Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110525

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Unions on War Footing Once Again
»‘Italy Must Cut Debt by 3% a Year’
»Italy: Two Hurt in Protests Against Shipbuilding Giant Cuts
»Arizona Shooting Spree Suspect Incompetent for Trial
»Government Cannot be Trusted to Police Itself
»The Great Land Grab
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Politician Faces Legal Action for Mosque ‘Game’
»Belgium Follows France’s Suit and Bans Burqa
»Finland: Hakkarainen in Hot Water Over Racial Comments Again
»German Airports Reopening After Ash Cloud Closure
»Istat: Italy’s Population is Up, But Birthrate is Down
»Italy: Marchionne to Proclaim Chrysler’s ‘Independence Day’
»Italy: Muslims Thank Italian Bishops Leader for Backing Milan Mosque
»Italy: ‘Fiat and Chrysler to Merge, But Not Now’
»Netherlands: VVD Drops Support for End to Ban on Blasphemy Ahead of Senate Vote
»Sarkozy: Gov’ts Must Regulate the Internet
»Sofia Mayor Orders Sound Level Checks After Mosque Clashes
»Sweden: Man Fined After Returning Fire at Egg-Throwing Pranksters
»Swiss Reject Proposal to Ban Foreigners From Euthanasia
»UK: Awkward Moment During Obama Toast to Queen
»UK: Half-Term Hell on the Way for Holiday-Makers as Ash Cloud Due to Cover the Whole of the UK by Friday
»UK: Human Rights Act Must be Changed to Stop Judges Gagging Media, Former Press Watchdog Head Says
»UK: In Hot Water Again, Dove? Soap Giant Accused of Racism Over Body Wash Advert
»UK: Quran ‘Desecrated’ In Chorley Mosque Attack
»Serbia Boycotts Obama Meeting Over Kosovo
North Africa
»Algeria: Trial Over April 2007 Attacks Begins
»Algeria: Churches Closed; Province, Enforcing the Law
»British Premier Reiterates ‘Gaddafi Must Leave’
»Juppé Expects Libya Mission to be Over in a Few Months
»Libya: British Helicopters to Support Rebels Within Days
»Libya: Rebels to Open Office in Washington
»Libya: NATO Raises Pressure, Second Night of Tripoli Raids
»Libya: NATO Continues to Pound Tripoli
»Libya: Silvio Berlusconi Casts Doubt on Death of Col Gaddafi’s Son
»Obama Pledges No Soldiers Will Set Foot in Libya
»Russia Says Raid on Tripoli Violates UN Resolutions
»Tunisia: Judiciary: Judges Want Independence
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel Links EU Support for Palestinians to Anti-Semitism
Middle East
»Iran: Supreme Leader Creates Culture-Monitoring Council
»Mavi Marmara: Father of Turkish Victim Suing in U.S.
»NGO Reports 1,100 Deaths in Syria Since Uprising Began
»Obama Demands Saleh Step Down Immediately
»Syria: NGO: At Least 1,100 Killed in Two Months of Uprising
»Three Syrian Soldiers Killed in Ambush Near Homs
»Yemen: Saleh: We Won’t be the Next Somalia. Hague: Sign Deal
»Yemen: Saleh: I Don’t Take Orders From Foreign Powers
»Yemen: War Between Regime and Tribal Leader, Around 40 Dead
»Apple’s iOS 4 Hardware Encryption Has Been Cracked
South Asia
»Indonesia: Terror Suspect Accuse Prosecutors of Carrying Out US Agenda
»Indonesian Priest: Pancasila, A Guarantee of Religious Freedom, Against Fundamentalism
Australia — Pacific
»Melbourne Masseur Jailed for Raping Client
»‘Racist’ Australia Compared to Apartheid South Africa by UN Human Rights Commissioner
»Brussels Has Concerns About Tougher Dutch Immigration Policy
»EU Launches Proposals to Prevent Emergencies
Culture Wars
»UK: More Than 20,000 Women Aged Under 25 Had Their Second Abortion Last Year, Shock Figures Show
»The 25 Rules of Disinformation

Financial Crisis

Greece: Unions on War Footing Once Again

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 25 — The announcement of a new austerity plan launched by the Greek government has been fiercely condemned by trade unions in the country. Greece’s two main unions, ADEDY (which represents public sector employees) and GSEE (private sector), have announced a protest on Saturday June 4 in Klauthmonos Square in central Athens.

In a joint statement, the two unions spoke of a “storm of measures against the people and a failed recipe that will lead the country down a blind alley”, announcing another general strike after the protest of June 4. Meanwhile, PAME, the union close to Greece’s communist party, has called a protest on May 28 in Omonia Square and has demanded that the GSEE call a meeting of its directional council for a general strike on June 2.

Strong criticism has also come from employees of public companies that will be forced to close. Yesterday, staff at the Postal Bank occupied the Public Administration offices, calling the sale of the body a “scandal” and announcing a series of protests against the government’s decision. Workers at the OTE, the leading telephone company in the Balkans, have already called a 48-hour strike in the next 10 days, whole some union representatives close to the governing socialist party (PASOK) have said that they no longer recognise themselves in Papandreou’s party. The situation is similar at the ports of Piraeus and Salonika, both of which have been put up for sale. Workers have spoken of “criminal and senseless” political action and have warned of an upcoming battle.

Adedy has calculated that the quality of life for Greek citizens will be reduced by 20%, while “a desperate situation” is on the horizon for state sector workers. The newspaper To Vima points out that the extent of the malaise was summed up by the fact that no minister appeared on television after yesterday’s announcement to show support for the government’s decisions. Meanwhile, thousands of Greeks have followed the example of their Spanish counterparts and have signed up on Facebook to a protest organised these evening in Syntagma Square in central Athens. Similar protests will go ahead in Salonika and Patras.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Italy Must Cut Debt by 3% a Year’

Fresh bout of fiscal discipline needed

(ANSA) — Rome, May 24 — Italy will have to cut its debt by 3% a year to comply with new European Union norms, the Audit Court said Tuesday.

That will amount to about 46 billion euros, it said, calling for a bout of fiscal discipline like the one that enabled Italy to join the euro.

Italy has one of the highest public debts in the world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Two Hurt in Protests Against Shipbuilding Giant Cuts

Demos across Italy, minister convenes management and unions

(ANSA) — Genoa, May 24 — Two workers were hurt in clashes with police in Genoa Tuesday as protests spread across Italy against cuts at the Fincantieri shipbuilding giant.

Demonstrations also took place in the Adriatic port of Ancona and at Riva Trigoso near Genoa, while municipal offices were ransacked at Castellammare di Stabia near Naples.

Fincantieri workers also blocked a state highway near Sorrento.

Economy Minister Paolo Romani convened Fincantieri management and Italy’s main trade unions for a meeting on Friday to weigh the company’s restructuring plans.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Arizona Shooting Spree Suspect Incompetent for Trial

The man accused of gunning down U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six is mentally incompetent to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday after U.S. Marshals dragged the man out of the courtroom because of an angry outburst.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns’ decision means the 22-year-old will be sent to a federal facility for up to four months in a bid to restore his competency.

The ruling came after Loughner spent five weeks in March and April at a federal facility in Missouri, where he was examined by two court-appointed mental health professionals. The two were asked to determine whether Loughner understands the consequences of the case against him.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Government Cannot be Trusted to Police Itself

So many of the words and warnings delivered by America’s Founding Fathers are appropriate for today. Consider this sage counsel from America’s first and greatest President, George Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” I was reminded of these words when I read the following report out of the State of Indiana.

“Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court [ISC] ruled Thursday [May 12, 2011] that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

“In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.”

Justice Robert Rucker and Justice Brent Dickson dissented from the ruling, saying the court’s decision violates the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

“In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally-that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances,” Rucker said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Great Land Grab

Oil. Natural gas. Coal. Gold. Silver. Copper. Uranium. And scores of lesser known minerals that play a key role in the development of the electronic age. Mineral wealth. Right under our feet.

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, The Washington Times reported receiving a secret 21-page Obama Administration memo that revealed plans by the federal government to seize several million acres of land in several Western States. Since that memo was issued last year, the amount of land being targeted for seizure by the Obama Administration quickly escalated from 10 million to 220 million acres. The document, marked “Internal Draft—Not For Release” named 14 different lands Obama coould close to any form of development by unilaterally designating them as “national monuments” under the much abused Antiquities Act of 1906 (Public Law 16 USC 431-433) which was legislated to protect prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts in the American West.

The Antiquities bill was proffered in 1906 by Congressman John F. Lacy, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands to allow the President, by Executive Order, to restrict the use of public lands already owned by the federal government. While Lacy expected those restricted areas to be small— like an old Indian burial ground here or a prehistoric Indian village there— that’s not what happened. Or, you might say, the government—growing greedier by the year—simply “grew into” the land grab they now use to steal the wealth of America from the people for the self-appointed caretakers of America…the princes of industry and the barons of banking and business.

Social Progressive President Teddy Roosevelt, who saw the Antiquities Act as the perfect devise to arbitrarily seize millions of acres of land containing countless billions of dollars of mineral wealth for the federal government, even though the bill specifically stated that the national monuments the Act was designed to protect “…are to be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” Congress gave the President the power to create national monuments by Executive Order to quickly protect archeological finds from being pillaged and decimated before Congress could enact legislation to protect them. The president who signed the Antiquities Act into law on June 8, 1906, Teddy Roosevelt, was the first President to abuse it. Where Lacy and the US Congress tried to save an archeological dig in Iowa, Roosevelt strutted his newfound power and created a 1,346.91 acre national monument called Devil’s Tower in the Black Hills in Crock County, Wyoming.


The second time was on Jan. 25, 1980 when, pushed by environmentalists who were bankrolled by banking and oil financier and oil mogul David Rockefeller, Jimmy Carter used the Antiquities Act to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to prevent anyone from exercising thousand of oil leases along the North Slope of Alaska.

With a slash of his pen, Carter privatized 56 million acres of public land in the name of the federal government which has now been confirmed to contain more untapped oil wealth than that which has been found in all existing producing US wells in the lower 48.


Today, once again, it’s about oil. And once again, a new land grab is taking place. This time, the thief is Barack Obama and his Secretary of the Interior, former Sen. Ken Salazar [D-CO]. Confidential draft documents from the Interior Department were leaked last year, identifying some 13 million acres were being considered for protection under the Antiquities Act. Obama, like Bush-43 and Clinton, has no intention of seeking the blessings of Congress.

Those areas included parts of Alaska, Arizona, northern California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington State. Millions of acres of public lands will be closed to the public. They will be off limits to hunting, fishing, camping, riding—or hiking. Much of today’s domestic oil and natural gas are produced in the affected States. Likely added to the list will be parts of North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming.

At a time when the American people are seeking to pressure Congress into reducing the nation’s dependency on foreign oil, Obama—like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, is creating impediments to America’s ability to develop new domestic sources for oil and natural gas that will allow us to stop buying oil and natural gas from those who are determined to weaken the fiber of America. In order to accomplish the latest slight of hand to steal the wealth of America from the American people, the latest land grab works this way:


The known oil reserves along the North Slope of Alaska and throughout the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR] —and in areas about to be seized by the Dept. of the Interior— would supply 100% of the industrial and consumer needs of the United States for over 300 years without the United States buying one barrel of oil or one cubic foot of natural gas from any other nation on Earth.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Politician Faces Legal Action for Mosque ‘Game’

VIENNA (AP) — Austrian authorities have filed incitement charges against a right-wing politician for commissioning a video game that required players to target and stop mosques, minarets and muezzins as they pop up on a screen.

Prosecutors in the city of Graz accuse Gerhard Kurzmann of the far-right Freedom Party of commissioning the game as promotional material in the run-up to regional elections last year.

The game — called “Moschee Baba,” German for “See ya, mosque” — was posted online and sparked widespread condemnation.

Prosecutors said Wednesday they also have filed charges against Alexander S., the head of an unnamed Swiss advertising company, who allegedly designed the game.

A court date has yet to be set.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Belgium Follows France’s Suit and Bans Burqa

(AGI) Brussels- Belgium has become the second EU nation to ban the wearing of burqas and niqabs in public after France. The law was approved by Parliament in Brussels and will be effective 10 days after its publication on the official gazette.

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

Finland: Hakkarainen in Hot Water Over Racial Comments Again

New True Finns MP Teuvo Hakkarainen, when questioned by his parliamentary group’s leadership, has denied having used a racial slur in an interview with the newspaper Jämsän Seutu. The True Finns’ parliamentary group considered Hakkarainen’s latest interview scandal on Wednesday.

The interview published by Jämsän Seutu quotes Hakkarainen using the word “neekeri”, which is considered a serious racial slur. In the same interview, Hakkarainen was of the opinion that refugees should be put to work clearing up forests.

According to YLE information, Hakkarainen told the True Finns’ parliamentary group leadership that he had not himself used the word in his online interview with the paper.

The True Finns’ parliamentary group considered the matter and the evidence. The group chair, Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner, says that the group leadership will present the group with a proposal on what action to take in regard to Hakkarainen.

“If action is taken, the punishment can come in form of a notice, a warning, suspension from the group or permanent exclusion from the group,” Ruohonen-Lerner elaborated.

Hakkarainen was involved in another interview scandal a month ago, when he used the offending word to describe a certain kind of immigrants arriving at Finland’s borders in a video interview with the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

German Airports Reopening After Ash Cloud Closure

Four airports in northern Germany which closed on Wednesday because of the ash cloud from an Iceland volcano should reopen by mid-afternoon, German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Istat: Italy’s Population is Up, But Birthrate is Down

(AGI) Rome — The number of people living in Italy has increased, but the birthrate is down, reports Istat. The natural balance between births and deaths shows a negative peak in the last decade, after the 2003 report, when the death rate showed a sharp increase because of high temperatures (-25,544).

In 2010, 561,944 births (6,913 fewer compared to 2009) and 587,488 deaths (4,175 less compared to 2009).

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

Italy: Marchionne to Proclaim Chrysler’s ‘Independence Day’

Fiat ups stake in US automaker to 46%

(ANSA) — Rome, May 24 — Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will proclaim an ‘Independence Day’ for the Italian-controlled US automaker following accords to repay bailout loans from the American and Canadian governments.

Marchionne is set to make the announcement during a visit to the Chrysler plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, which only two years ago faced the prospect of being shut down, as Chrysler teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, and is now producing a revamped version of the Chrysler 200 model.

Speaking on the eve of his announcement, Marchionne said “this will be the day we repay our debts, Chrysler will regain its independence and assume its responsibility on the market”.

Chrysler is able to repay some $7.5 billion to the US and Canadian governments by issuing $3.2 billion in bonds and taking out $4.3 billion in bank loans, while Fiat will chip in a further $1.3 billion from its own coffers.

The operation means Fiat, which took an initial 20% and management control of Chrysler in 2009, will boost its stake in Chrysler to 46%. It is expected to take an additional 5% stake, which would give it a 51% majority stake, without laying out additional cash, once it meets certain performance benchmarks including a 40-mile-per-gallon vehicle produced in the US with Italian technology by the end of the year.

