Friday, March 27, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/27/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/27/2009The financial crisis is having its effects in France. The French government has issued a decree limiting executive bonuses and stock options at companies that received taxpayer bailouts. Workers at a factory held a manager hostage in a dispute about layoffs. And a union leader committed suicide because of the layoffs that he had been forced to agree to. In a bizarre twist — it would be funny if the situation weren’t so tragic — he asked in a suicide note that his death be considered work-related.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, CSP, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, islam o’phobe, Israel Matzav, JD, JK, KGS, Reinhard, TB, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Asian Ability to Produce Outsrips Western Ability to Consume
Chile Leader to Brown — We Saved in the Good Times
France: Bonuses Limited for Bailed-Out Executives
 
USA
Barack Obama May Delay Signing Up to Copenhagen Climate Change Deal
Congressman Suggests Calling a Terrorist a Terrorist
Don’t Count Out ‘Mandatory’ Service Yet
Frank Gaffney: FBI ‘Barters’ With Muslim Organizations
Guantanamo Ex-Detainees to Get Welfare.
Keyes to Appeal Case on Obama’s Eligibility
New Political Study Center? Turn Right at Berkeley
Nominee for EPA No. 2 Spot Withdraws
 
Canada
Canada Won’t be Bullied by Russia: Cannon
Did Canadian Public Health Care Kill Natasha Richardson?
 
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi Strengthens Coalition
Britain Sees 40 Per Cent Rise in Cash Lost to Brussels, National Audit Office Says
Call for BNP Nurses to be Banned From Conference
Crisis: France; Manager Held, Unionist Commits Suicide
Farming: Spain, Tomato Growers Against Morocco
Muslim Students Preventing Hindus From Using QMU’s Multi-Faith Centre
One-Day G20 Summit to Cost £20m as Britain Prepares for Largest Gathering of World Leaders in 50 Years
Papers Join Forces to Free Swedish Journalist
Spain: 3,000 Arabic Inscriptions From Alhambra Catalogued
Sweden: Total Recall for Kronfågel Chicken
Swedish MP to Pope: Ditch Fundamentalism
Turkey Won’t Veto Rasmussen
UK: Dawn Swoop Sex Arrests
UK: Police Blunders That Left Another Serial Rapist Free to Attack 20 More Terrified Women on Their Doorstep
Vatican Raps Obama Medieval Mystic
Vatican to Receive Condoms by Post
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Brcko Changes Status, Ends International Supervision
 
Mediterranean Union
Libya-Italy: Tripoli Wants Friendship Treaty Effective
 
North Africa
Egypt: Killer SMS Spreads Fear, Government Reassures
Tunisia: Foreign Minister Contests Kouchner’s Remarks
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel: Livni, Barak-Netanyahu Deal is Bad Politics
Israel Successfully Tests ‘Iron Dome’
Israel: U.S.-Backed Forces Infiltrated by Terrorists?
US Confirms Israeli Strike in Sudan
 
Middle East
EU-Turkey: Barroso, Concerned Over Freedom of Speech
Iraq: Journalists Often Killed by Militants, Says Report
Israel-Egypt, 30 Years of Peace With Ups and Down
Jordan: One Out of 3 Students Smoke in Refugee Camps, Study
Lebanon: Hariri Tribunal; Media Cover Cassese’s Appointment
Obama and Khamenei
Saudi Arabia: Women, No to Lingerie Sold by Men
Syria: Iraqi Refugees to Move to Europe and US
Turkey-Iraq: Baghdad Will Pay Us200 Mln to Turkish Exporters
UAE: President Says 75 Dollars a “Fair” Oil Price
UAE: Iraqi Shoe Thrower ‘Third Most Powerful Arab’
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Afghans ‘Embracing Democracy’, Says Report
Afghanistan: Blundering Afghan Suicide Bomber Blows Up 6 Militants
Indonesia: Rights Group Wants ‘Boycott’ of Religious Issues
Italy to Raise Afghan Troop Levels
Malaysia Cleric: Muslim Smokers Worse Than Cows
New Report: Al-Qaida Recruiting Nuke Experts
Student Elections in Nepal, One Dead, a Hundred Injured
Tajik President Rakhmon Signs Law Suffocating Religious Freedom
Taliban Blocks UN Polio Treatment in Pakistan
 
Far East
China: Protecting Civil Rights Leads to Jail in Sichuan
Pay Raise of 50% for Chinese Soldiers
Pentagon: Beijing Boosts Cyberwarfare
 
Immigration
Finland: Immigration Issue Becoming Political Touchstone
Immigration: More Than a Million Foreigners Come to Live in Britain in Just Four Years
Malta-Tunisia: Illegal Migration, Foreign Ministers Meeting
Turkey: Over 300,000 Illegals Between ‘04-’08
 
Culture Wars
Obama Administration Announces $50 Million for Pro-Forced Abortion UNFPA
UK: Abortion Clinics to Advertise on Television
 
General
UN: WJC Blasts UNHRC Religious Criticism Resolution

Financial Crisis

Asian Ability to Produce Outsrips Western Ability to Consume

Capitalism has a basic weakness. No, it is not greed. It periodically causes production to outstrip consumption. That is what happened during the great depression and this is what is happening now. There are two possible solutions to the conundrum. The World War II one: Redirect production to weapons and then to rebuilding of what the weapons destroyed. The second — increase the number of consumers.

The United States has not caused this global meltdown. China and other export oriented countries did. It is their refusal to develop a domestic market willing and able to digest a large portion of their own increased production that led them to flood the world with their excess (cheap) currency and created the American housing bubble. Creating a new global currency will not solve the problem though it would enable the US to weaken the dollar and ease its debt burden.

At the moment, the Obama administration is trying to keep the global economy afloat by spending the money that the world is pouring into what it considers the American safe haven as fast as it can on a long wish list. But this policy cannot be sustained and the Chinese government knows it.

So why badmouth the US which is sacrificing its economic well being on behalf of the rest of the world? I suspect that the Chinese autocrats are afraid that a truly prosperous Chinese nation will get rid of them and they are doing what tyrants always do. They seek to redirecting their citizen anger from their own incompetence towards that of the American “foreign devil.” In other words, if China does not change course, we may be sooner of later find ourselves in another destructive war which may make W.W.II. look like a picnic.

           — Hat tip: JK[Return to headlines]


Chile Leader to Brown — We Saved in the Good Times

Gordon Brown was embarrassed for the second time in as many days on his tour of South America today as his Chilean host explained how the country was able to protect is economy because it had saved cash in case of a downturn.

In words that could have been scripted by David Cameron, Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, said the country was in a position to fund further tax cuts if necessary.

“I would say that because of the decisions we took during the good times, we were able to save some money for the bad times. And I would say that today that policy is producing results,” he said.

President Bachelet was speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Brown on the last leg of his six-day world tour ahead of next week’s G20 summit in London which started with a call for the “biggest fiscal stimulus the world has ever seen.” Related Links

But the Prime Minister had to signal a retreat from a further Budget giveaway in the UK after the Bank of England voiced concern over Britain’s record debt.

His claims of an emerging international consensus over how to tackle the global downturn were then challenged when the Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva blamed the financial crisis on white people.

Today’s embarrassment was unintentional and came after the Chilean leader had lavished praise on Mr Brown.

However her explanation of why the county was able to announce a fiscal stimulus of 2.8 per cent of its GDP — one of the biggest in the world — and did not rule out doing more led to pained expressions among the British delegation.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


France: Bonuses Limited for Bailed-Out Executives

France will limit bonuses and stock options for executives at companies bailed out with taxpayer money, an official announced Thursday as the government scrambled to calm public outrage.

Claude Gueant, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s chief of staff, said in an interview that the government plans to issue a decree next week that will forbid bonuses “fixing the conditions under which stock options and bonuses are forbidden in companies which have benefited from state aid.” The French decree, which doesn’t require parliamentary approval, would be effective immediately, Gueant said.

In other labor unrest, French workers released a manager of U.S. manufacturer 3M after holding him hostage for two days in a dispute over layoffs.

Workers at a 3M factory in Pithiviers, south of Paris, locked manager Luc Rousselet in an office Tuesday, demanding better severance packages for those laid off and better conditions for those who keep their jobs.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]

USA

Barack Obama May Delay Signing Up to Copenhagen Climate Change Deal

Barack Obama may be forced to delay signing up to a new international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of the year because of the scale of opposition in the US Congress, it emerged today.

Senior figures in the Obama administration have been warning Labour counterparts that the president may need at least another six months to win domestic support for any proposal.

Such a delay could derail the securing of a tough global agreement in time for countries and markets to adopt it before the Kyoto treaty runs out in 2012.

American officials would prefer to have the approval of Congress for any international agreement and fear that if the US signed up without it there would be a serious domestic backlash.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Congressman Suggests Calling a Terrorist a Terrorist

‘I think it is a disservice to not speak with clarity about the enemies we confront’

An Arizona congressman says it is a problem when U.S. officials fail to speak clearly — for example calling a terrorist a terrorist — when discussing the dangers the nation faces in confronting enemies.

U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., was interviewed by Greg Corombos of RadioAmerica.org on the issue of new marching orders in the Obama administration that words like “war on terror” and “enemy combatant” no longer be used.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Don’t Count Out ‘Mandatory’ Service Yet

Provisions dropped from one bill, but appear in another

A proposal in Congress to study whether “mandatory” service should be required of all young people in the United States has suddenly disappeared from a bill that would reauthorize other national service programs such as AmeriCorps. But the plan has appeared in another bill at just about the same time.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: FBI ‘Barters’ With Muslim Organizations

On Friday, CNN.com ran a news item that essentially reiterated the contents of a press release issued earlier in the week by a coalition calling itself the American Muslim Taskforce.

The American Muslim Taskforce would be more accurately described as the Muslim Brotherhood since many of the ten 10 signatories— ranging from the parent organization of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to the Muslim Students Association to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)— have been identified in an internal Muslim Brotherhood strategy memo as “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.”

Exhibit One: The U.S. government has identified CAIR as one of the “individuals/entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and/or its organizations.”

The memo, which was introduced into evidence by the federal government in last year’s successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation on terrorism financing charges, also describes the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission in America as one of “destroying Western civilization from within.” We should, accordingly, be very wary of the pronouncements of folks like those comprising the American Muslim Taskforce…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Guantanamo Ex-Detainees to Get Welfare.

During his news conference, Blair also said the Obama administration is still wrestling with what to do with the remaining 240 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which the president has ordered closed.

Some of the detainees, deemed non-threatening, may be released into the United States as free men, Blair confirmed.

That would happen when they can’t be returned to their home countries, because the governments either won’t take them or the U.S. fears they will be abused or tortured. That is the case with 17 Uighers (WEE’-gurz), Chinese Muslim separatists who were cleared for release from the jail long ago. The U.S. can’t find a country willing to take them, and it will not turn them over to China.

