Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/27/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/27/2010Needless to say, the big news of the day is President Barack Hussein Obama’s State of the Union Address. I didn’t listen to it, although I did read some of the live-blogging about it. It sounded like I didn’t miss much.

The future Baron sent us his own response to the State of the Union Address:

Vote for me in 2012! I oppose what you’re against, support what you’re for, and will give you one annual year every three hundred and sixty-five days. Furthermore, I’ll put an ax through every television in this country so you won’t be able to listen to me even if you wanted to, which is doubtful.

Check out the news story about the double balcony “suicide” in Turkey. If it had taken place in a European immigrant enclave, I would have filed it under “cultural enrichment”.

In other news, young James O’Keefe, who became famous as the “pimp” in the ACORN stings, was arrested by the FBI along with three other young men for attempting to interfere with the phones in Senator Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans office.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, Henrik, Insubria, JD, KGS, Logan’s Warning, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
ECB and Rating Agencies Issue Warnings on EU Debt
Kyrgyzstan — Uzbekistan: War Among the Poor as Uzbek Migrant Workers Seek Jobs in Kyrgyzstan
Real Estate: Spain, 325bln Debt, Banks Have Had Enough
Spain: Only Developed Country in Recession in 2010
UK: Don’t Invest in Britain: The UK Economy Sits ‘On a Bed of Nitroglycerine’, Investors Warned
 
USA
After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday’s Web Site
Anti-ACORN Filmmaker Arrested
CBS Interview With Tea Party Leaders
Corruption by the Chicago Democrat Machine
Dems Vow to Resurrect Health Care Bill
Former Top Military Commander Warns Obama Against Linking Climate Change and National Security
Revealed! Meet the Real ‘Ellie Light’
States’ Rights Rebellion Over National Guard
Top Democrats at War — With Each Other
 
Europe and the EU
Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Amsterdam
Bad Weather: Spain; Arctic Cold, Madrid Under Blanket of Snow
Britain Ignores Anti-Muslim Hatred: MCB
Danes Not Good to Minorities
Denmark: Killed Caseworker Was Counsellor
Finland: Romanian Beggars Prepare to Go Home
France: Anti-Veil Imam Targeted; Group Storms Mosque
France: Islam: Law on Secularism
France: Islam: Veil, Does Not Always Cover Face
Geert Wilders: On Trial for Telling the Truth
How One Government Justifies Taking Children From Their Parents
Italy Wants Cross Ruling Cancelled
Italy: Berlusconi Praises US Job in Haiti
Italy: Berlusconi-Linked Teen Seeks Glitzy TV Career
Italy: New Book Promotes ‘Political Unity’
Italy: Berlusconi Moves to Defuse US Diplomatic Row
Milan Station Marks Holocaust
Revelations About John Paul II
Sarkozy Calls for Tolerance With Muslims
Should the UK Ban the Muslim Face Veil?
Soccer: Materazzi Rapped for Berlusconi Mask
Spain: Cinema Protest Lockout Against Films in Catalan
Swiss Minaret Ban Was a “Symbolic Gesture”
UK: ‘Nazi’ Remark Presenter Wins Right to Challenge Ofcom
UK: Children of Better-Off Parents Banned From Attending School Trips at Half-Term
UK: Munir Hussain ‘Wrongly Targeted by Burglars for Affair With Jealous Man’s Wife’
UK: Scientists Exaggerated Impact of Climate Change, Says Government’s Chief Adviser
Voters Used Minaret Ban to Halt Spread of Islam
 
North Africa
Fisheries: Tunisia Conforms to EU Regulations
Football: African Cup, Egypt-Algeria, Tension Skyrockets
Tunisia: UN Criticises Use of Torture
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Egyptian Minister Admits That Steel is Used
Israel: New Al-Qaida ‘Center of Activity’
Knesset Rejects Bill to Outlaw Islamic Movement
 
Middle East
Iranian Forces Clash With Kurdish Separatist Group
Iraq: Young Man Wounded in New Anti-Christian Attack in Mosul
Israel-Turkey: Report, Erdogan Encourages Anti-Semitism
Italians Attach Great Interest in Turkish Defense Industry
Jordan Hit by Bad Weather, Water Supply Increases
Turkey: Twins Commit Suicide Together
Turkey: Kurds: Teen Sentenced to 8 Yrs for Chanting Slogans
 
Russia
Russia: Teaching Religion in School Distances Russians From Orthodoxy
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Italian Expert Warns Kabul Cannot ‘Sustain Stability’
Afghanistan: Germany to Send 850 Extra Troops
Bangladesh: Netrokona: Armed Gang Attacks Catholic Activist and His Wife
India: Two Churches Attacked in the State of Karnataka
India Announces First Manned Space Mission
Indonesia: Police Hunt for Sumatra Church Attackers
Malaysia Arrests Foreigners on Terror Charges
Pakistan: Zardari Slaughters Goats to Ward Off Evil: Report
 
Far East
China — Hong Kong: Matteo Ricci Maps Did Not Put China at Centre of the World
EU Presidency Reconsidering China Arms Embargo
 
Latin America
One Laptop Per Child in Haiti
 
Immigration
Ethiopia to Benefit From U.S. H-2A and H-2B Visas — DHS
Flight School Operator in Norfolk, Virgina Charged as Illegal Immigrant
German Homeschoolers Granted Political Asylum
Homeschoolers on Run Win U.S. Asylum
Homeschooling German Family Granted US Asylum
Ireland: It Wasn’t Our TDs’ Plan to Make Deportation Almost Impossible
Netherlands: Immigration Drives Up Tuberculosis Figures
 
General
Drug Firms ‘Drove Swine Flu Pandemic Warning to Recoup Billions Spent on Research’
IE Windows Vuln Coughs Up Local Files
The Terrorism Quiz

Financial Crisis

ECB and Rating Agencies Issue Warnings on EU Debt

A collection of prominent voices warned EU member states on Tuesday (26 January) about the risks of rising indebtedness hampering economic recovery and spooking financial markets.

European Central Bank chief economist Juergen Stark said the shocking state of public finances could lead to further credit rating downgrades of government bonds and ensuing market turmoil.

“We are seriously concerned about forecasts of strong rises in government deficits and the indebtedness of countries in the eurozone,” he said in a speech.

Credit rating agency Fitch pointed to the expected heavy toll of the rising debt levels. On average, nearly one fifth of national output will be absorbed by debt costs this year, but in some countries such as Italy, France and Ireland, it will be about one quarter, said the agency.

“The increase in the stock of short-term debt is a source of concern to Fitch as it increases market risk faced by governments, notably exposure to interest rate shocks,” said associate director for sovereign debt, Douglas Renwick.

Following a study of 15 EU countries and Switzerland, the agency found that gross borrowing this year “in absolute terms is projected to be largest in France (€454 billion), Italy (€393 billion), Germany (€386 billion euros), and the UK (€279 billion).”

However, Italy, Belgium, France and Ireland are forecast to have the highest borrowing as a percentage of GDP, all at about 25 percent.

Separately on Tuesday, Spain’s finance minister Elena Salgado told the European Parliament’s economic committee that she wants to see “rigorous and consistent” enforcement of EU budget rules that limit budget deficits to three percent of GDP.

