Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110402

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Card or Cheque Only for Payments Over 3000 Euros
»Ireland Eaten Again by Zombie Banks
»‘Shadow Inventory’ Of 1.8 Million Homes Could Prolong Housing Slump
 
USA
»Bully for You
»Mosque Controversy Brewing in Bridgewater, N.J.
»Obama Campaign Racks Up Unprecedented Legal Fees
»The Other War Powers Act
»The Phony Arguments for Presidential War Powers
»U.S. Pastor Defiant After His Koran-Burning Publicity Stunt
 
Europe and the EU
»Britons Need to See Themselves as a Single Nation, Says Security Minister
»Car Preferred by 46% of Greeks, Eurobarometer
»EU: Diplomacy: Saving Private Ashton
»Italy: Fiat to Start Making New Panda at Restructured Naples Plant
»Italy: Filipino Confesses to Aristocrat’s Murder in 20-Year-Old ‘Cold Case’
»Italy: Waste Management Crisis in Naples, 1,650 Tons on Streets
»Napolitano Tells U.N. Italy Wants End of Death Penalty
»Slovenia: Italian Exports Rising, +16.7% in 2010
»Spain: 60% of Olive Oil Produced in 2010 Exported
»UK: A Nation Divided: Britain is No Longer Split by Class. Instead the Social Chasm is Between Taxpayers and the Public Sector
»UK: Britain is Sleepwalking Into a Historic Disaster
»UK: Left-Wing: Shallow and Oh-So Politically Correct…
»UK: Shaming the St George’s Cross: Vile EDL Thugs in 2,000-Strong Hate Protest Wear Flag-Coloured Burkas to Confront Muslims
»UK:12 Arrests in Blackburn EDL Protest and Counter-Demo
 
Balkans
»Bosnia: End Discrimination Against Minorities, Hammerberg
»Kosovo: Election of President Ruled Unconstitutional
»Serbia: French Investors Helped to Create 10,000 Jobs
 
North Africa
»Egypt: Ex-Petroleum Minister ‘Gave Mubarak 5.5 Kg Gold Bar’
»Italy: ‘Emergency’ Rallies to Protest Against War in Libya
»Libya: Bishop of Tripoli Reports 8 Killed in Air Raids on Sirte
»Libya: GB Defense Secretary, “Legitimate to Arm Rebels”
»Libya: UK Ambassador Helped Saif Gaddafi With Thesis
»Libyan Government Spurns ‘Mad’ Ceasefire
»Libyan Rebels Seek Cease-Fire After U.S. Vows to Withdraw Jets
»Our Principles? The Libyan Insurrection and the Mohammed Cartoons
»The Attack on Libya Crossed a Very Bright Constitutioanl Line
»Where Do Gitmo Graduates Go?
 
Israel and the Palestinians
»Arab Spring: Male-on-Female Atrocity in Gaza Disappeared by the Western Media
»Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative
»Terrorist Alerts in the Sinai-Israelis Warned to Leave
 
Middle East
»Iraq: Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Tikrit Attacks
»Lebanon: Italian Vehicle Exports Grow in 2010
»Not All Revolutions Are the Same: We’d Better Learn it Quickly
»Oman Police Open Fire on Protesters in Sohar
»Syria: Mass Arrests During Funerals of Protest Victims
»Syria: New Protests Lead to Wave of Arrests by Regime
»The Arab Boomerang
»US Pulls Its Planes and Missiles, As Libya War Appears
 
Russia
»Russia’s Looming Population Crisis
 
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Deadly Blast at UN Compound Draws Condemnation
»India: Gandhi Was Gay and in Love With a German
»Pakistan: Court Ordered Governments to Locate Family of Davis’ Victims
»Pakistan Skating on Thin Bahraini Ice
»UN Office Head ‘Claimed to be Muslim’ To Survive Afghan Mob
 
Far East
»Arab Uprisings: Tremonti: The Avalanche Will Reach Asia
»China: Ordinary Cases of Pollution: Aluminium in Rivers and Lead in Blood
»Japan’s Attempt to Plug Leaking Reactor Fails
»Japan Utility Says 2 Workers Died at Nuke Plant in Tsunami; 1st Confirmation of Deaths There
»North Korea Nears Completion of Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb
 
Australia — Pacific
»Funds to Counter Violence
»Gunshots Prompt Prayers for Peace
»How I Lost Faith in Multiculturalism
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
»2 Malawi University Campuses Closed After Protests
»Crowds Come Over Roads and by Helicopters for Tanzanian’s Cure-All Potion
»Ivory Coast: Gbagbo Forces Mobilise to Defend Institutions
 
Latin America
»Report: Hamas, Hezbollah Operatives in Brazil Are Planning Attacks Abroad
 
Immigration
»Another Mass Break-Out From Manduria Camp
»EU Must Share Refugees, European Council
»Italian Police Charge African Migrants at French Consulate
»Italy: Migrants Hold Peaceful Protest on Southern Lampedusa Island
»Italy Border Migrant Rejections ‘Legal’, Paris Tells EU
»Lampedusa Councillor’s Home Broken Into
»Mayor of Montichiari Challenges Govt’s Refugee Plans
»Migrants: Pakistani Hides Among School Trip Luggage
»Tension Runs High at Manduria Camp
 
General
»Facebook Sued for $1billion Over ‘Intifada’ Page Calling for Violence Against Jews
»Google CEO Wanted Political Donation Removed

Financial Crisis

Greece: Card or Cheque Only for Payments Over 3000 Euros

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 1 — As of today, all transactions between private parties and companies in Greece of more than 3,000 euros have to be executed using credit cards or cheques only. The goal of this measure, according to the Finance Ministry, is to monitor and control transactions between private parties in the context of the fight against tax evasion. The limit of 3,000 euros will be lowered to 1,500 euros on January 1 2012.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Ireland Eaten Again by Zombie Banks

The Irish Times, 1 April 2011

“Bondholders escape as €24bn put into banks,” headlines the Irish Times, in the wake of the Central Bank’s stress test results for the banking sector of 31 March. On a day immediately dubbed “Black Thursday”, it was announced that the state will now have to pour another €24 billion into Ireland’s toxic banks. “It will be the fifth bailout of the banks since 2008 and brings the total State support to €70 billion,” the Dublin daily notes. As a result of the announcement, all Irish banks are now state-owned, with every man, woman and child in the Irish Republic contributing €17,000 each to keep them afloat. So far the new government is resisting the idea that senior bondholders should be forced to share the burden, with Taoiseach (PM) Enda Kenny saying that such a tack would not be “reasonable or logical”. However, the Irish Times leader notes : — “the new Government must remember that it sought and obtained a mandate from the electorate not to allow the cost of bailing out the banks to sink the State.”

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


‘Shadow Inventory’ Of 1.8 Million Homes Could Prolong Housing Slump

This so-called shadow inventory amounted to 1.8 million properties at the end of January, Santa Ana mortgage research firm CoreLogic reported Wednesday. While that was a decrease from 2 million properties in January 2010, it remained about a nine-month supply because the sales pace has weakened this year in the absence of federal tax credits for buyers.

“We are still talking about a very large supply by any measure,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It is going in the right direction, but we are continuing to look at a situation where there is going to be downward pressure on house prices.”

The nation’s housing market increasingly appears headed for a double dip, and a large supply of distressed homes could hold back a long-term recovery. Home prices in January remained barely above lows hit during the worst of the recession, according to a closely watched index of 20 major American cities.

[…]

Shadow inventory, as defined by CoreLogic, is property that is in foreclosure, has a loan 90 days past due or has been taken back by a lender and is not yet listed for sale.

The CoreLogic statistics don’t include nearly 2 million homes that are more than 50% “underwater,” those worth less than half of the mortgage balance. These homes will probably fall into foreclosure in the near future, CoreLogic and other experts say.

“The reality is we just built too many homes and sold too many homes to borrowers who didn’t have any business buying them,” said Michael D. Larson, an interest rate and housing market analyst with Weiss Research. “Those homes have to be dealt with in one way or another.”

[…]

[Return to headlines]

USA

Bully for You

Governor Christie finally got around to defending his nomination of Sohail Mohammed to a Superior Court Judgeship in exactly the kind of cynically liberal way you expect,

“If it is disqualifying for the bench to be an Arab-American in New Jersey who represents innocent people and gets them released, then this isn’t the state I believe it is,” Christie said

But Sohail Mohammed isn’t being criticized for his actions as a lawyer… but as an activist who has come out in defense of the Fort Dix Six who plotted to kill US soldiers, for the Holy Land Foundation, Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al Arian… and many others. Who is linked to Islamic extremists via the American Muslim Union and who even tried to intimidate Coptic Christians in their time of mourning.

Christie’s disingenuous remark echoes a talking point circulated by Andrew Sullivan, that Sohail Mohammed’s only problem is, “Defending those innocents swept up in the police sweep after 9/11.” Except that’s not the case. Imam Mohammed Qatanani, a Muslim Brotherhood member associated with Hamas

What Christie is trying to distract from, is his own relationship to Imam Mohammed Qatanani, a Muslim Brotherhood member associated with Hamas, whom Christie defended when the US government was trying to deport him. Sohail Mohammed was Qatanani’s original lawyer, and a board member of the American Muslim Union, which is heavily intertwined with Qatanani’s Islamic Center of Passaic County.

Passaic County has the second largest Muslim population in the country. And Christie clearly needed their support in the governor’s race. And here’s how it happened.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Mosque Controversy Brewing in Bridgewater, N.J.

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (CBS 2) — A mosque controversy is heating up in a New Jersey neighborhood, and many wonder if it’s due to traffic concerns or Muslim fears.

CBS 2’s Kristin Thorne has more on the Islamic community’s fight to build their own house of worship.

A local fire hall in Bridgewater was turned into a makeshift mosque, but the local Muslim community wants a house of their own — and they want their Al-Falah Center at the property of a vacant banquet hall.

“We are practicing our freedom of religion,” said Omar Mohammedi of the Al-Falah Center.

The Muslim community said a few months ago the township gave them the go-ahead.

“Everything was going normal,” Yasser Abdelkader said. “They said, ‘no problem — our only concern is what color you’re going to paint it.’“

In late January, they held a hearing on the proposed mosque at Bridgewater’s town hall. Hundreds of people showed up — so many, in fact, that they had to cancel the hearing.

Among the nearly 500 people, there were some that were concerned about terrorist groups funding the mosque. Later that night, the township council initiated an ordinance that houses of worship could not be built on back roads — that would include the Al-Falah Center.

The township has since approved the ordinance, and now the center can’t be built.

“Isn’t that targeting? That’s exactly what it is. You’re targeting one institution,” Abdlkater said.

The township and some neighbors, however, disagreed.

“It’s a windy road, and there’s too much traffic, and the parking is horrendous,” one resident said.

“It’s a dangerous area, and now we have too much traffic,” said another.

“I’m 100 percent confident if it was a Catholic church or a Jewish temple proposed at that site, we would have an equal amount of protest,” Mayor Patricia Flannery said.

Those affiliated with the Al-Falah Center, though, aren’t convinced.

“We have our constitution, and we will fight it until the end and do whatever it takes,” Abdlkater said.

The Muslim community fighting for the Al-Falah Center said they’re working with civil rights groups and are exploring all legal options.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


Obama Campaign Racks Up Unprecedented Legal Fees

President Barack Obama was not on the ballot in 2010, but his campaign committee outspent all other presidential campaigns last year on legal fees, refunds to contributors and payments to the Treasury Department for unusable donations.

Obama for America has spent more than $2.8 million on legal fees since the 2008 election, according to a CQ MoneyLine study of Federal Election Commission records. In all, the president’s campaign spent three times more on lawyers after Election Day than in the two years preceding it…

The Obama campaign’s legal fees since the 2008 election top those of any other House or presidential campaign committee, including those of Members of Congress who were under investigation. These legal costs topped those of Rep. Charlie Rangel’s campaign, which spent $2.4 million during an ethics investigation that resulted in his censure last year…

[…]

Though the FEC has not penalized Obama, the president’s campaign has also paid more than $400,000 to the Treasury Department during the past two years for donations that were out of compliance with campaign finance rules. This sum is not just the most of any campaign; it is greater than all other similar spending by House, presidential and political action committees put together during that time.

[…]

[Return to headlines]


The Other War Powers Act

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Billy Clinton, January 7, 1999, of USA Today: “The dirty little secret is that both houses of Congress are irrelevant.” Reich cut to the chase when he said that “America’s domestic policy is now being run by Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve and America’s foreign policy is now being run by the International Monetary Fund [IMF].” And, “…when the president decides to go to war, he no longer needs a declaration of war from Congress.” At the time of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, CFR point dog in the House, (now deceased) Rep. Henry Hyde, [R-Il] stated that “declaring war is anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore…” During the same time period, darling of the deaf, dumb and blind “liberals,” (now deceased) Ranking Minority Member Tom Lantos, [D-Ca] called the declaration of war “frivolous and mischievous.”

