Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110627

Financial Crisis
»Banks in Crash Talks on Greece, France Sees 30-Year Deal
»China a Challenge to German Economy, Rösler Says
»Europeans Have a Right to the Truth
»Family Firms Blast Merkel Over Debt Crisis
»Greece: Protest Banner Hung on Acropolis
»Greek Deputy PM Blasts Euro Exit Talk as ‘Immense Stupidity’
»Greek Parliament Opens Austerity Debate as Protests Continue
»Indian Slowdown: High Inflation Looks Permenant
»Netherlands Terms French Plan for Greece Interesting
»Portugal Union Leader Aims to Fight Bailout Terms
»Spain, Italy Suffer Most From Greek Debt Crisis: Madrid
»Top Economist on the Euro ‘The German Government Will Pay Up’
»Towards a Sovereign Union
»Wen: China Will Continue to Buy European Debt
»California: Muslim Woman Sues Abercrombie Over Hijab Firing
»Elderly Woman Asked to Remove Adult Diaper During TSA Search
»Flying Telescope Chases Down Pluto’s Shadow
»In Gold Cup Final, It’s Red, White and Boo Again
»Muslim Weightlifter Fights to Compete, Hijabi-Style
»Not Incompetence; Planned Chaos
»TSA Asks Woman, 95, To Remove Adult Diaper
»Why the “Balanced Budget Amendment” Is a Hoax — and a Deadly Trap
»Canada Makes Big Bet on Carbon Capture and Sequestration
Europe and the EU
»A Guiding Light: The Simple Lines of Bauhaus Legend Wagenfeld on Display
»Berlin Holds 2 in Caucasus Case
»Cell Phones Disturb Bees’ Buzz — Study
»Clashes Across Belgium’s Divide Sends Rights Row Towards UN
»Dozens of Belgians Dress Up as Smurfs in World Record Attempt
»EU Stands Firm as Polluting Tax Row Threatens Airbus Sales
»EU ‘Won’t Back Down’ in China Aviation Row
»Finland: Katainen Forms Compromise Government
»France to Invest One Billion Euros in Nuclear Power
»Francis Galton: The Man Who Drew Up the ‘Ugly Map’ of Britain
»Germany: Company Fights Espionage by Putting Cell Phones in Biscuit Tins
»Germany: Modernist Icon Joins UNESCO Heritage List
»Germany: Servant Abuse Case Could Challenge Diplomatic Immunity
»Germany: Beatings Instead of Wages — Domestic Helpers in the Diplomatic Service
»Iceland Opens EU Membership Talks
»Israel Threatens to Halt Flights Over Security Flap
»Italy: The “Angry Ones” Of the Northern League
»Italy: Bunga-Bunga: Prosecutor Wants to Try Fede, Mora & Minetti
»Italy: Convicted Murderer Says Knox is Guilty of Helping Kill British Student
»Italy: Berlusconi Associates ‘Should Stand Trial for Organising Brothel for Premier’
»Netherlands: Law Students From Ethnic Backgrounds Get Assistance
»Netherlands: Thousands March for Culture in the Hague
»New Yorkers Warned About Dutch Cultural Meltdown
»Ötzi the Iceman Didn’t Die Hungry, Researchers Say
»Pakistan: Authorities ‘Expel 18 British Military Trainers’
»Sweden: Thieves Swiping Kids’ Keys in New Home Break-in Trend
»The Iceman’s Last Meal
»UK: Hunt for the ‘Burka Bandit’: Man Armed With Knife and Umbrella Dressed as Muslim Woman to Rob Travel Agents
»UK: Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Iconic’ Handbag Up for Auction
»UK: Student Teachers ‘To be Taught to Handle Unruly Pupils’
Mediterranean Union
»Ports: Livorno-Morocco Uni Accord for Studies, Training
North Africa
»After the Revolution: Egypt’s Struggle to Reinvent Itself
»Eight Houses Burnt as Anti-Christian Violence Rises in Upper Egypt
»Tensions Rise in Egypt Over Two Missing Christian Girls
»World Hails Gadhafi Arrest Warrant From Hague Court
Israel and the Palestinians
»Clampdown on Hamas
»Dutch MP Calls to Slash Funding of Anti-Israel NGOs
»Netanyahu Calls for Force if Necessary to Stop Flotilla 2
»Palestinian Statehood Bid ‘Could Lead to War’: Mofaz
»PM Orders Defense Establishment to Stop Flotilla
Middle East
»Alarm Bells Ring in the Middle East for the Fate of the Christians
»Iran’s Nuclear Plant Ready for August Launch: Russia
»Russia Convicts Colonel of Exposing US Spy Ring
»Time to Rethink Russian System: President Medvedev
South Asia
»Afghanistan: French Troops to Follow US Retreat
»Helicopter Shortage in the North?: Worries Grow in Berlin About US Afghanistan Pull-Out
Far East
»China’s Wen Jiabao Visits Germany: World Export Leader to Meet With Runner-Up
»China, Britain Boost Trade Ties
»Fukushima Residents’ Urine Now Radioactive
»Mao Inc.: China’s Terribly Successful Communist Party Turns 90
»Success or Else?: Pressure for World Cup Win in North Korea
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Britain Funds Sierra Leone Justice Programme
»Nigeria: Islamic Fundamendalists Strike Again, Two Killed
»Nigerian Islamic Extremists Reportedly Reaching Out to Al Qaeda
»The Nok of Nigeria
Latin America
»Existence of Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Confirmed
»Australia: Asylum Seeker Costs Reach Beyond the Sky
»Controversial French Refugee Camp Closes Its Doors
»Convicted Killer to Become an Aussie
»Excerpts From Judge’s Ruling on Georgia’s Immigration Bill
»Ga. Immigration Law Partly Blocked
»Switzerland: Cantons Insist Asylum Seekers be Sent Home
»Tunisian Immigrants on the Run, Cagliari Airoport Closed
Culture Wars
»Dutch Doctors Wary of Euthanasia for Dementia
»Female Firefighters Blazed a Trail That Few Followed
»Frank Gaffney: A Smoking Gun: How Congress Was Duped Into Repealing the Military’s Gay Ban
»Digging Into Technology’s Past
»Will Newly Discovered Comet Dazzle or Disappoint in 2013?

Financial Crisis

Banks in Crash Talks on Greece, France Sees 30-Year Deal

Banks worked urgently with the EU on a new rescue for Greece in talks in Rome on Monday, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said a 30-year scheme to avert default was in the making.

Sarkozy declared in Paris: “We won’t let Greece fall. We will defend the euro. It’s in all of our interests.” Private banks, owed billions of euros by Greece, were in critical talks with EU officials through their top representative on how to restructure debt without causing a default which many say could pose severe dangers for the eurozone and global markets. A meeting at the Italian treasury was headed by Vittorio Grilli, director general at Italy’s treasury and chairman of the eurozone’s economic and financial committee, and Charles Dallara, managing director of the International Institute of Finance, a forum for leading global banks.

In Paris, Sarkozy told a press conference that France was working on a 30-year scheme to give Greece time to get on top of its debt mountain. “We have concluded that prolonging loans over 30 years, and putting them on the level of European loans indexed on Greek growth, would be a system that all countries might find useful,” Sarkozy told reporters. “We have worked very hard, the finance ministry has worked very hard with the banks and insurance companies … on what could be a voluntary participation by the private sector,” Sarkozy said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China a Challenge to German Economy, Rösler Says

As Chancellor Angela Merkel prepared to greet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday, her coalition partner, Free Democrats leader Philipp Rösler, warned China posed a challenge as well as an opportunity to Germany.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europeans Have a Right to the Truth

The financial crisis has exposed the deception and subterfuge of politics, yet the leaders of Europe continue to deny the obvious. Only honesty, and the courage to tell the truth, can save Europe.

Barbara Spinelli

As crises multiply and state-level insolvency grows, the revolt of the “angry ones” in Europe is gathering speed: in Greece, in Spain, and also in Italy, where bankruptcy, for the moment, remains only a threat. Governments tend only to see the dark side of revolt: the painful recognition of reality, the near-blind anger.

But blindness explains only a small part of a rebellion that targets not only the politics but also the behaviour, and indeed the ethics, of governments: their habitual short-sighted clinging to the next election or poll, their ingrained tendency to conceal shaky public finances, their refusal to tell the truth about immigration or the deficit, and their willingness to accuse the press, the central banks or Europe of spreading bad news.

In this, Italy is at the forefront. Since returning to government Berlusconi has repeated the same refrain. The shipwreck’s in your heads, you bunch of defeatists: we’re doing better than many ‘virtuous’ countries. On June 20 he said “the crisis is not over.” But he had never even admitted it had begun.

The response to this crisis should be greater transparency

Let us not forget that one of the most intriguing initiatives of the “angry ones” in Spain concerns information. It was started by the political science professor Antòn Losada, and it is called “Sin preguntas no hay cobertura” (“no coverage without questions” : #sinpreguntasnocobertura on Twitter). Thousands of journalists have joined up. If a press conference does not allow awkward questions, it will be boycotted and the person on the podium will be left alone with his or her dubious promises.

It’s a sign that there’s a pressing demand for truth and justice in these revolts. The response to this crisis should not be more calls for belt-tightening, or the instilling of perverse fears in the population. It should be transparency of information: on the taxes that cannot be lowered, on the demographic decline that only immigration can slow, on the ingredients of growth that are called justice, legality, merit — the price that the rich and the more fortunate in society can pay.

In his editorial of June 15, Nikos Konstandaras, director of the Greek daily Kathimerini, talks about the “impossible charm of solitude”: the illusion that if states shut their eyes instead of facing Europe, the world and the markets, the crisis will not burst in on them. Certainly, markets are strange beasts: they can be unleashed and roused to hysteria, and they have a thirst for blood. Short-sighted though they may be, they do not anticipate disasters completely at random: they take instant snapshots of governments at a certain moment, and they draw their conclusions. Alongside the ballot boxes, they are our second court.

A res publica beyond our borders

Hiding away is no policy, nor is the pretence of being a sovereign state that decides alone. Nor is ignoring the existence of a European public to whom we are just as responsible as we are to the nation. There is now a res publica beyond our borders, which has its rules, and whose leaders are not creatures of governments, but people who answer to larger institutions.

Take, for example, the appointment of Mario Draghi as President of the European Central Bank (ECB). An irreproachable choice, but one that was made in the most muddled, ramshackle, old-fashioned way? In return for his appointment, Nicolas Sarkozy demanded that a seat on the executive of the ECB be freed up for Paris, and in return Berlusconi offered him the head of Lorenzo Bini Smaghi [a member of the ECB’s board], as if the latter were his to control, not a leader of the Union. The mandate of Bini Smaghi, who was elected in 2005 for a term of eight years, will end on May 31, 2013. It cannot be revoked, neither by the member states nor by agreements among these states. This is not a slap at Bini Smaghi personally, but to the European institutions to which he is loyal.

What’s more, the case creates a worrying precedent: each government may now decide to wriggle out from under the mandates and rules of the European Union’s jurisdiction. The violation of the Maastricht Treaty, justified by a so-called “unwritten rule among the states”, is manifest.

We need an autonomous European commission

Transparency of information and recognition of the European public space are still lacking. There is no transparency on the taxes that it is impossible to lower, nor or on the immigration that we need, both economically and demographically.

These ambiguities are largely attributable to the European Union and to the inertia of its leaders who are in thrall to the member states. We hear no one speaking the truth. And that is because of “the unhealthy politeness towards each other and excessive deference to large member states” that has left Europe in its current euro zone crisis, writes former European Commissioner Mario Monti in an illuminating article in the Financial Times on June 21. There are many issues on which the Union could have asserted its values, starting with the recent military actions — erroneously called “peace missions.”

An autonomous European Commission, aware of its authority, should be reacting to all these events (the Bini Smaghi affair, sovereign debt, wars) as it did in the days of Walter Hallstein. The former chief executive of Brussels did not hesitate, on behalf of the nascent European res publica, to oppose De Gaulle’s demands in the late 1960s for a “Europe of States”. Hallstein was a “designated loser”; but there are defeats that can save humiliated institutions — if we want to save them…

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

Family Firms Blast Merkel Over Debt Crisis

A coalition of 100 family businesses has issued a “Berlin declaration” slamming the Merkel government’s handling of the debt crisis and demanding that serious debt sinners such as Greece be thrown out of the union.

