Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100224

Financial Crisis
»Cyprus Investors Buy Nicosia Property for Record 18.25 Mln
»Greece: Armed Group Threatens ‘Elite Responsible’
»Greece: Abu Dhabi to Invest, Katseli Pays Visit
»Greece: Possible Eur 25 Mln Aid From EU, Abu Dhabi to Invest
»Greece: No 25 Bln Euro Plan, EU Says
»Greece: They Want to Destroy the EU, Pangalos
»Nationwide Strike Paralyzes Greece
»Spain: Pensions: Unions, 60 Thousand in Madrid Against Zapatero
»Turkey: Capital Market to See Recovery in 2010, Survey
»Complaint Against Paterson Aide Raises Questions of Influence
»Governor’s Aide: National Security Meeting “Surreal”
»JD Hayworth Interview: Sole AZ Conservative Candidate for US Senate
»New Docs Show Pelosi Briefed on Interrogations
»Obama Rejects Advice to Shrink Health Proposal
»Plan to Fire All Its Teachers Roils Poor Rhode Island City
»Team Obama Honors Islam With New Missile Defense Logo(?)
»WaPo/Henry Louis Gates Website Wants to Write Black Conservatives Out of Black History
»H1N1 Shot Blamed for Calgary Woman’s Rare Disorder
Europe and the EU
»Bad Weather: Spain; Guadalquivir Full, 360 Houses Evacuated
»EU: Van Rompuy Insulted in Parliament
»First Minoan Shipwreck
»Greece: Gov’t, China Interested in Fibre Optic Project
»Greece: 3 Bln Euros to Develop Renewable Sector
»Italy: Senator Snapped With ‘Ndrangheta Boss
»Italy: Bertolaso Denies Tip-Off
»Italy: Regional Elections: PM Urges Italians to ‘Close Ranks’
»Italy: Regional Elections: PM Attacks ‘Anti-Italian’ Opposition
»Nigel Farage Harangues EU President Herman Van Rompuy
»Spain: First Guantanamo Detainee Arrives, He is Palestinian
»UK: Disgraced Police Commander Ali Dizaei Left Unconcious in Jail Attack
»UK: Police Tell Car Theft Victim: ‘We’Ve Found Your Van… But It’s Too Dangerous to Get it Back From Traveller Camp’
»UK: Patients ‘Routinely Neglected’ At NHS Hospital Where Hundreds Died in Squalor
»UK: Schoolboy, 11, Arrested After Classmate Broke Arm… Even Though His Teachers Said it Was an Accident
»UK: US Diplomats Add a Moat to Their Expenses at $1bn London Embassy
Mediterranean Union
»Fini: Misleading to Talk of it as Electoral Key
North Africa
»AFDB: Billion-Dollar Bond Issue
»Algeria: Bombs in Kabylie Kill Soldier
»Algeria: Army Kills Three Al Qaeda Members
»Algeria: Petition Against Camus’ 50 Years Celebration
»Islam Meets Women’s Rights in Moroccan Family Law
»Libya: It’s a Good Thing That Bern Listened to US, Koussa
»Libya-Switzerland: Tunis Supporting Tripoli
»London: Algeria Not to Go on ‘Black List’
»Tunisia: Geothermic Cultivation in Tozeur
Israel and the Palestinians
»Holy Places: Abbas Fears, Hamas Calls for Intifada
»Israel — Palestine: War of Words Over the Cave of the Patriarchs Between Netanyahu and Abbas
»Phyllis Chesler: Presbyterians Usher in the Jewish Holiday of Purim
»White House ‘On Board’ Palestinian Unilateral Statehood Threat
Middle East
»Al-Qaeda ‘Urges Young Turks to Wage Jihad’
»Iran: Tehran Arrests a Sunni Militant “Linked to Al Qaeda”
»Rocket Threat to Israel’s International Airport
»Saudi Arabia: Sheikh’s Fatwa Against Promoters of Promiscuity
»Six More British Passports Used in ‘Mossad’ Assassination of Hamas Commander in Dubai
»Son of Hamas Founder Spied for Israel for More Than a Decadejames Hider in Jerusalem
»Spain: Hamas Leader Murder, Zapatero Asks for Investigation
»Teacher Killed Herself ‘After Ex-Boyfriend Posted Naked Pictures of Her on Facebook’
»Turkey: Emergency Meeting of Armed Forces Chiefs
»Turkey: Attempted Coup, Shock for Arrested Military
»Turkey: Ergenekon Case;40 Alleged Plotters Arrested, Erdogan
»Turkey: Ergenekon, Several Turkish Generals Detained
»Turkey: Disappeared at 15 Years Old, Reappears 56 Years Later
»Turkey: $12,000 Bullet Proof Vest for Erdogan
»When it Comes to Analyzing the Middle East, We Live in an Age of Idiocy
South Asia
»Indonesia: Muhammad Jibril Acknowledges Ties to Noordin Top, Denies Involvement in Attacks Against Hotels
»Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Refuses to Convert to Islam, Massacred by Brothers
Australia — Pacific
»Cabbie Charged Over Killing Wife’s Lover
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Sudan’s Beshir Says Darfur War is Over
»Greece: 183 Albanians Stopped at Border
»Italy: Berlusconi Accuses Left on Foreigners
»Italy: Berlusconi: Left Wants to Open Doors to Foreigners
»Italy-France: Harmonise EU Asylum Policies
»Maroni: EU Contribution is Insufficient
»Ronchi: Speed Up EU Agency for Refugees
»The Secret Plot to Destroy Britain’s Identity
»UK: Labour Say We Are All Racists
»Diana West: Jackboots and Junk Science
»Google Slammed for Suggesting ‘Smelly Arabs’
»Whistleblower Site Cryptome.Org Shutdown for Leaking Microsoft Surveillance Guide

Financial Crisis

Cyprus Investors Buy Nicosia Property for Record 18.25 Mln

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, FEBRUARY 22 — Cyprus Investors have paid the highest price for an inner-city plot in Nicosia when they bought a parcel of 2,000 sq.m. off Makarios Avenue for a record EUR 18.25 mln, as Financial Mirror reports. The plot that looks on to Stassicratous, Mnassiadou and Princess De Tyra streets, has a market value of EUR 22 mln, as per two different valuers. It is currently being used as a parking lot next to the Enosi Neon Trust house. In addition to a transfer fee of EUR 1.45 mln, the purchase from Takis Kazolides also generated EUR 3.2 mln in capital gains tax, which left the Inland Revenue Service and Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis very pleased. The deal went ahead despite the economic crisis, suggesting that there are bargain deals to be made and reinforcing the principle that property in Cyprus hardly ever loses value. The buyer, HAYASA Properties Ltd, along with its sister company, HAYASA Productions, a music and digital media company of French and Cypriot Armenians, also holds another property on Stasikratous street that will be transformed into a premium parking project to provide luxury and secure facility on monthly corporate agreements and will also be available for event hosting. A company official said that the new purchase will be developed into a multi-storey venture that will include a modern boutique hotel, commercial and residential space and the capability to rise up to 18 floors with five underground levels. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Armed Group Threatens ‘Elite Responsible’

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 24 — The armed organisation ‘People’s Will’ considered to be one of the most important Greek terrorist groups, has warned that it will hit the political and economic “elite” responsible for the national financial crisis. In a document that was sent to the weekly newspaper ‘To Pontiki’ published today, ‘People’s Will’ claims responsibility for a recent bomb attack on the office of the Interior Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis. The bomb, which should have exploded via a mechanism activated remotely by a mobile phone, was detonated by bomb-disposal experts and caused considerable damage but there were no victims. Chrisochoidis is described by the armed group as “the guardian” of the politico-economic elite responsible for the “systemic crisis of globalised capitalism and the devastation of the Greek one.” ‘People’s Will’ warns that in future it will use “more effective actions of struggle” to hit both Chrisochoidis and “his superiors”, namely the “elite who have caused the inequalities and injustices,” to “throw all of them onto the rubbish tip of history”. ‘People’s Will’ considered close to the ‘Revolutionary Struggle’, the only active Greek group inserted by the US into the list of terrorist organisations, first appeared in 2004 with a bomb attack on a Larissa courthouse. This was the first time that a remote control devise with a mobile telephone was used. After several other attacks, it claimed responsibility in May 2009 for the attack on a former advisor of Giorgio Papandreou, involved in the Siemens scandal. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Abu Dhabi to Invest, Katseli Pays Visit

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 22 — Greek Economy Minister Louka Katseli has made a flash visit to Abu Dhabi and announced the emirate’s interest in investing in the country. Katseli made an unexpected visit to Abu Dhabi yesterday, media sources have quoted the ministry as reporting, where he met with a number of people including Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed al Nayhan. During the talks a working group was set up to decide on the emirate’s participation in the Greek Development Find, created to promote investment as part of the recovery plan. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for March. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Possible Eur 25 Mln Aid From EU, Abu Dhabi to Invest

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN — The European Union is considering whether to make up to 25 billion euros available to Greece to help it exit the crisis which, among other attendant risks, could lead to a major upset for German banks. The press leak has appeared in the Germany weekly Der Spiegel, which said that euro zone countries would be coming to Athens’ aid to the tune of 20-25 billion euros. The newspaper revealed that, according to “initial observations” by Germany’s Finance Ministry, the amount of aid put up by each country would be proportional to their respective share of capital held in the European Central Bank. On the basis of this calculation, Germany — which has about 20% of ECB capital — would be contributing about 4-5 billion euros, while Italy — with about 12.5% — would be contributing 2.5-3.1 billion. Germany’s Finance Ministry has denied the news: in an emailed statement, the ministry’s spokesman Martin Kreienbaum said that “the Finance Minister has not made any decision on the matter”, and that it is “mistaken” to think that Germany is considering a “concrete plan on financial aid to Greece from EU countries”. The Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting last Tuesday approved the recommendations given by the EU Commission, which will be closely monitoring the implementation of the recovery plan drawn up by Athens. At the same time, the new EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Finnish Olli Rehn, has stressed that the first assessment of consolidation measures for Greece’s public finances would be made in mid-March. Any aid, added the commissioner, will be granted only if deficit reduction objectives should take longer than expected to be met despite possible corrective measures. However, Der Spiegel claims that Germany’s financial markets watchdog authority (BAFIN) fears a domino effect from the Greek financial crisis on other countries held to be at risk in the euro zone, including Italy, with considerable fallout on German banks. “The main risk for the German financial sector is connected with the collective difficulties of PIIGS countries,” report BAFIN experts, using the acronym for the group of countries considered to be at the highest risk: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. Greece “could trigger” this domino effect, continued the memorandum, which noted that PIIGS countries hold bonds issued by German banks totaling 522.4 billion euros. The latter sum equals 20% of the entire credit abroad of German banks. BAFIN reported that the countries in which German banks are most exposed are Spain and Ireland, followed by Italy. “Serious market upsets could result from speculation and financial problems of all PIIGS countries,” commented BAFIN, which noted -among the banks with the most exposure to Greece — Hypo Real Estate (9.1 billion euros), Commerzbank (4.6 billion) and the regional institute LBBW (2.7 billion). In the meand time Greek Economy Minister Louka Katseli has made a flash visit to Abu Dhabi and announced the emirate’s interest in investing in the country. Katseli met with a number of people including Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed al Nayhan. During the talks a working group was set up to decide on the emirate’s participation in the Greek Development Find, created to promote investment as part of the recovery plan. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for March. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: No 25 Bln Euro Plan, EU Says

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 22 — There is no financial aid scheduled to help out Greece, according to the spokesman of the European commissioner for Economic and Monetary affairs. The weekly Der Spiegel had mentioned the existence of a 25 billion euro rescue plan for Greece. “There is no financial rescue plan for Greece”, Olli Rehn’s spokesman said today. Greece, he explained, “has not asked for any money and all stories about plans that are ready are sheer speculation”. But if Athens asks the EU for help, “clearly, if necessary, we are ready to intervene, also financially”, the spokesman added. Meanwhile Greece has already missed the first deadline set by Brussels: last Friday Athens was supposed to send Eurostat all information on swap operations. Due to a strike that reportedly also had an impact on the Finance Ministry, the figures have not been sent yet.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: They Want to Destroy the EU, Pangalos

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 22 — Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos has condemned the speculative attacks on Greece and the Euro as a ploy “to break up Europe”. In an interview with local television network Skai, Pangalos said that behind the attacks “there is a political objective: the destruction of Europe.” The Deputy Prime Minister maintains that through Greece, considered the weak link in the chain, there is a manoeuvre “to weaken the euro against the dollar”, which will lead to enormous profits and at the same time help prevent “Europe from becoming one State”. He clarified that the latter remark was directed at “the Americans, the English and others in Europe”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nationwide Strike Paralyzes Greece

ATHENS—Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets Wednesday as much of the country went on a 24-hour strike against government austerity measures.

“There is an all-out war against public servants, those who earn the least,” said Spyros Papaspyros president of ADEDY, an umbrella union for public-sector workers. “We will fight to keep the little we have. The government and the EU must understand the crisis must be paid by the rich.”

The government moves are aimed at reducing Greece’s budget deficit, which at about 13% of gross domestic product last year was well over the EU’s 3% limit. This has raised the interest rate Greece has to pay to borrow money. Brussels has ordered Greece to bring the deficit to within the EU limit by 2012.

