Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110528

Financial Crisis
»Is Greece the Future of America?
»The Economic Death Spiral Has Been Triggered
»Nimbys, Bananas and Greens
»Obama Administration Eyeing Gun Control ‘Under the Radar, ‘ Groups Warn
»San Bruno Mosque Makes Plans for Growth
»There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says
Europe and the EU
»Cyprus: Up to Half of Children Classed as Overweight
»Italy: Justice Complaint to Obama ‘Understandable’ Says Frattini
»Italy: Three Ex-Nazis Get Life for WWII Massacre
»Italy Experiences Freak Cherry Harvest
»Italy: No Representation No Taxation, Calderoli Warns
»Italy: Archbishop of Naples Bans Camorra Boss Church Funerals
»‘Killer Cucumber’ Bug From Spain Hits Britain
»UK: Benefit Cheats Laundered £600,000… And Had Deposit Box at Harrods, Jailed for 12 Years
»UK: Girl Risks Her Life to Rescue Woman From Hoodies — as Police Sit in Their Car and Do Nothing
North Africa
»Algeria: End of 2010: Total Population 36.3 Million
»Egyptian Military Court Prosecutes Only Christians in Muslim Church Attacks
»Italy: Departures to Egypt & Tunisia Plummet by 75%
Israel and the Palestinians
»Egypt Permanently Opens Gaza Border Crossing, Palestinians Arrive by the Busload to Cross
Middle East
»Europe’s ‘Muslim Leader’ Swells With Hatred for Christians
»Iran Working on National Network to Filter Internet
»Lebanese Businessman: Send ‘Filthy Jews’ To Their True Countries
»‘Six’ Italian UN Peacekeepers Injured in Lebanon Attack
»Syria: Press: Six Bln USD Invested by Qatar at Risk
»Syrian Repression: Iran Lent Instructors
»4 Detained, One Dead in Bombing Case
»Russian Ski Resort Plan Faces Islamist Terror Threat
South Asia
»India: At Least 2 Thousand Dalits Convert to Buddhism to Escape Marginalization
»Pakistan: Seven Al-Qaeda Suspects Held in Karachi
»Suicide Bomber Strikes at NATO, Afghan Officials, Killing 6 and Wounding Top German Commander
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Sudan: Operations in Abyei Over, Army Controls the Region
»1,800 Packed Onto Lampedusa
»341 Rescued Migrants Land at Lampedusa
»36 Egyptians Land in Salento
»Another 400 Migrants Land at Lampedusa
»Britain’s Immigration Figures Rise to Unprecedented Levels
»Lampedusa Party 1600 New Arrivals in Just 36 Hours
»Ten Immigrants Aboard Fishing Boat Land in South Sardinia
»Tom Tancredo: The Republican Silence on Illegal Immigration
»Trouble Never Ends at Greek-Turkish Border
Culture Wars
»Clashes at Russian Gay Pride March Near the Kremlin
»UK: The East End Villains Who Thrive Behind a Veil of Multiculturalism
»Victory for Former Miss World Who Sued Ryanair After Airline ‘Implied She Was Racist and Xenophobic’

Financial Crisis

Is Greece the Future of America?

Greece has a sovereign debt problem. The bonds of the Greek government have been downgraded by a major rating service. Their prices have fallen sharply in the market. This means that the risk is high that the government will default on its sovereign debt.

The sovereign debt of Greece became overvalued due to central bank/banking system money inflation. This inflation, it should be strongly emphasized, originated in the fiat dollar system of the United States and the Federal Reserve.

The central banks of the world and the world money supply are heavily influenced by what the Federal Reserve does through a kind of multiplier effect, because foreign central banks respond to Fed inflation with inflation of their own. Ronald I. McKinnon explained this important process in his June 1982 article in the American Economic Review. We see it happening today when foreign banks have to inflate in reaction to QE2 in order to prevent their currencies from strengthening too much against the depreciating dollar.

The high bond prices encouraged the Greek government to borrow too heavily and to raise government spending. But since its spending was not productive, it didn’t produce high enough tax revenues to service the debt. In time the government faced the problem it now has, which is not enough tax cash flows or income to service the debt.

Monetary inflation, in other words, causes overvalued sovereign debt. This sets in motion larger government spending, higher debt loads, and an eventual fiscal crisis when tax revenues fall short of what is required to maintain government spending and service the debt.

This process goes on in addition to the business cycle effects, well-known in Austrian economics, that inflation produces. In keeping with the analogous finance literature on overvalued equity, I identify this process as one that involves agency costs of overvalued sovereign debt.

This process is only made worse when major lenders, such as large banks, have reason to believe that they occupy a privileged position and that their bond positions will be paid off by political means if necessary. These lenders then all the more become willing to buy overvalued sovereign debt.

This effect of inflation is important because of its broad applicability in an age of inflation. In particular, a number of other countries including the U.S. have followed the Greek path.

Michael C. Jensen was the first to analyze the agency costs of overvalued equity. Everything that he says about the dire effects on a company’s behavior from having an overpriced stock find a parallel when a government issues overpriced debt. The parallels are not perfect, of course. In fact, every bit of analysis suggests that the problem will be worse for overvalued sovereign debt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Economic Death Spiral Has Been Triggered

For nearly 30 years we have had two Global Strategies working in a symbiotic fashion that has created a virtuous economic growth spiral. Unfortunately, the economic underpinnings were flawed and as a consequence, the virtuous cycle has ended. It is now in the process of reversing and becoming a vicious downward economic spiral. One of the strategies is the Asian Mercantile Strategy. The other is the US Dollar Reserve Currency Strategy.

These two strategies have worked in harmony because they fed off each other, each reinforcing the other. However, today the realities of debt saturation have brought the virtuous spiral to an end.

One of the two global strategies enabled the Asian Tigers to emerge and grow to the extent that they are now the manufacturing and potentially future economic engine of the world.

The other allowed the US to live far beyond its means with massive fiscal deficits, chronic trade imbalances and more recently, current account imbalances. The US during this period has gone from being the richest country on the face of the globe to the biggest debtor nation in the world.

First we need to explore each strategy, how they worked symbiotically, what has changed and then why the virtuous cycle is now accelerating into a vicious downward spiral.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Nimbys, Bananas and Greens

Prices at gas pumps are at some of the highest levels ever and rising. Americans want answers. In particular they want the names and numbers of those to blame. To answer that question perhaps they should simply consult the phone book or look in the mirror. Because the main culprits in the rising gas prices aren’t necessarily members of OPEC, but the American people who support policies that block new drilling and the building of new refineries on American soil. It’s that simple.

The real political parties in America are the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and the BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). These two political forces are driving the future of the nation by dictating the policy agendas of the Republicans and Democrats. Soon, the national bird will no longer be the noble eagle, but the ostrich.


