Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/14/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/14/2008Check out all the Rod Blagojevich news; there’s a lot of it. It’s in the USA section, with several articles included under a single headline.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, C. Cantoni, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, Jewish Odysseus, Larwyn, RRW, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Blagojevich Fundraiser Held by Jackson Allies Saturday
Buffalo: Islamic Crescent Added to Holiday Display
Minnesota Mall Sets Aside Prayer Room for Muslims, Violence Thwarted
Rampant Fraud Puts Stop to U.S. Refugee Program
Read All About It! US Newspapers Fall Prey to the Internet and Recession
Representative Presents Proof of Citizenship Bill
Sarah Palin’s Church Damaged in Suspicious Fire
 
Europe and the EU
“Europeans, You Should Now Open Up to Our Banks”
Belgium: Mother Sold Her Twins to Pay for Liposuction
Cyprus, Malta to Share Diplomatic Premises in Mideast
Energy: Malta; Gonzi Appeals to EU to Support Network
France: State Deficit Reaches 60.7 Bln in October
Germans Debate Place for Language
Greece: “The Masked Ones” Plot Revolution as Riot Police Begin to Run Out of Teargas
Italy: Jailed Leader of Christian Terror Group Wanted to Target Academic, Police Say
Parking at Italian Airports Costs More Than Flying
Schengen Area Takes Switzerland on Board
Spain: Young People Growing Up in a Hurry
Statement by the Dutch Government on Jami Film
Switzerland: Bilateral Accords Bring Good Fortune for Firms
U.S. Hails Lisbon Guantanamo Offer
UK: Army Hit by Crisis as Hundreds of Troops Quit to Save Marriages
UK: Campaign Against Sharia Law in Britain to be Launched at the House of Lords
UK: Woman Told to Remove Christmas Lights to Avoid Offending Non-Christian Neighbours
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Envoy Dismisses Disintegration Fears
Real Estate: Boom in Kosovo, New Homes Everywhere, Many Empty
Serbia-Croatia: Stronger Ties Between Interior Ministries
Serbia: Mladic; Raid Over on Former School Chum
Switzerland Dismantles Border Crossings
 
Mediterranean Union
Italy-Libya: New Course for Relations After ‘Treaty’
Terrorism: Young Saudi Penitents Tell Their Stories in TV
Tunisia Obtains Advanced Partnership Status From EU
 
North Africa
Oil: Algeria, USD 5 Bln Less Revenue in 2008
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gilad Shalit — Going on 900 Days
Hamas Parades Mock Gilad Shalit Before Crowd of Thousands in Gaza
Ya’alon: Every Prisoner Swap Encourages More Kidnappings
 
Middle East
Economy: Global Firms Choose Turkey, Study
‘Gaza-Bound Iranian Ship Has Hidden Agenda’
Iran Awards Nasrallah Ph.D. in Political Science
Turkey Still Lagging Far Behind EU Average GDP Per Capita
Two Million Muslim Pilgrims Congregate in Vast Tent City to Perform the Haj
Yemeni Rabbi in Riydah: Jewish Community Still Threatened
Yemenite Cleric: Women Cannot Talk and Remember Simultaneously
 
Russia
Russia Ready to Join OPEC to Raise Oil Price
 
South Asia
Army Unit Earns Record 10 Silver Stars for Valor
Beijing Asks Sarkozy Government to “Take Effective Steps to Mend Its Errors”
British Doctor Held Captive by Bangladeshi Family Over Forced Marriage is Freed
Brown Reveals That 75 Per Cent of Terrorist Plots Aimed at Britain Have Links to Pakistan
Mumbai Gunman’s Confession Sheds Light on Massacre
Pakistan Declares Emergency After Air Violation
West Pays Taleban Protection Money
 
Far East
Human Rights Denied: North Korean Worker Defects From Kaesong Industrial Complex
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Indian Navy Captures 23 Pirates in the Gulf of Aden
Irish Request to Change EU on Freedom of Movement Rejected
Mauritania: Human Rights, NGOs Condemn Torture
 
Culture Wars
Islamic Star and Crescent Join Town’s Christmas Tree, Menorah
Italy: Vatican Opposes Outlawing Homosexuality
Radical Board Games Created for Distribution in Schools
Vatican: Watchdog Attacks Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research
 
General
Hard Times. But Not for Islamic Finance

USA

Blagojevich: Obama Aides Won’t Discuss Ill. Governor Probe

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama is refusing to answer any questions about the internal review he has ordered into Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to sell his former Senate seat, saying he will do so when the examination is finished.

Obama’s staff has declined to respond to even basic questions, like who is conducting the probe, how long it will take, what issues are being explored and whether they are working with federal investigators. Obama has promised transparency throughout his service and to divulge contacts his staff has had with Blagojevich’s office in the coming days. But his staff has locked down on inquiries in the meantime.

The Obama transition team’s refusal to talk has contributed to a maelstrom around Obama’s incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago congressman likely to have been in contact with the governor, who was arrested this week in a corruption scandal. But Emanuel is not a target of the probe, according to people who have been briefed on the investigation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Blagojevich: Video: PBS’ Lehrer Defends Blagojevich: ‘What’s the Big Deal Here?’

‘There’s trading that goes on all the time over … Senate seats’

In today’s “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me” moment, PBS’s Jim Lehrer actually defended the corrupt actions of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Friday asking his guests, “What’s the big deal here?”

I kid you not.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Blagojevich Fundraiser Held by Jackson Allies Saturday

Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records.

Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson’s bid for the Senate.

Among the attendees was a Blagojevich fundraiser already under scrutiny by federal investigators, Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt.

[…]

Nayak, 54, is a political and community leader in Chicago’s Indian community who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich, including more than $200,000 from Nayak, his wife and his various corporations. Nayak and his wife have donated more than $22,000 to Jackson, federal records show, and raised more for the congressman.

Nayak owns a series of surgery centers on Chicago’s North Side. He also founded and until recently retained an ownership stake in a drug testing laboratory with millions of dollars in Illinois public aid contracts.

Satish “Sonny” Gabhawala, owner of the Chicago Park Hotel in Harvey, said he was at the Oct. 31 meeting and saw Nayak and Rajinder Bedi approach another Blagojevich fundraiser, Babu Patel.

“They were trying to convince Babu to use his influence to get the governor to appoint Jesse Jackson to the Senate,” Gabhawala said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Blagojevich: Rahm Emanuel, Blagojevich Staff Talked

Incoming White House chief of staff reportedly captured on tape discussing successor

As the silence from the Obama camp continues regarding contact between transition officials and the Illinois governor’s office, the Chicago Tribune reports that incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been captured on tape discussing Obama’s Senate successor with the staff of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

While no one in the U.S. attorne’s office is alleging the Obama team had any involvement in any deal-making, it was previously unknown who on the Obama transition team had communicated to the governor’s office that they wouldn’t engage in any ‘pay to play’ scheme to pick the Senate replacement.

The Tribune reported that there had been conversations between Emanuel and Blagojevich’s chief of staff, John Harris, who resigned last week in the scandal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Buffalo: Islamic Crescent Added to Holiday Display

After a Muslim complained that Islam was not being represented the town of North Castle in Buffalo has added the Islamic symbol of the crescent to the town’s holiday display. The man who complained has admitted that the month of December does not always have an Islamic holiday in it.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action[Return to headlines]


Minnesota Mall Sets Aside Prayer Room for Muslims, Violence Thwarted

The accommodation continues as the Muslim population reaches higher levels in states such as Minnesota. Here is a report (Hat tip: Janet) that tells us that a special prayer room has been set up at the Mall of America. Will footbaths be next?

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — On the day Muslims around the world began to celebrate Eid al-Adha, Fatuma Mohamed was at the Mall of America (MOA), far away from where she would normally say her prayers.

But she and other Muslims needed to take time from the activities of the mall and find a quiet area to pray as Muslims do during the festival that commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his only son for God.

Here is my first question. If this was such an important holy day for Muslims, why was shopping so important? “Activities of the mall” were so pressing they couldn’t stay home? Don’t most of us spend time at homes of family and friends or at houses of worship on important religious holidays?

[…]

I bet the Muslim leaders told the MOA, give us a prayer room and we will make sure our youths cause no trouble.

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]


Rampant Fraud Puts Stop to U.S. Refugee Program

DNA confirms fewer than 20% telling truth about family ties

State Department officials have suspended a program that allows refugees in the U.S. to bring family members into the country after an investigation revealed widespread fraud in the system.

Since the 1980’s, the State Department has granted refugee family members who are left behind in war-torn countries priority-3 access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program on a case-by-case basis.

After suspicions of fraud were raised last year — often involving unrelated children being claimed as family — the State Department conducted DNA testing of 3,000 applicants to the program, to see if they were actually related to the family members they claimed.

In more than 80 percent of the cases, the applicants either refused to take the tests or were discovered to have DNA that didn’t match their reported family members.

“We were alarmed that the rate was so high,” a State Department official — who spoke on condition of anonymity as a matter of departmental policy — told the Washington Post. “In fewer than 20 percent of cases did the applicant take the test and it checked out.”

[…]

Most of the applications for access to the priority-3 Refugee Family Reunification Program, or P-3, have come for family members from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Liberia. Since Oct. 1, 2003, the State Department reports, 36,000 refugees have come to America from Africa through the P-3 program, while only 400 have come from other areas of the world in the same time span.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Read All About It! US Newspapers Fall Prey to the Internet and Recession

[Comments from JD: Er, no. The newspapers fell prey to their own leftist lies and propaganda — trying to pass it off to the public as “news” — instead of pursuing honest, objective, investigative journalism.]

The American journalist was once a notoriously hard-boiled character with sharp elbows and a press pass tucked into the band of his fedora.

In the era of the classic film The Front Page, set in the 1920s, reporters from rival city dailies used their most devious means to get the drop on the rest and claim a scoop.

Now those local stories may be ‘outsourced’ to be written by a low-paid journalist in India and posted on the internet instead.

The US newspaper industry is in a full-blown crisis that has seen its business model dynamited by technology and its dwindling prospects threatened by the financial meltdown, which has, in effect, forced advertising revenue off a cliff.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Representative Presents Proof of Citizenship Bill

Republican Representative Mike Ritze has introduced a bill requiring candidates who file for office in Oklahoma to show proof of citizenship.

The idea came about from the controversy around whether President-elect Barack Obama meets the U.S. Constitutions citizenship requirements.

