Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100506

Financial Crisis
»Dow Plunges Amid Europe Lending Worries
»France to ‘Freeze’ Public Expenditure in Next 3 Years
»Greece: Banks Strike Over Deaths of Colleagues
»Greece: Parliament Approves Austerity Plan
»Greek Gov’t Says Bailout is Only Hope
»Merkel Says EU’s Future at Stake in Greek Crisis
»Oakland Faces Pension Costs, Higher Taxes
»San Diego Sues Its Pension System
»Spain: Zapatero-Rajoy Accord, OK to Banks Merger
»The Great Depression: Greeks Struggle With Sick-Man Status
»World Stocks Down Again as ECB Holds Fire
»Bloomberg: Times Square Bomb Plot Shows City Needs Anti-Terror Funding, Better Gun-Control Laws
»Documents Reveal AT&T, Verizon, Others, Thought About Dropping Employer-Sponsored Benefits
»Emergency Landing Made at BWI for Unruly Flyer
»Evidence Mounts for Taliban Role in Bomb Plot
»Hall of Fame Linebacker Taylor Accused of Rape
»Obama ‘Internet Czar’ Linked to ‘Net Neutrality’ Effort
»Passenger Questioned After Flight Lands at BWI
»Principal Bans U.S. Flag T-Shirts on Mexican Holiday
»Sources: Shahzad Had Contact With Awlaki, Taliban Chief, And Mumbai Massacre Mastermind
Europe and the EU
»After Minarets: Swiss Target the Burka
»Cannes: ‘Hors La Loi’, Appeal for Freedom of Creation
»Elections Likely to Leave UK More Eurosceptical
»Greens Say Lopatka ‘Has Haider Virus’
»India — Muslim Preacher: Christians Have the Right to Preach Their Faith in Muslim Countries
»Italy: Verdini Under Investigation for Graft
»Italy: Ex-Lazio Governor Storace Found Guilty
»Italy: ‘Violent’ Movement on Italian Bond Market
»Italy: Moroccan Immigrant Arrested for ‘Beating Children’
»Scajola Resigns to Defend Himself — Berlusconi Praises “Sense of State”
»Spain: Savings Banks, Mergers and Integrations
»Sweden: Imam Charged With Sex Offences
»UK: ‘Horror Story’ For Thousands as Cancer Patients Are Denied ‘Miracle’ Drug on the NHS
»UK: ‘This is Your Eid Present’: What Attacker Told Muslim Woman as He Wrapped Her in a Carpet and Set Her Alight
»UK: Caught on Camera: BNP Candidate Punches and Kicks Asians After Being Spat at on Campaign Trail
»UK: Judge Lifts Nightly Curfew for Two Drug-Dealing Suspects… After They Ask if They Can Go Fishing
»UK: Judge Frees Burglar Facing Jail Term… So He Can Go Home to Look After His Staffie Bull Terrier
»UK: The Council Snoopers Sizing Up Your Garden for a ‘Tax Database’
»UKIP Candidate Nigel Farage Pulled Alive From Plane Crash Wreckage After Election Banner Catches in Tail Fin
»Vatican: Faith Weakened Because Priests “Sanctify” Little
»Kosovo: NATO Worried, Macedonia Border, Arms Discovered
Mediterranean Union
»Italy: Meeting in Naples on EU Policy in the Area
North Africa
»Egypt: No to ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ Ban, Writers Union
»Egypt Mufti Says Al-Azhar Main Point of Reference for Muslim
Israel and the Palestinians
»Corruption: “Witch Hunt Against Me”, Olmert
»Gaza: PNA Police Spokesman, Soon Fatah-Hamas Agreement
»Obama Administration Has Been Working for Months on Plan to Force Israel to Give Up Its Nukes
»PNA Police: Hard Work But Security Improved
Middle East
»Iraq: SAS Defied Mod to Rescue Two of Its Men Held Hostage in Iraq as Top Commanders ‘Prepared to Quit’ Over Ban on Mission
»Tehran: More Arrests of Iranian Activists and Dissidents
»Black Boxes Record Fifth Voice in Tupolev Cockpit
South Asia
»Bangladesh: For the First Time, Six Young Men Convicted for Sexual Harassment in Public
Far East
»Japan: The Dress That Turns Into a Coca Cola Machine to Ward Off Attackers
Sub-Saharan Africa
»How to Deal With Pirates, Russian-Style: Special Forces Storm Tanker Carrying £33m of Oil After Capture by Somali Gang
»Russia — China: Russian Warship Frees Tanker Hijacked by Somali Pirates
»Cyprus Tops Political Asylum List
»Illegal Immigration is a Happy Invasion
»Obama Vows to ‘Begin’ Amnesty Push
»Spain: 50 Rescued, Including Women and Children
»Sweden Increases Refugee Forecast Again
»Video: AZ Immigration Law Author: Obama is ‘Trying to Stir Up Racial Anxiety for Political Gain’
Culture Wars
»Girl’s ‘Forced’ Abortion Blamed on Government ‘Death Panel’

Financial Crisis

Dow Plunges Amid Europe Lending Worries

The Dow plunged Thursday amid buzz in the market that European banks have halted lending.

One trader, on the condition of anonymity, said he heard fixed income desks in Europe shut down early because there was no liquidity — basically European banks are halting lending right now.

“This is similar to what took place pre-Lehman Brothers,” the trader said.

The Dow was down more than 900 points at one point, or more than 8 percent, before pulling back to the 600-700 point range.

Under current, New York Stock Exchange rules, if the market falls ten percent or more between 2:30 and 3:00 pm ET, trading is halted for 30 minutes.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also sharply lower. The CBOE volatility index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, was above 35, or up more than 40 percent. The VIX ended last week around 22.

This comes after the Dow and the S&P 500 suffered their biggest two-day declines since Feb. 3-4, while the Nasdaq saw its biggest two-day decline since August of 2009 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Market gains for the year have been cut to about 4 percent across the board.

[Return to headlines]

France to ‘Freeze’ Public Expenditure in Next 3 Years

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 6 — France wants to ‘freeze’ its public expenditure in the coming three years to reduce the State deficit. The news was announced in a statement by French Premier Francois Fillon. In the statement, released after a government meeting on the reduction of the deficit, Fillon confirmed that public expenditure, with the exception of interests on debt and pension payments, will be frozen “for the coming three years” (2011, 2012 e 2013). Fillon has also asked the Ministers to “make sure that no more is spent than the planned level” in the budget law. In this context, the Premier confirmed that one in two civil servants will not be replaced after his or her retirement. “Expenses for the correct functioning of the State will fall by 10% in three years, with a 5% reduction from 2011”, Fillon added. The State deficit is only one of the three components of the public deficit, together with welfare and local authorities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Banks Strike Over Deaths of Colleagues

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 6 — Greek banks are today on strike for 24 hours in mourning and protest against the death of three of their colleagues during violent clashes yesterday in Athens. Three employees of the Marfin Egnatia Bank, two women and one man, were killed by asphyxiation yesterday in a fire in a building caused by several molotov bombs thrown by unidentified people, who most likely belong to the anarchic movement. The tragic event happened yesterday on the fringes of the large-scale demonstrations against the austerity plan agreed by the Government with the EU and the IMF. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Parliament Approves Austerity Plan

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 6 — The Greek parliament has today approved the austerity plan, with help from votes cast by the government majority and the far-right party LAOS. There were 172 votes in favour, 121 against and 3 abstentions. 296 of the 300 deputies in the single chamber assembly were present. The former Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis, from the centre-right New Democracy (ND) party, voted in favour whereas the party’s other deputies refused the plan. Three deputies from the governing PASOK party abstained, with the Prime Minister Giorgios Papandreou excluding them from the parliamentary group. Before the vote, the PM had appealed: “either we vote and apply the agreement (with the EU and IMF) or we condemn Greece to bankruptcy” and had called for “responsibility” from deputies. The main parties — ND, the communist KKE party and the radical left-wing Syryza party — all voted against the plan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Gov’t Says Bailout is Only Hope

Meeting under the shadow of three deaths during Wednesday’s general strike, the Greek parliament debates harsh austerity measures that would secure a lifeline for the battered economy. Prime Minister Papandreou says saying ‘No’ to the measures would condemn the nation to bankruptcy

Greece’s only hope of avoiding bankruptcy is to take money from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, the government said Thursday during a heated Parliamentary debate overshadowed by the deaths of three people during protests against spending cuts.

Greece has to impose harsh austerity measures, including slashing salaries and pensions and increasing taxes, in order to get money from the 110 billion euros ($140 billion) three-year package.

“ Either we vote and implement the deal, or we condemn Greece to bankruptcy,” Prime Minister George Papandreou said ahead of a parliamentary vote on the austerity measures.

The rescue loans are aimed at containing the debt crisis and keeping Greece’s troubles from spreading to other countries with vulnerable state finances such as Portugal and Spain. The euro has sagged as those countries have seen debt downgrades, falling below $1.28 on Thursday; late last year it was as high as $1.51.

The spending cuts have sparked outrage in Greece, with an estimated 100,000 people spilling onto the streets of Athens during a nationwide general strike Wednesday to protest the measures. Demonstrations turned violent as man and two women — one of whom was pregnant — died when they became trapped in a burning bank torched by protesters.

The bank workers’ union, OTOE, called a strike for Thursday to protest the loss of life, condemning the violence but saying the deaths were the result of the government’s austerity measures. Many banks in central Athens remained open despite the call, however.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said the government had no choice but to impose the austerity measures, which were being rushed through Parliament.

He said the draft bill was introduced as urgent legislation because the country was two weeks away from default, with 8.5 billion euros worth of bonds maturing on May 19.

“The state’s coffers don’t have that money,” Papaconstantinou said. “Because today … the country can’t borrow it from the international market. And because the only way for the country to avoid bankruptcy and suspension of payments is to take the money from our European partners and the IMF.”

But in order to receive the money, Greece must agree to a three-year austerity program, he added. “The government has the responsibility of implementing the most difficult financial measures ever taken in this country. It is a program which requires effort and sacrifice, and obliges us morally and politically to succeed,” Papaconstantinou said, describing the rescue package as “our country’s last hand.”

“We are asking for loans from countries that also have deficits and from countries that are also the subject of speculative attacks. And for those to be granted, we must persuade them that we are putting our house in order,” he minister said.

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

Merkel Says EU’s Future at Stake in Greek Crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that the Greek debt crisis had put the fate of the Europe Union and Germany’s role within the bloc on the line.

“The future of Europe and the future of Germany within Europe is at stake,” Merkel said in parliament in a debate on Berlin’s unpopular decision to lend €22.4 billion ($29.1 billion) in taxpayers’ money to Greece.

Merkel defended the aid package and said Europe was looking to Berlin for leadership out of the crisis.

“No decision is possible or will be possible without us or against us,” she said. “All of Europe is looking to Germany.”

She also rejected accusations her government had dragged its feet over the Greek bailout, saying providing aid before Athens had announced extra austerity measures would have been counter-productive.

“We would never have got the necessary programme from Athens if Germany had approved the aid earlier without sufficient guarantees, as nearly everyone was demanding,” Merkel said.

“A good European is not necessarily the one who helps quickly. Much more it is someone who sticks to European treaties and national laws and who makes sure that the stability of the eurozone and of all of Europe sustains no damage.”

But she admitted the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact governing member states’ budget deficits and debt had to be changed as a “lesson” of the crisis.

“The task of my government, and all members of this house today, is to make sure that this stability pact is adhered to, to defend it and to further develop it, as a lesson of this crisis,” Merkel said.

On Sunday, eurozone nations agreed to offer a loan package to Greece worth €110 billion over three years, with the IMF providing €30 billion. Merkel’s cabinet signed off on Berlin’s share on Monday and the parliament is expected to back the deal this week.

But Germany has been accused at home and abroad of exacerbating the crisis by not agreeing sooner.

“You drifted around like a windsock. Then in retrospect you call that your strategy,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier, parliamentary head of the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), told Merkel in parliament on Wednesday.

“Your double game has cost us an enormous amount of trust and respect in Europe,” said Steinmeier, who until last year was foreign minister.

Merkel was speaking as special legislation needed before the aid can be disbursed got its first reading with the aim of it hitting the statute books on Friday. It may then be challenged in Germany’s top court.

