Friday, November 21, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/21/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/21/2008Make sure you look at all the pirate stories tonight. Most of them are in the “Sub-Saharan Africa” section, and not all of them have headlines. So keep scrolling.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Insubria, JD, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Bush’s Legacy: European Socialism
Muslim Student Pleads Not Guilty in Fake-Attack Report
Under Worm Assault, Military Bans Disks, USB Drives
 
Europe and the EU
Banking Baddies Get Help But Europe’s Car Industry is Left to Languish
Police Probe ‘Vigilante Firebomb’ Attack on Home of Man Named on BNP List
Renewal and Continuity in Italian Foreign Policy
Spain: a Million and a Half Families Live in Slums
Trentino Evicts Foreign Falcons
UK: 10 Year Old Boy Barrred From Cycling to School
UK: Married Women Face £1,000 Fines for Failing to Update Names on New ID Cards
University: Spain Fails, But Erasmus Students Prefer it
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Political Leaders Differ on Country’s Future
 
Mediterranean Union
Italy-Turkey: Berlusconi, EU Without Turkey Unthinkable
 
North Africa
Endowments Minister Says ‘No’ to Face Veil
Mauritania: EU Studies Measures, Nouakchott Wants Extension
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Escalation of Israeli Measures Menaces Security, Jordan King
Israel: Elections, Likud Climbing Fast in Polls
Middle East: Italian Peace Activist Detained
Obama’s and Abdullah’s Plans for Israel
 
Middle East
Europe: Foreign Policy Under Obama Remains an Unknown
Food: Turkish Hazelnuts a Health Risk, Coldiretti Says
Human Rights: Turkey, 60 Detained for Tortured Activist Death
Jordan: More Assistance for Palestinian Refugees Needed
Medfilm: Alper, 8,000 Jailed for Their Opinions in Turkey
Middle East: UN Agency for PNA Refugees, No Funds Soon
Piracy: Arab Nations Say ‘No’ to Foreign Presence in Red Sea
Syria-Iraq: Zebari, Not Base for Hostility Against Neighbours
Terror Financing Runs Wild in Saudi Arabia
The Mother of the Two Christian Sisters Murdered in Mosul, Dies
Turkey:Social Services File Complaint Against Sarah Ferguson
 
South Asia
India: Going Rate to Kill Pastor: $250
Pakistan: Girls School Destroyed by Militants
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Blackwater Gunboats Will Protect Ships
European Union Counteroffensive Against Piracy
Russia to Send More Warships to Battle Somali Pirates
 
Latin America
General Motors to Invest $1 Billion in Brazil Operations — Money to Come From U.s. Rescue Program
 
Immigration
Treviso ‘Sheriff’ Unafraid of Fatwa
 
General
Nuclear War and Environmental Disaster Looming as American Influence Wanes, Warns Terrifying New U.s Report
US Embassy Guard Accuses Obama of Doing Deals With Terrorists

USA

Bush’s Legacy: European Socialism

The results of the G-20 economic summit amount to nothing less than the seamless integration of the United States into the European economy. In one month of legislation and one diplomatic meeting, the United States has unilaterally abdicated all the gains for the concept of free markets won by the Reagan administration and surrendered, in toto, to the Western European model of socialism, stagnation and excessive government regulation. Sovereignty is out the window. Without a vote, we are suddenly members of the European Union. Given the dismal record of those nations at creating jobs and sustaining growth, merger with the Europeans is like a partnership with death.

At the G-20 meeting, Bush agreed to subject the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and our other regulatory agencies to the supervision of a global entity that would critique its regulatory standards and demand changes if it felt they were necessary. Bush agreed to create a College of Supervisors.

According to The Washington Post, it would “examine the books of major financial institutions that operate across national borders so regulators could begin to have a more complete picture of banks’ operations.”

[…]

The European Union achieved this massive subrogation of American sovereignty the way it usually does, by negotiation, gradual bureaucratic encroachment, and without asking the voters if they approve. What’s more, Bush appears to have gone down without a fight, saving his debating time for arguing against the protectionism that France’s Nicolas Sarkozy was pushing. By giving Bush a seeming victory on a moratorium against protectionism for one year, Sarkozy was able to slip over his massive scheme for taking over the supervision of the U.S. economy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Muslim Student Pleads Not Guilty in Fake-Attack Report

Officials say woman made up story about assault, anti-Islamic slurs

A Muslim student who allegedly made a false claim that a masked man attacked her after he wrote anti- Islamic slurs in a women’s restroom at Elmhurst College pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge of disorderly conduct. Safia Jilani, 19, made no public comment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Under Worm Assault, Military Bans Disks, USB Drives

The Defense Department’s geeks are spooked by a rapidly spreading worm crawling across their networks. So they’ve suspended the use of so-called thumb drives, CDs, flash media cards, and all other removable data storage devices from their nets, to try to keep the worm from multiplying any further.

The ban comes from the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, according to an internal Army e-mail. It applies to both the secret SIPR and unclassified NIPR nets. The suspension, which includes everything from external hard drives to “floppy disks,” is supposed to take effect “immediately.” Similar notices went out to the other military services.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Banking Baddies Get Help But Europe’s Car Industry is Left to Languish

Bankers are now the most hated professionals, more so even than politicians and journalists. Through reckless greed and the selfish pursuit of their annual bonus, they brought the west’s financial system to its knees. They ripped off their loyal individual customers with excessive charges and called on their retail investors, whom they viewed with contempt, to bail them out when in trouble.

And now, when European governments alone have committed to them ?2.2trillion (£1.8tn) in fresh capital and loans guarantees, they are helping to deepen the recession by refusing to lend to vital small businesses ? and to the car industry, a core element of the manufacturing sector.

The European commission, the chief guardian of the EU’s competition rules, is happily turning a blind eye to “moral hazard” and allowing a host of governments to rescue banks that were the architects of damage to themselves and the wider economy. At the same time, it is getting sniffy or even downright hostile with governments shaping up to save hundreds of thousands of jobs for car workers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Police Probe ‘Vigilante Firebomb’ Attack on Home of Man Named on BNP List

A self-employed businessman whose name appeared on the leaked BNP membership list is believed to have been the intended target of vigilantes after a car was fire-bombed outside his house.

Jonathan Senior, 26, who was a member of the far-right party until last year, was away from home when a vehicle belonging to his next door neighbour was set alight on Thursday evening.

The father-of-one was among 13,500 named on a list of members belonging to the BNP as of last year which was leaked on the internet and details occupations, phone numbers and email addresses.

Those identified on the list also include teachers, ministers of religion, doctors, nurses, two solicitors, members of the armed forces, several ‘government employees’ and a small number of police officers.

One serving officer from Merseyside police has since been suspended from duty pending an investigation as the law forbids them from belonging to the BNP. […]

‘My membership of the BNP was never a secret. It’s just the political views I hold. I’m not racist either, it’s got nothing to do with colour.

‘I joined the BNP because of local politics when I lived in nearby Heckmondwike. At the time there were a lot of attacks carried out by Asian youths.

