Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111210

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Against 2-Speed Europe, Venizelos
»Greece: Privatisation of Ex Athens Airport Under Way
»Spain: Luxury Sector Sees Sales Increase by 25% During Crisis
»Stubb: EU Taking Step Towards Economic Union
»Sweden ‘Won’t Block’ Pact to Save Euro
»American Muslims Open Free Medical Clinic for Women in Charleston, South Carolina
»Islam is World’s Future: US Scholar
»Islamic Society of Augusta Honors Families Who Made Pilgrimage to Mecca
»The State Dept., Islam and Freedom of Religion
Europe and the EU
»Brussels: New EU Fisheries Fund Proposed for 2014-2020
»Czech Republic: With or Without Europe?
»Europe Should Investigate Telecoms Cartels, Says Dutch MEP
»Evangelical Churches Boom in Switzerland
»French Far-Right Group Has Message in Menu
»Germany: Pool Named After Spaghetti Western Hero Bud Spencer
»Italians Develop ‘Smart’ Brain Pacemaker for Parkinson’s
»Italy: ‘Teenaged Murderer’ Released After 10 Years
»Italy: Judge, Politician Arrested in ‘Ndrangheta Probe
»Netherlands: Catholic Priest Vows to Fight Sacking for Living With His Girlfriend
»Qatar Creates 50 Mn Euro Fund for French Suburb Start-Ups
»UK: East London Mosque Hosts Speaker Who Has ‘Called for Jewish Women to be Enslaved and Pillaged’
»UK: East Lancashire Girl Wins Global Accolade at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation Awards
»UK: MCB ReDoc Seminar: Beyond Competitive Victimhood: The Politics of Holocaust Memory in a Multi-Ethnic Society
»UK: Russell Jones & Walker Sets Up Sharia Law Team
»Serbia: Tadic: Fiat Among Most Modern Factories in Europe
Mediterranean Union
»EU: Workshop in Lyon for Young ‘Indignados’
North Africa
»Brothers of Egypt. But the Copts Are More and More Isolated
»Egypt: El Baradei to Islamists, Slogans Alone Not Enough
»Morocco: Productive Capacity Up 20% in 2 Years
»Unholy Alliance: Egypt’s Military & the Muslim Brotherhood
Israel and the Palestinians
»Condemnation of Israeli Draft Law to Ban Call to Prayer in All Mosques in the Green Line
»Gingrich: Palestinians an ‘Invented’ People
»Israelis to Debate Ban on Muslim Call to Prayer
»Italy-Israel: Drive for Space Cooperation
»MEP Sorry for ‘Put Pressure on Diaspora’ Blog
»Obama’s Man Comes Up With the Default BBC Line
Middle East
»Lebanon: Bombers Target UNIFIL Troops
»No Dinner With Israeli Minister, Turkish President Gul
»Terrorism Has No Religious Context
South Asia
»India: Karnataka: Ritual That Forces Dalits to Roll in Brahmin Leftovers Ends
Far East
»China: Increase in Women Smuggled Into China, Sex Slaves or Sold as Wives
»Bulgarian Passport Opens Doors to West

Financial Crisis

Greece: Against 2-Speed Europe, Venizelos

Finance Minister in Parliamentary debate on 2012 budget

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 7 — “Greece is against a two-speed Europe.” This statement was made last night during a debate in Parliament on the 2012 budget by Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. “Europe,” the Minister continued, faces an important dilemma. If the eurozone countries are divided into countries with a surplus and countries with a deficit, Europe will lose its prospect and its stability and, from a historic viewpoint, will no longer promise what it must promise on its path towards European integration.” “A fundamental point has emerged from today’s debate,” Venizelos added: “our concern about the future of Europe, Europe cannot carry over its economic and financial unification or the its political and institutional integration.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Privatisation of Ex Athens Airport Under Way

For transformation into one of Europe’s biggest parks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 8 — The development of Athens’ former international airport “Ellinikon”, which stretches out over an area of 6.2 million square metres, has begun today. The Greek Deparment for the Development of State Property, which was created as part of the economic plan to restructure the Greek economy and promote the country’s privatisation programme, announced the opening of a tender for the purchase of the majority share package in the Elliniko AE group.

A statement from the Office for Development says that the aim is to redevelop the airport and part of its land — which features a 3.5 kilometre stretch of beach — and turn it into one of Europe’s largest parks. AT the beginning of the process, the statement says, participation requests will need to be presented by 17:00 (Athens time) on March 30 2012. Investors chosen for the subsequent stage will need to present binding offers as well as a business plan and will need to prove their ability to finance the work.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Luxury Sector Sees Sales Increase by 25% During Crisis

Increase generated by high-end tourism sector

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 5 — The luxury sector in Spain will close out the year 2011 with sales amounting to 4.5 billion euros, a 25% increase compared to 2010 and in sharp contrast to the widespread decrease in spending on average due to the economic crisis, according to figures released today by Luxury Spain, a Spanish luxury sector association. The increase has mainly been attributed to the high-end tourism sector in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Marbella, on the Costa del Sol. To allow growth in the sector to continue, the sector is calling for the new government led by the People’s Party help with promotion outside of Spain for companies offering luxury services and goods, since the biggest consumers are tourists, explained Cristina Martin, the executive president of Luxury Spain, while speaking to the media. Many high-end consumers consider these types of purchases to be investments, and this, said Martin, is one of the reasons that the sector has predicted further growth in 2012, despite the economic recession. The Spanish luxury products with the highest demand on the market come from the culinary, beauty and hotel industries, while the fashion and accessory sector is growing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stubb: EU Taking Step Towards Economic Union

Finland’s Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb believes that the EU has taken a step towards creating an economic union. In an interview with YLE TV1 on Saturday, Stubb described Friday’s deal on a new fiscal compact as “historic”.

“We took an historic step towards a European economic union, a stability union that will reinforce discipline. Of course, the international agreement which will be created in perhaps three months from now is still a long way off, but at least it is the right direction,” Stubb said.

According to Finland’s Minister for European Affairs, the currency union needs the support of an economic union. He also believes that fiscal discipline will increase within the EU.

Stubb does, however, see certain illogicality on Finland’s part.

“In Finland we want more discipline, but when talk comes to what that discipline means, then there is discomfort about what this will mean, for example, for national decision-making,” Stubb pointed out.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Sweden ‘Won’t Block’ Pact to Save Euro

Sweden was one of four European Union member states to scupper hopes of a 27-country agreement to help strengthen the euro, but nevertheless plans to participate in the creation of a European bailout fund.

Speaking with the TT news agency on Friday morning, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also expressed doubts about the likelihood of Sweden agreeing to abide by the pact, which was forged by the 17 eurozone countries, and which six other EU member states had at that time elected to support.

“It’s not that Sweden, which isn’t a member of the euro, wants to tie itself to rules which are completely tailored for the eurozone,” he said.

“The whole text is written to make eurozone members submit to certain restrictions and do certain things. A non-eurozone country can’t reasonably sign up to that.”

Following an intense night of negotiations, Sweden, the UK, Hungary, and the Czech Republic refused signal their support for a deal requiring tighter fiscal discipline among the eurozone countries through changes to the current EU treaty.

Hopes for a deal stumbled in part over the UK’s desire to include protections from future financial regulations that would have accompanied the treaty changes proposed by Germany and France.

While Britain and Hungary at first refused to sign on to the deal, Sweden and the Czech Republic had requested time to consult with their respective parliaments before agreeing to the new pact.

As a result, the 23 remaining EU members states agreed to forge an agreement for rules that would penalize fiscal profligacy and to increase resources available to bailout troubled EU economies through additional pledges to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the establishment of a new European bailout fund.

Later on Friday morning, however, Reinfeldt received clearance from the Riksdag’s EU committee to approve the protocol changes agreed to by the eurozone countries, meaning Sweden has no plans to stand in the way of the deal.

Specifically, the committee approved Sweden’s participation in a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that will help support a European bailout fund.

The committee also agreed to having Sweden support changes to the EU treaty that allow for countries that mismanage their economies to be punished, but stopped short of having Sweden abide by the new rules.

The question of the size of Sweden’s contribution remains up for negotiation, according to the, a Swedish news website focusing on EU politics.

