Serbia: Balance of Payments Deficit Grows by 42.5% in 2011
(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 20 — Serbia’s balance of payments deficit amounted to EUR 2.97 billion in 2011, growing by 42.5 percent in nominal terms compared to the year before, according to a magazine issued by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. The increase in current account deficit is primarily due to the increased foreign trade and income deficits. The magazine says that 2012 is in for a larger current account deficit due to the completion of the investment cycle in the export-oriented sectors and to increased imports. Net inflow of foreign direct investment in 2011 amounted to EUR 1.83 billion, more by about EUR 1 billion when compared to the year before.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
Dramatic Siege in Toulouse Suburb as Armed Police Surround Flat of ‘Islamic Warrior’ Who Broke Out of Taliban Jail in Afghanistan and Now Suspected of Being Serial Killer
A self-confessed Al Qaeda terrorist thought to have murdered seven people across south west France over the past two weeks was going to post footage of his crimes online today, he claimed.
Mohammed Mera, 24, told news channel France 24’s editor Ebba Kalondo at 1am this morning he had ‘filmed everything’ with a small video camera and ‘intended to put the videos online’.
But just two hours later more than 300 armed police dramatically raided his Toulouse home — where three officers were injured — and he is now cornered and under siege.
He has been described as ‘armed and dangerous’ with a cache including an Uzi machine gun and Kalashnikov assault rifle, with police saying he is likely to kill again.
It has also emerged he was being tracked by French security services ‘for years’ and had broken out of a jail in Kandahar, Afghanistan, as part of a mass Taliban escape in 2008.
Scroll down for video…
He said he is punishing France’s army for its foreign interventions and the plight of Palestinian children — and has promised to give himself up later today.
Suspected serial killer Mohammed Mera, who broke out of an Afghanistan jail in 2008 as part of a mass Taliban escape, once kidnapped another man, it has been reported.
A close family friend of the 24-year-old suspect told Le Parisien she knew him well while in the city’s Izards housing estate.
The woman, Laela, said: ‘He was well known to the police. Around two years ago he kidnapped a young person on the estate.
‘I remember that the mother of the boy in question was wandering around the estate trying to find him.
‘Finally, her son was freed. And I’m convinced then a complaint was lodged, and Mohammed was heard by investigating officers.’
Following the kidnapping, for which he was never charged, he is said to have ‘crossed the estate in combat gear, with a sword in his hand shouting ‘Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda!’.
Describing his family as ‘charming people’, Laela said: ‘His mother finally left after divorcing her husband.’
This family split, she said, may have contributed to his slip into anti-social behaviour. But the main reason was Islamic fundamentalism.
She said: ‘He was a normal kid who was radicalised. He had exchanges with people on the internet, but also frequently meant other Islamists in the region.
‘On the estate, he wanted to indoctrinated younger children. One day, for example, he grabbed my little nephew, and took him to a car where he showed him some horrible videos.
‘There were scenes of decapitation, things going on in Afghanistan, or images showing the horror of the war.’
He earlier threw a pistol from a window, in exchange for a ‘communication device’ — and police are now blowing entry points into the building in preparation for a raid.
The gunman shouted ‘I can see you!’ at police as they started the raid this morning, before opening fire. One officer was shot in the knee, another on the shoulder, and another in the chest.
But he was protected from serious injury by his bullet-proof vest.
The suspected serial killer is thought to have killed a Rabbi and three pupils at a Jewish school in the city on Monday, and to have assassinated three soldiers last week.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the man, a French-Algerian who had made several visits to Afghanistan, was acting out of revenge for France’s military involvement in the country.
The man, who describes himself as an Islamic warrior, also wanted to take revenge for what he describes as the ‘murder’ of Palestinian children by Israeli forces.
‘He claims to be a Mujahideen and to belong to Al Qaeda,’ said Mr Gueant, who is at the scene of the tense stand-off.
‘He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions.’
Nearby, heavily armed police in bullet-proof vests and helmets cordoned off the area.
One local said he had spoken by phone to a couple who lived in the flat directly opposite the suspect. He said: ‘They are in their bedroom hiding under their bed, terrified.
‘Just after 3am they heard a commotion, the man shouted down to the police ‘I can see you!’ and began firing a gun. They don’t know the man well, but they said they just used to pass him on the stairwell.’
Near neighbour Julie Verdier, 24, said : ‘It is astonishing to know that he was next door. Maybe I passed him, maybe I said hello, it’s completely surreal.
