Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/18/2013

The price of oil has spiked in the wake of the violent crisis in Egypt, due to the fact that the Suez Canal and the Suez pipeline carry a large percentage of the world’s oil supply, and the market is factoring new risks into its price calculations.

In related news, a professional association of Egyptian archeologists has called for the government to cut all ties with foreign missions and ban foreigners from doing archeological work in Egypt, to protest the policies of the United States and the EU on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the U.S. Congress is unable to decide whether to curtail foreign aid to Egypt in response to the military crackdown.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Mary Abdelmassih, RR, 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
» SNS Targets Dutch Mortgage Market, ‘Aims to Please Brussels’
» Obama Faces Dem Backlash Over Latest NSA Revelations
Europe and the EU
» Danish Birth Rate Dwindling
» EU-US Trade Talks: Free Trade Versus Single Market
» Italy: Berlusconi Threatens to Bring Down Govt Unless Property Tax Cancelled
» Italy: M5S Leader Lashes Out at ‘Politically Correct’ Speech
» Languages: All United Against Dominance of English
North Africa
» Attack on Egyptian Police Leaves Officer and Militant Dead
» Commodities: Egyptian Bloodbath Threatens Crucial Routes for Oil and Gas Supplies
» Coptic Pope Blasts Muslim Brotherhood, US, EU
» Egypt: Archaeologists Urge Govt to Cut Ties With Foreign Missions
» Egypt Army Chief Al-Sisi: Room for All in Egypt
» Muslim Brotherhood Won’t Shy Away From Martyrdom
» Near-Empty Flights Carry 26 Italian Tourists to Egypt
» Turkish Deputy PM Calls on OIC’s Turkish Chief to Resign Over Egypt Coup Stance
» Washington Split on Egypt Aid, Raising More Questions on Who the US Backs
Middle East
» American Jihadi Calls for More Attacks on US Diplomats
» Democracy or ‘Democrazy’?
» Iran Installs 18,000 Uranium Enrichment Centrifuges
» US Support for Brotherhood
South Asia
» Bangladesh: The Revival of Fundamentalism, A Threat to Women and Democracy
» India: Marines ‘Deserve to be Back Home for Christmas’ Says Envoy
» Indonesians Shocked by Oil Corruption Scandal
» Malaysia Punishes Singaporean in Prayer Room Row
» Pakistani Imam Acquitted of Blasphemy
Australia — Pacific
» Australian Scientists Discover the Secret to Hydrating Beer
» Europe’s Immigration Challenge: Austria’s Message to Refugees: Be Silent or Risk Going Back
» Russia Hunts for Illegal Immigrants; 2 Thousand Detained
» Switzerland: Cantons Seek DNA Tests for Asylum Seekers
Culture Wars
» M, F or Blank: ‘Third Gender’ Official in Germany From November
» Swedish High Jumper Re-Paints Rainbow Nails

SNS Targets Dutch Mortgage Market, ‘Aims to Please Brussels’

Nationalised Dutch bank SNS Reaal is launching an onslaught on the Dutch mortgage market by introducing ‘sharper’ prices, the Financieele Dagblad reports on Friday. Sources have told the FD the aim is to show that SNS can be a driver of mortgage market competition and possibly avoid tough penalties for the state support received via the nationalisation process. The bank said at the presentation of its first half figures on Thursday it aims for a 6% share of the new mortgage market. It currently has 1.2%, down from over 9% several years ago, and does not feature in the top 10 ranking of cheapest providers, the FD said. Insurance Insiders expect Brussels will demand the financial services group sell off a large part of its activities to offset the impact of the near bankruptcy bail-out. This is likely to include the sale of the insurance activities, as happened to ING. But by shaking up the mortgage market, SNS Reaal hopes to show Brussels it can irritate the big three — Rabobank, ING and ABN Amro — the FD said. Consumer organisations and politicians have recently called for more competition in the Dutch mortgage market, pointing out that mortgage interest rates are higher in the Netherlands than in Germany and Belgium.

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

Obama Faces Dem Backlash Over Latest NSA Revelations

The Obama administration faced a backlash from congressional Democrats on Friday following revelations that the National Security Agency broke privacy rules and overstepped its authority thousands of times since 2008.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Danish Birth Rate Dwindling

In 2012, Denmark was the Nordic country with the lowest birth rate per capita

Danes may be the happiest nation in the world — but it doesn’t seem to affect the birth statistics.

In 2012 Denmark was the Nordic country with the lowest birth rate per capita — 10.4 births per thousand population according to Eurostat and Ugebrevet A4.

The figure is a 17 per cent reduction since the start of the new millennium — or a drop of one in six babies.

Sweden, on the other hand, is the direct opposite — an increase of 17 per cent to 11.9 births per thousand since 2000.

A4 writes that the reasons appear to be manifold, and will require new initiatives on how to grow the population.