The US government will still be owed $2 billion but it will be able to recover much of this by selling an 8.6% stake it will still hold in the Detroit Number Three.

By restructuring its debt, Chrysler will save an estimated $300 million a year in interest payments. Until now it was paying an interest rate of 12% , which Marchionne had likened to those of a loan shark, that cost the company about 1.2 billion in 2010.

Chrysler’s ‘Independence Day’ comes at the end of the month which began with the automaker reporting its first quarterly net profit since it entered bankruptcy protection almost two years ago, a clear sign it was out of the woods.

At the time Marchionne said Chrysler’s first quarter results demonstrated that “our rejuvenated production line-up is gaining momentum in the market and resonating with customers”. “These results are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our employees, suppliers and dealers, all of whom are helping Chrysler create a new corporate culture built on the quality of our products and processes, and sound, simple management principles,” he added.

Marchionne on Monday inaugurated a dealership in Detroit totally dedicated to Fiat’s line-up, the Italian brand’s first in the state. After being absent from the American market for some 25 years, Fiat currently has 58 showrooms and expects to have 130 by the end of the year.

Fiat obtained its initial 20% stake in Chrysler in a non-cash operation it which the Italian automaker offered its cutting-edge green technology as well as sales and service networks in Europe and Latin America. It gained a further 5% at the start of 2011 after it began producing fuel-efficient engines in the US and last month was able to exercise an option for another 5% after Chrysler surpassed its sales targets outside the US.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Muslims Thank Italian Bishops Leader for Backing Milan Mosque

Milan, 25 May (AKI) — Italy’s largest Muslim group has sent a message to Italy’s highest ranking bishop to thank him for his organisation’s support for a project to construct a mosque in Milan, the country’s conservative business hub.

In the message to Angelo Bagnasco, who leads Italy’s Bishops’ Conference (CEI), the UCOII said: “We are relieved and immensely grateful for the position voiced by senior officials from the Italian Bishops’ Conference in support of official places of worship for Muslims, an issue which nowadays has wrongly become a political hot potato.”

“The brotherly solidarity of the great majority of Christians, which we have experienced at thousands of inter-faith gatherings and debates, has been strongly confirmed,” the statement added.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday during the CEI’s general assembly at the Vatican, CEI secretary-general Mariano Crociata said the Catholic Church backed “the right to freedom of worship and places of worship to exercise this fundamental right”.

“We must take account of the social needs of our communities as Italy’s constitution requires,” Crociata said.

Muslims were due on Wednesday to rally in Milan’s central Piazza San Babila in support of the opposition centre-left’s candidate for mayor Giuliano Pisapia who has voiced support for the building of a Milan mosque.

Pisapia will this weekend stand against conservative incumbent Letizia Moratti in an electoral run-off. In the first round of voting last week in which no candidate gained an outright majority of votes, Pisapia bested Moratti, taking some 48 percent of votes compared to her 42 percent.

The issue of an official mosque is a politically charged one in Milan which has been a conservative stronghold for almost two decades. Moratti, a former national education minister from the ruling People of Freedom Party says she opposes the construction of the mosque requested by Muslims.

Pisapia has criticised Moratti’s position saying Milan should allow a proper place of worship for its Muslim community, which has been forced to hold prayers in makeshift venues such as garages and a disused cycle stadium.

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

Italy: ‘Fiat and Chrysler to Merge, But Not Now’

‘Makes no sense to keep them apart’ says CEO

(ANSA) — Turin, May 25 — Fiat and Chrysler are set to merge, but not for now, Managing Director Sergio Marchionne said Wednesday.

“It makes no sense to keep them apart,” the CEO of both companies said, “but it’s not something we’re going to do in the short term”.

Marchionne added that, as expected, Fiat’s share in the Detroit Number Three carmaker would rise to 51% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: VVD Drops Support for End to Ban on Blasphemy Ahead of Senate Vote

The ruling Liberal party (VVD) has withdrawn its support for legislation which would end the ban on blasphemy, in what is being widely seen as a concession to the fundamentalist Christian SGP ahead of Monday’s senate vote.

The VVD-led coalition may fall one seat short of a majority in the senate on Monday, and the SGP — which opposes votes for women and says homosexuality is a sin — is seen as the most likely party to help the alliance to a 38th seat.

Boris van der Ham, an MP for the Liberal democratic party D66, made the VVD’s u-turn public in a television news show on Saturday. The SGP’s current senator Gerrit Holdijk told the same show that this sort of action would allow the cabinet to count on the SGP’s support ‘but not without criticism’.


According to the Telegraaf, junior justice minister Fred Teeven, who helped Van der Ham draw up the draft legislation while an opposition MP, told Holdijk personally that his party is no longer a signatory to the bill. The legislation was introduced in 2009.

VVD MP Art van der Steur, defended the decision to withdraw support, saying the party believes it is more useful to take a broad look at the issue of freedom of speech and politicians.

Van der Ham described the decision as ‘unheard of, astonishing and disappointing’ and questioned the party’s commitment to Liberal principles.

Earlier, the VVD did a u-turn on efforts to reform the Sunday shopping laws which prime minister Mark Rutte admitted at the time was a concession to the fundamentalist Christians.


The SGP believes the Netherlands should be governed according to Biblical principles and has two seats in the lower house of parliament.

On Monday, the 566 provincial councillors will cast their votes in the election for the 75 seat senate. The VVD, Christian Democrat and anti-Islam PVV alliance is likely to fall one seat short of a majority. The SGP is likely to win one seat.

The SGP has asked the Europen court of human rights to uphold its ban on women becoming MPs under freedom of religion rules.

Earlier stories

No Sunday shopping change is a concession to the SGP, says Rutte

PVV vote against Sunday shopping to keep SGP sweet.

Minister waits for European verdict on SGP

SGP want Europe to rule on women MPs

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

Sarkozy: Gov’ts Must Regulate the Internet

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that governments need to lay down and enforce rules in the digital world — even as they need to foster creativity and economic growth with the Internet.

The French leader acknowledged he took a risk and faced mistrust over his push for the so-called e-G8 conference when Japan’s earthquake, fiscal troubles in Europe and revolutions in the Arab world have filled the plate for the Group of Eight summit later this week in Normandy.

The two-day gathering is bringing together Internet and media world gurus like Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Paris plays host to the e-G8 at a time about simmering concerns that some countries — including several in Europe, including France — have taken measures or enacted laws that could curb Internet freedoms.

And it comes after social media played an important role in a push for greater freedoms across the Arab world — with many people mobilized and brought together through Twitter or Facebook.

Conflicting visions about the Internet — notably about how regulated it should be — has pit companies like and Google in opposition with governments who to protect privacy and copyrights online. Sarkozy alluded to the tensions. “We need to hear your aspirations, your needs,” Sarkozy told hundreds of business executives, creative minds and journalists at Tuileries Gardens in Paris. “You need to hear our limits, our red lines.”

Policymakers like Sarkozy say the blistering pace of growth has often left regulators behind. He said a “balance” needed to be struck to prevent misuse of the Internet — such as to protect children who might Web surf — and boost its potential as a tool for economic growth.

“That’s the meeting point, and the balance, that we are going to try to reach: to keep everything that you bring, and at the same time, understand there is a minimum value of rules that must not impede your development but will allow for us to continue together toward much higher growth rates,” said Sarkozy.

The two-day conference of top digerati is billed as the first of its kind, and is expected to draw recommendations for the G8 summit Thursday and Friday in the English Channel resort town of Deauville.

