Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/29/2013

Denmark and Sweden are the most highly-taxed countries in Europe, with 48% and 45% of GDP going to their respective governments. Both have top tax rates of about 56%. Lithuania, Latvia, and Bulgaria have the lowest tax rates in Europe.

In other news, unidentified forces in Syria fired two ground-to-air missiles towards a Russian airliner carrying 159 passengers through Syrian airspace en route to Kazan.

To see the headlines and the articles, click “Continue reading” below.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Insubria, JP, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in.

Notice to tipsters: Please don’t submit extensive excerpts from articles that have been posted behind a subscription firewall, or are otherwise under copyright protection.

Caveat: Articles in the news feed are posted “as is”. Gates of Vienna cannot vouch for the authenticity or accuracy of the contents of any individual item posted here. We check each entry to make sure it is relatively interesting, not patently offensive, and at least superficially plausible. The link to the original is included with each item’s title. Further research and verification are left to the reader.

Financial Crisis
» Economic-Related Suicides Up 20-30% in Italy in Four Years
» Greece: Half a Billion Euros in State Revenue Up in Smoke
» Greece: Radical Changes for Armed Forces
» Greek Parliament Approves 15,000 Civil Service Job Cuts
» Italy: Property-Tax Rebate ‘Essential’ To Deal Says PdL
» Italy’s 10-Year Bond Rate Under 4% at Auction
» Spanish Unemployment Hits Record High of 27.2%
» UN Team Says Greek Austerity Hits Human Rights
» Boston Bombs: The Canadian Boxer and the Terror Recruiter Who ‘Led Tsarnaev on Path to Jihad’
» Jets Release Quarterback Tim Tebow
» Lead Choir Singer Stabbed in Bizarre US Church Attack
» Secretary of State Kerry Says PM Letta is a Loyal Friend
» Dr. Ingrid Mattson Keynotes Canadian Muslim Women’s Dinner
Europe and the EU
» Denmark and Sweden Have Highest Taxes
» EU-United States: Film-Makers Defend European Cultural Exception
» France: Islamophobia: Vandals Desecrate Muslim Graves
» France: Ministries Named and Shamed in Racism Report
» German Wild Apples in Danger of Extinction
» Germany: Europe Soon No Longer Number-One Trade Area
» Huffington Post Picks Burda Publishers for German Edition
» Iceland Grapples With Tourist Influx
» Italy: Venice: Titanium Bars Stabilize Restored St.Mark’s Bell Tower
» Italy: Venice Anti-Flood System to Lower Gates in First Test
» Italy: Berlusconi Loses Fight to Get Estranged Wife’s Alimony Cut
» Italy: PDL and M5S Up in Poll, PD Slides
» Italy: Govt ‘Bunga Bunga Orgy’ Says Grillo
» Italy: Calabria Waste System Near Collapse, Says Councillor
» Italy: M5S Leader Grillo Likened to Terrorist Ideologue
» Italy: Fiat-Chrysler 19.8 Billion Euro Turnover First Quarter
» Italy Forms Coalition Government Amid Economic Tension
» Ken Clarke’s Nasty Anti-UKIP Rant Will Only Strengthen Nigel Farage and His Party
» Merkel Calls Letta: Supports Coalition With Berlusconi’s PDL
» Nigel Farage Attacks Ken Clarke for Calling UKIP Voters Racists
» Poll Shows Rampant Voter Disaffection in Italy
» Scotland: UK Cashes in on Independence Fears
» ‘Shadow Hangs Over Europe’s Fraud Investigators’
» Sweden’s Ex-Politicians Often Cash in as Lobbyists
» Sweden: Gothenburg Shootings Surge in Two Years
» The Tories’ Nixon-Style Campaign Against UKIP: Something You Should Know
» UK: ‘The Kippers’ Joke is Now on Tories
» UK: Baroness Warsi and the Demons of Hate
» UK: New Mosque Planned for East Reading
» UKIP Should Not be Compared to the BNP
» UKIP Feel the Heat
Mediterranean Union
» Journalists: Anna Lindh, Forum on Challenges in Med Region
North Africa
» Algeria: Waste Storage Worth 230 Million Euros a Year
» Armed Men Surround Libyan Foreign Ministry
» Egypt Awaiting 3 Bln Dollar Qatari Aid
» Libyan Prime Minister Says “We Will Not Surrender”
» Libya in Chaos. Militias Out of Control Target Ministries
Israel and the Palestinians
» Artificial Insemination for Palestinian Detainees’ Wives
» Hamas Teaches Palestinian Schoolboys How to Fire Kalashnikovs
» Palestinian Leader Abbas Made Honorary Neapolitan
Middle East
» Bahrain: 22 People Arrested, Car Bomb Against Police
» EU-Lebanon: Aid for Syrian Refugees a Top Priority
» Head of British Armed Forces Warns PM Cameron on Syria
» Iran and Al-Qaeda: A ‘Joke’ With a Nasty Punchline
» Iraq Suspends Licence of Al Jazeera and 9 More TV Channels
» Jordan: 3 Killed: 15 Injured in University Brawl
» ‘Missiles Fired at’ Russian Plane With 159 Passengers Onboard Flying Over Syria
» Syria: Tunisia Dismantles Jihadist Recruitment Centers
» Syria: Aleppo: Two Orthodox Bishops Still Captive, Christian Neighbourhood Shelled
» Turkey: Istanbul’s Greeks Want Citizenship Back
South Asia
» Finmeccanica Unit in Billion-Dollar Bid for India Army Deal
» India Celebrates 100 Years of Bollywood
» Pakistan: Punjab: Muslims and Christians Clash Over Threshing Machine: One Dead and Two Injured
Far East
» Japan and Russia Vow to End Island Dispute
» Cécile Kyenge Appointed Minister of Integration
» Free Movement: Switzerland Keeps Door Closed on Europeans
» Home Office Fury as Drug Dealer Immigrant Wins Right to Stay in UK
» Italy’s First Black Minister Attacked by Northern League
» ‘Let Kids Born in Sweden be Swedish Citizens’
Culture Wars
» Germany: Women Catholic Deacons ‘No Longer Taboo’
» ‘Comet of the Century’ Could Create New Meteor Shower
» Scientists Bounce Laser Beams Off Old Soviet Moon Rover

Economic-Related Suicides Up 20-30% in Italy in Four Years

But expert stresses overall number is low

(ANSA) — Rome, April 29 — The number of suicides that can be linked to economic factors has increased in Italy by “20% to 30%” in the last four years, the National Observatory of Health in Italian Regions said Monday.

Media have reported an apparent spate of suicides by unemployed people and entrepreneurs facing bankruptcy as the country struggles with its longest recession in two decades.

The observatory’s director, Walter Ricciardi, stressed, however, that the overall number of suicides “remains low” for a country of Italy’s population. The observatory said in a report that the use of anti-depressant drugs in Italy increased four-fold between 2000 and 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece: Half a Billion Euros in State Revenue Up in Smoke

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 25 — The number of smuggled cigarettes consumed in Greece last year was four times as high as the figure for 2008, according to a report conducted by KPMG and released on Wednesday by the Papastratos tobacco company.

This, as Kathimerini notes, has had a huge negative impact on both the tobacco industry and the state, which is losing up to half a billion euros per year in tax revenues, to say nothing of the impact on the health of smokers, given that those products usually are of unknown origin and questionable quality. The report’s data showed that in 2012 some 3.1 billion smuggled cigarettes were consumed, amounting to 13.4% of total consumption. The phenomenon is showing a disturbing trend toward growth as, according to a Nielsen survey assessing smuggling based on the number of empty packs found this year, the share of cigarettes not originally intended for the Greek market (most of them are illegal) amounted to 15.7% of consumption. The number of smuggled cigarettes in Greece last year was 16% higher than 2011 — the biggest rise in the European Union along with that recorded in Great Britain and Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece: Radical Changes for Armed Forces

(ANSAmed) ATHENS, APRIL 26 — Radical changes are about to take place in Greece’s Armed Forces according to a new structure which was presented on April 25 to the Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Greek Parliament. This new structure, as GreekReporter writes, is designed by the political and military leadership of the Ministry of National Defense and is expected to be ratified by the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) and will be applied soon. One of the changes that this new structure will bring is the closure of the First and the Second Army Corps. The staff control administered by the Second Army Corps, which was considered as a rapid reaction force will pass to the First Army. Both Corps will continue to exist as lesser level formations. Other changes will include the reduction by 20% of senior officers, while 100 million euros are expected to be saved by the changes. According to the newspaper Eleftheros Typos, the command structure will be cut by 40 to 45%, while the structure of forces by 20-25%. This will result in the permanent closure of 45 to 50 camps around the country, most of them on the mainland. Hellenic Air Force combat groups will be reduced by 50% and the major formations by 17%. Four air detachments are about to close in Agrinio, Santorini, Timbaki and Ioannina.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greek Parliament Approves 15,000 Civil Service Job Cuts

The Greek parliament passed a bill on Sunday which will see up to 15,500 public-sector workers laid off by 2015. The job cuts are among conditions set by the EU and IMF in return for €8.8 billion in emergency loans.

Greece’s Parliament approved an emergency bill Sunday to pave the way for thousands of public sector layoffs and free up 8.8 billion euros ($11.5 billion) in international rescue loans.

The bill, which passed in a 168-123 vote, will allow for the first civil service layoffs in more than a century. About 2,000 civil servants will be laid off by the end of May, with another 2,000 following by the end of the year and a further 11,500 by end-2014, for a total of 15,500.