“Politicians are always talking about how young people must quickly get moving with their education, finish quickly and get established,” Lone Schmidt MD, Ph.D of the Copenhagen University Institute for Public Health tells A4.

“Perhaps it could be an idea to speak about family and children as something that also has to be achieved in life. Not just something that is left over after you’ve worked 60 hours per week for five years and you risk it being too late,” she says.

Aalborg University Labour Market Researcher Anette Borchorst is also worried at developments, particularly if younger people are needed to take care of an ageing population…

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

EU-US Trade Talks: Free Trade Versus Single Market

Ekonom Prague

The EU-US trade deal will bring benefits to both sides, but will pose challenges to the internal trade for both sides, plus harm the economies of other countries, writes a Czech commentator following the publication of a report by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Martin Tlapa

The European Union and the United States are currently the largest trade and investment partners in the world, accounting for almost half of the global gross domestic product and almost a third of the volume of all world trade. If they do manage to work out an ambitious free trade agreement), commercial activities in all the EU’s member countries that deal with the US will see a sharp increase in business. Some traditional business ties within the EU, will, however, be almost sure to weaken. As a result, some states will become economically less dependent on the EU’s internal market, which will be one of the greatest achievements and most important benefits of European integration.

The EU’s single market, built on four basic building blocks — the free movement of people, services, goods and capital — is the largest economic zone in the world. Its creation eliminated scores of administrative and technical barriers between the markets taking part. Removing regulatory barriers to mutual trade with the US brings a certain risk of the diversification of trade links that would be caused by the loss of some of the current benefits that come from preferential treatment within the internal market.

If the agreement is signed, trade between Germany and the US could almost double. Similarly, total turnover in international trade between the US and Italy, Greece and Portugal is also predicted to increase. However, trading among the EU’s states themselves would suffer significant declines. Mutual trade between Germany and France, according to the estimates, would drop by up to 23 per cent, and between Germany and the United Kingdom by up to 40 per cent. Economic ties among the European states nevertheless play an important role, and to a large extent they are reflected in policy decisions taken in the context of European integration. It is the internal market’s benefits that can often be thought of as the glue that holds the community together. Naturally, the question of whether the drop-off in economic cooperation will have an effect on the unity of the union as a whole arises.

Boosting trade and cutting costs

In this context, we must be aware that no matter how ambitious the agreement to dismantle a significant amount of regulatory barriers, it will probably not bring with it a degree of harmonisation as extensive as that which currently exists among the member states of the European Union. Talk about the possible emergence of a Euro-American Union or Euro-American United States is misplaced. The transatlantic free trade area may also help advance the project to complete the internal market and liberalise areas where certain partial barriers to mutual trade are still in place and over-regulation lingers on….

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

Italy: Berlusconi Threatens to Bring Down Govt Unless Property Tax Cancelled

Rome, 9 August (AKI) — Italy’s former premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday warned he would pull his support from the fragile coalition government unless it scrapped a controversial property tax worth billions of euros annually.

“Italy should not be afraid of the future,” said Berlusconi in a statement.

“We will never fail in our commitment (to eliminate the tax),” said the billionaire media tycoon, who was was last week jailed for tax evasion by Italy’s top appeals court. last week

Eliminating the IMU property tax on first homes was a “battle for freedom”, Berlusconi said, claiming that abolishing the tax would provide a stimulus to Italy’s ailing economy by leaving money in the pockets of homeowners.

Berlusconi’s remarks prompted Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta to pledge that a decision on IMU would be taken by the end of the month — two weeks before the next instalment of the tax is due.

“I am convinced we’ll find a compromise…but we have to tone down the polemics,” Letta stated on Friday.

The tax — anathema to Berlusconi and other members of his conservative People of Freedom party (PdL) — is proving to be a political tinderbox for the government.

The PdL was infuriated by comments made on Thursday by economy minister Fabrizio Saccomanni, who said cancelling IMU would be iniquitous.

“The proposal to eliminate IMU for primary residences does not seem fully justified in terms of fairness and efficiency,” said Saccomanni, a former deputy governor of the Bank of Italy with no political affiliation.

Abolishing IMU and reimbursing last year’s payments of the tax as the PdL demands, would create a shortfall of some eight billion euros in Italy’s 2013 budget.

The International Monetary Fund last month urged the Italian government to maintain IMU saying it was a fair and effective levy but the PdL insists the tax is a red line over which the coalition stands or falls.

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

Italy: M5S Leader Lashes Out at ‘Politically Correct’ Speech

(AGI) Rome, Aug 18 — M5S leader Beppe Grillo has spoken out on his blog against the need to use only ‘politically correct’ terms. “We can’t speak anymore. Political correctness has transformed our conversations into artificial words of plastic.

It has emasculated them. Saying what you think has become a scandal,” he said. “Death is ‘passing away’. Berlusconi is a ‘statesman’, and not a tax evader. You don’t become confused old men, you become ‘wise elderly’ ones. Humble and socially useful jobs have disappeared. There aren’t any blind and deaf any longer: there are just the non-seeing and the weak of hearing”.

