Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/14/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/14/2009A couple of stories that came in from Sweden today almost certainly include cultural enrichment, but because the information comes from the Swedish MSM, there’s no way to tell for sure. One of them involves the apprehension of a 15-year-old serial rapist, and the other concerns a high school that was torched and burned to the ground. Both stories come from Gothenburg.

In other news, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have written to President Medvedev to complain that official persecution of their sect has increased to a level not experienced since Soviet times.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Insubria, JD, JP, Steen, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
CAIR Boasts of Influence on Media After Fort Hood
Congress: Read the Constitution!
Enemies Need Not be Insane
How ‘Gun Control’ Aided and Abetted Hasan
Legal Minefield Awaits New York’s 9/11 Trial
Media Still Promoting CAIR
Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Gorelick Wall!
‘Political Correctness Caused Fort Hood Terror Attack’
Tom Tancredo: Political Correctness Kills 14 at Fort Hood
 
Europe and the EU
Finland: Organised Gang Bringing Roma Beggars?
Is Frog Delicacy on Its Last Legs?
Italy: Mills Case and Healthcare Scandal Trials at Risk
Italy: Veronica Seeks Judicial Separation
Italy: PM’s Wife ‘Requests Legal Separation’
Italy: DNA Tests to Track ‘Real Venetians’
Netherlands: PVV Banned on Number Plates
Sweden:15-Year-Old ‘Babyface’ Arrested for Serial Rape
Sweden: Gothenburg School Destroyed in Arson Attack
UK: This Will be a Queen’s Speech Too Far
 
North Africa
Copts Between the Rock of Islamism and a Hard Place
 
Israel and the Palestinians
9/11 Memorial Dedicated in Israel
Israel Accuses Sweden of ‘Diplomatic Coup’
 
Russia
Jehovah’s Witnesses Write to Medvedev, Tell Him They Are Persecuted Like in Soviet Times
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Exclusive Video Shows Taliban Attack That Killed 9 U.S. Soldiers at Afghan Post
Barack Obama ‘Risks Suez-Like Disaster’ In Afghanistan, Says Key Adviser
UK Pressing Karzai to Negotiate With Taliban, Says Leaked Memo
 
Far East
After 60 Years of Communism, Church in China Faces Most Critical Moment
As Maoists Hold Sway Over Kathmandu, Nepal’s Enemy Camps Turn to India and China
Chinese Greet ‘Oba Mao’ With Flaming Statue, Fakes
 
Immigration
Spain: Toxic Fish Exports From Catalonia to Romania
 
General
Support Drops for UN Resolution on Religious Defamation

USA

CAIR Boasts of Influence on Media After Fort Hood

Group treated as voice of Muslims despite fresh evidence of terror ties

Despite recent reports of new evidence of its ties to terrorism, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is boasting of its success in the wake of the Fort Hood massacre as a spokesman in numerous major media outlets for a religious community “shocked” by the attack and incensed that anyone would associate them with it.

In a fundraising letter, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad told potential donors that within hours of the attack by a Muslim Army major, the Washington, D.C.-based group issued a statement of condemnation to thousands of local, national and international media outlets.

“Perhaps you saw CAIR spokespeople interviewed on MSNBC’s Hardball or on PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CNN, MSNBC, or the BBC,” Awad writes. “Or maybe you read CAIR quotes in the Washington Post, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, or USA Today.”

Awad said staff at CAIR — which was designated an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism-finance case in U.S. history last year — have been “working non-stop in dealing with these crises.” The Muslim group, he said, “provided advice and support for Islamic centers nationwide on how to handle the crisis, including ensuring your safety in case of an anti-Muslim backlash.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Congress: Read the Constitution!

Speculation about Roland Burris’ double-digit IQ followed him to the U.S. Senate, where he opened his mouth and removed all doubt. When a reporter asked him to identify the specific constitutional language that authorized the federal government to mandate individual health insurance, he stumbled a bit, and then said it is that part that says “… health, welfare and defense of the country.” The word “health” is not in the Constitution.

Nancy Pelosi didn’t even try to answer when she was asked the same question. Her reply was “Are you serious? Are you serious?” Sen. Patrick Leahy’s answer was not much better. He said, “We have plenty of authority. Why would you say we have no authority?”

Anyone who has read the Constitution knows that Article I, Section 8 limits the power of Congress to very specific, enumerated powers.

Burris’ staff assistant said Burris was referring to the Constitution’s preamble, which says the Constitution was established to “… provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. …”

Fortunately, the founders were not content to assume that “the general welfare” would consist of whatever Roland Burris, or any other legislator, may think is appropriate. That’s precisely why the founders didn’t stop at the preamble. They were very deliberate in their selection of words that created the U.S. government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Enemies Need Not be Insane

There is a big difference between, say, the Boston Strangler and Gavrilo Princip. For all the grief and fear he spreads, a killer who is merely deranged does not shake up society much. Someone who kills in the name of a cause, however, shakes it up profoundly, and goads the public to self-protection and vengeance. Ten days ago, Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly shot a dozen people dead at the Fort Hood army base in Texas, reportedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” — God is great — as he fired. Since then, the question of what motivated him has sat in the middle of the American public debate. The public is increasingly certain that the killings are a case of terrorism. Government and military leaders argue that we must not leap to conclusions, and that we are just as likely to be dealing with a variety of mental illness. A lot hinges on whether we think of Maj Hasan as a mental case or a soldier of jihad.

Maj Hasan had been radicalised in the name of Islam as he understood it. Whether his is a “real” understanding of Islam is something few non-Muslims are competent to judge, although some understanding on the matter must be reached. Maj Hasan’s case shows our understanding to be deficient. Public doctrine insists on a distinction between Islam and Islamism. Islam is a religion, and Americans are punctilious about respecting the religions of others. Islamism is a violent political ideology, a “perversion” of Islam if you like, that has already taken thousands of US lives. Voters will punish pitilessly any politician who does not fight it with every tool at his disposal.

Hence the crisis. Maj Hasan’s case shows that authorities are incapable of making the very distinction between Islam and Islamism that they insist the public make. That Maj Hasan was a Muslim need not concern Americans. But he was an Islamist, too, if that word has any meaning. And those who had the authority to monitor him more closely were either unable or unwilling to.

It is hard to see what Maj Hasan could have done to make his ideology more obvious. In June 2007, he gave a medical lecture at the Walter Reed army medical centre that turned into a harangue, on Koranic grounds, about how Muslims in the US military should be exempted from killing other Muslims. The most troubling conduct ascribed to Maj Hasan is the correspondence he initiated with the Yemeni-American jihadist imam Anwar al-Awlaki. As Sebastian Rotella and Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times have shown, Mr al-Awlaki is not merely a “radical imam”. He is probably the most cogent exponent of the view that US Muslims should wage jihad against their country. The terror consultant Evan Kohlmann described one of Awlaki’s lectures as a “virtual bible for lone-wolf Muslim extremists” — and this after Robert Mueller, the FBI director, warned the Senate Homeland Security Committee two years ago that he counted lone-wolf terrorists among his major worries.

