Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/24/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/24/2009Things are heating up in Britain. The BNP attracts more clicks on its website than the other parties, and the Archbishop of Canterbury warned people not to vote for it. A street protest in Luton turned violent. Also, the NHS lost thousands of medical records.

In other news, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defied President Obama and refused to back down on the settlements issue.

Thanks to Aeneas, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JCPA, JD, KGS, Reinhard, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
British Banks Revolt Against Obama Tax Plan
China Warns Federal Reserve Over ‘Printing Money’
Chinese Economist: Yuan Should be Regional Currency to Rival Dollar
Early Retirement Claims Increase Dramatically
Rising Unemployment Raises Threat of Social Crisis: World Bank
 
USA
The Great Ethanol Scam
 
Europe and the EU
BNP Main Website Down
Budapest Mayor Calls for Ban on Denying Crimes Against Humanity
Faymann Blasts FPÖ´s Political Hatred
Former Guantanamo Prisoners May Come to Hungary by Year-End
Greeks Increasingly Xenophobic
Italy: Milan Flight Cuts ‘Driving Foreign Firms Away’
Italy: Martini, No Breast Implants for Juveniles
Now Drinkers Must Wait in ‘Post Office-Style’ Queues at Their Local Pub
UK Royals Probe Newspaper Security Breach at Palace
UK: Archbishops Warn Voters Against BNP
UK: BNP Attracts More Clicks Than All Other Major Parties
UK: Church Leaders Warn ‘Don’t Vote BNP to Punish MPs’
UK: Enough Humiliation. We Must Move on
UK: Fashion Heiress, Economist Push Foreign Aid Plan
UK: Hundreds of UK Lawmakers Could Face Ouster or Quit
UK: Hospital Worker Told She’ll be Sacked if She Keeps Wearing Crucifix Because ‘it Might Spread Infection’
UK: Media and Publishing Staff Are Worst Binge-Drinkers
UK: Masked Mob on the March Against Muslim Extremists Turns Violent
UK: NHS ‘Loses’ Thousands of Medical Records
UK: Royal Chauffeur Suspended Over Security Lapse
UK: RAF ‘Vice Disks’ Stolen From Base
UK: Security Breach at Buckingham Palace: Report
UK: The Queen, Her Chauffeur and the Prostitute
 
Balkans
Kosovo: UNDP, 17% Lives With Less Than 93 Cents Per Day
Strong Quake Hits Macedonia Near Greek Border
 
Mediterranean Union
Med: Censis; Demographics, How the Region is Changing
 
North Africa
Algeria: Population Above 35mln, 28% Under 15
Algeria: Minister to WTO, We Won’t Yield on Gas Prices
Nuclear: Algeria, Civil Energy Access Should be Guaranteed
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Netanyahu Defies Obama on Israeli Settlement Freeze
Netanyahu’s Peace Plan
Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: the E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim
 
Middle East
Lebanon: Gay Movement Protests Discriminatory Law
Turkey: Workers, Civil Servants Carry Heavy Tax Burden
Turkey: Leader of Human Rights and Eradicating Leprosy Dies
Turkey: Expulsion History ‘Fascism, ‘ Says PM
 
Russia
Putin Warns Outsiders Over Ukraine
 
South Asia
Fragile Nepal: the Battle Ground for the War India vs. China
India: Orissa, Patnaik Wins: the Ballot Box Awards the Governors Decision to Break With BJP
Sri Lanka: European Union Demands ‘War Crimes’ Inquiry
 
Far East
Korea: Pyongyang Executes Official Favourable to Dialogue With South
 
Australia — Pacific
Good Samaritan Hunted and Killed in Front of Friends
Samaritan Dies After Vicious Attack
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Somalia: Heavy Fighting Between Army and Insurgents, Civilians Fleeing Capital
 
Immigration
Italian Patrol Boats Arrive in Libya
Italy: Disdain and Shock in African Media on Security Bill
Stop Mediterranean Mafia, Ronchi Says
 
General
Billionaire Club Conspire to Reduce Population
Cannes: All Eyes on Unorthodox Passions
Cannes: Jaffa, Romeo and Juliet Victims of Conflict
Gore, Others Urge CEOs to Back Climate Change Deal
The Pope, Arabic Islam and the West

Financial Crisis

British Banks Revolt Against Obama Tax Plan

British banks and stockbrokers may refuse to take on American clients if new international tax proposals outlined by President Obama are passed.

The decision, which would make it hard for Americans in London to open bank accounts and trade shares, is being discussed by executives at Britain’s banks and brokers who say it could become too expensive to service American clients. The proposals, which were unveiled as part of the president’s first budget, are designed to clamp-down on American tax evaders abroad. However bank bosses say they

are being asked to take on the task of collecting American taxes at a cost and legal liability that are inexpedient.

Andy Thompson of Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers (APCIMS) said: “The cost and administration of the US tax regime is causing UK investment firms to consider disinvesting in US shares on behalf of their clients. This is not right and emphasises that the administration of a tax regime on a global scale without any flexibility damages the very economy it is trying to protect.”

One executive at a top UK bank who didn’t want to be named for fear of angering the IRS said: “It’s just about manageable under the current system — and that’s because we’re big. The danger to us is suddenly being hauled over the coals by the IRS for a client that hasn’t paid proper taxes. The audit costs will soar. We’ll have to pay it but I know plenty of smaller players won’t.”

The British Bankers Association (BBA) and APCIMS had a meeting with European counterparts 10 days ago to discuss the crisis. A delegation is set to meet the US Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service on 16th June to demand they drop the reforms.

Ahead of the meeting APCIMS, whose members manage £400bn of Britain’s wealth and employ 25,000 people, has sent a letter to the IRS complaining that the “unfair” proposals represent “no benefit but… significant cost” to its members.

President Obama’s proposals are built on the so-called Qualified Intermediary system which was intended to ensure Americans paid the correct tax wherever they were domiciled. Foreign financial institutions that handle American money have to fill in a US tax form on behalf of the client that has to be audited too. In return, the banks receive a QI seal of approval as a qualified intermediary.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


China Warns Federal Reserve Over ‘Printing Money’

China has warned a top member of the US Federal Reserve that it is increasingly disturbed by the Fed’s direct purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said: “Senior officials of the Chinese government grilled me about whether or not we are going to monetise the actions of our legislature.”

“I must have been asked about that a hundred times in China. I was asked at every single meeting about our purchases of Treasuries. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

His recent trip to the Far East appears to have been a stark reminder that Asia’s “Confucian” culture of right action does not look kindly on the insouciant policy of printing money by Anglo-Saxons.

Mr Fisher, the Fed’s leading hawk, was a fierce opponent of the original decision to buy Treasury debt, fearing that it would lead to a blurring of the line between fiscal and monetary policy — and could all too easily degenerate into Argentine-style financing of uncontrolled spending.

However, he agreed that the Fed was forced to take emergency action after the financial system “literally fell apart”.

Nor, he added was there much risk of inflation taking off yet. The Dallas Fed uses a “trim mean” method based on 180 prices that excludes extreme moves and is widely admired for accuracy.

“You’ve got some mild deflation here,” he said.

The Oxford-educated Mr Fisher, an outspoken free-marketer and believer in the Schumpeterian process of “creative destruction”, has been running a fervent campaign to alert Americans to the “very big hole” in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities built up by a careless political class over the years.

“We at the Dallas Fed believe the total is over $99 trillion,” he said in February.

“This situation is of your own creation. When you berate your representatives or senators or presidents for the mess we are in, you are really berating yourself. You elect them,” he said.

His warning comes amid growing fears that America could lose its AAA sovereign rating.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Chinese Economist: Yuan Should be Regional Currency to Rival Dollar

Yu Qiao, an economics professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, says the best way for China to rescue itself from a dollar trap is to gradually transform the renminbi into a regional currency on par with the dollar and the euro.

Speaking yesterday at AsianInvestor’s fourth annual investment summit in Hong Kong, Yu also called for the creation of a “crisis relief facility” to ease China and America out of the current financial and economic crisis.

Yu says the establishment and then break up of the gold standard taught the world that prosperity is dependent upon global economic integration; that globalisation in turn is dependent upon a universal money; and that such a currency based on sovereign fiat is unstable.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Early Retirement Claims Increase Dramatically

Instead of working longer as the economy worsens, more Americans are calling it quits before age 66. The ramifications could be profound for the retirees, families, government and social institutions.

Reporting from Washington — Instead of seeing older workers staying on the job longer as the economy has worsened, the Social Security system is reporting a major surge in early retirement claims that could have implications for the financial security of millions of baby boomers.

Since the current federal fiscal year began Oct. 1, claims have been running 25% ahead of last year, compared with the 15% increase that had been projected as the post-World War II generation reaches eligibility for early retirement, according to Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration.

Many of the additional retirements are probably laid-off workers who are claiming Social Security early, despite reduced benefits, because they are under immediate financial pressure, Goss and other analysts believe.

The numbers upend expectations that older Americans who sustained financial losses in the recession would work longer to rebuild their nest eggs. In a December poll sponsored by CareerBuilder, 60% of workers older than 60 said they planned to postpone retirement.

Goss said it remained unclear whether the uptick in retirements would accelerate or abate in the months ahead. But another wave of older workers may opt for early retirement when they exhaust unemployment benefits late this year or early in 2010, he noted.

The ramifications of the trend are profound for the new retirees, their families, the government and other social institutions that may be called upon to help support them.

On top of savings ravaged by the stock market decline and the loss of home equity, many retirees now must make do with Social Security benefits reduced by as much as 25% if they retire at age 62 instead of 66.

“When the recession ends and the economy bounces back, there may be a band of people for whom things will never be the same again. They’ll still be paying the price for 10, 20, 30 years down the road,” said Cristina Martin Firvida, director of economic security for AARP, the nation’s largest membership organization for people 50 and older.

For Herman Hilton, 66, of Jacksonville, Fla., a lean 6-foot-2 electrician with a bushy gray beard, the decision to lay down his pliers and screwdriver was born of frustration.

For at least the last 10 years, as he wired new buildings, he was looking toward retiring as soon as he hit 66 and qualified for full benefits.. And last fall, like millions of other older workers, Hilton put his “golden years” plan on hold when his 401(k) lost more than a third of its value.

Then last month, his life took another unwelcome turn: Hilton’s foreman pulled him aside to tell him that he was being laid off. For several weeks, Hilton collected unemployment insurance. But he soon decided to call it quits and file for Social Security.

“I can live on what I have,” Hilton said. “But it’s not what I planned on. I won’t have the comfort factor of as much of a safety cushion.”

That cushion is important. As Americans live longer, the elderly are increasingly at risk of outlasting their financial assets. That’s a serious problem for them and their families, who are often called upon to provide assistance.

Because benefits are reduced for people who retire early, the surge in retirements should not have any long-term effect on the solvency of the Social Security system, although it will probably add to the near-term budget deficits confronting the Obama administration, Social Security’s Goss said.

The full consequences of retirement decisions made in hard times will become apparent when people who retired early begin to exhaust their savings.

“As they get into their 70s and 80s, it will be increasingly inadequate,” said Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The most severe effect will probably fall on the unemployed widows of workers who retire early, Munnell said. Survivors’ benefits also take a deeper cut when people retire early — reduced as much as 30% for retirement at 62. Because women tend to live longer than men, that leaves them more vulnerable to running out of money as expenses for assisted living and other costs rise in advanced old age.

Significant numbers of workers have long chosen to retire early. In 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 42% of men and 48% of women began collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62, the first year of eligibility.

The current recession, the worst since the Depression, is striking when older workers are by historical standards unusually vulnerable. Though older workers in previous recessions were less likely than their younger counterparts to be laid off, that advantage has eroded in recent years, said Munnell, who analyzed more than two decades of Labor Department data on layoffs.

Fewer workers are now protected by union contracts that require newer employees to be laid off first. And older workers now typically have less of a seniority advantage in a workforce that more frequently switches jobs.

Once they lose their jobs, older workers have a harder time finding new ones. On average, it takes laid-off workers 55 and older nearly a month longer than their younger counterparts to find new employment, and the gulf has been growing recently, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Goss said it was theoretically possible that people who claimed retirement benefits during the recession would resume working once the economy improves..

Yet experience suggests that retired workers are unlikely to return to work in large numbers, particularly not to full-time jobs that would allow them to make up their earnings losses while they were out of the workforce, said Paul N. Van de Water, a former senior policy official at the Social Security Administration and now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank.

“It’s partly a question of intent,” Van de Water said. “It’s partly a question of your skills not being kept up to date.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Rising Unemployment Raises Threat of Social Crisis: World Bank

MADRID (Reuters) — World economic recovery will be slow and rising unemployment could bring the threat of social crisis and protectionism, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in an interview with Spanish Sunday newspaper El Pais.

“What began as a great financial crisis and became a great economic crisis is now becoming a great crisis of unemployment, and if we don’t take measures there is a risk of a great human and social crisis, with major political implications,” he said.

“That’s a good breeding ground for populist, protectionist policies,” he added.

“The finance ministers of the G7 and the G20 are displaying a certain relief because the contraction has slowed. Although we could still have low or negative growth, the situation is less bad,” he said.

“But economists and industrialists are conscious that the recovery will be slow coming and weaker than expected.”

Dangers remain in the U.S. financial system and in vulnerable emerging markets, Zoellick said.

“Maybe the key thing that has to be cleaned up is the financial system. The USA has taken steps in the right direction, but there are still banks with serious difficulties related to consumer finance, credit cards and real estate.

“On top of that, the United States depends more than Europe on the mortgage securitization market, and that market has yet to recover,” he said.

He said there were risks in Africa, parts of Latin America and in Eastern Europe.

“China could surprise on the upside, it has obtained good results from its stimulus plan. For countries like Mexico and Brazil, the main threat is losing access to finance,” Zoellick said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

USA

The Great Ethanol Scam

Not only is ethanol proving to be a dud as a fuel substitute but there is increasing evidence that it is destroying engines in large numbers

First, the primary job of the Environmental Protection Agency is, dare it be said, to protect our environment. Yet using ethanol actually creates more smog than using regular gas, and the EPA’s own attorneys had to admit that fact in front of the justices presiding over the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995 (API v. EPA).

Second, truly independent studies on ethanol, such as those written by Tad Patzek of Berkeley and David Pimentel of Cornell, show that ethanol is a net energy loser. Other studies suggest there is a small net energy gain from it.