The alleged killer was traced through his brother’s computer’s IP address after using it to set up a meeting with his first alleged victim, Imad Ibn Ziaten.
The 30-year-old parachutist was in plain clothes and standing by his motorbike when he was gunned down on Sunday, March 11.
‘Killer and victim had exchanged emails, with the killer using a false account,’ said an investigating source.
Police were also able to trace the gunman through his own bike — a Yamaha T-Max 530 scooter.
They found out where it had been sold, and learnt that the killer had asked how to underdo the tracking system of the vehicle — meaning it could not be traced.
There had also been attempts by the killer to disguise the bike by changing the colour and altering distinctive features.
The suspect was known to the DCRI intelligence unit (Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence).
‘He’s a maniac. I was thinking he was more likely to come from a rougher area than a bourgeois neighbourhood like this. I hope all this will end very quickly.’
Wafia Bendali, 26, who lives on the third floor of the building, said: ‘We heard gunfire three times, and turned on the television. Then the police phoned to say to stay in the house.’
The house, in north Toulouse, is just a few miles from the Ozar Hatorah School where Monday’s shootings took place.
A second man — believed to be the man’s younger brother — was arrested nearby. The gunman’s mother was also at the scene of the siege, trying to persuade the alleged serial killer to give himself up.
She has already told police that she did not want to speak to him ‘because I have no influence of him. Negotiations with the suspect are ongoing, gunfire has been exchanged,’ said Mr Gueant.
Those shot on Monday were Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, his two young sons, three-year-old Gavriel and six-year-old Aryeh, and headmaster’s daughter Miriam Monsonego, eight.
All were shot in the head at such close range that the gunfire burned the surrounding skin. CCTV cameras at the school showed that the gunman recorded his shooting spree with a small video camera around his neck.
Last week the same attacker is believed to have shot three soldiers, all of North African or Caribbean origin, in the same area in two separate attacks. He carried the same weapons and rode a black scooter to and from the attack at 8am on Monday.
There had been a four-day gap between each of his three attacks — leading to suspicions there would be a fourth on Friday.
Hundreds of anti-terror police officers are currently flooding Toulouse, with south-west France in virtual lockdown.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said racism appeared to be the motivation for Monday’s school attack, adding: ‘When you grab a little girl to put a bullet in her head, without leaving her any chance, you are a monster. An anti-Semitic monster, but first of all a monster.’
The bodies of the three children and Mr Sandler were driven to Paris on Monday afternoon to be flown to Israel for burial.
Earlier today an El Al Israel Airlines flight from Paris brought the bodies to Israel. The children held dual Israeli-French citizenship; the rabbi had lived in Israel for years and the families had asked to bury them in the country.
After the plane landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport before dawn, memorial prayers were read over the plain pine coffins bearing Stars of David before they were placed in four ambulances for transport to the Har Menuchot cemetery.
Relatives sobbed inconsolably by their gravesides after they were brought to Jerusalem for burial today.
At the funeral ceremony in Jerusalem, Eva Sandler, the rabbi’s widow and mother of two of the slain children, and Yaffa Monsenego, the mother of the third, burst repeatedly into tears as speaker after speaker eulogised the dead.
The murdered members of the Sandler family were wrapped in white prayer shawls while the body of Monsenego’s daughter was draped in black velvet.
Israeli media reported that Eva Sandler is pregnant and arrived in Israel with her remaining child, a toddler.
About 400 people gathered at the cemetery, including grieving relatives who arrived from France, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and leaders of the French Jewish community.
In his eulogy, Israeli parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin said the Jewish people ‘once again find themselves facing beasts … driven out their minds by hatred’.
Juppe said: ‘An attack on a Jew in France is not only an issue for French Jews. … Anti-semitism is against all French values.’
|— Hat tip: Gaia||[Return to headlines]|
France Shootings: Police Lay Siege to Toulouse Suspect
Police hunting a gunman suspected of killing seven people in southern France are laying siege to a flat in Toulouse.
The man, named as Mohammed Merah, 23, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, has said he belongs to al-Qaeda and acted to “avenge Palestinian children”.
Police are negotiating with the man, who is still said to be armed but says he may give himself up this afternoon.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the man had been tracked by French intelligence for “several years”.
The brother of the suspect has been arrested in another part of Toulouse, with several other relatives also reported detained.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made a televised address, paying tribute to the security forces who are carrying out the operation and saying that terrorism “will never be able to fracture our national community”.