Blair said the former prisoners would have get some sort of assistance to start their new lives in the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Keyes to Appeal Case on Obama’s Eligibility

Lawyer says dismissal ‘eviscerates’ Constitution’s rules for president

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Ambassador Alan Keyes, a candidate for president on California’s general election ballot last year, challenging President Obama’s eligibility to hold office under the requirements of the U.S. Constitution will be appealed, according to a lawyer working on the case.

[…]

“It has been publicly reported that Mr. Obama as far back as 2006 had a relationship to a law firm that was coincidentally researching ways to get around the Article 2 requirements of the U.S. Constitution for service as president,” he said.

“This appears to be an ongoing attempt by Mr. Obama to obtain the presidency while avoiding and evading all questions on his eligibility,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


New Political Study Center? Turn Right at Berkeley

If you’re interested in studying left-wing social movements like organized labor, civil rights or feminism, there are dozens of universities and colleges that have created special programs and research centers devoted to the subject. But hardly any similar institutions exist in academia for those looking for a place to study the right wing in America and abroad.

Now, with backing from an anonymous donor, the University of California, Berkeley, where ‘60s-era students stood atop a police car and ignited free-speech protests, is creating a Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements. According to experts in the field it is the first of its kind in higher education.

“This is unique,” said Paola Bacchetta, an associate professor at Berkeley and an editor of the collection “Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists Around the World.” “There are no other centers that I know of.”

Scheduled to open in the fall, the new center, which Lawrence Rosenthal will oversee, is affiliated with Berkeley’s Institute for the Study of Social Change. “Part of the motivation is that it is an understudied area,” Mr. Rosenthal said.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Nominee for EPA No. 2 Spot Withdraws

President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the No. 2 official at the Environmental Protection Agency, Jon Cannon, withdrew Wednesday after it was disclosed that he was on the board of a nonprofit group faulted for mishandling federal grant money.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Canada Won’t be Bullied by Russia: Cannon

MONTREAL — Canada will not be bullied by the Russians in the Arctic, a tough-talking Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Friday.

Responding to news reports the Kremlin is planning to create a dedicated military force to help protect its interests in the disputed Arctic region, Cannon said Canada will not back down from asserting its own sovereignty in the North.

It is one of the Conservative government’s four policy pillars in the region and that is not about to change regardless of what actions Russia or any other other government takes, he said.

“Let’s be perfectly clear here,” Cannon said at a news conference in Montreal. “Canada will not be bullied.

“Sovereignty is part of that (Northern policy). We will not waiver from that objective. Sovereignty is uppermost for us, so we will not be swayed from that.”

Cannon said he intends to make Canada’s policy position “quite clear,” to the Russian foreign minister at the earliest opportunity — possibly next week. He added he will make the same pitch when he meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton April 6 at a conference on Arctic and Antarctic issues.

[…]

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


Did Canadian Public Health Care Kill Natasha Richardson?

Richardson died of an epidural hematoma — a bleeding artery between the skull and brain that compresses and ultimately causes fatal brain damage via pressure buildup. With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive. Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many US resorts, yes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi Strengthens Coalition

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is preparing to create a powerful new centre-right party called People of Freedom.

The three-day founding congress of the bloc will formally fuse Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia with the “post-Fascist” National Alliance of Gianfranco Fini.

The coalition will unite two of the three main Italian groups on the right.

Mr Fini used to be politically close to the ideology of Italy’s wartime Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

But since the end of the 1990s the National Alliance has shifted towards the mainstream of Italian politics and Mr Fini has distanced himself from Mussolini’s policies.

He dissolved the National Alliance — created in 1995 — at a congress on 22 March. He is currently Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house.

In elections last April Mr Berlusconi, a media tycoon and Italy’s richest man, won a third term as prime minister.

The People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Liberta) coalition is expected to make the Italians a stronger force in the European Parliament’s largest party grouping — the conservative EPP-ED — after the June European elections.

The right-wing Northern League has opted to stay outside the People of Freedom.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Britain Sees 40 Per Cent Rise in Cash Lost to Brussels, National Audit Office Says

The public spending watchdog has raised concerns about how Brussels is spending the increasing amount of cash given to it every year by Britain.

The National Audit Office found that Britain’s net cash contribution to Brussels jumped by 40 per cent to more than £4billion between 2006 and 2007.

In the same year, the total value of reported irregularities rose by 20 per cent to €1,392 million (£1.3billion) across all European Union countries, a report published today finds.

This figure is set to continue rising. Treasury figures released in December showed that the net payment to Brussels in 2008/09 will be £6.1 billion.

Next year in 2009-10, the net figure will be £6.4 billion.

The rises are the result of a 2005 agreement by Tony Blair — with Gordon Brown’s backing — to a staged series of cuts in the rebate, which was won by Margaret Thatcher in 1984.

The report found that 11 per cent of the cash intended to offer economic support for member states was mis-spent.

Errors were mainly due to inclusion of ineligible costs, over-declaration of money spent, or failure to respect procurement rules.

Of the irregularities across all member states, the United Kingdom reported 1,666 irregularities (including possible fraud), an increase over 2006, up 18 per cent.

The report, Financial Management in the European Union, found that for the first time the European Court of Auditors has confirmed the acounts gave a “true and fair view”.

But for the 14th year running, there was no positive “statement of assurance on whether the underlying transactions conformed to applicable laws and regulations”.

Edward Leigh MP, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “EU financial systems are still far too complex.”

[Return to headlines]


Call for BNP Nurses to be Banned From Conference

Nurses and health staff from the union Unison are to debate whether registered nurses should be banned from joining the far-right British National Party (BNP) at a conference next month.

Police are already banned from joining the BNP because of fears that its extreme political views will affect officers’ conduct.

However the publication of a list last year of BNP members showed that several practising and former nurses were members of the party.

The motion, ‘BNP policy is incompatible with nursing’, to be debated at next month’s Health Group Annual Conference in Harrogate in April.

It reminds nurses that the Nursing and Midwifery Council code stipulates that nurses should never discriminate against people under their care.

The motion says: ‘Membership of the BNP is wholly incompatible with public service, and this is especially so for Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors who have a unique role in caring for vulnerable people on a daily basis.’

It calls for the government to raise the issue with government and the four Departments of Health to establish legal powers to prevent BNP members and members of other racist groups from employment in nursing roles.

They should ensure that standards within the Improving Working Lives initiative are tightened to take account of the importance of diversity, the motion says.

If the motion succeeds, the union will also press the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to support its call for legislation on this issue and issue interim advice to registered nurses of the standards expected of them.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Crisis: France; Manager Held, Unionist Commits Suicide

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 25 — Another manager has been held at the his company offices by workers in France. The manager of 3M, a pharmaceutical company, located in Loiret in the central part of the country, was held overnight at the company’s offices by workers, and is still stuck there. The workers are protesting against a restructuring plan that will eliminate 110 jobs out of 235. “This action,” said a unionist, “is our only option, but there was no aggression.” On March 12, the head of Sony France was held by workers overnight at the factory. The company, which employs 311 workers, will be closed on April 17. A similar situation ended in a tragedy in Chauvigny in the north west of France at a ceramics factory in Deshoulieres. A unionist, unable to bear the pressure, drowned himself in a lake. In a letter, the 56 year-old man asked for his suicide to be considered a work-related accident. The company currently employs 130 people after restructuring and laying-off another 84 workers. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Farming: Spain, Tomato Growers Against Morocco

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 25 — The Spanish-French contact group for Fruit and vegetables has demanded an increase in vigilance over prices and quantities of Moroccan tomatoes imported into Europe. During a meeting with representatives of the Spanish Fruit and Vegetable Producers and Exporters Federation and the French Association of Tomato producers (Aopn), a new complaint was issued against Morocco to the European anti- fraud office, ‘asking for continuous vigilance and checks on the price and quantity of tomatoes coming in” from the Maghreb country to the EU ‘which is well over the permitted level”. ‘The problem is that the necessary control measures are not being applied” explained Jorge Brotons, president of the Spanish producers’ federation at the end of the meeting. Brotons said that the European Commission is responsible for the failure to implement the agreements between the EU and Morocco. The agreement currently in place between the EU and Morocco mentions 185,000 tonnes per year, but in 2008 alone ‘305,543 tonnes came in” according to Brotons. The new association agreement between the EU and Morocco, according to the Spanish and French tomato producers ‘must not allow further concessions in this subject’. Pierre Diot, president of Aopn, said: ‘this does not mean closing borders”, but arriving at an agreement which is satisfactory to all, ‘which will be carried out”. Producers from Andalusia, the Canaries, Murci and Valencia, the Spanish regions where tomatoes are grown, expressed their ‘deep concern” and announced that action ‘will not be restricted to just words”. The tomato industry in Spain provides employment to more than 100,000 people, with exports estimated at 845 million euro. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Muslim Students Preventing Hindus From Using QMU’s Multi-Faith Centre

A row has broken out at Queen Mary University, London about the use of its multi-faith centre. The National Hindu Students Forum (UK) claims that members of the Queen Mary’s Islamic Society have been physically preventing students of the university’s Hindu society from offering prayers at the multi-faith centre on the premises by standing 15 students at the door. The last Hindu prayer in the evenings is normally at 6pm, but the Muslim group who have a prayer session before the Hindus say that there is “no demand for the use of the multifaith centre by other faith communities” and they cannot therefore allow Hindus to use the premises even though they have a valid booking for its use.

(13 March 2009)

A row has broken out at Queen Mary University, London about the use of its multi-faith centre. The National Hindu Students Forum (UK) claims that members of the Queen Mary’s Islamic Society have been physically preventing students of the university’s Hindu society from offering prayers at the multi-faith centre on the premises by standing 15 students at the door. The last Hindu prayer in the evenings is normally at 6pm, but the Muslim group who have a prayer session before the Hindus say that there is “no demand for the use of the multifaith centre by other faith communities” and they cannot therefore allow Hindus to use the premises even though they have a valid booking for its use.

“The Islamic Society refuses to move out of the room even though we have a booking to use it for this week (13 March 2009). They did not even allow security to enter the premises and we were left standing outside the room unable to offer our prayers,” explained Kajal Valani, Chair of the National Hindu Students Forum. “The men who stood barricading the door issued verbal threats to us. We are going there again this evening, and we await to see if good sense will prevail.”

“This kind of incident should not be tolerated,” explained Kishan Bhatt from the National Hindu Students Forum. “We feel that the diverse culture of Britain is being violated.”

“It is important that students from every faith community are allowed to co-exist peacefully on university campuses,” said Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain. “A multi-faith centre must be exactly that — multi-faith. If one community believes that other communities cannot use a multi-faith centre and use physical and verbal methods to prevent their entry for legitimate use, then something is seriously wrong with our model of cohesion and good-relations. We hope university authorities, multi-faith leaders and the Home Office can come together to resolve this issue amicably.”

