Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/11/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/11/2009A scandal-storm is brewing in Britain. The details are already appearing in the Sunday papers, although I haven’t included most of them here. A powerful assistant to Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been forced to resign after his scurrilous behavior was revealed through the efforts of Guido Fawkes’ blog.

By a blog! Fancy that…

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Reinhard, TB, Vlad Tepes, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
Goldman Sachs Hires Law Firm to Shut Blogger’s Site
How Wall Street Robs the Banks That it Owns
Merchant Traffic Drops, -20% Since January
 
USA
Geithner, Paulson Named in $200 Billion Lawsuit
It’s All About Control
Md. Governor Wants to Seize Preakness
Video Exposes ‘All Whites Are Racist’ Teachings
 
Canada
Palestinian Officials Object to ROM’s Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit
 
Europe and the EU
Easter: Spain, Processions in Old Arabic and Jewish Enclaves
Germany: Turks Hope Election Will Give Them Dual Citizenship Chance
Gunman Runs Amok at Crowded Rotterdam Cafe: One Dead, 3 Injured
Netherlands: Ethnic Registration is Illegal: Watchdog
Spain Seeks to Decipher Alhambra’s Inscriptions
UK: Downing Street Aide Quits After Writing ‘Smear’ Emails About Top Tories’ Private Lives
UK: Sadiq Khan Says US Foreign Policy on Pakistan is Damaging Britain
Why Europe Won’t Fight
 
North Africa
Algeria: France Congratulates Bouteflika on Election
Algeria: Elections, Opposition Rejects Results
Algeria: Bouteflika Wins by a Landslide, 90.24% Votes
Lebanon: Hezbollah Leader Denies Group Has Egyptian Cell
‘Moors’ Seek Royal Apology 500 Years After Their Exile
Tunisia: 250 Million USD From World Bank for Development
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Expert’s Report: Israel Cannot Leave Golan
Huge Bomb Lab Found in Mosque
Israel: NGO’s Struggle to Cope With Rising Needy Families
Nasrallah Confirms Reports of Arms Smuggling Through Egypt
Obama Officials Working Against Netanyahu?
Sinn Fein Head Meets Hamas Leader in Gaza
 
Middle East
‘A Good Day is When I Speak to My Sons’: An ‘Adulterous’ Mother Speaks From Her Dubai Prison
Environment: UAE; Algae Emergency, Dubai Beaches Closed
Fair: 100 Luxury Industries Promote Italy in Abu Dhabi
France ‘Worried’ by Iran’s Defiance
Iran: Three People Hanged Over 2007 Mosque Bombing
Lebanon: US Military Assistance to Arrive Before Elections
Terrorism: Turkey, Police Holds 28 Suspects Linked to Al-Qaeda
 
Caucasus
Turkey-Armenia: Borders Might Reopen in October, President
 
South Asia
Ex Nepali King Trying to Restore Monarchy
Pakistan: Mounting Pressure on President Over Swat Deal
Pakistan: Country Ponders Militancy and ‘War on Terror’
 
Far East
China’s 1-Child Policy Now Threatens Crime Wave
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Hostage Dies as Rescuers Attempt to Free Family From Pirates
Pirates Seize U.S.-Owned, Italy-Flagged Tugboat 11 Apr 2009 14:39:44 GMT
Pirate Commander: ‘How I Made My Fortune’
 
Latin America
Castro as the Second Coming
Dry Taps in Mexico City: a Water Crisis Gets Worse
 
Immigration
Greece: 25 Illegal Migrants Arrested on Lesbos
 
General
Harvard Astrophysicist: Sunspot Activity Correlates to Global Climate Change

Financial Crisis

Goldman Sachs Hires Law Firm to Shut Blogger’s Site

Goldman Sachs is attempting to shut down a dissident blogger who is extremely critical of the investment bank, its board members and its practices.

The bank has instructed Wall Street law firm Chadbourne & Parke to pursue blogger Mike Morgan, warning him in a recent cease-and-desist letter that he may face legal action if he does not close down his website.

Florida-based Mr Morgan began a blog entitled “Facts about Goldman Sachs” — the web address for which is goldmansachs666.com — just a few weeks ago.

In that time Mr Morgan, a registered investment adviser, has added a number of posts to the site, including one entitled “Does Goldman Sachs run the world?”. However, many of the posts relate to other Wall Street firms and issues.

According to Chadbourne & Parke’s letter, dated April 8, the bank is rattled because the site “violates several of Goldman Sachs’ intellectual property rights” and also “implies a relationship” with the bank itself.

Unsurprisingly for a man who has conjoined the bank’s name with the Number of the Beast — although he jokingly points out that 666 was also the S&P500’s bear-market bottom — Mr Morgan is unlikely to go down without a fight.

He claims he has followed all legal requirements to own and operate the website — and that the header of the site clearly states that the content has not been approved by the bank.

On a special section of his blog entitled “Goldman Sachs vs Mike Morgan” he predicts that the fight will probably end up in court.

“It’s just another example of how a bully like Goldman Sachs tries to throw their weight around,” he writes.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


How Wall Street Robs the Banks That it Owns

[Comments from JD: Video and transcript at URL.]

The financial industry brought the economy to its knees, but how did they get away with it? With the nation wondering how to hold the bankers accountable, Bill Moyers sits down with William K. Black, the former senior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. Black offers his analysis of what went wrong and his critique of the bailout.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Merchant Traffic Drops, -20% Since January

(by Franco Chiavegatti) (ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 6 — The turmoil raised by the financial crisis is also churning the waters of the Mediterranean and negatively affecting merchant traffic, which has dropped by 20% since January. This is a blow dealt by lower productivity (if not a total shutdown) registered by many export companies that affects the volume of port activities in general. This is true for all ports, and especially for the port of Genoa (one of the main ports for trade with Tunisia), Spanish ports and the French port of Marseilles, which recently saw the Union Naval Marseille shipyard go bankrupt. The current crisis is made clearer by the steep drop registered in February in Suez canal traffic, which is down by 24.2% compared to the same period in 2008 (1,272 ships vs. 1,676). Most affected were bulk carriers (-44%), car carriers (-43.3%) and container ships (-32%). Between January and February the channel was crossed by 2,585 ships, 23.2% fewer than in the same period of 2008. Experts from various countries debated the subject on occasion of the ‘Maritime transport, the Mediterranean link’ convention set up on occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Compagnie de Navigation Tunisienne (Ctn). Paul Tourret, director of the Higher institute for maritime economy (Isemar) did not mince his words in stating that the Mediterranean’s ports have been badly affected by the crisis. His views are shared by John Vershelden, director of APM Terminals, one of the largest in the world in its field, who spoke of a very troubling situation. And this despite lower prices offered for transportation. As for Tunisian ports, Q1 results still have to be announced but specialists seem very worried because their export activities are mostly based on the sectors which have been most affected by the crisis, for example textiles and clothing, food and agriculture, and the mechanical industry. Things are less upsetting for the Tunisian State secretary to Foreign trade, Chokri Mamoghli. Speaking about port facilities in general (and Enfidha in particular), he stated that he is confident that the problems will be overcome. Transport minister Abderrahim Zouari is more realistic, he believes that the crisis will mean that Tunisia is expected “to see a 10 to 15% drop in transported goods in the first half of the year”. When will the storm end? Many believe in 2010. In the meantime (and in light of the construction of a deep water port in Enfidha, in the middle of Tunisia) efforts must be made to develop the sea lanes between Tunis and Genoa and between Tunis and Marseilles. To this end, CTN has been called by the European Commission to draw up a specific study on the issue. The EC will deliver suitable technical assistance as well. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

USA

Geithner, Paulson Named in $200 Billion Lawsuit

AIG-related case claims they violated shareholders constitutional rights

The class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles is a “wide reaching” claim that will do what Congress cannot, said Freedom Watch USA founder Larry Klayman.

“The American people, not the compromised ruling elite in Washington, D.C., have begun a second American Revolution to take the country back from the con men on Wall Street, and on Pennsylvania Avenue — who under successive administrations played a central role in the meltdown of the U.S. financial system and economy,” Klayman said.

The amended complaint now alleges that the additional defendants violated the constitutional rights of the shareholders by denying them the right to their property, the shares themselves.

“The inspiration for this amendment was information disclosed by University of Missouri professor William K. Black on the Bill Moyers’ PBS television show last Friday, where he implicated these government officials in a massive cover up of the banking scandal, mostly for the benefit of Goldman Sachs, the former employer of both Paulson and Geithner, in which they held a significant financial interest,” Klayman reported.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


It’s All About Control

The people who created the government were absolutely convinced that the people had to control the government. The people who now run the government are absolutely convinced that the government has to control the people. This transformation of the function of government is the primary reason why America’s manufacturing industry has moved offshore; why it has created an “entitlement” society; and why it has made America’s educational system devolve into an embarrassment.

And it is getting worse.

