Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/1/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/1/2010A test of America’s missile defense capabilities against a simulated Iranian attack ended in failure. The test, which was conducted over the Pacific, failed to shoot down a ballistic missile due to a malfunction in a radar component built by Raytheon.

In other news, according to an Italian small business association, one industry that is flourishing despite the global economic crisis is the Mafia loan-shark business.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, Diana West, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JH, RCP, Sean O’Brian, Steen, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Mafia’s Annual Results Show Loan Sharks Doing Well
The Map is Not the Land
Chuck Norris: God Save the U.S. And Our Courts
Diana West: What Do “Salafists” Remind You of?
Frank Gaffney: Obama vs. The All-Volunteer Military
Grass-Roots Rebellion: Voters Targeting Rinos, Incumbents
US Missile Test Mimicking Iran Strike Fails
Europe and the EU
Brussels: Zero-Tolerance Against Violence
England is ‘Cesspit of Islamists’, Says Soyinka
France: Bombardier Trains for SNFC
France: A Collision of Church and State
France: Muslim Organisation Calls for Action Against Islamophobia
Germany: Jesuit Priest Admits Molesting Youth
Germany to Hunt Down Fines for EU Traffic Violations
Italy: Lega: “No to Parliamentary Immunity”
Jews Flee Swedish Town in Wake of Anti-Semitism
Languages: New Spanish Grammar Born Under Aegis of the King
Margaret Thatcher Archive: ‘Handymen in Brussels Better Paid Than MPs’
Spain: Historical Memory, Change to Francoism Term Requested
Spain: 11 More Accused in Urban Corruption Inquiry
Spain: Councils Smell Business, Bid for Nuclear Dump
The Very Moment to Put Europe in Its Place
UK: Air Passengers Who Refuse a Full Body Scan to be Barred From Their Flights
UK: City Council Issues ‘Inclusive’ Taxi Driver Licence Applications… In Braille
‘Welcome Anglicans’ Says Pope
Kosovo: La Russa: 1,300 Italian Troops Out by October 2010
North Africa
Energy: From Dishes to Towers, Shaping the Sahara Plant
Israel and the Palestinians
A Europe With This Stance Cannot Mediate With Israel
Berlusconi to Haaretz: Israel’s Settlement Policy is Unwise
Berlusconi: I Have a Dream, Israel in the European Union
Dear Sgarbi, The Nightmare of Terrorism is Behind All Those Checks
Holocaust: Berlusconi to Yad Vashem, Never Again
Israel Allows Palestinians to Grab Foothold in Capital
Italy-Israel Summit Starts Today, Anticipation for Berlusconi
Georgian TV ‘Blocked by Russia’
Sub-Saharan Africa
Skeletal and Terrified: British Yacht Couple Reveal Cruelty of Their Somali Pirate Captors
Somali Islamists Al-Shabab ‘Join Al-Qaeda Fight’
South Africa President Jacob Zuma ‘Is a Sex Addict’
Latin America
Haiti: Italian Carrier Cavour Arrives
Deception Helps Illegal Immigrants Sneak Into EU
Egypt: Italian Experts for Training in Fayoum
Malta Threatens to Pull Out of EU’s Border Agency
Culture Wars
Pope Benedict XVI Attacks Labour’s Equality Push

Financial Crisis

Mafia’s Annual Results Show Loan Sharks Doing Well

Some industries commonly fare well in times of recession. The Italian mob is one of them.

Italy’s mafia crime syndicates’ turnover grew by 5 billion euros to 135 billion euros last year, according Italian small business and shopkeepers’ association Confesercenti. In its annual report, titled SoS Impresa, the association estimated the combined net profits of all mafia organisations at 78 billion euros.

As banks have become more reluctant to lend money, some 200,000 businessmen have turned to mafia loan sharks, who charge exceedingly steep interest rates, the report states. Loan sharking is estimated to earn the mob some 15 billion in revenue, up 20 per cent from last year. The drug trade is still the mafia’s most lucrative business, earning it 60 billion euros. Extortion of private individuals and businessmen raised 9 billion euro, the arms trade brought in 5.8 billion, smuggling 1.2 billion and human trafficking 870 million, the association estimated.

Confesercenti has published 11 earlier editions of SoS Impresa, a report based on government statistics involving drug trade, illegal immigration, arms dealing, also drawing on organised crime police reports and data from environmental agencies. At some points, the report’s level of detail makes it almost incredible. For instance, Confesercenti claims to know for a fact the mafia spent 800 million euros on legal bills last year.

The time that the mob was mostly involved in theft, fraud and robbery lies deep in the past. These activities currently bring in less than one percent of its total turnover. Subsidiary companies bring in 25 billion in revenue, 7.5 billion of which is earned trading fruits and vegetables. The sale of forged brand-clothing and pirated media bring in another 6 billion euros. Environmental crimes (Sopranos fans might recall Tony’s ‘job’ as a waste consultant) pocket the mafia another 16 billion.

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

The Map is Not the Land

Thanks to media that have absolutely no understanding of the economic-related news they are attempting to cover, it is commonly believed that the U.S. is no longer in a recession. The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ advance report for fourth-quarter Gross Domestic Product, usually known as GDP, increased at a rate equivalent to 5.7 percent growth on an annual basis, more than twice the average GDP growth since 1950. This would be astonishing if there were any chance whatsoever that it were real.

Even those who believe in the reality of the economic recovery readily admit that the GDP number has very little practical significance. In practical terms, 3.4 percent is attributed to business inventory adjustments. So in other words, more than half of this so-called “growth” is not even thought to be indicative of actual economic activity, but merely represents accounting modifications. And, of course, GDP is reported in three scheduled reports, and since the third quarter report was whittled down from 3.5 percent to 2.2 percent from advance to final, most observers expect to see similarly negative revisions that will all but eliminate the non-inventory growth.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Chuck Norris: God Save the U.S. And Our Courts

Outside of seeking the election of true constitutional and conservative justices, we also need to voice our opposition to the White House and our representatives regarding the appointments of liberal justices, like David Hamilton, who was confirmed back in November as a federal judge to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Hamilton is radically pro-abortion and an obstructionist who spent years working with and for the ACLU and ACORN. According to a Jan. 16 article in World magazine, “Hamilton ruled against Christian prayers in the Indiana legislature, ruled against a menorah in a municipal building’s holiday display, and overturned a law requiring a woman to get counseling twice before she got an abortion.” I agree with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who said, “Judge Hamilton is the definition of an activist judge and is clearly not qualified to sit on a court of appeals. …[He] has used his position on the bench to drive his personal political agenda.”

Out of 858 appellate and district court judgeships, there are presently 97 vacancies or 11 percent of the lower-court positions open and available. President Obama has made 26 nominations so far, with 10 being confirmed by the Senate. But consider the power of only those 10 and how they will have liberal sway over sections of the country.

With dozens of court vacancies remaining, it’s time to fight against progressive judicial tyranny.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Diana West: What Do “Salafists” Remind You of?

Last time I mentioned the NYT’s Andrea Elliott it was to call her on her lavish and pristine three-part whitewash of Brooklyn imam Reda Shata. Example:

Then there was the series’ look at terrorism. “What I may see as terrorism, you may not see that way,” Mr. Shata says. What does he mean by that? The reporter [Elliott] doesn’t tell us. Hamas is a powerful symbol of resistance, he says; the assassinated Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin was the “martyred” “lion of Palestine,” he sermonizes; and yet the imam says he condemns all violence. How does he square that? She doesn’t tell us. And when he sanctions violence against soldiers, not civilians, how does he define “soldier” and “civilian”? She doesn’t tell us that, either.

When asked about a 2004 sermon that “exalted” a female suicide bomber as a “martyr,” Mr. Shata seems “unusually conflicted,” the reporter writes. He declines to comment for fear of “[inviting] controversy,” and alienating New York rabbis he has “forged friendships with.” And there the question lies: She just lets him slip away. All the news that’s fit to print, apparently, doesn’t include the heart of the matter….

Elliott is back with a horrifyingly fascinating profile of the Alabama born and bred, half-American, half-Syrian, Muslim, Shabab leader and jihad-killer Omar Hammami, aka Al-Amriki. In an attempt to categorize Hammami’s generically correct path to jihad through an explanation of “Salafism” — another way of avoiding the problem with plain Islam and plain jihad — Elliott seems to think she is bringing jihad barbarism into focus by bringing in an expert from Princeton. She writes:

To purge their practice of modern influences, they try to emulate the founders of the faith — the contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad and the two generations that came after his death in A.D. 632. Young Salafis, for example, often dress in sandals and robes like those thought to have been worn in seventh-century Arabia. The Salafist interpretation of Islamic doctrine tends to be literal and originalist. “They remind me a lot of Scalia in their approach to texts,” says Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University.

Note the slip-slanderous linkage between Salafis and Justice Scalia, whose judicial philosophy is known as “strict constructionist.”What a complete and breathtaking disgrace…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Obama vs. The All-Volunteer Military

A battle of enormous portent is about to begin on Capitol Hill. When the fight to fulfill President Obama’s oft-repeated commitment to repeal what he misleadingly persists in calling “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) is over, one thing is certain: Either Mr. Obama’s presidency or the U.S. armed forces will be mortally damaged.

This fight begins against the backdrop of mounting public awareness of, and anxiety about, Barack Obama’s inadequacy as Commander-in-Chief. Consider several illustrative grounds for such concerns:

Team Obama is severely reducing the power-projection capabilities of the United States with program cuts and a just-announced change in strategy that will embolden America’s enemies and compound the distress felt by its allies about our growing unreliability. Banking on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ Republican credentials and relatively robust reputation, the Obama Pentagon has now formally abandoned the nominal planning guidance to size and equip the force to fight and win major conventional wars (originally two simultaneous ones, subsequently two nearly simultaneous ones, then one-and-a half of them).

