Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110918

Financial Crisis
»Eurogroup Chief Lauds Italian Budget Package
»European Banks: Dollar to the Rescue
»Europe is Turning Back to National Identity — And It’s Exhilarating
»Greece: Pension at Risk, Exodus From State Employment
»Greece: Online Campaign Against Tax Hikes Starts
»Greece: New Row Over Real Estate Tax
»Inflation and Aging Threaten Asia’s Development
»Serbia: Government Adopts Balance Sheet Law, Deficit to 4.5%
»The Economist Calls for “Act of Supreme Collective Will”
»Three Eurozones Are Better Than One
»Turkey’s Economic Lie
»Youthful Members of the Full-Time Precariat
»Florida: Man Accused of Killing Wife, Wounding 2 Pastors
»New Studies Show Severe Racial Discrimination at University of Wisconsin
»Porn Prepares for the Apocalypse
»Swiss TV Won’t Broadcast Swissair Crash Film
Europe and the EU
»Austere Italy? Check the Traffic
»BBC: Norway Local Elections: Breivik’s Old Party Suffers
»Dutch Government Bans Burka
»France: Strauss-Kahn Regrets Not Running for President
»Germany: Berlin Exit Polls Show Government Coalition Losing Ground
»Italy: Silvio Berlusconi to Tarantini — “Who Are You Bringing Me Tonight?”
»Italy: ‘30 Prostitutes and Actresses’ Recruited to Have Sex at Berlusconi Parties
»Italy Among the Worsts in OECD for Money in Education
»Italy: Berlusconi Will Not Respond to Sex Claims, Says Lawyer
»Italy: First Snow Falls on Stelvio Pass
»Italy: Soccer: Lazio Fan Charged With Assaulting U. S. Tourist
»Italy: Amanda Knox Writes Video Script for Rock Band
»LNP Party Leader Bossi on Northern Italian ‘Secession’
»Netherlands: Immigration, Greece and Cuts: 2012 is the ‘Year of Truth’ For Wilders
»Netherlands: Wilders: 2012 Crucial Year for Coalition
»Sarkozy’s Popularity Rating 32% in September, 67% Against
»Sweden: Police Confirm Searching Mosque in Gothenburg
»Sweden: Shots Fired in Malmö Apartment
»Thieves Strip the UK Bare
»Ugandan Dr John Sentamu ‘To Head Church of England’
»Vatican Secretary: Legalism is Not the Path to Salvation
»‘Al Jazeera Balkans’ Running by End of Year
North Africa
»Libya: NTC Still Locked Over Interim Government
»Tunisia: Salafists Want to Destroy Le Kef Basilica
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel: No Change to Egypt Peace Agreements
»Professor Phyllis Chesler: Blaming Israel Won’t Help
Middle East
»Iran: Water Battles Among Young People Frighten the Ayatollah
»Where Was Jesus Baptised? Israeli-Jordanian Row
Latin America
»Ahmadinejad to Vist Chavez on 24 September
»71 Billion Euros — the Cost of Immigration
»Nepali Migrant Women Victims of Abuse and Exploitation
»Suriname: French Guiana, A Door to the EU
»Sweden: Asylum Agreement to Reunite Thousands
»Three Boats With 287 Migrants Landed on Lampedusa the Night
Culture Wars
»UK: ‘We Want to be Less Male and Pale’: Clegg Pledges to Make Lib Dems More Diverse… As Three Quarters of Voters Say They’re Not Up to the Job”
»UK: “How the Tories Became the Gay-Friendly Party: As the Government Backs Gay Marriage, A Unique — and Surprising — Insight Into David Cameron’s Thinking”

Financial Crisis

Eurogroup Chief Lauds Italian Budget Package

‘We are satisfied with measures,’ Juncker says

(ANSA) — Wrocklaw, September 16 — Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday lauded Italy’s just-passed austerity package.

“We all think the Italian authorities have done what they can and have taken measures we are satisfied with,” said Juncker after a Eurogroup meeting in this Polish city, also attended by the United States. The Eurogroup, comprising the finance ministers of the euorozone, has been meeting with increasing frequency to address market turbulence stemming from fears over the Greek debt crisis that have spread to Spain and Italy.

The 54-billion-euro austerity package, including spending cuts and tax rises, aims to reassure the markets by balancing the budget by 2013.

Foreign officials like International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have urged the Italian government to fully implement the measures in the package, which include the abolition of provincial governments, a rise in women’s pension age and a 1% hike in VAT.

They have also urged the government to try to boost Italy’s chronically low growth, which Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti has vowed to do.

The austerity package has met with protests, many about a clause that could make it easier to fire workers.

Italy’s largest trade union, CGIL, brought thousands of people to the streets in a general strike last week.

On Friday the third-biggest union, UIL, announced a public-sector strike on October 28.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

European Banks: Dollar to the Rescue

Rzeczpospolita, 16 September 2011

“A dollar drip for European banks,” headlines Rzeczpospolita the day after the world’s leading central banks pumped dollars into the financial system by offering European banks 3-month loans. As a result, shares soared and the euro rebounded. “Some analysts see the move aimed at increasing liquidity as, in fact, the first stage of preparing the Greek bankruptcy…a scenario officially ruled out by European leaders,”notes the Warsaw daily. However, the positive effect of the “dollar drip” exactly three years after the fall of the American investment bank Lehman Brothers which triggered the world crisis, may be short-lived and won’t “replace necessary reforms” “The recent economic forecast of the European Commission shows that the EU economy is slowing down…but the situation could get even worse as nobody can presently predict the consequences of restructuring the Greek debt” warns the Warsaw daily.

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

Europe is Turning Back to National Identity — And It’s Exhilarating

The European debt crisis is a reformation moment — the EU has overreached its power and now faces a crisis of legitimacy

Perhaps I was wrong, after all. I thought Europe’s governments would spend any amount of money and impose any amount of austerity to rescue any number of banks from their recklessness and folly. All banks were too big to fail. No debt was too big to bail. Europe was in the grip of a classic banker’s ramp.

Yet Greece’s bluffing of the high priests of the eurozone may, after all, be called. The unthinkable may be unavoidable. The priests are suddenly talking of “when, not if,” Greece defaults. Greeks themselves seem to regard devaluation as a less painful discipline than state-imposed austerity, and are probably right. Their partial default and de facto departure from the euro would be a truly seismic moment, requiring the instant restructuring of debts and possibly currencies across the periphery of the eurozone, covering Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. It would be drastic, but since it has been predicted ever since Maastricht in 1992, it can hardly be regarded as unimaginable.

At this point “pro-Europeans” have to stop talking rubbish and start on realpolitik. Alaric is not at the gates of Rome. Washington has not crossed the Delaware. Napoleon has not returned from Elba. All that may happen is that Europe’s democracies, disregarded, distorted and corrupted for a quarter century by the oligarchs of Brussels, will crawl out from the shadow of the very Acropolis where democracy was born. For all sceptics of grand federations, gilded alliances, and upmarket mafias hatched down the ages in Europe’s cloud-capped spas, this could be an exhilarating moment.

There is nothing wrong in a currency zone of compatible political entities. There is a dollar union between the American states, and there have been attempts at using currencies to cohere earlier empires, with crowns, roubles and pounds sterling. But a union must reflect an underlying economic reality, with political institutions that can relate voting to taxing and spending, and borrowing to repaying.

Where, as in Europe, this has become far from the case, the disciplines of a complex modern economy become unenforcible. Those in charge merely demand “ever closer union”, which means ever more power over subordinate democracy.

A good history of the euro was supplied by the Nobel economist, Paul Krugman, in the New York Times in January. He contrasted the US dollar area, with its federal government, common language and political culture, with the eurozone, which has none of these things. Krugman concluded that “this, from the beginning, made the prospects of the single currency dubious”. Worse, it had floated up to “grip the imagination of European elites”. The single currency became a passport to a bureaucratic utopia, a means to ever more glorious union. Practicalities were for nerds.

I regard myself as a “good” European, but as far as the EU was concerned, that idealism was dented as each advance of Brussels power took ever greater liberties with Europe’s taxpayers and legislators: regulating, subsidising and corrupting all it touched. A recent report showed the EU casually overpaying almost a billion euros to Greek farmers. It continues to throw more dead fish back in the sea than it takes out. It defaces Europe’s countryside by subsidising half-built houses. It is still building itself a stupendous £280m palace in Brussels. The place is obscene.

Because being “pro-Europe” is a faith cult rather than a policy, its adherents dare not raise a peep of protest at its outrages. Not for the first time in Europe’s history, a centralised superstate stalks the continent with a retinue of uncritical appeasers unable to see the wood for the tax-free salaries. Sceptics are treated like Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind — traitors to the great confederacy who should be shot for speaking home truths.

That Germany should be the one country that can sensibly stage the euro bailout is doubly ironic. It is the one country that did not indulge in the housing bubble, most of its workers living happily in rented accommodation. Meanwhile, its constitution was crafted by the postwar allies to make its leadership of Europe near impossible. The German government is meant to be weak, at the mercy of its provinces and their electorates. If, as seems likely, Angela Merkel’s voters grow fed up with bailing out Greece, or with bailing out banks, that will be an end to it.