Mr al-Awlaki’s sermons were cited specifically by one of the young men thwarted in their plans to shoot up the Fort Dix army base in New Jersey in May 2007. There was a deadly shooting rampage at an Arkansas recruiting station last June that was very similar to the Fort Hood episode. The Arkansas perpetrator — an American who had converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad — had himself visited Yemen. The FBI knew about Major Hasan’s contacts with Mr al-Awlaki. So did the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Why did they lack the will or inclination to act on it?

We used to gasp at the way the Soviet Union stuck opponents of the regime in asylums. But the USSR is not the only country in history that has had a hard time seeing its adversaries as rational. The present generation of Americans is made uncomfortable by the idea that their country might have enemies whose enmity is the result of something other than fanaticism or mental illness. Maj Hasan’s colleagues, the Economist writes, say he thought the war on terror was a war on Islam. According to what we think Islam is, he is wrong. But according to a fundamentalist idea of what Islam is, he is right. There is rationality in such enmity, even if that rationality is built on different assumptions.

Recognising that would overturn our entire worldview, in which no thinking Muslim can be an Islamist and no Islamist can be “real” Muslim. This Manichaeism comes from a reluctance to do difficult thinking and the impossibility, in a media-driven democracy of 300m people, of basing policy on subtle distinctions. There are two ways of describing every aspect of the Hasan case because we have two priorities to reconcile. First, we must protect our soldiers and citizens from terrorists, the most dangerous of whom, in our time, are Islamists. Second, we must protect our diverse citizenry from prejudice, including distrust of Islam.

It requires constant, difficult ethical balancing to reconcile these priorities. It is wishful thinking to pretend they never clash. General George Casey Jr spent much of last weekend on national television engaging in such wishful thinking. “A diverse Army,” he said, “gives us strength.” Does it? Or is that a platitude? Diversity can be a strength. But diversity as an ideology produced, in Maj Hasan’s case, bureaucrats who were too scared of giving offence to speak their minds — and to act on the information they had. There was, it seems clear, no balancing act between protecting soldiers from harm and protecting minorities from prejudice. Protecting soldiers was simply made priority number two. That is what makes the Hasan case so explosive.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


How ‘Gun Control’ Aided and Abetted Hasan

Did you hear about the two handguns that inexplicably shot and killed 14 people (one unborn) and wounded 30 at Fort Hood on Nov. 4? To hear some people tell it, radical Muslim and Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan did not kill people — his guns alone did.

According to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley — who is now arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court for the power to disarm law-abiding Chicagoans — it was not Maj. Hasan’s radical Muslim beliefs that drove him to murder innocent colleagues; it was the fact that “America loves guns.” Daley explained, “We love guns to a point that we see the devastation on a daily basis.”

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence also jumped at the chance to blame guns first, stating two days after the shootings, “This latest tragedy, at a heavily fortified Army base, ought to convince more Americans to reject the argument that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people with more guns in more places. Enough is enough.” (Hasan’s handguns have issued no statement in response.)

By this twist of logic, America’s love of airplanes led to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The solution to stopping the 9/11 Islamic terrorists, you see, was fewer people in fewer airplanes in fewer places.

As for Fort Hood, the Brady Campaign got it exactly backwards. Generally, thanks to a 1993 Clinton-imposed order, Army posts are an anti-gun advocate’s dream, a microcosm of a “gun-free” society: Only the police are allowed to carry weapons, service weapons are signed out only for training or maintenance, and any personal weapons must be kept locked and registered with the base provost marshal. Strangely, the same soldiers whom we trust with automatic weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq are not allowed to carry weapons on an American post or base. And yet all such “gun-control,” which the Brady Campaign-types support, did nothing to stop Hasan from sneaking in two personal handguns. Killers with no regard for others’ lives are hardly going to blink at anti-gun rules. Gun control only controls the law-abiding.

Thus, despite being “heavily fortified,” Fort Hood had an unarmed population living under a deadly combination of a false sense of security and no means of self-defense. While soldiers should never have to worry about attacks from one of their own, forcing them to be unarmed makes them more vulnerable to traitors and saboteurs than the embattled enemy. Maj. Hasan knew this, and to maximize his evil plot he did not attack the armed MPs — he attacked dozens of soldiers and officers at the Soldier Readiness Center whom he knew would be unarmed. And they were unarmed precisely because of the “gun-control” measures at Ft. Hood.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Legal Minefield Awaits New York’s 9/11 Trial

Trying the five men accused of the September 11 attacks poses a unique challenge to US legal officials forced to sift through torture-tainted evidence to present before a jury of New Yorkers still scarred by the strikes.

“The alleged 9/11 conspirators will stand trial in our justice system before an impartial jury under long established rules and procedures,” Attorney General Eric Holder vowed on Friday.

“I’m a prosecutor myself. I looked at the evidence. I considered the problems that these cases present. I’m quite confident that we’re going to be successful in the prosecution efforts.”

But his confidence was not shared by all lawyers as the US administration announced that the five co-accused, including mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would be tried by a civilian court in New York.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Media Still Promoting CAIR

For years, our media and government routinely accepted and even promoted the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations as a legitimate voice of Muslim Americans, buying into its claim to be the Muslim ACLU.

In fact, CAIR is a radical Saudi-funded front group founded by leaders of the terror-supporting Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate Washington and defend extremists. More than a dozen of CAIR’s leaders have been jailed or otherwise implicated in support of terrorism — yet its spokesmen until recently were welcomed in the highest corridors of power. They still boast of meeting with then-President George W. Bush after 9/11.

[…]

That the FBI maintained formal relations with CAIR for years is itself a scandal — but at least the bureau, unlike other federal officials, has seen the light. Sen. Chuck Schumer is demanding the FBI’s anti-CAIR ban “be government-wide policy.”

But Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t gotten the message. He plans to speak on Nov. 19 to a Detroit coalition of law enforcement and Muslim groups. The event lists the local CAIR chapter as a participant — which is bizarre, because the chapter head recently rushed to defend a radical CAIR-tied imam killed in a shootout with FBI agents.

Meanwhile, the media’s courtship with CAIR continues apace. In the wake of the Fort Hood killings CNN, PBS, Fox, MSNBC and other networks immediately put CAIR’s leaders on the air — where they predictably insisted the attack had nothing to do with Islam and warned that any “Islamophobes” who make that obvious connection are inviting violent “backlash” against Muslims.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Gorelick Wall!

The tragic murder of 14 people (I include the preborn baby) at Fort Hood last week by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. This terrible act has brought to the fore all the usual suspects, recriminations and rationalizations. Each day brings new revelations or “red flags” concerning this Muslim fanatic that military officials, the FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security and even Hasan’s medical colleagues knew about for years, but did nothing.

Two things shielded America’s enemies from swift justice: 1) Political correctness, which I call “perversity correctness,” or what conservative intellectual Michael Savage calls “political cowardice”; and 2) the Gorelick Wall.

[…]

In March 1995, Gorelick co-wrote a radical and treasonous memo that, in the words of Attorney General John Ashcroft, “go beyond what is legally required … [to] prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation.”

What does this mean? It means that the FBI cannot share intelligence with the CIA, the NSA, the DEA, ATF, the military or any other security agency in America. It is a unilateral, self-binding policy reminiscent of the proverbial saying, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


‘Political Correctness Caused Fort Hood Terror Attack’

National security advocate cites fear of ‘discrimination’ accusations

A national security advocate, citing the repeated demands in the Quran for violence against unbelievers, is blaming the deaths of 13 adults and an unborn child in the terrorist attack at Fort Hood in Texas squarely on political correctness.

