Monday, May 25, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/25/2009The big news of the day is of course the detonation of another test nuclear device by the North Koreans. The Fox News article reports that the event was unexpected, even by our intelligence agencies. John Bolton was one of the few to predict it, which raises him even further in my esteem.

In other news, Facebook has been banned in Iran for moral reasons.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Insubria, JD, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Grand Juries Cite Obama for Ineligibility, Treason
Obama: Top Red’s Dream Come True
Obama Seizes Individually Owned Business
 
Europe and the EU
Cyprus: Caporal Billy the Goat to Retire
Italy: Rutelli, Now Berlusconi Will Want Podesta’
Switzerland: “Rich Ghetto” Building Scheme Sparks Protest
The West’s Friends and Enemies
 
Israel and the Palestinians
The Pope’s Toughest Job in the Holy Land: Winning Over the Christians
 
Middle East
Analysis: Damascus Gets What it Needs
Foreign Trade: Urso, Boom in Italian Investments in Turkey
Iran: Facebook ‘Banned’ for Moral Reasons
Israel: Netanyahu’s Peace Plan
Saudi Arabia: Elections Postponed, Women’s Suffrage Delayed
Trade: Italian Indesit to Increase Investments in Turkey
 
Russia
Moscow Sets Out to Conquer Mongolia’s Gold, Coal and Copper
 
South Asia
India: Demise of Regional Parties ‘the Real Game Changer’
India: The Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP) Lost Also Due to the Violent Attacks in Orissa
Sri Lanka: President Rejects War Crimes Allegations
 
Far East
China: New Raid on Disabled-Slaves in Anhui Brick Factories
North Korean Nuclear Test Catches U.S. by Surprise
 
Immigration
Health: Doctors Needed in Catalonia, 57% Come From Abroad
Italy’s Hard Line on Illegal Immigration
Syrian Wins Foreign Businessman of the Year

USA

Grand Juries Cite Obama for Ineligibility, Treason

Hundreds of ‘presentments’ being handed to prosecutors

Hundreds of “presentments” — or accusations assembled by citizen grand juries — are scheduled to be given to courts, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges and legislators across the United States by July 4 alleging that Barack Obama is ineligible to be president and his occupancy in the Oval Office constitutes treason.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama: Top Red’s Dream Come True

Communist Party official shares White House’s ambitious agenda

With Obama as president, health care and the economy can be “reformed,” U.S. troops can be evacuated from the Middle East, a second stimulus bill can be passed, the criminal justice system can be overhauled and union rights can be expanded — in other words, it’s a Christmas list come true — declared the leader of the Communist Party USA.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Seizes Individually Owned Business

This just gets worse and worse, folks. Except for a few of us, no one out there seems to be reporting the facts. Fear of the Dictator Obama (he appears to be more like Stalin than Hugo Chavez) is on the rise. Soon to be Obama-owned (under the cover of his government-takeovers) private sector business executives, workers, small business owners and even elected Congressional representatives and senators — from both sides of the aisle — are running scared of the despot-usurper. As it becomes more obvious that the Obama is — in fact — destroying the country to rebuild it in his own image (with all of us now working for him — not ourselves and/or our families), more and more people are cowering in what they hope will be the cover of shadows. Every day, Obama is on television — at least once/day — telling us what he is and will be doing. These items include unconstitutional activities and others that are patently against the laws of the United States of America. For example, under the US Constitution neither he nor any other POTUS has the authority to seize and nationalize private industry. But, he has. Obama does not have the authority to seize any private business. But, he seems to be doing just that.

Obama has seized both General Motors and Chrysler and essentially handed them to the UAW. He is closing down multiple Chrysler agencies. Jim Anderer owns — soon to be past-tense — a highly successful and high-performing Chrysler agency on Long Island. Anderer has been advised that his agency is going to be seized by the new ownership — as we already know this is Barack Hussein Obama. Other Chrysler agencies on Long Island are documented to not be fairing nearly as well. However, many of them — the “Obama-okayed” ones — are still planned to be in business.

Despite multiple letters, emails and phones calls, Anderer has been given no explanation as to why his dealership was targeted. On Neil Cavuto’s show, Anderer said “They won’t give us a solid explanation. They come up with all these reasons, but none of them seem to make sense” and “but I think there is a lot of favored dealers, there is some collusion.” Anderer continued with: “This is insanity. The government is stealing my business. Well, I cannot accept that as a patriotic American. I was raised in this country to believe that if I work hard and I achieve what I was going after — and I did! I did it! I got it, and now all of a sudden because, you know, we have a president who pushes Chrysler into bankruptcy and puts all of the UAW workers out…? Didn’t have to. Maybe some would have to go out but not all of them, okay. This doesn’t happen in America. This is still America, I think. I mean, this isn’t Stalinist Russia. This is not Nazi Germany where the troopers say you’re out and their buddies are in. That’s what I’m faced with.” The problem here is that America has become a Stalinist Amerika.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus: Caporal Billy the Goat to Retire

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 21 — He has seen service overseas, met royalty and led every battalion parade, but after eight years on the job, it is time for William Windsor to retire. But unlike other old soldiers, this veteran will be spending his final days in a zoo — because he is the regimental goat, better known as Billy. He spent two-and-a-half years in Cyprus when the battalion was posted over there and has lived in Chester since their return. During his time in Cyprus, he was even disciplined and temporarily demoted from his rank of Lance Corporal to Fusilier for not marching in time during a parade for the Queen’s birthday. His replacement will be chosen from a herd on the Great Orme in Llandudno in June. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Rutelli, Now Berlusconi Will Want Podesta’