Ritze’s bill requires all candidates, running for any office, to show a copy of a certified birth certificate as well as driver’s license or other government-issued identification upon registering with the Election Board.

Currently, candidates must only sign an affidavit stating they are registered voters. Ritze doesn’t think Obama’s submitted birth certificate is authentic.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Sarah Palin’s Church Damaged in Suspicious Fire

[Video]

Estimated damage more than $1 million — blaze investigated as arson

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

“Europeans, You Should Now Open Up to Our Banks”

[ IT ]Hatem Abu-Said talks to Khalid Chaouki

“I hope this crisis will at last lead Arab investors to greater diversification in risk investment and start at last to learn about and invest not only in the American market but also in European markets”. Hatem Abu-Said, an economist and financial consultant, represents the UAB (Union of Arab Banks) in Italy. “This is a crisis of trust”, says Hatem Abu-Said, and he believes that European Union countries “should provide greater incentives for Arab investments in their markets and also open up to the Islamic banking system, as is already happening in France”…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Belgium: Mother Sold Her Twins to Pay for Liposuction

A mother has been accused of selling newborn twin boys for £9,000 to pay for cosmetic surgery. Sonia Ringoir, a 31-year-old restaurant worker from the Belgian tourist haven of Ghent, was arrested and charged last week after the allegations were made by her estranged husband.

Marc Poppe, 48, told an undercover reporter for Dutch television that Ringoir had sold the babies to a friend to fund liposuction, the fat removal procedure. He said the couple had searched the internet to find a quick way of making money: “It was financially attractive to us. Of course we wouldn’t do it for nothing.”

Since Belgium has no law banning the sale of children, Ringoir has been charged with “degrading treatment” of the twins. She has also been charged with fraud after a Dutch couple alleged she had conned them by falsely offering to be a surrogate mother. If convicted, she could face between one month and five years in jail.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Cyprus, Malta to Share Diplomatic Premises in Mideast

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 9 — The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus and Malta, Marcos Kyprianou and Tonio Borg respectively, signed an agreement yesterday in Brussels for the joint accommodation of their diplomatic missions to Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Speaking after the ceremony, Kyprianou, as reported by CNA news agency, noted that in Tel Aviv the Embassy of Malta will be hosted at the building of the Embassy of Cyprus, while in Ramallah the two countries would be opening a diplomatic mission for the first time and have already found the appropriate premises. Borg said that the fact the diplomatic missions of the two countries will be jointly accommodated in Tel Aviv and Ramallah proves that “we are committed to the peace process in the Middle East.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Cyprus: Papadopoulos,the President Who Rejected Annan’s Plan

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 12 — Tassos Papadopoulos, ex Cypriot president, died today after a brief illness. He would have turned 75 in a less than a month, and was born in Nicosia on January 7th, 1934, but his name already entered into the history of Cyprus for being the one who, four years ago, was able to convince his co-nationals to reject a UN plan which could have reunified the island. After graduating in law in London in the 50s, Papadopoulos became a member of the Greek-Cypriot clandestine organisation Eoka (which fought against English soldiers on the island for independence from Great Britain and annexation from Greece) quickly becoming one of the top members of the organisation. He then participated in the wording of International Treaties and the Constitution and, when Cyprus became independent in 1960 from the crown. He then entered into Archbishop Makarios’ government in which he was minister of various offices (Interior, Finance, Work, Health, and Agriculture) over 12 years. For a long time, independent but always nationalist, when Cypriot politicians began to organise themselves into parties after Turkish military intervention which divided Cyprus in two (summer of 1974), and after the death of Makarios, Papadopoulos joined with the centrist Diko and was re-elected to Parliament. In 2000 he was chosen for the presidency of the party, succeeding founder Spyros Kiprianou, already President of the Republic, the same office which Papadopoulos was elected to on February 16, 2003 after allying with the communist party, Akel, the largest on the island. Papadopoulos was elected to a first term, beating outgoing President Glafcos Clerides (Disy, centre-right), who only at the last minute decided to announced his candidacy. As Head of State, Papadopoulos (who was in office until last February) led the entrance of the Republic of Cyprus into the European Union in early March of 2004 after having strongly pushed from the rejection of a plan proposed by Secretary General of the UN at the time, Kofi Annan, to reunify the island- divided after Turkish military action — which still has 35,000 troops deployed in the northern part of the island. Annan’s plan-which was part of a simultaneous referendum of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on April 24th the previous year — was rejected by Greek Cypriots with almost 76% ‘no’ votes thanks to strong (and criticised) pressure exercised by Papadopoulos on the local media and an abundant advertising campaign. Until his election to the presidency, besides being a politician, Papadapoulos was also one of the most brilliant (but also talked about) business lawyers on the island and many believe that he created various “offshore” companies to move non-transparent capital for Slobodan Milosevic’s regime during the embargo on Yugoslavia. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Energy: Malta; Gonzi Appeals to EU to Support Network

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 11 — Malta has asked the EU for financial support to conduct technical studies on connecting the island to the European energy network, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said. He called on the Czech Republic, which will be taking on the EU presidency next month, to support its request during a two-day visit to Prague. “We need to be sure we have a constant and secure energy supply,” he told the Maltese media following back-to-back meetings yesterday with high-ranking Czech officials, including Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Gonzi said talks revolved round the agenda for the Czech presidency, which was “based on the three Es” — the current economic situation, energy and external relations. He explained that the ‘ambitious’ energy project was of fundamental importance and would require a substantial capital investment that Malta could not make on its own. The government intends building a cable between Malta and Sicily connecting the island to the European energy network. Gonzi has said in the past that this will cement Maltàs security of energy supply, enabling the island to import energy directly from Europe. During a meeting with Mr Topolanek, Dr Gonzi also discussed illegal immigration and expressed the hope that this would be high on the Czech Presidency’s agenda, maintaining the momentum started by the French Presidency. Topolanek was noncommittal when asked whether his country would help Malta with burden-sharing, saying the Czech Republic was also facing problems, being not just a transit country but also a target destination. Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg and Czech Education Minister Ondrej Liska signed a cooperation agreement in the field of education, culture, science, youth and sport. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: State Deficit Reaches 60.7 Bln in October

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 9 — The state deficit in France has further deteriorated, reaching 60.6 billion euro in the end of October, 8 billion more than 52.7 billion the previous year. This was announced by the Balance Minister, specifying that expenses have registered a 4.1% increase mainly due to an increase in the public debt. Tax revenue has registered a 0.5% decrease. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Germans Debate Place for Language

Mark Twain famously dissed it, legions of Hollywood “bad guys” have hissed it and now Tina Fey has definitively pronounced the German language “so uncool.” All that aside, members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic party agreed at a recent party conference to seek to “anchor” the German language in the nation’s constitution.

The proposal envisions a six-word phrase being added to the 22nd article, which stipulates Berlin as the capital city and the German flag as horizontally striped black, red and gold: “The language of the Federal Republic of Germany is German.”

It’s no big surprise some Germans feel a need to prop up their language.

With its four cases, three genders, maze of clauses and propensity for hanging verbs at the end of unusually long sentences, even Germans poke fun at their native tongue. […]

Yet despite the World War II stigma, some of the strongest support for the German language proposal came from Germany’s Central Council of Jews. “The German language is part of the national identity,” the council’s general secretary Stefan Kramar said. “It is not exclusive, but is part of the identification with our country.”

The Christian Democrats’ resolution — which Merkel herself opposes — comes as Germany debates ways to better integrate its millions of immigrants, many of them Turks who moved to Germany as guest workers in the ‘60s and still struggle to speak German.

Merkel’s government has stressed the importance of assimilating its more than 10 million foreign nationals and immigrants, including measures ensuring that immigrant children learn German in preschool. “Language is our cultural identity and the basis of our mental existence,” Christian Democratic legislator Anette Huebinger said in defense of the resolution. “Consequently learning and mastering of a national language is the key to successful and sustainable integration.”

Some lawmakers have called for a bill to be drawn up on the proposal, which would then have to be debated and voted on by parliament.

Party conference resolutions are not binding and — in addition to Merkel — the CDU’s junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, as well as leading members of the opposition, have expressed opposition to the proposal. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Greece: “The Masked Ones” Plot Revolution as Riot Police Begin to Run Out of Teargas

If anarchy had its own Baghdad-style fortified green zone, it might look like this. Inside the campus — off-limits to police under laws dating back to the fall of the junta in 1974 — fresh-faced students, anarchists, workers and unionists huddle in discussion around camp fires fuelled by looted goods from gutted chain stores.

“We are struggling for something better,” said GK, 20, a skinny electrician. “We have decided to storm only big businesses, chain stores and banks and not small businesses, because they are everyday workers.”

The “masked ones”, as they are known, hold informal assemblies each day, where everyone has a chance to discuss where this “revolution” is headed. They even debate whether it is a revolution. “It is a social riot,” said another gate guard, “and it’s still going on. We don’t know yet where it will lead.”

At the occupied law faculty in the city centre, middle-class students argue that the arson attacks, which have destroyed hundreds of banks and shops, are hurting their cause. At the more hardcore Polytechnic there is still an appetite for destruction.

“Sometimes the kids get angry and we can’t control them,” said a 29-year-old beekeeper calling himself Crazy Goat.

[…]

>From their campus sanctuaries, the students and protesters plot how to keep their movement alive once the fury is over and the momentum flags. They plan radio stations, marches, hit-and-run attacks on police stations and courthouses across the city.

Members of the Communist Party organise shopping rosters and clean-up squads for the graffiti-covered student canteen. Their great fear is that people will go home for the Christmas festivities, drink too much and forget about their revolution.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Italy: Jailed Leader of Christian Terror Group Wanted to Target Academic, Police Say

Rome, 11 Dec. (AKI) — Jailed former far-left Italian terrorist Roberto Sandalo wanted to attack professor of Islamic studies and Arabic language Paolo Branca, Italian police said on Thursday. Sandalo was sentenced earlier this year to nine years and nine months in prison for having planned and carried out numerous terror attacks against Muslims and Muslim organisations in Italy.

He is an alleged leader of the so-called ‘Fronte Combattente Cristiano’ or Fighting Christian Front and a former member of Prima Linea, the Lombard section of the Communist terror group, Red Brigades.

