Friday, December 11, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/11/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/11/2009China has announced a prescription to solve the world’s climate change problem: the West needs to emulate the Chinese and implement a one-child policy. But Beijing may want to reconsider — if the West shows the same preferences as the Chinese, and aborts girl babies while keeping boy babies, in a generation the Chinese will be facing a Western cohort of unattached and potentially aggressive young men, just as the Chinese have now.

In other news, a Muslim spiritual leader in Malaysia says that Islamic clerics need to set a good example and practice polygamy.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Esther, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, Paul Green, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Food Prices to Skyrocket as Supplies Plunge
Obama Reducing the Debt? Dream on
Treasury Pay Czar Limits Pay at Automakers, Banks
 
USA
Another Flight Disrupted by a Group of Muslims
Anti-Muslim Fliers Surface in St. Cloud
Black Pastor: Reid’s ‘Slavery’ Reference ‘Deplorable’
Mosque Site Plan Approved With Conditions
Mosques Blocked in US
Muslim Radicalization Gains Momentum in US: Analysts
Muslim’s Building Islamic Military Training Camps in America
Saul, Barack and Me, Part 1
 
Canada
Bomb-Sniffing Dogs on Vancouver Transit Worry Muslim Leader
 
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi Joke: In Panama, Without ‘Repubblica’ Or Prosecutors
Italy: Clooney in ‘Heaven’ Ad Row
Italy: Justice Minister Claims Mafia ‘On Its Knees’
Italy: Premier Says Judiciary ‘Political’
Italy: Police Find More Art Hidden by Tanzi
Italy: Hotel Pursues Gaddafi’s Son Over Unpaid Hotel Bill
Italy: O.J.-Like Evidence Convicts Noxious Knox
Norway: American Protest Against Obama
Pope ‘Shock’ At Irish Sex Abuse
Spread of Islam Feared by 3 Out of 4 Germans
Switzerland: Muslim Preacher Banned From Public Rally
UK: Nursery School Children Should be Monitored for Signs of Islamic Extremist Brainwashing, Say Police
UK: Terror Police to Monitor Nurseries for Islamic Radicalisation
 
Balkans
Silencing Bosnia’s Minarets
 
Mediterranean Union
France: Museum of European and Med Civilizations Set Up
 
North Africa
Egypt Blocks Muslim Brotherhood Hospital for the Poor
Egypt: ‘Missing’ Editor Abducted
Egypt Says it Will Not Abolish Death Penalty
Morocco: Haidar, Minister Says Must Apologise
 
Israel and the Palestinians
10 Mln Contribution From Italy for PNA, Frattini
Knesset: Poll on Golan Withdrawal
PNA: EU Commits to Helping Improve Justice for Juveniles
U.K. To Shun Israeli Settlement Products?
Vatican-Israeli Press, Meeting in Stalemate
West Bank Wall: Protest Leader Arrested in Bilin
 
Middle East
Circassians Latest to Demand Rights in Turkey
Iran: Men in Black Hijab
Iranian Raelian May Strain Ankara’s Ties With Tehran
New Lebanon Cabinet Allows Hezbollah to Keep Arms
Report: Blackwater Guards Linked to CIA Raids
Syrian Women Are World’s Smartest and Respectable, Study
Turkey Prepares to Join EU in a Building Confiscated From the Orthodox
Turkish Parliamentarian Submits Motion to Condemn Switzerland
 
South Asia
In Bangladesh: Climate Change is Not All Bad
Malaysian Islamic Scholars Urged to be Polygamists
Malaysia: Ulama Urged to Practise Polygamy
New Delhi Back at the Centre of the International Nuclear Power Business
Pakistan: Fear of New Attacks Means “Silent” Christmas for Christians
Pakistan: Fear of New Attacks Means “Silent” Christmas for Christians
 
Far East
Beijing Tells World to Fight Climate Change Through One-Child Policy
Fast-Growing Christian Churches Crushed in China
US Envoy Has ‘Very Useful’ Nuclear Talks in N Korea
 
Immigration
Italy: -70% Illegal Immigrants Rescued at Sea
 
Culture Wars
Italy: Abortion Pill Now Available in Hospitals
 
General
Knife-Wielding Crook Attacks Hot Dog Vendor … Former Marine
U.N. Wants to Curtail 400-Year-Old ‘Freedom of the Seas’
U.N. Climate Chief Cashes in on Carbon
When Will Climateers Give Up?

Financial Crisis

Food Prices to Skyrocket as Supplies Plunge

Low inventories, lack of farmers brings on ‘perfect storm’

In a recent report on the state of the economy, the New York Times said food stamps are being used by a record number — one in eight — Americans and one in four children.

At the same time, food banks run by churches are being overrun with requests for help.

And if that isn’t troubling enough, other data point to a much darker future.

According to the National Inflation Association, food costs are about to skyrocket. Officials cite agricultural commodities which have remained at historically low levels despite a worldwide shortage of farmers and record low food inventories. They equate this to a “perfect storm” that could bring about a dramatic rise in food prices.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Reducing the Debt? Dream on

Two recent news stories illustrate, more clearly than ever, the Obama Democrats’ contempt for the free market and individual economic liberty. If given the chance, they will expand government and spend as much of our money as they can get away with.

First we learn that Obama and his party simply will not agree to keep their grubby government hands off the estimated $200 billion the banks are going to repay under TARP. Just when we finally receive this glimmer of good news to ameliorate our reasonable panic over the ever-increasing national debt, Obama announces that he intends to intercept a good portion of the debt repayments and spend it on job creation and assistance to certain debtors.

I assume we’re supposed to be too dense to remember that his stimulus spending to date hasn’t created jobs and that most of it hasn’t even been used for that purpose. So when this administration says its first priority is reducing debt, understand we are being played — by consummate cynics.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Treasury Pay Czar Limits Pay at Automakers, Banks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration’s pay czar is limiting the cash compensation for executives at companies that received the largest taxpayer bailouts to $500,000.

The 25th through the 100th top earners at Citigroup, GMAC, American International Group and General Motors also must take more than half their compensation in stock, and at least half must be delayed for three or more years, said Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury Department’s Special Master for Executive Compensation.

About 12 executives were granted exemptions to the $500,000 cash cap because they were necessary for the companies to “thrive, be able to compete, and not lose key people,” he said Friday.

The new rules will only apply to the second half of December, and will not affect what the employees already have been paid this year.

The rules will affect many workers’ year-end bonuses and stock grants, Feinberg said. They also will serve as a starting point for negotiations next year over pay packages for 2010.

Feinberg already announced specific pay packages for the top 25 earners at firms he oversees. His rulings don’t apply to Bank of America because its bailouts were repaid this week. Chrysler and Chrysler Financial also were exempt because executives there made less than $500,000.

Under the new rules, cash can make up only 45 percent of a person’s pay. At least half of total compensation must be “long-term,” and cannot be redeemed for at least three years. And all incentive pay must come from a pool whose size is based on earnings or another performance measure.

Fringe benefits like the use of private jets will be limited to a value of $25,000 per year.

Unlike the pay packages for the top 25 earners, Friday’s rules mostly will be implemented by the companies. But Feinberg said he did review all the requests for cash salaries in excess of $500,000 per year.

He reviewed dozens of requests but only granted about 12. Of those, all but one will earn between $500,000 and $950,000. The remaining person will earn about $1.5 million. He did not identify the individuals or say what companies they work for.

Feinberg did say that some of the exemptions were granted for AIG, which received government support worth up to $182 billion. Large bonuses at the firm sparked outrage earlier this year.

“It was not only AIG” that wanted the employees to earn more than the $500,000 cap, Feinberg said. “It was the Federal Reserve, it was the Treasury Department.”

Going forward, the independent directors on the companies’ compensation committees will have to approve such exemptions. Feinberg will continue to oversee them.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

USA

Another Flight Disrupted by a Group of Muslims

It happened again on Wednesday, December 9, 2009, less than a month after the incident aboard AirTran Flight 297.

United Airlines Flight 227, scheduled to depart Denver International Airport at 1:50 pm Wednesday for Los Angeles was disrupted when several passengers who were described as Middle Eastern in appearance, confirmed by this investigator to be a group of Muslims traveling together, were removed from that aircraft due to suspicious behavior that originated in the terminal and continued to the airplane. Their behavior was consistent in some respects to the behavior of the Muslim passengers aboard AirTran Flight 297 on November 17, 2009 that caused a flurry of controversy over its legitimacy, and the now infamous case of the “Flying Imams” of 2006.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Anti-Muslim Fliers Surface in St. Cloud

St. CloudAt least two fliers mocking Islam have been found near Somali-oriented businesses in St. Cloud, the St. Cloud Times reported Thursday. The images included swastikas and the Muslim prophet Mohammed in sexualized situations.

Local police are investigating whether the incidents constituted a crime and, if so, whether they could be classified as hate crime.

Deko Farah, who manages the Mandeeq Shop outside of which a flier appeared, told the Times, “Right now we’re not feeling safe.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Black Pastor: Reid’s ‘Slavery’ Reference ‘Deplorable’

‘Remarks are a diversion tactic by a despot leader of a desperate Democrat party’

The black pastor who leads Bond Action Inc. in support of “family, traditional moral values and positive, honest race relations” says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., should be ashamed of comparing opposition to President Obama’s plans to socialize medicine in the U.S. to support for slavery.

“Reid’s comparison of legitimate Republican opposition towards the Democrats $2.5 trillion health care plan to segregationists is deplorable,” Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson said today. “This was an attempt to smear Republicans as racists in order to take the focus off the details of this awful socialist health care bill. Reid’s remarks are a diversion tactic by a despot leader of a desperate Democrat party. “

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Mosque Site Plan Approved With Conditions

The site plan for a mosque just north of the city of Madison was approved by the Madison County Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday with conditions.

The Mississippi Muslim Association is seeking approval of the site plan for the mosque on a 5-acre site west of U.S. 51. A site plan depicts the architectural design of a building along with landscaping.

The Board of Supervisors in August approved a special zoning exemption for the mosque..

The land was zoned R-1 residential and under county zoning regulations a special exception was necessary to build a place of worship.

The proposed mosque has met resistance from some residents.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Mosques Blocked in US

When Switzerland recently voted to ban the construction of minaret towers at mosques, some observers interpreted it as an expression of European xenophobia that would never find a home in multicultural America.

But to say it couldn’t happen here would be wrong, or at least premature.

In hundreds of communities across the U.S. where Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other religious minorities have sought to build or expand their houses of worship, private citizens have gone to great lengths to block their construction. Tactics range from using eminent domain and citing traffic concerns to running pig races and stirring up fears of terrorism.

There are currently at least five such cases, including one in suburban Chicago, where the DuPage County zoning board of appeals voted unanimously Monday to deny the Irshad Learning Center a permit to build a mosque in tony Naperville, Ill.