The euro lobby is now pleading, begging, goading Germany to brandish its old muscles and flash its old sword. It calls on Germans to tell Greece to knuckle under, slash spending and sack its workers. If this fails then Greece’s benighted politicians should be stripped of power and made subject to fiscal union, with public spending controlled and political oversight to enforce it. Greece and the other weakened states of Europe should be put in hock to the gods of the euro…

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

Greece: Pension at Risk, Exodus From State Employment

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 16 — In Greece there is an exodus from State employment. The fear of losing a substantial portion of their pensions or to see wages cut down even further, along with cuts in severance pay (already cut by 10%) and lastly concerns about “temporary suspension” from work for redundant staff in state owned companies already started up by the government: these are the reasons behind the real and proper ‘exodus’, unprecedented in the country, of State employees that is being reported in recent days.

In the space of only two days (last Thursday and Friday), as reported by the Elefterotipia newspaper, more than 10,000 employees working in municipalities, revenue offices, hospitals and other State offices have submitted letters of resignation.

Most of them are people who have earned their right to a pension and managers who, by staying on at work, would suffer even greater losses. It has been calculated that during this year more than half of the 150,000 State employees who would normally have retired in 2013 will retire. We are talking about employees of all categories who, having matured their pension, resigned, thereby also depriving the public sector of expert staff. Symptomatic of the panic that has been unleashed in recent days, as reported by the Ethnos newspaper, are the figures which concern the Institute of Social Security (Italy’s Inps). 12% of the employees — 1,000 people out of a total 8,383 — have resigned. And, again during the last two days, resignation letters have been submitted by more than 1,500 employees of the Revenue Office, whereas it is expected that resignation requests in the State sector from today to December will exceed 20,000. Meanwhile, as regards the new austerity measures decided by the Athens government, the application of a new tax on real estate — already called “a blow to homes” — is provoking a harsh reaction by the opposition parties as well as the mobilisation of common people on social networks and micro-blogging websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

In effects as of next January a new tax will come into force affecting real estate for two years. From 50 cents to 4 euros per square metre based on the value of the building which, according to estimates by the Athens government, should raise approximately 400 billion for the State coffers. Contrary to the new tax are many MPs belonging to Pasok, the socialist party in government. Furthermore, since churches will be exempted from the tax, while the unemployed will not, the anger of the people is increasing even more. The tax will be collected through the electricity bill. Result: those who don’t pay will have electric power cut from their home.

Meanwhile the growing exasperation of the Greek people is starting to be aired online. Various groups of “outraged web users” have appeared on Facebook and raised a noticeable though not overwhelming following. On Facebook, up to last night a group called “I do not want to pay special taxes” was ‘liked’ by 21,872 people. Another Facebook page named “I do not want to pay” contains a long list of messages by users who are angry with the socialist government run by premier Giorgio Papandreou.

“I would rather have my electricity cut off, I will not pay”, says one message. Other websites instead exhort people not to pay the new taxes claiming that the increases applied by the government are unlawful and anti-constitutional.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Online Campaign Against Tax Hikes Starts

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 16 — A tide of public exasperation against a seemingly endless series of tax hikes by the government, most recently a new levy on property heralded over the weekend, is finding expression online, chiefly on social networking and microblogging sites like Facebook and Twitter. Several groups have already sprung up on Facebook and have attracted a significant, though not yet extraordinarily large, following, as daily Kathimerini reports. One Facebook group called “I won’t pay any special taxes” had attracted 21,872 “likes” by late Thursday. A Facebook page with the title “I won’t pay” bore a long list of angry messages by reluctant taxpayers on Thursday. “I prefer them to cut my power, I’m not paying,” reads one entry, referring to the ministry’s warning that tax dodgers will risk having their electricity cut. (The new property tax is to be added to electricity bills in a bid to limit tax evasion.) In a related development, a number of new websites have appeared encouraging people not to pay their taxes, arguing that the new charges are illegal and violate the Greek Constitution. Although online campaigns and initiatives do not always translate into actual action, the development is reportedly of concern to authorities who were seriously inconvenienced by a “Won’t pay” movement that emerged early this year, involving hundreds of leftist protesters refusing to pay for public transport or road toll charges. The movement was formed as a reaction to steep hikes in toll fees and tickets for public transport.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: New Row Over Real Estate Tax

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 16 — The imposition of a new tax on real estate in Greece, which was announced in Salonika by the Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, has provoked a bitter reaction from the opposition and other parties. Beginning next January, a two-year tax on property is to be introduced. The government estimates that the new levy, which will range from 50 cents to 4 euros per square metre of property, should generate around 400 billion euros.

Many deputies from PASOK, the governing socialist party, are against the new “home squeeze”. It also appears that churches and other places of worship will be exempt from paying the tax, while it will have to be paid by the unemployed, an element that has provoked further anger.

Giannis Michelakis, spokesperson for Nea Dimocratia, the main (centre-right) opposition party, accused Venizelos of lying to Greek citizens about the new tax, while the Communist Party of Greece called it “a shameful tax” and called on citizens not to pay it. Syriza, another left-wing party, suggested “favourable treatment of the Church at a time when the poor and the invalid are suffering”.

According to early information, it appears that the tax will be collected through electricity bills. The result is that those who fail to pay will see their electricity supply cut off. Union representatives from DEH, the Greek electricity company, were quick to react, inviting employees of the company not to cut off the supply to homes if bills are not paid.

The chair of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Athens, Costantinos Michalos, called on the government not to impose a tax on property and to carry out a wholesale review of its economic policy. “The government’s new attack on businesses and citizens gives it the moral responsibility for the birth of a new movement: the “I can’t pay” movement”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Inflation and Aging Threaten Asia’s Development

In its outlook update report, the Asian Development Bank warns that unfavourable demographic structures can cut growth by 1 per cent a year. In China, the proportion of elderly to working age people could quadruple between now and mid-century. Inflation, with its usual trail of social unrest and violence, looms on the horizon.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — An aging population and rising inflation could hurt Asian growth. If governments do not address these issues, economic recession and social spending could jump, this according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In its outlook update report, the bank expects lower growth and rising inflation. For this reason, governments must make structural reforms in the coming years.

Specifically, the ADB cut its growth forecast for developing Asia to 7.5 per cent in 2011, from its earlier projection of 7.8 per cent. Excluding Japan, which is still reeling from the tsunami six months ago, the bank attributed the moderating growth of Asian economies to ongoing worries about the health of the US and European economies.

However, the main factor is the continent’s demography. “Asia’s population is aging at a speed unprecedented in human history,” said Changyong Rhee, chief economist at ADB. China, for example, is expected to see the proportion of elderly to working age people quadruple between now and 2050, surpassing the United States.

In the last three decades, those countries that had favourable age structures added more than 1 percentage point to average annual per capita gross domestic product growth, the ADB said.

However, China’s one-child policy has undermined that favourable condition, increasing the number of elderly in need of government assistance and cutting the number of revenue generating workers.

Inflation is the other major threat, the report found. In fact, the inflation rate for developing Asia is expected to average 5.8 per cent this year. That is higher than an initial estimate of 5.3 per cent in April.

The world’s economic downturn is the cause, especially the United States’ inability to create jobs and Europe’s persistent failure to tackle its debt crisis.

All these factors have prompted South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to avoid raising interest rates this month after boosting them earlier this year.

Still, policy makers need to be prepared for greater volatility in capital flows and the persistent threat of rising prices, the ADB said.

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

Serbia: Government Adopts Balance Sheet Law, Deficit to 4.5%

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 16 — Today Serbia’s government adopted the balance sheet review law for 2011 in coordination with the International Monetary Fund (Imf) which predicts a deficit of approximately 143 dinars (one euro is worth slightly more than 100 dinars).

On the basis of this law revenues will be equal to 707.3 billion and expenditure will be equal to 850.9 billion dinars, as specified by the vice minister of Finance, Dusan Nikezic.

The agreement with the Imf provides that the balance sheet deficit for this year will be equal to 4.5% of GDP, more than the 4.1% predicted at first.

Nikezic stated that the balance sheet law provides increased spending on pensions, wages and social security, while there will be no cuts to incentives for agriculture nor postponements for major infrastructural activities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Economist Calls for “Act of Supreme Collective Will”

“How to save the euro”.

In a very long and detailed piece, The Economist states that “the only way to stop the downward spiral now is an act of supreme collective will by euro-zone governments to erect a barrage of financial measures to stave off the crisis and put the governance of the euro on a sounder footing.”

For this, the London weekly considers that “a rescue must do four things fast. First, it must make clear which of Europe’s governments are deemed illiquid and which are insolvent, giving unlimited backing to the solvent governments but restructuring the debt of those that can never repay it. Second, it has to shore up Europe’s banks to ensure they can withstand a sovereign default. Third, it needs to shift the euro zone’s macroeconomic policy from its obsession with budget-cutting towards an agenda for growth. And finally, it must start the process of designing a new system to stop such a mess ever being created again.

“Based on proper stress tests (which should this time include possible default on Greek sovereign debts)”, a European banks recapitalisation should be supported by “a commitment from the European Central bank to provide unlimited liquidity for as long as it is required”. The ECB should also “declare that it stands behind all solvent countries’ sovereign debts and that it is ready to use unlimited resources to ward off market panic.”

Realising that “the sobering truth about the single currency is that getting in is a lot easier than getting out again”, one has to recognize that a German withdrawal from the common currency “would be just as terrible” as a Greek one. And for The Economist, “the issue now is not whether the euro was mis-sold or whether it was a terrible idea in the first place; it is whether it is worth saving. Would it be cheaper to break it up now? And are the longer-term political costs of redesigning Europe to save the euro too great?”