“Education Institutes should be ensuring rights of other faith groups in universities and colleges to equal use of multifaith centres, instead of allowing them to become centres of preaching misguided hatred and extremism,” said Sudarshan Bhatia President of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK. “The Islamic societies must show solidarity and respect to other communities.”

The National Hindu Students Forum (UK) has given assurances that it will work peacefully and tolerantly with the Queen Mary’s University to resolve the situation peacefully.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


One-Day G20 Summit to Cost £20m as Britain Prepares for Largest Gathering of World Leaders in 50 Years

The one-day G20 summit of world leaders is costing taxpayers more than £20million — with a large portion of the money pumped into an unprecedented security operation.

Around 100,000 protesters are planning widespread disruption of the event, which will see Barack Obama’s first visit to Britain as U.S. president.

Fears of violent clashes have forced Scotland Yard to cancel all police leave and London has been put on high alert for the largest gathering of world leaders in the UK for more than half a century.

Gordon Brown, who is on a whistlestop tour of South America trying to gain support for G20 measures, has already been forced to warn against ‘cynicism’ as expectations diminish of any meaningful resolutions from the meeting.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Papers Join Forces to Free Swedish Journalist

Sweden’s four largest newspapers on Friday jointly launched a massive campaign to push for the release of Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned in Eritrea for 2,742 days.

Isaak’s case is discussed in articles on the leader and editorial pages of broadsheets Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, as well as tabloids Aftonbladet and Expressen.

In addition to questioning the behaviour of Eritrean authorizes with respect to Isaak’s imprisonment, the newspapers also criticize what they see as a weak response from the Swedish government.

“The Swedish authorities’ attitude to the case is characterized by silence. They refer to the method of ‘quiet diplomacy’. So far, this method has yielded few results. Now is the time for the Swedish government to start working actively for Dawit Isaak´s release,” write the newspapers.

“Our demand is very simple: Free Dawit Isaak.”

During the campaign, the papers have agreed to set aside daily competition and work jointly to report on Isaak’s case and what Sweden’s foreign ministry is doing about it.

As a part of their efforts, the newspapers have each published a common article in English on their websites summarizing Isaak’s case and launched special websites in Swedish with more detailed background information.

Readers are also encouraged to visit the websites and add their name to a petition which will be presented to the Eritrean Embassy in Sweden on May 4th.

Isaak was arrested on September 23rd, 2001 in Eritrea when the government closed down the country’s independent newspapers.

He has never been charged with a crime or been told of the government’s suspicions against him.

Isaak was released once in November 2005, but was arrested two days later on his way to see a doctor.

Eritrea position on the case of Isaak, who holds both Swedish and Eritrean citizenship, is that it is an Eritrean matter which has nothing to do with Sweden.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Spain: 3,000 Arabic Inscriptions From Alhambra Catalogued

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 26 — Contrary to what was previously believed, only a tiny percentage of the body of Arabic inscriptions on the walls of the Alhambra in Granada are poetic, or are fragments from the Koran; most of them are expressions of praise for Allah as “the greatest victor”. An innovative cataloguing method has allowed this to be established. It is based on information technology, which has allowed researchers to put 3,116 of the 10,000 or so Arabic inscriptions in order. The pilot project, called Corpus Epigrafico de La Alhambra, was presented today at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, and was led by researcher from the Higher Council for Scientific Research, Juan Castilla and promoted by the patronage of the Alhambra and Generalife. The results have been collected in one volume and in five DVDs, have initially been distributed among the Andalusia public library network, and they will later be made available to the public in bookshops. The catalogue, which will include the whole body of 10,000 epigrams within two years, includes contributions from major researchers, such as Emilio Lafuente Alcantara, a 19th-century scholar who performed the difficult task of translating and interpreting the inscriptions. A virtual tour of the Palazzo di Cameres and the writings is available, which has caused enormous excitement among historians from the time of the restoration of the Catholic kings and the expulsion of the Arabs from Granada. There are constant references in the epigrams to the Nazari dynasty, with statements such as “there is no greater victor than Allah”, and themes relating to prayer, pity and the exaltation of Allah also dominate. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Total Recall for Kronfågel Chicken

Swedish poultry company Kronfågel announced on Friday it was recalling all of its frozen chicken products following four new reports of glass in Kronfågel frozen chicken packages.

As a result, Kronfågel has now decided to recall all frozen chicken products sold under the Kronfågel label, the company said in a statement.

The new glass finds came in Tvååker on Sweden’s west coast, Sjöbo in the south, Boden in the north, and Skoghall in central Sweden.

Two of the reports involved frozen whole chickens, while the other glass bits were found in packages of frozen drumsticks.

The company has yet to determine whether the glass found its way into Kronfågel products during production or by mistake in stores or the homes of consumers.

Thus, the company has decided to recall its entire line of frozen chicken products.

“We are extremely concerned that someone may be injured. What has happened is very unfortunate of our consumers and our customers, Kronfågel employees, our suppliers, and the entire industry,” said Lantmännen Kronfågel CEO Jan Henriksen in a statement.

He added that the company is devoting all of its resources to determining what happened.

“With our forceful recall, we now have time to get to the bottom of the problem without worrying about there being glass in more frozen chicken,” said Henriksen.

The complaints will be investigated by local police in each area, although it’s possible that each case will later be examined by each and every local police department.

“At this point, we aren’t investigating the new cases,” said Sörmland police spokesperson Lars Franzell to the TT news agency.

He added that police still do not know how the pieces of glass got into the chicken packages.

“We don’t have any concrete suspicions directed at any particular person,” he said.

Police haven’t ruled out that the people behind the new cases were inspired by the earlier reports and that it’s possible that none of the cases are connected.

So far, 12 people from different areas around the country have found glass in chicken from Kronfågel.

Sweden’s security police, Säpo, have yet to be been called into the investigation, although the possibility has been discussed among the Sörmland police.

“If we are asked to assist the Sörmland police who are now investigating the discovery of glass, we’ll make a decision,” said Säpo’s Anders Tagesson to TT.

When food companies suffer from suspected sabotage which threatens many people, it is considered a national security threat and Säpo is often called in to assist.

Other chicken producers are also concerned about how glass found in chicken products many affect consumers.

Jimmy Samuelsson, head of Guldfågel AB, doesn’t think that whoever is behind the suspected sabotage is out to damage Sweden’s poultry industry.

“It’s probably sabotage, but I don’t think it’s directed at a single company or the whole industry,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Swedish MP to Pope: Ditch Fundamentalism

Prominent feminist politician Birgitta Ohlsson is demanding that the Swedish government launch a formal protest with the Vatican over what she sees as the “religious fundamentalism” of Pope Benedict XVI.

“It’s important to have a values-based foreign policy and a values-based development aid policy and that means criticizing religious fundamentalists no matter what church they come from,” Ohlsson told The Local.

Ohlsson’s comments come following claims by Pope Benedict XVI in connection with a recent trip to Africa that condoms make the AIDS problem worse.

“You can’t resolve AIDS with the distribution of condoms…on the contrary, it increases the problem,” said the Pope, according to CNN.

Also infuriating for Ohlsson was Vatican support for a decision by Brazilian archbishop to excommunicate Brazilian doctors for performing an abortion on a nine-year-old rape victim.

As part of a strategy to draw attention to the issue Ohlsson, a Riksdag member and foreign policy spokesperson for Sweden’s Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), launched Facebook pages in Swedish and English.

The Swedish site, “Rott Kort Vatikanen” (‘A Red Card for the Vatican’) boasts nearly 17,000 members, which the more recently launched English site, “Papa Don’t Preach”, already has more than 2,500 members.

“In starting the campaign we thought it was important to put together a powerful network quickly,” she said of her decision to launch the Swedish Facebook page.

“We then heard from a lot of people outside of Sweden who suggested that we launch the page in English as well.”

According to Ohlsson, the Pope’s claims that condoms don’t help combat AIDS undermine the goals of Swedish development aid.

In 2007, Sweden set aside 1.5 billion kronor ($187 million) to finance projects to fight AIDS. According to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency(SIDA), promoting safe-sex is one of the cornerstones of its strategies for combating the disease.

Ohlsson has also written a letter to Sweden’s foreign minister demanding that formally take up the matter with the Vatican.

“What measures is Foreign Minister Carl Bildt planning to carry out so that Sweden’s government can launch an official protest with the Holy See for its views on sexual and reproductive rights which undermines Swedish development efforts?” Ohlsson asked in a letter sent to Bildt last week.

She said she is disappointed in the Swedish government for not taking a harder stance against the Pope’s statements.

“A lot of other foreign ministries in Europe have reacted much more strongly than Sweden against the Pope’s comments,” she said.

“The Swedish government should be tougher.”

Besides the Facebook pages and letters to the foreign ministry, Ohlsson hopes to continue the campaign with a separate website with an eye toward the European parliamentary elections in June.

“It’s an opportunity to put pressure the Pope and his gang in the Vatican for a message that damages the human rights of millions of people around the world.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Turkey Won’t Veto Rasmussen

The Turkish President Abdullah Gül says his country will not veto Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next secretary-general of NATO.

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül has announced in Brussels that his country will not veto the Danish prime minister if he becomes a candidate to the post of secretary-general of NATO.

“We are not against anyone, and not Rasmussen either, if he becomes a candidate. He is one of the most important and successful prime ministers in Europe,” Gül says.

Turkey has previously been seen as the primary obstacle to Fogh Rasmussen as a choice for the new secretary-general of NATO. Unsourced and sourced comments from Turkish officials in recent weeks have said that Turkey was not in favour of Fogh Rasmussen as a result of his standing in the Muslim world.

“The important thing is that NATO is successful. We shouldn’t speak so much about religious issues, as that is an issue that splits,” says Gül.

Gül’s statement that Turkey would not veto Anders Fogh Rasmussen comes after the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced on Thursday that the European Union hoped to open two new chapters in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, including the Energy Chapter, before the end of the Czech EU Presidency.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: Dawn Swoop Sex Arrests

SIX men accused of being at the centre of a sex ring said to have lured young girls into a world of exploitation and rape have been rounded up by police in a dawn raid.

The Advertiser joined the early morning swoop at one property in Clifton, as detectives and uniformed officers paid simultaneous visits to addresses in other parts of Clifton, Broom and Masbrough on Wednesday morning.

The action followed a two-month police investigation into the allegations of four girls, aged between 11 and 14, who claim that they were plucked from the streets of Rotherham and exploited for sex.

Wednesday morning’s operation resulted in the immediate arrest of five suspects.

A sixth man was added to the haul in a later raid on a property in Shirecliffe, Sheffield, and a 20-year-old man, from the Moorgate area of Rotherham, was arrested yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.