Instead, the new direction seems to be: Don’t worry about, or prepare for, any major wars. From now on, Team Obama thinks the U.S. military need be able to manage only “overseas contingency operations” along the lines of today’s counter-insurgency campaigns. Bad timing: China is responding to what it perceives to be our declining power by becoming ever more well-armed, assertive and contemptuous — a formula for serious, and possibly “major,” conflict ahead…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Grass-Roots Rebellion: Voters Targeting Rinos, Incumbents

President Barack Obama told reporters that he rode the same wave of public anger into office that brought Scott Brown into Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. Not quite. The wave of public anger that elected Scott Brown is focused on Obama and the congressional Democrats who are pushing his policies.

The public anger is more than justified. Both the president and Congress have turned a deaf ear to the expressed will of the people throughout the first year of the new administration. Even after the candidates Obama endorsed and campaigned for in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts all lost convincingly, Democrat strategists are advising the leadership to “show character” by fighting even harder to impose government-controlled health care.

They would, were it not for the inconvenient fact that every representative and 33 senators must face the “angry public” at the polls this year.

All across the country, local, state, and national organizations are preparing to choose a new future for America. The future America wants is controlled by neither Democrats nor Republicans, but by elected officials who honor their pledge to “…preserve, protect, and defend” the U.S. Constitution.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

US Missile Test Mimicking Iran Strike Fails

Radar system malfunctioned in test over Pacific

WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) — A U.S. attempt to shoot down a ballistic missile mimicking an attack from Iran failed after a malfunction in a radar built by Raytheon Co (RTN.N), the Defense Department said.

The abortive test over the Pacific Ocean coincided with a Pentagon report that Iran had expanded its ballistic missile capabilities and posed a “significant” threat to U.S. and allied forces in the Middle East region.

The Missile Defense Agency said that in Sunday’s test both the target missile, fired from Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, and the interceptor, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, had performed normally.

“However, the Sea-Based X-band radar did not perform as expected,” the agency said on its web site. Officials will investigate the cause of the failure to intercept, it said.

The SBX radar is a major component of the ground-based midcourse defense, the sole U.S. bulwark against long-range missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.

It was the first time the United States had tested its long-range defense against a simulated Iranian attack.

Previous drills have imitated a flight path from North Korea, another country in a standoff with the international community over its nuclear program.

The Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense Review released on Monday said Tehran had developed and acquired ballistic missiles capable of striking targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and had fielded increasing numbers of mobile regional ballistic missiles.

The Iranian program has received support in the past from Russia, China and North Korea, and Tehran still depends on outside sources for many missile components and parts, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.


To counter the Iranian threat, the United States has expanded land- and sea-based missile defense systems in and around the Gulf, according to U.S. officials.

The deployments include expanded land-based Patriot defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain, as well as Navy ships with missile defense systems in and around the Mediterranean, the officials said.

The Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile report also singled out Syria’s short-range missiles as a “regional threat”. It said Damascus may have chemical warheads available for some of its missiles.

After Sunday’s failed Pacific test, Raytheon and Boeing, which manages the overall system, had no immediate comment. Harris Corp (HRS.N), which provides systems engineering for the SBX radar, said their technology was not involved.

Speaking at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington in December, Army Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, said the test, costing about $150 million, would break new ground.

He described it then as “more of a head-on shot like you would use defending against an Iranian shot into the United States.” It was the first time such a scenario was being tested, he said.

Experts have compared the simulation to a bullet hitting another bullet in space. O’Reilly said the goal was to destroy the target over the north central Pacific when the missiles had a combined closing speed of more than 17,000 miles per hour (27,000 kph).

“Whenever we have a situation where we’re taking on a missile more head on than from the side, that increases the challenges,” O’Reilly had said.

The SBX radar is mounted on a mobile, ocean-going oil-drilling platform designed to provide the layered U.S. missile defense system with a powerful sensor that can be positioned to cover any spot on the globe.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brussels: Zero-Tolerance Against Violence

A zero-tolerance policy will be implemented in several Brussels problem neighborhoods. Thus was decided during a meeting of the Brussels prosecutor Bruno Bulthé, the Anderlecht mayor Gaëtan Van Goidsenhoven (MR) and the head of the Brussels South police department. The Internal Affairs and Justice ministries also participated in the discussion, the Brussels public prosecution reported today.

After a number of violent incidents, including several shooting incidents in which agents were targeted, and the attacks on the students of the Institut Supérieur Industriel de Bruxelles, the police and justice department decided to introduce a ‘zero tolerance’ policy in Anderlecht.

The intention is to act hard against any form of violence, and that any crime would be dealt with. It’s possible extra magistrates would be called in to be able to act quickly in the neighborhoods being targeted.

“So called no-go-zones are not accepted,” says prosecution spokesperson Jos Colpin. “In the neighborhoods concerned, zero tolerance will be employed, and the structures of the prosecution and the police would be adapted and where necessary reinforced.”

François Debats, director of the Institut Supérieur Industriel de Bruxelles, is satisfied with the decision. The director moved his 1st and 2nd year students to the Koningstraat campus last week, after various students were attacked by criminal youth in the area of the Anderlecht Grondelstraat. They were forced via verbal aggression or knife threats to hand over valuable items such as a cell-phone or mp3-player.

“The decision reassured me,” says Debats. “Everybody clearly told me that they’re aware of the problem and I’ve also felt manifest will to deal with the issue. I don’t blame the police of Anderlecht for anything because I know that they put in effort 100%. Whatever new regulation will now coem, I don’t know, but I have confidence in the fiture.”

The director is considering to return to the Grondelstraat campus after the winter’s vacation.

Earlier the police unions said they were planning to strike, after a police agent was seriously injured trying to stop a getaway car following a robbery. This is the third time police were shot at in the past few weeks. The VSOA union wrote in a press release: street gangs who sow terror undistrubed, offernder who are immediately freed, police agents who become victims of weapon-violence. These are the sad charachteristics of a region where gangsterism, violnce and lack of law seem to have the upper hand over public order…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

England is ‘Cesspit of Islamists’, Says Soyinka

England is a “cesspit” and breeding ground for fundamentalist Muslims, the Nobel laureate and political activist Wole Soyinka has said in an interview in which he also accused Britain of allowing the existence of “indoctrination schools”.

His extraordinary attack on what he views as Britain’s part in fuelling Islamist terrorism was published on the US news and opinion website The Daily Beast. It was coupled with his assertion that the 1989 fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie meant that the assumption of power over life and death had passed “to every ­inconsequential Muslim in the world”.

Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1986, made his claims in response to a question about his homeland of Nigeria being added to the watchlist of countries deemed to be incubating terrorists, after the failed attempts of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to bring an airliner down over the US on Christmas Day.

“That was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction by the Americans,” the writer said. “The man did not get radicalised in Nigeria. It happened in England, where he went to university.

“England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence.

“And yet England allows it. Remember, that country was the breeding ground for communism, too. Karl Marx did all his work in libraries there …”

Soyinka added: “This is part of the character of Great Britain. Colonialism bred an innate arrogance, but when you undertake that sort of imperial adventure, that arrogance gives way to a feeling of accommodativeness. You take pride in your openness.”

The attempted Christmas Day bombing has helped to raise fears that some British universities are becoming places in which young Muslims are radicalised — ­Abdulmutallab attended University College, London. But Soyinka, who splits his time between the US and Nigeria, suggested that British Muslims were being radicalised earlier in their lives.

“I doubt you can have the kind of indoctrination schools in America as you do in the UK,” he said. “Besides, there’s a large body of American Muslims in the US — the Nation of Islam — which has created a kind of mainstream Muslim institution. The Muslims there are open Muslims, whereas in Europe they tend to go into ghetto schools. “The Nation of Islam provides an antidote in the United States to fundamentalist Islam — which is why individuals from America have to go abroad to find radical teachings.”

And , speaking about the fatwa issued by Khomeini against Rushdie, he said: “It all began when he assumed the power of life and death over the life of a writer. This was a watershed between doctrinaire aggression and physical aggression. There was an escalation. The assumption of power over life and death then passed to every single inconsequential Muslim in the world — as if someone had given them a new stature.

“Al-Qaida is the descendant of this phenomenon. The proselytisation of Islam became vigorous after this. People went to Saudi Arabia. Madrasas were established everywhere.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

France: Bombardier Trains for SNFC

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, NOVEMBER 20 — The Canadian Bombardier company will furnish the French state railroad, the ‘Societe’ nationale des chemins de fer’ (SNFC), with new generation two level trains for regional transport. According to a report from ICE, the eight billion euro deal includes an order for 80 carriages and an option for another 780. The first carriages, the contract may be signed in February 2010, will be delivered in June 2013. The carriages will be manufactured in the Bombardier Transport factory in Crespin, France. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

France: A Collision of Church and State

War, revolution, Dreyfus and an era of religious and political turmoil

By Michel Gurfinkiel

Two monuments in Paris are so prominent that they’re hard to miss. One is the Eiffel Tower, of course, the all-iron tour de force of engineering, standing by the Seine amid the city’s spacious and supremely elegant West End. Then to the north, atop Montmartre, there is the Sacré-Cœur: a tall, immaculately white Catholic basilica that looks like a digitized pre-Raphaelite set from “Lord of the Rings.” What most visitors—and in fact most Parisians— don’t realize is that both monuments were designed and their construction begun at about the same time, in the 1870s and 1880s. Even more surprising: The tower and the church were intended as antagonistic national symbols during times of cultural, religious and political conflict that roiled France for decades.

