are also accused of recruiting and training individuals to be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out terror attacks against civil and military targets.

Apart from Italy, the international organisation was also believed to have been looking at activities in France, Spain and Denmark.

Italy’s paramilitary police or Carabinieri said since their investigations had identified such a serious threat, they are likely to press the ministry of the interior to deport several supporters associated with the group.

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

Netherlands: 140 Juveniles Arrested for Shoplifting

Police in Rotterdam have arrested over 140 juveniles for shoplifting in two major operations, Nos tv reports on Thursday.

The teenagers are spread across 22 schools throughout the province and involved at least 230 shops, Nos says.

The first investigation resulted in 61 arrests, mainly of girls, who operated in small groups and stole ‘in order to belong’.

The second investigation focuses on Groningen city itself and involved 80 boys and girls at all types of secondary school. The thefts were planned at school and stolen property often stored in school lockers, Nos said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Outrage Over Swedish ‘Negro’ Neighbourhood

An association working for Africans’ rights has reacted with fury to a decision by a state agency to preserve the name of a neighbourhood called Negern (‘the negro’) in the western Swedish town of Karlstad.

“I’m extremely upset. The N-word is racist and this just confirms the nature of Sweden today,” said Kitimbwa Sabuni of the National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund).

The neighbourhood’s name came under scrutiny when the National Land Survey of Sweden (Lantmäteriet) was asked by the Karlstad town council to reevaluate the designation. A private citizen had complained that “many people regard the name as objectionable, insulting, or just plain rude”.

But the agency’s ‘Place Name Division’ countered that the name was part of Sweden’s cultural heritage and should instead be seen as “exotic and evocative”.

“Accepted place name practices dictate that place names should not be changed without strong reasons, and the Place Name Division cannot see that there are such reasons in the case of the neighbourhood name Negern,” Lantmäteriet writes.

Only in recent times has the word developed offensive connotations, says Lantmäteriet, which fears that changing the name Negern would open the floodgates for anybody to lobby for changes to names that they consider unsuitable.

The name Negern was chosen in 1866 as part of a project to rebrand central parts of the town. According to Lantmäteriet, the word was common in 19th century Swedish literature and can thus in that context can be viewed as “harmless”.

But Kitimbwa Sabuni was quick to reject this logic.

“How can the date be relevant? This is 2009, not 1866. And besides, Swedes’ attitude towards Africans was overwhelmingly racist at that time,” he said.

“This is extremely serious and has to go right to the top. I will be lodging an official complaint,” Sabuni added.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Paper Uses Sweden Democrat Ad Money to Fight Racism

The left-leaning Aftonbladet newspaper is running campaign advertisements for the far-right Sweden Democrats, but has decided to send the proceeds to a group dedicated to fighting racism.

Readers of Aftonbladet were surprised on Friday when they opened their newspapers to find an advertisement for the Sweden Democratic political party gracing the “independently Social Democrat” tabloid, which is partially owned by the LO trade union federation.

Most of Sweden’s major media outlets have shied away from offering the Sweden Democrats any ad space in the run up to the European Parliament elections.

The Sweden Democrats, which have an election platform slogan of “Give us back Sweden!”, are a far-right nationalist political party espousing anti-immigration views.

Despite efforts to distance himself from charges of racism, party leader Jimmie Åkesson recently found himself in hot water for participating in a racist sing-along with fellow party members during a party conference in January on board a ferry to Tallinn in Estonia.

In addition to be being refused ad space, the party is also often denied from participating in political debates with other mainstream political parties.

As a result, the Sweden Democrats often complain that they are treated unfairly by the Swedish political establishment — an argument which Aftonbladet editor-in-chief Kalle Jungkvist said he hoped to counter by publishing ads for the party in his paper.

“I see the Sweden Democrats has a right-wing populist party with strong xenophobic overtones,” said Jungkvist in an opinion piece in Aftonbladet explaining his decision.

“I don’t want to strengthen the Sweden Democrats’ view of themselves as martyrs. I want to have an open debate about their politics.”

Jungkvist explained that after much internal debate, he ultimately decided that Aftonbladet would publish the advertisements, something which didn’t sit well with some of its readers.

According to Jungkvist, Aftonbladet reader Anna Kettner contacted him to say that she ultimately agreed with his reasons for publishing the ads, but encouraged him to “give the money you receive from the ads to an organization which actively works against xenophobia”.

Finding the idea an “excellent proposal”, the Aftonbladet editor said on Friday he will send the 39,000 kronor ($5,000) his paper received for publishing the advertisements to Expo, a foundation and newspaper devoted to “studying and mapping anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Security Police Arrest ‘Refugee Spy’

Security police (Säkerhetspolisen — Säpo) in Stockholm have arrested a Swedish citizen suspected of spying on refugees coming to Sweden from an undisclosed country.

