Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/26/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/26/2008I got back late from Blacksburg, but I did manage to get through today’s tips and even include a few from the backlog.

I’m grateful for everyone’s patience.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, C. Cantoni, Cimmerian, ElGuapo, Insubria, JD, Srdja Trifkovic, Steen, TB, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Obama Campaign Cuts Off WFTV After Interview With Joe Biden
 
Europe and the EU
Berlin Debates Memorial for Would-be Hitler Assassin
Mixed Swimming Worries Swiss Muslims
Mortgage Crisis: Zapatero, Spain Should be in Super G8
Multiculturalism in London Muslim Conference
Rome Film Festival: Film on German Terror Group Screened
Spain: Crisis, -75% Acquisitions in Real Estate Sector
Swedish Migration Board: ‘Hamas is a Liberation Movement’
UK: Govt Gives Stamp of Approval to Chain of Sharia Courts
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Top International Officials Fear Country Could Collapse
Croatia: Attack Kills Two Journalists; EU Condemns Action
Serbia: Illness Forces Orthodox Leader to Step Down
Serbia: Focus — Karadzic’s Secret Life
Turkey Donates Military Supplies to Macedonia
 
Mediterranean Union
Companies: Tunisia, ‘Invest in Med’ Presented
Finmeccanica: Frattini, Early to Talk About Mubadala Entrance
Immigration: Asma Assad, Working With Europe is a Priority
Italy-Libya: Letta; Repatriated Italians, Valid Expectations
Italy: UAE Leader Plays Down Impact of Global Financial Crisis
 
North Africa
Cairo Rag-and-Bone Men Mourn ‘Saintly’ Champion 21/10/2008 00:00
Egyptian Couple Arrested for Swinging Orgies
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Hebron, Hundreds of Palestinian Agents Occupy the City
Middle East: Gaza, Palestinian Hezbollah Claim Rocket Launch
Mideast: PNA-Hamas, Egyptian Reconciliation Plan
 
Middle East
Blogger.com Banned in Turkey
Lebanon: Hezbollah-Trained Sunni Arrested and Released
Pakistan: Spy Chiefs Look at New Strategy to Fight Taliban
Saudi Shura Council Member: Woman Has the Right to Beat Her Husband in Defense
Turkey: Courts Reasoning, Anti-Lay Activity of Erdogan
U.S. Confirms Strike on Syria That Killed Eight
 
Caucasus
Mayor of Moscow Speaks Out for Russians in Former Soviet Republics
 
South Asia
Indonesia: Silent Protest Held Against Porn Bill
Pakistan Asks for International Loan to Avoid Default
 
Far East
Kim Jong Il’s Disappearing Act
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Speaker Harry Jenkins Wants Lord’s Prayer Axed From Parliament
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Mogadishu: Insecurity Leaves Thousands Out of School
 
Immigration
Immigration: Morocco; Arrests for Aiding Illegal Immigrants
 
General
Interpol Wants Facial Recognition Database to Catch Suspectsowen Bowcott the Interpol is Planning to Expand Its Role Into the Mass Screening of Passengers Moving Around the World by Creating a Face Recognition Database to Catch Wanted Suspects.
Iranian Official Calls for Attack on UK
Oil: Khelil, More Balance With Non-OPEC Cuts
Republican Ambassador to Netherlands: “Elections Are Over”
The Empty Heaven of Democracy

USA

Obama Campaign Cuts Off WFTV After Interview With Joe Biden

WFTV-Channel 9’s Barbara West conducted a satellite interview with Sen. Joe Biden on Thursday. A friend says it’s some of the best entertainment he’s seen recently. What do you think?

West wondered about Sen. Barack Obama’s comment, to Joe the Plumber, about spreading the wealth. She quoted Karl Marx and asked how Obama isn’t being a Marxist with the “spreading the wealth” comment.

“Are you joking?” said Biden, who is Obama’s running mate. “No,” West said.

West later asked Biden about his comments that Obama could be tested early on as president. She wondered if the Delaware senator was saying America’s days as the world’s leading power were over.

“I don’t know who’s writing your questions,” Biden shot back.

Biden so disliked West’s line of questioning that the Obama campaign canceled a WFTV interview with Jill Biden, the candidate’s wife.

“This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best for the duration of the remaining days until the election,” wrote Laura K. McGinnis, Central Florida communications director for the Obama campaign.

McGinnis said the Biden cancellation was “a result of her husband’s experience yesterday during the satellite interview with Barbara West.”…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlin Debates Memorial for Would-be Hitler Assassin

Georg Elser, the carpenter from southwestern Germany who nearly assassinated Hitler, is finally due to get his own memorial in the German capital.

On Nov. 8th, 1939, just nine weeks after the outbreak of World War II, Adolf Hitler made perhaps the most fateful decision of the 20th century. He had gone to Bavaria for the evening, as he did every year on that day, to give a speech at Munich’s Bürgerbräukeller to commemorate the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, which had taken place on that very site 16 years before.

That year, however, with the Poland offensive distracting him, Hitler needed badly to get back to Berlin. He had planned to take a plane back to the capital, but bad weather had forced the Munich airport to close. Instead, at the last moment, he decided to take a late-night train, a change of plans that required him to end his speech earlier than anticipated. At 9:07 pm, Hitler brought his remarks to a close and exited the beer hall. Thirteen minutes later, the hall exploded, killing eight people and wounding 63 others. The Führer had escaped.

The bomb that nearly changed the course of history had been put there by an unassuming Swabian carpenter named Georg Elser. It took decades, though, for Elser to get proper recognition. For years, Nazi propagandists had claimed that Elser couldn’t have pulled off the assassination attempt alone and that Elser was actually a stooge bought off by British Intelligence. The day of his failed attempt, Elser tried to flee to Switzerland, but he was apprehended at the Swiss border. Eventually he ended up in a concentration camp, where he was kept for a planned show-trial after the war exposing his ties to the British. In 1945, though, as Germany’s defeat was looking more and more inevitable, Hitler finally gave the order the kill Elser. He died at the Dachau concentration camp on April 9, 1945…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Mixed Swimming Worries Swiss Muslims

BERN — A Swiss court ruling against exempting Muslim students from compulsory, mixed swimming classes has sparked a hot debate over respecting the religious beliefs of minorities.

“Muslim students in Europe should be granted the right to take swimming lessons that fit their religious beliefs,” Chakib Benmakhlouf, head of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), told IslamOnline.net.

“Some Western countries violate the principles of freedom by laws and court rulings that transgress on the rights of their minorities.”

A Swiss court turned down on Friday, October 24, a request by a Swiss Muslim father to exempt his two sons from attending mixed swimming classes.

It argued that exempting students from mixed swimming classes for religious reasons must be very restricted…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Mortgage Crisis: Zapatero, Spain Should be in Super G8

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 21 — Spain’s Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has today declared that “Spain should be present” at the world summits on the revision of the international financial system even though the country is not one part of G8, which is organising the meeting. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Multiculturalism in London Muslim Conference

This year’s GUP conference aims to promote peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims.(file photo)

CAIRO — Bringing together thousands from all around the world, Europe’s largest Muslim event opened in Britain on Saturday, October 25, with the focus of promoting multiculturalism.

“Global Peace and Unity conference is by far the largest event of its kind in Europe and may be in the West as a whole,” GUP Chairman Mohamed Ali told IslamOnline.net.

The two-day conference, held at Excel Conference and Exhibition Center, brings together luminaries and celebrity guests from around the world.