Decisions on permits are also pending for mosques in Piscataway, N.J., and Northville, Mich. A Muslim group in Lilburn, Ga., is threatening legal action after city officials rejected their proposal to expand their mosque, while neighbors in Morada, Calif., have filed suit to stop the construction of a 13,820-square-foot mosque.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Muslim Radicalization Gains Momentum in US: Analysts

WASHINGTON — Long-feared by US intelligence, Muslim radicalization is gaining momentum in the United States, hit by a spate of recent cases featuring youths recruited and trained overseas for jihad, analysts say.

The latest case — five US nationals arrested in Pakistan Wednesday on suspicion of plotting an attack — deepened concern that militant Islamist groups are successfully enlisting potential attackers inside the United States, much as they have in Britain.

“We also as a community realize there is a problem,” Nihad Awad told reporters in announcing that his organization, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), had steered worried parents of the five to the FBI.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Muslim’s Building Islamic Military Training Camps in America

The spread of Islamic enclaves across the globe has landed in America with a vengeance.

There are known to be 19 Islamist camps spread out across the US. Additionally, there are over 1,000 Mosques-some of whom have been at the forefront of radicalizing their followers, as was the case of the Fort Hood shooter.

One of the better known “camps” is located in Buffalo New York. Coincidentally, it describes as a “Boy Scout Camp” by it’s owners. Local residents of the area have complained to the city council about the camp’s activities

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Saul, Barack and Me, Part 1

If you read his autobiographies (two in print before he even made it to the White House!), along with some of the other books written about him, you see a very troubled young man. I, for one, have a great deal of compassion for anyone who has experienced a difficult childhood.

And, clearly, Obama had a dysfunctional life growing up — a white Marxist mother, a black African Muslim father who was a drunk and a philanderer, then, of all things, an Indonesian Muslim stepfather. And, of course, there were the years he spent in a Wahabbi Muslim school in Indonesia (Wahabbi schools being most famous for teaching students hatred of Western countries).

Given all this, it’s not hard to understand why a youngster would become vulnerable to a “down—with-the-rich” proselytizer. And in BHO’s life, it seems clear that that proselytizer came in the form of American communist Frank Marshall Davis, whom he refers to in his memoirs simply as “Frank.”

Ironically, BHO attended Punahou High School in Honolulu, which is the most upper-crust school in Hawaii. Like so many other things about BHO’s life, where he got the money to attend such an expensive school, not to mention Columbia and Harvard, has never been revealed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Bomb-Sniffing Dogs on Vancouver Transit Worry Muslim Leader

Specially trained bomb-sniffing dogs might soon be patrolling Metro Vancouver’s buses and SkyTrains just in time for the Olympics, but that has some Muslims concerned.

The Metro Vancouver Transit Police Service is in the process of selecting the handlers and dogs that will be part of the two-year pilot project, said deputy chief George Beattie.

Once the teams are trained, the dogs will work on the entire transit system, including buses, SkyTrains and SeaBus ferries.

But the idea of being sniffed up and down by a slobbery pooch — no matter how well trained — has already raised concerns among some members of Metro Vancouver’s Muslim community.

Some devout Muslims consider dogs to be unclean animals and try to avoid any contact with them. Some Muslim cab drivers in Vancouver have even refused to take guide dogs in their vehicles and will call for a second vehicle to take the fare instead.

Shawket Hassan, the vice-president of the B.C. Muslim Association, says he wants to make sure the dogs will not touch passengers during searches, which could lead to problems, particularly for Muslims heading to a mosque to pray.

“If they touch the body, then there is a probability they will leave some saliva on the clothes,” said Hassan.

“If I am going to the mosque and pray, or doing something that way, and I have this saliva on my body … I have to go and change or clean,” said Hassan.

He pointed out that devout Muslims pray five times a day, no matter where they are.

Hassan said he wants to work with the transit police to develop guidelines that would keep the dogs at least 30 centimetres away from passengers.

But Hassan stressed that Muslims have respect for all animals, including dogs, and they have no objections to using the dogs for security.

“This is a step we would support, but … we would like to be informed,” he said.

Tight deadline for program

For their part, transit police say they are still in the early stages and have not yet had time to consult with the Muslim community, but plans are in the works.

“We are at the very, very beginning stages of the project,” said Beattie. “We had some very good feedback from BC Civil Liberties [Association] that we may wish to speak to the Muslim community. That hasn’t happened yet. We are just in the process of rolling it out.”

The transit police are hoping to have two dog patrols working in time for the Olympics in February, but Beattie admits the deadline is tight.

There are a number of police officers on the force that are already trained as dog handlers and if they can get pre-trained dogs, they could be on the job within two months.

The move to bring in the specialized dogs is part of the normal expansion of the scope of the 170-member force and not a response to any specific security threats, he said.

“This is part and parcel … [of] the growth of our police service,” said Beattie.

The dogs will only be trained to sniff out explosives, not drugs, he also said.

“Our whole purpose is the safety and security of the transit system,” said Beattie. “They are not dual trained for the detection of narcotics.”

It is important that there is no confusion for the handler when a dog has detected something.

“It would be tough if the dog gave an indication for a package, and you did not know what you are dealing with,” said Beattie.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi Joke: In Panama, Without ‘Repubblica’ Or Prosecutors

(AGI) — Milan, 2 Dec. — “I’m in a hurry, because I have to go home, and pack my luggage to move to Panama”. Silvio Berlusconi opened his speech at the Italy-Latin America conference with a joke. The prime minister spoke after the president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, and added: “Of course, I will miss papers la Repubblica, l’Unita’ and the public prosecutors, but I will try to survive anyways. So, dear Ricardo, prepare my welcome”.

Berlusconi, always ironic, stated that he is sure that he will find many attractions and added that “the, in private, ready those which I really have at heart”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Clooney in ‘Heaven’ Ad Row

Lavazza to appeal to watchdog over Nespresso spot

(ANSA) — Turin, December 10 — George Clooney is at the centre of a coffee advertising row in Italy over a new campaign where he visits heaven.

Italian firm Lavazza, which has been running award-winning heaven-set commercials for 15 years, is threatening to report Nespresso, the Swiss-based firm whose coffeemakers have been popularised by the Hollywood star.

In the new ad, Clooney is hit by a piano and goes to heaven only to be sent back to earth after John Malkovich, as God, takes a shine to the Nespresso machine Clooney is carrying.

One scene with the two stars sitting on a sofa amid swirling white smoke appears to echo the Lavazza ads fronted by Italian TV personality Paolo Bonolis.

“It’s weird, I’ve never seen anything like it in my 40 years in the industry,” Lavazza CEO Gaetano Mele said Thursday.

“It’s hard to believe they haven’t copied us. It’s all the same, the setting is identical and the idea of coffee in Paradise”.

Mele said he was confident Nespresso would realise its “mistake” and pull the ad but if it didn’t Lavazza would appeal to Italy’s advertising watchdog.

“Let’s hope it won’t get that far,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Justice Minister Claims Mafia ‘On Its Knees’

Rome, 9 Dec. (AKI) — The conservative Italian government has brought the mafia “to its knees,” Italy’s justice minister Angelino said on Wednesday, urging prosecutors to work even harder to defeat it. His comments followed the arrest last Saturday of the Sicilian mafia’s alleged second-in-command, Giovanni Nicchi and and another top mafia boss, Gaetano Fidanzati.

“The mafia is now on its knees, its historic leaders are all in high-security prisons, its rising stars have already fizzled out. Now we want to deal the killing blow and free ourselves from the mafia as soon as possible,” Alfano told journalists in the the Italian capital, Rome.

“Thanks to the anti-mafia laws passed under this government, we are living in one of the most glorious seasons since the Italian state’s open fight against the mafia began,” he said.

Alfano was presenting the results of the government’s anti-mafia activities at the Italian Senate or upper house of parliament together with interior minister Roberto Maroni.

Nicchi’s arrest last Saturday made world headlines. Hooded members of the Palermo police department’s elite squad were seen leading a handcuffed Nicchi away from an apartment building close to Palermo’s law courts amid cheering crowds.

But Alfano urged anti-mafia magistrates to work harder.

“Do more work — organised crime can be beaten without basking in coverage from all the national TV networks,” he said. “That’s the way to arrest more fugitives.”

In the government’s first 18 months in office, it has seen 21 out of the 30 most dangerous mafia fugitives arrested, twice as many as during the centre-left government, Maroni told journalists.

A total 299 mafia fugitives have been arrested — 83 percent more than during the previous government, Maroni said.

Suspected mafia assets worth 6.2 billion euros were seized and 1.8 billion euros of mafia assets were expropriated — a 328 percent increase compared with the previous government, Maroni noted.

Fidanzati on Wednesday appeared in court in Palermo but availed himself of the right to silence. He was arrested in the northern city of Milan last Saturday.

Also on Wednesday, Palermo public prosecutors confirmed the arrests of Alessandro Presiti, 19, and Giusy Amato, 27, who are both suspected of aiding and abetting Nicchi. Both were arrested with Nicchi at his Palermo hideout last Saturday.

Nicchi is due to appear before prosecutors on Friday at Palermo’s appeals court where hearings are taking place in one of two trials in which he was sentenced in absentia to a total 18 years in jail for extortion and mafia links.

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


Italy: Premier Says Judiciary ‘Political’

President voices concern over Berlusconi’s attack

(ANSA) — Rome, December 10 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi used a foreign forum on Thursday to renew his attacks against Italian magistrates, saying they have turned into a political force which has taken over parliamentary sovereignty.

Addressing the European People’s Party convention in Bonn, the premier said the country’s judiciary, including the Constitutional Court, has become a political party which rejects legislation approved by Parliament.

“A strange thing is happening in Italy which we’ll have to deal with: according to the Constitution, sovereignty belongs to the voters and Parliament approves laws. But if the ‘leftist magistrates’ party’ doesn’t like these laws, it asks the 15 members of the Constitutional Court — 11 of whom are leftists — to abrogate them”.

The premier told the assembly, which included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that his People of Freedom (PdL) party “was working to remedy the situation through a Constitutional reform”.

He particularly singled out the Constitutional Court, saying that it had turned “into a political organ”, attributing the trend to the appointments made by the last three Italian presidents, whom he claimed were all “leftists’.

“Consequently, sovereignty in Italy no longer belongs to Parliament but to the magistrates’ party,” said the premier who has stepped up his attacks since the Constitutional Court in October struck down a controversial immunity law which shielded him from several trials while in office.

The court argued that the Berlusconi government should have used a special Constitutional law to give the premier immunity.

The so-called Alfano law, despite being modified compared to a previous version quashed in 2004, was also overturned because it denied the fundamental principle that everyone is equal before the law, the court said.