Mr Gueant, who is at the siege scene, says the suspect has a Kalashnikov, a mini-Uzi 9mm machine pistol and several handguns. He earlier threw one gun, a Colt 45, from a window in exchange for a phone. A .45 calibre pistol was used at all three murder scenes. More weapons were found in a car near the flat.
Mr Gueant said the suspect had no particular demands and that, after initially talking to the authorities, Merah broke off discussions. Negotiations have now resumed, Agence France-Presse reports.
Surrounding buildings have been evacuated.
The suspect’s mother, who is Algerian, had been brought to the scene, but Mr Gueant said she had refused to become involved as “she had little influence on him”.
The man shot at the door after police arrived, Mr Gueant said, injuring one officer in the knee and “lightly injuring” another.
The minister said: “Our main concern is to catch him and to catch him under such conditions that he can be brought to justice.”
The flat in Toulouse is in a five-storey building and Merah is on the ground or first floor, correspondents say.
Police wearing helmets and flak jackets have cordoned off the area. Prosecutors say other operations are under way to track down possible accomplices.
Mr Gueant said the suspect had made one visit to Afghanistan and one to Pakistan.
“He claims to be a mujahideen and to belong to al-Qaeda,” Mr Gueant said.
“He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions.”
French media have linked Merah to a group called Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride) that was banned by Mr Gueant in January.
The prison director in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, Gulam Farooq, told the BBC that Merah was arrested in 2007 and jailed for three years for planting bombs, before escaping in a mass Taliban-led break-out in 2008.
The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says investigators report that Merah was identified because of an email message sent to his first victim about buying a scooter.
The message, sent from the suspect’s brother’s account, set up an appointment at which the soldier was killed, sources told AFP.
The man had also sought out a garage in Toulouse to have his Yamaha scooter repainted after the first two attacks. A scooter was used in all the attacks.
An editor of the France 24 network said a man had called it overnight saying he was responsible for the shootings and that he wanted to published on the internet films he had made of all of the killings.
Although there is no confirmation it was Merah, France 24 said he had made the same comments as later reported by Mr Gueant, gave the same age and recounted very specific details of the killings.
Merah’s lawyer said his client was in court two weeks ago for driving without a licence and was “courteous and civilised”.
A huge manhunt had been launched after Monday’s shooting at a Jewish school that left four people dead, and the killing of three soldiers in two incidents last week.
After Wednesday’s raid took place, Ms Le Pen said the “fundamentalist threat has been underestimated” in France.
|— Hat tip: Seneca III||[Return to headlines]|
French Police Raid House for Suspects in Jewish School Attack; Officers Injured
TOULOUSE, France — Two French police officers were injured in a shoot-out during a raid on a house in Toulouse on Wednesday to arrest suspects in the killings of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in southwest France this week, a police source told Reuters.
The source said the raid began at 3.00 a.m. local time and was ongoing, but did not provide further details.
French news channel BFM TV said the suspects were linked to an Islamist group which it identified as Forsane Alizza but it was not immediately possible to confirm this.
On Tuesday, Police spread out across southern France by the hundreds in the hunt for an expert gunman suspected in three deadly attacks. Authorities suspect the school killer was also behind two recent attacks in the same area on French paratroopers that left three soldiers dead and one seriously wounded. The victims were of North African and French Caribbean backgrounds…
|— Hat tip: Vlad Tepes||[Return to headlines]|
Italy: CGIL Digs in Heels Against Labor Reform, Monti Says
‘They were the exception’ says premier after talks
(ANSA) — Rome, March 20 — Premier Mario Monti said that Italy’s largest trade union CGIL had rejected government proposals to make firing employees easier in talks with labor unions and employers on Tuesday. All parties agreed to loosening restrictions on firing, Monti said after a three-hour meeting, “with the exception of CGIL, which shared a negative opinion”. The government agreed to hold conclusive meetings with trade unions and business associations on Thursday when it would present its definitive changes to the labor code. Monti’s government of non-political technocrats wants to introduce changes to boost productivity and make it easier for women and young people to find work.
The main point of contention is whether to change Article 18 of the 1970 Workers Statue, a law that forbids companies with over 15 employees from firing people without just cause.
Monti has argued that this law makes firms reluctant to hire new staff on regular contracts, which has led to a situation in which almost one in three 15-to-24-year-olds are unemployed while many others have work contracts that offer them few rights and little job security.
He once said there is a sort of “apartheid” in the Italian labour market in which older workers often have a high level of protection while young people have virtually none. So the government argues that it is necessary to make it easier for firms in economic difficulty to dismiss staff, as this would actually encourage companies to hire, while boosting benefits for people out of work.
