Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/18/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/18/2009The news feed is truncated tonight because our email went out at 5am. Since then all the tips have come in via skype, or Dymphna found them herself.

As a result, the proportion of American news is higher than usual…

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Holger Danske, Insubria, TB, Ted Ekeroth, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
China: Traffic Accident Sparks Urban Guerrilla Fighting Between Police and Migrants
Japan: Tokyo, Worst Economic Crisis Since War
Jindal Signals Louisiana May Not Take Stimulus Money
Strings Attached? Jindal, Legislature to Decide if State Will Accept Stimulus
The Propeller Heads’ Dilemma
 
USA
Data Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Treasury International Capital System
Dem Exclusive? Reporters Jump Ship
Florida: Mosque OK’d for White City
Former President of American Muslim Brotherhood Group Enters Race for Virginia House of Delegates Seat
Holder: America is “a Nation of Cowards”
ND College Students May Have Guns in Apartments
North Dakota Passes Abortion Ban
Religious Speculation Upsets Imam in Case of Beheaded Woman
 
Europe and the EU
‘Burkini Now Generally Accepted in Netherlands’
Centre-Right Takes Sardinia as Cappellacci Ousts Soru
Centre-Left Opposition Leader Quits
EU: Spain to Have Joint Agenda With Belgium and Hungary
Hunt for Rome Rapists — “Dark Hair and Boxer’s Nose”
Sweden: No Fans Allowed for Israel Tennis Match
 
North Africa
Algeria: Soldiers Killed by Islamic Militants in Two Attacks
Books: Saadawi, the Risky Rebellion of Arab Women
Gaza: Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Clinton in Sharm on March 2
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: USD 200 Million Needed in Aid, UNRWA Says
Gaza: Mubarak, Shalit Liberation Not Tied to Truce
Israel: First OK to New Settlements Near Jerusalem
Middle East: PNA, Loans From Banks to Pay Salaries
Report: Fetal Stem Cells Trigger Tumors in Ill Boy
 
Middle East
Arab World: Strategy to Fight Domestic Violence is Needed
Livni: Turkey Relations of Strategic Importance
UAE: Residency for Foreign Home Owners, Law This Year
 
South Asia
Indonesia: Clinton Seeks to Improve US Image With Muslims
Malaysia: Blogger Vows to Die in Silence if Re-Arrested
Why the US Bugged Pakistan Army Generals
 
Far East
Airports: Chinese Holding Set on Sicilian Airport
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Pirates: Saudi Frigate Thwarts Capture of Turkish Cargo Ship
 
Immigration
107 Illegal Tunisians Sent Back, Ministry
Italy: Illegal Camps Demolished in Rome After Teen Gang Rape
Security: Immigrants and Drugs, Manganelli is in Abuja

Financial Crisis

China: Traffic Accident Sparks Urban Guerrilla Fighting Between Police and Migrants

A man, possibly an auxiliary police officer, struck a migrant and tried to flee the scene. Other migrants came and started beating him. The police sent more than 100 armed officers, who clashed with hundreds of migrants. Dozens of people were injured and arrested, and at least 6 police vehicles were destroyed.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Guerrilla fighting between more than 100 police officers and hundreds of migrant workers in Tongxiang (Zhejiang) for the entire afternoon of April 14. Six police vehicles were destroyed, 100 demonstrators wounded, and another 20 arrested.

The group Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy says that the clashes arose from an ordinary traffic accident. At about 5:30 in the afternoon, a motorcycle driver, said to be an auxiliary police officer, struck a migrant worker from Henan at an intersection. According to eyewitnesses, the man stopped the driver from leaving the scene, saying that he wanted to be compensated for his injuries, and the driver struck him and tried to get away. He was stopped and beaten by other migrant workers walking through the city after work.

More than 100 armed police officers arrived, many in riot gear. But hundreds of migrants gathered on the spot. The police used force to disperse the workers, but they fought back at close quarters, throwing bricks and stones. Surrounded, the police began attacking the crowd, sparking violent clashes.

Now, on their website, the police are promising a reward for those who provide information about the “attackers.”

The migrants are the most vulnerable segment of the population: for years, they have been forced to work at low wages and with few rights, and now they are the hardest hit by the global economic crisis. According to official figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, about 20 million of the 130 million migrants have already lost their jobs.

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


Japan: Tokyo, Worst Economic Crisis Since War

Figures released today show worst results in 35 years. Exports of automobiles, machinery, and IT equipment at a standstill. A second stimulus plan amounting to 30 trillion Yen probable.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Japan faces the worst economic crisis since second world war, its economics minister warned today. It’s economy shrank 3.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year at an annualised pace of 12.7 % , its worst performance since 1974 when the country was reeling from an oil crisis.

Japan’s figures were worse than the downturn ensnaring all other major economic powers in the same quarter. The euro zone GDP shrank 1.5%, while the USA shrank just under 1%.

Kaoru Yosano, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister said the data is due to the fact that Japan “is heavily dependent on exports of automobiles, machinery, and IT equipment”, which has been literally reduced to zero by the global crisis. He said Japan’s economy would not be able to bounce back until the global economic climate improves. The contraction is resulting in a series of redundancies and the bankruptcy of many small industries. Consumption is also in free fall.

Experts forecast that the January — March quarter will also be very negative, as will the rest of the year.

The economy minister says the government will consider fresh stimulus measures to revive the economy amounting to 30 trillion yen (255 billion Euro), but doubts surround how effective this will be.

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


Jindal Signals Louisiana May Not Take Stimulus Money

(CBS)Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate, has suggested his state may not be interested in all of the roughly $4 billion allotted to it in the economic stimulus package to be signed by President Obama today.

“We’ll have to review each program, each new dollar to make sure that we understand what are the conditions, what are the strings and see whether it’s beneficial for Louisiana to use those dollars,” Jindal said, according to CBS affiliate WWLTV.

Jindal is scheduled to give the response to the president’s not-exactly-a-state-of-the-union address next Tuesday.

Louisiana reportedly faces a possible $2 billion budget shortfall next year. It has been allocated $538,575,876 for infrastructure spending in the stimulus package, and the White House predicts the bill will create 50,000 jobs in the state.

As WWLTV notes, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has said he’ll take any money that Louisiana turns down.

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, isn’t letting up in its criticism of Democrats over the stimulus package. Following the White House’s releases trumpeting the bill, the RNC sent an email to reporters offering research on “Democrats’ broken pledges on transparency, bipartisanship, pork, and job creation.”

The email quotes news stories on order to criticize Democrats for breaking a promise to post the bill online 48 hours in advance of a vote, for not working in a bipartisan manner, for putting out a package “loaded with wasteful earmarks,” and for overestimating the bill’s job creation potential.

House Republican Leader John Boehner also put out a statemnet hammering the deal.

“The flawed bill the President will sign today is a missed opportunity, one for which our children and grandchildren will pay a hefty price,” he said. “It’s a raw deal for American families, providing just $1.10 per day in relief for workers while saddling every family with $9,400 in added debt to pay for special-interest programs and pork-barrel projects. It will do little to create jobs, and will do more harm than good to middle-class families and our economy.”

[Return to headlines]


Strings Attached? Jindal, Legislature to Decide if State Will Accept Stimulus

by Paul Murphy from Baton Rouge, LA

You would think with Louisiana staring at a possible $2 billion budget shortfall next year, Governor Bobby Jindal would anxious to get a hold of the state’s nearly $4 billion cut of the federal stimulus package.

But, instead, the republican governor appears to be a bit weary of democrats bearing gifts — especially when he’s set to give the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address.

“We’ll have to review each program, each new dollar to make sure that we understand what are the conditions, what are the strings and see whether it’s beneficial for Louisiana to use those dollars,” Jindal said at a recent gathering in Jefferson Parish.

State House Speaker Jim Tucker says the governor is just being cautious, not playing politics.

“The fear is that it requires the state to continue a program, once the federal program has stopped,” said Tucker, R-Terrytown. “If that’s the case we have to look and say first, is this a program we’ve been doing or we want to do, and secondly is this a program we can assure we’ll have funding for down the road?”

[editor’s note: the argument is dividing down the predictable party lines. New Orleans’ Democrat Mayor Nagin wants the money. The Republicans are demanding to see the fine print in the contract}

They have three months to make a decision.

[Return to headlines]


The Propeller Heads’ Dilemma

By David Brooks and Gail Collins

David Brooks: Gail, this is a momentous week in the history of the Obama administration, for this is the week when the president indulged in his first unintentional self-branding. According to our colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg, the president has a name for his economic advisers: “the propeller heads.”

First we had the Brain Trust, then the Whiz Kids, now the Propeller Heads. Larry Summers is one. Tim Geithner is one. Budget director Peter Orszag apparently passed out propeller-head hats.

This is going to unleash the familiar debate on what should be the role of policy intellectuals in the White House. Some dumb Republicans are going to get some mileage by attacking the idea of a White House run by geeks. Some smug Democrats are going to claim that of course they have intellectuals since they are the party of reason and intellect.

The correct position is the one held by self-loathing intellectuals, like Isaiah Berlin, Edmund Burke, James Madison, Michael Oakeshott and others. These were pointy heads who understood the limits of what pointy heads can know. The phrase for this outlook is epistemological modesty, which would make a fine vanity license plate.

The idea is that the world is too complex for us to know, and therefore policies should be designed that take account of our ignorance. Whether the Obama administration understands this is an open question.

Geithner seems to. He designed the outlines of a bank bailout plan on the supposition that government can’t accurately price toxic assets, or effectively run banks. That was nicely modest, though the infants on Wall Street, who are seeking a savior, panned the idea.

