Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111218

Financial Crisis
»A Financial Dunkirk: Britain Draws Up Plans to Rescue Expats if Spain and Portugal Are Hit by Financial Oblivion
»Austerity Package Very Convincing But More Needed Says Rehn
»Berlusconi: Either EU Solves Problems or Any Action Useless
»Eurozone Unlikely to Experience Hyperinflation, But Worries Remain
»Greece: Ever More People Giving Up Cars
»Greece: Finger Pointed at Job Mobility Law
»Italy: Monti ‘Hopes’ This Austerity Package Will be the Last
»Italy: Salaries of Palazzo Chigi Employees Rose 15. 2% in a Year
»Italy: Failing in First Try, Govt ‘Will Beat Lobbies’ To Open Job Mkt
»Italy: Thirty-Three Billion Euros in Austerity Passes Test
»Sweden: Sitting on the Fence
»Christian, Muslim Leaders Protest in Solidarity at Lowe’s in Allen Park
Europe and the EU
»Cyprus: British Bases Are Illegal, Says Nicosia
»EU Hands Out Holidays Paid for by Taxpayer
»Finnish Officials Mull Taking Children Into Care Over Low-Carb Diet
»Italy: Explanation of Knox Acquittal Issued
»Netherlands: Commission Identifies 800 Priests, Monks Who Abused Children
»Norway Should Dump EU Trade Pact: Navarsete
»Portugal: Vandalism and Violence Against Motorway Toll
»Spain: Basque Government Regulates Cannabis Sale and Use
»Spain: Fishing Deal Ended, Madrid Demands Damages
»Switzerland: Newspaper Takeover Reveals Rightwing Strategy
»UK: The Death of History: Experts Fears After Shocking Figures Show Subject is All But Extinct in Some Areas
North Africa
»Egypt: the Brave Women of the Female Protesters Brutally Beaten With Metal Poles as Vicious Soldiers Drag Girls Through Streets by Their Hair in Day of Shame
»France Accuses Cairo of Heavy-Hand in Tahrir Square
»Islamists Win 70 Percent of the Vote in Second Round of Egypt Elections
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel to Release 550 Palestinian Prisoners Today
Middle East
»Ancient Texts Tell Tales of War, Bar Tabs
»FIFA to Review Hijab Law for Women Players
»Saudis Complain of Huge Losses From Escaped Workers
South Asia
»Italian Defence Minister Confirms Post-2014 Afghanistan Commitment
»Women, the First Victims of Taliban Violence in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas
Far East
»North Korea Says Leader Kim Jong Il Has Died
»220 Illegals Rounded Up in Two-Day Raids in Dubai
»Housh Bakr: Refuge for African Illegals in Makkah
»Israel: Yishai: Every African ‘Infiltrator’ Will Return Home

Financial Crisis

A Financial Dunkirk: Britain Draws Up Plans to Rescue Expats if Spain and Portugal Are Hit by Financial Oblivion

Evacuation plans for British expats stranded in Spain and Portugal if their banking systems collapse are being drawn up by the Foreign Office.

The contingency plans are being put in place to help thousands of Britons if they were unable to get to their money in the event of a catastrophic banking collapse in two of the most vulnerable eurozone economies.

Around one million British expats live in Spain, particularly around Marbella and Malaga, and some 50,000 in Portugal.

The Foreign Office is concerned that those who have invested savings in their adopted countries would face losing their homes if banks called in loans and they were unable to access money.

Last week ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded 10 Spanish banks, including Banco Popular.

Among options being considered for a ‘nightmare scenario’ include sending planes, ships and coaches to evacuate expats — some through Gibraltar.

Small loans could also be made available to stranded Britons and pressure would be exerted on the Spanish and Portuguese governments to allow access to funds to pay for everyday essentials.

Both countries have a deposit guarantee, like the UK, which means depositors are covered for up to €100,000.

But in the event of a collapse, most banks would limit withdrawals.

Many expats have retired to the south of Spain on fixed incomes, having used their savings to buy villas and apartments.

A senior Foreign Office source told The Sunday Times: ‘The nuclear scenario would be having thousands of Brits stranded at the airports in Spain and Portugal with no way to get money from the cash dispenser and no way to get home.

‘Who would be blamed for this? The Foreign Office.

‘We are looking at how we can help evacuate them if the banks in Spain and Portugal collapse, getting people cash, things like that, sending planes.’

Expats could face losing their villas and apartments because they were unable to afford mortgage payments or withdraw enough cash as banks tried to stop money leaving the country.

They could also lose savings if banks in either country collapsed.

Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First — foreign currency exchange specialists — told the newspaper: ‘Countries have individual safeguards on deposits but for people with large deposits in a bank it would be difficult to say whether all that money would be protected.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Austerity Package Very Convincing But More Needed Says Rehn

‘Structural reforms for growth and jobs in next package’

(ANSA) — Brussels, December 16 — The new Italian government’s 30-billion-euro austerity package is “very convincing” but “much more” is needed to spur growth and create jobs by enacting structural reforms, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, told reporters after a confidence vote Friday.

“The package that won the confidence of the House is very convincing although there is still a lot to be done, especially for employment and growth,” Rehn said in Brussels.

“It is natural that the government focused on fiscal consolidation with this first package but in the next one it is important that there be more emphasis on structural reforms, to reform services and professions,” he added.

The first package of tax hikes and pension reforms, expected to receive final approval before Christmas, aims to draw the sting out of money-market attacks on Italian bonds and ease the eurozone debt crisis.

Premier Mario Monti has promised to follow the package with a second one in January to boost growth and create jobs, especially for women and young people.

The under-30s now make up 40% of Italy’s 2.1 million unemployed, according to a report out Friday.

Reforms to Italy’s rigid labour market were not included in the first package, and measures to free up taxis and pharmacies were removed in the face of lobbying that Industry Minister Corrado Passera called “crazy”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi: Either EU Solves Problems or Any Action Useless

(AGI) Rome — Silvio Berlusconi said that either we resolve problems at a European level or no action will work. Leaving the Chamber of Deputies after the vote of confidence on the austerity package, the former prime minister commented: “It is not an Italian situation but a general one. Either we resolve these problems at the European level or no action will work.

Asked whether the Monti government’s package will be sufficient or other measures will be necessary to put the nation’s finances in order, he replied: “We are especially exposed because we have accumulated an excessive debt. This is a legacy we carry with us.” .