Facing strong public opposition, parliament is still expected to approve the bill despite grumblings from the SPD. Merkel said Germany’s reputation in in the 27-nation bloc was on the line.

“We are defending our currency,” she said.

Merkel said there should be tougher penalties against member states that break the rules, suggesting that Germany was ready for a fight with its EU partners to push through the changes.

“We are at a crossroads. The Greek crisis has brought it home to us in drastic fashion what a lackadaisical budget and financial policy can lead to,” she said.

“Just as the government of Helmut Kohl had to overcome strong resistance in 1997, our political generation also has to overcome strong resistance today. Germany, as Europe’s biggest economic power, has a special responsibility.”

Axel Weber, head of the German central bank, the Bundesbank, told parliament he supported such changes in order to create “incentives for solid budget policy.”

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

Oakland Faces Pension Costs, Higher Taxes

Oakland voters will likely be asked in November to approve higher taxes to halve a $42 million deficit, but even if they agree, the city will face an even deeper crisis within months.

Ballooning pension costs will push the city’s projected deficit to $58.7 million by July 2011.

The biggest portion of that budget shortfall is a debt payment of $43.9 million due July 1, 2011, to the old Police and Fire Retirement System. The payment would be more than 10 percent of the roughly $400 million city budget.

The looming crisis prompted great concern at last week’s meeting from two council members, Pat Kernighan and Ignacio De La Fuente. When the council refused to ask staff to prepare a report on the impending budget woes, the typically mild-mannered Kernighan did not restrain herself.

“If that doesn’t happen, you guys are crazy and irresponsible!” she exclaimed.

Kernighan said voters will not approve an $18.2 million public safety parcel tax, which would require a two-thirds vote, if they understand that the budget problem will only worsen later.

The council is considering placing the parcel tax and a $2.4 million utility users tax, which would require a majority vote, on November’s ballot to help reduce the $42 million deficit projected for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

San Diego Sues Its Pension System

Workers may help pay for investment losses

San Diego City Charter

“The city shall contribute annually an amount substantially equal to that required of the employees for normal retirement allowances, as certified by the actuary, but shall not be required to contribute in excess of that amount, except in the case of financial liabilities accruing under any new retirement plan or revised retirement plan because of past services of the employees.”

SAN DIEGO — The city of San Diego is suing its retirement system in a dispute regarding how much financial responsibility, if any, city workers should bear for a pension deficit topping $2 billion.

If successful, the lawsuit could lead to city workers helping pay for the pension fund’s investment losses rather than the current practice of having taxpayers make up for any deficiencies. The potential taxpayer savings have been estimated at $40 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The lawsuit is based on City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s interpretation of the city charter. He says that document, essentially a city constitution, states that the city and its employees shall contribute “substantially equal” amounts to pension obligations each year.

Labor leaders strongly disagree with Goldsmith and say his theory runs contrary to how past city attorneys have interpreted the charter for decades. They fear that Goldsmith’s reading could result in lower-level workers being hit with an extra $4,000 bill for their pensions in years when investments slump.

The City Council unanimously approved the lawsuit in closed session last week, and Goldsmith filed it Monday in Superior Court.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero-Rajoy Accord, OK to Banks Merger

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 5 — Flexibility of capitalization and halving of the presence of political power in Savings Banks. The restructuring of the Spanish financial system, along with the Greek bail-out plan, was one of the major issues on the table at the meeting today, at the Moncloa, between Socialist (PSOE) Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and leader of Partido Popular (PP), Mariano Rajoy, who after the meeting appeared in separate press conferences. One of the fundamental aspects for economic recovery and to restore market trust, said Zapatero, is to “complete the financial system restructuring, which involves an important part of the savings banks” and which has been “planned through the Ordinary Bank Restructuring Fund (FROB), approved in June 2009”. Government and opposition seek an agreement to facilitate the amalgamation processes and to unblock the situation of cross-vetoes between governments in the various autonomous regions, orbiting around the PSOE or the PP, which have representatives in the governing bodies of the financial institutes. The objective, said Rajoy, is to ensure that all the financial bodies wishing to do so may access the FROB by next June 30. Secondly, to pass a reform of the savings bank regulatory law, so as to “create a stable legal framework, to guarantee the independence and transparency of management bodies” and to provide for participatory shares with political rights, in order that the financial institutes may access the markets in search of investors. Less savings banks but stronger ones, also in view of the proposal for reform presented by the Basle Committee. Out of the current 45, 18 are already immersed in restructuring processes, fusions or “cold virtual” integrations within the Institutional System of Protection; whereas the Spanish Confederation of Saving Banks (CECA) has proposed to halve the political weight in the governing bodies of the financial institutes from the current maximum of 50% down to 25%. Zapatero has recalled that currently a third of the banks has already carried out integration processes; a third is in “a situation which does not oblige them to merger processes”; and, lastly, a third must be restructured and here is where political and institutional efforts must be concentrated, to guarantee solvency and avoid traumatic restructurings. The Socialist Premier recalled that the financial bodies and autonomies themselves must proceed along the road to restructuring: “The government has set the regulatory framework and resources for June” and has asked the Bank of Spain to monitor so that the amalgamation processes are solvent, but “the banks are not under its jurisdiction”. So as to understand what is at stake, it must be considered that in 1986 the Banks recorded 67 billion euros in earnings, which in 2006 were in excess of 871 billion. Singularity and Spanish miracle were terms employed to describe a phenomenon which rocketed during the last 20 years, and which today represents 50% of the Spanish financial sector, with industrial participations in listed bodies, criticized by the banks for their risk exposure due to this policy. According to data from the Spanish Mortgage Association, after the property demise, the banks were exposed for 166 billion euros in credits to real estate promoters and builders. The banks’ current legal structure, with participatory shares without political rights and which impedes the control of over 5% of issued shares, makes them less attractive in the eyes of investors. For this reason, ways to facilitate the placing of shares on the market are being sought, without altering the nature of the model based on the ‘Social Works’. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Great Depression: Greeks Struggle With Sick-Man Status

By Björn Hengst in Athens

They’ve emptied their bank accounts, abandoned vacations and started taking the bus. Now, they fear for their jobs: The Greeks bemoan the difficult crisis that has taken over their country. Above all, they feel humiliated by Germany.

Ilias Lestaris likes to send his customers out into the great wide world: Thailand, Mauritius, India, Morocco. Right now, though, he’d be happy if any of his Greek compatriots were thinking about travelling.

The 65-year-old’s telephone has been ominously silent for days, and his office in central Athens has seen few customers walk through its doors. Instead of booking trips, Lestaris spends his time looking at the map of the world on the wall, at his computer monitor and smoking Karelia cigarettes.

Lestaris sold his last package vacation the week before last: three days for a couple in Lesbos, that’s it. “It is total stagnation, nothing is moving,” he says. He also has low-priced vacation packages — a bus to Istanbul, seven days half-board for €390 — but there are dozens of spots still available.

Lestaris has been in business for a long time, but hasn’t seen such a slump in travel bookings in decades. He can barely cover the rent of his office with current revenue. Lestaris has two words for his present attitude towards life and business. Uncertainty is one. The other: rage.

What angers Lestaris is that Greek citizens now have to take the fall for the false deficit statistics fabricated by the previous government. It also hurts him that Greece is now widely seen by other EU countries as a nation of lazy people who earn a lot of money, squander it quickly and rely on outside support to stave off national bankruptcy. He himself has paid into a pension fund for 37 years and receives only €617 per month after deductions. “Tell that to Frau Merkel,” he tells a German visitor.

Although the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have agreed to float Greece a €110 billion ($145 billion) loan over the next three years so the country can avoid bankruptcy, feelings of self-worth among the Greeks have fallen precipitously. In particular, Greeks were appalled by Merkel’s stalling and reluctance prior to the bailout agreement reached last weekend.

Sarkozy Celebrates the Greeks — Merkel Could Let Them Hang

“Angela Merkel? No, Thanks,” the Greek daily To Vima recently wrote on its front page. The paper also printed a poll ranking international politicians by favorability. In first place was French President Nicolas Sarkozy with 76.6 percent of Greeks polled saying they approved of him. In March, Sarkozy said that France would stand by Greece should the need arise. Following Sarkozy was Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (73.7 percent) and US President Barack Obama (68.2 percent). Merkel brought up the rear, with just 18.4 percent of Greeks surveyed having a positive opinion of her.

Even worse for Merkel, more people, 32.9 percent, found Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan more favorable. Erdogan is the leader of Greece’s arch enemy — hardly a vote of confidence for Germany.

Elena Spilotis, a 39-year-old who works in store that sells women’s bags in the tony Athens neighborhood of Kolonaki, is more diplomatic in her dislike of Merkel, saying that she was very surprised by the results. Greece is the cradle of European culture, Spilotis says. “Has Frau Merkel forgotten that?”

Every move made by Berlin is closely monitored among Greeks. Many media outlets here picked up on the German business daily Handelsblatt’s listing of those who buy Greek bonds. The newspaper has called for Germans to buy Greek government bonds in order to support the heavily indebted state as a sign of joint responsibility “even under indisputable financial risk.”

Jürgen Grossmann, the CEO of German energy giant RWE, supported the paper’s call to arms and wants to buy €100,000 ($130,000 ) worth of Greek bonds. Grossmann was honored by the conservative newspaper Kathimerini with a large photo.

Will Greece Be Able to Deal with the Austerity Measures?

But what does the future hold for the country? Some economists doubt that Greece will be able to cope with the rigid austerity measures Athens has imposed. And they also expect the recession to worsen as sinking salaries and rising taxes take their toll on the domestic economy.

At the beginning of 2010, the country already agreed on an initial package of austerity measures, including one that raises sales tax from 19 percent to 21 percent. The measures have already had an effect. Greeks are consuming less, and retail outlets are scrambling to boost sales using rebates and special promotions. For example, the Kamoulakos fashion boutique is offering a free purse with every purchase over €70 ($91). And the number of empty storefronts is growing. That is increasingly the case even on Emou Street, Athens’ main upscale shopping boulevard. Several of the glass storefronts are plastered with signs reading “Enoikiazetai” — “For Rent.” For years, such a thing would have been unthinkable.

“Now I don’t buy blouses, even when I’m in the mood,” says Marianna M., a 34-year-old saleswoman who has had to cancel her vacation plans. And since the government’s most recent packet of saving measures includes a 10 percent increase in the gas tax, she’s also chosen to no longer drive to work and to buy a monthly bus pass instead. She’s also worried about whether she can hold on to her job in a cosmetics store. “We have fewer customers these days,” she says.

Hiding Money at Home

Many Greeks are worried that things might get a lot worse. For a while now, they haven’t placed any trust in the banks, either. In recent months, businesses and private individuals have withdrawn roughly €10 billion from Greek banks, preferring to either hide their money at home or transfer it to foreign banks.

There are also more and more protests on the streets. On Tuesday, civil servants went on strike, and demonstrating teachers even clashed with police officers in from of the parliament building in Athens. When protesters started pelting the police with rocks and bottles, the latter responded with teargas. Not far away, roughly 200 communist union members launched an eye-catching protest by unfurling two enormous banners off the side of the Acropolis reading “Peoples of Europe Rise Up” in English and Greek.

Some of the security forces are noticeably short-tempered. One police officer seized the camera of a foreign journalist and forced him to erase any photographs including police officers, claiming they were illegal. “Erase it or we’ll take you in; those are your options,” the officer threatened.

For now, it looks like it will be a while before things calm down in Greece. Wednesday’s general strike is expected to be the largest seen in recent weeks.

With reporting by Ferry Batzoglu

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

World Stocks Down Again as ECB Holds Fire

Euro plunges again on debt crisis fears

LONDON (AP) — World stocks slid again Thursday as investors worried that Greece’s debt crisis could spread to other countries even though the European Central Bank’s chief downplayed the risk of market contagion.

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 index tumbled 80.94 points, or 1.5 percent, to close at 5,260.99 while Germany’s DAX fell 50.19 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,908.26. The CAC-40 in France was 79.92 points, or 2.2 percent, lower at 3,556.11.

No relief was provided by Wall Street — the Dow Jones industrial average was down 95.68 points, or 0.9 percent, at 10,772.44 around midday New York time while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 12.35 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,153.52.