The Family Business Foundation, one of the main lobby groups for the Mittelstand — the all-important small and medium-sized businesses — has sent a fiery letter to the 620 members of the Bundestag protesting against the government’s debt crisis policies. About 100 firms with a total of about 200,000 workers and sales of about €38 billion have signed the letter. They demand that the Bundestag “put an end to Germany’s irresponsible debt policy.” “The government, with its euro safety net policy, has embarked on a fatal path,” they wrote. They called for far-reaching changes to the common currency agreement, in particular provisions for struggling peripheral nations to exit or be thrown out.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Protest Banner Hung on Acropolis

A large banner with the words “The people have power and will never give up” in Greek and English was hung this morning on the Acropolis, the hill in central Athens on which the Parthenon is located. It was hung by a group of trade union members from Pame, the union with ties to Greece’s Communist party. Pame has put on other protests of this type before and even similar ones in the same archaeological site.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greek Deputy PM Blasts Euro Exit Talk as ‘Immense Stupidity’

Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos has blasted suggestions that it would be better for his country to abandon the euro and return to the drachma as an “immense stupidity”. “Those who say this are extremely stupid. While they may be analysts, university professors or economists, saying that is an immense stupidity,” Pangalos told daily Spanish newspaper El Mundo in an interview published Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greek Parliament Opens Austerity Debate as Protests Continue

As the parliament in Athens began a debate over Socialist austerity plan proposals, Greeks renewed their protests against the planned cuts. Unions are also planning a 48-hour strike.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Indian Slowdown: High Inflation Looks Permenant

Asia’s third-largest economy faces a period of reduced growth as the country’s Reserve Bank is fighting against inflation, which has featured 10 increases in interest rates since March 2010. ‘It’s going to be a difficult year,’ says an economist. Credit Suisse forecasts growth will be just 7.5 percent this fiscal year and the following one

India’s growth story, which has excited many in recent years, is passing through a not-very-happy chapter that might last well into 2012.

While India should keep growing at rates many nations would envy, Asia’s third-largest economy faces a period of reduced growth and stubbornly high inflation.

This is causing confidence in the growth story to wane while worries rise. Indian stocks, hit by inflation and high interest rates, are Asia’s worst performers this year— down nearly 14 percent — resulting in a decline in portfolio flows. Weaker tax revenue can widen a yawning fiscal deficit.

Also, there’s a possibility that India could lose out to China and smaller Asian economies in the battle to attract big foreign investment. China has cooled as it, too, battles inflation, but still might grow 10 percent this year.

Several years ago, annual Indian growth was about 9.5 percent. Then it fell to 6.8 percent during the global financial crisis but recovered to 8.5 percent in the last fiscal year, which ended March 31.

For the current fiscal year, private economists are slashing growth forecasts to below 8 percent and notching up inflation projections. In May, annual inflation was 9.06 percent — compared with 5.5 percent in China.

Unavoidable result

Lower growth is an unavoidable result of the Reserve Bank of India’s fight against inflation, which has featured 10 increases in interest rates since March 2010.

“It’s going to be a difficult year,” said Vishnu Varathan of Capital Economics.

Growth is likely be less than 8 percent and will not pick up rapidly “especially with policy having to choose between price stability and growth,” he said.

The government was hoping growth in gross domestic product, which was 8.5 percent in the year ended March 2011, could remain as high — but it cannot, given the battle against inflation and other factors including weak political leadership.

Credit Suisse forecasts growth will be just 7.5 percent this fiscal year and the following one.

“We are only at the early stages of seeing the impact of the monetary tightening, the negative effects of which are likely to persist well into 2012/13,” it said in a note this month.

In its latest move, the central bank on June 16 raised to 7.5 percent the rate at which it lends to banks.

Even after 10 increases, India’s real interest rates remain negative, meaning the inflation pace remains above rates. That can drive consumption at a time the government is not succeeding in boosting supply, so inflation can be further fuelled, resulting in further tightening and economic pain.

“Inflation is entrenched in India, and now mostly reflects demand side pressures,” said Frederic Neumann, managing director and co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC.

A slowing economy cuts tax revenue, widening the fiscal deficit. High oil prices have cut demand, swelled import bills and raised costs at companies. Meantime, the global picture looks discouraging, clouding the outlook for exports — which have been a bright spot.

India escaped the worst of the 2008 global downturn due to robust internal demand and high government spending. A large middle class flush with cash spent on everything from gold to cars, and factory capacity got pushed to limits. But then firms dithered on adding capacity, thanks to weak global recovery and domestic policy uncertainty amid a slew of corruption scandals.

Price pressures were emerging too. New Delhi’s easy fiscal policy to cope with the global slowdown was not rolled back quickly enough and the central bank was widely seen as behind the curve. Drought in 2009 made caused food prices to spike.

But no one expected the level of India’s slowdown in the January-March quarter. For the first time in five quarters, annual growth was below 8 percent. Growth in private investment slumped to 0.4 percent from 7.8 percent a quarter earlier, while annual gains in consumption demand slowed to 8 percent from 8.6 percent.

Industrial output has risen in single digits the past six months. Car sales, a barometer of consumer demand, have slowed with May’s total rising the least in two years. Manufacturing data show that firms’ input costs have been rising faster than output costs since December.

“It looks like the manufacturing sector is going to see very subdued single digit growth. Continued interest rate hikes are going to hamper sustained high growth in consumer durables,” said Varathan of Capital Economics. “Robust growth in export is the only positive factor for manufacturing sector. But that will help only selective industries.”

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

Netherlands Terms French Plan for Greece Interesting

Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager considers the proposal for support for Greece agreed by the French government with the French banks on Sunday is interesting. “We have received the proposal from the French finance minister, and are now studying it. I have already seen the initial analyses. It is an interesting, but also a complicated proposal,” said De Jager yesterday. He does not wish to give any definitive assessment yet. “But it is in any case interesting to learn that the French government has made agreements with the banks and that they have taken so much trouble over it.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed yesterday that banks and insurers in France are prepared to pump 70 percent of the maturing Greek bonds into that country again. The largest portion of that would be injected into the Green economy for 30 years and not for just five years. Paris wants to discuss this plan with other EU member states. De Jager stressed that the outcome of a scheme must in any case be that the private sector is involved in a new support package for Greece and must carry a certain risk. The minister also considers it important that in any possible agreement, financial institutions throughout the eurozone should run a comparable risk.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal Union Leader Aims to Fight Bailout Terms

The leader of Portugal’s largest trade union confederation is urging workers to protest against planned labour law changes tied to a €78 billion ($111 billion) bailout. Portugal’s European partners and the International Monetary Fund lent it the money on condition it changed workers’ entitlements, among other measures. That includes cutting costs by lowering severance pay, introducing more flexible working hours to improve competitiveness, and keeping the minimum salary at €485 ($690) a month. Manuel Carvalho da Silva, head of the Portuguese General Workers’ Confederation, says his members must fight the measures. “If we accept this remedy, in two years’ time we’ll be poorer and in recession,” he said Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain, Italy Suffer Most From Greek Debt Crisis: Madrid

Spain and Italy are taking the hardest hit from Greece’s sovereign debt crisis but Madrid will not need a bailout, Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado said Monday. The risk premium charged on Spanish bonds compared with safer-bet German securities “is rising, it is under enormous tension,” she said in an interview with public television TVE. “All eurozone nations are facing this tension but Italy and Spain are at the moment the two countries which are suffering most from this tension,” she added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Economist on the Euro ‘The German Government Will Pay Up’

In a SPIEGEL interview, leading German economist Stefan Homburg argues that euro-zone members should not bail out Greece, discusses who is making a profit from the crisis and explains why he himself is buying Greek bonds. “I believe in the boundless stupidity of the German government,” he says.

SPIEGEL: The European Union and the International Monetary Fund are planning a new bailout package for Greece involving the voluntary participation of banks. What’s your take on this?

Homburg: Banks cannot participate voluntarily. An executive board is committed to its company’s welfare, and not the public interest. If it waives outstanding debts at the expense of its own company, this is a breach of trust and punishable by law.

Homburg: That proposal also fell short of the mark. In a market economy, even in the case of a plumber whose customers don’t pay their bills, it’s never a question of getting creditors “involved” (in helping to deal with a bankruptcy). Instead, when push comes to shove, it is creditors, and creditors alone, who have to write off their loans. Only then do they have an incentive to carefully choose who they lend money to. A market economy with no personal liability cannot function. The government bailout initiatives create misdirected incentives that continuously exacerbate the problems on the financial markets.

Homburg: The alleged risk of contagion is a myth that doesn’t stand up to closer scrutiny. If you share my conviction that all this talk of Greece being too big to fail is simply nonsense, then there is no reason for bailouts …

SPIEGEL: … yes, but only if you’re right.

Homburg: No, it also holds true in the reverse situation. If the bankruptcy of little Greece were actually to trigger a global financial crisis, new bailout programs couldn’t solve the problem: They would actually exacerbate it. If no more states or banks are allowed to go bankrupt because this might precipitate a financial crisis, then we’re finished. Then the problem continuously escalates and leads to a much greater crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Towards a Sovereign Union

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna Warsaw

The debt crisis has laid the foundations for an economic governance that will accelerate European integration. In future, says the Polish columnist Andrzej Talaga, member states should hand over more sovereignty to the EU.

Andrzej Talaga

On June 2 in Aachen, Jean-Claude Trichet, the President of the European Central Bank, announced that the EU should only have one finance minister. At the same time, he also called for the transformation of the EU into an unprecedented confederation of states with a common budgetary policy — a vision that amounts to a severe blow to national sovereignty.

A “super-finance” ministry, with the power to veto certain public spending decisions and to control the budgetary policies and competitiveness of Europe’s member states, as well as an EU financial sector that is fully compliant with European rules: this would amount to establishing a system for the control of national budgets, at least for those countries that have adopted the euro. According to Trichet’s proposal, those states would then become semi-independent, perhaps to the point where they only retained territorial autonomy. Nowhere in any dictionary of politics has such a state been defined.

However, these proposals are not exactly new. In response to the Greek crisis, the plan is to make aid to the Athens government contingent upon strict supervision of the country’s finances by the supranational troika of experts from the European Commission, the ECB, and the IMF.

This is something that has never been seen before in the EU. Certainly, Ireland and Portugal have been obliged to rein in their public spending, but it has yet to fall under external control. On the other hand, Greece, which has come under pressure for the mishandling of its financial affairs, is being forced to handover control of its budgetary policy to foreigners: yet another step in the loss of sovereignty which began when it joined the euro and relinquished control of its monetary policy.

Jean-Claude Trichet has given free rein to his imagination at the end of his mandate at the ECB, but there is nothing fantastical about his analysis: it is entirely logical, and corresponds to the observed reality of a eurozone that has been ensnared by the disparities between member-state budgets. The budgetary discipline of some countries peopled by honest taxpayers stands in stark contrast to other modes of governance, characterised by the misuse of public funds and by citizens who detest the taxman and have no scruples about swindling their own government — for example, by pocketing welfare payments to which they are not entitled.

On seeing a giraffe, one zoologist famously remarked: “Such a creature simply cannot exist.” There is no getting away from the fact that the giraffe really is an odd beast, and so too is the European monetary union — to the point where you would be forgiven for wondering how on earth it manages to function in its current form. But in spite of everything, we still have giraffes. The trouble is that in contrast to the giraffe, which is an error of nature that is miraculously still with us, the monetary union is a frail human creation bred from a series of European compromises. To develop, or even to survive, it will have to undergo a further metamorphosis — and the most logical direction for this metamorphosis is the one proposed by Mr Trichet.

Such a metamophosis is also high on the wishlists of such luminaries as Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Eurogroup and prime minister of Luxembourg, and José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission. However, we should bear in mind that if it actually takes place, it does not necessarily mean that European states will lose their sovereignty to an external entity. On the contrary, sovereignty will be handed over to a higher authority that European states have chosen of their own volition. In short, the European Union itself will progressively take on the mantle of sovereignty.

A common ministry of finance and budgetary policy would amount to a mental and organizational milestone. In the wake of such an initiative, European populations would be more likely first to sanction the creation of a European energy ministry, then to create European ministries for defence and economic policy, and finally to establish a supranational government.

Make no mistake: the reinforcement of EU structures is in the air, even if it is not backed by a consensus in our societies, and even if it is actively opposed by several political movements. Some of these are associated with incumbent governments, as in the case of the Netherlands and Finland — though it should be noted in passing that this is just an ephemeral political trend linked to the economic crisis.