(AGI) — Naples, 22 May — Following Silvio Berlusconi’s words to industrialists on the opportunity to ‘slim down’ parliament, Francesco Rutelli joked with journalists in Naples, saying: “I expect he’ll say that town councils are useless as well. We could just go back to the podesta’ [historical Italian position with full judicial and legislative powers]…maybe we’d waste less time, it’s the easiest way and there are less people to elect”. Rutelli then proceeded to attack the Italian prime minister, affirming that “unfortunately, democracy is a complicated procedure. Do we want to adopt a Chinese model with the Communist party and a free market? To pick-axe parliament and undermine the powers of the state will not improve the functionality of the institutions, it will only make it more fragile and drive away citizens’ confidence”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: “Rich Ghetto” Building Scheme Sparks Protest

Plans by the central canton of Obwalden to reserve sections of land for its wealthier inhabitants to build homes have been condemned as a form of “apartheid”.

The canton’s authorities have hit back at the mounting criticism, saying the rich provide valuable income for everyone. Obwalden has actively courted well-heeled newcomers since it revamped its tax system in 2006.

The decision on April 30 to grant building rights in prime locations only to those who could afford to pay more has rekindled arguments that the drive by jurisdictions in Switzerland to seduce millionaires is going too far.

Several cantons offer low corporate and income tax rates to persuade large companies and wealthy individuals to settle inside their borders — often from abroad.

Obwalden raised the bar in 2006 by voting for a regressive income tax that obliged low earners to pay a higher rate of tax than those who brought home fabulous salaries. This system was outlawed by the Swiss Federal Court 18 months later as being unconstitutional and was replaced with a flat-rate tax model.

" It is easy to understand the strategy [of tax reductions] but there is a danger that it could lead to a race to the bottom. "

Patrik Schellenbauer, Avenir Suisse Apartheid accusation

The latest move to make millionaires feel right at home has drawn fresh protests, largely from left-leaning political groups. Obwalden’s Green Party has lodged a protest against fields being concreted over and the centre-left Social Democrats want a referendum on the grounds the policy is anti-social.

Swiss Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger, a Social Democrat, has waded into the argument by publicly likening the planning policy to apartheid. His department denies giving Obwalden the green light to adopt the strategy.

Several legal experts have predicted a possible return to the Federal Court if objections gather pace.

The canton has responded sharply to certain criticism, saying Leuenberger’s remarks were “unacceptable”. On Wednesday, it issued a statement defending its right to make its own decisions.

“Canton Obwalden wants to provide an appropriate lifestyle, economic and recreational environment for its own inhabitants and for the welcome newcomers from other countries,” the statement read.

Cantonal authorities pointed out that they had relied on state subsidies to survive and were losing large numbers of people to cities before they enacted the policy to attract the wealthy in 2002. The number of companies in Obwalden had risen from 2,000 in 2005 to 3,153 by the end of 2008, while population numbers had also increased.

Social inequity?

Patrik Schellenbauer from think tank Avenir Suisse told swissinfo that the novel method of boosting finances in cantons including Zug, Schwyz and Valais, in addition to Obwalden, had raised serious issues.

“It is easy to understand the strategy [of tax reductions] but there is a danger that it could lead to a race to the bottom,” he said.

However, Schellenbauer was less impressed by arguments that Obwalden’s segregated planning system would create social inequity.

“If you look at countries like the United States or Britain, you will find rich people living in one area and poorer people living in others. It does not take a specific planning strategy to create these disparities in living areas.”

Matthew Allen, swissinfo.ch

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


The West’s Friends and Enemies

Daniele Castellani Perelli

Resetdoc actively joined in the international debate about the Afghan “Family Law for Shiites”. On our website we published the appeal and on-line petition to the Afghan government made by Emma Bonino, and this initiative did not escape the attention of Giuliano Amato, who asked why do moderate Muslims such as Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd and Tariq Ramadan remain silent. Abu Zayd has clarified his positions. Ramadan has not yet responded, but he will do it at the next Resetdoc Istanbul Seminars.

At the end of March the Afghan parliament approved a law making it compulsory for wives to have sexual relations with their husbands and forbidding them to look for work, be educated, leave the house or be visited by a doctor without their husbands’ permission. This law furthermore gives fathers and grandfathers exclusive custody of children. This instantly resulted in condemnation from western politicians and civil society, asking Afghan President Hamid Karzai to abolish this law, seen as the last of a never-ending series of concession to Islamic extremism (in this case Shiite, because the law is applied to Family Law for the Hazara ethnic group).

Resetdoc actively joined in the international debate and on our website we published the appeal and on-line petition to the Afghan government made by Emma Bonino, Vice-President of the Italian Senate and former Minister and European Commissioner. This initiative did not escape the attention of Giuliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister and former Vice-President of the Convention for the Future of Europe, who also signed this appeal. From the pages of Italy’s most important financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, Amato remarked on our commitment to this issue in an article inspired by the Afghan Law, in which he debated the relationship between the West and the Islamic world (a debate in which he played a leading role also when Minister for the Interior in the Prodi government)…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

The Pope’s Toughest Job in the Holy Land: Winning Over the Christians

The Israelis invited him, the Muslims are in favor of his visit. But not his own faithful in the area: most of the opposition to his trip has come from them. The reasons for the rejection. And the unknowns

by Sandro Magister

ROME, May 6, 2009 — The Sunday before leaving for the Holy Land, in a Saint Peter’s Square overflowing with faithful, Benedict XVI said in a few words what the aim of his trip will be:

