Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110416

Financial Crisis
»10 US Housing Markets at Risk of a Major Collapse
»Brussels Recovers 530.3 Mln, 260 From Greece
»Rehn on Eurozone Rescue: ‘Mission Accomplished’
»Calif. Muslim Students Arraigned for Disruption
»Missing 16-Year-Old Zaineb Chaudhary May be in Danger
Europe and the EU
»France Open to Talks With Democratic Islamists
»Greece: ND Refers to Anniversary of Titanic Sinking
»Italy: Prototype Mediterranean House, Changes With Seasons
»Italy: Uffizi ‘Winning War on Woodworm’
»Italy: Capri to Use DNA to Keep Streets Dog-Waste Free
»Italy: Police Arrest 19 ‘Ndrangheta Members in Lombardy
»Italy: Reforms Will Cut 15,000 Trials Says Magistrates’ Leader
»North African Migrants Head Out of Marche Upon Arrival
»Portugal: ‘Otelo’: Had I Known I Would Not Have Led Revolution
»Spain: JMJ: Madrid Capital City of Christian Culture
»UK: Tower Hamlets Mayor Told to Say Sorry to Sex Crime Victim
»UK: Will There Always be an England, Whatever the Origin of Its People?
»Croatia: ICT: Former General Gotovina Sentenced to 24 Years
»Italia-Serbia: Unicredit Supports Fiat Auto Activities
Mediterranean Union
»Egypt: Italian Embassy Donates Books to Ain Shams University
»EU Commission Aims to Simplify Visas for Neighbours
»EU Seeks Projects for Palestinian Territories
»EU: PNA Agreement: Europe Market Opens to Palestinian Exports
North Africa
»Attack on Algerian Army Outpost Claims Lives of 15
»Coptic Christians in Egypt Rally for Secular Constitution, Civil Rights
»Italy Says it Won’t Participate in Bombing Libya
»Libya: Tripoli Vicar: People Are Worn Out
»‘Mubarak May be Hanged if He Ordered Rioters’ Deaths’
»NATO Running Out of Precision Weapons in Libya
»NATO Sorties Over Libya Total 3,670 Since Campaign’s Start
»Russia Asks for Immediate Ceasefire in Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»Italy Condemns Gaza Activist Killing
Middle East
»Bahrain: 4 Football Players Suspended for Joining Protests
»Iraqi MP Exposes ‘Secret’ Talks on US Troop Withdrawal
»Jordan: Police Use Tear Gas to Disperse Protesters in Zarqa
»No Longer Turkey vs France, This is Erdogan vs Sarkozy
»Syria: Police Breaks Up Marches in Damascus, Shots in Homs
»Syrians Take to Deraa Streets in Anti-Assad Protests
South Asia
»Afghan Soldier Kills 5 NATO Troops and 4 Afghan Comrades
»India: Karnataka: New Wave of Violence and Attacks on Christians. Complicity of Authorities
»Indonesia: West Java: For the First Time a Suicide Bomber Blows Himself Up Inside a Mosque. 28 Wounded
»Indonesia: Suicide Bomber Praying as He Detonates Bomb: Survivor
»Pakistan: Punjab: Muslims Attack a Christian Village
Far East
»China: Fellowes, American Stationery Giant, Brought to Its Knees in China
»Japan: Fukushima Exposure Levels Going Up Everywhere
»North Korea: Shot for Stealing US$ 20 of Corn as Public Executions Are Back
»Smoke at Another Japan Nuclear Plant
»Vietnam: Hanoi Steps Up Persecution of Montagnard Christians
Australia — Pacific
»Arabic Second-Most Common Australian Tongue
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Naval Action That Would Shame Nelson
»Nigeria Votes on Whether to Keep Accidental Leader
»Somali Pirates Say to Hold Any Indian Crews Hostage
»200 Tunisians to be Distributed Throughout Lombardy
»Defrauding the American Taxpayer
»First Permits to Stay Given to Migrants in Ventimiglia
»Landings Resume in Lampedusa, Boat Arriving
»Netherlands: Unemployed Foreigners Under Threat
»Rancher Tells Congress the Way it Really is Down at the Border
»Temporary Permits for 700 Tunisians at Trapani’s Tent City
Culture Wars
»There is No Male-Female Wage Gap
»UK: Dr Death Suicide Film Being Shown in Schools: Euthanasia Fanatic Gives Workshop on How to Kill Yourself in Educational Video for 14-Year-Olds
»UK: Puberty Blocker for Children Considering Sex Change
»UK: Persecuted for His Cross: Electrician Told He Faces the Sack for Christian Symbol on His Van Dashboard
»20 Signs That a Horrific Global Food Crisis is Coming

Financial Crisis

10 US Housing Markets at Risk of a Major Collapse

Even the baseline scenario in places like Las Vegas and Miami is grim, where Case Shiller projects a 21% decline in home prices from 2010 to 2012.

But in one scenario it could be worse.

6.7 million delinquent mortgages are waiting to flood the market around the country — and with near-zero cure rates most of them will. Another 2 million homes in foreclosure are being held off the market by banks.

Economist Keith Jurow says distressed asset investors are ignoring this threat: “If you are an investor thinking of buying one or more properties in Miami-Dade County, for example, you need to know that 24.9% of all active first liens there were seriously distressed. This means that more than 91,000 properties are almost certainly going to be dumped onto the market. Will that exert downward pressure on prices? Absolutely.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Brussels Recovers 530.3 Mln, 260 From Greece

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 15 — Breaking the rules of the Common Agricultural Policy (PAC) will turn out to be costly for Greece. Brussels today asked the member States to pay back 530 million euros, and Greece has to pay more than any other country. Greece will have to pay back almost 260 million euros due to serious lack of controls and default of payment. Spain has to refund 116 million euros, France 2.326 million, Italy 2.078 million and Portugal 720 thousand euros. The measure also affect Bulgaria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and the UK. The payments will flow back to the EU budget. The member States are responsible for the payment and verification of costs of the common agricultural policy, but the European Commission checks if the States have made a correct use of the funds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Rehn on Eurozone Rescue: ‘Mission Accomplished’

EU economy chief Olli Rehn has declared the eurozone rescue mission accomplished. In a speech to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based conservative think-tank on Thursday (14 April), he said: “While I cannot yet say ‘Mission accomplished’, I am increasingly confident that we are entering into the endgame of the crisis management phase.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Calif. Muslim Students Arraigned for Disruption

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Eleven Muslim students pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges stemming from the disruption of a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at a California university.

The students were arraigned in Orange County Superior Court on misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting and misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting.

The case has stoked an intense debate about freedom of speech, and defense lawyers are seeking to have the have Orange County district attorney, Tony Rackauckas, removed from the prosecution.

The students were arrested on Feb. 8, 2010, at the University of California, Irvine, after shouting in protest at the speech on U.S.-Israeli security. The interruptions forced Ambassador Michael Oren to halt his remarks for 20 minutes.

Seven of the defendants entered their pleas in person. Four other pleas were entered by defense attorneys.

Muslim and civil rights advocates accuse prosecutors of discriminating against students exercising their right to dissent, just as many other college-goers do without punishment. They also say prosecutors have shown bias against Muslims in their internal communications and want the state attorney general to take over the case.

“This is not about the war in Gaza. This is about democracy right here,” Jacqueline Goodman, an attorney representing two of the defendants, told reporters after the hearing.

Prosecutors contend the subject of the students’ protest has nothing to do with the case and say defense attorneys have failed to prove they are biased or have a conflict of interest. Rather, they say the demonstration was a premeditated attempt to disrupt Oren’s lecture that infringed on the rights of hundreds of people who had gathered on campus to hear him speak.

“They trampled on the other people’s First Amendment rights,” Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner told reporters.

On Friday, the prosecution filed a 32-page response to defense attorneys’ efforts to have prosecutors pulled from the case. The filing includes copies of email communications from the head of the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine in the days before Oren’s speech outlining the so-called “game plan” in which “we will be staying for the majority of the program and disrupting it throughout the whole time.”

Prosecutors also asked Judge Peter J. Wilson to unseal transcripts of the grand jury called to investigate the case — a move opposed by defendants.

Eight of the students attended UC Irvine and three were from the nearby campus of the University of California, Riverside. If convicted, they could face a sentence ranging from probation with community service and fines to up to a year in jail.

The next hearing in the case is set for May 13. A trial, which is expected to take two weeks, is scheduled to start Aug. 15.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Missing 16-Year-Old Zaineb Chaudhary May be in Danger

Chicago — Illinois State Police are looking for a 16-year-old Zaineb Chaudhary and believe she may be in danger. Investigators said Chaudhary ran away from her home in Skokie last month in order to avoid an arranged marriage.

It has been 34 days since Chaudhary was last seen. Police said the teen may have posed as a 19-year-old on a social media website. She could be in El Monte, Calif. with a 39-year-old man she met online. He was interviewed, but there are still several unanswered questions.

Investigators said a clash of two cultures caused the teen to run away from home. She was last seen on March 11 at Niles North High School in Skokie.

“I just want her to know that she can come home and we’re not going to like hurt her or anything because we just want her to be happy and we want her to be safe,” said Chaudhary’s 13-year-old sister, Maryam Chaudhary.

Chaudhary’s little sister went silent as she sat between her parents who asked her to make a plea for her sister’s safe return home.

Watch Maryam Chaudhary’s interview about her sister:

“Maybe you’re safe, maybe you’re not. We just want to know that you’re happy, safe, so just let us know that you’re still ok,” Chaudhary said.

“Well we have a girl, raised here in the United States, being raised here in a different culture than where her parents are from, trying to accept the Western ways here,” Officer Tammy Jacobsen of the Skokie Police Department said.

A joint investigation between the Skokie and Illinois State Police Departments indicates Chaudhary’s father visited Pakistan in October.

“He has stated that he was there, looking for marriage arrangement for his daughter,” Jacobsen said.

Arranged marriage is an integral part of traditional Pakistani culture, but it can cause conflicts with young Pakistanis in this country.

Investigators said the teen may have been living a double life: one at home and another in high school.

They fear Chaudhary’s family could view her disappearance as a disgrace, which could lead to what’s known as an “honor crime.”

Women are killed for refusing to agree to an arranged marriage in “honor crimes.”

According to Ron Synovitz with the Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, there are reports of more than 4,000 honor killings across Pakistan since 1998.

“Any resources we have we will reach out to help her with that, that she has no fear of coming home,” Jacobsen said. “Anything that may have happened in the household, she can come to us and we’re going to make sure that she’s taken care of and that she can feel safe while returning or contact us.”

If you have any information on Zaineb Chaudhary’s whereabouts, call the Skokie Police Department at 847-982-5900.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France Open to Talks With Democratic Islamists

(AGI) Paris — France is ready to hold talks with Islamist movements in the Arab world if they embrace democracy. In his closing speech at a Paris meeting on revolts in the Arab world, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’ said France is ready to hold talks with the Islamist movements across the Arab world as long as they embrace democracy and renounce violence. “We should talk and exchange ideas with all those who respect the rules of the democratic game and of course the fundamental principle of renouncing violence”, he said.

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

Greece: ND Refers to Anniversary of Titanic Sinking

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 15 — Main opposition New Democracy (ND, center right) party on Friday bashed Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for his speech, carried live by the state broadcaster, delivered before his Cabinet, characterising the latter’s remarks as “an essay out of touch with reality”.

ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis, as ANA reports, charged that the premier did not have the courage to unveil “new painful measures he plans and postponed their announcement until after Easter”. “Apparently, the fact that the Cabinet met on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic means something. Obviously, he feels that his government is sinking. The country will not go down with them,” Michelakis said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prototype Mediterranean House, Changes With Seasons

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 11 — A ‘sustainable Mediterranean house’ adjusts itself to the seasons, lets light in during the various stages and is self-sufficient from an energy viewpoint, contributing to the fight against climate change by creating virtually no emissions. The house, called ‘Med in Italy’, was presented today in Rome ahead of its participation in the ‘green’ architecture Olympics, the Solar decathlon, next year in Madrid. This is an international competition conceived by the US department of energy. The entirely Italian project (a team of teachers and students of ‘Roma Tre’ University together with the Industrial Design Laboratory of the ‘Sapienza’ University) that was admitted to the competition regards an eco-house that can be built in just over one week. It will produce six times more energy than it consumes. The house will in fact generate 11.400 kilowatt hours thanks to photovoltaic panels, and will consumer around 2,000 kwh, delivering almost 9,500 kwh to the grid, saving 121 tonnes on CO2 over a 20-year period (the same as planting 120 trees).

Technology helps saving 84% of costs: the house is not connected to the water network and has a reservoir, which also recycles water. It is also not connected to the gas grid. The house has an internal surface area of 50 square metres (150 including the area around the house). The construction of the prototype has cost around a million euros (only the internal structure some 250-300 thousand euros). It can be used in emergency situations after an earthquake, or as comfortable loft for environmentally friendly tourism.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Uffizi ‘Winning War on Woodworm’

400 works saved in last three years

(ANSA) — Florence, April 12 — Florence’s famous Uffizi Gallery is winning its war on woodworm, officials said Tuesday.

“Safeguarding (from woodworm) is enhancing the works too, even though it doesn’t get in the papers as much,” said Museum Director Antonio Natali, noting that 400 works including Botticelli’s glorious Coronation of the Virgin (1490-92) had been saved from the chomping pests in the last three years.

Natali said experimental methods tried out on Lorenzo Monaco’s monumental late-Gothic polyptych Coronation of the Virgin (1414) had “proven successful” and had been used to beat the bugs on the Botticelli last year, as well as on another large-scale masterpiece, Flemish master Hugo van der Groes’ Portinari Triptych (1483).

“These were urgent and extremely delicate interventions which we carried out without moving the works and without disturbing the public,” he noted.

The protection of the giant altarpiece by pre-Renaissance giant Monaco had been “particularly useful” in finding new ways to fend off the attack of the worms, Natali said.

“We placed a sheet of special material in front of the five-metre high painting in such a way as to form a bag where we pumped in nitrogen to wipe out the larvae and eggs present in the wood.

“Then we put a customised varnish on the work to protect it from future assaults”.

At the moment, Natali said, “we are organising the chemical treatment of all the doors in the Gallery and a clean-up of the wooden decorations in the Miniatures Room”.

Much of the work has been bankrolled by the Florence Savings Bank, Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze (CRF), whose chairman, Michele Gremigni, said “we are happy to fund intervention that significantly safeguards our masterpieces”.

A CRF statement hailed the project, saying “the onslaught of the xylophagous (wood-eating) insects is being constantly thwarted by a systematic action of conservation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Capri to Use DNA to Keep Streets Dog-Waste Free

Capri, 8 April (AKI) — The island of Capri, a Italian summer destination for movie stars and other members of the super-wealthy jet set, aims to bust irresponsible dog owners — using DNA.

Capri mayor Ciro Lembo says it costs the tiny island in the Gulf of Naples around 5 million euros a year to keep the island clean and he won’t stand for thoughtless dog owners leaving behind piles of Fido’s feces.

“Do you really think we will let the reputation of the island whose beauty is coveted by the world be compromised by bodily needs left in the streets by inattentive or arrogant dog owners,” Lembo said in an interview with Adnkronos.

The canine population on the island in the Gulf of Naples in western Italy numbers around 1,000, or one for every six human residents, according to La Stampa newspaper.

Blood samples for each dog will be filed and starting in June local government ecological workers will locate the excrement, call the police who will send a sample to a laboratory where DNA will be extracted and compared with the results of blood samples.

The process won’t be cheap, but neither will the fine: up to 2,000 euros.

Lembo frames the doggie-doo issue in terms preserving Capri’s pristine beauty, but all says it is a matter of public health. Eliminating stools from will keep passers-by safe from bruising and broken bones, he says. Or at least can keep a pair of pricy Prada shoes from the waste bin.

“In the past there have been unpleasant episodes, like tourists slipping and hurting themselves.” said Lembo. “But there have also been unfortunate cases when the victim didn’t get hurt but had to throw away some spoiled clothes.”

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

Italy: Police Arrest 19 ‘Ndrangheta Members in Lombardy

(AGI) Milan — As ordered by the courts in Milan, nineteen people have been arrested by the Carabinieri Special Forces in Lombardy and charged with belonging to the mafia, murder and concealment of bodies. According to investigations carried out by the Milan Anti-mafia Unit, those arrested had committed four murders in Lombardy between 2008 and 2010. . .

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

Italy: Reforms Will Cut 15,000 Trials Says Magistrates’ Leader

(AGI)Rome- The law for faster trials will cut 15,000 pending trials says leader of the National Magistrates’ Association Palamara. “At least 15 thousand trials will be canceled and struck down,” said the Association’s chairman Luca Palamara during an interview on Repubblica TV regarding proceedings in parliament for the justice reform. Palamara then referred to President Giorgio Napolitano, stating: “to us, he is a landmark, we have the utmost respect for his role.”

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

North African Migrants Head Out of Marche Upon Arrival

(AGI) Ancona — After transferring to the Marche region, 25 Tunisian migrants left upon arrival, heading for other destinations. Provided with a temporary permit, the group is thought to be heading for France and other European destinations. The party was entirely comprised of Tunisian migrants and had arrived in Porto Sant’Elpidio at 1900 hours yesterday.

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

Portugal: ‘Otelo’: Had I Known I Would Not Have Led Revolution

(ANSAmed) — LISBON, APRIL 13 — If he had known that the country would today be forced to pass under the Caudine Forks for the third time since the fall of Salazar’s regime, Otelo de Carvalho would not have staged the Carnation Revolution, which in 1974 marked the end of 48 years of dictatorship. The man who led the “movement of captains” 37 years ago and its peaceful conquest of Lisbon by democratic soldiers has expressed deep disappointment at how things have changed since that day.

“Our people, who lived under a military and fascist dictatorship for 48 years, deserved something other than to see two million Portuguese people still living in poverty,” 75-year old Otelo said in an interview with the Lusa agency, expressing his regret at the “enormous wage differences” that exist in the country today. “I cannot accept this, it injures me,” he says. “Some people get up at 5 in the morning to work in factories or in the fields and get to the end of the month with a starvation wage”.

In the last three years, Portugal has already suffered three significant belt-tightening measures to combat the country’s deficit, in moves carried out by the now outgoing Socialist government of the Prime Minister José Socrates. The aid requested from the EU and the IMF will ensure further difficult sacrifices for the country. The press claims that the IMF intends to demand cuts on wages and pensions and an increase in VAT and income tax. The minimum monthly wage in Portugal is 475 euros. “Today it is difficult to look towards the future with optimism. I would never have led the April 25 revolution if I had known that we would today find ourselves in this situation,” Otelo says. “I would have left the army and maybe would have done what our young people do today and left the country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: JMJ: Madrid Capital City of Christian Culture

(ANSAmed)- MADRID, APRIL 12 — Madrid will be the world capital of Christian culture on occasion of the World Youth day (JMJ), which will be presided by Pope Benedict VI from August 15 to 20.

More than 300 activities from 37 countries of the five continents will illustrate the Christian cultural heritage in its universal projection, as explained today by Carla Diez de Rivera, head of the department of culture, while presenting the programme in Madrid. Cinema, music, exhibits, theatre and tourist routes for the cities will be made available free of charge to young people holding pilgrim accreditation papers gained by registering to the JMJ. The exhibit ‘Move yourselves: touched by Beauty’, dedicated to the life and work of Antonio Gaudí, the architect who designed the Sagrada Familia, will reveal where he found his inspiration.

A mould of one of the pinnacles of the Sagrada Familia will be taken to Madrid, where it will be decorated with a tile mosaic by the pilgrims. The Portico of Glory, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and the exhibit ‘Contemporary art and faith’, with items provided by Washington’s National Museum of Catholic Art and History, will be at the heart of another two exhibits, that will be joined by a photo exhibit on persecuted Christians.

For the occasion, even the Prado Museum will inaugurate in June an itinerary on the image of Christ, with paintings from its collection and Caravaggio’s “Holy Sepulchre”, provided by the Vatican Museum. The Thyssen Bornemisza Museum will host an exhibit named ‘Meetings’ on the figure of Jesus Christ in various moments of public life. Visits to the Royal Sites will be free for the pilgrims. Madrid will offer a representation of ‘The holy year in Madrid’, a sacramental work by Calderon de la Barca, and a musical on the life of John Paul II, creator of the World Days, together with a series of initiatives, that will have a particular meaning given the imminent beatification of the pope on May 1.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Tower Hamlets Mayor Told to Say Sorry to Sex Crime Victim

Lutfur Rahman had given a ‘good character’ reference to the man which was used to try and convince a judge not to jail him.

Mr Rahman claimed the testimonial “was a genuine mistake” when he faced angry councillors at last night’s council meeting.

Zamal Uddin, 44, who sexually assaulted the 26-year-old woman in October, was jailed for 18 months and put on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years after admitting two charges of sexual assault and driving while disqualified.

Councillors challenged the Mayor over whether he knew Uddin faced serious criminal charges when he gave the testimonial.

“For you to say you ‘made a mistake’ is outrageous,” said Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds.

“You’re a solicitor and member of the Law Society—yet you gave a reference on Tower Hamlets notepaper for this corrupt, perverted criminal.

“You know better than anyone how the Law stands—you should apologise to the people of Tower Hamlets for your testimonial to a pervert who’s been recommended for deportation.”

Cllr Golds now plans to write to the Law Society over Lutfur’s testimonial.

Labour’s Rachael Saunders said: “I hope the mayor apologises to the woman to save the reputation of the council.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Will There Always be an England, Whatever the Origin of Its People?

On Thursday night, the same day as David Cameron was making his speech about immigration, I had to propose the toast of “England”. My host was the Honourable Artillery Company, sometimes described as our oldest regiment. Today, the HAC is part of the Territorial Army. We honoured some of its young men who had just served in Afghanistan.

Its St George’s Day dinner (held early this year so as not to clash with Easter) is always a feast of patriotism of the sort which reached its apogee in the last years of Queen Victoria. After dinner, a band tootling under their busbies marches in, and everyone sings Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory until their lungs burst. Men in red bum-freezer military evening dress stand on their chairs, some swaying precariously. Then the proposer of the toast (in this case, myself) speaks, inducing post-prandial somnolence.

