Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100531

Financial Crisis
»ECB Buying Up Greek Bonds
»Spain: No Funds Available, Large-Scale Projects Shelved
»Pittsburgh Nun Foils Wallet Theft With Reprimand
»‘Suicide by Cop’ Phenomenon Occurring in Over a Third of North American Shootings Involving Police
»Aeromexico Flight Diverted, Passenger Held
Europe and the EU
»Controversy Over Afghanistan Remarks: German President Horst Köhler Resigns
»Greece: Piraeus Strike, Maritime Traffic Paralysed
»Maria Callas Lives Again on Onassis’ Yacht in Monaco
»Netherlands: ‘You Are Guests Here, ‘ PVV MP Tells Dutch Moroccans
»Netherlands: PVV ‘Ready to Rule’ With CDA, VVD: Rutte Doubts PVV Economic Policy
»Netherlands: Anti-Immigration Wilders Runs a Muted Campaign
»Netherlands: All About Soundbites: A Philosophical Look at the Failure of the Left
»Netherlands: Green Light for Terror Suspect Extradition
»Netherlands: PVV Becomes Theme in Campaign
»Netherlands: Groenlinks: Minorities a Separate Category in Criminal Law
»‘Possible’ Priest Abuse Cover-Ups in Italy
»Saudi Fostering Families Needed in the UK
»UK: The ‘Playing Fields’ Where Killjoy Council Bosses Have Banned Ball Games… Because of Health and Safety
»Croatia: Focus on Underwater Safaris
»Kosovo: Local Elections in North, SNS and Socialists Win
»Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic: Kosovo ‘Is Our Jerusalem’
Mediterranean Union
»EU, Jordan Sign Financial Assistance Package
»EU-Jordan: New Phase in Bilateral Relations, Fule Says
Israel and the Palestinians
»Aid Organisers Tied to ‘Terrorists’
»An Exaggerated Response: Israel Falls Into the Trap
»Attack Devastating for Israel’s Image, Henri-Levy
»Attack on Israeli Competitor During Turkish Cycling Tour
»Caroline Glick: Ending Israel’s Losing Streak
»Flotilla: EU Wants Israel to Open Inquiry
»Flotilla: Hamas Calls it State Terrorism
»Flotilla: Arab Israeli Sheikh Raed Salah Wounded
»Flotilla: World “Shocked” After Israeli Attack
»Flotilla: Barak, No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
»Flotilla: Palestinian Anger in Gaza and West Bank
»IHH Has a History of Supporting Terrorism and Anti-Western Senitiment
»Iran: ‘Israel Deserves Collective Punishment’
»Israeli Commandos Gun Down 19 Peace Activists in Raid on Gaza Ships With 28 Britons on Board
»Raid on Flotilla Puts Final Nail in Coffin of Turkish Ties With Israel
»The Liberal Betrayal of Israel
Middle East
»Catholics in Iran: A Community at Risk of Extinction?
»Cruise Tourism Suspended Between Turkey and Israel
»Flotilla: 5,000 Anti-Israel Protestors in Istanbul
»Flotilla: Turkey Cancels Military Action With Israel
»Flotilla: Israel’s Crimes Could Lead to War, Syria
»Flotilla: Football Match Turkey-Israel Cancelled
»Flotilla: This is State Terrorism, Says Erdogan
»Gaza Freedom Flotilla Organizers Linked to Worldwide Terrorism
»Iran: Muslims Must Unite Against Israel
»Turkey Warns Israel of ‘Irreparable Consequences’
»Turkish PM Calls Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla ‘State Terror’
Far East
»China: Foxconn Suicides: Capitalism and Marxism Treat People Like Animals
»Finland: Rights Group: Some Immigrant Youth Sent Abroad by Force
»Finland: Minister Wants More Immigrants to Seek High School Degrees
Culture Wars
»Italy: Gay Attack Sparks Campaign for Homophobia Law
»Does the Internet Really Influence Suicidal Behavior?
»Gene Silencing Approach Saves Monkeys From Ebola: Study

Financial Crisis

ECB Buying Up Greek Bonds

German Central Bankers Suspect French Intrigue

The European Central Bank has been buying up Greek bonds by the bucketload, even though Athens is already getting money from an EU rescue fund. German central bankers suspect a French plot behind the massive buy-up — after all, it gives French banks the perfect opportunity to get rid of their Greek assets.

The senior members of the German central bank, the Bundesbank, regarded Axel Weber with a look of anticipation. What would Weber, the Bundesbank president, say about the serious crisis that had them all so worried, they wondered? And what did he intend to do about it?

Weber said nothing and, as some who attended the meeting report, even his facial expression was inscrutable. The Bundesbank president remained stone-faced as he acknowledged the latest figures, which indicated that by the end of last week the European Central Bank (ECB) had already spent close to €40 billion ($50 billion) on buying up government bonds from Spain, Portugal, Ireland and, in particular, Greece.

The ECB already has about €25 billion of Greece’s mountain of debt on its books, and it is adding another €2 billion a day, on average. The Bundesbank, which has a 27 percent stake in the ECB, is responsible for €7 billion of the ECB’s Greek government bonds.

Many Bundesbank members are wondering why the ECB is buying Greek bonds in the first place, particularly on this scale, now that the euro-zone countries’ €110 billion bailout package for Greece has been approved, and the first tranche of the funds has already been disbursed.

The general €750 billion rescue fund for the remaining highly indebted countries has been approved but not yet set up. For this reason, it certainly makes sense to stabilize the prices of Spanish, Portuguese and Irish bonds. Nevertheless, some of the central bankers have a sneaking suspicion that there is a French conspiracy at work.

Bailing Out French Banks

By buying up Greek debt, the ECB keeps the prices of the bonds artificially high. French banks, in particular, benefit from this policy because it enables them to sell their Greek bonds to the ECB, as an inexpensive way of cleaning up their balance sheets. France’s banks and insurance companies have a total of about €80 billion in Greek government bonds on their books.

German banks, on the other hand, are not potential sellers, because they have made a voluntary commitment to Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to hold their Greek bonds until May 2013.

Thus, in a roundabout way, the Bundesbank, by spending €7 billion to purchase the Greek securities, has already made a substantial contribution to bailing out banks in neighboring France.

It was ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, a Frenchman, who, in an alarming and provocative speech, initiated the extensive euro rescue package that was approved on the weekend of May 8-9. And it was Trichet who yielded to massive pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and, soon afterwards, violated a long-standing ECB taboo, namely that the central bank should never buy its member states’ debt. This, however, was precisely what Sarkozy had demanded of his fellow European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Clear Signal

Weber, the Bundesbank president, voted against this measure in the ECB council and criticized it the next day in an interview with the German financial newspaper Börsen-Zeitung. For a central banker, this is a very clear signal of dissatisfaction. But the Bundesbank president faces a dilemma, because he hopes to take over as ECB president when Trichet’s term expires next year. The general consensus in the German government is that if he continues to fight against the purchase of the bonds, his prospects for securing the top ECB post will dwindle.

But many German central bankers expect Weber to remain steadfast and not give in. For them, the purchase of government bonds is a betrayal of the principles of the once-proud institution. By deciding to do so, they say, the ECB has lost its status as an independent central bank — and, along with it, so has the Bundesbank. And then there is the fear of the consequences of such a purchase, which many central bankers believe could jeopardize the very existence of the ECB.

However, European central bankers do not know how long the ECB will continue to buy government bonds. That depends on how bond prices fluctuate in the euro-zone countries in question.

Managing the Crisis

Every morning, the so-called Market Operations Committee (MOC) of the ECB analyzes the situation. The committee, whose members the ECB does not identify, supports the central bank in its monetary policy affairs, foreign currency transactions and the management of currency reserves. But the MOC has also become the bridge from which the central bankers are managing the euro crisis.

The Bundesbank’s representative on the MOC is Joachim Nagel, head of the central bank’s markets department. In closed-door sessions, he and his fellow committee members determine when and for what amounts the ECB and the euro-zone central banks, in concerted actions, buy up the government bonds of highly indebted euro countries to support their prices and thus maintain yields at a tolerable level.

The central bankers have informally agreed on what constitutes this tolerable level. The MOC’s goal is to manipulate the markets in such a way that bond prices level off at the values that were in place on April 9, before investors, fearing that the governments could default on their bonds, launched into a massive sell-off of the securities.

Part 2: The Euro Zone’s Bad Bank

Bonds worth about €3 billion are now being purchased on every trading day, with €2 billion of the bonds coming from Athens. At the moment, there is no improvement of the situation in sight. “The ECB and the national central banks operating on its behalf are currently the only buyers to speak of,” says one market insider.

This policy effectively makes the ECB a so-called “bad bank” (a bank that buys up toxic assets as a means of helping out other institutions), all protestations of its president to the contrary. The pile of junk bonds on the ECB’s balance sheet continues to grow. The fact that the ECB is keeping prices artificially high is downright encouraging banks to unload their risky assets onto the central bank.

Thorstein Polleit, the chief economist of Barclays Capital Deutschland, puts it this way: “The ECB is creating excess supply by buying at overinflated prices.” In other words, many creditors are more inclined to sell their risky assets to the central bank under these terms. “It’s a free lunch,” says a top Frankfurt banker. “Anyone who doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity to get rid of his securities now only has himself to blame.”

But in pursuing the policy, the ECB has backed itself into a corner. What will happen if it stops supporting the market? Will the prices of the bonds of highly indebted countries then hit rock bottom?

Time for a Haircut?

To make matters worse, very few financial experts believe that the governments in question, particularly in the case of Greece, will get a handle on the debt crisis. Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann recently voiced such doubts, saying that such a failure would result in a so-called “haircut” — that is, a debt waiver on the part of creditors. If that happened, Ackermann said, the ECB itself could be in jeopardy. The central bank’s capital, currently about €70 billion, most of which is invested in the national central banks, would be severely affected or even completely exhausted, depending on how much longer the central bank continues to buy Greek bonds.

The member states would also have to inject new capital into the ECB, a particularly difficult undertaking for highly indebted countries.

Another option for the ECB would be to issue its own bonds to recapitalize itself. But this too creates a problem: At what interest rate would investors lend money to the central bank under these circumstances?

The only remaining solution would be one that has always led to inflation in the past, namely firing up the printing presses.

Good Money for Bad Debt

Although that scenario is unlikely to materialize, those who have always believed that a few days of robust ECB market intervention would be enough to reassure market players and bring yields back to a normal level were mistaken.

At first glance, the ECB’s efforts to support the bonds of highly indebted countries would seem to have a neutral effect on its balance sheet, because it reflects a value for the bonds corresponding to their price. But the truth is that good money is being paid for bad debt.

The German finance minister, in particular, will feel the effects of this policy. The Bundesbank normally transfers its profits to the federal government at the end of each year — in euros, not Greek bonds.

But paying for the bonds ties up available funds, thereby reducing profits, presumably for years to come. This too has a seriously adverse effect on the self-confidence of the central bankers.

Things could get worse. If creditors were in fact forced to forego a portion of their claims, this flow of payments could even be reversed. Under that scenario, the federal government would have to transfer money to the Bundesbank to offset its losses.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Spain: No Funds Available, Large-Scale Projects Shelved

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — Goodbye to large public works. Madrid was given a rude awakening in the midst of the crisis, when after over a decade of enormous investments into public works, several large-scale projects have been shelved, such as the City of Justice and the future Vallehermoso Stadium. The dream of the 2016 Olympic candidacy of Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, which crashed miserably, is represented today in front of the old stadium, built a half a century ago, where there is only a sign announcing its destruction within five months, which have already passed some time ago. It was impossible to find 98.6 million euros needed for the new Olympic Stadium in the midst of these tough times, during which the government has told the regional autonomies to tighten their belts and cut an additional 10 billion euros to hit the target of a 3% public deficit in 2013. Cancelled for now are also the pool, gymnasiums, tennis courts and canoe facilities, together with a new athletics track, which would have formed the new sports hub for the capital. But, as denounced by residents in the area, since the demolition works have been suspended, the terraces have been destroyed and the old stadium is unusable. And that’s not all. Since the new structure was supposed to be built in an area adjacent to the current stadium, the entire green area that surrounded the old structure has been completely eliminated. But the new Vallehermoso is going to have to wait for better times, just like the City of Justice, the crowning jewel of the president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, which was supposed to be completed in 2009. Of that project, according to reports in El Pais today, only one of the 15 buildings destined to host the 23 judicial buildings spread throughout the capital has been built. The others exist only on paper. In the only structure that has been built, the Institute of Forensic Medicine will be located, which is currently housed in rented offices. The City of Madrid alone has cut 1.041 billion euros in expenses in the current fiscal year, of which 600 million euros were earmarked for public works. The 98.6 million euros saved on the new Vallehermoso Stadium are added to the 327 million from the new Convention Centre, another project which has also been shelved. But, in addition to sports and tourism projects, the new cuts damage one of the long-awaited infrastructural works, the City of Justice, which would have finally allowed for the judiciary system to run more smoothly. “The enormous dispersion of the legal offices forces professionals in the sector to continually travel and waste time moving from one part of the city to the other and reflects itself in the efficiency of the offices,” said Audiencia Provincial de Madrid President Ana Maria Ferrer, speaking to El Pais. The initial investment was expected to be 300 million euros for architectural projects given to renowned names in the field of design such as Rochard Roger, Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid. For now, due to the crisis, they will remain a fantasy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Pittsburgh Nun Foils Wallet Theft With Reprimand

A Pittsburgh thief turned out to be no match for a little nun with a commanding voice.

Sister Lynn Rettinger didn’t even have to break out a ruler for a man who reached into an opened car window and stole a wallet Tuesday. She just needed the tone of voice she’s used for nearly 50 years in Catholic schools.

After a teacher saw the man swipe the wallet, the 5-foot-3 principal of Sacred Heart Elementary School went outside and firmly told the man: “You need to give me what you have.”

The thief turned over the wallet, apologized and walked away.

Rettinger said she merely talked to him as she would to students when she knows they have something they shouldn’t.

Police are still looking for the man.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Suicide by Cop’ Phenomenon Occurring in Over a Third of North American Shootings Involving Police

[Note: It would be interesting to decouple these statistics in order to isolate the number of definitely guilty suspects who commit SBC because of how likely their subsequent apprehension and sentencing will be.. Put another way: Is the relative efficacy of law enforcement removing any hope of escaping due justice to such an extent that many perpetrators elect to die rather than undergo criminal trial and incarceration?

Given how comfortable current jail conditions are, it seems difficult to believe this but experiencing confinement first hand may prove sufficiently daunting to a number of individuals regardless of conditions. — Z]

“Suicide by Cop” (SBC) is a suicide method in which a person engages in actual or apparent danger to others in an attempt to get oneself killed or injured by law enforcement. A new study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences examined the prevalence of this phenomenon among a large sample of officer-involved shootings.

Results show that SBC occurs at extremely high rates, with 36 percent of all shootings being categorized as SBC. The findings confirm the growing incidence of this method of suicide, with SBC cases more likely to result in the death or injury of the subjects 50 percent of the time.