Third, all fuels laced with ethanol reduce the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and the E85 blend drops gas mileage between 30% and 40%, depending on whether you use the EPA’s fuel mileage standards (fueleconomy.gov) or those of the Dept. of Energy.

[…]

City Garage manager Eric Greathouse has found that adding ethanol to the nation’s gasoline supply may be a foolish government mandate, but it has an upside he’d rather not deal with. It’s supplying his shop with a slow but steady stream of customers whose plastic fuel intakes have been dissolved by the blending of ethanol into our gasoline, or their fuel pumps destroyed. The average cost of repairs is just shy of $1,000.

[…]

On Jan. 16 of this year, Lexus ordered a massive recall of certain 2006 to 2008 models, including the GS Series, IS and LS sedans. According to the recall notice, the problem is that “Ethanol fuels with low moisture content will corrode the internal surface of the fuel rails.” In layman’s terms, ethanol causes pinpoint leaks in the fuel system; when leaking fuel catches your engine on fire, that’s an exciting way to have your insurance company buy your Lexus. Using ethanol will cost Toyota (TM) untold millions.

[…]

Pushed into it by the corn growers’ and ethanol refiners’ lobbying organizations, today the EPA is starting to go through the public comment phase on increasing the level of ethanol in our gasoline from 10% to 15%. Time and time again we have heard from these groups, who now claim that there is zero scientific evidence that a 15% blend of ethanol would do any damage whatsoever if the mandate for ethanol were raised. As with all statements made by vested interests, few outsiders have actually taken the time to look and find out whether this statement was true.

In fact, it’s false.

Not one mechanic I’ve spoken with said they would be comfortable with a 15% blend of ethanol in their personal car. However, most suggest that if the government moves the ethanol mandate to 15%, it will be the dawn of a new golden age for auto mechanics’ income.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

BNP Main Website Down

Suspected Denial of Service Attack. Recent attempts originated from Russia.

[Return to headlines]


Budapest Mayor Calls for Ban on Denying Crimes Against Humanity

Budapest, May 21 (MTI) — To prevent the spread of hate speech, Hungary’s constitution should declare a ban on denying, belittling, endorsing or calling for the repetition of actions defined by international law as crimes against humanity or genocide, Gabor Demszky, the Free Democrat mayor of Budapest, said in an article in national daily Nepszabadsag on Thursday.

Demszky said this option should be a matter of consensus for the government and opposition.

He noted that the main opposition Fidesz party had expressed support for a ban on “the public denial, doubting or demeaning of genocides and other crimes against humanity committed by dictatorial regimes..”

Demszky argued that an initiative of the ruling Socialist party declaring that “the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press must not be used to incite national, ethnic, racist or religious hatred” would primarily endanger the anti-racists’ freedom of speech.

Demszky identified three major tasks in this field: creating a consensus of all political forces and their supporters — left-wingers, environmentalists, liberals, conservatives, moderate right-wingers alike — in condemning hate speech and actions motivated by hate and isolating the discriminators; expressing active solidarity with minorities targeted by hate speech and violence; and deploying all legal means against people promoting hate speech and their active supporters if they incite hatred and pose direct threat against anyone.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Faymann Blasts FPÖ´s Political Hatred

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann has condemned the Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) “unbearable agitation” and propagation over racial hatred.

In an interview in today’s (Mon) Der Standard, Faymann attacked FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache for “preaching hatred” in the European Parliament (EP) election campaign during the run-up to the 7 June EP election. The chancellor claimed the FPÖ’s election-campaign posters had harmed people with “religious feelings.”

Faymann cited a FPÖ election-campaign advertisement in yesterday’s Kronen Zeitung that said the FPÖ would veto the admission of Turkey and Israel into the European Union (EU).

The chancellor said: “The advertisement was complete nonsense since it included Israel, which is not a candidate for admission to the EU. The only reason it mentioned Israel was to play up to people’s anti-Semitic prejudices. That is a disgrace. I sharply condemn such propagation of hatred.

“The FPÖ is trying to set people against each other, which is unbearable. Politicians should not stir up hatred of people who adhere to a particular religions. Politicians should play the role of models, but Strache is not a model but rather a disgrace,” Faymann added.

Faymann said SPÖ Education Minister Claudia Schmied would initiate an educational campaign in Austrian schools. “We need more anti-fascist education,” he said, adding that harming people’s religious feeling was not a minor matter.

“We have an historic responsibility,” Faymann claimed, “and the recent conviction of Gert Honsik shows that it is unfortunately still necessary to prosecute Holocaust deniers.”

People’s Party (ÖVP) Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger yesterday also condemned the FPÖ’s “hateful election-campaign rhetoric”.

The foreign minister said: “An election campaign does not excuse the fomenting of demonisation of others and the use of abstruse prejudice, especially given the presence of some 350,000 Muslims in Austria.”

Strache was re-elected FPÖ leader for the third time on Saturday with 97 per cent of the vote at a party congress. It was the highest percentage he has received.

The FPÖ leader called the neo-Nazi disturbance in Ebensee a week ago Saturday as an “unorganised, stupid event” that should be condemned, but warned against defaming the town as a Nazi centre.

Strache also said it would be a mistake to make a mountain out of a molehill and to keep aberrant adolescents in detention for weeks.

The FPÖ called for the resignation of Austrian Jewish Community President Ariel Muzicant yesterday in the wake of his comparison with FPÖ General Secretary Herbert Kickl with Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

Muzicant also noted that Hitler had been democratically elected German chancellor in 1933.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]


Former Guantanamo Prisoners May Come to Hungary by Year-End

Budapest, May 19 (MTI) — The US is in talks with allies including Hungary about the reception of three or four former Guantanamo prisoners each, US charge d’affaires in Hungary Jeffrey D Levine told MTI on Tuesday.

If an agreement is reached, the prisoners could arrive in Hungary by the end of the year.

The former prisoners do not represent a threat to Hungary and they are expected to arrive as emigrants not as refugees, Levine said.

The US is open to hold coordination talks about the issue with representatives of Hungary’s parliamentary parties in addition to government representatives, Levine said. There will be an opportunity for Hungarian officials to personally meet the former prisoners in Guantanamo before they are transferred to Hungary, he added.

Hungary has not made a decision concerning the former prisoners, as the US has not yet come up with a detailed proposal, Zsuzsanna Matrai, the spokesperson for Hungary’s Foreign Ministry, told MTI.

“We are in continuous consultation with the US side. Hungary has repeatedly indicated its support for the US decision to close down the prison camp,” Matrai added.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Greeks Increasingly Xenophobic

Several violent attacks against economic migrants have been reported around Athens city centre during the last month, most notably targeting the Pakistani community.

“I can see migrants are the source of many problems,” says Maria Nafpliotou, an employee at a music store in the city centre. “Nobody is happy to see them living around here, but I doubt slaying them is a solution.”

She says this as she looks out into Omonia square at a demonstration called last week by a group of far-right organisations going under the name ‘Residents committees against the invasion of aliens in our country’.

The hundreds of demonstrators flew the Greek flag, played music by Wagner as did the Nazis once, and sang radical marching tunes. ‘Blood, Honour, Golden Dawn’ went one slogan, Golden Dawn being the name of the most notorious fascist group in the country. The demonstrators attack foreigners, journalists or just anyone who dared show disapproval of the demonstration.

Police stood passively between the extremists and leftist counter- demonstrators, restricting themselves to calming down the angry mob now and then. Their casual way of dealing with the neo-Nazis was unmistakable.

Such demonstrations are not common in Athens, and could be dismissed as isolated events were it not for growing signs over the past few months of an imminent wave of xenophobia in Greece.

“The debate about deterioration of migration into a crisis is increasingly taking place in a very negative climate,” says Spyros Rizakos, legal representative of the NGO Aitima based in Patra city 250 km southwest of Athens. Thousands of refugees from Afghanistan and Somalia live there in inhumane conditions.

“Nobody discusses what drives thousands of people to such abject conditions, and what the responsibility of the Greek state is for that,” Rizakos told IPS. “We illegally do not implement European directives for reception and integration, and have effectively shut the majority of migrants out of asylum procedures; this country is literally a workshop of social exclusion for foreigners.”

Following widespread social unrest in Athens, beginning with the riots last December, authorities have become more insensitive to human rights issues, Rizakos says.

During the last few months a connection made by mainstream media between the constant arrival of thousands of migrants and an increase in criminality in some districts of the capital they concentrate in has prepared the ground for tougher measures.

“The truth is that the situation around the city centre has deteriorated immensely during the last few months,” Georgia Dusia, human rights activist with the leftist organisation Network for the rights of Refugees told IPS. “We sometimes fail to accept the reality on the ground out of sympathy and pro- migrant views, but it is better to be aware and to acknowledge reality. There are places in this city cut out of society. People are scared, politicians capitalise on the situation, and we need to respond to that.”

The Ministry of Interior has announced plans to move thousands of irregular migrants to detention facilities. Many squatting in rundown buildings in the Athens city centre will be moved to a disused military facility in Aspropirgos, west of Athens.

And a large number of Afghans have abandoned a makeshift camp next to Patras port following the announcement of plans to transfer them to a new ‘closed’ camp which will be policed on a 24-hour basis.

It was also decided at an emergency meeting this week of officials from the ministries of interior, foreign affairs, defence, the merchant marine and island policy, and of the police and coast guard, to set up a new coordination body for the protection of national borders.

One of the first measures will be to involve the military in detaining migrants, and strengthening surveillance of borders against arrivals. This will be done with a budget of 200 million euros up to 2013, 148 million of which will come from the European Union, for policing equipment and new technologies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Milan Flight Cuts ‘Driving Foreign Firms Away’

Milan, 20 May (AKI) — Around 100 foreign companies have left the northern Italian city of Milan after the national carrier Alitalia reduced the number of international flights to nearby Malpensa airport, according to a new survey by Milan’s Chamber of Commerce.

The survey found that a reduction in international flights by Italy’s Alitalia has made Milan too expensive and time-consuming for many foreign business people travelling to and from the Italian financial capital.

Alitalia cut flights to Malpensa as part of its efforts to stem massive losses and find a buyer for the government’s 49.9 percent stake. It has in recent years largely deserted the airport.

The relaunched company announced last week that Rome’s Fiumicino airport would become its main hub. However, Alitalia’s president Roberto Colaninno said on Monday that “Alitalia will return to fly on Malpensa as soon as possible”.

“We will return to Malpensa particularly with the intercontinental flights”, Colaninno said as he talked about encouraging results for the first few months of 2009.

Colaninno announced in January that Malpensa would be a “strategic priority” for the new Alitalia relaunched as a smaller, streamlined airline in a merger with Italy’s number two airline, Air One.

Alitalia sold 25 percent of the company to Air France-KLM for 323 million euros under an accord reached on 12 January.

Alitalia was declared bankrupt last year after decades of mounting losses, strikes, cronyism and inefficiency. Its profitable operations were purchased last December for 1.052 billion euros by the CAI group of Italian investors.

Malpensa, located about 45 kilometres from Milan, was built to overcome overcrowding at Milan’s main Linate airport and opened in 1998

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Martini, No Breast Implants for Juveniles

(AGI) — Rome, 12 May — Francesca, Giovanna, Teresa, Luisa and Maria: are you younger than 18? If you want to have bigger breasts, you’ll have to wait until you’re 18 years old. A bill will soon be presented in the Italian cabinet to put a halt to the widespread trend among young girls of having breast-enlargement operations. The bill “is ready and will soon be presented in cabinet” announced Health Undersecretary Francesca Martini, interviewed by AGI. The measure, Martini added, “will be accompanied by a register for breast implants, to guarantee full traceability, and a register for back bone marrow because of specific demand to help anyone with a bone marrow problem to enter a reference centre. The measure means the institution of a register for breast implants, for all women who undergo surgery both for reconstruction purposes (for example after the removal of a breast tumour) and for aesthetic reasons”. Because “traceability of breast implants guarantees women’s health protection, and the ban on operating while girls are still growing also give doctors a legal context in which they can work better. This government” Martini underlined “works for the health of women and in particular for the heath of women’s breasts, reducing the breast issue to an issue of general health. Women should be aware of the relation between breasts and health”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Now Drinkers Must Wait in ‘Post Office-Style’ Queues at Their Local Pub

Drinkers in pubs are to be told to stand in a queue and banned from ordering more than two drinks at a time at the bar.

Rope barriers similar to those used in shops and post offices will be installed to keep customers in line.

The plan has been proposed following concern over disorder and violence in a town centre’s bars.

The two-drink limit is intended to curb binge-drinking and stop customers ordering large amounts of alcohol. In addition, customers would not be allowed to drink while queuing.

But critics say the ‘nanny state’ restrictions will end the convivial British tradition of drinkers buying rounds for their friends.

Mark Hastings, of the British Beer And Pub Association, said: ‘We have no problem with tackling problem drinking but this is not the way to go about it.

‘These measures are costly, unnecessary and totally disproportionate at a time when around 40 pubs are closing every week.

‘People aren’t going to want to drink if they have to queue up as if they’re in the post office.’

Under plans drawn up by Liberal Democrat-controlled Oldham Council, all 22 pubs in the town centre will have to comply with the new rules. The 2003 Licensing Act allows police and trading standards officers to apply for variations in a pub licence if there is concern about drink-related violence and disorder.

Most variations of this kind involve restrictions on opening hours. Oldham, however, has come up with its own ideas and is understood to be the first authority in the country to propose a queuing system.

Licensing committee member Derek Heffernan said: ‘There would have to be some form of barrier so people couldn’t push past, either a rope or perhaps something stronger.

‘It would be the end of buying a round but we have to do something to calm things down. There have been fights and stabbings and it’s not right that people going out for the evening have to worry about being attacked.’

Fellow Lib Dem councillor Mark Alcock said: ‘This is the first time since the new licensing laws came into force five years ago that a local authority has reviewed all the licences in a town at the same time.’

But there was a furious response from industry leaders, who say the plan will lead to more pubs going out of business.

Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association Of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said: ‘The proposals are ridiculous and our members are up in arms. It’s expensive and unnecessary.

‘It’s a nanny-state response and shows the council to be out of touch.’

Drinkers in Oldham yesterday were similarly unimpressed.

Jeff Smith, 64, a regular at the Hare And Hounds, said: ‘I can’t see Oldham lads standing patiently to wait their turn. It would cause even more trouble than there is already because there will always be someone trying to jump the queue.’

Lorraine Howard, 47, said: ‘These people must never have been in a busy pub. Younger kids aren’t going to wait like they would in the supermarket. And it’s silly to limit the round. Lots of friends go out in large groups and one round can be ten or more drinks.’

