Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110724

Financial Crisis
»EU: Leaders Offer 159 Billion Euros in New Greek Aid
»Even Italy’s Politicians Are Scared
»Greek Deal Will Stop Spread to Other Eurozone Lands: Prime Minister
»US Readies New Rules for Its ‘Too Big to Fail’ Lenders
»Young Minds Abandon Debt-Gripped Greece
»Book: Hollywood Magnate Was Secret Nuclear Spy
Europe and the EU
»1/4 of Real Estate in Italy Belongs to 5% of Affluent Owners
»Italy: Campania Official Arrested in Mafia Vote-Buying Probe
»Italy: Ex-Regional Councillor Convicted of Mafia Vote Buying
»Italy: Deputy Head of Lombardy Regional Council Probed
»Italy: Firefighters Battle Trash Fires in Naples
»Italy: Northern League Topples Berlusconi Ally
»Norway’s Terrorist: Not Alone After All?
»Norway: Terrorist Proclaimed Himself ‘Darwinian, ‘ Not ‘Christian’
»Norway Shooter Considered WMD, Jihadi Alliance
»Norway’s Challenge
»Spain: High-Speed Link With France Ready in 2012
»The Campers of Utvika: A Tale of Heroism During the Norwegian Massacre
»Montenegro: 44.9% Montenegrins, 28.77% Serbs (Census)
North Africa
»Benghazi “Rebels” Lynching Blacks in Libya (Video)
»Egypt: The Military’s Disturbing ‘No’ To International Election Observers
»Libya: TB and Aids Cases in Tunisian Camps
»Libya: Msgr Martinelli: Weekly Mass Sign of Hope Among Bombs and Fighting
»Libya: Frattini Announces 350 Million Aid for Benghazi Population
»Tunisia: Mineral Water Smugglers Profiting From War
Israel and the Palestinians
»MPs Reject Bill to Probe ‘Anti-Israeli’ Non-Governmental Organizations
Middle East
»Cleric Slams Abuse of Women in Turkey
»Jordan: Reform Protesters Burn American Flag
»‘Muslims and Westerners Don’t Like Each Other Much’
»Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Deports a Pastor to Eritrea Where He Could Get the Death Penalty
South Asia
»By Arming Burmese Military India “Complicit” In Violence
»Indonesia: Principal in Islamic School in Bima Arrested for Terrorism
»Malaysia: Christians Can Not Use “Allah” To Define God
»Was Sinking the Titanic an Insurance Scam?

Financial Crisis

EU: Leaders Offer 159 Billion Euros in New Greek Aid

Brussels, 22 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Euro-area leaders redoubled efforts to end the 21-month sovereign bond crisis as they erected a firewall around Spain and Italy and risked temporary default to lighten Greece’s debt burden.

After eight hours of talks in Brussels, leaders announced 159 billion euros of new aid for Greece late Thursday and cajoled bondholders into footing part of the bill. They also empowered their 440-billion euro rescue fund to buy debt across stressed euro nations after a market rout last week sparked concern the crisis was spreading. The fund can also aid troubled banks and offer credit-lines to repel speculators.

Greek, Spanish and Italian bonds rose after officials drew concessions from Germany, the European Central Bank and investors for a twin-track strategy to support Greece and ensure its woes don’t spread. The summit is the latest in a running- battle to resolve the crisis amid calls this week for tougher action from U.S. president Barack Obama and the International Monetary Fund.

“These measures are welcome because they create the best possible conditions for Greece and other peripheral countries to put their houses in order and hence limit the risk of contagion,” said Marco Valli, chief euro-area economist at UniCredit in Milan. “Still, the market will continue to price some probability that troubled countries will not be up to the challenge.”

The Greek financing package will consist of 109 billion euros from the euro region and the IMF. Financial institutions will contribute 50 billion euros after agreeing to a series of bond exchanges and buybacks that will also cut Greece’s debt load, the leaders’ communiqué said.

The European Commission plans to brief reporters on the package’s technical details on Friday in Brussels.

The leaders sought to regain the initiative after market turmoil intensified amid a spat between ECB President Jean- Claude Trichet and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over how to manage the crisis. The outlook was worsened by signs that Greece was backsliding on axing its budget deficit as it struggles to cut a debt of 143 percent of gross domestic product. A Bank of America Merrill Lynch poll this week showed investors trimming their European stock holdings to the lowest in more than a year.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy compared the transformation of the bailout fund to the creation of a “European Monetary Fund.”

“This meeting came at a difficult time,” Merkel told reporters. “I’m satisfied with the outcome because the euro countries showed today that we are up to the challenge, we can take action.”

The risk is that the drive will fall prey to the same internal European Union wrangling that blunted previous drives to stop the crisis. EFSF bond purchases will need the “mutual agreement” of member states and the fund may not be large enough should markets turn on Italy and Spain at the same time. Leaders also refused to increase its size.

“The EFSF has gone from being a single-barreled gun to a Gatling gun, but with the same amount of ammo,” Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup, said in an interview. “It needs to be increased in size urgently.”

Sarkozy and other leaders also stressed that the Greek package won’t be replicated for other countries.

European officials tried to draw a line under the crisis in May 2010 when they set up the bailout fund and the ECB agreed to buy government bonds of debt-laden nations. That didn’t stop Ireland and Portugal needing bailouts when splits over how to make investors participate in financial rescues prompted a new wave of bond market selling later in the year.

The pact still doesn’t “make a significant dent” in Greece’s debt and may disappoint investors by failing to boost the size of the rescue fund, said Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics in London. “We doubt that this package alone will bring an end to recent contagion effects and prevent the broader debt crisis from continuing to deepen over the coming months.”

For now, Merkel and her allies have succeeded in their drive to make investors co-finance bailouts after voters balked at the cost of saving spendthrift nations.

“The summit resolutions fulfill the main elements of German coalition lawmakers’ demands, above all the participation of the private sector in solving this crisis,” said Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker in Merkel’s ruling coalition, said in a telephone interview. “I see that a majority of coalition lawmakers will support Mrs. Merkel in parliament.”

Banks will reduce Greece’s debt by 13.5 billion euros by exchanging bonds and “potentially much more” through a buyback program still to be outlined by governments, said the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based group representing banks.

Investors will have the option to exchange existing Greek debt into four instruments. Three will be fully collateralized by AAA-rated zero-coupon securities and have a 30-year maturity, and the fourth will be for 15 years and partially collateralized by funds held in an escrow account.