Every day, the Obama administration announces some new way to expand the power of government to control the people in new ways. It was bad enough to see the government disregard the enumerated powers set forth in the Constitution when it poured billions of dollars into the banking and auto industries. It was mind-boggling to see the government fire the CEO of a private corporation and set salary limits on others. Government has no legitimate reason to be involved in the affairs of these corporations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Md. Governor Wants to Seize Preakness

[Comments from JD: What happened to property rights? ]

The Maryland General Assembly is expected to pass easily a bill that would allow Gov. Martin O’Malley to seize the rights to horse racing’s Preakness Stakes and the racetrack on which it is run by using eminent domain.

Mr. O’Malley introduced the emergency legislation Wednesday in response to rumors that the race, the second leg of the fabled Triple Crown, may be moved to another state by its owner, Toronto-based Magna Entertainment Corp., which filed for bankruptcy last month.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Video Exposes ‘All Whites Are Racist’ Teachings

Critics say they’ve never found a more systematic assault on liberty

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which fights for the speech rights of students on America’s college campuses, has released a video documenting a “thought control” policy at the University of Delaware.

[…]

FIRE reports it was in the fall of 2007 when the “Orwellian program of ideological re-education aimed at coercing students to change their thoughts, habits, and values to conform to a highly specific ideological agenda” was established.

More than 7,000 undergraduates in the Delaware dorms were required to attend training sessions, floor meetings and one-on-one sessions with resident assistants who followed the rules described in internal documents as a “treatment.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Palestinian Officials Object to ROM’s Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit

Palestinian officials have reportedly objected to an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls planned at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum this June.

The Toronto Star is reporting that Hamdan Taha, director general of the archaeological department in the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, has written to the prime minister and to directors of the ROM objecting to the exhibit.

Taha argued that the scrolls were acquired illegally by Israel when it annexed East Jerusalem, according to the Star.

He said allowing artifacts illegally acquired into the country would violate international law and it would be unethical for the museum to display the scrolls.

ROM director William Thorsell issued a statement Thursday saying he would not comment on the controversy.

The ROM is in “consultations” over the issue, but a spokeswoman for the ROM would not say what form those consultations might take.

The rare visit from the Dead Sea Scrolls was scheduled to be a highlight of the year for the ROM.

Over a six-month period beginning June 27, 16 of the scrolls are to travel to Toronto, each for three months.

Four of the scrolls to be shown at the ROM have never travelled before.

The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in jars in caves in 1947 and more scrolls continued to be unearthed over the next 10 years.

Written on parchment or papyrus, they include early versions of the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy and Psalms. They had been hidden in the caves for more than 2,000 years.

The scrolls are held by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which allows archeologists and other researchers to study them.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Easter: Spain, Processions in Old Arabic and Jewish Enclaves

(By Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — GRANADA, APRIL 10 — The past few days the streets of Granada’s historic centre have been filled with smells of wax and incense as huge crowds of believers and tourists from all around the world have been observing the city’s Holy Week processions. Spanish tradition has a unique character in the city, since the show of religious fervour takes place in the shadow of the Alhambra, the majestic Arab enclave, and snakes up past the Albaicin, the Zaidín and the Realejo, once the Jewish area, in a living symbol of the religious syncretism and brotherhood which underpins the Easter celebrations in Granada. The journey of the Cristo de los Gitanos up and down the hills of the Sacramonte area, facing the Alcazar, where Spanish gypsies play the ‘saetas’, the Flamenco songs, around the traditional burning bonfires, is an unique meeting of religion and folklore. The passage representing Christ’s Passion by the confraternity of Santa Maria dell’Alhambra, passing through the Arab Door and the Arch of Justice, the narrow entry point into the former Arab enclave, accompanied by fireworks and thousands of rose petals, is equally breath-taking. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, twenty thousand members of 32 confraternities take part in a tradition which dates back to the Spanish monarchy’s regaining of the Iberian peninsula, bringing the reign of the Kingdom of Granada to an end in 1492. Far from suffering waning popularity, the procession is seeing an ever-increasing number of participating ‘costaleros’, penitents or ‘nazarenes’ whose faces are covered by huge cone-shaped hoods. These are the figures who carry ‘los Tronos’ (the baldachins with sacred images weighing on average 2,500 kg) on their shoulders, usually comprised of young men. Raul, 20, who is a costalero from the Santa Maria confraternity but not a practicing Catholic, explained, “this is a really exciting moment. I have been playing football every Sunday and practicing for the procession with the people at the confraternity every Thursday for the past two years,” he said. Ana, 18, is one of the nazarenes, whose face is hidden behind a blue hood. She is a business studies student who has been taking part in the procession for six years. She explained, “I take part out of devotion, and also out of pride, since ten years ago women were not able to take part.” In Melilla, (an autonomous Spanish city in North Africa), the decision to take on Hindu and Muslim illegal immigrants as bearers of the image of Holy Mary or the Throne of the Virgin of the Rock in the Easter processions caused an outcry. But Jorge, a 20 year-old nazarene, said “that is another symbol of brotherhood.” In Granada, the most anticipated event is the ‘Passio’ Granatensis’, scheduled for tomorrow. A solemn anthological parade, involving the participation of twenty-two confraternities, will leave from the Cathedral, in an expression of the death of Christ on Saturday. The next Passiò Granatensis will take place in 2019. Meanwhile, the outcry surrounding the white ribbon, the symbol representing opposition to the Zapatero government’s plans to reform abortion law, has lead to controversy in Granada, but has not dampened the occasion. Only the procession of Our Lady of Hope and of All Powerful Jesus left the church of Santa Ana on Wednesday evening with white ribbon alongside the statue of the Virgin. The Council of the Royal Federation of Brotherhoods and Confraternities decided to grant its affiliated movements the freedom to choose whether or not to display the symbol of protest in their parades, whilst the council itself was the first to declare its opposition to abortion, with the release of a manifesto. Mayor José Torres Hurtado, from the Popular Party, explained, “the fact is, these processions are a mix of religion and folklore, hugely popular celebrations enjoyed by many people, who don’t want them to be made into an instrument of political propaganda.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Germany: Turks Hope Election Will Give Them Dual Citizenship Chance

Germany’s Turkish community says it will work to change the law so that children born in Germany to Turkish parents are no longer forced to choose between passports but can have dual nationality.

Disturbed woman attacked after jumping into polar bear enclosure — National (10 Apr 09)

Berlin anarchist activity spikes ahead of May Day protests — Society (9 Apr 09)

Currently European Union citizens who decide to take on German citizenship can do so without losing their original nationality and the Turks want to be able to do the same.

Rules introduced in 2000 mean that children born in Germany to Turkish parents automatically get German nationality as well as that of their family.

But once they turn 18, they have no longer have the right to both and have to choose between them. If they fail to decide by the time they are 23, they lose their German passport.

Because the law, which took effect in 2000, applies retrospectively to children born in 1990 onwards, letters are being sent to those affected and decisions are having to be made.

The Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) advises those teenagers to take the German passport.

TGD chairman Kenan Kolat said, “We advise out young people to initially decide for the German passport because it offers advantages in the work and education market and also gives them political voting rights. Also, as a German, for many trips you do not need a visa.”

But he said added that young Turkish-Germans should also apply to keep their Turkish nationality. “If this is refused, one can appeal legally.”

Kolat said the current rules were not encouraging integration of Turkish and German communities. “These rules do not connect young people more closely to Germany, rather the opposite is the case. If they feel put under pressure like this, and decide for the German citizenship for pragmatic reasons, they will do with dislike. It would be better to enable a dual citizenship.”

He said he hoped the rules would be changed by an incoming government after this autumn’s election. “Perhaps the political majorities will change after the election in September, so that we get a new chance to get rid of this enforced decision and enable dual citizenship.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Gunman Runs Amok at Crowded Rotterdam Cafe: One Dead, 3 Injured

A gunman emptied his pistol clip firing at hundreds of patrons inside and outside a crowded Dutch cafe early Saturday during a talent contest. One man was killed, 3 were injured: one man in a wheelchair was hit in a leg. Why is still a mystery.

None of the injured people have life-threatening injuries, although one young man was hit in the spine, said a hospital spokesman. The man, also a patron of the cafe, was overpowered by a large number of patrons after he’d emptied out his gun.

There was a talent contest going on in Cafe Laurenshof at the Poolster Square in the Rotterdam suburb of Oosterflank at the time. Patrons who were interviewed by the Rotterdam daily Algemeen Dagblad said there was a cordial, relaxed atmosphere and everybody was friendly.

Police said the motive for the shooting was unclear, but it may have begun with a quarrel in the cafe, where a talent contest was under way and there was loud music.

Handgun ownership illegal for civilians:

It is illegal for ‘civilians’ to own handguns in The Netherlands. However they can be purchased very easily from neighbouring Belgium, where handgun-ownership is legal.

One person was wounded inside and three people were hit on the street, one fatally, the police spokesman said. The incident happened just before 01:00 am Friday.

All this week, cities and towns all over The Netherlands are reporting a flood of complaints from residents about extremely rowdy behaviour of local youths, who are holding Easter parties in the streets because it’s such balmy weather.