Mike Dunne, 37, visiting from Tipperary, said: ‘It’s a nonsensical, ridiculous and anti-social idea. It would never work in a million years. We went out last night and there were 40 of us. We had to write down the rounds on beer mats. You’d have to be back in the queue almost before you’d sat down. I just hope they never bring it in in Ireland.’

But Vernon Walker, in his 60s, enjoying a lunchtime pint, remembered when the town had a similar system 40 years ago.

He said: ‘If you went to Yates’ Wine Lodge you had to queue for your drinks and then pay at the bar. It worked quite well and I wouldn’t mind doing that again.’

Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘All councils need to strike the right balance between tackling binge drinking and not punishing responsible and sensible drinkers. I hope Oldham gets the balance right.’

An Oldham council spokesman said: ‘The measures are under discussion and a decision will be made within weeks.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK Royals Probe Newspaper Security Breach at Palace

LONDON (Reuters) — Buckingham Palace said on Sunday it was investigating a report that undercover journalists were able to enter Queen Elizabeth’s London residence and sit in her car after bribing a royal chauffeur.

The tabloid News of The World said two of its reporters posing as Middle East businessmen paid 1,000 pounds ($1,580) to the chauffeur to evade security checks at the palace.

The paper said the story exposed lax security at the palace. “We could have been al-Qaeda, we could have had a bomb or at least a tracking device,” it said.

It said the chauffeur took them to a garage storing Bentley and Rolls-Royce limousines used by the royal family and even let a reporter sit in one of the vehicles.

A palace spokesman said officials would study what had happened. “Any security matter is taken very seriously and we will look into these allegations,” she said.

Police said they would discuss the matter with royal staff. “We are naturally concerned about the issues raised by this story and are liaising with palace officials about their staff security arrangements,” a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said.

Royal residences have suffered a number of high-profile security breaches in recent years, prompting the appointment of a security supremo after Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry spent two months in 2003 working undercover at Buckingham Palace.

He was employed as a footman, walking the queen’s corgi dogs and serving her drinks, despite having applied for the job with a false reference.

An official security report following that incident concluded that the most likely threats came from the press or individuals trying to test security measures. But it warned that weaknesses could also be exploited by terrorists.

Earlier the same year Aaron Barschak had evaded security at Windsor Castle west of London wearing a pink dress and an Osama bin Laden-styled beard to gatecrash the 21st birthday party of Prince William, second-in-line for the throne.

In 1982 unemployed laborer Michael Fagan scaled a Buckingham Palace drainpipe to enter the queen’s bedroom. He sat chatting with her for 10 minutes before she was able to summon help.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Archbishops Warn Voters Against BNP

LONDON (AFP) — The Church of England’s two top clerics warned voters Sunday against backing the far-right British National Party (BNP) in upcoming elections in protest at a political expenses scandal.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu said it would be “tragic” if people reacted to the scandal by rejecting mainstream parties and either not voting or voting for extreme groups.

“The European Parliamentary and local elections on June 4th will take place at a time of extraordinary turbulence in our democratic system,” they said in a joint statement.

“The temptation to stay away or register a protest vote in order to send a negative signal to the parties represented at Westminster will be strong.

“In our view, however, it would be tragic if the understandable sense of anger and disillusionment with some MPs over recent revelations led voters to shun the ballot box.”

The country’s political parties have been rocked by more than two weeks of embarrassing revelations about expense claims by Members of Parliament (MPs), ranging from tennis court and swimming pool repairs to cleaning a moat.

Amid widespread anger, a number of MPs and one minister have been forced to stand down, while the Speaker of the House of Commons became the first holder of that office to be forced out in over 300 years.

“There are those who would exploit the present situation to advance views that are the very opposite of the values of justice, compassion and human dignity are rooted in our Christian heritage,” said the archbishops.

They added: “Christians have been deeply disturbed by the conscious adoption by the BNP of the language of our faith when the effect of those policies is not to promote those values but to foster fear and division within communities, especially between people of different faiths or racial background.

“This is not a moment for voting in favour of any political party whose core ideology is about sowing division in our communities and hostility on grounds of race, creed or colour,” they said.

The BNP, which campaigns for “British jobs for British workers” and opposes the EU and its “dangerous drive… to give 80 million low-wage Muslim Turks the right to swamp Britain,” hopes to win its first EU assembly seat next month.

The party already has one member in the London Assembly and 55 local councillors across the country.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: BNP Attracts More Clicks Than All Other Major Parties

The British National Party is outperforming the major parties online, according to a new analysis of the far-right strategy in the run up to next month’s European elections.

Fresh evidence suggests that the BNP is outdoing Labour and the Conservatives in luring visitors to its website, where it outlines policies such as halting immigration, the reintroduction of corporal punishment and the return of the death penalty.

The statistics came as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York urged voters yesterday not to let the ongoing MPs’ expenses scandal convince them to vote BNP in June.

Dr Matthew Goodwin of Manchester University and editor of The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain, argues that the BNP is engaged in an “unprecedented” cyber-campaign. Figures from Alexa, which measure the level of traffic to internet sites over the past three months, reveal the BNP is far ahead of the other mainstream parties’ websites. The BNP’s site is ranked globally as the 46,000th most popular site on the internet.

The Conservatives sit in 165,000th place, the Liberal Democrats are 198,000th leaving Labour way back about 248,000th. The relative popularities are confirmed by Google Trends for websites, which reveals online interest in the BNP persistently spiking ahead of the mainstream parties.

The figures from Alexa also show the BNP registering more traffic than highly publicised political blogs such as Guido Fawkes. They also reveal that once logged on, surfers spend twice the amount of time checking out the BNP’s ideas compared to those on the Conservative website — 6.3 minutes a day compared to 2.7 minutes. But the figures don’t take account of the fact that Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem blogging and internet sites are far more profuse.

Dr Goodwin argues that the BNP under Nick Griffin is now augmenting grass roots support through the electronic media. For example text messages sent to random numbers seek a small donation to party funds and ask recipients to forward the plea to family and friends. Voters who make inquiries are directed to a party call centre. Dr Goodwin says: “The BNP’s shift to an Obama-style online strategy enables it to circumvent the tactics used by other parties to starve it of publicity and also shows up the dangers of that approach.”

He concludes that the BNP is “sidestepping a hostile press by delivering its message direct to the desktop”. Meanwhile, a leaked BNP “education and training” document circulated among activists and seen by The Independent gives detailed advice to its supporters to exploit “the growing power of cyberspace media”.

It warns against linking unofficial blogs with the main party website, promoting “barking mad” conspiracy theories and poor standards of English. It concludes: “We should use such sites to ‘bring the horse as close as possible to the water’ and once they find that they agree with our policies, hopefully they’ll drink.”

Dan Hodges of the anti-racist group Searchlight said the web traffic figures massively overstated the true level of interest in the far-right party and accused the BNP of massaging the numbers.

“On the basis of their web hits they are more popular than all the mainstream parties combined but that is just not the case. It does not reflect the level of support,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Church Leaders Warn ‘Don’t Vote BNP to Punish MPs’

Church leaders are urging voters not to punish MPs for the scandal of their expenses by voting for the BNP.

The Archbishop of Canterbury called on people to shun extremist parties and to use their vote positively in local and European elections on June 4. In an unprecedented intervention, Dr Rowan Williams joined forces with Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and other religious leaders to condemn the “deeply disturbing” tactics of the BNP.

Their joint statement, issued today, came after Dr Williams warned yesterday that the “systematic humiliation” of MPs was a threat to democracy.

The bishops said: “It is a time for great vigilance over how to exercise our democratic right to vote. The temptation to stay away or register a protest vote in order to send a negative signal to the parties represented at Westminster will be strong.

“In our view, however, it would be tragic if the understandable sense of anger and disillusionment with some MPs over recent revelations led voters to shun the ballot box.”

In a direct attack on BNP leader Nick Griffin and his party, the bishops warned: “There are those who would exploit the present situation to advance views that are the very opposite of the values of justice, compassion and human dignity which are rooted in our Christian heritage.

“Christians have been deeply disturbed by the conscious adoption by the BNP of the language of our faith when the effect of those policies is not to promote those values but to foster fear and division within communities, espe-ciallbetween people of different faiths or racial background.”

The bishops urged voters not to back “any political party whose core ideology is about sowing division in our communities and hostility on grounds of race, creed or colour”.

According to an ICM poll yesterday, just one per cent of voters will back the BNP — well down on the five per cent the party achieved at the last European elections in 2004.

Ukip on 10 per cent and the Greens on nine per cent are the fringe parties doing best from the disenchantment with the main parties over the expenses scandal.

Meanwhile, 50 authors, musicians and academics joined forces to demand a referendum on a new voting system to clean up politics.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]


UK: Enough Humiliation. We Must Move on

Politics is not about what you can get away with — it’s about being prepared to make sacrifices

by Rowan Williams

The issues raised by the huge controversy over MPs’ expenses are as grave as could be for our parliamentary democracy, and urgent action is needed to restore trust. It is good that all parties are recognising this. But many will now be wondering whether the point has not been adequately made; the continuing systematic humiliation of politicians itself threatens to carry a heavy price in terms of our ability to salvage some confidence in our democracy.

It is important to connect some of the underlying attitudes with a wider problem. In recent months, we’ve had a number of examples (bankers’ pensions, the suspension of two peers from the Lords) of people saying when challenged that “no rules were broken”. Some of the initial responses to public anger about MPs’ expenses have amounted to much the same thing. And this suggests a basic problem in our moral thinking.

The question “What can I get away with without technically breaching the regulations?” is not a good basis for any professional behaviour that has real integrity.

Integrity is about what we value in ourselves or our work for its own sake — what’s worth making sacrifices for, what we’re glad to have done simply for the kind of act it is. If I do something just because I’m told to, or if I hold back from something simply because of fear that I shall be caught out, it’s a very different business. It has nothing to do with that sense of being glad to have done something. And without that sense, no one is really going to see public life as a vocation in the old-fashioned meaning of the word — a task you perform because you find yourself in the doing of it

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: Fashion Heiress, Economist Push Foreign Aid Plan

LONDON — An unlikely duo of a fashion heiress and a Nobel Prize-winning economist is pushing a controversial plan to boost aid to the developing world by giving wealthy donors a greater say in how the money is distributed.

Backed by the head of the United Nations and a bevy of billionaires, supermodels and pop stars, socialite Renu Mehta and economist James Mirrlees say a private-public partnership on foreign aid is the only way to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, since governments are falling short of U.N.. targets.

But the notion sits uneasily with critics already unhappy about the juxtaposition of champagne-fueled fundraisers and the poverty of those they are supposed to benefit. Critics argue it would set a dangerous precedent for the super-rich to determine foreign aid policies.

On its face, the Mehta-Mirrlees plan is simple. They are calling on the Group of Eight industrialized nations, which are meeting in Italy in July, to agree to match private donations with state aid. For every $100 pledged by the private sector, a government would add a matching $100 from existing aid budgets.

The plan seeks to address the fact that governments are falling behind in their commitments to the United Nations to donate 0.7 percent of gross national incomes to meet eight goals, including halving extreme poverty by 2015 from its 1990 level.

In 2007, only five countries — Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — met the commitment. Collectively, all U.N. members delivered $103.7 billion, just 0.3 percent of gross national income and far short of the goal of $155 billion.

“The U.N. Development Goals are widely recognized as the most comprehensive template to address these issues, but the program is in jeopardy because governments are not meeting their commitments,” said Mehta, who launched her Fortune Forum charity in 2006 at a glitzy London dinner with former U..S. President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker.

Mehta, the daughter of an Indian textile magnate, added: “What we need to do is come up with a new model, find a new way to meet these targets, on the one hand. On the other hand, we need to make sure that the money is deployed to the maximum effectiveness.”

Mirrlees and Mehta estimate their plan could raise $75 billion, even in the current economic climate, arguing that people will donate if they know their contributions will be doubled.

“We see a number of countries cutting back on government assistance … that inevitably makes things more urgent” since developing countries are suffering further from the falloff in global trade, Mirrlees said.

The World Bank has warned that millions more people will fall into poverty and as many as 400,000 more babies will die each year because of the economic crunch.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has welcomed the pair’s attempt to find a new aid financing mechanism, saying cooperation between public and private sectors can make a difference.

Mehta and Mirrlees propose that private contributions, along with matching public funds, should be channeled through a new organization of both government and private sector representatives. That body would monitor how money is spent “so as to meet the private sector’s performance expectations,” which they argue would attract further donations from the private sector.

But it is that element of private involvement that has many critics worried.

“There are so many potential problems and issues with this. The biggest problem is a question of ethics,” said Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research LLP. “Just because you’re rich and you give to charity doesn’t mean you necessarily make better decisions. Also, what if a company that specializes in retroviral drugs says its money must go to HIV funding, to AIDS funding?”

Another sore point is the plan’s proposal for governments to match donations from assets held in offshore tax havens.

Murphy questioned whether many people would welcome an aid fund accepting money from tax haven accounts, considering U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leaders of the other Group of 20 nations just pledged to clamp down on the offshore vehicles.

Murphy said if officials instead forced the shifting of funds in offshore accounts into taxed accounts back home, some $250 billion could be raised annually — five times the money needed by governments to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

Without any firm agreement on the plan, there is no estimate of how much it might cost to administrate the proposed aid fund. Nor is it clear what the impact might be for private foundations.

Mehta and Mirrlees have already had to revamp their proposal after earlier criticisms that the original plan included a 50 percent tax break for the wealthy. For example, a private donation of $100 would have attracted $50 in tax relief, funded from the government’s existing aid budget.

That idea was received coolly at Britain’s Treasury, which said this is not the time for tax breaks.

Mehta said discussions are being held with the Treasury on the revised plan. The pair have also taken the incomplete project to Italian officials ahead of the G-8’s July 8-10 meeting, where they would like to present the proposal.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Hundreds of UK Lawmakers Could Face Ouster or Quit

LONDON — A major purge of veteran lawmakers is likely at Britain’s next national election due to mounting public anger over the expenses scandal, opposition leader David Cameron said Sunday as a new study estimated that over 300 lawmakers could be forced out.

Cameron, who has ordered some of his Conservative Party lawmakers to quit over their excessive claims, said fresh faces are necessary to help rebuild confidence in Britain’s political system.

The Conservatives are far ahead of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party in opinion polls and widely expected to win power at the next election, which Brown must call by June 2010.

