Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/3/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/3/2009The big news of the day — at least for me — is the outcome of the two gubernatorial elections. As expected, the Republican candidate in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, won easily. More surprising was the victory of Republican Chris Christie over the incumbent John Corzine in New Jersey.

As of this writing, Democrat Bill Owens is leading Conservative Bob Hoffman in the 23rd Congressional District in New York, where the “Republican” candidate Dede Scozzavava withdrew earlier in the week.

In other news, the Italian chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is making a public appeal in a bid to increase its membership.

Thanks to 4Symbols, Aeneas, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Esther, Fausta, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JP, MA, Sean O’Brian, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Economist Warns of President’s Financial ‘Bubble’
George Soros Bets Against America
CAIR Files Suit Against ‘Muslim Mafia’ Author
CareNow Apologizes to Muslim Job Applicant
Choosing Federalism, Choosing Freedom
Christie Defeats Incumbent Corzine in N.J. Gubernatorial Race
Clinton Wishes He Had Left White House “In a Coffin”
Dr. Russell Blaylock: Swine Flu: One of the Most Massive Cover-Ups in American History
Gore: ‘I Am Optimistic’
Republicans Win Governor’s Races in New Jersey, Virginia
Support Grows for Teen Girl Who Fled Islam
Thomas Sowell: The ‘Costs’ Of Medical Care
Using a Fallen Hero as a Prop
Video: Rev. Wright: U.S. ‘Land of Greed and Home of Slave’
Europe and the EU
Denmark Demands From Obama
Dutch Moroccan on Terror Charges in Britain
Estonia: Wrong Language Means No Medical Help?
EU: Court Rejects Crucifix Display in Italian Schools
Europe’s Own Surveillance State
Gaddafi: We Overdid the Institutional Aplomb, Bonino Says
Italians Cross Over Crucifix Ban
Italy: Ku Klux Klan ‘Seeks New Members’
Italy-Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev and Berlusconi to Endorse New Accords
Italy: Governor Admits Cocaine Use in Sex Scandal
Italy: No Crosses in School, Europe Court
Italy: Venice Mayor to Quit Politics
Italy’s Novello Makes 2009 Debut
Libraries Ban Poppies: ‘We Can’t Favour One Charity Above Others’ Says Manager
Netherlands: Immigrant Tensions Remain Five Years After Van Gogh Killing
Netherlands: Wilders ‘Is Undermining Democracy’: Report
Netherlands: Priest Training Centre, Churches Close
Norwegian Politician Forecasted 6 Million Jews Would Perish
Spain: PP Consolidates Advantage Over PSOE in Voting Poll
Spain: Catalans Want Referendum, But Not Independence
Sweden: Fetuses Wrongly Declared Dead
UK: Britain’s First £1,000 Train Ticket Sparks Row Over Soaring Rail Fares
UK: Belief in Man-Made Climate Change as Important as Religious Faith?
UK: Cameron Under Pressure Over Lisbon Treaty
UK: David Cameron to Tell Voters: No Vote on Lisbon Treaty
UK: Greg Dyke Tells Tories to Strip BBC of Licence Fee and Pay for Corporation Centrallyby Liz Thomas
UK: Judge Rules That Green Views Are the ‘Same as Religious Beliefs’ As Sacked Environmentalist Wins Legal Battle
UK: Muslim Mother Hid Bomb Manual in Her Burka and ‘Considered Turning Her Children Into Human Bombs’
UK: US Embassy Sold to Qatari Group
Vatican Denounces European Ruling Against Display of Religious Symbols in Italian Classrooms
Croatia: Istria Top Wine-Producing Region
Kosovo: Clinton Receives Warm Welcome
Serbia: EC Report on Progress Towards EU is Best So Far
Mediterranean Union
Aspen-Italy: Turkish Question is Key
Even Europe Fears Muslim Immigration
North Africa
‘Everyone Hates Jews, ‘ Declares Islamic Cleric
Morocco: Businesswomen, More Than 5000 in the Past 10 Years
Israel and the Palestinians
Gov’t Radio Bans Ads for Memorial Services for Rabbi Kahane
Hillary Clinton’s Visit to Israel Triggers the Third Intifada
South Africans ‘Fought in Gaza’
Swedish Reporter Meets Hostile Israeli Crowd
Weather: Israel, Unusually Early Winter
Middle East
Barry Rubin: is the Turkish-Israeli Alliance Over? Yes it is
Culture: Orhan Pamuk’s Book Published in Hebrew
Kuwait Oil Production Seen Rising 30% by 2018
Saudi Arabia: Weapons Arsenal of Al Qaeda Cell Found
Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Approves Human Rights Campaign
Saudi Court Upholds Child Rapist Crucifixion Ruling
Russians Charge Georgia Harboring Al-Qaida
South Asia
Afghanistan: ‘Legendary’ Soldier Who Defused 64 Taliban Bombs… Only to be Killed by the 65th, On His Last Day
Indonesia: Men Join in the Fight Against Polygamy
‘Love Jihad’ A Misinformation Campaign: Kerala Muslim Outfits
No Dating at This University + Pictures
Orissa: They Kill and Burn Two People, Convicted Only for Destruction of Evidence
Darfur Survivors to Get UK Asylum
German Child Care Subsidy Sparks Nursery Spat
UK: Alan Johnson Gets Pat on the Back for ‘Honest Appraisal’ Of Immigration
UK: Alan Johnson: Labour Has Made Mistakes on Immigration
UK: Government ‘Maladroit’ On Immigration, Says Home Secretary
UK: Johnson: We Did Screw Up on Immigration
UK: Labour Finally Admits: We Got it Wrong on Immigration
UK: Minister Admits: We Got it Wrong on Immigration
Vatican: ‘Immigrants Should be Citizens’
Culture Wars
Man Fired After Saying Homosexuality Wrong

Financial Crisis

Economist Warns of President’s Financial ‘Bubble’

Says coming ‘bust’ is ‘inevitable’ and global market will crash

While President Obama declared today from the White House that his goal was to create “post-bubble” growth in the U.S. economy, a top economist at New York University published an article in the Financial Times charging that under Obama the Federal Reserve is creating one of the greatest economic bubbles in financial history.

NYU economist Nouriel Roubini argued in the newspaper that by keeping federal fund interest rates at zero, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is stimulating a historic stock market rise that is being fueled by money investment managers borrowing from the federal government.

Roubini warned that the dollar has become the “mother of all carry trades” and that it faces “an inevitable bust” that will cause asset prices to plummet in what will amount to a global stock market crash of historic proportions.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

George Soros Bets Against America

Billionaire attacks capitalism, makes billions on global recession

Billionaire hedge-fund financier George Soros has decided to spend $50 million to fund a new institute designed to undermine the free-enterprise system, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

The Soros-funded “Institute for New Economic Thinking” is designed to make research grants and fund symposiums on the need for central government control of the economy, advancing an argument from the political Left that the private economy is in need of the re-regulation to prevent the occurrence of another global economic recession.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


CAIR Files Suit Against ‘Muslim Mafia’ Author

Islamic group asks for restraining order, charges incriminating documents ‘stolen’

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a federal lawsuit against a co-author of the newly released book “Muslim Mafia” and his son, charging they conspired to carry out a six-month undercover operation in which they secretly recorded meetings and stole thousands of pages of sensitive documents from the Washington, D.C.-based Muslim group.

In the book, “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” published by WND Books, P. David Gaubatz and “Infiltration” author Paul Sperry present first-hand evidence CAIR is acting as a front for a well-funded conspiracy of the Muslim Brotherhood — the parent of al-Qaida and Hamas — to infiltrate the American system and help pave the way for Saudi-style Islamic law to rule the U.S.

In the lawsuit, however, CAIR, which describes itself as a Muslim civil-rights group, does not defend itself against the book’s claims.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

CareNow Apologizes to Muslim Job Applicant

CareNow, a medical group that operates 22 facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, has apologized to a Muslim job applicant who was told a “no hat” policy would make it impossible for her to wear her hijab at work.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said Monday that Coppell-based CareNow has apologized to the applicant and added that it will clarify its policies to ensure employees are aware of what religious accommodations to make for employees.

The job applicant, Hena Zaki, is a doctor, according to the group.

CAIR sent a letter to CareNow advising them that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates that employers “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s religious practices.

CareNow President Tim Miller responded to CAIR’s letter via e-mail on Oct. 31.

“We regret the misunderstanding with Dr. Zaki,” Miller wrote in the e-mail. “We will clarify our policy and continue to provide training to our current employees to try to prevent future misunderstandings. We look forward to sitting down with Dr. Zaki and discussing potential job opportunities. Bright, young doctors like her are just what we’re looking for.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Choosing Federalism, Choosing Freedom

Rather, the bottom-line issue is, whether the states have coequal power to exercise and defend their powers—and their citizens—and whether the Federal government has the power to force the states to accept its own interpretation and (de)construction of the Constitution. If the union of the United States was formed by the people of the states in their capacities as the sovereign of each State, creating a FEDERAL government, then the states are coequal in power and do have the right to exercise and defend their powers. If the union of the United States was formed by the whole of the people as a mass body politic, without regard to the sovereign states, creating a NATIONAL government, then the states are mere corporations of the parent company, called the Federal government.

I need not expound the answer to this question here, because I have done so in numerous other articles before, proving that the union was formed by the states as states, and not by the people as one nation. The conclusion is more than provable that the founders and ratifiers of the Constitution did not create a nation, but created a federation, and actually expected the states to be the active guardians of freedom for their own people. Thus, what methods can we use today to once again choose federalism over nationalism?

There are five basic methods by which the people of the states can counter the attacks of the federal government’s prolonged tyrannical usurpations of power. They are: (1) Change of Politicians; (2) Checks and Balances; (3) Constitutional Amendment; (4) Constitutional Convention; and (5) Revolution.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Christie Defeats Incumbent Corzine in N.J. Gubernatorial Race

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Chris Christie defeated Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine Tuesday, handing Republicans a rare victory in a state that Barack Obama carried last year by 15 percentage points.

Christie, a former U.S. attorney, rode a wave of voter outrage over taxes and the recession to a decisive victory despite being outspent by as much as 3 to 1. He led Corzine 49 percent to 44 percent with 80 percent of the ballots counted.

Corzine had spent most of the summer trailing Christie by 10 percentage points and more. The race tightened this fall, with a surge by third-party candidate Chris Daggett.

The challenger benefited by a stronger-than-expected turnout in Republican strongholds and a feeble showing by independent candidate Chirs Daggett, who Democrats had hoped would split the anti-incumbent vote. On Tuesday he captured only about five percent of the electorate.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Clinton Wishes He Had Left White House “In a Coffin”

[One of the weirdest headlines I’ve seen — Esther]

ISTANBUL (Reuters) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Monday he would have preferred to leave the White House in a coffin because he loved being commander in chief, but signaled his political life is over.

“It’s good that we have a (term) limit. Otherwise I would have stayed until I was carried away in a coffin. Or defeated in an election,” Clinton said at a conference in Istanbul. “I loved doing the job.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Dr. Russell Blaylock: Swine Flu: One of the Most Massive Cover-Ups in American History

I have been following the evolving “pandemic” of H1N1 influenza beginning with the original discovery of the infection in Mexico in March of this year. In the course of this study I have tried to utilize as my sources high-quality, peer-reviewed journals, data from the CDC and accepted textbooks of virology.

As with all such studies one has to integrate and correlate previous experiences with epidemics and pandemics. As you will see, a great deal of my material comes from official sources, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Journal of Medicine. Thus my distracters cannot claim that I am using material that is not within the mainstream.

Pregnant Women NOT at Special Risk from Swine Flu

In the beginning, even before it was declared a level 6 pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), a group of “scientists” were sounding the alarm that this might indeed be the terrifying, deadly pandemic they had been expecting for over half a century.

Naturally, the vaccine manufacturers were doing all they could to fuel this fear and they were quietly making deals with WHO to be among the companies selected to manufacture the “pandemic” vaccine for the world. Being anointed by WHO would guarantee tens of billions in profits.

As the infection began to spread into the United States and then the rest of the world, its peculiar nature became obvious. Those born before 1950 seem to have a high degree of resistance to the infection and the disease seems slightly more pathogenic (disease causing) among those aged 25 to 49. Early on the official sources declared that pregnant women were at a special risk as compared to the seasonal flu.1 As we shall see later, this was a grand lie.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Gore: ‘I Am Optimistic’

In a SPIEGEL interview, former US vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, 61, discusses Barack Obama’s environmental policies, the endless push by lobbyists to derail reforms and his hopes for a global deal at the climate change summit in Copenhagen next month.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Republicans Win Governor’s Races in New Jersey, Virginia

Republican Chris Christie is the winner of the New Jersey gubernatorial race, beating incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, Fox News projects.

Republicans swept to victory in the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races Tuesday, scoring a pair of decisive wins in states that voted for President Obama a year ago.

Republican Chris Christie beat out Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in New Jersey, even though Obama campaigned heavily for the incumbent in the closing days of the race and the state has not elected a Republican governor since 1993.

In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell beat Democrat Creigh Deeds by a huge margin, heading up a successful GOP ticket. McDonnell’s victory ends eight years of Democratic control of the governorship.

With nearly all precincts reporting, McDonnell had 59 percent and Deeds had 41 percent.

In the Garden State, Corzine had suffered from low approval ratings, stemming in part from voter discontent over high property taxes.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Christie had 49 percent and Corzine had 45 percent. Independent candidate Chris Daggett trailed with 5 percent.

Polls have also closed in the upstate New York congressional race between Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

In Virginia, the Republican had been favored to win the race after leading by double digits in almost every pre-election poll. The race hinged in large part on economic concerns — McDonnell pitched himself to voters as the “jobs governor.”