In the long term, European nations have everything to gain from a reinforcement of the Union. Bankers and politicians are already aware of this self-evident fact, and society at large will gradually come to accept it. Europeans are sufficiently numerate to understand that they will not be able to maintain their standard of living in the face of competition from emergent economies without a Europe that is an economically and politically coherent entity.

An economically powerful EU, with a centralised military command and uniform economic, fiscal and foreign policies, would be a superpower in no uncertain terms. But as it stands, such an EU is not likely to see the light of day — not even in Jean-Claude Trichet’s wildest dreams. There are just too many internal contradictions in the current organisation.

Nonetheless, the handover of national sovereignty to common institutions appears to be not only inevitable but also necessary if we are to compete with powers that are defined by a more hardline version of sovereignty. In its current manifestation, the EU is simply too weak: not only because it lacks the tools to effectively defend Europe’s interests in the world, but more importantly because it does not have the legitimacy to engage in such an undertaking. Sooner or later, we will have to grant it this legitimacy.

This is not the first time that that voices have been raised to call for a Europe that is an economically and politically homogeneous entity. Be that as it may, the eurozone crisis has shown that, in its current form, the EU will have trouble surviving.

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

Wen: China Will Continue to Buy European Debt

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has promised greater co-operation between his country and troubled European nations, including the further purchase of public debt.

Currently on a whistle-stop tour of Hungary, Britain and Germany — the second such visit to Europe in nine months — the leader reached agreement with Hungarian authorities on additional lending to the country during his visit to Budapest on Saturday. Speaking to the BBC on the matter, he said Beijing would also continue to back debt purchases of other EU nations. “Europe’s debt crisis is expanding. Trust is more important than currency and gold. Now, during the debt crisis, we again bring trust to Europe,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


California: Muslim Woman Sues Abercrombie Over Hijab Firing

SAN MATEO — A Bay Area Muslim woman sued Abercrombie and Fitch on Monday, claiming that the clothing retailer fired her when she refused to remove her religious headscarf while working at a San Mateo store.

Hani Khan, 20, sued after the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that the chain had wrongfully fired her. Settlement talks failed to resolve the dispute.

Khan was fired in 2010 from Abercrombie’s Hollister Co. store in the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo for refusing to remove her hijab, or headscarf, according to the suit her attorneys filed in federal court in San Francisco.

Khan said that when she was hired in October 2009, store managers told her that her hijab would not be in conflict with Abercrombie’s “look policy,” as long as she wore it in company colors.

Abercrombie requires that employees dress in natural, “beachy” clothes such as jeans, flip-flops and a T-shirt, Khan said.

Then in February 2010, a week after a district manager visited the store, a company official told Khan to stop wearing the hijab, her suit says. She refused and was suspended, and a week later was fired.

Abercrombie would not comment on Khan’s case or its dress code. In a statement, the company said, “We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all individuals regardless of religion, race or ethnicity. … We comply with the law regarding reasonable religious accommodation.”

In a news conference Monday, Khan — wearing a bright purple hijab — said the experience with Abercrombie “shook my confidence. I didn’t have that problem before.”

Khan began wearing a hijab when she was in kindergarten, and said she never had a problem while growing up in Foster City.

“After 9/11, all my neighbors, all my classmates, all my teachers — they supported me,” Khan said. “No one had an issue then. For there to be an issue now, it was just completely out of the ordinary.”

Khan’s suit seeks to force Abercrombie to change its dress code to loosen restrictions on religious clothing. She is not trying to get her job back, but is seeking back wages and unspecified damages.

Khan’s lawsuit is not the first of its kind against the company. Two other former employees have filed suits claiming that Abercrombie discriminated against them because of their hijabs.

“Abercrombie prides itself on requiring what it calls ‘a natural, classic American style,’ “ said Araceli Martinez-Olguin, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, which is representing Khan. “But there is nothing American about discriminating against someone because of their religion.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Elderly Woman Asked to Remove Adult Diaper During TSA Search

A woman has filed a complaint with federal authorities over how her elderly mother was treated at Northwest Florida Regional Airport last weekend.

Jean Weber of Destin filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security after her 95-year-old mother was detained and extensively searched last Saturday while trying to board a plane to fly to Michigan to be with family members during the final stages of her battle with leukemia.

Her mother, who was in a wheelchair, was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search.

“It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil,” Weber said Friday. “Here is my mother, 95 years old, 105 pounds, barely able to stand, and then this.”…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Flying Telescope Chases Down Pluto’s Shadow

A NASA airborne telescope has chased Pluto’s shadow over the Pacific Ocean to measure new details of the dwarf planet’s atmosphere. The telescope, called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), is a 100-inch (2.5-meter) reflecting instrument mounted on a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft. Astronomers used the flying observatoary’s mobility to position itself in the right place and time to catch a so-called “occultation” of Pluto, when the dwarf planet passed in front of a distant star, and its shadow hit a specific location on Earth.

In addition to SOFIA’s mobility, the observatory has the advantage of operating in the stratosphere at altitudes up to 45,000 feet, above the water vapor in Earth’s lower atmosphere that blurs light. “This was the first demonstration in practice of one of SOFIA’s major design capabilities,” said Bob Meyer, SOFIA’s program manager, in a statement. “Pluto’s shadow traveled at 53,000 mph across a mostly empty stretch of the Pacific Ocean. SOFIA flew more than 1,800 miles out over the Pacific Ocean from its base in Southern California to position itself in the center of the shadow’s path, and was the only observatory capable of doing so.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

In Gold Cup Final, It’s Red, White and Boo Again

Mexico rallies for a 4-2 win over U.S. behind overwhelming support at Rose Bowl. In what other country would the visitors have home-field advantage?

It was imperfectly odd. It was strangely unsettling. It was uniquely American. On a balmy early Saturday summer evening, the U.S soccer team played for a prestigious championship in a U.S. stadium … and was smothered in boos. Its fans were vastly outnumbered. Its goalkeeper was bathed in a chanted obscenity. Even its national anthem was filled with the blowing of air horns and bouncing of beach balls. Most of these hostile visitors didn’t live in another country. Most, in fact, were not visitors at all, many of them being U.S. residents whose lives are here but whose sporting souls remain elsewhere. Welcome to another unveiling of that social portrait known as a U.S.-Mexico soccer match, streaked as always in deep colors of red, white, blue, green … and gray. “I love this country, it has given me everything that I have, and I’m proud to be part of it,” said Victor Sanchez, a 37-year-old Monrovia resident wearing a Mexico jersey. “But yet, I didn’t have a choice to come here, I was born in Mexico, and that is where my heart will always be.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Weightlifter Fights to Compete, Hijabi-Style

Barred from competing with arms and legs covered, American appeals to sport’s world body

She can “deadlift” 240 pounds, and “snatch” more than 100. But, as Kulsoom Abdullah recently learned, she can do neither in a national competition unless she agrees to bare her arms and legs. That is a non-starter for Abdullah, a 35-year-old Muslim-American who says that such exposure would violate her deeply held religious beliefs. But rather than giving up on her dreams of competitive weightlifting, she’s pressing for a change in the sport’s international rules. Abdullah may be the only woman in the world who lifts in sanctioned competitions while wearing a hijab — the traditional Muslim dress that covers the head, arms and legs. But her dilemma is one that is cropping up in many organized sports in which Muslim women are seeking to compete, sometimes for the first time.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Not Incompetence; Planned Chaos

One more election cycle is all it will take to wholly and forever “remake America” so the stage is being set for chaos. And when chaos comes (and it feels like we’re in rehearsals for it, right now) this administration will “do what it has to do” for the sake of America. Which will probably have little-to-nothing to do with the constitution. This imperial president has already demonstrated that he has no patience for process or for waiting for what he wants. He is quite competent at doing pretty much as he damn pleases. But then, some of us knew from the start that Barack Obama saw himself more as a ruler than a leader. More of a prince than a president.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

TSA Asks Woman, 95, To Remove Adult Diaper

The Transportation Security Administration stood by its security officers Sunday after a Florida woman complained that her cancer-stricken, 95-year-old mother was patted down and forced to remove her adult diaper while going through security.

Reports of the incident took hold in social media, with scores of comments on the topic and reposts appearing hourly on Twitter Sunday afternoon.

The TSA released a statement Sunday defending its agents’ actions at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why the “Balanced Budget Amendment” Is a Hoax — and a Deadly Trap

You can not responsibly support a proposed Amendment to Our Constitution unless you have read and understand the proposal and how it would change our Constitution. You must look behind the nice sounding name! Will the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) really “reign in” the federal government? Will it really “show them” that they have to balance their budget the same as we do?

Or does it actually legalize spending which is now unconstitutional? Is it actually a massive grant of new constitutional powers to the President and the federal courts — a grant which will cut the Heart out of The Constitution our Framers gave us?

Amending the Constitution is serious business — and you are morally bound to get informed before you jump on The Amendment Bandwagon.

So, lay aside your giddy joy at the fact that all 47 U.S. Senate Republicans are co-sponsoring the Balanced Budget Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 10 (March 31, 2011). Let’s go through it. What you believe the BBA will do, and what it will actually do, are two very different things indeed.


Furthermore, the BBA they support with such broad smiles and glib promises of future fiscal responsibility, doesn’t make them control their spending. Instead, it would legalize spending which is now unlawful and would markedly increase the powers of the federal government. And it would do nothing to reduce spending. In short, the BBA is a Scam and a Terrible Trick.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Canada Makes Big Bet on Carbon Capture and Sequestration

A new project at the Alberta oil sands is part of a $2-billion effort to test the technology at an unprecedented scale

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Guiding Light: The Simple Lines of Bauhaus Legend Wagenfeld on Display

Bauhaus designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld left an indelible mark on international product design. The clean lines of his cups, plates and salt and pepper shakers have adorned tables across Germany and beyond. Now, a new exhibition charts his legacy — which includes one of the most famous Bauhaus icons.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Berlin Holds 2 in Caucasus Case

Berlin police have confirmed the arrest of two Russian citizens on suspicion of belonging to a North Caucasus terrorist group, news reports said. One unidentified suspect, aged 35, is accused of being a courier for Jamaat Shariat from September 2008 to last August, Interfax reported Friday, citing Rheinische Post. He purportedly transported documents from Germany to the Czech Republic that contained information about the recruitment of new members and purchases of weapons for terrorist activities in Chechnya and Dagestan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cell Phones Disturb Bees’ Buzz — Study

New research carried out at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found that bees buzz differently near mobile phone signals — causing behaviour that endangers colonies.

The research has shed light on another modern threat to bee colonies, which are already being killed off at a massive rate by pesticides and parasites. Researchers placed two mobile phones in beehives and operated them alternately in standby mode and in connection to each other. Results showed that when the phones were on standby, the bees’ buzzing did not change, but when the phones were activated, the bees’ buzz frequency rose significantly.

“This is clear evidence that the bees are sensitive to phone signals and are disturbed by mobile phones,” said research director Daniel Favre. Favre explained that bees normally only hum at a high frequency when they are about swarm out of a hive in search of food. He said that mobile phones could therefore cause the bees to leave the hive prematurely, before the queen has fully matured and there are no larvae to feed. The disappearance of bees would have a devastating effect on the environment, as many trees and plants rely on them to reproduce.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Clashes Across Belgium’s Divide Sends Rights Row Towards UN

Flemish and French-speaking activists clashed Sunday as police separated rival political groups in Brussels in a row about elected councillors that threatens to be taken to UN rights adjudicators, Belgian TV reported. Some 200 French-speaking demonstrators converged on the town hall in the mainly Flemish Brussels suburb of Crainhem where they squared up against around 100 Flemish-speaking protesters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dozens of Belgians Dress Up as Smurfs in World Record Attempt

Yesterday was Global Smurfs Day. 25 June was the birthday of the late Belgian comic strip author Peyo, who died in 1992. To mark that day, people across the world assembled dressed up as smurfs to set a new world record. The gathering of the little blue people was very successful, smashing the previous record.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Stands Firm as Polluting Tax Row Threatens Airbus Sales

The EU refused Saturday to back down on a planned pollution tax on airline companies after reports China has put an Airbus order on ice and growing discontent in the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU ‘Won’t Back Down’ in China Aviation Row

The European Union has said it will continue with plans to charge airlines for pollution credits from the beginning of next year, amid reports that China has frozen a multi-billion euro Airbus order in retaliation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Finland: Katainen Forms Compromise Government

Lapin Kansa, 23 June 2011

For the new Finnish government, “the endurance test has begun,” headlines Lapin Kansa, following the inauguration of the government led by conservative Jyrki Katainen. Constructed after two months of laborious negotiations, the coalition, led by 39-year old Katainen is, in effect, composed of six parties. These include his own National Coalition Party, the Social-Democrat Party, the Left Alliance, the Green League, the Swedish Popular Party and the Christian-Democrats all of which have widely differing political views. The Lapland-based Lapin Kansa greets the new government with caution because of the compromises it has already agreed to during the talks and because of those to which it will have to consent to during its term if it is to avoid implosion.

