Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/31/2009In financial news, Italy is expecting a 5% drop in GDP this year, Tunisia’s textile export industry is struggling, and Serbia has experienced a 25% decline in personal computer sales.

In other news, Canadian prime minister Harper has announced that his party will introduce legislation which will gives victims of terrorism the right to sue.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Lexington, Rolf Krake, TB, The Frozen North, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Almunia: We Are Coming Out of the Recession
Italy: Central Bank Predicts 5 Percent Fall in GDP
Serbia: PC Purchases Drop Sharply
Tunisia: Impact on Textile Sector Key for Economy
Harper Announces Plan to Help Terror Victims
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi: Subversive Tendencies in the Magistrature
Cracks Show in Bulgaria’s Muslim Ethnic Model
Dutschke Family Wants Case Reopened After Stasi Discovery
Europe: 3 Out of 4 Muslims Discriminated, Not Reported by 79%
Franceschini Asks “Would You Let Berlusconi Educate Your Children?” Family’s Fury
Gibraltar Con Trick: Spain Grabs Back Sea Rights Under Guise of ‘Environmental Protection’
Greece: Muslims in Fresh Athens Demo Over Alleged Koran Insult
Italy: EU Should Decide on Gitmo Inmates
Italy: Defence Giant Focused on US Sales
Roma Camps: Maroni, Milan, Rome, Naples Commissioners Extended
UK: Extremists Behind Anti-War Protest Driven Off the Streets by Moderate Muslims
North Africa
Auctions: Morocco, 3 Mln Euros From Mamounia Sale
Egypt: Veteran Actor Supports Gamal Mubarak for Presidency
Family Axes Wedding Plans, Egyptian Cuts Off Organ
Israel and the Palestinians
EU Extends 39.7 Million Euros in Aid to UNRWA Social Program
Israel Begins Its Biggest Civil Defense Drill
Israeli Government Rejects Oath of Loyalty
Obama Promises Arabs Jerusalem Will be Theirs
Middle East
Study: 64% of Turks Don’t Want Jewish Neighbors
Turkey: Actress’ Sperm Donor Pregnancy Stirs Debate
Disputed South Ossetia Holds Poll
U.S. Halts Military Sales to Georgia
South Asia
India: Defence Minister Urges Delivery of Russian and Israeli Weapons
Italians Injured in Afghan Battle
UK: ‘Top Gun’ Takes on Taliban Upside Down
Far East
Amateurs Use Google Earth to Uncover Kim’s Sinister Secrets
Giancarlo Elia Valori’s Diplomacy With North Korea
Hong Kong Trade Unionist: China Risks Another Tiananmen
Vietnam: Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City: Protecting Environment is a Christian’s Duty
Sub-Saharan Africa
Former Sudan Leader Nimeiri Dies
Italy: Migrants Integrated But Social Risks
Italy: More Non-EU New Residents in 2008 Than EU
What Will America Stand for in 2050?
Culture Wars
Spain: Judges May Not Object to Gay Marriages
Sweden: Ministers Argue Girls’ Right to Sex Ed
Fears of Muslim Anger Over Religious Book
‘Hebrew Book-Burning’ Minister Farouk Hosni is Front-Runner to Head Unesco
Policy Review: Another Step in Internet Control
Tone Language is Key to Perfect Pitch

Financial Crisis

Almunia: We Are Coming Out of the Recession

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 29 — “We are coming out of the recession,” said EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia, speaking today in Sitges (Barcelona) at Spain’s Economic Circle Forum. Almunia showed cautious optimism in his comments: “We can look to the future with greater hope,” he said, cited by Europa Press. Almunia stressed that confidence indicators “are increasing across Europe” although “bank loans continue with to be stagnant” and the situation of many financial institutions continues to be “very far from normal”. As for the situation in Spain, in Almunia’s view, “the rise to positive growth will take a few more quarters” and could begin in the second quarter next year. In any case, concluded the EU commissioner, “the dizziness has passed”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Central Bank Predicts 5 Percent Fall in GDP

Rome, 29 May (AKI) — Italy’s central bank has forecast a 5 percent fall in gross domestic product for the country in 2009. The bank’s governor Mario Draghi predicted the fall on Friday in the light of the current global economic crisis.

“According to the latest forecasts, it will cause a fall in gross domestic product of 5 percent this year,” he said.

“Recent signs of a weakening in the recession originate from financial markets and opinion polls, more than from statistics available to date on the real economy.”

Draghi said a fall in foreign demand had provoked a significant contraction in industrial production and investment.

He said this had provoked an immediate reaction with the closure of entire companies , permanent or temporary job cuts, and returned purchases.

From October 2008 to March 2009, the country’s GDP had fallen more than 7 percentage points compared to the preceding period, he said.

Draghi said the latest forecasts saw Italy’s gross domestic product contracting about 5 percent this year, after a drop of 1 percent in 2008.

The public deficit could grow to over 4.5 percent of GDP this year and more than 5 percent in 2010.

The Bank of Italy governor painted a grim picture of the Italian labor market, saying workers on unemployment benefits and seeking work were already 8.5 percent of the workforce and could rise to above 10 percent.

This meant household income and consumption would continue to fall despite lower inflation, causing Italian firms to cut back even further on capital goods purchases.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: PC Purchases Drop Sharply

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 29 — In the first quarter of 2009 in Serbia, sales of personal computers fell by 24.9% on the year to 62,800, as seen in a survey carried out by Idc Adriatics and reported by Informest. The sharpest drop was seen in the desktop computer segment, which dropped from 27% to 28,300 units, while the sale of laptops fell by 23% (33,000). In the first quarter the largest supplier of computers was HP, followed by Lenovo and MSan Grupa. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Impact on Textile Sector Key for Economy

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 29 — Tunisia’s textile and clothing industry, one of the most highly exposed sectors to the international financial crisis, will continue fighting to hold its position on international markets and maintain its role in Tunisia’s process of growth and job creation. This was the analysis given by the country’s Industry Minister, Afif Chelbi, speaking at a debate on “The textile and clothing industry facing the crisis,” which has taken place in Tunis. Chelbi stressed that despite an unfavourable economic cycle the sector still has the resources necessary to weather the crisis. Evidence of this, he said, includes “increased investments,” writes press agency TAP, “which increased from 55 million dinars in the final quarter of 2008 to 74 million dinars in the first quarter of 2009 (+35%). In the same period, the amount of foreign direct investments increased from 7 million dinars (about 3.6 million euros) in 2008 to 25 million (about 13 million euros)”. The impact of the crisis on the sector has led, according to the figures reported by the ministry, to reduced exports, which have led in turn to the closing of 15 businesses in the first four months of the year. This, along with the closing of another 11 businesses in the last four months of 2008, has resulted in 1,328 job losses. Chelbi said that he is optimistic, pointing out that steps taken to support businesses have aided 96 businesses, saving almost 20,000 jobs. In his view, the sector can be strongly turned around by investing in finishing, creation, design, and technical fabrics. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Harper Announces Plan to Help Terror Victims

TORONTO — The Conservatives will introduce legislation in the House of Commons next week, which would gives victims of terrorism the right to sue.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement during a speech at a Canadian Jewish Congress’ 90th anniversary gathering in Toronto Sunday afternoon, where he also received an award for his commitment to human rights advocacy.

“The bill will allow victims to sue perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism acts, both in foreign states and in Canadian ones,” Harper told a packed luncheon.

“This will help many victims seek long-overdue justice against those who have harmed them and their families. It also sends a clear message that our government will hold the sponsors and perpetrators of terrorism accountable for their crimes,” the prime minister said.

Harper’s announcement was met with a sanding ovation. The Canadian Jewish Congress has been pushing for some form of this legislation for at least 10 years, said CJC CEO Bernie Farber.

“It’s sad to say, the Jewish community is the number one target on most terrorist lists,” Farber said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton and Green Leader Elizabeth May were at the event in the morning and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff also addressed the crowd at lunch.

Ignatieff said he would be waiting to see more details of Harper’s terrorism announcement next week.

“We have had extensive discussions about civil remedies for victims of terror,” Ignatieff told reporters after his speech.

“We support the principle of this legislation. Now it’s just a matter of detail.”

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan will provide more information on the new bill next week.

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi: Subversive Tendencies in the Magistrature

(AGI) — Rome, 28 May — “There are subversive tendencies in the Italian magistrature.” “I will not leave politics until there is a separation in careers of prosecutors and judges,” were two passages from Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s speech to the Confesercenti meeting. Berlusconi’s words were accompanied by whistling, but also applause. “Think,” he added, “that someone tells me ‘stand trial’, but I am the champions of the accused.

The Financial Police,” he pointed out, “have visited my companies 587 times”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Cracks Show in Bulgaria’s Muslim Ethnic Model

KRUMOVGRAD, Bulgaria (Reuters) — Twenty years after Bulgaria’s then-Communist regime mounted an official campaign of persecution against its Muslim minority, Mustafa Yumer fears rising xenophobia could bring the nightmare back.

Yumer led resistance and hunger strikes against a drive to force Muslims to adopt ethnic Bulgarian names in the spring of 1989. Now he says growing anti-Muslim rhetoric is fomenting ethnic hatred and opening old wounds.

“We are all very worried,” said the 65-year-old philosopher and former teacher. “People are scared by far-right parties who preach and want to see Bulgaria becoming a single ethnic nation.”

Muslims make up about 12 percent of the Balkan country’s 7.6 million people with most of the rest belonging to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The country won praise for avoiding ethnic clashes after the end of the Cold War, in contrast to the former Yugoslavia which borders it to the west.

Bulgaria is the only European Union member country where Muslims are not recent immigrants. Most are the descendants of ethnic Turks who arrived during five centuries of Ottoman rule that ended in 1878. They live alongside Christians in a culture known as “komshuluk,” or neighborly relations.

But the rising popularity of the ultra-nationalist Attack party and hardening attitudes of other rightist politicians toward the Muslims ahead of a July parliamentary election have exposed cracks in the Bulgarian model.

Attack is unlikely to form part of the next government, but it has helped set the tone for the election campaign.

Ethnic Turks and Pomaks — Slavs who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule — are shocked and dismayed at accusations that they aim to create autonomous enclaves and that some of their villages are nests for radical Islam.

“If we sit and don’t work like Bulgarian patriots, one day they will conquer us indeed. They will annex whole regions,” Attack’s leader Volen Siderov told an election demonstration in May.