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

Even Italy’s Politicians Are Scared

ONE of the things most often said about Italy’s public debt is that it does not matter because most of it is held by Italians. The second part of that statement is true. But since the overall amount is so vast, even the total amount held outside of Italy—€790 billion ($1.1 trillion) at last count, in March—dwarfs the total for foreign-held bonds issued by countries like Ireland, Portugal, Greece and even Spain.

In May Business Insider, a website, made this point with a bar chart showing the Italian-debt holdings of some banks. It was entitled “Why an Italian Debt Crisis Should Scare the Crap out of Everyone”.

That does not exclude Italy’s politicians. Today the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, gave final approval, by 314 votes to 280, to an austerity package that was introduced into the legislature just four days ago. The bill was passed by the Senate yesterday.

A disquietingly high proportion of the spending cuts and tax rises in the package have been put off until after next year. And there are doubts about where some of the money will be found. But government and opposition politicians alike hope the speed of the bill’s passage will impress investors and stem a panic that has caused the spread between Italy’s benchmark ten-year treasury bonds and their German equivalent to balloon.

The opposition voted against the package in both houses, but agreed neither to amend nor obstruct it. President Giorgio Napolitano called the agreement, which he himself did much to bring about, “a miracle”.

Almost equally miraculous, in a different way, has been the performance of the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Until his appearance in the Chamber of Deputies for the vote, he had been invisible for a week.

The unofficial leader of the opposition, Pierluigi Bersani, has also been strikingly missing from the eye of the storm, on a tour of the Middle East. But Mr Berlusconi’s absence has had the more important political consequence.

It has allowed his finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, to take centre stage and reinforce, spectacularly, a position that a week earlier had looked extremely precarious. Mr Tremonti was (and, indeed, still is) caught up in an influence-trafficking scandal. And last week he came under fire from Mr Berlusconi, who has evinced growing doubts about his finance minister’s rigorous approach to the public accounts.

Mr Tremonti has become a sort of guarantor for the markets that his unpredictable boss will not rock Italy’s precarious boat. The prospect of his being undermined, or even discarded, seems to have been one of the factors that prompted the scare earlier this week. That too has strengthened Mr Tremonti’s defences.

Mr Tremonti has always been seen as a rather grey figure, best known for his nasal voice and habit of pronouncing his “r”s as if they were “w”s. But this crisis has teased out the statesman in him.

He has delivered a string of speeches laced with quotes from the likes of Titus Livy and Winston Churchill. Yesterday he made the best quip of the crisis, warning senators that they had no room for error “because it’s like on the Titanic: not even the first-class passengers get saved”.

The problem for Mr Berlusconi, however, is not what his finance minister has been saying, but what he has been doing. The prime minister has repeatedly vowed not to put up taxes. His favourite slogan is that his government will never “put its hands into the pockets of the Italians”.

Now, in a way that even the least economically literate voter can see, it has done so. He or she will now have to pay for specialist medical visits. Some better-off pensioners will have their incomes frozen. Initial calculations suggest that cuts in allowances will raise the average family’s tax bill by €1,000.

Perhaps Mr Berlusconi was well advised to keep his head down. Mr Tremonti may be seen as a bulwark. But bulwarks are often where people put lightning conductors.

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

Greek Deal Will Stop Spread to Other Eurozone Lands: Prime Minister

The restructuring deal agreed for Greece by the leaders of the 17 eurozone countries will stop the debt crisis spreading to other countries, prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters in Brussels.

‘It is about Greece but it is also about building a walkway between Greece and other countries,’ he said. ‘I think the financial markets will see that the package of measures is complete and will make sure the trouble facing Greece does not spread.’

‘We have thus sent a clear signal to the markets by showing our determination to stem the crisis and turn the tide in Greece, thereby securing the future of the savings, pensions and jobs of our citizens all over Europe’ the BBC quoted Rutte as saying.

Private sector lenders

Eurozone leaders have agreed to restructure Greece’s €350bn (£310bn) national debt in return for a second bailout package for the country. The bail-out involves €109bn from European governments, plus about €50bn from the banks over the next five years, with further contributions from them to follow, according to the Independent’s report.

Rutte said he is pleased that the package involves private sector lenders, something which the Netherlands and Germany were keen to see. MPs agreed earlier in the day to the Dutch approach. ‘The result shows the results of the Dutch approach,’ Rutte is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant.

ING is one of the banks which will be involved, according to website


However, ‘no sooner was the ink on the agreement dry, than the criticism started,’ the Telegraaf points out.

Amsterdam University economics professor Sweder van Wijnbergen told the paper he had no faith in the deal whatsoever.

‘All they have done is delayed the problem,’ Van Wijnbergen said. ‘That makes it all more expensive. They should have intervened in May last year. But that did not happen and now this could end up costing the European taxpayers €150bn.’

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

US Readies New Rules for Its ‘Too Big to Fail’ Lenders

U.S. regulators will soon lay out rules governing financial firms so large their collapse could rattle global markets, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said.

Bernanke, in testimony prepared for a Thursday Senate Banking Committee hearing, also said regulators are looking into potential gaps in last year’s Dodd-Frank financial oversight law, including the oversight of money market mutual funds and the tri-party repo system.

“The U.S. agencies are also working together to address structural weaknesses in areas not specifically addressed by the Dodd-Frank Act,” Bernanke said.

The Fed chief was due to appear on a panel with other regulators at a hearing marking the one-year anniversary of the reform laws put in place after one of the most severe financial panics in U.S. history.

The effects of the crisis continue to affect the financial system around the world, the Fed chairman said. “Nearly three years later, the recovery from the crisis in the United States and in many other countries remains far from complete,” he said.

The reforms have stirred controversy among business leaders and many Republican lawmakers, who say the rules have overreached and had a chilling effect on business and job creation.

Bernanke said this summer the Fed will propose rules on tightened oversight of systemically important financial institutions, or SIFIs. Those rules are expected to include stricter capital and leverage requirements.

He also said regulators plan to finalize a rule on the “living wills” that SIFIs will have to submit to the government.

The living wills are blueprints for how the government can quickly and orderly dismantle a failing systemic firm.

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

Young Minds Abandon Debt-Gripped Greece

After struggling for months to find a job in Greece worthy of her qualifications, young programmer Ioanna Giannopoulou has decided to pack her bags and seek a better future in France.