The HAC kindly arranged for me to be transported to and from the dinner. In these days of satnavs, few drivers really know where anything is: this one got slightly lost. Eventually, I had to stand in a central London street in my white tie and tails, waving my arms and calling in the driver on my mobile phone. He was a friendly man, who quickly endeared himself to me by saying that I had a “lovely accent”. He spoke somewhat fractured English and when I asked him where he was from, he said Bangladesh. It turned out, however, that he was born and had spent his entire life (about 40 years) in England.

He asked where I was going after dinner. I said Sussex. He had never heard of it. What, I asked myself, was his “England”? If he had had the misfortune to sit in on my speech that night, would he — even if he spoke the language better — have picked up any joke or reference that I made? Would names like the Duke of Wellington, Tennyson, or William Blake have rung even the faintest bell? “And did those feet…?,” we sang. “What feet?,” my driver might have wondered. Anyway, what is “England’s green and pleasant land” to a man who lives 50 miles from Sussex but has never heard of it? He told me he finds our climate horribly cold, so that when he wants to get out in the country, he flies “back” to Bangladesh.

These thoughts made me brood. Part of the pleasure of the England which I was trying to talk about is that it is shared. I am English-English (with a little Irish thrown in), but England is not the special possession of those like me, and I wouldn’t want it to be. The point about a country is that it belongs to all its settled inhabitants. I don’t think that the driver felt excluded from an England which he wished to possess; rather that he simply had very little idea of it. He had an idea of London as a place (and of Tottenham Hotspur as a football club), and Britain as an entity that issues passports, but England? Little more, perhaps, than a geographical expression, and, as I say, his geography was vague.

Yet I could not possibly claim that I am a better citizen of this country than he. He works and, I expect, pays his taxes. He has a family. He patiently and politely drives businessmen to meetings and even takes men in white tie and tails to incomprehensible ceremonies. What I was on about that evening probably has less to do with the way we live in this island now than does this pleasant Muslim doing his bit to make London the most successful and cosmopolitan commercial hub in Europe.

If you study Mr Cameron’s immigration speech, you will find him making quite detailed proposals. Many of them seem sensible. He wants to make sure that those non-EU citizens who are treated on the NHS actually pay the bills which they incur and will not be allowed back into the country unless they do. He wants to improve the classification of Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas and stamp out their abuses. If he succeeds in reforming the welfare system, the gaps in the labour market which it creates will be filled much more often by British-born workers weaned off state dependency.

All good stuff. But the overwhelming impression from the picture Mr Cameron paints of what has already happened is of change on a scale which is irrevocable. He tells us, for instance, that of the 744 private colleges in this country, only 131 have “Highly Trusted Sponsor” status. The 613 colleges that are not Highly Trusted are responsible for 280,000 students. In addition, 32,000 dependants of students were let in last year. A sample survey of these found that 75 per cent were not real dependants at all.

Attacking the last government, the Prime Minister also says that, between 1997 and 2009, “2.2 million more people came to live in this country than left to go and live abroad”. Actually, even this astonishing figure understates the change. In order to prove that he is now exerting better control than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Mr Cameron constantly focuses on net immigration. That figure, of course, tells you about overall numbers, but not about the composition of the population. It conceals the fact that hundreds of thousands of British-born people left and many, many more non-British people came.

The figure, not quoted by Mr Cameron, which tells you more about what is really happening, is the annual one for non-EU arrivals. For a long time now, that has been in the order of 300,000 a year. Add to it the illegals — 155,000 of whom, says Mr Cameron, were found to have been illegally claiming benefits. Then add EU citizens, who all have an absolute right to come here and use our public services. In sum, you have a society which, in large areas, would have been unrecognisable only 20 years ago. When Mr Blair declared, with apparent absurdity, in 1997, that Britain was a “young country”, perhaps he meant that he intended it to be something it had never been before. If so, he succeeded.

Most of us do not want immigration on this scale. That is shown by every poll. But, in another sense, most of us do. You and I want someone to serve us in a bar and clean the hospitals and make cheap clothes. I want someone to drive me across town so that I can make my Colonel Blimp remarks to a friendly audience. Above all, we show, in our obsession with birth control, that we do not want to provide a big enough next generation of people like ourselves. Demographic projections now show Britain overtaking Germany as the largest EU country in 30 years or so. None of that growth will come from the indigenous white population.

All this need not be a total disaster. It is possible, though hard, to forge a United Kingdom made up of many ethnicities. Leaders like Mr Cameron are right to try to insist on common standards and better rules, rather than to despair. But whatever it is, and however well it turns out, it cannot be England. Perhaps when I am very old, my grandchildren will ask me what England was. It will be a hard question to answer, but I think I shall tell them that it seemed like a good idea while it lasted, and that it lasted for about 1,000 years.

[JP note: I sometimes wonder if Mr Moore is not spending too much time with the port.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Croatia: ICT: Former General Gotovina Sentenced to 24 Years

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 15 — Croatia’s former general Ante Gotovina has been sentenced to 24 years in jail by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, while former general Ivan Cermak has been acquitted.

Gotovina’s sentencing stems from very serious accusations: war crimes and crimes against humanity, in particular, for ethnic cleansing actions and the killing of Serb civilians committed during and immediately after Croatia’s offensive on secessionist Serbs in August 1995. A third defendant, general Mladen Markac, has been sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Gotovina (age 55), Markac (age 55) and Cermak (age 61) were charged with ethnic cleansing, murder, destruction, sacking, inhuman treatment of the civilian population and criminal conduct. The accusation claimed that the three former Croatian officers, who always claimed to be innocent, were responsible in particular for the death of more than 300 civilians and soldiers who had laid down their weapons, and for the forced transfer of 90,000 Serbs from the Krajina area.

Ante Gotovina, which many in Croatias view as a ‘hero’, led the military offensive named ‘Storm’ aimed at winning back the Krajina area (southern Croatia), the last stronghold of Croatians Serbs who were fighting against Zagreb’s independence.

Gotovina was arrested in Spain in December 2005 after spending four years in hiding, and his capture led to protest demonstrations in Croatia. Markac and Cermak turned themselves in to the ICT in March 2004.

Their trial started on 11 March 2008 and ended on 1 September 2010. The prosecution office asked for a ruling against all three defendants, proposing 27 years in jail for Gotovina, 23 years for Markac and 17 years for Cermak.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italia-Serbia: Unicredit Supports Fiat Auto Activities

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, APRIL 13 — Unicredit’s subsidiary company, Bank Serbia, is strengthening its cooperation with Fiat Auto Serbia (FAS) with an exclusive deal to finance the network of local dealers, who will buy cars produced by the Italian manufacturer in the Kragujevac plant or imported from abroad.

The operation means that the Belgrade-based company, which is already a local partner for FAS and is the result of a joint venture between Fiat Group (66.7%) and the Serbian Republic (33.3%) will offer car dealers a complete package of services. A statement says that the agreement helps to facilitate the marketing of Fiat cars in Serbia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Egypt: Italian Embassy Donates Books to Ain Shams University

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 11 — This morning the Italian embassy and the Italian cultural institute in Cairo handed several books over to the ‘Italian Space’ at the department of Italian Studies of the Ain Shams University, one of the most important universities in Egypt and the entire Middle East due to the number of students and level of education. Opened in 2010 by Foreign Undersecretary Stefania Craxi and Italian ambassador Claudio Pacifico, the Italian Space is a meeting place for readers, teachers and students of the Italian language. After the ceremony in which Italian literature was handed over, a meeting was held with the students who also organised an exhibition on relations between Italy and Egypt. A statement issued by the Italian embassy reads that “the Italian embassy and the Italian cultural institute have given their support to cultural cooperation between institutions by donating precious books, which have been specially selected for their effective didactics of the Italian language and culture, increasing the value of the already very high quality of the courses”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Commission Aims to Simplify Visas for Neighbours

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 15 — “The European Commission proposed to set up a partnership for the mobility of entrepreneurs and students with the neighbouring countries of the Mediterranean, similarly to what was done in the past with partners from the East. We are aware that something has to be done and we will try to make progress”. The statement was made by European Commission officer Olivier de Laroussilhe, who drew up the situation concerning a potential “partnership for mobility” between the EU and neighbour countries of the Mediterranean, included in the proposal made by Brussels to other Member States on March 8 on occasion of a conference set up in Brussels by Eurochambres and MedAlliance, co-financed by the Invest in Med programme.

He pointed out that “Of course, the request by the countries is for a simplification of visa procedures for certain categories of people, which makes sense. The idea is to make reference to what has already been debated with countries such as Ukraine, but then it will be up to the member States to decide”. As for commerce, the European Commission is ready to speed up current negotiations concerning agreements with neighbour countries of the Mediterranean. de Laroussilhe explained that “What we are offering is to speed up existing negotiations to press on the most intentioned countries, in particular on agriculture and services”. A new element in agreements between the EU and neighbour countries of the Mediterranean will be the introduction of new conditions in terms of rights and protection of the environment.

The EC member stated that “For some time now we have been trying to introduce a number of sustainable development conditions in our agreements. Now we are trying to press harder on this, fundamentally on human rights in labour and agreements concerning the environment”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Seeks Projects for Palestinian Territories

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 11 — The European Union is seeking proposals for cultural actions in the palestinian territories for funding under the cultural activities programme 2011, with a budget of 500,000 euros. The Eu promotes activies as dance, music, film festivals, theatre productions, exhibitions and workshops. According to the Enpi website (, the aim of this call for proposal is the reinforcement of regional cooperation and South-South integration through the promotion of dialogue and exchange between cultures. The specific objectives are: the protection and promotion of palestinian cultural heritage and cultural life and creation of awareness both locally and internationally; the promotion of intercultural cooperation between the EU and the Mediterranean partners; the promotion of the visibility of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Non palestinian territories applicants must mandatorily run in partnership with palestinian organisations. The deadline for submission of proposals is wednesday 1 June 2011. Information sessions on this call for proposals will be held in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza in the period between 20 and 24 April.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU: PNA Agreement: Europe Market Opens to Palestinian Exports

(ANSAmed) — BRUXELLES, APRIL 13 — The European Union opened its market (500 million consumers) to all agricultural and fishing products from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, on the basis of an agreement signed today in Brussels between Foreign policy high representative Catherine Ashton and Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority.

The only exception to full deregulation concerns the import of fruits and vegetables, according to a system based on prices on incoming goods. In this case tariffs will still be applied in the event that price thresholds are not met.

The agreement has a temporary duration of 10 years and a review clause is provided after a period of five years from its entry into force. The agreement also provides new measures for administrative cooperation to guarantee that only Palestinian products benefit from the new rules.

The Palestinian Territories are the EU’s smallest trade partner in the Euro-Mediterranean region, with total trade in 2009 amounting to 56.6 million euros, most of which (50.5 million) are EU exports. In 2009 the EU import of Palestinian products amounted to approximately 6.1 million euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Attack on Algerian Army Outpost Claims Lives of 15

(AGI) Algiers — At least 14 soldiers were killed and an unspecified number injured during a night-time attack by militiamen. The attack targeted an army outpost in Azazga, located in the mountains, 140km west of Algiers, in the Tizi Ouzou province, in Cabilia. News of the attack was reported daily El-Watan’s online version. The militiamen were armed with machineguns and explosives, engaging regular forces in a two-hour gunfight. During the fight one of the militiamen was also killed.

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

Coptic Christians in Egypt Rally for Secular Constitution, Civil Rights

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Nearly 100,000 Christian Copts staged a rally today in Egypt. The rally began with a 5 mile march from the Coptic Shubra district to Tahrir Square. Many Muslims joined the march, as well prominent Coptic activists and heads of Coptic human rights organizations.