‘There are still some streets you can’t walk down without being attacked if you are white. But after I moved from Heckmondwike there seemed no point of being a member of the BNP so I let it lapse.’

Mr Senior described the ‘out-dated’ list as dangerous and said he was now considering moving to protect his family. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Renewal and Continuity in Italian Foreign Policy

When looking for the next crop of politicians likely to shape Italian foreign policy in the coming years, it is remarkable how few fresh faces dot the crowd. The Italian Republic’s chronic reliance on septuagenarians and octogenarians for its political leadership has earned it the label of gerontocrazia…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: a Million and a Half Families Live in Slums

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 19 — A million and a half of families in Spain live in slums or makeshift homes and 30,000 are homeless. This is what was reported today in Madrid by Caritas, the European Federation of Associations of Centres for the Integration of Aid to the Marginalised and the national associations for the homeless, which in a press conference emphasised the “difficult access as a social right of every human being to a worthy and adequate home for those who tragically live without a roof over their heads”. According to the data released today by the ONG, 82.7% of the homeless are men, with an average age of 38 with monthly earnings of 302 euros. A third of the “chochards”, abstain from drinking and have never used drugs, while the over half are looking for a job. For the most part, more than half, exactly 51.8% are of Spanish nationality, while 27.3% of the total has their works for their livelihood, whether it is a temporary job or the sale of objects or services. The associations reminded that currently “policies for housing are practically inexistent for homeless people”, for whom access to public housing has become “unreachable”, given that legal requisites exist, for example a minimum salary or a certificate of residence. According to ONG estimations, in 2011 the percentage of vacant houses in Spain will be 13.8%, above that of the houses for rent, estimated at 9%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: Francoism, Pro-Garzon Manifesto of Intellectuals

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 20 — About fifty intellectuals, including the Nobel prize winner José Saramago, artists and families of the victims of Francoism, today presented a manifesto of support for judge Baltazar Garzon to the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. As well as being supported by Saramago, the manifesto, presented on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of the death of the dictator Francisco Franco and the founder of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, is also supported by the Argentinean writer Ernesto Sabado and the historian Ian Gibson, an expert on the Spanish Civil War. During the presentation, the president of the association for the revival of historic memory, Emilio Silva, as quoted by news agencies, addressed the prosecutor of the Audiencia Nacional, who opposed the preliminary investigation into Civil War and Francoism “desaparecidos”, which was opened by judge Garzon, saying that “he did an injustice with one hand and politics with the other”. Following the confrontation with the public prosecutor’s office, judge Garzon abandoned the preliminary investigation, passing the inquest which was opened on 16 October to the jurisdiction of the regional courts in the communities where the civilian graves are located. Also in Madrid, another manifesto was presented today by Amnesty International, signed by around fifty jurists, with the title, “In order to turn the page, you first need to read it”, which denounces the Spanish justice system, which has investigated crimes against humanity in various countries such as in Chile and Argentina but has neglected to do this in its own case. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spains’ Cave of “Human Rights”

…[Artist Miquel] Barceló’s new “planet-cave” [at a cost of over 20 million euros] henceforth be called the “Chamber for Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilizations.” What’s more, it will also be the permanent home of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

[…]

The Human Rights Council is, of course, the successor to the infamous UN Commission on Human Rights, which was shut down in 2006 after 50 years of devoting itself almost exclusively to criticizing Israel. But less than three months after it was created, the new Human Rights Council voted in June 2006 to make a review of human rights abuses by Israel a permanent feature of every council session. Since then, the Human Rights Council, which has been hijacked by some of the world’s worst human rights violators, such as China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, has passed more than 60 percent of its resolutions on Israel alone. It reaffirms the UN’s pathological obsession with the Jewish state.

But rather than demanding the complete reform of what even the staid New York Times says has become a complete disgrace to multilateralism, Zapatero instead has chosen to legitimize this paragon of dysfunctional globalism with Spanish largesse because of his desire to raise Spain’s international profile. The ceiling is a gift from Spain “to the entire international community, to all human beings, to all countries,” says Zapatero. The “impressive dome is a reflection of Spain in the 21st century, a country of solidarity, commitment to development aid and against intolerance, discrimination and poverty.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Trentino Evicts Foreign Falcons

Local falconer vows to keep his American birds

(ANSA) — Trento, November 18 — A falconry enthusiast in the province of Trento is ready to defy local authorities over their demand that he rid himself of his ‘foreign’ birds.

Lino Dossi has for the past eight years been illustrating the art of falconry using his two American Harris falcons, a male and a female, which he bought in Germany.

But now he has been ordered by provincial authorities in Trentino to turn the birds in to a specialised center because of a recent law banning ‘foreign’ falcons in order to promote and protect local ones.

However, there is no such center in Trentino and the nearest is in Castel Tirolo, in the neighboring province of Alto Adige, which together with Trento form the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige.

‘‘I will never do that! I once left an eagle in their bird cage and it almost died,’’ Dossi said.

‘‘I’m too attached to my falcons and I won’t give them to anyone, no matter what they do to me. I’d rather set them free even if they arrest me for it,’’ he added.

Forestry officials in the province of Trento said that in 2006 Dossi could have filed for an exemption before the law banning foreign falcons went into effect.

Since he failed to do so, he has now been given an ultimatum to surrender his birds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: 10 Year Old Boy Barrred From Cycling to School

A 10-year-old boy has been told he can cycle to school — but only if his mother drives behind him and takes his bicycle home with her.

Keen cyclist Sam O’Shea delighted his mother Angela when he told her he wanted to take the ‘green’ option and ride the two miles to school.

His primary school imposed the bizarre restriction saying it had nowhere to store bicycles.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Jail Forced to Scrap Comedy Course for Al Qaeda Terrorist

A convicted Al Qaeda terrorist who planned a ‘dirty bomb’ attack in London took part in comedy classes while in prison, it emerged yesterday.

Zia Ul Haq, serving 18 years for his part in the failed terror bid, signed up for the eight-day course with 17 other inmates.

But Justice Secretary Jack Straw halted the comedy workshop at top security Whitemoor jail in Cambridgeshire, branding the scheme ‘totally unacceptable’.

He warned prison governors to ‘take account of the public acceptability test’ when approving courses.

The director of high security prisons has now launched an inquiry to consider whether further action is needed.

The comedy course began on Monday and ran for three days before Mr Straw stepped in.

Prison sources said those taking part were to be given lessons in stand-up comedy, improvisation, visual arts and creative writing.

On completing the course, the prisoners were to be awarded a certificate and put on a comedy show for fellow inmates.

Ul Haq, 29, from Paddington, West London, has a degree in construction management. He worked for a London firm of chartered surveyors and advised his terror cell on where explosives should be placed to ensure that buildings collapsed.

He was jailed last year for conspiring to blow up buildings in the capital and elsewhere in Britain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Married Women Face £1,000 Fines for Failing to Update Names on New ID Cards

Women who want to change their names when they marry will face a £100 ID card ‘tax’, it has emerged.