Leading among attendees are Danish Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, American Muslim scholar Yusuf Estes and British Muslim singer Yusuf Islam.

Also attending British Secretary of Justice Jack Straw, Muslim MP Shahid Malik and Lord Nazir Ahmed.

“We at the GPU do strive every year to have some addition, at spiritual level we are having one of the Imams of the holy mosque and the muezzin of prophet’s mosque, and of course the Kiswah (curtains) of the Ka’bah, and the two models of the two holy mosques,” said Ali.

“We are also expanding on awards especially friends of Islam awards and education awards.”

The conference is organized by the free-to-air, English language, Islamic-focused Islam Channel for the fourth consecutive year.

Multiculturalism

Themed “Working Towards A Multi-cultural Society”, this year’s conference aims to promote peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“It has a yearly theme this year being towards a multicultural society,” Ali told IOL.

Organizers seek to make the conference a platform for an effective dialogue with non-Muslims.

A number of major interfaith groups have been invited to address the conference on promoting dialogue and building bridges across faiths, communities and societies.

“Our aim is always to build confidence among our Muslim Ummah and to be proud being Muslims,” he said.

“We also want to engage with the wider society in a positive way.”

The Muslim population in Britain is estimated at nearly two million.

“The Muslim community, so rich and diverse in itself, makes an enormously valuable contribution to our society,” Straw said in a statement ahead of GUP opening.

“Those of us who are not Muslims but have the privilege of knowing and working with Muslims can testify to that.

“This event is a great opportunity to demonstrate this contribution, whilst challenging stereotypes and reasserting shared values. It is through unity that we will achieve peace.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Rome Film Festival: Film on German Terror Group Screened

Rome, 24 Oct. (AKI) — A controversial film about Germany’s most notorious terrorist group was due to premiere outside the country at the Rome Film Festival on Friday.

‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ was being screened at the city’s third annual festival. The movie, Germany’s entry for the 2009 Foreign Language Oscars, is directed by Uli Edel ..

It retraces the activities of the armed group of left-wing radicals, known as the Baader Meinhof gang or the Red Army Faction, that shook the German republic in the 1970s.

Some of Germany’s best contemporary actors star in the film. Bruno Ganz plays top policeman Horst Herold, while the Baader Meinhof gang members are played by Martina Gedeck as Ulrike Meinhof while Moritz Bleibtreu is cast as Andreas Baader.

Set in the 1970s, ‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ retraces the dramatic story of the gang, from its first attacks to the group’s imprisonment. It includes Meinhof’s suicide in 1976 and those of Baader, Ensslin and another gang member in 1977.

The film is based on the investigative novel by Stefan Aust, former editor-in-chief at Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine. The cast includes some of contemporary German cinema’s best performers.

However, the movie has already divided German critics. While some have praised it for “shattering the myth” surrounding the gang, others have damned the film as “political pornography.”

‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ will be playing in Italian cinemas from next Friday.

The film festival features a total of 150 films and ends on 31 October.

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


Spain: Crisis, -75% Acquisitions in Real Estate Sector

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 20 — Spanish construction companies have realised in the first nine months of the year, acquisition operations of companies in the sector for a value of 759 million euro, equal to a 75.5pct decrease compared to a volume of 3.1 billion euro registered in the same period in 2007. This was deduced from a report published in the real estate magazine, Alimarket, according to whom, the crisis, beginning in the residential segment, has now extended to all other construction segments. The report underlined that of the 33 total acquisition operations closed since the beginning of the year, only 13 have involved transactions of over 10 million euro. At the same time, the study registered a 94.2pct collapse in the acquisitions of shares or participations of foreign companies between January and September of 2008, with 114 million euro invested, compared to almost 2 billion in the same period of 2007. (ANSAmed)

2008-10-20 15:21

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Swedish Migration Board: ‘Hamas is a Liberation Movement’

A Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) employee with 20 years’ experience sued his employers alleging that he was demoted due to his pro-Israel political views. The board’s counsel in the hearing has courted controversy by calling Hamas ‘a liberation movement.’

The Local reported back in February 2008 that Lennart Eriksson, 51, after a ‘long and relatively happy’ career at the Migration Board (Migrationsverket), had been demoted from his post as head of an asylum assessment unit.

Eriksson sued the Board alleging that he was moved to a lower ranking position when his supervisor, Eugene Palmer, learned of his pro-Israel views expressed on his blog, Sapere aude!

“I want to defend freedom and democracy. I try to be humble and just. Therefore I must—as every good democrat must—defend Israel,” read a passage on Eriksson’s blog.

Palmer said at the time that after learning of Eriksson’s controversial blog he was not alone in questioning whether it was appropriate for someone with Eriksson’s position at the Board to publicly express opinions about such a sensitive topic.

“Of course everyone has a right to any opinion. However, when holding an upper-level management position at the Migration Board, one must be careful about how one chooses to express private opinions in a public fashion,” Palmer told The Local.

Staffan Opitz, representing the Migration Board at the hearing held at the district court in Mölndal, said during court proceedings on Friday, October 10th that Palestinian group Hamas should be considered a ‘liberation movement’.

Opitz added that its founder Yassin was a ‘Palestinian freedom-fighter’, according to a report in Dagen, a Christian website.

The comments have further called into question the neutrality of the Migration Board.

Christian Democrat MP Annelie Enochson has now asked the foreign minister, Carl Bildt, what he intends to do to ensure that public authorities do not forward political agendas significantly different from government policy.

While conceding that it was not a minister’s job to engage in the detail of how a public authority operates, Enochson pointed out that Hamas has been classified by the (Swedish) government and the EU as a terror organisation.

“The statement from the Migration Board is therefore not in line with current government policy,” Enochson argued in a press release on Friday.

“The Swedish government stands for Israel’s right to exist while Hamas through armed struggle wants to obliterate Israel and has the goal of liberating Palestine and Israel from the Jews. The question is whether it is the Migration Board’s task to push its own foreign policy agenda.”

The Migration Board’s official position in the hearing at Mölndal district court, which concluded on Monday, October 13th, was that Eriksson’s reassigment was due to poor performance and a lack of confidence in his abilities.

Lennart Eriksson hopes that the court will rule in his favour and force the Migration Board to nullify its decision and reinstate him.

He is also seeking damages of 100,000 kronor ($15,850) plus interest.

The verdict in the trial will be announced on Monday, November 10th 2008

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: Govt Gives Stamp of Approval to Chain of Sharia Courts

The government of the UK has given its stamp of approval by allowing sharia courts to deal with such matters as divorce and family disputes. The politically correct government obviously did not listen when a group of ex-Muslims came out and warned the country about sharia law.

[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: Top International Officials Fear Country Could Collapse

Sarajevo, 23 Oct. (AKI) — Top international officials have expressed serious concern about the political crisis in Bosnia and fear it might lead to a collapse of the Balkan state, which is populated by Serbs, Croats and Muslims.

European Union commissioner for enlargement Ollie Rehn (photo) told the European parliament in Strasbourg that “political consensus” in Bosnia between local Muslims, Serbs and Croats has collapsed and that political disagreements have blocked the reforms needed for Bosnia’s advances towards joining the EU.

Rehn said the EU had signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Bosnia because its leaders had reached a consensus on key issues, including police reforms.

“That consensus has in the meantime collapsed, the reforms have been blocked and nationalist rhetoric prior to October elections has made things worse,” Rehn said.

