Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110328

Financial Crisis
»By George! It’s a Soros World Order
»Greece: New Strikes Ahead in Health Sector
»Schäuble Advisors Fret Over Euro Rescue Package
»[Massachusetts] Health Officials: Water Radiation No Need to Panic
»Chuck Norris: Obama Triangulates on Gun Control
»Deputies: 17-Year-Old Girl Assaults Mother With Gun to Get New Vehicle
»Phoenix’s Looming Water Crisis
»Public Television in Oklahoma to be a Mini-Cspan
»Sheriff Who Testified Before Congress Has Ties to Suspected Islamist Group
Europe and the EU
»Anti-Cuts Protests Shut Down Central London
»Denmark: Trial Against 16 Hells Angels Opens Today
»France: Right Loses Election, Step Back on Islam
»France Vote Sees Left and Right Pile Pressure on Sarkozy
»Germany: CDU Suffers Historic Loss in Baden-Württemberg
»German Media Roundup: A Seismic Shift for Merkel’s Coalition?
»Italy: Berlusconi Appears in Court for Fraud, Embezzlement Case
»Italy: Berlusconi’s Income Almost Double Since Split From Wife
»Italy: ‘Most Indicted Man in History’ Berlusconi Appears in Court
»Latvian President Criticises Nuclear Fear-Mongering
»Massive Setback for Merkel: Greens Score Big in Key German State
»Norway to Jews: You’re Not Welcome Here
»Police Probe Secret Swedish ‘Sex-Chamber’
»Sweden: Thief Caught After Forgetting Credit Card
»UK: Disgraced Academic Who Mocked Assaulted TV Reporter Lara Logan Lands Top Research Job at Gaddafi’s Favourite UK University
»UK: Middle-Class Youngsters Barred From Applying for Internships at Whitehall and in the Police… Because They Are White
North Africa
»Cheap Bread for the Masses Costs Billions in New Egypt
»Egypt Council of Armed Forces Says Elections in September
»Egypt: House Arrest for Mubarak and Family
»Egypt Air Wipes Israel Off the Map — a Sign of Where Egypt Could be Headed
»Frattini Asks Arab League to Solve Gadaffi Exile Issues
»Gaddafi a Controversial Dictator
»Libya: Day Before Transferring Command, US Most Active
»Libya: Rebels Reportedly Close in on Gaddafi’s Birthplace
»Libya: Rebels: Deal With Qatar on Oil Exports
»Libya: Indonesia Calls for Immediate Cease Fire
»North African Bishops Believe Raids Perceived as Crusade
»Rebel Advance Picks Up Speed
»Sarkozy-Cameron: Gaddafi Out and Transition to NTC
Israel and the Palestinians
»Audio: Radio Host Taunts Terrorist: ‘Are You Scared?’
Middle East
»Arab Uproar Closer With Syrian Uprising, Israel Hesitates
»Bomb Against Church in Zahle as Fear of a Resurgence in Terrorism Grows in Lebanon
»Caroline Glick: The Syrian Spring
»Frank Gaffney: Durbin Launches the ‘Anti-Pete King’ Hearing
»Iraq: “True Democracy in Muslim Countries Only if Christians Are Equal Citizens, “ Says Mgr Sako
»‘It Will Not Stop’: Syrian Uprising Continues Despite Crackdown
»Saudi Arabia: Political Prisoners Time Bomb, Scholar
»Saudi Arabia: Local Elections, Women Again Denied Vote
»Stakelbeck Exclusive: CBN Obtains Iranian Govt. Video Saying Mahdi is Near
»Syria Security Forces Fire on Protesters in Deraa
»Syria: Protests: Sana Agency, Saudi King Backs Assad
»Syria: As Violence Mounts, Bleak Outlook for Iraqi Refugees
»Turkey: Excerpts of Banned Book Made Public
»Uprisings: Arab World Crisis Revives Turkey’s Role in Region
»Uprisings: Iran Equivocates Over Gaddafi & Assad
»Yemen: Factory Taken Over by Al-Qaeda Blows Up, 34 Dead
»Yemen: Explosion in Weapons Factory Kills at Least 80
»Yemen: Blast in Ammunition Factory, Victims Are Civilians
»Yemen: Defecting Officers Sacked and Replaced
South Asia
»India: Gandhi ‘Left His Wife to Live With a Male Lover’ New Book Claims
»Pakistan: Two Christians Killed, Churches Burned: Extremists Respond to Florida Koran Burning
Far East
»Europe and China Have Different Neandertal Genes
»Japan Fears Nuclear Reactor is Leaking Contaminated Water
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Somali Pirate Offers to Release Danish Family in Exchange for Hand of Daughter, 13
Latin America
»Chilean President Calls for EU-Like Union of Americas During Obama Visit
»Alarm Over Rubber Dinghy Departed From Libya
»Becoming Dutch to be Made Harder, Dual Nationality Ruled Out
»First Libyan Refugees Arrive in Lampedusa
»France: No to Workers Regularised in Spain
»Italy: Lampedusa Fishermen Block Harbour Entry
»Lampedusa Council Members Chain Selves at Port
»Lampedusa Immigrant Crisis Worsens
»Protesters Block Lampedusa’s Port and Road
»Protests in Melilla After Deaths in Shack Fire
»UK: Bride and Groom Taken Away in Handcuffs After Officials Raid ‘Sham Wedding’
Culture Wars
»UK: Church of England Row as Cathedral Opens Doors to Tarot Card Readers and Crystal Healers in ‘New Age’ Festival
»UK: Fury at Equality Watchdog After it Calls for Teachers to Ask 11-Year-Olds if They Are Gay
»New Technology to Block Chip Counterfeiting

Financial Crisis

By George! It’s a Soros World Order

Billionaire steps up funding to diminish importance of U.S. economy

Billionaire investor George Soros has stepped up his funding of direct efforts to establish a global new world order, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

On April 8, Soros is funding an international conference aimed at repeating the famed 1944 Bretton Woods conference that helped create the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund at the end of World War II, according to a report by the Media Research Center, or MRC.

This time, Soros is spending $50 million to rally 200 academic, business and government policy leaders to explore “establishing new international rules” and “reform the currency system.”

“What Soros wants to accomplish is to move along the globalist agenda of replacing the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, with the goal of diminishing the ability of the United States to set the terms for the global economy,” Corsi explained.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece: New Strikes Ahead in Health Sector

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 28 — Further disruption is on the cards for Greek citizens in need of medical treatment, due to the resumption of industrial action by doctors planned this week. The health personnel of the Greek welfare organisation (IKA) have called a 48-hour strike on March 28 and 29, while hospital staff have decided to strike on March 30. A 24-hour strike by all paramedic staff in the country’s public hospitals is also planned.

IKA doctors are demanding the renewal of the contracts of all of the organisation’s doctors, while hospital staff are asking the Health Ministry “not to go ahead with cuts and with the mergers of hospitals, so as not to destroy the national health system, as well as acceptable wages and free health assistance for all”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Schäuble Advisors Fret Over Euro Rescue Package

Top advisors to Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble are concerned about commitments Germany made to the euro rescue package in a Brussels summit this week.

According to a report in news weekly Der Spiegel, the Finance Ministry’s official advisory board wrote a letter to Schäuble, warning that the plan outlined in Brussels could “damage the development of the eurozone and threaten to over-burden Germany and other donor countries.”

But estimates by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) suggest the new rescue deal means the German taxpayer would be able to sustain another euro crisis, even if several countries were affected.

At the Brussels summit, Merkel insisted on a last-minute change to a €700 billion permanent rescue fund for the embattled eurozone.

The change means Germany will avoid having to pay a lump sum of €11 billion in 2013 — a payment the government feared would put its finances under too much short-term pressure.

Instead, it will pay five smaller payments each year from 2013 to 2017 to cover its €22 billion cash payment into the fund, which is being set up to bail out shaky eurozone members and keep the currency stable.

The Finance Ministry’s 31-strong advisory board said the deal confirms “the errors in financial policy and controlling the financial markets.” It means countries with bad state finances would be bailed out by healthy ones.

The Associaion of German Banks defended the deal. “Germany is an export country and profits from a stable euro,” association President Andreas Schmitz said in a statement. “That’s another reason why the country is digging deep to offer guarantees to prevent unstable countries from falling into bankruptcy.”

But Schmitz warned the rescue package should not be used as a license to run up new debts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


[Massachusetts] Health Officials: Water Radiation No Need to Panic

Trace Amounts To Be Undetectable Soon, Experts Say

BOSTON — Although radioactive iodine has been found in Massachusetts rainwater, experts said the amount is low and does not pose a threat to the public, health officials said.

Health officials tested a sample from Boston last week and said it did show levels of radioiodine 131 from the nuclear disaster in Japan.

Officials said when they tested drinking water samples from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs, they found radioiodine levels so low, that they’re below detection.

Results from 12 other water samples have not come back, officials said.

Health officials said the trace amounts of radioactive iodine should soon be undetectable.

Trace amounts of radiation from the nuclear reactor in Japan have been detected in North Carolina, South Carolina, Nevada and other western states.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said people are exposed to much more radiation on an international airline flight after radiation was detected in North and South Carolina.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Chuck Norris: Obama Triangulates on Gun Control

Loyal readers will recall that I warned last year of the perfect storm approaching on gun control. Now, with the Tucson tragedy as a stepping stone, and with eyes firmly focused on his re-election, the president has finally opened a campaign to appease his base on the polarizing issue of gun control.

Let me completely disclose my position: I am a strong Second Amendment advocate. I believe in protecting our fundamental rights, including our Second Amendment rights, through the political process. To that end, I serve as honorary chairman of the “Trigger the Vote” voter registration campaign.


Gun-control groups have thrown tantrums for months that Obama wouldn’t champion their agenda, with one group resentfully awarding him a grade of “F.” And so only now is Obama sticking his toes into the swirling currents of the Second Amendment debate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Deputies: 17-Year-Old Girl Assaults Mother With Gun to Get New Vehicle

A 17-year-old girl was charged Friday with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm and battery after deputies say she pulled a gun on her mother during an argument.

Rachel Anne Hachero was upset because her mother wouldn’t co-sign on a vehicle purchase, according to a Lee County Sheriff’s Office report.

The teen’s mother told investigators Hachero threatened to kill her when she refused to co-sign for the vehicle.

Hachero then confronted her mother at home with a gun and pistol-whipped her head, according to the report.

After pistol-whipping her mother, Hachero pointed the gun at her mother’s head and stomach and told her she was going with her to sign for the car, according to the report.

The mother told investigators Hachero ordered her mother into the vehicle and demanded she drive to the dealership to sign for the car or she would shoot her.

Hachero and her mother then went to Sutherlin Nissan on South Tamiami Trail, where she had her mother sign for a 2004 black Nissan 350Z. Hachero left the dealership in the vehicle.

The mother told investigators she went through Hachero’s purse Friday while Hachero was at school and located the gun, drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The mother told investigators she did not want to press charges against Hachero, because she had recently been accepted to several Ivy League colleges.

Deputies decided to charge Hachero due to the nature of the incident.

The gun allegedly used by Hachero in the assault was reported stolen from the home of a Lee County Port Authority officer in Fort Myers in July of 2010.

Five guns and several other items were taken during that burglary.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Phoenix’s Looming Water Crisis

Could the solution be under the city itself in the vast and ancient irrigation networks of the Hohokam people?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Public Television in Oklahoma to be a Mini-Cspan

The Oklahoma Legislature is planning on making space for itself in the world of Big Bird and NOVA.

Senate Bill 89 — which is awaiting vote on the state House floor — would require OETA [Oklahoma Educational Television Authority] to broadcast, either on television or the Internet, the daily sessions of the Legislature and other key government bodies.

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said he wants both houses of the Legislature, committee meetings, Corporation Commission hearings, state Board of Education meetings available to the public on television.

“If it’s open to the public, broadcast it,” Jolley said.

The legislation instructs OETA to accomplish this Oklahoma version of C-SPAN without any extra money from the state.

“It’s saying, ‘Here’s your priorities,’ “ to OETA, Jolley said.

John McCarroll, executive director of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, said some relatively modest costs would be associated with gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Legislature, but there still will be plenty of room on the network for the popular program of PBS and the new Capitol content.


Jolley said the new system would require some editorial choices — there are times when the House and Senate are in session at the same time, for example. But he said he wants events that aren’t broadcast live to be offered on a tape-delayed basis, as is commonly done on C-SPAN’s telecasts of Congress.

Broadcasting the House and Senate will open up government processes to the people, he said.

“You want government to be open and transparent,” Jolley said. “You want the people to see their government in action.”

The prospect of having constituents looking over lawmakers’ shoulders is not at all intimidating, he said.

“I’m proud of the way we conduct our business in the Oklahoma State Senate,” Jolley said. “I think we do a good job. It doesn’t make me nervous.”

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, is the House author of the proposal.

Putting the Legislature on TV might change the way the Legislature works, he said.

“It’s possible. Could it make it any worse? I’m not sure,” he joked.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

Sheriff Who Testified Before Congress Has Ties to Suspected Islamist Group

The only law enforcement official called to testify at the controversial congressional hearing on Muslim radicalization on March 17 is allegedly “tight” with an Islamic group that raised money for Hamas and was a co-conspirator in a federal terror-finance trial, according to a public-interest legal organization that investigates and prosecutes public corruption.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca advocated on behalf of Muslims at the highly-publicized hearing, conducted before Congress Peter King (R-NY) and the House Committee on Homeland Security, which he now chairs.

Baca testimony was not surprising, since being elected to run the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, he regularly attends fundraisers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to meet the goals of his agency’s Muslim Community Affairs Division.

First elected in 1999, Baca joined forces with CAIR to stay on “positive terms” with the Muslim community after the 9/11 attacks. Nevermind that the group was founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists — Omar Ahmad, Nihad Awad and Rafeeq Jaber — who ran the American propaganda wing of Hamas known then as the Islamic Association for Palestine.

CAIR has extensive links to foreign and domestic Islamists, was labeled a co-conspirator in a federal terror-finance case involving the Hamas front group Holy Land Foundation and is largely funded by Islamic terrorist-supporting countries.

