Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/23/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/23/2008Of interest tonight: the Spanish government is moving strongly to make sure that Russia doesn’t by a large chunk of the Repsol oil company. Prince Alwaleed intends to buy a 5% share of Citigroup. Kuwait lost $1.4 billion dollars in its investments in derivatives. And a professor at UC Irvine risks being put on unpaid leave for refusing to participate in mandatory sexual harassment training.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Conservative Swede, Insubria, JD, Steen, TB, TV, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Hillary Plays Hardball
 
Europe and the EU
“The Turkish Question” by Paul Belien
Belgian Travel Show Ad Features Hitler in Stripper Costume
Dutch Islamic Schools Need to Shape Up
Immigrants Behind Most Attacks on Amsterdam Gays
Italy: Islam at the Centre of the Debate in World Philosophy Day 2008
Moderates: ‘Immigrants Should Sign Swedish Contract’
Muslim Fanatics ‘Hijack British Prison’
Oil: Spanish Gov’t Zooming in on Repsol Against Lukoil
Students Flock to Perugia a Year After Kercher Killing
Sweden: Army Hushes Up Afghanistan Risks
UK Officials to Hold Summit on Church Closure Crisis
UK: Christmas Carols Rewritten to Attack Israel
Who Would be Part of the BNP?
 
Balkans
Serbia: Trade With Italy Seen Reaching $3bln in 2008
 
Mediterranean Union
Crisis: Emirate Minister; EU Free-Trade Pact Must Come Soon
Maghreb: Economic Development Up Despite Global Crisis
 
North Africa
Egypt: Suez Canal Authority Keep Eye on Piracy Drama
Egypt: Armed on the Bus, Pins to Ward Off Molesters
TV: Egypt, EU Launches Comedy Series Which Helps Women
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Mideast: Gaza; Hamas, We Want to Extend Truce
Netanyahu Hires 2 of Obama’s Advisors
 
Middle East
Dubai Shrugs Off Crisis With New Luxury Hotel
Kuwait’s Gulf Bank Lost USD 1.4 Billion on Derivatives
US Forecasts: Iran Will Have Makings of 3 A-Bombs by End of 2009
 
Russia
Religious Row Over Muslim Lifestyle Book Ban
 
Caucasus
Grozny Bombing Kills Four
 
South Asia
British Liquid Bomb Suspect ‘Killed’ as Unmanned U.S. Drone Strikes Al Qaeda Strongpoint
India Shocked by Discovery of 1st Hindu Terror Cell
Orissa, Hindu Fundamentalists Offer Rewards for Killing Christians
 
Far East
Vietnam: Authorities Pressure New Christians to Recant
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Inside the Somali Pirates’ Lair
 
Latin America
Brazilian Gay Groups Launch Multiple Lawsuits to Silence Christian Opposition
 
Immigration
Immigration: Over 400 Arrive in Three Landings on Lampedusa
 
Culture Wars
Emergent Church Leader Says ‘Gay’ Can be Biblical Lifestyle
Ex-Episcopalians to Unveil Church Constitution
Re-Education by the State
The Sham of Sex Harassment Training
 
General
Crisis: Citigroup; Alwaleed Aims to Up Stake to 5 Pct
Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to Get Life Saving Anti-Sniper Device
Vatican Remembers the Beatles

USA

Hillary Plays Hardball

The first sign of friction in the Obama camp as Mrs Clinton demands — and gets — a purge of her critics before accepting Secretary of State role

Before Hillary Clinton has been formally offered the job as Secretary of State, a purge of Barack Obama’s top foreign policy team has begun.

The advisers who helped trash the former First Lady’s foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail are being brutally shunted aside, as the price of her accepting the job of being the public face of America to the world. In negotiations with Mr Obama this week before agreeing to take the job, she demanded and received assurances that she alone should appoint staff to the State Department. She also got assurances that she will have direct access to the President and will not have to go through his foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council, which is where many of her critics in the Obama team are expected to end up.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

“The Turkish Question” by Paul Belien

Turkey, however, is a special case in the United Nations. It is the only country that participates as a full member in two regional groups. As it geographically belongs to Asia, Turkey is also a member of the Group of Asian States. And as an Islamic country Turkey is also a member “and a prominent one “ of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which includes all Islamic states from Senegal to Indonesia and which is also recognized by the UN.

[…]

Four years ago, Brussels and Ankara started negotiations intended to lead to Turkey becoming an EU member. The issue is highly controversial because the economic and institutional consequences of Turkey’s admission will be far-reaching for the EU.

To raise Turkey to a European standard of living would require enormous and sustained efforts of wealth redistribution from the European taxpayers, which would impoverish Europe without a guarantee of success in Turkey. Moreover, if Turkey joins the EU, an additional 80 million people become EU citizens. As an EU member, Turkey will be the most populous member with the highest number of representatives in the European Parliament. In the European Council it will be on a par with the present Big Ones. Its foreign interests will dominate Europe’s. Turkey is too big for Europe to swallow.

What worries ordinary Europeans most, however, is that the 80 million potential additional EU citizens are Muslims. Does it serve the interests of the West if the largest member state of the EU is an Islamic country?

Some think it does. They believe that Turkish EU membership will turn the country into a democratic state and an example for other Muslim nations, and hence prove that Islam and democracy can be reconciled. But what if they are wrong? Many ordinary Europeans would rather play safe. However, that is not the attitude of the political establishment.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Belgian Travel Show Ad Features Hitler in Stripper Costume

A Belgian public broadcaster, which recently canceled a cooking show on Adolf Hitler’s favorite meal, is now being criticized for promoting a travel show with advertisements featuring Hitler.

The ads, which ran in a nationally circulated magazine associated with the daily De Morgen, caricature television presenter Thomas Desoete, in a stripper costume, sporting a Hitler mustache and a swastika armband.

The show airs on Canvas, a channel belonging to the Flemish broadcaster VRT. The broadcaster’s management in Brussels could not be reached for comment.

Michael Freilich, editor of the Antwerp-based Jewish weekly Joods Actueel, said the new ad shows that VRT is “looking for excuses” to portray Hitler.

“They obviously weren’t happy with our response [to the cooking show], so have added Hitler for no obvious reason other than getting attention and angering the Jewish community and the 15,000 Belgian non-Jews who were deported during WWII,” Freilich told Haaretz. “The Jewish community is furious. Some are even considering whether they want to live here.”

Meanwhile, as reported on VRT, a Belgian court last week fined two Dutchmen — a Hitler look-alike and a far-right politician — 1,100 euros each for making a Nazi salute at a white supremacy event last year.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Dutch Islamic Schools Need to Shape Up

Fake names on the payroll; entire schools taking trips abroad with school funds; school boards fired for incompetence. Just a few of the problems the government has found at Islamic Schools in the Netherlands. Radio Netherlands visited an Islamic School in Amsterdam to find out why these schools are doing so poorly.

The As Soeffah school is in one of the poorer neighbourhoods of Amsterdam. Founded just a few years ago, the school already has 400 children and opened a sister school in The Hague. Director Rahmat Khan Abdur Rahman sums up the characteristics of a Muslim school: “If you would come to the school in the morning for the start of the day, you’d see the kids recite the Qur’an, sing Islamic songs, have a talk, things like this.