In municipal elections this month, Bosnia’s Muslims Serbs and Croats voted exclusively for parties representing their respective interests, despite international efforts at nation-building.

“Bosnia-Herzegovina must be able to speak with one voice in order to progress towards European integration,” Rehn said.

The international community’s former top representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown and Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton peace accord that ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, shared Rehn’s concern.

In a joint article in the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz, Holbrooke and Ashdown said Bosnia was in danger of collapsing because of nationalist bickering.

“The fears and doubts which were the basis for the beginning of the war in 1992 have been revived and negative, destructive and damaging behaviour is gathering force,” the authors said.

They blamed for the current situation on Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Muslim member of the rotating state presidency Haris Silajdzic, whose quarrels have reflected on the general political situation in the country.

Silajdzic is demanding the abolition of the country’s separate Serb and Muslim-Croat entities created by the Dayton accord. Each entity has most of the powers of a state.

Dodik has meanwhile retaliated by threatening to hold a referendum on independence , Holbrooke and Ashdown said.

“The fact is that they both violate the basic principles of the (Dayton) agreement, which is a federal system within one state,” Holbrooke and Ashdown stated.

“Poisoned relations and conflicts between the two of them represent the heart of the current crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Holbrooke and Ashdown concluded.

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


Croatia: Attack Kills Two Journalists; EU Condemns Action

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 24 — The EU Commissioner, Olli Rehn, has today “strongly condemned the criminal attack” which claimed the lives of two journalists in Zagreb yesterday. The director, Ivo Pukanic, and the head of marketing, Nino Kranjic, of the ‘Nacional’ weekly political magazine were both killed by the blast when a car bomb exploded outside the editorial headquarters of the publication, in the centre of the capital city. Pukanic, 47 years old, was thought by many to have ties with organised crime and the deviant secret services. Organised crime is a huge problem in Croatia. In the last few months the whole country, and in particular the capital, has been subjected to a series of incidents involving the intimidation and beating up of businessmen, civil servants, and journalists who opposed the spread of corruption. Two weeks ago, a young lawyer, the daughter of the lawyer who was defending an ex-General suspected of ties with organised crime, was assasinated. “The State is confronted with an unprecedented challenge in dealing with organised crime”, said President Mesic after the attack, according to whom “the time has come to restore legality and make our citizens safe against the criminals, the terrorists, the mafia”. “We trust that the Croatian authorities will investigate this attack exhaustively and bring those responsible to justice”, said Rehn, who is responsible for the enlargement of the Union. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Illness Forces Orthodox Leader to Step Down

Belgrade, 24 Oct. (AKI) — The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serb spiritual leader, Patriarch Pavle, on Friday announced he would be standing down due to illness and old age, church officials said. Pavle, 94, who has headed the Serbian Orthodox Church for the past 18 years, has asked the Church’s Holy Synod to relieve him of his duties at its next meeting on 11 November.

Patriarch Pavle, adored by his countrymen and religious brethren has been called by many Serbs “a living saint”.

But Pavle said he could no longer efficiently perform his duties “because of poor health and weakness”.

He has been hospitalised for months in a Belgrade hospital, although his health is described by doctors as stable.

Serbian press has been speculating for months on Pavle’s possible withdrawal.

Observers say hardline Kosovo archbishop Artemije and rival archbishop Amfilohije have emerged as the main candidates to take over the spiritual leadership from Pavle of some eight million Orthodox Serbs.

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


Serbia: Focus — Karadzic’s Secret Life

Belgrade, 24 July (AKI) — The secret life of the world’s most wanted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic reads like a political thriller.

Karadzic, a war time Bosnian Serb leader, has been charged by the United Nations’ war crimes tribunal (ICTY) with war crimes and genocide.

But during his 13 years as a fugitive, he led an exciting parallel life in the centre of Belgrade as local and international intelligence agencies were looking for him.

Even the time and circumstances of his arrest has been clouded by controversy. According to Serbian authorities, he was arrested “in the vicinity of Belgrade” Monday night, but his lawyer Svetozar Vujacic and eyewitnesses said he was arrested on Friday evening and held in an undisclosed location until Monday.

Esmina Golubovic, a resident of a Belgrade suburb of Ugrinovci, told the Belgrade daily Kurir she was there when Karadzic, who lived under the false name Dragan Dabic, was arrested on a bus at about 9:30 pm Friday evening.

She described in detail how seven plain clothes man boarded the bus and made the arrest. One showed her a police badge and told her to move away, she said.

“At one point, three policemen assaulted him and handcuffed him,” Golubovic said.

“Be calm and come with us, we have been following you for the past fifteen days.” one policeman allegedly told Karadzic.

Then they took his belongings and got off the bus, she said.

In a strange coincidence, Golubovic said that her 20-year- old son had volunteered and fought on the side of the Bosnian Serb army and was killed in 1993. He was even decorated posthumously by Karadzic, she said.

Vujacic said two other witnesses called in and described the arrest in the same way.

It is still a mystery where Karadzic spent his early years in hiding or exactly when he arrived in Belgrade.

But in the Serbian capital he lived almost a normal life in the section of New Belgrade, under the assumed name and new identity.

He took the name Dragan Dabic from another of his fallen soldiers, who originated from Serbia and was killed in 1993.

A psychiatrist by profession, he grew a long beard and long hair and presented himself as a doctor specialising in alternative medicine and macrobiotic diets.

He even had his own website on which he advertised his service as an expert in alternative medicine. He described himself as a world traveller who returned to “mother Serbia” in mid 1990s.

Belgrade newspapers reported that his patients were some well-known personalities, singers and even some politicians. His favoured propaganda slogan was: “There is always a solution.”

Born in Montenegro, Karadzic sometimes visited a restaurant in his neighbourhood called “Luda kuca” (Madhouse) whose walls were decorated by his pictures and those of his general Ratko Mladic who is still at large.

Sipping Serbian plum brandy, he chatted with people and even played a string instrument called ‘gusle’, used for playing old Serbian and Montenegrin epic songs, the owner Misko Kovijanic said.

Karadzic often appeared in public with a middle-aged woman whom Serbian newspapers described as his lover while his family remained in the Bosnian Serb mountain stronghold of Pale and kept under tight surveillance by international intelligence agencies.

But the woman, alleged to be his lover, Mila Damjanov said they were just friends, not lovers.

She said she had no idea who he was and was attracted to him because of her interest in alternative medicine. She said she would visit patients with Karadzic and he even helped an autistic child to start talking and get back to normal.

Meanwhile, Serbian newspapers were flooded with speculation about who betrayed Karadzic and who took the reward for the information leading to his arrest.

The US government offered five million dollars for his capture and the Serbian government another million dollars.

Serbian Police Minister, Ivica Dacic, who took office earlier this month, said police had nothing to do with his arrest.

There has been speculations that it was the work of American and British secret services, but Dacic ascribed it to Serbian secret service (BIA).

He said the BIA had earlier protected Karadzic and turned him over after the new government formed by pro-European coalition led by President Boris Tadic took office on 7 July.

Serbian analysts rejected reports by some British newspapers that Karadzic may have been betrayed by Mladic.

“It’s an utter nonsense,” said analyst Cvijetin Milivojevic. “I doubt that Karadzic and Mladic were in touch for security reasons,” he told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“Besides, they were at odds even before the war was over,” Milivojevic added. Other analysts, more or less, agreed.