Despite a breakthrough in the April 17 legislative elections, the True Finns Party will remain in opposition. The populist party withdrew from the talks due to serious disagreements over European policy. The populist True Finns scored electoral victories by criticising the bailout packages for Greece and Portugal. Although Europhile in nature, the new coalition government intends to adopt a firm view on this issue.

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

France to Invest One Billion Euros in Nuclear Power

France will invest one billion euros ($1.4 billion) in future nuclear power development while boosting research into security, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday. “We are going to devote a billion euros to the nuclear programme of the future, particularly fourth-generation technology,” Sarkozy told a news conference, reviewing the government’s “big loan” stimulus lending programme. “We are also going to release substantial resources from the big loan to strengthen research in the sphere of nuclear safety,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Francis Galton: The Man Who Drew Up the ‘Ugly Map’ of Britain

In fact, the most important part of Galton’s work had nothing to do with eugenics, for he was one of the first to realise that science — biology as much as physics — needs maths rather than words. He was one of the founders of the science of statistics, and he measured many things. He made statistical inquiries into the efficacy of prayer — he got into trouble for that for he found that those people frequently prayed for, like monarchs, lived no longer than anyone else. He even made a beauty map of Britain, based on a secret grading of the local women on a scale from attractive to repulsive (the low point was in Aberdeen).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Company Fights Espionage by Putting Cell Phones in Biscuit Tins

A German chemicals company said on Monday its managers have begun keeping their mobile phones in biscuit tins during meetings in order to guard against industrial espionage.

Biscuit tins have a so-called Farraday cage effect, she said, blocking out electromagnetic radiation and therefore preventing people from hacking into mobile phones, not only for calls but also to get hold of emails. The firm, with 34,000 employees and sales of 13 billion euros ($18.5 billion), is not alone in wanting to defend itself against what experts warn are increasingly sophisticated methods of industrial espionage. This month the German government opened a new national centre in Bonn to coordinate efforts not only to protect firms from espionage but also state infrastructure from cyberattacks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Modernist Icon Joins UNESCO Heritage List

Walter Gropius’ Fagus Factory has long been considered a frontrunner of modernist architecture. Now, a century after it was designed, the building in the German state of Lower Saxony has been added to the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Servant Abuse Case Could Challenge Diplomatic Immunity

Diplomatic immunity was originally meant to protect embassy personnel from arbitrary harrassment. But a new case in Berlin, involving the alleged abuse of a Indonesian servant, makes it clear that human rights sometimes get lost in the shuffle. The case could go to Germany’s highest court.

Instead, the petite Asian woman opted to stay in her employer’s apartment on Boca Raton Street, in northwestern Berlin. For more than a year and a half, laboring seven days a week, usually until late into the night. She was humiliated, kicked and beaten with a stick — like a serf. That, at least, is what she told the police. Devi Ratnasari, not her real name, is from Indonesia. The 30-year-old had been working as a household employee for a Saudi Arabian diplomat until eight months ago. And if it hadn’t been for Nevedita Prasad at Ban Ying, a center focused on combating human trafficking, she would likely still be slaving away in the diplomatic residence — just like so many other women in Berlin from Indonesia and the Philippines. The world of Berlin’s diplomats isn’t just one of pompous receptions, luxury vehicles and royal status. It’s also a world in which many domestic employees are apparently treated horrifically.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Beatings Instead of Wages — Domestic Helpers in the Diplomatic Service

A Saudi diplomat in Berlin is said to have maltreated his Indonesian domestic helper. A 50-year-old international convention guaranteeing diplomatic immunity means the attache will not face legal consequences.

Dewi Ratnasari left her home in Indonisia in hopes of a better life. Via Saudi Arabia, she travelled to Germany, where she started to work as a domestic helper for the family of a Saudi-Arabian diplomat in Berlin in April 2009. She did not find a better life. Later, she told authorities that she was forced to hand over her passport, was not allowed to leave the house alone and was prohibited to get in touch with her family. She worked up to 18 hours daily in the diplomat’s large household. She slept on the bare floor in one of the children’s bedrooms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iceland Opens EU Membership Talks

Iceland on Monday opened negotiations to join the European Union, with the contentious fishing issue and anti-EU sentiment on the island posing hurdles to an otherwise straightforward process.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel Threatens to Halt Flights Over Security Flap

Danish authorities refuse Israeli request to station armed guards at Copenhagen airport

Israel is considering stopping all flights between Copenhagen and Tel Aviv, because the Danish aviation authorities refuse to allow armed Israeli guards to carry out security checks at Denmark’s main international airport. The Israeli aviation authorities have demanded that Israeli security personnel be allowed to carry out the security checks at Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport for a route to Tel Aviv on the Israeli airline Arkia Airlines set to begin service on July 4. Their second demand was to have armed Israeli guards patrolling certain ‘Israeli security zones’ at the airport. Danish authorities have refused both demands, reports Politiken newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: The “Angry Ones” Of the Northern League

Corriere della Sera, 21 June 2011

If the double defeat in local elections and in referendums fuelled doubts about whether the Berlusconi government could hang onto its majority, the annual meeting of the Northern League in Pontida, near Bergamo, has confirmed that crisis is shaking the coalition. League activists have challenged the alliance with Berlusconi, and party leaders are setting a high price for their continued support, demanding the transfer of some ministries to the north, cuts in taxes and withdrawal from the conflict in Libya. Italy, notes the Corriere della Sera, is beginning to join in with the challenges to austerity and military action that are spreading across Europe. Columnist Antonio Polito compares “the green Pontida crowd” to “the angry Greeks,” adding that “what brings us closer to Greece is that if we crash, if we help to break up Europe and the euro, we’ll be losers too.” On June 21, Berlusconi is scheduled to negotiate with his allies in an attempt to ensure that his parliamentary majority still exists. Meanwhile, notes La Repubblica, the credit agency Moody’s is threatening to cut the rating of many key Italian assets.

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

Italy: Bunga-Bunga: Prosecutor Wants to Try Fede, Mora & Minetti

(AGI) Milan — After a short debate, Public Prosecutors filed for the indictment of Lele Mora, Emilio Fede and Nicole Minetti. Public Prosecutors Antonio Sangermano and Piero Forno filed the petition during the preliminary hearing on the ‘bunga-bunga’ case. The celebrities’ agent, the TV anchorman ad the PDL Regional Councillor are accused of encouraging, aiding and abetting prostitution, including of minors. The hearing continues with the defense counsel raising exceptions.

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

Italy: Convicted Murderer Says Knox is Guilty of Helping Kill British Student

Perugia, 27 June (AKI) — An Ivory Coast immigrant jailed for killing Meredith Kercher said on Monday that American Amanda Knox and her ex-Italian boyfriend were guilty of the 2007 stabbing death of the British student.

“This splendid, marvellous girl was killed by Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox,” said Rudy Guede, a key witness at Knox and Sollecito’s appeal in a letter read out in court in the central Italian city of Perugia, as he sat in the witness box.

Knox, 23, is serving 26 years and her former boyfriend, Italian computer studies graduate Raffaele Sollecito, was sentenced to 25 years for the brutal slaying of Kercher. Guede, who opted for a separate fast-track trial, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for his part in Kercher’s killing.

Kercher bled to death after being sexually assaulted and having her her throat repeatedly slashed in November, 2007.

Knox, who was in court on Monday, said she was “shocked and anguished” by Guede’s claim. She said Guede knew she and Sollecito were innocent of the murder of Kercher, her former housemate.

“He knows that we were not there, that we have nothing to do with this,” Knox said.

“Guede has never seen me before in his life, not even momentarily. I don’t know how he can say I was with Amanda Knox,” Sollecito told the court.

At a hearing earlier in June, convicted child killer Mario Alessi testified to the appeals court that Guede had told him in prison Knox and Sollecito were innocent of Kercher’s murder, a confession denied by Guede.

During his own appeal against his conviction in December 2009, Guede confirmed he had been at the house where Kercher was murdered, but said he had been in the bathroom when the murder took place.

He said he had heard Knox arguing violently with Kercher and also insisted he had grappled with a man who fled from the crime scene, who he claims was Sollecito.

Knox and Sollecito allege they are innocent of Kercher’s murder and that they were wrongfully convicted on the basis of faulty forensic evidence. At their appeal they have obtained a full review of this evidence, including disputed traces of DNA found on a knife that prosecutors say was used in the murder and on the clasp of Kercher’s bra.

In its explanation of its ruling last December rejecting Guede’s appeal, Italy’s Supreme Court in February said that Kercher was killed by more than one person in a “brutal” and “orgiastic” attack.

Observers believe the ruling is bound to affect Knox and Sollecito’s claim that Guede was the sole perpetrator of the crime.

Kercher’s family say they are confident that Guede, Kercher and Sollecito are the three people responsible for her death.

Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton have both said they are taking a keen interest in the high-profile case.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Associates ‘Should Stand Trial for Organising Brothel for Premier’

Milan, 27 June (AKI) — Milan prosecutors on Monday asked a judge to try three associates of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for suspicion of illegally hiring prostitutes for sex parties hosted by the billionaire politician.

Nicole Minetti, who changed careers from dental hygienist to local politician in the Milan area after meeting Berlusconi; Emilio Fede, a news anchor one of Berlusconi’s television networks; and talent agent Lele Mora all deny any wrongdoing in the case.

The accused help organise a “brothel for the premier’s pleasure,” prosecutors Antonio Sangermano and Pietro Forno told judge Maria Grazia Domanico.

Berlusconi is being tried separately in Milan for allegedly paying an underaged exotic dancer to have sex with him in 2009. He says he committed no crime and Karima El Mahroug, a teenage Moroccan nightclub — who is better known by her stage name “Ruby Heart Stealer” — says she never had sex with the 74-year-old media tycoon.

The “Rubygate” scandal has hurt Berlusconi’s popularity but failed to topple his government, as Italy’s centre-left political opposition had hoped.

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

Netherlands: Law Students From Ethnic Backgrounds Get Assistance

Two hundred students at two Dutch universities will get specialised help building careers in the legal profession. On Monday, Dutch lawyers began coaching efforts at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and Amsterdam’s Vrije University to help students feel more comfortable in the profession. The move is intended for foreign students in particular. According to the Dutch Bar Association, many Dutch-Turkish and Dutch-Moroccan pupils study law, but few pursue legal careers. This is due to a false impression of the legal field as flamboyant and up-scale. “That is an unrealistic picture,” a spokesperson for the organisation said, adding that the project helps the legal profession accurately reflect the needs of Dutch society. “In many cases, it makes sense for immigrant customers to hire a foreign lawyer.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Thousands March for Culture in the Hague

Nearly 3,000 people arrived in the centre of The Hague Sunday night as part of the March of Civilisation. Participants made the 25 km trek from Rotterdam as part of protest actions against government cuts to the culture sector. Demonstrations are set to reach a head Monday when parliament debates the planned 200 million euros in budget savings. According to organisers, who call themselves artists, lovers of art and art institutions, the proposed cuts are “uncivilised.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Yorkers Warned About Dutch Cultural Meltdown

A group of artists calling themselves Dutch Artists 2011 have placed an advert in The New York Times newspaper warning of a cultural meltdown in the Netherlands.

‘Do not enter the Netherlands, cultural meltdown in progress,’ states the quarter page advertisement. It goes on to warn that the Dutch government is ‘decimating’ support for the arts and that Dutch artists will no longer be able to maintain their position on the world stage.

The government plans to cut spending on the arts and culture by 25% from 2013, and has already increased the tax on theatre tickets from 6% to 19%. The performing and visual arts will be hardest hit.

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

Ötzi the Iceman Didn’t Die Hungry, Researchers Say

Ötzi, a human specimen who died five millennia ago in the Tyrolean Alps, is offering up new clues to what life was like during the Neolithic era, including revelations on his diet and dental health.

