Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/21/2016

The European Central Bank has decided to hold its benchmark refinancing rate at 0%, leaving open the possibility of new “stimulus” measures. Meanwhile, Germany has revised its forecast of growth for 2017 to 1.5%, down from 1.7% this year.

In other news, Pope Francis took to Twitter to urge the faithful to display solidarity on climate change, which he considers a major challenge to humanity.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Dean, Fjordman, Insubria, 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
» ECB Holds Key Rate Steady at Zero Percent Amid Spat With Germany
» Germany: Government Cuts Growth Forecast to 1.5% for 2017
» Italy: Pensions Chief Says Risk of ‘Lost Generations’
» Girl: 16, Dead After Assault at Delaware High School
» Police: Trump Bumper Sticker Triggered Vandalism
» VW Agrees Dieselgate Deal With Judge
Europe and the EU
» Anders Breivik: Just How Cushy Are Norwegian Prisons?
» Italy: League MEP Buonanno Convicted of Insulting Roma
» Italy Loses 4 Places in RSF Press Freedom Index
» Italy: Renzi ‘In Favor of Justice Not Overzealous Judges’
» McDonald’s ‘Owes France €300 Million in Unpaid Taxes’
» Respond to Climate Change With Solidarity Tweets Pope
Middle East
» Against Backdrop of Obama’s Visit to Riyadh: Saudi, Gulf Press Furious at Allegations of Saudi Involvement in September 11 Attacks
» Italy: Atlante to Take Max 1.5 Bn in Pop Vicenza-UniCredit
» Odd Alliance Between the US and Iranian Fundamentalists
» Turkish Court Overturns 275 Convictions in Erdogan Coup Plot Case
» EU-Ukraine: Brussels Proposes to Abolish Visas for Kiev
» Ukraine’s President Bans Russian Movies
Far East
» Reporters Without Borders: Asia Lacks Press Freedom
Latin America
» Italy Investing in Mexico Says Renzi
» EU Deal on European Border Guards
» Italy Proposes EU-NATO Migrant Coordination
» Poland: Remittances From Emigrants Amount to Eur 3,7 Bln

ECB Holds Key Rate Steady at Zero Percent Amid Spat With Germany

The European Central Bank held its key interest rates steady on Thursday, but analysts believe it could pave the way for new stimulus measures soon, despite growing resistance in Germany.

The ECB’s governing council voted, as expected, to keep the benchmark “refi” refinancing rate at its current all-time low of zero percent, after cutting it to that level in March, an ECB spokesman said.

At the same time, the ECB also held the rate on its marginal lending facility unchanged at 0.25 percent and the rate on the deposit facility steady at minus 0.40 percent.

At its previous meeting on March 10, the ECB had announced a new range of new policy moves aimed at pushing chronically weak inflation in the euro area back up to economically healthier levels…

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

Germany: Government Cuts Growth Forecast to 1.5% for 2017

2016 GDP confirmed up 1.7%. Gabriel presents spring estimates

(ANSA) — BERLIN — The German government cuts economic growth forecast for 2017, now estimated to be 1.5% (in October it was 1.8%). Forecasts envisaging a GDP growth of 1.7% for 2016 are confirmed, Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said today in Berlin, presenting the spring forecast.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Pensions Chief Says Risk of ‘Lost Generations’

Boeri calls for reform to make it easier to retire

(ANSA) — Rome, April 19 — Tito Boeri, the head of State pensions and social security agency INPS, on Tuesday called for reforms to make it easier for people close to retirement age to quit work, saying Italy risks having entire generations miss out in the labour market. Boeri said this reform was needed in a “tight” time frame as “young people are penalized in a major way and there is the risk of having entire generations lost inside our country”.

He added that levels of youth unemployment, with over 40% of 15-to-24-year-olds who are on the labour market out of work, were unacceptable. Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, meanwhile, said there are “margins” for rethinking the existing pensions system to “improve” things for people entering and exiting the job market.