Much attention has rightly been directed towards the actions taken by the usurper and the bombing of Libya. The putative president stepped in it good this time with calls for his impeachment. Of course, you cannot, I repeat: You cannot impeach a usurper. Should it ever come to that in the House of Representatives, it would set a horrible, dangerous precedent.[1]

Nationally syndicated talked show host, Mark Levin, has taken the position “that the President can bring the United States government to war without the permission of Congress, adding that Congress’ power over the purse was a sufficient check to presidential war-making.”[2] Levin has attacked best selling author on nullification, Thomas E. Woods, for his stand on this issue, The Phony Arguments for Presidential War Powers: “The War Powers Resolution of 1973 gives the president the power to commit troops anywhere he likes for 90 days. Which is why it’s manifestly unconstitutional.”

I hope you will take the time to read Woods’ column because it will give you a different view of the War Powers Act of 1973 and those who believe it gives Obama/Soetoro’s legal authority to bomb a non threatening country. Like the king of gas bags, Bill O’Reilly, who stated on his show the other night that “we have to provide humanitarian aid to Libya.” Bill O’Reilly has zero understanding of the U.S. Constitution as there is nothing in Art. 1, Sec. 8 that authorizes the Outlaw Congress to steal the fruits of your labor to give to ANY country on this earth for any reason whether it be military, humanitarian or to prop up dictators until they’re no longer needed. Not to mention that pesky little $202 TRILLION in debt for unfunded mandates staring us in the face. Every borrowed “dollar” for that illegal “mission” is more debt slapped on our backs, our children and grand children.

[…]

The War Powers Resolution does not restore the proper constitutional balance between president and Congress in matters of war. Consider first the resolution’s provision that the president may commit troops to offensive operations anywhere in the world he chooses and for any reason without the consent of Congress, for a period of 60 days (though he must at least inform them of his action within 48 hours). After the initial 60 days he must secure congressional authorization for the action to continue. He then has another 30 days to withdraw the troops if such authorization is not forthcoming.

“Until the War Powers Resolution, no constitutional or statutory authority could be cited on behalf of such behavior on the part of the president. Now it became fixed law, despite violating the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.

“It so happens, moreover, that thanks to a loophole in the resolution, the 60-day clock begins only if and when the president reports to Congress under Section 4(a)(1) of the Resolution. Surprise, surprise: presidents have therefore reported to Congress in a more generic manner rather than expressly under that section. They issue reports “consistent with” rather than “pursuant to” the Resolution.

[…]

John Adams had this to say in 1774 — a perfect summation of where we are because of unconstitutional laws and the War and Emergency Powers Act of 1933, propped up by activist judges and accepted by the people of this nation out of ignorance, apathy, greed or lust for power:

Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.”

[…]

Do you know there is another War Powers Act? There is and it goes further back than 1973. Why do you need to know this? Because it’s crucial to understanding the destruction to our rights and freedoms. That particular act is called The War and Emergency Powers Act of 1933. In order to fully appreciate just how heinous that “Act” is, you have to do the research. Because those acts of Congress were carefully crafted propaganda to support the destruction of your rights, it can become overwhelming due to all the language and references to other statutes and laws. However, I am providing you with the links below that will give you a full and complete understanding of the issue with a few hours of your time invested.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Phony Arguments for Presidential War Powers

A U.S. president has attacked another country, so it’s time for the scam artists to pull out their fake constitutional arguments in support of our dear leader. Not all of them are doing so, to be sure — in fact, it’s been rather a hoot to hear supporters of the Iraq war suddenly caterwauling about the Constitution’s restraints on the power of the president to initiate hostilities abroad. But I’m told that radio host Mark Levin criticized Ron Paul on his program the other day on the precise grounds that the congressman didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to war powers and the Constitution.

That means it’s time to lay out all the common claims, both constitutional and historical, advanced on behalf of presidential war powers, and refute them one by one.

“The president has the power to initiate hostilities without consulting Congress.”

Ever since the Korean War, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution — which refers to the president as the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States” — has been interpreted this way.

But what the framers actually meant by that clause was that once war has been declared, it was the President’s responsibility as commander-in-chief to direct the war. Alexander Hamilton spoke in such terms when he said that the president, although lacking the power to declare war, would have “the direction of war when authorized or begun.” The president acting alone was authorized only to repel sudden attacks (hence the decision to withhold from him only the power to “declare” war, not to “make” war, which was thought to be a necessary emergency power in case of foreign attack).

[…]

Claim: “Jefferson acted unilaterally against the Barbary pirates.”

Jefferson consistently deferred to Congress in his dealings with the Barbary pirates. “Recent studies by the Justice Department and statements made during congressional debate,” Louis Fisher writes, “imply that Jefferson took military measures against the Barbary powers without seeking the approval or authority of Congress. In fact, in at least ten statutes, Congress explicitly authorized military action by Presidents Jefferson and Madison. Congress passed legislation in 1802 to authorize the President to equip armed vessels to protect commerce and seamen in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and adjoining seas. The statute authorized American ships to seize vessels belonging to the Bey of Tripoli, with the captured property distributed to those who brought the vessels into port. Additional legislation in 1804 gave explicit support for ‘warlike operations against the regency of Tripoli, or any other of the Barbary powers.’“

[…]

Claim: “If the United Nations authorizes military action, the president does not need to consult Congress.”

The UN Charter itself notes that the Security Council’s commitment of member nations’ troops must be authorized by these nations’ “respective constitutional processes.” The Congressional Research Service’s Louis Fisher explains further: “Assured by Truman that he understood and respected the war prerogatives of Congress, the Senate ratified the UN Charter. Article 43 provided that all UN members shall make available to the Security Council, in accordance with special agreements, armed forces and other assistance. Each nation would ratify those agreements ‘in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.’ It then became the obligation of Congress to pass legislation to define the constitutional processes of the United States. Section 6 of the UN Participation Act of 1945 states with singular clarity that the special agreements ‘shall be subject to the approval of the Congress by appropriate Act or joint resolution.’ The procedure was specific and clear. Both branches knew what the Constitution required. The President would first have to obtain the approval of Congress.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


U.S. Pastor Defiant After His Koran-Burning Publicity Stunt

[WARNING: Graphic content.]

Mr Jones, who ignored international warnings that his actions would undoubtedly lead to violent reprisals, said the blame laid at the feet of the attackers.

He said: ‘We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities. The time has come to hold Islam accountable.

‘Our United States government and our President must take a close, realistic look at the radical element Islam. Islam is not a religion of peace.

‘We demand action from the United Nations. Muslim dominated countries can no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Britons Need to See Themselves as a Single Nation, Says Security Minister

It is not enough for Muslims to “rub along” without breaking the law, they must be persuaded that their long-term future lies in Britain, the Security Minister has said.

Baroness Neville-Jones told the Daily Telegraph that that at the same time the government need to persuade the majority of the population that the UK is a single nation.

The minister said there needed to be a new approach in which people did not simply “rub along together and as long as people obey the law that’s quite sufficient.”

“I think it’s a common experience now that we know less about each other than we used to and I think there’s a very strong feeling that we need to understand each other and we need to be working together as a nation,” Lady Neville-Jones added.

“[We are] trying to convince minorities in this country that they actually do have a long term future here and that it’s their country as much as anybody else’s,” she said in an interview.

It is also important to “convince the majority population we are a single nation,” she added.

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Al-Qaeda a ‘money making machine’

15 Mar 2011

The security minister, who is in charge of re-drawing Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy, added: “We do need to have a much more conscious framework in which to transmit that message and it isn’t something you can just assume people understand.”

The security minister was speaking ahead of a visit to Washington today in which she is expected to outline a “unity strategy” for integration in Britain which emulates the “American dream” and creates a “palpable sense of national identity.”

She said the “ideal state” would not be achieved through policies and there was a role for the Tories’ “Big Society” in countering terrorism.

“It is designed to create an active society as distinct from a passive one in which the state serves you and you look for the state for all your needs — actually get off you bottom and do things for yourselves,” she added.

Lady Neville-Jones said there needed to be greater trust between the leadership in mosques, the local authorities and the police in dealing with vulnerable individuals.

“That process of cooperation and working with each other is part of a consensus of establishing what we all stand for,” she added.

Her comments follow a speech by the Prime Minister in Munich earlier this year in which he criticised multi-culturalism and called for a more “muscular liberalism.”

In Washington she will talk of trying to “turn the propaganda tide” in order to “get from the back foot to the front foot.”

Lady Neville-Jones will also say that those on the “right-wing extremist fringe” who argue that the West and Islam are “eternally irreconcilable” have “more in common with the Islamist extremists than they might like to think.”

“This is the very same argument advanced by al-Qaeda. They have it quite wrong,” she will say.

The minister will also talk to the audience about Britain’s Prevent programme to tackle Islamist extremists which is due to be re-launched in June.

She will also say that individuals who are on the path to radicalisation do not exist in a vacuum.

“They live in neighbourhoods, they meet friends and family, they use shops and businesses, and they come into contact with local public sector workers such as teachers, nurses or community police officers who may be well placed, especially if trained, to notice changes in behaviour,” she will say in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Where those vulnerable individuals are part of a community — be it actual or virtual — where extremist views are widely accepted, the legitimisation of violence becomes easy and the path to terrorism is thereby smoothed,” she will say.

Lady Neville-Jones is expected to try and enlist American help in shutting down extremist websites, telling an audience that terrorist propaganda is like child pornography and “stimulates evil activity in real life” and allows the “flow of poison across borders.”

Asked if the danger from terrorism kept her awake at night, Lady Neville-Jones, a former career diplomat and chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who is now 71, said: “Does doing a big operation keep a surgeon awake at night? It’s my job. Do you think hard and seriously about it? Sure.”

           — Hat tip: Seneca III[Return to headlines]


Car Preferred by 46% of Greeks, Eurobarometer

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 31 — The car is the preferred mode of transport for 46% of Greeks as opposed to 53% of Europeans in the EU27, according to a Eurobarometer poll released in March.

Another 25% of Greeks — as ANA reports — opt for public transport, 13% walk, 7% use a motorbike (compared with 2% in the EU27 on average) and just 3% cycle. In the EU27 countries as a whole, 22% mainly use public transport, 13% walk, 7% cycle and just 2% use a motorbike. Men are the most attached to their cars as their main means of transport (59%) while women are more likely to use public transport or to walk.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU: Diplomacy: Saving Private Ashton

El País Madrid

While the Libyan crisis unfolds before gates of Europe, the High Representative for EU foreign policy is totally absent from the scene. “One wonders if the post still makes sense,” writes analyst Jose Ignacio Torreblanca.

José Ignacio Torreblanca

First Tunisia, then Egypt — Libya a little later. The European Union misjudged the stability of the regimes, came late and off-balance to the protests, and worse, came to the revolutions without a shred of unity. It has already admitted the first truth. In fairness, the national capitals are more responsible than Brussels for a Mediterranean policy that has proved mistaken, but they have not been held accountable. The second charge, of slow reflexes, is understandable, since prudence is a natural reflection of the diplomat — something even Obama has had to suffer despite having a huge foreign policy machinery at his disposal and the leadership to steer it. On the third charge, divisions within Europe are to some extent inevitable, since each EU member state has its own history and interests, and they are not always shared. Often forgotten, this is important. After all, if unity were the starting point, there would be no need of either leaders or institutions to draw up a common foreign policy, only bureaucrats who would obediently carry it out.

But that is just what the leaders and the European institutions are there for, to create common policies that balance the different interests. The paradox we now confront is therefore readily apparent. For ten years we have been complaining that Europe lacks foreign policy institutions. The High Representative at the time, Javier Solana, had great dedication but few resources and feeble institutions, which obliged him to leap from crisis to crisis, cadging aircraft and carrying out delicate manoeuvres with a midget staff and an operating budget lower than what the European Commission was spending on cleaning its official buildings.

Now, it seems, we are in the opposite situation. We have at last created a foreign ministry for Europe in all but name. We have bestowed upon it a huge budget, its own diplomatic service, and, best of all, all the power that was previously fragmented among three institutions (the Council, the Commission and the rotating presidency) which previously overlapped and were continuously squaring off against each other. With the Lisbon treaty in hand, Europe has its trinity in place, and the High Representative is all-powerful.

All the same, its policy has yet to get off the ground. We may finally have the institutions, but seem to be missing a personality who can lead vigorously from the front.