The study was led by noted police and forensic psychologist Kris Mohandie, Ph.D., who has over nineteen years of experience in the assessment and management of violent behavior. Dr. Mohandie responded on-scene to the O.J. Simpson barricade and assisted the L.A. County District Attorney’s prosecution of the stalker of Steven Spielberg..

Using the largest empirical sample of police shootings to examine the issue of SBC, Dr. Mohandie, J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., and Peter I. Collins, M.C.A., M.D., F.R.C.P., examined 707 cases of North American officer-involved shootings from 1998 to 2006. Materials reviewed included police reports, witness statements, criminal histories on subjects, photographs, videotapes, and external review reports.

SBC was found to occur at a momentous rate among officer-involved shooting cases. The fact that 36 percent of all shootings in the sample could be categorized as SBC underscores the significance of suicidal impulses among those who become involved in shootings and other uses of force with police officers.

The study also verifies that suicidal individuals can in fact threaten, injure, and kill others in their quest to commit suicide. These individuals are quite lethal to themselves, with a 97 percent likelihood of being injured or killed. There was a one in three chance of others being harmed during the incident.

“It is clear from our research that SBC is a common occurrence among officer involved shootings and must be considered as an issue during post-event investigations,” the authors conclude.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Aeromexico Flight Diverted, Passenger Held

Passenger believed to be on U.S. no-fly list

A man believed to be on the United States’ “no-fly” list is in custody in Montreal after being removed from a flight from Paris to Mexico.

The Aeromexico flight landed at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport late Sunday afternoon after being denied entry to U.S. air space because a man on board was named in an outstanding warrant.

One of the passengers on board was detained once the plane landed in Montreal, officials said.

Other passengers on the flight from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Mexico City International Airport were re-screened and allowed to re-board the flight, said Lauren Gaches, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration.

Dominque McNeely, a spokesman for the Canadian Border Services Agency said there was no incident on the aircraft and that law-enforcement officials boarded the plane around 2:30 p.m. ET and took the suspect into custody.

McNeely said his agency got a phone call advising them the flight was going to land in Montreal and that there was a subject on board that “could be of interest to us.”

In a statement, the TSA also said the U.S. has the right to refuse entry to any flight deemed a threat to its security — but neither the Americans nor McNeely have said what threat the man might have posed.

“All I can confirm is that it was a person of interest that was interviewed by our officers,” McNeely said.

American officials wouldn’t confirm whether the passenger was on the U.S. no-fly list, but Montreal’s Airport Authority and several other sources confirm the man is named on the list.

McNeely said the foreign national that was on the flight has been “deemed inadmissible to Canada for non-compliance to the immigration and refugee protection act.”

The identity of the person arrested was not released. The individual is currently being held in a Montreal-area immigration detention centre awaiting a hearing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Controversy Over Afghanistan Remarks: German President Horst Köhler Resigns

German President Horst Köhler, under fire for controversial comments he made about Germany’s mission in Afghanistan, resigned with immediate effect on Monday in a shock announcement that comes as the latest in a series of blows to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

German President Horst Köhler announced his resignation on Monday in response to fierce criticism of comments he made about Germany’s military mission in Afghanistan.

“I declare my resignation from the office of president — with immediate effect,” Köhler, with tears in his eyes and speaking in a faltering voice, said in a statement, flanked by his wife Eva-Luise.

The president is the head of state and his duties are largely ceremonial. But the resignation is the latest in a string of setbacks for Chancellor Angela Merkel since her re-election last September. The German federal assembly — made up of parliamentary MPs and delegates appointed by the country’s 16 federal states — will have to vote for a successor to Köhler within 30 days, according to the federal constitution.

The president had become the target of intense criticism following remarks he made during a surprise visit to soldiers of the Bundeswehr German army in Afghanistan on May 22. In an interview with a German radio reporter who accompanied him on the trip, he seemed to justify his country’s military missions abroad with the need to protect economic interests.

“A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that … military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests — for example when it comes to trade routes, for example when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes,” Köhler said.

It sounded as though Köhler was justifying wars for the sake of economic interests, in the context of the Afghan mission which is highly controversial in Germany and throughout Europe.

‘The Criticism Lacks the Necessary Respect for My Office’

In his statement on Monday, Köhler said: “My comments about foreign missions by the Bundeswehr on May 22 this year met with heavy criticism. I regret that my comments led to misunderstandings in a question so important and difficult for our nation. But the criticism has gone as far as to accuse me of supporting Bundeswehr missions that are not covered by the constitution. This criticism is devoid of any justification. It lacks the necessary respect for my office.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Köhler had informed her of his decision at midday on Monday, just two hours before he announced it. “I tried to change his mind, unfortunately that didn’t succeed and that is why I say I regret this resignation very deeply,” she told reporters in a short briefing. “I think the German public will be very sad about this resignation because Horst Köhler was a president of the people, of the citizens in Germany.”

“He was an important advisor especially in the economic and financial crisis with his big international experience and I will miss his advice in the future.”

The mayor of the northern city state of Bremen, Jens Böhrnsen, will take over from Köhler as interim head of state until a new president is elected. Under the constitution, Böhrnsen assumes the position in his capacity as president of the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament.

“Super Horst’s” Fall From Grace

Köhler became president in 2004 and was elected for a second five-year term in 2009. The former head of the International Monetary Fund was the first non-politician to become German head of state. He is a member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and was nominated for the presidency by the CDU with the backing of their coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats.

He won praise during his first term for making a series of strong speeches urging Germany to reform its economy, and his apparent independence from the government prompted mass circulation Bild newspaper to dub him “Super Horst.”

But he surprised commentators in recent months by appearing to stay on the sidelines in the euro crisis. The resignation a few weeks ago of his press spokesman Martin Kothé exposed Köhler’s weaknesses in public speaking to such an extent that members of his staff were likening him to former president Heinrich Lübke, who was notoriously prone to embarrassing gaffes.

Insiders say Köhler was hurt by the lack of support from Merkel and members of her government during the furore surrounding his comments about Afghanistan. Merkel’s response to his resgination on Monday was noticeably curt and she devoted most of the briefing to talking about the killings by Israeli forces of activists aboard a flotilla of Gaza-bound aid ships.

Finding a successor to Köhler will pose a headache for Merkel, whose popularity has slumped in recent months. She has been hit by criticism of her handling of the euro crisis and by the loss of a center-right majority in the upper house following sharp declines for her CDU in a state election in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, on May 9.

A further blow came last week with the resignation of CDU heavyweight Roland Koch, the governor of Hesse, a conservative hardliner whose departure has left a big gap in the right wing of her party.

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

Greece: Piraeus Strike, Maritime Traffic Paralysed

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Greek maritime traffic has today been paralysed by a 24-hour strike by sailors protesting against the government’s decision to remove the mooring ban on non-European cruise ships in an effort to revive tourism. All traffic to and from the Greek islands, both passengers and cargo, has been suspended and two cruise ships were unable to leave the port. Another ship, the Zenith, was supposed to moor in Piraeus but re-routed to Malta. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maria Callas Lives Again on Onassis’ Yacht in Monaco

(ANSAmed) — PARIGI, 26 MAG — Maria Callas lives again on the same yacht where she had a torturous love affair with Aristotle Onassis, the Christina O. This is the latest marketing ploy by the owners of the legendary yacht, donated to the Greek state by the daughter of the shipping magnate and then bought out and redone by a friend of the family, leader of the naval industry. Today the yacht can be chartered for an astronomical fee (almost half a million euros per week, for 34 people). “La Divina, the rebirth of Maria Callas” is the new initiative, a short cruise starting tomorrow from the port of Monaco, with only five dates organised so far (27, 28, 29 May and then 4 and 5 June), to test the waters. In order to attract the public, who most certainly must be well-off in order to be able to pay the 500 euros that each of the 100 seats onboard costs, the programme is the very best: a recital of around an hour by a world-famous soprano who will sing the emblematic arias of the main roles played by Maria Callas, an exceptional buffet by the chefs of chez Don Alfonso 1890, the legendary restaurant in Sant’Agata sui due Golfi, between Positano and Sorrento, and a guided tour to discovery the legendary history of the Christina O, which hosted the wedding reception of Onassis and Jackie Kennedy and Ranier and Grace of Monaco. Over the years, people who have come onboard have included Winston Churchill (who met JFK here for the first time in 1957), the Aga Khan, Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and Eva Peron. The world’s elite. Five and a half hours of cruise starting at 18.00 from the port of Monaco and returning at 23.30. A little under 100 euros per hour. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ‘You Are Guests Here, ‘ PVV MP Tells Dutch Moroccans

Dissident PVV MP Hero Brinkman, who wants to set up a youth wing of the party, has told a group of Dutch Moroccan youngsters that they are ‘guests’ in the Netherlands.

‘You are guest here. We have a Dutch culture and we want to keep it. We do not want all sorts of influences eating away at it and that is not going to happen either,’ news agency ANP quotes Brinkman as saying at a meeting in an Amsterdam youth centre.

The MP made the comment during a discussion on whether the multicultural society is an enrichment of Dutch society.

Brinkman’s statement led to angry reactions from the audience. ‘The youth of PVV don’t want us to integrate but to assimilate,’ said one Dutch Moroccan boy. ‘In fact, you want us to dye our hair blonde, just like your leader in The Hague.’

Brinkman, a former Amsterdam policeman, also said the Moroccan teapot he was given as a gift for attending was financed by taxpayers and thus ‘a present from me to myself’.

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

Netherlands: PVV ‘Ready to Rule’ With CDA, VVD: Rutte Doubts PVV Economic Policy

While a post-election coalition with Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV party could not be ruled out, the PVV is a left-wing party in terms of the economy, Liberal leader Mark Rutte said at the weekend.

Speaking after Wilders said he was ready to join a coalition with the VVD Liberals and CDA after the June 9 vote, Rutte said: ‘The PVV has a left-wing agenda, just like the Socialists.’

The PVV is opposed to changes to mortgage tax relief, like the VVD, but has said an increase in the state pension age is taboo. The VVD and CDA both back a gradual rise from 65 to 67.

Right wing

Wilders said in an interview in Saturday’s Telegraaf a right-wing cabinet would be the best to solve the Netherlands’ problems in terms of immigration, integration and public safety.

‘We are ready for a VVD, CDA, PVV cabinet,’ he said.

And he called on Rutte to reject a ‘purple’ cabinet, a combination of the two Liberal parties and Labour.

‘That would be fatal for the Netherlands,’ he said. Labour leader Job Cohen has made tentative overtures to the VVD about a purple coalition, ANP says.


Both the VVD and CDA have so far refused to rule out forming a coalition with any party.

However, CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende has said it will be ‘very difficult’ to rule with the PVV, which wants a total ban on non-western immigration and includes a tax on Muslim headscarves in its manifesto.

A coalition with the CDA and PVV ‘could be an outcome’, Rutte was reported as saying during a campaign visit to Harderwijk, stressing the VVD did not rule out any democratic party.


‘The most important thing for me is that we get a cabinet which can pull the Netherlands out of the crisis and make it stronger,’ he said.

VVD campaign mastermind Stef Blok refused to speculate on possible coalitions, adding that voters must first have their say. But a new coalition must be prepared to reform the economy, he told Trouw.

According to the latest option polls, both a right-wing coalition and a purple coalition would be a possibility. The VVD is currently the biggest party in the polls, with Labour second, the CDA third and PVV in fourth place.

Which coalition government do you prefer? Take part in our poll

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

Netherlands: Anti-Immigration Wilders Runs a Muted Campaign

As the Dutch election campaign centres on the economy, the populist Islam-basher Geert Wilders has lost momentum.

Geert Wilders makes clear choices about which media he talks to. He refuses to be interviewed by NRC Handelsblad, for example, and to give reasons for his refusal. Interviews with media that are, apparently, unacceptable to him don’t seem to fit into his campaign strategy. He also denied daily Trouw an interview and generally avoids public television, though he participates in their prime ministerial debates in the run-up to the June 9 election.

When he does appear in the media, Wilders tries to send a clear message: Islam is a huge danger, mass immigration costs billions, and the average Dutch voter is best served by the left socio-economic programme of his PVV. Wilders, who until 2004 sat in parliament for the right-wing liberal VVD, promises the state pension age will not be raised, tax benefits on mortgages will remain intact, and there will be no cuts in unemployment benefit. But he turns every political debate to his core business. “Other parties want to slash unemployment benefits while seven billion euros are spent each year on mass immigration,” was one of his first contributions to last Wednesday’s TV debate on the economy.

The remark was his attempt to regain lost ground in the final weeks of the election campaign. Six months ago, his party was leading some of the polls, but it has been overtaken by the right-wing liberals, Labour and the Christian democrats. When the government fell in February, Wilders proclaimed that the election battle would be between his party and Labour. But the real fight is now between the traditional left and right. Primary combatants are Job Cohen, the labour party leader, Mark Rutte, head of the right-wing liberal party VVD, and Jan Peter Balkenende of the Christian democrats. Wilders has been edged to the sidelines now the principal electoral issue is the economy rather than immigration.

Changed his tone

Wilders’ campaign has become remarkably muted. While Rutte, Cohen and Balkenende slug it out in the media, Wilders is ignored, making little impression with his usual one-liners such as, “prison inmates have it better than the aged in our care facilities”.

The PVV is also less active in campaigning around the country. Wilders and his party candidates have only organised voter events about ten times. That is very little in comparison with the competition. Apart from the large, organised debates, they hardly appear in the media. This seems to be a result of Wilders’ tight control over the party. Candidates who speak publicly could make mistakes, seems to be his reasoning.

The only visible PVV candidate is Hero Brinkman, who is pursuing his own campaign. As soon as he was assured of his position as a parliamentary contender, Brinkman launched a public battle for more democracy within Wilders’ party, calling on supporters to cast a vote for him personally. Brinkman wants a more democratic party with a youth wing, and an end to the single-issue focus. Unlike other political party’s, the PVV has no members, except for Wilders himself and all decisions are made by him.

In recent years, Wilders rose to prominence with his condemnation of Islam. But after making his short film, Fitna, he seemed to have realised that he had to change his tone. He announced that he would broaden the party’s focus, adopted a left socio-economic programme, and trained his sights on defeating the traditional left-wing, particularly in the person of Job Cohen, the Labour party leader.

Does he want to be in government?

Recently, however, he has been adjusting his strategy, attacking the right as well. “Left up to the VVD, thousands more mosques will appear,” he warned his supporters last Tuesday. “Before the elections, the VVD copies a couple of our issues, but once the elections are over, the borders will be flung open.”

The strategy shift makes it clear that Wilders is flailing. His proposal to impose a tax on headscarves didn’t go down well with all everyone in his party, insiders say. Two of his candidates, in whose training he had invested heavily, withdrew after some media furore. In Almere and Den Haag, PVV victories in local government elections did not lead to actual council responsibility.

His opponents claim Wilders doesn’t really want to be in government. He has declared that he will not form a coalition with any party that intends to raise the pensionable age. That means he can only get together with the socialist SP. When presenting his election programme, Wilders stressed he was ready to rule the country, but he soon announced a secondary option, support for a minority government comprised of the right-liberals and Christian democrats. He seemed to be consciously courting a position like that of the Danish People’s Party, which has acquired considerable influence on immigration policy via supporting a centre-right minority government.