“There are margins for reflecting on the instruments and incentives, and on the links between the pension system and job market,” Padoan said during a hearing on the government’s economic and financial blueprint (DEF), adding that he was “certainly” in favour of “complex reasoning” on the issue. The minister also said he was “open to sources of complementary financing”, including a possible role for the credit system. The pensions system “is one of the pillars of sustainability” but “there are margins”, Padoan said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Girl: 16, Dead After Assault at Delaware High School

A 16-year-old girl died after she was assaulted at her Delaware high school, authorities said.

The deadly fight occurred after 8 a.m. Thursday inside a bathroom at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington.

Detectives are interviewing two students considered persons of interest in the assault, the News Journal reports. The girl — a 10th grader from New Castle — was flown to a local hospital but was later pronounced dead.

Mayor Dennis Williams lost composure as he spoke about the student’s death at a press conference.

The girl was flown to a local hospital but was later pronounced dead…

           — Hat tip: Dean [Return to headlines]

Police: Trump Bumper Sticker Triggered Vandalism

GIG HARBOR, Wash. — A Gig Harbor man believes his car was vandalized because he supports Donald Trump for President.

The man arrested for the incident agrees, according to police.

Riley Siva pleaded not guilty to a malicious mischief charge in Gig Harbor’s municipal courtroom Wednesday morning. But when he was arrested on April 10, investigators say he confessed to the crime.

Siva is accused of slashing the tires of a Ford Focus and pouring yogurt into the car’s open sunroof while it was parked at a Gig Harbor Fred Meyer.

Police say Siva told them he attacked the vehicle because of the Trump sticker on the rear bumper. Siva allegedly told police he considered the sticker a “hate symbol” and vandalizing the car “improved the community.”

The police report detailed a written statement allegedly written by Siva. It contained this statement: “I do not expect the law to recognize damage to tools of hate or racism, such things need to be destroyed so good people may remain and become free.”

Siva is due back in court in May.

“I felt discriminated against,” said car owner Nate Eliot, “I felt he was basically carrying out a hate crime.”…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

VW Agrees Dieselgate Deal With Judge

Compensation and various options

(ANSA) — Washington, April 21 — Volkswagen on Thursday agreed with a Californian judge a deal to avert a trial for the emissions-rigging scandal involving its diesel cars.

The deal envisages “major compensation” and buy-back options for owners, as well as getting their vehicles modified or cancelling leasing agreements.

VW will also have to set up a fund for measures protecting the environment.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Anders Breivik: Just How Cushy Are Norwegian Prisons?

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, is arguing that conditions in the prison where he is held violate his human rights. Many Norwegian prisons, on the other hand, are seen by foreigners as extremely cushy. Lars Bevanger describes a system referred to by one American visitor as “prison utopia”.

Two Norwegian institutions vie for the title of the world’s “nicest” or “most humane” prison.

Inmates on the prison island of Bastoey, south of Oslo, are free to walk around in a village-style setting, tending to farm animals. They ski, cook, play tennis, play cards. They have their own beach, and even run the ferry taking people to and from the island. And in the afternoon when most prison staff go home, only a handful of guards are left to watch the 115 prisoners.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: League MEP Buonanno Convicted of Insulting Roma

NAGA hails ‘victory’

(ANSA) — Milan, April 20 — Northern League MEP Gianluca Buonanno has been convicted of racism after calling Roma the “dregs of society” on TV last year.

Buonanno, who has courted controversy with many public statements on Roma and criminals, was sentenced to pay court costs and a 6,000 euro fine.

The Roma and Sinti activist group NAGA hailed the sentence as a “victory” for its suit against the rightwing populist politician.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Loses 4 Places in RSF Press Freedom Index

Vatileaks cited as factor for drop to 77th out of 180

(ANSA) — Paris, April 20 — Italy lost four places in the 2016 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) world press freedom index, which was released on Wednesday, dropping to 77th out of 180 States. The NGO cited reports that dozens of threatened journalists were under police protection and mentioned the judicial proceedings over the leaking of confidential documents from the Holy See. “In May 2015, the daily La Repubblica reported that between 30 and 50 journalists were under police protection because they had been threatened,” RSF said. “The level of violence against reporters (including verbal and physical intimidation and death threats) is alarming.

