Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110828

Financial Crisis
»France: 12 Billion Over 2 Years in New Cuts
»Italian Village Pleads for 830 Refugees Before it is Wiped Off the Map
»Italy: Vicenza Company Accused of 100 Mln Euro in Tax Evasion
»Italy-Albania: Deal to Convert 20 Mln Euros Debt
»Italy Aims to Reduce Austerity Cuts to Local Authorities
»Portugal: Government Considers to ‘Tax the Wealthy’
»Spain: Generalitat Bans Protest Against New Mosque
»Spain’s Economic Growth Hits the Brakes in Quarter
»The Surging Franc: Swiss Fear the End of Economic Paradise
»Burglar’s Family Awarded $300,000 in Wrongful Death Suit
»Underpublicized Threat Deep in White House
Europe and the EU
»Italy: The Leaning Power of Ikea Swedish Furniture Store Blocked Again
»Mohammedan Attacks Austrian Parliament
»Netherlands: Psychiatric Care in Prisons ‘Working Well’
»Switzerland: Bank Secrecy Feels the Squeeze
»The Priest and the Unloved Coins
»The Twilight of Italy’s Lighthouse Keepers
»Serbia: Kosovo Prompts Tadic to Cast Doubt on EU Membership
North Africa
»Dozen of Yemeni Jews Stranded in Cairo
»Frattini: No Colonialist Race With France Over Libya
»Germans Against Sending Troops to Libya
»Italy: Gaddafi Used Refugees as ‘Human Bombs’
»Libya: Scaroni (ENI): Diesel and Petrol in Exchange for Oil
»Libya: Frattini: Italian Trainers in Benghazi Since 2 Months
»Libya: Tunisian Hotel Federation Denounces Al Jazeera
»Libya: France and Italy Battle Over Reconstruction
»Sinai: Israel Allows Egyptian Troops to Enter
»Tunisia: Kerkennah: Roman Archeological Site Looted
Middle East
»Latest Trends Under the Abaya
»Syria: Hezbollah Reaffirms Support for Regime’s Repression
Far East
»Chinese “Invasion” of Vietnam: The Economy, The Seas and the Lives of People
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Girl in Uganda Loses Use of Legs After Leaving Islam for Christ
Latin America
»Battisti Says ‘I Regret Nothing, I Have Done Nothing’
»Australia: Human Face of the Hard Line
»Frattini: Use of Migrants a Crime Against Humanity
»UK: Immigration is No Longer Taboo — But Tackling it Still is
»UK: My Rapist Claims He Musn’t be Kicked Out of Britain… As He’s Gay
»UK: You’re Banned: May Tells Israeli Rabbi
Culture Wars
»Germany: Berlin’s Mayor Welcomes Pope Through Gritted Teeth

Financial Crisis

France: 12 Billion Over 2 Years in New Cuts

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 24 — The French government’s restructuring plan is expected to extract 12 billion euros from public coffers, one billion of which is due to come during the current year and in 2012. So said the Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, speaking to a press conference.

Fillon was careful to stress how France “has not been forced into taking austerity measures,” as has been the case with other nations, such as “Italy, Spain and Portugal, not to mention Greece”. This was thanks to its “policy of structural reform and supervision of public spending,” over past years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Village Pleads for 830 Refugees Before it is Wiped Off the Map

An alpine village in northern Italy has asked the island of Lampedusa, at the other end of the country, to urgently send 830 refugees in order to boost its population to 1,000 and avoid administrative obliteration under swingeing government cuts.

The appeal by the mayor of Acceglio is one of the more dramatic expressions of resistance to a €45.5bn (£40bn) austerity package announced by Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative coalition this month to try to tackle its debt crisis and assuage market jitters.

As part of the cuts, villages and towns with a population of less than 1,000 will be stripped of their municipal status and forced to merge with neighbouring communities, to the dismay of the mayors and councils of nearly 2,000 tiny settlements.

Acceglio, which lies close to the French border, is one of the towns that faces being wiped off the map — it has a population of just 178 and even that is in danger of dwindling further because many of the inhabitants are pensioners.

The mayor, Riccardo Benvegnu, 64, has written to his counterpart on Lampedusa, where more than 40,000 North African and sub-Saharan refugees have arrived this year, to request that 830 immigrants be despatched north as quickly as possible.

The influx of fresh blood would put the population over the threshold of viability.

The mayor, a former postman, admits his request is “a provocation” but says he can see no alternative if the village is to keep its council, which looks after rubbish collection, school buses, clearing the streets of snow and other key local services.

He said the migrants could be accommodated in dozens of apartments and second homes that had been empty “for years”.

“It’s controversial, I admit, not everyone is in agreement with me,” he said. “But to save the town, this is the lesser of two evils.”

Waves of refugees and economic migrants have managed to reach Lampedusa from the coasts of Tunisia and Libya this year, but whether their dreams of a new life include ending up in a remote mountain village which is snowbound in winter is open to question.

Bernardino De Rubeis, the mayor of Lampedusa, said the idea of settling some of the migrants in the Alps was “commendable” and that he would refer it to Roberto Maroni, the interior minister.

The unusual population swap is just one of the strange consequences of the government’s plan to save billions of pounds by slashing two tiers of local government — municipal and provincial — as part of the austerity drive.

The island of Capraia, off Genoa, has threatened to secede from Italy and apply to become part of Corsica rather than lose its council.

The 550 villagers of Filettino, in rugged mountains south-east of Rome, want to declare themselves a principality, to be ruled by a descendant of the deposed Italian royal family, in order to avoid municipal extinction.

Italy’s biggest union, the CGIL, has called a general strike for September 6 to protest against the cuts, which will hit health care, pensions, employees’ rights and local services.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Italy: Vicenza Company Accused of 100 Mln Euro in Tax Evasion

‘We are punishing tax evaders,’ police warn

(ANSA) — Vicenza, August 26 — Italian tax police have accused a large leather tanning company in the northern city of Vicenza of tax evasion worth 100 million euros.

Police said the Mastrotto Group of companies, which produces cow hides and calf skins for footwear, upholstery, and leather goods, hid more than 106 million euros in undeclared profits and employed around 800 illegal workers.

They also claimed that up to 1.3 billion euros may have been hidden from financial authorities and police are hoping to recover hundreds of millions of euros in unpaid taxes.

The tax evasion investigation arose after police began looking into claims that the company had paid 300,000 euros in bribes to officials from the Italian tax collection body, the Agenzia delle Entrate.

Police allege that company officials also set up a complex structure with two holding companies in Luxembourg and two trusts on the Isle of Man that were said to be fictitious.

“At this historic time which calls for sacrifices from all Italians we are rooting out and punishing all those who pursue tax evasion,” said Antonio Morelli, provincial comandante of the Vicenza tax police.

