Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110901

Financial Crisis
»EU: Youth Unemployment, Top in Spain and Greece Rises
»Greece: Troika Calls for New Measures
»Interview With Historian Hans-Joachim Voth: ‘The Euro Can’t Survive in Its Current Form’
»Lisbon Raises Taxes on Companies and Highest Incomes
»Spain: State Deficit Down 11.8% on the Year in July
»Spain: Indignados and Unions Against Constitutional Reform
»Spending: Not Entitlements, Created Huge Deficit
»U.S. Is Set to Sue Big Banks Over Mortgages
»9/11 Children’s Colouring Book Angers US Muslims
»9/11 Colouring Book Prompts Row in US
»90+ Cartoonists to Commemorate 9/11
»A Decade on, 9/11 Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories Alive and Well
»Appeals Court Hears Texas Terror-Financing Case
»As an American Muslim, I Am Disgusted by the 9/11 Coloring Book
»Fast and Furious Arms Dealing to Mexico Must be Investigated
»Indiana: Mass Exodus of Students From the Public Schools
»Leaders of 9/11 Panel Call Action Plan Unfinished
»Mass Brawl at Theme Park After Muslim Women Are Banned From Going on Rides Unless They Remove Their Head Scarves
»Nearly 100 Sunday Comic Strips Will Reflect on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11
»The Administration Takes on ‘Islamophobia’
»Ex-Teacher Accused of Raping Student Breaks Down on Stand
»Ten Years After 9-11, Canada-U.S. Relationship Has Both Trouble Spots and Bright Spots
Europe and the EU
»Changing Light Bulbs: Not the Brightest Idea
»France: Twin Towers Replica in Paris for 9/11 Anniversary
»Halt to Madrid-Lisbon High Speed Line, Coelho
»Ireland: Thousands Escape Penalty Points
»Italy: Two Arrested Over Berlusconi Extortion Claims
»Kosovan Albanian Admits Killing Two US Airmen in Frankfurt Terror Attack
»Libya: Paris Conference, Avoid Iraq Mistakes
»Libya: France Finalises Deal on Oil, Press
»Miss Italy Disqualifies Two for Nude Photos
»Netherlands: ‘Belusconi’s Mediaset and ITV May Take Over Endemol’
»Netherlands: Deputy Prime Minister Criticises Wilders’ Anti-Europe Stand
»Netherlands: Wilders Wants the Queen Out of Politics, Move to Ceremonial Role
»UK: “We Encourage Our Visitors to Interact With the Displays” — Madame Tussauds
»UK: Darrah Singh, Job Centre Boss, To Head Riot Panel
»UK: Ex-Council Boss to Head Riot Panel
»UK: EDL Supporter Arrested Over ‘Aggressive’ Chanting
»UK: Four Lions’ UK TV Premiere to Coincide With 9/11 Anniversary
»UK: Jews Call for Tussauds to Make Hitler Look Defeated
»UK: Nick Clegg’s Riot Inquiry Panel is Beyond a Joke
»Kosovo: Belgrade Challenges UN Tribunal on Allegedly Killed Witnesses
North Africa
»Hillary’s Libyan Mullah Frees 600 Al Qaeda Terrorists From Prison
»Libya: ENI Planning to Reactivate Gas Pipeline Mid-Oct
»Libya: Al Arabiya: More Evidence That Hana Gaddafi is Alive
»Oil Triangle: A Photo Gallery
»Post-Gaddafi Libya: A Police Force Trained by Britain; And an Islamist Militia Backed by Qatar
»Tunisia: U.S. To Provide 21 Mln Dollars in Military Aid
Israel and the Palestinians
»Blair’s Sister-in-Law Incites Muslims to ‘Liberate’ Jerusalem
»EU: 240 Mln to UNRWA Between 2011-2013
Middle East
»Nuncio Praises Turkish Decision to Return Some Religious Properties
»S. Arabia: New Design for World’s Highest Tower
»The Pentagon Wasted 30 Bln Between Iraq and Afghanistan
»Troubled by Growth of Christianity, Iranian Regime Destroys Bibles
Far East
»Dwindling Labour Forcing Chinese Manufacturing to Make Major Overhaul
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Nigeria: Jos How Pastor, Son Were Killed
»74 Immigrants Rescued in Ragusa Waters: “We’re Libyan”
»Oil Won’t Run Out Until 22nd Century, Experts Say in Italy
»September 11: Waking Up a Generation to Terrorism

Financial Crisis

EU: Youth Unemployment, Top in Spain and Greece Rises

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 31 — Unemployment among young people under the age of 25 is continuing to grow in Spain, which set a new EU record of 46.2% in July. In the first quarter of the year, the figure in Greece reached 38.5%, according to Eurostat, the European statistics office, which says that there is 20.5% youth unemployment, with the figure rising to 20.7% in the European Union as a whole.

In terms of Mediterranean EU countries, there was a slight fall in the figure in Portugal in July (27.2% against 28.3% in June and 29.2% in May). Italy’s figure stood at 27.6% (against 27.9% in June and 28.2% in May), while the French figure of 23.4% was an increase against the 23.1% recorded the previous month. The figure remains stable in Cyprus at 19.6%, and in Slovenia at 18.6% (both figures for June), while in Malta the score for July was 12.4%.

Overall, unemployment in the euro-zone in July remained stable (10% compared to 10.2% in July 2010). Spain’s unemployment total is 21.2%, yet another European record, while the most significant increase on a yearly basis was recorded in Greece, which went from 11% in the first quarter of 2010 to 15% at the same time this year. Portugal’s unemployment stands at 12.3%, followed by France (9.9%), Slovenia (8.4%), Italy (8%) and Cyprus (7.5%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Troika Calls for New Measures

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 1 — Pressure on the Greek government continues from the representatives of the troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the Central European Bank — to rapidly adopt new reforms. Yesterday after the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the need to go forward with reforms concerning public utilities, the complete liberalisation of professions and privatisations was reiterated.

Moreover, the troika put forward the request to adopt fresh economic measures, a drastic reduction in public spending and lay-offs in the public sector with special attention to the issue of revenue, which fell by 6.4% in the first seven months of 2011.

Meanwhile the dynamic of state debt is out of control, according to the monthly newsletter in August, of the State Budget Office. The report shows a sharp increase in debt and a high deficit which the troika estimate to be — according to the Greek press — around 8.6- 8.8% of GDP, compared with the target of 7.6%. This was not only due to the recession but also to the non-application by the government of the measures decided on alongside the troika.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Interview With Historian Hans-Joachim Voth: ‘The Euro Can’t Survive in Its Current Form’

Interview by Alexander Jung and Gerhard Spörl

Historian Hans-Joachim Voth gives the euro only another five years unless the euro zone is transformed into a full transfer union with massive redistribution. The continent is too culturally different to warrant a single currency, he says, adding that it would be best if Germany and other stronger economies left the euro zone.

SPIEGEL: Professor Voth, how much longer do you think the euro will survive?

Voth: Five years. The euro can’t survive in its current form. We could, of course, make a full-fledged transfer union out of the euro-zone countries, complete with euro bonds and massive fiscal redistribution. In that case, we would have a different euro than the one that was originally conceived and promised to German voters. In the end, if the heads of state and government don’t want that, it’s likely that the euro will have to be dissolved.

SPIEGEL: Why can’t the euro survive?

Voth: Even bad economic arrangements can be kept going for a long time. But the real questions are: Whom does that help? How long can one stand the pain? And what’s the use? The euro can technically survive, but so can the never-ending attacks on the bond markets that are increasing the pain. But that just exacerbates the fundamental problem: that the main shock absorber has fallen away in the countries with very rigid labor markets …

SPIEGEL: … because these countries can no longer manipulate the values of their currencies to meet their individual needs.

Voth: Before, if Spain had gotten stuck in the kinds of difficulties it has today — unit labor costs are too high, growth is too low, and there is enormous unemployment — the peseta would have simply been devalued by 20 percent. In those days, Spain only had to change a single price — that of its currency — in order to make itself competitive again, and the market would generally help out as well. Cars could keep on being built in Pamplona and Seville. Houses on the Costa Brava were still affordable. There were no forced wage cuts in Spain, and prices remained stable. That’s it.

SPIEGEL: But, these days, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) force countries like Spain to implement reforms. Why do you think this strategy won’t lead us out of the crisis?

Voth: In 2009, in the middle of the crisis, when the Zapatero government was already making half-hearted reforms, wages went up 4.3 percent in Spain. There’s no reason to believe that the scale of reforms currently needed to move things forward economically is politically feasible.

SPIEGEL: Which reforms do you consider absolutely necessary to consolidate the country’s economy?…

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

Lisbon Raises Taxes on Companies and Highest Incomes

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 1 — The Portuguese government has announced a new series of measures to bring down the 5.9% balance sheet deficit of GDP this year to 3% in 2013 and 0.5% in 2015. The measures include a temporary increase of 2.5% in tax on incomes higher than 153,300 euros. Among the latest measures, announced yesterday by Economy Minister Vitor Gaspar, there is also an increase in taxes on companies with revenue of over 1.5 million euros and a salary freeze for civil servants between 2012 and 2014. The 2.5% increase is in addition to the 46.5% tax on incomes higher than 153,300 euros, while for companies with revenue over 1.5 million euros a 3% increase in IRS (similar to personal income tax) is foreseen.

The latest anti-deficit package also includes a reduction of at least 10% in Defence military staff by 2014, and among the targets set by the government under Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho is a reduction in deficit to 1.8% of GDP in 2014 and 0.5% in 2015. The outlook is not any better as concerns economic growth, since, according to government calculations, the Portuguese economy has two years of recession in front of it, with a negative increase of -2.2% for 2011 and -1.8% in 2013, to then return to positive levels in 2013, when GDP is expected to increase by 1.2%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: State Deficit Down 11.8% on the Year in July

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 31 — Spain’s State deficit has fallen by 11.8% between January and July, compared with the same period in 2010, to 22.746 billion euros, or 2.09% of GDP. This emerged from the data released today by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Revenues from personal income tax increased by 5.2% in the same period, VAT earnings climbed by 3.8% and revenues from corporate taxes decreased by 23.8%, according to a statement.

The deficit recorded in the first seven months of the year is the result of revenues totalling 67 billion euros against non-financial expenditure of 89.750 billion.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Indignados and Unions Against Constitutional Reform

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 1 — Another day of peaceful protests against the government’s decision to introduce a deficit ceiling into the Constitution without a referendum has been called today by the ‘indignados’ of the 15-M movement, according to sources in the movement. ‘No to this reform’ and ‘Down with the market diktat’ are some of the slogans for the protest, which will begin in the evening in Plaza Atocha and end in Plaza Neptuno, a short distance away from the Chamber of Deputies, which will vote on the final version of the reform tomorrow. Yesterday evening there were already a half million protestors in action in front of the PSOE and PP headquarters, the two parties which agreed on modifying the Constitution last Friday, consenting to the introduction of a principle on budget stability. According to the indignados, the measure negotiated by the two majority parties was decided upon based on a diktat imposed by the financial markets as well as France and Germany. Protests are also expected to take place in other Spanish cities, including Gijon and Barcelona.

The leaders of the Comisiones Obreras and Union General de Trabajadores unions, Ignacio Fernandez Toxo and Candido Mendez, both spoke out against the reform again today, stating that the government is providing “partial responses which are contrary” to the desired direction, “delaying recovery from the crisis and provoking social problems”. In statements to private national radio, Cadena Ser, the two union leaders assured that relations with Zapatero’s socialist government are “at a very similar point” to when the general strike was called on September 29 against the anti-deficit measures adopted by the government. In a radio interview government spokesman and Infrastructure Minister, José Blanco, explained that the government does not have time to submit the constitutional reform to a popular referendum because “the serious nature of the situation requires immediate action”. He also confirmed that during the final part of the legislature before the early elections scheduled for November 20, there is not even time to create a new tax on the highest tax brackets which “would require the approval of a law in Parliament”. According to Blanco, the PSOE will include the tax in its new electoral platform.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spending: Not Entitlements, Created Huge Deficit

by Byron York

It’s conventional wisdom in Washington to blame the federal government’s dire financial outlook on runaway entitlement spending. Unless we rein in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the conventional wisdom goes, the federal government is headed for disaster.

That’s true in the long run. But what is causing massive deficits now? Is it the same entitlements that threaten the future?

Yes, say some conservatives who favor making entitlement reform a key issue in the 2012 campaign. “We’re $1.5 trillion in debt,” Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol said Sunday, referring to this year’s projected deficit. “Where’s the debt coming from? It’s coming from entitlements.”