Journalists investigating corruption and organized crime are the ones who are targeted most. In the Vatican City, it is the judicial system that is harassing the media in connection with the Vatileaks and Vatileaks 2 scandals. Two journalists are facing up to eight years in prison as a result of writing books about corruption and intrigue within the Holy See”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Renzi ‘In Favor of Justice Not Overzealous Judges’

Premier takes aim at M5S in no-confidence reply

(ANSA) — Rome, April 19 — Premier Matteo Renzi told the Senate on Tuesday that he is in favor of justice, not of overzealous judges. “Italy has had heroic judges but also in the past 25 years it has experienced outright barbarism linked to overzealous prosecutions,” he said in reply to two center-right no-confidence motions over an oil-industry graft probe that has led to a current and former minister being questioned by prosecutors.

“The notification that one is under investigation has become tantamount to a definitive conviction in the media — decent people’s lives have been destroyed while criminals profited from the populist attitudes of those who tarnished everyone with the same brush,” said Renzi, who leads the center-left Democratic Party (PD).

“Because a notification is never equal to a conviction, we will not request the 5-Star Movement (M5S) councillor in Livorno to step down,” Renzi added. One of the no-confidence motions was filed by the anti-establishment M5S.

“I am certain the only legal proceedings will be a suit for defamation against the PD, for which I hope you will give up your parliamentary immunity,” the premier told M5S lawmakers.

“Judges must speak through their rulings and we encourage them to do so — but the rulings must be handed down quickly because we want to know who is responsible, who is guilty, who is stealing,” Renzi said.

The justice system in Italy is notoriously slow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

McDonald’s ‘Owes France €300 Million in Unpaid Taxes’

McDonald’s this week is battling the twin accusations that it owes France millions of euros in taxes and pays its workers unacceptably low wages.

France’s finance ministry has told the US fast-food giant that it owes 300 million euros in taxes, based on profits that were allegedly siphoned through tax-avoidance schemes based in Luxembourg and Switzerland, according to a report published on Tuesday.

French business monthly magazine L’Expansion reported that authorities sent the bill to McDonald’s at the end of 2015 as part of ongoing tax fraud investigations that began in 2013.

The report said the hamburger chain — the biggest restaurant franchise in France — used the Luxembourg entity “McD Europe Franchising” to move profits to lower-tax jurisdictions…

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

Respond to Climate Change With Solidarity Tweets Pope

‘Main current challenge for humanity’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, April 21 — Pope Francis tweeted Thursday that “climate change is one of the main current challenges for humanity, and the response requires the solidarity of all”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Against Backdrop of Obama’s Visit to Riyadh: Saudi, Gulf Press Furious at Allegations of Saudi Involvement in September 11 Attacks

A bill proposed by several U.S. Congress members, which, if approved, would hold Saudi Arabia and top Saudi officials liable in U.S. courts for involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks, has generated anger in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. According to a report published in The New York Times on April 15, 2016, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir threatened, during a March visit to the U.S., that his country would sell off 750 billion dollars in U.S. Treasury securities and other assets to avoid their being frozen by U.S. courts. Such a measure on the part of the Saudi government might bear severe consequences for the U.S. economy.

In response to the bill proposal, the Saudi daily ‘Okaz published an article claiming that an Iranian lobby was operating within the U.S. Congress in an effort to implicate Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks. Additional articles in the Saudi and Bahraini press criticized the bill and the efforts to link Saudi Arabia to 9/11 and to hold it responsible for the terror attacks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Atlante to Take Max 1.5 Bn in Pop Vicenza-UniCredit

UniCredit is underwriting the cash call

(ANSA) — Milan, April 20 — UniCredit said Wednesday that new Italian bank fund Atlante will buy a maximum of 1.5 billion euros’ worth of unsold shares in Banca Popolare di Vicenza’s upcoming capital increase. UniCredit is underwriting the cash call. “Quaestio, in the name, on behalf and in the interest of the Fund Atlante, which is currently in the process of being established, has undertaken vis-à-vis UniCredit to subscribe the newly issued shares arising from the capital increase approved by Banca Popolare di Vicenza S.p.A. remaining un-subscribed in the context of the proposed offering of BPVi shares aimed to the listing, in the event that UniCredit shall be required to subscribe them pursuant to the underwriting undertakings with BPVi up to the maximum amount of Euro 1,500 million,” UniCredit said. In a separate statement, BPVi said that Atlante had agreed to pick up unsubscribed shares “at a price not higher than the minimum of the price range for the shares set by the Bank’s Board of Directors”, that is 0.10 euros per share.