Mastrotto is based in the tannery hub of Arzignano in the Chiampo Valley, has six manufacturing plants in Italy and the company website estimates its annual turnover is more than over 450 million euros. It was founded 50 years ago by Arciso Mastrotto and employs 2,100 persons in Italy and abroad. Company officials were co-operating with investigators and were in the process of putting their accounts in order.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Albania: Deal to Convert 20 Mln Euros Debt

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, AUGUST 24 — A 20 million euro debt owed by Albania to Italy will be converted into a fund to finance initiatives for the poorer sectors of society. The deal was signed in Tirana today by the Albanian Finance Minister, Ridvan Bode, and the Italian ambassador in the country, Saba d’Elia.

“Italy has signed similar deals with other countries in the past, but this is the first time that such an agreement is applied with Albania,” Italy’s ambassador said.

The deal will see the creation of a compensation fund (CPF), with an influx of local money in 10 instalments of 1.95 million euros to be paid every six months, the equivalent of the amount that Albania was due to reimburse Italy. An initial instalment of 500,000 euros will be paid inside the first 30 days.

Meanwhile, a joint Italian-Albanian commission will agree on the terms of initiatives supported by the CPF in the health and education sectors and to provide employment incentives.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Aims to Reduce Austerity Cuts to Local Authorities

(AGI) Rimini -”I think there will be, as the Lega party requested, a substantial reduction in cuts to local authorities”. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni also told journalists, “I hope for this to be brought to a minimum, especially as regards municipalities. This is what I’ve been working toward, I’ve kept my head down to achieve this goal and I think we’re on the right track”.

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

Portugal: Government Considers to ‘Tax the Wealthy’

(ANSAmed) — LISBON, AUGUST 25 — The conservative government of Portuguese Premier Pedro Passos Coelho may follow France’s example and introduce a special anti-crisis solidarity tax on higher incomes. So reported daily Diario de Noticias, which quotes sources close to the Prime Minister. According to the newspaper, the government “is assessing the national response” of the country’s largest taxpayers to this possible new tax. Yesterday the French government decided to introduce a temporary tax of 3% on the highest incomes, as part of the latest 12 billion euro package of anti-deficit measures.

In Spain Economy Minister Elena Salgado has not ruled out the introduction of a similar tax.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Generalitat Bans Protest Against New Mosque

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 24 — The interior department of the Catalan regional government has banned a protest against the construction of a new mosque in Salt (Girona), which had been organised this coming Saturday by the Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC), a party close to the anti-immigrant right, because of the risk of “serious threats to public order”. So announced the Generalitat sources quoted by the website of the La Vanguardia newspaper.

The ban was agreed on the basis of negative reports filed by the local police in Salt and the Catalan riot police. The interior department fears that protesters could chant xenophobic slogans and provoke clashes between PxC sympathisers, groups of young North Africans and Indignados. The Girona section of the Indignados movement has organised an “anti-fascist” protest on Saturday afternoon to co-incide with the PxC demonstration.

Salt has an immigrant population of 40% and has serious unemployment problems. In recent months, the town has been the setting for violent clashes between ethnic locals and foreigners, fuelled by PxC propaganda. The party’s leader, Josep Anglada, had previously announced that he would attend the protest against the construction of the mosque, which is due to be built in the Torremirona area of Salt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain’s Economic Growth Hits the Brakes in Quarter

The Spanish economy grew at a slower pace in the second quarter than the first, fuelling concerns Spain could slip back into recession if the eurozone economy continues to worsen.

Final official numbers on Friday showed gross domestic product grew 0.2 percent in the second quarter on a quarterly basis, as forecast in a flash estimate and down from a revised 0.4 percent in the first quarter.

On an annual basis the economy grew by 0.7 percent, in line with consensus, and down from 0.9 percent in the first quarter.

“We continue to think that Spain’s going to grow very weakly over the next two quarters at best and it could well fall back into recession,” said Ben May of Capital Economics.

The Spanish government is forecasting economic growth of 1.3 percent year on year in 2011, but the consensus among economists is closer to 0.8 percent, meaning it will be harder for the government to meet targets for a reduced budget deficit.

A burst property bubble and prolonged credit crunch has hit construction, once a concrete pillar of growth, but solid exports and continued household spending have kept Spain from dipping back into recession.

Economists said relatively strong household spending in the second quarter, with unemployment at almost 21 percent and disposable income falling, meant family spending was likely to be drawn from savings.

“The story once again is that this probably reflects households running down their savings or saving less and that obviously is not a long-term solution,” said May.

“The more downbeat assessment reflects a far less certain Spanish export outlook, given the prospect of a worsening international outlook amid heightened financial-market turmoil,” Global Insight economist Raj Badiani said.

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

The Surging Franc: Swiss Fear the End of Economic Paradise

By seeking safety in the Swiss franc, global investors have caused its value to skyrocket. But the currency’s rapid appreciation hassignificantly hurt exports and tourism — and given rise to serious worries about the future.

The global financial crisis has finally made its way to this small Swiss valley. When Hans Stadelmann talks about currency speculators, it seems like two worlds are colliding.

There is Stradelmann, the 44-year-old cheese maker standing in his small factory, which smells of freshly cut Appenzeller cheese. Five men are working at the boilers, making the most popular Swiss cheese in Germany according to a traditional recipe handed down through the centuries.

And then there are the international financial markets, that abstract global entity whose actors have decided that the Swiss franc is a safe investment and, in doing so, have pushed the currency’s value to record levels against the dollar and the euro. A year back, one euro was worth 1.35 francs. Two weeks ago, the value was 1-to-1.

This presents a problem for Stadelmann. About 40 percent of his products are exported, most of them to EU countries. In order to keep his earnings level in francs, he’s being forced to charge higher prices in euros — and not all of his customers are willing to pay them.

“I’m already selling less, and I’m afraid it’s going to get much worse,” Stadelmann says.

And it’s not just his company he’s worried about. “I get my milk from 50 small family farmers,” he says. “If I close up shop, I’d be destroying the livelihoods of 50 families.”

Swiss Buying Imported Cheese

Stadelmann is powerless against the financial markets. He knows it, and it only makes him worry more. Investors across the world are finding safe haven in the Swiss franc, and the country’s export industry is paying the price. Exports from the Alpine nation tumbled by about four billion francs (€3.5 billion or $5 billion) in June, and exports to the EU, the country’s most important trading partner, were down almost 15 percent.

Even Swiss consumers have been merciless. Since imported products have gotten cheaper, they have even been buying foreign cheese. Though Stadelmann belittles cheeses imported from Holland and Germany as “chewy globs,” he still can’t hide how much he’s worried about his industry.

Of course, it might be hard to take the complaints of the Swiss seriously, especially since they come from one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Per capita economic output is roughly 73,000 francs, the national debt is only 38.3 percent of GDP, and the unemployment rate is only 3 percent.

But the Swiss fear the end of their success story. Over the course of the past year, the value of the franc has risen 20 percent against the euro. “With an appreciation of 2 to 5 percent, export-dependant companies can go under — and they know it,” says Jan-Egbert Sturm, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. “But what’s happening now is really bad.”

Switzerland’s economy wouldn’t be able to cope with it if the euro dipped below 1.1 francs, Sturm warns. For this reason, the Swiss National Bank has attempted to get the franc back to a reasonable level by flooding the market with freshly printed money and thereby devaluing the currency.