And a long-planned university reform that will be brought before parliament in August will come too late to keep the 23-year-old and thousands of other young graduates from abandoning their debt-stricken country.

“I think I have no choice, I need to go abroad,” said Ioanna who was awarded her master’s degree this year.

“All of my classmates have already left, they too are unable to find work in Greece even though they are top-notch students,” she added.

Lois Lambrianidis, an economist and geographer at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, estimates that nine percent of young Greek graduates emigrated between May 2009 and February 2010.

“And in recent months, the departures are accelerating,” he told AFP, a trend also seen in Ireland and other Mediterranean states like Portugal and Spain.

Among Greek PhD graduates alone, 51 percent have deserted their country in the last two years, Lambrianidis said.

For Ionna, after a slew of short-term Greek offers for a paltry 500 euros ($707) a month, she now has a job offer at a telecoms company in Paris, pending a final interview.

But her family in Athens is unhappy to see another child leave.

“My parents are very sad … but what am I supposed to do? Here in Greece your value is not appreciated,” Ioanna said.

Her older sister Evgenia, who holds a PhD in bioinformatics, is already in New York, working as a researcher at Cornell University for the past two years — one of many Greek graduates who have headed to the United States and Australia.

Research and education-related posts were already scarce in this country of 11 million inhabitants, but now a deep recession fuelled by austerity cutbacks designed to tackle a national debt crisis are making matters worse.

Part of the problem according to Lambrianidis, who has written a book on the subject, is that the Greek economy is built around services such as tourism as opposed to industries where research could be in demand.

Though many of the departing graduates promise to return, Lambrianidis said only 16 percent have actually done so in the last two years.

Ioanna, however, is determined to buck the trend.

“I don’t want to live all my life abroad,” she said.

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


Book: Hollywood Magnate Was Secret Nuclear Spy

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JULY 18 — The unauthorised biography of Arnon Milchan, a high-profile Hollywood film producer for more than 30 years, contains a shadow of arms trade and nuclear technology transfer to Israel. The books will come out by the end of this month and its content is potentially explosive. It tells the story of a successful entrepreneur in showbiz and other fields. But also of a spy of nuclear technology, paid — apparently — by the current President of Israel, Shimon Peres.

The book could certainly be used as the basis for one of the many box-office successes Milchan has made.

The allegations are in fact not new. But the evidence given in ‘Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan’, is new. The book was recently presented by Israeli publicists Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman in Los Angeles. The work will be in the US bookstores within around ten days. The information that has so far been released on the book by the New York Times, Haaretz and others is really interesting.

It is based on first-hand sources (including Peres) and some acknowledgements from Milchan himself, who was interviewed by the authors, as well as secret collaboration with Israel, though the country has refused to give its seal of approval to the work. Milchan — 67 years old and producer of films like “Once upon a time in America” by Sergio Leone, “War of the roses”, “Pretty Woman”, “L.A. Confidential”‘ and the more recent “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) or “The fountain’ (by Darren Aronofsy) — is described in the book as a person who leads a double life. He is born in Israel and manages to make it in the USA as businessman, but stays in close contact with his fatherland. Doron and Gelman zoom in on the network created by the Hollywood magnate (a generous public supporter of the right-wing pro-Israeli Christian evangelical church) to help weapons and strategic technology move to the Jewish State. They also focus on the operations managed directly by him for years, under cover of his companies. They even reveal the Milchan’s militancy in Lakam: the intelligence agency that was created in Israel to contribute to the development of scientific programmes for national security, starting with the one that (never officially) turns out to have given Israel nuclear weapons. The producer was recruited in Lakam — according to the book — by Peres in person, who confirmed this information to the writers. Milchan and Peres have been friends from the time when Peres — as high official and later young Defence Minister — in the ‘60s became the man behind the Israeli nuclear bomb. In the ‘80s Milchan he escaped an FBI investigation into illegal nuclear exports for double use (medical and military), in which the managing director of one of his companies in California was sentenced to prison. Arnon Milchan has never denied to Doron and Gelman that he has helped Israel in these ways over the past decades. He has kept the details to himself, but was clear about one point: that he has rendered a service out of patriotism, for the “good of the” Zionist State. And without making any money from this kind of ‘business’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

1/4 of Real Estate in Italy Belongs to 5% of Affluent Owners

(AGI) Rome — 1/4 of Italy’s property is in the hands of 5% of the more affluent property owners, while 50% of the less affluent owners accounts only for 18.7% of the total value.

This is the scenario outlined in the report by the Economy and Finance Ministry and the Agency for the Territory in collaboration with Sogei. “Real Estate in Italy, 2011” was presented today at the Chamber of Deputies.

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

Italy: Campania Official Arrested in Mafia Vote-Buying Probe

Regional councillor, Camorra ‘controlled economic activities’

(ANSA) — Naples, July 15 — A regional councillor in Campania was arrested Friday on suspicion of embezzlement and vote-buying with the local Camorra mafia.

Alberico Gambino, a member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, was taken into custody along with six others for allegedly benefitting from the electoral efforts of a leading Camorra clan outside Naples, police said.

Police said Gambino, together with the chairman and deputy chairman of a local soccer club and two clan members, “created a system to control the economic activities of the area”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ex-Regional Councillor Convicted of Mafia Vote Buying

Franco La Rupa sentenced to five years for ‘Ndrangheta ties

(ANSA) — Cosenza, July 18 — A former regional councillor in the southern Italian region of Calabria was convicted of vote buying with the help of the local ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate Monday.

Franco La Rupa, 57, was sentenced to five years in jail.

Prosecutors had requested a jail term of three years, 10 months.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Deputy Head of Lombardy Regional Council Probed

Filippo Penati of centre-left PD in graft investigation

(ANSA) — Milan, July 20 — The deputy head of the regional council of Lombardy was placed under investigation in a corruption probe Wednesday, police said.

Filippo Penati of the centre-left opposition Democratic Party (PD) was among 15 people involved in the probe, which police said centred on suspected corruption, embezzlement and illegal party financing in projects to convert a huge former steel works at Sesto San Giovanni outside Milan.

Tax police carried out raids in homes and offices as well as the headquarters of the regional council.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Firefighters Battle Trash Fires in Naples

Streets filled with 2,000 tonnes of rubbish

(ANSA) — Naples, July 22 — Firefighters battled 24 fires in Naples overnight as piles of uncollected trash were set alight across the city and the surrounding province.