Spain, currently holders of the EU’s rotating presidency, is estimated to have run up a deficit of around 11 percent last year.

Action

The warnings come amid concerns the ongoing Greek debt crisis and strains in other eurozone countries, notably Portugal and Ireland, are threatening the cohesion of the 16-member euro area.

On Tuesday night, Portugal’s Socialist government outlined proposals to bring down the government’s deficit over the course of 2010, without hampering nascent signs of recovery.

The country has seen considerable pressure from the International Monetary Fund and credit rating agencies to start implementing measures rapidly, with latest figures suggesting the peripheral state’s deficit reached 9.3 percent of GDP in 2009, far higher than previously expected.

Portuguese finance minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos said the government would cut the budget deficit by one per cent of GDP this year. “By 2013, we will reduce the deficit to below three per cent of GDP,” he added.

The European Commission is expected to give its assessment of deficit cutting measures in four EU member states — Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta, on Wednesday.

A draft copy of the report, seen by Reuters, says Hungary and Latvia are on track with their fiscal cutback programmes, which require the two states to bring their deficits below three percent by 2011.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Kyrgyzstan — Uzbekistan: War Among the Poor as Uzbek Migrant Workers Seek Jobs in Kyrgyzstan

Uzbeks seek seasonal work from March to November. They take whatever job they can find at the lowest wage they can get, and sometimes are not even paid. Since they are illegal, they cannot complain. Still, there is not much work to go around, and Kyrgyz workers complain that their presence is pushing down wages. Inter-ethnic tensions are a real possibility.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The world’s financial woes are devastating the economies of Central Asia. In Uzbekistan, unemployment is high and legions of unskilled Uzbek workers are emigrating to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan where they are competing for jobs with unemployed Kyrgyz.

Every spring, Uzbek day labourers (mardikerlar in Uzbek) cross into Kyrgyzstan, especially the south, looking for low-paid seasonal work. They compete with local workers because they accept lower wages in a war of survival among the poor. They work illegally on farmland, in construction or making bricks because an agreement between the two countries that allows their respective citizens to freely cross into the other and stay for up to 60 days without a visa does not allow them to work in the other country.

However, many Kyrgyz employers prefer Uzbeks because they accept low wages, seasonal employment and do not complain. One of them, interviewed by Eurasianet, said that Uzbek migrants accept one Kyrgyz som for two bricks (2 cents US) whilst Kyrgyz workers get twice as much.

In winter, there is little work and Uzbeks have to make the trek home, to wait for the next spring.

Some migrants complain that sometimes they do not get all the money they are owed but cannot complain because they are illegal and could be expelled by police at any time.

“Uzbek labourers do the hardest work,” said Azimjan Askarov, the head of Vozdukh (Air), a human rights and legal services NGO. “Few Kyrgyz citizens are interested in working on fields under the hot sun.”

Kyrgyz migrants prefer to go to Russia, where salaries are better. They tend to know Russian, which they studied at school, whilst many Uzbeks do not know the language as well.

In any event, there is not much work and the presence of migrants tends to keep the cost of unskilled labour very low. Experts are concerned that his might lead to interethnic tensions with unemployed Kyrgyz.

In the 1990s, the Osh region was the scene of clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Recently, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said that the country’s economy was recovering, but many experts are not convinced, saying that GDP and figures unemployment rates are manipulated.

At the end of 2009, Standard & Poor downgraded Uzbekistan to the ultra-high-risk category. The Heritage Foundation in the United States ranked Uzbekistan 158th out of a 179-country survey, which earned the country the designation of “repressed” economy.

Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, ranked 80th in the Heritage Foundation survey, good enough for a “moderately free” designation.

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


Real Estate: Spain, 325bln Debt, Banks Have Had Enough

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 26 — More than an impossible-to-fill abyss than a hole: the debts of real estate companies and promoters with Spanish banks and savings institutions amounted to 325 billion euros in the third quarter of 2009, according to data from the Bank of Spain. “The real estate sector is bankrupt”, said Santo Gonzalez Sanche, the president of the Asociacion Hipotecaria Espanola (AHE), which gathers the financial institutions. “Real estate promoters cannot pay and the system cannot take on real estate debt”, explained Sanchez, cited by the media. The billions in debt has been accumulated since 2007 by a sector that has gone from being the principal motor of the Spanish economic miracle, to a thorn in its side, with the end of a boom that lasted for 10 years, the bursting of the real estate bubble and the crisis of a speculative development model. What remains is akin to the ruins of a battlefield, with over 50% of the debt in the sector associated with building sites that have been purchased and that now have no market. Since this land has no de facto value , the banks are not willing to grant more credit to real estate companies for new promotions, explained Gonzalez Sanchez. A black hole that generates 15 billion euros of debt per year just in interest, and which has led to a very complicated refinancing process. For the banks it is increasingly difficult to grant real estate loans, since property values are plummeting. This is why financial institutes are calling on the government, the official credit institute or the Bank of Spain to take control of the situation. They must study together how to guarantee the future of the real estate sector, “which cannot disappear like the industrial sector,” stressed Gonzalez Sanchez. A difficult task since debt in the construction sector represents almost 30% of Spain’s GDP, making it unrealistic it to be underwritten by the state. The crisis in the real estate sector has lead to a current stock of 750,000 unsold homes that have no market, which real estate promoters will take ten years to sell off. The Spanish mortgage association hopes that some of the resources provided for by the government fund for the restructuring and mergers of banks and savings institutions will be earmarked to ease the pressure created by real estate debt, which is also causing difficulties associated with the credit ratings of Spanish financial institutions by the international agencies. According to Gonzalez Sanchez, of the overall 325 billion euros of debt, 166 billion has been loaned by the savings banks and 134 billion by the banks, and 25 billion by credit unions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: Only Developed Country in Recession in 2010

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 26 — Spain will be the only developed country in 2010 that will still be in a recession, with -0.6% economic growth, compared to 1% growth on average for the rest of the euro zone. The most recent forecasts of the International Monetary Fund, cited today by news agency EFE, confirm the group’s figures in October, meaning that Spain will exit from the crisis in 2011, with GDP growth of 0.9%, while the rest of the global economy will already be recovering this year. Advanced economies, in particular, will grow by 2.1% in 2010 thanks to the boost given by developing nations, whose GDP will increase, according to the IMF’s estimates, by 6% by the end of the year. The expected growth for countries in the euro zone in 2011 will be 1.6%. Differently than the IMF’s forecasts, the Spanish government expects the country’s economy to grow already in 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Don’t Invest in Britain: The UK Economy Sits ‘On a Bed of Nitroglycerine’, Investors Warned

Gordon Brown’s election strategy was dealt a further blow today after the boss of the world’s biggest bond house warned investors to avoid the UK economy.

Bill Gross, who runs Pacific Investment Management Co mutual fund, said the British economy was lying on ‘a bed of nitroglycerine’.

In his monthly newsletter, Mr Gross said: ‘The UK is a must to avoid. Its gilts are resting on a bed of nitroglycerine.