Wholesalers Feeling the Squeeze

Stadelmann, the cheese maker, benefits from high milk subsidies and long-term delivery contracts with his wholesalers. But worries are even greater at that level, the next step in the supply chain. “It’s a matter of survival,” says Josef Hardegger. “We are deep in the red.”

Hardegger’s company exports 8,000 metric tons of Swiss cheese each year and employs roughly 100 people. “For the past year and a half, my business partners have only wanted to talk about prices,” Hardegger complains. “The rise in the franc’s value preoccupies me from early in the morning till late at night.”

The fact that the franc has been steadily rising in value since January 2010 makes this particularly difficult for him, Hardegger says. After every time he has negotiated new prices with his dealers and supermarkets in the euro zone, the euro has fallen in value again against the franc, cutting his profit margins even further. “I’d be happy if the exchange rate against the euro could just stay unchanged for a few months,” he says…

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Burglar’s Family Awarded $300,000 in Wrongful Death Suit

An El Paso County jury on Friday awarded nearly $300,000 to the daughter of a burglar who was fatally shot in 2009 while breaking into an auto lot.

Parents of the victim, Robert Johnson Fox, embraced their attorneys after a judge announced the jury’s verdict, capping a two-week-long civil trial in which business owner Jovan Milanovic and two relatives were painted as vigilantes who plotted a deadly ambush rather than let authorities deal with a string of recent burglaries.

Phillip and Sue Fox, who filed suit for wrongful death in 2010 on behalf of Fox’s 3-year-old daughter, called the jury’s award a victory in their fight to seek accountability for the death of their son, who they say never posed a threat to the heavily armed men.

“Rob was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” Sue Fox said afterward. “I can’t excuse his actions, but he didn’t deserve to be executed.”

The exact amount of the award was $269,500, for factors such as loss of companionship and loss of future earnings. The family will also be awarded some of the costs associated with the more than yearlong legal battle.

The jury of three men and three women deliberated for 21/2 days over closely contested testimony about the predawn shooting on April 19, 2009.

Fox, 20, was shot after he and a friend scaled a fence to get inside Southwest Auto Sales at 2444 Platte Place in the city’s Knob Hill neighborhood. According to the accomplice, Brian Corbin, they had smoked methamphetamine and were looking to steal anything to buy more drugs.

Corbin testified he saw two armed men charge out of a building and run in their direction, one of them shouting “we’re gonna get you” in an obscenity-laced threat. Corbin, who escaped by climbing over a car and jumping a fence, said he felt a bullet pass by him as someone fired four gunshots.

Fox was standing inside a small shed when a .45-caliber rifle bullet passed through the shed’s door and pierced his heart.

Police said in a 145-page investigative report that the intruder had knives in his pockets and one strapped to his ankle, but never posed a threat to Milanovic or the other men, his father Ljuban Milanovic and brother-in-law Srdjan Milanovic.

The men are refugees who came to the United States from the former Yugoslavia in 1998.

Jurors found that Fox’s death was the result of “willful and deliberate” conduct by Jovan Milanovic, who was accused of firing the rifle, and Novak, who supplied the semiautomatic Heckler & Koch that Milanovic used in the killing.

Only Ljuban Milanovic emerged without a judgment against him…

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Underpublicized Threat Deep in White House

FBI: Penetration by radical agents worse than thought

Infiltration of the federal government by members of the radical Muslim Brotherhood is worse than some have warned recently, says a former FBI special agent in Washington. The agent confirmed that at least three operatives of the Egypt-based Brotherhood — whose credo is “Jihad is our way and death in the cause of Allah is our dream” — have penetrated the Obama administration. The shocking charge was first leveled by Muslim reformer Tarek Fatah during a recent speech in Toronto. “When someone says that there is penetration of jihadi Islamists within society, do not dismiss it as some right-wing, xenophobic, racist rant,” warned Fatah, a Canadian journalist. “Today in the White House, there are three members of the Muslim Brotherhood that influence Obama’s policy,” he told the audience gathered for an IdeaCity conference. “One is Rashad Hassan, who is the American ambassador to the 52-nation Organization of Islamic (Conference).”

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: The Leaning Power of Ikea Swedish Furniture Store Blocked Again

After big plans in Pisa for a new Ikea store were scrapped, the Swedish furniture mega store has run into another local administrative wall outside of Turin. The price of entering the Italian market remains frustratingly high

First it was Pisa. Now Turin. From both a consumer and employment point of view, this looks like a lose-lose situation. The labyrinthine of local regulation is making the opening of new Ikea furniture outlets in Italy almost impossible. After facing endless troubles, the Swedish mega-store company is now saying it may give up.

Ikea planned to open its second store on the outskirts of Turin, which was due to occupy 160,000 square meters in the towns of La Loggia and Moncalieri. But after five years of paperwork and countless meetings with public administrators, urban planners, politicians, and representatives from local associations, the project is falling apart. Turin’s provincial government has just vetoed it.

The local politicians say the proposed land is zoned for agriculture, and should not be dedicated to another mega store. “We cannot waste this land,” explained one local official. Ikea is being encouraged to choose from vacant industrial and commercial land in the area. But the company had picked the farmland for the store because it is much less expensive than commercial property.

The seemingly dead-end project has already cost the Swedish company roughly 1 million euros. “Rather than changing the location, we’ll give up on the entire investment,” one Ikea manager said.

Giving up on the project would mean renouncing a 60 million dollar investment, which would have created 250 new jobs. It would also send another negative signal to international investors who already consider Italy a country where doing business is too cumbersome. In comparison, nearby Slovenia gives away land almost for free.

Ikea has already experienced this unnerving process in Italy. The company worked on a plan for a new store close to Pisa, in Tuscany, for four years, before the project collapsed in the face of administrative resistance. Ikea was more successful with a store in Padua, in northern Italy: it took only nine years to open it…

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

Mohammedan Attacks Austrian Parliament

Yesterday a Mohammedan — a 36-year-old Iranian asylum seeker — attacked the Austrian parliament, brandishing a knife, throwing stones and taking a woman hostage. After entering the parliament through the visitor centre, he tried to gain access to the inner parts of building. When confronted, he took a woman hostage with a knife, barricaded himself inside the rooms belonging to the security staff and demanded to see the Austrian President, Heinz Fischer. After about 20 minutes, a special security force known as WEGA used stun grenades to subdue the man, who was then disarmed and arrested.

There seems to have been virtually no international coverage of this incident. The Austrian press refers to the man only as an “Iranian asylum seeker”, “apparently mentally ill”, “a man in his 40s”. There is, of course, no mention of the fact that he is a Muslim and no consideration of the possibility that this was a jihad attack.

This recalls the incident in Britain in which the Labour MP Stephen Timms was stabbed by the jihadist Roshonara Choudhry. With the exception of the Daily Mail, all news reports described her only as a “21-year-old woman”, omitting to mention the fact that she was a Muslim wearing traditional Muslim garb. We had to wait till her trial to find out that she was a jihad militant who had been inspired by the sermons of Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Sources: Die Presse, OE24, Der Standard

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Psychiatric Care in Prisons ‘Working Well’

The new psychiatric care centres which were introduced into prisons in 2009 are working well, health inspectors said on Thursday.