Police said the square outside the cafe also was unusually busy because of the warmish spring weather.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Ethnic Registration is Illegal: Watchdog

Local councils which are registering the ethnic origins of young trouble makers and other at-risk youngsters have been ordered to stop it immediately by the privacy watchdog CBP.

In 2006, 21 local authority areas with a high concentration of immigrants from the Caribbean Antilles islands were given permission to register the ethnic origin of young troublemakers. But that permit expired last December and no new permit has been applied for, the CBP says.

Therefore ‘there is no legal foundation for processing ethnic details,’ the CBP said in a statement on its website. ‘This means that the use of these particular personal details… is illegal and should be stopped immediately.’

At the end of last year, the government dropped plans to set up a national data bank with information on young Antillean and Aruban trouble-makers. The government’s highest advisory body, the council of state, said earlier that the register could be set up because it was in the public interest.

According to the Volkskrant, Rotterdam has been recording the ethnic origin of troublemakers since 2002.

Supporters of registration say it would allow campaigns and support to be targeted at specific groups.

Opponents say it is stigmatising to regard third-generation immigrants as not being Dutch.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Spain Seeks to Decipher Alhambra’s Inscriptions

By DANIEL WOOLLS, Associated Press Writer — Sat Apr 11, 11:46 am ET

GRANADA, Spain — From its every nook and cranny, the Alhambra quietly speaks. Walls, columns, fountains and other pieces of Europe’s crown jewel of Muslim architecture boast ornate Arabic inscriptions that even native speakers might struggle to decipher.

This month, Spanish researchers unveiled the first fruit of a gargantuan project to translate and catalog every last carving — an estimated 10,000 — from individual words to poems to verses from the Quran. The goal is to render a seemingly impenetrable slice of medieval history readily accessible with the click of a mouse.

“It is hard to believe that this had never been done before,” lead researcher Juan Castilla told The Associated Press.

The dream of understanding and recording the inscriptions at the Moorish citadel goes back to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Their forces captured Granada in 1492, expelled the sultans who lived in scented splendor at the 14th-century palace complex and ended nearly 800 years of Muslim rule in much of Spain.

The Spanish royal court quickly hired translators to tackle the inscriptions at the Alhambra and on other buildings throughout this handsome, whitewashed city in southern Spain. But records of that effort were lost over time, and later ones addressed only certain categories of inscription, a far cry from the exhaustive study that Castilla and two other Arabic language specialists have been conducting since 2002.

Today some inscriptions are illegible because of routine decay. And if a natural disaster like an earthquake were to strike Spain’s single most visited tourist site, with 2.2 million people a year, the losses would be unfathomable, Castilla said.

“We needed to be able to say, as of the 21st century, this is what was here and this is what it said,” Castilla said.

During a three-hour tour of the Alhambra, he pointed out inscriptions in every conceivable corner of the complex, running from floor to ceiling and back down again, on or atop columns, or around the rims of fountains. Some carvings are so intricate that to an untrained eye they look like elaborate drawings.

For now, about a third of the inscriptions are available on an interactive CD that provides Spanish-language translations and a wealth of other information, such as their source. Once the project is completed in 2011, the idea is to download a sample of the material onto the Internet.

Castilla, who works for the Spanish National Research Council and learned Arabic while living in Iraq and Egypt, said that understanding the writing is extremely hard even for the average native Arabic speaker, in part because it sometimes employs an archaic script called kufic.

Mansour al Marzouqui, a 16-year-old tourist from the United Arab Emirates, called the task tough but not impossible. “You can’t get it the first time. You have to look really hard,” he said.

Through the centuries, the popular belief was that most of the writings were verses from the Quran or poetry. But on the basis of the Alhambra building that has been studied so far, the Comares Palace, those amount to less than 10 percent of the total, Castilla said.

In fact, the phrase repeated most often — hundreds upon hundreds of times — is a sentence considered the slogan of the Nazrid dynasty, one of the successions of rulers that passed through the Alhambra. It says: “There is no victor but God.” It shows up on tiny shields, inside eight-pointed stars and myriad other places.

One of the reasons for so much inscription was that the Alhambra’s sultans wanted to leave a record of their presence, Castilla said. Also, such writings are a way of professing faith in God and of simply decorating the place: Islam discourages any kind of representational art.

Other inscriptions are single words like “happiness” or “blessing” — with the idea that they are to invoke such things from God for the room where they are carved or for the ruling sultan himself.

As for the poetry, it can range from a few verses to longer pieces, like one that spans 25 meters (yards) as it runs along all four walls of a room. It was penned to celebrate the circumcision of a sultan’s son.

Elsewhere, poetry runs up one side, across the top and down the other flank of a small alcove of the kind where the Moors would place a pitcher of water with rose petals as incense. This poem compares the image of a pitcher being poured with that of a Muslim leaning forward in prayer.

Castilla feels the content of all the poetry is less appealing than its presentation in such a rich variety of places throughout the Alhambra.

“As you walk along, it seems as if you are opening a book of poetry and turning the pages,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Downing Street Aide Quits After Writing ‘Smear’ Emails About Top Tories’ Private Lives

One of Gordon Brown’s most senior aides resigned tonight over emails discussing possible smear stories about Tory ministers.

Damian McBride had sent a series of emails containing lurid allegations about the private lives of David Cameron, George Osborne and other Conservative MPs.

Downing Street announced tonight the adviser had resigned and said it was Mr Brown’s view that there was ‘no place in politics for the dissemination or publication of material of this kind’.

Ex-Home Secretary Charles Clarke had earlier today demanded that Mr McBride be sacked for the emails which Downing Street earlier described as ‘juvenile and inappropriate’.

Mr Clarke said: ‘Damian McBride has no place in 10 Downing Street’.

‘His actions bring shame to the Labour party and he should be dismissed immediately.’

The emails were sent in January from a supposedly secure Number 10 account by special adviser Mr McBride.

However, in a development which will alarm security chiefs, they have since fallen into the hands of Paul Staines, one of Britain’s most controversial political bloggers, who writes under the name ‘Guido Fawkes’.

The emails had been sent originally to Derek Draper, a close friend of Lord Mandelson, who also runs an influential political blog.

Posting on the LabourList website, Mr Draper admitted the emails had been “a bit juvenile and inappropriate and some were in bad taste”.

But he insisted: ‘Behind the hyped-up headlines the story is pretty simple. I’ve wondered for ages why the right wing have a near monopoly on websites that feature tittle tattle and teasing of their political opponents.

‘But I felt strongly that such gossip wasn’t suitable for LabourList and kicked around the idea of setting up another blog, Red Rag, where such stories might be published.

‘I mentioned this idea to a few friends asking if they knew of any good gossip that was doing the rounds.

‘Some of them said they weren’t interested, but one of them, who works in Downing Street, responded by sending back some details of stories that were being gossiped about in Westminster.

‘In truth these were a bit juvenile and inappropriate and some were in bad taste though I have to admit some were also brilliant and rather funny.’

If they were obtained by someone hacking into the Number 10 computer system or into Mr Draper’s computer, the police will almost certainly be called in to investigate.

But as Downing Street hurriedly distanced Gordon Brown from the affair a spokesman insisted: ‘We are not aware of any security breach in the No 10 system.’

He added: ‘Neither the Prime Minister nor anybody else in Downing Street, except the author, knew anything about any of these private emails.

‘The author of these emails has apologised for their juvenile and inappropriate nature and for the embarrassment caused.

‘All staff will be reminded of the appropriate use of Number 10 resources.’

One Sunday newspaper is understood to be preparing to publish full embarrassing details of the email exchanges, although a source close to the Downing Street official and Mr Draper himself played down their content.

The source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘They were knocking round some ideas for a blog, but the whole thing never got past first base.

‘To call it an orchestrated smear campaign is ridiculous. It was just some ill-judged gossip between friends which was never meant to see the light of day. They appear to be some ideas — laid out in embarrassing detail — for stories which could appear on a Left-wing version of the Guido Fawkes blog called Red Rag.

‘They’re all stories which have been doing the rounds in Westminster for a while, written up in a scurrilous style. But the website has never appeared, so it’s hard to see what it was all about.

‘It’s just embarrassing for Number 10 that members of staff are spending their time sending smutty emails to their mates instead of running the country.’

Labour strategists have become increasingly concerned that the party is losing the internet war to Right-leaning bloggers and in January Mr Draper set up a website, LabourList.org.

It attacked Mr Staines — who is hostile to the Government — and collated a dossier with evidence about the ‘past and present activities of Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes’.

Mr Staines has in the past accused Damian McBride, a senior Downing Street adviser, of orchestrating Mr Draper’s campaigns against alleged racist remarks on the Guido Fawkes website.

For the past two days he has featured a picture of Mr McBride in a shotgun’s cross-sights on his blog under the headline: ‘He Who Lives By The Smear…’, but with no other detail.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Sadiq Khan Says US Foreign Policy on Pakistan is Damaging Britain

Young Pakistanis ‘blame UK for drone deaths’

The UK must distance itself from American foreign policy if Pakistani youths are to be prevented from growing up hating Britain, according to the government’s social cohesion minister.