On the other hand, the stimulus package was designed by people who have complete faith in government technocrats, who think an agency can triple its size overnight and still be managed efficiently, who think government knows enough about business to set salaries. Some people think government officials know enough to run the auto industry.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a propeller head who doesn’t know his limitations.

Gail Collins: O.K., I want a propeller-head hat. You are way behind in the crucial category of souvenir dispensation.

I have to say that I just don’t get all this fear and loathing of the stimulus. Yes, some agencies and states aren’t going to be able to spend all the money they get efficiently. Yes, by next year at this time there will be somebody somewhere who plunked down a million dollars in taxpayer money for a fondue pot. And those of us in the media will call it The Fondue Follies, because that is what nature created us for.

But given the scope of the problem we’ve got, who cares? Will the bill inject a lot of cash into the system fast? Will it keep a lot of people, particularly state and local employees, from losing their jobs? Will it create new jobs in areas like construction? That’s the big picture.

And does it make a whole lot of difference whether those new jobs involve paving streets or fixing wilderness trails? Among all the things keeping me awake at night, this is not in the top 10.

As to the banks — and the automakers — so far our problem has been too little faith in government rather than too much. We got into this mess by presuming that the private sector was inherently smarter than pointy-headed bureaucrats. But over and over during the past eight years, from Iraq to prescription-drug pricing, we’ve seen that the private sector is frequently both dumber and less efficient than government.

The private sector got us into the savings and loan crisis during the ‘80s, and who got us out of it? Was it … the government?

Give the stimulus a chance. Hug a civil servant…

David Brooks: Gail…as for the stimulus, that debate’s over, but just for the record. I didn’t mind the size, and I actually wish it were faster. If Obama had proposed a big transfer to ailing states, an increase in food stamps and unemployment insurance, and a humongous payroll tax break targeted to the lower income families, I would have been delighted.

This stimulus has two gigantic problems. One. It forever after raises the budget baseline. That means its true cost, as The Washington Post reported, is $3 trillion. We’re going to have budget deficits worth 15 percent of gross domestic product, and there is absolutely no political path to addressing them because there is no bipartisan trust. No one party can move alone when it comes to cutting benefits and raising taxes.

In other words, a no-exit-strategy stimulus exacerbates our long-term disaster.

My second problem is the greed. Shoving permanent programs into a stimulus bill means you get a lot of terrible permanent programs. We need a fundamental rethinking of our infrastructure policies, but instead we just throw fast money into obsolete and useless programs (see Popular Mechanics’ reporting on this). Instead of carefully planning a new Head Start, we’re going to try to throw together a bunch of programs in a rushed stimulus fashion. The evidence shows that good Head Start really works but bad Head Start is terrible. We’re going to get the latter.

As for the broader point that capitalists can be pretty dumb. Granted. But the market does have a mechanism for educating itself: prices, and in some cases bankruptcy. Government lacks a self-correction mechanism, or at least a good one.

The odd thing is very few conservatives consider me conservative any more because I am so pro-government. But the events of the past few weeks have made me sound like a raving libertarian. The administration has taken its faith in government to such an extreme I’m turning into Ayn Rand. Help!

[ed: many of us have transmogrified into Ayn Rand. This trend will continue as the stimulus overheats the various brains that actually those 1,000+ pages]

[Return to headlines]

USA

Data Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Treasury International Capital System

[There is a table at the site and some ways to visualize it, plus a text of the table.]

The Treasury International Capital (TIC) reporting system is the U.S. government’s source of data on capital flows into and out of the United States, excluding direct investment, and the resulting levels of cross-border claims and liabilities. The data is used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the computation of the U.S. Balance of Payments accounts and the U.S. International Investment Position. Information is collected from commercial banks and other depository institutions, bank holding companies, securities brokers and dealers, custodians of securities, and nonbanking enterprises in the United States, including the U.S. branches, agencies and subsidiaries of foreign-based banks and business enterprises.

[Return to headlines]


Dem Exclusive? Reporters Jump Ship

by Michael Calderone

In three months since Election Day, at least a half-dozen prominent journalists have taken jobs working for the federal government.

Journalists, including some of those who’ve jumped ship, say it’s better to have a solid job in government than a shaky job — or none at all — in an industry that’s fading fast.

But conservative critics answer with a question: Would journalists be making the same career choices if John McCain had beaten Barack Obama in November?

“Obama bails out more media water-carriers,” conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote upon hearing that the Chicago Tribune’s Jill Zuckman is taking a job with the Obama administration.

Blogs at both the Weekly Standard and the National Review are pointing to a “revolving door” that spins between the media and the Obama administration. And while Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, acknowledges that financial troubles may be forcing reporters out of newsrooms, he thinks it’s worth noting where they’re going.

“When some leave journalism because of a reduction in staff, what’s the natural landing spot?” The Obama administration,” Bozell charged.

Zuckman says it’s not so.

In an interview, she said that she began looking around for a new job last month, motivated by the grim state of the industry — her employer, the Tribune Co., recently slashed its D.C. bureau — and also by her own feeling that she’d accomplished what she’d set out to do covering politics.

She said she had no plans to go to the administration — until she heard about an opening under Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican representative she’s long respected for reaching across the aisle.

So, would Zuckman have taken — or even been offered — such a job if McCain were president?

“I have a great deal of respect for [McCain] and have thoroughly enjoyed covering him over the years,” Zuckman said. “But there’s no way I can answer your hypothetical because I wouldn’t know who he would have chosen for secretary of transportation. My decision to go to work for the Obama administration is tied up in my relationship with Ray LaHood and his focus on getting the economy back on track.”

As for other reporters making similar moves, Zuckman said that she didn’t think there would be so many “if the industry were stable.”

But it isn’t, and there are.

On Tuesday, Cox’s Scott Shepard joined Sen. John Kerry’s office as a speechwriter, becoming the second journalist this year to take a job under the Massachusetts Democrat. Investigative reporter Doug Frantz is now chief investigator under the Kerry-helmed Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A week before Zuckman announced that she’s headed for Obama’s Transportation Department, her Tribune colleague Peter Gosselin signed on as speechwriter for Obama’s treasury secretary, Tim Geithner.

In December, Jay Carney relinquished his perch as Time’s Washington bureau chief to become Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director. Warren Bass left the Washington Post’s Outlook section to write speeches and advise Dr. Susan Rice at the United Nations. Daniel W. Reilly left Politico to become communications director for Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Linda Douglass left the National Journal for the Obama campaign back in May and is expected to become assistant secretary for public affairs in the department of Health and Human Services…

***Unclosed Item!***{ed: see rest of story and analysis at URL. Note that those jumping ship are jumping into the Democrat lifeboat. This might be termed “coming out of the closet…finally”]

[Return to headlines]


Florida: Mosque OK’d for White City

Clinton seeks to improve US image with Muslims

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — After making changes, Dr. Abdul Raoof Shadani received county permission to build a 14,400 square foot mosque on Bell Avenue.

“This project meets or exceeds all of the land development code provisions,” said Johnathan Ferguson, the attorney representing Dr. Shadani.

Neighboring residents were upset but prepared for the county commissioners’ 5-0 vote at 1 a.m. Wednesday. Those in favor of the building cheered after the passage.

Neighbors said the development is too big for the 2.9 acres, though county commissioners said Dr. Shadani met all criteria for the building. Some of the land in question has been zoned for religious use since the 1980s, and the applicant could build a 28,000 square foot structure on the property already zoned for religious use.

“We have the right to prayer,” Dr. Humayun Shareef said. “We have children. We have families.”

Residents expressed concern over the size of the building, which originally was 18,800 square feet and drainage effects.

“We believe that the structure itself is still too big for the size of the lot,” said Kevin Payne, the President of Estates of Longwood Homeowners Association.

Payne also said the building was inconsistent with the residential neighborhood.

Dr. Shadani asked to have an adjacent parcel added to the existing one in order to build the structure in exchange for giving the county more control over the property. Had Dr. Shadani built on the original land and constructed a building under 25,000 square feet, he would not have had to go before county commissioners.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


Former President of American Muslim Brotherhood Group Enters Race for Virginia House of Delegates Seat

The Muslim Brotherhood “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” — “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America,” by Mohamed Akram, May 19, 1991.

What does that have to do with Esam Omeish? Everything. He was President of the Muslim American Society. And what is the Muslim American Society? The Muslim Brotherhood.

“In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews. One of the nation’s major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.” — Chicago Tribune, 2004.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


Holder: America is “a Nation of Cowards”

by Michael Goldfarb

Our new attorney general:

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that despite advances, the United States remains “a nation of cowards” on issues involving race.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards,” Holder said in remarks to his staff in honor of Black History Month. His comments appear on a transcript provided by the Justice Department.

There was a lot of fuss kicked up when Phil Gramm called America a “nation of whiners,” but Phil Gramm was not an administration official or a representative of the people — and being called a whiner is considerably less offensive than being called a coward. Not to mention the fact that this seems like a fairly smug charge from a man who is serving as the first black attorney general and at the pleasure of the first black American president.

[Return to headlines]


ND College Students May Have Guns in Apartments

North Dakota college students may be able to have guns in their apartments, although they’re still off limits on most of the campus.

The North Dakota House approved a bill that says students may have guns in apartment complexes and attached parking garages.

The bill originally would have allowed students with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on campus. The approved bill is more restrictive.

Grand Forks Rep. Stacey Dahl says the bill also gives college administrators the option of writing policies to ban guns on campus.