Frederick Brown tells the story of that tumultuous era in “For the Soul of France.” From 1830, the historical moment he starts with, to 1905, his final station, France passed through no less than four different constitutions; three dynasties (the Bourbons, the Orléans and the Bonapartes); two republics; three revolutions (1830, 1848 and 1870); one coup that worked (Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s in 1851) and two that were either merely attempted (in 1877) or fantasized (in 1889); two civil wars (the June crisis in 1848 and the Commune in 1871); one disastrous defeat to a nascent Germany (1870) that led to the momentary occupation of more than one-third of the country; two major financial scandals, in 1873 and 1892, that swept away most upper- and middle-class savings; and, finally, a turn-of-the-century judicial scandal (the Dreyfus Affair) that prompted a far-reaching law in 1905 mandating the separation of church and state.

Mr. Brown does not omit a single episode in this narrative, nor does he stint on the vignettes and human angles that bring the story to life. He is the author of noted biographies of Émile Zola and Gustave Flaubert, and “For the Soul of France” clearly benefits from his long immersion in the lives and works of these two great novelists, who flourished during the era he describes. Mr. Brown’s storytelling is vivacious and fluid, but he also keeps a firm hand on his chronicle, bringing order and perspective to these often chaotic times. (Historian Theodore Zeldin, by contrast, allotted himself five volumes to cover the period 1848-1945 and still ended up concentrating on broad themes and dispensing altogether with chronology.)

Then again, Mr. Brown simplifies his task by operating with a single organizing principle…

[Return to headlines]

France: Muslim Organisation Calls for Action Against Islamophobia

A French Muslim organisation has condemned a weekend attack on a mosque north of Paris. The phrases “Islam get out of Europe” and “France is for the French” were scrawled on the walls and entrance of a mosque in Crepy-en-Valois.

The mayor’s office of Crepy-en-Valois denounced what it called a “horrible, idiotic act”, while the French Council of the Muslim Faith said the attack was the latest in a long line of incidents that had targeted mosques in France.

The organisation called on authorities to take action to end the “series of shameful and hateful profanities that target houses of prayer.”

The Council, whose members are elected by French Muslims, also called for French President Nicolas Sarkozy to back a parliamentary commission that would examine the rise of Islamophobia in France.

The proposal was dropped from last week’s report that called for a ban on the full Islamic veil in official public spaces like government offices, hospitals or schools.

Last month a mosque in the southern town of Castres was targeted and had swastikas and the phrase daubed Sieg Heil on its walls.

France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at between five and six million people.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Germany: Jesuit Priest Admits Molesting Youth

Germany Shaken By ‘Systematic’ Sexual Abuse at Berlin Catholic School

A priest last week admitted in a statement to SPIEGEL he had abused a number of pupils at an elite Berlin high school run by Jesuit priests. In recent days, around 20 former students have come forward alleging they were sexually abused by priests at the school. The director of Canisius College has described the years-long abuse as “systematic.”

Berlin’s Canisius College, a university-prep high school run by Jesuit priests, is one of the most elite schools in the German capital. Former students from the respected private school have reached the upper echelons of business, politics and society. For the past week, however, Canisius College has been at the center of a major sexual abuse scandall.

Last week, around 20 former students claimed they had been sexually abused by two teachers at the school, Wolfgang S. and Peter R. The abuse is believed to have been committed during the 1970s and 1980s.

‘Nothing To Apologize For’

After being contacted by SPIEGEL, one of the former teachers admitted he had abused some of his students. Wolfgang S., a former sports teacher and Jesuit priest, issued a statement to his victims stating it was “a sad fact that I abused children and young men under pseudo-educational pretexts.” The churchman, who today lives in South America, said that he had informed regional Catholic authorities in Germany in 1991 of his “criminal past.” He claims the Jesuit priests had known for 19 years about the multiple incidents of abuse.

Stefan Dartmann, the Catholic Provincial Superior for Germany, confirmed to SPIEGEL that the order has knowledge of the crimes that had been committed by Wolfgang S. at the time. Dartmann said a lawyer had been hired to investigate the files “to determine what, exactly, the Jesuits knew at the time and what consequences they drew.” Wolfgang S. left the order in 1992. Previously, he is also believed to have abused pupils at other schools, but he refused to comment on those allegations.

In addition to his time at the Berlin school, he worked at the Sankt-Ansgar School in Hamburg and at the Sankt-Blasien school in the southern Black Forest region from 1982 to 1984.

‘Intimate, Fatherly Behavior’

The then-director of the school, Father Hans Joachim Martin, said that S.’s “intimate, fatherly behavior” towards some schoolchildren had attracted his attention. S. was later forced to leave the high school.

S. also claimed he had told the Vatican about his misconduct. In his statement, he says that he had provided testimony to the Vatican with “unvarnished honesty.” And in South America, he had “again and again come into close contact with the torturers and victims” of the Pinochet dictatorship. “I was confronted with my mirror image as a tormenter of children,” he said.

Several victims expressed their outrage over the tone of his statement. In the document, dated Jan. 20, S. addressed “all the people who I abused as children and in their youth.” He added, “I’m sorry for what I did to you. And if you are capable, I ask you to forgive me.” But he also told SPIEGEL: “I have come clean about my past to God and the world.”

The second man alleged to have abused children at the school is a 69-year-old former religion teacher from Berlin, Peter R., who has disputed all allegations. SPIEGEL could not reach R. for comment by press time on Friday or on subsequent attempts on Monday. After his time at the school in Berlin, R. apparently worked as a pastor with young people in the state of Lower Saxony. He was reportedly the victim of a knife attack by a former Canisius College student several years ago.

Victim: Priest Ordered Me to Masturbate in Front of Him

After SPIEGEL hit the newsstands on Monday, additional details emerged in the alleged abuses.

One former victim who has accused Peter R. told SPIEGEL that he had had “several extensive talks” in 1981 with the school’s rector at the time, in which he spoke exhaustively about his sexual abuse. He said the abuse had taken place in a basement on the school grounds. He said the priest had repeatedly ordered him to masturbate in front of him. “Anyone who wanted to get any further in school,” the witness said, was forced to go through similar degradation.

Karl Heinz Fischer, the school’s rector from April 1981 to June 1989, confirmed to SPIEGEL that a student had reported Peter R.’s abuse to him during the first half of 1981. Fischer said he had immediately notified his superior, priest Rolf Dieter Pfahl, who was the Provincial Superior for the Jesuit Province of Northern Germany, of the allegations. Pfahl then called for Peter R. to be transferred. After the summer holidays in 1981, Fischer told SPIEGEL, Peter R. was no longer deployed in the classroom.

‘If I Had Known 30 Years Ago, I Would Have Acted Immediately’

Previously, Pfahl himself had been rector at the Canisius school until he had been promoted to become the provincial in 1977. On Friday, he told the Berliner Morgenpost he knew nothing of the abuse. “I am shocked,” he told the newspaper. “If I had known about this 30 years ago, I would have acted immediately.”

Fischer said that no legal action was taken against R. at the time. Instead, disciplinary measures were left to the church. “There was a wall of silence back then,” he admitted to SPIEGEL.

The abuse victim reported that religious teacher Peter R. had been allowed to take part in a youth trip with students from the Canisius school in the summer of 1981 despite the allegations against him.

On Monday, German Jesuit head Dartmann asked for the forgiveness in the sexual abuse cases at the school from the victims, teachers and children.

“I ask for forgiveness that senior members of the order neglected their requirement to take a closer look, and that they did not take appropriate action,” Dartmann said Monday in a statement. He also thanked the victims for speaking out, despite their troubling memories.

News of the sexual abuse first became public last week after a newspaper reported that the school’s current rector, Klaus Mertes, had sent a letter to 600 former students explaining that at least two former priests at the school had committed crimes and that they were not isolated cases. The Berliner Morgenpost reported the contents of the letter in which Mertes wrote that he had been deeply shaken and was ashamed to have learned that “systematic abuse had taken place at the school over the years.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Germany to Hunt Down Fines for EU Traffic Violations

The German government is reportedly preparing to hunt down drivers guilty of traffic violations in other EU countries in order to collect a potential windfall in fines.

The daily Bild reported on Monday that the authorities would begin following up all fines over €70 incurred across the 27-nation bloc starting in October.

“The EU requirement should improve traffic safety abroad and among other things help reduce speeding,” Free Democratic MP Florian Toncar told Bild. “That should fill the state’s coffers with several million euros.”

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is increasing personnel at the Federal Office of Justice in Bonn solely to focus on tracking down and collecting fines from drivers living in Germany.

According to the paper, 99 new positions could cost up to €6 million a year, but the collected EU-wide fines are estimated to bring in €9 million to €10 million annually.

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

Italy: Lega: “No to Parliamentary Immunity”

(AGI) — Rome, 12 Nov. — Lega Nord is strictly against parliamentary immunity proposed by a large number of PDL members. “I don’t think it’s the right time to discuss about immunity and in any case I think it’s unfeasible to go back to the old system”, said Carolina Lussana, vicepresident of the Chamber Justice Commission.(AGI) ..

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Jews Flee Swedish Town in Wake of Anti-Semitism

by Avi Yellin

( Violent anti-Semitism has become increasingly commonplace in Sweden’s southern city of Malmö, leading many Jewish residents to leave out of fear for their safety. “Threats against Jews have increased steadily in Malmö in recent years and many young Jewish families are choosing to leave the city,” said Fredrik Sieradzki of the Jewish Community of Malmö.