88% of the energy for America’s transportation, industry, government, and residential needs comes from oil, gas, and coal. Without them the nation shuts down. Yet there is no drive in Congress to ease regulations to allow for domestic production. Instead, government sees only one solution — stop using energy. They call it “sustainable.”

Government pretends to address the energy shortage with massive grants for “alternative energy,” like wind mills and solar cells. This is the answer, says Barack Obama, to get us off of our dependency on foreign oil. These green myths provide only about 1% of our energy needs without much hope soon for improvement. Alternative energy is fast coming to mean no energy.

Of course, a few well place oil wells would do much more to reduce that dependency — and actually reduce the costs at the pump. But, if you want to see a green turn blue — just suggest such a simple solution. Through pressure from environmental organizations, Congress and federal agencies have banned oil activity from more than 300 million acres of federal land onshore and more than 460 million acres offshore in the past 20 years. An estimated 67% of oil reserves and 40% of natural gas reserves are locked away on federal lands in America’s western states. One accident in the Gulf, caused by negligent government regulators not enforcing the law, resulted in the complete banning and destruction of the U.S. off-shore supply.

Research now shows that America has perhaps the largest oil reserves in the world, yet it is locked away. Today’s domestic oil production comes from a diminishing number of wells scattered throughout the country. The most important discovery of new oil reserves has been in Alaska in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). Yet, Congress has refused to allow drilling for this urgently needed American resource because of lies told by environmentalists that the drilling will damage the Alaskan ecosystem. Such Green scare mongering is simply not true . Technology allows for a very small footprint for the wells in an area that is nothing but a frozen tundra wasteland. For this America starves for evergy.


However, the nation’s energy problem is much worse than just not being able to drill our American oil. Even if we could drill our own oil or even had a glut of imported oil, the crisis couldn’t be averted to bring oil prices down. That’s because the United States hasn’t built a new oil refinery since 1976. All remaining American refineries are running at full capacity. There is barely time for the plants to shut down to perform needed upkeep and repairs because such activity will cause a bump in the system and force prices up. The industry can do nothing to keep up with demand. Rules and regulations, both federal and state, are blocking the industry’s ability to build new refineries.

Even worse: old, worn out refineries are closing, reducing capacity even more. In California, ten refineries representing 20% of the state’s refining capacity were closed between 1985 and 1995. With California energy policy literally dominated by radical environmental groups, it is unlikely that any new refineries will ever be built.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Administration Eyeing Gun Control ‘Under the Radar, ‘ Groups Warn

The Obama administration, after keeping gun control on the back burner for over two years, is prompting concern among gun rights groups that it’s slowly starting to squeeze the trigger on tighter regulation.

“They’re doing a pretty good job … as Obama has said, ‘under the radar.’ There’s a lot going on under that radar,” Gun Owners of America Director Larry Pratt said, referring to a remark Obama reportedly made in a private meeting with gun control advocates. “They’ve shown us how much they are prepared to do through regulation.”

Pratt pointed to two proposals in particular.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

San Bruno Mosque Makes Plans for Growth

A low-profile mosque, tucked away in a family home on a suburban street in San Bruno, must make structural adjustments to accommodate its growing congregation, say city officials.

Since it opened its doors in 2003, Al Madinah Academy at 714 4th Avenue has seen its congregation grow from seven to some 60 attendees for its midday prayer on Fridays, said the mosque’s president, Dean Moidin.

“The community is growing day by day,” Moidin said.

Al Madinah was opened in 2003 by a handful of working-class Fijian immigrants. The mosque, which teaches Arabic classes and offers daily prayer services out of a residential home, is so discreet that two neighbors living just a few doors away said they had no idea of its existence.

Even city officials were clueless about the Islamic place of worship until an observant neighbor started asking questions back in 2009.

While city code requires religious facilities to file for a permit and provide visitors with ample parking, Al Madinah had failed to do either, said Aaron Aknin, community development director. After receiving a warning, however, the group hastily suspended its services on the property and submitted applications for a congregational permit and parking renovations.

The San Bruno city council Wednesday authorized an environmental review of the mosque’s proposed renovations, which include increasing the number of parking spaces from four to 14.

The project would combine two adjacent lots at 710 and 714 Fourth Ave. The existing single-family home at 714 would be demolished and replaced with a two-story religious building, which Moidin said would “appear residential.” The two-story home on the 710 lot will remain intact and serve as home to the mosque’s imam.

The total cost of the environmental review, an upcoming architectual review, and the proposed renovations is expected to reach $750,000, money the small congregation will have to raise before it can restart services on site.

The number of Muslims may be on the rise not just in San Bruno, but across San Mateo County, due to both immigration and expanding local Muslim families, according to Abdurrahman Anwar, the imam at Belmont’s mosque and community center, the Yaseen Foundation.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says

ou think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s worse than you know.

Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy “dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the intelligence committee, he laments that he can’t precisely explain without disclosing classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in particular gives him immense pause: the so-called “business-records provision,” which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus: Up to Half of Children Classed as Overweight

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 10 — Up to half of all Cypriot children are overweight, according to data made public yesterday in commemoration of World Nutrition Day. The statistics, as daily Cyprus Mail reports, were revealed at a conference held under the auspices of the Health Ministry and the Dieticians’ and Nutritionists’ Association Cyprus (SyDiKu). Speaking at the conference, Health Minister Christos Patsalides stressed that in light of up to 50% of Cypriot children being overweight, prevention is the best way to combat the worrying trait, with exercise and diet being particularly important. He noted that today’s lifestyle and bad eating habits have led to an increase in diet-related diseases among children. Recent studies showed that 36.1% of the general population are overweight while 27.8% are obese. Patsalides also referred to the cooperation between Cyprus and the World Health Organisation, which implement a programme of surveillance of childhood obesity in children aged seven to 10, aimed at reducing obesity in all EU member states.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Justice Complaint to Obama ‘Understandable’ Says Frattini

Magistrates announce protests against ‘dictatorship’ remark

(ANSA) — Rome, May 27 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s complaint to United States President Barack Obama about the alleged “dictatorship” of the justice system by leftwing magistrates is “understandable”, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Friday.

On Thursday Berlusconi caused a storm by complaining to Obama at a Group of Eight meeting about a perceived bias caused by crusading leftwing prosecutors who have allegedly targeted him.

Frattini said Berlusconi’s remarks “denote a deep suffering, a human suffering by a person who has been hit by 200 trials over 17 years and has come out of all of them without a conviction”. “It is the sign of a deep pain which we must certainly understand,” Frattini said.

The Italian magistrates union ANM reacted angrily to the incident with Obama, accusing Berlusconi of “denigrating Italy abroad”.

ANM has announce possible protest action.

Berlusconi is currently involved in four criminal proceedings, three over corruption and fraud and one for allegedly paying an underage prostitute for sex and allegedly getting her out of police custody on an unrelated offence.