“With my visit, I intend to strengthen and encourage the Christians of the Holy Land, who must face numerous difficulties on a daily basis. As successor of the apostle Peter, I will communicate to them the closeness and support of the entire body of the Church. Moreover, I will be a pilgrim of peace, in the name of the one God who is Father of all. I will bear witness to the Catholic Church’s efforts on behalf of those who strive to practice dialogue and reconciliation, in order to reach a stable and lasting peace in justice and mutual respect. Finally, this trip cannot help but have significant ecumenical and interreligious importance. From this point of view, Jerusalem is the city-symbol par excellence: it is there that Christ died in order to gather together all of the scattered children of God.”

From these words — reiterated at the general audience on Wednesday, May 6 — it can be gathered that in order to promote peace and dialogue among the peoples and religions in the Holy Land, the pope is relying first of all on the Christians living there.

A bold wager. It’s not only that Christians has been reduced to a tiny minority in the region, less than 2 percent of the population, which is mainly Jewish and Arab. It must also be kept in mind that the Christians in the area have been the most skeptical in reacting to the announcement of the pope’s trip. Many of them, including priests and bishops, have said that his visit is inopportune.

It has taken a great deal of effort to smooth over this front of rejection. The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, has confirmed this in an interview: the reasons of the opponents were even explained to Benedict XVI in person.

The main concern of the opponents was that the pope’s trip — in part because of his extremely positive stance on religious dialogue with Judaism — could be to Israel’s political advantage…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Analysis: Damascus Gets What it Needs

by Jonathan Spyer

In his letter to Congress announcing the renewal of US sanctions on Syria, President Barack Obama was specific regarding the reasons for his decision.

Syria, the President said, was “supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining US and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.”

These three accusations are related to verifiable activity currently being undertaken by the Damascus regime. Syria’s activity in turn reflects the firmness of the regime’s strategic choice to align itself with the regional alliance led by Iran.

Syria’s actions should be observed well by all those currently promoting the feasibility of a “grand bargain” between Israel and the Arab world. They are evidence of the reality of a Middle East Cold War, in which the fault lines are growing ever clearer.

First, let’s recall the details. With regard to supporting terrorism, it is well known that the leaderships of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are domiciled in Damascus. Syria has over the last decade built a close, mutually beneficial strategic relationship with Hizbullah. Damascus also serves as a large care home for various superannuated leftist Palestinian groups.

On weapons of mass destruction, reports have surfaced in recent days suggesting that the Syrians have constructed a biological weapons facility, on the site of the al-Kibar plutonium reactor destroyed by Israel in 2007. Certainly, Damascus’s interest in both biological and chemical weapons is long-standing…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Foreign Trade: Urso, Boom in Italian Investments in Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 22 — Italy is going against the grain on Turkish territory, while the rest of the world is reducing foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. In the first two months of 2009, Italy showed a growth in FDI of 53% compared to the previous year worth some 17.8 million euros. Reporting the encouraging data was Adolfo Urso, the vice-minister for economic development in charge of foreign trade, who also emphasised that “trade with Ankara registered positive in the first quarter of 2009, reaching 2.8 billion euros. It is a sign that we are on the right path and that the Mediterranean Plan, which was inaugurated here in Istanbul in order to identify new investment opportunities in the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, was the right step to boost our exports.” Urso met with members of the Italian entrepreneurial community today in the Turkish city for a conference entitled “Italy and Turkey: Close Countries for Strategic Partnerships”, organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Istanbul, the Italian Embassy and the Italian Consulate. Urso also met with his Turkish counterpart Zafer Caglayan. The mission, achieved together with the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) and Simest, also calls for particular attention to the issue of environmental sustainability and renewable energy, for which the CCIE in Istanbul is conducting a project in collaboration with the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Izmir and other Italian chambers of commerce in Europe and South America. “Contributing to the constitution of bilateral cooperation between Italian SMEs in the environment and energy sectors with their Turkish counterparts is one of the primary objectives of our environmental sustainability project”, Giuseppe Alberto Moggi, president of the Italian chamber of commerce in Turkey, explained. “There are many potential opportunities for Italian companies due to the current process of privatisation in the sector, promoted by Turkey’s Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA). The increasing attraction that the Turkish market is offering is also confirmed by the number of Italian companies in Turkey, which from 2004 to today has grown by 290 units reaching a total of 696 companies, 3.2% of the entire entrepreneurial framework and a stock of over 3.8 billion euros.” In 2008 Italy has positioned itself in first place among foreign countries that have won contracts from Turkish public administration (seven), worth some 626 million euros (38% of the entire amount allocated to foreign companies in 2008), with growth of 441 million euros compared to 2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Iran: Facebook ‘Banned’ for Moral Reasons

Tehran, 25 May (AKI) — One of Iran’s four presidential candidates said on Monday that the popular social networking site Facebook was banned in the country for moral not political reasons. Iran’s official labour news agency ILNA had said Facebook was banned so that Iranian users could not spread propaganda about moderate candidate and former prime minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi.

He is thought to be the main rival of current hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“As far as I know the blocking of this website was due to problems of morality but during this pre-election period, many issues are interpreted as political,” opposition and reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi said in a briefing to the media in the Iranian capital,Tehran.

