Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/26/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/26/2009A university in Saudi Arabia is introducing an unusual innovation: men and women will attend classes together. But that’s not all: in an unprecedented move, the religious police will not be allowed on campus, and female students and members of the faculty will be allowed to drive cars.

In other news, Flemish Muslims call the school headscarf ban “a slap in the face”.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, TB, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Federal Reserve Scandal Bigger Than ACORN
 
USA
A Secret White House Power Grab is in Full Swing
Administration Will Cut Border Patrol Deployed on U.S-Mexico Border
Is Obama a Robot?
Kirk to Obama: Withdraw Grants to Libyan Charities
National Ammo Shortage Caused by Fear of Obama, Leftists
The Brzezinski/Obama Axis
 
Europe and the EU
Exhibitions: 8k+ In Rome, Turkish Artists Against Machismo
Headscarf Ban a ‘Slap in the Face’ For Flemish Muslims
Human Rights Before Religion
Italy: Sacconi: Healthcare Plan Means Increased Costs
Italy: Errani to Sacconi: Where Are the Resources
Italy: Mobster Used Croc to Scare Victims
Italy: Research Centre: Start Dialogue on Mosques in Palermo
Muslim Women Oppose Sharia Councils in Britain
Rome Counting on Foreign Sponsors to Restore Colosseum
Rotterdam Rules the Waves
Spain’s Government Takes Its Re-Enactment of the Second Republic Too Far in Economic Realism
Stop Pretending
UK: Companies Will Have to Pay Royal Mail £3,000 to Get Post in the Morning
UK: Don’t Call US for Help About Yobs — Hooligans Are Councils’ Problem, Says Top Police Officer
UK: English Passengers Forced to Show Passports When Arriving in Scotland
UK: Great Wall of Windsor: Neighbours Fight Plan to Surround £60m Estate Owned by Abu Dhabi Family
UK: Health Fears That NHS Switch to Cheaper Drugs Could Put Millions of Patients at Risk of Side-Effects
UK: Why Do We Bother? Residents Sort Rubbish Into Boxes… Then It’s All Dumped in Together
 
Balkans
Croatia: Split Mayor Attacks Serbs, Never Done Anything Good
Croatia: Zagreb Prepares to Participate in EU Drug Agency
Kosovo: Eulex: Meeting With Serbians on Agreement in October
Serbia-EU: Holland Confirms Capturing Mladic Still Condition
Serbia-Slovenia: Accord on Social Security
 
North Africa
Agriculture: Tunisia, Date Exports on the Rise
Muslim Convert to Christianity Prevented From Leaving Egypt
UNESCO: Hosni Defeated, Israel Celebrates Bokova Appointment
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Court: Poem That Compared Arabs to Rabbits Not Incitement
First Law on Organ Donation, Rabbis Agree
Gaza: Children’s Programme Incites Anti-Jew Violence
Israeli Media: Obama Stepping Back on Settlements
Israeli Drive to Prevent Jewish Girls Dating Arabs
 
Middle East
Fateful Schism
First Saudi University to Allow Men and Women Together
Literature: Turkish Woman’s Book Nominated for French Prize
Syria: Foreign Direct Investments +70% in 2008
Turkey: Kurds: Famous Actress Investigated for ‘Hate Crime’
UN: Israel to World, Boycott Ahmadinejad
Yemen to Fight Rebels for ‘Years’
 
South Asia
Pakistan Among Most Corrupt Nations in the World
 
Far East
Chinese Military to Show Off Might at PRC’s 60th Anniversary
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Islamic Community Buries Boat Blast Victim
Brawl Involving 200 Youths Erupts at Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne
Jailed Over Manual on Terrorism
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Pirates Attack Ship Off Mogadishu
 
Immigration
Italy Uses Force to Send Migrants to Libya, HRW
Turkey Unable to Open New Refugee Guesthouses
 
General
G20: Berlusconi to Obama, Steps Against Tax Evasion
‘I Just Can’t Take it Any More’… Gaddafi’s Translator ‘Collapsed With Exhaustion’ During His UN Rant

Financial Crisis

Federal Reserve Scandal Bigger Than ACORN

For the first time, a hearing is being held on Rep. Ron Paul’s Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009 (H.R. 1207) by the House Committee on Financial Services. Grass-roots pressure has been credited with forcing the hearing into what has happened to trillions of dollars supposedly spent by the Federal Reserve on the stabilization of the financial system.

In prepared testimony, Thomas E. Woods, Jr. of the Ludwig von Mises Institute offers his strong support for the bill and declares, “…if our monetary system were really as strong, robust, and beyond criticism as its cheerleaders claim, why does it need to rely so heavily on public ignorance? How can it be a sound banking system that depends on keeping the public in the dark about the condition of its financial institutions?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

A Secret White House Power Grab is in Full Swing

It’s one thing for President Obama to surround himself with the advisers he’d like to have, but it’s another to bestow on them sweeping powers to broker secret negotiations and push forward vast new regulations that could cost American families thousands of dollars.

Cap-and-trade energy tax legislation appears stalled, at least for now, in the U.S. Senate. But that doesn’t mean the cap-and-trade energy tax isn’t imminent.

Senate Environment Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer hasn’t even introduced the bill yet; new Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln has declared the House bill dead on arrival; and there are several other cross-cutting controversies that divide Democrats on the bill. The Obama administration is unfazed. They are moving full steam ahead with an even more costly regulatory scheme in the name of global warming—shoehorning the regulation of greenhouse gases into the 1970 Clean Air Act, a bill passed before anyone had ever thought of global warming and that couldn’t be less suited to the task.

Driving the push for this massive power grab and circumvention of the elected branches is a key White House official who avoided Senate confirmation by being installed not as EPA director, but instead as White House Climate Czar: Carol Browner.

Long before the Supreme Court ruled in a highly questionable 2007 case, Massachusetts v. EPA, that the EPA has the legal authority to justify its proposed 18,000 pages of greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act, Browner (then EPA director under President Bill Clinton) had her general counsel, Jonathan Cannon, prepare a now-infamous memorandum arguing—for the first time—that the EPA possessed such a power. At the time it was dismissed as a wild-eyed overreach that Congress would never allow. Now it’s happening, and Browner is right at the center of it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Administration Will Cut Border Patrol Deployed on U.S-Mexico Border

(CNSNews.com) — Even though the Border Patrol now reports that almost 1,300 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border is not under effective control, and the Department of Justice says that vast stretches of the border are “easily breached,” and the Government Accountability Office has revealed that three persons “linked to terrorism” and 530 aliens from “special interest countries” were intercepted at Border Patrol checkpoints last year, the administration is nonetheless now planning to decrease the number of Border Patrol agents deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border Patrol Director of Media Relations Lloyd Easterling confirmed this week—as I first reported in my column yesterday—that his agency is planning for a net decrease of 384 agents on the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2010, which begins on October 1.

A Department of Homeland Security annual performance review updated by the Obama administration on May 7 said the Border Patrol “plans to move several hundred Agents from the Southwest Border to the Northern Border to meet the FY 2010 staffing requirements, with only a small increase in new agents for the Southwest Border in the same year.”

Easterling said on Tuesday that in fiscal 2009, 17,399 Border Patrol agents have been deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border. In fiscal year 2010, the Border Patrol plans to decrease that by 384 agents, leaving 17,015 deployed along the Mexican frontier. At the same time, the number of Border Patrol agents deployed on the U.S.-Canada border will be increased by 414, from a fiscal 2009 total of 1,798 agents to a fiscal 2010 total of 2,212.

The Border Patrol is responsible for securing a total of 8,607 miles of border, including the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S.-Canada border from Washington state to Maine, and sectors of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Each year, the Border Patrol sets a goal for “border miles under effective control (including certain coastal sectors).” “Effective control,” as defined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, means that when the Border Patrol detects an illegal border crosser in a particular area of the border the agency can be expected to succeed in apprehending that person.

In the May 7 update of its performance review, DHS said the Border Patrol’s goal for fiscal 2009 was to have 815 of the 8,607 miles of border for which the agency is responsible under “effective control.” The review also said the Border Patrol’s goal for fiscal 2010 was to again have 815 miles of border under “effective control,” meaning DHS was not planning to secure a single additional mile of border in the coming year.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Is Obama a Robot?

Ladies and gentlemen, your President is a robot. Or a wax sculpture. Maybe a cardboard cutout. All I know is no human being has a photo smile this amazingly consistent.

On Wednesday, the Obamas hosted a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, during which they stood for 130 photographs with visiting foreign dignitaries in town for the UN meeting. The President has exactly the same smile in every single shot. See for yourself — the pictures are up on the State Department’s flickr. And, of course, compressed above into 20 seconds for your viewing pleasure.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Kirk to Obama: Withdraw Grants to Libyan Charities

$400,000 Is To Be Split Between Charities Run By Gadhafi Family Members

WASHINGTON (CBS) — The Obama Administration plans to give $400,000 in funding to a Libyan charity run by the Gadhafi family, and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wants the grant withdrawn.

The money would be divided between two foundations run by the family of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. A $200,000 share is set to go to the Gadhafi Development Foundation, which is run by Gadhafi’s son, Saif, and another $200,000 are to go to Wa Attassimou, an organization run by Muammar Gadhafi’s daughter, Aisha.

Kirk says the grants should be withdrawn in light of the recent return to Libya of Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdel Baset Megrahi. The terminally ill prisoner was released from in Scotland on compassionate grounds, and got a hero’s welcome from Muammar Gadhafi and other Libyans upon his return.

Saif Gadhafi was involved in negotiating for Megrahi’s release, and accompanied him back to Libya.

“Just weeks after the Gadhafi family celebrated the return of a terrorist responsible for the murders of 189 Americans, the U.S. taxpayer should not be asked to reward them with $400,000,” Kirk wrote to the president. “For the sake of the victims’ families who have endured so much pain these last few weeks, I ask you to withdraw your Administration’s request.”

The Gadhafi Development Foundation is described by the BBC as “a charity which tries to project a new and positive image of Libya.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


National Ammo Shortage Caused by Fear of Obama, Leftists

While the dismal economic picture in America hasn’t caused “bank runs” wherein customers demand to withdraw their savings from banks across the country — a frequent occurrence during the Great Depression — gun owners are causing a run of their own: a national “gun shop run” for ammunition. Ammunition manufacturers report their factories are producing ammunition at record rates and keeping their facilities operating 24/7. Yet, they still cannot keep up with the demand for bullets for everything from handguns to hunting rifles.

