Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110726

Financial Crisis
»As US Public Debt Worries Asia, Shanghai Index Plunges
»Dublin and Lisbon to Pay Out Less
»Galicia Town Rejects Euro, Goes Back to Pesetas
»Greece: Rescue: Politicians Divided on Agreement
»Greeks Relieved But Mistrustful
»Healthcare: Catalonia Shuts Down 40 Clinics to Cut Deficit
»Spain: Nobel Winner Stiglitz With Indignados, Positive Energy
»Spain: 14,000 SMEs Shut in Catalonia in 2009
»Hijacking Reagan — Obama Misappropriates the Gipper to Justify Tax Hikes
»Nuclear Whistleblower: “The Books Are Being Cooked” Fukushima in American Will Happen
»Representative David Wu, Democrat From Oregon, Resigns in Sex Scandal
»US Taxpayers Fund Al-Qaida, According to Washington Post
Europe and the EU
»An Atmosphere of Suspicion: European Right Under Pressure in Wake of Attacks
»Anders Behring Breivik Was Amazed No One Stopped Him for So Long
»Confusion in the Netherlands About Real Terms of the Greek Deal
»Debunking 6 Myths About Anders Breivik
»German Nudist Groups See Memberships Shrink
»Italy: Fiat Profits Rose 71% With Chrysler, Company Boosts Forecast
»Italy: Police Seize Iconic Rome Cafe in Mafia Sweep
»Italy/France: Fiat CEO Rushed in Where Renault Chief Feared
»Italy: Vittorio Cecchi Gori Arrested for Fraudulent Bankruptcy
»Italy: Berlusconi: Country Grateful to Troops in Afghanistan
»Italy: Anonymous Puts Thousands of Personal Documents on-Line
»Netherlands Not Attending UN Anti-Racism Meeting
»Norway Killer Anders Behring Breivik Emailed ‘Manifesto’ To 250 British Contacts
»Norway : Anders Behring Breivik Used Online War Games as ‘Training’
»Switzerland: Conservatives Set to Reinforce Dominant Position
»The Netherlands Pulls Out of UN Anti-Racism Meeting Over Israel
»Kosovo: Tensions Rise as Police Take Over Border Crossings With Serbia
North Africa
»French Vanish Into Abyss Created by Al Qaeda
»Interview With Former Russian Prime Minister: ‘What Will Happen After Gadhafi?’
»Lawyer Accuses Egyptian Military Council of Burying Church Bombing Case
»Nuclear Power: Minister: Tunisia Will Not Abandon Projects
»Settling Old Scores: Tribal Rivalries Complicate Libyan War
»Tunisia: Government: No Political Propaganda in Mosques
Israel and the Palestinians
»Social Protests, ‘Indignant’ Block Knesset
»Two Palestinians Hanged ‘For Collaborating With Israel’
Middle East
»Iran: Leaders Clash on Arming Foreign Militants, ‘Trading Drugs for Arms’
»Iran: Gas Pact Worth $10 Billion Signed With Neighbours
»Plea to Turkey to Release Jailed Journalists Held Without Due Process
»S. Arabia: US Consul Joins Party in Shiite City, Controversy
»S. Arabia: New Anti-Terrorism Law Could Cause Protest, Amnesty
»Saudi Arabia’s ‘Anti-Witchcraft Unit’ Breaks Another Spell
»Turkey: Trust in Military Decreases by 15%, Poll Shows
»Uprisings: Tremonti: Arab Spring Not a Flash in the Pan
»When War is Convenient for Arab Leaders in Troubles
»Russia as the Mass Murderer’s Political Model
South Asia
»AsiaNews Correspondent Fleeing From Bangladesh Seized by the Authorities in Nepal
»Pakistan: Investigation Agency Director Reinstated Amid Corruption Probe
Far East
»Beijing Pontificates Against Vatican “Threats”
»Spain: Brussels: Restrictions on Romanian Workers Illegal Now
»Spain: New Wave of Arrivals, 62 Illegal Immigrants Stopped
Culture Wars
»Italy: Parliament Rejects Law Against Homophobia

Financial Crisis

As US Public Debt Worries Asia, Shanghai Index Plunges

Asian nations believe Washington will overcome the current impasse between President Obama and Congress, but are still afraid that US debt will be downgraded. US treasury bills have always been safe investments for Asia. European shares are down as well.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — The Shanghai Composite tumbled 3 per cent on Monday over the failure by US President Barack Obama and Congress to reach an agreement to raise the US debt ceiling, increasing the chances of a debt default by the world’s largest economy.

For Shanghai, this was the biggest single-day percentage fall since mid-January. It was compounded by the decline of railway stocks after a deadly train crash on Saturday and the arrest of three senior railway officials.

However, uncertainty primarily stems from the situation in the United States. Asian nations hold about US$ 3 trillion in US securities. China tops the list with about US$ 1.16 trillion by China, but Japan, and to a lesser extent, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, India and South Korea are also exposed to the US crisis.

As a major importer of goods made in China and other Asian nations, the United States is likely to affect already declining Asian exports. Similarly, a drop in the value of US securities would have a domino effect on many Asian currencies. Meanwhile, as investors shift to safer shores to protect themselves, gold reached a record high.

Nevertheless, Asian markets are still betting that a last moment solution will be found in Washington, with Congress raising the debt ceiling before 2 August, the deadline when the US Treasury Department is expected to run short of money to pay all of its bills.

Experts note that the ceiling problem is political rather than economic, and that the United States has the means to overcome the crisis.

Others claim that the United States is not fully aware that the rest of the world is looking at what it is doing and that even if the current problem is settled, the uncertainty it has generated would still lead to the downgrading of the United States’ current triple-A rating.

For Xia Bin, an academic adviser to the People’s Bank of China, Obama and Congress “will definitely reach a compromise”. Hence, we should not “worry too much about it.”

Speaking to top executives in Hong Kong, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was confident that Congress would secure a debt deal and “work with President Obama to take steps to improve our long-term fiscal outlook.”

“We in the United States are in the middle of a necessary transition. We must save more and spend less” and “borrow less as well,” Clinton added. “Our partners must meet this change with changes of their own.”

From there, Clinton headed for Shenzhen for a meeting with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo that is expected to touch on a number of these issues.

In early morning trading, European shares were down, less due to the US situation than to Moody’s decision to downgrade Greece’s debt from CAA1 to CA, just short of a default.

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

Dublin and Lisbon to Pay Out Less

Irish Independent, 22 July 2011

The new rescue plan for Greece is also good news for Ireland, according to the Irish Independent which headlines with a “debt-saving deal of 800 million euros” — the amount the country will save in repayments every year thanks to the measures agreed by the leaders of the eurozone on July 21. Dublin will have up to 30 years to pay back the loan of €85 billion granted by the EU and the IMF in November 2010, and the interest rate will drop by two percent to 3.5 percent.

In Lisbon, Público also notes that “the euro zone reduced the interest rate charged to Portugal and does away with the initial ‘penalty’“. Portugal, the third country to get a bail-out, will benefit from the same rate of 3.5 percent and a repayment period extended to 15 years for the loan of 78 billion euros agreed in May.

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

Galicia Town Rejects Euro, Goes Back to Pesetas

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 25 — “And what if the inhabitants of Mugardos were right?,” is a question many Spaniards are asking themselves today, after a week in which the euro almost collapsed. The small town in Galicia, with 6,536 inhabitants and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean a few dozen kilometres from Santiago de Compostela, went back to using the peseta three months ago. Until now the decision made by the Spanish municipality had seemed quaint, a case of nostalgia threaded with good business sense. The Bank of Spain calculates that there is about the equivalent of 1 billion euros in pesetas in coins and banknotes which had been stashed away by the elderly wary of new systems or forgotten in drawers or under sofa cushions, hidden beneath mattresses. It is a treasury that has yet to be recovered, was the genial idea of the Murgadoas shopkeepers association, in a municipality of the Coruna coast which has been hit hard by the crisis and which suffers from endemic unemployment. And so, in March the town dusted off the prices in pesetas in their shop windows and on the menus of caffe’s and restaurants. The initiative met with immediate success. In only a few days the shops and restaurants in Murgados had raked in over a million pesetas, over 6,000 euros.

And it didn’t stop there, but transformed the Spanish city into fertile ground for experimentation for those nostalgic for national currencies throughout Europe — those of the “Give us back the lira” and “Take back the euro” groups on Facebook — who with the latest harsh speculative attacks on the euro and the countries of the “periphery” have raised their heads and denounced the “disaster” of the single currency. Now, with the tumult seen in Greece and the sinister creaking of the eurozone, Mugados is back in the limelight in Spain, with El Mundo dedicating two pages to it. Everything is available for pesetas in the Galician city. On the terrace of Club do Mar, which overlooks the ocean, a glass of wine costs either 0.40 euros or 0.70 pesetas, whichever the customer has with him. A kilo of oranges from the greengrocers goes for 500 pesetas, a newspaper 175 and a fridge 80,000. Every once in a while the delegates of the shopkeepers association go to the branch office of the bank of Spain in the nearby city of Ferrol with bags full of pesetas in coins, and the national bank is obliged to exchange them for euros. The shopkeepers are happy. But in Murgados the nostalgia is not only happiness. “When I think in pesetas, I do not want to buy,” complains a customer at a Calle del Ayuntamento haberdashy shop. He then looks at an old 1,000-peseat banknote with the bearded visage of Francisco Pizzarro: “You weren’t very good-looking, but you really were worth a lot!”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Rescue: Politicians Divided on Agreement

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 22 — The EU’s decision to adopt a second rescue plan for Greece, which will also have to slow down the spread of the crisis through the rest of Europe, today raised different reactions from the Greek political leadership, with socialists and right wing exponents backing the agreement and communists against it.

Reporting today to the cabinet, socialist premier Giorgio Papandreou stated that “our country achieved historical decisions and Europe made a huge step forward. Greece has been freed of the nightmare of bankruptcy and the foundations have been set for future conditions of security. The debt problem has become sustainable and liquidity is fully guaranteed for Greek banks.

Greek Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos instead stated that the second international rescue plan for Greece represents “a big help” for the Greek economy and guarantees “a shield” for the Greek banking system. “We are looking at a new reality after yesterday’s decisions by the European summit. In effects a new situation has been created for many years to come and the Greek citizen must know this”. In his opinion “with the decision by the Summit we put a lid to the barrel of public debt and we set up a shield for the banks. Greece’s needs have been guaranteed up to 2020”. Venizelos concluded that “The Greek banking system is the safest in Europe and the Greek people must feel safe because the new agreement to support Greece stabilised the banking system and guarantees its liquidity”.

Antonis Samaras, the leader of Nea Dimocratia, the main opposition party, called the agreement “a positive step”, but added that “this decision is not enough, it has some gaps and generates new problems”. “In piu’ — Samaras concluded — the European decision “comprises admission that the policy of the Memorandum and that of the Medium Term Economic Programme has totally failed”. Also positive was the comment of Dora Bacoyiannis, leader of the Democratic Alliance, a small party she set up. She called the decisions taken by Brussels “a major breath of oxygen” and added that the results of the summit “create a stable context for the Greek economy. Now the country must not lose a single day”, and exhorted the government to “give up the policy followed during this last year”.

