Monday, June 01, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/1/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/1/2009Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is going through Clintonesque contortions to try to defuse rumors and media stories about his relationship with a (very) young woman. He has gone so far as to swear on his children that he never had “spicy” relations with that woman.

In other news, a Russian journalist is requesting asylum in Finland.

Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, CSP, Fjordman, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Lexington, Nilk, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Editorial: Subsidized Shariah
Gitmo Inmates Get Satellite TV, Sudoku Puzzles
Obama Administration Proposes Text for New Global Warming Treaty That Would Impose Stricter Rules on U.S. Than on China or Saudi Arabia
 
Europe and the EU
A Walk on the Wilders Side
Austria: Sikh Guru Given Police Protection
Berlusconi: Subversive to Substitute Elected With Judgements
Berlusconi: “I Never Had Spicy Relations With Noemi. ? Swear on My Children”
Girls Pressured to Wear Hijab at Norwegian School
In Search of Europe: Italy
In Search of Europe: Austria
Italy: Di Pietro: State Flights for Showgirls and Singers
Italy: PM Under Attack for ‘Using’ State Aircraft to Fly Friends
Persecution Haunts Bulgaria Muslims
 
Mediterranean Union
Why the Sahara Undermines the Mediterranean Union
 
North Africa
Egypt: Son of Jailed Al-Qaeda Leader Speaks Ahead of Obama Visit
Egypt’s Grand Mufti Bans Muslim Use of WMDs
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel: US Jews Discomfited by Rightist Bills
Israel Goes on Building Settlements, Tension Rises With U.S.
Israel: Israeli Arab Lawmaker Clashes With U.S. Visitor
 
Middle East
Former Terror Detainee Stars in Gitmo Xbox Game
Frank Gaffney: Obama Sows a Mideast Whirlwind
Iran: US ‘Blamed’ for Deadly Mosque Attack
Iran: 3 Men Hanged for Attack on Zahedan Mosque. Suspicions Point to US
Jordan: MPs Propose Bill to End Peace With Israel
Kurds Start Oil Exports From Northern Iraq
 
Russia
Russian Journalist Seeks Political Asylum in Finland — Rights Group
What is EuRussia?
 
South Asia
India: Four Christians in Manmohan Singh’s Governing Team
Sri Lanka: UN Gives Full Backing to President Rajapaksa
Teen Model Escapes ‘Abusive’ Malaysian Prince
 
Australia — Pacific
Pig Flu Strikes King Khalid Campus of the Australian International Academy
 
Immigration
Finland: Election Ad Denouncing “Welfare Bum Immigrants” Too Much for Party Leader Katainen
 
General
Egyptian Psychologist Dr. Wafa Musa: The Jews Deserved Their Annihilation by Hitler

USA

Editorial: Subsidized Shariah

Does Timothy F. Geithner support jihad? Of course not. But the Treasury secretary on Tuesday lost a major round of a court case in which a taxpayer argues that government ownership of the insurance giant American International Group Inc. amounts to an unconstitutional government “establishment” of Islam. The controversy involves Shariah-compliant financing, part of which requires charitable contributions to those who “struggle for Allah” (“jihad”).

The Thomas More Law Center, representing the plaintiffs in this case, has claimed there are a number of links between charities that receive funds as a result of Shariah-compliant financing and “terrorist organizations that are hostile to the United States.” This is a long-standing practice whereby some front groups exploit charitable contributions to fund Islamic extremists.

Regardless of jihad, there is no dispute that, as U.S. District Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff wrote on May 26, “AIG is the market leader in Sharia-compliant financing, which features financial products that comply with the dictates of Islamic law.” It’s undisputed that the government, as a result of last fall’s bailout, now owns 77.9 percent of the “aggregate voting power of the common stock” of AIG. Furthermore, Judge Zatkoff wrote, “after the government acquired a majority interest in AIG … the government co-sponsored a forum entitled ‘Islamic Finance 101.’ “

Why is all this important? Because in the case of Kevin J. Murray v. Timothy F. Geithner and Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Mr. Murray argues that if the government owns AIG and AIG extensively practices Shariah-compliant finance, then the government effectively is supporting Islam. That would be unconstitutional.

Mr. Geithner and the Fed filed a motion for the judge to dismiss the case immediately before coming anywhere near a full trial. In a devastating 16-page decision, Judge Zatkoff slapped down Mr. Geithner and company, allowing the case to go forward. The judge acknowledged that the government bought AIG only to stave off an apparent crisis. He then wrote: “Times of crisis, however, do not justify departure from the Constitution.”

This case tests important constitutional precepts and deserves a full hearing. It also puts heat on the government’s overactive economic masters, who ought to be more wary of rash government takeovers of private industries.

           — Hat tip: Lexington[Return to headlines]


Gitmo Inmates Get Satellite TV, Sudoku Puzzles

Amusements aimed at providing mental stimulation

The U.S. military is rigging up satellite television service and distributing Sudoku puzzles in Guantanamo prison cells even as the Obama administration works towards a goal of emptying them of detainees.

The amusements are aimed at providing mental stimulation for the 240 remaining captives, whom human rights monitors and defense lawyers have said were being driven mad by years of isolation at the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists.

Plans were made as long as two years ago to add television and group recreation facilities, said Navy Commander Jeff Hayhurst, who led journalists on a tour on Sunday of the remote prison located on a U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba.

But because of logistical challenges at the prison, some of the plans are just now being implemented as the clock ticks down toward President Barack Obama’s January deadline to shut down the detention operation.

“Construction here is very difficult,” said Hayhurst, who functions as the deputy warden.

Obama, who has called Guantanamo a blot on America’s human rights record and an al-Qaeda recruiting tool, sent a team of investigators to check out the detention camp in February.

Their conclusions echoed what the International Committee of the Red Cross has been saying for years — that prisoners in the one-man cells needed more opportunities for social interaction and mental stimulation…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Obama Administration Proposes Text for New Global Warming Treaty That Would Impose Stricter Rules on U.S. Than on China or Saudi Arabia

(CNSNews.com) — The U.S. State Department has provided the United Nations with proposed text for a new global warming treaty that would require the United States to comply with stricter carbon emissions standards than most other countries in the world—including, for example, China and Saudi Arabia—and that anticipates that U.S. taxpayers will provide foreign aid to support efforts to control carbon emissions in developing nations.

[…]

The text additionally indicates that the U.S. expects developed countries to provide aid to developing countries to control carbon emissions, and cryptically says that the “private sector” will also be expected to provide funding for this purpose.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Walk on the Wilders Side

ALMERE, near Amsterdam:

Three black cars screech into the market square. Shoppers enjoying the sun and a break in one of the many cafes around the square look up from their drinks and ice creams.

About ten serious-looking men in suits with bulges under their jackets get out of the back two cars and position themselves around the front vehicle. One carries a fold-out, body-length bullet-proof shield.

Who can be in the front car? The prime minister? A member of the Dutch royal family? Suddenly a white blond quiff emerges, followed by its owner, Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV).

He may not be royalty but he is, according to some opinion polls, more popular than the Dutch government and hopes to do well in the European elections. He wants to hold a referendum to demonstrate the Dutch people are against the Lisbon Treaty, as they were against the constitution, and wants to take powers back from Brussels. But that’s not why he grabs the attention.

He is the Netherlands’ Mr Provocative, determined to poke sensitive Muslim opinion in the eye. But is he the heir to the mantle of the extreme right or a post-modern populist? Where does his PVV fit in the political spectrum?

He’s been banned from Britain, is being prosecuted in the Netherlands for hate crimes, has made a film about the Koran — a book he wants banned — and promises a second film that will be just as forthright.

Why, I ask him, does he wanted to ban the holy book of Islam?

“It is a book full of incitement to violence and I am very much for freedom of speech. Incitement to violence is over the red line. I have nothing against Muslims, but I fear, and a lot of my voters fear, the growing Islamisation of Europe, of the Netherlands, of Britain, of Denmark, of many European countries. So although we have nothing against Muslims as such, we believe that immigration and the influx of the Islamic symbolism is changing our society.”

He’s very much against Turkey joining the European Union and wants to take powers back from the EU. He is not advocating leaving the euro or the EU, but wants the balance of power to change. But there’s little doubt it is his opinions of Islam that are eye-catching.

There’s certainly genuine support for him among people who rush to have their picture taken with him. One woman tells me “he says what millions of us think”. It is a refrain I hear repeatedly. But one man ostentatiously shreds the election pamphlet, saying that even Dutch cuisine is based on a mixture from all over the world and Mr Wilders’ views were rather un-Dutch.

That’s certainly the view of a theatre company we visit in Rotterdam. The white-clad figures run around in a crazy game of tag that ends with them removing an article of clothing. This is not a peculiarly liberal Dutch playground game, a cross between “it” and strip poker, but a play for schools aimed at combating discrimination and exclusion of all kinds. It’s sponsored by the anti-racist group Radar.