There have been over 100 incidents of vandalized mosques and other Muslim buildings in the last 2-3 years.

Girls have been banned from wearing the traditional Muslim scarf in some schools and universities — Bulgaria’s first glimpse of an issue that has raised tensions in western Europe.


Some Muslims fear losing civil rights, gained in the past two decades, and a possible repeat of the repression of the 1980s if nationalists join a coalition government after the July 5 vote.

Commentators say the rise of nationalism has been helped by a combination of voter apathy and discontent at low living standards, high-level corruption and organized crime..

A “revival process” launched by the late communist dictator Todor Zhivkov to forcibly assimilate Muslims culminated with a campaign to force them to change their names, and the exodus of over 300,000 ethnic Turks to neighboring Turkey in 1989.

According to various estimates, between 500 and 1,500 people were killed resisting forced assimilation between 1984 and 1989, and thousands of others went to labor camps. The repression led to bomb attacks by ethnic Turks that killed scores.

“The wounds would have been healed by now if some people had stopped poking them,” said Fikri Gulistan, 49, dentist in Momchilgrad, where Turkish is the daily language.

Religious leaders warn that some in the Muslim minority may fall prey to foreign Islamic groups trying to radicalize them.

“We are doing our best to stop such processes,” said Hussein Hafazov, aide to Bulgaria’s top Muslim cleric Mustafa Alish Hadji. “We try to control the mosques and all the rituals. We have been successful so far.

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

The Chief Mufti office says 323 mosques have been built in the past 19 years mainly with donations from individuals and organizations in Muslim countries, including Turkey.

Police have investigated a number of foreign Islamic foundations and made some arrests since 2000 on suspicion of spreading of non-traditional Islam and training fundamentalists but no charges have been raised.

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

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

Religious leaders deny the existence of radical Islam and say the Ribnovo case only adds to worries that politicians are threatening the culture of tolerance in mixed communities.


But analysts say the long tradition of good neighborly relations and the previous 45 years of official communist atheism had so far made it hard for fundamentalist Islam to gain a foothold in Bulgaria..

“The Turks (of Bulgaria) are mostly secular people. Any kind of messengers of non-traditional Islam have been sent away so far,” said Antonina Zheliazkova, head of the Sofia-based International Center for Minority Studies.

The mosque in Krumovgrad, built on the site of an ancient Thracian sanctuary, overlooks a flashy casino and several bars and was half-empty during a recent visit to Friday prayers.

Young women wear skinny jeans, sleeveless tops and modern haircuts rather than headscarves, while the secondary Muslim school in Momchilgrad finds it hard to enroll students.

The headscarf, banned by the communists in the 1980s, is mainly worn by older ethnic Turkish women and peasant Pomaks of all ages as an answer to the persecutions of the past and expression of rising Muslim consciousness.

Analysts say playing the Muslim card weeks before the elections helped a number of parties, including the ethnic Turkish MRF that is seeking to mobilize voters.

Many Muslims say they are disappointed with the MRF for failing to bring investment and jobs to their regions, which remain some of the poorest in Bulgaria.

None of the other parties, including the ruling Socialists, have so far offered an alternative that appealed to minorities.

Pollsters estimate that between 10,000 and 30,000 of those who immigrated to Turkey come back at election times to vote for the MRF, partly encouraged by Ankara.

“Turkey wants a strong Turkish minority in Bulgaria. This strengthens Turkey’s hand in the bilateral relations,” said Kader Ozlem of the Balkan Immigrant Culture and Solidarity Association of Bursa, whose parents left for Turkey in 1989.

Hardening attitudes toward Muslims in Bulgaria have also strengthened opposition to Turkey’s bid to join the EU. A poll late last year showed 49 percent of Bulgarians were against and 35 percent backed Ankara’s membership.

Attack is campaigning on the slogan “No to Turkey in the EU” for the European Parliament elections on June 7.

“No one has guarantees that the ghost won’t leave the bottle but for now it seems that the ethnic issues are exploited by two groups mainly,” said Boriana Dimitrova of Alpha Research, an independent polling company.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Dutschke Family Wants Case Reopened After Stasi Discovery

The son of the late West German student leader Rudi Dutschke wants a new investigation into the 1968 assassination attempt on his father’s life after the discovery that a Stasi agent was responsible for the death of another student.

Marek Dutschke told the press agency DPA in an interview published Saturday that the April 11, 1968 attempt on his father’s life by right-wing extremist Josef Bachmann should be re-examined for signs of possible influence from Eastern German secret police.

“Rudi also had his enemies over there,” Dutschke told DPA.

A growing chorus has called for Germany to probe deeper into the Stasi’s role in West German politics after the revelations that West Berlin police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras, who shot and killed 26-year-old student Benno Ohnesorg in 1967 was an informant for the East German secret police and a member of the East German Communist party.

The killing made Ohnesorg a leftist martyr and fueled explosive student protests against what they saw as a repressive West German state in the following years, culminating in the violent terrorist acts of the Red Army Faction, which sought to destabilise West Germany for nearly two decades.

Dutschke survived the attack but died in 1979 from complications related to his injuries. Bachmann, Dutschke’s assailant, committed suicide in prison and never revealed where he got his weapon from or whether he received outside support, Dutschke’s widow Gretchen Dutschke told DPA.

She said her husband was followed by both western and eastern European intelligence services and that he once had “unpleasant contacts” that included threats from agents. Gretchen Dutschke said Rudi Dutschke was seen as a “thorn in the side” on both sides of the Iron Curtain and had also been spied upon by the Stasi.

The archive for Stasi files should research the assassination attempt for signs of possible Stasi involvement, said Marek Dutschke. The Kurras case shows that there are surprises in the hundreds of kilometers of records kept by the secret police force, he said.

Marek Dutschke welcomed the effect the Kurras case was having on the historical evaluation of East Germany.

“It’s good for all of those people who believe that East Germany was the better Germany and not an unjust state,” Dutschke said. This year, Germany is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the East German regime, which led to the 1990 reunification of the two countries.

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

Europe: 3 Out of 4 Muslims Discriminated, Not Reported by 79%

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 28 — Three out of four Muslims living in EU countries have been the victim of racial discrimination in the past 12 months, especially at work. And that is only the tip of the iceberg, since 79%, especially young people, don’t report discrimination because 63% believe it “would do no good”. This data is contained in the ‘Report Focus 2: Muslims’, the first EU survey — 23,500 interviewed — on the experiences of immigrants and ethnic minorities regarding discrimination and racism, carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and presented today by FRA director Morten Kjaerum, at the Arab House in Madrid. The interviews were carried out by Gallup Europe among groups of immigrants and ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims, including North Africans, Sub-Saharans, Turks, Iraqis and Muslims from former Yugoslavia, a sample of the 13-20 million Muslims living in Europe. “The Muslims interviewed don’t think that religion or the habit to wear headscarves or Muslim clothes is the main reason for discrimination”, said Iannis Dimitrakopoulos, head of the FRA Equal Opportunities and Rights Department, underlining that the data doesn’t reflect the perception, rather concrete examples of discrimination. This discrimination focuses on nine areas: when looking for a job (18%) or at work (13%); when trying to rent or buy a house (14%), in restaurants or in shops (14%) and when turning to health services or opening a bank account. Of all those interviewed, 37% have been discriminated against, and 12% have been the victim of racism. Regarding the fact that these incidents are often not reported, Dimitrakopoulos said that it is “often caused by a sense of general resignation, as if these things are part of life. The authorities of each country are obliged to fight the problem, informing their citizens on how to report these cases, on their rights, on the laws which protect them”. Eighty percent of the Muslims interviewed were in fact not aware of the existence of organisations which they can turn to for support or advice. In Spain 65% of those interviewed didn’t know about anti-discriminatory legislation, against a European average of 37%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Franceschini Asks “Would You Let Berlusconi Educate Your Children?” Family’s Fury

Piersilvio: “How dare he?” Marina: “He should be ashamed”. Luigi: “Proud of family’s values”

ROME — First came Dario Franceschini’s question: “Would you let a man like Berlusconi educate your children?” The prime minister’s own children fired back: “How dare Franceschini? I may be wrong in taking seriously a remark in such appalling taste. But there’s a limit, even during the election campaign”, said Piersilvio Berlusconi. Mr Franceschini responded: “I saw Piersilvio Berlusconi’s indignant reaction and I am sorry he misinterpreted what I said. If he listens to it again, he will realise that I did not, nor shall I ever, express judgements about him or his family. I was talking about the values a public figure should transmit to the country”.

MARINA “PROUD”: Mr Franceschini’s comment, made while he was on an election tour of Liguria, provoked a chorus of reactions from Centre-right politicians, who demanded that the PD leader should apologise to Mr Berlusconi. But attention focused on the statements from the prime minister’s children that followed Mr Franceschini’s comments. Piersilvio wasn’t the only one to speak out. His sister Marina, chair of Fininvest and Mondadori, issued a statement through press agencies: “Franceschini should be ashamed. Who gives him the right to judge Silvio Berlusconi as a father? His words have offended me as a daughter. A daughter who is deeply proud of the father she has and the values he has transmitted to me. I would be happy for Franceschini’s children if they had a father like mine”.

VERONICA’S CHILDREN — Later, another response came from Luigi Berlusconi, Mr Berlusconi’s youngest child from his marriage to Veronica Lario: “I am happy and proud of the education I have received and of the values that have been transmitted to me by my family. I don’t see why politicians should be judging Silvio Berlusconi as a father. These are different levels that shouldn’t be superimposed”. Late last night, Luigi also issued a joint statement with Barbara and Eleonora, Silvio Berlusconi and Veronica Lario’s other two children. “Not everything can be put to a poll. The only people who can judge whether a father is capable of educating a child are his own children. Politics should never spill over into judgements on a person’s role as a father, which have nothing at all to do with politics. We believe we were brought up and educated in a well-balanced family environment with plenty of values”.

FRANCESCHINI — While on an electoral tour of Liguria, the PD leader expressed himself in these terms: “There can be no doubt that Berlusconi is a successful businessman and politician. He is rich, astute and influential. But I would like to ask Italian women and men one simple question: ‘Would you let this man educate your children?’ Anyone who is in charge of a country has a duty to set a good example and transmit positive values”.