If the election results permit, and the CDA and VVD can’t resist the temptation, Wilders could still exercise great influence and quietly work on developing his PVV. But with fewer people in parliament than he anticipated a couple of months ago.

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

Netherlands: All About Soundbites: A Philosophical Look at the Failure of the Left

The Dutch labour party leader, Job Cohen, is losing ground. But his attitude in the election campaign is exemplary for left-wing politicians. They prefer not to play along with this game called politics.

By Rob Wijnberg

One month ago, the Dutch labour party was all self-confidence and optimism. Job Cohen, the long-time mayor of Amsterdam, had just been appointed the new party leader and presented to the people as the modest and reasonable alternative to the crazy politics in The Hague. Journalists called the leadership change a “stroke of genius”, and the polls reflected this. Late last year, the labour party had been all but written off, but now it suddenly scented victory again. A ‘Yes We Cohen’ fan club, was launched on Facebook immediately.

Three TV interviews and two election debates later, the slogan seems just as outmoded as the ‘left-wing spring’ it was meant to usher in. “Job has fallen through the ice”, the analysts now say, suggesting that winter has suddenly descended on the left again. The party leader appears stoic about it, but he must be amazed. Cohen is probably wondering what kind of circus he now finds himself in. Immediately after Sunday’s party leaders’ debate, where he was seen stuttering after being confronted with a last minute alteration Labour made in its election programme, three potential seats in parliament evaporate in the polls, amounting to ten percent of its total support.

Indeed, according to the criteria of the modern mediacracy, Cohen is failing spectacularly. When he doesn’t have an answer to a question, he admits it honestly instead of dancing around it peddling half-truths. The effects register in the following day’s headlines. When other politicians interrupt him, he lets them speak for minutes, and only resumes his answer after they have finished. The camera zooms out and the organised applause cuts through his answer. He shrugs helplessly when interviewers persist in stirring things up with trivialities. “I don’t play those kinds of games,” he says.

A shortcoming rooted in a long philosophical tradition

Meanwhile, the game swirls merrily around him. The criticism is unrelenting and unanimous. Cohen is an administrator rather than a politician, unused to being contradicted, goes the analysis of the man who was a deputy minister twice before becoming the mayor of the Dutch capital. Clearly, he hasn’t been well prepared by his spin doctors, his critics argue.

There is a kernel of truth in these assessments, but his problem is more fundamental. Job Cohen is an obvious example of the shortcoming with which nearly all progressive, left-wing politicians have been struggling for years, and from which their more conservative, right-wing colleagues don’t seem to suffer. This shortcoming is rooted in a long philosophical tradition. From this perspective, the contrast between ‘left’ and ‘right’ parallels two movements that have competed in western philosophy for centuries.

Left-wing politicians are, in their thoughts and actions, primarily indebted to what one could call the Platonic tradition. The characteristic of this tradition is that all its representatives — from René Descartes to Immanuel Kant — start from a philosophical distinction introduced by Plato: the contrast between ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’. The starting point of this is, to put it concisely, that two sorts of ‘reality’ can be identified. One is reality as we experience it, mediated by our emotions, language, culture and interests. Behind that, these thinkers say, is objective reality: reality ‘as it is’, the ‘facts’ that we all share.

The business of politics as an issue of rhetoric

This tradition, which reached its peak during the Enlightenment, always cherished the goal of tearing down appearances in favour of ‘pure reality’. It depicted man as, above all, a rational creature that, having reflected on the facts, would come to an objectively determined consensus on how society needed to be organised. Left-wing politicians still maintain this ambition. They believe that reality as it is will ultimately be decisive for the political choices people make, and that rationally acquired insights (“the figures indicate…”) create sufficient breeding-ground for collective agreement on policy.

Just as their philosophical forebears tried to raise the mask and get to the Truth, left-wing politicians try and get beyond the rhetorical power-play so as to come to Consensus. In other words, they prefer to avoid the game that is called politics.

On the other extreme is the tradition which, broadly put, runs from Thomas Hobbes via Friedrich Nietzsche to Richard Rorty. Their philosophies differ widely, but they share a criticism of the Platonic differentiation between appearance and reality. Reality, they argue, is just as it appears — mediated by emotions, language, culture and, most importantly, our competing interests. There is no ‘objective’ reality beyond this; human being can’t go beyond their ‘perspective’ on the world. Right-wing politicians generally feel much more at home in this tradition. Thus they regard the business of politics as an issue of rhetoric. What matters is the image of reality you want to create, not whether that reality corresponds with ‘reality’.

Politicians like Job Cohen are visibly uncomfortable with this. They maintain a philosophical disgust with rhetoric that, according to them, is just aimed at doing violence to the ‘facts’. They wish to be ‘honest’ and are ashamed to present things different than they ‘are’. They trust that voters judge them on what they have achieved rather than what they say, that, in the long term, successful policy prevails over successful spinning

The right-wing politicises while the left-wing analyses

Their right-wing colleagues reason otherwise. They know that politics is more about being perceived to be right rather than actually being right, and are less bothered by presenting an image of the world that works to their advantage. This is not a question of insincerity: they really believe the truth is to be created, not discovered. This is why they make pompous internet videos and dream up biting one-liners that target their opponents. In other words, the right-wing politicises while the left-wing analyses.

As a voter, one might be sympathetic to the way left-wing politics is practised, but the problem is that the mediacracy doesn’t value it. Currently, news is created in a way unfavourable to analytical politicians. News is not about what is ‘true’, as it may have been in more idealistic times, but about what scores. Newspapers, broadcasters and websites are, more than the journalists themselves often wish, driven by commercial interests. To sell advertisements, as much attention as possible must be generated.

Politics has become a ‘competition’ starring the brightest brains and the glibbest tongues. In such an environment, rhetoric thrives far more than ‘reality’. Geert Wilders thrives over Femke Halsema and Mark Rutte outperforms Job Cohen.

The left-wing has to find a response to this, preferably one that is not too philosophical.

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

Netherlands: Green Light for Terror Suspect Extradition

Judges in Rotterdam have given the green light to the extradition of a 44-year-old Somali man to the US to face terrorism charges, the Telegraaf reports on Monday.

Mohamud Said Omar, 44, is alleged to have helped extremists travel to Somalia to train with the radical Islamic movement Al Shabaab.

He was arrested at a refugee centre in Dronten, Flevoland in November 2009.

The man has also lived in Minneapolis where he is said to have recruited college students — up to 20 according to some reports.


Omar’s lawyers say he never intended to help terrorists. ‘He denies that he has ever been involved in any way whatsoever with the financing of terrorism,’ lawyer Bart Stapert said at the extradition hearing in February.

His lawyers also point out that the alleged offences relate to a time before Al Shabaab was considered a terrorist organisation and that charges against him are not criminal offences in the Netherlands.

The court said it would sanction the extradition because the US had given ‘sufficient’ guarantees that he will not face the death penalty.

Lawyer Bart Stapert said said his client planned to fight the extradition in the High Court.

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

Netherlands: PVV Becomes Theme in Campaign

THE HAGUE, 01/06/10 — The question of whether the Christian democrats (CDA) and conservatives VVD would form a government with Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) has become a theme in the campaign for the general elections on 9 June.

CDA and VVD are not ruling out the PVV. They do however see big obstacles. But it is remarkable that they mainly refer to the PVV’s economic policies instead of its controversial views on Islam and immigration.

Labour (PvdA) leader Job Cohen warned last weekend against a coalition of VVD, CDA and PVV. He said on television programme Buitenhof that VVD leader Mark Rutte apparently prefers to govern with the PVV than with the PvdA.

Cohen said the PVV “is chafing against the boundaries of democracy” with its views on Islam and integration. If VVD and PVV should form a cabinet along with the CDA, this would lead to a “split in society”.

Rutte had said on Saturday that a cabinet of VVD and PvdA, with or without other parties, is very unlikely. “The distance between the VVD and the PvdA has never been so great since the 1970s.”

Rutte was in his turn reacting to Geert Wilders. The PVV leader warned in De Telegraaf against a coalition of VVD, PvdA and the centre-left D66 party. He called on Rutte to opt for a combination of VVD, CDA and PVV.

A VVD-CDA-PVV coalition “could be the outcome,” said Rutte. But he sees objections on the economic sphere. “My most important point is that there should be a cabinet that pulls the Netherlands out of the crisis stronger.” In this regard, there is a problem, as Wilders’ party is “just as leftwing as the SP (Socialist Party)” in the economic area.

The CDA appears to have a preference for a coalition with VVD, the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) and D66. On behalf of the CDA campaign, Education State Secretary Marja van Bijsterveldt said yesterday that these three parties appear prepared to reform the economy and healthcare system.

Other parties, including the PVV, seem less prepared to take tough action, noted Van Bijsterveldt. “The PVV is really for a standstill, and standing still means falling behind.”

Van Bijsterveldt did repeat that the CDA does not rule out any party at all. “I am not saying that we must form a coalition with the reform-minded parties, but I do say that we want to make progress and ensure the survival of the welfare state. And for some parties this is easier than for others.”

If CDA, VVD and D66 achieve a joint majority, this appears the most likely option, commentators believe based on current polls. GroenLinks and small Christian party ChristenUnie could come into the picture to help this coalition achieve a majority.

If this does not work and a partnership between PvdA and VVD also turns out to be impossible, then the PVV could come into the picture. One option is then to form a minority coalition whereby VVD and CDA are supported by the PVV from the opposition on previously agreed themes. In that case, CDA and VVD could say internationally that PVV is not a government party and thus prevent the damage to Dutch business likely to be organised by Islamic regimes.

Wilders himself has repeatedly proposed a VVD-CDA-PVV coalition and is also prepared to support a VVD-CDA minority government. In that case, say some insiders, economic reforms, including an increase in the state pension (AOW) age, should materialise without the support of the PVV.

The PVV has said that raising the AOW age is non-negotiable. CDA and VVD both want to raise the AOW age, as do almost all other parties. Still, although CDA and VVD do not now reject Wilders, most commentators believe this is mainly an attempt by both parties to please PVV voters and as a negotiating tactic.

In Maurice de Hond’s latest poll published yesterday evening, the VVD has strengthened its lead. It gained one seat to 37 compared with the previous poll (26 May) while PvdA lost one to keep 28 in the 150-member Lower House.

CDA, PVV, SP and GroenLinks all stabilised at 25, 17, 11 and 11 respectively. D66 was up from 9 to 10 seats and ChristenUnie down from 8 to 7.

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

Netherlands: Groenlinks: Minorities a Separate Category in Criminal Law

AMSTERDAM, 01/06/10 — The leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) want violence against minority groups, including Muslims and homosexuals, to be punished more severely than violence against others.

If violence is used because of someone’s religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, handicap or age, the sentence should be raised by one-third. The government should decide which groups are ‘weak’, according to GroenLinks front-runner Femke Halsema.

GroenLinks leader Halsema made her plea during a debate organised by gay rights organisation COC Nederland. The shock that crimes of violence against minorities cause in society and the legal system justifies heavier sentences in “cases in which violence and discrimination are combined,” she says.

Halsema acknowledged that GroenLinks is not known for being a party that urges heavier sentences, because it generally upholds the view that these lead to more crime. But in this case, a “crystal-clear signal” from the lawgiver is necessary, she believes.

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

‘Possible’ Priest Abuse Cover-Ups in Italy

‘Something wrong that must be corrected,’ top bishop says

(ANSA) — Vatican City, May 28 — Italy’s top bishop on Friday admitted there was a “possibility” that priest sex abuse cases had been covered up in Italy as they have been in other countries.

Asked whether any of the 100 canon law abuse trials in Italy over the last decade may have involved cover-ups by bishops, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco told reporters: “There is a possibility”.

The worldwide abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church have sparked particular rage because of the way cases were hushed up, especially in Ireland where two reports found evidence of “systematic” cover-ups over decades.

Bagnasco, who is head of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), did not cite any of the cases and was unable to put a number on the victims.

However, he suggested that Italian Church officials may have sometimes been more inclined to protect the Church rather than reporting cases to the police.

“It was something wrong, which must be corrected and overcome,” he said, without going into further detail.

He also said he was himself “ready to meet with any victim at any time, day or night, and I expect all other bishops to do the same”. Bagnasco was speaking at the end of CEI’s 61st annual assembly, where earlier this week his No.2, Msgr Mariano Crociata, bowed to media pressure to say how many child abuse cases there had been in Italy.

Crociata said there had been “about 100” in the last decade but did not say how many priests had been prosecuted or defrocked.

Msgr Crociata also said Italy had no need for a special Church panel on abuse like the ones set up in Germany and other European countries.

Bagnasco reiterated this on Friday, stressing that, instead of panels, “every bishop will be the reference point for victims and will take decisions according to the local situation”.

Last week an Italian bishop gave evidence for the first time at a trial of a suspected paedophile priest, admitting he had heard rumours two years before the arrest but did not report them.

Bagnasco, 67, who is currently archbishop of Genoa, said Friday that in all his years in the Church he had only had to deal with a case of suspected paedophilia once, when he was archbishop of Pesaro from 1998 to 2006.

He said he had dismissed the case after “long and careful deliberation,” deciding there was “no substance to the rumour”. The public record of abuse cases in Italy has been emerging slowly.

This week a priest went on trial in Savona for alleged sexual violence against a 12-year-old girl.

Then a 73-year-old Milan priest, Father Domenico Pezzini, known for his support of gay rights, was arrested for allegedly abusing a 13-year-old boy.

At a preliminary hearing in the latter case Friday, Pezzini denied wrongdoing.

Bagnasco’s remark on the possibility of cover-ups came a day after Pope Benedict XVI addressed the CEI assembly and made his most explicit plea yet for the Catholic Church to heal the wounds caused by the scandals.

A “humble and painful admission” of “the wounds caused by the weakness and sins of some of the Church’s members” must lead to “interior renewal”, Benedict said.

“What is cause for scandal must translate itself for us into the urge to re-learn penance, accept purification, learn forgiveness on the one hand and on the other the need for justice”.

Bagnasco told the bishops that the 83-year-old pontiff was “up to the challenges” posed by the scandals, which he was “tackling with credibility and lucidity”.


The Vatican has been responding with increasing openness to the scandals that first emerged in the US in 2002 before spreading to Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and now Italy.

Critics have accused the pope of failing to take proper action when he was head of the doctrinal office that deals with paedophilia cases.

The Vatican has said Benedict, on the contrary, made it easier to punish offenders as well as preventing paedophiles from becoming priests.

The pontiff has met with victims of paedophile priests in the US, Australia and, most recently, Malta where he is said to have wept as he prayed with them.

At Easter he sent a pastoral letter to Ireland expressing his “shame” over decades of abuse and cover-ups there.

The Vatican recently published the guidelines it has been using since 2003, stressing all cases are reported to the police as soon as possible.