“We’re not saying no. We think it’s good that the eurozone countries have come up with something in all this chaos and we’re not going to close the door on the eurozone countries as they try to put their economies in order,” EU committee vice chair Marie Granlund of the Social Democrats, told TT.

Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) MP Carl B.Hamilton, chair of the EU committee, was highly critical of the UK, which has refused to support the pact.

“They’re splitting Europe. Great Britain has acted in an nonconstructive way. ‘Unhelpful’ as they say in English,” Hamilton told

While there is no indication that Sweden plans to join the 23 other countries which have so far agreed to abide by the new budget rules, the possibility remains open that Sweden could join at a later date.

“We’ll have to see what is actually meant by joining voluntary. We can’t have any overoptimistic hopes that we can affect politics for the whole of Europe. But if we join, we can protect ourselves against having other countries make decisions that could injure us,” said Hamilton.

While Hamilton indicated his Liberal Party was open to Sweden eventually joining the pact, Granlund said the Social Democrats remain opposed.

“It would conflict with what the Swedish people have said in the referendum. It would mean an all to large involvement in the Swedish economy,” she told

Exact details of the deal remain to be worked out in the coming months and will be enshrined in an international agreement parallel to the EU’s current treaty.

However, the goal remains to eventually have the changes included in the EU treaty.

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


American Muslims Open Free Medical Clinic for Women in Charleston, South Carolina

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — Indigent women will have a new option for health care thanks to the efforts of a local Veterans Affairs doctor and funding from a national Islamic relief group. The Shifa Clinic will offer free care on Saturdays starting 7 January 2012. “The idea was just to serve and help,” said Dr. Reshma Khan, 41, a gynecologist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. Routine gynecological exams including pap smears, breast exams and mammograms will be available at Shifa Clinic. Contraception, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy testing will be offered but not obstetrics services. The care is for uninsured women between the ages of 17 and 65, Khan said. On Thursday, Imam Mohamed Melhem of Central Mosque of Charleston prayed in the waiting room of the new charity clinic, which he said is the first of its kind in the state. “In Islam, we believe that we have to do service and help everyone,” Melhem said.

Khan’s vision of establishing the free health care center is coming to life through her persistence and the generosity of the Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA (ICNAR), which is paying the rent on the three-room clinic located in an office building on Lowcountry Boulevard. “They are helping me set this up,” she said. She compared the process of getting the clinic running to learning how to ride a bike. After the initial cash infusion from ICNAR, she hopes the effort will become self-sustaining through local donations and grants. “I am just so happy. It is a dream come true for me,” she said. She talked of expanding the types of care if other physicians volunteer. The clinic needs nurses, she said. “This is in the true Islamic spirit. It will make its mark,” said Dr. Ghazala Javed of North Charleston.

Also on hand was the Rev. Ed Kosak of Unity Church of Charleston. “There are a lot of people who are needing it badly,” Kosak said of the clinic. Randy Becket of Harvest Free Medical Clinic concurred. “You are going to be a blessing to the medical community and you will not be short of patients,” he said. Because the clinic space will be used one day a week, Khan is considering other purposes for it, such as tutoring students in biology. She graduated from Ghandi Medical College in Bhopal, India, and trained in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, Ohio. The nameplate on the clinic door says ICNA Relief USA-Shifa Clinic. Shifa means “cure,” she said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Islam is World’s Future: US Scholar

By Hasan Kamoonpuri — MUSCAT — Shaikh Khalid Yasin, a celebrated Islamic orator, delivered three very successful lectures on ‘The True Religion of God’, ‘Islam and Modern Challenges’ and ‘Purpose of Life’ at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Hall and Qurum City Amphitheatre from December 7 to 9. Yasin, a former Christian, in Oman on an invitation from the Diwan of Royal Court. After his erudite lectures explaining the significance of Islam in one’s life and outlook, a number of non-Muslims publicly embraced Islam. In one of his lectures, Yasin said it is the duty of every human being to try to understand who their creator is and what are his/her obligations towards the Creator. He said some powers have launched an info war with a view to tarnishing the image of Islam. But aware and awakened people know that no one should ever bow one’s head in front of Taghut (false gods) as explained in the Holy Quran.

Islam provides the best means to build connection between man and God. Those who lack this connection associate themselves with Taghut. The American Islamic scholar and preacher, who reverted to Islam in 1965, said no divine scripture except the Holy Quran was written down completely in the life of its messenger. The Holy Quran was written down in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and there are no two versions of Quran in the world. In response to a question, Yasin said all Muslims irrespective of their School of Thoughts believe in one and the same Quran, Prophet, Qibla (Kaba as direction for prayers) and the basic Islamic principles such as Tauheed (Oneness of God).

Yasin, Executive Director of Islamic Teaching Institute, a premier organisation dedicated to the work of Dawah, has devoted his life to dispelling misinformation and doubts about Islam. He studied the Arabic in Madina, Saudi Arabia and Cairo, and has had many mentors and teachers who tutored him in Islamic Fiqh, Fiqh us-Seerah, Islamic History and the memorisation and recitation of the Holy Quran. He has delivered many lectures in about 61 countries which resulted in 36,000 people embracing Islam in his presence. Yasin has founded six organisations for the work of Dawah and Islamic studies. Islam is the future of humanity, says Yasin, adding that Islam is a “Deen” (a complete way of life) and it provides solutions to all issues of mankind, whether it is banking and finance, marriage, peace, brotherhood, or other complex subjects. The American Islamic scholar will also hold Dawah (Preaching) training courses in the Grand Mosque on December 11 and 12 from 10 to 12 noon and 4 to 8 pm.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Islamic Society of Augusta Honors Families Who Made Pilgrimage to Mecca

A month or two ago, Waranga Wassimi didn’t often wear the head scarf commonly worn by fellow female Muslims. That has changed since she returned from the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by all Muslims who are able at some point in their lifetime. Wassimi and her husband, Nasrat, were one of seven local families to take the journey this year. A reception was held in their honor Friday night at the Islamic Society of Augusta. It’s a blessing to have so many Hajjis, Imam Majed Sabke said. “They are an example to the community,” he said. Most traveled to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia from Nov. 28 to Dec. 10. “Ours were express (trips),” Wassimi said. “Some people go for months.” Either way, it makes for a life-changing journey, she said. “It was amazing there. It was such a beautiful place,” Wassimi said. “We prayed most of the time.” Wassimi also shopped for items to bring home, including a Quran and prayer rug. “It changed me,” she said. “Before I wouldn’t wear my head scarf often. Before I was rushing though my prayers. Now, I pray with all my heart. I wear my head scarf. People can see I’m Muslim, and it makes me proud.” The generosity and goodwill Faheem Nusrat witnessed was “inspiring,” he said. The Grovetown resident and his wife spent three days in Medina and nine days in Mecca. They visited the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam, at midnight, thinking they would avoid the crowds. But there were millions of pilgrims there praying, regardless of the time of day, Nusrat said. Name a country, and pilgrims from that place could be found in Mecca.

“The link between them was God,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The State Dept., Islam and Freedom of Religion

In a few days, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will meet in Washington with the express intention of building “muscles of respect and empathy and tolerance.” The invitation to meet in Washington was extended in July, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the OIC during its meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. However, despite the trappings of talk about tolerance, implementation of the OIC’s agenda would restrict the free speech around the globe. According to its website the OIC perceives itself to be the voice of the Muslim world:

“The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world and ensuring to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.”

The OIC is also quick to link its own structure to the dreams of those who would see the whole of Islam — the Ummah — gathered as a political force, as it once was under the caliphate: “The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world.”

When Clinton was speaking to the OIC “High-Level Meeting on Combating Religious Intolerance” last July, she reminisced about the days when her husband was president, and catered to the universalistic notion of the equivalence of all religions:

“In our conversation 15 years ago, I remember the secretary general talking about the imperative for us to move beyond these differences and how much the three great monotheistic religions have in common, especially our respective commandments to love our neighbors and to seek peace and understanding. Well, today, this wisdom that is ageless is as important as ever.”

And, lest anyone imagine that the liberties enjoyed in the West were more advanced than those enjoyed in the Islamic world, Clinton pandered to her audience, “And in established democracies, we are still working to protect fully our religious diversity, prevent discrimination, and protect freedom of expression.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brussels: New EU Fisheries Fund Proposed for 2014-2020

Aim are new jobs and transition towards sustainable economy

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 02 — New jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts: this is the aim of the projects financed by the new fund for the EU’s maritime and fisheries policies for the period 2014-2020 (EMFF), proposed by the European Commission today. According to Brussels, the Fund will help deliver the ambitious objectives of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and will help fishermen in the transition towards sustainable fishing, as well as coastal communities in the diversification of their economies.