The kids pray at school. We celebrate Muslim holidays. Of course, Dutch holidays are also normal at the school. We give them attention, too.” […]

Accounts of fraud at other Islamic schools point to more obvious misuse like trips to Mecca and payments to board members for non existing tasks. Deputy Education Minister Sharon Dijksma is critical towards the school boards. […] The Dutch parliament asks for stern measures, while some politicians want to ban Islamic schools altogether. But to do so would mean dismantling a one-hundred-year-old system based on the idea of separate but equal schools. […]

For the foreseeable future, that old-fashioned system will remain in place. And the kids at the As Soeffah school in Amsterdam will have to make the best of it.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Immigrants Behind Most Attacks on Amsterdam Gays

People from immigrant backgrounds are behind a wave of attacks on homosexuals in the Dutch capital, a new study has found. But researchers also discovered that religious views play no part in the attacks.

The research, which was carried out by the University of Amsterdam, said that there were between 250-1,000 attacks on homosexuals in the capital during 2007. They also found that two out of three perpetrators were from immigrant backgrounds.

Police say that there were 67 reports of physical violence against homosexuals in Amsterdam last year. The researchers claim, however, that the actual figure is much higher, because 75 to 95 per cent of the victims do not go to the police.

White Dutch people are responsible for 36 per cent of the violent incidents in Amsterdam. Moroccans, who form 16 per cent of the population of the capital city, are also responsible for 36 per cent. The other 28 per cent of the attacks were committed by people from other ethnic backgrounds…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Italy: Northern League Has ‘Narrow View’ of Constitution, Says Former Judge

Palermo, 21 Nov. (AKI) — The former President of Italy’s Supreme Court said Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party has a narrow and closed view of the constitution. Valerio Onida referred to the NL’s proposal of curbing the influx of new immigrants to Italy by calling a two-year moratorium.

“The view (of the NL) is a narrow and closed vision that betrays the true spirit of our constitution,” said Onida speaking on the sidelines of three-day United Nations sponsored conference in Sicily’s capital, Palermo to mark World Philosophy Day 2008.

“It is clear that states are still in charge of who enters their territory, but we cannot forget those foreign citizens who come to Italy to work, and are entitled to the same human rights as Italians,” said Onida in an interview with Adnkronos.

Onida (photo) was also vocal on his opposition to the recent government measure put forth by the NL that will allow schools to have separate classes for immigrant children who do not speak the Italian language or fail admission tests for Italian state schools.

“This measure risks the return to segregation, or to go back to the old conception that was in vigour in the US until the 1950’s of ‘separate but equal’,” he said.

NL claims that the separate classes for immigrant children who fail language and ‘general evaluation’ tests for admission to mainstream schooling will help them integrate and will counter racism.

It also wants mainstream classrooms to contain a ‘proportionate’ number of Italian and immigrant pupils. The measure has been criticised by immigrant leaders, Italy’s opposition and Catholic churchmen.

World Philosophy Day 2008 opened on Thursday and ends on Saturday.

Philosophy students, journalists, academics, diplomats and numerous other philosophy enthusiasts are also gathering for the conference, whose theme is “Power and Rights”.

The subject has been selected to contribute to international debates on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ten debates on topics ranging from the state, local communities, science to public authority and cultural diversity will take place during the conference.

The event is co-organised by UNESCO, the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, and the Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO with the support of the Banco di Sicilia Foundation.

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


Italy: Islam at the Centre of the Debate in World Philosophy Day 2008

Palermo, 21 Nov. (AKI) — Man has remained at the centre of Western humanistic thought, while Islamic humanism has continued to subjugate him to God, Muslim thinker Abdenour Bidar, said on the sidelines of three-day United Nations sponsored conference in Sicily’s capital, Palermo to mark World Philosophy Day 2008. The conference opened on Thursday and ends on Saturday.

“Islam has remained a theocentric humanism where man is considered an inferior being, while in the West, humanism is anthropocentric, which sees man as the centre of everything,” said Bidar.

“The West asks if in the future, Islam will be able to put man at the centre of the world. Therefore, is Islam capable of going from a theocentric humanism to an anthropocentric one? In the Koran there is a track that can be explored,” Bidar continued.

“We Westerners are fascinated by the thought process of (Friedrich) Nietzsche, when he says ‘God is dead and we have killed him’. It is useful to ask ourselves about Nietzsche’s remarks”, he said.

Philosophy students, journalists, academics, diplomats and numerous other philosophy enthusiasts are also gathering for the conference, whose theme is “Power and Rights”.

The subject has been selected to contribute to international debates on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ten debates on topics ranging from the state, local communities, science to public authority and cultural diversity will take place during the conference.

The event is co-organised by UNESCO, the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, and the Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO with the support of the Banco di Sicilia Foundation.

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


Moderates: ‘Immigrants Should Sign Swedish Contract’

Immigrants to Sweden should sign a contract to testify that they are familiar with Swedish laws, rules and values. If the contract is not met then their benefits should be reviewed, the Moderate party has proposed.

A working committee from within the Moderate has developed the proposal and the party will consider the idea at its future convention, reports Sveriges Radio’s Ekot news program.

“It is important that when people from different cultures congregate in the same country, that we are very clear over how things are done in Sweden,” said Moderate party secretary Per Schlingmann to Ekot.

“The purpose is ensure that we pass on core Swedish values about equality and so on.”

There will be no requirement to sign the contract in order to claim asylum. The exact form of the contract and who shall be obliged to sign it is as yet uncertain, but Schlingmann says that those arriving from other EU countries to work perhaps do not need to sign the papers.

The working committee has also presented proposals to address the problem of counties with a excessively large immigrant populations. New arrivals would have their benefits withheld in order to get people to move to places where work is available.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Muslim Fanatics ‘Hijack British Prison’

Muslim prisoners have launched a reign of terror inside a top security British jail.

The fanatics are forcing fellow inmates to convert to Islam or face punishment beatings.

One man who stood up to the thugs was branded with a lump of hot metal, according to a prison source.

The crisis at Whitemoor jail in Cambridgeshire has led to calls by staff for the 100 Muslim inmates there to be dispersed to other prisons round the country.

Some Al Qaeda supporters have set up a kangaroo court, sitting in judgment on prisoners and ordering punishments, the source said.

The violent disciples of Osama Bin Laden have targeted even the toughest non-Muslim prisoners, including killers and rapists.

Local Tory MP Malcolm Moss said: “They are a law unto themselves. The governor should sort these problems out.”

Mr Moss, who recently visited the jail with Prisons Minister David Hanson, added: “There is a fear in the prison about what Al Qaeda stands for and what they can do. There are threats made to people to make them convert and if they lapse it is even worse.

“It is not an easy situation for the prison officers working there. Either additional resources should be made available or better training.”

Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: “We have been calling for the Muslim leaders to be dispersed to other jails. The service must step in to break up this gang culture with immediate effect.”

Concern over the way Whitemoor is being run surfaced last week when it was revealed an Al Qaeda terrorist had been training to be a stand-up comic.

