Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/17/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/17/2009Violent unrest over Iran’s election results continues in Tehran. In Sweden, prosecutors find that they are facing increased harassment and threats. There’s a new mutated strain of the swine flu in Brazil. And a Las Vegas newspaper has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in an attempt to force it to reveal the identities of commenters on one of its online news stories.

In other news, the Obama administration reportedly sent a message to Hamas via Jimmy (“Jimmuh from the Ummah”) Carter.

Thanks to Amil Imani, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, PatriotUSA, TB, Tuan Jim, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
EU to Fine Banks That Engage in Risky Business
Obama: New Rules Will Keep ‘Worst Traits in Check’
Recession a Boon to Spain’s Army
Time for ‘New World Order’: Brazilian President
Byrd: Obama’s Czars Are Unconstitutional
Liberal Hate Kills Truth
Vegas Paper Gets Subpoena to ID Online Commenters
Montreal Courthouse Reopens After Bomb Scare
Nine Arrested in Montreal North Melee
Europe and the EU
Austria: Man Convicted of Glorifying Nazi Ideas
Belfast: Racist Attacks in Send Roma Fleeing Homes
Does Gaddafi Truly Understand That Africa is Full of Africans?
G8: Money to Africa is Compensation Not Gift, Gaddafi Says
Gaddafi: Free-Trade Area for Italian Companies, Marcegaglia
Greece: 1-Mln-Euro Sanction for Optical Store Regulations
High-Tech Edge for Poland’s Jewish History
Hungary to Close, Merge Embassies and Consulates
Hungary: Demonstration Called Against Sickening Vandalism of Holocaust Memorial
Hungary: Jobbik to Hold Demonstrations and “Assist Police”
Italy: No Figure on Guantanamo Detainees
Italy: Libyan Leader ‘Turns the Page’ on History
Italy: Premier Blasts ‘Trash’
Italy Official in Row Over Apparent Fascist Salute
Netherlands PvdA: Moroccan MP Must Not be Acquitted
Netherlands: Integration Minister Challenges Wilders
Sweden: Far-Right Climbs Over Pirates in May Poll
Swedish Prosecutors Under Increasing Threat: Study
U.S. Says Undecided on Eastern Europe Missile Plan
UK: Grieving Son Thrown Out of Cathedral After Being Mistaken for BNP Thug
UK: Hard to Eradicate Risk Some Allies Use Torture
UK: No, Madam, It’s You Who Have Offended My Values
UK: Terror Orders ‘Could be Scrapped’
UK: Terror Law Used to Stop Thousands ‘Just to Balance Racial Statistics’Watchdog
UK: U.N. Protocol Used to Regulate Homeschoolers
Turkish Officials in Bosnia Reopen Historic Ottoman Bridge
Mediterranean Union
Craxi: Mediterranean Coastguard to be Set Up
North Africa
Tunisia: Arab Women Organization Launches Website
Israel and the Palestinians
Israeli Minister in Arab Slur Row
Netanyahu Opening a ‘Half-Step Forward’, Frattini
Netanyahu: Egypt, Threat for Arab Future in Israel
‘Obama Administration Sent Message to Hamas’
Three Failed Plans to Wipe Israel Off the Map
Middle East
Culture: Turkish University Will Open in Dubai
‘Hamas Helping Iran Crush Dissent’
Iran Election: The Beginning of the End
Iran Ups Media Crackdown as Reformers Plan Rally
Iran’s Senior Ayatollah Slams Election, Confirming Split
Turkey Stages Cyprus Drills Amid Oil Dispute
UAE: Thousands of Truck Drivers Stranded in the Desert
South Asia
Three Danish Soldiers Killed in Helmand
Far East
Beijing’s New and Improved Execution Method, Lethal Injection in Lieu of Bullet in the Head
Inside North Korea’s Gulag
North Korea Warns of Retaliation
US Says it Will Not Accept N Korea as Nuclear State
Vatican Urged to be Firm on China
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Swine Flu Measures Scaled Back as Infection Fears Diminish
Sub-Saharan Africa
Quarter of Men in South Africa Admit Rape, Survey Finds
Latin America
Brazil Denies Rift With France Over Jet Disaster Probe
Brazil Finds New Strain of H1N1 Virus
French: No Conclusions in Flight 447 Probe
No French Access to Brazil Plane Crash Autopsies

Financial Crisis

EU to Fine Banks That Engage in Risky Business

Regulators should be able to fine banks that reward staff for excessive risk taking, draft EU plans say, arguing that any impact on attracting talent is a price worth paying for greater market stability.

The draft plans from the EU’s executive European Commission are part of a reform of the bloc’s bank capital requirements rules (CRD) to make markets safer for investors who have been rattled by the credit crunch.

There has been public anger globally at bankers in institutions that needed taxpayer cash to survive the market crisis who then walked away with huge bonuses.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy is due to publish the draft law next week. Its outline has already been flagged but banks have been waiting for greater detail.

It will give regulators direct supervisory powers over remuneration for the first time by imposing a “binding obligation” on credit institutions and investment firms to have policies that promote sound risk management and remuneration.

“The purpose of this proposed amendment to the CRD is to ensure that supervisors may also impose financial or non-financial penalties (including fines) against firms that fail to comply with the obligation,” the draft law said.

Other sanctions could include higher capital requirements or order a firm to make changes so that pay policies don’t encourage risky short-term activities that threaten a bank’s long-term survival.


Safer remuneration principles imply a “trade-off that includes long-term benefits… in terms of a more stable and less pro-cyclical financial system,” the draft added.

Supervisors would not set levels of bonuses and firms would remain responsible for pay policies, it said.

The draft law will need to be adopted by EU governments and the European Parliament to take effect in 2011. It will increase the amount of capital banks will have to set aside to cover risky assets held on their trading books.

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

Obama: New Rules Will Keep ‘Worst Traits in Check’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama proposed new “rules of the road” for the nation’s financial system Wednesday, casting the changes as an essential response to the economic crisis and the greatest regulatory transformation since the Great Depression.

Obama blamed the crisis on “a culture of irresponsibility” that he said had taken root from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street, and he said regulations crafted to deal with the depression of the 1930s were “overwhelmed by the speed, scope and sophistication of a 21st century global economy.”

The Obama plan would give new powers to the Federal Reserve to oversee the entire financial system and would also create a new consumer protection agency to guard against credit and other abuses that played a big role in the current crisis.

In remarks prepared for delivery later in the day, Obama attributed much of the country’s current problem to “a cascade of mistakes and missed opportunities” that happened over decades.

The Fed’s expanded authority and the rest of the new rules would reach into currently unregulated regions of the financial markets. An 88-page white paper released by the administration detailed an effort to change a regime that Obama’s economic team maintained had become too porous for the innovations and intricacies of today’s financial markets.

Obama said the plan was designed in consultation with lawmakers, regulators and the institutions it seeks to police.

“We seek a careful balance,” Obama said.

The plan would do away with the Office of Thrift Supervision, replacing it with a system aimed at closing gaps in coverage and keeping institutions from shopping for the most lenient bank regulator. The consumer agency would place new restrictions on lenders and mortgage brokers, requiring them to offer simple loans to consumers.

“Mortgage brokers will be held to higher standards, exotic mortgages that hide exploding costs will no longer be the norm, home mortgage disclosures will be reasonable, clearly written, and concise,” Obama said.

           — Hat tip: PatriotUSA[Return to headlines]

Recession a Boon to Spain’s Army

Spain has the worst unemployment rate in the EU, but not everyone is complaining.

One of the main beneficiaries of the crisis has been the armed forces. With youth unemployment standing at 36%, the highest in Europe, the number of army recruits has almost doubled.

Just before 0900, young men line up outside the army recruitment office in the centre of Madrid. Once the doors open, they go through a security check, then file into a spacious office lined with posters of smiling young people in uniform.

They have come to meet representatives of the army, navy and air force, in the hope of finding a new future.

Most of those seeking a military career are driven by Spain’s stark economic realities. “I am here because of the crisis,” says Emilio, 18.

“I need a job and it pays a regular wage. I was a locksmith and labourer but they fired me four months ago. My benefit is coming to an end, so I am here because I need to eat,” he says.

“At the moment there is not much work around so the army is good because it is a stable job,” adds Felipe, also 18. “Everything else I have looked at is temporary, so I am after something more secure.”

Jorge, 20, already has a good job close to home, but he wants to join the paratroopers or the special forces. “In my case,” he says, “it is a vocation, unlike lots of people here who see it as a job.”


It is not just locals who are applying.

Robert, 19, is from Ecuador. He wants to join the army because it is an opportunity to study for free.

Other immigrants see it as a way of acquiring Spanish citizenship. Latin Americans can account for 9% of the Spanish armed forces.

Here in Madrid, applications have surged by a third. Col Juan Carlos Aneiros Gallardo believes the surge is due to recent improvements in the living conditions, professional training and career prospects for young recruits.

“Naturally, we are happy,” he told me, “because this allows the armed forces to make a better selection and raise not just the quantity but also the quality of our soldiers.”

In other parts of Spain, there are four applicants for each vacancy.

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

Time for ‘New World Order’: Brazilian President

ASTANA (AFP) — The global financial crisis has reduced the differences between nations and created the opportunity to form a new world order, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Wednesday.

Speaking after a meeting with Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the Kazakh capital Astana, Lula called on the global community to seize on the crisis to create a fairer world for developing nations.

“I want to say that before the crisis, there were many countries which had greater significance than others, and some countries which had no significance at all,” he said through a translator.

“After the crisis, everyone has become similar. We have the possibility to create a new world order and together we should improve our relations.”

Lula arrived in Kazakhstan Wednesday following the first-ever summit between fellow developing economic powerhouses Russia, India and China — together with Brazil dubbed the BRIC nations — in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

Nazarbayev, head of Central Asia’s largest economy, is keen to secure a larger role for his government in world affairs.

Following up on Lula’s call, the pair said in a statement following their meeting that the United Nations should open up the UN Security Council to developing nations in an effort to bolster global security.

They said that opening the organisation, which only has five permanent members, to wider membership was the only way to make the often-criticised body “more legitimate and effective.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Byrd: Obama’s Czars Are Unconstitutional

Ever since this practice of appointing czars began years ago, it has always been considered possible that they are all unconstitutional. But it never built to a critical mass to elicit a court fight. These czars were few and far between, and rarely did anything that seriously ruffled any feathers. But President Obama has taken this to an unprecedented level, to the point where these appointments are dangerous to our constitutional regime.

This has become too much for the longest-serving senator in U.S. history to stomach. Democratic Senator Robert Byrd is the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. Even though Senate rules vest most powers in the Senate majority leader, the president pro tempore is a constitutional officer, and third in line to the U.S. presidency (after the vice president and the Speaker of the House). This office is held by a Democrat, who has been serving in the Senate since before Barack Obama was even born.

Senator Byrd wrote a letter to President Obama in February, criticizing the president’s strategy of creating czars to manage important areas of national policy. Senator Byrd said that these appointments violate both the constitutional system of checks and balances and the constitutional separation of powers, and is a clear attempt to evade congressional oversight. (Didn’t this White House promise unprecedented transparency?)

And Senator Byrd is exactly correct. The Constitution commands that government officers with significant authority (called “principal officers”) are nominated by the president but then are subject to a confirmation vote by the U.S. Senate. And principal officers include not only cabinet-level department heads, but go five levels deep in executive appointments, to include assistant secretaries and deputy undersecretaries.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Liberal Hate Kills Truth

… [F]or some liberals, the state is in fact a substitute for God and a form of political religion as imagined by Rousseau and Robespierre, the fathers of liberal fascism.

~ Jonah Goldberg, “Liberal Fascism” (2007)

Psychiatrists define displacement as “the transfer of an emotion from its original focus to another object, person, or situation.” Displacement is a common defense mechanism used by narcissistic, insecure and deceitful people to obscure or “change” the truth to conform with a new reality more acceptable to their psychological delusions.

In modern times we see this Freudian psychosis of displacement conjoined with the Orwellian government-controlled media during the reporting of three recent murders:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vegas Paper Gets Subpoena to ID Online Commenters

A Las Vegas newspaper says it has been served a federal grand jury subpoena seeking information about readers who posted comments on the paper’s Web site.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that its editor, Thomas Mitchell, plans to fight the request, which the newspaper received after reporting on a federal tax fraud case against business owner Robert Kahre.

The subpoena seeks the identities and personal information about people who posted comments on the story. The newspaper said prosecutors told the judge in the case that some comments hinted at acts of violence and the subpoena was issued out of concern for jurors’ safety.

Mitchell said anonymous speech is “a fundamental and historic part of this country.” The newspaper would consider cooperating if specific crimes or real threats were presented, he said.

The newspaper said the subpoena bears the name of U.S. Assistant District Attorney J. Gregory Damm, a lawyer on the Justice Department team that is prosecuting Kahre and others on charges including income tax evasion, fraud and criminal conspiracy.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the subpoena is not a public record.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for Nevada declined to comment.

The newspaper said it received the subpoena June 2, a week after its story describing the government’s case against Kahre, a Las Vegas construction company executive accused of paying contractors with gold and silver U.S.. coins based on the precious metal value of the coins but using the much lower face value of the coins for tax purposes. Kahre and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty.

The story drew nearly 175 online comments by Monday night, most in support of Kahre and critical of the government and jurors and attorneys in the case.