“We want to show everyone that Copts are present and have fair and lawful demands,” said Father Mettias Nasr, one of the organizers of the rally. “We want a secular, democratic state, a constitution void of any religious clauses, and laws that prohibit discrimination.”

The rally was organized by the Maspero Coptic Movement to commemorate the 40th day of the death of 9 Copts, who were killed by Muslims and the Egyptian army on March 9 in attacks on the Mokatam district, on the outskirts of Cairo. The remembrance cortege was in the form of a mobile pyramid with photos of the dead, accompanied by funeral military music and Coptic church scouts, who wore red, white and black shirts, the colors of the Egyptian flag.

Organizers raised banners demanding a new constitution that emphasizes the civil state, those responsible for torching and demolishing the church in Soul on March 5 (AINA 3-5-2011) and those who killed the Copts in Mokatam (AINA 3-9-2011) to be brought to justice.

Priests led the procession, showing photos of the Mokatam victims and of Coptic girls who disappeared without a trace, demanding the Supreme Council of the armed forces find the girls “because the authorities know who the abductors are” said Father Filopateer, an organizer. Demands were also made for the release of the 18 Coptic youths who participated in the Maspero Coptic Youth sit-in in March and who were arrested on March 17 by the army and sentenced to three-years in prison under false charges.

“We want our churches which were closed by the disbanded state security to be re-opened, people want to pray and the churches are closed,” said Father Mettias.

Father Filopateer said “Anyone who attacks Copts is never penalized, matters are always settled through those ridiculous ‘reconciliation’ meetings, so the Copts are out today to say we have had enough of reconciliation meetings. We demand that anyone who attacks an Egyptian, whether Christian or Muslim, must be prosecuted. We are a country prosecuting its President, so how come those people are not brought to justice.”

The march was originally scheduled to end at Maspero in front of the Egyptian TV building, but because of pro and anti Mubarak demonstration in Maspero, the Copts changed the route to end in Tahrir Square. During the long march, the procession was joined by many people along the way, with Copts holding crosses in their balconies, wishing them victory.

Activist Rami Kamel, member of the Maspero Youth Movement, told elMasry elYoum newspaper the rally aims at claiming Coptic rights, saying the only concession the Copts got after their nine-day sit-in at Maspero was the renovation of the church in Soul, which was handed over to the Coptic church this week. He said the military council did not honor all of its promises, such as bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Soul church attack or those who attacked the Copts in Mokatam, building of the Maghagha Bischopric and re-opening of churches closed for no stated reason by the authorities.

“We will continue to use legitimate means to put pressure on the military council until our demands are met,” Kamel said.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Italy Says it Won’t Participate in Bombing Libya

(AGI) Rome — A number of ministers reported that the cabinet decided that Italy won’t participate in the bombing of Libya.

Yesterday, Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, had announced that he would put the question to the cabinet. After the cabinet meeting, the Libyan crisis unit met.

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

Libya: Tripoli Vicar: People Are Worn Out

(AGI) Tripoli — “Please, Father, let’s put an end to war and bombs. They have destroyed our family, upset our social life, children no longer go to school. We are shocked”, dozen of Libyan Muslim women told Tripoli’s vicar-apostolic . He declared to Vatican agency Fides: “For the first time in 40 years of celebrations in Libya, women came to church in tears.

Monsignor Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli told Fides that “a form of diplomacy which respects the Libyan situation” is necessary.

“I appreciated — he added — the position of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa which, in their latest meeting, rejected the use of force and reiterated that a diplomatic solution to Libya’s crisis is needed)”. “I believe this is wise — he concluded — because it favours diplomatic action over the use of force”.

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

‘Mubarak May be Hanged if He Ordered Rioters’ Deaths’

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak may be jailed or hanged if he is found guilty of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters, head of Cairo’s appeals court, Zakaria Shalash, said on Friday according to state media.

“If proven, he [Mubarak] will receive the same punishment as a person who carried out the same crime,” state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported Shalash as saying.

Egypt’s public prosecutor decided earlier on Friday to transfer Mubarak to a military hospital, where he will remain under guard pending interrogation.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office did not disclose the location of the military hospital, and said Mubarak would be given “appropriate medical care.”

But a senior police officer in charge of security at the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital where Mubarak is staying said the former president’s health was too unstable to move him anywhere.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

NATO Running Out of Precision Weapons in Libya

(AGI) Washington — NATO seems to be running out of precision bombs, fueling doubts as to Europe’s ability to continue to lead the mission without the United States’ direct involvement.

The ‘Washington Post’ raised the alarm, claiming that France, Great Britain and other European countries taking part in the operation under NATO’s command have almost run out of supplies of precision weapons- the artillery of choice for air strikes.

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

NATO Sorties Over Libya Total 3,670 Since Campaign’s Start

(AGI) Brussels — Since start of operations NATO have carried out 3,670 sorties, 2,583 strikes and 1,087 reconnaissance missions. The figures were disclosed by NATO. During Friday alone, NATO carried out 145 strikes and 58 reconnaissance missions.

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

Russia Asks for Immediate Ceasefire in Libya

(AGI) Berlin — Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asked for an immediate ceasefire in Libya, stating that NATO military operations have exceeded the U.N. mandate “on more than one occasion.” “Today we can state that in a series of cases, military action has exceeded the mandate conferred by the United Nations Security Council,” said Sergei Lavrov at the end of the NATO-Russian Council in Berlin, asking for an “urgent” change involving a political and diplomatic solution .

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Italy Condemns Gaza Activist Killing

‘I’m very proud of him’ says Vittorio Arrigoni’s mother

(ANSA) — Rome, April 15 — Italy on Friday condemned the murder by Islamist radicals of a pro-Palestinian Italian activist working in the Gaza Strip.

Vittorio Arrigoni, 36, was found hanged by Hamas police in a raid on a house early Friday.

An anti-Hamas Salafi group had set 14:00 GMT Friday as the deadline when he would be killed unless one of its leaders was released from prison by the militant organisation which controls Gaza.

But Arrigoni, who had been working for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza for several years, was found hours before the end of the deadline, apparently strangled to death.

The Italian foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the cowardly and unreasonable act of violence”.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said “this terrorist barbarism stirs repulsion in civil consciences”.

Arrigoni’s home town of Bulciago near Lecco north of Milan, where his mother is mayor, was in mourning.

His mother, Egidia Beretta, said “I’m very proud of him”, adding, about his commitment to the Palestinian cause, “he was always like that”.

The murder was condemned both by the Palestinian National Authority, which controls the West Bank, and by its Gaza rival Hamas, which said it was “an awful crime, against our values”.

Hamas, which is seen by the Salafis as too moderate, said it had detained two men in the case.

Israeli military radio said the incident highlighted that the “internal war” between Hamas, considered by the US and EU a terrorist organisation, and Al-Qaeda-inspired groups was “intensifying”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain: 4 Football Players Suspended for Joining Protests

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 15 — Bahrain’s football federation decided to suspend for an undetermined period four football players who joined the demonstrations against the government that recently broke out in Manama, the capital city. SO reports daily Al Quds Al Arabi, which pointed out that many football players joined the protests calling for an end to the regime. Abdullrehman Sayyar, the federation’s president, stated that “We will implement severe measures against all players who breach the law”, and added that disciplinary actions will also be decided against club coaches and administrative staff.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraqi MP Exposes ‘Secret’ Talks on US Troop Withdrawal

(AGI) Baghdad — According to the Iraqi parliament’s Sabah al-Saidi, secret negotiations are underway to extend US troops’ stay. With US withdrawal due to start by close of 2011, the independent MP held a press conference today, urging government to “take a stance on extended terms for withdrawal,” and calling for all parties to refuse an secret deal.

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

Jordan: Police Use Tear Gas to Disperse Protesters in Zarqa

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 15 — Dozens of Islamist salafis were injured on Friday during clashes with pro-regime loyalists in the eastern city of Zarqa as police used tear gas to disperse protesters.

Several Islamist protesters were arrested during the clash including journalists, according to eye witnesses.

A strong gendarmerie force was mobilized to contain a growing clash in the kingdom’s most populated city. Police used batons and tear gas bombs to end the protest, not to fatalities were reported.

Demonstrators were calling for the release of hundreds of political activists from the salafi group, held on terrorism related charges.

Protesters held banners that call for justice and an end to targeting by security forces to salafi Islamists. They raised black flags and chanted anti-government slogans. The protest is the fifth of its kind for salafi jehadis, a conservative branch of Islam that has been associated to al Qaedha group.

The government has accused salafi activists of belonging to al Qaedha and said they tried to stage attacks on American forces in Iraq and on Israel.

The protest comes following a spat of demonstrations by activist from different political backgrounds who called for economic and political reform. The government refuses to recognize Islamist fundamentalist groups as political prisoners, insisting they are terrorists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

No Longer Turkey vs France, This is Erdogan vs Sarkozy

Do you recall Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s frustration when he first heard about Israel’s military offensive on Gaza, just a few days after having hosted Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert? Actually frustration is an understatement. Erdogan was very, very angry. Israel’s bombs not only destroyed Gaza, they also destroyed the tremendous progress, achieved by Erdogan’s personal efforts, for reconciliation between Israel and Syria, something that looked to be just around the corner.

Erdogan is known to hate smokers and smoking. But he was so satisfied with the progress he had scored after a lengthy, face-to-face discussion with Olmert and on the phone with Bashar al-Asad that he could not turn down his guest’s wish to smoke a big cigar.

A similar disappointment seems to rein over Erdogan with French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s policies. Just a few days after Sarkozy’s short visit to Ankara last March, during which he praised Turkey’s role in international affairs, France avoided inviting Turkey to the conference it held in Paris to evaluate a possible military intervention to Libya.

Not only Erdogan but also many Turkish diplomats are extremely frustrated with France’s attitude. The excuse voiced by France on the grounds that Turkey was against military intervention is rebuffed by the Turkish diplomats who point to the invitation offered to Germany, which had even abstained on the United Nations vote opening the door to military intervention.

“What was Greece, who can’t even see right in front of its eyes because of its economic crisis, doing there?” asked Turkish officials. When a French official was asked what for instance Iraq’s Kurdish Foreign Minister was doing in Paris, the answer was: “We wanted to make use of their experience of the implementation of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.”

“It was Turkey that was implementing the no-fly zone together with the Americans,” reacted his Turkish counterpart.

Even colder winds have been blowing between Ankara and Paris since then, as both sides started to hit below the waist. Turkish officials are convinced that France has been provoking the Libyan rebels against Turkey, saying the Turkish government is halting the pace of NATO bombardments. As a result, short of naming France, Erdogan’s criticism of France has increased in its sharpness and frequency.

As I have expressed previously, Sarkozy seems to be obsessed (negatively, obviously) by Turkey. He just does not want to have anything to do with Turkey. His stance, naturally, affects the position of the French bureaucracy.

The recent official visit of Turkey’s EU chief negotiator Egemen Bagis to Paris is the latest example of how French diplomats are terrorized by Sarkozy. There was not a single word about his visit on the French Ministry’s website, whereas the visit of the Greek Patriarch Bartholomew that took place a few days later was all over the website.