Cameron said he will reopen lists of candidates that his party has drawn up ahead of the next election, to allow people who have not previously been involved in politics to put themselves forward.

“They may not have had anything to do with the party before. But I’m saying, if you believe in public service, if you share our values, if you want to help us clean up politics, come and be a Conservative candidate,” Cameron told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Colin Rallings, director of the University of Plymouth’s elections data center, told The Sunday Times newspaper that a new analysis suggested as many as 325 of Britain’s 646 House of Commons lawmakers could quit or be ousted by voters as a direct result of the scandal.

Several public figures, including well-known British television presenter Esther Rantzen, already have suggested they will try to run in the next election as independent candidates to protest the scandal.

In Britain, local party officials select candidates, often choosing would-be lawmakers who have no connection with the district they are seeking to represent. Some lawmakers have called for a U.S.-style open primaries instead to select candidates.

The Daily Telegraph also reported Sunday that about 200 lawmakers employ family members as staff, allowing them to charge numerous routine household expenses to taxpayers.

Days of embarrassing revelations have disclosed how legislators used public money to clean a moat, fix a tennis court, pay for an ornamental bird house, furnish lavish second homes or claim vast sums for mortgage loans. Many of the claims were legally valid but some — like claiming mortgage payments for mortgages that were already paid off — could spark criminal charges.

Many — but not all — the details were to have been released in July following a freedom of information ruling that ordered lawmakers’ expense receipts to be made public for the first time. But the details were published by the Telegraph after it acquired copies in advance via a former special forces soldier.

Lawmakers have faced an unprecedented public backlash, with voters especially incensed that public funds were squandered amid a deep recession that has sent the country’s unemployment rate soaring.

So far, the most prominent casualty has been House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin, who resigned under pressure from lawmakers who blamed their predicament on his resistance to reform the expenses law.

Although Cameron’s Conservatives have been responsible for some of the most audacious expenses, including charging the public for a mole catcher and repairs to a tennis court, his party hasn’t suffered in opinion polls.

Several polls in recent days have shown that most Britons want Brown to call an election before the end of the year, so they can boot out the lawmakers who abused their expenses.

But Treasury chief Alistair Darling declined to say Sunday whether a 2009 election is likely.

“We will have an election when the prime minister decides,” Darling told the BBC. “The election will be about a range of issues, whether it’s about the expenses question, trust, constitutional reform or the wider economy.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Hospital Worker Told She’ll be Sacked if She Keeps Wearing Crucifix Because ‘it Might Spread Infection’

A Christian hospital worker is facing the sack for wearing a crucifix — even though it is not on show.

Helen Slatter has been ordered by her bosses not to wear the one-inch tall gold cross on a chain round her neck, although they have no objection to her keeping it in her pocket.

It means the 43-year-old must choose between her faith and her job as a phlebotomist — collecting blood samples — at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Gloucester.

The NHS Trust involved said that the issue was not Miss Slatter’s religion, but conforming to a hospital uniform policy.

This limits the amount of jewellery which staff are allowed to wear in the hope of reducing the spread of infection.. It follows Health Secretary Alan Johnson’s announcement of an anti-superbug dress code for all medics last September.

This ordered all hospital staff to wear short sleeves and fore-go wristwatches and jewellery whenever they are in contact with patients, in an attempt to halt the spread of MRSA and C. difficile.

Yesterday Miss Slatter said: ‘I wear a fob watch and a name badge on my uniform, so what difference does a little cross underneath it make?

‘I knew about the policy on jewellery, but this is a symbol of my beliefs. Some Muslim women who work here wear headscarfs. It just seems so wrong that I’ve been put in this horrible situation.’

Miss Slatter said she has worn the cross under her uniform since she started working at the hospital five years ago. She believes a colleague could have reported her after spotting it accidentally slip out earlier this month.

She said: ‘I’ve always worn my cross inside my uniform. It means a lot to me. They’ve told me I can carry it in my pocket but that simply isn’t the same. I can’t go along with that.

‘My faith is important to me but I’m not a Bible-basher, I don’t push it on colleagues or other people.

‘Now I have to choose between my job and my faith and that’s an awful situation to be in.’

Mother of one Miss Slatter, of Gloucester, was told at a disciplinary meeting on Friday that she will be sent home if she continues to have the chain and crucifix around her neck. She has since signed off sick from work because of stress while she considers her next move.

She worships at St Peter’s Catholic Church Gloucester, where the parish priest Canon Bernard Massey is also a chaplain at the hospital.

He said: ‘There seems to be an inconsistency in the trust’s approach. When I visit patients in the hospital I wear a cross myself.

‘It could be interpreted by some people that the problem is not that she is wearing it, but what she is wearing.

‘I would be unhappy if she was made to take it off. I’ve been led to believe that some of the science about how a necklace spreads infection is dubious.

‘They need to find ways of accommodating the beliefs of individuals with the needs of patients and hospitals, assuming that all these are fair and realistic.’

A spokesman for the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘The issue is not one of religion. The Trust employs a uniform policy which must be adhered to at all times.

‘This policy applies to all staff employed by the Trust who wear a uniform on duty.

‘Necklaces and chains present two problems — firstly, they can provide a surface that can harbour and spread infections, and secondly, they present a health and safety issue whereby a patient could grab a necklace or chain and cause harm to the member of staff.

‘Jewellery is restricted to one pair of plain and unobtrusive studs in the earlobes only and no facial piercings are permitted, including tongue studs. One plain ring or band is permitted on the ring finger.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Media and Publishing Staff Are Worst Binge-Drinkers

People working in media, publishing and entertainment sectors are the heaviest drinkers, according to the Department of Health. They consume an average of 44 units a week, almost twice the recommended maximum amount of three-to-four units a day for men, and two-to-three for women.

IT support workers drink an average of 34 units a week. Almost one-third (29 per cent) of IT workers said they felt their colleagues pressured them to drink. Reassuringly, drivers and — perhaps surprisingly — teachers are the professionals most likely to monitor their alcohol intake and are England’s most moderate drinkers, consuming an average of 24 units per week.

The finance, insurance and real estate sectors came second in temperance terms, at 29 units per week, perhaps indicative of the champagne having ceased to flow in these industries over the last 12 months.

No figure was given for MPs but the Public Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo, did say: “After-work drinks are often part of working life. It’s tempting to just go for ‘a swift one’, even when you know your body needs a rest. But, one can quickly turn into many.”

The research, conducted by YouGov, on behalf of the Department of Health, questioned 1,400 people.

Just last week the Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp banned his players from drinking alcohol after the club captain Ledley King was arrested outside a London nightclub over an alleged assault.

Earlier this year, doctors demanded better labelling for alcoholic drinks to help people keep track of their consumption, as figures from the National Office of Statistics showed that binge-drinking had become most prevalent among the better-off, wine-loving middle classes.

Figures released by the Department of Health in February showed the number of liver transplants as a result of alcohol abuse had risen by 61 per cent since 1994.

There is some hope though that the message is getting through. Sales of non and low-alcohol beers rose by 10 per cent last year, although they still account for only 3 per cent of the total £2bn beer sales market. Sales of ordinary beer dropped 5 per cent.

Chris Sorek, chief executive of the charity The Drinkaware Trust, recommended having two alcohol-free days a week and doing regular exercise to reduce the “combat stress” of office life.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Masked Mob on the March Against Muslim Extremists Turns Violent

The streets of Luton descended into violence yesterday as hundreds of anti-Islamist protesters clashed with police.

The crowds in the town centre hid their faces behind balaclavas, brandished England flags and chanted at officers.

Some wore masks with the horned face of Sayful Islam, a hardline Muslim activist in Luton who took part in an anti-war rally in March which disrupted a homecoming parade for troops.

The mob, which included teenagers and women, also held banners with slogans such as ‘No Sharia Law in the UK’ and ‘Respect our Troops’.

There were reports of violence, with onlookers claiming that an Asian man was hit across the face with a banner and left with a bloody nose.

A group called March for England was said to have organised the rally as a peaceful protest against Muslim extremists. They were joined by a local group United People of Luton.

The chaos broke out when a crowd of around 500 ran away from police who had been escorting the protest along its route, and ran down side streets towards the town centre.

Officers on horseback and police dogs were deployed, and policemen drew batons to defend themselves.

A spokesman for United People of Luton, Wayne King, said: ‘We decided enough was enough after the soldiers got heckled as they marched through the town centre by the Muslim extremists. We want laws brought in to stop preachers of hate operating here.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: NHS ‘Loses’ Thousands of Medical Records

The personal medical records of tens of thousands of people have been lost by the NHS in a series of grave data security leaks. Between January and April this year, 140 security breaches were reported within the NHS — more than the total number from inside central Government and all local authorities combined.

The sacred principle of doctor-patient confidentiality is being compromised, Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, has warned. Britain’s information watchdog has ordered an urgent overhaul of data security in the health service.

Some computers containing medical records have been left by skips and stolen. Others were left on encrypted discs — but the passwords allowing access were taped to the side.

In an interview with The Independent, the Information Commissioner’s chief enforcer blamed the growth of a “cavalier attitude” among NHS workers across Britain for the exposure of the sensitive records.

Mr Thomas has written to the Department of Health’s top civil servant, Hugh Taylor, demanding immediate improvements to the lax treatment of personal data within the NHS.

He plans to send in a crack team of inspectors to examine how data is protected by hospitals and medical workers across Britain. Over the last six months, the watchdog has been forced to take action against 14 NHS institutions for breaching data regulations.

One GP downloaded a complete patient database, including the medical histories of 10,000 people, on to an unsecured laptop. The laptop was then stolen from his home and never retrieved. In another embarrassing breach, a memory stick containing the medical histories of 6,360 prison patients and ex-inmates of Preston prison was lost. Though the data was encrypted, the password was written on a Post-It note that was attached to the device.

Camden Primary Care Trust was also found guilty of a major security breach after old computers, containing the names, addresses and medical notes of 2,500 patients, were dumped beside a rubbish skip near St Pancras Hospital last summer. The computers, which were not encrypted, were stolen and never recovered.

The Department for Health has already responded by issuing an urgent plea to hospital managers to arrest the data breaches being committed by doctors, nurses, security and management staff.

It has reminded them of rules on encrypting private patient data and those on transferring files.

Mick Gorrill, the assistant Information Commissioner in charge of enforcement, told The Independent that a number of “inexcusable” data losses within the NHS had become a cause of “great concern”.

“Medical history is very sensitive personal data, which is likely to cause harm or distress. The law dictates they must keep this information confidential, but the NHS is by far the biggest offender within the public sector,” Mr Gorrill said.

“There needs to be a recognition that this information affects real people and can cause real harm if lost. Just as workers would never disclose information they had been told by a patient, they should also treat information in exactly the same way.”

He added: “There is a complete disconnect between the procedures laid down by managers and what happens on the ground. We need a complete audit to try to change the culture.”

He warned that while the loss of the data caused obvious distress among people who expected their medical details to be kept secret, there was also a market for the data.

“We know that some insurance companies already hire private detectives to find out medical histories,” he said. “This information could do a lot of damage to many people if it fell into the wrong hands.”

NHS bodies soon face substantial fines for breaches under new powers to be handed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) by the end of the year. “We would not want to impose a fine as they have better things to spend their money on. But in some of these incidents, we would have little choice,” Mr Gorrill said.

“For example, a man who has had cancer or a vasectomy may have only told close family. To think that is lost and in the public domain would cause obvious distress. We need to change the cavalier attitude to data of a Facebook generation.”

Michael Summers, vice-chair of the Patient’s Association, said that the action from the Mr Thomas was long overdue as patients had been expressing concerns over the loss of their personal data for years.

“It is a bit late as no one has been taking responsibility for sorting this out,” he said. “Patients have grown up with the idea that what they tell their GP will not be divulged. These data losses totally undermine that, causing great worry to many people.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that Mr Taylor, the permanent secretary at the department, would be replying “in due course” to Mr Thomas’s concerns. He said that action would be taken “against anyone responsible for breaching our strict data protection rules”.

The spokesman added: “The Chief Executive of the NHS wrote to all senior health managers reminding them of their responsibilities.

“The Department is also providing, through the National Programme for IT, electronic patient records systems that are protected by the highest levels of access controls and other security measures, a secure NHS network for exchanging information that is centrally monitored and strongly protected and secure NHS email facilities that encrypts all data in its system.”

The number of data security breaches within the NHS was only slightly lower than the total number of security breaches reported to the Information Commissioner from within the entire private sector. Stolen and lost hardware was the most common reason for information disappearing.

Privacy emergencies: NHS security breaches

*Computers containing the names, addresses and medical notes of 2,500 Camden Primary Care Trust patients were left beside a skip at St Pancras hospital, London. The computers, which were not encrypted, were stolen and never recovered.

*Medical details of 6,360 inmates and former inmates at Preston prison were lost after a memory stick was taken outside the grounds and went missing. The date was encrypted, but the password had been helpfully written on a note taped to the device.

*Cambridge University Hospital lost an unencrypted memory stick carrying treatment details of 741 patients was taken away in a staff member’s car. The stick was found by a car wash worker who worked out who the device belonged to after accessing it.

*The unencrypted medical histories of 2,300 cancer patients were compromised by Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust after the theft of a desktop computer and a laptop.

*Two laptops were stolen from Central Middlesex hospital, and a desktop computer from nearby Northwick Park hospital, after the card security system was disabled for maintenance. Test results of 361 patients were lost. The details were encrypted.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Royal Chauffeur Suspended Over Security Lapse

LONDON — A royal chauffeur was suspended Sunday over allegations he gave undercover reporters a tour of Queen Elizabeth II’s luxury limousines and other sensitive areas of her Buckingham Palace home in exchange for money.

London police said they were examining the allegations and holding talks on security with staff at the London palace following reports of the breach.

The News of the World tabloid said two of its reporters, posing as wealthy Middle Eastern businessmen, were shown round secure areas of Buckingham Palace and allowed to sit inside Bentleys used by the royal family. The newspaper said it paid the chauffeur 1,000 pounds ($1,588) for the tour.

According to the newspaper, the men were also shown Rolls-Royces and the Queen’s own green Daimler car, which she drives herself. The newspaper said the Daimler has a raised floor to accommodate the British monarch’s short legs. The queen is 5-foot-4, (163 centimeters).

“We can confirm an individual has been suspended pending an investigation,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement Sunday.

Royal palaces are guarded by police, who usually demand to see security documents to allow people access. Even members of the royal family, including the Queen’s husband Prince Philip and her son Prince Charles, are required to show photographic ID as they enter a residence.