Seven teams of firefighters worked to control blazes in the historic centre of the southern city and in towns including Licola and Cardito in Campania as an estimated 2,000 tonnes of trash filled the streets.

The fires were the latest in the city’s ongoing battle to resolve the rubbish crisis even though Mayor Luigi de Magistris said it was nearing an end at the beginning of July.

A central government measure passed a month ago permits the Campania region to export refuse to other parts of the country, but the streets of Naples are still covered in uncollected refuse.

The European Union recently chastised the Italian government and threatened sanctions over the thousands of tonnes of trash that have covered the city’s streets and the surrounding province in recent weeks.

There was a previous outcry last November when weeks of clashes and rising piles of rubbish brought Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to the city.

The premier won plaudits by sorting out a similar emergency in 2008 and made a vow to clear the streets in three days.

But the problems have continued because of technical failures in local incinerators and the lack of investment in other landfill sites.

The issue is further complicated by the role of the local mafia, or Camorra, and claims that they have infiltrated waste management in Naples and dumped toxic waste on sites near residential areas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Northern League Topples Berlusconi Ally

La Repubblica, 21 July 2011

“Papa in jail, Berlusconi defeated”, headlines La Repubblica. On Wednesday 20 July the lower house of the Italian parliament authorised the arrest of Alfonso Papa, at the heart of yet another scandal for the Silvio Berlusconi. Papa, MP for the ruling PDL party and a former judge, is accused of being part of a network suspected of using illegally obtained information to help individuals, including a senior PDL official, avoid judicial investigation. Berlusconi had tried to rally his majority to save him, but the Northern League announced that it would vote for the arrest, sparking the premier’s anger. In the same day, the upper house voted against the arrest of an opposition senator accused of bribery. “The League had never let the premier down on justice before. The moribund Berlusconi-Bossi government is no more”, comments La Repubblica, stating that by autumn early elections or a unity coalition will have ended this instability: “Italy, under the fire of international speculation, cannot afford it”.

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

Norway’s Terrorist: Not Alone After All?

International effort widens net in search of possible suspects

Even though police and the lawyer for Norway’s alleged terrorist Anders Behring Breivik — arrested for both a bombing in Oslo and the mass shooting of youths at a nearby island political retreat — claim the suspect has confessed to acting alone in both crimes, that hasn’t stopped authorities from investigating the possibility that others were involved.

Law enforcement officials from across Europe have begun tracking Breivik’s associates, and the arrest of six others in Oslo originally believed connected to the terrorist acts suggests police aren’t completely satisfied with Breivik’s confession.

For example, police have confirmed investigating reports from witnesses that there may have been a second shooter on the island of Utoya, where at least 84 victims were gunned down.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Norway: Terrorist Proclaimed Himself ‘Darwinian, ‘ Not ‘Christian’

Norwegian’s manifesto shows Breivik not religious, having no personal faith

A review of Anders Behring Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto shows the media’s quick characterization of the Norwegian terrorist as a “Christian” may be as incorrect as it was to call Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh one.

Yet, while McVeigh rejected God altogether, Breivik writes in his manifesto that he is not religious, has doubts about God’s existence, does not pray, but does assert the primacy of Europe’s “Christian culture” as well as his own pagan Nordic culture.

Breivik instead hails Charles Darwin, whose evolutionary theories stand in contrast to the claims of the Bible, and affirms: “As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science, and it must always continue to be that way. Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.”

Over and over again, Breivik goes out of his way to make clear to readers of his manifesto that he is not motivated by Christian faith.

“I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person, as that would be a lie,” he says. “I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment. In the past, I remember I used to think: ‘Religion is a crutch for weak people. What is the point in believing in a higher power if you have confidence in yourself!? Pathetic.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Norway Shooter Considered WMD, Jihadi Alliance

‘We want control of our own countries in Western Europe’

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian suspected of killing more than 90 people in a bombing and shooting spree had considered a plan to obtain a weapon of mass destruction through a truce with extreme Islamists, despite his online anti-Muslim rants, ABC News reports.

“We both share one common goal. They want control over their own countries in the Middle East and we want control of our own countries in Western Europe,” reads part of a 1,500-page manifesto posted online by Breivik. “An Islamic Caliphate is a useful enemy to all Europeans as it will ensure European unity under Christian cultural conservative leadership.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Norway’s Challenge


Undoubtedly, there will be those — particularly on the Left — who will extrapolate out from Breivik’s horrific act that the real danger facing contemporary Europe is rightwing extremism and that criticism of multiculturalism is nothing more than so much Islamophobia.

While it is still too early to determine definitively Breivik’s precise motives, it could very well be that the attack was more pernicious — and more widespread — than the isolated act of a lunatic. Perhaps Brievik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere. While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel have both recently lamented the “failure of multiculturalism” in their respective countries.

Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Prize laureate for welfare economics from India, has noted how terribly impractical it is to believe that the coexistence of an array of cultures in close proximity will lead to peace. Without a shared cultural foundation, no meaningful communication among diverse groups is possible, Sen has argued.

Norway, a country so oriented toward promoting peace, where the Muslim population is forecast to increase from 3 percent to 6.5% of the population by 2030, should heed Sen’s incisive analysis.

The challenge for Norway in particular and for Europe as a whole, where the Muslim population is expected to account for 8% of the population by 2030 according to a Pew Research Center, is to strike the right balance. Fostering an open society untainted by xenophobia or racism should go hand in hand with protection of unique European culture and values.

Europe’s fringe right-wing extremists present a real danger to society. But Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Spain: High-Speed Link With France Ready in 2012

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 21 — Spain and France will be connected by a high-speed rail link from 2012, according to the Spanish Minister for Infrastructure and government spokesperson, José Blanco. Blanco announced the news to the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, who was visiting Madrid yesterday. During the meeting at Madrid’s Atocha station, Blanco gave the French minister an update on the progress of works on high-speed link between the two countries and the development of the Spanish rail network. The link, which will pass through the Pyrenees at Figueres, will be up and running from 2012. A 644-kilometre stretch out of the total of almost 800 kilometres between Madrid and the French border is currently operational. Of the remaining 131 kilometres, the 74-kilometre stretch between then rail junction at Mollet and the logistical centre of Girona is already operation, as is the link between Figueres-Vilafant station and the Figueres-Perpignan line.