The five centres are allowed to use forced medication, unlike other prisons.

The number of prisoners with psychiatric problems has been rising for years. Of the 18,000 prisoners, around 10% need specialist care, reports NRC. These are usually schizophrenics, drug addicts or people with a mental handicap.

The new centres are operating ‘above expectations’, although the lack of integral and easy access patient files is still a problem, say the health inspectors.

In a reaction to the report, junior justice minister Fred Teeven said he is aiming to have electronic patient files available in 2013.

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

Switzerland: Bank Secrecy Feels the Squeeze

Le Temps, 26 August 2011

“Switzerland forced to hand over names to the IRS,” trumpets Le Temps, reporting that Washington has “gathered sensitive information that has led it to accuse Swiss banks of helping U.S. clients avoid declaring assets parked in Switzerland”. Two years after the UBS affair, which forced the Swiss to pass 5,000 customer names on to the IRS, “Washington is back and demanding more names: to set an example, to deter fraudsters, and to show that Switzerland is no longer a safe tax haven.

“For the Swiss negotiators it is already clear that the issue is not whether the country should comply with this requirement, but how,” affirms the Geneva newspaper, which notes that “the United States have already indicated that a ‘global solution’ such as that worked out with Germany and Great Britain, does not interest them.”

This comes some weeks after Germany, followed closely by Britain, signed agreements with Bern to “regularise” their respective nationals’ assets parked in Switzerland. “This agreement will permit London to tax secret accounts held by British citizens in the Swiss Confederation,” explains Les Echos. For the French daily, “by guaranteeing the anonymity of the account holders,” Switzerland “has preserved the essential element of its banking secrecy.” And indeed, the country has “managed to fracture European unity in the fight against tax evasion.”

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

The Priest and the Unloved Coins

“No cents please”. Five billion euros in collection boxes

ROME — At Atella, a municipality of 3,800 residents in the province of Potenza, it’s the talk of the town. Last Sunday, Fr Domenico Traversi, the parish priest of the 14th-century church of Santa Maria ad Nives, said from the pulpit how frustrating it was to open a collection box and find handfuls of one and two-cent coins. “I throw them away”, he is reported to have said. “No one uses them”. The story ended up on the pages of the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, along with reports that the nearest greengrocer had taken the advice to heart and rounded up all his prices. Now Fr Domenico is furious. He says his outburst has been misinterpreted and promises letters to clarify the situation but he also admits: “No, I don’t throw the coins away. But I can’t pay €3,000 for the new electrical equipment the diocese wants installed in one-cent coins”.

The copper eurocents are one of Italy’s many contradictions. No one uses them. When you get some in your change, they just weigh down your pockets, unless you pop them into the church collection box. Yet Italy is swamped with — useless — eurocents. Since 2002, the Italian mint has struck 6.7 billion coins in the three smallest denominations. There are 2.6 billion one-cent coins, 2.2 billion worth two cents and 1.9 billion five-cent coins. The huge face value of about €165 million represents about 45% of the euro coinage struck for the ministry of the economy.

The tiddlers have had a tough time from the start. On 22 January 2002, a few days before the new currency went into circulation, Giulio Tremonti, the economy minister in the second Berlusconi administration, announced: “Doing away with eurocents would undoubtedly be a popular move. We’re thinking it over and we’ve discussed it in the European Union”. At the time, economist Giacomo Vaciago predicted that the copper-clad steel coins would have a lifespan measurable in months yet here they still are, in our trouser pockets, handbags and collection boxes. The first Italians to do away with small coins were the managers of the Senate catering facilities, who on 1 February 2002 opted to go one better than Mr Tremonti and immediately abolish the pointless European small change: cappuccinos were reduced from 67 cents to 65 and croissants fell from 46 to 45 while filled rolls leapt from €1.14 to €1.20…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

The Twilight of Italy’s Lighthouse Keepers

Italy will still need lighthouses. But with new technology, lighthouse keepers are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Already just 62 of the country’s 161 “faros” have actual human operators

There is never a shortage of people writing to the Italian Defense Ministry applying for a position as a lighthouse keeper. For some, this is a dream job with the benefits of freedom, life far from the daily routine and a chance to live surrounded by the ebbs and flows of the natural world. Truth is, though, that within 10 or 15 years this profession will be extinct.

Along the 8,000-kilometer Italian coastline, there are just 161 lighthouses in the strict sense of the word, meaning facilities that emit a ray of light visible for at least 15,000 nautical miles. Of these, only 62 have an actual human keeper. There are also 668 navigation lights and 1,370 light that keep watch from the Italian coast. Indeed, by night, the Italian coast looks like a Christmas tree enlightened with thousands of bright spots to show the safest routes for the sailors.

Originally, instead of lighthouses, there were simple bonfires, which slowly evolved into towers. Around 300 BC the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria were among the wonders of the world. The current connotation of today’s lighthouses — including the Statue of Liberty in New York — was first developed in the 18th century. In the following century, the French engineer Augustin-Jean Fresnel was the first to construct a special type of lens — now called a Fresnel lens — as a substitute for mirrors in lighthouses.

The oldest Italian lighthouse is the so called Lanterna (lantern) in Genoa. It was built in 1326 and rebuilt in 1543. Previously, the oldest Italian lighthouse was in Livorno, which dated back to 1304. But in 1944, it was destroyed by the German army.

Lighthouses have always been an inspiration for writers, painters, and photographers. They are going to switch off soon, though. In the UK, the General Lighthouse Authority (GLA) is planning to shut down many of the coastal lamps, which have been largely made obsolete by GPS and electronic and satellite systems.

Still, some say traditional lighthouses must be preserved — and not only for poetic reasons. “Lighthouses must be kept working,” says Adm. Alberto Gauzolino, who is in charge of the Lighthouse Authority of the Italian Navy. “GPS works for high-sea navigation. But along the coast, the commander needs to have everything under control, and a lighthouse is irreplaceable.”

The first Italian Lighthouse Authority was created in 1868 by the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. Still, in 1910 a British document read that “lighthouses and light signals along the Italian coast are not reliable at all.” Things improved when the Navy obtained administrative control over the lighthouses…

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


Serbia: Kosovo Prompts Tadic to Cast Doubt on EU Membership

Belgrade, 26 August (AKI) — Serbian President Boris Tadic has for the first time expressed skepticism in his country’s integration into the European Union and prospects to get a status of an official candidate for membership this year.

In an interview to national news agency Tanjug published on Friday, Tadic conceded Serbia may not get a candidate status and the date for access talks this year as expected, because the EU has come up with new, unacceptable conditions regarding Kosovo.

The message was clearly passed on by visiting German chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday who said Belgrade would first have to solve its dispute with Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, and abolish the so called “parallel structures” it still operates in the Serb-populated north.

“Serbia will not abandon its people in Kosovo, but will neither give up on European integrations,” Tadic said. “My answer is that Serbia will not give up on any of its legitimate interests,” he added.