There’s no doubt federal spending has exploded in recent years. In fiscal 2007, the last year before things went haywire, the government took in $2.568 trillion in revenues and spent $2.728 trillion, for a deficit of $160 billion. In 2011, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the government will take in $2.230 trillion and spend $3.629 trillion, for a deficit of $1.399 trillion.

That’s an increase of $901 billion in spending and a decrease of $338 billion in revenue in a very short time. Put them together, and that’s how you go from a $160 billion deficit to a $1.399 trillion deficit.

But how, precisely, did that happen? Was there a steep rise in entitlement spending? Did everyone suddenly turn 65 and begin collecting Social Security and using Medicare? No: The deficits are largely the result not of entitlements but of an explosion in spending related to the economic downturn and the rise of Democrats to power in Washington. While entitlements must be controlled in the long run, Washington’s current spending problem lies elsewhere.

A lot of the higher spending has stemmed directly from the downturn. There is, for example, spending on what is called “income security” — that is, for unemployment compensation, food stamps and related programs. In 2007, the government spent $365 billion on income security. In 2011, it’s estimated to spend $622 billion. That’s an increase of $257 billion.

Then there is Medicaid, the health care program for lower-income Americans. A lot of people had lower incomes due to the economic downturn, and federal expenditures on Medicaid — its costs are shared with the states — went from $190 billion in 2007 to an estimated $276 billion in 2011, an increase of $86 billion. Put that together with the $257 billion increase in income security spending, and you have $343 billion.

Add to that the $338 billion in decreased revenues, and you get $681 billion — which means nearly half of the current deficit can be clearly attributed to the downturn.

That’s a deficit increase that would have happened in an economic crisis whether Republicans or Democrats controlled Washington. But it was the specific spending excesses of President Obama and the Democrats that shot the deficit into the stratosphere…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

U.S. Is Set to Sue Big Banks Over Mortgages

The federal agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is set to file suits against more than a dozen big banks, accusing them of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage securities they assembled and sold at the height of the housing bubble, and seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency suits, which are expected to be filed in the coming days in federal court, are aimed at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, among others, according to three individuals briefed on the matter.

[Return to headlines]


9/11 Children’s Colouring Book Angers US Muslims

The Kids’ Book of Freedom condemned as ‘disgusting’ by Council on American-Islamic Relations

A colouring book about the events of 9/11, complete with pictures of the burning twin towers and the execution of a cowering Osama bin Laden for children to fill in, has provoked outrage among American Muslims. We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids’ Book of Freedom has just been released by the Missouri-based publisher Really Big Coloring Books, which says it is “designed to be a tool that parents can use to help teach children about the facts surrounding 9/11”. Showing scenes from 9/11 for children to colour in and telling the story of the attacks and the subsequent hunt for Osama bin Laden, “the book was created with honesty, integrity, reverence, respect and does not shy away from the truth”, according to its publisher, which says that it has sold out of its first print run of 10,000 copies.

One page of the $6.99 book, which has been given a PG rating, shows Bin Laden hiding behind a hijab-wearing woman as he is shot by a Navy SEAL. “Being the elusive character that he was, and after hiding out with his terrorist buddies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, American soldiers finally locate the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden,” runs the text accompanying the picture. “Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has condemned the book as “disgusting”, saying that it characterises all Muslims as linked to extremism, terrorism and radicalism, which could lead children reading the book to believe that all Muslims are responsible for 9/11, and that followers of the Islamic faith are their enemies. Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the organisation, told the Toronto Star that “America is full of these individuals and groups seeking to demonise Islam and marginalise Muslims and it’s just a fact of life in the post-9/11 era”. Nonetheless, he expressed his hope that “parents would recognise the agenda behind this book and not expose their children to intolerance or religious hatred”.

Publisher Wayne Bell told American television that the book does not portray Muslims “in a negative light at all. That is incorrect. This is about 19 terrorist hijackers that came over here under the leadership of a devil worshipper, Osama bin Laden, to murder our people,” Bell said. “He [Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR] calls the book disgusting … but he should call the people in the book, the 19 terrorists, Osama bin Laden, he should call him disgusting. This is history. It is absolutely factual.” But Walid said that “given the fact that this is a very emotional and sensitive topic and that there were Muslims who were victims in 9/11 [and] who were first responders, we think it would have been more responsible if the language would not have been such that every time Muslim was used it’s radical, extremist, terrorist … All these characters are painted to the mind of a young person that perhaps all Muslims may be somewhat responsible for 9/11 or that Muslims are an enemy.”

Really Big Coloring Books, which also published a colouring book teaching children about the Tea Party last year, has said that it will donate a portion of its proceeds from sales of the book to Bridges for Peace, “a Jerusalem-based, Bible-believing Christian organisation supporting Israel and building relationships between Christians and Jews worldwide through education and practical deeds expressing God’s love and mercy”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

9/11 Colouring Book Prompts Row in US

A colouring book designed to teach young children about the September 11 terrorist attacks has prompted a row in the US.

Timed to coincide with the attacks’ tenth anniversary, ‘We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids’ Book of Freedom’, offers parents a tool for educating children who were not born at the time, its publishers say. Scenes outlined in the book include Osama bin Laden hiding behind a woman in a hijab as a bullet from a Navy SEAL’s rifle hurtles towards him during the raid on his Pakistani compound in May.

“Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists,” a piece of accompanying text tells readers. “These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE.” The book, which costs $6.99 (£4.30), “was created with honesty, integrity, reverence, respect and does not shy away from the truth,” according to Really Big Coloring Books, its Missouri-based publisher. Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has described the book as “disgusting” and accused the publishers of peddling intolerance and prejudice to children. “All these characters are painted to the mind of a young person that perhaps all Muslims may be somewhat responsible for 9/11 or that Muslims are an enemy,” said Mr Walid. But Wayne Bell, the founder of Really Big Coloring Books, dismissed the criticism, saying: “This is history. It is absolutely factual.” “This is about 19 terrorist hijackers that came over here under the leadership of a devil worshipper, Osama bin Laden, to murder our people,” said Mr Bell.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

90+ Cartoonists to Commemorate 9/11

On Sunday, September 11, more than 90 syndicated cartoonist will dedicate their features to pay homage to those who lost their lives or or were injured in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This year is the 10th anniversary of the attacks in New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. The themes will feature a wide range of responses from patriotic to deeply emotional. King Features is spearheading the project which also includes Creators Syndicate, Tribune Media Services, Universal Press Syndicate and Washington Post Writers Group. You’ll be able to see all the strips on a special website

Brendan Burford, Comics Editor at King Features Syndicate says, “We value the opportunity for the artists to use the comic platform to make a powerful, cohesive statement. It’s important that no one forget what happened on that day in history.” After the Sunday run, 15 original works will be on display at five different museums across the country including The Newseum in Washington, D.C., The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, The Toonseum in Pittsburgh, The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York City (MoCCA) and The Society of Illustrators in New York City.

Here’s the list of the participating cartoonists:

  • Adrian RaesideTHE OTHER COAST
  • Alex HallattARCTIC CIRCLE
  • Anne GibbonsSIX CHIX
  • Bill GriffithZIPPY
  • Bill HolbrookFASTRACK and SAFE HAVENS
  • Brian and Greg Walker, and Chance BrowneHI AND LOIS
  • Brian and Ron BoychukCHUCKLE BROS
  • Brian AndersonDOG EAT DOUG
  • Brian BassetRED ROVER
  • Corey PandolphELDERBERRIES
  • Craig MacIntoshSALLY FORTH
  • Dan ParentARCHIE
  • Darrin BellCANDORVILLE
  • Dave CoverlySPEED BUMP
  • David GilbertBUCKLES
  • Dean Young and John MarshallBLONDIE
  • Donna A. LewisREPLY ALL
  • Frank BolleAPT. 3-G
  • Garry TrudeauDOONESBURY
  • Gary BrookinsPLUGGERSTM
  • Gene and Dan WeingartenBARNEY & CLYDE
  • Glenn McCoyTHE DUPLEX
  • Greg CravensBUCKETS
  • Greg EvansLUANN
  • Guy GilchristNANCY
  • Henry Beckett and Carla VentrescaON A CLAIRE DAY
  • Jack ElrodMARK TRAIL
  • Jan EliotSTONE SOUP
  • Jeff & Bil KeaneTHE FAMILY CIRCUS
  • Jeff CorriveauDEFLOCKED
  • Jeff Millar and Bill HindsTANK MCNAMARA
  • Jeff ParkerWIZARD OF ID
  • Jerry Scott & Jim BorgmanZITS
  • Jim ScancarelliGASOLINE ALLEY(R)
  • Joe Giella and Karen MoyMARY WORTH
  • Joe Staton & Mike CurtisDICK TRACY(R)
  • John DeeringZACK HILL and STRANGE BREW
  • John Forgetta and L.A. RoseTHE MEANING OF LILA
  • Kieran MeehanPROS & CONS
  • Lalo AlcarazLACUCARACHA
  • Lance Aldrich and Gary WiseREAL LIFE ADVENTURES
  • Leigh RubinRUBES
  • Lincoln PeirceBIG NATE
  • Mason MastroianniB.C.
  • Mell LazarusMOMMA
  • Mick and Mason MastroianniDOGS OF C-KENNEL
  • Mort WalkerBEETLE BAILEY
  • Norm FeutiRETAIL
  • Patrick McDonnellMUTTS
  • Patrick RobertsTODD THE DINOSAUR
  • Paul GilliganPOOCH CAF’E
  • Paul Jon BoscacciFORT KNOX
  • Peter GallagherHEATHCLIFF
  • Peter GurenASK SHAGG
  • Phil DunlapINK PEN
  • Piers BakerOLLIE & QUENTIN
  • Ray BillingsleyCURTIS
  • Rick DetorieONE BIG HAPPY
  • Rick Kirkman and Jerry ScottBABY BLUES
  • Rina PiccoloTINA’S GROOVE
  • Ron FerdinandDENNIS THE MENACE
  • Sandra Bell-LundyBETWEEN FRIENDS
  • Scott StantisPRICKLY CITY
  • Stephen BentleyHERB AND JAMAAL
  • Steve BoremanLITTLE DOG LOST
  • Steve Breen and Mike ThompsonGRAND AVENUE
  • Steve Kelley and Jeff ParkerDUSTIN
  • Steve SiculaHOME AND AWAY
  • Susie MacNelly, Chris Cassatt and Gary BrookinsSHOE
  • T Lewis and Michael FryOVER THE HEDGE
  • Terri LibensonTHE PAJAMA DIARIES
  • Terry LabanEDGE CITY
  • Tom ArmstrongMARVIN
  • Tony CochranAGNES
  • Tony Rubino & Gay MarksteinDADDY’S HOME

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

A Decade on, 9/11 Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories Alive and Well

A decade after the September 11 attacks, antisemitic conspiracy theories “warping and manipulating” the truth and blaming Israel are still being widely circulated. The New York-based Anti Defamation League has carried out an in-depth study of the conspiracies that have been discussed over the ten years since American planes were hijacked by terrorists.

In the aftermath of the attacks, fringe conspirators accused shadowy figures in the government or US secret agencies of perpetrating the attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people, or even of faking them.

High on the list of distorters of what happened were those who argued that the perpetrators were not Al Qaida terrorists, but the Jews or Israel. Claims included the suggestion that Jews had been warned not to go to work that day, or that Mossad had staged the attacks as a way to build up support for Israel. According to the ADL, despite a decade of evidence and similar attacks in other parts of the world, those theories have not disappeared. “A new chorus of voices — who claim not to be anti-Jewish but simply anti-Zionist — have become the most popular promoters of these ideas,” said the ADL. “While the prevalence of certain conspiracy theories has changed over the last decade, one constant has been the penchant to accuse Jews and Israel of planning and executing the 9/11 attacks.”

What has changed is the way such distortions are circulated — now typically on video sharing and social networking sites. In addition, immediately after September 11, those who expressed such antisemitic theories were likely to be white supremacists on the extreme right. Now, the ADL said, they tended to be anti-Israel activists for whom September 11 was one of many Israeli actions carried out “to manufacture a war against its Muslim enemies”. “It is shocking that nearly a decade after 9/11 we are still confronted with those who continue to deny the historical record of 9/11 or who hold fast to antisemitic myths about that horrific day,” said ADL national director Abraham Foxman. “One of the saddest outcomes of 9/11 is that despite the fact that this national tragedy that brought so many Americans together, there remains this small group of vocal bigots who, nearly a decade later, are still seeking to promote and sell their own sinister agenda of blaming Jews and Israel.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Appeals Court Hears Texas Terror-Financing Case

NEW ORLEANS — A judge’s errors resulted in an unfair trial for five members of a prominent Muslim charity who were convicted of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a defense attorney argued Thursday before a federal appeals court.