THE REPLY — Piersilvio continued: “I, I myself, was educated by Silvio Berlusconi. And my values are his values. Industriousness, generosity, tenacity and respect for other people. The respect of which Franceschini has shown he knows nothing”. Earlier, the PDL national coordinator Denis Verdini referred to defamation as the PD’s educational model while Daniele Capezzone perceived “hatred and violence” in Dario Franceschini’s words. Paolo Bonaiuti, the premier’s spokesman, said it was an “insensitive remark. The PD secretary should apologise to the premier and his children”.

PD — The Centre-right is attacking Mr Franceschini because he is “effective” was how the president of the Italianieuropei foundation, Massimo D’Alema, interpreted the PDL’s reaction: “These attacks from the Right against the PD secretary are in response to an electoral campaign in which Mr Franceschini has very effectively given new impetus to the Democratic Party’s action”.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gibraltar Con Trick: Spain Grabs Back Sea Rights Under Guise of ‘Environmental Protection’

A diplomatic battle was looming last night after Spain tricked the EU into handing it new rights to the waters around Gibraltar.

The sleight-of-hand has provoked fury in the British outpost and left red faces in Whitehall.

And it has already produced a potential confrontation between British and Spanish ships in the region.

Spain, which has been challenging British sovereignty on the Rock for 300 years, has now laid claim under an EU ‘environmental protection’ scheme to most of the 20 square miles of British territorial waters that surround the Gibraltar peninsula .

The Rock has been a key strategic outpost since it was ceded by Spain to Britain in perpetuity under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

The sea surrounding the Rock is designated British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.. But the Spanish have convinced the European Commission to include most of it in a new environmental zone, to be maintained by Spain.

All but one small segment of the British zone — two square miles in the north-western corner — has been swallowed up by the Estrecho Oriental, a 69-square-mile marine conservation area.

Under EU law, a conservation site can only be declared by the sovereign state which owns the piece of land or sea in question.

So by allowing Spain’s request to include the waters around Gibraltar, European bureaucrats have tacitly recognised its possession of British territory.

Responsibilities in maintaining EU environmental zones include nature protection and the monitoring of wildlife and potential environmental threats.

But there are fears that it will merely act as a cover for Spanish vessels to mount incursions into British waters.

There has already been one minor skirmish, when Spain sent the corvette Tarifa ‘to inspect fishing boats’ east of Gibraltar, insisting it was in Spanish waters.

The armed fisheries protection vessel only retreated when the Navy sent the patrol vessel HMS Sabre to intercept it.

The Gibraltar government has lodged an application in the European Court in Luxembourg to have the new rights reversed.

Chief Minister Peter Caruana said: ‘Spain has usurped British sovereignty of Gibraltar waters. This is clearly wrong and unacceptable. Its actions are not an innocent mistake. There is zero basis in international law for its position.’

The Foreign Office has also expressed alarm. A spokesman said: ‘We do not recognise the validity of their designation.’

Britain’s Europe Minister Caroline Flint added: ‘We share the deep concern this designation has caused in Gibraltar and we continue to assert our sovereignty over BGTW.’

Self-governing Gibraltar covers only 2.6 square miles of land, with a population of just 28,000.

The vast majority of Gibraltans oppose any return to Spanish sovereignty. In the 1950s the Spanish dictator Franco ratcheted up claims over the Rock, partly in response to a visit of the Queen in 1954 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its capture.

For the next 30 years Spain restricted movement between Gibraltar and Spain. A referendum in 1967 found 12,138 wanted it to remain a British territory with just 44 voting to return to Spanish sovereignty.

In 2002 proposals for joint sovereignty were drawn up, but another referendum rejected the plan by 98.97 per cent.

Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Gibraltar Group, said: ‘This decision must be reversed.

‘The Spanish have been trying for 300 years to get a piece of Gibraltar, and unless we do something they will have finally succeeded in chipping away at our sovereignty of the Rock.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Greece: Muslims in Fresh Athens Demo Over Alleged Koran Insult

ATHENS (AFP) — More than 1,000 Muslim migrants and leftists demonstrated in Athens Friday over an alleged police insult to the Koran, a week after two similar protests degenerated into clashes with anti-riot police.

The protest was called by leftist and anti-racist groups after a police officer allegedly tore up some sheets of paper with extracts from the Muslim holy book belonging to an Iraqi migrant during an identity check last week.

“We want this officer put on trial, and we ask the government to protect our prayer sites in Athens,” said Zuri, a Moroccan protester.

“But we intend to set a good example and refrain from violence, Islam is a religion of peace,” he said.

Scores of police on foot and on motorbikes were mobilised to maintain order and keep the migrants who marched on parliament from coming into contact with a few dozen neo-Nazi militants staging a street gathering a few blocks away.

The far-right group was commemorating the fall of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Greece’s main Muslim and migrant organisations distanced themselves from the migrant demonstration, preferring to take judicial action instead.

“Our problems can be solved by dialogue, not demonstrations,” said Ahmet Moavia, head of the Greek Migrants’ Forum.

“The real agenda is migrants’ rights in Greece which include issues of religion,” he told AFP.

“Muslim Arabs will not participate because there is a political agenda which has nothing to do with Islam,” said Naim El Gadour, chairman of the Muslim Union of Greece.

“We filed a complaint against the officer, we chose the path of justice and peace and we will adhere to it.”

Rights groups report an increase in racist attacks on migrants in Athens in recent weeks. Last weekend, unknown assailants set fire to a basement flat housing a mosque and injured five men from Bangladesh sleeping inside.

More than a dozen migrants and police were injured last week in clashes that marred two days of Muslim rallies over the alleged insult to the Koran.

Scores of cars and a handful of shops had their windows smashed.

Police made 46 arrests at the time.

Muslim groups have demanded an apology over the incident which the government has so far failed to give. Calls to identify the officer who allegedly tore the Koranic verses have also been ignored.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: EU Should Decide on Gitmo Inmates

ROME — Italy’s interior minister insisted Saturday that any decision to accept Guantanamo inmates must be unanimously made by members of the European Union and expressed worry the suspected terrorists might move easily through the union’s loose borders.

Minister Roberto Maroni said the detainees from the U.S. military prison on the Cuban island should be sent only to countries that are able to jail them again, if need be.

“The European Union … should reach a unanimous decision and welcome, only if so they desire, those inmates that can be put back in jail,” Maroni told a news conference following a two-day meeting of interior and justice ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries.

Otherwise, the released Guantanamo inmates “arrive at the airports, are escorted out, and then are free to move” across the porous national borders of several EU countries. “This is obviously not acceptable for me, as it increases the level of terrorism risk,” Maroni said.

The European Union’s so-called Schengen zone is an area of open frontiers comprised of 22 EU countries and three outside the EU in which no systematic passport checks are carried out.

Maroni said the issue was discussed by Italian officials in a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier in the week. He said no concrete decision was made, and the issue will discussed again at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on June 4-5.

Italy was considering taking “not more than two or three inmates,” but no formal request has been made yet, Maroni said, adding the inmates have not been identified.

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the closure of Guantanamo, which has been criticized in much of Europe. His administration is reviewing Guantanamo cases to determine whether the suspects remaining there should be tried in U.S. courts or released to other countries.

Separately on Saturday, the G-8 ministers agreed to increase cooperation and share information in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.

In a final declaration, the ministers stressed the need to block the financing of terrorism, urging the “monitoring the activities and communications terrorist organizations rely on,” especially the Internet.

The ministers also urged countries affected by sea piracy to prosecute the pirates whenever possible. Rampant piracy off Somalia’s coast is now the biggest threat to merchant shipping, with most attacks ending with million-dollar ransom payments.

The Group of Eight nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Defence Giant Focused on US Sales

Rome, 29 May (AKI) — Italian defence giant Finmeccanica regards the US market of strategic importance and is optimistic about future sales despite the global downturn, chief executive officer Pier Francesco Guarguaglini said. According to a report in the Italian financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, on Friday, Guarguaglini remained confident about the company’s outlook.

The company, which has been hit by the planned cancellation of a US presidential helicopter contract and the halving of a cargo jet contract, expects to benefit from a 4 percent rise in US defence spending in 2009 and 2010, Guarguaglini said.

“You have to consider that the (US) budget for 2010 has risen by 4 percent to 534 billion dollars from 527 billion dollars in 2009, a budget that excludes spending for the war,” he said.

“Despite several programme cancellations, there is expected to be a consistent increase in spending for equipment: an annual average of around 3 percent until 2013.”

Guarguaglini said 90 percent of sales generated by the company’s US subsidiary DRS Technologies came from the Pentagon and despite some recent order cancellations he remained positive about the future outlook.

“I remain optimistic despite the latest cancellations because the US is a strategic market, representing 50 percent of global defence spending and 21 percent of Finmeccanica’s sales,” he said.

Guarguaglini also promised to fight the US government’s move to terminate the 13 billion dollar VH-71 presidential helicopter programme as part of its defence cuts.

“The game is not over and anyway we will continue to fight,” he told the Italian daily.

Finmeccanica received political support from the Italian government on Thursday.

Italian defence minister Ignazio La Russa sent a letter to his US counterpart, Robert Gates, asking him to retain the helicopter programme being developed by Lockheed Martin and Finmeccanica’s Agusta Westland to avoid “negative impact on employment”.

“I do not know whether the order will proceed but the Americans certainly have to replace the helicopters and ours are the best machines on the market,” he said.

Guarguaglini was asked about the impact of the global economic downturn and cutbacks in defence spending.

“It all depends on how long the economic crisis lasts,” he said. “The impact could be limited because we have plenty of orders that will cover production for the next two and a half years.

“So as soon as the recovery begins, we will be ready to seize every opportunity.”

The chief executive said there were excellent opportunities for the company in Russia and it was also targetting Morocco, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

He noted that the shocking terrorist attack in the Indian city of Mumbai last November had also reinforced the need for India to invest more in defence and border security.

US investors hold over 20 percent of the company’s capital and represent 50 percent of its institutional investors. The Italian Treasury holds a 30.2 percent stake in Finmeccanica.

Earlier this week, Guarguaglini reiterated that US defence contractor Northrop Grumman could play a role in the C-27J cargo plane project after Boeing withdrew in February.

The Pentagon this month said it planned to scale back plans to buy 78 such cargo jets and purchase 38 planes instead.