One commentator said: “The sad thing is there are 12 dummies on the jury who will convict him. They should be hung along with the feds.”

Another called Damm a “socialist, fascist Mormon” and a “Nazi moron.”

The comments are written under pseudonyms. Along with the real names of people who posted comments, the subpoena asks the newspaper for the writers’ gender, birth date, physical address, telephone number, Internet service provider, IP address and credit card numbers.

After a 2003 raid on Kahre’s business, Kahre and several of his workers sued Damm, two Internal Revenue Service agents and others who were involved. That civil matter is pending.

In 2007, Kahre sued Damm and agents of the FBI and IRS, alleging criminal behavior. U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra dismissed the complaint in December, and Kahre appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Two years ago, Damm prosecuted a similar tax case against nine defendants, including Kahre. The trial ended with no convictions and four acquittals.

Five defendants were partially acquitted, and two of them were dropped from the indictment that generated the current case.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Montreal Courthouse Reopens After Bomb Scare

MONTREAL — Montreal police say the suspicious package at the Montreal courthouse has been neutralized and the building is being reopened to the public.

The courthouse was evacuated Wednesday morning after a suspicious package was found in the men’s washroom on the third floor of the Old Montreal building.

The Montreal police bomb squad was called to the courthouse at the corner of St. Laurent and St. Antoine Sts.

A threatening phone call was made to 911 this morning, at about the same time constables found the package with a timer attached to it.

The entire neighbourhood, from Place d’Armes to just east of the courthouse was initially closed off. But the area had reopened to traffic by 12:40 p.m.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Nine Arrested in Montreal North Melee

MONTREAL — Police arrested nine people on charges of assault with a weapon, trespassing, vandalism and public mischief Tuesday night after dozens of youths gathered in a Montreal North park hurled objects at police and went on a rampage in the neighbourhood, breaking windows and damaging cars.

Those arested are all over the age of 18, police said.

Police went to Carignan Park, at the corner of Rolland Blvd. and Renoir St., around 10 p.m. after getting a call about a fight.

It was the second call of the evening about a fight at the park, Montreal police Constable Daniel Lacoursiere said.

By the time police arrived, the fight had broken up but there were 50-75 youths near the basketball courts, he said.

Police remained on the scene as a preventive measure, Lacoursiere said.

The youths then started to throw rocks and bottles at the officers, and police cleared the park.

Some of the youths took to the streets, vandalizing cars, homes and a school in the area.

One officer was slightly hurt while making an arrest, Lacoursiere said

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Man Convicted of Glorifying Nazi Ideas

VIENNA — An Austrian court has convicted a man of glorifying Nazi ideology and sentenced him to two years in prison.

The court in the southern city of Klagenfurt found the 85-year-old man, who was not identified, guilty Wednesday of “re-engaging” in Nazi-era beliefs.

The prosecution had accused him, among other things, of glorifying Adolf Hitler and Nazi beliefs in two books. The Austria Press Agency said the man is a veteran of the SS, which acted as a special police force during Nazi times.

Austrian law bans the glorification of Hitler and the Nazi era, as well as attempts to diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Belfast: Racist Attacks in Send Roma Fleeing Homes

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Racist thugs armed with bricks and bottles forced more than 100 Romanian Gypsies from their Belfast homes in a wave of attacks that sent them fleeing to the safety of a nearby church.

Community leaders in Belfast on Wednesday condemned the attacks, while Romania’s government urged British authorities to take measures to avoid more racist violence.

The 20 Romanian families, including one with a 5-day-old baby, first fled to a Belfast church Tuesday after gangs hurling bricks and bottles attacked their homes in a working class neighborhood, according to the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, a local community group. Local authorities moved them to the roomier community center Wednesday morning.

There were no reports of injuries.

“Trouble was brewing for a few days,” Malcolm Morgan, the pastor of the City Church, which gave them shelter, told Britain’s GMTV. “There have been stones thrown and windows smashed. It is a small group of racist thugs.”

The Romanians lugged their possessions in suitcases, bags and large bundles as they left a bus outside the community center. One man carried an accordion, while some women covered their heads with jackets and sweaters, too afraid to be photographed.

Racial tensions in Belfast have risen since an international soccer match between Poland and Northern Ireland in March, said Patrick Yu, a spokesman for the minority group. The violence flared again this week when gangs hurling bottles and Nazi salutes attacked an anti-racism rally.

“There were riots before the match broke out, we had hooligans that used the excuse as revenge — for ethnic cleansing against all migrants in the area,” Yu said. “Originally they focus on Polish people, and then go after everyone.”

Belfast City council press officer Mark Ashby said the majority of those targeted were Roma, or Gypsies, from Romania.

Some of the families said they planned to return to Romania following their ordeal.

Belfast Lord Mayor Naomi Long condemned the attacks and urged local residents to support their neighbors.

“Each and every citizen has the right to live free from fear and intimidation,” Long said. “Belfast, and indeed Northern Ireland as a whole, is changing and we are making great strides towards a bright and shared future. We cannot let a small minority of people detract from that, or allow them to drive people from their homes.”

Romania’s Foreign Ministry said it “firmly condemns any racist or extremist act and makes an appeal to British authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent a repeat of such cases.”

“About 200 Romanian citizens of Roma origin live in the area, from which 115 have left after the recent attacks, some requesting repatriation,” the ministry said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Belfast: Racists Threaten to Cut Romanian Baby’s Throat

Racists in Belfast who forced Romanians to flee their homes threatened to cut a baby’s throat, it emerged today.

Over 100 men, women and children were this morning taken to the Ozone complex in Belfast after they spent the night in a church hall following sustained attacks by a racist mob claiming to be from the fascist group Combat 18

The families, who took refuge in a church hall, said they are too frightened to return to their homes in south Belfast, with some just wanting to return to Romania as soon as possible.

More than 100 Romanian people, including a new born baby, were this morning bussed from the City Church hall on University Avenue where they spent the night, to the Ozone complex in Belfast while the city council, police and social services meet to discuss the situation.

The families said they left their homes because they had come under sustained attack for a number of nights. A crowd gathered outside their homes shouting racist slogans, smashing windows and kicking in doors.

“These people came here to Northern Ireland because they want to make a better life but now they have to go. They are very afraid and the only thing to do is go back to Romania,” a friend of the families said.

Couaccu Siluis who spent the night in the church hall with his wife, family, brother and his family said he arrived in the North eight months ago in search of a better life but found it impossible to get work.

In broken English he said that he was too frightened to return to their home at Wellesley Avenue but had no money to return to Romania.

“We are not going back to our house. It is not safe. They made signs like they wanted to cut my brother’s baby’s throat. They said they wanted to kill us,” he said.

“We are very scared. We have young children. We cannot go back. Possibly we could go back to Romania but we have no money. We have to stay here.

“I don’t know what we will do now. We will stay here for a couple more days but I don’t know after that.”

Another victim said: “I am making plans to go back to Romania as soon as I can. We don’t want to go but it is too dangerous for us.”

Trish Morgan whose husband Malcolm is the pastor at City Church said: “We were asked by members of our church who are involved in race relations if we could offer emergency shelter for these people who have nowhere else to go.

“Police had advised that it was too dangerous and so tense and volatile that they had to be evacuated. Fortunately we were having a clean up in our church last night so we were able to ask members about the possibility of providing shelter.

“This morning they are being taken to another shelter, the Ozone Centre, where they will spend the day and the various organisations will go there to meet the community leaders and see about the possibility of re-housing these people because they can’t return to their homes and some of them have said they don’t want to return to their old homes.”

Nobody has been arrested in connection with the racist attacks.

Some residents have accused the police of failing to protect the immigrant families, but the PSNI said it will be stepping up patrols.

Belfast Lord Mayor Naomi Long, who visited the families last night, said said: “These kind of ugly scenes are totally unacceptable.. A small minority of people have sadly taken away from an event which had been organised by the local community to show solidarity for their Romanian neighbours, and to express their abhorrence at their homes being subjected to racist attacks.

“Belfast is growing rich in diversity with people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds making this city their home, and each and every citizen has the right to live free from fear and intimidation. We cannot let a small minority of people detract from that, or allow them to drive people from their homes.”

Bernie Kelly, of Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said: “The whole thing escalated very quickly. Working with the police and all the agencies together we are going to have to find a resolution.”

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

Does Gaddafi Truly Understand That Africa is Full of Africans?

Brother Muammar Gaddafi has been visiting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

When it comes to mis-speaking, Berlusconi and Gaddafi are way up there with the best politicians in the world.

Berlusconi, in fact, has in the past been quite racist in his remarks.

So it tells you a lot about how far Gaddafi went when, as the Guardian reported, the Libyan strongman said things that unsettled the politically incorrect Berlusconi.

Speaking about the issue of African migrants (the tragic “boat people”) to Italy and other European countries, Gaddafi said at a joint press conference after his talks with Berlusconi, “The Africans do not have problems of political asylum.

People who live in the bush, and often in the desert, don’t have political problems. They don’t have oppositions or majorities or elections.”

People who live in the bush and often in the desert? Okay, you might let that pass. But then Gaddafi, currently the chairman of the African Union, pressed on: “These are things that only people who live in cities know.

[Other Africans] don’t even have an identity.

And I don’t mean a political identity; they don’t even have a personal identity.

They come out of the bush and they say: ‘In the north, there’s money, there’s wealth’ — and so they go to Libya, and from there to Europe..”

The context of Gaddafi’s comments must be taken into account.

There is a widely held view that many of the migrants who come from other countries and cross from Libya are asylum seekers fleeing wars and disorder back home.

Gaddafi doesn’t buy that, so he said; “Please, don’t take seriously this business about political asylum. The idea they are all asylum seekers makes you laugh sometimes.”

Against that background, it seems Gaddafi’s point wasn’t to paint Africans as primitive people who live in trees.

That said, there is an unfortunate streak of Arab condescension towards the so-called sub-Saharan Africa that one often encounters in North Africa.

While Gaddafi claims to be present-day Pan Africanist No. 1, who berates his fellow African leaders for not warming up to his push to have a United States of Africa, he heads a government that routinely rounds up, beats and expels other Africans.

IF GADDAFI CANNOT PUT UP WITH A few thousand African citizens from sub-Saharan Africa, how does he expect to live with another 840 million of them?

But his fellow African leaders never confront Gaddafi with these questions.

There was a time when he would use his petrodollars to pay up the African Union subscriptions of several African countries that had fallen behind and were threatened with expulsion from the organisation.

Gaddafi has also been able to hold many AU meetings, and he was indulged because he would pay attending African officials a per diem.

Some time ago, I was at a private event where the African leader present told us that occasionally some presidents also sent their aides to collect their “envelopes” for them from Gaddafi’s per diem clerk!

The combination of these factors has emboldened Gaddafi to treat other Africans shabbily. It’s a crying shame.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

G8: Money to Africa is Compensation Not Gift, Gaddafi Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 11 — “We must put a lot of money into Africa, but this isn’t a gift, it is compensation: the countries which pumped millions of dollars into failed banks should now pump it” into the African continent. Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, president of the African Union, which is to participate at the next summit of world leaders in L’Aquila, explained that it is necessary “to recognise that resources have been stolen from Africa, with the colonisation of the continent, and that its people was treated in the past like animals. We must apologise for this and never repeat it” added the Colonel, during his speech at the university La Sapienza in Rome. “We will tell the G8 that resources have been stolen, and now it is time to negotiate compensation”, he said. This is the only way to “stop immigration, and tackle the biggest challenge of the current time”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi: Free-Trade Area for Italian Companies, Marcegaglia

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 12 — Italian companies wishing to invest and operate in Libya for the country’s benefit may set themselves up in a “free-trade area” which will benefit from “special” economic and fiscal treatment. The treatment includes a 5-year exemption from income tax, as well as discounted electricity and gas costs. The information was announced by the president of Italy’s ‘Confindustria’ industrialists’ association, Emma Marcegaglia, at the end of a meeting with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — emphasizing the fact that it was “an extraordinary opportunity” for Italian companies. “They have assured us the allocation of 11.8 billion in order to attract private foreign investments including the creation of joint ventures. We are counting on the fact that a good amount of that will be directed toward Italian companies since, as stated by Gaddafi, they will be given priority”. The sectors of major common interest and synergy for Italy and Libya range from infrastructure and construction, renewable and standard energies, petrochemistry, and tourism. In order to solidify the project the meeting with Gaddafi was followed by a meeting of heads of Confindustria to discuss the programme with the governor of the Bank of Libya, as well as several government ministers. Marcegaglia underlined the opportunities offered by the “compensation” package negotiated between the Italian and Libyan governments. “There is 5 billion for the creation of infrastructure in Libya which can guarantee a high volume of activity for the next 20 years”. Marcegaglia also denied rumours regarding problems in the construction of a Libyan motorway — symbol of the bilateral agreement. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: 1-Mln-Euro Sanction for Optical Store Regulations

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 4 — Greece must pay a 1-million-euro sanction for taking 37 months to adopt EU regulations on optical shop ownership, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The court said that Athens did not adopt all of the measures requested by a 2005 sentence until May of 2008, “substantially damaging the interests of companies and opticians established in another member states that were trying to open a location in Greece”. In the court’s view, “the lack of conformity protracted for a substantial period of time”, also considering “that the adapting to what was requested in the sentence was not especially complicated” and therefore “a serious restriction to the freedom to establish” optical stores persisted. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

High-Tech Edge for Poland’s Jewish History

The creators of Poland’s future Museum of Polish Jews Tuesday in Warsaw launched the Virtual Shtetl website, a portal they hope will build the museum’s collection even before its doors open in 2011.

