Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/2/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/2/2010Will the weakness of the euro cause the EU to abandon its common currency? If so, it will be at least partially due to the Greek financial crisis, which has brought the country an enormous deficit. Ireland and Spain are in similar difficulties.

In other news, the Cane Toad, an import from South America, is causing ecological havoc in parts of Australia.

Thanks to AT, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, JH, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, TB, Wally Ballou, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Eurozone Imbalances Weaken Trust in the Euro and Undermine Euro Area Cohesion
ACORN Eligible for $4 Billion in Obama’s Fiscal 2011 Budget
Bishop a Convicted Criminal Over Church Bells
Earth Religions Get Worship Area at AF Academy
Green Math is Bad Math
New York: S. Orangetown Schools Target Intruders
Obama Surrendering Internet to Foreign Powers
Parents of Muslim-Turned-Christian Teen Back Out of Deal
Europe and the EU
Ambrosian Rite. Cardinal Biffi’s Ax Falls on New Lectionary
EU: Spain Advocates Anti-Discrimination Directive
Leaked Climate Change Emails Scientist ‘Hid’ Data Flaws
Pope Asks Bishops to be Generous to Returning Anglicans
Spain: Central Bank Asks for Bank Manager Salaries
Sweden: Jilted Hubby Exacts Mousy Revenge
Sweden: Prison Guard Pregnant After Affair With Rapist
The Party’s Over for Usurpers of Property in North Cyprus
UK: Archbishop of York Condemns the Push for Mercy Killings
UK: Tesco Shopper, 24, Forced to Show ID… Because She Was ‘Too Young to Buy Slice of Quiche’
UK: Taxi Drivers Accused of Racism for Displaying Sign Saying They Are ‘English Speaking’
Mediterranean Union
Medfilm: Egyptian Filmmaker Asks for More Cooperation
Israel and the Palestinians
Berlusconi: We Are the Basis of Our Civilization
Berlusconi Dreams of Israel Joining EU
Cast Lead: Disciplinary Actions for High Officials
Desecrated Mosque, Extremist Settlers in House Arrest
Middle East
Italy: Mideast Film Festival to Focus on Iran
Killed Hamas Leader ‘Sourced Arms’ For Gaza
NASA Picture Suggests Dubai Globe is Sinking Back Into the Sea
Saudi Girl, 12, Drops Push to Divorce Octogenarian
Turkey: Dogan Says Court Cancels $518 Million in Taxes, Fines
Turkey:15 Dogs Found Dead in Beykoz Massacre
Turkish Frigate Sets Sail for Anti-Piracy Mission
South Asia
India: Human Rights Violated by Extremism as Well as Religious and Social Discrimination
Indonesia: East Java: Eko Budi Wardoyo, Suspect in Anti-Christian Violence, Arrested
Thailand: High Tech Ablutions for Faithful to Save Water
Far East
China Warns of ‘Serious Damage’ If Barack Obama Meets Dalai Lama
Chinese Girl, 9, Becomes One of World’s Youngest Mothers After Giving Birth to a Baby Boy
Australia — Pacific
“Cane Toads” A Cautionary Tale of Ecological Hubris
Cane Toad ‘Sausages’ Help Wildlife
Sub-Saharan Africa
Emirates: Press Freedom Loses Place in RWB Classification
Latin America
As Food Distribution Improves, Haitians Want U.S to ‘Take Over’
Greece: Rise in Anti-Migrant Sentiment
Rules for Living in My Country
Spray-on Liquid Glass is About to Revolutionize Almost Everything

Financial Crisis

Eurozone Imbalances Weaken Trust in the Euro and Undermine Euro Area Cohesion

by Edward Hugh

This is the conclusion drawn — rather surprisingly — not by some bank analyst, or by a Credit Ratings Agency, but by the European Commission itself, according to the contents of a report “leaked” to the German magazine Der Spiegel at the end of last week. “(The imbalances) weaken trust in the euro and endanger the cohesion of the monetary union,”.

Here is a rough translation of the Der Spiegel report…

[Return to headlines]


ACORN Eligible for $4 Billion in Obama’s Fiscal 2011 Budget

ACORN and other left-wing advocacy groups could be eligible for up to $3.99 billion in federal funding included in the $3.83 trillion fiscal 2011 budget blueprint that President Obama unveiled yesterday.

The $3.99 billion comes from a congressional slush fund known as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) $48.5 billion fiscal 2011 budget. CDBG grants, which are awarded to states and localities, pass indirectly to ACORN.

How is more funding of ACORN possible when Congress passed a ban on funding the group and its affiliates just last year?

Congress has already hinted it might vote to restore funding to ACORN. On Dec. 8 the House Appropriations Committee rejected on a party line vote of 9 to 5 an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) that would have blocked federal funding of ACORN.

And in December federal Judge Nina Gershon restored federal funding of ACORN by issuing a temporary injunction against the congressional funding ban. The Brooklyn-based Gershon, a Bill Clinton appointee, determined that depriving ACORN of taxpayer dollars was an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” that singled out ACORN for punishment without trial.

You might be familiar with Gershon’s oeuvre. In 1999 she ruled then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani had no right to cut off city funding of the Brooklyn Museum of Art when it displayed dead animals and a painting of the Virgin Mary decorated with elephant dung.

[Return to headlines]

Bishop a Convicted Criminal Over Church Bells

Arguments delivered in appeal of jail sentence

Attorneys representing a Christian church leader convicted as a criminal for allowing his church bells to ring say they are hoping appellate decisions will overturn the conviction of Bishop Rick Painter and also strike down the Phoenix regulation under which he was convicted and several other churches now are being threatened.

The situation developed over the bells at Christ the King, which chimed regularly after 8 a.m. and before 8 p.m. as a way of praising God.

They were measured at 67 decibels while a normal conversation ranges about 60 to 70.


The legal organization said another church, Immanuel House of Worship in London, also has been “silenced” by the government because the sound of its worship drew a complaint from a single Muslim neighbor.


Ade Ajike, a church trustee, reported that after a visit from a government environmental health officer, the officer warned, “the church had to keep the noise down so as not to offend the Muslims living in the area.”

“He told us ‘this is a Muslim borough, you have to tread carefully,’“ Ajike reported about the 2009 dispute.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Earth Religions Get Worship Area at AF Academy

DENVER — The Air Force Academy has set aside an outdoor worship area for Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and other Earth-centered believers, school officials said Monday.

A double circle of stones atop a hill on the campus near Colorado Springs has been designated for the group, which previously met indoors.

“Being with nature and connecting with it is kind of the whole point,” said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, who sponsors the group and describes himself as a Pagan. “It will dramatically improve that atmosphere, the mindset and the actual connection.”

The stones were moved to the hilltop last year because erosion threatened to make them unstable in their previous location near the visitors center. Crews arranged them in two concentric circles because they thought it would be a pleasant place for cadets to relax, Longcrier said.

When Longcrier and academy chaplains were looking for an outdoor worship space, they discovered one already existed in the form of the circles.

Lt. Col. William Ziegler, one of the academy’s chaplains, said designating the space is part of the school’s effort to foster religious tolerance and to defend the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

“It’s about our commitment as airmen to protect freedom and defend freedom. To me this is a freedom thing,” he said.

The school also has worship facilities for Protestant and Catholic Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists.

The academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, has made religious tolerance a priority. It became a concern in 2004 when a survey found many cadets had heard slurs or jokes about other religions and that some felt ostracized because they weren’t religious.

Longcrier and Ziegler said they’ve heard no criticism of the new worship space but both noted its presence was just made public.

“Not to say that it’s not coming, but so far we haven’t had any real issues,” Longcrier said.

He said 15 to 20 cadets have shown an interest in Earth-centered beliefs, and eight to 10 regularly attend Monday night meetings. Of those, six or seven are devout believers and the others are “searchers,” Longcrier said.

The academy has about 4,000 cadets. The school is one of five U.S. service academies, including West Point and Annapolis. Cadets graduate as second lieutenants.

“Earth-centered” spirituality encompasses many beliefs, Longcrier said, many that recognize multiple gods and goddesses and observe holidays tied to the seasons.

Longcrier said he personally doesn’t consider gods and goddesses to be actual beings but personifications of natural events that human ancestors wanted to put a face on.

“The goddess is symbolic of the Earth,” Longcrier said. “Do I believe I’m worshipping this female entity living in the Earth or up in space somewhere? No. The symbolism is very important.”

The group’s meetings are usually devoted to mediation, lessons or ceremonies, he said.

Longcrier, who oversees laboratories in the academy’s astronautics labs, said he has military designation as a “distinct faith group leader.”

Anyone is welcome to visit the new worship site but it should be treated as a religious structure, he said. A formal dedication is planned in March.

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

Green Math is Bad Math

To provide a little perspective, the taxpayers are going to shell out $133 million — more than half the cost of the nearby Rose Garden Arena, where the Portland Trailblazers play — so the government can annually save the taxpayers $68,000 less than the combined yearly salaries of Oregon’s two U.S. senators.

This is what passes for a good “green” investment in Washington these days.

This is only one tiny example of the type of cost-benefit analysis being promoted in Washington in the name of saving the planet.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

New York: S. Orangetown Schools Target Intruders

PIERMONT — New security measures are being put in place at all South Orangetown schools after a stranger carrying a knife walked into a district elementary school last week.

The doors to all schools will now be locked when classes are in session, according to a notice sent from Superintendent of Schools Ken Mitchell to all parents.

In addition , anyone coming to the school will have to present photo identification and additional cameras will be installed.

“While we understand the tightened security and reduced access may be inconvenient, it is essential that we take every reasonable measure to ensure that our buildings are secured for the safety of our students and staff,” Mitchell wrote.

Parents said that they agree with the need for more security in the schools.

“In today’s climate you have to do what you can to protect the children,” said Mary Paul, who has children in the middle school and in the high school. “If this is what the district thinks is necessary, then I’m in favor of it.”