“The Economist concedes that our rescue plan begins with a democratic deficit that needs to be fixed if steps towards closer fiscal union are to work”, the article adds. “But there must be ways for good governments to force bad ones to keep in line that do not require the building of a huge new federal superstate.” And at the end of the day, “the alternative may be the collapse of not just the single currency but the single market and the whole European project.” And on this issue, concludes The Economist, the last word will be with the German electorate.

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

Three Eurozones Are Better Than One

De Volkskrant, Amsterdam

There is no denying the reality: Eurozone countries are so different that there will be no common exit to the current crisis. The solution, argues a Dutch economist, is to divide states using the single currency into three groups governed by different rules.

Harrie Verbon

When the euro was introduced, one of the main objectives was the convergence of participating member state economies. It was assumed that if a member state failed to keep up economically, it would be excluded by its more competitive peers.

This is exactly what has happened with a number of countries in Southern Europe, including Greece and Portugal. In both of these countries, productivity is too low, labour costs are too high, exports are insufficient and there are too many imports. Worse still, the public finances of these countries are in a terrible state, partly for the reasons mentioned above, but also because of a lack of ethics in public administration.

For more than a year, European politicians have striven to provide these countries, and in particular Greece, with fresh resources to finance their budget deficits. At the same time, the idea that transfers via the European Financial Stability Facility from rich Eurozone countries to their weaker peers does not constitute a long-term solution has increasingly taken hold.

A deep cut in Greek salaries is impossible

The first necessary improvement will be to reduce the cost of the products of these countries, so as to make them more attractive to buyers in more solid economies like Germany, Austria and the Netherlands (GAN). The euro is clearly an obstacle to any such initiative. If the countries in difficulty had their own currency, a simple devaluation would have this effect. However, with the euro, the only way to cut production costs is to reduce salaries.

Let’s imagine that the Greeks accept to cut their salaries by 20 %. How is such a measure supposed to be implemented? It is relatively easy to cut civil service salaries, but that is as far as it goes. Another inconvenient aspect of this remedy is its potential to disrupt the labour market, because a cut in salaries will necessarily reduce the quality of the available workforce. And this will be counterproductive because the functioning of the Greek labour market has to be improved so that the country can successfully compete with GAN countries…

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

Turkey’s Economic Lie

Op-ed: Turkey no economic powerhouse, Erdogan’s credit bubble will soon explode

Guy Bechor

Some refer to him as “the Middle East’s new sultan in a neo-Ottoman empire” — yet the truth about Erdogan’s kingdom is utterly different. We are not facing an economic power, but rather, a state whose credit bubble will be bursting any moment now and bringing down its economy.

The budget deficit of the collapsing Greece compared to its GDP stands at some 10%, and the world is alarmed. At the same time, Turkey’s deficit is at 9.5%, yet some members of the financial media describe the Turkish economy as a success story (for comparison’s sake, Israel’s deficit stands at some 3% and is expected to decline to 2% this year.)

While Turkey’s economy grew by some 10% this year, this was merely the result of financial manipulation.

So how does the system work? The banks in Erdogan’s Turkey handed out loans and mortgages to any seeker in recent years, offering very low interest rates; this was in fact a gift. As the interest rate was so low, Turkish citizens used more and more credit, mostly for consumption.

And how did Turkey’s Central Bank finance this credit party? Via loans: Erdogan’s bank borrowed money in the world and handed it out to its citizens. However, Turkey’s deficit kept growing because of it, until it reached a scary 8% of GDP; by the end of the year the figure is expected to reach 10%.

Turkey’s external debt doubled itself in the past 18 months, which were election campaign months. Only a small part of the deficit (15%) was financed by foreign investment. The rest constitutes immense external debts.

Now it’s clear that Erdogan’s regime bought the voters in the recent elections. Most of the Turkish public elected him not because of Islamic sentiments, but rather, because he handed out low-interest loans to everyone. I will provide you with cheap money so you can become addicted to shopping, and you shall elect me.

The Israel diversion

This created Turkey’s credit bubble, which may explode any day now, because the date for returning the loans approaches. Will the Saudis help Erdogan as he hopes? This is highly doubtful. Nobody is willing to pay for attacks on Israel, and the West is annoyed by Erdogan’s thuggery. Why should they help him?

Moreover, Turkey’s unemployment rate is 13% and the local currency continues to plummet vis-à-vis the dollar — it reached its lowest levels since the 2009 global crisis. With a weak currency and with a stock exchange that lost some 40% of its value in dollars in the last six months, Erdogan wants to be the Middle East’s ruler?…

           — Hat tip: Money Jihad[Return to headlines]

Youthful Members of the Full-Time Precariat

Polityka, Warsaw

The crisis has accelerated the emergence of a new social class in Europe. Dubbed “the precariat” by sociologists, it is made up of young people with no prospect of a decent job or a reasonable standard of living.

Wawrzyniec Smoczynski

Poland can now lay claim to its first “satisfied” young generation. According to the government’s “Mlodzi 2011” (“Young people 2011”) report, Poles in the 15-34 age group are very much like their peers in Western Europe. Confirmed hedonists and ardent consumers, they tend to be uninterested in the institution of marriage, but eager to cultivate their individualism and, at the same time, assume a role that is useful to society.

Although they consider work to be the main condition for their future success and happiness, they are faced with increasing difficulty in their bid to find jobs. According to data reported in July 2011, the rate of unemployment in the 18-34 age group, which accounts for more than half of Poland’s unemployed, is twice the national average of 11.7%.

The current social context is fraught with risk. This has been particularly obvious in Western Europe, which, over the last few years, has been regularly affected by outbursts of anger on the part of the young generation. The burning of the Paris suburbs, the street battles in downtown Athens, the mass demonstrations in Madrid and, more recently, the riots in London are clear signs of a social crisis.

Uncertain future

Young people are the main victims of the economic crisis. Currently, 20.4% of Europeans in the 15 to 24 age group who seek work remain without jobs. That is a third more than in 2008. At the same time, this rate is a European average, which masks major disparities between countries: 42% of young people are without jobs in Spain, 30% in the Baltic States, Greece and Slovakia, and 20% in Poland, Hungary, Italy and Sweden.

In cases where the young unemployed finally do find jobs, these are rarely stable. Slovenia and Poland are both distinguished by their extraordinary number of temporary workers: 60% of wage earners aged in the under-25 age group are employed under temporary contracts. The situation is almost as bad in France, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Portugal, where this figure stands at more than 50%.

The underpayment of young people is another phenomenon that is very widespread in Spain, France and Portugal. Spanish workers aged between 16 and 19 only receive 45.5% of an average adult’s wage, while those aged between 20 and 24 earn only 60.7%. These low salaries have a direct impact on the growing numbers of the working poor, who do not have enough income to cover their needs, even though they have jobs. As a percentage of the labour force, the working poor are most common in Romania (17.9%) and Greece (13.8%), which are ranked ahead of Spain (11.4%), Latvia (11.1 %) and Poland (11%).

What all of these people have in common is uncertainty about their future, which prevents them from planning their lives, and low wages that do not allow them a decent living. In Latin, precarius means “obtained by prayer.” In contemporary sociology, ‘precarious work’ describes a type of employment that leaves people suspended between poverty and prosperity, deprives them of material security, and forces them to live with a social status that is under constant threat of collapse.

As the Professor of Economic Security at the University of Bath and the author of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, Guy Standing, explains, we are currently witnessing the global emergence of new social class…

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


Florida: Man Accused of Killing Wife, Wounding 2 Pastors

LAKELAND, Fla. — Derrick Foster was kneeling in prayer when the gunman burst through the front door of Greater Faith Christian Center Church. He heard shooting, then screams.

A former parishioner is accused of critically wounding the church’s pastor as associate pastor as close to 20 people prayed between Sunday services. Authorities and relatives said Jeremiah Fogle shot his wife to death at his house, where he had started his own church, before continuing the rampage a block away at Greater Faith.

Foster, a teacher in the ministry, got up and saw the man near the pulpit, turning around with the gun in his hand.

“The first thing in my mind was, ‘I have to take this gun away,’“ he said.

Foster said he and another man tackled the gunman. The Polk County sheriff’s office said one of the parishioners struck the suspect in the head with a microphone stand.

“He had a great grip on the gun,” Foster said. “My plan was, as soon as he hit the floor, it would cause him to drop it. But he didn’t drop it.”

Post a CommentHe said it took three or four minutes of struggling with the gunman before he finally wrested the weapon away.

The gunman had six live rounds in his pocket. “He was prepared to shoot even more,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Pastor William Boss and associate pastor Carl Stewart were shot from behind, authorities said. Boss, who was shot in the head, and Stewart, shot three times in the back and ear, were in critical condition Sunday. No one else at the church was hurt.

“Of all the places you should be safe, you should be safe in a house of worship,” Judd said. “Especially on a Sunday morning.”

As deputies began investigating, a church member advised that they check on Fogle’s wife, who lived with him a block away in a neighborhood of mobile homes, humble houses and industrial shops. Investigators and relatives say 56-year-old Theresa Fogle was found slain inside, apparently killed before her husband went to the church.

“We don’t know exactly why he went in to this mad rage,” Judd said.