Belgrade and minority Serbs in Kosovo oppose Kosovo independence which has been recognized by 81 countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 European Union members.

Tadic has set as his main political goal the membership in the EU and insisted it was possible with retaining some kind of control over Kosovo at the same time. But the message from Brussels came as a cold shower in pre-election year.

His slogan “Kosovo and the EU”, on which he won two elections, no longer seemed to hold water and may well backfire in next spring’s parliamentary election. Kosovo independence ahs taken roots and EU dream seems to be slipping away.

Until recently, the EU has tied Serbia’s membership bid to the arrest of all war crimes fugitives to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. But with the last fugitives, wartime Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, a leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia landing in the Hague this summer, the issue of Kosovo popped up as another barrier.

“Whether we get a candidate status and the date of access talks only partly depends on us,” Tadic said. ““I’m sure that Serbia will fulfill every condition which is in line with the Copenhagen criteria (on inviolability of state borders). We will see whether the EU fulfills its part, which is up to them,” he said.

At the same time, he voiced optimism, saying “if it’s not possible today, it would be possible tomorrow”.

Tadic said Serbia operated no “parallel structures” in northern Kosovo, but the “only structures”, legally elected by Kosovo Serbs, including local administration, health and educational institutions and Belgrade can’t back down on that.

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

North Africa

Dozen of Yemeni Jews Stranded in Cairo

A dozen of Yemeni Jews are stranded in Cairo of Egypt after failed to migrate to South America.

Yahya Yousof, Rabbi of the Al-Salem Jewish minority in Yemen said that the 12 Jews that left Yemen more than two months ago are stranded in Cairo and that they had left Yemen illegally.

He said that they are now in Egypt and are expected to be extradited to the Yemeni authorities soon due to false information they presented to the Yemeni immigration authorities prior to their leave to Egypt.

The 12 Jews are now being held in Egypt. He said that the twelve Yemeni Jews are suspected of forging official documents and could face legal actions due to not having proper documents.

A Yemeni Jew from Raidah town, 50 kilometers to the north of Sana’a, who asked to not mention his name said that many of the Yemeni Jews minority that live in Raida including the 12 stranded in Cairo have been planning to migrate to Europe in fears of being killed by Islamist radicals especially after one of them was killed by a radical Islamist militant.

Masha al-Nahari, 39 years old Yemeni Jew from Raidah was killed by an Islamist extremist in December 2008 after he and the Jewish minority in Raidah had received threats from Islamic extremists to convert to Islam or leave the country.

In a contradicted report the reported that as fighting and instability continue in Yemen, Satmar activists are taking advantage of the anarchy to step up efforts to smuggle Jews out of the country. According to a Kikar Shabbat report, a number of Yemenite Jews have recently been smuggled out of the country, taken to Argentina.

Of late, the situation for the remaining Jewish community has turned increasingly hostile, to the point of life-threatening in some cases, prompting Satmar to increase efforts to save the last remnants of the once thriving community in that country. Since the rebels began efforts to overthrow the current government, attacks against Jews have increased significantly, creating the volatile situation that exists today.

It appears that over recent days, 21 Jews, including three widows and an infant have been successfully taken out of the country, brought to safety…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Frattini: No Colonialist Race With France Over Libya

(AGI) Rome — Franco Frattini denied any “colonialist race” with France for the future reconstruction of Libya. Interviewed by Radio anch’io the foreign minister dismissed a headline in today’s La Stampa to that effect. “I don’t like that kind of synthesis,” he explained. “These are approaches that Italy, unlike other countries, has rejected, and does not intend to fall into.” .

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

Germans Against Sending Troops to Libya

(AGI) Berlin — A poll shows the large majority of Germans is against sending Bundeswehr troops to Libya for peacekeeping purposes. The poll was carried out by the Emnid Institute for the weekly ‘Focus’ review, and shows that 56% of Germans are against Bundeswehr troops being sent to Libya in the future, while that 37% are in favour.

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

Italy: Gaddafi Used Refugees as ‘Human Bombs’

Strongman wanted ‘inferno’ on Lampedusa, says Frattini

(ANSA) — Rome, August 26 — Besieged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi diverted massive amounts of migrants to Italy as an attempted reprisal for Italy’s involvement in NATO-led air strikes in Libya, Italian Foreign Minister and the Libyan ambassador to Italy said on Friday.

“I confirm that Gaddafi himself organized this flow of illegal migration,” said Abdulhafed Gaddur on Italian radio. “He was the one who gave the orders”.

Since the start of the year, some 50,000 migrants and refugees from North Africa, first from Tunisia and then from Libya, have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, which quickly overburdened local facilities.

A deal with Gaddafi to turn migrants back before they neared Italian waters had limited the flow of migrants until the Libyan uprising earlier this year brought down strict border controls, and Italy’s involvement in a NATO intervention soured a once friendly relationship between Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Gaddafi.

“[Gaddafi] said he wanted to turn Lampedusa black,” said Gaddur, referring to the fact that many of the exiles were migrants to Libya from Sub-Saharan Africa. Gaddafi said he wanted to use them as “human bombs,” Gaddur added.

Gaddur said he suspected that one thousand people died in their attempts to reach Italian shores.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that further evidence of Gaddafi’s orders would soon be made public.

As the Gaddafi regime nears its end, Frattini responded to suspiscions that Italy and France were more interested in Libya’s resources than the best interests of the country itself, which is a former Italian colony.

“There’s no race to see who gets there first,” said Frattini on Italian radio.

“We’re doing what we’ve always done: confirming the friendship between the Italian people and the Libyan people,” he added.

The foreign minister also said that Italy’s military role in Libya will continue even after Gaddafi is found, “as long as the circumstances require,” highlighting that the transitional government will have the final say.

He also underlined Italy’s “decades-long” ties with Libya, including mutual political and economic interests, which he said will continue now that the transitional council has promised to honor trade agreements with Italy.

Once Gaddafi’s closest European ally, Italy has investments in Libya stretching from multibillion-euro defense and construction contracts to oilfields that supply the Italian oil giant Eni, representatives of which have been working with Libyan insurgents in Benghazi to reactivate oil installations shut down by the military conflict.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Scaroni (ENI): Diesel and Petrol in Exchange for Oil

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, AUGUST 25 — The agreement Eni will sign this Monday in Benghazi with the NTC will include petrol and diesel supplies from the Italian company to the ‘new’ Libya, with payments in oil as soon as the fields will start producing again. The announcement was made by Eni managing director Paolo Scaroni, who talked to the press after the meeting with Berlusconi and Jibril.

The written understanding should also include technical assistance by Eni technicians, who will study how to start production in some oil fields in Cyrenaica again. “The agreement regards supplies and technical support, and is meant to help the transitional council in its difficult role,” explained Scaroni.

