Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/13/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/13/2010According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in the last few weeks there has been a massive exodus of refugees from the Somali capital Mogadishu in the wake of fighting between the al-Shabab Islamist group and the Somali “government”. Some refugees are being displaced internally, and others are fleeing to neighboring countries.

In other news, traffic wardens in Sweden are being told that they must be prepared to take abuse from the public as part of their job description.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, JD, KGS, Perla, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Collapse of the Euro is ‘Inevitable’: Bailing Out the Greek Economy Futile, Says French Banking Chief
Europe Could Use Its Own Tea Party
A Stone Age Diet
John Murtha: Requiem for a Corruptocrat
Snow in Washington Has Climate Alarmists Showing Ignorance of Climate Science
Col. Russell Williams Tied to Paul Bernardo
Europe and the EU
Iranian Demo in Clash With Swedish Police
Italy: PM Defends Ally Accused of Sexual Favours and Corruption
Italy: Airports: Verona, +5% Passengers in Last 2 Months of 2009
Sweden: Outrage at Court Ruling Against Traffic Wardens
Thousands Demonstrate in Oslo Prophet Cartoon
UK: Barclays Staff Swindled Rich Clients in £1m Fraud
UK: Curate Outrages Congregation by Telling Women to ‘Be Silent and Submit to Your Husbands’
Croatian Bishops Have 101 Romantic Ideas for Couples
Serbia: USAID Provides Help for 16 Society Organizations
North Africa
Not Guilty Plea in Egypt Copt Trial
Tunisia: Journalist Freed After Three Months in Prison
Israel and the Palestinians
Berlusconi’s Love to Israel is a Challenge Against Political Correctness
Middle East
AC Milan Signs £52m Emirates Deal
EP Calls on Turkey to Withdraw Troops From Cyprus
Israel is Accused of Waging Covert War Across the Middle East
Italy: Skyscrapers Inspire Gourmet Sandwiches
LGBT Organization Faces Closure in Turkey
Saudi Bank to Challenge Obama Admin on Patriot Act
Train Service Between Turkey and Iraq to Begin on Feb. 18
Turkey-EU: Talks Go Ahead, Need More Efforts on Human Rights
Turkey: Italian Lavazza Plans to Grow
Turkey: Kurds: Editor-in-Chief Sentenced to 21 Years in Jail
New Joint Venture in Russia for Fiat
U.S. Pondered Military Use in Georgia
South Asia
Bangladesh: The “Prophet Jesus” Arrested in Bangladesh: He Called for War Against Jews and Christians
Pakistan Agrees to Talk, Sort of
Polygamy on the Rise in Malaysia
Uzbekistan: Baptist Falsely Accused of Selling Drugs
Far East
China. Zen’s Horn and Bertone’s Bell
Sub-Saharan Africa
Thousands Flee Somalia Fighting, Says UN Refugee Agency
Berlusconi: Albanian Immigrants Must be Beautiful Girls
Egyptian’s Stabbing Sparks Migrant Clash in Milan
Illegal Immigration Adds Economic Burdens on Yemen
UK: With Legal Number Who Say They Are ‘White British’ In Decline
Amil Imani: The Anachronism of Apostasy
U.N. Jump-Starting Cash Collections for ‘Climate Change’
Unsuitable — Japanese Snowboarder Busted for Bad Fashion

Financial Crisis

Collapse of the Euro is ‘Inevitable’: Bailing Out the Greek Economy Futile, Says French Banking Chief

Strategists at Paris-based Société Générale said that any bailout of the stricken Greek economy would only provide ‘sticking plasters’ to cover the deep- seated flaws in the eurozone bloc.

The stark warning came as the euro slipped further on the currency markets and dire growth figures raised the prospect of a ‘double-dip’ recession in the embattled zone.

Claims that the euro could be headed for total collapse are particularly striking when they come from one of the oldest and largest banks in France — a core founder-member.

In a note to investors, SocGen strategist Albert Edwards said: ‘My own view is that there is little “help” that can be offered by the other eurozone nations other than temporary, confidence-giving “sticking plasters” before the ultimate denouement: the break-up of the eurozone.’

He added: ‘Any “help” given to Greece merely delays the inevitable break-up of the eurozone.’

The alarming claim came a day after European Union leaders promised ‘determined and co-ordinated’ action to shore up Greece’s tattered public finances, but disappointed traders by failing to provide specifics.

Further details are expected early next week, but markets were in high anxiety yesterday amid fears political divisions among rich eurozone members could derail any rescue.

The euro slid almost 1 per cent to $1.357 yesterday, meaning it has lost 10 per cent of its value since November. The pound rose to 1.14 euros.

Earlier this week Business Secretary Lord Mandelson’s claimed that the single currency had been a ‘remarkable success’ and that it remained in Britain’s interests to join.

David Cameron ridiculed that claim yesterday.

He told the Tories’ Scottish conference: ‘Are this Government the only people in the country who still think that would be a good idea? Our deficit and debt are bad enough without the straightjacket of the euro.

‘If I am elected for as long as I am prime minister the United Kingdom will never join the euro.’

The French bank’s warning was echoed by Mats Persson, Director of the Open Europe think-tank, which campaigns for reforms in Brussels.

He said: ‘The eurozone is facing a fully-fledged crisis. The Greece episode has made it painfully clear how flawed the euro project was from the very beginning.

‘Even if Greece receives a one-off bailout it would not solve the real problem, which is the huge differences in competitiveness between the eurozone’s richest and poorest members.

‘If these differences are to be evened out, the EU would need a single budget and common taxes so it can redistribute resources.

‘One thing is clear, Britain made the right choice in staying out.’

Mr Edwards argued that Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain are too economically weak to withstand the rigours of eurozone membership.

Countries that are highly uncompetitive are normally able to slash interest rates and devalue their currencies to prop up their economies.

But this is not possible within the euro, given its one-size-fits-all economic governance.

The implication is that weak, peripheral eurozone members will have to suffer years of painful deflation and tumbling living standards, as well as draconian budget cuts, in order to adjust.

Harvard University Professor Martin Feldstein, a long-standing sceptic on the euro, yesterday said the single currency ‘isn’t working’ because member governments have no incentive to keep their public debts under control.

‘There’s too much incentive for countries to run up big deficits as there’s no feedback until a crisis,’ he said.

Germany drags EU back towards recession

The eurozone faces the danger of a ‘doubledip’ recession after Germany’s economy retreated into stagnation.

Figures published yesterday revealed that the countries who have joined the euro collectively grew a mere 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year — equal to Britain’s own faltering performance.

Germany was the biggest drag, recording zero growth in the final three months of 2009 after emerging from recession earlier in the year.

Axel Weber, President of Germany’s Bundesbank, warned this week there is a chance his nation’s economy will contract in the first quarter of 2010, in part because of the severe winter, in a major blow to recovery hopes.

The figures from the European Commission are a blow to Britain’s embattled manufacturers, which count the eurozone as their biggest export market.

France provided a bright spot in the report, expanding by 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter-But Italy, Spain and Greece all registered contractions in their gross domestic product.

Economist Martin van Vliet of ING Bank said: ‘The paltry pace of fourth quarter growth makes crystal clear that the eurozone economy cannot yet stand on its own feet.

‘The disappointing eurozone growth data are a sobering reminder that recovery from financial crisis led recessions tends to be slow and protracted, and might not prove very supportive in calming markets’ fears about the region.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe Could Use Its Own Tea Party

At the risk of taking contrarianism to extremes, let me offer this suggestion: The global economy needs a “Tea Party” movement in Europe to lobby for fiscal conservatism there.


Europe is in many respects an economic never-never land. It has a central bank to run a coordinated monetary policy, and a single currency, but it has several dozen finance ministries pursuing separate fiscal policies, many of which can be summed up as: spend, spend, spend. In fiscal terms, “Europe” is often a riderless horse.

Investors accept such shaky situations right up to the moment that, for whatever mysterious reason, they panic and decide the situation is unsustainable. And that’s what has been happening over the past several weeks as the financial markets have been voicing a collective “eeek!” about the European debt and fiscal mess.

The focus of concern has been the debt of the so-called PIGS countries — Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, with some economists adding another “I” for Italy. But debt is only part of the problem. Debt levels as a percentage of gross domestic product were higher last year in booming India (85 percent) than in Portugal (76 percent), Ireland (61 percent) or Spain (57 percent). The larger problem is the lack of political will in the slower-growing European countries to challenge public spending and put fiscal policy on a sustainable path.

The best analysis I’ve seen of the problem of global fiscal imbalances comes from Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England. I may be biased (he taught me economics in graduate school) but I think King is the wisest central banker around. I would especially commend a speech he gave Jan. 19, which is available on the Bank of England Web site.

King captured the basic problem in a little game he called “Sudoku for Economists.” It’s a simple, nine-box diagram summarizing the interaction between “high-saving countries” (read: China and many other Asian nations) and “low-saving countries” (read: America and Europe). In King’s formulation, total demand (or GDP) is the sum of domestic demand and net trade. The sudoku numbers add up only if the high savers’ big surpluses match the low savers’ deficits — but as we’ve seen, this isn’t a sustainable mix. The imbalanced system came crashing down in 2008 and 2009.