The proposed envelope amounts to 6.5 billion euros for the period 2014 to 2020. “This new fund — said Maria Damanaki, Commissioner in charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries — will increase economic growth and create jobs in the sector. No more money will be spent to build big vessels. Small scale fisheries and aquaculture will benefit of this budgetary greening of the Common Fisheries Policy”. Red tape will be cut so that beneficiaries have easy access to financing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Czech Republic: With or Without Europe?

“The EU is dead, long live the new EU. But where are the Czechs?” wonders Hospodárké noviny in a comment piece on the European summit, which opened on 8 December. The message is clear: Germany has imposed what it wanted, Great Britain is ready to leave the union, and the Czech Republic and Sweden have reserved the right to consult their national parliaments before adhering to the 23-country treaty which will institutionalise budgetary discipline, points out the Prague daily.

In the light of current debate on the issue of European integration in the Czech Republic, columnist Martin Ehl points to the risk that a majority in the country may favour the eurosceptic position of President Václav Klaus. However, the interests of the country, which is economically reliant on Germany, will be best served by “being present, not rocking the boat, and remaining close to the source of information,” remarks Ehl.

“Sooner or later, the economic reality will convince Czech politicians to rethink their ‘euro-prudent’ attitude. There will no longer be any possibility of continuing as a stowaway, who takes advantage of whatever he or she wants: the Czech Republic will either have to face political and economic isolation like Hungary (…) or climb on board the train of Europe’s future prosperity.”

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

Europe Should Investigate Telecoms Cartels, Says Dutch MEP

The European Commission should investigate possible Europe-wide cartels in the telecoms sector, PvdA MEP Judith Merkies said on Friday.

Merkies has written to the Commission asking if it has information about other telecoms cartels.

Earlier this week, the Dutch competition authority NMa raided the offices of KPN, T-Mobile and Vodafone in connection with price fixing for mobile internet.

‘These companies all operate in other European countries so it would be beneficial if the European Commission would instigate a European investigation,’ Merkies said.

Her call is supported by German MEPs, news agency ANP said.

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

Evangelical Churches Boom in Switzerland

In Switzerland, evangelical churches attract twice as many worshippers every Sunday as traditional Protestant churches.

Olivier Favre, pastor in a charismatic church and sociologist of religion at Lausanne University, tells the evangelicals are successful because they understand people’s needs.

Favre, who has documented the rise of the evangelical churches, sees no contradiction between his role as a detached observer and a committed man of faith.

Olivier Favre: The key strength of the Pentecostal movement is the idea that God intervenes in people’s everyday lives. It is true that people living in insecurity may be more attracted by this notion than those who are comfortably off. In our very individualised society, where many are alone, the idea of a personal relationship with God, belief that he answers prayers, that he can heal the sick and effect miracles meets a spiritual need. In addition, the very modern style of worship attracts young people.

This development also owes a lot to migration and the growth of so-called “ethnic” churches, mainly in cities. These churches operate as an entry point for African and South American migrants. They are places that offer essential support as well as the language and music of their home countries.

O.F.: Yes, in a sense. Ours is an individualised society, based on emotion and placing great importance on the quest for identity. Evangelical language is evolving and adapting to actual needs. It places less emphasis on sin and repentance and more on personal growth and development. And it does this on the basis of certain Biblical texts, believing that there is as much a spiritual as a psychological explanation.

O.F.: You can’t compare the religions market with the economic market. Religion would lose its meaning if it were just a mirror of society. The evangelicals have a critical attitude towards society yet incorporate the best in society. For instance, the evangelicals place strong emphasis on personal and spiritual gifts. The individual can expresses himself through his talents and abilities and speak out in meetings. In this sense you can say they have adapted to modern times.

For a religious movement to succeed, it has to be both strict and not fundamentalist. If it adapts too much to society it will grow cold, lose its fervour and have difficulty surviving without state support. On the other hand, if the movement is too fundamentalist it will exclude the rest of society and fail to attract. That goes for all religions.

O.F.: The evangelicals are often accused of simplifying their message or reality. This is true in part as far as understanding of the gospel is concerned. The approach is simple, the message clear and direct: to be saved you have to believe in Jesus Christ. Yet, in the socio-cultural make-up of the evangelicals you also find intellectuals and highly qualified people, people who reflect and who see life as being more complex.

O.F.: The comparison with the United States is a bit tricky. Most European evangelicals opposed the Bush administration policies and the war in Iraq. Surveys in Switzerland have shown that evangelicals vote like the average Swiss, that is they lean to the right. One vote in two goes to one of two evangelical parties, the rightwing Federal Democratic Union and the moderate Swiss Evangelical People’s Party. From an individual moral standpoint, the evangelicals are conservative, but very progressive on social issues such as ecology, with a simple respect for creation.

Samuel Jaberg,

(Translated from French by Morven McLean)

Switzerland’s evangelical churches

According to a recent study conducted as part of the National Research Programme, “Religions, the State and Society” (PNR 58), 690,000 people — one in 11 people — attend religious ceremonies each week. 38 per cent attend Catholic churches, 29 per cent attend evangelical churches, 14 per cent attend Protestant churches and 11 per cent attend Muslim services.

Researchers highlighted the fact that evangelical religious services attracted twice as many people each weekend than Protestant churches. Just two per cent of Swiss people are members of an evangelical church.

Leaders of evangelical organisations indicated that their services attract more worshippers than members, with a participation rate of 111 per cent. The participation rate for Catholics is four per cent, while it is three per cent for Protestants.

There are pronounced differences between evangelical churches. The “charismatic” organisations are experiencing the strongest growth, while more conservative organisations are in decline and traditional evangelical churches are stable.

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

French Far-Right Group Has Message in Menu

TOURVES, France (AP) — They feasted in the verdant back country of picture-postcard Provence, the delight of tourists and the pride of France. But it was no ordinary country idyll. The extreme right Bloc Identitaire, or Identity Bloc, was lashing out at Islam while dining on pork roast and local wine — off limits to practicing Muslims. The group, an emerging force on France’s far-right scene, likens Muslim immigrants to invaders threatening the identity of the French heartland and menacing European civilization. The movement — with a wild pig as its logo — is gaining traction through its blend of Islam-bashing and romanticizing of French rural culture. Increasingly, it is being used as an “idea box” for the National Front, a well-established far-right party and force in European politics that could play a crucial role in French presidential elections five months away.

The Bloc’s campaign against mosque building and its wine-and-pork strategies are also finding a more mainstream audience in the country with western Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at 5 million, the majority with origins in France’s former colonies in North Africa. A group of lawmakers from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party has formed a hard-right wing, the Popular Right, that berates immigration and has espoused anti-Muslim themes in a low-key echo of Bloc Identitaire. “The combat is urgent. We don’t have the choice,” said Bloc Identitaire member Jean-Christophe Oberlaender, whose arms are tattooed with what he said are ancient religious sayings. He was among some 50 people attending a daylong Bloc meeting outside this small Provencal town whose origins date from Roman times. “These products will soon be very rare in France,” he said of the pork and wine being served at lunch.

Bloc Identitaire, also opposed to multiculturalism and globalization, has the largest footprint of myriad groups on the extreme-right fringes of France, and appears to be harnessing influence beyond its numbers. Bloc officials put membership at some 4,000 — a figure experts say is exaggerated. Regional alliances with other “identity” groups in France and their heavy use of the Internet to spread their word to the mainstream public make a real count difficult. The movement opposes violence in its bid to erase all traces of Muslim culture in France. But violence has been known to follow its members — something they blame on neo-Nazi hangers-on. Earlier this year, a rally in Lyon called the “march of pigs” turned into a clash between Bloc Identitaire supporters and extreme leftists — kept apart by hundreds of police called in ahead of time. Several local businesses were damaged, including a kebab restaurant.