In his victory speech from Richmond, McDonnell pledged “actions and results” over the next four years, promising to pursue job creation while keeping taxing, spending and regulation to a minimum.

“We will leave Virginia better than we found it,” he said.

Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling also won a second term Tuesday, defeating Democrat Jody Wagner. And Republican state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli was the winner of the race for state attorney general, beating Democratic state Del. Steve Shannon.

Republican Party leaders were quick to claim the victories as a sign that Americans are rebelling against Democratic policies in Washington. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said the victories marked a “clear rejection” of “tax and spend policies” in Washington.

“The Republican Party’s overwhelming victory in Virginia is a blow to President Obama and the Democrat Party. It sends a clear signal that voters have had enough of the president’s liberal agenda,” he said in a statement.

The White House on Tuesday afternoon dismissed such speculation as “navel gazing,” with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying the elections mean very little for the president’s agenda or for the midterm elections. But the administration nevertheless intervened in all three of the closely watched elections which were held Tuesday.

Obama, who was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia in decades last year, campaigned for Deeds in Norfolk last week. But with Deeds continuing to trail, Obama shifted his attention to the New Jersey governor’s race in the run-up to Election Day.

Deeds, a state senator, said in his concession speech Tuesday night in Richmond that he would keep “fighting.” He said running as the Democratic nominee was the “biggest honor that I could ever have bestowed upon me.”

Exit poll data suggests Deeds suffered from a lack of turnout among Obama’s 2008 supporters. More voters who came out Tuesday said they voted for Republican John McCain in 2008 than Obama. However, Obama beat McCain by 6 points in Virginia last year.

The White House also intervened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District race, where Owens was facing off Tuesday against Hoffman.

Early returns showed Owens leading. With 63 percent of precincts reporting, Owens had 49 percent and Hoffman had 45 percent.

The special election was held to replace John McHugh, a Republican who became Obama’s Army secretary, and attracted national attention after Hoffman’s third-party bid earned high-profile endorsements from figures like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and others. His surging candidacy led Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava to drop out over the weekend.

Afterward, Democrats helped convince the former Republican candidate to endorse Owens. And Vice President Biden campaigned for Owens Monday.

[Return to headlines]

Support Grows for Teen Girl Who Fled Islam

Organizers plan ‘Rally for Rifqa’ at court that decides girl’s fate

On the day an Ohio judge could decide the fate of a Christian teenager who fled her Muslim family — out of fear of becoming the victim of an “honor killing” — her supporters plan on being right outside, rallying for her cause.

Popular blogger Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs is spearheading the Rally for Rifqa’s November 16th, inviting others to come on that date and “stand with this girl,” Rifqa Bary, who Geller says “represents America in the fight against encroaching Shariah law.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Thomas Sowell: The ‘Costs’ Of Medical Care

We are incessantly being told that the cost of medical care is “too high”— either absolutely or as a growing percentage of our incomes. But nothing that is being proposed by the government is likely to lower those costs, and much that is being proposed is almost certain to increase the costs.

There is a fundamental difference between reducing costs and simply shifting costs around, like a pea in a shell game at a carnival. Costs are not reduced simply because you pay less at a doctor’s office and more in taxes — or more in insurance premiums, or more in higher prices for other goods and services that you buy, because the government has put the costs on businesses that pass those costs on to you.

Costs are not reduced simply because you don’t pay them. It would undoubtedly be cheaper for me to do without the medications that keep me alive and more vigorous in my old age than people of a similar age were in generations past.

Letting old people die would undoubtedly be cheaper than keeping them alive — but that does not mean that the costs have gone down. It just means that we refuse to pay the costs. Instead, we pay the consequences. There is no free lunch.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Using a Fallen Hero as a Prop

As I watched a clip of Barack Obama saluting the casket of one of our fallen heroes, I was reminded of just how narcissistic he is. Other presidents have performed said act in private without cameras and/or reporters — but Obama had to make it about him.

Offended and outraged by his display, I wanted to tell him that while America’s enemies may view him as pusillanimous or as the equivalent of that which a jester’s liripipes factually represent (i.e., two ears and a tail) — I viewed him as a cheap pettifogger who feigns qualities that conceal his true incertitude. I wanted to tell him that he was reducing the office, which should have been his ne plus ultra for good — to a sinister darkness that rivaled Erebus himself.

I wanted to ask if it remotely bothered him that his actions had undermined the shareholders in the automobile industry so that a few of his favored might gain, and/or to what extent his narcissism allowed him to even consider he was enslaving future generations with the debt of his agenda — albeit one need not be a psychic or psychologist to know his reply. I wanted ask what it felt like to lie to, mislead and threaten the people who voted for him.

I wanted to tell him there were many who understood that the appointment of czars was his plan for circumventing the branches of government as established by our Founding Fathers. And that surrounding himself with the most ardent supporters of Lenin, Chavez, and Mao — several of whom in recent days have openly praised Mao — would not blunt our criticism.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Video: Rev. Wright: U.S. ‘Land of Greed and Home of Slave’

Celebrates 60th anniversary of Marxist publication

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark Demands From Obama

From Danish: Danish climate minister Connie Hedegaard says she finds it hard to understand how an American president can accept the Noble prize in Oslo, just a few hundred kilometers away from Copenhagen, for his ability to create new hope, and at the same time send an empty-handed delegation to the climate summit.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Dutch Moroccan on Terror Charges in Britain

A Dutch Moroccan woman caught with a computer memory stick containing thousands of documents on how to make explosives was sentenced to two years in jail by a court in Manchester on Monday.

Houria Chahed Chentouf, 41, admitted two counts of possessing documents likely to be useful for a terrorist purpose, the BBC said.

Officers found the stick when she was stopped at Liverpool airport in 2008.

The mother-of-six lived in The Hague for more than 20 years and the Dutch authorities were also involved in the inquiry, the BBC said.

The court was told Chentouf suffered from a mental illness which may have influenced her behaviour. In sentencing, the judge said there is no evidence she intended to pass the information on to anybody.

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

Estonia: Wrong Language Means No Medical Help?

In Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, a regional hospital doctor refused treatment to a Russian-speaking patient who could not explain his symptoms in the country’s official language.

According to the portal, Dmitry Smolnikov, a diver, had approached the hospital after receiving a jaw injury during an unsuccessful plunge. Smolnikov waited to be seen by the oral surgeon for three weeks.

When he finally got an appointment, he entered the doctor’s office and tried to explain his condition in Russian. He was then requested to speak Estonian.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

EU: Court Rejects Crucifix Display in Italian Schools

Strasbourg, 3 Nov. (AKI) — The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled in favour of an Italian woman who opposed the display of a Catholic crucifix at her children’s school. Soile Lautsi, from Abano Terme, a small town outside the northern city of Padua, had lodged a the case to protest against the crucifix at the state school. She was also awarded 5,000 euros in damages.

“The presence of the crucifix…could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion,” said the verdict of the court, based in the French city of Strasbourg.

“This could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities.”

According to the verdict, the Italian state is to “refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it…and was required to observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education, where attending classes was compulsory irrespective of religion, and where the aim should be to foster critical thinking in pupils.”

In a media statement the court said Lautsi had alleged on behalf of herself and her children, that the display of a crucifix in the state school attended by her children (in 2001-2002) was contrary to her right to ensure their education and teaching… in conformity with her religious and philosophical convictions.

Both her children, aged respectively 11 and 13 years in 2001-2002, were students at the Vittorino da Feltre public school, located in Abano Terme.

Lautsi informed the school of her position, referring to a judgement by Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation in 2000, when it found that the presence of crucifixes in polling stations to be contrary to the secularism of the state.

After extensive legal wrangling, on 13 February 2006, Italy’s State Council dismissed Lautsi’s appeal, stating that the cross had become one of the secular values of the Italian constitution and represented civil values.

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

Europe’s Own Surveillance State

It’s not just Whitehall we have to keep an eye on — to defend our civil liberties we must watch Brussels too

As eloquently expressed in this forum before, the defence of our civil liberties is now a war on two fronts. While the UK government pushes ahead with new ways to stockpile our personal data and watch us at every street corner, the European Union is quietly getting on with establishing its very own Europe-wide version of the surveillance state.

Despite the stalwart efforts of groups such as Statewatch, most people, including in the media, have not yet woken up to this. Perhaps it is the sheer scale of the erosion of citizens’ freedom in the UK that leaves the majority numb to anti-privacy developments that are already well underway in Brussels.

Through the use of CCTV, UK citizens are among the most surveilled in the democratic world. Our DNA is collected and stored by the state at five times the rate of the next highest EU country (Austria), and telecoms service providers are obliged to hold records of our phone calls, emails, and text messages for 12 months.

But it is precisely because of the UK’s advances in this area that we must now pay better attention to what is happening in the EU…

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Gaddafi: We Overdid the Institutional Aplomb, Bonino Says

(ANSAmed) — CAPRI (NAPLES), OCTOBER 30 — Italy displayed an “excess of institutional decorum” in the reception it gave to Libyan leader, Muammar Gheddafi on his visit to the country, says the Deputy Speaker of the Italian Senate, Emma Bonino. “All those Bedouin tents,” Bonino said in her speech to the Congress of Young Industrialists being held in Capri, “Fini was right not to keep on waiting for Gheddafi. But it’s a shame that others later went to visit the Libyan leader in his tent. It was truly an excess of institutional decorum”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italians Cross Over Crucifix Ban

The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms, prompting Vatican anger and sparking uproar in Italy, where such icons are embedded in the national psyche.

“The ruling of the European court was received in the Vatican with shock and sadness,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, adding that it was “wrong and myopic” to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.

The ruling by the court in Strasbourg, which Italy said it would appeal, said crucifixes on school walls — a common sight that is part of every Italian’s life — could disturb children who were not Christians.

Italy has been in the throes of national debate on how to deal with a growing population of immigrants, mostly Muslims, and the court sentence is likely to become another battle cry for the centre-right government’s policy to restrict newcomers.

“This is an abhorrent ruling,” said Rocco Buttiglione, a former culture minister who helped write papal encyclicals.

“It must be rejected with firmness. Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history. Those who come among us must understand and accept this culture and this history,” he said.

The Vatican spokesman said it was sad that the crucifix could be considered a symbol of division and said religion offered a vital contribution to the moral formation of people.

Members of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government bristled, weighing in with words such as “shameful”, “offensive”, “absurd,” “unacceptable,” and “pagan”.

Foreign minister Franco Frattini said the court had dealt a “mortal blow to a Europe of values and rights,” adding that it was a bad precedent for other countries.

Condemnation crossed party lines. Paola Binetti, a Catholic in the opposition Democratic Party, the successor of what was once the West’s largest communist party, said: “In Italy, the crucifix is a specific sign of our tradition.”

The case was brought by an Italian national, Soile Lautsi, who complained that her children had to attend a public school in northern Italy which had crucifixes in every room.

Education minister Mariastella Gelmini said crucifixes on the walls of tens of thousands of classrooms “do not mean adherence to Catholicism” but are a symbol of Italy’s heritage.

“The history of Italy is marked by symbols and if we erase symbols we erase part of ourselves,” Ms Gelmini said.

Ms Lautsi, the woman who filed the suit, said crucifixes on walls ran counter to her right to give her children a secular education and the Strasbourg-based court ruled in her favour.

“The presence of the crucifix … could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities,” the court said in a written ruling.

“The State (must) refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it,” it added, saying the aim of public education was “to foster critical thinking”.

At least one Muslim girl disagreed with the court.

“If the crucifix is there and I am a Muslim I will continue to respect my religion. Jesus in the classroom doesn’t bother me,” Zenat, a 14-year-old girl of Egyptian origin, told reporters.

Two Italian laws dating from the 1920s, when the Fascists were in power, state that schools must display crucifixes.

Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, said rulings such as that by the court were leading to “a Europe without an identity”.

Only a handful of politicians defended the court, including some members of the Democratic Party, as well as members of the communist party and atheist groups.

           — Hat tip: 4Symbols [Return to headlines]

Italy: Ku Klux Klan ‘Seeks New Members’

Rome, 2 Nov. (AKI) — The American white supremacist group, Ku Klux Klan has reportedly appealed for new members to join the organisation in Italy. According to the Italian daily, La Repubblica, the KKK established operations in Europe in 2007 and after internal conflict, the movement was dissolved.

However, some members, primarily Italian and German, turned to American members known as the United Northern and Southern Knights in a bid to spread the organisation’s message in Europe.

“After brief talks and negotiations, it was decided to create a parallel European Klan loyal to the American one. This initiative was ratified by the rest of the world in August 2008,” said an Italian neo-Nazi forum on the Internet.

The Italian chapter’s website announces an appeal for “new enrolments” to join the movement, which just like its US counterpart fights against “blacks, homosexuals and immigrants,” but also “Jews”.

“If you are patriotic white men or women and you want to commit yourselves to fight for your race and for future generations, if you are tired of seeing our descendents, our rights and our future trampled on and thrown away, if you want to put an end to this destruction, we will be happy to have you as part of our group and listen to you,” the Italian site said.

“Join the fight and safeguard the rights of white and Christian citizens. Let’s recapture what was taken from us and let’s give to our children the future they deserve.”

Potential members are asked to attach a colour photo and a copy of an identity document.

After signing up, the member will reportedly be given a booklet to help them through a “trial period”. Official acceptance into the group takes place after 12 months of observation.

According to Italian ‘Klansmen’, members define themselves as “nationalists, and proud of being Italian,” and say that Italian pride is being discouraged in national discourse.

Nowadays “everyone talks about black pride, Jewish pride, Hispanic pride and gay pride,” while “the majority of the population is not encouraged to be proud of their own descendants and the conquests of their ancestors and that ethnic group is the white race,” said the daily quoting the Italian chapter of the KKK website.