New trend in Turkish-French ties

Sarkozy’s dislike of Turkey, the French bureaucracy’s limited influence over Elysee Palace, and the overall strategic blindness of France is not something new. France (not only Sarkozy but all of its institutions) needs to make a mental shift and see that Turkey is now a different ball game.

But the uneasy relationship between the two countries looks to be taking on a new trend.

Interestingly, as the two leaders are facing elections, Erdogan in two months time and Sarkozy in a year’s time, it seems to me that the tension between the two countries is becoming less about the two governments’ differences but more of a clash of two strong personalities with similar characteristic.

During his visit to Strasbourg, Erdogan did something that is very rarely seen in diplomacy; he criticized a president on the territory of his own country. In addition he has done it in a way that would irritate Sarkozy, who believes the Turks of Anatolia have no place in Europe.

While in Strasbourg to attend a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, he addressed thousands of Turks in a rally-like meeting. “You are our members of the European Union despite opposition from some circles,” he told them. He again accused France on Libya, saying the French see nothing but oil wells.

He was also indirectly critical of the recent French ban on wearing a veil, as he talked of Islamophobia calling it “inhumane” and saying it is as dangerous as racism. He continued criticizing Sarkozy while answering questions from members of Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, accusing France of not respecting individual freedom of conscience.

While we should expect this tension to continue between Erdogan and Sarkozy, this clash of the two strong personalities might have grave consequences in the mid- and long-term at the grass roots level.

The social problems of the Muslim communities in France are an issue of highest sensitivity, which does not have the luxury of being used for Turkey’s domestic agenda.

The recent ban targets only 1,900 people, none of whom are Turks. The 550,000-strong Turkish community makes up nearly 10 percent of the Muslims in France. The clear majority of Muslims there do not approve of extremely conservative interpretations of Islam, like wearing a burqa. Yet there is the fear that initiatives such as the recent ban might start becoming disturbing and is increasing disapproval against the French state.

As a responsible Turkish government, representing a secular democracy with a majority Muslim population, which has the asset of understanding the sensitivities of Muslim communities as well as secular systems, the right thing to do would obviously have been to convey Turkey’s messages through diplomatic channels. Even if Turkey’s advice is not sought after or that it falls on deaf ears, that still does not legitimize Prime Minister Erdogan’s public criticisms that can be perceived by the larger French public as igniting hatred among local Muslim communities.

That is the last thing we would want in the already problematic relations between Turkey and France.

Erdogan might not realize it, but Sarkozy is not liked by his own people. While according to the latest polls, a clear majority of France is supportive of the military intervention in Libya, this has not affected Sarkozy’s popularity that sits at about 30 percent.

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

Syria: Police Breaks Up Marches in Damascus, Shots in Homs

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 15 — Another day of demonstrations in Syria, where the protest spread as far as the central city areas. Tear gas cartridges were fired tonight in Damascus, in the vicinity of Abbassid square, by police forces in an attempt to disperse thousands of demonstrators who were trying to establish a permanent sit-in in the square. The incidents were reported by eyewitnesses but Syria’s State TV also mentioned “contacts” between demonstrators and police forces.

Allegedly in Homs, Syrian security forces even opened fire on people demonstrating against the regime, according to reports by Pan-Arabian TV Al Jazeera, which quoted Najati Tayyara, a human rights activist of the same city with a Sunni majority.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syrians Take to Deraa Streets in Anti-Assad Protests

(AGI) Damascus — President Bashar al-Assad prepares to address the nation live on TV amid ongoing protests. Thousands have taken to the streets in the southern town of Deraa, the hub of recent protests. Street clashes have thus far claimed the lives of several dozen people. Photos of the victims of government repression were carried in the streets of Deraa today.

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

South Asia

Afghan Soldier Kills 5 NATO Troops and 4 Afghan Comrades

KABUL — A suicide bomber who had recently been recruited into the Afghan army blew himself up Saturday morning inside a military base, killing five NATO troops and four Afghan soldiers.

The bombing took place at the headquarters of the Afghan army’s 201st Corps, known as Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in eastern Afghanistan’s Laghman province. The base also has a contingent of NATO troops.


The bombing took place in a courtyard at the headquarters of the Afghan army’s 201st Corps, known as Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in eastern Afghanistan’s Laghman province. The base also has a contingent of NATO troops. NATO did not release the nationalities of their troops who died.

The bomber blew himself up just as local leaders had gathered for a meeting, according to Dawood Zarbah, the province’s deputy police chief. Eight other Afghans were also injured, hospital officials said.

“The enemy has lost their power to fight our forces face to face, and they’re using different cowardly tactics. They are using our holy uniform,” said Maj. Niaman Atifi, who is stationed at Gamberi.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: Karnataka: New Wave of Violence and Attacks on Christians. Complicity of Authorities

Hindu fundamentalists burst into a Protestant church, and block the religious service. Police arrest four faithful of the ‘New India Church of God. “ On April 8, the Stella Maris monastery attacked. Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza: “They are envious of our social work … so they try to frighten the Christian missionaries, and invent false allegations. We are not treated as second-class citizens but as enemies. “

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Christians are again under attack in Karnataka, targeted by Hindu extremists by police, complicit with the fundamentalists. Sajan K. George, chairman of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) condemns this new surge of intolerance in an interview with AsiaNews: “The police yesterday arrested 9 believers of the ‘New India Church of God’, at Mysore , Karnataka after around 25, Bajrang Dal Activists stormed the church while the Sunday morning service was on. . The Hindu Fundamentalists barged into the church, forcibly stopped the service and began abusing the believers, using the filthiest language. Religious Freedom is our Constitutional Right and here in Karnataka is seems that the Christians are being threatened, attacked and harassed for their Faith and Practice of our Charitable Works. The Bajrang Dal collude with officials to terrorize Christian institutions in Karnataka”.

The President of GCIC notes that this is the second round of a series of planned attacks against Christian institutions in Karnataka, which began in April, triggered by Barjrangis and their accomplices. The first took place in August and September of 2008. The latest attack happened on 8 April on the Catholic convent “Stella Maris” in Ullal. “The other attacks were against Ashray, a charitable foundation of social services for young people led by Lancelot Pinto, and against prayer hall-cum-hostel run by Pastor Joy in Haleyangady, and the false allegation of conversion on the owner of Jillus Caterers. All have been pre-planned and falsely targeted by elements of the Sangh Parivar to malign the charitable works of the Christians. GCIC appeals to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and to the Hon Chief minister Yeddyurappa to reign in these Hinduvta extremists who are anti social elements who are causing communal disharmony and also a law and order problem”.

Sajan K. George adds: “ GCIC strongly condemns the statement of the VHP leader M B Puranik who stated that the root cause for conversion was the colonial rule that brought in a number of British and Portuguese missionaries to India, whose activities are continuing to this day.

For Centuries, Christian Missionaries has selfless served the poorest people in the most remotest rural of the country, empowering the people in the Fields of Education and Health and Development. The Missionaries have tirelessly worked for enabling the marginalised with Human Dignity and Self Reliance. The Government Census proves that Conversion Activities are merely Baseless and Fabricated Allegation levelled against the Christians as the Christian population of India is merely 2.34% of the entire population”.

The Bishop of Mangalore, Mons. Aloysius Paul D’Souza, has taken a position. In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews, he says: “ We are not only saddened but we also feel helpless, The Bajrang Dal without any rhyme or reason attack us and our institutions and malign our good works. It is almost as if they enjoy the patronage of the administration, and so they are undeterred and emboldened in their malicious campaign against our works of service to the poor and downtrodden and illiterate and marginalised section of society. Our complaints go unheard and the harassment against our Institutions continue unabated. It is almost as if they are dictating terms to the Government”.

On the morning of 8 April 41 children housed at the Stella Maris monastery of Ullal were going to home to Bidar, a poor rural area of the diocese of Gulbaraga. Their families are landless, illiterate. For over 30 years, Stella Maris convent has worked to help educate the children of that area. “While the children were waiting for the bus with sister Asha Press, the Bajrang Dal activists gathered near the bus stop and called the police, who arrived and took the bus and children to the Remand Home, in Bondel, where the little ones, terrified, were held a few hours. More than 50 officers were around the Remand home as they made their investigations. However, the Stella Maris monastery had all the documents and permits in order. But intimidation, attacks and threats continue”.

The bishop explains why Hindu fundamentalists attack the Church: “These fundamentalists are Jealous of our social ministry, because they know, that once these poor people get education and become self reliant and they become aware of their Rights and this empowerment of the poor is a threat — these groups are unable to oppress and exploit the poorest sections whom we serve. Hence, they want to frighten the Christian missionaries, harass our Social Ministry, make fabricated and baseless conversion activities. We are not just being treated as second class citizens, but as enemies. “

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

Indonesia: West Java: For the First Time a Suicide Bomber Blows Himself Up Inside a Mosque. 28 Wounded

The explosion occurred just before the Friday prayer inside the mosque located Taka in the Ciberon police headquarters. According to authorities the attack was planned by an Indonesian Islamic extremist group and is a revenge against the recent anti-terrorist police operations.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A suicide bomber blew himself up today at Taka mosque located in the police headquarters in Ciberon (West Java) a town about 300 km from Jakarta. The toll is about 28 wounded, including several policemen. The suicide bombing is the first in the country’s history and took place shortly before the usual Friday prayers, while the faithful were gathering inside the building. According to authorities the attack was organized by a group of Islamic terrorists in revenge for the recent anti-terrorism operations carried out by the police.

General Suparna Parto, Chief Inspector of West Java, said the suicide bomber’s explosive belt contained nails and other metallic material, and several fragments were found in the bodies of the wounded. According to the general, this system is typical of Islamic extremists in Indonesia.

According to Wawan Purwanto, an expert on intelligence, the attack marks a change of course in Indonesian Islamic terrorism and has shocked the population. “The explosion — he says — has taken place just inside a mosque during prayer.” The expert stressed that so far no extremist group had ever attacked a mosque during Friday prayers. Purwanto said that the turnaround has already begun and now the terrorists are targeting other Muslims. “In the past — he says — the targets were symbols of Western power. Now all those who are against them, such as police, may be annihilated. “

In these hours law-enforcement officials are considering increasing the alert status in the most sensitive areas of the country, to prevent new attacks.

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

Indonesia: Suicide Bomber Praying as He Detonates Bomb: Survivor

A witness says a suspected suicide bomber that detonated a bomb during Friday prayers at an mosque in a police compound in Indonesia’s West Java province was wearing black clothes and praying.

“He was praying. From the third row, suddenly there was a blast. I was at the last row,” Anton was quoted as saying by Detik news Web site.

“It seems like a suicide bombing. And the person was killed,” he said.

Several people, reports say as many as 17, were wounded in what appears to be a terrorist attack at a mosque inside Cirebon Police Headquarters at 12:15 p.m.

“We suspect it was a suicide bombing,” West Java police chief Suparni Parto told Elshinta radio.

One man, the suspected bomber, was killed in the explosion.