With protests in Athens against new austerity measures culminating Wednesday in the death of three people, markets are worried that Greece could fall out of control or that its fiscal problems could affect other weak countries such as Portugal and Spain.

There were hopes that the European Central Bank would announce new measures — such as buying government bonds — to ease the debt crisis engulfing the eurozone but none were forthcoming.

Instead, Jean-Claude Trichet put the blame for the crisis firmly on the shoulders of Europe’s governments for tolerating lax budgetary controls for years — and before the financial crisis exploded in late 2007.

Though he insisted that the situations in Portugal and Spain were not in the same ball park as Greece’s, investors remain unconvinced that the debt crisis won’t spread. In addition, they are skeptical about the Greek government’s ability to push through the necessary austerity measures required in return for the euro110 billion it is getting from its 15 partners in the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund given the level of civil unrest.

“Given rising speculation this week over potential ECB intervention in the government bond market, the fact that this option was not even discussed among governing council members may have come as a disappointment to the still highly stressed financial markets,” said Frederik Ducrozet, eurozone economist at Credit Agricole.

“Supportive comments about the situation in other deficit countries such as Portugal or Spain did not prevent the euro from falling further,” he added.

By late-afternoon London time, the euro was down 1 percent at $1.2694, just up on the 14-month low of $1.2687 its struck earlier.

Meanwhile, traders in London were cautious ahead of the general election result later.

The pound took a battering, dropping 1.4 percent to $1.4887, as investors fretted that the outcome will be unclear — there’s nothing the markets hate more than uncertainty.

“Failure to see a clear result by tomorrows open could easily pave the way for further volatility ahead of the weekend break,” said Anthony Grech, market strategist at IG Index.

Asian stocks had also tumbled earlier, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average diving 3.3 percent to 10,695.69 for its biggest one-day fall in over a year while China’s Shanghai benchmark sank 4.1 percent. Japanese markets were closed Monday through Wednesday for holidays.

South Korea’s Kospi dropped 2 percent to 1,684.71, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng retreated 1 percent to 20,133.41, Australia’s benchmark lost 2.2 percent and Indonesia sank 2 percent in a regionwide rout. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, India, Malaysia and Thailand also slid.

The weaker euro hurt Japanese companies who do significant business in Europe. Canon Inc. was down 3.3 percent, and rival camera maker Nikon Corp. fell 3.1 percent.

Financial issues declined across Asia, with Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. down 4.3 percent and South Korea’s KB Financial Group Inc. tumbling 4.6 percent.

Oil prices extended losses from the day before. Benchmark crude for June delivery fell $1.11 to $78.86 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $2.77 to settle at $79.97 a barrel on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]


Bloomberg: Times Square Bomb Plot Shows City Needs Anti-Terror Funding, Better Gun-Control Laws

Calling it “common sense,” Bloomberg also called for closing the “terror gap” with a federal law that would “block sales of guns and explosives to those on the terror watch lists.”

That was quickly blasted by the Republicans on the panel.

“I believe my right to own a gun shouldn’t be infringed because some nut is going to take a gun and use it wrongfully,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

But Hizzoner fired back, “If society decides that these people are too dangerous to get on an airplane with other people, it’s probably appropriate to look very hard before you let them buy a gun.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Documents Reveal AT&T, Verizon, Others, Thought About Dropping Employer-Sponsored Benefits

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama’s statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we’ll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America’s employers would remain the backbone of the nation’s health care system.

Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. Amazingly, the corporate documents that prove this point became public because of a different set of unintended consequences: they told a story far different than the one the politicians who demanded them expected.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Emergency Landing Made at BWI for Unruly Flyer

[video report at link]

An unruly passenger causes a Continental Express jet to make an emergency landing at BWI.

Captain Mike Perry reports around 6:30 p.m. Thursday County police and fire marshals were requested to respond to the airport for an unruly passenger on the Continental Express jet.

At this point, it is not clear whether the flight originated from BWI or was en route.

Passengers on the flight had to be deplaned as officials and a dog boarded the plane.

There’s no further information on what the passenger may have done.

Stay with WJZ.COM for updates to this developing story.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Evidence Mounts for Taliban Role in Bomb Plot

Investigators probing possible financial backing from militant group

WASHINGTON — American officials said Wednesday that it was very likely that a radical group once thought unable to attack the United States had played a role in the bombing attempt in Times Square, elevating concerns about whether other militant groups could deliver at least a glancing blow on American soil.

Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hall of Fame Linebacker Taylor Accused of Rape

51-year-old former New York Giants great allegedly commits crime in hotel

SUFFERN, N.Y. — Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was arrested Thursday in connection with a reported rape in the New York City suburbs, police said. The victim reportedly was a 15-year-old girl.

Ramapo Detective Lt. Brad Weidel said the former New York Giants linebacker had not been formally charged, but that police were investigating a reported rape that occurred earlier Thursday at a hotel in Montebello.

According to, the victim was underage and was beaten during the attack. Taylor was charged with third-degree rape, the web site reported. Police said they would hold a news conference Thursday afternoon. They did not immediately respond to questions about the circumstances of the arrest and whether Taylor, 51, had a lawyer.

Taylor was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1999 and competed in ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” last year. He had a highly publicized struggle with drug addiction and has had multiple legal run-ins in retirement.

A quick, fierce and athletic linebacker who redefined his position, Taylor anchored the Giants’ defense and led New York to Super Bowls titles in 1987 and 1991. He was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

A 10-time Pro Bowler, he was the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1986 and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, 1982 and 1986. He recorded 132.5 sacks, which doesn’t included the 9.5 sacks in 1981 when the statistic wasn’t official.

In 2001, Taylor was convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia in New Jersey. The conviction stemmed from the September 1998 discovery in a hotel room of a butane torch and other materials commonly used to smoke crack.

In 1996 and 1997, he was arrested in South Carolina and Florida on drug charges. In those cases, he either admitted his guilt or agreed to enter a pretrial intervention program.

In 2000, he drew five years of federal probation for filing false tax returns and for tax evasion.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Obama ‘Internet Czar’ Linked to ‘Net Neutrality’ Effort

Think tank advocates government intervention in Web

President Obama’s “Internet czar,” Susan P. Crawford, is tied to a Marxist-run liberal media think tank that advocates government intervention in the Internet, charges a new book released this week.

“The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and other Anti-American Extremists” officially was released Monday.


In just one of Crawford’s radical connections exposed in “The Manchurian President,” the book documents her close ties to Free Press, an advocate for government intervention in the Internet

She spoke at a May 14, 2009, “Changing Media” Free Press summit in Washington. Crawford’s “One Web Day” project, which seeks to broaden the public’s awareness of Internet and Web issues, lists the radical ACORN as one of its “participating organizations.” Free Press is listed as another.


The founder of Free Press, Robert W. McChesney, is a professor at the University of Illinois and former editor of the Marxist journal Monthly Review.

In February 2009, McChesney, an avowed Marxist, urged that capitalism be dismantled.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Passenger Questioned After Flight Lands at BWI

LINTCHICUM, Md. (AP) ? Airport officials say police are questioning a passenger who exhibited suspicious behavior during a Continental Express’ approach to BWI airport.

Airport spokesman Jonathan Dean says it happened aboard Flight 2699, operated by ExpressJet Airlines, from Newark, N.J., to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Thursday about 6 p.m. He says the crew noticed a passenger behaving suspiciously and the captain declared a precautionary alert.

The plane, a regional jet Embraer-145 carrying 44 passengers and three crew members, landed safely and passengers were allowed to leave the craft. There were no injuries.

Maryland Transportation Authority Police were questioning the passenger.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Principal Bans U.S. Flag T-Shirts on Mexican Holiday

Students sent home for wearing ‘incendiary’ stars and stripes on Cinco de Mayo

Five high-school students were sent home from school for wearing American flag T-shirts when they were expected to be “fostering a spirit of cultural awareness” on a Mexican holiday.

Meanwhile, students wearing the colors of the Mexican flag were allowed to remain at school.

Administrators at Five Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., called the T-shirts “incendiary” when they were worn on Cinco de Mayo, the Gilroy Dispatch reported.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sources: Shahzad Had Contact With Awlaki, Taliban Chief, And Mumbai Massacre Mastermind

Faisal Shahzad Said To Have Linked Up With Taliban Through Internet, But Already High-Placed Contacts

Accused Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad linked up with the Pakistani Taliban through the internet, ABC News has been told by law enforcement and intelligence sources close to the investigation. Once the Taliban identified him as more valuable in the U.S. than in Pakistan, they trained him to return to execute his bomb attack.

But according to these sources, Shahzad also had a web of jihadist contacts that included big names tied to terror attacks in the U.S. and abroad, including the figure who has emerged as a central figure in many recent domestic terror attempts — radical American-born Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki.

Besides Awlaki, sources say Shahzad was also linked to a key figure in the Pakistani Taliban, its Emir Beitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone missile strike in 2009. The Mehsuds had been family friends of Shahzad, who is the son of a former high-ranking Pakistani military officer.

Sources told ABC News that Shahzad was childhood friends with one of the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai massacre of 2008, in which more than 170 people died.

Shahzad is also said to be linked to a man named Muhammed Rehan, whom Pakistani authorities reportedly have in custody. Sources said Rehan helped Shahzad travel to Peshawar and then to Waziristan and made introductions to the Taliban.

According to a person briefed on the FBI interrogation, Shahzad has told federal agents that he was angry at the CIA missile strikes carried out in Pakistan and suffered a personal crisis in his life. He has reportedly said he carried out the attempted bombing because he was under duress and that he feared for his family’s safety if he didn’t fulfill the mission.

Shahzad has admitted to receiving bomb-making training and to loading a car with explosives and driving it into Times Square, say U.S. authorities, and is providing valuable information that is helping officials round up possible accomplices..

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

After Minarets: Swiss Target the Burka

Six months after Switzerland banned the construction of minarets, parliamentarians in canton Aargau want to see a nationwide ban on Islamic full-body veils in public places.

This is the latest in a series of developments — from calls for Muslim cemeteries to young Swiss converts to Islam being accused of threatening the country’s security — that has strained relations with Muslims in Switzerland.

“It confirms my fears that after a media frenzy, we’ve now got a political frenzy. And as with the minarets, there’s not much reflection going on,” Stéphane Lathion, head of a research group on Islam in Switzerland, told

“Using the law to ban something in such a blunt manner will inevitably be taken as a provocation.”

Coming a week after Belgium’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly backed a bill that considered burka-type clothing incompatible with basic security, politicians in the northern Swiss canton of Aargau passed a similar proposal by a small far-right faction by 89 votes to 33.

However, it will take months before the cantonal authorities decide whether to present an anti-burka initiative to the federal parliament.

“The burka is a symbol of dominance of men over women,” agreed Aargau’s centre-right Christian Democrats, Radicals and rightwing Swiss People’s Party.

They described the burka — which, according to official estimates is worn by around 100 women in Switzerland — as an affront to women’s dignity. They also argued that it posed a security risk for banks and other institutions.

Those on the political left — the Social Democrats and the Greens — opposed the motion.

The Greens spoke of “hysteria” and “fearmongering”, while the Evangelical Party pointed out that veils are also worn at weddings and funerals.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International was critical, saying a complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion. It was also concerned that such women would be further excluded from society.


“I’m in favour of banning these full-body veils in public spaces, but what disturbs me in this media and political debate are bad arguments,” Lathion said.

“People talk of freedom for women and religious freedom, but in my opinion we shouldn’t mention religion — we should simply ban anyone from walking around in a public space if they are covered up or disguised.”

For Lathion, a more interesting and less provocative issue is that of peaceful co-existence.

“I can defend the right of a young girl to walk around wearing a scarf or a Buddhist monk to wear his robe without challenging the concept of living together harmoniously. But someone who walks around in a full-body veil is either doing it as a provocation or as a way of saying ‘I refuse to live with you’,” he said.

“Considering the current situation, with such tension surrounding anything to do with Islam, I think it would be much wiser for the authorities to ban this type of demonstration in public places.”


This tension came under the global spotlight in November 2009, when nearly 58 per cent of Swiss voters approved an initiative banning the construction of minarets.

Switzerland’s image as a country of human rights was rocked and Dick Marty, a Swiss member of the Council of Europe, told that something was “culturally wrong” in Switzerland.