One of their organisers, Carla Lepelaars, tells me the economic crisis has deepened the problems they face. “People are more worried, more frightened and so worry about being excluded. The way the public debate is going, talking about groups of people as though they are completely different leads to other people feeling that they don’t belong, that they are not allowed to belong.”

What does she make of Wilders’ party?

“If people are being told that it’s another lot of people who are the problem, then all of a sudden you have all these enemies walking around, and you start thinking about everything in ethnic categories.

“He expresses concerns people obviously feel, but then he doesn’t come up with solutions that make people stronger, but that make people weaker. If you make them more fearful and tell them we are going to solve these problems by getting rid of all the immigrants, it’s not going to happen — not a real solution.”

There’s no doubt that Mr Wilders aims to provoke and hopes to be rewarded by the electorate for both boldness and speaking out, for not being part of a political elite who are seen by many as disconnected from the real problems and feelings of voters.

Dr Alfred Pijpers, from the Clingendael Institute of European Studies, tells me that Dutch society is becoming more sceptical about the EU and the ciris has provoked a feeling of “Dutch jobs for Dutch workers”. He feels Wilders has carefully positioned himself. He says unlike most politicians he is unsmiling, perhaps rather against his nature, to show that he is a serious man confronted by serious problems.

“His views are very radical and offensive to Muslim people and he uses his radical proposals to position himself in Dutch politics. The way he is rejecting the establishment in The Hague and Brussels is an instrument for gaining power.”

But he thinks Wilders is not an heir to the hard right.

“He’s not a right-winger. He thinks Islam is a threat to homosexuals and women’s rights. It’s certainly not a fascist party, he’s very liberal in some areas and supporting a socialist agenda in the Dutch parliament, to do with social security and housing and healthcare. He’s a populist, which means he does not follow the agenda of the political elite.”

I would have thought that both an element of socialism and populism are almost key ingredients in a hard-right recipe. There’s also a tendency to see previous movements as cruder than they really were. There may be a good few supporters of far-right views who are obsessed with measuring skulls, but even the Nazis or the Klan identified their enemies by behaviour, beliefs and culture and saw themselves as defending Western Civilisation as well as blood lines.

Mr Wilders is adamant he has nothing to do with that tradition.

“I am not a racist at all. I am a democratic person, I have nothing against anybody, any race, only I fear Islamisation. I see Islam as more of an ideology than a religion. It wants to dominate every part of our society and wants us to submit, to dominate us. I’ve nothing against any people, any colour, any background, any sexual preference.”

There is another very important point. The men surrounding Wilders wear white jackets of flimsy synthetic material with party slogans, but that’s not a uniform. There are no shaven heads. Of course not even the hardest of hard right parties marches in jackboots these days.

But Wilders has made it 100% clear that he is against the use of violence, or even non-parliamentary means. The use he does make of violence is to stress that he is a likely victim of it.

Two prominent Dutch figures have been murdered for anti-Islamic views and, as the policeman puts away his folding body armour, I reflect that flirting with martyrdom is an effective, but very high-risk, political strategy.

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


Austria: Sikh Guru Given Police Protection

Vienna, 28 May (AKI) — A Sikh preacher in Vienna has been given police protection after a guru was killed in a violent clash in the Austrian capital on Sunday. Police spokesman Michael Takacs told Adnkronos International (AKI) security has also been stepped up at the Indian embassy following the violence at the city’s Rudolfsheim temple. He did not name the preacher.

Takacs said the clashes at the Rudolfsheim temple were the first the city had seen between rival Sikhs and that police had never considered Austria’s Sikh community to be a security threat.

“We have never had any problems with the Sikh community, nor have we been aware of tensions among temple worshippers. We have never been informed of any attack being planned or any problem,” Takacs said.

Fifty-seven-year-old Sikh guru Sant Rama Nan, was killed and his superior, 68-year-old Sant Niranjan Dass, was injured and had to undergo surgery after an attack by six bearded fundamentalist Sikhs allegedly armed with a pistol and with knives.

The alleged attackers clashed with hundreds of worshippers at the temple. He said the police investigation into the incident was still at an early stage.

Dass is not in danger and his condition has rapidly improved, but one of the suspects is in intensive care with a bullet-wound to the head, Takacs said.

“We will have a fuller picture once we have questioned five of the suspects and 26 witnesses,” he said.

Three of the suspects had requested asylum in Austria and have only been in Vienna “for a short time”.

Police have not yet established the identity of two of the suspects, he said.

There are three Sikh temples in Vienna and an estimated 3,000 Sikhs in Austria.

Nan’s death sparked deadly riots by low-caste Sikhs in the Indian state of Punjab where a curfew was imposed earlier this week.

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


Berlusconi: Subversive to Substitute Elected With Judgements

(AGI) — L’Aquila, 29 May — “It is a subversive intention to take the place of those elected by the people.” Speaking in L’Aquila during a visit to inspect earthquake relief work, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared that “it’s useless for me to say again what I think about certain situations with the magistrature. Yesterday someone was shocked because I spoke about subversive clots.” “I repeat that I am absolutely convinced of this, because when people want through court judgements that are based on turning reality upside down to turn upside down the popular decision and take the place of who has been elected by the people, and to whom the people have given the responsibility to govern, this can only be called one thing — an intentional wish for subversion.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Berlusconi: “I Never Had Spicy Relations With Noemi. ? Swear on My Children”

Berlusconi and the 18-year-old from Portici: “I answered the question immediately. And I said no”

ROME — Now the prime minister contests the press versions of the Noemi story. “I never said anything else at all. I replied immediately to the single question of whether I had ever had spicy relations. And I said: ‘Absolutely not’. I made it more solemn by swearing on the lives of my children. I never said anything else at all. Yet look at what some of the papers are saying”.

HOUNDED BY THE PRESS — Speaking to cameras admitted to Palazzo Chigi for the signing of a protocol for Abruzzo, a smiling Silvio Berlusconi commented on the way the press has seized on the Noemi affair. “Has anyone got any questions for me?” was the rhetorical enquiry with which Mr Berlusconi introduced his statement denying any “spicy relations” with Noemi. The premier also pointed out that had any such thing occurred, he would have resigned “immediately”.

SQUADS OF STARLETS — Later at the national assembly of the Confesercenti retailers’ association, the prime minister commented ironically on charges made in the foreign press (particularly the Financial Times): “Mussolini had squads of Blackshirts while I, according to the papers that are tucked under the carpet of the Left, have squads of starlets. At least it’s a bit better”.

FRANCESCHINI — In the meantime, the Democratic Party (PD) leader Dario Franceschini insisted that he had nothing against Mr Berlusconi’s children. “I’d like to say that I’m very sorry if the prime minister’s children feel offended. It’s nothing to do with them”, said Mr Franceschini, pointing out that yesterday “I never said anything about Mr Berlusconi’s children, nor would I ever do so because the idea of involving them in the hurly-burly is a thousand miles from my way of practising politics”. Mr Franceschini stressed that “I was talking about our children and the values that a public figure, in his or her behaviour and words, transmits to the younger generations”.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Girls Pressured to Wear Hijab at Norwegian School

Just before Easter, Human Rights Service (HRS), the Oslo-based foundation for which I serve as information director, got a tip about what was described as an intense pressure to wear hijab at Vahl Grade School in downtown Oslo. Sources connected to the school told HRS that a female employee of Pakistani origin was openly trying to push hijabs on girls as young as first graders. She flattered the girls who didn’t wear hijab by telling them how pretty they would be if they only put on hijabs, and said that she could give them hijabs as gifts. The woman works for SFO (Skolefritidsordning or “School Free Time Arrangement”), which provides volunteers to take care of kids before and after school hours, and also works as a classroom assistant. In March she got the head of SFO to write the following note to the parents of two non-Muslim girls: “Can X get a hijab from SFO on Tuesday, March 31, 2009?” The letter is dated March 30 and signed by the head of Norwegian SFO. HRS has the original letter. We also have a photograph of posters from the school building announcing prayer times for the children.

An employee at Vahl School explains the spread of hijabs at the school to HRS in this way:

“In first grade, about half of the Muslim girls show up in hijab. By the time they’re in third grade, pretty much all of the Muslim girls are in hijab,” says this person who wishes to remain anonymous.

At Vahl School only five percent of the pupils are ethnic Norwegians. And as we know, children want to be like other children. When the Pakistani woman tried to press hijabs on two non-Muslim girls by telling them how “pretty” they would be in hijab, it was likely not difficult to “convince” the children: they surely wanted both to be pretty and to not stick out…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


In Search of Europe: Italy

Illegal immigration is making Italians look to the EU for action, the BBC’s Jonny Dymond reports, as he tours the continent ahead of this week’s European elections.

[…]

Northern Italy has traditionally been the great engine of Italian growth, sucking up manpower from the poorer South. Now that sucking sound has been heard over the other side of the Mediterranean, drawing hundreds of thousands of immigrants a year across the sea to what must seem like astonishing riches.