University officials lobbied heavily against the bill. Kenmare Rep. Glen Froseth says he thinks it will make campuses less safe.

[editor’s note: Tell that to the students at Virginia Tech]

[Return to headlines]


North Dakota Passes Abortion Ban

North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a bill effectively outlawing abortion.

The House voted 51-41 this afternoon to declare that a fertilized egg has all the rights of any person.

That means a fetus could not be legally aborted without the procedure being considered murder.

Minot Republican Dan Ruby has sponsored other bills banning abortion in previous legislative sessions — all of which failed.

He also sponsored today’s bill and says it is compatible with Roe versus Wade — the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion.

(Rep. Dan Ruby, -R- Minot) “This is the exact language that’s required by Roe vs. Wade. It stipulated that before a challenge can be made, we have to identify when life begins, and that’s what this does.” VO CONTINUES But Minot Democrat Kari Conrad says the bill will land North Dakota in court, trying to defend the constitutionality of a law that goes against the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

(Rep. Kari Conrad, -D- Minot) “People who presented this bill, were very clear that they intended to challenge Roe versus Wade. So they intend to put the state of North Dakota into court defending Roe vs. Wade”

The bill now goes to the North Dakota Senate.

[Return to headlines]


Religious Speculation Upsets Imam in Case of Beheaded Woman

Nazim Mangera felt tears welling in his eyes as he said the final prayers over the body of Aasiya Z. Hassan around sunrise Tuesday morning.

Mangera wasn’t upset just by the loss of this vivacious, intelligent 37-year-old woman or by the vicious way that she was killed when she was beheaded Thursday.

He also was upset about suggestions that the Islamic religion may have had something to do with her death, that this may have been an “honor killing” tied to Muslim tradition or culture. Orchard Park police have charged her estranged husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with her killing.

“We’re all shocked. We’re all grieving,” said Mangera, imam of the Islamic Society of the Niagara Frontier. “To compound that, we have to face the difficulty of the religion of Islam being blamed for [the killer’s] personal actions. It was an individual person who did this act, for whatever reason. We don’t find any justification in the Islamic religion for any such violence.”

Mangera was upset about suggestions that Muslim attitudes, especially toward women, have been blamed for the Hassan killing.

And he disputed the notion made by others that any connection between Islam and “honor killing” comes from an extreme right-wing Islamic faction that uses the Quran for its own purposes.

“The main concern of the Muslim community is that whenever a Muslim does something wrong, Islam goes on trial,” Mangera added.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


U.S. Muslims React to Husband Beheading His Wife

While a leader of the Islamic Society of North America deplored a Muslim beheading his wife in New York, leaders of the global Muslim Brotherhood appear to approve of corporal punishment of women by their husbands.

The Vice-President of the Islamic Society of North America, a part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, has written an open letter to the leaders of U.S. Muslim communities in response to the charging of the Chairman of a prominent Islamic cable TV station with the beheading of his wife. The letter, titled “Responding to the killing of Aasiya Hassan,” opens as follows:

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is saddened and shocked by the news of the loss of one of our respected sisters, Aasiya Hassan whose life was taken violently. To God we belong and to Him we return (Qur’an 2:156). We pray that she find peace in God’s infinite Mercy, and our prayers and sympathies are with sister Aasiya’s family. Our prayers are also with the Muslim community of Buffalo who have been devastated by the loss of their beloved sister and the shocking nature of this incident. This is a wake up call to all of us, that violence against women is real and can not be ignored. It must be addressed collectively by every member of our community. Several times each day in America, a woman is abused or assaulted. Domestic violence is a behavior that knows no boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, or social status. Domestic violence occurs in every community. The Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence. Unfortunately, some of us ignore such problems in our community, wanting to think that it does not occur among Muslims or we downgrade its seriousness. I call upon my fellow imams and community leaders to never second-guess a woman who comes to us indicating that she feels her life to be in danger. We should provide support and help to protect the victims of domestic violence by providing for them a safe place and inform them of their rights as well as refer them to social service providers in our areas.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

‘Burkini Now Generally Accepted in Netherlands’

MEPPEL, 18/02/09 — The burkini has become normal in the Netherlands. The body-covering bathing dress for Muslims is selling like hot cakes and nearly all swimming pools allow them, De Telegraaf reported yesterday.

Woortman Sportswear acquired the sole rights to sell the bathing dress in Europe last year. Already, “hundreds” of burkinis have gone over the counter. “There is a run on them,” says Dorelies Woortman of the store in Meppel, which has taken on extra staff to meet demand.

The burkini became known about a year ago, when a swimming pool in Zwolle banned the outfit. Management claimed it would be unhygienic. A debate then broke out among supporters and opponents, in which the government claimed the outfits fostered integration because orthodox Muslims can now swim.

“We have had talks with swimming pools and have demonstrated that the burkini is very hygienic,” says Woortman. “Now we no longer hear that a swimmer in a burkini will not be allowed.”

The National Platform of Swimming Pools confirms this reading. “Following last year’s debate, the burkini has actually quietly been integrated,” says spokeswoman Marjolein van Tiggelen.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Centre-Right Takes Sardinia as Cappellacci Ousts Soru

Outgoing regional president nine points adrift. People of Freedom (PDL) leading party in Sardinia. Collapse of Democratic Party (PD)

CAGLIARI — The Centre-right has wrested Sardinia from its rivals and Ugo Cappellacci is the new regional president, replacing Renato Soru, who won in 2004 with 50.13% of the vote. The virtually definitive figure was released at about 6.30 this morning, 15 hours after the polls had closed. With votes in from 1,658 of the 1,812 polling stations, Mr Cappellacci had garnered 51.9% while the outgoing president was on 42.89%, a crushing nine-point gap. An unconventional “third force” has burst onto the Sardinian scene in the shape of invalid votes, of which there were almost 15,000, on top of roughly 3,300 deliberately spoiled ballot papers and more than 5,000 blank votes.

PDL LEADS, PD COLLAPSES — The Centre-left coalition crumbled, emerging with only 38.67% of the poll against the Centre-right’s 56.66%, but Renato Soru’s leadership received a vote of confidence, earning almost five points more than his coalition. Ugo Cappellacci collected precisely five points fewer. The PDL is now Sardinia’s leading party with more than 30% but the PD collapsed, failing to top 25%. At last year’s general election, the Centre-left took 33% and in the 2004 regional elections, the three parties that merged into the PD — the Democrats of the Left (DS), Daisy Alliance (DL) and Project Sardinia — totalled about 32%. In the Centre-right, the Reformers advanced from 6% to about 7%, the Christian Democrat UDC maintained its robust 9-10% and the controversial debut of the Sardinian Action Party (PSd’Az) in the PDL-led coalition brought a good result for PSd’Az leaders, up from 2004’s 3.83% to 4.35%. On the other side of the electoral fence, Italy of Values (IDV) leapt from 0.99% in 2004 to 5% while Communist Refoundation (PRC), slipped back one point to 3%. PSd’Az dissidents who had joined the Greens on the Rosso Mori list could only manage 2%. The Socialists, who were allied with Mr Soru five years ago, went it alone and managed just over 2%, a fall from 2004’s 3.76%. In other words, the gamble of breaking with the Centre-left did not come off: the Socialists failed to secure a single seat. The independence party IRS again secured 2% for its list but, unexpectedly, leader Gavino Sale picked up more than 3% in the vote for the regional presidency.

SEATS — With the overall result no longer in doubt, early forecasts gave the Centre-right 54 seats with 26 going to the Centre-left for a total of 80 regional councillors. The previous assembly had 85 members but the crushing win by Ugo Cappellacci’s coalition failed to trigger the majority premium that would have boosted the number of councillors above the minimum of 80 prescribed by law. Making up the new majority will be 26 seats for the PDL, seven for the UDC, five to the Reformers, three to the PSd’Az and two each to United Sardinia-Sardinians’ Union (UDS) and the Autonomy Movement (MPA). The opposition should include 17 seats held by the PD, three by the IDV, two by the PRC, one by Rosso Mori, one by the Italian Communist Party (PDCI) and one by The Left. This reverses the proportions in the outgoing regional council. In 2004, the Centre-left had 51 seats, thanks to the majority premium, and the opposition had 34.

CAPPELLACCI “SMILING AGAIN” — “Sardinia is smiling again” were the first words uttered by the newly elected president in the media room at his campaign headquarters. “I was confident. Our polls indicated a win but this result goes beyond all expectations”, said Mr Cappellacci. He added: “I dedicate the result to my family, which I have been neglecting during this election campaign. My first moves will be to solve the work, jobs and poverty crises and then I want this executive council to be different from its predecessor. I want it to be really close to the territory and to give Sardinians a voice”. How crucial was Silvio Berlusconi? Mr Cappellacci replied: “He was crucial mainly because of his popularity. I stand for change. I’m new to politics and most people didn’t know me. He gave me a big hand. I spoke to him a short time ago and he is very happy. I see the symmetry of the national and regional governments as a huge opportunity for Sardinia”. Advertising guru Gavino Sava, who coordinated Mr Cappellacci’s campaign image after doing the same for Renato Soru five years ago, had a punning slogan for the defeat of the outgoing president: “Menato Soru” (Battered Soru). “We’ll now modify the regional landscape plan”, the new president promised in an interview with Maurizio Belpietro on Canale 5 TV. “We’ll be doing it with a view to protecting the territory, which is our greatest resource”.

