Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110131

Financial Crisis
»Celebrity-Backed Global Fund is Racked With Fraud
»Egypt: France and UK Banks Most Exposed, Then Italy
»Egypt: Moody’s Cuts Rating to BA2, Outlook Negative
»Fiat: Truck and Brazil Car Sales Return Auto Maker to Profit
»Istat: Each Family Spends Over 1,100 Euros on Healthcare
»Italy: Housing Market Down, 120,000 Are Unsold
»UK: Please Sir, Can We Have Your Bonus? Cash-Strapped Council Begs Wealthy Banker Residents to Help Out
»Humane Society of the United States Another Liberal Lie
»Judge Rules Health Law Unconstitutional
»Medical Examiner: Homicide Victim John Wheeler Died of ‘Blunt Force Trauma’
»Stealing an Election? Voter Fraud Indictments
»Tawdry Details of Obamacare
Europe and the EU
»Behind the Scenes as Berlusconi Clings to Power
»Exposed? The Evidence Against Berlusconi
»Finland: Soini Sets Conditions for True Finns’ Participation in Next Government
»Food: Spanish Campofrio Buys Italian Fiorucci
»Italy: Recipe for Democracy Not Simple, PETRA Director
»Italy: ‘Pesto Day’ Set to be Celebrated
»Italy: Wife Wants Split After Hubbie Brings Mamma on Honeymoon
»Italy Gets Wired With Free W-Lan
»Italy: Eyewear Group Luxottica Sales Surge to €5.8bln in 2010
»Italy: House to Vote Thursday on Authorising Ruby Search
»Italy: Berlusconi Blasts Bersani for Rebuffing Growth Pact
»Italy: Tunisian Gets Six Years for Terrorism
»Rise in Support for Sweden Democrats: Poll
»Silvio Berlusconi: The Women Now Thrust Under the Media Spotlight
»UK: How BBC Warmists Abuse the Science
»UK: Microsoft Warns of Security Flaw That ‘Affects 900 Million People Using Internet Explorer’
»Ultimatum to Greece and Malta for Sea Protection
»Albania: Facebook-Deprived Man Sues for $500k
North Africa
»Algeria: Poor Healthcare, 36,000 Children Die Each Year
»Caroline Glick: Clueless in Washington
»Could Egypt’s Rich Deal Decisive Blow to Mubarak?
»Egypt: Al Jazeera: 6 of Our Journalists Have Been Arrested
»Egypt: Mubarak Appoints New Head of Secret Services
»Egypt: Italy’s FM: Control of Democracy a Concern
»Egypt: Italy’s FM: No to Radical Islamism in Power
»Egypt: Italy’s FM: Suez Canal Closure Would be State Collapse
»Egypt: Israel to US and EU, Enough Criticism of Mubarak
»Egypt: Gaddafi Phones Mubarak, 2,500 Libyans Return
»Egypt: Army: People’s Claims Legitimate
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood, No to New Government
»Egypt: The Emperor’s Pink Burqua
»Egypt: Spain: Government Backs People’s Demands
»Egypt: Israel to USA & EU: Don’t Dump Mubarak
»Flash: Egyptian ‘Moderate Democratic’ Leader Negotiating Coalition Government With Islamists
»Frank Gaffney: The Muslim Brotherhood: The Enemy in Its Own Words
»Morocco: King in France, Meeting With Sarkozy?
»Morocco: Prince Hicham: Country Will Not be an Exception
»Obama Loses the Middle East
»Revolution in Egypt — Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire
»Tunisia: 350 Thousand Euros From France for Social Aid
»Tunisia: Ghannouchi’s Return, Opposers Attacked
»Tunisia: Libya Fears Return of Islamists, Press
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel Shocked by Obama’s “Betrayal” Of Mubarak
»‘Something Big’ Transferred to Gaza Strip
Middle East
»What’s Wrong With Being a Front-Line State?
»Yemen: Opposition Ignores President Saleh’s Invitation
South Asia
»Afghan Officials Shielded Bank From Scrutiny
»Pakistan: Some 40,000 in Lahore Streets to Defend Blasphemy Law, Shouting Slogans Against the Pope
Far East
»General Motors Sells More Cars and Trucks in China Than America for First Time in History
»Italian Luxury Goods Makers to Boost Investments

Financial Crisis

Celebrity-Backed Global Fund is Racked With Fraud

A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, The Associated Press has learned.

Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market.

The fund’s newly reinforced inspector general’s office, which uncovered the corruption, can’t give an overall accounting because it has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002. But the levels of corruption in the grants they have audited so far are astonishing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: France and UK Banks Most Exposed, Then Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANAURY 31 — French and British banks are the most exposed on the Egyptian market, according to the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

French banks had an exposure towards Egypt of 17.6 billion dollars at the end of September, while the figure for British banks was 10.7 billion. Behind French and British banks come Italian companies, with an exposure of 6.3 billion dollars, followed by America, with 5.35 billion, and German banks 2.478 billion. Swiss banks have an exposure of 1.148 billion.

The total exposure of international banks towards Egypt stands at 49.275 billion dollars.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Moody’s Cuts Rating to BA2, Outlook Negative

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — Moody’s has downgraded Egypt’s rating from BA1 to BA2, with the country’s outlook going from stable to negative. The rating agency explained that the decision had been taken in light of continuing political tensions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Fiat: Truck and Brazil Car Sales Return Auto Maker to Profit

Rome, 27 Jan. (AKI) — Italian car giant Fiat on Thursday announced the company’s 2010 profits reached 600 million euros compared to an over all loss of 848 million euros in 2009. Fiat further announced that in 2010 they had beaten their own targets.

In the fourth quarter of 2010 alone, the company’s net income came to 318 million euros, powered by increased sales in trucks and tractors as well as robust car sales in Brazil, the Turin based industrial group said.

That is an increase over the same period of 2009, when Fiat reported 283 million euros net income.

The results include the entire Fiat group before splitting earlier this month into two companies when Fiat’s chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne divided the car division from the truck and tractor division in order to increase efficiency in each group, the biggest reorganisation in the car giant’s history.

This is the last time Fiat will report their results as one single group.

The company also registered a decrease in net industrial debt, of 2.4 billion euros, down from 4.4 billion euros one year earlier.

Fiat is Italy’s largest industrial group, which also operates US auto giant Chrysler in which it originally took a 20 percent share in 2009 when the US car maker went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Earlier this month, Fiat upped that to 25 percent and has expressed interest in increasing their ownership in the Michigan based company.

Fiat produced 650,000 cars in 2009 and aims to produce 1.4 million annually by 2014. The group’s passenger car sales fell 15 percent in Europe last year but this was compensated for by a 27 percent increase in its sales of light commercial vehicles, a market that is reviving as the global economy recovers.

Fiat does not break down its earnings by region, but Marchionne claims it loses money on its cars business in Europe. In order to cut costs, he is pushing through controversial labour reforms to introduce more flexible work practices at the company’s Italian factories.

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

Istat: Each Family Spends Over 1,100 Euros on Healthcare

(AGI) Rome — The ISTAT reports that every Italian family spends over 1,100 euros a year on medical expenses, 1,9% of the GDP.

The report comes from the “Noi Italia” study conducted by the ISTAT. Public healthcare spending costs amount to over 110 billion euros (7.3% of the GDP) and surpass 1,800 euros per year per person (2009). Italian public healthcare spending is, by far, inferior that of other important European countries, such as France and Germany.

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

Italy: Housing Market Down, 120,000 Are Unsold

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 25 — “Three years of the market on a downtrend has caused an alarming figure of a stock of ‘unsold goods’ which has widely exceeded 100,000 homes and which today stands at around 120,000 unsold apartments.” This is the alarm launched by the Environment Standing Committee of the Chamber of Deputies in the concluding document of the fact-finding inquiry into the Italian real estate market which is being presented today.

During the various hearings, the Standing Committee explains that it has received “negative data” which seems to “accentuate the elements for concern over the persistent negative trend in the building sector which, differently to other industrial sectors, does not seem to have yet hit the lowest point of its cyclical drop, and has continued to send signals that remain unfavourable.” As for rentals in particular, “it seems that the situation is particularly difficult, if it is true that the amount of rented houses in Italy (currently 4.4 million, 18.8% of total homes) is much lower than in other European countries (Germany 57.3%, Holland 47.3%, France 40.7%) and, above all, that the social housing offer in Italy is much lower than in other European countries (4.5% of the total, 11th in Europe).” In addition, there is “an unacceptable number of off-the-books rentals, which have now exceeded 500,000 homes,” underlines the Commission, highlighting that the proposals put forward by the operators are united by the willingness to introduce a ‘flat coupon’ with a rate of 20%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Please Sir, Can We Have Your Bonus? Cash-Strapped Council Begs Wealthy Banker Residents to Help Out

Millionaire bankers who live in the smartest parts of cash-strapped Camden may be asked to hand over some of their bonus pay to save services for less well-off residents.

Council chiefs are running out of cash for essential services like libraries and school repairs while wealthy bankers are enjoying generous January bonuses.

The affluent neighbourhoods in the North London borough are home to some of the biggest earners in the industry, many on six-figure pay packets with bonuses to match.

Camden Town Council is now considering asking wealthy residents in areas like Primrose Hill, Regents Park and Hampstead to contribute a fraction of their bonus payments towards public services which are under threat.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Humane Society of the United States Another Liberal Lie

The ads are run by the Humane Society of the United States. Capitalizing on the name familiar to all of us, the HSUS is actually not associated with the Humane Societies that run the thousands of animal shelters all over the country. While the average viewer writes her check thinking that she is helping these unfortunate animals, the fact is that little on none of her money will go to shelters or operations directly helping animals in need. Most of the money raised by HSUS goes for “lobbying and education.”

In a piece at the scope of this scam is outlined. Also, an explanation as to who the leadership at HSUS really are and just what are their goals. Finally, an appeal to give to local Humane Societies if you are so moved and to tell others the facts about the Humane Society of the United States.

Most Americans — 71 percent, according to Opinion Research Corporation — believe HSUS is an umbrella group for pet shelters. (No wonder: “Humane Society” is right there in its name.) And 59 percent of us believe HSUS gives “most of its money” to the pet shelters in our cities and towns.

Most of us are dead wrong. HSUS isn’t affiliated with any pet shelters, it doesn’t run any and it barely funds any. If you pledge $19 a month, only about $2 of your $228 annual contribution will trickle down to a real humane society.

Odds are that the shelter or pet rescue in your community will be completely left out. HSUS’s tax returns show it gave just $17,983 to hands-on pet shelters in Georgia between 1998 and 2009. That’s only $1,498.58 annually. (Last year, HSUS gave just $2,758 to hands-on pet shelters in Georgia.)