None of the seven men, aged between 19 and 29, had been charged in connection with the alleged offences when the Advertiser went to press and all were expected to be released on police bail.

Two more men are still subject of police enquiries as part of the investigation and are expected to be brought in for questioning.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Police Blunders That Left Another Serial Rapist Free to Attack 20 More Terrified Women on Their Doorstep

Police yesterday apologised for appalling blunders that left a sex beast free to claim at least 20 extra victims.

Kirk Reid became a prime suspect in 2004 for dozens of attacks on women walking home alone.

But, because officers failed to question him, he was able to extend his reign of terror for four more years.

The 44-year-old chef and children’s football coach was arrested last year only after the case was passed to specialist detectives.

They took five days to crack the assaults dating back seven years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Vatican Raps Obama Medieval Mystic

Gioacchino da Fiore ‘false and heretical’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, March 27 — The Vatican on Friday rapped the teachings of a medieval Christian mystic cited three times by Barack Obama as someone who wanted a better world..

“Few of those who expound on Gioacchino da Fiore (Joachim of Fiore, 1130-1202 AD) on the Internet know, or go to the trouble of finding out, what this character really said,” said Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Pontifical Household.

According to the most “vogueish” interpretations, Cantalmessa said, the utopian mystic proposed a new liberal and spiritual Church able to move beyond dogmas and hierarchies.

This was a “false and heretical” view, Cantalamessa said, because believers must be guided not only by the spirit but also by the laws of the Church.

“It can be fatal to do without one or the other of these guides”. Gioacchino da Fiore, whose theories were confuted by St Thomas Aquinas, inspired several heretical and esoteric theologists and thinkers including Francis Bacon.

In his campaign speeches, Obama referred to Gioacchino da Fiore as a “master of contemporary civilisation” and someone who wanted to create a fairer world. Italy’s most famous literary figure, Dante Alighieri, referred to Gioacchino da Fiore as a “gifted prophet” in his famous work The Divine Comedy.

He is also cited as a model by the hero of Umbert Eco’s bestselling cowled skulduggery high-brow whoddunit The Name of the Rose. Meanwhile, many in the mystic monk’s southern Italian hometown of San Giovanni in Fiore are awaiting a decision from the Vatican on the proposed beatification of the monk.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Vatican to Receive Condoms by Post

Thousands to participate in worldwide Facebook initiative

(ANSA) — Rome, March 26 — The Vatican is to receive condoms in the post from subscribers to a Facebook group protesting Pope Benedict XVI’s recent comments against the use of condoms to combat AIDS in Africa.

Organisers of the Italian group on the social networking website said 60,000 subscribers will send a condom to the Vatican on Friday.

But deliveries could total millions after similar Facebook groups across the world also pledged to participate.

Condoms will be “addressed to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, 00120 Vatican City” and organisers are hoping they will all arrive on April 1.

The Italian group said the gesture was intended as a “peaceful provocation… from young people, who are probably the most involved with the problem of sexually transmitted diseases”.

The Facebook campaign began in Italy but has spread through Europe, with thousands of people joining from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and Bulgaria, organisers said.

The pontiff grabbed headlines worldwide last Tuesday after saying condoms not only do not help, but “increase the problem” in the spread of AIDS as he spoke to journalists on his flight to Africa.

His comments came under heavy fire from AIDS agencies, humanitarian organisations, the European Commission and various European governments including those of Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Italian bishops on Monday accused the media, some European politicians and international organisations of having “mocked” the pope with their “offensive” and “vulgar” attacks.

Rallying round the pope, the head of Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said the barrage of criticism against the pope had “been prolonged beyond good reason”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Vatican Says Medieval Monk Hailed by Barack Obama Was a Heretic

[From the Comments: “The best analysis of the work of John of Flora is contained in the book, The New Science of Politics by Eric Voegelin (University of Chicago press. Voegelin saw John of Flora as Gnostic and traces modern totalitarian regimes (Communism, Facism and National Socialism) back to his modes of thinking.” - io’p]

The Vatican has dismissed as a heretic a mystical medieval monk apparently cited by Barack Obama as a moral authority and visionary.

According to Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Pontifical Household, the US President referred in campaign speeches to Gioacchino da Fiore, or Joachim of Fiore, as a “master of contemporary civilisation” who had sought to create a better world. Drawing on the Book of Revelation, Gioacchino envisaged a “new age of the Holy Spirit” in which the Church hierarchy would cease to exist and Christians would unite with infidels in an “Order of the Just”.

[…]

He said that Mr Obama had quoted Gioacchino three times during his Presidential campaign, thus “reviving interest in his doctrines”, not least on the internet. But Gioacchino’s theory that a “third age” would follow that of God the Father in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New Testament was heretical, because it “strikes at the heart” of Christian belief in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, St Matthew and St Paul, he said the accepted Christian doctrine was that the Holy Spirit existed at the same time as the period of the Old and New Testaments, inspiring both the ancient prophets and Jesus Christ.

[…]

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Bosnia: Brcko Changes Status, Ends International Supervision

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, MARCH 26 — Today the Bosnian Parliament approved an amendment to the Constitution that defines the status of the District of Brcko, in the northern part of the country, placing it under the rule of the central government after 13 years of international supervision. The district will permanently maintain its special status, which cannot be disputed by the two Bosnian entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (a Croatian-Muslim majority) and the Republic of Srpska (a Serbian majority). With 70% of its population made up of Croatians and Muslims, Brcko was occupied by Serbian forces in the Bosnian War (1992-95) and was the site of a fierce ethnic cleansing campaign. The Dayton Peace Accords, which put an end to the conflict, gave an international arbitrator the status of the city, situated in a 5km wide corridor which connects the eastern and western parts of the Republic of Srpska. Brcko remained under the control of the Republic of Srpska after the war, until 1999, when international arbitrator Roberts Owen gave the district an autonomous status, and it remained under international supervision until today. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Libya-Italy: Tripoli Wants Friendship Treaty Effective

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MARCH 25 — The main issue on the agenda of the first meeting of the Libyan government, the General People’s Committee (GPC), was that of making the “Friendship Treaty” signed by Libya and Italy effective. The meeting has taken place this week and, according to state-run press agency JANA, the Tripoli government has decided to set up a committee to draw up “the strategy for the Infrastructure Project to be financed by Italy.” The operative wing of the General People’s Committee will also be deciding on mechanisms to activate bilateral cooperation between Italy and Libya in the fields of science, technology, culture, economy, industry and energy, as provided for by the Treaty. The government has also decided to create an investment fund worth 20 billion Libyan dinars (about 11.6 billion euro) to develop local investment in large-scale projects underway in the country and increase work possibilities for the unemployed. As concerns foreign policy, the meeting also saw the approval for the agreements signed this year with Portugal and Slovakia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Killer SMS Spreads Fear, Government Reassures

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 25 — Egypt is in fear of a killer text message “of foreign origin” which allegedly kills anyone who reads it. The news was spread by the media and was soon known around the country, forcing the Interior and Health ministers to act and reassure the population. According to France Presse the killer text message caused the death of a man in Mallawi, south of Cairo. The Egyptian Gazette reports that “The man died spitting blood after a cerebral attack a few minutes after having received an sms from an unknown number”, specifying that the terrible number “begins with the plus symbol and ends with 111”. Official agency Mena cited an “official source within the secret services” that denies press information according to which “unknown foreign parties are sending text messages to our citizens who then complain about an unbearable headache followed by cerebral haemorrhage which results in their death”. The ministry of Health also issued a note quoting health services from various regions and stating that “no case with such symptoms has been reported”. The ministry claims that “These rumours contradict all scientific data”. The ministry of the Interior instead announced the arrest of three people employed by an oil company that allegedly spread the rumour about the killer rumours.(ANSAmed).

2009-03-25 18:05

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: Foreign Minister Contests Kouchner’s Remarks

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 26 — The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an official note, has strongly protested against the statements made by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to the weekly Jeune Afrique regarding human rights and freedom of press in Tunisia. In a speech on Africa in Tunisia, Kouchner had told Jeune Afrique — in reference to the Tunisian regime — that “there are attacks on human rights, journalists are harassed and sometimes imprisoned and an iron hand is frequently used.. I don’t agree with people who violate freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. It would please me to see the elections take place in an atmosphere of openness and competition”. In response to these statements, the official statement issued by the Tunisian Foreign Ministry underlines that Kouchner’s statements “are, unfortunately for him, in no way credible,” and the French minister is invited to verify his remarks “to avoid mistaking this country and era for another country and era, because it would be very easy to dare Mr. Kouchner to find a single case of imprisoned journalists in Tunisia in the past twenty years”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel: Livni, Barak-Netanyahu Deal is Bad Politics

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MARCH 25 — The leader of Israeli centrist party, Kadima, and outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said today that she was “saddened” by the agreement reached yesterday by Ehud Barak’s Labour Party with the right-wing coalition of Premier designate Benyamin Netanyahu. She called the agreement “an expression of bad politics”. “Yesterday we witnessed an expression of bad politics,” said Livni, reported on the Yediot Ahronot website, adding that she believes that Barak — the Minister of Defence in the outgoing government, destined after yesterday’s agreement to hold the same office in the right-wing cabinet led by Likud — contributed “to a growing lack of confidence of the citizens towards politics”. Kadima — which was confirmed as the top party in the February 10 elections, but did not win a majority in congress — will not enter into Netanyahu’s government and intends to lead the opposition, confirmed Livni. For us “this is a government that does not have fundamental values,” she explained, adding that “stability is not a value in itself”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel Successfully Tests ‘Iron Dome’

During the test, a number of rockets were launched, “of the same type that were fired in recent years at Israel,” and the Iron Dome system responded “accordingly,” the Defense Ministry said, using terminology indicating a successful interception of the projectiles.

The Iron Dome system is slated to defend southern and northern Israel from Hamas and Hizbullah rockets, and be a key component in a multi-layered missile defense system that includes the Arrow anti-ballistic missile shield.

During the test, a number of rockets were launched, “of the same type that were fired in recent years at Israel,” and the Iron Dome system responded “accordingly,” the Defense Ministry said, using terminology indicating a successful interception of the projectiles.

The Iron Dome system is slated to defend southern and northern Israel from Hamas and Hizbullah rockets, and be a key component in a multi-layered missile defense system that includes the Arrow anti-ballistic missile shield.

           — Hat tip: JK[Return to headlines]


Israel: U.S.-Backed Forces Infiltrated by Terrorists?

Secret investigation finds state of ‘heavy’ penetration

JAFFA, Israel — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization suspects its U.S.-backed militias and official intelligence service have been infiltrated by the rival Hamas terrorist organization, according to PA sources speaking to WND.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


US Confirms Israeli Strike in Sudan

The New York Times reports that ‘American officials’ have confirmed Thursday’s report that Israeli warplanes struck and destroyed a Gaza-bound weapons convoy from Iran in Northern Sudan in January.