“This portal has the potential to become the greatest source of information about Jewish life in Poland prior to the war,” project creator and coordinator Albert Stankowski told reporters in Warsaw Tuesday.

So far the site has information on 800 Polish cities and towns that were “shtetls” or Jewish settlements prior to the Holocaust, in which six million European Jews — three million of them from Poland — perished under Nazi German genocide.

The bilingual Polish-English website is built on Web 2.0 technology allowing users to contribute information and eyewitness testimony to the site..

Stankowski hopes the site will open channels of communication on an international scale and bring to light nearly a thousand years of Jewish life in Poland obliterated by the Holocaust.

The website is the virtual arm of the long-awaited Museum of the History of Polish Jews, expected to open its doors in 2011 after more than a decade of preparations.

The English version of the website is on:

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungary to Close, Merge Embassies and Consulates

Hungary will streamline its network of diplomatic missions and end up with 102 representations in 80 states as a result, Foreign Minister Peter Balazs told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

Mr Balazs said that Hungary would close its embassies in Luxembourg, Venezuela, Chile and Malaysia and as well as its consulates general in Dusseldorf, Lyon, Krakow, Chicago, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Sydney.

Hungary will also integrate its UNESCO mission into the country’s embassy in Paris and combine its WTO and UN delegations in Geneva as well as its OSCE and UN delegations in Vienna.

Mr Balazs said that the closings and consolidations would save HUF 2bn (EUR 7.2m) per year and increase the efficiency of Hungary’s network of diplomatic representation.

The foreign minister said the closings and mergers will eliminate 70 positions, though all those who lose their jobs as a result of the closings and mergers will be transferred to other positions within the foreign ministry.

They will also review Hungary’s membership in international organisations, Mr Balazs said.

Mr Balazs noted that the foreign ministry’s 2009 budget was reduced from the originally stipulated HUF 49bn to HUF 44bn, adding that money stemming from sale of the ministry’s delegations in Vienna.

Mr Balazs said that the closings and consolidations would save HUF 2bn (EUR 7.2m) per year and increase the efficiency of Hungary’s network of diplomatic representation.

The foreign minister said the closings and mergers will eliminate 70 positions, though all those who lose their jobs as a result of the closings and mergers will be transferred to other positions within the foreign ministry.

They will also review Hungary’s membership in international organisations, Mr Balazs said.

Mr Balazs noted that the foreign ministry’s 2009 budget was reduced from the originally stipulated HUF 49bn to HUF 44bn, adding that money stemming from sale of the ministry’s property in the affected locations will be allocated to the central budget.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Demonstration Called Against Sickening Vandalism of Holocaust Memorial

A senior Socialist Party official has called for a broad protest against anti-Semitic manifestations after a Holocaust memorial was vandalised in central Budapest early on Monday. On Monday morning, as yet unidentified persons placed pig’s trotters into the cast iron shoes constituting a monument on the embankment of the river Danube near Parliament, commemorating victims of Nazi terror shot into the river in 1944-45.. MP Tamas Suchman called on individuals, political parties, public dignitaries and civil groups to stage a demonstration at the monument on Thursday evening.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Jobbik to Hold Demonstrations and “Assist Police”

“The Magyar Gárda and the National Defence Army will hold patrols and stage demonstrations to help the police until the gendarmerie is formed,” Jobbik deputy chairman Csaba Gyüre and spokesman of the self-styled National Defence Army László Bodrog told a joint press briefing in NyÃregyháza on Tuesday.

The pair also announced that Jobbik, the Defence Army and the Magyar Gárda will stage a demonstration in Pusztadobos, north east Hungary.

Bodrog said the groups “want to increase public safety, because while police are put under political pressure and direct control, they cannot do their jobs, for fear of being labelled racist. Legislation is needed to draw public attention to the current state of affairs,” Bodrog argued.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: No Figure on Guantanamo Detainees

Obama said Italy had agreed to accept three Tunisians

(See related item on site).

(ANSA) — Rome, June 16 — Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday there was still no official word from the United States on the exact number of Guantanamo detainees which Italy would be asked to accept.

“I don’t know if they are three or a different number,” Frattini told a news conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome.

Although there has been no official confirmation, reports circulating in Italy said the three slated to be sent to Italy were Tunisians Riadh Nasri, Moez Fezzani and Abdul bin Mohammed bin Ourgy.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi told United States President Barack Obama that Italy would take the three detainees when they met at the White House on Monday.

Speaking after the meeting, Obama said he had thanked Berlusconi “for his support of our policy of closing Guantanamo”.

“This is not just talk. Italy has agreed to accept three specific detainees,” said Obama Frattini also said he also understood concerns voiced by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni but stressed that the final decision “was up to the head of the goverment”.

The minister said Maroni was probably worried about the possibility that the detainees — if not involved in legal procedings in Italy — would be free to travel within the European 25-nation Schengen area, where border controls have been lifted.

But he explained that prior to the detainees’ arrival, Italy would warn Schengen group members and would prevent them from travelling to “any country” that is not ready to receive them.

Obama wants to close down the prison at the US base in Guantanamo, Cuba, where suspected terrorists, defined as ‘enemy combatants’, have been held outside the jurisdiction of international law since 2001, when the post-9/11 ‘war on terror’ began.

The American president is convinced the situation at Guantanamo has hurt the international reputation of the US and damaged its image, especially in the Muslim world.

The three reportedly being sent to Italy once resided in Milan and are part of a group which the European Union has agreed to take, while the inmates considered the most dangerous will remain in American hands.


Arrest warrants were issued in June 2007 for Nasri and Fezzani for conspiracy to commit a crime, encouraging illegal immigration and a number of crimes linked to terrorism.

They are accused of giving logistical support to a cell in Milan of the Salafi Group Call and Combat (GSPC), which was suspected of recruiting combatants and suicide bombers.

The GSPC was created to overthrow the government in Algeria and set up an Islamic state there. It is now considered to be part of the al Qaeda terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden and has been renamed al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb’.

Ourgy is also suspected of having had links in Milan with people who sought volunteers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with Islamic insurgents.

According to US military intelligence, an Islamic cultural center on Milan’s via Jenner street was actually a recruitment center frequented by the detainees and Fezzani had also used the name Bil Ali Lufti.

While at Guantanamo, he admitted using “at least 50 different names” when he was in Italy and that he had some “minor problems” with Italian authorities but denied ever killing anyone.

Fezzani, Nasr and Ourgy were said to have frequented the via Jenner center between 1997 and 2001, when Italy did not have a law against international terrorism on its books.

In 2004, four Tunisian nationals were convicted in Milan for their links with the GSPC. The four were given sentences from six and a half years to four years four months for supporting and financing terrorism, aiding illegal immigration, tax fraud and receiving stolen cars.

Judicial sources said the three Tunisians will be sent to a high security AS2 jail once they arrive in Italy, either in the northern city of Parma or Voghera.

The AS2 acronym stands for Alta Sicurezza, secondo livello (High Security, Level 2), a new detention system designed to host international and domestic terrorists.

Prosecutor Stefano D’Ambruoso, a United Nations advisor on terrorism and coordinator of the justice ministry’s international affairs office, said the European Union had agreed to accept up to 60 Guantanamo detainees at a meeting in Brussels ten days ago.

He said Germany and France had agreed to take some detainees. D’Ambruoso confirmed that since the three Tunisians face charges in Italy they will be placed in preventive custody once they arrive.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Libyan Leader ‘Turns the Page’ on History

Rome, 10 June (AKI) — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said his country and Italy had “turned the page” on their troubled history and begun a new relationship. Gaddafi arrived in the Italian capital Rome on Wednesday for an historic three-day visit and spoke to the media after he met president Giorgio Napoletano.

“I salute this generation of Italians for having resolved the questions of the past, with great courage,” said Gaddafi.

“That courage has brought us to sign an agreement of friendship with Italy,” he said, referring to the bilateral agreement Libya signed with Italy last August in Benghazi.

After the talks, Napolitano said that the meeting with Gaddafi “allowed us to verify a common point of view on what’s needed to resolve the serious crises in Africa, and, in particular, the combined effort that Italy and Libya can make to find a solution for the severe situation in Somalia”.

However, Magdi Cristian Allam, a European MP aligned with the centrist Union of Christian Democrats, criticised the warm official welcome given to Gaddafi.

“It is a shame that we allowed Gaddafi in our country to do what we would never do, from erecting a tent in a public park in Rome, to allowing a dictator to address the senate,” Allam said. “His hands are covered in the blood of thousands of innocent people and he behaves towards Italy as if we were one of his colonies.”

Gaddafi was greeted by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi when he arrived at Ciampino airport.

The current chairman of the 53-state African Union, Gaddafi was due to meet Berlusconi at Palazzo Chigi for talks later on Wednesday.

Gaddafi and Berlusconi were expected to endorse several bilateral accords covering economic and scientific co-operation, visas and scholarships for Libyan students.

On Thursday Gaddafi will address the Italian senate despite protests from opposition parties.

Security will be tight as demonstrations are also expected to be staged by left-wing students and activists opposed to the Berlusconi government’s policy of intercepting and forcing the return to Libya of immigrants who try to reach Italy by sea.

During his three-day visit Gaddafi has pitched his trademark tent in the Villa Doria Pamphili park where he will receive guests, while sleeping in its luxurious 17th-century palace.

Gaddafi’s visit seals a major rapprochement since Italy signed a deal with its former colony last year pledging 3.5 billion euros over the next 25 years as compensation for colonising the north African country from 1911 to 1947.

Gaddafi has been in power since 1969 and is the Arab world’s longest serving leader. African tribal dignitaries bestowed the title of “king of kings” on him in September

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

Italy: Premier Blasts ‘Trash’

Interview in leading daily sparks Berlusconi’s reaction

(ANSA) — Rome, June 17 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi blasted as “trash” an interview published by leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Thursday which alleged that women were paid to attend parties in his Rome and Sardinian homes.

“Once again, the papers are full of trash and falsehoods. I will not be swayed by these aggressions and will continue to work for the good of the country,” the premier said when asked about the report.

Berlusconi has been at the centre of a media storm since a public divorce spat with his wife Veronica Lario and allegations of links with a teenage girl — Noemi Letizia — which surfaced after his wife accused him of “consorting with minors”.

The premier, 72, has categorically denied any “steamy or more than steamy” involvement with teenagers, explaining there was nothing “spicy” about his attendance at the birthday party of 18-year-old Letizia because he had a long friendship with her family. The report, published by the Milan daily on Thursday, said prosecutors in the southern city of Bari investigating a kick-back scandal had wiretappings of a suspect, who claimed to know the premier, talking about the parties. Judicial sources in Bari have confirmed that prosecutors are investigating brothers Giampaolo and Claudio Tarantini, owners of Technohospital, a hospital supplies firm on possible corruption charges in a probe into the city’s hospitals.

The sources said Giampaolo Tarantini — who alleges he knows Berlusconi in several wiretapped conversations — is also being probed on charges of abetting prostitution.

Tarantini is believed to have paid girls to attend parties at private homes of business associates and friends. The daily carried a long interview with Patrizia D’Addario, who claims she is a friend of Giampaolo Tarantini and alleges to have attended two parties at the premier’s Rome residence last year.

D’Addario claims in the interview that she has taped recordings of Berlusconi’s voice at the parties, which allegedly took place in October and November.

D’Addario told Corriere she was paid 1,000 euros to attend one of these parties and then was also put up as candidate in this month’s municipal elections in Bari in a local party allied with the premier’s People of Freedom (PdL) party. CORRIERE URGES READERS TO WITHHOLD JUDGEMENT.

Corriere said the interview should be read “with the utmost caution”, urging readers to withhold judgement.

Asked for a comment, Berlusconi’s lawyer Niccolo’ Ghedini said the report “seems unconnected to either facts or logic”.

Ghedini added that he and his client would “evaluate the contents of the interview” before deciding on a reaction, stressing that the premier was “busy with more serious things than this matter”.

“We don’t know anything (about the investigations),” said Ghedini. “Certainly it’s not a probe against the premier and whatever hypothesis is tossed up, even if the girl’s (D’Addario’s) statements were true and they’re not — the premier — according to the reconstruction (of events) ….could not be prosecuted penally”.

Government Programs Minister Gianfranco Rotondi rushed to Berlusconi’s defence, saying that he “was humiliated to read such rubbish in the papers”.

PdL spokesman Daniele Capezzone said a number of Italian dailies were presenting “a chorus of voices, leaks from prosecutors’ offices and unclear stories in a bid to place the premier in a distasteful situation”.

“The aim is clear: keep Berlusconi on the defensive and force the government to devote 80% of its energies to reacting against old and new accusations,” said Capezzone, stressing that “Italians are not going to fall into this trap”.

The premier also got a hand from former premier Lamberto Dini, who accused the centre-left opposition of using “private matters to transform them into scandals” in a bid “to weaken the government and step into its place”.

“These attempts by the left are just wishful thinking because the government coalition is very solid,” said Dini, who is a senator with the PdL.