During that same 12-year period, HSUS spent $767 million on expenses including lobbyists, lawyers, payroll and (of course) more fundraising. America’s pet shelters typically get about 1 percent of that. HSUS’s executive pension plan gets far more. (More than $11 million in the past seven years.)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Judge Rules Health Law Unconstitutional

Judge Roger Vinson ruled that Congress overstepped its legal bounds when it included the provision requiring nearly all Americans to buy insurance. Because the provision is key to the rest of the law, he declared the whole thing unconstitutional.

Last year, a Virginia judge knocked down the key piece of the law, but he didn’t declare the whole law unconstitutional.

Vinson said the Congress has no right to require Americans to purchase a product.

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications.,” he wrote in his ruling.

The issue is widely expected to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Medical Examiner: Homicide Victim John Wheeler Died of ‘Blunt Force Trauma’

Toxicology “didn’t play a role” in his death, officials said.

Homicide victim John P. Wheeler III, a former Pentagon official and presidential aide whose body was discovered Dec. 31 in a Wilmington landfill, was beaten to death in an assault, the Delaware medical examiner’s office announced today.

The official cause of Wheeler’s slaying was “blunt force trauma,” agency spokesman Karl Kanefsky said about a case that has drawn worldwide media coverage.

Police reiterated today that the case remains under investigation but acknowledge they cannot fill in critical gaps in the murder mystery.

Within hours of the grisly New Year’s Eve discovery, state pathologists had ruled that the 66-year-old New Castle resident was a homicide victim, but until today authorities had been mum on the cause of his death — an unusual posture in Delaware, where such information is usually released promptly.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Stealing an Election? Voter Fraud Indictments

Two Democratic politicians in an upstate New York city have been charged in a “massive” voter fraud case first reported a year ago on Fox News.

A 59-page, 116-count indictment charges Troy Democratic City Councilman Michael LoPorto and Edward McDonough, Democratic Commissioner of the Rensselaer County Board of Elections, with forgery and criminal possession of a forged instrument. The two men arrive in court in handcuffs on Friday and pleaded not guilty.

Seven other public officials and political operatives are said to be targets of the continuing investigation. The Fox News Voter Fraud unit first reported the brazen allegations just over a year ago, with reports that absentee ballots and applications were forged to try to stuff the ballot box and steal an election.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tawdry Details of Obamacare

White House quietly exempts pampered politicos

If you would like to know what the White House really thinks of Obamacare, there’s an easy way. Look past its press releases. Ignore its promises. Forget its talking points. Instead, simply witness for yourself the outrageous way the White House protects its best friends from Obamacare.

Last year, we learned that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had granted 111 waivers to protect a lucky few from the onerous regulations of the new national health care overhaul. That number quickly and quietly climbed to 222, and last week we learned that the number of Obamacare privileged escapes has skyrocketed to 733.

Among the fortunate is a who’s who list of unions, businesses and even several cities and four states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee) but none of the friends of Barack feature as prominently as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

How can you get your own free pass from Obamacare? Maybe you can just donate $27 million to President Obama’s campaign efforts. That’s what Andy Stern did as president of SEIU in 2008. He has been the most frequent guest at Mr. Obama’s White House.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Behind the Scenes as Berlusconi Clings to Power

Italy’s leader digs in amidst troubling silence from allies and the Catholic Church, as a sex scandal involving underage prostitutes may pose the gravest threat to his 15-year hold over Italian public life

Amedeo La Mattina

The 74-year-old prime minister vehemently denies any wrongdoing after prosecutors allege that he had sex with a “significant” number of prostitutes, including at least one underage girl, at his villa in Milan. Prostitution is not a crime in Italy, but abetting it is. Meanwhile, the drama of whether Silvio Berlusconi can survive politically is playing out in the marbled halls of the Italian capital.


Right now, there are two faces to the Berlusconi machine. On the one hand, the Prime Minister is on the attack, head down, with no apparent hesitation. Yet even among some important partisans in the Italian leader’s camp, there are some who hope he takes a step back, but no one has the courage to suggest this to him. They hope that his right-hand man, Gianni Letta, might make such a plea, though it is impossible that the faithful under-secretary to the prime minister would counsel his boss to prepare for his succession in the face of criminal prosecution. Yesterday there was a procession of leaders from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PDL) to meet Letta, who advised everyone to remain united and compact around Berlusconi. He insisted that there are no actual crimes in question, that a trial would not stand, and that all would be forgotten by next week. The repercussions on Italy’s image abroad are the only real worry, not domestic consequences.

A cabinet minister notes that the accusations of sexual escapades have the effect of radicalizing public opinion both for and against Berlusconi, and that “eventually this has always brought more votes to (Berlusconi), seen as a victim of prosecutors who spy on him and his house guests, who get treated by the media as criminals.”

In short, taking a step back? Not on your life. “If I resign, they’ll tear me to pieces,” he reportedly told associates on Monday. “I can’t go to the magistrates, because they won’t guarantee my rights.” Berlusconi is convinced that the real objective of Milan prosecutors is to prevent him from the possibility of one day reaching the prestigious position of president of the republic, by raising a moral issue: “They want to prevent me from finishing the term, and get me out of the political scene as they did in the past with other leaders. But I will not finish like Bettino Craxi.” Former Prime Minister Craxi died in exile in Tunisia, where he’d fled in the face of criminal charges.

So marching orders are, everybody keep your heads down to avoid “the mud”, and wave the threat of early elections. Opponents, including a recently formed “third pole” of moderates, consider this an empty threat: there are ever fewer who hope for early elections, because the outcome would be so uncertain.

Berlusconi is most concerned about the silence of his allies, the once-separatist Northern League, which appears increasingly worried that a political tsunami could sweep away the federalist reforms it has been pushing in Parliament.

Another concern is the silence of the Church. The story of Ruby, the 17-year-old Moroccan exotic dancer, and the spicy details that have since emerged, is increasingly embarrassing. Berlusconi and his allies are afraid that they may be permanently abandoned by Church leaders and their constituents. Even if the prosecutors fail to prove the existence of a crime, the moral question remains. And that, for Italy and our international credibility, is the central concern for the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano. Letta has been in contact with Napolitano to confirm that the prime minister will continue to move forward with earlier plans to widen the majority by looking for new allies among members of parliament.

On Tuesday, Berlusconi’s allies and lawyers are meeting to discuss strategy. The closest advisors are lining up to defend the boss until the end, even as some begin to wonder how long they can follow the logic of: “Samson dying with all the Philistines.”

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

Exposed? The Evidence Against Berlusconi

Prosecutors and Silvio Berlusconi’s defense attorneys are building their cases in a tawdry prostitution scandal that may be the gravest threat ever to the Italian Prime Minister’s political survival

The prostitution scandal engulfing Silvio Berlusconi started with a phone call in May. Seven months later, the prosecution is on the hunt for new evidence, which threatens to bring down the embattled Italian prime minister in the most embarrassing of trials.

That call, eight months ago, was from a Brazilian prostitute named Michelle Conceicao to her friend “Papi Silvio Berluscono” (that’s how she wrote it down in her phone book, misspelling his last name). Conceicao wanted to inform the prime minister, who was in Paris, that a mutual friend had been picked up by police for theft and was being held at a police barracks. That mutual friend was Karima El Mahroug, known to friends as Ruby “Rubacuori,” or Ruby “the Heart Stealer,” a Moroccan girl who was 17 at the time. (Berlusconi soon called the police in Milan to ask for the girl’s release and sent an associate to pick her up).

Berlusconi’s latest legal odyssey is possibly his toughest to date — and it’s unfolding fast. The prime minister has refused to heed a summons by Milan prosecutors, but if they press ahead with their plan to seek a fast-track trial, Berlusconi might find himself, in no more than two months, in the uncomfortable role of defendant in a prostitution-related trial.

Do the prosecutors have a smoking gun against Berlusconi? Or will the billionaire premier’s legal team again be able to save him?

Berlusconi is under investigation for two suspected crimes, abetting child prostitution and abuse of public office. Though perhaps of less interest to tabloids, the latter is more dangerous for Berlusconi for the evidence is stronger.

Berlusconi does not deny that he made a phone call to police in May, though he has not commented on news reports that he identified the girl as a relative of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president. But the premier insists that he only intervened “to help a girl who was in trouble because I’m a good-hearted person,” and that he did not know that the girl was a minor.

Some facts, however, appear to contradict his statements. First of all, if he didn’t know the girl was a minor, why did he call his associate, Nicole Minetti, so that she could take custody of Ruby?

Furthermore, Giorgia Ioffredi, who was on duty at the police barracks that night, received a phone call from a high-ranking Milan police official, Pietro Ostuni. “Ostuni told me that it had been made known from Rome that the minor of Moroccan origin _ who I stress was the only minor at the police barracks in that moment _ was in fact a relative of Mubarak,” Ioffredi said when questioned by the prosecutors. How could Ostuni, who called Ioffredi from home, know that the girl was a minor?

Says Ostuni: “During the phone conversation (with Berlusconi) the word ‘minor’ was never pronounced, but it was implicit that it was about a minor because the conversation was over granting somebody custody of a person who had no documents.”

Berlusconi’s phone call caused a frenzy of activity at the police barracks, with dozens of phone calls among the various police officials until 2 am, when Ruby was released into the custody of Minetti, the Berlusconi associate. The decision to release her, in fact, went against the ruling of the magistrate in charge of minors, Annamaria Fiorillo. Minetti then left Ruby in the hands of the Brazilian prostitute who had sought Berlusconi’s help in the first place.

Berlusconi insists that the case is outside the Milan prosecutors’ jurisdiction. He says the case should be brought before the Tribunal of Ministers (which deals with alleged crimes committed by government members in the execution of their duties). The prosecution maintains that Berlusconi’s intervention to release Ruby did not pertain to his government duties but rather personal and private interests.

The second suspected crime is related to child prostitution. According to the prosecution, when Berlusconi intervened with the Milan police and abused his powers “to gain undue non-monetary profit for himself and the minor,” he did so in order to prevent Ruby’s full identification and prevent her from revealing the “red-light” nights she spent at Berlusconi’s villa at Arcore, near Milan.

But in this case, the prosecutors rely on largely circumstantial evidence _ mostly wiretaps; statements offered by Ruby, which have not been made public; payments or money transfers to Ruby either from Berlusconi directly or from Giuseppe Spinelli, a Berlusconi aide who deals with the premier’s personal finances. There are also several apartments that were made available to the girls who most frequently attended parties at the villa.

For this charge, the key witness would be Ruby herself, but in all the interviews she has given, she has always denied having sexual relations with Berlusconi. However, in wiretaps collected by the prosecutors she tells her friends the opposite, and even makes it clear that she wants to make money out of the whole affair.