American officials said the airstrike took place as Israel sought to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza during the weeks it was fighting a war with Hamas there.

Two American officials who are privy to classified intelligence assessments said that Iran had been involved in the effort to smuggle weapons to Gaza. They also noted that there had been intelligence reports that an operative with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had gone to Sudan to coordinate the effort.

But one former official said that the exact provenance of the arms that were being smuggled via Sudan was unclear…

           — Hat tip: Israel Matzav[Return to headlines]

Middle East

EU-Turkey: Barroso, Concerned Over Freedom of Speech

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 26 — The European Union is “concerned about decisions which could compromise the freedom of the press” in Turkey: President of the EU Commission José Manuel Barroso was speaking at the end of his meeting with President Abdullah Gul. “Full respect for the freedom of the press is an extremely important value for us” said Barroso. With regard to the 500 million dollar fine for tax fraud recently handed out by the Turkish tax authorities to the Dogan group, which is the number one media association in Ankara, Barroso said that he was “concerned over possible decisions which could put the plurality of information and its freedom at risk”. The Dogan group, which owns daily papers Hurriyet and Milliyet, and TV channel Cnn-Turkey among others, Interpreted the fine as yet another attack against the freedom of the press by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Gul, who was in Brussels to relaunch negotiations over EU membership, which is proceeding very slowly, explained that Turkey “is seriously committed to democratic reforms”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Iraq: Journalists Often Killed by Militants, Says Report

Baghdad, 25 March (AKI) — Iraq is the world’s most dangerous location in the world for journalists, according to a new report. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that journalists are regularly killed in Iraq, often by insurgents and militias, and the government rarely pursues the killers.

“Iraq tops the index for the second consecutive year. At least 88 journalists have been murdered since the war began in 2003, and not a single conviction has been obtained in these cases,” said the CPJ in a report posted on its website.

“Insurgents and militias are behind the vast majority of killings, while Iraqis working for local media have been the predominant targets,” the report said.

“Although the frequency of journalist murders is slowing — nine in 2008 (and) down from 27 in 2007 — Iraq remains the most dangerous place to be a journalist,” it said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organisation founded in 1981. It promotes press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.

A total of 138 journalists have died in Iraq since the allied invasion of March 2003 — 116 of them were Iraqis.

The report looked at the safety of journalists in Iraq, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Russia, Philippines, India, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The index covers the years 1999 through 2008.

In a previous report released earlier this week, the organisation noted that journalists are more likely to be targeted and murdered than killed in combat.

In Iraq, murders account for nearly two-thirds of all media fatalities, the CPJ said. It said although conditions in Iraq improved in 2008, authorities have yet to solve a single murder case involving a journalist.

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


Israel-Egypt, 30 Years of Peace With Ups and Down

(by Giorgio Raccah) (ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 25 — Despite all the negative predictions, today Israel and Egypt, although a little on the quiet, are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the historic peace agreement that ended thirty years of war between the two countries. The peace that many predicted would be ephemeral has instead turned out to be long lasting, albeit with ups and downs including moments of extreme tension and ambassadors being recalled. The basic strategic interests that led the two states to bury the hatchet are still as valid today as they were thirty years ago. Israel celebrated the anniversary with a reception at the Foreign Ministry and a symposium at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in which both the Egyptian ambassador Yasser Reda and the Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Shalom Cohen, took part. In his speech the Egyptian diplomat stated that the peace treaty signed at the White House on March 26, 1979 by the “courageous” leaders from the two countries, President Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was meant to have been the foundation for a general peace in the region and urged Israel to seize the Arab peace initiative to resolve the regional conflict. The initiative includes normalising relations between Israel and all the Arab states in exchange for Israel retreating from all the territories it occupied in the 1967 conflict, a fair and joint solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees, and the formation of a Palestinian state next to the Israeli state. In a transparent reference to Iran, Reda said that solving the Palestinian conflict would thwart the aim of those fostering instability in the region. The participation of the Egyptian diplomat was in doubt until the last minute because Egypt had alluded to an eventual boycott due to the nomination of Avigdor Lieberman as the new Israeli Foreign Minister, guilty in Cairo’s eyes of making hostile statements against Egypt and president Hosni Mubarak. The problem was resolved because the new government will be established next week. Ambassador Cohen declared that on a governmental level the contacts between the two countries are normal and continuous in the political, economic and military, as well as other spheres but pointed out at the same time that the spirit of dialogue has not filtered down to many levels of Egyptian society and that, in this aspect, the two countries remain distant. A lot remains to be done, he said, to bring the two peoples together. In Israel some compare the peace with Egypt to a cold peace, perhaps closer to a state of non-belligerence, and maintain that in international forums Cairo’s policies remain hostile to the Jewish state and aligned with those of Arab countries. However, some answer that in thirty years no soldier from either country has been the victim of hostilities and that peace with the most important Arab country has irrevocably changed the regional panorama, and opened the way fifteen years later for the second peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state, Jordan, the start of official relations with other Arab states, and did away with the Arab taboo regarding peace with the Jewish state. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Jordan: One Out of 3 Students Smoke in Refugee Camps, Study

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 24 — One out three students in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan smokes cigarettes or other forms of tobacco, raising concern about health of young children in the impoverished areas, a UN study revealed today. The study was conducted by the UN’s Global Youth Tobacco Survey, in at least 20 schools across the kingdom, where more than 1.8 officially registered refugees live. At least 12.7 percent of UNRWA students in Jordan smoke cigarettes, while 13.2 per cent use other forms of tobacco. Moreover, one out five students smoke argileh, including girls, according to the study. At least 1,500 students between the ages of 13 and 15 took part in the survey, which also revealed a considerable number of students subjected to passive smoking. More than 50 percent of student’s parents smoke, according to the study. Refugee camps in Jordan were established after the 1948 and 1967 war with Israel, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes under gun pointed by armed Israeli groups. Many refugees gained citizens status, but remain languishing in impoverished camps, where unemployment is high. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Hariri Tribunal; Media Cover Cassese’s Appointment

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 25 — Antonio Cassese’s photo is on the front pages of Lebanese papers today after the announcement that he is to head the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Hague, although for the moment there has not been any official comment by Lebanese authorities.. “The Italian Cassese as President” (of the tribunal) is the headline across Al Mustaqbal, the paper owned by the family of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, whose assassination on February 14 2005 will be the focus of the tribunal. The widely-read An Nahar instead wrote that Cassese’s appointment and the first Syrian ambassador to Beirut were both “very important events in the modern history of Lebanon”. In relation to Cassese’s appointment, a number of papers have quoted Saad Hariri, son and political heir to the former prime minister, as simply saying that he “trusted in the tribunal” to do its job. Hariri has repeatedly accused Syria of being responsible for the violent explosion which killed his father and 22 others along the Beirut seafront. “We are sure that the Syrians committed this crime,” he has said. Damascus, on its part, has rejected all accusations.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Obama and Khamenei

By Amil Imani

During the U.S. presidential election, President Obama boasted that he would embark on personal diplomacy to solve our foreign policy problems with terrorist countries such as Syria and the Islamic Republic. He said that he would meet their leaders without any preconditions to settle our disputes. Doesn’t that sound like a change of heart, a real change and a great relief to us all? Never mind the fact that this president has about zero experience in foreign policy matters, he is foolish enough to aim to negotiate with the ever-conniving Assad of Syria and masters of deceptions such as the mullahs of Iran.

President Obama, how do you propose to engage the point-man of the end-of-the-worlder Shiite regime in negotiation or discussion without sacrificing the valiant Iranian people who are struggling to free themselves from the yoke of fascist Islamists? You believe that you, still somewhat wet behind the ears, can do better than the four-year combined efforts of seasoned diplomats from France, Germany, and Great Britain?

There are those who see the solution in negotiation with the Mullahs. These people are either naïve or dishonest. The Mullahs’ idea of negotiation is Islamic to the core. They take all and you give all since you, according to Islamic fiat, are not entitled to anything. The track record of Muslims negotiating even among themselves in places like Iraq, the Palestinian territory, Pakistan and almost every other Islamic land speaks volumes.

President Obama, it takes two to tango, as the old saying goes. The uncompromising oil-intoxicated fanatics of Iran and their proxies don’t want to dance with you. They want the entire floor — the Middle East — and the rest of the world down the road.

Sure enough, a week ago, President Obama broadcast a goodwill video for the Iranians celebrating their thousands of years-old Persian New Year, offering the country a “new beginning” in relations. While Iranians welcomed President Obama’s goodwill gesture, at the same time they were disgusted when President Obama did not differentiate between a gang of terrorists who have been holding Iran and the Iranian people hostage for 30 years…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]


Saudi Arabia: Women, No to Lingerie Sold by Men

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Lingerie sold by men? No thank you. This is the motto for a boycott launched by a group of Saudi Arabian women who are tired of being the protagonists of one of the most paradoxical aspects of the ultra-conservative country. The goal of the boycott, explained the Director of the Women’s Awareness Center of Jeddah, Modie Batterjie, to the Arab Times, is to bring attention to a draft law from 2006 calling for women to sell woman’s lingerie in stores. The law was obstructed by conservative members of Parliament. In a country where there is strict sexual segregation, where a man and a woman who are not relatives are forbidden from being in the same room, where patrols by the commission for the protection of virtue and the prevention of vice are extremely active in ensuring that women’s heels aren’t too high, and that their bodies are adequately covered by black abayas, stores that sell women’s lingerie employ exclusively male personnel. In the display windows, mannequins displaying lingerie are headless to ensure that there is as little identification with the female body as possible, but inside, conversations between the client and the clerk inevitably focus on cup size, corsets, g-strings, and sexy gowns. Beyond the displays of lace, silk, and coloured plumage highly in vogue among women in the Gulf region, men and women in close quarters exchange requests, advice, and opinions on articles and sizes at the limits of a topic — intimacy — that is an unthinkable subject of conversation in any other public context. A situation that is paradoxically created by the law, which strictly adheres to Sharia (Koranic Law), which imposes stores in Saudi Arabia to employ only male clerks to avoid women from interacting with men who do not belong to their families. Will these women deprive themselves the pleasure of wearing lingerie that makes them appear and feel sexy for their husbands in the name of a boycott? Not entirely. Many Saudi women, to avoid embarrassment, do their lingerie shopping abroad, mainly in Dubai. But for those who are not able to travel, there is a loophole: in shopping centres there are areas reserved for female clientele only, and in the boutiques and large stores they are able to buy their lingerie freely, with the added advantage of being able to try it on before purchasing it. In other stores, the law does not allow dressing rooms, and women are forced to guess if what they are buying is the right size, sometimes causing them to waste money. Last December, the chief of the Saudi religious police had authorised underwear shops for women to employ female workers, but just in women-only shopping centres. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Syria: Iraqi Refugees to Move to Europe and US

Damascus, 26 March (AKI) — Around 12,000 Iraqi refugees living in Syria will be resettled in Europe and the United States, according to an official from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Germany, the US, Canada,The Netherlands and other countries, have agreed to host a number of Iraqi refugees in Syria, an unnamed source told Adnkronos International (AKI).

