Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/25/2009If you glance through the “Financial Crisis” section tonight, three seemingly unrelated items may stand out:

1. Credit Suisse is alarmed by government interference in the financial system;
2. China has acknowledged that it has been buying up gold reserves; and
3. Also from Switzerland come possible plans for a new global currency.

So it looks like the long-expected flight from the dollar is about to begin.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Diana West, El Inglés, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, JR, Nilk, TB, The Observer, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
Credit Suisse Warns of ‘Excessive’ State Action
European Commission Backs Support for Serbia
France: From Today Special Sales in Large Stores
Italy: Almost 2.5 Million Living in Absolute Poverty
Portugal: Public Humiliation for Hardened Debtors
Spain: Protest Against Immigrants, Shipyard Blocked
The Tower of BIS Basel: Secretive Plans for the Issuing of a New Global Currency
 
USA
California Considers Constitutional Convention
Democrats Refuse to Allow Skeptic to Testify Alongside Gore at Congressional Hearing
Diana West: Shariah Goes to Harvard
High-Seas Pirate Tries to Adjust to NY Prison Cell
Obama’s Bootlicking Backfires
Obama Appoints Muslim Advisor
The Knock at the Door
U.S. Plans to Accept Several Chinese Muslims From Guantanamo
 
Europe and the EU
2,800 Crime Gangs Ravage UK Streets
EU: Ferrero Waldner, No to Closer Relations With Israel
EU-Turkey: Ferrero-Waldner, It’s a European Decision
Italy: Protests Grow at Milan Anti-Kebab Law
‘Quiet’ Copenhagen Cracks Down on Deadly Gang War
Spain: Bishops Oppose Genetic Selection
TV: Spain, Tax on Private TV Will Finance Public TV
UK: Home Office Civil Servant Sacked
 
Balkans
EU-Montenegro: Brussels, Word on Nomination in 14-16 Months
Kosovo: Tadic, Justice Court Verdict in at Least a Year
Kosovo: Turkey Offers Help for Cultural Heritage
Serbia-Montenegro: Police Cooperation to be Strengthened
Serbia: Building of Corridor 10 to Begin by End of 2009
University: Croatia, Tuition Fee Protest Spreads
 
Mediterranean Union
Jordan-Italy: Amman Embassy Launches Appointment System
 
North Africa
TLC: Tunisia, Indian Interest for Third Operator
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Netanyahu: EU Ties Should Not Involve Palestinians
Topolanek for Strengthened Israel-EU Relations
 
Middle East
Egypt-Israel; Spokesperson, Lieberman Not Invited
Energy: Turkey a Natural Gas Artery of Europe, Gul Says
Lebanon: Hariri Case; Press, ‘Key Witness’ Arrested
School: Ambitious Saudi Programme for Women’s Education
Syria: Damascus Citadel Gallery Opens After Restoration
Telecoms: Italian Temix to Rebuild TLC Network in Iraq
Turkey-Armenia: Babacan, Normalization is Not a Dream
Veil and Beret, Police in Kuwait Go Pink
 
South Asia
Aussie Soldiers Take 100 Taliban
Let Afghanistan Go
Pakistan: Taliban Executes 2 Christians
 
Far East
China Admits to Building Up Stockpile of Gold
 
Australia — Pacific
Judges Slug Taxpayers $100,000 for Tour of China
 
Immigration
France: Catholic Bishops Promote Dialogue With Muslims
Pinar: Italy and Malta Cash in EU Aid

Financial Crisis

Credit Suisse Warns of ‘Excessive’ State Action

Governments injecting funds already giving rise to ‘2-tiered banking system’

The chairman of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse on Friday warned against excessive government intervention in the lending policies of banks that have been bailed out by the state.

“In view of the growing number of banks relying on government support, however, I have concerns that excessive state intervention regarding the lending policies of banks or the realignment of their structures could have negative implications for the entire sector,” said Walter Kielholz.

Many of Credit Suisse’s competitors, including local rival UBS, US banks Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, have received state funding to weather the financial crisis.

Credit Suisse has turned to private investors, but has not taken government funds.

Kielholz acknowledged during the bank’s annual general meeting that state intervention had been necessary to prevent a meltdown of the entire financial sector.

However, he said the action by governments to inject funds into banks was already giving rise to a “two-tiered banking system.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


European Commission Backs Support for Serbia

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 20 — The European Commission agrees in principle with the idea of supplying a form of budget support for Serbia facing the impact of the economic crisis, “to mitigate” the country’s “problems”, said European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn after his meeting in Brussels with the Serbian Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic. “The European Union will take care of Serbia in this difficult situation” said the commissioner, explaining that the procedure to obtain the funds “is still in progress”. The Serbian government had asked the EU for around 120 million euros in a meeting at the end of March. The money regards part of the pre-accession funds which the Commission allocates every year to specific projects for initiatives of third States, in view of their future membership of the Union. With respect to the possible opening of European borders to the Balkans, leaving behind the need for visas to travel, Commissioner Rehn said he believes that he will conclude his inspections in the five Balkan countries involved (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia) by June, when the Czech presidency of the EU will end. After that he will make possible recommendations to the Council for the countries that qualified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: From Today Special Sales in Large Stores

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 22 — Le Galeries Lafayette, Fnac, Printemps and other big Paris stores today start their April sales: they have organised a week of “extraordinary” sales thanks to a new law which allows shopkeepers to pick two weeks per year which will be deducted from the end-of-season sale. “As of today people can buy the spring collection for bargain prices. We offer discounts up to 50%” explained Pierre Pellarey, director of Printemps. “The only difference” to the end-of-season sale “is that this period is shorter” Pellarey added. “Our goal is to speed up stores’ turnover” said Christophe Cann, sales director of Galeries Lafayette. “In this period of crisis many people postpone their acquisitions. We had to send a positive signal offering a good price for quality and more sales”, added Cann. However, despite the posters in the underground stations and the ads sent via text messages and e-mail, many buyers are still unaware of the sales.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Almost 2.5 Million Living in Absolute Poverty

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 22 — In Italy, about 2.5 million people are living below the poverty line. “The poor among the poor”, about 975 thousand families, or 4.5% of households in the country, currently live in these conditions, according to ISTAT (National Statistics Institute), which presented its report on extreme poverty referring to 2007. It was underlined that compared to 2005, “absolute poverty remained stable and substantially unchanged”. Absolute poverty is highly concentrated in the south, where levels reached 5.8%, compared to 3.5% in the north, and 2.9% in the central regions. Absolute poverty affects numerous families (3.1% of families with only one child living in absolute poverty rose to 3.8% and to 10.5% for families with two or more children) more than families with less children, compared to the elderly (5.4%) and families in which women are the heads of the household (4.9%). With today’s report, ISTAT introduced a new methodology in which they estimate the poverty threshold, taking into account the minimum monthly salary needed to buy a basket of essential goods and services. This threshold varied according to age, family composition, and residency location. For example, for a family made up of only one person between the age of 18 and 59, living in a metropolitan area in the north, the threshold is 724.29 euros. Instead, if the same person lives in a smaller town, the threshold is 650.04 euros. If the same person lives in a large town in the south, the threshold drops to 520.18 euros. The poverty intensity, or the percentage of family monthly expenses for extremely poor families under the extreme poverty line, was equal to 16.3% and reached 18.2% for families residing in the south. (ANSAmed).