That political correctness, said Brigitte Gabriel, who runs the ACT! for America organization, is being fomented by organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which has aggressively attacked critics of Islam.

She has posted a YouTube video accusing military officers of putting their own soldiers in danger after being intimidated into silence about the dangers of radical Islam.

[Comments from JD: article has url link to video.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Tom Tancredo: Political Correctness Kills 14 at Fort Hood

Many are now asking the obvious questions about why the U.S. Army did not defuse this walking time bomb before he killed 14 people. Yes, the count is 14 — 13 soldiers and an unborn, 3-month-old baby inside what should have been the safety of the mother’s womb.

But what is almost as appalling as the terrorist act Hasan committed at Fort Hood is the shameful and self-serving excuses being offered by Obama administration officials in an attempt to deny the obvious — that Hasan’s radical Islamic religious beliefs were the primary motivation for his actions.

Hint to the President Obama: Maj. Hasan did not go to a movie theater or a ballpark to kill people. He wanted to kill soldiers, soldiers who were about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida. Why did he do it? Because he wants al-Qaida to win.

Hasan did not have a “workplace grievance.” He did not “snap under stress.” There is literally no evidence of that. He was coolly rational and methodical. He wanted to kill American soldiers, he planned to do it, and thanks to epidemic political correctness in the U.S. Army and throughout our society, he was allowed to do it — on American soil.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Finland: Organised Gang Bringing Roma Beggars?

Authorities suspect some beggars may be victims of human trafficking.

Police in Romania have searched homes and detained 12 people on suspicion of systematically bringing Roma beggars to Finland.

Finnish and Romanian officials have been working together since last summer to confirm suspicions that organised crime lies behind the steady flow of members of the EU state’s Roma minority onto Finnish city streets.

In late October, Helsinki city officials began dismantling illegal shanty and tent camps built by Romanian beggars.

Shanty camps in the Kyläsaari and Kalasatama neighbourhoods of Helsinki were taken down, while at least one shipping container being used as shelter was hauled away. Most of those forced from the Kalasatama camp left the country in early November. Just four individuals said they intended to stay in the city.

YLE

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


Is Frog Delicacy on Its Last Legs?

Killing a frog to eat only its thighs is as absurd as butchering an elephant for its ivory, claims a Swiss animal rights organisation.

Every year the Swiss nibble away at 120 tons of frogs’ legs — 90 per cent of which are imported from Indonesia.

After fur coats and foie gras, the Vaud Society for the Protection of Animals (SVPA) this month launched a new campaign across canton Vaud urging foodies in the French-speaking region to boycott the white, rubbery delicacy.

The rights group calls the amphibian trade unacceptable. It says eating frogs’ legs is cruel, environmentally unfriendly and encourages a “shocking” waste.

“A frog weighs 125 grams; you take off the two thighs, which represents 20 per cent, and throw away the rest,” SVPA President Samuel Debrot told swissinfo.ch.

With beef (50 per cent) and pork (40 per cent) you also waste a great deal of the animal carcass, he added, but not as much as frogs.

The SVPA also says the global frog trade is an “ecological and social absurdity”.

In Indonesia, the world’s biggest exporter (5,000 tons), frogs are captured and sold by farmers looking to supplement their incomes.

“But fewer frogs means the spread of more insects and mosquitoes,” said Debrot.

As a result, Indonesian farmers are forced to purchase large amounts of harmful pesticides to protect their crops. India banned the export of frogs for similar reasons.

Tipping point?

Frogs’ legs pop up on menus around the world: from school cafeterias and posh restaurants in Europe to market stalls and dinner tables across Asia and South America.

Experts claim that around one billion frogs are taken from the wild for human consumption each year. France and the United States are the two biggest importers.

Some five million are prepared for Swiss diners — chiefly in the French-speaking region — imported deep-frozen from Indonesia and Turkey.

Frogs are strictly protected in Switzerland, where it is forbidden to kill, capture or raise them.

With one-third of the world’s amphibians now officially at risk from habitat destruction, climate change, pollution and disease, the growing trade in frogs’ legs for human consumption could easily tip some into extinction.

Scientists fear that the frog trade could mimic the situation with global fisheries.

“The thing is, it isn’t a gradual process,” Corey Bradshaw, an associate professor at the Environment Institute of the University of Adelaide, told The Guardian newspaper.

“There’s a tipping point. It’s exactly what happened with the overexploitation of cod in the North Atlantic. And with frogs there’s no data, no tracking, no stock management. We really should have learned our lesson with fish, but it seems we haven’t.”

Shut up shop

Sylejman Gjocaj, the owner of the Cheval-Blanc restaurant in Payerne, which specialises in frogs legs, said after the recent smoking ban he was concerned by the new campaign.

“If I stop cooking frogs’ legs, I might as well shut up shop,” he told swissinfo.ch.

Eight out of ten of his customers come for his famous frogs’ legs in butter, parsley and shallots, accompanied by chips, which he has been preparing for the past 15 years.

But Gjocaj said he understood the argument about wastage. He added that commercial frog-farming might be the way forward.

The SVPA also criticises the fact that between the pond and the plate, frogs undergo “unjustifiable suffering”.

Hunted at night with lamps by teams of farmers using nets and hooks, frogs are captured and put into bags of 300, before being transported long distances, during which large numbers die. The live frogs then have their necks slashed, insides removed and are cut in two.

The SVPA says that in most cases the frogs remain in agony for many minutes.

Kebab-style frogs’ legs (AFP)Uncertain impact

“But it’s not as cruel as chopping off shark fins before throwing the sharks back into the sea,” Pierre Meylan, owner of the Tramway restaurant in Lausanne, told 24 Heures newspaper.

Meylan’s frogs’ legs are imported from Turkey by Les Escargots du Mont-d’Or in Vallorbe.

Turkey protects frogs for three months during the mating season, which gives a more ecological result, said its director, Bernard Fivaz.

And in Turkey live frogs are frozen asleep before being killed, he added.

For the moment the impact of the campaign remains uncertain. According to a mini survey in the free newspaper 20 Minutes, 56 per cent of those questioned said it was not cruel to kill frogs to eat them.

In neighbouring France animal-rights groups have in the past tried to persuade their fellow countrymen to boycott France’s best-known delicacy, but their campaigns have met with little success.

Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Mills Case and Healthcare Scandal Trials at Risk

If bill becomes law it will immediately nullify all charges against Berlusconi

The law is riddled with contradictions and undesirable repercussions. It sets priorities that are the exact opposite of those laid down by another law just one year ago. It strangles at birth medical manslaughter trials but ensures muggers on the bus will be sentenced. Who knows whether victims of the surgeon at the Santa Rita hospital in Milan will be grateful for the safeguards promised in the bill of “measures for the protection of citizens against the indeterminate duration of trials”. The protection will in a few months’ time wipe the slate clean of all 89 charges of wilful injury of patients and multi-million euro misappropriation of government funds.