Zia Ul Haq, 29, jailed for 18 years for planning a bombing campaign in London, signed up to an eight-day comedy workshop at the jail.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw stepped in on Friday to cancel the workshop, saying it was “totally unacceptable”…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Oil: Spanish Vice-Premier, Respol to be Run by Spanish

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 21 — The Spanish vice-premier,Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, expressed her hopes today that Repsol will continue to be “directed by Spanish management”, as it is in a “strategic sector”, and to “guarantee energy supplies”. The Zapatero government’s second in command indicated today in the press conference at the end of a meeting that the checks that will possibly be employed by the socialist executive in Madrid concerning the entrance of the private Russian company Lukoil into Respol in a sector which is considered to be strategic. Caixa confirmed this morning that it was available to the sale a part of its 12.5% stake in Respol through Criteria on the condition that Lukeoil reaches an agreement with Sacyr-Vallehermoso to purchase the real estate company’s 20% stake in the Spanish oil company. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Oil: Spanish Gov’t Zooming in on Repsol Against Lukoil

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 20 — The Spanish government is cornering Repsol, in which the enormous Russian oil company Lukoil is interested, and is reportedly negotiating for the acquisition of a 30% share, according to reports today in Spanish media. The government “will do everything possible to keep Repsol independent and Spanish”, since it is a “key” enterprise for the country’s energy supplies, as said today by Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian, taking part in the forum ‘Nueva Economic’ in Madrid. Lukoil is about to finalize a deal for a share in Repsol by acquiring the 20% share held by Sacyr Vallehermoso and an additional 9.9%. Criteria, the investment company of the banking institute La Caixa, with a 12.5% stake in Repsol, has recognized the existence of “informal contracts” to sell “all or part of its holding in Repsol”, without however having received a tangible offer. Apart from the 12.5% of the oil group controlled by Criteria, the company Repinvest, made up of La Caixa and Caixa Catalunya, controls an additional 6% of the oil company. If the sales transaction were to be finalized, Lukoil would become the main shareholder of Repsol at 30%, the legal limit over which it would be obliged to submit a takeover bid for the company. Last week Russian vice president Alexander Zhukov spoke in Madrid of an interest held by the state-owned Russian company Gazprom in acquiring the 20% holding of Sacyr in Repsol, which was later denied by the Russian group itself after the opposition to it shown by the Spanish government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Students Flock to Perugia a Year After Kercher Killing

Numbers up at university where victim studied

Music spills out on to the stone-flagged streets of Perugia from neon-lit pubs and clubs where newly enrolled students at the town’s universities are downing cheap shots. One year on from the murder of Meredith Kercher, the headlines generated by the tragedy have — for some — given the hilltop town a certain cachet.

“Lots of parents got scared by the murder,” said Elisa Calo, 23, an Italian student from southern Italy who had driven up to meet friends. “But their children read the articles about Perugia being the Ibiza of Italy and were more determined than ever to enrol at the university.”

But for those who were studying alongside Kercher, and lived through the disturbing days of last November in Perugia, the reaction was enduring fear rather than titillation.

“After Meredith died many students, including foreigners, put in requests to move from their rented apartments into halls of residence,” said Prof Maurizio Olivieri, who organises student welfare programmes. “I don’t know if it is connected to the murder, but our team of psychologists has also had thousands more requests for appointments this year from students.”

“A good few students went home early for Christmas after Meredith’s death and didn’t come back,” said one local living off Corso Garibaldi, which is packed with student flats. “The rumble of suitcases on the street as they left went on for days.”

The murder also formed part of a string of crimes against women in the area. Three women have been murdered in the province of Perugia this year, said Monica Napoleoni, head of the city’s murder squad, while in a national survey last year, 6.4% of women in the region of Umbria reported being attacked or sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months, higher than the 5.4% national average.

This week, Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede was sentenced to 30 years for the sexual assault and murder of Kercher, while her housemate, American student Amanda Knox, and Knox’s Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, will stand trial in December.

As they wait in jail for their day in court, Perugia is again full of students. Enrolment this term at the city’s main university remains “more or less” the same as last year’s 34,000, said chancellor Prof Francesco Bistoni. Monthly enrolments at Perugia’s University for Foreigners, where Knox and Kercher both studied Italian, totalled 5,540 by the end of last year, up by 4% on the previous year, and could rise again if the university’s promotional work in China pays off.

New students are flocking to the Merlin, which 12 months ago hosted the Halloween party where Kercher was famously photographed in a vampire outfit, her last night on the town before she was brutally stabbed the following evening.

“The foreign student numbers this autumn have boomed,” said co-owner Pasquale Alessi, after politely telling two plastered American students to head home. “We keep an eye on drunks but many bars are again battling for business, charging €10 (£7) for all you can drink.”

Student spending power is also appreciated by Perugia’s army of drug dealers, who have turned the town into central Italy’s biggest cocaine, heroin and marijiuana outlet, even recruiting well-to-do students as pushers.

Sollecito and Knox claimed their memories of the night of the murder were blurred by the large quantity of marijuana they had smoked, while Guede is depicted by witnesses as a cocaine user, although that is denied by his lawyer.

Giacomo Silenzi, the downstairs neighbour Kercher was dating, had a collection of marijuana plants, while the car park across the street from the house Kercher and Knox shared was a favourite hang-out for dealers.

Perugia may boast stunning views across the Umbrian hills and a world-class jazz festival held in frescoed palazzi, but it also has the highest number of overdose deaths per capita in Italy, as addicts move to be where the wholesalers are. North African dealers lurk on corners in the city centre and Nigerians control the suburbs, all under the watchful eye of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

A spokeswoman for the University of Foreigners said students were invited to films and poetry readings to help them integrate, but added: “We don’t talk to them about drugs.”

At the Merlin, British student Emma Guttridge, who arrived six weeks ago, said she had not noticed dealers and was happy to walk home to her flat on Corso Garibaldi alone in the middle of the night.

“Meredith Kercher was killed two days after I applied to come and study here, but I stuck with it and have no regrets,” said Guttridge, 20. “I come from Nottingham, which, after all, is not exactly paradise.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Army Hushes Up Afghanistan Risks

The Swedish armed forces have hushed up the circumstances surrounding the November 8th firefight in Afghanistan involving Swedish troops. The Swedes were attacked with anti-tank weapons and were nearly killed, Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reports.

The weapons used to attack the Swedish troops were more dangerous than first reported, a deliberate attempt to play down the risks faced by the Swedes in Afghanistan, according to the newspaper.

The armed forces state on their web-page that the Swedes were shot with small-bore weapons, but sources within the Swedish Afghanistan deployment force have revealed to SvD that in fact they were shot at with an RPG 7, an anti-tank weapon that the Swedish vehicles offer no protection against. But the shots did not hit their intended target.

The weapon is designed to penetrate armoured vehicles and there are a large number of them in Afghanistan, but they have hitherto not been used against Swedish troops.

According to SvD the soldiers involved in the firefight have been made complicit in hushing up the events of November 8th. The troops have been ordered not to speak to anyone outside the armed forces about the attack.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK Officials to Hold Summit on Church Closure Crisis

‘On the brink of viability’: 1 in 5 at risk of shutting down

Ministers are to examine how extra funding can be given to churches, with one in five of them under threat of being closed.

Andy Burnham, the culture secretary, said there would be a new drive to make them central to community regeneration, backed up with financial support.

His comments follow The Sunday Telegraph’s Save our Churches campaign, which has called on the Government to increase grants to churches and allow them greater freedom to make the buildings suitable for community use. The campaign has been backed by politicians, celebrities and leading church figures, including Joanna Lumley, Jools Holland, David Cameron and Archbishop Rowan Williams.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: ‘Secret Open Jails’ Boss Gets a £400,000 Pay Rise Funded by the Taxpayer

The boss of a private hostel company being paid millions by the Government to house suspected and convicted criminals in residential areas has been awarded a £400,000 pay rise.

Graham King, chairman of Essex-based ClearSprings, has seen his salary increase from £243,000 to £637,000 in the past year, while the annual profits of the firm have risen from £1.2million to £2.2million.

ClearSprings, which also provides housing for asylum seekers, was the main beneficiary of a controversial £18million-a-year Ministry of Justice scheme to offer new bail accommodation and support services to offenders.