Some of them are to be seen in the park, some without papers, many now without work. They sit, sleep and chat a few yards away from a sprinkling of stalls selling farm produce in the heat.

Behind a raspberry and strawberry stall Paolo Fontaneri, 64, hands over punnets and takes in cash. Decades ago, he says, he worked as a steward aboard the same cruise ship as Silvio Berlusconi, then a singer, now Italian prime minister. His one-time shipmate will get Paolo’s vote come the elections this week.

“We need to fix the problem of immigration. Here in Italy a lot of people are coming with no documents at all. We do need foreign labour here in Italy. But they must be legal. They shouldn’t be here looking for jobs for months. This is wrong.”

Immigration is not the only issue in town. The economy and the environment are also mentioned, as is the need for greater European unity. There is still an enthusiasm for the EU amongst citizens of this founder-nation, that has been absent in so many other places I’ve visited.

But no single issue comes up as often as the need for controls on immigration. And many people see immigration as an EU responsibility. If necessary, a fair few people venture, the EU should get more powers to deal with the issue.

There’s a logic to that, according to Tito Boeri, a professor of economics and organiser of the hugely popular Economics Festival in Trento.

“Given that we are at the border of the Union, that we have all these sea borders with Africa, and we have all these people coming in,” he says, Italians “would like Europe to be more effective and supporting Italy in border protection”.

And he warns that the days when Italians’ support for the EU could be counted on unconditionally are coming to an end.

“Until recently Europe was perceived as being our safety [net],” he says. “But now Europe has been somewhat disappointing to Italians. They are stuck in the middle of the river. They don’t like the Italian ruling class. But they don’t like the European one. They are a bit stuck in the doldrums.”

Up and down the hills of Trentino, vines grow Chardonnay grapes for the Ferrari Spumante that was served, amongst many other places, at the celebrations in Rome of the 50th anniversary of the EU’s founding.

Deep in the cellars of his family-owned company, Matteo Lunelli, the vice president of Ferrari Spumante, ponders Italy’s European future.

As we talk, the bottles that line the walls from floor to ceiling twinkle out in the darkness.

“The two issues,” he says, “that created some scepticism about Europe, have been the euro and immigration.

“Italy by itself will never be able to set an agenda on these kinds of topics. Having common European rules and common European policies is the only way to go.”

But he warns that you can’t create a powerful Europe without the consent and even the enthusiasm of Europeans.

“Institutions, rules, have to go together with the mind of the people. You need great statesmen to bring a dream into the mind of the people.”

If we want things to stay as they are, one Italian novelist wrote, things are going to have to change.

Italians, in this region at least, still seem to be supporters of the European project. That support is waning as circumstances change. Which of Europe’s leaders can help Italians dream again?

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


In Search of Europe: Austria

Many Austrians are deeply suspicious of the EU, the BBC’s Jonny Dymond reports, as he tours the continent ahead of next month’s European elections.

Austria is a big central European paradox. Its language links it to Germany. Its culture links it to Italy. Its former empire links it to Hungary, the western Balkans, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is difficult to imagine a place more plugged into Europe.

And it is difficult to find anyone with a good word to say about the EU.

Down in the 10th district of Vienna the fast food joints rub shoulders with cheap jewellery stores and mobile phone shops. It’s a working class area with a high immigrant population.

At an outside table in a cafe in a market, Horst Glasner and Hans Bubnik are settling into a fairly liquid lunch. As they drink white wine they bite into fat pickled cucumbers sold from a barrel at a stall a few metres away. Both men are retired. Neither have anything but contempt for the EU.

“We have a bit of a problem with the whole thing,” says Horst. “The problem is that the EU is not honest. They cheat on us a lot. This is the big problem.”

“The problem is that everything has become more expensive,” says Hans. “Since we joined the EU everything has been a third more expensive.”

Horst finds another problem.

“Every country is in a different situation. The EU must look at the individual conditions. And this is the big problem.”

“This is why you have the representatives,” adds Hans.

“Unfortunately they don’t do enough,” complains Horst.

All around the market place these views are echoed. Four rubbish men, pushing at the detritus of the day, are all negative.

“The EU tells us what to do, everything gets more and more expensive,” says one.

“All the ideas they have, the cucumbers, the lightbulbs… Austria should leave the EU,” says another.

“We don’t need the EU,” chips in a third.

“Switzerland has done it right,” concludes the fourth.

The pedestrianised street back to the U-Bahn is lined with election posters. Thanks to what must be some generous state funding, Vienna has far more of these than any place I’ve visited so far.

The centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) calls on people to “Vote Europe and Strengthen Austria”. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPOe) promise an “‘A’ team for Europe”.

And the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) calls for “Real Representatives instead of EU Cheats” and “Our Country in the hands of Christians,” over the slogan “Payback Time”.

In one of the grand basement rooms of Vienna’s enormous town hall, Andreas Moelzer, the Freedom Party’s lead candidate in the elections, speaks to his audience of 150 or so pensioners about the asylum seekers who never go home, scrounging foreigners and an overcentralised, meddling Brussels.

The claim, made by political opponents after his party ran an advertisement opposing Israeli entry to the EU, that the Freedom Party is anti-Semitic is, he says, “nonsense…the discussion [about Israeli accession] was already there”.

But Islam is a different matter. “We are opponents of Islam, we are very strong opponents of Islam.” It is not, he says, a religious dispute, but a cultural issue.

Some in his audience are more extreme. In the question and answer that follows his speech, one speaker talks about how Turkish women are using their fertility as a weapon. Another says the answer is sterilisation. There’s some nervous laughter, but it didn’t seem like a joke. Mr Moelzer makes no comment, offers no rebuke.

The FPOe has bobbed up and down in the polls over the past few years. In 2004 it picked up a measly 6% of the vote. But last year in local elections it soared to 18%. And now it seems to be dominating the debate in the European election, largely because the major parties have so little to say to an electorate unwilling to be enthused by the EU project.

“Unfortunately Austria joined the European Union at the very time that the negative effects of the globalisation process began to hit this country,” says Hans-Peter Martin, independent Austrian MEP and author. That, he says, led people to associate the problems springing from globalisation with the EU.

“And, as far as the EU is concerned,” he goes on, “there have been a lot of expectations when Austria joined, and most of them have not been met. There were unsubstantiated promises that everything would become cheaper, everything would be safeguarded at the same time, and that has not been true.”

The analysts are wary of calling this election. But on one thing nearly everyone, from pro-European pressure groups to parliamentary candidates, agrees. The Austrian people and the EU do not get on at all right now. And that must play to the benefit of the Freedom Party and its candidates.

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


Italy: Di Pietro: State Flights for Showgirls and Singers

(AGI) — Rome, 1 Jun. — Berlusconi’s government “spends money on its caste, instead of on citizens in need. As can be seen by the recent discovery that airplanes owned by the state are used to take showgirls and singers to liven up evenings for this petty tyrant currently in charge”. Antonio di Pietro made his comments, confirming that his Italy of Values party will present a parliamentary investigation “against the caste’s privileges” and into the use of state flights: “a real offence to all the families who struggle to get to the end of the month and the workers who are at home on redundancy pay or who don’t have a job at all anymore”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: PM Under Attack for ‘Using’ State Aircraft to Fly Friends

Rome, 1 June (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday faced fresh attacks from his political opponents after a photographer claimed to have photos of state and military airplanes flying guests to his private villa in Sardinia.

Rome prosecutor Giovanni Ferrara on Monday ordered an investigation to clarify whether state airplanes were used and if their use incurred any irregularities.

Italian singer Mariano Apicella confirmed at the weekend that he was one of the guests flown to the Mediterranean island.

“There are photos of people, guests of the president of the council of ministers (Berlusconi), who get out of the military airplane,” said Antonello Zappadu, the Sardinian photographer quoted in the Italian daily, La Repubblica, on Sunday.

“These are arrivals that have taken place on a weekly basis in the last two years. They arrive on Friday afternoon or early on Saturday, and return on Monday,” he said.

Several opposition politicians from the centre-left Democratic Party and Italia dei Valori parties have attacked the prime minister and demanded an explanation for the trips.

The publication of Zappadu’s photographs was blocked after Berlusconi’s lawyers appealed successfully to the courts.

According to the photographer, his shots included images of young bikini-clad and topless girls at the prime minister’s lavish residence, Villa Certosa, on the Sardinian coast.

Zappadu reportedly tried to sell the pictures to an Italian news magazine for 1.5 million euros.

Italian police then seized hundreds of photographs, which according to reports, included one of former Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek, in the nude.

Berlusconi said the photographs are an invasion of privacy. Some of the pictures were taken during New Year’s Eve festivities, when the blonde teenager Noemi Letizia was among the guests.

Berlusconi has consistently denied claims he had a sexual relationship with the Naples teenager since news broke that he had attended her 18th birthday party at the end of April.