2009-04-22 15:36

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Portugal: Public Humiliation for Hardened Debtors

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — No debt-collection companies, or long and often fruitless legal proceedings: in Portugal the name of the debtor and they amount they owe is put on display for all to see. With the economic crisis sparing no one, in several towns in Portugal, businesses have invented a last resource: a publically displayed list of clients in default from whom they have lost almost all hope of getting their money back. Naturally, the measure, cited by the Spanish press, already adopted in cities such as Viana do Costelo in the northern part of the country, or O Fundao, near Porto, has created controversy and divisions between citizens and businesses. The latter have assured that this has proven to be the most efficient method to get non-payers to settle their debts. In storefront windows, next to the mannequins, you can find the inevitable bad debtor lists with the names and addresses of those who owe money, regardless of privacy regulations. In many cases debts going back 7 to 8 years that have not yet been paid off are posted. The owner of a clothing store, Druge, in Viana Do Costelo, who asked to remain anonymous gave the following explanation: “I called them on the phone, I sent the invoices, I went to their home, but they just fobbed me off with excuses.” Then, recently, she made a list of names who aren’t allowed in the store, with their phone numbers, addresses, and the amount of money they owe. “After putting out this list, three of them paid me, but I don’t think I can get the money from the others,” explained the women. The situation was worse at a jewellery store in the same town, which, despite the debtors list, which totalled 15,000 euros, did not manage to avoid closing. Some local businesses have adopted this ‘anything goes’ approach to get the credit that they granted their customers back, regardless of privacy regulations, as a last desperate act in order to avoid closing their doors. There are some that believe it to be useful: “It’s true that the majority of debtors continue not to pay back the money that they owe,” observed Aires Duarte, the owner of a photography store, “but they must know that they risk leaving people in financial ruin. Then, there is also a positive effect that at least everyone knows who they should not grant credit, because they are broke.” Duarte, in order to get his money back, put a small olive tree in his storefront window with the names of all of the ‘caloteiros’ attached like pieces of fruit. However, there are numerous business owners who are conscientious objectors to the initiative, calling it “too radical”. “It’s true that these are difficult times for businesses, but this cannot be the solution,” said some professional organisations. In Portugal, like Spain, there are people who are taking advantage of the financial crisis to make great business deals. ‘El hombre in frac’ or the man in coat-tails, is scarier than the devil at this point. Derby hat and briefcase in hand, the collector from credit companies follows the shadow of his victims everywhere, while leaving their home, in the office, to the gym, in front of school, and even to the grave, humiliating debtors, demanding money. The business of the so-called ‘cobrador del frac’, which for decades has worked on the Iberian peninsula, has increased it business by 40% and has reported astronomical amounts of debt, with over 9 million euros per month just in the Valencia area, which have been accumulated by construction companies. Now, for the ever-growing array of debtors, as if creditors were not enough, public debtor lists have also arrived. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: Protest Against Immigrants, Shipyard Blocked

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — As has happened previously in the UK, record unemployment figures in Spain are causing a war amongst the poor, with immigrant workers as the target. Picket lines of subcontracted workers today paralysed all activities at the La Naval shipyard, in the port of Sestao (Bilbao), to protest against cheap labour from Portugal and Romania. Trade union sources quoted on the online portal of El Mundo reported that today at dawn around 200 Spanish subcontracted workers of La Naval blocked access to the shipyard to around a thousand workers and subcontracted workers from the morning shift. The demonstrators are protesting against the decision of the management to dismiss around twenty workers and replace them with cheap foreign labour. After a meeting between trade unions and company management, the management decided to suspend all work today. The shipyard remains guarded by the Basque police and no incidents have been reported so far. But sources of Comisiones Obreras warn that “a situation of unfair competition is developing which could turn out to be unsustainable”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


The Tower of BIS Basel: Secretive Plans for the Issuing of a New Global Currency

The power of the BIS to make or break economies was demonstrated in 1988, when it issued a Basel Accord raising bank capital requirements from 6% to 8%. By then, Japan had emerged as the world’s largest creditor; but Japan’s banks were less well capitalized than other major international banks. Raising the capital requirement forced them to cut back on lending, creating a recession in Japan like that suffered in the U.S. today. Property prices fell and loans went into default as the security for them shriveled up. A downward spiral followed, ending with the total bankruptcy of the banks, which had to be nationalized — although that word was not used, in order to avoid criticism.6

Among other collateral damage produced by the Basel Accords was a spate of suicides among Indian farmers unable to get loans. The BIS capital adequacy standards required loans to private borrowers to be “risk-weighted,” with the degree of risk determined by private rating agencies; and farmers and small business owners could not afford the agencies’ fees. Banks therefore assigned 100 percent risk to the loans, and then resisted extending credit to these “high-risk” borrowers because more capital was required to cover the loans. When the conscience of the nation was aroused by the Indian suicides, the government, lamenting the neglect of farmers by commercial banks, established a policy of ending the “financial exclusion” of the weak; but this step had little real effect on lending practices, due largely to the strictures imposed by the BIS from abroad.7

Similar complaints have come from Korea.

[…]

When governments fell into the trap of accepting loans in foreign currencies, however, they became “debtor nations” subject to IMF and BIS regulation. They were forced to divert their production to exports, just to earn the foreign currency necessary to pay the interest on their loans. National banks deemed “capital inadequate” had to deal with strictures comparable to the “conditionalities” imposed by the IMF on debtor nations: “escalating capital requirement, loan writeoffs and liquidation, and restructuring through selloffs, layoffs, downsizing, cost-cutting and freeze on capital spending.”

[…]

While banks in developing nations were being penalized for falling short of the BIS capital requirements, large international banks managed to escape the rules, although they actually carried enormous risk because of their derivative exposure. The mega-banks succeeded in avoiding the Basel rules by separating the “risk” of default out from the loans and selling it off to investors, using a form of derivative known as “credit default swaps.”

[…]

However, it was not in the game plan that U.S. banks should escape the BIS net. When they managed to sidestep the first Basel Accord, a second set of rules was imposed known as Basel II. The new rules were established in 2004, but they were not levied on U.S. banks until November 2007, the month after the Dow passed 14,000 to reach its all-time high. The economy was all downhill from there. Basel II had the same effect on U.S. banks that Basel I had on Japanese banks: they have been struggling ever since to survive.8

Basel II requires banks to adjust the value of their marketable securities to the “market price” of the security, a rule called “mark to market.”9 The rule has theoretical merit, but the problem is timing: it was imposed ex post facto, after the banks already had the hard-to-market assets on their books.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

California Considers Constitutional Convention

‘It’s reasonable to expect that voters would be very scared of the idea’

[Comments from JD: Constitutional convention would be used to shred the constitution and replace it with a version more suitable for PC globalists.]

Fed up with the budget crises and partisan battles that have paralyzed California for years, some influential voices believe it’s time to tear open the state constitution and start anew.

Once dismissed as a hokey gimmick, support for a proposed constitutional convention has been building in the nation’s most populous state. Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has indicated he would back an effort to retool the document to make state government function more smoothly.

Opponents of the step say it’s just a ruse to raise taxes and could expose the constitution to a host of ideological and special interest-driven changes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Democrats Refuse to Allow Skeptic to Testify Alongside Gore at Congressional Hearing

UK’s Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, claimed House Democrats have refused to allow him to appear alongside former Vice President Al Gore at a high profile global warming hearing on Friday April 24, 2009 at 10am in Washington. Monckton told Climate Depot that the Democrats rescinded his scheduled joint appearance at the House Energy and Commerce hearing on Friday. Monckton said he was informed that he would not be allowed to testify alongside Gore when his plane landed from England Thursday afternoon.

“The House Democrats don’t want Gore humiliated, so they slammed the door of the Capitol in my face,” Monckton told Climate Depot in an exclusive interview. “They are cowards.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Diana West: Shariah Goes to Harvard

What do Pakistan’s Swat Valley and Harvard University have in common?

Their leading Islamic authorities uphold the Shariah (Islamic law) tradition of punishing those who leave Islam with death.

There are differences, of course. For one thing, Shariah actually rules the Swat Valley, while Shariah’s traditions, as promulgated by Harvard Muslim chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser, retain a more or less theoretical caste. In a recently publicized e-mail, for example, Mr. Abdul-Basser approvingly explained to a student the traditional Islamic practice of executing converts from Islam.

As the chaplain put it: “There is great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment), and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human-rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand.”