“The Mayor of Los Angeles and the people of L.A. and the nation are probably unaware that several CAIR executives have either been incarcerated in the United States or deported because of their criminal activities,” said former Detective Mike Snopes who now runs a security consulting firm.

It may seem odd for a top U.S. law enforcement official to have such a cozy relationship with this sort of group. Then again Baca is also tight with L.A. poker clubs, though his department is responsible for enforcing gambling laws. The lucrative casinos, allegedly run by Latinos who hire illegal aliens, make generous political contributions to the sheriff, shower him with expensive gifts and give handsomely to his youth charity.

The Homeland Security committee’s top Democrat (Mississippi’s Bennie Thompson) invited Baca to advocate on behalf of maligned Islamists worldwide and the sheriff stepped up to the plate. He assured that all terrorists are not Muslim and warned that radicalization is an issue that affects all groups regardless of religion, according to Judicial Watch.

Baca took the opportunity to “deliver very good news,” about the Muslim community in Los Angeles; that it’s an “active participant in the securing of our homeland.” Taxpayers in the sprawling county of about 10 million should also take note that to “further solidify international relationships,” members of the sheriff’s department have embarked on “professional diplomacy efforts” to Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Armenia, Russia and Morocco among others. Baca didn’t offer any examples of how the costly trips abroad have helped keep his county safe.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Cuts Protests Shut Down Central London

In the largest demonstration of public anger to hit the UK since protests against the Iraq War in 2003, hundreds of thousands marched through the British capital on Saturday (26 March) against cuts to public services. According to various sources, between 250,000 and 500,000 snaked their way through central London during the event, which was organised by the country’s Trade Union Congress, with 800 coaches from across the country arriving in London.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Trial Against 16 Hells Angels Opens Today

Former gang member expected to provide key testimony for prosecution

One of the nation’s biggest trials involving gang crime will get underway today when 16 people linked to the Hells Angels appear before a judge in Glostrup on charges of attempted murder, assault and weapons possession.

The 16, all members of Hells Angels or the affiliated gang HA 81, will reportedly plead innocent. The charges against them include six attempted murders taking place between April and October 2009 during an open conflict between the Hells Angels and immigrant gangs.

Much of the prosecution’s case will be built on the testimony of a 25-year-old former Hells Angel, who has explained that the attempted murders as well as a brutal beating of a rival gang member using a bat were ordered by senior gang member Brian Sandberg, one of the men standing trial.

The witness has already been sentenced to 12 years behind bars for his role in the crimes and police say his confessions have put his life at risk.

According to prosecutor Charlotte Alsing Juhl, the prosecution will also draw on the testimony of eyewitnesses and experts, as well as forensic evidence.

The trial is expected to continue through September.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Right Loses Election, Step Back on Islam

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 28 — The day after its bitter defeat in the French cantonal elections, the governing right-wing — the UMP party of President Nicolas Sarkozy — takes a step back in the debate on the role of Islam in France and all that could look like “stigmatisation”, and its most conservative stance which was strategically adopted to “steal” votes from the far-right. “We certainly need to end all these debates”, said government spokesman Francois Baroin a few days after the initiative was launched by Interior Minister Claude Gueant.

According to Baroin, “it is time to return to profound Republican values”. Talking to Radio France Info, Baroin announced the end of the debates on secularity and Islam, which were organised on request of Sarkozy: “I believe we should distance ourselves from all that could give the impression of stigmatising”. According to the spokesman, “the left could back the idea of a parliamentary resolution on secularity”. Baroin added, referring to the votes for the far-right, that “we should be careful not to trivialise these”, urging the UMP to “return to profound Republican values”. It is now uncertain that Sarkozy will be re-elected 13 months from now, while the socialist opposition did well in the cantonal elections, doubling the votes of the majority (36% to 18%). The National Front of Marine Le Pen remained stable, without conquering many seats the party shows that it has taken root in the entire country. After yesterday’s poor results for his party, Sarkozy was also faced with a new poll that sees him lose the first ballot of the presidential elections, whether he competes with the socialists Martine Aubry, Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Francois Hollande. In all three cases, the ballot would go to the socialists and National Front.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France Vote Sees Left and Right Pile Pressure on Sarkozy

France’s opposition Socialists decisively beat President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party in local elections which also saw the far-right National Front on the up a year ahead of the 2012 presidential vote.

Officials from Sarkozy’s right-ring UMP on Monday said they had got the message from voters the day after the Socialist Party (PS) won 36 percent in the second round of a poll to choose councillors in France’s 100 departments.

That outstripped Sarkozy’s UMP party on 20 percent and the far-right National Front (FN) on 12 percent, with Sarkozy’s personal popularity at an all-time low.

“We must pay more attention to this trivialisation of the far-right vote,” government spokesman Francois Baroin said, calling for an end to a divisive debate on France’s secular identity and the role of Islam in society.

The UMP had been trying to show itself as tough on Islam, security and immigration, in a bid to draw right-wing voters away from the National Front, but Sunday’s vote showed that the strategy had not worked.

The election was also marred by a low turnout, with only 46 percent of those eligible to vote bothering to do so, according to the partial results from the interior ministry.

Socialist leader Martine Aubry’s speech to euphoric supporters gathered at the party headquarters in Paris, suggested the presidential campaign had already started.

“Today I am conscious of our duty of victory in 2012 for France and for the French,” she told supporters.

The party will next week unveil fresh plans to get the country back on its feet, she announced.

“Our determination is total to show that another France is possible,” she added.

Aubry and fellow leading Socialist Francois Hollande are seen as possible contenders for the Socialist candidacy for the presidency.

But opinion polls still suggest that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the current head of the International Monetary Fund, would be the strongest Socialist candidate, should he make a run.

Jean-Francois Cope, the head of the UMP, said the left had been far from making the gains it had hoped for. But he conceded: “We would have wished for better results.

Cope told Europe 1 radio on Monday that “we got the message (of) concern and questioning from many of our fellow citizens, which explains the FN vote and the fact that many didn’t vote.”

With almost all the results in, it was clear early Monday that the left, which already controls 58 departments across France to the 42 for the right, had picked up several more.

And while the far-right National Front did not break through in terms of seats won, its vote was up sharply.

The results in so far showed that it had increased its first-round score of 620,000 votes to more than 900,000 votes: 11.63 percent of the vote.

“People will have to reckon with the FN coming in first place in the forthcoming elections, presidential and legislative,” its leader Marine Le Pen said.

“The redrawing of political life in France is under way,” she said.

The results were not a protest vote, but a vote of confidence in the party, she argued: and one opinion poll suggested she might be right.

A poll published Sunday suggested Le Pen would qualify for the second and decisive round of voting in next year’s presidential poll, eliminating Sarkozy in the first round.

Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s former leader, made it through to the second round of the 2002 presidential election, eliminating the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin, before being roundly defeated by Jacques Chirac.

Another poll Monday suggested that the party had moved a step closer to being accepted as part of the political landscape.

More than one person in two — 52 percent — considered the FN should be considered as “a party like the others”, said a poll conducted by BVA-Absoluce for Les Echos newspaper and France Info radio.

Forty-seven percent rejected the idea, but it was the first time that most respondents had agreed with that proposition, said the pollsters.

The party’s economic policies had nevertheless failed to convince, the poll added: 82 percent of the 1,192 respondents rejected its proposal to pull out of the eurozone, with only 17 percent approving.

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

Germany: CDU Suffers Historic Loss in Baden-Württemberg

6 Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives suffered a historic loss in Baden-Württemberg on Sunday, ending nearly six decades in power. The Greens will lead a German state for the first time.

The environmentalist Greens and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) managed an unprecedented political upset in the wealthy southwestern state, which is normally a stronghold for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Official results showed that the Greens won 24.2 percent while the SPD took 23.1 percent.

The incumbent CDU and their pro-business Free Democratic (FDP) allies managed 44.3 percent between them, with the conservatives winning 39 percent and the FDP 5.3 percent.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats have governed Baden-Württemberg since 1953, but anger over her nuclear policy in light of the Japan crisis as well as decisions on Libya and the euro angered voters in the run-up to the poll.

“We’ve achieved a historic election victory,” said Winfried Kretschmann, who is likely to become Germany’s first state premier from the Green party. “I’d like to thank those that voted for us — especially those voting for us for the first time.”

In another state election in neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate, the Social Democrats looked set to stay in office, but will have to share power with the Greens.

The SPD won 35.7 percent of the vote, the CDU 35.2 percent, and the Greens 15.4 percent. The FDP, which won only 4.2 percent, failed to clear the five-percent hurdle to win seats in the Rhineland-Palatinate state legislature.

The outcome will increase the pressure on Germany’s already embattled Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the FDP leader, although analysts said Merkel’s centre-right coalition was expected to survive.

“This is a difficult evening for us. We’re naturally disappointed by the election results,” Westerwelle said in Berlin. “Energy policy was decisive. It was a referendum about atomic energy and we have gotten the message.”

But beyond a crushing blow to morale in Berlin, the double state defeat will make it even harder for Merkel to pass legislation in the Bundesrat upper house and likely prompt fresh calls for her to shore up her conservative credentials.

But analysts said Merkel’s coalition was expected to survive, mainly because the opposition is still too weak at the national level and her party lacks a viable challenger to her position.

“The CDU has no one,” news weekly Der Spiegel wrote on its website. “It is chained to Merkel, at least until the next scheduled federal election (in 2013).”

Campaigning was dominated by the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, where officials Sunday discovered high radiation levels in water leaked from a stricken reactor at the Fukushima plant.

Calling Japan’s crisis a “turning point,” Merkel suspended for three months an earlier decision to extend the lifetime of Germany’s nuclear reactors, four of which are based in Baden-Württemberg.

Nuclear power is highly unpopular in Germany, and an estimated 250,000 people took to the streets across the country on Saturday to protest against the government’s energy policy.

But the elections confirmed that voters saw Merkel’s atomic reversal as an electoral ploy that cost her conservatives support while boosting the anti-nuclear Green party.

Baden-Württemberg’s outgoing conservative state premier, Stefan Mappus, also faced massive protests against the unpopular rail project Stuttgart 21.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Media Roundup: A Seismic Shift for Merkel’s Coalition?

With the Greens emerging as the winners of two state elections, has there been a seismic shift in Germany’s political landscape? Newspapers in The Local’s media roundup on Monday sift through the wreckage Chancellor Merkel’s coalition.

The Greens managed to oust Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) from their historic stronghold in Baden-Württemberg on Sunday. But the buoyant environmentalist party also forced the centre-left Social Democrats to share power in neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate.

Merkel’s unpopular decision to extend the life of Germany’s nuclear reactors undoubtedly helped boost the Greens, who will now hold a state premiership for the first time. But the election results could also have repercussions for the chancellor’s centre-right coalition.

In particular, the political future of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose Free Democratic Party (FDP) was trounced in both states, could hang in the balance.

Newspapers in The Local’s media roundup tried to divine the political implications.

“After 58 years in power, the Christian Democrats have lost their southwestern stronghold. Meanwhile the Greens have their first chance at a premier in a conservative, economically-successful, middle-class state,” conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote.

“Months ago, during the violent demonstrations against Stuttgart 21, Chancellor Angela Merkel stylized the Baden-Württemburg vote as a referendum on Germany’s future prospects. Germany’s future is not lost if the Greens’ Winfried Kretschmann takes up the state premiership in Stuttgart. On the contrary, in Berlin the sore election losses will raise all sorts of questions — about what the fall of the FDP will mean for future party chairman Guido Westerwelle, and for CDU leader Merkel.”

Right-wing daily Die Welt called the potential new coalition in Baden-Württemberg a “bizarre constellation” that wouldn’t fit in — at least not at first.

“Democracy can be exciting. It exists on the possibility of change,” the paper wrote. “The change in values has also washed over Baden-Württemberg — the bastion of tradition, and above all the industry success model for the country that continues to flourish — and it has lost its quiet self-assurance.”

“A Greens-SPD coalition has against the foundations, the mentality, and many traditions of Baden-Württemberg. Thus the leaders of both parties — despite the yells of triumph from backbenchers — must try to avoid trampling everything.”

Berlin’s centrist daily Der Tagesspiegel called the election results an upset in the country’s political landscape, and one that the CDU would be forced to navigate gingerly.

“For the Greens on this historic day, everything depends on how they govern at the top. For its survival the SPD must find a substance-driven and non-populist programme with which to escape being squished. The basic question for the CDU — where they can position themselves in the political spectrum — remains, but is will become more acute. Particularly because they will have to dangerously open themselves to the Greens as they lose the FDP as a coalition partner. Altogether this means major aftershocks are to be expected.”

But centre-left weekly Die Zeit said that along with the disaster comes an opportunity for the conservatives.

“With Baden-Württemberg the CDU has lost a core piece of their identity,” the paper wrote. “Now there could be room to begin new politics with people like Norbert Röttgen, Ursula von der Leyen, Thomas de Maizière or Julia Klöckner.”

Changes are also afoot among the Free Democrats, with Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle set to take the fall for his party’s loss in Rhineland-Palatinate, where they failed to clear the five-percent hurdle to win seats in the Rhineland-Palatinate state legislature, the paper said.

“Is there hope that the country could at least get a better government instead of none at all? One doesn’t dare to think it. But after this Sunday there can be no more business-as-usual.”

Leftist daily Der Tageszeitung said the elections were the start of a revolution that would reverberate throughout the nation. The Greens have been working for more than 30 years on the very issue that decided the results, but the party must now take decisive action on other controversial policies.

“Amid all the understandable celebration, this also means that the party must take responsibility. Hiding behind the SPD through abstaining is no longer valid. Now is the time to show their colours. The election day loser is clearly [Baden-Württemburg state premier] Stefan Mappus. His smash-and-grab politics are to thank for the toppling of the conservative bastion. The citizens will no longer tolerate this kind of policy making. They demand more participation and credibility.”

According to centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung’s assessment, the elections were an identity crisis for the CDU, an existential crisis for the FDP and a spectacular triumph for the Greens — but such shake-ups were the point of democracy.