Police on Thursday made public transcripts of his interrogations after being arrested in April, in which Sandalo admits to having planned an arson attack against Paolo Branca, professor of Islamic studies, Arabic language and literature at Milan’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

“Around six or seven unloaded Molotov cocktails were found on me. The bottles and the other objects were in my car because I wanted to carry out an arson attack against professor Paolo Branca , who was also the promoter of a list that wanted to boycott a book by Magdi Allam,” said Sandalo.

“I did not act in the university because I did not want to injure anyone else,” he said.

Sandalo was referring to the Egyptian-born journalist Magdi Allam, who converted from Islam to Roman Catholicism in a highly publicised Easter service conducted by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in April.

Allam is also a columnist and deputy editor of Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and a controversial figure in Italy for his criticism of multiculturalism and political Islam.

“I think Roberto Sandalo is a mentally sick person that has felt the effects of a climate of hatred against Muslims that is taking place in this country,” Branca told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“Unfortunately, when the flames of hatred against Muslims are fanned on, it is possible that unbalanced people end up responding in this (Sandalo’s) way.

Sandalo, who was also known as ‘Roby the Mad’ due to his propensity to violence, believed he was “A sort of warrior and champion of Christianity against Islam,” according to a verdict by Milanese judge Marco Maria Alma.

Sandalo’s arrest took place after investigations into attempted arson and other attacks on mosques and on the Islamic cultural centres in Milan and the region of Lombardy led to him. No one was hurt in the attacks.

Sandalo, now in his 50’s, was first arrested in 1980 as a member of the Prima Linea Marxist group which carried out several politically motivated murders during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

When police raided his house, they found Molotov cocktails, tanks of flammable liquid, mixtures of potentially explosive artifacts, herbicides and fertilisers, as well as ten kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate and metal tubes to be used as explosive devices.

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


Parking at Italian Airports Costs More Than Flying

Author Marcello Fois says he has been fleeced too often at Bologna and Olbia. Now he takes a taxi to the airport.

MILAN — With one mouse click, we are on our way. A flight from Bologna to Frankfurt will cost us €25.18. But parking for a week at Bologna airport will set us back from €74.20, if we’re lucky, up to €89.60 in the most expensive car park. Another click, and we try again. A ticket from Palermo to Rome costs from €31.98: car parking is €84.

Parking your can cost as much as your flight, or even more…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Schengen Area Takes Switzerland on Board

Switzerland’s official entry into the Schengen zone is set to bring closer cooperation than ever before with the European Union on police and asylum matters.

On Friday — the day of accession — Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf will meet Schengen experts from the EU in Basel, on Switzerland’s northern border.

A larger celebration — at ministerial level — is planned at the end of March when Switzerland’s airports are integrated into the Schengen accords.

In short, the Schengen accords deal with the abolition of systematic passport controls among the participating countries.

There was much more enthusiasm a year ago when eight eastern European countries and Malta entered the Schengen Area. Politicians and crowds of people celebrated in style with confetti and fireworks as the border posts disappeared.

For many east Europeans, travelling in the Schengen area without passport controls was the final victory against the Iron Curtain.

But there will be no great changes at Swiss borders on the official entry into Schengen.

“Customs control remain”

“Customs controls will remain so Switzerland’s entry into Schengen will not have the same symbolic meaning,” said Catherine Kropf at the Swiss justice and police ministry.

Since Switzerland is not a member of the EU’s customs union, there will be no changes for goods entering the country.

For example, Schengen will not change the amount of red wine that people can bring into Switzerland from France, and customs controls will remain.

Systematic controls of passports and identity cards at border crossings will be lifted but they will be replaced by random checks within border regions and in international trains.

But this is not really new territory for the Swiss either since Swiss border guards have been carrying out mobile border controls for some time.

Schengen will bring most changes for the police, which can now use the Schengen Information System data bank, although this was already introduced provisionally in August.

“Extremely positive”

The justice and police ministry describes the first trials with the SIS as “extremely positive”. Swiss police officers and border guards were confronted with an average of 30 so-called hits in the database.

In the first 100 days of trials, they found 900 names, mainly of foreigners not permitted to enter the Schengen Area. A large majority were about stolen cars or false bank notes.

There were only 25 concerning people sought for arrest by other countries.

SIS will be replaced in future by a much more efficient database known as SIS II, in which, for example, fingerprints can be stored.

A system already using fingerprints is Eurodac, which contains information on asylum seekers and people who have entered a country illegally. Switzerland will be hooked up to Eurodac on December 15. The EU is also working on a database for visa requests.

Data protection

These systems, which form the core of Schengen, mean a much heavier burden for data protection authorities of both the state and the cantons. They have to ensure that the rights of people registered are protected.

Experts from Schengen states said earlier this year that data protection in Switzerland was adequate but warned that it should be strengthened and become more independent.

Switzerland will also become a member of the EU’s Dublin accord on asylum on December 12.

This is designed to clarify the country responsible for asylum seekers. As a general rule, someone seeking asylum is required to apply in the member state first entered. Such a system has advantages for a land-locked country like Switzerland because it is surrounded by other Dublin accord members.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: Young People Growing Up in a Hurry

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 10 — Goodbye to Spain’s big children! Young Spaniards free themselves at an early age from their parents, start to have sexual relations earlier in life, are busier because they find work easier, are more involved in political action, but also prudent, having acquired more conservative values compared to their predecessors. This is the profile of the new generation outlined by the 2008 Youth Report in Spain, presented by Equality Minister, Bibiana Aido. One of the most significant aspects of the investigation, which is carried out every 4 years, is that young people free themselves from their parents at an earlier age and make important life decisions earlier on, shown by the fact that there was a 5pct increase in people below the age of 25 living independently of their parents. Currently 37% of those who under the age of 25 live with their parents; a percentage that has increased for women: half of girls between 21 and 23 already live on their own. The age in which couples begin to live together has also decreased, with a growing number of young people between the age of 21 and 24 who decide to live with a significant other, as well as a growing of women deciding earlier on to have their first child (the number of women between the age of 21 and 26 who have had their first child has also increased). According to the report, the age in which children have their first sexual relationship has decreased to 16 years and 10 months — one year lower than in the previous study -. Gender equality obstacles persist, given that 42% of boys and 46.5% of girls report that having a child hinders their professional career. Political indifference is a bipartisan issue: only 18pct of those interviewed are interested in politics, compared to 23.2pct in 2004. 39% of those interview — a sample of 5,000 people between the age of 15 and 29 was taken — said that they are involved in political action despite a general indifference for politics. 1 out of 3 are in favour of the death penalty, a slightly higher percentage than in 2004. “This age group has a greater adherence to traditional roles and values”, explained the director of the Youth Institute, Gabriel Alconchel. A conservative tendency which is maintained in the opinions expressed on gay marriage, rejected by 16pct of those interviewed. This does not concern euthanasia of gene therapy, of which 63% of the sample group said to be in favour. Unwanted pregnancies increased from 9.9% in 2004 to 12.1% in 2008 given that young people are using less contraceptives. The family model in which both components work is ideal for 84% of women and 72% of men. Numbers that, according to Minister Aido, highlight that “there is a democratisation of Spanish families”. Inequalities are evident in salaries. The average salary is 963.91 euro: for males it is 1,076 euro, for women, 827 euro, or 30pct less. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Statement by the Dutch Government on Jami Film

The Dutch government has issued a statement on Mr Jami’s film, in which he expresses his personal opinions about Islam.

The Dutch government has taken notice of Mr Jami’s film, in which he expresses his personal opinions about Islam. The Netherlands has a tradition of freedom of religion and belief as well as a tradition of freedom of expression. We also have a tradition of respect, tolerance and responsibility. Offending other people is not in keeping with these traditions. Conversely, free and unrestricted debate and respectful treatment do reflect these traditions. In this light, the government regrets the fact that Mr Jami’s film deeply offends the feelings of many Muslims. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: Bilateral Accords Bring Good Fortune for Firms

Switzerland’s bilateral ties with the European Union are good for business and employment, the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse) has concluded.

The labour treaty in particular has helped boost the Swiss gross domestic product, according to an economiesuisse study released on Friday on the impact of the bilateral agreements on the Swiss economy.

The findings show no negative repercussions on the job market as a result of the treaty and that could go some way towards allaying fears among opponents. In fact, the study says, there has been no impact on unemployment, and the average level of wages has gone up since the labour accord came into force in 2002.

“A significant proportion of the newly employed foreigners in Switzerland complements the Swiss workforce,” said Jan-Egbert Sturm, head of economiesuisse.

“This migration of workers, who are for the most part highly qualified, has in fact reduced the rate of unemployment among the foreigners resident in Switzerland.”

The government last month announced that the free movement accord, as it is also known, has boosted the economy by more than one per cent — or up to SFr5 billion ($4.2 billion) annually…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


U.S. Hails Lisbon Guantanamo Offer

Asylum for inmates cleared for release who can’t return to home countries

A senior US official has described as a “significant step” Portugal’s offer of asylum for some inmates from the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.

John Bellinger, legal adviser to the US secretary of state, told the BBC the move was the first break in a European refusal to help shut down the camp.

In a letter to EU members this week, Portugal urged them to follow its lead.

The US has cleared 50 to 60 detainees for release, but it cannot repatriate them due to the risk of mistreatment.

[…]

In his letter on Thursday, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said the European Union “should send a clear signal of our willingness to help the US government resolve this problem, namely by taking in the detainees”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Army Hit by Crisis as Hundreds of Troops Quit to Save Marriages

The Army needs 20,000 extra troops to support units decimated by illness, injury and soldiers quitting to save their marriages, say senior defence sources.

Commanders say they are so overstretched in Helmand and Iraq that they will struggle to provide the 5,000 extra soldiers the Government plans to send to Afghanistan as part of a US-led ‘surge’.

Ministers have indicated that the 3,700 British troops in Iraq will be withdrawn next summer. But commanders say the withdrawal will ‘barely make a dent’ in the problem.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Campaign Against Sharia Law in Britain to be Launched at the House of Lords

The One Law for All campaign — supported by the National Secular Society — is to be launched in the House of Lords on International Human Rights Day, 10 December.

According to campaign organiser, Maryam Namazie, “Even in civil matters, Sharia law is discriminatory, unfair and unjust, particularly against women and children. Moreover, its voluntary nature is a sham; many women will be pressured into going to these courts and abiding by their decisions. These courts are a quick and cheap route to injustice and do nothing to promote minority rights and social cohesion. Public interest, particularly with regard to women and children, requires an end to Sharia and all other faith-based courts and tribunals.” […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


UK: Police Charged £9m by Phone Firms to Use Tracking Data

Prompting calls for ‘free access’

Mobile phone firms have been accused of cashing in on crime and terror after charging the police £8.7million a year to access data tracking information.