[…]

“It always happens when the Democrats get in office. It happened with Clinton and Obama is even stronger for gun control. Ammunition will be the first step, so I’m stocking up while I can,” said one New Jersey gun dealer.

He points to the latest trend in the never ending government regulation of gun ownership: Ammo Control.

“Gun control fanatics, frustrated in their attempts to impose severely restrictive regulations on the gun rights of law-abiding American citizens, apparently think that if they push severe restrictions on ammunition acquisition and possession, they’ll come closer to their objective of restricting if not eliminating the individual Second Amendment civil right to keep and bear arms,” says John M. Snyder, known as “Washington’s senior gun rights activist.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Brzezinski/Obama Axis

Brzezinski views history through the lens of Marxism, which, despite its atheism, has much in common with Islam. Both Communism and Islam are universalistic ideologies that reject the idea of the nation-state. Both do not regard adherence to treaties between nations as obligatory. Both Communism and Islam are militaristic and expansionist creeds that do not recognize international borders. Brzezinski’s globalism is evident in Jimmy Carter. Under Brzezinski’s influence, Carter lowered the defense budget and pursued a soft line toward the Soviet Union. Obama is pursuing a very soft line towards Islam.

As a crypto-Marxist, Brzezinski deplores the nation-state. His book Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, declares that “With the splitting and eclipse of Christianity man began to worship a new deity: the nation. The nation became a mystical object claiming man’s love and loyalty. The nation-state along with the doctrine of national sovereignty fragmented humanity. It could not provide a rational framework within which the relations between nations could develop.” Brzezinski sees the nation-state as having only partly increased man’s social consciousness and only partially alleviated the human condition.

“That is why Marxism,” he contends, “represents a further vital and creative stage in the maturing and man’s universal vision.” Marxism, he says, “was the most powerful doctrine for generating a universal and secular human consciousness.” Embodied in the Soviet Union, however, Communism became the dogma of a party and, under Stalin, “was wedded to Russian nationalism.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Exhibitions: 8k+ In Rome, Turkish Artists Against Machismo

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 22 — Maternity, sensuality, eroticism, freedom and success: concepts that clash with male chauvinism, sexual discrimination and the oppression to which Turkish women have been, and often still are, victims. Concepts expressed with eccentricity and audacity, through the works of Zehra Cobanli, Emel Solenay, Dilek Alkann Ozdemir, Lale Demir, Ezgi Hakan, Ece Kaniskan, Ozgur Kaptan and Mutlu Baskaya. Eight young Turkish female artists, modern, self-assured and artful, as can be seen in their ceramics on display in Rome in the exhibition space of the Culture and Information Office at the Turkish Embassy. The founder of ‘8K Positive’ group is professor Zehra Cobanli, president of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Anadolu University of Eskisehir (north east Turkey). A reality that is altogether feminine, in which the art teacher, dialoguing with the artists, asks them to question themselves on “who the women of today are, what they represent within a society that is still patriarchal such as Turkish society, in which having a daughter is too often considered to be a disgrace.” “This group has exhibited in many Turkish cities,” Zehra Cobanli, surrounded by the 8 artists, told ANSAmed. “They are brilliant girls who want success and who epitomise the Turkish woman of today,” says Cobanli, who has taught ceramics art for 30 years. “In the last five years,” she continues, “the students in my faculty have changed a great deal, but so has the country.” Turkey has undergone a real artistic revival in the last decade. “In Istanbul now,” she added, “there are lots of galleries and museums of contemporary art, whilst for young people — many of whom are girls — who want to follow the path of creativity, there are greater opportunities than there were in the past.” With these objects and compositions on exhibition, created by using different techniques and firing times, they are submitted to the opinions of visitors who are not just the limits of Turkish society but those from a system that does not know any borders and which, at whatever latitude, discriminates against women: from keys (a symbol of luck in Turkey), which represent the desire for professional success, to shoes, which depict the freedom of women who, with hard-set feet walks along her path to freedom; from children who hold hands to show equality between male and female, to sinks that “swallow the dirtiness of the media and the televisions that give women a fake and unreal idea”, to commonly used tools which show the woman as the “angel of the home”. The exhibition, which, as Aygun Atalay, cultural advisor to the Turkish Embassy, points out, “allows visitors to discover the importance of ceramics in Turkish culture,” will be open until October 14. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Headscarf Ban a ‘Slap in the Face’ For Flemish Muslims

A decision in one school in Antwerp rapidly led to a general ban on headscarves in public schools in the Flemish region of Belgium this month. Some in the Moroccan community now want to found their own schools.

If it was up to her Saïda El Fekri would take off her headscarf in a second. In fact, she does take it off whenever she goes on holiday abroad. But not now. “It would give the impression I’m doing it under pressure from others,” says the 36-year-old spokesperson of Baas Over Eigen Hoofd (BOEH, Boss of my own head), a ‘feminist’ action group in the Belgian city of Antwerp. “The girls who are being forbidden to wear the headscarf to school would lose their role model.”

Two weeks ago the public school system in the Flemish region of Belgium decided to introduce a blanket ban on headscarves. On Thursday, BOEH filed a complaint against the decision with the council of state, the highest administrative court in Belgium, on behalf of several girls in Antwerp who themselves prefer to stay out of the spotlights.

Universal values

About sixty Muslim girls in Antwerp have dropped out of school since the ban came into effect, says El Fekri. “Some have simply stayed home; others have started their own class and plan to take their exams. But all of them have lost contact with the rest of society.”

The headscarf controversy was recently brought to the forefront once again after the Royal Atheneum, a school in Antwerp, decided to ban the Islamic headwear. The move was all the more controversial because the Royal Atheneum was one of the last schools in Antwerp not to have a ban.

The school’s principal, Karin Heremans, in 2005 co-authored a book by then socialist party president Steve Stevaert, in which she argued against a headscarf ban. Heremans advocated cultural differences are an enrichment, and she wanted to introduce universal values to the mixed bag of children at the school: tolerance, separation between church and state. Not for nothing the Royal Atheneum was founded by Napoleon.

But Heremans’ principled stand put the school in a difficult position. As one of the last refuges for headscarf-wearing girls in Antwerp, it became the school of choice for religious Muslims.

80 percent Muslim

“In 2001 46 percents of all pupils was Muslim”, Heremans says, “in 2008 it was 80 percent.” Some girls started showing up in the niqab, a veil that leaves only the eyes visible. The niqabs were banned, but the discussion didn’t end there.

“The debate was no longer about to ban or not to ban the headscarf. It was about how long the headscarf should be. Girls who chose not to wear it were put under pressure. An ex-pupil slipped into the school to take down the names of the girls who took off their headscarves once they were inside. After a few years of this I thought: in a little while we will be a Muslim school. Then what will be left of our project?”

Heremans’ decision to introduce a ban at her school had far-reaching consequences. After one student filed a complaint with the council of state, it voiced a legal opinion saying it was not up to individual schools to decide on a headscarf ban, but to the supervisory school boards. As a result the board of the roughly 700 public schools in the Flemish region of Belgium decided to introduce a system-wide headscarf ban, much to the displeasure of principals in other parts of the country where the headscarf was not yet an issue.

In Antwerp the boards of the various school systems — the public schools and the mostly Catholic ‘free schools’, which are also state-funded — got together and agreed on a local headscarf ban covering all the schools in the area.

Flowers and chocolate

Heremans says she knew her decision would cause a shock because of the emblematic function of her school — to the degree that she took a crash course in communications before she announced it. But she says there have been many positive reactions too, both from Muslims and non-Muslims. “People have sent flowers and chocolates. Several school principals from the Netherlands called me to give their support.”

But there have been numerous negative reactions too. “This is a slap in the face,” says Mohamad Chakkar, using an expression usually reserved for Flemish politicians to express anger at their French-speaking counterparts. Chakkar is the president of the Federation of Moroccan Associations. He says he was shocked by the speed with which the decision was taken. “The Flemish consultation model was completely abandoned. This is all anyone talks about in the mosques these days,” he says.

The Moroccan community is now thinking about founding its own schools. Those plans have existed for a while, and they are not directly linked to the headscarf issue. “Research has shown that the education gap between immigrant and non-immigrants students in Flanders is the widest in Europe. We are not looking for religious schools; we’re looking for a pedagogic answer to this problem.”

Flemish education minister Pascal Smet hopes it doesn’t come to that. “Our schools should be a reflection of society,” he says. But he is also powerless to stop it: it was a consequence of the so-called “school wars” between the Catholic schools and the secular state schools that anyone who qualifies for state subsidies has the right to start a school.

Smet, who has a legal background, has questioned the constitutionality of the Flemish headscarf ban. A national headscarf ban for all schools, like in France, might stand a better chance, but that would require amending the constitution. And it would mean a return to the school wars, because the Catholic schools too would have to ban all religious symbols.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Human Rights Before Religion

Have we forgotten to protect women in our bid to accommodate practices carried out in the name of Islam?

by Seyran Ates

Worldwide, women and children are among those most affected by human rights abuses; women and children make up the majority of victims of domestic violence; it is mainly women and girls who are deprived of an education, or even denied an appropriate position in the labour market despite a good education; political opportunities for women are still minimal, despite active and passive suffrage. This is the case regardless of culture or religion. In this sense, achieving gender equality is one of the greatest political challenges of our century.

This standardised picture requires one qualification. Without wishing to relativise violence and human rights abuses or create a hierarchy, there are grave differences between what has already been reached in some countries and a standard that can be denoted as stable. While women and girls in western countries generally no longer, for instance, have to worry about whether or not they are allowed to work or go to school, or whether they will soon be married off to a cousin or a much older man, this is still a reality for countless women in most Islamic countries and in South America, Asia and Africa.

This global perspective is necessary to understand the particular situation for many Muslim women and girls in European countries, especially those who live in parallel societies. In a plural, open and liberal society such as Germany, different cultures and religions jostle together so closely that conflicts are unavoidable and solutions supposedly hard to find. The fear of ostracising foreign cultures and religions and stoking xenophobia has led to a politically precarious situation, in which every criticism of Islamically justified misogyny can make you a racist, an enemy of Islam or even a Nazi. Such labels are thrown around with abandon.