“The horror over the nuclear catastrophe and the failure of the safety mechanisms in Japan helped define the election. The far-off catastrophe became one that was closely felt, and justified those who have always warned against atomic technology. Maybe the elections would have gone differently if they’d happened 10 weeks earlier or later. But that is true for many elections, and no cause to downplay the meaning of their results. They will characterize the nation for the rest of this legislative period.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Appears in Court for Fraud, Embezzlement Case

(AKI) — Italian prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday appeared in a Milan court where he is standing trial for alleged tax fraud and embezzlement linked to the acquisition of television right for inflated prices by his Mediatrade company.

Earlier Monday, the billionaire media tycoon denied wrongdoing during a show broadcasted by one of his Mediaset television channels.

“All accusations against me are ridiculous and groundless,” Berlusconi said during MattinoCinque. “I’ve never dealt with the acquisition of TV rights.”

The hearing on Monday will determine whether Berlusconi should stand trial.

The case stems from the purchase of 470 million euros of television rights in the United States during the 1990s.

His son Pier Silvo and others are also accused.

Berlusconi, 74, is already a defendant in two ongoing trials and is also set to stand trial starting on 6 April on charges of having sex with an underage prostitute and then using his position to try and cover up the alleged crime.

Berlusconi denies wrongdoing in all cases and often says he is the victim of political persecution by left-wing judges.

“This trial, too, is a ploy by the Left to try to get rid of its biggest obstacle. These accusations are unfounded and ridiculous,” Berlusconi said on MattinoCinque.

Berlusconi has said he will attend court hearings because they will give him an opportunity to defend himself in front Italians.

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

Italy: Berlusconi’s Income Almost Double Since Split From Wife

Italian PM towers over other party leaders with 41 mn euros

(ANSA) — Rome, March 28 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s declared income has almost doubled since he split from his wife, according to tax returns made public by parliament Monday.

Berlusconi said last year he earned about 41 million euros in 2009, when his wife Veronica Lario asked for a divorce, claiming he was frequenting minors.

The previous year, 2008, the premier had a declared income of 23 million euros.

Berlusconi was again way ahead of other party leaders this year, with House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, leader of a small centre-right group, coming second on 186,600 euros and ex-Rome mayor Francesco Rutelli, head of a smaller centrist party, earning 182,000 euros in 2009.

The head of the main opposition party, Democratic Party chief Pier Luigi Bersani, was down the rankings with 137,000 euros while his ally Antonio Di Pietro was near the top with 177,000.

Designer Santo Versace, a member of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, plunged down from second spot last year with more than five million euros to a comparatively meagre 604,000 euros.

His spot on the podium was taken by health-clinic king and newspaper publisher Antonio Angelucci, another PdL member, whose declared income soared from 3.5 to 6.1 million.

Berlusconi’s top defence lawyer Niccolo’ Ghedini was also high up on 1.127 million euros compared to 1.345 million a year previously, but Giulia Bongiorno, a lead lawyer in Amanda Knox’s Meredith Kercher murder appeal, posted almost double that with 2.05 million.

Ghedini is also a PdL member while Bongiorno, who got seven-time premier Giulio Andreotti off the hook in murder and mafia cases, is in Fini’s rival splinter group, the FLI.

According to a recent survey from US business magazine Forbes, Berlusconi is Italy’s third-richest man with a net worth of $7.2 billion, down from $9 billion last year.

Confectioner Michele Ferrero tops the rankings with $18 billion, followed by eyewear tycoon Leonardo Del Vecchio with $11.5 billion.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Most Indicted Man in History’ Berlusconi Appears in Court

Premier calls charges against him ‘ridiculous’

(ANSA) — Milan, March 28 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi described himself as the “most indicted man in history and in the universe” Monday before appearing in court for a hearing for one of four criminal trials he faces.

Berlusconi denies wrongdoing and says left-leaning prosecutors have trumped up the charges, three regarding alleged corruption and one concerning accusations he used an underage prostitute, in a bid to oust him from power.

Monday’s was a preliminary hearing ahead of an expected trial into tax fraud on broadcasting rights traded by a unit of the premier’s Mediaset media empire, Mediatrade.

Berlusconi, who has been indicted along with his son Piersilvio, Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalonieri and nine others, reassured a throng of supporters on the way out of the courtroom that “everything’s OK” and thanked them for coming.

“Like the previous ones, the Mediatrade trial is an attempt to eliminate the Left’s biggest obstacle to winning power,” Berlusconi told one of his Mediaset channels referring to a long series of corruptions trials, none of which have led to a definitive conviction, sometimes following law changes passed by Berlusconi’s governments or the expiry of the statute of limitations.

“I’ve never dealt with TV rights,” he added ahead of his first court appearance since 2003.

“The accusations are groundless and ridiculous… I’m the most indicted man in history and in the universe. I’ve already stood 24 trials, all of which ended with acquittals”.

Berlusconi also faces another corruption trial regarding alleged offences at Mediaset, with the next hearing set for April 11, and one for allegedly bribing British tax lawyer David Mills for favourable testimony in a past case.

On Wednesday April 6 a trial begins into allegations he paid to have sex with a Moroccan belly dancer, Karima El Mahroug, aka Ruby ‘Heartstealer’, before she was 18 years of age, during alleged sex parties at his home near Milan.

Berlusconi and Ruby both deny ever having sex and the woman, who is now 18, says money the premier gave her was a gift, following a scandal that has shocked Italy and attracted front-page headlines worldwide.

The 74-year-old is also accused of allegedly abusing his power for allegedly pressuring police to get Ruby out of custody when she was detained on an unrelated theft charge, telling them she was the granddaughter of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The three corruption trials were reactivated after the Constitutional Court in January partially struck down the latest judicial shield passed by Berlusconi governments.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Latvian President Criticises Nuclear Fear-Mongering

A former surgeon who participated in the Chernobyl clean-up operations, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers has warned against “creating fear in Europe” after the Japanese nuclear crisis. “Two weeks after the [Chernobyl] accident, I spent two months there, in the 30-km zone. In the first nights, I was sleeping on the ground, which was radioactive. So I got a lot of first-hand experience what happens afterwards, what is the damage to nature, what’s the real damage to the population and how big is the zone of this damage,” Zatlers told this website on the margins of the Brussels Forum, an conference organised by the German Marshall Fund of the US, a Washington-based think tank.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Massive Setback for Merkel: Greens Score Big in Key German State

The Fukushima disaster has had, and will have, many consequences around the world. One of the more unlikely, however, appears to be the results of Sunday’s election in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, where skepticism about nuclear power helped propel the Green Party to a historic victory over Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway to Jews: You’re Not Welcome Here

By Alan M. Dershowitz

I recently completed a tour of Norwegian universities, where I spoke about international law as applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the tour nearly never happened.

Its sponsor, a Norwegian pro-Israel group, offered to have me lecture without any charge to the three major universities. Norwegian universities generally jump at any opportunity to invite lecturers from elsewhere. When my Harvard colleague Stephen Walt, co-author of “The Israel Lobby,” came to Norway, he was immediately invited to present a lecture at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. Likewise with Ilan Pappe, a demonizer of Israel who teaches at Oxford.

My hosts expected, therefore, that their offer to have me present a different academic perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be eagerly accepted. I have written half a dozen books on the subject presenting a centrist view in support of the two-state solution. But the universities refused.

The dean of the law faculty at Bergen University said he would be “honored” to have me present a lecture “on the O.J. Simpson case,” as long as I was willing to promise not to mention Israel. An administrator at the Trondheim school said that Israel was too “controversial.”

The University of Oslo simply said “no” without offering an excuse. That led one journalist to wonder whether the Norwegian universities believe that I am “not entirely house-trained.”

Only once before have I been prevented from lecturing at universities in a country. The other country was Apartheid South Africa.

Despite the faculties’ refusals to invite me, I delivered three lectures to packed auditoriums at the invitation of student groups. I received sustained applause both before and after the talks.

It was then that I realized why all this happened. At all of the Norwegian universities, there have been efforts to enact academic and cultural boycotts of Jewish Israeli academics. This boycott is directed against Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian land—but the occupation that the boycott supporters have in mind is not of the West Bank but rather of Israel itself. Here is the first line of their petition: “Since 1948 the state of Israel has occupied Palestinian land . .. .”

The administrations of the universities have refused to go along with this form of collective punishment of all Israeli academics, so the formal demand for a boycott failed. But in practice it exists. Jewish pro-Israel speakers are subject to a de facto boycott.

The first boycott signatory was Trond Adresen, a professor at Trondheim. About Jews, he has written: “There is something immensely self-satisfied and self-centered at the tribal mentality that is so prevalent among Jews. . .. . [They] as a whole, are characterized by this mentality. . . . It is no less legitimate to say such a thing about Jews in 2008-2009 than it was to make the same point about the Germans around 1938.”

This line of talk—directed at Jews, not Israel—is apparently acceptable among many in Norway’s elite. Consider former Prime Minister Kare Willock’s reaction to President Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his first chief of staff: “It does not look too promising, he has chosen a chief of staff who is Jewish.” Mr. Willock didn’t know anything about Mr. Emanuel’s views—he based his criticism on the sole fact that Mr. Emanuel is a Jew. Perhaps unsurprisingly, fewer than 1,000 Jews live in Norway today.

The country’s foreign minister recently wrote an article justifying his contacts with Hamas. He said that the essential philosophy of Norway is “dialogue.” That dialogue, it turns out, is one-sided. Hamas and its supporters are invited into the dialogue, but supporters of Israel are excluded by an implicit, yet very real, boycott against pro-Israel views.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Police Probe Secret Swedish ‘Sex-Chamber’

A secret chamber containing a dingy bed, elaborate restraining devices, and an assortment of sex toys continues to baffle Swedish police weeks after it was discovered beneath an abandoned farmhouse in western Sweden.

“It gives me flashbacks to the final scenes from ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’,” one source told the Aftonbladet newspaper, referring to the first installment of the Millennium crime trilogy.

The secret room was discovered by two amateur photographers who were exploring the property in Vrangelsro outside of Halmstad when they stumbled upon a hatch in the kitchen floor behind a pantry, the newspaper reported.

Beneath the cabin, which had been abandoned for more than 20 years, they found a darkened dungeon-like room with a bed, harnesses, handcuffs, lubricant, adult diapers, and other sex toys.

The floor was also littered with partially empty bottles of soda and juice, as well a rubber hose running from one empty container to the bed.

“I didn’t know what to think. But pretty soon thoughts came to mind that maybe someone had been held against their will,” one of the photographers told Aftonbladet.

Unsure as to whether the room was used as part of an elaborate sex fantasy by consenting adults, or if it may have been used to forcefully hold someone prisoner, the pair reported their discovery to police, who promptly launched a preliminary investigation into possible criminal activities.

At the weekend, police dogs were dispatched to search the property and several items found in the mysterious sex-chamber have been sent to the Swedish National Laboratory of Forensic Science (Statens kriminaltekniska laboratorium — SKL) for DNA analysis.

Police have also questioned a 47-year-old man who placed an ad on a well-known internet sex-chat forum.

“Seeking submissive tramps for my torture chamber, for a tough assignment without any chance for mercy. Preferably from Halland,” read the man’s posting, referring to the county where the abandoned cabin lies.

While the man confirmed to Aftonbladet that he placed the ad, he denied having anything to do with the sex-chamber under investigation by police, claiming his post was simply meant to “spark interest”.

Another theory suggested by former criminal inspector Bo Wide is that the elaborately-outfitted room may have been used as a set for a movie. While he doubted that the room was used for criminal activities, he added that police are justified in looking into the matter.

“There needs to be an explanation. If they can figure out who has been there and if this was voluntary, then they don’t have to spend time looking for a body,” he told the newspaper.

Xzenu Cronström Beskow, an expert on sadomasochism with the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (Riksförbundet för Sexuell Upplysning — RFSU) told the Metro newspaper it’s “not at all uncommon” for people to have a hobby room of some sort to act out their sexual fantasies.

He added, however, that having such a room in an abandoned cabin deep in the Swedish woods “is a bit unusual”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Thief Caught After Forgetting Credit Card

A 53-year-old man has been arrested for stealing a selection of electronic items, after forgetting his credit card at the returns counter of an Uppsala store on Saturday.

The alleged thief is suspected of taking the opportunity to pilfer a number of electronic items while his application for a refund was being processed at a branch of Netonnet on Saturday, reported the local Uppsala Nya Tidning daily.

Staff discovered the impromptu heist later that day when they noted that some boxes had been opened. After studying the surveillance film taken in the store they were able to watch how the 53-year-old helped himself to the contents of the boxes.

When the man left the store and returned home with his ill-gotten gains, he discovered however that he had forgotten his credit card at the returns desk.

The man elected that his best available course of action was to return to the store the following day to reclaim his credit card.

The absent-minded thief was however met by staff prepared for his arrival and who promptly called the police, leading to his arrest.

Police have now searched the man’s apartment and car but the stolen goods have not been recovered, the newspaper reported.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Disgraced Academic Who Mocked Assaulted TV Reporter Lara Logan Lands Top Research Job at Gaddafi’s Favourite UK University

[Warning: disturbing content.]

Academics who accepted millions of pounds from Colonel Gaddafi have sparked further outrage by awarding a prestigious job to a controversial writer who mocked a high-profile sexual attack victim.

London School of Economics bosses awarded Nir Rosen a research fellowship, reported by the London Evening Standard to be worth £50,000 ($80,000), one month after he lost his job at New York University for making fun of the CBS correspondent Lara Logan.


‘It’s an unbelievable appointment,’ said an LSE source, adding: ‘You’d think these people would have learned their lesson by now, but all they seem to want to do is rehabilitate highly offensive individuals.’

LSE director Howard Davies resigned over the Gaddafi controversy, but now there will be increasing pressure on his successor, Judith Rees, to bring the Global Governance Centre itself to book.

Despite pledging to send back the Gaddafi money, the Global Governance Centre remains one of the richest of its kind.

This is thanks to massive donations from multi-millionaire philanthropists such as George Soros and Victor Dahdaleh, who is currently under investigation for fraud.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Middle-Class Youngsters Barred From Applying for Internships at Whitehall and in the Police… Because They Are White

White middle-class students have been banned from applying for internships with Britain’s biggest police force and in Whitehall.

The temporary jobs, which offer thousands of pounds for work in the summer, are billed as the internships ‘that could change your life’.