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

Languages: All United Against Dominance of English

România libera Bucharest

In response to growing enthusiasm among Europeans for English as a lingua franca, a Romanian intellectual sounds the alarm and calls for a mobilisation to safeguard national languages.

Ovidiu Pecican

I recently wrote of the danger stalking the Romanian language in its own backyard. And it is not one that has been caused by a decline in the number of speakers — due to a slump in fertility rates or the massive migration of Romanians — but the result of current education policies in this country.

The fact that post-doctoral papers are submitted in English, and the fact that only work which is published in foreign reviews and written in this lingua franca appears to count, has largely contributed to a growing disinterest in Romanian scientific publications. And in the in medium to long term, this state of affairs will also undermine the value of the language for the intellectual elite.

Anglicisation criticised in Europe

Romania has already lived through a similar situation in the past. At the end of the 19th century, the boyar nobility despised everything Romanian and copied the mores of Paris, Moscow, and Istanbul, the power centres of the period. [The character] of “Coana Chirita” in the works of Vasile Alecsandri was inspired by the taste for “French” manners. Similarly, the plays of Ion Luca Caragiale highlighted the ridiculousness of copying western models. And towards the beginning of the 20th century, historian Nicolae Iorga led a major demonstration in Bucharest to protest against French-only theatre productions in the city…

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

Attack on Egyptian Police Leaves Officer and Militant Dead

(AGI) Cairo, Aug 18 — An Egyptian police officer and an alleged member of the radical group Al Jihad were killed during an attack on the police in northern Egypt. The Al-Jihad militia had previously opened fire on a police convoy in Hehia, province of Sharquiya, wounding nine officers, who managed to escape. Police immediately organised a roundup in the area, but another clash followed, leaving an officer and a militant dead.

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

Commodities: Egyptian Bloodbath Threatens Crucial Routes for Oil and Gas Supplies

Egypt is a key bottleneck in the global oil industry. Should the current turmoil in the North African country get any worse, a potential oil spike could damage any nascent economic recovery.

After last week’s bloody crackdown by the Egyptian army, fears of a disruption of oil supplies to the West have boosted the oil price. Brent crude prices were propelled to a four-month high of $111.23 on Thursday. If the turmoil gets worse — or unrest spreads to other countries — the risk premium currently factored into the price of crude is likely to increase further.

Egypt is not a major energy exporter, producing a nominal amount of the world’s oil and gas. The North African country appears at number 54 on the list of the world’s largest oil exporters, producing about 0.9pc of the world’s oil and 1.8pc of global natural gas supply.

However, Egypt plays a vital role in international energy markets through the operation of the Suez Canal and the Suez-Mediterranean (Sumed) pipeline. These are vital pieces of infrastructure in the global oil market.

Last year, about 7pc of all seaborne traded oil and 13pc of liquefied natural gas (LNG) travelled through the Suez Canal, according to data collected by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Suez Canal, a 101-mile link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and the 200-mile Sumed pipeline are strategic routes for Persian Gulf oil and gas shipments to Europe and North America…

[Return to headlines]

Coptic Pope Blasts Muslim Brotherhood, US, EU

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Since ex-president Morsy’s ouster on July 3, attacks on Egyptian Christians by members of the Muslim Brotherhood have taken place in most governorates across Egypt. These attacks have escalated since security forces ended the pro-Morsy protests in central Cairo on August 14th. During their 6-weeks of protests, Muslim Brotherhood leaders explicitly threatened to harm the Copts should they be forced to end their protests, which they vowed to prolong until Morsy is restored to power.

“Over the past weeks we have witnessed an increasing trend of anti-Christian rhetoric calling for ‘the attack upon and eradication of Christians and churches’ in Egypt,” said Coptic Bishop Anba in the United Kingdom. “The result of such incitement, at least in part, has been the unprecedented attack on fifty two churches and numerous Christian homes and businesses across eight governorates in Egypt, within the space of twenty four hours.”

Yesterday Dr. Naguib Gabriel, President of Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said “82 churches, many of which were from the 5th century, were attacked by pro-Morsy supporters in just two days.”

Coptic Pope Tawadros II issued a statement yesterday expressing his views on the violence which engulfed Egypt, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of fomenting sectarian clashes.

The Pope said the Church is on “the side of Egyptian law, the armed forces and all the Egyptian civil institutions when it comes to confronting violent armed organizations and terrorizing forces, either within the country or from abroad.” The Pope pointed out that one should look beyond the squares where the Muslim Brotherhood have been holding their protests, in order to gain a general overview of what has been happening for weeks in Egypt. “The attacks on government buildings and peaceful churches terrorize everyone, whether they be Copts or Muslims. These actions go against any religion, any moral code and any sense of humanity.”