During the course of the meeting, Blanco also spoke of the development of the Irun high-speed line, which will connect France and Spain using the Madrid-Valladolid-Burgos line, and with the new Basque “y-line”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Campers of Utvika: A Tale of Heroism During the Norwegian Massacre

Marcel Gleffe and his family had been hoping for a week of relaxation at a Norwegian campground. But when gunfire started on an island across the water, he and several others jumped into their boats and began rescuing distraught teenagers swimming for their lives. “It goes without saying,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Montenegro: 44.9% Montenegrins, 28.77% Serbs (Census)

(ANSAmed) — PODGORICA, JULY 12 — Montenegro’s recent April census found 44.9% of its population claiming Montegrin ethnicity and 28.77% stating it was Serbian. According to today’s announcements by Podgorica’s central statistics institute, 43.88% of the nation speaks Serbian whereas 36.97% communicates in Montegrin. The differences are nonetheless negligible, bringing many to claim that a Montegrin language does not in fact exist.

The census reveals that Montenegro’s current population amounts to 625,266, or 5,000 more than in 2003, when the last population census was carried out. Aside from Serbs and Montenegrins, Montenegro is home to minorities such as Albanians (4.91%), Bosnians (8.65%), Muslims (3.31%), Croatians (0.92%) and Roma (1.01%). A total of 4.87% of the population refused to reveal its nationality.

It also emerged that the capital city, Podgorica, has a population of just over 187,000, equivalent to 30% of the total population.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Benghazi “Rebels” Lynching Blacks in Libya (Video)

Watch this linked video of an anti-Black lynch mob and you will understand why The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, the BBC and other major news organizations have never followed up on The Wall Street Journal’s June 21 article about ethnic cleansing of Black Libyans in Misurata by the “Brigade for the purging of slaves, Black Skin.”

That Brigade, of Libya’s so-called rebels, backed by NATO and the White House, eliminated the Black population of Misurata and promised to do the same to Black Libyans once they seized control of the city of Tawergha, 25 miles away.

Major news outlets are deliberately ignoring or downplaying the racialist-motivated atrocities against Black people being committed by the terroristic “rebels.” If such crimes were being committed against White people, NATO would be bombing these so-called rebels instead. No wonder the African Union, often divided on issues, have taken a common stand on Libya and pushing for a peace proposal —ceasefire, constitution and elections— rather than allowing vengeful and blood-thirsty Benghazi to prevail in Libya.

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Egypt: The Military’s Disturbing ‘No’ To International Election Observers

The vote could turn into a farce in order to maintain the status quo and favour the Muslim Brotherhood. Untrained staff from the courts and bureaucracy will monitor the vote. The Supreme Council’s new election law is unconvincing. Quotas for women are dropped.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has approved a new law for Egypt’s first free elections. However, it said that it would not allow international observers to monitor the vote. Instead, Egyptian monitors drawn from the courts and government bureaucracy will observe the process to guarantee transparency. The military will guarantee its security.

A source told AsiaNews that this is the first step towards a return to the old status quo. “Without impartial control, it will be impossible to have real elections,” he said. “In acting this way, the military has lost all credibility.” For the source, the Council is setting the path for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is working with the old establishment to share the spoils of power.

“The Egyptian state does not have the means to supervise such a huge and complicated territory,” the source explained. “Often, those who should supervise bend to group and party interests.” Egypt is still far from being a real democracy.

“There is no real political life,” he stressed. “Everything is centred on the regime and sharing power.”

The new election law adopted yesterday sets up a 504-seat assembly. Half of the seats are set aside for workers and peasants. The quota for women introduced by the old regime is abolished. Seats will be assigned according to a mixed system: proportional representation with party lists and first past the post.

Voting will take place in three stages, 15 days apart. To give “more leeway to young people,” the minimum age to run goes from 30 to 25.

Secular-oriented parties and new groups born after Mubarak’s fall are not convinced by the new law.

For Fr Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Church, the proposed reforms have little appeal because they tend to favour voting based on tribal and social affiliations rather than political and democratic ideals.

“The vote is too complex,” he said. “Egyptians are simple people and the new law runs the risk of confusing voters, especially in more remote areas.”

The new law introduces few changes and maintains old divisions inherited from Nasser’s socialism.

“If we really want to change things, we need an open system, not one that is stuck with predetermined quotas that favour groups already in power.” (S.C.)

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

Libya: TB and Aids Cases in Tunisian Camps

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 19 — The number of cases of AIDS and tuberculosis among refugees from Libya who have fled to Tunisia is rising. The announcement was made by the Tunisia Health Ministry, which explained that 39 cases of TB and 29 refugees with an AIDS infection have been found.

Nabil Ben Salah, representative of the Health Ministry, said in a press briefing that the health situation is under control, “despite the risks posed by the refugee crisis.” The number of medics and paramedics, as well as ambulances and medicines in hospitals at the border area has been increased. The statistics also state that five thousand wounded Libyans have received medical care, that 40 have died and that 292 babies have been born.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Msgr Martinelli: Weekly Mass Sign of Hope Among Bombs and Fighting

This morning, hundreds attended the Eucharistic celebration in the church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Tripoli. Filipinos and sub-Saharan Africans living presence among the Muslims of Tripoli tired of the war. Air raids continue to pound Tripoli.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) — Bombs and fighting between the army and rebels have failed to discourage migrant Filipino Catholics and sub-Saharan Africans living in Tripoli. This morning hundreds of people attended the weekly Mass in the Church of the Apostolic Vicariate. Archbishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the bishop of the capital, underlines the importance given by the continuity of the Eucharistic celebrations, which in these five months have seen greater and unexpected participation, despite the war.

“For those who remained in Tripoli — says the prelate — Mass became a symbol of communion and strength, which transforms the Friday holy day for Muslims, into a day of real hope, also to be transmitted to the Muslims who are sorely tested war “.

Msgr. Martinelli explains that the population is tired of “this stressful situation which seems to have no end.” The Bishop points out that calls for a ceasefire in the month of Ramadan have gone unheeded by both sides. “Last night — he says — there were new raids near Tripoli and in recent days a few kilometres from the capital, the planes unleashed 30 aerial bombs very close to houses. To avoid casualties, NATO warned the population with leaflets launched by the bombers. This is a gesture of attention, but you have to be here to understand what it means for a person to evacuate their homes and flee, at the risk of not finding anything on return. “

According to Msgr. Martinelli, the situation has now reached a dead end. “Unfortunately — he says — the regime and NATO both claim to want dialogue, but neither are making any concrete steps. To this day I still see and hear only news of war and bombs and killings. “

In recent days, France, USA and Italy put forward the hypothesis of a painless exit for Gadaffi, who could stay in the country without holding any political office. Yesterday Mahmoud Jibril, head of the National Transitional Council, warned that “if Gaddafi does not leave power, there is no room for an exchange of ideas. We are not going to negotiate with Gaddafi as long as he stays in power “.