Italy’s main unions, however, have remained opposed to changes that would make it easier for firms to put workers on the dole in a series of talks with the government this year.
Labour Minister Elsa Fornero has said that, if the government fails to reach an agreement with the unions and business representatives, it will press ahead and present a package of reforms to parliament anyway.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano tried to nudge the interested parties to find some common ground, saying on Monday that failure to reach an agreement would be “grave”.
Labour reform is widely seen as being a key test for former European commissioner Monti, who took over the helm of government when the financial crisis forced Silvio Berlusconi to step down as premier in November.
Monti’s government passed a 30-billion-euro austerity package to put Italy’s public finances in order in December and so far this year it has presented a series of liberalisations and red-tape-cutting measures aimed at boosting growth.
But tackling the unions over Article 18 is considered by many to be the biggest challenge yet.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
Toulouse: Interior Minister Wants to Capture Killer Alive
(AGI) Toulouse (France) — French police will do everything to capture alive the suspected Jewish school killer. The man is currently besieged in an apartment. Interior minster Claude Gueant said he wanted the man tried for his crimes. The minister, present in person to coordinate the special forces raid, explained: “Our main concern is to catch him and to catch him under such conditions that he can be brought to justice.” He emphasised: “We are certainly concerned to capture him alive.” Two loud explosions have just been heard at the site of the siege.
|— Hat tip: C. Cantoni||[Return to headlines]|
U.S. Sent Suspect Back to France from Afghanistan, Prosecutor Says
TOULOUSE, France — The U.S. army sent a Frenchman currently besieged by police in Toulouse after the killings of seven people, back to France after he was arrested in Afghanistan, a prosecutor said Wednesday. Afghan police detained the man at a road checkpoint and handed him over to the U.S. army “who put him on the first plane headed to France,” prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters. Molins, France’s top anti-terror magistrate who is overseeing the probe into the killing of three soldiers, three Jewish children and a teacher, did not provide a date or details of the Afghan arrest of suspect Mohamed Merah. He said it occurred on one of two trips the 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin made to Afghanistan. Molins said the second trip began in mid-August last year and lasted two months. French police were laying siege Wednesday to an apartment block in Toulouse where the self-declared al-Qaida militant Merah was holed up.
|— Hat tip: KGS||[Return to headlines]|
UK: Ken Livingstone: Jews Won’t Vote Labour Because They Are Rich
by Martin Bright
Prominent Labour-supporting Jewish Londoners have written a devastating letter to Ed Miliband expressing their profound concerns about mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.
The letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Jewish Chronicle, was written in response to a meeting held on March 1st at which Mr Livingstone stood by his decision to embrace radical Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi and take money from the Iranian state broadcaster Press TV. Most damaging for Mr Livingstone is the revelation that he believes Jews will not vote Labour because they are rich. The letter states: “Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn’t vote for him.”
The letter explains to Mr Miliband that Jewish Labour supporters were finding it “harder and harder to consider voting for Ken”. At the heart of the critique is the fear that Mr Livingstone’s language when discussing the Jewish community, Israel and Zionism is close to classic antisemitism. “Ken determines Jews as a religious group but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people and did not respond on this other than to say that as an atheist he found this hard to comprehend. In the same way that Black, Irish, Women and LGBT groups are afforded the right to determine their own identity, many of us feel that Ken doesn’t afford Jews that right.” The letter reveals that Mr Livingstone used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli interchangeably and did so “in a perjorative manner”.
The Jewish Labour figures behind the letter, which include Liberal rabbi Danny Rich and former Limmud chair Andrew Gilbert, express concern that Mr Livinstone has aligned himself with the politics of radical Islam. “The real and more pressing issue is that of the strong perception that Ken is seeking to align himself with the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to Islamist antisemitism , mysogynism (sic) and homophobia.” The authors of the letter added: “We are concerned that this is more about infantile, far-left politics, being seen to take a stance against whatever the anti-establishment or anti-imperialism cause of the moment is.” The letter was written ahead of a meeting between the Jewish communal leadership and Ed Miliband later this month, when the issue of Mr Livingstone will be top of the agenda.
|— Hat tip: JP||[Return to headlines]|
UK: Ken Livingstone: What He Really Thinks About Jews
Labour-supporting Jews in London have written a devastating private letter to the party leader, Ed Miliband, after a group of them including Jewish Labour councillors, Labour members of the Board of Deputies and Labour Friends of Israel met Ken this month to try to build bridges. Previous discussions, they said, had been “acrimonious” and this one doesn’t sound any better. In the letter, obtained by the Jewish Chronicle, the Labour supporters write: “Many of us had just about managed to vote for [Ken] in 2008. Today, many of us who would otherwise normally vote Labour are finding it harder and harder to consider voting for Ken, despite agreeing with his policies for London.”