Moussavi — who is supported by ILNA — is one of the four presidential candidates approved by the Iranian electoral watchdog or Guardian Council, out of an original 450 candidates. They will stand for election in the country’s upcoming polls on 12 June.

Earlier this year, Facebook had been unblocked by the Iranian judiciary but was again disabled last Saturday. ILNA claims the action was a political move against Moussavi by Ahmadinejad.

The other candidates include incumbent president Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second term in office, and Mohsen Rezaie, current secretary of Iran’s top political arbitration body, the Expediency Council, and former war veteran.

Iran’s Guardian Council is an unelected religious oversight body that vets all electoral candidates and assesses their moral values and support for the country’s system of Islamic government.

More than 46 million Iranians are eligible to take part in the presidential election on 12 June.

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


Israel: Netanyahu’s Peace Plan

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday was a baptism of fire for the new premier. What emerged from the meeting is that Obama’s priorities regarding Iran, Israel and the Arab world are diametrically opposed to Israel’s priorities.

During his ad hoc press conference with Netanyahu, Obama made clear that he will not lift a finger to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And acting as Obama’s surrogate, for the past two weeks CIA Director Leon Panetta has made clear that Obama expects Israel to also sit on its thumbs as Iran develops the means to destroy it.

Obama showed his hand on Iran in three ways…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Saudi Arabia: Elections Postponed, Women’s Suffrage Delayed

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, MAY 19 — The Saudi government has extended the mandate of city councils by two years, thereby postponing the elections in which women may have been allowed to join the political scene with their vote. A statement published yesterday by official press agency SPA tells how the Cabinet has taken this measure, which will come into force on October 31, in the light of the report by the Minister of Municipal Affairs on the “election experience of the city councils”, who took office after the first local elections four years ago. According to the statement, the government is hoping that by delaying the elections, it will be able to create more time to “broaden the participation of citizens in the management of local affairs”. The first local elections were organised in 2005 to elect half of the country’s 178 town councillors, with the other half appointed by the government. Women were not allowed to vote in the elections, which were won by the Muslim fundamentalists. Last month Prince Mansur bin Miteb, Deputy Minister for Local Authorities, said that women would be allowed to vote in the coming local elections, but that they could not stand as a candidate. Allowing women to vote would be the most important step forward in the difficult road to equal opportunities for Saudi women, after the appointment in February of Norah al Faiz as education minister. According to a Saudi analyst, King Abdullah wants to pave the way for reforms, including women’s suffrage, by postponing the elections. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Trade: Italian Indesit to Increase Investments in Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 22 — Italia’s Indesit company decided to increase investments in Turkey and is set to build its biggest refrigerator production facility in the Turkish Aegean city of Manisa, Anatolia agency reported. The Manisa factory was producing 400,000 refrigerators per year in 2006 and raised the number of fridges it was manufacturing to one million in 2008. Founded in 1975, the Indesit Company is now Europe’s second largest white goods maker. The Group generated sales of 3.2 billion euro in 2008. For over 30 years Indesit has been making washing machines, dryers, washer-dryers, dishwashers, fridges, freezers, ovens and hobs. It turns out around 15 million appliances a year. The Group has 18 factories located in Italy, Poland, UK, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Turkey and China while the commercial branches are 24 worldwide. The Group employs over 17,000 people. The Turkish factory is selling 80% of its production to UK, France and Italy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Russia

Moscow Sets Out to Conquer Mongolia’s Gold, Coal and Copper

Last week premier Putin signed various deals with Ulaan Baatar. Russia’s real target appears to be uranium reserves and to draw the nation into its sphere of influence. Mongolia maintains a balance in its relationship with China, Russia and other powers.

Ulaan Baatar (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Russia is seeking to boost its economic relations and collaboration with Mongolia, in an attempt to gain access to the nations’ vast mineral reserves which include uranium. But experts are still waiting to see if Ulaan Baatar will be drawn from its traditional “multi-vectored” diplomacy which cultivates ties with Moscow and Beijing, but also with other powers, in particular the United States.

The centrepiece of Russian premier Vladimir Putin’s visit on May 13 was a deal worth potentially $7 billion, under which the Russia agreed to upgrade and expand Mongolia’s rail network. The payoff for the Russian railway company includes mining licenses for the Tavan-Tolgoi copper coal mine and the Oyu-Tolgoi cooper-gold mine.

According to experts Russia’s real aim is to gain primacy in access to uranium deposits in Mongolia for the development of its own nuclear industry. This is why Russia is trying to re-establish ties with Mongolia and this is why in March, Moscow announced an agricultural credit of $300 million.

Putin also discussed with his Mongolian counterpart, Sanj Bayar, a plan under which the two states would settle trade accounts in their respective national currencies: this would create additional demand for the Russian currency, help prop up its value on international currency markets and lead to the Kremlin goal of a ruble-denominated trade bloc.

Recent discoveries of strategically important raw materials in Mongolia have increased the nation’s importance. At the same time, the global drop in commodity prices has hit Mongolia hard and the country’s economy is now struggling. The International Monetary Fund’s loan of $229 million appears to be insufficient.

Now the next move is Mongolia’s. The country, wedged as it is between China and Russia, has always sought to maintain stable relations with both. Recently it has also increased its ties with the United States (often defined: “our third border”) and Japan as well as Kazakhstan. It may be in Ulaan Baatar’s best interest to increase its dealings with Russia, in order to balance out China’s dominant economic presence.