The suspect has been under surveillance for some time and was arrested by the security police in the capital on Thursday, Säpo said in a statement.

Säpo added that it was bound by confidentiality agreements and was not at liberty to divulge any further details about the case.

A public prosecutor has until lunchtime on Sunday to decide whether the suspect should be remanded in custody.

“These cases are difficult to detect and difficult to investigate. First of all, there’s never anybody who reports a crime,” prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand told news agency TT.

“The crime is predicated on the involvement of a foreign power and mostly, though not always, the people in charge are very good at what they do. They take every possible precaution and I think I’d go as far as to say that they are considerably more careful than many people involved in more traditional serious crime.”

The crime of ‘refugee espionage’ (flyktingspionage) is widespread in Sweden, according to Säpo, with a number of countries committing major resources to gathering information about dissidents who have fled their domestic borders for Sweden.

The crime is considered serious and is viewed as a threat to Sweden’s national security.

In 2008, Säpo revealed that an intelligence officer stationed at an undisclosed embassy had been declared persona non grata and deported from Sweden after he was found to have spied on refugees and threatened them with torture and imprisonment if they refused to assist him with his covert operations.

Säpo said its investigations in the case had also led to the deportation of several intelligence agents who had cooperated with the undercover officer.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: College Bosses Smuggled Heroin

Two men who ran colleges for foreign students have been jailed for 16 years at Bradford Crown Court for smuggling heroin into the UK in the post.

A third man was given 10 years for money laundering but acquitted of smuggling. Another was cleared altogether. All had pleaded not guilty.

Yorkshire College, based in Bradford and Manchester, attracted hundreds of students, mostly from Pakistan.

Some were legitimate, but for many it was a cover for illegal entry.

The two convicted of conspiring to import heroin were Mohammed Faisal and Roohul Amin, who were involved with running Yorkshire College in Bradford.

They and the third man, Ali Ifthikar, were convicted of money laundering.

The fourth defendant, Mohammed Alamgir, was found not guilty on both counts by the jury at Bradford Crown Court.


The jury had been told that 13 kg of heroin worth £650,000 was seized by customs officers after a series of parcels were sent in the post from Pakistan to addresses controlled by the men.

“Other members of the gang have managed to escape justice by fleeing overseas”

Andrew Bomford, BBC News correspondent

Another 7 kg of heroin was also seized in Pakistan. However much more heroin did reach the men.

Analysis of financial accounts at the college and at a Bradford money exchange business ran by two of the men shows that more than £1.2m in profits was sent out of the country to the north west frontier province of Pakistan.

The authorities in Britain say the money is now untraceable, and fear that it might be used to prolong the fighting going on in the area between the Pakistani army and the Taliban.

Several other people involved in the conspiracy have fled the UK and are believed to be in Pakistan.

Away from the court, Detective Inspector Gary Curnow of West Yorkshire Police said officers had managed to disrupt a major drugs smuggling gang.

“It’s a significant amount from a well organised consortium importing heroin from Pakistan,” he said.

“These are people who are organised, resilient, and bringing into the country vast amounts of heroin which are then dealt on the streets.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Wins No County Councils in England as Tories Seize Control of Heartlands in Local Elections

Labour slumped to a record low in today’s local council elections as it was swept from power in its last four counties.

On a turbulent day which pushed Prime Minister Gordon Brown closer to the political abyss, the party plunged into electoral meltdown as it faced losing more than 300 seats.

Labour’s projected share of the vote also plummeted to 23 per cent leaving them trailing in third place in the last big test of public opinion before a general election.

In a dismal day for Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister admitted that the local elections were ‘a painful defeat for Labour’ while a triumphant David Cameron said that the Tories could be seen ‘winning in every part of our country’.

Predictions show that if the voting pattern was applied to a General Election then the Tories would win with a majority of 28 seats.

Although far from unexpected, the results will serve as a further headache for Brown who has been hammered with a series of high-profile ministerial resignations today.

And a projected national vote share by the BBC puts the Tories on 38 per cent, Labour on 23 per cent and the Lib Dems on 28 per cent.

This would constitute Labour’s worst-ever performance in any round of modern local elections and 10 points worse than its showing when the same county councils were last contested four years ago.

The Tories also took control of Warwickshire County Council today, which had previously been under no party’s overall control.

The Tories also seized control of the newly formed Central Bedfordshire Council as well as Devon and Somerset which had been held by the Lib Dems.