Bloc Identitaire militants ferret out plans by Muslim communities to build mosques and campaign to stop them. An “identity guerrilla” pamphlet spells out how to raise awareness of Muslim initiatives, from mosques to halal food restaurants, and infiltrate culture or sports clubs popular with Muslims. A mosque project in the village of Tourrette in southern France was their latest target and, they claim, success. After discovering plans by a Muslim association to convert a villa into a mosque, Bloc Identitaire militants flooded the area with protest fliers, met with the mayor and organized a demonstration. The mosque project was scrapped in October, days before the rally was to be held. Nourreddine Benzirar, a dentist with Moroccan origins who led plans for the mosque, claimed the project collapsed over funding, not because of Bloc Identitaire, and vowed to press forward with a mosque once money is available. “Pressure doesn’t scare us,” he said by telephone.

France has passed laws in recent years banning Islamic headscarves in schools and banning Islamic face veils anywhere in public, laws embraced by the mainstream left and right as upholding secular French traditions but that many see as stigmatizing Muslims. The recent gathering of Bloc Identitaire revealed an ideological and religious mix, from pagans who worship the gods of the ancient Norse peoples, to devout Catholics and others simply searching for a voice that reflects their worries about France’s future. “Masters at home” is their motto, but “revolution” was the watchword at the gathering near the city of Brignoles, where a National Front member is mayor.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Germany: Pool Named After Spaghetti Western Hero Bud Spencer

The city of Schwäbisch Gmünd in Baden-Württemberg has officially named a swimming pool after Spaghetti Western film actor Bud Spencer after rejecting an elaborate internet campaign to name a nearby tunnel after him.

On a visit to Schwäbisch Gmünd to officially christen the swimming pool that he had once swum in as a child on Friday, the 82-year-old Italian action star said simply: “I am deeply touched.”

“Words fail me,” Spencer said to the small crowd present. “I love Schwäbisch Gmünd.”

Hundreds of of reporters and curious onlookers turned out for Spencer’s visit to Schwäbisch Gmünd, where he was feted by city leaders throughout the day. He was scheduled to appear at a later book signing and panel discussion.

Best known for his films with sidekick Terence Hill, Spencer acted from 1959 to the early 1990s in more than two dozen action movies that were quite popular in Germany. He also had a short sporting career in his early days, even competing as a swimmer in the 1952 Olympic Games. It was during this time that he swam in the Schwäbisch Gmünd pool that now bears his name.

But he once again shot into the public consciousness last summer when internet pranksters started a campaign to name a new local tunnel after him when city leaders asked for the public to vote for names online.

More than 20,000 people — most of them from outside the city — voted for Bud Spencer’s name to grace the tunnel. But at a sometimes tumultuous city council meeting in July, city leaders decided to name the pool after him.

They later declared that the tunnel would be called the Gmünder Unicorn Tunnel, because the mythical animal is part of the city’s emblem.

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

Italians Develop ‘Smart’ Brain Pacemaker for Parkinson’s

Device monitors cerebral activity before delivering stimulation

(ANSA) — Milan, December 2 — Italian scientists have developed a new ‘smart’ brain pacemaker to help Parkinson’s disease sufferers.

Brain pacemakers are surgically implanted devices that deliver electrical stimulation to areas of the brain that control movement.

This treatment, called deep brain stimulation (DBS), helps to block the abnormal nerve signals that cause symptoms linked to Parkinson’s, such as trembling, stiffness and slowed movement.

The device developed by Milan University researchers is a breakthrough as it monitors the patient’s neurone activity to see exactly where the electrical impulses are needed before delivering them.

This should lead to a significant increase in sufferers’ ability to carry out everyday tasks, experts say.

Patients who have traditional brain pacemakers will be able to have the new technology, which has been patented in the United States and Europe, incorporated to be used with their existing DBS systems.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Teenaged Murderer’ Released After 10 Years

Young woman and ex-boyfriend stabbed mother and brother 96 times

(ANSA) — Brescia, December 6 — A young woman convicted for one of the last decade’s most sensational murder cases in Italy was released Tuesday after 10 years for stabbing her mother and 12-year-old brother to death when she was a teenager. The case of Erika De Nardo, who has since turned 27, and her then boyfriend Mauro Favaro, riveted the Italian public when they were arrested for murdering Suzy Cassini and Gianluca De Nardo in 2001.

Initial sympathy for Erika De Nardo, who claimed to be the sole survivor of a bloody massacre by house burglars, turned to horror as police discovered that she and Favaro had inflicted a total of nearly 100 stab wounds on the victims.

De Nardo was sentenced to 16 years for the murders and Favaro to 14. Both defendants, who entered pleas of temporary mental infirmity, served reduced time.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Judge, Politician Arrested in ‘Ndrangheta Probe

Calabrian councillor Morelli ‘link to national politics’

(ANSA) — Milan, November 30 — A Reggio Calabria magistrate and a local politician were arrested Wednesday in a Milan-based probe into the national expansion of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

Vincenzo Giuseppe Giglio, head of the crime prevention department of the Reggio Calabria court, was arrested on suspicion of tipping off ‘Ndrangheta members about police activity.

Calabrian Regional Councillor Francesco Morelli, a member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, was arrested along with a lawyer in the Calabrian town of Palmi; a tax police officer, Luigi Mongelli; and a doctor, Vincenzo Giglio.

Police said Morelli, head of the regional budget committee, was “the link between (‘Ndrangheta) clans and national political circles”. The offices of two other lawyers were searched, as was the office of a judge in Palmi.

Ten people were arrested in all, including three suspected ‘Ndrangheta affiliates.

In July 2010 a massive police operation in Lombardy and Calabria caught ‘Ndrangheta’s No.1, the equivalent of Cosa Nostra’s ‘boss of bosses’, Domenico Oppedisano, 80, as well as its chief in Lombardy, Pino Neri.

A total of 304 ‘Ndrangheta operatives were arrested.

The operation, which involved 3,000 police officers, revealed that the Calabrians, already known to be more closely knit and impenetrable than Cosa Nostra, had a hierarchy similar to that of the Sicilian Mafia.

In March this year, 41 suspected ‘Ndrangheta members were arrested in their native Calabria, the northern Italian cities of Turin and Genoa, and Germany, Canada and Australia.

Among those detained was the former mayor of Stirling, outside Perth, Tony Vallelonga, who led that western Australian town from 1996 to 2005.

Six suspected mafiosi were taken into custody in Germany and five in Canada and Australia.

Police said the Calabrian mafia had replicated their operational units or ‘drine’ in northern Italy and abroad.

Reggio Calabria Chief Prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone said the operation had provided “confirmation of the expansion of ‘Ndrangheta, not only into international drugs trafficking but also as a mafia organisation, outside Italy”.

Abroad, there is a perfect reproduction of the Calabrian organisation…but without any doubt the fulcrum remains Calabria and the province of Reggio Calabria in particular”.

‘Ndrangheta is now the most powerful mafia in Italy thanks to its hold on the European cocaine trade.

It has carried out many vendetta killings in recent years including the massacre of six men in Duisburg, Germany in August 2007, a crime that gained splash headlines for a syndicate that had been hitherto little known to the international public.

The Italian government has made the fight against ‘Ndrangheta a priority and has set up its national mafia assets seizure agency in Reggio Calabria.

‘Ndrangheta, whose name means ‘virtue’ or ‘heroism’ in a local form of ancient Greek, once dealt mainly in kidnappings and extortion and fed off the pickings of public tenders, living in the shadow of its Sicilian cousin.

But it has since expanded to northern Italy, northern Europe and other countries, where it invests its huge drugs profits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Catholic Priest Vows to Fight Sacking for Living With His Girlfriend

An 81-year-old Catholic priest, expelled from the priesthood because he lives with his 85-year-old girlfriend, says he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, Trouw reports on Tuesday.

Jan Peijnenburg, who has lived with his girlfriend for 46 years, was sent a letter at the weekend telling him he has been suspended because he refuses to leave his partner.

According to Trouw, the suspension will have little effect because Peijnenburg is retired and only rarely fulfills church duties.


Peijnenburg and his friends are now preparing legal action to find out ‘if the rights of the church conflict with the rights of the citizen,’ the NRC quotes him as saying.

Rik Torfts, a professor in religious rights, told Trouw Peijnenburg has little chance of success because freedom of religion laws have priority over the right to marriage.

A survey among Dutch priests last year showed four in 10 want to reopen the discussion on celibacy.


Although other priests are known to live with partners, Peijnenburg was very open about his position and published pamphlets calling for an end to celibacy rules.