The scheme, introduced in May in an attempt to reduce the high prison population, plans to provide housing for between 7,000 and 10,000 prisoners and suspects a year.

Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert said: “It’s wrong that the taxpayer is funding companies to set up what amount to secret open jails in communities..”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Christmas Carols Rewritten to Attack Israel

Famed church holds concert: ‘War crimes,’ ‘assassinations,’ ‘oppression’ of Palestinians

Organisers of a Christmas carol concert being held in a famous church have been condemned for rewriting traditional verses to attack Israel.

Far from bringing tidings of comfort and joy, the participants will instead sing about “war crimes”, “assassinations” and the “oppression” of Palestinians.

The concert, which has been organised by anti-Israeli campaigners, is due to take place on Wednesday at St James’s, Piccadilly, a Christopher Wren-designed church in Central London.

Its critics include the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who said that the rewriting of much-loved traditional carols for such partisan political purposes was deeply offensive.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Who Would be Part of the BNP?

The British National Party’s leaked membership list was supposedly full of middle-class professionals. So where were they during its annual festival, asks Anna van Praagh.

[…]

Last week, Griffin seized upon the publication of a list purporting to comprise the entire membership of the British National Party as proof that it had left behind its street-fighting days, and that it is now attracting a broad range of professionals: doctors, teachers, IT workers, clergy, more than a dozen soldiers, and a former Conservative constituency chairman.

He said: “Instead of the public being terrified, they can see we are not a bunch of knuckle-dragging morons but a party of people just like them. Long term, it’s going to do us a great deal of good in the public’s eyes.”

However, The Sunday Telegraph has discovered that at least 30 people named on the list have criminal convictions. And there are thought to be many more.

The party still has dozens of members on its books who have been convicted of violent offences and others who have been involved with neo-fascist groups such as Combat 18 and the Ku Klux Klan.

[…]

Still, mainstream politicians have been shaken by the list’s publication. Yesterday, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Hazel Blears, voiced concern at the inroads made by the BNP.

She said that, with Griffin at the helm, the party had “started a process of detoxification”, which had enabled it to expand beyond its traditional base of disaffected working-class voters. Having “claimed to be respectable, mainstream and democratic”, it had begun to attract “all kinds of people”.

Party membership remains tiny — the list contained fewer than 13,000 names. But it highlighted an uncomfortable truth: that the party’s “cunning strategy” (as Blears described it) to appeal to those who feel ostracised by mainstream politics is gaining traction.

Griffin, an erudite Cambridge law graduate, has indeed turned the party from an irrelevant and roundly derided motley crew into something that — until the amateurish leaking of the membership list last week — had been looking worryingly credible.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Serbia: Trade With Italy Seen Reaching $3bln in 2008

Belgrade, 18 Nov. (AKI) — Italy is Serbia’s second biggest trading partner and total trade turnover is expected to reach three billion dollars by the end of this year, Mihailo Vesovic, vice-president of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday.

Hosting a visiting delegation of 24 Italian businessmen from the southern region of Basilicata, Vesovic said there was ample scope to expand cooperation in agriculture and the food, metals, textiles, shoes and timber industries.

Vesovic said Italy was second only to Germany in trade with Serbia and total bilateral trade in the first nine months of this year amounted to 2.6 billion dollars.

He pointed out that the trade with Italy has increased seven times in the past seven years and is expected to top three billion dollars this year.

Director of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, Fabio Corsi, predicted a growth in investments, saying Serbia had a cheap work force, skilful workers and favourable environment for cooperation.

The Serbian government and Italian car giant Fiat in October signed a 700 million euro deal to coproduce vehicles with Serbian car-maker Zastava.

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

Mediterranean Union

Crisis: Emirate Minister; EU Free-Trade Pact Must Come Soon

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 20 — The current global economic crisis makes the finalising of the free trade treaty between the Gulf Cooperation Council (CCG) and the European Union, more urgent than ever. This is the opinion of Foreign Trade Minister, Lubna al Qasimi, quoted in the local press. Negotiations between the two blocks, which have been under way for 18 years, accelerated after 2000, giving grounds for hope of a signing at the end of 2007. The pact was, however, never signed, getting tangled over two main points: a greater opening to the GCC countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman — in the energy and financial services sectors, as called for by the EU, and greater flexibility over raw material norms, as requested by the oil monarchies. Talks over the past months have concentrated on the abolition of European import tariffs for aluminium and petro-chemical products coming from the region in exchange for the possibility of being able to take greater-than-50 pct stakes in Gulf-state companies. Despite the progress made, a completion of the pact’s final draft by the end of the year, as had been hoped for in May by the then EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, now appears impossible. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Maghreb: Economic Development Up Despite Global Crisis

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 13 — At a time of great dynamism in relations with the European Union, North Africa has not only seen commercial activity multiply, but it has established itself as a privileged area of international investment in production. This is why, despite the international economic crisis, it has shown a growth in finance, through returning immigrants and new financial instruments, but above all thanks to private initiatives which, with Government support, is contributing to the socio-economic development of the Maghreb countries. New players, interested in the great economic potential, such as business or funds from the Gulf countries, are showing a growing interest, investing above all in the telecommunications sector, logistics and tourist housing. This is the backdrop for representatives from fifty companies in the area, taking part in Barcelona in the fifth edition of the North Africa Business Development Forum, called by the Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Navigation of the Catalan capital, and by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). A meeting which Miquel Valls, President of the Chamber of Barcelona, said “establishes even more firmly the contribution to the increase in North-South economic relations, but also to the development of horizons for South-South integration”. Senen Florensa, Director of IEMed traced the history of relations between the Euro-Mediterranean countries, starting from the Process of Barcelona which founded the Euromediterranean partnership in 1995, up to the newly-created Union of the Mediterranean, which aims to carry out major regional projects in key sectors for sustained development in the Maghreb countries. Starting with the main projects for port, air and land infrastructure, like the great logistics ‘hub’ of the Tangermed port, to the Sea Motorways, to important ports of the north and south Mediterranean, which are multiplying new short sea shipping routes. The environment and renewable energy, with the enormous potential of solar energy, and the increasingly important role of the private sector in managing utilities privatised by the governments involved, for the personalities from the world of economics at the Barcelona forum, these are other great opportunities for development in the region. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Suez Canal Revenues Hit Record of $470 Mln in October

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 6 — The Suez Canal revenues hit a fresh monthly record of $470 million despite the global financial crisis. A Suez Canal Authority official said that some 1934 ships with cargos weighing 81.8 million tons have transited Egypt’s international waterway, upping to $ 4.571 billion the canal’s revenues during the past 10 months. Meanwhile an authority official expected a booming oil freight in the canal after a period of ebb during the financial tsunami that swept capital markets.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Suez Canal Authority Keep Eye on Piracy Drama

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 21 — The Suez Canal Authority is following up round the clock the developments of the international navigation and trade movement after piracy developments in the Gulf of Aden, a spokesman for the authority said on today. An ad-hoc committee is watching the developments, the spokesman said. Piracy off Somalia is threatening Suez Canal, Egypt’s third largest source of foreign revenue, as ships are being instructed to avoid the international water way route. Today, 54 ships transited the canal, among them was Queen Elizabeth en route to Dubai, he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Armed on the Bus, Pins to Ward Off Molesters