They will be duty bound to update their entry on the new ID cards database, and hand over £30 if they want a card with their husband’s surname.

Coupled with the existing £72 charge for a new passport, it will mean paying £102.

Refusing to update the ID database of any change in circumstance — including a new address — will carry a fine starting at £125 and rising to a maximum of £1,000.

Fines, which can be issued by post, email or fax, will also apply if cardholders fail to report lost or stolen cards.

They will also have to pay £30 for a new card and go to a special centre to hand over their biometric details once again or have them checked.

The new charges and penalties emerged in a Home Office consultation document outlining draft legislation on how the hugely-controversial £5billion ID card scheme will work.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Tax Payers’ Alliance, said last night: ‘It is unfair to effectively fine someone for getting married or forgetting to notify an official that they have moved house.

‘ID cards are going to be extremely invasive and expensive, a double blow to ordinary people which we can ill afford.

‘Given the Government’s appalling record on IT projects, there is a strong chance people could be fined due to errors in the database.’

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID privacy campaign, said: ‘So the state “managing” your identity boils down to telling them everything there is to know about you, under threat — and coughing up time and again for the privilege.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


University: Spain Fails, But Erasmus Students Prefer it

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 18 — The Spanish university has failed in comparison with universities in fifteen other advanced countries in Europe, plus the United States and Australia. In fact, it is at the bottom of the list for the quality of higher education systems, which has been drawn up by the European affairs research centre, Lisbon Council, presented today in Brussels and published in advance by the online edition of El Pais. The study is based on the comparison of six basic parameters, among which the number of graduates produced compared to the size of the population which is of studying age; “effect”, the ability to produce graduates with skills adapted to the country’s labour market requirements or “response”, the system’s ability to re-form and change in order to adapt to new requirements. These are new criteria compared to the excellence characteristics measured by pre-existing classifications in the sector, such as that of the University of Shanghai, which looks at the Nobel Prize winners among the professors or among the alumni, or even the number of quotations in scientific journals. But the result, in Spain’s case, is equally worrying, as, after the evaluation of all the parameters, it is at the bottom of the group of countries. Australia is at the top, followed by the United Kingdom and Denmark, with Portugal in eighth place and France in tenth. The Lisbon Council emphasizes that Spain occupies a mediocre eleventh place for “inclusion”, with 33% of the population of studying age going to university, seventh for “adult education” and even 16th place for “effect”, which measures to what extent higher educational qualifications are reflected in salaries on the labour market. According to the research, Spain “must work at restoring the balance between the subjects taught at university and the employment market”. The fail mark for the Spanish higher education system is without appeal. “If it wants to improve”, the report continues, “Spain must do more to modernize its education system and bring it closer to the European standards, which help to move forward according to the Bologna criteria”. The Spanish university is also the straggler in the classification of the most advanced countries as regards “response”, measured as the ability to reach the objectives set in 1999 in Bologna, to make it possible to standardise higher education qualifications on a European scale by 2010. This explains the low percentage of foreign university students, only 2%, going to Spain to study, despite the country of the paella and bulls being the favoured destination for students in their twenties taking part in ERASMUS programmes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: Political Leaders Differ on Country’s Future

Brussels, 20 Nov. (AKI) — Leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three main groups, Muslims, Serbs and Croats on Thursday once again voiced opposing views on the country’s future which have dogged the country’s politics since the end of civil war in 1995. The differences resurfaced at a meeting of Bosnia’s Peace Implementation Council (PIC) in Brussels, which discussed the stalled constitutional and police reforms that have slowed Bosnia’s bid to join the European Union.

The Party of Democratic Action (SDA) representing Muslims, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) representing Serbs and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) representing Croats, last month agreed on a course of constitutional reforms. These reforms will define the powers of the federal government, the Serb and Muslim-Croat entities and local governments.

In the vaguely worded pact, the three parties agreed the constitutional amendments would be implemented gradually.

The deal has however been strongly criticised by a Muslim member of the rotating Bosnian presidency, Haris Silajdzic, his Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina and several other political groups.

The PIC board of directors, representing major world powers, gave strong support to the three-party agreement. But Silajdzic reiterated his demand that the country’s Serb and Muslim-Croat entities be abolished to strengthen the central government. The two entities were created by the Dayton peace accord that ended the Bosnian war in 1995.

Serb leader and prime minister of the Serb entity, Dodik repeated his warning that the entities were abolished he would call for a referendum on independence. Meanwhile Croats, the country’s smallest group, wants their own entity, as they are unhappy with their status in the Muslim-Croat federation.

Dodik has repeatedly called for the abolition of the international community’s Office of High Representative , whose broad powers include implementing laws and sacking elected officials.

Silajdzic insists the OHR should stay. International officials are however considering to replacing it with a strong EU presence.

In closing statement, the current OHR chief Miroslav Lajcak said that the PIC supported reforms based on the three-party agreement and expressed the hope that other parties will join in. In addition, he said PIC supported EU strategy “to play a key role in Bosnia”.

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

Mediterranean Union

Italy-Turkey: Berlusconi, EU Without Turkey Unthinkable

(ANSAmed) — IZMIR (Turkey), NOVEMBER 12 — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today comes to Turkey for a summit meeting with the Turkish government, Hurriyet daily newspaper reports. Before his trip to Turkey Berlusconi announced that he and his country were top advocates of Turkey. Berlusconi noted that Italy was holding similar summit meetings with Russia and leading European partners like Germany, France, Spain and the UK. “Now we are holding a similar summit with Turkey, a country playing critical role in continental security,” Berlusconi stressed. The Italian Prime Minister said that his personal friendship with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was very important for the strengthening of bilateral ties between Turkey and Italy. Sabah daily newspaper reports Berlusconi as saying that Erdogan was an “honest and charismatic leader” who conquered the Italians with his passion for football and his love for his family. Berlusconi rejects allegations that there were threats for secularism in Turkey. according to Berlusconi, Turkish secular institutions have been strengthened in the last fifteen years. The Italian Prime Minister notes that Erdogan has proved his commitment to the EU entry goal. “Erdogan’s government works to boost civilian freedoms and to encourage welfare,” he says, adding that Erdogan works with determination for Turkey’s integration with Europe. Sabah in turn reports Berlusconi as saying that estranging Turkey from the EU would be unforgivable mistake. “Delaying Turkey’s EU process is against European interests,” he stresses. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Endowments Minister Says ‘No’ to Face Veil

The Egyptian Ministry for Religious Endowments has weighed into the debate on whether a Muslim woman should wear a face veil with a book arguing that it is not Islamic, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm published extracts of the book, entitled “The Veil is a Custom, Not Worship” by Religious Endowments Minister Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzuq, which the ministry will distribute to mosques.

“I will absolutely not allow the spread of the niqab (the face veil) culture in Egypt,” the newspaper quoted the minister as saying.

The face veil has always been a topic of debate between Sunni schools of jurisprudence — and even within individual schools — with the majority saying the practice is not obligatory under Islam.