The Arab revolutions have put Europe’s foreign policy severely to the test. After a year and a half on the job, criticisms of Ashton’s performance (some more fair than others, and there’s a bit of everything) are widespread. The media accuse her of being allergic to the spotlight, of shunning the press and preferring to blend into the wallpaper. Nor does she inspire any enthusiasm in national capitals, rumour has it. At the Extraordinary European Council on Libya, Sarkozy publicly tore strips off Ashton for her passivity — and remarkably, no one stepped up to defend her, not even her compatriot David Cameron. Her defenders argue that Ashton was saddled with Mission Impossible: to do the work previously done by three people and to rule over 27 national egos who all consider themselves more capable than her.

They have a point. And because of that, they all share the blame: Ashton does not want to thump the table — and Sarkozy enjoys doing it. In view of the crackdown that Assad has just launched in Syria and the precedents of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Private Ashton is clearly in serious danger of being trapped behind enemy lines.

Hence the urgent need to organise a rescue mission to salvage the remainder of her term, which still has three and a half years to run. Ideally, the team should be made up of the foreign ministers of the 27, who will step forward as volunteers to the rescue and inject some energy into European foreign policy. But are they really willing to step forward? Are they themselves, through their own actions and their own omissions, not the main culprits in the current quandary? Just how far they are willing to go with the Syria of Assad, that other great darling of many European diplomats, will soon give us the answer to these questions.

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


Italy: Fiat to Start Making New Panda at Restructured Naples Plant

Turin, 30 March — (AKI) — Fiat will start making its new Panda car in southern Italy in the second half of the year as part of a bid to gain a higher market share in Europe with the launch of new models, chief executive Sergio Marchionne said Wednesday.

“For 2011, we expect a general market improvement, with the exception of the European passenger car market, which will be negatively impacted by declines forecast for Italy and France,” Marchionne told the Fiat group’s annual shareholder meeting.

Despite moribund passenger car demand in Europe, “we expect that our market share will increase as a result of new model releases in the second half of this year,” he said.

Fiat’s Lancia brand will start of the sale of the new Thema and Voyager models.

Marchionne said the agreement reached with unions at Fiat’s Pomigliano d’Arco plant near the southern Italian city of Naples would allow the car giant to start production of the Panda there.

Amid bitter opposition from Italy’s leftwing Fiom metal workers’ union, Fiat in November obtained backing from most Pomigliano employees for more flexible working conditions including extra shifts, cuts to breaks and a six-day work week.

“In a few years’ time, as the market picks up, over 250,000 vehicles could be produced again, compared to fewer than 20,000 last year,” said Marchionne.

Marchionne also confirmed Fiat intended to increase by 10 percent its current 25 percent controlling stake the third biggest US carmaker, Chrysler, of which he is also CEO. “We’ll soon bring our stake in Chrysler ot 35 percent,” he said.

Fiat plans to build as many as 280,000 cars and SUVs a year for the Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands at its Mirafiori plant in northern Italy starting in 2012 under a joint-venture with Chrysler, Marchionne said.

Fiat doesn’t want to sell its Alfa Romeo sports brand to its bigger German competitor Volkswagen, an unnamed company official told shareholders at the annual general meeting on Wednesday.

“Alfa Romeo is not for sale,” the official said, reiterating earlier comments by Marchionne.

Fiat plans 20 billion euros of Italian investments through 2014 if separate factories agree to the flexible accords signed at Pomigliano and at its Mirafiori factory in the northern city of Turin which Marchionne says will improve efficiency.

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


Italy: Filipino Confesses to Aristocrat’s Murder in 20-Year-Old ‘Cold Case’

Rome, 1 April — (AKI) — Filipino immigrant Manuel Winston Reves on Friday confessed to strangling Italian countess Alberica Filo Della Torre in July 1991 at her luxury villa in the gated community of Olgiata, north of Rome.

“I killed the countess — it’s a weight I’ve been carrying inside me for 20 years,” a tearful Reves told prosecutors who questioned him in Rome’s Regina Coeli prison.

Reves, who was one of Filo Della Torre’s house servants at the time of her murder on 10 July 1991 was arrested earlier this week.

New forensic techniques enabled police to extract DNA from a bloodstain on the sheet that was used to strangle the countess, and which proved a perfect match with Reves’.

During the murder, a spot of blood allegedly dripped onto the sheet from a cut on Reves’ elbow. Filo Della Torre was also hit around the head with a wooden clog and numerous bloodstains from the countess were also found on the sheet, according to investigators.

A 1.5 million lire (750 euro) loan that Reves had allegedly failed to repay to the countess is one possible motive for the killing, according to investigators.

Another line of enquiry is that Reves was disturbed by Filo Della Torre as he tried to steal several valuable pieces of jewellery from her bedroom.

At the time of her murder, around 8.45 am, domestic staff, a nanny, Filo Della Torre’s two small children and four workmen were at home in the villa. Police immediately suspected the killer was known to the countess as her two dogs failed to bark.

Winston and a neighbour at Olgiata, Roberto Iacono, were longtime suspects in the case, which was reopened in 2007 at the request of Filo Della Torre’s husband, Italian businessman Pietro Mattei.

The mystery surrounding Filo Della Torre’s murder deepened when in 1993 investigators discovered she and her husband had offshore bank accounts in which billions of lire (millions of euros) had been deposited.

Italian secret services agent Michele Finocchi, who was suspected of misappropriating billions of lire, was a close friend of Filo Della Torre and was among the first people to reach the murder scene, arriving before police, according to neighbours.

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


Italy: Waste Management Crisis in Naples, 1,650 Tons on Streets

(AGI) Naples — 1,650 tons of waste are still on the streets of Naples. The situation has slightly improved against yesterday’s 1,800 tons since some waste was taken to the landfills of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, near Caserta, and of Piano Dardine in Irpinia. Piles of waste have not been collected yet in several areas of the city prompting concerns over heat and, consequently, sanitation risks.

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


Napolitano Tells U.N. Italy Wants End of Death Penalty

(AGI) New york — Speaking to the UN’s General Assembly, Giorgio Napolitano reiterated the need to continue the international moratorium on the death penalty. This, said the President of the Republic, “is an issue that is very dear to Italy and our stand against the death penalty arises from a solid and ancient belief in the sanctity of the right to life.” .

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


Slovenia: Italian Exports Rising, +16.7% in 2010

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, MARCH 31 — Italian exports to Slovenia are increasing. The Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Ljubljana writes that based on figures released by the Slovenian statistical office, Italian exports to the country increased by 16.7% in 2010, from 3,009 million euros in 2009 to 3,510 million euros last year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: 60% of Olive Oil Produced in 2010 Exported

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 28 — Spain exported over 800,000 tonnes of olive oil in 2010, 60% of total production during the 2009-2010 campaign, the equivalent of 1.4 million tonnes, which is superior to production in Italy, Greece and Portugal put together. This is the result of the second plan for foreign promotion of Spanish olive oil in 2010, which has been presented by Jaen and quoted by the media today.

According to figures from Spanish customs, 1.953 billion euros of olive oil were exported in 2010, a new record and a 25.2% rise on the previous year. Sales of Spanish oil increased on the markets in the United States, China, Australia, the Czech Republic, Brazil, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. In all of these countries, with the exception of the United States, Spain’s market share is greater than that of its main competitor, Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: A Nation Divided: Britain is No Longer Split by Class. Instead the Social Chasm is Between Taxpayers and the Public Sector

Last weekend’s march in London, protesting against The Cuts, highlighted the only social divide that matters in modern Britain. It is not between rich and poor, North and South or even Arsenal and Manchester United supporters. It is between those employed in the public and private sectors of the economy.

The march — a howl of anguish to which Ed Miliband lent his presence and absurdly extravagant rhetoric — was a partisan demo by Labour’s six-million-strong client vote, the employees of the state who have become Britain’s new privileged class.

Watching TV images of the marchers snake through the capital, I reflected that they should rightfully have been wearing wigs and powder, because they are the modern-day counterparts of pre-Revolution French aristocrats, enjoying advantages such as the rest of us can only dream of.

Once upon a time ‘civil servants’, as they were called before both words became satirical, enjoyed lifelong job security, to compensate for the fact that they received much more modest financial rewards than their private-sector counterparts.

The humble little bureaucrat taking the bus to the council office every morning from suburbia, wearing a Burton suit and Terylene tie, was the stuff of TV sitcoms.

Not any more.

Margaret Thatcher galvanised British business, but conspicuously failed to reform the public sector. Subsequent Labour governments showered good things on state employees — ‘our people’.

Gordon Brown, doctrinally committed to a belief that the man in Whitehall knows best, boosted the state payroll by almost a million, so that today it constitutes one-fifth of Britain’s workforce.

Of course, teachers, nurses and other front-line workers in the public sector do hugely valuable jobs.

But these people have become by far the most formidable, unionised and muscular interest group in the country.

Labour voters almost to a man and woman, they enjoy job security, early retirement rights and better pay.

Yet they are statistically 2,000 per cent more prone to take industrial action than private sector workers — as the Prison Officers’ Association seems about to remind us with widespread walkouts by staff in protest against the use of private firms to run jails.

[…]

According to the National Audit Office, the state paid £14.9 billion towards the £19.3 billion cost of the UK’s four largest civil service schemes, while staff provided £4.4 billion.

Those figures are getting much worse. The cost of public sector pensions to taxpayers — not to the employees themselves — is expected to double over the next five years, as many people who joined the civil service on generous terms 30 to 40 years ago approach retirement.

The scandal is that in many cases these pensions are not drawn from money that is set aside — as in the private sector — but instead come from current taxation income.

So when interest rates rise, as they obviously will, taxpayers’ contributions to state sector privileges will become even more painful.

[…]

Meanwhile, local authorities are still squandering money on non-jobs and unnecessary functions.

Why does Manchester Council need a graphic designer earning £120,000 a year, or a ‘climate change officer’ on £37,206? Why is Barnsley Council employing two ‘European officers’ and Hackney four ‘diversity officers’?

Also, many Labour councils are cutting services while hoarding large cash reserves.

Barnsley has recently stopped free swimming for local residents, blaming this on government cuts, while continuing to fund 38 full-time trades union posts at a cost of more than £1 million a year. It spends more than £2 million a year on ‘publicity’, and last year recruited for an ‘Athletics Network Development Officer’.

Haringey Council spends £386,665 on translating its mountainous output of paper into ethnic minority languages. It employs two political advisers, three climate change officers, and four-and-a-half diversity officers who cost £245,839 a year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Britain is Sleepwalking Into a Historic Disaster

Step by apathetic step, Britain is in very real danger of sleepwalking into disaster. For it is now less than five weeks until the referendum on whether Britain should abandon its tried and tested first-past-the-post electoral system in favour of the Alternative Vote.

The real problem, of course, is that AV is a stupendously boring issue which makes the nation’s eyes glaze over.

It is also so fiendishly complicated that even its articulate proponents struggle to explain how it works.

Today, however, we urge voters to wake up to what is an issue of historic importance. It is no exaggeration to say that a Yes vote could condemn this country to permanent coalition politics which would allow political elites to stay in power indefinitely.

Yes means that leaders like Margaret Thatcher would probably never have been elected or able to perform the radical surgery which transformed this country from a basketcase into a flourishing economy (until Labour once again wrecked it).

While it is a matter of great regret that the hung parliament at the last election forced David Cameron into agreeing to hold this referendum, it is utterly deplorable that he was blackmailed by the Liberal Democrats into accepting the referendum could be passed with less than a 40 per cent turnout. On such stitch-ups the wheel of history turns.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Left-Wing: Shallow and Oh-So Politically Correct…

my verdict on the BBC, by Michael Buerk

The veteran presenter accuses staff at the Corporation of an inbuilt ‘institutional bias’ and warns that they read the left-wing Guardian newspaper as if it is ‘their Bible’.

Reviewing a memoir by his former colleague Peter Sissons, Buerk endorses his view that the BBC is warped by the prejudices of its staff.

He says fellow reporters have ‘contempt’ for business and the countryside — and that a left-wing culture means the national broadcaster has been cast ‘adrift of the overriding national sentiment’ on issues such as climate change.

Criticism from such a well-known figure is likely to unsettle his bosses. Buerk, who presents Radio 4’s Moral Maze, is one of the most respected broadcasters of his generation.

He made his name with a series of moving broadcasts on the Ethiopian famine in 1984, which prompted the Live Aid campaign, before becoming the main presenter of the BBC’s flagship evening news programme.

His son Roland Buerk is the BBC’s Tokyo correspondent.

In Sissons’s memoir, which was serialised in the Daily Mail last month, the former Nine O’Clock News and Question Time presenter denounced the ‘zealotry’ of the BBC over the issue of climate change and ‘the culture of political correctness’.

Buerk, who has previously voiced criticisms of fellow newsreaders for being overpaid, autocue-reading ‘lame brains’, praises Sissons for attacking ‘Autocuties, “Elf ‘n’ Safety” and ‘its culture of conformity’.