Officials said Jeremiah Fogle would be charged with murder and could face additional charges. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Theresa Fogle’s sister Maria Beauford said the couple married in 2002 and ran a transportation business together. They had been members of Greater Faith Christian Center Church, where the shootings happened, but had started their own ministry out of their house and regularly hosted Sunday services, Beauford said…

[Return to headlines]

New Studies Show Severe Racial Discrimination at University of Wisconsin

Two studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity reveal severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate and law school admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with African Americans and Latinos given preference over whites and Asians.

The odds ratio favoring African Americans and Hispanics over whites was 576-to-1 and 504-to-1, respectively, using the SAT and class rank while controlling for other factors. Thus, the median composite SAT score for black admittees was 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score was 100 points lower. Using the ACT, the odds ratios climbed to 1330-to-1 and 1494-to-1, respectively, for African Americans and Hispanics over whites.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Porn Prepares for the Apocalypse

A pornography studio by the name of Pink Visual is beginning groundwork on an underground bunker that will insure that, come the 2012 apocalypse, whoever is left standing will still be safe from the aftermath of riots, looting, fires and zombies. And, of course, that the rest of the surviving world will still able to get their porno.

The press release from Pink Visual is blunt. Then again, when you’re in the adult entertainment biz, you learn that cutting to the chase is often all too necessary:

“We’re building an enormous underground bunker in preparation for the Apocalypse that various prognosticators and ancient calendar interpreters have predicted will take place in December of 2012.”

“Our goal is nothing less than to survive the apocalypse to come in comfort and luxury,” says spokesman Quentin Boyer.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Swiss TV Won’t Broadcast Swissair Crash Film

Swiss television (SF) has decided not to broadcast a documentary about a Swissair crash that left 229 people dead in Canada in 1998 after controversial new allegations emerged that it may have been caused by a terrorist attack. SF co-researched and funded the documentary with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which puts forward the theory that the Swissair SR-111 crash in the Atlantic Ocean near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on September 2nd 1998 was not the result of a burnt cable, but was deliberate.

Swiss journalist Fritz Muri carried out extensive research working closely with the Canadian broadcaster, according to Blick newspaper. All 229 passengers and crew died in the tragic plane crash, including a Saudi prince and a relative of the late Shah of Iran. A four-year official investigation carried out by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada, which cost US$39 million found that the crash was probably caused by an electrical fault that ignited the insulation on board. However, the CBC documentary suggests a terrorist attack was to blame and that investigators tried to cover this up.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austere Italy? Check the Traffic

Sandro Scalia for The New York Times

Comitini, Italy, population 960, does not appear to have major traffic problems, but it still employs 9 people to manage the flow.


COMITINI, Italy — With only 960 residents and a handful of roads, this tiny hilltop village in the arid, sulfurous hills of southern Sicily does not appear to have major traffic problems. But that does not prevent it from having one full-time traffic officer — and eight auxiliaries.

Especially in the poorer Italian south, many say a jobs-for-votes system has persisted.

The auxiliaries, who earn a respectable 800 euros a month, or $1,100, to work 20 hours a week, are among about 64 Comitini residents employed by the town, the product of an entrenched jobs-for-votes system pervasive in Italian politics at all levels.

“Jobs like these have kept this city alive,” said Caterina Valenti, 41, an auxiliary in a neat blue uniform as she sat recently with two colleagues, all on duty, drinking coffee in the town’s bar on a hot afternoon. “You see, here we are at the bar, we support the economy this way.”

But what may be saving Comitini’s economy is precisely what is strangling Italy’s and other ailing economies throughout Europe. Public spending has driven up the public debt to 120 percent of gross domestic product, the highest percentage in the euro zone after Greece’s. In recent weeks, concerns about Italy’s solvency and the shaky finances of other deeply indebted European nations have sapped market confidence and spread fears about the stability of the euro itself.

On Wednesday, Italy’s lower house of Parliament gave final passage to a $74 billion austerity package aimed at eliminating Italy’s budget deficit by 2013. But analysts doubt that the measures — primarily tax increases but also cuts in aid to local governments, a higher retirement age for women in the private sector and a change in Italy’s labor law to make it easier for companies to hire and fire — will achieve the advertised savings.

Many of the cuts in financing for local governments may yet be bargained away in annual budget negotiations to be held this year, and nowhere in the legislation are there any measures to reduce the salaries or the number of public sector employees, more than 80 percent of whom have lifetime tenure. But they would lose some retirement benefits, and a hiring freeze is already in place.

Financial markets have remained edgy, with yields on Italian bonds rising to a record high of 5.7 percent at auction this week, before rallying a bit after the government passed a confidence vote on the austerity measures. Investors remain unconvinced, though, fearing a possible downgrading of Italy’s credit rating, which could further drag down the euro, and there is already talk of the government introducing additional austerity measures.

“I have great doubts about whether they’re sufficient,” Stefano Micossi, an economist and the director of Assonime, an Italian business research group, said of the austerity package. “The mechanisms that led to such spending haven’t changed.”

The sticking point, he added, was the public sector. “The big problem is the public administration,” he said. “It’s inefficient and corrupt. But corruption is born in politics and politicians don’t want to change.”

Italy is contending with a public debt, built up under a succession of Christian Democratic governments, that helped the country emerge from dire poverty after World War II to become Europe’s third-largest industrial economy.

Especially in the poorer Italian south, the Christian Democrats put millions of people on the state payroll in a jobs-for-votes system that many say has persisted under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The quid pro quo worked so long as the economy was expanding, but now is seen as one of the major threats to Italy’s solvency.

In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, an estimated 3.5 million Italians were on the state payroll out of a work force of 23 million, according to the Ministry for the Public Administration and Innovation. On Mr. Berlusconi’s watch, government expenditures — including the cost of public administration and defense — rose to more than $1 trillion in 2010 from $753 billion in 2000.

Analysts attribute some of the rise to the introduction of the euro in 2001 and the rising cost of pension spending in a nation that will soon have more retirees than workers, as well as to soaring health care costs.

But they say it also stems from deals Mr. Berlusconi has made with powerful politicians from both the north and the south to get the votes needed to hold together his government. Those votes mean the government is loath to stop the flow of money. Even with the new austerity measures, “They haven’t closed the taps,” Mr. Micossi said. Some say the jobs-for-votes mentality derives from Italy’s feudal heritage. Italy was a patchwork of warring fiefs before unification 150 years ago, and personal networks are often still seen as more powerful than institutions.

Even today, the concept is: “I understand the state if it gives a benefit to my person, family, business,” said Luigi Musella, a historian at the University of Naples and the author of “Clientelism,” about Italy’s quid pro quo politics.

For his part, Nino Contino, the mayor of Comitini since 2002, is proud that he has used public money to create jobs.

“I know that 60 people in a town of 1,000 is a good number, it’s a lot,” Mr. Contino, 49, said of his city’s employees. “But if I didn’t let them work, these people would have to go work in America. That’s 60 people with 60 families looking for work elsewhere.”

“Besides,” he added, “the city doesn’t pay them. The state and the region do.” Indeed, Comitini’s city employees are paid 90 percent by the regional government and 10 percent by the town.

“This town lacks for nothing,” Mr. Contino added, as he showed off the town’s library, with a children’s play area and an extensive collection of Sicilian history books, including a rare 10-volume set of the “History of Feudalism.”

Upstairs, a small museum featured Arab-Norman pottery fragments and an exhibition on the nearby sulfur mines that employed as many as 10,000 people before they closed in the 1950s and 1960s, forcing many residents to retire early and others to emigrate.

Beyond its 960 residents, the town counts 3,000 emigrants registered to vote there, said Mr. Contino, whose main job is as a specialist in cellulite reduction…

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

BBC: Norway Local Elections: Breivik’s Old Party Suffers

The anti-immigration Progress Party once favoured by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik has lost a third of its vote in local polls in Norway.

Mr Breivik, who killed 77 people in a bomb and gun massacre seven weeks ago, was once a member of the party.

With nearly all votes counted, the opposition Conservatives had the biggest gains, taking 28% compared to 19% in 2007.

The governing Labour Party — targeted by Mr Breivik — made smaller gains.

It increased its vote share by two points, to reach nearly 32%.

However, it saw its coalition ally the Socialist Left Party (SV) drop from 6% to 4%, compared to the 2007 local election results.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Government Bans Burka

(AGI) The Hague — As announced by Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch far right party, the government has decided to ban the burka. A press release of the Interior Ministry informs so, stating that the ban “is bound to be approved”. The bill has been submitted to the Cabinet and must now be approved by the State Council in order to be enforced.

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

France: Strauss-Kahn Regrets Not Running for President

(AGI) Paris — Socialists and the current presidency have now drawn a sigh of relief since Dominque Strauss-Kahn, considered Nicolas Sarkozy’s greatest rival until May, will not run for president. DSK said he would “have liked to run in the 2012 presidential elections, but will not do so” after being accused of rape by a hotel maid in the USA, although all charges have now been dropped.

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

Germany: Berlin Exit Polls Show Government Coalition Losing Ground

(AGI) Berlin — Voters in the city-state of Berlin have voted against the government coalition with the Piraten Party winning 8.5% of the votes. These elections have confirmed current SPD Mayor Klaus Wowereit, given many vote to the green movement and blessed the debut of the Piraten party. According to exit polls, the SDP won 29.5% of votes in this regional election, down compared to the 30.8% won in 2006, while the CDU gained 23.5% compared to a previous 21.3%. The green movement did extremely well up to 18% from their previous 13.1 with the online Piraten Party’s 8.5% surprising everyone with their programme that includes free public transport for everyone and the legalisation of minor drugs ..