Speaking to a group of businessmen on Saturday the premier said there was “a subversive project” aimed at unseating him from power.

Berlusconi, who swept to power with a huge majority in general elections in April 2008, said he has every intention of staying on to complete the rest of his five-year term as premier, accusing his detractors of casting a “very negative image of the country abroad”.

Former centre-left premier Massimo D’Alema, who on Sunday warned that the premier would face a series of “jolts” in the immediate future, urged Berlusconi to respond to the accusations made by D’Addario.

“I’d advise Berlusconi to do what’s normal in such circumstances. There’s an interview in Corriere della Sera where someone is making accusations: he should answer”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Official in Row Over Apparent Fascist Salute

ROME — Italy’s tourism minister faced calls for her resignation Wednesday after a video posted by an Italian newspaper apparently showed her making a fascist salute.

Michela Vittoria Brambilla, a former beauty queen and close ally of Premier Silvio Berlusconi who was made tourism minister weeks ago, said she was “astounded” at the accusations.

“I’ve never either done or thought of doing any gesture that is an apology of fascism, something toward which I’ve never showed any indulgence, let alone sympathy,” Brambilla said. “And why should I have made a public display of such a despicable gesture shortly after I’ve been made a minister?”

The video was posted on the Web site of the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica. It shows Brambilla attending a ceremony in honor of the Carabinieri’s Paramilitary police in the northern city of Lecco earlier this month, according to La Repubblica.

The video shows the 41-year-old Brambilla listening to Italy’s national anthem with her right arm folded on her heart. As the anthem ends, she extends her right arm upward in what appears to be a salute used by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and his followers.

Brambilla said she was just greeting the crowd.

Some center-left lawmakers called on Brambilla to step down, arguing that the salute amounts to apology of fascism, which in Italy is a crime.

“That stiff arm shows a dangerous and disturbing cultural and institutional drifting,” said Michele Bordo of the Democratic Party, the main opposition force. “We expect Brambilla’s resignation and a clear condemnation of the minister’s gesture from Premier Berlusconi.”

Berlusconi’s center-right Freedom People’s party includes a formerly neo-fascist party, which has now gone mainstream conservative.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Netherlands PvdA: Moroccan MP Must Not be Acquitted

THE HAGUE, 17/06/09 — Under pressure from Morocco, the Public Prosecutor in the Netherlands has requested acquittal for a member of the Moroccan parliament that misappropriated 130,000 euros in the Netherlands via years of social security fraud, says PvdA MP Hans Spekman. He suspects “class justice.”

The suspect, who holds Dutch as well as Moroccan nationality, received welfare benefit payments from Utrecht city council for 11 consecutive years. Six years ago, the police received a tipoff that he was a council member in Morocco and had a country house and a chicken farm in that country. Due to all his possessions, he had no entitlement to benefit.

The suspect has meanwhile risen to become an MP in Morocco. He is said to have defrauded the council of 130,000 euros. But the public prosecutor in Utrecht has now requested acquittal of the 68 year old man due to a lack of evidence that he had done this deliberately. The prosecutor also considered it was not proven that the man had his main residence in Morocco.

Spekman wants clarification by the cabinet. The PvdA MP was earlier an Alderman in Utrecht. He says the demand for acquittal “reeks of class justice” and suspects the public prosecutor has bowed to years of diplomatic pressure from Morocco. According to Spekman, the MP has meanwhile easily “been able to stash away” all kinds of possessions, such as houses and land in Morocco.

The magistrate will rule on 29 June. Spekman acknowledges that it is not customary for politicians to intervene in ongoing court cases, but finds the case too serious to let it go. He wants a statement from Social Affairs State Secretary Jetta Klijnsma.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Integration Minister Challenges Wilders

Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan has sought direct confrontation with anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders for the third time in a week, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday.

After parliamentary questions on Tuesday, Van der Laan again criticised Wilders’ statement on Danish tv that ‘millions, tens of millions’ of Muslims who commit a crime or ‘start thinking about jihad or sharia’ should be stripped of their Dutch nationality and deported.

Wilders’ claim that there are 50 million Muslims in Europe is wrong, because he is also including Muslims in Russia — which stretches to Japan, the minister said. In total, Europe has 20 million Muslims, the minister said.


The paper points out that the two men have have never crossed in parliament. But Wilders used to regularly attack Van der Laan’s predecessor and fellow Labour party member Ella Vogelaar, and famously called her ‘totally bonkers’.

Labour party stalwarts told the AD they were pleased Van der Laan had ‘finally’ started attacking Wilders.

‘I support his more radical approach,’ said Rotterdam Labour councillor Dominic Schrijer. ‘That moaning about Muslims and the Koran has to stop. It [the debate] should be about the real problems in the locality.’

But Tilburg University political scientist Marcel Boogers said he did not think Van der Laan’s approach would have much affect on voters. ‘He is trying to show that Wilders got the number of Muslims wrong, but I don’t think most people care. You have to offer them perspective.’

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Far-Right Climbs Over Pirates in May Poll

Despite its recent success in the European Parliament elections, the Pirate Party would garner fewer votes than the far-right Sweden Democrats if a general election were held today, according to Statistics Sweden’s biannual party preference survey.

The statistics agency’s poll puts the three-party red-green opposition 3 percentage points ahead of the centre-right governing coalition. Together the Social Democrats, Left Party and Green Party scored 48.3 percent.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party (29.9 percent) has however gained major ground on Sweden’s largest party, the Social Democrats (36.6), since the last Statistics Sweden poll in November. But the Moderates’ coalition partners in the Liberal Party, Centre Party and Christian Democrats have all seen their support wane.

Both the Sweden Democrats and the Pirate Party would fail to obtain the 4 percent support necessary to gain a place in parliament were Swedes to vote in an election this week. The nationalist Sweden Democrats scored 3 percent in the agency’s random poll of 9,211 people registered to vote. The poll was carried out from April 28th to June 1st.

The Pirate Party, which rocked the establishment in the recent EU elections, would fail to make a similar impact in a general election, according to the poll. The party led by internet rights activist Rick Falkvinge would only claim between 2 and 2.5 percent of the vote in a bid for a place in the Riksdag.

May voter preference survey, percent per party (results for November 2008 in parentheses). Source: Statistics Sweden

Moderate Party 29.9 (24.8)

Centre Party 5.5 (5.9)

Liberal Party 5.5 (6.0)

Christian Democrats 4.3 (4.5)

Social Democrats 36.6 (42.3)

Green Party 6.0 (6.1)

Left Party 5.7 (5.7)

Others 6.4 (4.7)

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Swedish Prosecutors Under Increasing Threat: Study

Prosecutors in Sweden are facing harassment and threats with increasing frequency, according to a new study.

A recent report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet — Brå) shows that prosecutors face more acts of intimidation designed to affect their work than any other group within the Swedish criminal justice system.

And the incidence of harassment is increasing, according to the crime prevention council, most likely because of prosecutors’ heightened efforts to take on organized crime and because they are doing a better job of reporting the threats.

The increase in harassment has led some prosecutors to avoid certain cases and decisions, or to reconsider their carrier choice, Council for Crime Prevention investigator Johanna Skinnar told Sveriges Radio (SR).

“We see some answers that indicate there is real concern at some workplaces. People need to work very hard to reduce self-censorship there,” she told SR.

In the crime prevention council’s survey, which includes responses from 1,100 judges and prosecutors, nearly one in four — 21 percent — report that they were the victim of threats, harassment, violence, or vandalism in the last 18 months which they believed was meant to disrupt their work.

Four years ago, the corresponding figure was 11 percent.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

U.S. Says Undecided on Eastern Europe Missile Plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Obama administration said on Tuesday it was undecided about a Bush-era plan to put U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe, which has been fiercely opposed by Russia and strained bilateral ties.

“No final decisions have been made regarding missile defense in Europe,” Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Lynn described a plan initiated by former President George W. Bush to install 10 two-stage interceptor missiles in Poland plus a related radar station in the Czech Republic as only “one option” under review.

He said Washington also was exploring expanded missile-defense cooperation with Russia as a possible means of countering a perceived threat from Iranian ballistic missiles.

“The United States will work to identify new areas where our two countries could advance our missile defense cooperation,” Lynn said. “For example, there are Russian radars near Iran that would provide helpful early warning detection in the case of an Iranian ballistic missile launch.”

The possible use of these radar stations — in southern Russia and Azerbaijan, one of them only about 60 miles from Iran — would be discussed when President Barack Obama travels to Moscow from July 6 to 8, Lynn said.

Obama hopes to build on calls from both capitals to “reset” ties strained over the proposed expansion of U.S. missile defense close to Russia’s borders among other things.

Moscow, smarting from the entry of several former Warsaw Pact allies into NATO, says the plans are a threat to Russian security.

On April 5 President Barack Obama said the United States would go ahead with a missile-defense system that is “cost-effective and proven” as long as a threat from Iran persists.

“If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe at this time will be removed,” he said in a major speech on the subject in Prague.


Obama, a Democrat, has tried to reach out to Tehran after three decades of hostility but turmoil in Iran after last weekend’s presidential election have raised new questions about Iran’s future and the possibility of U.S..-Iranian talks.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said U.S. hesitation over the antimissile plan would “undermine the Poles’ and the Czechs’ willingness” to host the installations.

The parliaments of the two countries have not yet ratified the proposed installations on their soil. Poland is due to receive U.S.-built Patriot PAC-3 antimissile batteries as part of the deal.

Marine Corps General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that any U.S. missile-defense partnership with Russia likely would be the most effective way to curb an Iranian threat..

“That would be very powerful,” he said.

Army Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, testified that Iran’s successful February 2 launch of a space vehicle demonstrated “technologies that are directly applicable” to the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said the U.S. goal was to work with Russia to develop a system that provides more coverage to Europe..

Baker Spring, a missile-defense expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative advocacy and research group, said any Obama administration wavering may erode public support for putting U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Grieving Son Thrown Out of Cathedral After Being Mistaken for BNP Thug

A grieving son visiting a cathedral to pray for his dead mother was thrown out and then searched by police after staff wrongly staff wrongly thought his shaved head and tattoos meant he was a member of the BNP.

Phillip Cadwallader, 43, was accosted in Blackburn Catherdal and asked to leave.

The former support worker was then approached by police officers who searched his rucksack, which contained his running kit.

The incident occurred just days after the British National Party won two seats in the European Elections and after the far right party scored major successes in the East Lancashire area, in particular Burnley.

Officials at the 19th century Cathedral feared he was about to disrupt a BBC Radio 4 broadcast about Jewish concentration camp victim Anne Frank.

As the Cathedral offered an apology, Mr Cadwallader said: ‘I am very angry and disgusted at the way the cathedral staff treated me. It was a pretty harsh judgement to make of me.

‘The fact is I am starting to go bald so I have my hair cut short to hide that. It’s nothing to do with my political persuasion.’

Mr Cadwallader, who was dressed in a shirt, trousers and brogues, had stopped at Blackburn Cathedral at 8am on Sunday en route to a track and field race in Accrington.

He was initially told he could sit inside quietly while BBC Radio 4 conducted a live programme on concentration camp victim Anne Frank from inside the cathedral. But then moments later he was told he would have to leave.

Mr Cadwallader added: “When I woke up in the morning and the sun was shining I thought it was such a lovely day that I would go and pay a tribute to my mum before I went running.

“The choir was singing in the background and it was lovely as I lit my candle.

“Then the Dean came and asked me to leave, but he wouldn’t tell me why. The cathedral is a house of God and I think the public should be allowed in, even if there is a recording going on.

“As I was sat on a bench outside waiting for them to finish the radio programme a police officer came up to me and said she would need to check my bag. When they told me why I just couldn’t believe it. I am not a BNP member.

“I was quite disgusted by it all. In fact I was really angry and embarrassed by the whole experience.

“The officers told me that someone had thought I was from the BNP because I was tall and have short hair, like a skinhead.”

His mother Phyllis died four years ago from a blood clot after a patient kicked her in the stomach as she worked as a psychiatric nurse.

Lancashire Police said they had been called to the cathedral because a man was believed to be acting suspiciously.

A police spokesman said: “Officers spoke to Mr Cadwallader and had no concerns. The matter is closed.”

Cathedral officials have offered an apology to Mr Cadwallader and said they had asked him to leave because of previous problems during radio broadcasts from the site.

Canon Chris Chivers said: “The last time we did a radio broadcast it was sabotaged when somebody pulled out wires.

“The BNP are known holocaust deniers and it was suggested to us that the programme would be an easy target for their disruption.

“Unfortunately I can see how the sequence of events occurred.

“The gentleman arrived two minutes before the programme went out live and it aroused suspicions, because he had a back pack with him. Obviously those suspicions were unfounded.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Hard to Eradicate Risk Some Allies Use Torture

LONDON — Britain has abandoned some attempts to gather intelligence from detainees held overseas for fear they may be abused, the foreign secretary said Tuesday.

But David Miliband also said he could not guarantee that Britain’s allies would refrain from abusing detainees.

Miliband was speaking to parliamentary foreign affairs committee after recent revelations that flights carrying terror suspects have landed in Britain en route to foreign detentions centers. In addition, former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed accused Britain of colluding with the United States in his alleged torture in Pakistan and Morocco.

“We abhor torture. We will not cooperate or collude with it,” Miliband said. But he acknowledged it can be difficult to be completely certain about the actions of partners overseas.