The legislation is the latest wave of Greece’s draconian austerity program. It agreed this month with its bailout rescue lenders — the European Union and International Monetary Fund — to implement the measures as a condition to receive new emergency loans worth 8.8 billion euros ($11.5 billion).

The permanence of civil servant jobs has been enshrined in all constitutions since 1911, a form of protection from wholesale sacking when the government changes hands.

To get around the constitutional protection, the bill stipulates the first layoffs will take place in state agencies that will be disbanded or merged. A provision also aims to bypass, if needed, the notoriously slow and lenient disciplinary councils, which have refused to lay off even people convicted of felonies. More than 2,000 such cases are pending, nearly 600 on appeal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Property-Tax Rebate ‘Essential’ To Deal Says PdL

8 points ‘non-negotiable’ says Berlusconi party secretary Alfano

(ANSA) — Rome, April 25 — Meeting an election pledge to repay an unpopular property tax called IMU is an essential part of a cross-party agenda to be approved by a right-left coalition, centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) Party Secretary Angelino Alfano said after talks with possible future premier Enrico Letta of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Thursday.

“There still knots to be untied, we haven’t closed the deal yet,” Alfano said. The PdL, led by three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, has proposed an eight-point platform, including the IMU rebate, which are “essential to our participation in the government” to end two months of post-election stalemate, he said. It was “unimaginable” to think the PdL would team up with the PD without (the) IMU (rebate),” which tops the party’s platform, he said.

The eight-point platform is: 1) Scrapping IMU on primary residences and giving back what Italians paid in 2012.

2) Cutting powers of tax-collecting agency Equitalia to seize money or impound property in lieu of unpaid taxes.

3) Tax breaks for firms that hire young people.

4) Cutting red tape on businesses.

5) Abolishing party funding.

6) Tax reform.

7) Direct election of the Italian president by the people, not parliament.

8) Justice reform. The PD, which won a majority in the House but not the equally powerful Senate in February elections, issued its own 8-point platform during fruitless efforts to tempt comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement into a ‘government of change’.

None of its points coincides with the PdL’s and some go in the opposite direction, such as a conflict-of-interest law that would force Berlusconi to choose between his media empire or politics and a corruption law that would reinstate big penalties, eased by Berlusconi, for accountancy fraud.

The only common area is on the economy, where the PD wants to boost growth and create jobs after 18 months of austerity.

The PD narrowly beat the PdL in the popular vote in both Houses, on about 30%, with M5S getting about 25%.

After his meeting with Alfano, Letta held talks with M5S, pleading with them to drop their boycott of the traditional parties.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy’s 10-Year Bond Rate Under 4% at Auction

First time since 2010, rate on 5-year BTP drops too

(see related story on stock market, spread) (ANSA) — Rome, April 29 — The average interest rate that Italy’s 10-year bond fetched at a Treasury action was under 4% for the first time since October 2010 on Monday.

The auction was a hotly awaited test of investor sentiment after Premier Enrico Letta’s left-right government was sworn in on Sunday to end the deadlock Italy had endured since February’s inconclusive general election. The Treasury sold six billion euros’ worth of the 10-year and 5-year bonds it put up for action Monday.

The average rate on the 10-year BTP dropped to 3.94, compared to 4.66% at an auction in March.

The average rate on the 5-year bond was 2.84%, compared to 4.66% at the last equivalent sale.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spanish Unemployment Hits Record High of 27.2%

Six million jobless in first quarter of 2013

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Spanish unemployment hit a record high of 27.2% in the first quarter, equal to six million people out of a job, the national statistics institute made known on Thursday.

The figure is higher than market estimates of 26.5% (up from 26.02% in the previous quarter) and is the highest level since 2002. Unemployment has risen by 20 percentage points since the economic crisis began, equal to four million more jobless Spaniards, the institute said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UN Team Says Greek Austerity Hits Human Rights

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 29 — A United Nations fact-finding team that visited Greece to investigate the toll that austerity measures are taking, said that relentless pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions have helped undermine human rights and impoverished many. A UN analyst, Cephas Lumina, blistered what he said were unfair demands dictated by the debt-wracked nation’s rescue program imposed by the government on the orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB). Lumina headed a team that spent four days in Greece and found that soaring unemployment, at a record 27.2%, and shrinking welfare protection have left a growing number without health insurance while pushing some 10% of the population below the poverty line. Other analysts put the figure at 20% or more. “The available evidence indicates that these excessively rigid measures have resulted in a contraction of the economy and significant social costs for the population, including high unemployment, homelessness, poverty and inequality,” Lumina said as GreekReporter website writes. A multi-bill including a series of so-called “prior actions,” including 15,000 layoffs in the civil service by the end of next year, was submitted to Parliament on April 26 ahead of a vote on April 28 and are set to make life worse for many Greeks. Lumina expressed concern about the fact that only a small fraction of the country’s 1.3 million unemployed continue to receive benefits. Greece has a one-year limit on state assistance and strict rules to qualify for it. He urged the government and foreign creditors to strengthen the country’s welfare system, also by launching a social housing program. An estimated 20,000 people are homeless in Greece, mostly in Athens — 25-30% higher than 2009. He also warned of a spike in racially motivated attacks. His warning came two days after a network of NGOs issued a report showing both the number and intensity of hate attacks increasing in 2012.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Boston Bombs: The Canadian Boxer and the Terror Recruiter Who ‘Led Tsarnaev on Path to Jihad’

A Canadian boxer who was killed while fighting with jihadists in Russia has emerged as a key contact who may have set the elder Boston bomber on his path to violent extremism.

In what could be a breakthrough in the attempt to understand how Tamerlan Tsarnaev — himself a skilled boxer — became radicalised and turned to violence, Moscow’s respected Novaya Gazeta newspaper revealed his links with William Plotnikov, who was killed in a battle with security forces in the troubled southern Russian republic of Dagestan last year.

During his visit to Dagestan last year, Tsarnaev also met on several occasions a terrorist of mixed Dagestani and Palestinian parentage, who was being closely watched by the Russian security services. That man, Makhmud Mansur Nidal, had been under surveillance for six months as a suspected recruiter for Islamist insurgents fighting Moscow’s rule in the region…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Jets Release Quarterback Tim Tebow

It was 13 months ago that the Jets welcomed Tim Tebow to the team, introducing him in their spacious field house at a news conference attended by 200 members of the news media and that snarled traffic around the team’s facility in Florham Park, N.J.

On Monday morning, the Jets cut Tebow with no pomp, a victim of circumstance. They acknowledged an experiment gone awry with a news release that said, simply, “Jets waive QB Tim Tebow.” There was no mention in that release of Tebow’s statistics with the Jets, perhaps in part because there were none worth mentioning.

[Return to headlines]

Lead Choir Singer Stabbed in Bizarre US Church Attack

A man stabbed at least four people in a Catholic church in New Mexico on Sunday, striking just as the congregation was finishing taking communion.

The unknown attacker stabbed the lead singer of the choir at St Jude Thaddeus Church in Albuquerque and wounded several others as they struggled to restrain him. Police said at least two of the victims were in critical condition following the attack at around noon.

Reyes Stinson, a 17-year-old congregant, told The Daily Telegraph: “I was going to sit down after I had got my communion and once I sat down I saw a man running across the church and he attacked our lead singer. At first I thought it was a fist fight but he was being stabbed with a knife. People rushed to restrain the man and three of them got stabbed while attempting to restrain him. They eventually restrained him and took him outside. The cops came ten minutes later and took him.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Secretary of State Kerry Says PM Letta is a Loyal Friend

(AGI) Washington — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commended the newly appointed Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, saying, “He is a good and trusted friend of the United States committed to our trans-Atlantic partnership” .

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

Dr. Ingrid Mattson Keynotes Canadian Muslim Women’s Dinner

Our colleague in Ottawa, David B. Harris, former Canadian Intelligence and Security Service official, and noted Canadian counterterrorism expert, , has once again demonstrated the gulliblity of official circles in Canada for former Muslim Brotherhood leader in America, Dr. Ingrid Mattson. Dr. Mattson is the keynote Speaker at the 12th Annual Festival of Friendship dinner of the Ontario Muslim Women’s Organization (OMWO) to be held Sunday night in Ottawa The OMWO dinner benefits a Canadian mental health group. Among attendees at this occasion will be the wife of the Governor General of Canada. Emcee for the glittering event is a leading CBC personality, Dr. Mattson is a prominent Canadian convert to Wahhabist Islam. You may recall our posts regarding her return to Canada from her academic position at the Hartford, Connecticut Seminary, as well as, her term as President of the Islamic society of North America, a leading Muslim Brotherhood front. Dr. Matson accepted an endowed post at the Anglican Theological Program of Huron College of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. The chair at Huron college was endowed largely by local Muslim Brotherhood supporters. In our interview with David B. Harris, he examined the considerable penetration of Islamists in Canada facilitated in part by Provincial and Federal government agencies. See our Iconoclast post on Dr. Matson’s return to Canada and our New English Review interview with Harris…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Denmark and Sweden Have Highest Taxes

BRUSSELS — Danes and Swedes are the highest taxed people in Europe, according to research published on Monday (29 April).

Denmark and Sweden claim tax revenues accounting for 47.7 percent of economic output and 44.5 percent respectively.

The two countries also have the highest top rates of income tax at 55.6 and 56.5 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, citizens in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Latvia are the least taxed, with governments taking between 26 percent and 28 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU-United States: Film-Makers Defend European Cultural Exception

Les Echos

A petition signed by 80 European film-makers demanding that Brussels exclude audiovisual media from negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and the US was sent to the European Commission on April 22. Treaty talks are scheduled to begin this summer.