Certainly, one should not dismiss Mr. Abdul-Basser out of hand — or the chilling implications of what it means to have a religious leader at Harvard validate the ultimate act of Islamic religious persecution. But dismissing — or, rather, ignoring — this controversy is precisely what Harvard is doing in what appears to be an institutional strategy to make it go away. No one from the public-affairs office I contacted would answer questions or return phone calls. The lady who unguardedly answered the phone at the Harvard Chaplains’ office couldn’t get off fast enough, offering by way of answers a faxed “On Inquiry Statement” prepared by Mr. Abdul-Basser in which he issued a raft of denials unrelated to the e-mail statements in question…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


High-Seas Pirate Tries to Adjust to NY Prison Cell

The wound on Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse’s slim hand, where he was stabbed by a crew member during his pirate attack on a U.S. cargo ship, has been redressed. He’s been given painkillers and antibiotics for his injuries and a Quran to use in prayer.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Bootlicking Backfires

Exclusive: Henry Lamb asserts prez has a ‘vision of America that is not American’

Did anyone squirm or feel embarrassed when President Obama allowed dictator Chavez to give him a book about the evils of the United States? The initial diplomatic handshake could be overlooked, but it was definitely embarrassing to watch Obama accepting, with a smile, a gift from this guy who had previously called him an “ignoramus”, and had called another U.S. president “el Diablo” at the United Nations.

This blunder, on the heels of his European fiasco where he apologized for the United States’ policies before he took office, raises serious questions about his vision and understanding of what America is all about. Some critics attribute this ineptitude to naivety, but when viewed in the context of such additional actions as deliberately overriding his CIA advisers and releasing memos about interrogation methods, Obama’s agenda has to be seriously questioned.

The Obama news consortium justifies these missteps as necessary to the “restart” process through which Obama will re-establish the United States as a respected partner in the international community. This is, after all, what he promised during the campaign, when he said he would engage in direct discussions with Iran without preconditions.

The idiocy of this policy was revealed when Obama’s bootlicking backfired in Geneva during the U.N. conference on racism. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must not have been impressed by Obama’s apologies and promises. This Iranian president didn’t turn down the volume one bit on his vicious, racist attacks on Israel or the United States. Incidentally, he didn’t slow his quest to process uranium, either. In fact, despite Obama’s promises and groveling, Ahmadinejad spit in Obama’s face earlier this month by announcing Iran’s first nuclear Fuel Manufacturing Plant.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Appoints Muslim Advisor

Egyptians are cautiously rejoicing over the recent appointment of a veiled Egyptian American Muslim woman as an advisor to President Obama. Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, was appointed this month to Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Arabs are closely watching for signs that the new leadership in Washington is making efforts to improve relations with Islam, which many Muslims believe were severely damaged during the eight years of the Bush administration. The selection of Mogahed is viewed by many in the Middle East as a step by Obama to move beyond the stereotypes and prejudices that Muslims believe they have encountered since the attacks Sept. 11, 2001. “Dalia Mogahed is the best example of a successful Muslim woman. She proves that the Muslim should be successful in all fields, at least in [her] area of specialization,” a commentator wrote on the website of the independent daily Al Masry al Youm.

The Egyptian-born Mogahed moved with her family to the United States almost 30 years ago. Recently, she co-wrote the book “Who Speaks for Islam?” with John Esposito, an American political science professor who has been criticized by some as an Islamic apologist. Mogahed and Esposito published an opinion piece this month in The Times on American ignorance of Islam and the Muslim world.

“My work focuses on studying Muslims, the way they think and their views,” Mogahed was quoted as saying on the website of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite news channel. “Then I should tell the president about their problems and needs, especially that lately Muslims have been perceived as a source of problems and as incapable of taking part in solving international problems and that they should work on themselves. Now we want to say that Muslims are capable of providing solutions.”

Yet, Mogahed’s declaration that her loyalty goes first to the United States, published Monday in an interview with Al Masry al Youm, disappointed some people. “I wish your loyalty was to your Islam first, Egypt second and your Arabism third and then to anything else,” wrote a reader identifying himself as the Tiger of Arabs. “I am afraid that they might make a fool out of you and use you as a cover for policies that don’t serve Egypt and the Arab and Muslim world.”

Source: The Times Cairo (Noha El-Hennawy)

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


The Knock at the Door

It is rare in history that government moves to achieve its ultimate goals in one fell swoop. More often, particularly in the U.S., government grabs power from the people and usurps constitutionally protected liberties in small stages over time.

The intent of Barack Obama’s words, which he borrowed from Defense Secretary Robert Gates in laying out a vision for “a civilian national security force” bigger and as well-funded as our military services, taken in conjunction with the “Give Act,” are clear. He wants to create something very new in the history of the United States — something ill-defined, nebulous, yet frightening in the context of our nation’s heritage.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


U.S. Plans to Accept Several Chinese Muslims From Guantanamo

Reporting from Washington — The Obama administration is preparing to admit into the United States as many as seven Chinese Muslims who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in the first release of any of the detainees into this country, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Their release is seen as a crucial step to plans, announced by President Obama during his first week in office, to close the prison and relocate the detainees. Administration officials also believe that settling some of them in American communities will set an example, helping to persuade other nations to accept Guantanamo detainees too.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

2,800 Crime Gangs Ravage UK Streets

Police have identified 2,800 organised criminal gangs, nearly three times the number previously acknowledged, and admit that British law enforcement is ill-equipped to deal with the threat that they pose.

The Times has obtained an official report revealing the finding by intelligence analysts. It was completed six months ago but marked “restricted” and circulated only to ministers and police chiefs. After a freedom of information request, it was made available this month in edited form.

Issued by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, it is the first time that officials have disclosed the true scale of the gangland threat and made the frank admission that they are struggling to cope with it.

The report states: “The UK law enforcement community now knows more about organised criminality than ever before. Worryingly, though, this increased knowledge has highlighted the need for a more effective response by the police and other agencies. The reach of organised criminality is more extensive than previously acknowledged . . . from local teams of criminals engaged in drug dealing and acquisitive crime through to international gangs committing acts of large-scale importation, kidnap, fraud and corruption.”

The report, Getting Organised, predicts that the threat from organised crime will increase, with syndicates using the London 2012 Olympics to exploit opportunities for sex trafficking and illegal immigration.

About 60 per cent of gangs are involved in drug dealing, two thirds engage in a range of criminal activities and all are characterised by an “ever-present willingness to use extreme violence to secure and protect profits”.

The report contrasts the nationwide spread of organised crime — from the inner cities to the shires — with the disjointed reaction of police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). Britain’s response is described as “blighted” by a lack of direction, inadequate surveillance and under-investment in intelligence, analysis and enforcement.

Passages edited out before publication are understood to include critical assessments of the ability of some police forces to deal with organised crime. The report does state: “The capability of individual forces is extremely variable . . . there is much work to be done.” There is no direct criticism of Soca, launched in 2006, but the findings add up to a scathing verdict on its failure to satisfy live up to its billing as Britain’s FBI.

The biggest concentrations of crime syndicates are in London and the North West, with criminals there controlling satellite gangs elsewhere in the country.

The scale of the threat is better understood but there is no firm grasp of how the gangs operate and interact.

The law enforcement approach is also found to lack cohesion and co-ordination. The report says: “A number of groups and bodies are competing to set directions and priorities for the service, reporting to different Home Office directorates and, in the case of HM Revenue and Customs, a different ministry.” Without a national approach to the organised crime threat, the policing response would be “reactive, localised and ultimately ineffective”.

The model of national leadership and collaboration pioneered in counter-terrorism should be copied to deal with organised crime, the report says.

Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, said that he had earmarked £3 million for the areas facing the worst organised crime threat after reading the report. “I am determined to protect the public from serious organised crime. We have also brought together law enforcement partners through the Organised Crime Partnership Board to drive improvements in this area. A cross-government ministerial group will ensure that good progress is made,” he said.

A Soca spokesman said that the report was “a welcome contribution to the debate about how law enforcement can best tackle the complex and wideranging threats posed to the UK by organised crime”.