Despite the protests, which follow strikes in recent weeks, Greece appears determined to press ahead with its measures. An opinion poll published Sunday by Greek newspaper Ethnos showed that 76% of Greeks opposed strikes for the time being, and 58% thought the government’s austerity measures were in the right direction.

Following a visit Tuesday by EU and International Monetary Fund officials, the Greek government is due to announce further austerity measures, possibly as early as next week. On March 16, EU finance ministers will meet to review Greece’s progress.

ADEDY, the union, said about 80% of its members were on strike Wednesday. Government offices, schools and universities were closed, as was Athens International Airport. Train, bus and ferry services were canceled nationwide, though a minimum level of service was maintained in Athens.

The journalists’ union also took part, so there were no reports of the strike on Greek television, and no newspapers were scheduled to be published Thursday.

Many demonstrators said they hadn’t yet suffered the effects of the cutbacks—but were fearful of what the future held.

“Up until now I haven’t seen my income drop,” said Christos Marinis, a 45-year-old accountant. “But all this talk of catastrophes has hurt my company’s business, and there will be a drop in workers’ and pensioners’ incomes.”

Though many Greeks recognize that their country needs to take drastic measures to fix its problems, resentment against outsiders is growing.

“The capitalist crisis is both the cause of global turmoil and the excuse for our rights to be taken away,” said Panos Bikos, a 31-year-old electrical engineer…

[Return to headlines]

Spain: Pensions: Unions, 60 Thousand in Madrid Against Zapatero

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, 24 FEB — For the first time since José Luis Zapatero come to power in Spain unions have demonstrated last night all over the Country against the socialist government’s project for a reform on pensions. The proposal wishes to increase pensioning age from 65 to 67. The two largest unions, Ugt and Comisiones Obreras (Ccoo) close to Zapatero’s Psoe, have organised demonstrations in the main Spanish cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia against what Ignacio Toxo, secretary of the Ccoo, has defined as a government’s “error”. Approximately 60 thousand people demonstrated in Madrid, according to the organizers, while the police says the count was in the order of 9 thousand. At Valencia according to El Mundo’s quote of the unions there were 30 thousand demonstrators, and 14 thousand at Alicante, 30 thousand at Oviedo. The most significant banners were the ones quoting the secretary general of Ugt Candido Mendez “Zapatero, this is not the way!” or the most spontaneous ones such as “I fought against Pp and Zp let me down”. According to the newspaper El Pais this great demonstration is the beginning of the end of a six-year long “idyll” between unions and the socialist government: “Demonstrating against Zapatero for the first time” was their heading. The prime minister tried to diffuse tension yesterday saying héll “listen”: “The government does not make decisions with decrees” he promised. But the press writes that the unions do not trust him.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Capital Market to See Recovery in 2010, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 22 — Turkish capital markets will enjoy a recovery in 2010 as compared to a year before, a recent survey by the Capital Markets Board (SPK) has found. The SPK released the results of its capital markets expectations surveyy, which was conducted in January and points to a “no change” in the market in February as compared to a month before, as Today’s Zaman reports. The SPK launched a pilot for the expectation survey in November of last year, and this is the first time the board has publicly shared the results of its findings. The SPK announced in a written statement that they would conduct the survey and release the results monthly from now on. While the capital markets are likely to leave February behind with neither positive nor negative developments, some 331 company managers who participated in the survey drew a more optimistic picture for the first half and end of the year. According to the survey’s results, 72% of participants said interest rates will remain the same in February as in January, while they anticipate an increase during the following six months and through to the end of the year. Sixty-six percent said the US dollar and the euro would maintain their position against the Turkish lira in February, while these currencies would gain in value against the lira by the end of the first six months and by the end of the year. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said public offerings at the IMKB would increase in the first half of the year over the preceding six months, while the number that expects an even greater increase in this area by the year’s end was higher, at 69%. The majority of participants also expressed expectations for an increase in trading volume at the Istanbul Gold Exchange (IAB) and the Turkish Derivatives Exchange (VOB) at the end of the first six months as well as for the entire year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Complaint Against Paterson Aide Raises Questions of Influence

Last fall, a woman went to court in the Bronx to testify that she had been violently assaulted by David W. Johnson, a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson, and to seek a protective order against him.

In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, and complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.

Then early this month, days before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.

Many details of the governor’s role in this episode are unclear or in dispute, but accounts portray a brutal encounter, a frightened woman and an effort to make a potential political embarrassment go away.

[Return to headlines]

Governor’s Aide: National Security Meeting “Surreal”

“No more Islamic terrorists — just domestic or international extremists” — aide to state governor

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and John Brennan, Barack Hussein Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, spoke at the National Governors Association’s Special Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety in Washington last Sunday. A close aide to one of the longtime governors in attendance, who was present for much of this meeting, spoke to this investigator about the oddities that she noted at this event, asking that her name not be used due to the sensitivity of her job.

She described a strange and “almost surreal” usage of terms, phrases and jargon that dominated their presentations to the governors, and noted an obviously deliberate avoidance of other more specifically accurate terms that seemed to obscure their messages.

“During both of their presentations… the best way that I can explain it, it was like listening to a teacher in health class giving a lecture about sex to a pre-teen, yet prohibited from or unwilling to use certain proper anatomical terms or even the necessary anatomical references,” she stated, adding that both Napolitano and Brennan were very careful to avoid using words and phrases that in any way associated terror concerns with Islam or Islamic ideology. Although she did not recall the prominent use of “man-caused disasters” in place of terrorism by either speaker, she noted their obvious unwillingness to make any references to Islamic terrorism in their descriptions of recently disrupted terror plots.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

JD Hayworth Interview: Sole AZ Conservative Candidate for US Senate

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing former Arizona US Congressman J.D. Hayworth and current Conservative candidate for US Senator from Arizona. Congressman Hayworth is running against the liberal-progressive incumbent Sen. John McCain. The McCain machine is well-oiled and presents a formidable opponent to those who want to preserve the US Republic. However, J.D. believes the momentum for a resuscitation and reinstatement of the principles upon which our country was founded are with him and his campaign. Below is a candid interview of Conservative candidate J.D. Hayworth.


J.D.: Sher, this is your classic conservative versus moderate race on virtually every issue. Whether the issue is taxes, spending, earmarks, protecting the 2nd Amendment, the sanctity of life, illegal immigration, or national security, John McCain has staked out positions that are to the left of most Arizonans. I am running to offer a consistent conservative voice for Arizona. In such a limited space it isn’t possible to list every single difference, but to quickly compare, my lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is almost 98. McCain’s is 81 and falling. I helped write the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 that John McCain campaigned against. John McCain supported the massive bailouts and earmarks that I opposed, all $850+ Billion of them. McCain wrote the amnesty bill that the Heritage Foundation estimated would cost the taxpayers $2.6 Trillion (with a “T”), and I helped kill that bill. So there is no shortage of differences between us.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New Docs Show Pelosi Briefed on Interrogations

Specifically told about Abu Zubaydah, on whom ‘enhanced’ strategies used

New documents obtained from the federal government under a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch confirm that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed by the CIA on the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, on whom “enhanced interrogation techniques” were used, in apparent contradiction to her own statements.

Which members of Congress knew exactly what about the enhanced techniques, which included waterboarding, became an issue when President Obama issued an order banning such “torture” soon after his inauguration last year.

Now Judicial Watch has obtained a largely redacted compilation of 75 pages of CIA documents about the issue and has posted them online.

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who previously denied she was briefed by the CIA on the use of these techniques, is specifically referenced in a briefing that took place on April 24, 2002, regarding the ‘ongoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah.’ Zubaydah had been subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques,” the report from Judicial Watch said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Rejects Advice to Shrink Health Proposal

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama’s health-care proposal is a victory for those in the White House who want to press ahead with ambitious legislation over those who counseled scaling it back.

The proposal, unveiled Monday, reaffirmed Mr. Obama’s support for the policy’s sweeping objectives: expanding health-care coverage to some 30 million Americans, new efforts to control health spending and new rules for health insurers.


Inside the White House, the calculations involved both politics and policy. “There is a growing realization that we are still so very close,” one person involved in the talks said Monday. “Today was a big victory for the comprehensive advocates.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Plan to Fire All Its Teachers Roils Poor Rhode Island City

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. No more than half those instructors would be hired back under a federal option that has enraged the state’s powerful teachers union, earned criticism from students, and brought praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and some parents.

The mass firings were approved by the school district’s board of trustees Tuesday night after talks failed between Superintendent Frances Gallo and the local teachers union over implementing changes, including offering more after-school tutoring and a longer school day. The teachers say they want more pay for the additional work.

If it’s only an hour or two, I think teachers can afford to do that,” said Robert Rivera, 40, who worries about sending his 13-year-old daughter to the troubled high school next year. He dropped out of school as a teenager and works more than 60 hours a week as an appliance repairman.

He’s determined his daughter will go to college, although he sometimes feels her teachers have a nonchalant attitude when he seeks help.

“I just feel like maybe they’re not putting in the effort,” he said.

The shake-up comes as Rhode Island’s new education commissioner, Deborah Gist, pushes the state to compete for millions of dollars in federal funding to reform the worst 5 percent of its schools, including in Central Falls. State law requires schools to warn teachers by March 1 if their jobs are in jeopardy for the following school year.

[Return to headlines]

Team Obama Honors Islam With New Missile Defense Logo(?)

Is there a reason that Team Obama made their new missile defense logo look like a mix between the Obama campaign logo and the Islamic star and crescent?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

WaPo/Henry Louis Gates Website Wants to Write Black Conservatives Out of Black History

Black Folks We’d Like to Remove From Black History

Washington, DC: —As Black History Month draws to a close, the web site The Root has chosen to publish a hateful article that demeans black conservatives solely for their political views— grouping them with brutal dictators, convicted criminals and self-centered celebrities. This has drawn a stinging rebuke from Project 21 member Bob Parks.

“It doesn’t take much for liberals to call black conservatives ‘self-hating,’“ noted Parks, “but what is it called when someone decides that blacks deemed inappropriate should be wholly removed from history? What kind of egos are we talking about here?”

The Root is operated by The Washington Post. Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. serves as The Root’s editor-in-chief.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


H1N1 Shot Blamed for Calgary Woman’s Rare Disorder

A Calgary woman regrets getting the H1N1 shot after her doctor told her it likely caused a rare and painful disorder.

Norma Goldring said she felt compelled to get an H1N1 vaccine because she is diabetic and has had a heart attack, two factors that Alberta Health noted as putting people at higher risk for serious complications from swine flu.

But soon after getting the shot last winter, Goldring felt ill.

“My body was aching and I was throwing up. Then I developed a spot on my leg,” she said.

The rash spread quickly and Goldring ended up in hospital on Christmas Day. “By the time I got to emergency, it spread pretty bad and turned to blisters.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bad Weather: Spain; Guadalquivir Full, 360 Houses Evacuated

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 24 — The heavy rain that has hit Andalusia over recent days have caused the level of the River Guadalquivir to rise, threatening several villages, reports the Spanish press today. Some 360 houses were evacuated in the provinces of Cordoba, Jaen and Seville, and between 1,300 and 1,500 people have been evacuated. Some twenty roads have been closed to traffic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU: Van Rompuy Insulted in Parliament

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Herman Van Rompuy was subjected to a series of personal insults on Wednesday (

Mid-way through a fairly tame exchange of views on EU policy, Mr Van Rompuy was visibly shocked and uncomfortable when comments by British eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage took a personal turn.

Mr Van Rompuy was told he had the “charisma of a damp rag” (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Speaking about Mr Van Rompuy’s 15 minute introductory speech, Mr Farage said he had the “charisma of a damp rag” and the appearance of a “low-grade bank clerk.”

“I have never heard of you. Nobody in Europe had ever heard of you,” the British politician continued, referring to the former Belgian prime minister’s surprise appointment late last year to chair the regular meetings of EU leaders.

Virtually unknown outside Belgium, Mr Van Rompuy’s low-key manner coupled with not having any pretensions to limelight-stealing were widely seen as key to him securing the job — a new post created by the Lisbon Treaty, in place since 1 December.

Since then he has maintained the background approach but has started to make his presence felt by calling an informal economic summit earlier this month, suggesting EU leaders meet every month and making it clear that he intends to be a visible presence at the G20 meeting later this year.

Mr Farage’s outburst, which was rounded off with a back-handed compliment that Mr Van Rompuy was also “competent and capable and dangerous,” was immediately criticised by his colleagues.

Joseph Daul, head of the centre-right EPP party, suggested the UK should leave the EU as it is apparently not pleased to be in the union.

Socialist leader Martin Schulz said it “would be better for Mr Farage to resign.” Mr Schulz also rounded on parliament chief Jerzy Buzek, who did not intervene during Mr Farage’s speech.

“I am very disappointed with you Mr Buzek. I expected you as president to call this person to order.”

Mr Buzek, who indicated he had his own behind-the-scenes way of dealing with such incidents, said “character assassinations are inadmissible in the European parliament.”