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

Italy: Silvio Berlusconi to Tarantini — “Who Are You Bringing Me Tonight?”

Sabina Began under investigation, says “I did it for love”

BARI — The requests to have women sent to his homes were incessant. The next day, Silvio Berlusconi would relax and discuss the evening with his friend, “Gianpi” Tarantini. Sexual exploits and aesthetic appreciations of women’s figures, in particular their “B side”, are all there in the documents lodged by Bari magistrates. Sources who have seen the files say there were dozens of exchanges between the prime minister and the Puglian businessman from September 2008 to May 2009. Often, Mr Berlusconi would ask: “Who are you bringing me tonight?” At least forty women were involved in the ring of prostitution. One of the most assiduous attenders was Barbara Guerra, later a fixture at Arcore. At least once, Ms Guerra agreed to prostitute herself at a private party in Mr Tarantini’s house. On other occasions, she brought friends with her to comply with the prime minister’s invitations. Mr Tarantini appeared to have no difficulty finding available women when the prime minister called to organise a party, even at only a few hours’ notice. The Puglian businessman had an astonishing list of contacts and sometimes, the prime minister asked him to pass the phone to the evening’s main attraction.

“Beautiful Belén”

The trial documents include a conversation with Belén Rodriguez, the Argentinian beauty who was breaking up with her then boyfriend, footballer Marco Borriello. “I like you a lot. You’re very beautiful”, cooed the prime minister, who went swiftly on to ask how her television work was going. Mr Berlusconi was equally passionate about Manuela Arcuri, to whom Gianpaolo Tarantini promised the earth to get her into Palazzo Grazioli. Ms Arcuri, however, was unmoved. “So is he offering me a film production?”, Ms Arcuri asked her friend Francesca Lana, who was more than willing to take part in the soirées. Mr Berlusconi insisted and Mr Tarantini complained to Ms Lana: “Oh, why won’t she come?” A leading role continued to be played by Sabina Began, the “Queen Bee”, who has always claimed to be close to the prime minister and now finds herself under investigation. In the past few months, magistrates have questioned Ms Began as a witness but her position has changed and when she received the notice of conclusion of investigations, she hired lawyer Fabrizio Siggia and said: “Everything I did, I did for love”. When questioned by magistrates, Ms Began strove to play down the tone of the parties. She adopted a similar attitude when investigations got under way into the Arcore entertainments and she stated publicly that “Bunga Bunga is not an erotic practice. It’s my nickname”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: ‘30 Prostitutes and Actresses’ Recruited to Have Sex at Berlusconi Parties

Rome, 16 Sept. (AKI) — Italian prosecutors have concluded a two-year investigation a prostitution scandal associated with prime minister Silvio Berlusconi by charging eight people with allegedly providing the billionaire politician with dozens of escorts for parties he hosted.

The probe by the prosecutors’s office in the southern city of Bari used around 100 thousand telephone intercepts with reports of Berlusconi boasting about his sexual exploits with prostitutes. Berlusconi is target four trials in Milan for corruption and paying an minor for sex. He says he is innocent in all cases and claims to be the target of persecution by a left-wing magistrate.

He is not believed to be the target in the Bari investigation.

According to investigators, around 30 prostitutes were provided for parties where they received cash and gifts from Berlusconi who is worth almost 8 billion dollars, according to Forbes Magazine.

Investigators say Giampaolo Tarantini, a thirty-six year old a businessman from the Bari in the southern Puglia region, recruited the prostitutes mostly to attend parties at Berlusconi’s residence in Rome. In exchange he asked for favourable treatment in the rewarding of public contracts in healthcare and other sectors.

Some actresses were among the women recruited to attend the Berlusconi parties and some declined to go to have sex with the prime minister or his associates.

Italian actress Manuela Arcuri was allegedly promised the possibility to host the annual San Remo light-musical festival in exchange if she had sex with Berlusconi, who turns 75 this month. She refused.

Berlusconi has said he has never paid for sex, claiming the need to seduce women.

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

Italy Among the Worsts in OECD for Money in Education

(AGI) Rome — Italy invests little on education. It is among the worst OECD countries. Italy spent 4.8% of its GDP in education, corresponding to a 1.3% decrease compared to the OECD average, which is 6.1%. Italy came 29th among 34 countries in this special ranking. This is what the 2011 OECD report on education states.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Will Not Respond to Sex Claims, Says Lawyer

‘Is it a sin to adore the PM?’ says accused

(ANSA) — Rome, September 16 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi will not appear before Naples prosecutors investigating his alleged use of prostitutes, his lawyer said Friday.

“At this time Berlusconi will not be presenting himself to Naples prosecutors,” his lawyer Piero Longo told ANSA on Friday.

Berlusconi is facing new questions about his sex life after prosecutors claimed that Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini provided at least 30 women for the prime minister in a bid to exchange sex for public contracts. The allegations were presented at the conclusion of a two-year investigation into claims that Berlusconi entertained aspiring models, actresses and starlets at his private residences in 2008 and 2009. Prosecutors are believed to have evidence that Berlusconi and Tarantini spoke a hundred times between September 2008 and May 2009, the period in which the businessman is alleged to have recruited the women.

Tarantini, who was convicted of cocaine trafficking in June, allegedly paid the women to attend parties at the prime minister’s homes in Rome, Sardinia and at Arcore outside Milan.

The businessman, his wife Angela Devenuto, and online magazine editor Valter Lavitola, who is abroad, are also accused of blackmailing Berlusconi.

They allegedly received up to 850,000 euros to stop them from releasing telephone intercepts that would have been potentially embarassing to the premier.

Eight people have been charged for supplying prostitutes to Berlusconi in the hope of gaining jobs, contracts or other favours, according to prosecutors.

The charges were made as prosecutors in the southern city of Bari ended an inquiry into friends and associates of the prime minister, including businessman Tarantini and German actress Sabina Began.

Began, who is known by the nickname Queen Bee, is believed to have recruited escorts and other women to attend the prime minister’s private parties.

In an interview published in the Italian daily Il Messaggero on Friday, Began spoke of “thirty normal girls, who for the most part were accompanied by their boyfriends”.

“There were many men there who were in couples with their girlfriends and also many gays,” Began said.

“There were also old men, elegant men of a certain age.

Where is the scandal in that? Why are they investigating me? I am completely innocent. Is it a sin to adore the prime minister”? Began said when she heard rumours about Tarantini’s drug use, she warned Berlusconi to steer clear of him, and that she remained in regular contact with the premier.

“He gets depressed, but resists it. He will not give up his job. The word does not enter his vocabulary”.

Italian actress Manuela Arcuri was allegedly promised that the prime minister would appoint her host of Italy’s prestigious Sanremo Music Festival if she had sex with him, but she allegedly refused.

Berlusconi was scheduled to meet Naples prosecutors at his office at Palazzo Chigi in Rome on Tuesday about whether he was the target of extortion over his alleged use of prostitutes.

But instead he flew to Strasbourg for meetings with the head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and other senior officials to discuss Italy’s austerity package which was passed in parliament on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: First Snow Falls on Stelvio Pass

(AGI) Bolzano — Temperatures have fallen sharply in the Trentino Alto Adige where it is raining constantly and the first snow has fallen on the Stelvio Pass at an altitude of 2,000 metres. Drivers are required to have snow chains on their tyres. The rain has caused a number of landslides that for the moment have not blocked any roads. Temperatures are expected to fall even more in the coming hours with snow falling at between 1,400 and 1,700 metres.

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

Italy: Soccer: Lazio Fan Charged With Assaulting U. S. Tourist

(AGI) Rome — A 32-year-old Lazio soccer fan has received a three-year game ban as well as charges of assault for attacking an American tourist during a match. Around 3:30 p.m. the fan was seen hitting the American tourist, 44, in the face because he had applauded a play be the opposing side. The attack stopped after a few minutes after another Lazio fan ‘escorted’ the American from the area.

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

Italy: Amanda Knox Writes Video Script for Rock Band

Umbrian group to perform in her jail

(ANSA) — Perugia, September 16 — Amanda Knox, the US student appealing a 26-year conviction for the 2007 murder of British flatmate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, has written a video script for a band based near her prison.

The band, Hands of Times (H.O.T), said Knox had “always had a passion for music and poetry” and had often seen them at student gigs before the Kercher case.

H.O.T., an emerging band from Orvieto, are playing a gig Saturday in the women’s section of Perugia’s Capanne prison where Knox has been detained since her conviction in December 2009.

The band did not disclose details of the video clip, which is scheduled to appear early next month.

But it is rumoured to contain her reflections on life in jail.

Knox is said to have written the script in Italian and English and sent it by letter to H.O.T, who decided to use it for one of their songs, The Mistral Blows.

The script showed “considerable artistic quality”, said the band, who added they had a “mutual relationship of affection and esteem” with Knox.

She has not been paid for the script, H.O.T. said.

Knox, whose case has attracted attention worldwide, also sent the band poems but they have not yet decided whether to use them.

Earlier this month Knox gained what many observers saw as a victory in the fight to clear her name when the Perugia appeals court rejected a prosecutors’ request for further DNA testing on the alleged murder weapon in the Kercher slaying.

The judges described as “superfluous” any more testing on the knife which defence experts in June said showed insignificant and therefore inconclusive amounts of DNA.