Buerk also accuses BBC reporters of an ‘uncritical love affair with environmentalism’.

He condemns the ‘flatulent masses of its middle management’.

The BBC has no way of distinguishing between competent managers and the ‘totally transparent t***ers’ who populate the Corporation, writes the former news anchorman in Standpoint magazine.

‘What the BBC regards as normal and abnormal, what is moderate or extreme, where the centre of gravity of an issue lies, are conditioned by the common set of assumptions held by the people who work for it.

‘The Guardian is their bible and political correctness their creed.’

He also attacks BBC bosses for their ‘vulnerability to political pressure’ and condemns ‘the callow opinionising of some of its reporters’.

Buerk admits that some of his own bosses, including Director General Mark Thompson, were ‘extraordinarily bright, decent and effective’, but adds: ‘Of course, there were, and are, plenty of totally transparent t***ers.’

He adds: ‘The BBC’s difficulty is that it has never been able to tell the difference. In any case, it is the institution that increasingly seems to be the problem.’

And he warns: ‘It’s often notably adrift of the overriding national sentiment.’

BBC bosses are already on the back foot. They were humiliated after losing an age discrimination case to Miriam O’Reilly, the 53-year-old presenter of Countryfile. And they are also under pressure from the Government to disclose full details of how much big stars are paid.

The BBC said: ‘While Michael is entitled to his opinion, it has been some time since he has worked for BBC News so it’s interesting he feels in a position to comment. We certainly do not recognise the picture he has painted and nor would his colleagues.

‘Impartiality is critical to our success as a news broadcaster and is always at the centre of what we do.’

BBC4 may be closed as part of plans to make drastic cost savings, it has been claimed.

Sources say bosses may dump the high-brow digital channel and take BBC2 more upmarket to compensate for the loss.

Dropping the channel would save the BBC some £75million.

But last night a spokesman denied the claims, saying: ‘There are no proposals to shut it down.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Shaming the St George’s Cross: Vile EDL Thugs in 2,000-Strong Hate Protest Wear Flag-Coloured Burkas to Confront Muslims

A demonstration by far-right group the English Defence League again descended into violence today as extremists began fighting among themselves.

Around 2,000 ‘protestors’ — some wearing makeshift Burqas daubed in St George’s Cross — took to the streets of Blackburn town centre, supposedly to demonstrate at the alleged spread of Sharia Law and militant Islamism.

[Comments: Note the anti-EDL tone of the article.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK:12 Arrests in Blackburn EDL Protest and Counter-Demo

A protest by the English Defence League and a counter-demonstration passed off largely peacefully in Blackburn today after a huge police operation.

Lancashire Police prepared for its biggest ever policing operation around the protests, taking place either end of Northgate separated by steel barriers.

The EDL protest started at 12.45pm around King George’s Hall, Northgate, and finished at around 1.45pm.

Blackburn with Darwen Against Racism’s counter-demonstration in Sudell Cross began at 1pm and finished at 3pm.

Numbers were limited to 3,000 for each protest.

However, police estimate 2,000 supporters of the EDL gathered and around 500 people at the Blackburn with Darwen United Against Racism counter-protest.

12 arrests were made for offences such as breach of peace, police assault, assault, drunk and disorderly, threatening behaviour, affray and obstruction.

Roads were closed and shops and pubs shut, with a large area of the town centre a no-go area for much of today.

Other areas of central Blackburn were largely deserted.

A heavy police presence remains in town in case there are any outbreaks of trouble.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: End Discrimination Against Minorities, Hammerberg

(ANSAmed) — STRASBURG, MARCH 29 — The authorities in Bosnia must speed up the implementation of measures that can contribute to creating a fairer society that is not afflicted by discrimination against minorities as the current one is. The request came from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, who expressed great concern about the situation in Bosnia in a report on his visit at the end of last November. “Today, the after-effects of their violent past endanger the full respect of human rights, democracy and rule of law,” observed Hammarberg, who spoke about “persistent discrimination” against minorities. “The authorities must deal with the problem with greater determination and assure that minorities have real possibilities of participating in political life in the country,” underlined the commissioner. According to Hammarberg, the complex institutional and political structure that is currently in place is an obstacle to the full and equal enjoyment of social and economic rights for several vulnerable segments of society, including the disabled, civilian victims of the war and victims of war crimes who have suffered sexual violence. The commission expressed serious concerns about the latter, due to the fact that authorities in the country have failed to fulfil their international obligations, as they have not prosecuted the perpetrators of such crimes nor have they protected or adequately compensated the victims.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Election of President Ruled Unconstitutional

(AGI) Pristina — Kosovo’s top court ruled that the election of Pacolli as the country’s new president was unconstitutional.

According to Kosovo’s Constitutional Court, the vote in the Parliament did not comply with the provisions of article 86 of the Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority (81 votes out of 120). Behgjet Pacolli was elected by just 62 votes on February 22. The election was boycotted by all opposition parties.

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


Serbia: French Investors Helped to Create 10,000 Jobs

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 28 — French Ambassador to Serbia Francois-Xavier Deniau said that investors from his country had helped create 10,000 jobs in Serbia, of which 4,000 in Vojvodina, reports BETA news agency.

Deniau said that French investors had noticed an improvement in the conditions for doing business in Serbia, and that they were particularly happy with the workforce.

Speaking of the difficulties, the French ambassador said that the enforcement of certain laws and legal practices was sometimes incomplete and debatable.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Ex-Petroleum Minister ‘Gave Mubarak 5.5 Kg Gold Bar’

Cairo, 31 March — (AKI) — Egypt’s former petroleum minister Sameh Fahmy gave ousted president Hosni Mubarak a gold bar weighing almost 5.5 kilogrammes, Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya reported Thursday, citing an official report.

The gold bar weighing 5.477 kg was handed to ex-petroleum minister Sameh Famhy to present to Mubarak as gift, according to the report by Egypt’s Central Auditing Organisation, an independent body that monitors public funds.

The ingot was worth 170,139 dollars, according a 2009 financial statement by Hams Company for Gold Mines, which produced it.

Famhy gave the gold bar to Mubarak in January, 2009, following an okay from the Hams board of directors.

The value of the ingot was listed under the company’s operational costs and it was produced in November 2008 and registered by the Egyptian Mineral Authorities Authority, Al-Arabiya said.

Mubarak resigned on 11 February after a wave of anti-government protests put an end to his 30-year rule.

A court earlier this month imposed a travel ban on Mubarak and his family while prosecutors probed complaints about their wealth, estimated by Arabic media reports at up to 70 billion euros.

The public prosecutor froze the bank accounts and assets of Mubarak and his family after complaints they acquired their alleged vast wealth through illegal means, the prosecutor’s office said.

Mubarak and Fahmy are under investigation for selling natural gas to Israel and several Western countries for artificially low prices, state prosecutors says.

Mubarak and his family are under house arrest.

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


Italy: ‘Emergency’ Rallies to Protest Against War in Libya

(AGI) Rome — Associations, parties and pacifists rallied in Piazza Navona today in Rome. The demonstration was mainly held to protest against the war in Libya, but also against all forms of violence, such as racism, xenophobia and the mafia.

‘Emergency’ representatives addressed the crowd from the stage and the rally also featured musicians such as Andrea Rivers, Assalti Frontali, Frankie Hi-Nrg mc and many more.

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


Libya: Bishop of Tripoli Reports 8 Killed in Air Raids on Sirte

(AGI) Vatican City — The Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Monsignor Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, has reported that air raids have killed eight women and children and 40 soldiers in Sirte.Yesterday Martinelli had reported another 40 civilian victims during a previous raid and NATO has said it will investigate the matter.

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


Libya: GB Defense Secretary, “Legitimate to Arm Rebels”

(AGI) Rome — “The UN Resolution does not exclude that rebels can be armed, the issue is being studied and we will soon decide.” This is what British Defense Secretary, Liam Fox, said in an interview to Arab TV network Al Arabiya.

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


Libya: UK Ambassador Helped Saif Gaddafi With Thesis

(AGI) London — Gaddafi’s second son Saif was apparently helped with his university thesis by a former UK ambassador in Washington. Saif studied at the London School of Economics. Sir Nigel Sheinwald, appointed UK ambassador to the US by Tony Blair, offered his “assistance” to Saif to write the 429-page thesis. The revelation, disclosed by the Mail online — also confirms the close cooperation between the government in office at the time and the Libyan regime. The PhD from the prestigious university was followed by a remarkable 1.5 million pound donation to the centre.

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


Libyan Government Spurns ‘Mad’ Ceasefire

Colonel Muammer Gaddafi’s government has scorned rebel conditions for a nationwide ceasefire in Libya

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim rejected the offer outlined by the Libyan opposition on Friday as “mad.” Troops loyal to Col Gaddafi would never withdraw from the rebel-held cities they were besieging, he said.

On Friday Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the opposition’s National Council, said the ceasefire conditions would have to include Col Gaddafi withdrawing his forces from cities under siege, such as Misurata, which is controlled by opposition supporters but surrounded by pro-Gaddafi forces that have been relentlessly pounding the city.

Few believe a ceasefire is likely and the opposition has previously insisted they will not want to negotiate a political solution with Col Gaddafi, with the only exception being if there were discussions that led to his immediate departure from the oil-rich north African state.

Mr Abdul Jalil, who was speaking at a news conference with Abdelilah al-Khatib, the UN envoy to Libya, added that Libyans would also need assurances they could choose the leader they wanted. He insisted the opposition’s goal remained the ouster of Col Gaddafi.

“Why would we believe him (Gaddafi), and it does not make sense to give him Brega and Ras Lanuf (eastern oil towns recaptured by the regime),” said an opposition official. “It’s not in his vocabulary to negotiate with us.”

Col Gaddafi has previously unilaterally declared a ceasefire, only for his forces to continue their attacks against opposition-controlled cities.

A rebel spokesman in Misurata told Reuters that regime forces used tanks, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds to attack that city on Friday.

“It was random and very intense bombardment,” the spokesman, called Sami, said. “We no longer recognise the place. The destruction cannot be described.”…

[Return to headlines]


Libyan Rebels Seek Cease-Fire After U.S. Vows to Withdraw Jets

Libya’s opposition called for a cease-fire after the U.S. said it’s withdrawing aircraft used to attack Muammar Qaddafi’s forces following adverse weather that prevented strikes allowing Libyan loyalists to push back rebels.

Libya’s rebels would accept a cease-fire if their demands for freedoms are met, said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council, during a news conference televised today from their stronghold of Benghazi. Any agreement would have to involve Qaddafi’s fighters withdrawing from cities and their surrounding areas, he said.

The rebel move comes one day after Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. jets, won’t be flying with NATO forces over Libya after April 2. Mullen said planes would be made available only if requested by NATO. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress the U.S. will “significantly ramp down our commitment” to Libya except for electronic warfare, aerial refueling and surveillance.

Rebels have been in retreat for three days as Qaddafi’s troops regain the initiative after almost two weeks of allied air strikes against them. This week’s recapture of the oil port Ras Lanuf by Qaddafi forces underscored the military weakness of his opponents. Intensive fighting continues around another oil port, Brega, which is under Libyan rebel control, Al Arabiya television reported.

“Seems to me, we are not doing everything necessary in order to achieve our policy goals and including relieving what is happening to the anti-Qaddafi forces,” Senator John McCain said at the hearing in Congress yesterday with Mullen and Gates. “I hope we don’t learn a bitter lesson from it.”

Can’t See Targets

Mullen said poor weather over the past three days in Libya meant pilots “can’t get on the targets; they can’t see the targets.”

Oil rose to a 30-month high in New York as economic data from China spurred hope of growing demand in the world’s biggest energy user and fighting in Libya fanned concern that output cuts may spread to Middle East producers. Crude for May delivery rose as much as 93 cents to $107.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest front- month price since Sept. 26, 2008. It was at $107.06 at 11:34 a.m. London time.

“It’s quiet today but there are snipers present and yesterday night a number of mortar rounds were fired and there was indiscriminate shelling from tanks as well,” Reda Almountasser, a resident in the western city of Misrata whose residents rose up against Qaddafi and have defied efforts by his forces to regain control, said in a telephone interview.

Rebel Leaders

U.S. political and military leaders said they’re unwilling to start providing arms and training for rebels fighting against Qaddafi. Mullen said there are “plenty of countries who have the ability, the arms, the skill set to be able to do this.” Gates said the U.S. doesn’t know enough about the insurgent groups beyond a “handful” of leaders.

“The rebels need more heavy weapons,” said Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels and a former analyst at the NATO Defense College. “They need simple stuff — not high-tech weaponry that requires extensive training and would be dangerous if it fell into terrorist hands.”