Lawyers for former leaders of the Richardson, Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, once the nation’s largest Muslim charity, are asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn their clients’ convictions and prison sentences. A three-judge panel didn’t immediately rule after hearing two hours of arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Defense lawyers claim the judge who presided over their 2008 retrial erred in allowing testimony about Hamas’ terrorist activities, protecting the identities of two Israeli witnesses and denying defendants’ access to many of their own secretly recorded statements.

“It was not a fair trial,” said defense attorney John Cline, who represents Ghassan Elashi. “The entire trial process was so riddled with errors that the process was not fair.”

Federal prosecutors argue U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis in Dallas didn’t abuse his discretion in deciding what evidence jurors could hear.

Justice Department attorney Joseph Palmer defended Solis’ decision to allow a government witness from the Israeli Security Agency to testify as an expert anonymously, using the pseudonym “Avi,” about Hamas’ control of West Bank social committees that were funded by Holy Land.

Jurors also heard anonymous testimony from an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces.

“There was a real threat to the safety of those witnesses should their identities have been disclosed,” Palmer said.

Cline, however, said the anonymous testimony deprived the defendants of their due process rights and prevented defense attorneys from fully challenging their credibility.

“They were phantoms to us,” he said. “Avi was a critical witness in this case, and his credibility was essential.”

Appeals Judge Carolyn Dineen King agreed Avi was a “powerful witness” but noted that other trial testimony covered some of the same ground.

Cline said Avi was a crucial government witness because he “tied their narrative together” and wove a “compelling story.”

“I don’t believe under any circumstances that can be considered harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

Defense attorneys also argued Solis shouldn’t have allowed jurors to see documents seized by the Israeli Defense Forces that portrayed Holy Land and a social committee as part of Hamas’ fundraising apparatus.

“It is like a textbook in evidentiary error in this case,” Cline said.

King said she found it “troubling” that it wasn’t clear who created some of the documents, but Palmer described the records as “credible” and “reliable.”

“There is circumstantial evidence within the documents of what they are,” he said.

In November 2008, a Dallas jury convicted Elashi, Holy Land’s former chairman, and Shukri Abu Baker, the group’s chief executive, of charges that included supporting a specially designated terrorist organization, money laundering and tax fraud.

Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh were convicted of three counts of conspiracy. Mohammed El-Mezain was convicted of one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization. Holy Land itself was convicted of all 32 counts.

Baker and Elashi were sentenced to 65 years in prison. Abdulqader received a 20-year prison sentence. Odeh and El-Mezain were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

An earlier trial had ended with jurors deadlocking on many counts.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

As an American Muslim, I Am Disgusted by the 9/11 Coloring Book

The “We Shall Never Forget 9/11” coloring book is part of a Muslim-bashing, Quran-burning, mosque-opposing culture that’s been brewing in recent years.

Ever since the printing press was invented, books have often been a source of controversy. But coloring books? Really? A St. Louis coloring book publisher is sparking outrage with a new children’s coloring book that depicts scenes from 9/11 and the killing of Osama bin Laden. “We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids’ Book of Freedom,” was just released by Wayne Bell, publisher of Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis. It begins with big graphic black-and-white drawings of bin Laden plotting the 9/11 attacks, then shows the burning towers, the hunt for bin Laden, and ends with a Navy SEAL shooting bin Laden as he hides behind a woman in Islamic garb.

The accompanying text reads: “Being the elusive character that he was, and after hiding out with his terrorist buddies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, American soldiers finally locate the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.” It continues, “Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE.” According to the publisher, the book’s initial print run of 10,000 copies has already sold out. As an American, I find that incredibly disturbing. And as an American Muslim, I find the coloring book disgusting.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Muslim Americans are mourning, too. Muslims were among those killed in the attacks and Muslims were among the first responders who risked their own lives to save others. In spite of what coloring books like “We Shall Never Forget 9/11” encourage one to believe, most of us are proud to be contributing, tax-paying, law-abiding, freedom-loving members of a nation we love. And we’re alarmed by the manufactured Muslim-bashing, Quran-burning, mosque-opposing culture that’s been brewing in recent years in this nation founded by refugees seeking religious freedom. To me, this coloring book is a part of that hate-espousing rhetoric and it’s even worse because it’s injecting that venom into children.

Bell, the book’s publisher said the book doesn’t portray Muslims “in a negative light at all. That is incorrect. This is about 19 terrorist hijackers that came over here under the leadership of a devil worshipper, Osama bin Laden, to murder our people… This is history. It is absolutely factual.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the book tries to link all Muslims to terrorism and could lead children to believe that all Muslims are their enemies. “America is full of these individuals and groups seeking to demonize Islam and marginalize Muslims and it’s just a fact of life in the post-9/11 era,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of CAIR, told the Toronto Star. Nonetheless, he said he hoped “parents would recognize the agenda behind this book and not expose their children to intolerance or religious hatred.”

I loved coloring books when I was a kid. But the ones I colored had cartoon characters and fairy tale princesses and bucolic scenes of farms and tractors. Between racy role models and risqué video games, music, and TV shows, we’re already burdening our kids with enough mature content to turn a five-year-old’s hair gray. A coloring book that depicts a Navy SEAL shooting bin Laden with live ammo erupting from his gun? Our kids don’t need this. The story told and scenes depicted in “We Shall Never Forget 9/11” engender hatred in children and that is downright dangerous.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Fast and Furious Arms Dealing to Mexico Must be Investigated

Guillermo I. Martinez Columnist

[Comment by AC: I like this line: “Why the American media cannot walk and chew gum at the same time is beyond me.”]

This is not to criticize the mainstream U.S. media for its wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Irene. Don’t count me among those critics. Any time a story directly affects more than 65 million Americans there is no way to exaggerate the coverage.

Still, there is something terribly wrong with our news media when we cannot follow more than one story at a time; or when we continue to ignore the horrible violence in Mexico, just across our southern border.

Last week, just in time for Irene to impede serious coverage of the latest attack on civilized society, a group of armed men broke into a casino in Monterrey, Mexico, locked all doors and proceeded to kill one by one all 52 people inside.

Mexico has seen many acts of violence, particularly since President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels that control the passage of all types of drugs from South America through Mexico and into the United States, where a society hungry for drugs eagerly pays the price. Take note: The United States is the biggest consumer of illegal drugs in the world.

Up until the Monterrey incident most, if not all, of the more than 35,000 people who have been killed in Mexico were killed in gun battles among the different drug cartels. It was violent, but it was a violence circumscribed to the best routes to carry drugs across the border into the United States, and in violence for control of territory throughout the country.

The U.S, media has reported on the violence with some regularity, but it has always been a tale seemingly happening in a faraway place, with little impact on the United States. For the most part, the U.S. government, and the Justice Department in particular, have sought to distract away from an Obama administration program that approved the sale of guns to middle-men in the border states so they could be taken to Mexico.

This was operation “Fast and Furious,” and thousands of U.S. weapons crossed over the border and helped fuel the fight between the drug cartels. And now, the casino massacre is an unquestionable sign that it is escalating into terrorism against innocent civilians.

Why the American media cannot walk and chew gum at the same time is beyond me. Univision, the largest Spanish-language television network in the country, which frequently tops the ratings of ABC, CBS and NBC, did not ignore Irene. They gave it wall-to-wall coverage, too.

Yet, last Sunday, Jorge Ramos, Univision’s main news anchor, broadcast his Sunday news program from Monterrey. There, he highlighted what had happened in the most Americanized city in Mexico. He described in detail the attack, detailed the complaints about President Calderón, who in part blamed the United States for the consumption of drugs, and its government for not controlling the guns that are purchased by straw men in gun shops near the border and then smuggled to Mexico.

Ramos was the first to highlight the distinction. Internal battles between the cartels now had become terrorism against people. Good for Univision! Good for Ramos!

At least the Spanish-speaking population of the United States is aware of the danger Mexican violence represents not only to our southern neighbor, but to our own national security. Left unchecked, the terrorism in Mexico can easily cross the border.

On Tuesday, the administration announced that Kenneth Melson, the interim head of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will be replaced. Melson, who led the controversial Fast and Furious operation, will have a new job in the Office of Legal Policy. The announcement made no mention of any investigation into this failed operation.

That is not enough. The Department of Justice should investigate why government agencies allowed operation “Fast and Furious” to run amok for almost two years. A U.S. official was killed with weapons bought under this program. Weapons have been found on both sides of the border and still thousands are missing.

The administration must cooperate with Congress to find out who gave the authorization for Fast and Furious and how high did knowledge rise in the Justice Department.

It must make an all-out effort to close the border effectively to drug runners and to weapon smuggling. It should do so in concert with Mexican authorities and by proclaiming it one of the administration’s top priorities.

We should do so now. The security of our nation is at stake.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Indiana: Mass Exodus of Students From the Public Schools

With public schools in Indiana spending anywhere between $9,000 and $14,000 per student annually, one would think the education they provide would be first class. Nine grand a year is quite a lot of money. Most private schools produce good academic results at half that cost; and homeschooling families perform miracles at just a portion of it.

Therefore, public school advocates shouldn’t have worried too much about the new voucher system introduced in the state of Indiana, where parents could take their vouchers and enroll their children in any school they want — provided the school has state accreditation.

But what happened is exactly what the public schools feared: more than 70% of the parents who took advantage of the vouchers transferred their children from the government-run public school system to private schools, mainly Catholic schools who have an established history and network in the state.

The exodus from the government schools is serious enough to alarm the public school bureaucrats in Indiana and force them to do meetings with the parents in attempt to dissuade them from transferring. A group in the state is suing the state to stop the vouchers program, claiming that most of the vouchers end up in religious schools, which supposedly violates the “separation of church and state.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Leaders of 9/11 Panel Call Action Plan Unfinished

In the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. has failed to make sufficient progress on nine counterterrorism actions, ranging from border screening to terrorist-detention standards, according to the former leaders of the commission that investigated the hijackings.

Areas of success include reducing impediments to intelligence-sharing and airline-passenger screening, according to former 9/11 Commission co-chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, who issued a report Wednesday on the commission’s recommendations.

“We’re better off than we used to be,” Mr. Kean said in an interview Tuesday. “But there are glaring gaps.”

Nine of the 41 recommendations haven’t been fully implemented, the report says. They require urgent attention “because the threat from al Qaeda, related terrorist groups, and individual adherents to violent Islamist extremism persists.”

Among the greatest continuing threats to the U.S., they say, is a pattern of increasing terrorist recruitment of U.S. citizens and residents. They also warn of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure such as electrical, financial and communications systems, saying that defending against such attacks “must be an urgent priority.”

The unfulfilled recommendations include the failure to establish an entry-and-exit system using biometric technology. While the Department of Homeland Security has built an entry system that checks fingerprints and other data against terrorist databases, it doesn’t check people as they exit the country.

Another unresolved issue is establishing a standardized secure form of identification, the report says…

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Mass Brawl at Theme Park After Muslim Women Are Banned From Going on Rides Unless They Remove Their Head Scarves

A New York theme park was forced to shut its gates to visitors when a mass brawl broke out after Muslim women were banned from rides unless they removed their headscarves.

Two park rangers were injured and 15 people, including three women, were arrested in the scuffle at Rye Playland in New York yesterday. They have since been charged with disorderly conduct and assault.

Muslim visitors involved in the fight accused police of brutality and claimed they were treated ‘like animals’. One said: ‘It’s clear, this all happened because we’re Muslim.’

‘[The guards] were beating down the girls, then they started beating down the guys as they came to their aid,’ Lola Ali, 16, of Queens, told the Journal News.

The incident started at around 2pm when the theme park was crowded with around 6,000 visitors. Roughly 3,000 were in a Muslim tour group celebrating a holiday at the end of Ramadan.

Trouble reportedly flared when women wearing Muslim hijab scarves tried to get on rides banning any head coverings.

The women were refused entry and offered refunds — but then male and female visitors started to argue among themselves, Westchester County officials said.

That apparently led to park guards stepping in, sparking the huge brawl. The park entrance was closed for two hours as the fighting escalated.

Ola Salem, 17, of Brooklyn, New York, was wearing a headscarf and said she was denied entry onto a ride with her eight-year-old sister.

‘They said no because my of my “headgear”,’ she told the New York Times. ‘I said: “It’s not my headgear, it’s my religion”.’