Silvio Berlusconi’s slate would also be wiped clean at once by the bill, which will extend the existing statute of limitations for those with no criminal record if the court of first instance fails to rule within two years of the request for indictment, in cases involving custodial penalties of no more than ten years. As soon as the bill became law, it would nullify all charges against Mr Berlusconi for alleged tax evasion over Mediaset television rights and for subornation of a trial witness in the Mills case, both of which are well beyond two years from the application for indictment.

But this protection would have repercussions for the thousands of cases where the court of first instance has yet to rule more than two years after the application for indictment. It would for example quash proceedings against the former governor of the Bank of Italy Antonio Fazio and Senator Luigi Grillo for manipulating the stock exchange quotation of the Antonveneta bank. In 2005, the penalty for market-rigging was less than ten years. The new bill would also nullify the trials of the large international banks accused of manipulating the Parmalat share price in Milan. It would not, however, affect the Parmalat bankruptcy trial in Parma as fraudulent bankruptcy is not covered. Major corruption trials would be halted, including the kickback scandal that emerged in the ENIPower-ENELPower inquiries. The law would continue to come down hard on minor scams, such as altering parking scratchcards, but would have to ignore major-league misappropriation of government funds like the false claims for payment of medical services at the San Carlo hospital in Milan.

All these trials would end should the bill become law. Next May, the trial of Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri and People of Freedom (PDL) parliamentarian Alfredo Messina for complicity in the HDC trial would also grind to a halt. Next July, the bill’s time bar would block the trial of Santa Rita surgeon Brega Massone, in the likely event of there being no sentence from the court of first instance. Even if judgment is immediate ,with no preliminary hearing and three all-day hearings a week, the trial will overrun the limit. Then there is the Security Telecom-Pirelli surveillance trial, which is currently starting its preliminary hearings. In a year’s time, it will only just have reached the court of first instance and four fifths of the charges will be time-barred.

Who are the winners and losers in this legal lottery? In the Telecom trial, Giuliano Tavaroli has just requested a plea bargain. This means he will miss out but his fellow defendants will be able to take advantage of the new law. Calisto Tanzi has just been sentenced in the court of first instance to ten years in the Parmalat market-rigging trial. It’s a pity because the sentence came three years after the request for committal to trial and under the new regulations Tanzi would have walked free.

Paradoxes and contradictions abound. One year — not one century — ago, the legislator laid down criteria for drafting court timetables, including a fast track for trials involving repeat offenders. Now, that same legislator is saying the precise opposite in a law that forces courts to delay the trials of repeat offenders and give priority to defendants with clean records, who would otherwise be time-barred just two years after the request for indictment. And a year ago, with yet another law in one of the many law and order packages, lawmakers reduced the importance of a clean record for the application of general mitigating circumstances. Now, a clean record can annul the entire trial if there is no sentence of first instance within the fateful two years. This applies to trials for tax evasion, medical manslaughter and fraud of all kinds. But one offence will be excluded from the new law’s time bar: illegal immigration.

To add insult to injury, the state will have to hand back to defendants any money seized in time-barred trials. And the insult will be even more stinging at the two year cut-off point if one defendant with no criminal record walks free from a trial because of the time bar while another with a record has to stay in court and is perhaps convicted.

Luigi Ferrarella

13 novembre 2009

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

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


Italy: Veronica Seeks Judicial Separation

Application filed. Share-out of Fininvest empire at stake

MILAN — It seems that the judge will now have the last say on how the marriage of Veronica Lario and Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, will end. Sources close to the parties involved say that Ms Lario has filed an individual application for judicial divorce. The hopes of the prime minister’s lawyer, Niccolò Ghedini, to arrange a consensual parting have been dashed following Ms Lario’s move. “The request for judicial separation indicates a desire to make the judge aware of the gravity of the spouse’s behaviour in the family context”, explained Anna Galizia Danovi, an expert in marriage law and president of the centre for the reform of family law.

The battle is now set to go to court. Over the past few days, it had emerged that the situation was becoming complicated as the respective teams of lawyers started to expand. Marriage lawyers have been joined by specialists in property and company law, and experts in inheritance arrangements. The reason is that at the heart of the separation lies the division by inheritance of Mr Berlusconi’s assets, including the Fininvest empire. The huge group, which embraces Mediaset’s television channels, Mondadori’s publishing empire and the Mediolanum finance companies, is one of the largest in Italy. Its television assets alone have a total stock market value, including minority holdings, of 5.5 billion euros while the insurance arm is worth 3.2 billion and the Segrate-based publisher is valued at 900 million euros. “Family squabbles? Not at the moment. And if my father is a just, fair man, there won’t be any in future either”, Veronica and Silvio Berlusconi’s eldest daughter Barbara said just a few months ago.

In the past few days, Barbara has expressed an interest in Mondadori, which is led by her half-sister Marina, one of the two children — the other is Pier Silvio — the prime minister had with his first wife, Carla Dall’Oglio. Marina currently chairs both Mondadori and the family’s financial arm, Fininvest, which controls the whole group. The share-out is far from simple. The numbers involved are very different, and valuations will be equally discordant, if only because there are two children from the first marriage and three from the second. Both Marina and Pier Silvio have contributed to the group’s growth over the past ten years and will be looking to make that contribution count. What is certain is that this will be only one of many episodes in a saga that involves one of Italy’s and Europe’s biggest groups.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

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


Italy: PM’s Wife ‘Requests Legal Separation’

Rome, 12 Nov. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario has requested a formal separation with all legal expenses to be paid by Berlusconi, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on Thursday.

“The request for her legal expenses to be paid is a clear attempt to draw the judge’s attention to the spouse’s grave behaviour within the family,” Corriere quoted family lawyer Anna Galizia Danovi, as saying.

Berlusconi has in past months been at the centre of embarrassing allegations that he slept with prostitutes, threw parties attended by escorts at his various residences, and dated under-age girls.

Lario, 53, announced her plans to split from Berlusconi in early May after left-leaning daily La Repubblica reported he went to the 18th birthday party of lingerie model and aspiring actress, Noemi Letizia and gave her a 6,000 euro gold and pearl pendant as a present.

After La Repubblica published the report and photos of Berlusconi’s attendance at the party, Lario said she could not remain with a man who was “unwell”, “obsessed with sex” and who “frequents minors”.

Berlusconi has repeatedly denied he had any liaison with Letizia or any minor and last week said he had only met her four times in his life.

“I have never had ‘relations’ with minors and I have never organised ‘parties’,” Berlusconi said in any interview with his weekly magazine, Chi. “I only participated in pleasant dinners, but they were elegant and morally unexceptionable.

“And I have never knowingly invited to my home people who were not serious,” he stated in the interview.

The main bone of contention in any divorce settlement will be his Fininvest media empire. Lario in May announced plans to file for divorce and is said to be seeking a 20 percent share of Berlusconi’s 8.1 billion euro fortune for each of their three children.

The former actress has been married to Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men, for 20 years.

Lario wants the remaining 40 percent stake be divided between his children from his first marriage, Marina and Piersilvio.

The inheritance is currently split 50-50 between Berlusconi’s children from his first marriage, Marina and Piersilvio on the one hand and their younger step-siblings Barbara, Eleonora and Luigi on the other.