The conflict in Libya, which began as a wave of anti- government protests similar to those in Egypt and Tunisia, escalated into armed conflict as the country’s army split and some soldiers joined the rebels. Oil prices have risen more than 25 percent since fighting began in mid-February.

‘Desperation, Fear’

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said the defection of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa on March 30 is evidence of “the desperation and the fear right at the heart of the crumbling and rotten Qaddafi regime.” He said the former minister hasn’t been offered immunity. The Scottish prosecutor’s office said it wanted to interview Koussa about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie that killed 270 people.

While dozens of Libyan diplomats have quit since the uprising against Qaddafi began, Koussa is one of the most senior officials to flee. Libya’s former deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, said more diplomats and senior-ranking Libyans are likely to defect from the Qaddafi regime “within days,” Sky News reported, adding that up to 10 top Libyan officials may abandon the regime.

Another senior Libyan official, Mohammed Ismail, visited London in recent days for confidential talks, the Guardian reported today citing unidentified U.K. officials.

Gates said he saw several end-game scenarios involving Qaddafi.

‘Family Kills Him’

“One is that a member of his own family kills him, or one of his inner circle kills him, or the military fractures, or the opposition, with the degradation of Qaddafi’s military capabilities rise up again,” Gates said.

[Return to headlines]


Our Principles? The Libyan Insurrection and the Mohammed Cartoons

A look back at the origins of the Libyan insurrection shows that a victory by the rebels could be a victory for Islamist-inspired blasphemy laws and a defeat for freedom of expression. (Also read: Endgame? Libyan Rebels Call for Ceasefire at the Tatler.)

“We must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles,” President Obama said in his speech Monday night justifying American military intervention in Libya. But there is reason to doubt that the eastern Libyan forces opposed to the rule of Moammar al-Gaddafi do share our core principles — at any rate, if by “our” principles the president means American ones.

This is not only because, as reported on PJM, the rebel forces contain al-Qaeda linked elements that have fought against America in both Afghanistan and Iraq. A look back at the origins of the eastern Libyan rebellion suggests that it has been an essentially Islamist rebellion from the start. Indeed, little known to most Americans, one of the principal sources of inspiration for the rebellion is to be found in that most Islamist of all sources of outrage: the famous “Mohammed cartoons” published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.

The eastern Libyan rebellion began with a “Day of Rage” on February 17. The “Day of Rage” was called by an organization named the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO). The choice of the date was not arbitrary. According to the English edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, the date was chosen to commemorate “the 17 February 2006 uprisings in the city of Benghazi where protests against the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad were transformed into mass demonstrations against Gaddafi and his regime, resulting in the death of dozens of protestors and the injury of many more.”…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


The Attack on Libya Crossed a Very Bright Constitutioanl Line

by Rep. Tom McClintock (R—CA)

When the President ordered the attack on Libya without Congressional authorization, he crossed a very bright Constitutional line that he himself recognized in 2007 when he told the Boston Globe “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

The reason the American Founders reserved the question of war to Congress was that they wanted to assure that so momentous a decision could not be made by a single individual. They had watched European kings plunge their nations into bloody and debilitating wars and wanted to avoid that fate for the American Republic.

The most fatal and consequential decision a nation can make is to go to war, and the American Founders wanted that decision made by all the representatives of the people after careful deliberation. Only when Congress has made that fateful decision does it fall to the President as Commander in Chief to command our armed forces in that war.

The authors of the Constitution were explicit on this point. In Federalist 69, Alexander Hamilton drew a sharp distinction between the American President’s authority as Commander in Chief, which he said “would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces” and that of the British king who could actually declare war.

[…]

There seems to be a widespread misconception that under the War Powers Act, the President may order any attack on any country he wants for 60 days without Congressional approval. This is completely false. The War Powers Act is clear and unambiguous: the President may only order our armed forces into hostilities under three very specific conditions: (quoting directly from the Act):

(1) a declaration of war

(2) specific statutory authorization, or

(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

Only if one of these conditions is present can the President invoke the War Powers Act. None are present or alleged to be present, and thus the President is in direct violation of that Act.

…The War Powers Act specifically forbids inferring from any treaty the power to order American forces into hostilities without specific congressional authorization.

The only conclusion we can make is that this was an illegal and unconstitutional act of the highest significance.

[…]

The President has implied that he didn’t have time for Congressional authorization to avert a humanitarian disaster in Libya. He had plenty of time to get a resolution from the United Nations. I would remind him that just a day after the unprovoked bombing of Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt appeared in this very chamber to request and receive congressional authorization.

..I’ve heard it said, “we did the same thing in Kosovo.” If that is the case, then shame on the Congress that tolerated it. And shame on us if we allow this act to stand unchallenged any longer.

[…]

[Return to headlines]


Where Do Gitmo Graduates Go?

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Two former Afghan Mujahedeen and a six-year detainee at Guantanamo Bay have stepped to the fore of the rebel military campaign, training new recruits for the front and to protect from infiltrators loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The presence of Islamists like these amid the opposition has raised concerns, among some fellow rebels as well as their Western allies, that the goal of some Libyan fighters is to propagate Islamist extremism. Abdel Hakim al-Hasady, an influential Islamic preacher who spent five years at a training camp in eastern Afghanistan, oversees the recruitment, training and deployment of about 300 rebel fighters…

[…]

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arab Spring: Male-on-Female Atrocity in Gaza Disappeared by the Western Media

Phyllis Chesler

Last month, at least eight Muslim Palestinian female journalists were physically beaten with clubs, iron chairs, and fists, stabbed, and tortured with electric shocks by male Hamas security forces in the Gaza strip. Their cell phones, laptops, documents, and cameras were confiscated. They were also arrested. Some were forced to sign a document “pledging to refrain from covering such events again.”

The “events” were a series of pro-unity rallies organized by Palestinian youth on Facebook (!) which demanded an end to the dispute between Islamist Hamas and a presumably more moderate Fatah.

So much for the Arab “spring,” and the purposefully misguided Western (and these heroically naïve youthful demonstrators’) belief that the increasingly well organized Islamist Middle East will really rise up on behalf of human rights and women’s rights—without which there can be no democracy.

But this is not my main point.

The mainstream media did not cover this male-on-female atrocity in Gaza. In the English-speaking world, only a handful of journalists, including two Israelis, one writing in the Jerusalem Post, one writing at Big Peace, covered it. A few smaller newspapers in America and an English-language Egyptian paper did so as well.

To be fair, Reuters had an article which featured their own agency in Gaza having being attacked by “armed men.” Later on, we learn that these “armed men” were Hamas officials. And near the end of the piece, we also learn that Hamas also beat “photographers and camera men.” They do not mention female journalists, nor do they give us their names.

Slate also had an article about how Fatah is undermining Islamism on the West Bank. Parenthetically, later on, they mention that Hamas raided the offices of Reuters and destroyed equipment. They do not mention the attack on the Palestinian women journalists.

[…]

It did not happen, it is not important. The mainstream media does not really care about what happens to Arabs, Muslims, or Palestinians—not even when they are fellow or sister journalists, women, and feminists. The media only cares when and if Israelis are allegedly the perpetrators, the murderers, the checkpoint “humiliators.” Even when Israelis kill an armed Iranian-backed Palestinian member of Hamas in self-defense, even when Israelis accidentally, with no malice aforethought, kill a British journalist or an American “activist,” the Israelis are not only blamed—films, plays, and documentaries are made about the “martyred” American Rachel Corrie or the “martyred” British filmmaker James Miller or British “anti-war” activist Tom Hurndall. Countless demonstrations have been held. In Miller’s case the British government insisted on an investigation, and his family brought a civil lawsuit against an Israeli soldier.

The media was all over this even though an investigation strongly suggested that James Miller was killed by Palestinians “from the direction of the populated Rafah.”

[…]

[Return to headlines]


Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative

Amb. Yoram Ettinger

The current seismic developments in Arab countries have removed the Middle East “screen saver,” exposing the real Middle East: top heavy on violence, fragmentation, volatility, hate-education and treachery, and low on predictability, certainty, credibility and democracy. The collapse of Arab regimes reflects the collapse of superficial assumptions, which have underlined Western policy-making and public opinion molding. The upheaval in Arab societies highlights the dramatic gap between Israel’s democracy and its Arab neighbors.

[…]

A sizeable number of Jerusalem Arabs prefer to remain under Israel’s sovereignty, according to a January 12, 2011 public opinion poll conducted by “The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion” headed by Nabil Kukali of Beit Sakhur. The poll was commissioned and supervised by the Princeton—based “Pechter Middle East Polls” and the NY-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Since 1967, Jerusalem Arabs — within Israel’s municipal lines — have been permanent Israeli residents and Israeli ID card holders. Therefore, they freely work and travel throughout Israel and benefit from Israel’s healthcare programs, retirement plans, social security, unemployment, disability and child allowances, and they can vote in Jerusalem’s municipal election.

According to the January 2011 poll, which was conducted by Palestinians in Arab neighborhoods far from any Jewish presence, 40% of Jerusalem Arabs would relocate to an area inside Israel if their current neighborhood were to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Only 27% would relocate to the Palestinian Authority if their neighborhood were to become an internationally recognized part of Israel. 39% assume that most people in their neighborhood prefer Israeli citizenship, and only 31% assume that most people in their neighborhood prefer Palestinian citizenship. 35% prefer to be Israeli citizens and only 30% prefer Palestinian citizenship.

One can assume that is the pollsters would have added the cultural “fear factor” — of Palestinian terrorist retribution — the number of Jerusalem Arabs preferring Israeli citizenship would have been higher.

[…]

[Return to headlines]


Terrorist Alerts in the Sinai-Israelis Warned to Leave

Israelis are being warned to stay out of the Sinai Peninsula — and those who are there are being told to leave immediately.

The Counter Terrorism Bureau issued a travel warning Saturday saying that terrorists are preparing an attack “together with assistance from local Bedouin tribes.”

The warning came following a joint operation by the IDF and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) that targeted a Hamas terror cell that planned to abduct Israelis ahead of Passover.

Three terrorists were killed in the Gaza operation, an IDF spokesperson said.

Family members were told to contact their loved ones who had traveled to the area and tell them to come home.

“Security forces have reliable and updated information showing that terrorist agencies are currently attempting to kidnap Israelis in the Sinai for negotiation purposes,” the warning said.

The bureau “strongly recommends Israelis refrain from visiting Sinai and calls on Israelis there to leave immediately and return to Israel.”

Officials added that the security situation in Sinai, “which is generally unstable, creates a real risk” for Israelis traveling there.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq: Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Tikrit Attacks

(AGI) Baghdad- Al-Qaeda has claimed it was behind the suicide attacks in Tikrit in which 58 people were killed. The American intelligence group “SITE”, which monitors Islamic websites, published a statement released on jihadist forums on its web page; the note claims that the bloody attack was carried out to “avenge crimes” against Sunni Muslims imprisoned in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. .

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


Lebanon: Italian Vehicle Exports Grow in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 28 — Italian exports of vehicles to Lebanon are rising: data supplied by ISTAT and processed by the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) show that Italian exports in the sector reached 31.7 million euros in 2011, a 25.3% increase compared with the 25.3 million euros recorded in 2010. The ICE office in Beirut specifies that Italian exports increased by 95% in the tourism vehicles sector (11.97 million euros) and by 30% for freight vehicles (3.9 million). A 9.8% increase was recorded for car and tractor components (6.7 million), 4.6% for recreation yachts (3.2 million) and 19.8% for motorcycles (1.3 million).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Not All Revolutions Are the Same: We’d Better Learn it Quickly

It was so far away from us; the corrupt, Islamic panarabist Middle Eastern dictators, the clash between Shiites and Sunnis, the spurious alliances between this and that group, their plans for the area egemony… What did we care, after all? But now that the Middle East and Africa are so close to us, we better get a look at the camps, preferences and expectations. The West must take an accelerated course in Islamic studies.

Where is all this leading us, what should we hope for, what side should we be on? For the time the answer has only been humanitarian, but soon we will be forced to ask ourselves which dictators we’d rather see toppled, and which we’d rather see survive at least a little longer. We can rightly feel relieved about the fact that the Egyptian army declared it wants to stay in power a bit longer now that the Muslim Brotherhood has revealed its Hydra head and is ready to take Egypt.

Today the greatest challenge is posed by the inevitable battle taking shape since Syria Nothing is as decisive as Bashar Assad when it comes to the new balance of power ambitiously mapped out by Iran in recent years, is on the move.and, to some extent, even by Turkey. Whilst Gaddafi is an important yet distant player, and Yemen simmers away without really taking shape, whilst Jordan looks to an uncertain future, Syria on one hand and Bahrain on the other are creating a clash of interests between the two greatest Shiite and Sunni players, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The latter is bent on halting the Shiite revolution on the little island guarding the petrol gulf, an island which Teheran considers its own…

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


Oman Police Open Fire on Protesters in Sohar

(AGI) Mascate — According to witnesses quoted by the press, police in Oman have opened fire to disperse protesters in Sohar, killing one person. A port in the north of Oman, Sohar is the heart of the country’s industries and has become the epicenter for protesters demanding democratic reform.