Dena Meawad, 18, told the New York Daily News her friend Entisai Ali, was pushed to the ground and arrested when she began arguing with cops over the head scarf policy.

Her cousin, Kareem Meawad, 17, went to try to protect the woman and was beaten by cops and also arrested, she added.

Her brother, Issam Meawad, 20, was pushed to the ground and taken into custody when he tried to help his cousin, she told the New York Daily News.

‘She just wanted to get on a ride. That was it,’ Dena Meawad said of the initial confrontation. ‘It’s clear, this all happened because we’re Muslim.’

Ayman Alrabah, 24, of Brooklyn said her husband, brother and father were all tackled by cops and put into handcuffs when they tried to intervene.

She told the New York Daily News she was unaware of the head-scarf rule until after she and her sister tried to get on the park’s Dragon Coasters.

‘We requested a refund and all of a sudden an argument became a riot,’ Alrabah said. ‘Cops came. They were hitting my brother, my dad. My husband was on the floor and they were handcuffing him.’

She told the New York Daily News her four-year-old son was left ‘traumatised’ by seeing his father arrested.

‘They treated us like animals, like we were nothing,’ Alrabah said. ‘They came with their dogs and sticks. We came to have fun.’

Amr Khater, of Brooklyn, told The Journal News: ‘Everybody got mad, everybody got upset. It’s our holiday. Why would you do this to us?’

Park officials insisted the ban was for safety reasons and said they respect their customers’ religious beliefs.

John Hodges, chief inspector of Westchester County Public Safety, insisted that police did not use excessive force.

Two intervening park rangers were injured and hospitalised. A huge police response then saw 60 patrol cars and 100 police arrive from nine departments.

The Muslim American Society of New York had been ‘painstakingly’ advised of the rule many times before its tour took place, parks official Peter Tartaglia said.

He defended the policy against head coverings on rides for safety reasons and faulted the group for not ensuring visitors understood the policy.

Mr Tartaglia said the policy is for safety, as scarves can become entangled in mechanical parts, choke riders or fly off and land in a ride’s tracks.

‘We respect the religious purpose of wearing it, but we have several rides that you cannot go on with any sort of headgear,’ he said.

‘The misunderstanding was very unfortunate,’ Mr Tartaglia told Fox News.

The park entrance was closed for two hours as police responded to the scene, where more than 6,000 people were inside at the time — half of whom were with the Muslim group.

Mr Tartaglia said all the people arrested were later released.

‘In this heightened state of Islamaphobia, a woman wearing a hajib is an easy target these days,’ Zead Ramadan, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — New York, told the New York Daily News. ‘Unfortunately, this turned ugly due to a lot of miscommunication.’

He added, according to The Journal News: ‘The people feel like victims, and the police feel like they were just doing their jobs. Personally I think things got a little out of control on both sides.’

The celebration at the theme park, located just north of New York City, was for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan.

Rye Playland, owned and run by Westchester County, is America’s only government-owned amusement park, reported Fox News.

A spokesman for the Muslim American Society of New York said it plans to investigate what happened.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Nearly 100 Sunday Comic Strips Will Reflect on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

Comic strip heavyweights King Features, Creators Syndicate, Tribune Media Services, Universal Press Syndicate and Washington Post Writers Group have coordinated a commemorative event among nearly 100 of their assembled cartoonists to publish material reflecting on the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Though the work will take many forms, essentially every major syndicated comic strip published next Sunday will relate to perhaps the darkest day in American history, when nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in Al-Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93. Following September 11, King Features has partnered with museums including The Newseum, The Cartoon Art Museum, The Toonseum, The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) and The Society of Illustrators to display selected works in themed exhibits.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Administration Takes on ‘Islamophobia’

The White House is giving free-speech opponents a megaphone.

An unprecedented collaboration between the Obama administration and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC, formerly called the Organization of the Islamic Conference) to combat “Islamophobia” may soon result in the delegitimization of freedom of expression as a human right.

The administration is taking the lead in an international effort to “implement” a U.N. resolution against religious “stereotyping,” specifically as applied to Islam. To be sure, it argues that the effort should not result in free-speech curbs. However, its partners in the collaboration, the 56 member states of the OIC, have no such qualms. Many of them police private speech through Islamic blasphemy laws and the OIC has long worked to see such codes applied universally. Under Muslim pressure, Western Europe now has laws against religious hate speech that serve as proxies for Islamic blasphemy codes.

Last March, U.S. diplomats maneuvered the adoption of Resolution 16/18 within the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC). Non-binding, this resolution, inter alia, expresses concern about religious “stereotyping” and “negative profiling” but does not limit free speech. It was intended to — and did — replace the OIC’s decidedly dangerous resolution against “defamation of religions,” which protected religious institutions instead of individual freedoms.

But thanks to a puzzling U.S. diplomatic initiative that was unveiled in July, Resolution 16/18 is poised to become a springboard for a greatly reinvigorated international effort to criminalize speech against Islam, the very thing it was designed to quash.

Citing a need to “move to implementation” of Resolution 16/18, the Obama administration has inexplicably decided to launch a major international effort against Islamophobia in partnership with the Saudi-based OIC. This is being voluntarily assumed at American expense, outside the U.N. framework, and is not required by the resolution itself.

On July 15, a few days after the Norway massacre, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-chaired an OIC session in Istanbul on religious intolerance. It was there that she announced the initiative, inviting the OIC member-states’ foreign ministers and representatives to the inaugural meeting of the effort that the U.S. government would host this fall in Washington. She envisions it as the first in a series of meetings to decide how best to implement Resolution 16/18….

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Ex-Teacher Accused of Raping Student Breaks Down on Stand

ST-JEROME, Que. — A former Quebec gym teacher accused of having sex hundreds of times with a student took the stand in her own defence, complaining that the charges have destroyed her reputation.

Tania Pontbriand, 40, doesn’t deny having sex with the 15-year-old boy in the back seat of her car and on a camping trip between 2002 and 2004.

Her testimony on Wednesday centred on the effect that the charges have had on her career as a high school teacher. Pontbriand has been suspended without pay since her arrest in July 2008.

“I have completely lost my reputation,” she told the court in St-Jerome, Que., north of Montreal, describing the three counts of sex abuse as a hammer hanging over her head.

Lamenting the intense media coverage of the trial in Quebec, Pontbriand said: “Everybody knows me. They talk about me in social media around the world.”

The alleged victim came forward in 2007, about four years after the alleged sex took place.

He told police that Pontbriand had sex with him between 200 and 300 times when he was between 15 and 17 years old. Her position of authority over him means he was legally unable to consent to the relationship.

A report by the local school board found that the teacher took advantage of the boy’s vulnerability since he was emotionally fragile and possibly suicidal at the time.

The board said Pontbriand was fully aware of the boy’s problems but chose to take him biking and camping instead of alerting authorities. The teacher said the boy’s mother consented to the trip.

Pontbriand was implicated in part because of the boy’s sleeping bag, which the Crown said has traces of her DNA.

Breaking down in tears on the witness stand, Pontbriand said the trial caused her to miss her five-year-old child’s first day of kindergarten. Pontbriand also has a three-year-old child.

Her lawyer, Hanan Mrani, asked Judge Francois Beaudoin for a stay of proceedings because 37 months have passed since Pontbriand’s arrest.

The judge adjourned the trial until Friday to rule on the defence motion.

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy[Return to headlines]

Ten Years After 9-11, Canada-U.S. Relationship Has Both Trouble Spots and Bright Spots

WASHINGTON — There’s no better testament to the close ties between the tiny towns of Van Buren, Me., and St-Leonard, N.B., than Gary Levesque’s surname.

The municipal councillor for Van Buren, one of dozens of Levesques in a town with French-Canadian roots, remembers fondly the days before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he and his Canadian relatives could travel with ease across the sleepy Canada-U.S. border crossing.

“St-Leonard is our sister community, so there are family members on both sides for most of us, and now it requires a passport just to go and see your family and that’s a direct result of Sept. 11,” Levesque said in a recent interview.

“A lot of our citizens are on the elderly side, and they’re on social security, so they really haven’t gotten around to getting passports. They’re really not seeing their families anymore. And that’s been a real shame. These communities are so close in ways that go beyond economics.”

In the immediate wake of that terrible day, many Van Buren residents were saddened to see Canada viewed with suspicion as a potential terrorist haven and the border they freely traversed seen as a porous threat to the safety and security of the United States.

“For the majority of people in town here, it really seemed like all of that was being blown out of proportion. But of course we’re patriotic too — many of the people here have a military background — so they didn’t want to say too much,” he said.

“It was a difficult time here.”

Levesque’s experience nicely encapsulates the impact on the Canada-U.S. relationship in the decade since terrorists commandeered fuel-engorged jetliners and aimed them at iconic American landmarks, killing thousands of innocent citizens.

“Before Sept. 11, we had embarked on this course of making the border less significant, more open,” said Christopher Sands, a Canada-U.S. relations expert at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

“We had free trade, and we were moving towards similar standards of living, even culturally — we watched the same shows, we cheered for the same teams, we were becoming more and more alike as far as Americans were concerned. There was this idea that Canadians were just like us.”

In fact, Canadians — historically fearful of being culturally inhaled by their significantly more populous neighbour to the south — were far more nationalistic than Americans prior to Sept. 11, 2001, Sands said.

All that soon changed.

[more at link]

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Changing Light Bulbs: Not the Brightest Idea

Dagens Nyheter Stockholm

As of 1 September, conventional light bulbs of more than 40 watts will be taken off the market. In the countries of the Arctic Circle, it’s a step into the dark that’s being badly received. Just who is it who has wrought this change in our daily life? wonders Dagens Nyheter.

As of tomorrow [September 1], bulbs of 60 and 75 watts will be banned in Sweden and throughout the rest of the European Union. Their use will not be prohibited, but, to employ the jargon of officialdom, these bulbs will no longer be “placed on the market”.

Rarely has a decision of the European Union had such tangible consequences on the lives of citizens. In Sweden as in other countries near the Arctic Circle, its impact will be felt especially once the evenings become even more dismal than usual, lit by dim light bulbs that consume less energy.

What’s more, it’s reasonable to ask if it was wise to order the removal of the conventional light bulbs in order to restock the shelves with bulbs that use less energy but that may contain mercury, a hazardous element? One needn’t be an expert to see that this decision risks creating new problems for the environmental plan. It’s surprising, therefore, that these decisions of the first rank in importance should be taken without any public debate. For the fate of the bulbs has not been sealed by the politicians — but by bureaucrats in Brussels.

It happened like this. At the end of the summer of 2003, Margot Wallström, then European Commissioner for the Environment, introduced a new directive on “eco-design”. She was calling for a law requiring the installation of energy-efficient lighting throughout the EU, but the directive didn’t go into details. At the time, her proposal was received rather favourably.

Following negotiations in the Council of Ministers and a vote in the European Parliament, the EU legislation on eco-design was adopted (in 2005) before being transposed into Swedish law (in 2008) and into the laws of other member countries.

Next will be vacuum cleaners, fans, coffee makers, hair dryers

Until then, the political parties were ‘stakeholders’ and granted their assent. But it’s always the little things that turn out to be snags. What output of light, what power and what thresholds should the EU set for the bulbs? And how should the EU organise the eventual disappearance of the banned bulbs? All these issues, which seem technical but are in fact highly political, were entrusted to a committee of national officials who met up in Brussels…

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

France: Twin Towers Replica in Paris for 9/11 Anniversary

A replica of the Twin Towers destroyed in the September 11 attacks will be built on a square opposite the Eiffel Tower in Paris to mark the tenth anniversary of the atrocity, organisers said on Tuesday.

The Eiffel Tower itself will be illuminated by a special light show later the same day, “The French will never forget” group that is hosting a series of events next month said in a statement. US ambassador to Paris Charles Rivkin will inaugurate the replica that will be constructed on Trocadero square, it said, adding that the 25-metre (82-foot) towers will bear the names of the people killed in the attacks. “The French will never forget” was set up in 2003 by a group of French entrepreneurs living in the United States to try and ease the anti-French sentiment sparked by Paris’s criticism of the US invasion of Iraq. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, 2,753 at the World Trade Center and the others in attacks on the Pentagon and in a hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Halt to Madrid-Lisbon High Speed Line, Coelho

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 1 — The suspension in works for the high-speed rail link between Madrid and Lisbon will be dealt with in the next meeting between infrastructure ministers of the two countries. So announced yesterday Portugal’s prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho during his official visit to Madrid, the first stop in a European trip which will take him to Berlin and Paris as well. Coelho noted that the economic crisis that Portugal is going through, forced to make use of EU and IMF bailout funds, does not allow it to go ahead according to the scheduled timeline for the high speed rail link project between Madrid and Lisbon, which the Portuguese prime minister suspended just after his election. “It is an outdated project which must be reformed and re-discussed with Spain and the EU,” said the head of the Portuguese government in a joint press conference with Spanish premier Jose’ Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Passos Coelho reiterated that the “top priority” for Portugal and Spain is to improve “a central corridor for railway cargo transport in the Iberian peninsula.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Thousands Escape Penalty Points

IRISH MOTORISTS responsible for more than 85,000 penalty-point offences have escaped having the points registered on their record as they did not bring their driving licence to court.