The Coptic Church also criticized the way in which the crisis is reported outside of Egypt. It expressly speaks of “false broadcast by Western media,” and urges for an “objective” revision to be made of the descriptions given to the actions of those “blood-thirsty radical organizations.” The Coptic Orthodox Church says that “instead of legitimizing them with global support and political coverage while they are trying to wreak havoc and destruction upon our beloved land, report all events truthfully and accurately.”

Pope Tawadros reaffirmed his support for “national unity” and rejected any form of “international interference in our internal affairs.”

The Pope is at the top of the Islamists’ assassination list.

The views of the Coptic church are also held by Copts in general, who are angry with the US and EU powers, “who almost daily issue statements threatening to take further actions against our interim government and army, portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as victims while not even mentioning the destruction of over 80 churches, as well monasteries, orphanages, businesses and Coptic schools by the Muslim Brotherhood,” says Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub who believes that this western attitude emboldens them to carry out further violence. “To add insult to injury the Muslim Brotherhood this week hoisted the black Al-Qaida flag on top of St. George’s church in Sohag. Three churches were turned into mosques in Minya and Friday prayers were held inside them.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Archaeologists Urge Govt to Cut Ties With Foreign Missions

Cairo, 16 August (AKI) — Egypt’s archaeologists have called on the state antiquities ministry to sever all links with foreign missions to protest international ‘interference’ in the country’s politics, Al-Ahram Online reported on Friday.

The Egyptian Archaeologists’ Syndicate said its wants the ministry to take immediate steps to cut all ties, even including banning international researchers and students from Egyptian museums and archaeological sites.

Foreign archaeological and cultural institutes, especially American institutions, should be cut off because of their country’s support of ‘terrorism’ i.e. the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s recent clashes with security forces, the syndicate’s coordinator Salah El-Hadi said in a press release cited by Al-Ahram.

“This ban should continue until those foreign cultural and archaeological institutes in Egypt pronounce their official rejection of their countries’ policy of intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs,” El-Hadi was quoted as saying.

“If the ministry does not accept and follow-through with our demands, archaeologists will implement the prohibition [ourselves] and will work towards cutting any cooperation with them,” the statement warned.

The statement came hours after a French-convened United Nations council meeting started to discuss the army’s deadly operation on Wednesday to clear two protest camps in Cairo set up by supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Over 600 people were killed in the operation.

US President Barak Obama criticised Wednesday’s violence and “the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces…We deplore violence against civilians,” he said.

Top officials of 28 European Union members will hold a meeting next Monday to discuss the situation in Egypt, the EU said on Friday.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said she is monitoring the situation with great disquiet.

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

Egypt Army Chief Al-Sisi: Room for All in Egypt

The head of Egypt’s armed forces has said that his message to the supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi is that “there is room for everyone”.

Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged them to help “rebuild the democratic path” and “integrate in the political process”.

But he also warned the military would not be silent in the face of violence.

Later, at least 36 detained members of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed when they tried to escape during their transfer to a prison outside Cairo.

Initially, the interior ministry said they died in an exchange of fire after some of them took a military officer hostage and the convoy of prison vehicles, transporting a total of 612 detainees to Abu Zaabal prison in Qalyubia province, was attacked by unidentified gunmen.

But later the ministry said the prisoners died from the effects of inhaling tear gas, which was fired when the escaping detainees took a police officer hostage. He was freed, but was badly injured, it added.

A legal source told the Reuters news agency that the Brotherhood members had suffocated in the back of a crammed police van.

The interior ministry separately said so-called “people’s committees”, which have been set up by residents of some areas to provide security, would be banned because some had been used for vigilante activities.

Meanwhile, Mena reported that 79 people were killed and 549 wounded in violence across the country on Saturday.

That raised the nationwide death toll since Wednesday, when security forces forcibly cleared two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, to more than 830, including 70 police and soldiers…

[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood Won’t Shy Away From Martyrdom

Egypt’s leadership continues its course of confrontation yet the Muslim Brotherhood refuses to back down. In order to win public support, they embrace the role of the martyr.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Near-Empty Flights Carry 26 Italian Tourists to Egypt

(AGI) Bergamo, Aug 18 — Four flights carried 26 Italian tourists to Egypt’s Sharm El Sheik and Marsa Alam seaside resorts on Sunday. The near-empty flights were operated by carriers Meridiana and Neos, with two passengers on one flight, two on another, and two and 14 on two subsequent flights.

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

Turkish Deputy PM Calls on OIC’s Turkish Chief to Resign Over Egypt Coup Stance

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has called on Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to resign from his position because the organization — which counts many oil-rich Arab countries as members — has remained silent on the July 3 Egyptian coup.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Washington Split on Egypt Aid, Raising More Questions on Who the US Backs

Washington appeared no closer Sunday to agreeing on whether to cut off U.S. aid to Egypt, raising further questions about which side the United States is taking amid the escalating and deadly political protests in the Middle East country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

American Jihadi Calls for More Attacks on US Diplomats

Adam Gadahn calls for rich Islamists to provide “bounties” for US diplomats, cites Al Qaeda county on US ambassador to Yemen

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Democracy or ‘Democrazy’?