Popular theory on what caused the death of Ötzi, the well-known Iceman, holds that he was killed — now scientists believe that although he likely died during an attack, at least he didn’t die hungry. Preliminary analysis of Ötzi’s stomach contents indicates that he enjoyed a hearty last supper of Alpine ibex, a species of mountain goat that appeared to have been present in the Tyrolean Alps during the time of the Iceman, more than 5,000 years ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Authorities ‘Expel 18 British Military Trainers’

Islamabad, 27 June (AKI/DAWN) — A British newspaper has claimed that Pakistan has expelled 18 British military trainers engaged in training Pakistani forces, DawnNews reported.

According to an article published in the Guardian newspaper, all 18 British trainers were posted in Pakistan to train the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The training scheme began in August last year and was scheduled to continue until 2013.

The Guardian quoted a British ministry of defence spokeswoman as saying that most of the trainers have already returned to Britain, confirming the trainers’ expulsion. She added that the team has been withdrawn on a “temporary basis,” and that they will be redeployed at the first possible opportunity, the daily said.

Since the May 2 US raid on the compound in Pakistan’s garrison town of Abbottabad that resulted in the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Pakistan has expelled 120 US military personnel in addition to these British military trainers.

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

Sweden: Thieves Swiping Kids’ Keys in New Home Break-in Trend

Burglars in Sweden are employing increasingly daring tactics leading up to home break-ins, including sneaking into schools and stealing children’s house keys and mobile phones.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Iceman’s Last Meal

Less than 2 hours before he hiked his last steps in the Tyrolean Alps 5000 years ago, Ötzi the Iceman fueled up on a last meal of ibex meat. That was the conclusion of a talk here last week at the 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies, during which researchers—armed with Ötzi’s newly sequenced genome and a detailed dental analysis—also concluded that the Iceman had brown eyes and probably wasn’t much of a tooth brusher.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Hunt for the ‘Burka Bandit’: Man Armed With Knife and Umbrella Dressed as Muslim Woman to Rob Travel Agents

A man who holds up travel agents with a knife while dressed as a woman in a burka has been caught on CCTV.

The man, who travels from shop to shop taking ‘substantial’ amounts of money, was filmed twice in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.

Dressed head-to-toe in the Muslim women’s outfit, he first threatened two women with a knife on a raid at First Choice travel agents.

He was also seen carrying an umbrella but it is unknown if this was another form of disguise or if he used it to threaten his victims.

He forced them into a back room where he demanded cash from the safe.

The first incident happened in July 2009 and the second in May last year but these images were released last week as part of the Crimewatch Roadshow which is currently touring the country.

The second robbery happened at a branch of Thompsons where he threatened a member of staff and a customer, again with a knife.

As with the first robbery, which took place just around the corner from the second, he took the women into a back office and escaped with cash from a safe.

Detective Sergeant Terry David from Bedfordshire police said: ‘Witnesses are sure [it was a man] because of the voice, build and mannerisms.’

He added it was difficult for police because officers can’t go around lifting people’s burkas.

‘It is a very concentious issue,’ he said. ‘A contentious disguise and we think he is deliberately choosing that disguise because of that.

‘He could quite possibly strike again.’

           — Hat tip: Nick

[Return to headlines]

UK: Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Iconic’ Handbag Up for Auction

A handbag which once belonged to Margaret Thatcher is expected to fetch more than £100,000 at a charity auction.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Student Teachers ‘To be Taught to Handle Unruly Pupils’

New teachers will be given back-to-basics training in dealing with unruly pupils under Government plans to crackdown on bad behaviour in the classroom.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Ports: Livorno-Morocco Uni Accord for Studies, Training

Teaching, training and research on transport, logistics and port facilities are the focus of the cooperation agreement the Livorno town council, port authorities and logistics centre and the Pisa Scuola Sant’Anna have signed with the Moroccan universities of Abdelmalek Essaadi (Tetouan, Tangiers) and Hassan II (Casablanca). There are two main aims: the professionalisation of trainers in transport, logistics and port facilities in order to render them able to transfer their knowledge and competences in line with administrative and technological innovation processes, and joint university programmes for research and student, researcher and teaching staff mobility in the field of port, transport and logistics innovation. As part of the underwriting of the cooperation agreement, a conference took stock of the situation in continual evolution in Arab countries and the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

After the Revolution: Egypt’s Struggle to Reinvent Itself

A new state is being born in Egypt in the wake of the revolution. While the old guard is battling to preserve its influence, scores of new parties are jockeying for power, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which is resorting to shrewd tactics in a bid to cement its political clout.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eight Houses Burnt as Anti-Christian Violence Rises in Upper Egypt

More than 200 Muslims torch eight Christian homes on Saturday morning in the Upper Egyptian village of Awlad Khalaf (Suhaj), after the local Christian community was accused of planning to build an unauthorised church. More Coptic girls are being abducted and forced to convert to Islam. Human rights activists complain about poor security in the country’s poorer areas following the fall of the Mubarak regime.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Attacks against Copts and the abduction of young women continue in Upper Egypt. Last Saturday, in the village of Awlad Khalaf (Suhaj, Upper Egypt), hundreds of extremists set fire to Christian houses (pictured). Three people were injured. In Minya, two young Coptic women were abducted and forced to convert to Islam.

Anti-Christian violence has become a daily event in Upper Egypt, where police and the military often side with Muslims, sources told AsiaNews. In this under-policed area of the country, extremists are pushing Muslim civilians against Christians, using any pretext to destroy churches and homes.

In the village of Awlad Khalaf, extremists tried to stop the construction of a 350 m2 home, accusing the Christian community of planning to turn it into a church once construction was over. Local sources said that the owner, Wahib Halim Attia, violated the original licence, which authorised a house of only 95 m2.

Fr Weesa Azmy, parish priest at the St George church in neighbouring village of Negou Madam East, said that Christian and Muslim leaders had already been informed of the irregularities and had tried to convince the owner to stop.

Attia’s refusal sparked Muslims who, egged on by some extremists, attacked nearby houses.

Police moved in after three hours and arrested some teenagers, between the ages of 10 to 14. However, the instigators of the attack are still free. Many fear more attacks.

The power vacuum created by Mubarak’s fall has increased the number of abductions of Coptic teenagers and young women. Kidnapped at home or in the street, they are forced to convert and marry Muslim men.

The latest case involves two girls, 14-year-old Nacy and 16-year-old Christine, who disappeared on 12 June. Police found them days later, wearing a niqab but with on cross tattooed on their wrist.

Fearing repercussions, they said they converted to Islam. However, al-Azhar and the Fatwa (religious edict) Committee denied that the two Coptic teenagers had converted to Islam, because they are still minors and have not yet reached 18 years of age, as is required by law.

Despite complaints by their family, the two teenagers are being kept in a mental hospital until the end of the investigation.

“The daily abduction and forced Islamisation of Coptic minors, conducted by Muslims funded by Saudi Arabia, has escalated to new levels after the 25 January Revolution,” said Coptic activist Mark Ebeid. It has also “greatly enraged the Copts. Everyone now fears they might not be able to stand any longer continuous Islamist provocations.” (S.C.)

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

Tensions Rise in Egypt Over Two Missing Christian Girls

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Tension is escalating over the case of 14-year-old Nancy Magdy Fathy, and her 16-year old cousin Christine Ezzat Fathy, who have disappeared and allegedly converted to Islam. Many parties are being pulled into the row over their future, including Al Azhar, the Church, activists and lately Islamist organizations, which are threatening violence against the church.

The story of the missing girls became public after they disappeared while on their way to church on Sunday June 12. A the two day sit-in staged by Copts in front of the Minya Security Headquarters, demanding Nancy and Christine’s return, focused attention on their story. Rumors in the media emerged as to their whereabouts, the identity of the perpetrators and whether the girls were actually traded to another Muslims gang.

Nearly two weeks after they disappeared, Nancy and Christine were found in Cairo wearing Burkas. They were incidentally stopped in the street by a police officer when he noticed that one of them had a cross tattooed on her wrist, as many Copts have. The girls told the policeman they converted to Islam and did not marry any Muslims sheikh as the newspapers said, but fearing the wrath of their parents, they sought shelter at the home of a Muslim man. He issued a report of the incident and let them go.

Nancy and Christine subsequently surrendered at a Cairo police station.

An investigation into their disappearance was launched, as their parents accused two Muslim brothers from a neighboring village of abducting them. They were also asked about the video clip which appeared on the Internet, taken in Tahrir Square, where Nancy and Christine allegedly converted to Islam.

According to the investigators, the Christian minors said they converted to Islam of their own free will, and refused to return to their families, and even applied for protection from them. The prosecution decided to put them in a state care home and provide protection for them, until the completion of the investigation. Authorities also wanted an Al-Azhar scholar to determine if they really believe in Islam.

This has angered their families, who said their girls are minors and should not be subjected to such procedures. Both families and the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights Organization protested on Saturday, June 25 in front of the office of the prosecutor general, and demanded for their children to be returned to them.

Al Azhar and the Fatwa (religious edict) Committee denied that the two Coptic teenagers had converted to Islam, because they are still minors and have not yet reached 18 years of age, as is required by law.

The families’ lawyer, Dr Naguib.Gabriel, said the decision to deliver the girls to the state care home belonging to the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood is contrary to the law, because they are still minors, noting that Al-Azhar said that it does not recognize their conversion, and therefore the two girls should be returned to their families. Gabriel added that he had made a complaint to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, on behalf of the families, as they oppose handing Nancy and Christine over to the care home. He explained that the decision taken by prosecution in this case confirms the hypothesis that they converted to Islam, despite that being contrary to the law and the Al-Azhar fatwa.

Dr. Gabriel said that there is a possibility the two girls were subjected to pressure in order to say they converted to Islam of their free will, or they fear the reaction of their families in case they return home, especially since they come from an ultra conservative Upper Egyptian society, where the disappearance of a girl for days is considered a scandal and a shame. He said he will obtain a pledge from their families to protect them, and not to harm them in any way upon their return.

The security director of Minya told Al-Ahram newspaper on June 17 the two girls are considered minors before the law and the authorities and therefore their conversion to Islam and their marriage is not recognized officially as they do not yet have the necessary ID card, which is issued from the age of 16. On this basis, anyone involved in the incident will be punished according to the law.

The two Muslim brothers accused by the fathers are in detention pending investigation. The family of the accused protested today, calling for their release because Nancy and Christine said they left home on their own accord and where not abducted.

The Egyptian daily newspaper ElYoum7 published a statement from the Islamist “Alliance for the support of New Muslim Women,” in which the group threatened to carry out “extended protests” in all governorates in Egypt if Nancy and Christine are returned to the church. The Alliance emphasized in its statement the protests this time will escalate violently: “We will not retreat this time, until each captive is free and out of the monasteries in which they are held as prisoners.” The statement also said “We say it openly, that we will not go back again to the era when newly converted Muslim women were delivered to the church, which wants to tempt them away from their religion, or forcibly detain them in reprisal for choosing freely their faith.”

In the past the Alliance had staged over 20 demonstrations every Friday in support of Kamilia Shehata, the priest’s wife whom they claim converted to Islam but was held captive by the church, despite of Al Azhar confirming that she never set foot there and her appearance twice in public to refute all their claims of her conversion (AINA 9-18-2010).

“The daily abduction and forced Islamization of Coptic minors, conducted by Muslims funded by Saudi Arabia, has escalated to new levels after the January 25th Revolution,” said Coptic activist Mark Ebeid, “and has greatly enraged the Copts. Everyone is now fearing that they might not be able to stand it any longer with the continuous Islamists provocations.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

World Hails Gadhafi Arrest Warrant From Hague Court

Gratification greeted the decision by judges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Monday to issue arrest warrants for Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, one of his sons and the country’s spy chief.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Clampdown on Hamas

Israel has moved several of its Hamas prisoners to solitary confinement, media reported yesterday three days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to make their conditions harsher.

Mr Netanyahu has said that as the Palestinian Islamist movement refused to allow Red Cross visits to Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier it has held for five years, he would cut privileges of Hamas militants in Israeli jails, such as external university courses.

“There will be no more master’s degrees in murder or doctors of terrorism,” he said. “This party is over.”

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Dutch MP Calls to Slash Funding of Anti-Israel NGOs

Positions of some groups ‘disgusting,’ says Johan Driesen.