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

South Asia

India: Demise of Regional Parties ‘the Real Game Changer’

The Congress party-led coalition of prime minister Manmohan Singh swept India’s national elections, winning 262 seats in the parliament compared to the 160 seats won by the opposition Bharatiya Janata party’s coalition.

New Delhi, 18 May (AKI) — By M.J. Akbar — Contrary to a view inspired by late Raj fiction, the British valued India as much as they held Indians in contempt. The British Empire on the subcontinent owed far more to the man who saved it around the world, the Duke of Wellington, than to Robert Clive, who has got excessive credit from history.

Clive defeated a tottering, self-indulgent Nawab of Bengal; Wellington buried Scindia’s ambitions at Assaye and destroyed Tipu Sultan at Seringapatnam. They were the two most powerful Indian princes of the 19th century, perhaps the only ones who could have checked the British.

Indians, said Wellington, were “the most mischievous, deceitful race of people… I have not yet met with a Hindu who had one good quality and the Mussalmans are worse than they are”. At least he was secular in his prejudice.

When the British Raj was about to collapse, its great champion Winston Churchill sneered that Indians would never be able to understand democracy. He thought that they would be a disaster and come running back to Mother England.

I shall spare you the precise quotations; we don’t want you to get unnecessarily angry on a day when there is so much else to digest. He was not alone. In 1967, the Times of London, now the pipsqueak of a fading power rather than a thunderer of the Empire, wrote the obituary of Indian democracy. It survived.

However, there was a growing view that the 15th general election would leave behind just the kind of mess Churchill predicted.

The Indian voter has just proved once again that those who underestimate India do not understand India.

The most important result of this election is that the elimination of regional parties from national space has begun. This was the message in north, south, east and west where Congress expanded its space at the cost of both friends and foes.

The Indian National Congress-led coalition won 262 seats in India’s 543-seat parliament, compared with 160 seats won by the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party-led coalition.

Chandrababu Naidu will survive to fight another election, but the voters of Telangana have probably been marginalised out of reckoning.

The Congress did better than Sharad Pawar, grew in Punjab, hammered the Left, aborted Mayawati’s national ambitions and checked Mulayam Singh Yadav.

In fact, Mulayam Singh Yadav may face the humiliation of being the unwanted guest at the party for a second time, since the Congress can now afford to sniff at the support he offers.

The two regional powers that triumphed, Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik, won because of their individual qualities rather than because of the parties they lead.

The Congress and the BJP, between them, will occupy two thirds of the seats in the next Lok Sabha. This is the real game-changer because the next general elections will be a straight contest between these two parties in most of India.

This election was a successful base camp for a much higher ascent. The true Congress summit is the achievement of a single-party majority in the Lok Sabha after the next general election.

When this peak was outlined against a still bleak horizon during the Panchmarhi resolution years ago, it seemed a thrust too high, but its moment has come. Just as it did in this election, it will seek to grow at the expense of either ally or enemy.

The Congress already had candidates in 14 seats in Tamil Nadu; the next time, it might contest all 39. It will pressurise Sharad Pawar to merge with the parent party or perish.

Mamata Banerjee in Bengal might be more resistant, because she knows that she cannot dominate the Congress as much as she can her own party, and total power can be very alluring.

But the Congress can live with a variation or two, as long as Mamata does not through self-inflicted wounds revive the Left in Bengal. In any case, there are great pickings elsewhere for the Congress.

It will of course hope to exploit the anti-incumbency factor in the BJP States in the north, particularly if the BJP falls into disarray after its second collapse from high expectations. The last time the Congress had a majority on its own was under Rajiv Gandhi.

The restoration will be in the hands of the son, Rahul Gandhi, who has earned his political legitimacy in this election. Sonia Gandhi’s role as leader of the party will ebb as the pace of transition speeds up.

It is highly likely that at some point there may even be a transition in government, with Manmohan Singh making way for Rahul Gandhi. Singh has already done more than anyone expected for the party, and he might prefer the comfort of retirement since he has had a serious heart attack.

Will the BJP, suffering from a second unexpected defeat, be able to resurrect its fortunes and face an aggressive Congress? Some things are apparent. It will need to choose the person who can lead the party into the next general election without much delay.

The BJP realised that development and governance were the decisive issues. But although its venerable leader L.K. Advani tried to define the party around modern needs, he was tripped by the rhetoric of those who thought that the country still wanted to hear the war cry of social conflict.

The swivel moment of the campaign came when Varun Gandhi, in a flurry of immaturity, revived every toxic memory that Advani wanted the electorate to forget. He compounded the mistake by glorying in its aftermath.

BJP leaders realised the danger. The Madhya Pradesh party publicly asked Varun Gandhi to remain in UP, and not bother about the neighbouring state. But the leadership merely distanced itself from the young man, when it should have disowned him.

This is the major lesson for the next leader of the party: India wants peace with prosperity because Indians realise that prosperity cannot come without peace.

Narendra Modi may be a powerful and effective leader in Gujarat, but the stamp of one defect will always mar his future. He can be a successful number two at the national level, but will remain a divisive number one.

We have also just witnessed the last election of the older generation. Youth is not just arithmetic; you have to be young in your outlook, and be able to identify with the aspirations of those seeking a profitable place in the international economy, as much as the poor who feel that they are being marginalised in the domestic economy. It is difficult to span both edges of this challenge, but no one said that public life was easy.

Defeat can be a moment of transition, unless you succumb to despair.

M.J. Akbar is chairman and director of publications for the fortnightly political magazine Covert. He is the founder of India’s first global newspaper, the Asian Age and is a former advisor to the Indian government.