The second wave of the Egyptian revolution that took place on June 30 and it consequences have clearly exposed that the talk of Islamist activists and blocs all over the Arab world about democracy and human rights is nothing but worthless, hollow words and slogans. In fact, they have proven that, for them, democracy is nothing more than a means to reach and monopolize power before they immediately start denying and rejecting this particular means: the ballot boxes. The ‘end justifies the means’ for them and that is why they cannot be described as democrats.

They are better described as ‘Boxcrats’! That is why, ever since toppling the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, those ‘Boxcrats’ have been continuously talking about ballot boxes legitimacy alone without discussing the violations committed by the toppled regime, which cost it both political legitimacy and the popularity they gained through ballot boxes. These violations made the people revolt against it and things almost reached a political deadlock and severe complications…

[And this is not Robert Spencer’s opinion. This is Dr Bader al-Daihani in a semiofficial Kuwaiti newspaper. Amazing. — RR]

           — Hat tip: RR [Return to headlines]

Iran Installs 18,000 Uranium Enrichment Centrifuges

(AGI) Dubai, Aug 18 — Iran has already installed 18,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, one thousand of which are of a new generation, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation chief, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, told local media. Ten thousand centrifuges are already active, 7000 are soon to start operating and one thousand of these are of the IR-2m type, capable of enriching fuel more quickly than the IR-1 type, reported the ISNA press agency.

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

US Support for Brotherhood

This article is not written to analyze the situation in Egypt, which can simply be described as chaotic right now but the dust will eventually settle down. This is a letter from an Arab citizen to the US citizens to analyze the recent statements made by US President Barack Obama and his support for the Muslim Brotherhood cell in Egypt and his stand on Al- Qaeda.

Bear in mind the Muslim brethren always tend to raise the black flags of Al-Qaeda during a time of crisis. I don’t believe Obama’s calls to save the lives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and this is why: First, I wonder why Obama never shed tears for the Palestinians who have been asking for a safe haven for more than fifty years under Israeli occupation.

Why didn’t he focus on what is happening in Iraq and the other places in the world where people are being killed? Why is Egypt his business now? Second, US ties during Morsi’s rule was more than perfect with the blessings from Hamas. Now, would Hamas bless such an affiliation unless they have something to gain from it? Losing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood cell in Egypt could mean losing money and power and possibly Sinai Peninsula as an alternative future home for the Palestinians. Finally, for years the former US presidents were calling Al-Qaeda names, the most common being ‘terrorists’…

           — Hat tip: RR [Return to headlines]

Bangladesh: The Revival of Fundamentalism, A Threat to Women and Democracy

Growing popularity of the Islamic party (Jamaat-e-Islami) with extremist groups, such as Hefajat-e-Islam, whose leader has issued statements against women during Ramadan. The group wants a constitution based on Sharia, the eradication of minorities and separation between the sexes.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — The rekindled “sympathy” for the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamic party, and especially for fundamentalist groups linked to it is of increasing concern in Bangladesh. Above all Hefajat-e-Islam (Defense of Islam), which in recent months has made radical and violent statements, especially against women, minorities and secularism in the country. This is according to reports from Catholic sources — anonymous for security reasons — sent to AsiaNews.

The first alarm bells to sound were the famous “13 points” presented in one of the more violent hartal (strikes) in recent months, which took place on May 5 last and cost the lives of dozens of people. Among the requests, a constitution based on Sharia law, the death penalty for anyone who defames Allah, Muhammad or Islam; the separation between the sexes at every level of society.

As if that were not enough, during Ramadan controversial and discriminatory statements were made which many analysts considered an insult and unsuited to the sacredness of the period, considered one of the most important moments in the Islamic religion. In particular, in July a video posted to Youtube and Facebook caused quite a stir. The movie shows Sheikh ul-Islam Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi, the 93 leader of Hefajat-e-Islam, discrediting women and explaining the need to deprive them of their freedom, an education and a job.

“You women — he says — should sit in the house of your husband, take care of his things and raise his children. This is your job. Why should you leave the house?”. “Why send your daughters to work in textile factories? — He asks his audience — They leave home at 7 am and do not come back before midnight. You do not know what men they are with, you do not know how many zina [unlawful sexual activity, ed] are involved in”.

He adds: “You spend thousands of thaka [national currency, ed] to send her to school, high school, college. Allow her to study until the fourth grade. This is all she needs to keep the household accounts after she gets married.”