Barbara Berlusconi has stated she is not worried about the division of Fininvest between her siblings and half-siblings and has said that her father “is a fair and equitable man.”

But Marina, who runs Italy’s largest publisher, Mondadori, and Piersilvio, who heads Berlusconi’s Mediaset television empire, are expected to argue they have added value to Fininvest and have contributed to the group’s growth.

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


Italy: DNA Tests to Track ‘Real Venetians’

Venice, 12 Nov. (AKI) — A United States-based scientific and educational institution as well as a university have launched a joint-project aimed at discovering the genetic code of the dwindling residents of the northern Italian city of Venice, Italian media reported on Thursday.

A voluntary DNA test to be carried out by researchers from the National Geographic Society and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute will attempt to track down Venice’s original residents in order to ensure the continuity of their genetic code.

The researchers are also looking to confirm or reject theories regarding the origins of the citizens of Venice, as well as their spread in the European continent and settlement in Venice.

The DNA test will only be performed on men — of any age or social status — as long as they claim to be Venetians whose families have come from Venice for at least two generations.

The test — which will be a saliva test — will take place during the so-called ‘Funeral of Venice’ on 14 November.

The ‘funeral’ is an initiative sponsored by the website Venessia.com, a group whose aim is to draw attention to the city’s constantly declining population. This now stands at 59,992 residents.

A number of at least 60,000 residents is considered the ‘vital minimum’ to sustain the city.

The DNA project researchers will remain in Venice until mid-December.

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


Netherlands: PVV Banned on Number Plates

PVV, the short form of the name of the anti-Islam party Partij voor de Vrijheid, has been added to the list of banned abbreviations for new car number plates, the AD reports on Friday.

PVV joins NSB (the Dutch World War II pro Nazi party), KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and TBS (psychiatric prison) on a short list of banned words, the AD says.

PVV does not appear on the list on the vehicle licensing authority website.

The authority says the new Dutch number plate system, two numbers followed by three letters and one number, has opened up the way for ‘socially unacceptable’ words.

According to the paper, the authority has banned PVV because it could be insulting or encourage violence.

PVV leader Geert Wilders has asked the transport minister for an explanation.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


Sweden:15-Year-Old ‘Babyface’ Arrested for Serial Rape

Police in Gothenburg arrested a 15-year-old boy on Friday on suspicion of being the mystery rapist that has haunted the city in recent months.

The boy is believed to have carried out a number rapes and as many as 30 sexual assaults in total.

Witness statements along with around 350 tips have come in from the public pointing towards the perpetrator, the so-called ‘babyface’ man.

Police state they have evidence connecting him to two rapes, two attempted rapes, and two sexual assaults.

“We are absolutely sure we have arrested the right person,” said Per-Olof Johansson, head of the city’s serious crime unit during a press conference on Friday.

“There are six investigations currently underway and we believe he has committed many more sexual assaults which we hope to be able to prove,” Johansson added.

The majority of attacks have taken place in the Johanneberg and Majorna neighbourhoods of Gothenburg and the rapists unconventional methods have surprised the police.

The man goes from door to door, ringing the bells of potential victims and asking personal questions before forcing his way inside.

Police also suspect he has run into women on a bicycle or moped before carrying out sexual assaults.

The first attack to be linked to the serial attacker was reported at the beginning of August and the latest incident around one week ago.

According to Per-Olof Johansson the boy is from the Gothenburg area was previously known to police but not for crimes of a sexual nature.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Gothenburg School Destroyed in Arson Attack

Fire-fighters were called out in the early hours of Saturday morning to Torslanda school in Gothenburg. The building has been completely destroyed in what police believe to be an arson attack.

The emergency services were alerted around 2.20am on Saturday when an automatic alarm was raised at the school in the Hisingen area of the city.

Around 50 firefighters from three stations were called to the scene but were unable to counter the flames in time to save the building.

“In principle the whole school has been destroyed,” Kent Andersson from the city’s fire department told the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper.

Thick, black smoke continued to be visable from the building on Saturday morning and local residents were advised to stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed.

The fire was eventually exhausted around lunchtime on Saturday.

The local fire department believe the fire was deliberately started in car, which was parked close to the entrance of the school.

No one is reported to have been injured in the fire and police have begun their inquiries into the incident. A forensic investigation is also due to take place.

The fire affects around 500 high school students who attended Torslanda school.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: This Will be a Queen’s Speech Too Far

At the start of an extended election campaign, the Government has run out of steam and ideas

Next Wednesday, the Queen will make the short journey along The Mall from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament for the 13th State Opening since Labour returned to office in 1997. The occasion will be a far cry from those heady days when Tony Blair seemed to have created a unique force in British politics, a Third Way that eschewed ideology and appealed across class boundaries. That first Queen’s Speech is worth revisiting. It began with the words: “The education of young people will be my Government’s first priority. They will work to raise standards in schools, colleges and universities and to promote lifelong learning at the workplace.” Other measures included giving the Bank of England the freedom to set interest rates and establishing the Financial Services Authority. “The central economic objectives of my Government are high and stable levels of economic growth and employment, to be achieved by ensuring opportunity for all… My Government have pledged to mount a fundamental attack upon youth and long-term unemployment.”

The 1997 Queen’s Speech signalled the end to boom and bust, heralded constitutional “modernisation” — including devolution — introduced a target culture to the public sector and promised to improve the NHS and reform welfare. Many of its high hopes are now as dust; it is hard to imagine today what future political historians will point to as the singular achievements of Labour’s three governments, other than half-baked constitutional reforms or the extraordinary extension of state intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens.

Were we able to slip an alternative speech into the purse carried by the Lord Chancellor for Her Majesty, it would contain a Finance Bill to cut taxes (and certainly to stop the planned increases in the top rate of tax and National Insurance contributions), measures to promote economic growth, the repeal of sundry “nanny state” measures, including ID cards, and the abolition of the target culture that has had such a perverse impact on the public sector. It would also seek to reform the various unfunded state pension schemes which are going to cost the country dear unless a grip is taken soon on the problem. Instead, we are to get an Equality Bill, yet another criminal justice measure and an Improving Schools Bill, which in itself is a recognition that the education promises of 12 years ago remain unfulfilled. After a few centuries of parliamentary democracy, it should surely by now have been possible to devise an approach to criminal justice or education that lasts longer than a year or so.

The State Opening is a great ceremonial event marking the beginning of a new parliamentary session; it is an act of constitutional renewal. Yet next week’s is a speech too far — it is the one the British people do not want to hear. It is past time for a general election. This Government, and the Parliament itself, have run out of steam, the former bereft of any new ideas and the latter stripped of all credibility by the expenses scandal. We now face a six-month period in which few, if any, of the proposed Bills will make it on to the Statute Book before it will be necessary for Gordon Brown to go to the country.