The premier regularly lambasts Milan prosecutors as politically motivated and has announced a justice reform — which he hinted at to Obama — to rein them in.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Three Ex-Nazis Get Life for WWII Massacre

184 Italian civilians died in 1944 atrocity

(ANSA) — Rome, May 4 — Three German former soldiers have received life sentences for killing 184 Italian civilians in a WWII reprisal in Tuscany, one of Italy’s worst wartime atrocities.

Former Wermacht captain Ernst Pinstor, 91, ex-warrant officer Fritz Jauss, 94, and former sergeant Johan Robert Riss were sentenced in absentia for murdering 94 mostly elderly men, 63 women and 27 children including some newborn babies “in cold blood, looking the innocent in the eyes,” as a prosecutor put it.

The court also set a new record compensation package of almost 13 million euros for the relatives of the victims, which the Federal Republic of Germany was asked to pay.

“After 67 years we have obtained justice,” said local mayor Rinaldo Vanni.

Vanni however expressed regret that the case had taken so long to come to court because key documents were only unearthed, in a so-called “cupboard of shame”, in 1994.

Rome military prosecutor Marco De Paolis voiced the hope that if the verdict is confirmed at the high court of Cassation “the terms will actually be served, if only in Germany”.

During the trial, a WWII historian, Paolo Pezzino, told the court that the house-to-house sweep in the village of Padule di Fucecchio between Florence and Pistoia was “not a reprisal but an operation of total desertification”.

The three ex-soldiers, who live in Germany, have “never expressed remorse”, De Paolis said.

A fourth defendant, ex-lieutenant Gherard Deissmann, died during the trial.

The massacre on August 23, 1944 took place a day after an SS division killed 560 people including 116 children in nearby Sant’Anna di Stazzema, the backdrop to Spike Lee’s 2008 film Miracle at St Anna.

Three former SS officers were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia for that atrocity in 2007.

Only three former Nazis have ever been jailed in Italy for war crimes.

Erich Priebke, 97, was extradited from Argentina in 1995 and sentenced to life for his part in a 1944 reprisal outside Rome that killed 335 men and boys including many Jews; his ex-commander Karl Hass, arrested after coming from Switzerland to Priebke’s trial with witness immunity, died in prison aged 92 in 2004; and ‘Butcher of Bolzano’ Michael Seifert, found guilty of 18 murders, was extradited from Canada to serve life in 2008 and died in jail aged 86 last November.

Priebke is now under house arrest in Rome. He had a work permit revoked in 2007 after an outcry from the city’s Jewish community Italian prosecutors have issued European arrest warrants for 15 other German former soldiers without success.

Under the terms of a postwar settlement, Germany is not required to extradite alleged war criminals to Italy.

The two countries agreed in 2008 to review outstanding wartime issues including the compensation for victims.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Experiences Freak Cherry Harvest

Phenomenon seen as sign of climate change

(ANSA) — Rome, May 17 — For the first time in living memory, cherries are maturing at the same time up and down the Italian peninsula, a phenomenon some observers see as a further consequence of climate change.

Italy usually enjoys a two-month cherry season with the harvest gradually moving from the south to the north to traditionally end on June 24, the Feast of St John.

This year, however, it’s already harvest time throughout Italy with the season now expected to last only a month.

According to the gastronomic-environmental group Slow Food, the reason for this is that for the past two months or so temperatures highs in Italy have been consistently, over 50% of the time, greater in northern Italy than in the south.

The good news is that the quality of this year’s harvest is very good throughout the country and prices have already plunged below last year’s highs.

Earlier this month, cherries in Italy were mostly from Spain and cost as much as 15 to 20 euros a kilo, depending on their quality.

Today, the flood of domestic fruit reaching the market have pushed prices down by 50% or more. Cherries are selling for between four and five euros in Verona in the north as in Bari in the south, while those from the premium area of Vignola in Emilia Romagna are going for five or six euros and Italy’s prize cherries from Pecetto, near Turin, are fetching in the neighborhood of 10 euros a kilo.

Cherry prices generally bottom out at the start of June but this year they are not expected to drop much further, since they are already rock-bottom.

Prices are expected to pick up in less than a month’s time when this freak harvest will be over and the only domestic fruit available will be from the colder norther mountain areas.

What remains to be seen now is the behavior this year of the ‘giuanin’, the worm which invades mature cherries, making them impossible to eat. The name is Piedmont dialect for John and is in reference to the saint.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: No Representation No Taxation, Calderoli Warns

(AGI) Rome- Roberto Calderoli, Italian Minister for the Simplification of Bureaucracy and Lega Nord national secretariats coordinator, came back to the subject of moving some of Italian ministries to the north of the country “Are there problems about the proposal of moving ministries to the North? Very well” he said, “that means that the saying ‘No taxation without representation’ will become ‘No representation? No taxation’“. In the note, he added that “this is the last notice to mariners”.

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

Italy: Archbishop of Naples Bans Camorra Boss Church Funerals

(AGI) Naples — The Archbishop of Naples has ruled out church funerals for Camorra bosses and members. A new pamphlet signed by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, to be distributed to parishes in Naples, denies Camorra members the right to be godfathers at baptisms and confirmations or witnesses at church weddings. As he was inaugurating a building, the cardinal declared” “We are also giving a few blows to the Camorra, whose members must understand that they will no longer be able to be godfathers and that when they die they won’t go to the church but to the cemetery.” .

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

‘Killer Cucumber’ Bug From Spain Hits Britain

A person in Britain has been diagnosed with a lethal strain of E.coli, believed to originate in organic cucumbers.

The bacteria has killed nine people in Germany, with almost 300 people being admitted to hospital. Cases have also been reported in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The outbreak is believed to have originated in organic cucumbers grown in Spain, although there are suggestions that the bacteria has been found in cucumbers grown in the Netherlands.

The advice now to people travelling to Germany is not to eat cucumbers, raw tomatoes or lettuce.

The British Health Protection Authority has confirmed that three German nationals currently in Britain have fallen ill. One of those cases has been confirmed as having the infection which is causing this outbreak.

A spokeswoman for the HPA said the outbreak in Germany was “very, very serious” and although the bug was infectious, there had been no reports of secondary infection yet in the UK.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Benefit Cheats Laundered £600,000… And Had Deposit Box at Harrods, Jailed for 12 Years

In Jamaica they lavished millions on mansions, racehorses, gems and sports cars.

But in Britain, Burnett and Paulette Morris still saw fit to milk the benefits system for all its worth.

The fraudsters claimed more than £60,000 in handouts while sending £900 a day from their drugs empire to Jamaica to pay for two million-pound homes and a 16-horse stable.

The couple lived with their three children in a cramped housing association semi in Bromley, Kent, claiming £20,553 in housing allowance, council tax benefit, £42,000 in income support and even free school meals for their two youngest.