“We are naturally concerned about the issues raised by this story and are liaising with palace officials about their staff security arrangements,” London’s Scotland Yard police said in a statement.

The security lapse is the latest in a line of breaches.

The queen fended off intruder Michael Fagan in March 1982, after she awoke to find him sitting on her bed in Buckingham Palace and demanding a cigarette.

In 2003, a British tabloid reporter used fake references to win a job as a Buckingham Palace footman. He used his access to take photographs inside the palace and wander around rooms due to be used by then-U.S. President George W. Bush on a state visit weeks later.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: RAF ‘Vice Disks’ Stolen From Base

Details of extra-marital affairs, the use of prostitutes and drug-taking by very senior RAF officers were stored on files stolen from an RAF base, it emerged yesterday. Up to 500 people in the service could be affected by the theft.

The information — which it is feared could be used for extortion — was stored on three computer hard drives that went missing from RAF Innsworth in Gloucestershire last September. It has been reported that the files were not encrypted. The nature of the information was outlined in an internal MoD memo that was obtained under Freedom of Information legislation.

It said: “This information included details of criminal convictions, investigations, precise details of debt, medical conditions, drug abuse, use of prostitutes, extra-marital affairs, including the names of third parties. The data is not routine vetting information, but relates to those cases that have been referred to RAF ? because the individuals have serious vulnerabilities that affect their suitability to obtain/retain a security clearance.” Details of the ministry’s internal memo will be revealed in the BBC2 programme Who’s Watching You, to be broadcast at 9pm tonight.

Yesterday, the ministry said that they had since interviewed all the people affected to warn them of the theft.

An MoD spokesman said on Sunday: “All individuals identified as being at risk received one-on-one interviews to alert them to the loss of data, and to provide them with advice on mitigating action. There is no evidence to suggest that the information… has been targeted by criminal or hostile elements.â€

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: Security Breach at Buckingham Palace: Report

A royal chauffeur allowed two undercover journalists into Buckingham Palace for cash and allowed one of them to sit in Queen Elizabeth II’s Bentley car, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

The News of the World tabloid said the security breach took place after two of its journalists, posing as wealthy businessmen from the Middle East, paid a chauffeur STG1000 ($2030).

The Bentley is used to drive the queen on state occasions. A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said: “Any security matter is taken very seriously and we will look into these allegations”.

The apparent breach would not be the first time security at Buckingham Palace has been violated in recent years.

In 2003, a journalist from the Daily Mirror newspaper got a job as a footman there with a false reference, allowing him access to the queen’s breakfast table and the bedroom where then US president George W Bush and his wife were due to stay on a state visit.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


UK: The Queen, Her Chauffeur and the Prostitute

A royal chauffeur was suspended on Sunday after reportedly giving two undercover journalists a tour of the Queen’s official cars in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, a spokeswoman said.

The News Of The World tabloid newspaper said its reporters, posing as wealthy Middle Eastern businessmen, paid the chauffeur £1000 ($2100) to let them in, after making contact through his prostitute girlfriend.

The Queen was in residence at the time of the alleged security breach on Friday, said the paper, which published photos of one of its reporters sitting in a royal Bentley, as well as video of the illicit tour.

“We can confirm an individual has been suspended pending an investigation,” a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said after the alleged incident, which follows a number of similar security gaffes in recent years.

London’s Metropolitan Police also said they were worried by the report.

“We are naturally concerned about the issues raised by this story and are liaising with palace officials about their staff security arrangements,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.

The two journalists got into the palace grounds without being searched or checked, despite walking right past a uniformed police officer in a security booth, the newspaper reported.

As well as the Bentley, which is used for state occasions, the chauffeur also showed the reporters the Queen’s personal car, a 2005 V8 Daimler with a floor specially raised to suit the monarch, it reported.

“She’s got slightly short legs, so the floor has been raised to suit her. It’s kind of built around her. It’s tailor-made for her,” the paper quoted the chauffeur as saying.

“She only uses it because it’s British and she got it at a discounted rate,” he added, before also showing the undercover reporters Princess Anne’s green Bentley.

The royal driver, Brian Sirjusingh, originally from Trinidad, also gave sensitive information including code names for two of the vehicles, pointed out security weaknesses in the cars, and revealed the Queen’s private travel plans for the weekend.

The tour was arranged after the newspaper contacted the chauffeur’s 21-year-old girlfriend, described as a £200-an-hour Lithuanian prostitute, and then pretended they were interested in seeing the royal cars.

The chauffeur did not know that his girlfriend worked as a prostitute, it added, quoting her as saying: “I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy to know it but he can’t really help me financially, so … “

The incident would not be the first time security at Buckingham Palace and other royal palaces has been violated in recent years.

In 2003, a journalist from the Daily Mirror newspaper got a job as a footman at Buckingham Palace — the monarch’s London residence — with a false reference.

This allowed him access to the Queen’s breakfast table and the bedroom where then US president George Bush and his wife were due to stay on an imminent state visit.

At Windsor Palace — the Queen’s favourite home, just west of London — two journalists from The Sun newspaper claimed to have smuggled a fake bomb past security days before the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in the town in 2004.

And in 2003, Aaron Barschak, a comedian dressed as Osama bin Laden, gatecrashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party at Windsor.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Kosovo: UNDP, 17% Lives With Less Than 93 Cents Per Day

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has announced that over 17% of the population in Kosovo live in extreme poverty, on less than 93 cents per day. Studies from the UN programme carried out across national territory, cited by the website Informest, show that unemployment and poverty are the major factors which could pose a threat to Kosovo’s stability. Almost 40 thousand people in the former Serbian province, out of a total population of around 2 million people, have no regular income and require government aid. State aid ranges from 54 to 75 euros per month, much less than what a family requires to lead a normal life in the country. The Deputy Minister for Labour and Welfare, Gjergj Dedaj, has said that over 150 thousand pensioners, who receive an average aid of 70 euros per month from the ministry, now fall into the category of those living in poverty. The UNDP report and figures from other international organisations show that around 37% of the population live below the poverty threshold on 1.42 euros per day. Emigration is a major factor in allowing families to overcome the minimum poverty threshold. In fact, over half a million Kosovans work in Western countries and send money back to their families, thereby financially supporting their loved ones from abroad. It has been estimated that one out of every five Kosovans has at least one family member abroad supporting them. However, due to the financial crisis and current social changes in Kosovo, remittances have been reduced. The UNDP says that Kosovo has the highest rate of unemployment in the Western Balkans, with around 45% of the active population unemployed. The population of the country is extremely young and half of its citizens are under age 25. UNDP research concludes that, as a consequence, each year around 30 thousand people enter the labour market — which at the moment is showing few signs of improvement. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Strong Quake Hits Macedonia Near Greek Border

SKOPJE, Macedonia — A strong earthquake struck southern Macedonia near the Greek border on Sunday night, damaging dozens of homes, an official said. No casualties were immediately reported.

The quake, with an epicenter near the Macedonian town of Valandovo, 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the Greek border, struck at 6:17 p.m. (1617 GMT), authorities said.

The temblor measured 5.1 on the Richter scale, the Geodynamic Institute at the University of Thessaloniki and Skopje’s Seismological Observatory reported. The U.S. Geological Survey gave a slightly higher magnitude: 5.4.

Initial estimates of earthquakes often vary.

The Skopje Observatory said that more than 70 temblors with a magnitude greater than 4 had been registered in the area since Saturday night.

Miso Taleski, the spokesman for Macedonia’s National Crises Center, told The Associated Press that no casualties were reported but that dozens of houses in the village of Bashiboz, near Valandovo, had sustained heavy damage.

“Our team is on the way to Bashiboz,” Taleski said. “The villagers have panicked.”

The earthquake also caused residents in the nearby towns of Strumica, Valandovo and Dojran to evacuate their homes.

No damage or casualties were reported in Greece.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Med: Censis; Demographics, How the Region is Changing

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 19 — The Mediterranean is currently witnessing a growth in population in recent years which, as a Censis report highlights, is due to “an extended improvement in health conditions which has led to a decline in the death rate and a consequent increase in individual life expectancy.” During the same period of time there has also been “an accented decline in fertility rate”, as in the case of Tunisia which has seen the average decrease from 3.4 children per woman to just 1.9. The overview of the region also demonstrated a series of changes in polarity on the demographic landscape. As, for example, the birth rate: that of Turkey (19 live births over the year for 1000 residents), Lebanon (18) and Tunisia (17) are just under 20, “but in any case rest at levels that are double the Italian national average.” The presence in the population of the countries involved in the research of youths under the age of 14 was also interesting. In Tunisia, the number of youths is almost double of that in Italy (25.4 compared to 13.9). 45% of the population of the Palestinian Territories is also in this category, 36 % percent in Jordan and Syria, 30% in Libya. This goes against the percent of the population in these countries that is over the age of 65, under 6% (while in Italy it is 19.9 %, Israel 10.1% and Lebanon 7.3%). Another interesting element is life expectancy which oscillates between 71 (Egypt, Morocco, Turkey) and 81 in Italy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Population Above 35mln, 28% Under 15

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 13 — In January 2009, Algeria surpassed 35.1 million inhabitants, with 28% of the population under the age of 15, said the National Statistics Office (ONS). Since 2008, specified the ONS, 663,000 births have been recorded, with 419,000 males and 398,000 females, with a birth rate of 1.91% compared to 1.86% in 2007. The infant death rate slightly decreased from 26.2 per thousand to 25 per thousand. Figures show that 28% of the total population is made up of individuals under the age of 15, while 64% of the population is between the age of 15 and 59. Only 7.6% of the population is over 70. Life expectancy, continued the report, is 74.9 years for men and 76.6 years for women. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Algeria: Minister to WTO, We Won’t Yield on Gas Prices

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 20 — The Algerian Trade Minister, El Hachemi Djaaboub, has said once again that Algeria will not change the price of natural gas on the domestic market, which is one of the conditions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in order for Algeria to gain membership. Algeria “is not willing to yield on the issue regarding natural gas prices” applied in our country, said Djaaboub, cited by APS. Negotiations for Algeria’s membership to the WTO have been ongoing since 1987, but various obstacles, including the natural gas price issue, continue to slow negotiations. The organisation asked Algeria to suspend state subsidies that lower natural gas prices on the domestic market, which is a violation of WTO regulations. The Trade Minister has also accused European countries of “not maintaining their promise to support Algeria to gain access to the WTO”. “It is written in black and white that in exchange for the association agreement, the Europeans should help Algeria enter the organisation, which they have not done as of yet,” added Djaaboub, who also criticised the EU’s refusal to eliminate a 13% tax on fertilisers produced by state run Algerian company Fertial. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Nuclear: Algeria, Civil Energy Access Should be Guaranteed

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 20 — “Access to civil nuclear energy should be left available to all countries which want to develop it”, Algerian Foreign Minister, Mourad Medelci, said today on his return from the Geneva Disarmament Conference. “Nobody can forbid a country for moving towards civil nuclear energy and Algeria has always supported its development in those countries which want it”, he added, clarifying: “Iran is a country which wants to develop civil nuclear energy and as for North Korea, it has not been established that the tests were linked to desire to develop nuclear weapons.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Netanyahu Defies Obama on Israeli Settlement Freeze

JERUSALEM, May 24 (Reuters) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rebuffed U.S. calls to impose a freeze on all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, setting the stage for friction with President Barack Obama.

“We do not intend to build any new settlements, but it wouldn’t be fair to ban construction to meet the needs of natural growth or for there to be an outright construction ban,” Netanyahu told his cabinet, according to officials.

The note of defiance came less than a week after Netanyahu held talks in Washington with Obama, who wants Israel to halt all settlement activity, including natural growth, as called for under a long-stalled peace “road map”.

Netanyahu’s comments reaffirmed a position he took in his bid for the premiership in a February election. By natural growth, Israel refers to construction within the boundaries of existing settlements to accommodate growing families.

Obama was expected to prod Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume long-stalled peace talks during a major speech in Cairo early next month.

Abbas has ruled out restarting those talks until Netanyahu, whose right-leaning government took office on March 31, commits to a two-state solution and halts settlement expansion.

Obama has surprised Israel with his activism on the settlement issue, but it is unclear how much pressure he will put on Netanyahu to freeze construction entirely, Israeli and Western officials said. Former President George W. Bush called for a freeze but building continued largely unchecked, Israeli anti-settlement advocacy groups say.

Half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.

The World Court says all are illegal. The United States and European Union regard them as obstacles to peace.

Palestinians see the settlements as a land grab meant to deny them a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

PEACE TALKS

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said the fate of existing settlements should be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians. “In the interim period, we have to allow normal life in those communities to continue,” he said.

Netanyahu has so far balked at committing to entering negotiations with the Palestinians on territorial issues.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu’s government hoped to sidestep U.S. pressure by committing to uproot smaller hilltop outposts built without official authorisation, a step also set by the road map.

“Moving on outposts is relatively easy” compared to freezing growth of larger settlements, which Israel wants to keep as part of any future peace deal, the Israeli official said.

Last week, Israel flattened a small outpost near the West Bank city of Ramallah, but residents returned to rebuild.

Ahead of Sunday’s cabinet session, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would remove more than 20 other outposts, either through negotiations or with force, but gave no timeline. (Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Philippa Fletcher) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to http://blogs.reuters.com/axismundi)

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu’s Peace Plan

by Barry Rubin

In his successful meeting with President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a superb, workable peace plan backed by a wide Israeli consensus

Those obsessed with whether Netanyahu would say the “two-state solution” mantra missed it.

In fact, though Netanyahu didn’t accept that framework precisely because he and his Labor party coalition partner are for peace.

If Netanyahu said “two-state solution” it would buy him moments of cheap praise. But then, experience shows, their attention would turn to just one theme only: getting Israel to make unilateral concessions and take dangerous risks.

In the conception of Netanyahu and Barak, the right kind of two-state solution is the only solution to the conflict. But how to ensure it does end the conflict rather than just make it bloodier and on worse terms for Israel?