The NTC has been asking for some time, Scaroni continued, for fuel supplies, “also because their refineries are not working: after several problems, mainly regarding legal issues, we have found a solution to supply petrol and diesel from Italian refineries, for which they can pay later in oil when their fields start producing again.” According to the managing director of Eni, “the international recognition of the NTC has played an important role in this” agreement. On the same line, “also on their request, we are actively carrying out the necessary surveys for the resumption of the oil fields in Cyrenaica, particularly a field in the south of Cyrenaica”. Scaroni concluded that Eni is first working on the resumption of gas supplies, while “the normal production of the oil fields could take 6-18 months according to our estimates.” Libyan gas supplies “make up 10-12% of total supplies for us,” Scaroni added, “and we are not particularly concerned, but we must plan for the winter because the situation on the other supply fronts is also far from calm.” New contracts are not being discussed in this stage of contacts with the NTC, he concluded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Frattini: Italian Trainers in Benghazi Since 2 Months

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — “A team of Italian military has been present in Benghazi for two months now for training purposes,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Radio 24. He made his statement after the meeting in Milan between Premier Silvio Berlusconi and the Prime Minister of the Libyan National transitional Council, Mahmoud Jabril.

“We have sent 15-20 Italian military to give technical training to some units of the Libyan armed forces, but we are considering expanding this assistance to the police as well, particularly the border police and the Libyan coastguard,” Frattini continued.

According to the Italian FM, “security will be another task Italy can take care of.” Frattini added that the Italian team includes “troops that train other troops,” like in Afghanistan, “only on a smaller scale: Libya has asked for this and they are there since around two months.” He added that it is not a team of ground troops, “they are only trainers.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Tunisian Hotel Federation Denounces Al Jazeera

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 25 — The regional hotel federation of the south-east of Djerba “denounces the irresponsible way Al Jazeera has spread false information that has had an impact on the region’s security.” The federation referred to the news, which turned out to be wrong, that members of the Gaddafi regime were staying in the Park Inn Ulysse Resort & Thalasso hotel in Djerba. The news was reported on Sunday by Al Jazeera. So far the federation’s demand for an apology and for “reporting the real situation” has remained unanswered. The news triggered a loud demonstration of Libyan citizens to be staged in Djerba, creating “panic and an unsafe situation in which the police and army had to intervene, on request of the hotel, to protect the hotel and its clients.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: France and Italy Battle Over Reconstruction

La Stampa, 26 August 2011

The fighting in Tripoli has barely begun to die down,” leads La Stampa, “but the competition between Italy and France is already on”. From the very start of military operations, prepared and conducted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy — with Silvio Berlusconi, as head of the Italian government, lagging behind reluctantly in the name of friendship with the Gaddafi regime — “it was understood that the war against the Colonel would be transformed into a conflict of another kind,” writes the Turin daily.

“An economic war with a new adversary: ??Italy, of course. While Rome dragged its feet before joining in the operations, Paris — with London bringing up the rear — pressed on the accelerator, dreaming of the carve-up ahead that would see Libya broken up into autonomous provinces and the “oil pie” divvied up between their national champions, Total and BP, which would be hitting the ground running. Now that the uprising is — nearly — over, the second phase of operations can begin: a business worth billions of euros, for rebuilding roads, ports, industrial plants, whole cities. Again it’s Paris leading the play, with Rome trotting up behind. The Elysée is setting up a conference to lay the foundations of the new democratic Libya, and it is Paris that the new government leader of Libya, Mahmoud Jibril, visited on Aug. 25, stopping to talk to the Italians only on a stopover in Rome on the way back.”

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

Sinai: Israel Allows Egyptian Troops to Enter

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 26 — Israel is prepared to allow thousands of Egyptian soldiers to enter the Sinai, as an exception to the Sinai demilitarisation agreements, to end the activities of Islamic terrorist groups that are supported by Bedouin tribes, Defence Minister Ehud Barak told The Economist.

But his words have already set off a controversy in Israel, particularly in Parliament where some MPs believe that the government cannot arbitrarily change the content of the Camp David peace agreements (1979).

Referring to the repercussions of the terrorist attacks carried out last week in north of Eilat by a Palestinian commando that had crossed the Sinai from Gaza, Barak confirmed that Israel will allow new Egyptian troops, as well as combat helicopters and light armoured vehicles, to enter the Sinai.

However, Egyptian tanks will not be allowed in.

The reaction of Knesset (Parliament) chairman Reuven Rivlin (Likud) was immediate: he said that the government cannot take such important commitments without the approval of the majority of MPs.

In a further gesture of reconciliation towards Egypt, yesterday Israel confirmed its commitment to carry out a detailed reconstruction of the attacks together with the Egyptian army. Five Egyptian troops were killed in the ambush, presumably by Israeli fire but perhaps by a suicide bomber or by bombs used by the attackers. Today the Israeli press publishes reports of witnesses who say that some Egyptian troops have backed the terrorist attacks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Kerkennah: Roman Archeological Site Looted

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 19 — Several tombs dating back to the ancient Rome were looted last night on two locations on the Kerkennah Islands, local sources report. The sources specify that the tombs had been found under two metres of sand with the help of metal detectors. The looters reportedly arrived in off-road vehicles. The robbery took place in the islands’ monuments and Roman sites area, in Borj El Hsar and Ennakhla.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Latest Trends Under the Abaya

Gulf women who wear the abaya wear the latest trends and pick their outfits according to the occasion. A freelance writer, Yousra Samir, guides abaya-wearing women through current fashion trends with her blog called ‘Under Your Abaya’

Yousra Samir, 23, is a half-English, half-Egyptian freelance writer that was born and brought up in London. When she was 15, she moved to Doha with her family.

In Britain, she used to wear Westernized clothes with a small hijab. In Qatar, when going out with friends, she stuck out like a sore thumb, so she decided to wear the abaya full time. It was partly out of wanting to blend in, and partly because wearing the abaya commands an unspoken level of respect from the opposite sex.

She started her blog “Under Your Abaya” in September 2010 because she wanted to be part of the Middle Eastern fashion blogging community. None of the blogs, however, paid attention to how women wear those trends under their abayas.

Women who wear hijab have to make sure what they are wearing is long enough, loose enough and not transparent. Women who wear the abaya have a wider amount of choice when it comes to picking out clothes — they can wear transparent pieces and sleeveless tops because the abaya covers them up; they can be fashionable and modest at the same time and wear pieces that hijab-wearing women cannot wear.

Samir thinks people wrongly assume that abaya-wearing women do not follow fashion or have no sense of style. “In fact, abaya-wearing women in the Gulf are faithful followers of fashion; many of them can just look at a piece and tell you who the designer is, since their knowledge of fashion is that vast,” she said.

The purpose of “Under Your Abaya” is to highlight all the current trends each season. She thinks that when abaya-wearing women are wearing something that they know is stylish, they will feel more confident in themselves — something that will then be apparent to others.

Gulf women who wear the abaya do wear the latest trends and pick their outfits according to the occasion. They wear smart, sophisticated and tailored clothes under their abayas for work and then glamorous dresses under their abayas when they’re going to their friend’s house or a party. When they’re going out to buy groceries they wear casual clothes like jogging pants or jeans.

More conservative, traditional and religious women wear plain and loose black abayas that are occasionally accompanied by socks and gloves as well, Samir said.