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

Sofia Mayor Orders Sound Level Checks After Mosque Clashes

Bulgaria is a country where the rule of law is observed and my commitment is to apply all effort to make sure rules are followed,” the Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, says.

The comments were made Wednesday in an interview for the TV channel bTV in connection with the incident last Friday when followers and supporters of the far-right, nationalist Ataka party, including party leader, Volen Siderov, staged a rally in front of the Sofia’s Banya Bashi mosque, protesting the fact it has loudspeakers that sound Muslim prayers in the entire area around.

The rally escalated to a fight with injured and detained people. Siderov claims those at the mosque are Islamic extremists and terrorists.

The Mayor explained that regarding sound levels, there are orders and standards, listing acceptable ones, adding the Regional Health Safety Inspectorate is the authority to deal with the issue and assess these levels. The Mayor then has the right to ban the source of sounds exceeding the norm, she explained.

Fandakova promised a check of sound levels not only around the mosque but all over downtown Sofia, pointing there are many places where the noise is too laud. In cases of proven violations, the City hall will issue directives for lowering the noise.

“I stress that I can react only if rules and orders are violated,” the Mayor stated.

Regarding Muslims praying on rugs outside the mosque and on the sidewalk, Fandakova informed she had asked the Deputy Mayor for Security to turn to the mosque’s Board of Trustees to request they carry out prayers in a way that does not create discomfort for others.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Man Fined After Returning Fire at Egg-Throwing Pranksters

A Gothenburg man seeking revenge on egg-throwing pranksters was forced to pay a heavy fine after smearing egg on one of the boys.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss Reject Proposal to Ban Foreigners From Euthanasia

(AGI) Geneva — Switzerland has rejected a proposal to ban non-residents from requesting euthanasia. Citizens had been called upon to vote on two issues, the first was a ban on euthanasia and the second to restrict it to local residents.

The first question only received a 15% approval according to Swiss television exit polls. The second question which invited citizens to “say no to death tourism in the Canton of Zurich,” received a 20% approval rating. Both initiatives had been organized by the UDF, the Democratic Federal Union, a party with Christian origins, and was ignored by the country’s main political parties.

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

UK: Awkward Moment During Obama Toast to Queen

President talks while orchestra plays U.K. anthem

The president and the orchestra at Buckingham Palace this evening were a bit out of synch.

When the president toasted the Queen the orchestra misunderstood a pause and what seemed to be a cue from the president for “God Save the Queen” to begin playing.

“Ladies and gentlemen please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast,” the president said, putting down his note cards and grabbing his glass. “To her majesty the Queen.”

The president paused, the guests stood, and the orchestra prepared to play.

But the president wasn’t done speaking.

“The vitality —” the president said before the orchestra began.

Then the familiar tune — you might know it better as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” — started up.

The president kept going: “ — of the special relationship between our peoples and for the words of Shakespeare to this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” the president said as the awkward moment played out.

The Queen looked ahead as the UK anthem played.

“To the Queen,” the president finally said.

He lifted his glass to her, she smiled a bit uncomfortably.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Half-Term Hell on the Way for Holiday-Makers as Ash Cloud Due to Cover the Whole of the UK by Friday

Hundreds of thousands of travellers could have their half-term holidays ruined as forecasters predict a towering plume of Icelandic ash could cover the whole of Britain by the end of the week.

A five-day forecast from the Met Office shows the ash plume will cover giant swathes of Britain by Friday lunchtime.

Almost all flights to and from Scotland have been cancelled today — despite Ryanair claiming the plume is ‘non-existent’.

This morning the airline carried out a test flight 41,000ft over Scotland and branded the so-called ash cloud ‘red zone’ a ‘non-existent and mythical and misguided invention by the UK Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority’.

A Ryanair spokesman added: ‘This morning’s verification flight has demonstrated that the UK Met Office’s ‘red zone’ forecasts are totally unreliable and unsupported by any evidence of volcanic ash concentrations whatsoever.’

But hours later the airline said it had been ‘forced’ to cancel all its flights to and from Scotland today following advice from the Irish Aviation Authority.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Human Rights Act Must be Changed to Stop Judges Gagging Media, Former Press Watchdog Head Says

Parliament must amend the Human Rights Act to stop judges gagging the media over the private lives of celebrities, the former head of the press watchdog has warned.

Lord Wakeham said a situation in which judges grant anonymity orders in secret was a ‘shambles’ and an inevitable consequence of the Act brought in by Labour in 1998.

Writing an open letter to the Daily Telegraph, his recommendations come as pressure is placed on John Bercow to ‘stand up for Parliament’.

Lord Wakeham said judges should hand out injunctions only if they affect public authorities. Celebrities would be unable to hide extramarital infidelities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: In Hot Water Again, Dove? Soap Giant Accused of Racism Over Body Wash Advert

Soap giant Dove has landed itself in hot water after an advert for one of its products appeared to suggest it can change a user’s skin colour.

The promotion, for Dove VisibleCare Creme Body Wash — a £2.69 product that is available in Boots — features a ‘before’ and ‘after’ skin chart behind a black woman, possibly a Latina and a blonde — all wrapped in towels — standing beside each other.

The caption reads: ‘Visibly more beautiful skin from the most unexpected of places — your shower.’

But critics are in a lather over the ad, accusing Dove of implied — and albeit unintentional — racism.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Quran ‘Desecrated’ In Chorley Mosque Attack

A Quran was ‘desecrated’ and racist graffiti daubed at a mosque, it has emerged.

Two teenagers have been charged with racially aggravated criminal damage connected with the incident in Chorley.

Police said intruders entered the Dawat Ul Islam Masjid, also known as Chorley Mosque, in Brooke Street, before causing interior damage and damaging various items, including a Quran.

Officers added that racially-abusive graffiti was found on walls at the building during the incident.

Police said that their investigations had not linked the attack to any organised anti-Islamic group.

Coun Hasina Khan, who lives nearby and represents Chorley east on the borough council, said many Muslims in the town were shocked by the incident.

She said: “Every religion and all places of worship should be given the greatest of respect by all members of the community.”

She added: “Chorley is a place of cohesion between the communities and incidents like this are very rare.”

Sergeant Kevin Mountain, from the Chorley neighbourhood police team, said: “We treat incidents of this nature with the utmost gravity.

“I would urge anyone who feels they have been subjected to a crime because of their race or religious beliefs to contact us immediately and we will investigate fully.”

The £500,000 mosque, which opened five years ago, has a capacity for more than 500 worshippers and was the first purpose-built mosque in Chorley.

Its facilities include a wash room and two large prayer rooms on each floor.

The incident happened on April 16 but police have only just released details after charging two people.

Daniel Barrow, 18, of Berkeley Close, Chorley, has been bailed to appear before Blackburn magistrates on July 15 charged with racially-aggravated criminal damage.

A 17-year-old youth has been bailed to appear before a juvenile court in Chorley on July 5 charged with two counts of racially aggravated criminal damage.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


Serbia Boycotts Obama Meeting Over Kosovo

Serbian President Boris Tadic will not join regional leaders in Warsaw in a meeting with US President Barack Obama, due to the fact that the Kosovo head of state was invited as well. Slovak and Romanian leaders have also indicated they may not go unless Kosovar statehood is played down.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Trial Over April 2007 Attacks Begins

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 25 — The trial of Bouderbala Fateh, the man accused of being the mastermind of the terrorist attack in Algiers on April 11 2007, has got underway today in the Algerian capital’s penal court.