Netanyahu made this clear in his joint press conference with Obama…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: the E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim

by Nadav Shragai

  • The E-1 area is a part of the Israeli city of Maale Adumim, located immediately adjacent to Jerusalem.
  • The main threat to Israel’s future contiguity comes from encroachments on E-1 made by illegal Palestinian construction. Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank has been governed by the legal terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement from September 28, 1995. The area around E-1 is within Area C, where, according to Oslo II, Israel retained the powers of zoning and planning.
  • As a result, much of the recently completed Palestinian construction there is illegal.
  • In contrast, none of the Oslo Agreements prohibited Israeli settlement activity, though Israel undertook unilateral limitations upon itself in this area in recent years.
  • Contrary to reports, the completion of E-1 would not cut the West Bank in half and undermine Palestinian contiguity. Israel has planned a new road that would allow Palestinian traffic coming from the south to pass eastward of Maale Adumim and continue northward to connect with the cities in the northern West Bank. This Palestinian bypass road would actually reduce the time for Palestinian drivers traveling in a north-south direction who would encounter no Israeli roadblocks.
  • Israeli construction of E-1 will not undermine Palestinian contiguity, but were Israel to lose control of E-1, the contiguity of Israel would be severely compromised…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanon: Gay Movement Protests Discriminatory Law

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — The Lebanese gay movement has come out into the open to protest against the law which punishes “unnatural sexual relations” with up to a year in jail. Helem (the ‘Dream’), which is the only gay association in the Arab world, is shortly to organise a petition to try and have the law removed from the statute book. Law 534 “clearly discriminates against homosexuals”, affirms Rabih, one of Helem’s coordinations who, just a few days ago, promoted a public discussion on the subject in a central Beirut theatre. The event marked an occasion for free expression by Beirut’s gay community, who covered the Babel theatre’s wall with anti-discriminatory messages, such as: “I am not a gay, I am a human being who loves cinema, music and men”; “the government has nothing to do with our bedrooms”; or “in our country it is normal to see men carrying a gun in their hand, but it is considered abnormal to see men holding each other’s hands”. On the theatre’s balcony, three young men wearing a rainbow badge — the universal symbol of the homosexual liberation movement — recounted episodes of abuse and discrimination. “We were stopped by the police who took us to a barracks and hit us and subjected us to a rectal exam to check if we were gay. All this because one of us was walking in an effeminate way”, one of them recalled. Helem (which in Arabic is an acronym for ‘Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders’) was founded in 2004 with the aim of uniting, protecting and offering medical and psychological assistance to Lebanese homosexuals. “Since last year we have carried out around 400 HIV tests”, noted Rabih as he spoke with ANSAmed, whilst also explaining that Helem is tied to a network of a further 50 associations which offer health services specifically for homosexuals who want to receive medical care anonymously. Social pressure is the biggest factor that weighs on the psyches of Lebanese homosexuals. “Most people think being gay is an illness”, explained Omar, 18, who is a new member of the movement. “As I did not hide my homosexuality my family forced me to go to a psychologist for three years. In the end I had to pretend to be ‘cured of my illness”‘. Discrimination in the family, among friends and also the challenge of accepting oneself are the most common problems dealt with by Helem psychologists. “These are problems which affect all social strata and confessional groups”, points out Georges Azzi, president of the association, noting that Helem is completely apolitical and has even carried out hassle-free sensitivity campaigns in areas controlled by Hezbollah. “For the moment our objective is not gay pride,” he says, “but to abolish discriminatory laws and at least be accepted by society”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Workers, Civil Servants Carry Heavy Tax Burden

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 20 — Turkey’s civil servants and private sector employees paid some TL 76.5 billion in income tax over the last five years, data from the Revenues Administration (GIB) have shown as reported by Today’s Zaman. Between 2004 and 2008, employees in the private sector and civil servants paid a considerable amount of their salaries to the state as income tax. Workers and civil servants paid TL 9.45 billion in income tax in 2004. This number rose to TL 12.65 billion, TL 15.5 billion and TL 18.9 billion in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively. Last year, the state collected some TL 19.9 billion in taxes from civil servant and private sector employees. The amount of taxes collected from employees and civil servants constituted 10.4 percent of Turkey’s entire tax income in this five-year period, during which the state collected a total of TL 732.6 billion in taxes. Adding in the value-added tax (KDV), motor vehicle tax, banking and insurance tax and private-consumption tax (OTV), the tax burden on wage earners has increased significantly, the GIB data showed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Leader of Human Rights and Eradicating Leprosy Dies

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 18 — Turkan Saylan, leader of human rights organizations and best known for eradicating leprosy campaigns in Turkey, died at 74 from cancer, daily Hurriyet reported. Saylan concentraded her career on leprosy in 1976 and founded the Society for the Struggle Against leprosy earning an international reputation for the wide-ranging medical, educational and social work on leprosy; in 1986 she received the International Gandhi Prize in India. In 1989 Saylan founded the Association for Supporting Contemporary Life (CYDD) to promote educational projects, including building schools, rehabilitation and cultural centers mainly for poor girls. She was recently questioned by police as part of the country’s controversial Ergenekon probe into an alleged network of suspects accused of aiming to topple the government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Expulsion History ‘Fascism, ‘ Says PM

ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent speech on the historical events of expelling ethnic identities out of Turkey, which he defined as a fascist act, is seen as a significant step by some commentators. However, the community members want to see action

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was fascistic to expel ethnic identities out of the country.

For experts, Erdogan’s speech on Saturday was a historic one, as it was the first time a high official accepted that there have been unlawful and undemocratic practices against minorities in the past. However, the speech should be supported by acts to solve minority problems, according to community members.

Erdogan spoke in the western province of Düzce at the Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, usual provincial congress. He harshly reacted to criticism from opposition parties about a tender for a mine clearing operation along the Turkey-Syria border and said: “Capital has no religion, nationality or race.” He said they made the same mistake before, referring to the reluctance of allowing foreign companies to invest in Turkey.

“This is a historical speech. The prime minister criticized history on behalf of the state,” Rıdvan Akar, editor-in-chief of news program “32. Gün,” told daily Vatan yesterday.

Erdogan’s speech is seen as a reference to the Sept. 6 and 7 events in Istanbul in 1955 when many Greek shops and houses were pillaged by crowds after false news reported that Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s house in the Thessaloniki neighborhood of Greece was burnt down. After the pogrom, many Greek people who were born and lived in Istanbul had to leave the city.

Kezban Hatemi, a lawyer, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the country lost its glamour after the events of Sept. 6 and 7 adding: “The prime minister’s speech reveals that they [the government] are showing an effort in removing the obstacles in front of democracy.” Hatemi said Erdogan’s speech was not an apology but the first clear remark from a top official on the unlawful approach to minorities in Turkey.

Laki Vingas, a member of the community representative assembly at the General Directorate for Foundations, said there have been positive developments during the AKP’s term in government. Vingas said they used to think about ways to leave the country Although Greek community members in Turkey believe Erdogan’s remark was significant, they want to see action before they believe in the speech. Words alone do not solve the current problems the communities face in Turkey, according to Mihail Vasiliadis, editor-in-chief of the Apoyevmatini, a Greek-language Istanbul newspaper. Self criticism is good, but not enough, Vasiliadis told the daily Vatan. “I have heard things like that before and have gotten excited, but now the continuation of those speeches should come,” said Vasiliadis.

“I have heard things like that before and have gotten excited, but now the continuation of those speeches should come,” said Vasiliadis. The current problems mentioned are assets and land taken from minority foundations and the Halki seminary on Heybeliada.

Cengiz Aktar, a columnist at the Hürrıyet Daily News & Economic Review, said it was important to mention the discrimination and assimilation committed against ethnic identities, especially during the first eras of the Turkish Republic. “However, even the laws to protect the ethnic identities are not applied in reality. .

Meanwhile, opposition parties reacted to Erdogan’s speech. Onur Ã-ymen, vice president of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said associating Turkey’s history with terms like fascism through hearsay information is not right, news agency NTV reported yesterday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Russia

Putin Warns Outsiders Over Ukraine

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned the West on Sunday not to meddle in relations between Russia and Ukraine, according to remarks cited by state-run news agencies.

After laying a wreath at the grave of Anton Denikin, who fought against the Red Army after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and is now cast by the Kremlin as a patriot, Putin urged journalists to read Denikin’s diaries, RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass reported.

“He has a discussion there about Big Russia and Little Russia — Ukraine,” they quoted Putin as saying. “He says that nobody should be permitted to interfere in relations between us, they have always been the business of Russia itself.”

Portions of present-day Ukraine were part of pre-Revolutionary Russia and were sometimes called “Little Russia” or “Lesser Russia,” while the bulk of the country was known as “Great Russia.” Many Ukrainians find the terms offensive and misleading.

Putin’s remarks came as the dominant Russian Orthodox Church called for Slavic unity amid celebrations honoring Saints Cyril and Methodius, considered founding fathers of a common Slavic culture.

But the comments could anger Ukrainians and increase their wariness about Moscow’s intentions toward the former Soviet republic.

Ukraine has been independent since 1991, when the Russian-dominated Soviet Union collapsed. But Putin’s remarks seemed to suggest that Moscow’s close historical ties with Ukraine means gives it a measure of influence that other countries cannot claim.

The remarks come amid competition between Russia and the West for influence in Ukraine.

Russian officials have said they are determined to keep Ukraine out of NATO. For some Ukrainians, Russia’s war last year against pro-Western Georgia was a chilling suggestion of how far Moscow is willing to go.

Russian nationalists want to regain the Crimean Peninsula, which was made part of Ukrainian Soviet Republic by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s. There is tension between Russia and Ukraine over Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which Ukrainian leaders have said they will evict from the Crimean port of Sevastopol when the current lease runs out in 2017.

Denikin, who died in exile in the United States in 1947, was reburied in 2005 in the cemetery Moscow’s historic Donskoy Monastery.

Putin’s visit to his grave was a reflection of how the prime minister, a longtime KGB officer who was president from 2000-2008, has celebrated individuals and images from both the Soviet era and czarist times in a drive to instill pride in Russians.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Fragile Nepal: the Battle Ground for the War India vs. China

This country has always had to balance itself between the two giants, China in the North and India in the South. India fears a shift in favor of China, with the Maoists going to power in the Nepal. Whilst the present crisis relents this procedure it also tends to create difficulties in the equilibrium of the region.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The political crisis in Nepal deepened, after the Prime Minister and Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) resigned on the 3rd of May. His decision to resign was inevitable after the President, Rama Baran Yadav, asked the army chief to ignore the prime minister’s order to resign. Prachanda wanted the integrate 19000 guerilla fighters into the army that had been under his leadership for ten years and had fought for the transformation of Nepal from a monarchy to a democracy. The army chief General Rukmangad Katawal was not in favor of this integration, and that’s the reason why the prime minister wanted to dismiss him.

Katawal underwent his training in the Indian military academy and is considered as a guarantee by the Indian government against excessive influence of China. The Indian media commented the resignation of Prachanda as a right decision, considering the fact that the Maoist leader had lost the confidence of the major allies in the government. While India tried its best to prevent the Maoist prime minister from sacking the army chief, China made it clear to that it would give its entire support for the opposite

Nepal’s geographical location between the two Asian giants —India and China- also introduces a underlying element for the battle for power. This is further compounded by the long drawn out low intensity conflict against the monarchy led by the Maoists, supported by China, that began in 1994 with the formation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led by Prachanda. King Gyanendra tried to win over the guerillas offering them participation in the government but finally had to give up the kingdom in April 2006.

As his first visit abroad, the prime minister chose Beijing and then New Delhi. Lately he was planning a second visit to China in order to finalize a treaty of friendship, but could not due to his downfall. On the other hand he spoke about revising the treaty signed with India in 1950. In an interview to an Indian newspaper he said that “there are great foreign powers that back our enemies. There are forces that did not want this visit (to China)”.

The case of the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu is another example of how Nepal is trying to free itself from the Indian patronage. Since time immemorial this temple was ministered by the Indian Brahmins. Recently the Nepalese Government has issued a regulation that enables the Nepalese citizens to become priests of the famed Pashupatinath Temple. It should be kept in mind that under the monarchy, Nepal officially was the only Hindu state in the world. Now they have freedom of religion. And this has furthermore irritated the Hindu nationalists.

Considering the long border they share, close cultural and economic ties, the presence of militant Maoist groups in India and the ever growing influence of Beijing , it would be naïve to expect New Delhi to be a passive onlooker in the unfolding drama. Sections of the political class in Nepal tend to blame India for its woes and want closer ties with China to counter the influence of India in the region. The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, commenting the events, said: “Today there is lack of stability in our neighboring nations, be it Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. And this could also affect the security of our country.”

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


India: Orissa, Patnaik Wins: the Ballot Box Awards the Governors Decision to Break With BJP

Biju Janata Dal wins the states majority in parliament. For Sajan George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians, it’s a vote against Hindu extremism. Now the new government must “deliver justice to the Christians of Kandhamal”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The party of the outgoing governor Navin Patnaik (see photo) wins by a landslide in Orissa and the Bharatiya Janata Party (Bjp) is defeated. The electoral earthquake that is taking shape in the victory of the United Progressive Alliance (Upa) and Congress takes on a new significance in the state sadly infamous for anti-Christian violence.

The people of Orissa were called to choose their representatives for the Lok Sabha, the National parliament and also for their state assembly. They chose the Biju Janata Dal (Bjd) led by Patnaik to whom exit polls have adjudicated 100 of the 147 available seats in the National Assembly.

Reached by AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (Gcic), affirms that the vote has awarded Patnaik’s decision to break with Bharatiya Janata Party a few months ahead of the elections. A risky decision that rocked the Orissa government ahead of the National vote forcing Patnaik to find a new majority without Bjp support. The ballot box however, proved him right and now he is in no need of uncomfortable coalitions.

“Cutting ties with the BJP on the issue of Kandhamal has reaped rich dividends for Patnaik” said George. The now confirmed governor had been widely criticised for his inaction over the anti-Christian violence in the state and particularly in Khandamal. The local Christian community was highly critical of his failure to stand up to Hindu extremists for fear of his ally Bjp.

The Gcic president says he now expects that “since the hands of Patnaik are freed, he can now uphold the Constitution and take steps to for Justice to our Kandhamal Christians”.

According to Gerorge the Orissa vote is a clear rejection of the extremism of nationalist movements: “the Indian voter has decided against their communal agenda”.

(NC)

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


Sri Lanka: European Union Demands ‘War Crimes’ Inquiry

Brussels, 18 May (AKI) — European Union foreign ministers have called for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by Tamil Tiger militants and the Sri Lankan military during the fierce conflict in the country’s north. At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, ministers from the 27 member states said they were appalled by the high number of civilian casualties.

The EU urged the Sri Lankan government to allow United Nations aid workers access to the war zone to ease the humanitarian crisis.