UniCredit CEO Federico Ghizzoni said he was upbeat about the capital increase.

“I’m highly confident that the operation will be successful,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Odd Alliance Between the US and Iranian Fundamentalists

Washington is still preventing the use of US dollars in transactions with Iranian banks, preventing business with the outside world in spite of the nuclear deal. This way, the US is helping Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, who want to torpedo the agreement in order to maintain their hold on power. Meanwhile, most Iranians hold down two or three jobs just to make ends meet. An unstable and bellicose Iran is a boon for arms sales. A report follows.

Teheran (AsiaNews) — “Nothing has changed. Although the nuclear deal was signed, sanctions are still in place,” said K, a young Tehran businessman who hoped to restart his import-export activity with the end of the embargo.

Iran, he told me dejectedly, is still marginalised by the international community and its economy remains “crippled”. This is what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted when the US imposed strict financial sanctions on Iran in response to the threat of its alleged nuclear weapons programme.

Right after the Vienna agreement was signed, many delegations from Germany, France, Italy and many other countries rushed to Iran, lured by the prospects of a country with a young population, in need of new infrastructure, eager to catch up after nearly 35 years of sanctions. Instead, nothing moves.

“If a company wants to sign a contract with an Iranian partner, it needs the backing of a European or an American bank; it requires coverage by an insurance company” K said, “but no one is moving, out of fear that the United States will block financial transactions.”

Using the dollar

The problem is that the US has not yet lifted its restrictions on Iran using dollars in international deals. As result of this, many European banks and companies fear that resuming economic relations with Iran will leave them liable to millions of dollars in fines by the United States, like in the past.

Some days ago, a spokesperson for the White House said that the nuclear deal does not imply an obligation on the part of the United States to readmit fully Iran into the international economic community and that the Vienna agreement does not say that the end of sanctions includes the use of the US dollar in business dealings between non-US banks and Tehran.

In fact, the agreement does provide for an end to financial sanctions and renewed financial relations between the Islamic Republic and the rest of the world. For several experts, Washington’s narrow interpretation is at least contrary to the spirit of the agreement and de facto perpetuates the embargo.

Reality on the ground highlights the hardships Iranians face. Out of a population of almost 80 million, half is under the age of 35 years. Youth unemployment stands at 20 per cent with many Iranians hoping to emigrate for a better future. Life is not easy for those who want to remain.

“Myself and many people I know need to work at two or three jobs to support our families,” said Hassan, 40. “I work in an office during the day, and at a mechanical cooperative in the evenings. Even my wife has been forced to work. During the day she is a teacher and in the evening she bakes sweets, and tries to sell them to pastry shops.”

Tehran has become like New York, a “city that never sleeps.” For the US metropolis, this title is because it is the capital of the globalised world, an engine of world finance. Tehran Instead is this way because it suffers from isolation. The financial prison in which the West has forced us pushes people to run here and there in search of more money to pay for the rent, food, and children’s schooling .

Revenge of the conservatives

EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini recently travelled to Tehran in order to improve cooperation between the European Union and Iran and push the international community (i.e. the US) to facilitate trade.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met at the UN in New York to study ways to implement the nuclear agreement and speed up the end of the embargo. However, time is running out politically and from a humanitarian point of view.

Zarif’s success (and that of President Hassan Rouhani) with the agreement led to reformers’ victory in parliamentary elections and in the Assembly of Experts. Neither Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, nor the Revolutionary Guards, or rightwing circles like the end of the embargo because the latter has allowed them to monopolise large chunks of the Iranian economy.

“Iran’s return as a partner in the international community would force them to keep in mind public opinion and accept business competition,” said a journalist. “They want to avoid both.”

Precisely for this reason, after the election, Khamenei began to launch attacks against the agreement, against the current president, against reformers, and against all those who support an overture to the outside world. They point to the fact that economic situation has not improved, and so argue that the agreement is useless.