BERLIN — A panel in the Dutch parliament earlier this month titled “To discuss the activity of NGOs in Israel and Palestine” has generated a heated debate among lawmakers and the heads of major Dutch NGOs about the legitimacy of boycotts targeting Israel and advocacy for a “one-state solution” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Jerusalem Post obtained a transcript of the panel from an observer at the June 15 session in Holland’s parliament.

According to the transcript, leading Dutch humanitarian relief organizations defended boycott, divestment and sanctions actions against Israel, prompting Johan Driesen, from the Party for Freedom (PVV), to say, “It was the first time I sat down to talk with the directors of the aid groups and I found what they said not only surprising, but disgusting and I think the Dutch government should cut funding to organizations promoting this agenda.”

René Grotenhuis, director of the aid group Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid), said during the debate that “discussion over boycott of Israel in Palestine is justified.”

Henk Jan Ormel, from the Dutch Christian Democratic Appeal party, said he was “very surprised” to hear from the director of the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) that he believes that “the two-state solution is not the basic assumption for peace.”

In response to a query asking why ICCO supports the website Electronic Intifada, Director Marinus Verweij termed it a “respected news source used by newspapers.”

The Dutch government funneled more than 120 million euros into ICCO in 2009, which has doled out funds to EI.

The Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor has stated that “EI Executive Director Ali Abunimah is a leader in delegitimization and demonization campaigns against Israel. In his travels and speaking engagements, facilitated by Electronic Intifada’s budget, he calls for a one-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, and routinely uses false apartheid rhetoric.”

In response to a question from Joël Stephanus Voordewind, head of the Christian Union party, who asked why groups were financing Palestinian groups publicly committed to promoting BDS activities against Israel, Grotenhuis defended BDS as “legitimate” because “it is important that people in Palestine look for ways to resist occupation, and it is a nonviolent way to do so.”

Cordaid will continue to receive 80m. euros from Dutch taxpayer monies until 2015.

However, the organization lost 42 percent of its government funds this year, and ICCO took a 55m. euro reduction this year.

According to a late December report in The Palestine News Network, Cordaid faced a drop in funds because of its “Palestinian connections.”

It is unclear if the Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal pulled the plug on considerable governmental funds for Cordaid and ICCO because of their anti-Israel activities. Yet Rosenthal told the Post in November that if ICCO is furnishing funds for EI “it will have a serious problem with me.”

Ronny Naftaniel,the executive director of the Haguebased Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), told the Post on Wednesday that “The directors of these organizations spend the Dutch taxpayer’s money contrary to the Dutch policy to strengthen the bond with Israel.”

Naftaniel added that this is an “ unacceptable result: The Netherlands invests simultaneously in Israel and in boycotting Israel.”

He continued, “The Dutch aid organizations are seeing their budgets cut because of this. The real victims here will not be the directors with their huge salaries, but Palestinians and people in Africa in need of assistance.”

Professor Gerald Steinberg, the head of NGO Monitor, told the Post on Thursday, “Until recently, most Dutch legislators and officials had little information on how NGOs involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict utilize Dutch funding.

“Some political advocacy NGOs abusing the rhetoric of human rights have significant impacts, but there are no mechanisms to hold NGOs accountable for their activities.

For example, Dutch funding for ICCO goes to groups such as Badil, Electronic Intifada, and CWP [Coalition of Women for Peace]. They promote pro- BDS and similar agendas which are in direct contradiction to Dutch government policy. An independent and detailed review of all NGO funding — both direct and indirect — is long overdue.”

Driesen asked Oxfam Novib at the panel why the charity provided funds to the Dutch NGO “Stop de Bezeting” (Stop the Occupation). He noted that the group’s founder, Greta Duisenberg, had participated in demonstrations calling for Jews to be gassed, and had declared “Intifada, Intifada!” The Dutch foreign ministry earmarked 131m. euros in 2009 for Oxfam Novib, which sponsors projects in developing countries.

Oxfam Novib’s Director, Farah Karimi, declined to specifically address its financial aid for “Stop de Bezeting.”

“The business we have come to discuss is of extreme importance to you and your party, and I find it a shame to sit and speak about the behavior of Greta Duisenberg,” said Karimi.

CIDI noted in a report last month that over the past three years the Dutch government has allocated at least 10m.

euros to groups dedicated to promoting a boycott of Israel.

In response to CIDI’s report, Rosenthal told CIDI he will “intervene to block funding to groups promoting the BDS campaign.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Calls for Force if Necessary to Stop Flotilla 2

At the end of an Israeli government defence council meeting, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu reiterated the need to prevent — even through the use of force, if necessary — the Flotilla organised by pro-Palestinian activists from reaching Gaza over the next few days through forcing the sea blockade. According to Jerusalem radio, Netanyahu told his ministers that the Flotilla would instead be allowed to reach the Egyptian port of Al-Arish in the northern Sinai unimpeded, from where humanitarian aid could get into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Statehood Bid ‘Could Lead to War’: Mofaz

A unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood in September could lead to fresh conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and destabilise the whole region, a senior Israeli politician has warned. In an interview with AFP, Shaul Mofaz, who heads the powerful parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, said he would urge French leaders not to support the bid during a visit to Paris on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

PM Orders Defense Establishment to Stop Flotilla

Cabinet accepts plan to block upcoming flotilla from reaching Gaza; ministers agree cargo can be unloaded at El-Arish, Ashdod ports.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered the defense establishment not to allow any ship to reach Gaza’s shores, Israel Radio reported.

Netanahyu made the comments during a meeting of the security cabinet over preparations Israel was taking to deal with a new flotilla expected to set sail for Gaza this week.

During the meeting, cabinet ministers voted in favor of a Navy plan to prevent the upcoming flotilla from arriving in Gaza and giving the IDF authority to prevent the ships’ arrival by any means necessary while trying to avoid casualties.

The ministers agreed that flotilla participants will be allowed unload their cargo in the Egyptian port of El-Arish and at the Ashdod Port, from where they will be transferred on land to Gaza after being checked, according to Israel Radio.

However, ships that will try to continue on to Gaza will be checked, and their participants will be arrested.

Earlier Monday, Israel and Egypt agreed to the arrangement whereby ships taking part in the flotilla could unload cargo at El-Arish.

Monday’s cabinet meeting was an extension of a meeting Netanyahu convened Sunday night for briefings from top naval officials and security officials on the flotilla.

The Navy is gearing up to stop the flotilla that plans to run the blockade of the Gaza Strip, amid predictions that violence will be minimal after Turkey’s IHH organization — behind the Mavi Marmara last year — withdrew from the initiative.

According to organizers, a number of the vessels — including the US ship The Audacity of Hope — are to set sail from Greece on Monday or Tuesday and then meet other ships that have already begun their journeys from France and Ireland at a rendezvous spot in the Mediterranean Sea.

Vessels from Italy, Spain and Canada are also participating in the flotilla.

On Sunday, Greek officials blocked some of the ships from setting sail to Gaza and organizers said that they had hired lawyers who will fight the stop-order with the aim of allowing the vessels to leave harbor on Monday or Tuesday.

“We expect the flotilla to set sail later in the week,” a military source said. “We are preparing for various scenarios, from no violence to extreme violence.”

The navy and Military Intelligence are closely tracking the flotilla, as well as reports that a Jordanian ship with close to 200 Palestinian and other Arab activists might join the voyage toward Gaza.

“We are pleased that the Turks are not participating but do not yet know what to expect until we meet the ships at sea,” the military source said.

The navy plans to stop the flotilla far from Gaza, after issuing a warning that the territory is under a sea blockade.

“If the ships continue sailing after being warned, then we will have the right to stop them even if they did not yet enter Gaza’s territorial waters,” a defense official explained.

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Alarm Bells Ring in the Middle East for the Fate of the Christians

Are the current revolutions in the Arab world an opportunity or a threat?

On the eve of the Iraq war, during an interview with the American Ambassador in the Vatican, I asked him: “What will be the future of Christians in Iraq? What do you think will happen?”. He looked me straight in the eyes and replied: “We do not know what will happen after the war. The Pope and the Vatican are very concerned for their future”. The current Pope, Benedict XVI and the Vatican today are still very concerned. And so they should be. The Iraq post war period saw a massive exodus of one of the largest Christian communities in the area, the Chaldeans. There is a very good chance that the tragic Iraqi model will be repeated elsewhere.

In Egypt, during the first few days of the Jasmine Revolution, some photos were shown across the world in which a security team of young Copts in Midan Tahrir was guaranteeing freedom of worship to hundreds of Muslim demonstrators. And one of the slogans that was created from the very midst of this protest was: “Christians and Muslims, one hand alone”. But the blaze at the church of Imbaba and the increasing danger of Islamic separatism in Egypt, either of the Salifi or the Muslim Brotherhood, seemed to destroy the possibility of secular and balanced democratic development. P. Rafic Greiche recently highlighted these developments, which are anything but reassuring. “Many extremist groups have emerged across the country such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but some even more radical groups such as the Islamic Jihad Movement and the Salafis are also taking hold”, he claims. Organised with military logic, the main aim of Salafists and Jihadists is to spread Sharia law across the entire country and they use Islam as their ideology. “Often, the followers of these movements apply Sharia law by themselves and the police have recently rendered public an attempted stoning against a young woman”, emphasises Greiche.

The alarm is stronger further to the east. Gregorios III, the patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church has called upon all Western leaders to not encourage the revolutions in the Middle East. Our Arab countries are not ready for the revolutions, not even for a European type democracy of this model”, he explained in a recent letter to Western leaders. “I ask the West to not encourage the revolutions unconditionally, here and in the Arab world”.

In Syria over the past few days, the protests for more freedom and democracy have been very harshly repressed by the regime. Since the start of the protests in mid-March, hundreds of people have been killed and as many arrested. The patriarch says that the “social, religious and demographical” factors could cause instability and violence if the regimes are toppled, rather than reformed. He calls for “evolution, not revolution”, and said that Western leaders should focus on reforms. “Ask all the Heads of States of Arab countries to work towards real development and ask for a clear and courageous reform programme, but do not encourage the revolutions”.

“The Arab Heads of State should be encouraged to develop democratic structures, freedom and respect for human rights”, wrote Gregorios, the spiritual leader for 1,600,000 Melkite Catholics. He stated that Arab leaders should be “supported in promoting social and medical assistance systems and council housing programmes” to respond to the economic difficulties that triggered many of the revolutions taking place now in the Arab world.

The patriarch described the Syrian situation as “tragic” for everyone involved; but he does not support the idea of toppling the government and the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Many Christians are not supporting the protests for fear that a hasty end to the Bashar regime might pull the country down into a struggle for power, similar to what happened after the Iraq war. Citing press articles, Gregorios observed that “the situation has deteriorated, with episodes of organised crime, theft, fear, terror and threats towards the churches… this all creates trauma”. The regime of the al-Assads, father and son, managed to maintain a delicate balance between secularism, Christian minority and Muslim majority. In his letter, the patriarch described the country as “a model of open and religious secularism”. Damascus is one of the most important cities for the presence of Christian faith in the Arab world; as is Aleppo, the “capital” of the north of Syria.

But this presence of Christian faith and this balance would rapidly disappear if a struggle for power broke out between Islamic extremists and other forces and if the regime were to suddenly collapse. “Christians are very weak in the midst of these crises and bloody revolutions. Christians will be the first victims of these revolutions, especially in Syria. And another wave of refugees would immediately follow”. Gregorios has asked the West to give priority to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because a solution to that conflict would be decisive for the future of Christians in the Middle East”.

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

Iran’s Nuclear Plant Ready for August Launch: Russia

Iran’s first nuclear power plant is set to start up in early August, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday. “The project has been completed and everything has been ironed out,” the state RIA Novosti news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying. “If this happens in the first days of August, it will fully meet our forecasts and expectations. And if it happens a few days later, there is nothing terrible about that.” Iran says it needs the plant, which had been under construction from the 1970s before being completed by Russia, to meet growing demand for electricity.