It has also said that Benedict will be able to defrock paedophiles immediately.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Fostering Families Needed in the UK

LONDON: A case of abuse was recently reported regarding a Saudi family living in Sheffield and the children were consequently taken into care. There was no Saudi or Arabic families registered as fostering families to take care of the children. “This is what we are working on; to encourage people to register,” said Ahlam Al-Zahrani, coordinator of the Women’s Division of the Saudi Students Clubs and Schools in the UK and Ireland (SSCSUKI).

Al-Zahrani made the comments at the First Saudi Domestic Violence Awareness Forum, which was headed by Dr. Hanan Sultan, a consultant in obstetrics and gynecology, and held at the King Fahd Academy in London. The event, which ended on Sunday, ran with the theme, “To protect them, not to lose them.”

“When a family faces such abuse cases, it becomes really hard trying to get back their children once the authorities here interfere. Being Muslim and Arabic makes it too hard to find a similar atmosphere for these victim children and we really hope families will register because such cases are occurring,” said Al-Zahrani.

This problem was discussed due to the increasing numbers of cases where abuse, ranging from emotional abuse to verbal and physical abuse, is being reported to the Saudi Arabian Embassy here, and at the London Central Mosque.

According to Tawfeeq Al-Inizi, deputy president at the SSCSUKI, being abroad is not easy and the pressure some students here face trying to adapt to the new lifestyle away from home could be a contributing factor in such cases of abuse. “Hence comes the urge to hold such an event to decrease the number of these cases and spread awareness,” he said.

Additionally, before the end of this year Al-Inizi said that with the help of dedicated volunteers there will be at lest five regional committees set up to help Saudi families in the care of social services across the UK.

A lot of those who commit violence or abuse their family or others, “Are sick even if they do not admit it and need help,” said Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

To help them, Al-Inizi added, the event focused on gathering people from different specialties in order to cover all of the areas required to spread awareness and educate Saudi families in the UK. “It does not only affect the person, but it breaks the whole family and such a problem must be treated at its roots,” he said.

Dr. Ibrahim Hamami, a family physician, supported this view and said that society continues to pressurize people and that even when a person is educated and holds a PhD, for example, when it comes to honor killing, “A man could easily pull a trigger or kill for that, according to the cases we have seen.”

Hamami then pointed out that the incidents reported include cases of abuse against men, which is on the rise in many societies, including in Islamic and Arabic nations. “This is new and started to appear specially in societies where women have begun to get their rights and seek equality. In Egypt, for example, 30 percent of women beat their husbands,” he said, “However, it is very hard to measure these statistics because men are too proud to say that their wives beat them unlike women … men believe it weakens their manhood to admit it.”

Additionally, Consultant Psychiatrist at Health Care and Consultation Professor Mohammed Abdul-Mawgoud said in his speech that in many cases the victim often becomes abusive themselves if not treated immediately.

Abdul-Mawgoud who is based in London but has spent over nine years in Saudi Arabia also said that women are more likely to become victims of physical abuse with a probability of 9 in 30, while men have a probability of only 3 in 20.

“The rising phenomena of hiring maids and drivers among Saudi families also leads to many abuse cases,” said Abdul-Mawgoud. He also mentioned several factors which provoke many to physically abuse their family members or others, such as being single. He also spoke about women who have had an illegal intimate relationship, and then undergo hymen repair surgery.

He also mentioned the spiritual side effects of when a woman marries a man, and over time while living abroad he becomes atheist. “She find herself in a dilemma trying to meet her husband’s physical needs forcefully, and she knows it’s not right to be living with him anymore and does not know what to do,” he said.

Another Family Physician, Dr. Samia Al-Habib, went on to say that, regardless of the rules and regulations formed in advanced countries to stop abuse cases, “people haven’t changed.”

She said from 1995 to 2006, for example, USA statistics on these cases is almost the same. She encouraged increasing the number of studies and research on this issue in order to monitor the causes of abuse, as well as educating communities.

According to Abdullah Al-Maghlouth, a columnist at Al-Watan newspaper, in 2009, Saudi Arabia had only 140 studies, of which most are done abroad by overseas students, while the UK, for example, had 7,325 studies.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: The ‘Playing Fields’ Where Killjoy Council Bosses Have Banned Ball Games… Because of Health and Safety

If a sign in a park says ‘playing fields’ it is usually reasonable to assume you may see children having a kickabout or an impromptu game of cricket being played.

One council, however, has ripped up the rule book and slapped a ban on all ball games on its playing fields — due to health and safety fears.

Any thoughts of fresh air and exercise were banished from Walsall Council’s Broadway Playing Fields, after a sign went up announcing ‘No ball games allowed’.

The council claims the ban has been introduced for health and safety reasons as part of the park in on a landfill site — although it has refused to say what the risks may be.

Obesity experts have branded the move ‘plain stupid’ and criticised the West Midlands council for restricting children’s exercise on the vast field.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Croatia: Focus on Underwater Safaris

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 31 — While the beaches of the jagged Croatian coastline fill up with tourists during the summer period, those who can, escape into the silence and darkness of the abysses, amidst the archaeological sites and sunken wreckage from the two world wars. About 150,000 scuba divers search for peace and emotions in the Croatian waters each year. A group of clients that the country is now eyeing closely thanks to so-called “underwater safaris”. With about 400 underwater archaeological sites counted by the Croatian Ministry of Culture, including 200 dating back to prehistoric times, Croatia is the fourth country in Europe for its number of underwater archaeological sites. And to protect this immense patrimony, the Croatian ministry has declared 92 cultural heritage sites, placing them under protection. No diver can travel alone among the wreckage and archaeological sites. Individual dives are prohibited, but they are allowed in groups. In 2009-2013 alone, the Cultural Ministry issued 25 permits to organise underwater activities at protected sites. These are, according to the Croatian tourism group, the four archaeological areas around the island of Mljet, Lastovo and Vis and in the area of Cavtat. In these areas there are 35 sites. Among the hundreds of opportunities offered to scuba divers, the most important are represented by vessels sunk off the eastern Adriatic coast between the World War I and World War II. The most famous site on the Croatian Adriatic coast is ‘Barun Gautch”, (84 metres long and 11 metres wide), the Austro-Hungarian passenger ship, which was sunk at the start of the Great War by a mine in the waters off the coast of Rovinj. Various Italian ships can be seen, including the ‘Francesca da Rimini’, which sunk off the southern coast of Kaprije island, in the Sibenik archipelago, after being torpedoed by the Allies in 1944. Forty-two metres long and 12 metres wide, before the ship was hit, it was used to transport military cargo between the Croatian and Italian coast. After September 8 1943, it was used by the Germans for the same purposes. In the Kvarner Gulf is another Italian vessel, the wreckage of the ‘Lina’, while near Cres is the Italian freighter, ‘Tihany’. Fascinating due to its vertical position on Split seabed is the ‘Teti’. A final example is the German torpedo-boat S-57, which sank off the Peljesac peninsula. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Local Elections in North, SNS and Socialists Win

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 31 — The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS, conservative opposition party) of Tomislav Nikolic and the Socialist Party (SPS) of Vice Premier and Minister of the Interior Ivica Dacic are the winners of yesterday’s early local elections in Kosovska Mitrovica and Novo Brdo, in the north of Kosovo with a Serb majority. Belgrade supports and finances Serbian government bodies parallel to Kosovar institutions in the area, criticised by Pristina and international representatives. The day after the election, the Serbian leaders in Belgrade have condemned the incidents in Kosovska Mitrovica — the city that is split in a Serbian and an Albanian part — speaking of ‘provocations’ by the ethnic Albanian population. According to the provisional results issued by the electoral commission, most votes in Kosovska Mitrovica went to the Serbian Progressive Party, much more than the remaining parties that received more than the 5% threshold to enter the local Serbian assembly: the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS, conservative) of former Premier Vojislav Kostunica, the Democratic Party (DS) of President Boris Tadic, the coalition of the Socialist Party, the Pensioners Party (PUPS) and Serbia United (JS), Civic Initiative Serbia (SDP), G17 Plus of Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic and the Social Democratic Party of Serbia (SDPS). The Serbian Radical Party (SNS) of the ultra-conservative Vojislav Seselj, under trial at The Hague’s International Criminal Tribunal, remained below the 5% threshold. Yesterday two Serbs were injured in a clash between members of the two opposing communities, in which people threw stones. KFOR troops and the Kosovar police had to use tear gas to restore the order. Yesterday’s incidents were the most serious in Kosovo since it proclaimed its independence in February 2008.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic: Kosovo ‘Is Our Jerusalem’

On Wednesday, the EU-West Balkan Summit is scheduled to take place in Sarajevo. Serbian Foreign Minster Vuk Jeremic explains in a SPIEGEL interview why his country doesn’t want to be forced to choose between its declared goal of EU membership and territorial rights in Kosovo.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Jeremic, as Serbia’s foreign minister, you will be attending the European Union-Western Balkans Summit in Sarajevo this Wednesday. Is joining the EU still worthwhile?

Jeremic: We know that Europe, along with the rest of the world, is going through difficult times. But nothing has changed about our goal of achieving EU membership. It is the central project of our administration.

SPIEGEL: In Sarajevo you will be meeting with representatives of Kosovo again, a state that from your point of view does not actually exist.

Jeremic: We have worked hard to make our constitutional position clear at the conference: That Kosovo is part of Serbia.

SPIEGEL: So Kosovo’s foreign minister attending the summit will be viewed, officially, as a private individual rather than a representative of a state?

Jeremic: Yes, as happened at the UN security council the week before last, and as has been the case since UN Resolution 1244 on Kosovo has been in effect. Serbia is committed to it.

SPIEGEL: At the end of March the Serbian parliament apologized for the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. The relationship your country has with its neighbor Croatia has improved and there are efforts everywhere to overcome the bloody history of the Yugoslavian war of succession. Is Kosovo the last obstacle in Serbia’s path to EU membership?

Jeremic: Relations between the West Balkan countries since the end of Yugoslavia have never been better than they are today. Even after the declaration of independence made by the provisional government in Kosovo, we renounced the use of force or sanctions. That is why it would be a fateful mistake not to proceed with the treaty of accession. Serbia should not be forced to decide between EU membership and Kosovo. I fear that anyone who believes that Serbia would choose EU membership and renounce (claims on) Kosovo would be wrong.

SPIEGEL: So if in doubt, no EU membership?

Jeremic: On one hand we must protect the territorial unity of our nation and on the other, we must lead it toward the EU. Kosovo has deep historical and spiritual meaning for the people of Serbia. In a certain sense, it is our Jerusalem. We cannot accept unilateral decisions from those in power in Pristina. But we are prepared to negotiate and to work on compromises that guarantee the stability of the whole region. We would not reject any suggestion outright.

SPIEGEL: The International Court of Justice may decide this week whether Kosovo’s declaration of independence conforms with international law. What consequences will the judgment have?

Jeremic: What we will be getting there is the most important legal opinion worldwide. All five permanent members of the Security Council, and even the United States, have submitted opinions. At stake is a key question of international law: Does the inviolableness of the national borders of a UN member state weigh heavier than the right to self-determination?

SPIEGEL: Six months ago, Serbia submitted its application to join the European Union. What has happened since then?

Jeremic: The application, unfortunately, as of today still hasn’t been passed on from the European Council to the Commission. It appears that the 27 member state governments are not in agreement.

SPIEGEL: Is Germany causing the delay?…

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

Mediterranean Union

EU, Jordan Sign Financial Assistance Package

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 31 — The European Union and Jordan signed today an assistance package of 223 million euros covering the three-year period of 2011-2103, with an annual envelope of approximately 74 million, according to an statement. The package, called the ‘National Indicative Programme’, was signed by Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Jafar Hassan and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fle, who is currently on a two-day visit to Jordan. The National Indicative Programme forms the basis of the European Union’s financial cooperation with Jordan. It also represents the European Union’s continued support for Jordan’s economic and social reforms. The National Indicative Programme 2011-2013 focuses on four priority areas based on Jordan’s own reform agenda: Supporting Jordan’s reform in the areas of democracy, human rights, media and justice; trade, enterprise and investment development; sustainability of the growth process; and, institution-building, financial stability and support to regulatory approximation. Notably, the programme includes a pilot project with the National Energy Research Center in the field of renewable energy. The 2011-2013 financial assistance package represents an annual increase of over 12% from the package for the period 2007-2010. The areas outlined in the 2011-2013 programme are identified in cooperation with Jordanian partners to ensure alignment with the country’s priorities and ambitions. Through the this assistance, the EU seeks to support those projects that are most pressing and that have maximum positive impact on the lives of average Jordanian citizens by helping to stimulate the economy, create job opportunities and enhance public participation in the decision-making process. These projects are identified with Jordanian authorities and will be launched between 2011 and 2013. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU-Jordan: New Phase in Bilateral Relations, Fule Says

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 31 — “We are about to enter into a new phase in the history of the Jordan and European Union’s bilateral relations”, said the European commissioner for the Neighbourhood policy, Stefan Fule. “Jordan — Fule added — plays an important role in the region as a pole of peace and stability, and in the framework of the european Neighbourhood policy and the Union for the Mediterranean. “Despite a complex regional context — Fule said — Jordan has clearly made impressive progress over the last few years. I am confident that the unwavering commitment shown in pursuing the economic reform process will be applied also in the political field”. According to to the Enpi website (, in 2009, the Eu and Jordan decided to deepen further this partnership by developing a new european neighbourhood policy action plan, which would define the framework of the cooperation over the next years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Aid Organisers Tied to ‘Terrorists’

Jerusalem, 31 May (AKI) — Deputy Israeli foreign minister Danny Ayalon on Monday sought to justify an attack on an aid flotilla bringing supplies to Gaza by saying the organisers of the blockade-breaking effort had ties to international terrorists. News reports said that at least 19 people were killed by Israeli forces when they boarded a ship.

“We couldn’t allow the opening of a corridor of smuggling arms and terrorists,” Ayalon said during a news conference at the foreign ministry.

The Israeli military said commandos came under attack.

“During the incident the soldier’s lives were in danger,” said a statement from the Israel Defense Forces. “They were attacked with severe physical violence, including live fire, weapons, knives and clubs.”

The boats left European ports in a consolidated protest organised by two pro-Palestinian groups to deliver tons of food and other aid to Gaza to break a blockade imposed by Israel in 2007 after militant group Hamas seized control of the territory.

The Free Gaza Movement, one of the groups sponsoring the convoy, disputed Israel’s claim of violence by people aboard the ships. Among the 700 aid workers were at least 5 Italians.

“I strongly condemn the killing of civilians,” Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said Monday in response to the incident. The Italian government asked the Israeli ambassador in Rome for an explanation about the attack.

“At about 4:30 am, Israeli commandos dropped from helicopter onto deck of Turkish ship, immediately opened fire on unarmed civilians,” a post on the group’s Twitter page said.

The Turkish foreign ministry condemned Israel’s military operation and summoned the Israeli ambassador for an explanation.

“Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians,” the statement said.

“We strongly condemn these inhuman acts of Israel. This grave incident which took place in high seas in gross violation of international law might cause irreversible consequences in our relations.”