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


Turkey Donates Military Supplies to Macedonia

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, OCTOBER 20 — Turkey has donated various military vehicles and supplies to the Macedonian army, Anatolia news agency reports. The vehicles and supplies were presented with a ceremony held in Skopje. Macedoniàs Defense Minister Zoran Konjanovski, General Staff Chief Gen. Miroslav Stojanovski, as well as Turkish Ambassdor in Skopje Hakan Arslan Okca and the embassy’s military attaché Metin Alpcan attended the ceremony. Turkey sent motor vehicles, generators and military tents to the Macedonian army, officials said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Companies: Tunisia, ‘Invest in Med’ Presented

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, OCTOBER 20 — ‘Invest in Med’, a new Euro-Mediterranean investment programme worth 12 million euros was presented in Tunis. Nine million come from the European Commission, the other three from a Euro-Mediterranean company. ‘Invest in Med’ will take three years to be carried out and will involve the 27 countries of the EU and partners in the south: Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the PNA and Syria. The scope of the project is to increase volume and quality of investments and commerce in the Euro-Mediterranean area, to give life to long-lasting business partnerships and to contribute to a real and lasting economic development in the region. Between 2008 and 2011 some 200 operations will be carried out. This initiative is part of the decisions taken in Paris at the summit which launched the Union for the Mediterranean which has boosted relations between the European Union and its Mediterranean partners, thanks particularly to the launch of concrete regional projects. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Finmeccanica: Frattini, Early to Talk About Mubadala Entrance

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 23 — For the entrance of Mubadala, a non-sovereign consolidated fund of the United Arab Emirates (Uae), into Finmeccanica, it is “still in an absolutely preliminary phase”. This was reported by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, speaking on negotiations. The Foreign Minister concluded an economic mission a few days ago in the United Arab Emirates. “We will make our considerations, but now it is premature”, added the minister, reminding that Mubadala “made a decision for industrial collaboration in the Defence sector”. But it is necessary to remember, added Frattini, that it is not about a sovereign wealth fund, but that Mubadala is a sort of Iri (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction) and therefore there is a big difference from a sovereign wealth funds. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Immigration: Asma Assad, Working With Europe is a Priority

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 21 — ‘‘In Europe, immigration is a problem. For us, its consequences are a problem. People leave our country and they come to yours. This is why working together is becoming a priority’’. So said Asma Al Assad, wife of Syrian President Assad, in an interview with Famiglia Cristiana magazine. Today in Syria there are 1.5 million Iraqis — told Mrs. Assad, who grew up in London and worked as a financial analyst in various international institutes — 500 thousand Palestinian refugees and about 700 thousand Lebanese refugees after 2006. ‘‘It is as if in Italy — she observed — 5.8 million refugees were to arrive in a few months’’. ‘‘We have opened our schools’’, she continued, calculating 30 thousand Iraqi children in Syrian schools and 50 thousand next year. ‘‘Why do we do it? Because we want to give the possibility to study to our minors, and support a generation, and it is not important that they are Iraqi. They are our neighbours. We have even opened up our hospitals. And mainly, we have opened our hearts’’. Mrs. Assad spoke also about religion, particularly, Christians and Muslims, which in Syria are ‘‘part of the same body’’, fruit of a common history that must be safeguarded. The discussion on religion used to create divisions, instead ‘‘should be started — she said — in these religions’’ to unite people. ‘‘Poverty brings about extremism and terrorism — she added — challenges that we all face’’. Central to the interview was also the issue of women in Syria: ‘‘I can say that we are pioneers in various fields — said Mrs. Assad -. The president was the first in the Arab world to appoint a woman vice-president. We have the largest female Parliamentary representation in the Arab world: 13%. And the number of entrepreneurs, ministers, ambassadors, and scientists is growing. In the armed forces we have a growing number of women, who are often nominated to important positions’’. In her country, from 2000 until today ‘‘illiteracy has dropped — she underlined -. Poverty has decreased 20%, economic growth has gone from -1% in 2000 to +6.1% in 2007. The government has committed to doubling spending for education in the last 5 years. There has been a growth in opportunities in every sector in our country. For some situations, the situation can seem discouraging. I find it stimulating’’. Finally, her role as the mother of three children under the age of seven: for her as well as President Assad, she assured, her devoted presence is never lacking to her children. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy-Libya: Letta; Repatriated Italians, Valid Expectations

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 22 — The expectations of the association for Italians who were repatriated from Libya are “legitimate” and the government will look at them with “the highest possible attention” — according to a communication from the government. “The Undersecretary of State to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Gianni Letta, today received a delegation from the Association of Italians Repatriated from Libya, lead by its president, Giovanna Ortù. During the meeting — reads a note — the representatives of the Association showed Letta their proposal for compensation for the 20,000 plus Italians that were expelled from Libyan territory in 1970. Letta has reassured the delegation over the determination of the government to look at their legitimate expectations with great care and committed to informing the Prime Minister on the issue. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: UAE Leader Plays Down Impact of Global Financial Crisis

(AKI) — The President of the United Arab Emirates’ Parliament, Abdulaziz al-Ghurair, has downplayed the impact of the global economic crisis on his country and called for Italian companies to invest there.

Al-Ghurair, also chief executive of the publicly traded Mashreq Bank was visiting Italy on the invitation of Gianfranco Fini, President of the Chamber of Deputies or lower house of the Italian Parliament.

During his visit Al-Ghurair met Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the importance of cultural and inter-religious dialogue in fighting terrorism and held talks with Italian political leaders.

Al-Ghurair also faced the media at a press conference held at the Rome headquarters of the Adnkronos Group.

The Arab leader expressed concern about the global economic downturn but said OPEC’s latest oil price cut would help protect reserves for the future.

OPEC ministers announced on Friday they would cut production by 1.5 million barrels a day from November. But oil prices slid to 63 dollars a barrel on the news amid more upheaval in global financial markets.

“The oil producers have to accept the new reality,” he said. “If they lose demand for oil, we have to reduce production and preserve it for future generations.”

Al-Ghurair said while the UAE had recently reduced economic growth projections from eight to four percent in 2008, he said it was not facing recession.

He welcomed Italian investment in his country and deflected concern about the Italian government’s intention to cap foreign investment levels.

Speaking about the possibility of a nuclear Iran, he said dialogue was crucial to avert conflict between the two neighbours especially when 60 percent of the world’s oil passed through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.

Al-Ghurair was accompanied by a female member of parliament Najla Al-Awadee who is spearheading the expansion of the media in Dubai and looking to build international links.

Representing Dubai Media Incorporated which has five television channels, she said Dubai had become a major media hub in the Middle East.

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

North Africa

Cairo Rag-and-Bone Men Mourn ‘Saintly’ Champion 21/10/2008 00:00

The “zabbalin” of Cairo spoke warmly of Sister Emmanuelle who passed away at the age of 99.

CAIRO — Cairo’s rag-and-bone men recalled with fondness on Monday the Belgian-born Catholic nun who spent two decades sharing their blighted lives and championing their education and advancement.

“She’s really dead?” asked Amgad Adli, 34, when told the news that Sister

Emmanuelle had died at the age of 99.

“I had no idea she was so old. That’s so sad. She was an angel, she was

incapable of doing anything but good.”

Adli was just one of many among the tens of thousands of residents of Cairo’s impoverished southern suburbs who make a living from recycling

the Egyptian capital’s waste to pay tribute to the nun’s mission among the

poor between 1971 and 1993.