At the same time, Paulette Morris, 49, spent thousands of pounds a week at Harrods and Harvey Nichols on designer clothes, diamonds and handbags.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Girl Risks Her Life to Rescue Woman From Hoodies — as Police Sit in Their Car and Do Nothing

A young woman told yesterday how she risked her life to stop a street robbery — while two police officers sat in their patrol car a few yards away.

Marie Wastlund, 27, was walking home from a night out when she saw three hooded thugs throttling and kicking a woman in view of the police vehicle.

The student waved and shouted to get the attention of the officers — parked only 25 yards away — but they did nothing.

So she waded in herself and pulled the thugs away from their victim by their hoods — at which point they fled. Astonishingly, she then had to dial 999 to summon police help and sat cradling the distraught victim in her arms for ten minutes.

At one point the two officers got out of their car but, apparently not noticing what was going on, they got back in again.

In fact, the pair only ventured out to investigate the incident when Miss Wastlund’s friend arrived and rushed over to their car and knocked on the window.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: End of 2010: Total Population 36.3 Million

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 25 — As of December 31 last year, Algeria’s total population amounted to 36.3 million inhabitants, including 50.6% men, according to the national statistics office, cited by APS. According to projections of experts in the field, at the end of 2011 the population should be 37.1 million.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Military Court Prosecutes Only Christians in Muslim Church Attacks

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A Military court in Egypt has sentenced three Christian Copts to 5-years imprisonment on charges of possession of firearms and pocket knives. The Court released all other Muslims and Copts arrested following clashes on May 19 over the re-opening of St. Mary and St. Abraham churches in Ain Shams West (AINA 5-24-2011). Copts Emad Ayyad and Ayman Youssef Halim were convicted of carrying firearms. Emad Ayyam’s son, Ayad Emad Ayad, was convicted of carrying a pocket knife.

Eight Copts, mostly students, were arrested in Ain Shams West and charged with rioting, violence and causing injury to citizens. Three of the Copts were also charged with possession of firearms and knives. Police arrested three under-age Muslims on charges of throwing stones at the army.

Defense lawyer Abraham Edward said “This is a very unjust, severe and cruel verdict.” He said that as lawyers they are unable to fathom what is going on. “Today’s case is very strange, a case where there is not one shred of evidence to indict them. If this case went in front of the International Court of Justice they would all be set free.” He criticized the five-year prison sentence handed down to Ayad Emad Ayad for carrying a pocket knife. According to the law this is punishable by a six months suspended sentence.

Emad Ayyad said he was looking down the street from his balcony and saw his son Ayad Emad Ayad arguing with an officer, so he went down to see his son. The officer took him together with his son and shoved them in the police armored car along with a black handbag which belonged to the officer, as evidence to use against them. The police did not say how the weapons were confiscated from them. According to forensics no shots were fired from the weapons.

Edward said the defense team was advised they could petition the military governor for a retrial, which they have already done.

The three Muslims who were released all minors were represented by the Coptic defense team which asked for their release, especially a 14-year-old boy who was released on the same day.

Mr. Hitham Refaat Shaker, one of the defense attorneys, said in an interview on May 23 that he is sure the charges were fabricated against the Copts. “It is impossible to imagine the incident as described by the officer who wrote the report, that the Christians threw stones at other Christians in order to accuse Muslims of doing it” (video).

The Military Council pressured the Copts to call off their 13-day sit-in in Maspero, Cairo “in exchange for the release of five of the eight Copts arrested, while the release of the other three would be negotiated once the sit-in ended,” said Father Mattias Nasr, head organizer of the Maspero sit-in.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Italy: Departures to Egypt & Tunisia Plummet by 75%

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 26 — This summer will bring with it a general collapse in the number of departures to the main North African tourist destinations historically visited by many European travellers, including Italians. Tunisia has posted a decline in searches for hotels of 75% compared to last year, while Egypt has seen hotel searches decrease by 71% and Morocco’s numbers are down by 50%. “The data is for the month of May, when Italians normally plan their summer vacations. Compared to last year,” explained travel website manager Giulia Eremita, “there have been significant changes throughout the entire Mediterranean, which has been affected by the crisis in North Africa: Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt internationally, and Sardinia and Sicily in Italy. It should be mentioned,” added Eremita, “that while a decline in reservations for international destinations has basically been confirmed, we are expecting further developments for Italian destinations in the coming weeks.” A survey conducted by Tripadvisor on nearly 6000 European travellers, including 1900 Italians, agrees with this analysis. Italians will not be headed to Egypt or Tunisia for their summer holidays: 80% say that they will avoid both destinations, while only 12% have not ruled out the possibility of visiting the two countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Egypt Permanently Opens Gaza Border Crossing, Palestinians Arrive by the Busload to Cross

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Egypt lifted a 4-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip on Saturday, greatly easing travel restrictions on the 1.5 million residents of the Palestinian territory in a move that bolstered the Hamas government while dealing a setback to Israel’s attempts to isolate the militant group.

The sense of relief was palpable as buses piled high with luggage crossed the Rafah border terminal and hundreds of people traveled abroad for overdue medical appointments, business dealings and family affairs. In Israel, fears were heightened that militants and weapons will soon pour into the territory.

“I was so happy to hear that the Egyptian border is opening so I can finally travel for treatment,” said Mohammad Zoarob, a 66-year-old suffering from chronic kidney disease.

He said he had been waiting for a medical permit from the Palestinian health ministry for five years so he could go to Egypt for treatment. When Palestinian officials coincidentally approved the permit on Saturday, he kissed his family goodbye, rushed to the border and was quickly whisked across.

“They put me in an ambulance and in five minutes I reached the Egyptian side of the crossing,” he said.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Europe’s ‘Muslim Leader’ Swells With Hatred for Christians

Activists warn Islamic beheading of Catholic bishop only the beginning

The director of a Christian human rights organization believes the recent killing of a Catholic bishop in Turkey clearly points to one thing: the nation positioning itself to be “the leader of Europe’s Muslims” actively oppresses its Christian minority.

Christian Solidarity International-USA CEO John Eibner says both the government and the primarily Islamic culture are driving the persecution.

“The Christians in Turkey are small in number, but they continue to face pressure from the government, but also prejudice in society,” Eibner observed. “So there’s social discrimination and official discrimination.

“From time to time, acts of horrific violence such as the beheading of Bishop Padovese and the ritual killing of missionaries and church workers … intimidate the Christian community,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran Working on National Network to Filter Internet

(AGI) Tehran- Iran is working on a project for an internal web network that would isolate Iranian users from the worldwide web. Tehran aims for a completely self-sufficient network that would allow it to control the Internet by raising censorship levels to an even higher degree, an increasingly urgent necessity in light of the recent revolts in other Arab nations, where social networks such as Facebook and Twitter proved themselves to be useful instruments to spread the protests.