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

Eurozone Unlikely to Experience Hyperinflation, But Worries Remain

Economists define hyperinflation as a monthly inflation rate of 50 per cent or more. The current average monthly inflation rate in the Eurozone is three per cent.

WHEN IT comes to the task of ensuring a stable currency, the memories and experiences hyperinflation and its disastrous effects in Europe’s history are powerful motivators for the European Central Bank (ECB). Hyperinflation destroyed the economies of Germany and several other countries in the 1920s and 1930s. The problem is by no means a thing of the past, since hyperinflation has afflicted over 30 national economies throughout the past century.

Hyperinflation is usually linked to periods of acute unrest, including wars and revolutions. But this alone is not enough to spark off runaway inflation rates: the problem also required drastic levels of incompetence, such as the decisions of a country’s political leadership and banks to increase the amount of money in the economy through increasing the deficit and printing banknotes.

Some of the painful lessons of the past have been learnt, making it unlikely that the Eurozone’s continuing debt crisis will lead to hyperinflation. However, crippling levels of debt do still bring a risk of uncontrollable inflation rates. Out-of-control price rises wreak more havoc on a country’s economy than the more dramatic onset of hyperinflation.

The heavy levels of debt industrialised countries have run up in recent years seem set to ensure high inflation rates for the foreseeable future. The most heavily indebted countries have debts as large as their entire annual Gross Domestic Product. In the United States and the United Kingdom, inflation levels are currently aggravated by the high rate at which their central banks are supplying those country’s governments with printed money.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Ever More People Giving Up Cars

They can no longer afford to pay the circulation tax

A man rides his bicycle in Athens, in Greece even more people are giving up their cars for money problems

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Every day in Greece more and more people are giving back to the tax agency the licence plates of their cars since they can no longer afford to pay the circulation tax on their vehicle. According to Finance Ministry data, at the end of 2011 the number of those who will have given back their licence plates will be 200% over the figure from the previous year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Finger Pointed at Job Mobility Law

Number of ministers admit measure has not worked

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 16 — The Greek government’s implementation of the law that will see 30,000 surplus public sector workers temporarily suspended from work (or placed in “mobility”) by the end of 2011, as part of the programme to reduce public spending, was at the centre of talks in yesterday’s Council of Ministers, with the Minister for Administrative Reform, Dimitris Reppas, admitting that the measure had not worked. Of the 30,000 employees due to have been put on income support before being made redundant according to the law on temporary suspension, the minister said, only a touch above 10,000 had left their positions. Other ministers also gave their opinions on the measure, newspapers report, saying that the measure has not worked and that the government needs to bring in structural reforms. “The measure for temporary suspension from work was wrong,” said the Justice Minister, Miltiadis Papaioannou. “We need to intervene. The Minister for Public Education, Anna Diamantopoulou, meanwhile, insisted that the government should “define now the targets for 2012 to avoid repeating the same mistakes”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti ‘Hopes’ This Austerity Package Will be the Last

Europe ‘lacking in policy for growth and development’

(See related story on austerity package) (ANSA) — Rome, December 16 — Premier Mario Monti said Friday that he hoped the package of measures his emergency government is passing through parliament will be the last bout of austerity Italy needs to lift itself out of its debt crisis.

“I hope so,” he told parliament when asked if this austerity package was the last after his administration’s measures were approved by the House in a confidence vote.

He added that he was confident Italy would save itself from the threat of defaulting on its massive national debt.

“I feel that all of us have the same goal at heart, working for the good of Italy” he told the House.

“If we all do our duty and continue with a sense of responsibility, I have no doubt that Italy will save itself”.

He added that, with countries throughout Europe adopting austerity measures in a bid to halt the eurozone crisis, the European Union had to do more to promote economic growth.

“Many have already said it and I’m saying it as premier — Europe is lacking as regards a union-wide policy of growth and development,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Salaries of Palazzo Chigi Employees Rose 15. 2% in a Year

(AGI) Rome — In a single year, from 2009 to 2010, the salaries of the employees at Palazzo Chigi (the centre of the Italian Government) rose 15.2%, much more than all other public or private categories. From the Istat annual of statistics, it is clear that the salaries of the employees of Ministries rose 0.7%, as those of public school teachers (+0.6%). Second in the list are the dockworkers and private school teachers, both +3.7%, followed by employees in information and communication services (among them, journalists, +5.7%).The lowest salary rise was for firemen, police officers and military personnel (+0.4%).

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

Italy: Failing in First Try, Govt ‘Will Beat Lobbies’ To Open Job Mkt

Rome, 16 Dec. (AKI) — After back peddling on a plan to weaken the power of trade interest groups and open professions to more competition, Italy’s government says it will continue the battle next month.

“We will beat the lobbies,” said under secretary to the prime minister’s office Antonio Catricala, in a Friday interview with the La Repubblica newspaper. “We’ll go ahead with the plan starting in January.”

Catricala in November left his job as Italy’s competition watchdog to join the former European Union anti-trust head and country’s new prime minister Mario Monti in a new government of non-political experts charged with passing reforms. The team aims to bring life to the economy and reduce the country’s 1.9 trillion euro debt. The government is due to step down in 2013 when Italians are scheduled to elect a new government.

The presentation of its plan to raise taxes and introduce reforms was met with heckling in the Senate and House of Deputies. Italy’s main unions joined forces in a series of nationwide strikes. A confidence vote on the package of measures is scheduled in the House of Deputies for Friday and should be voted on in the Senate on 23 December.

Monti pledged to open create a more competitive job market by taking on the taxi, pharmacy and other guilds that have rules imposing strict limits on new entrants. Critics says the closed job market keeps prices high and limits options for those seeking careers in the protected sectors.

“No privilege falls from the first blow. Some things have rooted themselves in the political convictions of many lawmakers,” Catricala said.

Monti, an economist holding both the prime minister and minister of finance portfolios, was the EU competition chief between 1999 and 2004 when he successfully battled American business giants Microsoft and General Electric.

“The resistance we meet in liberalizing markets is nothing new to me,” Monti said on Thursday.

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

Italy: Thirty-Three Billion Euros in Austerity Passes Test

Rome, 16 Dec. (AKI) — Italy’s new government’s first effort to end the country’s debt and economic troubles overcame its first parliamentary hurdle on Friday by overwhelming surviving a confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament.

In a Chamber of Deputies confidence vote, the 33-billion-euro austerity package passed with 495 votes in favour, 88 against and four abstentions.

The measures were approved by both of Italy’s major political parties: the right-wing People of Liberty Party led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and its Democratic Party rival from the left.