The companies keep records of the times, dates, duration of mobile phone calls and the numbers contacted but not the actual content of conversations.

They also hold crucial information about the whereabouts of a mobile phone at any given time — which can be accessed by the police to build up a picture of a suspect’s movements.

[…]

Police can see the phone records without having to apply to the courts, with senior offices issuing a Section 22 notice under the powerful Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

The process has become an everyday part of police inquiries and many forces and MI5 have automated systems to retrieve mobile data ? prompting calls for the service to be free of charge.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Social Services Chief’s Husband Was Drug-Addicted Violent Terrorist

A Social Services chief who played a key role in the forcible adoption of three children is married to a convicted terrorist with a history of drink and drug abuse.

Lisa Christensen, director of children’s services in Norfolk, is the wife of Jack Prescott, who was given a 15-year prison sentence for involvement in a bomb attack on the home of a Tory Cabinet Minister.

Prescott, 64 — a self-confessed former heroin addict and thief — was a founder member of the Angry Brigade, Britain’s only home-grown urban terrorist group, which carried out 25 attacks on Government buildings, embassies and corporations.

His past has come to light because he was recently convicted of assaulting Ms Christensen.

She failed to tell Norfolk County Council about her husband’s violent past when she was appointed head of Social Services in 2002.

Two years later, she became the authority’s £120,000-a-year director of children’s services with responsibility for schools, child protection and young people in care.

In that role, she approved the forced removal of Mark and Nicky Webster’s three children, all then under five — a decision condemned by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb as “an appalling miscarriage of justice” and which has been highlighted by The Mail on Sunday.

The Websters fought a long battle to prove they had not harmed their children. Last year, experts agreed that leg injuries suffered by one youngster were due not to physical abuse but to a disorder that stopped him eating anything other than soya milk.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Woman Told to Remove Christmas Lights to Avoid Offending Non-Christian Neighbours

A woman was told to remove her Christmas lights by a housing association worker in case they offended non-Christian neighbours.

Dorothy Glenn decorates her home in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, with hundreds of festive lights every year, including a giant tree and a 4ft Santa Claus.

But this year she was astonished when an employee of South Tyneside Homes called at her house and informed her that the decorations she was displaying might be offending her neighbours.

The association has now apologised to Mrs Glenn and started an investigation but a spokesman insisted that removing Christmas lights was not part of their policy.

Mrs Glenn, a 41-year-old mother-of-three, said: “I put the lights up in the first week of November and then recently a uniformed housing worker was outside, and it looked like he was counting my decorations.

“When I went outside he said that the lights were ‘offensive to the community’. If I was offending anyone I could understand why he was telling me, but nobody has complained.

“My neighbours are Bengali and Chinese and I know that they love the lights, the children will always point them out when they walk past.”

           — Hat tip: Larwyn[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: Envoy Dismisses Disintegration Fears

Sarajevo, 11 Dec. (AKI) — Bosnia’s survival is in no danger despite internal disputes and mistrust between its Muslim, Serb and Croat populations, according to the country’s top international envoy Miroslav Lajcak. But members of Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups need to overcome their differences and enact constitutional reforms, Lajcak told local media on Thursday.

“The dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina isn’t a realistic and possible option, despite inflammatory rhetoric by political leaders and mistrust between citizens,” said Lajcak, a Slovak diplomat.

Bosnian Muslim leader, Reiss-ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric, European Union enlargement commissioner Ollie Rehn and former international envoy to Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, have recently warned that Bosnia could collapse amid continuing enmity between local Muslims, Serbs and Croats.

Lajcak admitted that internal divisions in the country are still deep and widespread mistrust prevails.

“We must overcome this so that the country can move forward,” he added.

The Dayton peace accord that ended Bosnia’s 1992-1995 civil war divided the country into a Serb entity and a Muslim-Croat federation, each with most of the powers of a state.

Muslim leaders have pressed for the abolition of the two entities, amid Serb threats of a referendum on independence and Croat demands for their own entity.

The Dayton accord gives the Bosnian Serb entity the right to special ties with Serbia. But Lajcak pointed out that these ties should be more transparent.

Rehn told the European Parliament in October that “political consensus” in Bosnia between local Muslims, Serbs and Croats had collapsed and that political disagreements had blocked the reforms needed for Bosnia to join the European Union.

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


Real Estate: Boom in Kosovo, New Homes Everywhere, Many Empty

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, DECEMBER 11 — A building boom is taking place in Kosovo, even if many of the new homes, which are sprouting up everywhere, are empty. Against the trends in the region, compared to countries like Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina where the countryside is undergoing depopulation, in Kosovo, people continue to live in villages, where currently almost 40% of residential buildings and 25% of new homes exist, but in the entire ex Serbian province, almost one-fourth of houses are unoccupied. This data has emerged from a study conducted by the Kosovar Statistical Office (Sok) in collaboration with a private company and funds from the World Bank and the British Development Minister. The study, undertaken to sill a statistical void that has opened since the last census in 1981 and presented today to the press in Pristina, was conducted on a sample of 1,000 of the 4,944 units that Kosovo is statistically divided into, and on a sample group of 62,955 families. Updating data banks on building going back to 2004, and based on pictures taken from the air by the UN, one can observe the size of the construction boom and a considerable change in the landscape, particularly in rural zones. With the lone exception of the northern Serbian enclave of Mitrovica, Kosovo over the past 4 years has seen the areas involved in the census go from 102,6565 to 106,485 buildings: 957 new buildings (about 4,800 estimated in all of Kosovo) for an increase equal to +3.7% and an average of +0.7% per year. 65% of all buildings in Kosovo are made up of homes, and of these, 23.5% are unoccupied. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia-Croatia: Stronger Ties Between Interior Ministries

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 12 — Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Ivica Dacic, and Croatian Interior Minister Tomislav Karamarko signed a Memorandum of Understanding which, as they underlined, points to the importance of the establishment of even stronger ties between the two ministries, particularly in the field of police cooperation, all with the aim of an efficient prevention of all forms of organised crime. Good relations between the Interior ministries and the police of Serbia and Croatia represent one of the important conditions for stability in the region, Minister Dacic said. He said that crime had to be sent a clear message that neither Serbia nor its neighbours — Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro — belonged to the group of states where members of organised crime would manage to run away and hide from the police. Dacic also pointed to a number of joint projects and operations of the two police, including the recent exercise of the border police in Tovarnik, and announced new joint operations for the following period. Minister Karamarko qualified the signed memorandum as a proof of the readiness of the two countries’ police units for joint actions that would be free of any political context, and added that the people of Serbia and Croatia should have full trust in their police.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Mladic; Raid Over on Former School Chum

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 12 — The police search for Ratko Mladic concentrated on the house of a man thought to be a former school friend of his in the town of Arandjelovac (60 kilometres south of Belgrade). They were acting on orders from the state prosecution office which is in charge of the hunt for the war criminal from the 1990s. So says a report by the Tanjug news agency, based on a conversation with the person in question, stating that the operation came to a fruitless conclusion and was without incident, despite the pro-Mladic chanting in the background by a group of ultra-Nationalists, assembled for the occasion. The man’s name is Ljubinko Zlatic (and not Ljubisa Zivkovic, as had initially been reported by state TV channel RTS) and he is the owner of a house in Arandjelovac at 21 Kosovska street, which was subjected to a prolonged search. “They have been turning my house upside down for several hours”, he told Tanjug, confirming that the police held him to be a possible support of Mladic in hiding. This is something he denies, admitting only that in his youth héd been “a school-mate” of the former Serb-Bosnian military commander and fugitive from international law since 1995. According to reports in the Belgrade media, Zlatic is a pensioner and former migrant to Germany, know to his neighbours as ‘Svaba’ (the Kraut), and seems to have at least had some contact with people in the gang of Serb paramilitary leader Arkan (the late Zeljko Raznatovic). The police operation in Serbia today in connection with the hunt for fugitive Ratko Mladic and the network of support he has in hiding was aimed at collecting and checking “information” and is “a step towards a further enterprise”. These were the words of Minister Rasim Ljajic, the Serb Government’s head of collaboration with the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, which is dealing with crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Interviewed after the operation, Ljajic did not speak of any direct tracks of the fugitive, and admitted “not being able to say whether Mladic’s arrest is now any nearer”, but he stressed that he was “sure of the fact that today we have more information than we had yesterday”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Young Archbishop Challenges Church Leaders

Belgrade, 10 Dec. (AKI) — A young archbishop from the Serbian Orthodox Church has challenged church leaders to embark on urgent reforms or risk losing relevance. In an open letter to the Church’s Holy Sabor (or Assembly), published by Serbian media on Wednesday, Archbishop Grigorije, blamed church leaders for failing to elect a new patriarch at their November convention to replace the ailing patriarch Pavle and for blocking Church reforms.

“The society we live in is rapidly changing every day, our church is facing many questions every day to which it must give answers,” Grigorije said. But the 41-year-old claimed the conservative leaders couldn’t give adequate answers to globalisation and other problems confronting the church.

Patriarch Pavle, who is 96-years-old, has been hospitalised for the past year and asked to be relieved of his duties due to old age and poor health. Grigorije proposed himself as a young, modern candidate to replace him, against conservative Archbishop Amfilohije of Montenegro and Artemije of Kosovo.

But the conservatives convinced Pavle, who has been elected for life, to stay to avoid new elections and named Amfilohije as his deputy. In an open split, Grigorije accused his conservative rivals of being controlled by state security and of alienating people from the church.

Analysts and church experts said that Grigorije was pushed as a candidate for the highest church post by pro-European President Boris Tadic and his close ally Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

Tadic has practically amassed all political power in his hands following the May election, but his pro-European policies and soft-pedalling on Kosovo’s independence, has been criticised by conservative members of the church.

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


Switzerland Dismantles Border Crossings

Switzerland last night dismantled its check points at its borders with Germany, Austria, Italy and France, after the country officially became a member of the passport-free Schengen zone.

But its membership of the now 25-country zone will prove short-lived if the Swiss fail to vote ‘Yes’ in a referendum on the freedom of movement of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens scheduled for 8 February 2009.