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

Roma Camps: Maroni, Milan, Rome, Naples Commissioners Extended

(AGI) — Rome, 28 May — Public ordinances regarding camps for Italy’s Roma population have been extended until December 31 2010, announced Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni during a press conference after a cabinet meeting. The three extraordinary commissioners to manage emergency Roma camps in Milan, Rome, and Naples have been confirmed. Two ordinances have also been issued for the Piedmont and Veneto regions, appointing the prefects of Turin and Venice as extraordinary commissioners to manage the emergency situation regarding the Roma camps

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Extremists Behind Anti-War Protest Driven Off the Streets by Moderate Muslims

The Muslim community turned on extremists in their midst yesterday, telling them they were ‘sick and tired’ of their behaviour.

The angry confrontation came in Luton, where anti-Islamist protesters brandished England flags last Sunday, before clashing with police.

The latest violence erupted as arguments raged between fellow Muslims shortly after Friday morning prayers in the Bury Park area of the town.

Passing traffic ground to a halt as the large group of moderates confronted about a dozen extremists.

As the radical Muslims began to set up their stall, they were surrounded by a crowd shouting ‘we don’t want you here’ and ‘move on, move on’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Auctions: Morocco, 3 Mln Euros From Mamounia Sale

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 26 — The auction of items from Mamounia, the famous Marrakesh hotel visited by celebrities from the world of show business, politics and art, has made three million euros. From May 21 to 24 more than 5,000 pieces were auctioned at the Marrakesh Conference Centre, from teapots to cups, plates, sheets, hundreds of armchairs, lamps, and tables in various styles from Art Deco to Moorish. “We reached the sum of three million euros” said Claude Aguettes, the auctioneer in charge of the sale. “This auction has aroused great interest both in Morocca and abroad. There were at least three hundred people in the auction room at any time”. After three years of refurbishments the Mamounia, which is owned by the Moroccan railways, will reopen at the end of September with a new look designed by architect Jacques Garcia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Veteran Actor Supports Gamal Mubarak for Presidency

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 29 — Veteran Egyptian actor Adel Imam said he will support National Democratic Party (NDP) Policies Secretary Gamal Mubarak if he chooses to run for presidency. Describing the NDP policy chief as “an experienced politician who is present in the heart of the political kitchen”, Imam said his support for Gamal Mubarak as the next president of Egypt comes with full belief and honesty. “Why should not Gamal Mubrak run for the presidency. He has the right to run through the party for the presidency”, Imam told Dream TV, adding he would like to see him take the move. Imam also praised President Hosni Mubarak’s efforts to maintain Egypt’s stability, saying he admires his stand not to listen to war calls by some hawkish parties.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Family Axes Wedding Plans, Egyptian Cuts Off Organ

CAIRO — A 25-year-old Egyptian man cut off his own penis to spite his family after he was refused permission to marry a girl from a lower class family, police reported Sunday.

After unsuccessfully petitioning his father for two years to marry the girl, the man heated up a knife and sliced off his reproductive organ, said a police official.

The young man came from a prominent family in the southern Egyptian province of Qena, one of Egypt’s poorest and most conservative areas that is also home to the famed ancient Egyptian ruins of Luxor.

The man was rushed to the hospital but doctors were unable to reattach the severed member, the official added citing the police report filed after the incident..

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press, added that the man was still recovering in the hospital.

Traditionally, marriages in these conservative part of southern Egypt are between similar social classes and often within the same extended families — and are rarely for love.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU Extends 39.7 Million Euros in Aid to UNRWA Social Program

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 27 — The European Union has said it will entend 39.7 million euros to UNRWA to help it implement its Social Safety Net (SSN) program in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to a press release circulated by the European Commission’s diplomatic mission in Cairo today. At a ceremony at UNRWA’s food distribution centre in Jabalia Camp, Gaza, yesterday, Mr. Marcus Cornaro, Director for Europe, Southern Mediterranean, Middle-East and Neighbourhood Policy at the European Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office, and UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Ms. Karen Abu Zayd, announced that the EU will be making a contribution of 39.7 million euros to help guarantee UNRWA’s SSN program in the occupied Palestinian territory, which helps meet the needs of some of the poorest and most vulnerable Palestine refugees. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel Begins Its Biggest Civil Defense Drill

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel began the biggest civil defense drill in its history on Sunday, training soldiers, emergency crews and civilians for the possibility of war at a time of rising tensions with Iran.

The five-day drill, code-named Turning Point III, will include simulated rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Air-raid sirens are to sound across the country on Tuesday and for the first time all Israeli civilians will simultaneously be required to practice taking cover when the sirens go off.

Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has not ruled out a military strike. Iran says its nuclear program is only for energy production.

Israeli leaders have played down any connection between those tensions and this week’s exercise, and officials have been at pains to allay fears among Arab neighbors, such as Lebanon and Syria, that the exercise could be a cover for a military strike.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio the drill “was not created as a response to the events of recent weeks and months.”

Defense officials said the Turning Point series of exercises was designed to implement lessons learned from Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, when the Lebanese militia fired nearly 4,000 Katyusha rockets across the border at Israel.

Similar drills were conducted in 2007 and 2008, but the military said this year’s exercise would be “the largest and most comprehensive yet.” In last year’s drill, sirens failed to function in parts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israel inaugurated a state of the art national civil defense control and command center this year.

           — Hat tip: Rolf Krake[Return to headlines]

Israeli Government Rejects Oath of Loyalty

The Israeli cabinet has rejected a controversial proposal to require Israeli citizens to take an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state.

Under the plan, introduced by the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, citizenship would be granted only to those who swore allegiance.

The proposal angered Israel’s Arab minority, which comprises 20% of Israel’s population.

The plan can still be brought before parliament, but is unlikely to succeed.

The measure was thrown out by eight votes to three at a meeting of the Cabinet on Sunday.

Yisrael Beiteinu, which won the third most seats in February’s election, sought to introduce the oath as well as a ban on annual commemorations denouncing the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

During the election campaign, the party focused on perceived disloyalty among Israeli Arabs, drawing widespread criticism as well as support.

Many Israeli Arabs mark the Nakba, or the Catastrophe, when about 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the war which followed Israel’s declaration of independence.

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

Obama Promises Arabs Jerusalem Will be Theirs

Official: President said Palestinian state with holy city capital ‘in American interest’

JERUSALEM — President Obama and his administration told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting last week the U.S. foresees the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, according to a top PA official speaking to WND.

“The American administration was very friendly to the position of the PA,” said Nimer Hamad, Abbas’ senior political adviser.

“Abu Mazen (Abbas) heard from Obama and his administration in a very categorical way that a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is in the American national and security interest,” Hamad said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Study: 64% of Turks Don’t Want Jewish Neighbors

A new study published in a Turkish newspaper Sunday said 64 percent of Turks would not want Jewish neighbors.

The study also suggested Turks had a low tolerance for diverse lifestyles in general, as three in four respondents said they would not want to live next to an atheist or anyone drinking alcohol.

The study by Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University was meant to gauge radicalism and extremism in Turkey.

Results published in Sunday’s Milliyet also stated that 52 percent would not want Christian neighbors, 67 would not want to live next to an unmarried couple and 43 percent would not want American neighbors.

Religious extremism and nationalism have remained level in Turkey this decade, although anti-Israeli sentiment was on the rise, said Yilmaz Esmer, a professor of political science at Bahcesehir who led the study.

Israel is the most unpopular foreign country, followed by Armenia and the United States, the study revealed. Israel is also seen as most responsible for the world’s problems, followed by U.S. and EU policies, according to the survey.

A majority of Turks support their government’s bid to join the European Union, the study revealed, but most say the bloc views it with prejudice because Turkey is a Muslim nation.

Three out of four Turks believe the EU is trying to divide Turkey and 81 percent believe the bloc’s goal is to spread Christianity, said the study.

Despite this, 57 percent want full EU membership for Turkey.

“A majority of Turks still want EU membership, but a larger majority has very serious doubts about the EU’s intentions towards Turkey,” Esmer said.

One out of four Turks thinks Turkey is either already a full member of the EU or is unsure of its status, he said. Turkey has in fact been an official candidate for EU membership for 10 years and has completed only one of the 35 ‘chapters’ in the accession process.

Sixty-two percent of Turks said religion was their priority, followed by 17 percent who said secularism was. Democratization was the top priority for 15 percent, followed by smaller numbers who cited ethnic identity and financial gain.

“The main issue for Turks is religion and secularism,” Esmer said.

About 18 percent of respondents said they felt discriminated against, the highest rate in Europe, Esmer said. Still, most respondents felt that religious and ethnic diversity enriched life, rather than threatened national unity, he said.

The survey is based on interviews with 1,715 people selected randomly from 34 cities between April 12 and May 3. No margin of error was given.

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

Turkey: Actress’ Sperm Donor Pregnancy Stirs Debate

ISTANBUL — Actress Güner Özkul chose to apply to a sperm bank because her boyfriend already has children and does not want another one, leading to a public debate on ethics. If she wants respect for her decision to have a baby, she should respect to her boyfriend’s to not have one, she says. Getting pregnant by a sperm donor is not legal or common in Turkey

Pregnancy by sperm donor is a controversial topic and the recent decision by the daughter of a prestigious actor and actress to take this path to motherhood has flared the debate in Turkey.

Although she is not the first woman in Turkey to use this method, her story has drawn reaction from many people and her decision is being debated on many points, from ethics to religion and from law to psychology.

Güner Özkul, the 43-year-old daughter of actor Münir Özkul and actress Suna Selen, is also an actress and used to be a model. In her interview with daily Milliyet on May 10, she said she started to worry about not having a baby as she became older. Before she was 41, her doctor told her that there was nothing to worry about in regards to getting pregnant, as she had a biologically young age. But two years ago, her doctor told her that her ovular reserves were running out so she had limited time if she wanted to have a baby.

She said in the interview that she has become obsessed with the idea of having a baby and this brought a burden onto her recent relationships. She even went as far as avoiding friends with children. “I became an asocial, nervous, obsessed person.” She said she was delaying acting role offers, only with the idea that she may become pregnant during that time.

“Having a baby became more important than my relationships. I realized that this was my real problem.”

Özkul was aware that she was obsessed with the idea of having children. One of the reasons for that was in her past, she said. “I grew up in a crowded family. We were five siblings, and my childhood passed with my peers in the boarding schools,” she said. As a healthy person, she is trying hard to live longer as a lifestyle; however, she said it becomes meaningless to live longer when one will not have a child.