But the plant’s construction has been strongly opposed by Israel amid fears that it forms a part of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons development programme. The plant’s connection to Iran’s electricity grid had been initially scheduled for late 2010 but has since been repeatedly postponed due to technical faults. Russian nuclear fuel rods had to be removed from Bushehr in February because of internal wear-and-tear that Russia blamed on the Iranian engineers’ insistence on working with outdated parts. The plant’s construction had initially started in the 1970s with the help of Germany’s Siemens company.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Russia Convicts Colonel of Exposing US Spy Ring

A Moscow military court on Monday handed down a 25-year sentence to a top Russian foreign intelligence agent who was convicted in absentia of exposing a “sleeper cell” network in the United States. Colonel Alexander Poteyev received a 20-year sentence for high treason and another five years for desertion, a spokeswoman for the Moscow District Military Court told AFP. Poteyev is unlikely to spend time in a Russian jail because he is thought to be hiding in the United States after leaving behind his wife and dramatically fleeing Moscow by night train. “Poteyev’s actions delivered a considerable blow to Russia’s national security,” the Interfax news agency quoted the presiding judge as telling the closed-door hearing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Time to Rethink Russian System: President Medvedev

President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday said it was time to rethink the Russian system, with a view to making it freer and less centralised

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: French Troops to Follow US Retreat

Le Figaro, 24 June 2011

“France to withdraw from Afghanistan,” headlines Le Figaro. Just hours after President Barack Obama’s announcement that a third of American forces will leave Afghanistan by summer 2012, the Elysée [French president’s office] declared that France will bring home 1,000 of its contingent of 4,000 troops between now and next year. The progressive withdrawal has been motivated by “approaching elections on both sides of the Atlantic,” writes the daily. Meanwhile, Le Monde notes that when he was elected, President Nicolas Sarkozy “agreed to reinforce the French contingent, in parallel with the 2009 ‘surge’ in US deployment. Today he is once again obliged to follow in Washington’s footsteps, but without the satisfaction of a mission accomplished.”

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

Helicopter Shortage in the North?: Worries Grow in Berlin About US Afghanistan Pull-Out

The German government is concerned about the US plan, announced by President Obama last week, to reduce its presence in Afghanistan. The German military relies heavily on US helicopters in the northern part of the country. Leaders in Berlin fear a reduction in their number could put German soldiers at greater risk.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Wen Jiabao Visits Germany: World Export Leader to Meet With Runner-Up

This Monday, Chinese Premiere Wen Jiabao travels to Germany for what both countries are billing as a visit of great importance. While a Chinese government document has praised the partnership with Germany as its best in Europe, Berlin is debating how to approach concerns over human rights.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China, Britain Boost Trade Ties

China’s Wen Jiabao and Britain’s David Cameron unveiled trade deals worth £1.4 billion at a summit Monday, but their efforts to boost closer bilateral ties were undermined by differences on Libya and human rights. The Chinese and British premiers expressed optimism about the future of their relationship after talks at Downing Street, their second formal meeting following Cameron’s visit to Beijing in November. But Wen rejected criticism about his country’s treatment of dissidents — one of whom, Hu Jia, was released hours before the premier flew into Britain late Saturday — and also warned NATO that its military campaign could not bring peace to Libya.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fukushima Residents’ Urine Now Radioactive

More than 3 millisieverts of radiation has been measured in the urine of 15 Fukushima residents of the village of Iitate and the town of Kawamata, confirming internal radiation exposure, it was learned Sunday.

Both are about 30 to 40 km from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which has been releasing radioactive material into the environment since the week of March 11, when the quake and tsunami caused core meltdowns.

“This won’t be a problem if they don’t eat vegetables or other products that are contaminated,” said Nanao Kamada, professor emeritus of radiation biology at Hiroshima University. “But it will be difficult for people to continue living in these areas.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mao Inc.: China’s Terribly Successful Communist Party Turns 90

Beijing’s communists are among the world’s most successful capitalists, but their economic ascent is often overshadowed by its human rights violations. The Communist Party now faces a crucial test: Can it become more democratic without jeopardizing its hold on power?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Success or Else?: Pressure for World Cup Win in North Korea

After the poor showing by the North Korean men’s team in the 2010 World Cup, pressure on the women’s team in the women’s tournament in Germany this summer is high. Team trainer Kim Kwang Min says reports that the men’s team trainer was punished are nothing but “evil propaganda.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Britain Funds Sierra Leone Justice Programme

Britain’s international development agency has committed $30 million (21 million euros) to boost access to security and justice in Sierra Leone, national television reported Monday. Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Sierra Leone’s government signed an agreement over the weekend for the programme, which will run from 2011 to 2014. The head of DFID Sierra Leone, Dominic Oniel, told public television: “The UK government is committed to supporting the security and justice sector” in the west african state “as it has done since the end of the civil war in 2002.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Islamic Fundamendalists Strike Again, Two Killed

(AGI) Lagos — At least two people were killed by a car bomb that exploded in Maiduguri, in Nigeria’s northern state of Borno. The bombing came only a few hours after a group of fundamentalists attacked a pub, killing at least 25 people and injuring many more. Nobody has claimed the attack so far, although yesterday’s attack is likely to have been led by the extremists of the Boko Haram sect.

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

Nigerian Islamic Extremists Reportedly Reaching Out to Al Qaeda

The radical Islamic group Boko Haram has launched a terror campaign that has crippled northern Nigeria with fear. The group wants to expand its support base as it reportedly reaches out to al Qaeda linked militants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Nok of Nigeria

Unlocking the secrets of West Africa’s earliest known civilization

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Existence of Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Confirmed

Brazilian officials have confirmed the existence of approximately 200 Indians who live in the western Amazon with no contact with the outside world. This uncontacted tribe is not “lost” or unknown, according to tribal advocacy group Survival International. In fact, about 2,000 uncontacted Indians are suspected to live in the Javari Valley where the tribe’s homes were seen from the air. But confirming the tribe’s existence enables government authorities to monitor the area and protect the tribe’s way of life.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Australia: Asylum Seeker Costs Reach Beyond the Sky

THE cost of charter flights sending asylum seekers and supplies to and from detention centres around the country has hit $5.2 million for just six months.

Millions of dollars are also being spent in project management costs to upgrade overcrowded centres and re-open mothballed sites as the number of asylum seekers in detention explodes. The most expensive charter flights were from the Christmas Island centre, with $380,000 spent on April 20 and 21 to fly asylum seekers to Adelaide and Melbourne.

Charter flights from Christmas Island to Darwin and Leonora in Western Australia in May cost $450,986.

A service from Sydney to Melbourne on May 11 — about the same time alleged rioters from Villawood were moved to Victoria — cost $102,850.

The federal government has even splashed out $275,000 to upgrade the airfield at Curtin, near Derby in WA, after it was reopened as a detention centre last year.

Charters from Christmas Island to Curtin, Adelaide and Melbourne between May 12 and 14 cost $423,160.

“When you have had so many people arrive, moving them around the country is extremely expensive,” Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said. “The costs are a very small part in a $1 billion blowout.”

A blowout of $800 million was revealed in the budget, with asylum seeker housing and processing to reach $1.1 billion next financial year.

Serco, which manages immigration detention centres, will receive more than $1 billion over five years.

A Department of Immigration spokeswoman said yesterday charter flights for asylum seekers and freight were used only “as required” and depending on the availability of commercial flights.

Meanwhile, project management costs at detention centres are also running into the millions of dollars. More than $360,000 has been spent on managing upgrades at Villawood detention centre.

Project management costs of $2.9 million have been paid for a centre in Darwin — while project management at facilities in Northam, WA, were $3.9 million.

Another contract, for the “rectification of a fence” in Darwin, cost $689,222 while a recreation room set taxpayers back $635,661 and a security upgrade cost $1 million.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Controversial French Refugee Camp Closes Its Doors

The Sangatte refugee camp near Calais today closed its doors to new asylum seekers, 10 days ahead of schedule.

[UK] Home Secretary David Blunkett said French authorities had brought forward their pledge to stop more refugees entering the Red Cross centre.

It comes as ministers attempt to reverse damaging amendments made by the Lords to the controversial Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill.

Mr Blunkett said: “I am very pleased that Sangatte is now closed to new entrants, 10 days earlier than planned.

“I have reassured the French government that we are determined to pass the NIA Bill, which forms our part of the broad-ranging agreement to tackle illegal immigration from northern France — of which the closure of Sangatte is an important part.

“From today, the Sangatte centre will no longer draw would-be illegal immigrants to northern France, and traffickers will no longer be able to use it to ply their evil trade in human life.”

The massive camp — thought to currently house about 1,100 people — has been used as a staging post by would-be asylum seekers who are prepared to risk their lives to get to Britain.

In September Mr Blunkett agreed with French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy that the camp would close altogether by April next year at the latest.

“This progress demonstrates the importance of measures to radically reform the asylum system through the NIA Bill, which is returning to the House of Commons this afternoon,” said Mr Blunkett.

“Measures in the Bill will tackle abuse of the asylum system and reduce the pull factors, helping to stop illegal immigration from France.

“The Bill was a key part of the deal with France to tackle illegal immigration from northern France.”

He said that the number of clandestine immigrants discovered arriving from Frethun has dropped from nearly 400 in April to three in October.

“The number of passengers claiming asylum at Dover port has dropped from a high of nearly 1,300 in April to less than 100 a week.

“As we tighten up security even further, those figures will continue to drop,” he added.

“Stopping the flow into the centre is an essential first step in managing its population, allowing us to determine exactly who is there and where they are from.”

Since September, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has been working to identify all the current residents of Sangatte, by fingerprinting and issuing registration cards.

The British and French governments have agreed to assist those who want to go home voluntarily — including a £1,300 repatriation grant.

Those who are deemed ineligible for refugee status will be returned home.

Other measures agreed by the two ministers include improving security at the Frethun freight depot, putting UK immigration controls into Calais along with hi-tech heartbeat detection equipment.

Campaigners were today protesting outside Parliament as MPs were due to debate the NIA Bill, which also proposes building large accommodation centres for asylum seekers in rural areas of the UK.

The reforms were expected to face criticism from both Conservative and Labour MPs.

Home Office minister Lord Filkin indicated earlier this week that the plans for accommodation centres could be scaled down in a bid to prevent key reforms in the Bill being blocked by the House of Lords.

Ministers face a race against time to overturn a series of defeats inflicted by peers on the Asylum Bill before the end of the parliamentary session on Thursday.

Among a string of eight defeats, peers rejected siting the centres — which could house up to 750 would-be refugees — in countryside locations.

The plans have sparked protests in some rural communities which claim they cannot cope with such a huge influx.

Today, groups from Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Nottinghamshire were joining forces to stage the protest.

Liz Tucker, chairman of the Worcestershire-based Protest at the Asylum Centre at Throckmorton (PACT), called on MPs to oppose the plans.

She said: “Building the centres in these unsuitable locations will be a disaster for all concerned.”

Chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, Keith Best, said the closure of Sangatte would be a pyrrhic victory for Mr Blunkett.

Asylum seekers would continue to arrive in northern France and have no choice but to sleep rough, eventually forcing the French government to open another camp to replace Sangatte, he said.

“It looks as though the Home Secretary has sold control of our immigration policy to the French in order to close Sangatte, and I’ve always said that is likely to be a pyrrhic victory.

“The centre was opened to keep the refugees out of sight and out of mind, after they became a problem sleeping rough in the streets of Calais.

“The French aren’t going to allow large numbers of undocumented asylum sleepers to go back to sleeping rough in the area.

“These people are desperate and incredibly resourceful, and most have travelled huge distances.

“They will keep coming and still attempt to find a way to Britain.”

Asylum seekers may also simply be displaced to other ports in northern France or Belgium, he added.

The Home Office has already begun negotiations with the Belgian government in an attempt to prevent asylum seekers turning their attention to other ports.

Last month it was announced that British immigration officers were to start work at the Eurostar terminal in Brussels.

The Refugee Council’s Jessica Yudilevich said: “By closing Sangatte the governments are treating the symptom not addressing the real cause.

“Listening to the two respective governments you hear nothing about the needs of the people in the Sangatte refugee camp, most of whom are victims of war and persecution, having fled countries with the most brutal of regimes.”

She added: “Iraqi Kurds are one of the largest groups in Sangatte. Four out of five asylum seekers from that country receive international protection in the UK after the Home Office has investigated their case.

“From the talk of razor wire and high security it is hard to remember that these people are the victims not the villains of an international problem.

“The solution lies in working with other governments to set out a level playing field across the European Union which treats asylum seekers and refugees with parity and ensures a common definition of who is in need of sanctuary and how we should care for them.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Convicted Killer to Become an Aussie

An Iranian stowaway, who stabbed to death a priest who was caring for him, has been found to be of good character and should be given Australian citizenship.