However, all schools agree that a woman must cover everything but her face and hands.

Zaqzuq’s book cites rulings by the mufti of Egypt, the head of the Islamic Al-Azhar University and others in which they said the face veil has no basis in the Quran or hadith — the traditions and sayings of Prophet Mohamed.

In modern day Egypt, the face veil is often associated with followers of the Salafi school of thought, the dominant interpretation of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

The ministry had earlier announced it would publish books countering Salafism and distribute them to mosques.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Mauritania: EU Studies Measures, Nouakchott Wants Extension

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, NOVEMBER 20 — The military junta which assumed power in Nouakchott in a coup on 6 August has asked the European Union for an extension on its ultimatum. The ultimatum expires today and was imposed on Mauritania by the European Union which on 20 October gave the junta a month to “re-establish constitutional order”. But as they made the request, Paris, which holds the rotating EU presidency, announced that it would look at “appropriate measures” against Mauritania “because of the insufficient efforts taken until now to re-establish constitutional order”. The deputy spokesperson for the Quai d’Orsay, Frederic Desagneaux, clarified that the EU would examine, on the basis of the Commission’s proposals, suitable measures as per the framework of the Cotonou agreement” which links the EU to the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) zone. He did not give any details, but the European sanctions could consist of a suspension in diplomatic relations and development assistance, excluding humanitarian aid. Desagneaux admitted that in the last few days “there have been some developments”, such as the president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was dismissed by the coup, returning to his native village but he is still under house arrest. The EU continues to demand his liberation. According to Nouakchott sources, the Mauritanian government, which has so far remained firm about its position, asked in a letter to the French secretary of state for cooperation, Alain Joyandet, for “the continuation of talks with the European Union, in the spirit of Cotonou, which requires 120 days of consultation to arrive at a consensus”. The letter emphasizes that the junta is preparing the general states of democracy in view of the coming presidential elections. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Escalation of Israeli Measures Menaces Security, Jordan King

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, NOVEMBER 20 — King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas today warned against “unilateral measures” taken by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza saying the increased suffering of Palestinians will lead to more tension in the region, according to a palace statement. The official communique was published following a meeting between Abdullah and Abbas in light of a secret meeting that brought together the Jordanian monarch with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Defence minister Ehud Barak. Abdullah asked the top Israeli diplomats to reconsider military incursion into the coastal enclave, warning of negative repercussions on the peace process and security in the region. He also called for easing the blockade on the Hamas controlled city, which has been left without enough food and fuel since weeks. “Any escalation measures by Israel will lead to high tensions and the only way to achieve peace and stability is to end the conflict based on the the two state solution,” Abdullah was quoted as saying. Abdullah said Israel will not achieve peace through military action and that only an end to occupation and granting the Palestinians their rights is the guarantee for Israel security. Israel has recently warned it will envade Gaza following a spat of rocket attacks on its towns from the Hamas controlled city. Earlier in the week, it resealed all crossing points and prevented humanitarian aid to reach the city. Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian disaster in the 1.5 million inhabitant area unless more basic supplies arrive soon.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel: Elections, Likud Climbing Fast in Polls

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, NOVEMBER 20 — Likud (centre-right) the leading opposition party in Israel, is still in the lead according to voter polls, and is widening the gap between itself and Kadima, the current party holding the relative majority, as shown in two polls published today in the local press. According to the daily Haaretz, if the elections were to be held now, Likud would get hold of 34 seats in the Knesset (from its current 12) and Kadima 28 (29), the Labour party 10 (19), Meretz (leftist-Zionist, opposition) 7 (5), the two extreme right parties Israel Beitenu and Ihud Leumi 10 and 4, respectively, and the two religious parties Shas and Yahadut HaTora 10 and 6. The three Arab parties would receive 11 seats. In the poll published by Yedioth Aharonoth, Likud would receive 32 seats, Kadima 26, Shas and the Arab parties 11 each, Israel Beitenu 9, Lhud Leumi 6, the Labour party 8, Meretz 7, Yahadut HaTora 7 and the Greens party 3. Both of the polls show that Likud is growing stronger, almost tripling its backing, the Labour party is in steep decline and Meretz is gaining. The margin of error for both is 4.5%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Middle East: Italian Peace Activist Detained

Jerusalem, 19 Nov. (AKI) — Three foreign peace activists, among them an Italian citizen are being held in Israel on Wednesday after they were arrested by Israeli forces as they were escorting a group of 15 Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza. However, Italian citizen Vittorio Arrigoni, US citizen Darlene Wallach and British citizen Andrew Muncie remained in an Israeli detention centre at Ben-Gurion International Airport awaiting deportation.

A British MP and a politician have condemned the arrests.

“I have contacted Foreign Office Minster Mark Malloch Brown and asked him to take action to challenge these arrests and demand the release particularly of the UK citizen,” said MP Clare Short from Britain’s Labour Party, quoted by Palestinian news agency Maan.

“If there is to be any hope of peace in the Middle East, international law must be upheld. This means that the siege of Gaza must be lifted and the constant attacks by the Israeli navy on Gazan fishermen halted,” added Short.

Along with Jennifer Tonge, another British politician, Short sailed to Gaza earlier this month as part of the Free Gaza Movement.

Several dozen politicians and volunteers have sailed from Cyprus to the Palestinian territory since August to bring humanitarian supplies in defiance of the Israeli blockade.

“The time has come for the international community, and especially the European Union to take action against Israel’s consistent breaking of international law.

“The EU-Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until Israel complies with this law,” said Tonge.

Israel signed the accord with the EU on closer economic and political ties in 1995, which entered into force in 2000.

Arrigoni, Wallach and Muncie have been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement, an organisation which advocates non-violent protests against the Israeli army in the Palestinian territories, according to the ISM’s website.

They were arrested on Tuesday by the Israeli navy as they accompanied Palestinian fishermen, who have since been released.

The activists serve as ‘protection’ for the Palestinian fishermen, who are frequently attacked and harassed by Israeli forces, the ISM claims.

The ISM said the boats were seven nautical miles from the shore of Deir al-Balah, which is located within the fishing limit detailed in the 1994 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Arrigoni, Wallach and Muncie had previously taken part in the Free Gaza Movement’s humanitarian voyages from Cyprus to Gaza.

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


Obama’s and Abdullah’s Plans for Israel

Barack Obama has decided to revive a plot the Saudi crown prince hatched in 2002. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz had suggested Israel beat a retreat to the pre-1967 borders, in return for the recognition, whatever that means, of the Arab world.

Back then, Time magazine made the mustachioed monarch its “Man of the Week,” for what it termed his “peace plan.”

The Sunday Times now reports that:

Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League and backed by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ruling Kadima Party.

A loose paraphrasing of U.N. resolution 242, this “peace initiative” requires Israel to give the Golan Heights to Syria, which is tantamount to returning land to the aggressors, and “allow the Palestinians to establish a state capital in east Jerusalem.”

For its concessions, the Arab League will doff a collective kafia to Israel. As will Israel be given “an effective veto” on the national suicide pact known as the right of return — the imperative to absorb millions of self-styled Palestinian “refugees” into Israel proper.