Despite the openings, the Rais says he does not trust the rebels and shows no signs of backing down. “There will be no talks between me them until the Day of Judgement,” Gaddafi said in a message released last night on national TV. AsiaNews sources explain that Gaddafi is doing everything possible to counter a possible invasion of Tripoli and in recent days suggested a meeting with all the tribes still loyal to the regime, to make a march on Misurata to dislodge the rebels.

Today, the CNT announced the capture in Zliten (160 km east of Tripoli), one of the main commanders of the Libyan army and stress that they will soon be the gates of the capital. (Sc)

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

Libya: Frattini Announces 350 Million Aid for Benghazi Population

(AGI) Rome — Italy and the Benghazi National Transition Council have signed an accord to send 350 million euros in aid. The aid will go to the Libyan people, victims of the Gaddafi regime’s repression. Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini made the announcement during a press conference with NTC vice-president, Ali al-Isawi, at the Farnesina Palace.

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

Tunisia: Mineral Water Smugglers Profiting From War

(ANSAMED) — TUNIS, JULY 20 — The extremely high temperatures this summer in Tunisia — consistently close to or above 40 degrees for a number of days — had already made mineral water consumption soar, whereas in 2010 overall 700 million bottles were sold. However, with the war in Libya towards which smugglers depart every day with lorries carrying bottled mineral water, the situation may become serious.

The issue is even being addressed by the Tunisian government, which has tasked General Director of Domestic Consumption Habib Dimassi with reassuring consumers and markets, especially as concerns the worrisome phenomenon of smuggling into Libya, with the total volume increasing in a concerning manner to the detriment of Tunisia’s domestic market. Dimassi did not attempt to conceal the extent of what is happening in remarks made to TAP, and instead provided a telling statistic: according to the calculations of the office for domestic trade, smuggling was behind about 9 tonnes of bottled mineral water being transported across the border as of July 13, where — given the continuing war — they are sold at much higher prices. Dimassi says that the situation is creating market upsets for Tunisia, which vary depending on whether we are talking about internal areas or those seeing greater population density. And so even mineral water — widely consumed and necessary — obeys market laws to the advantage of those selling the bottles in border regions where the smugglers stock up compared with the urban ones. And this leads to a lower number of bottles lining the shelves of the country’s shops in other areas, where this market segment is almost entirely covered by supermarkets. A solution needs to be found soon, especially since Ramadan is fast approaching, with consumption “distortions” in this month of fasting which is also characterised by an increase in purchases of food and therefore sharp fluctuations upwards of prices. During a meeting at the Trade and Tourism Ministry, the government decided to provide a remedy by requesting producers of promotions, with the application of discounts, to give absolute priority to the domestic market and to entrust the product only to authorised distributors. Since the beginning of the year, according to the ministry, mineral water production has risen by 7% on the year, due especially to production by two new bottling plants, one in Teboursouk (Béja) and one in Sidi Yaiche (Gafsa).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

MPs Reject Bill to Probe ‘Anti-Israeli’ Non-Governmental Organizations

The Israeli parliament roundly rejected on Wednesday a bill that would have set up committees to investigate human rights groups accused of anti-Israel activity.

The bill, sponsored by hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party, had been expected to fail after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not support it.

Rejected by a vote of 57 to 28, it called for the establishment of parliamentary inquiry committees to investigate foreign funding of left-wing non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.

Introducing the bill to the Knesset, Yisrael Beitenu MP Faina Kirshenbaum accused such NGOs on Wednesday of helping groups who actively sought to harm Israel.

“We are fighting the ongoing delegitimisation of Israel,” she said. “All of us feel there is a problem here.”

But she sought to reassure opponents that the bill would not lead to a political witch hunt.

“We are going to research these groups, not investigate them. We don’t want the Knesset to replace the police,” she said.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni roundly condemned the initiative.

“This evil initiative, with its anti-democratic message, harms the democracy of the state of Israel,” Livni said, adding that, even if the bill passed, her Kadima party would boycott such committees.

As MPs debated the issue ahead of the evening vote, speakers for and against were frequently interrupted by heckling, with more than 50 parliamentarians tabled to speak in the debate.

Earlier this week, Lieberman created a stir after he denounced several of the groups in question as “terror organizations,” saying they were undermining Israel’s legitimacy and helping foreign efforts to charge its soldiers with war crimes.

“We’re not talking here about leftist organizations and not about human rights groups, we’re talking about terror organizations,” he said on Sunday.

He pointed the finger at groups such as Adalah, which lobbies for Palestinian legal rights, and Breaking the Silence, which encourages soldiers to speak out about abuses committed inside the Palestinian territories.

In a statement ahead of the vote, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel condemned the bill, saying it was part of a trend aimed at isolating and undermining groups critical of the government.

“ACRI condemns the initiative, which is perceived as part of a broader, ongoing delegitimisation and harassment campaign waged by the current government against Israeli human rights organizations,” it said.

Netanyahu has expressed opposition to the bill and has said he would not impose coalition discipline for the vote.

The prime minister said any allegations of improper behavior by the rights groups should be probed by the police under existing laws and not by parliament.

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

Middle East

Cleric Slams Abuse of Women in Turkey

The mistreatment of women is the result of “excessive ignorance” about Islam, Turkey’s chief cleric said Thursday, following the recent release of consecutive reports on violence against women.

“People sometimes try to rationalize their bad behaviors by using religion. This has been the case in almost every culture and religion,” Mehmet Görmez, head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, said following meetings with Gunther Meinel, the head of the Union of Diplomats in Europe, and Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.

During the meetings, Görmez addressed the growing concerns over the rights of women in Turkey, saying his directorate had been working for the last 10 years on a road map aimed at eliminating incorrect views and attitudes toward women’s place in society.

“As a man of the cloth and of science, I see it [women’s rights] as the whole world’s problem. I see this not as a gender [problem] but as a problem of power and ethics,” he said.

“Our excessive ignorance is the source of so many false attitudes. This shows we have not been working enough on the matter,” Görmez added.