The new measures come after two incidents that raised alarms about school security in South Orangetown.

The most recent took place Jan. 20, when a 23-year-old Connecticut man entered the main lobby of Tappan Zee Elementary School in Piermont.

The man, Abdulrahim Sulaiman, 23, of Bridgeport, was apparently lost and asking for directions, district spokeswoman B.J. Greco said.

Sulaiman was stopped by school officials and escorted outside. He also asked school officials if he could park his car in the parking lot and take a nap, Greco said.

The man left the school grounds, but after officials called police he was spotted at a nearby convenience store and arrested.

Police said Sulaiman was carrying a knife similar to a switchblade at the time of his arrest.

Sulaiman was charged with third-degree criminal trespass and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, both misdemeanors.

He is free on $5,000 cash bail and due in court Wednesday.

The incident came six months after Peter Cocker of Tappan, a former New York City police officer, burst into South Orangetown Middle School with a gun and held the superintendent hostage for a short time.

Cocker was angry about a letter that Mitchell had sent home the day before about the swine flu.

The incident ended when Mitchell wrestled Cocker to the ground as police were breaking down his office door. Cocker, 37, pleaded guilty in November to second-degree kidnapping, a felony, and was sentenced last week to five years in prison.

Greco said both incidents point to the need for better security in the schools.

The new measures will include unannounced security checks. The additional security will cost the district extra, Greco said.

“When dealing with children, you can never be safe enough,” she said. “But nothing is ever fail-safe.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Obama Surrendering Internet to Foreign Powers

Without the ingenuity of America’s brightest minds and the investment of U.S. taxpayer dollars, there would be no Internet, as we now know it today.

Now, the Obama administration has moved quietly to cede control of the Web from the United States to foreign powers.

Some background: The Internet came into being because of the genius work of Americans Dr.Robert E. Kahn and Dr. Vinton G. Cerf. These men, while working for the Department of Defense in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the early 1970s, conceived, designed, and implemented the idea of “open-architecture networking.”

This breakthrough in connectivity and networking was the birth of the Internet.

These two gentlemen had the vision and the brainpower to create a worldwide computer Internet communications network that forever changed the world and how we communicate in it.

They discovered that providing a person with a unique identifier (TCP/IP)that was able to be recognized and interact through a network of servers would allow users to communicate with others.

The servers woulduse a series of giant receivers to recognize the identifier and connect networks to networks, passing on information from computer to computer in a seamless real-time exchange of information. This new process of communication became know as the “information super highway,” aka, the Internet.

Now for the bad news: In an effort to show the world how inclusive, sharing, cooperative, and international America can be, the Obama administration set off on a plan to surrender control and key management of the Internet by the U.S. Department of Commerce and its agents.

The key to the control America has over the Internet is through the management of the Domain Name System (DNS) and the giant servers that service the Internet.

Domain names are managed through an entity named IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. The IANA, which operates on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is responsible for the global coordination of the DNS, IP addressing, and other Internet protocol resources.

In short, without an IP Address or other essential Internet protocols, a person or entity would not have access to the Internet.

For years, the international community has been pressuring the United States to surrender its control and management of the Internet. They want an international body such as the United Nations or even the International Telecommunications Union, (an entity that coordinates international telephone communications), to manage all aspects of the Internet in behalf of all nations.

The argument advanced for those seeking international control of the Internet is that the Internet has become such a powerful, pervasive, and a dependent form of international communications, that it would be dangerous and inequitable for any one nation to control and manage it.

Just this past spring, within months of Obama’s taking office, his administration, through the Department of Commerce, agreed to relinquish some control over IANA and their governance. The Obama administration has agreed to give greater representation to foreign companies and countries on IANA.

This amounts to one small step for internationalism and one giant leap for surrendering America’s control over an invention we have every right and responsibility to control and manage.

It is in America’s economic and national security interests not to relinquish any control. We are responsible for the control, operation, and functionality of one of the modern world’s greatest inventions and most powerful communications network.

What better country to protect the Internet than the United States?

We invented it, and we paid for the research and implementation that made it possible. We are the freest, most tolerant nation on earth, we believe in the fundamental right of free speech, and we practice a free market of commerce and ideas.

America has always been against censorship and has shared its invention with the world without fee or unreasonable or arbitrary restriction. The user fee to operate on the Internet is not one paid to the U.S. government; a consumer pays it to private Internet companies, who provide access to the Internet through servers for their subscribers.

Look no further than China’s recent move against Google to censor the Internet, and you can envision what can happen when other nations less free than the United States seek to control the Internet beyond even their own borders.

America needs to wake up. If we lose control over the management of the Internet, we have given away one of our nation’s greatest assets with nothing in return to show for it.

The Obama administration’s actions will set in motion a slow and complete takeover of the Internet by the United Nations or some other equally U.S.-hostile and unfriendly international body. And once it is gone, it will be gone forever.

The surrender of the Internet will spell disaster for our nation, financially, as well as for safety, security and our standing as a great power that values freedom and the free exchange of ideas and information.

As far as I am concerned, America is still the last best hope for a more peaceful and prosperous world and our president should not be looking for ways to weaken us. Rather, his job is to work to strengthen us and protect our nation’s greatest asset our people’s creativity and ingenuity.

Bradley A. Blakeman, who was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-20004, teaches Public Policy & Politics & International Affairs at Georgetown University.

[Return to headlines]

Parents of Muslim-Turned-Christian Teen Back Out of Deal

Seek to have trial over daughter’s flight from Shariah

The parents of teenager Rifqa Bary, who fled from her family after abandoning Islam to become a Christian and warned authorities in Florida she might be killed because of her apostasy, are demanding permission to back out of an agreement they reached with child protective services in Ohio over her custody.

The move comes as a result of a decision by officials with the state agency assigned to protect the 17-year-old to allow her to have contact with Christians, according to reports.

“Children’s Services is endangering the family’s chance at reconciliation by allowing Rifqa to have contact with the people who helped her run away,” the parents have submitted in a motion to the court.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ambrosian Rite. Cardinal Biffi’s Ax Falls on New Lectionary

It has come into use in Milan with the approval of the Vatican. But the archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Milanese and a leading expert on Saint Ambrose, has found it to be full of eccentricities and errors. He wants Rome to reexamine it from the top

by Sandro Magister

ROME, February 1, 2010 — Since early this year, the Vatican congregation for divine worship has had a burning issue to resolve. At the risk of having to contradict itself.

The issue concerns the new lectionary for the Mass of the Ambrosian rite, the rite that is used in the archdiocese of Milan and in some areas of the neighboring dioceses of Bergamo, Novara, Lodi, and Lugano, the last of these being in Italian-speaking Switzerland, for a total of almost 5 million faithful.

The case has been assigned to the Vatican congregation by a cardinal who is highly competent in the matter: Giacomo Biffi (in the photo), born and raised in Milan, a theologian and eminent scholar of Saint Ambrose and of the rite named after him. In the 1970’s, he was co-author of a first edition of the Ambrosian lectionary, updated according to the guidelines of Vatican Council II.

This valued first edition, in use in Milan beginning in 1976, was followed by a second in 2008, produced by the local “congregation of the Ambrosian rite” and presented with great fanfare as “definitive” by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the current archbishop of Milan and therefore “head of the rite.”

As is required, before it went into effect this second edition of the Ambrosian lectionary had to pass scrutiny by the Vatican congregation for divine worship, which gave it group approval unusually quickly.

The prefect of the Vatican congregation was Cardinal Francis Arinze, now retired, and the secretary was Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, now at the head of the diocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka.

But when Cardinal Biffi — who lives in Bologna, where he was archbishop from 1984 to 2003 — saw this new lectionary enter into use in his Milan, he was stunned.

And he fired off this curt judgment, dripping with pungent sarcasm, which he added to the latest reprinting of his autobiography:

“It’s got everything: empty and sometimes misleading archaisms, adventurous ceremonial innovations, unfounded and mistaken theological perspectives, wrongheaded pastoral proposals, and even a few strange linguistic gaffes.

“It is a far-reaching endeavor, unquestionably audacious and ambitious: more audacious than wise, more ambitious than enlightened.

“It will live long in the appalled memory of our Church.”

But Biffi didn’t stop there. Last December he again took pen and paper and summarized in eight chapters his “critical observations on the new Ambrosian lectionary,” and sent the whole thing to the Vatican congregation for divine worship.

In the meantime, the leadership of the congregation had changed, with the new prefect Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera and new secretary Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia.

The subtitles that follow are the ones that Biffi used to introduce each of his eight critical observations.


The first criticism is of a general nature. Logic required, Biffi writes, that the new lectionary should have been produced according to the “general norms for the organization of the liturgical year” of the missal in force.

But no. These norms were ignored. The new lectionary “goes off the rails” and strikes out on its own, as if it aimed at starting, “on the sly,” a general liturgical reform according to its own taste.


For starters, the new Ambrosian lectionary gives a second name to Advent: “Lent of Saint Martin.”

Biffi objects that this is an “empty and misleading archaism.” Useless because the name has gone unused for at least a thousand years, and misleading because it leads to confusing Advent, which is a “time of joyful expectation,” with Lent, which has a completely different meaning, as well as with a saint who has nothing to do with it.

Moreover, the new lectionary puts the beginning of Advent on the first Sunday after November 11 (instead of after the 12th, as in the previous edition), with the result that it can sometimes happen that there are seven Sundays before Christmas, instead of six.

The six Sundays of Advent are a distinctive feature of the Ambrosian rite and of various Eastern rites, compared to the Roman rite, which has four. So how do they deal with the seventh, the creators of the new lectionary?

“They could think of nothing better,” Biffi writes, “than to invent a ‘pre-Christmas Sunday not of Advent’, which no one had ever heard of before, in part because it seems like a contradictory concept: ‘pre-Christmas’ cannot be anything but ‘preparation for Christmas’, and a Sunday of preparation for Christmas is, in essence, a Sunday of Advent.”