The government watered down many of the measures designed to overhaul the Italy’s pension system, force open the protected labour market and boost taxes. Prime minister Mario Monti pledged to continue reform in January.

Berlusconi resigned last month as his government was consumed by scandal and the sovereign debt crisis that is driving up borrowing costs and threatening to shatter the 17-member euro monetary union.

A team of so-called expert technocrats took charge of the government, tasked with putting the euro-zone’s finances back on track by passing measures to reduce its 1.9 trillion-euro debt and resuscitate the ailing economy which is in recession.

Monti is due to address the Chamber Friday evening ahead of further debate and a vote. It will then be passed to the Senate where a vote is expected by 23 December.

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

Sweden: Sitting on the Fence

“How does Prime Minister Reinfeldt see the new fiscal pact of the EU? Should Sweden be in it? Does he worry about a EU split in two?” These questions are getting no answers, writes the Dagens Nyheter, which finds Reinfeldt’s indecision astonishing. For the daily, Sweden is about to be separated from the decision-making centre of the EU: “As well, the prime minister should clearly explain the consequences of a ‘no’. And if the government is still convinced that Sweden ought to be at the centre of Europe, he must persuade Parliament to accept the agreement.”

The newspaper, reporting that Sweden said no to the euro in a 2003 referendum, fears that it will soon see —

one group of countries that travel first-class and take important decisions, and another of second-class passengers who are affected by the decisions but, in practice, have no say in them. And Sweden, accompanied by a few of these other countries, could end up on the platform, pondering its next steps.

Expressen also complains about the Prime Minister’s indecision:

Fredrik Reinfeldt wants to say ‘no’ to the euro club members — but in a gentle way. Above all, he wants to ensure that Sweden does not find itself in the third division, where David Cameron has put Britain.

Expressing its alarm at the consequences that can be expected from this agreement, Aftonbladet insists Sweden should not have any part in it:

Wage cuts, reductions in pensions, more unemployment and more power transferred to Brussels — none of which will solve the euro crisis. In this crisis, the only thing that makes sense is to force the ECB to act.

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


Christian, Muslim Leaders Protest in Solidarity at Lowe’s in Allen Park

Allen Park— Religious leaders, activists, elected officials and citizens expressed their anger at the company’s withdrawal of advertising on a program about Arab-Americans living in nearby Dearborn during an interfaith protest at a Lowe’s store Saturday.

“We are going to come back out here again, form our coalition and we are going to boycott Lowe’s until they make things right,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Walid joined dozens of other protesters this morning at the Lowe’s on Outer Drive in Allen Park. The demonstration challenged “Lowe’s Decision to Cave in to Hate” when it withdrew advertising on the TLC show “All-American Muslim.”

Protesters have claimed that Lowe’s pulled its ads after it received complaints from the Florida Family Association, which they characterize as a “small right wing fringe group” upset over the portrayal of American Muslims as “ordinary folks just like you and me.”

Dozens of demonstrators, both Christians and Muslims, called carried signs that read “Boycott Bigotry” and “Lowes Remember All-American Muslims Shop Too.” Some held American flags.

“The majority of American society does not hate Muslims,” Walid said to the crowd. “They need to know us better. That’s what ‘All-American Muslim’ is all about. If we as American Muslims are seen by the broader American public, they’re going to love us because we embody all of what America loves. We’re for family values. We’re for public safety. We’re for economic dignity. We’re for the rights of all people.”

Rev. Edie Worthy of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church said she came to support the demonstration to send a message to Lowe’s.

“We’re hoping that this boycott picks up and that it does affect Lowe’s business and let them know this is America,” she said. “Everyone has a right to live and be free.”

Not all the demonstrators were angered at Lowe’s. About a dozen or so people came in support of the store.

Pat Jackson of Clarkston said that the protesters are overreacting at Lowe’s decision. She held a sign that read “I support Freedom to advertise or not” on one side and “A Christian who loves Lowe’s” on the other.

           — Hat tip: RE[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus: British Bases Are Illegal, Says Nicosia

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 16 — News that the British Bases will remain operational in Cyprus has provoked a furious reaction from House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou, who has urged the government to react strongly to what he described as “provocative statements” made by the British Defence Minister Philip Hammond. Yesterday the British Government said it has no intention at present of relinquishing control or sovereignty over its bases in Cyprus. Omirou — as Famagusta Gazette reports today — told journalists that Hammond’s remarks on the future of the bases at Dhekelia and Akrotiri were “provocative and cynical and an example of modern imperialist mentality.” He added that the bases in Cyprus represent the “remnants of colonialism and are therefore illegal based on resolutions of the UN General Assembly.” In a written statement to parliament yesterday, Philip Hammond confirmed Britain’s “enduring commitment” to the bases, saying they had proved their worth during air operations in Libya and as a logistic hub for activities in Afghanistan.

“The sovereign base areas are in a region of geo-political importance and high priority for the United Kingdom’s long-term national security interests,” he added. The bases have been a constant cause of friction between London and Nicosia since Cyprus won independence in 1960, with rumours that the bases would close circulating in 1962, 1967, 1976 and again last year.

In 1962, President Makarios described the bases as being “rather useless in this atomic age.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Hands Out Holidays Paid for by Taxpayer

Tens of thousands of political activists, including hundreds from the BNP, have been given free or subsidised holidays by British and European taxpayers.

Even as it grapples with the financial crisis, the European Union is paying almost £25 million this year to subsidise the trips, arranged through MEPs.

The BNP, which has two Euro-MPs, has made heavy use of the scheme to thank some of its most prominent members at taxpayers’ expense. One BNP official boasted that it was “a good way of rewarding our activists” that “didn’t cost the party a penny”.

The trips are ostensibly “study visits” to the European Parliament buildings in Brussels or Strasbourg, but the holidaymakers need spend only a fraction of their time at the parliament to claim the full subsidy, which can be collected in cash without the need for receipts.

One subsidised trip to Strasbourg last week, promoted by the Labour MEP Peter Skinner, lasted six days, with only a few hours spent at the parliament.