The DNA evidence had been key to the original convictions of Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, respectively to 26 and 25 years.

Prosecutors claimed “latest-generation equipment”, allegedly not taken into account by the defence experts, would have still been able to pick up valuable traces from the knife recovered from Sollecito’s kitchen.

At the first trial the prosecution presented evidence showing DNA from Knox and Kercher on the knife.

They also presented tests showing Sollecito’s DNA on a severed bra clasp recovered at the murder scene.

Kercher, 21, a London student from Sheffield University, was found dead in the bedroom of the house she shared with Knox and two Italian women on November 2, 2007.

Knox, 24, from Seattle, and Sollecito, 27, from Puglia, were convicted of murder and sexual assault.

In a recent letter in the British media, Kercher’s sister Stephanie said her family have been living in “anguish” and expressed concern about how the original DNA investigation had been condemned by two court-appointed experts.

“In these last few week we have been left seriously anxious and greatly troubled by the news regarding the original DNA findings,” Kercher wrote.

A third man, Ivory Coast drifter Rudy Guede, has been separately convicted of the murder and is serving 16 years after exhausting the appeals process.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

LNP Party Leader Bossi on Northern Italian ‘Secession’

(AGI) Venice — LNP party leader Bossi underscores his party grassroots’ readiness fight for northern Italy’s independence.

“Do the math. There are several million northern Italians willing to fight,” Umberto Bossi told party audiences at a meeting in Venice. Bossi also underscored the “democratic” nature of his party, submitting that secession “might require a referendum.”

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

Netherlands: Immigration, Greece and Cuts: 2012 is the ‘Year of Truth’ For Wilders

The government will have failed to meet Geert Wilders’ demand that non-western immigration to the Netherlands be halved by 2015, the Volkskrant reported at the weekend.

The paper says figures from immigration minister Gerd Leers show little change in immigration from outside the developed world.

Wilders made his support for the minority government’s €18bn package of cuts dependent on a ‘substantial’ reduction in immigrants.

In 2012, for example, the minister is expecting 27,000 people will be given a residency permit, the same as in 2016. In addition, 15,000 refugees will come to the country on an annual basis, the minister’s figures show.

New measures

A spokesman for Leers told the paper the effect of new measures to reduce immigration have not yet been included in the calculations.

Leers wants to tighten up the rules on family reunions, with only partners and under-age children being allowed in and not grandparents or other more distant relatives.

There will also be a year’s waiting time before people can join their partners in the Netherlands and ‘import brides’ will only receive independent residence status after they have live here for five years.

In an interview with Saturday’s Volkskrant, Wilders said an agreement is an agreement. ‘He [Leers] has to meet his targets,’ Wilders said.


Immigration is only one aspect of the PVV’s support for the coalition which is coming under pressure. Wilders is also totally opposed to any more support for Greece, and a rise in the state pension age.

On Friday, he told reporters 2012 would be the ‘year of truth’ for the coalition alliance. ‘We intend to sit this coalition out, but not at any price. We are not going to accept everything,’ he said, before describing the alliance as a ‘marriage of convenience’.

He also warned the cabinet that future cuts should not hurt Henk and Ingrid, the name Wilders gives to the average man and woman.


Labour leader Job Cohen on Saturday challenged Wilders to let the cabinet collapse.

‘Wilders is ignoring the fact that Henk and Ingrid are picking up the bill… if something happens which he doesn’t like, Wilders still says ‘let the government stay’,’ Cohen told the AD.

Meanwhile, VVD stalwart and Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen says in an interview with Saturday’s NRC Wilders’ attacks on Greece rather than Muslims is a logical step. For Wilders, ‘the Greeks are the new Muslims,’ Verwaayen said.

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

Netherlands: Wilders: 2012 Crucial Year for Coalition

THE HAGUE, 17/09/11 — Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders is planning to remain in the alliance with the minority government of Christian semoctrats (CDA) and conservatives (VVD). But 2012 will show whether that is possible.

Wilders said on Friday in an interview with public broadcaster NOS that 2012 will be “the year of truth” for the coalition. He terms the partnership with VVD and CDA a “marriage of convenience”. That does not mean he wants to terminate the coalition. “It is our intention to allow the government to continue, but not at any price.”

As is widely known, Wilders’ main problems lie with what he regards as the government’s pro-European policy. “It is as if we (the PVV), as far as Europe is concerned, are form Mars, and the cabinet is from Pluto.”

The PVV sees nothing in the government’s stance on Greece. Should not all the money borrowed be repaid “then the government has a problem,” warns Wilders. The same applies if the government transfers more powers to Brussels, he added.

Wilders says development aid is an expenditure item that could be cut if economic developments and related cost cuts demand it. CDA MP Kathleen Ferrier immediately opposed this proposal on Friday.

Ferrier, who is CDA’s spokesman for development aid, said the existing coalition agreement to reduce spending on development aid to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent was already a sacrifice for her party. There should not be further cutbacks, otherwise there will be a potential political conflict, she said.

Labour (PvdA) party leader Job Cohen meanwhile expects serious tensions will arise in the coalition by 2012, particularly with regard to the euro crisis. “The government has been in office only eleven months. But it will become difficult to continue because of the forthcoming crisis. Wilders has already said he does not want more cuts,” Cohen said on Friday in an interview in De Volkskrant morning newspaper.

The irony is that until now, the PvdA has been reaching a helping hand to the CDA and VVD minority cabinet every time the PVV was not willing to do so. On Thursday evening, for example, PvdA voted for the cabinet’s proposed pension reforms,a move that was crucial to get the plan through parliament.

Although Cohen said Friday the coalition could face “even greater problems” in 2012 with regard to Europe, he does not plan to make trouble on this dossier. PvdA has a clear pro-European profile, he confirmed. “We already had that last year. There is also self-interest there, because Europe is good for our economy, pensions and employment.”

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

Sarkozy’s Popularity Rating 32% in September, 67% Against

(AGI) Paris — 8 months from the French presidential elections, Sarkoky’s popularity dropped by 1 point to 32% in September.

This is the result of an Ifop survey that will be published tomorrow on the Journale du Dimanche. 67% of his fellow countrymen does not appreciate the present tenant of the Elysee.

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

Sweden: Police Confirm Searching Mosque in Gothenburg

Sweden’s National Security Service, Säpo, has confirmed it raided a mosque in Bellevue, Gothenburg, with the help of local police, on Thursday. A search warrant of the mosque’s offices was requested by Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström, the deputy chief prosecutor of the Prosecution Office for National Security, in relation to the investigation into a suspected terror plot against the Röda Sten (Red Rock) art gallery last weekend

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Shots Fired in Malmö Apartment

A series of shots ricocheted around an apartment Saturday night in Malmö, southern Sweden. Although no one was injured, police suspect attempted murder. Five or six shots fired Saturday night from a close range struck both the exterior wall and balcony railing of an apartment in Malmö. The owner of the apartment, uninjured, saw a man running from the scene at Sofiagatan in the city’s southwest corner.

No arrests had been made and no suspects had been determined as of Sunday morning. Police classified the incident as attempted murder after technicians determined the shots were fired from approximately 10 metres away. An hour and a half prior to the 8pm shooting, a rock had been thrown against the window of the same apartment.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Thieves Strip the UK Bare

HEARTLESS criminals are plundering everything from power cables to children’s graves to cash in on the soaring price of scrap metal.

Gangs are even travelling from Europe to strip railway wiring, snatch metal railings and rip down power lines in a £1billion crime-wave that threatens to plunge parts of Britain into darkness this winter.

Last night David Cameron was urged to get a grip on the spiralling crime to prevent power blackouts.

Nothing is sacred to the criminals, who also steal garden ornaments, farm gates and road signs. They plumbed new depths when they tore railings from a baby’s grave.

The distraught parents of Jordan Lee Cardiss, who died from meningitis at just 18 months, were left “sickened”.

The railings, put up by his father, 27-year- old Dean Cardiss, were taken, along with the gates to New Wortley Cemetery in Leeds.

Mother Stacey Plain, 27, said: “It is all I have left of my son. You can tell it’s a baby’s grave. The people who did this are scum.”…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Ugandan Dr John Sentamu ‘To Head Church of England’

ARCHBISHOP of York Dr John Sentamu is emerging as the favourite to become the next head of the Church of England.

He is widely seen as the best choice if current Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams steps down next year as expected.

Dr Williams, 61, is thought to favour a return to academic life after a decade holding the Church’s highest office. …

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Vatican Secretary: Legalism is Not the Path to Salvation

(AGI) Verona — “Legalism has never saved anyone, whereas love and mercy make up the supreme law of Christian life”. These were the words of the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in the homily for the mass which was celebrated today at Verona cathedral. “There is no government system which could in all fairness render love’s service superfluous.”

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


‘Al Jazeera Balkans’ Running by End of Year

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 16 — Programmes on the “Al Jazeera Balkans”, the new regional broadcaster to be based in Sarajevo, are likely to be on air by the end of the year.

The Serbian news agency Beta says that preparation of the channel’s studios is in its final stages, with production due to begin in the next few months.

Al Jazeera Balkans will be on air 24 hours a day, while 6 hours of programmes will be produced in countries in the region. The channel will revolve around news, while the remainder of the content will be made up of repeats of other Al Jazeera programmes.