[…]

They say Obama reads a lot. But the Anointed One seems historically tone-deaf to the ongoing farce known as the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process. Under the wing of the American eagle, Israel has performed a perennial routine described by Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes:

The Israeli side makes “painful concessions,” the Arab interlocutor imperiously disdains these even as terrorism and other forms of violence continue. Jerusalem responds with several more rounds of ever-more painful concessions until finally the Arab side grudgingly accepts them, offering airy promises of “peace” that promptly turn into just the opposite — greater levels of hostility and violence.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Europe: Foreign Policy Under Obama Remains an Unknown

Europe can expect smoother transatlantic relations under President-elect Barack Obama, but faces an unclear US foreign policy, political scientists say.

Analysts in Switzerland say that although the historic election result will have a profound effect domestically, Obama’s strategy for dealing with the rest of the world is yet to be determined.

“A more than 200-year history of discrimination and disenfranchisement of black Americans has, if not come to an end, been radically challenged,” Professor James Davis, director of the Institute of Political Science in St Gallen, told swissinfo.

“I think we certainly have turned a page in history and can start to look forward to a very different and positive future.”

Likewise, there is hope that the new president will try to reverse any negative sentiment that has developed between Europe and the US in recent years.

“On January 20 the Bush era will be over and one of the most difficult periods in transatlantic relations will have come to an end,” Davis said.

“I expect quite a bit of goodwill on both sides of the Atlantic and an effort on both sides to restructure the relationship and to normalise relations.”

He argues that there will be a change in tone from the new leader, with less “bashing” of the United Nations, more multilateral approaches to problem-solving and more policy substance, particularly with a view to acting on climate change.

Obama is a proponent of binding targets of reductions of CO2 emissions and Europe can expect “real progress” in setting and meeting targets, he says.

Bumpy road

But in the longer term, he says, Europe will see differences of opinion in some areas.

While trying to apply lessons learnt from Iraq in drawing up a new strategy for Afghanistan, Obama could meet opposition from some leaders on issues such as increasing troops in the area.

“I can well imagine Barack Obama coming to the European partners and asking them to play their role in a new strategy. This might be very difficult for some, especially the Germans, who find themselves in an election cycle. So I can imagine there might be some bumps on the road ahead,” said Davis.

On Wednesday, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey welcomed the election of the new president, saying Obama would usher in a “change in style” in American diplomacy.

What that entails is still unknown. Obama has already stood apart from his predecessors by saying he is willing to talk to one opponent, Iran, at a high level.

Davis added: “He has made clear that he is willing to speak to our adversaries or to states with whom we have a problem. The diplomatic approach is a means to an end but that only functions if in fact diplomacy is backed up or supported by other tools of state craft.”

He warns that the weight of hope of change will fall heavy on his shoulders.

“I do however think that the expectations are so great and go in so many different directions that no single president could meet them all. So there is the very serious risk of disappointment setting in at some point.”

Spark of change

For Professor David Sylvan, head of the political science unit at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, the election of Obama also signals a catalyst for great change within the US.

“It is possible that this could represent the beginning of a really major, once-every-half-a-century type of political realignment in the United States.”

“It is possible that this is that kind of an election because you are getting a discourse in the way that people are talking about things, in terms of everything from the importance of regulation of the economy to the importance of redistributing income, that really you have not heard in the United States for at least 40 years, arguably longer,” Sylvan told swissinfo.

“Since the US does play such an important part in the world in terms of setting the agenda for political debate in other countries, that is potentially very significant.”

Davis added: “When you look at America today and see a black face in the White House, that changes the image of America, both within the country and abroad.”

“I think this election reminds a number of Europeans who had begun to doubt the commitment of the American public to some basic principles that these principles are alive and well, and that there is this incredible ability of American society to heal itself and to correct past mistakes. And I think that came out loud and clear.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Food: Turkish Hazelnuts a Health Risk, Coldiretti Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 3 — Turkish hazelnuts are a health risk. The fact that in 2008 there was, every week, an EU notification on loads of nuts from Turkey with a higher levels of aflatoxins than allowed by law, “is particularly alarming for Italy where more than 25 million kilograms of unshelled hazelnuts are imported a year and where one in three hazelnuts in cream, chocolates, ice creams and various sweets produced in Italy, is originally from Turkey”. This is what Coldiretti had to say on the subject of data gathered by the community’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), underlining that the figures are especially worrying given that only 5% of hazelnuts imported from Turkey are even checked. These aflatoxins, explains the organisation, are produced by a fungus which can contaminate foodstuffs with particularly serious effects up to and including the development of very serious tumours and other pathologies. Italy, Coldiretti noted, is the main European imported of Turkish nuts after Germany before claiming that: “faced with the rising health risk it is necessary to immediately make it obligatory to notify the provenance of all agricultural products used in all foodstuffs”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Human Rights: Turkey, 60 Detained for Tortured Activist Death

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 18 — Turkish prosecutors completed their investigation into allegations that a leftist activist was tortured to death in custody, preparing an indictment that includes sixty people, Anatolia news agency reported. The 60 suspects include gendarmerie, police and prison officials and the 24-page document was sent to the court. Engin Ceber, 29, died in hospital from a brain hemorrhagie last month, after he was detained in September while protesting that police officers have not been brought to justice for allegedly shooting and paralyzing a young boy selling a left-wing publication last year. Human rights groups say he was severely beaten by officers while in custody. Nineteen prison officials have been already suspended over the incident and six of them were arrested in October. European Union officials and Turkish human rights activists revealed that cases of torture are increasing again in Turkey in recent years after a remarkable decline at the beginning of 2000. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Jordan: More Assistance for Palestinian Refugees Needed

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, NOVEMBER 17 — Jordanian officials in charge of running affairs of nearly two million Palestinian refugees launched an alarm today, saying shortage of funds sent by UN refugees agency, UNRWA, is jeopardizing their humanitarian work in the kingdom’s thirteen refugee camps. According to the director of the Department of Palestinian Affairs (DPA), Wajih Azaizeh, donor countries’ must be committed to UNRWA to enable the agency to implement its programmes and increase the allocation for its budget in Jordan. Azaizeh is concerned that health services to elderly and children will be negatively effected by the decline in amounts of cash, putting the life of many at risk. “Our level of services has nose dived recently as aid continues to shrink,” said Azaizeh, one day ahead of an international meeting in Amman that brings together donors and host countries of Palestinian refugees in the region. He also called on donor countries to support the UNRWA savings fund, which suffers a 20 % deficit, to protect workers’ rights and their savings following the worldwide credit crunch crisis. Most of Palestinian refugees who fled their homes after the 1948 and 1967 moved to Jordan and settled in a number of refugee camps, where they continue to receive aid from UNRWA, a body created by the UN after the war to help displaced Palestinians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Medfilm: Alper, 8,000 Jailed for Their Opinions in Turkey