The rest of the visit, according to a programme seen by The Sunday Telegraph, included a river cruise, a tour of the cathedral, a visit to the city’s Christmas market, champagne tasting, a battlefield tour in Ypres and sightseeing in Reims. Like most MEPs, Mr Skinner did not join the party, but hosted a free dinner for the participants…

           — Hat tip: PS[Return to headlines]

Finnish Officials Mull Taking Children Into Care Over Low-Carb Diet

Finnish officials have told a family of low-carbohydrate enthusiasts that their children would be taken into care if they failed to heed nutrition advice, provincial paper Iisalmen Sanomat reported Sunday. Ursula Schwab, a clinical nutrition specialist at the University of East Finland, said at least one family had received such an ultimatum after parents ignored healthcare staff’s warnings about the dangers of an imbalanced diet for children.

“If a child’s growth slows down because of a poor diet, one must send a wakeup call to parents,” Schwab told the Finnish News Agency. “Should this prove ineffective, the child must be moved to a place where he receives enough nutrition.”

Schwab added that she knew of parents who had put toddlers on so-called low-carb diets. “A strict low-carb diet is very fatty, and it suppresses hunger. If you down eggs and bacon for breakfast it will take hours before you can even imagine eating again.” “A growing child needs a varied diet.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Explanation of Knox Acquittal Issued

‘No guilt or motive proven’ judges say on Kercher murder

(ANSA) — Rome, December 15 — A Perugia appeals court on Thursday issued its detailed explanation of why it acquitted US student Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito of the 2007 murder of Knox’s British roommate Meredith Kercher.

The evidence against the pair “does not allow us to come to the conclusion that guilt has been in any way proven,” the judges said about their keenly awaited October 3 verdict in the sensational case, which overturned previous lengthy convictions.

They noted that the evidence was largely circumstantial and prosecutors had been unable to prove motive.

The judges said they could not say how the murder took place, whether “one or more” people killed Kercher, or whether other leads had been “neglected”.

Knox, 24, is back home in Seattle and Sollecito, 25, in Puglia, leaving Rudy Guede, 24, an Italian-Ivorian drifter, the only person in jail for the murder.

Guede opted for a fast-track trial separately from Knox and Sollecito and was given a 30-year sentence, later cut to 16 years on appeal, a sentence confirmed by Italy’s court of last instance, the Cassation Court.

In the last verdict against the Ivorian, whose DNA was detected all over the murder house, he was found to have committed the crime “with others”, identified at the time as Knox and Sollecito, during a sex game that got out of hand.

Kercher’s family have vowed to continue their battle to find out “who are the other people responsible” for the death of Kercher, 20 when she was found stabbed to death on the night of November 1-2 2007.

“Our family is not interested in seeing Amanda or Raffaele in jail, or anyone else who has shown they aren’t guilty, but there’s still the question mark over who else (committed the murder) as well as Rudy,” they said after the acquittals.

Perugia prosecutors have appealed to Italy’s last court of appeal, the Cassation Court, to try to get the acquittals reversed.

Knox is believed to be unlikely to return to Italy to attend the sessions though Sollecito’s father has said his son has no reason to flee the country.

On the night of October 3, the pair were acquitted by two judges and a jury after independent experts had cast doubts about the soundness of the DNA evidence that led to 26-year and 25-year sentences respectively for Knox and Sollecito at the original murder trial in 2009.

Knox was given a three-year sentence, which she had already served, and ordered to pay 20,000 euros in damages for having falsely accused a Perugia pub owner, Congo native Patrick Lumumba, of the killing in the early stages of the investigation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Commission Identifies 800 Priests, Monks Who Abused Children

At least 800 Roman Catholic priests and monks were involved in abusing children in their care between 1945 and 1985, according to a comprehensive report into the church sexual abuse scandal published on Friday.

In addition, church officials, bishops and lay people were aware of what was going on but failed to take action to protect children, the commission, lead by former Christian Democratic party chairman Wim Deetman, said.

The commission was set up by the Catholic church in March 2010 after the sexual abuse scandal broke in the Netherlands and hundreds of victims came forward. Over 2,000 people have now registered their abuse with the authorities and a number of cases will be taken to court.

The 1,100-page report aims to establish the size of the scandal, the consequences of the church’s silence and make recommendations for dealing with abuse in the past and in the future.


In its report, the commission says it has identified at least 800 priests, monks and other members of religious orders who were involved in abuse, of whom 105 are still alive. The commission did not say how many of them are still working for the church.

‘To prevent scandals, nothing was done: [the abuse was] not acknowledged, there was no help, compensation or aftercare for the victims,’ the report says. There was a policy of ‘not hanging out the dirty washing,’ Deetman told a news conference on Friday morning.

There is a ‘cultural silence’, Deetman said. There were rules for dealing with abuse and in some places they were enacted. The claim that church officials did not know what was going on does not hold water, Deetman said.


In total, several tens of thousands of children were faced with unwanted sexual contact from church officials between 1945 and 1985, Deetman said.

A survey by the commission shows that one in 10 people who were children during that period had to deal with abuse or potential abuse, but within church institutions the figure was one in five, the report said.

However, there is no difference between abuse within church and other institutions, the report shows.

Another commission, lead by senior justice ministry official Rieke Samson-Geerlings, is looking into the role of social services in placing children in institutions and foster homes where they were open to abuse.


While there is no scientific proof of a link between Catholic church celibacy rules and the sexual abuse of children, according to church records, some of the instances of abuse could be described as ‘out of sexual need’, Deetman said.

‘We do not consider it impossible that a number of cases would not have happened if celibacy was voluntary,’ he told the news conference.

In November, bishops and church officials voted in favour of giving compensation to hundreds of victims of sexual abuse. The total bill for the church could be as high as €5m.

In a statement later on Friday, Catholic bishops said they were shocked and shamed by the report.

Earlier stories

Catholic church knew of the abuse for decades

Church agrees to compensation sexual abuse victims

Catholic church admits abuse, prepares compensation

Dutch Salesian church sacked for paedophilia comments

Bishop says sexual abuse was not an issue until 1990s

Church abuse: commission calls for better registration

Catholic priest was member of paedophile promotion group

Church abuse: ‘Wir haben es nicht gewusst’

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

Norway Should Dump EU Trade Pact: Navarsete

Norway needs to seriously consider severing its ties with the European Economic Area (EEA), Centre Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete has said.

With the European Union mired in an enduring debt crisis, polls have shown that Norwegians are increasingly keen to extricate themselves from an agreement that has bound them to the EU’s internal market since 1994.

Navarsete, whose party is a junior partner in the country’s red-green coalition government, believes the time has come for a change in policy.

“The EEA agreement has been a sacred cow in Norwegian politics. Powerful forces within the parties and the bureaucracy have managed to keep a lid on the EEA debate,” she said.