Later in the debate, Mr Van Rompuy dismissed Mr Farage’s comments. “There was one contribution that i can only hold in contempt but I’m not going to comment on that further,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

First Minoan Shipwreck

An unprecedented find off the coast of Crete

Archaeologist Elpida Hadjidaki plots the location of ceramic artifacts on the floor of the Mediterranean. They were lost when a Minoan ship likely transporting wine and olive oil in hundreds of large vessels sank between 1800 and 1675. (Courtesy Nike Marder)Crete has seduced archaeologists for more than a century, luring them to its rocky shores with fantastic tales of legendary kings, cunning deities, and mythical creatures. The largest of the Greek islands, Crete was the land of the Minoans (3100-1050 B.C.), a Bronze Age civilization named after its first ruler, King Minos, the “master of the seas” who is said to have rid the waters of pirates. According to Thucydides, he also established the first thalassocracy, or maritime empire. The Minoans were renowned for their seafaring prowess, which opened trade routes with the powerful kingdoms of Egypt, Anatolia, and the Levant.

Depictions of ships abound on Minoan seals and frescoes. They are detailed enough to show that the vessels were impressive: generally, they had 15 oars on each side and square sails, and were probably about 50 feet long. But little more was known about actual Minoan seafaring—until Greek archaeologist Elpida Hadjidaki became the first to discover a Minoan shipwreck.

Hadjidaki, a self-described “harbor girl,” was born and grew up in the Cretan seaside town of Chania. An experienced and passionate diver trained in classical archaeology, she received funding from the Institute for Aegean Prehistory in 2003 to search for early ships near Crete. “I always wanted to find a Minoan shipwreck,” she says, “so I started looking for one.”

Jugs awaiting museum display (Elpida Hadjidaki) For nearly a month, she and a team of three sponge and coral divers aboard a 20-foot-long wooden fishing boat trolled up and down the island’s shores. Together with George Athanasakis of Athens Polytechnic University, they used side-scanning sonar and detected some 20 “targets,” or anomalies, that Hadjidaki sent her divers to investigate, often reaching depths of 400 feet. One by one, they turned out to be a depressing array of natural geological formations and portions of the seafloor ripped up by the nets of deep-sea trawlers, as well as a World War II airplane, a 19th-century shipwreck, and several pairs of shoes.

On the second-to-last day of the survey, Hadjidaki decided to ditch the technology and go on gut instinct. She knew that in 1976, Jacques Cousteau had brought a team to the small island of Pseira, a Bronze Age port about one and a half miles from the northeastern coast of Crete in the Gulf of Mirabello. He was in search of Atlantis, thought by some to be associated with the nearby island of Thera. Cousteau had found Minoan pottery underwater near the shore, and suggested it came from ships sunk in the harbor by the volcanic eruption that destroyed Thera in 1650 or 1520 B.C. (The finds are now believed to be from houses on Pseira that fell into the sea during an earthquake.)

Intrigued, Hadjidaki and the team headed to a spot about 300 feet off Pseira, near where Cousteau had been. “I thought, why don’t I go there and check it out myself?” she recalls. “But I said, I’m not going to go where Jacques Cousteau dived. I’m going to go to the deeper part.” First, she asked team member Giorgos Klontzas to venture down. Hadjidaki anxiously prepared to wait on the boat for five hours, the average total time of a single dive plus stops to decompress. But Klontzas returned only half an hour later. “He came up with his hands full of ancient pots,” she beams. “And he said to me, ‘There’s a whole world of them down there.’ So I jumped into the sea and said, ‘Let’s go!’ “ Sure enough, cups, jugs, and amphoras lined the seafloor, and over the next couple of days the team brought several more samples to the surface.

In 2004, she expanded the team and mapped the site. The following year, large-scale excavation got underway. “Everything was buried in sand between rocks,” Hadjidaki says. “As we excavated, we found more and more and more.”

To date, Hadjidaki’s team has raised some 209 ceramic vessels, about 80 of which are nearly whole and clearly identifiable as types of amphoras and large jars that would have transported liquids, possibly wine and olive oil, though no residues remain. A handful of artifacts, including cooking pots, jugs, a few cups, and fishing weights, likely belonged to the ship’s crew.

Philip Betancourt, a Minoan pottery expert who codirected excavations at Pseira from 1986 to 1996, has examined the finds from the site. Even though no wood from the ship survives, he is convinced they belong to a wreck because they are an unusually large group of ceramic vessels that all date to the same period (Middle Minoan IIB, 1800-1700/1675 B.C.) and were all made on east Crete. “One doesn’t get an assemblage like that,” he says, “except from a very specialized context—in this case, a shipwreck.” Furthermore, the pottery that was still in place was found upside down, which seems to indicate the ship completely capsized and wound up with the hull uppermost and the cargo down. “This may help explain why no wood was preserved,” he says.

Hadjidaki has closely studied the arrangement of the finds, working with team architect Dimitri Timologos who drew underwater maps based on the artifacts’ location. On the maps, she can trace a narrow trail of pottery about 100 feet long at the northern end of the wreck, where she believes the ship started to founder. The trail broadens into a roughly oval-shaped concentration that extends over an area 50 by 65 feet, from which she estimates—by the distribution of objects—the ship to have been between 32 and 50 feet long. Hadjidaki thinks it was similar to, but larger than, one depicted on a serpentinite seal stone excavated at Pseira in 1991. It shows a ship with a beak-shaped prow, high stern, and single mast connected to the vessel by ropes (but no oars, as in earlier representations of Minoan ships).

Alexander MacGillivray, director of excavations at Palaikastro, a Minoan town on the easternmost shore of Crete, has also looked at some of the finds…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Gov’t, China Interested in Fibre Optic Project

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 22 — China is looking with great interest at the development of the technology sector in Greece using fibre optics, according to Greece’s Deputy Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Nikolaos Sifunakis, following a recent meeting with Director of the Legislative Office of the Chinese Council of State, Cao Kangtai. The project, says the Italian Trade Commission in Athens, which will cost around 2 billion euros, aims to acquire over 2 million users in the country. During the meeting other subjects including the security of information and online networks, and the resulting protection of users, were discussed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: 3 Bln Euros to Develop Renewable Sector

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 22 — In the next three years, the Greek Government plans to set aside a sum of around 3 billion euros to support and develop its energy sector, and in particular renewable energy, said Greek Undersecretary for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change Yiannis Maniatis. With the aim of honing procedures and guaranteeing the release of licences in short timeframes to enable candidate companies to carry out their projects, says the Italian Trade Commission in Athens, the Greek executive has put forward a modification to its laws for Development, the text of which will be presented to Parliament in March. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Senator Snapped With ‘Ndrangheta Boss

Fastweb founder Scaglia coming back to ‘clear things up’

(ANSA) — Rome, February 24 — Italian newsweekly L’Espresso on Wednesday published pictures of a Calabrian mafia boss with an Italian senator named in an alleged money laundering phone scam of huge proportions.

On its website, the left-leaning publication ran photos of an electoral dinner in 2008 where Nicola Di Girolamo is seen with ‘Ndrangheta chieftain Franco Pugliese and Rome businessman Gennaro Mokbel, the alleged ringleader of the scam.

Pugliese and Mokbel were arrested Tuesday while Di Girolamo’s arrest has to be cleared by a Senate panel. Di Girolamo said earlier Wednesday he didn’t know any mobsters and had only been to Calabria twice, “once for an election breakfast and later to say thanks after the election”.

Prosecutors say the senator in Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom party was elected abroad thanks to votes procured by ‘Ndrangheta in Germany.

In return, they say, he helped the mafia launder huge sums.

The head of the Senate committee set to rule on authorising Di Girolamo’s arrest, Marco Follini of the centre-left opposition Democratic Party, said “the picture that emerges from the evidence is chilling”.

Follini said it appeared the senator “degraded his parliamentary function in a shameful and humiliating way”.

The panel said it would wind up its discussion of the Di Girolamo warrant late next week, probably by Thursday.

The committee has a statutory 30 days to examine such warrants, which are usually thrown out.

Pugliese, who was sent on ‘internal exile’ to Mantua in the 1990s, is a top member of the Arena family, one of Ndrangheta’s most powerful clans.

He first came to the attention of police in 1997 when 12 billion lire in assets were seized including apartments, land and five cars in Calabria and a shopping centre near Bergamo.

His son Michele was among 34 mobsters arrested last November in an operation that uncovered three murders including the bazooka killing of Mob patriarch Carmine Arena in 2004. In another development Wednesday, the head of Rome’s Ama trash service, Stefano Andrini, said he was stepping down for the duration of the probe.

Andrini has links to Mokbel through a shared history of far-right activism.

Prosecutors claim the suspected two-billion-euro laundering scam is tied to an alleged tax-dodging scheme by past managers of broadband giant Fastweb and Telecom Italia’s Web provider Sparkle, but investigators have yet to explain the mechanism.

Despite the probe, Telecom Italia shares rallied and Fastweb cut losses on the Milan bourse Wednesday.

TI was 0.65% up, from 2.8% down Tuesday, and Fastweb 1.06% down, from 7.5% down Tuesday, at the close.

Fastweb was briefly suspended from trading because of volatility.

More than 1.5 million shares changed hands, worth 1.5% of the company’s listed value. Fastweb CEO Stefano Parisi, named in the probe, is holding a press conference after the closing bell.


Fastweb founder and ex-CEO Stefano Scaglia, Italy’s 13th-richest man, said he was returning to Italy Thursday to “clear things up”. “I want to speak to the magistrates as soon as possible…My conscience is totally clear on the proper conduct of myself and the company I ran,” he said. A Rome judge is set to rule next Tuesday whether administrators should be appointed at Fastweb and TI service provider Sparkle.

Scaglia told Corriere della Sera from South America Wednesday that he had been questioned on the alleged 2003-2006 VAT evasion at the beginning of the probe and repeated he knew “nothing about it”. “It’s crazy. I don’t understand what’s happening,” said Scaglia, who sold Fastweb to Swisscom in 2007 but is still on the board.

He said he had “never heard” of Senator Di Girolamo Swisscom said Wednesday it had been aware of the probe into tax dodging and suspicious telecoms contracts when it took over Fastweb.

Experts said Fastweb was entitled to the some 340 million euros in VAT credits cited in the probe, it said.

The Swiss telecoms company said it was seeking “a swift solution to the affair”. A high-ranking officer in Italy’s tax police, Finance Guard Major Luca Berriola, also protested his innocence Wednesday.

Prosecutors claimed Tuesday the alleged scam was one of the “most colossal in Italian history”.

The 56 arrest warrants were issued in Italy, the US, the UK and Luxembourg for telecoms managers and businessmen for allegedly dodging tax and laundering cash via non-existent Web-based phone services run by bogus offshore companies.

A preliminary investigations judge began questioning suspects Wednesday.

Some admitted paying “significant” amounts to Di Girolamo, but most had refused to answer questions.

Several suspects have criminal records including fraudulent bankruptcy to usury and even murder, police said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bertolaso Denies Tip-Off

Civil protection chief says he did not know he was being probed

(ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — Civil Protection Chief Guido Bertolaso denied on Tuesday he had been tipped off that Florence prosecutors were investigating him on corruption charges in a wider probe over public tenders that has led to the arrest of four people.

Bertolaso told a television talk show he had last met the head of the state public works office, Angelo Balducci, who was arrested with three other people on February 10, at Christmas.

“I knew nothing about the (Florence) probe,” he added, stressing that he and his daughter had spent a weekend in New York at the start of February.

“Do you think I would have gone to New York if I had known that I was going to be involved in this judicial earthquake?” Bertolaso also stressed that he had asked Balducci to justify the skyrocketing costs for the renovation of the original site of last year’s Group of Eight summit in the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.

“He sent a written reply, on state public works letterhead, giving me his explanation and ruling out any irregularities”.

The government on Monday was forced to deny press reports that on January 30 Balducci went to Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s office to discuss the case with Bertolaso and someone else.

“Balducci did not come to Palazzo Chigi on January 28, nor on the 29th, the 30th nor any day after,” said the statement.

The dailies published wiretapped transcripts of a telephone conversation between Balducci, 54, and a Rome lawyer in which the former, who obviously feared his phone was being tapped, says he planned to meet his “uncle” and “the other guy” for “a few minutes”, at Palazzo Chigi.

“The last time I spoke to Balducci was at Christmas and I dare anyone to come up with transcripts of wiretapped conversations that prove otherwise. On January 29 I was visiting L’Aquila (hit by a devastating earthquake on April 6); on the 3Oth I was in Florence to pick up an award and on the 31st I was in Pisa to help in flood relief,” Bertolaso said Tuesday. Balducci was arrested on January along with Rome businessman Diego Anemone, 38; the Tuscany region’s public works contractor Fabio De Santis, 61; and state official Mauro Della Giovampaola, 44.

They are being investigated by Florence and Perugia prosecutors who are probing alleged graft in public tenders for the construction of state venues, including the La Maddalena G8 venues and a police barracks in Florence.

Prosecutors say Bertolaso, 59, who offered to step down when he was listed among suspects in the graft probe, may have taken bribes and struck sex-for-favours arrangements with businessmen involved in the construction of the venue, which was later moved to the quake-hit town of L’Aquila in central Italy.

Rome Prosecutor Achille Toro was forced to quit last week after Italy’s supreme court asked investigators to confirm claims by suspects that he tipped them off about the probe.