‘High debt with the potential to devalue its currency present high risks for bond investors.

‘In addition, its interest rates are already artificially influenced by accounting standards that at one point last year produced long-term real interest rates of 0.5 per cent and lower.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA

After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday’s Web Site

In late October, Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site, newsday.com, behind a pay wall. The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect?

So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to newsday.com?

The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class.

That astoundingly low figure was revealed in a newsroom-wide meeting last week by publisher Terry Jimenez when a reporter asked how many people had signed up for the site. Mr. Jimenez didn’t know the number off the top of his head, so he asked a deputy sitting near him. He replied 35.

Michael Amon, a social services reporter, asked for clarification.

“I heard you say 35 people,” he said, from Newsday’s auditorium in Melville. “Is that number correct?”

Mr. Jimenez nodded.

Hellville, indeed.

The web site redesign and relaunch cost the Dolans $4 million, according to Mr. Jimenez. With those 35 people, they’ve grossed about $9,000.

In that time, without question, web traffic has begun to plummet, and, certainly, advertising will follow as well.

[Return to headlines]


Anti-ACORN Filmmaker Arrested

Federal authorities have arrested four men on felony charges for attempting to infiltrate Sen. Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans office, including one filmmaker who targeted the community group ACORN last year in damaging undercover videos.

Among those arrested was 25-year-old James O’Keefe, the conservative filmmaker, along with Joseph Basel, Robert Flanagan and Stan Dai, all 24. They were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses and attempting to gain access to the Democrat’s office by posing as telephone repairmen, according to a copy of an FBI affidavit unsealed Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


CBS Interview With Tea Party Leaders

News Anchor Katie Couric spoke to Tea Party leaders Michael Johns and Kellen Guida about their movement and the frustrations of those who identify with it.

The Tea Party movement, Johns said, was a “visceral reaction” to the idea that “our federal government was growing too large, that too much power was being centralized, and government bureaucracies that the American people were over-taxed, in some ways over-regulated.”

“And that the genius of the American dream, the genius of American liberty as enunciated by our founders was always a belief in individual liberty and individual freedoms,” he continued.

Johns, a health care executive and former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, added that “it’s a hugely patriotic movement.” He said the direction of the Obama administration is “an antithesis in many respects of what our founding fathers envisioned.”

Guida, an unemployed architect who organized a New York City tea party, said his activism grew out of the bank bailouts. He said that while he didn’t believe the government should have let the banks fail completely, he was bothered that midlevel banks and small businesses were allowed to fail while big banks were given a bailout.

Small businesses are “not seeing any lending,” he said. “They’re the ones that do the actual hiring for the economy. So when you have the government saying, ‘We need to get lending again so we can create jobs, and we’re also gonna give the government some money to create jobs,’ at the end of the day, the real economic driver of this country, the small businesses, are standing there with nothing still.”

[…]

He also slammed health care legislation, complaining of a “lavishly expanded” government role, and called for the proposed “Enumerated Powers Act,” which would require Congress to show where each new piece of legislation is justified in the Constitution.

[video at link]

[Return to headlines]


Corruption by the Chicago Democrat Machine

The credit cards of 89 Chicago Board of Education employees have been yanked in the midst of an investigation into questionable spending by the last two Chicago School Board presidents and their staff, officials revealed Monday.

If employees at board headquarters want their credit cards back, they will have to justify their expenses dating back to June 30, explain why they need a credit card, and receive training on how to use it, Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Monique Bond said. She said Schools CEO Ron Huberman canceled all credit cards on Jan. 19.

The disclosure of the action comes after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that an internal report by Schools Inspector General James Sullivan details what sources said was thousands of dollars in artwork, limousine rides, high-priced meals and liquor charged by former board presidents Michael Scott, Rufus Williams or their staff to the board’s tab.

At the time, both board presidents were receiving stipends — $3,000 a month for Scott, who committed suicide in November, and $1,600 a month for his predecessor, Williams. Those stipends have since been canceled.

Mayor Daley said Monday he was awaiting two internal reports on the matter — from Sullivan and from former federal prosecutor Williams Jones Jr., who is expected to be hired by board members Wednesday at a cost of up to $100,000.

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin http://michellemalkin.com/

[Return to headlines]


Dems Vow to Resurrect Health Care Bill

Giving up on overhauling the nation’s health care system is not an option, the top House Democrat said Wednesday as lawmakers looked to President Barack Obama for guidance in his State of the Union address on how to revive the stalled legislation.

Asked if Congress might abandon a health care initiative beset with political and policy problems, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded: “I don’t see that as a possibility. We will have something.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Former Top Military Commander Warns Obama Against Linking Climate Change and National Security

Calls for independent review

Washington, DC (Jan. 27) — Ahead of the State of the Union address and in the wake of recent and ongoing climate science scandals, President Obama should appoint an independent panel of experts to evaluate the purported climate change-national security link, urged Adm. James A. Lyons, Jr., USN (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Chairman of the Center for Security Policy’s Military Committee.

The supposed relationship between climate change and national security “is too important an issue to be driven by unsubstantiated claims, tainted by scandal, and to result in counterproductive policies,” Adm. Lyons stated in the open letter.

Adm. Lyons’ letter points out that both the ongoing Climategate scandal involving senior United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists and the IPCC’s recent admission-of-error and retraction of the claim that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 have rocked confidence in often-repeated assertions that capping emissions of greenhouse gases will improve national security.

“Before we adopt policies that affect military-preparedness and national security, it is imperative that we act on honest assessments of the best available information,” Adm. Lyons said. “When it comes to the climate change-national security link and the cap-and-trade legislation now being considered by Congress, any confidence in scientific pronouncements that may have existed in 2009 does not exist in 2010,” Adm. Lyons added.

“In light of media reports that President Obama plans to emphasize the climate change-national security link in his State of the Union address, I am asking the President to acknowledge recent developments and to appoint an expert panel whose independence is beyond reproach to sort out fact from fiction,” Adm. Lyons concluded.

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Revealed! Meet the Real ‘Ellie Light’

Letter writer is male health-care worker tied to Daily Kos, Obama-Ayers machine

A male health-care worker who appears to be Ellie Light — the letter writer whose name appeared in dozens of newspapers nationwide praising President Obama — also is a diarist for the far-left Daily Kos website and an online friend of an individual tied to a radical pro-Obama group associated with William Ayers’ Weathermen terrorist organization.

Winston Steward, 51, of Frazier Park, Calif., told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer he made up the name “Ellie Light” to protect himself from criticism and possible physical attacks from “conservatives.” He said he used fake addresses across the country to get local newspapers to publish his letters.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


States’ Rights Rebellion Over National Guard

Lawmakers fight to keep governors, not president, in control of troops

Responding to an executive order by President Obama, a new push is under way for states to adopt laws limiting the use of their National Guard units unless there is an invasion, insurrection or other limited circumstance.

As WND reported, Obama’s order establishes a new “Council of Governors” designated to advise on the “synchronization and integration of state and federal military activities in the United States.”