[Even now, the entire Islamic world remains silent over this detestable practice of bomb vest murders. When will Muslims be brave enough to issue a death fatwa on Yusuf Qaradawi, widely regarded as the “pope” of Islam, who singlehandedly authored the perverted justification for this hideous madness? He alone was responsible for sanctifying death by suicide and martyrdom for those who fell while slaughtering innocent life in this manner. Back when it was only Jews who were being butchered, Islam was perfectly content with allowing this evil to continue. Now that more Muslims than Jews are being killed by this vile device there has arisen some minor opposition to it. Nonetheless, absolutely nobody has had the courage to hold accountable the one individual who declared this monstrous practice to be halal. — Z]

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Punjab: Muslims Attack a Christian Village

The attack took place this morning in Khokarki, near the city of Gujranwala. Hundreds of Christians forced to flee their homes. Attack sparked by quarrel with Christian, his son and some Muslims, over false accusation of blasphemy. The two Christians held at the local police station.

Gurjarnwala (AsiaNews) — Hundreds of Muslims attacked the Christian village of Khokarki this morning a few miles from the city of Gujranwala (Punjab), forcing its inhabitants to flee. According to AsiaNews sources, anonymous for security reasons, the attack took place following a dispute between Christian Mushtag gill and some local Muslims, who had accused the man and his son of blasphemy.

Mushtaq, 60, and his son, are accused of having desecrated the Koran. The police arrested them yesterday, after complaints of some Muslims who claim to have found torn pages of the Qu’ran in a bag hidden near the home of two Christians.

Mushtaq Gill is the vice president of the Christian Technical Training Center (Cttc), linked to the theological seminary in Gujranwala. After the arrest police took the man and his son to the local police station, for a preliminary interrogation. According to local sources, the case has not yet been registered by the police, who are conducting the investigation. The news sparked panic among the Christian community, while the family of the two accused were forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge with friends.

To help and Mushtaq and his son, the family contacted the Masihi foundation, an association specializing in the defence of religious minorities. Naz Masih Ishaq, vice president of the foundation, said he had already tried to contact the authorities of Gujranwala to resolve the situation.

Gujranwala and surrounding areas are among the most active centres of Islamic extremists. In the past, there have been several incidents in the city of attacks against churches, occupation of Christian property and murders tied to false accusations of blasphemy.

On 5 April in Chak Jhumra (Faisalab, Punjab), another Christian, Arif Masih, was arrested by police for allegedly ripping pages of the Qur’an. The Muslim community in the village took the defences of man, who is the victim of a personal vendetta for a matter related to land.

According to data from the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church (NCJP), between 1986 to August 2009 at least 964 people were charged with desecrating the Qur’an or defaming the Prophet Muhammad. Among these, 479 were Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 from other religions. It also provides a pretext for attacks, personal vendettas or extra-judicial killings: 33 in all, carried out by individuals or angry crowds.

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

Far East

China: Fellowes, American Stationery Giant, Brought to Its Knees in China

There are few paper shredders in the world that can rip an A4 piece of paper into 2,000 pieces, and come with functions like SilentShred, SafeSense, and “100% Jam Proof”—and most that do have the name “Fellowes” printed on top. But consumers may soon be able to buy, say, the deluxe Powershred C-480Cx, without the Fellowes brand, because the company’s entire business in China has been stolen by its joint venture partner.

Over 1,600 workers at the joint venture facility in China turned up one day in August last year to find that the factory gates were locked, trucks had blockaded the entrances, and a group of rough-and-ready enforcers were telling them to move on.

And some days later, in the dead of night, a truck entered the facility and stole some of the million-dollar manufacturing tools used to make the shredders, some of which weigh several tons. The joint venture partner “proceeded to destroy our business,” according to James Fellowes, the CEO, at a Congressional Hearing on March 31.

Now on the Fellowes Inc. company website several of the personal shredders and all of the commercial shredders are accompanied by a “Limited Supply” icon, and a note by James Fellowes, CEO of the firm, humbly apologizing that the company “is unable to produce some of its shredders which are made in our primary manufacturing operation in China.”

Fellowes’ paper shredders are a US$168 million business, and when the company was taken over in China it lost US$100 million, according to Fellowes.


On the U.S. side several Congressional representatives have written letters on behalf of the embattled company.


But for all the letter writing, little has been done. “The Chinese government has failed to do anything to protect the rights of this investor in China,” Mr. Manzullo said at the congressional hearing. “We’re really at loggerheads with the Chinese government to get them to recognize the valid rule of law.”

He added: “It’s so troubling that we’re still dealing with so many problems a decade after China’s accession to the WTO.”


Fellowes has mostly written off the China business, and is starting another manufacturing facility in Illinois.

Meanwhile, Shinri, or the New United Group, appears to have begun using some of the tools it stole to manufacture its own paper shredders. The Epoch Times, in scouring the Chinese-language Internet for traces of the companies’ activities, discovered a multitude of pages that appear to show this.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Japan: Fukushima Exposure Levels Going Up Everywhere

“Radiation is continuing to leak out of the reactors, the situation is not stable at all, radiation continues to leak,” says Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York and top graduate of Harvard. “We are looking at a ticking timebomb. It appears stable but the slightest disturbance, a secondary earthquake, a pipe break, evacuation of the crew at Fukishima could set off a full scale melt down at three nuclear power stations—far beyond what we saw at Chernobyl.”

Aftershocks rattling Japan after the nation’s record quake on March 11 may continue for at least six months, increasing the risk of damage to a crippled nuclear plant at the center of the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. “Aftershocks as big as magnitude-7 are likely to continue hitting in eastern and northern Japan for at least six months,” said Teruyuki Kato, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute.

This is the main scientist to listen to and it’s worthwhile to watch his most recent statements on the video. Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima power plant has been carried around the world and far out to sea and if current estimates and the situation do not worsen we already will have 10 percent of Chernobyl’s radiation spreading around the globe and it looks like each and every month we will see another 10 percent of another Chernobyl’s worth of radiation released to contaminate the world further. Dr. Kaku says his family is already leaving Tokyo because they don’t believe the statements of the Japanese utility because they have consistently low-balled the dangers, as has everyone else.

Dr. Chris Busby, another physicist says there is a rage in the people in Tokyo and he now predicts based on his calculations that 800,000 people out of about 8 million who live within 200 kilomters of the plant will contract cancer if they are not moved out. Dr. Kaku still advises entombment in a giant slab of concrete, with 5000 tons of cement, sand and boric acid but if that ever happens it will be months away and take a huge effort that would take many more months.


“This accident has already released something on the order of 50,000 trillion becquerels of radiation. You do the math. That puts it right smack in the middle of a level 7 nuclear accident,” said Kaku.


The Japanese government is making a fatal mistake leaving millions of citizens too close to the exposure of the badly leaking atomic plant. Their direction to just stay indoors is not an effective and certainly not a permanent way to avoid exposure. It is understandable why they would resist removing millions from their homes but in this case it is the only way to avoid exposure and resultant radiation sickness.

How secure should we feel about the evolving situation? Dr. Kaku couldn’t make it any more frank when he said, “Fukushima is about as stable as “hanging by your fingernails off a cliff, and they’re beginning to break one by one.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Korea: Shot for Stealing US$ 20 of Corn as Public Executions Are Back

Sources in North Korea say that four people were executed before Seungho residents, one for stealing less than a litre of oil from a transformer. Former UN rapporteur for North Korea tells AsiaNews that this way people can be intimidated.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — North Korea has begun publicly executing offenders again. The regime sentenced four people to death for petty crimes, one person for stealing about a litre of oil from a transformer, and forced residents in Seungho-district of Pyongyang to watch. “Perhaps the government is scared of the odd protest in the past month and decided to remind everyone who is in charge,” a South Korean source said.

A North Korean refugee who fled to the South reported the executions. According to the Daily North Korean (a website dedicated to Kim Jong-il’s regime), the executions were carried out on 11 December. The four people were convicted for theft, “One of them was for stealing oil from a transformer,” whilst “another stole 50 kilograms of corn”.

“It is important to note how minor the offences were. Until now, only deserters and traitors were executed in public,” the source said.

Fifty kilos of corn sold for US$ 20 on the black market. However, when the decision is made, “nothing can stop it. The offenders are lined up against the wall. They are given a small glass of liquor and then they die.”

In North Korea, 60 people have been executed in public, this according to Amnesty International. However, independent sources say the actual number is higher. What is certain is that Pyongyang is using Mao’s teaching about public security and is forcing people to watch executions to “prevent other crimes”.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai human rights expert who was the United Nations special rapporteur on North Korea from 2004 to 2010, has confirmed the practice. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said, “North Korea uses public executions to intimidate people. It has also cracked down on international phone calls to prevent news about the food crisis from leaking out.”

Muntarbhorn was never able to get the North Koreans to grant him an entry visa. On personal freedoms, he said that reports to the United Nations General Assembly indicated “a campaign against underground mobile phone calls and TV shows and videos from South Korea”.

However, the most worrisome thing is the “use of public executions to create an atmosphere of panic and intimidation among people.”

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

Smoke at Another Japan Nuclear Plant

There were no injuries but the cause of the smoke at the plant in coastal Niigata prefecture was not clear, Kyodo news said, citing Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

The incident occurred in the evening during the checking of water purification equipment at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex, the company was quoted as saying.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vietnam: Hanoi Steps Up Persecution of Montagnard Christians

A report by Human Rights Watch and the Montagnard Foundation confirms repression knows no limits. Hundreds of people in prison for their faith, while campaign to force “renunciation of religion” is stepped up.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) — The Vietnamese government has intensified repression against Christians in the Central Highlands, mostly ethnic minority groups, known as Montagnards. A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Montagnard Foundation has just published the names of 81 Montagnards imprisoned in the infamous prison in Nam Han (pictured) for participating in the activities of house churches, or because they are considered activists human rights, adding that in the same prison there are 30 other people whose names are unknown, while hundreds — 250, according to HRW — are detained elsewhere.

The 46-page report by HRW reveals the violence with which the authorities are trying to dissolve the house churches, force them to sign renunciations of faith, shutting down the borders to prevent them fleeing to Cambodia, where, moreover, the UN refugee camp that housed the Montagnards has been closed.

“The Montagnards — says Phil Robertson,the organisation’s Deputy Director for Asia — are suffering severe persecution, especially those that are part of independent house churches, because the authorities do not tolerate religious activities that they can not see or control.”

Based on official Vietnamese sources, the report documents the practice of forced renunciations of faith, to which Catholics and Protestants have been forced, as stated in October 2010 by the Communist Party Bao Gia Lai newspaper of the province of Gia Lai, 567 families in the district of Krong Pa have “given up” on religion, thanks to the daily visits of the Head of the municipality.

Then there is the behaviour of a special security corps (PA43) which aims to capture, detain, interrogate people identified as political activists or members of house churches. The police are flanked by special “mobile courts”.

The situation is such that HRW has asked the Vietnamese government to end the persecution and the U.S. government to include Vietnam once more among the countries that are of “particular concern” for religious freedom violations.

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

Australia — Pacific

Arabic Second-Most Common Australian Tongue

Arabic is the most commonly spoken language after English by young people in Australia, a study has revealed, with about one in eight multilingual children using it in the home.

The Australia Early Development Index, a government-backed study of more than 260,000 children in their first year of school, found that 18 percent spoke a language other than English.

Despite no Arabic nation making the top 15 countries of birth for Australia’s children, some 5,565 spoke the language at home, 11.8 percent of all multilingual children.

Vietnamese was the second-most prevalent, at 8.4 percent, followed by Greek, Chinese dialects and Hindi, each spoken by less than 5.0 percent England, New Zealand, India and the United States were the top countries of birth after Australia, followed by the Philippines, China, South Africa, South Korea and Sri Lanka.