David Cameron arrived at the County Hall in Lancashire and praised the efforts of Tory activists.

He said: ‘This is a remarkable day and we’re extremely pleased that we have taken control of Lancashire County Council again after 28 years.

‘When we look around the country today we can see there is a real need for a positive united alternative to a failing Labour government.’

In Staffordshire control switched to the Tories with Labour starting the day with 33 councillors — but ending it with only three.

Former leader of the council John Taylor was a big Labour name to miss out, as the Conservatives consistently kept 10 times the tally of their rivals.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Young Girl Looked Like ‘African Famine Victim’ After Being ‘starved to Death by Mother and Step-Father’

A girl of seven looked like an ‘African famine victim’ after being starved to death by her mother and her boyfriend, a court heard today.

Jury members wept as they were shown a harrowing mortuary photograph of Khyra Ishaq, who was so emaciated her body mass index could not be measured.

The once happy and healthy schoolgirl’s weight plunged dramatically as Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza kept her an ‘effective prisoner’ in their home for five months and deprived her of food despite having a well-stocked kitchen, it was alleged.

Opening the case at Birmingham Crown Court, prosecutor Timothy Raggatt QC said Khyra was starved to a point that medical experts say is ‘almost unique’ in Britain.

He told the jury: ‘Her weight and some of her developmental features were so extraordinary, so out of kilter with normality, that they cannot be measured on any of the normal childhood development data in this Western country of ours.’

Referring to the photo taken shortly after her death, he added: ‘Unhappily in this world of ours you may have seen images like this in other contexts on television such as famine in Africa.

‘It shows the cruelty and maltreatment of that little girl which, you may come to think, was both calculated and deliberate.’

Abuhamza had taken Khyra out of school in December 2007 and defied police and social services requests to search their house.

Mr Raggatt said: ‘Visits from social welfare and other outsiders were kept as brief and perfunctory as possible and no cooperation was shown.

‘The household was effectively telling officialdom to mind its own business.’

Gordon, 34, and Abumaza, 30, each deny murdering Khyra, whose body was found at their home in Handsworth, Birmingham, last year.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UKIP ‘Outrage’ on Folded Ballots

The UK Independence Party has called for the elections minister to resign in a row over folded ballot papers.

UKIP says hundreds of people could not find the party’s box as it was hidden under a small fold at the bottom of the list of European election candidates.

The party says it may challenge the result and says minister Michael Wills did not do enough to sort it out.

The government says returning officers run elections and an alert had been put out once the problem emerged.

In a letter to Mr Wills, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “We are outraged that today’s European election have not been contested on a free and fair basis.

“We have been swamped with upset voters who failed to find us on the ballot paper. In many cases they have voted for other parties such as NO2EU and even the BNP.”

‘Prise open’

He said in some cases ballot papers were “machine folded and with a sharp crease”.

“A good pair of fingernails were needed to prise open the last page,” he added.

The party says it is gathering information from across the UK and may issue a legal challenge to demand a rerun of the election.

Mr Farage said he had tried to contact Mr Wills but was rebuffed with the message that the problem had “already been handled” — something the UKIP leader rejects.

He said Mr Wills’ “total refusal” to meet him to resolve the matter showed he was “unfit to remain in office” and should resign.

A number of people, mainly from the Yorkshire and the Humber region, contacted the BBC about the problem.

One man from York told the BBC he had been “absolutely shocked” that he could not find the party he wanted to vote for on the ballot paper and had to ask officials where it was.

“They explained you have to unfold it again, right at the very bottom there was another very neat fold that you could not see, folded backwards,” he said.

During the day the Electoral Commission issued an alert to returning officers, advising them papers should be handed out unfolded, after the issue was raised by UKIP.

A spokesman for the commission told the BBC they were “aware of the issue — and the general issues that long ballot papers can cause”.

He said ballot papers were folded to help protect secrecy.

The Ministry of Justice said that the government was responsible for “setting the legislative framework” for elections, and for funding them.

Returning officers were responsible for conducting them and it was important they were independent, it said.

The department said there were no strict rules on how a ballot paper should be folded and it was clear that in some areas there were lots of candidates which meant ballot papers were extra long.

It added that providing guidance on the conduct of elections was a matter for the Electoral Commission which had quickly issued a circular asking polling staff not to fold the papers when the problem emerged.

“It is also worth bearing in mind that an enlarged copy of the full ballot paper is on display in every polling station,” a spokesman said.