Those who still dare to criticise religious practices in the Islamic community or other cultures often receive death threats or are the victims of a character assassination. In both cases, the aim is to strike from public discussion the issue of violence against women done in the name of Islam or some other understanding of cultural values. Some wish to do so because they are themselves rightwing (Islamic fundamentalists and/or nationalists), others (those who are allegedly political correct, leftwingers and do-gooders) because they are afraid that such criticism will play into the hands of the xenophobic rightwing Germans. But silence plays into their hands even more. The elections in Austria and Switzerland are good examples of this.

Five years ago, almost no one in Germany wanted to speak openly about arranged marriages, genital mutilation and honour killings. The hijab has led to strong political polarisation since roughly 1998. It is fast becoming a matter of course to see it in the street and it has changed something — people are talking more and more about the issues. Yet just as German women in the 70s had to put up with a lot of political malice, because they demanded women’s centres and talked openly about violence, these days we have to put up with hearing that the public debate over the subjugation of women in the Islamic community is more of an insult to Islamic women than a help.

In Germany’s recent past, in the kaleidoscope of cultures and religions in this multicultural society, many people have forgotten that human rights must come before religious practices. I do not say that as a critic of Islam — I don’t know why people label me as such — no, I say it as a practising Muslim and human rights activist, who lives in a democratic state and would like to continue to express her opinion freely.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Italy: Sacconi: Healthcare Plan Means Increased Costs

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Sep. — The Italian Minister for Employment, Health and Welfare, Maurizio Sacconi, spoke about the negative opinion expressed by the Conference of Region on the 2009-2011 Healthcare Plan: “I know it means more money, but with an increment in the relation with GDP”. He then added:”I believe that it is time that the non-functioning part of Italy acts on the main responsibility of these Regions, which is healthcare expenditure and improving its quality,” and he also stressed that “it is necessary to change also the methods of allocation, which should reward virtuous processes on the basis of standard costs, which are the lowest ones”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Errani to Sacconi: Where Are the Resources

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Sep. — “If the Minister for Employment Maurizio Sacconi knows that there are more resources for the Healthcare Fund then this is a really good news, all we need now is for the government to tell us where these resources are and what figures are we talking about”, said the president of the Conference of the Regions, Vasco Errani, replying to the statements of the Welfare Minister, Maurizio Sacconi on the Healthcare Fund. “The main thing to get out of this puppet-theatre of figures thrown about, is to carry out an operation of transparency on all figures regarding the Health and Welfare sector. We need numbers of real and available resources, not vague statements”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Mobster Used Croc to Scare Victims

Reptile threat ‘made businessmen cough up’

(ANSA) — Naples, September 23 — A Naples crime boss used a crocodile to frighten extortion victims, police said Wednesday.

Antonio Cristofaro, an emerging boss in a Camorra clan, took reluctant businessmen onto his terrace and threatened them with the animal if they tried to stop paying him for ‘protection’, they said.

Cristofaro, a member of two feuding clans, will be charged with illegal possession of animals.

Police went to his house on a weapons tip-off but found no guns.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Research Centre: Start Dialogue on Mosques in Palermo

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, SEPTEMBER 22 — “The end of the Ramadan has once again risen the question over the presence of mosques in Palermo, and underlined the problems of improvisation”, according to the Migration Research Centre. “The lack of debate created some non-entirely transparent places of worship all across the city, and sometimes even the safety of Muslim worshippers is at risk. This is the problem with improvisation: places of worship being set up in flats, basements or garages, which surely do not meet the real needs, also on security matters, which they should instead guarantee”. “It is therefore necessary to set up a city planning solution which will go towards integrating the Islamic community and avoid a dangerous assertion of identity. Something along these lines was seen as part of the EU Relate pilot project which, together with undergraduates the Engineering faculty, architects and engineers (some of them belonging to the foreign communities present in Palermo), planned, presented and worked on various ideas to build an Intercultural centre in the city of Palermo”. (ANSAmed).

2009-09-22 20:05

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Muslim Women Oppose Sharia Councils in Britain

Meet Dr Suhaib Hasan. He is one of the UK’s Sharia judges. He reminds us that Sharia means ‘the Islamic Law’ — ‘how to live according to the Muslim teachings’, to which he has devoted his life. He says: “I am a judge with the Islamic Sharia Council, which was set up in 1982 to guide the UK community on Islamic-related matters. All its scholars and judges are graduates of the Islamic universities throughout Muslim lands, or graduates from dar al uloom, the private institutions that teach Islam in India and Pakistan.”

He has lived in the UK since 1976. As a judge (qazi), he rules on legal issues that affect the daily lives of British Muslims, especially in the realms of finance, inheritance and divorce (which, he says, now constitutes the overwhelming majority of his work).

He says: “Normally the woman comes to us. This is for one simple reason: under British law both the man and woman have to apply to the court for a divorce. Under the Islamic system, the man may end the marriage if he thinks it right. It is preferable he does this in front of two witnesses, then it is a simple exercise to say: ‘I divorce you.’ The only thing we must ascertain is that he has given the dower (dowry) to the woman. This is a marriage gift from bridegroom to bride. Unless he has paid it, the man cannot get a divorce.

“When a woman applies, the process is called a khula divorce. If the husband agrees, the matter is settled, but if not, we invite both for an interview, and we do emphasise reconciliation. If she is seeking the divorce, she has to return the dower to him, if not, no divorce.”

Issues of custody raise particular problems, but (unlike English law), the Sharia stipulates that male children are permitted to choose between their mother or father at the age of seven. For female children, the age is 14 (when Islam deems them to be ‘responsible’).

Dr Hasan says he would like two further Sharia principles to be incorporated into ‘British law’: The first is the dower. The second is for the 12 existing Sharia councils to be recognised as mediation bodies and for the British courts to ‘enforce their decisions’. He reasons that this ‘would ease the pressure on the British legal system (because) at least one section of the community would be taking a little of the burden upon itself’.

Quite so, Dr Hasan. But what of Muslim women who are not content with your ability to ‘enforce’ rulings in which women are manifestly not treated as equal to me?

A very brave Muslim woman, Kavita Ramdya , has written in response:

Sir, I shudder to think of the repercussions for Muslim women if British law recognises decisions made by Sharia councils. Sharia law dictates that when a woman requests a divorce and the husband disagrees, the judge will “emphasise reconciliation” and “she has to return the dower to him”, whereas a man can divorce his wife by simply repeating “I divorce you” in front of two witnesses.

Muslim women who seek divorce are subjected to an interview process, pressured to remain married and risk losing quite possibly their only financial wealth by being forced to return their dower.

In the past, it was critical that individuals marry and remain married in order to preserve the safety and stability of a clan, tribe, family fortune, or even an alliance between countries.

Since then, marriage has evolved. It is now the primary method with which to pursue happiness and fulfilment. Muslim women in Britain are cognisant of the fact that they have the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

For Sharia judges to question a woman’s motives for divorce and pressure her socially and financially to remain in an unfulfilling and possibly dangerous marriage is antiquated at best and deadly at worst. Decisions made by Sharia councils have no room in British law.


The former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir Ali, has warned us of the regressive nature of Sharia law and its irreconcilability to the English system of jurispridence. One wonders whether the Archbishop of Canterbury would agree with Dr Hasan or Kavita Ramdya.

Who now has the ultimate authority to adjudicate between them?

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Rome Counting on Foreign Sponsors to Restore Colosseum

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 14 — “We will call on international sponsors and we will carry out a major operation, as we did for the Sistine Chapel”, said Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno today, over the need to make the Colosseum safe and restore it to its former glory. “We are not yet in a position to say what is necessary, but I believe that to restore the Colosseum at least 5 million euros will be needed. I also believe that we need to launch a major campaign aimed at international sponsorship so that the restoration work can be quick and sure. It would be difficult to carry out this work with public money and we want this operation to be carried out in an adequate and speedy manner”. In fact, Alemanno believes that “this is not just a case of cleaning the Colosseum, but of creating new access. We need to make giant steps forward in the exploitation and protection of Rome’s architectural heritage, starting with the Colosseum”. Undersecretary for Cultural Heritage, Francesco Giro, agreed with Alemanno on the urgent need for restoration work, saying that the operation “will involve the whole of the amphitheatre, from the foundations to the third level of arches”. 390 thousand euros are already available to make the perimeter area safe, and 480 thousand euros for the third level. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Rotterdam Rules the Waves

An oil slick or toxic cargoes washed up on coastlines can lead to endless arguments about who is responsible. For years, a better, clearer set of global regulations on marine freight has been needed. The Rotterdam Rules, a draft United Nations convention presented this week, looks like providing the answer.

In December 2003, the Andinet cargo ship shed three containers off the coast of the Dutch island of Texel. In them were 360 drums of toxic chemicals, some of which were never recovered. If the drums rust away and the chemicals are washed up on the shore, the whole island may have to be evacuated.

Who would be liable? The loading company for not adequately securing the cargo or the captain for setting sail regardless?

The Rotterdam Rules provide a framework of regulations which provides answers to such questions. The rules make clear who is responsible for goods transported by sea.

There were not only gaps in the previous international regulations, but the rules were outdated and often gave rise to different interpretations. Modern container traffic and the digital information revolution mean the system was due an overhaul.

Navigational errors

The new regulations mostly concern agreements between the shipper and the company doing the shipping. Under the Rotterdam Rules, the shipper is responsible for seeing that the containers are packed so as to withstand the journey, while the shipping company has to make sure the cargo’s journey is safe.

Shippers and the owners of vessels are given more responsibility than was the case. Ship owners, for example, are now liable for damage because of navigational errors.

Minko van Heezen, spokesman for the Port of Rotterdam, stresses that, despite this, ship owners have agreed to the Rotterdam Rules. Although they realise it could cost them money, they believe a clear set of regulations is worth it.

Less bureaucracy

Responsibility is no longer equally divided between all the parties: the shipper, loader, ship owner, receiver and companies transferring cargoes during the journey. Every part of the process is covered, from the lorry transporting the container to the port at the start of the voyage to the lorry taking it to the customer at the end. This saves a huge number of separate agreements, rules and paper work.

Under the old regulations, transfer companies had to store goods on their own sites near the ship. This could lead to overcrowded transfer terminals. “A chain store might have next season’s garden furniture transported in December and keep it as long as possible at the transfer depot,” explains Mr Van Heezen.