In March Switzerland came in for criticism from the United Nations Human Rights Council. A resolution said the ban was a “manifestation of Islamophobia that clearly contravenes international human rights obligations concerning freedom of religion, belief, conscience and expression”.

Also in March a call by a Swiss Muslim umbrella group for Islamic cemeteries in every canton provoked a wave of reactions.

A month later the head of the Migration Office warned that some young Swiss converts to Islam — referring to the controversial Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) — were a potential threat to the country’s security.

Alard du Bois-Reymond said such converts included people who wanted a “radically different society” and pointed to examples in Britain and Germany where such demands had provided “fertile ground for potential terrorists”.

The ICCS believes a fatwa council is needed in Switzerland as a theological authority for dealing with Islamic issues.

To top things off, Switzerland is also struggling to untangle an almost two-year diplomatic stand-off with Libya, whose leader Moammar Gaddafi recently called for a holy war against the Swiss.

Chanel burqas

As for the future, Lathion thinks it inevitable that other cantons will broach the subject — indeed Bern and Solothurn are already set to discuss it — but he believed the really interesting thing would be when the debate reached Geneva or Zurich.

“There, the fantastically rich wives or daughters of Saudi princes, who have been visiting for years, walk around covered up. Their burkas have always been accepted as they are accompanied by millions of dollars. What are we going to do with them? Will there be special dispensations for people wearing what I call Chanel burkas?”

He saw no reason why the issue wouldn’t also end up being put to the people.

“[The minaret initiative] was launched with the same logic: there are only four minarets [in all of Switzerland] and very little demand. There was no problem but we created one. There’s a risk of the same thing happening here: there are hardly any burkas in Switzerland, but we’re going to make a big deal and ban something that hardly exists,” he said.

“What disturbs me is the fact that, like in France and Belgium, a secondary phenomenon has been turned into an affair of national importance. It’s irresponsible and unprofessional on the part of the media and irresponsible for politicians to pour oil on the flames. It’s dangerous.”

Thomas Stephens,

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

Cannes: ‘Hors La Loi’, Appeal for Freedom of Creation

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 6 — Around ten intellectuals, including several historians, have spoken out for “freedom of creation”, denouncing the “smear campaign” launched against the film of the French-Algerian Rachid Bouchareb, “Hors la loi”, competing in the Film Festival of Cannes. Published by Le Monde and signed, among others, by historians Benjamin Stora, Pascal Blanchard, Gilles Manceron, Mohamed Harbi and director Yasmina Adi, the text “on the return of the war on memory” claims that the campaign against the film “is a symptom of the return of colonial awareness in certain nostalgic areas of the French community, with the complicity of governors”. “The work of a director has nothing to do with the work of a historian, and shouldn’t be judged by the State. When the political power wants to write the history our citizens will see on the screen tomorrow, we must fear the worst” the text continues. The controversy around the film that is dedicated to the 1945 massacre in Setif (where 45,000 Algerians and around a thousand French were killed, according to both countries) started when an MP of the UMP (government party), Lionnel Luca, who hasn’t seen the film, accused it of falsification of history. He based his statement on a review of the provisional script by the Defence Ministry’s historical service. Bouchareb is in fact accused of making people believe that the Algerians are the real victims, and of ignoring the murder of French colonists before the massacre — according to the French version. According to Algeria expert Stora, the first person to die was an Algerian who waved his country’s flag during a demonstration for independence. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Elections Likely to Leave UK More Eurosceptical

The British will elect a new parliament this Thursday. The winners of the elections remain uncertain, but EU relations are a likely loser.

By Floris van Straaten in London

Gordon Brown, on what is probably his last day as British prime minister, will not be remembered as a great europhile. He simply did not believe the European continent had much to teach him.

Brown speaks no language other than English, but in his days as chancellor of the exchequer he earned a reputation at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels for regularly taking off his headphones while others were speaking, which left him unable to hear the interpreters’ translation. When he spoke himself, it was mainly to sing praises of the Anglo-Saxon approach in general, and his own in particular.

As prime minister, in the last three years, his relations with the rest of Europe have improved somewhat. The way he dealt with the financial crisis has increased his standing. Indirectly his Conservative Party opponent David Cameron also helped stir warm feelings for Brown in Europe. Considering the alternative, many European government leaders chose to give Brown his way, hoping to keep Cameron and his supporters out of 10 Downing Street.

Yet Cameron could soon be prime minister. Will that harm the UK’s relationship with the European Union? Not necessarily. “Cameron may be a eurosceptic, he is also a realist,” said Simon Tilford of the Centre for European Reform, a London-based think-tank. “He has already indicated he wants to let the European issue lie for the time being.” If the Tories win enough seats to govern alone, the budget deficit will devour most of their attention. Measured at 11.6 percent of GDP in the last budget year, it is one of the highest in Europe.

A neutral coalition

There is also a chance the Conservatives will need to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the only unequivocally pro-European party in the UK. Lib Dem party leader Nick Clegg worked for the European Commission for years and was a member of European parliament. He would never accept a political course extremely sceptical of the EU; although it is equally unlikely Cameron would tolerate a pro-European one. Such a coalition would probably meet halfway and take a neutral approach to this sensitive issue. But it could also become a hotbed for severe internal conflict.

Any hopes the British would warm to the idea of European cooperation have long been dashed by reality. “British scepticism towards Europe has only grown in recent years,” said Denis MacShane, a member of parliament who served as minister of state for Europe under Tony Blair. “But we are no exception in that respect. Other European states are also seeing a renationalisation of politics.”

The British Conservative Party knows no equal in Europe when it comes to its reservations about the European project however. “Twenty years ago, a lot of prominent Tories were pro-European,” Tilford recalled. “Now, to stand a living chance of being selected as a Conservative candidate MP, you have to be eurosceptic.”

The UK is also the only nation where a party is participating in national elections whose only goal is to end its EU membership: the UKIP. Nowhere else are the newspapers so vocal in their disapproval of Europe either.

Tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mail infallibly paint a picture of Brussels as hell bent on eradicating the United Kingdom. Both papers adamantly opposed the Treaty of Lisbon, an attempt to create a more decisive EU. Alongside the Tories, they insisted a referendum be held on the matter. Brown ignored their demands.

The rallying cry of British eurosceptics was aptly summarised by Margaret Thatcher shortly after she had been forced to step down. “My friends, we are quite the best country in Europe,” she then told an audience of Scottish Tories at a conference in Blackpool. “In my lifetime all our problems have come from mainland Europe and all the solutions have come from the English-speaking nations across the world.”

A history of ambivalence

The British have always felt ambivalently about European cooperation. As a colonial power with a global outlook, Britain refused to focus exclusively on the rest of Europe. Only in 1973 did they reluctantly join the European Economic Community (EEC), the EU’s predecessor. “The UK was the only nation that joined because we felt we had no other choice,” Nick Clegg told NRC Handelsblad in 2008. “For us it wasn’t a sign of strength, but of weakness.”

Even after the British had finally joined the EEC, the cooperation remained riddled with problems. One important source of conflict was that the British immediately became the biggest financial contributor to the EEC. The nation’s small, relatively efficient, agricultural sector left little room to profit from most European subsidies. It cost Thatcher years to win her notorious — or celebrated, depending on your point of view — ‘rebate’ that delivered part of the UK’s contribution to Europe back to British pockets.

The UK participation in the European Exchange Rate System, a predecessor to the common currency, ended in disaster when the British government was forced to leave the ERS on September 16, 1992, under heavy pressure from financial markets. The Conservatives, who were in power at the time, were left traumatised. “That also did a lot to hurt relations with Europe,” Tilford ventured.

Euro: probably not

The current Conservative leader, David Cameron, witnessed the fiasco up close as an adviser to the then chancellor of the exchequer, Norman Lamont. This could explain why Cameron was so clear in stating the UK would never join the euro on his watch, during the televised debate with his rivals Brown and Clegg last week. Brown has also expressed great reluctance to do so. Clegg is alone in his — conditional — support of joining the common currency.

Expectations were high in 1997 when Tony Blair became prime minister with a massive voter mandate. Blair was the most europhile prime minister since Edward Heath — in office from 1970 to 1974 — who was an outspoken advocate of the euro and spoke fluent French. Ironically, it was Blair’s support of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 that led to a schism of sorts in Europe. Moreover, Blair proved unable to overcome his chancellor Brown’s opposition to the euro.

Were 13 years of Labour rule a complete disappointment for Europe then? Not according to MacShane. He pointed out that Blair initiated European cooperation in the areas of defence and foreign policy. The Labour government was also one of the fiercest proponents of the EU’s eastward expansion. “Under Labour rule, Great Britain opened up its doors further to workers from the new member states than anyone else,” MacShane said. “Hundreds of thousands of Poles have taken up residence here, which has been a great boost to European cooperation, both economically and culturally speaking.”

The last days of the Labour era seem to be upon us. By tomorrow, we will see the first glimpse of what will come after it. Few in London however, think a pro-European shift is in the making.

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

Greens Say Lopatka ‘Has Haider Virus’

People’s Party (ÖVP) financial issues state secretary Reinhold Lopatka has been accused of “being infected with the Haider virus” after he suggested cutting foreign families’ children benefits.

Greens family issues spokeswoman Daniela Musiol said today (Weds): “This is a knew round in the ÖVP’s attack against foreigners and EU laws. It seems Lopatka is infected with the Haider virus.”

Lopatka suggested to discuss reducing social subsidies for the Austrian resident foreign families’ children who live abroad.

He appealed to adapt them to the mostly lower living costs and reduce them by up to 40 per cent. “We could save around 15 million Euros per year,” he said yesterday.

Musiol lashed out at Lopatka by comparing him with late right-wing spearhead Jörg Haider. The late Carinthian governor moved the Freedom Party (FPÖ) to the political right during his spell as leader of the party between 1986 and 2000.

Musiol also said Lopatka’s idea was “legally unjust” according to European Union (EU) rules.

Greens MP Karl Öllinger meanwhile said: “Lopatka’s statement serves the ÖVP’s ambition to establish itself as an anti-foreigners party.”

He added: “At first, [ÖVP Interior Minister Maria] Fekter made FPÖ politics, now Lopatka takes [FPÖ chief Heinz-Christian] Strache’s positions.”

ÖVP family issues state secretary Christine Marek criticised Lopatka for not informing her personally about his ideas before announcing them.

“This is something I know from our coalition partner [the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ)] , but not from party colleagues,” she said.

Lopatka is currently in talks with ÖVP Finance Minister Josef Pröll over ways to reduce the state debt and budget deficit.

The country’s budget deficit reached 3.5 per cent in 2009 after just 0.4 per cent in 2008 and 0.6 per cent in 2007.

Pröll said the plan was to reduce Austria’s budget deficit to 2.7 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) until 2013. He promised that all ministries would make cutbacks, but warned new or higher taxes will be needed as well to reach this goal.

An IMAS poll presented today revealed that 70 per cent of Austrians hope that the government agrees on raising the income tax of company bosses. Another result of the research is that just four per cent back a possible end to adapting pensions to the rising inflation.

Former SPÖ Finance Minister Hannes Androsch said the circumstances Austria was in could not be compared with the state the Greek economy was in, but added: “A ‘Sirtaki touch’ does certainly exist.”

Androsch said the government must finally press on with its plans to make federal administration and bureaucracy more efficient.

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

India — Muslim Preacher: Christians Have the Right to Preach Their Faith in Muslim Countries

Abdul Rasheed, of Tablighi Jamaat, supports reciprocity. He appreciates the Pope and the Synod for the Middle East, that will speak of religious freedom in Islamic countries. The Sunni Muslim has travelled twice to Europe to preach Islam in Sweden, Spain and Portugal.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Abdul Rasheed, a Sunni Muslim preacher, believes in reciprocity. And since he is free to come to Europe to preach Islam, he sees nothing wrong in allowing Christians to preach the Gospel in Muslim countries.

Abdul Rasheed, a small businessman in the district of Thane (Maharashtra), is a member of Tablighi Jamaat, an international organization for the revival of Islam and its spread worldwide. In recent months, for the second time, he travelled through Europe, preaching and teaching groups of Muslims in Sweden, Spain (Barcelona) and Portugal.