“Polling station staff also have to hand an enlarged copy of the ballot paper which is available on request.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Algeria-Italy: Work on Galsi Pipeline to Start in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 1 — Work on the Galsi gas pipeline, which will connect Algeria and Italy via Sardinia, will begin in 2010. Algeria’s Energy minister, Chakib Khelil made the announcement at the end of a meeting in Algiers with Italy’s V minister Claudio Scajola. As minister Khelil pointed out to the APS press agency, “all the studies relating to the project are complete and the two partners have decided to begin work on the pipeline in 2010”. The possibility of the Galsi passing through Corsica, a request made recently by France, was another of the points dealt with during the meeting between Khelil and Scajola. “This is a strategic project for Europe’s energy security”, said Scajola. Algeria supplies Italy with one third of its gas imports. The 1,470 km long Galsi pipeline will allow the Enrico Mattei pipeline to increase its capacity; this is the pipeline which passes through Tunisia to get to Italy, and carries 8 billion cubic metres of Algerian gas annually to Italy. The two ministers also agreed an increase in the capacity of the Enrico Mattei pipeline of 7 billion cubic metres, which will be achieved in two phases. The first, for 3.5 billion cubic metres, has already been completed, while the second, according to Khelil, will be completed by the end of 2009. Once Galsi is operational it will allow Algeria to export 40 billion cubic metres of gas in 2012. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Possible Council of Europe “Partner for Democracy”

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, JUNE 4 — Tunisia could soon attain the status of partner for democracy from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, says the President of the Assembly himself, Lluís Maria de Puig, speaking at the end of his three-day trip to the Maghreb country. The purpose of the visit, the last stop on a tour of countries on the southern rim of the Mediterranean, was to present to the Tunis administration a new initiative that the Assembly is about to discuss in its coming plenary session, starting on June 22. Members of the Assembly will have to decide whether to create a new status, that of ‘partner for democracy’ in order to strengthen institutional cooperation with Maghreb countries, as well as with those of the Middle East and Central Asia. Tunisia, like Algeria and Morocco, are already members of the Venice Commission, the constitutional think tank of the Council of Europe, and they have agreements of collaboration with other structures within the Europe-wide organisation, including the Centre North-South and the Pompidou Group, the organ for combating drug trafficking. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: EU Commission, 10 Mln for Sahrawi Refugees

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 4 — Ten million euros of humanitarian aid was allocated today by the European Commission through the ECHO Department for the Sahrawi people living in refugee camps near Tindouf in Western Algeria. The funds will supply these forgotten refugees’ with food and access to basic services like health care, clean water, waste management, and will be used to purchase tents and hygienic products. “These refugees are trapped in one of the oldest, forgotten, and deadlocked’ conflicts in the world” said the European Commissioner in charge of Development and Humanitarian Aid, Olli Rehn, pointing out Brussels’ commitment to assist the Sahrawi people “until a political solution for this serious situation is found”. The refugees have lived in four camps located in the Tindouf desert region for over 30 years and the EU provides the most funds to this long-term humanitarian crisis. Since 1993, the commission has supplied over 143 million euros in aid. Ten million euros will by used by Echo’s partners: NGOs, UN agencies, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood Falters as Egypt Outflanks Islamists

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is on the defensive, its struggles reverberating throughout Islamist movements that the secretive organization has spawned world-wide.

Just recently, the Brothers’ political rise seemed unstoppable. Candidates linked with the group won most races they contested in Egypt’s 2005 parliamentary elections, gaining a record 20% of seats. Across the border in Gaza, another election the following year propelled the Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, into power.

More photos and interactive graphics Since then, Egypt’s government jailed key Brotherhood members, crimped its financing and changed the constitution to clip religious parties’ wings. The Brotherhood made missteps, too, alienating many Egyptians with saber rattling and proposed restrictions on women and Christians. These setbacks have undermined the group’s ability to impose its Islamic agenda on this country of 81 million people, the Arab world’s largest.

“When we’re not advancing, we are retreating. And right now we are not spreading, we are not achieving our goals,” the Brotherhood’s second-in-command, Mohamed Habib, said in an interview.

Across the Muslim world, authoritarian governments, Islamist revivalists and liberals often fight for influence. Egypt is a crucial battleground. A decline of the Brotherhood here, with its shrill anti-Israeli rhetoric and intricate ties to Hamas, strengthens President Hosni Mubarak’s policy of engagement with the Jewish state. It could also give him more room to work with President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to visit Egypt next month, on reviving the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Brotherhood leaders caution against reading too much into the current troubles, saying the 81-year-old group has bounced back from past challenges. Others say the government’s suppression of the Brotherhood, Egypt’s main nonviolent opposition movement — paired with arrests of Mr. Mubarak’s secular foes — can unleash more radical forces.