‘We cannot allow him to do that which is forbidden to others,’ spokesman Michiel Savelsbergh told news agency AFP last month.

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

Qatar Creates 50 Mn Euro Fund for French Suburb Start-Ups

(PARIS) — Qatar has set up a 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund for entrepreneurs from France’s often-deprived suburbs to set up businesses, the Gulf nation’s ambassador to Paris said Friday.

“Qatar is not just words. We must act. The emir (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani) decided to create a 50-million-euro fund to work with you,” said ambassador Mohamed Jahan al-Kuwari.

“The fund can be increased,” Kuwari told a group of 10 French elected local officials, all of North African origin.

The French officials, five men and five women, travelled to Qatar last month to improve economic ties between the wealthy Arab state and France’s often-disadvantaged suburbs, where they were received by the emir.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: East London Mosque Hosts Speaker Who Has ‘Called for Jewish Women to be Enslaved and Pillaged’

I haven’t written about that self-proclaimed haven of moderation and tolerance, the East London Mosque, for a few weeks. After having their tolerance of hatred and extremism repeatedly exposed, they’ve been keeping their heads down. But now normal service is back. Last Friday, according to publicity material (above) and its Facebook page, the mosque was due to host that conspicuous moderate, Sheikh Saad al-Beraik, who has reportedly stated:

“Muslim brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh. Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don’t you enslave their women? Why don’t you wage jihad? Why don’t you pillage them?”

This is the second time Beraik has appeared at the mosque this year. He was due to speak at an event there in March, but after a row he appeared without speaking (the organisers said that they simply ran out of time to hear from him, and it wasn’t that he had been banned.) Nice people, those East London Mosque folks!

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: East Lancashire Girl Wins Global Accolade at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation Awards

A 14-YEAR-old girl from East Lancashire has won a global accolade for a short film about her faith. Amna Aslam, a pupil at Hollins Technology College, Accrington, won the Action category at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith Shorts film awards. The teenager was one of three winners on the night — with the two others travelling from the Philippines and Canada to collect their prizes at Bafta in Piccadilly, London. The Accrington school pupil impressed judges when she produced her film ‘Muhammad in Accrington Inspiring Me’.

The Tony Blair Foundation launched a competition for 14 to 18-year-olds to show how their faith inspires them. In the film the Amna challenges the views of Islam by documenting the way Prophet Muhammad motivates students at the Accrington school in their everyday lives. Amna and students at the school saw the film competition as an opportunity to challenge some of the stereotypes about Islam and its associations with terrorism. It was filmed during RE and citizenship lessons and Amna’s whole class were involved in the production Her winning film was premiered at the British Academy of Film and Television Art in front of more than 200 guests.

Amna received her award from Mr Blair and comedienne Dawn French and the students also saw a surprise video link on the night from boxer Amir Khan congratulating them on their success. Amna said: “I am so pleased that people like our film, we had a lot of fun making it. It is a real honour for me to collect this award and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped in the planning and filming. The process has helped me to discover more about my faith. I really valued the opportunity to show how proud I am of my religion.” Tony Blair, patron and founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, said: “It is a great film which challenges some of the preconceived ideas about Muslims and Islam. All of the students from Hollins Technology College should be very proud of their achievement.”

[JP note: Clueless.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: MCB ReDoc Seminar: Beyond Competitive Victimhood: The Politics of Holocaust Memory in a Multi-Ethnic Society

MCB ReDoc Faith, Society and Citizenship Seminar series Presents:

Beyond Competitive Victimhood: The Politics of Holocaust Memory in a Multi-Ethnic Society

Adam Sutcliffe, King’s College London

Friday, 16 December, 6.15-7.30 pm

Room S8.08. King’s College London, Strand

Collective memory is always political. The memory of the Holocaust, despite the fact that is often invoked as the ultimate transcendental event of incomparable horror, is also inescapably related to the ever-shifting politics of international relations and inter-ethnic rivalries. In his presentation, Adam Sutcliffe will offer a brief overview of the political and cultural forces that have shaped the changing significance of the Holocaust for Jews, in Israel, the United States and Britain, in relation to Zionism, collective identity, and changing attitudes toward particular non-Jewish groups. He will then offer some thoughts, drawing both on some recent theoretical work and on some current political observations, on the place of the Holocaust, and of other historical memories, in contemporary perceptions of anti semitism, Jewish identity and Jews, exploring also how this might relate to Islamophobia and attitudes toward Muslims. Adam hopes this will stimulate a wide-ranging discussion on both the problems and possibilities of Jewish / Muslim relations in contemporary Britain.

Dr Adam Sutcliffe is Senior Lecturer in European History at King’s College London. His research focuses on Jewish / non-Jewish relations, intellectual history, and the history of radicalism from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. He is the author of Judaism and Enlightenment (2003), and the co-editor, most recently, of Philosemitism in History (2011).

Directions to venue:

MCB ReDoc 2011-12 Seminar Series: Citizenship, Faith & Society

The ReDoc Seminar series is intended to open a space for discussion of research and work in progress on Muslims in Britain and related topics concerning or affecting the Muslim community. Short presentations will be followed by Q&A and participative discussion.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Russell Jones & Walker Sets Up Sharia Law Team

A Sharia law division has been set up by the family team at Manchester-based Russell Jones & Walker in response to client demand. The division, called RJW Islamic Legal Services, is led by new recruit Aina Khan, who has more than 15 years’ experience in the niche field. She has particular expertise in Islamic family law solutions which are compatible with UK legislation. Aina has worked with Sharia Councils, arbitration tribunals and other Muslim and Asian organisations, and is fluent in Urdu and Hindi. RJW will arrange Islamic divorces in tandem with UK law divorces. The division will specialise in achieving payments of the wife’s ‘Mahr’, or mandatory Islamic financial settlements and the recovery of assets, even if a marriage is not recognised by UK courts. As well as handling divorce proceedings, the team will draw up tailored Islamic marriage contracts, wills, insurance and mortgages, and will arrange mediation and arbitration in accordance with Islamic principles. Aina said: “It’s a pleasure to be part of a team that recognises the importance of offering this specialist service to Muslim and Asian communities.” Amanda McAlister, RJW’s Manchester-based national head of family law, said: “Aina is a renowned expert on Sharia family law and RJW is very excited about this new expansion of our already comprehensive family law offering.” Aina has become a media expert in the field and is in demand to lecture on the subject at universities in the UK and abroad. She is also advising on planned legislation and will speak at an international conference in Germany next March on the implementation of religiously-based rules in western legal systems. Aina qualified in 1991 and was previously the head of family law at Woodroffes Solicitors in London. Before that she ran her own practice.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Tadic: Fiat Among Most Modern Factories in Europe

President visits Kragujevac plant. Sees new model

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 6 — Fiat Serbia, the plant built by the Italian car manufacturer in the central Serbian town of Kragujevac, is destined to be one of the most modern factories in Europe, and is part of the vision of a modern Serbia. This is according to the Serbian President, Boris Tadic, who today visited the plant where a new model is soon to be built.

“This plant will be one of the most modern technological in Europe,” Tadic told journalists after a tour of the site’s new blocks, which are currently being extended and restructured. The Fiat plant, he added “is part of our idea for a modern Serbia that we had a few years ago. It is part of a Serbia that will have a highly modern and technological industry and a workforce able to make it function. You will have a phenomenal factory at Kragujevac,” he said.

Tadic said that he had seen the new “Zero” model, with production of two varieties of the model due to begin shortly. The car will be on display at the Geneva Motor Show in March. The President commented that he had seen the model a few months ago during a visit to Turin. The assembly of the new model will begin in Kragujevac on December 9, where some of the models due to be displayed in Geneva will also be built.

A few weeks ago, the new director general of Fiat Srbija, Antonio Cesare Ferrara, said that the test production of the new model would begin at Kragujevac at the end of the year, while the timeframe for the production of the series would be extended from eight to nine months, due to the need to carry out the necessary safety and reliability tests.

Tadic said that talks are ongoing for serious new investments in the car parts sector, with Belgrade already making contact with other car manufacturers. “Great possibilities are opening up, particularly in the production of car parts,” said the President, adding that leading Fiat officials at Kragujevac had today promised him that 200 new jobs would be created. Just over 1,000 employees currently work at the plant.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU: Workshop in Lyon for Young ‘Indignados’

eadline application is 16 december 2011

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 07 — Youth workers and representatives of youth organisations, as well as young people in general, are invited to take part in a seminar organised by the EU-funded Salto Youth programme on the theme of, “Euro-Mediterranean Youth: from indignation to contribution”, from 7 to 10 February 2012 in the French city of Lyon.