The recent order, posted on the White House website, was accompanied by the explanation that the group is to work “to protect our nation against all types of hazards.” It comes just weeks after the president issued a similarly obscure order vastly expanding INTERPOL’s privileges in the U.S.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Top Democrats at War — With Each Other

In a display of contempt unfathomable in the feel-good days after Obama’s Inauguration, freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) stood up at a meeting with Pelosi last week to declare: “Reid is done; he’s going to lose” in November, according to three people who were in the room.

Titus denied Tuesday evening that she had singled out Reid, but she acknowledged that she said Democrats would be “f—-ed” if they failed to heed the lessons of Massachusetts, where Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat last week.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Amsterdam

In 2009, the number of anti-Semite incidents in Amsterdam doubled compared to the year before. The Jewish community fiels under siege.

On an evening during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Ber van Halem (22) crossed a street in Amsterdam’s affluent Zuid neigbourhood, only to hear a group of boys invoke a Dutch ethnic slur (“Kankerjood”) involving both a deadly disease and his Jewish heritage. Not once, but several times.

Van Halem confronted the boys and continued on his way. Suddenly, he heard the sound of bicycles behind him. He turned around and an argument developed. Out of nowhere, he felt somebody hit him. He fell to the ground. “I was kicked in my stomach and on my shoulder while prone,” Van Halem recounted.

Van Halem’s beating, which took place in October 2008, remains one of the most infamous manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands in recent years. The incident led to public outcry, when local police failed to find time to register Van Halem’s formal complaint days later. “We were very busy working a robbery,” a spokesperson for the Amsterdam- police force explained. The Van Halem case has since been closed. Not one perpetrator was caught.

Anti-Semitist incidents doubled

In 2008, 14 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in the Dutch capital, making for relatively calm year in the city that is home to most of the country’s approximately 40,000 Jews. New — as yet unpublished — data collected by a semi-governmental agency that reports on discrimination, have shows that the number of reported incidents grew to 30 in 2009. This development is in line with national trends, said Elise Friedmann of the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group in the Netherlands. “We estimate the total number of reported incidents doubled in 2009,” she said.

Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza strip in January of that year was the driving force behind the explosive growth, according to Friedmann. “In that month alone we had a hundred or so reports come in, almost the same amount we did over the entire year before,” she said.

When an Israeli military operation dominates the headline, Van Halem is one of the first to notice it on the streets. “The verbal abuse hurled at me on the streets is becoming more severe and more regular,” he said. Experience has taught him that the boys taunting him are almost always of Moroccan descent.

“Their reasoning goes something like this: Israelis are Jews, Palestinians are Arabs, so we Moroccan ‘Arabs’ in the Netherlands are going to take on Dutch Jews,” said Menno ten Brink, a rabbi for the liberal Jewish community in Amsterdam.

More and more under siege

At the time when Van Halem was beaten, Israel was relatively quiet however. “They spotted my skullcap and started swearing at me,” he recounted. Van Halem has been wearing the traditional headgear, proscribed by the Jewish faith, since he was six. “Ever since, I have been cursed regularly. When I was 8 I hurt myself after I was pushed against a bicycle stand. My leg needed stitches,” he said.

Many people witnessed his 2008 beating and were able to give the police good descriptions of the assailants. Van Halem was surprised when the police sent him a letter, letting him know that the perpetrators had never been found. Rabbi Ten Brink wonders whether the police had really tried its best. “All these witnesses and the police can’t find the guy who did it. Telling,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Amsterdam police force assured they had done everything within their power. We had plainclothes cops staking out the area for days, looking for the boys. But we couldn’t find anyone,” the spokesperson said. The case was finally closed in May of last year.

Ten Brink’s sceptical attitude towards the police illustrates of the Amsterdam Jewish community at large. Jews here feel more and more under siege as they are exposed to a growing barrage of name-calling, hate mail, firecrackers in their mailboxes, graffiti and — occasionally — physical abuse. They feel the government should do more about it, by coming down harder on perpetrators, for one, but also by investing more in their security financially.

‘Hilter let one get away’

The liberal Jewish community in Amsterdam is building a new synagogue. “Security is costing us hundreds of thousands of euros,” Ten Brink said. “In Antwerp and Paris, synagogues were attacked. The same could happen here.” On the shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, security officers guard the synagogues. “Fear has taken hold,” said Max Engelander, chairman of the Amsterdam police force’s Jewish network, which was founded last year. “That is why we do not take lightly to anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination,” he said.

How big is anti-Semitism really in Amsterdam? “It is a serious problem, but it doesn’t occur on a daily basis,” Ten Brink said. Rabbi Raphaël Evers a rabbi serving Amsterdam’s orthodox community, felt the problem was more serious. “I do not get out much, but when I do I am almost always insulted along the lines of ‘Hitler let one get away’. My mother says it is worse now than it was before the second world war,” he said.

Bloeme Evers-Emden, a 83-year old survivor of the concentration camps, lost most of her family during the Holocaust. “In 1939 I was 13. The NSB [The Dutch fascist party] disseminated a lot of anti-Jewish propaganda back then, but I do not remember Jews getting beaten as they are now.”

Evers-Emden lives in a part of Amsterdam home to a lot of Moroccans. “I saw a kid about 8 years old yelling something about ‘killing Jews’. I asked him ‘do you know what you’re saying?’ He said ‘yes’, and went on repeating himself.”

Van Halem feels uncertain whether anti-Semitism is on the rise. “It goes up and down, mostly following events in Israel,” he said. He and his friends do feel an urge to strike back. “A lot of my friends have been trained in the Israeli army. I have years of martial arts training myself. Occasionally we’ll say: ‘come on, let go get them back’. But in the end, we don’t want to form a militia or anything.”

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


Bad Weather: Spain; Arctic Cold, Madrid Under Blanket of Snow

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 26 — Due to a new wave of arctic temperatures and strong winds from the north east, the Spanish State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) has today put the weather alert at its highest level (orange) in some thirty provinces in the south east of the Spanish peninsula and at high (yellow) in other provinces in the north and central part of the country, including Aragon, Catalonia and Madrid. The passing of the bad weather from northern Europe, across France and the Pyrenees, and which is set to hit Morocco and Algeria tomorrow, has produced substantial precipitation. Madrid, both the capital and the whole metropolitan area, was once again covered in 3cm of snow overnight. One of the autonomous communities worst hit by snow is Castilla-La Mancha, with precipitations exceeding 5cm at over 700m; whilst in Murcia the wind alert remains at its highest, with gusts measuring 90km per hour and snowfall. The lowest overnight temperatures hit -8C in most of the country, whilst the highest temperatures, according to weather forecasts, will not exceed 10C. The director general of traffic control has reported difficulties on the roads, caused by snow and wind, in the provinces of Teruel, Castellon, Cuenca, Toledo, in the Community of Madrid and in the Community of Valencia. The cold weather is expected to peak at dawn tomorrow. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Britain Ignores Anti-Muslim Hatred: MCB

CAIRO — Many of Britain’s sizable two-million-strong Muslim minority are dispirited by their government’s failure to tackle surging anti-Islam hostilities in the European country and want to see divisive action being taken to address that.

“Amongst many British Muslim communities, there is a growing disenchantment at the lacklustre response from our political leaders to speak out against anti-Muslim hatred,” Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), wrote in a letter to the Home Secretary and posted on the group’s website.