He said some allies have lower legal standards and use practices not allowed in Britain, meaning British officials may face legal and ethical dilemmas when pursuing intelligence from detainees held by foreign governments..

“Operations have been blocked on the grounds that the risk of mistreatment is too high,” he said. “Equally, it is not always possible to eradicate the risk of mistreatment — a judgment has to be made.”

In a letter to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and released after Tuesday’s session, Miliband said: “When detainees are in our custody, we can be sure of how they are treated … when they are not, we cannot have the same degree of assurance.”

Human rights campaigners have criticized the treatment of detainees in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco. In some cases, British citizens have been involved.

London police are deciding whether there is evidence that British intelligence officials should face criminal charges over allegations that they were complicit in the alleged torture of Mohammed.

Separately, British courts are considering several lawsuits filed by men who claim the U.K. was aware of their mistreatment overseas.

Mohamed — an Ethiopian who moved to Britain as a teenager — was arrested as a suspected terrorist in 2002 in Pakistan. He alleges Britain’s MI5 domestic spy agency was aware he was tortured in Pakistan and in Morocco, before he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2004. He was released from Guantanamo in February.

British officials deny they had knowledge that Mohamed was abused. But Miliband is waging a legal battle to block publication of sections of documents which could reveal whether U.K. officials helped Mohamed’s interrogators by providing questions for him.

Miliband says that disclosing the documents — which relate to discussions with the United States over Mohamed’s case — could jeopardize Britain’s intelligence relationship with America.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that previously secret rules for British spies and soldiers on handling detainees overseas will be made public. He has also ordered the guidelines to be redrafted.

Last year, Miliband was forced to tell lawmakers that Britain had been misled by the previous U.S. administration over the use of Diego Garcia, a British island in the Indian Ocean, as a refueling stop in extraordinary rendition. He said ex-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had belatedly informed him two detainees were aboard rendition flights to Guantanamo Bay and Morocco in 2002 that stopped on the island.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: No, Madam, It’s You Who Have Offended My Values

On a train to London, a young woman wearing a burkha, with only her heavily made-up eyes peeping out, did not have a valid ticket.

Challenged by the guard, the young woman gave a litany of excuses. She had left her bag at her boyfriend’s, he had bought the ticket, she had no money on her…

My friend Jane, who was in the same carriage, noticed how the guard became nervous as the Muslim girl presented herself as an innocent in a society she didn’t understand.

Instead of issuing a penalty fine, the guard backed off, shrugging his helplessness at the other passengers.

So imagine my friend’s surprise when she got off at the same station as burkha girl and saw this ‘penniless innocent’ whip out a credit card from under the folds of her dress with which she promptly bought a Tube ticket.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Terror Orders ‘Could be Scrapped’

It is a major decision about the legality of using secret evidence

The government says some terror suspects could come off control orders because of a ruling on secret evidence.

The Law Lords say the suspects must be given some idea of the evidence against them so they can defend themselves.

But Security minister Lord West told peers the judgement could may mean some of the orders would “have to go”.

He said the Home Office would need to find an alternative measure to monitor the suspects — but not all the control orders were affected by the judgement.

In a major ruling last week, nine Law Lords unanimously found that it was unfair that individuals should be kept in ignorance of the case against them.

Their ruling, which some of the Lords made reluctantly, followed a precedent on secret evidence at the European Court of Human Rights.

The Lords did not quash the three control orders — but sent the cases back to the High Court for fresh hearings.

In practice, this means the Home Office has a choice between putting more intelligence material in the public domain or dropping cases if it does not want to reveal more information.

‘Complex issues’

In the Home Office’s first statement to Parliament on the ruling, security minister Lord West of Spithead said: “We have to have a way of handling some very dangerous people.

A trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him.

Lord Phillips, in control orders ruling

Terror suspects win legal battle

“We are going to have to go through each one on a case-by-case basis. These are highly complex issues.”

He acknowledged that one of the Law Lords had warned that their ruling could spell the end of the orders — but that the alternatives to control orders appeared to be “hugely expensive” and lacking a similar level of monitoring of suspects.

“We will go and look at each one individually it’s quite clear that not all the orders will be adversely affected by this judgement.

“As regards the other ones, if they don’t pass the test, clearly we will follow what the direction is here and those control orders will have to go.

“And what we will have to do is put in place something to ensure the safety of this island because that’s our greatest priority and that will be difficult.”

Lord Lloyd of Berwick, a former Law Lord who reviewed terror legislation in the 1990s, told peers: “This is the second time on which a major piece of government anti-terrorism legislation has come unstuck.

The government should now phase out all existing control orders as soon as possible and come up with some other means of meeting the terrorist threat in a way that is consistent with the defendant’s right to a fair trial..

“In particular the defendant must know, if he is to have a fair trial, the case that he has to meet.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Terror Law Used to Stop Thousands ‘Just to Balance Racial Statistics’Watchdog

Thousands of people are being stopped and searched by the police under counter-terrorism powers simply to provide a racial balance in official statistics, the government’s official anti-terror law watchdog has revealed.

Lord Carlile said in his annual report that he has got “ample anecdotal evidence”, adding that it was “totally wrong” and an invasion of civil liberties to stop and search people simply to racially balance the statistics..

“I can well understand the concerns of the police that they should be free from allegations of prejudice,” he said. “But it is not a good use of precious resources if they waste them on self-evidently unmerited searches.”

The official reviewer of counter-terrorist legislation said there was little or no evidence that the use of section 44 stop-and-search powers by the police can prevent an act of terrorism.

“Whilst arrests for other crime have followed searches under the section, none of the many thousands of searches has ever resulted in a conviction for a terrorism offence. Its utility has been questioned publicly and privately by senior Metropolitan police staff with wide experience of terrorism policing,” said Carlile.

He added that such searches were stopping between 8,000-10,000 people a month.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the “section 44 stops” allow the police to search anyone in a designated area without suspicion that an offence has occurred. But Carlile is critical of the use of the powers used by the Met police, saying he felt “a sense of frustration” that the force did not limit its section 44 authorisations to some boroughs or parts of boroughs but used them across its entire area.

“I cannot see a justification for the whole of the Greater London area being covered permanently. The intention of the section was not to place London under permanent special search powers.”

None of the many thousands of searches had ever led to a conviction for a terrorist offence, he said. He noted, too, that the damage done to community relations was “undoubtedly considerable”.

Examples of poor, or unnecessary use, of section 44 abounded. “I have evidence of cases where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorism profile that, realistically, there is not the slightest possibility of him/her being a terrorist, and no other feature to justify the stop.”

The Met has announced a review of how it uses section 44 powers. And the home secretary, Alan Johnson, is to issue fresh guidance to the police, warning that counter-terrorism must not be used to stop people taking photographs of on-duty officers.

Carlile uses his annual report to endorse complaints from professional and amateur photographers that counter-terror powers are being used to threaten prosecution if pictures are taken of officers on duty.

He said the power was only intended to cover images likely to be of use to a terrorist: “It is inexcusable for police officers ever to use this provision to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs.” The police had to come to terms with the increased scrutiny of their activities by the public, afforded by equipment such as video-enabled mobile phones. “Police officers who use force or threaten force in this context run the real risk of being prosecuted themselves for one or more of several possible criminal and disciplinary offences,” he warned.

He mentioned an incident in which two Austrian tourists were rebuked by officers for photographing Walthamstow bus station, in east London

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: U.N. Protocol Used to Regulate Homeschoolers

New Brit report: Authorities have ‘right to access of the home’

A British plan to allow local authorities “the right of access to the home” and “the right to speak with each child alone” in order to evaluate homeschooling families and make certain they do what the government wants is a warning about what could happen in the United States, according to the world’s largest homeschool advocacy organization.


“The report makes the case that homeschooling should be extensively regulated in England,” the HSLDA continued. “Aside from registering with the state and mandating reports by homeschoolers, the Badman report makes references to balancing the rights of parents with the rights of children. This idea is expressed in the UNCRC.”

That is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a document that the HSLDA has been warning about for a number of years already.

It has been adopted in the United Kingdom, and it is on its way toward approval in the United States, lacking mainly the approval of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.

The document, however, grants dozens of “rights” to children, sometimes running roughshod over conflicting parental rights, the organization said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Turkish Officials in Bosnia Reopen Historic Ottoman Bridge

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, JUNE 16 — Two Turkish cabinet members arrived in Bosnia Herzegovina on Tuesday to attend an inauguration ceremony of a 17th century bridge which has been reconstructed by Turkey’s development agency. State Ministers Faruk Celik and Faruk Nafiz Ozak were set to reopen bridge which was built in 1682 during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet IV over the River Neretva in Bosnia’s Konjic city. The 82-meter bridge was heavily damaged during the Second World War. The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) funded the reconstruction which cost some two million euros, as Anatolia agency reported. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Craxi: Mediterranean Coastguard to be Set Up

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 15 — Stefania Craxi, Italy’s Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs and the Mediterranean has been addressing a conference organised by Marevivo, an Italian marine protection group, at Rome’s Auditorium today. “We hope to create a Mediterranean coastguard,” she said, naming this as one of the objectives of the first forum to be held between cities on the Mediterranean coast, to take place in Reggio Calabria from October 19 to 20. Craxi added: “As far as the policy on accepting or repatriating immigrants is concerned, we have invited cities on the Mediterranean coast to come and discuss the issue with us and help us find solutions.” Since, according to Craxi, “The Italian coastguard is both very professional and very compassionate,” it can therefore “play a leading role. This has led to the idea of creating a permanent Mediterranean coastguard.” The coastguard would have a “common vision of soft security, of civil protection regulations and maritime security, for example on how to control illegal immigration and the trafficking of weapons and drugs.” Craxi concluded: “In July, the Euro-Mediterranean Economic Forum will be held in Milan and it will be opened by President Mubarak of Egypt. Erdogan, President of Turkey and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister will also be present “to discuss development and peace.” (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Tunisia: Arab Women Organization Launches Website

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JUNE 12 — The Arab Women Organization (AWO) has created an official web-site commissioned by its 2009-2011 president, Leila Ben Ali, wife of the President of the Tunisian Republic. On its site — — the AWO presents Tunisia’s positions, initiatives and protocol with regards to women in the Arab world. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Minister in Arab Slur Row

Israel’s internal security minister has apologised after being caught on film using the word “Araboosh” — highly offensive Hebrew slang for Arabs.

While Yitzhak Aharonovitch was on a tour meeting police, one plain clothes officer apologised to him for his scruffy appearance.

“What do you mean dirty? You look like a real Araboosh,” the minister was heard to respond.

He is a member of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far right party.

Mr Aharonovitch later said he wished to “apologise to anyone who was hurt”.

“This remark does not reflect my positions or world view,” the minister said in a statement.

His far-right party, Yisrael Beiteinu, has been under fire for its policies, which have raised concerns over racism in Israel and around the world.

The party wants to make all Israeli citizens swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state, something that most of the fifth of the population who are Israeli-Arabs would find very difficult to do.

It has also pushed for a law to ban commemorations of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, as Palestinians call the events of 1948, when Israel was created and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in what had been British-ruled Palestine.

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

Netanyahu Opening a ‘Half-Step Forward’, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — LUXEMBOURG, JUNE 15 — The conditional readiness to recognise a Palestinian state by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “a half-step forward’ towards peace, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Monday. Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers, Frattini observed that the address Netanyahu made Sunday “was positive in that he expressed his readiness to negotiate immediately with the Palestinians; worrisome for the kind of pre-condition he set on the status of Jerusalem, which is a topic of discussion; and encouraging for his desire for a regional peace with Arab countries”. “There were certainly steps forward which we must encourage,” Frattini said, adding that on Monday he will attend a meeting of the EU-Israel association council and before that meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. According to Frattini, it was “very positive” that Israel now seeks an overall regional approach to negotiations for peace and stability, with the involvement of Arab nations”. However, he added, there was “cause for concern” over “the sort of pre-condition imposed on the status of Jerusalem”. Turning his attention to the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, Frattini stressed how Netanyahu spoke of “a natural growth for the settlements, not of new settlements”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu: Egypt, Threat for Arab Future in Israel

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 15 — Israel’s point of view, which was presented yesterday by premier Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech on the solution to the Palestinian crisis, “is a threat for the future of arabs residing in Israel, and their presence in this State represents a source of worry for Egypt”. The statement was made by Hossam Zaki, spokesperson for Egypt’s ministry of Foreign Affairs, who added that Cairo will go on working for and supporting US and international peace efforts to set up an independent State of Palestine with Jerusalem as capital city. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Obama Administration Sent Message to Hamas’

Official with terror group says Carter ‘right person’ to serve as middle man

JERUSALEM — Former President Jimmy Carter passed a message to Hamas from the Obama administration, according to senior sources in the Islamist group.

The sources did not disclose the content of the purported message or whether the communication was written or oral. They spoke on condition of anonymity, because they said Hamas had not yet reached a decision on officially releasing the information they were divulging.


Meanwhile, reported it learned Carter intends to ask the U.S. to remove Hamas from its official list of terrorist organizations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Three Failed Plans to Wipe Israel Off the Map

by Barry Rubin

There are now no less than three main plans for wiping Israel off the map.

1. Conquest. This is the old PLO strategy and continues to be the Hamas strategy. In addition, it is endorsed less overtly by a large group—arguably a majority—in Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority.