Another pleased by the decisions taken in Brussels was Constantinos Michalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ebea), who claimed that “the shared decision which the European leaders finally took during yesterday’s summit represents a positive event. As the Greek government says, after the repeated failures and the catastrophic choices, now it has the chance to amend some mistakes made during 22 months by changing policy. The new assistance agreement for Greece must work as a shield to push on major reforms so that the next few tough years ahead will not be wasted. Maybe this truly is the last chance our country has to change path”. Speaking of the agreement, Giorgos Karatzaferis, leader of Laos, the right wing party, stated that “this is a soft failure” and — after having reasserted the proposal to cooperate with Pasok, the socialist party now in power, and Nea Dimocratia (centre-right, with the opposition) — he added that “if even with these conditions we cannot manage to stay on our feet, then we will deserve all our troubles”.

Who expressed pessimism about the agreement reached in Brussels was instead Aleca Papariga, the general secretary of the Communist party, who stated that “the agreement will be brief because the crisis in Italy and Spain, which could also spread to other countries, will cancel this compromise reached between the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greeks Relieved But Mistrustful

The new rescue plan announced on July 21 after the extraordinary Eurozone summit eliminates the risk of Greece going bankrupt, but the Athenian press is divided about its implications.

What was a crucial summit for the eurozone has concluded with “an agreement for Greece and Europe,” reports Kathimerini. “Europe, which had reached the end of its rope, needed to send a strong message of solidarity — and it has done just that,” remarks the centre-right daily, which adds that “the French President succeeded in exerting the necessary pressure to fortify Europe against attacks on financial markets.”

Leading with the headline, “A Marshall plan for Greece,” Ta Nea reports that economic aid now totalling 158 billion euros will “give the government and the country room to breathe.” At the same time, the newspaper warns that “it does not mean that there should be any let-up in the drive to push through reforms and cut spending to ensure that the country is perceived as solvent. This means that the second austerity plan will have to produce results: in particular the privatisation programme” demanded by Europe which is expected to yield 50 billion euros.

“The agreement will be a breath of fresh air,” argues To Ethnos, which nonetheless wonders if it will “completely resolve the problem of Greek debt. At the end of the day, we are simply postponing the day of reckoning and the fear of contagion has not disappeared.”

Eleftherotypia expresses another word of warning in much more trenchant terms: “People left to bleed for another 30 years.” Announcing “An agreement, but for whom?” the left-wing daily remarks that “the real question is the cost to the people who have already been bled dry by austerity. The government will have to prove itself to the Europeans by adding to the burden weighing on Greece’s citizens who are already stifled by current measures.”

“The country has entered a 30-year borrowing tunnel,” adds Eleftherotypia, which points out that “Greece faces an uncertain future, with no guarantee that it will break free of international economic tutelage, especially when you consider that Greek debt will now be downgraded to selective default by the ratings agencies.” In conclusion the newspaper wonders: “Can we really speak of a rescue package?”

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

Healthcare: Catalonia Shuts Down 40 Clinics to Cut Deficit

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 26 — In order to reduce the public deficit, the Catalan regional government has decided to shut down at least 40 regional outpatient clinics for the summer period, 1 out of every 10, including emergency services and house calls. The reduction in healthcare services will affect thousands of residents in a number of municipalities in the region and, according to unions quoted by the media today, they could be definitive. “Most of the centres being shut down will not reopen: the Generalitat has ordered the closing of 50% of outpatient clinics,” warned the healthcare chief for the CcOo union Carme Navarro in statements made to the media. The Catalan government under Artur Mas (CiU) expects to cut the healthcare budget by 10% in order to save 1 billion euros.

To this end, he is drawing up a restructuring plan for primary healthcare services. The regional councillor of the section, says sources, has also ordered the shutting down of 33 nighttime healthcare centres in the region, which has a total of 368 clinics active. It is an unprecedented initiative for Catalan healthcare, and one which unions say in some municipalities will force patients to travel over 25 kilometres to reach the nearest clinic. In April protests had been staged against the cuts to healthcare services by patients, doctors and indignados, blocking streets in Barcelona and municipalities in the province. In June the credit ratings agency Fitch urged Spanish autonomous communities to engage in “continued efforts” to achieve the target for the deficit of 1.3% of national GDP imposed by the central government for this year. The agency acknowledged that the first quarter’s balance sheet results had led to “some concern”, since some regions did not slow down public spending in such a way as to be able to achieve the deficit targets. However, Fitch acknowledged that “it is too soon” for a definitive assessment, and noted that some regions, such as Catalonia, have carried out “considerable efforts” to reduce expenditure, though “more work” is needed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Nobel Winner Stiglitz With Indignados, Positive Energy

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 26 — The winner of the Nobel Prize for Economy Joseph Stiglitz took part in the Social Forum of the May 15 Movement yesterday in Madrid’s Retiro park. In a 12-minute speech reported today by the media, the US economist defended market regulation and acknowledged that he liked the “energy” that he sees in the indignados movement. “The economic crisis has shown the current problems of capitalism with unregulated markets,” he said. “The experience of the last three decades shows that it is necessary for governments to play an important role in market regulation,” he added. Stiglitz then acknowledged the importance of the struggle by the May 15 Movement. “As an outsider to the movement I see here reassuring energy and I hope that you will use it in a constructive manner,” he said. “You cannot replace bad ideas with a lack of ideas. You must replace them with good ones, and to succeed in integrating them into the public debate there is a need for organsiation and leadership,” he noted, underscoring that the current crisis represents “a great opportunity to unite economic science with commitment and social justice to achieve a new economy.” About 300 people from the 15-M movement took part in the Social Forum yesterday after the mobilisation which over the weekend saw 35,000 indignados take to the streets of central Madrid and once again set up a camp in Puerta del Sol, the “kilometre zero” of the protest.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: 14,000 SMEs Shut in Catalonia in 2009

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 25 — More than 14,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in Catalonia were forced to shut down in 2009 alone as a consequence of the economic crisis, with 100,00 jobs lost as a result, according to the Catalan SMEs directory for 2011, which was launched in Barcelona today. Of the businesses to close, the overwhelming majority, more than 11,805, operated in the construction sector, which was severely hit by the crisis and the subsequent collapse of the property market, following the bursting of the property bubble.

There is currently a total of 511,406 Catalan SMEs, 2.7% fewer than in 2008. Some 290,193 of these have no employees (self-employed or family businesses), while 221,213 businesses have employees, a fall of 6.1% on 2008.

An overview of the sector reveals that the number of SMEs, which represent 52.9% of the economy’s gross value added, has been constantly falling since 2007 compared to larger companies and public services.

The report is based on a sample of 78,530 businesses. In 2009, SMEs accounted for 99.8% of private firms, 71.8% of workers in the sector and 59.7% of gross value added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Hijacking Reagan — Obama Misappropriates the Gipper to Justify Tax Hikes

Reagan would never be a willing co-conspirator in a plan to impose the largest tax increase in American history. The big-tax proponents are willfully misrepresenting his views, something easily demonstrated by looking at Reagan’s record. When the debt ceiling was being debated during the 1980 campaign season, Republicans in Congress introduced a plan by then-candidate Reagan that would have tied an across-the-board 10 percent tax cut to any expansion of the government’s ability to borrow. Democrats dismissed this as a campaign stunt, but it accurately reflected Reagan’s policy priorities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nuclear Whistleblower: “The Books Are Being Cooked” Fukushima in American Will Happen

A longtime nuclear whistleblower, as well as a new report from the nuclear watchdog agency, have shed light on some startling flaws at The Watts Bar Nuclear plant in Spring City, Tennessee.

The NRC report highlighted over 24 vulnerabilities after assessing the nations nuclear power plants after the Japanese earthquake and subsequent full scale nuclear disaster.

Ann Harris, a former Watts Bar employee and long time whistleblower, was interviewed during a CBS investigation.

In the interview she revealed startling information that the nuclear industry, as well as certain officials in the NRC, do not want you to hear.

“Basically the books are being cooked, people are saying things they are not doing, that they swear under oath they have been done and they just aren’t done.”

When asked if a Fukushima type scenario could happen in America, Harris had this to say.

“You can see a Fukushima happening here in the U.S.”

So it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of -

“When,” Harris finished the sentence.

According to CBS, the report included these vulnerabilities:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Representative David Wu, Democrat From Oregon, Resigns in Sex Scandal

Representative David Wu, a Democrat from Oregon, has announced that he is resigning in the wake of allegations that he had engaged in unwanted sexual activity with a teenage daughter of a donor.

Democratic leaders had called for a House ethics committee investigation after the initial reports of the allegation. Mr. Wu had said that whatever occurred was consensual.

[Return to headlines]

US Taxpayers Fund Al-Qaida, According to Washington Post

(AGI) Washington — US taxpayers are unwittingly funding al-Qaida. According to The Washington Post US Army logistics contracts worth 2.16bn dollars spell benefits for Afghan militia. The WP’s reports are based on army commission findings, quoting “credible and documented” sources.

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

Europe and the EU

An Atmosphere of Suspicion: European Right Under Pressure in Wake of Attacks

Europe’s right-wing populists are not used to being on the defensive. But the perpetrator of last Friday’s horrific attacks in Norway was steeped in their anti-immigration, Muslim-skeptical ideology. They now find themselves in an uncomfortable position.

It was a somber gathering on the street out in front of the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin on Monday. Several people filed by throughout the morning to lay flowers in front of the embassy gates and Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel also came to show his respect and sympathy in the wake of the Friday attacks which killed 76 people in Oslo and on the island of Utøya.

Just over a dozen of those standing in front of the embassy were holding signs: “The Capital of Fear? Not with Us!” they read, beneath the image of an ominous-looking figure wearing a black balaclava. The group belonged to the small right-wing populist group Pro-Deutschland. “Solidarity with Oslo!” the group chanted.

“When something so terrible happens in Europe, we felt that we needed to express our sympathy,” Manfred Rouhs, the small party’s lead candidate in upcoming Berlin city-state elections, told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Tuesday. “We also saw it as an opportunity to clearly distance ourselves from the terrible deed.”

That, it would seem, has been tops on the priority list for right-wing populist groups around Europe so far this week. Muslim-skeptic, anti-immigration populist groups across Europe have rushed to condemn the attacks perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik and to portray him as a disturbed loner. The English Defense League, for example, referred to him as a “murderous creature,” the Freedom Party of Austria called it a “psychopathic crime.”…

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

Anders Behring Breivik Was Amazed No One Stopped Him for So Long

Anders Behring Breivik, the man responsible for the Norway terror attacks, told his lawyer he’s surprised no one stopped him after he bombed the Oslo city center.

The UK Guardian is reporting that Breivik thought he’d be killed before reaching the island where he shot 68 people.