The resettlement of the refugees began in February and the UNHCR is continuing to evaluate tens of thousands of files to establish who has the necessary requirements to qualify for resettlement.

“Germany has agreed to take in 2,500 refugees, and the same with The Netherlands, while the United States 5,000 others,” the official source told AKI.

“Some of the refugees will attend classes that will help them integrate to their new host country.”

The UNHCR source, however, rejected the notion that religion played a role in the selection of candidates.

“There is no preference about this point and among the conditions by host countries there is absolutely no discrimination in this sense,” said the source.

The UNHCR provides food aid to Iraqi refugees living in Syria and emergency financial aid grants of up to 100 dollars a month to many of them, including widows, senior citizens and handicapped people..

Syria hosts almost two million refugees from the strife-torn nation at an annual cost of 1.6 billion dollars. Damascus has appealed to the UNHCR and the international community to guarantee the refugees a dignified life.

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


Turkey-Iraq: Baghdad Will Pay Us200 Mln to Turkish Exporters

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 27 — Iraq will pay $200 million to settle down the issue related to Iraq’s debt owed to Turkish exporters, Anatolia agency reported quoting the Turkish State Minister, Kursad Tuzmen. “The problem related to Iraq’s debt owed to Turkish exporters was high on agenda of President Abdullah Gul’s recent visit to Iraq. This debt is about USD 200 million. Iraqi authorities pledged to repay their debt as soon as possible. After Iraq pays those debts, the two parties will begin debating clearance of debts belonged to the pre-1990 period”, the minister declared. Tuzmen added that Turkish Eximbank would also provide Iraq with a loan.. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UAE: President Says 75 Dollars a “Fair” Oil Price

Abu Dhabi, 25 March (AKI) — The president of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan said on Wednesday that 70 to 75 dollars for a barrel of oil was a “fair” price. “The prices are low and as such they affect all. A fair price per barrel from our point of view is 70 to 75 (dollars),” said al-Nahyan quoted by state news agency WAM.

He made the remarks as the Abu Dhabi-based central bank governor said he did not expect oil prices to go above 44 dollars per barrel in 2009 — a level which would have an impact on the region’s economies which are heavily dependent on oil exports.

“This will have a great impact on the economies of the Gulf region,” Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi told a Gulf banking conference. “This will definitely influence the economy.”

Plunging oil prices have affected several oil-exporting countries including the UAE.

However, a report released in February by the Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) said that Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia could balance their 2009 budgets if oil prices stayed above 45 dollars per barrel.

The price of crude oil was trading at 52.05 dollars on the global market early Wednesday.

Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s wealthiest emirate, is by far the largest oil producer in the seven-emirate federation and has massive oil reserves.

The UAE is the third largest oil exporter in the world and holds eight percent of the world’s oil reserves.

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


UAE: Iraqi Shoe Thrower ‘Third Most Powerful Arab’

Dubai, 27 March (AKI) — Iraqi journalist Montazer al-Zaidi who threw his shoes at former United States president George W. Bush, was listed as the third most powerful Arab by a prominent Gulf business magazine on Friday.

The annual Power 100 list of the world’s most influential Arabs placed al-Zaidi as the highest new entry on the list, said UAE-based online daily Arabian Business.

Al-Zaidi earlier this month began a three year jail sentence for having assaulted a foreign leader on an official visit.

Al-Zaidi’s actions “inspired, influenced and angered millions around the world,” said the list.

Al-Zaidi hurled his shoes at Bush during a farewell media conference in Baghdad last December, calling Bush a “dog” and saying it was a “farewell kiss” from those who had been killed, orphaned and widowed in Iraq.

His actions were condemned by the Iraqi government as “shameful” although Bush — who managed to duck both shoes — shrugged off the incident.

But al-Zaidi’s gesture made international headlines and turned him into a hero in the Arab world with shoe-throwing becoming worldwide symbol of dissent and protest.

In the Arab world, throwing your shoes or exposing the soles of your shoes is one of the worst signs of disrespect.

Other prominent Arabs featured in the Power 100 list were Palestinian theatre director Amir Nizar Zuabi and Saudi actor Fayez al-Maliki, star of the first movie to be screened in the kingdom for 30 years.

Sulaiman al-Fahim, the tycoon behind the Abu Dhabi takeover of Britain’s football team Manchester City is ranked in fourth on the list.

“The power list reflects their contributions to society, and their ability to both influence and inspire millions of others in equal measure,” said Arabian Business editorial director Anil Bhoyrul.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Afghans ‘Embracing Democracy’, Says Report

Rome, 24 March (AKI) — Democracy is taking root among Afghans who are increasingly open to vigourous political debate and accepting of electoral candidates from different ethnic groups, The International Council on Security and Development said on Tuesday. The organisation released a report ahead of forthcoming elections due to be held in Afghanistan in August.

“Ordinary Afghans are embracing the idea of democracy. It is one piece of good news in an otherwise lengthy list of failures in Afghanistan,” said Norine MacDonald, ICOS president and head researcher.

“Despite a challenging security situation, it is now incumbent upon the international community to assure that a truly nationwide election can go ahead without manipulation of the outcome by the West or corrupt local actors.”

The think-tank said its field research also revealed a remarkable absence of concern about the Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s ethnic background, and an openness to consider female candidates in the forthcoming elections.

Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun and comes from a small village of Karz in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.

MacDonald warned however that the current Taliban resurgence and mounting violence in Afghanistan made a free and fair presidential poll later this year unlikely.

“Unfortunately, the current security situation in Afghanistan is so uncertain that the state’s capacity to hold truly representative elections in the upcoming presidential elections to be held August 20, 2009 is in serious doubt,” she said.

The Taliban could use the electoral campaign and polling to demonstrate their ability to disrupt government activities, and make their presence more strongly felt, especially in rural areas, ICOS said.

“The very act of casting a vote will be fraught with danger in many areas, and may be functionally impossible in some southern and eastern districts” said Paul Burton, ICOS policy director.

In addition if the first round of voting in August 2009 does not yield a candidate with over 50 per cent of the popular vote, a run-off election will be necessary. This will come at significant additional financial cost, and will prolong the Taliban’s ability to disrupt the democratic process in Afghanistan, the think-tank cautioned.

“While political enemies old and new jostle for position, the insurgency will be able to take advantage of this power vacuum,” Burton said.

In the report, ICOS provided biographical background on 36 political figures which Afghans have identified as potential presidential candidates. The ICOS report also provided a list of 67 political parties registered in Afghanistan.

Political discussions in Afghanistan have identified five potential candidates believed to be possible contenders to replace president Karzai. They are Ali Ahmed Jalali, Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani, Zalmay Khalilzad and Gul Agha Sherzai .

“President Hamid Karzai, despite his many problems, remains in a very strong position and is viewed by some as the only possible choice to assure stability in the country,” ICOS said.

But many of the less well-known candidates could have an important impact on the issues at stake and positively affect the election, the report concluded.

According to ICOS, there are many signs that western countries including the US as well as Afghanistan’s own political veterans will seek to influence the outcome of the presidential election in favour of their preferred candidate.

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


Afghanistan: Blundering Afghan Suicide Bomber Blows Up 6 Militants

KABUL, March 26 (Reuters) — A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up on Thursday, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target, the Interior Ministry said.

“The terrorist was on his way to his destination and saying good-bye to his associates and then his suicide vest exploded,” a statement from the ministry said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Indonesia: Rights Group Wants ‘Boycott’ of Religious Issues

Jakarta, 24 March (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — The Indonesian rights group, National Commission on Violence against Women, has called for a boycott of political parties that exploit religious issues for their own interests.

If in power, such parties tend to promote policies that discriminate against women, National Commission on Violence against Women (KOMNAS Perempuan) chairwoman Kamala Chandrakirana said.

Voters should elect politicians and future leaders who are committed to the pluralist values enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution, Kamala said.

“Do not vote for politicians just because of their religious platform — because they may only use this for their short-term political interests,” Kamala said.

“Our future leaders should maintain the rule of law, and uphold pluralism.”

Indonesia’s democracy allows discriminatory policies to subsist, which law enforcers and lawmaking bodies have failed to address, and the majority of people have remained silent about, Kamala said.

Discriminatory policies include Islamic sharia-inspired bylaws, which are in place in several regional administrations, Kamala said. Such ordinances criminalise violations of religious values at the expense of women, she said.

The policy makers justify such bylaws, as “implementations of religious teachings, to improve faith and to establish Islamic values,” Kamala added.

In its monitoring work over the past 10 years, KOMNAS Perempuan has found 154 bylaws issued by 69 local administrations in 21 provinces that it says have been inspired by Islamic law.

Of this figure, 64 directly impact on women, including bylaws that deprive women of their freedom of expression — by requiring them to wear headscarves while at school or in the workplace.

The commission also found 38 bylaws violating women’s rights to protection and legal certainty, including bylaws that ban prostitution.

These bylaws stipulate that public order officers could take direct action against women who go out at night or who are suspected of being sex workers.

The commission found that these bylaws had sparked many cases of wrongful arrests.

Another bylaw issued by Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam administration forbids “filthy acts” and imposes flogging as a punishment.

According to the commission, the discriminatory bylaws were mostly issued by regencies and municipalities in six provinces — namely West Java, East Java, South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, West Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara.

Ahead of Indonesia’s parliamentary elections on 9 April and presidential elections later in the year, the commission urged the future government to revoke all discriminatory regulations currently in place.

Although the country has the largest number of Muslims in the world, Indonesia has substantial Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. The country’s constitution recognises five religions and allows all its citizens to run for public office.

At the same time, of the six presidents that have been elected since independence in the 1940s , all were Muslims and all the candidates running in the forthcoming elections are Muslim.

Indonesia has a population of 235 million people and 90 percent of them are Muslim. Most practise a moderate form of the faith

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


Italy to Raise Afghan Troop Levels

Announcement coincides with Obama’s policy speech

(ANSA) — Hluboka, March 27 — Italy will send extra troops to Afghanistan to help guarantee security during August’s presidential elections there, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Friday.

The minister said 200-250 troops will be deployed “by the end of June” for a period of three months in an announcement which coincided with an appeal by United States President Barack Obama for a greater commitment from NATO allies.

“If there’s no security, there can be neither peace nor a safe electoral process: that’s why Italy intends to contribute seriously with a supplementary troops for the elections,” Frattini said.

Obama announced Friday the US will send an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to train the country’s army in addition to the 17,000 already approved in February as he outlined plans to eradicate al-Qaida terrorist networks and the Taliban from the country.