Last year, 79 crimes against Jewish residents were reported to the Malmö police, roughly double the number reported in 2008. In addition, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have been repeatedly defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, and a chapel at another Jewish burial site in Malmö was firebombed last January during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Many Jewish residents of Malmö feel that local anti-Jewish sentiment is linked with negative attitudes towards Israel.

In addition to its small community of roughly 700 Jews, Malmö is home to a growing Muslim population. However, local Jews insist that the majority of anti-Jewish sentiment, although certainly existent in the Muslim community, is coming from local Swedes.

Sieradzki says that the attitudes of Malmö politicians, especially Social Democrat city council chair Ilmar Reepalu, have allowed anti-Semitism to fester. “He’s demonstrated extreme ignorance when it comes to our problems,” Sieradzki explained. “It’s shameful and regrettable that such a powerful politician could be so ignorant about the threats we face.

“If you read between the lines, he seems to be suggesting that the violence directed toward us is our own fault simply because we didn’t speak out against Israel. We’re a non-political, cultural and religious organization, and there are all kinds of Jews in Malmö.”

Sieradzki admitted his pessimism about the future of the Jewish community in Malmö, saying that there needs to be a “complete change in attitude” among the city’s politicians if the situation is going to improve. “These issues need to be taken seriously,” he said, advocating for dialogue between politicians, Islamic groups and the Jewish community. “But right now many Jews in Malmö are really concerned about the situation here and don’t believe they have a future here.”

           — Hat tip: RCP [Return to headlines]

Languages: New Spanish Grammar Born Under Aegis of the King

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 10 — A new grammar construed by the 22 existing Academies of the Spanish language, the new bible of morphology, syntax and phonetics of the Spanish speaking world was presented today at Madrids Real Academia de la Lengua. Espasa published the two volumes of grammar which king Juan Carlos, who presided the presentation with queen Sofia, defined as a historical service to the unity of the Spanish language and, in substance, to the unity of the Hispanic peoples. The event was attended by 700 among researchers, writers and celebrities of the cultural world. Writer and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa, who attended via video conference together with writer Miguel Delibes, called it a first rate cultural event. The construction of this grammar, directed by Ignacio Bosque, was achieved with the help of hundreds of persons and took 11 years of work. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Margaret Thatcher Archive: ‘Handymen in Brussels Better Paid Than MPs’

Lady Thatcher regarded the high salaries of European Community bureaucrats as “a real gravy train” and deeply resented “our taxpayers’ money” funding their pay, documents from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust show.

Shortly after coming to power, Lady Thatcher was sent a breakdown of pay grades which showed that some administrative staff in Brussels were paid almost six times as much as MPs.

Even the lowest-paid manual workers in Brussels earned £6,727, while the top administrators were paid £52,529, compared with an MP’s £9,450 at the time.

Referring to a manual pay grade, Lady Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary, John Stanley, wrote her a note saying: “Apparently D4 manuals are valued rather more highly than MPs at Westminster!”

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

Spain: Historical Memory, Change to Francoism Term Requested

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 8 — The definition of Francoism in the dictionary in the Real Academia de la Lengua (RAE), the most highly used Spanish language dictionary, is being called negationist, because it avoids calling the regime Fascist. The Association for Historical Memory (ARMH) has undertaken a campaign to modify the definition. In a statement, the ARMH underlined that Franco’s dictatorship, defined by the RAE as having totalitarian tendencies, leaves out its violent nature. The group also argues that the totalitarianism exercised by Francoists was more than a tendency. The association is calling for the definition to clearly reflect that the regime violated freedoms during the four decades it was in power and persecuted those who had different ideologies and beliefs. The ARMH pointed out that Francoism resulted in the Spanish state having the second largest number of missing people in the world after Cambodia, according to reports by Amnesty International. Therefore, the campaign wants the RAE to replace the current definition with a more accurate one. The association is asking for collaboration from internet users, who will be able to send their own definitions to the ARMH’s website. After choosing the definition that receives the most votes, the association will send it to the Real Academia de la Lengua. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: 11 More Accused in Urban Corruption Inquiry

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 3 — The inquiry into bribes within the urban development section has grown wider within the Catalonia region. As part of the “Pretoria” inquiry, Audiencia Nacional judge Baltazar Garzon has put under investigation 11 more Catalonian political figures and entrepreneurs, including the former mayors of Badalona and Sant Andreu de Llavaneres, Maite Arqué (PSOE) and Victor Ros (PP) respectively, and the head of the Catalan Soil Institute of the Generalitat, Emili Mas, as well as the managing director of Marina Barcellona. They are accused of having granted favours during their terms in office to enterprises or private individuals in exchange for bribes and against the well-being of their respective municipalities. Press reports today show that from the summons it has emerged that in the previous part of the inquiry the former mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Bertolomeu Muoz, was also involved, as well as his 86-year-old mother Josefina Calvert, and had received an alleged payoff of a million euros. The political figures accused will be interrogated between today and tomorrow, and have been suspended as a precautionary measure by the PSOE and the PP from their posts and their parties. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Councils Smell Business, Bid for Nuclear Dump

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — There is now real competition to win the contest: the only thing is that the jackpot to be won is a nuclear dump, officially called a temporary central nuclear waste storage facility, which should receive 6,700 tonnes of radioactive waste from the ten Spanish nuclear plants. Some 700 million euros of investment, 300 jobs: in tough times Spanish town councils have smelt business and, in defiance of the bans imposed by the parties at national level, by the Regions and by the Provinces, they have launched themselves into a race with an uncertain outcome. Eight town councils have already officially presented their candidatures: Yebra (Gadalajara), Asco’ (Tarragona), Villar de Caas (Cuenca), Zarra (Valencia), Torrubia de Soria, Santervas de Campos e Melgar de Arriba (Valladolid), Albala’ (Caceres); another five will do so in the coming hours. And it is probable that, by midnight tonight (the deadline for candidatures set by the Ministry for Industry), a real flood of requests will be received. There are in fact around 100 town councils that have requested information from the Ministry, according to what was said by the Energy Secretary, Pedro Marin. The appetites, which have exceeded the fears and the apocalyptic visions of nuclear disasters stirred by ecological organisations, have been unleashed not only by the 700 million euros of investments. The town council that hosts the dump will receive from the National Company for Radioactive Waste (ENRESA) around 12 million euros per year, divided into 40% for the town council involved and 60% to those within a range of 12 km of the facility. The Government assures that the bid that has the greatest political and social consensus will be selected. Many town councils, such as Villar de Caas, have approved the candidature unanimously, challenging the indications against the candidature from the People’s Party. But the Catalan town council of Asco, governed by a socialist majority and by the nationalist CiU party, has presented its candidature despite the diktat from the national HQs. The list of finalists will be published in a month and the iter for selection will be completed before the summer. An inter-ministerial commission will compile the report on which the Council of Ministers should base their choice of town council. The dump, which will cover an area of 13 hectares, will receive over 60 years — renewable for another 60 — the radioactive waste from ten Spanish nuclear plants, including waste that Spain currently transports to France. A technological centre for research will be built next to the silo, which will be 283 metres long, 78 metres wide and 26 metres tall. And in a second stage, another two dumps for nuclear waste are planned. According to ENRESA experts, the dump is 100% safe. What will increase the risk is considerable increase in trips to transfer the plutonium and uranium waste across the country (in the 20 years following the inauguration of the facility in 2014, 650 transfers by road or rail will be made). But according to experts, the probability of a serious accident happening is once every 4.3 million years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Very Moment to Put Europe in Its Place

The Tories must scupper plans for an EU legal system or live to regret it, says Philip Johnston.

More than 12 years have passed since this newspaper first reported on how the European Union was developing a common criminal and judicial system known as Corpus Juris. Ostensibly, this was designed in the first instance to deal with offences against the EU’s financial interests; but it was envisaged that, once instituted, it could be extended to other walks of life, too, and become the template for a European-wide justice system.

This was especially problematic for the United Kingdom, which, together with Ireland, has a legal system that is fundamentally different from the rest of the EU and would therefore be required to adopt a wholly new approach.

Underpinning Corpus Juris would be a new office of European Public Prosecutor (EPP) with a director and deputies in each member state. The EPP would have investigative powers and be responsible for bringing cases before national courts. It would be able to “request” detention without trial for up to six months, renewable for three months at a time, with no maximum limit, and underpinned by the European arrest warrant.

The publicity given to this plan caused some consternation at the time and the Government made it clear that it did not intend to support it. A House of Lords committee also came out against the concept, calling it unrealistic and adding: “The benefits of creating another body and in particular an EPP, whose existence and processes cut across national criminal laws and procedure and which might not be accountable to democratically elected representatives, have yet to be clearly and convincingly demonstrated.”

For a few years, it appeared to have died a death. But, as is so often the case with EU ambitions, it should have had a stake driven through its heart; because it is back — and this time it has the wind of the Lisbon Treaty in its sails.

The treaty gives the power for the creation of a European Public Prosecutor along the lines outlined in Corpus Juris. The EPP’s office, backed up by Eurojust, a body that is supposed to help co-ordinate cross-border crime investigations, would be responsible for “investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment, in liaison with Europol, the perpetrators of, and accomplices in, offences against the Union’s financial interests”. The Treaty provides for its remit to be extended to cover “serious crime having a cross-border dimension”.

In the European Parliament earlier this month, Algirdas Semeta, the new EU tax commissioner, said that since the Treaty provided for the role then they might as well go ahead with it. His problem, and it is a big one, is this: it is one of the dwindling number of areas that requires a unanimous decision by the EU before it can proceed. In other words, we have a veto.

Here, then, is a great opportunity for an incoming Conservative government to take a stand on Europe that does not require a referendum, does not put at risk Britain’s membership, does not re-open old Tory Euro-wounds and cannot be denounced as anti-European because the rules of the club allow for it to be taken.