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

Lebanese Businessman: Send ‘Filthy Jews’ To Their True Countries

A Lebanese businessman has called to throw the Jews “back to their true countries.”

In a recent interview on the Hizbullah terror group’s Al-Manar television network which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Yasser Qashlaq, a journalist who also heads the Free Palestine Movement, said: “The natural place for [Ehud] Barak is Poland, and the natural place for that idiot, Netanyahu, is Moscow, while the natural place for me is Safed [Tzfat -ed.].”

Qashlaq goes on to say, “I would like to say to Ben-Gurion: You little boy, tomorrow, my little son will stomp on your grave. He will deport your remains to your true country in Europe, and we will return.

“Like Imam Khomeini said, back in the day, if each of us were to spit, we would drown out all five million of them,” he continues. “The number of Jews — those human pieces of filth — in my land equals one third of the people of the Nasr City neighborhood in Cairo.”

Qashlaq provided the main funding to a Lebanese flotilla which had planned last June to set sail towards Gaza and break the Israeli naval blockade on the Strip.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Six’ Italian UN Peacekeepers Injured in Lebanon Attack

Beirut, 27 May (AKI) — Six Italian soldiers on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon were injured Friday when their vehicle was attacked by a bomb on a highway near the city of Sidone, according to news reports. The condition of one of the soldiers was considered serious.

Earlier reports said two Italians were killed by the explosion around 40 kilometres south of Beirut, but a doctor at Hammud hospital in Sidone said there were no deaths. Dr. George Falha told reporters two civilian Lebanese were slightly injured in the blast.

Italy in 2006 deployed around 3,000 troops as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) following the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel.

“The UNIFIL mission has given a decisive contribution to the stability of one of the Middle East’s most sensitive areas,” Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said in a condolence statement following news Friday’s apparent bombing.

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

Syria: Press: Six Bln USD Invested by Qatar at Risk

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, MAY 24 — Six billion USD invested by Qatar in Syria are at risk, since the Syrian authorities have suspended the projects of the firms Qatari Diar and Qatar Electricity and Water Company (Qewc). The news is announced today by the Qatar newspaper The Peninsula, which states that the decision was apparently made by Syria as retaliation against the “coverage” by satellite television channel A Jazeera of the uprising in Syria. Al Jazeera is based in Qatar. Its correspondent in Damascus, Dorothy Parvaz, has been arrested in Damascus and deported to Iran, where she was released after 19 days in prison. Economic observers in Qatar say that the move will damage Syria itself more than Qatar, because Qatar could ask for a compensation based on international economic law.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syrian Repression: Iran Lent Instructors

(AGI) Washington — Washington — In addition to weapons and anti-riot equipment, Iran sent to Syria advisor to help repress protests. According to The Washington Post, Iranian instructors were sent to Syria in order to help stabilize Damascus, the ayatollah’s major ally in the region. Syria also received very sophisticated computer surveillance equipment.

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


4 Detained, One Dead in Bombing Case

Law enforcement agencies have killed an Islam convert believed responsible for the twin bombings of police buildings in Volgograd last month, and detained four alleged accomplices, the Investigative Committee said Monday.

The Volgograd blasts, which injured no one on April 26, were practice runs for attacks planned for the Victory Day holiday, May 9, in Astrakhan, 380 kilometers away, investigators said.

Few details of the killing and arrests were released.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said the incident occurred on May 7 in Astrakhan, Interfax reported. He said the suspects were members of an Astrakhan-based Islamist militant group and their leader, a 30-year-old Islam convert nicknamed Umar, was shot dead resisting arrest.

He did not identify the slain man or the four detainees, saying only that they were aged 28 to 30 and had criminal records. A Kalashnikov automatic rifle, a hunting gun, grenades and homemade explosives were found in the suspects’ possession, he said.

State television reported on the eve of the Victory Day celebrations that about 15 people had been detained in Astrakhan on May 7 on suspicion of plotting holiday attacks. No mention was made of any deaths.

In Volgograd, the bombers left bags with explosives near a police academy and a traffic police building. Passers-by alerted the police, giving the authorities time to evacuate the neighborhood to prevent casualties.

Volgograd Governor Anatoly Brovko said at the time that terrorism was not suspected because the circumstances of the blasts indicated that the bombers had not planned to actually kill anyone. Police initiated checks into the local leaders of the opposition Other Russia coalition, which in turn pointed the finger at Islamist militants.

Witnesses told investigators that the bombers traveled around in Volgograd in a car with Astrakhan license plates, Markin said Monday. But investigators identified the suspects by checking the circle of acquaintances of another Astrakhan Islamist militant group busted last year, he said.

Three police officers were killed by the group in a series of attacks in Astrakhan between July and October. Police detained four suspects and killed a fifth in October. A sixth suspect, Maksut Zhumagaziyev, is believed to have fled to the North Caucasus to join militants there, and he is on a federal wanted list, Interfax reported.

Markin said the group implicated in the Volgograd bombings had planned a similar series of attacks on police officers aimed at terrifying the population and promoting radical Islam.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Russian Ski Resort Plan Faces Islamist Terror Threat

Russia’s grand plan to revitalise its poverty-stricken southern flank by building a series of ski resorts there is one that has already attracted the wrath of Islamist terrorists.

In February, a group of masked gunmen stopped a minibus carrying skiers in the internal republic of Kabardino-Balkaria and shot dead three tourists from Moscow in cold blood. A ski lift was bombed soon afterwards and police later defused a series of car bombs in the area.

The terrorists, who are fighting to establish an Islamist Caliphate across southern Russia, openly said they viewed tourists as a legitimate target. For them, the entire North Caucasus area is a war zone and ethnic Russians are an occupying force that they hope to drive out.

The Kremlin’s response to the murders was typically robust. Special Forces were sent into the mountainous region to hunt the gunmen and were reported to have shot dead at least some of the group.

The problem is that there are plenty of other terrorists operating across the region. Barely a day goes by without some kind of attack in the mostly Muslim region and the Kremlin’s strong-arm tactics show no signs of paying off. In fact, human rights group say the authorities’ often brutal tactics are only making things worse, radicalising a local population struggling with chronic poverty and unemployment.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: At Least 2 Thousand Dalits Convert to Buddhism to Escape Marginalization

According to the Scheduled Castes Order, only Dalit Hindus and Buddhists can enjoy the rights provided for their status. Christians and Muslims loose all rights, including the right to political representation. But even within Christianity, non Dalits alienate their outcast brothers and sisters.

Udupi (AsiaNews) — In a state ceremony (Dhamma Dheekshe) at least 2 thousand Dalits converted to Buddhism in Karnataka, on May 24 last. The monks Manorakhit Bhanteji, Lobsana and Tenguru officiated at the function organized by the Karnataka Baudha Maha Sabha and Karnataka Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Ambedkar Vada). The “Dhamma Dheekshe” was part of celebrations for “Vesak” the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha’s enlightenment.