The new lectionary divides the liturgical year into three seasons: of Christmas, of Easter, and of Pentecost.

Biffi objects that the Church has never considered Pentecost a “separate mystery,” but the last day, the fiftieth, of the Easter season, which extends to seven weeks.

So the Roman liturgy is right to call the following Sundays not “Sundays after Pentecost,” but simply “Sundays of ordinary time” or “per annum.” And the previous Ambrosian lectionary did the same.

The new lectionary, instead, by restoring the expression “Sundays after Pentecost,” “demonstrates in this way a poor understanding of liturgical theology.”


But that isn’t all. After fourteen Sundays called “after Pentecost,” the new lectionary continues with other curious terms fished from the past. In order: a Sunday “before the Martyrdom of John the Baptist” (August 29), seven Sundays “after the Martyrdom of John the Baptist,” and three Sundays “after the Dedication of the Cathedral” (which falls in the third week of October).

In the past, these names were simply calendar designations. The new lectionary, however, characterizes the Sundays before and after the feast of Saint John with a special cycle of biblical readings. This produces, Biffi writes, “a jumbled system without any pastoral advantage.”


There is another innovation that Biffi calls “the most adventurous.” With the idea that the Mass is a mysterious evocation of the resurrection of Jesus, the new lectionary introduces into the Masses for Sunday that are celebrated on Saturday evening — and only into these — the reading of a passage of the Gospel concerning the resurrection, in addition to the normal reading of the Gospel of the day.

“In this way in Milan, the only example of its kind in all of Christianity, one can find Eucharistic celebrations with two different pages of the Gospel.”

The extra gospel passage is read at the beginning of the Mass, before the Gloria. “And it does not,” Biffi comments, “seem like such a bright idea, esthetically and pedagogically.”


Another point on which the new Ambrosian lectionary acts on its own initiative concerns the feasts of the Ascension and of Corpus Domini.

According to ancient tradition, these fall on a Thursday. But in 1977, when the Italian government abolished them as civil holidays, the bishops’ conference ordered that the celebration of Ascension and Corpus Domini be transferred to the following Sunday. This established the “general norms” of the Roman missal and of the Ambrosian missal currently in force.

But the new Ambrosian lectionary “recklessly infringes the norms,” Biffi writes. It moves Ascension and Corpus Domini back to Thursday. And it allows only that “in one or more Masses” on the following Sunday, the priests, if they want to do so “for pastoral reasons,” may repeat the Mass celebrated three days earlier.

Biffi comments:

“We realize once again that irrational attachment to archaisms that have lost any relevance today prevents sufficient attention to ecclesial life and to the promptings of basic common sense.

“I also have some doubts that such a adventurous initiative has canonical legitimacy. It would be helpful for the competent organs of the Holy See to clarify this question.”


In the selection of readings as well, the new Ambrosian lectionary departs from the organization of the Roman lectionary and of its own previous edition.

One of the novelties is the frequent recourse to “lectio continua”: for example, the complete and continued reading of the first, and difficult, eighteen chapters of the prophet Ezekiel during the first four four weeks of Advent.

Biffi objects that the “lectio continua” can work well in the monasteries, but not for the ordinary faithful, to whom the Church has always preferred to offer more simple and understandable texts, “religiously more useful and less problematic.”


Finally, Biffi calls attention to two other bright ideas of the new lectionary.

The first is in the title of the readings. While in the Roman lectionary and in the previous Ambrosian lectionary, it says, for example, “From the Gospel according to Luke,” to convey that this is a passage taken “from” this Gospel, the new Ambrosian lectionary says, “A reading of the Gospel according to Luke.”

With this, the new lectionary, “infatuated with archaism,” reproduces the Latin formula that says, “Lectio sancti evangelii secundum Lucam.” But in this way, Biffi comments, it runs into a serious inconvenience: “to a modern ear, the expression seems to indicate a complete reading, while it is only a passage.”

The second bright idea is in the formula that is often used at the beginning of biblical passages: “At that time…”

While in the Roman lectionary and in the previous Ambrosian lectionary, this formula is directly connected with the reading: “At that time, the Lord Jesus entered the temple…” in the new Ambrosian lectionary, the formula is interrupted with a period: “At that time. The Lord Jesus entered the temple…”

Biffi comments:

“I don’t suppose that there is any Italian literary production in which it is possible to run across a temporal expression that is self-contained, constructed absolutely, without any connection to the rest of the passage. We would like to know on the basis of what reasoning the decision was reached to enrich our beautiful language with this bright idea.”


At the Vatican, the congregation for divine worship has taken Biffi’s critical observations into examination, and will soon return to examining them.

But the embarrassment is evident. If it agreed with even one of Biffi’s observations, and required corrections for the new Ambrosian lectionary, the congregation would refute itself, for having previously approved the same lectionary in all of its parts.

It is not out of the question that Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, the prefect of the congregation, might ultimately submit its solution of the issue to Benedict XVI, leaving the final decision to the pope.

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

EU: Spain Advocates Anti-Discrimination Directive

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 1 — The policy of Equality of Treatment, in terms of discrimination against the disabled or for religious reasons or reasons of conscience, age or sexual orientation outside the working environment, is one of the priorities for Spains Presidency of the EU, and the Ministry for Equality headed by Bibiana Aido is charged with the task. The objective, say Ministerial sources quoted by daily paper Publico, which is close to the Socialist executive, is to combat discrimination in education and favour social protection, including social security and health services, and access to goods and services, in particular homes. The need for European regulations in the matter has emerged from Spain in the wake of the furore in the media over cases of discrimination, leading to enquiries being opened on the part of the judiciary: the expulsion in May of a group of young people with Downs Syndrome from a pub in Almeria, and the refusal by a private school in Madrid to enrol the daughters of a lesbian couple. No person must be more equal than another, is the slogan which is inspiring the draft of the Directive for Equality of Treatment, which the Popular Party opposed last April in the European Parliament. The text, which must be unanimously approved by the 27 EU member countries, is having trouble finding the needed consensus. Germany, for example, is contesting the fact that there are no studies into the functioning of similar directives previously approved, such as the 2002 regulation on Racial Equality. President of the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (Felgtb), Toni Poveda, points out that it is even forbidden to demonstrate on Gay Pride day in several European countries. This is why a common directive is needed, he says, to prevent discrimination in member States, such as the ban on homosexuals teaching in schools, which Poland recently attempted to introduce. The proposals recently put forward by the collective include the creation of a Prosecutor against discrimination, who is an expert in the subject. The EU report, which was created by Sweden during its Presidency of the Council of Europe on the completion by member States of the Plan of Action from the Conference on Women in Beijing, will be presented by Minister Aido at the European Womens Forum: Beijing +15, which is taking place in Cadiz on Thursday February 4 and Friday February 5. According to the report, all the delegations have presented general reservations over the proposal for a directive on Equality of Treatment. Some, including the Spanish, would have preferred more ambitious measures regarding the disabled. According to the sources, the proposed text identifies the scope of application in a generic manner and allows member States to maintain their own competences in identifying criteria for admission to schools, in the ban or allowing of religious symbols in school halls, in the recognition of marriage between persons of the same sex or on the type of relationship between religious denominations and the State. There is a limit which ranges between 5 and 20 years for making buildings and infrastructures accessible to all citizens, including the disabled. Ministers and representatives of the EU governments, the European Parliament, the United Nations Development Fund and the main EU womens organisations will take part in the European Forum in Cadiz . (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Leaked Climate Change Emails Scientist ‘Hid’ Data Flaws

A Guardian investigation of thousands of emails and documents apparently hacked from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit has found evidence that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed and that documents relating to them could not be produced.


It also emerges that documents which Wang claimed would exonerate him and Jones did not exist.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Pope Asks Bishops to be Generous to Returning Anglicans

(AGI) — Vatican City, 1 Feb. — Pope Benedict XVI has asked English and Welsh bishops to open their doors to returning Anglican bishops who as such will be able to ordain Catholic bishops and also to allow married former pastors and seminarians to enter holy orders.” Addressing the bishops the Pope said, “I’d like to ask you to be generous in the application of the ‘Anglicanorum Coetibus apostolic constitution and to help those groups of Anglicans who want to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic church. I am convinced — explained the Pope — that, if they are given a warm and friendly welcome, these groups will be a blessing for the entire Church.” .

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Central Bank Asks for Bank Manager Salaries

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 1 — Regarding the public aid allocated by the state, the Bank of Spain wants transparency over the salaries of bank managers. To this end it has asked financial institutions, banks, savings institutions and cooperatives for a detailed account of employees’ remuneration “which will have an effective impact on risk exposure”. Responding to the appeal of moderation in pay launched by the president of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, to the governor of the central bank, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordoñez, he asked for financial institutions to specify individual manager and general director earnings, according to what El Pais reported today. Until now only the large groups, like BBVA, Santander or Banco Popolare, have specified the earnings of their top employees; but, in most of the cases, the credit institutions only report the total amount of executive and manager earnings and their contributions to pension funds. In this way Ordoñez is putting into effect the agreements Spain made at the last G-20 meeting in the Forum on Financial Stability and the commitments provided for in the law on economic sustainability implemented by the Spanish government. Last October, the supervisor sent a letter to all of the credit institutes urging them to adhere to the new measures and now wants to verify that they have in fact done so. The central bank will draft a report on the basis of the data received. The amount of money going into financial institution managers’ pockets responds to the need for transparency at the same time that state aid is coming in to benefit them and with controversy over scandalous salaries on Wall Street. Banks and savings institutions will have to send information on top manager and high-level employee remuneration, indicating in detail fixed and variable income as well as the number of beneficiaries. But also illustrating cash income and that paid directly in stocks or other instruments connected to stocks; the amounts of pending salary instalments; payable or non-payable rights; new payments made for new employee contracts and the amount of the indemnities at the end of the professional relationship. In addition to cash and bonuses, the banks will have to specify the processes through which they determine salary policy on the whole, including its make-up and the capacity of the commissions in charge of remuneration. They are criteria that the supervisor wants to be familiar with in order to evaluate risk exposure in financial institutes. In 2008, Caixa made the 2.64 million that went to its president, Isidro Fainè, public; while at Caja Madrid, where a new president, Rodriguo Rato, has just taken his seat “not even board members are aware of the salaries and the pension rights of the managers”, El Pais reported. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Jilted Hubby Exacts Mousy Revenge

A 59-year-old man has been arrested for using his ex-wife’s musophobia to wreak cruel revenge for their break up after he pushed 19 mice through her letter box on Sunday morning.