He is also a well known author and his best-selling novel Blood Brothers was published in Italian last year. The Italian edition of a second book, The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the conflict between Islam and Christianity is due out later this year.

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


India: The Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP) Lost Also Due to the Violent Attacks in Orissa

Fundamentalist Pressures are never rewarding. The BJP lost 4 to 5% of its metropolitan voters. Now it has to re- conquer the middle class and the youth, who are the future of India. But it must separate from the Hindutva Groups.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The biggest loser in the last Indian elections was the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the reason seems to be that just as in the past, it wanted to use the intercultural and religious tensions (as in Orissa) in order to win. After the results of the elections were declared, the general secretary of BJP, Arun Jaitley admitted that “Even in comparison to our performance in 2004 elections (when they lost), the number of seats have furthermore decreased” from 138 to 116. Not only that, as compared to the last Lok Sabha (parliament) elections, there has been a dip of about 4 to 5 percentage points in the national vote share. This fact should prompt some serious reflection about the direction this party wants to take.

The Times of India, one of the most read newspaper’s in India has come out with a leader in which it clearly states that: “The old ploy of provoking communal riots in order to polarize the electorate, a formula that BJP appears to have stuck to as late as 2008 in case of anti-Christian riots in Orissa, is subject to diminishing returns at the ballot box”.

The other two reasons that the media have highlighted as causes for the BJP’s debacle are: the projection of Narendra Modi, infamous for the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, as a possible candidate for prime minister. And second, for not taking the responsibility nor condemning Arun Gandhi, (member of BJP along with his mother Maneka, and who is also the cousin of Rahul, son of Sonia), for his communal speeches where he said that he will “cut all the hands that threaten the Hindus”.

“The criticism within the BJP have brought to light that they (the members of the extremist nationalist party) are losing popularity among the youth as well as among the urban middle class, two segments where it had been strong earlier and which represent the emerging India of 21st century. To reconnect with these segments and devise a winning strategy, it needs to focus on the future rather than obsess with the past. This is a new century, where destroying a mosque in order to build a temple in its place hardly fits in the program of any political party. India has changed dramatically from 1992 to 2009”

In 1992 the per capita income was of Rs.6.100, whilst now it has risen to Rs.38.084 (1 Euro= 65 Rupees). The literacy rate has risen from 52% to 68%.

“How can the BJP redirect itself?” questions the leader of The Times of India.

“It could do so by identifying and filling a gaping lacuna in Indian politics, the lack of centre-right party which speaks the language of reform and harnesses globalization to expand the middle class. That would be incompatible with a Hindu Rashtra plank, but Hindu Rashtra can be substituted with a strong nationalist appeal which would have greater resonance across the country”.

The newspaper concludes saying the BJP needs “to cut its ties with the far right” i.e.with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajarang Dal and the so called Sangh Parivar (family)[an association of militant Hindus that started the attacks against the Muslims and Christians] . But till the party continues to recruit its leaders amongst the pracharak (preachers) of the RSS it will be impossible to cut its umbilical cord.

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


Sri Lanka: President Rejects War Crimes Allegations

President Mahinda Rajapakse has rejected international requests to launch inquiry commissions into the Sir Lankan army’s potential war crimes responsibilities in the final phase of the war launched against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), which the UN believes to have left over 7,000 civilian casualties. Shortly before the arrival of UN SG Ban Ki-moon, the president said that he would be willing to “be hanged” in order to crush the LTTE, accusing “external forces” of wanting to stop the struggle against the LTTE using the “threat of international tribunals”. The ‘Tamilnet’ news agency, close to the LTTE, denounced that the conditions of the internally displaced refugees “is similar to Nazi lager camps”. While rumors of Tamil children having been kidnapped, or women raped, in revenge, the UN Human Rights Council has convened a meeting next week to evaluate possible war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan army. [AB]

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

Far East

China: New Raid on Disabled-Slaves in Anhui Brick Factories

They are mentally disabled forced by threats and beatings to work all day long without a wage. The head of the factory claims to have paid a couple of hundred Yuan for them. Parents groups report that child abduction continues throughout the nation, with little police interest.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Police have arrested 10 people in Jieshou, Anhui province accused of kidnapping mentally handicapped people and forcing them to work in brick kilns like slaves, without pay. According to state agency Xinhua, in April 32 “slaves” were released from two factories.

Police official Gao Jie explains that “[the factory owner] said he bought them at a price of hundreds of Yuan from a taxi driver in Shandong, who said he found the mentally handicapped roaming on street …. All of them are mentally handicapped people aged between 25 and 45. Few of them can tell where they are from”. Only a dozen were able to return home.

In 2007 over 1.000 “slaves” were discovered in the brick factories of Shanxi ad Henan, forced to work for a bowl of semolina and continuously beaten (photo from the time). The slave drivers prefer the mentally disabled, who are easy to kidnap after they have been made drunk and who are less likely to rebel or try to escape. At that time public opinion was outraged and for weeks after that thousands of police were sent to inspect all the factories in the area, with great results that led to severe sentences for the human traffickers. But parents of abducted children have told Radio Free Asia the children continue to disappear, with at least 200 cases in and around the area of Nanning. They complain that the police are unable to penetrate the human trafficking ring but on the other hand are highly efficient in impeding parent’s protests and their attempts to bring the issue to public attention. Police even arrive at placing the parents under surveillance.

In Dongguan parents groups denounce that an estimated 1,000 children have disappeared in the last few years, while official data indicates only 400.