“It has been considered laughable to be opposed, but the picture has changed radically in recent times. Now, for the first time since we got the EEA agreement, the scene is set for a real popular mobilization against the EEA.”

Navarsete, currently Norway’s Minister of Local Government, said she hoped for the growth of a grass-roots movement that would gradually help push through a Norwegian rejection of the pact.

The Centre Party leader said she would be open to the issue being decided either by a referendum or a parliamentary resolution.

She added that her party would petition the government to examine alternatives to the EEA agreement if the red-green coalition is returned to power after the 2013 general election.

“People are starting to realize that they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes,” said Navarsete.

The European Economic Area comprises all 27 EU member states, along with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

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

Portugal: Vandalism and Violence Against Motorway Toll

Gunshot fired at official, tollbooths in flames

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 15 — An official of the company that manages the motorway was injured by a rifle shot, tollgates have been vandalised, many number plates have been stolen to deceit the cameras: the introduction of toll at the A22 in Portugal, crossing the Algarve in the direction of Ayamonte (Huelva) in Spain, known as the ‘Via do Infante’, has triggered serious protests that started on December 8.

An official of the company that manages the motorway in question was injured by a rifle shot at km43, direction Agoz-Guia, in Albufeira. Yesterday at dawn he approached a tollbooth while vandals were trying to set fire to it. Local police sources, quoted today by the Portuguese media, report arson at the tollgates in Boliqueime, on the same motorway, as well. And public security officials in Olhao, in the Algarve, have linked the wave of number plate thefts to the start of toll payments on the A22 on December 8. The police think these plates are used to pass the gates without paying toll, so that the fines are sent to the owners of the plates. The introduction of electronic motorway toll collection on the four Portuguese motorways is part of the package of cuts that were approved by the previous socialist government, led by José Socrates, but the conservative government of Pedro Passos Coelho has implemented the measure. There have been serious protests against the move, because it has raised the costs of driving substantially. Portuguese residents in fact have to get an electronic device that reads the number plate and costs 27.5 euros, and is connected to a current account. As an alternative, they can also pay toll in one of the Correios de Portugal post offices within five days after using one of the motorways.

Electronic booths have been set up for foreign tourists, where they can buy prepaid cards that are valid for three or five days. However, the media have described many cases in which the devices failed to function correctly during the first days of toll payments. The high prices and complexity of payments, in a time of deep economic crisis and strict austerity measures taken by the Portuguese government to contain the country’s deficit, have triggered protests which are spreading rapidly. There have been slow marches on the motorways and appeals for boycotts by associations and citizens. But the alternative to using the A22 motorway is a national road that is completely blocked by traffic, now that lorries are using it again to avoid the high cost of toll payments.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Basque Government Regulates Cannabis Sale and Use

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 12 — The Basque Parliament will approve a law bill in the first few months of 2012 on drug addiction, which will regulate “the growing, sale and consumption of cannabis”. This is according to the second in command at the region’s health authority, Jesus Maria Fernandez, who was quoted by the EFE agency. “It is better to regulate than to ban,” said Fernandez, who called the consumption of cannabis “a practice that is already consolidated”. His words were echoed by the leading health official, Rafael Bengoa, who said: “We do not want to be prohibitionists”. The consumption and possession of cannabis are regulated by the penal code and by the law on citizen security. For the new ruling, for which “technical and legal studies have been undertaken”, the regional government wants to “open a debate” with associations in favour of consumption and to “shape their rights”. The law bill on drug addiction also features prevention and treatment for gambling addictions, which affect 2% of the Basque population, and for addiction to new technology.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Fishing Deal Ended, Madrid Demands Damages

Decision yesterday by European Parliament

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 15 — The decision not to extend the fishing agreement between the European Union and Morocco has wreaked havoc in the Spain’s fishing sector, in Andalusia and the Canaries in particular, where 90% of the fishing fleet has a licence to fish in the waters of the North African country. The backlash has been such that the outgoing Minister for the Rural and Maritime Environment, Rosa Aguilar, told the media that she had requested compensation from the EU upon her arrival at the Council for Agriculture and Fisheries in Brussels. “We are talking about around 70 fishing vessels and more than 500 direct jobs and many other indirect jobs being jeopardized. This damage must be compensated by the EU, not only to the owners of the fleet, but to crews working on the boats,” Aguilar told Spanish national radio. The Spanish minister will inform her counterparts and the European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, of the concern in Spain over the European Parliament’s decision, which means an immediate interruption of fishing activity by European boats in Moroccan waters. “Spain respects the decision but does not agree with it,” Aguilar insisted, demanding a new mandate for the European Commission for the negotiation of a new deal with Morocco. “There are while towns in Andalusia that effectively live off fishing in Moroccan waters,” the minister said.

This is the case in Barbate (Cadiz), where 5,000 of the town’s 23,000 inhabitants are already unemployed, and where the European Parliament’s decision leave 800 fishermen without work.

“90% of the fleet has a licence to fish in Morocco, and the ban on fishing in Moroccan waters is now compounded by the biological ban imposed on the Gulf of Cadiz between December and February,” said the vice-president of the local fishing association, Ambrosio Ruiz.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Newspaper Takeover Reveals Rightwing Strategy

The takeover of the Basler Zeitung by rightwing Swiss People’s Party strongman Christoph Blocher could herald a new polarisation of the Swiss press.

The Basel paper is now officially in the hands of Blocher, through his daughter Rahel, after months of denials by the controversial politician that he had either a “direct or indirect” financial connection to the media company.

Other newspapers are crying foul and alleging oligarchy, most stridently the Tages-Anzeiger, which complained in its editorial that “with the Blochers, Switzerland now has an oligarchy family: complete with a castle, companies, factories and newspapers”.

The Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) also viewed the takeover critically, calling the deal a fiasco and the game of hide-and-seek over ownership embarrassing.

Three Swiss media unions issued a joint statement bemoaning the threat to the independence of the media and calling on the Blochers to sell their interest in the paper to a non-political buyer.

“When one of the richest Swiss — and vice-president of the strongest party — buys into the media, we are on the way to Berlusconisation,” the statement said, referring to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is also the controlling shareholder of the media company Mediaset.

Media evolution

The purchase of a newspaper by a political figure marks a change in the evolution of the Swiss press in recent years, according to Heinz Bonfadelli, professor of journalism at Zurich University.