My understanding is that the Tories do intend to veto the EPP — though why they have not made a bigger song and dance about it beats me. It is inconceivable, surely, that presented with an opportunity to block such an extension of EU powers the party would not take it. But since the polls suggest the Tories are by no means certain to win the election outright, there has to be a pledge from Labour and the Lib Dems that they will veto the EPP idea as well.

If the Conservatives end up shy of a parliamentary majority and have to do deals with the Lib Dems to stay in office, this is just the sort of stitch-up that happens. Similarly, if by some miracle Labour gets back into office — possibly with the help of the Lib Dems — they might be tempted to let the plan through on the nod to avoid falling out with EU bosses who have been pushing this plan for years.

The EPP is a classic example of something we were told would never happen as a result of the Lisbon Treaty: a direct threat to our centuries-old judicial system and the laws and liberties that underpin it.

On what possible basis would the EPP office be able to pursue cross-border prosecutions under UK law when most EU countries follow a different legal code and do not practice habeas corpus? The creation of an EPP would inevitably lead to calls for the harmonisation of criminal procedural law to ensure defendants received a fair trial.

It is being promoted as a practical measure to bolster the campaign against fraud. But the EPP is the final piece in the jigsaw needed to establish the basis for a pan-European judicial system. In truth, even if we stay out, other EU countries could go ahead with the plan; but let them. We don’t have to take part. If our party leaders are at all honest about wanting to halt the leeching of UK sovereignty, here is somewhere they can take a stand.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Air Passengers Who Refuse a Full Body Scan to be Barred From Their Flights

The technology — which has been strongly condemned by civil liberties campaigners — began operating at Heathrow and Manchester airports yesterday.

Birmingham will follow suit later this month before the anti-terror devices are rolled out nationally.

The move — strongly criticised by civil liberties campaigners who say the scanners are an invasion of privacy — follows the attempted Detroit bomb attack on Christmas Day.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to detonate a bomb on a flight as it was about to land in the U.S. city.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said: ‘In the immediate future, only a small proportion of airline passengers will be selected for scanning.

‘If a passenger is selected for scanning and declines, they will not be permitted to fly.’

He said a code of conduct would govern how images were used and which passengers were checked.

Campaigners say the scanners, which act like a mini radar device ‘seeing’ beneath ordinary clothing, are an invasion of privacy.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that the scanners breach privacy rules under the Human Rights Act for their naked images.

The exemption of under 18s from being scanned, which was in place during the trial of the machines in Manchester, has also been removed.

The Department for Transport has published an interim code of practice for the scanners. The officer operating the machine never sees the image, and the employee viewing the scan must be in another room.

The scan cannot be saved, printed or transmitted. Passengers can also demand that only officers of their sex see their image.

BAA, which runs Heathrow, refused to comment on how many scanners are in place and in which terminals they will be used, although it is believed they will be in Terminal 4.

While only a small minority of travellers are expected to be asked to undergo the scans, those who decline will not be allowed to board their flight.

Body scanners at Manchester airport will be confined initially to terminal 2, where they have been trialled since late last year.

Additional scanners are planned for terminals 1 and 3 by the end of the month.

The airport said that its previous exemption for children had been overturned by the Government.

Head of customer experience Sarah Barrett said passengers had ‘privacy concerns’, but stressed that the airport had put in ‘strict procedures’.

‘It will enhance security for everyone, which can only be a good thing, without compromising people’s privacy,’ she said.

‘The image generated by the body scanner cannot be stored or captured, nor can security officers viewing the images recognise people.

‘Contrary to reports, the equipment does not allow security staff to see passengers naked.’

But Alex Deane, a barrister and director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said such measures meant ‘the terrorists have won’.

‘People are understandably afraid of terrorism,’ he said.

‘But we didn’t allow the IRA to impede our freedoms or change our way of life, and we shouldn’t change now either.

‘Those upset by the prospect of undergoing these scans shouldn’t be forced to choose between their dignity and their flight.

‘What kind of a free society does the Government think it is “protecting”, when it invades our privacy like this?

‘When we are forced to expose ourselves at the airport in order to go on holiday, the terrorists have won.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: City Council Issues ‘Inclusive’ Taxi Driver Licence Applications… In Braille

Local governments have in the recent past made admirable attempts to be more culturally inclusive by printing official documents in various languages.

However, one city council might have let its enthusiasm run away with itself — by printing taxi-driver licence applications in braille.

In a move that is almost certainly the first of its kind, the forms can also be printed and downloaded in large print or audio format people with sight problems.

A note on the Portsmouth City Council website says the documents can be downloaded in large print, Braille or audio.

The Lib-Dem controlled local authority defended the decision.

‘Obviously, a taxi driver would not need the Braille version, but they might find a foreign language version helpful,’ a spokesperson told The Sun.

‘The form is also for employers to fill in — they could need a Braille version,’ she added.

The city council is also a member of the Plain English Campaign.

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

‘Welcome Anglicans’ Says Pope

Benedict confirms September visit

(ANSA) — Vatican City, February 1 — Pope Benedict XVI on Monday urged English and Welsh bishops to give a warm welcome to Anglican clergy wanting to ‘return’ to Rome.

Meeting the bishops in the wake of a report that Queen Elizabeth II had been concerned by the Vatican’s November move to make it easier for disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church, the pope asked the bishops “to be generous” in applying the ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus’ (‘Groups of Anglicans’) constitution set up by the Vatican on November 4.

He urged the bishops to help groups wanting to have “full communion” with the Catholic Church.

“I am convinced that, if they are given a warm and sincere welcome, these groups will be a benediction for the whole Church,” Benedict said.

The pope also confirmed he will visit Britain in mid-September and told the bishops that Britain’s new equal-rights legislation threatened religious freedom.

The meeting came after the Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that the royal household’s most senior official met with the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, two weeks after the establishment of the new ‘apostolic constitution’ in order to allay concerns.

The Telegraph said that “in a highly unusual step”, Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel and Nichols met in mid-November over the move, which Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had described as “a dawn raid on the Anglican communion”.

Queen Elizabeth, who is the Anglican Church’s Supreme Governor, was not warned of the move, which paved the way for groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Holy See.

According to the Telegraph, Archbishop Nichols assured Lord Peel that Benedict had only issued the decree in response to the requests of traditionalist Anglicans disillusioned with liberal moves such as the ordination of gay priests and women bishops.

Nichols stressed that “it had not been intended as a hostile act or to in any way destabilise the Church of England,” the Telegraph said.

The British daily quoted a spokesman for Nichols as confirming the meeting had occurred and had “provided an opportunity to quell concerns over the Pope’s decree”.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace declined to comment and the Telegraph speculated that the pope might not be offered the full degree of royal hospitality during his state visit to Britain, expected later this year.

Three weeks after the unveiling of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Apostolic Constitution, which some observers said appeared to take the Anglican Church by surprise, Williams met the pope in the Vatican.

Little emerged about the contents of the 25-minute conversation apart from a Vatican statement reaffirming “a common will to pursue and consolidate ecumenical dialogue”.

But there were widespread reports in the British press that this dialogue had been effectively stymied by the Apostolic Constitution. The constitution aims to lay out a path for unmarried bishops, married and unmarried priests and other members of the Anglican Church to join or return to the Catholic Church.

The new section, which would allow Anglicans to keep many of their traditions and practices, was set up in response to pleas from Anglicans, whose conversions were previously assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Some leading Anglicans criticised the Vatican’s move.

Ex-archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey said the Anglican Church should not be treated as a “junior partner” and that the Vatican had only given Williams two weeks’ notice of its plan.

It is unclear how many Anglican groups will move over to Rome, with several English newspapers saying practical problems such as the conversion of churches and property.

The first initially expected to take advantage of the door opened were the some 500,000 members of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a conservative group which broke away from the international Anglican Communion in 1991.

But no TAC members have taken the plunge yet, reports say.

A conservative Anglican group called Forward With Faith has said many of its members are eager to convert because the Church of England was becoming “the church of political correctness”.

The Church of England is regarded as the ‘mother’ of all the other churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which considers itself to be both a product of the Reformation and also in many ways Catholic.

With some 77 million members, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The English church was under papal authority for nearly a thousand years before splitting from Rome in 1534 when King Henry VIII was refused an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

Benedict will visit Britain on September 16-19, the Catholic news agency Sir reported in December. It will be the first UK trip by a pope since John Paul visited in 1982.