Liao Tianqi, deputy editor of the magazine Observe China, says the trafficking of children is not only bent on supplying free manual labour, but also to an increased demand for children in China due to the one child policy.

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


North Korean Nuclear Test Catches U.S. by Surprise

One senior intelligence official says that even after the demonstration at the Punggye nuclear test site, the only evidence of activity that analysts could see in aerial imagery was a “couple of spoil sites,” or large holes.

North Korea’s decision to detonate a nuclear device underground Monday caught the United States by surprise, officials said.

“They didn’t give us any warning whatsoever,” one senior U.S. intelligence official who works on North Korean issues told FOX News.

Another official told Reuters that North Korea gave less than an hour’s notice to the United States that it would carry out the test.

The official said the communist country made “no demands,” and passed on the message that it would carry out the test through diplomats at the United Nations in New York City.

The senior intelligence official said that even after the demonstration at the Punggye nuclear test site, the only evidence of activity that analysts could see in aerial imagery was a “couple of spoil sites,” or large holes.

“We saw some activity” at Punggye prior to the test, the official said. But the activity was not as intense as that which normally precedes a detonation, so few anticipated such an action at this time. “They are really good at hiding things from us.”

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was one of the few to predict the test. He wrote in a May 20 column in The Wall Street Journal that such a test would be more than just a “propaganda ploy,” since most experts believe the country’s 2006 test was flawed.

“The scientific and military imperatives for a second test have been strong for over two years, and the potential data, experience and other advantages of further testing would be tremendous,” Bolton wrote last week.

North Korea also test fired the Musudan-Ri missile, on which Kim Jong Il could ultimately hope to place a nuclear device.

Daniel Pinkston, of the International Crisis Group in Seoul, said the new missile has a range of up to 2,500 miles and is capable of hitting Guam.

Pinkston said the missile had never been tested before Monday. It would be North Korea’s third nuclear-capable missile in its arsenal.

[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Health: Doctors Needed in Catalonia, 57% Come From Abroad

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 18 — Many regional hospitals in Catalonia can only remain operational thanks to foreign staff, a silent army which stands in for the lack of Spanish professionals and who often have to wait years to have their specialist qualifications recognised. The figures speak for themselves: 57% of doctors enrolled in the Collegi de Metges di Barcelona (CMB) in 2008 were foreign, a rise of 20% compared to 2006. In other words, out of the 1,408 doctors who were included in the register for the first time last year, 800 were not of Spanish citizenship. In more detail, according to figures quoted today by El Pediodico de Catalunya, 664 doctors are from South America whilst 136 were from other European countries. This is a similar proportion to that recorded in the data relating to the 1,872 doctors who were included in the register across the entire region. The problem is that none of the 800 foreign doctors have as yet been able to have their specialisation recognised in Spain. The lack of Spanish doctors to deal with the requirements of the turnover between hospital doctors and GPs, is only compensated for by the rising number of foreign doctors who arrive in Spain and are obliged to start at the beginning of the career ladder. In fact, Spanish legislation requires that, as well as a degree in medicine, doctors must have a specialisation which results from a period of up to 5 years as a doctor within a hospital, or equivalent in another country. The Education and Health Ministers have tried to outline a way of making foreign medical qualifications comparable, but this is subject to long bureaucratic procedures, which professionals in Catalonia describe as anachronistic, asking the ministry of Health to shorten them. The regional health councillor, Marina Geli, has asked for an urgent revision of the system of making medical qualifications comparable without which doctors cannot work in public health facilities. But given the lack of alternatives, a growing number of Spanish hospitals are using foreign doctors without, at least according to the paperwork, the proper specialisation. The spokesperson for the CMB, James Sellares, reassures that “this is not a question of illegal contracts, because these are professionals who have the proper qualifications, even if these are not yet recognised by ministerial committees,” adding that hospitals can demonstrate that the hiring of foreign doctors was due to a “force majeure”. In many hospitals, the alternative would be to put an end to specialist services and assistance and outpatient services. However, sources from the Ministry of Health explained that the emergency is leading to an increasingly deregulated situation in the workforce. In fact, besides certain exceptions, public hospital centres associated with the Catalonian health services, are paying “imported” foreign doctors lower salaries than those received by colleagues who have all the proper paperwork. In fact, foreign doctors have drawn attention to the fact that they are obliged to cover longer shifts compared to their Spanish colleagues. They have temporary contracts and they also have a bureaucratic ‘gap’ that is difficult to fill and which makes it difficult for them to become fully authorized. This is causing concern for Catalonian doctors, who are obliged register with the medical register and to safeguard doctors as they carry out their work, as simple medical graduates and without any particular specialisation. In any case, the CMB is stressing that “the quality of assistance offered by immigrant doctors is not in question.” For many of these doctors, their only chance is to repeat their period of specialisation in Spain (which requires 5 years of hospital service), so as to complete the exam which proves their qualification is of an equivalent level: an insurmountable obstacle 95% of the candidates. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy’s Hard Line on Illegal Immigration

During a press conference in Matera on May the 18th, the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini, spoke about the difficult situation with immigrants in Italy and reiterated a well known concept according to which every immigrant should respect our constitution and laws.

Immigration is a hot topic on Italy’s political agenda: the biggest communities of immigrants come from Romania, Philippine, Albany and northern African countries. All these people encounter a wide variety a problems, once in this country, but the main risk they take is usually the travel itself. On Sunday, May 10th, the repatriation of almost 230 illegal Libyan immigrants who were travelling toward our country on three shabby boats was hailed as a “success” by our Home Secretary, Roberto Maroni.