In other words, we are in for an extended election campaign, in which Labour will be able to use its government platform to make its case for a fourth term. Despite two years’ worth of opinion polls showing that Labour will lose the election, ministers took some comfort from victory in Glasgow North East on Thursday night, and seek to convince themselves that the game is not yet up. But it is outrageous that, purely for party political reasons, the country is to be subjected to the wasted time and expense of a largely footling legislative programme for the coming year, which will include many Bills that will never see the light of day. It is a shame that so many bad ones have already done so.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Copts Between the Rock of Islamism and a Hard Place

The oldest Christian community faces harsh new pressures

The first two months of the Coptic new year have been a sombre time for Egypt’s ancient Christian community. The new year fell on the inauspicious date of September 11. And a spate of attacks on this large and downtrodden community by Islamist extremists or villagers giving a religious pretext to petty quarrels have provoked accusations of officially tolerated discrimination and heightened fears that Islamists will be emboldened to undercut the laws that promise religious freedom and legal equality in Egypt.

Clashes broke out in Kafr al-Barbaqri, a Nile delta town, in July after a shopkeeper stabbed a teenager to death in a dispute over an empty soda bottle. The Christian grocer had refused to give the Muslim boy a partial refund, and in the ensuing argument the grocer struck the boy with a knife, leading to his death. Dozens of Muslims went on the rampage, setting fire to the grocer’s house and the one next door, leading to 30 arrests..

A month earlier 18 people were wounded in fighting in a village south of Cairo after a Coptic priest celebrated Mass in his home. In August two Copts were arrested “for security reasons” after reporting to the police that they had been attacked by a mob.

The incidents usually stem from petty quarrels in villages where prejudice against Copts has been growing as the influence of Islamist extremists has eaten away at former tolerance of this religious minority. Copts complain that the State frequently fails to protect their rights, and that some officials actively connive in discriminatory measures against them.

A wave of anti-Coptic feeling prompted the recent mass slaughter of pigs in Egypt, officially sanctioned to stop the spread of swine flu. Many Copts work as rubbish collectors in the big cities, and pigs are used to feed on discarded food and remains. The move appeared to be directed at the Copts while reinforcing the Muslim view of pigs as unclean.

Copts are the oldest and largest Christian community in the Middle East. Representing between 10 and 20 per cent of Egypt’s population of 80 million, they claim descent from the church brought to Alexandria by St Mark during the reign of the emperor Claudius, and call themselves the Church of St Mark. For centuries Copts formed the majority in Egypt, until the advent of Islam in 641, when most were forcibly converted or became Muslims to avoid heavy taxes imposed on them.

Egyptian Christianity was immensely important is settling the direction of the early Church. The pivotal Council of Nicea (AD325) was presided over by Pope Alexander of Alexandria, and took binding decisions on liturgy, Church authority and the date of Easter. Egyptian patriarchs also headed the next two main councils, Constantinople (381) and Ephesus (431). Some 95 per cent of Egypt’s Christians today belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, with the rest divided between Catholic and Protestant churches that established themselves in the past century.

The present patriarch is the 85-year-old Pope Shenouda III, who has led the Coptic Church since 1971. He recently caused controversy when he plunged into politics by declaring on an Egyptian satellite station that he believed Gamal Mubarak, the son of President Mubarak, would be the perfect candidate to succeed his father. His remarks were seen as a way of currying favour with the man widely tipped to take over from his father soon. But they reflected Coptic fears of the growing Islamist influence in Egypt. Pope Shenouda said that, while he had good official relations with the country’s top Muslim leaders, there were “many tensions” today between Muslims and Copts.

He complained that neither Egypt’s parliament nor its local councils could resolve the conflicts, which led to further problems. His remarks were attacked by some Copts, aware of the growing row over the lack of democratic choice in the likely succession of the younger Mubarak. Some also questioned his right to speak on politics for all his community. Discrimination against Copts has varied over the centuries. They began to prosper, especially in the 19th century, and many were leaders in business and commerce.. But their position deteriorated again after the overthrow of King Farouk and during the nationalist rule and socialist measures of President Nasser.

Many senior Copts have been waging a campaign to force the Government to ease the law that prevents them building new churches or even repairing existing ones without special presidential permission. An unofficial strike was staged by some on September 11, when they refused to leave their homes.

The Government recently agreed that repairs could be carried out with permission of the local authority. But it has largely failed to soften unofficial discrimination. However, permission was recently given for the community to open two private television channels, a considerable concession to their calls for more equal broadcasting time. Muslims complain, however, that Western Christians, especially evangelical churches in America, have been using the Copts and the few Egyptian Protestant churches to proselytise among the Muslim majority. The issue of changing religion is explosive, and there is widespread anger at attempts at proselytising and numerous instances of Muslims being killed who converted.

Western Christians are accused of using community programmes as a way of spreading Christianity. The Copts reject this, but acknowledge that resentment against Western, especially American, influence in Egypt is growing.. In return, Copts claim that in some villages young Coptic girls are kidnapped and forcibly married to Muslims. They say appeals to the authorities to find missing Coptic girls are rarely followed up and that the strong penalties for abduction are not enforced.

This cycle of accusation and counter-accusation has fuelled the growing acrimony and mutual suspicion. As a result many Copts have emigrated, especially to America, where Egyptian Muslims accuse them of influencing Washington’s policy towards Egypt.

The Copts also complain of official barriers to advancement within the state. Copts are not allowed to join the army and few are accepted in government service.

Boutros Boutros Galli, the former UN Secretary General, is a Copt. But in Egypt he never rose higher than acting Foreign Minister. His brother Peter is currently one of only two Copts in government.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

9/11 Memorial Dedicated in Israel

Only site outside NYC to recognize names of every attack victim

A memorial to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was unveiled in the Arazim park outside of Jerusalem.

Commissioned and built by the Jewish National Fund-USA, the memorial commemorates the victims of radical Islam and features a central sculpture in the shape of a waving American flag transformed into a memorial flame. A small piece of wreckage from the World Trade Center resides in a compartment in the granite base.

The sculpture is surrounded by a circular, crater-like plaza and reflection area tiled in stone.

The Jerusalem monument is one of the first major international memorials to the 9/11 attacks and the only site outside of New York to recognize the names of every victim of the attack.

Both the sculpture and plaza were donated by New Yorkers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Israel Accuses Sweden of ‘Diplomatic Coup’

Israel has accused Sweden of trying to change the EU’s stance on Jerusalem and refer to the city as the official capital of Israel and Palestine while at the helm of the rotating EU presidency.

According to an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Friday, Israel’s foreign ministry has instructed its EU envoys to block what they call the “Swedish initiative.”

The newspaper claims that it has seen official statements by senior Swedish official and other documents which refer to Jerusalem as the capital of the two states.

“Israeli missions in Europe were instructed to investigate, discreetly, the position of the EU member states regarding the Swedish initiative,” the article states.

“And whether this was an attempt at a diplomatic coup or an initiative that enjoys broad support.”

According to the Israeli government, this new position could have a serious effect on EU contributions to the peace process.

However, a source from Sweden’s foreign ministry told newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the evidence is unfounded. However, changes have been made to refer to Jerusalem as a future capital for Israel and Palestine.

“This has come about after requests from many member states and has been discussed by all 27 EU countries down to the smallest detail,” the source told DN.

“Essentially this is nothing new,” the source added. “To achieve a lasting peace solution, it has long-been the understanding of the EU that Jerusalem needs to become the capital city of the two states.”

Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet also quotes a foreign ministry source who denies the allegations that a new position has been driven by Sweden.