“In my opinion,” said the journalist, “Khamenei is preparing the return of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president who ruined Iran’s relations with the international community due to its warmongering threats against the world and Israel. The next presidential elections is set for 2017, and Rouhani might not get another mandate.”

Odd alliance

It almost seems that the US and Iranian fundamentalists are allied to scuttle the nuclear deal. The longer Washington takes to allow relations with the banks, the stronger Iran’s rightwing becomes. A country that has enormous wealth and potential for growth would once again be held back, with the population forced to survive, whilst the hardliners continue to get rich from the embargo.

Iran is not the only issue. Since Rouhani became president, Iran has been able to play a positive diplomatic role across the Middle East, in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

Even though Saudi Arabia continues to accuse Tehran of financing terrorism (hiding its own support for the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group), Tehran’s proposals have been more peaceful, moderate and open so far, with regards to Lebanon’s presidency, Syria peace negotiations in Geneva, and talks between the government and Houthi in Yemen.

The Saudi policy is haphazard, as well as more brutal, like threatening to withdraw its funds from Lebanon, disrupting the Geneva talks, escalating the war in Yemen, supporting every Mideast dictatorship, except Assad’s. By perpetuating the embargo, the United States seems to be supporting this situation.

Middle East scholar Shireen Hunter suggests two possible explanations. First, the United States wants Iran to remain unstable until regime change takes place, or possibly the country is dismembered as some of its neighbours would like. Second, it prefers Iran in the hands of its rightwing to scare its neighbours into buying weapons from France, Great Britain, and the United States. It is estimated that in the last 3-4 years Saudi Arabia bought weapons from the US worth US$ 90 billion; not to mention those bought by Qatar, UAE, Iraq, etc.

On one point however, the US and Iran agree, namely the fight against Daesh, the Islamic State group, for which Washington has indirectly turned to Tehran, perhaps the only effective partner in the region in the fight against Sunni extremism, which threatens Iran and all the capitals of the world.

Meanwhile, in the Iranian capital people are sure of one thing. “The 5 per cent of the population that is fundamentalist and anti-Western dominates the 95 per cent that would like to have friendly relations with the West,” said Hassan. “In the elections, we expressed our will, but to open up Iran to the world, we need a hand from the outside. Our fortunes depend on you.”

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

Turkish Court Overturns 275 Convictions in Erdogan Coup Plot Case

Turkey’s appeals court has overturned coup plot convictions imposed in 2013 on a retired military chief and other senior figures in a case then regarded as clipping the wings of the secularist and military establishment, state media said on Thursday.

The ruling closes the final chapter in a nine-year legal drama whose twists and turns have tracked the shifting balance of power at the heart of the Turkish establishment.

In August 2013, ex-military chief General Ilker Basbug was sentenced to life in jail for his role in the “Ergenekon” plot to overthrow then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government…

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

EU-Ukraine: Brussels Proposes to Abolish Visas for Kiev

EC will submit proposal to Council and parliament

(ANSA) — BRUSSELS — The European Commission launched today the proposal for abolishing the need to get a visa for Ukrainian citizens wishing to travel to the EU. The proposal must now be examined and approved by the European council and parliament.

When these steps are completed, Ukrainian citizens holding new biometric passports will be able to enter the EU and move within the Schengen area for 90 days without a preliminary visa.

European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, who has launched the proposal for abolishing visas after the positive assessment made by the Commission last December, has expressed his satisfaction with the fact that Kiev’s government has managed to achieve all the goals needed to make this decision, in particular in terms of justice reform and respect for civil rights.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Ukraine’s President Bans Russian Movies

Also all movies produced after 1991

(ANSA-AP) — MOSCOW — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a bill banning all movies filmed in Russia after 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

The bill that Poroshenko signed late Wednesday also bans all movies produced by Russian companies and Russian citizens after 1991 if they “glorify the work of government bodies” of Russia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Reporters Without Borders: Asia Lacks Press Freedom

North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos are at the bottom of the ranking of 180 countries studied. Concerns regarding the “totalitarian vision” of Xi Jinping and his grip on freedom in Hong Kong. In almost all the countries of East and Southeast Asia, the media are controlled directly or indirectly by the government. Even the Korean and Japanese democracies are worsening, previously considered of models of freedom.