The European Commission said that a ‘No’ vote would probably lead to Switzerland being removed from the passport-free zone.

Travellers will still have to show passports at airports, however, until 29 March when intra-Schengen no-passport rules come into operation, so as to coincide with the day the international aviation industry switches to its summer timetables.

EU ministers agreed in November that Switzerland had fulfilled all the security co-operation requirements, to join the zone.

On accepting membership, the Swiss government has also agreed to implement EU asylum rules included in the Dublin regulation. Jacques Barrot, the European commissioner for justice, said Switzerland’s adoption of the Dublin agreement would “contribute to a more effective protection of asylum seekers in Europe”.. […]

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission’s president, congratulated Switzerland and also claimed that that “Schengen has been successful in dismantling obstacles to unity, peace and freedom in Europe, while also paving the way for enhanced security,” he said.

The Schengen area enlarged for the last time in December 2007 to include Estonia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Switzerland will become the third non-EU member of Schengen, after Norway and Iceland. Five EU member states — Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK — remain outside the bloc/

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy-Libya: New Course for Relations After ‘Treaty’

(by Francesca Spinola) (ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, DECEMBER 12 — The history of relations between Italy and Libya is a sequence of highs and lows, but just when ENI’s corporate executive officer, Paolo Scaroni, comments with satisfaction on ENI’s future entrance into Libya as a shareholder and Premier Silvio Berlusconi defines ‘‘convenient’’ this participation, a positive trend seems to be prevailing. From the point of view of diplomatic relations between the two countries, a procedure is being enacted that should bring them, in a short period of time, to the ratification of the ‘Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation Treaty’, signed in Benghasi on August 30 by Silvio Berlusconi and Muammar Gaddafi. On the Italian side, the premier approved the bill to ratify the treaty on the October 19, the first concrete step for the implementation of an agreement that represents, as considered by all who observe the situation, a historical moment for relations between Italy and Libya. Even on the Libyan side procedures for the ratification of the agreement are moving forward, while some innovative elements came into vigour immediately after the signing. Since the August 30, Libya has eliminated the restrictions set up in 1970 that until now have impeded Italians expelled from the country to return, either as tourists or for economic purposes, not to request settlements for what they lost, but to visit their homes, schools and places from their childhoods. The proof was a visit of an Italian family expelled after the 1970 revolution on November 2 to take part at the commemoration ceremony of the dead at the newly restored Italian cemetery. The week after, a group of another 20 Italians arrived, welcomed by the bishop of Tripoli, Exc. Giovani Martinelli, who celebrated a mass for them in the church of St. Francis, in the central neighbourhood of Dahara. Moreover, the ‘Day of Vendetta’ was cancelled from the calendar on October 7. It is the day on which the first Italian troops landed in Libya, as well as the day on which, in 1970, the Italians who lived in the North African country were expelled. This day figures so much into the past that, on October 7, in the conference hall in Tripoli, important figures from Italian politics and culture who contributed to the ending of the crisis between the two countries were honoured. To receive the ‘Jamahiriya Merit Award’, Lamberto Dini, Giulio Andreotti, Beppe Pisanu, Nicola Latorre, Valentino Parlato, Eric Salerno and Vittorio Sgarbi were present. On October 16, there was another event on the Italian-Libyan calendar, the ‘Day of Mourning’ for the deportation of the Libyans living in Italy. This day was characterised by the cancelling of flights to Libya, as well as international communications, telephone calls and the closure of ports. The day remains on the calendar, but the events have been cancelled. Apart from these, a new day has been introduced, ‘Friendship Day’, which will be celebrated from August 30 of next year. Moreover, the Secretary of the General Committee of the People, or the Council of Ministers as it is called in Europe, approved another bill for the abolition of Law 80 from 1970, that discriminated against Italian companies compared to those from other countries. Foreign companies in fact, in order to operate in Libya had and still have to register at the Ministry of the Economy. For Italian companies, approval from the Prime Minister was also required. This law was abolished one month ago. Libya, like Italy, has therefore begun to put the agreement into practice and has started the procedures for the ratification from the moment in which the People’s Committee and the Shabie Popular Committees approved the ratification of the treaty that now has to go to the People’s General Congress to be fully implemented. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: Young Saudi Penitents Tell Their Stories in TV

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, 12 DIC — Saudi Arabia seeks to deter young Saudis from continuing to “serve as pawns on terrorist groups’ chessboard” also by using tv. Since early July — as Middle East Online reports today — the Saudi state television has been broadcasting every Monday evening “confessions” of veterans of Iraq, the “lost” ones who claim to have found the right path and call their former brothers in arms to follow suit. On Channel 1, these repentant jihadists are supported by experts in terrorism, preachers, academics, specialists in psychology or sociology, journalists and even fathers. Abou Chahd, a survivor of the Iraqi quagmire, said that he was neither influenced by Wahhabism, nor motivated by the pan-Islamic nationalism, nor animated by the desire to become a martyr. “At that time, I was not a devout Muslim. Following a sharp disappointment, I decided to end my life by going to Iraq,” he said. And he denounced the “brainwashing used by recruiters who paint martyrdom and paradise where 70 houris (nymphes) will be awaiting them in glowing colours.” He also condemned “the exploitation of the extreme religiosity of young candidates for martyrdom by coordinators who welcome them in Iraq, rob their passports, their money, their mobile phones and push them to paradise through the shortest path … the suicide attack”. General Khaled Al Khalioui, deputy director of the Kinf Fahd Academy, estimated at 45% the rate of Saudi fighters in Iraq. According to Fares bin Houzam, an Al-Qaeda expert and editorialist of Al-Riyadh daily, “almost 5,000 Saudis, mostly teenagers, have already visited Iraq”. Other expert agreed on the fact that poverty, unemployment and emotional vacuum are the main reasons for this proselytizing jihad. Adnan al-Harthy, from the Oum Al-Qoura in Mecca, thinks that what pushes the young Saudi to cross the Rubicon is “the feeling of defeat, including military one, of the Muslim nation and the lack of trust in political solutions. That is why the Saudis have formed the largest contingents of foreign fighters, thousands of whom have fallen martyrs since the mid-1980s in Afghanistan, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Chechnya, Iraq. However, Hamza Wahid Hashem, from King Abdel Aziz University, said that extremism is inherent in Saudi society. “Since their early childhood, the Saudis are breast-fed and speech steeped in religious extremism”, said Hashem, in an implicit reference to the Wahhabi doctrine. The debate continues about the rehabilitation of the “lost” who are being held in centers for reeducating terrorists across the kingdom. In November 2007, official sources announced the release of 1,500 repentant fundamentalists out of 3,200. Indeed, “The rehabilitation programme has yielded some fruit, but not enough,” stressed Hashem. He metaphorically added: “A young Saudi returned from Iraq, weeping and shouting: look, I take on a new lease of life! …” “But on his way back, he met two or three other young Saudis … bound for death.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia Obtains Advanced Partnership Status From EU

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 12 — Tunisia was been authorised for ‘an advanced partner status by the EU’, thanks to the reforms that it has realised, so announced the Foreign Affairs, Abdelwaheb Abdallah, last night in the Senate. The advanced partnership status implies that there deep are political and economic cooperation relations. It can be granted by the Commission, a “neighbouring countries status”, therefore an immediate neighbour that is not interested in the process of EU adhesion. “This charter holds great importance on an economic and political level, concerning the present crisis in the world”, said Abdallah referring to a recent meeting of the EU-Tunisia Association Council in Brussels. The Council, having met on November 11, allowed for the partnership between Tunisia and the EU, particularly following the enactment in 2008 of a free trade agreement for manufactured products. Signee of the first Eu association agreement with third world countries in 1995, Tunis began negotiations on the liberalisation of services and agriculture, in view of the instatement of total free trade in 2010. Morocco has obtained “advanced status” of cooperation with the EU in October, a position requested since 2004. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Oil: Algeria, USD 5 Bln Less Revenue in 2008

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 11 — Due to a sharp decrease in oil prices, Algeria has made 5 billion dollars less in revenue in 2008. According to declarations made to Algerian national radio by the Energy Minister, Chakib Khelil, hydrocarbon exports will be “between 75 and 76 billion dollars, a record in any case” in 2008. But falling oil prices, specified Khelil, who is also temporary Opec president, “has translated for Algeria into a 5 billion dollar decrease in revenue from July until today”. Hydrocarbons represent more than 98% of Algerian exports. Until today, revenue for 2008 was expected to total 80 billion compared to 59.3 billion dollars in 2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gilad Shalit — Going on 900 Days

HonestReporting’s blog Backspin Media notes: The day after the world celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with pomp and hot air, Israelis mark Gilad Shalit’s 900th day in captivity.

At least the Red Cross noticed.

The Red Cross site explains what the Red Cross has done so far and is trying to do—which basically boils down to trying to see Gilad Shalit and speak to him in private:

“We are pursuing dialogue with all those concerned, as we believe that is essential for achieving progress. We have to talk to those who hold a person’s fate in their hands in order to be able to help that person.”

The Red Cross is sincere, but still—I thought this was a bit jarring:

“There are limits to what we can do and to what international humanitarian law entitles us to do when it comes to visiting people in detention or to finding out what happened to people who go missing in an armed conflict.” [emphasis added]

Neither of these 2 descriptions fit the current circumstances. Shalit is neither in detention nor did he go missing. He was kidnapped by terrorists. Despite the Red Cross’s best motives, their efforts thus far seem to have done nothing more than to legitimize Hamas and what they have done by equating their actions with those of a party to an armed conflict.

If indeed the situation was one of armed conflict, why is Israel put under constant pressure to act as if there was no such conflict and open up its borders and indiscriminately allow unfettered access to Palestinian Arabs?

Not surprisingly, the Red Cross refuses to call Hamas by what they are and is reduced to “pursuing dialogue.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Hamas Parades Mock Gilad Shalit Before Crowd of Thousands in Gaza

Hamas paraded a mock-captive Israeli soldier before thousands of supporters during a rally Sunday to celebrate the militant group’s 21st anniversary. The mock-soldier, was dressed in an Israel Defense Forces soldier uniform and stood before the crowd begging in Hebrew to be returned home.

“I miss my Mom and Dad,” said a Hamas loyalist, in a clear reference to captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, seized by Hamas-backed Palestinian militants in June 2006. Egyptian-mediated negotiations to exchange Schalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have repeatedly foundered. “For those who made my children swallow a bitter drink, you will drink from the same cup,” intoned a voiceover.