“The Australian population is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse in the world and this is represented in the children surveyed for the AEDI,” the study said.

Aboriginal children made up 4.8 percent of the student population and one-fifth of them speak a native language in the home — most commonly a creole mixing an indigenous dialect with English.Fewer than 100 children spoke any single local tongue, the study found.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Naval Action That Would Shame Nelson

Western Morning News (Plymouth, UK)

As a former naval officer, I am appalled. Apparently back in February, HMS Cornwall, engaged in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, was tipped off by the Captain of a merchant ship that a fishing boat was acting in a suspicious manner.

Cornwall intercepted and boarded the fishing vessel to find that it was a Yemeni boat, pirated three months previously by Somali pirates, who were using it as a base ship with the Yemeni crew treated as slaves. Onboard were 17 Somalis, armed with Kalashnikovs, rocket launched grenades and equipped with boarding ladders.

Cornwall arrested the pirates, sent the Yemenis on their way and asked for instructions with regard to the disposal of the pirates. They were instructed to give the men a medical, feed them and then release them off the Somali coast. They were even fed with “halal” meat because of their religion and were released in their pirate skiffs.

HMS Cornwall is part of EUNAVFOR, an EU directed unit created to counteract piracy. To capture, feed and release healthy pirates is no way to counteract piracy and represents a total failure of EU policies. The Royal Navy has been reduced to shell of its former strength and is now being compelled to operate “soft” under EU command.

Nelson must be turning in his grave!

Peter Wyatt Totnes

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Nigeria Votes on Whether to Keep Accidental Leader

KAYAWA, Nigeria (AP) — Voters in Africa’s most populous nation are deciding Saturday whether to keep their accidental president in power, though unease among Nigeria’s Muslims about the Christian leader could force a runoff in this oil-rich country where elections have long been marred by fraud and violence.

Bombings struck the country’s northeast during last week’s legislative elections, and another blast went off Saturday morning in a residential neighborhood of Maiduguri though no injuries were reported. Assailants also shot the rear windshield of an election official’s vehicle there Friday night, authorities said.

“This election is very important,” said Hamza Mohammed, 50, who serves as a local market chairman in the northern town of Katsina. “We want it to be conducted peacefully and we want peace to reign.”


Voters on Saturday were deciding whether to keep incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan — a Christian from the south who only took power because the Muslim president died following a lengthy illness and absence from office.

Jonathan is the candidate for Nigeria’s long-dominant ruling party and is the clear front-runner, but several other candidates threaten to siphon off enough votes that it could go to a second round for the first time since Nigeria became a democracy 12 years ago.


Nigeria, though, is largely split between a Muslim north and a Christian south. While Jonathan is embraced in the nation’s south, many in the country’s Muslim north believe one of their own should have had another turn after the Muslim president died in office in May 2010.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Somali Pirates Say to Hold Any Indian Crews Hostage

MOGADISHU (Reuters) — Somalia pirates said on Saturday they would keep any Indian nationals from freed ships as hostages until fellow pirates held by India are set free.

Somali pirates, who make millions of dollars ransoming ships hijacked as far south as the Seychelles and eastwards towards India, on Friday released MT Asphalt Venture, but held some of its Indian crew.

“We are holding eight of Asphalt Venture crew. It was a joint understanding among us not to release any Indian citizens,” a pirate who gave his name as Abdi told Reuters from pirate stronghold Harardhere.

“India hasn’t only declared war against us, but also it has risked the lives of many hostages,” he said.

An Indian warship stationed near the Gulf of Aden has thwarted dozens of hijacking attempts and escorts vessels passing through the region. India is holding more than 100 pirates it has detained mostly in rescue operations.

India has warned of an increased threat to shipping off its southwest coast, as Somali pirates hunt targets beyond African waters to evade the clutches of an international naval force.

There has been a rise in pirate attacks on merchant vessels within Indian waters.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


200 Tunisians to be Distributed Throughout Lombardy

(AGI) Milan — Around 200 migrants from Lampedusa arrived at a Red Cross centre in Bresso in the Milan hinterland. Regional security chief, Romano La Russa, speaking this morning at an election meeting, explained: “We have found them accommodation.

They will be distributed in all the provinces, but not in Milan, in groups of 15-20 at most. They will be looked after by third sector associations. They are not refugees, but immigrants and are mainly from Tunisia. However, other immigrants may arrive in Milan and Lombardy on their own initiative, destined for other regions. In any case, there is absolutely no danger of tent

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

Defrauding the American Taxpayer

As millions of Americans brace themselves to pay taxes on April 15th, millions of illegal aliens get ready to celebrate a cash windfall of up to $5,750 from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Why is this? Ed Rubenstein, president of ESR Research and a former director of research at the Hudson Institute, explains in his recently updated report entitled Defrauding the American Taxpayer — The Earned Income Tax Credit and Illegal Immigration, that illegal aliens are among the chief beneficiaries of the $62.5 billion income transfer scheme known as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

In the report Rubenstein reveals that the IRS knowingly allows illegal aliens to defraud taxpayers by getting cash EITC payments of up to $5,750 for a family of five. The IRS also refuses to implement recommendations from its own Inspector General’s office that could stop massive EITC fraud that costs taxpayers as much as $13 billion a year.

Rubenstein also shows how Congress has changed a federal kick-back program intended to supplement the earnings of low income workers, into one that subsidizes parenthood and disproportionately benefits immigrant families as opposed to those of native workers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

First Permits to Stay Given to Migrants in Ventimiglia

(AGI) Ventimiglia — The Ventimiglia (Imperia) Police has started to hand out the first permits to stay for humanitarian reasons. They have been given to Tunisian refugees who disembarked on Lampedusa during the last few weeks. The distribution will continue all day tomorrw and a little group of migrants is now standing in front of the Via Aprosio barracks. A little highlight: to reporters asking for interviews or photographs, the migrants request 3 or 5 Euros to let them photograph them holding their permits or to tell their story. Together with their permits to stay, the migrants are given a permit to travel which is the equivalent of our passport but apparently the French authorities are still refusing to recognise it.

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

Landings Resume in Lampedusa, Boat Arriving

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), APRIL 15 — After a brief hiatus due to bad weather, migrants have again begun to land on the island of Lampedusa.

One boat carrying 46 Tunisians, three of them women, was rescued last night by a patrol boat belonging to the Italian Financial Guard. One of the migrants, who were transferred on to the Yellow Flames boat, was pulled out of the water alive after going overboard.

A further boat carrying around 300 refugees from Libya has already been sighted in the Strait of Sicily.

The island’s first aid reception centre, where the Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa is expected to arrive today, was the setting yesterday for protests by around a hundred immigrants against the repatriations that have begun in recent days, following an agreement signed with the Tunisian government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Unemployed Foreigners Under Threat

De Volkskrant, 15 April 2011

“Unemployed Poles will have to leave country,” headlines De Volkskrant in its report on new measures to regulate workers from other EU countries proposed by the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Henk Kamp of the liberal VVD party. According to the daily, the rules “will be reinforced. Those who cannot provide for themselves will have to leave.” If the proposals are accepted “immigrants who have been out of work for more than three months will have to leave” and there will also be stricter sanctions against foreign criminals. The mayor of The Hague, who has spoken of a “tsunami of Eastern workers,” and his counterpart in Rotterdam both voiced their support for the measures. However, the polish ambassador has said that the plan “is a subject for concern.” De Volkskrant also announces that migrants from Europe and also from Turkey and Morocco who apply for welfare benefits “will have to demonstrate a mastery of the Dutch language.” However, the daily also notes that these measures will require the modification of a number of European directives.

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

Rancher Tells Congress the Way it Really is Down at the Border

Testimony of James K. Chilton Jr. With regard to The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act

Submitted to the United States House of Representatives — a joint hearing of the Natural Resources Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee

“My name is Jim Chilton. I am a 5th generation Arizona rancher. My address is Box 423, 17691 W. Chilton Ranch Road, Arivaca, Arizona 85601. Arivaca is approximately 55 miles southwest of Tucson, Arizona in native mesquite and oak grassland grazed for over 300 years since the explorer priest Fr. Kino brought cattle ranching to the area. The north end of our 50,000-acre ranch is adjacent to the town of Arivaca. The ranch continues south to the international border with Mexico. The ranch includes private property, State School Trust land, three federal grazing permits within the Coronado National Forest and a private land farm.


“National Security demands that drug traffickers, terrorists and undocumented aliens be prevented from entering the United States at the border. Currently, on our ranch these people often travel 10 to 20 miles inside our country before the Border Patrol attempts to apprehend them. We have heard that, a few years ago, the Border Patrol found seven backpacks near our ranch which contained Yemeni Passports. Were the owners of the backpacks tourists or terrorists? We understand that significant numbers of persons apprehended— the ones who are caught—are not just Mexican citizens looking for work. The entrants include others with various motives. We strongly believe the Border Patrol must CONTROL THE BORDER AT THE BORDER.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Temporary Permits for 700 Tunisians at Trapani’s Tent City

(AGI) Trapani — Temporary permits to stay in Italy are being released to around 700 migrants housed at Kinisia’s tent city.

The operation began this morning at the reception centre near Trapani. Gathered in small groups, the migrants will be transferred from Kinisia reception centre for asylum seekers, to Salinagrande, where the permits will be issued. They will return to the Kinisia again later.

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

Culture Wars

There is No Male-Female Wage Gap

A study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that women earned 8% more than men.

Feminist hand-wringing about the wage gap relies on the assumption that the differences in average earnings stem from discrimination. Thus the mantra that women make only 77% of what men earn for equal work. But even a cursory review of the data proves this assumption false.

The Department of Labor’s Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

Choice of occupation also plays an important role in earnings. While feminists suggest that women are coerced into lower-paying job sectors, most women know that something else is often at work. Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women’s earnings are going up compared to men’s.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Dr Death Suicide Film Being Shown in Schools: Euthanasia Fanatic Gives Workshop on How to Kill Yourself in Educational Video for 14-Year-Olds

Pupils are being taught about euthanasia with a video featuring a notorious assisted suicide campaigner nicknamed Dr Death.

Dr Philip Nitschke is shown demonstrating his machine that delivers lethal injections in the film, which is already being shown to pupils as young as 14 across the country.

There is also footage of him giving workshops on assisted suicide methods, which church leaders have criticised as an ‘invitation to commit suicide’.

The decision to include Dr Nitschke in the video was condemned by campaigners both for and against assisted dying, and a psychologist warned that it could encourage vulnerable teenagers to end their lives.

The video is being shown as the BBC stands accused of being ‘a cheerleader for assisted suicide’ after filming a man killing himself at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Puberty Blocker for Children Considering Sex Change

Children as young as 12 are to be allowed drugs to block puberty while they decide whether to have a sex change, it has been revealed.

The monthly injection suspends the onset of adulthood so that young people confused about their gender can be sure of any decision before they take on too many masculine or feminine features.

Supporters say that the “window” prevents a great deal of mental and physical anguish caused by the maturing of sex organs, facial hair growth and changes in the voice.

But critics argue it only prolongs the agony and can prevent people “growing out” of any feelings of confusion.


But now the National Research Ethics Service has given approval to the UK’s only specialist clinic for GID — the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London — to prescribe the drugs to youngsters from 12 years old.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Persecuted for His Cross: Electrician Told He Faces the Sack for Christian Symbol on His Van Dashboard

An electrician faces the sack for displaying a small palm cross on the dashboard of his company van.