A picture of Anders Behring Breivik taken from a book downloaded from a link posted on the Norwegian discussion website,, and entitled “2083 — A European Declaration of Independence”, is seen in this screen grab made July 23, 2011. The 2083 book is signed by an Andrew Berwick, the author says within the document that Andrew Berwick is an Anglicised version of Anders Breivik. Anders Behring Breivik, 32, was arrested after Friday’s massacre of young people on a tiny forested holiday island that was hosting the annual summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s ruling Labour party. Breivik, a Norwegian, was also charged with the bombing of Oslo’s government district that killed seven people hours earlier. It was not possible to verify who uploaded link to the book, which was posted on July 22.

“He thought he would be killed after the bombing, after the action in the island, and he also thought he would be killed at the trial. He believes someone will kill him,” Geir Lippestad, the lawyer said, according to the Guardian.

At a press conference on Monday Lippestad said Breivik was a “very cold” man who took drugs to stay awake during the shootings.

Breivik confessed to killing 76 people in Oslo and on Utoya island, and told Lippestad he was at war with the world, and that killing was justified in a war, according to the Guardian article.

“He was a little surprised he succeeded — in his mind succeeded,” Lippestad said. “He was expecting to be stopped earlier by the police or someone else during the actual day. He was surprised that he reached the island.”

The Telegraph also reports that Breivik emailed his 1,500-page “manifesto” to 250 British contacts less than 90 minutes before the Oslo bombing. That article further stated that the domestic extremism unit at Scotland Yard, which is investigating Breivik’s links in Britain, has been sent a list of UK-based email addresses among 1,003 recipients of the document.

The Telegraph writes that Breivik entered online conversations with members of the Right-wing English Defence League and told them “keep up the good work” months leading up to the Norway attack.

Breivik used the name Andrew Berwick to email his manifesto, and a link to a YouTube video showing him holding a gun, at 2:09 p.m. on Friday. That’s a little more than one hour before the bomb exploded in Oslo, according to The Telegraph.

“It is a gift to you … I ask that you distribute this book to everyone you know,” Breivik wrote, addressing all recipients as “Western European patriot,” according to The Telegraph.

At least a quarter of the recipients are UK-based and the rest are in Europe and the U.S., said Tanguys Veys, a Belgian member of parliament for the far-Right, anti-Muslim Vlaams-Belang party, told The Telegraph. Veys got the document but said he had never been in contact with Breivik, according that article.

The Guardian articles states that Breivik claimed he was part of an anti-Islam network that has two cells in Norway and “several” more abroad.

“He says he is sorry he had to do this but it is necessary. He looks upon himself as a warrior. And he started this war, and takes some kind of pride in that,” Lippestad said. “He believes this is the start of a war that will go on for 60 years. He believes the other cells will continue the war.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Confusion in the Netherlands About Real Terms of the Greek Deal

The Netherlands appears to be at odds with the rest of the eurozone countries about the actual size of the new rescue package for Greece, according to Dutch newspapers at the weekend.

Prime minister Mark Rutte is insisting the full cost of the newly-agreed rescue package for Greece is €109bn, including a €50bn contribution from the banks, but the European Commission says the deal is worth €159bn.

A spokesman for the prime minister told the Telegraaf the Commission is adding up different amounts of money to Rutte. These include several tens of billions of euros not paid out from the 2010 rescue package plus €28bn that Greece must raise from selling state property and companies.

No agreement

The Financieele Dagblad says ‘Rutte and Brussels don’t agree about Greek aid’. A highly-placed Commission aide told the paper the €50bn banking contribution is in addition to the €109bn agreed on Thursday.

In addition, the paper says, it has seen European Council documents which state explicitly that the €50bn comes on top of the €109bn contribution from the eurozone countries and IMF.

The Volkskrant says there is ‘complete confusion’ about how much money Greece will get.


EU civil servants told the paper it is ‘incomprehensible’ that Rutte did not understand the figures.

‘There can never have been any doubt about the €159bn figure,’ one official told the paper. ‘This is very embarrassing for the Netherlands,’ said another.

Despite the confusion, the package of measures was warmly welcomed by most political parties on Friday.

Finance minister Jan Kees de Jager is expected to brief MPs on the different figures on Monday.

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

Debunking 6 Myths About Anders Breivik

1. Anders Behring Breivik was a Fundamentalist Christian

Breivik described himself as not a religious person and mentions praying only once. His plans leading up to the attacks involved multiple visits to prostitutes. In one section of his manifesto he clarifies what he means by Christian.

Q: Do I have to believe in God or Jesus in order to become a Justiciar Knight?

no, you don’t need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian-atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy

Breivik did call himself a Christian, but meant that in a cultural sense, rather than a theological one. He emphasized that he was not seeking a theocracy, but a secular society. His idea of a Christian Europe had nothing to do with religion.

2. Anders Behring Breivik Hated Muslims

Breivik viewed Muslims as the enemy, but only domestically. He emphasized that; “Knights Templar do not intend to persecute devout Muslims”

And he contemplated collaborating with them on terrorist attacks against Europe. “An alliance with the Jihadists might prove beneficial to both parties… We both share one common goal.” The Caliphate was a useful enemy for his cause.

In Breivik’s own words, this is how such an arrangement would play out;

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

German Nudist Groups See Memberships Shrink

Free Body Culture association claims immigrants and young people are more reluctant to bare all in public

The Teutonic love of stripping off in public parks at the first hint of sunshine can come as a shock to visitors from more self-conscious cultures. In future, however, the tourists’ blushes may be spared as the number of Germans who like to go naked is in decline.

Changes in demographics and shifts in fashion have all had an impact on the Free Body Culture (FKK) movement.

“German society is changing and it’s not easy to be a naturist anymore,” said Kurt Fischer, president of the German FKK Association (DFK). There are about 50,000 registered nudists in the country and seven million Germans regularly sunbathe naked, yet the ranks of the naturism enthusiasts are shrinking.

“The numbers are falling by about 2% each year,” Fischer said. “Times are tough.”

FKK enthusiasts have been disrobing in public since the early 1900s, when nudism became associated with all kinds of utopian ideals. In the former East Germany, it was particularly popular, offering an opportunity for socialising beyond the communist party groups.

The DFK has such a respectable standing in Germany that it is even included in the country’s Olympic Sport Federation. Clubs and sports bodies catering to nudism dot the country and specific FKK areas are often included in outdoor swimming pools and at sections of lakes and beaches.

But Germany’s demographic development is having an impact. The birth rate has been in decline for years and the population has been kept at a steady 82m largely thanks to immigration. Population researchers predict that the ethnic German population will have fallen by 2050 from 75m to 50m.

Many of those who have made Germany their home in recent years are not enthusiastic about embracing nudism. “Many immigrants come from countries with strong religious beliefs,” Fischer said. “They just aren’t into FKK.”

FFK groups are also struggling to attract a new generation of nudists.

Alexander Stein, a 25-year-old electromechanic from Saxony, in the former East Germany, is one of the few of his age group who is a member of an FKK club.

He has been a nudist since birth. “Some people look at me funny when I tell them but it’s not a big deal in my group of friends,” he said.

He blamed the fall in numbers on the way the media links nudity with sexuality. “Young people are brought up more prudishly these days,” he said. “They come with their grandparents when they are children but, once they hit puberty, we don’t see them again.”

He suggested another reason for the sharp decline in new recruits: that there are simply too many other ways for young people to spend their leisure time: “In East Germany, there was just not that much too do, but now are a lot of alternatives.”

Stein said it was a pity that more young people were not getting involved in the movement, which organises events and summer camps. “It’s like being part of a big family,” he said.

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

Italy: Fiat Profits Rose 71% With Chrysler, Company Boosts Forecast

Turin, 26 July (AKI) — Fiat on Tuesday said its second-quarter profit rose 71 percent after consolidating the results of American auto giant Chrysler, which is majority owned by the Italian company.

Trading profit , which Turin, Italy-based Fiat defines as earnings before interest, tax and one- time items, totalled 525 million euros, up from 301 million euros during the same period in 2010, Fiat said in a statement. Revenue rose 40 percent to 13.2 billion euros.

The consolidation of Chrysler prompted Fiat to raise its earnings expectation for this year, saying that trading profit should be around 2.1 billion euros on revenue of more than 58 billion euros. That compares with its prior forecast — which excluded Chrysler — of trading profit of as much as 1.2 billion euros and 37 billion euros in revenue.

Fiat last week boosted its Chrysler share to 53.5 percent. The company began combining Chrysler results on 1 June.

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

Italy: Police Seize Iconic Rome Cafe in Mafia Sweep

Assets worth 200 mln euros impounded

(ANSA) — Rome, July 25 — Rome’s legendary Cafe’ de Paris has been impounded by Italian police for the second time in two years in an anti-mafia operation in which they seized 200 million euros worth of assets.

The cafe’ in the elegant Via Veneto became an icon in the heyday of Italy’s film industry in the 1950s and 1960s, once attracting stars like Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and Sophia Loren.

Police seized the cafe’ and other assets, including nearby restaurant George’s, in an operation targeting alleged members of the Calabrian mafia or ‘Ndrangeta, linked to the Alvaro clan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy/France: Fiat CEO Rushed in Where Renault Chief Feared

Paris, 25 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne seized an opportunity in the US after Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn concluded there was too much risk.

Ghosn turned down the chance to buy Chrysler in 2008 at the height of the recession, opening the door for Marchionne to swoop in and receive 20 percent of the American carmaker without paying any cash in exchange for technology and management.

“We pulled out because we were seeing a very dramatic crisis happening,” Ghosn said in an interview last month. “I still think we made the reasonable decision.”

Marchionne since then has done everything to prove his rival wrong, pursuing a rapid integration of Fiat and Chrysler that will include using the basic architecture for vehicles across brands, combining top management and sharing factories. Fiat last week raised its Chrysler stake to 53.5 percent, reaching a majority two years earlier than originally planned.

Even before a botched industrial espionage probe in France that bruised his reputation, Ghosn had ruled out a deeper integration of the 12-year-old alliance with Nissan for the time being. Renault owns a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, which in turn holds 15 percent of Renault. Prior to dropping the Chrysler talks, Ghosn had said adding a US partner would make sense. Tie-up talks with General Motors failed in 2006.

“Ghosn seems to have stopped halfway, and Marchionne is at least saying he wants to go the full nine yards,” said Erich Hauser, a Credit Suisse analyst in London. “Marchionne’s trying something different, and so far it looks like he might be right.”

Since Fiat took management control of Chrysler in June 2009, the Italian carmaker’s shares have jumped 91 percent, almost double Renault’s 52 percent gain. The French carmaker, with a market value of 11 billion euros, currently trades at a 39 percent discount to the value of its holdings in Nissan, Volvo and Daimler, which are valued at 18 billion euros. Fiat’s market capitalization is 9.1 billion euros.

Chrysler aims to almost triple what the carmaker calls modified operating profit to more than 2 billion dollars in 2011 from 763 million dollars last year, and to earn as much as 500 million dollars in net income. Modified operating profit excludes interest, taxes and items such as pension-related costs.