On Monday, Italy’s cultural minister Sandro Bondi — a regular guest at Villa Certosa — defended Berlusconi.

“When you are at sea in the summer and it is hot — and in Sardinia is always very hot — the girls obviously do not put a ‘burqa’ on,” said Bondi, quoted by Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, referring to the Muslim women’s garment that cloaks the entire body.

However, Bondi denied that women in provocative outfits roam the villa. He said instead you can find businessmen, parliamentarians and families there.

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


Persecution Haunts Bulgaria Muslims

KRUMOVGRAD, Bulgaria — Twenty years ago, Mustafa Yumer witnessed Bulgaria’s then-communist regime unleashing a ruthless campaign against the country’s Muslim minority. Today, he is among many who fear the nightmare is coming to haunt Muslims all over again.

“We are all very worried,” the 65-year-old Muslim philosopher, who led resistance and hunger strikes against the communist regime’s a drive to force Muslims to adopt ethnic Bulgarian names in 1989, told Reuters on Monday, June 1.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric by both ultranationalist and rightist parties has gained steam in the southeastern European country lately, particularly ahead of the July 5 general polls.

“People are scared by far-right parties who preach and want to see Bulgaria becoming a single ethnic nation,” said Yumer.

Many right-wing politicians are waging fierce xenophobic campaigns targeting the Muslim community, accusing it of aiming at creating autonomous enclaves and that some of their villages are nests for radical Islam.

“If we sit and don’t work like Bulgarian patriots, one day they will conquer us indeed. They will annex whole regions,” Volen Siderov, Bulgaria’s most outspoken nationalist, told an election rally recently, referring to Muslims.

Experts also fear that the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric is using the old ethnic hatred card all over again, something the country has suffered from decades ago.

“It seems that the ethnic issues are exploited by two groups mainly,” said Boriana Dimitrova of Alpha Research, an independent polling company.

The communist regime, which collapsed in 1989, had banned Muslims from practicing their religious rites and forced them to adopt Slavonic names.

Bulgaria is the only EU state where Muslims are not recent immigrants but a centuries-old local community.

Mostly ethnic Turkish descendants of the Ottoman Empire’s reach into Europe, Muslims make up 12 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.6 million population.

Muslims have lived with Christians of the Orthodox Church in relative harmony for centuries in a culture known as “komshuluk”, or neighborly relations.

Many fear that the anti-Muslim rhetoric would further hurt the minority and open Pandora’s box of ethnic and religious strife in the country.

“The wounds would have been healed by now if some people had stopped poking them,” Fikri Gulistan, 49, a dentist in the ethnic Turkish city of Momchilgrad, fumed.

There have been over 100 incidents of vandalized mosques and other Muslim buildings over the past two years.

Muslim Girls have been banned from wearing hijab, an obligatory dress code in Islam, in some schools and universities.

In March, security services, acting on the complaint of a rightist politician, launched a probe into a local mayor and an Islamic studies teacher from the village of Ribnovo, on suspicion of taking Saudi funds to spread radical Islam.

No charges have been filed but the case filled chat rooms of newspapers and other news providers with anti-Muslim messages such as “Bulgaria for the Bulgarians”.

Religious leaders warn that renewing the 1980s repression and losing civil rights would risk possible repeat of strife and leave some Muslims preys to groups trying to radicalize them.

During the communists’ persecution, discrimination against the Muslim minority has led to bomb attacks by ethnic Turks that killed scores.

“We are doing our best to stop such processes,” Hussein Hafazov, aide to Bulgaria’s chief Mufti Mustafa Alish Hadji, told Reuters.

“If we are constantly being blamed that we are terrorists and are dangerous for the security in this country, we don’t know whether part of the society won’t start feeling that way one day.”

But analysts say the long tradition of good neighborly relations and had so far made it hard for hatred calls and to gain a foothold among Bulgaria Muslims.

“The Turks (of Bulgaria) are mostly secular people,” said Antonina zhelyazkova, head of the Sofia-based International Center for Minority Studies.

“Any kind of messengers of non-traditional Islam has been sent away so far.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Why the Sahara Undermines the Mediterranean Union

To achieve its goal of Mediterranean unity, the EU needs to be committed to the UN’s goal of self-determination for Western Sahara.

The EU’s attempt to create a union including nations on both sides of the Mediterranean has considerable merit. The trouble is that its idealism falters in the face of reality. This is most evident in the case of Western Sahara.

The challenge posed by reality is, in fact, captured in the subtle change of name of the body. Until July 2008, it was to have been the ‘Mediterranean Union’. Now we have ‘the Union for the Mediterranean’. This is no mere tweaking of semantics. It is recognition of the fact that the states along the Mediterranean’s southern coast are a long way from anything like a union.

In recognition of this reality, the agenda has shifted away from more lofty goals. While the original trans-Mediterranean partnership process — the Barcelona Process — aimed to create “a common area of peace and stability underpinned by sustainable development, rule of law, democracy and human rights”, the agenda since 2008 has had a more prosaic focus, on trade and investment.

This political evolution is also an attempt to skirt around the fact that Africa’s last remaining colony sits squarely within the proposed union.

That colony is, of course, Western Sahara, which was forcibly annexed and occupied by Morocco. Without a sustainable solution here, no union — whether of the Mediterranean or the Maghreb — will have a real impact.

The United Nations has set out what such a solution could be: a referendum on self-determination. It did so after the International Court of Justice said in 1975 that it could “not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco”. In short, the annexation is illegal.

The UN has advocated a referendum since the early 1960s. Morocco itself backed the idea in the early 1980s and accepted the UN’s settlement plan of 1990. However, attempts to establish the basis for a vote on self-determination have been blocked by Morocco — now under a new monarch — and by supporters in the UN Security Council.

This stalemate is putting up political walls throughout the region, drawing battle-lines between expediency and justice. It is a major reason why intra-Maghreb trade and investment is both miniscule and complicated.

The continued, well-documented violation of the human rights of Sahrawis creates an ethical vacuum for any body, such as the Union for the Mediterranean, that seeks to create a trans-Mediterranean union.

Most European governments seem aware of this. So too is the European Parliament, which, in March, produced a report on human rights that voiced concern over continued abuses and recognised that abuses will continue until Sahrawis’ right to self-determination is recognised. That right is recognised by most members of the UN Security Council and the EU; those who are preventing recognition of that right are chiefly Morocco and France.

The current position of Morocco and France amounts to a disavowal of a process of organic self-determination in favour of a shoddy form of autonomy within Morocco. It ignores the basic human right to choose.

For any Mediterranean union to gain a foothold in reality, Morocco must be prepared to accept its own former proposal, a free and fair referendum.

Polisario, which represents Sahrawis who seek independence, has a vested interest in a Mediterranean union. It wants to see greater trade; it wants the southern Mediterranean region to have links — political, social and economic — with Europe that are stronger, but also free and fair. Such a union will remain merely an ideal as long as Western Sahara remains in its current state.

Mohammed Khadad is a member of the Polisario leadership and is its co-ordinator at the UN.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Son of Jailed Al-Qaeda Leader Speaks Ahead of Obama Visit

Cairo, 29 May (AKI) — He was once considered the intellectual chief of Al-Qaeda, a valued colleague of global leader Osama Bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahiri. But now Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, known as Dr. Fadl, who is in an Egyptian prison, has renounced his role in the movement and called for an end to violent jihad in western and Muslim countries.

In an interview published in the magazine of Italian daily, La Repubblica on Friday, his 24-year-old son Ismaiel spoke about his father’s life in prison and his revisionism on the eve of US president Barack Obama’s visit to Egypt.

“He has a single cell, bathroom and kitchenette,” he told the daily. “They bring him the newspaper but he has refused satellite TV. If we want he can telephone every day. I saw him yesterday.”

What do they talk about? “I tell him what I am doing, I have become the head of the family, I have to take care of our interests.”

Ismaeil, an economics graduate, recalled his life as a child and dinners with the children of Al-Qaeda’s number two.

“We used to do normal things,” he told the Italian daily.”To us he (his father) was a talented and respected doctor, with a true passion for reading and studying and who spoke very little.”

Born in Bani Swaif south of Cairo in 1950, Sayyid Imam (photo) distinguished himself at an early age. He memorised the Koran at age 11, before graduating in medicine at the University of Cairo and specialising in plastic surgery.

During his studies he became friends with Al Zawahiri. They became disillusioned with Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and gravitated towards radical Muslim groups. He later went to Pakistan to treat mujahadeen injured in their battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Presiden Obama is set to deliver what has been billed as a major speech to the Muslim world from Egypt on 4 June. It is a controversial choice that has revived criticism of the country’s human rights record.

Al-Sharif has been in prison since the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Initially he was questioned by Yemen92s “secret police”, while at work as a surgeon at the al-Shiffa Hospital south of Sanaa.

He was held for three years in detention in Sanaa, “without charge, without trial, and without access to an attorney” before being transferred to Egypt where he is now serving a life sentence.