Israel will be militarily defeated, perhaps with some assistance from internal collapse, and replaced by a Palestinian Arab Islamic (Fatah version) or Palestinian Arab Islamist state.

2. Two-Stages. This was officially adopted by the PLO and Fatah. It is an alternative vision that appeals to many in those two groups but is rejected by Hamas.

A Palestinian state will be created on as much territory as possible and then used as a base for conquering the rest . A diplomatic deal can only be made to obtain such a state, however, if its terms do not foreclose the possibility of the second stage being implemented. The demand that virtually all Palestinians who wish to do so can go and live in Israel is a supplement to ensure that phase one turns into phase 2. In 2000, Yasir Arafat either rejected this in preference to Plan Number 1 or at least deemed the terms offered insufficient to make the second stage easy or possible.

3. Binational state (also known as the one-state solution). This is supported by some in PLO and Fatah, partly because it has more appeal to naïve or other Westerners. It is rejected by Hamas.

A binational state will be created…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Culture: Turkish University Will Open in Dubai

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 12 — Higher Education Board (YOK) of Turkey is taking action to open Turkish universities in Arab countries, daily Yeni Safak reports. Agreements were signed to enable Middle East Technical University (ODTU) and Istanbul Technical University (ITU) to open campuses in Dubai. Paying a visit to the Gulf region together with several university rectors, YOK’s head, Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, signed some agreements regarding cooperation programs and student exchanges. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Hamas Helping Iran Crush Dissent’

Palestinian Hamas members are helping the Iranian authorities crush street protests in support of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, two protesters told The Jerusalem Post On Tuesday.

They made their allegations as rioting on a scale unseen in Iran for nearly a decade continued in the wake of the elections and the allegations that the results were falsified. The protests have now spread from Teheran to other major cities.

Mousavi insisted on Tuesday that he would “protect” his supporters’ votes “at all cost, even if I am at risk.”

Shouting from a car roof to a roaring crowd of supporters, he declared: “The pillars of the revolution have been shaken… We must not be silent.”

Hamas formally welcomed incumbent Ahmadinejad’s ostensible reelection victory on Saturday. The Palestinian Islamist movement receives arms and funding from Iran, and its members have often received training there, including in terror tactics and weapons manufacture.

Hamas formally welcomed incumbent Ahmadinejad’s ostensible reelection victory on Saturday. The Palestinian Islamist movement receives arms and funding from Iran, and its members have often received training there, including in terror tactics and weapons manufacture.

Despite a massive crackdown on dissent, thousands of protesters rallied again in Teheran on Tuesday night in support of Mousavi, following reports that up to 20 people had been killed by security forces at rallies across Iran against the disputed results of last week’s presidential elections.

Pro-government gunmen, reportedly opening fire on protesters, killed at least seven people on Monday night and others have been wounded.

State radio reports claimed that the victims were trying to loot weapons and to vandalize public property, and were shot by unidentified gunmen.

People claiming to have witnessed the shootings, however, insist that the victims were peaceful demonstrators, including students from Teheran university. “There are so many crimes, beatings and killings that have yet to be reported. When we fight back, it is for our own protection,” said a young man passing out flyers with the names of those he said were murdered Teheran University students.

Among those named were Fatima Brahati, Kasra Sharafi, Kambiz Shahi, Mohsen Emani and Mina Ahtrami. Their bodies are said to have been secretly buried by government loyalists.

Amid the violence, confusion and government restrictions on communication, the accuracy of conflicting accounts is hard to ascertain.

“The most important thing that I believe people outside of Iran should be aware of,” the young man went on, “is the participation of Palestinian forces in these riots.”

Another protester, who spoke as he carried a kitchen knife in one hand and a stone in the other, also cited the presence of Hamas in Teheran.

On Monday, he said, “my brother had his ribs beaten in by those Palestinian animals. Taking our people’s money is not enough, they are thirsty for our blood too.”

It was ironic, this man said, that the victorious Ahmadinejad “tells us to pray for the young Palestinians, suffering at the hands of Israel.” His hope, he added, was that Israel would “come to its senses” and ruthlessly deal with the Palestinians.

When asked if these militia fighters could have been mistaken for Lebanese Shi’ites, sent by Hizbullah, he rejected the idea. “Ask anyone, they will tell you the same thing. They [Palestinian extremists] are out beating Iranians in the streets… The more we gave this arrogant race, the more they want… [But] we will not let them push us around in our own country.”

Mousavi has said he won Friday’s balloting, and he demanded the government annul Ahmadinejad’s victory and hold a new election.

Iran’s state radio said seven people were killed in clashes at Monday’s protest — the first official confirmation of deaths linked to the street battles following the disputed vote.

It said people were killed during an “unauthorized gathering” at a mass rally after protesters “tried to attack a military location.” Witnesses saw people firing from the roof of a building used by a state-backed militia after Mousavi supporters set fire to the building and tried to storm it.

Mousavi supporters had called for demonstrations on Tuesday, but Mousavi said in a message on his Web site he would not be attending any rally and asked his supporters to “not fall in the trap of street riots,” and to “exercise self-restraint.” Foreign reporters in Iran to cover last week’s elections began leaving the country on Tuesday after officials said they would not extend their visas.

Authorities restricted other journalists, including Iranians working for foreign media, from reporting on the streets, and said they could only work from their offices, conducting telephone interviews and monitoring official sources such as state TV.

At least ten Iranian journalists have been arrested since the election, “and we are very worried about them, we don’t know where they have been detained,” Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders told AP Television News in Paris. He added that some people who took pictures with cellphones were also arrested.

The government imposed rules prevent media outlets, including The Associated Press, from sending independent photos or video of street protests or rallies.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Iran Election: The Beginning of the End

By Amil Imani & Dr. Arash Irandoost

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Islamic Republic’s repressive Revolutionary Guard, took office on August 3, 2005, after unexpected win in a sham presidential election — there are no democratic elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran. All candidates are prescreened by the Guardian Council before they are allowed to run for office. In practice, a president of Iran is already chosen through a farce process of giving the voters a chance to elect one of the men hand-picked from the regime’s functionaries, as was the case with President Ahmadinejad.

During the previous “election,” only a small percentage of the voters bothered to vote, since voting under the pre-screening and undemocratic system of the mullahs is more like selection than election. The result of staying away from the polls materialized in the person of the fascist Ahmadinejad.

The great majority of the people of Iran are disillusioned and even disgusted by the mediaeval incompetent, oppressive, and corrupt rule of the mullahs, irrespective of which mafia gang is in power. The votes, more than anything else, are protest ballots cast against the entire system, rather than indications of support for the so-called conservative-moderate coalition.

It took less than 4 years for Iranians to realize that boycotting the so-called elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran can only bring to power even a worse bunch of Islamofascists. This time around the people turned out to vote for the lesser of two camps of evil — the mullah dominated gang of conservatives and “moderates.”

After a fiery month long campaign and unprecedented passions and tensions, the mass rallies, polished campaign slogans, savvy Internet outreach and worldwide televised debates, which revealed rampant corruption, ineptitude, and illegal and criminal activities of all four candidates, on June 12, 2009, the Iranian people went to the polls, challenging not only the incumbent president Ahmadinejad, but the entire establishment of the Islamic regime.

Iran’s elections are considered extremely unfair and the Islamist government does not allow international monitors to be present…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

Iran Ups Media Crackdown as Reformers Plan Rally

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s opposition stepped up its challenge to the Islamic regime on Wednesday as the authorities intensified a crackdown on the media to try to contain the biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution.

Defeated presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters called for a new round of public demonstrations and laid down the gauntlet over the disputed election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Grappling with the biggest wave of public anger in three decades of Islamic rule, Iran has lashed out at enemy “plots,” hauling in foreign ambassadors and rounding up scores of reformists.

In the latest moves, the authorities threatened legal action against Iranian websites which publish material that “creates tensions” and issued a new warning to the foreign media, already facing restrictions on their work.

World governments voiced increasing alarm about the situation in Iran, but US President Barack Obama, while raising “deep concerns” over the election, said Washington would not meddle in the affairs of its archfoe.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini pledged to consider a partial recount after the opposition staged massive protests over what they charge was blatant vote-rigging in the election that gave Ahmadinejad another four-year term.

Supporters of Mousavi said they have called another rally in Tehran at 1330 GMT, despite a ban on such gatherings, saying it will be held “in silence without slogans.”

Mousavi himself called on his supporters, who have been wearing his trademark green during their demonstrations, to also hold marches and a day of mourning on Thursday for protesters slain in the post-election clashes.

And he repeated his demand for the results of what he branded a “shameful fraud” to be annulled and a new vote called.

At least seven people have been killed and many more wounded in clashes, with protests reported not only in Tehran but also other major cities after an election that has exposed deep divisions in the oil-rich Shiite Muslim nation.

Witnesses said some clashes also erupted late on Tuesday between groups of young men and members of Iran’s volunteer Basij militia.

Ahmadinejad remained defiant, saying his landslide victory in Friday’s vote was proof of the people’s faith in his government of “honesty and service to the people.”

Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said he was asking the election body the Guardians Council and the interior ministry to examine the allegations of vote-rigging.

“If the examination of the problems require recounting of some ballot boxes, it should be definitely done in the presence of the representatives of candidates so that everybody is assured,” he said.

The rights group of Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi called for the authorities to put a halt to the violent crackdown it said was orchestrated by the police and the Basij.

In the latest demonstrations on Tuesday, supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi staged rival rallies, each calling out hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of Tehran, state media said.

Iranian newspapers published pictures of the demonstrations, which the foreign media were banned from covering under tough new restrictions.

Footage broadcast on the Internet has shown dramatic and chaotic scenes of violence, including one purportedly showing a protestor shot dead and others of riot police beating protestors.

The authorities have warned they would nip in the bud any “velvet revolution” and have rounded up scores of people in Tehran and other cities, including prominent reformists close to former president Mohammad Khatami.

Reformist sources and the press said on Wednesday that several more prominent political activists and journalists had been arrested.

Iran issued a new warning to the foreign media, saying some outlets had become the “mouthpiece of the rioters’ movement” and warning them to their their “approach towards Iranian events.”

The Revolutionary Guards, set up to defend the Islamic republic from “internal and external threats,” also threatened action against the online media it charged were backed by the US and British secret services.

“We warn those who propagate riots and spread rumours that our legal action against them will cost them dearly, especially since some of the youth of this land were killed by the thugs’ action, so we urge them to delete such material from their sites,” a statement said.

Some phone, texting and Internet services have also been disrupted, and protestors have been turning to Twitter to spread word of the dramatic events.

Obama, who has turned his back on the policy of predecessor George W. Bush and called for dialogue with Iran after three decades of severed ties, took a cautious line on Tuesday.

He said he had “deep concerns” about the election but added: “It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling — the US president meddling in Iranian elections.”

Obama said Washington would still need to pursue “tough diplomacy” towards Iran over its nuclear drive, saying there appeared to be little difference between the policies of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.

“Either way we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighbourhood and has been pursuing nuclear weapons.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the strongest remarks so far by a Western leader, said there was election “fraud,” while other European nations have also expressed concern about the vote and the ensuing crackdown.

Hundreds of protesters have also taken to the streets of European cities and in Iran’s neighbours in the Gulf in support of Mousavi, who was premier of Iran in the post-revolution era during its war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Iran has responded to international criticism by summoning EU envoys and lashing out at foreign meddling by its “enemies,” accusing the United States, Britain and Israel in particular of trying to fuel chaos.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Senior Ayatollah Slams Election, Confirming Split

TEHRAN, Iran — Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, massed in competing rallies Tuesday as the country’s most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged.

“No one in their right mind can believe” the official results from Friday’s contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the landslide victory claimed by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi’s charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers “in the worst way possible.”

“A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy,” he declared in comments on his official Web site. “I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to ‘sell their religion,’ and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God.”

As many as three more protesters were reported killed in clashes during Tuesday’s opposition demonstration in Vanak Square — adding to eight who were confirmed killed in Monday’s protests.

Foreign news organizations were barred from covering Wednesday’s demonstrations, and the source of the report of the latest deaths was a witness known to McClatchy, who asked that his name not be used for his own security.

Tehran residents, who spoke to a McClatchy reporter on condition that their names not be published, said there was widespread intimidation by thousands of members of the Basij, a hard-line Islamic volunteer militia loyal to the Islamic regime.

Iranian bloggers reported scattered violence after dark by Basij members.

Nor were reports of violence limited to the capital.

In a voicemail to U.S. government-funded Radio Farda, and posted on the Web site of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a woman who identified herself as Zeinab from the city of Shiraz said students gathered in front of university dormitories and protested peacefully.

“The Guard attacked the university and started beating the people. What are the people supposed to do? They are forced to react,” she said, referring to the elite Revolutionary Guard, a parallel military force that’s controlled by Khamenei.

Montazeri’s pointed public comments provided fresh evidence that a serious rift has opened at the top of Iran’s powerful religious hierarchy after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei endorsed the official election results and the harsh crackdown against the opposition.

A leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution who’s often feuded with Khamenei and once vied with him for the supreme leader’s position, Montazeri accused the government of attacking “the children of the people with astonishing violence” and “attempting a purge, arresting intellectuals, political opponents and scientifics.”