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 21 — A pin to ward off “the groping” of molesters who on public transportation in Cairo are bothering young Egyptian women. Veils, separate cars on the underground, and reserved or occupied spaces for females on buses are not able to reduce the number of sexual molestations against them. For this reason, many girls by now are getting on the bus, ‘armed’ with large pins. Many studies, wrote Egyptian weekly, Al Ahram Hebdo, have highlighted that in Egypt, more than 50% of cases of sexual attacks take place on public transport. “In comparison to other European studies — explained Racha Mohamad, researcher in the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights — it has emerged that in Europe, these abuses usually occur at work or in closed places”. Groping on packed minibuses, whistles, penetrating stares, winking, and busy hands are very common in Egypt. Chaotic traffic in a capital that has about 20 million inhabitants creates interminable trips and forces victims to get on despite crowds, which creates a multitude of chances for molesters. Often, all of this occurs with the total indifference of the rest of the passengers. And the driver of a minibus can sneakily transform, into an aggressor. Pulling the gear shift can in fact be a chance to stretch out onés hand and touch a passenger’s leg. After 9pm, many men get onto the underground in search of women travelling alone to molest them undisturbed. In this desolate panorama, few victims have dare to denounce their molesters due to fear of the repercussions and pressure from families who fear scandals. The first (in total there are only two), reminded the periodical, to file a lawsuit for sexual molestation to have obtained a three year prison sentence for their molester, was Noha. Exaggerations by the media, said the Egyptian first lady a few days ago, “give the impression that the streets in Egypt are unsafe, and this is not true”. “Egyptian men still respect Egyptian women”. Many observers believe that the country’s mentality represents a real obstacle to the problem’s solution: “for many — they reported — a woman who decides to get on crowded public transportation, maybe with tight clothes, already knows what she is getting into”. But in expectation of a law that better protects young women, Chaimaa, 20 years old and veiled, brings a pin, the only weapon she has left to defend herself. And if a man protests? “My response — she said — is still the same: oh, excuse me, the pin that holds my veil in place must have come off”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


TV: Egypt, EU Launches Comedy Series Which Helps Women

(by Chiara De Felice) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 25 — If in the West TV series launch new fashion trends, in the Arab countries they will dictate values: in order to get Egyptian women to reflect on discrimination, rights, domestic violence and equal opportunities, the European Union has chosen a TV film, “Coiffeur Ashwaq”, which for 20 minutes a day faces the large women’s audience with problems that are underestimated or ignored too often. The sit-com is set in the waiting room of a beauty parlour, where tens of women with different personal stories pass every day. The main character is the parlour’s owner — played by renowned Egyptian actress Mimi Gamal — who every day has to deal with women from different social classes, the cue for many amusing situations. But behind the amusement, which the scriptwriters admitted is the attraction factor, hotter issues are hiding, concerning women and their role in the Arab society: domestic violence, forced marriages, sexism, abuses, divorces. Political and religious matters are, instead, absent to avoid that some lady, feeling that her faith is offended, might switch off the TV. At the same time as the broadcast of Coiffeur Ashwaq, the producers have also opened an online discussion forum, very popular with the fans of the TV series who exchange comments on the episodes as well as experiences and advices. This is exactly what the European Commission was looking for when it decided to draw on its budget to produce the 15 episodes of the first season: to reach the women’s audience and create an interaction which ensures a wide spreading of the message. The idea to use the TV as vehicle for social information came to an Egyptian non-governmental organisation, Madev, which for years has been producing adverts for awareness campaigns about women’s and children’s rights. This time the purpose is to involve the widest possible audience, therefore an amusing product for family viewing was chosen. The scriptwriters’ team of Coiffeur Ashwaq includes almost only men, something which caused some discontent, but was soon explained by one of the authors, Mohamed Ismail: “It is true, we are men, but we live in Egypt and we see every day Arab women fight to affirm and defend their rights”. TV series are a recent phenomenon for Cairo and the Arab countries, which up to a few years ago had never produced any, but, since they discovered them, have been producing them in great quantity. The pacesetter was Tamer and Shawqiya, which has been broadcast during Ramadan in the past two years with a success never seen before. This series was soon followed by Ragel wa sit Settat, shown on all the Arab satellite TV channels, and Abbas wi Inas will be next, about the problems of the couple during the first year of marriage. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Mideast: Gaza; Hamas, We Want to Extend Truce

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, NOVEMBER 21 — The Premier of the unrecognised de-facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, has today stated that all armed Palestinian groups present in the area are interested in prolonging the ceasefire with Israel. “I have met the armed factions over the past days — Haniyeh declared — and they told me their position clearly: they are committed to calm until it is respected by Israel”. Haniyeh’s statements come on top of signals both from Hamas and from Israel of a desire to continue the truce in place since June, although repeatedly broken since early November following the firing of rockets on Israel — one fell close to Ashkelon today as well, without causing casualties or damage — and raids by Israeli troops into the Gaza Strip. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu Hires 2 of Obama’s Advisors

After designing website similar to that of US president-elect, Likud chairman recruits Obama’s consultants to help him in his election campaign.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Dubai Shrugs Off Crisis With New Luxury Hotel

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 21 — Shrugging off the global financial crisis, Dubai overnight toasted a new luxury hotel with a 20 million dollar bash attended by film stars and sporting greats and marked by a spectacular fireworks display, Khaleej Times online reports. More than 2,000 world celebrities were invited to the event, which began Thursday night and continued into Friday. Among those who showed up for what the local press described as the “party of the decade” were Hollywood stars Robert de Niro, Charlize Theron, Mischa Barton and Wesley Snipes. Located at the trunk-top of the Palm Jumeirah, one of three palm-shaped islands, Atlantis occupies the entire central part of a huge breakwater. The 1,539-room hotel is made up of two pale rose towers, which are linked by a bridge which houses a 35,000-dollar-a-night suite that has a long waiting list, according to the management. “Where we are now there was water five years ago,” said Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem, the chairman of local developer Nakheel, at the inauguration. The bash cost a hefty 20 million dollars, said Sol Kerzner, the South African billionaire, hotel and gambling tycoon, who organised the party. The hotel opened unofficially on September 24 and has had an occupancy rate of 80 percent, Kerzner said. The Dubai hotel is inspired by the original Atlantis that Kerzner built in the Bahamas but is not an average 5-star hotel. It boasts the largest waterpark in the Middle East and a gigantic aquarium in which 65,000 fish, along with an enormous whale shark, swim in 11 million litres of water. But the lavish party took place as Dubai, which has become a regional business and tourism hub, begins to feel the heat of the global financial meltdown. The wealthy government of the United Arab Emirates has earmarked a 32.6 billion dollar credit facility to shore up confidence in its banking sector but has failed to encourage banks to continue financing the real estate sector, a major engine of Dubai’s rapid economic growth over the past few years. The government-controlled Nakheel had announced few days ago that it was scaling down its activities, although the two other iconic palm-shaped islands are far from being complete. In a sign of serious concern, Dubai set up Wednesday a high-profile committee to assess the impact of the crisis on the emirate’s economy. Those financial concerns were however put aside yesterday night for the memorable party in this Muslim, yet very open, emirate, where local dignitaries in traditional white tunics, and women in black cover-all abayas mingled with women in fashionable revealing dresses, while alcohol flowed like water. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kuwait’s Gulf Bank Lost USD 1.4 Billion on Derivatives

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 17 — Kuwait’s Gulf Bank revealed on Monday that it lost a total of 375 million dinars (1.4 billion dollars) on derivatives deals, as Middle East Online reports. The bank, the country’s second biggest lender, also said it has decided to double its capital to raise an amount equal to the losses in order to restore shareholders’ equity to its level before the crisis. The board of directors will step down and their resignation will be effective after the capital increase is completed, the board said in a statement. The central bank of Kuwait said last month the Gulf Bank incurred losses from derivatives deals which the bank carried out on behalf of clients who defaulted. Bassam al-Ghanem resigned as chairman and his brother Qutaiba al-Ghanem replaced him. Gulf Bank shares remain suspended on the Kuwait Stock Exchange for the fourth week. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tax: CCG, Crisis is Right Climate for Introduction of VAT