He said the U.S. will also send hundreds of civilian ‘advisors’ to the country and was also working with the United Nations to create a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan to include NATO allies, central Asian countries, Gulf states, Iran, Russia, India and China.

He called on NATO allies to help not only by supplying troops but by providing training for security forces, offering support during the Afghan presidential elections and making a greater civilian commitment.

Frattini praised Obama for “taking an important first step” in considering “the regional dimension” of the problem and recognising that “the military solution is only a part — and not the most important part — of the strategy” to stabilise the country. “Italy is ready to do more in terms of support for the electoral process and sending Carabinieri to train the Afghan police. But the European Union as a whole needs to do more. Above all we need more coordinated action,” Frattini added.

Frattini was speaking on the sidelines of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Hluboka.

NATO said there were around 62,000 international troops in Afghanistan as of March 13.

Italy announced in February it would increase the number of its troops taking part in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan to 2,795. The Italian contingent is mainly deployed between Kabul and Herat in the west of the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Malaysia Cleric: Muslim Smokers Worse Than Cows

Muslims who smoke and try to portray themselves as pious are worse than cows which defecate in the street, a top Malaysian Muslim cleric and politician said.”…a cow which defecates in the middle of the road, (we) cannot take legal action against it because it has no brain and cannot think,” said Nik Aziz who is the spiritual leader of the country’s Pan-Islamic Party (PAS).

“But human beings, who have brains, for them to do something which is wrong in religion … when they are in an attire which symbolises Islam, they can be regarded as being more despicable than cows,” he said on Friday, according to Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama. (Reuters)

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


New Report: Al-Qaida Recruiting Nuke Experts

Warning comes in preparation for G20 meetings

A British intelligence report says al-Qaida is trying to recruit disaffected nuclear scientists from Russia and Pakistan, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Student Elections in Nepal, One Dead, a Hundred Injured

The university movement affiliated with the communist party CPN (UML) won the presidency in 92 universities. The movement connected to the Maoist party in power came in third, winning on 48 campuses. The voting was marked by clashes and violence, a mirror of the climate of political tension in the country.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — The All Nepal National Free Student Union (ANNFSU), affiliated with the communist party CPN (UML), leads the pack in the student elections for the Free Students’ Union held in the country in recent days. The voting at the Nepalese universities was characterized by mutual accusations of manipulation among the various parties, and episodes of violence that killed at least one and injured more than a hundred.

About 200,000 students from more than 200 universities took part in the voting. The latest results indicate that the ANNFSU has won the presidency in 92 universities; the Nepal Student Union, affiliated with the Nepali Congress, won on 64 campuses. The All Nepal National Independent Student Union, connected to the Maoist party in power in Nepal, took third place, winning the presidency in 48 universities. At the moment, numbers are not available for five campuses, where the vote count has not yet been finalized.

On Thursday, March 19, Manil Tamang, a student activist connected to the Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC), a minority in the country, was killed by a hail of gunfire from police. The incident took place at the university of Dhulabari in eastern Nepal.. Local sources say that the police opened fire in order to stop a group of FLSC students who were trying to steal the ballot boxes. After the clashes, many local administrations imposed a curfew for the whole day yesterday.

The tension that characterized the university elections is a mirror of the bitter political battle among the majority parties in the country: after centuries of monarchy, Nepal is now a federal republic, governed by the Maoists who for years led an armed struggle to overthrow the king. The Constituent Assembly has been called to promulgate a Constitution and steer the country to the upcoming elections. The opposition parties are accusing the Maoists of using force, and of creating a climate of terror in order to hold on to power. “The Maoist party became the largest party in the Assembly,” accuses Girija Prasad Koirala, former prime minister and president of the Nepali Congress, “because of the extreme use of fear and force among the voters.”

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


Tajik President Rakhmon Signs Law Suffocating Religious Freedom

Even while it was being drafted, the bill was criticized by the OCSE and the U.S. Prompted by the fear of Islamic fundamentalism, it puts under state control any activity connected to faith, institutes censorship of religious publications, and makes the legalization of non-Muslim groups almost impossible.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A new law that significantly restricts religious freedom was signed today by the president of Tajikistan, Imomali Rakhmon. The new norm, which has been under development since 2006 and will take effect after its official publication, has been criticized since its first appearance by both the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United States.

In a country in which Muslims represent 95% of 6.5 million inhabitants, bordering on Afghanistan, the main concern of the government — which is distinctly authoritarian — is that of stopping fundamentalist and extremist tendencies. In January, the Salafi branch of Islam was outlawed, and publications referring to it were banned.

The extensive document bans religious education for children under the age of 7, and any religious instruction in private homes. It imposes preventive censorship on religious literature, and restrictions on religious services, which must be held in places approved by the state. Only Tajik citizens, moreover, can head religious groups, and non-Muslim religious groups cannot be registered if they have fewer than 400 faithful in rural areas, 800 in urban areas, and 1,200 in the capital. Foreign missionaries are required to live in one place for at least ten years before founding new communities.

“People’s religious rights are violated in every article of this law,” Khikmatullo Saifullozoda tells Reuters. Saifullozoda is a leader of the main opposition Islamic Revival Party, which has no concrete political influence. “It would have been more accurate to call this law not ‘Law on the Freedom of Conscience’ but “Law on its restriction’.”

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


Taliban Blocks UN Polio Treatment in Pakistan

Taliban miliants in northern Pakistan have triggered a medical emergency by refusing to allow UN health officials to conduct a polio vaccination campaign.

Miliants in northern Pakistan have triggered a medical emergency by refusing to allow health officials to conduct a polio vaccination campaign.

Taliban militants in the former tourist destination of Swat Valley have obstructed officials from vaccinating over 300,000 children.

Militants have seized control of most of Swat and its capital, Mingora, and have extended their rule since striking a peace deal with the government and army earlier this year.

“There is a real emergency there. It is urgent to go in and vaccinate children,” said Dr Nima Abid, the Polio Team leader from the World Health Organisation in Pakistan.

Extremist clerics have used mosque loudspeakers and illegal radio stations to spread the idea that the vaccinations cause infertility and are part of a US-sponsored anti-Muslim plot.

Dr Abid said that militants have not allowed polio vaccinations to take place at a critical time.

“Polio vaccination is effective in first three months of the year when virus transmission is lowest and so there is no interference with the vaccine virus,” said Dr Abid.

Militants had reportedly agreed to allow the vaccination program to take place as part of the peace agreements.

However, the militants had reneged on their word and despite assiduous efforts made by the increasingly irrelevant local administration, no vaccinations have taken place.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Protecting Civil Rights Leads to Jail in Sichuan

Trade unionists are arrested for protesting against unpaid wages and activists are jailed for reporting citizens’ complaints. Police summons and warns other rights’ defenders.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Working on behalf of civil rights is banned in Sichuan. In Chengdu four activists have been arrested and ten more have been summoned for taking part in and reporting on two recent demonstrations in defence of civil rights. Two trade union members have been jailed for protesting against unpaid wages.

Huang Xiaomin, Xin Qingxian, Lu Daqun and Yan Wenhan were arrested between 28 February and 1 March on suspicion of “disturbing the social order” but Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) has been able to report it only now.

The four reported on two local protests. First, some 30 Chengdu residents chained themselves together outside the city’s Intermediate People’s Court on 23 and 24 February to protest against what they believed to be unfair rulings handed down by the court over the years. Second, a victim of forced demolition, Yuan Xinggen, injured six policemen when he resisted his impending eviction with kerosene and firecrackers on 20 February.

Local activists widely disseminated the news to domestic and international media, raising a great deal of interest in public opinion

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection sent a team to Chengdu to investigate the case, criticising how local authorities handled the issue.

In addition to the four arrests, police summoned for interrogation more than ten activists present at the protest near the courthouse, including writer Xian Qi and workers’ rights advocate Zeng Rongkang. Both were releases after receiving a warning against taking part in similar actions.

In Tongliang County, Chongqing Municipality, Hu Weimin and Tang Aimin were formally charged on 20 March on suspicion of “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order.”

The two were originally detained on February 15 along with three other workers’ representatives after organising a sit-in outside a closed silk factory demanding payment of back pay. The three workers’ representatives were released 10 to 15 days later.

Family members said they have not been able to visit either Hu or Tang since their detention began.

“Government authorities seem extremely concerned with ‘stability’ in Sichuan,” said Songlian Wang, CHRD Research Coordinator. “Since last May, Sichuan authorities have been aggressive in detaining activists for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. These individuals have broken no laws. [. . .] We have noted a coordinated effort in silencing dissent in Sichuan Province and its neighbouring areas,” he added.

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


Pay Raise of 50% for Chinese Soldiers

The large increase is believed to be a reward for the army’s hard work in 2008 in ensuring security for the Olympics, helping earthquake victims in Sichuan, and handling the protests in Tibet. For the government, it is important to support the morale of the troops, who are increasingly being sent to repress social protests.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The salaries of 2.3 million servicemen and women of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be raised by 50%, in recognition of their hard work in 2008 and in order to keep their morale high in the face of social protests and the problematic anniversaries of 2009.

The newspaper South China Morning Post cites a retired high official in Shanghai, who says that “all ordinary soldiers and officers will receive 50 percent increases, while colonel-level officials will get 30 percent and generals 20 percent. It means a recruit will receive around 1,000 yuan (about 100 euros) a month of basic salary … while senior colonels get more than 10,000 yuan and major generals up to 18,000 yuan.” He adds that “the money was supposed to be allocated by the beginning of this year. But the appropriation was suspended because the central government was busy collecting funds for Sichuan earthquake relief work.”

The armed police, who are part of the army, will also benefit from the increase. It is intended to be a reward for the efficient work of the PLA in 2008, in all of the most serious or important situations: relief efforts in the Sichuan earthquake, security at the Beijing Olympics, and the violent repression of the protests in Tibet.

Salaries for soldiers were doubled in 2006 after remaining stagnant for about 20 years. With this increase, they will be about 20% higher than salaries for civil servants on a similar level.

Analysts observe that the armed police and the soldiers who perform police functions often receive bonuses from the local governments. They believe that in rich areas, like Shanghai and Guangdong, soldiers receive much more than those deployed in Tibet or Qinghai, where today they must confront the protests of Tibetans.

In March, Li Zhaoxing, a spokesman for the National People’s Congress, announced that military spending will rise by 14.9% in 2009, with 480.7 billion yuan set aside for weapons, salaries, and defensive infrastructure.

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


Pentagon: Beijing Boosts Cyberwarfare

China is continuing a large-scale military buildup of high-tech forces that includes “disruptive” anti-satellite missiles, new strategic forces, and computer attack weapons, the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on the Chinese military says.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Finland: Immigration Issue Becoming Political Touchstone

Political and public debates over the issue of immigration could change Finland’s political landscape, says columnist Erkki Laatikainen, former editor-in-chief of the Jyväskylä-based newspaper Keskisuomalainen. The following is a column on the issue written by Laatikainen for YLE.