The film-makers hope — Belgian and French in the lead — to defend the “cultural exception” which allows restricting the free trade of culture on the market and allows each country to promote its own works.

The Commission “is accused by the cinema world of having a simply ‘free trade’ view of culture,” notes French financial daily Les Echos, adding that for the film-makers, “culture should be a source [of unity] for the Union at a time when political Europe is ‘ailing.’“

The accusation triggered a sharp reaction from Brussels with European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht promising in a press release that “the cultural exception will not be negotiated”. His spokesperson explained that this does not exclude audiovisual media from the negotiations.

Les Echos notes that this is not the first time the world of cinema has risen up —

In 1993, during the renegotiations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) accords, the predecessor to the World Trade Organisation, film-makers did not hesitate to hire an airplane to fly to Brussels to argue their point against the US onslaught, which wanted to assimilate culture to a packaged good just like any other. Twenty years later, they are ready to repeat the operation.

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

France: Islamophobia: Vandals Desecrate Muslim Graves

As many as 20 graves have been destroyed and vandalized in the Muslim section of a cemetery near Paris, in the latest in a lengthening list of Islamophobic incidents in France in recent months.

Some 20 graves were found vandalized on Sunday morning in the Muslim part of a cemetery at Vitry-sur-Seine, 7.5km southeast of the French capital.

The graves were desecrated, marble headstones broken, and religious ornaments were strewn across the area, according to French media reports, though there appeared to have be no graffiti left at the scene.

“I condemn the cowardice of these individuals who attack cemeteries, and dead people,” Abdellah Zekri, president of the Observatory against Islamophobia, was quoted as saying by France 3 TV.

“We demand that the authorities step in, in the midst of this unhealthy environment,” he added.

French police have opened an investigation into the vandalism, and its motivations.

However, Sami Debah, president of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) told The Local that “in this general atmosphere of growing Islamophobia, we can say with confidence that Islamophobia is what inspired the desecration.”

Debah was encouraged that, already, local community groups in Vitry-sur-Seine, both Muslim and non-Muslim, had organized a rally against such incidents, to take place on May 4th, but lamented the recent spate of anti-Muslim attacks in the Ile-de-France region, which surrounds Paris.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Ministries Named and Shamed in Racism Report

A new report on the performance of France’s ministries in fighting against racism and discrimination will make unpleasant reading for the Socialist government and in particular the country’s Interior Ministry, which came bottom of the table.

France’s government ministries are failing to do enough to fight racism and discrimination and in some cases they are making matters worse, a new report suggested on Monday.

The study, which was carried out by the think tank “Republic and Diversity” with the cooperation of various rights groups, scored each ministry on its efforts made to fight racial discrimination over the last year.

Ministries were also judged on whether they had implemented policies promised by President François Hollande in his election manifesto.

The average score handed out was a meager three out of ten, or as a teacher might put it in an end-of-year report: “Poor, could do a lot better”.

When it comes to fighting against racism, France’s Interior Ministry, perhaps predictably given its mandate, was given the lowest rating.

The Interior Ministry led by Manuel Valls, who has been dubbed the “Sarkozy of the Left” and regularly scores well in popularity polls, was given an overall score of -10 out of 20.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

German Wild Apples in Danger of Extinction

Germany’s wild apple trees are dying out, with fewer than 6,000 left in the entire country. They are falling victim to industrialized farming and the loss of traditional woodlands.

Most of the remaining wild, or crab apple trees are to be found in Saxony Anhalt along the Elbe river, and in the southern Black Forest of Baden-Württemberg, the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food said in a statement.

It has just conducted a census of the trees, and found just 244 wild apple populations, with a total of 5,641 individual trees. The average number of trees in each “orchard” is just 23, the office said, adding that many of these were missing the young trees necessary to maintain the population.

The wild apple tree can live for up to 100 years, grow to be up to ten metres tall and need solitary wild bees such as bumble bees rather than honey bees, for pollination. The apples they produce are yellow-green in colour and only up to 35 millimetres in diameter, with a strongly sour taste, but are described as intensely aromatic.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Europe Soon No Longer Number-One Trade Area

Germany’s leading foreign trade organization has called into question a swift recovery of the eurozone. Presenting an outlook in Berlin, it said overseas markets would gain in importance for export-oriented Germany.

The Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services (BGA) said Monday foreign trade activities had tread water in the first two months of the year, with the recovery of the global economy slower than expected.

BGA President Anton Börner told reporters in Berlin German exports would nominally grow by 3 percent this year to 1.13 trillion euros ($1.69 trillion), while imports would rise by just 1 percent to 918.2 billion euros. He added the country’s share in global trade would slightly decrease, though, as China and the US were likely to post more impressive growth figures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Huffington Post Picks Burda Publishers for German Edition

US online news giant Huffington Post has said it will team up with German Burda publishing house to launch a German language edition. The United States’ biggest online news portal aims to conquer the German market.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Iceland Grapples With Tourist Influx

In Iceland’s Thingvellir national park, a wooden bridge covers a crack in the paved road leading to the site where the world’s oldest parliament was founded in 930.

But the bridge is considerably younger, only dating back to last summer. It was built after a few hundred metres (yards) of tarmac road almost collapsed, buckling under a steadily growing stream of visitors.

A hole in the ground revealed that the road was merely built on layers of sand that could have collapsed at any moment. The discovery averted a tragedy at this UNESCO World Heritage site 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Reykjavik, but illustrates the challenges faced by Iceland’s hugely successful tourism sector.

The North Atlantic island, known for its rugged beauty, has seen a rapidly growing influx of tourists in recent years. Last year, they numbered 672,000, or 19 percent more than the previous year, and twice as many as in 2003.

“It’s a challenge to have 20 percent growth each year. Every industry would be challenged to experience such a development,” said the director general of the Icelandic Tourist Board, Oloef Yrr Atladottir.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Venice: Titanium Bars Stabilize Restored St.Mark’s Bell Tower

After five years of work

(ANSAmed) — Venice, April 23 — After five years’ of restoration work, including the insertion of titanium bars to provide stability, Venice’s iconic campanile is finally safe from collapse.

The work on the 99-metre high campanile, or bell tower, which looms over Piazza San Marco was finalized just in time for the great celebrations on April 25, which is the feast day of Saint Mark the Evangelist. He is one of two patron saints of Venice but perhaps the best known and the one whose name graces the city’s most famous and most loved basilica, San Marco, and its campanile. (Saint Theodore, the dragon slayer, was Venice’s first patron saint but was nudged aside in honour of Mark.) Before the restoration work began, Venetians and visitors alike had noticed the increasing numbers of cracks in the bell tower’s masonry. That led to widespread fears that the historic tower could again collapse, as it did in July 1902, when the campanile crumbled into itself, creating a roar of rubble in the piazza.

It took the city 10 years to recover from that disaster and rebuild the historic tower, following the form of the original campanile constructed in the historic square in 1514.

Like so many structures in Venice, the bell tower was constructed on wooden piles sunk into the lagoon and has suffered from gradual subsidence which caused the massive form to slow sink and slide downwards into the polluted water.

However, thanks to modern technology, the fractures and settlements in the foundation have been repaired and the campanile shored up with titanium bars to prevent sagging and cracking.

Technicians explained that the titanium supports form a kind of a circle or a loop that creates something of a belt to support and reinforce the structure at its base and prevent further shifting and subsidence.

It’s believed that the titanium material will provide “maximum durability” able to withstand the corrosive, polluted water in the lagoon that surrounds Venice, while keeping the weight of the tower evenly distributed across its base.

The campanile, first designed to be a watch tower, was originally built on Roman foundations in the 9th century, with construction not completed until the 12 century.

Various modifications as well as restorations continued to be made on the structure before it reached its present look achieved by 1549, when its base was adjoined to the piazza’s loggetta, built by Sansovino.

Restorations seem to be an ongoing necessity with the very large bell tower. Its wooden spire was seriously damaged by a fire in 1489 — one of several over the centuries — and an earthquake in March 1511 seriously shook its foundations.

Several people were killed by falling stones from the bell tower after a fire on April 13, 1745 caused some of the masonry to crack and fall, and in 1776 a lightning rod was placed at the top of the campanile to better protect it.

But perhaps one of its most damaging episodes was the 1902 collapse that began in July, when it was noted that the north wall of the tower as showing signs of a dangerous — and growing — crack.

Four days later, it collapsed, also demolishing Sansovino’s loggetta. Amazingly, no humans were killed in the collapse, although the caretaker’s cat was reportedly killed in the disaster.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Venice Anti-Flood System to Lower Gates in First Test

Controversial MOSE ‘ready before deadline’

(ANSA) — Venice, April 23 — The controversial barrier built around Venice to protect it from flooding will be used for the first time in a test next month, authorities said Tuesday. “At the start of May the first gates will be lowered near Treporti,” said Ciriaco D’Alessio, head of the Venice water authority. Conceived in 1984, the 5.7-billion-euro MOSE project is a series of retractable dykes around the straits connecting the Venetian lagoon to the Adriatic Sea, which during high tide is prone to flooding the city. “The deadline for implementing the gates is 2016, but the work is already reaching its endpoint,” said D’Alessio. The MOSE project, which in Italian is a play on the name for Moses, has been contested since its inception, both because environmentalists say it will interrupt the natural ecosystem and because experts believe it will fall short of protecting the city.

Italian heritage and conservation body Italia Nostra says MOSE will ultimately be “incapable” of halting dangerously high water and will have to be demolished soon after it is complete. Floods reached chest-high levels several times this fall and winter, flooding stores and ground-floor apartments.

The causes are both natural and man-made.