The “zabbalin” as they are known in Arabic, many of them members of

Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, remembered her modesty, her simplicity and how her strictness was always combined with a sense of humour.

“She always insisted on punctuality — if you were a minute late, she would

move on,” Adli recalled.

Hanan Roshdi, who studied at one of the schools which Sister Emmanuelle helped to set up, recalled how she would join in the children’s games in the schoolyard and never passed up any opportunity to persuade parents to educate their children.

“She never hesitated to go from house to house to talk to people in her broken Arabic and make them laugh,” Roshdi said…

           — Hat tip: Cimmerian[Return to headlines]


Egyptian Couple Arrested for Swinging Orgies

Egyptian security forces arrested a senior civil servant and his wife for organizing orgies and swinging parties and hosting wife swaps, local press reported Sunday.

An investigation revealed that 44 Egyptian families responded to an Internet ad placed by the government employee and his wife soliciting participants for the orgies that were held over three months at the culprit’s house, the Egyptian independent al-Masry al-Youm reported Sunday.

The couple had sex with three couples from among the applicants. The man said that the couples who came to his orgies had to have an official marriage contract and not the unofficial (Urfi) one. Otherwise, they were not admitted.

“ The rest were rejected because they were not pleasant “

Man accused of arranging orgies

“The rest were rejected because they were not pleasant,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Egyptian security officials reportedly received classified information about emails sent by the 49 year-old-Iraqi Jew and his 28-year-old schoolteacher wife inviting couples to engage in swinging parties at their house.

The parties usually took the form of orgies, but occasionally some couples would meet privately in the bedrooms then come out and tell the other what happened in detail.

The accused man said he got the idea from a porn movie, and that his wife agreed. They send invitations to couples throughout Greater Cairo and received several responses.

The couple confessed to their crime during interrogation. The two offenders were detained for four days while the prosecution prepared an indictment bill to refer them to the criminal court.

Police also arrested a lawyer who was finalizing a wife swap and a couple from the Gulf who were seeking a swap for the weekend.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hebron, Hundreds of Palestinian Agents Occupy the City

The operation was ordered by president Abu Mazen, and was coordinated together with Israel and supported by Western governments. The intention is to restore security in the area, and the entire region of the West Bank. The political crisis continues in Israel, as early election looms.

Hebron (AsiaNews/Agencies) -During the night of October 24, about 600 agents of the Palestinian security forces occupied various areas in Hebron, in an operation launched by president Mahmoud Abbas, to reinforce Fatah control over the West Bank.

The move has been supported by Israel and Western governments, which are asking for greater guarantees in an area that has been the theater of of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the past. “We are serious and willing to arrest anyone who disturbs law and order, starting with illegal armed groups and whoever deals with illegal arms,” says Samih al-Saifi, Palestinian security chief for the area. According to Israeli security sources, the operation was supported by the Tel Aviv government, which is coordinating the movements of the Palestinian forces, specifying that they may not intervene in areas where Israeli settlers live.

The agreement on the operation was reached on the night of October 22, during a summit between Palestine and Israel, during which it was decided to deploy hundreds of agents for at least a month, in order to guarantee security in the city, the third-largest in the West Bank, where new troops faithful to Abu Mazen have been deployed.

Hebron is considered the political stronghold of Hamas, which exercises wide influence in the city; control over the entire area — in recent months, new forces have been deployed in Nablus and Jenin as well — is fundamental for guaranteeing peace, and a stronger Fatah presence heading into the presidential election in January, when the term of Mahmoud Abbas will end.

Israel, meanwhile, seems to be having increasing difficulties in forming a new government with prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni, who is replacing Ehud Olmert after the scandal that put an end to his political career. Yesterday, representatives of the ultra- Orthodox Shas party refused the conditions dictated by the leaders of Kadima for the formation of a new national coalition government; the prospect of early elections appears increasingly likely.

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


Middle East: Gaza, Palestinian Hezbollah Claim Rocket Launch

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, OCTOBER 22- A formerly unknown group, the Hezbollah Brigades, have today claimed responsibility for the launching of a rocket into Israeli territory. Following the attack (which caused no casualties), the Israeli Defence Dinister, Ehud Barak, ordered a one day closure of the routes between Gaza and Israel. In a flyer that was distributed to the press, Palestinian Hezbollah claims that it launched the “Radwan-type” rocket. Palestinian Hezbollah had already announced two weeks ago, through messages transmitted through the internet, that they were beginning military operations in the Gaza area. But the leaders of Hamas’ security say that the signature on the declaration was not authentic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Mideast: PNA-Hamas, Egyptian Reconciliation Plan

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 21 — Egypt has presented a reconciliation plan to Hamas and Fatah, two rival Palestinian factions, invited to a dialogue on November 9th in Cairo. This was reported in Gaza by a Hamas spokesperson. The president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the leader of Fatah, Abu Mazen (Mahmud Abbas) told the Palestinian press to have received a copy of the plan. The Egyptian document, learned from official sources, provides for the establishment of a provision government of national Palestinian unity with these objectives: to prepare the calling of presidential and legislative elections (Abu Mazen’s mandate expires in January), the reform of security services “in a professional and non-partisan way”, to operate for the end of isolation of the Gaza Strip and to improve the conditions of the lives of the Palestinian population. The Egyptian proposals outline a maintaining of the truce in act between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, a revision of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (Olp), which Hamas is not a part of. Furthermore, the conduction of peace negotiations with Israel will remain the prerogative of the Olp and the AP president. Both Hamas and Fatah have promised to study the Egyptian document with a positive spirit. President Abu Mazen committed to the calling of elections as soon as there is an agreement between the two organisations. The two formations are divided by a bitter rivalry, mainly since Hamas in June of 2007 took power by force in the Gaza Strip expelling Fatah supporters from all centres of power. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Blogger.com Banned in Turkey

“A Turkish court has blocked access to the popular blog hosting service Blogger (Blogger.com and Blogspot.com, owned by Google), since Friday, October 24th, 2008. According to BasBasBas.com, a Dutch blogger based in Istanbul, who alerted readers about the issue: ‘It is suspected that the reason for this has something to do with Adnan Oktar, by some considered the leading Muslim advocate for creationism, who has in the past managed to get Wordpress, Google Groups, as well as Richard Dawkins’ website [banned].’“

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Hezbollah-Trained Sunni Arrested and Released

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 23 — Twenty-one Sunni militants, followers of a fundamentalist preacher of northern Lebanon were arrested only to subsequently be released in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Hezbollah stronghold, after admitting to have been trained in a Sunni “training camp” under the Shia movement supported by Iran and Syria. Reports were today in the Beirut daily paper an-Nahar. Citing “Lebanese security sources”, the paper said that “yesterday security forces arrested 21 suspects in the Uzaai zone”, a mostly Shia shantytown near the international airport in Beirut, in the southern suburb of the capital. Once arrested, continued an-Nahar, “the 21 men said that they came from northern Lebanon, that they had been trained in a Hezbollah military training camp and that they were followers of the Islamic preacher Fathi Yakan”, a fundamentalist from Tripoli, 90 kilometres north of Beirut, well-known for his connections with the Syrian regime. “During questioning,” said the paper, “the 21 were released by the authorities after intervention by Hezbollah, who then took them to a training camp”, though no further details were supplied of the latter. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Spy Chiefs Look at New Strategy to Fight Taliban

Karachi, 24 Oct. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — A dinner hosted by the Saudi King Abdullah for former Taliban leaders and members of the Islamic militant group, Hezb-E-Islami, in Mecca in September sought a solution to the recent resurgence of Taliban terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But well-placed sources have told Adnkronos International that the success of the dinner was confined to the quality of the delicious Arab cuisine.