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


Syria: Mass Arrests During Funerals of Protest Victims

(AGI) Damascus — Security forces in Syria have carried out mass arrests at the funerals of some of the protest victims. Several protestors were killed during yesterday’s anti-regime protests, in what has been dubbed “Martyr Friday”. The information comes from press reports citing human rights activists as their source. The arrests took place in Deraa, 100 kilometres south of Damascus, the epicentre of the revolt.

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


Syria: New Protests Lead to Wave of Arrests by Regime

(AGI) Damascus- Syria’s government has made a wave of arrests following Friday’s protests in which at least 9 people were killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the events to Syrian press. Almost 40 persons were arrested from: Deraa, 100 kilometers south of Damascus, the epicentre of the demonstrations and the regime’s violent repression; Duma, 14 kilometers north of the capital; Homs, 160 kilometers to the north. Around 200 people once again protested in front of Deraa’s courthouse, brandishing anti-regime messages such as “Death rather than humiliation” and “Freedom, Freedom”.

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


The Arab Boomerang

There is a new divide by which we define ourselves: Those who suck in the acrid smell of jihad in the Middle East, pronounce their hallucinations “Arab Spring,” crave more … and those who don’t. Among those of us who “just say no” to this nowhere trip, it should be noted, are those who take their sharia seriously, and see its extension as the lingering and insidious side effect, the one that take us down when the vapors are no more.

The Fox News commentariat is where you find the highest and most persistent rate of “Arab Spring” abuse, as Andy McCarthy notes here, Fred Grandy here, but its use is widespread and indiscriminate because it enables users to see the world as they want to see it. On the conservative side of the spectrum, one dose of “Arab Spring” and the “Bush freedom agenda” looks like a brilliantly red, white and blue success, not the bleak, endless nightmare that it is.

Melanie Phillips weighs in (via Ruthfully Yours) on the appropriately outraged side of Political Temperance. She concludes that the West has made itself “an open goal for its enemies,” and pronounces herself “[gaping] in stunned amazement at the extent of the idiocy being displayed by the leaders of America, Britain and Europe over the ‘Arab Spring’ — which should surely be renamed ‘the Arab Boomerang.’ “

Boomerang is right. Among the cautionary lore supporting the skeptics is the boomerang effect of empowering active jihadist groups, which, first and foremost, will strike at the tip of the spear against the jihad, Israel. The other beneficiary is the jihadist state of Iran…

[…]

[Return to headlines]


US Pulls Its Planes and Missiles, As Libya War Appears

Stalemated

[…]

The US will continue to play a supporting role — providing planes for mid-air refueling, jamming and surveillance. However, air support for the rebels will have to be provided by the remaining coalition forces, including Qatar, UAE, Sweden, Britain, and France.

In Libya on Friday, rebels called for a ceasefire, after they were driven back by Gaddafi’s forces for the third day in a row. Gaddafi’s forces have rejected the ceasefire request, according to the Telegraph.

There’s an opinion column that asks the question, “Will Libya become Obama’s Iraq?”, in Friday’s Washington Post.

That’s the wrong question. The right question is, “Will Libya become Obama’s Vietnam?”

As I wrote several days ago, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the Iraq war could never have been “another Vietnam,” because the Vietnam was in a generational Crisis era during that war, while Iraq was in a generational Awakening era during the Iraq war. (See “31-Mar-11 News — US deepens involvement in Libya, as rebels suffer decisive reversal.”)

Libya is in a generation Crisis era, meaning that, as in Vietnam, the old ethnic civil wars of the past are going to be repeated, and the U.S. can neither cause nor prevent a new crisis civil war. All the U.S. can do is get caught in the middle, as happened in Vietnam.

[…]

[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russia’s Looming Population Crisis

The Russian tragedy is that Russia’s people never grew out of serfdom and obeisance to authority. Putin’s Russia is slipping back into the Soviet and Tsarist repressionism of ages past. But modern Russia has satellite TV, the internet, and many other connections to the outside world. Any Russians who bother to make comparisons between their own sad state of affairs, and conditions in the western world — even a western world experiencing a prolonged economic downturn — become progressively crushed under the weight of despair and hopelessness.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Deadly Blast at UN Compound Draws Condemnation

Mazar-e Sharif, 1 April — (AKI) — A deadly attack on a UN compound Friday in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif in which at least eight foreign UN workers and three Afghans were killed has drawn international condemnation.

At least 24 people were injured in the attack which followed a demonstration against the reported burning of a Koran in the US state of Florida last month.

NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen “strongly condemned” the attack, saying it “demonstrated an appalling disregard for what the United Nations and the entire international community are trying to do for the benefit of all Afghans. “

Italy, which has several thousand troops deployed in Afghanistan under the NATO-led mission, said it deplored the “worrying” and “barbarous” attack.

“We firmly condemn this. These extremists are fuelling a downward spiral of intolerence in an irresponsible way and must be stopped,” the Italian foreign office said in a statement.

“All Afghans must contribute to stabilising their country… it is especially reprehensible that these thugs have spilled blood at the organisation whose ideals they violate in the most barbarous manner.”

Amnesty International also condemned the attack as “the worst on the UN in Afghanistan since the United States and its allies helped oust the Taleban in 2001.

It called on the Afghan government to ensure a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.

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


India: Gandhi Was Gay and in Love With a German

(AGI) Berlin — Mahatma Gandhi had homosexual tendencies and had an intense relationship with a German Jewish architect.

According to ‘Great Soul’, a new biography by Pullitzer prizewinner and former editor of the New York Times Joseph Lelyveld, Gandhi left his wife Kasturba for Hermann Kallenbach in 1908. The writer had access to previously unknown correspondence between the great Indian pacifist and the Jewish body-building enthusiast he met in South Africa in 1904.

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


Pakistan: Court Ordered Governments to Locate Family of Davis’ Victims

Lahore, 1 April (AKI) — The Lahore High Court (LHC) in Pakistan on Friday ordered the federal and Punjab governments to find the heirs of Faizan Haider and Faheem — the two young men shot dead by CIA contractor Raymond Davis on January 27 — in 10 days’ time, DawnNews reported.

The court issued the directive during the hearing of a petition filed by a lawyer, Malik Munsif Awan. The petitioner had stated that the families of the two men had ‘gone missing’ after the release of Davis in the double-murder case.

The directive was issued after LHC’s justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry rejected the request of the federation’s lawyers for three weeks’ time to submit the government’s reply with regard to the status of the heirs.

The hearing was subsequently adjourned to 12 April.

In his petition, Munsif Awan had insinuated that the families of the two men were kidnapped and kept in illegal detention. He had also submitted, quoting media reports, that the families had a huge amount of Rs200 million that they had received as blood money with them and their lives could be in danger.

The petitioner had also stated that there were also apprehensions that they were forced to accept the blood money for the release of Davis. Munsif Awan had therefore requested the court to summon authorities concerned and direct them to ‘recover’ the victims’ families and present them in the court.

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


Pakistan Skating on Thin Bahraini Ice

The visit by the Bahrain Foreign Minister Shaikh Khaled Bin Ahmed Mohamed Al-Khalifa to Islamabad opens an incredible twist to the unfolding saga of ‘Arab revolt’ in the Persian Gulf region. The visiting dignitary met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar. The discussions primarily related to ‘defence cooperation’. Shorn of diplomatese, Bahrain wants Pakistan to be a key provider of security and ‘Barkis is willing. Bahrain is very pleased with Pakistan’s ‘principled stand’ on the situation in the Gulf state, which was succinctly articulated by Zardari: “Pakistan desires peace, security, and stability in Bahrain. Pakistan… would not like its (region’s) stability to be upset in any way. Pakistan believes that it would be dangerous for regional peace and stability if the system was destabilized one way or the other”.

Bahrain and its mentors in Riyadh have every reason to be thrilled that Pakistan has unequivocally endorsed the Saudi intervention in Bahrain to crush the Shi’ite uprising. Such clear-cut support is hard to come by nowadays. Quite obviously, Pakistan has estimated that no matter what it takes, Riyadh will never allow Shi’ite empowerment to be realized in Bahrain lest it repeats in the oil-rich eastern provinces in Saudi Arabia itself and from Islamabad’s point of view, it pays to be with the ‘winning side’. There could be many positive spin-offs — greater job opportunities for Pakistani expatriate workers in the PG states, economic assistance from the petrodollar GCC states, oil supplies on concessionary terms, budgetary support for Pakistan’s ailing economy and if things go well, a key role in the PG region’s security architecture.

But Pakistan is taking a big gamble. Pakistan has a sizeable Shi’ite minority and it is prudent not to take sides in the sectarian strife in another Muslim country when Sunni-Shi’ite tensions are endemic to Pakistan itself. Second, Pakistan is bound to annoy Iran and other Shi’ite countries in the region, apart from the Shi’ite majority community in Bahrain itself. Third, Pakistan may be overlooking the possibility of the Shi’ite uprising in Bahrain increasingly getting radicalized as time passes and it may get sucked into a protracted internal strife. US Vice-President Joe Biden’s phone call to the Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa on Sunday gives an indication that Washington remains unsure that the Saudi-led crackdown is the best means of preventing a dangerous situation from developing as the excessive force may well drive the protest underground or may trigger even a region-wide Sunni-Shi’ite conflagration. Indeed, the calm in Manama is deceptive. A White House statement said, “The vice president recognized the important steps taken by the crown prince to reach out to the opposition and that law and order are necessary in order for a productive dialogue to proceed.” But one can never tell the US intentions in the Bahrain situation insofar as its first priority will always be to safeguard the basing facilities of the US’ Fifth Fleet.

Pakistan could be estimating that by aligning itself with the “pro-West” Arab oligarchies in the persian Gulf, it serves the US strategic interests as well. In sum, is Pakistan chewing more than it can chew? The prominent Middle East expert Juan Cole has warned that “Among the Middle East protest movements, that in tiny Bahrain is one of the more momentous”.

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


UN Office Head ‘Claimed to be Muslim’ To Survive Afghan Mob

KABUL — THE head of the UN office in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif survived Friday’s deadly attack by pretending to be Muslim, the UN special representative said on Saturday.

The unnamed Russian chief ‘survived because he claimed to be Muslim — although he was beaten, they let him go,’ envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters in the Afghan capital.

Three European employees were killed in the mob violence later claimed by the Taleban — a Swede, a Norwegian and one reported to be Romanian. They had hidden in a secure room along with the Russian, de Mistura said.

The Russian ‘was separated because when they broke into the bunker, they saw him first and the others were hiding in the dark, and he tried basically to draw their (the attackers’) attention to him,’ the envoy said.

The survivor speaks Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages, de Mistura added. ‘He also spoke the language and for a moment he hoped by doing so, they’ll think there was no one else left. But it didn’t work out like that… The other three were killed, one after the other,’ he said.

Four Nepalese guards were also killed in the attack, while another two escaped because they had been working on watchtowers which were brought down by the crowd and landed outside the compound, allowing them to get away. Two Afghan UN workers were able to escape the violence unharmed. — AFP

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Far East

Arab Uprisings: Tremonti: The Avalanche Will Reach Asia

(AGI) Beijing — “The chain of uprisings that started in North Africa will also stretch to Asia. The impression is that it is difficult to rule in the presence of the Internet and with an excess of inequality”. The statement was made by Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti on speaking with the Italian press in Beijing, where he is visiting to attend a seminar at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, after having taken part in the G20 finance summit in Nanjing. “I can’t tell — he went on to say — if what is being perceived in China is real fear, as we are all interested in world stability, but the way there is not to limit the Internet, it is to limit inequalities”.

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


China: Ordinary Cases of Pollution: Aluminium in Rivers and Lead in Blood

In Guangdong, a plant discharges a 4,500 cubic metres toxic sludge in rivers and farmland. In Zhejiang, residents complain of lead poisoning. In both cases, the guilty plants are illegal. Pollution is one of the main causes of social unrest as authorities show little inclination to act. Often, they are accused of complicity.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — An illegal aluminium smelter released 4,500 cubic metres toxic sludge into rivers and waterways, killing fish, near the cities of Qingyuan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong. Up to 66.6 hectares of farmland may have been affected by the spill as well. Tens of thousands of farmers live in the area.

A local newspaper, the Nanfang Daily, reported the disaster, quoting from frightened residents. Chen Guixiang , a Communist Party chief at Baimang village, one of the worst hit villages, recalled the horrific scene when a torrent of foul-smelling water and toxic sludge rushed down a hill where the factory was located and flooded his village and several others.