“It sounds like an old assertion from Israel that Sweden wants to introduce a change in policy,” the source said.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since a controversial article was published in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting organs from dead Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has expressed surprise that a cancelled visit by Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, planned for September, has yet to be rescheduled.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Russia

Jehovah’s Witnesses Write to Medvedev, Tell Him They Are Persecuted Like in Soviet Times

The religious community complains about “arbitrary” trials, persecution and a campaign of “demonisation’ by the courts and the press. They ask Russian president to “guarantee their constitutional rights” and protect them “from bureaucratic arbitrariness.”

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The leader of Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses has appealed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to protect his community from a campaign of persecution. V.M. Kalin, chairman of the steering committee of the ‘Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’ (ACJWR), wrote to the Kremlin leader, complaining about “arbitrary” trials against members of his community (see AsiaNews, 17/09/2009, “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists,” in AsiaNews, 17 September 2009, and “Altai court condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism,” in AsiaNews, 5 October 2009).

In his letter, the ACJWR chairman noted that his community has been in Russia for more than a century, and that only under Soviet rule did it suffer discrimination and persecution. Now, it is subjected to a process of “demonisation” by some courts with the support of the press.

For Kalin, Medvedev’s article “Russia, Forward”, which appeared in Gazeta.ru, on 10 September of this year, is a source of hope because it refers to the ideals of the separation of state and religion and peaceful coexistence.

Russia’s president, the letter explains, should realise that Jehovah’s Witnesses are present in 236 countries around the world, but that only in 25 is “their freedom of conscience” restricted, nations “famous for the crudest violations of human rights.”

All the community wants is for Medvedev to “guarantee their constitutional rights” and protect them from “bureaucratic arbitrariness”.

Ultimately, “basic rights, for which Jehovah’s Witnesses are fighting today, are vitally necessary for the maintenance in Russia of democratic liberties and the construction of civil society”.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Exclusive Video Shows Taliban Attack That Killed 9 U.S. Soldiers at Afghan Post

It was one of the deadliest attacks of the war for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The target: a remote U.S. outpost in Wanat, Nuristan. The date: July 13, 2008.

ABC News has obtained a view of the battle unseen until now: the attack, filmed by the Taliban as they assaulted the base. The exclusive video of the attack was obtained via the NEFA Foundation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Barack Obama ‘Risks Suez-Like Disaster’ In Afghanistan, Says Key Adviser

Leading authority on counter-insurgency fears US is heading for ‘irresponsible’ fudge on extra troops

A key adviser to Nato forces warned today that Barack Obama risks a Suez-style debacle in Afghanistan if he fails to deploy enough extra troops and opts instead for a messy compromise.

David Kilcullen, one of the world’s leading authorities on counter-insurgency and an adviser to the British government as well as the US state department, said Obama’s delay in reaching a decision over extra troops had been “messy”. He said it not only worried US allies but created uncertainty the Taliban could exploit.

Speaking in an interview with the Guardian, he compared the president to someone “pontificating” over whether to send enough firefighters into a burning building to put a fire out.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK Pressing Karzai to Negotiate With Taliban, Says Leaked Memo

Foreign Office and MI6 are backing efforts to remove ‘reconciled Talibs’ from UN sanctions list

British officials are increasing pressure on the Afghan government to talk to Taliban leaders as part of a major attempt at reconciliation, it emerged today.

The move is strongly backed by the Foreign Office — notably Sherard Cowper-Coles, the government’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan — by MI6, and by Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb, former head of the SAS and Britain’s senior military officer in Kabul, the Guardian understands.

Lamb was deployed to Afghanistan with the task of persuading insurgents to give up their arms. He believes many young and rank-and-file Taliban fighters carry a sense of “anger and grievances that have not been addressed”.

British officials are now proposing that “reconciled Talibs” should be removed from the UN sanctions list, according to a leaked FO memo. “We must weaken and divide the Taliban if we are to reduce the insurgency to a level that can be managed and contained by the Afghan security forces,” it says.. “This can be achieved by a combination of military pressure and clear signals that the option of an honourable exit from the fight exists,” it adds.

The memo, which is believed to have been sent to the Afghan government, goes further than past proposals by suggesting what it calls a “strategic initiative” — a settlement with Taliban leaders directing the counter-insurgency from across the border in Pakistan.

The memo calls for an Afghan-led, internationally backed process that works on three levels — firstly “tactical”, involving reintegrating foot soldiers and their immediate commanders; secondly, “operational”, involving the reintegration of the Taliban’s “shadow governors”, senior commanders and their forces; and thirdly: “strategic”.

Cowper-Coles and British military chiefs have also called for political power devolved back to tribal elders. Unlike the FO, however, military commanders say that aid should be channelled through local and district governors rather than through the Karzai government in Kabul.

Gordon Brown said today he believed he could secure commitment for 5,000 extra troops for Afghanistan from Nato and other allies. In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the prime minister dismissed reports that he was planning to “talk to the Taliban”, although he raised the prospect of “mercenaries” fighting for the Taliban being reintegrated into Afghan society.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Far East

After 60 Years of Communism, Church in China Faces Most Critical Moment

Zero growth among Catholics; declining vocations; bishops too young. Meanwhile, Party and government control continues along the same lines of the past 60 years.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — The People’s Republic of China is celebrating her 60th anniversary this year. It is a good time to evaluate the development of the Catholic Church in China during the last six decades.

Most people divide the sixty years of the Chinese Communist regime into two even parts. The first thirty years, from 1949 to 1978, were full of political campaigns. The government was always ideology-oriented. The communist party presented herself as a totalitarian government. All social non-government organizations, including the Catholic Church, were under severe control.

The third plenum of the 11th National Congress of the party in December 1978 marked the beginning of the second thirty years. During this latter thirty years market economy was re-introduced. The government is, relatively speaking, more tolerant towards the social and non-government organizations. Foreign correspondents are allowed to visit and interview in China. White Papers on Human Right as well as on Religious Freedom in China, and many other similar kind of document have been officially promulgated since the 1990s. China has tried hard to catch up with the universal standard in different social aspects. It gives the outside world an impression that things are all right in China. But what is the reality?

For me, I would like to say that the Catholic Church in China is facing the most critical moment in her modern history. It can be a good opportunity to enjoy further and promising development if people grasp the opportunity with great effort. But challenges is everywhere, and the Catholic Church in China will suffer greatly if she fails to deal with her current problems properly. She is facing the following serious problems.

No significant increase in Catholic population

According to the different sources, the Catholic population in China has not experienced any significant increase in the last ten years. The situation is even worse than that during the Cultural Revolution when the Church still recorded growth in population. It is true that every year there are some 150,000 new baptisms joining the Church, but this is just enough to compensate the natural loss of the Catholic population. On the other hand, a great number of Catholics, especially those moving from the rural area to the coastal urban area looking for jobs, are left unattended in the new emigrant city. Most of them become “CEO” Catholics, that is, going to the Church on “Christmas and Easter Only”.

Shortage of all kinds of vocations

Following the decline of Catholic population growth is the decline in vocations. The absence of the tier of youth alone already causes great difficulty in recruiting priesthood vocation, not to mention the impact of materialism and One-child Policy.