PREMIER CONFIDENT: “MY FACE IS ON THE LINE” — Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had thrown himself behind Mr Cappellacci’s candidature, said on Monday evening that he was “confident”. “If I lose, I lose. But don’t worry, we’re going to win. I’ve put my face on the line” was the message that the prime minister is said to have sent to Ugo Cappellacci’s headquarters yesterday evening. “I’m optimistic, things are going well”, he reportedly announced to a group of Sardinian parliamentarians. On Tuesday morning, however, the prime minister denied making any statements about the vote. “I have made no statements so far about the count or the results of the elections in Sardinia. The phrases attributed to me are pure fiction”, said Mr Berlusconi.

SORU ADMITS DEFEAT — The outgoing president conceded defeat. Official acknowledgement came just after 1 am, when half the votes had been counted (returns from 902 out of 1,812 polling stations) and the more than five-point gap separating the two candidates looked definitive. Mr Soru told reporters at a short media conference: “I rang Ugo Cappellacci to give him and Sardinia my best wishes for their work over the next five years”. The new president was quick to hold out an olive branch: “I hope that this defeat will help [Mr Soru] to leave behind him venomous comments, antagonistic attitudes and the assumption that only one side is right”. Mr Soru was non-committal about his future (“What will I do tomorrow? I’ll be coming in here to think it over”). But he repeated that he wished to remain active in the PD (“I’ve invested everything in this project. I’d have liked to have been able to do even more and a win would have helped me achieve that. But the PD still has a great future ahead of it”). “Obviously, the media gap may have played its part in the result”, added Mr Soru, in reply to journalists who asked him how much influence Silvio Berlusconi’s active participation in the election campaign might have had. “But that’s the name of the game. I was going to say the rules of the game, but didn’t. This is the day after. The elections took place democratically and this is the result. In future, it might be better to conduct elections differently, with a tad less hostility. It would be nice to have contests where all the rules are valid and not just the rule of victory at all costs”.

DELAYS AND DISPUTES — The inflow of returns into the Sardinian regional authority’s data processing centre continues to be slower than expected because of objections at polling stations, particularly regarding the “separate vote”, which caused heated disputes and requests for on-the-spot adjudication by municipal electoral offices. In practice, doubts over interpretation of the rules emerged, even though the regional authority had distributed a handbook to polling stations detailing all the possible options. Many queries concerned cases where, quite legitimately, a preference vote was cast for one candidate in a provincial constituency in combination with a vote for a presidential candidate from another list. Delays mounted as documents had to be transferred from outlying municipalities to the regional authority’s central office.

LOWER TURN-OUT — In total, 67.58% of the electorate turned out to vote, a drop in comparison with the 2004 regional elections when 71.2% voted. On that occasion, the regional elections were held concurrently with the European and administrative ballots.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Centre-Left Opposition Leader Quits

Veltroni resigns after defeat in regional election

(ANSA) — Rome, February 17 — Opposition leader Walter Veltroni unexpectedly resigned as head of the Democratic Party (PD) on Tuesday following Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s party’s victory in a regional election.

The defeat in Sardinia was the latest under Veltroni’s leadership after the PD lost last spring’s general elections to Berlusconi’s People’s of Freedom (PdL) party and regional votes in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Molise and Abruzzo, previously governed by the centre left.

Just hours after Ugo Cappellacci was elected governor of Sardinia, defeating incumbent Renato Soru, Veltroni called an emergency meeting of the PD’s top brass and tendered his resignation.

The party’s executive committee unanimously refused his offer and asked him to stay on to lead the party through European elections this spring.

But Veltroni confirmed his resignation, saying he would explain his decision at a news conference on Wednesday.

PD heavyweight Ermete Realacci said he expected that the party would probably hold a conference this spring to decide on a new leader.

WIN IN SARDINIA SEEN AS MAJOR BOOST FOR BERLUSCONI.

Overturning the regional government in Sardinia was seen as a major boost for Berlusconi who has been battling to deal with a economic recession which has seen Italy’s GDP fall by 0.9% in 2008.

The opposition has been beset by a series of corruption scandals and internal bickering and has been unable to capitalise on the recession, commentators said.

The premier, who has several holiday homes in Sardinia, campaigned hard for Cappellacci, the son of his tax consultant on the island.

With 91% of the results in, Cappellacci garnered 51.86% of the vote compared to 42.9% for Soru, the founder of the Tiscali communication group who in 2004 won the regional election with 50.13% of the vote.

Critics claimed Cappellacci had an unfair advantage from media exposure on Berlusconi’s private television channels as well as on the three channels of state broadcaster RAI.

Radical Party heavyweight, Emma Bonino, former commissioner for human rights for the European Union, said the last days of the election campaign saw Berlusconi ‘‘enjoy one hour and 29 minutes of air time compared to one minute 56 seconds for Soru’’ on public TV.

Cappellacci claimed he had won because ‘‘Sardinians understood there was a difference between the real Sardinia, with all its problems, and the virtual one envisioned by the centre left’’.

The new governor thanked Berlusconi ‘‘for his support in the election campaign and also for what he is doing for Sardinia’’.

The centre right swept 56.66% of the vote in the regional assembly elections compared to 38.67% for the center left, with Berlusconi’s PdL party the biggest winner with over 30% of the vote. The PD saw its support shrink to 25%, from 33% in last year’s general elections.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU: Spain to Have Joint Agenda With Belgium and Hungary

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 16 — Spain, Belgium and Hungary are preparing a road map against the crisis. They have presented a draft programme to the European Commission for the 18 months in which the countries will be on-duty EU presidents, from January 1 2010 to July 1 2011. The document, quoted today by El Pais, wants to guarantee continuity during these 18 months, the time necessary to carry out any project of proposal. The “Trio presidency” is part of the Lisbon Treaty, but Madrid, Brussels and Budapest have decided to move forward its institution to avoid another institutional paralysis if Ireland should vote against the Treaty this autumn. The three on-duty presidents “commit to acting on European level to limit the effects of the economic and financial crisis” the document reads “and to contribute to an economic re-launch with revised regulations and measures that respond to the present and future challenges, in order to reach a model of sustainable growth”. With regards to the signs of protectionism and xenophobia, the three countries want “to guarantee the free movement of workers and services in EU context” and reduces the disparities between regions and social groups through “a new social agenda”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Hunt for Rome Rapists — “Dark Hair and Boxer’s Nose”

Victims create identikit. Bishops’ conference warns against generalising about immigrants.

ROME — “One of them had a squashed nose, like a boxer’s, a dark face and long, black hair”. Despite his trauma, the fresh-faced 16-year-old in the baseball cap was able to describe at least one of the men who raped his 15-year-old girlfriend in the Caffarella park. Slowly, an identikit began to take shape at the police headquarters. Yesterday, the two youngsters spent several hours in the flying squad’s protected room on the second floor. With them were investigating officers, the couple’s parents and two counsellors who are helping them to deal with this nightmare. Police chief Giuseppe Caruso said: “We are doing everything humanly possible. We will not give up until we have arrested the men. We owe it above all to the girl and her family. The first 48 hours are crucial for the investigation”.

The teenagers are collaborating. The memory of their tragic Valentine’s Day is vivid and detailed: the rapists’ approach — “Two foreigners from the east who spoke bad Italian, they could have been Romanians” — the threat to use the gun one claimed to have in his pocket, the attack and the sexual violence. Investigators are believed to have found biological traces left by the attackers about half a kilometre away from the well-lit street, in the heavily overgrown hollow where they raped the 15-year-old. There are other clues. The rapists fleeing with the teenagers’ mobile phones lost, or discarded, a bag and the victims’ wallets. Investigators, coordinated by public prosecutor Vincenzo Barba, are seeking to isolate the wanted men while homing in on them with the aid of technology. As we said, the rapists are thought to have left several clues. Yesterday, police officers inspected a number of travellers’ camps and sites where Romanians and Slavs live. Several people were interrogated, particularly individuals with a criminal record.

Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, announced “strong signals” against crime. He said: “The first moves will include installing more CCTV cameras — there are 45,000 in London and only 5,000 in Rome — and the immediate clearing of illegal travellers’ camps, which should start today with Ostia, seeing that so much time was wasted on the census. But no to DIY justice or vigilante patrols”. The wave of violence and the reaction from residents is worrying Italian bishops. “There must be a strong sense of political responsibility when these incidents are being discussed or acted upon. Generalisation and pointing the finger at immigrants must be avoided”, observed Gianromano Gnesotto, director of the pastoral office for immigrants and refugees of the Migrantes foundation of the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI). Nazzareno Guarnieri, president of the Roma and Sinti federation wrote to Gianni Alemanno: “But are we always to be your whipping boys?”

As Roberto Calderoli, the minister for legislative simplification, was dusting off proposals for the chemical castration of rapists, public administration minister Renato Brunetta wondered whether “so many police forces with their own structures, often uncoordinated with each other, are actually necessary”. Defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, was adamant: “Army foot patrols would be effective against rapes, as well as other crimes”. For the Democratic Party, the issue of sexual violence should be tackled “by eradicating pockets of social exclusion”, as Anna Paola Concia, a member of the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, requested and, according to the shadow minister for equal opportunities, Vittoria Franco, “with the restoration of the 20 million euros for the anti-violence plan trimmed from the 2009 Budget”. Christian Democrat UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini attacked the executive: “The measures taken by the government are a failure”.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden: No Fans Allowed for Israel Tennis Match

Sweden’s upcoming Davis Cup tennis match against Israel will be held behind closed doors, Malmö city council ruled on Wednesday. The decision follows a vocal campaign against the match in protest at the situation in the Middle East.