However, the authorities in both Qingyuan and Zhaoqing said the problem was not extensive. Ouyang Jie, the chief of the environmental watchdog in Guangning County, said that only three to four mu (less than half a hectare) of farmland in his county had been contaminated.

The factory, which did not even have a proper name, had been allowed to operate since September without approval or mandatory environmental assessment.

Local villagers had complained about toxic air and land pollution caused by the discharges of wastewater containing mainly aluminium.

However, since the plant was built along municipal boundaries, the authorities in Qingyuan and Zhaoqing ignored their grievances, saying the smelter was not under their respective jurisdictions.

Despite China’s government strict aluminium smelter controls, many smelters have popped up along municipal borders and avoided supervision, with local authorities squabbling over responsibility.

In Taizhou District (Zhejiang), some 170 residents, including 53 children aged 14 months to 10 years, have suffered lead poisoning caused by the Taizhou Suqi Storage Battery Company.

Opened in 2005, the plant was built near a village. Residents complained several times about its discharges. National regulations ban battery factories within 500 metres of residents.

The factory was ordered to close on 16 March. Its manager, Ying Jianguo, was detained last Friday. Three government officials, including the deputy chief of the district’s environmental protection office, were suspended for failing to supervise the region properly.

Repeated exposure to small amounts of lead causes slow build up, which eventually ends in poisoning. Lead poisoning can damage various parts of the body, including the nervous and reproductive systems and the kidneys, and cause high blood pressure and anaemia.

Pollution accidents are frequent in China, with children the most affected. Lead was found in the blood of more than 200 children living near a battery factory in Anhui province (see “Pollution in China: Hundreds of children poisoned by lead,” in AsiaNews, 2 January 2011).

Other cases were reported last year: more than 600 children in Fengxiang County (Shaanxi) in August (see “Lead poisons the blood of 84 children in Yunnan,” in AsiaNews 27 July 2010), and more than 1,000 Jiyuan, Henan in October.

In Wenping and Zhenthou, both in Hunan province, thousands of people were poisoned by heavy metals (see “Chinese police arrest parents protesting blood lead poisoning in their children,” in AsiaNews, 3 September 2009, and “Beijing investigates culprits behind lead poisoning. But orders new analysis,” in AsiaNews, 28 August 2009).

Angry over the pollution, people have protested against the inertia of local authorities, often suspected of complicity with plant managers and owners.

However, the authorities tend to react by sending the police to break up protests. Often, local officials and company bosses are not prosecuted. Plants simply are shut down and their operations moved elsewhere, with residents left without compensation or free medical care.

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


Japan’s Attempt to Plug Leaking Reactor Fails

Workers due to attempt again on Sunday to stop radioactive water leaking into the sea at a crippled nuclear plant.

Japanese officials grappling to end the nuclear crisis at the earthquake and tsunami-crippled Fukushima plant are focusing on a crack in a concrete pit that is leaking highly radioactive water into the ocean from a crippled reactor.

Power plant workers attempted to fill the shaft with fresh concrete on Saturday, but that did not change the amount of water coming out of the crack, spokesmen for Tokyo Electric Co (TEPCO) told a news conference.

They will try to block the leak on leak again on Sunday by injecting polymeric material into the trench and use additional concrete to prevent contaminated water from leaking into the sea.

A Tokyo Electric expert will visit the site on Sunday and decide what polymer to use before the work begins.

The water has been leaking into the sea from a 20-centimetre crack detected at a pit in the reactor where power cables are stored, the government’s nuclear safety agency said.

TEPCO said the pit is connected to the No. 2 reactor’s turbine building and a tunnel-like underground trench, in which highly radioactive water has been spotted so far.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said on Saturday that to cool the damaged reactor, NISA was looking at alternatives to pumping in water, including an improvised air conditioning system, spraying the reactor fuel rods with vapourised water or using the plant’s cleaning system.

Operators of the plant are no closer to regaining control of damaged reactors, as fuel rods remain overheated and high levels of radiation are flowing into the sea.

Radiation 4,000 times the legal limit has been detected in seawater near the Daiichi plant and a floating tanker was to be towed to Fukushima to store contaminated seawater.

But until the plant’s internal cooling system is reconnected radiation will flow from the plant.

[Return to headlines]


Japan Utility Says 2 Workers Died at Nuke Plant in Tsunami; 1st Confirmation of Deaths There

TOKYO — The utility that runs a tsunami-crippled Japanese nuclear power plant says two workers were killed when the wave swept ashore more than three weeks ago.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s announcement Sunday is the first confirmation of deaths at the plant. The workers had been missing since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said the bodies were found Wednesday and had to be decontaminated. The announcement was delayed out of consideration for the families.

Radiation has been spewing from the plant since the tsunami knocked out cooling systems there, causing the reactors to dangerously overheat.

[Return to headlines]


North Korea Nears Completion of Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb

The North is believed to be nearing completion of an electromagnetic pulse bomb that, if exploded 25 miles above ground would cause irreversible damage to electrical and electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers, radio and radar, experts say.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Funds to Counter Violence

COMMUNITY groups will be given money to develop programs that tackle violent extremism at the grassroots.

The Gillard Government will award grants worth up to $100,000 to not-for-profit community groups — which could include youth groups in western Sydney and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils — to roll out programs that build resilience to violent extremism.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who will make the announcement today, said the new program was part of the Government’s $9.7 million investment in supporting individuals away from intolerant and radical ideologies and encouraging positive participation in the community.

“Effective community engagement is a key component of the Government’s approach to building a stronger and more resilient community that can resist violent extremism,” he said.

Under the new program, grants from $5,000 to $20,000, and from $20,000 to $100,000, will be awarded to local initiatives that actively address intolerant or extremist messages and discourage extremism.

The Australian Multicultural Foundation and the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils welcomed the Government’s support.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


Gunshots Prompt Prayers for Peace

Behind-the-scenes talks are trying to put a stop to terrifying, violent attacks on a minority religious community, write Eamonn Duff and Natalie O’Brien.

IT BEGAN with minor acts of vandalism, including egg throwing and smashed windows, but instead of remaining periodic footnotes in the night log at Auburn police station, the incidents have grown so violent — and the issue so culturally sensitive — that even authorities are reluctant to speak about them publicly.

Australia’s oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mandir in Auburn, is under siege and its devotees gripped by fear.

On March 19, two men in balaclavas stood at the intersection of a nearby road, spraying the front of the prayer hall with eight rounds of bullets. The building was unoccupied at the time.

The busy Hindu temple opened in 1977. It is surrounded by a predominantly Muslim population and it is no secret among locals that tensions have been simmering in recent years, caused by concerns about noise and parking problems at Sri Mandir.

“There is no excuse [for the gun attack],” the editor of Sydney newspaper The Indian, Rohit Revo, said.

“This was not the work of teenagers; neither was it a petty prank. This is part of a sustained and increasingly violent campaign to scare the temple devotees and drive them out. By definition, this latest attack was an act of terrorism.”

The Sun-Herald is aware the ongoing feud has caused disquiet among some of the most senior police in western Sydney. In a rare move, details of the shooting were deliberately held back from the NSW police media unit through concern that publicity might inflame hostilities.

Auburn City Council claims the first it knew of the incident was when The Sydney Morning Herald published an article on Wednesday. Since then, the chairman of the Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, has stepped in as an intermediary between Hindus and Muslims.

“Given the enormity and complexity of the issues, this is a classic example where we need to apply the principles of multiculturalism and get people to understand and accept that we are a religiously diverse community … we live together and we respect each other’s religious diversity,” he told The Sun-Herald.

“We will be pursuing this through the commission and meeting people in the neighbourhood to discuss the issues. I will be very active in the area.”

Temple priest Jatinkumar Bhatt is praying for a peaceful solution for the sake of his three young children. Bhatt and his family live behind the temple and are too frightened to go outdoors after dark.

“On the night of the shooting, we heard the noise, but every 10 or 15 days we experience the sound of firecrackers being thrown [over the fence], so we thought it must be that again,” Mr Bhatt said.

“Then the police came. They showed me the bullet holes in the walls and asked permission to come in and investigate. I am too afraid to say why I think this is happening.”

In an attack in November, four men wielding iron bars smashed their way through 10-millimetre- thick windows, showering the hall with glass while devotees were praying inside.

The temple recently held a community open day in the hope of brokering fresh ties with the wider community.

“Many of our neighbours are very friendly but sometimes it feels like we are in a different place to Australia,” Mr Bhatt said. “The attacks are now always. It is like in Libya or Afghanistan.”

Mr Kerkyasharian has met the Bhatt family. “The teenage daughter says she feels like she lives in a prison,” he said. “She said her younger brother doesn’t know how to play because they are too scared to go outside to their front yard.”

The founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, said he had given a speech at the open day, in which he stressed the need to “respect religious places of all faiths”.

“I am convinced these problems are not being caused by people who are religious and would urge the Muslim community to show support and solidarity to their neighbours at this time,” he said.

Flemington local area commander Superintendent Phillip Rogerson said police were trying to identify the attackers. Auburn Labor MP Barbara Perry said: “I’ve got every sympathy for the Hindu community. This type of behaviour should not be tolerated.”

           — Hat tip: DB3[Return to headlines]


How I Lost Faith in Multiculturalism

IN 1993, my family and I moved into Belmore in southwest Sydney. It is the next suburb to Lakemba. When I first moved there I loved it.

We bought a house just behind Belmore Sports Ground, in those days the home of my beloved Bulldogs rugby league team. Transport was great, 20 minutes to the city in the train, 20 minutes to the airport.

On the other side of Belmore, away from Lakemba, there were lots of Chinese, plenty of Koreans, growing numbers of Indians, and on the Lakemba side lots of Lebanese and other Arabs.

That was an attraction, too. I like Middle Eastern food. I like Middle Eastern people. The suburb still had the remnants of its once big Greek community and a commanding Greek Orthodox church.

But in the nearly 15 years we lived there the suburb changed, and much for the worse.

Three dynamics interacted in a noxious fashion: the growth of a macho, misogynist culture among young men that often found expression in extremely violent crime; a pervasive atmosphere of anti-social behaviour in the streets; and the simultaneous growth of Islamist extremism and jihadi culture.

This is my story, our story and the story of a failed policy.

THE three great settler immigrant societies of Australia, the US and Canada have not seen an anti-Muslim backlash on anything like that of Europe’s. Australia, the US and Canada are more successful immigrant societies than those of Europe in the modern era, but the usual self-congratulatory explanation we offer for this is simply that our settlement practices are superior to that of Europe.

In the three countries identity can be credal. Recite the nation’s creed, believe the creed, and you are an insider. It’s a powerful mechanism because it focuses on values, not ethnicity.

You sign up to the US constitution and by golly you’re an American.

You take out Australian citizenship and you’re Australian. Immigrants are more welcome and make a better contribution than is the case in Europe.

There is some truth in all this, and in any event it’s a mostly benign myth, but it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny as a serious intellectual explanation.

Certainly the presence or absence of multiculturalism as a state policy seems to have no effect. Canada practices multiculturalism. Australia did for a while but then stopped and is now, apparently, half-heartedly starting again, according to a recent speech by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

The US, on the other hand, does not practice multiculturalism, yet is the biggest and most successful immigrant society in history — more than 310 million people live there from every corner of the globe. It has a black President, Asian state governors (including two Punjabis) and a vastly more ethnically diverse cabinet and corporate leadership than Australia.

There is a big problem of illegal immigration in the US, but that is overwhelmingly from Latin America. The Hispanic desire to be part of America at a civic level is evident in the huge recruitment rates of Hispanics in the US military. If you’re willing to die for your new country that is surely a convincing sign of commitment.

Here in Australia Bowen, in his February 16 speech, titled “The genius of Australian multiculturalism”, posited the comforting notion that it is the superiority of our own multiculturalism policies that have made so big a difference between us and the tensions of Europe.

I’m afraid Bowen’s speech had the opposite effect on me. It completed my transformation.

Whereas once I wholeheartedly supported multiculturalism, I now think it’s a failure and the word should be abandoned. Australian society and government were mostly doing this until Bowen’s speech…

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

2 Malawi University Campuses Closed After Protests

2 Malawi university campuses closed indefinitely after violent protests over academic freedom

Malawi officials have closed two university campuses indefinitely because of violent protests over what students and professors call threats to academic freedom.

In a statement Saturday, the University Council said it was acting “to protect lives and property” and ordered students off campuses in Blantyre and in southern Zomba. Student leaders say police enforcing the order beat some students.

Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing students in the last week in turmoil that erupted after a senior police officer questioned a professor who reportedly led a classroom discussion on Arab revolutions — and their possible implications for the southern African nation. The international community has expressed increasing concern the government is restricting rights in Malawi.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


Crowds Come Over Roads and by Helicopters for Tanzanian’s Cure-All Potion

Mr. Mwasapile, a former Lutheran preacher, lives in Samunge, a village in the middle of the savannah near the Kenya-Tanzania border. He began administering his miracle potion several months ago, and charges about 30 cents a cup. He says it can cure AIDS, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure — you name it. According to The Daily Nation, Kenya’s largest newspaper, Tanzanian officials have tested the herbs in the concoction and have verified that it is safe to drink. Mr. Mwasapile even has a Facebook page, listed under “Doctor, Arusha, Tanzania.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Ivory Coast: Gbagbo Forces Mobilise to Defend Institutions

(AGI) Abidjan — Armed forces loyal to outgoing Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, have rallied all their members. They have called on them to mobilise to “defend the institutions” against “the hordes of mercenaries.” The call went out as members of the former rebel militia supporting Alassane Outtara, former Prime Minister and now the only candidate recognised by the international community as having won the Presidential elections on 28th November, were entering Abdijan.

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

Latin America

Report: Hamas, Hezbollah Operatives in Brazil Are Planning Attacks Abroad

Leading Brazilian news magazine, Veja, reports that at least 20 people affiliated with al Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas are hiding out in Brazil, raising money and recruiting followers.

Operatives from Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaida are in Brazil planning attacks, raising money and recruiting followers, a leading Brazilian news magazine reported on Saturday.

The report renews prior concerns about the nation serving as a hide-out for Islamic militants.

Veja magazine, in its online edition, reported that at least 20 people affiliated with al Qaida as well as the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah, the Palestinian group Hamas and two other organizations have been hiding out in the South American country.

The magazine said these operatives have been raising money and working to incite attacks abroad. The magazine cited Brazilian police and U.S. government reports, but did not give details on specific targets or operations.

The United States has said Islamic militants have been operating in the border region between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Brazil has denied this, while saying it is aware that some members of Brazil’s Lebanese community legally transferred funds to the Middle East.

There has been a warming of relations between Brazil and the United States since President Dilma Rousseff took office in January. She has sought closer U.S. ties after her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, angered the United States with attempts to mediate over Iran’s nuclear program.

Veja reported that a Lebanese man named Khaled Hussein Ali, who has lived in Brazil since 1998, is an important member of al Qaida’s propaganda operation and has coordinated extremists in 17 countries.

He was briefly arrested in Brazil in March 2009 after a police investigation that found videos and texts directed at al Qaida followers. One email found on his computer and sent as spam to email addresses in the United States incites hatred against Jews and blacks, Veja said.

He spent 21 days in prison on charges of racism, inciting crime and gang formation, but was set free because prosecutors did not pursue the charges in court, Veja said.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Another Mass Break-Out From Manduria Camp

(AGI) Taranto- The refugee camp of Manduria (Apulia) is in chaos after yet another group of hundreds of immigrants broke out. The immigrants knocked down part of the camp fence and dispersed; some are headed towards the nearby countryside whilst others have stopped alongside the country road.

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


EU Must Share Refugees, European Council

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, MARCH 28 — Malta and the EU’s member states must all play a part if the Union is to tackle the challenges of immigration in respect of the human rights of migrants, according to the European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, who has just visited the island.

“Malta must abandon the reactive stance it has adopted so far and draw up a system that is fully in line with European standards regarding the respect of human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers,” Hammarberg said.

But the Commissioner warned that other European countries would have to adopt a more generous and collective approach, and accept people rightly recognised by Malta as having refugee status.

So far, Hammarberg said, “only France and Germany” have taken steps in this direction. The Commissioner also invited the Maltese authorities urgently to improve the living conditions of migrants being held in “open centres”, saying that this was another area in which Europe could help Valletta to make progress.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italian Police Charge African Migrants at French Consulate

(AGI) Ventimiglia — Police clashed with North African migrants as they staged a protest rally in Ventimiglia today. A group of protesters broke off from the rally and headed for the French Consulate, throwing eggs, coins and bottles. Riot police were called in to disperse the crowd.

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


Italy: Migrants Hold Peaceful Protest on Southern Lampedusa Island

Lampedusa, 1 April — (AKI) — Hundreds of migrants held a peaceful protest on Friday on the tiny southern Italian fishing island of Lampedusa, where around 20,000 have arrived since a popular revolt toppled Tunisia’s longtime president in January.

“Freedom, freedom!” they chanted, thanking islanders for the hospitality received from some of them.

Tensions between the locals and migrants, many of whom have been sleeping on beaches and public buildings converted into make-shift shelters, has increased in recent days.

Berlusconi’s government has called the migrant influx on Lampedusa a “crisis” . In the past two days it has shipped to centres elsewhere around half of the 6,200 migrants who were crowed on the island in squalid conditions earlier this week — more people than Lampedusa’s resident population of 5,200.

Rough seas on Friday forced Italian authorities to suspend the evacuation of mostly Tunisian would-be immigrants from Lampedusa, although prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had vowed on Wednesday they would all be removed “within 48-60 hours”.

Italy claims that almost all the migrants are looking for economic opportunity and will be repatriated. The Italian government accuses other European Union states, notably France, of a lack of solidarity by refusing to take any of the migrants, and says the EU executive is not doing enough to make countries grant some of the migrants asylum.

The European Commission on Friday retreated from earlier criticism of France and indicated that a French policy of sending back North African immigrants to Italy might have a legal basis.

France has beefed up police controls and is sending back irregular migrants who appeared to have crossed into southern France from Italy. Most of the migrants from Tunisia, a former French colony, are looking to relocate to French territory.

“There are no borders so they can’t (have such controls),” EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told a Brussels news conference earlier in the day when asked about the legality of the French actions.

But Malmstrom’s spokesman, Marcin Grabiec, later acknowledged that the Chambery Agreement — a bilateral deal signed a few weeks before Italy entered the European Union’s border-free Schengen system in 1997 — allows France to send back so-called ‘third-country’ irregular migrants if it has grounds to believe that they have entered its territory from Italy.

Italian press reports indicated that each migrant would be given 1,500 euros (2,100 dollars) in return for repatriation, with grants partly funded by the EU.

Malmstrom said Tunisian authorities were willing to cooperate on “a well-managed, organized and gradual repatriation of Tunisian nationals,” and said the EU would grant financial support.

“We can pay 75 percent of the sum that is eventually given to migrants in case of a voluntary return,” Malmstrom said.

Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni said current bilateral agreements between Tunisia and Italy only allow for the repatriation of up to four migrants per day.

Berlusconi was due to travel to Tunsia on Monday for talks with the government Last week Italy said it would give Tunisia 80 million euros worth of aid to solve the problem.

Malmstrom also said negotiations were ongoing to convince EU countries to give asylum to “the few thousands, mainly Somali, Eritrean and Sudanese” refugees in Libya and Tunisia who cannot be returned to their war-torn home countries.

“Sweden has offered to take a couple of hundred, and I hope that the rest of the (EU) member countries will also show that solidarity is not just a word but also something in practice,” she said.

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


Italy Border Migrant Rejections ‘Legal’, Paris Tells EU

(AGI) Paris — The French government submits migrant rejections on the Italian border “are perfectly compliant with EU law”.

Interior minister Claude Geant clarified Paris’ position in a letter to EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, following her criticism of the move.

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


Lampedusa Councillor’s Home Broken Into

(AGI) Lampedusa — Last night the Lampedusa home of Pietro Busetta, economist and local Councillor, was broken into. Mr Bisetta, Regional Councillor for Tourism, Cultural Heritage and Economic Development, had this to say “I am not pointing the finger at these desperate people; the fault lies in the government’s failure to manage the situation, having heaped everything on Lampedusa. It was inevitable that something like this should happen.” .

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


Mayor of Montichiari Challenges Govt’s Refugee Plans

(AGI) Brescia — Authorities in Montichiari have signalled their unhappiness at the prospect of hosting Lampedusa immigrants.

“If that move were to be made,” the town’s NP party mayor, Elena Zanola, said “our citizens will bar their way.”

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


Migrants: Pakistani Hides Among School Trip Luggage

(AGI) Frosinone — An illegal Pakistani immigrant was found hidden amongst the luggage of a school class returning from Greece. Pupils from the ‘Giosue’ Carducci’ grammar school in Cassino, returned at around 11.00 pm last night after a five-day trip. When the coach stopped in Piazza Corte, the children and parents opened the luggage compartment and the young migrant popped out. He had spent an entire day hidden without food or water. Helped out and given some refreshments he was handed over to the care of the local Caritas, until the carabinieri conduct their investigations. The pupils collected money and clothes for the young man.

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


Tension Runs High at Manduria Camp

(AGI) Taranto — Policing is being stepped up at the Manduria immigrant reception camp as protests break out and tensions run high. Nobody is being allowed to leave the camp (apart from those with official passes). An immigrant in Taranto managed to climb a tree in the square in front of the railway station, and threatened to jump off, but was dissuaded and eventually left with other immigrants on a coach taking them back to Manduria.

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

General

Facebook Sued for $1billion Over ‘Intifada’ Page Calling for Violence Against Jews

Facebook and its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are being sued for more than $1billion over a page that was on the social networking site that called for violence against Jews.

The page, entitled Third Palestinian Intifada, had more than 340,000 ‘likes’ for its proposed May 15 uprising when it was removed earlier in the week.

The suit was filed by American attorney Larry Klayman in the D.C. Superior Court on Thursday.

He is also the founder of the conservative public interest group Judicial Watch.

In the lawsuit Mr Klayman describes himself as “an American citizen of Jewish origin” who is “active in all matters concerning the security of Israel and its people.”

He alleges that Facebook did not take down the page that called for a intifada quick enough, keeping it up in order to ‘further their revenues and the net worth of the company.’

The page was removed by the company on March 29, several days after various people complained, including Israeli Public Diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein and the Anti-Defamation League.

A Facebook spokesman said that the claims were ‘without merit,’ adding that ‘we will fight it vigorously.’

In his response to Mr Edelstein, Facebook’s director of policy for Europe, the Middle East and Asia Richard Allen said: ‘Our reviewers felt that the content of the Page began as a call for peaceful protest, even though the term Intifada has been associated with violence in the past.

‘In addition, the administrators initially removed comments that promoted violence. Under these conditions a page of this nature would normally be permitted to remain on Facebook.

‘However, after the publicity of the Page more comments deteriorated to direct calls for violence. Eventually, the administrators also participated in these calls ..After administrators of the page received repeated warnings about posts that violated our policies, we removed the Page yesterday.’

Mr Allen added that the company ‘continues to believe that people on Facebook should be able to express their opinions, and we do not typically take down content that speaks out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.

He said: ‘However, we monitor pages that are reported to us and when they degrade to direct calls for violence or expressions of hate — as occurred in this case — we have and will continue to take them down.’

Mr Klayman said: ‘While Facebook has accomplished a lot of good, it can, as in this instance, be used for nefarious and evil purposes.’

‘Defendants Zuckerberg’s and Facebook’s callous and greedy actions in not taking down the page, but wilfully allowing it to stay up for many days, has caused huge damage, for which they must be held accountable, so as to prevent this from ever happening again.

‘They must be not only enjoined but also hit in their purse, which is where they understand matters best.’

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


Google CEO Wanted Political Donation Removed

An upcoming book about Google claims that Eric Schmidt, who is to step down next week as chief executive, once asked for information about a political donation he made to be removed from the Internet giant’s search engine, The New York Times reported Friday.

The Times said Schmidt’s request is recounted in “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives,” a book by technology journalist Steven Levy which is to appear in stores on April 12.

[…]

Google announced in January that Schmidt would be replaced as chief executive on April 4 by Google co-founder Larry Page.

[…]

[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

Robert Marchenoir said...

Blatant dishonesty. The Dail Mail's headline :

"Vile EDL thugs in 2,000-strong hate protest wear flag-coloured burkas to confront Muslims"

The Daily Mail journalist (right at the beginning of his article) :

"But trouble flared as skirmishes broke out among EDL supporters."

The police (lost at the end of the article) :

"Although there were minor scuffles amongst the EDL demonstrators, there was no significant disorder. The events have passed mostly without incident."

By any standards, the British police is not a notorious EDL supporter...

But here you have it : in the media's words, it's "thugs", "vile thugs", "confrontation" and "hate".

The EDL is not even allowed its opinion : "protest" is between quotation marks (you see, it's not a real, lagitimate protest ; something more sinister is at work), and marchers were not demonstrating against the spread of Sharia Law and militant Islamism ; they "claimed" to be demonstrating against the spread of Sharia Law and militant Islamism.

What they were really doing was engage in "vileness", "hate" and "thuggery".

Despite the police basically saying the opposite.