Investigators believe that after having been tipped off about their impending arrests, Balducci and Anemone were planning to leave the country. Bertolaso, who is head of the civil protection department, has vehemently denied the accusations and, though renewing his trust in the Italian legal system, has accused the media of whipping up a muckraking trial of its own, in a bid to “smear an innocent person”.

Some members of the government, including Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, have suggested that Bertolaso — one of Italy’s most popular figures — is the victim of machinations against Berlusconi, the real target of the attacks.

They claim that the probe and charges against Bertolaso have been timed to coincide with regional elections on March 28-29, which are seen as a key test for the government’s popularity. The civil protection chief told another television talk show on Monday morning “the world crumbled around me” when police searched his home and office on January 10, adding: “I didn’t know what was happening and had not the slightest suspicion of what was going to hit me”.

Bertolaso, who denies having taken bribes or accepting a sex-for-favours deal, says his wife has been the hardest hit in the wake of the ensuing scandal.

“This risks undermining the trust she has in me and it’s understandable”.

Papers have published transcripts of telephone wiretaps of conversations between Anemone and another suspect, Rome businessman Simone Rossetti, talking about organizing “mega galactic parties” for the civil protection chief.

The transcripts alleged that Bertolaso was offered massages as well as sexual encounters, accusations he has denied.

Two women linked to Bertolaso have said they are certified masseuses.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Regional Elections: PM Urges Italians to ‘Close Ranks’

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Feb — Attending electioneering events today, PM Berlusconi urged “Italians who don’t belong to the Left” join the ranks of “the army of good against the army of evil and ill-will”. Berlusconi also spoke of his vision of “a new grassroots movement” in defence of freedoms. .

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Regional Elections: PM Attacks ‘Anti-Italian’ Opposition

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Feb — Speaking at an electioneering rally, PM Berlusconi urged PDL supporters and “Italians at large” to “get in the ring and support our electoral campaign.” Berlusconi characterised his government as “respected worldwide”, unlike the “unpatriotic and anti-Italian opposition.” The premier went on to criticise the opposition’s “unscrupulous negative propaganda against our country.” .

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nigel Farage Harangues EU President Herman Van Rompuy

MEP and UKIP leader Nigel Farage on Wednesday delivered another major tirade against EU President Herman van Rompuy during a plenary debate in the European Parliament. Farage highlighted the undemocratic fashion in which van Rompuy came to power and the effect he’s had on Europe since.

He noted, too, that Greece has been reduced to nothing more than a “protectorate.” Farage added that Van Rompuy had the “charisma of a damp rag” and the appearance of a “low-grade bank clerk” and asked by what process he could be removed from office.

Don’t forget that van Rompuy led statements leading up to the Copenhagen climate summit in hailing “global governance”: “2009 is also the first year of global governance, with the establishment of the G20 in the middle of the financial crisis. The climate conference in Copenhagen is another step towards the global management of our planet.”

[Return to headlines]

Spain: First Guantanamo Detainee Arrives, He is Palestinian

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 24 — The first Guantanamo detainee, who the government in Madrid has agreed to take in, is to arrive in Spain today, reports the online edition of El Mundo, quoting government sources. Interior Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba, quoted by the daily, specified that he is a young man of Palestinian origin, born in Gaza, who has lived in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The Spanish government undertook to take in up to a maximum of five detainees from the US prison at Guantanamo. El Mundo reports that, according to Rubalcaba, the Islamic ex-detainees transferred to Spain will have a permit to stay and will be able to work.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Disgraced Police Commander Ali Dizaei Left Unconcious in Jail Attack

Ali Dizaei, the disgraced police commander, has been knocked out and had excrement poured over his head after being attacked in prison.

The 47-year-old senior Metropolitan Police officer who was jailed this month is serving a four-year jail sentence for assaulting and falsely arresting a young businessman before trying to frame him. He is the most senior policeman to be convicted of corruption offences in more than 30 years.

Dizaei was jumped from behind by inmates on one of the prison landings on Monday and the contents of a slop bucket were poured over his head. He was then punched in the face and left unconscious in the area at the part-open Category C Edmunds Hill prison.

It is understood that Dizaei was only moved to the prison on Friday amid fears for his safety. He is now in seclusion. The prison, near Newmarket in Suffolk does not hold lifers and was consequently thought to be a safer place for the former Scotland Yard officer.

Dizaei, a former president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), was convicted earlier this month for his treatment of Waad al-Baghdadi, 24, and branded a “criminal in uniform” by Nick Hardwick, the chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

A jury took a little more than two hours to find him guilty of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice at the end of a four-week trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Mr Justice Simon told Dizaei, 47, who was acquitted of corruption charges in 2003, that he was guilty of “a grave abuse of public trust”. The judge said that he had to pass a deterrent sentence “to send a clear message that police officers of whatever rank are not above the law”.

Dizaei could be officially sacked within weeks after Scotland Yard disciplinary proceedings are complete. He is appealing against his conviction.

A Ministry of Justice official said: “A prisoner at HMP Edmunds Hill was assaulted. Staff intervened and he was moved to a place of safety.”

           — Hat tip: ICLA[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Tell Car Theft Victim: ‘We’Ve Found Your Van… But It’s Too Dangerous to Get it Back From Traveller Camp’

When a market trader was told by police his stolen Mercedes van had been found, he was overjoyed.

But Christopher Sims was amazed when an officer said it had been located in a ‘no-go’ on a notorious travellers caravan site.

A police officer explained they were unable to retrieve his £1,000 vehicle — which had £1,000 worth of goods inside — because it would mean a major operation which would put officers’ lives at risk.

One officer accidentally let slip that the van is on a travellers site, The Willows, at Sandhurst, near Gloucester.

The father-of-three said: ‘She told me it is a very dangerous and volatile place for the police to go.

‘She said they would have to mount a huge operation with armed officers, dogs and helicopters and it would never be authorised by senior officers for the sake of a van worth £1,000 with another £1,000 worth of contents inside it.

‘I think it’s disgusting. It’s one law for them and one for us. I feel so frustrated and angry.’

Mr Sims, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was visited by two officers 24 hours after reporting the vehicle stolen on February 12.

He said his jaw dropped when they told him they had an idea who might have stolen it but could not take any action.

‘They said they were sympathetic but said that because of the situation they couldn’t risk putting officers’ lives at risk,’ he said.

‘One of the officers said it was not a “no-go” area, but if they did go they would have to go in mob-handed.’

Mr Sims, who uses his van for taking goods between car boot sales, said ‘shifty looking’ strangers had approached him three times offering to buy the vehicle before it was stolen.

On the second occasion, he said, he noted down the registration number of their Transit van.

‘The one guy was right in my face waving a wad of cash and saying they wanted my van for spare parts,’ Mr Sims said.

When his van disappeared he immediately told police about his mysterious visitors and handed over the details.

‘Then the next evening I get a visit from these two officers,’ he said.

‘They sat me down and told me they have checked out the registration number and it is registered to someone known to the police.

‘But they say they can’t go there without organising a proper operation. They said it was dangerous.’

Mr Sims said he was later called on by two more officers who promised him they were looking into the case properly.

Yesterday, he said, he was visited by a ‘rookie’ WPC who let slip to him that the van is believed to be at the Willows site.

‘She very proudly told me that she has walked round there three times on her own without any trouble,’ Mr Sims said.

‘Well, if that’s the case, why can’t they go and make enquiries there about my van and arrest the people responsible?

‘It makes me laugh that the police have put out appeals recently for information about someone having a stone thrown at their car or a banner being stolen from outside an office yet they won’t do anything about me having my livelihood stolen.

‘Direct Line have told me my policy does not cover me for theft so it looks like I have lost everything just because the police won’t help me,’ he added.

A Gloucestershire police spokesman denied today that the force has ‘no-go’ areas and issued statement, stating: ‘There is currently an ongoing investigation into the theft of a white Mercedes panel van.

‘All reports of vehicle thefts are taken very seriously and this incident is being investigated thoroughly.

‘We would like to make it very clear that we do not classify any areas as “no-go zones” and that we follow all leads of enquiry appropriate to our investigation.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Patients ‘Routinely Neglected’ At NHS Hospital Where Hundreds Died in Squalor

Patients were ‘routinely neglected’ at an NHS hospital where hundreds of patients died as a result of appalling care, an independent report concluded today.

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stafford Hospital, lost sight of its responsibility to provide safe care after management became preoccupied with cost-cutting and targets.

The probe was launched into events at Stafford Hospital after another report last March from the Healthcare Commission revealed a catalogue of failings at the trust, which also runs Cannock Chase Hospital.

Appalling standards of care put many patients at risk, and between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected in a three-year period from 2005 to 2008, the commission found.

[Comments from JD: Warning: disturbing content.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Schoolboy, 11, Arrested After Classmate Broke Arm… Even Though His Teachers Said it Was an Accident

Schoolboy Dylan Keetley was mortified when he accidently broke a classmate’s arm during a playground ‘rough and tumble.’

But the 11-year-old was stunned and shocked when he was later arrested by police on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm.

Despite the school insisting the injury had been caused in an unfortunate accident the schoolboy was questioned at a police station for three hours.

Police also wanted to take his fingerprints, photo and DNA as part of the investigation but were refused permission.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: US Diplomats Add a Moat to Their Expenses at $1bn London Embassy

The United States has unveiled plans for its new $1 billion high-security embassy in London — the most expensive it has ever built.

The proposals were met with relief from both the present embassy’s Mayfair neighbours and the residents and developers of the Battersea wasteland where the vast crystalline cube, surrounded by a moat, will be built.

The decision to abandon the former site in Grosvenor Square by 2016 came after a prolonged battle with residents angered by the security measures demanded after the September 11 attacks. More than a hundred residents took out a full-page advertisement in The Times to oppose tighter measures that they said would leave the area more vulnerable to attack.

The new embassy, on a former industrial site behind Battersea power station known for its gay clubs, will be designed by Kieran Timberlake, the Philadelphia architect.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Fini: Misleading to Talk of it as Electoral Key

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 24 — An approach to the issue of immigration linked to the election campaign is “misleading”. The speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini, was speaking in reference to what has been recently stated by premier Berlusconi, according to whom less immigration implies less criminality. “Security,” observed Fini, “is central. It is an aspect but not the totality of the problem.” During the press conference to illustrate the Meseuro Euro-Mediterranean project, Fini, referring to the recent killing of an Egytpian immigrant, underlined “what happened in Milan is not dissimilar to what has happened in other European cities,” like Brussels and Marseilles. According to Fini, it is a European problem and it is a problem of “relations with ethnic-cultural and religious minorities” and “the challenge” is to say “what integration really means.” Fini in fact explained that the issue regards “not only the field of immigrants’ duties, but also the rights that a society is willing to acknowledge as theirs.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

AFDB: Billion-Dollar Bond Issue

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 22 — Tunis-based African Development Bank (AFDB) has issued a billion-dollar bond in order to finance the ever-growing number of projects on the African continent. It is the AFDB’s first issuance on the world’s benchmark market this year, as part of a loan programme totalling approximately 5.5 billion dollars in 2010. The geographical division of the first issuance is the following: 39% for the Americas, 48% for Asia and 13% for Europe, the Middle East and Africva. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Bombs in Kabylie Kill Soldier

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 22 — One soldier was killed and five injured when two bombs went off in Algeria, near Boumerdes (50 km east of Algiers), according to reports in Algerian press sources. The two bombs, hidden along the side of the road, were detonated by remote control when soldiers were passing by in the village of Tissera, in the Kabylie region. The attack occurred a few hours after the army killed two members of armed groups with links to Al Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb, still active in the region. The attack has not yet been confirmed by official sources.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Army Kills Three Al Qaeda Members

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 24 — Three members of armed Islamic groups affiliated to Al Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb have been killed in Algeria during army operations. According to daily newspaper El Watan, the three men, who belonged to the ‘El Farouk’ cell, which is active in Algeria and Cabilia, were killed on Monday in an ambush close to Dra Essebt, in the region of Bouira, 80 km east of the capital. One of the men is Khaled Abu Salman, one of the most loyal followers of the emir who leads the north African arm of Al Qaeda, Abdelmalek Deroukdal. The news has not yet been confirmed by official sources. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Petition Against Camus’ 50 Years Celebration

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 22 — While France is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the death of Albert Camus with many initiatives, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy even proposed to move the writer’s body to the Pantheon, a petition is circulating in Algeria in which the “celebration of Camus” is denounced. According to the petition’s writers, the celebration is “a rehabilitation of the colonial period”. The text, under the headline ‘Alerte aux consciences anticolonialistes’ (Warning for anti-colonialists), was written by the collection director of publishing company Casbah, Mustapha Madi. Madi’s attack is aimed at ‘La Caravane Camus’ in particular, a project of Sabah M’Rakach, psychologist and founder of the company Sab Solutions with Frenchman Guillaume Luchelli. Camus, the writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, born on Algeria’s east coast near Annaba, continues to divide Algeria’s intellectuals, for whom Algeria’s colonial history is still a painful memory. Some see him as a great humanist author who wrote about the misery of Kabylie, for others he is a colonialist writer, pied-noir, who remained silent during the independence war. “Sartre would have caused fewer problems” Sabah M’Rakach told Le Monde, while sociologist Abdenasser Djabi — who refused to sign the petition — underlined that this battle has been going on for more than 50 years and that the young people don’t even know who Camus is. “It is not easy to defend Albert Camus in 2010, he said, because of the ‘Arabisation’ of culture and the small conflicts with the French” about the colonial period. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Islam Meets Women’s Rights in Moroccan Family Law