It is unclear when Ahmad Shah Shafi’s statements were recorded. According to some even it was filmed last winter, if not sooner. But it is significant that it was put online — and, specifically, on platforms widely used by young people like Youtube and Facebook — in July, during Ramadan and in the midst of a period of political instability in Bangladesh, a few months before the general election.

Some commentators note that a victory of the Nationalist Party (Bangladesh Nationalist Party, now in opposition) is highly likely in these elections and — most importantly — its strongest ally: the Jamaat-e-Islami, which was excluded from the electoral race, because deemed “undemocratic.”

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

India: Marines ‘Deserve to be Back Home for Christmas’ Says Envoy

Rome and New Delhi, 16 August (AKI) — The two Italian marines facing trial in India for murder deserve to return to Italy by Christmas and Rome will do its utmost to achieve this, its special envoy in the case said on Friday.

“I believe that our riflemen deserve to be back home for Christmas and we will do everything we can to bring this about,” Staffan De Mistura told Italian public RadioAnch’io, speaking from New Delhi.

De Mistura was referring to Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who are due to stand trial over the killings of two fishermen in the southern state of Kerala in February 2012 while the marines were guarding an oil tanker.

“I am an optimist by nature, but we have had some unpleasant surprises along the way and I am therefore cautious,” added De Mistura, who is currently in the Indian capital to hold meetings with the marines, their lawyer and Indian officials.

New Delhi in March refused to allow Italy’s ambassador to India to leave the country amid a diplomatic row that erupted between the two countries when Rome broke a promise to return Girone and Latorre to India for trial.

The row was defused when Italy sent back the two marines — who had been allowed home to vote in national elections — after receiving assurances they would not face the death-penalty.

Girone and Latorre allege they mistook the unarmed fishermen for pirates and Italy claimed the incident took place in international waters, meaning India should not have jurisdiction over the case.

No trial date has so far been set for the pair but De Mistura said he thought it possible the trial could begin in September and was likely to be brief.

“I have the impression that there is just as much interest on the Indian side to see this issue resolved rapidly and justly,” he said.

The marines are living at the Italian embassy in New Delhi while they await trial.

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

Indonesians Shocked by Oil Corruption Scandal

Rudi Rubiandini, head of the SKK Migas special commission, pocketed nearly a million dollars in U.S. and Singapore currency. He is a popular lecturer and close to President Yudhoyono. Highest profile” case for anti-corruption commission, both for the personality and amount of money involved.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A new corruption scandal has hit a high ranking political, institutional and financial Indonesian official: Rudi Rubiandini, head of the special commission of control over the Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Company, better known as SKK Migas. The Department Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) — caught him on the night of 13 August, while pocketing a substantial bribe (U.S. and Singapore dollars for a sum of not less than one million) from a representative of a foreign oil company. The transfer of money took place in the official’s home, situated in one of the most expensive suburbs of South Jakarta.

Indonesian public is shocked by this latest corruption scandal, both by the amount involved as well as the high profile figure. Rudi Rubiandini, was known as an incorruptible associate professor in energy materials at the ‘Institute of Technology in Bandung (ITB). He was also deputy minister for gas and oil in the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He left the ministerial office in January 2013, to guide the newly formed SKK Migas commission. Many people wonder how it is possible that such a qualified and apparently intact personality, could have pocketed so high a sum to become — in the opinion of the Anti-Corruption Commission — “the most high-profile case of” ever discovered in Indonesia.

Moreover, the story casts a shadow over the executive of President Yudhoyono and the many pro-government agencies established in recent years to guide the political and institutional destinies of the country. Under interrogation Rudi Rubiandini admitted that he had received the sum of money and other valuables, including a high-powered BMW motorcycle, but rejected the accusation of “corruption.”

In a surprise judgment, in November 2012, the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi, Mk) decreed the dissolution of the Upstream Oil and Gas Regulator Company, better known coma BP Migas, because it was “anti-constitutional” and “contrary” to the principles enshrined in the 1945 Charter. For many, the Indonesian state-owned company has caused serious financial losses because of its “selling out” of national treasures — oil and gas — to foreign companies rather than promoting the local industry giant Pertamina. Allegations that, after a few months, also involved the Migas, commission established by the government to monitor the energy business.

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

Malaysia Punishes Singaporean in Prayer Room Row

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities on Saturday revoked the immigration privileges held by a Singaporean man who offended some Muslims by allegedly letting Buddhists use an Islamic prayer room.

The case has provoked debate about whether the government in Muslim-majority Malaysia is increasingly bowing to pressure by religious conservatives who want stern penalties against people accused of insulting Islam.

Police detained the Singaporean-born owner of a southern Malaysian beach resort for several days earlier this month after he was believed to have allowed Buddhist tourists to meditate in the resort’s Islamic prayer room.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Muslim man has been stripped of his “permanent residency” status that enabled him to live and work in Malaysia without visa requirements.

The man has been released by police and is not formally charged with any crime, but the government’s decision was “based on the law in the interests of religion and the nation,” Ahmad Zahid wrote on Twitter.