“In these countries — he told AsiaNews — there are no restrictions on prayer and there are no government restrictions on following the precepts of Islam. Even the burqa is not prohibited in these three nations. “

Rasheed specified: “In Sweden our people pray in specific locations. I held my lessons in these places, in residential areas made available by the government for sport and entertainment. “ In fact in Sweden and Barcelona, he was able to meet other Swedish converts to Islam, who have become “ devoted and practicing Muslims.”

In all Muslim countries proselytism and the mission of Christians are prohibited. In several natins faithful are forbidden to even wear a cross, or gather for prayer in private. Abdul Rasheed argues instead for reciprocity and affirms that it is right for Christians to have the freedom to preach the Gospel, especially in the Middle East. “Unfortunately — he says — there is a lot of politics mixed up in these restrictions. In many Middle Eastern countries, many things contrary to Islam are legal, such as selling alcohol, or allowing certain forms of entertainment. If governments allow things like that, why are they set against the Gospel preached by Christians? “.

The Synod of the Churches of the Middle East, which will be held at the Vatican in October, will focus on full religious freedom for Christians in Islamic countries and their right to preach the faith on par with Muslims.

Abdul Rasheed welcomed the Synod and Pope Benedict XVI. “Respect for religious leaders — he explains — is part of the teaching of Muhammad”

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

Italy: Verdini Under Investigation for Graft

PdL coordinator cited in probe into Sardinian wind farms

(ANSA) — Rome, May 5 — Denis Verdini, a national coordinator for Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, is under investigation here in connection with a probe into the alleged rigging of public works tenders, it was learned on Wednesday.

The contracts in question were said to regard the building of wind farms in Sardinia.

On Tuesday police searched the offices of Credito Cooperativo Fiorentino, a bank Verdini is chairman of, seeking a paper trail of checks believed to be linked to the probe.

Aside from Verdini, also under investigation are Sardinian wheeler-dealer Flavio Carboni, implicated in the death of ‘God’s Banker’ Roberto Calvi in London 28 years ago; builder Arcangelo Martino; Sardinian provincial councillor Pinello Cossu; Ignazio Farris, a member of the Regional Environmental Protection Agency; and tax magistrate Pasquale Lombardi.

Although few details are known about this probe, it apparently stems from one in 2008 by the Anti-Mafia Bureau into alleged influence peddling.

Verdini was notified last February that he was under investigation in Florence for alleged corruption regarding the awarding of public works contracts there as well as to renovate the original site of last year’s Group of Eight summit on the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.

The G8 was later moved to L’Aquila and work was temporarily suspended at the former submarine base on the Sardinian island. Verdini joined Berlusconi’s original Forza Italia party in the mid-1990s and after holding regional office was elected to parliament in 2001.

In 2008 he became Forza Italia’s national coordinator, a post he held on to when the party merged into the PdL together with the right-wing National Alliance and a number of small groups. The PdL has two other national coordinators, Sandro Bondi, who came from Forza Italia, and Ignazio La Russa, formerly of the National Alliance.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ex-Lazio Governor Storace Found Guilty

Hard-right pol convicted of dirty tricks against Mussolini

(ANSA) — Rome, May 5 — Former Lazio governor Francesco Storace was convicted Wednesday of dirty tricks in his 2005 regional re-election campaign.

Storace, 51, was given a suspended 18-month sentence for a bid to undermine right-wing rival Alessandra Mussolini’s run.

At the time Storace was a top member of the rightist National Alliance (AN), which has since merged with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party to form the larger centre-right People of Freedom party.

Storace left the new party shortly before the merger to form a new, small, hard-right party, La Destra (The Right).

On Wednesday a Rome judge found that Storace had tried to sabotage Mussolini’s campaign by having her declared guilty of electoral registration malpractice.

Storace, who served as health minister in Berlusconi’s previous government after his 2005 defeat to the centre left, was found guilty of ordering a computer break-in to tamper with Mussolini’s election petition.

Laziomatica, a company which answered to Storace’s regional administration, was found to have hacked into the computer archives of Rome city hall and accessed hundreds of names on Mussolini’s election petition.

An ex-director of Laziomattica was among seven people convicted along with Storace.

Asked to comment on the sentence, Storace said sarcastically: “Congratulations, this is Italian justice”.

His lawyer said he would appeal.

Storace’s ex-spokesman Nicolo’ Accame, who received a two-year suspended sentence, was even more contemptuous, using a trademark expression from the prewar Fascist regime: “Me ne frego” (“I don’t give a damn”).

Alessandra Mussolini, Benito Mussolini’s granddaughter, who after leading a small hard-right party like Storace’s is now in Berlusconi’s PdL, said: “Justice worked and I was right but it’s a shame he won’t even do a day of jail time”.

In what was called the ‘Laziogate’ scandal, more than 800 signatures on Mussolini’s petition were declared fraudulent. The list included names of the deceased and others whose existence was dubious, such as people who gave their birth date as February 31.

Mussolini was eventually allowed to take part in the election but Rome prosecutors opened an inquiry into the case that came to trial in 2007.

The man who beat Storace in 2005, Piero Marrazzo of the Democratic Party (PD), resigned in disgrace last year after it emerged that rogue cops tried to blackmail him with a video of featuring a transsexual prostitute.

Lazio, the region around Rome, returned to centre-right control in March when the PdL’s Renata Polverini narrowly beat the PD’s Emma Bonino.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Violent’ Movement on Italian Bond Market

But experts, ministers play down Greece ‘contagion’ fears

(ANSA) — Milan, May 5 — Italian bonds began to move very sharply Wednesday amid renewed fears of the Greece debt crisis spreading to other eurozone members but experts and ministers said such fears were out of place where Italy was concerned. The spread between Italian ten-year bonds and ten-year German bonds rose from 90-95 points at the height of the Greece debt crisis last week to 123 points Wednesday.

The spread between Spanish and German bonds was not much wider, at 130 points.

Marco Palacino of Mellon Global Investments said the movement on the Italian bond market was “violent, not comparable with the situation of the last few days”.

“After all, it was rather unusual that up till now Italy had remained relatively immune from the Greece crisis, seeing as how it has the third-highest public debt in the world”.

But another expert, Gianluca Ferretti of Anima Sgr, said “contagion spreading from Greece to Italy isn’t the most plausible scenario”.

“There are weaker countries than ours that could be targeted”.

Paradoxically, he said, Italy’s debt is “so big it’s like a mountain that speculators find harder to move”.

“We’ll have to get used to living with volatility,” Ferretti said, stressing that “Italy has good fundamentals”. Economy Ministry Undersecretary Giuseppe Vegas said the crisis “is not exportable to Italy”.

“Our country has sound fundamentals and hasn’t had the growth in public debt seen in Greece”.

Welfare Minister Maurizio Sacconi said Italy’s stability “is recognised by all international operators”.

Italy’s debt is set to hit 118.2% of GDP this year according to new forecasts from the European Commission issued Wednesday.

But Italy avoided spending like other countries to stoke the economy during the recession and held its deficit to 5.3% of GDP last year. Amid rumours Wednesday that Spain and Portugal’s ratings might be lowered again, the euro hit a new low of $1.289 and three people were killed in Athens riots against the austerity plan that brought Greece a three-year 110-billion-euro bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

European Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn said fresh help for Greece might be made available after the current bailout runs out but Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that no decision could be made without Germany and called for the eurozone stability pact to be revised.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy echoed Italian officials in criticising Merkel for delaying approval of the bailout and allowing speculation to run free.

The European Central Bank meets Thursday with a mooted plan to buy up bonds of possibly at-risk nations on the table.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Moroccan Immigrant Arrested for ‘Beating Children’

Andria, 6 May (AKI) — A 46-year-old Moroccan immigrant was arrested in the southern Italian city of Andria for allegedly beating his children because they were too “westernised”, police said on Thursday. The man also assaulted his wife when she tried to protect their children from savage almost daily beatings, according to police.

At the time of his arrest on Wednesday, the Moroccan was punching and kicking his 20-year-old daughter and gripping her by the hair. Both she and her younger brother had lived in Italy since they were small children.

Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police arrived at the family home after responding to an emergency phone call.

They said they could hear piercing screams coming from the apartment and upon entering found the property strewn with smashed plates and glasses and ripped furnishings.

The man’s 16-year-old son had run away and his wife had taken refuge in the bedroom to escape from her violent husband, according to police.

Police took the man’s daughter and wife to hospital, where they were treated for cuts and bruises which medical staff said would take a week to heal.

The man’s daughter had an Italian boyfriend and the father is believed to have disapproved of the relationship and forced her to end it.

The man subjected his teenage son to daily beatings because he wore an ear-ring, according to his wife and children.

A Moroccan man, El Ketawi Dafani, on Monday went on trial in the northern Italian city of Udine charged with stabbing his 18-year-old daughter to death last September for falling in love with an Italian man.

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

Scajola Resigns to Defend Himself — Berlusconi Praises “Sense of State”

“Suffering” economic development minister says goodbye to government. “Able minister” says PM

ROME — “I have to defend myself, and in order to defend myself I be the minister I have been for the past two years”. Claudio Scajola has resigned. Under pressure for his involvement in investigations by the Perugia public prosecutor’s office into contracts for major events, the development minister announced to the press that he was resigning from the government. “For ten days, I have been living in a state of great suffering. I am at the centre of an unprecedented media campaign yet I am not under investigation [Perugia’s public prosecutor, Federico Centrone, confirmed Mr Scajola is not being investigated — Ed.]. Morning and evening, I have to keep up to date with press coverage to find out what people are saying”, said Mr Scajola. The minister is caught in a media firestorm over his purchase of a flat in Rome that was partially paid for, according to findings from inquiries by the Perugia prosecutor’s office, with 900,000 euros from construction entrepreneur Diego Anemone.

MEETING WITH PREMIER — “I have received expressions of esteem from Berlusconi, colleagues in government and the entire majority”, said Mr Scajola, who in the afternoon had a meeting at the prime minister’s Palazzo Chigi offices. Mr Berlusconi posed no objections to the resignation and said that “Mr Scajola has taken a deeply felt, painful decision, which attests his institutional sensitivity and noble sense of state, in order to demonstrate his total lack of involvement in this matter, and to throw light on what he is alleged to have done”. Mr Berlusconi added: “Mr Scajola has the appreciation of myself and of the whole government for the way he has interpreted his role as minister for economic development at a delicate, challenging time which, thanks in part to his efforts, Italy is coming through better than other countries”. Mr Berlusconi expressed his solidarity with Mr Scajola earlier at a meeting with the European People’s Party chairman, Joseph Daul. “Today has seen the resignation of a minister who is ‘tre’s capable’ [very able — Trans.]”, said the PM. The departing minister also telephoned the president of Italy Giorgio Napolitano to explain the reasons for his decision. Mr Scajola said that he would be sending a copy of his letter to the prime minister to the head of state. The letter arrived at the president’s Quirinale palace as Mr Napolitano was on his way to the Carlo Felice theatre in Genoa to attend a concert.

“I HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING OTHERS PAID FOR PART OF MY HOME” — “A minister cannot have the suspicion that his home was partly paid for by other people”. This is the strongest of the reasons that induced Mr Scajola to step down. During a media briefing at the ministry, he added: “I am confident that I have no involvement in this business and that my non-involvement will be proved. But it is equally certain, since I consider politics to be a noble art with a capital P, that if you want to practise politics, everything has to be in order and you have to be above suspicion”. Mr Scajola also said: “Should I find out that my home was paid for in part by others without knowing the reason, advantage or interest, my lawyers will take the necessary steps to annul the contract of sale”. In conclusion, the minister said that “if I am to practise politics, there can be no suspicions. My resignation will enable the government to move forward with the important task it has to perform for the country, and to which I have till today contributed”.

JOURNALISTS — Mr Scajola said: “I am exposed every day to conflicting reconstructions in the press. In this situation, which I do not wish on anyone, I have to defend myself. And in order to defend myself, I cannot continue to be a minister, as I have been for the past two years, unsparingly. You are my witnesses. I have devoted all my energies and time. I have made mistakes but I have aspired to do good”. Mr Scajola reminded journalists that he had dedicated all his energies and time, making mistakes but indubitably aspiring to do good”. He added, “Over the past two years, I have initiated major projects, fundamental for Italy’s growth, in the field of energy, the liberalisation of the gas market, major infrastructure projects to make energy cheaper and the return to Italy of nuclear energy. We have also just drafted the Berlusconi plan for the south. We have deployed all possible resources for the reform of incentives to inject innovation into Italian products and make them more competitive in world markets. We have made dedicated efforts in the management of industrial negotiations in more than 150 cases to carry through as much industrial organisation possible and keep Italy at the leading edge”.