They provide students with invaluable work experience at a time of soaring graduate unemployment.

But critics yesterday told of their anger at the decision by the Civil Service and the Metropolitan Police to exclude all but certain ethnic minorities from applying.

They say the schemes cause resentment among staff and are discriminating against white people ‘via the back door’.

The Metropolitan Police, which employs more than 50,000 people, publicly offers only one work experience programme. The 12-week Diversity Internship will pay six interns more than £3,000 to work in a range of departments. While there is no guarantee of a post at the end, it gives students a head start in the battle for police jobs.

But the application form says only students from specific ethnic groups — including black African, black Asian or Chinese — can apply. Applicants are also quizzed about religious beliefs and sexuality.

The force offers a few other work experience places to students from specific colleges.

The Civil Service also has only one central internship programme — marketed as ‘two months that could change your life’ — and also specifically for students from ethnic minorities.

The only white candidates eligible to apply for the Fast Stream Summer Diversity Internship are those whose families are from ‘under-represented socio-economic backgrounds’.

Others can get occasional work experience through individual departments.

The scheme, paying about £3,000, is a clear route to the prestigious Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme.

MPs, campaigners and police are furious that prominent public bodies are discriminating against white, middle-class students by denying them the chance to apply.

Tory MP Dominic Raab last night said: ‘We won’t end discrimination by introducing it via the back door. That is precisely what positive discrimination like this does.’

Nadhim Zahawi, a Tory MP who identifies himself as Kurdish, said: ‘These schemes are degrading. Margaret Thatcher didn’t need positive discrimination to become prime minister.’

One Met inspector said: ‘At a time when people in the Met are being offered voluntary redundancy, the Met funds such schemes. Such incentives can only fan the flames of racial division.’

Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, called the schemes ‘tokenistic’.

The Metropolitan Police said: ‘This scheme assists us to understand the needs of the diverse communities we serve.’

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We think the Civil Service should represent the people we serve and we make no apology for that. Selection for permanent positions is available to all and is always based on fair and open competition.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Cheap Bread for the Masses Costs Billions in New Egypt

In the gritty gusts of a sandstorm, men in turbans and women in veils stood uncomplaining for hours outside a ramshackle kiosk, lined up for their daily loaves of “life.”

Political change may be remaking Egypt, but “we trust in God that the bread’s going to stay cheap,” said Shadia Abdul-Halim, 45, a mother of six patiently queued up to buy.

Bread has stayed cheap even as Egypt’s other food prices leaped upward by 17 percent last year — cheap because the government pays for most of it.

Twenty of the flat, round pieces of local “eish” — “life” in Arabic, the word Egyptians use for the staple — cost one Egyptian pound. That’s the equivalent of 17 U.S. cents for more than five pounds (more than two kilograms) of bread.

But halfway around the world on this day, on a Chicago trading floor, the price of wheat edged up again, raising the pressure on poorer states like Egypt that have made subsidized bread a fixture of Arab life.

The Middle East’s bread subsidies are just one dilemma in a world facing a potential food crisis this year, like the troubles in 2008, when skyrocketing prices touched off riots in developing countries.

The U.N. global food price index hit a record high in February, surpassing even 2008’s peak. The average price of wheat so far this year, $346 a ton, is more than double 2005’s price. The reasons for the increases are various — growing demand, impact of higher oil prices, diversion of corn to ethanol. Drought and floods have cut into wheat production, possibly previewing what some analysts say will be growing global grain shortages.

The head of the U.N.’s World Food Program said hard-pressed governments are being pushed toward cutting food subsidies, at great risk.

“When it comes to food, the margins between stability and chaos are perilously thin,” Josette Sheeran said.

How much could bread prices rise for poor Arabs?

“Without the subsidy, it would triple the price,” said Abdul Elah H. al-Hamawi, president of the bakers’ association in nearby Jordan. “There would be a revolution!”

Egypt has already had a revolution. Now, whatever government emerges in Cairo will have to grapple with the subsidy dilemma.

More obese than Americans

Under the half-century-old system, a “safety net” for Egypt’s poor, the government sells cut-rate wheat flour to bakeries for mandatory production of “baladi,” or local, bread.

“Bread inspectors” enforce the mandate, but leakage still occurs, as unscrupulous bakers siphon off flour to sell at higher rates to producers of finer, unsubsidized baked goods. Subsidized bread also “leaks” to better-off Egyptians, since anyone can buy it.

Half of Egypt’s 80 million people rely on the everyday “eish baladi.” Bread accounts for one-third of Egyptians’ calorie intake, and some blame it for the fact that people here on average are more obese than even Americans, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

But the bread program is credited with having eased hunger and child mortality, and has become a symbol of the “social contract” between Egypt’s governments and its people.

Along the way, however, it has also fattened the import bill, as the population exploded.

From wheat self-sufficiency about 50 years ago, Egypt has become the world’s biggest wheat importer. The government buys more than half the country’s needs on the international market. A decade ago, the basic market cost for those imports was about $700 million a year. This year it could top $3.5 billion for 10 million tons of wheat.

In Jordan, 99 percent dependent on imports, “our budget has been increasing about 10 to 12 percent a year for the subsidies,” Emad A. al-Tarawneh, that government’s chief wheat importer, said in Amman.

In Cairo, the agronomist known as the “father of Egyptian wheat” for his work improving the local crop, said the subsidy should end.

“Otherwise the government cannot afford it all,” Abdel-Salam Gomaa said. “And the rich are benefiting more than the poor. They don’t buy to consume but to feed the cattle and animals” — with bread cheaper than animal feed.

“But now, with the revolution, it’s not the time to talk about removing subsidies,” Gomaa said.

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

Egypt Council of Armed Forces Says Elections in September

(AGI) Cairo — Parliamentary elections in Egypt will be held in September. The announcement came from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, currently governing the country. Speaking at a press conference in Cairo, a member of the Council, Mamdouh Shaheen, said that the exact date of the presidential consultations has not yet been decided.

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

Egypt: House Arrest for Mubarak and Family

(AGI) Cairo — The military junta in power in Egypt has placed ex-president Hosni Mubarak and his family under house arrest.

Mubarak, deposed last month, has been at his villa in Sharm el Sheick for weeks.

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

Egypt Air Wipes Israel Off the Map — a Sign of Where Egypt Could be Headed

By Praveen Swami

Israel has quietly dropped off Egypt Air’s route map this week.

The airline’s explanation is that “flights to Tel Aviv are operated by Air Sinai, which is a separate company.” It explains that “our website exclusively show destinations to which our own EA flights travel to.”

I’ve been unable to find a phone number, website or postal address for Air Sinai. That’s because it doesn’t seem to exist. Wikipedia states it “ceased airline operations in its own right in 2002 and operates as a ‘paper airline’ for its parent company, Egypt Air.”

Like a fair few other people, I suspect, I’m wondering if this is a sign of things to come in the Egypt-Israel relationship, because of the growing influence of people who would like to see Israel erased from maps, not just route maps.

Egyptians who backed the movement against Hosni Mubarak, the country’s unlamented former ruler, are beginning to realise that the revolution they sacrificed so much for isn’t headed quite where they’d expected.

Earlier this month, more than three-quarters of Egyptian voters backed constitutional amendments which will facilitate the early election of a new parliament and new president. This gives the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best-organised and largest political force, an advantage: its opponents just haven’t had time to get their act together.

Muhammad ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, both campaigned against the amendments, calling, along with other liberal-secular groups for alternative proposals which would have curbed presidential powers.

For its part, Muslim Brotherhood hung out banners saying a “yes” vote was a religious obligation. The Egyptian Revolution Society, an Islamist group, warned the alternative was “that the call to the prayer will not be heard any more like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France and there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women.”

Part of the reason for the Islamist victory is that the revolution wasn’t — outside of the imaginations of some in the western media — a Woodstock-like flower-power upsurge. In a thoughtful report, the International Crisis Group observed that “the role of Islamist activists grew as the confrontation became more violent and as one moved away from Cairo; in the [Nile] Delta in particular, their deep roots and the secular opposition’s relative weakness gave them a leading part.”

There’s also the fact that the army, which now rules Egypt, trusts the Brotherhood more than the secular-democrats. Elijah Zarwan, an ICG expert, recently said there was “evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military.” This makes perfect sense, if you consider the Brotherhood can deliver peace on the streets. It was, until its better-than-expected showing in the 2005 elections, a close ally of the military establishment that rules Egypt

Essam Sharaf, Egypt’s new prime minister, thus made a speech in Tahrir Square with the Brotherhood leader Mohammad el-Beltagi standing by his side.

I’m guessing a harder line on Israel will be just part of the Brotherhood’s pound of flesh: its 2007 draft manifesto also calls for non-Muslims and women to be denied from standing from president, and an Iran-style council of clerics to guide the workings of government.

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Frattini Asks Arab League to Solve Gadaffi Exile Issues

(AGI) Rome — Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said the Arab League must solve issues surrounding Gaddafi’s possible exile, adding that this body has the “credibility” needed to do this.

Talking to journalists attending the presentation of the Foreign Ministry’s new website, Frattini said, “there are some African countries that could offer the Libyan leader hospitality, although there have not yet been any formal offers.” Frattini added that Gaddafi must understand that choosing exile would be a brave gesture, indicating he has understood the situation.

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

Gaddafi a Controversial Dictator

Few people know that Gaddafi worked to open schools and universities for women, guaranteed freedom for them to leave home unaccompanied, developed the country’s economy. He asked John Paul II for nuns who were nurses for Libyan hospitals. The appeal of Benedict XVI and Archbishop Martinelli to dialogue. With the end of Gaddafi the risk of Islamic fundamentalism grows.

Milan (AsiaNews) — The West has sided with opponents of the Muammar Gaddafi, who will have to choose between dying in a Tripoli reduced to rubble or accepting exile in a friendly country. At this point it is only a question of time, and is superfluous to recall what the Pope has said many times. And again yesterday, March 27, after the Angelus, Benedict XVI said: “Faced with the increasingly dramatic reports from Libya, my trepidation for the safety and security of civilians and my concern for the unfolding situation, currently signed by the use of arms, is growing. In times of greatest tension, the need to put to use all means available to diplomacy becomes increasingly urgent and to support even the weakest signs of openness and willingness on both sides involved, for reconciliation in search of peaceful and lasting solutions. In view of this, as I lift my prayer to the Lord for a return to harmony in Libya and the entire North African region, I also appeal to the international bodies and all those in positions of military and political responsibility, for the immediate start of dialogue and the suspension of the use of weapons”.

The bishop of Tripoli, Mgr. Giovanni Martinelli (, March 25) adds: “The war could have been avoided. A few days before Sarkozy decided to bomb, there were some glimmers of hope for real mediation. But the bombs have damaged everything”.

Dictator since 1969, at first Gaddafi followed an anti-Western and anti-Italian line to the point of financing Islamic terrorism, extremist inspired Islamic mosques and madrassas around the world. He expelled from the 25 thousand Italians and other foreigners Libya who were the backbone of the economy and public services, reducing his people to misery. In 1986, Reagan bombed the six tents, inside the barracks, one of which housed the Libyan prime minister, who escaped by a miracle.

Isolated between pro-Western Egypt and Tunisia, he realized that the revolutionary line was destined to fail and so he gradually changed his policy: he may have continued to make revolutionary and anti-Western speeches, but in practice, especially after the economic embargo was removed in 1998 and the embargo on arms sales in 2004, he started a process of rapprochement to the West and, what is more important, the education of his people with schools and respect for the rights of man and woman ..

I was in Libya in 2007 and have stayed in touch with friends. Gaddafi has used oil revenues to develop the country: roads, schools, hospitals, universities, low cost housing, the beginning of industrialization and agricultural development bringing water to the desert, up to a depth of 600-800-1.000 m! Two water systems (built by South Korean) taking water from the desert to the coast, 900 km to the north.

The Gaddafi regime is supported by the tribes of Tripolitania, it has fought those of Cyrenaica, a region that has rebelled and easily won power in Benghazi and other cities. A traditional rivalry that had already caused problems at the time of the Italian colonization. The recent uprising was not caused by poverty, such as those of Egypt and Tunisia, in fact, to date, of the many refugees from the Maghreb countries, no Libyan has fled from Libya, a sign that people were not so badly off. The revolt is led by tribal rivalries (the tribes are called “Kabila”) and also from the oppression of a dictatorship that leaves no room for growth of popular involvement in politics and leadership of the country.

But we can not forget what the dictator has done: he sent girls to school and college, abolished polygamy and passed laws in favour of women in marriage: for example, he prohibited the use of keeping girls and women locked in the rooms and walled courtyard of the house. Above all, he controlled and kept in check Islamic extremism. A committee of Islamic scholars in Tripoli prepared religious texts in advance of Friday, sending them to all the mosques of the country, the imam had to read that text without adding or removing anything, on pain of loosing his position.

Until now there has been religious freedom in Libya. The 100 thousand Christians (no Libyans, all foreign workers in most part Egyptian Copts), albeit with many limitations, enjoy freedom of worship and assembly. Caritas Libya is a well respected agency and often asked to intervene in certain situations. Two exceptional circumstances. In 1986, Gaddafi wrote to Pope John Paul II asking for Italian nuns for hospitals. He built hospitals and clinics, but had not yet trained Libyan nurses. The request came from the good example of the two Italian Franciscan nurses who assisted Gaddafi’s father until his death. In Libya today there are about 80 Catholic nuns (mainly Indian and Filipino, but also Italian) and 10 thousand Catholic nurses from the Philippines and India, as well as many Filipino, Indian, Lebanese, Italian doctors. Archbishop Martinelli said to me: “The presence of these young Christian women, professionally trained, polite, attentive to the needs of patients caring for them with love, are changing the image of Christianity among Muslims.” This is not allowed in any other Islamic country.