The Rotterdam Rules mean such containers can now be stored more cheaply close to the store concerned without complicated legal arguments over insurance and responsibility in cases of theft or damage.

Goodbye consignment notes

The new regulations will make the transportation of goods more efficient and, in the end, cheaper. They also mean the process can be managed digitally.

Consignment notes, often in effect an enormous pile of papers, were vitally important in shipping. Whoever had control of the documents was the formal owner of the cargo. This flawed and bureaucratic system will gradually disappear in favour of e-mails containing the same information and having the same legal force.

One major hurdle, however, still has to be overcome. Although shipping business organisations have welcomed the Rotterdam Rules convention, at least 20 UN member states still have to ratify it.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Spain’s Government Takes Its Re-Enactment of the Second Republic Too Far in Economic Realism

The most loathsome government in Europe, outside of Downing Street, is in deep doo-doo and it is a joy to behold. The ludicrous regime in Spain of José Luis Zapatero has driven the country into bankruptcy.

By Gerald Warner

From its inception, as a consequence of a knee-jerk, eve-of-poll hissy fit by the electorate after its conservative predecessor stupidly blamed the Atocha station bombing in Madrid on ETA instead of al-Qaeda, the Zapatero government has been little more than a Spanish Civil War re-enactment society.

Persecuting the Church, trying to force doctors to commit abortion against their consciences, pulling down statues of General Franco and renaming streets in honour of Red murderers, digging up “victims of fascism” who (whoops!) embarrassingly turn out to be corpses from the independence struggle of 1808-14 — no student union extravagance of gesture politics has been neglected. Zapatero even acquired membership credentials for the Dead Poets’ Society with his attempt to disinter García Lorca for propaganda purposes. It was all good, clean fun — a real agitprop knees-up, while it lasted.

Unfortunately, Zapatero has now gone too far in his attempt to resurrect the obscenity that was the Second Republic, by replicating its economic achievements. Informed commentators (as distinct from the government) are now forecasting a full-blooded depression in Spain, with unemployment reaching 25 per cent — just as it did under the Republic. Wages have to fall by 10 per cent in real terms, say the experts: try telling that to the comrades in the trades unions. Youth unemployment has already reached 38 per cent. Unemployment benefit has added 3 per cent of GDP to the budget deficit.

The root cause of Spain’s vulnerability antedates the Zapatero circus. Joining the European monetary union before its economy was qualified, with EMU driving down interest rates and debt reaching 230 per cent of GDP. However, another little glitch that did occur on Zapatero’s watch is that the number of unsold properties produced by Spain’s bloated construction industry now amounts to 1.6 million, with little more than 200,000 in demand per year.

The mismanagement of Spain’s economy has been on a scale that only Gordon could match. The citizenry do not seem as enthused about this part of the Second Republic re-enactment scenario as it was about others. If precedent is followed, Zapatero will soon issue the unemployed with government petrol to burn down churches. Of course, the really fun bit — if the historical parallel is fully adhered to — would be the emergence of another Franco and his dismantling of the whole shambles.

Looking at the Dave Cameron clones who currently pose as conservatives in Spain, that seems unlikely. In the circumstances, though, even a Carlist like myself would enjoy the humour of a scenario played out so accurately to its conclusion.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Stop Pretending

Probably the main reason why the debate on the European Union does not progress is the wilful refusal of the political classes to come to terms with the reality of what the EU is, and where its ambitions lie.

No better is this illustrated than by the current Telegraph leader which closes its dire, ill-informed series on “The State of Europe”.

In one short paragraph, it tells us that, “the EU’s origins lay in the rubble of the Second World War and in a laudable desire to develop an association in which free people could trade and thrive together after centuries of political tensions and catastrophic warfare.”

Notwithstanding that the intellectual genesis lay in the aftermath of the First World War, the central myth which this newspaper perpetuates is that the ambitions of the founding fathers were limited and benign. Thus do we get the: “… laudable desire to develop an association in which free people could trade and thrive together … “.

This ignores the very essence of the “project” which was to achieve political integration through economic means. This was the so-called “Monnet method”, which recognised that the “peoples of Europe” would not accept the overt imposition of a unified European government. Therefore, the process had to be carried out step-by-step, each step leading to another in a mechanism which came to be called engrenage.

Ignoring this reality, though, the Telegraph goes on to say: “But the EU has become a vast, bureaucratic, unaccountable empire whose remit runs way beyond policing the common market.” By this means, we are invited to believe that this current state is an unintended consequence and that, from its “laudable” beginnings, the EU has somehow gone off the rails.

We are therefore supposed to lament the fact that: “Its policies are made in secret, then insufficiently scrutinised in Brussels or national capitals. Yet its directives and regulations affect the lives of half a billion people.” What is (deliberately) not acknowledged is that the system was designed to be secretive and opaque, otherwise it could never have achieved its aims.

Nevertheless, the newspaper, having indulged in its turgid exercise of woolly thinking about the EU, then exhibits a stunning lack of self-awareness by declaring: “It is time we were asked what we think about it.”

But the fact is that the “project” is a deliberate attempt to create a supreme government of Europe, subordinating the national governments and imposing its rule of the peoples of Europe — whether they like it or not. If the newspaper had been at all honest in its treatment of the subject in the last weeks, it would have said precisely that — and there would be no need to ask us “what we think about it”.

Hence, of course, the newspaper fudges the issue and offers faux euroscepticism, pretending that there is something to think about, something to consider, something to weigh up. There isn’t. Membership of the EU is a one-way street to political integration and a government of Europe. If you want that, go for it. If you don’t, we need to get out. But, for goodness sake, stop pretending there are any other options.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


UK: Companies Will Have to Pay Royal Mail £3,000 to Get Post in the Morning

Royal Mail is asking firms to pay £3,150 a year to ensure their post arrives in the morning.

The move means thousands of businesses, small and large, face a bill for a service that has been free for more than 300 years.

There are fears the same regime could be extended to family homes in the future.

The charges are effectively being forced on businesses as a result of the decimation of the postal service, caused by radical reorganisation and job cuts.

Royal Mail managers have begun telling firms the only way they will be able to ensure guaranteed morning deliveries is to pay an annual fee of £3,150.

Chief executive of the official customer body Consumer Focus, Ed Mayo, condemned the tactic saying: ‘Business should not be forced to pay extra for a specialist service simply because normal deliveries are so unreliable.’

Royal Mail’s controversial policy turns the entire financing of the organisation on its head.

The principle has always been that the sender should cover the cost of postage ever since the Royal Mail was founded in 1660.

But the Royal Mail’s ruse means it will increasingly get paid twice, with both the sender and the recipient paying a fee.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Don’t Call US for Help About Yobs — Hooligans Are Councils’ Problem, Says Top Police Officer

Dealing with antisocial behaviour and ‘ low-level’ hooliganism is no longer the responsibility of the police, a senior officer said yesterday.

Superintendent Steve Harrod, speaking at the inquest of a mother and her disabled daughter who were hounded to their deaths by yobs, said it is now the responsibility of local councils since a law change in 1998.

The officer, head of criminal justice at Leicestershire Police, said officers were allowed to hand out only reprimands and ‘final warnings’ to young thugs unless their offences were ‘serious’.

[Return to headlines]


UK: English Passengers Forced to Show Passports When Arriving in Scotland

English passengers arriving at Scottish airports on internal flights are being forced to show their passports, it has been revealed.

Scottish police have confirmed that they are carrying out routine passport checks on passengers when they disembark from a domestic flight under terrorism laws.

The practice came to light when shadow home secretary Chris Grayling was among those ordered to show his passport when he arrived at Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Great Wall of Windsor: Neighbours Fight Plan to Surround £60m Estate Owned by Abu Dhabi Family

Bracknell Forest Borough Council has approved a scheme to build a 6ft 6in brick wall around the entire estate’s perimeter.

The wall will be more than four miles long and use enough bricks to build 150 five-bedroom houses. A local builder estimated it could cost up to £2million.

The Grade II listed property was purchased for a record £19million in 1989 by the ruler of Abu Dhabi and is under-going major renovations.

According to representatives of the Abu Dhabi royal family, which is headed by Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ascot Place will be brought back into active use as one of his private residences. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan

But after the council’s decision to grant permission for the wall without any consultation, the estate’s neighbours are fighting back.

One of those who will lose the views they love is Viv Lewis.

The 64-year-old shop assistant said: ‘We are all up in arms.

‘It is just outrageous that anyone would want to close off such beautiful fields.

‘It is just the rich grabbing what they can and leaving the rest of us to it.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Health Fears That NHS Switch to Cheaper Drugs Could Put Millions of Patients at Risk of Side-Effects

Millions of patients could face life-threatening side-effects under a scheme which will swap branded drugs for cheaper versions.

More than five million asthma sufferers and up to 500,000 with epilepsy could be hit by the change, while patients with conditions such as Parkinson’s, bipolar disorder and hypertension may also be affected.

Pharmacists will be expected to substitute a brand of drug written on a prescription with a generic, cheaper version.

For the first time, outside an emergency situation, they will not have to consult with a doctor to change a patient’s prescription.

The plan is expected to save the NHS up to £70 million a year, but critics claim it may end up costing more in treating side-effects unless certain medical conditions are exempt from the rules.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Why Do We Bother? Residents Sort Rubbish Into Boxes… Then It’s All Dumped in Together

Many have long suspected their diligent recycling may not actually be worth the effort.

And these extraordinary pictures seem to back up their very fears.

Residents of this cul-de-sac had clearly taken the time to sort their glass, cans, plastic and paper recycling into separate boxes.

The scheme was brought in last summer when the council in Croydon, South London, introduced fortnightly collections.

So residents were understandably furious when a binman tipped the recycling box contents into a wheelie bin which was then dumped into the back of a dustcart.

And to add insult to injury, the vehicle boasted a sign stating: ‘My next stop is landfill! Think before you throw.’

[…]

Mr Bagshaw, a photographer, and his photography student girlfriend Charlotte Shaw, used to have their rubbish collected by a lorry with separate compartments for different waste and recycling.

They initially assumed the new system was a one-off but complained after it went on for months.

Last night Doretta Cocks, from the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, insisted: ‘At the very least the council is setting a bad example.