Some Islamic groups accused the man of defiling the prayer room. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 29 million people are Muslims, while the main minorities are Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

The Singaporean’s case is the third in the past two months that involved the detention of people accused of disrespecting Muslim sensitivities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pakistani Imam Acquitted of Blasphemy

(AGI) Islamabad, Aug 18 — A Pakistani court acquitted the imam Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chisti of blasphemy exactly one year after he falsely accused a Christian girl, Rimsha Masih of the same crime. Chisti had originally accused the girl of desecration, having burnt some pages of the Quran, a crime that is punishable by death in some countries. Chisti’s lawyer, Wajid Ali Gilani, explained that prosecution had failed to prove the charges while all the witnesses had withdrawn their accusations.

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

Australian Scientists Discover the Secret to Hydrating Beer

Australian researches have found a way to improve the hydrating qualities of beer, without compromising on taste. By adding electrolytes to the amber ale, the researchers from a Queensland university may even have found a way to avoid a post-drink hangover.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe’s Immigration Challenge: Austria’s Message to Refugees: Be Silent or Risk Going Back

Gazeta Wyborcza Warsaw

Austria, where the Christian Democrats are a coalition partner, is deporting Pakistani refugees, practically sentencing them to death. And yet it’s been only weeks since Pope Francis spoke on their behalf. His words moved many but obviously didn’t reach the ears of Austrian politicians, notes a Gazeta Wyborcza columnist.

Bartosz T. Wielinski

The whole nasty story wouldn’t have happened if the illegal Pakistani immigrants, who had applied for asylum in Austria, simply kept silent. But, thinking they were in a democratic country, they decided to publicly demand decent treatment. Instead of vegetating for years in the overcrowded refugee camp in Traiskirchen near Vienna and working illegally, they staged a street demonstration in November last year to protest the poor conditions in which they are kept. The police immediately chased them away, so they took refuge in one of the churches, until being offered temporary shelter by the Servite monastery. But the authorities didn’t forget: on Sunday, 4 August, eight of the 40 Pakistanis involved were arrested and immediately deported.

The authorities say nothing will prevent the deportations from going on as plannedAustrian activists who, together with the Catholic Church, support the Pakistani refugees, tried various ways to prevent their deportation. One activist bought a ticket for the same plane on which a deported Pakistani man was being flown out of the country and tried to prevent it from taking off, but was overwhelmed by the police. Worse still, the police have now turned against the activists themselves. Three people were arrested on human trafficking charges last week, and the police searched the monastery. The authorities say nothing will prevent the deportations from going on as planned.

Fear and helplessness

For them, deportation means a death sentence: if not by the security forces, then by the TalibanI wouldn’t be writing about this in such detail if I hadn’t met the Pakistani refugees from the Vienna monastery in person. I spent a few hours with them back in April. Their eyes reflected a sense of fear and helplessness. Most had been human rights activists in Pakistan and had to flee. For them, deportation means a death sentence: if not by the security forces, then by the Taliban….

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

Russia Hunts for Illegal Immigrants; 2 Thousand Detained

The “clean-up” started in Moscow, ahead of September elections. A tent city set up to contain illegal immigrants detained and awaiting deportation, but for human rights defenders it is “illegal.”

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Almost two thousand illegal immigrants have been detained in and around Moscow alone and hundreds of others caught in fruit and vegetable markets throughout the country: St. Petersburg, Perm Tyumen, Volgograd, Kamchatka, Udmurtia. This is the result of the crackdown on “illegal immigrants”, launched in late July by the capital authorities which has spread to other regions in a matter of days, on a wave of support from Russians and amid the criticism of human rights defenders.

It all started after a policeman was assaulted last month as he tried to arrest the alleged perpetrator of sexual assault in a grocery market in the capital. A minor, however unpleasant, episode was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The administration of mayor Serghey Sobyanin — who is running for re-election in September — launched zachistki (clean-up), a term that came into use during the Chechen wars. Temporarily to accommodate the large number of illegal immigrants stopped by the police in the district of Golyanovo, a tent city was set up, but it is still uncertain whether the move is actually legal. Many of the detained migrants — about 600 — are of Vietnamese origin and dozens of them have already been repatriated. The nationalities of the detained illegal workers include Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz Syrians, Egyptians and Afghans. The inhumane conditions of the camp — where is overpopulated and access to which is barred for migrants’ lawyers — have been denounced by human rights organizations, raising the concerns of some embassies, such as the Vietnamese.

Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the Civil Service — which deals with the rights of refugees — has called the Moscow tent city “a place of illegal detention,” where there are also people with a valid Russian residence permit. Human Rights Watch has asked the municipal administration to close the camp and put an end to a campaign which, they say, is targeting immigrants simply because of their nationality or skin color.