In India Dalits are “untouchables”, but since 1950 pursuant to paragraph No. 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order only Hindus and Buddhists have the status and rights provided to the Dalits. In contrast, the Dalits converted to Christianity or Islam lose all rights, including that of political representation. For this reason, the majority of Dalits choose to convert to Buddhism.

However, according Sri Vishweshateertha Swamiji, head of the Brahmin Buddhist monastery Pejavar, this conversion will not give any advantage to the outcast. “ The Monk explains: “With the exception of the Dalits, there are few Buddhists in India. The question of untouchability is independent of religion. “

The Indian activist Vincent Manoharan, president of the National Federation of Dalit Land Rights Movement (Nfdlrm) does not agree with Swamiji: “Buddhism and other religions do not sanctify the caste system as happens in Hinduism. For Dalits, that’s enough to leave Hinduism. “

The Nfdlrm has been fighting for years to abolish at least the section of the Scheduled Castes Order against Dalit Christians and Muslims. Manoharan explains: “Dalits are discriminated against, as enacted by a 1950 Act. But the Christians outcastes are marginalized even by non-Dalit Christians, who alienate them for social reasons”. And he concludes: “The Dalits are segregated, humiliated and persecuted in every aspect of their lives: social, economic, political and religious. As long as this law exists, the Christian outcastes suffer triple discrimination: from Christians of other castes, from non Dalits of other religions and the government. “

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

Pakistan: Seven Al-Qaeda Suspects Held in Karachi

KARACHI: Intelligence agencies, in raids in Korangi and Shah Faisal Colony, have arrested seven suspects alleged to be members of al-Qaeda for their involvement in the PNS Mehran attack case. Five of the held are of foreign origin. Moreover, arms have also been recovered from their possession.

The seven suspects were identified as Hamza Abul Qasim, Javed bin Ziyad bin Tariq, Tahir bin Saleem and Ghansham besides others, who were immediately moved to an undisclosed location for interrogation. It was also disclosed that the police had taken into custody the car which was under the use of terrorists. Further probe is underway.

Online adds: Security forces on Friday arrested four suspected terrorists from Karachi. One of the suspects is said to have an alias of Hamza. They were taken to an undisclosed location for questioning.

However, sources said the investigators are still in the dark as far as making a real breakthrough is concerned. After expressing the possibility of involvement of various international intelligence agencies, the investigators have also included seminaries, located in the PNS Mehran’s vicinity.

Meanwhile, the investigation team has received the initial forensic report, prepared in Islamabad, which has established the used weapons of Russian make; except the walkie-talkie sets, which are of American make, possibly from the Nato inventory.

The report also discovered that all rifle cartridges were manufactured at the end of 2008, while the rifles used were seven to eight years old. The forensic report stated that all soldiers were fired at from 100 metres distance.

Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry adds: Security agencies conducted a raid at a Madrassa in Chak No 363GB, Sammi Di Jhok, in Faisalabad district on Friday, and arrested a suspected terrorist in connection with the PNS Mehran naval base attack.

The suspect, who was identified as Qari Qaisar, 30, a resident of Dera Ghazi Khan, was shifted to some undisclosed place for interrogation. Sources said the local police of Satiana Police Station were not informed about the raid by security agencies.

According to sources, the raid party entered Madrassa Zainul Abideen and arrested Qari Qaisar, the teacher of the madrassa. The sources said the suspect remained in contact with the attackers of the PNS Mehran base. He was traced through his telephone calls. The Madrassa was built by Master Manzoor of the same village on two-and-a-half Marlas some years back, and Qari Qaisar was appointed as a teacher there.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Suicide Bomber Strikes at NATO, Afghan Officials, Killing 6 and Wounding Top German Commander

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban suicide bomber wearing a police uniform blew himself up inside a heavily guarded compound Saturday as top Afghan and international officials left a meeting, killing two senior Afghan police commanders and wounding the German general who commands coalition troops in northern Afghanistan.

Two German soldiers and two other Afghans were also killed in the blast, the latest in an insurgent spring offensive. It came just weeks before a planned drawdown of U.S. troops begins this summer.

The bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest inside the governor’s complex in Takhar province, where high-ranking Afghan officials were meeting with members of the international coalition, said Faiz Mohammad Tawhedi, a spokesman for the governor.

“What we know is the guy who carried out the attack had a police uniform on,” Tawhedi said. “How he entered the meeting room and why he was not searched, we don’t know.”

Among the dead was Gen. Daud Daud, regional police commander in northern Afghanistan, according to the provincial health director, Dr. Hassain Basech.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan: Operations in Abyei Over, Army Controls the Region

(AGI) Khartoum — Khartoum’s army stopped operations in Abyei, having taken complete control of the oil-producing region. The disputed area is on the border between southern and northern Sudan. The local media report so.

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


1,800 Packed Onto Lampedusa

(AGI) Lampedusa — After the landing of the latest 609 refugees today in Lampedusa, there are 1,800 immigrants on the island.

Among these are 41 women and 9 children. 1,450 of the immigrants have arrived between yesterday and today. The ferryboat “Flaminia” is on the site, equipped for the transfers. The Prefecture has already made arrangements for the embarcation of the majority of the refugees, in order to reduce the numbers in the refugee center, which is already over its maximum capacity. The immigrants will be separated for those requesting asylum in the country.

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

341 Rescued Migrants Land at Lampedusa

(AGI) Lampedusa — A new maxi landing at Lampedusa. According to the Coast Guard, 341 migrants landed at 5:30 today. Last afternoon, they were located some 60 miles offshore the Sicilian coast, on a boat in serious distress. Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza vessels went to the rescue, saving the latest contingent of sub-Saharan migrants crossing from Libya.

After a 10-day truce, in a few hours, yesterday, over 850 migrants have reached the Italian soil. A few hundreds were crossing on two old wrecks ready to sink. 55 landed on their own at Pantelleria.

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

36 Egyptians Land in Salento

(AGI) Ugento — Thirty six Egyptian immigrants, 29 of whom underage, landed in Ugento, southern Italy, on Friday night.

The illegal immigrants, the youngest being only 11 years old, were found overnight and taken to the ‘Don Tonino Bello’ reception centre in Otranto, where they were given assistance.

No trace of the smugglers.

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

Another 400 Migrants Land at Lampedusa

(AGI) Lampedusa — A boat with 400 migrants on board was rescued around four miles from Lampedusa. The coast guard and finance police conducted the transfer of passengers to their boats.

Some of the migrants have already landed at Favaloro harbour, while others are still on their way. The passengers of the unseaworthy vessel had to be rescued because its rudder was jammed. Three hundred and forty one had already landed by dawn.