‘It has imposed fortnightly collections but it clearly can’t properly deal with them, whilst expecting householders to abide by their rules for no apparent reason.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Croatia: Split Mayor Attacks Serbs, Never Done Anything Good

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 22 — The press in Belgrade dedicated large amounts of space today to the anti-Serbian statements made by the Mayor of Spilt, the second largest city in Croatia, who said that he would never accept a Serbian into his family. “The Serbs have never done anything good, neither them, nor Montenegrins, and they never will,” said Mayor Zeljko Kerum, a controversial figure who has already been in the middle of past conflicts and disagreements. Kerum attacked the Serbs during an interview on a very popular Croatian TV programme. When asked if he would accept a Serbian into his family, he gave a clear-cut answer: “Under no circumstances and it would never happen. Serbs and Montenegrins in the past have only done bad things, I would never accept having a Serbian son-in-law or brother-in-law,” said Kerum. A rich businessman and the owner of an important supermarket chain, Kerum was elected mayor running as an independent candidate in last May’s elections. On previous occasions he has already drawn attention to himself with aggressive and uninhibited remarks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Croatia: Zagreb Prepares to Participate in EU Drug Agency

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 22 — Croatia is preparing for its upcoming formal participation in the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Croatian Deputy Prime Minister, Durda Adlesic, visited the headquarters of the European agency yesterday in Lisbon. The first step for Croatia will be to ratify the agreement with the EU, which is expected to occur in the coming months. This will give the country the same status as Norway: they will be a member of the agency, participate in the management body as an observer, and will formally provide their country’s data to the European monitoring system. Adlesic, who is also president of the Commission for the fight against drug abuse in Zagreb, according to a statement from the agency, was accompanied in Lisbon by a 20-member delegation. “With this new agreement,” said the Croatian Deputy Ministry, “Croatia will provide a contribution to a complete approach to the problems associated with drug abuse in Europe.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Eulex: Meeting With Serbians on Agreement in October

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, SEPTEMBER 22 — The first meeting between the representatives of the Europe’s Eulex mission and Serbia’s Interior Ministry will take place at the beginning of October to discuss the ways of implementing the police agreement that was sealed in recent days. “The cooperation protocol with Belgrade’s police forces is already active since it has been signed by both parties, but it has not yet been implemented”, stated an Eulex spokesperson, Cristophe Lamfalussy, quoted by the press in Pristina. The agreement — signed last September 11, and which Kosovo authorities opposed, according to whom only the government of Pristina should be able to seal international deals — aims at strengthening collaboration in the fight against corruption, organised crime and drug and human trafficking. The Eulex spokesperson confirmed that information will be sent to Serbian police only with approval from Kosovo police, and reciprocally, possible information from Serbian Eulex will also be made available to Kosovo police. Lamfalussy also said that in Brussels another two possibilities for cooperation protocols between Eulex and Serbia are being discussed, one regarding customs and the other the judicial sector. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia-EU: Holland Confirms Capturing Mladic Still Condition

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 22 — Holland reiterated that arresting and extraditing former Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague is still a condition to activate the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) that the EU signed with Serbia, and which is a fundamental step on the path to EU integration for the Balkan nation. “Until this occurs, Holland will continue to assert that Serbia’s cooperation with the ICC is not complete,” said the Dutch ambassador to Belgrade, Ron van Dartel, cited today in the press. “We have clearly stated that we want Serbia’s full and complete cooperation with the ICC and Ratko Mladic’s capture would be actual proof of this cooperation,” added the diplomat. Mladic is wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the Bosnian War (1991-1995) and specifically in the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in July of 1995. Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, the former leader of the Serbs of Croatia, are the last two Serbian war criminals wanted by the ICC, and their hiding is an obstacle preventing Serbia’s path to the EU. In July of 2008 after 13 years in hiding, the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia-Slovenia: Accord on Social Security

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 23 — Delegations from the governments of Serbia and Slovenia in Belgrade agreed on the complete wording of a bilateral agreement on social security, thereby successfully ending months of negotiations, the Serbian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy announced, reports BETA news agency. The signing of the social security agreement will lay the foundations for claiming pension rights for Serbian citizens who worked in Slovenia and Slovenian citizens who worked in Serbia, the ministry said. The agreement also envisages reciprocity when using health insurance by the two countries’ citizens and in claiming unemployment benefits. The press release said that Rasim Ljajic and Ivan Svetlik, the Serbian and Slovenian labor and social policy ministers, were expected to sign the social security deal next week, during an official visit to Slovenia by a Serbian delegation, headed by Serbian President Boris Tadic.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Agriculture: Tunisia, Date Exports on the Rise

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 23 — Tunisia exported 66,000 tonnes of dates in the first 8 months of 2009, for a total value of 202 million dinars (around 104 million euros), 6,000 tonnes more than in the same period in 2008. According to the first estimates, the region of Kebili, one of the country’s main date producers, will export a record total of 91,000 tonnes this year, of which 77.500 of the superior ‘De’glet Nour’ quality. Last year the region harvested 78,000 tonnes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Muslim Convert to Christianity Prevented From Leaving Egypt

By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Egyptian authorities have prevented Maher El-Gowhary, a Muslim-born Christian convert, from leaving the country. He was detained at Cairo Airport. His passport confiscated and he was advised that he is barred from traveling on orders from a ‘higher authority’.

Maher and his 15-year-old daughter, Dina, who also embraced Christianity, were traveling to China on 17th September 2009, on a two-week holiday.

Ibrahim Habib, chairman of United Copts GB, who spoke with El-Gowhary during his detainment at the airport, said that Maher was treated very badly by airport security, and was told of his travel ban “less than an hour before departure.”

Human rights lawyer Nabil Ghobrial joined Maher at the airport. He filed an incident report at the airport police station. According to Ghobrial it is against the law to prevent a citizen from traveling unless there is a legal reason. He says the so-called ‘higher authority’ should have been named and that his client will file a lawsuit against the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister, besides a compensation lawsuit for damages.

In an aired interview with Coptic News Bulletin on September 17, Maher El Gowhary said “The authorities are trying to pressure us [he and his daughter] to convert back to Islam, but this will never happen, even if we have to live on the streets. We love our Lord Jesus, and we have left Islam for good.”

On August 4, 2008, after 34 years of practicing Christianity, 57-year-old Maher El-Gohary, whose Christian name is Peter Athanasius, filed the second ever lawsuit of a Muslim-born Egyptian against the Egyptian Government to officially alter his identification documents to reflect his new Christian identity. He lost the case on June 13, 2009 (6-16-2009). Although the verdict is on appeal, he said this usually takes years before being brought to the courts. However, he insists that if he does not win his case in Egypt, he will take it to international courts.

Maher and Dina have been living in hiding ever since he filed his lawsuit, Muslim radicals have called him an apostate and several calls for ‘spilling his blood’ have been issued. He has to change frequently where he lives, to evade being killed, and friends supply him with food. “We cannot sleep, eat or go out in the street. What have my daughter and I done? we have just filed a lawsuit to get out rights, so why are they holding us against our will?”

He went on to say, “I filed a lawsuit to get my Christian details recorded on my ID, I asked for the same treatment as the Baha’is who could be issued ID cards that didn’t identify them by religion. I was refused because I am a Christian.” He said that Baha’is are protected by the government, unlike converts to Christianity, who are left on purpose by the government to fend for themselves, in order to be killed. “The State Security incites drug dealers to kill us, as they give them the impression that we are working for police investigations as spies on them. They tried to kill us on several occasions.”

“If they give Muslim-born Christians the right to change, I can assure you, that all of Egypt will convert to Christianity.” He went on to relate in the Coptic News interview that during the hearings of his lawsuit, Muslim lawyers warned the presiding judge, Hamdi Yassin, that if he allows a change in Maher’s case, this would “open the gates of Hell on them,” meaning a torrent of Muslims converting to Christianity.

The number of Muslim-born converts to Christianity in Egypt, who are keeping their faith secret, has reached several million. Due to the State Security’s persecution, torture and rape, they have established outside Egypt an organization called “Freed by Christ” as well as “Way TV” to speak on their behalf to the West, and expose their sufferings at the hands of State Security. It is headed by the Christian convert Dr. Mohamad Rahouna, ex-dean of the Faculty of Arabic Studies, Minya University, who fled to the United States.

“We, the Christian converts are treated worst than animals. I was able to travel freely before filing the lawsuit,” El-Gowhary said “I filed the case for the sake of other converts, who have become tremendous in number, all living underground, among whom there are young girls who will never be able to get married unless a change happens. Personally, I would not benefit out of the lawsuit, but I wanted to get some development in this problem.”

Portraying their dire situation he said: “If we forge our documents we are imprisoned, if we file a lawsuit we lose the case and they persecute us. What should we do?” El-Gowhary said.

On September 22, El-Gowhary and his daughter made another attempt to travel to China, but he was again stopped from leaving the country. “I had to make sure that I was really barred from traveling, because I was told nothing officially,” he said.

“I really don’t know where to go now, our location has now been revealed. I feel so sorry for my daughter, such a young girl staying at home all the time,” he said “They will never let us leave and they will never have mercy on us. Our only chance of getting out of the country, is by obtaining a foreign passport.”

El-Gowhary believes that external pressure on Egypt would be the best means to achieve any rights for Muslim-born converts to Christianity.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in co-ordination with The United Copts GB, submitted to the UN Human Right Council in its 12th session (September 14 to October 2, 2009) a paper titled “Religious discrimination against converts to Christianity in Egypt,” criticizing Egypt and specifically citing the case of El-Gowhary as an example. IHEU calls for all states to eliminate laws which require citizens to specify their religion on official documents and to permit all citizens to freely change their religion or belief without discrimination. It also calls on OIC member states in particular to end discrimination against non Muslims.

[Return to headlines]


UNESCO: Hosni Defeated, Israel Celebrates Bokova Appointment

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 23 — Israel is celebrating the appointment of Irina Bokova, Bulgarian ambassador to France, as the new secretary general of UNESCO, beating her competitor Egyptian Faruk Hosni. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Israel congratulated Bukova and was “convinced that a fruitful cooperation with UNESCO will continue and deepen.” Israel, according to local press, had promised Egyptian Hosni Mubarak that it would not block the candidature of Hosni, Minister for Culture, who has in the past often expressed opinions that are extremely hostile to the Jewish State, even declaring himself prepared to burn works by Israeli writers. Statements, which after his UNESCO candidature, Hosni tried to soften and correct. However, a number of intellectuals from the West, many of whom Jewish, and other countries had openly taken a stand against Hosni’s candidature.(ANSAmed).