In response to nearly daily news reports about killed or beaten women, the Turkish government has decided to take further measures to stop violence against women and to increase sanctions imposed on offenders. President Abdullah Gül’s office announced Tuesday that he had appointed the State Audit Board, or DDK, to extensively investigate cases of domestic violence.

Following his meeting with the head of the Union of Diplomats in Europe, Görmez told the media that Meinel had asked him questions about the failure of the separation of religion and state in Turkey. “As I know very well the implementation in Europe, especially about structures in some countries that have recently joined the European Union, I should say that I did not understand what he meant with this question,” the top cleric said.

Bartholomew meets with Görmez

In a separate meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, Görmez said his directorate was sensitive to the freedoms and rights of all religious groups and see these groups’ problems as their own. “I want to underscore that we are as sensitive as they are when it comes to their freedoms. We, as the Directorate of Religious Affairs, see freedoms of religious communities, including their freedoms of religious education, as our own freedoms,” he said.

Görmez’s statement appeared to refer to the Patriarchate’s request to open the Halki Seminary, which has been closed since 1971. Turkey is under pressure from Western countries for allegedly restricting the freedoms of Christians living in the country.

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

Jordan: Reform Protesters Burn American Flag

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, 22 JULY — Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Amman on Friday in demand for political reform, before they burnt the American flag in protest against perceived interference by Washington in the kingdom’s affairs.

Protesters were protected by a large contingency of police men following a recent attack by security forces on demonstrators last week.

“It is it, America is head of the snake,” shouted protesters.

Jordan is considered a key ally to Washington in the Middle East. The poor kingdom receives nearly half a billion of financial assistance from Washington to modernize its army and security forces and carry out trip the budget deficit.

Protesters believe the American administration provides political cover for authorities in Jordan to suppress reform protests in order to protect its interests in the kingdom, which shares the longest borders with Israel.

Last week dozens, of protesters were injured when police tried to end a demonstration by youth activists gathered near a central square in the capital. Demonstrators in Jordan say they are not seeking regime change, but rather reform that can limit his powers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Muslims and Westerners Don’t Like Each Other Much’

Muslim and Western publics continue to believe relations between the two are generally bad, with both sides holding negative stereotypes of the other, according to a recent report.

The survey, called “Common Concerns About Islamic Extremism: Muslim-Western Tensions Persist,” by Pew Research Center states that a majority of Muslims surveyed in five of six Muslim-dominant countries — Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories — described non-Muslim Westerners as selfish and greedy. Contrary to this, in all six Western countries surveyed, less than 30 percent of non-Muslims said they consider Muslims tolerant and respectful of women; instead, they said they saw Muslims as fanatical and violent.

The majority of Muslims interviewed in most of the predominantly Muslim nations surveyed were inclined to say relations with people in Western countries were bad. There has been no overall improvement in those views in the predominantly Muslim nations during the past five years, although Westerners are less likely to believe relations are poor today than they were five years ago.

Among Western nations, France, Germany and Spain were the most likely to hold negative views of relations between Western nations and Muslims, with about six in 10 holding that view. About half in the United States and Britain held this view, although fewer than four in 10 in Russia said relations were bad. Both sides tended to blame the other for bad relations, but more than a quarter of those in the U.S., Britain and France who said relations were bad blamed the West.

The Pew survey found people in Spain held the most negative attitudes among countries in Western Europe and the U.S. toward Muslims, even though there was a slight improvement compared to five years ago. Just over a third of survey respondents in Spain had favorable opinions of Muslims and more than half expressed negative views.

A majority of Muslims in most of those countries said people in the U.S., Western Europe and Russia were immoral, greedy, violent and selfish, and more than half in most of those countries associate fanaticism and arrogance with Westerners. Still, a substantial minority of Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries said Westerners in those countries were honest, tolerant or generous. Fewer than half of the Muslims in five of the predominantly Muslim countries said Westerners were respectful toward women.

When asked about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, few among the Muslim publics surveyed believed the acts were carried out by groups of Arabs. Nonetheless, Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, as well as non-Muslims, all have worries about Islamic extremism. The highest percentage who believe that Arabs were culpable for the 9/11 attacks was found in Lebanon, where 28 percent of Muslims believed this to be true.

The survey was conducted between late March and mid-May of this year. The sample sizes ranged from 825 in the Palestinian territories to 1,251 in Pakistan, but were generally around 1,000 people interviewed either in person or by telephone.

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

Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Deports a Pastor to Eritrea Where He Could Get the Death Penalty

Eyob Mussie, an Eritrean refugee, was arrested on 12 February in Jeddah on charges of Christian proselytising. A court had decided to repatriate him forcibly. An appeal has been made to find a third country for the clergyman.

Jeddah (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Eyob Mussie, a Christian refugee in Saudi Arabia, was told that he would be forcibly repatriated to Eritrea where he could be jailed and sentenced to death.

Mussie was arrested on 12 February in front of a mosque in Jeddah, the kingdom’s second largest city. He had gone there to talk to Muslims about Christianity. He was charged with proselytising, which in Saudi Arabia can entail the death penalty.

Saudi authorities initially viewed Eyob as a mental case. A medical test found instead that he was fit to stand trial. He was eventually moved to Briman Prison, a high security prison. However, instead of sentencing to death, the authorities decided to send him back to Eritrea.

In Eritrea, some 3,000 Christians are currently in prison without charges. Some have been held in isolation for years.

The probability that Eyob Mussie would receive the same treatment, including the possibility of the death penalty is very high.

For this motive, Andrew Johnston, director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, appealed to the Saudi government to “consider alternative countries of asylum” for the clergyman.

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

South Asia

By Arming Burmese Military India “Complicit” In Violence

Continuing abuses and oppression of the military junta against ethnic Kachin, Shan and Karen. Sajan K George, president of the Indian and Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC): “By helping the regime India violates all of its democratic principles.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — “By providing weapons and ammunition to 52 military tanks of the Burmese regime, the Government of India has violated all of its democratic principles”, charges Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). He accuses his country of being an accomplice of Myanmar, because its arms trade corresponds to the violence perpetrated against the Kachin, Shan and Karen people.

The new government of General Thien Sein, supported by the army, has been in office since last March 30. However, the stability inside the country is practically nil, given the widespread armed conflict and continuing violence on minority ethnic Karen, Shan and Kachin, by the military. In July, fierce fighting resumed in various areas of Kachin State, between the Kia (Kachin Independence Army for) the Burmese army.

“The regime will use Indian weapons and ammunition against the minority — says the president of the GCIC — to attack their innocent citizens, who are fighting for decades for justice, peace and democracy.”