“She was scared out of her wits and is now being cared for in hospital,” said Lars Lisberger at Stockholm police.

The jilted ex-husband has been arrested on suspicion of unlawful threats and animal welfare offences.

Knowing that his ex-wife suffered from musophobia — an unreasonable and disproportionate fear of rats and mice — the man arrived at her apartment in the northern Stockholm suburb of Märsta in the early hours of Sunday morning bearing a paper bag full of mice.

The 37-year-old woman awoke to find the scampering murines in her apartment and called the police at 7.30am.

Police arrested the man and took him in for questioning.

The nineteen mice captured at the woman’s apartment are also being housed at the police station pending the advice of the county veterinarian.

According to the Aftonbladet newspaper, the man has demanded the return of his mice.

“He has treated both the mice and his ex-wife badly, so I do not think that he should be given any of them. But we shall have to wait and see what the authorities decide,” Lars Lisberger told the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Prison Guard Pregnant After Affair With Rapist

A convicted rapist considered to be one of Sweden’s most dangerous repeat sex offenders is set to become a father following a secret romance with a female prison guard, one of several inmate-guard love affairs reported to have taken place at a prison in central Sweden.

“I hope that we’ll have a wonderful relationship,” the woman, who is nine-months pregnant, told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

The father of the soon-to-be-born child is a 38-year-old man who was first convicted in 2001 for repeatedly raping a female friend of his girlfriend. One of the attacks was so violent that he was also charged with attempted murder. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Following his conditional release from prison in 2006, the 38-year-old then attacked and raped a woman in Gothenburg in western Sweden, resulting in a four year prison sentence.

He also attacked his ex-girlfriend in a prison visitors’ room she came to visit him, raping her several times during the short visit.

“I’ll break your neck if you scream,” the 38-year-old threatened, according to Aftonbladet.

Despite the man’s chequered past, the now-expectant mother found herself smitten with the convicted rapist while she was assigned to guard him during his time in prison.

“We started talking to one another and afterwards it developed into a relationship,” she explained.

The secret romance is far from the only prohibited relationship which blossomed at the prison in recent years.

According to Aftonbladet, there are at least three additional known love affairs involving female guards and violent male criminals younger than 30-years-old.

“They joked with each other about who they were having sex with,” a prison employee told the newspaper about exchanges between inmates.

“There were a lot of us who thought it was unpleasant. The situation led to us being subject to various distasteful proposals.”

All of the secretive sexual interludes between guards and inmates took place on the top floor of a special facility at the prison where only sex-offenders are housed.

According to Aftonbladet, the supposedly hush-hush hanky panky was one of the worst kept secrets among both guards and prisoners.

“No one batted any eye when a guard and an inmate were alone in a room for several hours,” a prison employee told the newspaper.

The female guard now expecting a child had sex with the convicted rapist on several occasions within prison walls before their secret romance was discovered and she chose to quit her prison job in order to continue seeing the 38-year-old, who is due to be released from prison in 2013, at which time he is to be deported.

While admitting that the father of her child has committed a number of violent crimes, the mother-to-be is confident about her future with the 38-year-old.

“I know he was convicted for a rape in the visitors’ room, but that was three years ago,” she told Aftonbladet, adding that she considered it “totally wrong” that she can’t meet the 38-year-old.

Henrik Svärd, regional head for the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården), said he was aware of the cases, but emphasized that the four guards in question no longer work for the agency.

“When this became known they chose to quit immediately,” he told Aftonbladet.

He admitted that, despite training which encourages guards to develop a “personal relationship with inmates, but not a private one”, such romances do occur from time to time in prisons throughout the country.

“This is nothing unique to this particular prison,” he said.

           — Hat tip: AT [Return to headlines]

The Party’s Over for Usurpers of Property in North Cyprus

THE U.K. Court of Appeal ruling ordering Britons Linda and David Orams to demolish their home built on land belonging to Meletis Apostolides should act as a strong deterrent for speculators of Greek Cypriot properties in the north.

Meletis Apostolides is one of nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees forcibly expelled from their homes in 1974.

The ruling, in which the Orams were ordered to demolish their “dream-home”, return Apostolides’ land, pay back rent with interest and legal costs estimated at £1.35m, has sent thousands of British and other EU citizens living in Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied north into a state of shock, anger and bewilderment.

Reactions of this sort must be addressed because they have not been unsolicited, owing to conflicting messages received by the British public, as to the status quo of occupied Greek Cypriot property.

They not only include the escalating and unrestrained “North Cyprus” property and holiday advertising in the 35 years following the invasion, but crucially, Cherie Blair’s own appointment as legal counsellor in defence of the Orams during her husband’s premiership. This in itself constituted an unprecedented British vindication of Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus.

In the wake of the ruling, estate agents are now offering speculators even further financial incentives for the acquisition of Greek Cypriot property in the north, following the market’s freefall decline — with agents furiously hacking prices in exchange for quick, cash-only returns.

With thanks to Ms Blair’s calamitous involvement in the case, the publicity generated provides opportunity to redress these confusing messages, focus on the illegal occupation of the island and clarify the important implications of this judgement.

This decision of Court of Appeal of England and Wales upholds a landmark 2009 ruling by the European Court of Justice, which determined that cases decided in the Courts of the Republic of Cyprus are applicable throughout the European Union.

It reaffirms the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus and the fundamental right to property whose legal owners are Greek Cypriots forcibly expelled from their homes in the aftermath of 1974. The ruling also reaffirms that it is the legal owner who has the final say in the fate of his property.

This should serve as a stark warning to the thousands of British, Dutch, German and other European citizens who have been tempted to acquire cheap Greek Cypriot properties in the north. They will reap consequences by way of back-rent with interest, legal costs and possible loss of other assets. With hundreds of further such cases now pending, the free ride is most definitely over.

The decision, coupled with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Judgment on the Fourth Interstate Appeal of Cyprus Vs Turkey, has also given the Government of the Republic of Cyprus a powerful legal tool with which to fight for the right of Greek Cypriots to return to their properties. It should be noted that Turkey continues to flout the ECHR Judgment, which found her guilty of gross human rights violations and called for the return of Greek Cypriots to their land.

In efforts to alter the demography of the island, the Turkish authorities have consistently promoted the usurpation of Greek Cypriot properties by encouraging Turkish mainlanders to settle on the island, who currently outnumber indigenous Turkish Cypriots by a ratio of 2:1. It should be noted that there have been official reports by the Council of Europe condemning Turkey for its tactics with regard to illegal settlers and calling for establishment of an European fund for the return of these settlers to Turkey.

As regards property rights the government of Cyprus has shown full respect for the rights of Turkish-Cypriots and the European rule of law. By contrast the Turkish authorities refuse to implement the ruling of European courts in contravention of international law, with public exhibits of outrage and defiance.

The court decision this week prompted Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to raise concerns to Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggesting the ruling will hinder the high level political negotiations currently under way to reunify the island.

Erdogan’s diplomatic meddling serves only to highlight Turkey’s own judicial shortfalls. Unlike that of the Turkey, the British judiciary is independent of the state and immune to its intervention. British Justice is justice.

As an EU candidate, Turkey should better spend its energy on constitutional reform and aligning itself with the EU laws and policies. Turkey should realise that the property issue must be solved on the basis of international law and the EU aquis communautaire, without seeking deviations.

There is a legal decision here which must be respected, especially by an EU candidate country. Simply put, if Turkey is not ready to accept the decisions of the European courts, then it is not ready for the EU.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Archbishop of York Condemns the Push for Mercy Killings

Mercy killing is being legalised on the back of a celebrity-driven campaign and without reference to Parliament, the Archbishop of York claimed yesterday.

Dr John Sentamu condemned the current bandwagon of fashionable opinion seeking to allow relatives to help the sick and dying commit suicide without fear of prosecution.

He spoke out on the day of a high-profile pro-euthanasia intervention by bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett along with the publication of two opinion polls suggesting a backing for reform.

Referring to the polls, the Archbishop said: ‘The silent majority never get asked. One thousand people out of about 61million really is not very much guidance.

‘Once you begin to open this particular door, it won’t be long before you start having mercy killings. I would rather listen to the voices of disabled people than to the voices of celebrities or the voices of 1,000 people in an opinion poll.’

He said that Parliament has twice rejected laws to legalise assisted dying, yet a euthanasia law appears to be on the way on the back of a campaign composed of celebrity endorsements and opinion polls.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Tesco Shopper, 24, Forced to Show ID… Because She Was ‘Too Young to Buy Slice of Quiche’

In what must rank as one of the most bizarre ID requests ever, an office worker claims she had to prove she was over 21 to buy a slice of quiche.

Christine Cuddihy, 24, was handed the cheese and onion tart — costing 51p — at the deli counter of the Tesco in Coventry and then took it to the till.

She says the cashier then refused to sell it to her because she ‘looked under 21’.