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

An Exaggerated Response: Israel Falls Into the Trap

A Commentary by Christoph Schult in Jerusalem

A television grab made from the Turkish TV channel Cihan News Agency shows an Israeli commando member storming the “Mavi Marmara” Turkish aid boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Israel has sparked global outrage. At least 15 people were killed when the Israeli military stormed a flotilla carrying pro-Palestinian activists on Monday. In addition to being a human tragedy, it is also a political catastrophe for Israel. It has provided its critics around the world with fresh ammunition.

The pro-Palestinian organizers had described the fleet with which they had hoped to break through the Israeli sea blockade of the Gaza Strip on Monday morning as a “humanitarian aid convoy.” But as the Israeli army stormed the largest ship, the Mavi Marmara, the activists they encountered were in no way exclusively docile peaceniks. Some of the “peace activists” received the Israelis with crow bars and sling shots. Some of the self-professed “human rights activists” reportedly even tore the weapons from soldiers and began to shoot.

That’s not what a peaceful protest looks like.

But the reaction from Israel, a state which proclaims to adhere to the rule of law, was far from appropriate. Regardless how prepared to engage in violence the organizers of the ship convoy might have been: With at least 15 dead, all on the side of the activists, and more than 30 injured, some seriously, one thing is certain: Israel carelessly threw one of the most important principles of the application of military violence overboard: the proportionality of military force.

On Sunday, French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy, speaking about Israel’s military, said he had never seen “such a democratic army, which asks itself so many moral questions.” But it is doubtful he would repeat that sentence following Monday morning’s incident. And a number of questions remain to be answered:

Why did Israeli soldiers shoot at the passengers from helicopters flying overhead?

What did the Israeli navy board the ship when they could have simply blocked the ships’ paths?

And why did Israel strike in international waters, long before the fleet had arrived in Israeli waters?

Free Publicity for Israel’s Opponents

In Jerusalem, officials are claiming Israel only exercized self defense. They say the activists used “extreme violence,” and that they alone are responsible for the high number of victims. But it is Israel which carries the primary responsibility. The military behaved impulsively. It overreacted and showed no compassion for the victims.

“We call on the world not to fall into the traoo of this provocation,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said.

But his country showed just how disproportionately it reacts to provocation — consequences be damned. And the consequences go beyond global condemnation.

Arabs living in Israel have taken to the streets because Sheikh Raed Salah, one of the leaders of the Israeli Arab Islamic Movement, was among those injured in the military action. Members of Hamas, too, whom Israel has now given a free moment of global publicity, pilloried the blockade of the Gaza Strip before the cameras of international broadcasters. And Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to cancel a planned visit with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, thus further straining an already tense relationship.

Israel was fair in arguing that there is no humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. For most of the Palestinians living along the coastal strip, life is anything but comfortable because Israel refuses to allow many goods to enter into the country. But nobody is starving. Nevertheless, with its heavy-handed military action, Israel has created the impression that it has something to hide in Gaza.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once quipped that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity (for reaching peace).

With Israel, precisely the opposite is true: In times of crisis, Israel seems to search for opportunities to turn the world against it.

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

Attack Devastating for Israel’s Image, Henri-Levy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 31 — Israel’s assault on a humanitarian flotilla directed to Gaza is “stupid” and is “devastating” for Israel’s image, said French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy during a forum on peace in Tel Aviv, according to the website of French weekly news magazine Le Point. “The images (of the raid, editor’s note) will travel around the world. For this country (Israeli, editor’s note) they are more devastating than a military attack,” added the French philosopher during a meeting with Israeli Culture Minister Limor Livnat. Henry-Levy is a member of JCall, a group of French intellectuals who at the beginning of the month, presented a document called ‘A Call to Sanity’ in European Parliament, which was critical of the current Israeli policy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Attack on Israeli Competitor During Turkish Cycling Tour

A Turkish lawyer was charged with allegedly assaulting an Israeli athlete competing in the inaugural Cycling Tour of Trakya in Tekirdag on Monday, Anatolia news agency reported.

Hasan Fehmi Özer allegedly entered the track to try and stop the unnamed Israeli cyclist on the final leg of the tour. Özer unfurled a Palestinian flag and tried to punch the cyclist in an apparent protest of Israel’s military assault on a convoy of six humanitarian aid ships traveling to Gaza.

The cyclist managed to escape from the punch before Özer was stopped by the police.

Özer was reportedly a member of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH, the Turkish agency that organized the Turkish ships carrying aid to Gaza.

The agency said the organizers took measures to prevent attacks on Israeli cyclists, and the tour continued after a short break.

There were seven Israeli cyclists in the Tour, in which 77 cyclists from nine countries competed.

Meanwhile, the Turkish U-18 national football team canceled two friendly matches against its Israeli counterpart that were scheduled for Monday and Wednesday in Tel Aviv.

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

Caroline Glick: Ending Israel’s Losing Streak

These words are being written before the dust has had a chance to settle on Monday night’s naval commando raid of the Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla of terror supporters. The raid’s full range of operational failures still cannot be known. Obviously the fact that the mission ended with at least six soldiers wounded and at least ten Hamas supporters dead makes clear that there were significant failures in both the IDF’s training for and execution of the mission.

The Navy and other relevant bodies will no doubt study these failures. But they point to a larger strategic failure that has crippled Israel’s capacity to contend with the information war being waged against it. Until this failure is remedied, no after-action investigation, no enhanced training, no new electronic warfare doodad will make a significant impact on Israel’s ability to contend with the next Hamas flotilla that sets sail for Gaza.

In the space of four days, Israel has suffered two massive defeats. A straight line runs between the anti-Israel resolution passed last Friday at the UN’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and the Hamas flotilla. And in both cases, Israeli officials voiced “surprise,” at these defeats…

[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: EU Wants Israel to Open Inquiry

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 31 — The European Union has asked Israeli authorities to open an inquiry into the attack on ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza which resulted in a number of deaths. Reports were from EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton, who also underscored that Israeli must ensure the unrestricted flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Ashton demanded that Israeli authorities respect the unobstructed transit of flotillas carrying humanitarian aid, asking for an “immediate and unconditional reopening of transit for the transport of goods and people from and to Gaza”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Hamas Calls it State Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 31 — In Gaza, Hamas has spoken out against the Israeli navy’s boarding of the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid and pro-Palestinian activists, calling it “organised state terrorism”. Hamas also called for “an intifada (revolt) before Israeli embassies throughout the world” to protest against the attack, according to Ahmad Yusef, one of the representatives of the Palestinian radical faction in Gaza. Other spokesmen from the movement called the incident “an international crime”, calling on the UN and the international community to react and set in motion an inquiry so that “the culprits be punished”. In Gaza City, the population has gathered in the streets in a protest called for by both Hamas and other radical groups, such as the Islamic Jihad. Local sources do not rule out an immediate resurgence of attacks or rocket launching at Israel. Intervention by the Arab League was called for in a public speech by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh also called on the entire Palestinian population to take to the streets to protest the Israeli operation and on the Palestinian Authority for it to halt proximity talks with Israel. Haniyeh also addressed the international public opinion, asking that it help force Israeli leaders to stand trial for war crimes. Israel, which denies that a humanitarian crisis is underway in Gaza, had repeatedly warned that it would stop the flotilla from getting to Gaza, but had instead offered to get the aid to its destination through a land crossing following inspections. In the eyes of Israel, therefore, the entire operation is a “provocation” meant to sully its image in the eyes of the world. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Arab Israeli Sheikh Raed Salah Wounded

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 31 — The leader of the Northern Branch of Israel’s Muslim Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, was among the seriously wounded during the assault by Israelis against the flotilla of activists carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, Cyprus news agency reports today quoting Khalid Najjar, the Head of the Palestinian Delegation in Cyprus, as saying. Condemning the attack, the Palestinian diplomat said they had called on the UN Security Council to convene urgently, as they believed that the consequences for the whole region would be “very dramatic.” He said the Arab League was due to meet urgently in Cairo to review the situation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: World “Shocked” After Israeli Attack

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 31 — The attack carried out last night by Israeli forces on a multi-national flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists heading for the Gaza Strip carrying humanitarian aid has ended in a bloodbath, with at least 19 people dead. There have been serious and immediate protests from Turkey, who has recalled its ambassador to Israel, while governments in European capitals have expressed their shock at the killings. The activists, who were led by the NGO Free Gaza, wanted to force the blockade set up around the Gaza Strip when the Islamic group Hamas came into power in 2007. The clash occurred in international waters, a few dozen miles off the coast, on the vessel of a Turkish NGO that was leading the six-ship expedition. Israeli commandos, who reached the ship using boats and helicopters, opened fire, killing 19 people, according to the latest reports from the Israeli television station Channel 10. An Israeli military spokesman has said that the chaos began when some activists attempted to resist the boarding of the marines using clubs, knives and at least one firearm, which is said to have been taken from an Israeli soldier. Twenty-six activists were injured, one of whom is in a critical condition. Among the injured is sheikh Raed Salah. Ten Israeli soldiers were also injured, two seriously. Israel’s military spokesman has accused the organisers of the flotilla of organising a “violent provocation”. The first of the ships has already arrived at the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, which has been close off to the media. There is no news of the five Italian activists who were on board, including the Torino-based journalist, Angela Lano, 47, the director of the press agency Infopal, which deals with Palestinian issues. Israel has raised the level of alert on its northern border (with Lebanon) and also to the south, on the border with the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the incident as “a massacre”, and has declared three days of national mourning. Hamas officials in Gaza have spoken of a “crime” committed by Israel. An Islamic representative, Ahmed Yusef, has called for “an intifada” of the people in front of Israeli embassies throughout the world. Arab Israelis have called a general strike tomorrow. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, has said that he is “shocked” by Israel’s attack on the pro-Palestinian activist fleet, as has the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. Great concern and grief has also been expressed by the Vatican. The Arab League has called an urgent meeting of its Foreign Ministers in Cairo tomorrow. Turkey, Greece, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland have held talks with their respective ambassadors to Israel, and the European Union has called for the Jewish state to open an investigation. The ongoing policy of closing passages towards Gaza has been called unacceptable and the EU is demanding their immediate reopening, to let aid filter in, according to a spokesman for the European Commission, who was speaking on behalf of the High Representative of EU Foreign Policy, Catherine Ashton. There has been strong criticism from the governments of France and Germany, as well as from the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, who spoke of an “extremely serious incident” and said that he “deplores” the killing of civilians. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, currently on a visit to Canada, has been asked to return home. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Barak, No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 31 — There was no humanitarian crisis and nobody is dying with hunger in the Gaza Strip, where the real problem is the fact that control of the territory is in the hands of a terrorist organisation (Hamas), said Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak today. He made his remarks in a press conference, hastily organised after the high number of victims that fell when a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists was boarded by the Israeli navy off the coast of Gaza. The reason for the isolation of Gaza, he continued, is to keep weapons and terrorists from entering this area. Israel, Barak added, is determined to defend its sovereignty. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Palestinian Anger in Gaza and West Bank

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH/GAZA — Palestinian streets have today reached boiling point in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following the Israeli attack on the “Free Gaza” flotilla, in which a number of activists were killed. In Gaza City, people waiting for the arrival of the convoy went from hope to rage. Steadily growing numbers of protesters began grouping in the centre of the city later, after the call to protest issued by the leaders of Hamas and the invitation by the head of the de facto government of Gaza, Ismail Hanyeh, to hold a “day of anger” against “Zionist crimes”. The radical Islamic movement, which is in power in the Gaza Strip, seized the opportunity to request the intervention of the international community and to stress that it hoped that this incident would mark an end to the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip since 2007. Hanyeh also put pressure on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) of the moderate President Mahmoud Abbas to immediately withdraw from proximity talks with Israel, which have been laboriously kicked off by the United States in the last few weeks, in an attempt to revive the Middle East peace process. From the West Bank, the part of the Palestinian Territories that remains under the control of Mahmoud Abbas, the PNA avoided answering questions on this issue. However, it was just as scathing in its criticism of the attack on the flotilla, which the PNA President called “a massacre” and which his spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeinah, dubbed “a crime against humanity”. Mahmoud Abbas has also called for three days of national mourning, while his Fatah party is organising protest rallies from Ramallah to Nablus, showing its displeasure with Israeli action and its solidarity with Turkey, which was on the front line of the attack on the flotilla. “The Turks are our brothers,” one banner read.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

IHH Has a History of Supporting Terrorism and Anti-Western Senitiment

After the events of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, there has been misinformation about who these “peace activists” are. The IHH, which plays a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation. Besides its legitimate philanthropic activities, it supports radical Islamic networks, including Hamas, and at least in the past, even global jihad elements.

More information here (

4. IHH’s orientation is radical-Islamic and anti-American, and it is close to the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas’ parent movement). IHH supports Hamas and does not hide the connection between them. Hamas also considers its links to IHH and Turkey to be extremely important, and regards Turkey as a target audience for its propaganda network (Palestine-Information, Hamas’ main website, has a Turkish version, and as of the end of 2009, the website of its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has also appeared in Turkish).

5. In recent years, especially since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, IHH has supported Hamas’ propaganda campaigns by organizing public support conferences in Turkey. At those conferences, which featured the participation of senior IHH figures, the heads of IHH expressed their support for Hamas and its strategy (including the armed struggle it favors), in defiance of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’ rival.

6. IHH is a member of the Union of Good, an umbrella organization of more than 50 Islamic funds and foundations around the globe, which channels money into Hamas institutions in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories. As a Union of Good member IHH has connections with other worldwide Islamic funds and foundations which support Hamas. Among other things, the support includes initiating and conducting joint projects whose objectives are to bolster the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ civilian infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, which also supports terrorism (the infrastructure is under pressure from the Palestinian Authority security services). IHH, which has become an important factor in global fund-raising for Hamas, transfers significant amounts of money to Hamas institutions in Judea and Samaria, including the Islamic Charitable Society in Hebron and the Al-Tadhamun Charitable Society in Nablus (Hamas’ two central “charitable societies,” both outlawed by Israel).

7. IHH operates widely throughout the Gaza Strip. To promote its activities it opened a branch there, headed by Muhammad Kaya, who recently stated that IHH intended to send other aid flotillas to the Gaza Strip (See below). In January 2008 an IHH delegation met with Ahmed Bahar, a senior Hamas activist who is acting chairman of Hamas’ council in the Gaza Strip. At the meeting the delegation revealed the extent of the aid it had given Hamas in the Gaza Strip during the preceding year and said it intended to double the sum in the future. In January 2009 IHH head Bülent Yildirim met with Khaled Mashaal, chairman of Hamas’ political bureau in Damascus, and Mashaal thanked him for the support of his organization.

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

Iran: ‘Israel Deserves Collective Punishment’

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has condemned Israel’s deadly attack on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip as an act of “maritime terrorism.”

“The regime’s attack on the ships and its passengers is reminiscent of the acts of ancient pirates,” a Foreign Ministry statement read Monday.

Across Europe, Israel’s allies have frozen military ties and summoned the regime’s ambassadors, condemning the raid that claimed at least 20 lives and wounded dozens more.

“Under the (1988) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, this is a blatant example of maritime terrorism,” the statement added.

Iran called for international action, recalling last year’s deadly military operation that killed over 1,400 Gazans in the densely populated coastal enclave, and the concerns over use of illegal weapons, such as white phosphorus bombs.