The KKK was created after the American Civil War in 1865 and is believed to have as many as 170,000 members.

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

Italy-Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev and Berlusconi to Endorse New Accords

Rome, 3 Nov.(AKI) — Bilateral cooperation, trade and investment will be the main focus when the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, meets Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on a two-day state visit which begins on Wednesday. Nazarbayev will also meet Pope Benedict XVI for the first time.

“The purpose of my visit to Italy is to build on positive trends in Kazakh-Italian relations, expand and deepen trade and economic and investment cooperation, and also give a boost to political interaction, taking into account the leading role of Italy in the European Union,” Nazarbayev said in a statement on the eve of his visit.

“The prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, and I plan to discuss actual problems of world politics, issues of bilateral cooperation in trade and economic and investment spheres.”

The two leaders plan to endorse five bilateral accords during Nazarbayev’s visit, while Italian companies will sign 13 commercial accords with their Kazakh counterparts.

There are currently 130 Italian companies who do business in Kazakhstan and bilateral trade is worth 13 billion dollars a year. Energy giant, ENI, and defence and transport contractor, Finmeccanica, are among the companies expected to benefit from new trade agreements to be endorsed this week.

“A treaty on strategic partnership and a number of intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in the fight against organised crime, military issues among others, are supposed to be signed,” Nazarbayev said.

“I am convinced my visit will open wide prospects of cooperation in various areas for us and, in general, will take our relations to a qualitatively new level.”

Nazarbayev will also meet the pope for the first time in an historic meeting designed to strengthen interreligious dialogue. Nazarbayev is a practising Muslim.

Kazakhstan has more than 16 million people and Islam is the largest religion in the country followed by the Russian Orthodox Christian faith.

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

Italy: Governor Admits Cocaine Use in Sex Scandal

Rome, 3 Nov. (AKI) — The Italian politician who recently resigned over his alleged encounters with a transsexual prostitutes, has admitted using cocaine during these encounters in the capital,Rome. The governor of the Lazio region, Piero Marrazzo, made the admission during a hearing being conducted by public prosecutors.

“The high amount of cash (5,000 euros) that I had with me on the morning of 3 July is because during my encounters, we expected to use cocaine. Cocaine, that was there for me to use,” said Marrazzo in remarks during a hearing on 21 October and made public on Tuesday.

Marrazzo stood down from his post in late October after a video emerged that apparently showed him with a transsexual prostitute.

The video was allegedly shot by four policemen arrested for trying to blackmail Marrazzo for a total of 80,000 euros in exchange for keeping the video secret.

However, during the hearing, Marrazzo said he was not the victim of extortion, but instead of a robbery.

“I was not the victim of extortion and I always carried out my role as governor of the Lazio region and looked after the interests of the citizens. I always considered what happened to me on 3 July a robbery.”

Marrazzo previously said he had paid 5,000 euros to the transsexual prostitute, whom he in met in a Rome apartment in early August.

But according to media reports, the fee Marrazzo allegedly paid is far above the average price of 200 euros for that type of sexual encounter.

During the hearing Marazzo said he paid the transsexual prostitute 1,000 euros for their encounter, and the rest of the money was used for cocaine consumption.

Marrazzo, who is married with three children, has admitted to “a weakness in my private life” and said he made “a terrible, terrible mistake” in failing to report his blackmailers to police.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly warned the centre-left governor of the existence of the sex video allegedly featuring him with transsexuals and assured him it would not be made public in any of his family-controlled publications.

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

Italy: No Crosses in School, Europe Court

Pols condemn crucifix ruling but Vatican to mull response

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, November 3 — In a legal landmark that sparked a storm in Italy, the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that crucifixes in Italian classrooms were a violation of parents’ rights to educate their kids according to their principles.

Upholding a plea from a Finnish immigrant to Italy, the Strasbourg-based court also said the crosses ran counter to a child’s own rights to freedom of religious choice.

The Finnish woman, Soile Lautsi, had vainly sued in various Italian courts to have crosses removed from her children’s classroom near Padua before she turned to the European court.

The Italian government was ordered to pay Lautsi, an Italian citizen, 5,000 euros in “moral damages”.

The ruling sparked an immediate outcry from conservative Catholic politicians, with Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia of the Northern League calling it “shameful” and a member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party, Antonio Mazzocchi, saying that Europe was forgetting its Christian heritage.

Pier Ferdinando Casini of the centrist Catholic UDC said the ruling was a sign of “cowardice” in today’s politically correct world but the diehard Communist Party praised the court for upholding secular values.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini stressed that crosses were “a symbol of Italian tradition” and not a mark of membership of the Catholic Church. The Vatican said it would have to see the wording of the ruling before making a formal statement.

“I believe reflection is needed before commenting,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

Crucifixes are common in Italian public buildings despite the postwar Constitution’s mandated separation of Church and State.

There has been controversy over their presence in recent years.

A Muslim parent, Adel Smith, and a Jewish Italian judge, Luigi Tosti, have tried to have them removed. Smith, the head of the small Union of Italian Muslims, succeeded in getting a court order in 2003 to have crosses removed from the school his children attended.

But the order was later reversed after a nationwide protest. Tosti has received suspended jail terms and bans from public office for refusing to enter courtrooms unless crucifixes are removed.


Crucifixes are not mandatory but customary in Italy’s public buildings, while the separation of Church and State is set down by the postwar Constitution and mandated by a 1984 Concordat that ended most of the Catholic Church’s privileges.

In practice, with Catholicism being such a part of Italy’s cultural identity, local bodies decide whether they want crosses in schools and courthouses, and the majority of them do.

In 2004 Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled that crosses should stay in courts and classrooms but did not give a juridical explanation for its ruling.

Many felt it had washed its hands of a political hot potato.

If it had upheld the separation of Church and State, the high court would have sparked outraged reactions from conservatives who were already incensed when some schools dropped Christmas plays and creches to avoid hurting the feelings of Muslim children.

The European Court of Human Rights upholds the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights to which the 47 countries in the Council of Europe adhere.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Venice Mayor to Quit Politics

Massimo Cacciari says he has seen defeat enough times

(ANSA) — Rome, November 2 — Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari has announced his intention to quit politics altogether once his current mandate expires next year.

In an interview published in Monday’s edition of the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, the philosophy professor said “I have no intention of running for anything anymore. As of next year I will no longer be mayor of Venice nor a member of parliament. Enough! How many times does one have to be defeated in their lives”.

“I have every intention to continue to say what I feel but I will not longer take on any role in any organization. I’ve done my share, it’s time to be realistic,” the 65-year-old mayor added.

Looking back at his political past, Cacciari said “thirty years ago when others were in power I hoped to promote change within the Italian Communist Party (PCI). Then I joined the (ex-PCI) Democrats of the Left (PdS), then the Party of Mayors, (ex-premier Romano) Prodi’s Democrats, the Daisy alliance and in the end the Democratic party (PD)”.

Now that the PD is in the hands of Pierluigi Bersani and centrist Francesco Rutelli has left the party, because he sees it as a reincarnation of a center-left dominated by the ex-PCI, Cacciari said he is out, too.

“What Rutelli is saying now, I’ve been saying for a long time. Now I’ve got nothing left to say,” he added.

The Venice mayor ruled out joining the centrist movement Rutelli would like to create from other disaffected PD memebrs and join with the Union of Center (UDC) party of Pier Ferdinando Casini.

“I couldn’t care less, power makes me laugh. I respect people like Rutelli and others, our friendship goes back a long way. I share his reasoning but I have nothing in common with the UDC nor with other groups,” including Bersani’s PD.

“I wish Bersani success, but what will the new ‘thing’ be, another creation of (ex-PCI secretary Massimo) D’Alema? The PD is in a jam. An accord with the center is inevitable and what appears on the horizon, a First Republic-style center-left, is an old plan of D’Alema which does not interest me culturally. Even if it is the only way to beat (conservative Premier Silvio) Berlusconi,” Cacciari said.

Cacciari started his political activism on the far left but then joined the PCI. He left the party after the death of its reformist leader Enrico Berlinguer in 1984 but returned to politics, after a tenure in academia, when he was elected mayor of Venice in 1993 on a PdS ticket.

His political career ebbed when he was defeated in the race for governor of the Veneto region, a post which would have thrown him into the national spotlight, but he made a comeback in 2005 when he was returned as mayor of the lagoon city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy’s Novello Makes 2009 Debut

Production and popularity down but new wine has following

(ANSA) — Verona, November 3 — Everything is ready for the premiere of this year’s Vino Novello, the Italian cousin of the better known French Beaujolais Nouveau, which takes place Thursday and Friday at the Verona trade fair grounds.

While the novelty of Novello has worn off in recent years and production continues to decline, the wine maintains a strong following and has carved out its own market niche.

The wine will be presented at a two-day ‘Anteprima Novello’ event which will see leading producers offer their wines to the public and, more important, to buyers, wholesalers, retailers, the leading distribution centers and restaurant operators.

Production of Novello this year is down some 4% over last year with 236 vineyards making the wine compared to 246 in 2008.

Over 400 vineyards were producing Novello in 2004 after its popularity peaked.

According to a poll take for the wine website and Vinitaly, Italy’s most important wine trade fair, Italian are almost split down the line over Novello.

The poll found that 49% of Italians buy one or two bottles of the new wine every year, while 51% refuse to try it, preferring more traditional wines.

Among those who buy Novello, 54% said they did so because the wine for them represented an ‘autumn treat’, something to put on their pre-Christmas tables along with mushrooms, chestnuts and freshly squeezed olive oil.

Another 25% said they bought the wine because they liked its taste, while 21% said Novello had become a rite, a seasonal tradition like panettone Christmas cake or a chocolate Easter egg.

Among those who do not buy Novello, most said they avoided it because they preferred traditional wines, others did not like its taste and some considered the new wine to be just a marketing gimmick by winemakers.

Vino Novello, which was officially recognised in 1987, traditionally makes its debut in the first week in November in order to get a jump on Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais cannot be opened until the third Thursday of November, this year November 19.

The popularity of Novello, especially among young people, is for the most part thanks to its clear red color, fruity taste and low alcoholic content, only 11%.

Novello, like Beaujolais Nouveau, is a light, fruity red wine which by law must be bottled within a year of the harvest, but in practice is bottled within a few weeks.

The fruity flavour of new wine is in part due to the fact that the juice of the grapes is not left too long with the grape skins which contain the chemical tannin.

This allows winemakers to blend several types of grapes and the wine can even be served chilled like white wines.

One of the main differences between Novello and Beaujolais is that several of the Italian wines retain some of the carbonation used to accelerate the fermentation process while the French Nouveau is traditionally flat.

The tradition of producing new wine began in the Beaujolais area of France’s Burgundy region during the 1950s and caught on in Italy in the late 1990s.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libraries Ban Poppies: ‘We Can’t Favour One Charity Above Others’ Says Manager

For decades they dutifully sold poppies without objection.

But then staff at nearly 50 libraries were ordered to remove their collection tins and boxes — in the name of equality.

Officials ruled they could not be seen to support ‘particular charities at the expense of others’.

The ban, which applied to all 48 libraries in Derbyshire, was yesterday described as ‘scandalous’.

Staff were sent an email on October 28 warning them to remove any boxes from public areas ‘immediately’.

The memo, from Ann Ainsworth, the county council’s ‘Operations Manager, West’, said: ‘I need to reinforce that the County Council does not support specific charities and does not provide opportunities for any charities to collect donations via Derbyshire Libraries.

‘This ensures it maintains a neutral position and does not favour particular charities at the expense of others.

‘Clearly this also excludes collection boxes for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

‘Please ensure that collection boxes have not been accepted for public display during this year’s appeal in any of our buildings.’

A source said the order had angered staff at one of the affected libraries, in Whitwell.

Eddie Roper, who used to run the adjoining village community centre, said: ‘The staff can’t understand the decision. Nobody ever complained about it.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Immigrant Tensions Remain Five Years After Van Gogh Killing

No Islamic terrorist attacks have taken place in the Netherlands since the murder of Theo van Gogh.

Five years ago today Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam by a fanatical Muslim who was infuriated by Van Gogh’s anti-Islam insults. The killing has been compared with the terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid and London and it boosted already high ethnic tensions.

The anniversary of the attack prompted foreign journalists to check on the multicultural tensions and Muslim radicalisation in the Dutch capital. The Netherlands’ immigration issues have remained high on the agenda, fuelled by populist politician Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV). But no attacks, home grown or from outside, have taken place since November 2, 2004.

That was the morning Mohammed B. followed Theo van Gogh on his bicycle before he shot him eight times with a handgun. The 47-year-old filmmaker fell to the ground, where his assassin slit his throat and pinned a note to his body with a knife. The note was a death threat to Ayaan Hirsi Ali with whom Van Gogh had made the short film Submission, about the abuse of women under Islam, and called for jihad.

B., son of Moroccan immigrants, was born and raised in Amsterdam. “The turnaround in his behaviour happened in this building”, Achmed Marcouch told reporters on a tour of the Amsterdam immigrant neighbourhood Slotervaart last week. Marcouch has been Slotervaart’s borough chairman since 2006 and the building he showed the journalists was the community centre Eigenwijks, where B. was a volunteer. He is now serving a life sentence for the murder.

Local campaign

A spokesperson for the city clarified why the tour was organised: to prevent over-simplified stories from making international headlines. So Marcouch, Moroccan-Dutch youth workers, mosque representatives, integration expert Jean Tillie and municipality officers were drummed up to escort the journalists. They presented material from the “We Amsterdammers” campaign — aimed at connecting different ethnic groups in the city — census statistics, anti-discrimination posters and a city- sponsored real-life soap.