During his imprisonment in Egypt he wrote ‘Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World’, also transliterated as — Rationalising Jihad in Egypt and the World.

93We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” he proclaimed in the book.

He has been described as a “major” figure “in the global jihad movement and his earlier book, ‘The Essentials of Making Ready [for Jihad]’) was used as a jihad manual in Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

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


Egypt’s Grand Mufti Bans Muslim Use of WMDs

Ali al-Gomaa says posession ok, but use is haram

Muslim states can possess weapons of mass destruction but may not use them against non-Muslim nations, according to Egypt’s highest religious authority, who issued the opinion online Sunday in hopes of clarifying assertions about their legitimacy.

“It is not permissible for Muslim countries to use weapons of mass destruction…but they can possess them only as a deterrent against possible attacks,” Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa wrote in his religious ruling, or fatwa, which came just days before U.S. President Barack Obama is due to address the Muslim world from Cairo.

Gomaa issued the fatwa in response to “reports and opinions from various groups claiming that the use of weapons is legitimate based on some sharia rulings on gathering ammunition,” he wrote on the website of Dar al-Iftaa, the state-sanctioned body charged with providing religious rulings.

His ruling did not prohibit the acquisition or possession of such weapons as a deterrent, but said their use was prohibited because it could threaten states beyond the borders of the targeted country and kill non-combatants and Muslims— something that would not be allowed even in a declared war.

“This fatwa is the first one we issued on this topic and comes in response to the wave of uninformed opinions from various groups,” according to spokesman Dr. Ibrahim Negm.

Egypt recently joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is a leading advocate for a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the region, a position seemed as taking aim at Israel as the only nuclear weapon state in the Middle East. Egypt has U.S. backing for plans to build nuclear power plants but says it has no desire to make atomic bombs.

Gomaa’s fatwa defines weapons of mass destruction as nuclear weapons, biological weapons and incendiary weapons, like white phosphorus. The Mufti also stated that Islam forbids killing of civilians during war.

Battle of the fatwas

Any educated religious leader can issue a fatwa, a religious interpretation of Islamic law, but sheikhs and imams differ widely in their views of WMD and nuclear weapons.

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa in 2005 forbidding the production of WMDs as “un-Islamic” and said that “developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.”

But in January a conservative senior Iranian cleric thought to be close to President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said that it was “only natural” to have nuclear bombs as a “countermeasure” against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel.

In Pakistan, the only Muslim country that possesses nuclear weapons, religious scholars have prohibited terrorism but made no specific mention of nuclear or other mass destruction weapons.

In 2007 a group of Islamic scholars and clerics in Indonesia issued a fatwa against a proposed nuclear plant in their community saying nuclear power was haraam.

On Monday online fatwa forums were alight with scholars and Muslims again weighing in on the matter. Dr. Taha Jabir al-Alwani, president of the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences and the Fiqh Council, supported Gumaa’s interpretation of Islamic law based on the fact that the mass destruction caused by WMD does not distinguish the innocent from the criminal and therefore is prohibited under Islam.

But Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, noted that there was a self-defense exception.

“[I]n case these nuclear weapons are used against Muslims, it becomes permissible for Muslims to defend themselves using the same weapon,” Mawlawi wrote in an IslamOnline forum.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel: US Jews Discomfited by Rightist Bills

Several new legislative initiatives from right-wing parties are causing discomfort among mainstream US Jewish advocacy organizations who worry that efforts to forbid anti-Israel activism in the country may be tinged with racist intentions and lead to infringements on freedom of speech.

The bills in question include a proposal by Israel Beiteinu MK Alex Miller to criminalize the marking of Independence Day as a day of mourning, a common practice among sections of the Israeli Arab public; a bill presented by Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev that seeks to criminalize those who “incite against or attempt to undermine” — in Orlev’s words — the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel, and a bill being prepared by Israel Beiteinu that will demand an oath of loyalty to the state from anyone seeking to receive an Israeli ID card for the first time, including new immigrants and Israeli minors who reach the age of 16.

“It’s one thing to legislate allegiance to the state, but it is discrimination to target one population group for loyalty,” Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“That means demanding allegiance to Zionism rather than to the state itself,” Foxman added.

Miller’s bill criminalizing the commemoration of the “Nakba” smacks of “violation of freedom of speech,” Foxman believes.

According to Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “there’s clearly a problem in the attitudes of certain segments of Arab society in Israel toward the state.”

He admits that the new initiatives “put their finger on a tremendous angst in Israeli society” which is exacerbated by “Israeli Arab MKs who never miss an opportunity to reject Israel and announce outright that they are disloyal.”

But, he adds, “a loyalty oath won’t solve anything and is impossible to implement in practical terms. It also looks populist and demagogic and goes against the whole grain of democracy.”…

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


Israel Goes on Building Settlements, Tension Rises With U.S.

(by Alessandro Logroscino) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — Signs of friction between Israel and the U.S. are rising over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank (territory under autonomous Palestinian control), which Barack Obama’s administration has repeatedly urged Israel to put a halt to — with growing insistence — in order to foster the resumption of the peace process. It is an insistence that has driven Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government (with the Labour party in the government coalition) to make a few conciliatory gestures in the form of removing small, illegally built outposts — thought it seems that for the time being it will not budge an inch as concerns its refusal to stop large-scale building projects in the large settlements already in existence. Pressure from the White House, reinforced over the past few days as part of the meeting between Obama and the moderate president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, received its initial reply in the cold remarks made on Thursday by Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev. Today the tension seems to have risen even further, judging by the comments made by a number of ministers: though not figures of the highest level they do seem to be representative of the prevailing mood. “I would like to make it clear that the current government will not agree to halt the legal settlements of Judea and Samaria” (the West Bank), thundered Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, fiery Likud representative (Netanyahu’s party, traditional right-wing), calling the settlements authorised by the Israeli government “legal” (as opposed to the outposts), though the international community considers them illegitimate on a par with all the settlements built since 1967. Katz has said that the US request to halt Israeli extension plans as a part of dealing with the “natural growth” of the settlements’ population (with 280,000 only in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem) is especially unfair. In agreement with the latter is Science Minister and Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz from the Jewish Home party (closely connected with the movement of religious settlers), who has accused the U.S of “unreasonableness” in its refusal to agree on the issue of “natural growth”, even going so far as to compare Obama with a reincarnated “pharaoh” intent on “throwing the Jews into the Nile”. Netanyahu — who today has gone forward with the evacuation of a very small outpost, the second in only a few days — has also felt obliged to tell the Likud parliamentary group that he has no intention of “removing entire communities”. According to Israeli press sources from Haaretz to Maariv, unease abounds in the premier’s staff in relation to the sequence of Obama’s moves, which according to British press leaks intend to bring about a turning point in Israeli-Palestinian talks and move toward the controversial two-state solution within the next two years. A civil servant quoted by the media and speaking on condition of anonymity has said that the way Obama is moving forward has caused Netanyahu to wonder whether Washington might not be trying to put him into such a difficult position that his rightist government would be at risk of falling. From the Israeli pacifists, instead, Uri Avneri (militant journalist and former government representative) has noted with ill-concealed satisfaction how US pressure on Israel over the past few days is “something unseen since the times of George Bush Senior and James Baker,” though at the same time adding that “to face up to pro-Israeli lobbies” in Washington, another step forward would be necessary, an attitude similar to the one “taken on in 1956 by President Eisenhower to put an end to the Sinai War.” Avneri concluded by saying that “Obama can be compared if for no other reason than that of his popularity” to Eisenhower.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel: Israeli Arab Lawmaker Clashes With U.S. Visitor

Knesset member rants, demands American Jewish leader be banned

JERUSALEM — An American Jewish leader was restricted by security guards from entering Israel’s parliament after he questioned an Arab lawmaker over seemingly anti-Israel statements and practices, WND has learned.

[…]

“I asked Tibi if he thinks it appropriate for a Knesset member to be blackening Israel’s image by calling it an apartheid state and going around as a paid Knesset member and yet representing himself as from the so-called state of Palestine, which doesn’t exist,” Klein said.

Both Klein and multiple witnesses related how after the questions were asked, Tibi started screaming “at the top of his lungs” for security to expel Klein, accusing the Jewish leader of physically and then verbally assaulting him.

More than one witness told WND Tibi was “acting like a maniac.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Former Terror Detainee Stars in Gitmo Xbox Game

Moazzam Begg plays himself in Rendition: Guantanamo

A former Guantanamo “terrorism” detainee who walked away a free man in 2005 will shoot his way out of the U.S. prison in a new Xbox 360 video game based on the camp.

Moazzam Begg, who spent nearly two years in the U.S. detention camp without charges, will play himself in the game, which could rake in £3 million ($5 million).

Rendition: Guantanamo lets players control a detainee trying to shoot his way out, meaning the game’s creators needed to know the layout of the prison. Begg has been consulting on the project, under development for more than a year and already drawing fierce criticim.