“This is the time for the international community to adopt a resolute stance against the recurring crimes of this belligerent and occupationist regime.”

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of supplies and hundreds of activists and journalists onboard nine aid ships to the impoverished enclave.

One year after the Israeli attack on Gaza caused widespread devastation in the coastal strip, the convoy was seeking to pierce Israel’s crippling blockade of Gaza and reach Palestinians.

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

Israeli Commandos Gun Down 19 Peace Activists in Raid on Gaza Ships With 28 Britons on Board

The Foreign Secretary today ‘deplored’ the loss of life during the interception of a flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza.

Up to 19 people were killed after Israeli commandos boarded ships carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid en route from Cyprus.

Another 26 people are being treated in two Israeli hospitals for injuries sustained in the assault.

Details of what happened remain sketchy after Israel imposed a news blackout, preventing activists on board the ships from contacting the outside world.

But it [is] believed troops were attacked with knives and metal pipes as they attempted to board one of the ships from a helicopter.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that shooting started when one of the civilians made a grab for a soldier’s gun.

He says hundreds of people on board the ship beat, clubbed and stabbed soldiers, and there was a report of gunfire. He says that forced soldiers to attack.

The soldiers had allegedly wanted to check the cargo on the ship to ensure it contained no weapons.

Netanyahu claims this was done successfully with the first five ships, but the sixth did not cooperate.


The shooting was met with international condemnation, led by U.S. president Barack Obama who urged Netanyahu to get ‘all the facts’ about the raid.

After Netanyahu cancelled planned White House talks set for tomorrow, Mr Obama expressed ‘deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded.’


A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said today: ‘We have no doubt regarding the real intention of the flotilla. It’s not about humanitarian aid.

‘You can see clearly from the footage that when they boarded they were attacked with knives and sharp metal objects and left with not much option but to respond.

‘There was no intention whatsoever to use any of the weapons soldiers naturally carry. As soon as the soldiers boarded they were attacked by knives and life-threatening objects.

‘In the first few seconds the soldiers tried to protect themselves with their hands and avoid using the guns.’


Pictures of activists with sticks bludgeoning an Israeli soldier as he tried to land on a boat from a helicopter were shown by Turkish channel NTV.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Raid on Flotilla Puts Final Nail in Coffin of Turkish Ties With Israel

As details slowly emerge in the wake of Israel’s deadly attack on a flotilla of aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip, leaders from Turkey’s ruling and opposition parties raise their voices to condemn the action. It is the latest and worst incident in a long line of troublesome encounters over the last year and a half between the two NATO allies and some say this could be the final act. ‘Our relations will never be the same,’ says a member of the ruling AKP

Israel’s deadly attack on a Palestinian aid convoy is likely to be the last straw in already fraught Turkish-Israeli relations, according to senior officials in Turkey’s ruling party.

Though the identities of the killed civilians were still unknown late Monday when the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to print, it is believed that many of the dead are Turkish citizens.

“Our relations with Israel will never be the same,” Hüseyin Çelik, spokesman of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, told reporters Monday.

The Israeli attack dealt a devastating blow to relations already strained by tensions over Israeli actions in Gaza in late 2008.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s escalating rhetoric that targeted the Israeli government and his remarks that Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons capacity was comparable to Iran’s quest to develop such weapons was responsible for putting a strain on bilateral ties over the past year.

On Monday, Turkey appeared to be taking the lead in gathering international support against the Israeli attack, with the government already pressing international organizations such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, the European Union and the Arab League to take action.

“The worst possible scenario has happened,” said the head of the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis, or TÜRKSAM, Sinan Ogan.

“Israel has made a suicide commando move, and has committed suicide internationally, he said. “The Turkish-Israeli relationship is now open to every different scenario.”

He said, “The relationship between Turkey and Israel will face its biggest test in history, with the possibility of Turkey taking this issue to the European Union.”

Hasan Köni, an international relations professor, said the incident would further strain Turkish-Israeli ties in comments to the private Habertürk channel on Monday.

“Israel lost a lot. It’s a major mistake in the eyes of the West. This will strengthen Turkey’s hands,” Köni said, adding that it will be hard to repair Turkish-Israeli ties in the near future following Turkey’s decision to recall its ambassador for a second time in only a few months.

In addition to the diplomatic recall, Turkey also canceled three joint military drills and sporting activities on Monday.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also called on the United Nations Security Council to convene an urgent meeting on the attack, which was declared “piracy” by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç. Erdogan, meanwhile, cut short his Latin America tour and was expected to return home Tuesday.

Three pillars of the strategy

Turkey’s strategy against Israel will likely be based on three main dimensions, including political, legal and humanitarian aspects.

Politically, Turkey plans to mobilize all international organizations to exert pressure on Tel Aviv to change its aggressive policies toward the Palestinians and remove the blockade on West Bank. Turkey is also likely to push for a global front to force Israel to punish those responsible for Monday’s attacks.

On the legal front, Turkish diplomats have begun to explore avenues to determine whether it is possible to bring the attack before international courts.

Lastly, Turkey will also use the attack to draw attention to the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. The visit of Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestine, is seen within this context.

Attack not to remain unanswered

Crisis desks were established at the Turkish Prime Ministry and the Foreign Ministry on Monday morning. Speaking to reporters after an emergency meeting, Arinç said 400 of the Mavi Marmara’s 581 passengers were Turks.

“I strongly condemn the use of force by Israeli military forces on an aid convoy composed of 32 countries, including Turkey,” he said. “This attack must not remain unanswered.”

Arinç said the government was not involved in the organization of the flotilla, saying it was a pure civil society initiative.

Early in the day, Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, Gabby Levy, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Deputy Undersecretary Ünal Çeviköz demanded Levy provide a detailed report about the outcome of the passengers of the boats, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

Çeviköz said it was against international law to forcibly interfere with ships carrying humanitarian aid in international waters.

“We want the return of the injured, and the cooperation needed to have them treated in Turkey. We expect the other passengers to be returned to their countries immediately,” he said. “We demand an end to this unlawful situation, and the release of the detained ships in international waters.”

Meanwhile, while en route to the United States, Davutoglu said, “Under all conditions, even if no one had been injured, this is still an act of piracy.”

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

The Liberal Betrayal of Israel

Over the last two weeks, a liberal scholar and pundit named Peter Beinart got a lot of attention by arguing that liberals could no longer be pro-Israel because the country and its people had moved too far to the right. The reality however is just the opposite. In every way, from national defense to the role of religion in public life, Israel has actually watered down its principles and liberalized. But it could not and cannot keep up with the pace at which liberals have slid far to the left.

The key factor in falling liberal support for Israel is not inside the country, but outside it. As liberals have become more radicalized, what used to be the left is now simply liberal. And the delegitimization of Israel is part of a larger package of radical beliefs which extends across the spectrum into every area of domestic and foreign policy. For example the anti-Communist liberal who was not at all hard to find in 1967 when Israel fought the Six Day War, is nearly extinct today. And liberals who support the War on Terror are an endangered species. And if they can’t even support America’s national defense, it’s not surprising that they don’t support Israel’s own national defense.

Beinart like other left-wing Jewish critics insist that Israel needs to go further to accommodate their support. But how much further is there to go? Israel has worked for 17 years to cut a deal with the Muslim terrorist gangs who employ a constructed identity as Palestinians to leverage international support for their killing sprees. It has withdrawn from large amounts of territory, provided weapons to their militias and even lobbied on their behalf. Will the left suddenly begin supporting Israel, if after offering East Jerusalem to them, Fatah and Hamas still refuse to make peace? We know better than that. No offer Israel could make would suffice to demonstrate its goodwill and the intransigence of the terrorist gangs.


Left does have a special animus for Israel

Of course the left does have a special animus for Israel. And that animus came to the surface when liberalism gave way to the radical left. Because while liberals have been Zionist, the left has been notoriously anti-Zionist. The split goes back to 19th/20th century Europe, where left wing organizations competed with Zionist groups for Jewish support. Both had very different visions of the future. The left wanted to see Jews join in working to create Communism and Socialism in their home countries, before assimilating into them. The Zionists wanted a separate Jewish state. When the left won in Russia, they made Zionism into a crime and the entire Hebrew language was banned as “counterrevolutionary”. Possession of a Hebrew dictionary could mean being sent to the Gulags.

The USSR organized and armed entire Arab armies to attack and destroy Israel. And like Nazi Germany had done before it, the Commissars fed Anti-semitic propaganda to their allies in Europe. To their credit, some resisted. Even many French Communists who had seen what the Nazis did to the Jews were disgusted at being given cartoons and messages strongly suggestive of Nazi Germany with orders to incorporate them into their own newspapers. But that resistance is mostly history now. Left wing politicians in Europe think nothing of claiming that Jewish cabals control the government, refusing to publish the papers of Jewish Israeli colleagues and supporting genocidal Islamic groups and countries that vow to wipe out the Jews. That their behavior is an ominous echo of the Hitler era means less than nothing to them. Just as it meant less than nothing to the Nazis.

The left’s opposition to Israel has nothing to do with human rights, but with its insistent belief that Jewish separatism is illegitimate and diverts recruits from their effort to build modern socialist states.


The left is determined not to allow any redefinition of Israel as legitimate. Its hijacking of liberalism means that once again it feels driven to win Jewish recruits by destroying any independent national and religious identity that they may have. By forcing liberal Jews to choose between their political allegiances and Israel, they are setting up a difficult choice for them.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Catholics in Iran: A Community at Risk of Extinction?

Interview With Journalist Camille Eid

ROME, MAY 31, 2010 ( As Christians flee in great numbers from Iran, for both political and religious reasons, the country’s Christian community is at real risk of extinction, says journalist and observer of Middle Eastern Churches, Camille Eid.

The journalist spoke with the television program “Where God Weeps” of the Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need. In the interview, she explains what life is like for a Christian living in Iran.

Q: Iran is over 99% Muslim and Islam is the state religion. Camille, the Church’s roots in Iran are very old going back to the second century. Is Christianity the oldest religion in Iran?

Eid: No, we have two older communities older than Christianity. First we have the Zoroastrian community which goes back centuries before the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Second, we have the Jewish community.

The Zoroastrian community consists of about 20,000 people and the Jewish between 20,000 and 35,000. These two communities are older than the Christian community.

Q: Today, Iran is over 99% Muslim. How does Islam permeate daily life?

Eid: If you are on the streets of Tehran, or any part of the country, you will notice the portrait of the martyrs, the Ayatollah, the late Khomeini, the current Ayatollah Khamenei. If you use a phone on public telephone booth you will hear the voice of Imam Hussein telling you what to do.

Q: So if you pick up a phone immediately you will hear a (recorded) voice of the Imam?

Eid: Right, and in the schools, the Disciplines are permitted but through the perspective based on the Koran and Hadith and the other Islamic sciences.

Q: In fact, if I understand correctly, the picture of the Ayatollah is even on the cover of the catechism books?

Eid: Right and maybe it is a way to show that the Christians are under the protection of the regime and are considered dhimmis (protected people) in the Islamic Sharia. It is a way to say that you [Christians] are under our [Islamic] regime. Then you have the religious police.

Q: I was going to ask you about the modesty patrols that make sure that women are properly garbed.

Eid: Right. Sometimes they are hard liners, and sometimes not, depending on the regime. Under Khatami, for instance, they were a little bit liberal so girls could show a little bit of their heads. Under Ahmadinejad it is stricter.

Q: It is very strict now and back to the complete covering?

Eid: Yes and it should only be the face showing. Sometimes you have women who cover their hands and faces.

Q: Christians number about 100,000 in a population of 71 million. How are Christians viewed in Iran?

Eid: Christians are viewed as ethnic minorities because the Christians are predominantly Armenians, and Syro-Chaldeans. We have 80,000 Orthodox Armenians who are also called Gregorian or Apostolic Armenian, 5,000 Catholic Armenians, and around 20,000 Assyro-Chaldeans, plus other communities such as Latin, Protestants churches which, all together make up between 100,000 to 110,000. So they are seen as ethnic minorities and as such, they are not allowed to celebrate their Rites in Farsi, the official language of Iran. So they can’t celebrate the Holy Mass in Farsi but in Armenian or Chaldean.

Q: To distinguish them as foreign?

Eid: Not only that but to prevent them from being attractive and understood by the local Iranians.

Q: To prevent the Iranians from being attracted to the faith?

Eid: Right and to prevent them [Iranians] from understanding what they [Christians] are saying. There was a unique case; I was in Tehran a few days after the death of Pope John Paul II and the priest read the Scriptures in Farsi in the presence of the authorities. So this was an exceptional case.

Q: And yet, at the same time Parliament reserves three seats for Christians. So, on the face of it, Christians have a voice within the parliamentary structure?

Eid: In fact, the Islamic Republic has kept the Constitution of 1906 which reserves five seats for minorities — three for Christians, one for Zoroastrians and the other for the Jews. You also notice that the Bahá’i, for instance, which is the largest non-Muslim, has no seat because they are considered heretics and not a religious community and therefore non-persons.

Q: So there is division between the Islamic communities?

Eid: If you can consider Bahá’i Islamic, I don’t know, because they are also monotheistic, but Islam does not consider any other monotheistic faith after Mohamed and they [Bahá’i] are considered heretics and that is all.

Q: Are the rights of Christians guaranteed by the Constitution?

Eid: No, it doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed in the Constitution.

Article 13 mentions that all Iranians are equal by race, by language but religion is not mentioned. In article 14; if you allow me to read it: “All these non-Muslim communities should abstain from taking part in conspiracies against Islam and the Islamic republic of Iran.” And the last one, article 19, states: “All Iranians whatever ethnic group they belong to enjoy the same rights and that color, race, or language does not offer any privilege.” Here too there is no reference to religion.

Q: But it does say, within article 13 of the Constitution that Christians are allowed to express their rights and engage in their faith?

Eid: Unless they do not take part in conspiracies against the Republic of Iran. What does it mean? Does it mean contesting the regime? The problem of Iran is that it is a theocratic regime. So the opposition to the regime as a political action could be interpreted as an action against the Islamic republic.

Within the Islamic community, you have the liberals and the conservatives. By contesting Ayatollah Khamenei are you contesting the political face of the regime or the religious? When you have the same face of the political and religious regime; an attack on the political face is considered an attack on the religious facet of the theocratic regime.

Q: What kind of other restrictions do Christians face in their daily life?

Eid: Well, in public administrations it is hard for Christians to find jobs. Even the directors of Christian schools are Muslims with one exception — in Isfahan about two or four years ago when the government nominated an Armenian for the Armenian school. But in most cases the directors of Christian schools are Muslims — to the few Christian schools that they [Christians] got back after confiscation in 1979 and 1980.

Another example is in the army; some years ago they discovered that an officer, a Colonel Hamid Pourmand, converted to Christianity. He was prosecuted and was court marshaled, but because of international pressure he was able to leave Iran. Over all it is very difficult for Christians to be in high government positions in Iran.

Q: What is the life for a Muslim convert?