Decades of pumping groundwater caused significant damage to the delicate foundation before the practice was called off.

Weather experts say the high-water threat has been increasing in recent years as heavier rains have hit northern Italy.

Other possible explanations for the phenomenon include the sea floor rising as a result of incoming silt and gas extraction in the sea off Venice undermining the islands.

According to a recent study, plate tectonics are also to blame as the Adriatic plate is sliding beneath the Apennine Mountains, causing the area to drop in elevation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Loses Fight to Get Estranged Wife’s Alimony Cut

Still has to pay Lario 3 mn a month

(ANSA) — Milan, April 25 — Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has lost his fight against a sentence that forces him to pay his estranged wife Veronica Lario three milion euros a month a year in alimony.

Milan judges turned down an appeal against what Berlusconi called an “unreal” verdict from “feminist and Communist judges”.

The three-time premier has one appeal left, to the high court.

The appeals judges retrospectively exempted Berlusconi from paying Lario for five months in 2012 when she was still living at his villa. Lario left Berlusconi after he attended the 18th birthday party of an aspiring starlet and friend in Naples in 2009, accusing him of consorting with minors.

At Christmas a Milan court ended a three-year legal tussle between the separated couple, who had been together for 30 years and have three children together.

According to the sentence, the media magnate and centre-right politician, 76, will give 56-year-old Lario 36 million euros a year but will keep sole possession of his luxury villa outside Milan and his vast business empire will not be touched.

Berlusconi slammed the “non-consensual” sentence on January 24, saying it was “unexpected” and “detached from reality”.

He said he would dispense with his lawyers and talk directly to Lario about it.

On January 9 a Milan court rejected Berlusconi’s claim of bias on the part of the three-woman panel that decided on the figure.

The ex-premier, who is currently on trial for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and has had a string of scandals involving escorts and a stable of aspiring starlets, claimed the judges were biased against him because of their political ideas.

The couple’s marital ups and downs have been well publicized over the years.

A media firestorm lit up in 2007 when Lario demanded a public apology from her “flirtatious” husband in a public letter to the editor of the La Repubblica daily, which published the contents on the front page.

“I am asking for a public apology, given that I haven’t received a private one,” she wrote in the letter.

The pair made up after Berlusconi said sorry and presented her with an expensive birthday present, disguising himself as a dancing sheikh.

When Lario filed for divorce after Berlusconi’s appearance at Neapolitan teen Noemi Letizia’s birthday party, the ex-premier told the gossip magazine Chi that he regretted the end of his “love story”.

Born Miriam Raffaela Bartolini, former actress Lario was Berlusconi’s second wife.

Berlusconi was smitten after seeing her perform topless in a Milan play about a philandering husband called The Magnificent Cuckold in 1980.

Lario’s had a bloody cameo in Italian horror master Dario Argento’s 1982 film ‘Tenebre’ (Shadows).

She played a woman who had her hand chopped off and yelled for a few seconds as her wound bled.

The snippet was cut when the film aired on a Berlusconi-owned TV channel in 2004.

Lario and Berlusconi married in 1990 after the media tycoon left his first wife, with whom he has two children, both executives in his media empire.

Berlusconi announced in mid-December that he intends to wed for the third time.

He is engaged to Naples-born Francesca Pascale, almost 50 years his junior.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: PDL and M5S Up in Poll, PD Slides

Berlusconi top with 27%, Grillo 25.5%, PD 22%

(ANSA) — Rome, April 26 — Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party edged up 0.2% to 27% in research agency SWG’s weekly poll Friday while the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement gained 1.5% to 25.5% and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) slumped five points to 22% after two failed presidential votes exposed deep rifts.

Some 71% of Italians want to go back to the polls after February’s inconclusive general election once the electoral law is changed by PD acting head Enrico Letta’s left-right government, SWG says.

A fresh vote with new rules to produce a clear winner is backed by 78% of M5S supporters, 75% of centre-right ones and 71% of centre-left ones.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt ‘Bunga Bunga Orgy’ Says Grillo

‘Taint of incest’ because of Letta link, says M5S leader

(ANSA) — Rome, April 26 — Anti-establishment comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo on Friday slammed the forced government marriage between the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party as “an orgy worthy of the best bunga bunga (alleged sex parties)” linked to the three-time premier.

5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Grillo, who abhors both parties as allegedly representing a corrupt and dysfunctional system, said the government “is verging on incest” because tapped premier Enrico Letta is the nephew of veteran Berlusconi aide Gianni Letta.

“They’re all passive in the orgy except for one who knows all about bunga bunga,” Grillo said, referring to the three-time premier, who is on trial for having sex with an underage prostitute called Ruby and allegedly had a stable of more than 30 young women accused of prostitution. Berlusconi and Ruby deny having sex and Ruby said recently she had refused to be enlisted in the Milan prosecutors’ “war” on the premier.

The ex-premier and media magnate is trying to get the Ruby trial, and an appeal against a four-year tax-fraud sentence for film buys by his Mediaset empire, moved to Brescia on grounds of alleged judicial bias.

He says left-wing prosecutors and judges have been persecuting him since he turned to politics in 1994, earning the first of his three stints in government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Calabria Waste System Near Collapse, Says Councillor

Running on monthly deficit of three million euros

(ANSA) — Catanzaro, April 26 — The southern Italian region of Calabria’s waste disposal system is in dire straits, the region’s environmental policy councillor told journalists on Friday. “In Calabria the waste disposal system is on the point of collapse, as regards the functioning of facilities, the infrastructure and financial situation,” said Councillor Francesco Pugliano, just weeks after waste management returned to regional government control after being run for years by a special emergency waste commissioner’s office.

“A few days ago we inherited responsibility for the sector after 16 years of extraordinary power and significant financial resources entrusted to the commissioner. Today, however, we find ourselves without one or the other. We must, therefore, present a clear picture of the situation”.

Pugliano said Calabria needed more time to encourage waste recycling and to lower rubbish production, in order to restore “balance” in both the waste-plant system and costs compared to revenues to pay for the services.

“We’re in trouble,” Pugliano said while appealing for the collaboration of municipalities.

“It should be noted that some people are blackmailing the region, as they seem to think it is an inexhaustible well of money,” Pugliano claimed.

“The first three months of the year revealed a financial deficit of at least three million euros per month. We hope that by the summer there can be a bit more breathing room compared to the current situation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: M5S Leader Grillo Likened to Terrorist Ideologue

(AGI) Rome — The PDL’s D’Alessandro likened M5S leader Grillo to a 70s communist paramilitary terrorist ideologue on Friday .

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

Italy: Fiat-Chrysler 19.8 Billion Euro Turnover First Quarter

European sales buoyed by Fiat brand in March

(ANSA) — Turin, April 29 — The Fiat Group SpA, which includes Chrysler and Fiat, reported turnover of 19.8 billion euros for the first quarter of 2013 on Monday, down 2% compared to the same period in 2012, but stable considering constant exchange rates.

The group saw growth in Latin America and Asia, and sales of luxury and sports vehicles compensated weaker segments in North America and Europe. Group first quarter profit came in at 618 million euros, down from 806 million euros for the same period in 2012.

The Fiat Group’s total liquidity was 21.3 billion euros at the end of Q1, including an unused credit-line for three billion euros.

The Fiat Group confirmed its 2013 targets of turnover between 88 and 92 billion euros, income before extraordinary items at 1.2 to 1.5 billion euros, and net industrial debt of roughly seven billion euros.

“It wasn’t a spectacular quarter, and we expected that,” said Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, commenting on Chrysler. However Fiat brand cars helped the Fiat Group post positive European sales for March despite dismal performance for sector as a whole. While the European car market sank by 10.3% since March 2012, European turnover for Fiat brand cars grew 7.7%, while its market share inched up 0.8% to 4.7% for the continent. Fiat was buoyed by sales in Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, with the Fiat 500L, Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda all leading their respective market segments.

In Italy, where overall car sales shrank by 5%, turnover for Fiat brand cars grew 13.8% over March 2012.

The Fiat Group’s total sales increased 5.3% in Italy to reach a market share of 28.8%, up 2.8% over March of last year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Forms Coalition Government Amid Economic Tension

Berlin — Italian leader Enrico Letta’s team of ministers is set to be approved by parliament on Monday (29 April), amid warnings that Rome may have to seek financial aid from the European Central Bank (ECB)

The 46-year old Prime Minister formed his coalition cabinet on Sunday, ending two months of political deadlock after inconclusive elections in February.

Comprising of ministers from both the centre-left and the centre-right party of former leader Silvio Berlusconi, the cabinet also includes Italy’s first black female minister.

Cecile Kyenge, an eye doctor born in Congo but living in Italy for the past 30 years, will be in charge of integration.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Ken Clarke’s Nasty Anti-UKIP Rant Will Only Strengthen Nigel Farage and His Party

by Nile Gardiner

Christmas has come early for Nigel Farage and his party’s growing base of supporters, currently comprising around 17 percent of the British electorate. Ken Clarke’s deeply unpleasant attack on Ukip as “clowns with no positive policies” ahead of this Thursday’s local government elections across England and Wales is the equivalent of a desperate Kamikaze pilot flying into an aircraft carrier in a futile attempt to alter the course of the war. As The Telegraph’s Sadie Gray reports, Ken Clarke backed David Cameron’s demeaning (and wholly unfair) description of Ukip voters in 2006 as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists,” telling Sky News


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Merkel Calls Letta: Supports Coalition With Berlusconi’s PDL

Berlin would have backed ‘any govt’ after two months of deadlock

(ANSA) — Berlin, April 29 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel called new Italian Premier Enrico Letta to congratulate him on forming a government to end Italy’s two-month political deadlock at the weekend.