Prosecutors have established that she was at the premier’s Arcore villa 12 times between February and May, thanks to a check on Ruby’s cell phone activity, as the villa itself was never monitored. They have also ascertained her contacts with Spinelli in order to receive money, and bills from October have been tracked down and retrieved in Genoa. That same month, during a wiretap, Ruby — who was likely “questioned” by Berlusconi’s defense — is heard recounting “hard-core scenes with the pr…person. “

So far, the only eye witness is Nadia Macri, a call girl who claims she saw Ruby during an orgy at the Arcore villa on April 24. But her statement is still being assessed.

Berlusconi says he never knew Ruby was a minor, and that he never had sex with her. He insists the dinner parties he throws at his villa are convivial and elegant affairs. “I’ve never paid for a woman (for sex) in my whole life,” he says.

The prosecutors say wiretaps, text messages, money changing hands and cell phone movements all show that Ruby has spent days and nights at Arcore, received several thousand euros, and even that she admitted to taking part in so-called “bunga bunga” sex parties. They maintain Berlusconi was aware of her age, since the girl was well known to Emilio Fede, a longtime Berlusconi friend who has also been placed under investigation. On the question of whether Berlusconi paid for sex, prosecutors say they can provide money transfers and several wiretaps.

Only a small part of the prosecutors’ arsenal is known. New searches were carried out last week that may have turned up more evidence of payments (possibly envelops signed “Silvio B”), perhaps even very recent money transfers and photos. Technical experts are still hard at work unlocking the memory of mobile phones and computers seized.

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

Finland: Soini Sets Conditions for True Finns’ Participation in Next Government

The right-of-centre populist True Finns party, which has been riding high in recent polls, is calling for a “just climate policy programme” for the next government. Discussing his party’s goals on Friday, the party’s chairman, MEP Timo Soini, said that he expects government formation talks after the Parliamentary elections in April to be difficult, because his model would completely reverse policies of the present government. He ruled out joining a government that would include the Green League — a sentiment that is reciprocated by the Greens themselves.

One issue that is a deal-breaker for the True Finns’ participation in the government is that of enshrining EU membership in the Finnish constitution, which the party staunchly opposes.

Soini is nevertheless interested in the prospect of being in the next government, and says that the party would like the portfolio of Minister of Economic Affairs. He also predicts that government formation talks will be lengthy and difficult.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Food: Spanish Campofrio Buys Italian Fiorucci

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 14 — Campofrio Food Group has bought the Italian sausage manufacturer Cesare Fiorucci for around 170 million euros, of which 45 in cash and around 126 in net financial debt. The news was reported today to the national stock market commission. Campofrio expects to close the operation by April, awaiting the authorisation of the Italian and Spanish competition authorities, when it will officially announced the acquisition of the Italian group to its shareholders, including some members of the Fiorucci family, the Vestar Capital Partners fund and several managers.

Founded in 1850, the Fiorucci group booked a turnover of around 320 million euros in the past financial year, and expanded its presence on the US market, in France and in the UK.

According to Fiorucci CEO Giuseppe Mangano, the integration into Campofrio Food Group is a key factor in the company’s growth strategy and will allow it to grow in Italy and on other markets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Recipe for Democracy Not Simple, PETRA Director

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — “Europe’s recipe for democracy is not simple. Each country has its own standard, what works in Italy may not work in other countries”. This statement was made by Romdan Raweshda, general manager of the Jordanian press agency PETRA, in his speech at the conference “The Mediterranean network, the challenge of the future”, in progress in Rome.

“The countries on the southern side are in a difficult economic situation”, he added. The EU has helped Greece, and Ireland as well has come out of its deadlock, but we have poverty and unemployment, the enemies of democracy. This is a big problem in the Arab world. On the other hand, we know that we have to resolve the economic situation first to reach peace”.

The general manager of PETRA continued that “we need to give more space to contact between the people. Culture is necessary for the acceptance of democracy, to respect opinions that differ from your own. The Koran says that if God had wanted He would have created one single nation, with one language and vocation, but we are different, and we have to accept that to make the universe larger and wealthier”.

“The conflicts in the Arab region can be resolved, but Israel is unwilling and does not recognise the Palestinian State and Jerusalem as its capital. We”, Raweshda concluded, “have accepted a State which does not accept us”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Pesto Day’ Set to be Celebrated

Genoa wants EU laurel for famed speciality

(ANSA) — Genoa, January 14 — Over 2,000 participating restaurants in roughly 40 countries will honor real Genovese pesto on January 17, marking the fourth annual International Day of Italian Cuisine (IDIC). Genovese pesto was chosen as the official dish of IDIC 2011, a worldwide celebration of authentic Italian food that will even see pesto-based Ligurian specialties served on 14 ships of the Italian cruise company Costa Crociere.

“Pesto Day will be an important showcase for our manufacturers to publicize, promote, and distinguish real Genovese pesto from false imitations,” agricultural councillor Giovanni Barbagallo told reporters in Genoa. “Defending the traditional pesto recipe from imitations is a priority for Liguria.” To that end, the oily green sauce beloved by Italian food fans the world over may also soon have its own certification. The Liguria region is seeking a European Union “STG” (Guaranteed Traditional Speciality) mark for pesto meeting strict criteria for genuine, Ligurian ingredients.

“With the STG designation we want to protect the seven ingredients of true pesto: PDO Genovese basil, garlic, olive oil Riviera Ligure PDO, salt, pine nuts, pecorino and grana padano cheese,” added Barbagallo.

PDO stands for Protected Designation of Origin, a European certification the Liguria region has already secured for locally produced basil and extra-virgin olive oil.

“We want to unite the name of Liguria with the territory’s quality products, like pesto, as a fundamental strategy for tourism development through (Ligurian) culinary specialties,” declared Genoa’s tourism councillor Angelo Berlangieri.

The word “pesto” comes from “pestare”, or to crush with a pestle and mortar, a reference to the original method for creating the Genovese sauce. Hence pesto is also known as “battuto genovese” or Genovese mince or mash. The pasta condiment was still rare in the days of legendary Genovese explorer Christopher Colombus, but had become well established by the 19th century.

IDIC’s Pesto Day is officially sponsored by the Liguria Region, Grana Padano cheese, Genova Pasta and a consortium of olive oil makers, among others.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Wife Wants Split After Hubbie Brings Mamma on Honeymoon

Paris trip with mother-in-law too much for Naples woman

(ANSA) — Rome, January 26 — An Italian woman has asked for a separation after her husband brought his mother with them on honeymoon.

Marianna C., 36, filed a petition with a Rome judge Wednesday, saying the problem began when she saw her mother-in-law turn up at Rome airport as the couple were set to fly off to Paris.

She “politely” tried to object but her husband Stefano said he “couldn’t leave his sick mother alone,” according to court papers.

After the three-way honeymoon the mother-in-law also spent the Christmas holidays with the newly-weds, prompting an exasperated Marianna to drive back home to her own parents in her native Naples.

Stefano’s “excessive ties” to Mamma “made it impossible to establish a healthy conjugal relationship,” the petition said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Gets Wired With Free W-Lan

Efforts in Germany to establish free Wi-Fi networks in big cities have so far failed. Not so in Italy, where pilot projects in Rome and Florence show that a bit of creative thinking can make widespread free Internet access possible.

In Germany, politicians love to talk about their visions of free wireless Internet in cities across the country — allowing residents to surf the web under Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate or with a beer in hand in Munich’s English Garden. Mostly, though, nothing comes of the free Internet chatter. Even in the capital, where Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit announced plans last summer for free, citywide W-LAN, no progress has been made because of tangles in the permit process.

Not so in Italy, where politicians seem to be much more committed to the idea. At the beginning of this year, ambitious projects aimed at creating citywide W-LAN launched in two locations. Now, both Rome and Florence are wired with wireless.

Capital city Rome has taken on the role of pioneer. In mid-January, politicians from the city and officials with the CNA, the national association of handyworkers and small- and medium-sized business, joined forces to create a network of free Wi-Fi Hotspots across the city.

Over 4,200 businesses that are CNA members are participating. Whether in espresso bars, restaurants or hair salons, it is to be possible for customers to surf wireless and free of charge by the end of the year. The business association is providing small companies with the equipment they need to get started. According to the plan, Rome’s provincial authority will be responsible for spreading the city’s W-LAN infrastructure to the greater metropolitan area.

The latest scheme is an extension of successful recent projects. In the past two years, Rome has established 500 Hotspots in public spaces around the city, including the park at Villa Borghese, the University of Rome Tre, the university hospital clinic and the beloved Campo de’ Fiori square in the city center.

Connecting with the Regions

The planned expansion is not just limited to the areas surrounding Rome. In November 2010, the countrywide Free Italia Wi-Fi initiative was established, with the declared goal of providing the entire country with free Internet access. The project aims to connect existing public wireless networks. They also want to make it possible to access all of the networks with a single log-in and password, regardless what partner network a person is connecting to.

Nicola Zingaretti, the president of the Province of Rome, the administrative authority for the capital city’s extended metropolitan area, says the project is no less than “a further major chapter in the country’s modernization. With it, we want to share the experiences we have had during the past year and a half with our ‘W-Lan Province’ program,” he said.

Further north, in tourist haven Florence, where millions flock each year to see the stunning Renaissance architecture, officials are taking a different approach in providing free Internet access to locals. Instead of relying on local businesses in the first stage, the city is providing wireless Internet access on its network of trams.

The city just opened up the bidding process for a Wi-Fi project worth €1.5 million ($2 million). By the end of February, the city will select the company that will equip the city’s 7.5 kilometer-long (4.6 miles) Tram Line No. 1 with wireless antennas and underground cabling. The project is expected to be completed by summer, at which time all light-rail passengers, the 14 stations along the route and residents within 100 meters of the line will have free Internet access. The light-rail service will also be connected to 11 locations in the city center that have already offered free Internet access since the end of 2009. By the end of the year, five additional zones are to be added.

Although access is free, there are nevertheless some restrictions. Each day, users can surf for a maximum of one hour or a total volume of 300 megabytes.

Few Users So Far

There is, however, one small hitch. Very few in Florence are even aware of the availability of free Wi-Fi services in the city. There is not a single sign advertising the service to be found in the city. When Florence officials sought to conduct an advertising campaign to promote free Wi-Fi, they were held back by the city’s office responsible for protecting historical monuments. The agency said it would block any attempt to advertise the services with posters in the historical city center. The result of that decision has been that, on any given day, at most a few dozen users log into the free network.

There are also plans afoot to privatize the service — at least in the longer term. After an initial testing period, the city wants to transfer operations to a private company. Simone Tani, Florence’s director of urban development, says that even after it is transferred to private hands, users will still be able to access the Internet for free for the first 30 minutes. A small fee would be required for additional surfing.

During the course of the year, Florence is also planning to bring small business on board in a manner similar to the project in Rome. Those businesses have until Nov. 15 to register to participate.

In order to ensure the success of the free networks, there are plans to remove a number of bureaucratic hurdles put in place six years ago in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. They include the local requirement that all users must be completely identifiable and that all traffic must be tracked.