According to the Enpi website ( the seminar, to be organised in conferences and workshops addressed by experts, will seek to analyse the roots of youth protests and assess the political process they sparked, support youth actors in producing recommendations focused on education, participation and employability, as well as increase international institutions’ awareness in developing more targeted and effective cooperation programme in the field of youth. Boarding and lodging will be covered by the Hosting National Agency, which is paying also travel cost of Meda Countries. The deadline for application is 16 December 2011. The EU also funds a regional programme EuroMed Youth IV during the period 2010-2013 with a budget of 5 million euros under the European Neighbourhood Policy. The programme aims at stimulating and encouraging mutual comprehension among youth in the Euro-Mediterranean region, fighting stereotypes and prejudices and enhancing the sense of solidarity among youth by promoting active citizenship. It also seeks to contribute to the development of youth policies in the Mediterranean Partner Countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Brothers of Egypt. But the Copts Are More and More Isolated

The first electoral test has rewarded the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now professing democracy. But the Christians fear the worst, with the army not defending them anymore. Over the past century, they have never felt so deeply in danger. And they are starting to emigrate

by Sandro Magister

ROME, December 9, 2011 — The political elections in Egypt are being conducted in multiple successive rounds, and will last many months. But the first electoral test in Cairo, in Alexandria, and in some other cities has been enough to sound the alarm.

The Muslim Brotherhood, with the Freedom and Justice Party, has obtained 36 percent of the vote. The Egyptian Bloc, which combines the formations most sensitive to the demands for freedom in Tahrir Square, received 15 percent. But the real surprise was the 25 percent of votes that went to the Party of Light, Hizb an Nour, founded just ten months ago by the Salafis, the most radical Islamists.

In the corridors of power in the West, there were immediate fears of a coalition between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, who together would hold two thirds of the seats in the future Egyptian parliament.

But such a result is anything but probable. For the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis are in no way a possible ally, but the most dangerous and hostile adversary.

Fr. Rafic Greiche, a spokesman for the miniscule Egyptian Catholic Church, foresees instead that the Freedom and Justice Party will ally itself with the bloc of democratic movements. A prediction that for him is also a hope: “to block illiberal and dangerous laws for the Christian minority.”

The political platform of the Muslim Brotherhood is 45 pages long, and is absolutely unacceptable for the Salafi extremists. This is how Daniele Raineri summarizes it in a report from Cairo for “il Foglio”: “Full and unambiguous adherence to the democratic principles of political representation and the periodic renewal of power with elections, full dignity of all Egyptians before the law, no discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, or race, and therefore not against women or the Christian minority. Two priorities: security and the economy.”

In a Brotherhood that over its 83 years of life has always alternated extremism with moderation and dissimulation, this sudden and acclaimed infatuation with democracy raises suspicion.

But it is also incontestable that if there is a model to which the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is looking today, this is not the fundamentalist and backward Islamism of the Wahhabi of Saudi Arabia, but the pragmatic model of the Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The recent visit of the Turkish prime minister to Egypt was met with a triumphant welcome. In him, the Muslim Brotherhood sees not only a great Sunni leader capable of reconciling Islamism and modernity, but also the one who restored the right of citizenship to popular Islam, in a Turkey that is no longer the hostage of the generals.

In an Egypt in which all the religious posts, from al-Azhar to the last of the mosques, have until now been appointed by the government and under the protection of the army, Erdogan’s advocacy of secularism during his visit has been interpreted by many as a liberating message, on behalf of a religion finally liberated from the control of the Prince.

The Muslim Brotherhood also presents a friendly face to the Copts, who with more than ten million faithful constitute the largest Christian minority in an Arab country. They have put some of them on the electoral lists. And the vice-president of the Freedom and Justice Party is a Copt.

But to what extend is this metamorphosis of the Muslim Brotherhood credible, for Christians in particular?…

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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

Egypt: El Baradei to Islamists, Slogans Alone Not Enough

The military council has failed to lead transition, he adds

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 6 — “Let them govern the country, so that the citizens will see that slogans alone are not enough.” This statement was made by the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and presidential candidate in Egypt, Mohamed el Baradei, in an interview with newspaper al Shouruk.

El Baradei referred to the Islamist upsurge that resulted from the first round of elections. “We have a fascist regime with military tribunals and emergency law. If there will be another uprising it will be violent,” el Baradei underlined, adding that he was surprised by the proposal made by a member of the military council to hold the presidential elections by June 2012, also in the absence of a new Constitution. “Seventeen months have passed and now we are talking about a lack of time for the Constitution?” el Baradei wonders. “Things have gone from bad to worse since the military council failed to lead the transition, and young people are disappointed because they see no change happening,” added the moderate candidate, who is close to the young people who started the protest in Egypt on Tahrir Square, asking them to close their ranks. “They will lead the country in the future,” el Baradei concluded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Productive Capacity Up 20% in 2 Years

Since 2002 7% annual growth in consumption

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, DECEMBER 2 — Morocco’s electricity consumption has been seeing sustained growth: since 2002 there has been average annual growth of 7 percent per year. In order to ensure sufficient supplies to meet electricity demand, the state has implemented a plan. Based on the 2009 national energy strategy, which saw a 20 percent growth in installed capacity thanks to investments as part of the short-term action plano of 12 billion dirham (over one billion euros).

The country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) is expecting electricity consumption to double between now and 2020, with a possibitilty that it may quadruple by 2030. In view of these forecasts, national energy strategy embrice short-term (2009-2012), medium-term (2013-2019) and long-term (2020 — 2030) action plans. According to the break-down made by the MEM, the productive capacity increase over the past two years (1084.5 extra megawatts), has come 16.6 percent from wind and hydro-power and 43.5 percent from the Aïn Béni Mathar solar power station.

Thanks to these latter stations, 32.2 percent of installed capacity — which is a total of 6,405 megawatts — comes from renewable energy sources.

By 2020, writes La Vie éco, the target is to raise the proportion of renewables to 42 percent. Many projects for increasing the production facilities are under way and 5,000 extra megawatts should be guaranteed, much of wich will come from renewable sources. For this reason legislative reforms such as law 13-09 on renewable resources are in place opening the way to competition without limits on installed capacity. Law 57-09 has created an solar energy agency (MASEN, Moroccan agency for solar Energy) and facilities for promoting research into renewable energy sources (IRESEN, the institute for research into solar Energy and renewable energy).

For the long term, instead, there is still the option of using alternative Energy sources: nuclear, biomass and hydrogen.

“Every option will be studied, research and development will be promoted, but for the moment, nothing has been decided in this renard. We already have many projects to construct between now and 2020,” a Ministry official explained.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Unholy Alliance: Egypt’s Military & the Muslim Brotherhood

Despite protestations of its purported political neutrality Egypt’s besieged military leadership has been secretly funneling financial, food, and security support to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its allied Salafist parties in the run up to next week’s parliamentary elections.

The assistance takes the form of “walk around” money, clothing and food giveaways secretly funneled to the coffers of the Brotherhood’s front party — the Freedom and Justice Party, the Construction and Development Party, as well as to allied Salafist Parties, including Al Nour, Al-Asalah, Al-Fadilah, Al Islah and others — in a bid to buy votes and provide Islamist parties a military supported upper hand in the upcoming parliamentary elections..

The military leadership has not only channeled financial support to the Islamists, it has also secretly collaborated with Salafists who have attacked Copts throughout Egypt in a show of support for more punitive discriminatory acts against Egypt’s Coptic minority to curry further favor with Salafists.