Asian surpluses are “too high to last,” says King, but he cautions: “Sudoku for economists shows that it is essentially a political and not a technical problem,” in which the low-saving countries must “reduce their net borrowing from abroad” and stop playing “the role of consumer of last resort.” So how will this political adjustment take place? This brings us back to the Tea Party movement. The success of fiscal conservatives in recent political races in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts means that U.S. politicians must pay closer attention to debt and deficit issues to survive. President Obama seems to recognize the potency of this issue among mainstream voters, with his pledge for a commission to tackle the long-run problem of entitlement spending.

But I see no similar political pressure in Europe. European leaders, for the most part, are still trying desperately to avoid the political day of reckoning. Few Europeans, political or conservative, seem willing to give up their share of the entitlements package that is part of the modern social-democratic compact.

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


A Stone Age Diet

A modern-day Stone Age subculture is developing in the United States, where wannabe cavemen mimic their distant ancestors. They eat lots of meat, bathe in icy water and run around barefoot. Some researchers say people led healthier lives in pre-historic times.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

John Murtha: Requiem for a Corruptocrat

Sufficient time has passed since John Murtha’s death to reckon with his true record. No tears for the wreckage, poison, and damage to the public trust he left behind.

Latest news: There is a movement to install Murtha’s wife in the seat. Given the late congressman’s share-the-pork-with-friends-and-family proclivities, this is a very bad idea for those who want integrity in government in Pennsylvania.


First, foremost, and forever, Jack Murtha took care of Jack Murtha. The glowing encomiums from his liberal colleagues have glossed over the 19-term Democrat’s defining moment of political self-service. In 1980, Murtha was an unindicted co-conspirator in a massive bribery probe — in which undercover FBI agents videotaped Murtha entertaining a $50,000 bribe from agents posing as emissaries for Arab sheiks trying to enter our country illegally. From transcripts of those conversations published by the late newspaper columnist Jack Anderson, Murtha’s true colors shined:…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Snow in Washington Has Climate Alarmists Showing Ignorance of Climate Science

Stunning Illogic

“The Earth is warming, which is changing weather patterns and often causing localized weather volatility as opposed to localized warming. Extreme storms, droughts, intense rains, unusual amounts of snow or lack of snow are all signs of global warming. People know the weather is getting less predictable. They call it ‘weird weather’.”

This quote from Jonathan Rose, who is on the Natural Resources Defense Council, is utter scientific and factual rubbish. Consider his comment that, “People know the weather is getting less predictable.” No they don’t, however, they are confused because they know weather forecasts beyond 72 hours never were reliable yet they are told with certainty that the world will be warmer in 20, 50 or 100 years. It is people like Rose and other climate alarmists who present normal weather patterns as abnormal to deceive them.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Col. Russell Williams Tied to Paul Bernardo

Authorities looking into the accused killer Williams’ background discovered a possible connection to schoolgirl killer Paul Bernardo back in the 1980s.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Iranian Demo in Clash With Swedish Police

Two people have been arrested and two others were hurt on Thursday in clashes between anti-Tehran demonstrators and Swedish police outside the Iranian embassy in Stockholm.

Some 250 demonstrators hostile to Tehran’s regime gathered in front of the Iranian embassy in Stockholm to mark the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

About 30 of the protesters started throwing rocks and pieces of ice at the police, Stockholm police spokesman Ulf Lindgren said.

He said one policeman had been hit and a protester was hurt, while two other protesters were arrested for violence against police forces. Police dispersed the crowd.

The demonstration, which had a licence to continue to 4pm, ended prematurely at 3pm.

A witness told news agency TT that the clashes occurred when the demonstrators tried to force a way through a police line.

A police officer is reported to have been slightly injured after getting a piece of ice in her head, while one demonstrator suffered a broken arm.

According to the police, the demonstration gathered around 300 people. Further demonstrations occurred at Mynttorget, Medborgaplatsen and Sergels torg in central Stockholm.

Sweden has a large Iranian community, estimated at around 80,000 people, including around 57,000 born in Iran, most of whom are exiles from the Islamic regime.

In Tehran on Thursday, Iranian opposition leaders Mohammad Khatami and Mehdi Karroubi came under attack and their supporters clashed with police as vast crowds massed to mark the 1979 revolution.

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

Italy: PM Defends Ally Accused of Sexual Favours and Corruption

Rome, 12 Feb. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has defended a senior government official and key ally accused of sexual impropriety and corruption. Guido Bertolaso, head of the civil protection agency, is considered by many to be a national hero for heading rescue and recovery efforts after the devastating earthquake that struck the central region of Abruzzo last year.

Florence prosecutors claim to have telephone intercepts in which Bertolaso allegedly enjoyed “not only massages but sexual services” at the Salaria Sport Village, a health club in Rome.

Investigators have alleged that Diego Anemone, the Rome businessman arrested in relation to the alleged corruption of G8 construction contracts, also organised “ sex parties” for Bertolaso.

Berlusconi has defended the civil protection chief, claiming he was the victim of increasingly “barbaric behaviour” and a “poisoning of public life”.

“I spoke to Bertolaso, I know he had a bad back and was going to a physiotherapist, a woman half his age, and by the way he is also in hospital today for an operation on his spine.

“So all these claims are absolutely unconfirmed, untrue and unfounded,” Berlusconi said.

Berlusconi rejected Bertolaso’s resignation offer on Thursday after it was revealed he was under investigation for sexual favours and corruption. The probe relates to work to prepare the island of Maddalena to host last year’s G8 summit. Reports say 327 million euros was spent but the compound has yet to be completed.

In November 2008, during an intercepted telephone call to the health centre’s manager, Bertolaso (photo) allegedly said: “I just landed from the United States…if Francesca is available this afternoon…I would love to have a good going over.”

Berlusconi said the investigating prosecutors should be ashamed of themselves and there was no reason for Bertolaso to accept demands to resign.

Meanwhile, the head of the opposition Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani, demanded Bertolaso respond to the allegations.

“Bertolaso has not been sentenced,” he said. “It is a question of his sensitivity. He has personal power that no-one else has. He must respond to this.”

The small opposition party the Italy of Values party said that Berlusconi and Bertolaso are at the apex of a system that manages an enormous amount of public money without any controls.

Angelo Balducci, who heads a government public works committee, Anemone and two others were arrested in relation to questionable contracts awarded on the island of Maddalena, near Sardinia, before the G8 was moved to L’Aquila.

“I immediately offered my resignation to the prime minister’s office,” Bertolaso said in a statement on Wednesday. “ I consider myself as a servant of the state and as always I remain at the service of my country.”

The G8 meeting was to have been held there last July and was transferred to the quake stricken city of L’Aquila less than three months before it began.

Bertolaso was lauded for his coordination of emergency services after the devastating earthquake that struck the central region of Abruzzo last April, but recently provoked an international outcry led by the US when he criticised aid efforts after the earthquake in Haiti.

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

Italy: Airports: Verona, +5% Passengers in Last 2 Months of 2009

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — Every year more than 3 million passengers choose the Verona airport as the arrival or departure point of their work or pleasure trips. In the last two months of 2009 this translated into a 5% increase in the number of passengers. The airport is Italy’s second largest in terms of charter traffic, which sees flights by Air France, Alitalia, Lufthansa, Meridiana, Wind Jet, Air Malta, Carpatair, Vueling, Transavia and Germanwings, in addition to Air Dolomiti and Air Italy, which made Verona their airport of reference. The development plan for the next four years provides 78 million euros for infrastructural investments in order to deal with an expected 7% increase in traffic up to 2014. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Outrage at Court Ruling Against Traffic Wardens

A court in Malmö in southern Sweden has ruled that traffic wardens must be prepared to take abuse as part of their daily work.

“It’s simply part of their job description that they can make people indignant,” district court judge, Ann-Louise Roos, told news agency TT.

The statement has sparked outrage from the traffic wardens’ trade union and from crime prevention organizations.

Solveig Bellgran, a traffic warden in Stockholm said the ruling could be taken as a green light for further attacks.

“It’s awful, you get shivers down your spine. It’s as if now it’s a free for all for the general public to come up to me, spit in my face, hit me, or throttle me,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Thousands Demonstrate in Oslo Prophet Cartoon

About 3,000 people protested in Oslo on Friday over the printing of a caricature of the Prophet Mohammad as a pig by a Norwegian newspaper.

Demonstrators held up signs reading “We are Muslims, not terrorists” and “Stop denigrating Muslims.

The Dagbladet tabloid printed on Feb. 3 a cartoon drawing of Prophet Mohammed portrayed as a pig, his feet on the Koran.

The drawing was to illustrate an article about the Facebook page of the Norwegian police security service (PST) that contains a link to the cartoon, judged offensive by many Muslims.

The link was posted on the Facebook page by a user but removed, along with other comments deemed offensive, as soon as the police service became aware of it.

Norwegian media reported that Dagbladet had been manipulated by a man named Arfan Bhatti, whom police say is known to have shot at an Oslo synagogue in 2006.

Bhatti allegedly informed Dagbladet of the link on PST’s Facebook page and then called for a protest when the newspaper ran the story with the illustration in question.

Norway’s main Muslim associations had told their members not to take part in the protest.

“According to our estimates, there were up to 3,000 protesters. Everything went well. The crowd dispersed and nothing indicates there will be trouble,” police spokeswoman Kari Huseby said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: Barclays Staff Swindled Rich Clients in £1m Fraud

A group of bank workers fleeced wealthy account holders in a £1 million con in Chelsea.

Cashiers Mohammed Iqbal and Tommy Jackman and customer coordinator Chikezie Emeruem swindled customers at the Sloane Square branch of Barclays.