A second fact. I was in the desert at 900-1000 km. from Tripoli, where because of water pulled up from the depths of the earth the region is blooming. A lake of 35 km long and cultivated fields and towns, where 20 years ago there was nothing. The capital city in the region of Sabha has 80 thousand inhabitants, and is home to an Italian doctor and priest, Don Giovanni Bressan (Padova), was one of the founders of the central hospital. Don Bressan gathered to him many refugees from African countries south of the desert (Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, etc..) He founded a church, a school and a community centre for them. The Africans work and are paid for three or more years, remaining in the south, then when they have enough money they attempt to reach Italy! They do all kinds of jobs and are seen as honest and strong workers. Don Vanni (Giovanni) succeeds in stopping some families, others want to come to Italy, or Europe. The process towards full integration of Libya into the modern world and the Charter of Rights had begun. I am not defending Gaddafi and his dictatorship, but it does seem only fair to testify aspects of his rule that have been completely ignored in recent days.

On March 26, Magdi Cristiano Allam wrote about in the Italian newspaper “Il Giornale”: “In the war that has broken out in Libya and which sees Italy on the front line, the only real certainty, beyond the intentions of those who unleashed it, is that the Islamists will win and that, consequently, the populations of eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean will be increasingly submissive to sharia, the Islamic law that denies fundamental human rights and legitimises theocratic dictatorship. An outcome that is exactly the opposite of the official proclamations of Sarkozy and Obama and their excessive use of catchphrases such as ‘freedom and democracy’. “

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

Libya: Day Before Transferring Command, US Most Active

(AGI) Washington — A few hours from passing command to NATO, US air force continues to lead the strafing. Out of 167 sorties completed between 21:30 on Saturday and 17:00 on Sunday, 97 were performed by Americans. This brings the percentage to almost 62% out of 1,424 sorties executed since the beginning of operations on 19 March last.

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

Libya: Rebels Reportedly Close in on Gaddafi’s Birthplace

Tripoli, 28 March (AKI) — Emboldened by recent victories and air raids under Nato command, Libyan rebels on Monday continued to fight their way west, approaching Sirte, the birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi.

Opposition forces over the weekend took control of two important oil towns.

Brega, the main oil export terminal in eastern Libya, fell after fighting late Saturday, and rebels were victorious in Ras Lanuf, the location of a large oil refinery.

Sirte lies on the coast about halfway between Tripoli and and Benghazi.

Taking Sirte would be a symbolic victory for the rebels who have claimed a string of victories since UN-backed airstrikes began more than one week ago.

Heavy explosions separately were reported in Tripoli where Libyan officials claim more than 100 civilians were killed by coalition bombing.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi promised to fight on.

“We will fight until the last man to safeguard brother Gaddafi’s revolution,” one fighter was quoted as saying.

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

Libya: Rebels: Deal With Qatar on Oil Exports

(ANSAmed) — BENGHAZI, MARCH 28 — The Libyan rebels “have reached an agreement” with Qatar on oil exports from the east of Libya, one of the rebels reports: “the next delivery is scheduled in less than a week”.

All major oil terminals in the eastern part of the country (Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Brega, Zueitina and Tobruk) are now in the hands of the rebels, after they conquered Ben Jawad yesterday.

The rebels say that they are ready to export oil “in less than a week” and that they are able to produce “between 100,000 and 130,000 barrels per day”.

The oil fields that were conquered in the past 48 hours will allow the rebels to “produce at least 100,000, 130,000 barrels per day, and we can easily reach 300,000”, said Ali Tarhoni, in charge of the rebels’ economic affairs.

Ras Lanuf, considered to be the second most strategic site for the Libyan energy sector, houses a refinery with a capacity of 220,000 barrels, as well as many oil and gas fields. The other conquered city, Marsa el Brega, hosts an important export terminal. Tobruk, another oil centre in the country, has stayed in the hands of the rebels since the start of the uprising against Gaddafi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Indonesia Calls for Immediate Cease Fire

Jakarta, 28 March (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia, the word’s most populous Muslim country, has called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya between members of the local military and allied forces (including the US, France and UK among others), fearing further civilian casualties.

Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa told a working meeting House of Representatives commission on Monday that an immediate ceasefire in Libya had become urgent.

“In the past eight days we have seen an increase in the number of civilian victims and therefore there should be an immediate truce, the presence of UN forces in the field, and a political process in Libya,” Marty said.

He also said that Indonesia rejected violence of any kind in Libya.

“In reality from the beginning we have rejected violence by Gaddafi’s followers, rebels, and even the coalition group because violence itself will only cause suffering to the civil population.”

Various issues including those related to the Libyan conflict and the post-tsunami management for Indonesian citizens in Japan will be discussed at a working meeting between Marty and Commission I.

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

North African Bishops Believe Raids Perceived as Crusade

(AGI) Vatican City — North African bishops fear that regardless of the truth, the war in the Maghreb will be seen as a crusade.

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

Rebel Advance Picks Up Speed

Western Intervention in Libya Enters New Phase

With the help of coalition air strikes, anti-Gadhafi forces are making sustained progress toward the Libyan capital Tripoli. The Western military intervention appears to have entered a new phase. Instead of just protecting civilians as foreseen under the UN resolution, coalition forces are actively supporting rebel fighters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy-Cameron: Gaddafi Out and Transition to NTC

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 28 — Gaddafi must stand down “immediately” and transition in Libya must be entrusted to the National Transition Council. This is according to a joint statement by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Sarkozy and Cameron have told the Libyan leader’s supporters to “abandon Gaddafi before it is too late”. Tomorrow, at the so-called “contact group” summit being held in London, “the international community will meet to give its backing to a new beginning in Libya. A new beginning in which the Libyan people will be free from violence and oppression, free to choose their own future”.

“Military action is not an objective in itself. A lasting solution can only be political and decided by the Libyan people,” the two leaders said. “This is why the process that begins tomorrow in London is important”. The joint statement features a reference to the words of the Arab League resolution, according to which the current Libyan regime “has lost all credibility” and as such, “Gaddafi must stand down immediately”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Audio: Radio Host Taunts Terrorist: ‘Are You Scared?’

Aaron Klein demands explanation for group using civilians as human shields

“You are a leader of Hamas. Are you afraid? Do you think that Israel may target you? Are you scared?”

Those questions were posed today to the spokesperson for the Hamas organization, Fawzi Barhoum, just hours after Israel successfully eliminated two Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza as they were attempting to fire a rocket into Israel.

Barhoum was being interviewed by WND’s senior reporter, Aaron Klein, on Klein’s radio program on New York’s WABC Radio.

[see article for full audio of interview.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Uproar Closer With Syrian Uprising, Israel Hesitates

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — Israel considers diplomatic peace initiatives too risky facing the unexpected upheaval in the Arab world and the tottering of political set-ups that appeared to be permanent. The country has decided to “do nothing”, which may only appear so from the outside but is certainly not appreciated by its U.S. ally. This is the way the Israeli press and observers describe Premier Benyamin Netanyahu’s stance during the Syrian crisis, underlining that the Premier is convinced that the uproar in the region — which has also upset the balance of countries nearby like Jordan and particularly Syria — is at most a reason to stress the need for security in the Jewish State: also in the case of peace agreements, thought these are only hypothetical at the moment. In the past days the Israeli Premier focused on the security issue, always an important issue for Netanyahu, saying that the lesson to be learned from what is happening in the area is that Israel can never let go of its strategic “assets” in any scenario of the constitution of a Palestinian State, like control over — or a military presence in the occupied Jordan Valley. Concerned that the ongoing commotion could lead to instability on the short- and medium term, the Premier claims that nothing guarantees that agreements that are signed today with the Palestinians or other interlocutors would be respected by future governments in which radical forces are seated that want to destroy the Jewish State, perhaps supported by the people. Political analysts in Israel come to different conclusions about what is going on in the Arab world.

Political commentator Aluf Benn writes in newspaper Haaretz that the ongoing events “herald the last days of the Sykes-Picot agreement from World War I, which in effect divided the region of the Middle East into separate states. Now it is apparent that maps drawn in the coming years will show new or renewed independent states such as South Sudan, Kurdistan, Palestine, maybe also Cyrenaica”. A different and more structured panorama in which Israel would have more room to manoeuvre. Another journalist, Avi Issacharov, wonders whether the rule of President Bashar al Assad in Syria — an enemy Israel knows well and with whom the country has established some unspoken rules — has reached its final stages. He warns that experience teaches that regional regimes in the past resorted to a “strategy of tension” with an external enemy, with good results. The journalists continues that this is what Iran is doing at the moment, sending more weapons to Syria, Hezbollah and Lebanon, to the fundamentalist Islamic movements in Gaza. And it is what Hamas seems to be trying to do, lighting the fuse at the Israeli border again to distract people’s attention from some new internal conflicts in the Gaza Strip. Other analysts say however that the uprisings themselves show that this strategy could not pay off any longer, at least for the moment. The Orientalist Guy Bechor writes that “something disturbing has happened in the Middle East. The sole bond that linked the sects, religions, tribes, nationalities and minorities — that mutually hate each other — was their hostility towards Israel. And this bond no longer works”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bomb Against Church in Zahle as Fear of a Resurgence in Terrorism Grows in Lebanon

The blast occurred overnight on Saturday against Our Lady Syro-Orthodox Church in Zahle, in the Bekaa Valley. A few days ago, a group of Estonian cyclists was abducted in the same area. “It is the beginning of a new series of attacks,” says Amin Gemayel.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A terrorist attack was carried out against the Syro-Orthodox Church of Our Lady of Zahle overnight on Saturday. Just after 4 am, a 2-kg device with TNT, nails and pieces of metal, exploded in front of the church’s main entrance, devastating the interior as well as parked cars and nearby houses. A man, Assad Bechara, was wounded when some pieces of glass struck his legs. Benedict XVI was probably referring to this and similar episodes yesterday, during the Angelus, when he said, “Finally, my thoughts turn to the authorities and citizens of the Middle East, where in recent days there have been several incidents of violence, so that the path of dialogue and reconciliation be privileged in the search for a just and brotherly coexistence.”

The attack did not discourage the faithful however, who took part in the Sunday morning Mass celebrated by Mgr Boulos Safar, the Syro-Orthodox bishop of Zahle, on the damaged parvis of the church.

The Minister of Culture, Salim Wardy, some members of the National Assembly, the local security chief in the Bekaa as well as the president of the Syriac League in Lebanon took part in the function.

In his homily, Mgr Safar said, “This attack is a message to undermine security in Lebanon”, but the “Church will not close its doors, whatever the consequences.”

Many take the abduction of a group of Estonian cyclists near Zahle a few days ago and this attack as a sign that terrorist groups are back in action.

Outgoing Minister Elie Marouni said it was a message, whilst Amin Gemayel, historic leader of the Phalange, said he feared the Zahle bomb was just the beginning of a new series of attacks.

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

Caroline Glick: The Syrian Spring

Amidst the many dangers posed by the political conflagration now engulfing the Arab world, we are presented with a unique opportunity in Syria. In Egypt, the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak has empowered the Muslim Brotherhood. The Sunni jihadist movement which spawned al-Qaeda and Hamas is expected to emerge as the strongest political force after the parliamentary elections in September.

Just a month after they demanded Mubarak’s ouster, an acute case of buyer’s remorse is now plaguing his Western detractors. As the Brotherhood’s stature rises higher by the day, Western media outlets as diverse as The New York Times and Commentary Magazine are belatedly admitting that Mubarak was better than the available alternatives…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Durbin Launches the ‘Anti-Pete King’ Hearing

How curious. At the very moment that the threat posed to U.S. interests by the toxic Islamist organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood is becoming ever more palpable, a top Senate Democrat seems determined to suppress Americans’ understanding of that menace.

Even the New York Times is now acknowledging the obvious: the principal beneficiary of the forced departure of an Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak — a double-dealing leader who nonetheless passed, in the hall of mirrors that is Mideast politics, for a reliable U.S. ally — will likely be the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikwhan in Arabic).

That means an organization explicitly committed to waging jihad to achieve the worldwide imposition of the Islamic politico-military-legal program its adherents call shariah will soon: run the most populous Arab Muslim nation; control the strategic Suez Canal, through which 5% of the world’s oil passes every day; and be armed with a vast, American-supplied arsenal of sophisticated and modern weapons.

Unfortunately, a similar outcome may be in store for Libya, whose so-called “rebels” and “freedom fighters” appear actually to be drawn from the ranks of the Brotherhood, its spin-off known as al Qaeda or other Islamist factions. Some of those to whom we are now providing with air cover and perhaps soon armaments are said to have returned home from Iraq where they were, until recently, trying to kill U.S. forces. Variations on the basic theme of MB fomenting and exploiting “Arab Springs” may also play out shortly across the Mideast, from Tunisia to Saudi Arabia, from Syria to Yemen…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Iraq: “True Democracy in Muslim Countries Only if Christians Are Equal Citizens, “ Says Mgr Sako

The archbishop of Kirkuk, Mgr Louis Sako, speaks at a conference organised by Aid to the Church in Need in Würzburg, Germany. Uprisings in Arab countries leave little room for optimism. “I hope things will evolve differently in Iraq,” the bishop says.

Würzburg (AsiaNews) — “Aid to the Church in Need” organised a world conference titled “Welt Kirche in Würzburg”, in Germany on 18-20 March 2011, on the situation of Christians in Muslim counties. Many bishops from Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria and elsewhere took part in the event. Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, was among them. He expressed serious concerns about how ‘Jasmine Revolutions’ were developing in many countries of North Africa and the Middle East.

The Chaldean prelate saw few signs of optimism in the events now unfolding in Arab countries, like mass protests and popular unrest, which have front-page in newscasts, newspapers, magazines and websites. The sight of crowds praying or shouting slogans gives the impression of a wave of extremism.

Media are always talking about Islamic parties. Many Muslims want an Islamic state. After the collapse of regime that lacked a direction and vision, questions abound. Will things improve? Will there be security? Who comes next? Who is pushing these masses of young people? Who is funding the movement? I hope things will evolved differently in Iraq.

The bishop described the situation in Iraq, where for the past eight years, “we have lived with different kinds of oppression. Establishing freedom and democracy takes time and education, especially a separation between politics, which is based on interests, and religion, which is based on ideals that cannot be compromised.”

“Democracy cannot function if Islam is not updated. We must work together for a civilian state in which the only criterion is citizenship,” he said.

“In Iraq, the post-Saddam government, and the people, have proclaimed democracy, but democracy cannot be imposed by pushing a magic button. Eight years after the US invasion, we do not have democracy in Iraq. Indeed, we have groups fighting each. Instead of democracy, we have a growing sectarian problem, with expulsions, abductions and attacks.”