Part of their problem, they said, was that
Ken determines Jews as a religious group but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people… [though] black, Irish, women and LGBT groups are afforded the right to determine their own identity, many of us feel that Ken doesn’t afford Jews that right… At various points in the discussion Ken used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli interchangeably as if they meant the same, and did so in a pejorative manner. These words are not interchangeable and to do so is highly offensive, particularly when repeated over and again as was done. For example, when discussing Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s extreme views on homosexuality, Ken said “one would expect the same views on homosexuality from extreme Christians, Muslims and Israelis” and using the word “Zionist” as an adjectival negative to criticise much more widely than what can be attributed to the ideology of Zionism…
Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich, we simply wouldn’t vote for him. When we pointed to research undertaken by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research that demonstrates the Jewish community in the UK has a propensity to vote much more radically than its wealth, and this is attributed to Jewish values and sociology and history and also alluded to Democrats in the USA, Ken begrudgingly accepted this. The real and more pressing issue is that of the strong perception that Ken is seeking to align himself with the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to Islamist antisemitism, misogynism and homophobia, even when overt and demonization of Zionism and the derogatory use of the word Zionist and use of antisemitic memes.
We are concerned that this is more about infantile far left politics, being seen to take a stance against whatever the anti-establishment or anti-imperialism cause of the moment is. Boiled down, it’s hard to interpret this in any other way than Ken basically having no sympathy for those that he perceives as bourgeois , which is why he isn’t really attempting to appeal to, and perhaps why he is losing progressive as well as Jewish votes.
Ken’s continued defence of al-Qaradawi (pictured) has been condemned even by Val Shawcross, his own running-mate. It is chilling that Livingstone gave no ground even in a private meeting and instead invoked the stereotype of the fat, rich, selfish Jew — a favourite of anti-semites throughout history. This document is testimony to the fact that relations between Ken and one of London’s most important minorities have quite simply broken down.
|— Hat tip: JP||[Return to headlines]|
UK: The Letter to Ed Miliband From Jewish Labour Supporters
A letter from Labour-supporting Jewish Londoners to Ed Miliband about mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone
RE: Meeting between Ken Livingstone and Labour supporting Jewish Londoners
On the 1st of March 2012 a substantial number of Labour-supporting members of the Jewish community met Ken Livingstone at a private meeting in order to explore ways in which Ken could re-connect with Jewish voters in advance of the May 3rd m ayoral election. We believe that it is vitally important that Labour win in London, not just for our city, but also for the future success of the Party. The meeting was not part of the official Jewish calendar; however it was carried out with the full support of the London Jewish Forum, Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council with party members from each organisation attending. Also present were key people from Labour Friends of Israel, Jewish Labour councillors from five London Boroughs and also by the religious leadership of all streams of the Jewish Community. The meeting was not open to the wider press; Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian and Jewish Chronicle was present although in a personal capacity. The meeting was held under Chatham House rules, understood as what was said can be repeated, though the individuals saying things cannot be attributed. Ken, at the beginning of the meeting however, made it clear directly that he was happy to have anything he said attributed.
This meeting partly followed up on a meeting held two years previously with a similar group of Labour- supporting London Jews, which was acrimonious. At that time we did not follow the meeting up with the party leadership in any way. A number of us having attended the meeting have concluded that as loyal Party members, in this instance, considering our collective desire to see Labour win in London, it would be remiss of us not to raise these issues now, rather than in a post-mortem of a failed mayoral bid. We still believe that Ken has every possibility of reconnection with Jewish Labour voters. For the good of the Party and for London we would ultimately like to see this happen. It is worth mentioning that it was made very clear to Ken the mood amongst Jewish Labour Party supporters. Despite his seeming obsession with Israel, which gives some quarters cause for concern, many of us had just about managed to vote for him in 2008. Today, many of us who would otherwise normally vote Labour are finding it harder and harder to consider voting for Ken, despite agreeing with his policies for London. Many of us are actively working for local GLA Labour candidates, and in particular Andrew Dismore in Barnet and Camden, where grassroots efforts are being made to ensure he wins.