2009-09-23 11:01

UNESCO: BATTUTO HOSNI, ISRAELE SI FELICITA PER NOMINA BOKOVA

(ANSAmed) — GERUSALEMME, 23 SET — Israele si è rallegrato per la nomina della signora Irina Bokova, ambasciatore della Bulgaria in Francia, a nuovo segretario generale dell’Unesco, sconfiggendo il concorrente egiziano Faruk Hosni. Il portavoce del ministero degli Esteri Yigal Palmor ha detto che Israele si congratula con la signora Bokova ed è “convinto che la fruttuosa cooperazione con l’Unesco continuerà e anche si approfondirà”. Israele, secondo la stampa locale, aveva promesso al presidente egiziano Hosni Mubarak di non ostacolare la candidatura di Hosni, ministro della Cultura che in passato aveva più volte espresso posizioni estremamente ostili allo Stato ebraico, dichiarandosi perfino pronto a bruciare opere di scrittori israeliani. Affermazioni, che dopo la sua candidatura all’Unesco, Hosni aveva in seguito cercato di ammorbidire e correggere. Tuttavia contro la candidatura del rappresentante egiziano avevano apertamente preso posizione numerosi intellettuali occidentali, molti dei quali ebrei, e anche diversi Paesi. (ANSAmed).

2009-09-23 10:16

http://www.ansamed.info/en/news/ME01.WAM30117.htm

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Court: Poem That Compared Arabs to Rabbits Not Incitement

Russian poet Gershon Trastman was exonerated Thursday on charges of incitement over a poem he wrote for the Israeli Russian language newspaper Vesti, which compared Arab women to “rabbits” and “cats.” The poem appeared as part of an article on the demographic balance between Arabs and Jews in the land of Israel.

In the poem, Trastman wrote, among other things, that “the number of Arabs in Israel has passed one million and continues to grow. They are everywhere. Do not be insulted fellow Jews, they fulfill the commandment of ‘be fruitful and multiply’ far better than we do.

“The rabbit and the cat do not match the sexual desires of our ‘cousins,’“ Trastman wrote, and that desire translates into the high birth rate in the Arab sector, the article, titled “(Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman’s Paradigm and the Arabs of Israel.”

The poem, the Tel Aviv court hearing the court Thursday said, was “full of phrases that arouse our disgust” — but could not be considered incitement.

The state had contended that comparing Arabs to prolific offspring-bearing animals like cats and rabbits was “racist, because they are classified in a negative way, due to their ethnic affiliation.” Trastman’s attorneys said that charging him with racism and incitement is unfair, because the topic was a valid and much-discussed one, “based on the threat to the character of the democratic Jewish state,” his attorneys told the court.

In its ruling, the court said that while the poem — and the accompanying Vesti article — would make any Israeli angry, and “has an edge of racism to it,” the state had not proven that Trastman, a friend of Lieberman’s, had intended to insult Arabs or cause incitement. “We cannot ignore the fact that the article and poem deal with an issue that is raised from time to time in the public sphere and on television screens, where experts discuss the statistics involved and security officials discuss the risks of the ‘demographic problem’ as it relates to the birthrate of Israeli Arabs. The range of opinions on this matter is wide ranging and at times the debate can be sharp, since it involves issues whose solutions naturally raise serious debate,” Judge Hadassah Naor wrote.

The poem and article, she wrote, are controversial, but “there can be no debate that the laws of freedom of speech apply to them, as they do to all opinions — those we like and those we do not.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


First Law on Organ Donation, Rabbis Agree

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, SEPTEMBER 23 — Brain death equals actual death: this assumption is part of the bill on organ donation that was approved yesterday by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. The bill was also approved by the ultra-orthodox Shas party, part of the government coalition led by Benyamin Netanyahu. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel also gave its blessing to the bill. This represents a turning point which some have already called “historic”, according to the website of Israeli daily Haaretz. So far, the Jewish tradition wanted that people were only declared dead when their heart stopped pumping. The new definition could save 100 to 200 lives per year. The bill was presented by centrist opposition party Kadima after close collaboration with rabbis and physicians. The rabbis of the ultra-orthodox Sephardic community also support the bill, but the Ashkenazi Jews do not. Now the real question is, whether the rabbis will actually as families agree to donor donation. Many Israeli Jews, especially in religious circles, still have their doubts on the issue. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gaza: Children’s Programme Incites Anti-Jew Violence

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 24 — The guests of a television programme for children, broadcast in Gaza by the TV channel controlled by the Islamic movement Hamas, repeatedly said that the “liberation” of Palestine would happen through the “killing” of Jews in Israel. According to reports on the Israeli internet site Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors Palestinian media, in the children’s programme called “Tomorrow’s Pioneers”, broadcast September 22 on TV Al Aqsa Nassur, a teddy bear-like stuffed animal said to a young guest on the programme named Saraa that all Jews “must be eliminated from our land”. “They will be killed,” Saraa said in turn. Nassur then called a child and asked him “what would you like to do to the Jews who killed your father?”. “I want to kill them,” was the child’s answer. Saraa then said “We don’t want to do anything to them, only kick them off of our land.” Nassur: “We want to kill them (Nidbah-hom, in Arabic), and so then they would be kicked off of our land, right?”. Saraa: “Yes. It’s true. We will kick them off in any way possible.” Nassur: “And if they won’t leave peacefully, with persuasion and dialogue, them we will have to exterminate them (Shaht, in Arabic)”. It is not the first time that Hamas-controlled TV has broadcast children’s programmes with grisly contents using toys, such as Mickey Mouse.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israeli Media: Obama Stepping Back on Settlements

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 22 — Tonight Israel’s electronic media are focusing on opening statements by US president Barak Obama at the opening of the trilateral meeting in New York with Israeli premier Benamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, (Abu Mazen), pointing out an apparent stepping back of the US request for a total stop to construction in the Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. TV news reporters in the USA noted that Obama used the term ‘restrain’ instead of ‘freeze’ when speaking about Jewish construction plans in Palestinian territories. During their initial statements the reporters apparently confirmed their prediction of a trilateral meeting that will not offer results of any consequence. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israeli Drive to Prevent Jewish Girls Dating Arabs

NAZARETH — A local authority in Israel has announced that it is establishing a special team of youth counsellors and psychologists whose job it will be to identify young Jewish women who are dating Arab men and “rescue” them.

The move by the municipality of Petah Tikva, a city close to Tel Aviv, is the latest in a series of separate — and little discussed — initiatives from official bodies, rabbis, private organisations and groups of Israeli residents to try to prevent interracial dating and marriage.

In a related development, the Israeli media reported this month that residents of Pisgat Zeev, a large Jewish settlement in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, had formed a vigilante-style patrol to stop Arab men from mixing with local Jewish girls.

Hostility to intimate relationships developing across Israel’s ethnic divide is shared by many Israeli Jews, who regard such behaviour as a threat to the state’s Jewishness. One of the few polls on the subject, in 2007, found that more than half of Israeli Jews believed intermarriage should be equated with “national treason”.

Since the state’s founding in 1948, analysts have noted, a series of legal and administrative measures have been taken by Israel to limit the possibilities of close links developing between Jewish and Arab citizens, the latter comprising a fifth of the population.

Largely segregated communities and separate education systems mean that there are few opportunities for young Arabs and Jews to become familiarised with each other. Even in the handful of “mixed cities”, Arab residents are usually confined to separate neighbourhoods.

In addition, civil marriage is banned in Israel, meaning that in the small number of cases where Jews and Arabs want to wed, they can do so only by leaving the country for a ceremony abroad. The marriage is recognised on the couple’s return.

Dr Yuval Yonay, a sociologist at Haifa University, said the number of interracial marriages was “too small to be studied”. “Separation between Jews and Arabs is so ingrained in Israeli society, it is surprising that anyone manages to escape these central controls.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Fateful Schism

Tracing the history of a religious divide that still haunts the world

When the Prophet Muhammad died unexpectedly after a brief illness in Medina, in present-day Saudi Arabia, on June 8, 632, his followers were stunned. A contemporary called it “the greatest of calamities.” Their grief was not only for the loss of an irreplaceable leader. Muhammad was “the seal of the prophets,” the last in a line that stretched back to Adam. He had received revelations as “God’s emissary” for some 20 years—revelations that he had communicated to the embattled community of his followers, first in Mecca and then, after the hijra, or emigration, in 622, in Medina—but now they came to an end. It was as though God, who revealed Himself through the Prophet, had suddenly fallen silent.

In fact, the calamity was greater than Muhammad’s mourners could have foreseen. Muhammad had not unambiguously named his successor. The question of succession would haunt Islam for centuries to come. The wrangling began within hours of Muhammad’s death; it would quickly lead to a momentous rift between two implacable factions, Shia and Sunni. It is a divide that continues to this day, often with horrific consequences. In “After the Prophet,” veteran Middle East journalist Lesley Hazleton tells with great flair this “epic story of the Shia-Sunni split in Islam,” as she rightly calls it.

Those who supported Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali found themselves pitted against those who favored Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s closest friend. Muhammad was also his son-in-law: Abu Bakr’s daughter Aisha was Muhammad’s third, and favorite, wife, and a force to reckon with in her own right. Ali’s supporters formed the “shi’at Ali,” the “party of Ali,” from which the term Shia derives. The partisans of Abu Bakr would come to be known as “Sunni” Muslims—those who follow the “sunna,” the code of pious practice based on the Prophet’s example.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


First Saudi University to Allow Men and Women Together

The new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology opens in a town not far from Jeddah. According to the university’s charter, Saudi Arabia’s religious police will not be allowed to operate on its premises but women will be allowed to drive. By next year, 817 students from 61 countries should be enrolled.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — For the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), men will be in the same classrooms with women in at least one university. The new institution is the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), located in Thuwal, some 80 kilometres north of Jeddah.

Inaugurated on Wednesday, the co-ed campus is the brainchild of Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and will be a unique location for the women who pass entry exams.

Saudi Arabia’s religious police will not be allowed on the premises, but women, both students and teaching staff, will be able to drive cars without being charged like in the rest of the kingdom.

“Humanity has been the target of vicious attacks from extremists, who speak the language of hatred,” King Abdullah said at the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.