GOVERNMENT — Mr Scajola concluded: “I am certain that my resignation will allow the government to get on with its job”. Mr Scajola wound up his announcement, said good bye to the press and left. At that point, journalists protested vociferously at not having had the opportunity to ask questions.

“ILLOGICAL AND ABSOLUTELY IDIOTIC” — If Diego Anemone paid for part of the flat using 900,000 euros in banker’s drafts, “it would be, apart from vulgarly awful, illogical and an absolutely idiotic thing to do” said Mr Scajola later in an interview on the Porta a Porta talk show, previewed on the TG1 news bulletin. “If this actually took place, it could have been earlier or perhaps later, I don’t know, but certainly not in my presence with the notary”.

REACTIONS — Politicians were quick to react to the resignation. The junior minister for the Prime Minister’s Office, Gianni Letta, withdrew from the press room without any further comment and took his leave of journalists with the comment: “Let’s talk about L’Aquila”. The secretary of the Democratic Party (PD), Pier Luigi Bersani, went on the offensive, saying Mr Scajola had taken “a good decision” because “what he has said has never been convincing”.

THE CENTRE-RIGHT PRESS — Mr Scajola’s position had become increasingly precarious as pressure mounted, no longer just from the Centre-left. The leader of the People of Freedom (PDL) group in the Senate, Maurizio Gasparri, distanced himself from the economic development minister on Canale 5’s La Telefonata. “I think Scajola should reflect on how he can best conduct his defence, with a minister’s responsibilities or without”. Mr Gasparri observed that there had been great press freedom over the Scajola affair: “Even Centre-right papers have been investigating. I don’t know whether the Centre-left press would do the same thing if the boot were on the other foot”. Mr Gasparri was referring to opinion pieces written by the editors of Il Giornale and Libero inviting Mr Scajola to clarify his position. Vittorio Feltri called on the minister to “dispel all suspicion” at once “or it will end badly”.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Spain: Savings Banks, Mergers and Integrations

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 5 — The financial reorganisation over which José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s socialist government has reached a deal with Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the People’s Party, will include a reduction in the number of savings banks before the end of terms afforded to the country by Brussels for state aid to the banking system. Of the 45 current Spanish savings banks, 18 are already undergoing shake-up processes, mergers or “cold potential” mergers as part of the institutional protection system. The Bank of Spain has already approved the integration plan laid out by Caixa Catalunya, Caixa Manresa and Caixa Tarragona, which according to the supervisor, meets the requested guarantees of solvency. The request of aid from FROB, however, worth an initial 1.315 billion euros, has been reduced by Brussels to 1.25 billion euros. The other big Catalan alliance to be given the go-ahead by the Bank of Spain is the merger between Caixa Sabadell and the banks of Terrasa and Manlleu, which will receive 380 million euros of state aid through FROB, which will itself purchase preference stakes that can be converted into shares worth the equivalent of the financing provided. The Bank of Spain has already given the green light to the merger between Caja Espana and Caja Duero, after a long battle led by the regional government of Castilla y Leon to allow other savings bodies in the region to form a part of the alliance. The integration will receive a total of 525 million euros from FROB. The beginning of talks over a merger between Caixanova and Caixa Galicia was announced in April by the Galicia region, but a series of combined vetoes has so far prevented the talks from being held. In the meantime, other savings bodies are continuing talks over potential or cold mergers, including Caja Extremadura, and the banks of Murcia, Asturias, Cantabria and Sa Nostra. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Imam Charged With Sex Offences

A 48-year-old imam who teaches children about the Koran has been charged with sexually molesting an 11-year-old female student.

‘Catholics in Sweden must challenge Rome’ (14 Apr 10)

According to the charge sheet the incidents are alleged to have occurred in August and September 2009 in the girl’s family home south of Stockholm. The 48-year-old was a regular visitor to the apartment and taught the girl and her 14-year-old elder brother about the Koran and the Arabic language.

When the girl finally revealed what she had been subjected to her parents immediately called the police.

“The mother was scared that more children could be exposed,” district prosecutor Eva Kokkonen told news agency TT.

The sexual molestation involved the man groping the girl, including her breasts.

“It is always serious when a child is exposed to sexual acts. Especially when it takes place in her home and with a person she should be able to have confidence in. I consider that the man abused his authority and the punishment should be prison,” Kokkonen said.

The prosecutor argues that the evidence against the imam is strong.

“The girl’s story is reliable and her reaction when she told her parents is typical of abused children. She was very sad and so ashamed that she could barely talk about what had happened. Her big brother who arrived at the lesson later supported her story by testifying to the man’s exaggerated indiscretion towards the girl,” Kokkonen said.

“He presented himself to me as an imam, I think that makes the crime worse. I am shocked over what he has done,” the girl’s mother told news agency TT.

The trial will be held in Södertörn district court before the summer. The man denies all charges.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Horror Story’ For Thousands as Cancer Patients Are Denied ‘Miracle’ Drug on the NHS

Thousands of cancer sufferers are set to be denied a ‘miracle’ drug on the NHS that is routinely used in virtually every other Western country.

The Government’s rationing body says Avastin is not cost-effective despite evidence that it can prolong the lives of bowel cancer patients by more than two years.

The final decision is due next month, but NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, has already made clear the cost breaches its threshold for NHS use.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘This is Your Eid Present’: What Attacker Told Muslim Woman as He Wrapped Her in a Carpet and Set Her Alight

The attacker gained entry to the woman’s Westminster flat by claiming to be an inspector from her local council, but once inside he bashed her and tied her up before stealing thousands of pounds worth of valuables.

As he left, he wrapped her in a carpet and set it alight, telling her: ‘This is your Eid present, you Muslim.’

The woman, aged in her 40s, was saved by neighbours who broke into her flat after hearing her screams.

The attacker has not been caught.

Eid is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan — an Islamic holy month that ended on September 20 last year. The attack took place on September 18, but has only now come to light after the UK Egyptian Association revealed the racial taunt the man made as he left.

A police spokesman confirmed the attack and said investigators ‘were keeping an open mind as to the racial nature of the crime’.

Mustapha Ragab, the chairman of the UK Egyptian Association, revealed the nature of the attack.

He said. ‘The community is very angry and what makes this more serious is that there is a man out there who has managed to cover his crime so well. People are living in fear that something like this will happen again without police being able to catch the offender.

‘It was during Friday prayers at the end of Ramadan when the lady was at home on her own and this man knocked on the door. He told her he was from the council, but when he got in the house he beat her up, tied her up, stole her valuables and was making racist remarks.

‘He was saying “This is your Eid present you Muslim” and after attacking her he rolled her into a carpet and set fire to it.’

Detective Sergeant Joanne Belton said this week that 40 officers were working on the case.

She said: ‘We have completed substantial inquiries — interviewing witnesses, going house to house and looking at forensics and CCTV evidence.’

The man stole jewellery including gold necklaces, bracelets, rings and a quantity of cash.

The victim was treated for burns in hospital and is said to be ‘deeply disturbed’ that the thug has not yet been caught.

The attacker is a black male in his 30s who stands around 6ft tall.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Caught on Camera: BNP Candidate Punches and Kicks Asians After Being Spat at on Campaign Trail

A BNP parliamentary candidate punched and kicked an Asian man after he was spat at while on the campaign trail.

Bob Bailey was confronted by a group of three heckling youths in the street as he canvassed votes.

When he told them to ‘move on’ one of the youngsters spat in his face, provoking a flurry of punches which floored the teenager.

The parliamentary candidate, who was in Barking, east London, then aimed several kicks at the boy as he lay in road before he and his entourage became embroiled in an all-out brawl.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Lifts Nightly Curfew for Two Drug-Dealing Suspects… After They Ask if They Can Go Fishing

A judge has lifted a curfew order on two alleged drug dealers after they expressed a desire to go carp fishing at night while awaiting their trial.

Christopher Robinson and Paul Kiley, both of Essex, are accused of being concerned in cocaine supply in Gloucestershire and have been subject to strict bail conditions — including an 11pm-7am nightly home curfew.

But the men complained to Gloucester crown court that having to be home every night stops them indulging in their sport at three ponds in Essex, where they also work as fishing bailiffs for the owner.

Their solicitor, Dermot Clarke, said the fishing season was between March and October, and his clients often spent two to three nights away from home in succession — living in a pondside ‘bivvy’.

Robinson, 45, of Doherty Rd, London E13, and Kiley, 41, of New Zelland Way, Rainham, Essex, were both applying to Judge Martin Picton to vary their bail conditions so they can enjoy their nocturnal carp fishing trips pending their trial in September.

Despite prosecution objections Judge Picton agreed to remove the curfew — although he stressed that their fishing exploits had nothing to do with his decision.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Frees Burglar Facing Jail Term… So He Can Go Home to Look After His Staffie Bull Terrier

A convicted burglar was let out of prison so he could take care of his dog.

Daniel Reaney walked free after pleading with a judge to allow him home because there was no one to look after Staffordshire bull terrier Vinnie.

The 31-year-old criminal had been remanded in custody for ten days after being accused of assault — while already out on bail for burglary.

But Judge David Pugsley decided to ‘break all the conventions’ and bail Reaney again on Tuesday.

That decision has been met with incredulity by critics who said there were other ways to deal with the dog — named after the burglar met football hardman turned actor Vinnie Jones.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Council Snoopers Sizing Up Your Garden for a ‘Tax Database’

Details of every garden in England have been put on a database by government officials.

The aim is to use the information to justify increased council tax bills after the election.

The ‘garden tax’ database, called the Geographical Information System, records even minor features of the land a home occupies. For example it shows if a driveway is shared and the size of side passages at end-of-terrace houses.

It will tell councils setting local taxes if they should increase their bills because a home has a good view, for example of a golf course or a lake.

The database has been prepared by the Valuation Office Agency which values homes for council tax and gives advice to ministers. Its existence was disclosed following Freedom of Information requests.

The system, which is still collecting data, is scheduled to be available in July to provide extra information for the agency’s ‘automated valuation model’ which already provides basic details of the 21.7million homes in England.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UKIP Candidate Nigel Farage Pulled Alive From Plane Crash Wreckage After Election Banner Catches in Tail Fin

UKIP candidate Nigel Farage had a miracle escape today when he survived a horrific plane crash as he staged a last-minute election stunt.

The politician had to be hauled to safety after the aircraft plummeted to the ground when an election banner declaring ‘Vote for your country, vote UKIP’ apparently became tangled on the tail fin.

Aides rushed to the wrecked plane where Mr Farage was trapped upside down beneath the shattered fuselage — the pin-striped trousers of his suit ripped and one foot missing a shoe.

Onlookers feared he was dead at first because there were such chaotic scenes at the private airfield in Northamptonshire as he lay doubled over on the grass, still in his seatbelt.

But when they reached the aircraft, he could be heard moaning ‘get me out’. With blood pouring down his face, the Westminster hopeful was clearly terrified as he was helped to his feet.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Faith Weakened Because Priests “Sanctify” Little

(AGI) — Vatican, 5 May — Pope Benedict XVI addressing the 30,000 at St Peter’s Square, proclaimed: “Faith is weakening” today, but “a deep need for spirituality” is emerging in many people. He urged priests to respond with absolute faith in their task of “evangelising and sanctifying”. “The news is not just talking about Jesus, but it includes his actions, signs, and the miracles he performs.” “Only he leads to salvation. We must present this sacramental offer of the Son of God.” The Pope continued: “I wonder whether undervaluing the exercise of this ministry has weakened the work of Christ in our time.” .