They used security clearances to access the bank’s database and set up huge cash transfers. Businessman Naresh Patwari laundered the cash or wired it abroad. More than £348,000 was siphoned from customer accounts and unsuccessful attempts were made to transfer another £633,000.

But the crooks were exposed by electronic records that showed them repeatedly accessing the database.

Iqbal, 30, Emeruem, 33, and Patwari, 50, face jail after a jury at Southwark crown court convicted them of a variety of charges.

Prosecutor James Dawes said the gang would first look into accounts to see what was in them.

“When they discovered a bank account that was full of money, they got all the details because you can look it up on the computer. The employees of Barclays would then pass on that information to someone who was able to create a false identity document.”

A gang member would use the false papers to set up an apparently legal automated payment at a branch in a different part of the country.

Iqbal, Jackman, and Emeruem then used the bank’s database to switch real customers’ phone numbers with their own, in case the bank called up to confirm the transactions.

Mr Dawes said: “The bank might ring [a genuine customer] to say, Are you sure you want to make a transfer of £150,000?’ If you change the telephone number, they will ring up the thief.’“

Jackman and Iqbal worked at Barclays in Sloane Square and Emeruem was employed at the Bradford city centre branch. The fraud took place between August and November 2007 and all the accounts targeted were in London.

Emeruem, of Leeds, was convicted of theft, attempted theft and fraud by abuse of position. Iqbal, of Stanmore, was convicted of the same charges plus conspiracy to steal. Jackman, 24, of Enfield, was convicted of fraud by abuse of position and the jury is still deliberating on other charges. Patwari, of New Malden, was convicted of acquiring criminal property. Karl Hession, 29, of Stoke, denies a similar charge.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Curate Outrages Congregation by Telling Women to ‘Be Silent and Submit to Your Husbands’

With Valentine’s Day approaching, parishioners might have expected a more heartwarming message. Instead, they got a sermon urging women to ‘submit’ to their husbands.

The apparent lack of obedience of ‘modern women’ was blamed for the high divorce rate. In a sermon entitled ‘Marriage and women’ last Sunday, curate Mark Oden, told the congregation at St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks, Kent: ‘We know marriage is not working.

‘We only need to look at figures — one in four children have divorced parents. Wives, submit to your own husbands.’

It is understood some women parishioners — and even their husbands — have vowed never to attend the church again.

Its vicar is Angus MacLeay, 50, a married father of two who is a leading member of the evangelical group Reform, which is opposed to the appointment of women clergy.

The group has produced a leaflet, called ‘The role of women in the local church’, which uses Biblical quotes to urge them to ‘remain silent’ and telling them ‘wives are to submit to their husbands in everything’.

One woman churchgoer said she was ‘disgusted’ by the sermon, adding: ‘How can they talk that way in the 21st Century?’

Another, who also did not want to be named, said: ‘We’re supposed to let our husbands talk for us and remain silent? What kind of medieval sermon is that?’

Mr Oden a married father of three, is reported to have said: ‘I am passionate about helping people to have healthy marriages. I did not set out to unnecessarily offend people, but I stand by what God has said in his word, the Bible.’

Mr MacLeay, a Scotsman who sometimes wears a kilt to church, said: ‘There are times when the Bible challenges modern society. It recognises that women are fully equal to men, but it also recognises that in certain areas of life they may have different roles.

‘Of course, in marriage, our main concern, it is the responsibility of husbands to show consideration and love for their wives.’

On its website, St Nicholas Church describes itself as a church where ‘we believe that the Bible is the supreme and final authority in all matters of faith.’

Reform believes that leaders of a church should be men and say the leaflet was produced to explain this view. Sources in the group said the leaflet had been misinterpreted.

The source added: ‘People misunderstand the word “submit”. In this context it means saying how can I be most beneficial in this relationship as a helper. To submit does not make you an inferior being.’

A woman of 24 who was at the sermon said: ‘Isn’t it a vicar’s job not to tell you what everyone wants to hear and what society says, but to help explain the Bible says about issues?’

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]


Croatian Bishops Have 101 Romantic Ideas for Couples

The Croatian Conference of Bishops (HBK) has issued 101 romantic ideas for married couples on the occasion of World Day of Marriage on 14 February in a “love publication.”

HBK has shared its romantic ideas, such as ordering pizza in the shape of a heart or writing “I love you” on the bathroom mirror, as ways of showing love. They suggest couples recite one of Shakespeare’s love poems or rent a sports car for a weekend.

The “love publication” is a translation of American writer Michael Webb’s book about romance.

HBK said it hoped each couple would find something for themselves among their suggestions.

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

Serbia: USAID Provides Help for 16 Society Organizations

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 11 — The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Institute for Sustainable Community (ISC) signed agreements on donations amounting to USD636,000 for 16 civil society organizations in Serbia, reports Tanjug news agency. The donations were also granted to the Center for Democracy, the Social Research Bureau, the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, the ecological society Helix and the Incest Trauma Center. The 16 civil society organizations filed top-quality draft projects that address citizens’ problems within the competition that the ISC opened late in August 2009, chief of ISC office in Serbia Albert Cevallos said. “There were three thematic categories within the competition, and those are responsibility and transparency of the state organs, promotion of social-economic rights of citizens and improvement of the environment protection sector,” Cevallos pointed out. Director of the USAID Mission to Serbia Michael Harvey underscored that these organizations were chosen primarily because they have demonstrated willingness and ability to work on introducing changes in the society.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Not Guilty Plea in Egypt Copt Trial

Three Egyptian Muslims accused of shooting six Coptic Christians and a security guard have pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial in southern Egypt.

The suspects are accused of carrying out an attack on worshippers emerging from a church on the eve of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas on January 6 in the southern village of Nagaa Hammadi.

Mohammed al-Kammuni, Qorshi Abul Haggag and Hendawi Sayyed pleaded “not guilty” as the judge read out the charges against them at Saturday’s hearing in an emergency security court in the city of Qena, capital of the Qena governorate where Nagaa Hammadi is located.

The suspects, who were arrested after the attack, were charged with “premeditated murder, putting the life of citizens in danger and damage to public and private property,” a judicial source said.

Government message

Al Jazeera’s Amr El-Kahky, reporting from the Egyptian city of Luxor, said the court later announced it had adjourned until March 20 to allow defence lawyers time to read through case documents and come up with their requests.

“The accused have insisted that they have done nothing wrong and that they did not do that drive-by shooting. If that’s right, that will arouse questions on who is behind the attack on Egypt’s Christian minority here,” he said.

“The judge that is overseeing this trial is one [who] belongs to a specially designed court that is designed to look into sectarianism.

“By so doing, the government is trying to send a message that it is not complacent and it is not collaborating with the perpetrators of this violent attack on the Egyptian Christian minority.”

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

Tunisia: Journalist Freed After Three Months in Prison

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 12 — Journalist Zouhaier Makhlouf, of the website Assabilonline, has today been released from prison after 116 days ahead of the completion of his sentence, a report by Reporters sans Frontieres (Rsf) says. Makhlouf was arrested on October 20 after the publication of a report on environmental conditions in the Nabeul industrial zone (south of Tunis), following a complaint by a worker that his picture had been published without his authorisation. Sentenced to three months on December first, he was due to be free on January 18, but remained behind bars until February 10 when a court sentenced him to a further month in prison for damages via a telecommunication network and a fine of 6000 dinars (around 3,100 euros). Makhlouf is on conditional release. “We are glad that this legal farce has come to an end, “ he told Rsf — “in a tale where Tunisian justice has stood out for its lack of respect for its own criminal code”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Berlusconi’s Love to Israel is a Challenge Against Political Correctness

Il Giornale, February 4, 2010

“But why don’t you remain with us, what do you have to do in Italy” exclaimed the anchorman of the State TV Channel news program in talking about Berlusconi. “After three days with him, I must say: he is an irresistible charmeur” chimed the journalist of the second channel. Indeed Shimon Peres defined him shimshì, sunny, in his speech delivered during the official reception. He also simply and directly said to the Italian leader that “the press chits chats but voters choose”. “You warmed our hearts” smiled Peres during the farewell lunch on the last day of Berlusconi’s visit. And he was not referring to the undoubted popularity the Italian Prime Minister gained, nor to the joke he told. But he referred specifically to the substantial and courageous positions that Berlusconi took on all the occasions in which he expressed his opinion. And in particular, during his speech to the Knesset. Berlusconi had a different approach with respect to all other European leaders. He did not try to teach anything to anyone. But he offered his appreciation and mediation to a country that — as he said — “we must thank for its very existence”. He did not leave the title “best friend of Israel” to remain a rhetorical exercise and the moving story of his mother Rosa who saved a Jewish woman as part of Bibi Netanyahu’s welcome speech: on a day in which the enemies turned up with every possible means, with war threats from Syria and large bombs launched in the sea probably by Hamas to blast shores and Israeli ships and to cause a massacre.

He gave Israel different reasons to hope to be understood and to be supported in its search for peace, without having all the responsibility on its shoulders and, in addition, the reproach often coming from European Leaders. Berlusconi opened an important road. He set an innovative example for Europe. In fact, while he praised Netanyahu for having adopted the “two states for two people” position, he chose to repeat the sentence “full recognition of Israel”, four times and referred to it with affection for what it is “the Jewish State”. This does not leave room for ambiguity used by many European leaders to leave the true final solution open, with many Palestinians who dream of a future in which population growth or clashes will wipe out Israel.