Proof of age schemes exist in supermarkets to stop youngsters buying alcohol and cigarettes. There have been incidents where these rules were applied in an overzealous manner when it comes alcohol — but never over a slice of quiche.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Taxi Drivers Accused of Racism for Displaying Sign Saying They Are ‘English Speaking’

Up to a dozen drivers have been showing off the notices bearing the St George’s Cross on the back windows of their cars in Southampton, Hampshire.

The small red and white sticker declares the cab is being driven by an ‘English speaking driver.’

But the flags have been branded ‘racist’ by trade representatives, councillors and racism campaigners who have demanded they are removed.

Taxi drivers have hit back, claiming the stickers are simply a protest to force the council to make sure new drivers can speak good English.

The stickers were placed in the cars after drivers received complaints about the standard of spoken English among them.

There have also been complaints from passengers about drivers using sat navs and over-charging.

Perry McMillan, chairman of the Southampton cab section of trade union Unite, said the group’s ethnic minority members had been upset by the stickers.

He said: ‘Surely all drivers speak English. If they don’t, then what’s going on?

‘We hope that licensing officers can investigate this and satisfy the trade that this isn’t the case.’

Campaign group Show Racism the Red Card demanded the stickers be taken down from the cab windows.

Chief Executive Ged Grebby said: ‘I don’t have a problem with displaying the cross of St George because this is a symbol we have managed to reclaim from the far right.

‘But the “English speaking driver” part is where it crosses the line into racism.

‘Cab drivers have to have a command of English and there are strong racist undertones in this message.

‘I think the drivers should take the flags down immediately and if they don’t, they should be told to by the council who licences them.’

But taxi drivers have hit back at the allegations of racism.

Clive Johnson, chairman of taxi firm Radio Taxis and the Southampton Trade Association, said: ‘These signs are not racial.

‘They are a protest to the council saying please make sure all new drivers have command of the English language.

‘There are a few drivers out there who cannot speak English and just bluff their way along.

‘It doesn’t matter if they are Polish, Russian, French or Spanish, if they can’t communicate with passengers then it’s a problem.’

Taxi driver Peter Ford, 48, said: ‘It’s just about letting customers know that the driver will actually be able to speak English, which isn’t always the case.’

Fellow driver Chris Head, 49, added: ‘I have no problem with the stickers.

‘Lots of customers will wait at ranks until an English driver comes along because they want someone they can talk to.’

Ian Hall, chairman of the Southampton Hackney Association, said half of the group’s 126 members are from an Asian background.

He added: ‘I don’t think any drivers should have these stickers in the back of their car because it’s racist.

‘If drivers have got these stickers in their back windows then they need to take them down.’

Mr Hall said night trade in Southampton would ‘collapse’ without ethnic minority drivers, who buy the majority of taxi plates.

The sticker issue was raised at a meeting between cab firms and Southampton City Council.

It is believed that the council would order them to be removed if it received complaints from passengers.

Chairman of the council’s licensing committee Councillor Brian Parnell said the stickers were ‘offensive’.

He said: ‘It’s certainly not the image we want for Southampton.

‘It is offensive to drivers from ethnic minorities who form a large part of the city’s drivers and without whom Southampton’s taxi service would suffer.

‘We want to promote harmony in the city.

‘But it is important that taxi drivers meet a certain set of standards and one of those is the ability to speak English.

‘It is normal good practice for anyone working in another country to be able to speak the language of that country.

‘I think the problem might be that many drivers do speak English but with a heavy accent that can be difficult to understand.’

Cllr Don Thomas, who sits on the licensing committee, added: ‘Taxis and taxi drivers can form the first impression that visitors have of Southampton.

‘I think this is completely the wrong sort of message to be sending out in what is proudly a cosmopolitan city.’

A council spokesman said: ‘People should contact the council and let us know if they see signs and stickers being used in taxis, particularly if they find them offensive.’

Currently, anyone who wants to drive a taxi must hold a British driving licence, pass a medical, undergo a criminal record check and complete a ‘knowledge’ test of Southampton.

Last year council chiefs added a driving assessment and a test in basic reading, writing and communication skills.

Within six months of taking to the road, drivers must also pass a BTec qualification in Road Transport Passenger Driving.

           — Hat tip: JH [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Medfilm: Egyptian Filmmaker Asks for More Cooperation

Rome, 11 Nov. (AKI) — Despite Egypt’s lengthy filmmaking history, directors and producers want to collaborate more with their European colleagues and learn more, said a prominent Egyptian filmmaker on Wednesday. Producer and director Adel Adeeb spoke to Adnkronos International (AKI) in Rome where he is a special guest at the 15th Mediterranean Film Festival.

“We would like our movies to be shown in Europe. This kind of cooperation and collaboration is important because it brings both sides closer together,” Adeeb told AKI.

“Collaboration is important because cinema has no country. Cinema is not about the country, in the end, it is about art and the artists who do it,” said Adeeb.

“In my experience, I have learned that the language of cinema is the same everywhere, especially in Egypt where we have been doing it for 100 years. We are the Hollywood of the Arab world.”

He also invited European filmmakers and producers to use Egypt as a location to shoot films.

Adeeb said progress had been made in building movie studios in Egypt and that would allow filmmakers to shoot there and reduce their costs.

He also spoke about a controversial TV series in Egypt about the banned Islamist opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood, which he was supposed to produce and direct.

According to Adeeb (photo), the series written by one of Egypt’s leading scriptwriters Wahid Hammed will document the life of the Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Bana.

“This TV series is one of the most important events that will take place in the coming year, when it is shown,” Adeeb said.

Wahid Hammed is known for his vociferous criticism of the Brotherhood. Adeeb, however, defended Hammed.

“I believe what Hammed has written is a fair documentation of the pros and cons of the Brotherhood and how they fit in Egypt’s history.”

Earlier this year, an Islamist lawyer threatened to block a plan to produce the TV series because it did not have the permission by the family of the founder.

Adeeb said there was no opposition from the government and there was freedom of speech in Egypt.

“Egypt is not the gulf. We do not have this kind of censorship. We don’t have this sense of being choked, we have the freedom to do what we want, we have 200 newspapers that crucify everything and everyone,” he said.

“Even in TV we don’t have that problem. We are exposing everything that has happened in Egypt for the past 10 years in the most democratic way.”

Three of Adeeb’s recent films have been blockbusters that have had widespread success in Egypt and in the Arab world.

He is known for producing successful films, including The Yacoubian Building, based on the best-selling novel by Egyptian author, Alaa el-Aswany, who won the first ever Egyptian nomination for an Oscar.

Adeeb’s film, Hassan and Morqos, which took a comic approach to religious conflict between Muslims and Christians was shown at last year’s Medfilm Festival in Rome.

Creativity and innovation are the focus of this year’s MedFilm Festival which opened in Rome on 7 November. A total of 150 films will be featured at the 15th annual festival.

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

North Africa

Algeria: 0.5% Workforce Foreigners, 45% Chinese

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 1 — In Algeria, 0.5% of manpower is composed of foreigners of 105 nationalities, most of them Chinese. These data were presented on National Radio by Said Annane, general director of employment of the Labour Ministry. “That is a marginal percentage” said Annane, underlining that “it is clear that many Algerian workers are being hired for the mega-projects that have been launched by the country. We have the human resources to carry on with our projects and development”, he added. The number of foreign workers in the North African country has increased from 543 in 1999 to 45,000 in 2009. Most of the 105 nationalities that are present in the country are Chinese, 45%, followed by Egyptians (11%), Italians (4%) and Filipinos, Americans, French and Canadians (around 3%). According to Annane, 51% of the foreign workforce work in the construction and public works sector. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Berlusconi: We Are the Basis of Our Civilization

(AGI) — Jerusalem, 1 Feb. — “We have the pride of being, along with he Judeo-Christian culture, at the basis of European civilization”. The statement was made by Silvio Berlusconi during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The Premier then also recalled that “still now there are those that question the existence of the State of Israel and this is unacceptable”. .

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Dreams of Israel Joining EU

(AGI) — Jerusalem, 1 Feb. — Welcomed by Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, Silvio Berlusconi has arrived in Telaviv for a three-day visit, The Italian Prime Minister was then received by Premier Benyamin Netanyahu. “I am here,” said Berlusconi, “to bear witness to Italy’s friendship for the Israeli people. It is my dream to see Israel become a member of the European Union.” .

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Cast Lead: Disciplinary Actions for High Officials

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 1 — Seven months late, and on the basis of a report forwarded Friday from Israel to the United Nations, Israelis only came to know today that two high level army officials have been placed under disciplinary action for an occurrence one year ago, when operation Cast Lead in Gaza against Hamas was coming to an end. The officials are General Eyal Eizenberg, who commanded the operation, and Colonel Ilan Malca, commander of an infantry regiment. “They have received a reprimand that will follow them for the rest of their military career”, a military spokesman confirmed to ANSA. According to the press other officials were also placed under disciplinary action. For what reason was the secret kept? According to the ex-deputy chief of staff, General Dan Harel, it was “a simple oversight”. Haaretz reported the news with enormous emphasis, according to which, in the report just forwarded by the UN, Israel connected the punishment of the officials to the use of phosphorous projectiles a short distance from a UNRWA installation (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) in Tel al-Hawa, Gaza. Behind that building, the newspaper explained, Hamas fighters were entrenched. In front there were Israeli forces, which had to be shielded to protect themselves. But soon a military spokesman reported that the newspaper’s version was not accurate. The reprimand of the two officials, it was explained to ANSA, was due to the fact that in those circumstances and in that densely populated area, they ordered the use of artillery “against the rules in vigour in the same Tsahal”, the Israeli army stated. And that is independently of the type of shells used thereafter. In the 50 page report forwarded to the United Nations, Israel itemised the investigations conducted for months among the troops deployed in Gaza and admitted having committed some errors that cost the lives of innocent people. Some 30 investigations, criminal in nature, are still in course, he stated. In the meantime, the government of Benyamin Netanyahu is still uncertain whether to grant the request expressed in the UN’s “Goldstone Report” to open an independent, that is a part from the military, judicial investigation now. Resistance is strong and is also coming from the centre Kadima party. In any case a decision is expected in coming days. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Desecrated Mosque, Extremist Settlers in House Arrest

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 1 — The court in Petach Tikwa (Tel Aviv) has ordered the house arrest of two extreme right-wing settler activists who are suspected of desecrating a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank last December. The two men — Zvi Succot from the Yitzhar settlement and Shlomo Gelbert from the Alon Moreh settlement — were arrested in recent days by the Shin Bet (Israels interior security service) and maintained total silence under interrogation. In the absence of concrete evidence, the judge accepted requests by the defence for house arrest. During the investigation Yitzhak Shapira, director of a well-known Rabbinical college with ties to the extreme right, was also briefly arrested, but no evidence was found to justify his arrest and he was released. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

US Intelligence Finds 5,000 Hizballah Training to Seize Galilee Towns

DEBKAfile Special Expose

Jones was not talking out of the top of his head, but on the strength of solid US intelligence gathered over months on detailed war plans Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas have drawn up to send five Hizballah brigades sweeping across the border to seize five sectors of Galilee, while also organizing a massive Israeli-Arab uprising against the Jewish state.