So far, however, no changes have been made to the laws and, currently, shop owners are still required to be able to positively identify anyone who is using W-LAN in their establishment.

That, though, isn’t likely to be much of a hurdle as Italy pushes ahead into its wireless future.

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

Italy: Eyewear Group Luxottica Sales Surge to €5.8bln in 2010

Milan, 24 Jan. (AKI) — Italian eyewear Luxottica, owner of the Ray-Ban and Oakley brands recorded 5.8 billion euros of sales in 2010, a 14 percent increase over 2009, the company said on Monday.

It said it recorded 1.35 billion sales in the final three months of 2010.

The strong results had been driven by a 20 percent jump in North American sales and a 16 percent rise in sales to emerging markets during the fourth quarter. European sales rose 5.4 percent during the period, the company said.

Annual net profits in 2010 were expected to rise 35 percent to over 400 million in line with its forecasts and up from 299 million earned in 2009.

“This year (2011) can be the natural progression of the year which just ended, meaning Luxottica will be able to continue on its path of solid and stable growth and rising earnings,” said chief executive Andrea Guerra in a statement.

The current year has begun with a “particularly promising” tone and double-digit percentage growth in the order portfolio, the company said in a statement.

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

Italy: House to Vote Thursday on Authorising Ruby Search

Trial request for premier to be made later this week

(ANSA) — Rome, January 31 — The House will vote on Thursday whether to authorise a search of the offices of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s accountant in a probe into whether the premier paid an underage Moroccan dancer and alleged prostitute called Ruby for sex.

Caucus whips said the House would start examining the request from Milan prosecutors at 15:00 on Thursday.

A vote is expected at around 19:00 and will be shown live on TV, parliamentary sources said.

Last Thursday a House panel recommended turning down the request and sending back two huge dossiers backing it to the prosecutors.

The prosecutors filed the dossiers earlier this month, unleashing a media frenzy over leaked wiretap transcripts detailing alleged goings-on at Berlusconi’s villa outside Milan.

The panel voted 11-8 that the case should have been submitted to a special tribunal for ministers. This was because the second allegation in the case, that the premier abused his power in getting Ruby out of police custody, was connected to Berlusconi’s public office and not his private activities.

Berlusconi telephoned Milan police after Ruby was detained for an unrelated alleged theft on May 28 and allegedly asked for favourable treatment since she was the granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a claim she had made to him.

Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahrouga and who was 17 when she went to Berlusconi’s villa, says the premier never laid a finger on her and money she received from him was a gift.

The premier denies having sex with her or any member of an alleged stable of young prostitutes whose phone records were taken as part of the probe.

Berlusconi says he is in a steady relationship with someone who would never have allowed the reported sex parties.

He claims Milan prosecutors are trying to bring him down.

Jucicial sources said Monday the prosecutors would file a request for the premier to come to “immediate” trial later this week.

Nicole Minetti, a former showgirl and the premier’s ex-dental hygienist who is now a Lombardy regional councillor and took Ruby from police after the May scrape before handing her over to a Brazilian prostitute, was questioned Sunday by prosecutors who say she was one of three people who procured prostitutes for the premier.

Judicial sources said Monday the questioning session had been “exhaustive” and Minetti would not be called on again.

Minetti exercised her right not to answer questions about the girls staying in free housing in a classy Milan district built by Berlusconi in the 1970s, or about her own role in the case, sources said. Berlusconi has been struggling to put the scandal behind him and on Monday issued a call to the centre-left opposition for a bipartisan pact for economic growth, but was rebuffed by opposition leaders who said it was “too late”.

The opposition has been calling on the premier to stand down but he has vowed to fight on and enact key reforms, starting with federalism.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Blasts Bersani for Rebuffing Growth Pact

‘Irresponsible and insolent’, premier says as offer turned down

(ANSA) — Rome, January 31 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday branded opposition Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani as “irresponsible and insolent” after the PD chief rejected an offer of a bipartisan pact for growth.

The premier said his mooted pact was “the only serious proposal to relaunch the economy and society” while cutting public debt.

By the end of next month, Berlusconi said, the government would call a major assembly of officials and business representatives with the aim of achieving 3-4% annual growth rates within the next five years. The next general election, Berlusconi said, would “punish” politicians who attempt to “sabotage” reform, reiterating his determination to press on until the end of the government’s term in 2013 despite an ongoing scandal that could see him brought to trial for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute.

On Friday, he added, the cabinet will start discussing a reform to an article in the Italian Constitution, Article 41, which critics say hampers free enterprise.

The government will also assess new tax breaks for the south of Italy, he said.

In rejecting the growth-pact proposal, Bersani claimed Berlusconi no longer had the credibility to make such an offer because of the scandal and reiterated that he should stand down.

“Berlusconi should take a step back and remove himself and the country from (this) embarrassment,” the PD leader said.

“In order to address the opposition credibly, Berlusconi should be able to address the country and the international community credibly. That is not the case,” Bersani claimed.

Italy was “paralysed” because of the sex scandal, the PD leader alleged.

Berlusconi made his offer for a bipartisan pact in the Corriere della Sera newspaper Monday, calling for greater incentives for investment and an increase in the tax base but ruling out the PD’s idea of a one-off levy on assets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Tunisian Gets Six Years for Terrorism

Ex-Guantanamo Bay inmate helped train Afghan fighters

(ANSA) — Milan, January 31 — An Italian judge on Monday sentenced a Tunisian man to six years in prison for terrorism offences.

Ben Mohamed Riad Nasri, who was held at Guantanamo Bay between 2001 and 2009, was convicted of terrorism and assisting illegal immigration for events that occurred between 1997 and 2001.

Prosecutors said he was “the head of Tunisians in Afghanistan” and provided logistical support to Islamist fighters from Italy “sent to camps (in Afghanistan) where they were trained in the use of weapons and prepared for suicide operations”.

The prosecutors said Nasri assisted a cell of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which the US and European Union have both classified as a terrorist organization.

They say he helped raise money in Italy to fund terrorist actions and train recruits for fighting.

Nasri, who already has a 1997 conviction in Italy for handling counterfeit money, was captured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

For the same charges as Nasri, another Tunisian, Tlili Lazar, was sentenced to eighth months in jail on Monday after working with the authorities since he was extradited from France in 2006.

The Milan judge recently indicted a Libyan man, Moez Fezzani, for alleged terrorism offences.

Fezzani was sent back to Italy on December 20, 2009 from the US base of Bagram in Afghanistan.

Both Nasri and Fezzani say they were tortured at the US military installations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Rise in Support for Sweden Democrats: Poll

Support for the far-right Sweden Democrats has increased since the party entered the Riksdag, while support for the four parties of the centre-right Alliance government have dropped, according to a new poll.

Support for Sweden’s opposition far-right party has grown since its entry into parliament last year while all the members of the governing coalition have seen their ratings drop, a poll showed Monday.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats garnered 6.3 percent of voter support in Monday’s poll by daily Dagens Nyheter (DN) and polling institute Synovate, up 1.7 percentage points from the last survey in December.

The party first entered parliament after a September election, obtaining 5.7 percent of the vote and 20 seats, after campaigning against the “dangers of Islamisation” and pledging to safeguard “traditional values”.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party saw its support dwindle 1.7 percentage points from the last poll to 34.6 percent, while its coalition partners the Liberal and Centre Parties lost 0.8 and 1.1 percentage points, garnering 6.5 and 4.7 percent respectively.

Support for the Social Democrats, meanwhile, crept up 0.3 percent since December to 27 percent, while the Green Party saw its support climb 0.7 percent to 11.1 percent. Since the September 2010 elections, support for the Green Party has risen 3.8 percent.

Support for the Left Party continued to hover around 5 percent, with the party registering a 0.2 percent rise in the polls since Decmber, bringing the party’s rating to 5.2 percent.

The poll, which is based on responses to 2,673 telephone interviews carried out from January 10th to 26th, also found that 13.8 percent of Swedish voters remain undecided.

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

Silvio Berlusconi: The Women Now Thrust Under the Media Spotlight

Italian press is besieging models and showgirls alleged to have accepted cash from Italy’s PM in return for sex

María Ester García Polanco, one of the women at the centre of the scandal engulfing the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is bouncing her daughter on her knee — but that doesn’t mean she’s not a worried woman.

“With the newspapers full of this story, I am concerned about my child and what other mothers are saying at school,” says the 27-year-old model and showgirl. Two weeks ago police woke her at 6am to search for evidence that she was accepting cash gifts and free rent from the Italian prime minister, allegedly in return for sexual favours.

Since then journalists have laid siege to the smart apartment complex on the fringes of Milan that is home to María and a “stable” of other beautiful women, all suspected of participating in Berlusconi’s alleged “bunga bunga” nights of striptease and sex at his villa an hour’s drive to the north.

The investigation into the prime minister’s sexual activities, following suspicions that Berlusconi paid an underage Moroccan dancer, Karima El-Mahroug, thousands of euros for sex when she was 17, is deadly serious. But its ramifications took on a tragi-comic dimension when the owners of the Via Olgettina apartment complex tried to evict the models for “lowering the tone” of the neighbourhood. That eviction notice has been shelved, but the journalists remain.

Following the police raid, García Polanco has finally put straight her belongings — a high-kitsch collection of feather boas, fake orchids, a carpet featuring the face of Marilyn Monroe and red-and-white-striped walls with the words “Family”, “Art” and “Seduction” daubed on them. Next to a painting showing a scene from her native Dominican Republic, the novel Memoirs of a Geisha can be seen on her bookshelves.

However, García Polanco rejects the notion that she is a kept woman. “I pay the €1,300 monthly rent here myself, not Berlusconi, and I never said I had sex with him,” she told the Observer, after convincing her daughter to play in her bedroom. “The truth is that Berlusconi’s dinners were just normal events followed by karaoke and Berlusconi singing in French,” she said.

Her version of events echoes the stories told by numerous fellow party guests to Niccolò Ghedini, Berlusconi’s lawyer, who has taken signed statements to use in the prime minister’s defence if magistrates succeed in putting him in the dock this year.

It would be their word against hundreds of pages of wiretaps and depositions in which Berlusconi is described by other guests as reaching out from his chair to fondle women as they paraded half-naked past him.

Via Olgettina is in the heart of Berlusconi-land. The road overlooks Milano Due, the high-maintenance collection of apartment buildings and shops that Berlusconi built in the 1970s, boasting a tree-lined artificial lake, gushing fountains, handy underground parking and studios for Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV channels.

It was here that, after the latest scandal to plague the prime minister broke, El-Mahroug was carefully rehabilitated in a televised interview, in which she cried as she described being abused by her Moroccan uncles. “To flee from the pain you began to construct a parallel life?” asked her host, suggesting that her wiretapped talk of prostituting herself and blackmailing Berlusconi for her silence was the fantasy of a lost girl.