The controller of the new channel, which will have correspondent offices in Belgrade, Zagreb, Podgorica, Skopje and Pristina, will be the Croatian, Goran Milic, one of the former Yugoslavia’s best known television journalists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: NTC Still Locked Over Interim Government

(AGI) Benghazi — Libya’s transitional authorities have failed to name the new cabinet. The political wrangling came about when the insurgents had to engage into a strategic retreat from the two cities of Bani Walid (150 kms south of Tripoli) and Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown ( 360 kms east of the Tripoli), which are still controlled by the loyalist forces.

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

Tunisia: Salafists Want to Destroy Le Kef Basilica

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 16 — A group of Salafists have invaded the ancient Byzantine basilica (VI century) of Le Kef, considering it “blasphemous” and intending to destroy it. The criminal act, according to reports in Business News, may be carried out today after the Friday prayers. The Le Kef basilica is an archaeological monument from the Byzantine era which in the XVII century (during the Muradite period) was transformed into a mosque. The latter state of it remained until 1966 when — due to its scientific importance — the decision was made to restore such an important monument for both tourism and cultural reasons.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel: No Change to Egypt Peace Agreements

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 16 — Israel has no intention of reviewing the peace agreements reached with Egypt in 1979 by the then Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, and the Egyptian President of the period, Anwar Sadat. This is according to the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak, who has been speaking to Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, Yasser Rida, the Ynet website reports.

“From an Israeli point of view, there is no intention to reopen the peace agreements, besides it is not possible to do so unilaterally,” Barak said.

In a television interview yesterday, the Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, said that “the Camp David agreement [of 1979] is not untouchable and can always be the subject of debate”. Barak, meanwhile, told Rida that “Israel attaches importance to relations with Egypt” and showed his displeasure at “the repeated calls from Egyptian government officials over the supposed need to bring change to the peace agreements, as well as their further anti-Israeli comments,” Ynet says.

Relations between the two peoples are also influenced by the words of its leaders, “who must therefore show responsibility,” Barak added.

The stances adopted recently by Egypt have had a negative effect, “which has reached its highest point with the attempt to attack the Israeli embassy in Cairo[last week],” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Professor Phyllis Chesler: Blaming Israel Won’t Help

“It is not good to push someone whose back is already against the wall…”

Were Israel to be attacked she would be on her own—and she would blamed for daring to defend herself. But something is very wrong in the Muslim world that is bigger than Israel.

On September 16, 2011, the New York Times actually used the word “Islamist” in a front page story—not as often or as prominently as the word “militant” but still, there it was—and in an article titled “At White House, Weighing Limits of Terror Fight.”

For all those who are invested in the Lie that the infidels (i.e. Western civilization} are not under attack, allow me to point out that the anti-Israel and anti-American Paper of Record had, altogether, three articles on the front page about Afghanistan, Bahrain, and about “Islamist militants in Yemen and Somalia” as well as about “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, and the Somalia-based Shabab;” “Al Qaeda operating in Afghanistan…and in the tribal regions of Pakistan.”

In this same issue, the Times also has articles which focus on or mention Jordan, “Palestine,” Turkey, Afghanistan, Libya, Bahrain, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Even the Times knows that something is up, something has gone wrong, very wrong in terms of the Muslim world, that it is far bigger than Israel, and that it won’t get better merely by blaming Israel or America.

In my opinion, were Israel to be attacked she would be on her own—and she would blamed for daring to defend herself. This has already happened many times. While the war against the Jews is very hot, it is almost invisible in the western media.

As we know, (but allow me to remind us), in August of 2011, Israel endured 178 Hamas/”Palestinian” terror attacks which included 145 rockets and 46 heavy mortar shells fired into the south of Israel.

That same month, Israel also endured a heavy “surge” of hostile, apparently civilian Arabs crossing Israel’s borders from Syria and attempting to do so from Lebanon, which included the Lebanese Army opening fire on a group of Israeli soldiers.

Also in August, terrorists (Hamas? Al Qaeda? PLO?) crossed into Israel from Egypt, wearing Egyptian military uniforms, and killed seven Israeli civilians, including young children; they wounded at least thirty Israelis. The attacks against Israel in August alone were three times greater than all the attacks against Israel this year.

During this same time, the Turkish Prime Minister demanded that Israel “apologize” for defending herself from a Turkish-launched terrorist attack (the Marvi Marmara incident) and threatened to send Turkish warships into the Mediterranean to accompany a new flotilla to break the Israeli siege of Gaza.

And right around 9/11, Egyptian police forces allowed angry and hate-filled “demonstrators” to overrun the Israeli Embassy in Cairo; Prime Minister Netanyahu made no progress for the safe release of the Israeli security guards trapped in the building; only a phone call, eight to ten hours later, from President Obama presumably persuaded the Egyptians to help the besieged Israelis escape.

Finally, on September 13, 2011, the Turkish Prime Minister blew more smoke, this time in Cairo when he got the crowd to roar its hatred for Israel. He is in a dead heat competition with Iran for leadership of the Caliphate.


[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Water Battles Among Young People Frighten the Ayatollah

Numerous arrests of young people across the country since July, for engaging in battles with water bottles and water pistols in parks. The regime’s fear: “This is not simply a game. This an act is being guided from abroad”.

Tehran (AsiaNews/agencies) — Iranian police have arrested on September 2 a group of people responsible for having a waterfight in a Tehran Park. The acting commander of Iran’s police, General Ahmad Radan, said that the group had planned the battle thanks to the Internet and “intended to break customs”.

The police have intervened several times during the summer to suppress water battles. In the first incident in July, hundreds of young men and women took part in a waterfight in the capital’s popular Water and Fire park, with water pistols and plastic bottles. The police detained dozens of fighters. Many others have been arrested since then.

Fundamentalists consider it improper and immoral for men and women to mix freely, much less douse each other with water. In addition, there is the fear that these gatherings could weaken the regime’s grip on young people, or even lead to protests against the regime. Since the 2009 demonstrations, any type of gathering that is not controlled arouses the suspicion of the authorities.

On September 5, judiciary official Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi accused unknown foreign persons of organizing campaigns for waterfights in the country: “This is not simply a game with water”, he said “this act is being guided from abroad”. Ejehi said Friday that some of those arrested admitted “they were deceived, and some said they came out based on a call from a counter-revolutionary”. The state television has moved in the same line, transmitting the confessions of some participants who admitted having been invited to participate from abroad. But some conservatives, close to the regime, claim that arresting youth for waterfights is excessive.

All these statements and opinions help to understand the restlessness of Tehran’s top brass, who barely managed to subdue through force the so-called “Green wave”, the movement following the fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad in 2009.

The Green wave has features very similar to the revolts of the Arab spring, in an attempt to bring more democracy, less corruption, more freedom and work. Paradoxically, Iranian leaders have applauded the Arab Spring, hoping for an end to the U.S.-backed regimes in the Arab world. But ithey will not allow a little spring to bloom in their homeland, as well.

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

Where Was Jesus Baptised? Israeli-Jordanian Row

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 16 — On which bank of the river Jordan was Jesus baptised? This question has remained without an answer for around two thousand years now, and it has once again led to a heated dispute between Israel and Jordan. Both countries want the honour of having this holy site in their territory, for reasons of tourism. Now the website ‘’ of the Franciscan Custody has also intervened in the debate, and has urged the rivals, in a judgment worthy of Solomon, to “allow Christians from across the world to come and commemorate the baptism of the Saviour on the bank of the river Jordan they prefer.” Tensions started rising again after a long period of relaxation when Israel opened the site Qasr al-Yaud, near Jericho, to the public on July 12. The site had been kept closed for decades, because of its location at the Jordanian border, in an area that is controlled by the Israeli military but situated in the Palestinian Territories from a viewpoint of international law. The reopening of the site on the western bank of the river Jordan has angered the Jordanian authorities, reports. Jordan claims the baptismal site on the eastern river bank is “the authentic one.” This site lies inside Jordanian territory (al-Maghtas, Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan as it is called in the Gospel according to John).

Jordan has accused Israel that the country wants to falsify history with this operation, trying to draw Christian pilgrims away from the baptismal site in Jordan. It should be said that Jordan’s government has invested heavily in tourism on the site of Wadi Kharrar, around 7 kilometres from the Dead Sea, allowing also Christian Churches to build new sanctuaries with accommodations for pilgrims nearby.

The Israeli embassy to the Holy See has replied to Jordan that “debating on which side of the river Jesus was baptised is of relative importance because what really counts is that it has happened in the waters of the river Jordan.” But in any case, the embassy underlined, “reliable sources place the baptismal site on the west bank of the river.” The Franciscans in the Holy Land, whose task it is to protect the places of worship, explain that “there are archaeological indications and sources that make it likely that the physical baptismal site is located in Wadi Karrar, on the Jordanian bank.

There are also traditions and historic indications that place the baptismal site on the western side, near Qasr al-Yahud.” In any case, concludes, it is not essential for Christians to know which is the correct location. The important thing is that they can reach the Jordan in freedom and safety.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Ahmadinejad to Vist Chavez on 24 September

(AGI) Caracas — Hugo Chavez announced a visit by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 24 September. The Venezuelan premier also stated that his Byelorussian counterpart, Alexandr Lukashenko, will arrive in Caracas in December. Mr.

Ahmadinejad’s trip will take place after his attendance to the UN General Assembly in New York.