The visit has yet to be officially confirmed by the Vatican.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Kosovo: La Russa: 1,300 Italian Troops Out by October 2010

(NSA) — ROME, DECEMBER 10 — Around 1,300 Italian troops are expected to leave Kosovo in October 2010. This, together with an “immediate” withdrawal of 200 troops from Lebanon, will allow Italy to send more troops (an estimated one thousand) to Afghanistan. The news was announced by Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, in his speech to the Chamber and Senate Defence and Foreign Affairs Commission. “We currently have 1,900 troops in Kosovo” said La Russa. “In June 2010 we expect to lower this number to 1,400 and to 600 in October 2010, a reduction of 1,300. People tell me that this is an achievable target, but I am more careful”. “In Lebanon on the other hand” the minister continued “as soon as the command of General Graziano ends, we will automatically reduce our contingent by 200. I hope that other countries will send troops to Lebanon however, so that we can pull out more of our soldiers, though the quality of our contingent remains our priority”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Energy: From Dishes to Towers, Shaping the Sahara Plant

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The most innovative solar energy plants have futuristic forms. The solar plants of the future, with their mirror-dishes and towers that collect energy, look like a scene from a science fiction movie. One of these installations will be built in Africa as part of the ‘Desertec’ project. The twelve interested companies and the ‘Desertec’ foundation signed an agreement on the project in Munich on October 30. The website of NewScientist shows some photographs of four possible types of solar plants to be used for the project, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each type. — The American National Solar Thermal Test Facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was built using giant solar disks that reflect sunlight to an arm at the centre of the disk. At the end of this arm, a receiver collects the heat. This layout offers the possibility to have the disk track the sun. It is also able to operate at very high temperatures. A modular structure, it is easily expandable and doesn’t require much water. It cannot store heat on the other hand, so it will not supply energy when the sun is not shining. — The Sanlucar la Mayor plant in Seville, Spain, known as PS10 and built by the Spanish firm Abengoa Solar, is designed as a giant ‘monolith’ that collects the rays of sunlight reflected by 624 rotating mirrors. The tower is 115 m high and contains a receiver and a turbine to produce power. This plant also operates at high temperatures, and it does store energy. It also requires an enormous quantity of water on the other hand. Another disadvantage is, that only very large plants are efficient from a financial viewpoint. — The plant in Bakersfield, California, known as Kimberlina and built by Ausra, is a giant field of solar panels. The panels heat water and the vapour that is formed moves turbines producing up to 5 Megawatts of power. This type of installation is relatively cheap and can be adapted to store energy. They are also less efficient and require much water. — Nevada Solar One, in the Nevada desert, is a giant dish that produces 64 Megawatts of power, enough for 14,000 households. Built by the Spanish Acciona, Solar Power includes 760 dishes with 182,000 mirrors that focus the rays on pipes filled with oil which heat up and produce steam from water. The system is commercially available, it stores heat and therefore also supplies energy when the sun is not shining. It also needs large amounts of water on the other hand. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

A Europe With This Stance Cannot Mediate With Israel

Il Giornale, December 11 2009

And so Sweden got its resolution passed by the European Foreign Ministers: a bombastic document that — out of the blue — envisages splitting Jerusalem in two parts and creating a Palestinian State with “no change at all with respect to the 1967 borders” unless the two parties recognize such change. Now, unfortunately, of the two parties, the Palestinians are those still opposing sitting around a table to talk. Therefore the basic condition does not exists and this, even for a child, would be a fundamental requirement before venturing to vaticinate about one of the thorniest issues in the world.

This is happening while Netanyahu has stopped any settlement in any part of the West Bank, thus splitting its Country on the altar of the resumption of talks: in fact, it is indeed a very difficult decision if we think — and nobody in Europe ever thinks about it — that the West Bank has been the essential strategic background — the bunker, the shelter, the hideout — for all the wars waged by terrorists and armies against Israel since the 1948.

The document is an improved version with respect to the Swedish draft. Sweden had vowed to get even after the international scandal of the daily Aftonbladet: the Foreign Minister Bildt had stood fast in claiming the “freedom of expression” of the journalist — who later repented — according to whom Israeli soldiers kill Palestinians to trade their organs. A very good example of freedom of expression. The document drafted by Sweden to successfully close its presidency at the end of the month was as extremist as the Country. It recognized the Palestinian state without further ado, while now the EU will do it “when appropriate”. The Swedish draft talked directly about the relationship between “Europe and Palestine” and pledged to recognize a Palestinian state with a unilateral declaration; the new version supports the plan. The original document did not acknowledge at all the efforts made by Israel to freeze the settlements and not even to remove the barriers against the freedom of movement for the Palestinians. Now instead, without too much emphasis, it sees some initial steps in the right direction even though its wording is still fraught with pity for the usual stylemas of road blocks and misery. On the contrary, those who travel from Jerusalem to Nablus no longer find any road blocks; those who go to Ramallah or just listen to Abu Mazen see the town and the Autonomy growing from the economic point of view. Even those who arrive in Gaza see the shop windows full of goods to celebrate Eid al-Adha. The earlier version of the document did not give a damn about the security of Israel that is under the Islamist siege; the current draft hints at these issues but it does not recognize any right to self defense.

Italy and some other countries of 27 EU member states have worked to smooth this deranged resolution; and again, according to the Israelis, even this draft “will not help peace advance” and will instead impair any mediation role of Europe.

After all, even though no negotiation has started, the present document advocates the Palestinian claims over a city that, once split, would go back to how it was from 1949 to 1967. A city split between a democratic State that would keep it open and another one that has never proved to respect other religions, that disseminates a constant anti-Jewish propaganda on its media (for more information visit the Palestinian Media Watch), and whose people — the ones ruled by Hamas — have never protested against the Charter urging to eliminate Jews and Christians.

Moreover, the usual interpretation of history by the Palestinians suggests that the Jews are usurpers without any roots in Jerusalem and therefore they must leave. Nice preliminary condition for splitting the city. And so the EU has considered all the issues except for the most relevant one. i.e. the hatred against the Jews and the Islamist rage. This document features nine items and lists many themes ranging from the settlements to the lack of freedom of movement from Gaza, ignoring that there are concrete reasons for all this, that is the refusal to accept the Jewish State.

The EU will not become credible in the Middle East with this stance, even if it is mitigated. It would have become far more credible if it had reacted against the new situation in Lebanon where the Hezbollah in the government — rearmed to teeth — have obtained to keep their weapons. A State within a State, against the UN resolution, which also established UNIFIL in which Italy is participating. As a result, Lebanon is once again the slave of a foreign power, actually of two foreign powers, Iran and Syria, the masterminds of the Hezbollah.

But the EU does not speak about this, or about the massacres of Palestinians in Lebanon; or about the Jordanians who are stripping them of their citizenship; about the domestic persecution conducted by Fatah — as reported by the Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh — against anyone who tries to support pacifist movements among the Palestinians. Those who really are in favor of peace in the West Bank risk their life. Those who pretend to do it can go on writing documents in Europe, that are designed to voice their dislike — let’s say — vis-à-vis Israel.

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

Berlusconi to Haaretz: Israel’s Settlement Policy is Unwise

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives in Israel Monday for a three-day visit. In the course of the visit, Berlusconi will visit Yad Vashem, plant a tree in Jerusalem’s Grove of Nations and speak at a special session at the Knesset, where seven original sketches from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus will also be put on display.

Berlusconi will be accompanied on his trip by eight Italian cabinet ministers who will for the first time participate in a joint cabinet meeting. The meeting will also highlight bilateral cooperation in the fields of science, technology and culture. A special conference will be held bringing together leaders of Italian business, industry and science and their Israeli counterparts. Three laboratories that were funded by the Italians will be dedicated in the course of the visit.

Haaretz asked the Italian prime minister to relate to several current issues pertaining to ties between the two countries. His responses were as follows:

On his exceptional friendship with Israel:

“For my entire life, first as an entrepreneur and later as prime minister, I have had a love of freedom. The Jewish people, with courage and persistence, created a paragon of democracy in the Middle East. Israel is part of Europe. It belongs to the West. It believes in the values of democracy in which we, too, believe. As a result, I always supported Israel. As a result, as prime minister, I changed Italy’s foreign policy and thereby turned Italy into Israel’s closest friend in Europe … I would like to add that the visit I made to Auschwitz [in January 2005] made a deep impression on me. I told myself there that it was impossible not to be Israeli.

“At the same time, I cultivated ties with the moderate leaders of the Arab and Muslim world. Italy today is an essential stop, sometimes the first, that Middle Eastern leaders make in Europe. We feel involved in efforts to find a lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question. Italy proposed the beautiful town of Arice as a location for future peace talks between the [two] sides.”

On the Middle East peace process:

“Henry Kissinger used to say that there could never be war in the Middle East without Egypt, but no peace was possible without Syria. By virtue of the courage of statesmen like [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat and [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin, Egypt definitively disengaged from this equation and President [Hosni] Mubarak has decisively continued on this path. The time has come for Syria and Israel to act together for the sake of peace, in the framework of which the Golan Heights will be returned and at the same time diplomatic and friendly relations will be established between the two countries, and Damascus for its part will stop supporting organizations that do not recognize Israel’s existence. All of us are working to find a comprehensive solution, and Italy’s presence in Lebanon [as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force] is testimony to this.”

On Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank and relations with the Palestinians:

“Israel’s settlement policy could be an obstacle to peace. I would like to say to the people and government of Israel, as a friend, with my hand on my heart, that persisting with this policy is a mistake. I welcomed Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s courage is his announcement of a 10-month [residential settlement construction] freeze. It will never be possible to convince the Palestinians of Israel’s good intentions while Israel continues to build in territories that are to be returned as part of a piece agreement. At the same time, what happened in Gaza should prompt some thought. It is not possible to evacuate communities to [then] face burned synagogues, acts of destruction, and inter-Palestinian violence and missiles being shot into Israeli territory.

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

Berlusconi: I Have a Dream, Israel in the European Union

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 1 — “I have a dream”, that Israel will one day be able to enter into the European Union. This is how Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi addressed the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the ceremony to begin his visit to Israel. “We have the pride of being ourselves, with the Judeo-Christian culture which sits at the base of European civilisation”, Berlusconi said upon arrival in Israel.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Dear Sgarbi, The Nightmare of Terrorism is Behind All Those Checks

Vittorio Sgarbi is an important Italian art critic, former Member of Parliament and at present mayor of Salemi, a wonderful Sicilian town. He is also a sincere friend of Israel. Recently, invited for a Festival in Jerusalem, on his way back to Italy he was kept at length at Ben Gurion Airport by the security, as often happens. Yesterday he wrote an article on “Il Giornale” titled: “Treated like an enemy. I’ll never come back to Jerusalem”. I replied to this article with an open letter published on “Il Giornale” on the same day. Here it is:

The young people controlling passengers in the airports know that often death has come from unsuspected people

Dear Vittorio,

I know, the people who suffer the most are those who — like you — listen to the reasons of Israel and always try to bring a ray of light in the darkness of prejudice that prevails when talking about the Jewish state. Just like me. I too suffered many times when I was looked up and down, questioned, blocked for hours by young officials who sometimes were deaf and insistent and sometimes even arrogant and aggressive. I often said to myself that they were uneducated, ill trained to identify terrorists, that they had something against me, an innocent and even friendly individual who had to pay for the risk they and their families run every day, for the discriminations they have to endure, from sports activities to European Universities. You should know that sometimes I ended up sitting on the upper floor with all my books and articles, looked up and down, photographed together with some ladies coming from Eastern Europe who tried to enter the country to work in all sorts of fields. Were they right? Well in the end yes, they were, and you know that.