“We have had a lot of hate mail about this, mainly from America, saying things like, ‘Don’t dare put out a game that shows them killing our soldiers,” Zarrar Chishti, director of Scottish software company T-Enterprise, told the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

“But no U.S. or British soldiers get killed in it. The only ones being killed are mercenaries.

Begg, a British citizen of Pakistani decent who attended a Jewish elementary school, is shown in the game as head of an organization helping the suspect to escape.

Begg, 40, was taken from his home in Pakistan and turned over to the CIA in Bagrham, Afghanistan for a year before being thrown into Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison camp in 2003 where he spent 20 months in solitary confinement.

He said he was tortured by U.S. personnel before being freed without charge in 2005. He has since become a human rights activist.

Begg told the Sun that he will donate any money he earns from the game to a charity devoted to ensuring the rights of detainees.

“The software firm approached me with the idea for a Guantanamo game. I’m involved to make sure it is as true to life as possible.”

T-Enterprise is reportedly spending £250,000 ($405,000) to produce the game.

“We checked with police and security services. We didn’t want MI5 knocking our door down,” Chishti told the Sun.

“We are expecting an extreme reaction to the game in the US. But we think it will sell well in the Middle East,” said Chishti.

Xbox 360 sold more than eight million consoles in the Middle East, Africa and Europe last year.

Not all Middle East gamers were convinced, however.

“It will just look like any other game with people killing people,” said UAE gamer Ahmed Baheri.

This is not the first video game inspired by the so-called “war on terror.”

Kaboom, a computer game in which players control a suicide bomber trying to kill as many civilians as possible, drew criticism from victims’ groups worldwide and Japanese videogame maker Konami pulled plans for a videogame based on a fierce battle between U.S. Marines and insurgents in the Iraq city of Fallujah.

The Sun said the game was due to go on sale in October but an Xbox customer service representative was unable to confirm the game or its reported release date and the media center was unavailable.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: Obama Sows a Mideast Whirlwind

JERUSALEM— From this vantage point, two events this week appear to be ominous straws in the wind, warnings of a “man-caused” maelstrom that may inexorably plunge the Middle East into another, potentially cataclysmic war.

The first is the fact that Israel feels obliged to undertake an unprecedented, country-wide civil defense exercise this week. At one point in its course, every man, woman and child in the Jewish State is supposed to seek shelter from a simulated attack of the kind Iran may shortly be able to execute against it.

The second is President Obama’s latest effort to reach out to the Muslim world, this time on June 4 from one of its most important capitals, Cairo. There, he is expected to make an address that will reiterate his previous statements on the subject — pronouncements that, unfortunately, can only have been interpreted by his intended audience as acts of submission…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Iran: US ‘Blamed’ for Deadly Mosque Attack

Zahedan, 29 May (AKI) — A provincial official in Iran has blamed the United States for a bomb attack on a Shia mosque that killed at least 23 people in Zahedan, in the country’s southeast. Jalal Sayah, deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province, made the claim as three people were arrested after the attack on the Amir al-Momenin mosque on Thursday.

“It has been confirmed that those behind the terrorist act in Zahedan were hired by America,” said Jalal Sayah, quoted by official Iranian news agency Fars.

Fars said another 125 people were injured in the attack which took place during evening prayers at the mosque in the provincial capital.

The city is mainly Sunni Muslim and the remote province is one of the most deprived in this mostly Shia country.

The province’s governor Mohammed Ali Azad said that those arrested had planned to carry out further attacks but were stopped by Iranian intelligence officials.

On Thursday, Azad said “terrorists” had carried out the attack in a bid to disrupt the country’s upcoming election on 12 June.

“It was a terrorist attack and the bomb was exploded by a terrorist,” Ali Mohammed Azad told Iranian state TV.

“Bandits and terrorists intended to disturb the order in the province before the election considering the insecurity in the eastern neighbouring countries”.

The attack took place during a public holiday, when worshippers marked the death of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed’s daughter Fatima.

Three days of public mourning were announced following the deadly attack.

Zahedan, the capital of the Sistan and Baluchistan province is located 1,600 kilometres from the capital Tehran, near the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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


Iran: 3 Men Hanged for Attack on Zahedan Mosque. Suspicions Point to US

The 3 men condemned to death had been arrested days before the mosque attack for having smuggled explosives into Iran. The executions took place a short distance from the mosque. Ahmadinejad halts tensions between Sunnis and Shiites amid accusations of a “foreign plot”. Khamenei points to the United States. Condolences from Ban Ki-moon.

Teheran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Iran has hanged three men for orchestrating a bombing of a Zahedan mosque that killed 25 people, injuring 125 people. At the same time Iranian leaders are accusing the United States of being behind the assault. The explosion — a suicide attack- took place May 28th last, during evening prayer, close to the Amir al-Momenin Mosque. The hangings took place this morning at 6 close to the mosque. According to state news agency Irna, the three men confessed to “illegally bringing explosives into Iran and giving them to the main person behind the bombing”. The three were arrested days before the attack. I tre condannati erano stati arrestati giorni prima dell’attentato. “They were convicted of being ‘mohareb’ [enemies of God] and corrupt on the earth and acting against national security”, said Hojatoeslam Ebrahim Hamidi, Sistan-Baluchestan public relations chief.

The Jundullah (God’s soldiers) opposition group declared its responsibility for the suicide bombing. In February 2007 they killed 13 pasdaran (revolutionary guards), the parallel army that depend directly from Ahmadinejad and the ayatollah.

The mosque attack took place weeks ahead of the presidential elections. Yesterday Ahmadinejad’s election office in Zahedan was assailed by three men armed with knives, who threatened people within the office and tore up posters. Zahedan is a majority Sunni city within a majority Shia nation. The Amir al-Momenin is used by the Sunni community. The assaults appear to be aimed at undermining Ahmadinejad in the eyes of the Sunni population. The surrounding Arab world, almost totally Sunni, is also unfavourable towards him.

In an attempt to avoid tensions that could bury his candidacy, the Iranian President immediately expressed his condolences to the victims ad warned the population against an outbreak of Sunni-Shiite tensions. “Sunni and Shiite brothers — commented Ahmadinejad —will undoubtedly recognize and neutralize conspiracies through their vigilance”. According to the president these “conspiracies” are of foreign origin, in particular the United States and Great Britain.

This charge was also made by Jalal Sayah, deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchistan (the province of Zahedan). “According to the information obtained — he said — they were hired by America and the agents of the arrogance”. The same accusation has also been expressed by the Supreme ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, who spoke in terms of “expansionist superpowers”. Hossein Mussavi, another presidential candidate also suspects the influence of “foreign powers”.

The United States has denied all involvement.

Rhetoric attacking foreigners is a common tool in the presidential campaign. Last April members of Iranian Intelligence arrested a group they claim is linked to Israel and that was planning bombings ahead of the elections.

The speed with which today’s executions took place and the chorus of accusations against the US are however and indication of growing tensions within a nation that is becoming increasingly isolated from the international community because of its nuclear program that is widely feared to have a military rather than civilian purpose. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, condemned the mosque attack and expressed his condolences and solidarity with the families of the victims.

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


Jordan: MPs Propose Bill to End Peace With Israel

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JUNE 1 — A group of Jordanian MPs presented today in Parliament with proposed legislation to scrap the peace treaty between the kingdom and Israel as diplomatic relations between the neighbours turn sour. Deputy Khalil Atyyeh said in a letter to the 110-member chamber that Israel violated the 1994 Wadi Araba peace agreement when the Israeli kennest approved to discuss controversial legislation by a right wing MP to adopt a law that refers to Jordan as “The Hashemite kingdom Palestine.” In the letter, Jordanian MPs said Israel showed “no respect to the sovereignty of Jordan. “Israel draft law is a violation to the peace agreement and international norms,” said Atiyeh, weeks before the start of the parliament session where the proposal could be discussed. Last week, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh summoned the Israeli consulate in Amman to lodge an official complaint about the proposed legislation, which could blow the remaining hopes of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Jordan is the second and last Arab country to sign peace with Israel after Egypt. The kingdom, home to nearly 3.5 million Palestinian refugees, shares the longest borders with Israel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kurds Start Oil Exports From Northern Iraq

Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdish region has started exporting crude oil to foreign markets for the first time.

Companies chosen by the Kurdistan Regional Government will pump up to 90,000-100,000 barrels per day from two northern oilfields to Turkey.

The Baghdad government has allowed its pipeline to be used, in a deal that could begin resolving internal disputes over Iraq’s substantial oil wealth.

The revenue will be shared between Baghdad, the Kurds and oil companies.

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani called a “giant step” at a lavish ceremony in Irbil.

“We are proud of this success, and this achievement will serve the interests of all Iraqis, especially the Kurds,” he said.

The ceremony was also attended by the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, who is also from Iraq’s Kurdish minority.