Militants with real firepower in Afghanistan and Pakistan all refused to lay down their weapons. Now a jirga or tribal meeting will bring together Afghani MPs and Pakistani leaders in Islamabad early next week, as the new head of Pakistan’s intelligence services, Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, meets CIA director Michael Hayden in Washington to discuss the escalation of the conflict.

The Pakistani Parliament has voted in favour of a gradual withdrawal of security forces from the tribal areas and emphasised the need for dialogue, as a US predator drone once again struck North Waziristan and killed several people.

Pasha and Hayden are expected to finalise the new terms for strategic cooperation aiming at killing or eliminating top Al-Qaeda leaders and at least four top Taliban commanders to defeat the insurgency. Immediately after the meeting of intelligence chiefs, top American military commander David Petraeus will visit Pakistan to finalise new regional military operations.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, spoke to AKI about the relationship between the two allies.

“Pakistan and the United States are overcoming any differences that may have arisen in the recent past in all spheres,” Hussain Haqqani said from Washington.

“Pakistan and the US are close allies and strategic partners, and in our strategic partnership, military cooperation and intelligence cooperation are very important.

“It is unfortunate that in the recent past some doubts and misgivings have been expressed about cooperation in the intelligence field. We look forward to overcoming those differences in the days to come.”

The dialogue initiative was a strong gesture that emanated from Saudi Arabia, and both Kabul and Islamabad were proactive in promoting dialogue through back channels at the behest of western coalition partners.

Powerful militant leaders, including Jalaluddin Haqqani, Baitullah Mehsud and Gulbadin Hekmatyar, warlord and leader of the Hezb-e Islami political party, were invited for talks and asked to stop the war and start negotiations. All three refused.

Hopes were high that former Afghan premier, Gulbadin Hekmatyar, a personal friend of President Hamid Karzai’s would agree to dialogue.

Such a move would have been a major breakthrough since over three-fifths of the Taliban force are comprised of former members of the radical Hezb-e-Islami group. The move could have split the Taliban led insurgency, but Hekmatyar firmly rejected the proposal.

Hekmatyar told Kabul that he would not negotiate until NATO troops left Afghanistan. Washington asked Islamabad to also engage in dialogue with Hekmatyar so that he could be distanced from the Taliban-led resistance.

However, Hekmatyar refused to talk with the Pakistani administration led by President Ali Asif Zardari and described the whole military and political leadership as American proxies with whom he was not willing to talk.

His reply has effectively shut the door on dialogue, despite the parliamentary vote.

When the intelligence chiefs conclude their talks in Washington next week, Petraeus is likely to be finalising a new strategy during his visit to Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Saudi Shura Council Member: Woman Has the Right to Beat Her Husband in Defense

RIYADH- A Saudi Muslim scholar and the member of the Shura Council stated recently that any woman who is beaten by her husband has the right to defend herself in the same way he beats her.

The Saudi Shams daily newspaper stated that Sheikh Abdel Muhsen Al Ebeekan said that if the husband initiates beating his wife, then she has the right to use the same violence against him as a means to defend herself.

He added that if the husband deprives his wife of her rights she can also abandon her husband for a while.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Courts Reasoning, Anti-Lay Activity of Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, OCTOBER 24 — For the judges of the Turkish constitutional Court — the highest court to protect lay persons in the state — there is no doubt: premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with other key figures in his government party of Justice and Development (Akp), have carried out anti-lay activities but also have worked to bring Turkey closer to the EU and to improve the human rights situation. This is the essence of the motives (in 370 pages) with which the magistrates explained why on last July 30 they decided not to abolish the Akp as requested on March 14 by the Chief Prosecutor of the Cassation Court, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, who — rattling off the 17 charges — defined the Akp “a hotbed of anti-lay society activity”. The judges rejected the closing sentence but sent a stiff warning to the Akp cutting half of its public funds. “The party has become a focal centre of anti-lay person activity due to the decision to amend articles in the Constitution”, was written in the motives (published today in the Official Gazette) in an evident referral to the attempt of the Ak to repeal the prohibiting of wearing a turban in universities, blocked on June 5 in another sentence by the same Court. Among the “anti-lay society activities” which the Akp were accused of, were projects to limiting sale of alcoholic beverages (which continue anyway, editor’s note), the separation of men and women in parks, pools, and means of transport, the obligation of children to wear a veil, and the criminalisation of adultery. All initiatives in opposition to the lay society in the state, pilaster of the Republic founded in 1923 by Mustafà Kemel Ataturk. “Erdogan — said the document — clearly demonstrated that his opinions on freedom of belief are aimed at creating an unlimited liberty for political Islam. This point of view is reflected in the works and actions of the premier and other important members of his party. There has been therefore an attempt to transform the state into place of rules precisely for one religion”. The Court specified to have voted against the abolishment of the Akp for the efforts that it has made to adhere to the EU thanks to the enactment of legal and political reforms and for the attention demonstrated towards problems of minorities and women. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


U.S. Confirms Strike on Syria That Killed Eight

A U.S. military official confirmed late Sunday an American helicopter attack in an area along Syria’s border with Iraq, which left 8 people dead and three people wounded.

Syria condemned the attack, which it called “serious aggression.”

The raid indicated the desert frontier between the two countries remains a key battleground, more than five years into the Iraq war. The U.S. official said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the U.S. was now “taking matters into our own hands.”

A government statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency said the attack occurred at the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles (eight kilometers) inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction, firing at the workers inside shortly before sundown, the statement said.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d’affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest the strike.

A resident of the nearby village of Hwijeh, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said the aircraft flew along the Euphrates River into the area of farms and several brick factories.

Some of the helicopters landed and troops exiting the aircraft fired on a building, he said, adding that at least one of the dead was a construction worker.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Mayor of Moscow Speaks Out for Russians in Former Soviet Republics

TSKHINVALI, Georgia: On a clearing in this disputed city, where enemy homes were bulldozed after the conflict in August, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov promised this month to build a new neighborhood for the South Ossetian separatists here.

Grinning widely before a boisterous crowd, which hailed him as a liberator, Luzhkov said he would spend more than $100 million on houses, schools and shopping centers. “We are celebrating a great victory — a victory for freedom and independence,” he declared.

The pledge was notable for its cost — a sizable sum in this impoverished breakaway enclave of 70,000 — but also because Luzhkov is the mayor of Moscow, not Tskhinvali. The money is to come from Moscow’s city budget.

Yuri Luzhkov is a mayor with a foreign policy. A former Soviet apparatchik who yearns to restore Russia’s regional hegemony, he has supported ethnic Russians and stoked separatism in nations along the country’s borders. He has championed a new Russian nationalism that the Kremlin effectively backed with force when it wrested South Ossetia from neighboring Georgia this summer.

Over the past decade, Luzhkov, 72, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars from Moscow’s well-padded city budget in Russia’s “near abroad,” several city officials said. He has supported pro-Russian separatists in Moldova, built highways in rebellious Georgian enclaves and constructed housing for the Russian military on the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Silent Protest Held Against Porn Bill

Sanur Beach, Bali, 24 Oct. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — As many as 30 human rights and student activists have held a silent protest on Indonesia’s bikini-clad island of Bali’s Sanur Beach resort over Indonesia’s controversial pornography bill.