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 19 — A family law “in harmony with the founding principles and the spirit of Islam”, for which any ‘Ijitihad’ (interpretation of the Koran) was “more than welcome”. And it the end it proved how “Muslim identity and universal human rights can coexist”. It is the Moudawana which in 2004 replaced Morocco’s old and patriarchal family law, in the words of Nouzha Guessous, a researcher and bioethics advisor who took part in the Royal advisory Commission charged with the task of drafting the new code law. During a recent meeting set up in Rome by Reset Dialogues on Civilizations and the Lelio e Lisli Basso Foundation, the researcher stated that “There is no intrinsic contradiction between the principles of Islam and human and feminine rights. Morocco carried out a ‘de facto’ secularisation of family law, but held on to certain procedures and made partial use of traditional jurisprudence to solve current problems”. Consequently this was an internal rethink by Islam to also rediscover in its roots the origin of fundamental human rights now decreed by international law: an alternative path to that followed by other Countries such as Tunisia, whose family law is more advanced in some ways, but which has also been viewed as an act of secularisation imposed from the outside. Of course Morocco’s law still allows polygamy, and its final elimination is one of the objectives of future reforms. “It would have been equally easy to justify its elimination starting from the Koran itself”, added Nouzha Guessous, who pointed out that Islam’s holy text, considered in its development through time, goes from stating the possibility for a man to marry up to four women to denying it in fact, given that from a human standpoint a husband cannot be fair to all of them as required. But the path chosen by the Commission was more pragmatic, since polygamous relations in Morocco “are less than 1%”, she said. However in the meantime the new family code raised the minimum age for marriage to 18, abolished the figure of male legal guardian to get married and the duty of obedience, and introduced the possibility of divorce being consensual or driven by “irreconcilable differences”. The female researches emphasised that all of the above is possible thanks to a law-making process — entrusted to a commission which also comprised seven theologians and three women — based on the method of hearing all social parties (including 75 female NGOs), on transparent debate and support by society at large. A process which also allowed for the outline of a “Muslim feminism” that is clearly distinct from the “Islamist feminism” which instead rejects the code law and anything connected to the West. Nouzha Guessous concluded that the challenges which have to be met are however still many. Not only because of the need to watch over the application of the code law and to “translate the principle of equality in all laws” (starting from article 8 of the Constitution, which does mention equal rights between men and women, but only political rights), but also in the social action against poverty and female illiteracy, and in the culture as well to achieve a major change in mentality. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: It’s a Good Thing That Bern Listened to US, Koussa

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 23 — “It was a good thing that Switzerland listened to our requests in the interest of their two citizens and that it ceased hiding them in the Embassy,” Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said, according to the JANA press agency, in an exclusive press conference for the Libyan press body, after the two Swiss men held in Libya since summer 2008 who have been sheltering at the Swiss Embassy, left the diplomatic headquarters. In regard to this, JANA dedicates an article with a triumphant headline: “Switzerland gave in, they listened to our warning and have released the accused Swiss man to the justice police.” It quotes the minister, according to whom “finally the condemned Swiss man will now be able to make use of his right to appeal to the Supreme Court, but the important thing for us Libyans is to have underlined our desire to apply the law.” The Libyan press also quotes Rachid Hamdani, the Swiss man who left Libya during the night. According to “Oea”, the reformist paper close to Seif Al Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libya leader, in front of the Ministry for Libyan Affairs, just before leaving the city, the man criticised Switzerland for having “forced” him to remain in the Embassy: “the foreign newspapers,” he is alleged to have said, “have spoken about me being detained in the Embassy and this is not unfounded.” “I will return to Libya after a break,” “I’ve always felt at home, a child of the area where I was born (Tunisia).” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya-Switzerland: Tunis Supporting Tripoli

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 24 — Referring to the diplomatic showdown between Libya and Switzerland, the Tunisian Foreign Minister has issued a memo in which it is emphasised that “Tunisia is following the unfortunate developments with attention and the impact of the dispute between the Arab Jamahiriya of Libya and Switzerland, following the measures recently taken by the Swiss authorities to restrict the free circulation of Libyan citizens on that country’s territory”. “In reaffirming its complete solidarity with its sister Arab Jamahiriya, Tunisia expresses the hope that the two nations will reach a settlement of this dispute and that their relations will return to normal on the basis of diplomatic traditions and the rules regulating international relations”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

London: Algeria Not to Go on ‘Black List’

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 24 — The UK government has decided against adding Algeria to its “black list” of at-risk countries, as has France and the United States. “There is no reason” to do so and the country “is not an exporter of terrorism”. The Foreign Office spokesperson for the region made this announcement yesterday, says APS, while stressing that “checks made on passengers are not carried out on the basis of nationality or religion”. It is a decision “that reflects the position of the British government, to apply its security measures to passengers as a whole without making any exceptions and without segregation”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Geothermic Cultivation in Tozeur

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 22 — The geothermic cultivation plan in Tozeur is giving satisfactory results, and in 2008-2009 the 37.95 hectares set aside for this type of cultivation saw production of 2,485 tonnes of early produce. A further nine hectares is expected for the current year . The current development plan is for 75 hectares of greenhouses, which should provide 8,000 tonnes. Geothermic resources provide an important potential for the production of legumes, with an improvement in the quality of the crops. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Holy Places: Abbas Fears, Hamas Calls for Intifada

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 23 — The possibility looms once again of a new large-scale Palestinian uprising over unilateral steps taken in recent days by the Israeli Government over several holy places contested by Arabs and Jews inside the West Bank. Moderate President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) today expressed his fears of a revolt today, while radical Islamic leader Ismail Haniyeh, head of the de facto Hamas Government in the Gaza Strip, called for one. The decision by the Israeli Government to formally include the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron (which is venerated as the Mosque of Ibrahim by Muslims) in the heritage of the State of Israel, risks unleashing “a religious war” and “a new intifada”, said Mahmoud Abbas, quoted by the regional media from Brussels, where he is on a visit. It is “a dangerous provocation” and attempt to “steal places which form part of the Palestinian territory”, he added. Fanning the flames of a possible rebellion, after the (so-far minor) incidents yesterday in Hebron, is Hamas, which has conjured up the spectre of a third Intifada, not as a warning so much as an incitement to revolt. Hanyeh, quoted by the Maan agency, has dismissed the Israeli initiative as “a new crime which stands alongside old crimes”, openly inciting Palestinians in the West Bank to “rise up against the Zionist occupation” and to once again dispute the negotiating line followed in recent years by Mahmoud Abbas’ PNA. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel — Palestine: War of Words Over the Cave of the Patriarchs Between Netanyahu and Abbas

Abbas’ reaction is “hypocritical”, Netanyahu’s decision is a “provocation”; all because the israeli PM decided to add Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs to Israel’s list of national heritage sites. Palestinians fear it is just another land grab. Jewish settlers and nationalists are happy with Netanyahu’s decision.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have traded accusations over the former’s decision to include certain Jewish holy sites in the West Bank to its list of national heritage sites. The sites in question are Rachel’s Tomb (Bethlehem) and the Cave of the Patriarchs (Hebron), both of which are also venerated by Muslims.

For the Palestinian leader, Netanyahu’s decision is “a serious provocation” that delays peace talks and could further poison relations between the two peoples. For Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office, Abbas is conducting “a false and hypocritical campaign. [. . .] Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are burial sites of Israel’s forefathers [. . .] and are definitely worthy of preservation and renovation.”

The Cave of the Patriarchs, which Muslims call the al-Ibrahim Mosque, is said to contain the remains of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. For decades, the site has been a source of tensions. About 500 Jewish settlers live nearby, in a Palestinian city of 170,000. In 1994, a Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinian worshippers. Since then, the place has been divided into areas for each group.

Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife, is said to be buried at a site near Bethlehem. It too has been the source of conflict.

Israel’s West Bank barrier juts far into Bethlehem so that the tomb is located on the Israeli side, and this, for Palestinians, constitutes a land grab.

Jewish settlers and nationalists, who oppose giving up control of any of the West Bank, said they were pleased with Mr Netanyahu’s announcement and that they would press for additional biblical sites to be added to the list.

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

Phyllis Chesler: Presbyterians Usher in the Jewish Holiday of Purim

The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) is about to release a report which denounces Israel as a “racist” nation which has absolutely no historical, covenantal, or theological right to the Holy Land. The report calls for the United States to withhold financial and military aid to Israel and for boycotts and sanctions against Israel. That’s not all. The report also endorses a Palestinian “right of return” and “apologizes to Palestinians for even conceding that Israel has a right to exist.” According to the press release, it also states that Israel’s history begins only with the Holocaust and that Israel is “a nation mistakenly created by Western powers at the expense of the Palestinian people to solve the ‘Jewish problem’.”…

[Return to headlines]

White House ‘On Board’ Palestinian Unilateral Statehood Threat

U.N. would recognize new nation outside of negotiations with Israel

Recent meetings between the Obama administration and the Palestinian Authority revealed the White House is on board a Palestinian threat to unilaterally ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state outside of negotiations with Israel, a senior PA negotiator told WND.

The negotiator further claimed the entire European Union leadership has backed the plot.


A top PA negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity, named the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, and National Security Council member Samantha Power as among the Obama administration officials who were involved with the Palestinians’ U.N. threat.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al-Qaeda ‘Urges Young Turks to Wage Jihad’

Dubai, 22 Feb. (AKI) — A video allegedly by Al-Qaeda’s media arm features a young Turkish suicide bomber urging young Turks to follow his example. The video posted on Islamist websites on Monday traces the man’s final journey to Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province, where he is seen apparently carrying out a car bombing against a US military base.

The 22-minute video begins with the young suicide bomber, Muadh, preparing to travel to Afghanistan to carry out his deadly mission.

Later, the video captures his final moments, as he carries out a car bomb attack against a US military base. The video bears the logo of Al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab media arm.

“Suicide attacks are the best because they inflict the greatest damage on the enemy,” says Muadh, speaking in Turkish with Arabic subtitles.

“Didn’t you see what happened on 11 September? It was an operation that changed the course of history.

“The financial cost and the human cost in terms of lives lost is still not known,” Muadh says.

The video is entitled ‘Suicide attack against the headquarters of US forces in Khost’ and is the latest in a series of propaganda films by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan called ‘The killing of Crusaders and apostates in Afghanistan’.

The video also contains an excerpt from an earlier audio tape by Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In the audio message, Egytpian-born al-Zawahiri accuses Turkey of being “a member of NATO that has invaded Afghanistan.”

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

Iran: Tehran Arrests a Sunni Militant “Linked to Al Qaeda”

Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of Jundullah is believed to be the author of various attacks in markets and mosques. The opium trade is the likely cause of the conflict between the Pasdaran and the Sunni group.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The state television reported today that Iranian authorities have arrested the leader of a Sunni group linked to al Qaeda.

The Arabic channel Al Alam said Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the group Jundullah was arrested in the eastern part of the country. He is accused of being responsible for some terrorist attacks in the area of Sistan-Baluchistan.

Last October, in a suicide attack in Zahedan, 42 people were killed, including six Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), the parallel army employed by Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah. In May a bomb in a mosque claimed 25 lives and wounded 130 people. In February 2007 Jundullah killed 13 Revolutionary Guards.

Jundullah was founded in 2002 to defend the Baluchi, a very marginalized and poor minority.

Iran suspects Jundullah of having ties to al Qaeda and in any case with the Sunni world. At the same time, the authorities say it is backed by Western powers — particularly the U.S. and Britain — who want to weaken the leadership of the country.

It appears more likely that the conflict between the Pasdaran and Jundullah depends on the struggle for control of the opium trade.

Zahedan is a mainly Sunni town in a country that is majority Shiite and lies on the boundary of an main opium trading route. Caravans pass through Zahedan shipping opiates to Iran and around the world.

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

Rocket Threat to Israel’s International Airport

Projectile ‘was ready to be launched towards the center of the country’

Was the Hamas terrorist organization intending to fire a rocket toward Israel’s international airport?

It has been released for publication that the Palestinian Authority two weeks ago arrested five members of Hamas and discovered a Qassam rocket in Beit Likya, a village about four miles from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.