Oil will be transported by lorry from the Taq Taq field to Irbil at a rate of 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) and then pumped along to Iraq-Turkey pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Initial exports will also include 50,000-60,000 bpd will be pumped from the Tawke field in Dohuk.

Frosty relations

Kurdish government adviser Khalid Salih said it was hoped 250,000 bpd could be exported by the middle of 2010.

“The Kurdistan region wants to be a leading example in the new Iraq … to contribute to Iraq’s increased oil production. Today, we are proud to be part of this,” Mr Salih said.

Correspondents say, apart from Mr Talabani, no representatives of Iraq’s Shia Arab-led central government were apparent at the ceremony, underscoring the frosty relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The disagreements over oil contracts are part of a wider dispute over land, power and the country’s massive oil reserves, which US officials see as the greatest threat to Iraq’s long term stability.

Iraq has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, but only produces up to 2.4m bpd — which is below the level before the US-led invasion in 2003.

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

Russia

Russian Journalist Seeks Political Asylum in Finland — Rights Group

HELSINKI (AFP)—A campaigning Russian journalist has sought political asylum in neighboring Finland after receiving threats in her homeland, a Finnish human rights group said Monday. Elena Maglevannaya “submitted her asylum application last Thursday to police,” Anu Harju, a member of the Finrosforum, an organization promoting democracy and human rights in Russia, told AFP. Maglevannaya, who worked for the Volgograd daily Free Speech, attended a seminar in Helsinki last week organized by Finrosforum. Russia’s human rights situation is expected to be on the agenda Wednesday when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets his Finnish counterpart Matti Vanhanen and President Tarja Halonen in Helsinki. Harju said Maglevannaya had angered authorities and a Communist youth organization by writing articles on poor conditions in prisons. “A leading doctor at a prison in Volgograd told her he would put her in a mental hospital if she continued to write,” Harju said. According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, a court found Maglevannaya guilty of spreading disinformation after she wrote a story criticizing the torture of a Chechen prisoner. Maglevannaya was ordered to pay a fine and publish a denial, which she has refused to do. “The court case and fines made her decide that she had to leave the country because she could not write freely,” Harju said. The Russian journalist is now staying at an asylum center and processing her application is expected to take several months. “I assume she will appeal if her asylum application is denied and that could also take many months,” Harju said. In February, the Finnish Immigration Service denied asylum to Alexander Novikov, who said he was recruited by Russia’s security service FSB to spy on a liberal opposition group. He said he feared for his safety if deported to Russia. Novikov’s appeal hasn’t gone to court yet.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


What is EuRussia?

Today Eurussia signifies mainly gas and football. However there begins to appear a series of projects based on the formation of a new geopolitical actor composed by the major European powers and Russia, strong enough to face the Sino-American hegemony.

Gas and soccer define today’s EuRussia. The pipes bringing Russia’s gas to the EU, covering a quarter of Europe’s energy needs, and the European Champions League linking Moscow to London, are two concrete examples of this relationship.

But new and more ambitious projects are underway: an axis between Europe’s big economies and the Russian Federation to create a new geopolitical subject, able to confront China and the US. Or a G2 — a smaller version of the recently celebrated G20 — between Beijing and Washington, increasingly tied together by China’s holding of US debt and by America’s purchase of Chinese goods.

After the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War, and in the wake of the current economic crisis, everything is possible.

The main element of EuRussia is an axis between Germany and Russia: a growing relationship, that in the eyes of the German intelligence could rival the French-German couple, historical engine of the European integration. The final result could be a new Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis, able to bring Europe back among the global powers.

The way is not easy: Russia and Europe have been contending for continental spaces for at least four centuries. When they can’t win over each other, they try to find a common way. A powerful symbol of which was, in 1703, the foundation of St Petersburg. Where, not by coincidence, both Putin and Medvedev come from.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Four Christians in Manmohan Singh’s Governing Team

Agatha Sangma is Catholic and the youngest of the 78 ministers. She is only 28 and is the Minister for Rural Development. Msgr. Fernandes, secretary of the Indian Bishops Conference, asks the new executive to work “to bring about an end to the culture that tolerates corruption, inefficiency, discrimination and fundamentalism”.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — It is the first day on the job for the 78 ministers of the Indian governments executive, which Premier Manmohan Singh describes as a “mix of experience and youthful energy”. There are 50 years difference between the youngest and oldest Minister: Somananhalli Mallaiah Krishna, ex governor of Karnataka and now in charge of foreign affairs is 77; Agatha Sangma, is 28 (in photo together with Farooq Abdullah, President of the National Conference).

For supporters of the Indian National Congress and United Progressive Alliance (Upa) this age gap is a sign of a great vision of the nation that unites the past and the future. For the Bharatiya Janata Party (Bjp) it is only a facade. The Hindu party underlines that 7 ministers are under 40 and that this hides the fact that nothing is different to the first Singh administration.

The Indian Bishops Conference (CBCI) Secretary General Msgr. Stanislaus Fernandes, appreciates the new executive. “The government — he tells AsiaNews — must be all inclusive and must take into consideration all aspects of the diversity and plurality of our beloved motherland India, our rich and varied cultural and religious heritage, our ethnic diversity, our linguistic dimensions, the needs of the various states”.

Of the 78 ministers 33 make up the Cabinet. They include the Ministers of State who are entrusted with individual responsibilities’ within the Ministries.

There are five Dalit Ministers with Cabinet ranks and nine women, including Sangma, who is already on her second parliamentary mandate. Daughter of Shri Sangma, leader of the National Congress Party, Agatha is Catholic and one of the 4 Christians who have been called to take up a ministerial post. The others are A. K. Antony, ministry for defense, K.V. Thomas, and Vincent Pala, ministers of the state. Sangma has been given the protfolio for rural development together with Pradeep Jain of the Indian National Congress.

Msgr. Fernandes hopes that the new government “works to end a culture that tolerates corruption and inefficiency, discrimination and communalism”. The bishop also prays that “with this new government, the long pending Equal Rights of our Dalit Christian will be resolved” and affirms that the bishops expect the executives commitment towards minorities.

“The CBCI — affirms Fernandes — does not only narrow our concerns to merely Christian issues and challenges, we pray for good governance” adding it is the Churches “sincere desire” that the new government “work for the development and uplifting of the weaker, marginalised sections of society, such as the rural poor, youth and women” and that “all peoples will be given their rightful place as equal citizens of this country”.

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


Sri Lanka: UN Gives Full Backing to President Rajapaksa

The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a resolution in favour of the government of Sri Lanka: army is no longer accused of war crimes; the conflict was an “internal question that did not justify external interference”. Access to refugee camps for Humanitarian Organisations will take place as Colombo government “sees fit”.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — Sri Lanka has defeated the UN. With 29 votes in favour, 12 against and 6 abstentions, the Colombo government has won the approval of the Human Rights Council (Unhcr) for President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s strategy.

The resolution passed on May 27th in Geneva establishes that the Tamil Tigers used civilians as human shields, relieves that army of war crimes charges and states that the conflict and emergency are “internal questions that do not justify external interference”. Thus Colombo’s strategy in managing the crisis of 280 thousand refugees has passed the test. Access the camps for Humanitarian Organisations will take place as the government “sees fit”.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister described the Geneva vote as a “decisive victory at this crucial time”, that “shows the endorsement of the international community of Sri Lanka’s efforts to resolve the humanitarian challenges in the aftermath of the conflict”.

In favour of the resolution that approves President Rajapaksa’s strategy, were China, Russia, India, Indonesia and other Asian countries and African bloc nations. Against Sri Lanka’s line of non-interference; the EU, Mexico, Japan and Chile.

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


Teen Model Escapes ‘Abusive’ Malaysian Prince

JAKARTA (AFP) — A teenage US-Indonesian model has returned to her family in Indonesia with tales of abuse, rape and torture at the hands of a Malaysian prince, after her dramatic escape with the help of Singapore police.

Manohara Odelia Pinot, 17, told reporters she was treated like a sex slave after her marriage last year to Tengku Temenggong Mohammad Fakhry, the prince of Malaysia’s Kelantan state.

Her mother, Daisy Fajarina, said she would press charges against the 31-year-old prince, and blamed the Malaysian and Indonesian governments for trying to cover up the alleged abuse.

“The things I’ve been afraid of were revealed to be true. Manohara has suffered physical abuse. She’s got several razor cuts on her chest,” Fajarina told AFP on Monday.

“No parent could be silent if their child was treated in such a barbaric way.”

The Malaysian government had ignored her pleas for access to her daughter and had blocked her from entering the country, she said, while the Indonesian embassy had said that Manohara was fine with her new husband.

But the young woman — a well-known socialite in Jakarta — said her life at the royal palace involved a “daily routine” of rape, abuse, torture and occasional drug injections that made her vomit blood.

She said she was usually held under guard in her bedroom at the palace and was injected with tranquilisers whenever she complained.