Somewhat liberal but practicing Muslims wear the current abaya trends — often embroidered with different designs and motifs, or with bold color panels and embellishments. The very liberal, however, wear transparent or open abayas.

“Most women are fully clothed under their abayas but occasionally they might wear pajamas under their abaya if they woke up late … I did hear once about a couple of girls going out wearing bikini sets under their abayas, but that’s an exception. If you just wore underwear, your figure would be obvious, making the abaya useless as it’s supposed to conceal your figure,” Samir said.

Dress to impress

Women in the Gulf visit each other often and have all-female parties and weddings. These are opportunities for women to dress up and they take those opportunities to dress up and impress, even though no men will be present. It’s all about enjoying the safety and sanctity of being in an all-female setting where other women will compliment their good taste. Also, many women use all-female occasions like parties and weddings to look for potential brides for their brothers, sons and male cousins, so unmarried women dress up with that in mind.

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

Syria: Hezbollah Reaffirms Support for Regime’s Repression

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 26 — The leader of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement, Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, has today reaffirmed his support for Syria’s and for the repression that has been taking place for over five months of anti-regime demonstrations in the country.

“We stand by Syria’s side and by the leaders to support them in their reform process,” Nasrallah told the followers of the pro-Iran movement in a video link. The address was made to a meeting held in Marun ar Ras, a town in the southernmost part of Lebanon, on the blue line of demarcation with Israel. “Without Syria’s support, the South (of Lebanon) would never have been freed,” the Shiite leader added, speaking on the anniversary of the Day of Jerusalem (Yawm al Quds), an event that has been inspired and funded by Iran for decades now. Nasrallah, who has already made his support for the Damascus regime’s policy of repression over the past months, while praising the “Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan revolutionaries,” reaffirmed: “We want a strong Syria and all those who say they have the interests of Syria, its people and its future at heart, should make efforts to calm the situation now so that everything can be resolved peacefully”.

The Shiite leader then returned to warn of the danger of a fictitious sectarian division between Sunnis and Shiites in the region: “In Syria there are those who are fanning the flames of a sectarian feud in order to realised their plans for a new Middle East”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese “Invasion” of Vietnam: The Economy, The Seas and the Lives of People

An increasing presence and conditioning. The fear that Beijing also wants to impose its own model of the Church separate from Rome. Many illegal migrants, without a work permit.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) — Not only does China want to take 85% of the waters of Southeast Asia, but since 2010 it has been inacting an expansionist program in all developed countries of the continent. This is the opinion of experts in history, confirmed by what is happening in Vietnam, where there is a growing presence of Chinese enterprises and workers, many of whom are illegal.

The fear, expressed by Father Nguy?n Van Kh?i, former spokesman of the Redemptorists, is that “the Chinese invasion will put the country into the hands of Beijing’s atheist and materialistic leaders. If we lose our country, we lose everything. And the Chinese will force the Vietnamese Church to follow the Chinese model. It will force us to separate us from the Holy See and to break communion in the Church. “

In an Aug. 24 interview in U.S. based Ngu?i Vi?t Online, the religious priest states that “having worked for ten years among the faithful in the remote mountain parishes I have witnessed the bad behaviour of Chinese workers who bullied the villagers. Several times after eating and drinking they did not want to pay. And if the villagers protested, they would call thousands of other workers to attack and destroy the houses. “

In Vietnam, the “Chinese economic expansion” is represented by illegal Chinese labourers. Recently, the press and experts have warned of the irregular situation of Chinese workers in Vietnam. Most employees do not have professional skills and the workers are causing instability in the economic, social, military, political spheres as well as everyday life of people.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Security, “in May 2011 there were 74 thousand foreign workers in Vietnam. Among employees, 90% are Chinese, the majority labourers. “

The Chinese are from the province of Lang Son (near the border with China) to Ca Mau (the southernmost province). Even Mrs. Nguy?n Th? Kim Ngân, vice president of the National Assembly, said she was “concerned about the Chinese workers because they are present throughout the country, as far as the province of Ca Mau.”

And for the most part they are illegal. The People’s Committee of Ninh Binh Province has admitted that out of two thousand Chinese workers on its territory, 1,500 do not have permission to work. Migrant workers are illegal. Even in the Highlands: the Chinese companies are pushing ahead with controversial plans for the exploitation of bauxite in Nhan Co Tân Rai (pictured) for thousands of Chinese workers, but only 25% of them have permits. In the province of Ca Mau, only 690 of 1,700 employees are allowed to work. “

An official of the Labour and Social Security of the latter province told AsiaNews that “in August of this year, when we went into factories for inspections, the Director, from China, was absent and had sent his employees away. So we do not know exactly how many there are. “

A journalist from Qu?ng Ngãi explains that “the reason behind this situation is the Vietnamese government’s awarding construction projects to Chinese contractors. Thus, China has carried out projects everywhere. “

In Thanh Hóa people tell that “when Chinese workers enter the shops, normally they start trouble. They are bullies and there are eye-witness accounts of traders being beaten. Hundreds, sometimes attacked people with batons. Local authorities have no power and people are losing faith. The people must defend themselves. “

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Girl in Uganda Loses Use of Legs After Leaving Islam for Christ

A 14-year-old girl in western Uganda is still unable to walk 10 months after her father tortured her for leaving Islam and putting her faith in Christ, according to area Christians.

“I heard the message of Christ’s great love of him dying for us to get everlasting peace, and there and then I decided to believe in Christ,” she said from her hospital bed. “After a month, news reached my father that I had converted to Christianity, and that was the beginning of my troubles with him. Our father warned us not to attend church or listen to the gospel message. He even threatened us with a sharp knife that he was ready to kill us in broad daylight in case we converted to Christianity.”

“He locked her up in a room of the semi-permanent house for six months without seeing sunlight,” the pastor said. “The younger brother was warned not to tell anyone that Susan was locked up in a room and was not given any food.”

Young Mbusa said that when their father was away, he roasted bananas for his sister.

“I also dug a hole under the door, where I could pour water through,” he said. “My sister could drink the water using her tongue. But most days she could only feed on mud.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Battisti Says ‘I Regret Nothing, I Have Done Nothing’

(AGI) Brasilia — Ex-leftist terrorist Cesare Battisti says, “I don’t regret anything, I cannot regret something I haven’t done.” Battista was answering questions posed by the Brazilian magazine “Istoe” in an interview in the coastal town where he enjoys his liberty “fishing” and where he hopes “to become a naturalized Brazilian citizen”. Battisti has been sentenced to 4 life sentences in Italy.

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


Australia: Human Face of the Hard Line

PETER Mitchell was 30, a songwriter banging his head against the brick wall of the rock’n’roll industry, when his wife told him it was time he got a proper job. So he became a public servant in the Immigration Department. He came to call it the misery industry.

The department assigned him to the compliance section that tracks down and detains “unlawful non-citizens” — people who had entered the country illegally, overstayed their visas, or otherwise breached the Migration Act.