García Polanco remembers “Ruby the Heartstealer”, as she is now known, very well. “Ruby was very tall, dressed outrageously, and she talked about setting up health centres,” she said. “She looked older than her age.”

García Polanco said she launched her own modelling career in Italy at the age of 15, after a tough upbringing in Nagua in the Dominican Republic, where her brother is a priest. To prove her pluck, she pulled down the back of her shirt to reveal the words “Never Give Up” tattooed across her shoulders.

After meeting Berlusconi at a party three years ago, the wiretaps suggest she was not afraid to pull the new strings available to her. In Milan, when she wanted a passport, she used Berlusconi’s name to get an appointment with the prefect himself. He asked her to “say hello to the president”. Berlusconi also handed over funds that she needed to pay funeral expenses for relatives in the Dominican Republic and medical expenses for her daughter.

One block along on Via Olgettina, another frequent party guest, Barbara Guerra, is evasive over cash received from Berlusconi, mentioning a “small” gift of €5,000 to cover expenses. La Repubblica reported yesterday that police found another €18,000 hidden in a Louis Vuitton bag in her flat. “Otherwise it was normal presents like this,” she said, producing a silk scarf from exclusive Neapolitan tie-maker Marinella. For Guerra, too, life in Berlusconi-land has become an uncomfortable experience.

“The morning after the police raid, I opened my front door to find the hall packed with paparazzi,” she said. “And since the magistrates’ evidence was leaked on the internet — including our mobile phone numbers — I have been getting calls from maniacs in the night.”

Aged 32 and a mainstay of TV variety shows, Guerra is a star in her own right, whose career survived revelations that two years ago she frequented a previous round of Berlusconi’s parties in Rome.

Guerra uses the standard “very normal dinners” line of defence to describe those occasions. The frequent presence of Giampaolo Tarantini — the Puglian businessman who has admitted bringing prostitute Patrizia D’Addario to the gatherings — casts a shadow over this account, but Guerra is adamant. As for the incriminating accusations made about the latest “bunga bunga” parties in Milan, Guerra blames “people trying to attract attention to themselves”.

Guerra’s neighbour is fellow showgirl Arisleida Espinosa, who has had her own problems since the interrogation by magistrates of a friend she took to a Berlusconi party. The friend told the magistrates that Espinosa received envelopes of cash from the prime minister because she had slept with him more than once.

Via Olgettina models, such as García Polanco, Guerra and Espinosa, have become Berlusconi’s first line of defence in a battle now shaking Italy’s institutional framework. The prime minister has demanded “punishment” for the magistrates whom he accuses of persecuting him.

Meanwhile, the women he gathered around him remain at the centre of the storm. This week there was more bad news for García Polanco when magistrates released a second batch of wiretap transcripts and evidence, revealing that police found more than 2kg of cocaine in her storeroom last summer. “It was my boyfriend’s; he said he was in investment and travelled,” she said. “The police saw that I didn’t know anything.”

On Via Olgettina, every day brings another allegation and another denial.

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

UK: How BBC Warmists Abuse the Science

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, is an expert in genetics, not climatology, writes Christopher Booker.

The timing was immaculate. Last Tuesday, across a two-page extract from the memoirs of Peter Sissons, the senior BBC newsreader, was the headline: “The BBC became a propaganda machine for climate change zealots — I was treated as a lunatic for daring to dissent.” The previous evening the BBC had put out a perfect example of the zealotry which had made Mr Sissons, as a grown-up journalist, so angry. Horizon’s “Science Under Attack” turned out to be yet another laborious bid by the BBC to defend the global warming orthodoxy it has long been so relentless in promoting.

Their desperation is understandable. The past few years have seen their cherished cause crumbling on all sides. The Copenhagen climate conference, planned to land mankind with the biggest bill in history, collapsed in disarray. The Climategate emails scandal confirmed that scientists at the heart of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had distorted key data. The IPCC’s own authority was further rocked by revelations that its more alarmist claims were based not on science but on the inventions of environmental activists. Even the weather has turned against them, showing that all the computer models based on the assumption that rising CO2 means rising temperatures have got it wrong.

The formula the BBC uses in its forlorn attempts to counterattack has been familiar ever since its 2008 series Climate Wars. First, a presenter with some scientific credentials comes on, apparently to look impartially at the evidence. Supporters of the cause are allowed to put their case without challenge. Hours of film of climate-change “deniers” are cherrypicked for soundbites that can be shown, out of context, to make them look ridiculous. The presenter can then conclude that the “deniers” are a tiny handful of eccentrics standing out against an overwhelming scientific “consensus”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Microsoft Warns of Security Flaw That ‘Affects 900 Million People Using Internet Explorer’

Users urged to download patch to block any attempts to use it

Microsoft has issued a ‘critical’ security alert that affects 900million people using its Internet Explorer web browser.

The computer giant warned of a newly-discovered flaw in Windows that could be exploited by hackers to steal personal details or take over computers.

The glitch is so severe it potentially affects every user of Internet Explorer.

Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari browsers are all unaffected by the threat because, unlike Internet Explorer, they don’t support MHTML files, where the problem lies.

The loophole only seems to affect the way Internet Explorer handles some web pages.

Microsoft just said that the bug is inside Windows, presumably because they don’t want users to migrate to other browsers.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Ultimatum to Greece and Malta for Sea Protection

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 28 — Brussels has given Greece and Malta an ultimatum, since these countries have failed to develop a strategy to protect their seas. Greece and Malta have not communicated the implementation of the framework directive regarding marine strategies to the European Commission. The strategies should have taken effect by July 15 2010. Now Athens and Valletta have two months to take the necessary measures to comply to EU regulations, otherwise the European Commission could defer them to the EU Court of Justice. The EU marine strategy directive requires its member States to develop coordinate strategies to protect and restore the European marine ecosystems, and to guarantee the ecological sustainability of sea-related activities.

Possible delays in the application of this directive decrease the possibility of restoring the seas to a healthy state within the set time, with possible serious consequences for everyone who makes use of these waters. Greece has also been deferred to the European Court for failing to protect lake Koroneia adequately, a lake of international importance in the Thessaloniki region. The lake has been damaged by pollution and by water being pumped out illegally, with serious consequences for its flora and fauna. Despite the fact that there is a recovery plan, with several steps that are partly funded by the EU, progress turns out to be too slow. Hence the intervention of Brussels, which also wants to revise its decisions to co-fund the project and decide whether or not to continue allocating these funds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Albania: Facebook-Deprived Man Sues for $500k

For Mustafa Fteja, Facebook is more than just a hobby. It’s the main way the 30-year-old Albanian native has stayed in touch with friends and family all over the world for three years, and when he was inexplicably cut off from it, he did what every other person in this country seems to do when they’re mad enough: he sued.

In seeking $500,000, Fteja is suing Facebook for disabling his account, in which he had about 340 friends and family and had spent “timeless hours creating content and relationships [Facebook] benefited from,” the suit contends. He wants it back on, and he wants the company to pay for the damage of alienating him from his family and friends (about $1500 per friend/family).


He aired his speculations to the tabloid. “Did someobody hack my account? I don’t know. If it’s that someobody hacked my account, Facebook should help me. If you have a problem with your AOL login, AOL helps you. Not Facebook,” he said.

Fteja also thinks being Muslim may also have something to do with the shutdown, though that seems like a longshot to prove.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Poor Healthcare, 36,000 Children Die Each Year

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 27 — Each year 36 thousand children die in Algeria; 16 thousand of these die at birth. The figure was released by the national statistics office (ONS) during a congress on child mortality. The congress was organised in the framework of the EU-Algeria association agreement. A “frightening” situation”, said ONS director Omar Benbella, which “exists since 5 or 6 years”. “Sixteen thousand children die at birth”, while another twenty thousand die within their first year of life. He specified that the country has a mortality rate of 24.5% per thousand newborns, due to the “poor conditions in which mother and child are hospitalised”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Clueless in Washington

The Egyptian multitudes on the streets of Cairo are a stunning sight. With their banners calling for freedom and an end to the reign of President Hosni Mubarak the story these images tell is a simple one as old as time.

On the one hand we have the young, dispossessed and weak protesters. And on the other we have the old, corrupt and tyrannical Mubarak. Hans Christian Andersen taught us who to support when we were wee tots.

But does his wisdom apply in this case?…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Could Egypt’s Rich Deal Decisive Blow to Mubarak?

CAIRO—When people like Mohammed Ibrahim join the revolution, it really starts looking like Hosni Mubarak’s days as Egypt’s president are numbered.

Ibrahim is rich. At 40 years old, he is the owner of a construction firm that builds, among other things, roads, schools, and apartment buildings.

When massive protests to oust Mubarak began 7 days ago, forcing businesses to shut down, Ibrahim saw $30 million (US) worth of contracts grind to a halt. And he’s got 4 containers full of new construction equipment stuck in the Mediterranean port of Alexandria.

“I’m losing a lot of money,” said Ibrahim, shaking his head and adjusting his designer glasses.

“I was always afraid of something like this,” he said, referring to the popular uprising. “I knew I would lose a lot of money, and now I am.”

So why has he joined the tens of thousands who, on Monday, again filled downtown Tahrir Square to defy curfews and shout their venom for Mubarak?

“Egypt is the only place in the world where even the rich are not happy,” Ibrahim told the Star, particularly noting a lack of freedom and corruption.

Indeed, he said he spent much of the afternoon bumping into wealthy acquaintances in the square.

“It’s like all the members of my private club are here,” Ibrahim said.

Of all the pressures bearing down on the 82-year-old president, the economic impact of the protests may prove to be decisive.

Banks and the stock market have been closed for days, as have virtually all businesses and shops in Cairo and the port cities of Alexandria and Suez. Thugs roam the streets at night looting and burning.

The Internet is shut down. Tourists who provide Egypt with a significant portion of its foreign currency reserves, are stampeding to get out. And the government has cancelled all train travel in the country.

Hardest hit are the poor and middle class, who have been without pay for several days.

Milk, bread and eggs are in short supply, and lineups can be seen in some Cairo neighborhoods.

More problematic for Mubarak however, is that the rich — many for the first time — are also taking a hit. If Ibrahim is an example, they are calling friends and relatives in high places and demanding a quick and peaceful end to the chaos hurting family fortunes.

Ibrahim, whose father is a judge, said he recently appealed to his cousin — a cabinet minister he did not name. What did he tell the minister?

“They must make a deal — a deal that gives security and stability,” said Ibrahim, whose company is called International Supplier Contracting. “There has to be a promise that everything will change, and their will be no more Mubarak.”

Ibrahim believes the protests won’t stop unless its also clear new parliamentary elections will be held and that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, won’t succeed him.

Standing next to Ibrahim, as if to emphasize the close ties of Cairo’s elite, was a recently retired police general looking distinguished in a brown suit. Asked why he joined the protest, the general said, “I am Egyptian.”

When asked his name he smiled and lifted an open hand, like a man used to having orders followed with the slightest gesture.