He accused politicians of either keeping their silence or riding the bandwagon of the anti-Islam trend.

“Whether this exists in explicit form through the actions of far-right groups, or implicitly with hysterical headlines in our media, the policy response to any of these has been far from satisfactory.”

Anti-Muslim march by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) last Saturday in Stoke-on-Trent city, Staffordshire, turned violent.

Over 17 people were arrested and at least four police officers injured after scuffles between the protesters and police.

The protest coincided with a meeting by hundreds of British Muslim leaders in Birmingham to discuss the growing anti-Muslim hatred trend.

The meeting urged fellow British Muslims, estimated at nearly two million, to cooperate with authorities to help tackle this issue.

It urged them to join coalitions with people of all faiths and none to seek strong law enforcement measures against those who indulge in violence and intimidation and in spreading the poison of hatred on faith or racial grounds.

Surging

The umbrella MCB, which groups around 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools, said the past year witnessed a growing trend of anti-Muslim hysteria and hatred.

“In 2009 alone, scores of Muslim institutions, centers and persons have been targeted in violent attacks.”

Scotland Yard warned last July that far-right extremists were plotting terrorist attacks to stoke racial tensions in the European country.

In August, a Scottish racist threatened to kill Muslims until all mosques in the country are demolished.

Abdul Bari, the Muslim community leader, urged the Home Secretary to take divisive action to face this trend ahead of the coming elections.

“We ask you to take leadership in this matter, especially in a year where divisive elements may well flourish in the run-up to the next general election.”

Last November, local councils across Britain raised the alarm that the government was too much focused on combating radicalization among Muslims while ignoring the growing threat of far-right extremism.

“Their inaction is facilitated by the insatiable appetite of a hysterical media, keen to paint a picture of a British Muslim community that is somehow foreign, suspect and disloyal,” said the MCB.

“British Muslims are none of these.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Danes Not Good to Minorities

A third of Somalis in Denmark have experienced personal discrimination according to an EU report.

Denmark comes towards the top of a list of countries in which hate crimes take place, with only Roma in the Czech Republic and Somalis in Finland worse off than Somalis in Denmark, according to an EU report.

In the report on selected minority groups in all of the member countries, a third of Somalis in Denmark say they have experienced serious racist assault, serious harassment or threats. The survey was based on 27,000 interviews across the European Union.

“Denmark has a major problem in relation to discrimination,” says Morten Kjaerum, head of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights which carried out the survey.

“We see that the figures that we have previously worked with (…) were only the top, in fact only the very top of the iceberg,” he says.

Researcher not surprised

Mandana Zarrehparvar, who is head of the Department of Equality and Diversity is not surprised that Somalis are particular targets — and not only for ethnic Danes.

“Somalis are particularly vulnerable simply because of their very dark skin colour. They are lowest in the hierarchy, including among other ethnic groups,” says Zarrehparvar who undertook a survey of hate crime for Copenhagen Council.

Often heard

The Chairman of Somali Development Denmark is not surprised at the results either.

“This is something we often hear from people. Most have experienced verbal harassment, but many also experience physical aspects,” says Muhammed Maxamed Abshir.

Maxamed tells of women who are pushed in the street; a boy who was held around the neck and many who are shouted or spat at in buses or in the street. He says that racist harassment and threats are part of everyday life several places in Jutland.

Only some 80 percent of attacks on Somalis are reported to the police.

“They are afraid that the authorities won’t do anything and that things will just get worse. Many have complained without anything being done and that spreads from family to family. At the end of the day you learn to live with it,” says Maxamed.

Hate crime

“Denmark focuses too little on hate crime. The police should be trained to handle situations and investigate when hate crimes are reported,” says Zarrehparvar adding that minorities themselves must be aware of their rights and where they can seek help.

Others also harassed

Other minority groups also appear to be harassed. The National Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transgender people says that there are attacks each weekend. Also the Documentation and Advice Centre on Racial Discrimination says that Jews and Turks are affected.

The Socialist People’s Party has proposed a task force to inform and train police officers so that they are better able to register and solve hate crimes. The proposal is currently on its way through Parliament.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Killed Caseworker Was Counsellor

A 56-year-old caseworker who was killed close to work was a newly elected counsellor at Struer Council.

The 56-year-old woman caseworker who was knifed to death close to the Holstebro Job Center this morning was a recently-elected Social Democratic counsellor for Struer Council, according to the Struer Council Communications Consultant.

Birthe Christiansen died following multiple knife wounds she suffered at the hands of an attacker at around 8 a.m. near the Holstebro Job Centre.

In last November’s local elections she was elected as a counsellor in Struer and appointed to both the Culture and Leisure Committee and the Technical and Environment Committee.

“I am deeply shaken and shocked that something like this can happen,” says Mayor Niels Viggo Lynghoej in a message.

The flag at Struer Town Hall is at half mast.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Finland: Romanian Beggars Prepare to Go Home

Some Romanian beggars who were recently given temporary housing in Finland due to the cold are returning to their home country.

Two families are currently meeting with officials to arrange flights back to Romania. Another family is planning to drive back home. Only one of the five families currently living in the emergency shelter does not want to return home.

The City of Helsinki and the Helsinki Deaconess Institute, who provided the accommodations, had intended for the families to leave by the end of this month. However authorities say they don’t plan to drive anyone out into the cold.

Officials from the city and the institute are to discuss the situation next Monday.

Late last year, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) became suspicious of the beggars, saying they could be part of an organised crime gang. They also feared some of the beggars could be victims of human trafficking.

Twelve persons suspected of systematically bringing the Romanian beggars to Finland have been taken into custody in Romania. By some estimates, about 30 people are involved in the gang.

The NBI began working with Romanian officials on the case last summer. Over the past few years, several Finnish cities have seen an influx of Romanian Roma who come to Finland to beg.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


France: Anti-Veil Imam Targeted; Group Storms Mosque

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 26 — Tension is high in France where Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam at the Drancy mosque, who in recent days sided in favour of a law that bans the use of the full veil has been hit by serious threats. A group of some 80 people stormed the Drancy mosque yesterday evening, making threats against Chalgoumi, a great supporter of interreligious dialogue (above all between Jews and Muslims), who recently declared that he was against the use of the full veil in France. A group of 80 people, with their faces covered, stormed the mosque where some 200 worshippers were present, a council member of the Conference of Imams, chaired by Chalgoumi himself, told the France Presse agency, asking to remain anonymous. They forced their way in and grabbed the microphones after a scuffle. At this point, they directed threats and curses against Imam, treating him as an unbeliever and an apostate and stating: we will trash his case, this Imam of the Jews… Launched in 2009, the Conference of Imams is a collective that promotes an interreligious dialogue and the promotion of open Islam. In recent days, Hassen Chalghoumi has said that he is in favour of a law that bans the use of the full veil in France, describing it as a prison for women, an instrument used for sexist domination and Muslim recruitment. The parliamentary mission, which has been studying the measures to be adopted against the full veil, has today recommended that France should solemnly declare itself in favour of the ban and has asked for the adoption of a series of measures to ban it from administration offices and public transport. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Islam: Law on Secularism