Marchionne has sought to push past Ghosn as a consolidator after concluding that alliances don’t squeeze enough value out of the partnership. Ghosn disputes that thesis, citing joint purchasing and other cost reductions achieved at Renault-Nissan.

Marchionne may announce a merged management structure for Fiat and Chrysler as early as Monday, when he reports Fiat’s second-quarter earnings with Chrysler consolidated into the results for the first time, according to two people familiar with the matter. They declined to be identified discussing the restructuring before it’s announced.

The CEO has laid out a plan to use common technology for Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Alfa Romeo models. He’ll probably receive an additional 5 percent of Chrysler without paying any cash later this year when Chrysler builds a fuel- efficient car using Fiat underpinnings. Marchionne will end up paying about 2 billion dollars to reach a 58.5 percent holding.

Ghosn this year has been mired in a botched spying investigation in France after falsely accusing company managers of espionage. The fallout led to the resignation of his second- in-command, Patrick Pelata, and concessions to the French government, Renault’s largest shareholder, that included spending more time at Renault and less at Nissan.

“In his early days at Fiat, Marchionne used to call Ghosn the Sun King,” said Giuseppe Berta, a professor at Milan’s Bocconi University who knows the Fiat CEO personally. “He said you needed sunglasses to stand close to him. Now things have changed.”

Ghosn told investors in February when announcing targets for Renault that a merger was “not feasible” as part of the mid-term strategy because of opposition at both carmakers.

While Nissan’s revenue has risen by almost 50 percent in the decade since Renault pulled the company from the brink of bankruptcy following a 1999 stake purchase, its rescuer’s sales have shrunk 3 percent. Nissan is now the larger of the two.

“Renault is the main shareholder in a company that’s fast outgrowing it, which means there is frustration on all sides,” Paris-based Deutsche Bank analyst Gaetan Toulemonde said. “Nissan staged a spectacular recovery, while Renault is still on the starting block, with the same problems today as 10 years ago.”

Marchionne cites the imbalance within Ghosn’s alliance as a reason for his determination to push for a full integration.

“You can’t have a subsidiary that makes more money than the parent,” Marchionne said in an April interview. “It goes beyond questions of governance. It doesn’t work.”

The Renault boss maintains that car-industry takeovers are often doomed to fail, citing examples such as Daimler merger with Chrysler, which was unwound in 2007, or a Renault- Volvo tie-up plan abandoned in 1993. Marchionne also must still prove that his plans for a merged Fiat-Chrysler will really work once it’s fully implemented.

“The Renault-Nissan alliance began in 1999, an era of rapid consolidation among automakers,” said Rachel Konrad, an alliance spokeswoman. “Twelve years later, the alliance is the only major partnership still intact and still creating value every year — 1.5 billion euros in synergies in 2010 alone.”

Ghosn and his top managers, who were offered a deal from the US. government similar to what Fiat received, ended the talks two years ago because absorbing Chrysler might have left Renault-Nissan too vulnerable to the unfolding economic downturn, the CEO said.

“We didn’t know how bad the storm was going to be,” Ghosn said in a 28 June 28.

Other reasons that contributed to the decision were a weak product-development pipeline and management exodus at Chrysler, as well as the overlap between the US sales networks of Chrysler and Nissan, one person familiar with Ghosn’s thinking said. Because Fiat was not present in the US market at the time, Marchionne also had more to gain from the acquisition.

“The integration is a compelling mission for both Fiat and Chrysler, with no alternatives, which wasn’t the case for Nissan and Renault,” said Carlo De Benedetti, honorary chairman of holding company Compagnie Industrali Riunite and a former Fiat. “It is much easier to work in America on integration of two companies than in Japan.”

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

Italy: Vittorio Cecchi Gori Arrested for Fraudulent Bankruptcy

(AGI) Rome — Film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori has been arrested for fraudulent bankruptcy by the financial police. His remand order was signed by the prosecutor’s office in Rome at the request of deputy prosecutors Stefano Fava and Lina Cusano, in coordination with assistant prosecutor Nello Rossi. Cecchi Gori was arrested in connection with an inquiry into the collapse of FIN.MA.VI. S.p.A. and other companies of the group.

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

Italy: Berlusconi: Country Grateful to Troops in Afghanistan

(AGI) Rome — Berlusconi has expressed the gratitude of the government and the country to the troops involved in peace missions. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said the government’s thoughts are with the families of the paratrooper killed today in Afghanistan and of the two soldiers wounded in an ambush. “We once again thank all the troops involved in peace operations and the fight against terrorism, on behalf of the government and the whole country” Berlusconi said.

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

Italy: Anonymous Puts Thousands of Personal Documents on-Line

(AGI) Rome — The Anonymous hackers have explained on their website their cyber-attack on the Italian Postal Police and the publication of thousands of documents. The statement says, “Today we accessed a Pandora’s vase of information from Italian anti-crime agencies and believe this is the beginning of a new butthurt era for the powerful Homeland Security Cyber Operation Unit in Europe. We have therefore decided to publish everything the Italian unit has, hence a task force with vast resources called CNAPIC.” .

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

Netherlands Not Attending UN Anti-Racism Meeting

THE HAGUE, 23/07/11 — The Netherlands will not be present in New York on 22 September at the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Durban Declaration. Italy and the Czech Republic are also boycotting the conference because some countries use it for anti-Israeli propaganda.

In the South African city of Durban in 2001, it was agreed to combat worldwide racism, xenophobia and discrimination. The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic wanted to include in the final statement of the meeting in September “that all participating states emphatically distance themselves from the linking of subjects that have nothing to do with the fight against racism,” but “because it is not possible to get such a guarantee, the three countries now see themselves forced to no longer participate in the preparations for the celebration, and also not to attend it, “ the foreign affairs ministry said Friday.

“A number of countries have in the past continually put the peace process in the Middle East in the centre of the discussions on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, along with which denying Israel’s right to exist,” according to the ministry. Although they are boycotting the conference, “the Netherlands will of course continue to make active efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and discrimination in more productive ways.”

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

Norway Killer Anders Behring Breivik Emailed ‘Manifesto’ To 250 British Contacts

Anders Behring Breivik emailed his 1,500-page “manifesto” to 250 British contacts less than 90 minutes before he detonated a bomb in Oslo. By Gordon Rayner, Bruno Waterfield and Mark Hughes 8:30PM BST 26 Jul 2011

Scotland Yard’s domestic extremism unit, which is investigating Breivik’s British links, has been sent a list of UK-based email addresses among 1,003 recipients of the document.

Breivik joined online conversations with members of the Right-wing English Defence League, telling them to “keep up the good work” in the months before he killed 76 people in Norway’s worst terrorist outrage.

He was told he would be welcome at EDL demonstrations, and wrote about visiting Bradford and London. He is also reported to have attended an EDL rally in Newcastle.

Using the name Andrew Berwick, Breivik emailed out his manifesto, and a link to a YouTube video showing him holding a gun, at 2.09pm on Friday, one hour and 17 minutes before his bomb detonated in Oslo. He addressed each recipient as a “Western European patriot” and wrote: “It is a gift to you . I ask that you distribute this book to everyone you know.”

Tanguys Veys, a Belgian MP for the far-Right, anti-Muslim Vlaams-Belang party who received the document, said “at least a quarter” of recipients were UK-based, with the rest in Europe and the US. He said he had never been in contact with Breivik.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Norway : Anders Behring Breivik Used Online War Games as ‘Training’

Anders Behring Breivik emailed his extremist manifesto to a Dutchman he had met while playing an online computer war game that included scenes where players kill unarmed civilians. By Bruno Waterfield 6:40PM BST 26 Jul 2011

Jeroen Rink received the email manifesto announcing Breivik’s plan to carry out attacks last Friday just hours before the Norwegian killed 76 people.

He had regularly played the internet war games the Call of Duty and the World of Warcraft with the far-right mass killer before talking about politics.

Mr Rink told De Telegraaf newspaper that they found more than a shared interest in violent games after they discussed their mutual admiration for Geert Wilders, a popular Dutch anti-Islam politician.

“We talked about politics on occasion and I thought he was pretty radical,” he said.

The Dutch man, 31, was horrified when he opened the email link and found terrorist bomb-making instructions and pictures of Breivik posing with weapons.

“When he heard I had voted for Geert Wilders — he sent me a link. I only opened it this weekend and looked at it properly. Shocking. It contained loads of pages with propaganda, films and photos, including him, with guns,” he said.

Mr Wilders said that Breivik’s twin attacks were a “slap in the face of the global anti-Islam movement.”

Mr Wilders, who last month was acquitted by a Dutch court on hate speech and discrimination charges for statements made attacking Islam, said neither he, nor his party, the PVV, was responsible for Breivik’s actions.

“Neither the PVV, nor I, is responsible for the actions of a lonely, ill-adjusted idiot who abused the peace-loving ideals of the anti-Islamist movement in such a violent manner, no matter how much some people would like that to be the case,” he said.

Mr Wilders said he was “repulsed” by the fact that Behring Breivik referred to him and the PVV in his 1,500-page manifesto.

Tanguys Veys, a Belgian MP for the far-right, anti-Muslim Vlaams-Belang party, received a copy of the terrorist manifesto at 2.09pm on Friday, one hour and 17 minutes before Breivik’s bomb exploded in Oslo.

Mr Veys said that the email, addressed to “Western European patriots”, had been sent to 1,002 other people. “I estimate that between 10 and 20 addresses were Belgian. The rest were spread over Europe and the United States,” he said.

“I expressly dissociate myself from this man. I suspect that my email address ending up on the list was related to publications about Islam.”

In his 1,500-page manifesto, a European Declaration of Independence, Breivik described how he used Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to prepare for the attacks.

“I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game,” he wrote in the document. “It is probably the best military simulator out there and it’s one of the hottest. I see MW2 more as part of my training-simulation than anything else.”

The Modern Warfare game uses lifelike cinema quality graphics to take players through first-person scenarios which put them in the place of soldiers.

The most controversial is a sequence where the gamer must decide whether to kill unarmed civilians at a Russian airport in order to infiltrate a terrorist group.

The scenes are so shocking that Activision, the game’s manufacturer, issued warnings and included “checkpoints” in the game to give players the chance to skip traumatic situations.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Conservatives Set to Reinforce Dominant Position

The political right is aiming to capitalise on Swiss voters’ main concerns — immigration and integration — in October’s federal elections.

Experts believe that a mixture of anti-immigration rhetoric and well-organised campaigning could see the voter share of the Swiss People’s Party, the rightwing’s sole representative in the five-party cabinet, rise above 30 per cent for the first time.

“We want Switzerland in the future to remain an independent country with a high degree of self-determination by the people,” said Ulrich Schlüer, a driving force behind the party’s successful initiative in 2009 to ban the construction of minarets.

Schlüer was speaking after Swiss voters backed another People’s Party initiative to automatically deport criminal foreigners.

“Neutrality is important, but on the other hand we want to show the whole world that Switzerland is a safe country, that we do not tolerate illegal activities in our country. I think this message has a very good chance to be successful in the elections.”