“Several human rights violations, abuses and rapes, have already been allocated to the army, in addition to continuous suppression of other fundamental freedoms — says Sajan George — and providing weapons to the most brutal military dictatorship in the world will have serious consequences on millions of innocent lives” .

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

Indonesia: Principal in Islamic School in Bima Arrested for Terrorism

Affiliated with Jamaah Ashrut Tauhid, Abrory M. Ali was using the school to make bombs for attacks against the local police. The authorities suspect a nation-wide terrorist plan. On 12 July, an explosion at the school killed one student. For the authorities, he was preparing a bomb.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesian police identified Abrory M. Ali, principal of an Islamic school (pesantren) in Bima, as a terrorist affiliated with Jamaah Ashorut Tauhid (JAT) and arrested him. He is suspected of involvement in a larger terror plot, police spokesman Brig Gen Untung Yoga Ana said. On 12 July, an explosion occurred in Umar bin Khattab School in Bima (West Nusa Tenggara Province) that left one person dead. Police said students were making bombs for an attack.

Together with Ali, police named other terrorist suspects: Rahmat Ibnu, 36, Rahmat Hidayat, 22, and Mustaqim Abdullah, 17. Two other men, Anas and Heri, are still at large.

During their manhunt, on Bima hills, police found 26 homemade bombs, most of them ready for use, perhaps against police stations in the province.

JAT’s spokesman Sonhadi denied any connection between Abrory M Ali and his organisation. “Ali left JAT more than a year ago because he no longer felt ‘in line’ with the struggle we pursue.”

However, Ansyad Mbaai, the chief of Indonesia’s most influential anti-terror agency (BNPT), said that Abrory M Ali was involved in a string of terror acts in Poso.

Meanwhile, Provincial Governor M Zainul Majdi said that Umar bin Khattab is not an Islamic school. “All we found [in the school] are weapons. The structure passes itself off as an Islamic school only to attract Muslim residents.”

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

Malaysia: Christians Can Not Use “Allah” To Define God

Prominent Muslim religious figure intimates that the use of the word “Allah” for God has to stop because it can arouse the wrath of the Islamic community. The attack comes only days after Pope Benedict XVI received the Malaysian Premier to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The use of “Allah” for God by Christians must stop because it may cause Islamic anger: this is the position of a prominent Islamic Malaysian Mohd Sani Badron in a speech yesterday at the Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikimono) reopening the dispute over the Bible translation of the vernacular term to refer to God. The Islamic scholar’s attack comes only a few days after the historic meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Pope Benedict XVI, a first step toward diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Holy See.

In his text “Kontroversi Nama Khas ‘Allah’ Agama Dalam Konteks Pluralism”, Badron, Director of Economic and Social Studies, said that “the mistranslation of the word ‘God’ as ‘Allah’ in the Malay Bible must be abandoned because it erroneously represents the two religions as equal. “ “The translation of ‘God’ as ‘Allah’ is very wrong, it should be translated correctly …. we understand not only the word but the meaning and the meaning is wrong and inaccurate.” He continued: “Looking at the meaning, the correct term for ‘God’ in Christianity is ‘Tuhan’ and the word ‘Lord’ is also ‘Tuhan’, not ‘Allah’.”

The local Catholic newspaper, the ‘“Herald Malaysia” has won a lawsuit at the Supreme Court two years ago for the right to publish the word “Allah” refering to the Christian God , but can not use it because there is a pending appeal by the Ministry, and the case has been dragging on since then at the Court of Appeal. The case of Malay-language Bibles blocked in the ports of Klang and Kuching two years ago, and only recently released showed a clear division between Muslims and non Muslims. (09/04/2011 Kuala Lumpur authorizes importation and printing of the Bible in any language).

According to Mohd Sani Badron the translation of the Christian God as “Allah” is not respectful. “The term ‘Allah’ is a term of respect for Muslims, this judicial action has spread the perception that Muslims are oppressive, and certainly will raise the ire of the Muslim community.”

But Christians have republished a 400 year old Latin Malay dictionary, which shows that from the beginning the word “Allah” was used to define God in the Bible in local languages. (22/01/2011 400 year-old Malaysian-Latin Dictionary: proof of use of the word Allah).

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


Was Sinking the Titanic an Insurance Scam?

In 1908, financier J.P. Morgan planned a brand new class of luxury liners that would enable the wealthy to cross the Atlantic in previously undreamed-of opulence. The construction of the giant vessels, the ‘Olympic’, the ‘Titanic’ and the ‘Britannic,’ began in 1909 at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland.

Unfortunately for Morgan and his personal bank balance, this money-making venture went a little awry. The Olympic, the first one of the three sister-ships to be completed was involved in a serious collision with the British Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Hawke in September 1911 in Southampton a few weeks after its maiden voyage and had to be ‘patched-up’ before returning to Belfast to undergo proper repair work.

In hindsight, it does seem strange that although the Olympic, the first of the ‘sisters’ to enter service, was never given the publicity her younger sister, the Titanic, enjoyed the following year Why would that be?

In the meantime a Royal Navy inquiry into the accident found the Olympic at fault for the collision and this meant that the owner, White Star Line’s insurance was null and void. The White Star Line was out of pocket to the tune of at least £800,000 (around $90m today) for repairs and lost revenues.

However, for Morgan and the White Star Line, there was even worse news. It is believed that the keel of the ship was actually twisted and therefore damaged beyond economic repair, which would have effectively meant the scrapyard. The White Star Line would have been bankrupted, given its precarious financial situation..

According to Robin Gardner’s book, ‘Titanic, the Ship that Never Sank?’ the seeds were sown for an audacious insurance scam — the surreptitious switching of the identities of the two ships, Olympic and Titanic.

In his well-documented work, Gardner presents a long series of credible testimonies, indisputable facts and evidence, both written and photographic, that suggest that the two ships were indeed switched with a view to staging an iceberg collision or other unknown fatal event.

According to Gardner, “Almost two months after the Hawke/Olympic collision, the reconverted Titanic, now superficially identical to her sister except for the C deck portholes, quietly left Belfast for Southampton to begin a very successful 25-year career as the Olympic. Back in the builders’ yard, work progressed steadily on transforming the battered hulk of the Olympic into the Titanic. The decision to dispose of the damaged vessel would already have been taken. … Instead of replacing the damaged section of keel, longitudinal bulkheads were installed to brace it”.

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