“The tough line will continue in a clear way until the (illegal immigrant) landings cease”, stated the “Lega Nord” (Northern League) former Secretary, following the repatriation of the Libyans.

According to the international law, though, a immigrant should be granted the status of refugee if he can prove to be persecuted in his home town. In fact, The UN’s high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, expressed “grave concern” at this the episode and he was backed by with UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.

When asked about social integration of the Muslim immigrants by a student in Matera, Gianfranco Fini answered that “the Muslim sermon in a Mosque must be in Italian because we — as Italians — have the right to understand if our fundamental constitutional values are being respected or not, it is an issue of ‘patriotic constitutionalism’: if it’s just to respect human rights, respecting rules and duties must be equally important”.

Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch, said that our country “seems to be trying to rewrite international refugee law…The 1951 Geneva convention does not say where you can return them from, but where you can—and cannot—return them to.” Someone argued that the boats were intercepted while still in international waters, which means that they didn’t enter Italian’s territory and therefore were not subjected to our laws that embrace the Geneva convention. Other have argued that Italy should be granted some sort of special status in the convention, given its peculiar geographical position which makes it the easiest European country to reach by most of the immigrants that are coming from the southern Mediterranean nations.

Anyway, following the historical agreement between Berlusconi and Colonel Muhammad Ghaddafi (Bengasi, August 30th 2008), which granted the African country a 5 billion check as a compensation for the Italian occupation during II World War, people had high expectations on this matter. Instead, illegal Libyan immigrants have continued to arrive in our country.

With regard to this topic, our Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has announced yesterday that joint patrols by the Italian Navy and its Libyan counterpart will start this week:

“They are joint patrols which we will carry out in the interest of the whole of Europe, because obviously it is in everyone’s interest that the boats organized by human traffickers are stopped near the Libyan coast”.

Malta’s Foreign Minister, Tonio Borg, supported Frattini’s call by stating that the top political authorities within the EU need to give their attention to the problem and emphasizing that there is a need of a clear policy in this matter, and this can only be drawn up by the European Union.

“The disproportionate influx of illegal migrants, a common challenge for both of us, has put strain on our absorption capacity and has increased pressure internally for both countries to sufficiently address the core issues faced by peripheral member states,” Dr Borg said.

Many believes that the though attitude of our government toward the immigrants might cause a loss of votes during the forthcoming European elections. The “hard line” seems instead to be well appreciated in Italy, at least so far.

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


Syrian Wins Foreign Businessman of the Year

(by Angela Abbrescia) (ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 22 — Radwan Khawatmi, a 56-year-old Syrian who has lived in Italy for 39 consecutive years has been named the top foreign businessman in Italy this year.Khawatmi won the most important award at the 2009 MoneyGram Awards, the first award ceremony for entrepreneurs who have immigrated to Italy. Another five immigrants from Romania, Colombia, Peru, Bulgaria, and Albania also received awards. The jury evaluated businesses run by foreigners and awarded those that demonstrated the most vision and leadership. In Italy, over 165,000 companies are owned by immigrants and one out of every 33 companies is owned by a foreigner. Although a recent phenomenon with 85% of these companies founded after 2000, the trend has shown strong growth recently. From 2003 until today, the number of foreign-run businesses has tripled. According to the latest estimates, over 9% of the Italian GDP comes from foreign entrepreneurs and Italy, with almost 4 million legal resident foreigners and immigrant remittances of about 6 billion euros, is one of the main countries for immigration in Europe and the world. “We are all committed to developing this country,” said Khawatmi while receiving the award. Khawatmi, earned his degree in Italy and founded Hirux International in Milan in 1978, which distributes Italian-made home appliances to countries in the Gulf region. His company reported 60 million euros in turnover. He hoped that “Italy’s doors remain open for those arriving to work and live here.” “Italy is a multiethnic society,” he added, “whether you like it or not. We all love this country and we ask the government to respect us and to understand our aspirations.” This includes the right to vote in local elections, which Khawatmi promotes through the Movimento Nuovi Italiani group, which he founded a few years ago. Jury president and President of Small Industry for the Confindustria, Giuseppe Morandini, also spoke about Italy’s need to use immigration to its advantage. Other awards included the award for social responsibility, which was given to Albanian Dava Gjoka, who in 2006 founded a co-op of social, health, and educational services to assist in integration. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

Zenster said...

Obama Seizes Individually Owned Business.

Despite multiple letters, emails and phones calls, Anderer has been given no explanation as to why his dealership was targeted. On Neil Cavuto’s show, Anderer said “They won’t give us a solid explanation. They come up with all these reasons, but none of them seem to make sense” and “but I think there is a lot of favored dealers, there is some collusion.”.

This reads like something straight out of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged".

I can hear Ma Chalmers shrilling to Anderer, "You'll sell your car dealership to us at a loss and like it!"

PatriotUSA said...

Just FYI: China Confidential has acurately predicted both recenet North Korean events. They called the day, Memorial day for this most recent test and were spot on.
Pretty good reading at CC.

Joe Noory said...

It's just as unsurprising as the "deep concern" expressed therafter.

http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2009/05/i-pensively-remain-on-very-edge-of-my.html

heroyalwhyness said...

BRITISH National Party leader Nick Griffin is on course to win a seat in the European Parliament next month on the back of a tidal wave of public anger over MPs’ expenses.