The comments by Sadiq Khan, who has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Pakistan, follow the arrests of 12 men — 10 of whom were Pakistani nationals — in the north-west of England last week on suspicion of planning a terror attack. They are likely to be given short shrift from Number 10, which has been keen to ally itself to the Obama administration. Earlier this month Gordon Brown stressed the two allies were united in their fight against terrorism in Pakistan.

But Khan, London’s first Muslim MP, said the UK must differentiate itself from the US after attending meetings at universities in Pakistan. “I listened to the anger and pain over the challenges that young people growing up in Pakistan face, including the anger and frustration over US drone attacks,” he said.

The attacks by unmanned US drones have provoked fury in Pakistan, where scores of militants have been killed in the country’s remote border regions, along with innocent civilians.

“The anger and frustration at the drone attacks was huge,” Khan said. “The view they [the students] had was that the UK was somehow responsible for this. They haven’t understood this was purely a US matter. They lumped us together with the US, which to me is a poison. It demonstrates to me we have a big problem.”

Khan, whose parents are from Pakistan, suggested the UK should look to reach out to disaffected Muslim youths by emphasising the close links between the two countries. “Much of the Pakistani population doesn’t realise the good we are doing,” Khan said: the UK is to double aid to Pakistan to £180m by 2011.

Crucial to winning hearts and minds, Khan said, was dismantling the perception that the US and the UK were one and the same over foreign policy. Acknowledging the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had mobilised Muslim opinion against the UK, Khan said: “Because of things that happened in 2003, there is an uphill battle. We need better to explain that there has been a distinct change in UK foreign policy.

“For example, this month the last troops will come home from Iraq: that’s very different from the US. The drone attacks are US, not UK; our development policy doesn’t have the strings that come with US aid.”

Khan’s comments come as ministers seek to increase the numbers of security officials in Pakistan to help in vetting those applying for visas to Britain. At present there are fewer than 10 security service officers assessing the backgrounds of more than 20,000 applications a year. “At present, we are reliant on a small number of officials who do the ground work; that is reliant on the Pakistani government giving us what it knows. That should improve in the near future, and can be done with the co-operation of Pakistan,” a Home Office source said.

Government figures show that 42,292 student visas were issued to Pakistanis between April 2004 and April 2008.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Why Europe Won’t Fight

[I don’t agree with all Buchanan’s points here. The presence of U.S. troops on Arabian soil is a MacGuffin. Osama Bin Laden has cited the loss of “Al-Andalus” as one of his primary grievances. He is very anxious to reconquer Spain for Islam. — io’p]

“No one will say this publicly, but the true fact is we are all talking about our exit strategy from Afghanistan. We are getting out. It may take a couple of years, but we are all looking to get out.”

Thus did a “senior European diplomat” confide to the New York Times during Obama’s trip to Strasbourg.

Europe is bailing out on us. Afghanistan is to be America’s war.

During what the Times called a “fractious meeting,” NATO agreed to send 3,000 troops to provide security during the elections and 2,000 to train Afghan police. Thin gruel beside Obama’s commitment to double U.S. troop levels to 68,000.

Why won’t Europe fight?

Because Europe sees no threat from Afghanistan and no vital interest in a faraway country where NATO Europeans have not fought since the British Empire folded its tent long ago.

Al-Qaida did not attack Europe out of Afghanistan. America was attacked. Because, said Osama bin Laden in his “declaration of war,” America was occupying the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, choking Muslim Iraq to death and providing Israel with the weapons to repress the Palestinians.

As Europe has no troops in Saudi Arabia, is exiting Iraq and backs a Palestinian state, Europeans figure, they are less likely to be attacked than if they are fighting and killing Muslims in Afghanistan.

Madrid and London were targeted for terror attacks, they believe, because Spain and Britain were George W. Bush’s strongest allies in Iraq. Britain, with a large Pakistani population, must be especially sensitive to U.S. Predator strikes in Pakistan.

Moreover, Europeans have had their fill of war.

In World War I alone, France, Germany and Russia each lost far more men killed than we have lost in all our wars put together. British losses in World War I were greater than America’s losses, North and South, in the Civil War. Her losses in World War II, from a nation with but a third of our population, were equal to ours. Where America ended that war as a superpower and leader of the Free World, Britain ended it bankrupt, broken, bereft of empire, sinking into socialism.

All of Europe’s empires are gone. All her great navies are gone. All her million-man armies are history. Her populations are all aging, shrinking and dying, as millions pour in from former colonies in the Third World to repopulate and Islamize the mother countries.

Because of Europe’s new “diversity,” any war fought in a Muslim land will inflame a large segment of Europe’s urban population.

Finally, NATO Europe knows there is no price to pay for malingering in NATO’s war in Afghanistan. Europeans know America will take up the slack and do nothing about their refusal to send combat brigades.

For Europeans had us figured out a long time ago.

They sense that we need them more than they need us.

While NATO provides Europe with a security blanket, it provides America with what she cannot live without: a mission, a cause, a meaning to life.

Were the United States, in exasperation, to tell Europe, “We are pulling out of NATO, shutting down our bases and bringing our troops home because we are weary of doing all the heavy lifting, all the fighting and dying for freedom,” what would we do after we had departed and come home?

What would our foreign policy be?

What would be the need for our vaunted military-industrial complex, all those carriers, subs, tanks, and thousands of fighter planes and scores of bombers? What would happen to all the transatlantic conferences on NATO, all the think tanks here and in Europe devoted to allied security issues?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the withdrawal of the Red Army from Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union, NATO’s mission was accomplished. As Sen. Richard Lugar said, NATO must “go out of area or out of business.”

NATO desperately did not want to go out of business. So, NATO went out of area, into Afghanistan. Now, with victory nowhere in sight, NATO is heading home. Will it go out of business?

Not likely. Too many rice bowls depend on keeping NATO alive.

You don’t give up the March of Dimes headquarters and fund-raising machinery just because Drs. Salk and Sabin found a cure for polio.

Again, one recalls, in those old World War II movies, the invariable scene where two G.I.s are smoking and talking.

“What are you gonna do, Joe, when this is all over?” one would ask.

Years ago, we had the answer.

Joe stayed in the Army. He couldn’t give it up. Soldiering is all he knew. Just like Uncle Sam. We can’t give up NATO because, if we do, we would no longer be the “indispensable nation,” the leader of the Free World.

And, if we’re not that, then who are we? And what would we do?

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

North Africa

Algeria: France Congratulates Bouteflika on Election

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 10 — France has extended its “congratulations” to Abdelaziz Bouteflika for having taken the Algerian presidential elections. The French Foreign Minister, speaking through spokesperson, Eric Chevallier, wished Bouteflika “complete success in his new mandate”. The Quai d’Orsay spokesperson did not comment on the figures of the election’s result: “It is not a matter for France to comment on the turn-out figures nor on the margin of the result”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Algeria: Elections, Opposition Rejects Results

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, APRIL 10 — “The result of the presidential election is unacceptable”. Nassim Fadeg, spokesperson for traditional Algerian opposition party Front des Forces Socialistes, (or the Socialist Forces Front- FFS), told ANSA that: “We are looking at a massive fraud on a national scale”. He announced that the election results will be “officially contested” despite the 90.24% result in favour of outgoing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Figures on votes cast “were enormously inflated, 74.54% is far from true. We registered a participation rate that was no greater than 18%”. FFS leader Hocine Ait Ahmed, who has been in voluntary exilé in Switzerland for years, defined yesterday’s elections in Algeria as ‘a political violation and a disreputable operation”. A letter to the press written by Ait Ahmed reads that “president Bouteflika invited the Algerian people to vote, and then he made sure of achieving a risk-free victory that deprived the people of the vote”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Algeria: Bouteflika Wins by a Landslide, 90.24% Votes

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS — Algerian outgoing President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has won the elections held yesterday by a landslide. According to Interior Minister, Yazid Zerouhni, Bouteflika won with 90.24% of the votes. Bouteflika, who has been in power for the last 10 years in Algeria, has achieved the almost unanimous consent that was expected, ensuring a third mandate for the presidency that will carry him through to 2014. In second place came the only woman in the elections, leader of the Workers’ Party, Louisa Hanoune, with 4.22%. Following her Moussatouati of the Algerian National Front with 2.31%. Then Mohammed Younsi of the Islamic party El Islah with 1.37%, Ali Rebaine of the small Ahd54 with 0.93% and Mohammed Said of the Moderate Islamist for Justice and Liberty Party 0.92%. Total turn-out at the polls was 74.54%.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Hezbollah Leader Denies Group Has Egyptian Cell

Beirut, 10 April (AKI) — The leader of the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah on Friday denied that one of its terrorist cells had been operating in Egypt. In a statement on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar website, Nasrallah said no such cells were operating outside Lebanon.