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 26 — The controversial law on secularism, which came into effect on September 2 2004 in France, is the legal instrument currently in force in France to regulate the use of the Islamic veil, but not only the veil. The text forbids the ostentatious display of any religious symbol in general (therefore including large crucifixes, the Jewish kippah and the turban) in schools and public buildings. Approved on March 15 2004 by the National Assembly, the provision — now commonly known as the anti-veil law — underwent a number of modifications, before arriving at the formula endorsed by the then Minister for Public Education, Francois Fillon. Over time the numerous requests, above all from the Uoif, the Union of Islamic Organisations in France, for a “more flexible application” of the law led the Government to cancel the term “head covering” from the decree, replacing it with the word “clothing”. In this way, without saying so explicitly, the text does not exclude the option of young Muslim women from wearing a “discreet” headscarf. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


France: Islam: Veil, Does Not Always Cover Face

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 26 — Chador, burqa, niqab, scarf. The Islamic garment (hijab in Arabic) which many women use to cover the head and the whole body traditionally expresses a religious and cultural affiliation, but it has now assumed a strong political significance, both in Islamic countries and the West. The following are some of the types of garment worn by women and compulsory by law in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. — HIJAB: this is the generic Arabic term, used in all Islamic countries to describe the veil which covers the head and body of a woman. The word means to veil, cover, separate, remove from view. — SCARF: Covers the head but leaves the face visible. Many Islamic women who live in the West wear this, but it is also a common word in Iran and other Islamic countries. — CHADOR: A Persian word which means curtain. This is a large, semicircular piece of fabric which reaches the ground, and is usually black. It is closed up to the chin, leaving only the face and hands uncovered. It is traditionally used by Shiite women and is especially widespread in Iran. — NIQAB: Typical of the Sunni Muslim countries, this type of veil covers the face, leaving only the eyes visible. There are several types. In Egypt, for example, it is heavy and black. In Yemen and the United Arab Emirates is comes in the special form of a tunic slipped on over the head, which completely covers the head, face and body. — BURQA: A veil which completely covers the body. There is a piece of cotton gauze at eye-level, the only window to the outside world for women who wear it. It is worn, in a variety of colours, mainly in Afghanistan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Geert Wilders: On Trial for Telling the Truth

by Douglas Murray

There is nothing hyperbolic in stating that a trial which has just started in Holland will have unparalleled significance for the future of Europe. It is not just about whether our culture will survive, but whether we are even allowed to state the fact that it is being threatened.

The trial of Geert Wilders has garnered hardly any attention in the mainstream press here. Fortunately the blogosphere can correct some of this.

Wilders is a Dutch MP and leader of Holland’s fastest-growing party, the Party for Freedom. Just a few years ago he was the sole MP for his party. The latest polls show that his party could win the biggest number of seats of any party in Holland when the voters next go to the polls.

His stances have clearly chimed with the Dutch people. They include an end to the era of mass immigration, an end to cultural relativism, and an end to the perceived suborning of European values to Islamic ones. For saying this, and more, he has for many years had to live under round-the-clock security protection. Which you would have thought proves the point to some extent.

Now the latest attempt of the Dutch ruling class to keep Wilders from office has begun. Last week, apparently because of the number of complaints they have received (trial by vote anyone?) the trial of Wilders began…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


How One Government Justifies Taking Children From Their Parents

Inside the Issues with Alan Sears

ADF protecting religious liberty internationally, assisting defense of pastor in Sweden

A tragic example comes from Sweden, where Alliance Defense Fund lawyers are working diligently alongside attorneys for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to help a couple regain custody of their young son from the Swedish government.

In June, 2009, Swedish authorities forcibly removed seven-year-old Dominic Johansson from his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, on a plane they had boarded to move to Annie’s home country of India. (The family had decided to head to India to do missionary work with orphanages there.) The officials did not have a warrant nor have they charged the Johanssons with any crime. Their only stated motive for seizing the boy is that they believe his parents home-schooled him … and in Sweden, home schooling is deemed inappropriate. Inappropriate enough, it seems, that government officials feel they can do a better job of raising Dominic than his parents can.

“It’s one of the most disgraceful abuses of power we have ever witnessed,” said HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly. “The Swedish government says it is exercising its authority under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (a document that many would like to adopt here in the United States) in their unnecessary break up of this family. In addition, the Swedish Parliament is considering [what is] essentially a ban on home schooling. We have heard that other home-schooling families in Sweden are having more difficulty with local officials. We fear that all home-schooling families in that country are at risk.”

“Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without government interference,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “This is about a government trying to create a cookie-cutter child in its own image. Without help, the parents in these cases are really powerless since the system is so one sided.”

Swedish social services, for instance, initially limited visitation to the child to two hours per week but now have curtailed that to one hour every fifth week — and no visit at all for Christmas, because the social workers were on vacation.

Please be in particular prayer for Dominic and his family, that the Lord will intercede in these circumstances and that our attorneys and those of HSLDA will find a legal means of restoring this boy to his parents. And pray, too, for those here in the U.S. who are battling similar prejudices against Christian home-schoolers.

[Return to headlines]


Italy Wants Cross Ruling Cancelled

Support from ‘many’ European countries, Frattini says

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, January 26 — Italy is determined to get a recent European ruling against crosses in Italian classrooms cancelled, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday.

November’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sparked a storm in this heavily Catholic country and strong criticism from the centre-right government.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with French judge Jean-Paul Costa, who chairs the ECHR, Frattini said he hoped Italy’s appeal would be declared admissible.

“We are going to the court to defend a very deep sentiment of the Italian people, a fundamental principle which affects the identity of our country”.

Frattini said it was even more important to safeguard Italy’s “Christian identity” after Italy and other Catholic countries failed to have a reference to Europe’s Christian roots included in the European Union’s Constitution.

Italy and several other Catholic countries fought a long and hard battle for the insertion of such a reference but in the end the Lisbon Treaty, drafted in 2004, contained only a generic reference to “religious” influences as having shaped the continent’s values.

“We lost that battle, for the moment, but now we must defend that identity”.

Italy had garnered support from “many European countries” for its appeal, he said, without naming them.

However, he said they had agreed to speak up against the ruling and cited an “important” declaration adopted by the Polish parliament.

Before his meeting with Costa, Frattini addressed the parliamentary assembly of the 47-member Council of Europe, which the court represents. He reiterated to the assembly the Italian government’s view that Europe needs to do more to uphold its Christian heritage.

Frattini noted that the Lisbon Treaty protected religious minorities like Muslims but did not cite Europe’s “Christian roots”.

This, he said, was a form of “reverse racism” in which Europe was “mute on religious feelings”.

If Italy’s appeal against the cross verdict is admitted, the Council’s ruling panel will have six months to decide what action the Italian government should take to avoid future suits.

The Strasbourg court, which is not an EU body, ruled on November 3 in favour of a petition filed nine years ago by a Finnish-born mother of two who argued crosses in classrooms infringed on pupils’ religious freedom.

The Italian government said last week its appeal was ready. Cabinet Secretary Gianni Letta said the appeal would be supported by “an abundance of documentation and arguments”.