Hamas would open a second front in the south and in the east. Syria is expected to step in at some stage.

This plan with attached special map was first published exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 430 on Jan. 22, 2010. Key excerpts appear here.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards instructors at especially established training facilities near Tehran are already well advanced in training a cadre of 5,000 Hizballah fighters in special operations and urban combat tactics to standards equivalent to those current in similar US and Israeli military forces.

At the outset of the course, the group was split up into five battalions, each given a specific northern Israeli sector for capture with details of its topography and population for close study.

(See attached map)…

           — Hat tip: JH [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Italy: Mideast Film Festival to Focus on Iran

Florence, 1 Feb.(AKI) — Iran will be the focus of an Italian film festival on the Middle East which opens in Florence this week. Fourteen feature films and documentaries from Iran, Israel, the Palestinian territories and several other countries are included in the programme.

The Iranian movie ‘About Elly’ (photo) will open the five-day festival. The movie by director Asghar Farhadi examines the relationship between middle class families in Iran and won the Silver Bear award at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Farhadi will also discuss Iran and culture at a panel discussion on Wedesday.

The opening and closing films of the festival will be dedicated to Iran.

Other films to be screened include, ‘Tehran without Permission, a documentary filmed in secret by Iranian director Sepideh Farsi with a cell phone in the months immediately preceding last year’s disputed presidential election.

The first animated Palestinian film, ‘Fatenah’, will also be featured at the festival.

All films are in original language with Italian and English subtitles.

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

Killed Hamas Leader ‘Sourced Arms’ For Gaza

Dubai, 1 Feb. (AKI) — Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the senior Hamas commander killed in a Dubai hotel room, played a “central role” in arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Talal Nasara has told the UAE newspaper, The National.

“He was responsible for sourcing arms and money for the Gaza Strip, “ he said. “His presence in Dubai put him in danger because, compared to what he usually did, he travelled with his own passport and without bodyguards.”

Al-Mabhouh was one of the founders of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic organisation that seized control of the Gaza strip in 2007.

Hamas sources are convinced that Israeli secret service agents were responsible for his death.

His brother Fayed al-Mabhouh said he had been killed by an electric shock to the head.

But the latest media reports have said that the Hamas commander was injected with a drug that induced a heart attack.

The body of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, 50, was discovered by staff at the luxury Al Bustan Rotana hotel after lunch on 20 January.

There were no suspicious signs and local doctors diagnosed a heart attack. Last week Dubai police said they have identified the killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh while Hamas said Israeli agents were responsible.

“We in Hamas hold the Zionist enemy responsible for the criminal assassination of our brother, and we pledge to God and to the blood of the martyrs and to our people to continue his path of jihad and martyrdom,” the group said in a statement last week.

Hamas said Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had been responsible for the abduction in 1989 of two Israeli soldiers, who were both later killed.

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

NASA Picture Suggests Dubai Globe is Sinking Back Into the Sea

This is how the world looks like according to ambitious engineers in Dubai, but it is starting to look rather ragged around the edges.

The stunning image of the man-made archipelago was taken by an astronaut far above our Earth on the International Space Station.

It shows the World Islands development (on the right), sitting in shallow waters just off Dubai’s coast.


Work inside the man-made lagoon stopped last year and the World Islands’ website went ominously quiet. The last update is from 1 October 2008, announcing the completion of the foundations.

Then in November 2009, Dubai World, which owns Nakheel Properties, asked for a delay to repay $26billion in debt.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Saudi Girl, 12, Drops Push to Divorce Octogenarian

AFP — A 12-year-old Saudi girl unexpectedly gave up her petition for divorce from an 80-year-old man her father forced her to marry in exchange for a dowry, Saudi media reported Tuesday.

Despite support from human rights lawyers and child welfare advocates, the girl and her mother, who originally sought the divorce, withdrew the case Monday in a court in Buraidah, in Al-Qasim province, newspapers said.

The girl told the court that her marriage to the man was done with her agreement, according to Okaz newspaper.

“I agree to the marriage. I have no objection. This is in filial respect to my father and obedience to his wish,” she said.

Saleh al-Dabibi, a lawyer supplied by a charity group to help the girl, said her mother did not inform him of the change of heart, Okaz said.

An unnamed official of the government’s Human Rights Commission, which was originally asked by the mother to help in getting the marriage annulled, told Arab News they too were surprised by the mother and daughter dropping the case.

The influential daughter of King Abdullah, Princess Adela bint Abdullah, expressed concern over the girl’s marriage.

“I, personally, and many specialists in social and education fields, share the opinion” that it is in violation of children’s rights, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.

“A child has the right to live her childhood and not be forced to get married. Even an adult would not accept that,” she said.

According to reports, the girl’s father, who is separated from her mother, arranged her marriage to the 80-year-old last September in exchange for a dowry payment of 85,000 riyals (22,667 dollars).

The case caused an uproar after Al-Riyadh newspaper first reported it in early January, saying the marriage had been consummated and quoting the girl as pleading to the journalist to “save me.”

Her mother, who is unidentified in local reports, petitioned the court to annul the marriage and charged that the girl had been raped.

The case was to be heard Monday, but reports said the mother dropped the complaint ahead of the hearing.

Saudi Arabia has no law against child marriage, and clerics and religious judges justify the practice based on Islamic and Saudi tradition.

But human rights officials have been pushing for a law that would set a minimum marriage age of 16 or higher.

In January, senior cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Manie told Okaz that the Prophet Mohammed’s marriage to a nine-year-old girl some 14 centuries ago cannot be used to justify child marriages today.

Manie, a member of the Council of Senior Ulema (scholars), said that circumstances are different today from when the Prophet Mohammed married young Aisha.

Aisha’s marriage “cannot be equated with child marriages today because the conditions and circumstances are not the same,” he said.

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

Turkey: Dogan Says Court Cancels $518 Million in Taxes, Fines

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 1 — Dogan Media Holding, or DMG, Turkey’s biggest media group, won a court appeal against a tax claim related to the sale of shares in unit Dogan TV Holding to Axel Springer AG of Germany, as Hurriyet daily website reports. The court canceled 772.5 million Turkish Liras ($518 million) of the 862.4 million liras ($578.5 million) tax claim for the years 2002 to 2006, the company said in a filing with the Istanbul Stock Exchange Monday. “This is interpreted in the market as meaning the problems between Dogan and the government are being resolved slowly,” said Orhan Canli, a trader at Is Investment in Istanbul. Dogan got the tax demands from the Finance Ministry last year after its newspapers and television channels linked Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government with a fraud scandal at an Islamic charity in Germany. Erdogan denied the charges and says the tax administration is independent of politics. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey:15 Dogs Found Dead in Beykoz Massacre

Fifteen dogs were found dead Monday, cast out in the depths of Istanbul’s Beykoz forest with poison frothing from their mouths in what has been yet another stray dog massacre.

Animal rights activists from the Animal Rights Activists Foundation, or HAYVIST, came across the dogs during a routine visit to feed and look after stray dogs in Mahmut Sevket Pasa village.

The vast number of stray animals that roam Istanbul’s streets have for decades posed great problems for municipalities, but despite efforts made by animal activists to come up with lasting and non-violent solutions, municipalities are continuing to carry out such massacres.

“Is this how we became the European Cultural Capital? By massacring so many dogs? This is inhumane,” HAYVIST chairwoman Asude Ustaoglu said.

Ustaoglu highlighted that HAYVIST and other animal rights groups have put in so much effort to care and look after stray dogs, especially during the recent burst of cold weather. “What do our efforts go towards when municipalities sneak out into the dark of night when we are asleep and kill these helpless animals,” Ustaoglu said.

According to HAYVIST among the dogs that were murdered were three mother dogs that all have numerous puppies of which are all homeless. “There puppies can only be nourished by milk or they too will die, we will work to place them in the homes of animal lovers in order to save them,” Ustaoglu said.

Upon finding the four dead mother dogs dumped in barrages, the activists took them to the Beykoz Municipality building and put them outside the entrance. In response, a member of the municipality told the group that the mayor was extremely sensitive on the subject of animal rights and therefore the people that carried it out must have been people that opposed the municipality.