Today terrorists on planes hardly use weapons, think of September 11; it is the intention that creates the terrorist and no one has it written on his or her face. Then profiling may be a total failure: in 1972 it was the Japanese Red Army who claimed 24 lives at the Ben Gurion airport. I learned very well during the years of the Intifada that terrorism can come out from any corner, from any kind word, from any angelface or elegant attire.

Moreover, they do not know your fame, the royal privilege bestowed on you in Italy whenever there is a barrier in your life. They see you as a very elegant gentleman indeed, but impatient and difficult to decipher. A gentleman who does not have friends or family in Israel, who does not have any objective reason to be faithful to that country. Someone who may have stayed in East Jerusalem, who has extensively traveled in the Palestinian areas, those places where it is possible to receive devices, orders, suggestions… is there anything wrong or objectively deplorable in all this? No, there is no objective reason at all. However there is a long track record of objects that seem to be things like a pair of shoes or a Coca Cola or a tape recorder and instead they are a bomb, or a piece of bomb to be given to somebody else.

In Israel, once again, gas masks are being distributed to any father, mother and child, sometimes even to the family dog. Why, is something new happening? No, nothing, it is the usual persecution Israeli people endure; according to some recent news, Hamas has informed to have strengthened its tunnel system and to have Qassam missiles ready to hit also Tel Aviv. The Israelis are in a sandwich: they prepare themselves for an attack from the South and learn that, in the North, the Hezbollah have tens of thousand of missiles approved by the Lebanese government and that, every day, they say they will wage a war and conduct attacks against the Zionist enemy.

Dear Vittorio, the background of your unpleasant incident at the Ben Gurion airport (but tell the truth, is it not one of the most beautiful and well tended airports in the world and also one of the most moving ones when families reunite after many years, hug and kiss the ground?) is the very face of the apocalypse and you, you that can see and understand these things, don’t you spot the black cloud beyond the young man who offended you so much? If Iran is ready to give up all the possible international sympathy in order to prepare a bomb to destroy the State of the Jews, if it spends billions on terrorism to keep it broiling, how much would they pay to put in the bag belonging to a man called Vittorio Sgarbi, whatever his fame, o even belonging to a woman called Fiamma, whoever she is, something tiny and deadly that I am not able to imagine but which certainly does exist.

Israel is a very poor country. And even if it wants to make a good impression with the Ben Gurion airport, those young people work there at night and study during the day or viceversa. Generally, they have spent three years in the army where they have risked their lives. Very often, they have lost their best friend, or a brother, or their girlfriend while traveling on a bus or eating at a restaurant. It is not rethoric, Vittorio, do not stop loving Israel for so little. I saw some of your outbursts, but I know that you can tell what is fake from what is true, the roles played, the actions made to show off or out of poverty of spirit. There is no such thing there. The aim is to save lives.

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

Holocaust: Berlusconi to Yad Vashem, Never Again

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 1 — “Our soul yells ‘it is not true, it can’t be trué, And then the defeated scream ‘never again’“. This was the phrase written by the Premier Silvio Berlusconi at the end of his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in the signature book. “With profound compassion”, Berlusconi went on to write. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel Allows Palestinians to Grab Foothold in Capital

Sources: U.S. pressured decision to permit Arab infiltration of city

Under intense American pressure, Israel has silently agreed to allow the Palestinian Authority to open official institutions in eastern sections of Jerusalem, a senior official in PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ office told WND.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office did not deny the report.

When asked whether Netanyahu agreed to allow PA institutions in Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev told WND, “The prime minister’s position on Jerusalem is clear. Jerusalem will remain the united capital of Israel.”

Separately, an official from Netanyahu’s office confirmed to WND that in recent meetings, President Obama’s envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, pressed Netanyahu to freeze Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem as a confidence-building measure to begin direct talks with PA President Abbas. U.S. National Security Adviser Jim Jones also pushed for a construction freeze, even imploring Netanyahu to quietly impose the freeze without making any public announcements.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Italy-Israel Summit Starts Today, Anticipation for Berlusconi

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — Today in Jerusalem a summit between Italy and Israel will begin with an unprecedented number of ministers present, about ten from each country, along with Premiers Silvio Berlusconi and Benyamin Netanyahu. Berlusconi’s arrival is expected to take place around 2PM local time (1PM in Italy) at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where he will be welcomed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. An official welcoming ceremony at Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem will follow. Afterwards, a highly symbolic visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial, preceded by a tree-planting ceremony will take place. The day before his visit, Berlusconi criticised Israel’s settlement policy, calling it “wrong”. “Israel must withdraw from the Golan Heights,” he said in an interview with Haaretz. “They will never be able to convince the Palestinians of Israel’s good will if they continue to build on lands that should be given back as part of a peace accord,” observed Berlusconi. However, at the same time “settlements cannot be removed in order to see synagogues burned, devastation, intra-Palestinian violence and rockets launched into Israeli territory.” The Palestinians must also do their part, stressed the premier. “Arabs live in Israel and participate in its splendid democratic life, and the war will truly be over when the Palestinians accept to restore the great Arab tradition of tolerance and hospitality to the Jews in their territory.” In the evening, Berlusconi will meet again with Netanyahu for dinner and an official meeting. Tomorrow various bilateral meetings are scheduled as well as a plenary meeting with ministers from both sides present — the first of its kind between Israel and Italy, experimented with until now by the Jewish state only with Germany among its EU partners- concluded by press conference. The Italian ministers will leave for Rome by tomorrow evening, while Berlusconi will remain in Israel until Wednesday, February 3, when in the morning he will make a highly anticipated speech in front of Knesset (Israeli Parliament), followed by the inauguration of an exhibit of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, and finally a stop in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, where he will meet with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and will visit the Basilica of the Nativity.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Georgian TV ‘Blocked by Russia’

Georgia says broadcasts of its new Russian-language television station have been suspended because of “pressure from the Russian government”.

The channel, called First Caucasian, was being transmitted by a French satellite operator, Eutelsat.

Georgia accused Eutelsat of suspending broadcasts, after only two weeks of operation, under Russian pressure.

Eutelsat has denied that was the reason, saying First Caucasian was only being carried on a trial basis.

It said no contract had been signed with the channel and that negotiations were still under way.

“From our perspective there should be no reason why we should not conclude a contract with them,” Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O’Connor told the AFP news agency.

She denied the company had come under Russian pressure, and said the station could resume broadcasting as soon as a contract was signed.


Georgia launched its state-run, Russian-language channel in mid-January, on the internet and on satellite.

But when the satellite broadcasts stopped at the weekend, it issued a statement accusing Eutelsat of being a “tool of Russian censorship.”

It said Eutelsat had signed a lucrative contract with a Russian firm called Intersputnik, whose clients reportedly include the Russian state-controlled firm, Gazprom Media.

The move leaves “Intersputnik and Gazprom Media Group — both of which adhere to the Kremlin’s editorial line — with a de facto satellite transmission monopoly over Russian-language audience,” its statement said.

But Eutelsat’s spokeswoman told AFP that Intersputnik had been a client for several years and that a recently announced deal was simply “an extension of the contract which was just being renewed and extended.”

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Skeletal and Terrified: British Yacht Couple Reveal Cruelty of Their Somali Pirate Captors

Her face is gaunt and drawn, her frame skeletal and weak.

The shocking effects of captivity are all too clear in this picture of Rachel Chandler, who has been held by Somali pirates for the last three months.

The image was taken by a French news agency that was allowed to accompany a doctor who examined Mrs Chandler and her husband Paul, who are being held separately.

The strain on 56-year-old Mrs Chandler’s face is clearly visible as she sits with her dress hanging loosely from her thin shoulders.

Yesterday she renewed her plea for urgent help, saying: ‘We have not much time left and are being badly treated. Please help us — these people are not treating us well.’

She went on: ‘I’m old, I’m 56, and my husband is 60 years old. We need to be together because we have not much time left. These people are treating us so cruelly.’

This is only the second time Mrs Chandler, an economist, has been seen since she and her husband were kidnapped in October at gunpoint as they sailed in their yacht towards Tanzania.

The last time was in November, when a video taken by the kidnappers — who are demanding a £1.9million ransom — was shown on Channel 4.

They have made other pleas for help in desperate phone calls, most recently on January 21, but the physical deterioration in yesterday’s new images are clear.

The Somalian doctor who examined Mrs Chandler said she was suffering a heavy ‘mental’ toll as well, which was manifested in ‘insomnia’.

Surgeon Mohamed Helmi Hangul, who spent three weeks securing permission to visit the couple, said: ‘She’s very confused, she’s always asking about her husband — “Where’s my husband, where’s my husband?” — and she seems completely disorientated.’

‘If I was with my husband I would feel a lot better,’ Mrs Chandler told the medic.

‘It’s because I am not with my husband that I am feeling so lonely and desperate and finding it difficult to sleep.