“If it continues this way, it’s very dangerous and could lead to the return of extremism and terrorism in Egypt,” says Ayman Nour, a liberal politician who ran for president against Mr. Mubarak in 2005 and was later imprisoned on campaign-fraud charges that the U.S. government condemned as politically motivated.

Formed in 1928 amid a backlash against European colonialism, the Muslim Brotherhood remains a deeply entrenched force, with hundreds of thousands of members and affiliates across the Middle East. Operating under the slogan “Islam Is the Solution,” it aims to establish an Islamic state governed by religious law.

The Brotherhood engaged in assassinations and bombings in the past, and one of its ideologues, Sayyid Qutb, developed a radical theology that still motivates jihadi groups such as al Qaeda. Since the 1970s, however, the Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence and rejected Mr. Qutb’s more fiery theories. It has focused instead on building an Islamic society from the bottom up, through proselytizing, social work and political activism.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

60% of Israelis Mistrust Obama, Survey Says

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 4 — The prevailing reaction of Israelis to US President Barack Obama is one of mistrust, feeling that he is biased in favour of the Palestinian cause, shows a survey conducted before the president’s open speech to the Muslim world, delivered in Cairo today. According to the survey, conducted by two institutes in the University of Tel Aviv and published today by online press agency Ynet, 60% of the Israeli population do not trust that Obama is able to guarantee the security of the state of Israel. 55% find that his policies favour the Palestinians, as against 31% who adjudge him neutral and a pitiful 5% who think of him as pro-Israel in continuity with the traditional orientation of previous US administrations. At the same time, 65% find the outcome of the recent summit held between Obama and Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu to have been a failure, although 56% are persuaded that Netanyahu has behaved in a balanced way. As for the peace process, 67% recognise that peace with the Palestinians will come only through a ‘two states for two peoples’ formula. The sample was divided, however, on the settlement issue: with 48% finding their existence against Israeli interests while for 43% find them justified.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Hamas Exponent, Obama Sincere But We Need Deeds

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, June 3 — US president Barack Obama seems “sincere in his wish to change US policy towards the Islamic world in general and the Middle East in particular”, but Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip expect “actions” on top of words and shows of good will. Today ANSA was informed about this by Ahmed Yusef, an official diplomat working for Hamas (the radical Islamic movement that is currently running Gaza) who studied in the USA. Yusef, who is the deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of the self-proclaimed Hamas government in Gaza and premier Ismail Haniyeh’s diplomatic advisor, stated that “The speech which Obams will deliver in Cairo could represent first step towards reconciliation between the USA and the Muslim nation. The Islamic world consequently believes that the time has come to use a different language compared to that used by the Bush administration”. However Yusef also pointed out that “the Palestinian issue remains a priority for the Arab and Muslim world” and that the White House needs to back up its words with “actions capable of effectively dealing with the situation”. In his opinion such deeds must provide “as a first step, the immediate halt of Israeli settlements (expanding in the West Bank and East Jerusalem), in order to then allow the Palestinians to set up their own State with Jerusalem as capital city: the very least that can be accepted by Arabs and Muslims”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Islam: Turks Pilgrims to Mecca Increased Fivefold Since 2002

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 4 — The number of pious Turks making the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca has increased by nearly fivefold since 2002, local media reported quoting a study released by a tourism agency. Turkey is a country whose population is 99% Muslim and the study by Ekin Group revealed that the average Turkish pilgrim spent 1,000 euros on the trip, which has created an annual 200 million euro market only in Turkey. “While the number of people that made the pilgrimage in 2003, when the AK Party first came to power, was 43,000, that number rose to 200,000 in 2008”, the report said. Every Muslim who has the means is obliged to make the pilgrimage, known as the Haj. The report also said the number of tourist agencies that specialise in Haj tours has risen to 150 from 80 in Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Love-Hate Relationship of Turkey With the EU, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 1 — Even though three quarters of Turks believe the European Union wants to dismantle Turkey, nearly half the population still wants the country to become a member of the 27-nation bloc, according to a new survey as reported by Today’s Zaman. The survey, conducted by Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University on public attitudes toward diversity, tolerance and extremism in Turkey, has revealed the lack of knowledge among Turks about the European Union and the country’s contradictory feelings toward the union. One-fourth of all Turks said they do not know whether or not Turkey is a member of the EU, according to the research led by Prof. Yilmaz Esmer of Bahcesehir University and conducted with the British Foreign Ministry. Twenty-eight percent said they believe that the EU “definitely aims” to dismantle Turkey, while 48% thought the dismantlement of Turkey is among the EU’s aims. Forty-four percent said the EU aims to spread Christianity while 28% said the EU definitely aims to spread Christianity. Meanwhile, 48% said the EU aims to bring democracy to countries under dictatorship and 28% said the EU definitely aims to bring democracy to dictatorships. Forty-one percent said they want to see Turkey become an EU member, while 16% said they want very much to see Turkey in the European Union. However, 80% of respondents said they believe no matter what Turkey does, the EU would not accept it as a member. The rest reported believing that if Turkey abides by the EU rules and makes changes in order to adapt to those rules, then the EU would take Turkey in as a member. Seventy-six percent said they believe the fact that Turkey is a Muslim-majority society influences the EU’s view on the country negatively. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Speech in Cairo, Islam is Part of America