Sunday’s rally was another show of strength by the Islamic militants who have ruled Gaza since a violent takeover in June 2007. The arena can hold about 150,000 people and is full, with more people spilling out into the streets. Many Hamas supporters wore baseball caps in the movement’s Islamic green.

Thousands of policemen organized traffic on roads decked with green Hamas flags and plainclothes policemen patrolled the area. Senior Hamas leaders are expected to lay out the future of an Egyptian-mediated truce with Israel and its relations with rival Palestinian group Fatah, which rules the West Bank.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Ya’alon: Every Prisoner Swap Encourages More Kidnappings

Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday criticized recent calls to broker the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit “at any price”, saying such calls were not appropriate, adding that previous prisoner exchanges encouraged additional kidnappings.

Ya’alon explained his hesitance to comment on the matter by saying that in past prisoner exchanges “we have backed ourselves into a corner, where every deal we make encourages kidnappings. In addition, those murderers who we release, go on to murder more Israelis.”

Ya’alon told Army Radio the issue of returning Shalit “must remain above politics, and I am wary of making statements on the issue.” Ya’alon’s added that he agreed with Kadima Chair Tzipi Livni, who caught fire last Thursday for saying it isn’t possible to bring every IDF soldier home.

Livni on Friday clarified her remarks, saying she meant that freeing Gilad Shalit was not a question of political will. “It sounded as if the question of freeing Gilad Shalit depends on whether we want to [do so] or not. Absolutely not… I want to clarify that the question is whether it is possible or not,” said Livni, speaking to Israel Radio.”

The foreign minister, who is also the Kadima chairwoman, insisted that she wants every Israel Defense Forces soldier to return home.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Economy: Global Firms Choose Turkey, Study

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 12 — Global firms are now looking to invest more in the safe havens of Western Europe and North America, yet Turkey is the first country to be chosen in its region. According to the ‘Global Investment Expectations’ study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Turkey may continue to attract foreign capital, despite a diminishing risk appetite globally. According to 2006 figures, as daily Hurriyet website reports, Turkey stood 16th worldwide and fifth among developing nations in attracting foreign capital, with $20.1 billion. Foreign capital inflows last year reached $21.8 billion but this rise did not change Turkey’s place in the ranking. By the end of the year, Turkey is expected to retain its position. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘Gaza-Bound Iranian Ship Has Hidden Agenda’

An Iranian Red Crescent vessel due to set sail for Gaza this week carries a “hidden agenda,” providing cover for an attempt by Teheran’s al-Quds Force to spread its influence and possibly ferrying intelligence agents, an American expert warned on Saturday.

Iran’s Red Crescent Society announced on its Web site last week plans to dispatch the ship with 1,000 tons of humanitarian aid.

“The Iranian Red Crescent ship sailing to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is an example of Teheran’s effort to gain political influence through social aid programs, subvert societies with intelligence agents acting as charitable officials, and encourage the Sunni Muslim street to believe that the Iranian regime is on their side, despite its Shi’ite face,” Prof. Raymond Tanter, president of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, told The Jerusalem Post.

“The hidden agenda of the Red Crescent is to spread the Iranian conception of Islam to the Sunni Arab heartland, including Gaza,” Tanter said. “Teheran spends millions of dollars per month on ‘charities,’ coordinated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Iran Awards Nasrallah Ph.D. in Political Science

Hezbollah chief thanks Islamic Republic for support against Israel

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah received an honorary doctorate in the field of political science from an Iranian university in the Isfahan region, as part of the events to mark the university’s 300th birthday. Sheikh Hassan Hamda accepted the degree on behalf of Nasrallah.

In a statement from Nasrallah read at the ceremony, he thanked Iran for its support of Hizbullah’s fight against Israel and expressed the hope that one day the Shiite group would change the face of the Middle East. Nasrallah also thanked the Iranians for “25 years of support and aid for the Hizbullah organization and its warriors in southern Lebanon.” He also mentioned Israel, and said his group had won “two big triumphs” against “the most equipped armed forces in the region”. The IDF, Nasrallah wrote, “is considered an undefeatable army, but thanks to the Lebanese resistance it became a worldwide model of failure.” He also claimed that “Iran’s support was always the main factor in the victories and it always will be.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Turkey Still Lagging Far Behind EU Average GDP Per Capita

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 22 — Despite the high growth rates in its economy over the past five years, Turkey’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has made little progress toward EU averages in the given period. According to a recent report by the General Directorate of EU Affairs, a subdivision of the State Planning Organization (DPT), the average GDP per capita of the entire EU, based on purchasing power parity (PPP), was 2.7 times more than Turkey’s GDP per capita five years ago. The report, as Today’s Zaman reports, claimed that if current projections prove valid, this difference will be 2.4 times by year’s end. In 2009, a citizen of the EU will be 2.3 times richer on average than a Turk. The report, titled “Economic Developments in the EU Member and Candidate Countries,” said the average GDP per capita in the EU was 21,600 euros in 2004, whereas it is estimated to climb to 25,900 euros by the end of 2008. This figure is expected to grow to 26,800 euros in 2009. In Turkey on the other hand, the GDP per capita was 8,100 euros five years ago and it will have reached 10,900 euros by the end of 2008. Next year it is expected to rise to 11,500 euros. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: National Income Per Capita Rises

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 6 — By the end of the year, national income per capita will surpass 10,000 dollars for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic, as Anadolu news agency reported. National income per capita, which stood at USD 4,311 in 1998, is expected to reach USD 11,228 by the end of this year. It will be 2.6-fold growth in 10 years. Based on data collected by the Turkish Statistical Institute, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the State Planning Agency, national income per capita, which used to float around USD 3,000 to USD 4,000 between 1998 and 2002, has been on the increase. National income per capita, which used to be USD 3,517 in 2002, has reached USD 9,305. This figure is estimated to reach USD 11,228 by the end of this year. Meanwhile, national income per capita is expected to decline to USD 10,913 next year, due to appreciation in exchange rates. Turkey’s Gross National Product, or GNP, has also been growing since 2002. The GNP, which used to stand at nearly USD 232.96 billion in 2002, reached USD 656.8 billion last year. By the end of the year, Turkey’s GNP is expected to reach USD 801.89 billion. However, just like the national income per capita, it is also foreseen that the country’s GNP will decline in 2009. The 2009 GNP is expected to drop to $788.36 billion. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Two Million Muslim Pilgrims Congregate in Vast Tent City to Perform the Haj

[Comments from JD: Note, no mention of Ishmael/Isaac differences in article..]

This is Mina, the epicentre of the Haj, or Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Situated six miles east of the holy city, this great plain last week housed about two million pilgrims — in a city of 20,000 tents.

The canvas, white-domed shelters are air-conditioned and have mats on the floor — pilgrims bring their own sleeping bags.

[…]

During the five days of worship, pilgrims spend most of their time at Mina.

The most important activity there is the stoning of three pillars, which represent Satan at the moment he tried to tempt Abraham to disobey God’s orders to kill his son.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Yemeni Rabbi in Riydah: Jewish Community Still Threatened

A Yemeni rabbi on Sunday said Muslim extremists in the northern town of Riydah continued to harass his small community after one of its members, Moshe Yaish Nahari, was gunned down last week.

Yemeni authorities have ignored complaints from the Jewish villagers about a new set of death threats from their neighbors, Rabbi Yahia Yaish bin Yahia said.

A suspected Islamist extremist shot and killed Nahari on Thursday in the village of Riydah. A man was arrested and arraigned before the prosecutor Sunday.

The suspect confessed to the killing, saying it as a way to get “close to God,” said deputy head of security for the district, Ahmed Yahia al-Srihi.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Yemenite Cleric: Women Cannot Talk and Remember Simultaneously

[Video]

Following are excerpts from an interview with Yemenite cleric Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani. The interview aired on Iqra TV on October 23, 2008.

“Women Are Subject to Menstruation, When Their Endurance and Mental Capacity for Concentration Are Diminished”

Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani: “Allah said, with regard to women bearing witness: ‘If two men are not available, then a man and two women, such as you choose as witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her.’ Some heretics — communists and other atheists — ridiculed [this verse], saying: How come a man’s testimony equals that of two women? They used this to mock [the Muslims].

“The Muslims used to respond that women are subject to menstruation, when their endurance and mental capacity for concentration are diminished. When a woman witnesses a killing or an accident, she becomes frightened, moves away, and sometimes even faints, and she cannot even watch the incident. […]

“The American Time magazine, in its July 31, 1995 issue, published this picture from research about the brain functioning of men and women. This is the ma… This is the female brain, and this is an image of the male brain. What do we see? We find that in the case of women, this area… And there is another here…

“Two areas in a woman’s brain are activated when she talks. As we can see, there are many centers of speech in a woman’s brain. There is a center in each lobe, while in the case of a man, there is only one center, here. The opposite center does not operate during speech, because it is busy remembering.”

“When a Woman Talks, She Might Use the Part of the Brain Containing the Memory for Talking — And That’s It, The Data is Lost”

“Both men and women have centers for speech and for memory. In the case of men, the center for speech is here, while the center for memory is here. When a man talks, his center for speech is active, and when he remembers something, his center for memory is active. On the other hand, when a woman wants to talk, she puts both centers into action. This may give us an explanation why women are more talkative.

“What is the outcome of this? When a woman talks, she uses the part of the brain that contains the memory, because in the case of women, both centers function for speech and memory. So when a woman talks, she might use the part of the brain containing the memory for talking — and that’s it, the data is lost.

“Therefore, if we need the testimony of women in cases pertaining to human lives, property, honor, or the stability of justice, we must take into consideration this fact of life in the nature of women.”

           — Hat tip: Jewish Odysseus[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russia Ready to Join OPEC to Raise Oil Price

(IsraelNN.com) Russia is prepared to join the Arab oil-producing cartel OPEC in order to raise the price of oil, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said. The cost of crude oil on the world markets reached nearly $150 earlier this year before plummeting to the current level of around $42.

Medvedev said that keeping the price of oil high is a way for the country to defend itself. “This is the source of our revenues, including from both oil and gas,” he explained. OPEC Is planning to meet this week to cut oil production, a move Russia said it would join. Leonid Fedun, vice president of Russia’s largest private oil company Lukoil, said that “if some 2.5mn barrels per day are taken out of the market, oil prices will stay between $60 and $80 per barrel next year.”