The match was scheduled to be played from March 6th to 8th at the Baltiska Hallen venue, which can hold 4,000 spectators. Police had said the match could go ahead and that the public could be admitted.

The decision to ban the public was made by the council’s sports and recreation committee on Wednesday afternoon. A Social Democrat and Left Party-led motion to have the match played in an empty hall was passed by five votes to four.

A “Stop the Match” campaign has been underway in Sweden since Israel’s offensive in Gaza erupted last December, and thousands of demonstrators are expected to rally outside the Baltiska Hallen during the match, according to campaign organizers and police.

But the chairman of the sports and recreation committee, Bengt Forsberg (SocDem), insisted that there was no political motive behind his party’s support for the spectator ban:

“This is absolutely not a boycott. We do not take political positions on sporting events,” he told The Local.

“We have made a judgment that this is a high-risk match for our staff, for players and for officials.”

Forsberg conceded that police had given the event the green light, but added: “ultimately, Malmö council is responsible for safety and security.”

But local Moderate Party representatives were furious at the outcome of the vote, arguing that the match could have gone ahead with spectators and heightened security:

“I don’t think we should allow anti-democratic forces to decide how we run sporting events,” John Roslund, a Moderate Party member of the committee, told The Local.

“Both police and council officials have said that the match could go ahead,” Roslund added.

The Davis Cup match between the two countries hit the headlines in January when a prominent Social Democrat in southern Sweden likened Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany in calling for a boycott.

“Israel is an apartheid state. I think Gaza is comparable to the Warsaw ghetto,” said Ingalill Bjartén, the vice chair for the Social Democratic women’s organization (S-kvinnor) in Skåne in southern Sweden, to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

“I’m surprised that Israel — where large numbers of the population suffered under the Nazis — can do the exact same things the Nazis did.”

           — Hat tip: Ted Ekeroth[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Soldiers Killed by Islamic Militants in Two Attacks

Algiers, 16 Feb. (AKI) — Islamic militants killed eight Algerian soldiers in two separate attacks on Sunday, days after seven people died in roadside bombs, local media reported on Monday. According to the Kuwaiti news agency, Kuna, the two attacks occurred in the provinces of Tebessa and Boumerdes in the east of the country.

Rebels reportedly detonated a bomb as a military truck passed through Stah Aftis village near the border town of Tebessa, 700 kilometres east of Algiers, killing five soldiers and wounding four others.

Three soldiers were also shot dead by Islamic militants at a checkpoint in Bordj Menail in the Boumerdes region just east of the capital.

The off-duty soldiers were in civilian clothes when their bus was stopped by Islamist rebels disguised as soldiers, said the Algerian daily, El-Khabar. The militants then killed them.

The latest attacks bring to 15 the number of people reported to have been killed by Islamist rebels since 12 February, when Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he would stand in elections to seek a third term in office.

Al-Qaeda’s north African wing, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), has claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in the country in recent years.

During the 1990s, the country was wracked by an insurgent conflict that killed an estimated 150,000 people.

The violence has largely subsided after the government offered successive amnesties to encourage rebels to disarm.

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


Books: Saadawi, the Risky Rebellion of Arab Women

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 17 — “That day in September the news was in the newspapers, on one of the middle pages, hardly visible to the naked eye: a woman walked out and never came back. Women were not used to taking days off for holidays and, when a woman went out, she had to have written permission from her husband or a permit stamped by her employer”. This is the opening of the Egyptian writer and dissident Nawal El Saadawi’s novel, ‘Love in the kingdom of Oil’, to be released on March 8 and published in Italy by Il Sirente. In some obscure oil Kingdom, in an authoritarian country, perhaps Saudi Arabia, perhaps Egypt, a female archeologist disappears without a trace. “Has your wife been on holiday before? Has she ever disobeyed?”, a policeman asks the vanished researcher’s husband. The police investigating consider it a simple case of a rebellious woman, or a woman or dubious morality. The Egyptian author, once again returning to the issue of women in Arab countries, describes a subservient protagonist, enslaved and oppressed by man. In a way, the story’s setting is of secondary importance. Saadawi describes the existence of a woman in any authoritarian regime, in a book which is rich in metaphors and continual allusions, written in a visionary style: it is a Homeric voyage which is also very real. Transformed into a kind of all-purpose machine, able to cook, clean, write, without rights or feelings, woman becomes a functional instrument for man and therefore interchangeable with any other object. However, the writer has also traced out a love story, surprising and full of mystery, in a narrative which sees the protagonist leave her husband for another man. The author is a psychiatrist who now lives in voluntary exile in the USA, but is soon to return to Egypt, her country of birth, where she received death threats from fundamentalist groups, was imprisoned by the Sadat regime and condemned to the death penalty for heresy in 1993. She writes, “a man can walk out and not come back for seven years and only after that time can a woman ask for a separation”. For a woman, however, one night away is enough to raise the alarm and cries of scandal. ‘Love in the kingdom of Oil’ has been published in many anthologies and translated into over 20 languages and along with many other of Saadawi’s novels has been banned by Egypt’s highest religious authority, Al Azhar, which, only a few months after its publication, ordered that all copies be withdrawn from Egyptian bookshops. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaza: Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Clinton in Sharm on March 2

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 17 — With speeches from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Egypt’s head of state, Hosni Mubarak, the Gaza reconstruction conference will open in Sharm el Sheikh on March 2. The announcement appears in today’s edition of the Egyptian daily Al Ahram; it goes on to say that 75 states and organisations will be represented. They include many Arab states, countries of the European Union and other industrialised powers represented by their foreign ministers. The spokesperson for Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Hossam Zaki, writes in the paper that “the presence of Nicolas Sarkozy and of Silvio Berlusconi will give the conference a special importance”. The only document on the agenda for the meeting, Zaki added, will be the one presented by the Palestine National Authority “regarding specific reconstruction needs”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: USD 200 Million Needed in Aid, UNRWA Says

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, FEBRUARY 17 — The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said it needs nearly USD 200 million to meet basic demands of the war stricken Gaza Strip. During an extraordinary meeting for UNRWA and donor countries including the US, Britain, Spain, France, Saudi, Kuwait and others, UN officials said their relief work in Gaza and the entire region is in great risk. According to Philipo Grandi, deputy commissioner general of UNRWA, the agency could be forced to scale down its operation to meet its requirements. He also urged the international community to force Israel into opening the crossings with Gaza in order to allow humanitarian aid enter. The meeting was attended by Queen Rania of Jordan, who is of a Palestinian origin. She joined voices that call for providing immediate help to Gaza. “If we dont deal with this, soon we are going to have teachers and medical personal who are not going to be paid for their salary. On top of all difficult condition they are under, to be unable to pay, that is really unthinkable situation,” said. “I invite all of you to urge all of your governments and institutions you represent to make this a very urgent appeal. I think the Palestinians deserve it. I think our humanity demands it and I certainly hope our consciousness will allow us to see through the pledges we made and honour our commitments we made to these wonderful people,” she added. According to Tor Wensland, chairperson of UNRWA commission the UN agency is facing a real disaster if no help is offered and soon. “There will be a challenge for UNRWA in the sense that in 2010 to 2011 UNRWA will need $1.5 billion to maintain current services. This will be a main challenge for UNRWA and a serious challenge for the donors,” he said. UNRWA serves around 4.5 million Palestinian refugees who fled their homes after the 1948 war with Israel to live in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaza: Mubarak, Shalit Liberation Not Tied to Truce

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 17 — According to several Egyptian newspapers, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has confirmed again during a visit yesterday to Bahrain that the liberation of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit, held prisoner by Hamas since June 2006, should not be connected to the truce that Egypt is mediating between Israel and Hamas after the Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip. Mubarak said, “Egypt will not change its position regarding the truce, the issue of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is a separate question that cannot be tied in any way to peace negotiations”. The signing of an agreement was announced by Egyptian sources for Sunday or Monday night, but yesterday Israel requested to postpone the possibility of a signed agreement for a few days, while news was leaked that for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Shalit’s liberation is a priority compared to the truce and the reopening of the borders. Since the beginning of negotiations, Egypt and Hamas have agreed that the liberation of Shalit must be based on the liberation of Palestinian prisoners by Israel and that it must be part of a second phase of negotiations, preceded by negotiations regarding an 18 month truce and the reopening of the borders to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza for Palestinians. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel: First OK to New Settlements Near Jerusalem

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 16 — A first move towards the construction of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank has been formalised by the acquisition of 17 hectares of terrain near Jerusalem by Israel, writes the website of newspaper ‘Haaretz’. The terrain is situation north of Efrat, and has been declared public property after the rejection of a series of appeals against the initiative presented by Palestinian citizens and institutions. The initiative allows the start of a procedure which could lead to the lotting out of the area after the approval of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Defence and the Construction Ministry. Efrat is situated on a hill near Jerusalem and is the biggest Jewish settlement in the Gush Etzion area with around 9,000 inhabitants. The Palestinian National Authority of President Abu Mazen (Mahmud Abbas) considers Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank the main obstacle for the re-launch of the peace process. He recently accused the government of outgoing Premier Ehud Olmert of enlarging the settlements against the made promises. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Middle East: PNA, Loans From Banks to Pay Salaries

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 16 — The government of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) said today that it had obtained bank loans in order to pay its employees’ overdue salaries. Recently Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stated that his government, supported by western countries, was not in a position to pay the salaries, as available financial resources had been used to start compensating Palestinians in the Gaza Strip whose houses had been destroyed or damaged during last month’s Israeli military offensive. According to Minister of Social Affairs Mahmud al-Habash, government employees will receive their salaries tomorrow. The PNA, he added, was counting on paying back the loans when it receives financial aid promised by donor countries. Fayyad said the government wants to play a leading role in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, whose cost is estimated at two billion dollars and will be sustained by the international community. In this way the PNA hopes to counter the popularity of the Hamas Islamic movement that took power in Gaza. However, Hamas, which receives help from countries that support it, like Iran, has also started to pay partial compensation to owners of destroyed or damaged houses. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Report: Fetal Stem Cells Trigger Tumors in Ill Boy

By LAURAN NEERGAARD

A family desperate to save a child from a lethal brain disease sought highly experimental injections of fetal stem cells-injections that triggered tumors in the boy’s brain and spinal cord, Israeli scientists reported Tuesday.