“She wished him lots of success and invited him to Berlin,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday.

Seibert added that it made no difference to Berlin that ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party was the main partner in the broad coalition administration along with Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

“We always said that we would support any government that emerged from this difficult situation,” said Seibert referring to the long impasse that followed February’s inconclusive general election.

Merkel and other European leaders expressed frustration at Italy’s responses to the eurozone debt crisis towards the end of Berlusconi’s third stint as premier, between 2008 and 2011.

A peak in the crisis forced Berlusconi to resign as premier in November 2011 and make way for Mario Monti’s emergency technocrat administration, which Letta’s government replaces.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Nigel Farage Attacks Ken Clarke for Calling UKIP Voters Racists

Nigel Farage has accused Ken Clarke of showing “contempt” for UK voters after the Tory Cabinet minister said some Ukip voters are racists.

Mr Farage, the Ukip leader, described Mr Clarke, the Minister Without Portfolio, as a member of the “ossified elite” and accused him of alienating voters. Speaking to the Murnaghan programme on Sky News, Mr Clarke referred to comments made by David Cameron in 2006 when he dismissed Ukip as being full of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”…

[JP note: How we laughed.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Poll Shows Rampant Voter Disaffection in Italy

Centre right climbing in popularity

(ANSA) — Rome, April 23 — The ranks of disaffected Italian voters are growing, with fully 50% of those surveyed not expressing support for any current political party or movement, according to a poll Tuesday.

The ranks of those checking off “undecided” and “no vote” put together were up 10% over the last poll, released April 17, and nearly double the 27% no-show at February’s general elections, a survey conducted by Tecne’ for the news channel Sky Tg24 revealed.

April 17 marked the day before MPs began wrestling over the election of the country’s new head of state — a divisive four-day political showdown that saw the resignation of the leader of the centre-left, protests by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), and the unexpected re-election of the 87-year-old incumbent, Giorgio Napolitano. The survey showed the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the M5S losing ground, while Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom Party (PdL) gained popularity.

The PdL led with roughly 30% support, up about 2.5% over the last survey. Together with coalition allies, the centre-right holds 38-39%, the survey said. Meanwhile, the PD stands at about 24%, a loss of more than 2% since the previous week. The centre-left coalition support stood at 29.6% for the House and 59.6% in the Senate. Support for M5S sank 3% to roughly 20%.

M5S won about a quarter of the vote in February’s parliamentary elections.

Nevertheless, M5S leader Beppe Grillo tweeted triumph on Tuesday citing a different poll.

“M5S absolutely 1st place,” Grillo posted on Twitter, referring to a survey that showed M5S gaining 5.2% to reach current voter support of 29.1%. Grillo cited a poll conducted by EMG and broadcast by television channel La7 and others.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Scotland: UK Cashes in on Independence Fears

Financial Times, The Herald

A new report published on April 23 by the UK Treasury on what currency Scotland would use should Scots choose to separate from the rest of Britain in the forthcoming independence referendum “marks the start of a new skirmish on one of the most important policy battlegrounds over which next year’s historic referendum will be fought,” writes the Financial Times.

The report said that if Scotland chose independence, it would then have to choose between joining the euro, launching its own currency or keeping the pound — the favoured option for the governing pro-independence Scottish National Party. The FT continues —

The Scottish government wants to stick with the pound, arguing that monetary union would promote stability for businesses and the economies on both sides of the border. But George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, has suggested the UK would not want a euro-style monetary union with a foreign government — even if the state was Scotland. […] If the pound continued to be used in Scotland, [Scottish First Minister Alex] Salmond would find his ability to tax and spend severely curtailed. The Bank of England would rightly demand significant fiscal and regulatory control as the price for taking on risk as lender of last resort.

For The Herald’s columnist, Ian Bell, “the argument over the currency that might be used in an independent Scotland is essentially political, not economic.” He writes —

Choose independence and hope for a formal currency union, says Mr Osborne, and we will demand control over the essentials of your economy. In fact, we will demand more control than the Germans exert over the Eurozone. […] In some circles, it’s known as a threat.

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

‘Shadow Hangs Over Europe’s Fraud Investigators’

Die Presse, 26 April 2013

The 2012 Activity Report of the OLAF Supervisory Committee has added to “doubts about the work of the European Anti-fraud Office,” remarks Die Presse —

Normally there should be no doubts. […] But the forced resignation of European Commissioner, John Dalli last October, in which OLAF played a major role, has reinforced the impression that it makes use of dubious methods.”

For the Viennese daily, the report presents an image of an organisation “which is feverishly trying to avoid external scrutiny […]. The entirety of OLAF, along with its director-general Giovanni Kessler, are responsible”. On its website, OLAF deplores what it terms “attempts at misinformation,” which aim “to give a false impression of issues relating to the investigation” of John Dalli.

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

Sweden’s Ex-Politicians Often Cash in as Lobbyists

More than a third of former Swedish politicians and politically-appointed civil servants have transitioned into lobbying activities in the last six years, a new investigation has shown, prompting calls for more regulation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gothenburg Shootings Surge in Two Years

After a man was shot dead through his kitchen window in Gothenburg this weekend, local police said easier access to weapons has lead to one shooting a week in the western Sweden city.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Tories’ Nixon-Style Campaign Against UKIP: Something You Should Know

by Damian Thompson

You’ve seen the Ukip scandals mysteriously breaking one after the other just before the local elections. Let me keep this short and sweet. A few weeks ago a journalist who works for another newspaper was contacted by someone from CCHQ and asked if he needed any help researching possible links between Ukip and the English Defence League. Interesting, no?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘The Kippers’ Joke is Now on Tories

THEY all laughed when Nigel Farage set out to transform “the Kippers” from a joke party into a mainstream political force.

Well, as the great Bob Monkhouse said, they’re not laughing now…

[JP note: For more Monkhouse gags, including “When I first said I wanted to be a comedian, everybody laughed. They’re not laughing now”, see here ]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Baroness Warsi and the Demons of Hate

A Cabinet minister spoke at a meeting of a group which is boycotted by her own Government for its promotion of terrorist recruiters and its “failure to fully challenge terrorist and extremist ideology”.

Baroness Warsi, the minister for faith and communities, addressed an event staged by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) last month to attack the “demonisation” of Muslim students by the media. FOSIS has hosted numerous extremist and terrorist speakers at its annual conference and other events, including Azzam Tamimi, who supports suicide bombing, Haitham al-Haddad, who believes that music is a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace”, and Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda recruiter described as a key inspiration for three of the 9/11 hijackers and numerous later attacks.

Several convicted terrorists have been officers of university Islamic societies affiliated to FOSIS and have attended its events.

FOSIS has been condemned by Baroness Warsi’s colleagues, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, for its failure to “fully challenge terrorist and extremist ideology”. Mrs May ordered that the Civil Service withdraw from a graduate recruitment fair held by FOSIS and has refused to meet the organisation’s leaders.

Khobaib Hussain, one of the Birmingham men sentenced last week for his part in a terrorist plot, described by police as the “biggest since 7/7”, was a student at Wolverhampton University at the time of his arrest. Before he was detained, members of the university’s Islamic society, which is affiliated to FOSIS, posted online comments stating that “nothing is more honourable than dying for the cause of Islam” and that “America’s time will come”, though it is not known whether Hussain was a member of the society or was radicalised at the university.

At the FOSIS event with Lady Warsi, in the House of Lords on March 25, the minister, who attends Cabinet and is a former chairman of the Conservative Party, supported claims by FOSIS that extremism was “no more prevalent” in universities than in any other parts of society. In fact, however, in the last month alone, according to the anti-extremism group Student Rights, there have been at least 10 incidents on British campuses involving Islamic extremist speakers or the promotion of extremist ideology to students…

Baroness Warsi was joined at the event by Nicola Dandridge, the head of Universities UK, which represents all British universities. She too claimed that extremism was no greater a problem in universities than anywhere else and praised FOSIS for its work on “community cohesion”.

Baroness Warsi’s involvement with FOSIS comes more than two years after David Cameron, the Prime Minister, promised to cut off public funding for, and political contact with, groups which supported extremism. However, accounts published in recent weeks reveal that many bodies closely linked to extremism continued to enjoy substantial public funding in 2012.

Beneficiaries include the East London Mosque, paid at least £150,000 last year alone, and the Osmani Trust, which received around £600,000.

Both organisations are controlled by the Islamic Forum of Europe, which works to change the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed from ignorance to Islam” in a “global” Islamic state under Sharia law. The mosque has hosted numerous hate and terrorist preachers, including al-Awlaki. Only last week, however, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, attended a forum with representatives of the East London Mosque and other faith groups.

A spokesman for Lady Warsi said: “Baroness Warsi attended a Parliamentary event at the House of Lords, alongside other Parliamentarians and the NUS President, to specifically discuss tackling anti-Muslim hatred, a key priority for the coalition Government. “As the Minister has stated on many occasions, the Government will not tolerate extremism, hatred or intolerance in any form, against any community.”

[JP note: Hollow laughter.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: New Mosque Planned for East Reading

A new mosque east of Reading is being proposed in a prominent office building which a Muslim group is looking to buy and convert. The organisation, which failed to progress plans for a new mosque in Green Road, Earley, is behind the £2.25 million project. Jamme Masjid Reading is hoping to buy De Boves House at Sutton Seeds Roundabout and create a new mosque and community centre…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UKIP Should Not be Compared to the BNP

by Harry Phibbs

As part of the natural “set them up, knock them down” rhythm of the media, UKIP has had a generally bad press over the last couple of days. This is right and proper. The Observer has some leaked emails showing that many within the Party are concerned that achieving coherant policies is a struggle — Godfrey Bloom MEP says its like “herding cats.” As a protest party, the difficulty is that adopting anything much by way of policy narrows their potential support…

[Reader comment by belbylafarge on 29 April 2013.]