Eid: One cannot declare one’s new faith inside Iran. It is only possible if one is able to go abroad. I know two Iranian families here in Italy who are converts. One of the families crossed the border between Iran and Turkey in winter. It was difficult and they were able to secure asylum. Inside Iran they cannot express or show their faith because they will face death. It is not easy.

Q: I want to touch on the question of the flight of the Christians from Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution. About half of the Christian population left the country and there is, as far as I can read and understand about 10,000 families that leave Iran every year. What does this mean for the Christian community in Iran?

Eid: Let me say that the political pressure is upon both Non-Muslims and Muslims, but Christians are twice under pressure because you have the political facet of the regime that is questioned by the majority of the Iranian people and on top of that you have the religious pressure for the Non-Muslims, because they feel that their freedom is curtailed. That is why there is this massive flight and in fact there is a real risk of the disappearance, of an extinction of Christianity in Iran.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cruise Tourism Suspended Between Turkey and Israel

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 31 — Cruise tourism was suspended between Alanya town of Turkish southern province of Antalya and Israel after Israel’s operation on a convoy of aid ships of a Turkish relief organization carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza, as Anatolia news agency reported. Alanya Port Management & Maritime Corp. officials said on Monday that Mirage-1 cruise ship, which departed from Israel for Alanya with its 420 voyagers after midnight, changed its route to Rhodes island after Israel raided the convoy of aid ships. The officials said that the cruises were suspended till an unknown date. A total of 11,541 tourists by 19 ships arrived in Alanya port from Israel in the first five months of 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: 5,000 Anti-Israel Protestors in Istanbul

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 31 — At least 5,000 people have taken to the streets over the past few hours in Istanbul between the Israeli consulate and the centrally-located Taksim square in protest against the Israeli Navy’s attack this morning against the flotilla of ships bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. In the boarding of the ships, an as-yet-unknown number of people were killed and injured, including Turkish nationals. The crowd began gathering before the Israeli consulate a few minutes after the radio and TV reported the attack on the humanitarian convoy. Many threw bottles of water and other objects at entrance to the building. Scenes of anger and protest have also been seen in Ankara in front of the residence of the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levi, where also this morning hundreds of people carrying Turkish and Palestinian flags shouted or prayed under the vigilant eyes of the police protecting the building. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Turkey Cancels Military Action With Israel

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 31 — The Ankara government has today decided to cancel three joint military operations with Israel that have been scheduled for some time, following last night’s attack by Israeli marines on a six-ship convoy carrying passengers and humanitarian aid to Gaza. The private broadcaster NTV reports that the announcement was made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc. It has also emerged that the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has cut short his visit to South America and is on his way back to Turkey. “Turkey is closely following developments in events. We strongly condemn the Israeli attack which will remain a black mark in the story of humanity. It is not possible to justify these actions in any way, or with any excuse,” said Arinc. “The Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv, Oguz Celikkol, has been recalled to Turkey and all military exercises due to be carried out with Israel have been cancelled. Turkey has also called for all international organisations to intervene in this situation. We want our citizens to be sent back to Turkey. We want true information from Israel that removes any doubt over the attack on the ships”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Israel’s Crimes Could Lead to War, Syria

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 31 — In its first official statement on the Israeli attack on the humanitarian flotilla headed for Gaza, Syria called the operation a “barbaric” move. Quoted by Lebanese press agency Nna, President Bashar al Assad and Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri harshly condemned the “crime committed by Israel with this barbaric attack on defenceless civilians”. The joint statement quoted by Nna continues that Syria and Lebanon “invite the international community to take measures as soon as possible to end Israel’s crimes, which could lead to war in the Middle East with repercussions far beyond the regional borders”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Football Match Turkey-Israel Cancelled

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 31 — In the wake of the controversy caused by the attack of the Israeli navy on a convoy of humanitarian aid ships headed for Gaza, in which several people were killed including Turks, Ankara has decided to cancel the football match between the Under 18 teams of Turkey and Israel, Vice Premier Bulent Arinc announced. In response to press questions, Arinc said that “the Israeli attack on these ships was carried out in international waters and is therefore certainly an offence. The decision to send the ship (Mavi Marmaris) to that area was not taken by the government. It belongs to a civilian humanitarian aid organisation”, Arinc specified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: This is State Terrorism, Says Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 31 — Israel’s attack on the convoy of ships that was carrying passengers and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and in which several people were killed, including Turks, “is an act of State terrorism”, according to the Premier of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan made his comment last night while returning to Turkey from South America, where he was paying an official visit to several countries. “These ships were only transporting humanitarian aid”, Erdogan added. “There were activists from 32 countries on board. Our government is closely watching the development of the situation and for now we have recalled our ambassador from Tel Aviv”. The Turkish Premier then asked Israel again for the immediate return of the Turkish citizens who were in the convoy. He also assured that “our Jewish citizens are under our protection”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza Freedom Flotilla Organizers Linked to Worldwide Terrorism

By Joel Leyden

Israel News Agency

Jerusalem —— May 29, 2010 …. The “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, a group of ships carrying up to 800 people and 10,000 tons of supplies destined for the Gaza Strip has the alledged aim of stirring international debate regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza. However, questions have been raised as to their motives especially given evidence of the organizer’s direct ties to international terrorist organizations including al Qaida and Hamas.

Israel security sources have told the Israel News Agency that the main organization behind the “freedom” flotilla that is now sailing towards the Gaza Strip is called The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a so-called “relief” organization from Turkey.

This is an organization unabashedly proud of its close ties to Hamas, a terror organization as recognized by the United States, Israel and the European Union (EU).

The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation is openly supportive of Hamas, an organization that is widely seen as the one of the largest perpetrators of human rights violations, having violently seized control of the Gaza Strip, and committed immeasurable human rights violations against its own people, not to mention hundreds of terror attacks initiated targeting the citizens of Israel.

These aren’t the only roles the IHH has played to support Islamic terror, as if this wasn’t enough. In fact, not only is IHH linked to global Islamic terror organizations, but it is the direct supporter of not only terrorism against Israel, but a primary backer of world-wide terrorism against nations which practice democracy.

At the heart of many terrorist networks are so-called Islamic “relief” organizations have proven invaluable as sources of cash, weapons, and recruitment of terror operatives. So effective is their role in covering up terrorist activity from the international intelligence community under the guise of promoting humanitarian aid, that Osama bin Laden has admitted that these NGO “charities” have been al-Qaida primary source of funding and have enabled the build-up of his organization to fly under the radar.

Examples of Islamic organizations funneling funds to terror organizations masked as NGOs include: the Benevolence International Foundation, Global Relief Foundation, Taibah International Aid Association, all of whom and countless other have been shut down, banned and its leaders arrested by the US government.

The IHH is one of such organizations, a primary example of an NGO that functions as a “charitable” organization in order to divert resources to terror activity.

In a working paper for The Danish Institute for International Studies, an independent international affairs research institution of Denmark, terrorism analyst and expert witness for the prosecution in U.S. terrorism trials, Evan Kohlmann details IHH’s extensive affiliation with the Islamic terror network, including: explicit ties to Hamas, al-Qaida, as well other militant Islamic organizations based in Algeria, Libya, Turkey.

Even in Turkey there have been hostile exchanges between the IHH and the Turkish government, who had previously made efforts to combat home-grown terrorism. In December 1997, Turkey authorities began a criminal investigation into IHH when sources revealed to them that the IHH had purchased semi-automatic weapons from Islamic terror groups. Their Istanbul bureau was thoroughly searched and the local leaders arrested. Inside the bureau an array of items were found: “firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions and a jihadi flag.” After analyzing seized IHH documents, the Turkish authorities determined that the arrested leaders had been on their way to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.

During the 1999 earthquake in Turkey, the IHH was banned from providing relief aid efforts because the organization was deemed by the government as a fundamentalist organization and would not provide transparency of their bank accounts to Turkish officials.

It is odd that today Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan supports the IHH in their attempt to break the maritime closure of the Gaza Strip, and ranks the IHH’s efforts as his “top priority” for the country.

The IHH has also provided aid to insurgents seeking to kill American troops in Iraq. In his working paper, Kohlmann notes that the IHH played a large role in providing “charitable donations” to insurgent rich areas in central Iraq such as Fallujah and that the current president of IHH and organizer of the “Freedom Flotilla”, Bulent Yildrim, had galvanized anti-America sentiment and incitement in these areas against U.S. troops during the Iraqi War.

Not only have the IHH stirred trouble in Turkey for supporting terror, but their aims to promote terror activity have reached a worldwide level.

In 1996, phone records of the IHH showed calls to an Al Qaida guesthouse in Milan and to Algerian terror cells throughout Europe.

Kohlmann also cited that famed counter-terrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere found that in the mid 1990’s Bulent Yildrim also conspired to recruit members in anticipation for a coming jihad, and sent IHH members to war zones in Muslim countries in order for them to gain combatant experience. He sought to obtain support by these Muslim countries for the IHH by transferring weapon and explosives caches to these countries.

Jean-Louis Bruguiere has also testified to a U.S. Court in 2003 that the IHH played a “central role” in the attempted al-Qaida Millenium bomb plot targeting Los Angeles International Airport, among other areas of the world. Bruguiere added that the IHH is a “cover-up” NGO which had served to recruit, forge documents and traffic weapons for the terrorists involved in the terror attack attempt.

The same U.S. Court document cites that the IHH has also had contact with Abdurahman Alamoudi, founder of the American Muslim Council, who is serving a 23 year sentence for illegal transactions with the Libyan government and was part of a Libyan plot to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

The IHH organization is banned in Israel as part of a group of organizations ironically titled the “Union of Good.” Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed an order citing the IHH as an organization that fund-raises and assists Hamas.

It would be comical to assume that an organization so entrenched in terror activity has good intentions in orchestrating a large PR publicity stunt for an area with a supposed “humanitarian crisis”, and it would be naïve to assume that most of the so called peace activists on the ships heading towards Gaza are unaware of their organization’s connections with terror.

In fact, one of the 39 principles of Islamic Jihad or Holy War practiced and advocated by Al-Qaeda’s Jihad, which was exposed in a private study by Israel researcher Col. Jonathan D. Halevi (res.), explicitly illustrates a how-to chapter on performing electronic Jihad.

These people are not riding donkeys, rather these 21st century Jihadists have their fingers dancing on computer keyboards across the globe. In performing electronic Jihad — Al-Salem attributes paramount importance to the Internet as a component for Jihad. He calls believers to join the Jihad against all Jews and Christians by participating in Internet forums to defend the Islam and Mujahideen, to preach Jihad and to encourage Muslims to learn more about this sacred duty. The Internet provides an opportunity to reach vast, target audiences on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and respond swiftly to opposing allegations. Islamic computer experts are asked to use their skills and experience in destroying American, Jewish and secular Websites as well as morally corrupt web sites. The so called Gaza Peace ships are using this inciteful electronic Jihad as they broadcast live using the Internet from their ships.

Sadly, much of the international media from the BBC, SKY News and CNN to Reuters, AP and AFP are not reporting about recent previous terror activity and present media public relations tactics of the IHH, as well as the long history of bogus NGO’s created to divert funds to Islamic terror groups.

The IHH and organizations similar to it have always sought to generate PR publicity stunts of providing humanitarian aid in order to mobilize their extremist base and the “Freedom Flotilla” is yet another example of this.

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

Iran: Muslims Must Unite Against Israel

Iranian Speaker Ali Larijani (L) discussed the recent Israeli attack with his Syrian counterpart, Mahmoud al-Abrash, over the phone

Iranian Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani has urged Muslim countries to adopt a united stance on condemning Israel’s raid on Gaza-bound aid ships.

“It is necessary for all Muslim states to assume a unified and common stance on condemning the latest crime committed by the Zionist regime,” Larijani was quoted as saying on Monday by IRNA.

“This tragic incident which reveals the true nature of Israel is a disgraceful stain on the reputation of this occupying regime,” he added.

The remarks were made during a telephone conversation with his Syrian counterpart, Mahmoud al-Abrash, over the Israeli navy’s assault on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla, a convoy of nine ships carrying aid to the impoverished coastal strip.

Larijani also proposed that the issue be fully discussed in the upcoming Tehran summit of the Gaza Troika, a body formed by the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) to help the besieged people of Gaza.

The APA has tasked a troika of parliament speakers from Iran, Indonesia and Syria to tour the Middle East for finding initiatives to provide aid to the impoverished people of Gaza.

At least 20 people were killed and dozens more were injured during pre-dawn attacks on the aid convoy which was seeking to pass through the three-year Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza.

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

Turkey Warns Israel of ‘Irreparable Consequences’

Turkey on Monday warned Israel of “irreparable consequences” to bilateral ties after more than 10 people died in an Israeli operation on aid-carrying ships bound for Gaza, among them Turkish vessels.

The Israeli envoy was summoned to the Foreign Ministry as hundreds gathered outside Israeli missions to protest the assault that came atop already badly worsened ties between the two former allies.

“By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives. We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations,” it said.

“Israel will have to bear the consequences of this behavior, which constitutes a violation of international law,” it said.

Israeli Ambasssador Gabby Levy held a 20-minute meeting with a senior Foreign Ministry official and left the ministry without making a statement.

He was told that “Turkey retains all its rights under international law concerning this assault,” a Turkish diplomat, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

“We are considering the actions that we may take under international law,” he said.

Turkey also asked for a detailed report on the fate of all people who were aboard the vessels, he said, adding that they included nationals from a total of 33 countries.

Levy was also told that the Turkish passengers and the wounded should be repatriated to Turkey in the shortest possible time and the vessels released, he said.

The Israeli navy stormed the flotilla of six vessels early Monday as it sailed to Gaza in a bid to break the blockade of the impoverished enclave, in place since 2007, and deliver some 10,000 tons of supplies.

The Israeli army said more than 10 passengers were killed, while Turkish charity IHH, which was part of the campaign, said at least 15 people were dead, most of them Turks.

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

Turkish PM Calls Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla ‘State Terror’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused Israel of committing “inhuman state terror” with its deadly raid on a fleet of aid ships bound for Gaza.

“It should be known that we will not stay silent and unresponsive in the face of this inhuman state terror,” Erdogan said in live televised remarks ahead of his departure from Chile to Turkey, cutting short a Latin American tour.

“International law has been trampled underfoot,” he added.

Erdogan also called for a meeting of NATO ambassadors, who will hold emergency talks Tuesday, spokesman James Appathurai said.

Basbug: Raid ‘grave,’ ‘unacceptable’

Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug told his Israeli counterpart in a telephone conversation Monday that the deadly raid on the Gaza-bound aid fleet was “grave and unacceptable,” the Turkish military said in a statement.

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

Far East

China: Foxconn Suicides: Capitalism and Marxism Treat People Like Animals

The great dissident analyzes the series of suicides in the Guangdong factory and points the finger at the Chinese social system, which transforms businessmen (even Western) into devils without morals, cancels labour rights, morality and democracy in the name of profit. The collusion of business and media in the West.