Regretted, if never tried

The meaning of life is desperately tied to having a child, for Özkul. She said she would regret it if she did not try to have a baby by sperm from a donor. She has become pregnant on her first try in the clinic and she will have a baby girl. “Doctors said it is a miracle baby and told me to look after it carefully,” Özkul said. If her first try fails she said she would take lessons from it too. However, she said she would not give up until she had tried all methods.

Getting pregnant by a sperm donor is not legal or common in Turkey. Özkul said in the minds of urban people there is always a choice like this, adding that she used to think, “At least I can apply to a sperm bank.” One day, her Plan B suddenly became her Plan A.

Denmark sperm vs boyfriend

Özkul already has a boyfriend but she did not have children from him. She chose to apply to a sperm bank because her boyfriend already had children and did not want another one. She used a donor’s sperm from Denmark instead of her boyfriend’s. She said in her relationships, none of her boyfriends wanted children or more children than they already had.

“If I want to see respect in my decision to have children, then I should respect my partner’s decision to not have children,” she said. This is when she stopped expecting her partner to be her baby’s father. Then she said she understood that she had to deal with this problem by herself.

“If I could produce sperm with my body, I would do that and use them to have a baby.” She said she learned that this will one day be possible through stem cell technology but not at the moment.

Legally and from a psychological perspective, the ethics of having and raising a baby without a father figure is under debate. Özkul said until the recent past it was debated whether organ donation was legal or ethical. “It was debated for a long time in Turkey until the day when those who claimed that organ donation was wrong suddenly needed one. Maybe this [getting pregnant through donor insemination] will be seen as normal one day,” she said.

Özkul is aware that one day her child may start questioning her about whether she had any right to have a child without a father. She is also aware that there may be some legal problems too. “But, giving birth to a baby is something egoistic, even when you have a partner. Making children totally happy is never possible. A child could ask her mother and father the same question of why they gave birth to him or her,” she said. Now, Özkul said she is at a point where she does not ask any questions that will bring doubts. Donor insemination is legally allowed in only some countries such as Greece, England, Cyprus and some parts of the United States. Özkul said she chose a center in Cyprus that was experienced in donor insemination as well as tube baby pregnancies. The cost of this donor insemination pregnancy was around 5,000 euros.

Most of the donors at the center in Cyprus are from northern European countries, said Özkul. “In fact, they told me that Turks prefer blond donors since they want blond babies. But I preferred a rather fair colored donor to make my baby look more like me,” she said.

AHMET HAKAN : Danish sperm quality debatable, Hakan says

Daily Hürriyet writer Ahmet Hakan addressed Güner Özkul in his May 12 column in letter format, reminding her of the challenges she might experience in the future: “You became 43 years old, and you wanted to have a child. Instead of making the effort to find a ‘father candidate,’ you found another way, which is, ‘Well, I won’t bother to waste my time with them.’“ Though Hakan said he knew it was not his business to nose into her life, he advised Güner that if she is not “that egotistical” she should know that “every children has right to know who his or her father is.”

“Imagine when your baby grows and asks you where her father is. What will you say?” Hakan asked Özkul in his column, adding even if she were able to overcome this problem, she would be faced with another one. Noting that Özkul got pregnant with the sperm of a donor from Denmark, Hakan said she should not expect to have a child like the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. “Do not forget that even though your donor is from Denmark, that does not mean he reflects the ‘Danish quality’ that you hope to find,” he wrote.

ÇIGDEM ANAD: Mother and father together spin the cocoon of love

Women who have children without a fatherÉ They of course guess the difficulties to raise a child without a father. They know that a child needs a father as well as a mother. Güner Özkul with all her sincerity says making a child by visiting a sperm bank is a selfish decision. What if there is no father candidate, can the mother refrain from her most fundamental instinct? How can she refrain? Men cannot understand this fundamental instinct.

It is not difficult to understand men who do not want children, but it is impossible not to acknowledge them to be right. I believe, however, the measure of loving a woman in a way that you cannot live without her is to have a child with her even though you do not want one.

I do not question Özkul’s relationship with her boyfriend. Moreover, I believe that it is a sign of their mutual respect, love and friendship for each other that their relationship goes on even though Özkul got pregnant by a donor.

If I go to buy sperm alone, I would leave the man I love. Because I am not a child who grew up with a mother and father. My self-confidence is not as high as Ozkul’s. I need a man who loves me that much that he cannot live without me.

AYSE ARMAN: ‘Don’t look back,’ Arman advises

As a response to fellow columnist Ahmet Hakan, Ayse Arman wrote in an article in the same newspaper on May 13, under the headline, “Güner, walk and don’t look back.”

“Your column about Özkul is totally populist and far from sensitive,” Arman said, noting that Hakan is not the parent of a child, and that if he were, he would not write so harshly about Özkul. The pregnancy of women like Güner Özkul is more important than writing on any kind of issue, Arman said, adding that there are many women who cannot get pregnant by the man they love and that sperm banks offer a solution for them, too.

“Whether you like it or not, you have no right to question the quality of that sperm. As you have the right to write anything you want, Güner, Özkul has the right to get pregnant with anyone’s sperm through any kind of method she wants,” Arman wrote in her column. Since giving birth and raising a child bring serious responsibilities, especially when a woman attempts to do so by herself, Arman said people should support Özkul instead of challenging her.

MURAT KINIKOGLU: An evolutionary approach to sperm-bank issue

In his May 18 column in daily Aksam, Murat Kinikoglu said that the number of babies born through artificial insemination is increasing in Turkey as well. Criticisms are usually made from a religious perspective in the country, blaming the single mothers who get pregnant through sperm banks, said Kinikoglu, adding, “However, some religion ethnologists are approaching with more sensitivity to the issue, such as Prof. Beyza Bilgin who said, ‘If Allah would not allow that, then it will not be possible to do so, it is like kidney transplants.’“

Kinikoglu also looked at the issue from an evolutionary perspective, saying that for some types of chimpanzees, knowing the father is important for the continuation of the genes and the family, but for some others, it is not. He said for Homo sapiens, knowing the baby’s father was important in order to maintain resources to aid the development of the child.

“Today, do we need a father who will protect our children from the enemy tribes and wild animals? Maybe in Afghanistan. However, it is probably not that necessary in modern Turkey,” he said.

However, sperm banks may cause unpredictable problems in the near future, he added.

AYÇA SEN: ‘Perfect’ families may not actually be that way

There is no perfect family, said Ayça Sen, participating in the ongoing “sperm bank” debate in her May 14 column in daily Radikal. Sen said that some were writing very didactic things, similar to a teacher using a chiding voice, as they emphasized psychological and sociological perspectives on the issue, saying it would have a cost for both mother and child.

“My one side thinks that homosexuals have the right to have a child, but my other side [that has grown up with a father] says it is not right. When I think that everyone has the right to have a child, then my other side thinks how happy Memo [her son] is when he rides his bicycle with his father,” wrote Sen. Saying she was confused about what she thought was right and wrong in the sperm-bank debate, Sen ended with the idea that the person who attempted to get pregnant using a sperm donor should be the one to decide. She added that raising a child without a father was better than raising a child with a father who abuses the child, who does not support his family or who is involved in criminal acts.

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


Disputed South Ossetia Holds Poll

Elections are taking place in South Ossetia, the disputed breakaway region of Georgia.

The polls are the first held since the territory declared independence from Georgia last August with Russian help.

Georgia regards the elections as illegal; it sees the territory as still part of Georgian sovereign territory.

Some observers say the poll is an opportunity for the South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity, to tighten his grip on power.

Only a few hundred ethnic Georgians remain in South Ossetia — a mountainous region of 70,000 people north of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi — and there is only one Georgian on the list of parliamentary candidates

Exaggerated figures?

With just 34 seats at stake, Sunday’s elections, though small, are important for the self-proclaimed republic, says the BBC’s Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi.

They are also a test of democracy in a region financially dependent on Russia, our correspondent adds.

South Ossetia declared independence after a five-day war between Russia and Georgia last August, but only Russia and Nicaragua have recognized its declaration.

The central election commission says 45,000 people are registered to vote in Sunday’s polls, though some analysts say this is a vast exaggeration.

One Russian newspaper, Vremya Novostey, suggested the discrepancy would provide an opportunity for Eduard Kokoity’s Unity party to rig the vote, which officials have denied.

Much of South Ossetia remains battle-scarred after last summer’s conflict and some residents say the pace of rebuilding has been slow, our correspondent says.

A coalition of opposition parties has accused Mr Kokoity of embezzling Russian aid money — a claim he denies.

Meanwhile, a month of controversial Nato military exercises are drawing to an end in Georgia.

Russia has condemned the exercises as “provocative”.

The drills have been taking place close to South Ossetia where Russian troops remain based following the war.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have remained at a low ebb in the wake of the conflict.

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

U.S. Halts Military Sales to Georgia

Bowing to persistent Russian pressure, the Obama administration quietly has placed a hold on all U.S. military exports to Georgia due to a “policy review,” with no indication as to when it will be completed or what defensive military items will be allowed to be exported, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

U.S. sources told the G2 Bulletin that such a review has been so “close-hold” that even the Defense Department, which also reviews license applications for national security reasons, was unaware of the action. DOD has been recommending approval of munitions license applications for Georgia.

By law, the State Department has the lead in reviewing all munitions export license applications for “foreign policy” reasons. State could deny such license applications even if the Defense Department recommends approval on national security grounds.

The development comes as Russia renews threats to Georgia where nearly month-long maneuvers are under way by 15 countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. The Russian foreign ministry described the maneuvers as “dubious” and a “provocation.”

NATO decided to hold the maneuvers after Russian threats to show support for Georgia, which is seeking to join the western security organization. Due to Russian threats against Georgia and Europe if NATO would accept Georgia’s membership, NATO last March opted not to vote in Georgia but instead left open the prospect in the future. To show its support for Georgia in view of Russia’s invasion last August, NATO decided to conduct the military exercises in Georgia even though the country is not yet a member.

Keep in touch with the most important breaking news stories about critical developments around the globe with Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence news source edited and published by the founder of WND.

Last August, Russia staged an invasion of Georgia, occupying the two Georgian breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Upon occupying the provinces, Russia immediately announced its recognition of them as independent countries and immediately got them to “invite” Russia to take over border security, station battle tanks in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and set up air force and naval bases in Abkhazia.