           — Hat tip: El Inglés[Return to headlines]


EU: Ferrero Waldner, No to Closer Relations With Israel

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 23 — Benita Ferrero Waldner, the EU Commissioner for External Relations, stated today: ‘I don’t believe that we have reached the time for closer relations with Israel. We want to see the new government’s commitment towards a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, in particular the two-state solution”. The commissioner, who presented a report today on the progress in reforms in European policy towards its neighbours, explained that the position taken by the new Israeli government regarding the conflict ‘is still not altogether clear”. In Ferrero Waldner’s opinion, a relationship based on good faith is essential with Israel but in order to pass to the stronger partnership that Israel requested ‘concrete results are needed as well as a halt to actions, like the settlements in Palestinian territory, that undermine the peace process”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU-Israel, Not the Right Time to Strengthen Ties

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 24 — “This is not the best moment to strengthen ties between EU and Israel” said European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner today in a forum at ANSA. The commissioner added that the European Union wants the two-State solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Regarding Tehran, Ferrero-Waldner believes “we must continue the dialogue” with Iran, “we must stay united”. The Commissioner underlined that Iran has participated in two international conferences. “There is movement on the multilateral front” she said. Commenting on the choice to participate in the recent UN summit ‘Durban 2’ — in which Italy did not take part — Ferrero-Waldner said that it was “better to be there than not to be there” and that the EU did “well to leave after the speech of Iran”. Regarding the final statement, Ferrero-Waldner said that “it was not the best text possible, but it is acceptable”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU-Turkey: Ferrero-Waldner, It’s a European Decision

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 24 — The decision on the acceptance of Turkey to join the EU is an European decision, said European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner in a forum at ANSA. Commenting on US President Barack Obama supporting Turkey in its EU membership the Commissioner explained: “it’s true that it’s an European decision, but we all know the position of the USA”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Protests Grow at Milan Anti-Kebab Law

Centre-left to gather in Via Borsieri on Thursday. Della Vedova calls regulations populist and punitive for small businesses

MILAN — Controversy surrounds the by-law passed by the Lombardy regional council last Tuesday to impose restrictions on retail businesses involved in the direct sale of foodstuffs, such as kebab shops, pastry shops, ice cream shops, rotisseries, takeaway pizza shops and delicatessens in general. One of the limitations is a closing time of no later than one in the morning, unless individual municipal authorities decide exemptions. Consumption of food on the pavement outside shops will also be prohibited. Facebook and other social networks are now buzzing as word spreads of Lombardy and Milan councillors’ “gastronomic disobedience” date at 12.30 pm on Thursday for the consumption of kerbside kebabs and ice creams in Via Borsieri.

NORTHERN LEAGUE SAYS INTERPRETATION IS TENDENTIOUS — Meanwhile, the regional council has issued clarification. The by-law does not prohibit the consumption of ice cream, croissants, kebabs or pizzas outside shops but it does ban small food businesses from placing furniture such as tables and umbrellas on the pavement. The council also points out that fines for failure to comply, which range from 150 to 1,000 euros, will be issued to traders, not their customers…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘Quiet’ Copenhagen Cracks Down on Deadly Gang War

COPENHAGEN (AFP) — A grenade tossed into a cafe, gunfire in the street, dead bodies splayed on the pavement, residents living in fear — all sounds out of sync with the medieval cobbled streets and copper roofs of the Danish capital.

But a bloody gang war between bikers and youths of immigrant origin has shattered Copenhagen’s customary calm and jolted officials to boost action against violence that has left three dead and 17 wounded in seven months.

Two more attacks this week — one Friday using a hand grenade — heightened alarm, even if police would not immediately link them to gangs.

“We won’t accept this settling of scores between gangs that is frightening the population,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said earlier this month before stepping down as prime minister to become NATO secretary general.

Officials, he vowed, would “take all necessary means to halt the escalating violence,” as Copenhagen’s police chief promised to use “Al Capone-like tactics” to go after the gangs.

The battle over drug sales, revenge and wounded honour pits Hells Angels bikers and their offshoot called AK81 against gangs of mainly second and third-generation immigrant youths.

The long-simmering conflict exploded into full-blown war last August, after a 19-year-old man of Turkish origin named Osam Nuri Dogan, who was armed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, was executed on the street.

His body was riddled with 25 bullets in front of a Copenhagen pizza parlour.

A member of AK81 suspected of the killing was arrested but quickly released for lack of evidence.

Since then, violent acts of retaliation have become almost a daily occurrence in the capital — and raised concern of fueling anti-immigrant sentiment in a country long skeptical of Muslims where tightening immigration has been the cornerstone of government policy.

Early Friday, an unknown assailant launched a grenade at a packed cafe patronized by bikers in Christiania, Copenhagen’s giant squat and repair of free spirits and marginals since the 1970s. Four were wounded, including a 22-year-old man whose cheek was ripped out by the blast. “It was an odious attack… and a miracle that no one was killed,” a city deputy police commissioner, Boris Jensen, told AFP.

It came a week after another attack in Christiania in which an AK81 member shot and seriously wounded a 30-year-old man in the stomach. Tabloids said it was gangs settling scores but police, again, would not confirm this.

The majority of attacks — including one Wednesday in which police said “two men on a motorcycle” shot and wounded a 29-year-old man of Egyptian-Eritrean descent — have occurred in the heavily immigrant Noerrebro neighborhood.

The sound of gunfire there has become all too common but residents were shocked out of complacency two months ago when three separate shootings in as many days killed two people with no links to gangs and wounded four others.

Protesters dressed in mourning as for a funeral have repeatedly marched through the capital demanding a “gun-free zone” in Noerrebro so people can take a walk “without worrying about being killed by a stray bullet”.

Rasmussen personally visited a Noerrebro school in early April to try to calm nerves. “You shouldn’t have to have a knot of fear in your stomach when you go outside,” he told a worried 16-year-old.

Police have dramatically increased their presence in trouble zones.

           — Hat tip: JR[Return to headlines]


Spain: Bishops Oppose Genetic Selection

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — “You cannot eliminate one person to cure another one”, says Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesperson for the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), commenting on today’s decision by the National commission for assisted human reproduction to authorise two cases of genetic embryo selection to avoid forms of cancer. During a press conference held at the end of the Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference he defined genetic selection as a “eugenetic technique”. He noted that “You cannot do good at the price of radical evil, of killing”. The spokesperson also pointed to last Monday’s condemnation of abortion by Madrid’s archbishop and Episcopal conference president Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, who at the opening of the bishops’ Assembly said that “In recent decades Spain has seen itself immersed in the process of deterioration of moral conscience which touches the sacred value of human life. As of 1983 the situation has gradually worsened both in legal and practical terms”. Vice-premier Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega avoided falling into controversy with the bishops during the customary post-cabinet meeting press conference. De la Vega said that “as a rule the executive will not confront the Episcopal Conference” because the two institutions lie ‘in different areas of the constitution”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


TV: Spain, Tax on Private TV Will Finance Public TV

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, APRIL 23 — Spain’s government is looking into a new tax on private television networks that would amount to 3% of their yearly revenues. According to a report by El Pais, tax revenues will be used to compensate the loss of revenue which followed the complete elimination of ads from national public television which was recently announced by the executive. And it will in addition to the 5% tax that commercial television networks are already paying to finance the production of Spanish and European tv shows and movies. This new funding method was announced last week by premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and provides for a ‘drastic cut” to tv ads on public national tv networks. The reform being examined by the government is reminiscent of the one implemented in France by president Nicolas Sarkozy who, in addition to applying a further tax on private networks, is setting up a 0.9% tax on revenues obtained by telecoms operators who distribute audiovisual services such as internet tv or mobile phone tv. Unlike the French, the Spanish executive is categorically excluding the creation of a licence fee which currently does not exist in Spain and which costs approximately 150 euros in France. According to the schedule announced by the government, ads could completely disappear from public broadcasts this July. In order to maintain the current offer of content, with 2 general tv channels, 6 digital channels, five radio stations and 6,400 employees, TVE needs a budget of 1.1 billion euros. Of this, half would be supplied by the State coffers, 250 million by the tax on airwaves, 190 million by telecoms companies which offer television services and 140 by private television networks, which will benefit from the elimination of ads from public television. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Home Office Civil Servant Sacked

Christopher Galley admitted leaking a document that revealed thousands of illegal immigrants were given clearance to work in the security industry.