The Department of Transport said that for 85,709 offences the Irish driving licence holder “did not have any driving licence particulars in court, or they were not available for recording following court proceedings”.

As a result, these penalty points could not be added to the drivers’ records on the National Vehicle Driver File.

The issue stems from a weakness in the wording of the Road Traffic Act (2002) which requires a motorist to bring their licence to court or face a fine of â‚800.

However, the department said yesterday that “this issue has been addressed by the Road Traffic Act (2010) which will come into force later this year”.

The new legislation will allow the National Vehicle Driver File to create a penalty-point record for a foreign licence and provides for the mandatory production of a driver’s licence and a copy of their licence in court.

Under the new legislation, penalty points “will now be formally designated as entries to the National Vehicle Driver File, and consequently it should be possible in many cases to associate them with the records of the holders of Irish driving licences, where it is possible to establish a link,” a department spokeswoman said.

She added that currently the “key to recording points on a driving licence record is the licence number of the motorist”.

The failure to impose penalty points on Irish licence holders who do not bring their licence to court is part of the reason why a third of all penalty points issued are not allocated.

This is the first time details of this cohort of drivers have been released.

Of the almost 850,000 penalty-point offences recorded as of June this year, a third, or 285,698, were not allocated to a driver. In most cases this was because the offender either held a “foreign driving licence”, had a vehicle registered in another country, or did not bring their licence to court.

The spokeswoman added that approximately “70 per cent of penalty-point records can be matched against records on the National Vehicle Driver File”. She said the remaining 30 per cent was comprised of foreign drivers and those who did not bring their licence to court.

A spokeswoman denied the failure to allocate a third of all penalty points was due to weaknesses in the quality of the data held by the National Vehicle Driver File.

She said that while there was no documented audit of its accuracy, the department “was satisfied that the data on both the driver and vehicle records is accurate and fit for purpose”.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: Two Arrested Over Berlusconi Extortion Claims

‘I have done nothing illegal’, says PM

(ANSA) — Rome, September 1 — Italian police on Thursday arrested entrepreneur Giampaolo Tarantini and his wife Angela Devenuto for alleged extortion of Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Tarantini, 34, a health care entrepreneur from Bari, has previously admitted paying women to spend the night at Berlusconi’s official residence in Rome.

According to allegations published in the weekly magazine Panorama, Berlusconi paid Tarantini 500,000 euros and additional amounts on a monthly basis. Three Naples prosecutors have been conducting an inquiry into the claims published on August 24.

Acting on arrest warrants issued by a Naples judge, investigators from Digos, the police agency charged with fighting organised crime and terrorism, detained Tarantini and his 34-year-old wife in Rome early Thursday before transferring both of them to separate prisons in Naples.

In a statement to the magazine published last week the prime minister, who is on trial for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute, denied that he had been the victim of extortion.

“I helped a person and a family with children that found themselves and find themselves in very serious economic circumstances,” Berlusconi told Panorama.

“I have done nothing illegal, all I did was help a desperate man and asked nothing in return”.

Naples prosecutors looking into the claims said their investigation had been damaged by information leaked to the media.

“(It has been) seriously compromised by the criminal leaking of relevant details from the arrest warrant,” said prosecutor Francesco Greco.

According to the claims published in Panorama, Tarantini allegedly received payments for continuing to declare during a Bari court case that Berlusconi did not know that the women attending his parties were escorts paid by Tarantini.

The 500,000 euro payment was allegedly paid to deter Tarantini from releasing telephone intercepts that would have been potentially embarassing to the premier.

A second man, Valter Lavitola, director and editor of the online daily, Avanti!, is also implicated in the alleged extortion.

Tarantini was at the centre of the 2009 sex scandal involving another woman, Patrizia D’Addario, who released to the media tapes of conversations she claimed to have had while having sex with the prime minister. Tarantini said he introduced D’Addario and other women as friends of his and later apologised for taking her to the premier’s home.

The premier admitted spending the night with D’Addario but insisted he didn’t know she was a paid escort.

Tarantini was also arrested for allegedly supplying women and drugs to centre-left authorities in the southern region of Puglia in a sex-for-favours case in the health system.

In June 2011 the entrepreneur was sentenced to two years and two months in jail after being found guilty of cocaine trafficking.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovan Albanian Admits Killing Two US Airmen in Frankfurt Terror Attack

Arid Uka, 21, tells court he was influenced by online Islamist propaganda before shootings at airport in March

A 21-year-old Kosovan Albanian confessed on Wednesday to killing two US airmen at Frankfurt airport, saying in emotional testimony at the opening of his trial that he had been influenced by Islamist propaganda online.

Arid Uka is charged with two counts of murder for killing Nicholas J Alden, 25, from South Carolina, and Zachary R Cuddeback, 21, from Virginia on 2 March this year. He also faces three counts of attempted murder in connection with the wounding of two others.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Libya: Paris Conference, Avoid Iraq Mistakes

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 31 — “Too early? They have been telling us that it is too early since March 10.” The French are again on the front line in terms of the situation in Libya, with recriminations and a certain amount of confusion during the opening conference on “support for the new Libya”, which will see NTC officials arrive in Paris tomorrow along with around 60 delegations from around the world. Twenty of these are yet to recognise the new Libyan government.

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who distanced herself from the military intervention in Libya from the start — and the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will be joined by Mikhail Margelov, the Russian President’s envoy for Africa, and China’s Zhai Jun, both of whom have so far been anything but “friends of the new Libya”, the watchword being used in Paris.

Continuing the theme of difficult relations, the African Union, which is yet to take a united stance in favour of the NTC, will be joined by Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Mourad Medelci, the representative of a neighbouring country with surely the most tense relations with the new Libyan government.

The conference will be jointly chaired by the French and British leaders, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, who were keen to point out that the first planes to fly over Libyan skies in March were their own.

France says that speed is essential in ensuring the success of the “transition” challenge, which is “at least as delicate as war”. “We must avoid repeating the errors committed in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Elysee Palace says. Paris believes that the “transition phase has begun with the fall of Tripoli” and says that the NTC can be trusted, saying that “their motto is reconciliation. They will not repeat the errors made in Iraq, that of getting rid of all fighters, who then found themselves on the streets without work and full of weapons”.

The Elysee then said that the risk of extremist influences on the new government was unlikely but that this was one reason for being present on the ground immediately. Space will then be left for diplomacy at a conference that could be just a large gathering, without decisions and perhaps even without a final document.

The spotlight will be placed especially on the unblocking of frozen Libyan goods in banks abroad. “There are 7.6 billion euros in French banks alone,” the Elysee says, estimating the global total that could be allocated at “50 billion dollars”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: France Finalises Deal on Oil, Press

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 1 — France reportedly finalised an agreement with the National Transitional Council (NTC) at the beginning of the conflict in Libya on the basis of which the rebels would sign over 35% of Libyan oil to Paris, according to this morning’s issue of the French daily Liberation, which noted that Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’ “was not aware” of the agreement. The newspaper has obtained a letter dated April 3 of the NTC and addressed to the Qatari emir, in which the rebels’ organisation claims to have signed “an agreement attributing 35% of all oil to the French in exchange for complete and permanent support for our council”. Questioned by the radio station RTL this morning, Juppe’ said that he “was not aware of any letter of the sort”, though did say it was “logical” that the countries which supported the rebels would be privileged in the reconstruction. “The NTC,” said the minister, “has said in an absolutely official manner that the reconstruction would be directed in a preferential manner to those that supported it, and this seems logical and fair to me.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Miss Italy Disqualifies Two for Nude Photos

‘Compromising’ poses break contest rules

(ANSA) — Pistoia, August 31 — After nude photographs surfaced on the web, two Miss Italy contestants have been disqualified from the national beauty pageant.

Rafaella Modugno, from Rome, and Alice Bellotto, from the northern province of Vicenza, were each taken out of the running when competition organizers spotted their rule-breaking pictures “of nude and semi-nude poses of a provocative nature,” they said in a statement.

According to article eight of the pageant rules, “contestants may not be photographed in the nude, or in compromising poses”.

Modugno held the title of “Miss Curve”, awarded by the plus-size clothing brand Elena Miro’.

Alice Bellotto had won Miss Wella Veneto, hosted by the German cosmetics supplier Wella, before being disqualified from Miss Italy, which is currently in the finals stage in Tuscany with 39 remaining contestants from regions all over Italy.

“I’ll make the most of it,” she said. “In the last few days, many advertisers have called to offer me a job”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ‘Belusconi’s Mediaset and ITV May Take Over Endemol’

Dutch television production giant Endemol, which devised the Big Brother reality tv format, could be taken over by British broadcasting group ITV and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, the Telegraph reports on Tuesday.

The paper says the deal is understood to be one of a number of options being discussed by Mediaset, which owns around a third of Endemol’s shares, to restructure its €2bn debt.

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

Netherlands: Deputy Prime Minister Criticises Wilders’ Anti-Europe Stand

Scrapping the euro and closing the Dutch borders, as called for by right-wing populist MP Geert Wilders, will lead to more unemployment in the Netherlands, deputy prime minister Maxime Verhagen says in an interview with website

Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV has a formal alliance with the ruling minority coalition, made up of the VVD Liberals and Christian Democrats.

‘What Wilders says sounds very reasonable — ‘What do I get out of Europe and the euro? Throw all those countries out’ — but you have to deal with the consequences,’ Verhagen told the website.

‘It would be very irresponsible if my policies led to one more person losing their job or one man or woman losing their savings or pension.’

The Dutch economy is based on exports and has earned its ‘wages and pensions’ in Europe for centuries, he said.

‘Our open economy would immediately be negatively impacted by an anti-European policy.’

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

Netherlands: Wilders Wants the Queen Out of Politics, Move to Ceremonial Role

The queen should be confined to a purely ceremonial role and have no active involvement in politics, according to draft legislation drawn up by the anti-Islam PVV and made public on Thursday.

The queen should no longer be part of the government, be involved in the formation of new cabinets or have a seat on the Council of State, the government’s highest advisory body, the party says.

The aim of the draft legislation is to ‘keep the monarchy intact but minimalise the [appearance] of political influence’. The queen would remain head of state because she represents unity, the party said.


Last month, the Labour party (PvdA) published its own report on reforming the monarchy. It too wants to remove the monarch from the Council of State but does not think it necessary to remove the queen’s membership of the government.

The PVV’s plans are unlikely to become law. Removing the queen’s role in the Council of State requires a change in the constitution and a two-thirds majority in parliament.

But removing the monarch’s role in forming a new government only requires a simple majority and is a more likely option, the Volkskrant says.

Earlier stories

Labour party draws up modern monarchy plan

Should the monarchy be reformed? Take part in our new poll

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

UK: “We Encourage Our Visitors to Interact With the Displays” — Madame Tussauds

Staff fail to stop visitors from making Heil Hitler salutes next to waxwork

An Israeli mother has described her shock at witnessing tourists making Heil Hitler salutes next to a waxwork of the Nazi leader at Madame Tussauds. The woman visited the attraction with her husband and baby son and said she was amazed by fellow tourists posing for pictures with the Führer figure. Museum bosses apologised, but told the Israelis that the company was “apolitical” and “absolutely defends the right of our visitors to make such choices for themselves, as long as they behave responsibly”. The museum later backtracked, explaining that it would make efforts to stop “inappropriate gestures”.

But just days later news reporters from Israel’s Channel 2 witnessed visitors approach the Hitler waxwork and give the same offensive salute — without being challenged by staff.

The Israeli mother, who is staying in London for the summer with her businessman husband and son, and has asked not to be identified, said the family had gone to the museum hoping to see models of famous Israelis. She explained: “We saw the singers and footballers and then we saw the politicians. I spotted the Hitler figure and everyone was going to have their picture taken with him. We were very upset. We just stood there amazed at the number of people taking pictures, hugging him, doing Heil Hitler salutes.. I wanted to tell them what he had done. My grandfather was in a concentration camp and all his family were murdered there. It’s very personal to us. I thought about my grandfather and how he would feel.”