A key focus of the discussion centred on Ken’s discourse when discussing Zionism. It is not an uncontroversial thing to say that for the vast majority of British Jews, Israel plays an important part in their core identity, in the same way that family, language and cultural ties continue to bind BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities with India, Pakistan etc. This is certainly a conversation that has taken place with Ken on numerous occasions. Ken determines Jews as a religious group but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people, and did not respond on this other than to say as an atheist he found this hard to comprehend. In the same way that Black, Irish, Women and LGBT groups are afforded the right to determine their own identity, many of us feel that Ken doesn’t afford Jews that right. Just as we do not have a right to tell Ken what he thinks about Israel despite our many disagreements, Ken doesn’t have the right to define who we believe we are. At various points in the discussion Ken used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli, interchangeably, as if they meant the same, and did so in a pejorative manner. These words are not interchangeable and to do so is highly offensive, particularly when repeated over and again as was done. For example, when discussing Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s extreme views on homosexuality, Ken said “one would expect the same views on homosexuality from extreme Christians, Muslims and Israelis” and using the word “Zionist” as an adjectival negative to criticise much more widely than what can be attributed to the ideology of Zionism. He also stated “I am not against Israel, I am against Zionists”, which we also find impossible.
Ken’s relationship with radical Islamist politics was also raised in the context of him accepting a paid role presenting on the Iranian state-controlled Press TV and his continued defence of the City Hall reception for Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. When challenged over whether it had been appropriate to publicly embrace an individual who holds racist, misogynistic and homophobic views, in addition to his justification for suicide bombings in Israel, Ken again reinforced his view that al-Qaradawi is a moderate voice to be engaged, and that he was encouraged to do so. Ken stated that as al-Qaradawi was not advocating suicide bombings in the UK, and as he had apparently been the victim of a smear campaign by the British press, Ken would gladly embrace him as he would anyone being attacked by the Murdoch empire. Given the scenario of hugging Nick Griffin, Ken quickly backed off this comment.
Ken, towards the end of the meeting, stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich, we simply wouldn’t vote for him. When we pointed to research undertaken by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research that demonstrates the Jewish community in the UK has a propensity to vote much more radically than its wealth, and this is attributed to Jewish values and sociology and history and also alluded to Democrats in the USA, Ken begrudgingly accepted this. The real and more pressing issue is that of the strong perception that Ken is seeking to align himself with the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to Islamist antisemitism, misogynism and homophobia, even when overt and demonisation of Zionism and the derogatory use of the word Zionist and use of antisemitic memes. We are concerned that this is more about infantile far left politics, being seen to take a stance against whatever the anti-establishment or anti-imperialism cause of the moment is. Boiled down, it’s hard to interpret this in any other way than Ken basically having no sympathy for those that he perceives as bourgeois , which is why he isn’t really attempting to appeal to, and perhaps why he is losing progressive as well as Jewish votes.
Whilst we do feel somewhat despondent that we are covering the same arguments and reaching the same conclusions as we have done before, we do feel that it is now more important than ever, given the closeness of this election, given the election’s significance to the Party nationally, and to the growing unease amongst Jewish Labour voters, its time to resolve the matter once and for all. This private note is to Ken and Ken’s senior team, the party leader’s office, the shadow London Minister’s office, Ed Balls’ office and to a very limited part of the Jewish communal leadership, who will meet Ed Miliband later this month. We firmly believe that Ken can turn this situation around, and can count on Jewish voters to help him be elected Mayor of London. But he does however desperately need to face up to the issues we raise.
Rabbi Danny Rich
|— Hat tip: JP||[Return to headlines]|
UN Tweet Partly Responsible for Toulouse Massacre?
Anorak asks, “Did UN worker’s anti-Israel tweet provoke Mohammed Merah to murder?”
I think that’s a very good question. Mohammed Merah claims he killed the Jewish children in revenge ‘for deaths of Palestinian children’. Just over a week ago, a UN national officer who tweets under the name @KhuloodBadawi posted a picture of a bloodied Palestinian girl. @KhuloodBadawi falsely attributed the killing on Israel:
In fact, the little girl had been mortally injured in a car accident back in 2006. But did the image of a dead Palestinian child and a UN officer claiming the cause was Israeli attacks incite Mohammed Merah to execute little Miriam Monsonego?
|— Hat tip: heroyalwhyness||[Return to headlines]|
Video: Eastern European Woman Warns America About Realities of Communism
It has become quite evident in 21st century America that a collectivist cabal — with members on both the right and the left of our political divide, has managed to successfully advance a number of idealogical principles aligned with classical socialism and communism. In recent years we have seen socialized medicine, socialized birth control, the Occupy Movement’s cries for class warfare and a redistribution of wealth, along with Washington’s trend towards a totally federalized, vertical control of most aspects of society and our economy. Many collectivists will romanticize about the days of communism, having us believe that those were the golden years of human social and economic evolution.