Efforts by the Immigration Department in the past 18 years to deport Hassan Baharestan have failed and the department was told this week that it must make the 55-year-old an Australian citizen.

Arguing the case in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the department said Mr Baharestan’s crime was “of the type that all Australians would find repugnant and involved an act of significant violence which resulted in the death of an Australian citizen”.

“The circumstances of this particular offence are such that the Australian community would not want a person who has committed such a crime to become an Australian citizen,” the department said.

In 1993, Mr Baharestan was convicted of manslaughter for the death of Church of Christ minister Douglas Good, a priest who had helped him settle into the Fremantle community after he received a permanent visa in 1989.

It was claimed during the trial that Mr Baharestan had been pressured into having sex with the priest under the threat of deportation. During an angry disagreement at the church’s Fremantle manse, Mr Baharestan stabbed the minister with a kitchen knife, causing the priest to bleed to death.

He was sentenced to five years and 10 months jail. He was released on parole after three years.

During its attempts to deport Mr Baharestan or cancel his visa, the Immigration Department Immigration argued that he did not meet the good character test required of applicants.

But Mr Baharestan has fought against them every step of the way, arguing he had not been involved in any other criminal behaviour since the priest’s death and had tried to make a life in Perth.

He admitted being charged with sexually assaulting a fellow patient at a Sydney mental health institution shortly after his release from prison but it was dropped because of a lack of evidence.

The tribunal found that Mr Baharestan’s manslaughter conviction was due to “aberrant behaviour” and that he was of good character for the purposes of the Australian Citizenship Act.

Yesterday, Mr Baharestan declined to speak to _The Weekend West _ at his Fremantle Homeswest unit, saying his crime was a long time ago.

In a letter to the department, he pleaded to be made a citizen.

“The Australian quality and way of life are what I strive to embrace and I hope you will allow me to do so,” he wrote.

Members of the Fremantle Church of Christ congregation were outraged to learn that Mr Baharestan was on the verge of being granted citizenship.

Shirley, who did not want her surname published, said the crime had sent shockwaves through the community.

“It was horrendous,” she said. “I was told there was blood everywhere. I thought (Mr Baharestan) would have been sent out of the country right away.”

Mr Baharestan’s lawyer Stephen Walker said his client had been well behaved before and after his crime and had managed his mental health issues well.

“I would like to stress the importance of all the facts, including the length of time since Hassan committed the offence, his good behaviour before and since the offence, and the favourable opinions of those who know him well,” he said.

“Hassan has shown himself to be a contributing resident deserving of citizenship.”

Friends of Mr Baharestan described him as being decent and calm.

The Immigration Department has 28 days to appeal the tribunal’s decision but only if there is a jurisdictional error in law. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has no power to intervene.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Excerpts From Judge’s Ruling on Georgia’s Immigration Bill

As Attorney General Sam Olens points out, U.S. District Judge Tom Thrash on Monday said he would decline to block, via temporary injunction, 21 or 23 sections of Georgia’s new immigration law.

The judge dismissed, for instance, plaintiffs’ assertions that the law would violate a citizen’s right to travel.

Read the entire decision here.

However, it’s clear that Thrash is no fan of the core thought behind the bill. Here’s what he said about the key portion of the Georgia law — which he enjoined — that permits law enforcement officers to require proof of legal U.S. residency after individuals have been stopped for other purposes:

“HB 87 is state regulation of immigration. Section 8 attempts an end-run — not around federal criminal law — but around federal statutes defining the role of state and local officers in immigration enforcement….[B]oth the United States government and several foreign nations have expressed concern about the international relations impact of HB 87.

“In reference to HB 87, the President of the United States stated that “[i]t is a mistake for states to try to do this piecemeal. We can’t have 50 different immigration laws around the country.”…Mexico has also filed an amicus brief registering its concern that HB 87 will impede bilateral negotiations, hinder trade and tourism, and damage diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico….

“These international relations underscore the conflict between HB 87 and federal immigration law. The conflict is not a purely speculative and indirect impact on immigration. It is direct and immediate…..”

Trash also applied the injunction to the portion of the law that criminalizes the transporting and harboring of illegal immigrants:

“Defendants wildly exaggerate the scope of the federal crime of harboring….when they claim that the Plaintiffs are violating federal immigration law by giving rides to their friends and neighbors who are illegal immigration. This is a good reason to require supervision of any attempts by Georgia to enforce illegal immigration law…..”

And there’s this general defense of federal immigration practices:

“The widespread belief that the federal government is doing nothing about illegal immigration is the belief in a myth. Although the Defendants characterize federal enforcement as “passive,” that assertion has no basis in fact. On an average day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest approximately 816 aliens for administrative immigration violations and remove approximately 912 aliens, including 456 criminal aliens, from the United States….In 2010, immigration offenses were prosecuted in federal court more than any other offense….”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Ga. Immigration Law Partly Blocked

Law set go into effect July 1

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked parts of Georgia’s strict new law targeting illegal immigration from taking effect, including a provision that authorizes police to check the immigration status of suspects without proper identification and to detain illegal immigrants.

Georgia’s became the latest in a string of state laws that have been at least temporarily stopped by legal challenges. All or parts of similar laws in Arizona, Utah and Indiana also have been blocked by federal judges.

Judge Thomas Thrash also granted a request from civil liberties groups to block a part of Georgia’s law that penalizes people who knowingly and willingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing another crime.

“The defendants wildly exaggerate the scope of the federal crime of harboring under (the law) when they claim that the Plaintiffs are violating federal immigration law by giving rides to their friends and neighbors who are illegal aliens,” he said.

The judge was especially critical of that provision, blasting the state’s assertion that federal immigration enforcement is “passive.” Thrash noted that federal immigration officers remove more than 900 foreign citizens from the country on an average day.

He also wrote that the state measure would overstep the enforcement boundaries established by federal law. Thrash noted that there are thousands of illegal immigrants in Georgia because of the “insatiable demand in decades gone by for cheap labor” in the agriculture and construction industries. But he said the federal government gives priority to prosecuting and removing illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.

The civil liberties groups had sued to have those and other provisions blocked before they took effect Friday, though Thrash did toss parts of that lawsuit. The groups had argued that the law allows unreasonable seizures; blocks a constitutional right to travel; and restricts access to government services on the basis of national origin. The judge dismissed those claims, along with allegations the measure violates property rights and the state constitution.

Nonetheless, the groups hailed the ruling.

“This is a victory that matches the trend nationally. It should send a really strong signal to other states considering such laws,” said Karen Tumlin, a lawyer for the National Immigration Law Center.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said in a statement his office plans to appeal the court’s ruling. He said he was pleased that parts of the lawsuit were dismissed.

The law’s main sponsor, Republican state Rep. Matt Ramsey, called the judge’s ruling a temporary setback.

The judge also was concerned about the wider implications of the law on trade and diplomatic relations, which were laid out by Mexican officials in court documents.

“The conflict is not a purely speculative and indirect impact on immigration. It is direct and immediate,” he wrote.

The federal judge also accused the state of “gross hypocrisy” in its argument that Georgia’s crackdown would prevent the exploitation of illegal immigrants.

“The apparent legislative intent is to create such a climate of hostility, fear, mistrust and insecurity that all illegal aliens will leave Georgia,” he said.

“Curiously, the court writes ‘all illegal aliens will leave Georgia’ if the law is enforced, as if it is appalled at the thought of people attaining visas before coming to our nation,” said Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

Similar laws elsewhere have met similar fates. A federal judge has blocked the most controversial parts of the law in Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer has said she plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Utah, a federal judge temporarily blocked that state’s law last month. A hearing is set for mid-July to determine if the law can go into effect. And on Friday, a federal judge blocked parts of Indiana’s law.

On Friday, many parts of the law will take effect. Among them is one that makes it a felony with hefty penalties to use false information or documentation when applying for a job. Another creates an immigration review board to investigate complaints about government officials not complying with state laws related to illegal immigration.

Starting Jan. 1, businesses with 500 or more employees will have to use a federal database to check the immigration status of new hires, a requirement that will be phased in for all businesses with more than 10 employees by July 2013. Also starting Jan. 1, applicants for public benefits will have to provide at least one state or federally issued “secure and verifiable” document.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Cantons Insist Asylum Seekers be Sent Home

The cantons have stepped up criticism of the federal government’s handling of asylum seekers, accusing it of not processing claims fast enough.

At a news conference in Bern on Friday, the justice and police directors of the 26 cantons accused federal authorities of taking too long to process claims and of sending asylum seekers from federal processing centres to the cantons too quickly.

The directors called on federal authorities prioritise claims from people who had already lodged asylum claims in another country, and to stop sending these people — some 55 per cent of claimants — to the cantons all together.

They said people whose claims were “manifestly unfounded” must be sent immediately back to their countries of origin.

“Urgent measures must be taken to accelerate asylum procedures and to urge the countries of origin of people whose claims have been refused, to take back their citizens,” a joint statement said.

Statistics from the Federal Migration Office showed there were some 38,000 people subject to asylum claim processes at the end of May, far less than the 104,000 claimants who arrived in the country in 1999, as a result of conflicts in Kosovo and Sri Lanka.

Asylum claims lodged by Tunisians more than doubled from 165 in April to 342 in May, statistics show.

In May, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga announced plans to speed up asylum procedures, hire extra staff and give the federal authorities a greater say on the issue. Federal authorities are also preparing to open army barracks to house any overflow of claimants.

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

Tunisian Immigrants on the Run, Cagliari Airoport Closed

(AGI) Cagliari — Cagliari Airport was closed from 11 pm last night to 6:42 am this morning following instructions by ENAC.

The measure was taken for precautionary reason after 6 Tunisian immigrants escaped from the First Reception Center of Elmas, in the nearby military airport, where they had stayed for almost a month.

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

Culture Wars

Dutch Doctors Wary of Euthanasia for Dementia

Just 33 percent of Dutch doctors are willing to use euthanasia in cases of early dementia, a national survey conducted by three university hospitals shows. The poll was carried out by the university hospitals of Utrecht, Groningen and Rotterdam, a television programme reported on Saturday. People with dementia are only able to give their consent to euthanasia in the early stages of the disease. In the later stages, patients are too disoriented to make informed decisions. The number of people with dementia who have resorted to euthanasia has risen from three in 2006 to 21 in 2010. The overall number of cases of euthanasia has also risen: in 2006 the body responsible for the judicial review of euthanasia cases was informed of 1,900 cases, compared with 2,700 in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Female Firefighters Blazed a Trail That Few Followed

One to 2 percent of applicants are women, but none has scored high enough on the entrance exam to make the hiring list, said Hoffman Estates fire Chief Robert Gorvett. “We openly acknowledge the fact that we’re all white men,” Gorvett said. “It’s certainly not something we’re proud of.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: A Smoking Gun: How Congress Was Duped Into Repealing the Military’s Gay Ban

One of the more sordid moments in recent congressional history came during last December’s lame-duck session. Democratic majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill rammed through a controversial repeal of the 1993 statute (wrongly described as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) which prohibited avowed homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.

The Senate and House leadership did so with scarcely any hearings and extremely limited opportunity for debate. This action amounted to a raw abuse of power, a last gasp by an Obama administration able and determined to appease gay activists — a key political constituency — before the setbacks of November’s elections made doing so vastly more difficult.

We now know, however, that it was a gambit made possible by deliberate efforts by senior executive branch officials to mislead the Congress into taking a step that the administration’s own surveys had established would be deeply injurious to the U.S. military. Thanks to the release of a previously undisclosed Defense Department Inspector General investigation report, recently analyzed by the invaluable Center for Military Readiness (CMR), legislators now have the proverbial “smoking gun” revealing politically motivated misconduct at the highest levels of government…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Digging Into Technology’s Past

“Digital archaeologists” excavate the microprocessor that ushered in the home computing revolution

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Will Newly Discovered Comet Dazzle or Disappoint in 2013?

A newfound comet discovered by astronomers using a telescope in Hawaii will swing through the inner solar system in 2013, with some astronomers and skywatchers hoping for a cosmic spectacle when it arrives. The comet is C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), an object named after the asteroid-hunting Pan-STARRS 1 telescope that detected the icy wanderer during the overnight hours of June 5 and 6. Since the comet’s discovery, hopes have risen that this “dirty snowball” presently heading sunward from the depths of the solar system could evolve into a memorable sight. Indeed, some forecasters have already suggested that comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) could become the celestial sight of the decade.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]