The woman, from Rishon le Zion, said she did not feel Madame Tussauds had initially recognised how upset her family had been. “They said people should take responsibility themselves and behave. I asked them to move the waxwork. I do understand he is part of history, but maybe they should put him where people can’t take pictures and explain more about the Holocaust and how Europe suffered in the war.” After the August 13 visit, she and her husband wrote to the museum to complain. In response to the request for the waxwork to be removed, Madame Tussauds spokeswoman Liz Edwards replied: “Hitler’s régime represents an important, albeit horrific, point in modern Europe’s development — and is therefore a very legitimate part of some of the attractions.” Ms Edwards admitted that visitors had previously made Heil Hitler salutes, but said: “We apologised to the Israeli family for the upset of the experience. Had we seen it happen it would have been stopped immediately.”We are just as upset by what happened as our Israeli guests were. We will be more aware of guests being around that figure and staffing in that area. We just have to hope people use their brains.” Nevertheless, she also wrote: “We pro-actively encourage our visitors to interact with them [the waxwork figures] should they so choose.”

Holocaust Educational Trust chairman Lord Janner said he was appalled by the incident. “It is upsetting and offensive to see young people posing in a Nazi salute. Surely Madame Tussauds have a responsibility to ensure visitors behave appropriately and respectfully.” London is one of only two Madame Tussaud museums to display Hitler, out of 12 venues around the world. The other Nazi waxwork is on show in Berlin, where meetings were held with the Jewish community before it went on display. The German venue’s figure is displayed in his bunker as the war comes to an end. A man was fined three years ago after decapitating the figure.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Darrah Singh, Job Centre Boss, To Head Riot Panel

Darrah Singh, the boss of JobCentre plus, has been announced as a the chair of a community panel which will look into the causes of this summer’s riots in Britain. His appointment was announced by Nick Clegg, who promised “a grass roots review”. “We want to know what happened at street level, not from afar and only from the perspective of those affected,” said the Deputy Prime Minister, who is was visiting Tottenham on Wednesday. The other panel members will be Simon Marcus, Heather Rabbatts and Maeve Sherlock. Simon Marcus is the founder of the Boxing Academy, based in north east London. He stood as the Tory candidate for Barking in east London at the general election last year. Heather Rabbatts is a barrister who used to run two London authorities before going into the City. Maeve Sherlock was appointed as a life peer in 2010 and previously ran the Refugee Council.

The government says the committee’s aims are to investigate why people chose to riot and whether the authorities’ response to them could have been handled differently. The committee is expected to report back to the government in March of next year. Ed Miliband welcomed the announcement, saying: “We must never excuse or justify the behaviour we saw in the riots. “But we owe it to the communities affected to listen to them about why it happened and look at the deeper causes of the criminal behaviour. The temptation for politicians is to reach for simplistic solutions to the issues we face as a society. That would be a dereliction of duty to the vast majority of law abiding people in those communities. After going out and understanding the point of view of those on the ground, the task of this commission is to make recommendations which can help tackle the complex causes of what we saw.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ex-Council Boss to Head Riot Panel

A former chief executive of a London borough hit by some of the worst scenes of rioting in the recent disorder is to lead the independent investigation into its causes, the Deputy Prime Minister has said. Darra Singh, chief executive of Job Centre Plus and the former chief executive of Ealing — which suffered badly in the disturbances — and Luton councils, will chair the panel that aims to give communities and victims a voice over what happened.

The announcement came as an 11-year-old boy, the youngest rioter in the capital to face prosecution so far, was given an 18-month youth rehabilitation order for stealing a bin.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Only by listening to people who have been affected by the riots — the victims — will we ever be able to move on and rebuild for the long-term.

“This is not just about individuals, but entire communities. This will be a grass roots review — we want to know what happened at street level, not from afar and only from the perspective of those affected.” Mr Singh added: “This is an important opportunity. I think it is vital that we hear straight from individuals and communities that have been affected directly and indirectly by the riots. Along with the other panel members, I am looking forward to hearing their views on the causes and their ideas on how similar events can be prevented in future.”

The panel will deliver early findings by November, and present a final report by March 2012, to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband. Mr Miliband said politicians owed it to communities to listen to them “about why it happened and look at the deeper causes of the criminal behaviour”. The temptation for politicians is to reach for simplistic solutions to the issues we face as a society,” he said. “That would be a dereliction of duty to the vast majority of law-abiding people in those communities. After going out and understanding the point of view of those on the ground, the task of this commission is to make recommendations which can help tackle the complex causes of what we saw.”

Meanwhile, two men arrested by police investigating the murders of three men hit by a car while protecting shops and homes from looters face more questioning today. West Midlands Police arrested the two, aged 29 and 30, yesterday on suspicion of murdering Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, in the early hours of August 10 during riots in the Winson Green area of Birmingham. The suspects, who are from Birmingham, are being held for questioning. Liam Young, 28, Ian Beckford, 30, Joshua Donald, 26, Adam King, 23, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named, have already been charged with murder and have been remanded in custody. Four other males — aged 17, 23, 32 and 33 — have also been arrested and bailed pending further inquiries. Eleven men have so far been arrested by police investigating the killings.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Supporter Arrested Over ‘Aggressive’ Chanting

Simon Pearson, 29, who had drunk five pints and had been smoking cannabis, had been alone chanting “E, E, EDL” and waving his arms around in Burleigh Street after a march through the city by the EDL on July 9.

Pearson, of Whitehill Road, Cambridge, had previously denied a public order offence but failed to appear for his trial and was convicted in his absence by magistrates at Huntingdon.

He was fined £175, with a £15 victim surcharge, and was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £775….

Defence solicitor Jason Stevens questioned whether chanting EDL and wearing a balaclava amounted to using threatening behaviour, saying: “An awful lot of people doing exactly the same thing were not arrested.”

Mr Stevens said: “He was shouting ‘E, E, EDL’. He is obviously affiliated to this group and just got involved showing his support for that group.”

He said people might not like the EDL or what it stood for but that Pearson had a right to express his views.

Mr Stevens said: “He has the right to express himself. He never intended to threaten anyone.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Four Lions’ UK TV Premiere to Coincide With 9/11 Anniversary

Channel 4 will broadcast Chris Morris’s comedy about jihadist terrorists on 4 September, just days before the 10-year anniversary of the attack on the twin towers

Four Lions, Chris Morris’s comedy about four bumbling jihadist terrorists who target the London marathon, is to have its UK TV premiere on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11. The film, whose genesis Morris has said predates the suicide bombings in the capital on 7 July 2005, will screen on Channel 4 on 4 September, in the runup to the broadcaster’s season of programmes marking 10 years since the attack on the twin towers. Other programmes include documentaries on the Ground Zero mosque, emergency treatment of those at the World Trade Centre, and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The plans were revealed at the Edinburgh television festival by Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt, the former BBC1 controller, who said the film would form part of the “mix” of programming to mark the anniversary. Speaking at a session called No Risk Please, We’re Prime Time, she said: “I’ve just had an interesting and rather robust conversation with Chris Morris about Four Lions and the scheduling of that and how close it is to 9/11 … It is not going out on 9/11 itself because we have got a lot of other programming. But it is around then because it speaks to that issue.”

Rumours have emerged that Morris himself wanted the film to screen on 11 September itself, and that the decision to screen it a week earlier was due to the channel’s eagerness to screen it as soon as possible after the rights became available, at the start of the month. Speaking at the festival, however, Jay said that while not directly about the events of 9/11, Channel 4 was showing the film at this time because it looked at the wider “geopolitical” discussion on terrorism. Four Lions premiered at the Sundance film festival in January 2010 and proved both a commercial and critical success on release in the UK that May, although it failed to repeat the trick in the US later in the year.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Jews Call for Tussauds to Make Hitler Look Defeated

Jewish campaigners have asked Madame Tussauds to consider altering its Hitler waxwork to make it appear more “vulnerable” after visitors persisted in posing provocatively next to the figure. A spokesman for the UK Zionist Federation said that making the Nazi dictator look less “upright” and more “defeated” might discourage guests from making “sieg heil” salutes and other inappropriate gestures.

The call follows complaints from an Israeli holidaymakers who witnessed children copying the Nazi salute for family photographs. Madame Tussauds apologised and assigned staff to prevent similar behaviour. But the Standard revealed yesterday that the “guards” had not stopped youngsters from continuing to pose. Stefan Kerner, the federation’s director of public affairs, said: “At the end of the day Hitler has a place in history. I would like to see him in the Chamber of Horrors myself but he was a significant world leader. “I have no problem with Adolf Hitler being displayed. However, we want to display him in a more vulnerable position or situation. Or he could be placed in a way that people can’t take photographs beside him.” A spokeswoman for Madame Tussauds said: “We are standing by our position. If our members of staff see someone behaving inappropriately they will stop it.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Nick Clegg’s Riot Inquiry Panel is Beyond a Joke

Just when you thought Cameron’s Coalition couldn’t get any more lame along comes its announcement that Nick Clegg has appointed the panel which will investigate the riots. And guess what their conclusion is going to be. No, really, I can tell you already. It’s going to read something like this:

In a very real sense, the riots were the result of an outpouring of rage and frustration by disaffected youth who feel alienated and disenfranchised by a materialistic, racist society which they feel offers them no hope and no future. Therefore what the government must do is appoint an Inner City Cohesion Czar, on a salary of not less than £500,000 pa, to oversee a series of regional initiatives in which swarms of technocrats and social workers and other civic professionals with third class degrees in sociology and media studies can descend on affected areas to empathise with their pain, nurture their grievance and stoke their sense of entitlement through the targeted application of wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of taxpayers money.

How do we know this? Well look, for example, at the CV of the apparatchik chosen to head the enquiry, one Darra Singh.

Career July 2005-present: chief executive, Ealing council; 2001-05: chief executive, Luton council; 2000-01: regional director for best value, Audit Commission: 1996-2000; chief executive, Hexagon Housing Association; 1993-96: chief executive, ASRA Greater London Housing Association; 1991-93: regional director, North British Housing Association; 1989-91: senior policy officer, London Housing Unit; 1987-89: campaign worker, CHAR housing charity; 1984-87: housing adviser, SHAC homelessness charity; 1984: volunteer case worker, Tyneside Housing Advice Centre.

That was from a Guardian profile of 2006. And of course you have to go to the Guardian to find anything about Singh and his fellow enquiry members because they’re all Guardian people and, indeed, have almost certainly hopped from one job to the next through the Guardian’s recruitment pages. Very few of them have done a day’s work in the productive sector of the economy. These are all professional members of the Quangocracy: left-leaning specialists in such parasitical fields as international relations and human rights law who’ve spent virtually their entire careers doing very nicely thank you working on committees and advisory groups and steering panels and local councils and diversity initiatives, their ringfenced salaries and pensions paid for by you the taxpayer.

Darra Singh, the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus and former chief executive of Ealing and Luton councils, will chair the panel, which will also include Simon Marcus, the founder of the Boxing Academy in London, Baroness Sherlock, previously chief executive of the National Council for One Parent Families, and Heather Rabbatts, a former barrister.

Was that really the best they could come up with? Actually that’s a rhetorical question. Of course it wasn’t. About the only name on the list that inspires a glimmer of confidence is Simon Marcus. The rest of the panel just smacks of liberal tokenism. And I don’t mean a skin colour thing. I’d welcome a panel with still more black people on it — but why not black people who actually understand the nature of the problem — Tony Sewell, say; Katharine Birbalsingh — rather than ones more likely to tread on eggshells rather than engage with it.

Here for example is what Tony Sewell said in the aftermath of the riots:

“…..for, despite the attempts of some apologists to dress up the looting as a political act against an oppressive Tory establishment, the fact is that the ethos of materialism — or ‘bling’ to use the street term — that pervades urban black youth played a major part in the widespread criminality perpetrated by rioters of all races.

That is why the looters targeted specific stores that are cherished in this culture, such as those selling mobile phones, trainers, sports clothes or widescreen TVs. Let’s face it, there were no reports of the vandals looting bookshops or public libraries. What motivated the troublemakers was not genuine poverty but rather a raw acquisitiveness that is fuelled by so much in this black-led youth culture, from the imagery in rap videos to the lyrics of hip-hop music. The twin central themes of this world are sex and material possessions….”