The pressure on Mubarak will mount significantly Tuesday. A fledging coalition of opposition groups has called for 1 million Egyptians to take to the streets of Cairo. There is also talk of a march to Mubarak’s Cairo residence, although protesters would have to pass many military checkpoints and barricades to get there.

In a major development Monday, the military described the street protests as legitimate, and flatly stated it will not open fire on the people. The statement will likely make protesters all the more confident and increase their numbers.

“The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and well-being. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people,” the army statement said.

“Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands and are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and the citizens, affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.”

The announcement comes a day after the military flexed its muscles by repeatedly flying F-16 fighter jets over protesters in Tahrir Square and lining up tanks in a threatening formation. Protesters responded by standing defiantly before the tanks.

It’s unclear whether Mubarak, who is also commander in chief, initiated the statement or had it imposed on him by generals. What is clear is that soldiers and protesters have acted like friends since the army was ordered on the streets Friday, after bloody clashes between protesters and riot police. Soldiers on the ground have repeatedly told demonstrators they would not respect orders to shoot…

[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Al Jazeera: 6 of Our Journalists Have Been Arrested

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — Six Al Jazeera journalists have been arrested in Cairo, according to the network. “Four soldiers entered and took our TV camera, now we are under arrest. The signal has been interrupted,” wrote one of the correspondents in Cairo, Ayman Mohyeldin, on his Twitter account. Yesterday, the Egyptian authorities decided to close Al Jazeera’s office in Cairo and strip their correspondents of their press accreditation. The journalists still managed to guarantee a constant flow of information throughout the day.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak Appoints New Head of Secret Services

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 31 — General Mourad Mowafi, the former governor of North Sinai, has been appointed the head of secret services by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. According to Al Ahram, he will replace the influential Omar Suleiman, who has been promoted to vice president.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Italy’s FM: Control of Democracy a Concern

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 31 — “I am concerned at the control of democratic power, but we have seen that the army is trying to rectify this situation, apparently with the favour of the people, and this is very important”. This is according to the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, who was asked by journalists if he feared a bloodbath in Egypt.

The Foreign Minister, who is in Brussels for EU Foreign Commission talks, spoke of the situation of Italians living in Egypy, and said that repatriation would be offered for “those who ask. Many returned yesterday, others will come home today. Many have decided to stay on holiday in Sharm El Sheikh, for them there are no problems”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Italy’s FM: No to Radical Islamism in Power

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANAURY 31 — “We do not want a solution that leads to radical Islamism finding itself in power”. This is according to the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, who has arrived at the EU Council in Brussels for talks on the Egyptian crisis.

Asked about the European and Italian position on the matter, Frattini said that “as is almost always the case, the EU and Italy have a common vision with the USA. We want an orderly transition towards democracy, we do not want to be the ones to decide who stays and who goes, the Egyptians will do that, but at the same time, we do not want a solution that leads to radical Islamism finding itself in power — this would not be democracy”.

The Foreign Minister was asked if a phase of transition meant an end to the Mubarak regime. “Phase of transition means whatever the Egyptians decide at the next elections,” Frattini answered. “For the moment, there is a period of profound change in the Egyptian government. This is a step that must be accompanied by important radical reforms recognising civil rights”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Italy’s FM: Suez Canal Closure Would be State Collapse

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31- “People talking about the closure of the Suez Canal are talking about a collapse of the state, which it is in our interest to avoid at all costs”. This is according to Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, who was answering a question on Maurizio Belpietro’s La Telefonata, on Canale 5, about the potential closure of the Canal, which could lead to the increase of the price of oil.

“This is one of the reasons why Egypt’s stability is fundamental for the economy too, as a result of trade in the Mediterranean and therefore with Europe,” Frattini said. “The work of the international community is to favour an orderly and stable transition, clearly avoiding traumatic situations”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Israel to US and EU, Enough Criticism of Mubarak

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 31 — Israel’s political leaders have urged the United States and European governments to support the “stability” of the Egyptian regime and to put to an end, publicly at least, the criticism of President Hosni Mubarak. Haaretz says that the appeal was made through confidential channels the day after American President Barack Obama’s telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu and with other international leaders. The Israeli newspaper says that the country’s establishment remains convinced, in the light of the uncertain outcome of the popular uprising ongoing in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, that “maintaining the stability of the Egyptian regime is in the interests of the West and the Middle East as a whole”. As a result, Israel says, it would be appropriate to “stop public criticism” of Mubarak.

The reports by Haaretz were neither confirmed nor denied by a spokesperson for Netanyahu, who was quizzed about the rumours.

Only yesterday, the Israeli PM stated before the Council of Ministers that he wanted relations with Egypt to continue, in line with peace agreements signed over 30 years ago. Today, the President of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Commission of the Knesset, Shaul Mofaz, from the centrist Kadima party, reasserted this position in a radio interview, saying that Israel does not believe that it should “interfere in Egypt’s home affairs”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Gaddafi Phones Mubarak, 2,500 Libyans Return

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, JANUARY 31 — The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, is in close contact with the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak. The Colonel yesterday phoned his Egyptian counterpart for the third time since the beginning of the uprising. Both JANA, the Libyan press agency, and the reformist online newspaper OEA revealed the news, but without disclosing the content of the conversation between the two men. Meanwhile, Libya yesterday activated an aerial route between Tripoli and Cairo to allow its citizens living in Egypt to return home despite difficulties at Cairo’s airport. Libya’s two main carriers, Libyan Airlines and Afriquiyia Airways, said in a statement yesterday that they had “facilitated” the repatriation of around 2,500 Libyan citizens stranded at the airport since Sunday morning.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Army: People’s Claims Legitimate

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 31 — Egypt’s armed forces have judged the claims being made by the people of the country “legitimate” after one week of anti-government protests. The word comes in an official communiqué issued by the Egyptian army.

In the communiqué, which was broadcast on state television on the eve of the “march of one million” in Cairo tomorrow, the army states that freedom of expression has to be “guaranteed for all using peaceful means alone”. “The armed forces shall not use violence against citizens, but it warns those who may pose a threat to the security of the state”.

In their communiqué, the armed forces speak of the acts of looting which have occurred over the past few days saying it is “unacceptable to terrorise citizens” and that their presence on the streets reflects their “concern to protect people’s safety”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood, No to New Government

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has given its thumbs down to the new Egyptian government and has called on people to continue demonstrating until the present regime falls. In a communique’, the strongest opposition movement against President Hosni Mubarak speaks of a “total refusal” of the new administration, which “does not respect the will of the people”.

“We call on Egyptians to carry on participating in the great demonstrations across Egypt until the whole of the regime — President, party, ministers and Parliament — is no longer in power”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: The Emperor’s Pink Burqua

If there’s any proof that it’s not a president but a strident community activist in the Oval Office, Egypt is proof positive.

Barack Obama’s friends Code Pink, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, among others, have been fomenting for revolution on trips in and out of Egypt for more than a year. Only Kristinn Taylor and Andrea Shea King at have bothered to write about it.

A watching world has seen the result of their undercover work as Cairo began its descent into chaos last week.

In typical Marxist style, the Egyptian protests have been made to look spontaneous rather than orchestrated.

“Protests are being driven by the April 6 youth movement, a group on FaceBook that has attracted mainly young and educated members opposed to Mr. Mubarak. The group has about 70,000 members and uses social network sites to “orchestrate” protests and report on their activities.” (, Jan. 29, 2011).

Notice how the word orchestrate describes the protests?

To the victor go the spoils, and the Muslim Brotherhood, panting like panthers, waits in the wings to take over the administration of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in a so-called “pro-democracy” new government.

Is the debut of the Muslim Brotherhood for takeover in Egypt the behind the scenes work of Barack Obama?

While Code Pink, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn and Company were fomenting for Revolution in Egypt for at least a year, Obama never once called off the dogs.


On Oct. 15, 2009 Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans, who had raised mega funds for him, met with Obama only weeks after meeting the Taliban.

On Dec. 29, 2009 Ayers and Dohrn joined Code Pink in Egypt. “We hope the Egyptians get so annoyed they just want to get rid of us,” said Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans.


Obama’s personal friends and supporters fomented for the revolution that is happening in Egypt right now.

In any language, in any country that’s called sabotage.

Marxism kills and it’s killing right now in Egypt.

And when Marxism partners up with radical Islam, widespread anarchy is the result.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Spain: Government Backs People’s Demands

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 31 — Today Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez gave her support to the demands made by the Egyptian civil society. She said that she hopes “the process that has been opened will lead to free and democratic elections”. Jimenez made this statement when arriving at the meeting of Foreign EU Ministers in Brussels. Quoted by Europa Press, she added that she would like to see “more freedom and democracy”, underlining that the international community “should not intervene” in this process so that the Egyptian can decide on their own future.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Israel to USA & EU: Don’t Dump Mubarak

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 31 — Having grown fond of its self-image as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” Israel is coming to the fore at the moment as the last bastion defending the autocrat Hosni Mubarak, whose future is being threatened by street protests in neighbouring Egypt. Evidence of the Israeli attitude comes from the warnings being given to the West, the USA most of all, that they should continue trying to support the Egyptian leader. The penalty for not doing so, according to a statement made by Benyamin Netanyahu today, is the spectre of a repeat of the Iran experience.

Israel’s support for Mubarak has so far been expressed with caution, with concerns about a boomerang effect from which militant Islamic groups would be the first to exploit after having already described the ruler as a Zionist ready to apply for exile in Tel Aviv. But this support is now becoming increasingly blatant, with Israel giving its green light to the entry of Egyptian troops to Sharm el Sheikh: located as it is in a Sinai which was declared a demilitarised zone by the 1979 peace accords, but which now risks falling into anarchy and becoming gate open to the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian fundamentalists of Hamas.

Premier Netanyahu discussed this issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem this evening. The latter assured him that she “had not abandoned Mubarak,” but only called for the reforms the West has been urging for some time. But it is clear that the ultimatums issued by Washington and Brussels over recent days to the shaky Egyptian leadership in Cairo is not assuring the Israeli executive. This, according to reports in Haaretz, is multiplying its calls through confidential channels for the support of those in power in Egypt (or what is left of them) and to “place a brake”, at least in public, on criticisms levelled at Mubarak. According to Haaretz, the Israeli establishment is convinced that “the maintenance of the stability of the Egyptian regime” is “in the interests of the West” as well as those of “the whole of the Middle East”.

Netanyahu, who spoke to Obama on the phone about this issue yesterday, today openly warned Merkel of the possibility of an Iranian scenario in Egypt, repeating his hopes for “continuity”‘ in relations with the present leadership: which is capable — he pointed out — of guaranteeing, if nothing else, at least the keeping of the peace signed between Begin and Sadat 32 years ago.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flash: Egyptian ‘Moderate Democratic’ Leader Negotiating Coalition Government With Islamists

By Barry Rubin

As I’ve been warning, Muhammed al-Baradei, seen as the leading “moderate, pro-democratic” leader in Egypt is negotiating with the Muslim Brotherhood to form a national unity government. That doesn’t mean the negotiations will succeed but it gives a clear glimpse of what a post-Mubarak regime Egypt would mean.