He too said it had been “easy” to garner the support of “several other European countries” in Italy’s favour.

The head of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, hailed the appeal, saying “the sentence goes against European history and religious sentiment”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi Praises US Job in Haiti

Premier in bid to sooth anger over criticism by Italian envoy

(ANSA) — Rome, January 26 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday praised the United States’ leadership of the relief effort in quake-hit Haiti in an attempt to soothe anger over riticism levelled by the Italian special envoy this weekend.

“In critical situations like the one in Haiti, organizational difficulties are inevitable,” Berlusconi warranted.

“But without the US’s intervention, managing the situation would have been much more difficult”.

“Everyone is doing their best in Haiti and right now, we need to stop being critical and focus our energies on the enormous task at hand,” he said.

Regarding remarks by Civil Protection Chief Guido Bertolaso who, during a Sunday telecast direct from Haiti, bemoaned a lack of central coordination, Berlusconi said that “at times like these, it’s best to avoid making statements that could lead to misunderstandings”.

He added that Foreign Minister Franco Frattini had clarified the government’s position on Monday during talks in Washington with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite playing down criticism as “armchair quarterbacking” during a joint press conference with Frattini, Clinton said Tuesday that she “deeply resented” insinuations that the US had done less than it could.

“We have scrambled as quick as we could to do everything needed in the past two weeks,” she said.

While Clinton did not single out any detractors in particular, she did point out that the troops sent to Haiti were there to distribute food and medicine, a possible response to a remark by Bertolaso who accused the US of sending “too many soldiers and not enough aid personnel”.

The Secretary of State added that she had nothing against “constructive criticism”, but that the US had been judged unfairly by many voices abroad.

The United Nations’ job in Haiti was also cast in an unfavourable light during Bertolaso’s interview, particularly former US President Bill Clinton as the UN’s special envoy.

But a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday denied that the remark had caused any friction, saying that Berlusconi had “cleared the matter up”.

Frattini later said the same thing when asked during an online newspaper interview if Bertolaso, who rose to national fame for guiding the relief efforts after the April 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, had fallen out of favour with the government.

“Berlusconi has said everything there is to say on the matter. The case is closed,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Berlusconi-Linked Teen Seeks Glitzy TV Career

Rome, 26 Jan. (AKI) — Noemi Letizia, the teenage lingerie model linked to Italy’s flamboyant prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has reaffirmed her dream to build a career in television. In an interview with Adnkronos, Letizia said her dream was to appear on celebrity talent shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’.

“To be honest, I have always dreamed of this, since I was a child — it’s not a recent decision,” Letizia told Adnkronos.

“I want to get into television and want to succeed. I feel that my time has really come. I have an objective and want to achieve it.”

The 18-year-old gained notoriety last year when Berlusconi attended her birthday party in Naples and gave her an expensive gold and pearl necklace as a gift.

Days after Berlusconi attended Letizia’s birthday party, his estranged wife Veronica Lario announced their marriage was over. Lario said he was “unwell” and claimed he dated “underage girls”.

At the time the young blonde told the media she called the prime minister ‘papi’ or daddy and went to meet him in Rome and Milan whenever he telephoned her.

But Berlusconi repeatedly denied ever having an improper relationship with Letizia, after Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario accused him of “frequenting minors”.

Letizia said her dream is to appear in shows produced by Italian TV mogul Bibi Ballandi, who produces the Italian version of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and other popular shows featuring Italian singers and other celebrities.

“I will ask him if I can do an audition, so he can decide if I have what it takes,” she said.

“I need people and environments that can guide me in the TV world, serious, experienced professionals. Ballandi is my top choice,” Letizia added. “It would be an honour to work with him.”

Letizia cited as her role models TV presenter and showgirl Barbara D’Urso, and TV presenters, singers and actresses Milly and Michelle Hunziker.

But Italian movie star Sophia Loren gets her top vote. “She is my biggest heroine,” Letizia said.

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


Italy: New Book Promotes ‘Political Unity’

Rome, 27 Jan.(AKI) — A new book released in Italy this week is designed to counter political divisions between the north and the south of the country. The book entitled, “Dialogue with the Northeast, on the Future of Italy between Europe and the Mediterranean”, is written by labour minister Maurizio Sacconi and former foreign minister Gianni De Michelis.

“I am convinced that Italy does not need a ‘party from the north’, but a national party predominantly led by northerners, that is capable of moving a locomotive and at the same time putting the brakes on the slowest carriages,” Sacconi (photo) said in an interview with Italian daily, Corriere della Sera.

Sacconi, who comes from the northeastern Veneto region, is a member of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.

He said that there was an opportunity for the northeast and the south to carry out a key strategic role in the region.

Sacconi said there were two cultures that dominated the northeast of the country — on the one hand there were cosmopolitan residents who travelled beyond the local community and others who knew only their own backyard.

“So in this country, these two groups that belong to the same ruling class of the community have separated from each other,” said Sacconi.

He said it was up to politicians to find a way to bridge the two groups to avoid a “paralysing conflict”.

De Michelis said the traditional position of Italy as an exporter of manufactured goods to Germany and the United States had changed and the country had to create a new framework that included the south.

“The majority of resources have not been exploited,” De Michelis said.

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


Italy: Berlusconi Moves to Defuse US Diplomatic Row

Rome, 27 Jan. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has moved to defuse a damaging diplomatic row with the United States over Washington’s aid efforts in Haiti. Berlusconi met the head of Italy’s civil protection authority Guido Bertolaso late Tuesday in Rome to discuss critical comments he made about the US response on a visit to the quake-stricken country at the weekend.

The Italian daily, La Repubblica, reported that the US ambassador to Rome, David Thorne, had taken the unusual step of telephoning Berlusconi’s top aide, Gianna Letta, on Monday to demand Bertolaso’s removal.

The civil protection chief reportedly offered the prime minister his resignation but was convinced it was “a row about nothing”.

In a statement released after the meeting, Berlusconi said: “In critical situations like this it’s inevitable that serious difficulties will arise in providing the efficient co-ordination of aid.

“However, I am convinced that in these situations it’s appropriate to avoid statements that may unintentionally provoke controversy, assuming that everyone involved is acting in good faith to help the people of Haiti.”

On Tuesday the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton staunchly defended the American response to Haiti’s earthquake, attacking foreign critics and calling the US military vital to the relief effort.

Clinton said she “deeply resented” the criticism.

“As is often the case, some of the international press either misunderstood or deliberately misconstrued what was a civilian and military response — both of them necessary to be able to deliver aid to the Haitians who desperately needed it,” she said.

Berlusconi quickly issued a statement praising American efforts, hoping to defuse a row after Bertolaso, his civil protection chief accused the US of weak leadership in the tragedy that claimed more than 150,000 lives.

During a visit to Haiti on Sunday, Bertolaso said that US efforts in the western hemisphere’s poorest country were more focused on military intervention than emergency relief.

He also described the rush by international aid agencies to the Caribbean country as a “vanity fair” and a “parade of international flags.”

On Monday Bertolaso sought to play down his previous comments after provoking the diplomatic row with the US.