His remarks came a day after Egyptian officials said the country had recently thwarted attacks being planned by Hezbollah-backed militants including some targeting Sinai tourist sites.

Nasrallah said he would give a response to the Egyptian claims in a televised speech late on Friday. Egyptian police have said have detained for questioning 49 people suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, of seeking to smuggle weapons into Gaza and of spreading Shia ideology.

They are also suspected of membership of a clandestine organisation calling for rebellion against the country’s leadership, and renting homes in the Rafah area on Egypt’s border with Gaza. Investigators allege the houses were used for smuggling weapons and contraband into the coastal strip, which is ruled by militant Islamist Palestinian group Hamas.

The suspects reportedly include Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Sudanese and Egyptian citizens. Egypt’s general prosecutor, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, said the 49 suspects will be kept in custody for a further 15 days.

Prominent Islamist lawyer Montasser al-Zayat, who is representing the men said state security prosecutors began interrogating the suspects last Saturday.

The group’s alleged leader, a Lebanese citizen named as Shihab S. is among those detained for questioning.

Shihab S. was detained by Egyptian police last November, his brother, Hasan, who lives in Beirut, was quoted as telling Pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat on Friday.

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


‘Moors’ Seek Royal Apology 500 Years After Their Exile

The demand, by a prominent Moroccan historian, was made after the royal visitors cancelled a scheduled visit to the city of Tétouan, the former Spanish colonial territory, citing a busy itinerary, although Spanish journalists speculated that the cancellation had more to do with continuing tension between the two nations.

Tétouan was founded and constructed by the millions of Muslims expelled from “alAndalus” by the Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand after their victory over the last Moorish ruler Boabdil at Granada in 1492.

Mohammad ibn Azzuz Hakim, a leading Moroccan expert on the history of local culture, addressed an open letter to King Juan Carlos on the last of a three-day official visit to Morocco, the first since 1979.

Relations between Morocco and Spain were strained under the conservative José María Aznar, Spain’s previous Prime Minister, with a military spat over the occupation of the tiny and disputed Perejil (Parsley) island by the Moroccans. Señor Aznar sent a commando unit to recover the islet and American diplomats had to intervene.

Relations improved after his Socialist successor José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero chose Morocco for his first official visit on becoming Prime Minister in March, but Mr ibn Azzuz Hakim said that a royal apology for the expulsion of the “Moors” would help to improve them further.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: 250 Million USD From World Bank for Development

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 6 — The World Bank has approved a 250-million-dollar loan to Tunisia. The loan will be used to back the country’s development policies contained in the eleventh National Tunisian Development Plan (2007-2011), which aims to boost growth and create new jobs. The plan focuses on the integration of Tunisia into the global economy and the promotion of the country’s private sector. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Expert’s Report: Israel Cannot Leave Golan

While Syria continues to condition indirect talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government on Israel’s consent to quit the entire Golan Heights, a new report by a respected IDF general shows that Israel cannot afford to do so.

The 30-page report was written by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Eiland chaired Israel’s National Security Council from 2004 to 2006, and served as head of the IDF’s Operations Branch and its Planning Directorate, where he was responsible for designing and implementing the IDF’s operational and strategic policies.

Eiland explains that ever since 1967 — when Israel captured the Golan after years of Syrian attacks from the Golan plateau upon Israeli towns below — it has been a matter of consensus that the Golan provides strategic depth and other advantages that would effectively forestall a Syrian attack on Israel..

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Huge Bomb Lab Found in Mosque

(IsraelNN.com) Hamas terrorists in Kalkilya built a large supply of bombs and stored them in a local mosque without raising suspicion from local Palestinian Authority armed forces who represent the rival Fatah faction. However, the terrorists were out of luck on Wednesday, Passover eve, when a simple electric shortage gave away their plans.

The shortage caused a small fire in the mosque, bringing PA forces to the building, where they found bombs ready for use and large cannisters of bomb-making materials. The mosque was closed down, and PA sappers removed the explosives.

The bombs were then turned over to the IDF, which sent experts to detonate the weapons in a controlled explosion.

A captain in the PA forces told Israeli journalists that the mosque had been used to both produce and store the bombs. “It was a huge weapons lab,” he said.

Four people have been arrested in connection to the incident, he said, two of them members of Hamas and two “everyday citizens.”

Kalkilya and surrounding villages have been the source of several recent attacks on Israeli citizens. Two Israelis were wounded in rock attacks in the past month when driving in the area, and other rock and firebomb attacks on vehicles have been reported.

Kalkilya is located just minutes from the Israeli city of Kfar Saba and the Trans-Israel highway. However, due to the Judea and Samaria security barrier, Kalkilya terrorists have largely turned away from attacking Israelis in those areas, and have focused on harming Jews in Samaria.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Israel: NGO’s Struggle to Cope With Rising Needy Families

Tel Aviv, 9 April (AKI) — Source IRIN — With the Jewish Passover under way, Non-Governmental Organisations report an alarming growth in the number of Israelis turning to them for food aid. Some NGOs are reporting a rise of nearly 60 percent in the number seeking help compared to 2008.

As a consequence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Finance Ministry on 5 April to increase the budget allocated to NGOs for Passover food aid. The eight-day Jewish Passover holiday started on 8 April.

Parliament will also approve an inter-ministerial team to examine and assist the work of NGOs providing food and social aid.

The national budget for Passover assistance now stands at some nine million NIS (about US$2.2 million), which NGOs claim is not enough.

Passover is one of the two main Jewish holidays and tradition requires consumption of more expensive unleavened breads at this time. Experts say a certain stigma attaches to those unable to provide respectable food for their families. NGOs are keen to do all they can to provide at least some basic food for the holiday.

According to officials in Israel’s Social Affairs Ministry, some 20 percent of the population will need support from the welfare services in 2009.

Over 85 percent of welfare services in Israel are provided by NGOs and local municipalities. NGOs are reporting a severe cut in the amount of donations they receive, and fear the collapse of hundreds of small NGOs after Passover, leaving thousands of families with no support.

Eran Weintraub, head of Letet, an NGO providing food and social assistance through some 120 local NGOs, told reporters on 5 April: “The need is estimated at 800 million NIS ($200 million) for some 223,000 families. This is over 60 million NIS ($15million) a month; current assistance is less than 10 percent [of this figure]. If the government of Israel’s intentions are genuine, it must form a joint team with NGOs currently working in this area and erect a special force to fight poverty.”

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


Nasrallah Confirms Reports of Arms Smuggling Through Egypt

Responding to Egyptian arrests of alleged Hizbullah operatives Nasrallah says smuggling of arms into Gaza ‘is not a sin we need to apologize for’; also criticizes Cairo for siding with right-wing Israeli gov’t

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Officials Working Against Netanyahu?

Rallying Congress for fear Israeli PM will bypass White House

In anticipation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next month, the Obama administration has been briefing Congress on its position regarding establishing a Palestinian state, according to informed Israeli diplomatic sources.

The sources said Obama’s team fears Netanyahu may try to rally support in Congress against the president’s policies, prompting the White House to act first by detailing for members of Congress Obama’s positions regarding a Palestinian state and freezing Jewish construction in the West Bank. The White House is stressing that it holds Israel’s security paramount but that Obama believes establishing a Palestinian state is crucial for Middle East peace.

The diplomatic sources, who also spoke with a reporter from Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, said Obama anticipates a possible clash with Netanyahu on several issues, particularly the freezing of Jewish construction in both the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Sinn Fein Head Meets Hamas Leader in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The leader of Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein party met with the head of the internationally shunned Hamas government during a two-day visit to Gaza and said he plans to brief President Obama’s special Mideast envoy about his contacts.

Gerry Adams, a key player in Northern Ireland’s peace process, met with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh late Wednesday and planned more talks with officials of the Islamic militant group Thursday.

Haniyeh’s meeting with Adams, at an undisclosed location in Gaza City, was not announced ahead of time. TV footage from a local news outlet showed Adams sitting in an armchair next to Haniyeh

“We want to help. We support the Palestinian people,” Adams said.

Adams told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday he said he met Obama’s special Mideast envoy George Mitchell in Washington last month and told him of his plan to visit Gaza. He said he plans to “brief the Irish government, friends in the U.S., others I deal with internationally, and that would include Sen. Mitchell.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Middle East

‘A Good Day is When I Speak to My Sons’: An ‘Adulterous’ Mother Speaks From Her Dubai Prison

Marnie Pearce shuffles into the narrow, glass-fronted booth from where she greets visitors at Dubai’s Al Awir women’s jail.

Ill-fitting, dusty-pink drawstring pants and a matching shirt hang loosely on her gaunt frame — she has lost nearly a stone since being imprisoned for adultery seven weeks ago.

Despite the artful application of make-up, her once glowing complexion is pale and dry. Her face is drawn into a tight mask of despair and her long, blonde hair, which was her crowning glory, reveals prominent dark roots.

The former florist from Berkshire has become an unlikely cause celebre for human rights campaigners — Amnesty International has called for her immediate release — since her dubious conviction under draconian Sharia law.