This vision of Switzerland as a conservative oasis of national sovereignty amid a sea of European red tape — tightening up immigration laws is in; joining the European Union is emphatically out — continues to appeal to more and more people (see box).

Currently the People’s Party faction in parliament comprises 61 seats in the 200-seat House of Representatives (including one for the rightwing Lega dei Ticinesi and one for the rightwing Federal Democratic Union) and seven seats in the 46-seat Senate.

While the People’s Party received 28.9 per cent of the vote four years ago, pollsters suggest it’s not impossible that as many as one in three Swiss voters will back the party on October 23.

“ If you ask people from the People’s Party, they’ll tell you they’re saving the country. “…

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

The Netherlands Pulls Out of UN Anti-Racism Meeting Over Israel

The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic will not attend the celebrations for the 10 year anniversary of a UN anti-racism treaty in New York in September because of Israel, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Durban declaration was the result of a conference in the South African city in 2001, and aimed to combat racism, hatred of foreigners and discrimination.

The Netherlands and the other two countries want to include a section in the final document of the September meeting which states subjects not related to the original treaty should not be included.


This is because some countries consider the Middle East peace process to be central to the discussions and use it to deny Israel’s right to exist, the ministry said.

Because this guarantee was not forthcoming, the Netherlands feels forced to pull out of the preparations and the celebrations themselves, the statement said.

The Netherlands also boycotted the last UN anti-racism conference in 2009 because of the Israel issue.

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


Kosovo: Tensions Rise as Police Take Over Border Crossings With Serbia

Pristina, 26 July (AKI) — Tensions were high in northern Kosovo Tuesday morning as police tried to take over two border crossings with Serbia and local Serbs blocked the roads with trucks and heavy machinery.

Kosovo Albanian police moved overnight to take over border crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje, which had been under the control of European Union police (Eulex), triggering protests by about one thousand local Serbs.

Kosovo majority Albanians declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, a move which Belgrade opposes. Serbs who make up a majority in northern Kosovo, don’t recognize the Pristina government.

Pristina revoked an embargo on Serbian imports last week but scores of trucks have been blocked from entering Kosovo. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci Monday evening sacked police director Resat Malici and ordered special police units “Rose” to take over northern border crossings.

Serbian minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic and the head of Serbian negotiating team Borko Stefanovic rushed to the scene to resolve the dispute in talks with Eulex officials and commander of international forces stationed in Kosovo (Kfor) Erhard Biller.

Slavisa Ristic, the mayor of northern town of Zubin Potok, told media the situation was “extremely tense”, but there had been no major incidents. Bogdanovic said Pristina’s move was an “unreasonable act” and expressed doubt that Kosovo authorities were acting in collusion with Eulex which supports Kosovo independence.

Stefanovic told reporters that Biller was a “reasonable man”, but acted under strong pressure from Pristina and Washington to put northern part of Kosovo under the control of Pristina authorities.

He said an agreement was within reach, but some details still had to be worked out. According to conflicting media reports, the police had withdrawn from the Jarinje crossing, but were still holding Brnjak crossing.

“I don’t know what they are waiting for, because they should have left,” Ristic said.

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

North Africa

French Vanish Into Abyss Created by Al Qaeda

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 25 — More than 300 days into an imprisonment that risks prolonging even further. The four French nationals who were captured in September of last year have literally disappeared into a “black hole” created by Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. The hostages appear to be an investment for the future of the terrorist organisation, which does not intend to lower the enormous ransom set at 90 million euros, according to the most recent reports. For Delie Larribe, Theirry Dole, Marc Feret and Pierre Legrand, a positive end to the story in a short period of time seems unlikely because they are pawns in a larger game being played by AQMI in the Sahel, which is perhaps the most potentially at risk zone on the global terrorism panorama. The situation has escalated to the point that the countries in the area (with Algeria leading the way) have allied themselves in their anti-terrorism efforts. But this is only true in terms of their military operations, and certainly does not involve searching for hostages swallowed up in the abyss that Al Qaida has succeeded in creating around their prisoners, like Italian national Maria Sandra Mariani, who disappeared in Algeria in February. It is difficult to say where the hostages are being held, even for French intelligence officials who are extremely active in the area and who have built up a solid collaboration with their Algerian counterparts. Recent events in the area have fuelled worries regarding the increasingly “professional” operations conducted by AQMI following their affiliation with the “mother ship”, which has translated into constant military pressure, especially along the border between Mali and Mauritania (with Algeria and Niger ready to collaborate) and into an attempt to manage the flourishing kidnapping industry, which, has raised the stakes with the four French hostages, and therefore, their potential revenue.

Ransom money could be reinvested to acquire weapons, especially after a thriving parallel market opened up with the war in Libya, for the most part regarding the weapons in the Libyan arsenal that have been recently acquired, mainly from Russia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Interview With Former Russian Prime Minister: ‘What Will Happen After Gadhafi?’

By Matthias Schepp and Bernhard Zand

Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov talks with Der Spiegel in Moscow.

In an interview with SPIEGEL, 81-year-old former Russian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and chief of foreign intelligence Yevgeny Primakov discusses the situation in Libya and Russia’s concerns about an “explosive trend” in NATO operations.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Primakov, which Arab country currently worries you the most?

Primakov: Libya. The Western coalition’s attempt to bomb the Gadhafi regime away isn’t backed by UN Resolution 1973 — and it’s not well thought-out in strategic terms. It’s high time for us to find a political solution to the Libyan crisis .

SPIEGEL: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his Libyan counterpart in Moscow last week, and even French and American diplomats have started talking with representatives of the Gadhafi regime.

Primakov: NATO is stuck in a dead-end. No one seems to be asking the truly important questions, such as: Where is this war leading? And what will happen after Gadhafi? Have we really already forgotten what happened in Iraq? Eight years of chaos! Daily bomb attacks, daily deaths. Don’t tell me that’s stability?

SPIEGEL: You’ve met with Gadhafi on several occasions. Should we go easy on him?

Primakov: I’m far from idealizing him. Over four decades ago, when Gadhafi overthrew King Idris, he contacted Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Gadhafi thought Nasser could help him obtain an atomic bomb from the Soviet Union if he gave him enough money. Gadhafi had the mentality of a Bedouin.

SPIEGEL: And today?

Primakov: He’s older and more experienced, but Libya continues to be a dictatorship — though one supported by a certain segment of the population. There are people who go to places where Gadhafi stays to serve as human shields. They do so voluntarily.

SPIEGEL: What would you propose as a solution to the Libya crisis?

Primakov: A mediation mission is, in any case, being blocked by the decision to try to bring him before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Russia doesn’t want to see Libya sink into chaos. The only way out is through a rapprochement between the parties in conflict.

SPIEGEL: How can Russia’s mediation lead to success?

Primakov: Because we try to keep the same distance between both sides. NATO is de facto supporting one of the sides in this civil war. It is difficult to mediate under these circumstances.

SPIEGEL: Soon after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized the Libya resolutions as ‘calls to a crusade,’ President Dmitry Medvedev condemned his remarks as ‘unacceptable.’ Is Moscow really even speaking with one voice?…

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

Lawyer Accuses Egyptian Military Council of Burying Church Bombing Case

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Joseph Malak, lawyer for the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, accused the military council of ignoring the church bombing case. The bombing occurred on New Year’s Eve in in front of the church, and claimed the lives of 25 Copts and injured over 100 others who were attending midnight mass.

Malak, who is lead lawyer for the case, said the Coptic Church intends to file a lawsuit against the President of the Council of Ministers, the Interior Minister, and the Attorney General, to compel them to re-open the investigation into the bombing, pointing out that a large number of affidavits, with the participation of a number of families of the victims, have been sent to the attorney general and the military council, without any reply.

Malak made these statements at a conference held by the Egyptian Center for Development Studies and Human Rights on Sunday July 24 at the Church of St. Mark in Alexandria. The conference was attended by the media, Alexandria priests, members of the Coptic Confessional Council in Alexandria and family members of the victims.

“We will demand the Attorney General to take determined action to complete the investigation into the case and to speed up detection of the perpetrators and bring them to trial,” Malak said, explaining this would include questioning former Interior Minister, Habib al-Adli, and the disclosure of the reasons for the release of the suspects who were arrested after the bombing.

He added that the lawsuit will also ask for the cancellation of the prohibition of publication of the bombing incident imposed by the attorney general in January, which is still in effect, besides obliging the Ministers of Interior and Justice to complete investigations and sentencing as soon as possible.

Father Makkar Fawzi, Pastor of the Two Saints Church, asked the media to press the issue, saying “You are our last resort, we have talked with many officials without any answer.” He added the State is fully responsible to search for the culprits and the issue should not be ignored.

Reverend Abraham Emil, Deputy Pontifical for Alexandria and the priest of the Church of St. Mark, said the security and intelligence services are able to find the offenders, rejecting the continued silence about the case, and called for the need to give the injured and the families of the victims their rights as Egyptians, and the state to be held responsible for the care of their families financially and socially. “They have same rights as victims of the Revolution,” he added.

Mr. Camil Saddik, Secretary of the Coptic Confessional Council in Alexandria, said it was not acceptable for the State to abandon the rights of the Copts killed during worship at church, stressing that their demands for revealing the real perpetrators is the least the victims deserve, describing the way the government is evading its responsibilities as a “stigma.” He speculated on whether they was a connection between the bombing of the Two Saints Church and the threats issued to the Coptic Church eight hours before, demanding the release of detainees held by the Church.

“Saddik is voicing what the majority of Copts believe — that the Salafists in collaboration with State Security carried out the bombings of the Alexandria Church,” said Coptic activist Edward Fahmy.

Tamer Salah al-Din, one of the organizers of the conference, accused the Egyptian State Security of complicity in the bombing and spoke of their role in causing sedentary strife between Muslims and Christians. He added that suspicions about the involvement of the State Security have risen after revelations that officers and security personnel who were assigned to protect the church at the time were not at their posts at the time of the bombing (AINA 1-2-2011).

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Nuclear Power: Minister: Tunisia Will Not Abandon Projects

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 25 — Tunisia will not cancel its plans to build a nuclear power plant to produce electricity, but the events in Fukushima require more attention to be paid to safety issues, said Rafaat Chaabouni, the Tunisian Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research. While speaking with TAP during a meeting in Hammamet of the Arab Atomic Energy Agency, Chaabouni said that the construction of a nuclear power plant in Tunisia depends on the results of a study that state-run energy enterprise, STEG, is conducting regarding the economic and technical aspects of the project, which is slated to begin in 2018. The minister said that the Fukushima catastrophe does not mean that the use of nuclear energy for the production of electricity and for civil uses will be abandoned in the Arab world, rather, it must drive the improvement of safety measures.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Settling Old Scores: Tribal Rivalries Complicate Libyan War

The rebels in western Libya have captured the Nafusa Mountains and are only 80 kilometers from Tripoli, but have been unable to advance further. Meanwhile long-simmering tribal hostilities are complicating the situation, as rival groups clash and old resentments flare up. The inter-tribal conflict adds to a growing sense that the uprising against Gadhafi is turning into a civil war.