The European action came as Sri Lankan security forces claimed to have killed Tamil Tiger leader and founder Vellupillai Prabhakaran as he tried to flee the war zone on the northeast of the island. State television announced the death of the 54-year-old on Monday.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as the Tamil Tigers are commonly known, are trained to commit suicide rather than surrender. The guerrilla leader reportedly wore a cyanide capsule around his neck, like many other Tamil Tigers.

Sri Lanka’s civil war may be at an end, but the fate of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone remains unclear.

The EU ministers called for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes committed not just by the Tamil Tigers, who have long been on the EU’s list of banned terrorist groups, but also by the government.

“There have been very grave allegations on all sides and the British position is always that whenever serious and credible allegations are made they should be properly investigated,” British foreign secretary David Miliband said.

“Secondly, there’s obviously a crying need for an inclusive political settlement — the tens of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians want to be Sri Lankan citizens of equal rights and equal value.”

The EU is pushing for the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session on Sri Lanka next week, as it did in Burma, Darfur and the Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross renewed its concern about the humanitarian needs of the wounded and those trapped in the north-east of Sri Lanka.

“Under international humanitarian law, the lives of all those who are not or are no longer fighting must be spared. Wounded and sick people must be collected and cared for immediately, and detainees must be treated humanely,” said the Red Cross’ director of operations, Pierre Krahenbuhl, in Geneva.

“This is all the more urgent since no humanitarian aid has reached those who need it for over a week.”

The Red Cross has offered to help evacuate any remaining civilians from the area where the fighting has been taking place, care for the sick and wounded, and emergency aid for the displaced.

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

Far East

Korea: Pyongyang Executes Official Favourable to Dialogue With South

Choe Sung-chul was executed for the failed open dialogue policy with South Korea. But South Korean authorities have not confirmed the story. Some sources suggest instead that it might be counter-information released in the current situation in which North Korea is threatening to shut down the Kaesong industrial complex.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — North Korea’s Communist regime executed Choe Sung-chul, vice chairman of the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee and its point man for intra-Korean negotiations, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. The execution is said to have taken place last year but news of the death became public only in the last few days.

Choe Sung-chul disappeared from public sight early last year amid reports that he was removed from office for corruption.

Other North Korea experts said that he was killed because of the failure of the “sunshine policy” with the South.

The Sunshine policy refers to a process of incremental steps taken by the two Koreas to improve relations that was started in 1998 by then South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.

It led to two historic summits in 2000 and 2007 between North and South Korean leaders and to tentative economic and trade relations, including the creation of the Kaesong industrial zone.

The policy was halted in 2008 when Lee Myung-bak was elected. As South Korea’s new president he placed conditions on continued aid and bilateral talks such as ending North Korea’s nuclear programme.

According to unofficial sources, Choe Sung-chul became the scapegoat for cooler North-South relations, accused of making the “wrong” predictions about the open dialogue policy, which did not provide Pyongyang whit the expected outcomes, and for the shift in policy by the current conservative president.

South Korean authorities have not officially confirmed the news. In a meeting with journalists South Korea’s Unification minister said he could not substantiate the information.

However, North Korea has a record of punishing officials for wrong policy outcomes. In 1997 Soe Gwan-hee, secretary of the agricultural department, was held responsible and then executed for the famine that hit North Korea during the 1990s causing untold hardships for millions of North Koreans.

Choe Sung-chul seems to have received the same treatment for the failure of the dialogue policy with the South.

An anonymous South Korean official also said that the whole thing might be counter-information in the current situation that sees North Korea threatening to shut down the Kaesong industrial complex.

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

Australia — Pacific

Good Samaritan Hunted and Killed in Front of Friends

FRIENDS of a good Samaritan stabbed to death after intervening in a fight had pleaded with his assailants to leave him alone.

Danielle Mitchell, the sister-in-law of Luke Mitchell and one of four women with him when he was attacked in Brunswick early yesterday, told Channel Nine she called out “stop, stop, leave him alone”.

Brother of murdered good Samaritan Luke Mitchell tells 3AW radio’s Neil Mitchell his death was a tragic and unnecessary loss of a ‘beautiful, beautiful person’.

Police said Mr Mitchell, a 29-year-old chef from Sanctuary Lakes, near Point Cook, died in hospital yesterday after a group of men involved in a fight he broke up followed him and set upon him.

Despite the appeals of four women with Mr Mitchell, he was stabbed five times and two of the offenders, described as of Asian appearance, also kicked him as he lay on the ground.

Detective Sergeant Peter Trichias of the homicide squad said Mr Mitchell was trying to do the right thing. His death comes amid a State Government ad campaign that says breaking up a late night fight is “a smart move”.

Victoria Police spokesman Senior Constable Wayne Wilson said: “It is a judgement call for each individual to make according to the situation they face.”

Crime victims advocate Noel McNamara said the idea of good Samaritans was under threat.

“The message that comes across loud and clear is that if you do intervene, your life expectancy will come to a sudden end and that’s the terrifying thing for people,” he said.

Premier John Brumby said it was cowardly and un-Australian to target someone trying to break up a fight.

The man’s death came in a night of violence that included two young Indian men being attacked with a screwdriver, a third hit over the head with a bottle and a fourth man suffering head injuries after a clash with gatecrashers at a party in Hadfield.

One of the injured men was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver and is fighting for his life in the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Mr Mitchell was attacked about 2am on Sunday outside a 7-Eleven store in Brunswick Road and Royal Parade, Brunswick, shortly after he stopped at the store while a woman with him bought cigarettes.

Police said the attackers had followed Mr Mitchell, who had intervened in a fight two blocks away, near the corner of Wilson Avenue and Sydney Road.

7-Eleven employee Pradeep Kilapalli said he saw the attackers arrive in a Mercedes Benz. A colleague had told him he saw “one guy was holding him and another guy was bashing and stabbing him.”

Police are appealing for the assault victim rescued by Mr Mitchell to contact them and are examining CCTV footage.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Samaritan Dies After Vicious Attack

A man who was stabbed after trying to break up a brawl outside a Melbourne nightclub this morning has died in hospital, police say.

The man stepped in when he saw three Asian men assaulting another man near the Spot nightclub in Sydney Road, Brunswick.

But the group responded by attacking him with a broken pram.

As they left the shop about 2.16am, a car with four Asian men pulled up and two got out and attacked the victim.

The 29-year-old man was stabbed five times and kicked while he was on the ground, as onlookers pleaded with the attackers to stop.

The attackers fled in their car.

The man, from Sanctuary Lakes in Melbourne’s southwest, underwent emergency surgery at Royal Melbourne Hospital this morning but later died.

The homicide squad is now investigating the death.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalia: Heavy Fighting Between Army and Insurgents, Civilians Fleeing Capital

Heavy fighting is underway since early this morning in different neighbourhoods of Mogadishu between pro-government forces and the al-Shabab (literally ‘youths’) insurgents, which control south Somalia and vast central zones. Local MISNA sources refer that the soldiers and militia close to the government of Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke launched a counteroffensive to regain positions lost in the past weeks. Fighting is taking place near Villa Somalia, set of the presidency, and the main Bakara market in Mogadishu. The city’s main Medina Hospital has so far counted three dead and 22 wounded, but medical sources told MISNA that the number of victims is much higher, though due to the fighting rescue operations are very difficult. Despite being Friday — day of rest and prayer for Muslims — the hospitals are all working, with personnel called back to service and ambulances coming and going non-stop. The fighting also caused a new flow of displaced: thousands of civilians are abandoning Mogadishu in direction of Balad and Afgoye, taking advantage of a break in the torrential rain that yesterday killed 11 children. In response to the offensive of the al-Shabab that have seized towns along the road to Mogadishu (such as Jowhar, where they formed an Islamic administration and in the past hours four people were killed), the government ordered the distribution of weapons to militia groups and citizens working in the civil service; training courses are being held in the army bases.

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

Immigration

Italian Patrol Boats Arrive in Libya

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 20 — This morning three patrol boats of the Italian Financial Police, which Italy had donated to Tripoli to combat illegal immigration, arrived in Libya. The boats, according to reports, arrived at the port of Zuwarah near Tripoli, which will be the point of departure for patrols of the Libyan coasts. In the past, the port was where hundreds of rafts departed for Italy. Another three patrol boats will be sent soon, which will begin to operate in a few days when Italian observers and Libyan authorities finish planning the patrols. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Disdain and Shock in African Media on Security Bill

“The boot becomes too tight”, headlines ironically Ouagadougou’s Le Pays newspaper, adding that from now on Italy “will be infernal for illegal migrants”. Newspapers of many nations of the Sub-Saharan region commented the “security package”, the controversial Italian bill that in the next days will pass to the senate for approval. Like other papers of Burkina Faso, Le Pays highlights the key points of the bill, from the introduction of the crime of illegal immigration to the extension from two to six months of possible detention in the Identification and Expulsion Centres (CIE), and also the discrimination between citizens and “illegals” in access to essential public services. Yaoundé’s Cameroon Times writes: “Under the pressure of the extreme right, lawmakers in Rome last week adopted a law that places Italy among the most severe European nations in the fight against ‘illegal’ immigration”. Seen from the south of the Sahara as opposed to the Italian Montecitorio parliament building, migrations are a phenomenon beyond the logic of a brief period and “emergencies”. The Cameroon Tribune writes: “History shows that until the end of World War II Europe was a continent of emigrants. Tens of millions of Europeans departed for Northern America and Latin America in search of a better life, to escape the misery of war. Today the context changed because of the enrichment of Europe, which now is afraid of the masses of poor people arriving from abroad that represent a threat to the security of its citizens”. The Italian government, according to many African papers, is short-sighted: “Laws against illegal immigration can even be rigid but will never dissuade those who want to change life and seek fortune in Europe. Even those rejected in the Mediterranean say they will attempt again as soon as possible, because they have lost all hope in their nation of origin”, writes the Cameroon Tribune. The Yaoundé paper concludes with an appeal to African governments, seen as equally responsible for the suffering and injustice at the root of some many departures: “Leaders of the continent must have a patriotic awakening and crate on all levels the adequate conditions for youths to no longer be forced to risk their lives on makeshift boats toward a hypothetical Eldorado”. An African viewpoint on migrations was expressed in the past days by Senegal’s former president and Secretary General of the International Francophone Organisation (OIF), Abdou Diouf, at a ceremony at the University of Reims, in France, reminding that in the world around 1-billion people are without access to drinking water. It is natural, according to the former president, that “millions of people without a future venture toward the land of plenty, the Eldorado”. Diouf, awarded the “honoris causa” doctorate before a crowd of students and academics, gives voice to the disdain and shock of Africa: “Barbed wire, detention camps and quota policies are useless against the force of desperation”.

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


Stop Mediterranean Mafia, Ronchi Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 21 — “We need to stop the Mediterranean mafia” and “put an end to this new slave market”. Italy’s minister for European policies Andrea Ronchi was speaking about immigration during the recording of the next show of ‘Telecamere’, which will be broadcast next Sunday on Raitre. Pointing to the agreement signed with Libya, Ronchi specified that he expected a great deal from the “telephone subscribers” (Tripoli has supplied a list of these), which should shed some light on phonecalls made from vessels carrying illegal immigrants to Italian numbers. Ronchi emphasised that the “new slavery” must be fought, and thanked police chief Antonio Manganelli for his contribution in this sector. Then again, he added, as regards the problem of illegal immigration (which “cannot be solved through domestic policies”), Europe “has abandoned us”. The EU should instead have a “clear policy, with no ifs or buts”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Billionaire Club Conspire to Reduce Population

SOME of America’s leading billionaires have met secretly to consider how their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population and speed up improvements in health and education.

The philanthropists who attended a summit convened on the initiative of Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, discussed joining forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change.

Described as the Good Club by one insider it included David Rockefeller Jr, the patriarch of America’s wealthiest dynasty, Warren Buffett and George Soros, the financiers, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, and the media moguls Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey.

[…]

They gathered at the home of Sir Paul Nurse, a British Nobel prize biochemist and president of the private Rockefeller University, in Manhattan on May 5. The informal afternoon session was so discreet that some of the billionaires’ aides were told they were at “security briefings”.

Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said the summit was unprecedented. “We only learnt about it afterwards, by accident. Normally these people are happy to talk good causes, but this is different — maybe because they don’t want to be seen as a global cabal,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Cannes: All Eyes on Unorthodox Passions

(ANSAmed) — CANNES — As a conclusion of an edition of the Cannes festival in which homosexual love held a place of honour and was treated under all aspects imaginable, a film was screened in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section which represented this year’s most authentic scandal. It is entitled ‘Eyes Wide Open’, directed by Israel’s Haim Tabakman and created through a coproduction with France and Germany due to the fact that it was impossible to find the necessary funds in his home country. Seeing the much disputed passion between Aaron and Ezri shown on the screen it is easy to understand why. The two men both belong to the ultraorthodox community of Tel Aviv and deeply respect the religious and moral laws of Judaism, but at the same time they do not wish to kill the passion that binds them together. Aaron is a respected shop owner, married to Rivka and a happy father to four children. But when one day he meets Ezri, a young student, he can not control himself. Feelings of guilt, pain over betraying his wife and above all growing community pressure cause him to make the most extreme choice. The first film of a director that handles the story with a great level of skill, the ex-pupil of the Cannes Cinefoundation, Haim Tabakman successfully adapts the screenplay written by Merav Doster which was dug up after seven years. “The problem with the scandal of homosexuality between practicing Jews”, the director said, “is that according to the Talmud, homosexuality is not necessarily a sin, it simply does not exist, it is a disease which can be fought against and won. When you are religious to the core, like my two main characters, there are only two possibilities, fight what the elders consider an evil tendency, or live the passion, ending the isolation and forgetting the criticism of friends and relatives.” In order to understand how the film could shock the public in Israel, all that needs to be said is that the orthodox community barred the film from being shot in Jerusalem due to excessive pressure and the main character, Ran Danker (a music star) risked all of his popularity by breaking an authentic taboo. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Cannes: Jaffa, Romeo and Juliet Victims of Conflict

(by Antonella Tarquini) (ANSAmed) — CANNES, MAY 21 — Keenly awaited by cinema buffs, Jaffa is the dramatic story of a Palestinian Romeo and an Israeli Juliet as told by Israeli director Keren Yedaya, whose praise was sung by the critics for her debut film, Mon Tresor, at Cannes in 2004, where it won the Golden Camera. Her new film has been presented off competition at the film festival, says French paper Liberation: “A revival for Yussef Chahine, but in the shadow of a decidedly gifted director”. The complicities and rivalries between Arabs and Israelis take place against a background of a family-run garage, where the Israelis are the masters and Arabs the employees and where a love affair develops between childhood sweethearts Mali (a magnificent Dana Ivgi) and Tawfiq (Mahmoud Shalaby), the skillful mechanic detested by Meir (Roy Assaf), the arrogant, reactionary, racist and idle boss’s son who is in continual struggle with his father (Moni Moshonov, famed actor of Israeli cinema) and mother Osnat (Israel’s Anna Magnani, Ronit Elkabetz), much less patient than her husband and less tollerant both of the son and of “the Arabs, who wéll have to throw out of the garage”, meaning Tawfiq and his mechanic father. Tawfiq suffers Meir’s harassment in silence, preparing to elope with Mali. The girl is expecting a baby, and they decide to marry in secret before presenting the family with a fait accompli. Meir and Tawfiq’s differing relationships with their fathers scuppers their dreamt-off elopement. Thrown out of the house after yet another row, the drunken Meir insults the father of the young Palestinian, who comes to his defence. In the ensuing fight between the two youths, Meir falls and bangs his head. He dies in the hospital: Tawfiq goes to prison for nine years, convinced that Mali has had an abortion. But the girl throws the wedding dress in a dustbin and keeps the child, which grows up with the Reuvens, who have moved to another town and are unaware of the baby’s true father. That is until, nine years later, Tawfiq leaves prison and learns from Mali that he has a daughter. Jealousy, suspicion of having been betrayed, the reunion is difficult and tormented and costs Mali separation from her parents who, apparently open to dialogue, cannot forgive her for having had a child by the person they consider their son’s murderer. The story is summarised in two striking images that open and close the film. The opening titles see birds first entrapped and then freed to continue their flight: the closing titles show the nine-year-old girl playing among the rocks between the beach and the sea, looking both at her parents in the middle distance and at us. The new family is looking for itself, studying itself to make up for the nine years of enforced separation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gore, Others Urge CEOs to Back Climate Change Deal

COPENHAGEN — Climate-change heavyweights U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and Nobel prize winner Al Gore urged more than 500 business leaders on Sunday to lend their corporate muscle to reaching a global deal on reducing greenhouse gases.