Marcouch and Tillie explained how successful the campaign has been, as no new incidents have taken place. “Not much has happened, despite the fact that we in the Netherlands seem to be making an effort to let things escalate”, Tillie said, referring to Geert Wilders. “His party is constantly bashing Muslims. The fact that nothing else has happened, proves how effective the policies have been.”

But French correspondent Didier Burg, who works for Belgian newspaper Le Soir and Radio France Internationale, was sceptical about the presentation. “Gay’s are still a target for Muslim youth in Amsterdam and the polls suggest the PVV will become the biggest party. How can you call that a success?” he asked Marcouch.

Gay hostililty

The borough chairman, himself born in Morocco, replied that Islam is not a root cause of gay hostility from immigrant youngsters. “They don’t harass homosexuals for religious reasons. Criminal Moroccan kids call themselves Muslims, but they never go to mosque and do everything Allah has forbidden.”

Jean-Pierre Stroobants, a Belgian reporter working for French daily Le Monde, expressed his surprise at the fierceness of the Dutch public debate. According to him, the magnitude of the problems doesn’t justify the tone. “When I visit Slotervaart or the Baarsjes [another immigrant borough in Amsterdam] I am expecting radicals on the corner of every street, continuous police actions and prisons full of salafists. But that barely takes place here. I think radicalisation in Belgium and France is a lot worse.”

He thinks Dutch society has overreacted. “But at least they are doing something. In Belgium we are letting the problems fester and waiting to see what happens.”

The Guardian correspondent Guy Thornton says the Brits have not significantly changed their opinion about the Netherlands in the past five years. “It is still the fun country Britons visit to spend a few days in Amsterdam. We have just realised you too have issues.”

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

Netherlands: Wilders ‘Is Undermining Democracy’: Report

Geert Wilders’ PVV party is an ‘extreme right-wing’ grouping and a threat to social cohesion and democracy, according to a report on radicalism in the Netherlands by three academics for the home affairs ministry, the Volkskrant reported at the weekend.

The report, which is not yet finalised, looks at polarisation and radicalism in the Netherlands. Ministers and the researchers are still discussing the final changes but sources say ministers want to water down the conclusions because of the political sensitivity, the paper says.

As it now stands, the report describes the PVV as an ‘extreme right-wing party which is mobilising anti-Islam sentiment and hatred of governmental system’, theVolkskrant states.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Priest Training Centre, Churches Close

The Catholic church is to stop training new priests in Utrecht because so few men apply the centre is uneconomical to run, the Telegraaf reports on Tuesday.

Fifteen years ago, the seminary had 40 students, but currently has just 12. Instead, student priests will train at the Tiltenberg seminary run by the Haarlem-Amsterdam diocese.

At the same time, the Protestant church council in Leeuwarden has announced plans to close four of its seven churches because of falling attendences.

‘It is very simple. Every year we are losing 2% to 3% of our members and that has hit our income,’ Henk Drewel of the local church council told news agency ANP.

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

Norwegian Politician Forecasted 6 Million Jews Would Perish

From Norwegian: In 1943 Haakon Lie wrote a letter to The Nation about antisemtiism in Norway, the persecution of Jews and the deportation to German concentration camps.

Later that year he said in an interview with Nordisk Tidende (Norwegian newspaper in US), that everything that happened in Norway, Poland, even to the Germans, is nothing compared with the extinction of 6 million Jews, of a whole people.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Spain: PP Consolidates Advantage Over PSOE in Voting Poll

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 2 — If the vote took place today the opposition Popular Party would win the election with a 3.3 point lead over premier Zapatero’s Socialist Party (PSOE) according to the results of a poll published today by the Sociological Research Centre (CIS). For the second quarter in a row, the PP overtook the PSOE in voting intentions despite being shaken by corruption scandals. The most recent CIS poll was however taken before the appointing of Ricardo Costa as secretary general of the Valencia PP and the power struggle in the Madrid PP for control of Caja Madrid. The poll showed an increase of 2.1 points for the PP in consensus over the previous poll in July which showed the first overtaking of the conservatives over the socialists, which had a 39% consensus three months ago. In terms of political leaders, premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is still the most highly appreciated, with a vote of 4.11 compared to 4.27 in July; followed by UyPD party leader Rosa Diez with 4,08; CiU leader Josep Antoni Duran Lleida with 3.88 and PP leadaer Mariano Rajoy with 3.61. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Catalans Want Referendum, But Not Independence

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 2 — The majority of Spain’s Catalans are in favour of holding a referendum in Catalonian independence, but only 35% would vote to secede from Spain. The data come from a survey carried out by the Noxa institute across all the region’s towns which appears in today’s La Vanguardia. The survey shows that 53% of those interviewed were in favour of a popular ballot, compared with 39% against. Clearly, those most in favour of the idea of a referendum were also voters for the nationalist parties: Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (86% of whom were in favour of the vote); Convergencia i Union (60%); Iniciativa Catalunya Verds-Isquierda Unida (58%). Less enthusiastic were voters for the Catalan Socialist Party (48% in favour of a referendum) and voters for the Partito Popolare (20%). More than 67% of voters for the constitutionalist Ciudadans party were against the ballot. The interviewees’ feelings of identity influenced their stance towards a possible referendum, given that 85% of those who would consider themselves Catalans supported it, as did 77% of those who consider themselves more Catalan than Spanish, and by 50% of those who think of themselves as both Catalans and Spaniards, while it is opposed by 60% of those who feel themselves to be more or less exclusively Spanish. But despite these strong nationalistic feelings, only a minority would actually tick the box for the separation of Catalonia from Spain: 35% of those interviewed said yes, while 46% of them said they would cast a nay vote. Which boils down to a picture of a growing nationalist sentiment, with the number of those in favour of secession from Spain lagging behind. The percentage figures are pretty well the same as those of the same survey last year, when 36% stated they would vote for secession. Despite which, the perception among Catalonian public opinion is that the push for independence is growing. This was the belief held by 50% of those interviewed, with just 20% feeling that it is diminishing. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Fetuses Wrongly Declared Dead

In twenty four cases during the last three years, doctors have unintentionally been giving pregnant mothers the false piece of information that their fetuses have died.

The Swedish radio has investigated reports about mistakes in the medical sector and hospitals. The result shows that this mistake has happened at least twenty four times during the last three years. In half of the cases, the women who got the information that their fetus has died, was given abortion pills. When they returned to the doctor, they learned that it was not dead at all, but perfectaly healthy

According to the guidelines, two separate ultrasound examinations shall always be performed to avoid mistakes like this, but this is not always the case.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

UK: Britain’s First £1,000 Train Ticket Sparks Row Over Soaring Rail Fares

Britain’s first £1,000 rail fare has caused a fresh row over the rising costs of train travel.

A first-class ‘walk-on’ return ticket from Newquay, Cornwall, to Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland, now costs a staggering £1,002 — making it the first time passengers have been asked to pay such a high price for a UK journey since rail services began in 1825.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Belief in Man-Made Climate Change as Important as Religious Faith?

An executive has won the right to sue his employer on the basis that he was unfairly dismissed for his green views. But should environmentalism have the same weight in law as religious and philosophical beliefs?

Tim Nicholson, 42, of Oxford, was made redundant in 2008 by Grainger Plc in Didcot, as head of sustainability.

He claimed his beliefs in climate change contributed to his dimissal and has just won the right to take his employers to a tribunal.

In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that “a belief in man-made climate change … is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations”.

But should a belief in man-made climate change be considered as important as religious views and could this open the flood gates to other people who feel they have been discrimated against for their “green views”?

           — Hat tip: 4Symbols [Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron Under Pressure Over Lisbon Treaty

London — David Cameron, political opportunist and leader of the UK’s Conservative Party, is on Nov. 3, 2009 under pressure from all sides over promises he made about a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The Lisbon Treaty creates the post of president of the EU Council, and a foreign minister for Europe. It is being hailed by the governing Labour party as “good for Britain,” but Eurosceptics and David Cameron disagree.

In a 2007 article for The Sun newspaper, Mr. Cameron said, “Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.”

He is now being accused of reneging on this promise. He hasn’t actually repeated it recently, instead saying that he would “not let matters rest” if the treaty were ratified by the time the Conservatives gained power.

The BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, has said Mr. Cameron “will insist that his ‘cast iron guarantee’ of a referendum lasted only as long as the Lisbon Treaty was not law.”

This latest accusation highlights the dangers of Mr Cameron’s policy of bandwagon politics. When you make the popular promises, you have to honour them, or expose yourself as a man of no substance.

He has reportedly angered EU leaders by writing a letter to Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus, urging him not to sign the treaty. However, it has had no effect, and the Czech constitutional court has cleared the way for President Klaus to sign it.

Speaking on London radio station LBC, Mr. Cameron said he was “very disappointed” that the Czechs were likely going to ratify the treaty, allowing it to pass into law across Europe. When asked what he would do next, he replied, “We will have to address ourselves to it and I will be doing that later this week.”

If the Conservative Party gain power in the next election, they may be able to renegotiate some of the powers in the treaty, or demand certain powers back from Europe. Mr. Cameron can then promise to hold referendums on all future EU treaties.

For those pointing the finger at Mr. Cameron, this may not be good enough. They are calling for him to honour his “iron-clad” promise, and demanding that he hold a referendum no matter what.

“We need a full referendum on Lisbon as we were promised,” Bill Cash, the leading Conservative Eurosceptic told the Daily Telegraph. “No ifs no buts. This is about the government of the UK operating in line with the democratic wishes of the country.”

The question is — does David Cameron have the strength to live up to his promise?

Barry Legg, a former Conservative Party chief executive, now a member of Eurosceptic think-tank The Bruges Group, said, “How can David Cameron claim he’ll fight to repatriate powers from Brussels when he won’t even fight to implement his own words?”

President Klaus has said he will offer no further opposition to the Lisbon Treaty. This will clear the way for it to become law across the EU on Dec. 1, 2009. David Cameron must now make a decision — honour his “iron-clad” promise, or hope he loses the next general election and gets off the hook.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron to Tell Voters: No Vote on Lisbon Treaty

David Cameron is to tell the British people that a Conservative government will not give them a referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty.

The Tory party leader’s admission, which could come as early as Tuesday, will bring accusations that he has broken clear promises to grant a popular vote on the treaty.

Mr Cameron gave voters an “iron-clad” promise in 2007 that a Conservative government would hold a popular vote on Lisbon.

And, in May this year, he said: “A progressive reform agenda demands that we redistribute power from the EU to Britain and from judges to the people. We will therefore hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.”

But today Mr Cameron gave his clearest signal yet that he will not hold a popular vote on the treaty, which creates the post of EU president and ends more than 50 British vetoes over European policy.

Mr Cameron said that once the document is endorsed by all 27 EU members and comes into force, it will “not be a treaty” and will instead be part of European law.

The last obstacle to the ratification of the treaty is likely to be removed today when the constitutional court in the Czech Republic rules that the treaty is compatible with the country’s laws.

Once the Czech court approves the Treaty, all that remains is for Vaclav Klaus, the Czech President, to sign it.

Mr Klaus has repeatedly tried to block the treaty, but has now said he is prepared to sign it.

Mr Cameron has publicly urged him to hold out, but yesterday he said: “I had always hoped that President Klaus wouldn’t sign but it seems that times are changing.”

Tory sources said the Conservative leader could now formally abandon the referendum pledge today, even before the Czech leader signs.

“We have to realistic and once the Czech court rules, we will have to accept the new reality. We might not wait for Klaus,” said a Conservative source.

But last night Mr Cameron’s suggestion that no referendum would be possible on a ratified treaty antagonised some Tory Eurosceptics and could anger voters who believed a Conservative Government would give them a vote.

In 2007, a Daily Telegraph campaign demanding a referendum gathered more than 100,000 signatures.

Speaking at a press conference in London today, Mr Cameron gave his signal that the Czech ratification of the treaty would change his policy.

Asked to repeat his “cast iron” promise, Mr Cameron declined. Instead, he accepted that its ratification will mean a UK vote is no longer possible.

“We want to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty but clearly it seems we are getting closer to the point where the treaty is not going to be a treaty but becomes part of European law,” he said.

Lawyers and other European governments say that a British referendum on a ratified treaty would become a vote on the UK’s entire membership of the EU. Mr Cameron has publicly ruled out any “in-or-out” vote on Europe.

Senior Tories say that instead of a referendum on Lisbon, the Tories will now seek to renegotiate several of the changes it implements.

A Tory source said: “It is clear that a post-ratification referendum is simply not possible. We will look at the parts of the treaty that are not acceptable and seek to renegotiate them.”

Some Conservative opponents of European integration say that plan is enough for them.

David Heathcote Amory, a Eurosceptic MP, said he accepted Mr Cameron’s reasoning: “You cannot have a referendum on something that doesn’t exist. I accept that and I shall wait to see what my leader proposes next.”

But several others said they still expect Mr Cameron to honour his “iron-clad” promise and hold a referendum on the treaty regardless.

Bill Cash, another leading Eurosceptic MP, said: “We need a full referendum on Lisbon as we were promised. No ifs or buts. This is about the Government of the UK operating in line with the democratic wishes of the electorate.”

Barry Legg, of the sceptic Bruges Group, said: “David Cameron needs to come clean with the British people: why is he breaking his pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty? How can David Cameron claim he’ll fight to repatriate powers from Brussels when he won’t even fight to implement his own past words?

Opponents of the treaty from other parties also attacked Mr Cameron.

Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader, said: “We can now see how gutless and dishonest the Conservative Party has been about their intentions on a referendum.”

Ian Davidson, a Labour MP who opposes the treaty said: “Those who capitulate and change their position once it is ratified betray the interests of the British people.”

The ratification of Lisbon will allow the appointment of a new EU president. Gordon Brown is pushing for Tony Blair to get the job, although other EU leaders are resisting.