Scientists are furiously trying to harness different types of stem cells-the building blocks for other cells in the body-to regrow damaged tissues and thus treat devastating diseases. But for all the promise, researchers have long warned that they must learn to control newly injected stem cells so they don’t grow where they shouldn’t, and small studies in people are only just beginning.

Tuesday’s report in the journal PLoS Medicine is the first documented case of a human brain tumor-albeit a benign, slow-growing one-after fetal stem cell therapy, and hammers home the need for careful research. The journal is published by the Public Library of Science.

“Patients, please beware,” said Dr. John Gearhart, a stem cell scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who wasn’t involved in the Israeli boy’s care but who sees similarly desperate U.S. patients head abroad to clinics that offer unproven stem cell injections.

“Cells are not drugs. They can misbehave in so many different ways, it just is going to take a good deal of time” to prove how best to pursue the potential therapy, Gearhart said.

The unidentified Israeli boy has a rare, fatal genetic disease with a tongue-twisting name-ataxia telangiectasia, or A-T. Degeneration of a certain brain region gradually robs these children of movement. Plus, a faulty immune system leads to frequent infections and cancers. Most die in their teens or early 20s.

Israeli doctors pieced together the child’s history: When he was 9, the family traveled to Russia, to a Moscow clinic that provided injections of neural stem cells from fetuses-immature cells destined to grow into a main type of brain cells. The cells were injected into his brain and spinal cord twice more, at ages 10 and 12….

[rest of story at URL]

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab World: Strategy to Fight Domestic Violence is Needed

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, FEBRUARY 17 — Setting up a unified strategy to safeguard the families in the Arab world from domestic violence. It is the aim targeted in the second ‘Arab Regional Conference for Family Protection’, held under the patronage of Queen Rania, chairperson of the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA), which gathered today in Amman sociologists and family experts from around the Arab world. The experts discussed means of curbing domestic violence and forking out a strategy to reduce conditions in which this phenomena is growing. Delegates want to improve communication and networking techniques for preparing and adopting an Arab strategy to ensures well-being of women and children. More than 45% of domestic violence cases in Jordan are committed by husbands against their wives and children, a study revealed today. The study, prepared by the Ministry of Social Development, showed that married women are the most susceptible to domestic violence, making up 80% of victims. According to the study, the Family Protection Directorate handled 3,200 cases of child abuse last year, an increase of 700 cases compared to the year before. The National Institute of Forensic Medicine received 600 cases of battered women in 2008. “The conference forms a platform to admit that there is an existing family violence phenomenon and offers a chance to assert that domestic violence is unacceptable in any form…,” said Arab League Assistant Secretary General for Social Affairs, Sima Bahous, during the meeting. The recent war “will impact Palestinian families for many years to come and will definitely increase the number of domestic violence cases in the future, necessitating our special care and attention to tackle the issue”, she added. The gathering brought officials from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Oman and Mauritania. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Livni: Turkey Relations of Strategic Importance

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 17 FEB -Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has stated that relations with Turkey “are of crucial strategic importance” for Israel. Speaking yesterday in Jerusalem to a forum of major US Jewish organisations, Livni referred to tensions between the governments of the two coutries following Israel’s recent Gaza offensive, which received harsh criticism in Turkey. The minister said that the tension was the upshot of “misunderstandings” and that it was necessary to mend relations with Israel’s Moslem neighbour. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UAE: Residency for Foreign Home Owners, Law This Year

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 17 — A federal law which will give non-Emirates citizens the right to residency if they own freehold estates (that is, developments which are built in areas chosen by the government in which foreigners are allowed to buy houses) will be ratified by the end of the year. So said Nassr Al Minhali, Director General of the Department for Immigration, quoted by daily ‘The National’. The draft law, which has yet to be finalised, will allow owners of properties in freehold zones to obtain a visa valid for six months with the possibility of renewal. “The visa will be granted to every property owner, regardless of their nationality or the value of the property,” Al Minhali explained, adding that the plan “is a safety measure, so that we don’t end up in a situation where there are different standards for different nationalities, which would always require the involvement of the Interior Minister”. Seven of the Emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have already adopted similar measures, which are designed to encourage investment in housing. Dubai is amongst these, where a ‘residency visa’’ is granted for three years, but which does not, however, grant the holder the right to work. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Clinton Seeks to Improve US Image With Muslims

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is continuing the Obama administration’s efforts to rehabilitate America’s image abroad, especially with Muslims, during a visit to Indonesia that began Wednesday.

The country, once the home of President Barack Obama, is the second stop in her inaugural overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat. The itinerary is intended to symbolize the administration’s commitment to Asia.

In Jakarta, Clinton intends to announce plans to step up U.S. engagement with Southeast Asia in particular, stressing the growing importance of a region that often felt slighted by the Bush administration.

Her two-day schedule in Indonesia includes a visit to the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat, the first by a secretary of state, where she is likely to signal U.S. intent to sign the regional bloc’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, officials said.

Clinton also plans to pledge to attend the group’s annual regional security conference, they said. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice skipped the ASEAN Regional Forum twice during her four years in office, to the dismay of the region.

In addition, Clinton hopes to announce the resumption of Peace Corps operations in Indonesia after a more-than-40-year absence, the officials said. Peace Corps volunteers served in the country between 1963 and 1965 before being expelled by the government.

Development and climate change also will be the agenda during her meetings with Indonesian leaders, who say they hope to also discuss the Iranian nuclear dispute and the war in Afghanistan.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic nation, and it has personal ties for Obama, who spent four years of his childhood here. Among those who turned out at the airport to welcome Clinton were 44 children from his former elementary school, singing traditional folk songs and waving Indonesian and U.S. flags.

Indonesia, often held up as a beacon of Islamic democracy and modernity, is a secular nation. Most of its 190 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith, but public anger ran high over U.S. policy in the Middle East and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush years, fueling a small but increasingly vocal fundamentalist fringe.

The militant group Jemaah Islamiyah has carried out a series of suicide bombings targeting Western interests in Indonesia since 2002, killing more than 240 people, many of them foreign tourists. But experts say a police crackdown has severely weakened the movement; the last attack occurred more than three years ago.

U.S. officials said Clinton is keen to show Washington’s appreciation for Jakarta’s counter-terrorism efforts, particularly in combatting Jemaah Islamiyah.

Security was tight for Clinton’s visit, with 2,800 police deployed in the capital along with members of the army, according to local police. Witnesses saw scattered protests and at least five people were detained by police following a rowdy rally by 200 Muslim university students in front of the U.S. Embassy.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


Malaysia: Blogger Vows to Die in Silence if Re-Arrested

Kuala Lumpur, 16 Feb. (AKI) — Rebel blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin has vowed to die in silence as a sign of protest if he is re-arrested on what many believe are politically motivated grounds. His pledge came as a court was due to rule whether he is to return to prison under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA),

Raja Petra, who has risen to prominence as a pro-opposition blogger, was arrested on 12 September after accusations lodged by several religious groups who claim that he offended Islam in an article published on 8 August.

He was released on 7 November last year but the government has appealed the court decision and a verdict is expected on Tuesday.

“I shall no longer open my mouth or utter one word during my detention. I shall maintain the silence of a mute person. I shall not sign any documents of the so many documents that they make you sign when under detention,” he said.

“My signature is not going to be placed on a single shred of paper,” he wrote in his blog, ‘Malaysia Today’ acknowledging that the move could have dire consequences.

“I shall refuse all medical treatment and visits to the hospital. I shall refuse to accept any food and water supplied by the authorities.

“I shall refuse to leave my cell or to meet any of the prison authorities. In short, I shall shut myself out from the world and keep to my own world of my eight feet square cell.

“This action will mean I shall survive at the most seven to eight days,” he added.

Raja Petra blamed deputy prime minister Najib Razaq for his arrest and for what he calls his political persecution.

Najib has been among Raja Petra’s main targets in his blog.

In his most controversial article “Let’s Send Altantuya’s Murderers to Hell”, published on 25 April, Raja Petra said that Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansoro, were involved in the killing of Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Translator and former model, the Mongolia-born Shaariibuu, 28, was shot twice in the head, and her body was blown up with explosives, in a jungle outside Kuala Lumpur in October, 2006.

“I am totally sure that Najib (Razaq) is involved. And at the very least, he should be investigated,” Raja Petra told Adnkronos International (AKI).

““I am aware that I have raised the stakes with this article and I am prepared to go all the way,” he added.

Najib has denied any involvement in the case and has sworn on the Koran that he never met Shaariibuu. He has also denied any involvement in the arrest of Raja Petra.

The ISA was inherited by Malaysia after it gained independence from Britain in 1957. In essence, it allows for the arrest of any person without the need for trial in certain circumstances.