As one shrewd analyst remarks, “al-Baradei being put in power by the Muslim Brotherhood is effectively like the ‘moderate’ Miqati being put in power [as prime minister] in Lebanon by Hizballah. What matters is that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizballah are calling the shots.”

If you believe that al-Baradei, with no real political experience or any organized movement behind him, can dominate the Muslim Brotherhood, I have a bridge over the Nile I’ll sell you. But it’s even worse than that. It has been well-known in Egypt that much of al-Baradei’s presidential campaign has been run by the Brotherhood. He’s certainly not their puppet but to a considerable extent he is their pawn.

And for those of you who think that the Muslim Brotherhood is really a moderate group, here is one example of its rhetoric from Rajab Hilal Hamida, a member of the Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliament, who proves that you don’t have to be moderate to run in elections:

“From my point of view, Bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi [the leaders of al-Qaida who staged the September 11 attacks and massive killings in Iraq] are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities, since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists….[On the other hand,] he who kills Muslim citizens is neither a jihad fighter nor a terrorist, but a criminal murderer. We must call things by their proper names!”

And here’s Muhammad Badi, the Brotherhood’s leader:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: The Muslim Brotherhood: The Enemy in Its Own Words

As Egypt lurches towards the end of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, one way or another — by “an orderly transition to democratic rule” (as Hillary Clinton delicately puts it), through violent overthrow or simply through the demise of the ailing 82-year-old president — much is unclear. One thing that should not be is that the Muslim Brotherhood is our enemy, and whatever role it plays in Egypt’s future will be to our detriment.

Such clarity is readily available since the Brotherhood (MB or in Arabic, Ikhwan) has told us as much. Consider, for example, the mission statement for the MB found in one of its secret documents entitled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America”:

The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

As a blue-ribbon group of national security experts convened by the Center for Security Policy, “Team B II” noted in their new best-seller Shariah: The Threat to America, the incompatability of the Ikhwan’s agenda with our interests has been evident from its inception:

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928. Its express purpose was two-fold: (1) to implement shariah worldwide, and (2) to re-establish the global Islamic State (caliphate). Therefore, al Qaeda and the MB have the same objectives. They differ only in the timing and tactics involved in realizing them.

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Morocco: King in France, Meeting With Sarkozy?

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 31 — According to rumours published by news website Rue89, the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, reportedly secretly flew to France in the night between Thursday and Friday, to a private residence in Betz about 70km northeast of Paris. Citing the former editor-in-chief of weekly publication Le Journal, Ali Lmrabet, the French news website writes that King Mohammed VI reportedly had “secret” meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss the situation in Morocco after the recent riots in Egypt. The king reportedly returned to Morocco after spending the weekend in France, according to a report published today in Spanish daily El Pais. For Rue89, Mohammed VI reportedly arrived at the Le Bourget military airport north of Paris on a private jet during the night before heading to a private castle that has been owned by his family since it was bought by King Hassan II in the 1970s. The first rumours about the secret trip began to circulate on Saturday in Moroccan circles in Paris.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Prince Hicham: Country Will Not be an Exception

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 31 — “Morocco has not been hit, but we must not be mistaken: almost all authoritarian systems will be affected by the waves of protests. And Morocco will probably not be an exception,” said Prince Mulay Hicham, third in the line of succession for the Moroccan throne, speaking in a phone interview with El Pais. An author of academic articles on the Arab world, Prince Hicham has a tense relationship with his brother, King Mohamed VI of Morocco. Prince Hicham believes that the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia has already changed the course of history: “The old regime cannot be maintained as it exists now,” he observed. “The verb change should be conjugated in the present, not the future.” According to Hicham, “the wall of fear that made any sort of popular uprising impossible, built on the head of each citizen, has collapsed”. And a profound discontent has emerged, the recent “popular protests”, as Mohamed VI’s brother calls them, “reveal a sea of profound discontent in the entire region”. The heir to the Moroccan throne underlined that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have nothing to do with the “previous patterns that have inspired the Arab protest movements for over two decades”. They do not come from the Arab-Israeli conflict, they are not inspired by radical Islamism, they are not “anti-imperialism, anti-colonial or anti-secular,” “they are devoid of any religious symbolism” and “reject the idea of the Arab exception”. These movements “give a new aspect to civil society, in which the rejection of authoritarianism is united with a rejection of corruption”. What lessons can we learn from the Tunisian and Egyptian protests? According to Mohamed VI’s brother, Morocco “will not be an exception” among the countries hit by the wave of protests and it will be necessary to see if the protest will only be social or also political. “It is better to exercise prevention by opening up before the arrival of the protests and not afterwards,” he explained, while admitting that “the signs do not indicate anything like this”. Hicham recognises that “dynamic of political liberalisation that began at the end of the 1990s has almost been exhausted. Providing dynamism to Moroccan political life in a regional context, while avoiding radicalism will be a great challenge” for the Moroccan government. “The new social movements in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria and Egypt,” he concluded, “place the dignity of the citizen at the centre of political life.” This is one of the reasons that “the span of the power of the monarchy since the independence” of Morocco “is incompatible with the new fundamental dimension demanded by the people”. And this hold true “not matter what type of individual we are talking about, even if it is an enlightened king”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Loses the Middle East

It’s no coincidence that major revolutions against Western backed governments have occurred under weak American presidents. The Iranian revolution against the Shah happened on Jimmy Carter’s watch. The current violence in Tunisia and Egypt is taking place under Obama. And the timing is quite interesting. Revolts which coincided with a new opposition congress almost suggest that they were scheduled for a time when Obama would be at his politically weakest.

Additionally the 2010 defeats would have indicated to the Iranian regime that they might only have a 2 year window in which to act before Obama is replaced by an unknown, but probably more conservative politician. A “Now or Never” moment. The Iranian Revolution might never have happened under Reagan. But Carter’s weakness, left wing politics and contempt for the very notion of defending American interests made it possible. Similarly despite attempts by some Bush advisers to take credit for Tunisia and Egypt, it is unlikely that they would have taken place on Bush’s watch. Not because the Bush administration was so omnipotent, but because it had regional credibility. The general perception was that the Bush Administration was on alert and supportive of allies. That is not at all the regional perception of the Obama Administration which doesn’t seem to know what an ally is.

Obama’s mistreatment of the UK, Israel and Honduras, the alienation of Karzai and continuing humiliation at the hands of China and Russia through diplomatic insults, showed weakness and stupidity. The Iranian takeover of the region is premised on that incompetence. Lebanon was a test. The next step was Tunisia. Then Egypt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Revolution in Egypt — Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire

Those Westerners who believe that the ongoing turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia may lead to a flowering of “democracy” in the Arab world are in for bitter disappointment.

For years European and American Trotskyists and communists have been working with Egyptian leftists and the Muslim Brotherhood to oust pro US dictator Hosni Mubarak.

If the Egyptian revolution succeeds Egypt will turn both further to the left and to radical Islam. This will have huge implications for the security of Israel , regional stability (if you can even use such a word in the Middle East) and the security of the Suez Canal and Western oil supply and trade lines.

Already Trotskyists and communist forces around the world are rallying in support of the Egyptian revolution.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: 350 Thousand Euros From France for Social Aid

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 27 — France has decided to give 350,000 euros to help the poorest families in Tunisia, particularly children, the elderly, the sick and the victims of the demonstrations.

According to the embassy in Tunis, France will also support the family of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man from Sidi Bouzid who triggered the revolt in the country with his suicide. Of the allocated sum, 100,000 euros are taken from the funds for the French-Tunisian cultural cooperation and action programmes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Ghannouchi’s Return, Opposers Attacked

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 31 — A group of people who showed up yesterday at the airport in Tunis to peacefully protest the return of the leader of the Islamist movement Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, chanting slogans such as “yes to Islam, no to Islamism,” were attacked by his supporters, thousands of which had gathered in the arrivals area at the airport. A young Tunisian, Mehda Barsaoui, wrote to the newspapers about the incident today, saying that “we were treated like unbelievers, Zionists, young irresponsible people and that one day Allah will judge our mistakes”. Ennahda supporters started with insults and switched to physical attacks, said the young man, not only ripping the signs held by their rivals away from them, but also “slapping a woman and attacking another two friends”. “This is the freedom of expression of the Islamists,” wrote Barsaoui, “beating demonstrators and slapping women who were not in their place, since they should be at home taking care of the household chores.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Libya Fears Return of Islamists, Press

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 31 — The return of the historic leader Rached Ghannouchi of the Islamist party (Liberty) yesterday after 22 years in exile has reportedly stirred up fears in nearby Libya, writes “Maghreb Intelligence”. Reports say that Libyan leader Gaddafi established a special crisis unit in Tripoli, which allegedly includes the Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, the head of secret services, Abou Zeid Dordah and Minister of the Economy, Mohamed Lahouej. According to the same source, Gaddafi has reportedly notified several RCD Party members (of former President Ben Ali) and other members of the opposition, including Nejib Chebbi, that if Islamization takes place in the country, all bilateral agreements between Tunisia and Libya would be called off and investments and all significant economic aid from Libya would be cut off as an immediate consequence. Ghannouchi, before leaving England to return to Tunis, reportedly said that he will play a role in contributing to the development of democracy in the country and not creating an Islamic state.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel Shocked by Obama’s “Betrayal” Of Mubarak

If Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday.

Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel’s President Shimon Peres is not a minister.

“We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”

Newspaper columnists were far more blunt.

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Something Big’ Transferred to Gaza Strip

Terrorists taking advantage of growing anarchy amid Egypt riots

JERUSALEM — Egypt and Israel have information a large quantity of weapons, including new and sophisticated firepower, was smuggled from Egypt into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in the last two days, according to informed Middle East security officials.

Israeli security officials fear a growing state of anarchy exists along the Gaza-Egypt border, with Islamist groups there taking advantage of the chaos in Egypt amid mass protests threatening the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Egyptian security forces have been focused largely on quelling the riots.

“Something big was brought into the Gaza Strip,” said an informed security official.

The official said it was not known yet exactly what was transferred into Gaza, but he speculated it may have been a large quantity of antiaircraft missiles.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

What’s Wrong With Being a Front-Line State?

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu repeated again at his last press conference of the year the same rhetoric he voiced ahead of a NATO summit last year.

“We will not be a front-line state of NATO,” he said. Davutoglu uttered the same sentence during talks between Turkey and NATO allies on an anti-defense missile system that was slated for approval at the alliance’s 2010 December summit.