Paris (AsiaNews / RFA) — The nations of East and South-East Asia, where there are four of the five communist regimes in the world, have the worst ranking for press freedom in a list compiled by Reporters Without Borders ( RSF). Out of 180 countries surveyed, North Korea is ranked 179mo place, China is a close 176th followed by Vietnam and Laos at 173rd. Things are not much better in democratic countries such as Myanmar (143th). Christophe Deloire, general secretary of the NGO based in Paris, writes that “the climate of fear [established by the regimes] leads to a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, in a crackdown on the press wanted by increasingly oppressive and authoritarian governments , and in a journalism of private print media which is increasingly modeled after personal interests “.

Courtesy of Radio Free Asia we publish the article by Paul Eckert, on RSF’s findings on the censorship affecting Asian countries.

Media freedom in the Asia-Pacific region largely declined over the past year, in authoritarian and democratic countries alike, the global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said in an annual report published on Wednesday.

“The media freedom situation worsened significantly or stagnated in most of the Asia-Pacific region,” said the Paris-based NGO, which goes by RSF, the initials of its French name. “The decline affected eastern Asia’s democracies, previously regarded as regional models.”

East and Southeast Asia, home to four of the five remaining communist regimes on earth, fare particularly poorly in RSF annual 180-nation ranking. North Korea was second to last at 179, China stood at 176, Vietnam at 175, and Laos was at 173.

“In China the Communist Party took repression to new heights. Journalists were spared nothing, not even abductions, televised forced confessions and threats to relatives,” said the report by RSF, which has been compiling the rankings since 2002.

Xi’s ‘totalitarian view’

President Xi Jinping’s recent directive that Chinese media “must love the Party, protect the Party, and closely align themselves with the Party leadership in thought, politics and action,” said RSF, “could not have made his totalitarian view of the media’s role any clearer.”

“‘Making unauthorized criticisms’ is one of the many bans to which journalists are subjected. It reinforces an already formidable arsenal that includes the state secrets law and the criminal code,” said the report.

Hong Kong, a special region of China which enjoys autonomy in certain respects, ranked 69 in media freedom, slightly above South Korea and Japan.

“The media are still able to cover sensitive stories involving the local government and mainland China, but the need to fight to protect their editorial positions from Beijing’s influence is increasingly noticeable,” said RSF, which noted that Chinese businesses were purchasing Hong Kong media and that mainland henchmen had violently attacked outspoken journalists in the former British colony.

In Vietnam, one notch above China in the freedom rankings, “as the media all take their orders from the Communist Party, the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and citizen-journalists, who are the permanent targets of extremely harsh forms of persecution including police violence,” said RSF.

In North Korea, one slot above bottom-dwelling Eritrea, leader Kim Jong Un’s “totalitarian regime continues to keep its population in a state of ignorance,” said RSF.

“Officials monitor visiting foreign reporters closely and prevent them from talking to the general public, who live in fear of being sent to a concentration camp for listening to a radio station broadcasting from abroad,” said the report.

Dangers in South East Asia

In Laos, which slipped two places to 173 in the 2016 ranking, the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) “exercises absolute control over the media,” said RSF.

“Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media and their self-censorship, Laotians are turning to social media,” it said, warning that a 2014 decree calls for jail sentences for Internet users who criticize the government and LPRP.

The RSF survey ranked Myanmar, which launched its first democratic government last month, at 143, up one notch over last year.

Myanmar’s government “seems to have opted for (closely) monitored freedom instead of the drastic censorship that was in effect until recently. So media that cover political subjects have a bit more freedom,” it said.

“The Burmese-language state media nonetheless continue to censor themselves and avoid any criticism of the government or the armed forces,” said the survey.

RSF put Cambodia at 128, up 11 slots since 2015, but said “the media are all indirectly controlled by the state and are closely watched.”

“Journalists can pay a high price for trying to cover illegal logging, trafficking in connection with the fish industry or trafficking in other natural resources,” said the survey, which noted that the most common charges imposed on reporters are “defamation and damaging the country’s image.”