‘I need to be with Paul. We are husband and wife. We have always been together and we look after one another.’

Mr Chandler also appeared gaunt in the video taken last Thursday but released last night.

His ribs could be seen as he lifted his shirt to be checked by the doctor, who reported he had a cough and a fever.

In the video, filmed by the AFP photographer, Mr Chandler, a retired quantity surveyor, called on the British Government to intervene.

‘I just want to say please to my government, get me and my wife out of here. We are innocent we have done nothing wrong.

‘We have no money and can’t pay a ransom. We just need the Government to help, anyone who can get us out of here.

‘Day after day and this is 98 days of solitary confinement, no exercise. I don’t know what to do.’

Mr Chandler finally pleaded: ‘Will somebody please help? The government or somebody else.’

Dr Hangul added he had not been allowed to bring any drugs with him but left a prescription-with the pirates.

‘I gave them some advice and told them, “Your hostages can die. All you want is money so treat them well, let them reunite”,’ he said.

Mrs Chandler’s brother, Stephen Collett, was too distressed to comment last night.

A family friend said: ‘This is a highly distressing time for the family. They know the stakes are high and they are in an impossible position.

‘The pirates want an unaffordable ransom and the Government won’t pay it.’

There has been sporadic communication with the Chandlers since they were captured, although this was the first time a journalist had been able to meet them.

In a separate call, Mrs Chandler said she had been hit with an object she believed was a gun.

A gang member told the Daily Mail last month that the couple, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, would be shot by the end of February if they were not paid a $3million ransom.

The Chandlers are being held in rugged areas between the coastal village of Elhur and the small inland town of Amara but are moved every 48 hours.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has already insisted the Government will not become involved in any ransom payments.

A Foreign Office spokesman last night said: ‘We are doing everything we can to help secure their release.

‘We remain in regular contact with the family and are providing support. We call for the safe and swift release of Paul and Rachel.’

           — Hat tip: JH [Return to headlines]

Somali Islamists Al-Shabab ‘Join Al-Qaeda Fight’

Somali Islamist rebel group al-Shabab has confirmed for the first time that its fighters are aligned with al-Qaeda’s global militant campaign.

The group said in a statement that the “jihad of Horn of Africa must be combined with the international jihad led by the al-Qaeda network”.

Meanwhile, several people have died in fighting in Mogadishu after government troops shelled militant positions.

Islamist insurgents control much of southern and central Somalia.

The government, which is backed by the UN and African Union, holds sway only in a small part of Mogadishu.

Despite repeated accusations by the US that al-Shabab is linked to al-Qaeda, the group denied the connection in a recent interview with the BBC.

The BBC Somali service’s Mohamed Mohamed says it is the first time the group has officially confirmed its fight is linked to al-Qaeda.

‘Financer of terrorism’

The group’s statement also announced that its militants had joined forces with a smaller insurgent group called Kamboni.

The group, based in the southern town of Ras Kamboni, was previously allied to Hizbul-Islam — another militant group fighting the government.

Kamboni is led by Hassan Turki, a militant the US accuses of being a “financer of terrorism”.

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

South Africa President Jacob Zuma ‘Is a Sex Addict’

President Jacob Zuma should seek professional help for “his sex addiction”, a South African MP says.

This follows reports that Mr Zuma, 67, who has three wives, has a “love-child” with Sonono Khoza, 39, the daughter of local world cup boss Irvin Khoza.

Kenneth Meshoe said Mr Zuma should get help, like “Tiger Woods did”, and also accused him of contradicting his government’s HIV/Aids policies.

The ANC has confirmed that Mr Zuma has paid compensation for the pregnancy.

In several South African cultures, the father of a child born out of wedlock pays damages known as Inhlawulo to the family of the baby’s mother.

Mr Zuma’s payment of this suggests he is not denying paternity.

He has often spoken of his pride in his Zulu culture.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Reverend Mesheo said the “love-child” was an indication that Mr Zuma “is not using condoms and is undermining the safe sex message of his own government”, report the local Times and Sowetan newspapers.

There is an ongoing debate on Mr Zuma’s practice of polygamy, with critics accusing him of sending mixed messages on HIV prevention.

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

Latin America

Haiti: Italian Carrier Cavour Arrives

Emergency supplies airlifted, onboard hospital opened

(ANSA) — Rome, February 1 — The Italian aircraft carrier Cavour has arrived off the coast of Haiti and has already begun to airlift humanitarian aid for the survivors of the catastrophic earthquake there last month, defense ministry sources said on Monday.

Supplies and personnel are being brought to land by helicopter while a decision must still be made on where the carrier can dock, given the damage the quake caused to port facilities in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Observers said the mostly likely hypothesis was to have the carrier dock Puerto Caucedo, in neighboring Santo Domingo. This is the Cavour’s first official mission since entering service last June. It carrying 135 tonnes of humanitarian aid from the World Food Program, 77 tonnes of health supplies from the Red Cross, helicopters, soldiers, transport vehicles, earth-moving equipment and a detachment from the army corps of engineers.

It is also bringing several ‘Lynx’ armoured cars for possible use for security reasons.

The mission is a joint one with Brazil which has provided doctors and nurses for the ship’s state-of-the-art onboard hospital facility which has various operating rooms and wards for intensive care and first aid.

The new carrier is also equipped with generators which can produce sufficient electricity for 6,000 homes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Deception Helps Illegal Immigrants Sneak Into EU

Illegal immigrants and Dutch customs officials are caught in a game of cat and mouse. The frontline: Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

Some of them might suddenly change queues, taking their chances with an official that looks more lenient. Others may come down the escalator as a group, only to split up as soon as they enter the customs officials’ line of sight. Sometimes a sloppily done necktie or a pair of white sneakers under a black suit will give them away. Sometimes the question “what is your passport number?” will. If they proceed to rattle it off, they have fallen for it, Erwin Rasterhoff, a customs official at Schiphol airport explained. “Nobody knows their passport number by heart.”

It is a game of cat and mouse. Schiphol is the main battleground in the constant struggle between the Royal Marechaussee, the Dutch branch of the military responsible for protecting the nation’s borders, and the illegal immigrants, mostly Asian or African, trying to gain access to the European Union using fake passports. Last year, 600 would-be immigrants fell prey to the cat. How many mice got away is unknown. What is certain is: the rules of the game change constantly…

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

Egypt: Italian Experts for Training in Fayoum

(ANSAmed) — FAYOUM, February 1 — Minister of State for Family and Population Moushira Khattab said her ministry is taking all the necessary measures to curb illegal immigration by merging youth employment program, to be implemented by the ministry, with a campaign to raise awareness about the hazards of illegal immigration. Khattab added that the campaign will start with the establishment of a vocational and technical training school in Fayoum, under the supervision of Italian experts. Khattab’s remarks came during the inauguration of a workshop for youth’s executive leaderships here to discuss general aspects of citizenship, children role, and the ministry role in propagation of awareness and guidance about the population issue, MENA reported. School drop outs has proven to be a major cause of illegal immigration, Khattab said, pressing for providing necessary support to poor families to enroll their children in schools and to improve their economic conditions. Khattab hailed Egyptian-Italian cooperation in the various fields, especially in confronting illegal immigration. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Malta Threatens to Pull Out of EU’s Border Agency

Valletta, Malta — Malta will stop participating in the European Union’s border agency Frontex’s Mediterranean operations, unless proposals on where intercepted illegal immigrants should be held are changed, Justice Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said Monday. The European Council’s draft guidelines propose that migrants picked up at sea must be sent to the country hosting the Frontex mission, rather than the nearest port of call, as currently stipulated by international maritime laws.

The guidelines would allow one exception: in the event of people being ill or pregnant on board the rescued vessel, or if the boat is deemed to be unseaworthy, the migrants may be taken to the nearest port of call.

“We are not going to accept a situation where those rescued just off Lampedusa (Italy), for example, are going to be brought to Malta,” Mifsud Bonnici told the German Press Agency dpa.

The tiny Mediterranean island-state of Malta has provided a base for Frontex sea patrols since 2008.

Around 820 migrants were picked up during the Frontex operations south of Malta in 2009, with just over 700 of them being taken to the island.

Malta saw a drastic reduction in would-be illegal immigrants in 2009, but this is believed to be the result of the controversial push-back policy negotiated between Italy and Libya, which led to protests from humanitarian organisations.

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

Culture Wars

Pope Benedict XVI Attacks Labour’s Equality Push

The Pope has made an unprecedented attack on the human rights policies of Gordon Brown’s Government, claiming that they threaten religious freedom and urging Catholic bishops to fight back with “missionary zeal”.

Pope Benedict XVI said that new equality legislation was unjust and violated natural law.

He urged the 35 Catholic bishops from England and Wales, in Rome on a five-yearly “ad limina” visit, to make a united stand against the Equality Bill currently going through Parliament.

He claimed the proposed new laws threatened “long-standing British traditions” of freedom of speech.

In a speech in which he confirmed that he will be coming to Britain on a four-day visit in September, the Pope said: “Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet, as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.

“In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”

Church of England bishops were among those who successfully amended the Bill in the House of Lords last week. Under the draft proposals, the exemptions from equality law enjoyed by religious organisations would have been altered.

Churches feared they could face prosecution if they refused to go against their beliefs and employ gays and transsexuals and Catholics warned that they could be forced to admit women to the priesthood.

The Church of England and Catholic bishops of England and Wales will now join forces to fight any intervention by the European Commission to win back the ground lost by the Government.

It is highly unusual for a foreign head of state or church leader to intervene directly in the legislative process of a Protestant state, and the Pope was condemned by gay rights and secular campaigners who threatened protest marches and campaigns against the visit, which will begin in Scotland in mid-September.

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