New York (AsiaNews) — Recently, a hot topic of the Chinese news media both inside China and overseas is the continuing suicide incidents of more than a dozen workers of Foxconn, owned by Taiwanese businessman Terry Gou. This rash of suicides has been called the “Foxconn Incident”. As these workers jump to their deaths, the news media, especially in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Overseas, are still digging further for news. Yet, even with limited current knowledge of the situation, we know that the degree of brutal exploitation of the Chinese workers by the capitalists in China has far surpassed the sweatshops criticized by Karl Marx.

The theory of Karl Marx was really not so good, as it brought a century disaster to the human race. Yet, to the least, Karl Marx was a person with some sympathy. Should he have the opportunity to comment on the Communist Party in China nowadays, he would be regretting it all the way. This evidence is too horrible to look at, and would force him to admit his own mistakes and overthrow the theory of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” that he created. It was exactly the capitalists under the system of this type of dictatorship that were able to use the workers as draft animals without restraint, which provides prove to Marx’s theory of “workers are only one essential factors of production.”

Some people might rebut: you do not have the evidence to say Terry Gou is a Marxist, nor to prove the “Foxconn Incident” is related to the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. Indeed, Mr. Gou is not a Marxist, nor a self-claimed one. However, this “Foxconn incident” is indeed related to the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. Who are all the capitalists of the whole world who like the Chinese Communist Party so much and have been spending their money to lobby the Western governments in an effort to help the Chinese Communist government? Why have the so-called “free media” in the West, which are controlled by big business, been shamelessly singing the praises of the Chinese Communist Party, simulating peace and prosperity in China?

This time, Karl Marx is right: driven by super profits, these capitalists dare to do any bad things including killing and arson. Who offered the super profits to them? It is the investment environment of cheap yet good workmanship in China. If Chinese labor could produce good products, how can it be cheap? A lot of laborers in third world countries produce cheap goods, but they were not as good quality. Many Western business enterprises have searched the whole globe, yet found only a few investment environments which could produce cheap yet good products. China is the biggest one.

What kind of special condition could allow the Chinese workers to produce good products, yet to accept cheap pay and miserable conditions? The scholars groomed by the capitalists study and produce whole bunches of specious theories to explain it in favor of the capitalists. That is their means of livelihood so we could give little criticism. However, we have found out that these scholars often consciously neglect one important fact: the social environment of the dictatorship.

That dictatorship has helped the capitalists to destroy the most important adversary in competition — labor unions. Without the labor unions to represent the workers, there is no need for the capitalists to pay reasonable wages to the workers. The “surplus value” of Karl Marx is realized in China thoroughly and undisguised. So called “reasonable wages” by these capitalists are only essential to maintain the most minimum living conditions. The so-called “equality between men and women” reduced the wages into half. Most families cannot maintain their survival by solely depending on one worker.

The workers are human, not draft animals. Besides wages, they need an environment to live like a human, not just at home, but also in the workplace. In the Orient, the Japanese style feudal tradition that is utterly unreasonable is not enough to subdue youths. So the dictatorship has its big use. Not only can one be sent to jail for organizing labor unions, but also if one is not submissive and servile he would receive rounds of beating, with fists, even with clubs. There are reports of using electric batons and handcuffs as well. According to the official statistics of the Chinese government, the guns owned by rich peoples’ private armies in China have already surpassed what is owned by the military police. So it is very clear as who owns this dictatorship.

When I was chatting with capitalists of various countries who invested in China, I have asked them why they would not let the workers organize labor unions and why the working conditions are so terrible. Their answers are basically the following two. One is that there are no labor unions in the Chinese businesses, so if they allowed labor unions, all the other businesses including the Chinese government would have their objections. The other is that labor unions would result the Chinese Communist party having an opportunity to interfere with the business; then it would be better off to invest in countries which were not under the leadership of the Communist Party.

From these answers, one would argue that it is not totally fair to blame these capitalists. The duties of these capitalists are to make money. They do not have the responsibility to maintain morale. In the West, where there are normal moral and legal standards, as well as labor unions to protect workers’ rights and interest, they must care about being “good” capitalists. However, under the conditions of the dictatorship by the Communist Party, their greediness becomes like the bunny rabbits in Australia, who, without natural predators, lost restriction and swamped all over.

The dictatorship of the Communist Party is exactly responsible for creating such an environment of lacking natural enemies. The capitalists are transformed into devils in that dictatorial environment. In their own countries, they would not dare to abuse workers to such a degree. Yet, just as Karl Marx said: they are willing to turn themselves into devils when several times more profit is offered.

When we are talking about human rights, democracy, rule of law, and morality, some people think it is just preaching. However, let us look at the sweatshops of Foxconn. Let us look at our Chinese fellows who have to jump to their deaths, to hang themselves, to drink pesticide to their deaths. Can we still think that these problems are irrelevant to human rights, democracy, and rule of law?

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


Finland: Rights Group: Some Immigrant Youth Sent Abroad by Force

According to a study by the Finnish League for Human Rights (FLHR), some children and youth of immigrant background are sent to other countries against their will by their families for a variety of reasons. The Migration Minister says it shows that officials must do more to intervene.

For boys, the reason is often anti-social behaviour, while girls are sent abroad for arranged marriages.

However the group says the practice is not common. The study uncovered 40 cases of children or youth who have apparently been forced to leave Finland against their will, either temporarily or permanently. The report is based on information from 134 organisations and agencies who work with youngsters of foreign background, as well as individual immigrants.

There was great variation in the gravity of the individual cases uncovered. The researchers say they include “tragic” cases where human rights abuse and abandonment of a child is obvious.

In some cases, children leave willingly to their country of origin to stay with relatives and learn the language and culture. However, sometimes a child is sent off due to problems they have at school, or for antisocial behaviour.

If a child has no say on the matter, the event can be extremely traumatic. Under Finnish law, children aged 12 or over must be consulted on decisions concerning them.

More Statistical Information Needed

At the moment there is no way to gather firm statistics which would show how frequently children are sent off. As currently there is no single official body that registers this type of information, it is hard to keep track of the whole situation, says the League for Human Rights.

Some evidence from the current research demonstrates that the trend does not seem to be on the increase.

Thors: Officials Must Intervene in Forced Marriages

Reacting to the FLHR report on Saturday, Migration Minister Astrid Thors says authorities should intervene more readily in suspected cases of forced marriage.

Thors said the study reveals the need for strong action by officials. She said those who work with youth should be trained about issues such as forced marriages and so-called ‘honour killings’. The minister also called for a central office to be set up for local officials to consult and report about these issues.

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

Finland: Minister Wants More Immigrants to Seek High School Degrees

Education Minister Henna Virkkunen has called for more efforts to help immigrant youth to earn academic high school degrees. Meanwhile a record number of adult immigrants have graduated with such degrees in Helsinki.

Virkkunen said that education — particularly linguistic skill — is crucial for integration of those of immigrant background.

She noted that fewer youngsters of foreign descent pursue academic high school education than other pupils, and that they are more likely to drop out of school early. The main reason for this, says Virkkunen, is that they feel their Finnish is not good enough. This should be addressed earlier on, she said.

There are about 18,000 immigrant pupils at Finnish comprehensive schools.

Record Number of Graduates

On Friday, a record number of immigrants have earned high-school diplomas from Helsinki’s Eira High School for Adults. Forty immigrants graduated from the school. They come from 15 countries and speak 17 native languages. Many were unable to complete their schooling in their home countries, and most spoke very little Finnish when they entered the school.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Gay Attack Sparks Campaign for Homophobia Law

Rising intolerance makes legislation necessary, say supporters

(ANSA) — Rome, May 31 — A brutal attack on a gay man in Rome has led to a fresh campaign for politicians of all sides to back the introduction of an anti-homophobia law in Italy. The 24-year-old victim spent five nights in hospital having been punched and kicked until he bled and insulted by four youths after a visit to a gay bar in the area of the Colosseum last week. It was the latest in a series of attacks targeting homosexuals in the Italian capital over the last year, including an arson attack on a gay disco that is among the hate crimes being investigated by an anti-terrorism task force.

“Gay and lesbian Italians have the right to live free from fear and violence and be considered first-class citizens,” Paola Concia, an MP with the opposition Democratic Party (PD) who has tabled an anti-homophobia bill that is jammed in parliament, said on Monday.

“I’m making an appeal to all parties and representatives of the right and left of the political spectrum,” added Concia, a lesbian. “I call on everyone to cooperate so that this law gets approved. If this law is to happen, it will need to be a bipartisan law”.

Gay groups say the new legislation is needed to protect gays, lesbians and transgender people from rising intolerance.

The victim of last week’s attack made a personal appeal to Premier Silvio Berlusconi to give the bill his support.

“I think there’s a need for concrete acts and I want to make an appeal to Premier Berlusconi to have the law against homophobia approved,” the man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said in a statement issued via the Arcigay association.

But Rome’s right-wing Mayor Gianni Alemanno, who condemned the attack, said he was not in favour of the new legislation.

“I’m against a law on homophobia because it would inevitably have ideological content,” he said.

“On the other hand, I’m in favour of a (new) specific aggravation to violent crimes”.

Homosexual groups have said they intend to step up their campaign to raise support for the bill at Rome’s Gay Pride march on July 3. photo: torch-light protest at scene of beating.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Does the Internet Really Influence Suicidal Behavior?

People searching the Internet for information about suicide methods are most likely to come across sites that encourage suicide rather than sites offering help and support, finds a study in the British Medical Journal. Media reporting of suicide and its portrayal on television are known to influence suicidal behaviour, particularly the choice of method used, but little is known about the influence of the internet.

Recent reports in the popular press have highlighted the existence and possible influence of internet sites that promote suicide and web forums that may encourage suicide in young people.

But despite these recent controversies, the ease with which these sites may be found on the internet has not been systematically documented nor the kind of information they contain been described.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Oxford and Manchester set out to replicate a typical search that might be undertaken by a person looking for instructions and information about methods of suicide using the four most popular search engines—Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask—and 12 simple search terms.

They analysed the first ten sites from each search, giving a total of 480 hits.

Altogether 240 different sites were found and just under half of these provided some information about methods of suicide. Almost a fifth of hits (90) were for dedicated suicide sites, of which half were judged to be encouraging, promoting, or facilitating suicide.

Sixty-two (13%) sites focused on suicide prevention or offered support and 59 (12%) sites actively discouraged suicide.

Almost all dedicated suicide and factual information sites provided information about methods of suicide. But, a fifth (21%) of support and prevention sites and over half (55%) of academic or policy sites, and all news reports of suicides also provided information about methods.

Overall, Google and Yahoo retrieved the highest number of dedicated suicide sites, whereas MSN had the highest number of prevention or support sites and academic or policy sites.

In addition, the three most frequently occurring sites were all pro-suicide, whereas the information site Wikipedia was fourth. All top four sites evaluated methods of suicide including detailed information about speed, certainty, and the likely amount of pain associated with each method. However, there is currently no regulation of suicide sites in the UK because they are not illegal.

Self-regulation by internet providers and use of filtering software by parents to block sites are the main approaches to reducing potential harm from suicide sites. However, efforts to remove some of the most detailed technical descriptions of suicide methods may be easily circumvented, say the authors.

They conclude that service providers might pursue website optimisation strategies to maximise the likelihood that sites aimed at preventing suicide are preferentially sourced by people seeking information about suicide methods rather than potentially harmful sites.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Gene Silencing Approach Saves Monkeys From Ebola: Study

[Note: The Ebola virus, one of several hemorrhagic fevers, currently has no vaccine or treatment. It results in one of the highest mortality rates and can kill within hours of symptoms initially manifesting. The virus represents an ideal candidate for germ warfare. Only the extreme danger and difficulty of containing or handling this deadly agent deters more attempts to use it. Any real progress in combating this lethal strain is a welcome advance in terms of both medicine and global security. — Z]

A gene silencing approach can save monkeys from high doses of the most lethal strain of Ebola virus in what researchers call the most viable route yet to treating the deadly and frightening infection.

They used small interfering RNAs or siRNAs, a new technology being developed by a number of companies, to hold the virus at bay for a week until the immune system could take over.

U.S. government researchers and a small Canadian biotech company, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, worked together to develop the new approach, described in the Lancet medical journal on Thursday.

“The delivery system is the real key,” said Thomas Geisbert of Boston University School of Medicine, who did some of the work while at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Ebola viruses are a family of viruses that can often cause very serious hemorrhagic fevers. They have caused dozens of frightening and deadly outbreaks across Africa and threaten endangered gorilla populations as well as people.

There is no treatment and no vaccine against Ebola, which passes via close personal contact.

The siRNAs are little stretches of genetic material that can block the action of a specific gene. This particular one attaches to three different areas on the Ebola virus, preventing it from replicating.

Geisbert’s team worked with a strain called Zaire that comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and kills up to 90 percent of those infected.


“We have just had very difficult times developing treatments — antivirals or just any kind of a strategy,” Geisbert said in a telephone interview.

“It’s been a very tough nut to crack.”

The team has announced a number of near-successes, most recently a vaccine that provided partial protection in monkeys in 2006. Then Geisbert got a call from Ian MacLachlan at Tekmira.

The methodology MacLachlan described sounded promising, so they teamed up.

Tests in guinea pigs suggested the siRNAs delivered in little lipid particles would work. But to get Ebola to sicken rodents requires changing it substantially from the strain that attacks people and monkeys, Geisbert said.

Now the company and researchers are seeking U.S. federal funding to continue their work, Geisbert said. For new drugs to treat lethal infections, the Food and Drug Administration requires proof that the treatment does not hurt people and is effective in at least two animal species.

Tekmira has deals with a number of pharmaceutical companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer.

Last week a team at the National Institutes of Health reported they had developed a vaccine that protects monkeys against several strains of Ebola

The treatment holds the virus in check while the immune system gears up to fight it, Geisbert said. “There is a critical threshold for virus load and if you go over that, you die,” he said.

“This drug is knocking down enough of the virus so it tips the balance.”

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Flotilla: Arab Israeli Sheikh Raed Salah Wounded

… Sheikh Raed Salah, was among the seriously wounded …

This is a tragedy, a complete and total tragedy of monumental proportions. Nowhere on this list do I see the name of William Ayers. So many shell casings, so few results.

Israeli Commandos Gun Down 19 Peace Activists in Raid on Gaza Ships With 28 Britons on Board

What, no fluffy bunnies or fuzzy ducklings squashed underfoot by the merciless jackbooted Israelis? You call this a "raid"?

Pictures of [peace] activists with sticks bludgeoning an Israeli soldier as he tried to land on a boat from a helicopter were shown by Turkish channel NTV.

Sooooo, these "peace activists" weren't quite so peaceful after all, now were they?

It's kind of hard to squeal bloody murder while proudly displaying footage of Israel's boarding party being attacked at the first opportunity. Then again, such blatant contradictions have never troubled Islamic or international media crews in the past. Why should they now?

Raid on Flotilla Puts Final Nail in Coffin of Turkish Ties With Israel

And just when everything was showing such promise!

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s escalating rhetoric that targeted the Israeli government and his remarks that Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons capacity was comparable to Iran’s quest to develop such weapons was responsible for putting a strain on bilateral ties over the past year.

Iran is a major sponsor of international terrorism. Attempting to establish any moral equivalency between Iran and Israel is like comparing Idi Amin to Mother Teresa.