Ukip are a patriotic party and I suspect that most people do not care if a few anti moslem so called “racists” appear in their midst. This merely represents the majority view in the UK which most, including the Tory party are too afraid to articulate.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UKIP Feel the Heat

by Benedict Brogan

The Tory counter-insurgency against Ukip reaches full throttle in this morning’s papers. Firstly, there’s the intervention of Ken Clarke, who appeared yesterday cheerfully franking his leader’s “fruitcakes, nutters and closet racists” comments before adding that they were “indignant, angry people” led by “a collection of clowns”. The intervention (like the accompanying outfit)wasn’t entirely successful — the Sun tells him to “wind your (polo) neck in” — but it caps a weekend in which the Tory team have demonstrated a willingness to play rough. Elsewhere this morning there’s a Times (£) story about a £120bn black hole in Ukip’s spending projections, and an Independent one about internal infighting by email. Nigel Farage was the only leader talking up his side prior to the local elections. Now opponents, particularly those in the blue corner, will hope that thought that Ukip is not an entirely serious party will return to voters on the eve of the ballot…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Journalists: Anna Lindh, Forum on Challenges in Med Region

On the world press freedom day, debate organized in Dublin

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 29 — How can journalists be supported in facing their ongoing challenges? How are crisis and transitions changing the media? These are just some of the issues to be addressed at a conference on ‘Media and Intercultural Relations in the Euro-Mediterranean Region’ being organised by the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) on Friday 3 May 2013, on the World Press Freedom Day, at the Chester Beatty Library Lecture Theatre, located in the gardens of Dublin Castle, Ireland.

According to the Enpi website (, the event will focus debate on ways to support journalists in facing the challenges of the new social, cultural and political landscape which is emerging in the region. It presents a platform for the ALF to sustain the momentum mobilised around the Anna Lindh Forum that took place from 4 to 7 April in Marseille, France and to present officially the first comprehensive Forum outcomes.

David Gardner (Financial Times) will present a key-note address on press freedom, and Paul Gillespie, Editor-in-Chief of the Irish Times, will announce the regional launch of the Euro-Med Mapping Exercise being prepared by himself and researcher Rasha Abdulla of the American University in Cairo.

The Anna Lindh Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue promotes knowledge, mutual respect and inter-cultural dialogue between the people of the Euro-Mediterranean region, working through a network of more than 3,000 civil society organisations in 43 countries. Its budget is co-funded by the EU (7 million) and the EU member states (6 million).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Algeria: Waste Storage Worth 230 Million Euros a Year

Only 5% treated, state seeking private partners

(by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 26 — Algeria has an abandoned treasure but lacks the ability to grasp it as data shows that a better organized waste storage would be worth 230 million euros a year. Out of the incredible amount of waste produced annually, only 5% is recycled and the state is seeking private investors in a sector which has few risks.

Mohamed Chaieb Aissaoui, an expert with the environment state secretary, cited very interesting data at a recent forum.

Assaoui said that domestic waste is some 13,5 million tons a year, approximately one kilo a year per inhabitant, of which 50% could be recycled. Some 6.1 million tons could be treated and re-enter the productive cycle, benefiting the economy and the environment.

The 6.1 million tons of waste which could be recycled includes 1.8 of paper, 1.2 of plastics, 1.6 of fabrics and 300,000 tons of metal worth overall an estimated 230 million euros. ‘A real deposit’, commented Assaoui who also said that small companies operating in the sector — some 247 — can only recuperate a very small percentage of the materials, partly exported, also due to their size.

The Algerian state is however trying to develop this sector also with a plan — the National programme of management of city waste — dividing up waste between ‘classic’ (plastic, paper, metal, textile, glass, wood and organic material) and ‘complex’ (tyres, oil, batteries and other electrical and electronic objects). Algeria has also approved a plan to create 48 new landfills and enlarging some of the largest, existing dumps.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Armed Men Surround Libyan Foreign Ministry

(AGI) Tripoli — Armed men surrounded the Libyan foreign ministry headquarters in Tripoli on Friday, demanding that it be “purged of spies” and former members of the Gaddafi regime.

Surrounding the building with some 30 pick-up trucks equipped with anti-aircraft machine guns, the group threatened to take over other ministerial premises if their demands are not met.

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

Egypt Awaiting 3 Bln Dollar Qatari Aid

(AGI) Cairo — Qatar is withholding some 3 billion dollars in aid pledged to Egypt on April 10, Al Arabiya reported on Friday .

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

Libyan Prime Minister Says “We Will Not Surrender”

(AGI) Tripoli, Apr 28 — Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said the situation in Tripoli is growing ever more difficult. A group of gunmen tried to storm the Minister of the Interior where the State news agency Lana is headquartered. Previously dozens of militiamen had put the Foreign Ministry under siege.

Premier Ali Zeidan said that such attacks “will not push us to our knees. We will not surrender.” .

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

Libya in Chaos. Militias Out of Control Target Ministries

Foreign and interior ministries besieged, police protest

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 29 — Libya is in a state of chaos.

Armed militants are free to act without any type of control as occurred on Monday when they besieged the foreign ministry demanding that officials they claim cooperated with Muammar Gaddafi and whose presence is tolerated in post-regime Libya be forced to leave. Meanwhile the interior ministry was at the centre of a protest by police officials. The demonstration started on Sunday and continued today, when it degenerated in violence. Tension is high as protesters forced all activities to stop, surrounding the ministry with heavily armed (cannons) pickup trucks. Protesters, who were holding banners explaining their reasons, say the demonstration will continue until the government will not decide to remove officials who were in power under Gaddafi and have kept their positions in post-regime Libya.

The protest against the interior ministry included raids inside its offices. Police officials are protesting against what they denounce as injustices against them.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Artificial Insemination for Palestinian Detainees’ Wives

Palestinian Supreme Religious Court allows treatment

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, APRIL 25 — The Palestinian supreme religious council voted unanimously to allow wives of Palestinian detainees in Israel to get pregnant by their imprisoned husbands via artificial insemination, MAAN news agency reported Thursday.

The Razan Infertility Medical Center, which has clinics in Ramallah and Nablus, immediately offered free treatments to wives of detainees who manage to “smuggle” their jailed husbands’ sperm out of Israel. The clinic announced in February that four wives of detainees achieved pregnancy through artificial means, MAAN reported.

The religious council made the allowance on four conditions: that the couple be married, that the families on both sides agree, that artificial insemination be the only option for the couple, and that the length of the husbands’ prison terms be such that they would no longer be able to procreate when they are released.

The council also stipulated that the procedures must be carried out by female doctors in an authorized medical center, and that any biological material left over after insemination be destroyed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Hamas Teaches Palestinian Schoolboys How to Fire Kalashnikovs

Palestinian schoolboys are learning how to fire Kalashnikovs, throw grenades and plant improvised explosive devices as part of a programme run by Hamas’s education ministry.

The scheme has been criticised by Palestinian human rights groups, who point out that Hamas has previously banned sport from the school curriculum on the grounds that there is not enough time for it. Hamas authorities introduced the ‘Futuwwa’, or youth programme into the state curriculum last September for 37,000 Palestinian boys aged between 15 and 17, conceiving it as a scheme intended to initiate a new generation of Palestinian men in the struggle against Israel…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Palestinian Leader Abbas Made Honorary Neapolitan

Italy’s Jewish community unhappy about move

(ANSA) — Naples, April 27 — Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was given honorary citizenship of the city of Naples by Mayor Luigi de Magistris on Saturday.

The move has sparked protests from Italian pro-Israel groups and the country’s Jewish community. “The same recognition should also be guaranteed to Israeli president and Nobel peace prize winner, Shimon Peres,” Naples and South Italy Rabbi Shalom Bahbout wrote in a letter to Il Mattino newspaper recently.

Abbas said he was “honoured to be Neapolitan” and called on Israel to make steps forward in the peace process.

“We know that Italy is pushing the peace process and the United States is determined,” said Abbas.

“Israel should take this inviting opportunity. There may not be similar opportunities in the future. “We are working for this. For a real peace so that Israel can live in security too”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Bahrain: 22 People Arrested, Car Bomb Against Police

US human rights report on discrimination, arbitrary detentions

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 29 — Unrest in Bahrain, were a minority Sunni dynasty rules over an oppressed Shiite majority, continued yesterday with a bombing attack on a police car in the village of Dia near the Bahraini capital of Manama.

The home-made bomb caused no fatalities or injuries, police said in a communique. The attack occurred just hours after the arrests yesterday of 22 people for alleged involvement in violent anti-government protests between March and Sunday’s Grand Prix Formula One race.

Years of majority demands for more democracy and an end to discrimination culminated in the February-March 2011 Arab Spring uprising, which the Bahraini monarchs repressed in blood with the aid of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates troops. It ended with 40 dead, thousands of arrests, and dozens of proven cases of torture in the king’s prisons. Discontent is erupting again as the dialogue of national reconciliation between the government, the opposition and civil society, which began in February, has failed to produce actual results.