Russia is adamant in asserting that it has the right to influence events in former Soviet states, such as Georgia. Moscow vehemently opposes Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO and believes the organization has expansionist intentions into areas Russia claims are within its sphere of influence.

“The Obama administration is caving to the Russians,” one official said. “It means that we’re letting the Russians control U.S. foreign policy interests.”

Up until the Russian invasion last August, the U.S. was a major supplier of military equipment to Georgia, in addition to providing training. The equipment provided, however, was designed more for counter-insurgency and defensive purposes and was not intended to confront any Russian threat.

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

South Asia

India: Defence Minister Urges Delivery of Russian and Israeli Weapons

New Delhi, 29 May (AKI/Asian Age) — India’s defence minister A.K. Antony said that weapons contracts with Russia and Israel must be supplied timely, amid reports of an arms race in South Asia.

Speaking in the presence of the Russian and Israeli envoys in the capital New Delhi on the occasion of the induction ceremony of the early-warning surveillance aircraft or AWACS systems for the Indian Air Force, Antony said that he had “conveyed his anxiety to both Russia and Israel” for timely supply of armaments on schedule.

“The Russian and Israeli ambassadors are here. You (Russia and Israel) have to supply two more (AWACS systems),” Antony said, indicating that he expected no more delays in the delivery of the systems.

The delivery of the AWACS systems to India has been delayed due to technical problems. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major also said that India will need more AWACS systems in the years to come but said the exact number of additional systems would have to be worked out.

The defence minister said that the defence secretary will be leaving for Russia on Sunday to discuss the timely supply of AWACS and other systems from that country.

The AWACS comprise Israeli avionics including radar mounted on the Russian IL-76 platform.

The weapons delivery is part of a 1 billion dollar defence deal with Israel.

India had signed an agreement five years ago for supply of three AWACS system, the first of which was inducted into the Indian Air Force on Thursday.

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

Italians Injured in Afghan Battle

Three paratroopers hurt in firefight, 25 insurgents killed

(ANSA) — Rome, May 29 — Three Italian paratroopers were injured in western Afghanistan on Friday in a violent firefight which left 25 insurgents dead, defense ministry sources said.

The battle started when a joint Italian-Afghan army patrol came under attack in the area of Bala Morgab.

None of the soldiers from the Folgore Brigade suffered serious injury.

One was said to have hurt his foot jumping from his vehicle, another received some shrapnel wounds, while the third suffered a concussion when an anti-tank grenade exploded near him.

Three Afghan soldiers were also killed, while four others were injured and four insurgents captured.

Friday’s attack was not far from where an Italian military helicopter, carrying General Rosario Castellano, the commander of allied forces in western Afghanistan, came under machine-gun fire on Thursday.

The pilot was able to avoid the attack and take General Castellano to a meeting with local tribal elders.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa later said that “our boys reacted professionally… and successfully repelled an enemy attack”.

“Our troops do a lot and we cannot ask more of them. They are there to help rebuild and ensure calm as well as to keep terrorism far from our shores,” he added.

La Russa recalled that allied patrols frequently come under fire in the Bala Morgab area.

“Every day there is a risk of attack because the terrorists want to create a situation of instability ahead of the Afghan (presidential) elections” in August, he explained.

On Thursday, La Russa said that “isolated actions” aimed at harming Italian soldiers were growing more common in the run up to the election.

“The deterrent action of the Americans and the English in the zone bordering the area under our control in the west of the county has resulted in renewed insurgence in the places where our soldiers are present,” he said.

“This doesn’t mean that the insurgents are stronger, because the weapons used in the attacks (explosive devices against patrols and other isolated acts) are the sign of those who do not feel in a position to fight openly,” he said.

According to the latest defense ministry figures, there are currently 2,795 Italian troops in Afghanistan, of whom 700 are in Kabul and over 2,000 are in Herat, where the Italian command has its headquarters.

Earlier this year Italy pledged to deploy extra troops for a period of three months to help guarantee security during August’s presidential elections.

An additional 400 army troops are set to be deployed in July, while 40 airforce troops should join them in August.

Another 114 soldiers will also be sent as part of the deployment of the NATO rapid response unit based in Solbiate Olona in northern Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Top Gun’ Takes on Taliban Upside Down

The navy’s leading pilot in Afghanistan tells of the daring manoeuvre he used to tackle a militant stronghold

THE Royal Navy’s “Top Gun” pilot and veteran of almost 200 missions in Afghanistan has relived the hair-raising aerial manoeuvres used against a Taliban stronghold.

Lieutenant Simon Rawlins, 30, described flipping his Harrier jet upside down while flying up the side of a mountain at more than 500mph to scare off enemy troops.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

Amateurs Use Google Earth to Uncover Kim’s Sinister Secrets

A set of images — “North Korea Uncovered”, released by Curtis Melvin, a keen American amateur — includes a tantalising view of the site where the North Koreans detonated a nuclear device last week that diplomatic sources say may have been based on a Chinese design.

Melvin’s satellite map of the country, collated from Google Earth, reveals palaces, labour camps, mass graves and the entrance to the subterranean test base in the remote northeast of the country.

He started collecting images of the world’s most isolated country for the drier purpose of analysing the economy.


The result is a portrait of a hidden country. It is so rich in raw intelligence that even the collators may not be aware of just how many state secrets are on their website.

Railways and the electricity grid crisscross a landscape where no factories have functioned for years.

Grandiose monuments adorn empty plazas. Airfields and artillery emplacements scar the landscape. A lonely missile launching site from where the North Koreans fired off short-range missiles last week stands looking out across the Sea of Japan.

Sinister mounds mark the places where exiles believe the victims of a man-made famine in the 1990s — perhaps 1m people — were interred.

The mappers are confident that they have identified the Vinalon complex, a plant connected with hideous chemical warfare experiments.

The outlines of fences, ditches and boundaries appear to correlate with escapees’ accounts of the locations of labour camps. The mappers have also identified a public execution site.

Then there are the pleasure domes of the elite. From space they can be seen to extend like a Korean Xanadu through gardens, fountains, swimming pools and pavilions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Giancarlo Elia Valori’s Diplomacy With North Korea

Rome, 29 May North Korea president Kim Jong Il is today regarded as a dangerous leader. But someone can testify that he and his family have helped — in similar critical moments — to ‘coold own’ difficult situations asd for human rights. In particular professor Giancarlo Elia Valori, president of ‘La Centrale Finanziaria Generale’, has met Kim Jong Il and his father the former leader Kim Il Sung, which was an old friend of him, several times. His last visit took place in 2008 and Elia Valori was the only western invited to the funerals of Kim Il Sung. Such confidential relationships have allowed Elia Valori to ask Kim Il Sung a mediation in order to convince the Iranians to free in 1988 three French hostages of Jewish origin, seized in Lebanese from Hezbollah (Jean Paul Kauffmann, journalist of the French television, Marcel Fontane and Marcel Carton, cameramen). Valori reveals an interesting detail: “In Pyongyang — he recalls — Kim introduced me to Mohsen Rafiqdoust, founder of the Pasdaran, the negotiator on the hostages issue”.

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

Hong Kong Trade Unionist: China Risks Another Tiananmen

Without democracy China is drowning in corruption and injustice. Workers, farmers and migrants revolts are a sign that Beijing is on the verge of a fresh crisis in its relationship with the population. Hong Kong is the catalyst of Chinese democracy. A witness of the Tiananmen movement, banned for over 20 years from returning to China, speaks out.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — Lee Cheuk Yan, 52, is a Legco parliamentarian in Hong Kong. Head of the territory’s Federation of Unions, he is also a member of the pan-democratic group. During the Tiananmen demonstrations he — like the majority in Hong Kong — helped the young people of Beijing and shortly before the June 4th massacre, he succeeded in bringing them money he had collected for tents, faxes and food. Arrested for a number of days he was later extradited to Hong Kong. Since then Lee is one of the few people banned from setting foot on the mainland, because of his support of the Tiananmen movement, but above all because of his commitment to workers rights in Hong Kong and China.

Many people ask me why I still remember June 4th. After all China has changed. Indeed the extraordinary progress of the China of today can be clearly seen. But it is only on an economic level. In that field alone, can we say that there has been great success, with a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that for a long time was around 10% a year. But the way in which the Communist Party treats its people hasn’t changed at all. The only thing that has changed compared to 20 years ago is the dimensions of its corruption. And people continue to be angered by this corruption, just as 20 years ago.

So regarding freedom nothing has changed. There is still no freedom of expression, the government continues to quash all difference of opinion, there is no freedom of speech or association. We only need to look at how all of the signatories of Charter 08 have been arrested and silenced. As soon as they feel an opinion may threaten the Communist Party, they immediately suppress it. That is why they arrested Liu Xiaobo; during the Olympics they arrested Hu Jia, their only crime being their support of people’s rights.

This is why it is rally a bitter pill to swallow when I hear that we should forget June 4th because China has changed.

This year is not only the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. It is also the 90th anniversary of the May 4th movement. They too were students, who asked that China follow reforms based on “science” and “democracy”. Maybe after 90 years China has acquired science but where is the democracy? There is a cry for democracy that spans decades of Chinese history and still today we have neither democracy, nor human rights, nor freedom.

China has been waiting for over a century now for democracy and still we are still waiting. This is why it is even more urgent to remind the Beijing government that democracy is one the promises they haven’t kept and that without it we risk another sad episode for the people of China.

Beijing insists that democracy only suits the west. In reality it is said that without democracy and freedom of speech there is only corruption. Take for example the Sichuan earthquake. As well as the Mothers of Tiananmen — who honour their children killed by armoured tanks — now there are also the Mothers of Sichuan, whose children died in the earthquake. In May 2008, they had asked for an inquiry into the construction of the schools which collapsed on top of their children. One year later, on the very anniversary of the disaster, President Hu Jintao didn’t dare recall the problem of the “tofu buildings”. And yet a year ago the government had promised an inquiry!

Another example is Wen Jiabao’s efforts to strengthen the economy, by supporting the farmers, helping them by electric equipment and products [at the same time boosting internal consumption]. But the money never finds its way to the farmers: it remains stuck in the pockets of corrupt government representatives.

When Beijing says: “forget democracy and human rights, what’s important is feeding the people”, it is lying. What in fact happens is that without human rights, democracy and freedom of press, you don’t feed the people, only the corrupt. The only guarantee for the well being of the people is democracy.