“He is questioning the legitimacy of the election and also questioning the legitimacy of (Khamenei’s) leadership, and this is the heart of the political battle in Iran,” said Mehdi Noorbaksh, an associate professor of international affairs at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania. “This is very significant. This is huge support for Mousavi and the demonstrators on the reformists’ side.”

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

Turkey Stages Cyprus Drills Amid Oil Dispute

ABOARD THE TCG GEMLIK, — Turkish and Turkish Cypriot warships staged search and rescue drills off the island of Cyprus on Wednesday amid tensions over a disputed search for oil and gas.

The frigate Gemlik and other vessels took part in the maneuvers off the northern town of Famagusta, which included extinguishing fire on a ship, rescuing illegal migrants from a sinking rubber boat and rescuing the crew of a sea plane in distress.

Turkish Cypriot military officials denied the maneuvers were a show of force, but it comes amid a rekindled dispute with Greek Cypriots over who is entitled to the island’s potential offshore oil and gas wealth.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The island has an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north where Turkey maintains 35,000 troops.

Turkey does not recognize European Union-member Cyprus as a sovereign country and strongly objects to a Greek Cypriot search for mineral deposits inside the island’s exclusive economic zone. That area covers 51,000 square kilometers (17,000 sq. miles) of seabed off the island’s southern coast.

Turkey has warned Cyprus against pursuing “adventurist policies” and says Turkish Cypriots should also have a say in how the island’s oil-and-gas rights are used.

Cyprus government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said Tuesday the search for fossil fuels inside the island’s zone remains its sovereign right and it’s protesting the military drills at the U.N. and EU.

But Stefanou said both communities could share in the possible bounty if ongoing reunification talks prove successful.

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat restarted stalled peace talks last September, but have yet to reach a breakthrough in the slow-moving process.

“This is an additional motivating factor … to continue negotiations so that we can reach a just, viable and functional settlement, to reunify our homeland,” Stefanou said.

The involvement of a U.S. energy firm Noble Energy, which is set to launch seismic work inside Cyprus’ zone later this year, could further complicate matters for Turkey, a U.S. ally.

Cyprus has licensed Noble to search for fossil fuels near two significant gas discoveries in its Israeli offshore blocks.

U.S. authorities are siding with the Cypriot government, saying “the involvement of U.S. firms in such investment is a business decision, not a political one.”

Cyprus has also signed agreements with Lebanon and Egypt to mark out undersea borders to facilitate future oil and gas exploration, prompting Turkey to urge those two countries to scrap the deals.

Turkey’s stakes in the dispute are higher as Cyprus has threatened to further impede Turkey’s EU accession negotiations because Turkish warships had interfered with an offshore fossil fuel survey last year.

Turkey’s EU membership bid is already hobbled with eight of 35 negotiation chapters frozen over its refusal to open its air and sea ports to Cyprus.

“Turkey’s policy of solving the problem through use of force has not brought any good to its advantage in the international arena,” said Prof. Yuksel Inan at International Relations Department of Bilkent University based in Ankara. “Instead, Turkey should seriously think about taking the issue to the Security Council as a temporary member now.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UAE: Thousands of Truck Drivers Stranded in the Desert

(di Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JUNE 11 — What most worries the thousands of truck drivers stuck in a 30-km jam in the middle of the Rub al Khali desert between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, is not so much the long wait as the temperatures of well over 40 degrees and the concern that water and food supplies may run out before they clear the Saudi border. For weeks now kilometre-long queues of heavy-goods traffic have snaked their way between the Emirate’s Al Ghuwaifat exit point and the entry point to the oil-rich kingdom at Bat’ha. The reason for all these jams — which have reached a length of 32 kilometres over recent days — are new security procedures being imposed by the Saudi authorities, which include the taking of drivers’ fingerprints. A Saudi diplomatic source, quoted by the Dubai press, however, has put the blame for the jams on violations being committed by the truck drivers themselves. “Many of them do not present the necessary documentation for their vehicles or the loads they are transporting. While others,” the source adds, “do not have the right documentation for transiting Saudi Arabia”. The fight against contraband alcohol and drugs are among the other reasons being put forward by the Saudi authorities for the newly stepped-up security procedures and the subsequent delays, as explained by the Director General of the UAE federal customs authorities, Mohammaed Al Muhairy, who also announced an up-coming summit between interested parties. Goods leaving the UAE and bound for other countries in the region are clocking up heavy delays which sometimes affect the quality of the produce transported, and especially on the health of the drivers. Irfan, a truck driver of Indian origins, had brought along two days’ worth of food supplies and water in his cooler. With a line of traffic moving only at an average rate of 2 km every 16 hours, he’s pretty certain that the his supplies will not last out. “The nearest stock-up point to here is over 5 km away,” he says, “under this sun and with these temperatures we can neither get there in our trucks nor on foot. The only hope is to wait for trucks coming from the opposite direction and ask them to give us food and water.” The stretch of road, desolate and exposed to the sun, is also void of any sanitary services. Near to the border, Abu Dhabi police are, however, distributing water and snacks to drivers headed for the Saudi frontier. But at least two drivers have had to be hospitalised for treatment for the effects of heat and dehydration. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Three Danish Soldiers Killed in Helmand

A roadside explosion in Afghanistan has cost the lives of three Danish soldiers.

Three Danish soldiers of the Danish Battle Group in Afghanistan were killed this morning when their vehicle was hit by an explosion on Highway 1, according to a statement from Army Command.

The three were in the front vehicle of a column travelling from Main Operating Base Price to Patrol Base Barakhzai when their vehicle was hit. Although immediately airlifted out of the area by helicopter, the three were declared dead on arrival at the Danish Field Hospital at Camp Bastion.

“We have lost three of our soldiers in southern Afghanistan after their vehicle was hit by an explosion,” says Army Command Major General Niels Henrik Bundsgaard.

“The Helmand force has been affected deeply by the loss of three comrades and colleagues, but we are doing what we can to support them. They still have an important job to do,” the major-general said.

Wednesday’s events bring to 24 the number of Danish soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Far East

Beijing’s New and Improved Execution Method, Lethal Injection in Lieu of Bullet in the Head

Lethal injection is considered more human and modern because “it reduces the criminals’ fear and pain”. Officially 1,700 people were put to death last year, more than 70 per cent of the world’s total. Activists accuse prison authorities of using the bodies of executed prisoners for organ trafficking.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — By the end of this year China will start executing people by lethal injection rather than bullets. Officially this method is described as a new and more humane form of death penalty, raising China to the level of other modern nations.

In Beijing the authorities have built a facility next to a prison outside the city’s limits that houses most of the capital’s death row inmates. It is here that lethal injections will be performed, the China Daily reported.

In the meantime would-be executioners are being trained on how to administer the injections, and medical staff is learning how to supervise the use of drugs, monitor executions and confirm deaths.

Hu Yunteng, head of the Supreme People’s Court’s research bureau, said that lethal injection (legalised in 1997) was a cleaner, safer and more convenient way of executing prisoners than the old-fashioned bullet through the head.

“It is considered more humane as it reduces the criminals’ fear and pain compared with gunshot execution,” Mr Hu said.

Last year some 1,700 people were executed in mainland China. This represents 70 per cent of the total number of executions world-wide.

However, off-the-record Communist Party members have acknowledged that in past years up to 10,000 people have been executed.

In late 2006 the Supreme People’s Court resumed the power to review death sentences. This has led to an apparent drop in the number of executions, but overall figures remain a “state secret”.

At the same time though, human rights activists have accused Chinese prison authorities of involvement in the trafficking of organs taken from executed prisoners as well as of carrying out executions “à la carte” according to organ market demands based on death row inmates’ physical traits.

For this reason some people suspect that execution by lethal injection was adopted in order to better preserve organs for sale.

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

Inside North Korea’s Gulag

Last week a North Korean court sentenced American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling to 12 years of “reform through labor.” The women, arrested in March along the North’s border with China, were researching the plight of North Korean refugees who flee to China. Their trial was closed, and their crimes — other than the alleged illegal border crossing — were unspecified.

In recent years, I have spent many hours interviewing refugees from North Korea, including some who escaped from re-education camps. Their accounts of prison life accord with a recent assessment by the U.S. State Department. Conditions are brutal and life threatening, according to the February report. “Torture occurred,” the report notes matter-of-factly. Refugees have spoken to me of newborns separated from their mothers and left to die.

North Koreans can end up in re-education camps for such crimes as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, secretly practicing a religion, or crossing the border to China in search of food. Inmates are subjected to forced labor and are required to memorize political tracts. They receive little food, no medical care and sometimes serve multiyear terms wearing the clothes in which they arrived at camp. I interviewed a woman who had been wearing high heels when she was arrested and had to bind her feet in rags when those wore out. Many prisoners die of abuse or malnutrition.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Korea Warns of Retaliation

North Korea has threatened a “thousand-fold” military retaliation against the US and its allies if it is provoked.

The warning, carried by state media, came after US President Barack Obama said that a nuclear-armed North Korea posed a “grave threat” to the world.

At a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Mr Obama said the US would “vigorously” pursue an end to North Korea’s nuclear programme.

North Korea has recently conducted nuclear and missile tests.

“If the US and its followers infringe upon our republic’s sovereignty even a bit, our military and people will launch a one hundred- or one thousand-fold retaliation with merciless military strike,” said a commentary published by state news agency KCNA.

“The nuclear programme is not the monopoly of the US,” it said.

Money withdrawn

The commentary is the latest threat from Pyongyang as tensions in the region have escalated over its 25 May underground nuclear test and recent missile launches.

Japanese and South Korean media reported that there were signs of two long-range missile launch sites being readied — one on the north-west coast and the other on the north-east coast.

It was previously believed a launch might come from the north-west site, not far from the Chinese border.

President Obama: “We have continually insisted that North Korea denuclearize’

North Korea is also withdrawing funds from its bank accounts in the Chinese territory of Macau and elsewhere before they can be frozen by new UN sanctions, according to South Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo newspaper.

On 12 June the UN Security Council approved tougher sanctions against North Korea, including inspections of ships suspected of taking banned cargo to and from North Korea, a wider ban on arms sales and further measures to cut Pyongyang’s access to international financial services.

Following the resolution, the North said it would start enriching uranium and use all its plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Japan has taken action by banning all trade with North Korea. Pyongyang’s main ally, China, said it would “earnestly implement” the new sanctions..

‘Break cycle’

At a summit in Washington on Tuesday, Mr Obama said that he and his South Korean counterpart had agreed that a new UN resolution designed to halt North Korea’s nuclear ambitions should be fully enforced.

“Under no circumstance are we going to allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons,” said Mr Lee.

And he pledged to end a cycle of letting North Korea create a crisis in order to be rewarded with concessions from the international community.

“This is a pattern they’ve come to expect,” Mr Obama said.

“We are going to break that pattern.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

US Says it Will Not Accept N Korea as Nuclear State

VIENNA — The U.S. urged North Korea on Wednesday to stop its nuclear saber-rattling and negotiate with the world’s great powers, vowing that Washington would never accept Pyongyang as an atomic weapons state.

Russia, China and other leading world nations lined up behind the United States in a rare demonstration of unity reflecting international concern over the North’s rogue nuclear program and its steadily bellicose rhetoric..

As senior delegates of the U.S. and other countries discussed the situation with the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Pyongyang upped the ante, warning of a “thousand-fold” military retaliation against Washington and its allies if provoked.

Pyongyang claims its nuclear bombs are a deterrence against the United States and accuses Washington of plotting with South Korea to topple its secretive regime.

“If the U.S. and its followers infringe upon our republic’s sovereignty even a bit, our military and people will launch a 100- or 1,000-fold retaliation with merciless military strike,” the North’s state-run Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary.

Attention has been focused on North Korea since it conducted a second nuclear test on May 25 in defiance of the United Nations. The U.N. Security Council responded by toughening an arms embargo, authorizing ship searches for nuclear and ballistic missile cargo and depriving the regime of the financing used to build its nuclear program.

North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs. It disclosed last week that it also is producing enriched uranium, the other pathway to the production of fissile material for nuclear warheads.

The recent moves by North Korea have effectively brought to a halt the so-called six-party talks aimed at giving North Korea fuel and other benefits in exchange for dismantling its nuclear program. The talks involved the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said the U.S. is more than willing to negotiate with North Korea to bring peace on the Korean peninsula. “But belligerent, provocative behavior that threatens neighbors will be met with significant and serious enforcement of sanctions that are in place,” he said.

Sounding the same theme at the Vienna meeting, chief U.S. delegate Geoffrey Pyatt excoriated the North for abandoning the six party negotiations.

“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state,” Pyatt declared, in comments distributed to reporters. “We believe it is in North Korea’s own best interests to return to serious negotiations.”

Diplomats inside the closed meeting said three of the North’s interlocutors — China, Japan, Russia — also criticized Pyongyang’s nuclear defiance and urged it to return to talks, along with the European Union and Canada.

Except for a brief period that ended earlier this year when the North broke off negotiations and restarted work on its nuclear program, the IAEA has been shut out of North Korea since late 2002, when Pyongyang kicked out nuclear inspectors and subsequently said it was no longer bound by the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Vatican Urged to be Firm on China

The former bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has said the Vatican should not compromise with China over religious freedoms.

He told the Vatican-linked news agency AsiaNews that the Vatican should not place so much importance on forming diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Cardinal Zen said diplomatic ties could give the false impression that there was religious freedom in China.