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 4 — Barack Obama said in his speech in Cairo that Islam is part of America. “I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear,” he said. “A partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t” said the US president at a crowded University of Cairo in his historic speech. Obama proposed “a new start” in the relationship between the United States and Muslims worldwide “based on mutual respect and mutual interest”. Obama mentioned September 11: “it was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward, to see what is different about someone and to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path”. “Violent extremists have exploited these tensions” Obama continued “ in a small but potent minority of Muslims” but the events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible”. “The cycle of suspicion and discord” between the USA and the Muslim world “must end” Obama insisted. He then stressed his position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “the Palestinians must end their violence against Israel and Israel must stop building settlements”. “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own” claimed Obama, who at the same time underlined that “the bond between the USA and Israel is unbreakable”. “The Palestinians” he continued “must give up violence and Israel must recognise the right of Palestinians to exist”. The only solution for the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians is “the solution of two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is the road I want to follow”. Then a final remark on Iran. “Six million Jews were killed by the Third Reich. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction is deeply wrong. Iran should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey Praises Italy as “Most Actual EU Backer”

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 3 — “Italy is extending the biggest and most actual support to Turkey’s EU membership process”, Turkish State Minister & Deputy Premier, Bulent Arinc, was quoted as saying by Anatolia agency. Arinc attended a reception held to celebrate Italy’s National Day in Ankara. “This support is very important for Turkey”, Arinc added. The reception was hosted by Italian Ambassador in Ankara, Carlo Marsili. Arinc said that “intergovernmental and interparliamentary relations between Turkey and Italy are very sound”, adding that “the trade volume between the two countries is increasing each day”. Turkish State Minister & Chief Negotiator for EU talks, Egemen Bagis and Culture & Tourism Minister, Ertugrul Gunay, also attended the reception. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Country Among the ‘Most Corrupt’

Jakarta, 4 June (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia is among the most corrupt of 69 countries surveyed by the global agency, Transparency International, in its 2009 survey, and the country’s legislative body was singled out as the most corrupt public institution.

The survey, entitled “Global Corruption Barometer 2009”, polled a total of 73,132 respondents in 69 countries from October 2008 to March 2009 on their opinion of six institutions: political parties, parliament or legislative bodies, businesses and the private sector, the media, public officials and the judiciary.

The scale or ranking ranges from most to the least corrupt, with five being the most corrupt and one being the cleanest.

In Indonesia, the organisation polled 500 people in Jakarta and Surabaya in November last year.

Indonesia scored a 3.7 on average, making it the equal seventh most corrupt country with the United States and Italy.

Indonesia’s house of representatives is considered the most corrupt institution, scoring 4.4 on the survey, followed by the judiciary, with 4.1. The country’s political parties and state officials were ranked an equal 4.0, while the media followed with a ranking of 2.3.

Out of 12 countries surveyed in the Asia Pacific region, Indonesia was considered more corrupt than Singapore (2.2), Thailand (3.3), Malaysia (3.4) and the Philippines (3.4), but cleaner than Japan (3.9) and South Korea (3.9).

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

Islamic Extremist Held Over Mumbai Attack is Released, Indo-Pakistani Tensions Rise

Lahore High Court’s decision to release Hafiz Saeed, founder of Islamist extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, leads to diplomatic crisis between India and Pakistan. Pakistan cites lack of evidence against him to justify release, claiming controversy is misplaced. India blames Pakistan for “lack of seriousness” in the fight against terrorism.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The Indian government voiced its unhappiness yesterday over the decision by the Lahore High Court to release Hafiz Saeed, leader of Jaamat-ud Dawa, a group suspected of involvement in the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attack. For India the ruling is a sign that Pakistan is not serious about the fight against terrorism, a key factor in renewing talks between the two countries.

In December of last year Pakistan’s Interior Ministry ordered the arrest of six Jaamat-ud Dawa members, including its leader Hafiz Saeed, on charges of participation in the Mumbai attack. However, this week the Lahore High Court ordered Saeed’s release arguing that the state had insufficient grounds to detain him.