“We Christians are at a disadvantage, socially and religiously discriminated. More than half of the country’s Christians have left, but others are leaving as well. The exodus is never-ending. If Islamisation continues, there will be no Christians left. A million Christians used to live here; now 400,000 are left. Christians certainly respect Muslims, but Muslims must also recognise Christians are real citizens, not as second-class citizens. There must be a clear and courageous decision by the state, as well as Muslim authorities.”

In fact, Mgr Sako issued an appeal to Muslim authorities. “It is necessary,” he said, “that Muslim religious leaders get involved in dialogue to build a multicultural and multi-religious society and reduce inter-religious tensions and conflicts so as to build true coexistence. Sectarian and provocative speeches do not help humanity’s development and are contrary to the universal religious message of ‘Peace on earth’.”

“We must work together for a civilian state in which the only criterion is citizenship. The government, police, army, courts and all institutions should uphold the law and maintain order among all citizens.”

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

‘It Will Not Stop’: Syrian Uprising Continues Despite Crackdown

Earlier this year, Syrian President Bashar Assad boasted his country was immune to the revolution bug. But a wave of uprisings, which began last week, have rattled his confidence. Protesters say they will keep up the pressure — despite an iron-fist response from pro-Assad militias.

Now tightly controlled Syria has become the latest flashpoint for pro-democracy protests that have swept large parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Syria, of all places, Israel’s autocratically ruled neighbor and a potential peace partner. A Syria that is an ally of Iran and funder of the Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. And also a country accused by United Nations atomic inspectors of trying to assemble a nuclear weapons program with North Korean assistance. But it is also the Syria that, at least in the eyes of the West, is a pivotal player in the region, a country leaders would like to woo away from the axis of hard-line states in the region.

Among those carefully monitoring developments is an aging dissident sitting in his large apartment in central Damascus. Alongside a few dozen others he fought for this revolution for over a decade — and spent more than half of that time in a desert prison in Adra.

Now, finally, a genuine uprising is happening, without him, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Damascus in the provincial capital of Daraa. “I don’t know if the people hate the president,” says the political moderate who preferred to remain anonymous given the recent wave of arrests. “But I’m sure they hate his regime, the corruption, the injustice, the poverty. It will not stop.”

The leaders of the revolt are not the intellectuals nor the prominent opposition figures, such as the dissident in Damascus. Nor are they Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood, who President Bashar Assad constantly warns are the greatest danger to the country’s stability. Instead, the uprising in Syria broke out spontaneously, as happened in Tunisia months before. The uprising is spearheaded by Sunni tribal leaders from a region bordering Jordan, people who were minor political players in the past and considered loyal to the government.

Last week, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of Daraa’s al-Omari mosque. Some had been camping there while others streamed in from the nearby towns. Eyewitnesses say that the first attack on demonstrators came at 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday and lasted three hours. A woman standing at a window was shot and killed. Gunfire filled the city for the entire day.

By Wednesday evening, 15 people from the anti-government protesters had been killed, including Ali Ghassab al-Mahamid, a well-known doctor who had rushed to the mosque to help care for the wounded.

‘Foreign Agents and Armed Gangs’

In an interview given to the Wall Street Journal at the end of January, Assad had declared his country was immune from the revolutionary uprisings and could “avoid the viscious circle.” He also claimed to have the “support” of his people. In fact, the 45-year-old president isn’t as unpopular as the Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali or Egypt’s elderly President Hosni Mubarak were before being ousted. On the other hand, he has never been able to implement the reform program he announced upon taking office 11 years ago given the deeply rooted power of the Baath Party and the intelligence service, the mainstays of his power.

Assad is a member of the Alawis, a branch of Shiite Islam, who make up only 6 percent of Syria’s population. His initial response to the insurgents was the iron fist. He sent his younger brother Maher, the commander of the Presidential Guard, to Daraa to crush the uprising. State-run television showed images of AK-47s and hand grenades seized from rebels when government forces raided the mosque. The regime spread rumors that foreign powers, meaning Israel and the United States, were inciting the revolt. Foreign agents had egged on security forces to shoot at demonstrators with live ammunition, they said, and “armed gangs” were allegedly responsible for the fatal attack on the doctor.

But now, after his initial violent reaction, Assad apparently wants to be less brutal than his father Hafez, who in 1982 bombarded the western Syrian city of Hama to stop an opposition uprising. His massacre killed as many as 30,000 people. To this day, Syrians have not recovered from the shock…

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

Saudi Arabia: Political Prisoners Time Bomb, Scholar

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 28 — The issue of political prisoners who have been held in Saudi Arabia’s jails for many years without trial is a time bomb that has to be defused as soon as possible. This statement was made by Saleh Al Foran, member of the organisation of Great Religious Scholars, quoted by newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

Al Foran proposes to release the prisoners with the necessary guarantees, or to establish a date to trial those who have to be judged. The Saudi king, according to Al Foran, does not accept the situation of overcrowding in some prisons and particularly the lack of separation between young prisoners, who have committed their first crime, and those who have been in prison for many years. Most of the families of political prisoners, Al Foran underlines, are not interested in the financial support that was recently offered by the king, but focus on the moment their relative will be released from prison. There are no official numbers saying how many political prisoners are in jail without trial for many years now, but some observers believe they are more than 10,000.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Local Elections, Women Again Denied Vote

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, MARCH 28 — Women will again be denied the right to vote in the upcoming local elections in Saudi Arabia, which are due to be held on April 23. The announcement was made by the head of the electoral commission, Abdel Rahman al-Dahmach.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck Exclusive: CBN Obtains Iranian Govt. Video Saying Mahdi is Near

New evidence has emerged that the Iranian government sees the current unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi—or Islamic messiah—is about to appear.

CBN News has obtained a never-before-seen video produced by the Iranian regime that says all the signs are moving into place—and that Iran will soon help usher in the end times.

While the revolutionary movements gripping the Middle East have created uncertainty throughout the region, the video shows that the Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand.

The propaganda video has reportedly been approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government.

Click the link above to watch my exclusive CBN report, featuring clips from the Iranian regime-produced video.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Syria Security Forces Fire on Protesters in Deraa

(AGI) Damascus — Syrian security forces have fired on hundreds of persons demonstrating against the emergency law in Deraa.

Witnesses reported the news. Moving on the main square in Deraa, where protest demonstrations began against Bashar al Assad’s government and were bloodily repressed, protesters intoned, “We want dignity and freedom” and “No to the emergency laws,” in place since 1963.

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

Syria: Protests: Sana Agency, Saudi King Backs Assad

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 28 — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia today talked over the telephone with Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Abdullah expressed Saudi Arabia’s support to Assad in dealing with what he called “the complot against Syria’s security and stability”. The news was reported by the Syrian State news agency SANA, without further details. Syria and Saudi Arabia last year came to a partial reconciliation after four years of diplomatic freeze following the Lebanese crisis. Damascus, an ally of Iran since 30 years, has been supporting the Shiite pro-Iranian movement Hezbollah for years, which leads a coalition of rival political parties in Lebanon led by the party of outgoing Premier Saad Hariri, who is backed by Saudi Arabia. Syria has been the stage of unprecedented protest against the regime for two weeks now. The authorities blame the violence in the southern region and in other cities in the country on “fundamentalists” and “armed groups”, instigated from outside the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: As Violence Mounts, Bleak Outlook for Iraqi Refugees

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 28 — As violent protests continue to shake Syria, an uncertain future stretches out before the hundreds of thousand of Iraqi refugees who had found a temporary or permanent home in the country.

Having escaped the war in their own country, they are now the poorest and most vulnerable sector of Syria’s population — a ‘destabilising’ element — even in the view of the UN’s refugee-protection body, the UNHCR — but a sector which can in turn itself be destabilised and exploited, or which could well find itself in the crossfire between political, ethnic and sectarian enmities. According to the most recent estimates, there are around one million of these people, a figure which is in continuous flux (some years ago estimates put them at two million) but which nonetheless represents a huge slice of the population of a country with a total of just 19 million inhabitants. Along with Jordan (which has 500,000 refugees), Syria is the country that has borne the greatest part of the humanitarian costs of the Iraq war.

Iraqi refugees in Syria represent every part of the jig-saw puzzle which makes up Iraqi society: there are both Shiite and Sunni Muslims, as well as many Christians, Orthodox Syrians, and Catholic Chaldeans. During the first years of the Iraqi conflict, official Syrian data say that they were arriving in the country at a rate of between 40 and 50 thousand each month. At the end of 2009, Syria decided to close its 600-kilometre-long border with Iraq, in response to accusations from Baghdad that Damascus was protecting two terrorists. This diplomatic crisis, which saw the recalling of the countries’ respective ambassadors, was patched up last month and the caravans of Iraqi refugees have recommenced crossing the desert.

The biggest concentrations of refugees are to be found in Damascus (where entire city areas are in their hands) and in Aleppo, two cities which have until now seen very little of the anti-Assad uprising. Over these years, the Syrian regime has guaranteed these refugees with visas, free health-care and education for their children. But there has never been true integration and Syrians do not appear to be very welcoming of their Iraqi guests. “When hundreds of thousands of people appear on your doorstep, it becomes difficult to live alongside them,” complained the heads of the Chaldean parish of St John in the heart of Damascus to foreign journalists recently. “The Iraqi refugees have brought their hatred, grudge and wish for revenge for all that they have suffered in their country along with them, as well as their great poverty”. “They do not actually want to be integrated. They reproduce the intolerant strutures that have arisen in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein”.

According to humanitarian and voluntary organisations, the Iraqi refugees are living in various degrees of deprivation and from international aid; with their arrival en masse, levels of crime, of prostitution and begging have rocketed in Syria. But along with these, rents and the cost of living in general have risen.

And now it could be these refugees from violence in Iraq who find themselves bearing the brunt of this wave of unrest in Syria.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Excerpts of Banned Book Made Public

A website posts several lines that it claims came directly from a draft by Ahmet Sik.

Excerpts from a contentious unpublished book about the Turkish police have reached the public via a newly launched website, which claims it will publish an electronic version of the draft book on April 11, and pro-government newspapers.

The pro-government newspapers published excerpts from prosecutors’ reports over the weekend. The reports reportedly contained excerpts from the book, which police have been working to quash.

The website, which is owned by anonymous persons, announced Friday that it would publish Sik’s “Imamin Ordusu” (The Imam’s Army) on April 11 in a WikiLeaks format. As of Sunday it had posted several lines that it claimed came directly from the text.

Three buildings, including the offices of a mainstream newspaper, were raided by the police last week following a court decision to confiscate all copies of the book draft by journalist Sik, who was arrested two weeks ago. The 12th Court for Serious Crimes in Istanbul characterized the draft book as an “illegal organizational document” and also ruled that anyone who refused to hand in copies of the book would be accused of “aiding a criminal organization.”

The website, which includes a countdown timer to April 11, read Friday, “All Turkey will be shocked,” announcing that very few days remained until the publishing of the book online.

News about the website circulated via several Twitter accounts. “We have obtained the much-searched-for [copy of] Ahmet Sik’s draft book, which explains the relations between Gülen’s religious community and the [Turkish] police,” the website said, adding that it was currently under construction and would be launched April 11.

The website’s manager appears to be “cemaat” and the address in the site’s “Information” section is that of Fethullah Gülen’s real address in Pennsylvania. The person who purchased the URL apparently lives in Washington.

The website also clarified that the published content was for informational purposes only and it did not intend to do any advertising or gathering of information on Internet users that accessed it.

Various solidarity groups have been created on social networking websites since the copies of the unpublished books were seized by the police.

Sik’s unpublished book deals with an alleged organization founded within the Turkish police by the Gülen religious community. This has led to suspicions that Sik was arrested due to the book’s contents, rather than his involvement in the alleged Ergenekon gang, which he has worked as a journalist to expose.

Pro-government newspapers publish the secret investigation reports

The Prosecutors Office’s reports on Sik’s unpublished book draft were not shown to Sik’s lawyers, under the argument that they were part of a “secret investigation.” However, the reports were leaked to pro-government newspapers daily Zaman and daily Bugün yesterday.

Daily Bugün has published 50 pages of the secret investigation on its website. Daily Zaman also discussed the “secret” investigation reports in its headlines. Both newspapers accuse the arrested journalist Sik of “getting orders from the alleged Ergenekon organization while writing his book.”

The reports that accused Sik of being a member of Ergenekon were not shared with the arrested journalist or his lawyers, which legal experts called a “violation of [Sik’s] right to defense.”

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

Uprisings: Arab World Crisis Revives Turkey’s Role in Region

Although in some ways it is not yet clear how the uprisings that have recently occurred in a number of Arab countries will contribute to redrawing the internal balance of the countries themselves and of the Mediterranean, they have already certainly done much to restore a sheen to Turkey’s role as a regional power, a role to which the government of Islamic roots led by the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has aspired since he came to power in 2002.

After the diplomatic and political successes reached first with Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and then with their Tunisian counterparts, who clearly indicated Turkey as being “a model for the democratic development” of the respective countries, Ankara is currently involved in an area that stretches from Libya to Iraq via Syria. After weeks of opposition, reluctance and concern over potential intervention in Libya, only on March 23 Ankara leant its support to the NATO mission for the respect of the arms embargo against Tripoli and made five military ships and a submarine available, albeit in a non-operational military sense. Prime Minister Erdogan, however, was unyielding on one key point: “Turks will not fire so much as one shot against their Libyan brothers”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Uprisings: Iran Equivocates Over Gaddafi & Assad

(ANSAmed) — TEHERAN — An Islamic, anti-Western “revolution” along the lines of the one in Teheran in 1979: this is the gloss that Iran continues to give in official reporting of the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, with the exception, however, of Syria, an historic ally of the Islamic Republic in the region.

It is a line that would appear to be forcing the Iranian government into a certain amount of equivocation such as when, while launching an attack Gaddafi, it came down against the West’s military intervention, or while remaining silent over the protests against the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al Assad. There is also an internal contradiction with the repression of the opposition demonstrations in Iran, after they attempted last month to return to the streets in order to express support for the uprisings taking place in Arab countries.