More than 30 people were killed in three simultaneous attacks. Two of the attacks — one outside the government building and the other at the national security offices — succeeded, while the planned attack against the Danish embassy failed. Fateh is said to have guided the three bombers by telephone, giving them the order to set off their devices, which were hidden in cars packed with explosives.

As well as the arrest of the “emir”, investigations led to the discovery of a significant quantity of weapons (including a rocket-launcher) and over 100 kilos of explosives.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Churches Closed; Province, Enforcing the Law

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 25 — An ordinance in Wilaya (Province) of Bejaia which ordered 7 protestant churches to be closed was only issued to enforce the law, said Wilaya President Ahmed Touhami Hammou in an interview with El Watan.

He continued: “We are against the practice of religions other than Islam. We have simply asked non-Muslim religious communities to abide by the law.” Touhami Hammou also added that “some (protestants, editor’s note) worship in a garage”.

“We have not set any time limits yet for these religious communities to respect the regulations.” The President of the Protestant Church in Algeria, Moustaphan Krim, issued a blunt reply: our places of worship respect the law.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

British Premier Reiterates ‘Gaddafi Must Leave’

(AGI) London — British Prime Minister Cameron has reiterated that, “Gaddafi must leave,” confirming Britain’s commitment to the military alliance in Libya. During a joint press conference held with U.S. President Barack Obama following a meeting in Downing Street, Cameron said that the West should support uprisings in the Arab world, since this is “no time to hold back”, and must support all democracies to make the world a safer place. Cameron also confirmed that Afghanistan is a priority, and congratulated the American president for the ‘brave’ speech he made last week on the peace process in the Middle East. The road is still “long and difficult”, said Cameron, adding that achieving security and the weakening of extremism is the clear objective.

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

Juppé Expects Libya Mission to be Over in a Few Months

(AGI) Paris — According to the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, NATO-led operations in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, should achieve their objectives within a few months. “I can assure you,” said Juppé during Question Time today, “that we want the Libya mission to only last a few more months.” Last night Allied bombings over Tripoli intensified.

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

Libya: British Helicopters to Support Rebels Within Days

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 24 — In the coming days the British Navy will send three Apache combat helicopters to Libya to support the rebels against the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The helicopters are on board the HMS Ocean helicopter carrier, which is currently active with other units of the Royal Navy in exercises off the cost of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, and will join the other French helicopters. The news was reported by Cypriot radio citing British military sources who said that the helicopters, of which there are 18 in total, will almost certainly be supported by soldiers of the Rapid Force Task Group (RFTG). According to the sources, the British helicopters will have the mission of enforcing the 16-mile (25km) buffer zone around the city of Misrata, which is being held under siege by pro-Gaddafi forces. The Apache helicopters — whose main weapon is an automatic 30 calibre M230 Chain Gun — are also armed with Hellfire missiles, and will target mortars, light military vehicles and snipers. A fourth Apache is on the way to the area from the UK and is expected to arrive during the weekend, while another two are on standby in Great Britain. Another 12 Tiger and Gazelle attack helicopters deployed on French helicopter carrier BPC, which has already departed from the port of Toulon, will join the British helicopters in the mission.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rebels to Open Office in Washington

Benghazi, 24 May (AKI) — The rebels fighting to topple longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will open a representative office in Washington, according to a high ranking US State Department official.

During a visit to the rebel stronghold Benghazi in eastern Libya, US assistant secretary of state Jeffrey Feltman told reporters that his invitation was accepted.

“I delivered a formal invitation to the council for the opening of a representation in Washington,” Feltman told a press conference, referring to the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC).

“We are happy they accepted it,” he said.

The US has not followed France and Italy’s lead of recognising the NTC as Libya’s legitimate leadership. But the US-led military operation has targeted Gaddafi’s compound and US president Barak Obama has not hidden his support of the rebels.

Feltman, the American assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, is in Benghazi for a three-day visit for talks with the NTC.

He’s the highest-level US government official to travel to the rebel-held territory since rebels started fighting Gaddafi’s forces in February.

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

Libya: NATO Raises Pressure, Second Night of Tripoli Raids

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 25 — Powerful explosions have been heard in Tripoli for the second consecutive night after a series of NATO air strikes that have again targeted the fortified complex of Bab Al Aziziya, the residence of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, which was initially attacked late on Monday night. At least eight heavy explosions shook the area at around 11:00 last night. A thick column of smoke was seen rising skywards soon after.

Monday’s bombings lasted more than half an hour and, according to the latest figures announced by the authorities in Tripoli, killed 19 civilians and injured at least 150.

The Alliance is afraid of a stalling in the situation and is determined to end the mission as soon as possible, with France announcing in no uncertain terms an escalation in the coming days.

The situation is gathering pace in the political arena too, with the United States inviting the rebels to open an office in Washington, while Barack Obama has been in London to test the “perfect alignment” of Britain and America with David Cameron, with talks held on a post-Gaddafi Libya.

The recent night raids have been concentrated on the area of the Bab Al Aziziya bunker. Yet even the definition of the target has become ambiguous. Laser-guided bombs targeted a site “supplying the forces responsible for attacks against civilians,” NATO said after the raids on Monday. The Libyan government, however, said that the target had been a semi-deserted barracks. The government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim condemned the injuries to “a great number of civilians”.

Direct witness reports from the night of bombing in Tripoli have been posted by correspondents on Twitter, with over 18 explosions said to have been heard. The blasts even shook the Rixos, the hotel where most members of the foreign press are staying, with the same occurring in last night’s attack.

Meanwhile, the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe’, yesterday revealed NATO’s strategy. Yesterday appears to have been a dry run. “We are aiming to ensure that intervention in Libya does not last more than a few months,” he said. The NATO-led coalition’s other objective is to “increase military pressure”. The White House has also suggested a short timeframe and contained its commitment, saying that the mission has always been of limited timeframe and breadth.

Regarding the meeting between President Obama and the British Prime Minister David Cameron, the White House said that the two leaders had discussed ways of maintaining pressure on Gaddafi. The Libyan leader is said to be under mounting stress and “time is not on his side”.

Speaking of the deployment of military forces, Juppe’ explained: “As laid out in the Security Council’s 1973 resolution, we are using all means necessary, including battle helicopters”. The British Navy is also due to send 3 Apache helicopters, though Britain is remaining tight-lipped on how they will be used, saying that “no decision has yet been taken”.

Beyond the political arena, and away from the air strikes, the nightmare scenario of war continues to be felt throughout Libya. A Libyan psychologist, Siham Sergewa, says that 270 women claim to have been raped by Gaddafi’s soldiers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: NATO Continues to Pound Tripoli

Tripoli, 25 May (AKI) — Nato aircraft continued to pound Libya capital Tripoli, bombing targets the coalition considers strategically important for Muammar Gaddafi during a late night attack on Tuesday.

Libyan television said 19 people were killed in recent Nato attacks.

“Nineteen civilians martyred and 150 were wounded in a crusader NATO strike on Tripoli and its suburbs,” Jamahiriya television said. Those numbers could not be independently confirmed.

Nato’s stated UN-mandated mission is to protect civilians from Libyan forces as rebels seek to put an end to Gaddafi’s more-than-40-years of autocratic rule. However, strikes on Gaddafi’s compound have led to speculation that the coalition is directly targeting the Libyan leader.

Rebels control a large part of Libya’s east, while forces loyal to Gaddafi hold most of the Libya’s west.

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

Libya: Silvio Berlusconi Casts Doubt on Death of Col Gaddafi’s Son

Silvio Berlusconi has cast doubt on Libyan reports that Col Muammar Gaddafi’s son and three grandchildren were killed in an April 30 Nato air strike, saying on Wednesday that coalition forces believe the claim to be “propaganda.”