“Undoubtedly,” he added, “scientific centres that embrace all peoples are the first line of defence against extremists. And today this university will become a house of wisdom . . . a beacon of tolerance.”

At least 817 students representing 61 different countries have already enrolled in the research university on the Red Sea coast. Of these, 314 of the students are ready to begin their classes; the rest are set to start classes at the onset of 2010.

The university’s goal is to reach 2,000 students, 15 per cent from the KSA.

KAUST’s international nature is another important factor in King Abdullah’s effort to brush up the kingdom’s image.

The university will be equipped with some of the latest systems in technological research.

Its faculty will be drawn from a number of countries, and students will be able to graduate for example in earth science and engineering, chemical and biological engineering, applied mathematics and computational Science, and electrical engineering.

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


Literature: Turkish Woman’s Book Nominated for French Prize

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 24 — The book written by a Turkish woman to tell the story of her 17-year combat for her daughter in vegetative state was nominated for the distinguished literature prize ‘Le Prix Litte’raire Comte de Monte-Cristò in France. Meral Tuzun’s book “Une Derniere Preuve d’Amour: Mon Combat Pour ma Fille (The Last Proof of Love: My Combat for My Daughter)” will compete with nine other works for the prize. The prize has been given since 2005 to honor the biographies of people who were subject to judicial wrongs. Winner of this year’s prize will be announced at a ceremony on September 29. Tuzun’s book was published by the Max Milo Publishing House in France in February. It was included in the 100 best-selling books list of Fnac, French bookstore chain after coming onto markets. Tuzun, who came to France together with her husband as a worker, have struggled for 17 years to find a treatment for her daughter, Berivan, who suffered from a terminal illness destroying her nervous system. After all her hopes faded away, Tuzun allowed doctors to cut off the life support machines in an effort to end her daughter’s sufferings in 2007 on the basis of a law known as “Leonetti”. Although euthanasia is considered crime in France, the law which was passed in April 2005 and named after a politician and doctor Jean Leonetti allows doctors to end treatment of people who are terminally ill. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Syria: Foreign Direct Investments +70% in 2008

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 23 — Foreign direct investments in Syria amounted 2.111 billion dollars in 2008. According to the annual report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) there was a 70% increase compared to 2007 when the amount was 1.242 billion dollars. Foreign direct investments contributed 7.8% of the total of fixed gross investments. In 2008 the stock of foreign direct investments was 10.337 billion dollars, 18.9% of the GDP. The direct foreign investments made by Syria amounted to 57 million dollars, in line with the data from the previous year. Starting with 659 million dollars in 2006, foreign direct investments more than tripled in Syria in less than two years and for the first time, in at least ten years, the country attracted more foreign investments than Jordan (1.954 billion dollars), and at the same time came close to Lebanon (3.606 billion dollars). The country’s annual growth rate for foreign direct investments (70%) is higher that the regional rate of 16%. Foreign direct investments increased 32% in Lebanon, were stable in Jordan and decreased in both Egypt and Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Kurds: Famous Actress Investigated for ‘Hate Crime’

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 23 — Famous Turkish entertainer Hulya Avsar is being investigated by an Istanbul prosecutor’s office for “inciting hate” with her comments about the government’s Kurdish initiative, as daily Hurriet reports. If charged and found guilty by court, Avsar will face up to four and a half years in jail. Avsar, in an interview with daily Milliyet in August, was cautious about the government’s efforts to address the grievances of Kurds through more democracy. She had said once the process started, there would be no turning back and that this fact scared her. Avsar, whose father is Kurdish and mother Turkish, said she saw herself as a Turk and noted that Turks naturally did not want their country divided. “However, this shouldn’t mean ethnic pressure on Kurds,” she had said. She also said that members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, would not return by choice once the Kurdish initiative began. When asked if she supported the government’s plans, she said: “I have no idea what it is.” When asked by Hurriyet to comment on the investigation, Avsar said she had never felt so insulted. “I thought we lived in a democratic country when I made those remarks,” she said as she showed the invitation by the prosecutor’s office for questioning. If the reaction to her comments was an investigation, how could the Kurdish initiative make any headway, she asked. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UN: Israel to World, Boycott Ahmadinejad

(by Alessandro Logroscino) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, SEPTEMBER 22 — Isolate Iran, at least diplomatically, is the stated intention of Israel in view of the UN General Assembly and the controversial speech which — if the signs are to be believed — is about to be delivered by president Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Israel is already clamouring for a boycott of the speech by the Western powers and others should Ahmadinejad repeat his denial of the Shoah (the Nazi killing of 6 million Jews) and call for the destruction of Israel. Recent public appearances in Teheran make this scenario all but unlikely, with renewed ‘anti-Zionist’ furore accompanying controversy over Iran’s nuclear programme which Israel views as a threat that must be quashed at any cost. Through sanctions, if possible, but leaving “all options open”, including the military option. Waiting for the verbal challenge between the Iranian president and Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu in the United Nations building (where representatives of the two Countries will do their best to avoid crossing paths), a recent exchange of views is turning up the heat even more. Irritated by yesterday’s warning from Jerusalem that Israel is allegedly not prepared to offer preventive guarantees that it will not use force in light of Iran’s feared progress towards a Persian atomic bomb, Ahmadinejad stated that “We will chop off the hands of any aggressor”. Shimon Peres, while visiting a school in Galilee, promptly replied, forsaking his stature as Nobel peace prize winner, that Ahmadinejad “lies every time that he opens his mouth, whether to deny the existence of the Holocaust, or to insult Israel. He is an obscure man without a future, and I’m certain that Netanyahu (in the UN) will give him the reply he deserves”. Israel’s public opinion is anxious to hear the prime minister’s speech to the UN General Assembly. Based on reports, the press is announcing “dramatic” tones and an appeal against the threat that Iran’s nuclear capability “poses to the Middle East and the free world”. Against this threat Israel is calling for solidarity and a wide base of support in the international community, to the point that the UN delegation, led by ambassador Gabriela Shalev, is making a major effort to ensure that the greatest possible number of countries will loudly boycott Ahmadinejad’s speech in the event of affronts and leave the hearing post-haste should Iran’s leader “step over given red lines”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Yemen to Fight Rebels for ‘Years’

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said the government is ready to fight Shia rebels in the north of the country for five or six years if necessary.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 47th anniversary of the overthrow of a Shia Muslim state, Mr Saleh urged the rebels to accept a ceasefire.

The rebels accuse the government of breaching a recent truce.

Hundreds have died in a recent flare-up in the five-year conflict, which has left 150,000 people displaced.

International concern about the conflict has intensified after witnesses said that more than 80 people were killed in a government air raid on a camp for displaced people on 16 September.

The government offered two ceasefires, but fighting resumed within hours of each.

Dozens more people were reported killed in Saada and Amran provinces on Thursday.

The rebels, known as Houthis, complain of discrimination. They say they want greater autonomy and a greater role for their version of Shia Islam.

Both sides see unwelcome influences from abroad, with the government accusing rebels of having Iranian backing and being accused itself of being influenced by Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan Among Most Corrupt Nations in the World

The South Asian nation is 101 on a list of 130. Corruption deprives the state of US$ 1.8 billion. A 2007 ordinance issued by then President Musharraf gave politicians and military immunity, including the late Benazir Bhutto and the current president.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Pakistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, a survey by Transparency International (TI) found. The group’s Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009 ranked Pakistan 101 on a list of 130 countries. For survey respondents, corruption comes second only to government instability as the top problem requiring urgent attention.

For TI, the lack of anti-graft laws has the potential of driving investors and donors away. Its figures show that bribes and financial manipulations cost the state 150 billion rupees (US$ 1.8 billion).

Just yesterday, the US Senate voted to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to roughly US 1.5 billion per year through 2014 in a bid to build trust and co-operation with a key ally against extremism.

For some in Pakistan, the release of the TI report was an unfriendly gesture. Fouzia Wahab (pictured), from the central information secretariat of the Pakistan people’s Party (PPP), defends the work of the various federal departments involved in the fight against corruption.

However, according to the TI, in 2007 during the Musharraf presidency, a major change took place. Just 56 days after Pakistan ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, President Musharraf issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance that wiped the slate clean, guaranteeing immunity to politicians and military accused of corruption.

The late Benazir Bhutto and her husband, current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, were among the beneficiaries.

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

Far East

Chinese Military to Show Off Might at PRC’s 60th Anniversary

More than 8,000 soldiers will take part in the 1 October parade celebrating the founding of the Communist state. China’s latest weaponry will be on display. Although tens of millions still live below the poverty line, the country still seeks military supremacy.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — More than 8,000 soldiers will march on 1 October with 500 of the country’s most advanced military weapons (some never seen before) in a choreographed display that will show the country’s technological progress and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

The parade will also celebrate the country’s growing military might. China’s military outspends any other country in the world, and this despite the fact that the mainland officially has tens of millions of poor (hundreds according to other sources) and proportionately spends little on public health care and social assistance.

For General Gao Jianguo, spokesman for the office of the National Day Military Parade Joint Command, the military is an important force in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity. “Through this military parade,’ China “will show to the world the great achievements” it “has made in building national defence and military modernisation.”

The military parade is scheduled to last about 66 minutes. It will see soldiers march in 14 formations along Changan Avenue in representation of all the armed forces, Gao said.

All eyes will surely be on the intercontinental ballistic missiles, the battle tanks, intercontinental missiles and assault rifles as well as 150 aircrafts, including fighter jets and helicopters.

In response to international concerns that the parade was a manifestation of Beijing’s military expansionism, Gao said it would serve instead to display the country’s economic, technological and military achievements.

A pageant of about 200,000 people and various floats will follow the military parade.

Afterwards, a 100-minute-long gala will take place in Tiananmen Square, the highlight of which will be an extravagant firework display.

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

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Islamic Community Buries Boat Blast Victim

[Comment from Nilk: Funny how these men who love their families so much will run away from danger and leave their wives and children and other extended family behind. Must be something wrong with me, but I honestly couldn’t see my father or my brother or any of my cousins or uncles acting the same way.]

An Afghan asylum seeker killed in a boat explosion near Ashmore Reef five months ago has been buried in a small ceremony in Melbourne.

Muhammad Hassan Ayubi, 45, was one of five men who died after the boat they were on caught fire after Australian Navy personnel boarded it in April.

Mr Ayubi’s wife and children are currently in Pakistan, and the Hazara community in Melbourne was not able to get the family visas to Australia so they could see their husband and father before he was buried.