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

Britain’s Immigration Figures Rise to Unprecedented Levels

Official records in Britain have revealed that immigration rose to unprecedented levels last year.

The net migration figure till September 2010, stood at 242,000, the third highest on record.

Immigration Minister Damian Green admitted migration rates were ‘out of control’ and blamed the previous Labour government for it.

“That is why we have already introduced radical changes to drive the numbers down and, we will shortly be consulting on a range of new measures,” The Daily Mail quoted him, as saying.

Immigration levels have soared following Britain’s policy of allowing Eastern Europeans to work in the country without restriction.

According to statistics, immigration from Eastern Europe rose by 50 per cent to 72,000 while the number of Eastern Europeans going back home dropped by nearly half to 29,000. hough the government did succeed in cutting the numbers of student visas to non-Europeans by two percent, it was offset by a rise in work visas.

Andrew Green of Migration Watch has warned about the adverse consequences of immigration.

“Firm measures are now absolutely essential. The impact on British-born workers is a particular concern that has been brushed under the carpet for too long,” he said. (ANI)

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Lampedusa Party 1600 New Arrivals in Just 36 Hours

(AGI) Lampedusa — Another landing took place just prior to 1700 hours in Lampedusa, with the arrival of 138 migrants. The latter add to the day’s total of 950. During the last 36 hours a total of 1,600 North African migrants have landed on the southern Italian island. The fresh arrivals have boarded ferry boat “Flaminia” towards mainland destinations.

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

Ten Immigrants Aboard Fishing Boat Land in South Sardinia

(AGI) Cagliari — Ten immigrants from the Maghreb landed this morning on the south-west coast of Sardinia. They were aboard a 15 meter fishing boat which ran ashore near Cape Teulada. The immigrants, who claim to come from Libya, reached the shore near the mouth of the “Zafferaneddu” and were blocked and detained by the Carabinieri. In the meantime, the Sant’Antioco Port Authority is attempting to recover the fishing boat.

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

Tom Tancredo: The Republican Silence on Illegal Immigration

If there is one thing on the minds of Americans across the nation, it is our economic crisis and Washington’s failure to address it. The failure of Obama’s policies is nowhere more painfully obvious than in his unwillingness to connect the dots between our economic burdens and illegal immigration.

President Obama and his congressional allies on Capitol Hill enacted a failed $787 billion stimulus, a $1 trillion government takeover of health care, auto bailouts, cap-and-trade legislation and tax increases. All of these hurt America’s working families and small businesses, but they have done nothing to create the jobs promised by the Obama administration.

Yet, no one in Washington — and as yet, no candidate on the 2012 campaign trail — has tackled the overarching issue of illegal immigration and its connection to our economic woes.

Illegal immigration affects every aspect of our daily lives and every part of our economic crisis. Illegal aliens attend our schools, utilize America’s health-care benefits and enjoy access to America’s public roadways, parks and other public amenities. In many states, criminal aliens occupy 20 percent or more of the beds in our jails and prisons. More importantly, they compete for jobs at a time of 9 percent unemployment.

All of this comes at a cost to the American taxpayer. The United States is a nation founded on freedom, individual responsibility and the rule of law. Allowing persons who are in the country in violation of our laws to exploit our social services and safety nets is a slap in the face to all Americans. It is especially insulting to legal immigrants who have come here the right way. Simply put, rewarding illegal behavior punishes the rest of us.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Trouble Never Ends at Greek-Turkish Border

26 May 2011 Le Monde Paris

Illegal migration into Greece has slowed at the crossing near the Turkish city of Edirne since the Frontex mission, charged by the European Union to monitor its borders, deployed there for four months. But while this gap in the Schengen Zone may be partially plugged, the problem has simply been displaced. A report.

Guillaume Perrier

Each night, vans coming from Istanbul discreetly release dozens of migrants at the border between Turkey and Greece. The region, which spreads out along the banks of the Meriç River [or Evros River in Greek], remains one of the main illegal access points into Europe. Using small boats, buoys or simple ropes drawn between the two river banks, men, women and children cross through the powerful current of this body of water that serves as a demarcation line.

On Tuesday, May 24, the European Commission presented a proposal for restrictive measures to stem growing criticism from those States most exposed to illegal migration. In 2010, the flow of illegals to the border already caused “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” according to Apostolos Veizis head of Greece’s Doctors without Borders team.

The migrants poured through a well-known gap to the south of the Turkish city of Edirne. Here, exists a patch of land border 12 kilometres long, easy to cross, through the fields, at night. Nearly 50,000 people were arrested in Greece in 2010 after having illegally used this access into the Schengen Free Circulation Zone, today decried throughout Europe. Thousands of others got through without getting caught.

62 people died trying to cross the river

“It’s a boulevard, that access must be closed down,” argues Georgios Salamagas, head of the police force at Orestiada, a small Greek border town. The Greek government has asserted its determination to build an anti-immigrant wall to plug those 12 km. The agency charged by the European Union to manage its border, Frontex, reacted in November by deploying 175 police officers from the 27 EU countries to the Edirne/Orestiada region.

The mission, which ended in March, had an immediate dissuasive effect. Arrests along this sensitive portion of border fell by 44%, Frontex reported. But the Orestiada police still intercepts a thousand migrants each month. More importantly, this highly-targeted operation displaced the problem further to the south. “Of course, the networks for human trafficking adapt quickly,” confirms Grigorios Apostolou, head of the Frontex team, which has opened a permanent office in Athens.

The border stretches along the Meriç River and the coast of the Aegean Sea. In 2010, at least 62 people died trying to cross the river. The bodies are rarely claimed and are buried in the village of Sidero, a Greek hamlet near the border, in a lot surrounded by wire mesh which serves as a cemetery for migrants.

“They beat us, we are treated like animals”

On the Turkish side, there is no indication of either a fall in attempts to cross the border illegally or of an improvement in the treatment of migrants. In the south, the army, which controls the border, reinforced its patrols. At the Pazarkule customs station, soldiers search the surrounding area using heat-sensitive cameras. “We caught 25 Algerians tonight,” says the garrison commander.

Once arrested, the migrants are sent to one of the region’s retention centres. The Edirne camp agreed to open its doors to a group led by MEP Hélène Flautre, chair of the EU-Turkey committee. Before the visit, the retention centre was emptied of two-thirds of its occupants and cleaned from top to bottom.

In this decrepit building, the travellers who land here are crowded together without any respect for regulations. Fourteen year-old Afghanis are locked up with adults. Retention time is set arbitrarily. One Tunisian man who tried to reach France explains that he’s been locked up for four months. He’s in the company of Moroccans, Burmese and Nigerians. “They beat us, we are treated like animals,” complains Mohammed, an Algerian. The cell is suddenly filled with a man’s shouting, a deserter from the Russian army suffering from psychiatric problems. “Don’t worry, he’ll soon be sent home,” the centre’s director says.