Hundreds of Copts were attacked by unknown assailants en route to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on November 18th the second night of demonstrations this month while security forces stood by. This latest attack comes in the wake of October’s attack by the army which used live fire and drove military vehicles into a crowd of Copts protesting a rash of attacks on Copts and Coptic churches, killing 25 innocent protestors.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Condemnation of Israeli Draft Law to Ban Call to Prayer in All Mosques in the Green Line

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Muhammad Husain, condemned the draft law which will be discussed by the Knesset which proposes to ban the Muslim call for prayer (Athan) in 1948- occupied Palestine. Sheikh Husain said in a press statement: “[Israeli] aggression against mosques is part of a programmed policy,” adding that the mosques in Palestine in general and in Jerusalem in particular are coming under a vicious campaign by the occupation authorities and the settlers through demolitions and torching. He added that the mosques are Islamic endowments, no one else should interfere in their affairs, stressing that the Israeli occupation disregards heavenly laws as well as international laws and conventions and works according to an evil plan that aims at defacing the Arab identity of Palestine to replace with a fake Jewish identity. He called on the international community to stop the Israeli aggression against the mosques in Palestine, especially the Aqsa Mosque. He also called for an end to Israeli occupation interference in Muslim worship in Palestine. He also called on Arab and Muslim countries to shoulder their responsibilities in defending Palestine and the holy places there.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gingrich: Palestinians an ‘Invented’ People

US Republican presidential candidate says Hamas, PA represent ‘enormous desire to destroy Israel’

US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich thrust himself into controversy on Friday by declaring that the Palestinians are an “invented” people who want to destroy Israel.

The former speaker of the US House of Representatives predictably sided with Israel in its decades-old dispute with the Palestinians but took it a step further in an interview with the Jewish Channel.

The cable station posted online its interview with Gingrich, who has risen to the top of Republican polls with voting to start early next year to pick a nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.

Gingrich differed with official US policy that respects the Palestinians as a people deserving of their own state based on negotiations with Israel.

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire” until the early 20th century, Gingrich said.

“I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it’s tragic,” he said.

Most historians mark the start of Palestinian Arab nationalist sentiment in 1834, when Arab residents of the Palestinian region revolted against Ottoman rule.

Israel, founded amid the 1948 Arab-Israel war, took shape along the lines of a 1947 UN plan for ethnic partition of the then-British ruled territory of Palestine which Arabs rejected.

The two sides remain deeply divided over what the future boundaries should be for two states under any eventual peace accord, as well as on the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees who remain displaced.

Gingrich along with other Republican candidates are seeking to attract Jewish support by vowing to bolster US ties with Israel if elected…

           — Hat tip: J-PD[Return to headlines]

Israelis to Debate Ban on Muslim Call to Prayer

TEL AVIV — The Israeli towns of Rosh HaAyin, which is mainly Jewish, and its neighbor, Kfar Kassem, a mostly Muslim town, enjoyed a peaceful relationship — until now.

The Israelis have had enough of their neighbors’ call to prayer.

They claim that the traditional call to prayer, which occurs five times a day, is a nuisance and disturbs their daily life. The 4:50 a.m. call is considered especially annoying.

“We hear the call to pray very loud, the situation is unbearable,” a local Rosh HaAyin resident was quoted as saying in the Hebrew version of the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

Another resident said, “We must find a way that we will not be disturbed and that they will be able to continue with their rituals.”

The issue is headed to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, this Sunday.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy-Israel: Drive for Space Cooperation

Meeting in Haifa for a major programme of hyperspace satellites

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 8 — A meeting in Haifa on Monday between Italian and Israeli experts agreed a “shared objective to launch a major programme called ‘Shalom — hyperspace satellites’“, a reference to satellites carrying 200 visible frequency bands. This is according to the President of the Italian Space Agency, Professor Enrico Saggese, who says that the operational programme (which could begin as early as the second half of next year) will see two satellites built. The conference, entitled “From Earth to Space”, was opened by the Italian ambassador, Luigi Mattiolo, and by the Israeli Science Minister, Daniel Hershkowitz. As well as the Italian and Israeli space agencies, the conference was also attended by national sector industries in the respective countries.

“It was a success to get everyone around the same table,” Saggese said. Experts from both sides attempted to join together their “excellence” during the meeting. “Italy is carrying out the Prisma (Hyperspace Precursor of Application Mission) programme” — a system of observation of the Earth with innovative electric-optical instruments, based on a hyperspace sensor that allows the satellite to distinguish not only the geometrical characteristics of what is being observed, but also its chemical and physical composition. “Israel, has greatly developed its small satellite technology,” Saggese added. Bringing their characteristics together, he said, Italy and Israel “can certainly bring a product of excellence into the international field”. In the past, he said, cooperation in space between the two countries has been warmly greeted by the Israeli President, Shimon Peres. Israel, indeed, is looking to space and its potential economic exploitation with increasing interest.

Amid pressure from Minister Hershkowitz, the daily newspaper Maariv reports, the Israeli Space Agency has obtained government financing of 165 million shekels (55 million euros) for 2012-2013, with the aim of producing exports worth one billion dollars in the next 5 years. Israel currently has 11 satellites in space, and will next week launch the communications satellite “Amos-5” from Kazakhstan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

MEP Sorry for ‘Put Pressure on Diaspora’ Blog

British MEP Sir Robert Atkins has apologised for suggesting pressure should be put on Jews in the diaspora over the treatment of Palestinians. Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman met the Conservative MEP on Friday to demand an apology. On his personal blog, Sir Robert had written: “Pressure must be exerted on Israel and her diaspora to realise that what they are doing in Palestine generally, and Gaza specifically, is not only illegal under international law but is also inhumane. “It is reminiscent of the treatment experienced by Jews in Europe during parts of the last century.” The MEP visited Gaza last month with UNWRA. In his report, he alleged that death by torture was acceptable in Israeli courts, and described Hamas MPs as much more far-sighted then Fatah which, in Gaza, is in a minority.” He added: “Israel, the USA, the ineffective Quartet and EU, must include Hamas.” A Board of Deputies spokesman said: “Mr Wineman made clear that any suggestion that diaspora Jewry bears responsibility for the actions of the Israeli government, and any comparison between the situation in the Middle East and the experiences of the Jewish people in Europe during the last century, was offensive.” After the meeting, Sir Robert said he apologised unreservedly for the remarks. “I withdraw any imputation that Jews outside of Israel have any responsibility for the actions of the Israeli government. That is not my intention nor is it the truth. I repudiate also any suggestion of an analogy between the treatment of the Palestinians and the extreme antisemitism of the last century”. The offensive statement has been removed from the blog.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Man Comes Up With the Default BBC Line

The Obama administration has long been viewed with suspicion by Israel’s supporters, but outbursts from two of the president’s senior associates earlier this month have caused one of the biggest storms on matters Jewish since he took office. The first came from Howard Gutman, a major fundraiser for Obama who now serves as ambassador to Belgium. Speaking at a European Jewish Union conference on antisemitism in Brussels, Gutman shocked his audience by appearing to whitewash Muslim antisemitism. He made a distinction between “classic bigotry” and “hatred and violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews”. Gutman explained the latter as “born of and reflecting” the tension between Israel and the Palestinians. He added that “the largest part of the solution for this second type of problem — too often lumped under a general banner of anti-Semitism — is in the hands of Israel, the Palestinians and Arab neighbours in the Middle East.”

That, of course, doesn’t even work at the factual level. The evidence is clear that many Muslims despise the state of Israel and would be as likely to blame a peace agreement on a global Jewish conspiracy to hoodwink the Palestinians as a reason to drop their prejudices. On the moral level, as Rabbi Marvin Hier from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said of the remarks: “Following Gutman’s twisted logic… Christian antisemites who insist that their hatred of Jews is based on the fact that the Jewish people failed to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah should also be excused until such time as the underlying reason for that hate — the Jewish people’s refusal to accept Jesus as Messiah — is reversed.”

The Obama administration quickly moved to distance itself from Gutman’s remarks but no sooner had it done so than it was having to deal with a new furore following a broadside from Defence Secretary Leon Panetta. At a gathering in Washington, he said Israel needed to “get to the damned table” with the Palestinians and “mend fences” with Turkey and Egypt. Since it is the Palestinians who refuse to negotiate, since Turkey has unilaterally downgraded the relationship with Israel, and since Egypt is on the verge of electing the fanatical antisemites of the Muslim Brotherhood, Panetta’s remarks have unsurprisingly provoked outrage among Israel’s supporters. The common theme in the thinking of both men is that it is Israeli behaviour that is problematic. The behaviour, however appalling, of Muslims is largely to be overlooked. Sound familiar? It should do. For these are also the default assumptions about the Middle East of the Foreign Office and the BBC.