The group, mainly consisting of youngsters, many from the Bali People’s Component (KRB) rights group, unfurled giant banners on Thursday stating their opposition to the bill.

The bill seeks to set a moral tone across Indonesia by defining pornography as acts that incite sexual desire.

The silent protest was organised because the group believed lawmakers in Jakarta have not taken the Balinese people’s views into consideration, Wayan Semaracipta, the protest’s field coordinator, said.

“We want to draw the attention of many foreign athletes currently competing at the Asian Beach Games. We want them to know that Indonesians are currently facing serious threats to civil liberties through the bill’s deliberation,” he told reporters.

Besides holding giant banners, the group presented contemporary art performances and meditated for an hour.

“We have done our part by yelling and rallying to refuse the bill. Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika himself has officially sent a letter of objection against the bill to the central government,” said Semaracipta, adding that meditation was a symbol of peace.

Hardline Islamic parties back the pornography bill, which has won the support of Golkar, the country’s largest party. But it is opposed by the Democratic Party of Struggle, backed by Indonesia’s former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The Indonesian lower house of Parliament’s special committee debating the pornography bill last week said tourists would be allowed to wear bikinis at the country’s beach resorts.

The move is aimed at ensuring tourism — an important source of foreign exchange revenue for Indonesia — is not damaged by the controversial legislation.

Bali is the country’s top tourist destination. Indonesia aims to attract 7 million tourists this year and collect some 6.7 billion dollars in foreign exchange revenue.

Balinese legislators, artists and tourism operators last month travelled to to Jakarta to lobby MPs for the bill to be dropped.

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


Pakistan Asks for International Loan to Avoid Default

10-15 billion dollars could be provided by international organizations, to pay down foreign debt and support public spending. It is a forced choice, after China refused a direct loan, although it had promised greater investment.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Pakistan discussed yesterday in Dubai the granting of 10-15 billion dollars in aid, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international organizations, in order to stabilize its economy and avoid the risk of being unable to pay its foreign debt and cover its domestic spending needs.

The aid is expected to come from it organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, but also from individual countries like Saudi Arabia. The international community wants to avoid a crisis in a country believed to be essential in the war on Islamic terrorism. Islamabad has seen its foreign currency reserves fall rapidly, and two days ago the finance minister said it was “urgent” to find at least 4 billion dollars to avoid defaulting on its foreign debt and support public spending. It is unclear whether the lenders will impose conditions, but analysts maintain that economic reforms will be requested, as well as changes in monetary policy, with higher taxes and cuts in public spending.

Pakistan’s finance minister says that this request “may be humiliating for us politically but given our increasingly difficult conditions, we may have no other choice.” Shaukat Tarin, the prime minister’s economic adviser, says that “Pakistan has to take action in the next 30 days.” The move is seen as a forced choice, after the country’s traditional allies, China and Saudi Arabia, refused direct aid, and the United States is in a serious financial crisis.

Pakistan is facing its worst economic crisis in at least a decade, with the government being forced to cut domestic subsidies intended to keep food and fuel prices low. The difficult economic situation, the war in the northern regions against tribals and the Taliban, and the elevated risk of anti-Western Islamic terrorism are discouraging the necessary foreign investment. Karachi’s stock market has fallen about 40% since April, and the rupee has lost 30% of its value since January, although news of the possible loan led to a rebound.

In recent days, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari has also gone to Beijing to ask for help from China. On October 18, Beijing announced the construction of two nuclear power plants in Chasma (Punjab), with a capacity of 680 magawatts, and the intention of Chinese banks and companies to deploy investments in the country, partly in order to create a mega-dam and hydroelectric facilities. The country suffers from a chronic shortage of electricity, estimated at more than 4,000 megawatts: even in the large cities, electricity is often unavailable 12 hours a day. Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Oureshi has applauded the closer relations with China, and has announced visits by Zardari to China every three months, “in order to promote economic integration between the two countries.” There is an intention to create industrial areas for Chinese companies, and Shaukat Tarin has spoken of 1 billion dollars in projected private Chinese investments starting in June of 2009.

Analysts comment that China has nonetheless refused direct loans, and that the nuclear agreement has a mainly symbolic value, since it will take years to implement it. So far, the United States, a traditional ally of Islamabad, has also refused loans, partly in order to avoid offending India, Pakistan’s traditional rival.

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

Far East

Kim Jong Il’s Disappearing Act

by Srdja Trifkovic

North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il is rumored to be ailing or even dead. Given his furtive ways and the nature of his regime, denials from Pyongyang are meaningless unless he makes a public appearance in real time. Old photos presented as new only feed the rumor mill, initiated by his non-appearance at last month’s 60th anniversary celebration.

The only reason the issue of Kim’s health and eventual succession matters is the existence of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and the anachronistic presence of U.S. troops in South Korea.

Earlier this month the U.S. government agreed to remove Pyongyang from its terrorism blacklist in return for the North’s commitment to dismantle its nuclear program. The deal was reached within the framework of the six-party talks (China, Japan, Russia, the United States, North and South Korea), whereby Pyongyang agreed to allow teams of international inspectors to visit its Yongbyon plutonium-processing facility in return for much needed foreign aid.

It is far from certain that the North Koreans are seriously committed to ending their nuclear capability. The agreement with Washington is confined to the known facilities at Yongbyon, but according to recent reports they are simultaneously working on another top-secret uranium-enrichment program based on the material provided by Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s rogue proliferator. Playing the nuclear card has paid handsome diplomatic and economic dividends to Pyongyang over the years. Giving it up altogether would be inconsistent with North Korea’s past record. Five years ago South Korea’s then-foreign minister Yoon Young-kwan warned that North Korea “will probably never give up its nuclear option” unless it receives a speific security guarantee from the United States.. Removing the North from the terrorist list is not sufficient reassurance for a regime steeped in Stalinist paranoia.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Speaker Harry Jenkins Wants Lord’s Prayer Axed From Parliament

HOUSE of Representatives Speaker Harry Jenkins has called for debate about whether the Lord’s Prayer, read at the opening of Parliament daily, should be replaced by an acknowledgement of Australia’s traditional Aboriginal owners.

Mr Jenkins said there should be public debate about whether the daily prayer should be rewritten or replaced, saying it was the most controversial aspect of parliamentary procedures and had been raised with him by MPs and members of the public.

He said: “One of the most controversial aspects of the parliamentary day I found from practically day two is the prayer. On the one the end of the spectrum is why have a prayer?

“The other end of the spectrum is where we have discussions about the words of the prayer. For people outside the Parliament there are a lot of things they wish to discuss.

“We have to try to promote this discussion … it doesn’t have to start formally in Parliament.”

Mr Jenkins questioned if the prayer, inserted into the standing orders in 1901, was relevant to the 21st century.

However, church groups have reacted angrily to the suggestion…

           — Hat tip: ElGuapo[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mogadishu: Insecurity Leaves Thousands Out of School

Over 30,000 students in Mogadishu are deprived of their right to education by the conflict and lack of security in schools, said Mohamed Said Farah, a spokesman for Mogadishu Education Umbrella, which groups six non- governmental educational organizations that run most of the schools in the capital. Schools and teachers have become targets of attacks, causing most parents to keep their children home, explained Farah. Many schools went on strike last month against the insecurity, after they were targeted by armed attacks that left eight teachers wounded. Local authorities called on the government to individuate and punish those responsible, and called on the sides in conflict to guarantee the safety of the schools. After days of heavy fighting between armed insurgents and Somali and Ethiopian troops, in which at least 80 people were killed, including numerous civilians, local sources refer that calm has returned in the capital in the past two days. “We are catching our breath, but we are living in fear, without knowing when we will plummet back into violence”, said a MISNA source contacted in the city.