“After the Alfano law was struck down…the prosecutors resumed their manhunt,” said the premier, referring to two trials which have resumed in Milan.

Berlusconi is charged by prosecutors with bribing English lawyer David Mills — sentenced to four and a half years — to perjure himself in two other trials and for tax fraud in the sale of film rights by his TV group Mediaset. The premier said that “despite the hundreds of proceedings and thousands of hearings” which ensured him a “world record” for involvement in trials he had always been cleared.

Berlusconi, who has been in power for almost eight of the last 15 years, has been convicted in several corruption cases relating to his business empire but the sentences have always been overturned on appeal or annulled by a new shortened statute of limitations.

He has always denied wrongdoing, insisting he is the victim of a politically motivated judiciary.

“Fortunately, only a portion of judges side with the left and judges sitting in second and third appeal trials (in Italy’s three-tiered judicial system) are fair, similar to those in other countries,” said the premier, accusing the centre left opposition of trying to “get him” through the judiciary.

“Allow me to talk about my country for a moment: Italy is the third ranking economy in Europe, the government has a solid and united majority, a hard-working government and a super premier …someone who had a 60% popularity rating after solving the Naples garbage problem and a 68% popularity rating after (dealing with) the quake in L’Aquila”.

Referring to a spate of scandals over his private life, Berlusconi said the centre-left opposition had whipped these up in a bid to dent his appeal.

“Instead, these attempts have further strengthened me because people say to themselves: mamma mia, who else would be as strong and tough as he is, who else would have Berlusconi’s balls?” Reactions in Italy against the speech were strong and immediate, with President Giorgio Napolitano voicing concern about “the violent attack against the institutions”.

A statement released by Napolitano said the president was “deeply saddened and worried” over Berlusconi’s speech, and called for “a spirit of cooperation” among political parties and the judiciary. House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, who though one of the founders of the PdL has distanced himself from Berlusconi with his recent liberal-minded stances, also took issue with the speech.

Fini told reporters in Rome he did not “share” the premier’s statements and urged him “not to generate confusion about what is taking place in Italy and the government’s real intentions” while abroad.

Berlusconi’s reply to both was immediate and brief: “I’m fed up by the hypocrisy, I’ve got nothing to clear up”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Police Find More Art Hidden by Tanzi

Most works were in ex-Parmalat chief’s basement

(ANSA) — Parma, December 11 — Police on Friday said they had found another 16 works of art believed to belong to disgraced Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi which were allegedly hidden from creditors of the dairy multinational.

Last week police seized 19 paintings and drawings, including works by Van Gogh and Monet, which Tanzi is believed to have stashed with friends and relatives just before Parmalat collapsed at the end of 2003 in Europe’s biggest case of corporate fraud.

“The success of last week’s operation and reports that many other works were in circulation broke down a wall of silence and a flood of information came in on where the art could be,” Parma prosecutor Gerardo Laguardia said in a press conference on Friday.

“Anyone who has any information or is in possession of similar Tanzi assets should come forward before we find about them,” he added.

Friday’s discovery included paintings by such artists as Bocconi, Segantini, Kandinsky and Chagall.

Police began looking for the hidden art work, said to be worth over 100 million euros, after an investigative TV news program on national broadcaster RAI reported on November 29 that it had discovered that negotiations were in the final stages for the sale of Tanzi’s trove of art to an anonymous buyer, believed to be a Russian billionaire.

The former Parmalat boss immediately denied any knowledge of the collection, some of which was found in the home of his son-in-law Stefano Strini, but has since refused to make any statements.

Strini is said to be under investigation for attempting to arrange the illegal sale, which also included paintings by Picasso, Manet, Gauguin and Ligabue and drawings by Degas, Grosz and Modigliani. Twelve of the 16 works found on Friday were hidden in the basement of Tanzi’s villa just outside Parma, while the others were in the possession of people close to the disgraced Parmalat founder.

Tanzi is currently appealing a 10-year sentence handed down a year ago by a court in Milan for market rigging, while a second trial continues here where he stands accused of fraudulent bankruptcy, accounting fraud, issuing false financial statements and criminal conspiracy. Parmalat was declared bankrupt in December 2003 after it emerged that four billion euros it supposedly held in an offshore Bank of America account did not in fact exist.

The case escalated, eventually leading to Parmalat’s collapse amid debts of some 14.5 billion euros and a fraud scandal which rocked the Italian financial world.

Parmalat has since been put back on its feet by corporate turnaround expert Enrico Bondi who, first as government-appointed administrator and later as official CEO, shed the group’s non-core activities, cut foreign activities and reduced staff.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Hotel Pursues Gaddafi’s Son Over Unpaid Hotel Bill

Genoa, 11 Dec. (AKI) — A hotel in the northern Italian port city of Genoa is taking legal action against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s footballer son Al-Saadi, for leaving an upaid bill of 300,000 euros.

Italian media reports said the hotel has asked a local court to order Al-Saadi to settle his bill, which he allegedly ran up during a month-long stay at the hotel’s luxury suite in 2007.

Al-Saadi, 35, is currently a striker for Genoa’s Sampdoria and is the first Libyan footballer to play in Italy’s Serie A.

He joined Sampdoria during season 2006-2007, without playing a single match.

He joined UEFA Champions League qualifiers Udinese Calcio in 2005-2006, playing only ten minutes in an end of season league match against Cagliari Calcio.

He signed for then-Italian Serie A team Perugia in 2003, playing only one match before failing a drug test.

Al-Saadi was formerly on the board of the Italian team Juventus, in which a Libyan consortium has a 7.5 percent share but he stepped down to join Perugia.

He was also captain of the Libyan national football team, captain of his home club in Tripoli, and president of the Libyan Football Federation.

Al-Saadi is a businessman and is married to the daughter of a military commander.

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


Italy: O.J.-Like Evidence Convicts Noxious Knox

“Some time during the night,” by the Times of London’s telling, “the couple had returned to the cottage and faked a burglary in the room of another housemate. But as the police picked through the broken glass they were told that nothing had been stolen. They would have left it at that had not the housemate asked insistently why the door to Kercher’s room was locked shut. Eventually, it was knocked down. Kercher lay virtually naked on the floor, her two cotton tops rolled up above her chest. Oddly, her body was partly covered by a beige quilt” [the telltale signature of a female perpetrator, as a behavioral analyst would subsequently explain].

Knox, Sollecito and Rudy Guede, a local drifter born in the Ivory Coast and known to Knox, were convicted of the murder and sexual assault of Kercher.

CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, the New York Times, Vanity Fair and on and on — all have united in advocating for Amanda, “An Innocent Abroad.”

Going against the grain of American-style boosterism, Barbie Nadeau of Newsweek stuck with “journalism” to detail the ample evidence against the pair, downplayed or downright suppressed in the American media.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Norway: American Protest Against Obama

OSLO, NORWAY — Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan called President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech appalling, while demonstrating against his new war strategy for Afghanistan from the streets of Oslo, Norway today.

“I was appalled by the speech of Obama and the speech of the chairman of the Nobel Peace Committee because the speeches were telling us that the only way to peace is through war, and we have to reject that,” Sheehan said to NRK.

Sheehan traveled to Oslo, the city of President Obama’s acceptance speech, to take part in a Peace Coalition rally against “the Nobel Peace Prize Committee that gave the award to somebody who actually is escalating the violence in the Middle East.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Pope ‘Shock’ At Irish Sex Abuse

‘Effective strategies’ for future, Benedict tells bishops

(ANSA) — Vatican City, December 11 — Pope Benedict XVI on Friday vowed to get to the bottom of the latest child sex abuse scandal to hit the Irish Catholic Church and make sure abuse can never happen again.

Speaking out for the first time in the wake of November’s Murphy Report, the pope said he was “shocked and anguished” by the cover-up of decades of abuse in Dublin.

The Church will assess this “grave issue” with “the utmost attention” to try to establish how “these disgraceful events” occurred, a Vatican statement said after Benedict met with Irish bishops.

Benedict, the statement said, “desires once more to express his deep regret for the actions committed by some members of the clergy who betrayed their solemn promises to God as well as the trust placed in them by the victims, their families, and society in general”.

“The Holy Father shares the sense of outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland and joins them in prayer at this difficult time for the life of the Church”.

The pope asked Catholics in Ireland and around the world to pray for all those affected by these “hateful crimes”.

He vowed “to find the best way to develop effective and sure strategies to prevent (such events) recurring”.

The pope discussed the Murphy Report with Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Church, and the archbishop of Dublin, Msgr Diarmuid Martin.

The papal nuncio (ambassador) in Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, and the heads of the relevant departments of the Roman Curia were also present, the Vatican statement confirmed.

There was no immediate indication that any bishops might be asked to tender their resignations, as the Irish media has speculated over the past week.

But the Vatican statement noted that one of the crucial aspects of the report was the role played by the leaders of the Irish church, “who bear the ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children”.

The Murphy report, released November 26, found that four former archbishops of Dublin — three now dead and one retired — failed to report child sex abuse to the police from the 1960 to the 1980s.

It listed 320 people who complained of abuse between 1974 and 2004 and said a further 130 complaints against priests in Dublin had been made since May 2004.

The archdiocese only started notifying civil authorities in 1995, it found.

In the wake of the report, the head of the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse group urged Benedict to go to Ireland and apologise for his clergy’s behaviour.

The Murphy report is the second of two detailing abuse this year. In May the Ryan report published records of 70 years of abuse at orphanages and industrial schools run by Catholic religious orders across Ireland.

In June Benedict asked Irish bishops to make every effort to “establish the truth” and ensure “justice for everyone”.

He also stressed that measures put in place to prevent abuse from happening again must be “fully applied” and all efforts made to help “bring healing to the survivors of abuse”.

Ireland, a nation that once looked to the Church for leadership, has seen increasing numbers turn from it.

Calls for criminal cases against priests have been made by the country’s top politicians including President Mary McAleese.

YEARS OF SCANDAL IN FOUR COUNTRIES.

Since the mid-1990s the Catholic Church has been hit by child abuse scandals in the United States, Australia and Canada as well as Ireland.

The Church says some 80% of the estimated 5,000 priests involved acted in the US, where huge settlements have been made to victims.

In April 2008 Pope Benedict made a six-day tour of the US, visiting Washington and New York but not Boston, the epicentre of America’s clergy sex abuse scandal.

However, he met and prayed with six Boston victims in Washington, saying “no words” could convey his shock and regret about the abuse.

During the visit, victims’ groups reiterated their criticism of the Church’s treatment of former Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law who resigned in December 2002 when unsealed court records revealed he had moved paedophile priests among church assignments without notifying parishioners.