Berlusconi told a late-night television talk show that based on intelligence services, Seif al-Arab Gaddafi wasn’t in Libya and is rather in another country. He didn’t elaborate.

“It doesn’t check out with the coalition,” Berlusconi told state-run RAI. “It seems like it’s propaganda, and that the youngest son of Gaddafi isn’t in Libya but lives in another country. Even the case of the three grandchildren seems unfounded. This is the information from our services.”

The ANSA news agency reported the comments based on the taping of the show before it aired.

Nato has never confirmed or denied the claim, reported by Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, that Seif, 29, and three of Gaddafi’s grandchildren — all younger than 12 — were killed in a Nato air strike on the Libyan leader’s residential complex on April 30. Libyan officials said Gaddafi was in the compound when that strike occurred but escaped unharmed.

Nato has repeatedly said all its targets in Libya are military and that it is not targeting Gaddafi or other individuals.

Berlusconi referred to Seif al-Arab as being Gaddafi’s youngest son but he is the second youngest, with son Khamis younger by some two years. At the time of the bombing, however, Libyan officials referred to Seif al-Arab as being Gaddafi’s youngest.

Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, is participating in the Nato air campaign and has allowed its airbases to be used by coalition forces. Berlusconi had for years called Gaddafi a friend and said he briefly considered resigning after Italy became increasingly drawn into the coalition campaign.

[Return to headlines]

Obama Pledges No Soldiers Will Set Foot in Libya

(AGI) London — President Obama has promised that he and David Cameron agree that no ground troops will set foot in Libya.

“Once one excludes the use f ground troops, there are of course restriction to NATO intervention in Libya,” he added in the course of a joint press conference following the meeting at Downing Street. President Obama also emphasized that the slow and continues military intervention has already “made a difference” and in the end will oblige Muammar Gaddafi to leave.

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

Russia Says Raid on Tripoli Violates UN Resolutions

(AGI) Moscow — Russia said that Nato’s latest raids on Tripoli seriously violate UN resolutions on Libya. In a press statement the Russian foreign ministry commented: ‘We clearly see another grave violation on UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973’.

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

Tunisia: Judiciary: Judges Want Independence

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 23 — The first meeting of the trade union of Tunisian judges, which has taken place in Tunis, has provided a platform for those involved to demand once again “the independence of judicial power”. As was repeatedly asserted during the conference, the union of Tunisian judges, which was created in March, is demanding the “strengthening of the independence of the judiciary,” according to the TAP agency, with demands for the study and development of draft legislation concerning the legal sector.

Mohamed Nabil Naccache, the president of the trade union’s constituent committee, said that the union must respect work ethics and the principles of democracy, as well as the commitment “not to adhere to any political action, maintaining the neutrality of judges”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel Links EU Support for Palestinians to Anti-Semitism

Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz has said that select EU countries’ support for Palestine’s plan to seek full UN membership is linked to anti-Semitism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Supreme Leader Creates Culture-Monitoring Council

Tehran, 24 May (AKI) — In further sign of the growing power struggle between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and its president, Khamenei has created a new council to monitor culture, the ‘Digarban’ website reports.

The Superior Cultural Council for Progress will work alongside the culture council headed by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, tasked with formulating cultural policy, Digarban said.

Khamenei disapproves of Ahmadinejad’s council, the Superior Council for the Cultural Revolution, because of its nationalist rather than Islamist orientation, according to Digarban.

The functions of Khamenei’s new culture council mirrror those of Ahmadinejad’s but only contains individuals close to Khamenei and no members of the government.

The creation of the new council may herald Khamenei’s intention to bypass the Ahmadinejad-controlled council and to take cultural policy decisions himself, according got Digarban.

The Superior Council for the Cultural Revolution currently issues licences to private universities and coordinates all of Iran’s national culture bodies.

Khamenei’s move indicates a widening rift at the pinnacle of power in Iran between Islamist ultraconservative close to Khamenei and populist nationalists with secular tendencies who are close to Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, according to Iranian opposition websites.

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

Mavi Marmara: Father of Turkish Victim Suing in U.S.

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 25 — The father of an American man of Turkish descent killed a year ago in an Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists, has announced that he is taking legal action in the United States against the Israeli government, asking for an unspecified total in damages.

The news comes courtesy of the website of the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, which quotes Ramazan Ariturk, a lawyer for the Islamic NGO “LHH”, which was one of the organisers of the aid flotilla travelling to Gaza last year, and is also involved in the voyage of another boat at the end of next month.

Furkan Dogan, a Turkish American, died along with eight Turks in the attack by an Israeli commando, which caused a diplomatic incident in large part responsible for the breakdown in diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey.

“Furkan is an American citizen. He became a martyr in international waters. The United States has taken no action against Israel in the last year. Legal proceedings launched by the US authorities have brought no results,” said Huseyin Oruc, a spokesperson for the second LHH flotilla, and a leading figure in the organisation, which is suspected of having links with Islamic fundamentalism. Dogan’s lawyer said that demands for compensation for the families of the other eight victims would be made “very soon” in Turkey.

The Turkish website reported on preparations for the second flotilla, which will feature 15 ships and carry 1,500 activists (more than double last year’s number) and said that one ship was expected to set sail from New York on Saturday. It added that a ceremony to commemorate the victims of last year’s attack would be held next Monday May 30 in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

NGO Reports 1,100 Deaths in Syria Since Uprising Began

(AGI) Damascus — The number of those killed in Syria during the repression of the uprising, which has spread through the country for over 2 months against Bashar Assad’s regime, has risen to 1,100. The figure was reported by the Syrian Human Rights defense group, Sawasiah .

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

Obama Demands Saleh Step Down Immediately

(AGI) London — U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated today that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, for months the target of street protests, must “respect the commitments he has made and step down immediately”. President Obama was speaking at a joint press conference held with British Prime Minister David Cameron after a meeting at number 10 Downing Street.

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

Syria: NGO: At Least 1,100 Killed in Two Months of Uprising

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 24 — At least 1,100 civilians have been killed by Syria’s army and security forces since street protests against the regime began two months ago. The figure was released in Amman today by the Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Three Syrian Soldiers Killed in Ambush Near Homs

(AGI) Damascus — Three Syrian soldiers have died in an ambush near Homs, in central Syria according to military sources quoted by the state Sanaa news agency. The ambush was allegedly set up by an “alleged terrorist group.” Sources reported that a patrol was attacked on the road that from Homs goes to the village of Ghajar. Violent clashes occurred in recent days in Homs, 10 kilometers north west of Damascus, in which at least 18 people were killed. The Syrian Human Rights Defense Group Sawasiah recently reported that at least 1,100 people have died in the repression of the uprising against Bashar Assad’s regime and that over 10,000 people have been arrested.

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

Yemen: Saleh: We Won’t be the Next Somalia. Hague: Sign Deal

(ANSAmed) — SANA’A, MAY 25 — Yemen’s contested President, Abdullah Saleh, has said that Yemen will not be another “failed” state like Somalia and that he will not be dragged into a civil war, despite the clashes with the forces of the head of a powerful tribal confederation. As for the bloody clashes in Sana’a between government forces and fighters loyal to tribal leader Sadek al-Ahmar, who sided with the opposition in calling for the president to step down, Saleh said: “What took place was a provocation, an attempt to drag us into a civil war, but it was limited to Ahmar’s sons, who are responsible for the bloodshed of innocent people.” Meanwhile, British Foreign Minister William Hague urged Yemen’s president to sign an agreement for the transition of power “as soon as possible”. Ali Abdullah Saleh “should sign the agreement. He has been on the verge of doing so for a while. We have asked him to sign it and it is not a question of taking orders from a foreign power, but it is in the interest of his country for there to be a transition of power based on the agreement that has been negotiated”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Saleh: I Don’t Take Orders From Foreign Powers

(ANSAmed) — SANAA, MAY 25 — The Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has said today that he will not take orders from any foreign powers and that the crisis in the country is an internal affair that must not be put to the UN Security Council.