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


Kosovo: NATO Worried, Macedonia Border, Arms Discovered

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, MAY 6 — NATO is very worried about the recent discovery of large quantities of arms and munitions in various single caches at the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. This comment was made in Pristina today by U.S. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, heading the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples. “The quantity of arms and munitions discovered is very relevant and consequently we are very worried, especially with regard to the danger of destabilisation of countries in the Balkan region”, said Fitzgerald, who met with KFOR (NATO force in Kosovo) commander, German General Markus Bentler. The U.S. Admiral at the same time assured KFOR’s full backing to action by the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and to Kosovar police in the fight against organised crime and corruption. The Macedonian police had recently announced the discovery in various bunkers at the border with Kosovo of large quantities of arms, including dozens of rocket launchers, mortars,grenades, hand bombs, submachine guns, anti-tank mines, as well as munitions and large quantities of explosive. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy: Meeting in Naples on EU Policy in the Area

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, MAY 5 — Cooperation between Mediterranean countries, the Greek situation, and the difficulty in sustaining and developing constructive dialogue between different areas are among the issues at the centre of the meeting on “European policies for the Mediterranean”, organised by the Orientale University of Naples, to mark the launch of a masters course for specialists in the field. There is an inevitability about the reference to the crisis in Greece, a situation that cannot fail to “have an influence on the decisions of the European Union,” says the University’s rector, Lida Viganoni. “European policies for the Mediterranean are evolving in front of our very eyes,” she said. Enrico Tibuzzi, head of the Ansa office in Brussels, says that the Greek situation “is nothing but the reemergence of the perplexity of northern European countries in sharing their currency with states that have different cultures and ways of managing public finances. Europe was initially responsible for not controlling enough, but now it is responsible for being slow to decide on measures to be taken.” The events, says Tibuzzi, “have ruined the European Union’s main resource: the credibility of its markets”. This was demonstrated by the collapse of the stock markets on Monday, the day after the European Union’s decision to intervene. “Its credibility in terms of defending the single currency and its ability to act together have been badly damaged, and recovering this credibility will take longer than people think,” he added. In terms of cooperation, the speakers underlined the difficulties being faced by Mediterranean countries and the internal conflicts within them. “Beginning with the atavistic situation in the Middle East,” said Tibuzzi. Efforts to resolve the issue have not produced the desired results because projects thought up “ad hoc” have remained hostages to the conflict present in the area. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: No to ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ Ban, Writers Union

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 5 — The Egyptian Writers Union has expressed its “deep anger” for attempts by Islamic extremists to ban the “One thousand and one nights” and has announced its intention to present a petition against the initiative. The complaint, presented by the Islamic Lawyers Without Borders group, condemns the references to sex which, they sustain, “encourage vice and sin”. A new edition of the stories has been published by a Government body which, for this reason had already been the object of criticism. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt Mufti Says Al-Azhar Main Point of Reference for Muslim

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, May 6 — Egypt’s Mufti Dr Ali Gomaa has urged the US and EU to recognize Al-Azhar’s status as the main point of reference for Muslims worldwide, MENA reported. Gomaa, in a meeting with US envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain on Thursday, also called for facilitating Muslims’ participation in public life in the West. The West has to support efforts by Muslim communities to counter extremist interpretations of Islam, which Gomaa said are baseless. Hussain said US President Barack Obama is keen on having effective dialogue with the Muslim world. The US administration will be launching new initiatives to promote partnership with Muslim societies, Hussain told Gomaa. He made it clear that American Muslims have contributed to enriching life in the US. Islam has always been part of US history, Hussain added. Some seven million Muslims are living in the US, he said. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Corruption: “Witch Hunt Against Me”, Olmert

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 6 — “A brutal, ruthless and cruel witch hunt — of the sort that has never been seen in Israel — has been carried out against me for over a month,” said ex Premier Ehud Olmert (Kadima) commenting at the district court of Jerusalem on the development of an investigation into his alleged corruption when he was mayor of the city. “I was never offered any bribes and I never accepted any bribes, neither directly nor indirectly, never in that situation nor in any other event,” added Olmert heatedly addressing reporters at length, but not accepting any questions. According to Olmert, the “witch hunt” against him has been planned and is being conducted by people “who imbue themselves in the high principles on the superiority of justice and then trample on the most basic rules.” “I was marked as a target, they have me in their sights for elimination, and now they are searching for any crumb of information” to substantiate their suspicions, complained Olmert who said that these developments have already had a serious effect on his family. “I’m keeping calm because I know that I can prove that it never happened.” In particular, Olmert was outraged by the fact that a police officer said in court that Olmert was suspected on receiving a million shekels (200,000 euros) to approve the controversial building project in Jerusalem. “If there really has been this suspicion for weeks,” he asked, “why haven’t the police asked me any questions regarding the matter?” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza: PNA Police Spokesman, Soon Fatah-Hamas Agreement

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 6 — A reconciliation between the Palestinians of Hamas and Fatah is close, thanks to the ongoing mediation efforts. PNA police spokesman General Yussef Ozreil said this today in Brussels with the new chief of the EUPOL COPPS mission, Henrik Malmquist. “I think that Egypt and the other Arab countries” said Ozreil, “are doing a good job these days to reach an agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Today the situation in Gaza is bad, not only from an economic but also a human rights viewpoint. People cannot speak in Gaza: if they say something against the government they end up in prison, or they cut your legs or shoot you. Control is exerted though force instead of the law: this is the difference between Gaza and the West Bank”. “But in the end we are part of the same people, despite some political differences” Ozreil added. “We must all live together: Gaza and the West Bank are the two wings of Palestine and Palestine cannot exist without these two wings. Therefore I hope that the two parties will reach an agreement and I think this will happen soon”.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Administration Has Been Working for Months on Plan to Force Israel to Give Up Its Nukes

Today the The Jerusalem Post reported that the Obama Administration has been working for months on a plan to force Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.

Egypt has proposed that a Nonproliferation Treaty conference now meeting at UN headquarters in New York back a plan calling for the start of negotiations next year on a Mideast free of nuclear arms. The proposal may become a major debating point in the month long session.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

PNA Police: Hard Work But Security Improved

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 6 — The civilian police of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has a difficult task, also due to the frequent “incursions” by the Israelis, due to their limited control in some areas and the ban to operate between midnight and six in the morning in the West Bank, with the exception of Ramallah. Despite these problems, the Territories have become more secure in the past years, explained the new chief of the EUPOL COPPS mission, Henrik Malmquist, and the spokesman of PNA civilian police, Yussef Ozreil, today in Brussels. “Most criminals are active between midnight and six a.m.” said Ozreil, “because there is no police on the streets. This is a threat to the life of policemen: it is no secret that we work during the night with our cars to protect the citizens. It is hard, but we have increased security”. An ongoing problem are the daily Israeli incursions, against which the Palestinian police is impotent. “Security in the West Bank” said Malmquist, “is recognised on international level, by Israel as well. We often see Israeli ‘incursions’, they create public embarrassment to the Palestinian forces. We encourage the Israelis to reduce them to a minimum or to stop them completely, this is our final goal”. In any case “in my opinion” Malmquist concluded, “the level of the Palestinian civilian police is already what one expects from a State. We still have work to do to bridge the gap in the justice sector, from the counsel for the prosecution to the courts, to reach the appropriate levels for an independent State”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq: SAS Defied Mod to Rescue Two of Its Men Held Hostage in Iraq as Top Commanders ‘Prepared to Quit’ Over Ban on Mission

The SAS launched a daring mission to rescue two of its own men held hostage in Iraq against the orders of the Ministry of Defence, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The elite unit was pushed to the brink of mutiny after it was banned from saving the SAS soldiers captured by militants because to do so would embarrass the Government.

The astonishing edict drove SAS officers close to mass resignation, according to a hardhitting report by the Tory MP Adam Holloway, a former Guards officer.

The SAS Lieutenant-Colonel on the ground, believing that ‘politically motivated’ commanders in the UK were ‘unable to make rational and effective decisions’, sent in a rescue team anyway — fearful that within hours the captured men could have been spirited away or executed.

The rescuers blasted their way into the police station in Basra where the two soldiers were being held and saved them.

Details of the incident in 2005 expose the shameful way the Armed Forces have become politicised under Labour — with political spin put before soldiers’ lives.

Mr Holloway’s explosive account is supported by General Sir Mike Jackson, who was head of the Army at the time but only learned of the scandal later.

General Jackson last night made clear his disgust at the way soldiers were asked to sacrifice their men for political reasons, shattering the sacred military covenant that no man is left behind on the battlefield.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tehran: More Arrests of Iranian Activists and Dissidents

Last weekend the authorities arrested a journalist, a lawyer and a student. She took part in the protests erupted at the university during the surprise visit of President Ahmadinejad. Shrouded in mystery, the fate of the director Jaafar Panahi, Hollywood is mobilized with a letter of protest.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The regime of the ayatollahs has ordered a new wave of arrests against professors, activists, students and journalists in Iran. The dissident website Rooz Online reports that the recent arrests are an example of the hard line imposed by Tehran against those fighting for democracy and respect for human rights in the Islamic Republic. Meanwhile, the lack of news on the fate of the director Jaafar Panahi has raised concern among family and friends. Even Hollywood is mobilising for his release, with a letter of protest signed by several movie stars.

On May 1 last security forces arrested Maryam Abbasinejad, a student activist and member of the central council of Tehran University Islamic Association. The young woman took part in a staged protests at the surprise visit of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the campus.

Ahmadinejad was speaking at a ceremony commemorating Ayatollah Morteza Motahari, killed in the early years of the Islamic Revolution of ‘79. He was to make a speech to the faculty of medicine. A group of students sang songs and slogans, including “Death to the dictator”, “liberty or death” and “Ya Hossein, Mir. Hossein”. Maryam Abbasinejad was detained the following night.

On May 2, the authorities imprisoned Mazy Khosro, journalist and director of Ham-Mihan, following a complaint lodged by the legal representative of the University of Tehran, Faculty of Law. The journalist had published a long article about a raid by plainclothes Iranian security forces on the dormitory of the university.

On May 1 Mohammad Olyaifard, lawyer, was arrested. He is currently detained in Evin prison, north of the capital, to serve a sentence of a year. At first the sentence was suspended.

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns about the film director Jaafar Panahi, whose fate is shrouded in mystery. Friends and family have no news on his health, also a lawyer and close relatives have been denied access to the file opened by the authorities on the dissident director. No judicial officer will answer questions relating to his health conditions.

Sources close to the director, quoted by Rooz, report the interrogation process is over, but he remains imprisoned in the infamous Ward 209, along with three other prisoners. even Hollywood has moved for the release of Jaafar Panahi, with a letter of protest signed by movie stars. Among the signatories Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg and Michael Moore.

Finally relatives of Mahdieh Golroo — a student activist — denounce the poor health of the girl being held in Evin prison. The detention regime, they explain, “is a serious threat to her life”. The prison authorities continue to deny permits to medical representatives of the Right to Education Council. The girl suffers from intestinal problems, back pain, injuries to her nose and fever.

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


Black Boxes Record Fifth Voice in Tupolev Cockpit

According to RMF radio and TVN24, there were five voices on the black box voice recorder of the doomed presidential plane moments before it crashed into the forest outside Smolensk.

The flight crew was made up of four people, so there is evidence there was another person from the plane in the cockpit moments before the crash, claim the reports, citing an unnamed prosecution insider. A spokesperson for the prosecution says they have not seen the contents of the black boxes, so they do not know what the devices may have registered.

Source: Rzeczpospolita

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh: For the First Time, Six Young Men Convicted for Sexual Harassment in Public

A court sentences six young men, aged between 16 and 22, to seven days in prison for harassing female students. It is the first conviction for ‘eve teasing’ or sexual harassment, a crime hitherto unpunished.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — For the first time, a court in Bangladesh handed down a jail sentence to six young men for ‘eve teasing”, a term used in South Asia for sexual harassment or molestation of women in public. The young men will now go to prison.

A lower court in Narayanganja district (Dhaka Division) in central Bangladesh sentenced the convicted men, whose age range between 16 and 22, to seven days in jail in accordance with Section 34 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The six are Mohammed Kamal Hossain (22), Mohammed Mamun (16), Mohammed Sayful Islam Nahid Khan (18), Mohammed Sumon Shyek (18), Mohammed Sentu Miah (20), and Mohammed Apu Islam (20).

Judge Ashrafuzzaman Zilani convicted the six men based on the evidence provided by the police agents who arrested them. Last Tuesday, a unit of the Rapid action Battalion (RAB-11) caught the accused harassing a group of female students from the Gono Bidyaa Niketon School, in Narayanganja District. They were arrested on the spot and tried the next day.

Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women. The name Eve is a reference to the Biblical Eve, the first woman in history.

Narayanganja Police Superintendent Biswas Afzal Hossain told AsiaNews that the punishment would serve as a warning to any potential wrongdoer. “It will prevent this type of crime,” he said, “which we are trying to eradicate.”

According to police sources, 44 women and 14 men have committed suicide in the last six months because of sexual harassment, abuse, molestation and family feuds.

One of the victims was Umme Kulsum Elora, a 14-year-old student at Model High School in South Banasree, Dhaka. On 3 April, she killed herself by drinking pesticide because of constant harassment by a 19-year-old man, Rezaul Kamil.

For a year, Rezaul and a friend harassed her in the street. Her family had pleaded with the young man’s family and with school authorities to do something, but met only indifference. To escape the molestation, the girl killed herself.

Human and women’s rights activists have welcomed the decision, the first of its kind against eve teasing. They hope it will set a precedent and be used in future cases.

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

Far East

Japan: The Dress That Turns Into a Coca Cola Machine to Ward Off Attackers

It could be the ultimate in disguises — but it has a serious purpose.

A Japanese fashion designer has come up with a colourful way for worried women to blend into a busy street to elude a pursuer — the vending machine dress.

It’s definitely not the real thing, but Aya Tsukioka’s skirt doubles as a disguise to make the wearer look like a Coca Cola machine.

It may look funny but it has been prompted for genuine reasons.

The dress transforms…

… from an article of clothing…

Ms Tsukioka, 31, unveiled her design in Tokyo by claiming she hopes it will help ease women’s fear of crime and discourage would-be attackers.

She lifted a flap on the skirt to expose a large sheet of cloth printed with the familiar bright red Coca Cola logo.

By unfolding the sheet and stepping to the side of the street, she showed how a woman walking alone could hide behind it to outfox a potential attacker.

Her deluxe model even boasts four sides for a more complete cover.

The experimental clothes designer has already sold 20 of the £400 hand- sewn vending machine skirts and it hoping to market the design worldwide.

She says the idea was inspired by a trick used by Japanese ninja assassins, who cloaked themselves in black blankets so they couldn’t be seen at night.

If the fizzy drink machine seems a little elaborate, not to mention impractical, she has also come up with the ‘manhole bag’ which is supposed to look like a sewer cover when you put it down so unwitting thieves walk right by without noticing it.

For children, she has a backpack that transforms into a fire hydrant.

While British women might prefer to take self-defence classes, Ms Tsukioka said: “It is just easier for Japanese to hide. Making a scene would be too embarrassing.”

She admits that making the switch from skirt to vending machine might prove a little tricky “especially when your hands are shaking”.

But she told the New York Times: “These ideas might strike foreigners as far-fetched, but in Japan, they can become reality.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

How to Deal With Pirates, Russian-Style: Special Forces Storm Tanker Carrying £33m of Oil After Capture by Somali Gang

Russian Special Forces abseiled from a helicopter to storm an oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates in a dramatic rescue off the coast of Yemen yesterday.

One pirate was shot dead and ten captured after they opened fire on the helicopter and a Russian naval speedboat with Kalishnikovs and rocket propelled grenades.

The raid came after special forces aboard the Russian antisubmarine destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov rushed to the aid of the tanker, Moscow University.

The 23-man crew had locked themselves in a safe room after disabling the engine of the tanker which was carrying 86,000 tons of crude oil worth £33million.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Russia — China: Russian Warship Frees Tanker Hijacked by Somali Pirates

The attack occurred early this morning off the coast of Yemen. Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden pirates get tens of millions of Euros in ransom and hold the world’s war ships in check.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A Russian warship freed a Russian oil tanker, hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Yemen, about 800 km from Somalia. The ship is carrying oil bought by China Unipec in Somalia worth 52 million dollars (40 million Euros) on route to the Chinese port of Ningbo and had 23 crewmen on board. Russian troops killed one of the attacker and captured another 10.

The tanker belonging to Novorossiyk Shipping Company, has a tonnage of 106,474 tons and carries 86 thousand tons of oil.

Commander John Harbour, spokesman for the European Naval Union, said the pirates attacked at dawn, with a motorboat that detached from the mother ship and automatic weapons. The ship managed to avoid them for several hours, while sending out distress signals. But in the end the pirates managed to board. It seems that there are no injuries. Before the communication breaks down, the ship managed to get a distress call out to the Russian anti-submarine warship Marshal Shaposhnikov.

Somali pirates are a problem along international trade routes between Europe, Africa and Asia. They board and hijack cargo and earn tens of millions of Euros in ransom money. To avoid them, tankers and cargo ships crossing the Indian Ocean off the coast, travel to the east. Some companies even prefer to return to the old routes by sailing around Africa to avoid the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aden, infested by pirates, through which about 7% of world oil production passes.

Several countries have sent warships to patrol the area in an attempt to maintain secure corridors. But it is difficult to intercept the pirates, because they sight their prey from a distance, do not approach if there are warships nearby and attack the heavy commercial vessels with small speedboats and men armed with automatic weapons, boarding and taking possession of the vessel.

Occasionally there are some success stories, as in February when the Danish special forces intervened after the pirates had boarded the ship Ariella and managed to catch them, while the crew was locked in a vault.

Official estimates speak of more than 300 hostages in the hands of pirates caught in the east African seas in recent months.

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


Cyprus Tops Political Asylum List

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 6 — Malta and Cyprus were the EU countries to have received the most applications for political asylum in 2009, as Famagusta Gazette reports quoting Eurostat figures. A total of 2,385 applications were filed in Malta in 2009, which corresponds to 5,765 persons per million citizens. Cyprus was second with 2,665 applications, corresponding to 3,345 per million. The main countries of origin for political asylum seekers in Cyprus were India, Sri Lanka and Palestine. In 2009, Cyprus examined 3,855 applications and approved 1,130, of which 50 were for political asylum, while 1,040 were granted temporary protection status and 40 protection for humanitarian reasons, while 2,725 applications were rejected. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Illegal Immigration is a Happy Invasion

This week, in the Huffington Post, Bill Clinton said we need more immigrants to offset our federal deficit.


…We already suffer 20 million Americans out of work and 35 million subsisting on food stamps. We’re $12 trillion in debt and Clinton wants to add more immigrants. Go figure!

But it doesn’t end there! In a round-house discussion on TV last week, the imminent and inane journalist Eleanor Clift, totally out of touch with reality, said of illegal immigration into America, “It’s a happy invasion.”

In the same moment, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told the round table, “There are more illegal aliens in Arizona than Americans serving in the United States Army. That’s an invasion.”

“It’s a happy invasion!” blurted Clift.

One of the other speakers exclaimed, “If we don’t have English as a unifying language, we could lose our American culture.”

Eleanor Clift shows exactly why this country simmers, boils, rots, seethes and disintegrates before our eyes. Such elites don’t possess the brains that God gave a goose. They don’t understand the boiling factors now undermining this country on multiple levels.


Does that ‘happy invasion’ include four officers shot in the back of their heads last year in a town near Seattle, Washington as they drank coffee on break by Muslim Clarice Clemmons? Does that ‘happy invasion’ include Denver, Colorado bomber Najibullah Zazi attempting his blowing up New York subways? Or, how about that Faisal Shahzad trying to blow up Times Square this week? Is that a happy invasion?

Just what does Clift mean by ‘happy invasion’? How about the $100 billion drug smuggling annually by ‘happy invaders’? What about the 57,000 cars stolen in Arizona annually by more of those ‘happy invaders’? Did Clift know that Arizona boasts the nation’s new kidnapping capitol? How happy can that be? Or, yes, MS-13 gangs now operating in 44 states to deal drugs to our kids must be a ‘happy invasion’! Wow! How happy can you get Ms. Clift?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Vows to ‘Begin’ Amnesty Push

Blasts Arizona law in calling for sweeping fix to ‘broken’ immigration system

President Obama repeated his call for “common sense comprehensive immigration reform” on Wednesday during the White House’s Cinco de Mayo reception.

“I want to begin work this year,” said Obama, speaking in the Rose Garden. “And I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me.”

He called for a sweeping fix to the “broken” system.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: 50 Rescued, Including Women and Children

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — A boat carrying 50 migrants including 22 women and 7 children under the age of 6, was today rescued by the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service whilst it was drifting in the waters of the Gibraltar Straits. So said the vice prefecture of Cadiz. The boat was spotted following an emergency phone calls made by migrants with cellular phones to the emergency number 112, from 8:45 this morning. The search, conducted with the help of the motorboat from the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service and a helicopter from the Civil Guard of the border surveillance system (SIVE), allowed the identification of the boat three miles from Cape Camarinal, off the coast of Cadiz, and which was then towed to the port of Tarifa (Cadiz). The migrants, who disembarked at around 9:30am, were tended to by the Red Cross and taken to temporary reception centres. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden Increases Refugee Forecast Again

Sweden’s Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has increased its forecast to 31,000 for the number of people expected to seek asylum in Sweden this year. It has also requested an additional 60 million kronor ($7.86 million) in 2010 to cope with the increased pressure.

“There has been a sharp upward revision. This is the second time this year we have increased the projection,” said Dan Eliasson, the director general of the Migration Board.

Previously, the Migration Board estimated that there would be 25,000 asylum seekers in 2010, but in February, it increased its forecast to 28,000 and asked for an additional 50 million kronor for its budget. It has also increased its projection for next year by 1,000 to 28,000.

The spike in asylum seekers is largely because more people from Serbia and Kosovo are seeking refugee status following the abolition of visa requirements.

“Many European countries have been surprised by so many now coming from Serbia,” said Eliasson. “Among others, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland have noticed a similar development.”

However, the likelihood of people from the Balkans being allowed to staying in Sweden is “extremely” small.

“Each case must of course be assessed individually, but generally, it is very difficult to get asylum in Sweden from another European country,” said Eliasson. “Often, the living conditions are very difficult. Many live in extreme poverty. However, Swedish asylum law provides no protection because of poverty and destitution, only to those who are threatened or persecuted.”

The agency now expects that the government will inject extra money as required. If the Migration Board does not receive additional resources, the likely consequence would be longer processing times and increased caseloads. This would result in longer stays for asylum seekers in Sweden, which would mean a substantially increased burden on the government’s budget, according to the estimates.

The agency also pointed out the need for 1,400 new apartments for asylum seekers. In response to the surge, the Migration Board has addressed the need for an increase in resources both for this year and next.

With regard to cases relating to work, visit and residence, the forecast for the number of applications is unchanged, with the exception of the guest student category.

In light of the decision to introduce tuition fees at Swedish universities and colleges for foreigners by Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, the Migration Board estimates that the number of asylum applications will fall by 30 to 40 percent starting in 2011.

External link: Migration Board’s operational and cost forecast (in Swedish) “

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Video: AZ Immigration Law Author: Obama is ‘Trying to Stir Up Racial Anxiety for Political Gain’

“It’s abundantly clear that people like Barack Obama haven’t read the law. As far as people in the media, I think they’re willfully distorting it.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Girl’s ‘Forced’ Abortion Blamed on Government ‘Death Panel’

‘This is what happens in China. Girls are taken kicking and screaming’

A longtime veteran of the battle against abortion in the United States says the case of a Philadelphia teen who reportedly was coerced into a late-term abortion by a social services agency can be blamed on government’s so-called “death panels.”

The issue of “death panels” came up during discussion of President Obama’s now-approved nationalization of health care services in the country, and critics said the plan included government boards that simply would approve or refuse certain medical services for some patients — or decide life or death.

Obamacare supporters vocally denied that such panels existed or would exist, but Troy Newman, chief of the pro-life Operation Rescue organization, said the Philadelphia case is documentation that they already exist and are operating.

The Philadelphia Daily News apparently was the first to document the case, in which social workers took a teen for an abortion even though the teen had been looking forward to having the little boy and even had picked out a name.

Further, the teen’s mother had opposed the abortion, as had the foster mother with whom the teen was staying. The newspaper even reported that one social worker, Marisol Rivera, who said she didn’t want to take the teen for an abortion, later was dismissed by the social services agency.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]