The decisive front in the war against Moammar Gadhafi runs through the dusty village of Qawalish, which consists of a mosque, a few dozen houses and a hill, behind which rebel fighters are entrenched.

At first glance, it is hard to understand why more than 15 rebels have been killed in this godforsaken place, and why Qawalish has changed hands three times in only two weeks.

Musbah Milad, a rebel fighter from the city of Zintan in northwestern Libya, is standing on the roof of a two-story building in the midday heat. He gazes out at the flat landscape and points to a row of trees at the other end of a vast plain. “There you can see him,” he says. “

ing Gadhafi.” Through his binoculars, Milad can make out two trucks hidden in the shade of trees, about 6 kilometers (4 miles) away. Sometimes Gadhafi’s forces fire a poorly targeted missile, prompting the rebels to return fire.

The fate of the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is being decided in these days and weeks in tiny villages in the Nafusa Mountains of western Libya. The region was almost unknown to the world before the Libyan revolution began in February.

Loosely Organized State

Since the outbreak of the war, the rebel offensive has made more significant advances in these hilly highlands than anywhere else in Libya. In the eastern part of the country, the rebels are still entrenched near Brega, a city they captured for the first time in February, only to lose it to Gadhafi’s forces soon afterwards. Brega is more than 600 kilometers from the capital Tripoli.

In the west, on the other hand, the rebels have captured almost the entire mountain chain, where they have established a loosely organized state, complete with its own newspapers, a radio station and a makeshift airfield. The territory they control extends 200 kilometers eastward from the Tunisian border. And at the northern end of the Nafusa Mountains, the rebel fighters are now only 80 kilometers from the capital.

But the most important front lies in Qawalish. If the rebels manage to advance into the next town, which is 30 kilometers away, they will have cut off Gadhafi’s key supply route, the road from Sabha to Tripoli.

However, the rebels have not made any progress in weeks. After taking Qawalish in early July, they were so heady with victory that they left the front and returned to their villages, leaving only a few 16-year-olds with Kalashnikovs in the village. Their mission was to hold the town, but the small rebel contingent didn’t stand a chance when Gadhafi’s troops attacked on Wednesday of the week before last.

In the ensuing six-hour battle, the rebels mobilized all of their forces to return to the front that they had so foolishly exposed. Troops rushed back to Qawalish from Zintan, Jadu and Kikla. By the end of a bloody day, they had regained control over the village, despite heavy rocket fire. Eight men died. It was a strange battle, and it showed how little Gadhafi’s opponents in western Libya understand about waging battles. The rebel force there consists of a motorized horde that rushes to the front when it is needed and then quickly disperses.

Since then, the rebels have done nothing to advance farther to the east.

Limits of Their Strength

When Ramadan begins in a week, the fighters will not be allowed to eat or drink anything during the day, at temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade. Some say that they are holding back because Gadhafi’s forces have left thousands of mines in the vast steppe, while others say that the rebels are trying to spare the pro-Gadhafi civilians in the next town.

There are also signs that the rebels in the west are gradually reaching the limits of their strength. Even their military leaders in Zintan admit that there are no plans to advance from the mountains in the coastal plain and hazard a march on Tripoli. Instead, they are waiting for a revolt in the capital. And on Sunday, they had to rebut another hard-fought attempt by Gadhafi’s troops to take back the town.

The truth is that the uprising against Gadhafi is looking more and more like a civil war every day. At first, it seemed as if Libyans had all come together to revolt against the man who had controlled the country for the last 42 years. Much like the uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan revolt began in mid-February with peaceful protests, but this dictator refused to allow himself to be toppled and responded by waging a cruel war on the civilian population instead. This response was the reason behind the NATO mission.

But reality is more complicated than that, as evidenced in the Nafusa Mountains. The situation in Libya is made more difficult by the fact that it is a tribal society, not a nation state like its neighbors.

Most Libyans may be strongly opposed to Gadhafi, and yet there are still important tribes that largely support him, including the Warfalla, the Tarhuna and Gadhafi’s own tribe, the Gadhadhfa. And despite the rebels’ official claims to the contrary, this conflict is also a war among tribes…

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

Tunisia: Government: No Political Propaganda in Mosques

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 25 — The Tunisian government has announced that mosques must continue to be places of worship, and should not be used for political activities, proselytism or other activities that are difficult to control. The announcement was made by Religious Affairs Minister Laroussi Mizouri in a statement to press agency TAP.

The choices made by the preachers, the Minister continued, must stay within the limits of the law and must be justified by the imams’ training and “ethical and moral faculties.” The Minister did not deny that “infringements have taken place in several mosques.” He pointed out that during Friday prayer, the most important and most frequented ceremony, the topics that are dealt with must regard aspects of life that are discussed from a religious viewpoint, avoiding political propaganda. Tunisia, Mizouri added, has always been a tolerant country which has welcomed Jews and Christians and where “there is no room for any form of extremism.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Social Protests, ‘Indignant’ Block Knesset

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV/JERUSALEM, JULY 25 — The protests of Israelis against high housing prices in cities, and more in general against high costs of living and increasing social disparity, have reached the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, weeks after they started. Several dozens of demonstrators today kept MPs and officials from entering the Knesset for two hours, before they were removed by security forces. Even after they were removed, the protesters formed a picket line in the area. The incident took place a few hours after last night around a thousand people put up a roadblock near the parliament building, and joined the ongoing protest symbolised by several camps that have been set up in the past days in Tel Aviv and other cities in the countries. The government of Benyamin Netanyahu is increasingly concerned about the protest, and is now preparing a housing plan that should be presented in parliament in the coming days.

Several Ministers have blamed each other for the current situation. Several important professional groups are on a war footing over low salaries and organisational problems: today doctors working in public institutions demonstrated in Tel Aviv as part of a general strike, after the magistracy declared a previous order to resume work issued by the government illegitimate.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Two Palestinians Hanged ‘For Collaborating With Israel’

Gaza City, 26 July (AKI) — Two Palestinians were hanged on Tuesday for collaborating with Israel even years ago, the Hamas Interior Ministry said.

Hamas is the Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip.

The two — identified by initials MAQ and RAQ — were executed “after they applied to the court (for an annulment of their sentence) and their request was denied by the court,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

“The government two weeks ago made a decision to execute Palestinians convicted of collaboration with the Israeli occupation,” the ministry said.

The death sentence was carried out after the two were found guilty for collaborating with Israel in 2004.

Since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip by force in June 2007, 15 Palestinians have been executed after being found guilty of collaboration. Thirteen were killed by firing squad, and two were hanged, according to the dpa newsagency.

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

Middle East

Iran: Leaders Clash on Arming Foreign Militants, ‘Trading Drugs for Arms’

Tehran, 26 July (AKI) — The power struggle between Iran’s leadership is a clash of goals including president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s opposition to the practice of spreading Iranian power abroad by arming Iraqi militias and trading drugs for arms with Afghanistan’s Taliban, according to an unnamed Iranian source working in the country’s Foreign Ministry.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei aims to “reinforce political economic and military logistical” support with regional allies, while president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is challenging the role of his political rival by focusing on “nationalism,” the source told Adnkronos International in an interview.

Khamenei’s use of national power includes waging asymmetric warfare by swapping weapons for drugs with Afghan Taliban insurgents and giving military training to Iraqi Shia militias, a strategy Ahmadinejad is against, the source said.

Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have been on collision course for some time. The president has seen a number of his allies arrested during the months of friction between conservatives aligned with hard-lined clerics and Ahmadinejad.

The Khamenei entourage doesn’t like Ahmadinejad’s “exasperating” nationalism which is viewed as an attempt to change the Supreme Leader’s powers, according to the source.

“Ahmadinejad is trying to reduce Iran’s logistical support of Shia militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he said.

At Khamenei’s disposal are the Iranian Revolutionary Guards — a branch of the military — and the Baij militia — a volunteer force called on to enforce security for the government — by calling on his second son Mojtaba Khamenei’s close relationship with the armed organisations.

“Behind the supplying of arms to the Taliban and Shia militia’s in Iraq are leading figures of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” the source told AKI. Iran officially denies arming both groups.

“I can confirm that Mojtaba Khamenei has the ability to influence most of the political-military forces in Iran. He’s very opposed to the president,” he said.

In Afghanistan the Revolutionary Guard’s commanders use their influence to “exchange drugs for arms” with Taliban forces who operate in the country with the world’s highest opium production, the source said.

“A large part of the narcotics trafficking between Afghanistan and Iran is overseen by Revolutionary Guard generals,” he told AKI, declining to give names.

In Iraq figures close to Khamenei give military training and furnish arms to Shia militias loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, who in 2003 formed the Mahdi Army paramilitary force that battled American troops.

Khamenei fears he is losing religious influence on Iraqi Shias so “the only way to have some control over the (Iraqi) movement is to give some form of military and economic aid. The Revolutionary Guards’ aim is to strengthen the Shias to transform it into an important political ally and construct a front against the Salafites,” the source said, referring to rival Sunni movement in Iraq.

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

Iran: Gas Pact Worth $10 Billion Signed With Neighbours

Tehran, 25 July (AKI) — Iran on Monday signed a 10 billion dollar agreement to export its natural gas to neighbouring Iran and Syria.

The signing of the preliminary accord in the southern Iranian city of Assalouyeh by the countries’ three oil ministers foresees Iranian gas to be shipped by a new 500 kilometre pipeline from the South Pars field from the South Pars field through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Mediterranean, with Europe planned as the final export destination.

Iran has the world’s second-biggest gas reserves after Russia.

The country is aims to boost its gas production with the help of foreign investment.

Iran’s deputy oil minister Javad Owji said the field has enough reserves to feed exports for the next 80 years, at a rate of 250 million cubic meters per day. The project is scheduled to take three to five years.

Iraq has said that it needs between 10 to 15 million cubic meters of Iran’s gas a day, Syria about 15 to 20 million cubic meters, and Lebanon about five to seven million cubic meters until 2020.

Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Javad Owji said the country has the capacity to produce some 600 million cubic meter gas every day and noted that the figure will be doubled after the inauguration of new phases of South Pars in the next few years.

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

Plea to Turkey to Release Jailed Journalists Held Without Due Process

Gulen Movement softly mentioned Imam Ordusu (Imam’s Army) , by the Committee to Free Journalists.

Another reason why the Gulen Movement is dangerous to the education of American students. The Harmony School of Political Science opening in Auxtin, TX is the Gulen Movement’s first step in restructuring the way American children think about politics and grooming his Turkish sympathizer for Congress. His ultimate goal of creating the “Golden Generation” that will inherit the command of controlling the world’s knowledge, wealth, politics, inter faith dialog, military and police.

The Gulen Movement has no business opening any public schools in the USA and teaching political science, especially when Turkiye is a political mess. A struggle between secular and Islamic control and not any kind of Islam only a particular brand of Islam. Gulen’s Islam.