Indian authorities reacted immediately, saying that the decision showed a “lack of seriousness” on the part of Pakistan in tackling terrorism.

Indian Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram said the ruling ruined the chances of an early resumption of dialogue with Islamabad, and is “a commentary on the commitment of Pakistan to investigate the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack”.

In its response Pakistan told India to refrain from commenting on court decisions and questioning its sincerity about action against terrorist groups.

“Polemics and unfounded insinuations cannot advance the cause of justice,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said about Indian criticism of Saeed’s release.

Basit dismissed Indian concerns as “misplaced”, stressing that due process must follow its course. He also added that Indian authorities have yet to provide an English translation of the information material about the Mumbai attack which they handed over to Pakistan on 20 May in Hindi and Marathi languages.

The Indian government blamed Islamist groups in Pakistan for the attack on 26 November 2008 that killed 166 people; Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group founded in 1985 by Hafiz Saeed, is at the top of its list of suspects.

The same group is blamed for a series of attacks in India, including the attack against the Indian parliament in Delhi in 2001, as well as a number of attacks in Indian cities between 2003 and 2005.

In 2002 Pakistani President Musharraf outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba but failed to stop its terrorist activities.

The Jaamat-ud-Dawa is Lashkar-e-Taiba’s political and “charity” wing, and was also banned in 2008 following the Mumbai attack and Saeed’s arrest.

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

Pakistan: Christians, Hindus and Sikhs Forced to Pay the Taliban “Protection” Money

Non-Muslims in villages along the northern Afghan-Pakistani border are forced to pay the jizya. Lashkar-e-Islam wants a thousand rupee per adult male to allow non-Muslims to live there with the right to travel. In Orakzai area the Taliban take over two stores and various houses owned by Sikhs. Some families are forced to pay up to 20 million rupees in order to stay.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Non-Muslims must pay the Taliban protection money if they want to stay in their own homes. Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant Muslim organisation based in Bara, about 10 kilometres south-west of Peshawar, wants Christians, Hindus and Sikhs to pay the jizya, the poll tax for non-Muslims.

Local sources are reporting that non-Muslims are collectively required to pay up in Bara, Chora, Karamna, Bazaar Zakhakhel and the Tirah Valley, which are part of the Khyber Agency, one of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the northern border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The poll tax amounts to a thousand rupees (US$ 12.5) per adult male per year. Women, children and the disabled are exempt.

As a group minorities must raise the money for every member of the community in order to have the right to live in and freely move throughout the area. Should they refuse this kind of protection, they are required to abandon their homes and villages.

In April Lashkar-e-Islam began collecting the jizya in the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Orakzai, using force whenever necessary.

In the village of Feroze Khel, near Merozai, the Taliban took over two stores and various homes to get people to pay up.

Local sources said that some Sikh families were forced to pay 20 million rupees; other families chose instead to abandon their homes and the area to avoid paying.

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

Far East

US-Taiwanese Relations Improve as Mainlanders Go on a Shopping Spree in Taiwan

Taiwanese President Ma and US Secretary Clinton hold an informal meeting in El Salvador ahead of more formal meetings, interrupted during pro-independence Chen Shui-bian presidency. Mainland businesses go on shopping spree in Taiwan.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Trade between the mainland and Taiwan is up. In El Salvador Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou briefly met on Monday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Since his election in May 2008 Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has improved relations with mainland China. Direct air and maritime links have been established and trade has increase.

On Sunday representatives of 46 leading Chinese companies, including computer and home appliances manufacturers like Lenovo and Haier, arrived on the island.

Led by Li Shuilin the mainlanders have come on a spending spree worth billions of dollars in goods and parts to meet a Chinese government plan to provide supplies to rural and urban residents.

Taiwanese papers have suggested that purchases could amount to US$ 8 billion.

If confirmed it would fulfill a pledge made by Chinese leaders to help the island counter its recent economic slump.

Across the world, in the Central American country of El Salvador, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met the Taiwanese president at an official ceremony.

El Salvador is one 23 mostly small nations in the Americas, Africa and the South Pacific that recognise Taiwan in lieu of the People’s Republic of China.

“Dialogue between us and the United States will generally be close,” Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Henry Chen said on Monday.

Talks between Taipei and Washington had stalled because of tense cross-strait relations under independence-leaning former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, recognising “one China”, but is obliged by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island if it comes under attack.

Since Mr Ma’s elections last year, secretive high-level US visits were made to restart semi-annual talks.