Immigration could well become the central issue in the next parliamentary elections. The considerable weakening of the national economy, combined with a rising insecurity, have coloured the debate.

The issue is problematic. Finland is not accustomed to discussing immigration or laying out guidelines for it. Comments that even slightly deviate from an officially sanctioned opinion are labelled racist or insulting to human dignity, even if the person who made the comment was a humanist who was simply trying to discuss what was in the nation’s best interests with respects to the issue. People are walking on eggshells in order not to be seen in the same light as simple-minded idiots or politicians who have built their careers on populist viewpoints or even illegal turns of phrase.

A recent poll commissioned by the daily Helsingin Sanomat, and conducted by the Gallup organisation, is symptomatic of this problem. The percentage of people who support immigration has dropped from 56 to 45 in the past two years. The Finnish public is worried. It has begun grumbling and griping.

This cooling of attitudes is probably even more significant than the poll reveals. Many respondents are politically correct, and do not express their real feelings in polls. No, they do this in the voting booth.

Finland’s main political parties and the state government carry the responsibility for creating a policy on immigration. If they continue to shove it to the back burner, the public’s dissatisfaction will quietly swell and explode in a hail of votes for the True Finns Party. That’s who will gather up the voices of dissatisfied loners, craftsmen, professors, colonels and entrepreneurs.

The True Finns don’t even have to try particularly hard any more. Thanks to party leader Timo Soini, the party is already seen by many to be a plucky bullhorn for the conscience of the common man. Soini would be wise to smooth over any controversy as much as possible.

This trend could lead to a situation where the True Finns, who now have only two seats in Parliament, are suddenly rewarded with more than twenty. The shock would be horrific. Finnish government would become much more complicated.

Finland needs immigrants. And as a Nordic democracy, the country also has responsibilities to human rights. It is entirely possible to reconcile the humanitarian point of view with the national economy’s need for skilled immigrants.

The route laid out by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Martti Ahtisaari in the recent historic meeting of living Finnish presidents represents the voice of reason.

Embracing a naïve refugee policy would lead to a calamitous atmosphere. On the other hand, it is in the national economy’s best interests to encourage skilled foreigners to move here. At the same time Finland can live up to its humanitarian obligations by taking in refugees as much as such a small country can be expected to. This way we will also ensure a less bumpy ride for our democracy.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Immigration: More Than a Million Foreigners Come to Live in Britain in Just Four Years

More than a million people who were born abroad came to live in Britain in just four years from 2004, a new official analysis said yesterday.

It found that 1.1 million people born outside Britain arrived between 2004 and 2007.

The new migrants brought the number of people in the country who were born abroad to more than 6.3 million, more than one in ten of the population.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Malta-Tunisia: Illegal Migration, Foreign Ministers Meeting

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, MARCH 26 — Illegal immigration and the repatriation of migrants were among the topics discussed today between Tunisian Foreign Minister Abdelwaheb Abdallah and Foreign Minister Tonio Borg. The ministers had talks in Valletta as a Joint Commission between the two countries discussed bilateral relations in a two-day meeting. Some 70 Tunisian migrants arrived in Malta on February 1 and although they were not granted refugee status, repatriation has been slow because documents have taken a long time to arrive from Tunis. Some of the Tunisian migrants rioted earlier this month while calling to be sent to their country. The Foreign Ministry said that in today’s talks the two ministers addressed a number of issues in an effort to improve the identification and repatriation process between the two countries. The two ministers also discussed cooperation in education, agriculture, aquaculture, tourism and IT and reviewed trade relations and signed an agreement on cooperation in higher education and on joint ventures in the agriculture and aquaculture sectors. Dr Borg said that a Maltese company has entered into a joint-venture with a Tunisian company to start providing training on fire-fighting and occupational health and safety in Tunisia. Another company is to export equipment producing alternative energy to Tunisia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Over 300,000 Illegals Between ‘04-’08

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 26 — A total of 300,660 illegal migrants were intercepted in Turkey between 2004 and November 2008, Anatolia agency reports quoting the Turkish Interior Minister, Besir Atalay. Replying a written question by a parliamentarian of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Atalay said that there had not been any foreigners who were given refugee status in Turkey since 2005. According to the minister 4,516 foreigners — who were working illegally in Turkey — were captured between 2005 and 2008 and necessary legal procedures were applied. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Obama Administration Announces $50 Million for Pro-Forced Abortion UNFPA

The check may have already been in the mail, but the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it is sending $50 million to the UNFPA. That’s the UN population agency that has been criticized for promoting abortion and working closely with Chinese population control officials.

In China, the enforcement of the coercive one-child rule has resulted in forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations and other human rights abuses.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Abortion Clinics to Advertise on Television

Television ads for abortions will be allowed for the first time under the biggest shake-up of advertising rules for 50 years to be announced today.

In a move which the advertising watchdog acknowledges will offend members of the public, ads for pregnancy advisory services will be allowed in prime-time evening slots on the major channels: ITV, Channel 4, Sky and other broadcasters.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

UN: WJC Blasts UNHRC Religious Criticism Resolution

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Friday strongly condemned the previous day’s passage in the United Nation Human Rights Council of a resolution calling “defamation of religion” a human rights violation.

“The World Jewish Congress, long a leader in the effort to champion human rights and freedom of religion, has for many years defended the rights of the members of all faiths, including the Muslim faith,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. “However, we strongly oppose the issue of ‘defamation of religions’ being cast as a human rights violation at the United Nations. We see it as weakening the rights of individuals to express their views and criticize other religions, and, in the case of this specific resolution, particularly Islam.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

6 comments:

Afonso Henriques said...

About Gordon Brown and his trip to Latin America:

1) I thought Chile was way to the left but still, they are as leftist as the Conservatives in Brittain, go figure!
Chile has done great and is in many aspects a light in Latin America. Argentinians must be hating this moment

2) Brazil's president did not blame the crisis on "white people". Try to understand it because this is important if you are American.
He blamed the crisis on *BLUE EYED WHITE PEOPLE*. In Brazil, that does not mean "white people", not even Swedes or Norwegians, it means only one thing:

GRINGO. Exactly, when he speaks of "blue eyed white people" he's speaking of W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. It's pure hatred towards America.

Of course, Lula is an enemy of European Civilisation and the European peoples, but his speach was more than everything filled with anti-American-hatred.

Afonso Henriques said...

"The three-day founding congress of the bloc will formally fuse Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia with the “post-Fascist” National Alliance of Gianfranco Fini."

Great. If Italy gets out of the E.U. ...
oh, but Italy is a poor country and that will not happen. Now, I just want to spend one week or two in Sicily... or the mountains near Granada in Southern Spain...

Damn Crisis!

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

In my estimation Italy is one of the countries most likely to crash out of the Euro at some point. Italy's economy has always been structurally unstable but they've always compensated for that by having the ability to devalue the Lira. Without that safety vale Italy's economy has been yo-yoing for the better part of the last decade and it's causing an immense strain on the country as a whole. Sooner or later someone there will ask why they have to put up with it, and that'll be it. Italky, Spain and Greece are the Euro's weak points. When the Euro goes, the EU will go with it.

Now, as for south america... Afonso, your earlier posts didn't make much sense but your last one, regarding the attitude toward North Americans, has cleared it up and I understand precisely what you mean now. There's less hostility for the English in Argentina than there is for North Americans in any South American country. Politicians ande the media regularly point to the Norteamericanos as the source of all of spanish-speaking America's problems. My sister in law has it particularly bad - whenever Bush was on TV she was reduced to incoherent monkey-hooting... that said I think, in her case, there's the added problem of having been previously married to a US American, who also happened to be bit of a criminal type and who very nearly screwed up her life, so in her case there's personal bias as well. But, ask most Paraguayans what they think of the USA and they'll be very hostile and negative. The US is the imagined source of all their problems. As such it absolves them of the responsibility of getting precisely what they've voted for.

Afonso Henriques said...

Yes Grahm, I think I agree with you. Definetly Spain and Greece are the Euro weak ponits (Portugal is not because Portugal pratically did not develop any means of production since joining the E.U. and thus have lived directly from the money that "rained" from Brussels, our demise started with 9/11 and when the Slavs entered the E.U. and now we have not much more to lose). But Italy, like Portugal I think, can sustain itself more or less before going strait to bankruptcy Argentinian style. Do not forget that while North Italy is almost like Germany, the South is almost a third world hell hole like Portugal or the Czech Republic who's now rising.

"There's less hostility for the English in Argentina than there is for North Americans in any South American country."

It's all about being left or right wing I think. The leftist/communist (I'll call it subversive) movement in Latin America was always great.
Latin Americans love Europeans, they love white people in general weather from Europe, North America and Australia.
However they feel they are despised by us what brings a love/hate relationship towards "white people".

To this, one recent thing makes Latin Americans grow very negative sentiments towards Europeans/white people:

That, since WWII "the West" has supported the various far right dictatorships in Latin America. Okay, those dictatorships had permited the surviving of European Civilisation in Argentina/Uruguay/Brazil/Chile and even Baptista's 50's Cuba. But that did not make the dictatorships less harsh. And people still resent that. See the mothers of the missed ones in Argentina.

And who was behinde all that? The Leader of the Free West, the United States. This makes the "hate towards Americans" "comprehensible" in all of Latin America.

You can understand that someone like Lula da Silva who lived in extremely poor conditions, seeing the "racism" of North Americans during the Civil Rights Movements, being bombarded with the good white American life (the blue eyed people) everywhere in the media while everybody around him lived little better than animals; seeing blue eyed North Americans invading nearby countries and seeing that the brutal police of his own country was feeded and supported directly by the United States to beat on him and his people... you can understand why Lula da Silva and a majority of the Latin Americans have grown such a hatred for North Americans.
Add to this the situation in many Latin American places: Lula is from Pernambuco, a wonderfull Natural place where the people live in Third World Conditions and all the money is in few (white, foreign, American) hands and never exits those hands.

It is understandable but it is wrong.

P.S. - the real problem of places like Brazil is 1) a non effective European Colonisation in much of the territory and 2) most important than all, the population boom. Since the Second World War that Brazil has not seen any mass immigration from Europe: In 1950 Brazil's population was 50 million, today it is almost 200 million.

Steve Harkonnen said...

Don't you just love it how unions hold so much effect over big companies?

extropolitca said...

A point to the economic situation of Italy.
Just now Italy have a public debt around the 105% of GDP. The USoA just now have a bigger public debt than Italy (thank Bush and Obama).
The difference is that the private debt in Italy is very small where in the USoA is much bigger.

So, if the things go south, Italy government could go bankrupt, but the people will not go bankrupt. The same can not be said about the USoA.