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


Why the US Bugged Pakistan Army Generals

Book claims drone attacks began after ISI-Taliban coordination confirmed

ISLAMABAD: A new book by a New York Times journalist has levelled serious allegations against Pakistan and its Army claiming the telephones of all senior officers, including the COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were bugged by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA), the main eavesdropping US agencies around the world.

The book written by David E Sanger, which has hit the stands a few days back, claims that the American intelligence agencies were intercepting telephonic conversations of Army officers and the decision to attack Pakistan through drones was taken after one such high level conversation was intercepted claiming the Taliban as a strategic asset for Pakistan.

The book, titled The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the challenges to American power claims the decision to invade Pakistani territories was taken after the CIA reached a conclusion that the ISI was absolutely in complete coordination with the Taliban.

The NSA intercepted messages indicating that ISI officers were helping the Taliban in planning a big bombing attack in Afghanistan although the target was unclear. After some days, the Kandahar Jail was attacked by the Taliban and hundreds of Taliban were freed, it says.

General Kayani would be the second army chief of Pakistan whose conversations have been bugged by the Americans, if the allegations in the book are true. Earlier the FBI had intercepted the telephone conversation between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto when Musharraf had threatened her that her safety within Pakistan depended upon her nature of relationship with him (Musharraf). The Indians had also recorded a telephone conversation between General Musharraf and General Aziz when Musharraf was in Beijing during the Kargil war days.

The author who seemed to have been given direct access to the secret record of several meetings held at the White House before George Bush left the presidency on January 20, has made several revelations in his book.

The book has also disclosed that NSA was already picking up interceptions, as the units of Pakistan army were getting ready to hit a school in the tribal areas. Someone was giving advance warning of what was coming. The book said they must have dialed 1-800-HAQQANI, said one person who was familiar with the intercepted conversation.

According to another para, the account of the warning sent to the school was almost comical. It was something like that Hey, we are going to hit your place in a few days, so if anyone important is there, you might want to tell them to scream.

The book also establishes that the Americans were in full knowledge of the facts on the ground and they started attacking territories inside Pakistan as they thought the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies were no more interested in fighting the Taliban.

In chapter 8 of the book on Pakistan Crossing the Line, the author has also revealed that how an angry two star army officer of Pakistan army had actually unfolded the whole secret plan of Pakistan army deliberately before a US spy master McConell.

The book said, the US intelligence agencies knew very well that Musharraf was playing a double game with them as on the one hand he was assuring the Americans that only he could fight against the Taliban and on the other, he was backing the militancy and the militants. Musharrafs record of duplicity was well known.

The author has written this chapter on Pakistan on basis of some secret trips of Americas twwo top spy chiefs-McConnel an Haden-nicknamed as two Mikes who had held several meetings with the top military army officers including General Pervez Musharraf.

The author records that in late May 2008, McConnel made a secret trip to Pakistan, his fourth or fifth since becoming the director of national intelligence, trips that seemed to blur together in his head.

But this one was dramatically different from the rest- and ended up driving the push in the last days of the Bush administration to greatly step up covert action across the border into Pakistan.

The book says, packing quickly through his usual rounds of meetings with Musharraf and a raft of intelligence officials in Islamabad, McConnel and his small entourage found themselves in a conference room with several military officers, including a two star Pakistan general.

No officer was talking to other participants in the meeting as if the American intelligence chief, the visiting dignitary for the day, wasnt in the room. Not surprisingly, he was being pressed about Pakistan strategy in the tribal areas, and he was reluctant to start one of the participants in the conversation recalled.

But once he got into it, he could not contain himself. The two-star general began making the case that the real problem was the tribal areas and in Afghanistan was not al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or even the militants who were trying to topple the Pakistani government. The real problem was Pakistans rival of more than sixty years which he said was secretly manipulating events in an effort to crush Pakistan and undo the 1947 partition that sought to separate the Islamic and Hindu states.

The overwhelming enemy is India, the Pakistani officer told the General. We have to watch them at every moment. We have had wars with India, he said as everyone in the room needed reminding.

The Pakistani two-star general described President Karzais cozy relationship with India, seeking investment and aid. With alarm, he talked about how the Indians were opening consulates around the country and building roads. What the rest of the world saw as a desperately needed nation-building programme, Pakistan saw as a threat. He was not alone in that view, conspiracy theories about Indian activities in Afghanistan are a daily staple in the Pakistani media.

As the officer talked, he became more and more animated. The Indians will surround us and annihilate us, he said, knowing McConnel was hearing every word. And the Indians in their surrounding strategy, have gone to Afghanistan. Those newly built roads were future invasion routes, he seemed to suggest, without quite saying so.

The consulates were dens of Indian spies. The real purpose of the humanitarian aid to Afghanistan was to run operations out of Afghanistan to target Pakistan.

The conspiracy theory deepened. In the long run, America will not have the stomach to bear the burden of staying in Afghanistan, the officer continued, still seeming to ignore the presence of the American intelligence chief. And when the Americans pull out, India will reign. Therefore, the Pakistanis will have to sustain the contacts with the opposition to the Afghanistan government meaning the Taliban so when the Americans pull out, its a friendly government to Pakistan. Therefore, the officer concluded with a flourish, we must support the Taliban, two-star general announced in the meeting in the presence of US spymaster.

The last statement of the two star general stunned McConnel. For six years, the Americans had paid upward $10 billion to the Pakistan army to support its operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Bush and his aides knew though they never admitted that much of the money had been diverted to buying equipment for the Pakistan military to bulk up against the Indian. Now a Pakistani officer in his fury and frustration, was openly admitting that the Pakistani government had officially denied that it was playing both sides of the war-the Americans side and Taliban side.

In return for the Americans billions, Pakistani forces or intelligence agencies operatives occasionally picked off a few al-Qaeda leaders (though even that had slowed to a trickle). But they were actively supporting the Taliban and even some militants in the tribal region. It was almost as if the American taxpayers were making monthly deposits in the Taliban bank accounts. Some in the Pentagon objected but were overruled.

None of this was really a surprise-except to the American people who were regularly told by President Bush that Pakistan and its leadership were a strong ally against terror. Even some of the Bush aides cringed when he uttered those words it was like hearing him say, victory in Iraq, one told me after leaving the muddled complexity of it all was some kind of admission of defeat.

Even some inside the While House, admitted to me (author) that reimbursements to the Pakistani military were just this side of fraud. They had been paid out when Musharraf had announced he was pulling back from tribal areas because of a truce with the tribal leaders. When Congress threatened to link the reimbursement to the Pakistan military performance, one American general summarized this reaction this way: Its about goddamn time.

Bush knew the truth. Intelligence reports written over the past five years have all documented the ISI support for Taliban-something Bush had admitted to me (author) and other reporters. He knew of course that even Musharraf had little interest in sending his army into tribal areas. Every military professional who returned from Islamabad came back with the same report. Seven years after 9/11, 80 per cent of Pakistan military was arrayed against India.

McConnel himself returning from one of his trips noted that there is only one army that has more artillery tubes per unit, everything from old cannons to rocket launchers and mortars. Its North Koreas, he said. It was a telling statistic. Artillery tubes weigh tonnes and are useful only in holding back Indian hordes as they come across the plains. They are useless against terrorists enclaves.

Overhearing the two-stars rant about India was not the only rude surprise McConnel experienced on this trip. He had brought with him the chart he used in the White House situation room tracking the number of attacks inside Pakistan over the past two and a half years.

One of the charts showed that about 13,000 Pakistanis had been killed in 2007 chiefly by suicide bombers, about double the numbers in 2006.

He told Musharraf and General Kayani, the former DG ISI, that the casualty numbers on the track to double again in 2008. Then he described the interviews that Osama Bin laden and his deputies had given, declaring their intention to topple the Pakistan government.

You are aware of these casualty numbers and what Osama said of course, McConnel asked. He got blank stares. They told him they had heard about Bin Laden statements.

It was news, McConnel reported to his colleagues later. I talked to the highest level of the Pakistani government and it was news. They just were not tracking it. It astounded him that the officials in Washington and at the American embassy in Islamabad might be keeping more careful tabs on the rising number of attacks than were Musahrraf or Pakistani crop of democratically elected leaders. Were they ignoring the obvious or were they just denying they knew about it, part of the deception within the deceptions as they supported both sides in the terror fight.

When McConnel returned to Washington in late 2008, he ordered up a full assessment so that he could match what he had heard from the single angry officer with the intelligence that had poured in over the years. His question was a basic one. Is there what McConnel called an officially sanctioned dual policy in Pakistan? That was a polite way of asking whether the leadership of the country including Musahrraf had been playing both sides of the war all along.

It did not take long for McConnels staff to produce the answer. McConnel took the formal assessment to the White House, concluding that the Pakistani government regularly gave the Taliban and some of the militant groups weapons and supporters to go into Afghanistan to attack Afghan and coalition forces.

This was not news to many in the administration but McConnel wanted to have it down on paper. The assessment was circulated to the entire national security leadership and to Bush who was still giving public speeches praising Musharraf as a great ally.

It was news to him, said one of the officials who briefed Bush and watched his reaction to McConnels assessment. And he always says the same thing, so what do you do about it?

By the summer, Bush answered his own question. For the first time in a presidency filled with secret unilateral actions, he authorized the American military to invade an ally-Pakistan.