Christopher Galley, a junior official in the Home Office, lost his job following a disciplinary hearing this morning.

Mr Galley and Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green were arrested by police investigating leaks from the department but were told last week they would not face charges.

Mr Galley was suspended on full pay after his arrest in November but disciplinary proceedings were put on hold while the criminal investigation was concluded.

The 26-year-old admitted leaking four documents, including one which revealed thousands of illegal immigrants were given clearance to work in the security industry.

After he learned he would not face charges, Mr Galley was defiant about his actions, claiming he leaked the documents because he was shocked at the incompetence he discoverd.

“I did it because what I saw happening was wrong,” he said.

Sir David Normington, the most senior civil servant at the Home Office, has written to officials in the department reminding them of their duty to work for whoever is in Government, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The letter said: “When we sign up to work in the civil service we agree to work to the best of our ability for the democratically-elected government of the day.

“It is not for any civil servant to put his or her personal preferences of political opinion ahead of that duty.”

A week ago the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said the string of leaks were not damaging enough to require criminal charges.

He rejected the suggestion by senior civil servants that the leaks damaged national security.

Mr Green’s arrest and detention provoked outrage in Westminster as his Commons office was searched along with his home and constituency office.

The five-month inquiry reportedly cost £5m.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Balkans

EU-Montenegro: Brussels, Word on Nomination in 14-16 Months

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 24 — “A 14 to 16 month period will be needed” for the European Commission to draw up its “rigorous assessment” of Montenegro’s official application to join the EU which was passed on to the executive by the European Council yesterday. EC spokesperson Amadeu Altafaj Tardio proffered this timeframe, basing it on “past experience” with applications submitted by other Countries. Montenegro’s official application was presented to the French presidency of the EU on December 15, but the procedure was held up for months because of opposition within the 27 to further enlargement of the Union. Once it is approved by the Council, the procedure provides for the dossier to be examined by the Commission, which has to then draft an opinion on the opportunity of granting or not granting the status of official candidate. The final decision lies in the hands of the Member States, which will then determine whether and when to open application negotiations. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Tadic, Justice Court Verdict in at Least a Year

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 22 — The International Court of Justice in the Hague will give its verdict on the legitimacy of Kosovo’s proclamation of independence in at least a year’s time, said Serbian president Boris Tadic today. As he spoke with journalists today in Belgrade, Tadic said he is confident on the fact that the court will resist political pressure from countries that have recognised Kosovo’s independence. “There is no doubt that there will be political pressure, but we are absolutely sure that the International Court of Justice will show the highest level of independence and a juridical approach to this matter”, said the president. Tadic reckons that “it won’t be so much the number of countries that present a written opinion to the court that is important, rather the quality and the issues” in the reasons behind them. “We are confident and retain that international law is on Serbia’s side in the Kosovo issue”, observed the Serbian president. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Turkey Offers Help for Cultural Heritage

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, APRIL 24 — Turkey’s commitment to helping the restoration and conservation of Kosovo’s cultural and historical heritage has been emphasised by Turkey’s minister for Culture and Tourism, Ertugul Gunay, on a visit to Pristina today. The minister stated that Ankara is ready to actively cooperate in the restoration of ancient works of art and historical buildings present in Kosovo. He also said that a Turkish cultural centre and a Turkish university will soon be opened in Kosovo. Gunay, who met with his counterpart in Kosovo, Valton Beqiri, and with the president of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu, said that “Kosovo is making an effort for the current multicultural model, a model that is very important for the rest of the world”. Minister Beqiri, speaking during another press conference that was held today in Pristina, stated that the protection and promotion of the cultural and historical heritage is one of the government’s top priorities. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise Kosovo’s independence. The Turkish community represents 2% of Kosovo’s population. In recent days Serb Foreign minister Vuk Jeremic has protested against an attempt made by the government in Pristina to register monasteries and Serb orthodox churches located in Kosovo with Unesco, listing them as part of Kosovo’s mediaeval culture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia-Montenegro: Police Cooperation to be Strengthened

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 22 — Director of Montenegro’s police Veselin Veljovic and Director of Serbia’s Milorad Veljovic, respectively evaluated in Podgorica today that the cooperation between the two police forces is at a high level, but that it should be more concrete and stronger, which is in the interest of citizens of both states, reports Tanjug news agency. Veselin Veljovic underscored that the connection between Serbia’s and Montenegro’s criminal groups obliges the two countries’ police forces to develop stronger and more concrete cooperation, mainly in their fight against organized crime. “Organized crime is the cancer of the society as a whole and the Serbian police is determined to eradicate criminal groups in cooperation with other state organs and we are going to do it,” said Milorad Veljovic at a press conference in Podgorica. He underscored that no police may solve the problem of organized crime alone, but that this requires joint work and full support of the state. The director of the Montenegrin police pointed out that the bilateral police cooperation between the two countries is based on trust and partnership. He said that Montenegro is committed to its European integration, noting that security integrations are very important for the process. Director of the Serbian police Milorad Veljovic met with Montenegrin Interior Minister Jusuf Kalamerovic to discuss the police cooperation between the two states, their fight against organized crime and border control.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Building of Corridor 10 to Begin by End of 2009

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 24 — The construction of the bypass around Dimitrovgrad, which is part of the Corridor 10 pan-European motorway, should start at the end of 2009, said Nenad Ivanisevic, a member of the board of directors of the Corridor 10 company, reports BETA news agency . Speaking at the presentation of the Corridor in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, he said that design documents should be completed in about one month’s time. “The initial invitation for building from World Bank funds will be announced at the start of May, after which the tender procedure will commence, that is, the pre-qualification of contractors,” Ivanisevic said. In his words, the expropriation of land in the relevant area is nearly complete, so this will not represent an obstacle to the work. Ivanisevic announced that a World Bank delegation will visit Belgrade at the beginning of May, to negotiate a USD 388 million loan for Corridor 10.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


University: Croatia, Tuition Fee Protest Spreads

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, APRIL 24 — Student protests with thousands of demonstrators calling for the elimination of university tuition fees has spread to about ten other departments across Croatia and obtained the support from unions and some teachers. The protest started Monday with the occupation of Zagreb’s Arts and Philosophy department. Education Minister Dragan Primorac commented on the matter only yesterday on the fourth day or protests, with unexpected support of the students, saying that he was in favour of abolishing tuition fees, but placed the responsibility on the universities themselves “who decide on whether to impose the charge and its amount”. According to experts’ estimates, for the complete elimination of university tuition fees, the Croatian government would have to assure another 100 million euros in financing per year. A decision that seems improbable, given that just one month ago, due to the economic crisis, a revision to the public budget cut 300 million euros with salary reductions for public-sector workers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Jordan-Italy: Amman Embassy Launches Appointment System

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 22 — Jordanians who wish to apply for a visa to Italy no longer need to stand in ques for hours after the Italian embassy a 24-hour online appointment system on the web, according to an embassy statement. The new service started as of April 15 on www.ambamman.esteri.it and clicking on “book a visit, said the statement. “The service, which is voluntary and optional, is designed to avoid unnecessary queues and long waits, ensure that appointments are fixed at a precise time, and to facilitate access to the embassy offices in a well-organised manner,” the statement said. Embassy personnel will be available for any needed information, which can be also found on the constantly-updated website, which is currently available in Italian and English, and soon in Arabic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