After his resignation, he was transferred to Rome where he now holds several authoritative posts including archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

The abuse scandal led to the bankruptcy of several US dioceses including Washington, Arizona and California.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spread of Islam Feared by 3 Out of 4 Germans

Nearly three quarters of Germans fear the spread of Islam, according to a survey released on Friday.

A poll by Infratest dimap for public broadcaster ARD showed a third of those asked expressed great concern that Islam was growing too quickly in Germany. Thirty-nine percent were still worried about Islam’s impact on society, but to a lesser degree. Only 22 percent said they had no problem with the religion.

A separate survey for daily Berliner Morgenpost and broadcaster RBB showed, however, that a majority in the German capital did not support banning the construction of mosques with minarets as Switzerland did following a recent referendum on the issue.

Fifty-three percent of those Berliners surveyed rejected slapping such restrictions on Muslim houses of worship, whereas 40 percent supported such a move. Seven percent had no opinion on the matter.

Both surveys polled 1,000 people each.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Switzerland: Muslim Preacher Banned From Public Rally

The authorities have barred a controversial Islamic preacher from Germany from attending a planned demonstration in Bern on Saturday.

Pierre Vogel is not allowed to travel to Switzerland because his presence is considered a danger for public law and order, according to the Federal Migration Office.

He wanted to encourage Muslims in Switzerland to come out of their social isolation and help reduce mistrust, he told Swiss newspapers.

The demonstration by a group, the Central Council of Muslims, comes in the wake of a nationwide vote to ban the construction of minarets.

The main Muslim organisations in Switzerland have not been invited to the public protest.

Muslims make up about 4.5 per cent of the Swiss population. Most of them are moderate Sunnis, notably immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey.

A previous demonstration in Bern in 2006 was attended by about 1,000 people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Nursery School Children Should be Monitored for Signs of Islamic Extremist Brainwashing, Say Police

Children as young as four should be monitored for signs of brainwashing by Islamic extremists, a leaked police memo states.

In an email to community group leaders, an officer in the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit wrote: ‘I do hope that you will tell me about persons, of whatever age, you think may have been radicalised or be vulnerable to radicalisation.

‘Evidence suggests that radicalisation can take place from the age of four.’

The email was written by a police sergeant trying to allay Muslim community concerns.

It was leaked to The Times.

However, the policy was last night condemned by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said the policy runs the risk of ‘alienating even more people’, while Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said it was an ‘absurd waste of money’.

There have been concerns about the radicalisation of children in the West Midlands since a terrorist was caught on a surveillance tape indoctrinating his five-year-old son.

Parviz Khan was jailed for plotting to kidnap and behead a British soldier in 2008. He was recorded threatening to beat his own son if he did not swear allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and encouraged him to ‘kill’ America, George W Bush and Tony Blair.

Instead of easing concerns in the Muslim community, the email has instead inflamed tensions.

The sergeant wrote: ‘I am a police officer and therefore it will always be part of my role to gather intelligence and I will report back any information or intelligence which may suggest someone is a terrorist, or is planning to be one or to support others.

‘However, my role is to raise the level of awareness of the threat of terrorism and radicalisation and support and work with partners to try to prevent it.’

The sergeant’s West Midlands police unit last night confirmed that counter-terrorist officers specially trained in identifying children and young people vulnerable to radicalisation had visited nursery schools.

Sir Norman Bettison, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on the anti-terror strategy Prevent, said the email was a ‘clumsy’ attempt by the officer to explain the strategy.

Chief Constable Sir Norman said: ‘There is absolutely no example, nationally, of the police engaging with nursery-age kids specifically on this issue.

‘That is the age for learning about stranger-danger and the Tufty Club.’

But he added that the policy ‘is no different to addressing the harm of drugs or sexual exploitation’.

‘Prevent is a way of addressing those most vulnerable in an attempt to protect them,’ he said.

‘It is easy to give Prevent initiatives a kicking because it is viewed as intrusive but, the next time there is a terrorist outrage involving young people who have been radicalised, there will be a wringing of hands and people will say, “What more could we have done?”‘

Arun Kundnani, of the Institute of Race Relations, contacted the officer who sent the email and asked for an explanation as to why counter-terrorism officers had visited nursery schools.

Mr Kundnani said: ‘He did seem to think it was standard. He said it wasn’t just him or his unit that was doing it.

‘He said the indicators were that [children] might draw pictures of bombs and say things like “all Christians are bad” or that they believe in an Islamic state.

‘It seems that nursery teachers in the West Midlands area are being asked to look out for radicalisation.

‘He also said that targeting young children was important because they would be left aware of what was inappropriate to say at school.’

The West Midlands counter-terrorism unit confirmed that an officer had visited a nursery school attached to a primary school and had spoken to staff.

A spokesman said: ‘We have been trying to bring counter-terrorism work out of the shadows. It can cause consternation at first when a policeman introduces himself as a counter-terrorism officer.

‘But we are actually trying to get over the accusation that Prevent is about spying by being more open and we are reaping the benefits now with better engagement.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Terror Police to Monitor Nurseries for Islamic Radicalisation

Nursery-age children should be monitored for signs of brainwashing by Islamist extremists, according to a leaked police memo obtained by The Times.

In an e-mail to community groups, an officer in the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit wrote: “I do hope that you will tell me about persons, of whatever age, you think may have been radicalised or be vulnerable to radicalisation … Evidence suggests that radicalisation can take place from the age of 4.”

The police unit confirmed that counter-terrorist officers specially trained in identifying children and young people vulnerable to radicalisation had visited nursery schools.

The policy was condemned last night. Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that it ran the risk of “alienating even more people”. Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said that it was an “absurd waste of police time”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Silencing Bosnia’s Minarets

Just a week after Switzerland’s much talked about referendum that will effectively ban further construction of minarets in this ostensibly tolerant country, the xenophobic move seems to have reverberated in all corners of Europe.

In the eastern Bosnian town of Bjeljina, one of the many Bosnian towns where Serb troops and paramilitaries slaughtered and raped Bosnian men and women during the 1992-1995 Serbian onslaught against the independent Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one of the many town whose Muslim population has been successfully “ethnically cleansed,” a new move following a citizens’ petition demonstrates that Switzerland’s referendum has more far-reaching implications than seemed obvious.

The petition, signed by 1,200 Serb residents of Bjeljina, calls for the reduction of the volume of the ezan (call to prayer) as it apparently creates a disruptive “noise” for the local Serb population. Yet the same move, claiming to be in conformity with a 1989 law on the acceptable levels of noise pollution in urban settings, did not take into consideration the ringing of church bells in the same city. The reason for it being that, simply said, it doesn’t seem to bother the town’s (Serb) population.

This move, which will most probably go unnoticed in most parts of the world, shows that the Swiss referendum and growing Islamophobia in Europe will have more serious consequences for Europe’s autochthonous Muslims than for the largely North African, Turkish and South Asian Muslim immigrants of Western Europe.

Firstly, it shows that an increasingly Islamophobic Europe will encourage Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia’s autonomous entity known as Republika Srpska to increase their pressure on the little that remains of its largely annihilated Muslim population, thereby leaving behind an ethnically pure Serb entity.

Secondly, growing Islamophobia in the aftermath of Sept. 11 has enabled and will continue to enable the Serbs to retroactively portray their onslaught against Bosnian Muslims as an almost “war on terror” and thus to justify their genocide of Bosnian Muslims by putting forward claims that they were fighting Islamist extremists.

Thirdly, in the wake of an ever more unstable Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Bosnia’s Republika Srpska led by Milorad Dodik continues to block state reforms, EU and NATO accession talks and which more often than not inflames the political scene by threatening to secede, an ever more Islamophobic Europe and their representatives in Bosnia might grow increasingly sympathetic towards Bosnian Serbs and at worst give them the green light to secede, while at best be indifferent to their secession.

Thus, all of Europe’s Muslims will nevertheless be affected by the growing intolerance towards Islam, but put in comparison, Western European Muslims — while remaining eternally Europe’s “other” — will still continue to have access to functioning institutions for safeguarding their rights and will not face direct threats to their lives and property.

As for Bosnian Muslims, especially the returnees in Republika Srpska, who have been terrorized and some even killed for daring to return to their pre-war homes, their lives will continue to be in jeopardy, their basic rights will continue to be violated and they will continue to face pressure to leave.

So as shocking as the Swiss banning of minarets may be, what’s more shocking is that the Serbs, who committed the first genocide in Europe since the Holocaust and who were treated as pariahs during the early ‘90s, have just discovered that the Europe that once criticized them for their killings and persecution of Bosnian Muslims is turning out to have more and more in common with them. And that’s not good news.

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

Mediterranean Union

France: Museum of European and Med Civilizations Set Up

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 9 — After ten years of stalemate, it took Marseilles being designated as the 2013 European Capital of Culture in order for the Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean in Marseilles to finally take off. Commissioned by the French president at the time, Francois Mitterand, it was his nephew, Federic, the current minister for Culture, who laid the foundation stone of the new institution on which two appeals by the residents of the quarter of Fort Saint-Jean — the area where it is to be built — are hanging. The residents are opposed to the project, the budget of which has doubled in ten years. Today the budget stands at 175 million euros, financed 60% by the State and the culture relaunch plan, and 40% by local collectives (city council of Marseilles, the region and the Bouches-du-Rhone general council). In 2008, six months after launching the Mediterranean Union with great pomp in Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy finally gave the go ahead to the museum, describing it as a symbol of France’s willingness to get closer to the Mediterranean peoples, and of the Union between the two shores. The appointment of Marseilles as the 2013 European Capital of Culture, of which the Museum represented one of the fundamental chapters in the application, was the trigger, and the funds from the State seem to have been unfrozen and the Museum should open its doors for 2013 after 30 months of works. A real race against time for the architect Rudy Ricciotti who, with Roland Carta, has designed the square futuristic building, surrounded by a net which filters the sun, with an accessible terrace on the roof that looks onto the fort, the sea and the port. Ricciotti has planned the Centre for the conservation of the collections, in the quarter of Belle-de-Mai. Collections from the former museum of popular arts and traditions of Marseilles, which was closed in 2005, will find a home in the museum. These comprise over 350,000 objects and 450,000 photographs, films and recordings from European and Mediterranean cultures. But in reality, there is still no clarity on the content of the new museum in a city with a very strong representation of immigrants from the Maghreb and the minister for Culture hopes that it will have a more Mediterranean and less European form. This museum, he said during the ceremony, must be a true home to a fully reconciled Mediterranean, with large space given over to the social realities of the Mediterranean without any elitism. It will be a museum of culture of everyone, and new cultures from the street such as hip hop will also find a place. The museum, the first decentralised national museum, will be inaugurated by two exhibitions, ‘The black and the blue, the Mediterranean dream, and Female’ — ‘Male, gender in question’. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Blocks Muslim Brotherhood Hospital for the Poor

Egypt is knocking down a new hospital built by the Muslim Brotherhood to serve poor residents of Cairo because officials claim it “violates building regulations”.