He added that when he leaves power, he will not leave the country, and will continue his political activity in the ranks of the opposition. President Saleh has asked countries mediating in the Yemeni countries to take conciliatory steps and has said that he is ready to sign a deal for the handover of power in a climate of dialogue.

The disputed President said that attacks from Al Qaeda had increased since protests against him had begun in the country, and said that Yemen remains “coordinated” with the United States in the fight against Islamic terror.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: War Between Regime and Tribal Leader, Around 40 Dead

(ANSAmed) — SANAA, MAY 25 — At least 38 people were killed yesterday in an area in the north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa after clashes between government forces and militias loyal to a powerful tribal leader who has joined the opposition in demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The battle, which has been going on for two days and resumed today in the capital, has involved security forces loyal to the head of state and supporters of Sadek Al Ahmar, one of the leaders of an influential clan, which itself appears to be supported by other tribal leaders. Government forces are said to have attacked Ahmar’s home yesterday, with the situation deteriorating as a result. The opposition has called the operation irresponsible and has expressed fears that the clashes could lead to all-out civil war.

Hospital sources say that 24 militiamen close to the tribal leader and 14 members of the security forces were killed in the fighting. There are also thought to be dozens of people injured.

The clashes began on Monday, the day after Saleh’s latest slight towards the opposition and mediators from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who for weeks have searched in vain for a solution to the crisis, the result of popular protests against the regime. Saleh had said that he was ready to agree to the plan drafted by the GCC, which effectively would see the leader stand down in exchange for immunity from prosecution, the creation of a national unity government and free elections. As had already occurred previously, though, the head of the state at the last minute refused to sign the document, claiming that he would do so only in the presence of opposition figures, who however had signed the previous day.

After this development, the GCC mediator left Yemen for the Saudi capital Riyadh, where representatives of the six countries met and where they recently announced the de facto suspension of their mediation. Abdu Al Janadi, the junior Information Minister, last night told the satellite television channel Al Arabiyya that Saleh had called for calm and asked for all sides involved in the clashes to make an orderly retreat.

Ahmar’s clan has been accused by the government of planning a coup and its militiamen are said to have attacked the Interior Ministry and other government buildings. “The attack on Ahmar’s home is a symptom of the hysteria in which President Saleh and his acolytes now live and of a line that will lead straight to civil war,” said the various opposition groups in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Apple’s iOS 4 Hardware Encryption Has Been Cracked

Icon40 minutes and physical access. That’s all russian company ElcomSoft is claiming to need in order to crack the 256-bit hardware encryption Apple uses to protect the data on iOS 4 devices. Full access to everything that’s stored inside, including “historical information such as geolocation data, browsing history, call history, text messages and emails, usernames, [passwords, and even some] data deleted by the user”, is obtained.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Terror Suspect Accuse Prosecutors of Carrying Out US Agenda

Jakarta, 25 May (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, a firebrand cleric charged with terrorist activities, described prosecutors’ sentence demands as the fulfilment of a previous agenda rather than an effort to uphold justice.

“The prosecutors’ demand was not issued to uphold the law, but to fulfil a target to put me behind bars,” Ba’asyir said reading his defence statement at South Jakarta District Court on Wednesday.

Ba’asyir said his case had been a conspiracy, with the United States pulling strings behind the scenes.

“This has all been engineered to obstruct my preaching, which is seen as dangerous by America,” Ba’asyir said.

In his defence statement, Ba’asyir denied all accusations directed at him by prosecutors.

Prosecutors say Ba’asyir has been found to have endorsed the collection of funds for a military-style training facility in Aceh, and to have motivated people to join the camp.

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

Indonesian Priest: Pancasila, A Guarantee of Religious Freedom, Against Fundamentalism

The five pillars of the state, that led to the creation of Indonesia, are back on the political agenda. The institutional leaders promote them to counter the fundamentalist drift in the archipelago. Starting next year, it will be included on school curricula. Recruitment of adherents to the fundamentalist cause continues, through brainwashing.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — To combat the advance of the Islamists, secular parties in Indonesia are promoting a return to the principles enshrined in the Pancasila. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing concealed “recruitment” of hundreds of university students by the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII), which attracts followers to extremism through brainwashing. The goal is the transformation of a secular nation, as enshrined in 1945 at independence, into an Islamic state according to the ideology behind the Darul Islam movement and its military wing, the Tentara Islam Indonesia (TII). For the head of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue of the Archdiocese of Semarang “the Pancasila is the founding spirit of Indonesia and is the guarantor of” pluralism and religious freedom. “

The plenary session held yesterday between the heads of institutions in Indonesia has underlined the need to return to the principles enshrined in the Pancasila. The head of the Constitutional Court Mahfud MD said it is “our only national ideology and political platform.” He also confirmed the unity of the Republic and the spirit of “diversity in equality.” The appeal is also shared by the Head of State Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, according to whom moral values are the only answer to extremist ideology.

To achieve this goal, the curriculum for the next school year will also include a series of special classes on the Pancasila, as was the case at the time of the regime of General Suharto, in power from 1968 to 1998. Then two lessons a week lasting 45 minutes were held in schools, to discuss and analyze the moral principles underlying the law. The fall of the regime, accused of corruption, also brought an end to compulsory study of the five pillars of the state.

Fr. Aloysius Budipurnomo Pr, a priest in Semarang and head of the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, told AsiaNews that “the Pancasila is Indonesia’s founding spirit” and is the guarantor of “pluralism and religious freedom.” He recalls that in recent years, these principles have been “put on the back burner” and this has led to the emergence and growth of fundamentalist groups and separatist formations. This is the reason, the priest adds, that “it should go back to being a subject of study in schools.”

The Pancasila, literally the five basic pillars, is the official ideology of the modern democratic state founded on principles such as freedom of expression and religion. Included as a preamble to the Constitution and strongly desired by the first president Sukarno, it was drawn up only months before the official birth of Indonesia, which is celebrated on August 17, 1945. The five pillars are based on: faith in one God, justice and human civilization, unity of Indonesia, democracy guided by wisdom, social justice.

The text also provides the practice of worship for five official religions — Islam, Christianity, Catholicism and Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Kong Hu Cu — and prohibits the adoption of an ideology and Islamic law, including the introduction of Shariah, as demanded by Piagam Jakarta. In 1945 a dispute erupted on which text to adopt, Pancasila or Piagam. The observation of some nationalist leaders that some eastern provinces were predominantly Christian, prevented the introduction of a charter that sanctioned Islamic law in the Archipelago.

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

Australia — Pacific

Melbourne Masseur Jailed for Raping Client

A Melbourne masseur who raped a client while giving her a massage has been jailed for six-and-a-half years.

Mohamed Soliman, 49, raped the woman as she lay naked on the massage table with her eyes closed in March 2008, the Victorian County Court heard on Wednesday.

The court was told that as the rape took place, the victim, who was in her 20s, pleaded with Soliman: “No, no, this isn’t part of a massage”.

Handing down the sentence, Judge Michael Tinney said Soliman took advantage of his position and his victim’s vulnerability to commit the rape.

“She was exposed and vulnerable,” Judge Tinney said.