More important is that in China the Church lacks all kinds of vocations. Sisters vocations are declining. Mature vocation is not well cared for. (Basically there is no institute taking care of mature vocations in China. If one wishes to join the priesthood after thirty, it seems that the only possible way is to join a congregation abroad.) Religious brother vocations and formation is still forbidden, at least not officially approved, in China. Twenty years ago, a late bishop in Central China told me that he would like to recruit some young men as brothers, but the government had never given them the green light. Vocation of permanent deacons has not yet been introduced to this country.

Bishops are too young

Contrary to the phenomenon of an ageing Church, the Episcopal class is getting younger and younger. Due to the closing down of the seminaries for more than twenty-five years from mid-1950s to early 80s, middle-aged priests were very rare in China at the time when the Church was re-opening her door to the outside world in 1980s. Even nowadays, middle-aged clerics are still a minority. Some bishops or bishopric candidates find themselves too young to take up the post. Through the last two years there is no open consecration of bishop in China. It may be attributed to many reasons, but we cannot deny that quite a number of candidates have turned down the proposal or appointment as bishops in China. The problem will be solved after a few years when the young tier becomes mature. The question is how to handle the existing Episcopal vacancy not at the cost of the diocesan development.

The control of the Party

To conclude this article, I think it is not appropriate to neglect the influence of political impact on the Church in China. Actually, the government has never given up her ambition of controlling the Church. They are still sticking to the strategy as they did in the first thirty years, but just doing it the other way round. New and advancing technology have not changed the government’s attitude towards the social and non-government group but just reinforcing their ability of control. It seems that the party and the government still do not trust the Church. In fact the control asserted by the government and the party is simply unnecessary. The government should not be afraid of the Church. Even without the government’s interference, the Catholic Church already has many difficulties to tackle. The government should show some mercy to the Church.

* Expert from the Holy Spirit Study Center of the Diocese of Hong Kong

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


As Maoists Hold Sway Over Kathmandu, Nepal’s Enemy Camps Turn to India and China

Today is the last day of demonstrations in front of the Singha Durbar, Nepal’s seat of government. Maoists plan a future “nation-wide programme of protests”. Interior minister travels to India to strengthen cooperation to counter Maoist influence, whilst Maoist chief is set to fly to Beijing.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — Nepali Maoists have ended their protests today after paralysing government activities. The second phase of the so-called ‘people’s movement-III’ saw more than 150,000 participants, including former Maoist guerrillas and United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPM-M) members of parliament and militants, gathered around the Singha Durbar, Nepal’s official seat of government.

Police agents are still deployed in the streets of the capital with more than 2,000 anti-riot units ready to move in.

Local sources said that actors, poets and famous people from the world of entertainment are dancing and singing with protesters near police checkpoints.

Long time Maoist leaders like former Prime Minister Prachanda, Baburam Bhattarai and Mohan Baidhya led the protesters.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the latter said, “We shall adopt a tougher nation-wide programme of protests if the government does not heed our peaceful demonstration.”

For his part, Prachanda addressed the crowd, saying, “Today all of Kathmandu is in favour of the Maoists but the government won’t hear us.” He also spoke again about the dispute between the current government and Ban Ki-moon, who in early November said that he was concerned about the stalled peace process.

Whilst the Nepali government accused the UN secretary general of meddling in the internal affairs of Nepal, Prachanda accused the government and the president of creating obstacles to the recovery and the “supremacy of civil society.”

Nepal is currently in the throes of a deep economic crisis, made worse by five months of UCPN-M-led protests organised, involving Maoist trade unions and youth groups. One consequence of the situation is that no one has been paid, whether the prime minister and his ministers or public servants and police.

In the meantime, the National unity government formed in May following Prachanda’s resignation remains on high alert against a possible armed action by the former Maoist rebels. It also seems unable to end the gridlock, except to continue its ‘cold war’ with the Maoists.

Given the situation, the government has sought closer ties with India to counter Maoist influence. On 17 November, the Nepali Interior Minister Bhim Rawal will start a three-day visit to New Delhi where he will meet his Indian counterpart, P. Chidambaram. He is also bringing an offer to India Nepal’s for greater cooperation in controlling the open border between the two countries.

Conversely, UCPN-M will send Nanda Kishore Pun Pasang, the new chief of the Maoist guerrillas, for talks with leaders of the Chinese Communist Party.

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


Chinese Greet ‘Oba Mao’ With Flaming Statue, Fakes

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese have learned English from his speeches and celebrated the way he rolls up his sleeves. Now President Barack Obama is finally coming, and he’s being greeted with “Oba Mao” T-shirts and a statue of him that bursts into flames.

Sunday’s arrival of a U.S. president admired for his charisma is already a source of profit and brief fame for some Chinese.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Spain: Toxic Fish Exports From Catalonia to Romania

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 12 — Catalonia has authorised exports to Romania of a fish suspected of being highly toxic and found in the lower reaches of the Ebro river. According to reports in today’s El Pais, the fish is sheatfish — not used as food in Spain and for which the food safety level has been contested by the Scientific Research Centre (CSIC). Despite this, the regional government has decided to export the fish — a large freshwater predator — in the attempt to prevent its spreading more than it already has, with the fish currently causing serious damage to the autochthonous fauna of the Ebro after the sheatfish was introduced for sport fishing in the 1970s. The Catalan government has authorised the Mondo Ivans enterprise, owned by a Romanian immigrant, to catch as many of the sheatfish as desired and then to freeze them for export. So far the enterprise has a stock of 3 tonnes of the fish. Half of the samples analysed had toxicity levels over those considered healthy and 20% of the mercury concentration allowed under Spanish regulations. Nevertheless, the Generalitat has decided to authorise the Romanian enterprise to set up 100 fishing nets in the Ebro. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Support Drops for UN Resolution on Religious Defamation

Supporters of Jamat-e-Islami in Pakistan chant slogans during a protest against the reprinting of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. Athar Hussain / Reuters

NEW YORK // A UN resolution advanced by Muslim countries that seeks to outlaw criticism of religion has seen a decline in support since last year.

The number of countries continuing to support the resolution proposed by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to promote the concept of “defamation of religions” dropped to 81. Eighty-five countries in the UN’s Third Committee on Human Rights voted for the resolution last year, which itself marked a reduction in support from 95, in 2007.

Likewise, the number of countries voting against the resolution increased to 55 this year from 50 last year, while the number of abstentions rose from 42 to 43.

The concept of religious defamation has divided western and Muslim countries since before September 2005, when a Danish newspaper published a dozen cartoons satirising the Prophet Mohammed and sparked violent protests across the Islamic world.

Muslim states have pushed non-binding resolutions on combating religious defamation through the 192-nation General Assembly and the Geneva-based Human Rights Council since 1999, arguing that Muslims need protection from Islamophobic race-hate.

The latest text warns that “defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general become aggravating factors that contribute to the denial of fundamental rights and freedoms of members of target groups” and expresses concern that “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism”.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

katatonik1984 said...

Regarding the ABC channel video that shows the attack on the U.S outpost in Nuristan; take a look at the jihadists' faces. Notice how most (if not all) of them are fair complexioned? This is probably because those "Taliban" fighters are not Pashtuns, but ethnic Nuristanis. The same people who over a century ago were invaded and forcibly converted to the cult of Islam by Pushtuns. Amazing, how devoutly they profess their oppressors' faith.