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

Immigration

Immigration: Morocco; Arrests for Aiding Illegal Immigrants

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, OCTOBER 22 — Four people, among which is one police officer, accused of being part of an organisation which organises illegal passage to Europe, were arrested by Moroccan police and will appear in the Tangiers Appeals Court. The organisation was managed by a Moroccan and also made use of the services of a policeman at the port of Tangiers. The four were arrested after October 8, when in the Spanish port of Barcelona, a group of 50 Moroccan illegal immigrants were detected and stopped on board an Italian passenger ship, Fantastic, coming from Tangiers. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Interpol Wants Facial Recognition Database to Catch Suspectsowen Bowcott the Interpol is Planning to Expand Its Role Into the Mass Screening of Passengers Moving Around the World by Creating a Face Recognition Database to Catch Wanted Suspects.

Every year more than 800 million international travellers fail to undergo “the most basic scrutiny” to check whether their identity documents have been stolen, the global policing cooperation body has warned.

Senior figures want a system that lets immigration officials capture digital images of passengers and immediately cross-check them against a database of pictures of terror suspects, international criminals and fugitives.

The UK’s first automated face recognition gates — matching passengers to their digital image in the latest generation of passports — began operating at Manchester airport in August.

Mark Branchflower, head of Interpol’s fingerprint unit, will this week unveil proposals in London for the creation of biometric identification systems that could be linked to such immigration checks.

The civil liberties group No2ID, which campaigns against identity cards, expressed alarm at the plans.

“This is a move away from seeking specific persons to GCHQ-style bulk interception of information,” warned spokesman Michael Parker.

“There’s already a fair amount of information collected in terms of passenger records. This is the next step. Law enforcement agencies want the most efficient systems but there has to be a balance between security and privacy.” The growth of international criminal gangs and the spread of terrorist threats has increased demand for Interpol’s services…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Iranian Official Calls for Attack on UK

Fearing a US strike on Iran during President George W. Bush’s last months in office, a senior Iranian official has suggested the Islamic regime should target London to deter such an attack.

In an article on the Iranian Web site Aftab last week — translated by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute — the head of the Europe and US Department in the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Wahid Karimi, said that an attack on London would deter the US from attacking Teheran

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Oil: Khelil, More Balance With Non-OPEC Cuts

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, OCTOBER 21 — The participation of non-OPEC members in an oil production cut would render the decision of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries “less difficult”, when they gather in Vienna on October 24, declared Algerian Minister of Energy, Chakib Khelil on Algerian national radio. “If these countries, in particular Russia, Norway and Mexico won’t contribute to the cut in production — he explained — OPEC’s decision will be more difficult. More sacrifices will be required of OPEC’s part”. If OPEC “decides to cut two million barrels including these countries”, Khelil added, “the organisation would only have to cut one million barrels”. “It’s strange”, he concluded, that “countries which are intervening on behalf of their banks and their capital in order to regulate the financial sector, don’t accept that OPEC regulates the oil market”. A few days ago, the same Khelil announced important cuts in production on the occasion of the extraordinary meeting set for this week. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Republican Ambassador to Netherlands: “Elections Are Over”

ROTTERDAM, 25/10/08 — The US ambassador to the Netherlands, James B. Culbertson, is a Republican, but considers Democratic candidate Barack Obama virtually certain to win the race for the White House. “The elections are over,” he said at a debating evening organised by Algemeen Dagblad newspaper.

Three hundred of the newspaper’s readers could put their questions to the ambassador. Asked whether the US is ready for a black president, Culbertson replied: “Without doubt. Skin colour is not an important factor any more in the elections. It is true there is still something of racism in our country, but you probably also have that here in the Netherlands. (…) Probably there are more Americans who are against (Republican candidate John) McCain because he is already old than there are against Obama because he is black,” Algemeen Dagblad quoted him as saying.

“If I had to make a bet, I would not put my money on John McCain,” said Culbertson. “The elections are over,” he let slip. Algemeen Dagblad also quoted him as saying: “So I have my own favourite in this race, but very likely this will be a very good year for you.” According to the paper, he was referring to the strong preference of the Dutch electorate for Obama.

“Culbertson’s comment that ‘the elections are over’ is remarkable for a diplomat, not normally expected to venture such predictions. And as a Republican, he is deserting his fellow-party member McCain,” Algemeen Dagblad concludes. The ambassador acted as an important fund-raiser for outgoing US president George W. Bush. He only recently became ambassador to the Netherlands; he was sworn in last July in the US.

The ambassador expects “little” change in US policy towards the EU. “The Democrats are a bit more protectionist on trade than the Republicans, but that is about it. Additionally, a great deal is already laid down in accords and treaties and policy-making proceeds slowly. As far as the whole gamut of foreign policy, it will make little difference whether McCain or Obama wins.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


The Empty Heaven of Democracy

True tolerance begins only after the prior and adamant decision to exclude any form of discourse proffering hatred, discrimination and murder as acceptable speech

Bernard-Henri Levy, France’s most well-known philosopher, spoke recently with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels about the controversial ideas in his recent book Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism. Levy’s responses have been translated from the French by Bill Weber.

Nathan Gardels: ‘‘Tolerance could be the cemetery of democracies, while secular concepts are their crucible,’’ you write in your book Left in Dark Times. Wow. That is quite a provocative thesis. Do you really mean that?

Bernard-Henri Levy: Of course, in saying this I mean an extreme form of tolerance, one that prompts us to accept the notion that all opinions, absolutely all, without any distinction or limits, deserve our respect. Where does that leave the opinion of the racist, the fascist, the rapist or that of anyone who, in the name of some ideology or other, calls for mass murder or the assassination of those who offend them?

In the minds of the fanatics of tolerance, all these opinions deserve respect; and in their eyes the fanatics themselves expect to be treated equally and with dignity.

This leads to crazy situations like those we observe in England, in the Netherlands and in the rest of Europe, where the discourse of the assassins of Theo van Gogh in the local mosque, as well as that of the killers who were earlier sent out to track my friend Salman Rushdie, become acceptable.

True tolerance begins only after the prior and adamant decision to exclude any form of discourse proffering hatred, discrimination and murder as acceptable speech. Tolerance is not synonymous with an absolute principle of freedom of expression, which, etymologically speaking, would be unlinked from any and all transcendental mandate. To accept such an unlinked principle would render us speechless, for example, when confronted with the assassins who are in pursuit of Ayaan Hirsi Ali…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

Tuan Jim said...

I think "Baader Meinhof Complex" originally screened at the Venice festival a couple months ago.

Trailer: http://twitchfilm.net/site/view/stunning-full-theatrical-trailer-for-der-baader-meinhof-komplex/

I'm looking forward to checking it out as well as another French film based on a real criminal played by Vincent Cassel. http://twitchfilm.net/site/view/tiff-review-public-enemy-number-one-part-1/

who knows when/if we'll get them stateside in theaters.

lpcyusa said...
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Baron Bodissey said...

lpcyusa --

I have warned you before. Stop abusing our comments. Your comment is way too long, plus it included long URLs.

Read our comment policy.