“In the past 25 years we have seen a move away from party newspapers based on a political ideology. Most have turned into what we call in German ‘forum newspapers’, independent of a political line, that define themselves as a platform or forum for the broad political spectrum,” Bonfadelli told

Vinzenz Wyss, media professor at Winterthur’s Institute of Applied Media Studies, said the difficult financial climate for media companies was making them a soft target for political or religious actors.

“What worries people is that a political figure is grabbing a media company to build up his political power,” Wyss told…

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

UK: The Death of History: Experts Fears After Shocking Figures Show Subject is All But Extinct in Some Areas

Experts have warned of the ‘death of History’ after shocking figures revealed the subject is becoming virtually extinct in some areas of the country.

MPs have been appalled to read new research stating that in one local authority — Knowsley, on Merseyside — just four pupils managed to pass the exam in the entire region.

The report concludes that a child growing up in the Home Counties is 46 times more likely to pass A-level History than a pupil living in deprived parts of the North.

The findings, contained in a report being published tomorrow, come amid growing alarm in Government over the lack of historical knowledge being demonstrated by school leavers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove was horrified by a recent survey that found that half of English 18 to 24-year-olds were unaware that Nelson led the British to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, while a similar proportion did not know that the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall.

Mr Gove has ordered schools to widen their teaching away from narrow syllabuses which have been mockingly summarised as ‘Cowboys and Nazis’.

The report, produced by Tory MP Chris Skidmore for the Commons All-Party Group on History, shows how the subject is being concentrated in private schools and selective grammars — and increasingly neglected in comprehensives.

Last year, less than 30 per cent of 16-year-olds in comprehensive schools were entered for GCSE History, compared with 55 per cent of pupils in grammar schools and 48 per cent in private schools.

Alarmingly, there were 159 comprehensives where not a single pupil was entered for GCSE History; and in a majority of state secondaries, less than a quarter of pupils now take the exam.

Mr Skidmore says the fact that the subject is increasingly being confined to the most academic schools — which tend to be concentrated in the south of the UK — has produced a growing North-South gulf.

Teachers in comprehensives appear more likely to put their pupils forward for ‘soft’ subjects such as Media Studies, which are less valued by employers.

He will argue this week that pupils should no longer be able to drop History at 14, with the subject instead being made compulsory until the age of 16.

In Knowsley, one of the most deprived areas in the country, out of nearly 2,000 18-year-olds who had been eligible to take A-levels, just 11 pupils took the History exam and only four passed.

In the whole of Leicester, out of 1,638 A-level candidates, just 68 passed History.

This contrasts with affluent southern areas such as Cambridgeshire, where 665 pupils (out of 6,038 candidates of A-level age) took the exam and 557 passed.

Even if Knowsley were as populous as Cambridgeshire, according to the analysis, only 33 pupils would have taken the exam and just 12 obtained passes — making it 46 times less likely that they would leave school with the qualification.

Mr Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, said: ‘There are now areas of the country where History has become a dead subject, forgotten by schools and pupils once they are able to drop it at 14.

‘The future study of the past is being eradicated in entire regions. A subject that should unite us as one nation has now become the subject of two nations. In entire communities and schools, often in some of the most deprived areas of the country, the study of history has been shunned; elsewhere, it has become the preserve of more affluent areas and schools.

‘This cannot be healthy for the future of the nation. This needs to end. There has never been a stronger case for making the subject compulsory to 16.’

Last night, Mr Gove said reforms he had introduced, including the introduction of an English Baccalaureate, had already started to reverse the decline in the number of history students.

‘Every child deserves a chance to study history,’ Mr Gove said.

‘It helps us appreciate the heroism and sacrifices of those who fought to make this country a home of liberty and it enables all students to analyse evidence so they can sort out good arguments from bad.

‘Under the last Government, history was neglected and the poorest students in the most deprived areas suffered most.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: the Brave Women of the Female Protesters Brutally Beaten With Metal Poles as Vicious Soldiers Drag Girls Through Streets by Their Hair in Day of Shame

After being viciously beaten by a 10-strong mob of Egyptian male soldiers, this woman lies helplessly on the ground as her shirt is ripped from her body and a man kicks her with full force in her exposed chest.

Moments earlier she had been struck countless times in the head and body with metal batons, not content with the brutal beating delivered by his fellow soldier, one man stamped on her head repeatedly.

She feebly tried to shield her head from the relentless blows with her hands.

But she was knocked unconscious in the shameful attack and left lying motionless as the military men mindlessly continued to beat her limp and half-naked body.

Before she was set upon by the guards, three men appeared to carry her as they tried to flee the approaching military.

But they were too slow and the soldiers caught up with them, capturing the women and knocking one of the men to the ground.

The two other men were forced to abandoned their fellow protestors and continued running, looking helplessly back at the two they left behind being relentlessly attacked as they lay on the ground.

This is just one of the hundreds of shameful injustices seen in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where Egypt’s military took a dramatically heavy hand on Saturday to crush protests against its rule.

Aya Emad told the AP that troops dragged her by her headscarf and hair into the Cabinet headquarters. The 24-year-old said soldiers kicked her on the ground, an officer shocked her with an electrical prod and another slapped her on the face, leaving her nose broken and her arm in a sling.

Mona Seif, an activist who was briefly detained Friday, said she saw an officer repeatedly slapping a detained old woman in the face.

‘It was a humiliating scene,’ Seif told the private TV network Al-Nahar. ‘I have never seen this in my life.’

In Bahrain a similar pictured was emerging with a video clip showing a female human rights activist being hit by a policewoman during clashes between police and anti-government protestors.

Police fired teargas to break up a demonstration by several hundred people on the outskirts of the capital, Manama where several women staged a sit-in protest trying to block a main road.

After nearly 48 hours of continuous fighting in Egypt’s capital more than 300 were left injured and nine dead, many of them shot dead.

The most sustained crackdown yet is likely a sign that the generals who took power after the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak are confident that the Egyptian public is on its side after two rounds of widely acclaimed parliament elections, that Islamist parties winning the vote will stay out of the fight while pro-democracy protesters become more isolated.

Still, the generals risk turning more Egyptians against them, especially from outrage over the abuse of women.

‘Do they think this is manly?’ Toqa Nosseir, a 19-year old student, said of the attacks on women. ‘Where is the dignity?’

Nosseir joined the protest over her parents’ objections because she couldn’t tolerate the clashes she had seen.

‘No one can approve or accept what is happening here,’ she said.

‘The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power … I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.’

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, ‘This is the army that is protecting us!’

‘No one can approve or accept what is happening here,’ she said.