Following Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas seized the coastal territory, forcibly expelling the U.S.-trained security forces of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Now, Jordanian intelligence officials say, Hamas is attempting to set the stage for an eventual West Bank takeover.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Sheikh’s Fatwa Against Promoters of Promiscuity

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 23 — The death penalty should apply to those who advocate ‘promiscuity’ between men and women in Saudi Arabia. Such is the conviction of Sheikh Abdel Rahmad Barrak, one of Saudi’s most popular imams, who today issued a ‘fatwa’ (a legally binding opinion) against “the modernisers” who are calling for the abolition of the strict boundaries imposed by Wahabi doctrine. From the pages of his blog hosted on the portal, the 78 year-old sheikh has been having a go at some of his colleagues in Saudi and abroad who have started talking about “reforms” in the application of Sharia law and asking for greater tolerance with regard to forms of promiscuity in schools and workplaces. “It’s a corrupt practice that allows that which Islam forbids, namely that men and women should confide in each other”, opined Barrak, who continued that “whoever allows this promiscuity is not only a panderer but also an infidel who distances himself from the path of Islam”. Given this, the sheikh concluded that such people “without repentance, will be killed”. In 2007, Barrak made news for a fatwa issued against Shiites, referred to as “infidels”, and the following year for another fatwa against Christians and Jews, described as “unbelievers”. (ANSamed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Six More British Passports Used in ‘Mossad’ Assassination of Hamas Commander in Dubai

The revelation from Dubai today means that up to 12 British identities are believed to have been stolen or forged to carry out the hit, allegedly by Israel’s feared secret service, Mossad.

One of the six new British passports is in the name of a dark-haired woman calling herself Gabriella Barney. Up to six women are now believed to have been part of the hit squad.

Police named the six new Britons whose identities were used in the hit as Philip Carr, Gabriella Barney, Stephen Drake, Mark Sklur, Daniel Schnur and Roy Cannon.

The claim came as Dubai identified 15 new suspects in the killing today.

Three of the other new suspects used Irish identities, three used French identities, and three used Australian identities.

The 15 new named suspects bring the total hit squad up to 26.

Of the 15 new suspects, 11 are believed to have been part of the execution squad sent to Dubai. With the 11 suspects previously identified by police, that brings the total hit squad in Dubai up to 22.

Meanwhile the remaining four of the new suspects — including the woman calling herself Gabriella Barney — are accused of being involved at the preparation stage.

At least 14 of the suspects are also believed to have used credit cards issued by the same bank, Al Arabiya television said today.

MetaBank, an Iowa, U.S.-based savings bank, has not yet commented on the allegations.

The revelation is set to increase tensions between Israel and the UK after Foreign Secretary David Miliband labelled the theft an ‘outrage’ and Gordon Brown ordered the Serious Organised Crime Agency to investigate.

Israeli authorities were accused today of treating the Government with ‘disdain’ over the hit.

SDLP MP Mark Durkan claimed the Israeli government had shown ‘utter contempt’ for the standards of international relations by refusing to help the British investigation.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said questions had to be answered about the misuse of British passports, but refused to draw ‘immediate conclusions’ about what happened without seeing the evidence.

This week Mr Miliband sought answers in a 45-minute private meeting with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman.

But he told the Foreign Secretary he had ‘no information to give’ at this stage.

At Prime Minister’s Questions Mr Durkan (Foyle) asked Mr Brown: ‘Can you confirm that you condemn not only the use of false UK passports in a criminal operation but any act of state-sponsored assassination anywhere?’

Mr Brown told him: ‘I can assure you that where there are questions about the misuse of British passports they have to be answered.

‘We have set up and there is an investigation ongoing into the very incidents you have raised.

‘I would not draw immediate conclusions without seeing the evidence and I think it is important to see the evidence on this before any further conclusions are made.

‘But I do agree with you we do not support state-sponsored terrorism in any country.’

The laws on universal jurisdiction apply to all nations ‘and not just one country,’ Mr Brown added.

A Soca spokesman said: ‘At the moment there are six additional passports that the Emirates authorities have informed us of.

‘We believe them to be British and that is being confirmed.’

Britain, Ireland and Germany have called Israeli ambassadors in for explanations about the forged passports, but Israel has not accepted responsibility.

Israel has come under withering criticism from some quarters in Europe and elsewhere in the wake of the killing of al-Mabhouh, who was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on January 20.

Dubai security cameras picked up 18 members of what the country’s police commander said was a hit team, adding that he was virtually certain Mossad was to blame.

The suspects were seen on CCTV disguised as tourists, following al-Mabhouh to his hotel room in Dubai on January 20.

An assassination team was then seen going to his room while a surveillance team, including a blonde woman posing as an Irish citizen named Gail Folliard, kept lookout.

After just ten minutes, the team were seen walking out of the hotel. They fled the country within two hours, having spent less than 19 hours in Dubai overall.

Al-Mabhouh was believed to have been suffocated.

Some reports have claimed that a Hamas insider was part of the hit.

Israel has not confirmed or denied that Mossad was behind the hit, hiding behind a ‘policy of ambiguity’.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was grilled about Israel’s alleged role in the killing when he met European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

In a statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that as long as there is no evidence beyond media reports linking Israel to the killing, the minister felt ‘there is no need to relate to the matter.’

In the only Israeli government comment to date, Lieberman said last week, ‘Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies.’

He added, ‘I don’t know why we are assuming that Israel, or the Mossad, used those passports.’

Yesterday Israel’s parliamentary opposition leader praised the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in the first such comment from a top official.

Tzipi Livni of the centrist Kadima Party said the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was good, but she did not indicate who was behind the killing.

‘The fact that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn’t matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news to those fighting terrorism,’ she said at a conference of the Jewish Agency board of governors in Jerusalem.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Son of Hamas Founder Spied for Israel for More Than a Decadejames Hider in Jerusalem

The son of one of Hamas’s founding members was a spy in the service of Israel for more than a decade, helping prevent dozens of Islamist suicide bombers from finding their targets, it emerged today.

Codenamed the Green Prince by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, supplied key intelligence on an almost daily basis from 1996 onwards and tracked down suicide bombers and their handlers from his father’s organization, the daily Haaretz said.

Information he supplied led to the arrests of some of the most wanted men by Israeli forces, including Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader often tipped as a potential president who was convicted of masterminding terrorist attacks, and one of Hamas’ top bomb-makers Abdullah Barghouti, who is no relation of the jailed Fatah chief.

Mr Yousef, a 32-year-old convert to Christianity who now lives in California, has revealed the intrigues of his years as a spy in a new book called Son of Hamas, much to the concern of Shin Bet, whose operations will be revealed in detail. While the revelations may give a boost to Israel’s intelligence service, whose external counterpart Mossad is still grappling with the diplomatic fall-out of last month’s Hamas assassination in Dubai, there will be concern that the account may give too many insights into the murky world of espionage.

However, Mr Yousef’s work will be far more damaging to Hamas, whose brutality he denounced. Dubai police have suggested that Mahmoud al-Mabhuh, the top Hamas militant found dead in a hotel room in the emirate on January 20, may have been betrayed by an insider from the Islamist movement itself.

And Mr Yousef had harsh words for the movement that his father helped form, and which now rules the Gaza Strip after a bloody takeover in summer 2007. “Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis,” he told the daily. “That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis.”

Mr Yousef’s former Israeli handler, identified only as Captain Loai, praised the resolve of his agent, whose codename derived from the colour of Islam — and Hamas’ — banner and from his exalted position within an organization that regularly kills those suspected of collaborating with the Jewish state.

“So many people owe him their life and don’t even know it,” he said. “The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money. He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours — the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts.”

Mr Yousef, whose father is still in an Israeli jail cell, from where he was elected as an MP in 2006, went as far as tracking down would-be kamikazes himself in the streets of the West bank during the Second Intifada which erupted a decade ago and left thousands of Palestinians and Israelis dead. On one occasion he followed a bomber from Manara Square in the centre of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.

“We didn’t know his name or what he looked like — only that he was in his 20s and would be wearing a red shirt,” said the former handler. “We sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp antennae and an ability to cope with danger.”

Mr Yousef, who converted from Islam to Christianity a decade ago — in itself, a dangerous act — was arrested by the Israelis in 1996 and within a year had been recruited by Shin Bet, then released to begin working as an informant.

Speaking by telephone from California, Mr Yousef told Haaretz he worried that the Israeli Government might release some of the prisoners he helped put behind bars in exchange for Gilad Schalit, a young Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas from the Gaza border more than three years ago.

“I wish I were in Gaza now,” he said. “I would put on an army uniform and join Israel’s special forces in order to liberate Gilad Schalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Schalit. That must not be done.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Spain: Hamas Leader Murder, Zapatero Asks for Investigation

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 22 — The Spanish Premier and current rotating president of the EU, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, asked today for an “exhaustive investigation” into the murder of the Hamas leader, Mahmud al Mabhuh, which took place in January in Dubai. In a shared press conference with the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyp Erdogan, followed by the Spain-Turkey bilateral summit, Zapatero assured that the murder of the Hamas leader requires “an investigation and clarification”. “I am in favour of an exhaustive investigation of the circumstances, of the use of passports and criminal action”, affirmed the premier. Today the EU strongly condemned “the fraudulent use” of passports and credit cards from the member nations of the EU” on behalf of members of the commando. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Teacher Killed Herself ‘After Ex-Boyfriend Posted Naked Pictures of Her on Facebook’

Emma Jones, 24, who was working in an international school in Abu Dhabi, feared she could be jailed in the Muslim country over the naked photos.

British teacher working in the Middle East was found dead after her ex-boyfriend posted naked pictures of her on Facebook, an inquest heard today.

Emma Jones, 24, who was working in an international school in Abu Dhabi, feared she could be jailed in the Muslim country over the photos.

The inquest heard she drank poisonous cleaning fluid as she was packing to leave to return to Britain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Emergency Meeting of Armed Forces Chiefs

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 23 — The Turkish armed forces issued a statement on their internet site this evening giving news of an emergency meeting to evaluate the situation following the arrest, unprecedented in Turkey, of 49 top level serving and retired soldiers accused of being involved in an attempt to overthrow the Government in 2003. “15 generals and admirals from the Turkish armed forces took part in the meeting, which was held today at the general headquarters of the armed forces to evaluate the serious situation arising from an investigation carried out by the Public Prosecutor for the Republic in Istanbul”. The document does not give further details. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Attempted Coup, Shock for Arrested Military

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 23 — “Shocking”, “extraordinary”, “without precedent”: these are some of the definitions used by Turkish newspapers to describe today’s report of 49 arrests carried out yesterday by police forces among retired or serving high ranking army officers believed to be involved in an alleged coup that was meant to be carried out in 2003 against the Justice and Development (Akp) party with Islamic roots led by premier Tayyip Erdogan, who rose to power a few months before. Lay and pro-government commentators are puzzled by the meaning of the worst offensive to date to be unleashed by Erdogan’s government against the military establishment which since 1923, the date which marks the birth of modern Turkey, represents the Country’s unquestioned bastion of laicity against a Islamic drift which, in its time, was feared by the father of the Country, Kemal Ataturk himself. But even this latest episode, as it is viewed by many, apparently falls into the long running confrontation between Akp on one side and the armed forces and the lay justice system on the other to “take the edge” off their respective powers and prerogatives. The 49 military — whose questioning started today in Istanbul — include 17 retired generals, four serving admirals and 28 officers of various rank. These include general Ibrahim Firtina, former commander in chief of the Air Force, admiral Ozden Ornek, former commander of the Navy, and former Army general Cetin Dogan, believed to be the mind behind the alleged subversive ploy (code name “Balyoz”, hammer) that was revealed last January by pro-government daily paper Taraf. According to the newspaper, the purpose of “Balyoz” was to create chaos in the Country through acts of terrorism and violence, and it also expected the military to set off bombs in Istanbul’s mosques during the Friday prayer, to bomb museums and bring down a Turkish fighter jet while placing the blame on the Greek Air Force. The ultimate goal of the plan, according to Taraf, was to exert pressure on Akp (which had been in power for only a few months) and discredit it by proving that it was not capable of guaranteeing public safety and therefore force it to exit the government and leave power to the military. On his behalf, general Dogan always denied that “Balyoz” was a plan for a coup, stating that it was a plan that had been set up for a military exercise presented during a workgroup for the military. According to those who believe in the coup, even the “Balyoz” plan fits into a wider investigation into the Ergenekon group, an alleged secret nationalist organisation accused of having tried to overthrow Erdogan’s executive, in the context of which some 200 people (including former generals, nationalist politicians, extreme right-wing sympathisers, showmen, writers, journalists, and local mafiosi) were tried and have been in jail for almost two years. According to the laymen and nationalists, the trial is only Akp’s latest attempt to get rid of its most forceful opposition. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ergenekon Case;40 Alleged Plotters Arrested, Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 22 — More than 40 people were arrested today in Turkey as part of the investigation under way to find those responsible for the alleged plot to overthrow the country’s government. The news was revealed today in Madrid by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ergenekon, Several Turkish Generals Detained

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 22 — Turkish police have detained roughly a dozen former military commanders and have searched the homes of two retired Army generals. Meanwhile General Ilker Basbug canceld a planned visit to Egypt because of the developments. In a new wave of detainments related to the Ergenekon case, which is an investigation into a suspected gang known as Ergenekon that was allegedly plotting to overthrow the ruling government, several high-ranking retired military officials have been taken into custody. The new round of detainments are reported to be specifically linked to the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) plot, an alleged military coup plan against the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, written in 2003. Turkish military chief Ilker Basbug canceled an official visit to Egypt as police detained the retired military officials as a part of the alleged coup plot probe, CNN Turk and daily Radikal reported. Tensions between the military and the government have been on the rise ever since police began detaining military personel in the course of alleged coup plot investigations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Disappeared at 15 Years Old, Reappears 56 Years Later