She was sentenced to six months, cut on appeal to three, after her former husband, an Egyptian, told police she had been having an affair. And Marnie, 40, has clearly been struggling to cope with life behind bars.

She has not seen her children, Laith, eight, and Ziad, four, since she was locked up.

Her mood is erratic — one minute she is defiant, the next she is crying. Her voice, undulating from a rapid rattle to a quiet murmur and peppered with occasional sobs, reflects her emotional turmoil.

‘A good day is when I get to speak to my sons,’ she says. ‘Their father sometimes refuses to put them on the phone when I call, as arranged, in the evenings. It’s his way of asserting control and, he says, to punish me.’

Today is not a good day. Marnie is distraught, her eyes red from crying. Her ex-husband, Ihab el-Labban, who under Islamic law gained custody of their sons after her imprisonment, had agreed that they would visit on Thursday, Laith’s birthday.

But Ihab has flown out of the country, leaving the boys with his elderly mother.

Marnie called his mother to ask if the boys would be coming to see her. ‘She just laughed and put the phone down on me,’ she sobs. Ihab has threatened never to let her see the children again.

This is Marnie’s first interview from behind the white walls that surround a compound of squat new buildings housing both men’s and women’s prisons on the outskirts of booming Dubai.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Environment: UAE; Algae Emergency, Dubai Beaches Closed

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 7 — The “Red Sea” emergency, which has hit the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over recent days, principally in Fujeirah and in Ras al Khaimeh, has forced Dubai authorities to close two of Dubai’s most famous beaches, including the beaches at the foot of Burj al Arab, the world’s most luxurious hotel, known as “The Sailboat” and the Umm Suqeim beach which stretches as far as Palm Jumerirah. The Red Tide, a phenomenon caused by an excessive proliferation of algae, which depletes the oxygen in the water and leaves toxins, can cause the death of marine fauna and cause irritation in human airways. “Some blocks of algae have been spotted along the coast of Dubai in the last four days and for this reason we have been advised to close the beaches”, explained Mohammed Hassan, Director of the Marine Environment Department of the Dubai Municipality. “Even though future decisions will depend on the atmospheric conditions and on wind direction,” explained Hassan, “the popular beach of Jumeirah is also at risk of closure”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Fair: 100 Luxury Industries Promote Italy in Abu Dhabi

(ANSAmed) — TREVISO, APRIL 9 — One hundred Italian companies will be taking part in ‘Italy, La Dolce Vita, Luxury’, scheduled for June 2-4 in Abu Dhabi. The initiative is the result of a partnership between the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, the Associazione Itaca from Treviso (in charge of the event), Etihad Airways and the Emirates Palace from Abu Dhabi, with support from the Italian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates represent the main outlet market for Italian exports in the Middle East and North Africa. Total trade between the two countries resulted in a positive balance for Italy, at 4.119 billion euros (figures from the Italian-Arab Chamber of Commerce, 2007). Different sectors of Italian manufacturing will be involved, from construction work to mechanics, from interior design to lighting, from gastronomy to agricultural and food production, from art to textiles, and from jewellery to goldsmith’s work. Ferrari, Maserati and Fantini Moasaici are amongst the companies taking part. The event has the support of the prime minister’s office in the Cabinet (the Tourism undersecretary’s office), the Agriculture and the Ministry for Economic Development. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France ‘Worried’ by Iran’s Defiance

[Comments from JD: If France is worried, then the situation must be very serious. Note the Clinton anemic reaction — Obama is Carter redux.]

A day after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton downplayed Iran’s claim that it had developed new uranium enrichment technology, France expressed its concern over the assertion.

[…]

On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced advances in the country’s nuclear program, including the inauguration of a new nuclear-related facility and the testing of two types of high-capacity centrifuges that he said would speed up Iran’s enrichment capacity.

He also claimed that there were 7,000 working centrifuges to enrich nuclear fuel at Iran’s Natanz facility.

Clinton said Thursday night the declaration would not affect the US decision to resume participation in international talks on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

“We don’t know what to believe about the Iranian program,” she said, adding that the US government did not “attribute any particular meaning” to Iran’s statement with respect to the negotiations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Iran: Three People Hanged Over 2007 Mosque Bombing

Tehran, 10 April (AKI) — Iran executed three people on Friday, two of them University students, convicted of being involved in the bombing of a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz which killed 14 people and injured 200 others in April 2008.

Mohsen Eslamian, 21, Ali Asghar Pashtar, 20, and Rouzbeh Yahyazadeh, 32 had been charged on November 2008 as ‘mohareb’ or God’s enemy, by a revolutionary court in the capital Tehran, said Iranian state news agency IRNA.

The court had accused the defendants of having links to a monarchist opposition group outside Iran and of taking orders from an Iranian US-based CIA agent to try to assassinate a top official in Iran.

The authorities also accused the group of seeking to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran and blamed the United States for arming and training those behind the blast and said Israel and Britain were also involved.

The three men were hanged in the city’s Adelabad prison.

A recent report by rights group Amnesty International says Iran is second after China in the number of executions carried out in 2008.

Of the at least 2,390 people put to death worldwide in 2008, 93 percent of these were executed in five countries — China, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States — Amnesty said.

China carried out at least 1,718 executions in 2008, followed by Iran, which performed at least 346 executions.

In addition, Iran in 2008 executed 8 prisoners who were under 18 at the time of the offence — acts described by Amnesty as “a flagrant breach of international law.”

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


Lebanon: US Military Assistance to Arrive Before Elections

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 9 — Following talks in Washington with the Lebanese Minister of Defence, Elias Murr, high level US officials have announced that before the parliamentary elections in Lebanon on June 7, the US will be providing Beirut with significant military assistance including tanks, artillery pieces and aircraft. So reported today Lebanese daily An Nahar on its website. It specifies that assistance will include 12 Raven unmanned aerial vehicles, 10 M-60 tanks and 41 Howitzer artillery pieces. During the first visit to Washington by a Lebanese government official since the Obama administration took office, Murr was received by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and by the US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. “We fully support the Lebanese government in its efforts to ensure that the upcoming elections are free and fair,” Clinton was quoted by An Nahar as saying. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: Turkey, Police Holds 28 Suspects Linked to Al-Qaeda

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 10 — Turkish anti-terror police detains 28 people on suspicion that they have links to the al-Qaeda network, the Anatolia news agency reported, quoting local governor. “The suspects were rounded up in simultaneous operations in several districts in the Western city of Eskisehir”, Governor Mehmet Kiliclar said, refusing to elaborate for the sake of the investigation. The suspects, currently being questioned by police, will appear in front of a court in the next days to decide whether to charge or release them. Last month a newspaper reported that Ankara had received U.S. intelligence that al-Qaeda militants could be plotting attacks on foreign targets in Turkey. A Turkish cell of al-Qaeda was held responsible for truck bombs against two synagogues, the British Consulate and a British bank in Istanbul in 2003, which killed 63 people and left hundreds injured. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Turkey-Armenia: Borders Might Reopen in October, President

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 10 — Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, said he hopes the Armenian-Turkish border will be reopened before October 7, when a return football match between the national teams of the two countries will take place, daily Hurriyet reported. “Armenia and Turkey are approaching the final stage of negotiations. As you know, we agreed to start negotiations with Turkey without preconditions”, PanArmenian.net quoted Sargsyan as saying in an interview with Russia’s Vesti TV Channel. Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations and their border has been closed since 1993 over Armenia’s invasion of 20% of Azerbaijani territory — a frozen conflict legacy of the Soviet Union known as Nagorno-Karabakh -. Ankara and Yerevan however have been engaged in a normalization process, including the reopening of the border, since Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, paid a landmark visit to Armenia last year to watch a World Cup qualifying football match between the countries’ national teams. The Turkish and Armenian national football teams will play the return World Cup qualifying match on October 7 in Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Ex Nepali King Trying to Restore Monarchy

Former king’s heir, Crown Prince Paras Bikram Shah, makes the claim. Deposed in 2008 Gyanendra is said to have discussed such a goal in a recent trip to India. Prince makes new revelations about 2001 royal family massacre.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — A plan exists to restore the monarchy in Nepal, or at least give the royal family some power, said former Crown Prince Paras, currently in exile in Singapore. His revelations come a few days after his father, Gyanendra Bikram Shah (pictured), the last king of Nepal, came home after a trip to India.

In an interview with Singapore tabloid The New Paper, the 37-year former prince said that his father is actively seeking to restore the monarchy through his grandson Hridyandra, Prince Paras’ own son.

The “baby king” as Paras calls the young boy was at the centre of talks the former king had in India with leaders of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an unidentified multi-millionaire woman from Singapore, his former personal adviser Sagar Timilsina and former royal priest, Pashupati Bhakta Mahrjan.

Until the abolition of the monarchy Nepal was the only Hindu kingdom in the world.

After more than a decade of civil war, the monarchy was officially abolished in 2008. A new constitution is currently being drafted with input from the entire population in accordance to the wishes of the ruling Maoist-led government.