TLC: Tunisia, Indian Interest for Third Operator

(ANSAmed) — TUNISI, APRIL 23 — The licence that will be issued for a third mobile phone operator in Tunisia has raised the interest of an Indian group. According to news collected in the economic areas of Tunis, Indian national operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (Bsnl) is apparently interested in submitting an offer together with another public company, Telecommunications Consultants of India (Tcil). Bsnl, which at the end of February counted 49.9 million subscribers, is India’s fourth largest mobile phone operator. Tcil is instead a consulting company that offers back-office services to the telecoms industry. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Netanyahu: EU Ties Should Not Involve Palestinians

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 24 — “It is not appropriate to link relations between Israel and the European Union to those between Israel and the Palestinians”, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, according to reports in daily newspaper Haaretz. Netanyahu was reacting to a previous statement made by EU External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero Waldner, who had proposed a halt to plans to strengthen relations with Israel if the Netanyahu government does not start making steps towards realising the “two States for two peoples” formula. In a meeting in Jerusalem yesterday, Netanyahu told Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek that “Europe should not dictate conditions to Israel” adding that “peace is in Israel’s interest no less that it is in Europe’s interest”. When the Czech premier quizzed Netanyahu over whether he would be ready to bring an end to settlement creation in the West Bank, the Israeli leader replied that he was not planning any new settlements but could not stop pre-existing building projects. Since the West Bank is a “contested territory”, Netanyahu thinks it unacceptable that only a single party be asked to stop its building plans. If, as Netanyahu pointed out, the Israelis are blocked from building new houses ahead of a definitive policy decision, the same condition should apply to the Palestinians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Topolanek for Strengthened Israel-EU Relations

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 24 — “The Czech Republic will work to prevent those in Europe who wish to slow down or halt relations with Israel. Israel will always be able to count on the sustained support of the Czech Republic”. The statement was made by Mirek Topolanek, the Czech premier, speaking at a meeting in Jerusalem with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, today. Topolanek continued, “we will work towards the strengthening of ties between Israel and the European Union, and to avoid the creation of opposing viewpoints”. The Czech Republic will continue it’s EU Presidency until July. Peres said in the meeting that the Middle East was in dire need of symbolic gestures, more than formal agreements. He cited the occasion when in November of 1977 the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat travelled to Jerusalem to speak at the Knesset. “In only one hour, the course of history changed more than hours of negotiation and mediation might hope to achieve”. Peres assured that Israel “remains committed to continuing the peace processes in Palestine,” and he expressed the opinion that the Arab peace initiative — launched in Beirut in 2002 and later reproposed at other moments — might act as an adequate base for future talks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Egypt-Israel; Spokesperson, Lieberman Not Invited

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 23 — Egypt has not invited Israel’s Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to visit Cairo. The news disseminated yesterday by an Israeli source ‘is groundless” because the head of Egypt’s intelligence services, Omar Suleiman, who visited Israel yesterday, only carried one invitation for the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The statement was made today by the spokesperson of Egypt’s ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hossam Zaki, who also said that Suleiman invited Netanyahu to visit Egypt on a date that should be agreed on in brief in order to carry out further consultations on attempts to find peace between Israel and Palestinians. This morning during a speech Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stated that usually government leaders who visit Egypt “come by themselves or in the company of their chief of staff”, negatively hinting at the presence of the Foreign minister. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Energy: Turkey a Natural Gas Artery of Europe, Gul Says

(ANSAmed) — SOGIA, 24 APR — Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said that being the fourth main natural gas artery of Europe was one of the main targets of his country. “Turkey attaches great importance to implementing the Nabucco Project,” Gul said during an energy summit on ‘Natural Gas for Europe: Security and Partnership’ in Sofia, as Anatolia news agency reports from the Bulgarian capital. The Nabucco pipeline is a planned natural gas pipeline that will transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary with total length of 3,300 kilometres. It will be connected near Erzurum with the Tabriz-Erzurum pipeline, and with the South Caucasus Pipeline, connecting Nabucco Pipeline with the planned Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline. Gul reiterated his belief that cooperation in energy would contribute to regional stability, peace and welfare. Turkey was a significant energy consumer, but also it had a strategic location between the countries that owned almost two-thirds of world natural gas reserves and the giant markets in the West, Gul said. The Turkish president also said that a refinery, petrochemical and LNG facilities planned to be established in the Turkish southern town of Ceyhan would have an important role in Turkey’s access to the world markets, and called on foreign firms to invest in Ceyhan. The goal of the summit is to shape a new European energy policy; to seek new international arrangements and ensure durable guarantees for the energy security of Bulgaria, the region, and Europe as a whole; to help implement strategic energy resource transmission projects; to help mitigate crisis situations related to oil and natural gas supplies to Europe. The summit will end on April 25. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Lebanon: Hariri Case; Press, ‘Key Witness’ Arrested

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 20 — The UAE newspaper Gulf News reports that the Syrian national, Mohammad Zuheir al Siddiq, one of the leading suspects in the investigation into the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has been arrested in the emirate of Sharjah. Siddiq, who has been considered a “key witness” in the Hariri case for some time after confirming that he was an officer in the Syrian secret services, was charged in absentia in October 2005 by the Lebanese judicial authorities for the assassination of the former prime minister eight months earlier. Siddiq was arrested in France on an international warrant, but Paris refused to extradite him to Lebanon on the grounds that he would risk the death penalty. Freed in 2006, he left France in 2008 for an unknown destination. Many Lebanese political representatives accuse Syria of being behind Hariri’s assassination, as Syria had political and military control over Lebanon at the time. Damascus rejects all the accusations and in turn accuses Siddiq of making false statements to the investigators. According to UN investigators, high-ranking Lebanese and Syrian security officials were involved in the assassination, and four Lebanese generals are currently in prison for the roles they are suspected to have played. A special UN Tribunal for Lebanon, presided over by the Italian judge, Antonio Cassese, was set up in The Hague earlier in the month, in order to try the alleged perpetrators of the attack on February 14, 2005 in Beirut, which killed Hariri and 22 other people. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


School: Ambitious Saudi Programme for Women’s Education

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, APRIL 23 — By 2014 Saudi Arabia will have built 39 institutes for the vocational training of girls only. The project, according to the Saudi authorities, includes the creation of a university campus for women for around two billion dollars. As a whole, the project for vocational training of girls and boys includes — according to a statement issued by the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Riyadh — the creation of new institutes in the coming years for a total of 120,000 students. The Saudi government has allocated more than sufficient funds for the project (the 2009 budget is even higher than in 2008) but there are not enough qualified teachers, not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other Arab countries. It is estimated that the Arab countries have significant problems with youth unemployment (+17% among boys and +24% among girls). Thought there are no reliable official figures available on the present unemployment among women in Saudi Arabia, it is likely that its percentage is higher than in other Arab countries. The ICE points out that the fact that “during the ‘reshuffling’ of the Council of Minister in February the country for the first time appointed a woman as deputy minister for Women’s Education”, a sign that some progress is being made. By the end of February the Council of Ministers promised to “take more measures to increase opportunities for women to work, including the introduction of courses for teleworking using the internet”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Syria: Damascus Citadel Gallery Opens After Restoration

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, APRIL 21 — The Citadel gallery in Damascus has opened today, in the presence of the wife of the President of the Republic of Syria, Asma Al Assad, after being restored with funds from the Cooperazione italiana. A statement from the Italian Embassy in Damascus reports that the museum has brought together a series of Byzantine mosaic panels restored by the Fondazione Ravenna Antica. Taking part in the ceremony, alongside the Italian ambassador, Achille Amerio, and the Syrian Minister of Culture, were experts and scholars and the group of Syrian restorers who worked on the mosaics in a specially built workshop under the guidance of the Fondazione Ravenna Antica. The statement went on to explain that “the event is part of the effort to draw attention to the importance of the project which came about in collaboration with the Cooperazione italiana and which saw a majestic, but inert, structure transformed into a dynamic resource for cultural promotion and tourist interest.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Telecoms: Italian Temix to Rebuild TLC Network in Iraq