Into this scenario come the growing tensions with the Gulf Arab states, which are accusing Iran of fomenting popular revolts among the Shiite-majority population of Bahrain.

“The oppressive governments,”Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said in reference to the Western intervention in Libya, “are bombing innocent civilians and destroying the infrastructure of other countries in order to dominate them”.

In the meantime, however, through its ‘National Council for Human Rights’, Teheran is condemning what it calls “the brutal and inhuman actions of the Libyan government against its own people” and state television is triumphantly announcing that “the countdown for the fall of the dictator,” i.e. Muammar Gaddafi, has started.

While Iranian television is giving constant coverage of what it is calling “revolutions” in the region, it limits itself to a few brief mentions of the protests in Syria, sticking to the official version coming out of Damascus and stressing that what is happening there is being “generated from abroad”. This comes as no surprise when one considers the vital importance of the ties between Iran and the Syrian regime, which have united in an anti-Israeli axis lending support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But even closer to Iran geographically is the crisis in Bahrain, an island off the southern coast of the Gulf which is host to the US navy’s fifth fleet and where the population is 70 per cent Shiite. The Arab monarchs of the Gulf, Sunnis, are more or less openly accusing the Islamic Republic, a Shiite stronghold in the region, of supporting the opposition there and the crisis has already seen the reciprocal expulsion of two diplomats by Bahrain and by Iran. For its part, Teheran has strongly condemned the intervention of the troops of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to which Saudi Arabia, Iran’s great rival in the region, belongs.

This is “a tragic event,”the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, said, adding that the intervention of Arab soldiers “will make the situation in the region more complex and the crisis difficult to resolve”.

Qatar, which has good relations with Iran, has cooled tempers a little, denying reports on an online Kuwaiti newspaper, Al Aan, that the Qatari authorities had seized two Iranian ships loaded with weapons off their coast close to Bahrain.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Factory Taken Over by Al-Qaeda Blows Up, 34 Dead

(AGI) Aden — A series of explosions has caused carnage at a munitions factory near Jaar, a port city in Southern Yemen.

Medical sources say that first estimates suggest that 34 people have been killed and 57 injured, many of them opponents of the regime and Islamic extremists, who were looting explosives. The munitions factory, along with a building containing a radio station and a local authority property had been taken over by militia with al-Qaeda links. Some of the injured have sustained serious burns.

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

Yemen: Explosion in Weapons Factory Kills at Least 80

Sanaa, 28 March (AKI) — At least 80 people were killed Monday by blast at weapons factory in southern Yemen that had been ransacked by armed insurgents, according to Dubai-based Arab-language news channel al-Arabiya.

Authorities said they expect the death toll to rise as they sift through the rubble and find further victims.

The factory near Jaar city manufactures ammunition and Kalashnikov automatic rifles. Militants not linked to Al-Qaeda reportedly seized the factory on Sunday.

Yemen is facing anti-government protests a successionist rebellion in the south and a militant Islamist insurgency believed to driven by Al-Qaeda in its south.

Evidence is emerging that the country is becoming an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

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

Yemen: Blast in Ammunition Factory, Victims Are Civilians

(ANSAmed) — ADEN, MARCH 28 — Most of the victims, at least 70, of this morning’s explosion in the ‘October 7’ ammunition factory in Batige are civilians . The town of Batige, in the Abyan province, is a rebel stronghold. A member of the council of Khanfar (district in which the town is situated), Mohsen Salem Said, said that the civilians victims had entered the factory in an attempt to recover weapons and ammunition. Yesterday a command of 30 armed persons (according to authorities linked to Al Qaeda) attacked the factory and stole cases of ammunition, without coming up against resistance. The cause of the blast is yet unclear. A spokesman of the Abyan province said that Al Qaeda has led the victims into a “death trap”. Yesterday alleged Al Qaeda militants clashed with the army in Abyan, killing one and seriously injuring another troop, and managed to take control of Jaar and nearby villages. Later they attacked the ammunition factory in Batige, at a distance of around ten kilometres. After neutralising the guards, they loaded the cases of ammunition on four vehicles and got away.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Defecting Officers Sacked and Replaced

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 28 — The Yemeni defence ministry has decided to fire the two high-ranking officers who last week joined the ranks of demonstrators: Major General Thabit Jawas and Colonel Mohammed Mohsen, a report in the daily Al Quds Al Arabi says.

At the same time, the Ministry appointed Colonel Husain Mushaba as Commander of the Fifteenth Infantry Brigade to replace General Jawas, and of Ahmed Birik as Commander of the East Zone of the country, to replace Mr Mohsen.

A further army officer, Major General Ali Mohsen Al Ahmer, a step-brother to the President and Commander of the North Zone of the country, also announced last week that he was defecting to the rebel demonstrators’ side. Along with him, dozens of other officers of various ranks decided to defect.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Gandhi ‘Left His Wife to Live With a Male Lover’ New Book Claims

Mahatma Gandhi was bisexual and left his wife to live with a German-Jewish bodybuilder, a controversial biography has claimed.

The leader of the Indian independence movement is said to have been deeply in love with Hermann Kallenbach.


The extraordinary claims were made in a new biography by author Joseph Lelyveld called ‘Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India’ which details the extent of his relationship with Kallenbach like never before.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Two Christians Killed, Churches Burned: Extremists Respond to Florida Koran Burning

In Hyderabad and Lahore, a mob of Islamic fundamentalists targeted the Christian places of worship. Desecrated several copies of the Bible. Anti-American slogans and demonstrations in different cities of Pakistan. The extremists pledge more violence, if Washington does not condemn pastor Jones to death. Bishop of Islamabad: the gesture of a “fanatic.”

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Two believers killed, churches attacked, copies of the Bible burned: the Christian community in Pakistan is once again the victim of violence by Islamic fundamentalists, who have targeted places of worship in the country. The extremist violence was triggered by the insane act — repeatedly condemned by Christians in Pakistan and India — of the pastor Wayne Sapp, who last March 20, in Florida burned a Koran under the supervision of the evangelical preacher Terry Jones. The escalating violence has raised alarm over the fate of Asia Bibi, a symbol of the abuses committed in the name of the blasphemy law. The bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi defines the US pastor a “fanatic” who encourages followers to a “violent ideology”, the consequences of which have an impact “on innocent Christians” across the world.

On March 25, a mob of Islamic extremists attacked a Pentecostal church in Hyderabad, killing two Christians and burning some copies of the Bible. Eyewitnesses said that the fundamentalists stormed the place of worship looking to set it on fire, but a group of believers defended the church. Security forces have fled the scene, leaving those present at the mercy of the crowd. The attackers hurled anti-Christian slogans and a feeling of anger toward the religious minority has spread. in the city The pastor of the church reports that “despite the condemnation of the burning of the Koran” the community “has come under attack because they think that we are linked to the Americans.” He emphasizes that “we are Pakistanis, who were born in this land and we do not have any kind of relationship with the United States.” “What fault did those two innocent people have — he ends — who were not Americans, but only Pakistani Christians?”.

In a second incident, the Full Gospel Assembly Church, in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore, was attacked. Again fundamentalists burned the church, threw copies of the Bible into the street and accused the Christians of blasphemy, claiming they found pieces of the Koran, not far from the church. During the attack some security guards were injured.

Meanwhile, the weekend demonstrations were repeated against the burning of the Koran wanted by Pastor Terry Jones in different cities of Pakistan — among other Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad. The demonstrators, who burned his picture and chanted slogans and chants against the United States, called for the death of U.S. preacher. Extremists also threatened reprisals and other targeted attacks against Christians, if the U.S. government fails to take action against Pastor Jones.

The Pakistani Christian community, however, in a show of support with Muslims, condemns, and demonstrates against the burning of the Koran. Catholic priest Fr. Anwar Patras, said that Christians are first of all Pakistanis, “we were born in this land and we will be buried here, we have no connection with Pastor Terry Jones and his sick ideas.” Condemning the attack, the religious priest shows sympathy for the two Christians killed “and reiterates that” the community is in danger”.

Recent violence has raised the alert level around Asia Bibi, the 45 year old Christian mother of five children, sentenced to death based on the “black law” and in prison, pending appeal. The Masih Foundation reports that “despite security measures” adopted in the cell, the woman is in danger. “She cannot eat prison food — continue the activists — but ingredients are provided to cook her own food, she prays and fasts for her own sake and for the current situation in Pakistan. The Catholic Church has asked for special prayers for her.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr. Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi, said that “Christian doctrine teaches tolerance and love,” the U.S. minister is a “fanatic” promoting “a sick ideology.” The prelate accused the American preacher of ignoring “the scope of his actions” and now Pakistani Christians “live with greater fear because his actions worsened our situation.” “There are examples of threats to churches and Bibles burned in some areas — concluded Msgr. Anthony — now innocent Christians will face the consequences. “

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

Far East

Europe and China Have Different Neandertal Genes

Green and colleagues hypothesized an early population mixture of Africans and Neandertals in West Asia, before that population dispersed throughout the rest of Eurasia. This hypothesis was meant to explain why China and Europe have the same proportion of Neandertal genes. I think that is also consistent with the fact that China and Europe have different Neandertal genes. If the population mixture was followed by substantial genetic drift as the West Asian population dispersed in different geographic directions, drift would randomly increase the frequency of some haplotypes in one direction, others in the other direction. Europe and China would end up with the same proportion of Neandertal ancestry, but it would be distributed very differently among loci.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Japan Fears Nuclear Reactor is Leaking Contaminated Water

Tokyo: Highly contaminated water is escaping a damaged reactor at the crippled nuclear power plant in Japan and could soon leak into the ocean, the country’s nuclear regulator warned on Monday.

The discovery poses a further setback to efforts to contain the nuclear crisis as workers find themselves in increasingly hazardous conditions.

In another new finding, plutonium was detected in soil at five locations at the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the complex, said. The company asserted that the plutonium, found in samples taken a week ago, posed no threat to public health and that only two samples appeared to have plutonium that came from the plant. Tests of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, which ended in 1980, left trace amounts of plutonium around the world.

The contaminated water threatening the ocean had radiation measuring 1,000 millisieverts per hour and is in an overflow tunnel outside the plant’s Reactor No. 2, Japan’s nuclear regulator said at a news conference. The maximum dose allowed for workers at the plant is 250 millisieverts in a year. Twitter

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The tunnel leads from the reactor’s turbine building, where contaminated water was discovered on Saturday, to an opening just 180 feet from the sea, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The contaminated water level is now about three feet from the exit of the vertical, U-shaped tunnel and rising, Mr. Nishiyama said.

Contaminated water was also found at tunnels leading from the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, though with much lower levels of radiation.

“We are unsure whether there is already an overflow” of the water out of the tunnel, Mr. Nishiyama said. He said workers were redoubling efforts to first remove the water from the Reactor No. 2 turbine building. Government officials have said that the water is probably leaking from broken pipes inside the reactor, from a breach in the reactor’s containment vessel or from the inner pressure vessel that houses the nuclear fuel.

The nuclear safety agency also reported that radioactive iodine 131 was detected Sunday at a concentration 1,150 times the maximum allowable level in a seawater sample taken about a mile north of the drainage outlets of reactor units 1 through 4. It also said that the amount of cesium 137 found in water about 1,000 feet from plant was 20 times the normal level, roughly equal to readings taken a week ago.

Mr. Nishiyama said there were no health concerns because fishing would not be conducted in the evacuation-designated area within about 12 miles of the plant, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The disclosure about the escaping contaminated water came as workers pressed their efforts to remove highly radioactive water from inside buildings at the plant. The high levels of radioactivity have made it harder for them to get inside the reactor buildings and control rooms to get equipment working again, slowing the effort to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools.

Read more at: ?cp

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somali Pirate Offers to Release Danish Family in Exchange for Hand of Daughter, 13

Life can be lonely on the high seas and one pirate has decided enough is enough, it’s about time he got himself a wife.

But the Somali pirate chief has taken a fancy to his 13-year-old Danish hostage — and he is so besotted with her he’s willing to let the rest of her family go free, and even forget the $5million dollar ransom his pirate colleagues demanded.

According to The Times, the pirate made the bizarre proposal during a conversation with a Danish reporter, who visited the African nation to track down the Johansen family who were taken hostage in the Indian Ocean more than a month ago.

Jan Quist Johansen, his wife Birgit Marie Johansen, their sons Rune and Hjalte and their daughter Naja, were kidnapped along with their two crewmen.

Their yacht was hijacked in the Indian ocean 260 miles from the coast just weeks from completing the end of their two-year voyage. They have been trapped on board the previously hijacked MS Dover, along with 20 other hostages, since February 24.

The reporter, from the tabloid Ekstra Bladet, was not allowed to speak to the family, but he spoke to the chief pirate who apparently revealed his plans for a bride.

The terrifying proposal puts more pressure on the authorities and hostage negotiators to free the family.

If the Danes give me permission to marry the girl, I will free the rest without any condition,’ Kristian Kornoe quoted the pirate chief as saying.

The reporter, who assumed the offer was never going to be accepted, said: ‘The father, Jan, seemed completely exhausted, even ill.

‘The rest of the family is tired and angry. The smell is unbearable … it is hot, the water is filthy.’

Henrik Ljung, a senior Danish psychologist, said ‘The offer of marriage was simply a way of applying psychological pressure, a show of force.

‘It’s an extremely effective tool if you want to raise money.’

Somali pirate Abdullahi Mohamed said earlier this month the gang responsible for the kidnap would kill all seven hostages if any attempt was made to rescue them.

The family, from Kalundborg, 75 miles west of Copenhagen, were planning to enter the Mediterranean through the Suez canal from the Red Sea.

That route would take the family through the Gulf of Aden, one of the most dangerous waterways in the world in terms of piracy.

It is the first time children have been captured.

Two days before they were captured Americans Jean and Scott Adam and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle were killed after their boats were seized by Somali pirates.

It is hoped that the Danish crew will be able to survive the ordeal as was the case with British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were finally released in November 2010 after 388 days in captivity in return for a secret £625,000 ransom.

Earlier on the same day that the Danish vessel was captured, Somali pirates also hijacked a Greek-owned cargo vessel with 23 crew on board.

The MV Dover was seized in the north Arabian sea, 260 miles north-east of the Omani port of Salalah.