In the Commons today, Mr Cameron mocked Mr Brown over his campaign, telling him: “When considering your efforts to get Tony Blair this job, won’t most people in Britain feel this: it is completely unacceptable to see an unelected Prime Minister pushing for an unelected president under a treaty that no one was allowed to vote for?”

Mr Brown responded by mocking Mr Cameron over his “iron-clad” promise and saying his renegotiation plan would be “fighting yesterday’s battles”.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Greg Dyke Tells Tories to Strip BBC of Licence Fee and Pay for Corporation Centrallyby Liz Thomas

Former BBC director general Greg Dyke is set to tell the Conservative Party to strip the broadcaster of the licence fee, in a damning report to be published next month.

Dyke, who is chair of the Tories media policy review group, is expected to propose that licence fee is scrapped and the BBC is funded from central government — either through a grant or from the general tax pot.

The move would save the £120 million a year that is spent on administering and enforcing the £142.50 annual levy.

It is being suggested that this money could be directed into funding for public service broadcasting on commercial channels such as ITV or on local news.

The BBC would still be funded by the public but its £3.6 billion income would come from general taxation or possibly even a government grant.

Dyke has called for the licence fee to be scrapped in favour ‘exchequer grant’ from the Treasury.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘The report is not finished yet and I won’t be commenting on it until it is.’

Insiders expect the suggestion to scrap the licence fee to be a key part of the report which is being put together by a panel of 12 senior industry figures including production company boss Elisabeth Murdoch, Lucian Grainge, head of Universal Music, and the Carphone Warehouse co-founder Charles Dunstone.

They have been tasked by Conservative leader David Cameron to come up with a policy plans for the creative industries.

It is also expected to tackle issues such as online piracy, the future of Channel 4 and public service broadcasting.

Dyke presided over the BBC when it was at its largest prompting current director general Mark Thompson — then chief executive of Channel 4 — to accuse it of swimming in ‘jacuzzi’s of cash’.

In recent years he has slammed both the licence fee and the size of executive pay.

Earlier this year, he labelled the levy as “a desperately unfair tax” and predicted it will become harder to collect with the growth of internet television.

He added: ‘Fund the BBC by an exchequer grant and use the money currently spent on collecting the licence fee, which is somewhere around£150 million to£200 million, for the public service fund.’

The BBC is fiercely against any attempt to break the connection between the corporation and the licence fee, which although it is effectively a tax — it is collected independently of the Treasury.

Senior executives said it was ‘unthinkable’ that control should be handed over to the government.

A spokesman for the Trust said: ‘The funding of the BBC through the licence fee is clearly understood by the public.

‘Breaking this historic link would threaten the BBC’s independence from Government, reduce accountability to licence fee payers and undermine the stability of funding that helps deliver a positive impact of £6.5billion on the UK’s economy.’

According to the 2007-2008 annual report, the corporation spent £123 million collecting the licence fee in that financial year.

The broadcaster has been funded by licence fee since its inception in 1922.

The BBC had a staff of four, and was financed by a Post Office licence fee of 10 shillings, payable by anyone owning a receiver, and supplemented by royalties on radio sales.

Labour have put forward a ‘top-slicing’ proposal in which the licence fee money currently ring fenced to pay for helping people to switch to digital — about £130 million a year — is used to pay for public service programming on commercial channels.

The BBC rejected the plans insisting that levy was vital to maintain its independence.

The Conservatives have taken a tough line against the corporation’s spending and inflated salaries for stars and executives.

Earlier this month shadow chancellor George Osbourne warned the broadcaster that top executives would need written permission from the government to earn more than the prime minister’s £194,254 salary under a Conservative regime.

Last week the BBC revealed it is slashing its £79 million pay bill for senior managers by 25 per cent but would not directly cut the salaries of fat cat executives.

Its total pay budget for the top 600 executives is currently a staggering £79 million and the BBC are trying to reduce that to around £60 million.

Currently 50 senior managers earn more than £200,000, with Thompson earning £647,000 and Mark Byford, his deputy, on £459,000, while 383 are paid more than £100,000.

The total remuneration for the BBC’s executive board — made up of just nine people — for the year to the end of March 2009 was £4.6 million.

The broadcaster will also axe 114 senior jobs over the next four years in a bid to tackle accusations that it is bloated with middle managers.

A further 400 executives will their management salaries frozen until 2011 while bonuses have been suspended until 2012.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Rules That Green Views Are the ‘Same as Religious Beliefs’ As Sacked Environmentalist Wins Legal Battle

An environmentalist who claims he was fired for his views has won a landmark legal battle after a judge ruled being green was just as worthy of protection at work as religion.

‘Green martyr’ Tim Nicholson, 42, claims he was dismissed after his bosses at showed contempt for his philosophical belief the earth faces ‘catastrophic climate change’.

He said he lost his job for criticising senior management at Grainger plc — including chief executive Rupert Dickinson who allegedly flew an employee to Ireland and back just to fetch a mislaid Blackberry mobile phone.

Mr Nicholson also found fault with managers for driving ‘the most polluting cars on the road’ to client meetings at which they would explain their green policies.

Grainger contended his views were political and a ‘lifestyle choice’.

But a judge ruled employers should no more discriminate against workers for being green than for their religious or philosophical beliefs.

Today’s ruling by Mr Justice Burton now paves the way for Mr Nicholson to claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

The judgement is likely to be criticised by Christian groups who feel that the decision glorifies environmentalism at the expense of religion.

Mr Nicholson, a married father of one was formerly head of sustainability at Grainger, the UK’s biggest residential landlord which manages 27,000 properties worth £3billion in Britain and Germany.

In a witness statement he said he had ‘a strongly-held philosophical belief about climate change and the environment.

‘I believe we must urgently cut carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.

‘This affects how I live my life… I encourage others to cut their carbon emissions and I fear for the future of the human race.’

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Mother Hid Bomb Manual in Her Burka and ‘Considered Turning Her Children Into Human Bombs’

A mother of six tried to smuggle ‘a mini encyclopedia of weapons making’ into Britain by concealing a small computer memory stick under her burka.

Moroccan-born Houria Chahed Chentouf, who was obsessed with the idea of Islamic holy war, had tied the device into her sleeve.

But it fell out in front of police when she was stopped at Liverpool’s John Lennon airport after she arrived from Holland.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: US Embassy Sold to Qatari Group

The Grade II listed US embassy building in central London has been sold to Qatari Diar, the same real estate firm which owns the Chelsea Barracks site.

The Chancery building, in Grosvenor Square, was listed in October for its modernist concrete facade, which means the new owners cannot alter its design.

The embassy will operate from the Mayfair building until its new south London embassy building is completed.

The complex in Wandsworth is expected to be completed by 2016 or 2017.

Modernist landmark

Qatari Diar, the real estate investment arm of Qatar’s government, was in the news after it withdrew Lord Rogers’ modernist design for the 12.8 acre Chelsea Barracks site in west London in June after Prince Charles called the plan “unsympathetic”.

The 600-room embassy, completed in 1957, is one of the early works of modernist architect Eero Saarinen and was given protected status by English Heritage.

The embassy plans to move to a 20-storey building at a five acre site in Nine Elms Lane in Wandsworth.

The US government will also announce the winner of a design competition for the new embassy in early 2010 and work at the site is expected to commence by 2012.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Vatican Denounces European Ruling Against Display of Religious Symbols in Italian Classrooms

ROME (AP) — The Vatican has denounced a ruling by the European court of human rights that said the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violates religious and educational freedoms.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi says the crucifix is a “fundamental sign of the importance of religious values” in Italian history and culture.

He says the European court had no right intervening in such a profoundly Italian matter and that it seems as if the court wanted to forget the role of Christianity in Europe’s identity.

Lombardi’s statement came the court In Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday ordered Italy to pay a euro5,000 ($7,390) fine to a mother who wanted crucifixes removed from her children’s classrooms.


The Italian government immediately said it would appeal, with one minister saying the court should be ashamed and a conservative senator calling the ruling “absurd.” Italian bishops said they were perplexed by the decision from the Strasbourg-based court.

“The multiple significance of the crucifix, which is not just a religious symbol but a cultural sign, has been either ignored or overlooked,” the Italian Bishop’s Conference said in a statement.

The court ordered the government to pay a euro5,000 ($7,390) fine to Soile Lautsi, the mother of two children who claimed public schools in her northern Italian town refused eight years ago to remove the Roman Catholic symbols from classrooms.

The seven-judge panel, however, stopped short of ordering Italy to remove the crucifixes, which are common in Italian public schools. The ruling can still be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber of 17 judges, whose decisions are binding.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]


Croatia: Istria Top Wine-Producing Region

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 30 — Istria is the top wine-producing region in Croatia, thanks to its 10,000 hectares of cultivated vineyards. Istria is ahead of the Krapina-Zagorje in Varazdin, in the country’s interior. More than 100,000 households in Croatia work in the viticulture industry, and 15,000 work in commercial activities related to wine. Some 1,270,000 hectolitres of wine were produced in 2008, with 1,136,000 produced the year before. The most popular wines abroad are the wines from the south of the country and the island of Curzola. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Clinton Receives Warm Welcome

Pristina, 2 Nov. (AKI) — Former US president Bill Clinton received a warm welcome when he arrived in Kosovo at the weekend. Clinton was greeted by thousands of fans when he arrived in the capital, Pristina, on Sunday for the unveiling of a 3.5 metre statue in his honour.

It was Clinton’s third visit to Kosovo, but his first since it had declared independence from Serbia last year.

Kosovar president Fatmir Sejdiu said Clinton (photo) was a “man who conducted the greatest humanitarian action of the modern world for the salvation of the people of Kosovo”.

He was referring to NATO’s bombing campaign, which forced Serbian forces out of the province in 1999, and paved the way for independence.

“President Clinton’s contribution to the freedom and independence of the republic of Kosovo, as well as the US contribution, is exceptional,” said Kosovo prime minister Hasim Taci.

“I never expected that anywhere someone would make such a big statue of me,” Clinton told the crowd.

“I want to assure you that president Obama, secretary of state (Hillary) Clinton and the entire American people will be with you also in the future,” the former president said.

The statue portrays the former president with his left arm raised and holding documents with the date when NATO began its air campaign against Yugoslavia — 24 March 1999.

Belgrade still opposes Kosovo’s independence, which has been recognised by 62 states, including the US and leading European Union members.

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

Serbia: EC Report on Progress Towards EU is Best So Far

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, NOVEMBER 2 — Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Bozidar Djelic said that the European Commission’s report on Serbia’s progress towards the EU in 2009 is the best and most favourable report Serbia ever received, reports Emportal. At a session of the Serbian parliament’s European Integration Committee, Djelic said that this is a good administrative base for unfreezing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and for obtaining EU candidacy at the moment when the necessary political conditions are met. This is a positive base for further dialogue on visa liberalisation, he said and recalled that the European Parliament will decide on this on November 12, while on December 1 the EU Council of Ministers will decide on the visa regime for Serbia. According to Djelic, the European Commission gave Serbia 22 positive marks, out of a total of 24. The Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that the areas which were commended included agriculture, environmental protection and the work of the parliament.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Aspen-Italy: Turkish Question is Key

(ANSAmed) — CAPRI, OCTOBER 30 — The Barcelona process failed because it was based on an unbalanced relation between the north and south shores of the Mediterranean: the European Union has no leverage if it doesn’t offer membership and Barcelona had nothing to offer the Mediterranean countries. To restart the integration process between Europe and the Mediterranean it is necessary to put aside the political aspect and concentrate on projects. This is the opinion voiced by Marta Dassù, general director for international activity of Aspen Institute Italia, speaking in Capri at the conference of young industrialists. “Barcelona didn’t work”, said Dassù, “because Europe did not want the people, did not want the merchandise, did not offer membership. It was an unbalanced relationship. Let’s put aside the political side with its institutions and concentrate on projects”. And with projects it becomes above all a question of investments. “Italy”, said Dassù, “is last for investments in the Mediterranean, behind the U.S., Russia, France and Germany”. Finally, the question of integration and collaboration between the north and south shores of the Mediterranean must consider Turkey. “The difference in the relationships between the two shores”, explained Dassù, “will come from there. Italy favours Turkey’s entry in Europe, but France and Germany don’t”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Even Europe Fears Muslim Immigration

Diplomats quietly admit working to stem flow from Islamic nations

JERUSALEM — A major motivating factor for European countries forging agreements with Arab and Islamic nations is to temper Muslim immigration to Europe, an Egyptian diplomatic source told WND.

Separately, an Israeli foreign ministry official who recently held meetings with European Union diplomats regarding a possible economic deal with Syria reported hearing the same motivating factors.

European diplomats “talked about how part of their drive to forge Mediterranean agreements involves stemming the Muslim immigration by creating better opportunities for Arabs and Muslims in their home countries,” said the Israeli official.

The Egyptian diplomatic source said that some EU diplomats admitted their willingness to put aside objections to trade agreements due to some of the Mediterranean countries’ humanitarian rights violations.

“With regard to the equilibrium between insisting on respect for human rights and the facts of Muslim immigrants invading Europe, the EU is giving their priority to solving the second question. This is what we were hearing,” said the source.

The EU signed a series of deals with Mediterranean countries, including partnership agreements with Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. Also in 2005, the Greater Arab Free Trade Area was created, consisting of most members of the Arab League. The organization is meant to achieve the initial aims of a proposed Euro-Mediterranean free trade area.

Also, the EU drafted a pact with Syria in 2004 worth an estimated $7 billion a year for the Syrian economy.

The Bush administration delayed the deal for years, since it was particularly opposed to Syria’s interference in Lebanese affairs and Damascus’ military alliance with Iran. WND reported last month the Obama administration dropped American opposition to the deal without first extracting a concession from Syria to end its military alliance with Iran or address alleged human rights violations.