Sobyanin defended himself, assuring that “it’s all perfectly normal.” “In every country, when there is an emergency situation, the government starts to act in the most severe way.” Despite the protests, the campaign is not likely to end soon: the Federal Service for immigration is planning the construction of more than 80 temporary camps for illegal immigrants and announced that it will expand its staff by at least 4500 employees.

According to some analysts, the plan “against illegal immigrants” is part of the Sobyanin campaign, the Kremlin candidate in the race, to gain consensus in the first round. Xenophobic sentiment among Russians, especially in the capital, is very high and also affects the more educated and younger voters. According to estimates by the Russian presidency, there are over 10 million undocumented immigrants throughout the Federation. That figure — say experts — has grown over 15-20 years of increasing corruption among public officials and the business sector, which exploits cheap immigrant labor.

The zachistki — note civil activists — are likely, however, to feed the ever-burning and inter-ethnic tensions especially in large cities, where numerous markets and construction sites employ many immigrants from the former Soviet republics and the Russian Caucasus, whose inhabitants — mostly Muslims — are treated as though they are immigrants despite being Russian citizens.

Meanwhile, a petition has been launched calling for the city of Moscow to close the tent city of Golyanovo: it demands an investigation into violations of the rights of migrants; that their seized documents be returned, access granted to lawyers and press. The petition has now collected only 250 signatures so far.

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

Switzerland: Cantons Seek DNA Tests for Asylum Seekers

Certain Swiss cantons are demanding systematic DNA tests on asylum seekers — specifically Eritreans — who say they are coming to the country to join family members, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Eritreans represent the largest group seeking asylum in Switzerland, with nearly 6,000 requests currently pending in the country.

In June, Swiss voters in a referendum overwhelmingly approved stricter asylum criteria, notably the removal of military desertion as a valid reason for asylum.

That had been the key reason cited by Eritreans, whose country imposes unlimited and under-paid military service on all able-bodied men and women.

According to the Schweiz Am Sonntag newspaper, Eritreans also make more requests than any other nationality to bring over relatives under the family reunification programme.

“Identity papers or birth certificates must be considered as suspect” when presented by people seeking residence under the family reunification programme, said Iris Rivas, head of migration services in the canton of Bern.

She told the newspaper that in many home countries of asylum seekers, official papers are easy to forge and their embassies in Switzerland verify only whether the surnames given match those of the petitioners.

The call for DNA testing is also supported by the canton of Lucerne’s migration chief Alexander Lieb.

“Identity control in the case of family reunification is too lax,” he said.

Swiss law currently allows case-by-case requests for DNA tests when there is serious doubt that a claimant belongs to the same family.

Switzerland is among the European countries that welcomes the most asylum seekers in proportion to its population, and numbers have soared in recent years, in part due to the Arab Spring uprisings.

The country has faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of asylum seekers, including segregation and poor living conditions.

A fierce row broke out in early August amid reports that a small town was allowed to deny residents of a new asylum centre access to public facilities such as the swimming pool.

Authorities maintain that this was a misunderstanding.

Currently fewer than 20 percent of petitioners are granted asylum in Switzerland in a process that can take several years.

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

M, F or Blank: ‘Third Gender’ Official in Germany From November

Germany is set to become the first country in Europe to introduce a third, “indeterminate” gender designation on birth certificates. The European Union, which is attempting to coordinate anti-discrimination efforts across member states, is lagging behind on the issue.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swedish High Jumper Re-Paints Rainbow Nails

Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro has repainted her nails after being warned by the IAAF that the rainbow colours she sported in qualification in support of gay rights were a breach of regulations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/18/2013

  1. I love Italian politicians – the good, the bad and the in-betweens. This is great:

    “We can’t speak anymore. Political correctness has transformed our conversations into artificial words of plastic.

    No, no. Not plastic, please. Make that biodegradable renewable materials.

    It has emasculated them.

    At least Berlusconi isn’t emasculated. Whadda guy. Takes tax evasion and party hearty to new depths.

    Saying what you think has become a scandal,” he said.

    Yeah, they’ll demonize you for thinking, much less saying anything aloud. That’s how the Baron ‘n’ me got to be racist pig homophobe Islamophobe, et ceteras. Since you can’t please everyone, might as well please yourself, dood. You’ll sleep better.

    “Death is ‘passing away’

    My pet peeve on this one. For heaven’s sake, why not say “she died”? That mushy-mouth “passed” or “passed away” disguises *what* exactly? Of course, the way this is translated makes a lovely play on words in English. Many are indeed hoping that the inevitable arrival of their own demise has tiptoed by, somehow missing them entirely so that while their on death may be passing away, they’re not.


    You don’t become confused old men, you become ‘wise elderly’ ones.

    For sure. And those “wise elderlies” inevitably confuse themselves – which everyone but they can see. This would be sad except the old men are too arrogant to sit down and let the next generation have its turn. Or even part of a turn.

    I hope we get some more entries from that pol’s blog.

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