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Army Unit Earns Record 10 Silver Stars for Valor

Special Forces squad raids terrorist holdout that had never been breached

Walton and his team from the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group had been sent to kill or capture terrorists from a rugged valley that had never been penetrated by U.S. forces — or, they had been told, the Soviets before them.

He peered over the side of the cliff to the dry river bed 60 feet below and considered his options. Could he roll the wounded men off and then jump to safety? Would they survive the fall?

By the end of the six-hour battle deep within the Shok Valley, Walton would bear witness to heroics that on Friday would earn his team 10 Silver Stars, the most for a single battle in Afghanistan.

Walton, a Special Forces team leader, and his men described the battle in an interview with The Associated Press last week. Most seem unimpressed they’ve earned the Army’s third-highest award for combat valor.

“This is the story about Americans fighting side-by-side with their Afghan counterparts refusing to quit,” said Walton, of Carmel, Ind. “What awards come in the aftermath are not important to me.”

The mission that sent three Special Forces teams and a company from the 201st Afghan Commando Battalion to the Shok Valley seemed imperiled from the outset.

Six massive CH-47 Chinook helicopters had deposited the men earlier that morning, banking through thick clouds as they entered the valley. The approaching U.S. soldiers watched enemy fighters racing to positions dug into the canyon walls and to sniper holes carved into stone houses perched at the top of the cliff.

Considered a sanctuary of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin terrorist group, the valley is far from any major American base.

It was impossible for the helicopters to land on the jagged rocks at the bottom of the valley. The Special Forces soldiers and commandos, each carrying more than 60 pounds of gear, dropped from 10 feet above the ground, landing among boulders or in a near-frozen stream.

With several Afghan commandos, Staff Sgt. John Walding and Staff Sgt. David Sanders led the way on a narrow path that zig-zagged up the cliff face to a nearby village where the terrorists were hiding.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Beijing Asks Sarkozy Government to “Take Effective Steps to Mend Its Errors”

Extremely harsh reaction to meeting with Dalai Lama. China is threatening to make France pay a “heavy price.” Tibetan leader in exile: China must overcome “two moral obstacles” to become a genuine superpower.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — Beijing is insisting that French prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy has compromised relations between China and the European Union, in which he holds the rotating presidency. Liu Jianchao, spokesman for the foreign ministry, reiterated today the “hope and demand that the French side will assume corresponding responsibility and take effective steps to mend its errors.”

On December 6, Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama for about 30 minutes in Gdansk (Poland), during a ceremony to honor the 25th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to Polish labor union leader Lech Walesa. Sarkozy has asked that the event not be “dramatized,” while diplomatic circles are noting that the Tibetan leader recently met with other heads of European governments.

But Beijing maintains that the meeting is “grave” for the presidency of the EU, currently held by France. Deputy foreign minister He Yafei said on state television that “the key in the next stage in developing Sino-French relations is for the French side to . . . fully grasp the damage done to Sino-French and Sino-EU relations by the French leader’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.” The state news agency Xinhua said yesterday that France will pay “a heavy price” for the meeting.

The previous day, the Dalai Lama, speaking to the EU parliament in Brussels, emphasized that China deserves the role of superpower, because of the size of its population and its economic and military power, but that it lacks “moral authority,” considering, among other things, “the extremely poor level of respect for human rights, religious freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press.” The Dalai Lama accuses Beijing of carrying out a cultural genocide against the Tibetan population, and asks for the support of the international community in order to prevent this. China is accusing the Nobel peace prize laureate of being a dangerous terrorist, and of wanting Tibetan independence.

Tenzin Lekshay, head of the India-Tibet Coordination Office, explains to AsiaNews that China, in order to become a genuine superpower, must “overcome two moral obstacles.” “On the domestic level, it must eliminate the distance between the population and the government, which instead is being expanded and is making leaders fearful over the stability of the communist regime.” “In the international field, Beijing must act in a just and peaceful manner, and must accept its responsibilities for peace and justice in the world.”

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


British Doctor Held Captive by Bangladeshi Family Over Forced Marriage is Freed

After intervention by UK court

An NHS doctor being held captive by her family in her native Bangladesh has been freed by the courts and can return to Britain, her lawyer said.

Dr Humayra Abedin, 33, from east London, was being held by her parents against her will in the capital Dhaka.

Lawyer Sara Hossain said: ‘The High Court has issued an order under the Forced Marriage Act that she must be released by her family and allowed to return to the UK.

‘She’s free to go, she’s been set at liberty and she wants to return to the UK. Her family has been ordered to return her passport.

‘We’re delighted with the result, the rights of a Bangladeshi woman have been protected as they should be.

‘Dr Abedin looks very relieved, she’s a very brave woman.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Brown Reveals That 75 Per Cent of Terrorist Plots Aimed at Britain Have Links to Pakistan

Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Pakistan a haven for terrorists planning attacks in Britain and revealed that around three quarters of the most advanced plots monitored by MI5 are have Pakistani links.

The Security Service is aware of around 30 serious plots at any given moment, suggesting that at least 21 of them are tied to Pakistani groups, officials say.

On a visit to Islamabad, the Prime Minister demanded that President Ali Asif Zardari improve his goverment’s work to prevent al-Qaeda and other groups operating in the area that borders Afghanistan.

[…]

Mr Brown said: ‘We must break the chain of terrorism that links the mountains of Afghanistan to the streets of Britain.’

Mr Brown also announced increased British support for Pakistani counter-terrorism work, including greater support for Pakistani police work on detecting and defusing bombs.

The UK will also fund more scanning equipment at Pakistani airports

British police will also work with their Pakistani counterparts providing help with forensic science and contingency planning for major terrorist incidents.

There will also be a £6million British fund to help Pakistan counter the radicalization of young Muslims.

The Prime Minister said his aim was to form ‘the most comprehensive anti-terror programme Britain has with any country’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Mumbai Gunman’s Confession Sheds Light on Massacre

Sole survivor of terror mission says goal was to take hostages, use media

MUMBAI, India — The gunman captured in last month’s Mumbai attacks had originally intended to seize hostages and outline demands in a series of dramatic calls to the media, according to his confession obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab said he and his partner, who massacred dozens of people in the city’s main train station, had planned a rooftop standoff, but abandoned the plans because they couldn’t find a suitable building, the statement to police says.

Kasab’s seven-page confession, given to police over repeated interrogations, offers chilling new details of the three-day rampage through India’s commercial center that left 164 people plus nine gunmen dead.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pakistan Declares Emergency After Air Violation

On Sunday morning, Pakistan declared an emergency at its airbases following what it called the violation of the country’s air space by Indian jets.

Pakistan claimed the Indian Air Force sent its fighter jets into Pakistan’s air space twice between late Saturday and early Sunday over Lahore and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

According to Pakistan government reports, Pakistani fighter jets sent the Indian jets back into their own airspace. Pakistan Air Force Air spokesmen said two Indian aircraft had entered into Pakistan’s airspace between two to four nautical miles at two different sectors.

Meanwhile, Indian airforce officials have rubbished reports that fighter jets had violated Pakistan’s air space and said they had received no complaint from the Pakistani side.

Responding to Pakistani allegations that Indian fighter jets had violated their airspace, a senior Indian Air Force official in the Western Air Command told reporters: “There is no truth in the allegations, it is all rubbish.” The official said, ‘We haven’t even received any complaint from the Pakistani air force.’

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


West Pays Taleban Protection Money

The West is indirectly funding the insurgency in Afghanistan thanks to a system of payoffs to Taleban commanders who charge protection money to allow convoys of military supplies to reach Nato bases in the south of the country.

Contracts to supply British bases and those of other Western forces with fuel, supplies and equipment are held by multinational companies.

However, the business of moving supplies from the Pakistani port of Karachi to British, US and other military contingents in the country is largely subcontracted to local trucking companies. These must run the gauntlet of the increasingly dangerous roads south of Kabul in convoys protected by hired gunmen from Afghan security companies.

The Times has learnt that it is in the outsourcing of convoys that payoffs amounting to millions of pounds, including money from British taxpayers, are given to the Taleban.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

Human Rights Denied: North Korean Worker Defects From Kaesong Industrial Complex

The news, released today, dates back to last September. According to a human rights activist, the 27-year-old woman has taken refuge in China, and is now asking for asylum in South Korea. The testimony of a North Korean exile born and raised in a labor camp.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) — She is the first North Korean to have defected from the inter-Korean industrial complex of Kaesong: the 27-year-old woman, whose identity is being kept secret for security reasons, has taken refuge in China by crossing the Tumen River, in anticipation of an expatriate visa to emigrate to South Korea. The news was released today by Kim Yong-hwa, a human rights activist working in defense of the citizens of North Korea who are leaving their country because of poverty and the lack of personal freedom.

According to the activist, the woman defected because she was denied permission to get married: the women who work in Kaesong, in fact, may not marry, under penalty of dismissal. “A clear violation of human rights,” the activist comments.

The news of the defection has not been confirmed by the South Korean unification ministry, or by the heads of the companies in the South that operate across the border, possibly in order to avoid angering Pyongyang. It is the first case of the defection of a North Korean worker from the complex of Kaesong, at which about 36,000 citizens from the North work under the strict control of the Pyongyang regime. The government has selected the candidates carefully, choosing the ones from “well-off” families in order to prevent contact with people from the South from becoming an incentive to defect.

In the area of the human rights denied by the communist regime of Pyongyang, exemplary testimony comes from a refugee born and raised in the North Korean concentration camps, who defected to China and took refuge in South Korea. Shin Dong Hyuk, an activist who now fights for democracy and freedom in the North, has recounted his experience in a new book entitled “Escape to the Outside World.”

Shin, born in 1982, describes life and the brutal rules in labor camp 14 in Kaechon, in the southern province of Pyongan. His is the first case known in the West of a North Korean citizen who escaped from the labor camps: during his detention, Shin witnessed the killing of his mother and brother, because they had tried to run away. He was subjected to tortures of all kinds, and the only moment of tenderness he remembers is when an older prisoner offered him some of his food. “Now, all that I want,” Shin says, “is a normal life, like that of the other South Korean citizens.” His dream? “To get married and have children.”

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Indian Navy Captures 23 Pirates in the Gulf of Aden

NEW DELHI — The Indian navy captured 23 pirates who threatened a merchant vessel in the lawless waters of the Gulf of Aden and a German naval helicopter thwarted another attack Saturday on a freighter being chased by speedboats off Yemen.