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, OCTOBER 27 — International financial instability and the fall in the price of oil make this a good time to introduce VAT in the Countries for Cooperation in the Gulf (CCG), was the conclusion of the conference organised by the six oil block countries to finalise tax measures to be taken in 2009, but which will probably be postponed until 2011. Despite the strongly positive national accounts the countries in the oil block — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain — “must think about VAT as insurance against a possibly negative future” remarked Vito Tanzi, an former economist with the IMF. Not all the CCG countries can trust in the long term in incomes from crude and from 2010 when free exchange treaties come into effect the volume of tax income will dwindle. The rate of tax, not yet fixed but understood to be between 3 and 5 pct will nevertheless be one of the lowest in the world. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


US Forecasts: Iran Will Have Makings of 3 A-Bombs by End of 2009

The most up-to-date intelligence predictions of US nuclear experts is that by the end of 2009, Iran will have stocked enough weapons-grade fuel to build three nuclear bombs.

The first will be ready for assembly by the time Barack Obama is sworn in as US president on January 20, 2009; the second shortly after Israel’s February 10, 2009 general election produces a new prime minister, and the third by the end of the year.

Iran may deny the latest IAEA conclusion that it has stockpiled 630 kg of low-enriched uranium, enough to upgrade a nuclear weapon. But Tehran’s limited on-and-off cooperation with the nuclear watchdog leaves it wide open to the suspicion of a secret location churning out enriched uranium far from the declared Natanz facility.

So what happened to the pledges made by the world powers over the years to keep nuclear weapons out of the Islamic Republic’s hands, including declarations by US and Israeli leaders that their military options remained “on the table?”

Those pledges came from Israeli leaders on both sides of the aisle — prime minister Ehud Olmert, foreign minister Tzipi Livni (who has replaced him as Kadima chairman), defense minister Ehud Barak and opposition Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Russia

Religious Row Over Muslim Lifestyle Book Ban

A new law on extremism in Russia has come under fire after the banning of a book about the Islamic way of life. ‘The Personality of a Muslim’ was banned by a court in the Orenburg region after it was decided the book risked inciting religious hatred. A translation of the book, by Arabic author Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi, could see its publisher, Aslambek Ezhayev, behind bars.

But a number of scholars say the book teaches good behaviour and are critical of the court’s decision. Russian State Duma Deputy Semen Bagdasarov, who has long studied Islamic extremism, doesn’t see any grounds for the ban.

“I believe it’s a good book,” he said. “It teaches Muslims tolerance towards other religions, in particular towards Jews and Christians. It’s more propaganda against extremism.”

Ezhayev, the Director of the Ummah publishing house who now faces three years in jail, said: “Provincial courts are using their regional experts in such cases. They cannot be called proper experts. Most of them are philologists or linguists.”

He added that prosecutors have no proper grounds for a trial. He said: “I do not understand the logic of it. The book was published in January. The banned list was published almost a year later and I immediately removed it from sale. I simply asked them to prove my guilt first.”

According to Russian law, the book cannot be quoted, although it is easy to find it on the internet.

The ban triggered protests from the head of the Russian Council of Mufti. Nevertheless, some people in the Muslim community agree with the decision…

           — Hat tip: Conservative Swede[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Grozny Bombing Kills Four

A bomb attack in the Chechen capital Grozny has killed three police officers and a passerby. The Justice authorities say the officers were investigating a report of a shooting when the blast occurred.

The republic was the scene of two bloody civil wars between Chechen rebels and Russian forces, but has been relatively calm in recent years. In contrast, the violence in neighbouring Ingushetia and North Ossetia has increased recently.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

South Asia

British Liquid Bomb Suspect ‘Killed’ as Unmanned U.S. Drone Strikes Al Qaeda Strongpoint

A British terror suspect linked to the alleged plot to use liquid bombs to blow up transatlantic airliners has been reported killed in an air raid on an Al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan.

Rashid Rauf was said to have died during a US strike in Pakistan’s lawless Afghan border region — a haven for militants and the Taliban. Unconfirmed reports said he was killed with several others when rockets believed to have been fired from an American pilotless drone hit the house where he was staying.

Rauf, on the run after escaping from a Pakistani jail last year, is alleged to have helped a group planning to blow up transatlantic planes from Britain. Pakistani intelligence sources said they had intercepted communications between militants after the strike, indicating that Rauf was among the victims, but cautioned that no direct evidence of his death had yet been found. […]

Yesterday a bearded man in his 20s who opened the door at Rauf’s family home in Birmingham said he did not want to comment on his reported death. The man, who would not identify himself, said: ‘I’m very angry right now, so you should leave for your own safety.’

Rauf was arrested in Pakistan in August 2006 on terrorism charges unrelated to the British plot but his capture led to a string of arrests in Britain. Last September, three of those held were convicted of conspiracy to murder. The case also led to tighter airport security and a ban on liquids being taken on to planes in hand luggage. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


India Shocked by Discovery of 1st Hindu Terror Cell

10, including monk, army officer, held over bombings initially blamed on Islamists

India is in something of a state of shock after learning from official sources that its first Hindu terror cell may have carried out a series of deadly bombings that were initially blamed on militant Muslims. The revelation is forcing the country to consider some difficult questions.

At least 10 people have been arrested in connection with several bomb blasts in the Muslim-dominated town of Malegaon in the western state of Maharashtra in September, which left six people dead. But reports suggest that police believe the cell may also have carried out a number of previous attacks, including last year’s notorious bombing of a cross-border train en route to Pakistan, which killed 68 people. Among the alleged members of the cell are a serving army officer and a Hindu monk.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Orissa, Hindu Fundamentalists Offer Rewards for Killing Christians

Rewards are given in money, clothing, liquor, and other goods, to those who kill a Christian or destroy Christian property. The interior minister calls for the creation of a special police division to protect the victims of violence. Women are also being recruited for the pogrom launched by the fundamentalists, being trained in secret locations to use swords and clubs.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Hindu fundamentalists are offering compensation in money, clothing, or basic necessities for those who succeed in killing Christian leaders, destroying their property, or burning down churches. The escalation of the situation has prompted the Indian government to create a special branch in the security forces, to stop the wave of violence that has overwhelmed the country. This morning, interior minister Shivraj Patil, during a summit with police leaders, recalled the violence against Christians in Orissa, Karnataka, and Kerala, adding that only a special security division can guarantee adequate protection for the victims and the displaced.

A source at the All India Christian Council (AICC) says that the rewards vary according to the importance of the target: the “going rate” for the death of a priest or a pastor is 250 U.S. dollars, but food, gasoline, or imported liquors are also offered. In order to complete the project of wiping out Christians in Orissa, the fundamentalists are also enlisting women, who receive specific training in centers set up by the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the nationalist Hindu party Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

“Different objectives have different prices,” reports the British NGO Release International, relating the words of the AICC spokesman, and these can range “from murder to the destruction of churches or of Christian property.” “The killing of a pastor or priest,” confirms Faiz Rahman, president of Good News India, “is worth 250 U.S. dollars.” Rahman says that he has helped 25 priests to leave the refugee camps, but there are still “about 250 religious leaders still in the centers set up by the government.” He maintains that “they are top-tier targets” for the Hindu fundamentalists, so they must be helped to leave the refugee camps for more secure locations.