Government opponents say the decision to tear down the hospital, which the Brotherhood says has cost about 40 million Egyptian pounds ($7.30 million) so far, is politically motivated.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Egypt: ‘Missing’ Editor Abducted

From Dutch: Pim Faber, an editor for the Dutch program ‘missing’, came ot Egypt to do a show on children who’ve been abducted by their fathers. When he tried approaching one father, he was abducted by the family and threatened. They wanted to exchange Faber for the mother, but she escaped the village. He was later freed by the police (who interrogated him for several hours).

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Egypt Says it Will Not Abolish Death Penalty

Egypt said on Thursday that it will not abolish the death penalty because it is a deterrent, even though human rights groups say that fair trials are not guaranteed.

“Egypt will not abolish the death penalty. It is a deterrent especially in murder crimes,” state minister for legal and parliamentary affairs Mufid Shehab told a human rights session in parliament.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Morocco: Haidar, Minister Says Must Apologise

(ANSA) — RABAT, DECEMBER 10 — Saharawi militant Aminatou Haidar, who has been on a hunger strike for 25 days in Lanzarote (Spain), must acknowledge her mistake and apologise for having offended the symbols of the Nation. The statement was made today in Rabat by Morocco’s minister of Communication Khalid Naciri during a press conference which followed the cabinet meeting. In recent days exponents of the Moroccan government stated that the woman would have been allowed to return only after apologising to the king. The minister accused Aminatou Haidar of having given up her nationality and of having returned her passport to Moroccan authorities. The minister mentioned Algeria which openly supports the Polisario front in its battle for independence from Morocco. According to the minister, the international community must not forget that Algiers prevents tens of thousands of Moroccans “locked up in camps in Tindouf” (southern Algeria) from “reaching their country”. The minister added that the whole world must report the suffering of people segregated in Tindouf where human rights are violated on a systematic and daily basis. A Spanish colony up to 1975, the western Sahara is considered by Morocco as part of its national territory and Rabat stated that it is ready to allow a marked form of independence to the Saharawi population. On the contrary, the Polisario front, which is supported by Algeria, is asking for a referendum which also includes the idea of independence. Since 2007 four rounds of negotiations held under the aegis of the UN in Manhasset, close to New York, led to nothing with the two sides deadlocked in their respective positions. Nor was any progress achieved during the informal meeting in Austria last August which had been set up by UN envoy Christopher Ross. Some 160,000 people live in the refugee camps in Tindouf, and a UN mission counting some 500 people including soldiers and civilians has been on location since 1991, the year of the ceasefire which to date has been observed by both sides. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

10 Mln Contribution From Italy for PNA, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH — “Italy is ready to contribute additionally to the PNA budget”, as part of the European Pegase aid project”, said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during a press conference in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The new Italian contribution, according to diplomatic sources, is 10 million euros, added to the 220 million given over the last decade (80 million just in the 2008-2010 three year period), of which 273 have already been spent or earmarked. The foreign minister explained that the contribution are need to support economic growth in the territories and strengthen security conditions and praised the “efforts and results reached” in this sense by Fayyad and PNA president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Europe, concluded Frattini, “has confidence and believes” in the Palestinian government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Knesset: Poll on Golan Withdrawal

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, DECEMBER 9 — The Israeli parliament, the Knesset is to vote on the first reading today of a bill introducing the necessity to call a referendum if a future government should decide to withdraw from the Golan Heights within the framework of a peace accord with Syria. According to the draft, the referendum would not, however, be necessary if such an accord were to get a two-thirds majority in Parliament: that is 80 MPs out of 120. The bill refers to any possible withdrawal from zones “over which Israeli law has been extended”: including therefore, beyond Golan also east Jerusalem, but not the West Bank. Speaking on forces radio, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman today explained that the debate in the Knesset has no connection to any particular diplomatic developments between Israel and Syria. In his opinion, the statements made by Syrian president Bashar Assad in favour of re-starting indirect talks with Israel “are no more than rhetoric”. It would appear that the Likud will approve the bill, with the Labour party abstaining from the vote.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


PNA: EU Commits to Helping Improve Justice for Juveniles

(ANSAmed) — BRUXELLES, 3 DIC — The European Commission and EUPOL COPPS have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Palestinian ministry of Social affairs to pave the way for the implementation of a project consisting in the elaboration of a technical assessment report on juvenile justice, followed by a national Plan for juvenile justice. According to the Enpi site (www.enpi-info.eu) — the technical assessment report on juvenile justice, funded by the European Union, aims to identify the gaps in all Palestinian Authority institutions that deal with juveniles and the law, including training and equipment needs. The Ministry of Social Affairs will invite in the near future all relevant institutions, ngos and governmental bodies to participate in the elaboration of a national plan for juvenile justice. Based on the assessment and the national Plan, future projects will be designed to improve compliance with national and international standards on the rights of the child. “Many young palestinians said Christoph Lukits, of EUPOL COPPS — come into contact with the police and justice institutions, either as victims, witnesses or perpetrators of a crime. There are many deficiencies in the current criminal justice system with respect to minors that need to be addressed.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


U.K. To Shun Israeli Settlement Products?

The British government advised all food chains in the UK to clearly mark any imported products made in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights, Ynet learned Thursday.

The decision prompted deep dissatisfaction at the Foreign Ministry, which characterized the step as “capitulation to Palestinian organizations.” However, British officials insist that the decision does not constitute a boycott against Israel

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Vatican-Israeli Press, Meeting in Stalemate

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 10 — A significant change is not expected in negotiations between the Holy See and Israel over the unresolved controversy regarding the legal ownership and the fiscal and financial regime of the holy places, say informed sources in Israel, quoted today by the website of newspaper Yediot Ahronot in Tel Aviv, after todays plenary meeting of the Holy See-Israel Permanent Bilateral Commission at the Vatican (which has been working for sixteen years on defining the fiscal regime and legal protection of institutions and property belonging to the Catholic Church in Israel). According to the sources, the stalemate is due to Israels refusal to give up control of what Christians believe to be the site of the Last Supper of Jesus in Jerusalem, whose ownership is claimed by the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


West Bank Wall: Protest Leader Arrested in Bilin

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, DECEMBER 10 — Israeli security forces today arrested one of the Palestinian leaders of the protests against the separation barrier between the West Bank and Israel. There are weekly protests in the villages of Bilin and Naalin, which have been cut in two by the wall. The news was reported by the MAAN agency, which specified that Abdullah Abu Rahma was arrested last night in his house close to Ramallah. Rahma has been the heart and soul of the Bilin people’s committee in the past months together with Iyad Burnat, who was also arrested recently. According to the Palestinian authorities, there was no reason to arrest the two, because the committee officially uses a strategy of “peaceful protests”. According to Israel, the two arrested leaders are responsible for the episodic clashes between security forces and protesters. Since June, Israel has arrested 31 Palestinians who had participated in protests against the wall. Sixteen of them, MAAN reports, are still being held.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Circassians Latest to Demand Rights in Turkey

The Circassians, a small section of Turkish citizens, have granted support to the government’s recent democratic initiative, saying that rights should be granted to all communities in Turkey without having to resort to violence or racism. They say the Constitution should be amended to better ensure individual rights and to remove any mention of ethnicity

Although the recent Kurdish initiative in Turkey is focused on Kurds’ rights, there are others who say they are in the game, too. Approximately 1,600 Circassians launched the “Circassian Initiative for Democracy” to voice the demands of Circassians living in Turkey.

“We came together to voice democratic rights for everyone in Turkey. These rights should not be dependant on any kind of ethnicity but on the grounds of citizenship,” said Yalçin Karadas, spokesperson of the initiative, at a press conference in Istanbul on Wednesday.

At the conference, Hulusi Üstün, another spokesperson, listed the Circassians’ requests, saying that first the Circassian language should be offered as an elective course in areas in Turkey with high Circassian populations. “The Circassian language has several dialects and some of these have already died from not being used by the young generation,” he said.

Üstün said the group’s second request was to have a center established to collect and research the Circassians’ cultural and historical assets that have been dispersed to different geographies.

He said the group’s official history had to be “repaired” and all the discourses that falsely accuse communities including Circassians should be removed from history textbooks and official history.

Members of the Circassian initiative complained that Circassians have been depicted in textbooks as a rebellious community, which has undermined their contribution to history and culture. “Circassians published the first magazine with the Latin alphabet and launched the first sports club in Turkey, but these are unknown truths,” said Karadas, who is also an architect.

Another request was for the Constitution to be amended with civil society and individual rights in mind and it should not have any mention of ethnic identities, said Karadas. “Any emphasis on ethnicity in the Constitution as well as in the democratic initiativewill harm the country and the communities living in it,” said Karadas.

Refraining from being associated with separatist groups or ideologies, the Circassian initiative members underlined the importance of calling for democracy through peaceful measures. “Among the Circassian community in Turkey, some might accuse us of being separatist. To the contrary, if this democratic initiative is stopped, then Turkey will deteriorate,” said Karadas.

The Circassian Initiative for Democracy was launched to voice all the people’s rights, not only Circassians, in a peaceful way by using dialog, said Karadas, adding that the initiative is focused on voicing demands through peaceful channels. “No one deserves to die for the right to education in their mother tongue,” said Karadas, recalling Serap Eser, 17, who recently killed in a bus by a Molotov cocktail thrown by alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. “We are not planning to go to the streets to voice our demands because the streets are open to provocation,” he said.

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


Iran: Men in Black Hijab

Iranian-style protest: Members of Iran’s reformist opposition came up with an original way to protest the arrest of their comrade — posting online photos of themselves and of Iran’s top leaders dressed up as women.

Following reports that student leader Majid Tavakoli was detained while he was dressed up as a woman, his friends posted online photos, mostly on Facebook, where they are seen dressed up as women as well.

Other activists went further and pasted the faces of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on a Tavakoli’s hijab-wearing figure.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Iranian Raelian May Strain Ankara’s Ties With Tehran

The future of Negar Azizmoradi, leader of the Raelian movement in Iran, is at the mercy of the Turkish government, which will decide whether to deport her or recognize her as an asylum seeker. Others deported in the past by Turkey to Iran were later executed

A diplomatic skirmish over an Iranian asylum seeker claiming religious persecution for her belief in unidentified flying objects has exposed potential fault lines in relations between Turkey and Iran with asylum seekers becoming bargaining chips.

The future of Negar Azizmoradi, leader of the Raelian movement in Iran, is at the mercy of the Turkish government, which will decide whether to deport the woman or recognize her as an asylum seeker. In the past, the two countries have been known to use refugees as bargaining chips as they traded for fugitives, and some of them who were deported to Iran were later executed.