A signing ceremony was reportedly to take place last week but was delayed.

Muslims have been immigrating to Europe at increasing levels. According to the German Central Institute Islam Archive, the total number of Muslims in Europe in 2007 was about 53 million, including 16 million in the EU.

Some estimates claim that aside from Russia, Europe’s Muslim population may double by 2020. Penn State University Professor Philip Jenkins has projected that by 2100, Muslims will comprise about 25 percent of Europe’s population.

According to figures released earlier this year by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics, Mohammed became the most popular baby boy’s name in London.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

North Africa

‘Everyone Hates Jews, ‘ Declares Islamic Cleric

On TV program cites Muhammad: ‘The Muslims will kill the Jews. Be patient’

JERUSALEM — Trees, animals and non-Jewish athletes despise Jews, declared an Egyptian cleric on his country’s television network.

“People hate (Jews). They don’t like them. We are not talking only about people. [The same goes] even for trees and animals,” stated Egyptian cleric Amin Al-Ansari on a program two weeks ago that aired on Egypt’s Al-Rahma satellite network.

The program was translated from Arabic by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“You know, there is rather peculiar footage, in which an Arab man who has a camel loves it and kisses it, and the camel kisses him back. Along comes a Jew and wants to kiss the camel, just like the Arab. What do you think the camel did? Let’s watch,” Al-Ansari said.

The network then cut to what appeared to be staged footage of a man dressed in Arab garb kissing a camel while another man wearing a white yarmulke attempts to kiss the camel, prompting the animal to try to bite the purported Jew.

“Animals can sense things,” explained Al-Ansari.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Morocco: Businesswomen, More Than 5000 in the Past 10 Years

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, OCTOBER 31 — More than 5,000 Moroccan women own or lead a company which represents 10% of the total. According to official estimates most of them are active in small and medium-sized enterprises in the service sector (37%), trade (31%) and textiles (21%). Companies owned or led by women produce an annual turnover of USD 2.4 million. Most of them have been created in the past 10 years and most are active on the domestic market. The report also mentions some negative sides, like the fact that 26.6% of women in Morocco are working, 52% more than four years ago but still a low percentage. The international economic crisis has had a particular impact on the employment of women, especially in the textile industry. Women also find it hard to get well-paid jobs, job training and loans.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gov’t Radio Bans Ads for Memorial Services for Rabbi Kahane

( Voice of Israel government radio, which is part of the state-regulated Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), banned on Tuesday commercials urging attendance at memorial services for murdered former Knesset Member Rabbi Meir Kahane. His family said it will sue the government.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Knesset aide to MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), warned that if the IBA does not cancel the ban, he will demand that it also prohibit commercials calling on the public to attend memorial services this week for former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

The radio network yanked the ads after receiving complaints from listeners, including Peace Now, and explained its decision by saying that the issue of Rabbi Kahane is too “controversial.” The commercial featured a one-sentence statement by MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, who urged people to attend the services on the 19th anniversary of his death this Thursday. There was no reference in the ad to the history, life or political views of Rabbi Kahane.

Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace Now, told the IBA that the mention of Kahane’s named on the air represents a reference to his ideas, which Oppenheimer called “racist” and involved in political controversy.

After he was elected to the legislature, the Knesset banned him and later outlawed his Kach movement, which promoted mass aliyah of American Jews to Israel and favored paying Arabs to leave the country. He was murdered during a speaking engagement in New York City in 1990.

The Kahane family’s lawyer, Rahamim Cohen, said he will sue the government regulatory authority for discrimination and will appeal its decision to the High Court. He called the ban on the commercial “surrender to extreme left-wing reports.”

Voice of Israel government radio officially is mandated to maintain a balance of views, but media watchdogs have continually documented and complained about bias against Orthodox Jews, strong action against terrorism, and those who favor a State of Israel that includes all of eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights.

IBA director Mordechai Sklar stated that his decision was based on fears that MK Dr. Ben-Ari wants to encourage a public debate on Rabbi Kahane’s views and his outlawed Kach movement.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Hillary Clinton’s Visit to Israel Triggers the Third Intifada

With a 180 ° u-turn the U.S. Secretary of State drops the condition imposed by the Palestinians and Barack Obama on the freezing of settlements in the occupied territories. The hopes raised by Obama for peace ends in nothing. Meanwhile unity increases between Hamas and Fatah, which threatens to turn everything into an Islamist movement. Israel wants to rally the world against a war with Iran.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) — On 31 October this year Hillary Clinton made an unexpected and unsuccessful visit to Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem to see Abu Mazen and Benjiamin Netanyahu. At the end of the meeting with the Israeli prime minister, she said that peace talks must resume even if Israel has not frozen settlement construction in the occupied territories, saying the exact opposite of what her own President had declared only a few months ago in a speech in Cairo.

This latest turn of events proves that diplomatic activity on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the Obama administration is now painfully reminiscent of the activity of previous administrations, specifically that of George W. Bush, but earlier too. There is a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing, cabinet ministers, special envoys and so on, are forever on their airplanes between Washington, Tel Aviv, and neighbouring nations.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Defence Minister, and the Prime Minister’s special envoys and advisers are forever on their way to and from Washington. Opaque public statements are made, which are immediately exegeted to no great effect. The U.S. expresses unhappiness over Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied territories, with a variety of polite descriptions, varying from “an obstacle to peace” to a mere “not helpful”. While Israel makes once more promises made already many times before, to “remove” a few “unauthorized outposts” — while at the same time accelerating a massive “authorized” settlement drive everywhere else.

As Clintons words have revealed the U.S. despairs and drops the subject. In the end, the “peace process” industry is operating at full capacity, while nothing ever happens to bring about peace, and something may happen at any time to turn back the clock and end the present hour of opportunity.

In the occupied West Bank in fact — while a small class of high level functionaries and favoured entrepreneurs are living the high life — popular discontent is once more growing. If there is no real progress, not in the “peace process”, but towards actually ending the military occupation by a foreign power, under which they live, analysts in Israel agree, there will be a growing probability of a “Third Intifadah”. And when that happens, then of course the nationalist right-wing in Israel will have its “definitive proof” (as it is sure to put it) that Israel should not be pressed to end the occupation and that it could not possibly think of a peace treaty with a still violent neighbour…

Earlier in the Obama administration, it seemed that this time it would be different, that the President understood that putting an end to the on-going colonization of the occupied Palestinian territory was a logically necessary premise for meaningful peace negotiations. The President had sounded very, very determined, and spoke of the matter very publicly and on a number of occasions. But like his predecessors, on this issue, he too has been defeated by the well-honed “yes, but….” response of the Israeli government of the day: “Yes, but not in greater Jerusalem… yes, but we must surely complete the (multiple) projects already underway…. Yes, but we shall not freeze construction of public buildings…. Yes, but (settler) families must be allowed to grow naturally…. Yes, but only for a short while, maybe six months, maybe just maybe even nine months!” And so on, and so on, until any undertaking of a settlement freeze — and not even such a symbolic one has been forthcoming so far — would be sure to be insignificant in itself, and constantly belied by the rapid construction continuing on the ground.

So all that is happening is the parades (rather, flights) of officials across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, westwards and eastwards, eastwards and westwards…

But the break-out of a new Intifadah (and the inevitable military response) is not the only possible consequence of this failure to intervene decisively. Even more damaging, in historical perspective, might be a possible success, under such conditions, of current efforts to achieve Palestinian “national reconciliation” through bringing Hamas, the armed Isalmist movement into the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), whose president at present is Mahmoud Abbas (Abou Mazen).

Just recently Hamas rejected the draft agreement negotiated under Egyptian auspices, but it may yet change its mind, and Egypt is currently working hard to make it do so. Egypt has its own reasons, of course, to do with its own security concerns in relation to the Gaza Strip, the densely populated Palestinian region, which is now being ruled de facto by Hamas. However, Egypt’s sponsorship, not only of a truce or a “working relationship” between the PLO and Hamas, but of a “genetic mutation” of the PLO — established as a secular and national movement, certainly not an Islamist one — is surely short-sighted, and does an injustice to the Palestinian people whose national aspiration has always been articulated by the PLO as a secular and democratic state, decidedly not an islamist polity.

Abou-Mazen, for his part, is worried at the growing disillusionment among his people with the attempt to achieve freedom through peaceful means, which so far appears to the people as leading nowhere, and has declared a general election in the occupied territories, an election to the presidency and legislature of the semi-autonomous Palestinian National Authority, to be held on 24 January 2010. In the expectation that he could maintain alive the hopes for a peaceful transition to freedom, until then, perhaps with more help from the U.S. and Europe than he has been getting (by way of pressing Israel to halt the settlement drive). It is an open question whether the gamble will succeed, just as it is almost certain that the elections will not be able to be held in the Gaza Strip, while it is under the control of Hamas gunmen. And, of course, some say that the announcement of the elections is just a ploy, to drive Hamas to accept the “national reconciliation proposal”, or to keep hope alive in the hearts of ordinary Palestinians, and that the elections will surely be postponed, and not only once…

And in Israel? In Israel no one (i.e. no one who counts nowadays) is particularly interested in the Palestinian front. The Government’s agenda is focused on Iran, and on making everybody else focus on Iran, and on the growing probability that Israel may be forced to launch military action to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons — with eventually incalculable consequences — or else reconcile itself to living ever after in fear of annihilation.

This probability has just grown exponentially after Iran’s mocking acceptance-rejection of the draft it had negotiated to export its enriched uranium.

Now it may not matter what Iran signs or does not sign, any credibility the Ahmadinedjad regime ever had may be permanently lost here.

Israel’s Government is working hard to persuade the U.S. and Europe and others that the Palestinian issue is of no importance compared to the drama and possible tragedy associated with the Iran issue.

And whether or not others share the view, official Israel itself appears fairly confident that the Palestinian situation is in any case manageable — as long as the new U.S. Administration follows the same script as its predecessor, and right now the Administration is not yet doing anything really different.

Mrs. Clinton arrived in Jerusalem on the 31st and did the exact same things as her predecessors, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell: meetings took place, statements were made, dinners were eaten, and more edifices for settlers were built, planned, or inaugurated, even as the U.S. Secretary of State is on the ground. It has all been done before. With an ever closer risk of war.

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

South Africans ‘Fought in Gaza’

(+ Al Jazeera YouTube clip:

Another lawfare development to keep your eye on, this one in South Africa. Apparently the investigations that went into the Goldstone Report also turned up evidence of South African nationals fighting in Gaza on behalf of the IDF. It’s not clear from the article in what capacity they were fighting, that is, whether they were contractors, mercenaries or Jewish South Africans who enlisted in the IDF out of solidarity. In any event, a group of South African lawyers is trying to build the case for a war crimes investigation.

We’ve already seen some of the legal difficulties that have arisen with regard to holding U.S. military contractors responsible for criminal conduct under U.S. military or civilian justice. In fact, it has often seemed as if there is a legal loophole that makes prosecuting such conduct next to impossible.

But the U.S. military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan has made use of non-American military contractors, recruited by subcontractors in Latin America and Eastern Europe. (David Axe reported on the latter in his WPR column some months back.) Which means that theoretically, these contractors could be held responsible in their countries of origin.

So the South Africa case could be a precedent-setting one worth watching.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Swedish Reporter Meets Hostile Israeli Crowd

Swedish journalist Donald Boström told an angry audience in Israel on Monday that he stood by his calls for an investigation into allegations that the Israeli army harvested the organs of dead Palestinians.

Speaking at a media conference in Dimona in southern Israel town and often interrupted by hecklers, Donald Boström admitted he had no proof beyond the allegations of the families of Palestinians killed by the Israeli army.

But he said he found the claims serious enough to publish his August article, which sparked charges of “blood libel” inside the Jewish state and a diplomatic spat between Israel and Stockholm.

“One conclusion is that there has to be further investigation into the allegations of Palestinian families,” he told the rowdy conference.

Boström’s article, published in Sweden’s popular Aftonbladet tabloid, alleged Israel secretly harvested the organs of killed Palestinians, with relatives saying the returned bodies of their loved ones had suspicious scars.

Israel vehemently denied the charges, with commentators saying the scars were a result of autopsies that Israeli law mandates be performed on all people killed in acts of violence.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post published in late August, a family whose quotes were at the heart of Boström’s article denied telling the Swedish reporter that they believed Israel had harvested the organs of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem.

Israel has demanded the Swedish government condemn the article that it has labelled an anti-Semitic “blood libel.” Stockholm has refused, saying that to do so would violate the country’s tradition of freedom of speech.

Boström commended the organisers for inviting him and giving him a chance to defend his work in Israel. “I admire your democratic courage in inviting me,” he said.

His participation sparked controversy, with Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom boycotting the conference and withdrawing state funding to protest Boström’s presence.

Boström, accompanied by security guards, was frequently interrupted by hecklers, including one who shouted he was “like Hitler.”

About a dozen activists from the youth wing of the ruling Likud party attended the presentation wearing T-shirts reading: “Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”

His interviewer, Israeli television presenter Yair Lapid, also took a hostile line.

Lapid questioned his journalistic ethics and accused Boström of being an anti-Semite “because you are willing to believe the Israeli government would take part in such atrocities.”

Boström said: “In Sweden, like myself… we strongly support Israel’s right to exist in peace. If you violate the rules … we have a tradition to criticise.”

In a statement, the Wiesenthal Centre slammed the Dimona city authorities for inviting Boström to the “travesty” of a conference.

“The sponsors of this travesty are confusing freedom of expression with blood libel. Boström should have no platform in Israel,” said Shimon Samuels, the centre’s director for international relations.