Sources in the AICC affirm that in addition to the rewards, the Bajrang Jal has begun training programs specifically for female soldiers to be used to exterminate Christians in rural areas. “They meet in secret,” says the spokesman of the Christian movement, “and they are trained to use swords and clubs to fight and kill.”

In addition to persecution, the displaced Christians in the refugee centers must now also confront the arrival of winter: “Thousands of Christians now face the hardship of winter in camps for the displaced,” says Andy Dipper, head of Release International. “Relief aid is needed now, and India must take urgent action to contain the violence, which has spread to other states. The authorities must safeguard the lives and homes of Christians under threat from ultra-nationalist Hindus.”

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


Sister Who Was Raped Gives Deposition to Police, But Will Not Return to Orissa

Sister Meena and Fr. Thomas Chellan have recounted the violence they suffered on the night they were assaulted by Hindu fundamentalists. This sister remains in Delhi, and will not participate in the “American-style” lineup scheduled today in Baliguda. Ministers of the central government are meeting with Christian families from Orissa living in refugee camps.

Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — About three months after their assault, Sister Meena Barwa and Fr. Thomas Chellan have told investigators about the violence they suffered on the night of last August 25, during the first days of attacks against Christians.

Their statements were recorded by the anti-crime section of the Orissa police, who came to Delhi to meet with the sister and priest. Inspector general Arun Ray confirms that the sister and priest — she was the victim of sexual violence, and both suffered brutal beatings — gave a deposition between 5:00 and 7:30 p.m. on November 18, in the presence of a team of investigators who had come from Orissa for that purpose.

The sister, still dealing with the violence she suffered, has repeatedly said that she does not want to go back to Baliguda, in the district of Kandhamal, where today, November 19, an “American-style” lineup is scheduled to proceed with the identification of those responsible for her rape. The sister has always maintained her firm refusal, saying she does not trust the police of Orissa, some of whom she accuses of covering for those who perpetrated the violence.

Raphel Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, says that during the meeting between the religious and the policemen from Orissa in Delhi, they “supplied their version of the events.” The bishop also explains that the sister cannot participate in the “American-style” lineup scheduled for today because the trip is too long and she still seems to be suffering from shock.

On November 18, a delegation of ministers from the central government went to Orissa to visit the places that were the theater of the massacres against Christians: it was composed of agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, social justice minister Meira Kumar, and the minister for tribal affairs, P.R. Kyndiah. The ministers met with families living in refugee camps in Raikia: these expressed their desire to go home, while denouncing the persistent climate of violence and persecution that makes this impossible.

The government delegation finally visited the Jalespata ashram in Tumudibandha, where the assassination of Hindu fundamentalist leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four followers took place, used as the pretext for the pogrom against the Christians.

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

Far East

Vietnam: Authorities Pressure New Christians to Recant

Converts from ancestral animism threatened with violence, imprisonment.

HO CHI MINH CITY, November 21 (Compass Direct News) — In violation of Vietnam’s new religion policy, authorities in Lao Cai Province in Vietnam’s far north are pressuring new Christians among the Hmong minority to recant their faith and to re-establish ancestral altars, according to area church leaders.

Local authorities have warned that on Sunday (Nov. 23) they will come in force to Ban Gia Commune and Lu Siu Tung village, Bac Ha district, where the Christians reside, but they did not say what they would do.

When the authorities in Bac Ha district in Vietnam’s Northwest Mountainous Region discovered that villagers had converted to Christianity and discarded their altars, they sent “work teams’ to the area to apply pressure. Earlier this month they sent seven high officials — including Ban Gia Deputy Commune Chief Thao Seo Pao, district Police Chief A. Cuong and district Security Chief A. Son — to try to convince the converts that the government considered becoming a Christian a very serious offense.

Christian leaders in the area said threats included being cut off from any government services. When this failed to deter the new Christians, they said, the officials threatened to drive the Christians from their homes and fields, harm them physically and put them in prison.

When the Christians refused to buckle under the threats, a leader of the Christians, Chau Seo Giao, was summoned daily to the commune headquarters for interrogation. He refused to agree to lead his people back to their animistic beliefs and practices.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Inside the Somali Pirates’ Lair

As brigands hold the Sirius Star supertanker to ransom, we go inside the Somali pirates’ lair

After a gruelling ten-hour drive along a potholed desert track, we finally make out the hazy silhouettes of massive ships anchored off the dusty port village of Hobyo, 250 miles north of Mogadishu. All around is an unrelenting no-man’s land of sand and rocks, populated only by camels and small groups of armed men.

The Greek, Japanese and Ukrainian ships we can see are being held for ransom by the Somali pirates we have trekked overland to meet on a deserted beach a few miles along the coast.

Shortly after we arrive, a pick-up truck bristling with armed men pulls up alongside us. Everyone on the truck carries a machine gun. All are festooned with ammunition.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazilian Gay Groups Launch Multiple Lawsuits to Silence Christian Opposition

Flurry of Lawsuits is Attempt to Prevent Criticism of Homosexual Movement

BRAZIL, August 29, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com)—In recent weeks, homosexual groups in Brazil have attempted to silence their opponents with a flurry of lawsuits that take advantage of Brazil’s pro-gay political climate.

On August 5th, the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender People (ABGLT) filed a criminal complaint against several websites for exposing the fact that the leader of Brazil’s homosexual movement, Luiz Mott, is a promoter of pedophilia and pederasty (see LifeSiteNews’ recent coverage at http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/jul/07073011.html).

The sites, Media Without a Mask, the Christian Apologetics Research Center, and Jesussite, are accused of “charlatanism, infamy, defamation, and calumny”, for having quoted Mott’s numerous statements endorsing sex with children and adolescents. The Association is asking for criminal prosecution as well as monetary damages.

In the last week, the Association has also filed a motion against Rozangela Alves Justino, a Brazilian psychologist who offers therapy to homosexuals who wish to change their orientation. Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychologists has ruled that psychologists are prohibited from doing reparative therapy for homosexuality, and ABGLT is asking that Alves Justino’s license be revoked.

[…]

Carvalho told LifeSiteNews that he sees the homosexual movement’s quest for power as a subset of the larger socialist movement in Brazil, which is seeking more and more power: “I believe they really want lots of power because the homosexual movement is not independent. It is part of the leftist machine. And the left now in Brazil has almost total power. They control everything.. They are more powerful than the Brazilian state itself, and this is not enough for them. They want more and more and more and more, and the homosexual movement is a tool of this strategy.”

Although a law has been proposed to prohibit criticism of homosexuality, it has not yet passed. Nonetheless, many Brazilian judges simply act as if such a prohibition already exists. “They are proceeding as if the law existed…They want to force the parliament to approve the law , so they act as if the law were approved already. Many Brazilians believe that this law actually exists. It’s a kind of psychological fraud,” said Carvalho.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Immigration: Over 400 Arrive in Three Landings on Lampedusa

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), NOVEMBER 21 — A new wave of landings on the island of Lampedusa where in the span of a few hours ‘‘three arrivals’’ were recorded with a total of 400 migrants. Over the night, men from the Harbour Office of the port stopped 9 non EU citizens on the wharf who had just landed directly on land with a dinghy. Around 1:30, 10 miles south of the island, a boat with 340 immigrants on board was intercepted by the Customs Police patrol boat. They have all already been transferred to an immigration centre on the island where identification procedures are still underway. Finally, a third boat with about 60 people on board launched an SoS with a satellite phone. In the zone, about 26 miles south of the island, a Customs Police boat is on the way. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Emergent Church Leader Says ‘Gay’ Can be Biblical Lifestyle

The “Emergent Church,” as these mostly young, community- and mission-driven congregations are collectively known, is criticized by some for being “theologically liberal,” praised by others as the best hope for passing the torch of Christianity to future generations.