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


71 Billion Euros — the Cost of Immigration

In my recent article on Marine Le Pen’s speech in Nice last week, I expressed my surprise at her claim that the annual cost of immigration in France has reached 70 billion euros. It sounded impossibly high. But she based her statement on the work of economist Gérard Pince, who has in the past used his mathematical and actuarial skills to estimate realistically the number of immigrants in France.

Pince spoke with Pierre Cassen of Riposte Laïque, and explained briefly his statistical methods and his opinion on the underlying motives for the massive immigration that is strangling France both culturally and economically. Here are excerpts from that interview, beginning with his political preferences:

- I’m sorry that ideological differences on the sex of angels is dividing the forces of the resistance. For my part, I am sticking to one simple rule. I support without reservation all those who fight against immigration and the Islamization of our country. The fight against this invasion must take precedence over all other considerations. I am trying to convince others of this conviction but there is still much to do. Reciprocally, I feel that the resistance movements ought to concentrate on their main mission and avoid those topics that are divisive, such as the future of Europe or the euro!

- You have just published a report on the cost of Third World immigration for 2009. You say it amounted to 71 billion euros. Why is this study more reliable than others that explain how this immigration benefits France, and still others, like Jean-Paul Gourevitch, who don’t arrive at the same figures you do?

- The answer can be found in the report. The studies that claim that immigration enriches us are part of a scandalous fraud, especially when they come out of the universities. I know Jean-Paul Gourevitch’s work. He deals with immigration in general (including European immigrants) and he does not take into account direct descendants. Moreover, his approach is different…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Nepali Migrant Women Victims of Abuse and Exploitation

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the worst offenders. NGO complains about the high number of migrant women who go to work illegally in the Middle East. About 16 per cent comes home without any money.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/ Agencies) — According to a study by the Foreign Nepali Workers Rescue Center (FNWRC), about 90 per cent of all Nepali migrant women are victims of sexual violence and exploitation. The worst cases are in Arab countries where female migrant workers are routinely raped, beaten and not paid. For this reason, the Nepali government limited emigration to the Middle East between 1998 and 2010.

Still, every year, 83,000 Nepal migrant women leave the country in search for work. Most go to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where job opportunities are better.

Arab states are destination of most illegal workers. Out of 67,000 in the Middle East in 2006, only 3,000 had the right papers and a valid contract.

To avoid red tape, many women resort to human traffickers. Pocketing thousands of dollars, the latter promise the women jobs that turn out to be non-existent; instead, they force them to work like slaves for unscrupulous employers.

Sapana Bishwokarna, 26, arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2007. She paid US$ 700 for the promise of a baby-sitting job in Riyadh family. Instead, when she arrived she found out that there was no baby to care for and had to work as a domestic instead.

“The family was one father and two adult sons,” she said. “I could not understand their language and I was punished every day with a beating.”

For months, her employer and his sons abused her. When she got pregnant, they sent her packing back to Nepal without paying her. In her village, Sapana now works as a seamstress to raise her 2-year-old boy.

“I emigrated to become independent but for women going abroad is too dangerous,” she said. “They treat us like animals.”

The authorities do little or nothing to monitor emigration, especially if it involves women, said sociologist Kumar Yatru

About 16 per cent of migrant women come home without any income. Illegal workers have no protection and often their situation is unknown to the authorities.

The government has set up help centre where migrants can learn the language and laws of their country of employment so that they can be aware of potential risks. However, everything is in Kathmandu, which is hard on people from poor and remote areas of the country.

Despite the risks, the number of migrant women is rising, said Saru Joshi, regional programme coordinator of UN Women-Nepal

“In Nepal, women still don’t have property rights,” she explained. “They are still under their husbands or in-laws.”

Instead of favouring emigration, the government should adopt policies that give women rights at home, ensuring equality with men.

Sadly, “Nepal is still a patriarchal country, and cultural and social traditions have limited the policies’ implementation,” Saru said.

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

Suriname: French Guiana, A Door to the EU

Trouw, Amsterdam

As the sole EU land border on the American continent, the French overseas department is the destination for a large number of immigrants from neighbouring Suriname. Every year, 13,000 of them apply for residency permits that are valid throughout the entirety of the Schengen Area.

Ivo Evers

Outside the imposing mayor’s office in Saint-Laurent, a small town on French Guiana’s border with Suriname, a group of twenty men and women have gathered in the searing heat. From the bored looks on most of their faces, it is clear that this is not the first time they have waited outside the building. The Surinamese are queuing up for highly valued residency permits, which are even more sought after than French passports.

They are part of a massive wave of cross-border migration on the European Union’s only South American frontier: as an overseas department of France, French Guiana is a de facto part France. “Every year, 13,000 people, mainly Surinamese, apply to us residency for permits. About a third of these applications are approved,” explains sub-prefect Hamel-Françis Mekachera. “It is the start of a long process, which eventually leads to the granting of French nationality seven years later.”

But the EU is making it increasingly difficult to pass through this door into its territory: “Paris has sent us an order to reduce the number of people we accept,” says Mekachera, “but this region is not perceived as a frontier by local people, who regularly cross the Maroni [the river that marks the border between French Guiana and Suriname]. It is not easy for us Europeans to deal with this, because there are no specific measures about it French law.

River crossing with a long history

The blurred border is responsible for a host of problems, not least the informal trade across the river: at the market in Saint-Laurent, the Surinamese language, Sranan, is widely spoken, and many of the traders wear T-shirts emblazoned with the flag of the former Dutch colony. At the same time, crime is a growing problem: armed robberies are frequent, and the perpetrators usually seek refuge on the Surinamese side of the river.

For years, French Guiana has also served as refuge for Surinamese displaced by conflict in their home country. The first wave of refugees arrive in July 1986, following the outbreak of a civil war which lasted until 1991. During the conflict, which pitted the forces of Suriname’s military junta led Dersi Bouterse against the Jungle Commando guerillas led by Ronnie Brunswijk, 15,000 Surinamese sought refuge in Saint-Laurent.

Mayor Léon Bertrand was there to welcome them. “They were mainly women and children. We had the feeling that we were at war too. There was a Surinamese army patrol boat firing at anyone trying to cross the river. I saw Albina [the Surinamese town on the other side of the Maroni] burned to the ground with my own eyes.”

The vast majority of Surinamese refugees from that period have never made the sad crossing back to their country of origin. The civil war and the Bourterse military government brought about a rapid deterioration in the economic and social climate in Suriname and opened up a development gap with neighbouring French Guiana that has continued to widen.

“We never refuse to accept anyone”

The Surinamese have continued to come knocking on the door of the French overseas department. Of the 217,000 population of French Guiana, 70,000 are originally from Suriname. And many Surinamese have chosen to move to Metropolitan France.

Surinamese immigration has had an obvious impact on the hospital in the centre of Saint-Laurent where Dr Gabriel Carles has worked for thirty years. “We never refuse to accept anyone, not only is not humane but it’s also illegal. >From time to time, we turn a blind eye to cases where certain patients are on the point of giving birth, which we register them as emergencies. And yes, their children are given birth certificates that enable them to apply for French nationality when they are aged between 13 and 18.”

According to Carles, the Surinamese who cross the Maroni to gain access to free good quality medical care account for half of the annual budget in the hospital, where 50% of newborns are of Surinamese origin.

In Korou, which is 100 kilometres from Saint Laurent, we met with 44-year-old artist Franky Amete, who has lived in French Guiana for two decades. “Many Surinamese have come here for the euro and the better quality of life,” he told us. “I also came here to work. At the time, life was very hard in Suriname. I wasn’t able to earn a living as an artist in my own country, but I can do that here.”

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

Sweden: Asylum Agreement to Reunite Thousands

Thousands of fragmented Somali families may be reunited in Sweden as early as July 2012 following the first step forward in the development of a common migration policy between the government and the Green Party (MP). Reunification has been hampered since spring 2010 when Sweden tightened its family immigration law, taking stringent measures toward those that did not have recognized identity documents. Thousands of Somalis have thus been stranded in crowded refugee camps in east Africa during the current famine. Changes in the law mean that about 4,000 Somalis, many children, will be permitted into Sweden though it is not certain if all will receive a residence permit.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Three Boats With 287 Migrants Landed on Lampedusa the Night

(AGI) Lampedusa — A total of 3 boats carrying 287 immigrants, including many women and children, reached Lampedusa during the night.

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

Culture Wars

UK: ‘We Want to be Less Male and Pale’: Clegg Pledges to Make Lib Dems More Diverse… As Three Quarters of Voters Say They’re Not Up to the Job”

Nick Clegg pledged to make the Liberal Democrats less ‘male and pale’ as he launched a new diversity scheme at the party’s annual conference.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Leadership Programme showed that the issue was an ‘absolute priority’ for the party….

Under the party’s new diversity initiative, around 50 potential parliamentary candidates from under-represented backgrounds will be given mentoring and guaranteed places on shortlists for priority seats.

Half the spots will be reserved for women, 20% for black and ethnic minorities, and 10% for those with disabilities.

The remaining 20% will go to individuals from less well-off backgrounds, and openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: “How the Tories Became the Gay-Friendly Party: As the Government Backs Gay Marriage, A Unique — and Surprising — Insight Into David Cameron’s Thinking”

It was announced yesterday that our Conservative-led Government is going to put same-sex partnerships and traditional civil marriage on to the same footing. After centuries of inequality, gay people and straight people will at last be equal before the law, and the doctrine of ‘live and let live’ will have won the day.

This has happened because David Cameron, a Tory Prime Minister, has driven the process forward.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]