(ANSAmed) — CATANIA — An Italian company from Catania, Temix, will rebuild the telecommunications network in Iraq. An agreement with Iraqi Republic Railways, the pool of Iraqi businesses authorised to organise the reconstruction of the telecommunications infrastructural network, will be officially signed tomorrow in Catania. The project calls for the new network to serve all of Iraq, and new facilities in the cities of Baghdad, Wasset, and Missan, and will cover over 10 million inhabitants. The plan calls for three distinct projects, with the second phase alone worth 13 million euros. Temix, founded in 2003 with 30 employees and 6 million euros in turnover per year, is the only Italian company involved in the reconstruction of the telecommunications sector in Iraq.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey-Armenia: Babacan, Normalization is Not a Dream

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 24 — Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan said Friday they had been exerting intense efforts for the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan, “We have a goal and we believe that it is attainable. We believe that this is not a mere dream. Our task is not easy but we are moving forward step by step just as in a chess play,” Ali Babacan told an Istanbul meeting of the Aspen Atlantic Group as Anatolia news agency reports. Babacan said solution of the issues between Turkey and Armenia, and Armenia and Azerbaijan would create a new geopolitical order in the Caucasus. Also participating in the meeting there is also the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Veil and Beret, Police in Kuwait Go Pink

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 23 — Amongst the explicit and subtle contradictions of a social fabric which remains conservative and extremely cautious to maintain the separation of the sexes, women in Kuwait have won their latest battle in the war for professional equality: the first 16 female cadets from the Saad Abdullah Police academy have graduated as police officers, and taken part with heads held high in the graduation parade in front of the Emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah. Wearing a jacket, white beret, trousers and a black veil, the uniform which has been put under great scrutiny so that it does not offend traditional sensibilities, the newly graduated police officers were greeted with a formal handshake with the Emir, a gesture which is by no means the norm between a man and a woman in the oil-rich country. At least not without some hesitation and doubts. But for the moment, despite the fact that their training taught them how to handle weapons and conflict situations, “in full respect of the laws of Islam,” the agents will be assigned roles that do not openly entail conflict with society’s traditions and which do not put women in highly visible contexts: the training of other cadets, security tasks in airports and prison security. These are limits to their duties which do not in any case appease the Islamists, who represent the majority in parliament and who are likely to maintain their position in the next round of elections in a few weeks time. Entire pages of newspapers have been bought up in local newspapers to publicise the edict which condemns “a man to greet a women of a superior-ranking,” since this would represent a “violation of social and tribal laws.” Kuwait is one of the Arab countries in the Gulf with the highest level of female presence in the labour market (24%), whilst the number of women on company managing boards is higher than in Italy (2.7% as against 2% according to estimates from the Financial Times), but in any case, resistance to political and social climbing remains high. Despite the fact that in 2005 women were allowed to take part in politics, none of the 57 candidates who stood for elections in 2006 and 2008 gained enough votes to enter parliament. And this comes despite the fact that the majority of voters are female, despite the Prime Minister’s open calls to support female candidates. The upcoming elections on May 16 will offer a further chance to see how women politicians are valued. Meanwhile, female faces in Kuwaiti politics have been guaranteed in the past from the president’s nomination of female ministers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Aussie Soldiers Take 100 Taliban

AUSSIE soldiers have killed more than 100 Taliban fighters and disrupted enemy networks in two of the most successful operations of the six-year Afghan campaign.

Details of the offensive were revealed during a secret visit to Afghanistan for Anzac Day by Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon who was accompanied by News Limited .

Operation Aabitoorah or Blue Sword began on March 19 in the northern Helmand province, south of the Australian base in Oruzgan Province and involved Dutch, British, American, Australian and Afghani forces.

The second, called Operation Shak Hawel or Mysterious Area, was fought by troops from the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force between April 3 and 15 around Patrol Base Buman in the Chora Valley north of Tarin Kowt.

More than 200 Diggers or almost half of the battle group led by Darwin based Lieutenant Colonel Shane Gabriel took part with an Afghan National Army battalion.

During the biggest battle on April 12 dozens of Taliban fighters perished as they attempted to defeat the diggers from Combat Team Tusk in the fertile green belt.

“They tried to stop us doing what we wanted to do and they came off second best,’’ Lt Colonel Gabriel told News Limited.

Troops from the task force have been engaged in numerous heavy fire fights during offensive patrols to mentor and instruct their Afghan comrades.

Mr Fitzgibbon received full details of the operations and spoke to the troops during a secret two-day tour of Australian bases in the lead up to Anzac Day at Tarin Kowt where Vietnam war hero and Victoria Cross holder Keith Payne was the guest of honour.

Mr Fitzgibbon became the first Australian minister to venture “outside the wire’’ flying in a Chinook chopper low along the fertile valleys to forward operating bases framed by snow capped peaks, to judge the progress for himself.

Australian commander Major General Mark Kelly said Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) troops from the Perth based SAS Regiment and Sydney based Commando Regiment operated deep inside a Taliban stronghold for 26 days during “Blue Sword”.

He said the number of enemy dead was not a measure of success, but he told News Limited that the tally was in excess of 80.

“It is a significant achievement by our soldiers over an extended combat mission.

“It has really disrupted the insurgent network in this part of regional command south,’’ General Kelly said.

The specialist Diggers were attacked by roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and small arms fire and despite the intensity of the action just one Australian, Sydney based bomb disposal expert Sergeant Brett Till, was killed and four others wounded including one who lost his legs.

In addition to the number of enemy casualties, including bomb maker and leader Mullah Abdul Bari, the Australians uncovered numerous weapons caches and up to 14 improvised explosive devices in a day.

Mr Fitzgibbon, who toured Australian built hospitals and schools as well as fighting bases, said the latest operations were a major setback for the Taliban.

He said it was vital for the Australian people to understand these intense and deadly operations and just how dangerous and challenging the job was for the Diggers.

“We are making real progress in Afghanistan.

“I wish to thank every man and woman in the Australian Defence Force who is making a contribution to what is a very important campaign,’’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Commander of Regional Command South Dutch Major-General Mart de Kraif said the operation had disrupted insurgent activities including the drugs trade.

He said Australian special-forces troops had applied massive pressure to the insurgent leadership.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]


Let Afghanistan Go

by Diana West

Saw an unforgettably stark photo of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, the same province Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen visited this week: Eight robed, turbaned fighters, a sandy ridge, a cloudy sky. All that was missing was the incoming American drone strike to turn the men into dust.

Question: Should the United States call in that strike? How great a security threat to the United States do these eight barbarians pose? How many dollars, how much blood is it worth to our nation to pulverize them into that lunar-like landscape?

I recently read a military e-mail from Afghanistan that marveled over a similar scene: “As far as BDA (battle damage assessment) goes, check this one out. 2 GBU 36’s (bomblets) dropped the other day on estimated 6 guys!!!! That is half a million dollars on 6 guys!!!!” The e-mailer guessed that all the sniper ammunition the jihadists have used in the whole war hasn’t cost close to that.

The point is, the United States is getting a lot of bang for a lot of buck but not much else. Don’t get me wrong: If killing small bands of Taliban is in the best interest of the United States, I’m for it. But I do not believe it is — and certainly not as part of the grand strategy conceived first by the Bush administration and now expanded by the Obama administration to turn Afghanistan into a state capable of warding off what is daintily known as “extremism,” but is, in fact, bona-fide jihad to advance Sharia (Islamic law). Anybody remember Sisyphus? Well, trying to transform Afghanistan into an anti-jihad, anti-Sharia player — let alone functional nation — is like trying to roll Sisyphus’ rock up the hill.

This is not to suggest that there is no war or enemies to fight, which is what both the Left and the Paleo-Right will say; there most certainly are. But sinking all possible men, materiel and bureaucracy into Afghanistan, as the Obama people and most conservatives favor, to try to bring a corrupt Islamic culture into working modernity while simultaneously fighting Taliban and wading deep into treacherous Pakistani wars is no way to victory — at least not to U.S. victory…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Taliban Executes 2 Christians

Believers were protesting demand they accept Islam

Taliban Islamic radicals have attacked a community of Christians, executing two of them following a rally that protested Muslim graffiti in their neighborhood that ordered them to accept Islam or die, according to an international Christian organization.