“I am still traumatised by all that happened and it has left an impact on me,” she told reporters in Jakarta on Sunday, after escaping the royal family during a trip to Singapore over the weekend.

“Sexual abuse and sexual harassment were like a daily routine for me, and he did that every time I did not want to have sexual intercourse,” she was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Globe.

“I could never think a normal man could do such things,” she said, adding: “Some parts of my body were cut by a razor.”

“I’ve been treated like an animal. I’m like his property and I was in his room and whenever he wants to play with me he just goes into the room and plays with me. I’m like an object.”

The teenager — whose fairy-tale wedding to a prince captured the imagination of Indonesia — said she would be tortured if she did not appear to be happy when she attended social functions with Fakhry.

She said she secretly called Singaporean police and pleaded for help after the royal family took her to Singapore when they accompanied Fakhry’s father, Sultan Ismail Petra Shah II, for medical treatment.

“The police told Fakhry that he would be held in jail if he did not let me go. No one could force me against my will in Singapore and I knew I had a chance to escape,” she said.

The model once voted as being among Indonesia’s “100 Precious Women” said she escaped her guards by pushing the Singapore hotel elevator’s emergency button.

They were reluctant to chase her because they knew the scene would be captured on security cameras.

She blasted the Indonesian embassy in Malaysia, saying: “They made it worse by telling lies, saying that I was fine while I was suffering in Kelantan.”

A spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry insisted the embassy had done everything it could to help Manohara and said the government would assist her if she wanted to file charges against her husband.

But Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government would not investigate the allegations.

“I think this is more of a personal matter. To date we have not been dragged into it, so we want to leave it as it is,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s royal rulers used to enjoy immunity from criminal and civil charges but the privilege was removed in 1993.

There has been no comment from the Kelantan royal family.

Manohara’s lawyer, Yuri Darmas, said she would have a medical examination to back up her allegations of abuse.

“We need one to two days to gather evidence before we file a lawsuit to the Malaysian police,” he said, adding that he intended to pursue criminal and civil lawsuits against the prince.

Manohara has already filed for divorce, her mother said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Pig Flu Strikes King Khalid Campus of the Australian International Academy

AN eight-year-old swine flu victim thought he was “boiling inside” as parents began pulling children from his school.

Mohamad Sanad from Altona North had suffered high temperatures and slept heavily at the height of his illness last week, his father Waseam Sanad said today.

The boy studies at an international school in Coburg, which is at the centre of the latest reported outbreak.

Some parents have pulled their children from the King Khalid campus of the Australian International Academy, after the discovery of swine flu, despite assurances it is safe.

The latest developments in Victoria comes as Western Australia recorded its first case.

No details are available, but the victim is believed to be a middle-aged man.

The latest case brings Australia’s total number of confirmed cases to 18, after Queensland confirmed a second case last night.

Victoria has 11 confirmed cases of the potentially deadly virus.

Mohamad’s family said they had no idea the schoolboy had the A(H1N1) virus until his condition began to improve later in the week and health authorities told them he had tested positive for swine flu.

Mr Sanad said that when he learned of his son’s diagnosis, he asked Mohamed how he had felt when he was sick.

Mohamed told him: “I thought I was going to die. I was boiling on the inside,” he said.

Mr Sanad said his son became ill last Monday and was taken to the doctor the next day after his condition worsened.

The local GP took swabs and prescribed anti-viral drugs, but did not specify the tests were for swine flu.

After his health improved, Mohamed went back to school on Friday, only to be told later that day the test results had returned positive for swine flu.

“If we knew that he had anything at all (like) the swine flu, we obviously wouldn’t have taken him to school at all,” Mr Sanad said.

“It was only because he started recovering, he was fine, and we thought it was just the normal flu at that stage.”

The family had not travelled overseas recently.

Mr Sanad, his wife, and their four young children have been quarantined in their Altona North home in Melbourne’s west since Friday.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Finland: Election Ad Denouncing “Welfare Bum Immigrants” Too Much for Party Leader Katainen

HS editor-in-chief defends decision to allow advertisement to run

National Coalition Party Chairman, Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen, has told fellow party member and European Parliament candidate Kai Pöntinen to stop running an election advertisement that lends itself to accusations of racism.

In the ad, which was placed on the front page of Helsingin Sanomat on Friday, Pöntinen calls for a “stop to welfare bum immigrants”. Katainen said that the advertisement is to be dropped because it can be misconstrued.

“I didn’t like the ad, because it gives the wrong impression of Pöntinen’s thinking. I have asked Pöntinen to stop using the advertisement”, Katainen said on the morning.

Katainen emphasised that Finland will need more immigrants in the future, as the members of the postwar baby boom generation retire. However, he added that open and critical debate is also needed on the immigration question.

He said that open debate is especially important to avoid the spread of a racist mentality.

“Immigration is one of the biggest questions of the future. It needs to be taken seriously, because it involves people and their lives.”

Katainen noted that the immigration question has not escalated in Finland to the point of rioting, as has happened in Sweden. “We must see to it that it does not happen in the future, either”, Jyrki Katainen said.

The running of Pöntinen’s ad brought a good deal of negative feedback to Helsingin Sanomat from people alleging that the message it contains is racist.

Helsingin Sanomat defended the decision to allow the advertisement to run, appealing to the principle of freedom of expression.

Editor-in-chief Janne Virkkunen says that tough language is permissible in politics, and he saw no reason to block the advertisement.

Virkkunen adds that immigration policy is one of the key themes of the European Parliament elections, and therefore, issues related to the policy need to be discussed.

“It is my principle that if something is to be banned, there has to be a weighty reason to do so. Now there was not. In my opinion the advertisement was distasteful, but evil cannot be made to go away by shutting one’s eyes”, Virkkunen says.

He added that Pöntinen may have wanted his ad to be banned so that he might be able to portray himself as a martyr for freedom of speech.

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

General

Egyptian Psychologist Dr. Wafa Musa: The Jews Deserved Their Annihilation by Hitler

[see link for video]

Following are excerpts from a Hamas TV women’s show, which aired on May 14, 2009:

Egyptian psychologist Dr. Wafa Musa: The terrorist psychology of the Jews derives only from their love of money. The only god or religion of the Jews is money — not the Jewish religion or the dream of the so-called Greater Israel. This is a lie they tell themselves.

[…]

I always ask myself: Why did Hitler annihilate the Zionists or the Jews? By character, they definitely deserve this. This is why they suffered this massacre or annihilation, and so, they adopt the [Nazi] character, and project it onto the Palestinian people…

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]

4 comments:

Caballaria said...

As an Italian, I'm astonished at how seemingly everybody in the right-wing English language blogosphere has no knowledge about Berlusconi except what comes from the (Italian and international) MSM. The MSM is as objective about Berlusconi as Michale Moore is about George Bush.

The whole "sex scandal" a shameful attempt by the Left to damage Berlusconi's image right before the European elections. Doesn't the Left they use the same kind of smear tactics in the US?

There's absolutely no reason to think Berlusconi had a relationship with this girl. All he did was show up at the birthday party of a friend's daughter with a present. For a man with a hypertrophic social life as the premier, this is an unremarkable fact. The only reason this is being interpreted as sex is that Berlusconi's wife insinuated so. This doesn't come as a surprise, given that she's used to publicly shoot in her husband's back every single time there's an election of referendum - it's no secret that she is a Leftist.

Every time I read about the premier in an American blog, even a right wing one, it seems that they don't realize they're buying into the leftist MSM version of him (which paints him as corrupt, totalitarian, a sexual pervert, whatever). It's all smear tactics.

IoshkaFutz said...

Ciao Caballaria,

Yes, that's my impression too. Franceschini and company are at their "minimi storici," they've lost the support of much of the working class (plenty of whom went Lega), and this gossip campaign is their last hope to avoid being trounced at the polls.

With the demise of Communism, the PD don't know who or what they are. Espresso, Unità, Repubblica suddenly moralists? Italian leftwing politicians moralisti?

Now the Times of London, owned by Rupert Murdoch (Sky TV) have gotten in on the act. I think in this case the truth is closer to the struggle between Sky TV and Mediaset Premium... though the British press, (Times, Economist, Independent), have never really gotten the measure of the Berlusconi phenomenon and have always treated Italy with sufficiency as some bizarre and remote province.

Tuan Jim said...

Well, the fact is - aside from Corriere and (I guess - I don't check it out that often) adnkronos - there aren't too many Italian news sources that do their own English translations.

I read a lot of translated news elsewhere, but most folks don't have that opportunity.

Still, you also have to keep in mind that Berlusconi owns a few news sources of his own too ;p

Zenster said...

Gitmo Inmates Get Satellite TV, Sudoku Puzzles.

The amusements are aimed at providing mental stimulation for the 240 remaining captives, whom human rights monitors and defense lawyers have said were being driven mad by years of isolation at the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists.

Short drive! Don't they know that terrorists are mad all the time?

Secondly, why do they say this like it's a bad thing?