While the anti-missile defense mechanism targets all countries with ballistic missile systems, it was not a hidden secret that the system’s imminent concern is Iran. The plans to employ parts of the system, namely the radars in Turkey, initially met the resistance of Turkey, who was worried about irritating Iran.

Unfortunately, this urge to “not hurt the feelings of Iran” — namely the ultra sensitivity from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, toward Iran, has been shaping many of Turkey’s foreign policy decisions.

But this is not the focal point of this article.

The focal point of this article is Davutoglu’s perception of being a “front-line state.” What’s wrong with being a front-line state? In Davutoglu’s understanding, being a front-line state has a negative connotation, as it is reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Needless to say, the comment makes an allusion to Turkey’s status during the Cold War as a front-line state of the Atlantic alliance. But of course Turkey was a front- line state simply because of its physical and political geography. As a neighbor of Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, all members of the communist bloc, Turkey was naturally a front-line state. So was Germany. Yet I have not come across any inferiority complex on the part of the Germans due to being a “front-line state.”

Objecting to your country’s NATO membership or its taking sides with the capitalist bloc in the bipolar world order is one thing. But once in NATO, neither Germany nor Turkey could have avoided being a front-line state due to the dictates of geography.

The negative connotation of front-line state in the understanding of Davutoglu seems to imply a master-servant relationship. That’s why he keeps repeating that Turkey has become (under AKP rule obviously) a country whose words are taken into account by NATO.

Objection, Mr. Minister! Turkey certainly did not have the power it exerts currently during the Cold War period but this does not mean that it was a junior partner in NATO at the mercy of the big powers within the alliance. Turkey’s relationship with NATO was not one of decisions taken at the expense of national interests. It was one based on reciprocal interests.

There lies the fundamental mistake of the AKP when it comes to its policies with NATO. It juxtaposes Turkey against the “others” within NATO. This understanding of “us versus them” within NATO was also at the heart of the mismanagement of the disagreement on selecting NATO’s new secretary general two years ago. Turkey gave the image that it was representing the Muslim world within NATO by objecting to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, who was at the heart of the notorious caricature controversy in 2006.

It is important that the government avoids giving an image of “us versus them” during talks that will take place this year within NATO on the details of the missile defense mechanism, as well as with Turkey on the deployment of the radars. It should refrain from repeating the same mistake of portraying a situation whereby Turkey is being pushed by its allies to do something which will basically serve their interests at the expense of those of Turkey. Because this is exactly how the situation was portrayed last time and the AKP should find itself happy for not being humiliated and criticized in the public for the U-turn it took on the issue.

It is not the first time that Turkey has experienced a disagreement between the majorities of its allies. I recall a major crisis at the beginning of the 1990s, when it was Turkey’s objection that blocked the finalization of a treaty between NATO and the Warsaw Pact on the reduction of conventional forces. Ironically, at that time Turkey was resisting a reduction in arms on its eastern and southeastern border because it perceived a threat from the neighboring regions. After long and thorny negotiations, it finally secured an exemption.

In contrast to the master-servant relationship implied by Davutoglu, Turkish representatives in NATO were known by their colleagues for always being very skeptical, up in arms and ready to raise an objection.

Current foreign policy analysis is done in a much more accurate way compared to the past due to the information revolution that characterizes the post-Cold War period. In the past, foreign policy was conducted behind closed doors in the absence of much public scrutiny. A simple example would be to compare the way NATO summits are covered by Turkish press. Only a handful of journalists were present at the NATO summits of yesteryear, whereas today an army of Turkish media always occupies a large bloc of the summits’ press centers.

As an academic, Davutoglu might not be totally aware of how Turkish diplomats have sweated to get the best deal for national interests. That’s why I hope so much that he will find the time to get together with retired ambassadors so that they can share not only their views but also their experience and their accounts of past policy decisions. Ultimately, I would like to remain convinced that Davutoglu does not share Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s scorn for Turkish ambassadors — calling them as he does “mon chers,” which has a negative connotation in Turkish.

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

Yemen: Opposition Ignores President Saleh’s Invitation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 31 — The opposition parties in Yemen continue to ignore the invitation to dialogue made by President Ali Abdallah Saleh, repeating that they want to continue their protest until their requests for change and for the end of the current regime have been accepted. This news is published on the website of Al Jazeera, which specifies that the Yemenite government party has asked to resume the dialogue after the large demonstration organised by the opposition on Thursday. Political analyst Said Abdelmuamen remarked that the President’s invitation comes too late, after the flight of the Tunisian President and the Egyptian revolution. Last Thursday’s demonstrations, Abdelmuamen continues, show that the government is unable to mobilise the people in its support.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Officials Shielded Bank From Scrutiny

Investigators probing massive fraud that nearly brought down Afghanistan’s largest bank have found the lender avoided scrutiny for years by giving clandestine loans—and sometimes outright bribes—to senior Afghan officials, said Afghan and U.S. officials and former bank insiders.

Some of those who allegedly took Kabul Bank’s money were until recently among a small core group of cabinet ministers touted by U.S. and European officials as potential reformers who would clean up the pervasive corruption that has undermined President Hamid Karzai’s administration and fueled support for the Taliban.

The problems at Kabul Bank represent one of the most widespread and destabilizing corruption scandals to emerge in the nine-plus years since the U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban. Most of the government’s own accounts are at the bank and it handles roughly $1.5 billion in coalition-financed annual salary payments to about a quarter of a million Afghan soldiers, police and teachers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Some 40,000 in Lahore Streets to Defend Blasphemy Law, Shouting Slogans Against the Pope

Benedict XVI is slammed for joining western propaganda against the Islamic state. Demonstrators pledge to sacrifice their lives for Muhammad. The new governor of Punjab is told to express solidarity with Salman Taseer’s murderer. Two attacks in the north-west leave 5 dead and 19 wounded.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — At least 40,000 people yesterday took to the streets of Lahore to protest against possible changes to the blasphemy law. The demonstration in Punjab’s capital city was called by Jamat-e-Islami, the main Islamist opposition party, which was joined by other seven parties, as well as the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the Jamat-ud-dawa. At the same time, extremists continue their attacks throughout the country against sensitive sites. Five people were killed and 19 wounded in two suicide attacks today in the country’s north-west.

Thousands of people gathered at Mall Road, Lahore, to celebrate Tehreek Namoos-e-Risalat, the holiness of the Prophet Muhammad, and express their opposition to possible changes to the ‘black law’.

Shouting “we shall sacrifice our loves for the prophet”, they told the government to reject Western influence, slamming Benedict XVI for “joining Western propaganda against the Islamic state”.

In addressing the crowd, protesters threatened a “long march” on Islamabad if changes are brought to the law, something that government has said it would not do.

If changes are made to the law, “neither parliament, nor assemblies” will no longer exist, said Syed Munawar Hussain, of Jamat-e-Islami.

Speaking to the protesters, Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, JUI-F, told the new Punjab governor to visit Mumtaz Qadri, the jailed murderer of Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor who was killed for defending a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, and for demanding changes to the ‘black law’. For the fundamentalist leader, the new governor should make the visit as a token of solidarity to all Muslims in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the wave of violence continues. Five people, including four police officers, died in two separate attacks in Peshawar, in the country’s North-West Frontier Province. Another 19 were wounded in the blasts, including a number of civilians.

In the first incident, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in proximity to a patrol.

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

Far East

General Motors Sells More Cars and Trucks in China Than America for First Time in History

General Motors sold more cars and trucks in China last year than it did in America for the first time in the company’s 102-year history.

But despite GM’s gains in China, Toyota Motor Corporation managed to hold on to the title of world’s largest carmaker.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italian Luxury Goods Makers to Boost Investments

(AKI/Bloomberg) — Ermenegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli SpA will increase investment in 2011, signalling greater confidence among Italian luxury goods makers as demand continues to rise.

Zegna will lift capital expenditure by “more than 50 percent” from last year’s level as it invests in new stores and technology, the closely held company’s chief executive officer said. Ferragamo, whose shoes have been worn by Jennifer Lopez, will increase investment by “more than 20 percent” this year, CEO Michele Norsa said.

“We want to make sure we keep growing and be ahead of the pack,” Ermenegildo Zegna, CEO of the eponymous company, said backstage after the label’s fashion show, which featured straight-shouldered three-button suits and jackets in brown and gray as well as waxed cotton and leather peacoats. He declined to quantify this year’s investment or give an outlook, beyond saying 2011 would be “more aggressive” than 2010.

Companies including Cie. Financiere Richemont are building their retail networks as the number of millionaires rises in Asia and wealthy shoppers in the U.S. and Europe regain confidence. Luxury demand is forecast to climb 11 percent this year, according to HSBC, consolidating last year’s rebound from the industry’s worst year on record.

Ferragamo will open more stores in China, refurbish existing boutiques in mature markets such as Italy and the U.S. and invest in new technology, the CEO said. Cavalli, the Florence, Italy-based company known for its leopard-print designs, plans 15 new single-brand shops this year, around half of which will be fully owned, CEO Gianluca Brozzetti said.

Zegna’s show, which was titled “In the Mood for China,” also featured a “LIVE-D” screen, showing images of the Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City, against which models were superimposed before walking out onto the runway. The performance was directed by James Lima, a visual consultant on the film “Avatar,” and was streamed lived on Zegna’s e-commerce site.

“The Chinese are very technology-driven,” Zegna said. “These are the guys we will be going after with” initiatives like this. China accounts for 25 percent of sales and is Zegna’s biggest market, he said.

“We have some concern about Europe,” Zegna said. “We are buoyant on Asia. We are quite comfortable on America. Overall, we are quite positive on where we are going and we are well- positioned to keep growing.”

In October, the CEO said he expected revenue and profit to rise this year as the company opens at least 20 new stores, half of which will be in China. Last year’s sales will exceed the 870.6 million euros ($1.16 billion) generated in 2008, while 2010 profit will trail the 62.3 million euros earned in 2008, Zegna said at the time.

Cavalli will open its first standalone shop in Japan in Tokyo in May and its first boutique in China in Beijing in September or October, Brozzetti said. The fashion company will also double the size of its store on London’s Sloane Street, closing the unit as early as next month for renovations and reopening it in the summer, the CEO said.

“We are going to invest more because we are generating more resources,” said Brozzetti.

Cavalli Group, which includes the Just Cavalli line, returned to profit in the first half of 2010, helped by lower production costs and new outlets, the company said in September. Excluding royalties, sales increased 4 percent.

The second half of 2010 showed “a similar trend,” Brozzetti said, citing an increase in direct sales and “a very encouraging result on the wholesale business.” He declined to provide figures.

Third-party orders for Cavalli’s spring-summer 2011 collection are “very positive” and “that is going to have an impact on the results of the first semester of 2011,” Brozzetti said. If wholesale orders for Cavalli’s fall-winter collection 2011, which the fashion house showed Jan. 15 in Milan, rise and retail keeps growing at the same pace, 2011 will be “promising,” he said.

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