The attack in Pakistan follows only by days an expansion of the territory occupied by the Islamic Taliban members.

The report from International Christian Concern said it happened in Taseer Town in Karachi.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Admits to Building Up Stockpile of Gold

‘Buying via government channels from South Africa, Russia and South America’

China revealed on Friday that it had secretly raised its gold reserves by three-quarters since 2003, increasing its holdings to 1,054 tonnes — or a pot worth about US$30.9-billion — and confirming years of speculation it had been buying.

Hu Xiaolian, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, told Xinhua news agency in an interview that the country’s reserves had risen by 454 tonnes from 600 tonnes since 2003, when China last adjusted its state gold reserves figure.

The confirmation of its surreptitious stockpiling is likely to fuel market talk about Beijing’s ability to buy secretly and its ambitions for spending its nearly US$2-trillion pile of savings. And not just in gold: copper and other metals markets are booming thanks to China’s barely-visible hand.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Judges Slug Taxpayers $100,000 for Tour of China

QUEENSLAND’S top judge and four colleagues are taking their partners on a three-week China educational tour at a cost of about $100,000 to taxpayers.

The Courier-Mail has learnt Chief Justice Paul de Jersey will head the 10-person delegation next month that will include Supreme Court judges Peter Dutney, Henry Fryberg and Debra Mullins and Court of Appeal judge John Muir.

They will be joined by their partners — including Justice Dutney’s wife, magistrate Bronwyn Springer — as they visit Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and X’ian for seminars, court inspections and to “establish links” with their Chinese counterparts.

Details of the trip have emerged a day after Premier Anna Bligh unveiled a two-week trade mission to Europe and the Middle East ahead of a horror state Budget expected to include plunging revenues.

The judges are entitled to the travel, including costs for spouses and any level of air fare, as part of their allowances. Justice de Jersey will be overseas for 11 days while his colleagues will travel for 21 days enjoying business and first class air fares.

Justice de Jersey said he could not detail how much his trip would cost but his previous sojourns for similar lengths of time had cost taxpayers between $20,000 to $40,000.

He said the expedition came about after invitations from the Chinese dating back to 2007.

“These trends are obviously significant in the context of Queensland’s comprehensive relationship with China,” Justice de Jersey said.

“It is important to foster Queensland-China relations at all levels of government, including the judiciary.”

The Queensland judges will learn about the use of advanced IT in Chinese courts, about the operation of two of the most advanced judicial training colleges in the world, and how Chinese courts deal with problems Queensland also has.

China is regularly under fire over human rights abuses including detaining people without trial, persecuting civil rights activists and the death penalty.

Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O’Gorman said yesterday that he hoped the judges’ trip helped improve human rights in China.

“Anything that can be done to make China’s judges more aware of the law in relation to human rights should be welcomed,” he said.

In Beijing, the judges will visit a variety of courts, pop into the National Judicial Training Centre, and participate in a seminar with Beijing judges.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Immigration

France: Catholic Bishops Promote Dialogue With Muslims

Bordeaux, 23 April (AKI) — Catholic bishops have invited Muslim leaders to attend a two-day conference designed to build better relations and interreligious dialogue. The convention, organised by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), is scheduled to begin on Monday in the French city of Bordeaux next week.

Delegates will also look at the contribution of Muslim migrants and their offspring in several countries, including Italy.

“The presence of Muslims in Europe is diversified, with some countries where the Muslim presence is part of ancient tradition and others which have seen an increase in Muslim presence especially following migrations”, said CCEE general secretary, Duarte da Cunha.

“In recent years among bishops’ conferences, too, attention on this dialogue has grown and has become an ordinary element [of their work].

Da Cunha said it seemed appropriate to gather for the first time those responsible for relations with the Muslim world to examine dialogue with Muslim communities in Europe and the challenges Islam raises in European society.

“It is not a meeting about theological issues,” Da Cunha said. “But an opportunity to compare matters and map out the Catholic institutions (research centres, social and aid agencies, educative works) present in Europe and define possible areas of common work.”

The conference will be hosted by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, the archbishop of Bordeaux.

The CCEE, based in the Swiss city of St. Gallen, includes the presidents of 33 European bishops’ conferences as well as Luxembourg, Monaco and Moldova.

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


Pinar: Italy and Malta Cash in EU Aid

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Italy and Malta, who have been summoned to Brussels, are to receive financial aid to support the fight against illegal immigration. The EU Commission will propose binding regulations to the 27 member states to divide the burden of immigrants and to strengthen FRONTEX, the European Union agency for external border security, to whom Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has proposed to entrust the creation of reception centres and the management of immigrants. In order to resolve the problem of illegal immigration, “we need more EU solidarity” and “a binding directive from the Commission for all member countries”, said Maroni at the end of the meeting with the Justice and Freedom Commissioner, Jacques Barrot, and the Maltese Interior Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici. Maroni believes that there are three tasks that the EU must undertake: an initiative on countries of origin in the southern Mediterranean, a strengthening of FRONTEX’s role who, in his opinion, should not simply block incoming illegal immigrants but concentrate also on their repatriation, and thirdly the creation of a system to share the burden of immigration amongst all EU member countries. Maroni also requested the creation of “EU centres for repatriation managed by FRONTEX, because repatriation is a European problem and not just Italy and Malta’s problem”. The minister believes that, if Europe shares the burden of the influx, “the problem will solve itself”, and cases such as the one involving the Pinar “will not even present themselves”. For this reason, he specified, “we are insisting on an initiative from the Commission that results in a binding directive”. As regards the case of the Pinar, which was “closed when Italy accepted her passengers”, there is still no solution: “the case is closed, we still haven’t found a solution because there are various interpretations”. The EU Commission for its part is ready to help Italy and Malta from a financial point of view and to propose an obligatory solidarity mechanism to member states: “Sooner or later, all the EU countries will be affected by immigrants who arrive on the Italian and Maltese coasts, and for this reason we will propose a principle of obligatory solidarity to all the Interior Ministers of the 27 member states, even though we don’t know whether it will be accepted,” said Barrot.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

islam o' phobe said...

Officials, he vowed, would “take all necessary means to halt the escalating violence,” as Copenhagen’s police chief promised to use “Al Capone-like tactics” to go after the gangs.Shouldn't Copenhagen’s police chief be promising to use Eliott Ness-like tactics to go after the gangs?

Zenster said...

Obama Appoints Muslim Advisor.

Egyptians are cautiously rejoicing over the recent appointment of a veiled Egyptian American Muslim woman as an advisor to President Obama.

BHO's Secret Service security detail must be having kittens over this. What are they going to do in order to confirm this woman's identity? Will they have to use voiceprint identification each and every time she wants access to some secure location?

Finally, wouldn't it be ironic if this sort of serious breach in security allowed an imposter to get within striking distance of the CinC? The level of stupidity and outright pandering to those who have the very worst intentions for America is simply preposterous. Any non-Islamic presidential advisor would never be allowed to conceal their appearance in any way.

Yet, Mogahed’s declaration that her loyalty goes first to the United States, published Monday in an interview with Al Masry al Youm, disappointed some people. “I wish your loyalty was to your Islam first, Egypt second and your Arabism third and then to anything else,” wrote a reader identifying himself as the Tiger of Arabs. “I am afraid that they might make a fool out of you and use you as a cover for policies that don’t serve Egypt and the Arab and Muslim world..

It is equally clear that nobody at the White House understands the concept of taqiyya. Even more hilarious is how the Muslim world simply cannot abide the notion of personal loyalty or nationalism eclipsing the transcendance of glorious Islam. Dalia Mogahed clearly is murtad and subject to punishment by any takfiri who deems it appropriate. This only places her employer in even greater danger and highlights the farce of co-opting Muslims into the process of implementing man-made laws.

John Maszka said...

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