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 7 — “It took me four years to shoot this movie. I used the experiences my friends lived through, jailed and tortured for their political opinions. Their tales and those of many detainees I interviewed in jail, taking me, too, a big risk, helped me”. The one who spoke this way wasn’t a veteran of some dictatorial regime, but the young Turkish director Ozcan Alper who presented his first full-length movie ‘Sonbahar’ (Autumn) in the opening night of the 14th edition of the MedFilm Festival in Rome Wednesday. Mid Nineties: Yusuf, the main character in the film, is released owing to very bad health after spending 10 years in rigorous imprisonment — the so-called F Jail — because of his strong opposition to the repressive laws of the Ankara government. “I’ve come to know many stories like his one — said Alper — I, too, hail from those years and I’m leftist. Owing to torture he was subjected to in jail, a friend of mine, who is 33 like me, now suffers from Alzheimer’s”. “Sonbahar is a movie which takes side, a denounciation of all bodily and psychological violence which a great Country such as Turkey — which has been laying the foundations to enter into Europe since 1963 — seems it cannot yet do without”. “I don’t believe — said Alper on the side of the opening night — that a possible accession of my Country to the European Union might have a meaning of any kind whithout true democratic reform, without those changes that also mean respecting minorities and the rights and freedom of individuals”. Yusuf is spending his life to defend the ideals he believes in and when he goes back home, amid the mountains rising over the Black Sea, he hasn’t mught left for him: an elderly mother, an old friend and a young prostitute of Georgian origin to fall in love with. Fifteen years ago Turkish young people were willing to put up their life to uphold an ideal. In 2008, despite growing consumerism and steady economic expansion in the Euro-Asian Country, was it still the same? “Currently in Turkey — the film director recalled — we have more than 8,000 people jailed and charged for claming freedom of thought”. A suave man, his thoughts full of politics and a look much more mature than his 33 years of age, Ozcan Alper is an artist at his debut, who loved Italian cinema, Visconti and Antonioni most of all, but also the books of Cesare Pavese and Russiàs Mikhail Lermontov. These authors, he says, “helped me to see things differently”. After his first full-length movie, his goal is to continue along the same path: committed movies, with a clear message and centered on his native Country. He doesn’t say to much about his plans for the future. “I have three ideas in my mind, but I want first to see how far this movie can go, what impact it will have on people”. ‘Sonbahar’, a Turkish-German co-production, won the Art and Essay award at the Locarno festival. Here it was running officially in the Love and Psyche Award section. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Middle East: UN Agency for PNA Refugees, No Funds Soon

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 20 — An 87 million dollar deficit — which reaches 160 million with the cost of non-financed projects in past years — threatens to compromise the activities of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA), said a statement from the UN’s information service, launching a serious warning. Defining the economic crisis as ‘‘grave and imminent’’, the High Commissioner for the agency Karen AbuZayd said that the situation could come to a head unless ‘‘funds are found at the start of 2009, seeing that UNRWA is closer than ever’’ to a real economic ‘crash’. The alarm was raised during a meeting of the agency with directors of the headquarters of the five countries and territories concerned: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. The UN agency, which employs around 30,000 people, mainly Palestinians, works in the education sector (from the setting up of camp schools to the distribution of money to cover costs for buying files and school uniforms), in the health sector (providing medical care and promoting prevention) and intervening in the most critical situations (for example, distributing basic food products such as flour, rice, oil and sugar) for around 4.6 million refugees. In a second press statement, published on the agency’s website, it was announced that the EU will contribute 5 million euros to the funds set aside for 2009. The extra money will finance cash subsidies for the most vulnerable families in Gaza. The cash aid from the EU in 2008 reached 8 million euros, while Echo, the humanitarian aid department of the European Commission, supplied food aid of 15 million euro. Since 1971, first through the EEC and then the EU, Europe has regularly given its support to the UNRWA, becoming the largest multilateral donor. Combined with contributions coming from single EU member states, the funds from the European Commission make up more than half the agency’s budget for 2008. The help to refugees in the greatest economic difficulty forms part of the measures created to achieve one of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals or MDGs which UN member states are committed to reach by 2015. Apart from reducing infant mortality and guaranteeing universal primary education, is the eradication of extreme poverty. The UNRWA was set up in a resolution by the UN General Assembly in 1949 and began operations in May of the following year. Its mandate was recently renewed until 2011. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Piracy: Red Sea Arab Countries Gathered in Cairo

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 20 — Representatives of Arab countries bordering the Red Sea have gathered today in Cairo to look at ways of fighting the piracy off the Somali coast. Egypt stated that “all options are open” regarding the matter. Representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are taking part in the meeting, which “aims to promote coordination between Arab countries bordering the Red Sea”, stated the spokesman from the Egyptian foreign ministry, Hossam Zaki, according to reports from the Egyptian Mena agency. “The phenomenon threatens navigation in the Red Sea and forces many boats to choose other routes”, he added. “All options are open” to stem this threat. According to figures from the international maritime office, 94 boats have been attacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Aden this year, a phenomenon which has increased considerably, and 39 have been seized by pirates, according to clarifications from the Pentagon spokesperson. The attacks also take place a long way from the coast, in the open sea. The most spectacular attack ever carried out in the area took place last weekend on a Saudi super tanker 800 kilometres south-east of Mombassa (Kenya). Somali pirates seized the ship, which is 330 metres long and loaded with 300,000 tonnes of oil with a value of around 100 million dollars, and asked for a ransom of 25 million dollars to leave the tanker and release its 25 crew members. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Piracy: Arab Nations Say ‘No’ to Foreign Presence in Red Sea

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 20 — Some figures from Arab countries, taking part in a meeting on piracy in the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League, ‘‘have rejected the notion of a foreign force in the Red Sea’’ and ‘‘any kind of attempt to impinge on security in the Red Sea and the sovereignty of the countries sharing it as a border’’. This statement has come this evening at the end of the meeting, from the Spokesperson of Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, Hossam Zaki. The minister went on to add that this would not impede them from collaborating with international initiatives. The declaration made by the spokesperson is not, however, supported by the document approved at the end of the meeting, which lacks any sort of direct reference to a multinational naval force to be deployed in the Red Sea. Speaking in very general terms, a passage from the document solely underlines ‘‘the willingness of Arab nations with coastal borders to dialogue with several parties to combat piracy and the agreements on these initiatives and on regional and international accords regarding international waters in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden’’. Attending today’s meeting hosted by Egypt, were Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Djibouti, with the presence of the Arab League. Eritrea announced that it would not attend the meeting. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Syria-Iraq: Zebari, Not Base for Hostility Against Neighbours

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 12 — Iraq will never under any circumstances establish a basis for launching hostile acts against neighbouring countries, said Iraqi Foreign Minsiter, Hoshiar Zebari in Damascus, cited by the Syrian press. Zebari made a surprise visit yesterday to the Syria capital where he was received by President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallim. His mission took place two weeks after the American air raid conducted from Iraqi territory against a Syrian village near the border of the two countries, in which, according to Damascus, eight civilians were killed. According to military sources in Washington, an al-Qaida member was killed in the raid. “The Iraqi government — said Zebari — wants to ensure neighbouring countries on a security agreement (with the United States) and underlined that Iraq will never be in any condition a base (to launch) hostile acts against its neighbours”. Muallim assured the government in Baghdad of “Syrian support for security and stability and for ongoing national reconciliation” in the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terror Financing Runs Wild in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is cracking down on extremist violence within its borders, but virtually ignoring terror recruitment and financing drives that are suspected of enabling violence around the rest of the world, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The revelation comes as Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz complained that Saudi mosques were being used to recruit operatives for al-Qaida networks. But he has yet to curb either terrorist recruitment in Saudi Arabia or diminish Saudi assistance to terrorists outside the country.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Mother of the Two Christian Sisters Murdered in Mosul, Dies

The woman had been injured in the November 12th assault on her home during which her two daughters Lamia and Walàa were killed. The Christian families who have returned to Mosul confess that poverty drove them home rather than improved security conditions.