Former soldier Colin Atkinson has been summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the giant housing association where he has been employed for 15 years because he refuses to remove the symbol.

Mr Atkinson, a regular worshipper at church, said: ‘The treatment of Christians in this country is becoming diabolical…but I will stand up for my faith.’

Throughout his time at work, he has had an 8in-long cross made from woven palm leaves attached to the dashboard shelf below his windscreen without receiving a single complaint.

But his bosses at publicly funded Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) in West Yorkshire — the fifth-biggest housing organisation in England — have demanded he remove the cross on the grounds it may offend people or suggest the organisation is Christian. Mr Atkinson’s union representative said he faces a full disciplinary hearing next month for gross misconduct, which could result in dismissal.

The association strongly promotes ‘inclusive’ policies and allows employees to wear religious symbols at work.

It has provided stalls at gay pride events, held ‘diversity days’ for travellers, and hosted a gender reassignment event entitled A World That Includes Transpeople.

Mr Atkinson, who has an unblemished work record, said he had not been shown similar respect.

‘The past few months have been unbelievable, a nightmare,’ he said.

‘I have worked in the coal mines and served in the Army in Northern Ireland and I have never suffered such stress. The treatment of Christians in this country is becoming diabolical. It is political correctness taken to the extreme.’

But he added: ‘I have never been so full of resolve. I am determined to stand up for my rights. If they sack me, so be it. But I am standing up for my faith.’

Mr Atkinson’s battle follows a series of similar cases involving Christians who claim their freedoms have been curbed following the introduction of controversial equality laws.

Campaigners accused the housing association of ‘remarkable intolerance’ at a time when millions of Christians will be celebrating Palm Sunday today, a week before Easter Sunday. Palms are traditionally distributed during services to mark Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem.

Despite the company’s treatment of Mr Atkinson, the boss of the depot where he works in Castleford has been allowed to adorn his office with a poster of the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara.

Denis Doody, who is WDH’s environmental manager, also has a whiteboard on which are written several quotations by the Marxist guerrilla leader, who was a key figure in the Cuban revolution in the Fifties.

Colleagues said staff and even members of the public who were visiting the depot would be able to see the poster and whiteboard through his office window.

Mr Atkinson began work as an electrician in the mines before serving as an Army radio technician for seven years. His military career included a stint at the notorious, riot-torn Long Kesh internment camp in Northern Ireland in 1974.

He was employed as a £25,000-a-year electrician by Wakefield Council in 1996, but its housing department was transferred into the association’s ownership six years ago.

His ordeal began last year when managers at WDH, which has 31,000 properties, told Mr Atkinson to remove the cross from the van after years of ignoring it.

He demanded to know why. He said his cross was as discreet and inoffensive as other forms of religious expression and accused his bosses of badgering him.

The company said, however, that he had refused a ‘reasonable’ request to remove the symbol from an official vehicle that could be seen by members of the public.

The 64-year-old grandfather became a committed Christian more than 20 years ago and was a regular Church of England worshipper for many years.

He and his second wife Geraldine, 61, who have five children from previous marriages and three grandchildren, now attend the Pentecostal Destiny Church in Wakefield.

The softly spoken electrician said he never pushed his beliefs on other people but would gently explain his faith to anyone who enquired.

Mr Atkinson said: ‘Over the years, members of the public would occasionally spot the cross and ask me about it. I suppose this might happen a couple of times a year, though I don’t think I have had anyone enquiring about it in the past couple of years.

‘If people raised it, I would ask them if they could spare two minutes and tell them. I never had an adverse reaction or complaint.’

He said he had kept palm crosses ever since he was given one at a Palm Sunday service more than 20 years ago, and replaced them when they fell apart.

‘I’m just an ordinary bloke. I get on with people and have many friends of other faiths, including a Sikh and a Hindu who both came and spoke up for me at one of the meetings I’ve had with managers about this.

‘Christians are called to be public in our faith, and the cross is my way of being obedient to that call. It brings me peace and strength. It is a central part of who I am and I can’t hide it away.’

In 2009, Mr Atkinson switched to a three-day-a-week training post overseeing apprentices so he could spend more time caring for his sick wife.

He said that although his new role meant he spent more time in the office, he was approached by a line manager who asked him to remove the cross from his van.

Over the following weeks, Mr Atkinson was subjected to further requests from several different managers, but he demanded to speak to more senior bosses.

He said: ‘They would take me to one side and say I had to get rid of it. For weeks I didn’t know where all this was coming from.

‘Then a colleague who had overheard a conversation tipped me off that there had been an anonymous letter complaining about misuse of the van and mentioning the cross. It was a malicious letter full of scurrilous lies and the company never pursued the claims. But it used the letter to raise the issue of the cross.

‘I felt I was being badgered, so I complained that I was being harassed because of my faith.’

In a series of meetings last year, Mr Atkinson and his Unite union representative, Terry Cunliffe, argued that there was nothing in the rules explicitly prohibiting the cross, which had been accepted for years.

Transcripts of meetings show they strongly disputed the company’s claim that the cross could offend someone, or that anyone who saw it in the van — one of the company’s 280 vehicles — would conclude that the association was Christian.

Mr Cunliffe said at one meeting: ‘What if there were political or religious documents on the dashboard? Would it look like they were WDH’s? A cross on the side of a building would reflect on WDH. A cross displayed in the front of a vehicle would be, in my opinion, a reflection of the person driving.’

But the company’s equality and diversity manager, Jayne O’Connell, who was recruited from HBoS bank in 2009, replied: ‘WDH has a stance of neutrality. We now have different faiths, new emerging cultures. We have to be respectful of all views and beliefs.’

HBoS became part of Lloyds Banking Group after it almost collapsed in late 2008.

At another meeting, Ms O’Connell said Mr Atkinson could express his faith but ‘it is quite clear it cannot be associated with WDH and displaying the cross gives the impression that WDH is a Christian organisation’.

She said staff could demonstrate their personal beliefs ‘discreetly’, even adding that the company could provide extra material in its official corporate colours ‘for employees who wish to wear a different style of uniform’.

Pressed by Mr Cunliffe on whether a Muslim woman who wore a burka at work would be considered discreet, she said: ‘If they could do their job effectively, then yes.’

Asked whether she would think a burka in WDH corporate colours was discreet, Ms O’Connell replied: ‘Yes, it would be.’

Mr Atkinson, who has been advised by human rights lawyer Paul Diamond, said he had been ‘flabbergasted’ when his grievances were rejected and he was told he could be disciplined.

In December, the company, which had earlier admitted that its policy on vehicles was unclear, issued an ‘updated’ policy saying that all personal symbols should be removed from vans.

Mr Atkinson said: ‘I can’t come to any other conclusion than that they moved the goalposts so they could single me out. I felt I was on trial for my faith.’

Since the policy was updated, he has been summoned to a series of preliminary disciplinary investigations, the latest of which was last week. At the end of that meeting he was told that managers would hold a full disciplinary hearing in May.

Mr Cunliffe said: ‘Colin has been told to attend a full disciplinary hearing next month. Under company rules, refusing a “reasonable” management request is gross misconduct, which can result in summary dismissal.’

Speaking at his neat terrace house in Wakefield — where there is little evidence of his strong faith except for a Christian fish symbol alongside an array of family photographs — Mr Atkinson said he had suffered sleepless nights and had occasionally been reduced to tears.

He said his wife, who suffers from a muscular disease that has often confined her to a wheelchair, had also suffered from stress.

He added: ‘I found the meetings intimidating and a bit confrontational. I felt on the defensive. I came out thinking, ‘‘Why should I be on the defensive?’’

‘I have, however, received overwhelming support from friends and rank-and-file colleagues, which has given me strength.

‘I can only think the company is motivated by fear of offending ethnic minorities.’

Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, which is backing Mr Atkinson, said: ‘Colin Atkinson is a decent and hard-working man, yet after many years of service he has been told he cannot continue to have a small palm cross in his van.

‘This smacks of something deeply illiberal and remarkably intolerant. Is this the kind of society the British public want to live in?

‘The cross is a profound symbol of God’s love for all of us. We should not be embarrassed about it.’

Mr Cunliffe said his union abhorred any form of discrimination, but the association was ‘taking its politically correct policies far too far’.

He said: ‘The company is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is totally disproportionate that someone should face dismissal for displaying a discreet religious symbol.

‘It will rebound on the company because the treatment of Colin will deeply upset people of other faiths who have no problem with his cross.’

Wakefield District Housing said: ‘We do not allow employees to display any personal representations in our vehicles, although they are free to do so upon their person.

‘It would be inappropriate to comment further about this individual case.’

The association had a turnover of £106 million in the financial year to the end of March 2010. The chief executive is Kevin Dodd, who earns £157,000 a year.

A 2009 report revealed that the association staged a number of diversity days for employees and tenants. Sessions have been led by groups including Women In Construction, Mental Health Matters and The Leeds Gypsy and Travellers Group. The imam from Wakefield Central Mosque has also been involved.

The company also produces an intranet calendar for employees that shows religious festivals and celebrations.

It said it aims to ‘influence the embedding of diversity and inclusion best practice with all policies, processes and procedures to ensure WDH maximises the potential of all our employees and customers’.

In a survey for the company’s 2010 annual report, more than half of its tenants — 51 per cent — said they were Christian, while just half a per cent described themselves as Muslim.

Of the rest, 17 per cent said they were of no faith, 30 per cent failed or refused to supply an answer, and the remainder were ‘spiritualist’ or ‘other’.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]


20 Signs That a Horrific Global Food Crisis is Coming

In case you haven’t noticed, the world is on the verge of a horrific global food crisis. At some point, this crisis will affect you and your family. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but it is going to happen. Crazy weather and horrifying natural disasters have played havoc with agricultural production in many areas of the globe over the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the price of oil has begun to skyrocket. The entire global economy is predicated on the ability to use massive amounts of inexpensive oil to cheaply produce food and other goods and transport them over vast distances. Without cheap oil the whole game changes. Topsoil is being depleted at a staggering rate and key aquifers all over the world are being drained at an alarming pace. Global food prices are already at an all-time high and they continue to move up aggressively. So what is going to happen to our world when hundreds of millions more people cannot afford to feed themselves?

Most Americans are so accustomed to supermarkets that are absolutely packed to the gills with massive amounts of really inexpensive food that they cannot even imagine that life could be any other way. Unfortunately, that era is ending.

There are all kinds of indications that we are now entering a time when there will not be nearly enough food for everyone in the world. As competition for food supplies increases, food prices are going to go up. In fact, at some point they are going to go way up.

Let’s look at some of the key reasons why an increasing number of people believe that a massive food crisis is on the horizon.

The following are 20 signs that a horrific global food crisis is coming…

#1 According to the World Bank, 44 million people around the globe have been pushed into extreme poverty since last June because of rising food prices.

#2 The world is losing topsoil at an astounding rate. In fact, according to Lester Brown, “one third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming through natural processes”.

#3 Due to U.S. ethanol subsidies, almost a third of all corn grown in the United States is now used for fuel. This is putting a lot of stress on the price of corn.

#4 Due to a lack of water, some countries in the Middle East find themselves forced to almost totally rely on other nations for basic food staples. For example, it is being projected that there will be no more wheat production in Saudi Arabia by the year 2012.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]