Greek-Turkish border remains porous

At the Soufli camp, on the Greek side, the situation is even worse. Fifty people are crowded into a cell of 50 square metres. No outings are allowed. “Three weeks ago, there were 115 of us, it’s inhuman,” says Yusuf, a young Christian Iraqi. “Some people are sleeping in the toilet and this cupboard,” he says, pointing to the cupboard. A single shower is operational. Two Iranians, who fled during the 2009 protests, are on a hunger strike. A Nigerian suffers from diabetes.

Asylum seekers are held for at least six months before their case is eventually examined, and, in most cases rejected. Yusuf isn’t even thinking of asking for asylum in Greece. “I fled Iraq in 2004, crossed Europe and made a request for asylum in Sweden. But they sent me back to Baghdad in 2009 saying the war was over,” he says.

Frontex continues to operate in the area. But the Greek-Turkish border remains porous and hard to control with its dozens of islands easily accessible by boat and because the illegal migrants trying to exploit those gaps are always more numerous. The flow towards Greece, seen as highly sensitive since 2008 when a record 150,000 arrests were made, is explained by increased surveillance along the Italian and Spanish coasts, Euro MP Hélène Flautre notes. The Greek route is used by 90% of illegal migrants.

Translated from the French by Patricia Brett

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

Culture Wars

Clashes at Russian Gay Pride March Near the Kremlin

(AGI) Moscow — A gay pride march near the Kremlin degenerated into clashes as religious groups attacked the marchers. Police carried out a number of arrests.

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

UK: The East End Villains Who Thrive Behind a Veil of Multiculturalism

Labour failures helped create the current climate of fear in Tower Hamlets, says Graeme Archer.

On my commute this week, I’ve been enjoying The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson’s Booker-winning study of Julian Treslove, a potential adherent of the Jewish faith (and certainly an adherent of Jewish women). Most of the reviews focused on the comedy. But I’ve been struck by something quite different: the random acts of threatened and real anti-Semitic violence that punctuate the narrative — and, almost worse, the resigned manner in which the characters greet them.

Reading Jacobson made me think, unexpectedly, of my own patch of London: the East End. Ah, the old East End. Pubs full of pensioners crooning wartime favourites on the karaoke machine, breaking off only to cry ecstatically when the peripatetic deliverer of jellied eels arrives. The No 8 Routemaster, trundling along the Roman Road, bulging with cheerful cockney sparras: cor blimey, guvnor!

Is that what you think? Sorry: it’s nothing like that. The classic East End of Bethnal Green, Bow and Whitechapel is now lumped into the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. And little that is good or remotely heart-warming is happening there.

A few weeks ago, I crossed the road outside Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel. Glued to the lamp-post was a rainbow poster, with a cross through it, decorated with the words “Gay Free Zone” and “Fear Allah”. I felt sick. And, yes, resigned. Unconsciously, I mimicked the behaviour of Jacobson’s Jewish Londoners: I tried not to think about the implication of what I had seen.

Such stickers soon appeared all over. Not to worry! We were reassured by civic leaders that it was wrong to link these manifestations of hatred with the increasing Islamisation of the borough. Didn’t we realise, warned our betters, that by reacting, we might be allowing ourselves to be duped? They could easily be the work of a far-Right group, trying to stir up division on streets that would otherwise hum with quiet multicultural harmony.

They could even, said a “community leader”, be the work of that bogeyman de nos jours, the English Defence League. So important was it not to draw the obvious inference (that untackled radical Islam makes the East End an increasingly hostile environment for gay people) that when a small counter-demonstration was proposed, its organisers were smeared as a front for — you guessed it — the EDL. Don’t look at the posters; move along, please.

In Tuesday’s paper, we read of the trial of five Muslim men, who admitted “grievous bodily harm with intent”: that is, they attacked and maimed Gary Smith, a religious education teacher from an East End school. They were recorded on the way, saying: “This is the dog we want to hit, to strike, to kill.” Mr Smith, in their opinion, had been insufficiently pro-Islam. But what’s the scarred face of one schoolteacher when set against the need to keep the peace?

There’s more, a lot more. A young Asian chemist has received death threats for refusing to wear a veil. You know, the veil that some people tell us is a sign of female empowerment. A Muslim councillor was given similar treatment, for dressing in too Western a fashion.

So I’ll tell you what I never want to hear again. I never want to listen to a politician, living somewhere far, far removed from Bethnal Green, uttering a sentence like: “On the one hand, the Islamic extremists… On the other, the equally offensive English Defence League”, as though the two have independent but morally equivalent aetiologies. I don’t expect philosophical grandeur from any government. But I do expect its representatives to understand the difference between cause and effect.

The cause of all this is not just Labour’s immigration policy, or the Human Rights Act, or the fawning of Ken Livingstone over Yusuf al-Qaradawi (a preacher who’d like to put me, and other homosexuals, to death). First, Labour enacted legislation that taught minority groups that their grievances had legal recourse (rather than suggesting that in a good society, we all need to be able to get on). This has spiralled into today’s culture of fear — you think I’m not scared to write all this down? And when — as in Tower Hamlets — minorities come into conflict, the response of the rulers is entirely predictable: the group with the most votes wins.

Last weekend, the papers convulsed over the case of a Christian GP, whose avowedly Christian approach to medical practice had been found to involve, er, discussing Christianity. I’d rather discuss antibiotics, but still: the overreaction is a displacement activity, isn’t it? We can safely worry about peaceable, well-meaning Christians, and demand a more and more un-Christian state, because that’s what all rational people want, isn’t it?

Not me, not any more. I’m not a believer. But to paraphrase G K Chesterton, when a Christian society stops believing in God, it’s not the case that it will start to believe in just anything. If you want to see what does fill the vacuum, get on the bus to the dear old East End.

           — Hat tip: Lexington[Return to headlines]

Victory for Former Miss World Who Sued Ryanair After Airline ‘Implied She Was Racist and Xenophobic’

A former Miss World has been awarded £70,000 in damages after suing no-frills carrier Ryanair for defamation.

A jury at the High Court in Dublin yesterday ruled that publicity by the airline implied model Rosanna Davison, daughter of singer Chris de Burgh, was racist, xenophobic, jealous and narrow-minded.

The case centred on a press release posted on Ryanair’s website in November 2008 in response to remarks Miss Davison, 27, made the previous day in a newspaper.

Asked what she thought of the lack of any Irish women in Ryanair’s 2009 charity calendar of bikini-clad cabin crew, she said: ‘If I was (organising) it, I would have made sure Irish women were involved because it’s an Irish charity and Irish fundraising.’

The airline’s release said the comments by Miss Davison, who was crowned Miss World in 2003, ‘bordered on racism and demonstrated an elitist attitude against Ryanair’s international cabin crew’.

[Return to headlines]