Berlusconi stated it clearly: a Palestinian State near a Jewish State, i.e. where the Nation lives and not only the Jewish religion. And, in fact, religious people account for 15% of the population in Israel. The recognition of Israel as a Jewish State was mentioned in Netanyahu’s speech in Bar Ilan on the “two States” as a condition to arrive at decisive territorial concessions. And so far no Arab leader has ever used this expression. Berlusconi adopted a clear pedagogical approach to the issue of Palestinians and Arab states and promised to help with any initiative to improve the life of Palestinians.

Another fundamental theme on which Berlusconi was determined and concrete was Iran. Berlusconi linked Italy’s commitment against Iran’s atomic program to Ahmadinejad’s genocide agenda. He did not hesitate to show sympathy for Israel’s major concern for its fate. Indeed he ascribed it to Iran’s negationism. And he talked about it with horror. He concretely mentioned what practical measures to take; very harsh sanctions, the progressive restriction of business with Iran — that already diminished by one third — and a plan to put the powerful and terrible armed Revolutionary Guards corps in the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.

The Israeli public opinion attaches great importance to Italy’s track record, with its brave stance against the most terrible moments when Israel was the victim of ideological and truly defamatory attacks. Berlusconi highlighted Italy’s most important support initiatives: Israel’s Day when Israel was beset by horrific terrorist attacks; the decision to say “no” to participate in the Durban 2 conference considered to be “unacceptable” because of its slanders against Israel and again another “no” to Goldstone’s report that, de facto, prevents Israel from exercising its right to self-defense. This was a very important and innovative approach. No country had ever helped Israel to feel a normal country vis-à-vis the public opinion and with a true common sense that is necessary to defend oneself against annihilation. Israel is obsessed with the steady flow of slanders and senseless accusations of perpetrating apartheid, racism, extermination of civilians and children. It is an international sport to delegitimize it and Europe is somewhat involved. It will suffice to read the Swedish paper Aftonbladet, which stated that Israeli soldiers tore organs from Palestinians to sell them: in the name of the protection of the right to opinion, Sweden did not speak one single word. Berlusconi swept away the antisemitic cliche’s that are generally ignored for political interests and for pleasing the UN automatic majorities. In fact, Berlusconi rejected the politically correct approach that requires to have the cake and eat it, that always wants to stab and charge Israel with all the responsibilities while Palestinians are discharged. He promised a Marshall plan for them and asked them to give up violence and to sit again at the negotiating table.

Moreover, he insisted in proposing one of his dreams that may at last give Israel its natural and cultural domain. The domain of democracies derived from the Jewish and Christian civilizations: the European Community. Berlusconi thinks that Israel deserves it. The issue is whether Europe deserves it. But Berlusconi did not say that.

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

Middle East

AC Milan Signs £52m Emirates Deal

The Dubai-owned airline Emirates has announced a 60m-euro (£52m, $82m) sponsorship deal with AC Milan.

The four-year deal, due to begin in July, will see Emirates become Serie A team AC Milan’s shirt sponsor in place of the Austrian betting company BWin.

Emirates already sponsors several football teams including Paris Saint Germain, Hamburg and Arsenal.

The airline has a pre-existing sponsorship deal with AC Milan that does not include shirt sponsorship.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, AC Milan’s vice president Adriano Galliani said the £52m deal could eventually be worth even more to the club if results on the field go its way.

Milan also has a sponsorship deal with German sports kit maker Adidas until June 2017.

The deal is the latest investment in football by the airline, which is state-owned.

Its sponsorship agreement with Arsenal in 2004 was the biggest in English football history — worth in excess of £100m to the London club.

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

EP Calls on Turkey to Withdraw Troops From Cyprus

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 10 — European lawmakers endorsed today a resolution that called on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Cyprus, as Anatolia news agency reports. The resolution, penned by Dutch parliamentarian Ria Oomen-Ruijten on Turkey’s progress report 2009, was approved by a large majority of the members of the European Parliament. The MEPs urged Turkey “to begin prompt withdrawal of troops from Cyprus, and resolve the issue of Turkish citizens settled in the island as well as allow Greek Cypriot access to Maras.” Turkey sent its troops to Cyprus in 1974 following a decade of attacks on Turkish Cypriots by Greek Cypriot groups favoring unification with Greece and eventually a Greek-inspired coup on the island. Turkey now has more than 30,000 troops deployed on the Turkish part of the island. Lawmakers appealed to all sides of the Cyprus dispute to “actively contribute” to ongoing negotiations aimed at reunifying the divided Mediterranean island. The resolution expressed concern over a alleged criminal network in Turkey that came to be known as Ergenekon, and a suspected plot to overthrow the government, popularly dubbed as “the Sledgehammer.” The cases “offer an opportunity to boost confidence in the functioning of democratic institutions and in the rule of law,” the resolution said. The resolution called on the Turkish government to resume work for a new constitution that would strengthen human rights and basic freedoms in the country. Lawmakers expressed “sadness” over the closure of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), urging the country to align its laws on closing down political parties with the European Convention of Human Rights and the criteria set by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. The resolution called for the reform of Turkey’s judicial system, which it said was “of crucial importance for the country’s modernization process.” Also, the resolution expressed “great sadness” over the rejection by Turkey’s Constitutional Court of an amendment that cleared the way for trial of military personnel at civil courts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel is Accused of Waging Covert War Across the Middle East

Israel is waging a covert assassination campaign across the Middle East in an effort to stop its key enemies co-ordinating their activities.

Israeli agents have been targeting meetings between members of Hamas and the leadership of the militant Hezbollah group, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

They are also suspected of recent killings in Dubai, Damascus and Beirut. While Israel’s Mossad spy agency has been suspected of staging assassinations across the world since the 1970s, it does not officially acknowledge or admit its activities.

The current spate of killings began in December when a “tourist bus” carrying Iranian officials and Hamas members exploded outside Damascus. The official report by Syria claimed that a tyre had exploded but photographs surfaced showing the charred remains of the vehicle — prompting speculation that a much larger explosion had taken place.

Several weeks later a meeting between members of Hamas, which controls Gaza, and their counterparts from Hezbollah in its southern Beirut stronghold in Lebanon was also attacked, resulting in several deaths.

Hamas had sought to cover up the incidents because it was embarrassed, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told The Times.

“There has been growing co-operation between Gaza and Iran. Israel can read the writing on the wall and they know that with the help of Iran, the Hamas Government in Gaza will become stronger and will fight better.


While some countries are questioning whether Israel isn’t taking credit to increase the reputation of its defence establishment, other moderate Arab States are now describing the assassinations as a “covert war” between Israel and Hamas.

Diplomats said they were aware that covert Israeli operations had increased. “We watch their comings and goings; we are aware that there is more activity both on our ground and other countries in the region,” said an Egyptian diplomat. “They are trying to embroil us all in their conflict.”

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

Italy: Skyscrapers Inspire Gourmet Sandwiches

Famous Italian chef in homage to Milan building project

(ANSA) — Milan, February 9 — A cutting-edge new skyscraper complex going up in Milan is the latest culinary inspiration for one of Italy’s most famous chefs, who said Tuesday he was concocting a trio of gourmet sandwiches in their image.

“I already have them in here,” said Gualtiero Marchesi pointing to his head.

Still a titan of Italian haute-cuisine at the age of 79, Marchesi said he wasn’t giving away the ingredients to the three sandwiches yet, but that there would be no mistaking his inspiration once diners saw them.

The chef’s model are the tree skyscrapers composing the Milan CityLife complex, an ultramodern development that has raised eyebrows in the sophisticated northern Italian city since construction began in 2007.

Built to face each other across an open park space with ponds and canals evocative of the Lombardy’s lake region, the towers distinctive design have earned them the nicknames Il Dritto (the straight one), Il Curvo (the curved one) and Il Storto (the crooked one) among local residents.

The project for the complex was drawn up by a group of celebrity architects including Daniel Libeskind, who won the masterplan competition for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York.

Another big name who lent her hand to the project was Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid who also designed Rome’s new 21st Century Art Museum.

Though the CityLife project has earned the scorn by conservationists who say the deconstructionist glass and steel design clashes with its older surroundings, Marchesi, a long-time resident said they deserved a sandwich homage.

The announcement of a new Marchesi sandwich stirred enthusiasm among Italian-food purists, who hoped it might serve as a gourmet answer to McDonald’s new burger, the McItaly.

Though the fast-food conglomerate guarantees the McItaly is made with 100% Italian ingredients, five with European Union quality certificates, food critics have derided it as an affront to Italy’s culinary tradition.

Marchesi admitted that he hadn’t tried the new hamburger, but said that it sounded like a “pretty good idea”.

“If it really is an all-Italian sandwich, that’s a big step forward,” he said.

Marchesi was the first Italian chief to be awarded the Michelin Guide’s top three stars, in 1985. He is considered by many to be the pioneer of modern Italian cuisine.

He was born in 1930, the son of parents who ran the Albergo del Mercato restaurant and hotel in Milan.

After building up his reputation at his family’s establishment and studying cuisine in Switzerland, Marchesi went to France, working in restaurants in Paris, Dijon and Roanne.

He later returned to Milan and opened another hotel and restaurant with his parents which he ran until 1977.

Marchesi later opened his first restaurant in the city and earned his first Michelin star within a year.

He picked up his second star the following year but it then took him four years before he earned Michelin’s maximum three stars.