When asked to comment on the “brief meeting,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang urged the United States to handle the Taiwan issue carefully and properly, and not create a “Two Chinas” or a “One China and One Taiwan” scenario.

Since this is taken for granted, it is unlikely that Beijing is troubled by relations between the two sides.

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


Amnesty to EU, Common Standards Needed

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 4 — Amnesty International is asking the EU’s Interior ministers, who have gathered in Luxembourg, for “a commitment to a common policy on the issue of asylum that concretely respects human rights.” The European ministers, the organisation affirms, “should launch a clear political signal regarding asylum that is based on high protection standards for those fleeing persecution and serious violations of human rights.” In a letter addressed to the Czech Presidency, Amnesty specifically asked the ministers for “a protection oriented approach regarding the European Commission’s proposals for asylum.” It also emphasised that the EU’s policy on asylum should be completely in line with international human and refugee rights. “The EU,” affirmed Nicolas Beger, director of the Amnesty International office for the EU, “has the potential and the ability to develop a common European system for asylum that can function as a model for other regions of the world. The moment has come for a response to these expectations that ensures that the right of asylum is respected in practice.” Amnesty stressed the condemnation of the Italian decision to send migrants rescued at sea back to Libya, without adequate examination of their need for protection, and “is very worried” over the proposal to externalise this evaluation using third countries, like Libya, that are not a part of the Geneva Convention on Refugees. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Germany: Berlin’s Roma Conundrum

German Officials Perplexed about New Gypsy Arrivals

Berlin authorities are puzzled. A group of Roma families from Romania have arrived and appear intent on staying, despite only having limited tourist visas. The conundrum could be a foretaste of immigration riddles to come.

“It’s going good here,” said a young Roma woman to SPIEGEL ONLINE earlier this week, pushing a stroller through Spandau. She wore an ankle-length dress, a faded sports jacket, slippers and a black headscarf.

How long might she stay? She shrugged her shoulders. Why did she come to Germany? She moved her hand to her mouth to indicate hunger. Then she asked for money, and pushed her stroller, containing a small boy, in the direction of a subway station.

For over two weeks a group of some 80 Roma has befuddled Berlin authorities by settling in a park, an artists’ squat, a Catholic church and now public housing in Spandau. The Romanian gypsies have asked for jobs and asylum. But no city department so far has taken responsibility for them, and one Green politician in Berlin, Volker Ratzmann, has called the official confusion “an embarrassing ping-pong game between the (Berlin) Senate and local districts.”…

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

Maroni: EU Proposal Not Enough But Step Forward

(ANSAmed) — LUXEMBOURG — The proposal made by the European Commission on immigration in the Mediterranean area is not “sufficient” yet but is “a good step forward”, according to Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. He made this comment to reporters when arriving at the European Council, which will examine the proposal by European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot. “I expect the Council to approve it today and send it to the European Council on Foreign Relations for discussion and approval, and then to the European Council on June 18-19” Maroni said, adding that Italy “has asked for more”, both regarding “the compulsoriness” of giving asylum to refugees in EU countries and “a more incisive role of Frontex”. Maroni explained that Italy has asked that giving asylum to refugees in EU countries be compulsory, while the proposal “only” proposes that it be the choice of the individual country, and wants a more incisive role for Frontex to “carry out repatriation flights and to have a European organisation similar to the Italian system in charge of holding and identifying illegal immigrants.” “It’s not what we want yet, but Barrot’s proposal is a good step forward” said Maroni, underlining that “it was only put on the agenda thanks to the persistence of Italy, Cyprus, Malta and Greece”. EU ministers will study Barrot’s proposal against illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, aimed at closer cooperation with the countries of origin and Libya in particular. Italy is already collaborating with Libya to have illegal migrants repatriated in the country. Maroni claimed that the “EU has a duty” to help Libya, adding that he would ask Barrot for “the assistance Libya needs from the EU to continue its efforts against illegal migration”. Maroni said he would be presenting a list of interventions carried out by Libya in May “to keep illegal migrants from leaving, showing that they are acting on their words.” On June 9, the minister announced, the group ‘Friends of Libya’, which includes Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, the UK and Sweden, will hold a meeting.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/5/2009

  1. Just a tidbit of information: we have no mandatory elections. It’s a little peculiarity of English constitutional law that Parliament can form a government for up to five years but that they don’t need to petition the Queen to dissolve parliament at the end of it, nor hold an election. You might thing this is asking for tyranny but it has an upside. Once the deadline passes parliament automatically dissolves, and until an election is held no laws can be made, nor taxes levied. The entire institution of government effectively ceases to exist until a new election is called.

    Personally, I could live with that.

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