“Boström has betrayed the journalist’s code of integrity in disseminating fabrications as facts without substantiation, insisting on their veracity and repeating them,” he said.

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

Weather: Israel, Unusually Early Winter

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 2 — In the last two days, Israel has suffered fro an unusually early winter. According to daily Haaretz, a wave of bad weather with strong winds and torrential rains is causing serious problems in the country. There are problems particularly in the north, with road conditions in Haifa and Akko, where the emergency services have been in action. According to data from the meteorological service, reported by Maariv, wind speeds will reach 50km per hour and the height of waves on the Mediterranean coast will range between 4 and 8 metres in height. Rains will begin to decrease from tomorrow. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Barry Rubin: is the Turkish-Israeli Alliance Over? Yes it is

The Turkey-Israel alliance is over. After two decades plus of close cooperation, the Turkish government is no longer interested in maintaining close cooperation with Israel nor is it—for all practical purposes—willing to do anything much to maintain its good relations with Israel.

The U.S.-Turkish alliance, which goes back about six decades, is also over but much less visibly so, though the two relationships are interlinked.

And that’s one important point in the first development. If the Turkish government was really concerned about protecting the kind of tight links with America that have existed for so long, it would be far more cautious about jettisoning the old policy toward Israel.

But let’s take a step back and talk about the nature of the bilateral relationship and why it has come to an end. Basically, there were four important reasons for the close cooperation between the two countries which made eminent sense in the 1980s and 1990s.

First, Turkey and Israel had common enemies, or at least threats. Iraq and Syria were radical Arab nationalist regimes which had problems with both countries. Syria claimed part of Turkey’s territory—Hatay—and was backing Armenian and Kurdish terrorists against Turkey. Iraq’s ambitions under President Saddam Hussein were also chilling for Ankara. Iran, as an Islamist state, was hostile to Kemalism and promoted subversion within Turkey.

If Arab states were unhappy about Turkey’s growing proximity to Israel, they weren’t prepared to do anything about it, and had not given Ankara any great benefits previously. Moreover, as devotees of realpolitik, Turkey’s leaders thought that if Arab regimes and Iran were upset or fearful of this new alignment, it would give Turkey more leverage. While Turkish leaders complained that Israel didn’t do more actively to help Ankara win its confrontation with Syria over its safe haven for the PKK leadership, Damascus’s willingness to give in was surely related to the fact that it knew neighbors to both north and south were working together against it.

Second, and related to the previous point, was the preference of Turkey’s powerful military which wanted the close relationship with Israel…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Culture: Orhan Pamuk’s Book Published in Hebrew

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, OCTOBER 30 — 2006 Nobel Prize winner Turkish author Orhan Pamuk’s novel “Benim Adim Kirmizi” (My Name Is Red) was published in Hebrew, Anatolia news agency reports adding that this is his third novel translated into Hebrew after “Beyaz Kale” (The White Castle) and “Kara Kitap” (The Black Book). In 2006, Time magazine included him in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world, under the category of “Heroes and Pioneers”, Israeli daily Haaretz recalled and published an interview with Pamuk. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kuwait Oil Production Seen Rising 30% by 2018

(ANSAmed) — KUWAIT CITY, NOVEMBER 2 — Oil production in Kuwait is predicted to grow by nearly 30 percent by 2018, with crude volumes reaching 3.6m barrels per day, according to a new report. Between 2008 and 2018, global research firm Business Monitor International said it was forecasting an increase in production of 29.3 percent. Oil consumption in the same period is seen rising by 29.2 percent, with the country using 388,000 bpd by 2018, Arabian Business online reports. The latest Kuwait Oil & Gas Report forecasts that the country will account for 2.71 percent of Middle East regional oil demand by 2013, while providing 10.35 percent of supply. Regional oil use rose to 11.25m bpd in 2008 and is expected to grow to an average of 11.30m bpd this year, rising to around 12.17m bpd by 2013, the BMI report added. It said regional oil production was set to rise to 28.01m bpd by 2013. In terms of natural gas, Kuwait in 2008 contributed 3.29 percent to 2008 regional gas production and by 2013 is due to account for 3.16 percent of supply, the report said. BMI said it was now forecasting that Kuwaiti real GDP will fall by one percent in 2009, following growth of 6.3 percent in 2008. “We are assuming 2.1 percent growth in 2010, 2.5 percent in 2011, followed by 3.4 percent in 2012 and 3.7 percent in 2013,” the report added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Weapons Arsenal of Al Qaeda Cell Found

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 2 — A weapons arsenal apparently belonging to an al Qaeda cell has been found by the Saudi authorities close to Riyadh, the Saudi Gazette reports. The weapons, 281 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 35 cases of ammunition, were found buried near an abandoned house in Thadeq, 150 km north of the capital. The find followed the interrogation of 44 alleged al Qaeda members who were arrested in August. During the operation, were also found seventy light machine-guns, 376 fuses and 31.000 pieces of ammunition. The wiped out cell, 43 Saudis and one foreign national, seemed to link the leaders of the terrorist network outside Saudi Arabia to the militias active inside the country. Since 2003, six terrorist attacks have taken place in Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the United States, causing the death of at least 150 people. A few days after the arrests, prince Mohammad bin Nayef, chief of Saudi security, escaped an attack on his palace, when a militiaman who seemed to have turned against his cell blew himself up after entering the building. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Approves Human Rights Campaign

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 2 — A nationwide campaign to educate citizens on human rights through instruction, training and information will be inaugurated in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud’s backing, reports Arab News. The oil-rich kingdom, repeatedly criticised by international human rights associations due to the condition of women and the use of the death penalty, is now the supporter of a project which, by way of a Committee for Human Rights and in synergy with the Information and Education Ministries, will be organising courses for governmental bodies as well as those working in the sector and interested in the subject. The level of individual awareness will also be raised by publishing the legal regulations in place and procedures to protect the individual in a special journal and inserting the subject into school curriculums. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Court Upholds Child Rapist Crucifixion Ruling

RIYADH (Reuters) — A Saudi court of cassation upheld a ruling to behead and crucify a 22-year-old man convicted of raping five children and leaving one of them to die in the desert, newspapers reported on Tuesday.

The convict was arrested earlier this year after a seven-year old boy helped police in their investigation. The child left in the desert after the rape was three years old, Okaz newspaper said.

International rights groups have accused the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, of applying draconian justice, beheading murderers, rapists and drug traffickers in public. So far this year about 40 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, crucifixion means tying the body of the convict to wooden beams to be displayed to the public after beheading.

[Return to headlines]


Russians Charge Georgia Harboring Al-Qaida

Moscow hints at invasion over action in Pankisi Gorge

TBILISI, Georgia — Moscow appears to be laying the groundwork for another invasion of its defenseless neighbor, Georgia, with accusations it is harboring al-Qaida terrorists in Pankisi Gorge, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Russians now are accusing the Georgian government of being complicit in the alleged regrouping of al-Qaida terrorists in the infamous gorge that borders Russia to the south.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: ‘Legendary’ Soldier Who Defused 64 Taliban Bombs… Only to be Killed by the 65th, On His Last Day

An army bomb disposal expert who saved countless lives in Afghanistan was killed on his final mission in the warzone.

Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, 30, died instantly when a roadside bomb he was trying to disarm blew up.

The Improvised Explosive Devices are the favoured weapon of the Taliban and since June Sergeant Schmid had successfully dealt with 64 of them.

Senior military officers described the Royal Logistics Corps warrior as a ‘legend’ who ‘stared death in the face on a daily basis’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Men Join in the Fight Against Polygamy

Jakarta, 2 Nov. (AKI) — Indonesian pro-polygamy groups are not only facing protest from angry housewives and women’s rights activists; a new group of men calling themselves the Men’s Coalition against Polygamy (Kolmi) has also joined the struggle.

Kolmi spokesman Abdul Hamim Fauzie said via a statement in the capital Jakarta on Sunday that the coalition considered the practice of polygamous marriage degrading, not only to women, but to men as well.

“Facts show that polygamy leads to nothing but domestic violence, discrimination and the abuse of human rights,” he said.

“However, polygamists often argue that polygamy is necessary to avoid infidelity and love affairs. They also claim that polygamy is a part of their religious beliefs. Men use these arguments to justify their polygamous practices,” he added.

The coalition also said that it regretted a number of discriminative articles in the current marriage law in Indonesia.

“The law legalises men to have more than one legal wife when their spouses are seriously ill or sexually incapable.

“This is very unfair, especially to women, because the law only accommodates the needs of men,” Abdul said.

Meanwhile, Muslim scholar Siti Musdah Mulia said that people practising polygamous marriages who quoted verses from the Muslim holy book or Koran to justify their behaviour were misinterpreting the message.

“Those people must not quote the Koran by verse. They need to read the whole context and understand its real essence before saying the Koran endorses polygamy,” she said.

Musdah said the Koran actually says that Islam aimed to eradicate polygamous practices, not to endorse them.

“Islam considers polygamy an unjust practice that originated in the dark ages. Therefore, Islam sought to eradicate such practices, but due to the severe reaction it caused, it took some time to fully eradicate the practice from the culture at that time,” she said.

Musdah said that she was not surprised to see that a number of men decided to bond together and fight against polygamy.

“Actually, anti-polygamy figures in the past were mostly prominent male clerics. The Prophet Muhammad himself was very angry when one of his son-in-laws planned to engage in polygamy,” she said.

Recently, controversy has sparked following an official launch of a polygamy club, dubbed the Global Ikhwan, in Bandung, the capital of West Java province.

The club, originating from Malaysia, cites the noble aim of helping single mothers, reformed prostitutes and aging single women find spouses. As soon as the club was established, condemnation poured in, especially from housewives and women’s activists.

Ironically, the club is chaired by a woman named, Hatijah Binti Am, who has insisted the club could introduce people to the ‘beautiful’ side of polygamy.

Previously, a number of polygamy scandals have reduced the popularity of public figures engaged in the practise.

Over 85 percent of the 240 million Indonesians are Muslim and most of them practice a moderate version of the religion.

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

‘Love Jihad’ A Misinformation Campaign: Kerala Muslim Outfits

KOZHIKODE: Muslim outfits in Kerala today said the ‘love jihad’, where girls from other religious background are allegedly lured to marriage and

converted to Islam, is a “malicious-and misinformation campaign” by Sangh Parivar outfits.

The term ‘love jihad’ is a misconceived notion “raked up” by Sangh Parivar outfits and reference of such a term by Constitutional establishments like the judiciary “is not a good sign”, a joint statement by various prominent Muslim leaders here said.

“The misinformation campaign against the non-existent organisation in the name of ‘Love Jihad’ would only lead to vitiating the prevailing communal harmony and create suspicion among various communities and the parties concerned should keep themselves away from levelling unsubstantiated charges,” the statement said.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

No Dating at This University + Pictures

MALAYSIA — THE International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) has become the first “no dating place” in the country.

A banner has been put up at its Gombak campus to warn the students from dating in the university compound.

The banner reads: “IIUM is an Islamic territory. No dating. Allah is watching us.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Orissa: They Kill and Burn Two People, Convicted Only for Destruction of Evidence

Kandhamal court makes paradoxical ruling in the case of three defendants involved in the murder of a 65-year-old widow and a tribal chief who defended Christians. The event took place on 25 October 2008. The All India Christian Council calls the decision a miscarriage of justice. For Dhirendra Panda, a Hindu and a human rights activist, the ruling threatens the values of humanity and democracy.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — The people who killed a Hindu tribal leader who tried to defend Christians and burnt his body and house to erase all traces were acquitted of murder charges, but were sentenced to three years of hard labour and a fine of 1,000 rupees (US$ 21) for destroying the evidence. The defendants remain out on bail until 25 November pending an appeal to the Orissa High Court. The three are Senapati Pradhan, 65, and Revenswar Pradhan and Tidinja Pradhan, both 62. They stood trial with seven other people for the murder of tribal elder Sidheswar Pradhan and Padisti Nayak, a 65-year-old widow, who was burnt alive, in the village of Solesoru.

“I cannot believe the murderers were acquitted,” Nabajini Pradhan, 35, told AsiaNews. He is the tribal chief’s nephew who filed a complaint with police 12 days after the incident.

“Our family is at risk; we are getting death threats; they want to eliminate us,” he said. “They killed and burnt my uncle’s body to destroy every shred of evidence.”

The events date back to 25 August, a day after the funeral of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, a Hindu leader whose murder triggered a wave of anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

Eyewitnesses testified at the trial that Hindu extremists had already shown a desire to attack Christians as they made their way to the funeral.

Frightened, Christians had fled to the forests and only a few had stayed behind. The latter bet on the protection of Sidheswar Pradhan, an important local tribal leader, who had already come to their defence a year earlier.

When the swami’s funeral ended, a number of Hindu militants attacked Christian homes.

The few Christians who dared to stay behind ran to Sidheswar Pradhan but were followed by the extremists.

A 60-year-old cousin of the tribal chief, a Christian Dalit, spoke to AsiaNews about those moments.

“Sidhewar told the fanatics not to burn the homes of the innocent and defenceless. He said: ‘You destroyed a church; that is enough. Why attack people who have not done anything wrong? Just because they are Christians? They are not murderers; they are not criminals; they are part of our people’.”

“My cousin gave his life defending Christians. He was a just and honest man. Some years ago, he ran in village elections with the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party too. But they (the extremists) could not accept that one of their chiefs would stop their ethnic cleansing. That was too much. They stabbed him several parts of the body, then burnt him, and left only when they set his house on fire.”

On the same day when the tribal chief was brutally murdered, Hindu extremists burnt Padisti Nayak alive. She had left her home in Adaskupa, near G.Udayagiri, to visit her one married daughter, who was living in the village of Solesoru.

When news spread about the Hindu attacks, people fled, but the 65-eary-old widow stayed behind, convinced that extremists would not harm an old woman.