In 1993 he opened a new restaurant in Franciacorta, an area between Milan and Brescia where he further developed his cuisine, a mix between traditional and modern, the Ristorante di Erbusco.

Five years later he opened a restaurant under his own name in Milan which also became a cooking academy.

In 2001 he opened a restaurant in Paris and the same year he took over Rome’s oldest public eating establishment, the Osteria dell’Orso, which has been operating since the 1400s.

Photo: The CityLife Design

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

LGBT Organization Faces Closure in Turkey

Black Pink Triangle, LGBT organization from Izmir, is facing closure case on the grounds that it threatens “Turkish moral values and family structure.” Following the complain by Izmir Governor’s Office first hearing took place on February 6. It is yet another LGBT organization in the last years exposed to judicial harassment from state’s authorities

Another Turkish LGBT association, Siyah Pembe Üçgen (Black Pink Triangle), is facing closure due to a court case opened Feb. 9.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization was brought to court through a complaint from the governor’s office claiming that the association’s aims and purposes violated “Turkish moral values and family structure.”

Amnesty International called on Turkish authorities to end the judicial harassment of LGBT organizations in Turkey. Black Pink Triangle is collecting signatures under a legal petition against the court case.

The case against the Black Pink Triangle Association is not the first case opened against an LGBT organization in Turkey in recent years. The Interior Ministry has repeatedly attempted the closure of such organizations on similar claims. In 2005, KAOS-GL and in 2006, Pembe Hayat (Pink Life) faced closure cases. In 2009, Lambda Istanbul won its closure case after a lengthy legal battle.

“Amnesty International opposes the closure case against Black Pink Triangle, which highlights the pattern of judicial harassment targeting LGBT organizations. The closure of Black Pink Triangle on such grounds would violate the rights of all persons of freedom of association, expression and non-discrimination and runs contrary to Turkey’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights,” read AI’s official statement released Jan. 28.

Black Pink Triangle is the first Izmir-based LGBT organization and was established in February 2009. Following the founding of the organization, the governor’s office complained that one of the articles in the Black Pink Triangle’s constitution was violating the Turkish civil code, in particular, paragraphs protecting Turkish moral values and family structure. The office also demanded the organization amend the questioned article and submit full documentation of the change within 30 days. Black Pink Triangle claims it met the deadline, however, did not alter the constitution, regarding such demand to be a violation of the members’ freedom of association. Following that incident, the Izmir Governor’s Office brought the complaint to the prosecutor’s office in May.

If the court upholds the complaint it would lead to the closure of the Black Pink Triangle Association. Such ruling would be a violation of “individual rights to freedom of association, expression and non-discrimination,” read AI’s statement.

In the Lambda case the Istanbul Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that there are no legal provisions to close an association on the grounds of morality, stating that: “no clause exists in our laws that prohibits lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual persons from assembly to form an association with aims of solidarity. As a result, it cannot be said that [these associations’] aims and purposes are unlawful or immoral.”

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

Saudi Bank to Challenge Obama Admin on Patriot Act

The Blog of Legal Times has reported that Al Rajhi Bank (a big-time Islamic bank known for its ties to terrorism) is challenging the U.S. Patriot Act in federal court and asking for a subpoena for the bank’s records to be quashed. From BLT by Jordan Weissmann on Jan. 20:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Train Service Between Turkey and Iraq to Begin on Feb. 18

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 11 — Train service between Turkey and Iraq will be launched on February 18, as Anatolia news agency reports. Turkish Railways (TCDD) and Iraqi Railways (IRR) officials — who got together in Ankara on January 14 and 15 — agreed to launch train service between Gaziantep and Mosul, in line with an agreement dated October 15, 2009. The first train will take off on February 16 from Mosul to Gaziantep and the second will be from Gaziantep to Mosul on February 18. There will be scheduled train trips from Mosul every Tuesday at 12:00 p.m., and from Gaziantep every Thursday at 9:00 p.m. The service fare for the 18 hour ride will be between 25-35 euros.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey-EU: Talks Go Ahead, Need More Efforts on Human Rights

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 10 — The European Union is moving the negotiation process for Turkey’s membership forward, but at the same time it has asked Ankara to make progress in the field of reforms and human rights. This is the message that has arrived today from the rotating presidency of the EU and from the Commission, on the occasion of a debate at the Assembly in Strasbourg. As regards Turkey, “the negotiations are proceeding at a suitable speed,” stated the Spanish secretary of state for Foreign Affairs, Diego Lopez Garrido, for the rotating presidency of the EU, “and we hope to start new chapters under the Spanish presidency. The speed depends on the speed of reforms and whether the decisions by the Council are taken unanimously. Turkey must make greater efforts in the field of human rights.” “We realise that it will not be an easy path to run, neither for the Turks nor for us Europeans,” explained the new commissioner appointed to Enlargement, Czech Stefan Fule, but I know that the government in Ankara is pointing towards a democratic opening.” Despite the great progress however, according to Fule, “it is still necessary to safeguard the activists for the rights of man faced with persecutions or arrests.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Italian Lavazza Plans to Grow

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 11 — Italy’s Lavazza, a global coffee maker and retailer that has offered services in Turkey at three branches in Istanbul and Antalya since 2007, has decided to expand, daily Hurriyet reports today. The company plans to widen its service network under the distributorship of Best Ithalat Ihracat Pazarlama, an import/export and marketing firm in Istanbul. It aims to open 30 branches throughout the country. “Lavazza offered a recommendation for growth,” said Sertac Akyuzol, an executive board member at Lavazza Turkey. “They realized that Turkey will be the right investment location as the coffee market will grow more in Turkey. We plan to increase our turnover, which was 15 million Turkish Liras (7.20 million euro) at the end of 2009, to 25 million liras (12 million euro).” “We will add more branches to our Best Coffee Shop chain in large cities, especially in Istanbul, in 2010,” Akyuzol said. “We plan to enter Ankara, Izmir and Bursa also. We are opening the Best Coffee Shop stores for a franchise price of 110,000 euros. Our new shop investments will be worth 3.5 million euros.” Noting that the overall market totals 300 tons, Akyuzol said: “We sold a total of 100 tons of coffee in 2009 and wére aiming at 150 tons in 2010. I believe that we will be able to attain this sales target with our growing coffee chain and dealers in 2010.” “A roughly 10% decline was experienced in production due to the economic crisis,” he added. “However, we grew by 8% in 2009 and totaled 15 million liras in turnover, which we aim to increase to 25 million liras in the upcoming year.” Lavazza Coffee has opened training centers because it places importance on education, Akyuzol said, adding that it has been offering certified training to both its customers and workers in the coffee sector. The company provides employment for more than 400 people. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Kurds: Editor-in-Chief Sentenced to 21 Years in Jail

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 11 — A court in Diyarbakir, the main city in southeast Turkey of Kurdish majority, sentenced the editor-in-chief of a Kurdish newspaper to 21 years in prison for having published “propaganda of Kurdish rebels,” reported news agency Anadolu today. The man, Ozan Kilinc, the editor-in-chief of Azadiya Welat, was convicted of spreading “terrorist propaganda” through the newspaper on behalf of separatists of the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK), which for almost 30 years have been fighting to create an independent Kurdish country in its territory in Turkey. The armed fight of the PKK, considered a terrorist group not only by Ankara, but also by the U.S. and the EU, has led to about 40,000 victims until today. This is not the first time that Azadiya Welat has been involved in a similar case in the region. In the last three years, six editors have been replaced because they have been imprisoned or forced to move abroad in order to avoid going to jail. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


New Joint Venture in Russia for Fiat

CEO calls accord a ‘turning point’

(ANSA) — Moscow, February 11 — Fiat on Thursday signed an accord to create a new joint venture with Sollers, a holding company which controls carmaker Severstal, that will make the Italian group the second biggest foreign player on the Russian automobile market after Renault of France.

Fiat’s chief executive officer, Sergio Marchionne, said the 2.4-billion-euro venture marked “a turning point for Fiat’s presence on the Russian market as well as that of Chrysler,” the US automaker which Fiat acquired control of last year.

“This new partnership is part of Fiat’s and Chrysler’s strategy to bolster their positions abroad and will allow us to gain value from our know-how, expand geographically, increase our line of products and reduce costs, all at the same time,” Marchionne explained.

Sollers CEO Vadim Shvetsov agreed and added “the creation of a joint venture of this size is a reflection of the confidence we have in the Russian automobile market”. The new joint venture, which sees Fiat and Sollers as equal partners, is valued at 2.4 billion euros and is aimed at boosting production at Sollers’ Naberezhnye Chelny plant, in Tatarstan, to 500,000 vehicles a year, by 2016, from its current 75,000, with no less than 10% intended for export.

More than 50% of the vehicle parts, excluding the engine and transmission, will be made in Russia The accord calls for the joint production Fiat’s Linea model and the setting up of a specialised division to develop and produce another nine models in various classes, also for sale under the Chrysler marque.

“By creating a specialised division to develop and produce vehicles for Fiat and Chrysler, we will be able to offer our customers contemporary products in diverse segments in order to become leaders on the Russian market, which is set to expand in the coming years,” Shvetsov said.

Evidence of the importance of the new accord was the presence at the accord signing ceremony of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The 2.4 million euros for the joint venture will be provided by the Russian state bank VEB.