Mosul (AsiaNews) — The mother of two sisters killed in Mosul last week has died from injuries sustained during the attack on her family home. The funerals were celebrated yesterday.

November 12th last, a band of armed youths stormed the Siro-Catholic family’s home in the Alqahira quarter of the city killing the sisters Lamia and Walàa Sobhy Salloha. They then turned on the mother with a knife. The father and another son who escaped during the moment of the attack are safe. Initially the wounds sustained by the mother, Selma Giargis did not appear to be grave. But in the hospital in Mosul her condition worsened also because of a lack in basic medicine.

The situation of Mosul’s Christians is increasingly tragic. In the month of October 16 faithful were killed and 2 thousand families forced to flee their homes. Over the past few day san estimated 700 families have returned, reassured by government promises of improved security. 52 year old Imad Hanna, told Ankawa, that he had fled to Karakosh, Kurdistan, 50-60 km north of Mosul. “What made me return — he said — wasn’t the security situation, but material need”. Imad recounts that the people in Mosul “are terrified” in the wake of the killings. The murder of the two sisters and their mother has left a deep impression on them because the assassins were able to penetrate their home, rendering every safe haven insecure.

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


Turkey:Social Services File Complaint Against Sarah Ferguson

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 20 — The Turkish Social Services and Child Protection Agency (Shcek) filed a criminal complaint against the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, after she went undercover to expose the abuse of children in two state-run orphanages in Ankara and Istanbul, daily Hurriyet reports today. Turkish Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan, said the whole process in which the images from the documentary were filmed was unacceptable, objecting to the “undercover methodology” of the documentary, which one government official said could “impact on our image in Europe”. The programme, titled “Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission” aired in Britain on ITV1 earlier this month and coincided with the release of the EU’s annual report on Turkey’s progress on reforms needed to join the EU. Ferguson defended her actions following reports of widespread condemnation in Turkey, but apologized for any embarrassment the expose may have caused the country, admitting she had felt “uncomfortable” disguising her identity when entering one facility with hidden cameras. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Going Rate to Kill Pastor: $250

Rewards offered for murdering Christians, destroying homes, churches

Hindu extremist groups are offering money, food and alcohol to anyone who murders Christians and destroys their homes.

The violence is nothing new in Orissa, India, where India’s Communist Party estimates that more than 500 Christians have been killed by Hindu mobs in Orissa since late August, 12 times more than official government claims of only 40 homicides.

But now the stakes are even higher — and pastors have a bounty on their heads.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Girls School Destroyed by Militants

Mingora, 20 Nov. (AKI/DAWN) — Four militants and two women were killed and several others sustained injuries while a girls’ school was destroyed in Pakistan.

The school was located in the area of Bar Bandai in the volatile Swat valley.

Military sources said the security forces pounded militant hideouts killing four and injuring several others on Wednesday in the ongoing search operation in the restive Swat region.

Curfew was imposed in the troubled areas of Kabal tehsil.

Two women were killed and four combatants were injured as some misfired shells fell on their houses in Khwazahkela tehsil.

The government girls’ primary school was destroyed by unknown miscreants by planting explosives in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday.

The four-room school building was completely destroyed and its furniture and records were damaged in the explosion.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Blackwater Gunboats Will Protect Ships

The American security company Blackwater is planning to cash in on the rising threat of piracy on the high seas by launching a flotilla of gunboats for hire by the shipping companies.

The firm, which gained international notoriety when its staff killed civilians in Iraq, has already equipped one vessel, called The McArthur, which will carry up to 40 armed guards and have a landing pad for an attack helicopter.

The McArthur, a former survey ship, arrives in the Gulf of Aden, the scene of the recent high-profile hijackings and shootouts with Somali pirates, at the end of the year. It is to be joined by three or four similar vessels over next year to form the company’s private navy. […]

One US company, Hollowpoint Protective Services, says it is offering a comprehensive service of hostage negotiations backed by armed rescue operations if the talks fail. Eos, a British concern, says it favours a “non-lethal” approach with the use of sophisticated laser, microwave and acoustical devices. But Blackwater plans to have the largest and most heavily armed presence among the security contractors. The company believes that the presence of escorting gunboats will have a deterrent effect, with criminal gangs being forced to switch to more vulnerable targets. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


European Union Counteroffensive Against Piracy

Operation ‘Atalanta’ begins on 8 December. European nations are set to fight piracy, but Noel Choong says “steps should have been taken years ago;” now the “situation is already out of control.”

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Somali pirates want US$ 25 million to release the MV Sirius Star and its crew, a report said today. But the European Union has decided to launch an operation to prevent further acts of piracy in the high seas.

Five days after the Saudi super-tanker was seized off the coast of Kenya, Somali raiders demanded a $US 25 million ransom setting a 10-day deadline, a spokesman for the pirates said.

“The Saudis have ten days to comply, otherwise we will take action that could be disastrous,” he added.

Meanwhile the pirates’ sorties continue along the coast of Somalia. Two merchant ships, one from Hong Kong, the other from Greece, and a Thai fishing trawler, are the bandits’ latest victims.

But following the destruction of a suspected Somali pirate vessel in the Gulf of Aden by an Indian navy warship, hope and a spirit of international cooperation are growing.

The European Union is set to launch its own naval operation, starting 8 December.

“We proposed to our European partners to take up this mission,” said French Defence Minister Hervé Morin, which was decided on and organised in less than three months.

Code-named ‘Atalanta’ the operation will involve seven warships backed by reconnaissance aircraft. Its headquarters will be at Northwood, south of London.

Ships, sailors and logistical support will come from France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain. Portugal, Sweden and non-EU member Norway will also contribute.

The move comes after Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed made an appeal to the international community to intervene.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, 63 of the 199 episodes of piracy recorded worldwide in the first nine months of this year occurred in the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

“These steps should have been taken years ago,” said Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting centre at the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. Now the “situation is already out of control.”

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


Russia to Send More Warships to Battle Somali Pirates

Russia announced Thursday it would send more warships to combat piracy in the waters around Somalia, as the Saudi owners of the Sirius Star negotiated with the pirates holding their oil tanker.

Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, the top commander of the Russian navy, made the announcement according to a report by RIA Novosti news agency.

“After the Neustrashimy (Fearless), ships from other fleets of the Russian navy will head to the region,” Vysotsky said, referring to a frigate sent to the area in September. […]

But the United States, which also has warships patrolling off Somalia, said a military approach was not the answer to a surge of piracy off the Horn of Africa.

“You could have all the navies in the world having all their ships out there, you know, it’s not going to ever solve this problem,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

“It requires a holistic approach from the international community at sea, ashore, with governance, with economic development,” he told reporters.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Ships Re-Route to Avoid Pirates

RAMPANT piracy off Somalia is forcing shipping companies to avoid the Suez Canal and send cargoes of oil and other goods on a longer journey around southern Africa, industry officials said on Thursday.

Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk is routing some of its 50 oil tankers around the Cape of Good Hope instead and Intertanko said many other tanker firms were doing the same.

Norway’s Frontline, which ferries much of the Middle East’s oil to world markets, said it was considering a similar step. […]

The head of the International Maritime Organisation, Efthimios Mitropoulos, warned of ‘a series of negative repercussions’ if ships had to reroute.

He said going around the Cape added about 12 days to a typical Gulf-to-Europe voyage, delaying oil supplies, and potentially raising freight rates by 25 to 30 per cent. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Somali Pirates Pocket at Least $1.67 Million

2 tankers released after payments to hijackers; U.N. backs arms sanctions

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali pirates released two hijacked ships after ransoms were paid, U.S. military officials said Thursday. The deals emerged as Britain warned that paying for the release of hostages risks encouraging more piracy.

NBC News reported that the Great Creation, a Hong Kong-flagged chemical tanker seized on Sept. 18, was released after a $1.67 million ransom was paid. The Genius, another Hong Kong-flagged chemical tanker which was hijacked Sept. 26, was also returned in exchange for an unknown sum.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

General Motors to Invest $1 Billion in Brazil Operations — Money to Come From U.s. Rescue Program

General Motors plans to invest $1 billion in Brazil to avoid the kind of problems the U.S. automaker is facing in its home market, said the beleaguered car maker.

According to the president of GM Brazil-Mercosur, Jaime Ardila, the funding will come from the package of financial aid that the manufacturer will receive from the U.S. government and will be used to “complete the renovation of the line of products up to 2012.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Treviso ‘Sheriff’ Unafraid of Fatwa

Security boosted for outspoken Northern League deputy mayor

(ANSA) — Treviso, November 21 — The Northern league deputy mayor of this northeastern Italian city, who was given the nickname ‘The Sheriff’ for his hard line on immigration, said on Friday that he was unafraid of a fatwa which was allegedly issued against him.

‘‘I defend my culture, my religion and civilization without any fear and so is natural that I will make some enemies,’’ Giancarlo Gentilini told ANSA on Friday.

‘‘The world is full of madman and megalomaniacs and its clear that being a member of the Northern League who is not afraid to say what he thinks could place me in a disagreeable position,’’ he added. According to the local press, police consider the Islamic ruling against the deputy mayor, who has also served as mayor of Treviso, to be credible and believe it was issued in response to anti-immigrant remarks he made during a recent Northern league rally in Venice.

A fatwa is in itself not a threat but a religious opinion issued by an Islamic scholar. The one regarding Gentilini was said to have been issued several months ago.

Security has already been boosted for Gentilini has been under police protection for over five years ago after sparking controversy with his outspoken views and actions.

Gentilini once removed benches from Treviso’s public parks to prevent immigrants using them and also jokingly suggested that immigrants ‘‘disguised as hares’’ be used as target practice for hunters.

Aside from his crusade against immigrants, Gentilini also grabbed headlines last year over his call for an ‘‘ethnic cleansing’’ of homosexuals in Treviso.

Earlier this year he raised eyebrows when he launched a crusade against ‘‘foreign’’ dogs and called for a return of the traditional farm dogs who used to follow their masters to the fields and were part of Treviso’s ancestry.

Dog experts brushed off his call saying there was no such thing as a pure, indigenous canine breed of the kind he was referring to.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Nuclear War and Environmental Disaster Looming as American Influence Wanes, Warns Terrifying New U.s Report

[…] The report entitled Global Trends 2025 is compiled by a body of analysts from all sections of the U.S.. intelligence community and was prepared to be in time for Mr Obama’s arrival at the White House on January 20.

‘The world of the near future will be subject to an increased liklihood of conflict over resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,’ it says.

The intelligence officials predict that China, Russia and India will increasingly challenge American influence around the world however they conclude : ‘The US will remain the single most important actor but will be less dominant.’ […]

The NIC officials highlight an already escalating Middle Eastern nuclear arms race and suggest that a growing number of rogue states might be prepared to share their devastating technology with terrorist organisations. […]

The report says the terrorists of 2025 are likely to be a combination of the descendants of long established groups and newly emergent collections of the ‘angry and disenfranchised that become self-radicalised.’ […]

The shift of economic power is described as ‘without precedent in modern history’ with rising oil and commodity oprices providing windfall profits for Gulf states and Russia. Manafacturing and service industries will shift to Asia. […]

It concedes the predicted outcomes are not inevitable and will depend on the actions of world leaders.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


US Embassy Guard Accuses Obama of Doing Deals With Terrorists

A senior security officer at the US embassy in London is being investigated after accusing Barack Obama of brokering secret deals with terrorists..

Joe Hubbard, a security supervisor who is in charge of patrolling the Grosvenor Square building, claims the President-elect secured backing from terrorist organisations, including Hamas and Colombian guerilla group FARC, in return for changing US policy.

In a vitriolic tirade in an online blog, Mr Hubbard, an American, accuses Obama of having a hidden Muslim agenda and claims his election campaign was funded by anonymous Middle eastern contributions from countries which “pose a hostile threat” to America.

He accuses Obama of conducting covert meetings with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,north Korea dictator Kim Jong-il and Libya’s Muammar al Gaddafi. […]

Mr Hubbard accuses the president-elect of supporting “extremist”-arab and left-wing groups in the US, planning to force schools to teach the Koran instead of the Bible and pursuing unjust problack policies. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

Natalie said...

Wow, I feel like I haven't commented here in ages.

I saw the story about the waning influence of America earlier today. I really didn't like it at all.

spackle said...

"Eos, a British concern, says it favours a “non-lethal” approach with the use of sophisticated laser, microwave and acoustical devices. But Blackwater plans to have the largest and most heavily armed presence among the security contractors."

Ah yes. Blackwater (as the youngsters would say) is "kickin it old school".

spackle said...

"The European Union is set to launch its own naval operation, starting 8 December."

Upon spotting the pirates all EU ships decided to rendezvous. All the Captains and ships officers immediately (as per EU policy) convened to a conference room where they debated and spent the next week passing resolutions with Brussels.

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

I'd like to know where the EU is going to get its ships. They haven't even got the bloody coastguard sorted out yet.