As Rod Liddle noted, the BBC’s Robert Peston would no doubt loved to have poured scorn on this kind of “nasty ignorance”, as he did with David Starkey. Tragically he couldn’t because Sewell is black. Here was the perfect opportunity for David Cameron to demonstrate that he wasn’t all mouth and no trousers, that he genuinely understood that the riots were a game changer: the point where years of ingrained political correctness, welfarism and state-endorsed grievance came to a head in a petulant outburst of wanton destruction and naked greed, and the point where the law-abiding majority in Britain realised that they’d had enough of this socialistic hell and wanted a government that would do the right thing and give them their country back. Ain’t going to happen, clearly.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Belgrade Challenges UN Tribunal on Allegedly Killed Witnesses

Belgrade, 1 Sept. (AKI) — Serbian authorities have strongly challenged claims by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that no witnesses in the trial of former Kosovo prime minister Ramus Haradinaj had been killed.

Serbian prosecutor for war crimes Vladimir Vukcevic said recently that 40 potential witnesses of crimes allegedly committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), including 14 relating to Haradinaj case, had been killed.

Tribunal’s spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic on Wednesday strongly denied the charges, saying that no persons from the tribunal’s list of potential witnesses had been killed. She said the tribunal was proud of its system of protection of witnesses.

But Serbian newspapers on Thursday published a list, compiled by Vukcevic’s office, of scores of potential witnesses, all ethnic Albanians, who had been killed in the period between 2001 and 2007.

Among those relating to Haradinaj’s case, it named Ilir Selimaj, Smail Hajdaraj, Bekim Mustafa, Avni Elezaj, Tahir Zemaj, Sabahete Tolaj, Isuf Haklaj, Sadik Musaj, Ismet Musaj, Sinan Musaj, Dzeladin Musaj, Sadik Murici, Vesel Murici and Kujtim Berisa.

The document described in detail when and how the witness had been killed, pointing out that Sadik and Vesel Murici were the tribunal’s protected witnesses. The issue dominated pages of Serbian newspapers on Thursday and Belgrade daily Kurir described Jelacic’s claims as “impudent”.

Haradinaj, a former regional commander of the KLA, which started a rebellion against Serbian rule, and his two alleged accomplices, have been accused of crimes against Serb, Roma and non-loyal Albanian civilians during Kosovo 1998/99 conflict.

He briefly served as Kosovo prime minister after the region was put under UN control in 1999. Kosovo majority Albanians declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Belgrade contests.

Haradinaj was acquitted for “lack of evidence” in April 2008, but the tribunal’s appeals panel in 2010 ordered a retrial on six counts, saying the first trial was conducted in an atmosphere of “intimidation of witnesses”.

Sefcet Kabashi, considered a key witness in Haradinaj trial, refused to answer most questions by the tribunal last week, pointing to the fact that many witnesses had been killed. He is currently awaiting sentencing for contempt of court.

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

North Africa

Hillary’s Libyan Mullah Frees 600 Al Qaeda Terrorists From Prison

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) reports that “ Hundreds of Islamist militants were among the prisoners freed from a notorious Tripoli prison this week, according to a former Libyan jihadist.

“The freed militants had been imprisoned in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison by Moammar Gadhafi’s regime during the height of the insurgency in Iraq, according to Noman Benotman, once a senior figure in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Benotman said he believes as many as pro al Qaeda 600 militants may have been among the prison population at Abu Salim.”

The Libyan rebels are firmly under the control of Shariah lawyer and Muslim Mullah (religious leader) Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Obama and Hillary Clinton’s choice to be the next ruler of Libya.

Hillary and Obama have the media behind them in this effort.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Libya: ENI Planning to Reactivate Gas Pipeline Mid-Oct

(ANSAmed) — DRO (TRENTO), AUGUST 31 — “We have set a target — but it may be a bit ambitious — of resuming by October 15,” Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni said today on the schedule for the reactivation of Greenstream, the gas pipeline connecting Libya to Sicily. On the accords to resume energy supply with Libya, Scaroni said that “we have agree with the new NTC (National Transitional Council) authorities to resume production even on fields that we do not yet know the condition of, very focused on gas.” “I am very much in a hurry,” underscored Eni’s CEO,” to restart gas shipments on Greenstream, since to face winter with one of our supply sources suspended concerns me a great deal.” On the date of October 15, “technically I believe it is feasible,” Scaroni said, “even though we have not yet been to Mellitah, the centre of gas distribution and therefore we do not know well what sort of state the facilities are in, but reactivating gas fields is much easier than oil ones.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Al Arabiya: More Evidence That Hana Gaddafi is Alive

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 1 — Hana, the adopted daughter of Muammar Gaddafi who was thought to have died in 1986 in the American airstrike on Tripoli, is still alive. She has probably fled to Algeria together with the colonel’s wife and her stepsister Aisha, after working in a hospital in Tripoli until last Friday. Evidence for this claim has been collected by Al Arabiya, which reports the news on its website.

Al Arabiya announced that documents were found in the past days in the Bab al Aziziya compound, which reportedly prove that the young woman is alive, and has spoken with the director of the hospital in the west of Tripoli where the woman, who should be 26 years old today, is said to have worked until a few days ago. According to the director, the website reads, Hana was in the hospital until last Friday. A doctor working in the same hospital, Nisrin Tilisi, has said in an interview with Al Arabiya that the daughter of the colonel “had a special status, and had all staff at her service.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Oil Triangle: A Photo Gallery

by Diana West

[see link for photos]

No chemistry here as Mahmoud Jibril of Libya’s Transitional National Council posess with Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi after receiving Italy’s pledge to unfreeze about $500 million — read: tribute — held in Italian banks in August. This apparently loveless match took place one day after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy (below). Still, Italy’s ENI oil subsequently signed a memo with the NTC to resume oil activity — activity that was ever so briefly in doubt given Italy’s relationship with Qaddafi.

Here’s the real thing — at least on Sarkozy’s part. Notice that glow of gleaming Euros about him. Could it be that sweet deal with the rebels that is lighting him up?

(Don’t know who the middleman is, the guy with the zabibah.)

L’amour Libyane continues (below) today, Sarkozy holds hands (aww) with the NTC’s Mustafa Abduljalil — the same Mustafa Abduljalil, who, as Tripoli appeals court president, twice upheld the death sentences of the Bulgarian nurses. Forgive and forget, right? After all, it was Sarkozy’s ex-wife Cecilia who helped negotiate the nurses’ release in 2007.

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Post-Gaddafi Libya: A Police Force Trained by Britain; And an Islamist Militia Backed by Qatar

The challenges facing Libya as it tries to build a new government after 42 years of Gaddafi rule were all on display at Benghazi airport last night. A huge RAF jet loomed out of the darkness carrying 40 tonnes of banknotes — 280 million dinars worth of crisp bills which had been printed in Britain, but seized aboard the Sloman Provider after her crew had decided not to proceed to Libya in the early months of the uprising.

The banknotes will be used to pay public workers, who have received only a fraction of their wages for the past six months. More importantly, it will add liquidity to an economy which has been in suspended animation during the uprising.

It was the first shipment of frozen cash to arrive back on Libyan soil. David Cameron himself had overseen the logistics, keen that Britain’s key role in backing the rebels was on display on the eve of the Paris conference today.

But what happened next shows the potential fault-lines within the nascent government. Security was tight, as you might expect in a city awash with weapons. A blue ring of armed police officers formed around the cargo plane as forklift trucks began to unload the pallet-loads of cash. Outside them stood a second ring, this one made up of khaki-clad militiamen who had fought for the rebels.

The policemen, looking smart in their new uniforms, have been trained and equipped by Britain. Law and order — the security of fragile states — has become something of a British export industry.

The militiamen, however, represented a different side of Libya. They were members of an Islamist unit, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, whose presence has alarmed neighbours of Libya such as Algeria as well as diplomats in Benghazi. They too have smart new uniforms and body armour, thanks to their benefactors in Qatar.

For now, though, the two are working in harmony, united in their goal of securing Libya and rooting out Gaddafi and his sons. The question is whether they will work together once their common enemy is gone — a common enemy, whose image is printed on each of the brand new one dinar notes that arrived last night.

           — Hat tip: Thom Jefferson[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: U.S. To Provide 21 Mln Dollars in Military Aid

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 01 — The United States will provide Tunisia with military aid worth 21 million dollars, according to African Manager citing a report from the Associated Press, specifying that the funds will be used to provide Tunisia with naval units, lorries and vehicles to transport troops, radars, update the Army’s helicopter fleet and improve military personnel training. Aid worth 4.7 million dollars will also be provided to Malta in the form of naval units, night vision devices and training naval personnel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Blair’s Sister-in-Law Incites Muslims to ‘Liberate’ Jerusalem

Laura Booth, sister-in-law of Quartet envoy Tony Blair, has called on “Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt liberate Al-Quds [Jerusalem].”

The former British prime minister’s family member has previously sailed illegally to Gaza on a flotilla boat. She joined an anti-Israel rally in London Trafalgar’s Square, where another protest today (Sunday) may be the last as the mayor London vows to crack down on the incitement as the date for the next Olympics approaches.

“The Mayor believes that intolerance of our fellow citizens and hate crimes against specific communities are totally unacceptable, particularly in a city like London and especially in 2012 when the eyes of the world will be on the capital,” said a spokesman for Mayor Boris Johnson, the London Jewish Chronicle reported.

The spokesman added, “The Greater London Authority will not be authorizing political rallies in Trafalgar Square during the Olympic and Paraolympic Games.”

The Trafalgar Square rallies against Israel have featured Hizbullah flags.

During last week’s demonstration, Booth went on another rant against Israel. “We say here today to you, Israel, we see your crimes and we loathe your crimes. And to us your nation does not exist, because it is a criminal injustice against humanity. We want to see Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt go to the borders and stop this now. Liberate Al Quds! March to Al Quds!”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

EU: 240 Mln to UNRWA Between 2011-2013

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 1 — The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) will be able to count on a 240 million euro contribution from the EU between 2011 and 2013. Two deals for a 45 million euro tranche, which brings EU funding to 125 million euros this year, were signed today in Brussels together with a declaration to support the UNRWA until 2013. The EU and the member states confirm their position as the main donors to the UN agency, which has been in the midst of a precarious financial situation for some time. “The main objective of the EU’s support for the Palestinian refugees,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, “is to assure that their humanitarian and development needs are met until a fair, equitable and shared solution to the refugee issue is reached. In the meantime, it is essential for the UNRWA to be able to maintain its level of basic services.” “The EU comprehends,” added EU Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, Stefan Fule, “the great problems that the UNRWA is facing in obtaining the funds that they need to provide the most basic vital services to Palestinian refugees. While acknowledging the outstanding work carried out by the UN agency, we have made a significant effort to boost our contribution to their budget this year.” Between 2000 and 2010 the EU donated 1.2 billion euros to support the UNRWA.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Nuncio Praises Turkish Decision to Return Some Religious Properties

VATICAN, Aug. 30, 2011 (CNS) — The Turkish prime minister’s announcement that the government will return hundreds of properties confiscated from non-Muslim religious groups or compensate the groups for properties sold to third parties is “a historic decision,” said the Vatican nuncio to Turkey.

“Even though the Roman Catholics will not benefit from this, it is an important step that is a credit to Turkey,” said Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, the nuncio.

“It is a sign that is not just good, it’s an excellent sign that the government wants to reconstruct the unity of the country so there no longer are first-class and second-class citizens,” the nuncio told Catholic News Service Aug. 30 in a telephone interview from Ankara.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Aug. 28 that his government would return hundreds of pieces of property — including schools, orphanages and hospitals — that were confiscated by the government in 1936. The properties involved belonged to officially recognized religious minorities: Jews, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Armenian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholics and Chaldean Catholics.

Although Pope Benedict XVI, human rights supporters and the European Union have pressed Turkey to recognize all religions, the Latin-rite Catholic community and Protestant churches do not have official legal standing in Turkey.

Archbishop Lucibello said the decision does not include the Church of St. Paul at Tarsus, now a government-run museum, which church officials have asked to have back.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

S. Arabia: New Design for World’s Highest Tower

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, SEPTEMBER 1 — ‘Kingdom Tower’ will be the name of the highest skyscraper in the world which will stand in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The construction was announced in the beginning of August and the technical and architectural details are now emerging. The name evokes medieval times and the tradition of demonstrating one’s power by erecting the highest tower of all the nearby villages and settlements. With its 172 floors it will surpass Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is currently the highest skyscraper in the world, standing at 828 metres and 160 floors, as well as the project (temporarily on hold) for Nakheel Tower, also in Dubai, for a 1km-high super-structure, and the project for Ezdan Tower in Qatar, announced in the spring, but whose details have yet to emerge. Kingdom Tower, commissioned by Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal with an investment of over 1.2 billion dollars, is structured around three separate bases in continuous slopes that end at different heights, helping to balance the imposing skyscraper and contributing to its stability in winds reaching up to 193 km per hour. The project was designed by architect Adrian Smith, ready for a new challenge after learning information and about technological innovations during the design and construction of Burj Khalifa, including the study of the effects of the divergences of horizontal winds. “From Burj Khalifa we learned that the more steps you have, the better you shed the vortices formed by the winds,” explained Smith “The inclined slopes will do this, even though they are more expensive to build.” This will enable the skyscraper to tolerate one-metre oscillations from side to side to face the most severe climatic conditions which take place about every 50 years in the country.