‘The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power … I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.’

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, ‘This is the army that is protecting us!’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

France Accuses Cairo of Heavy-Hand in Tahrir Square

(AGI) Cairo — Egypt’s foreign ministry reports at least 9 killed and 361 injured during Friday’s Cairo protests. France has meanwhile accused the Supreme Military Council of resorting to “excessive use of force” in its handling of the protests.

Calling for calm on all sides, Paris issued a communique’ submitting its “concerns at the violent incidents in Tahrir square.” ..

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

Islamists Win 70 Percent of the Vote in Second Round of Egypt Elections

Unofficial results put Muslim Brotherhood ahead with 39 percent of the vote, Salafi Al Nour with 31 percent; liberal Wafd party wins 22 percent.

The Muslim Brotherhood party secured 39 percent of the vote, while the Salafi Al Nour party won 31 percent of the vote in the second stage of Egyptâ€(tm)s landmark post-Mubarak elections, according to unofficial results published on the website of Egyptâ€(tm)s Al-Ahram newspaper on Sunday.

The unofficial results for the second stage of elections for the lower house of the Egyptian parliament also showed that the secular, liberal Wafd party won 22 percent of the vote.

Islamist parties won some 70 percent of the total vote, a similar result to the first stage of elections, which took place on November 28.

Turnout in the second round of voting in Egypt’s parliamentary elections reached 67 per cent, with most constituencies expecting run-off votes, elections officials said Sunday, with more than 12 million citizens casting their ballots on Wednesday and Thursday.

The turnout was higher than that of the first round, estimated by the High Elections Commission at 60 per cent. A final round, with the remaining nine provinces, has been set for January.

The elections took place in nine provinces, in Islamiyya, Suez and Giza. The gap between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al Nour party shrank in this round of voting, with the Brotherhood winning 49 percent of the vote, and Al Nour won 20 percent in the previous round.

Violence continued on Sunday for the third day straight in Egypt, where the military sought to isolate pro-democracy activists protesting against their rule, depicting them as conspirators and vandals. Troops and protesters pelting each other with stones near parliament in the heart of the capital.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel to Release 550 Palestinian Prisoners Today

(AGI) Jerusalem — Israel will today release 550 Palestinian prisoners, following the agreement to free Gilad Shalit. The operation will start in the afternoon, when the detainees will be transferred to the border crossings with the West Bank and Gaza. They include six women and Hamura Salah, a Palestinian of French origin convicted of plotting the assassination of a Jewish religious leader.

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

Middle East

Ancient Texts Tell Tales of War, Bar Tabs

A trove of newly translated texts from the ancient Middle East are revealing accounts of war, the building of pyramidlike structures called ziggurats and even the people’s use of beer tabs at local taverns. The 107 cuneiform texts, most of them previously unpublished, are from the collection of Martin Schøyen, a businessman from Norway who has a collection of antiquities. The texts date from the dawn of written history, about 5,000 years ago, to a time about 2,400 years ago when the Achaemenid Empire (based in Persia) ruled much of the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

FIFA to Review Hijab Law for Women Players

FIFA is considering changing their laws to allow women to wear a hijab, or headscarf when they play in official matches. Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan, 35, the youngest member of FIFA’s executive committee and the Asian vice-president, made a presentation to members at their meeting in Tokyo on Saturday and was given the go-ahead to present the case when the law-making International Board meets in Bagshot, England, next March.

In a statement, Prince Ali said he wanted the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to sanction a safe, velcro-opening headscarf for players and officials and asked them to re-consider the law when they meet on March 3. “I look forward to presenting the case at the IFAB meeting,” he said.

“This issue impacts on millions of women worldwide and it is crucial to address, in the best possible way, the issue that ensures the safety of the players, respects culture and promotes football for all women without discrimination.” He added: “This is a crucial step forward. Our goal at the end of the day is to ensure that all women are able to play football at all levels without any barriers.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudis Complain of Huge Losses From Escaped Workers

Expatriate workers in the Kingdom find it very easy to escape from their sponsors — either a person or a company — without losing money. Despite the difficulties that Saudi citizens and companies face to import workers in addition to the money they pay for visas — SR7,000 or more per worker — Saudi Arabia does not have a strict law to protect the rights of the citizen or company when the worker escapes. Economists estimate that Saudi Arabia loses SR38 million annually on escaped workers.

Arab News spoke to lawyers and officials in the Ministry of Interior, who confirmed that the government had nothing to do with escaped workers apart from deporting them. They also confirmed that the citizen is the only loser in such cases.

“It is common these days to hear about escaped workers, maids and drivers. They sometimes escape from their sponsor while looking for higher payment and better treatment,” said Abdulrahman Al-Jehani, head assistant of the recruitment department in the ministry.

The government duty, in this case, is to arrest the escaped worker and deport him or her, said Al-Jehani. He added that workers sometimes escaped because of bad treatment or because they had not been paid their salary on time, but “workers should know that escaping is not the solution for them.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Italian Defence Minister Confirms Post-2014 Afghanistan Commitment

(AGI) Herat — During his first visit to Afghanistan as defence minister, Giampaolo Di Paola pledged Italy’s support beyond 2014. Visiting Italian troops in Herat, Di Paola assured Italy and the international community’s support will continue after the troops’ departure, albeit “in a different way.” The minister’s statements sought to underscore commitments agreed to in Bonn, which “Italy will abide by.” Visiting several outposts in the province of Herat, Di Paola thanked troops for their “excellent work.” .

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

Women, the First Victims of Taliban Violence in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

A report published by the Human Rights NGO Khwendo Kor documents cases of abuse, including honour killings, rapes, mutilations and acid attacks. Government inertia gives extremists control of Fata. Vicar of Faisalabad: punish practices against women. Muslim Activist: united against violence.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “Five Muslim extremists raided the house and cut off my cousins breast because she was breastfeeding her child. A member of the gang then ordered the women to eat the remains. “ This horror told by Kiran Bibi is just one of many “tales of ordinary madness” that come from the tribal areas of Pakistan, that are Taliban-controlled with the tacit consent of Islamabad. The 22 year old Cheryl Shaz — both names are fictitious, ed — from the Jalozai refugee camp adds: “A security guard forced me to have sex with him, in exchange for cooking oil and a handful of beans.” The incidents described are just two of many stories published in the report “Impact of the crisis on women and girls in FATA”, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, published by the organization Human Rights Khwendo Kor — the home of sisters , in Pashto — with the support of women’s groups of the United Nations. The document contains the stories of everyday violence, long unchecked, in north-western Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.