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

Turkish Frigate Sets Sail for Anti-Piracy Mission

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 1 — A frigate with the Turkish Naval Forces set sail on Monday from its base in southwest Turkey to take part in an international effort to fight off piracy in the Gulf of Aden, as Anatolia news agency reports. The Perry class frigate, TCG Gemlik, will relieve TCG Gokova currently serving under the international anti-piracy mission, CTF-151. TCG Gemlik is the fifth task force Turkey has deployed to the region since February last year. The others were TCG Giresun, TCG Gaziantep, TCG Gediz and TCG Gokova. A farewell ceremony was held for TCG Gemlik at the Aksaz Naval Base Command in Marmaris and she is expected to arrive in Djibouti within seven days and take over the task from TCG Gokova. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Human Rights Violated by Extremism as Well as Religious and Social Discrimination

For activist Lenin Raghuvanshi, “the human rights situation in India is shameful”. Religious fundamentalism but also “torture by police” and the “collapse of rule of law” are to blame. The country suffers from a “mindset” that hurts the weakest and non-Hindu minorities.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), does not mince words when it comes to human rights protection and basic rights in the world’s so-called largest democracy. For him, “the human rights situation in India is shameful”, starting with the “lack of religious freedom” and the “conditions in which the weakest groups in society live”.

The 2007 Gwanju Human Rights Award laureate said that human rights are under attack in India on a number of fronts. On the one hand, we have “torture by police” and the “collapse of the rule of law at the grassroots level”; on the other, there is the extremism by rebel and secessionist movements and “religious fundamentalism” fuelled by certain political parties.

This year’s human rights celebration is dedicated to minorities, an apt venue to reveal the situation of the country.

In India, the weakest segments of society are also the most vulnerable: Dalits, women and children. Of course, these groups are not minorities in terms of numbers but are in a minority situation as far as power and social status are concerned.

Religious minorities are another major problem. “Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right,” the PVCHR president said. However, “despite constitutional guarantees, the reality is quite different.”

India’s religious minorities are often caught between a “feudal system based on Hindu-dominated castes” and “Hindu extremist groups who are opposed to religious freedom in the country.”

For Raghuvanshi, these two problems are an expression of the same “mindset” that finds complicities or inaction among political leaders and supporters inside the security apparatus and the legal system. The holy city of Varanasi is a case in point. Here, the number of complaints filed against the police is the same as against members of the Hindu extremists group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Other examples are anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat and anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal (Orissa).

In view of this situation, Raghuvanshi calls on the authorities to “reform the police” and debureaucratise agencies like the National Human Rights Commission. Violence by Maoist rebels and religious fundamentalists should also end.

“Without changes at this level, the human rights situation in the country is bound to end in tragedy,” he said.

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

Indonesia: East Java: Eko Budi Wardoyo, Suspect in Anti-Christian Violence, Arrested

According to police, he is implicated in violence that hit central Sulawesi between 2000 and 2007. He is currently held in a special high security detention centre where he is being interrogated by prosecutors. In Jakarta, 50 Islamic extremists are set to go on trial, including the moneyman for the July 2005 hotel attacks.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesia’s elite anti-terror unit arrested Eko Budi Wardoyo (aka Munsih e Amin), the alleged author of a series of anti-Christian attacks in Poso, Tentena and Palu (central Sulawesi) between 2000 and 2007, General Tito Sumardi, head of the Indonesian police, said today. The arrest was carried out on 26 January in the town of Sidoarjo, some 25 kilometres south of Surabaya, capital of East Java.

The police chief said that the terrorist suspect is “under tight security” and is being “interrogated by prosecutors in a special detention house at the elite Mobile Brigade HQ in Kelapa Dua, Depok (West Java). When police arrested Eko, they found important documents in his possession.

Eko Budi Wardoyo had been on run for the past five years because of his involvement in the murder of Rev Susianti Tinulele, a woman pastor killed in South Palu (central Sulawesi) on 18 July 2004. She was shot dead at the altar as she was delivering the Sunday Mass sermon. Four members of her congregation were hurt during the incident: 15-year-old Farid Melindo, 18-year-old Christianto, 15-year-old Listiani and 17-year-old Desri.

Eko is also thought to have played a role in the bloody attacks in Poso in May 2005, including one that hit one of the city’s traditional markets that killed 22 people and seriously injured an additional 93. In 2005, he is also a suspect in a bomb blast in Palu’s meat market.

For Police Inspector Edward Aritonang, Eko is a “professional killed, smart at taking on different aliases” to elude capture.

Anti-Christian violence has been a problem for many years. On 16 October 2005, Rev Irianto Kongkoli, a member of the Christian Protestant Churches Synod, was shot dead by an unknown.

The next day, local sources told AsiaNews that the clergyman had become a target for Islamic extremists because of his actions in favour of persecuted Christians. In an interview before his death, the reverend had said that someone was orchestrating the campaign of violence but did not mention them by name.

In the meantime, police in Jakarta are getting ready to bring 50 Islamic extremists to justice. They include Muhammad Jibriel Abdul Rahman, a key fundraiser for Islamic terrorism, and a Saudi national, Al Khelaiw Ali Abdullah, who funded the attacks against the Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta in July 2009.

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

Thailand: High Tech Ablutions for Faithful to Save Water

(ANSAmed) — BANGKOK, FEBRUARY 1 — A machine for high-tech ritual ablutions form Muslims to save water. The invention came from a Malaysia based company which promises savings of 80%. With 1.7 billion Muslims in the world, which should pray five times per day including washing their face, arms and legs before kneeling towards Mecca, how much water is wasted in the faucets that are left running? This is the question that the Malaysian company, AACE Technologies, asked. The company has presented a machine designed to assist Muslims in the ritual, allowing them to save on water consumption. “During the pilgrimage of Hajj, 2 million people use 50 million litres of water per day. If they used our machine, they would save 40 million”, explained Anthony Gomez, the manager of AACE Technologies. The product, with a height of 165 centimetres and able to use only 1.3 litres per ablution, will be introduced on the market in 6 months time, after a design and development phase that cost 2 years, and an investment of 2.5 million dollars. The emirate of Dubai has reportedly already expressed its interest. The price of the new machine has not yet been fixed. According to indications from the manufacturer, it should run for between 3,000 and 4,000 dollars (2,200-2,900 euros). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Far East

China Warns of ‘Serious Damage’ If Barack Obama Meets Dalai Lama

China has warned of “serious damage” to US-China political relations if US President Barack Obama goes ahead with an anticipated meeting with the Dalai Lama in Washington later this month.

[Return to headlines]

Chinese Girl, 9, Becomes One of World’s Youngest Mothers After Giving Birth to a Baby Boy

The unnamed girl was brought to a hospital in Changchun, which lies in the north-east of the country, when she was eight and a half months pregnant.

Two days later, she gave birth to the 6lb boy by Caesarean section, a Chinese newspaper has reported.

Menstruation usually starts at the age of 12 but it is not uncommon for it start earlier. In the western world children are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages — some girls at the age of seven. Many blame rising obesity rates because, generally, girls who achieve menstruation earlier in life tend to have greater body mass index and a higher ratio of fat compared to those who begin menstruation later. University of Bristol research has suggested one girl in six reaches puberty before the age of eight — 18 months earlier than their mothers. Periods are a sign that a girl is now releasing fertile eggs which makes her able to conceive.

The child comes from the nearby town of Songyuan. Her family refused to discuss the pregnancy, but confirmed they had reported it to the police.

Last night police were reportedly trying to establish who the father is.

In the province, sex with a child under the age of 14 brings an automatic rape conviction and a lengthy jail sentence.

A legal expert told the paper that women under the age of 14 do not have sexual rights — ‘so any argument of being consensual as a defence is completely untenable,’ he said.

He added: ‘Anyone who had sexual relations with a girl under 14 means they have committed rape and is to be punished severely.’

A hospital in China’s largest city, Shanghai, recently said that about 30 per cent of abortions were on school-aged girls.

The youngest reported mother in the world — and the most bizarre of all young pregnancy cases — is five-year-old Lina Medina of Peru, who gave birth to a 6lb son named Gerardo in a Caesarean operation in 1939.

Her father was arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse but was later released because of lack of evidence.

In 1957 another Peruvian girl, aged nine, gave birth to a girl weighing just over 6lb and, curiously, it was in 2006 that yet another Peruvian girl, aged eight, gave birth to a 4lb 4oz girl.

Several other girls aged nine, from Thailand, Singapore, Rwanda and Brazil, have also given birth.

Mothers aged as young as 10 and 11 have also become an increasing occurrence.

The youngest mother in Britain is believed to have been 11 when she got pregnant and 12 years old when she gave birth.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

“Cane Toads” A Cautionary Tale of Ecological Hubris

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) — Rarely has an ecological menace appeared as entertaining as portrayed in “Cane Toads: The Conquest,” Mark Lewis’ follow-up documentary to his 1988 film “Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.” Twenty-two years later, Lewis returns to the critters’ northern Australia habitat for a 3D production with remarkable results.

Discovery Studios holds the broadcast rights, but a savvy theatrical distributor prepared to partner with co-producer Participant Media on a 3D release could see enthusiastic response from a broad range of audiences.

The film begins with a brief, humorous recap using archival footage to depict how the amphibian, a South American native, was introduced to Australia in 1935 in an ill-advised attempt to control the sugar cane beetle. The prodigiously productive toad — females can lay up to 50,000 eggs a year — quickly took hold in its new environment, rapidly advancing from northeastern Australia across the northern regions of the country. From an original 102 imported 75 years ago, the current population is estimated at 1.5 billion.

Lewis then interviews sugar cane farmers, scientists and locals to chart the toad’s advance west by the thousands. Some sequences in the film show hundreds of wriggling toads massing at once. The proliferation of amphibians has prompted people to hunt them down in organized community outings or individually in their own back yards. Local and regional governments are also devising schemes to eliminate the pests, but nothing seems effective in stopping the toad.

Despite the serious ecological implications of the onslaught, Lewis injects abundant humor into the film. Amusing re-creations of residents’ experiences with the invaders — and house pets’ unfortunate encounters with the toads — are shot like short films inserted into the longer narrative. More perspective on the species’ impact on the local ecology and links to other environmental issues would have provided a greater global context for the problem, however.