The CEOs of PepsiCo, Nestle, BP and other major world businesses began meeting in Copenhagen, where politicians will gather in December to negotiate a new U.N.-brokered climate treaty.

Despite the global financial crisis, both Ban and Gore said there was no time for delay in hashing out the specifics of how to cut greenhouse gases that contribute to warming the planet.

“We have to do it this year. Not next year. This year,” Gore said. “The clock is ticking, because Mother Nature does not do bailouts.”

The three-day World Business Summit on Climate Change is a precursor to the negotiations to determine what will succeed the Kyoto climate treaty that expires in 2012.

“Continuing to pour trillions of dollars into fossil-fuel subsidies is like investing in subprime real estate,” Ban said. “Our carbon-based infrastructure is like a toxic asset that threatens the portfolio of global goods, from public health to food security.”

A new global warming treaty would build on the Kyoto treaty’s mixed success in requiring that 37 industrialized nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Gore said any of the ambitious treaty goals being discussed will depend on CEOs working out greener ways of doing business and governments reining in unrestricted pollution.

“The business community and the leaders of the world must go together to safeguard the world,” he told a forum that even drew Queen Margrethe of Denmark.

Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China’s national development and reform commission, pledged to play “a positive and a constructive” role to reach a global climate treaty, and already is putting in place its climate plan for 2015 and beyond.

“During negotiations, developed countries always hope that a future China may do much better and greater efforts on addressing climate change issues,” he said.

Rajendra K. Pachauri, head of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Gore, said already “we are perhaps at the upper range” of predicted higher temperatures this century.

“We have a very short window of opportunity,” he said. “If we want to limit temperature increase to about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), then emissions globally must peak by 2015.”

About 300 anti-globalization activists marched Sunday toward the convention, heavily guarded by police. Some 40 teenage activists were handcuffed with plastic strips and detained after they were caught in woods nearby.

The police removed two water pistols from one of them; another was carried away by three officers.

Erik Rasmussen, the conference organizer, said business leaders are mulling specific and binding targets for reducing greenhouse gases within 10 years and 20 years that would be announced at the end of the conference.

Anders Eldrup, CEO of Danish state-controlled oil and gas group DONG Energy, said businesses face a big choice.

“There are two tracks being discussed now, one a tax on CO2 and a cap-and-trade,” he said, leaning toward the carbon tax.

However, Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s climate minister, told The Associated Press the best solution is global limits on pollution blamed for global warming instead of a tax on carbon dioxide and other warming gases.

Hedegaard urged businesses to back such limits, called cap-and-trade, which require governments to issue pollution allowances, or permits, to businesses that could be traded.

“I would hope that they would sort of agree that some kind of cap and trade will be the most efficient tool to achieve what science tells us what we must achieve,” she said. “A carbon tax — you can just pay that tax — but you must also have the caps so that you start innovating from there.”

An emissions trading plan advanced in the U.S. Congress last week, increasing the likelihood that the full House of Representatives will for the first time address broad legislation to tackle climate change later this year.

Gore predicted it would pass the House, gain Senate approval and be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The United States has said it is committed to reaching a deal in Copenhagen as long as other major polluters such as China and India do their part as well.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


The Pope, Arabic Islam and the West

The Islamic media’s criticism of Benedict XVI is nothing in the face of the wealth of his proposal. Dialogue with science is essential for the Arab world, at a standstill for centuries; it is crucial that the West does not close itself into relativistic ideologies that despise faith.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land has been shrouded in controversies that kick up clouds of dust without ever catching a glimpse of the truth. The fact is that the Pope’s message to the people of that land, Christian and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian, is vital for peace in the region.

True brotherhood between Christians and Muslims in Jordan

In particular in Jordan, Benedict XVI laid the basis for collaboration between Muslims and Christians, East and West. There is a notable difference between what the Muslim world wrote about in the press and the attitude in Jordan. Many Arab papers dragged up the so called “Regensburg offence”, the demand for an apology for the offensive against Islam etc….Instead the atmosphere that we witnessed in Jordan was serene, welcoming and of shared trust.

The pope sincerely praised efforts being made by the Jordanian monarchy, the king, Prince Al-Ghazi, Queen Rania, who accompanied him to the University of Madaba, to bless the foundation stone. The same Catholic University of Madaba —wanted by the Latin Patriarch emeritus Michel Sabbah — is a sign of the cordiality shared by Christians and Muslims: a Catholic University that opens with the support, even economic, of the Hashemite Royal Family.

This is the fruit of a politics that goes beyond tolerance of Christianity. My experience in Jordan — I was there on 3 occasions last year and twice met with Prince Hassan — was one of an atmosphere of serenity and friendship, one I have, so far, failed to find in another Islamic nation.

This allowed small gestures of hospitality and honour towards their guest the Pope. For example, for his visit to the “al-Hussein bin-Talal” Mosque in Amman, they allowed the pope to wear his shoes, placing a long carpet on the ground. Prince al-Ghazi also wore his shoes.

The atmosphere in Jordan inspired a message along the lines: we are all friends, Bedouins, Christians, Muslims. Jordanians insist on the fact that Jesus and Mary are part of the historic tradition of the nation, because they lived in Jordan (the site of the Baptism, Bethany, etc…) They believe that this land is sanctified by the presence of Jesus and the prophets.

Religion and science: sharpening “critical skills”

But his discourse at the University of Madaba is really the key point of this pilgrimage. The Pope underlined many things, but above all the importance of a serious and academic education of Christians and Muslims to favour personal development, peace and progress in the region.

The pope stressed the education offered by a university is the key to personal development; that peace is built on knowledge and study rather than ignorance; that an integral, economic and social, political and democratic development, is born of study and knowledge.

He develops this argument saying that the aim of a university is to transmit “love for truth” and promote students “adhesion to values”, strengthening their “personal freedom”.

It’s very important that in a Muslim (and Christian) world, often theocratic, the pope, before speaking of religion, speaks of culture and science. And the aim of science is to love and discover truth. He insists that this intellectual formation “will sharpen their critical skills, dispel ignorance and prejudice, and assist in breaking the spell cast by ideologies old and new”.

“Critical skills” are important in the Arab world: without criticism faith can become fanaticism, superstition or even manipulation. The pope touched on a point that is vital for the growth of the region: the absence of the critical eye, results in people following one or other political leader, without ever questioning the need for democracy, freedom, human rights, coexistence. People religiously follow, without ever questioning the principals of their own faith; holding onto traditions for fear of drowning in freedom of conscience. This is true of all religions not just Islam. Ignorance or prejudice, for the pope, threatens peace and dialogue.

And when he speaks of the “enchantment of ideologies” he alludes to the easy way people let themselves become consumed by fanaticism and violence.

He says: “Religion, of course, like science and technology, philosophy and all expressions of our search for truth, can be corrupted. Religion is disfigured when pressed into the service of ignorance or prejudice, contempt, violence and abuse”.

Benedict XVI puts all of these realities into the same boat because everything can be disfigured — even science. For him, what is important is that religion is not abused or disfigured.

Need for an “ethical knowledge”

Speaking in the Amman Mosque he also says that secular society often claims that religion is the root cause of violence. In reality that only happens when religion is “disfigured”, but this is the risk of all wisdom. This is why, quoting the Letter to the Philippians (4, 8), the pope exhorts everyone to bear witness to “all that is true, honourable, just, pure, worthy of praise”. He advises Christians and Muslims not to fear science, but to open their minds to it, even at the risk of their own faith. This is a courageous message to give in an Arabic society that risks seeing religion as a refuge.

But he also has a message for the scientific world, which often runs the risk of transforming itself into an ideology devoid of ethics and openness to God.

This element is also present in Regensburg. The pope underlines that even “sciences have their limitations. They cannot answer all the questions about man and his existence. Indeed the human person, his place and purpose in the universe cannot be contained within the confines of science”.

This is why scientific knowledge must be guided by the light of “ethical wisdom”. “Such is the wisdom that inspired the Hippocratic Oath, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and other laudable international codes of conduct”.

The pope illustrates this “ethical wisdom” by pointing to the oath written by the pagan Hippocrates in the III century B.C; then he speaks of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights; the Geneva Convention on conflict situations, it too, secular. He does not refer to religious elements. Thus he suggests that ethical wisdom can exist independently of religion. This is important for a traditionally Muslim or Christian society: it means dialogue at 360 degrees with everyone, even non-believers. But to non-believers he says that it is impossible to act without an ethical code, or a religious foundation, because in doing so something essential is missing from human formation.

Religion has suffocated the Arab

The function of the Catholic university is to form “qualified men and women, Christian and Muslim and of other religions”. It is not just a message for Islam. This is a call to ensure that religion is not disfigured; to take up the challenge of science to have a critical eye; to search for a religious and secular ethical code to create a community of different religions and non believers; I believe this an important issue in our Arab world.

The values cited by the Pope are those that many are in search of today and that we Arabs experienced in the past (in the period between 1860 and 1950, with the so-called ‘Renaissance’, Nahda), or in the medieval era (IX and XI centuries): at that time we witnessed a vibrant relationship between religion and science, with reciprocal discussion and critical dialogue, and challenges. But over the course of the past half century, this dialogue has disappeared, both at a scientific and religious level.

A few years ago Arab academics analysed the situation of scientific knowledge in the Arab world and wrote catastrophic report: from primary school to university the question of the Arab world’s contribution to universal knowledge was posed, and we discovered that it was non-existent. More recently on March 13th, the Algerian journalist Anwar Malek, speaking on Al-Jazeera TV, berated Arabs for having failed to contribute in anyway to progress in this century.

We really have regressed from the scientific point of view. And in the field of religion, we are being suffocated by a religion of form, increasingly controlled from the outside, careful to appearances (to wear the veil, beard, burqua, or Niqab), to the infinite rules that the Imam’s emit in their fatwa. It has come to the point that for even the smallest aspects of private and social life fatwa’s are necessary: it is forbidden to wear lipstick; pluck one’s eyebrows; eat with a Christian; for Shiites and Sunnis to live together…..Dozens and dozens of fatwa’s to regulate how we dress, how a husband and wife make love, how we spend money….All of this is suffocating freedom and it is seen in the absence of science, democracy and freedom.

Space for faith in western society

The pope’s simple, humble and courageous discourse, welcomes science, the critical spirit, freedom. He asks everyone to seek that which is good noble and just. At the same time, he proclaims the right to practice faith, urging the world of non-believers to find ethical foundations. In my opinion this message of Benedict XVI’s is a continuation of the Regensburg address on the relationship between faith and reason. There he developed the theme in a western, Christian context; here he developed it in a Muslim context.

To reduce this discourse to “something that is only for the Muslims” means being short-sighted. The pope spoke to the entire world, even to the west, which is still drowning in relativism, in lack of faith and in contempt for religions. In fact, in his discourse at the al-Hussein bin-Talal mosque the pope warned against the danger of secularism: “we cannot fail to be concerned that today, with increasing insistency, some maintain that religion fails in its claim to be, by nature, a builder of unity and harmony, an expression of communion between persons and with God. Indeed some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world; and so they argue that the less attention given to religion in the public sphere the better”.

This is a clear criticism of the relativism and atheism of the west. But he also corrects the Muslims by noting that there is some truth in this secular stance: “Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied?”. But he also clarifies that it is not religion in itself that is the problem, rather “the manipulation of religion”.

“Muslims and Christians,- he concludes — precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almighty’s decrees, merciful and compassionate, consistent in bearing witness to all that is true and good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of God’s creative design for the world and for history.”.

In this the affirmation that it our right to worship God in society. Just as there is the right not to practice religion, there is also the right to practise religion.

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

5 comments:

heroyalwhyness said...

Via Lionheart, videos contextualize the anti-extremist demo:

Video OneVideo TwoVideo ThreeVideo Four

laine said...

The Archbishop of Canterbury is giving out political advice on how to vote? The Druid? The chap who recommended incorporating shariah law into British law? Who seems to think that his duties are towards Muslims?

Kenny said...

Every day the Mirror has articles downing the BNP, but it's all emotive language and no facts. At no time do the authors make any attempt whatsoever to address immigration, Islam, etc. The free press, eh ...

Avery Bullard said...

It is hard to believe the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks he and his religion are of any relevance to Britain in 2009.

Abu Abdullah said...

The Luton disturbance as well as recent developments have been mapped here. The larger, stand-alone map is here. It will be updated as events occur.