In his interview Prince Paras does much more than talk about his father’s plans. He also reveals tome more facts about the 1 june 2001 massacre in Narayanhiti Royal Palace when nine members of the royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aiswarya, were killed.

Paras confirmed that his cousin, Crown Prince Dipendra, was responsible for the slaughter, dismissing rumours that had his father conspiring to seize the throne.

According to Paras, Crown Prince Dipendra carried out the killings for three reasons.

First, his father was opposed to his marriage 2ith Devyani Rana, a woman from a rival prominent family.

Secondly, economic interests were involved. “The Nepal Army was looking for a new weapon to replace the Belgian SLR” but “Dipendra like the German Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifle, as opposed to the battle-tested Colt M16” favoured by the king. Millions were involved in lucrative contracts.

Finally, Crown Prince Dipendra had never accepted his father’s 1990 decision to abolish Nepal’s absolute monarchy and turn the country into a constitutional monarchy with free elections.

Paras’ revelations have caused a stir in Nepal. But canvassing opinion among various Nepali political parties AsiaNews found that no one believes that the restoration of the monarchy is possible.

For Prakash Man Singh, historic leader of the Nepali Congress, the “monarchy is finished. The people will never accept its return in any form.”

Jhala Nath Khanal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), said that “restoring the monarch is impossible, whatever some might try to do.”

In his response to Prince Paras’ conspiracy allegations, Nepali government spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara said that the “government will take all necessary steps if Gyanendra takes any initiative against the will of the people.”

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


Pakistan: Mounting Pressure on President Over Swat Deal

Islamabad, 10 April (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Pressure is mounting on Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari to sign the peace deal implementing Islamic law in North West Frontier Province’s Malakand region, which encompasses the troubled Swat valley.

The hardline Muslim cleric Sufi Mohammad, who has mediated peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban in Swat has refused to hold direct talks with the government until Zardari signs the accord.

Mohammad earlier this week abandoned his peace camp, installed to oversee the peace, following the historical accord signed in mid-February between militants and the NWFP government and went back to his village.

He is chief of the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi group in Swat.

Mohammad last month signalled he was unhappy at what he calls the slow pace of implementation of the peace accord and complained that un-Islamic’ laws were still in force in Malakand.

But interior minstry chief Rehman Malik played down the situation. “Maulana Sufi Mohammad did not back out from the Swat deal. He simply has changed his location,” Malik told journalists in Islamabad on Thursday.

“The president will sign the Nizam-e-Adal (Islamic law) regulation but he is waiting for militants to lay down their weapons completely,” Malik said.

But peace in the Swat valley and other parts of the country looks to observers to be visibly in serious danger.

The February peace deal ended two years of fierce conflict between militants and the army in which at least 1,700 soldiers and hundreds of civilians were killed and 600,000 people were displaced.

On Wednesday, Taliban militants from Pakistan’s troubled Swat valley stormed the neighbouring district of Buner, killing at least five people, police sources said.

Police reported that a group of Taliban fighters travelled late on Monday from Swat to Buner, a previously peaceful district about 100km (60 miles) north-west of the capital, Islamabad.

After the militants ignored appeals from community leaders to go back, armed tribesmen and police confronted them, sparking a battle that left three policemen and two tribesmen dead, local police officer Zakir Khan, maintained.

On Wednesday, the US embassy Islamabad issued a warning to its nationals to avoid going to restaurants and other public places in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities. The US embassy was also due to close down its visa service on Friday.

Analysts believe that the increasing drone attacks on suspected militant hideouts in the lawless South Waziristan tribal region, one of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud’s homes, is linked to the situation in Swat and elsewhere.

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


Pakistan: Country Ponders Militancy and ‘War on Terror’

Islamabad, 7 April (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Public antagonism in Pakistan towards the United States and neo-imperialism is skyrocketing. But events such as the apparent public flogging of a “wayward” teenage girl also raise the question of whether crimes are being committed by militants as well as in the name of the fight against terrorism.

Non-governmental organisations staged protests on Tuesday against the videoed flogging by bearded militants of a 17-year-old girl in the troubled northwest Swat valley, after a neighbour alleged the girl had a relationship with a married man.

Protestors bearing black banners reading ‘Down with Taliban’s so-called Islamic laws’, ‘We condemn the Taliban’s barbaric act of flogging 17 year old girl in Swat’ filled main roads in the southern port city of Karachi in the first ever campaign by the pro-western Muttehida Quami Movement.

The MQM openly states that it wants to defeat to the Taliban in Pakistan.

There are several anti-Taliban parties including ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and secular Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party which rules the North West Frontier Province.

But since Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks against the United States, nobody has dared to challenge the Taliban. It and Al-Qaeda have been portrayed as resisting the foreign occupation armies in Afghanistan and a challenge for the neo-imperialist world order.

On some prominent corners of the city, Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s the premier Islamic party has also hung white banners in support of a Pakistani scientist detained in the United States for allegedly firing a gun at a US serviceman in Afghanistan. ‘Release Dr Aafia Siddiqui’ and ‘Why the people who voice support for the Swat girl are silent on the detention of Dr Aafia Siddiqui?’ read the banners.

The commissioner of Swat’s Malakand Division has denied the teen’s flogging occurred in Swat valley. Chand Bibi, who was allegedly flogged in the video, has also denied before a local court in Swat that the incident occurred.

Nevertheless, the Swat flogging case is likely to be a turning point in which the state will have to decide in where it stands on the question of the Taliban.

On Monday, the newly restored judiciary was the first organ of the state to take action. Pakistan’s supreme court ordered an investigation of the video, which was taken with a mobile phone and aired on Pakistani TV last week.

Several officials were ordered to appear before an eight-member bench, headed by chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The court turned down the government’s request for closed trial of those allegedly involved in the Swat flogging and ruled that the facts should be made public.

Secular and liberal political parties now also have a golden opportunity to define terrorism and enact anti-terror policy.

Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani on Monday directed law-enforcement agencies and provincial governments to devise a comprehensive and integrated national counter-terrorism policy to completely eradicate the scourge of terrorism and extremism from the country.

He issued this directive while chairing a high-level meeting on national security specially convened by him on Monday in the wake of a recent spate of terrorist attacks in the country.

Preventive measures to effectively combat terrorism were discussed at length during the meeting. A three-pronged anti-terrorism strategy — administrative, political and parliamentary — and a special anti-terrorist force to curb terrorism and suicide bombings in the country were also mooted.

The parliament’s national security committee will also report on the root causes of extremism, assess current threats, and prepare a draft national policy to tackle the insurgency, the meeting decided.

The committee will also devise a ‘de-radicalisation’ programme to bring religious elements into the political mainstream. It will also strengthen the capabilities of Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies, the meeting said.

The government has already developed a strategy to tighten the noose around the militants in Pakistan. But the military establishment — which still views the Taliban as an essential component of its regional strategy — has posed the greatest challenge.

To loosen the ISI military intelligence’s tight grip on Pakistan’s counter-terrorist Special Investigation Group, the interior ministry has since last May boosted SIG, which was set up in 2003.

All of SIG’s operations were previously strictly controlled by ISI, despite coordination with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the training of SIG officers in the US. Officers from Pakistan’s police and Federal Investigation Agency were deployed in SIG and it has close ties with provincial police departments, according to sources.

SIG is headed by FIA’s director general working directly under the ministry of interior. Rehman Malik, who is the interior ministry head, a close presidential aide and former FIA chief, easily developed a system to outwit ISI.

A parallel intelligence gathering network, free of ISI’s influence and intervention, successfully accumulated the data of 13,500 high profile militants and jihadist leaders, without allowing ISI to filter them.

The data include the profiles of British-born suspected Pakistani militants. The FIA tracks their travel records and SIG selected those who had religious leanings and who could possibly have ties with extremist organisations.

The Pakistani embassy in London also coordinated these information-gathering activities and established a special unit. Unlike ISI, Britain’s MI6 intelligence and the US Central Intelligence Agency and FBI had direct access to the information.

The system recently enabled MI6 to arrest number of Pakistani suspects in England and announce a massive terror plot to target the UK and other parts of Europe.

The British government paid six million pounds in the form of equipment to SIG for its services. The process was further reinforced when SIG’s coordination was built with the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau, a civilian secret service headed by a confidant of Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari.

Over 3,000 employees recruited during the Pakistan People’s Party government in the mid 1990s and sacked by Nawaz Sharif’s government in the late 1990s have been reinstated.

These individuals are now useful tools to reinforce a parallel intelligence system for counter insurgency operations against the Taliban as well as to support the government.

The whole system also supplied information on aspects of last November’s attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, which India alleges were launched from Pakistan. SIG documented some facts on Pakistani coastal areas and also made an arrest from there, completely by-passing the ISI.

While human right activists and secular political parties are organising against the militancy, the Taliban have also stepped up their attacks. What course the Pakistani state chooses to steer is the million dollar question.