Moreover without human rights and democracy you will never overcome the abyss between rich and poor. If there is no participation, no trade unions, civil society, you risk collapse.

Hong Kong played an important role in supporting the young people of the Tiananmen movement.

Those days of 20 years ago are one of the most painful periods of my life: to see young people killed, the wounded carried on bicycles, or in the arms of others, the people in tears…. I went to Beijing then to bring money that we had collected in support of their movement. I arrived there at the end of May. I witnessed the first clashes between the army with their tanks and the people. I had travelled there together with some students from Hong Kong, but we lost trace of each other. I searched the hospitals for them and in the end, by sheer luck; I found them wounded but alive.

However when we went to take the plane back to Hong Kong, the security dragged me from the plane before take-off. I was detained for three whole days and I had no idea what would become of me. But after three days — I think thanks to the pressure of some people in Hong Kong — they freed me to return. I later learned that some workers in Hong Kong had threatened to bulldoze the Xinhua offices in Hong Kong, if they didn’t release me, creating an international scandal.

I was lucky, there are Chinese who remained in prison for years.

For us in Hong Kong, the Tiananmen movement was a sign of hope that the dictatorship would end. That is why we supported it. But the massacre quickly put an end to our hopes.

On my return, after June 4th Hong Kong was shrouded in an atmosphere of terror and desperation. People had no more faith in the future, they sought to emigrate, leave the territory. I remember that my wife Elizabeth was pregnant at the time. People would ask her where she found the courage to have a child, with a husband who was in trouble with China.

And yet still today after 20 years we continue our battle so our friends in China may soon enjoy freedom and democracy. And our battle in Hong Kong is the same: we want full democracy in the territory, universal suffrage, but twice over the Politburo has stopped all progress, both for 2008 and 2012.

If China does not change its judgement of June 4th, how can we then expect Beijing to allow full democracy in Hong Kong? It is the same battle, the same movement.

This is why it is important that we in Hong Kong continue to support democracy in China. Ours is an important responsibility just as important as that of the Chinese. Here in Hong Kong, we at least have the opportunity to commemorate the dead of Tiananmen on June 4th [as is the case with the annual Victoria Parka vigil of June 4th -ed], but in Beijing none of our compatriots have the possibility to commemorate the dead: it is forbidden them.

Our annual appointment also gives people from China the chance to come to Hong Kong to remember Tiananmen. In 2005 when we commemorated the death of Zhao Ziyang, many of those who intervened had come from the Peoples Republic, where they were forbidden to remember Zhao.

For the Chinese of the Peoples’ Republic, coming to Hong Kong is not merely a question of tourism; it is also a tour for democracy. Hong Kong has the important role of being a catalyst for freedom in China.

Hong TV also plays a part in this: the people of Guangdong often watch Hong Kong programs. It often happens that when there are democracy rallies in Hong Kong, the programs are suppressed in China. Then people understand: Ah, they are demonstrating in Hong Kong!

Hong Kong, tank to its TV, internet, and media has a profound impact on China.

Remembering Tiananmen 20 years on means putting a choice to the Chinese government.

The nation is by now an economic power; even if there is an economic crisis, a lot of money is still circulating; there are those who say that it is no longer a question of the G20 but the G2 (China and the US) for world governance…..But why are they so weak in their relationship with their people, to the point of not being able to stand for difference of opinion and to resort to suppression?

Leaders are always concerned that something may happen to them. And I think that they are worried by the widespread corruption. A phenomenon of such dimensions, which has been ongoing for years, feeds resentment and revolts and maybe even another Tiananmen.

Obviously we do not want another Tiananmen. We want the government to respond in a positive way to the revolts, by meeting the people and enacting political reform. In China the desire for change is strong; the government has to decide what to do to respond to civil society. Maybe they will not immediately enact full democracy, but they should at least take the first steps towards this goal. By doing so it will avoid another massacre.

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

Vietnam: Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City: Protecting Environment is a Christian’s Duty

Card. Pham Minh Man against extraction of bauxite in the central high planes promoted by government. The prelate denounces all who “damage the environment in the name of development” and invites all to “preserve nature for future generations”.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) — “The natural environment is a gift from the Creator that all of us can share”; it is “a gift for everyone, not for a particular individual or minority group” and must be preserved for “for generations to come”. This is the message at the heart of the pastoral letter published by Card. Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, of Ho Chi Minh City, on May 28th. The prelate reminds the faithful that “Protecting environment is a Christian’s duty”.

The letter is his response to a decision from Vietnam congress to back industrial projects in the name of progress despite the risk of widespread environmental damage. The prelate recalls two particular cases: the pollution of the River Thi Vai, in Ho Chi Minh City, caused by factory waste from the Vedan Vietnam industries specialised in glutamine, starch and sodium; and the a decision from Vietnam congress to back bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands region.

Critics include Vo Nguyen Giap, general Vo Nguyen Giap, the legendary communist wartime hero. General Giap’s battle is characterised by a nationalist stamp; he claims the environmental and social damage from the mines would far outweigh any economic benefit, and pointed to security concerns due to the long term presence of hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers in bauxite mines.

In his letter, card. Pham Minh Man echoes the concern of scientists and intellectuals that: “Since natural environment is for everyone, no one has permission to damage or control it even in the name of economic development”. The prelate argues that industrialists only think “to gain profits for a small group of privileged people” without any thought for the “collateral effects caused” by their factories. “These strategies of economic development can only lead to chaos— concludes the archbishop of former Saigon — They are neither for the common good of society, nor the future of the nation”.

The criticism of bauxite projects has come from various directions of Vietnamese civil society, but the communist party has singled out the Catholic community for punishment: Last month, Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, the spokesman of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, and another Redemptorist, Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy were victimized by the government for their opposition against bauxite projects. They were accused by state media of “stupidity” and “ignorance,” of causing serious damage to national unity and to the process of development, and of plotting to overthrow the communist regime.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Former Sudan Leader Nimeiri Dies

Former Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiri, who brought Islamic law to the country, has died at the age of 79, government officials say.

Mr Nimeiri died after developing “an illness”, presidential assistant Magdi Abdel Aziz said. He did not provide any further details.

Mr Nimeiri came to power in a 1969 coup that ended years of civilian rule in Africa’s biggest nation.

He later became a close US ally before being ousted, also in a coup, in 1985.

“He was too ill to be taken out of the country for treatment,” Mr Nimeiri’s secretary Makkawi Ahmed was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The funeral would be held on Sunday in Omdurman, near the capital Khartoum, officials said.

Life in exile

After seizing power in 1969, Mr Nimeiri gradually shifted from being a left-wing admirer of Egypt’s late President Gamal Abdel Nasser to becoming a US ally.

During his time in office, the first civil war between the Muslim north and Christian and animist south was brought to an end.

In 1983, he introduced Islamic Sharia law to Sudan — a move which many analysts say triggered a fresh north-south conflict.

Mr Nimeiri’s rule was also marked by a severe economic crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that was compounded by Sudan’s huge foreign debt and political upheavals.

There was a short period of democratic civilian rule after he was ousted in 1985, but the army under current President Omar al-Bashir seized power in 1989, backed by Islamist hardliners.

Mr Nimeiri returned to Sudan in 1999 after spending 14 years in exile in Cairo, Egypt.

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


Italy: Migrants Integrated But Social Risks

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 28 — Immigrants in Italy are more and more integrated, but they are at risk socially according to the 2009 global rights report to be presented tomorrow in Rome. Legal immigrants integrate well in Italy: one out of ten matrimonies regards an Italian and a foreign partner (a total of 24,020 in 2006), while the number of weddings in which both partners are foreigners totals 10,376; family reunions are increasing: the number of permits given out for family reasons on the total number of permits continues to rise; immigrants represent 10% of the labour market, of whom 814,311 are member of a trade union, 5% of the total number of members and 12% of active members, excluding pensioners. Immigrants create work: 10% of craftsmanship, 165,114 company owners, 52,715 partners and 85,990 other corporate figures, with the sharpest increase in the Moroccan, Romanian and Chinese community. Despite this close integration, immigrants keep running significant social risks. It is difficult for them to obtain Italian citizenship (an average of 2,000 per day in the EU-25, no more than 100 in Italy); 73.2% of the active population of immigrants has work, 12 points more than Italians, but their unemployment rate is 2 points higher, an average of 8.3% and 12.7% among women. Access to welfare is more difficult: despite a tax yield of 3 billion 749 million euros in 2007, 137.5 million for stamp tax and 254.5 million euros for profit income tax, local welfare has spent 136.7 million euros on them (2.4% of Municipality welfare spending), 53.9 euros per capita.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: More Non-EU New Residents in 2008 Than EU

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 26 — For the first time ever, in 2008 more citizens from non-European Union countries took up residency in Italy than EU citizens, national statistics bureau Istat reported on Tuesday. In its annual report on Italy, Istat said that last year 274,000 foreigners from outside the EU became residents compared to 185,000 EU citizens. According to Istat, there were two main reasons for this. The first was that last year a significant number of residency permits were issued to reduce a major backlog of requests, while the second was a reduction of arrivals of immigrants from new EU member states. The report’s section on immigration said that out of 3.9 million foreigners who had residency as of January 1 of this year, Romanians represented the largest community with 780,000. The report also found that for the 2007-2008 school year, the number of foreign students in Italian schools rose to 574,000, representing a 87% jump from the 2003-2004 school year. Non-Italian students thus represented 6.4% of the student population last year compared to 3.5% four years earlier. In the 2007-2008 school year, foreign students at the primary level represented 7.7% of the total, but this fell to 4.3% at the secondary school level, which was still more than double the 2% in 2003-2004. Istat found that non-Italian students enrolling in secondary schools preferred professional and technical institutes which gave them a diploma to allow them to enter the work force. The percentage of foreign students enrolling in vocational schools, in fact, was 41% compared to 19.4% for Italians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

What Will America Stand for in 2050?

The US should think long and hard about the high number of Latino immigrants.

By Lawrence Harrison

President Obama has encouraged Americans to start laying a new foundation for the country — on a number of fronts. He has stressed that we’ll need to have the courage to make some hard choices. One of those hard choices is how to handle immigration. The US must get serious about the tide of legal and illegal immigrants, above all from Latin America.

It’s not just a short-run issue of immigrants competing with citizens for jobs as unemployment approaches 10 percent or the number of uninsured straining the quality of healthcare. Heavy immigration from Latin America threatens our cohesiveness as a nation.