The video below is a brief interview with an East German woman who attempts to set the record straight with regards to the wonders of socialism and the days of communism from experiences in her former country (see video below):
|[Return to headlines]|
Algeria: Imports Falling, Exports Up
(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 20 — The first two months of this year have seen Algerian imports falling while the country’s exports have risen. Between January and February, imports stood at 6.7 billion dollars compared to 7.15 billion in the same period last year. According to this report from the Algerian Customs, this represents a 6.4 percent fall. The fall in February was even more dramatic: -10.7 percent with a value of 2.95 billion dollars compared to 3.31 in February 2011. The greatest falls came in imports of machine products for industry and agriculture. Exports grew from 11.24 in the first two months of 2011 to 13.13 for this year.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
France: Manhunt for Killer of the Children at Jewish School. Links to Al Qaeda
Since 3 am the suspect is under police siege in Toulouse. He is a young 24 year old, Algerian mother, with trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who wanted to “avenge the Palestinian children” and to denounce the “crimes” of France in Afghanistan. The funeral of the rabbi and the three children killed will be held today in Jerusalem.
Toulouse (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The French police have surrounded a house in Toulouse to capture the probable killer of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school. The siege began at 3 am and has already led to the arrest of the brother of the suspect barricaded in the house. The suspect’s mother was also the brought to the scene convince him to give up.
According to Minister of the Interior Claude Guéant he is a young 24 year old French national with an Algerian mother, with reported affiliations with al Qaeda. Guéant said the man — talking with the police besieging him — said he wanted to “avenge the Palestinian children” and to condemn the “crimes” of France in Afghanistan. The young man said he had also spent periods in Afghanistan and Pakistan for military training. Guéant also confirmed that the young man, as he carried out the massacre at the Jewish school had a video camera attached to him to film the murder.
The 24 year old was on the list of suspects after the murder in Montauban and Toulouse of some French soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin. He is also believed responsible for killing Jonathan Sandler, teacher and 30 year-old rabbi, his sons, Arieh and Gabriel, the daughter of the dean of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school, Myriam Monsonego. The four bodies arrived last night in Tel Aviv to be buried in Israel.
The funeral of the rabbi and the three children will be held in Jerusalem in the late morning. The police expect the presence of several thousand people.
|— Hat tip: C. Cantoni||[Return to headlines]|
Bahrein: King: Continue With Reforms and Forget the Past
(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 20 — In a speech delivered today, the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, called for progress to be made in drafting and implementing a reform programme. The King called on all sides of society to take on their “individual responsibilities and to move beyond the events of last year”. “We shall renew our determination to pursue reforms and to satisfy the aspirations of the people, without making any exceptions, and without privileging the interests of one community above those of another,” the Sunni sovereign ruling the Shiite-majority island state said. “The government, but the citizens too, political movements and civil associations have to play an active role in promoting and enacting democratic practices,”. The King urged his listeners to “learn from the lessons of past events, from experience, and look to the future with confidence and optimism”. The speech came on the handing over of a report by the independent commission of inquiry into enactment of the recommendations made following investigations into the brutal suppression of popular demonstrations in February-March last year. A first report, indicating excessive use of force, also contained recommendations for attaining national reconciliation.
“The doors for dialogue remain open,” the king promised, in an echo of a similar readiness expressed by the Shiite opposition yesterday. They, however, are pressing for a constitutional monarchy.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
Stakelbeck on Terror Show: Why Israel Must Fight
On this week’s edition of the Stakelbeck on Terror show, we examine why Israel must always retain the right to its own self-defense in the face of threats of annihilation by enemies like Iran.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren joins us to discuss this. as well as the success of Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system and the continued persecution of Christians across the Middle East.
We also go on the ground in Barcelona for a shocking eyewitness report on how Muslim immigrants are transforming Spain in an attempt to reverse the “Reconquista.”
And this week’s Sharia Flaw segment takes a closer look at the recent murder of a group of Iraqi young men by Islamic jihadists. Their crime: sporting “un-Islamic” haircuts.