“It is a very complicated situation because Turkey now has a very good relationship with the Iranian government. [Azizmoradi’s] fate depends on the Turkish situation. Everyone is watching the position of the Turkish government,” Hazhir Saeedi of the London-based International Organization of Iranian Refugees told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a telephone interview.

If the government decides to deport her to Iran, Azizmoradi, given her background, could face the death penalty for acting against the Islamic regime.

“I am sure that Turkish policymakers are now trying to calculate what the result will be if [she] is deported,” Saeedi said.

Opposition questions in Parliament

The Turkish opposition recently took the issue to Parliament when Republican People’s Party, or CHP, deputy Necla Arat asked Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a written inquiry to answer questions about the possibility of Azizmoradi being deported to avoid harming Turkish-Iranian ties.

“As is known, the right to life is the leading fundamental right and freedom. What initiative has been taken by the ministry to safeguard [Azizmoradi’s] right to life?” Arat asked.

Azizmoradi was arrested and placed in a detention center by Turkish police after being apprehended at an Istanbul airport attempting to leave the country on false documents.

Now released, she is required to apply to the Interior Ministry and the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, to start asylum proceedings.

Risk of execution

Saeedi said other Iranians deported by Turkish authorities have faced severe penalties upon arrival in Iran, with some even executed.

In the past, international human rights organizations have raised concerns with the Turkish government regarding cases in which individuals were returned to countries where they may have faced serious human rights violations.

In 2003, Turkey returned Hojjat Zamani to Iran where he was sentenced to death. Another Iranian Karim Tuzhali, who was deported by Turkey in 1998, was executed in Iran in January 2002 despite being recognized as a refugee by UNHCR, according to Amnesty International records.

Deportation versus extradition

Saeedi said the deportations came as a result of bargaining between Turkish and Iranian authorities, arguing that the Iranian government extradited members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to Turkey in return for Turkish officials deporting Iranians.

“The Turkish government is a signatory to many international conventions and we are urging Turkey and the UNHCR to stop [Azizmoradi’s] deportation,” he said.

Asked about the woman’s current situation, he said, “She is safe now and will be busy with starting her asylum process with the UNHCR and the Interior Ministry.”

Resettlement in a third country

UNHCR Turkey spokesman Metin Çorabatir declined to comment on the individual case on the principle of confidentiality when contacted by the Daily News.

He said his office, however, examines asylum claims and determines whether a person would qualify for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Turkey maintains a geographical limitation on its definition of refugees; meaning non-European refugees are only eligible for temporary status as asylum seekers.

Due to the temporary nature of asylum, the UNHCR typically resettles asylum seekers in third countries such as Canada or New Zealand.

Some 8,000 Iranians are estimated to be in Turkey. Many come for work but others also flee political or religious persecution.

Because of their libertarian attitude to sex and their belief that humans were created by extra-terrestrials, Raelians have regularly become targets of Iran’s religious authorities.

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


New Lebanon Cabinet Allows Hezbollah to Keep Arms

BEIRUT — The Lebanese parliament overwhelmingly approved a national unity government Thursday that will allow Hezbollah to keep its weapons, despite strong criticism from pro-Western lawmakers angry at the militant group’s refusal to disarm.

The vote in parliament was a further indication that Hezbollah will continue to defy a U.N. resolution calling for it to give up its weapons, which include rockets that can reach deep into Israel.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Report: Blackwater Guards Linked to CIA Raids

WASHINGTON — Private security guards working for Blackwater USA participated in clandestine CIA raids against suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Blackwater’s role points to a much deeper connection between the company and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed and raises concerns over the legalities of involving contractors in the most sensitive operations conducted by the U.S. government.

The “snatch and grab” raids took place regularly between 2004 and 2006, the Times reported, when the insurgency in Iraq was escalating and security throughout the country was deteriorating.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Syrian Women Are World’s Smartest and Respectable, Study

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 10 — “The Syrian women are the most intelligent and respectable among the world’s women,” said the state-run Syrian news agency SANA, quoting American and British studies. SANA quoted Professor Katie Bradford, head of a research team at the American Michigan University, as attributing the Syrian women’s superior intelligence to the “healthy food they consume, such as olive oil which nourishes the brains and walnuts which preserve blood circulation.” According to SANA, Bradford said that “among the most important factors that increased the level of intelligence and awareness of Syrian women is their studies at Syrian universities; the social openness and gender equality in Syria.” SANA also said that a study by the British Starch Center for international researches “concluded that Syrian women are the most respectable on world level.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey Prepares to Join EU in a Building Confiscated From the Orthodox

The new headquarters of the Secretariat for entry into the European Union is an old school of the minority Orthodox in Ortakoy, seized in ‘90. Embarrassment of Erdogan government and Europe.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — Unbelievable but true: the headquarters of the Secretariat for the entry of Turkey into the European Union is a building confiscated from the Orthodox Christian community in the 90s. The building is located in Istanbul, in the well-known area of Ortakoy, under the first bridge over the Bosphorus.

Before the seizure, the building was used as a primary school for children of the minority Orthodox in Ortakoy. Here, once lived a thriving Orthodox community, now non-existent because of past purges against minorities, executed by the “secular” Turkish State.

Thanks to the policy of purging, the building and many other schools, at one point found themselves without students, unused and then confiscated. The forfeiture rule however prevented foundations — owners of buildings — from allocating them to different uses. The community of Ortakoy appealed to the administrative courts in Istanbul, which have yet to rule on the issue. In case of a ruling to the contrary, the Orthodox intend to apply to the court in Strasbourg. The inauguration of the Secretariat took place in the presence of Prime Minister Erdogan, accompanied by Minister for European Affairs Bajis and by various authorities and European representation.

The event has aroused unease in diplomatic circles in Brussels, so much so that on the eve of the inauguration, a senior government official visited Patriarch Bartholomew I to let them know that the courts decision will be respected. The question also arises whether the current Turkish government aware of the building’s history.

Meanwhile in Brussels some discomfort is spreading towards politicians who are champions of Turkey’s entry into the EU. Ankara has not yet shown a convincing European orientation, it is believed that the “champions” are tied to the country by economic and financial interests.

One suggestion for resolving the issue comes from Lakis Vigas, representative of minorities in Turkey in the General Directorate of Foundations. Interviewed by the newspaper Milliyet on the case of Ortakoy, he says a possible solution would be if the Ortakoy foundation were granted the possibility to lease the building to the Turkish nation. This gesture would have a noble purpose: the entry of Turkey into the EU the “source of our hopes.”

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


Turkish Parliamentarian Submits Motion to Condemn Switzerland

A Turkish parliamentarian submitted a motion Thursday to the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, or APA, to condemn Switzerland for the minaret ban.

Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Malatya deputy Mehmet Sahin said he submitted the motion to a meeting of the APA in the Indonesian city of Bandung, and that the motion had been adopted by the 41-member assembly.

The decision was also supported by non-Muslim members of the APA, including China, Russia, Vietnam, South Korea and North Korea.

The APA harshly criticized Switzerland for banning minarets in the country during a Nov. 29 referendum.

Sahin said the country was violating human rights by restricting religious freedoms, adding that the assembly had made a very important decision on the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In adopting the motion to condemn Switzerland, the APA member states had demonstrated that the subject did not only concern Muslims but human rights in general, Sahin said.

“I hope the United Nations will consider this issue, as the referendum decision is against Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights,” Sahin said.

Founded in 2006, the APA is comprised by 40 member and 18 observer parliaments. Each member parliament has a specific number of seats at the assembly based on the size of its population.

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

South Asia

In Bangladesh: Climate Change is Not All Bad

The predictable rhythm of Bangladesh’s six seasons has been sliced in half; everybody says there are now only three in some places, two in others.

The effects can be seen a 45-minute flight and two-hour drive north of the capital Dhaka, where a shorter monsoon and longer dry season have affected the crops people in Sunamganj district are growing.

The stories do not follow the doom-and-gloom narrative of rising water levels and washed-out villages. Overall, they like how things have turned out; there has been a bit less rain over the decade and more time to grow crops.

“Maybe this is the positive aspect of climate change,” said Moniruzzaman, regional coordinator with Intercooperation, a non-governmental organisation funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The people have also been proactive, using traditional techniques to protect against rising waters, making floating vegetable gardens and using solar panels.

In the village of Jotindropur, programmes supported by the SDC are bringing variety to the dinner table and market stall.

Instead of growing only rice, people are growing different varieties of rice, vegetables and sweet potatoes. They are also improving the quality of their drinking water and looking at new ways to earn money.

Rainfall is still a problem. Villagers spend one-third of their roughly 20,000-Taka (SFr300) annual income raising the ground under their villages and reinforcing it with chyla grass. Further out, coross and hazel trees protect against storm surges.

Villagers say the work and the expenses are necessary.

Reducing risk

They are trying to reduce their exposure to future disasters. It is a central element of Switzerland’s development strategy in Bangladesh, says Urs Herren, Bern’s ambassador to Dhaka and the SDC’s Bangladesh director.

“With our programme, we are smack-on on important issues — agricultural diversification and access of rural people to markets, skills development, improved local service delivery — which will remain relevant for at least the next ten years if not more,” Herren told swissinfo.ch.

“ Maybe this is the positive aspect of climate change. “

Moniruzzaman, Intercooperation

The primary objective for the Swiss remains poverty reduction; many experts say that although climate change poses a challenge to people in developing countries, most face a host of more pressing problems.

In many cases, the effects of climate change exacerbate existing difficulties or exploit weaknesses. In Bangladesh, those weaknesses are geography and demography.

There are people everywhere, some in the northern hills, some living only a couple of metres above sea level, a stone’s throw from the water. Bangladesh has the highest rural population density in the world.

The director of one non-governmental organisation calls Bangladeshis “a nation of ants”. In nearly all places at any given time, cities, towns, country roads and paths teem with people coming and going, hustling and bustling on rickety buses, rickshaws, bicycles and on foot.

As villages expand, they push people out onto territory less suitable for growing food and more vulnerable to flooding. In Sunamganj, if they’re not on land, people are on, or in, the water.

After monsoon, boats of all sizes ply ribbons of rivers and canals and workers spend their days in waist-deep water, using buckets to scoop sand with into small wooden boats.

The cargo is transferred through a series of increasingly larger boats until it ends in the holds of rusty ships heading for brick factories around the country. Once the sand makes the factories, it bakes under dirty smokestacks.

Low carbon footprint

Bangladeshis are nevertheless responsible for some of the world’s lowest per capita carbon emissions. Chandergong, a village of 181 households, is hoping to keep it that way.

Some 21 families have each borrowed 1,200 Taka, around 45 Swiss francs, to put down deposits on rooftop solar panels and batteries. The renewable energy is cheaper, which allows them to make fish traps at night.