The Italian group and Sollers have been partners since 2005 and the Naberezhnye Chelny plant already produces Fiat’s Albea and Doblo’ models, while Fiat’s Ducato van is produced at another Sollers’ plant. When he was in Russia last October for the signing of a joint venture between Fiat’s farm and earth-moving division Case New Holland (CNH) and Kamaz, Russia’s biggest producer of heavy vehicles, Marchionne told Putin he hoped Fiat in the future could produce Jeeps in Russia.

The Jeep marque is part of the Chrysler group.

Sollers and Fiat also have a joint ventures to produce diesel engine for the Ducato and the the Russian UAZ Patriot SUV. The Linea is a small family car while the Alea is a low-cost sedan and both belong to the ‘world car’ range which Fiat produces for foreign markets. The Doblo’ is a light commercial van which is also available in Italy, as is the larger Ducato van.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


U.S. Pondered Military Use in Georgia

President George W. Bush and his senior aides considered — and rejected — a military response to Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, according to a new history of the conflict and interviews with former officials in the Bush administration.

With desperate Georgians begging for American help in closing down the key route through which Russian soldiers were pouring into the country, Bush’s national security aides outlined possible responses, including “the bombardment and sealing of the Roki Tunnel” and other “surgical strikes,” according to a new history of the conflict and independent interviews with former senior officials.


U.S. intelligence resources, Asmus reports, had largely been shifted away from the Caucasus, and despite rumblings from Russia, the U.S. was taken by surprise by the timing of what began, in Asmus’s telling, as a series of Russian provocations and escalated when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili took the proffered bait, engaging separatist forces and then Russian soldiers who were nominally there as “peacekeepers.”

That triggered a massive Russian response, one that Georgians were essentially unable to resist once soldiers began pouring through the tunnel, the easiest pass through the Caucasus mountains.

Senior American aides involved in discussions at the time recall a frantic atmosphere in which — despite pleas from Saakashvili and other top Georgian officials, who seemed at times to expect American military aid, though there’s no evidence they were promised it — the limits of U.S. action became clear.

“As we played out these strands and talked about it, we had to be prepared for direct confrontation with Russian military forces — and was that something we were prepared to recommend to the president?” recalled Damon Wilson, the former senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council. “We came to the right decision, but it was an emotionally difficult decision.”

Joe Wood, the deputy assistant for national security affairs to the hawkish Cheney, was in Georgia shortly before the war broke out, but in the end he didn’t advocate bombing the tunnel. He said he’s still unsure “whether or not it should have been more seriously considered.

“We will know the answer to that question in 10 to 20 years,” he said. “If Russia continues to assert itself either militarily or through other coercive means to claim a sphere of influence, we will look back at this as a time that they were able to change boundaries in Europe without much reaction,” he said. “And then we’ll say we should have considered harder options.”

“If not, then not using military action in this case will probably turn out to have been good judgment,” he said.


As it was, the Russians seized control of much of the country and seemed poised to drive on to the capital, Tbilisi. A turning point, in Asmus’s telling, came when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Aug. 10 that Saakashvili “had to go.”

By Rice’s account, Asmus reports, she told Lavrov that such a demand was “completely unacceptable” and brushed off his protest that it was a “confidential conversation.”

“The Secretary of State of the United States and the Foreign Minister of Russia do not have a confidential conversation about the overthrow of a democratically elected government. I am about to get on the phone and tell everyone I can possibly find that Russia’s war aim is the overthrow of the Georgian government,” Asmus quotes her as saying.

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

South Asia

Bangladesh: The “Prophet Jesus” Arrested in Bangladesh: He Called for War Against Jews and Christians

For the past two years the Islamic cleric has claimed to be Jesus, while another declares to be an important Islamic leader of the past. The two work together and have raised thousands of faithful. But police say that, in fact, they preach religious hatred, and arrest them.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — The Islamic cleric Ansarul Haq has for the past two years said that he is Jesus Christ and has collected thousands of disciples around him. But police fear that fraud is taking place and have arrested the self-styled prophet.

Anaraul Haq works in the city of Ashramapara in the northwestern district of Thakurgaon about 300 kilometers from the capital Dhaka. He is joined by another Muslim cleric, Harun-ur Rashid, who in turn is said to be Imam Mehdi, a charismatic historical figure for Muslims.

March 5, 1999 the two formed a group called the Imam Mehdi Darbasarif. For the past two years they have declared themselves prophets, inviting followers to pray for the end of the world is near. In fact according to Islamic tradition the prophet Isaiah (Jesus Christ) will return to earth for doomsday, to restore justice and defeat the al-Kasi ad-Dajjal (meaning “false Messiah”, the Antichrist).

The self-styled prophet proclaims that he will command Christians and Jews to recognize that there is only one true religious community, which is Islam.

But local sources reported that two “prophets” have begun to incite Muslims to violence toward Christians and Jews and say that it is time for a violent war against non-Muslims forcing them to convert to Islam. The two have attracted thousands of disciples and have published numerous books touting a violent war against non- Islamists and the forced conversion of everyone to Islam.

The police, however, has been careful and arrested the two prophets, along with their trusty collaborators Zahurul Islam and Mukut Rana, on charges that they were preparing violent actions against non-Muslims.

Safikur Rahaman, Thakurgaon police chief, told AsiaNews that there is a suspicion that this group is connected with Muslim terrorists and investigation are underway to show they were preparing attacks against non-Muslims. He repeats that, however, that this group has long attracted the Muslims by deception inciting them against non-Muslims.

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

Pakistan Agrees to Talk, Sort of

Pakistan has agreed to hold talks with India—sort of. The office of Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani released the following statement. “It was decided that foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries would be held on February 25 in New Delhi.”

The statement came only three days after Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi angrily rejected talks with India and accused India of collaborating with the Taliban to de-stabilize Pakistan. Sources here, however, are emphatic that “these will be fruitless talks.”

The reason for their skepticism is this. The request for talks came out of Pakistan’s giving aid and support to the Islamists responsible for the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai. Surviving terrorists and numerous intelligence sources stated that Pakistan provided logistical and other forms of support for the attack and still provides them with a safe haven where they are immune from facing justice. Like many other Islamic Republics, Pakistan has tolerated and even supported the growth and development of radical Islamist groups on its soil, including the very Taliban forces that now threaten its national existence. That is why President Obama’s policy that identifies open Islamists as our target but assumes that the rest of the Pakistanis are our allies is, in the most generous terms, misguided…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Polygamy on the Rise in Malaysia

Rohaya Mohamad, a 44-year-old Malaysian doctor, chats happily about her plans for the evening, a romantic dinner for five with her husband — and his three other wives.

Rohaya and her family, which has produced 17 children aged between seven and 21, are among growing numbers of Malaysians entering into polygamous marriages, a phenomenon that observers say is linked to rising “Islamisation”.

Critics say that the practice, legal for Muslims who make up 60 percent of the multi-ethnic population, is out of step with modern times and that it degrades the lives of women and children.

But Rohaya and her fellow wives say the arrangement works just fine for them, allowing them to easily juggle childcare, domestic duties and careers in their busy households.

The undisputed head of the family, 43-year-old husband Mohamad Ikram Ashaari, shuttles between the women’s separate homes, spending a night with each in rotation before they join up on the weekends for family time.

He has taken a new wife every five years, starting with Juhaidah Yusof, a softly spoken 41-year-old who takes care of all the youngsters, and concluding with pretty 30-year-old Rubaizah Rejab, an Arabic language teacher.

His second wife, divorce lawyer Kartini Maarof, introduced him to number-three Rohaya — who had sought the lawyer’s services while divorcing her first husband, with whom she had seven children.

“She could see how busy I was so she offered me her husband. Initially I said no as I didn’t want to hurt her… and my dad was really against it because polygamy has never been seen in a positive light,” she says.

The family, part of the controversial Ikhwan Polygamy Club which says its mission is to improve the reputation of multiple marriage, believes it is a cure for social ills like adultery and pornography.

“Men by nature are polygamous, they have girlfriends and mistresses, they visit prostitutes—it is normal,” says Rohaya. “God has made men like that.”

“But in Islam there is a way out which means you must be responsible for the women you want to be involved with.”

Illegal cult

They shrug off criticism that the club has its roots in al-Arqam, a group banned by the Malaysian government which called it an illegal Islamic sect.

There has been particular controversy over plans to spread the club abroad, with branches in Indonesia to add to its network of 1,000 members across Southeast Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

Mohamad Ikram is a director with Global Ikhwan, a company whose diverse activities include restaurants and noodle manufacturing and which also manages the club.

“We want to say that polygamy works if you follow the rules of God. We don’t expect people to follow but we want to change the mindset,” says Rohaya.

The women say that in such a big household, friction is inevitable but they have learned to resolve their problems.

“It’s a big family so it’s normal that sometimes we argue, sometimes we get on, sometimes we get jealous,” says Kartini.

The four wives seem to have an easy rapport with each other and their offspring, who troop in from school dressed in traditional flowing outfits before touching their foreheads to the hand of a visitor in a polite greeting.

But sociologist Norani Othman from pressure group Sisters in Islam says that these educated women and thriving children are not the typical polygamous family.

Islamic revivalism

She says the practice’s original purpose has been warped, and that the strict conditions to ensure women are fairly treated are routinely ignored.

“The Koran speaks of polygamy under certain circumstances — for example, a war where you have lots of war widows and orphans. Historically a kind of emergency or welfare measure,” she says.

These days, men can rarely afford to properly care for multiple wives and hordes of children, particularly in Malaysia’s urban areas where the practice is becoming increasingly popular.