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

Far East

China’s 1-Child Policy Now Threatens Crime Wave

Study cites ‘real risk’ from men unable to find partners

A new study published by BMJ, which used to be known as the British Medical Journal, has documented a worsening problem on which WND has been reporting for 12 years: the domination of males in a Chinese society that encourages the abortion of unborn daughters.

The new report says males under the age of 20 outnumbered females by more than 32 million and warned, “China will see very high and steadily worsening sex ratios in the reproductive age group over the next two decades.”

One of the authors, Therese Hesketh, told the Associated Press that translates into a huge threat of criminal activity.

“If you’ve got highly sexed young men, there is a concern that they will all get together and, with high levels of testosterone, there may be a real risk, that they will go out and commit crimes,” said Hesketh, a lecturer at University College in London.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Hostage Dies as Rescuers Attempt to Free Family From Pirates

A young French yachtsman was shot dead yesterday when French commandos stormed his vessel off Somalia, releasing his wife and three-year-old son and another couple who had been held captive by Somali pirates.

President Sarkozy offered condolences as the violent death of Florent Lemaçon, 28, a computer programmer from Brittany, stirred emotion in France: the family’s travels had been followed by many in the country on their internet blog.

Mr Sarkozy ordered the assault, the seventh in a year by French forces against Somali pirates, a week after the Tanit, the Lemaçon’s elderly 36ft (11m) craft, was seized about 400 miles off the Somali coast.

A naval vessel and helicopters had been tracking the Tanit. Paris offered an unspecified ransom but told the five pirates on board that they would not be allowed to reach the coast, Hervé Morin, the Defence Minister, said. Negotiations failed when the pirates demanded an excessive sum.

The attack began when sharpshooters in helicopters killed the three pirates in the open cockpit instantly. Then followed a gunbattle with the two Somalis who were holding Chloé Lemaçon, Colin, the couple’s son, and the two friends who had joined them to sail through the dangerous Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

Mr Lemaçon was shot in the cramped cabin as commandos fought their way in from the cockpit. It was not yet known whether he was killed by the pirates or was caught in crossfire.

Two pirates were captured in the operation, which lasted six minutes, Mr Morin said.

The rescued captives were on their way to Djibouti last night. Their vessel, which had been disabled when French forces shredded the sails with gunfire, was being towed to Djibouti.

Mr Lemaçon’s death was the first in three operations in the past year to rescue French hostages.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Pirates Seize U.S.-Owned, Italy-Flagged Tugboat 11 Apr 2009 14:39:44 GMT

NAIROBI, April 11 (Reuters) — Pirates seized a U.S.-owned and Italian-flagged tugboat with 16 crew on Saturday in the latest hijacking in the busy Gulf of Aden waterway, a regional maritime group said.

Andrew Mwangura, of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, said the crew were believed to be unharmed on the tugboat, which he added was operated from the United Arab Emirates.

He said the tugboat was towing two barges at the time of capture but there were no details on their cargo.

“This incident shows the pirates are becoming more daring and violent,” Mwangura told Reuters by phone.

NATO alliance officials on board the Portuguese warship NRB Corte-Real, which is patrolling the Gulf of Aden, said a distress call came from the MV Buccaneer tugboat but communications were lost six minutes later.

They said 10 of the tugboat’s crew were Italian citizens.

Somali pirates have stepped up attacks in March after a lull at the start of 2009.

International interest has focused this week on the plight of an American hostage, Richard Phillips, held by four pirates on a lifeboat flanked by U.S. naval warships in a high seas standoff since Wednesday. (Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Nairobi and Alison Bevege on the NRB Corte-Real)

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Pirate Commander: ‘How I Made My Fortune’

As bandits continue to terrorise shipping off the coast of Somalia, a pirate has claimed he was forced into a life of crime — but has made a fortune from it.

Speaking before the kidnapping of US sea captain Richard Phillips, Yassin Dheere said he had lost track of the money he has made since taking to piracy five years ago.

The 39-year-old, dressed in expensive-looking traditional robes and holding an AK-47, said he was born in a notorious pirate stronghold in Somalia…

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Castro as the Second Coming

Earlier his week, Congressional Black Caucus members visited Cuba and, expectedly, found heaven on earth, It was no surprise, of course, since all fellow travelers find paradise when they arrive at their totalitarian destinations.

The trip occurred amid talk that the Obama administration is considering a shift in relations with Cuba, perhaps entailing an end to certain restrictions placed on the communist tyranny for the past five decades.

Several members of the caucus, in typical fellow traveler fashion, prostrated themselves before Cuban President Raul Castro and the dictator himself at his home. At a following press conference, the cacucus members lavished veneration on the cruel and sadistic despotism. “He looked directly into my eyes!” boasted Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Ca.) after her meeting with Fidel. “He’s one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met!” exclaimed Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo) about Fidel.

[…]

But the Black Caucus political pilgrims weren’t too interested in this particular detail. Instead, they simply just called out for an end to the U.S. trade embargo and other diplomatic restrictions placed on Cuba. They didn’t call out for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners in Cuba. Nor did they say anything about any of the atrocious human rights abuses perpertated by the communist regime.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Dry Taps in Mexico City: a Water Crisis Gets Worse

By Ioan Grillo / Mexico City Saturday, Apr. 11, 2009

Luis Acosta / AFP / Getty A child walks close to a measuring pile at the lake reservoir, in Villa Victoria, outside of Mexico City, on April 7, 2009. Authorities reported on Tuesday this will be one of the most serious water shortages in recent memory.

The reek of unwashed toilets spilled into the street in the neighborhood of unpainted cinder block houses. Out on the main road, hundreds of residents banged plastic buckets and blocked the path of irate drivers while children scoured the surrounding area for government trucks. Finally, the impatient crowd launched into a high-pitched chant, repeating one word at fever pitch: “Water, Water, Water!”

About five million people, or a quarter of the population of Mexico City’s urban sprawl, woke up Thursday with dry taps. The drought was caused by the biggest stoppage in the city’s main reservoir system in recent years to ration its depleting supplies. Government officials hope this and four other stoppages will keep water flowing until the summer rainy season fills the basins back up. But they warn that the Mexican capital needs to seriously overhaul its water system to stop an unfathomable disaster in the future. (See pictures of the world water crisis.)

It is perhaps unsurprising that the biggest metropolis in the Western hemisphere is confronting problems with its water supply — and becoming an alarming cautionary tale for other megacities. Scientists have been talking for years about how humans are pumping up too much water while ripping apart too many forests, and warning that the vital liquid could become the next commodity nations are fighting over with tanks and bombers. But it is hard for most people to appreciate quite how valuable a simple thing like water is — until the taps turn off. (See pictures of the contentious politics of water in Central Asia.)

Housewife Graciela Martinez, 44, complains that the smell of her bathroom — used by her family of eight — had forced them all outside. “We have got no toilets, I can’t wash my children, I can’t cook, I can’t clean the mess off the floor,” Martinez says, trying to find shade from the sweltering sun. “And the worst thing is, we have got almost nothing to drink.”

Paradoxically, the thirsty city was once a great lake, where the Aztecs founded their island citadel Tenochtitlan in 1325. When the Spanish conquerors took control they drained much of the water, laying the basis for the vast expansion of the metropolis across the entire Valley of Mexico. However, as the growing population continues to suck water out in wells, Mexico City is sinking down into the old lake bed at a rate of about three inches a year. This downward plunge puts extra pressure on water distribution pipes, which are now so leaky they lose about 40% of liquid before it even reaches homes…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Greece: 25 Illegal Migrants Arrested on Lesbos

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 10 — According to a statement from the Merchant Marine Ministry, the port authority on the island of Lesbos has detained 25 illegal immigrants who reached the island in a row boat from the coast of nearby Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Harvard Astrophysicist: Sunspot Activity Correlates to Global Climate Change

Harvard astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon tells us that Earth has seen a reduced level of sunspot activity for the past 18 months, and is currently at the lowest levels seen in almost a century. Dr. Soon says “The sun is just slightly dimmer and has been for about the last 18 months. And that is because there are very few sunspots.” He says when the sun has less sunspots, it gives off less energy, and the Earth tends to cool. He notes 2008 was a cold year for this very reason, and that 2009 may be cold for the same.

Dr. Soon’s field of specialty is the sun. He explains that sunspots are planet-sized pockets of magnetism with much greater energy output and matter expulsion, some of which strikes the Earth’s atmosphere as extra energy from the sun. He says when sunspots are present, the temperature goes up, when they are not present the temperature goes down.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

islam o' phobe said...

Here is a link to a wonderful web site that I did not send to the Baron, due to its general lack of newsworthiness:

TelllBarroso.Eu

Got a troubled spouse? A flat tire? A strange fungal infection? Tell Barroso!

The great non-Emperor of the world's greatest non-imperial empire is standing by to listen to your problems.

From the great man's web site:

“Your opinion matters. What can Europe do for you?”

Gee thanks, Barroso. What a lovely fellow you are. If only every Portuguese Maoist were as sharp as you.