“Earlier, when they used diesel for lighting, the big household owner expended around 1,200 Taka per month,” says Ataur Rahman, a social development advisor with Intercooperation. “But now it’s 200 Taka.”

In another village, farmers are testing crops to see which will provide them with the best yields. A man is supplementing his income by vaccinating ducks against cholera. He vaccinates himself too.

In the village, they have funnelled runoff into a small pond and are raising catfish. They are trying to protect themselves against natural disasters but are unsure what the future will bring.

“It’s problematic to generalise,” says Herren of the perception that Bangladesh is just a waterlogged place. He says the incidence of drought can be equally problematic. Runoff from Himalayan glaciers and the saline content of groundwater in coastal belts pose threats too.

One of the problems confronting scientists and policymakers in Bangladesh is that although there are many stories about climate change, hard data are more difficult to come by.

Said Herren: “The message is basically that the effects of climate change will be complex, and different areas will be affected in different ways. And maybe some effects will balance each other out or mutually reinforce each other in ways we don’t fully know yet.”

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


Malaysian Islamic Scholars Urged to be Polygamists

AFP — The spiritual leader of Malaysia’s Islamic party has urged religious scholars to practice polygamy, saying they could rid the practice of its bad reputation, a report said Thursday.

Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, who leads the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) which is part of the opposition alliance, said that ulamas could be model polygamous husbands.

“Normally, when a man likes a beautiful woman, he will take her as his second wife,” he said according to the New Straits Times.

“But after they have children, he will divorce the woman. This is the bad image that I meant which should be cleaned up,” he said. “Ulama can play an important role in clearing this image.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Malaysia: Ulama Urged to Practise Polygamy

By Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah

KOTA BARU: In another remark that is set to spark controversy, Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said he encouraged ulama to practise polygamy because they are model polygamous husbands.

The 76-year-old Pas spiritual leader said they would set good examples on what a true polygamous marriage was all about in Islam.

This, he said, would also clear the misunderstanding among certain people about polygamous marriages.

“The image of polygamy as a way for men to make use of women should be cleaned up. Ulama can play an important role in clearing this image.

“In Kelantan, the people like polygamous marriages. Normally, when a man likes a beautiful woman, he will take her as his second wife,” Nik Aziz said after launching the 20th anniversary of ulama leadership in the state at the Kelantan Trade Centre here.

“But after they have children, he will divorce the woman. This is the bad image that I meant which should be cleaned up.”

Nik Aziz said ulama should practise polygamy as they could demonstrate to the community what real polygamous marriages entailed.

He said it was the ulama’s duty to correct misunderstanding and help create better understanding among Muslims.

“The clean image must be highlighted to the world, especially in the era of information and communication technology, so that Islamic practices can be emulated by all communities.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


New Delhi Back at the Centre of the International Nuclear Power Business

India reaches deal with Russia for the construction of nuclear power plants and possible cooperation in space and diamonds. “Reactor diplomacy” takes off, tying India to Russia, United States and France.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) — India is planning to be a serious “friend” of Russia. In the last six months, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to Moscow on three official visits. The last one on Monday saw the two countries sign an important agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The head of Russia’s atomic agency Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said that the deal would allow Russia to build a number of nuclear power plants in India.

The deal with Russia is the first (except that with the United States) after a long struggle by Washington and Delhi to exempt India from international rules on non-proliferation, which had prevented sales of nuclear fuel and technology to India. These rules had been adopted after India used nuclear technology sold for “peaceful purposes” to develop nuclear weapons.

Following India’s first nuclear test in 1974, a 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was set up (including Italy). Last year, the same group repealed the ban on Indian imports of nuclear technology.

After three years of discussions in Washington, Delhi and Vienna, in October 2008 the US Senate approved a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with India. This will allow Washington to supply New Delhi with technologies and fuel for 20 civilian nuclear plants. In exchange, India will guarantee trade with US firms worth US$ 70 billion.

Russia did not stand by the sidelines for long. At the moment, few details have emerged of the cooperation agreement signed on Monday, but under its terms, Rosatom will build four reactors for the nuclear plant in Kundankulam in Tamil Nadu, an established symbol of Indo-Russian cooperation (which should be operational at the start of next year). Work will start on a new plant in West Bengal where Rosatom is expected to build four to six more reactors over the next 10 to 15 years.

The agreement, which will be in place between 2011 and 2020, should generate tens of billions of dollars in business. In addition to nuclear energy, it includes the sale of Russian military hardware to India.

It is probable that the symbiotic relationship between the two countries will extend to other fields that interest New Delhi like space research, telecommunications, uncut diamonds and pharmaceuticals.

At present, nuclear power provides 3 per cent of India’s electricity. This should rise to 25 per cent in 2050.

Despite criticism from environmentalists and pacifists against what analysts call India’s ‘reactor diplomacy’, Singh has put India right in the middle of the international scene. The oil crisis has made nuclear power very appealing.

Now France, Russia’s real competitor for India’s nuclear power business, is waiting for its turn.

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


Pakistan: Fear of New Attacks Means “Silent” Christmas for Christians

Outdoor recitals, carols and decorations are cancelled. Liturgical services and Midnight Mass will go ahead as usual. Bishops talk about an “atmosphere of fear;” yet the faith of Christian believers is stronger than the violence. The commission of inquiry investigating last summer’s violence in Gojra calls on the government to change the blasphemy laws.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Pakistani Christians are preparing for a silent and low key Christmas without much public pomp and display. The community is still reeling from last summer’s attacks against the villages of Koriyan and Gojra. The army’s offensive against Islamic extremists and the latter’s wave of attacks are not helping either. Indeed, fear of more violence remains high.

Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, told AsiaNews that 2009 is going to end in a “silent Christmas” because the country’s situation is very bad.

In previous years, schools and parishes used to organise outdoor recitals, carols and other events associated with the festivities. This year, many people “have already cancelled events” and “outdoor decorations will not be put up on homes and buildings.”

“This year, the atmosphere and mood are not happy because people are fearful and upset by the country’s current situation,” the archbishop said. Still, liturgical functions and Midnight Mass will go ahead as in the past, and “the number of people will not be less because their faith is firm.”

Attacks against villages and extrajudicial killings carried out in the name of the blasphemy laws have fuelled fears and concerns in the Christian community. However, there are some small signs of hope for change.

A commission of inquiry chaired by a judge from the High Court in Lahore into events in Gojra, a village that was attacked last summer with homes set on fire and eight people killed, called on the government to take a number of steps, including bring changes to the blasphemy laws.

Adopted in 1986 under the rule of then Pakistan dictator Zia-ul-Haq, these laws impose life in prison or the death penalty on anyone who desecrates the Qur’an or defiles the name of Muhammad.

Christmas has already produced a small miracle by reviving Pakistan’s garment industry.

In an interview published on IslamOnline, Mohsin Mirza, president of the Pakistan Readymade Garments Association, said, “The industry was going down until we received Christmas orders this year.” Overall, “We have received 20 per cent more orders this year,” mostly from the United States and Europe, worth “US$ 1.5 billion in Christmas apparel”.

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


Pakistan: Fear of New Attacks Means “Silent” Christmas for Christians

Outdoor recitals, carols and decorations are cancelled. Liturgical services and Midnight Mass will go ahead as usual. Bishops talk about an “atmosphere of fear;” yet the faith of Christian believers is stronger than the violence. The commission of inquiry investigating last summer’s violence in Gojra calls on the government to change the blasphemy laws.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Pakistani Christians are preparing for a silent and low key Christmas without much public pomp and display. The community is still reeling from last summer’s attacks against the villages of Koriyan and Gojra. The army’s offensive against Islamic extremists and the latter’s wave of attacks are not helping either. Indeed, fear of more violence remains high.

Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, told AsiaNews that 2009 is going to end in a “silent Christmas” because the country’s situation is very bad.

In previous years, schools and parishes used to organise outdoor recitals, carols and other events associated with the festivities. This year, many people “have already cancelled events” and “outdoor decorations will not be put up on homes and buildings.”

“This year, the atmosphere and mood are not happy because people are fearful and upset by the country’s current situation,” the archbishop said. Still, liturgical functions and Midnight Mass will go ahead as in the past, and “the number of people will not be less because their faith is firm.”

Attacks against villages and extrajudicial killings carried out in the name of the blasphemy laws have fuelled fears and concerns in the Christian community. However, there are some small signs of hope for change.

A commission of inquiry chaired by a judge from the High Court in Lahore into events in Gojra, a village that was attacked last summer with homes set on fire and eight people killed, called on the government to take a number of steps, including bring changes to the blasphemy laws.

Adopted in 1986 under the rule of then Pakistan dictator Zia-ul-Haq, these laws impose life in prison or the death penalty on anyone who desecrates the Qur’an or defiles the name of Muhammad.

Christmas has already produced a small miracle by reviving Pakistan’s garment industry.

In an interview published on IslamOnline, Mohsin Mirza, president of the Pakistan Readymade Garments Association, said, “The industry was going down until we received Christmas orders this year.” Overall, “We have received 20 per cent more orders this year,” mostly from the United States and Europe, worth “US$ 1.5 billion in Christmas apparel”.

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

Far East

Beijing Tells World to Fight Climate Change Through One-Child Policy

The Chinese government proposes population controls as global weapon to fight climate change problems. The head of the Chinese delegation calls on the United States to make deeper cuts in carbon emissions. European leaders adopt a three-year € 6 billion plan to help developing countries. UN summit participants accept first draft proposal.

Copenhagen (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Population controls can save the environment and the international community should adopt China’s one-child policy with that objective in mind, Chinese government sources said. The head of China’s delegation to the UN Conference on Climate in Danish capital urged US President Barack Obama to cut greenhouse gases. European leaders pulled an all-nighter to reach a deal on helping developing countries fight global warming. The € 6 billion (US$ 9 billion) aid package would be spread over three years.

China defended its family planning policy as a way to reduce global warming. According to Beijing, its one-child and birth control policies, which include forced abortions and sterilisations on unwilling women, are part of its global strategy to fight climate problems and should be adopted by the international community.

In spite of the gross violation of human rights, the strategy has been a “great success” according to Chinese authorities. “I’m not saying that what we have done is 100 per cent right, but I’m sure we are going in the right direction,” said Zhao Baige, vice-minister of National Population and Family Planning Commission of China.

China’s top climate envoy Xie Zhenhua called on US President Barack Obama to increase a U.S. offer to cut greenhouse gases. He said China would discuss a 2050 emissions goal only if rich nations offered more cash and carbon cuts, adding that emissions cuts should be “at least 40 per cent” over 1990 levels by 2020.

A successful outcome for the summit largely depends on agreement between the United States and China, which together generate 40 per cent of global carbon emissions.

The Chinese delegate said that poor or developing countries must be guaranteed “sufficient, additional and sustainable” financial and technology.