Click the link above to watch.
|— Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck||[Return to headlines]|
Turkey: Expert: Iraq Overtakes Germany as Export Destination
Manager Accenture: Tukish traders turning eastwards
(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 20 — Turkish foreign trade is looking ever more eastwards and “soon” northern Iraq will become the country’s main trading partner, overtaking Germany. This news and this forecast have come from a top manager at Accenture, the Dublin-based consulting company. The amount of Turkish exports headed for the German market, which has until now been their main outlet, has fallen from almost 14% in 2004 to 10.4% last year, as the English-language website of Turkish daily Hurriyet reports, where the Accenture manager’s prediction also appears. On Turkey-s southern border Iraq became the second most important market for Turkish exports last year, with volumes of 8.27 billion dollars, which was up from the 9th position it occupied in 2004 (with 1.85 billion dollars of exports). The lion’s share of the increase has been in exports to northern Iraq.
Eight years ago, exports to Iraq represented just 2.9% of Turkey’s trade. This increased to 6.1% by 2011.
This acceleration of sales to Iraq grew was of 37% between 2000 and 2010, while the same period saw only a 9% increase in the rate of exports going to Germany.
“Northern Iraq will soon become Turkey’s main trading partner, overtaking Germany,” predicts Mark Spelman, Managing Director of “Strategy Practice” at Accenture. Mr Spelman quoted a 2010 report that showed the percentage of exports to countries undergoing rapid development has grown markedly since 2000. For comparison, Brazil’s exports to emerging h reached 63% compared to the 48% of nearly 12 years ago. Mr Spelman predicts that Turkey will continue to increase its trading ties with other emerging economies, especially with the Gulf and countries of the Middle East. Trade with Europe will hit a ceiling and greater opportunities will be found in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The rate of growth in Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia, for example, saw a jump of 38%, beating even those with Iraq, Hurriyet reveals, but without citing the period concerned. But there has been “opposite developments” in exports to the USA, which increased by a “modest 9%”, and to Germany, (“just 16%”). The rate of exportation to the United Kingdom has frozen at 16%.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
India: Orissa Govt Sees No Urgency in Freeing Italians
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik believes Maoists will not harm hostages so he can wait. Sources tell AsiaNews the government does not intend to meet any of the rebels’ demands. A new deadline is set for 24 March. Rebels name two new mediators; the government names three of its own.
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and India’s External Affairs Minister do not want to show any “urgency” in solving the case of the two Italian men abducted by a Maoist group in Kandhamal District. Sources tell AsiaNews that government officials are convinced that Maoists will not harm the two tourists, Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo. In fact, they are not prepared to meet any of the rebels’ demands, so there is no hurry in solving the crisis.
Maoist rebels, who have once more postponed their deadline to 24 March, have issued a 14-point list of demands, including the release of 600 prisoners, financial compensation to Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody, scrapping land transfers and projects in tribal areas and protecting tribal areas from tourists. As a token of their goodwill, they also announced a unilateral ceasefire.
When the second deadline expired yesterday, Maoists names three people as their mediators with the government. One of them refused saying he could not trust the government because it had reneged on its word in the past. Another one was rejected by the government. Today the rebel group named two new mediators, former bureaucrat D Sharma and activist Prafulla Samantray.
For his part, Patnaik named three government negotiators: Home Affairs Principal Secretary U N Behera, Panchayati Raj Department Commissioner and Secretary P K Jena, and Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Classes Development Department Commissioner and Secretary S K Sarangi.
|— Hat tip: C. Cantoni||[Return to headlines]|
India: ‘Patience Needed’ To Work Through ‘Legal Log Jam’
Trivandrum, 16 March (AKI) — The legal process in India is very complicated and will take months before the fate of two Italian marines held in the country is decided, Italian undersecretary for foreign affairs Staffan De Mistura said.
“We’re in a legal log jam. We need two more months, but we won’t ever abandon our soldiers,” he said in a interview with the Italian Il Mattino newspaper.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were guarding an Italian oil tanker on 15 February off of the southern Italian coast when allegedly shot dead two fishermen. The marines say they mistook the fishermen for pirates but claim they merely fired warning shots in the direction. Ballistics tests are being conducted to determine the origin of the fatal shots.
Italy says the oil tanker was in international waters when the shooting took place, giving it legal jurisdiction. India disagrees and have imprisoned the soldiers.
“It will take time and we need to be patient,” De Mistura said. “The marines should be tried in Italy. They are Italian marines and we’ll have to deal with a legal log jam until get get that recognition.”
He said that elections in the state of Kerala where the Italians are detained is influencing the case.
|— Hat tip: C. Cantoni||[Return to headlines]|