[Return to headlines]

S. Arabia: US Consul Joins Party in Shiite City, Controversy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 26 — The decision taken by Timothy Pounds, US consul in Dhahran (eastern Saudi Arabia), to join a celebration in neighbouring Kateef and even to dance with the locals resulted in much controversy in Saudi circles. Kateef is not any old place but rather a place with a Shiite majority that has been the scene, in recent weeks, of disorders against the Saudi regime and demonstrations of solidarity with the Shiite opposition in Bahrain.

A number of Saudi observers and activists, according to the Middle East Online website, in light of their allergy towards the mobility of members of the US embassy in the Saudi kingdom, condemned the visit by the American consul. Saudi Sunni extremists believe that in truth the visit by the consul did not have cultural motivation, but rather two more political objectives: one, to check the situation in the city, and two to express a sort of implicit solidarity towards the demonstrators in Bahrain.

The Saudi extremists organised a campaign on web forums and on Twitter against the presence of the US consul in Kateef, and also hinted at a US plan to encourage divisions within the Saudi society and support minorities in order to carry out the major American plan of bringing democracy to the Middle East.

Middle East Online reported that the movement of western diplomats and especially American ones is sorely affecting many people and angering the Arab regimes that fear the strengthening of Washington’s support to the rage of the people against the regimes.

In particular, the visit by the French and US ambassadors to the Syrian city of Hama during the demonstrations against the regime in Damascus was viewed by the Syrian opposition as evidence of international support. However, in the case of the American consul in Saudi Arabia, some observers quoted by Middle East Online believe that Pounds’ visit to Kateef is a totally legitimate event and part of a diplomat’s duty.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

S. Arabia: New Anti-Terrorism Law Could Cause Protest, Amnesty

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 22 — A new, secret anti-terrorism law currently being drawn up by Saudi authorities might “strangle peaceful protest”, the BBC website quoted Amnesty International as saying. The British broadcaster reports online that it had been granted access to a classified copy of the draft law with several measures that, in the view of Amnesty International, would impose serious restrictions on human rights, including the length of detention without trial, reduced access to legal defense and an increased use of the death penalty. The Saudi government has refused to comment on the news, but a high-ranking official has anonymously confirmed the existence of the draft law. However, the official said that the measures concerned terrorists and not dissidents. The press officer for Amnesty International for the Middle East has told the BBC that the draft law “seeks to officially bring in some of the most repressive practices that Amnesty has been documenting for years.” Among the measures proposed is the extension of the definition of the crime of terrorism to include any action which could “harm the State’s reputation” or “put national unity in danger”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Anti-Witchcraft Unit’ Breaks Another Spell

The unit, established in 2009, is charged with apprehending sorcerers and reversing the detrimental effects of their spells in the Gulf country. Talkbacks ()

When the severed head of a wolf wrapped in women’s lingerie turned up near the city of Tabouk in northern Saudi Arabia this week, authorities knew they had another case of witchcraft on their hands, a capital offence in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.

Agents of the country’s Anti-Witchcraft Unit were quickly dispatched and set about trying to break the spell that used the beast’s head.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Trust in Military Decreases by 15%, Poll Shows

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 22 — Trust in Turkey’s military has decreased dramatically in the last three years, according to a recent survey that pegs the timing of the drop to the launch of investigations into alleged military coup attempts. The results of the latest Turkey Values Survey, which were made public Thursday as daily Hurriyet reports, show that 75% of Turks have trust in the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, a 15% drop compared to the survey conducted in 2008. The timing of the drop coincides with the launch of the Ergenekon and “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) investigations, both of which deal with alleged plans to topple the government. Numerous military figures have been detained and jailed in both cases. Members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, formerly a key base of support for the military, have also lost their confidence in the army, according to Yilmaz Esmer from Bahcesehir University, who headed the team that conducted the survey. “The largest decrease (in confidence in the military) has been experienced in Turkey’s southeastern region,” Esmer told a press conference Thursday. Trust in the government has meanwhile increased 32% over the past 10 years, the survey shows.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Uprisings: Tremonti: Arab Spring Not a Flash in the Pan

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 22 — The revolts in the Arab World are not just a flash in the pan. No one had predicted them, but Western politicians must pay greater attention to the situation.

The political vacuum left by the leaders toppled by the revolutions could be dangerous. In summary, this was the message launched lasta night in Rome during an encounter entitled, “Revolutions in Course. Arab Spring or Mediterranean Winter”, with Italian Minster of Economy, Giulio Tremonti, and Vincenzo Paglia, Bishop of Terni-Narni-Amelia. “After decades of immobility, history has resumed its course,” said Tremonti at the start of his speech. “Now it is necessary to understand what role the United States, Turkey, Russia and Europe have in this situation. Until now these groups have adopted ineffective courses of action. The EU, which the minister called “missing in non action”, has been incapable of making concrete decisions. The uprisings which began in December 2010 in Tunisia, and which spread across the Arab World, were triggered by a “dual hunger”, said Tremonti: “A hunger for food and democracy, due to a sudden spike in prices and the cost of living and against the autocratic regimes”. This is not an anti-Western revolution, continued Tremonti. Rather, “the Western democratic paradigm is a model”. Nonetheless, warned the minister, “democracy cannot be exported as if it were a commodity”. It takes time, because, after all, “30-40 years ago in many European countries democracy was an exception”, he pointed out. These processes, concluded the minister, are positive, but cannot be fashioned after ours.

“We can talk about Arab democracies,” said Paglia in his speech, “so long as the meaning of democracy is not singular, but plural.” The Arab Spring is an opportunity, underlined the bishop, and the West must be attentive and alert. “More of an effort must be made to build a relationship with this Islamic world.” The Mediterranean, concluded Paglia, “must reconquer its cultural strength and ideal”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

When War is Convenient for Arab Leaders in Troubles

Il Giornale, 21 July 2011

When a leader aims to consolidate his power and to get away with accountability, what does he do? He stirs up a conflict along with the usual conspiracy theory, then he causes clashes, spreads blood, and calls to arms. In short, he goes off to war. This is the current situation in the Middle East, in particular after the revolutions that were kindly called “Arab Spring”. This warfare scenario calls for war against the usual enemies: Israel, the Western world, and America in particular. Indeed, Obama seems to be less popular than George W. Bush in the Arab world: as a survey of the Arab-American Center shows, 8 Arabs on 10 negatively consider the international role of the USA, and only 5 Egyptians on 100 positively consider America, when in 2009, 30 on 100 did.

The most determined to wage war to avoid its own troubles is Hizbullah, the Shi’i militia supported by Iran and Syria, which use it as a domination army in Lebanon. Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son, fled to Paris, where he declared that the problem of his country is Hezbullah. A new revolution could solve the problem, especially after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has indicted Hizbullah’s officials for the 2005 attack in which Rafik Hariri was assassinated. Lebanese wonder about the necessity of those weapons accumulated by Nasrallah, who promises to wage a new war. This time the spurious reason is territorial waters and the gas reserves that Israel has discovered. Nasrallah would use this as a new excuse; a specious reason indeed, since Israel has delimited its sea boundaries in agreement with Cyprus in 2007, and so did Lebanon as well. In 2000, Nasrallah used the excuse of Shaba Farms, dragging the government he built up in his venture. The danger is even higher considering the current crisis in Iran and Syria, Lebanon’s allies…

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


Russia as the Mass Murderer’s Political Model

In his 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik is full of references to Russia. He sees Putin as a “potential” friend for a European revolution. For Putin’s spokesman, his are the “ravings of a madman”.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Russia not only expressed its solidarity and extended its condolences to the Norwegian government for the 90 and more victims killed in Oslo and Utoya Island last Friday, but also rejected any association with Anders Behring Breivik, the man who carried out the massacre.

In his long manifesto, which he posted online under an anglicised version of his name (Andrew Berwick), the 32-year-old mass murderer laid out his plans, citing Russia as an example of a nation that a Europe “liberated” from NATO rule and the alliance with the United States must join in order to halt the progress of Islam. In it, he describes Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as a “potential” friend and ally for his behind-the-scene subversive plan.

Interviewed by the daily Kommersant, the Russian prime minister’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov called Breivik “the devil incarnate”, describing his words as the “ravings of a madman.”

In Norway, the authorities have not yet verified the authenticity of Breivik’s manifesto, but his attorney has already referred to it. In it, the terrorist has called for a European revolution to liberate the continent by 2083 from multiculturalism, Islam and many wrong ideas that according to him are destroying Europe’s roots. In his document, Breivik pays homage to new Christian militias inspired by the Templar Order. In it, he sees Russia playing a primary role.

In talking about the new ways to promote a “patriotic” and “cultural conservatism”, he cites ‘Nashi’ (Ours), a pro-Putin Russian nationalist youth movement that promotes extremism and is often involved in violent action against civil society groups that are critical of Russia’s current government.

“The destiny of the European peninsula cannot be separated from continental Russia, for both ethno-cultural and geopolitical reasons,” the text said. “ It’s absolutely imperative for America’s mercantile thalassocracy (naval supremacy, in either military or commercial senses of the word) to prevent the birth of the culturally and ideologically confident European Federation.”

The goal is to set in motion coups across Europe backed by a military and nuclear power like Russia to stop any action by the United States or NATO.

Bur Russia is not only a potential ally but also a political model to emulate. In ‘A European Declaration of Independence,’ the author writes, “the dysfunctional mass-democracy will be replaced by an administered form of democracy similar to that of Russia”. For him, the model to build is a form of authoritarian democracy epitomised by Russia’s “controlled democracy”, which Putin has been constructing since he became president in 2000.

The Russian prime minister is among the people cited as having understood which way the West is going if Islam is not stopped. “Even the ] Russian president, Vladimir Putin knows exactly what is going on as he has publicly stated in the past: Western Europe is heading in a direction where they are going to become colonies of their former colonies”.

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

South Asia

AsiaNews Correspondent Fleeing From Bangladesh Seized by the Authorities in Nepal

Since May 27 the police in Nepal have held William Gomes in custody for no reason. The activist was trying to reach Hong Kong via Nepal after being tortured and threatened by the authorities of Dhaka for his activities on behalf of Christians. Spokesman of the main opposition party accuses the government of Nepal of serious violations of human rights and calls on the Prime Minister to resign.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — After fleeing from Bangladesh after having been tortured by police, William Nicholas Gomes, AsiaNews correspondent and activist for human rights, has for months been in police custody in Kathmandu. Since 27 May the authorities are doing everything possible to deport him, but to date have not provided any explanation.

“I ran away to Nepal to reach Hong Kong and save my life — Gomes says — with the help of the Asian Human Rights Commission. When I went to the office of Immigration, officials delayed the process and then tried to deport me. “ The activist said that on July 9, while trying to catch a plane to Hong Kong, the police searched his luggage for the presence of drugs and other banned substances, but found nothing.

“After the control — he says — I was stopped from boarding saying that my documents were not valid for travel abroad. Without further explanation they put me in detention, guarded by two policemen with anti-drug dogs, forcing me to ask the Bangladesh embassy for permission to transit. “ The activist said he had obtained all the necessary documents for travel abroad and transit in foreign countries. “There is no reason for detention — he said — I have a visa to stay legally in Nepal, but the police consider me a criminal.”