The successes came days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to ask the United Nations to authorize “all necessary measures” against increasingly bold Somalian pirates operating in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

An Indian navy ship, the INS Mysore, was escorting merchant ships in waters off Somalia’s coast Saturday when it received a distress call from seamen on board the MV Gibe, who said they were being fired on by two boats that were approaching fast.

The Mysore and its helicopter sped to the scene, and the pirate boats attempted to escape when they saw them, according to a statement from the Indian government.

Indian marine commandoes boarded the pirate boats and seized “a substantial cache of arms and equipment,” including seven AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and other weapons, the statement said. They also found a GPS receiver and other equipment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Irish Request to Change EU on Freedom of Movement Rejected

THE EUROPEAN Commission has rejected a request from the Government to amend a key piece of European legislation that enables EU citizens to travel freely across the union.

Justice commissioner Jacques Barrot said yesterday he had taken note of the concerns of “his friends in Ireland” but concluded there was no need to amend the directive, which he said guaranteed one of the “fundamental freedoms” of the union.

He also strongly criticised member states for failing to implement key parts of the 2004 directive on the right of EU citizens and their family members to move and freely reside within the union. “Flaws in the implementation of EU law in this field might result in a breach of the principles lying at the very core basis of the European construction. This is why the commission will step up its efforts to ensure that EU citizens and their families effectively and fully enjoy their rights under the directive,” said Mr Barrot, who has not ruled out taking legal action against member states that refuse to implement the key directive.

The commission’s decision will be a huge disappointment for the Government, which has lobbied hard — along with EU partners Denmark and Austria — to persuade the commission to look again at the directive.

The Government wants to amend a key part of the directive that gives non-EU spouses of European citizens the right to live in Ireland. Its opposition to the directive was sparked by a landmark European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision in July, which ruled that the Government had incorrectly transposed the EU directive into Irish law by including restrictions on the rights of non-EU spouses to reside in Ireland. […]

In September, Irish officials presented a comprehensive report on the issue to EU ministers and the justice commissioner which argued that the directive encouraged “marriages of convenience” that enabled non-EU spouses to reside in Ireland. It said 4,600 people applied for Irish residency in the past two years on the grounds that their spouses were EU citizens from outside Ireland, including some 600 each from Nigeria and Pakistan.

It underlined the high rate of marriage between Latvians and immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. Ten per cent of all applications were from Latvians, and 50 per cent of them were married to Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi nationals, said the report, which concluded that the figures were “so statistically abnormal that they cannot have occurred by chance”. Irish officials asked for the directive to be reopened.

But the commission’s report says the EU law is “fundamental not only for the eight million EU citizens who reside in another member state and their family members, but also for the millions of EU citizens travelling every year inside the EU”. It notes the concerns raised over the Metock judgment but said that the directive does not prevent member states from taking action against proven cases of marriages of convenience. […]

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Mauritania: Human Rights, NGOs Condemn Torture

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 11 — The Mauritanian authorities “are stopping NGOs from accessing prisons and other places human rights are violated, such as police stations where torture has been practised every day since 1978”, was the serious accusation made against the authorities by the head of SOS esclaves”, Boubacar Ould Messaoud. He said that the Mauritanian NGOs “try to be present wherever duty calls, but are always faced with a refusal and often their work is reduced to accompanying or translating for NGOs visiting the country. The President of the national NGO Forum for Human Rights, Sarr Mamadou, presented a document, on the Day of the Defence of Human Rights, condemning the practice of torture in Mauritania, and made a series of proposals to the Government, in particular “the creation of a plan of action against torture and ill-treatment, with a sentence proportionate to the seriousness of the crime” and a campaign aimed at the people and leaders to promote respect for human rights. The document condemns torture against suspected salafists in prison for terrorism. On 3rd December Amnesty International stated that “torture has become a method of investigation and repression “ in Mauritania, endorsed by the Government for decades. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Islamic Star and Crescent Join Town’s Christmas Tree, Menorah

The decision by a New York village to place the Islamic star and crescent alongside the community’s official Christmas tree has a Catholic leader wondering if there are any wise men among the town’s leaders.

Supervisors for Armonk, N.Y. voted to display a menorah and a star and crescent at tonight’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the town’s gazebo.

“We’ve decided to go in the direction of being all-inclusive,” Supervisor Reese Berman told Associated Press.

The village had added the menorah previously. Last year, town resident Asad Jilani, saying the Christmas season is an appropriate time to celebrate all cultures, asked the board to include Islamic symbols as well.

“I said ‘Oh, there’s a menorah and a Christmas tree and where is my crescent?’“ said Jilani.

Berman, who is Jewish, said the town did not have time to adequately address Jilani’s request last year and, to not make Muslims feel they were being specifically excluded, the menorah was removed to a local synagogue.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Italy: Vatican Opposes Outlawing Homosexuality

Vatican City, 11 Dec. (AKI) — The Roman Catholic Church does not want to outlaw homosexuals, although it remains opposed to same-sex marriages, the head of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, said on Thursday.

Lombardi was commenting on controversy triggered by the Holy See’s decision to oppose a proposal by France, backed by the 27-nation European Union, for a United Nations resolution calling governments to decriminalise homosexuality.

“No one can want to defend the death penalty for homosexuals,” he said, quoted by Vatican Radio.

Italian gay rights group Arcigay President Aurelio Mancuso welcomed Lombardi’s comments, saying they heralded a “historic and stunning U-turn” by the Vatican.

“We have succeeded in our objective, which is to enable millions of gay, lesbian and transsexuals to finally live their lives openly, without fear of reprisals,” said Mancuso.

The Vatican’s observer at the UN, Monsignor Celestino Migliore, objected last week that the UN declaration will be used by countries to recognise same-sex marriages.

The declaration makes no mention of gay marriage or civil partnerships. It is supported by 54 nations including Italy and all 26 other European Union states.

Gay rights groups in Italy have over the past ten days staged demonstrations to protest what they say is the Vatican’s apparent willingness to ally itself with those who treat gay people as criminals.

Homosexuality is currently a crime in more than 85 countries. It is punishable by death in a number of them, including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

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


Radical Board Games Created for Distribution in Schools

When I was writing a weekly “Truth In Education” column I frequently attended teachers’ meetings and conventions. While there I would pick up information about materials to be used in classrooms. In my column of September 2, 1976 I included copy from a promotion brochure of a Madison, Wisconsin firm that distributed its board games to schools in Wisconsin and throughout the country. The following is actual copy from the brochure advertising its games for children:

LIE, CHEAT & STEAL Gr. 5 and 6

“In this tongue in cheek political game, it’s possible to win by playing scrupulously honest or by cheating shamelessly.”

STARPOWER

“Participants have a chance to progress from one level of society to another by acquiring wealth through trading with other participants. Once the society is established, the group with the most wealth is given the right to make the rules for the game.”

BODY TALK

“We are rarely taught how to use our bodies as effective communicators. How do you say “I love you” without speaking? How do you signal concern to another person without using words or a facial expression? Both adults and children will find an almost endless variety of ways to express such emotions.”

THE UNGAME (4th-College)

“The non-threatening gamelike atmosphere helps teachers gain valuable insight into the student’s behavior and to isolate attitudinal problems.”

ORGANIZED CRIME —a real education

“The personalities that emerge and the psychology that is employed make Organized Crime a rewarding experience every time it is played.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Vatican: Watchdog Attacks Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research

Vatican City, 12 Dec. (AKI) — The Vatican’s moral watchdog has issued new guidelines on bioethics and reproductive science which reinforce the Catholic Church’s opposition to human cloning, embryonic stem cell research and techniques used to help infertile couples.

It is the Vatican’s first authoritative statement on reproductive science for over 20 years, and is expected to influence Catholic doctors, patients and researchers around the world. It is certain to provoke fierce debate in countries including the United States, where President-elect Barack Obama has promised to end restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research.

The 32-page Vatican document, ‘Dignitas Personae’ — Latin for the dignity of a person — condemns any experimentation on embryos and the use of human biological material such as aborted fetuses obtained by researchers.

It opposes the freezing of human embryos, selective reduction of embryos, the morning-after pill, and pre-implantation diagnosis.

However, it supports stem cell research using adult cells or cells from the umbilical cord at birth, and allows fertility treatments aimed at preventing or curing diseases.

The document does not explicitly forbid the ‘adoption’ of unused embryos. But it warns the practice could help perpetuate the creation of more embryos outside the human body and outside heterosexual marriage.

The document was issued by the Vatican’s top rule-making body, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and has the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.

It attempts to take into account recent developments in biomedical technology and scientific research and seeks to update previous Vatican guidelines issued in 1987 on in-vitro fertilisation, ‘Donum Vitae’ (The Gift of Life).

‘Donum Vitae’ was written by Pope Benedict — then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — who at that time headed The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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

General

Hard Times. But Not for Islamic Finance

Depressed by the economic crisis? Everything looking dark? And yet on the southern shores of the Mediterranean there are some who are increasingly optimistic. These are financial institutions that respect the Shari ‘a and the phenomenon known as “Islamic finance.” It is precisely the fall of speculative finance that they believe will give them new life. This, because Islamic banking is based on a different way of doing business. It is forbidden to loan with interest, to speculate, there is solid pegging to the real economy and income is based on clients’ accounts. Essentially this is what in the West is known as “ethical finance,” the principles of which would have been sufficient to prevent the genesis of the current crisis…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

2 comments:

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

More on hitler. Jon Ray at Dissecting Leftism makes the case that Hitler, far from being a racist, was a thoroughly modern multiculturalist. And the argument is quite convincing.

So why, then, did Hitler make such a scapegoat of the Jews? To understand that, you need to know that Nazism/Fascism belongs to the "One big happy family" version of Leftism ("All men are brothers", "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer", "We are the ones we have been waiting for"), which derives principally from Hegel. The other version is the class-war version principally promulgated by Karl Marx, who claimed to have stood Hegel on his head.

Read it all before you pounce, please.

Conservative Swede said...

Latest news from Rusia Today:

Siberian beauty crowned Miss World
http://www.russiatoday.com/entertainment/news/34720
http://www.russiatoday.com/entertainment/news/34720/video

However, since Russia Today is a government funded news outlet, she's probably not as beautiful as the Russian TV channel wants to suggest.