The area is controlled by the Taliban, to which the central government in Islamabad has granted broad powers — including the introduction of Islamic law, Sharia — in order to reach a truce with the Islamists. Since the end of the war between the army and militia, women are the most affected by extreme violence, in particular, the two groups most at risk are widows and young girls. Forced sexual relations in exchange for food, water, basic necessities, women prefer not to use the showers and facilities, the lack of privacy, an increase in honor killings against women first raped and then excluded because considered a “ disgrace “the family which then kills them. Added to this is a progressive decline (from 39 to 19%) of the influence “female participation” in Pakistani society, the inability to gain their inheritance rights in shariah courts, claims of land ownership that go unheard, unheeded ..

A dramatic situation that provokes the angry reaction of Christian and Muslim activists and intellectuals, who are appealing to the government and the international community to intervene to protect the rights of women, stemming the progressive “Islamization” in Pakistan. The editor and journalist Farrukh Shahzad speaks to AsiaNews of a “painful reality” and “deteriorating conditions”, despite the efforts made by organizations and nongovernmental organizations. He turns to politicians and statesmen, so that “they understand the seriousness of the matter”, even the media, he adds, “are limited in their access to the populations of FATA because of the militia fighters.” He is echoed by Amina Zaman, Muslim activist for human rights, that the situation does not just regard FATA, but a large part of Pakistan and invites civil society “to speak out against this terrible violence against women.”

The vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad links this violence to the government bill, in the approval process, which aims to “punish practices against women.” “It’s an attempt at resistance — says Fr. Khalid Rasheed Asi — to make it clear that the government will not accept laws favorable to women in the FATA. “ Shazia George, women’s rights activist, rattles off all the “serious abuses” that underlie women in Pakistan: genital mutilation, acid attacks, rape and murder, she adds, in the vast majority of crimes go unpunished . The Christian activist hopes that those responsible for “inciting hatred of gender” are arrested and punished. We need, she concludes, models of “resistance to injustice,” equal access to legal protection and respect of women’s rights.

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

Far East

North Korea Says Leader Kim Jong Il Has Died

REPORTING FROM SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the mercurial strongman extolled at home as the “Dear Leader” and reviled abroad as a tyrant, has died at 69, North Korean media reported Monday.

Kim’s death was announced by state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. No cause of death was reported, but Kim was believed to have suffered in recent years from diabetes and heart disease.

The diminutive leader was believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but nonetheless appeared in numerous photos released by state media as he toured state facilities and in recent months embarked on rare trips outside North Korea -— to China and Russia.

In September 2010, Kim announced that his foreign-educated third son, Kim Jong Eun, would succeed him as the regime’s third leader since its emergence more than a half century ago.

Kim, who came to power in 1994 upon the death of his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, led one of the world’s most enduring dictatorships, a repressive regime that has long defied predictions of its demise. Against the odds, it survived into the 21st century while its people went hungry and its allies drifted away to pursue globalization and reform…

[Return to headlines]


220 Illegals Rounded Up in Two-Day Raids in Dubai

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai rounded up 220 illegal residents in round-the-clock raids in the last two days. Major-General Mohammad Ahmed Al Marri, Director-General of the directorate, said the UAE law in general and the residency rules in particular are meant to ensure public safety and security. “Any violation of these regulations poses a grave risk to the individuals’ safety since an illegal resident may easily turn into a criminal as being out of control,” he said.

Lt-Col Khalaf Ahmed Al Ghaith, Assistant Director-General for Investigation and Illegals Follow-up Sector, said the inspectors combed every nook and corner of the emirate. “Illegals shall be tracked down, arrested and referred to the bodies concerned for legal action,” he said. The Illegals and Foreigners Sector in Dubai arrested 8,339 illegal residents — 6,068 men and 2,271 women — from January 1 to September 8 this year.

Under the UAE labour laws, an expatriate holding an employment visa from one sponsor is not allowed to work even part time for anyone else unless permitted by the sponsor. Visit visa-holders are not allowed to work at all. First Lieutenant Majid Mohammed Al Shaer, Head of the Search and Investigation Section, warned that law violators would face hefty fines and legal action. “As per the law, a jail term of not less than two months and a fine of Dh50,000 shall be imposed on any employer who provides work or safe haven to an illegal expatriate or worker not on his/her sponsorship,” he said.

Urging cooperation, Al Shaer called upon UAE nationals and residents of Dubai to report illegals, be they infiltrators, residents, workers or sponsors through toll-free ‘AMER service’.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Housh Bakr: Refuge for African Illegals in Makkah

MAKKAH: The Holy City is among the few cities, if not the only one, in Saudi Arabia with the largest number of illegal foreign residents. It is more or less the main haven for illegal foreigners, mostly African nationals. The reason for this is because foreigners who come to the Kingdom for Umrah or Haj tend to just stay here.

There are at least nine underdeveloped districts in Makkah. Each district is made up of at least 10 quarters. Africans of the same nationality would choose one of the districts and make it their permanent home in Makkah. They even change the names of the old districts, giving them African-sounding names.

The most popular of these areas for illegal African overstayers is the Al-Mansour district, which has been known by this name for more than half a century. The district is about 1.5 km away from the Grand Mosque. It is occupied by thousands of African men, women and children.

Saudi residents of Makkah commonly believed that the Al-Mansour district is a real threat to the security of the holy city. They said the area was a haven for crime and unethical practices. The Makkawis were unanimous that the area needed to be redeveloped. Commenting on this issue, police spokesman Lt. Col Abdul Mohsen Al-Miman said such areas were constantly under surveillance by police, security patrols and passport and traffic police. He said a number of raids were organized during which many criminals and illegal overstayers were arrested.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel: Yishai: Every African ‘Infiltrator’ Will Return Home

Interior minister dismisses notion that some Africans are asylum seekers or refugees: “These are economic migrants.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai vowed Thursday to exert every effort to see that “the last of the infiltrators return to their countries,” referring to the some 50,000 African economic migrants, asylum seekers and refugees currently in Israel.

Speaking with Army Radio, Yishai dismissed the notion that Sudanese, Eritreans and other Africans in Israel have any standing to seek political asylum. “These are not refugees, these are economic migrants who want to come to Israel for work,” he said.

Their presence “is an existential threat” to the State of Israel, he asserted, vowing to “defend the Jewish majority.” The interior minister added, “Each and every one of them will return to their countries.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]