On 21 May last men in a dark car kidnapped and tortured William Gomes, a Muslim convert to Christianity. The man, a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and founder of the Christian Development Alternatives (CDA — a humanitarian organization), was stripped naked, forced to the ground and questioned for nearly five hours. These men, including a native English-speaker, accused him of being in contact with Pakistani intelligence (ISI — Inter Service Intelligence) and receiving bribes in order to “damage the Bangladesh Army.” Moreover, they charged that Khaleda Zia had paid him to discredit Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. After the death threats to him and his family, Gomes vowed to leave the AHRC and was released.

Gomes says he’s concerned about the lives of his family who are still in Bangladesh. “My wife, my children are in danger. I have become a man without a country, my government is working against me. Where should I go to save my life and that of my loved ones? “. He calls on all Catholics to convince the Nepalese government to release him and save his life.

In recent months the Gomes case has aroused much concern between the Nepali human rights organizations and opposition parties who accuse the authorities of acting without any authority or mandate, in violation of democratic norms and civil rights in the country.

According to Subodh Pyakurel, Informal Sector Service Centre for Human Rights in Nepal, the authorities have no right to hold the man in custody. “When I spoke with the airport authorities to help Gomes they couldn’t give me any concrete reason. The police can not prevent him from reaching Hong Kong and does not even have the right to deport him. “

Arjun Narsingh KC, spokesperson of Nepali Congress, the country’s main opposition party, said: “How can our government ensure respect for human rights, when for no reason it holds an activist within its borders.” After this scandal, Arjun invites the Prime Minister to resign and called on police to release Gomes allowing him transit to Hong Kong.

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

Pakistan: Investigation Agency Director Reinstated Amid Corruption Probe

Islamabad, 26 July (AKI/Dawn) — The Pakistani government on Tuesday issued a notification bringing Hussain Asghar back to his previous post of senior director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the country’s top criminal investigation agency, DawnNews reported.

Asghar, who was involved in investigating the so-called scam linked to finding accomodations for Pakistanis making the annual pilgrimate to Mecca , was transferred and appointed as Inspector General of Gilgit-Baltistan in April.

At the time of his transfer, sources had repeatedly stated that Asghar’s probe was leading him to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat (PMS).

The Supreme Court had continually been directing the government to bring Asghar back to probing the scam and had reportedly given the government a last chance to reinstate the official.

Asghar is said to be one of the most dedicated FIA officers and as the head of its investigation team, he had unmasked faces of several bigwigs allegedly involved in the Haj scandal.

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

Far East

Beijing Pontificates Against Vatican “Threats”

The State Administration for Religious Affairs defends the integrity of the two excommunicated bishops (Leshan and Shantou) and mimics the Vatican saying that the Holy See’s gesture inflicts “wounds” and “sadness” among Catholics in China. It reaffirms the decision to go ahead with the ordinations without papal mandate, but the “resistance” to their dominance of the faithful, priests and bishops is growing. Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao should tackle the violation of the “harmonious society” and corruption of representatives responsible for religious politics.

Rome (AsiaNews) — Against the Vatican’s “unreasonable” and “brutal” “threats”, an (unnamed) government spokesman says that Beijing will continue on its path to ordain bishops without papal mandate.

This the contents of a summary statement published by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (Asar, the old Office of Religious Affairs), published today in Xinhua.

The declaration targets “the Vatican’s accusations against the ordination of bishops of the Catholic Church in China” and in particular the ordinations of Leshan (06/29/2011) and Shantou (07/14/2011).

As is well-known, Fr. Lei Shiyin was ordained bishop in Leshan, a candidate that the Holy See had long rejected for “serious reasons” (see 29/06/2011 Leshan: seven legitimate bishops take part in Episcopal ordination that had no papal mandate) in Shantou Fr Huang Bingzhang, was ordained who had also been advised by the Holy See to step aside, because, there is already a bishop in Shantou, but one who is not recognized by the government (07/14/2011 Eight bishops in communion with the pope forced to take part in illegitimate ordination in Shantou) .

In both cases, once the ordinations had taken place, the Holy See published a statement in which it rendered public the excommunication of the two newly ordained (see: 04/07/2011 The Holy See condemns Leshan ordination and 16 / 07/2011 Holy See condemns illegal Bishop of Shantou, appreciates “resistance” of bishops and faithful).

It should be noted that the excommunication is “latae sententiae”, ie, automatic, for the fact that an act of disobedience to the faith was carried out. In this case there was not even the problem of verifying the intent of the two, because both had been repeatedly been advised not to candidate themselves for the episcopate.

The Asar has come out against the excommunication, describing it as an “unreasonable” “threat”, a “brutal means” that “ deeply wounds” Chinese Catholics and “causes great sadness” to priests and laity. And it is curious that Beijing uses the same terms (“deep wounds” and “cause of great sadness”) that the Vatican statements attributed to the universal Church and the pope!

As is traditional practice in the Communist Party, they are using the other party’s charges against them, so that while the Vatican talks of wounds to religious freedom, China paints itself as a victim of the Holy See.

This aping of the Pope and the Holy See, arrives at the climax when the declaration pontificates that “the two newly ordained bishops are devout in their faith, their integrity and competence, they are supported by their priests and lay faithful”; it is somewhat curious that two of the priests of Catholic Church should need a license in orthodoxy from an association composed of atheist secretaries, led by an atheist Party!

Asar’s need to play the victim even results in its delving into the past, the 1950s, to when it claims the Vatican “threatened” bishops and priests with excommunication, and because of this “priests and laity of the Catholic Church in China have suffered a great historical trauma “!

Aside from the historic falsity of the statement — in the past, no bishop or priest has ever been officially excommunicated, and only John XXIII spoke of possible secret schism in the Church in China — the Asar completely overlooks the “sufferings” and “major trauma” of the tens of hundreds of bishops and priests who have faced prison (up to 20-30 years), lagers, torture, mockery within the people’s courts precisely because they remained faithful to the Pope as the religious leader of the Catholic Church. If the Vatican were to canonize all the martyrs under Chinese communism, undoubtedly we would have the largest canonization in history!

To Vatican “threats” the Asar responds with another threat: “The majority of priests and believers will more resolutely choose the path of independently selecting and ordaining its bishops, and the government will continue to support and encourage such practice”.

Such a threat — to continue the illicit ordinations without papal mandate — was repeated days ago by the illegitimate bishop Guo Jincai who, speaking to China Daily on July 22, said that “at least seven dioceses in China will ordain their bishops elected.” He added: “When the conditions are good.”

The point is that “the conditions” hoped for by the Asar are far from being good. More and more faithful, priests and bishops are distancing themselves from the illicit ordinations: in Shenyang, Mgr. Pei Junmin resisted being deported to the Shantou ordination (for which he had been designated as the main celebrant), thanks to the defence of the priests and faithful his diocese, and another bishop, Msgr. Cai Bingrui in Xiamen, enlisted for Shantou, managed to hide and is now wanted by the authorities of the government.

In short, throughout China the “resistance” of the Church towards the undue interference of government on religious matters is growing (see 18/07/2011 Chinese Church “resists” excessive power of Government and Patriotic Association). In addition, in recent days, many bishops who were deported and forced to participate in the illicit ordinations, have written to the Holy See communicating their being forced to take part in the act and receiving reinstatement in communion with the Pope.

The Asar declaration speaks of “ support and encouragement” to those who want an “independent” and “self-organized” church. In fact, until now there has been deportations, kidnapping and abduction of the bishops to force their participation in illicit ordinations: instead of leaving bishops and priests free to decide on their own, the Asar has preferred to “support and encourage” them by dint of coercion.

With a taste for paradox, the Asar statement concludes with an invitation to dialogue: “The principles and the position of the Chinese government to improve relations with the Vatican are solid and clear. We hope to begin a constructive dialogue with the Vatican and we hope to explore ways and means to improve relations. “

The declaration then calls for the “removal of the excommunication” as a condition to continue “the right path of dialogue”.

Apart from the grossness of attempting to be “the Pope’s pope”, ordering the Pope about in matters of faith, this note on dialogue and diplomatic relations is important. It is a sign that there are still those in leadership who want to modernize China providing real religious freedom and opening to relations with the Vatican. And these figures are within the entourage of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. For this — with fear and dread, and completely inconsistent with the rest of the statement — Asar is attempting to align itself with the supreme leadership.

In fact, however, Asar policies against the Catholic Church are completely counterproductive to Hu Jintao’s proclamation on the “harmonious society” and “fighting corruption”. The members of the government’s Religious Affairs Bureaux and the Patriotic Association are dividing communities and creating not harmony, but new tensions in Chinese society. In addition, the way they prey on the goods and property of the Church opens an entirely new chapter on the stinking corruption inside the party.

Will Hu Jintao succeed in healing this most recent front of concern in Chinese society? Only days ago Cardinal Zen, in an appeal published in the Hong Kong Apple Daily, asked the two leaders to “dedicate a little of their time to Catholics” in China (see 13/07/2011 Urgent appeals by Card. Zen and Bishop Tong against illicit Shantou ordination). We too join in this appeal.

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


Spain: Brussels: Restrictions on Romanian Workers Illegal Now

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 22 — If Spain intends to limit access for Romanians to the job market, it would be making a decision that in principle goes against EU laws, said European Commission spokesman, David Boublil, while speaking today in Brussels, responding to questions on a possible measure by Spain due to high unemployment rates in the country. The European Commission considers the information on the issue to be “nothing other than rumours and speculation”, said Boublil, “because we have not received any request from Spain and if we did receive notification regarding this, we would evaluate whether it respects EU regulations”. “Spain,” explained the spokesman, “has already opened its job market under the second phase of liberalisation that will end in December 2011. Therefore, in this context, in principle it cannot issue temporary measures against Romanians”. Possible exceptions are allowed if the job market is facing “serious problems” or “a serious threat”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: New Wave of Arrivals, 62 Illegal Immigrants Stopped

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 25 — A fresh wave of immigrants has arrived in Spain in recent hours. During the night, rescue workers of Spain’s maritime rescue agency aided a boat with 35 sub-Saharan Africans on board, including several minors, 40 miles south of Roquetas de Mar, in Almeria. The migrants were transferred to Guardia Civil boats and brought to the port of Almeria, said sources in Spain’s maritime rescue agency. And the majority of the 7 North Africans stopped early in the morning 4 miles from Punta Europa in Algesiras, Cadiz, were minors, attempting to arrive to Spain from North Africa on an recreational inflatable boat. Another inflatable craft with 20 Moroccan migrants on board landed at dawn today on the Faro de Trafalgar beach in Los Canos de Meca, in the province of Cadiz. All of the migrants, in good physical conditions, were transferred to temporary detention centres where they will stay while awaiting repatriation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Parliament Rejects Law Against Homophobia

(AGI) Rome — The House of Representatives has rejected the law against homophobia with 293 yays 250 nays and 21 abstentions the chamber approved constitutional prejudicial issues involving constitutionality presented by the PDl, Northern League and UDC .

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