Bahrain has come under international scrutiny again as the US State Department’s human rights report pointed the finger at the monarchy’s policy of widespread discrimination against its Shiite subjects, including arbitrary arrests and detentions on vaguely worded charges. Information Minister Bahrein Samira Rajab dismissed the report as being “partial and subjective” as it overlooks government human rights initiatives such as an international commission of inquiry into possible abuses organized by the emir, Hamad Bin Eisa al-Khalifa in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU-Lebanon: Aid for Syrian Refugees a Top Priority

EU Delegation meetings on justice system, human rights, reforms

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 29 — The EU will do everything possible to keep aiding Lebanon and Syrian refugees there, and the country must remain engaged in human rights and social reforms, the EU Delegation to Lebanon said on Monday.

EU institutions have so far contributed 90 million euros and member states have donated 50 million euros in emergency aid to help Lebanon cope with hundreds of thousands of Syrian civil war refugees. “The needs remain enormous and the EU is trying in all possible ways to keep supporting Lebanon and its people, as well as Syrian refugees”, the delegation said.

Delegation members held meetings with Lebanese authorities to assess their progress in electoral reform, making parliament more efficient, guaranteeing an independent judiciary, fighting corruption, and applying international conventions on the death penalty, torture, gender equality, the disabled, and people disappearances.

Lebanon agreed to make the reforms as part of the EU-Lebanon 2012 action plan, which comes under the EU Neighborhood Policy. “Human rights are among the EU’s main priorities and a thread linking all our foreign policy actions”, delegation leader, EU Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst said. “It is important for Lebanon to stay committed to supporting human rights and democratic principles, so that the people of Lebanon can enjoy universal rights”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Head of British Armed Forces Warns PM Cameron on Syria

(AGI) London, Apr 28 — Georges Clemenceau, French Prime Minister during World War I, said:”War is too important to be left to the generals.” In Britain, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Sir David Richards, warned Prime Minister David Cameron that a military intervention in Syria would drag Her Majesty’s troops into an all-out war.

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

Iran and Al-Qaeda: A ‘Joke’ With a Nasty Punchline

by Con Coughlin

Iran laughed at the idea of links with a terror plot in Canada. But it’s no laughing matter

When Canadian officials revealed that an al-Qaeda terror cell caught planning to blow up a passenger train was acting on the orders of comrades based in Iran, the allegation was enough to give the Iranian foreign minister a fit of the giggles. “This is the most hilarious thing I’ve heard in my 64 years,” was how Ali Akbar Salehi responded to this latest claim of Iranian skulduggery…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Iraq Suspends Licence of Al Jazeera and 9 More TV Channels

(AGI) Baghdad, Apr 28 — The Iraqi goverment has suspended the licences of ten television channels, including the Qatari station Al Jazeera, accusing them of “incitement to violence and sectarianism” between Shiites and Sunnis. In the last six days over 220 people have been killed in sectarian clashes. The announcement was made by Mujahid Abu al-Hail, a member of the commission which oversees communications and the media.

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

Jordan: 3 Killed: 15 Injured in University Brawl

Clashes between two different tribes, police use tear gas

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 29 — Three people were killed and at least 20 injured on Monday in clashes between students at King Hussein university in southern city of Maan, as police used tear gas to disperse crowds, eye witnesses said.

Dozens of students from two different tribes attacked each other over an old feud, with students using guns, swords and knives during the melee, an eye witness told ANSA by phone.

“The fight broke up during an open day for students. Events turned violent as members of two local tribes attacked each other. The fight extended and students clashed with police and university guards,” said student Ahmed Abel Salam.

The university dean suspended study for a week on hope of restoring calm. Police officials said they arrested suspects and will conduct an investigation over causes of the fight, one many that plagued Jordanian universities recently.

Last month, two students were killed in a fight at university of Mota, while on Sunday University of Yarmouk, second largest, witnessed unrest after a tribal influenced brawl.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Missiles Fired at’ Russian Plane With 159 Passengers Onboard Flying Over Syria

Two missiles were reportedly fired at a Russian plane with at least 159 passengers on board that was flying over Syrian territory. Russian aviation authorities admit the jet ‘faced danger’, but say it’s too early to talk of a targeted attack.

“Syrian [officials] informed us that on Monday morning, unidentified forces launched two ground-to-air missiles which exploded in the air very close to a civilian aircraft belonging to a Russian airline,” an informed source in Moscow told Interfax news agency.

The pilots managed to maneuver the plane in time however, “saving the lives of passengers.”

It is believed the aircraft was intentionally targeted in the attempted strike, “but it remains unclear whether the attackers knew whether it was Russian or not,” the source added.

The targeted plane belongs to Nordwind Airlines — a Russian charter air carrier, says the Ministry of Transport. It was en route to the city of Kazan, in Russia’s republic of Tatarstan, from Egypt’s resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, reports RIA Novosti.

When the Airbus 320 passenger plane was flying over Syria, “the crew spotted signs of combat activities which, they believed, could pose a threat to the safety of the plane,” states Russia’s Transport Ministry, citing the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia).

“No one was injured, and the plane was not damaged. The aircraft landed in Kazan as it had been planned,” the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism told news agencies.

Russia’s embassy in Damascus is looking into the report of the attack on the Russian passenger plane, RT has been told.

Meanwhile, Syrian aviation authorities received no indication of the alleged attack on the Russian plane,says the director of Syrian Airlines, Ghaida Abdullatif:

“We contacted the service that monitors traffic within Syrian airspace. None of the air traffic control services or other ground services at the airports in Damascus and Latakia have confirmed the information of a Russian plane plane being fired at”.

The civil war in Syria between the government of President Bashar Assad and opposition forces has been raging for over two years, claiming the lives of more than 70,000 people according to UN estimates. Assad says he is fighting an insurgency which has been sponsored from abroad.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Syria: Tunisia Dismantles Jihadist Recruitment Centers

Hundreds arrested in probe into Salafist jihadist network

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 25 — Tunisian authorities have dismantled jihadist recruitment centers that trained and sent insurgents against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou announced on Thursday.

Hundreds of Salafists have been arrested in the probe into the recruitment centers, which were hidden behind officially recognized Salafist charities, the minister said.

Some of these operated purely for economic gain, earning several thousand USD per combatant sent to Syria via Turkey.

The probe began following protests by the families of the young recruits, who allege that their sons were indoctrinated by pseudo-preachers in Salafist-dominated mosques.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria: Aleppo: Two Orthodox Bishops Still Captive, Christian Neighbourhood Shelled

For Mgr Jeanbart, Greek Melkite bishop of Aleppo, “Catholic and Orthodox religious authorities are working for the release of the two prelates.” Their abduction remains a mystery. Mortars devastate one of the city’s main Christian neighbourhoods, killing four.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) — The two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Aleppo are still in the hands of kidnappers, Mgr. Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Greek Melkite bishop of Aleppo, told AsiaNews. “The Catholic and Orthodox Churches are doing their best to mediate with the kidnappers,” the prelate added, “but at present no one understands the reasons for this act and who is behind these criminals.”

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, Syrian Orthodox bishop of the diocese of Aleppo, and Boulos Yaziji, Greek Orthodox archbishop of the diocese of the same city, were abducted on 22 April in Kafr Dael, ten km from Aleppo, on the Turkish border. Their driver, a Syrian Orthodox deacon, was killed.

This morning, mortar rounds hit one of the city’s main Christian neighbourhoods. The shelling killed four people and several houses have collapsed.

“The situation in the city is terrible; no one is safe, not even the Christians,” said Archbishop Jeanbart.

Christians have not taken sided with either the rebels or regime. “I do not know who fired at Christian homes or why,” the prelate explained, “but it sure was not a ballistic mistake.”

The bishop appealed again to the Western world. “Stop this war!” he said. “Help Syrian leaders choose dialogue and reconciliation over conflict and hatred!” (S.C.)

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

Turkey: Istanbul’s Greeks Want Citizenship Back

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, APRIL 22 — The Greek population of Istanbul, which was rather forced to leave Turkey because of the sociopolitical situation, is now asking for its citizenship rights’ restoration, daily Sunday’s Zaman reported. Greeks in Istanbul, known as Rums (Turkey’s Greeks), are finally given the chance to actually voice their demands thanks to recent improvements relating the minorities’ rights. Talks have been carried out with government officials through the Istanbul Rums Universal Federation, established in 2005. The federation, after sending a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressing their problems and demands, also sent a written statement to the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of EU Affairs in September, 2012. As GreekReporter writes, the federation’s head, Nikolaos Uzunoglu, presented a number of suggestions, among which were granting quick Turkish citizenship to people who would like to return, giving them orientation classes in order to help them open up small businesses and learn Turkish.

In the beginning of March, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc highlighted to his government members the importance of improving the lives of minorities in Turkey by expanding their rights, while calling minorities to return to Turkey. According to Sunday’s Zaman’s, Uzunoglu also underlined that it is highly important for young Greeks to return to Turkey in order to keep their culture alive.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Finmeccanica Unit in Billion-Dollar Bid for India Army Deal

AgustaWestland a contender despite bribe probe, minister says

(ANSA) — Moscow, April 29 — Italian aerospace and defense giant Finmeccanica SpA is not at risk of being black-listed in India and remains a candidate in an Indian government bidding contest for helicopters.

Speaking from Moscow, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Kurshid said an investigation into alleged bribes paid by Finmeccanica unit AgustaWestland to win a government contract “is a specific case which will not have implications for Finmeccanica in terms of contracts and public works in our country”.

The Italian defense contractor, which employs some 70,000 around the world, has been embroiled in an investigation in Italy and India into alleged bribes paid in the previous sale of helicopters to the Indian air force.

On March 13, Indian criminal investigators searched the New Delhi offices of Finmeccanica and its subsidiary AgustaWestland as part of the probe over alleged bribes paid in the sale of 12 AW-101 helicopters.