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

Far East

Airports: Chinese Holding Set on Sicilian Airport

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, FEBRUARY 16 — HNA, a Chinese holding company 28% owned by the magnate George Soros, is looking to invest 300 million euros in Centuripe (in Sicily’s Enna province) to build a large international airport with a five kilometre-long runway — just like that of Malpensa (Milan). According to reports in the “La Sicilia” newspaper, the project also includes the expansion of the port of Augusta (in Siracusa) and connections with the freight village in Catania. The plan is moving ahead and from Thursday, seven HNA managers — led by managing director Wang Jian — will be in Sicily for four days, and are expected to meet the Regional President, Raffaele Lombardo, in Catania. HNA is part owned by the former airline Haynan Airlines, which is now incorporated in Grand China Air. Formally, the entire operation is managed by the Kore University in Enna, which has already conducted several studies into winds and orography in the area. The idea is thought to have been promoted by the director of Italy’s Institute for Foreign Trade in Beijing, who is originally from Enna. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Pirates: Saudi Frigate Thwarts Capture of Turkish Cargo Ship

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 16 — Turkish website Herriyet, citing reports from Riyadh by official Saudi press agency, Spa, announced that a ship from the Saudi Arabian navy came to the help of a Turkish merchant vessel which was being attacked by Somali pirates in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, succesfully thwarting the attack. Hurriyet specified that Turkish cargo ship “Yasa Seyhan” sent distress signals, and “Al Riyahd”, which is part of an international force recently deployed to prevent increasingly serious pirate attacks in the region during recent months, intervened against the pirates. Last year, Somali pirates attacked 111 foreign ships, including merchant ships and oil tankers, captured 42 ships, and requested huge sums of ransom money from shipping companies to release them. At the end of the month, Turkish frigate “Giresun” equipped with two helicopters, an assault team, and a diving team, will join the international naval and air force already deployed in the Gulf of Aden to prevent pirate attacks. The mission was authorised last Tuesday by the Turkish Parliament following requests by the Turkish government . (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Immigration

107 Illegal Tunisians Sent Back, Ministry

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 17 — One hundred and seven Tunisian citizens, all identified, have been transferred from Lampedusa and starting today will be repatriated to Tunisia. According to a statement from the Interior Ministry, other than the Tunisians, since the beginning of February another 89 non European Union member country citizens have been repatriated to their countries of origin, particularly Moroccans, Algerians and Egyptians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Illegal Camps Demolished in Rome After Teen Gang Rape

Rome, 16 Feb. (AKI) — Italian police on Monday demolished dozens of illegal shacks and camps in and around the city of Rome following the rape of a 14-year-old girl at the weekend in a city park by suspected Romanians.

Police also issued a photofit image of two Romanians suspected of raping the girl, based on descriptions she gave to police. They also claimed to have forensic evidence, including DNA evidence, collected from the rape scene and eye-witness accounts.

The attack occurred in Rome’s sprawling Caffarella park. It was the latest in a number of rapes, allegedly committed in the city by Romanian immigrants, that have angered many Italians.

Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno and Italian opposition leader Walter Veltroni have urged citizens not to take the law into their own hands after a series of vigilante-style revenge attacks against Romanians and other immigrants by gangs of Italian youths at the weekend.

“To those seeking to capitalise on people’s fear, on anger and on the desire for revenge, we must say to them clearly that it is unthinkable for people to take the law into their own hands,” Alemanno said on Monday.

As recently as Sunday, four Romanians were injured when a gang wearing ski-masks and armed with spanners and wooden clubs smashed windows and attacked them as they ate at a kebab house in the Porta Furba suburb of Rome, close to the Caffarella park.

One Romanian man was reportedly surrounded by a large group of masked youths, who insulted, kicked and punched him before they made off on scooters. He was treated in hospital for bruising to his legs.

The second attack happened after a protest organised by the far-right Forza Nuova group in the nearby San Giovanni district of Rome. A large banner carried by protesters read: ‘No mercy for you animals’.

Graffiti signed by the group also appeared inside the Caffarella park reading ‘Shame on the Gypsies! Killers! An eye for any eye…’ reportedly drawing approving comments from local residents and park visitors.

Alemanno condemned the vigilante attacks, describing them as “a very negative and dangerous signal.”

Fifteen police from Romania arrived in Rome on Monday to help investigate crimes allegedly committed by Romanians in Italy.

Now the largest immigrant group here, they are blamed by many Italians for a recent rise in crime.

The Italian Senate recently approved unarmed anti-crime patrols by local citizens, but these still have to be approved by the lower house of parliament.

Referring to the planned patrols, Alemanno said: “These must only help Italian security forces intervene more quickly. They can never be aimed at fomenting violence or rough justice.”

Veltroni ruled out citizens’ anti-crime patrols as “unacceptable” urging the deployment of more police to boost security. “It is their job to protect people,” he said.

Italy’s conservative government is reportedly planning to issue a new decree that will deny house arrest to any suspected rapist and require him to be held in jail. The decree may also authorise citizens’ anti-crime patrols in cities and increase the number of security force personnel on the streets, especially police.

In a separate clamp down, around 100 police officers, soldiers, forest rangers and firemen plan in the next week to dismantle close to 80 illegal camps in the Castelfusano pine forest between Rome and the nearby coastal resort of Ostia.

Police are also reported to be searching all Roma Gypsy camps along the Lazio coast between Ostia and the port of Civitavecchia further north.

Roma Gypsy camps in the coastal town of Ladispoli and Acilia, Dragona and other towns in outlying areas of Rome were also being searched.

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


Security: Immigrants and Drugs, Manganelli is in Abuja

(AGI) — Abuja, 16 Feb. — The head of police, Antonio Manganelli, arrived in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, today, for a mission organised by the Interior Ministry. Manganelli is to return to Rome Tomorrow, after having met his Nigerian counterpart. Local sources and the Italian embassy in Abuja have said through private channels to AGI that Manganelli’s visit is linked to the themes of illegal immigration and the international drugs trade. It is also probable, that there will be talks over an agreement for the repatriation of Nigerians held in Italy, for their punishment in Nigeria to be shortened.

Last week a similar agreement was reached between the British and Nigerian authorities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

8 comments:

Natalie said...

Is the email system still down?

cetățeanul turmentat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Baron Bodissey said...

Natalie --

Yes, our email is still out. I will post a brief update in a bit.

Baron Bodissey said...

cetățeanul turmentat --

Please don't paste long URLs into the comments; they make the post page too wide and mess up the appearance of the permalink page.

Use link tags; the instructions are at the top of the full post's comment section.

I went to unusual trouble to turn all your URLs into links. Next time I won't do that; I'll simply delete the comment.

----------------------

cetățeanul turmentat said...

A few days ago an Italian lynch mob tried to kill a Romanian drunk-driver who had crashed into another car, killing a man and seriously injuring his fiancée, and then walked away from the scene, entered a bar and ordered a beer. He was rescued by the police, who had arrived to investigate the accident (with picture):

link

Four Romanians arrested as suspects in the rape of a 21-year-old Italian woman and the savage beating of her fiancé also had to be protected from a lynch mob:

link

Two suspects have now been arrested in the case of the 14-year-old girl who was raped, and they are both Romanian (see photograph of “boxer’s nose”):

link

Petrol-bomb attack against Romanian immigrant camp:

link

Romanian beat and raped blind 83-year-old woman in Albuzzano, near Pavia:

link

234 Romanians arrested by Rome police since the beginning of this year, out of 770 arrests in total, of which 60 were Moroccan, 36 Senegalese, 32 Moldovan, 32 Bosnian:

link

livfreerdie said...

No link, no verification but supposedly in the Porkulus there is a provision that if the Governor turns down any monies the state legislature is allowed to vote for it and override the Governor. Sounds like an end run of States Rights.

Tom

islam o' phobe said...

What do British leaders do when confronted by such blackmail? Why, they back down...

heroyalwhyness said...

Figure this out:

Czech president compares EU to Soviet Union... on today's Drudge report

vs.

yesterday's Czech lower house passes EU treaty


The country's eurosceptic president Vaclav Klaus must also sign the document [Lisbon Treaty] for ratification to be completed. Mr Klaus opposes the reforms, saying they undermine national sovereignty.

The Lisbon treaty also has to be ratified in Ireland, where a second referendum on the issue is due later this year.

Meanwhile, Poland's president has made his signature contingent on Ireland voting Yes and Germany's constitution court is examining a claim that the treaty is anti-constitutional, delaying full ratification in the EU's biggest member state.

Dymphna said...

livefreeordie--

That kind of provision is in most states' constitutions in some form or other.

It would be interesting to know if it is Louisiana's. Jindal is no fool. He wouldn't make statemtnts he couldn't back up.

He won election in LA because he is a genius problem solver. When he worked in various parts of state govt they'd give him some mess to clean up and he'd have it streamlined, up and running, and in below budget.

Here's the wiki:

Bobby Jindal


Piyush "Bobby" Jindal (born June 10, 1971) is the current Governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana.[1] Prior to his election as governor, he was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 1st congressional district, to which he was elected in 2004 to succeed current U.S. Senator David Vitter. Jindal was re-elected to Congress in the 2006 election with 88 percent of the vote.

On October 20, 2007, Jindal was elected governor of Louisiana, winning a four-way race with 54% of the vote. At age 36, Jindal became the youngest current governor in the United States. He also became the first non-white to serve as governor of Louisiana since P. B. S. Pinchback during Reconstruction, the first non-white elected governor of the state, and the first Indian American elected to state-wide office in U.S. history.


Go to the link to see his stunning work in LA govt before he went to Washington.

Look for him in 2012. I think he'll win the Republican nomination, but Palin won't be his running mate. He wouldn't choose another governor.

If he doesn't win, look for him to repeat in the next cycle.

Fortunately, the Republican Party actually recognizes what they have here.