[…]

Jones acknowledges that detractors against the somewhat nebulous and hard-to-define Emergent churches will pick up on his statement and repeat a common refrain of criticism.

“‘Aha!’ my critics will laugh derisively, ‘I knew he and his ilk were on a continuous leftward slide!’“ Jones admits.

Some of the comments show he was correct in his prediction.

“So, your statement is that you believe this. … Why do you believe it? Because it seems right to you?” asks a respondent identified as Michael C.

“I suppose if you re-define Biblical Christianity to mean: whatever I believe is biblical Christianity, and there is no outside authority to judge it — then yes it can be in accord. If however you mean biblical Christianity as judged by the Bible, then no it cannot be in accord,” Michael C. writes. “I’m sorry to say but these arguments that I’ve heard from the Emergent movement seem to rely a whole lot more pleading and a lot less on Biblical exegesis (our rule and faith — especially when you say ‘biblical’ Christianity).”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ex-Episcopalians to Unveil Church Constitution

Breakaway Episcopalians are preparing to form a new Anglican Church in North America.

A church constitution, to be unveiled December 3 at Wheaton College near Chicago, would unite some 100,000 disaffected former Episcopalians who now adhere to various conservative Anglican archbishops abroad. Rev. Daryl Fenton says breakaway Episcopalians will soon unveil a new church constitution.

“What’s being planned is the organizing of a new Anglican Church in the U.S. that will be related to the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and that will distinguish itself from the Episcopal Church in the U.S. by virtue of its holding to historic doctrines of the faith,” he explains.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Re-Education by the State

This poster from the French government is aimed at reassuring young people who are “discovering” themselves that there is no difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality. It reads:

The only difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality is homophobia.

When you are an adolescent and wondering about your emotional and sexual orientation, you may unfortunately also discover homophobia and its violence. This period in your life is often difficult to endure and can lead to serious problems, sometimes even suicide.

A national re-education campaign signed by: The Ministry of Health, Youth, Sports and Related Associations; and the National Institute of Health.


           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Sham of Sex Harassment Training

It’s little more than politically correct indoctrination.

Four years ago, the governor signed Assembly Bill 1825 into law, requiring all California employers with more than 50 people to provide sexual harassment training for each of their employees. The University of California raised no objection and submitted to its authority.

But I didn’t. I am a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at UC Irvine, and I have consistently refused, on principle, to participate in the sexual harassment training that the state and my employers seem to think is so important.

For a while, it didn’t seem to matter much that I had refused. I (and fellow scofflaws) were periodically notified that we were not in compliance, and we were advised to get with the program like everybody else. Then the university began warning me that my supervisory responsibilities would be taken away if I did not promptly comply.

Last month, the university finally followed through, sending me a letter announcing that my laboratory and the students I oversaw were to be immediately turned over to other university officials and faculty. I continued to refuse to take sexual harassment training, and do so now.

I am not normally confrontational, so I sought to find a means to resolve the conflict. I proposed the following: I would take the training if the university would provide me with a brief, written statement absolving me of any suspicion, guilt or complicity regarding sexual harassment. I wanted any possible stigma removed. “Fulfilling this requirement,” said the statement I asked them to approve, “in no way implies, suggests or indicates that the university currently has any reason to believe that Professor McPherson has ever sexually harassed any student or any person under his supervision during his 30-year career with the University of California.”

The university, however, declined to provide me with any such statement, which poses the question: Why not? It is a completely innocuous, unobjectionable statement that they should have been willing to write for any faculty member whose record is as free of stain as is my own. The immediate reply of the administration was that if I didn’t comply with the law, I would be placed on unpaid leave.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Crisis: Citigroup; Alwaleed Aims to Up Stake to 5 Pct

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 20 — Saudi billionaire, Prince Alwaleed, has announced the intention to strengthen his stake in Citigroup, bringing it up to 5 pct. The news comes from the Bloomberg agency, which states that Alwaleed himself announced in a memo today that he had “started buying Citigroup shares” as they are “strongly undervalued”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to Get Life Saving Anti-Sniper Device

British and American forces fighting the guerilla insurgence in Iraq and Afghanistan could soon be protected by an anti-sniper device that can pinpoint the position of the shooter within a fraction of a second.

The palm-sized device designed by Qinetiq, the British defence firm that was once the government research laboratories, is pinned to the uniform and uses acoustic technology to calculate the exact position of the rifle fire.

Then a electronic voice passes on the “bearing and range” to the soldier allowing him to jump to safety and return fire.

The machine has already been purchased by the Americans for deployment in the New Year and the British are looking at a vehicle mounted version.

After roadside bombs, snipers have been the biggest cause of the 301 British fatalities in both wars, and army chiefs are convinced the device could save dozens of lives.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Vatican Remembers the Beatles

‘More famous than Jesus’ remark ‘just a quip’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, November 21 — The Vatican on Friday praised the Beatles in a newspaper article that appeared to bury the hatchet on John Lennnon’s infamous ‘more famous than Jesus’ remark.

Vatican daily Osservatore Romano said Lennon’s comment, which sparked outrage in the mid-1960s, ‘‘today just sounds like a quip from an English working-class lad struggling to cope with unexpected success after growing up with the Elvis myth’’.

In the article, marking the 40th anniversary of the famous White Album, Vatican music critics said ‘‘snobs’’ might dismiss the Fab Four but ‘‘the talent of Lennon and the other Beatles gave us some of the best pages in modern pop music’’.

The critics said: ‘‘38 years after the band split up, the Lennon-McCartney songs have shown an extraordinary resistance to the effects of time, providing inspiration for several generations of pop musicians’’.

Osservatore Romano made its peace with Elvis in July.

It recalled the the once-outlawed pelvis-twister as a ‘‘nice, sensitive young man’’ who was doomed by fame.

Lennon made his comment on March 4, 1966, to London’s Evening Standard.

‘‘Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink… We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me’’.

The response was immediate. Christians, especially in the American South, made huge pyres of Beatles albums and Protestant pastors threatened fans with excommunications — though the Vatican did not comment.

Elvis fans had been threatened with excommunication by Protestant churches a decade earlier.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

anon said...

India Shocked by Discovery of 1st Hindu Terror Cell

Why should India be shocked? With the endless Jihad bombings by Islamic purists, which are not even shocking anymore, no one sane will take it lying down. The Hindu reprisals have to come eventually. Read the penultimate paragraph of that article:

Meanwhile, senior right-wing leaders have made no secret of their wish that Hindus should form suicide squads to protect themselves against Muslim extremists. Bal Thackeray, leader of a group called the Shiv Sena, which has been responsible for communal and regional violence in Mumbai, wrote recently in the party's magazine: "The threat of Islamic terror in India is rising. It is time to counter the same with Hindu terror. Hindu suicide squads should be readied to ensure the existence of Hindu society and to protect the nation."

This is just the start of the backlash.

laine said...

Considering two later items in this news feed re increasing Hindu attacks on Christians, then when the Muslims and Hindus go at each other, to paraphrase a comment about communists and nazis I just read somewhere, "It is best to hope for an asteroid, not choose sides".

anon said...

Well, laine, we may just get that asteroid. Read this.