The cost of the funeral was covered by donations from about 25 Afghan households in Melbourne’s east.

Mr Ayubi’s remains were brought to Melbourne last night and placed in a small room underneath a suburban mosque at Doveton, in Melbourne’s east.

His body was so badly burnt that he could not be washed properly in accordance with Islamic practice.

A small cardboard note that arrived with his body recorded his middle name as Ali. The community says that name was Hassan.

This afternoon Mr Ayubi was wrapped in a white sheet, placed in a wooden coffin and carried to a hearse by men who had never met him, but who were determined to bury with dignity.

Husein Rohani spoke on behalf of the local Afghan community.

“We applied to release his body from Darwin to here, because his aunt and sister-in-law are here,” Mr Rohani said.

“The important thing is [that] we will pray for him. That’s a really important thing for me because he is a Muslim and Hazara.

“I’m doing my duty as a human.”

Fleeing the Taliban

Jawad Karami was one of the dozens of men who came to the mosque to see Mr Ayubi’s body be prepared for burial.

He grew up in village less than a kilometre from Mr Ayubi’s village in central Afghanistan.

He also fled the Taliban, arriving in Australia by boat, and says Mr Ayubi’s death has reminded him of the dangers he overcame.

“I did the same thing. When the Taliban wanted to pick me up to send me in the front line to fight my own people, I chose not to be killed by the Taliban, or by other people, to flee that country to search for a better life,” he said.

“Mr Ayubi has been on this way because he wanted to survive and he wanted to be a person that can help his family.

“We come here to pay tribute to him and also to show that as humans, we do feel.

“We feel deeper because we have already been past this experience and we know how it looks like.”

Mr Karami says the situation in Afghanistan is so dire than many people, especially Hazaras targeted by the Taliban, have no option other than to seek asylum in countries like Australia.

“As long as the situation in Afghanistan is like this, I think people have no other option,” he said.

“They go to Pakistan; there is no way to live there. They go to Iran; Iran is worse than that.

“If you are in a situation that you want to be dead or be alive, you choose to be alive.”

It took Mr Karami months to find work but he is now working on a building site.

He says he is grateful for the opportunity Australia offered him.

“We want to be alive. We don’t want to be a rich person or a famous person. We get here, we know that no-one is going to kill me at least,” he said.

“I’m involved in the community. I respect everyone as they respect me.

“I want to be thankful for all that support us, including the Government. And those who are not supportive, I want them to be in search to find out why we are coming.”

More funerals

The names of the four other Afghan men killed in the explosion on the Siev 36 were confirmed by Northern Territory Police yesterday.

Funeral arrangements have been two of them.

Mohammed Amini Zamen, 38, will be buried in Adelaide, while the body of Muzafar Safarali, 45, has been sent to Perth.

The bodies of two other men — 50-year-old Awaz Nader and 26-year-old Baquer Husani — have not been found.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


Brawl Involving 200 Youths Erupts at Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne

GANG violence erupted at a western suburbs shopping centre, with one youth stabbed repeatedly in the chest.

The brawl, involving up to 200 teenagers, was only dispersed when police arrived at Aquatic Drive at Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong shortly after 4pm yesterday.

One boy, 15, was stabbed three times and taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Police were attempting to interview him last night.

The majority of those involved were Pacific Islander and Asian youths, but the cause of the affray is still unknown.

Police found knives, sticks and umbrellas at the scene where youths aged between 13 and 15 ran from the scene.

Between 40 and 50 people were spoken to by police, who are now searching for CCTV footage.

Acting Sergeant Jacob Bugeja, of Footscray police branch, said fights in the carpark were common.

“I’d say it’s got something to do with an ongoing school battle,” he said.

“The fact they were all a similar age is an indication of that.”

Sgt Bugeja said they were called to the area every six weeks, but he had not seen as many youths congregating before.

The injured teen is in a stable condition.

A similar-sized brawl at Highpoint in October 2007 involved African youths from the Flemington high-rise flats.

On that occasion there were in fact two brawls, one inside a cinema and the other in the shopping centre, which had to be shut down.

Police arrested and charged several youths.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Jailed Over Manual on Terrorism

A FORMER Qantas cleaner who was jailed yesterday for at least nine years for compiling a “terrorism training manual” had been convicted of terrorism-related offences in Lebanon.

Details of Belal Khazaal’s overseas convictions emerged in the NSW Supreme Court as the Lakemba man — the first person in Australia convicted of making a document connected with assistance in a terrorist act — was sentenced. In December 2003 a Beirut military court convicted Khazaal in absentia of helping to fund a bombing campaign in Lebanon. He was sentenced to 10 years’ jail with hard labour.

His Supreme Court trial centred on a 110-page book, Provisions on the Rules of Jihad, compiled in September 2003 using material he downloaded.

Khazaal had the book posted on an extremist website that was endorsed by al-Qaeda and ran publications by leaders of terrorist organisations. He said it was “strictly religious journalism”.

Justice Megan Latham said it was a “terrorism training manual”, advocating “widespread and indiscriminate loss of life, serious injury and serious property damage within the countries identified as enemies of Islam”.

She jailed him for a maximum 12 years. He intends to appeal against his conviction and his sentence.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Pirates Attack Ship Off Mogadishu

Somali pirates have boarded a ship heading for Mogadishu harbour and shot dead its Syrian captain, officials say.

The captain had refused the pirates’ demand to turn the ship away from the port, officials added.

This is believed to be the first such attack so close to the Somali capital. Pirates normally launch their raids further north, especially around Eyl.

African Union peacekeepers and Somali security forces intervened and rescued the Panama-flagged ship.

The AU mission is in charge of security at the Mogadishu port.

The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in the city says the attack has led to security concerns among port officials.

Three crew members were reportedly also injured in the violence.

Somalia’s Minister for Ports Abdiasis Hassan told the Reuters news agency that normally police are sent out to escort commercial ships into port.

But he said this time the pirates were already on board and opened fire, injuring one policeman.

The port is used to bring in food aid and military supplies to the Somali capital.

In the absence of any effective national government since 1991, pirate gangs have set up in parts of Somalia, especially the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

International navies have been deployed to protect ships in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The AU peacekeepers are helping to protect the UN-backed government, which only controls parts of Mogadishu.

Much of the rest of south and central Somalia is in the hands of hardline Islamist groups.

After 18 years of anarchy and conflict, some three million people — about half the population — need food aid, donors say.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Italy Uses Force to Send Migrants to Libya, HRW

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 21 — “Italy intercepts African migrants and asylum-seekers on boats and without assessing if they can be considered refugees or if they are in need of protection, sends them forcefully to Libya where many are held in inhumane and degrading conditions and are subject to abuse”. So said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report entitled, Thrown out and crushed”, which was issued today. “The reality is that Italy is sending these individuals into abusive situations,” said Bill Frelick, HRW’s policy director and author of the report. “The migrants that were imprisoned in Libya categorically reported brutal treatment, overcrowding, and poor sanitary conditions.” “The Italians,” continued the HRW report, “use force to transfer the migrants from their boats onto Libyan ships or they bring them directly to Libya, where the authorities imprison them immediately. Some of these operations are coordinated by Frontex, the EU agency for external border control. Italy’s policy constitutes an open violation of non refoulement, sending individuals with force to places where their life or freedom is threatened or where they risk being tortured or suffering inhumane or degrading treatment.” “Italy is in violation of its legal duties,” said Frelick. “The EU should demand that Italy respect its duties and end this practice of sending migrants to Libya. Other EU member states should refuse to take part in Frontex operations resulting in refusing entry to migrants and abuses.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey Unable to Open New Refugee Guesthouses

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 21 — Although Turkey promised the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Union that it would open new refugee guesthouses in seven provinces, it has been unable to fulfill this promise, daily Today’s Zaman reports. Turkey, which has not been able to find a permanent solution for its refugee problem, is faced with negative public reactions when it comes to the construction of guesthouses for refugees living in Turkey. Upon receiving criticism from the UNHCR and the EU regarding the plight of refugees, Turkey pledged to open refugee reception and sheltering centers and refugee guesthouses in seven provinces, with each building having the average capacity to accommodate 750 people. One of the first guesthouses to accommodate approximately 750 refugees opened in Bursa a few months ago but the UNHCR did not find the construction of one guesthouse that can shelter up to 750 refugees sufficient for a country that received more than 52,000 illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees in 2008 alone. The problem for the government, however, is that wherever it decides to construct a guesthouse, the residents of that area show resistance on the ground that crime rates will increase. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

G20: Berlusconi to Obama, Steps Against Tax Evasion

(AGI) — New York, 24 Sept. — “In Pittsburgh we can take further steps against international tax evasion, which damages public finance and the sense of equity citizens have” wrote Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. “We have made progress in the project on tax havens” since the G20 in London, “which hardly cooperate in the exchange of information”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘I Just Can’t Take it Any More’… Gaddafi’s Translator ‘Collapsed With Exhaustion’ During His UN Rant

Colonel Gaddafi’s bizarre rant at the UN was met with yawns and disbelief by delegates.

But it was too much for the eccentric Libyan leader’s translator who is said to have collapsed with exhaustion during the lengthy diatribe.

The beleaguered interpreter cried ‘I just can’t take it any more,’ into a live microphone in Arabic after 75 minutes of Gaddafi’s ramblings.

He was replaced by the UN’s Arabic section chief, Rasha Ajalyaqeen, who translated the final 20 minutesof the speech.

‘His interpreter just collapsed — this is the first time I have seen this in 25 years,’ a UN Arabic interpreter told The New York Post.

Gaddafi broke protocol and brought his own interpreters from Tripoli for Wednesday’s speech rather than using one of the 25 Arabic translators supplied by the United Nations, staff interpreters said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

cmblake6 said...

Simply enough, these youth start rioting it's time for belt-fed weapons. Let them get in place and started, remove them from their concerns.

DP111 said...

If it was up to her Saïda El Fekri would take off her headscarf in a second. In fact, she does take it off whenever she goes on holiday abroad. But not now. “It would give the impression I’m doing it under pressure from other

It is not a matter of choice but obeying the law set by a legally constituted authority. If you cannot obey the law, then go back to any islamic country, where I'm sure you can safely ignore Islamic law.

Fritigern said...

Why don't the Moroccans start their own schools in Moroccco?