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 18 — On a cold winter morning in 1954 Halil Tas, who was 15 years old at the time, left the house where he lived with his parents and siblings in the town of Fatsa, on the coast of the Black Sea in northern Turkey, and never returned. His family believed he was dead, drowned perhaps, and they mourned him. It is easy to imagine their surprise then, when a few days ago, 56 years later, Halil reappeared, alive and well. The Dogan press agency told the story word-for-word, of the modern prodigal son. “That morning I left the house and I didn’t return. First I went to Istanbul, where I stayed for a while, and then I left for Holland. I lived and worked for a while in Italy too, and then I left for the United States, where I lived by working in restaurants and hotels. My parents and relatives died while I was away. The first thing I did when I got back was to go and visit their graves. I missed them very much and I hope that they will forgive me for the pain I gave them”. The sprightly Halil, who didn’t explain what made him leave home 56 years ago, said that he intends to spend the rest of his life in the city where he was born. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: $12,000 Bullet Proof Vest for Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 22 — Turkish security services (MIT) have chosen a bullet proof vest for the price of USD 12,000 to protect the country’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan. The new vest replaces the heavier vest, which the Premier seems to hate. So writes today Hurriyet daily. The newspaper specifies that the bullet proof vest which Erdogan will wear in potentially dangerous situations is similar to the ones owned by US President Barak Obama, the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez and Prince Philip of Spain. The vest — designed by Colombian stylist Miguel Caballero — looks normal, but is made of special fibres composed of very thin impact-proof layers. It gives protection against projectiles fired from firearms, including 9mm pistols and the Israeli UZI machine-gun. Local analysts have called the decision to have the Premier wear a bullet proof vest yet another attempt of Erdogan and his Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) to make him look like a potential victim in the eyes of the Turkish public opinion, a victim of claimed, but never demonstrated coups, to win votes for next year’s election. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

When it Comes to Analyzing the Middle East, We Live in an Age of Idiocy

by Barry Rubin

After more than 30 years of watching people write dumb things about the Middle East, I believe that in the last month I’ve seen more nonsense than at any previous time. The problem arises from ignorance, lack of understanding of the region by those presented as experts; plus arrogance, treating the region and the lives of people as a game (Hey, let’s try this and see what happens!), fostered by the failure of such control mechanisms as a balanced debate and editing that rejects simplistic bias or stupidity; as well as a simple lack of logic.

To put it another way, I am reading material that simultaneously has no connection with the real world, is full of internal contradictions, and often seems deliberately tailored to misrepresent events in order to prove a false thesis. Fortunately, this stuff has not done actual damage in the real world—much of it has not been implemented in policy—yet but may in future.

As examples:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Muhammad Jibril Acknowledges Ties to Noordin Top, Denies Involvement in Attacks Against Hotels

Speaking to the judges, he said Malaysian terrorist was his “mentor”, but rejects accusations that he raised funds for the 17 July Jakarta massacre. Anti-terrorist police arrests three suspects in Aceh Besar, an area allegedly used for training purposes. Syawal Yasin is the new leader of the Indonesia Mujahedeen Council.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Suspected terrorist Muhammad Jibril told judges that he personally knew Malaysian extremist Noordin Moh Top, but denied that he was involved in the Jakarta attacks on 17 July of last year. In Aceh Besar, security forces arrested three people last night. The authorities believe the forested area is used to train militants.

Muhammad Jibril (pictured) was present at a hearing of the South Jakarta District Court. He is thought to have played a key role in raising funds for the Marriot and Ritz-Carlton attacks that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded.

He told judges that he knew Malaysian terrorist Noordin Moh Top “since 1998” and that the latter was his mentor when he lived in Malaysia. Top was killed in a police raid last September.

Jibril denied however having met him in recent years when Top lived in Indonesia. He also denied charges presented by the prosecutor that he was involved in fund raising activities in order to finance the two attacks that occurred 17 July.

Muhammad Jibril’s father, Abu Jibril, was present at the hearing. For the US Treasury Department, the elder Jibril is a leader of the Jeemah Islamiah, a terrorist organisation operating in South-East Asia, and a close associate of Abu Bakar Bashir.

In the meantime, hundreds of agents from Indonesia’s anti-terrorist unit swept through a remote area of Aceh Bear district, some 70 kilometres from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. Some 50 militants were apparently present at the location for training. Three of them were arrested whilst the rest fled.

According to police sources, those arrested were undergoing military training and could be tied to Jeemah Islamiah. Police also seized Malaysian military uniforms and terrorist propaganda material, including video footage of the 2002 deadly bomb attack in Bali that claimed more than 220 lives.

The Indonesian Mujahedeen Council (Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia or MMI) picked a new leader, Syawal Yasin who is Abdullah Sungkar’s son-in-law. The latter is believed to be the cofounder with Abu Bakar Bashir of Jeemah Islamiah.

He rose in the shadow of his father-in-law, but became a household name as one of the first Indonesians to train in 1986 at al-Qaeda camps on the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On taking on the mantle of mujahedeen leader, Syawal Yasin said, “Insya Allah (God willing), I am ready to accept the offer.”

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

Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Refuses to Convert to Islam, Massacred by Brothers

The local imam had offered the 26-year old money, a house and a wife to embrace the faith of Muhammad. After repeated refusals, the Islamist leader urged the brothers — converted with flattery and property — to beat him into submission and threaten him with death. He is now being cared for by a group that campaigns for human rights.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — First he was flattered with offers of money, a house, wives and favours by the local Imam, then beaten unconscious and threatened with death by his brothers. This is the story of Riaz Masih, 26, a Christian from Kallur Kot, a town of Punjab in Pakistan, who is guilty of refusing to convert to Islam. The story dates back to early February and has been reported by Compass Direct News (Cdn), which collects testimonies of Christians persecuted for their faith.

The parents of Riaz Masih, of Christian faith, died when he was young. He, along with his brothers and sisters, grew up under the leadership of Moulvi Peer-Akram Ullah, the local imam. Several times the Muslim leader has tried to convert him to Islam, without success.

On 8 February, Masih (pictured), says his home in Kallur Kot, a town in Punjab, 233 km south-west of the capital Islamabad, was raided. “They threatened me — he states — saying he had reached the point of no return: conversion to Islam or death.” According to the young man’s story, the brothers persecuted him saying that “killing an infidel is not a sin” and, conversely, falls within the “full rights in the name of God Almighty.”

Previously, the Imam Akram-Ullah and his brothers had offered him one million rupees (about 12 thousand dollars), a wife and a house of choice to embrace the religion of Mohammed. Through these same methods, the Islamic religious leader had convinced his brothers to convert and embrace the more fundamentalist vision of Islam. But the young Christian never succumbed to the lure.

The human rights organization Rays of Development (Rod) confirm that the brothers and sisters of Masih were converted in the same way. Today activists provide economic aid, medicine and psychological support to the young Christian who has been entrusted to their care — when he was wounded — by the Christian Welfare Organization (CWO).

A spokesman for CWO, on condition of anonymity, added that “Akram-Ullah has offered Masih’s brothers and sisters a house and land, along with 500 thousand rupees (nearly six thousand dollars) each, on condition they recite the Kalimah the profession of faith that marks conversion to Islam”.

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

Australia — Pacific

Cabbie Charged Over Killing Wife’s Lover

The wife of a Sydney taxi driver accused of murdering her lover has now also been charged in connection with the killing.

Malaysian-born Mohd Shah Saemin, 43, a driver for Sydney’s Malaysian Consulate, was bashed with a hammer and repeatedly stabbed about midnight (AEDT) on Sunday at Leichhardt in Sydney’s inner west.

Two people have now been charged in connection with the death, while a third person has been arrested in Singapore. All are believed to be related.

Just before 10pm (AEDT) on Tuesday detectives investigating Mr Saemin’s death arrested taxi driver Hazairin Iskandar, 55, at his Croydon home. He was later charged with murder.

At Burwood Local Court on Wednesday, Indonesian-born Iskandar chose not to appear before Magistrate Christopher Longley, who formally refused him bail and adjourned the matter to Sydney’s Central Local Court on April 20.

On Wednesday afternoon a 46-year-old woman, who also works for Sydney’s Malaysian Consulate, was arrested at Leichhardt in connection with the same matter.

It is believed she is Iskandar’s wife.

Police on Wednesday night charged the woman with being an accessory after the fact to murder and hindering a police investigation.

She was refused bail to appear in Newtown Local Court on Thursday.

A man known to the Iskandars, believed to be their 20-year-old son, left Australia on an Indonesian-bound flight on Wednesday morning.

Singaporean authorities arrested him on Wednesday evening, police said.

Sydney detectives will seek his extradition on Thursday.

Police initially believed Mr Saemin’s violent death may have been the result of a road rage incident, because his car had been involved in a minor collision with a black sedan shortly beforehand.

Witnesses say two men chased Mr Saemin across the road towards his home and attacked him on the footpath before they fled in a black car, police said.

Despite the efforts of a passerby to stop the attack, and the CPR rendered by police officers, Mr Saemin died.

Sources within the Malaysian Consulate have confirmed Mr Saemin, who was an Australian citizen and had worked at the Bellevue Hill consulate for about three years, was having an affair with Iskandar’s wife, who also works at the consulate.

On Monday, Consul of Malaysia Dr Mohd Nasir Abu Hassan (Mohd Nasir Abu Hassan) described Mr Saemin as a “very dear colleague”, adding he couldn’t imagine how such a tragedy could occur.

Investigations into Mr Saemin’s murder are continuing.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan’s Beshir Says Darfur War is Over

The war in Darfur is over,” Sudanese president Omar al-Beshir said on Wednesday during a speech in the war-torn region.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Greece: 183 Albanians Stopped at Border

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS FEBRUARY 23 — 183 people coming from Albania were stopped and turned back by Greek police while they were illegally attempting to gain entry through the Kakavia borderline. Most of the hopeful immigrants were hidden aboard cars and trucks, while others tried to cross the border on foot. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Accuses Left on Foreigners

Premier says opposition seeks ‘invasion’ for political ends

(ANSA) — Rome, February 24 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday urged his supporters to create an “army of good against evil” and accused the centre-left opposition of seeking “an invasion of foreigners” in a bid to rustle up more votes.

In a videotaped message to his People of Freedom (PdL) party, the premier said his supporters should do more than becoming card-carrying members of the party.

They should become “champions of liberty, an army of good against the army of evil; setting up those who love against those who hate; a grass-roots movement…aimed at backing the government’s actions”.

Lashing out at the centre left, he said it “wants to open the country’s doors to foreigners; it wants an invasion of foreigners because it believes that this can change the voter base which led to the victory of the moderates” in the 2008 general elections.

Berlusconi said he would personally come out to flank centre-right candidates in the campaign for regional elections.

“I’ll make it clear that we have to choose sides: it’s either the left or us”.

Reactions from centre-left politicians were immediate and scathing and even Berlusconi’s key ally, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, distanced himself from Berlusconi’s comments.

“My opinion is 100% not in line with the premier’s and everyone knows that,” said Fini, who has lately been at odds with most of the PdL over his moderate stance on immigration issues and voting rights for immigrants.

Fini also took the premier to task, saying that immigration was not the central issue in the key March 28-29 elections in 13 of the country’s 20 regions.

Anna Finocchiaro, Senate Whip for the opposition Democratic Party (PD) said Berlusconi was “repetitive and boring” and was conjuring up old tricks. “It’s pointless even commenting on these ridiculous statements: the army of good against evil…and this is the supposed statesman who brings prestige to the country?” “Exploiting the immigration issue is shameless. And trying to drum up a few extra votes with this invasion scenario is just grave robbing,” said opposition MP Jean Leonard Touadi, a Congo-born university lecturer and TV immigrant show journalist.

PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani said he was “unimpressed” with Berlusconi’s outburst, saying he was relying on “the same old scenario”.

“I could even write his next campaign speeches: he places himself at the centre, then chooses an enemy, then falsifies his enemy’s stance and comes up with a lot of hot air”.

The premier’s approval rating has slipped recently in the wake of a corruption probe which has involved Guido Bertolaso, the high-profile head of Italy’s civil protection department, and Denis Verdini, national coordinator for his PdL party.

Separately, an arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday for PdL senator Nicola Di Girolamo on charges of money laundering.

Berlusconi told his supporters that transcripts of wiretapped conversations published recently involving Bertolaso — one of Italy’s most popular figures — were just a “heap of mud” because there was “no certainty” that crimes had been committed.

“We’re all being wiretapped. We’re in a police state. It’s barbarous,” said the premier, whose government wants to restrict the use of wiretaps. According to a poll released at the end of January, Berlusconi’s personal approval rating had slipped two percentage points to 48% while one published last week by the left-leaning daily La Repubblica showed it had dipped another two percentage points to 46%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi: Left Wants to Open Doors to Foreigners

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Feb. — “The left wants to open the doors to foreigners. They don’t want immigration, they want an invasion of foreigners because they think that with foreigners they can change the results of the elections”. These were the words of Silvio Berlusconi during the presentation of the initiative “Promoters of freedom”. .