On day one, with no training, he helped detain and handcuff South Koreans with “dud” visas. He took them to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney, a place he never imagined could exist in Australia. Seeing detainees, sullen and forlorn, he felt sick to the stomach and struggled to hold back his tears.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Frattini: Use of Migrants a Crime Against Humanity

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — The despatching of immigrants, headed for the coasts of Lampedusa, many of whom died in the Sicily Channel, could be held against Colonel Gaddafi as “an accusation he has to face. In my opinion, we are close to a new crime against humanity”. Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has been speaking in Bertinoro (Forli’-Cesena) today.

Gaddafi’s idea of transforming Lampedusa into a kind of ‘hell’, Mr Frattini noted, “there is proof of this, there is evidence gathered by the TNC, which I have spoken to Prime Minister Jibril about. He will make them public”.

According to Mr Frattini, “it was Gaddafi himself who repeatedly threatened to send an invasion of refugees as a weapon of vengeance against Europe and not just against Italy.

Unfortunately he did it, unfortunately thousands of refugees died at sea” Mr Frattini argued.

For her part, Italy will assist Libya and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa to tackle the migrant emergency in North African countries where, as some estimates have it, one and a half million people are attempting to reach Europe, Mr Frattini said in a radio interview.

“The recipe is to aid immigrants of sub-Saharan Africa in their areas of origin, to bring development to their countries of origin and to help a country like Libya, which is not a country of origin for immigration, but is a a country of transit, to tackle this phenomenon”.

“We have already done this with Tunisia, when in February an enormous flux of people were escaping the Tunisian revolution, and Italy quickly sent its intervention to the temporary camp, even evacuating hundreds of people to their countries of origin to help them in the places they were born. The recipe is not to create great encampments here in Italy, where there are not enough jobs to go round, there is not possibility of welcoming them”.

“Up to now we have managed the 50,000 people who have arrived since January. We have done this with humanity, distinguishing between those who had a right to refugee status, who will remain, and those who were illegal economic migrants, who we accompanied to Tunisia, helping Tunisia to find a job for them.

But the management of migration is a European issue, not a matter for Lampedusa, for Sicily or for Italy”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigration is No Longer Taboo — But Tackling it Still is

Immigration used to be the great unmentionable. If anyone pointed out the rate at which it was increasing, and the problems for infrastructure, education and the NHS of adding two million people to our population every decade, they were accused of being racist. I know: it happened to me.

It was an effective way of preventing the topic from being discussed, and was frequently used by Labour ministers for precisely that purpose. But at the last election, it was impossible to prevent the issue — which everyone knew was one of the most important for voters — from being raised. The Tories came up with measures that they promised would diminish the number of immigrants, to which the Lib Dems, when they became partners in government, reluctantly agreed.

So it must have been depressing for the Conservative members of the Coalition to see last week’s Office for National Statistics figures, which showed that, far from going down, net immigration (the number of foreigners settling in Britain minus the number of Britons leaving) has risen by 20 per cent, to reach 239,000.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: My Rapist Claims He Musn’t be Kicked Out of Britain… As He’s Gay

A RAPE victim whose attacker confessed on Facebook has revealed her fears that he is saying he is gay in order to win asylum.

Alyson Edwards, 29, has suffered nightmares and panic attacks since her attacker’s asylum plea.

She knows it is a bogus and cynical attempt to remain in Britain because John Ssewaggudde is serving four years in prison.

“I can’t sleep. I’m worried that some judge at the European Court will believe his lies.”

She said: “He is only saying he is gay because he doesn’t want to go home. This is just a desperate ruse.He never acted like a gay man.

“He had an insatiable sexual appetite and gave every indication that he is homophobic.” …

She is due to begin a social studies course but his asylum bid has cast a shadow over her ambitions.

She said: “When I found out that he was seeking asylum I collapsed.

“He’ll probably be out this time next year and I don’t want to have to keep looking over my shoulder. I want him to do his full four years and then be sent home.

“There are many genuine asylum cases but Ssewaggudde is definitely not one. If he gets away with this, it will open the floodgates for any criminal to claim they’re gay and cannot go home because they face persecution. Surely victims like me have a right to feel safe in our own country?”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: You’re Banned: May Tells Israeli Rabbi

An Israeli rabbi has been denied entry to Britain because of a book in which he allegedly justifies terrorist violence.

Rabbi Yosef Elitzur has been told he cannot enter the UK for three years because of his controversial 2009 book Law of the King. But the rabbi said he had had no plans to visit Britain when he received the letter from the Home Office telling him of the ban.

His book, co-authored with Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, looked at Jewish law and the rules of war, but also said Jews were permitted to kill non-Jews and claimed the Jews would “win” by “violence against the Arabs”.

The Home Office letter said the exclusion was a personal decision taken by Home Secretary Theresa May in July. It said Rabbi Elitzur’s presence was not conducive to the public good, adding: “You are instructed not to travel to the UK as you will be refused admission on arrival.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We can confirm that Mr Elitzur has been excluded from the UK on grounds of unacceptable behaviour.

“The government will refuse people access to the UK if we believe they might seek to undermine our society. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values.”

Rabbi Elitzur has also encountered problems in Israel. Police investigated his writing and both the authors were arrested last year at the Yizhar settlement on suspicion of incitement to racism and violence and running “racist”publication.

Nevertheless, a third edition of the book is set for publication in the near future.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Berlin’s Mayor Welcomes Pope Through Gritted Teeth

Berlin’s openly gay Mayor Klaus Wowereit has extended the Pope an official welcome for his visit next month, but said he could understand those planning to protest against the papal visit.

Social Democrat Wowereit, who was brought up in a Catholic family, said the Church’s teachings on sexual matters were outdated, and seemed to welcome the Benedict XVI through gritted teeth.

“I understand, and it’s also in order, that citizens are using the Pope’s visit to draw attention here to the fact that the Catholic church’s teaching represent theses that belong in past centuries, but not in the modern era,” he said.

“I have great understanding for these protests, assuming they take place within a peaceful and democratic framework. The Catholic church will have to live with that.

“This also does not contradict the hospitality we should show during a state visit.”

Wowereit said his comments were not intended to specifically encourage demonstrations against the Pope, saying, “He’s very welcome in the capital city.”

A range of groups and initiatives are planning protests in Berlin, including a large demonstration during the papal speech in the Bundestag against the Pope’s restrictive attitude toward condoms, abortion and discrimination against homosexuals.

Wowereit will meet the Pope on September 22 before the Mass at Olympic Stadium, where Benedikt XVI will sign the city’s golden guest book.

“I assume that the Pope will be informed, if it interests him, that I live with a boyfriend,” he said.

His welcome for the pontiff will be formal, he said. “The mayor is the mayor of this city — and that means that state visitors will be treated according to protocol and according to hospitality. This means that my personal life should not play the leading role,” said Wowereit.

He also said that Berlin’s new archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki was certainly not a member of the more progressive wing of the Catholic Church, but said there appeared to be an opportunity for dialogue.

“He showed himself to be prepared for dialogue during his first appearance in Berlin. This should be taken seriously and that dialogue undertaken.”

The Pope’s German visit will continue until September 25, including stops in Erfurt and Freiburg.

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