Robin Shepherd is Director, International Affairs, at The Henry Jackson Society

[JP note: Hook, line and sinker.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanon: Bombers Target UNIFIL Troops

TYRE, Lebanon: A roadside bomb wounded five French peacekeepers in southern Lebanon on Friday, in the third attack this year on United Nations forces deployed near the frontier with Israel.

The blast hit a jeep carrying French UNIFIL troops on the outskirts of the Mediterranean port city of Tyre.

“I can confirm that a UNIFIL vehicle was hit by an explosion in Tyre,” UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said. “Five peacekeepers were injured.”

The attack follows bombings in May and July against French and Italian peacekeepers and comes as the United Nations prepares a review of its 12,000-strong operation, which was beefed up after

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

No Dinner With Israeli Minister, Turkish President Gul

(AGI) Vienna — Turkish president Abdullah Gul was expected to take part to an official dinner in Vienna, but when he heard that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak would be there, too, he decided not to attend, according to the Austrian press agency Apa, quoting the Austrian daily Turkish language paper Zaman ..

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

Terrorism Has No Religious Context

by As’ad Abdul Rahman, Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopedia

Blaming others for one’s own failings represents the lowest level of human consciousness manifested in a total inability to be emancipated from a purely materialistic mode of thinking. Blaming the Jews as the ‘killers of Christ’ netted the so-called Christians ill-gotten material gains by confiscating Jewish properties. The new trend in Europe is ‘Muslim terrorism’ leading to Islamophobia or a fear of Islam, which is being marketed by Christian and Jewish extreme-right parties in the West and in Israel, a ‘well-thought’ campaign because what we fear, we naturally hate! There can never be Islamic, Jewish or Christian fascism, but there are plenty of fascists who claim to be Muslims, Jews and Christians, as recently witnessed. While the world was getting ready to commemorate the victims of the World Trade Centre attacks in New York, another campaign was being prepared against Islam with ‘Muslim terrorism’ being the highlight.


[JP note: Confused.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Karnataka: Ritual That Forces Dalits to Roll in Brahmin Leftovers Ends

Practiced to prevent skin diseases, “made snas” is over 400 years old. Unnecessary protests of activists to abolish the ritual, considered inhumane by many and a way to feed the caste discrimination.

Subrahmanya (AsiaNews) — In the midst of controversies, the “Made Snana”, has concluded at the Kukke Subrahmanya Temple in Mangalore (Karnataka): the Hindu ritual in which the Dalits have to roll over on banana leaves spread on the ground, used by the Brahmins for their meals. Each year for three days, more than 3,500 devotees participate in the controversial and, according to many, humiliating practice which feeds caste discrimination against Dalits.

At the beginning of the ritual, on 28 November, KS Shivaramu, president of the Karnataka State Hindulida Vargagala Jagrutha Vedike, along with activists for the rights of Dalits had asked the state government to abolish this practice, calling it “inhumane” and “unscientific.” Moreover, he Shivaramu added that the continuing of such a ritual “in the name of tradition and religion is just a way to feed certain superstitions.” In response, some devotees attacked the protesters. The police prevented violence degenerating, but the ritual continued undisturbed.

The “Made Snana” is a Haraki (offering to God in exchange for the granting of a wish), practiced to prevent skin diseases. This particular form of Haraki is held every year during the feast of Champa Shashti and Dalits are expected to roll on banana leaves containing scraps of food consumed by the Brahmins earlier. Those who practice the Made Snana must eat frugal meals for a week. After serving lunch to the Brahmins, a temple priest sprinkles holy water on the leaves and breaks a coconut as an offering to the deity. Another priest of the temple heralds the beginning of the ritual ringing a bell.

The ritual is over 400 years old. According to legend Samba, the son of Krishna, during the Dwapura Yuga (according to Hinduism, the third of four eras of evolution of life, ed) defeated leprosy rolling on banana leaves, on which his devotees had consumed food. In 1979 the “Made Snana” was abolished, but was soon reinstated because of the protests of the devotees. (NC)

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

Far East

China: Increase in Women Smuggled Into China, Sex Slaves or Sold as Wives

The young girls come from various countries of South-East Asia, including Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. Attracted by the promise of a job by criminal groups, they are sold into prostitution or as wives. The phenomenon is the result of one-child policy imposed by Beijing, which has caused enormous gender disproportion.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — An increasing number of girls and women from South-East Asia enter China clandestinely, to be forced into prostitution or sold to men who force them into marriages, the official China Daily newspaper reports, according to a study prepared by the Department against human trafficking, of the Ministry of Public Security. The document does not publish the figures of the emergency, which remain secret, but the reality is that the phenomenon is a direct result of Beijing’s polices on births — including the infamous one child law — that has led to the huge imbalance between the sexes in China today.

Chen Shiqu, the director of the Department against human trafficking, reports that “the number of foreign women who illegally entering China is growing.” Most of them come from poor rural communities in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar and are victims of extortion at the hands of international criminal groups, which attracts them with the promise of lucrative jobs or marriages to wealthy Chinese men. They enter the country, and are sold as wives to villagers, or forced into prostitution in brothels or on the coast of Guangdong and Yunnan provinces.

The sale price is between 20 thousand Yuan (just over 3 thousand dollars) up to 50 thousand Yuan, depending on the nationality and area of origin. Many of the women from the South-East Asia are transported to the northern province of Hebei, to then be sent on to the capital Beijing. Public security sources report that since 2009 a total of 206 women who had fallen into the network of traffickers in human lives, were freed.

The one-child policy promoted by Beijing caused the elimination of female foetuses and the killing of newborn girls, and this silent massacre, endorsed by the authorities, has led to a deep imbalance of gender in China, so that an increasing number of men are travelling to North Korea to find or “buy” a wife among the women caught up in the international crime racket. According to UN estimates, today the country of the Dragon, there are 118.1 males per 100 females, and the world average, however, reaches about 105 boys per 100 girls.

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


Bulgarian Passport Opens Doors to West

Trud, Sofia

Macedonians, Moldavians and Ukrainians are jostling to obtain a Bulgarian passport. Many plan to leave for other countries in the European Union, but first they must confront the Bulgarian administration.

Vania Georgieva

“I took Bulgarian nationality because I am Bulgarian. As were my father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather. I am proud of my roots and I want my passport to read: Citizen of the Republic of Bulgaria.” That’s what we expected to hear when we joined the queue with dozens of Macedonians, Ukrainians and Moldavians wishing to become one of our fellow citizens. Bulgaria delivers passports easily to residents of these countries who can prove their Bulgarian decent.

Instead, most of those waiting openly say that they are not there because they consider themselves as the descendants of Bulgarian “khans” but for much more pragmatic reasons. “If Bulgaria evolves the way Slovenia does, if salaries increase and the quality of life improves, I would be willing to stay. Otherwise, I plan to leave for Italy with my new passport. That’s where I would like to live and work”, says 25-year old Dalibor Mirkovic, from Deltchevo in Macedonia.

He’s waiting in the long queue in front of the Department of Bulgarian Nationality in Sofia, the office in charge of delivering nationality certificates to those who come to be naturalized. Every day of the week, between 9:30 and noon, some 200 people wait patiently to receive the precious document that will open the door to obtaining a Bulgarian national identity card and a passport. Some made their naturalisation request years ago, others more recently and were lucky enough to see their cases finalised rapidly.

Young, jobless and without any special skills

These new Bulgarians complain about the poor organisation, the chaos even, during the wait for their naturalisation certificate. Often people wait for days outside the building, some sleep in their cars, others at the homes of friends or in cheap hotels.

Among the candidates, Macedonians are the most numerous. Because most live just on the other side of the border, they make the return trip by coach — some companies even specialise in this trade because of the booming demand for naturalisation. Most are very young, jobless and without any special skills. Asked about how the Macedonian authorities view this exodus, they respond that “nobody cares”.

Today, Dalibor came with his cousins and several friends, all are now new Bulgarians. But none want to stay here to live. They all want to go “West”. To obtain the document that would allow this, they need an address in Bulgaria. “That isn’t a problem,” they explain. “We are all registered at the same address. In certain Bulgarian villages along the Macedonian border, it’s a real racket. Some addresses have hundreds of Macedonians registered there.”…

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


Anonymous said...

Just wait until the Chinese military bases open in the United States, and then our precious young women will disappear into Communist China, too.