Her research has found that first wives, who often refuse to sanction the new marriage, are cut off financially and emotionally — plunging them into poverty and depression.

Noraini says that up to five percent of marriages in Malaysia are polygamous, a figure that has risen as rules limiting multiple marriage have been watered down over the years.

“Over the past 15 years you can see a gradual increase… coinciding with the rise of Islamic revivalism, of Islamic fundamentalism,” she said, adding it was likely there had been a further steep rise in the past few years.

“The impact of conservative Islam is that it gives an impression to ordinary faithful Muslims to just practice polygamy without seriously thinking of its repercussions.”

But Mohamad Ikram and his family insist that polygamy can work well if those involved adhere to the rules laid out in the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

“I consider myself lucky that I have four wives, it reduces the temptation to commit sin,” he says.

“Even though it’s already enough, there’s always the desire to have more — one isn’t satisfied with just four,” he adds with a smile.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Uzbekistan: Baptist Falsely Accused of Selling Drugs

Believers fear police might be targeting their community. Not recognised by the state, Baptists are systematically persecuted, so are some Muslim groups.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/F18) — Christians are being arrested and put on trial on trumped up charges. Tohar Haydarov is Baptist. Fellow Baptists said, “Police planted a matchbox with drugs” on him; he was “beaten and forced by the police to sign different papers.”

Arrested in the central Syrdarya region on 18 January, he was taken to his flat where police took his keys to get in and conduct a search. The latter was done in his absence. Police then claimed they found a plastic bag with marijuana on the premises.

The man is now charged with “illegal production, purchase, storage and other operation with narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances without the purpose of selling”, a crime punishable with up to five years in prison.

Members of Haydarov’s congregation are adamant that he would never sell drugs; they claim instead that the evidence was fabricated.

The Baptist Council of Churches rejects state registration in all the former Soviet republics where they operate. They insist that they have the right to meet for worship without registration.

Elsewhere, in Almalyk City (Tashkent Region), police broke into the home of another Baptist, Sergei Brislavski, where members of the local Baptist community were drinking tea. All 19 people present were arrested. On their way to the police station, they were beaten. Eventually some were detained. They too fear they might be prosecuted under the existing religious law, which bans teaching religion.

Christians are not the only ones suffering. Police is also cracking down on Muslims who want to operate outside state recognised groups.

In Syrdarya, 57 Muslims were held for unspecified reasons. In Kashkadarya, a woman has been held in custody since 16 January for hosting a religious meeting in her house.

Uzbek authorities have rejected all such allegations, but they have also refused Forum 18’s requests to talk about them.

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

Far East

China. Zen’s Horn and Bertone’s Bell

Two visions are clashing over the future of the Chinese Catholic Church, that of the cardinal of Hong Kong and that of Vatican diplomacy. A report from “30 Giorni” gives voice to the latter. With an interview with one of the pundits of the Beijing government

by Sandro Magister

ROME, February 4, 2010 — Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong and a passionate strategist of the Catholic Church in China, has never held back in his criticism of Vatican diplomacy, which he sees as too compliant toward the communist regime of Beijing, or of the Chinese priests and bishops he thinks are pushovers.

The most recent bone of contention — reported by www.chiesa in a previous article — was the matter of the coadjutor bishop of Baoding, Joseph An Shuxin, who was set free after ten years in prison and joined the government’s Patriotic Association, an action that many interpreted as a surrender to the enemy.

In Cardinal Zen’s view, the capitulation of the bishop of Baoding and of others like him has been wrongfully encouraged by Vatican authorities, according to whom the heroic season of the clandestine Church has ended, and its bishops and priests should all enter the official Church recognized by the regime.

But is that really how things are? According to Vatican authorities, no, things are not at all as they are portrayed by Cardinal Zen and the agency “Asia News” directed by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.


Vatican diplomacy does not speak in the first person, but all that is needed to understand its positions is to read the magazine that most reflects its thought: the international monthly in six languages “30 Days,” edited in Rome and directed by senior senator Giulio Andreotti, who served several terms as prime minister and foreign minister of the Italian republic, and has always had extensive contacts in the curia.

In its latest issue, “30 Days” presents a special report on the Chinese Church. Not only that. It announces the release in China, in a large number of copies, of a prayer pamphlet entitled “He who prays will be saved,” translated into Mandarin for the first time and with a preface by the bishop of Shanghai, Aloysius Jin Luxian, the most authoritative of the bishops recognized by both the regime and the Church of Rome.

So far, the new issue of “30 Days” has been published only in Italian. But it will soon be released in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German, giving all readers the opportunity to read the report in its entirety.

The report not only includes an extensive investigation by Gianni Valente that reconstructs the matter of the bishop of Baoding with details refuting the “betrayal” and proving his integrity, but also provides two documents of great interest in support of this reconstruction of the facts.

The first is a letter dated June 29, 2008, written by Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Vatican congregation Propaganda Fide, to the priests, religious, and faithful of the diocese of Baoding.

In this letter, Cardinal Dias — who is formally responsible for the dioceses of China — defends in full the decisions made by Bishop An Shuxin after his release from prison, and orders the clergy and faithful to show him respect and obedience:

“Everyone must know that the esteemed bishop enjoys the favor and the complete trust of the Holy See. So no one may permit himself to doubt his sincerity, or oppose his authority, spreading imprudent judgments that trouble the faithful. This, in addition to providing great pleasure for the enemies of the Church, represents a grave lack of charity before God and the Church . . .”

The second document, from last November, is a long series of questions posed to Bishop An Shuxin by a Chinese priest in disagreement with him, released by a website connected to groups of the clandestine Catholic Church:

A complete translation of the questionnaire from the Chinese will soon be available on the website of “30 Days.”

The magazine’s report is not short on severe criticism of Cardinal Zen, who is accused of wrongfully setting himself up as the only accurate interpreter of Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, the key document for the Catholic Church in China.

And there is also a strong defense of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state and therefore the highest official of Vatican diplomacy.

Curiously, both Bertone and Zen are Salesians. But they even butt heads in the private meetings of the commission instituted by the Vatican to follow the implementation of Benedict XVI’s blueprint letter, a commission to which both of them belong.

Below is reprinted, in its entirety, another compelling section of the report in “30 Days”: Gianni Valente’s interview of Professor Ren Yanli, a member of the Chinese academy of social sciences and of the institute for research on world religions, which for decades has followed the affairs of the Chinese Catholic Church and relations between China and the Vatican.

Ren Yanli expresses the “soft” side of the positions of the Chinese authorities on the Catholic Church.

But naturally, there are others who express the “hard” side. China also has its Bertones and Zens.


Hu Jintao and the pope. The audience that almost was

Interview with Ren Yanli

Q: Professor Ren Yanli, there are conflicting views on the situation of the Catholic Church in China…

A: Chinese Catholics are Catholics like all the rest. They have the same faith, they read the same Bible, they go to church freely for Mass, to pray, and to receive the sacraments. Like other Catholics, they love their country and want to participate in the life and modernization of China.

Q: So where do the problems come from?

A: There was a time in which, for various reasons, it didn’t seem possible to love country and Church at the same time. When the People’s Republic of China was formed, the Vatican was considered a public enemy of the new communist China. And, at the end of the 1950’s, at the height of the anti-imperialist movement that dominated Chinese politics at the time, the relationship with the Holy See was severed, and the Chinese Church was shoved into the political stance of independence and of the autonomous appointment of bishops. But already at that time, even those who adhered to that approach out of patriotism or simply for the sake of appearances soon ended up losing their spiritual tranquility. They seemed like divided persons. How can a local Church with no connection to the apostolic see be Catholic? And in fact, since the unfortunate time of the Cultural Revolution, with the reopening of China promoted by Deng Xiaoping, the dominant thought of the Chinese Catholics has been that of recovering, in the time and manner possible to them, their relationship with the Holy See, the pope, and the universal Catholic Church.

Q: A desire that has found different paths for its fulfillment.

A: Some clustered around clandestinely ordained bishops who were in communion with the pope, and who rejected any relationship with and any control by political power. But the bishops who were ordained without the agreement of the apostolic see also started to take the same road, asking to be recognized and legitimized by the pope. They too, in fact, left behind the idea of independence. This has been a general phenomenon, and must be kept in mind in its entirety.

Q: How do you explain this phenomenon? What are the root causes?

A: It is increasingly clear to me that the decisive factor has been the very faith of the Chinese Catholics, both lay and clergy. Now the priests are not willing to become bishops if their appointment does not come from the pope, and if there is no apostolic mandate. Many new bishops, at the beginning and end of their consecration, have wanted to display publicly the letter of appointment they received from the pope. In part because they know very well that the faithful will never listen to pastors who are elected and consecrated autonomously, without the pope’s consent. The latest bishops appointed without pontifical mandate remain isolated, and no one wants to receive the Eucharist from their hands, during Mass. In short, while some in the past have indeed felt some temptation to make a career in an independent Church, the people’s faith has helped everyone to make this plan ineffective. And this has also helped the government to readjust its approach.

Q: Where do you see this readjustment? There are some who say that the position of Chinese power always remains rigidly the same.

A: The government has realized that if it wants the bishops to be pastors who are esteemed and followed by the faithful, and not viewed as isolated functionaries imposed from the outside, appointment by the pope and full communion with him are indispensable elements, which cannot be omitted. This means that, in fact, the idea of imposing on the Chinese Church an independence involving separation from the pope and from the universal Church is being set aside. The process that leads to an increasingly explicit affirmation of the communion of the Chinese bishops with the pope — and of everything that this involves — is irreversible. There can be no turning back on this road.