China only allows Catholics to belong to a state-sanctioned church.

China cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the Communist Party took power.

“We’ve come to the point where it’s not possible just to accept compromise as we did before,” he said of Pope Benedict XVI’s attempts to improve the Vatican’s often-tense relations with Beijing.

“In these two years there hasn’t been a turn toward clarity. In fact, it seems to me that we’re taking a worrisome slide along a slope of compromise.”

Two years ago the Pope issued a letter to Chinese Catholics urging worshippers in banned “underground” churches to reconcile with followers of the Beijing-approved church.

The cardinal repeated a call for bishops in the official church not to give in to pressure from the government, saying they had to remain firm in their faith and loyalty to the Pope.

Cardinal Zen stepped down as Bishop of Hong Kong in April, after 12 years in the role. He has been a vocal champion of human rights and social justice and has often criticised the governments in both Hong Kong and Beijing.

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

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Swine Flu Measures Scaled Back as Infection Fears Diminish

THE Federal Government is reducing measures to check the spread of swine flu, releasing estimates showing the disease to be much more infectious but significantly less likely to require hospital admission than ordinary seasonal flu.

Without public health measures, up to four times as many Australians could be infected with swine flu compared with the infection rate for ordinary seasonal flu.

But the estimates prepared for the Government show that the hospital admission and likely death rate is a fraction of that suffered by Australians with seasonal flu, which claims 1000 to 2000 lives every year.

There have yet to be any deaths from swine flu in Australia.

There were 2024 swine flu cases here by late yesterday, with nine people in hospital, three of them in intensive care. The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Jim Bishop, said it might be that the arrival of swine flu had led to an easier flu season in Australia this year.

Because of the mitigation measures, no more deaths from swine flu than from seasonal flu were expected.

“We hope we will do better than seasonal flu. We do not know …whether H1N1 09 [swine flu] will replace seasonal flu, but if it does, it will make the management of the disease easier to treat,” Professor Bishop said.

The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, announced yesterday that Australia would move to new flu alert arrangements, scrapping measures including widespread school closures and thermal screening at international airports.

The Government is also relaxing quarantine provisions and tightening distribution of antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu. These would be available from the national stockpiles for those people with moderate or severe disease or with vulnerable conditions.

But Ms Roxon said it was not appropriate to give antivirals to healthy relatives.

Measures will focus on early treatment of vulnerable people such as pregnant women and those with chronic diseases such as asthma and heart disease.

The new regime, officially called “pandemic phase protect”, will begin first in South Australia and Western Australia within days and later in other states. NSW yesterday had 313 recorded cases, compared with Victoria’s 1210.

Ms Roxon said the new phase recognised that swine flu was not as severe as originally envisaged when the health management plan for pandemic influenza was written last year.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Quarter of Men in South Africa Admit Rape, Survey Finds

* Research exposes culture of sexual violence

* Government criticised for ‘woeful’ conviction rate

One in four men in South Africa have admitted to rape and many confess to attacking more than one victim, according to a study that exposes the country’s endemic culture of sexual violence.

Three out of four rapists first attacked while still in their teens, the study found. One in 20 men said they had raped a woman or girl in the last year.

South Africa is notorious for having one of the highest levels of rape in the world. Only a fraction are reported, and only a fraction of those lead to a conviction.

The study into rape and HIV, by the country’s Medical Research Council (MRC), asked men to tap their answers into a Palm Pilot device to guarantee anonymity. The method appears to have produced some unusually frank responses.

Professor Rachel Jewkes of the MRC, who carried out the research, said: “We have a very, very high prevalence of rape in South Africa. I think it is down to ideas about masculinity based on gender hierarchy and the sexual entitlement of men. It’s rooted in an African ideal of manhood.”

Jewkes and her colleagues interviewed a representative sample of 1,738 men in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

Of those surveyed, 28% said they had raped a woman or girl, and 3% said they had raped a man or boy. Almost half who said they had carried out a rape admitted they had done so more than once, with 73% saying they had carried out their first assault before the age of 20.

The study, which had British funding, also found that men who are physically violent towards women are twice as likely to be HIV-positive. They are also more likely to pay for sex and to not use condoms.

Any woman raped by a man over the age of 25 has a one in four chance of her attacker being HIV-positive.

One in 10 men said they had been forced to have sex with another man. Many find it difficult to report such attacks to the police in subcultures where the concept of homosexuality is taboo.

South Africa’s government has been repeatedly criticised for failing to address the crisis. Only 7% of reported rapes are estimated to lead to a conviction. Jewkes said: “There’s been a lot of concern about the way the criminal justice system works, because it’s still woeful.”

Before his election as president, Jacob Zuma stood trial for the rape of a family friend. His supporters demonstrated at the court house, verbally attacked his accuser and sang “burn the bitch, burn the bitch”. Zuma was eventually acquitted.

Jewkes added: “The social space for debating these gender issues is now smaller than it was a few years ago. We need our government to show political leadership in changing attitudes. We need South African men, from the top to the grassroots, to take responsibility.”

Anti-rape campaigners said the shocking figures demonstrated the need for reform. Dean Peacock, co-director of the Sonke Gender Justice project, said: “We need to make sure the criminal justice system is held to account. We have lots of discussion in this country, but not enough action is taken to ensure that perpetrators will face consequences.”

Zuma, a polygamist, was criticised for emphasising his Zulu tribal identity and singing militant songs during this year’s election campaign. He made comments that outraged anti-Aids and gender campaigners.

Peacock added: “We’re at a complicated moment in South African history with revived traditionalism and there’s a danger of gender transformation being lost.

“We hear men saying, ‘If Jacob Zuma can have many wives, I can have many girlfriends.’ The hyper-masculine rhetoric of the Zuma campaign is going to set back our work in challenging the old model of masculinity.”

Carrie Shelver, an activist with People Opposing Women Abuse, said: “Generally there’s a deficit of understanding and commitment to women’s rights by the leadership of this country. It’s simply not on people’s agenda.”

A report published by the trade union Solidarity earlier this month said that one child is raped in South Africa every three minutes, with 88% of rapes going unreported. It found that levels of child abuse in South Africa are increasing rapidly.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil Denies Rift With France Over Jet Disaster Probe

BRASILIA (AFP) — Brazilian officials on Wednesday denied that French investigators were being barred from examining bodies recovered from an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic, as the search for answers to the disaster continued.

“We have four French investigators accredited to participate in the examinations” of the bodies being carried out in the northeastern city of Recife, a Brazilian police spokesman told AFP.

He was responding to Paul-Louis Arslanian, director of the Investigation and Analysis Bureau (BEA), the French body in charge of the technical side of the inquiry, who complained earlier Wednesday about access to the 50 bodies fished from the ocean.

Arslanian told reporters in Paris he was “not happy” that a French medical expert sent by the BEA had not been allowed to take part in the postmortem examinations.

“We don’t know where the information came from that the French investigators don’t have access to these examinations,” the Brazilian police spokesman said. “We can guarantee that the French embassy gave the names of the French investigators who can examine the bodies.”

French and Brazilian navy ships, backed by more than a dozen aircraft, were Wednesday continuing to scour waters 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off Brazil’s coast for any more remains from Air France flight AF 447.

Authorities are to evaluate every two days whether to continue the operation.

A French nuclear submarine and two vessels equipped with underwater listening devices are also trying to pick up the homing beacons of the plane’s black boxes.

The Airbus A330 came down on June 1 as it was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The reason for the disaster is not known.

All 228 people on board are presumed dead, and 50 bodies have so far been recovered, along with the plane’s tail fin and hundreds of other parts and pieces.

Arslanian warned it was “virtually certain that we will not recover the entire aircraft.

“We are doing all we can to recover the flight recorders and bodies, and we cannot say today what we will succeed in doing,” he said.

The goal of the search and investigation “is to understand what happened,” he said, adding: “Considering all the work that has been done and all we have at our disposal, I think we may be getting a bit closer to our goal..”

He declined to detail leads being followed up by his 60-member team of investigators.

He also lashed out at press “speculation,” including suggestions that defective speed probes could have played a role in the disaster.

“For now, we cannot say, and no one can say what happened. It is much too soon to go imagining scenarios in one direction or another,” he insisted.

Theories about the defective probes, called pitots, surfaced after it emerged that a series of data alerts sent automatically by the plane in its final minutes showed they were giving varying and incorrect readings.

Aviation experts say conflicting airspeed data can cause the autopilot to shut down and in extreme cases lead the plane to stall or fly dangerously fast, possibly causing a high-altitude breakup.

Air France itself had initially suggested that lightning could have caused the disaster, though experts later said that was very unlikely.

The BEA, Airbus and Air France have since insisted no link has been proven between the speed monitors and the crash — although Air France upgraded all sensors on its long-haul fleet after protests from pilots.

Asked whether it was an overreaction for airlines to change their speed probes, Arslanian said it was “a legitimate approach for companies who do not want to take any risks.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Brazil Finds New Strain of H1N1 Virus

Brazilian scientists have identified a new strain of the H1N1 virus after examining samples from a patient in Sao Paulo, their institute said Tuesday.

The variant has been called A/Sao Paulo/1454/H1N1 by the Adolfo Lutz Bacteriological Institute, which compared it with samples of the A(H1N1) swine flu from California.

The genetic sequence of the new sub-type of the H1N1 virus was isolated by a virology team lead by one of its researchers, Terezinha Maria de Paiva, the institute said in a statement.

The mutation comprised of alterations in the Hemagglutinin protein which allows the virus to infect new hosts, it said.

It was not yet known whether the new strain was more aggressive than the current A(H1N1) virus which has been declared pandemic by the World Health Organization.

The genetic make-up of the H1N1 virus and its subvariants are important for scientists.

Pharmaceutical companies are working to mass produce a vaccine against the current A(H1N1) flu.

There are fears though that it could mutate into a deadly strain, much in the same way as the 1918 Spanish flu — also an A(H1N1) virus type — did when it killed tens of millions around the planet.

According to the WHO, 36,000 people in 76 countries have been infected with the H1N1 virus, causing 163 deaths.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

French: No Conclusions in Flight 447 Probe

LE BOURGET, France — French investigators say more than 400 pieces of Flight 447 have been recovered in the Atlantic.

Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of the French air accident investigation agency, says no firm conclusions have been drawn in the probe into the crash.

He said at a news conference outside Paris on Wednesday that more than 400 pieces of debris have been recovered in the international search and are being gathered in a hangar in Recife, Brazil.

He also said Brazilian authorities have not released to the French the autopsy results from the bodies recovered so far, although he expects they will be released.

The Airbus A330 fell ito the ocean on May 31 with 228 people aboard, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

No French Access to Brazil Plane Crash Autopsies

PARIS (Reuters) — France’s chief air disaster investigator said on Wednesday he was unhappy that a French pathologist had not been allowed to take part in autopsies in Brazil of bodies recovered after an Air France plane crash.

Brazilian and French ships are still searching for wreckage and bodies from the plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, killing all 228 people on board.

Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of the BEA agency in charge of investigating the crash, cautioned against speculation about the causes but said investigators were getting a little closer to understanding what had happened.

“We are getting a little closer to our goal but don’t ask me what the percentage of hope is,” Arslanian told a news conference, stressing the conditions in a remote area of ocean were among the most challenging in an air crash investigation.

He said a French pathologist sent to Brazil had not been authorized to take part in the autopsies of recovered bodies, and France had not had access to the Brazilian autopsy results.

During his televised news conference he declined to say more on the subject, but afterwards he was pressed by reporters to say if he was dissatisfied with the lack of access given to the French doctor.

“I am not happy. Eventually, I hope I’ll have an explanation. For the time being it is a fact and nothing more. Please don’t try to create problems between France and Brazil,” he said.


Almost equal numbers of French and Brazilian passengers died in the crash of the Airbus A330, and both countries have been keen to show they are doing their utmost to recover bodies and understand the causes of the disaster.

Arslanian urged the public to show “a lot of patience” and to stick to known facts rather than engage in speculation.

The investigation agency has so far said data transmitted from the plane before it crashed indicated unreliable speed readings from the aircraft’s sensors, but that it was too early to say whether this contributed to the accident.

In order to establish the causes of the crash, the worst in Air France’s history, search teams must recover the plane’s flight data recorders or “black boxes.”

But the seabed where the plane is thought to have crashed is mountainous, meaning the wreckage could be lying at a depth of anything between 1 km (0.6 miles) and 4 km, investigators say.

The “pinger” locator beacons on the flight recorders send an electronic impulse every second for at least 30 days. The signal can be heard up to 2 km away.

“The goal is to understand what happened and for that we need tools and these tools must be facts. The recorders are recorders of facts. If we had them we would have more facts at our disposal,” Arslanian said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Jedilson Bonfim said...

Wilders' proposal for the Netherlands, which has generated his clashes with the (dis)integration minister, is already reality in Switzerland. Laws allowing the stripping of an individual's acquired citizenship have been on the books for years, but they've been given real teeth in recent times. Of course, it's not like their stricter enforcement was debated as part of an anti-Mahound package, but as overall anti-crime measures.

I'm sure the fascists from the SP, led by Ahmadinejad's veil-donning buddy Micheline Calmy-Rey, are opposed to such measures; but their opinion isn't representative of what most Swiss want for their country.