In the meantime, the European Union said it was ready to allocate € 6 billion (US$ 8.8 billion) to developing countries to promote clean energy technologies.

Meeting in Brussels, the 27 assembled heads of state and government hammered out a deal, but doubts remain over the capacity of the Union’s eastern members to provide funds.

In a joint press conference, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged € 1.7 billion (US$ 2.5 billion) in fast start money.

In the morning, participants reached an agreement on a first official draft, which would set the ceiling for higher temperatures at 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. This would be the starting point for further negotiations in the coming days, which would include all world leaders.

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


Fast-Growing Christian Churches Crushed in China

LINFEN, China — Towering eight stories over wheat fields, the Golden Lamp Church was built to serve nearly 50,000 worshippers in the gritty heart of China’s coal country.

But that was before hundreds of police and hired thugs descended on the mega-church, smashing doors and windows, seizing Bibles and sending dozens of worshippers to hospitals with serious injuries, members and activists say

Today, the church’s co-pastors are in jail. The gates to the church complex in the northern province of Shanxi are locked and a police armored personnel vehicle sits outside.

The closure of what may be China’s first mega-church is the most visible sign that the communist government is determined to rein in the rapid spread of Christianity, with a crackdown in recent months that church leaders call the harshest in years.

Authorities describe the actions against churches as stemming from land disputes, but the congregations under attack are among the most successful in China’s growing “house church” movement, which rejects the state-controlled church in favor of liturgical independence and a more passionate, evangelical outlook.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


US Envoy Has ‘Very Useful’ Nuclear Talks in N Korea

Seoul: US envoy Stephen Bosworth ended a three-day visit to North Korea on Thursday, reportedly saying he had “very useful” contacts aimed at bringing the communist state back to nuclear disarmament talks. His trip was the first official contact between Washington and Pyongyang since Barack Obama took office in January, pledging direct diplomacy with America’s adversaries. “It’s a very useful meeting,” Xinhua news agency quoted Bosworth as saying at Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport before he returned to South Korea.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Italy: -70% Illegal Immigrants Rescued at Sea

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, DECEMBER 10 — This year the Italian coast guard rescued less than 10,000 illegal aliens, less than a third of those it rescued last year. Admiral Raimondo Pollastrini, the commander in chief of the coast guard, spoke during a conference held in Milans Cattolica university and explained that in 2009 illegal aliens rescued at sea amounted to 9,108, compared to 34,827 in 2008 (-73%). The same drop was recorded for number of intercepted vessels (from 473 to 94) and seized vessels (from 228 to 52). Inter alia, this is the result of the agreement signed with Libya which provides for the mixed patrolling of shores. He explained that “following the cooperation agreement signed in May between the Italian and Libyan governments, the flow slowed down to a few dozen units, with a drop which today we can place at approximately 85 to 90%”. Of course, “contrast in the sea, though having a highly deterrent effect, is apparently not a decisive measure when we look at the vast sea areas that need to be kept under control, at available means and the intrinsic dangers of saving the lives of illegal immigrants”. Access routes, for example, change over time. In the 90s most landings occurred in the Adriatic, later they moved south, towards Sicily, Calabria and partly to Sardinia. The chief Admiral stated that now other flows have opened up, for example those of Curds who land in Italy after passing trough Turkey and Greece”. The Poseidon operation which saw the involvement of Italy, Turkey and Greece under the direction of European agency Frontex managed to arrest 160 people smugglers in 2009. Since 1992 the Coast Guard has been making a major effort, as show by certain figures: 169,228 illegal aliens have been rescued since 1992, 2,592 units have been intercepted, 1,600 have been seized, and 455 people have been placed under arrest.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Abortion Pill Now Available in Hospitals

Rome, 10 Dec. (AKI) — The controversial RU486 abortion pill is now available in Italian hospitals despite protests from the Vatican and the conservative government in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. Unlike in other European countries, RU486, also known as mifepristone, will be administered solely in hospitals.

Italy was is one of the last European states to make it available. It has been available in France since 1988.

Under the rules issued by Italy’s pharmaceuticals agency, the pill can be administered up to the seventh week of pregnancy.

But the woman must remain in hospital from when she takes the pill until the embryo is expelled and the entire process must take place under medical supervision.

Women’s rights activists have vowed to fight these rules, arguing that they restrict women’s freedom.

The Italian pharmaceutical authority AIFA had initially authorised the sale of RU486 on 31 July but a committee of the Italian Senate or upper house of parliament last month asked it to reconsider its decision amid opposition from Catholics.

Italian Senate health committee suspended its use and asked the health ministry for “a second opinion” on the grounds that the pill could endanger women’s health or violate Italy’s anti-abortion laws.

AIFA last week upheld its earlier decision which it published on Wednesday in the online edition of the Italian government’s official journal on Wednesday, clearing the way for the pill’s sale.

The abortion pill is different from the morning-after pill Norlevo, which has been available in Italy since 2000.

RU486 has been available experimentally in some Italian regions, notably the northern Piedmont region.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, had warned women who use the pill, doctors who prescribed it and those who encouraged its use with excommunication.

Italian law permits surgical abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and then until the 24th week only if the foetus has a genetic deficiency or to preserve the mother’s health.

According to the Italian health ministry, 70 per cent of Italian doctors are “conscientious objectors” who exercise their right under the law to refuse to carry out abortions.

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

General

Knife-Wielding Crook Attacks Hot Dog Vendor … Former Marine

Would-be robber hospitalized after being slammed face-first onto street

When doctors released the swollen-eyed, scraped-up Garmany, officers booked him with one count of attempted armed robbery, according to the report. He remained behind bars Wednesday in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Police officials routinely discourage citizens from resisting armed robbers because of the risk. But Gant said he reacted “instinctively.” He learned the basics of hand-to-hand combat while at Camp Pendleton, Calif., with his Marine battalion.

“My reaction was just to defend myself,” Gant said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


U.N. Wants to Curtail 400-Year-Old ‘Freedom of the Seas’

‘It is a question of keeping track of what ships are up to’

The 400-year-old freedom of the high seas would be lost under United Nations plans to limit environmental damage.

Military forces of several nations are in discussions with conservationists over pooling surveillance resources to enforce the changes.

The “freedom of the seas” has given mariners legal rights to roam the high seas — a boundary that usually occurs 200 nautical miles from shore — at will. Specialists gathered at a London conference are saying that fishermen have been pushing the concept too far.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force in 1983 and enshrined the 17th-century concept of the freedom of the seas. But while being on the high seas puts ships outside the jurisdiction of any one country, the small print of the law dictates that nations ensure that no undue damage is caused.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


U.N. Climate Chief Cashes in on Carbon

Tied to conglomerate that stands to make hundreds of millions in emissions scheme

NEW YORK — A story emerging out of Britain suggests “follow the money” may explain the enthusiasm of the United Nations to pursue caps on carbon emissions, despite doubts surfacing in the scientific community about the validity of the underlying global warming hypothesis.

A Mumbai-based Indian multinational conglomerate with business ties to Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman since 2002 of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, stands to make several hundred million dollars in European Union carbon credits simply by closing a steel production facility in Britain with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

The Tata Group headquartered in Mumbai anticipates receiving windfall profits of up to nearly $2 billion from closing the Corus Redcar steelmaking plant in Britain, with about half of the savings expected to result from cashing in on carbon credits granted the steelmaker by the European Union under the EU’s emissions trading scheme, or ETS.

Corus has accumulated 7.5 million European Union surplus carbon allowances, or EUAs, given the company free by the EU, after corporate officials lobbied EU officials aggressively in Brussels.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


When Will Climateers Give Up?

While climateers grandly assert that all skeptics are mentally unbalanced, and they try their best to dismiss claims of fraud, reality has a way of coming to the fore. It is now about time those who cling to the Copenhagen Summit realised the ship is sinking. And you know what rats do when that happens…

Dr Petr Chylek is a prominent Atmospheric Physicist. He calls for the IPCC to be discontinued. Hear, hear! He says “We cannot blame Climategate on a few irresponsible individuals. The entire esteemed research community has to take responsibility.” (Climate Depot, 9th Dec). He is right, because they allowed it to happen.

Dr Chylek is a highly experienced and respected scientist who has published well over 100 peer-reviewed papers. To read his full letter, go to the Climate Depot site. Climate Claims — a Betrayal of Science

To summarise, Dr Chylek believes the climate research community has “betrayed that mighty goal in science. They have substituted the search for truth with an attempt at proving one point of view. Yes, there have been cases of misbehaviour and direct fraud committed by scientists in other fields… However, it was misbehaviour of individuals, not of a considerable part of the scientific community.” This is a very damning statement, but it is true.

He continues: “The damage has been done. The public trust in climate science has been eroded… The entire… climate research community has to take responsibility.”

Furthermore, “Let us stop making unjustified claims and exaggerated projections about the future, even if editors of some eminent journals are just waiting to publish them… Let us drastically modify or temporarily discontinue the IPCC.” Excellent call. Indeed, now is the time for all genuine scientists to stand and be counted, before they, too, are branded frauds and liars. They must publicly denounce what is happening and accuse where accusations are necessary.

[…]

Criminals have already stolen £4.5 BILLION so far… more fool those who subscribe to carbon trading in the first place. On the other hand, carbon trading is a fast-growing financial sector, and all the big boys are falling over themselves for a piece of the action. What they are doing is pushing up the costs, which eventuate as higher costs for ordinary folks, who do not get a share of their rising fortunes. Indeed, currently, all green ventures are being heavily invested in by big-time investors.

[…]

The sneaky UK government, socialist to the core, has imposed a sudden green tax levy on industries. Where once they allowed a tax advantage for turning to green forms of energy use, now industries have done so, the tax discount has been slashed without warning, so industries now face a massive 75% increase in their energy bills! This is how the UK government works. It drew companies along their fake road until they were hooked, and then they hit hard with their true intentions. This is a picture of what is going to happen everywhere in the world once greens and politicians get their way, perhaps at the Summit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

1 comments:

Fawzia said...

The West in all probability doesn't have the same preferences or anywhere near the same extent.

China's birthrate, for all its single child policy, is 1.75 children per woman, many Western nations have less than this-Spain,Germany Italy, Poland, Russia etc.Japan has an extremely low birthrate of only 1.26 children per woman, even Thailand has a birthrate lower than China, neither has such a problem.

For that matter, even many Islamic nations don't have the same preferences-even Iran has a birthrate slightly lower than China, 1.71 children per woman in Iran, v. 1.75 in China, & Iran has the normal sex ratio at birth.

The only Western nations with the same problem are Georgia & Armenia, which hava an astounding 115 boys & 117 boys born per 100 girls respectively, worse than China.

http://paa2004.princeton.edu/download.asp?submissionId=40166