Q: How do you assess the recent phase of relations between China and the Vatican?

A: In my view, it makes no sense to continue talking about a thaw, because there hasn’t been any chill for quite a while, and the two sides started having direct contacts many years ago. But this back-and-forth continues: every time one side considers the initiatives of the other as unilateral attempts to shut it out, it engineers actions that can be interpreted as countermoves.

Q: Some examples?

A: Let’s start with 2005…

(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Thousands Flee Somalia Fighting, Says UN Refugee Agency

Thousands of people have fled Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, since Wednesday, the UN refugee agency has said.

“Since the beginning of February, over 8,000 people have left the city to escape the fighting,” spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

“We are stepping up our preparedness to intervene and deliver emergency relief to the affected population as soon as the security situation permits.”

For months now, fighting has been an almost daily occurrence in Mogadishu.

Some 24 people have been killed and another 40 injured since Wednesday, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Ms Fleming warned of the difficulties posed by working in a war zone: “As with other humanitarian actors, our own access is affected by conflict.”

‘Fragile state’

Despite reports of violent clashes between government troops and the Islamist group al-Shabab, the UN Special Representative for Somalia congratulated the transitional government on its work over the past 12 months and urged it to continue its efforts to restore peace and stability to the country.

“Unfortunately, they have had to spend time and resources trying to stop the violent attacks by extremists who oppose all their attempts to bring normality back to the country,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.

“Many people recognize that Somalia is moving from being a failed state in conflict to a fragile state with major development and reconstruction needs,” he added.

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


Berlusconi: Albanian Immigrants Must be Beautiful Girls

Silvio Berlusconi, the gaffe-prone Prime Minister of Italy, on Friday told his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha that the only immigrants he would accept from his country were beautiful girls.

Berlusconi, whose seemingly all too frequent faux pas include a reference to U.S. President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama as “tanned”, was speaking at a press conference in Rome after holding talks with the Prime Minister of Albania. The Telegraph notes that after indicating that Albania and Italy had been successful in tackling the problem of illegal immigrants being trafficked from the former country to the latter country 73-year-old Berlusconi added:

I said to Sali — we’d make exceptions for anyone bringing over beautiful girls

He then followed up that remark, which the Daily Mail says left Sali Berisha “visibly uncomfortable”, by telling photographers and journalists, some of whom were reportedly women from Albania:

You know I’m single now

Prime Minister of Italy on three separate occasions, the current term having begun in May 2008, Berlusconi is currently in the process of divorcing his second wife Veronica Lario, who is the mother of three of his five children. Responding to the comments made by Berlusconi, physically attacked in December by a 42-year-old man said to have psychiatric problems, opposition MP Paola Pellegrini said:

Once again Berlusconi just doesn’t give up on his barracks humour. Even in the face of tragedy such as immigration by desperate people, from in this case Albania, the Prime Minister repeats his obsession with woman reduced to fresh meat to be consumed.

He is an indecorous old man who pretends to lead a country which has been subjected to the propaganda of his television and newspapers

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

Egyptian’s Stabbing Sparks Migrant Clash in Milan

Milan’s deputy mayor says the fatal stabbing of an Egyptian immigrant man triggered a street rampage between immigrant gangs that left cars damaged and store windows smashed. Riccardo De Corato told the Italian news agency ANSA that the clash Saturday night on one of Milan’s more ethnically diverse streets pitted gangs of North Africans against South American migrants.

De Corato didn’t say what provoked the stabbing. But a reporter for Il Sole-24 Ore radio said the 19-year-old victim was knifed after rival gangs of migrant youths started fighting on a city bus, then got off the vehicle. By late Saturday, violence had subsided in the neighborhood along Via Padova. (AP)

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

Illegal Immigration Adds Economic Burdens on Yemen

Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussein recently said, “Yemen is facing challenges due to the continuous exodus of illegal migrants from the Horn of Africa, exceeding 800,000 refugees according to estimations of international organizations.” His comments came during the launch of a workshop designed to review the immigration policies in Yemen held on Tuesday in Sana’a. The workshop is part of an ongoing government project designed to reinforce efforts to face the challenges of the mixed immigration.

“This influx adds many economic and social burdens on Yemen and increases the difficulties Yemen is suffering from, as it also reflects the humanitarian problems of the refugees’ situations,” he added.

The minister noted the ongoing support provided by international organizations in Yemen in a bid to reduce the impact of these problems within the country.

The representative of the European Union also delivered a speech in which she affirmed the European Union’s continued financial political support for Yemen in order to counter the challenges of illegal immigration.

She expressed her representative thanks for the efforts the government of Yemen continues to put forward to provide care and assistance for refugees, regardless of the constant economic, social and political impacts that arise from such action. The two-day workshop, organized by the European Union, aimed to train 30 participants from concerned ministries and bodies on how to review immigration policies. The workshops further train the participants to present international expertise in these fields, in addition to understanding how to face challenges of the mixed immigration.

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

UK: With Legal Number Who Say They Are ‘White British’ In Decline

White Britons are the only part of the population to have declined in the last decade after a third of a million left the country.

The number of people who class themselves as “white British” has dropped by almost 160,000 since 2001 while those who say they are “white Irish” has fallen by more than 60,000.

At the same time, Britons and migrants who describe themselves in any other ethnic minority group have added almost two million to the population, according to official estimates.

Britain’s population make-up changing at unprecedented rate

The sharp fall is due to emigration and the so-called “white flight” exodus witnessed over the last ten years while immigration has been the main driver in the rise among most other groups.

The figures follow claims earlier this week that the Government deliberately pursued a secret policy, over the same timescale, of encouraging mass immigration for its own political ends and to boost multiculturalism.

The patterns in ethnicity across England and Wales come from an experimental series of estimates drawn up by the Office for National Statistics and are based on self assessment by individuals, both Britons and settled migrants, as to which ethnic group they belong to.

The series, so far, covers the period from 2001 to 2007 and over that time the population increased by 1.7 million to 54 million.

However, those in the “white British” group fell by 159,100 and while “white Irish” dropped by 60,500.

Every other group so numbers rise, include “white other” that saw an increase of 450,900 — or a 33 per cent rise — mostly driven by the large flows of Eastern Europeans following the expansion of the EU in 2004.

Britons or migrants who class themselves as of Indian descent increased by 275,700 while those of “black African” descent grew by 241,700.

Proportionately, the largest increase was among those of Chinese descent where numbers increased by 75 per cent, or 175,500.

The fall in the “white British” group was due to large numbers of people leaving the UK. Some 331,400 more people from that group left the country over that period than those who returned.

The total drop in overall numbers was only smaller because natural change — the difference between births and deaths — continued to rise.

Australia continued to be the most popular destination for emigrants while Spain and America were also popular.

Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said: “All the evidence now is that the Government deliberately encouraged increased immigration for its own political purposes.

“We will need to control immigration in the future and also make it a real priority to build social cohesion in Britain.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “This is clear statistical evidence for the change for our society resulting from the Government’s policy of mass immigration.”

A previously unseen document released earlier this week suggested that Labour’s migration policy over the past decade had been aimed not just at meeting the country’s economic needs, but also the Government’s “social objectives”.

The Government has always denied that social engineering played a part in its migration policy.

The existence of the draft policy paper, which was drawn up by a Cabinet Office think-tank and a Home Office research unit, was disclosed last year by Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.

He alleged at the time that the sharp increase in immigration over the past 10 years was partly due to a “driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural”.

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, has dismissed the claims as “hyperventilating nonsense” and said any suggestions there was an “open door” immigration policy were “mythical”.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]


Amil Imani: The Anachronism of Apostasy

Whereas the practice of slavery enslaves the body, the dogma of apostasy ensnares the mind. Whereas slavery is a shameful practice of the past, some shameless religionists still use the doctrine of apostasy to intimidate and severely punish people who elect to choose their own belief.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]

U.N. Jump-Starting Cash Collections for ‘Climate Change’

Says $10 billion must be raised to kick off programs

UNITED NATIONS — Trying to jump-start a climate change campaign that has stalled amid claims of fraudulent reports and data manipulation, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the formation of a new high-level advisory group.

Ban named British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to lead the new panel, which must figure out how to raise the first billions of dollars to address the many “global warming” programs the organization seeks.

The state of the issue, however, was highlighted at the U.N.’s climate summit in Copenhagen just before Christmas, when representatives of nations around the globe were unable to reach agreement on any significant steps.

Despite that failure, and the growing issue over apparently falsified or manipulated data, the U.N. is pursuing its various programs to address the issue. It wants to be raising $100 billion annually within a few years.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Unsuitable — Japanese Snowboarder Busted for Bad Fashion

Pay no attention to the foreign characters or language unless you understand them [see video]. Instead, focus on the dreadlocked gentleman on the left. You’ll notice his outfit looks just a little different than his teammates’. That’s snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo. He’s apologizing at the end of the clip because Japanese officials aren’t too happy with the way he wore his suit.

With his sagging pants, untucked shirt, and loosened tie, Kokubo looked like any sloppily dressed 21-year-old. But that’s not going to fly. According to one Japanese Olympic Committee official, “It is not the way the Japanese delegation should dress themselves while taxpayers’ money is spent on them.”

           — Hat tip: Perla [Return to headlines]

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