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-France: Harmonise EU Asylum Policies

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, 24 FEB — We are agreed with Italy in taking a joint project to Brussels, to the Commission and to our European partners, for the strengthening of the instruments needed to protect our frontiers in the Mediterranean, so as to render the latter an absolute priority of EU policy on immigration, as well as to state that wéll need to harmonise our asylum policies, progressively and voluntarily”. So said the French minister for immigration, Eric Besson, after meeting with the Italian minister for European Policies, Andrea Ronchi, in Paris. Besson explained that “asylum in Europe cannot be some sort of supermarket” in which every immigrant chooses a country of arrival “based on his nationality and on his statistic possibilities of obtaining asylum”. The French minister then talked of a joint “commitment” with the Italians, the British, the Germans and the Spanish, in order to support “even permanently” Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta because “we do not wish only these four countries to be on the front line of the fight against illegal immigration”. Besson finally stressed the “common analysis and worries” shared by Italy and France on this subject, confirming the common will to “protect frontiers whilst respecting our republican and humanistic heritage”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maroni: EU Contribution is Insufficient

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 24 — The contribution of the EU in the fight against illegal immigration “is not sufficient”, with Italy and other countries in the Mediterranean “forced to do by themselves”. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni repeated his complaint about the scarce commitment of Europe in dealing with the phenomenon which, he underlined is “a problem for the countries of northern Europe as it is for Italy and Greece.” The minister was speaking at the presentation of the results of the “Across Sahara 2” project, the cooperation initiative of Libya and Niger for the management of the borders of immigration, and he repeated that a solution to the problem will be found when “there is a strong common will to deal with it.” “Europe must do more,” he continued, “and tomorrow, on the occasion of the meeting of Interior ministers in Brussels with the new commissioners who will be responsible for security and immigration, we will put forward the issue.” Italy is asking Europe, explained the minister for “a greater effectiveness of Frontex, more resources and a greater involvement of all European countries,” because “it is not possible to think of stemming clandestine activity with police forces alone.” In closing, the minister rejected criticism of Libya for a lack of respect of human rights: “Who says that Libya is not a democratic country? We have to be cautious of making these assessments as today Libya is chairing the UN General Assembly.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ronchi: Speed Up EU Agency for Refugees

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 23 — “It is now necessary to speed up the timeframe for constituting the European Agency for Refugees, a real test case for the solidarity of the 27 EU member countries”, said Minister for European Policies, Andrea Ronchi, at the end of a meeting today in Paris with French Minister for Immigration, Eric Besson, where “Italy and France shared the same concerns about this important problem”. “We are not interested in voluntary policies, binding and shared commitments are what is needed”, added Ronchi, “the Mediterranean must become a test of the credibility of the European Union”. Ronchi also said that he agreed with his Government colleague Roberto Maroni, over the fact that “Europe has done practically nothing, it is immobile” on the issue of illegal immigration. “We expect a lot from the new Commission. A strong political initiative is needed which will give an identity to Europe”, he concluded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Secret Plot to Destroy Britain’s Identity

Of all the issues of concern to the public, immigration is possibly the most explosive — and the one about which the most lies are continuing to be told.

During the period that Labour has been in office, mass immigration has simply changed the face of Britain. The total number of immigrants since 1997 is pushing three million.

Ministers claim that immigration policy has been driven principally to help the economy. They have always denied that they actually set out deliberately to change the ethnic composition of the country.

Well, now we know for a certainty that this is not true. The Government embarked on a policy of mass immigration to change Britain into a multicultural society — and they kept this momentous aim secret from the people whose votes they sought.

Worse still, they did this knowing that it ran directly counter to the wishes of those voters, whose concerns about immigration they dismissed as racist; and they further concealed official warnings that large-scale immigration would bring about significant increases in crime.

The truth about this scandal was first blurted out last October by Andrew Neather, a former Labour Party speechwriter.

He wrote that until the new points-based system limiting foreign workers was introduced in 2008 — in response to increasing public uproar — government policy for the previous eight years had been aimed at promoting mass immigration.

The ‘driving political purpose’ of this policy, wrote Neather, was ‘to make the UK truly multicultural’ — and one subsidiary motivation was ‘to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date’…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Say We Are All Racists

LABOUR dismissed the British public’s widespread opposition to mass immigration as “racism”, a Government document revealed yesterday.

Officials made it clear that public opinion was strongly against relaxing border controls.

But ministers were urged to ignore voters’ “racist” views and press ahead with a secret policy to encourage migrants to flood into Britain. Whitehall experts even proposed a major propaganda campaign to soften up voters in preparation for the mass influx of newcomers.

The details were laid bare in the original draft of a policy document released for the first time under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last night critics accused the Government of snubbing the concerns of British citizens in their deliberate pursuit of a multicultural society.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the population think-tank Migrationwatch UK, said: “This report confirms that ministers deliberately rode roughshod over public opinion in adopting a policy of mass immigration.

“They concealed their real intentions in the hope they would benefit from the immigrant vote without losing their working-class supporters. They are now paying the price.”

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The Government has simply not been telling the truth about its policies on immigration. More and more evidence is now emerging to show that they deliberately planned a big jump in immigration for their own political purposes.”

“Now they are trying to rewrite history to pretend those decisions never happened. Their conduct over all of this has been a complete disgrace.”

Written by staff at the Home Office and Cabinet Office in 2000 in the run-up to the expansion of the European Union into eastern Europe, the report made it clear that voters wanted tougher rather than looser border ­controls.


“It is correct that public opinion favours relatively restrictive policies on immigration,” the document said. But demonstrating thinly disguised contempt for much of the British public, the document said that this opposition was linked to racist ­attitudes.

It said: “Recent research shows that anti-immigrant sentiment is closely correlated with racism rather than economic motives. The most negative attitudes are found among those who have relatively little direct contact with migrants but see them as a threat.”

Ministers also ignored warnings that immigration would lead to an explosion in organised crime including trafficking in drugs, illegal migrants and prostitutes. “Migration has opened up new opportunities for organised crime,” the report insisted.

The document, titled Going With The Flow: Managing Migration in the 21st Century, went on to urge the Government to manipulate public opinion on the issue.

“A new approach to migration policy would need to be not only accompanied by, but underpinned by, a clear strategy for public opinion and public debate,” the report argued.

“Government has tended to assume that negative public opinion on migration is a given that is beyond its control. In fact, research (and common sense) suggests that past governments have had a significant influence on public opinion.”

It added: “On other issues, government has been strategic and proactive in addressing public opinion, it could do so on migration.” The document even suggested the more migrants that moved to the UK, the more the British people would come to accept them.

It said: “Education and people’s personal exposure to migrants make them less likely to be anti-migrant.” The document went on to be heavily edited before being officially published in 2001, with all references to public opposition stripped out.

References to migration opening up “new opportunities” for organised crime were also expunged from the final version. The row over Labour’s secret immigration policy erupted last year when former ministerial adviser Andrew Neather admitted the Government had a “driving political purpose” to spread multiculturalism in Britain.

He said ministers had deliberately set out to use immigration to undermine Labour’s opponents and “rub the Right’s noses in diversity”. Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas last night rejected the criticism. He said: “This report confirms there was no open-door policy on migration.

“It makes quite clear that migration is not a substitute for Government policies on skills, education and training of British citizens, which the Government has invested in over the past decade. The Home Secretary at the time was also criticised for changes to the immigration policy being too tough.”

“We have tightened them still further. Our new flexible points-based system gives us greater control of those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain need can come. Britain’s borders are stronger than ever before.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


Diana West: Jackboots and Junk Science

I’m driving along, I turn on the radio , a gravelly voice with an unplaceable Northeastern accent comes on …

“…and during that period with Nazism and fascism growing — a real danger to the United States and Democratic countries all over the world — there were people in this Congress, in the British parliament saying, ‘don’t worry! Hitler is not real! It’ll disappear! We don’t have to be prepared to take it on….’“

My gosh, who is that talking so forthrightly about the failure of the West to face up to the existential threat of Islam — on AM drive-time radio?

Darn that dream. The speaker was Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s “independent” senator, and he was talking not about Islamic apologists who deny the perils of Islamization and the spread of liberty-strangling sharia (Islamic law), but about those of us who have by now figured out that global warming — sorry, climate-change — is a lot of bunk based on a noxious brew of cooked scientific data and warmed-over Karl Marx…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Google Slammed for Suggesting ‘Smelly Arabs’

New York, NY — You’re a white Christian living in a developed Western country and your neighbor is an Arab Muslim. It’s not a rare setting.

Once a year you notice that for an entire month your neighbor doesn’t eat or drink during the day. You hear that this is known as the month of Ramadan. You are curious and worldly and you would like to know more about your neighbor’s culture and religion. You may not feel comfortable asking your neighbor. So you resort to the next best thing — Google! — that wonderful tool that helps you trawl through monstrous masses of online information to find the most esoteric information out there.

You may not differentiate between Arabs as an ethnic group and Islam as a religion. You start punching in the words “why do Arabs…”

And here you will be baffled, amused or horrified at what happens next.

The ‘Google Suggest’ feature, a labor saving device designed to predict queries will automatically suggest completing your query with ‘why do Arabs stink?’ or ‘why do Arabs have big noses?’

The suggestions are not programmed by Google but rather are based on an algorithm that takes the frequency of Google queries into account.

Other top suggestions yielded by typing, “Why do Arabs” in Google’s search include,

Why do Arabs and Jews fight

Why do Arabs own gas stations

Why do Arabs lose wars

Why do Arabs throw rocks

It is not hard to understand why Arab interest groups such as the London-based Arab Media Watch (AMW) have started to remonstrate against the suggestions.

“What’s worrying is that these [suggestions] are based on the overall popularity of searches, so if you may not have been looking for that, many other people have,” Guy Gabriel, advisor to AMW told The Media Line. “We’re in a day and age where the Internet is a tool by which we break down barriers and learn more about different communities across the world so it’s alarming to notice on Google that this isn’t the case as it stands.”

The organization advocating fair and objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media says Google is “failing in its aim to avoid offending a large audience of users,” and said the feature not only perpetuates stereotypes but also highlights a worrying trend among Google users.

“I’m not suggesting that Google are aware of this and they are refusing to do anything about it,” Gabriel said. “What it does mean is that they have pledged to try and prevent it in cases where they know about it. Now that it has been flagged, they are in a position to do something about it.”

Similar queries on other ethnic groups suggest that Google users think Jews have long noses and are rude and cheap, Asians smell bad and have bad teeth and Chinese people have bad breath.

AMW claimed that while searches regarding other ethnic groups produced a similar range of pejorative or stereotypical suggestions, queries about Arabs yielded more offensive results than other groups, and a search using Jews produced noticeably far less.

In searching ‘Why do Jews’, for example, two pejorative suggestions were raised out of a list of 10: ‘why do Jews have big noses’ and ‘why are Jews hated’. Remaining suggestions were more informative, such as ‘why do Jews celebrate Passover.’

“It’s not to say Arabs should feel singled out,” Gabriel said. “There is invective against different people. We’re drawing attention to this fact.”

But Jeff Jarvis, a media expert, blogger and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism warned against regulating the predictive feature.

“The reflex of censorship and regulation of speech is what I find offensive,” he told The Media Line. “For better or worse, Google is merely reflecting back what people are asking and saying. The result is generally brilliant — this is the insight that powers all of Google — but sometimes unfortunate.”

“If Google puts itself in the position of censoring anything that anyone could find offensive anywhere, then we will be left with a least common denominator of nothing,” Jarvis argued. “That would be the greater tragedy.”

“I suggest that the issue here is not Google but is the larger question of cultural knowledge,” he continued. “I suggest that the answer is not to retreat behind complaints but instead to publish more and connect more people with each other to gain greater understanding and muffle the sound of the bad with the sound of the good.”

A Google spokesperson told The Media Line that suggestions in the Google homepage search box were “based on neutral algorithms, to help them formulate the query, reduce spelling errors, and save keystrokes by choosing from the list of suggestions.”

Google said the ‘Google Suggest’ feature uses a combination of signals to rank its predictions such as overall popularity of various searches.

“We try not to suggest queries that could be offending to a large audience of users,” Google said in a statement. “This includes explicit porn words as well as queries that lead to porn sites, dirty words, hate and violence terms.”

“We do remove certain clearly pornographic or hateful or malicious slur terms from Suggest,” the spokesperson continued. “We find that by providing suggestions upfront to the user, we can help make their search experience more efficient and convenient.”

“We are continuously improving the Google search experience,” the spokesperson said. “We have no future plans to announce at this time.”

The spokesperson referred users to a page where requests can be filed to remove content from the Google Suggest index.

Google Suggest, intended to be a labor saving device is described by Google as a tool to help rest your fingers, catch spelling mistakes, save time and automatically repeat a search that has been made on your computer in the past.

For example, if you type ‘New York’, or even just ‘New Y’ it opens a window suggesting New York Times, New York Post, New York University and New York Yankees. You just need to scroll down and pick your query

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Whistleblower Site Cryptome.Org Shutdown for Leaking Microsoft Surveillance Guide

Whistleblower site Cryptome’s ISP, Network Solutions, has just shut down for posting a leaked copy of Microsoft’s 22-page guide detailing surveillance services Microsoft will perform for law enforcement agencies on its various online platforms; Microsoft attacked the post under the guise of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Network Solutions has also locked the domain, preventing it from being transferred to another ISP.

[Return to headlines]