Twelve days after the attack on 25 August, the woman’s son-in-law, Iswar Digal, who had fled to a refugee camp, contacted a district magistrate for information about his mother-in-law.

The authorities inspected the family’s burnt-out home in Solesoru and found only charred human remains, flesh and bones, which they collected as evidence of the violence.

For human rights activist Dhirendra Panda Hindu, who is Hindu, “justice has been derailed. Some of those who carried out the investigation are linked to the Sangh Parivar. They are determined to protect the accused and are willing to use a lopsided approach rather than ensure justice for the victims. It is not only the religious rights of people that are at stake, but also the core values of humanity and democracy”.

John Dayal, founder and leader of the All India Christian Council (AICC), called the verdict a “miscarriage of justice”. He said he would appeal to give justice to the victims.

“We saw who killed Sidheswar and burnt Padisti Nayak alive; yet there is no evidence,” he added. “Their hands are soaked in blood, but they are scot-free, free to hunt Christians again”.

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


Darfur Survivors to Get UK Asylum

Survivors of the Darfur crisis who sought refuge in the UK are to be granted asylum under new rules.

Non-Arab Darfuris will no longer be deported back to Sudan after updated Home Office guidelines warned they faced a “real risk of persecution”.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) said it would grant protection where needed but still consider applications on merit.

Campaign group Darfur Union said it was “great news” and meant its members could finally “start living again”.

General secretary Khatir Kayabil, an asylum seeker himself, said: “This is great news. So many of our members have been living in limbo for years. Now, we can start to rebuild our lives here.”

‘Long time coming’

The latest Home Office figures show that 50 Darfuris were repatriated between April and June this year.

The new guidance states: “All non-Arab Darfuris, regardless of their political or other affiliations, are at real risk of persecution in Darfur and internal relocation elsewhere in Sudan is not currently to be relied upon.

“Claimants… who do not fall within the exclusion clauses will therefore qualify for asylum.”

Human rights group the Aegis Trust said it had uncovered evidence asylum seekers from Darfur had been tortured after being deported back to the Sudanese capital Khartoum from the UK.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

German Child Care Subsidy Sparks Nursery Spat

Dubbed the “stove premium” or “mother hen subsidy” by feminists who say it encourages women to stay home to look after the kids, the plan has also been slammed by critics who fear immigrant children will lose a valuable chance to be integrated early into society.

           — Hat tip: MA [Return to headlines]

UK: Alan Johnson Gets Pat on the Back for ‘Honest Appraisal’ Of Immigration

[Note from JP: Reporting at its most Orwellian!]

Alan Johnson coupled his admission yesterday of having done too little to tackle Britain’s immigration crisis with criticism for some of his predecessors for having ignored the problem.

In words that will be uncomfortable for former Labour Home Secretaries, including Jack Straw and David Blunkett, Mr Johnson said: “The legacy problems of unreturned foreign national prisoners and asylum-seekers may have accumulated under previous administrations but they continued to be ignored for far too long on our watch.”

The Home Secretary’s own admission that too little was done to tackle huge backlogs in asylum cases came as he conceded that Labour had not handled immigration problems well.

Officials are working through a backlog of 450,000 asylum cases discovered in 2006 when John Reid, the former Home Secretary, described the immigration and asylum division of the Home Office as not fit for purpose.


Frank Field, one of the Government’s most vocal backbench critics, said that it was “the first recognition by a top-ranking politician that governments have got the immigration issue wrong”.

He said: “After the 7/7 attacks we drove a wedge between the Muslim community and the rest of us, instead of drawing a divide between the terrorists and the wider community, including Muslims. We got the divide wrong.”

Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “Three months ago the Home Secretary said he isn’t losing sleep over immigration. Now he’s admitting it’s putting massive pressure on many communities.

“And he’s reverting to the old days when Labour accused Conservatives of dog-whistle politics rather than dealing with the issues in a sensible, measured way.”

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “The Government overreacted to 7/7 by introducing an extension of detention without charge for terror suspects, thereby alienating the Muslim community when we needed their support.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Alan Johnson: Labour Has Made Mistakes on Immigration

Home secretary says government ignored immigration problems and over-reacted to 7/7 bombings

The home secretary, Alan Johnson, has admitted the government has made mistakes in the way it has handled immigration and counter-terrorism.

Johnson said that the backlog of unreturned foreign prisoners and unresolved asylum applications were ignored for far too long and that some communities have had legitimate concerns about the strain on jobs and services. He said Labour had “struggled to contain the huge surge” in people fleeing conflict zones in the past decade.

The home secretary also conceded that some of the counter-terrorism proposals made after the 7 July 2005 bombings were “too draconian” and “not the right way to go”.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Government ‘Maladroit’ On Immigration, Says Home Secretary

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, has admitted for the first time that the Government has been inept over its handling of immigration which has increased pressure on local jobs and services.

In his first speech on the subject, Mr Johnson said some parts of the country have been “disproportionately affected” by the influx of migrants and said his predecessors had ignored for “far too long” problems in the system that led to huge backlogs of asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners..

In frank comments, he said Labour, as well as previous Governments, had been “maladroit” in their handling of the immigration issue.

But he insisted ending immigration altogether was “no sensible argument” and became the latest senior politician to dismiss claims by a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett that the sharp increase in migrants over the last 10 years was partly due to a politically motivated to boost multiculturalism.

He told an audience at the Royal Society for the Arts in central London: “Whilst I accept that governments of both persuasions, including this one, have been maladroit in their handling of this issue, I do believe that the UK is now far more successful at tackling migration than most of its European and North American neighbours.

He admitted: “There are communities which have been disproportionately affected by immigration, where people have legitimate concerns about the strain that the growth in the local population has placed on jobs and services.”

The comments echo long-standing concerns from some local authorities who say their limited resources, such as housing, education and health, have been severely hit by sudden influxes of large numbers of migrants in to their communities.

Mr Johnson also appeared to criticised some of his predecessors for allowing a backlog of failed asylum seekers and unreturned foreign national prisoners to build up.

It emerged in 2006 that there was a backlog of up to 450,000 so-called “legacy cases” that officials are now having to work through. At the time, John Reid, the then Home Secretary, described the immigration and asylum service “not fit for purpose”.

Mr Johnson said: “As I’ve said, our record is not perfect. When we came in to government in 1997, there was no magic button we could push immediately to resolve all the historic, political and operation problems associated with immigration.

“The legacy problems with unreturned foreign national prisoners and asylum seekers may have accumulated under previous administrations, but they continued to be ignored for far too long on our watch.”

Mr Johnson had been due to speak on security but focused heavily instead on immigration issues, on which he has made few significant pronouncements since taking over in the department.

Only months into the job, he told a committee of MPs he did not “lie awake at night” worrying about the population hitting 70 million. Mr Johnson rejected what he called “fashionable” criticisms that mainstream politicians “shied away” from talking about immigration. But he told the Royal Society for the Arts: “I want to talk about immigration today, tomorrow, next week and on any occasion I can. What he called the “moderate majority” had not had their views heard on the issue, he said.

They want immigration to be carefully controlled, while accepting that it had enriched Britain’s culture, and was good for the economy.

At the same time as accepting genuine refugees, they wanted Britain to return home illegal immigrants, failed asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners.

Mr Johnson outlined four principles in the debate on immigration which he said should be accepted by everyone.

:: That there was “no sensible argument” for immigration to cease altogether;

:: Some communities more affected by immigration than others had “legitimate concerns about the strain that the growth in the local population has placed on jobs and services”;

:: Other countries are affected by the problems caused by immigration;

:: People who come to live here should learn the language, obey the laws and pay tax.

He also criticised Tory plans for a cap on migrant numbers as “arbitrary” and claimed it would hurt businesses who needed to hire skilled staff.

Tory claims of an “open door” immigration system under Labour were a return to “dog whistle politics” he said.

Answering questions after his speech, Mr Johnson also appeared to distance himself from attempts to introduce detention for terror suspects for up to 90 days.

In the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks in 2005, the Government had “perhaps tried to go too far”, on anti-terror laws, he said.

He said: “That was probably an understandable feeling, that we should be more draconian. But perhaps that wasn’t the right way to go.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Johnson: We Did Screw Up on Immigration

HOME Secretary Alan Johnson has admitted the Government got it wrong on immigration.

He said ministers had ignored the problem for “far too long” and that some parts of Britain had been “disproportionately” affected.

Mr Johnson confessed to a huge backlog of asylum seekers and foreign prisoners, and even agreed that new arrivals put a “strain” on jobs and services.

He told the Royal Society for the Arts London: “The legacy problems with unreturned foreign national prisoners and asylum seekers continued to be ignored for far too long on our watch.

I want to talk about immigration today, tomorrow, next week and on any occasion I can.”

It was a far cry from July, when Mr Johnson claimed he did not “lie awake at night” worrying about the population hitting 70 million.

But he said that the “moderate majority” had not had their views heard and want immigration to be “carefully controlled”.

He thinks many people accept genuine refugees, but want foreign prisoners, failed asylum seekers, and illegal immigrants to be sent home..

Mr Johnson also slammed Tory plans for a cap on migrant numbers.

He claimed it would hurt businesses who needed to hire skilled staff..

But he did claim that our record at dealing with immigration is better than most other countries.

Mr Johnson added: “Whilst I accept that governments of both persuasions, including this one, have been maladroit in their handling of this issue, I do believe the UK is now far more successful at tackling migration than most of its

European and north American neighbours.”

But Sir Andrew Green, of thinktank Migrationwatch UK, hit back, saying: “This apology is three million immigrants too late.

“The least they can do is to cut net immigration to zero and deport the huge number of illegal immigrants that their inattention has allowed to stay.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Finally Admits: We Got it Wrong on Immigration

HOME Secretary Alan Johnson provoked fury last night by admitting at last that Labour has made massive mistakes over immigration policy.

In his first major speech on the controversial issue, the Home Secretary confessed that the Government’s management of Britain’s border controls had been “maladroit”.

“We struggled to contain the huge surge in migration,” he said.

He also accepted some parts of Britain were disproportionately affected by mass immigration, with the huge influx of new arrivals putting a strain on jobs and services.

And he accepted that the Labour Party had lost touch with the “moderate majority” over immigration.

But he risked igniting more anger by insisting: “This Government has never pursued an open-door immigration policy.”

Last night, critics branded his belated admission of failure inadequate and long overdue.

Mr Johnson’s criticism of his own Government’s border controls came in a speech at the Royal Society of Arts yesterday.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Minister Admits: We Got it Wrong on Immigration

The Home Secretary admitted yesterday that the Government had made mistakes in its handling of immigration and had overreacted to the 7/7 bombings in London.

In his first speech on the subject, Alan Johnson said that ministers had ignored immigration problems and the growing pressure on jobs and services in parts of Britain. Some communities had legitimate concerns because they had been particularly affected.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Vatican: ‘Immigrants Should be Citizens’

Process should be easier says Vatican ‘migrant minister’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, November 3 — Immigrants living in Italy should be entitled to Italian citizenship, the Vatican’s ‘migrant minister’ Antonio Maria Veglio” said on Tuesday. Presenting the Vatican’s upcoming 6th World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, Archbishop Veglio’ said he saw “no reason” why immigrants who respect Italy’s laws and boost its wealth should not be granted citizenship.

“Here in Italy we have around 4.5 million immigrants,” said Veglio’, who heads the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

“These are people that work, pay their taxes and increase Italy’s wealth. “Their children are studying in our schools and therefore I do not see why they should not be fully integrated if they respect our laws and observe our rules”. Under current laws, foreign nationals must reside in Italy for 10 years before they can apply for citizenship, while the foreign spouses of Italian nationals must wait two years before applying. Babies born in Italy of foreign parents are not entitled to citizenship until they are three although a proposal currently before parliament recommends automatic citizenship for all Italian-born babies. The last government sought to simplify the citizenship process for adults, reducing it from 10 years to five years, but these plans were shelved when the current centre-right administration came to power last year. Asked what he thought was the appropriate minimum residence period for citizenship, the archbishop said it was not his place to comment. “Some say five years is right, others say ten, while others say three,” he noted. “This decision is a matter for politicians”. Discussing immigration policy more generally, Veglio’ stressed that humanity must always take precedence over other concerns. “The challenge facing all of us in a globalized society in which immigration is a key issue is to bring about a profound change of perspective, making a clear decision in favour of human beings,” he said. The archbishop also reiterated the Church’s commitment to “the most vulnerable members of society, such as migrants and refugees”, saying that its work with people of “different nationalities, ethnicities and religions helps reveal the true face of the Church”. The Vatican’s upcoming World Congress on Migrants, which comes six years after the last such event, runs from November 9 to 12. Some of Italy’s recent immigration policies, especially a controversial ‘push-back’ accord with Libya, have been criticised by the Catholic Church.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Man Fired After Saying Homosexuality Wrong

Accused of ‘harassment’ even though lesbian approached him

A Massachusetts man has been fired from his sales position at the Logan Airport branch in Boston of Brookstone allegedly for telling a female manager that his Christian faith says homosexuality is wrong.

Peter Vadala was fired and the company says he violated a tolerance policy. But Vadala reports his dismissal came because he expressed his Christian view of homosexuality after a female manager made repeated references as she approached him four times during work hours to [tell] her plans to marry her lesbian partner.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/3/2009

  1. Guys,

    Can we a be a little bit more selective in our sending of stories to the Baron; particularly about the UK?

    For example, I too had a good chuckle at:
    “UK: Britain’s First £1,000 Train Ticket Sparks Row Over Soaring Rail Fares”
    But it’s hardly a story relevant to Gates of Vienna, is it? Such chaff makes the wheat difficult to find when it actually arises.


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