There are three Romanians, 19 Filipinos and a Russian aboard the Panama-flagged vessel.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Chilean President Calls for EU-Like Union of Americas During Obama Visit

During President Obama’s visit to Latin America last week was a call for further integration of the Americas, as well as extended cooperation with Asia under a Trans-Pacific Partnership, that went almost unnoticed in the media. This is par for the course, as plans for borderless, regional government have patently development “by stealth” (as the documents released under FOIA request by Judicial Watch revealed).

Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera was quite direct in calling for “a new international order.”

With little fanfare and a world focused on other pressing events, President Obama and Chilean President Sebastián Piñera coordinated and furthered an agenda to integrate the entire Americas (both North and South) into a regional government. This agenda has been going on, really, for more than a century, as the Organization of American States (OAS) demonstrates. The creation of a North American Union is ultimately one stepping stone to a complete world government with a planned economy.

[Return to headlines]


Alarm Over Rubber Dinghy Departed From Libya

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), MARCH 28 — A rubber dinghy that has departed from Libya with 68 migrants on board, including many women and children, sent out an SOS last night.

Nothing has been heard from the boat since it sent its distress signal. The SOS was received via satellite phone by Don Mose’ Zerai, chairman of the Habeshia agency that assists refugees and asylum seekers. Last night the immigrants on board the dinghy said that they were around 60 miles off the Libyan coast, with little fuel and no provisions. Another boat that left Libya on Saturday night, carrying around 180 refugees, has been spotted by a fishing boat headed for the Sicilian coast.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Becoming Dutch to be Made Harder, Dual Nationality Ruled Out

Everyone who wants to adopt Dutch nationality will soon have to give up their original nationality if that is legally possible, home affairs minister Piet Hein Donner said on Monday.

At the moment, for example, people who marry a Dutch citizen can keep their original nationality if they decide to become Dutch as well.

‘Dutch citizenship is the crown on participation and integration into society,’ Donner said in a briefing, outlining plans to toughen up the rules on becoming Dutch. The new measures were included in the coalition agreement.

Language tests

The minister is also planning to introduce compulsory language tests for everyone. Some people are currently exempt.

New Dutch nationals will also have a family income of at least the minimum wage and show that they have at least two years work experience or have some sort of professional qualification.

The minister has opened an internet portal where everyone can comment on the proposed changes.

In four weeks time, the draft legislation will be sent to the council of state for its assessment.

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

First Libyan Refugees Arrive in Lampedusa

The first boats carrying hundreds of African refugees from Libya have arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, already overcrowded by Tunisian migrants who have left their country in search for a better life in Europe. In the early hours of Sunday (27 March), one boat carrying 284 people, mostly Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis, was escorted by the Italian coast guard to Linosa, an even smaller island in the vicinity of Lampedusa. Other boats have been detected by fishermen and the coast guard and were set to arrive on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: No to Workers Regularised in Spain

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 28 — France is giving a restrictive interpretation to a European directive, refusing to accept immigrant workers who have been regularised in Spain. The news was reported by sources in the French labour inspectorate, quoted today by newspaper Publico.

The directive in question is 2003/109/CE, which came into force in January 2004. It allows holders of a long-term residence permit issued by an EU member State to look for work in another member State. This right, sanctioned in the context of “free circulation of all people” and of equality, is currently reportedly violated by France. In this period, many non-EU workers with a long-term residence permit in Spain — where the unemployment rate was higher than 20.8% in 2010 — are looking for work in France, which has an unemployment rate of less than 14.5%. Ali’ Albaz, national coordinator of the Association of Maghreb workers in France (ATMF), quoted by the newspaper, said that the French authorities accept Romanians and migrants of all EU nationalities, but not non-EU citizens and immigrants who have been regularised in Spain. These people often have to undergo a language test, which is not required for European citizens. According to the quoted sources in the French Interior Ministry, a North African person with a Spanish residence permit that allows this person to work, can move freely in the Schengen area thanks to this permit. However, this person is not allowed to work in France, because the permit is valid in Spain only, which would make him an illegal immigrant in France. Still, article 14 of the European directive states that any non-EU citizen with a residence permit of more than 5 years, issued by a member State, has “the right to reside in other member States for longer than 3 months”, particularly for an economic activity as worker for someone else or as self-employed worker”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Lampedusa Fishermen Block Harbour Entry

(AGI) Palermo — Several fishermen of Lampedusa are using their boats to block the entry to the island’s harbour. They want to prevent the landing of more immigrants and protest against the island’s critical situation, where over 5,500 Tunisians are currently crowded up, 3,500 of whom have no shelter. Several boats are moored just outside the harbour entry. A few days ago, Lampedusa inhabitants protested and prevented, for a couple of hours, the berthing of a Coast Guard patrol boat that rescued a boat loaded with migrants. Hundreds of citizens have gathered on the docks while the slow process of giving immigrants meals and water carries on.

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

Lampedusa Council Members Chain Selves at Port

(AGI) Agrigento — Some center-right city council members have chained themselves at the port in Lampedusa to protest immigration. Several islanders also participated in the protest, provoked by the presence of thousands of Tunisians on the island. Amidst fears which have tried the spirits of islanders this morning, are those who chained themselves to the port on the arrival of health inspectors sent by the Health Ministry and the Region. The Lampedusans believe that, if cases of a particular disease should be discovered, the island could be put under quarantine.

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

Lampedusa Immigrant Crisis Worsens

Corriere della Sera, 28 March 2011

The refugee emergency on Lampedusa continues to worsen, reports Corriere della Sera, with arrivals reaching a new high on Sunday — 2,000 in 24 hours — which takes the number of people packed into overcrowded facilities on the island to 7,000 (Lampedusa has resident population of 5,500). Interior minister Roberto Maroni had stern words for Italian regions that are reluctant to share in the burden of accommodating asylum seekers, and the Tunisian government, which he accused of breaching anti-immigration accords. In both cases, he is threatening to resort to coercive measures to relocate migrants. The Lega Nord representative reiterated his party’s opposition to intervention in Libya, which he believes will result in a protracted “quagmire,” and voiced support for the “soft” transition plan that Germany and Italy will present as an alternative to Franco-British proposals at the 29 March coalition summit.

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

Protesters Block Lampedusa’s Port and Road

Six ships sent to empty island of immigrants

(ANSA) — Milan, March 28 — Government leaders sought fast action to abate an increasingly acute immigrant crisis on Lampedusa Monday. Six ships with a total 10,000-person capacity are to arrive Wednesday to empty the island of immigrants, Palermo prefect Giuseppe Caruso announced.

The government is deploying five commercial passenger ships in addition to the military vessel San Marco, used last week to transport immigrants to Augusta and Taranto. In addition, the government is creating tented camps throughout the country and re-purposing barracks to host immigrants. Italy’s existing immigrant centers are nearly saturated, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said last week.

Meanwhile tensions are rising on Lampedusa as new arrivals flood the island’s shores at peak levels. About 3,700 immigrants have landed in Lampedusa in recent days, bringing the total number to roughly 7,000, or 1.5 times an increasingly hostile native population.

A group of fishermen towed four boats — recently used in immigrant landings — to block the entrance of the port. They hope to prevent speedboats from passing used to aid immigrant-packed vessels. From the pier, about 50 women urged them on and called other men to action.

Another group of Lampedusan residents have overturned three, large garbage bins in front of the port’s military access road, blocking transit and calling the government to come up with solutions to put an end to the immigrant crisis on the island. The protesters also threw two large containers holding water and stones. Some of the protesters were seated in front of the blockade, hoisting two flags: Sicily’s and Lampedusa’s. Police have them under observation.

“We don’t want to go into quarantine”, shouted a young man. Others cried out for a general strike. “We are the people of Lampedusa,” said one of the protesters.

“We want our freedom back. That’s all we ask. We are defending our dignity. We are tired”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Protests in Melilla After Deaths in Shack Fire

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 28 — Hundreds of immigrants today took part in a protest march from the temporary detention centre (CETI) in Melilla to the old town of the Spanish enclave in Morocco, demanding the right to reach the Iberian peninsula.

Police sources quoted by the Europa Press agency say that this is the second protest since the death early on Saturday of three immigrants in a fire in the shack in which they lived, next door to the temporary centre. Yesterday, around a hundred of the roughly 600 migrants staying at the CETI threw stones at agents of the civil guard, who had intervened to contain the beginning of the uprising, El Mundo online reports today.

Michel, Danier and James, the three sub-Saharan Africans who died in the fire, were living in a shack next door to the CETI, in order to avoid being identified by police and repatriated to their countries of origin.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Bride and Groom Taken Away in Handcuffs After Officials Raid ‘Sham Wedding’

A ‘bride and groom’ were today led away in handcuffs by police and immigration officials who raided a wedding service as part of an investigation into sham marriages.

The pair were among seven members of a wedding party detained by around a dozen officers, including staff from the UK Border Agency (UKBA), at Leeds Town Hall.

A border agency spokesman said a 23-year-old Pakistani man and a 22-year-old Slovakian woman were arrested as they prepared to take their vows.

Both were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to assist unlawful entry into the UK.

Three other Pakistani men, aged 21, 23 and 32, and two other Slovakian women, aged 22 and 32, were detained for questioning, the UKBA said.

Officers have also searched several addresses today in Leeds in connection with the investigation.

Acting Detective Inspector Pete Gallagher, of the UKBA immigration crime team, said: ‘We suspect that the sole purpose of this marriage would have been for the groom to avoid immigration controls and stay in the UK.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Church of England Row as Cathedral Opens Doors to Tarot Card Readers and Crystal Healers in ‘New Age’ Festival

The Church of England was braced for a fresh row today after a cathedral announced plans to host a ‘new age’ festival.

The event — featuring tarot card readers, crystal healers, dream interpretation, and a fire-breathing vicar — is to be held in Manchester Cathedral in May.

But the move is certain to anger traditionalists, who feel the Church has already strayed too far from tradition.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Fury at Equality Watchdog After it Calls for Teachers to Ask 11-Year-Olds if They Are Gay

Children as young as 11 could soon be asked about their sexuality without their parents’ consent, it has emerged.

Teachers, nurses and youth workers are being urged to set up pilot studies aimed at monitoring adolescent sexual orientation for the first time.

A report commissioned by the Government’s equalities watchdog found that it was ‘practically and ethically’ possible to interview young children about their sexuality.

Controversially, it says parental consent, while ‘considered good practice’, is not a legal necessity.

The report for the much-criticised Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends that children should be asked if they are gay from the age of 11. A record should be kept of those unsure or ‘questioning’ their sexuality.

It says monitoring sexual orientation among youngsters could help to prevent them from becoming victims of discrimination, and claims that ‘some young people begin to question their sexual orientation as early as age eight and may begin to identify as LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) from early adolescence’.

The report has provoked outrage. Graham Stuart, Tory chairman of the Commons education select committee, said the plans were ‘invasive, sinister and threatening’.

He added: ‘School should be a place of safety, not a place where pupils are picked over for the purpose of some quango; and many children won’t understand what they are talking about.’

The report — Researching and Monitoring Adolescence and Sexual Orientation: Asking the Right Questions, at the Right Time — says it is ‘critical’ to track children’s sexuality to ‘shed light on the complexities of young people’s developing sexual orientation and how this may disadvantage them’.

It tell researchers not to dismiss gay feelings of interviewees as ‘a passing phase’.

Some youngsters, it says, may use categories such as ‘questioning’, ‘queer’, ‘pansexual’, ‘genderqueer’, ‘asexual’, ‘pan-romantic’ and even ‘trisexual’.

Last night, a commission spokesman said: ‘This is independent research produced to help the commission form its policy direction.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


New Technology to Block Chip Counterfeiting

Researchers showed how manufacturers can keep their chips from being counterfeited by using physical unclonable functions.

Product counterfeiters are increasingly targeting chips and electronic components, using such tools as scanning electron microscopes, focused ion beams, and laser bolts to intercept security keys.

In response, manufacturers are turning to new security technologies to protect their profits, as well as the safety of consumers and the reputations of their brands.

The researchers showed how manufacturers can keep their chips from being counterfeited by using physical unclonable functions, or PUFs. Because small variations inevitably occur when electronic components are produced, every component is created with the equivalent of a unique fingerprint.

For example, printed circuits produced by different companies end up with slight differences in thickness or length during the manufacturing process. These variations can be used to create a distinct code for that specific type of circuit.

The Fraunhofer approach embeds a PUF module directly into a chip, microchip, or smartcard. The module features a ring oscillator that generates a unique clock signal, which allows the chip’s precise material properties to be determined.

Special electronic circuits then read these measurement data and generate a key from that data. Because the code is always based on the system properties at that precise moment in time, it can’t be extracted and cloned.

[Imagine producing a painting whose authenticity could be determined by examining a tiny window in one corner where light would be allowed to shine through all the different colors used in creating the image. The actual color of light passing through this small certification window would vary depending upon illumination in the room and, therefore, vary at any given time so that an image taken of the painting would not have a certification window that responded in the same manner.

The above analogy is a very rough approximation of the ring oscillator approach being used. The oscillator’s outputted tone signal will vary depending upon environmental conditions like heat, just as the painting’s certification window would vary due to ambient illumination. The oscillator’s behavior also is influenced by specific layer thicknesses and conductivities of those thin films used to construct the integrated circuit; just as the various layers of different colored pigments would affect transmission of light through the painting’s certification window.

In the electronic version of this concept, even the most exacting replication of layer thickness and conductive properties would not readily yield a precisely identical duplication of the ring oscillator’s behavior. Original production runs of genuine chips would be tested to extract the frequency spectrum of anticipated oscillator output. This would serve as an authentication “code” when performing lot acceptance testing of incoming chip shipments at end-user customer sites. Knowledge of these authentication values would not be of much help in perfecting any counterfeits as they still would not reveal all of the structural details responsible for them.

Another comparison would be like that of fingerprint traits. Merely knowing specifics like loop and whorl structure of a given print will not allow you to accurately reconstruct the entire fingerprint. In a similar manner managing to reproduce all of the integrated circuit’s characteristics in order to successfully counterfeit an original would require more reverse engineering analysis costs and excruciating levels of fabrication process control to the point of erasing any profit potential gained from making the copies. — Z]

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]