The distinctive characteristics of the tower include a disc-shaped heliport that will project from one of the skyscraper’s slopes and the world’s highest panoramic viewpoint on the 157th floor, 10 floors higher than the one in Burj Khalifa in Dubai which is currently the highest in the world. Inside, according to the recently presented design, to which, according to the Chicago-native architect, there will be changes and transformations made during the five years needed to complete the tower, there will be offices, 382 condominium units, a 120-apartment block of flats and a Four Seasons hotel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Pentagon Wasted 30 Bln Between Iraq and Afghanistan

(AGI) Washington — The Pentagon wasted 30 billion Dollars between Iraq and Afghanistan. This is what emerges from the final report by the Congress bipartisan commission on the “Wartime Contracting” that will be published tomorrow. The report points a finger against “the wastes and frauds that undermined political efforts and fomented corruption in both Countries”.

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

Troubled by Growth of Christianity, Iranian Regime Destroys Bibles

A Shi’ite cleric affiliated with the Iranian regime has warned about the “danger” of Christianity spreading in the Islamic republic. This come amid reports of an anti-Christianity propaganda campaign and the seizure of thousands of Bibles.

“Everyone in society should feel responsibility in this matter and play his or her role in spreading of pure Islam and fight false and distorted cultures,” Mohabat quoted him as saying during a presentation on Mahdism — the belief in the so-called “hidden” or 12th imam, prophesied to emerge at a time of future chaos.

Last week, Mohabat reported that authorities had seized 6,500 pocket-sized Bibles in northwestern Iran. It quoted a parliamentary advisor, Majid Abhari, as telling the Mehr news agency that Christian missionaries were out to deceive Iranians, particularly the youth…

One organization that provides Bibles for Iranians is Elam Ministries, which says it printed and distributed 100,000 Bibles and 100,000 New Testaments in 2010….

Elam was founded in 1988 by senior Iranian church leaders in Britain “with the vision of reaching Iran and the Persian speaking world for Christ.”

It says that at the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were fewer than 500 known Iranian Christians from a Muslim background.

“Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 100,000 believers in the nation.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Dwindling Labour Forcing Chinese Manufacturing to Make Major Overhaul

As the workforce shrinks and costs rise, profits drop and capital flees to Vietnam and Indonesia. For experts, China must retool its low-end manufacturing industries in favour of high-end products in aerospace and telecommunications.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China’s dwindling pool of cheap labour and the rising cost of raw materials are hitting hard Chinese manufacturers, the backbone of the country’s export-driven economy. In order to continue growing, China must transform its industry, increase mechanisation and boost high tech sectors.

China’s fast shrinking workforce is the net result of the one-child policy introduced in the late 1970s, a policy that has been rigorously enforced, cutting into the country’s labour pool, especially the hundreds of millions of migrant workers who have been traditionally willing to work for low wages in sectors like the garment, toy and furniture industries.

The pool of 15 to 24-year-olds, a mainstay for factories, will fall by almost 62 million people to 164 million in the 15 years through 2025

A drop in the total number of workers has come a time when improving workers’ rights, such as the introduction of a minimum wage. Higher labour costs is already driving many foreign and Chinese companies to outsource production in countries like Vietnam where labour costs are lower and workers’ rights far fewer.

Products such as clothes, shoes and furniture accounted for about 68 per cent of China’s exports last year, or US$ 1.09 trillion, up from US$ 544 billion in 2005. At the same time, high tech exports are rising, recording a 31 per cent jump in 2010 to US$ 492 billion. That is more than double the US$ 218 billion in 2005 and almost a third of total shipments. Exports account for more than a fifth of China’s gross domestic product.

As a result of the dwindling labour pool and declining profits, small and medium-sized companies in Shanghai have experienced a slowdown in profit growth in the first half of this year, with some facing bankruptcy, a recent survey among 200 small and medium enterprises in Shanghai shows.

According to experts, for growth to continue, Beijing must focus on high tech industries like aerospace and aviation, medical instruments, software, computers and telecommunications.

Japan began the transition in 1969, South Korea in 1988, when manufacturers switched to high tech and valued added production, said Sun Mingchun, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets in Hong Kong.

The net result was that Japan’s growth slid to an average 5.2 per cent in 1970-79 from 10.4 per cent in the previous decade. South Korea’s expansion cooled to 6.3 per cent in 1989-98, from as much as 12.3 per cent during the previous decade.

For Mingghun, Chinese plants have five years to retool. If they do not, growth may decline in 2016-20 as low-cost producers fail and investment falls away.

Even so, experts agree that there is no guarantee that the switch will work. Only five economies (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong) went from low-wage to developed nation status, whilst maintaining a relatively high level of growth.

As China’s economic growth slowed to 9.2 per cent this quarter from 9.5 per cent in the previous three months, it must face an inflation rate of 6.2 per cent, twice that in food and other basic items. This is especially hard on low wage earners, pushing them to demand and obtain higher salaries.

Many business executives are nevertheless confident that they can meet the challenges, certain that China can do more than make toys, clothes and other low-end and low-quality products. In fact, many want to expand into high-end sectors.

In fact, most observers expect manufacturing to decline as investors move to low-wage areas in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and even western China.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry is offering tax and other incentives to companies in the highly industrialised region of Guangdong to upgrade their research and development capabilities over the next three years.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Jos How Pastor, Son Were Killed

For those who know Pastor G.C Shawari, a senior pastor with the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) on Haliru Street, Kwararafa in Jos North local government Area, of Plateau State, he was a personification of peace. He had devoted all his sermons in a religious crisis-riddled state to preaching religious tolerance among different religions and ethnic groups.

But, on Monday, Pastor Shawari and his son became victims of “highly intolerant” hoodlums in Jos, during a bloody clash between supposed Christians and Muslims that claimed over 23 lives. They were butchered to death by some Muslim religious fanatics, who gained entry into their home within the church premises. But, the pastor’s wife escaped, even as the church building was also vandalised.

The bereaved assistant Pastor of the church, Emmanuel Adetula Oludare, who escaped death with machete wounds on his head, described the killing of Shawa and his son as horrific.

“On the fateful day, Pastor was at home with his family members, when at about 1pm, some Muslim youths, on their way back from Eid-El-Fitr prayers, forced the gate of the church open and picked quarrel with the pastor,” Emmanuel said. “There was nobody they could call for assistance and, within a twinkle of an eye, the youths emptied about three cans of petrol on the building, the church and vehicles within the compound before setting them ablaze.”

He said that the people inside the church ran for their dear lives even as smoke rose high around the premises.

No security men came to the rescue of the pastor and his family even though members of the security outfit named STF were said to be very close to the scene of the incident.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


74 Immigrants Rescued in Ragusa Waters: “We’re Libyan”

(AGI) Palermo — 74 immigrants claiming to be Libyan have been rescued by a Guardia di Finanza patrol boat off the coast of Ragusa. They were subsequently taken in the port of Pozzallo and sheltered in the existing tension structure. They were on board of a stricken boat going adrift in Italian territorial waters. The boat was abandoned after the passengers were transshipped onto the Guardia di Finanza patrol boat.

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


Oil Won’t Run Out Until 22nd Century, Experts Say in Italy

Speculators want people to think supplies dwindling

(ANSA) — Trieste, September 1 — Oil is not about to run out, at least for another 130 years, experts in Italy have said.

Furthermore, new exploration and drilling methods being developed by scientists around the world will make it easier to find and exploit oil-fields, they said. The National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics, which is running a two-day workshop here, thinks oil science will remain relevant for a while yet.

“A couple of years ago, it was estimated that world oil supplies would last 130 years,” explained Italian geophysicist Aldo Vesnaver, who spends six months a year teaching Saudi researchers new extraction techniques. “They will last longer. However, it is in speculators’ interests to stoke public perception that oil is about to run out (in order to raise prices)”. The estimates are based on existing oil reserves, but multinationals are still prospecting for new oilfields, because privately produced oil supplies, not national ones, are running out, explained Vesnaver, who is presenting a new technique for measuring underground deposits thanks to micro earthquakes.

“Oil is produced using two wells, one for extraction and one for pumping high pressure water,” he explained.

“This causes tiny fractures in the rock, which can be sounded out using highly sensitive seismographs. Studying these subterranean creaks can tell us a lot about the size of the deposit.” The same technique can be used to measure how much gas can be pumped from a deposit. Researchers from around the world, including Brazil, France, Pakistan, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia and the United States, are attending the workshop, as well as representatives from the National Iranian South Oil Company and Saudi Aramco. Another hot topic is hydrated gas. Made essentially of frozen methane, it is capturing worldwide scientific attention, because it could be the key to an almost inexhaustible new natural gas supply.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

September 11: Waking Up a Generation to Terrorism

It was Tuesday afternoon and school was out. It had been an odd day. We’d had some kind of ‘skills workshop’, with the positive outcome that I had no homework. My sister drove us home, music blaring. As we pulled up, my mum was on the doorstep, a concerned expression on her face. “They’ve hit the Twin Towers,” she said. I should have been more shocked. I was, later, when I’d watched the looping footage of the buildings collapsing, or people jumping from burning floors without a hope of survival. I woke up even more to what had happened the following month when I visited New York for the first time and saw smoking metal being transported away from Ground Zero and missing person posters staring hopelessly across the city. But I was 14, more interested in who was at number one in the charts than the number one news story. I didn’t have any context for what had just happened.

I knew about terrorism but mostly in the context of Israel, where the Second Initfada had been waging for a year. But Israel was the exception, the only place I went or knew people where such things were real. New York — America — was an exciting place I wanted to visit, not somewhere despised by the non-Western world. War happened in other places. News only occurred in isolated events and really terrible things were consigned to history. For my generation — the millenials, the kids born in the 1980s — 9/11 was a turning point. Before, our worlds were largely about hope; we’d only experienced peace. Wide-scale tragedy was famine or earthquakes. Things happened because of natural disaster or poverty, not the deliberate actions of man.

After the first plane, that changed. We came of age in an era of uncertainty and pessimism, and developed our views in a climate of fear and polarisation. There were people who hated us — us and not other people far away; quite a few, it turned out. A few years earlier, I’d seen pro-Palestinian protesters chanting outside the ‘Israel 50’ celebrations at Wembley but I had little appreciation that Jews outside Israel could also be targets. We grew up accustomed to posters in stations warning us to report abandoned bags, to being searched at airports for a real reason and not just by Ben Gurion staff. The news bulletins we woke up to talked of war and casualties in both near and faraway places. Bali, Madrid, then London became synonymous with bombs and home-grown extremists.

It became cool to hate America. Chips became Freedom Fries. Islam, until then simply one of the faiths we studied in religious education, became media hate-figure and scapegoat.

And where debates on summer camp or at school had once centred around saving the whales, joining the Euro or animal testing, now we talked about invading Iraq, ID cards and WMDs. We learnt about the Vietnam War in history and found modern parallels. As a politics undergraduate I studied the pre- and post-9/11 worlds as if they were fundamentally different epochs. In seminars we laughingly dismissed Francis Fukuyama for proclaiming “the end of history” in 1992; how stupid, we said.

It’s easy to exaggerate. Part of this was simply growing up; you lose childhood illusions with age. But with 9/11, happening as it did at the start of 24 hour news and online media, we didn’t so much grow up as be forced up. For my generation, every victory and defeat since 9/11 has been framed around that date and discussed in the Manichean language of the war on terror. When news broke of Osama Bin Laden’s death, commentators heralded the end of an era. It certainly felt like one. Yet among the coverage were reports on the reactions of pre-teens or, rather, the absence of. Some had a vague awareness of the world’s most wanted man. But for most, my generation’s bogeyman was as much a part of their present as Hitler or Stalin. Real, terrible, known to be someone bad. But from another lifetime. September 11 is the first event I can remember where I was when I heard about it. For other generations, it was VE Day, the Kennedy or Rabin assassinations or the fall of the Berlin Wall. We can only hope that for the next generation it will be something positive.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]