“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement accompanying the 2016 survey.

“The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests,” he said.

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

Italy Investing in Mexico Says Renzi

Premier touts ENI, ENEL, Pirelli, Ferrero

(see related)(ANSA) — Mexico City, April 20 — Premier Matteo Renzi said Wednesday “Mexico is investing in the future” thanks to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s reforms. “We are here with the CEOs of important companies to continue investing in this country,” Renzi said. “ENI has won oil and gas contracts, ENEL has renewable energy contracts, Pirelli and Ferrero are making investments… not to mention university exchanges and cultural cooperation”. Renzi added Italian President Sergio Mattarella will visit Mexico in the coming months, and Culture Minister Dario Franceschini will fly on the maiden Alitalia Rome-Mexico City flight in mid-June.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Deal on European Border Guards

Talks with EP start

(ANSAmed) — Luxembourg, April 21 — EU interior ministers on Thursday agreed to set up an agency of cost guards and EU border guards, starting talks with the European Parliament, Dutch Migration Minister and duty president Klaas Dijkhof announced to European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. The aim is to have the dossier voted on in the EU parliament so it can return to the EU leaders’ summit on June 28-29. The timescale envisages that the new border guards will become operative in August and fully operational in September. Greater controls at the EU’s external borders are a prerequisite for preserving the Schengen border-free zone at a time when many internal border have been re-erected.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Proposes EU-NATO Migrant Coordination

Proposal sent to Mogherini and Stoltenberg says Pinotti

(ANSAmed) — Luxembourg, April 19 — Italy has presented a proposal for the “strategic coordination” of all EU and NATO operations in the Mediterranean, sources said Tuesday. The proposal, shared by Germany, France, Spain and the UK, was delivered by Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti during a meeting of EU defence ministers in Luxembourg, to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Poland: Remittances From Emigrants Amount to Eur 3,7 Bln

Central Bank: Eur 1,3 bln from Germany

(ANSA) — TRIESTE — The remittances of Polish citizens working abroad amounted to 16 billion zloty in 2015 (around 3,7 billion euros), data released by the National Bank of Poland (NBP) shows, as reported by Radio Poland. The majority of the remittances arrived from Poles working in Germany — a total of 5,7 billion zloty (Eur 1,3 bln). Meanwhile, 4,5 billion zloty (around one billion euros) arrived from Great Britain, 230 million euros from the Netherlands and 177 million from Ireland. It is estimated that more than 2,3 million Poles work abroad, many of whom emigrated to other Eu countries following the Poland’s accession in 2004.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

6 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/21/2016

  1. *** Pope Francis tweeted Thursday that “climate change is one of the main current challenges for humanity, and the response requires the solidarity of all”. ***

    The pope’s views on the relative merits of the AK-47 and AR-15 are expected shortly.

  2. Dear Pope Francis is a socialist idiot and I speak as a born and raised Catholic. How this man reached popehood is beyond me.

    The main current challenge is staying alive long enough to defeat the Muslims and convince them to go back to their sandy homes and try to live peacefully. Which will never happen but I don’t mind if they simply kill each other.

    Pope needs to concentrate on his job, which is leader of the Catholic church, not the world.

    • “Dear Pope Francis….” Dear at quarter the price! All these arrogant climate nutters must actually think they are so powerful they can change the earth’s climate.
      The earth is just doing what it’s always done since day one. The climate changes from time to time, always has, always will; when I was a kid we called it weather, and there were hot spells occasionally, but no one back then started screaming and saying: “we’re all going to fry!”
      No one back then had found out there was money to be made in ‘climate change’.

    • Here’s how an extremely elaborate computer game attempts to simulate manipulation of the papacy in medieval times:

      Sadly, I’m not convinced that much has changed since medieval times. Well, how the manipulation happens may have changed but the fact that it does happen hasn’t changed.

  3. You think it is “odd” that Washington is cozy with Iranian “fundamentalists”?


    Washington has been cozy with Saudi fundamentalists for decades. The Saudis have funded Al Qaeda since the beginning. The Saudis are funding Al Nusra as we speak.

    The pretend” War Against Terror” is just that: a pretence.

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