Earlier Monday, Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony said in a written statement that AgustaWestland remains actively involved in the bidding process for two contracts to supply 56 helicopters to India’s navy — a deal worth about one billion dollars — as well as in a separate bid to supply 14 helicopters to the country’s coast guard.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

India Celebrates 100 Years of Bollywood

India’s $2 billion Bollywood film industry celebrates its centenary later this week with a six-day-long film festival, while India will be honoured as ‘guest country’ at next month’s Cannes festival in France.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Punjab: Muslims and Christians Clash Over Threshing Machine: One Dead and Two Injured

A trivial quarrel between two old friends — one Christian and one Muslim — triggers wrath of the Islamic community, who opened fire on a Christian village. Police and rangers struggle to stop fighting. Local priest: “Hatred of the neighbor has become common practice; authorities must defend religious minorities.”

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — A shootout leaving one person dead, two wounded and the arrest of dozens of people: the episode took place in Pakistan, after a quarrel between two old friends — a Christian and a Muslim — over a threshing machine turned into a violent attack of a group of Muslims against the Christian village Chak No. 31/10R (Khanewal district, southern Punjab). The clashes broke out on April 27, and continued for over an hour, with the local police unable to stop the riots. Only the intervention of the rangers (paramilitary forces that respond to the Interior Ministry, ed) brought the situation back to normal. For Fr. Aher Javed, a Catholic priest who lives in the area, the attack “shows that religious intolerance is growing and hatred towards each other has become common”.

Everything stems from a dispute between John Gill and Muhammad Safdar (fictitious names for security reasons), a Christian and Muslim, described as close friends since childhood. On April 26, the two argued over agricultural issues, both being farmers: the Christian decided to rent the threshing machine from someone else and not his friend. Their fight first involved their families and then the whole Islamic community. Fifty Muslim rallied against the Christian village: Gill suffered a gun wound to the neck, injuring him seriously. The Christians reacted, killing Safdar.

The death of the Muslim unleashed the wrath of his community, which violently attacked and threatened to burn the village. The police and rangers were able to quell the rage only after more than an hour, arresting members of both factions. Yesterday, Mass was held on a regular basis, but with the presence of paramilitary troops.

The incident recalls the arson attack on a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, where on March 9 last 178 houses were razed to the ground. “By now, even a little dispute — notes Fr. Javed — can cause suffering for an entire community. We condemn such incidents: our religion is a religion of peace and tolerance, we promote tolerance and acceptance. We ask the authorities to ensure the security of religious minorities. “

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

Japan and Russia Vow to End Island Dispute

Japan and Russia’s top leaders have renewed talks over a disputed island chain. Their countries’ inability to settle the matter has hindered them from ever signing a peace treaty to formally end WWII.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to find a solution to a decades-long dispute over the Kuril islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan. The announcement followed a meeting between the two leaders at the Kremlin.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Cécile Kyenge Appointed Minister of Integration

Italy’s new Prime Minister Enrico Letta has appointed Cécile Kyenge Minister of Integration.

Ms. Kyenge, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, becomes the first new Italian to become a minister in Italy.

She was elected to Parliament last February on the Democratic Party ticket.

For years, Ms. Kyenge has been fighting for rights of immigrants in Italy as one of the officials of the Democratic Party’s Immigration Forum.

Immediately she was elected to Parliament, Ms. Kyenge said she’ll seek to focus Parliament’s attention on the values they have been sharing at the Democratic Party’s Immigration Forum.

The former Provincial Councillor in Modena is a committed fighter for the full political participation of all and citizenship rights. She also strongly believes the Bossi-Fini Immigration Law must be abolished and a new just immigration law approved.

She believes that Italy needs to guarantee fundamental rights to all, including immigrants.

Ms. Kyenge has in the past warned that depriving part of the society of their rights would take the entire society backwards, and eventually lead to a society where nobody’s rights are guaranteed.

Explaining the importance of citizenship law reform, Ms. Kyenge said a new law was necessary as a recognition of the change that has already taken place in the country.

There are almost a million minor children of immigrants who represent the future of the country, Ms. Kyenge said. Out of these, more than 570,000 were born in Italy and more than 600,000 go to Italian schools.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Free Movement: Switzerland Keeps Door Closed on Europeans

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 25 April 2013

Switzerland decided on April 24 to extend, for a year, its quota system on long-term work permits to all citizens of the European Union (with the exception of Romanians and Bulgarians who are already subjected to a transition period). The measure is scheduled to come into force on May 1. It follows quotas on short-term work permits imposed in April 2012 on the so-called EU-8, citizens of Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

“The EU regrets” this decision, runs a headline in Swiss daily Neue Züricher Zeitung. By extending the restrictions to the so-called EU-17, Bern is ensuring the application of “the safeguard clause” provided for in the bilateral treaties signed with the Union in 1999. This safeguard clause caps the delivery of work permits at 53,700. Yet, notes the newspaper —…

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

Home Office Fury as Drug Dealer Immigrant Wins Right to Stay in UK

A judge’s decision to allow a convicted drug dealer who abandoned his children the right to stay in Britain over his “human rights” is at the centre of mounting political protest.

Hesham Mohammed Ali won an appeal against moves by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to deport him because of his crimes. He convinced a judge he had a “family life” which had to be respected because he had a “genuine” relationship with a British woman — despite already having two children by different women with whom he now has no contact…

[JP note: The high Mohammed Coefficient may have swayed the judge’s decision.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Italy’s First Black Minister Attacked by Northern League

Rightwing party labels appointment of DRC-born Cecile Kyenge as ‘the symbol of a hypocritical, do-gooding left’

Italy’s first-ever black minister was immediately at the centre of a virulent controversy as her appointment was deplored by the rightwing Northern League.

Cecile Kyenge, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, takes on a new portfolio for racial integration. She is one of two naturalised Italians in the government, both elected for the centre-left Democratic party (PD).

The other is a former international canoeist, Josefa Idem. The inclusion in the cabinet of blonde, German-born Idem, who won an Olympic gold medal and five world championships for Italy, caused no similar controversy.

Matteo Salvini, secretary of the League in Lombardy, called the 48-year-old Kyenge “the symbol of a hypocritical, do-gooding left that would like to abolish the crime of illegal immigration and only thinks about immigrants’ rights and not their duties”. He said the League was ready to mount “total opposition” to her in parliament.

The AC Milan and Italy striker, Mario Balotelli, called her appointment “a further, big step towards a more civilised and responsible Italian society”. Kyenge said her top priorities included changing Italy’s citizenship laws, which are based on descent rather than place of birth.

“Anyone who is born and grows up in Italy is an Italian,” she told Repubblica TV.

But any attempt to reform the citizenship rules could open a rift between the PD and its coalition partner, Silvio Berlusconi’s Freedom People (PdL) movement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

‘Let Kids Born in Sweden be Swedish Citizens’

Children born in Sweden to foreign-born parents should automatically become Swedish citizens if one of the parents has lived in the country for at least five years, according to the findings of a government inquiry.

The parent must also have been registered as a legal resident in Sweden and hold a valid residence permit.

The inquiry also suggests that immigrants who learn the language to a certain level of proficiency, such as passing the highest level of Swedish for immigrants language classes, can qualify for citizenship one year earlier than they can today, Gunnar Strömmer, the author of the inquiry’s findings, wrote in an opinion article published in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The report will be submitted to the government on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Women Catholic Deacons ‘No Longer Taboo’

Germany’s top Roman Catholic has called for women to be allowed to become deacons, which would enable them to perform baptisms and marriages outside of mass — a novelty for Catholic women.

Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, who chairs the German Bishops’ Conference, called for the change at the end of a four-day meeting to discuss possible reforms.

The conference, the first of its kind, invited 300 Roman Catholic experts to propose reforms. Zollitsch’s comments echo year-long calls from the Central Committee of German Catholics to permit women to become deacons. On Sunday, Zollitsch said that aim was no longer a ‘taboo.’

Zollitsch said the Catholic Church could only regain credibility and strength by committing to reform. He described an “atmosphere of openness and freedom” at the conference.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

‘Comet of the Century’ Could Create New Meteor Shower

An incoming comet that may well turn out to be the “comet of the century” could create an unusual kind of meteor shower, scientists say.

When Comet ISON passes by the Earth this year, it is possible that the dust sloughed off by the comet’s tail will create an odd meteor shower when the planet passes through the stream of tiny particles that once were a part of the comet’s tail.

“Instead of burning up in a flash of light, they (the particles) will drift gently down to the Earth below,” University of Western Ontario meteor scientist Paul Wiegert said in a statement.

The specks of dust will be travelling at a speed of 125,000 mph (201,168 km/h), but once they hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they will slow to a halt, according to Wiegert’s computer models.

Because of this, observers on the ground probably won’t be able to see the meteors as they fall through the atmosphere in January 2014, Wiegert added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Scientists Bounce Laser Beams Off Old Soviet Moon Rover

Scientists have successfully bounced a laser off the Soviet Union’s old Lunokhod 1 rover, which trekked across the moon’s landscape more than four decades ago.

Lunokhod 1 was the first remote-controlled rover ever to land on another celestial body. The wheeled vehicle was carried to the lunar surface by a spacecraft called Luna 17, touching down in the Sea of Rains on Nov. 17, 1970.

Among its instruments, the rover toted a French-built laser retroreflector consisting of 14 corner cubes that can reflect laser light beamed from Earth.

Attempts to contact the rover after the lunar night that began on Sept. 14, 1971, were unsuccessful, apparently due to a component failure on the rover. Lunokhod 1’s days of rambling around the moon formally ended on Oct. 4, 1971, after 11 lunar day-night cycles (322 Earth days).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]