“You deliberately took advantage of her in that setting.”

Soliman’s conduct had left the victim feeling scared and anxious, and affected her emotionally, physically and financially, Judge Tinney said.

“She has and will continue to be deeply affected by your criminal conduct,” he said.

The woman believed she was going to a reputable masseur and ended up being raped, Judge Tinney said.

The court heard a massage industry code of ethics sat next to certificates of qualification on the wall of the room where the massage took place.

Prior to the rape, Soliman required his victim to undress in front of him and did not give her towels with which to cover herself.

The massage began normally, apart from Soliman asking questions regarding the victim’s relationship status, the court heard.

At one point, Soliman brushed against his victim’s genitals but she gave him the benefit of the doubt.

A short time later, as his victim lay with her eyes closed, Soliman raped her.

Soliman wore a condom during the rape, which Judge Tinney said demonstrated premeditation.

Soliman pleaded not guilty at a trial held earlier this year, arguing the sex was consensual, the court heard.

He argued the sex occurred during a sensual massage and the victim was smiling and consenting to it taking place.

But Judge Tinney said the jury rejected Soliman’s version of events entirely.

He said the victim made it clear to Soliman that his sexual penetration of her was not welcome.

Soliman, formerly of St Kilda, must serve four-and-a-half years in prison before being eligible for parole.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

‘Racist’ Australia Compared to Apartheid South Africa by UN Human Rights Commissioner

The United Nations’ top human rights watchdog has attacked Australia’s tough refugee policies and the treatment of outback Aborigines, saying there was a strong undercurrent of racism in the country.

According to UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, long-standing policies of locking up asylum seekers had ‘cast a shadow over Australia’s human rights record’, and appeared to be completely arbitrary.

‘I come from South Africa and lived under this, and am every way attuned to seeing racial discrimination,’ she said.

The 69-year-old is a former anti-apartheid campaigner and international criminal court judge, and she was speaking to reporters at the end of a six-day visit.

‘There is a racial discriminatory element here which I see as rather inhumane treatment of people, judged by their differences, racial, colour or religions,’ she said yesterday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Brussels Has Concerns About Tougher Dutch Immigration Policy

The European Union is ‘concerned’ about Dutch plans to amend the country’s immigration and asylum rules, EU commissioner Cecilia Malmström told the NRC in an interview on Tuesday.

Malmström would not go into details but did say: ‘We have already expressed some concern and are now in dialogue with the Netherlands.’

Current rules already give enough room to tackle integration problems, up to a certain limit, she told the paper.


‘You have to look at the consequences if you change the rules… For example, family reunification is meant to make people who live legally in your country feel better,’ the commissioner is quoted as saying.

The Netherlands is the only country she has heard saying the rules on family reunification need changing. ‘I know the Netherlands thinks it important but I do not hear it from other countries,’ she said.

Age limit

Under Dutch rules, men or women wishing to bring in a foreign partner must earn at least 120% of the official minimum wage. Their partner must pass a language and integration test in their country of origin and be at least 21 years old. The new government wants to increase that to 24.

In February, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner criticised Dutch family reunification policy for focusing on ‘restricting and reducing the number’.

The measures are a concession by the minority government to the anti-Islam PVV which wants a 50% reduction in non-western immigration.

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

EU Launches Proposals to Prevent Emergencies

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 25 — The EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, has laid down proposals aimed at “leaving the immigration emergency behind us”, by launching dialogue with North African countries, beginning with Tunisia and Egypt, designed to bring about “tailor made” agreements, facilitating entry into the EU for students, researchers and entrepreneurs. The proposals are geared towards tackling illegal immigration, by channeling migrants into regular flows that might allow Europe to continue supplying itself with the workforce that is fundamental for a continent suffering an inexorable ageing process.

The tailor made deals are just one of the measures included in the package of three documents presented today in Brussels ahead of the Council of Home Affairs, scheduled for June 9 in Luxembourg, where the strategy launched at the European leaders’ summit on June 24 will be discussed.

Included in the package is the adoption of a protective clause to reintroduce rapidly the use of visas in Europe “in case of unexpected increases in the influx” of migrants from countries where visas have been liberalised, such as the Western Balkans. Common policy regarding asylum is also up for review.

Brussels believes that the package, which follows an announcement made on May 4, is aimed at “best managing the flow of migrants from the southern shores of the Mediterranean” and “ensuring that the current visa regulations do not allow irregularities”. The Commission says that “solidarity among the member states most exposed “to migratory pressure remains “absolutely crucial”.

“What I am proposing today goes beyond urgency,” Malmstrom said. “Our plan is to develop a more structured cooperation with North African countries. It is in the interests of both the EU and of countries in North Africa to promote mobility and well managed migration”. “Europe will be increasingly dependent on migrant workers. North Africa’s potential should be used to the benefit of both sides,” the Commissioner continued.

Malmstrom’s package includes the launch of a “protective clause” as part of the current European visa policy. The change will very quickly open to review the list of countries whose citizens need visas to enter the European Union.

With the process of inclusion and exclusion from the list currently lasting years, the clause aims to cut review times in order to “prevent irregularities” and tackle “all potential negative consequences of the liberalisation of visas”. The hope is that external borders can be rapidly strengthened “in exceptional and well determined cases”, in the light of “unpredictable and unexpected” migratory flows.

Visas are currently necessary for all countries in North Africa, while they have been liberalised for countries in the Western Balkans such as Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. Malmstrom said that she “had no country in mind” in terms of the potential reintroduction of visas. The clause, she added, has been devised as a “last resort”, one that she hopes “will never need to be used”. However it will be necessary “for guaranteeing the integrity of the system”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: More Than 20,000 Women Aged Under 25 Had Their Second Abortion Last Year, Shock Figures Show

More than 20,000 women a year are having two or more abortions by the age of 25.

A third of all terminations are carried out on patients who have had at least one already.

Last year 189,574 abortions were carried out in England and Wales, 8 per cent more than in 2000, according to Department of Health figures.


Campaigners warn the statistics paint a ‘sad picture’ of a society where abortions are the norm.

A spokesman for the ProLife Alliance said: ‘Whatever is being done in the UK in the way of sexual health education, at whatever age, it is clearly not impacting significantly on unplanned pregnancies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The 25 Rules of Disinformation

From Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformation (Includes The 8 Traits of A Disinformationalist) by H. Michael Sweeney. These 25 rules are everywhere in media, from political debates, to television shows, to comments on a blog.

1. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Regardless of what you know, don’t discuss it — especially if you are a public figure, news anchor, etc. If it’s not reported, it didn’t happen, and you never have to deal with the issues.

2. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the “How dare you!” gambit.

3. Create rumor mongers. Avoid discussing issues by describing all charges, regardless of venue or evidence, as mere rumors and wild accusations. Other derogatory terms mutually exclusive of truth may work as well. This method works especially well with a silent press, because the only way the public can learn of the facts are through such “arguable rumors”. If you can associate the material with the Internet, use this fact to certify it a “wild rumor” which can have no basis in fact.

4. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent’s argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.

5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary attack the messenger ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as “kooks”, “right-wing”, “liberal”, “left-wing”, “terrorists”, “conspiracy buffs”, “radicals”, “militia”, “racists”, “religious fanatics”, “sexual deviates”, and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.

6. Hit and Run. In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer. This works extremely well in Internet and letters-to-the-editor environments where a steady stream of new identities can be called upon without having to explain criticism reasoning — simply make an accusation or other attack, never discussing issues, and never answering any subsequent response, for that would dignify the opponent’s viewpoint.

[Return to headlines]