The political realities of the rapidly growing Latino population are such that Mr. Obama may be the last president who can avert the permanent, vast underclass implied by the current Census Bureau projection for 2050.

Do I sound like a right-wing “nativist”? I’m not. I’m a lifelong Democrat; an early and avid supporter of Obama. I’m gratified by his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. I’m also the grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants; and a member, along with several other Democrats, of the advisory boards of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Pro English. Similar concerns preoccupied the distinguished Democrat Barbara Jordan when she chaired the congressionally mandated US Commission on Immigration Reform in the 1990s.

Congresswoman Jordan was worried about the adverse impact of high levels of legal and illegal immigration on poor citizens, disproportionately Latinos and African-Americans. The principal beneficiaries of our current immigration policy are affluent Americans who hire immigrants at substandard wages for low-end work. Harvard economist George Borjas estimates that American workers lose $190 billion annually in depressed wages caused by the constant flooding of the labor market at the low-wage end.

The healthcare cost of the illegal workforce is especially burdensome, and is subsidized by taxpayers. To claim Medicaid, you must be legal, but as the Health and Human Services inspector general found, 47 states allow self-declaration of status for Medicaid. Many hospitals and clinics are going broke because of the constant stream of uninsured, many of whom are the estimated 12 million to 15 million illegal immigrants. This translates into reduced services, particularly for lower-income citizens.

The US population totaled 281 million in 2000. About 35 million, or 12.5 percent, were Latino. The Census Bureau projects that our population will reach 439 million in 2050, a 56 percent increase over the 2000 census. The Hispanic population in 2050 is projected at 133 million — 30 percent of the total and almost quadruple the 2000 level. Population growth is the principal threat to the environment via natural resource use, sprawl, and pollution. And population growth is fueled chiefly by immigration.

Consider what this, combined with worrisome evidence that Latinos are not melting into our cultural mainstream, means for the US…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Spain: Judges May Not Object to Gay Marriages

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 29 — Spain’s justices of the peace may not appeal to conscience and refuse to unite gay couples in matrimony. This ruling has been handed down by the country’s High Court, rejecting an appeal submitted by a judge in Sagunto (Valencia) against the agreement adopted in 2006 by the general council of judicial power, Spain’s governing council of the judiciary, which denied him the right to conscientiously object on religious grounds to presiding at a homosexual marriage. The judge had cited his fundamental right of freedom of ideas, which includes conscientious objection as its premise. In rejecting the appeal, the High Court pointed out that the only case of conscientious objection in carrying out a public office allowed by Spain’s constitution is that of refusing to do military service and in the case of healthcare staff involved with carrying out abortions. In 2005, Spain passed a law recognising marriages between same-sex partners. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Ministers Argue Girls’ Right to Sex Ed

Liberal party ministers Jan Björklund and Nyamko Sabuni have proposed a new schools law which removes the right to seek exemption from sexual education and swimming classes.

“All pupils, including immigrant girls, have the right to swimming lessons and to take part in physical and sexual education classes,” Björklund and Sabuni argue in an opinion article in Dagens Nyheter on Sunday.

Liberal party leader and education minister, Jan Björklund, and integration minister, Nyamko Sabuni, write that the right to exemptions from these classes will be removed in a new legislative proposal to be circulated for consideration during the summer.

The ministers underline that immigration is beneficial to Sweden while they point out that in Sweden all children have the right to the knowledge offered by the schools, “regardless of whether the parents like it or not.”

Björklund and Sabuni argue that far too many pupils, especially girls, in Sweden currently have their schooling “curtailed” by families with strong “honour traditions.”

They point out that in many such families the freedom of women is often seen as a threat to the family.

“The will of the girls is often subordinated to what is considered to be the best interests of the family; the men’s, or the group’s, “honour” based on the girl’s sexual behaviour.”

This situation can result in girls being denied the right to participate in physical and sexual education classes, something the ministers hope the new law will put a stop to.

Björklund and Sabuni base their arguments on a recent survey of school pupils in Stockholm.

The survey, by researchers at Stockholm University, indicates that 10 percent of pupils in the city’s schools regularly avoid participating in the subjects and school outings.

The survey shows that among the girls within this group, many replied that they could not participate because it would be contrary to their family’s religion or culture.

The ministers refer to a further study conducted by Anders Lange and the Living History Forum that indicates that almost 25 percent of teachers been asked for an exemption from physical education or swimming classes, and 14 percent from sexual education classes.

Björklund and Sabuni argue that the figures indicate that the problem with “honour culture oppression” could be greater than previously apparent.

“Taken to its extreme the oppression is a direct threat to the child’s life, but even if it does not go to such drastic lengths it almost always violates the child’s fundamental rights.”

The right to seek exemption from certain school subjects dates back to 1950 when the Swedish school curriculum still taught Christianity. Catholic and Jewish children were then able to be exempt from the classes and could attend equivalent classes organized by their own faith groups.

The right to seek exemption with reference to specific circumstances in the home was enshrined in the school laws passed in 1962 and then again in 1985.

The new law will limit this possibility to only very exceptional cases but will allow for classes to be organized to avoid “sensitive situations”, thus permitting girls and boys to be educated separately.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Fears of Muslim Anger Over Religious Book

‘Does God Hate Women’ by Jeremy Stangroom and Ophelia Benson cites attitudes to women and criticises Mohammed’s marriage

An academic book about religious attitudes to women is to be published this week despite concerns it could cause a backlash among Muslims because it criticises the prophet Muhammad for taking a nine-year-old girl as his third wife.

The book, entitled Does God Hate Women?, suggests that Muhammad’s marriage to a child called Aisha is “not entirely compatible with the idea that he had the best interests of women at heart”.

It also says that Cherie Blair, wife of the former prime minister, was “incorrect” when she defended Islam in a lecture by claiming “it is not laid down in the Koran that women can be beaten by their husbands and their evidence should be devalued as it is in some Islamic courts”.

This weekend, the publisher, Continuum, said it had received “outside opinion” on the book’s cultural and religious content following suggestions that it might cause offence. “We sought some advice and paused for thought before deciding to go ahead with publication,” said Oliver Gadsby, the firm’s chief executive. The book will be released on Thursday.

A recent novel that also dealt with Muhammad’s relationship with Aisha provoked an outcry. The Jewel of Medina caused such anger that a Muslim extremist was convicted earlier this month of trying to firebomb the office of its publisher.

Continuum’s book may cause a backlash because it sets out to be a factual examination of religious attitudes to women. British writer Jeremy Stangroom and his American co-author Ophelia Benson, whose previous books on philosophy and science have received favourable reviews, cite ancient Islamic scholars to support their case. They roundly attack previous attempts to “soft-soap” the controversial episode in Muhammad’s life. In the aftermath of 9/11, the authors argue, a wave of political correctness aimed at building bridges with the Muslim world has meant accusations of “Islamophobia” have been used to silence debate about the morality of social conduct, past and present.

Through a gruesome catalogue of abuses carried out against women in the name of Islam as well as other major religions, including Hinduism and Catholicism, Stangroom and Benson conclude that most of the world’s great faiths are essentially misogynistic.

Among the many tragedies they cite are the deaths of 14 young girls in a fire at a school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in March 2002. The girls died after being herded back into a blazing classroom by the country’s religious police because they had neglected to don black head-to-toe robes in their rush to flee to safety.

However, the most contentious section of their book is likely to be their conclusions concerning the age at which Muhammad first slept with Aisha.

While it is widely accepted that the girl’s father first offered her for betrothal to Muhammad when she was just six, many argue that Muhammad married Aisha when she was nine and the union was not consummated until she reached puberty years later.

However, Stangroom and Benson cite extracts from a highly regarded historian of early Islam, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, who quotes Aisha as saying: “The Messenger of God consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old”. The authors conclude “religious authorities and conservative clerics worship a wretchedly cruel unjust vindictive executioner of a God. . . a God who thinks little girls should be married to grown men”.

Such assertions could invoke the ire of some Muslims. Anjem Choudary, a self-styled sharia judge and former leader of the banned British group Al-Muhajiroun, said: “Talk of Aisha as a child when she married is not true.

“At nine she reached her menses and in those days a girl was considered to be mature when that happened. No one will swallow talk about child brides. It would lead to a huge backlash, as we saw with The Jewel of Medina.”

           — Hat tip: Lexington[Return to headlines]

‘Hebrew Book-Burning’ Minister Farouk Hosni is Front-Runner to Head Unesco

An Egyptian Cabinet minister who offered to burn Hebrew books last year enters the final straight as favourite for leadership of Unesco today in the face of fierce opposition from Jewish groups and intellectuals in Europe.

Farouk Hosni, 71, an artist who has served as Culture Minister for 21 years, apologised this week for his book-burning call and is still deemed front-runner among seven contenders for the post of director-general of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Policy Review: Another Step in Internet Control

In conclusion, I’m a huge proponent of Information Security and making the Internet (i.e. cyberspace or whatever you want to call it this week) more secure. It is very important to me. I live it, I breath it, and I know some of the risks and threats are real; however, I don’t believe this report to provide a clear, concise solution to the problems. It appears more to me to be some sort of mission statement or one group’s agenda on how to take control of the Internet (i.e. cyberspace) under the disguise of assuring a trusted and resilient information and communication infrastructure.

[Return to headlines]

Tone Language is Key to Perfect Pitch

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2009) — Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Sinatra and Hendrix — these and many other of the world’s most famous musicians have had “perfect” or “absolute” pitch. The ability, defined as recognizing the pitch of a musical note without having to compare it to any reference note, is quite rare in the U.S. and Europe, where only about one person in 10,000 is thought to have it. Often lumped into the mysterious realm of Talent, perfect pitch is — according to Diana Deutsch of the University of California, San Diego — probably more the result of nurture than nature, more environment than genes.

In a study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and being presented at the ASA meeting in Portland on May 21, Deutsch and her coauthors find that musicians who speak an East Asian tone language fluently are much more likely to have perfect pitch.

“Perfect pitch for years seemed like a beautiful gift — given only to a few genetically endowed people. But our research suggests that it might be available to virtually everybody,” Deutsch said.

Unlike English, many East Asian languages, such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese, are “tonal,” so that a word’s meaning often depends on the tone in which it is said (not to be confused with intonation such as sarcasm). Deutsch surmises that learning perfect pitch is, for fluent speakers of a tone language, akin to learning a second tone language.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]