The film is the first independently financed doc to be shot with digital 3D and overall production values are first-class, with the 3D cinematography adding the eye-popping realism that could help push viewers into theaters.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Cane Toad ‘Sausages’ Help Wildlife

Cane toads are being turned into sausages in the Northern Territory as part of a research project to help save an endangered mammal.

The sausages, which are made up of the minced legs of the toads, are being fed to quolls as part of the project by Sydney University and the Territory Wildlife Park.

The sausages are then laced with a chemical that makes the quolls sick.

Researcher Stephanie O’Donnell says the aim is to make the quolls feel ill so they will avoid eating the poisonous amphibians in the wild.

“They can’t smell [the chemical]. They can’t taste it,” she said.

“Basically it makes them really, really sick.

“We basically give them food poisoning and after that they just won’t touch it or they will sniff the toad, run away from it or bite it and spit it out.”

Results show about a quarter of the quolls will avoid a toad after eating one of the sausages.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Emirates: Press Freedom Loses Place in RWB Classification

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 1 — Already hit by the financial turbulence of last year and by emerging cases of corruption, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have suffered another blow to their credibility, despite their repeated calls for the search for greater transparency: in its classification, Reporters sans Frontieres, which measures freedom of the press in 175 countries throughout the world, puts the UAE down by 17 points to 86th place, along with Uganda. The Emirati government has tried to close the gap between information and the authorities over the last twelve months by introducing the figure of spokesperson in the Ministries, by announcing the creation of a tribunal which specialises in handling offences by the press and by opening a direct line with the media, as in the case of the occasional online interviews released by the Sheikh of Dubai, Mohammad al Maktum. Initially seen as a reserved lane towards an understanding of the facts, the spokespeople have proved to be a ‘total failure’ for President of the Association of Journalists, Mohammad Yusuf, resulting in a “wall between journalists and the authorities”. The year was also marked by the closure of two magazines for about a month. Hetta, the online magazine, was condemned for criticising the management of the Emirati television channels, while daily paper Emirati Al Youm was suspended over the publication of a piece accusing the al Warsan stables of administering steroids to its horses during a race in Abu Dhabi in 2006. However, not all the wrongs come from above, says Yusuf. The lack of journalistic coverage of the financial downturn which has affected the country, along with a number of cases of corruption which undermined credibility, are the fault of a local press which wavers between laziness and self-censorship, limiting its role to following the development of stories carried on the front pages of the foreign press. The Tribunal fr press offences, which has been announced but so far not set up, could restore greater vigour and transparency to the Emirati press, by distinguishing between journalists and criminals and between crimes and violations of the law. Despite te the sharp fall in position, the UAE keeps its third-place position among Arab countries for greater openness towards the media, behind Kuwait and Lebanon, in 60th and 61st position respectively, and should be set in the context of the oil-producing block of countries, which are characterised by their monopolies in information. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Latin America

As Food Distribution Improves, Haitians Want U.S to ‘Take Over’

“The Haitian government has been here for a while, and they give us nothing. The United States should take over the country,” said Andrelita Laguerre, shepherding four children and a grandchild at the camp. “Most of my friends expect the United States to take over. I wish!”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Greece: Rise in Anti-Migrant Sentiment

Six out of 10 citizens believe that immigration is having a negative impact on society and diluting Greek national identity, according to the results of a new survey carried out for Kathimerini as the government finalizes draft legislation foreseeing the granting of citizenship to thousands of second-generation migrants.

According to the opinion poll, carried out by Public Issue last week on a sample of 500 citizens, 59 percent of respondents believe that immigration is harming the country, up from 47 percent in 2008, while 57 percent think migrants are tainting national identity, as compared to 47 percent in 2008. The economic crisis also appears to have influenced public opinion, with 45 percent complaining that migrants are depriving Greek citizens of jobs, up from 39 percent in 2008. The proportion of the public that blames immigrants for rising crime levels remains steadily high, at 75 percent.

The poll highlights an apparent shift to the right, with 72 percent maintaining that the government’s immigration policy is not strict enough, as compared to 63 percent in 2008. There also appears to be a conviction, among the overwhelming majority of respondents (88 percent), that a limit should be set on the number of immigrants allowed to remain in the country, with six in 10 complaining that there are already too many migrants in Greece.

As for the government’s draft law, which foresees the naturalization of 250,000 children of migrants born in Greece and of thousands more migrants who have been living here legally for more than five years, public opinion appears to be split down the middle. The poll shows that 45 percent of respondents are in favor of citizenship and voting rights being granted to second-generation and long-term migrants, while the same percentage also oppose these proposals.

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

Rules for Living in My Country

So, then, let’s go over some of the principles our first two centuries of immigrants intuitively understood and that many of today’s immigrants, for some reason, apparently do not. I don’t mean to insult you by belaboring the obvious, but better too much clarity now than a big surprise for both of us down the road.

You cannot own people here. This includes domestic servants and family members. You cannot beat or mutilate your children. You cannot force, threaten, or sell them into arranged marriages. You cannot keep adult relatives from marrying the people they choose, getting jobs, or moving out of your house. You cannot hold your employees captive, beat or rape them, or refuse to pay agreed-upon wages. It took us 200 years to get rid of institutionalized slavery, and we are not about to reinstate it because one of your holy men thinks it’s acceptable behavior.

You cannot kill people here. Not your wife. Not your children. Not your grandchildren. Not people who question your honor or hurt your feelings. Not people who quit your religion. Not people of other faiths or ethnicities whom you regard as apes, pigs, monkeys, or dogs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Spray-on Liquid Glass is About to Revolutionize Almost Everything

( — Spray-on liquid glass is transparent, non-toxic, and can protect virtually any surface against almost any damage from hazards such as water, UV radiation, dirt, heat, and bacterial infections. The coating is also flexible and breathable, which makes it suitable for use on an enormous array of products.

The liquid glass spray (technically termed “SiO2 ultra-thin layering”) consists of almost pure silicon dioxide (silica, the normal compound in glass) extracted from quartz sand. Water or ethanol is added, depending on the type of surface to be coated. There are no additives, and the nano-scale glass coating bonds to the surface because of the quantum forces involved. According to the manufacturers, liquid glass has a long-lasting antibacterial effect because microbes landing on the surface cannot divide or replicate easily.

Liquid glass was invented in Turkey and the patent is held by Nanopool, a family-owned German company. Research on the product was carried out at the Saarbrücken Institute for New Materials. Nanopool is already in negotiations in the UK with a number of companies and with the National Health Service, with a view to its widespread adoption.

The liquid glass spray produces a water-resistant coating only around 100 nanometers (15-30 molecules) thick. On this nanoscale the glass is highly flexible and breathable. The coating is environmentally harmless and non-toxic, and easy to clean using only water or a simple wipe with a damp cloth. It repels bacteria, water and dirt, and resists heat, UV light and even acids. UK project manager with Nanopool, Neil McClelland, said soon almost every product you purchase will be coated with liquid glass.

Food processing companies in Germany have already carried out trials of the spray, and found sterile surfaces that usually needed to be cleaned with strong bleach to keep them sterile needed only a hot water rinse if they were coated with liquid glass. The levels of sterility were higher for the glass-coated surfaces, and the surfaces remained sterile for months.

Other organizations, such as a train company and a hotel chain in the UK, and a hamburger chain in Germany, are also testing liquid glass for a wide range of uses. A year-long trial of the spray in a Lancashire hospital also produced “very promising” results for a range of applications including coatings for equipment, medical implants, catheters, sutures and bandages. The war graves association in the UK is investigating using the spray to treat stone monuments and grave stones, since trials have shown the coating protects against weathering and graffiti. Trials in Turkey are testing the product on monuments such as the Ataturk Mausoleum in Ankara.

The liquid glass coating is breathable, which means it can be used on plants and seeds. Trials in vineyards have found spraying vines increases their resistance to fungal diseases, while other tests have shown sprayed seeds germinate and grow faster than untreated seeds, and coated wood is not attacked by termites. Other vineyard applications include coating corks with liquid glass to prevent “corking” and contamination of wine. The spray cannot be seen by the naked eye, which means it could also be used to treat clothing and other materials to make them stain-resistant. McClelland said you can “pour a bottle of wine over an expensive silk shirt and it will come right off”.

In the home, spray-on glass would eliminate the need for scrubbing and make most cleaning products obsolete. Since it is available in both water-based and alcohol-based solutions, it can be used in the oven, in bathrooms, tiles, sinks, and almost every other surface in the home, and one spray is said to last a year.

Liquid glass spray is perhaps the most important nanotechnology product to emerge to date. It will be available in DIY stores in Britain soon, with prices starting at around £5 ($8 US). Other outlets, such as many supermarkets, may be unwilling to stock the products because they make enormous profits from cleaning products that need to be replaced regularly, and liquid glass would make virtually all of them obsolete.

           — Hat tip: Wally Ballou [Return to headlines]

6 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/2/2010

  1. Re Human Rights in India,

    Now I know why Indians are so quick to accuse others of racism,human rights violations etc, it’s a diversion from from their own appalling problems.

  2. “The female guard now expecting a child had sex with the convicted rapist on several occasions within prison walls before their secret romance was discovered and she chose to quit her prison job in order to continue seeing the 38-year-old, who is due to be released from prison in 2013, at which time he is to be deported.”

    OH, pray tell. I wonder where this fine specimen of humanity hails from and will be returned to?

    Would I be deemed a racist if I guessed either the African cintinent or the middle-East?

  3. Re : the Swedish prison guard pregnant after falling for a convicted rapist.

    Any sane person, male or female, would deem it foolish to allow women to work as gards in men’s prisons.

    Feminism has taught us otherwise. Feminism tells us this is “prejudice” and “bigotry”. Feminism is a criminal ideology.

  4. Re:
    Earth Religions Get Worship Area at AF Academy

    Just a thought but if we ever really explore other worlds could ‘earth based’ religions survive? I can’t see Gaia traipsing about in the starry reaches.

Comments are closed.