“I didn’t attack the US, which is doing important work, but I criticised the lack of organisation, with thousands of Haitians left to their own devices,” Bertolaso said.

Bertolaso, who won praise for his handling of last year’s earthquake in the Italian town of L’Aquila, said that the United States could have been more effective if it had “a will and capacity for coordination and leadership.”

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


Milan Station Marks Holocaust

Commemoration ceremony ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day

(ANSA) — January 26 — The first stone in a new memorial commemorating Italian victims of the Holocaust was laid at Milan’s central station on Tuesday.

The memorial will stand at Platform 21 in the station, the departure point for trains carrying thousands of Italian Jews to concentration camps over the course of two years during World War II.

“This highly important site will bear witness to a tragic event that should always act as a warning for future generations,” said Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, in a message read out at the ceremony.

The president said Italians had a duty “never to forget what happened in this dark period of our history”.

The complex, which will include a library and prayer room, will stand next to two train wagons made of wood, accurate reproductions of those that carried thousands to their deaths. “This memorial centre will be a place to study and exchange ideas, to debate, learn and meditate,” said the memorial foundation’s director, Ferruccio De Bortoli, during a ceremony attended by the region’s top political figures. Italian Holocaust survivors also spoke at the event, describing painful memories of being taken away and life in the camps, including the final days before liberation. The ceremony comes ahead of international Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday, which commemorates the Soviet Army’s liberation of the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, on January 27, 1945.

Piero Terracina, who now lives in Rome, was one of those freed by the arrival of the Russians. He recalled that the Germans had fled five days previously, taking all food and water with them, leaving their starving captives in subzero temperatures, surrounded by dead bodies. Terracina, who had just turned 16 at the time and had seen all his family members die, recalled that his fellow survivors were so numbed by desperation they had no response when the Russian arrived.

“I told them, ‘Look, the Russians have arrived, we are free’. But there was no reaction. Only silence,” said the survivor, who weighed just 38 kilos when he left the camp. Among his clearest memories was the response of the Russian soldiers who opened the camp.

“Even they, who had fought a war, had never seen men and women reduced to our condition, and many of them started crying when they saw us,” he said.

A prominent Jewish spokesman, Amnesty International and the Italian gay rights organization Arcigay also released statements ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, which this year comes a month after the theft and recovery of the infamous Auschwitz entry sign, ‘Arbeit macht frei’.

Amos Luzzatto, the former president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, recalled his own memories of deportation and compared the tragedies of the past with today’s suffering, citing “those persecuted for reasons of race and those abused by political powers”. “It is a sad fact that the motto ‘never again’ is ignored on a daily basis,” he added.

The Italian head of Amnesty International Christine Weise said it was critical to remember the “horrendous crime that was the Holocaust” in order “to build a better world, one that permanently rejects discrimination, torture and every form of slavery”. EVENTS ACROSS ITALY TO COMMEMORATE VICTIMS. Arcigay President Aurelio Mancuso said his organization had planned dozens of events across Italy for Wednesday in order to commemorate the gay and lesbian victims of Nazi Germany, “tortured and killed because they did not meet the norms of the regime”. The planned events will include the distribution of 10,000 pink triangles outside schools, recalling the badge that gay concentration camps prisoners were forced to wear. In Rome, the National Union of Young Lawyers have a similar initiative planned outside the city’s main courthouse, where they will appear wearing yellow Stars of David, recalling the badges worn by Jewish camp prisoners. Union President Gaetano Romano recalled that Jewish lawyers had been struck off the roll en masse as a result of Fascist race laws. “The Supreme Legal Council rejected their desperate appeal out of hand, adhering bureaucratically to the principles behind the racial laws,” he said. In Italy, many Jews initially supported Mussolini and some even took part in his grab for power, the March on Rome, in 1922. But in 1929 he passed laws limiting freedom of religion and in 1938 produced his Manifesto of Italian Racism. This declared that Italians were part of the “pure race” along with the Aryans. Jews were expelled from all public services, such as the army and also public schools. Many Jews decided to leave Italy in hope of finding better lives for themselves. In 1940 Mussolini joined the war alongside Hitler and ordered the Fascist army to ransack the ghettos. Confinements and deportations began in 1943. More Jews fled hoping to find shelter in the Alps, convents, and monasteries.

Others joined the partisans.

An estimated 7-8,000 Italian Jews died in the Holocaust and there were 48 concentration camps on Italian soil.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Revelations About John Paul II

New book about pope claims kidnap plots & resignation plans

(ANSA) — Vatican City, January 26 — Pope John Paul II used to whip himself regularly in an act of penance, according to the church official heading the Vatican’s cause for the late pontiff’s canonization, Slawomir Oder.

A new book by Oder, which appears in Italian bookshops on Wednesday, reveals that John Paul subjected himself to regular self-mortification as part of his devotional practices. “Members of his closest entourage, both in Poland and the Vatican, heard with their own ears how Karol Wojtyla used to whip himself,” writes Oder.

“There used to be a particular belt, intended for trousers, hanging from a hook in his wardrobe among all his robes.

“He used this as a whip and always brought it with him when he went to [the papal summer residence] Castel Gandolfo”. Oder’s book confirms claims made late last year by a nun that cared for the pope, Sister Tobiana Sobodka, while giving evidence to the Vatican body considering John Paul’s canonization. Sobodka, who was in the room next to the pontiff at his summer residence, told the body: “We would hear the sound of the blows”.

According to Oder, self-flagellation was one of many ways in which the elderly pope sought to control his body. He not only fasted on prescribed days and throughout Lent, when he ate only one meal a day, he also abstained from food before carrying out any ordinations. He would frequently sleep on a cold, hard floor rather than in a bed, a practice he engaged in since at least the 1960s — although he would apparently rumple the blankets to make it appear he had slept in them, said Oder. While self-flagellation is no longer common in the Catholic Church, Vatican observers say the revelations about John Paul will provide the committee considering his canonization with further evidence of his religious commitment. The book, ‘Perche’ e’ santo’ (Why He Is A Saint), also reveals that the late pope had left instructions for his resignation in the event of an incurable illness. In two handwritten documents, made public for the first time in the new book, the ailing pope also spelled out his determination to continue his duties for as long as his health would permit. In the first document, dated 1989, he declared his intention to renounce his apostolic duties “in the case of a lengthy illness, thought to be incurable that prevents me from carrying out my duties sufficiently”.

However, the document leaves the final decision in the hands of the Church cardinals, who chose not to take any action during the pontiff’s final months of 2005.

In another letter, dated 1994, John Paul again said he felt it right to step down in the face of incurable disease but said unless this occurred, “I feel it is a serious conscientious obligation to continue carrying out the task given to me [by God]”.

Another section of the book reveals that shortly before the 1981 assassination attempt on the pope’s life, John Paul had learned that the Italian militant group the Red Brigades were planning to kidnap him. “Shortly before the attack, the Italian secret services warned that the Red Brigade terrorists had a plan to kidnap John Paul,” the book reported. According to Oder, this was why, when travelling to hospital in an ambulance after the attack, the pope remarked to his secretary, “Just like Bachelet,” in reference to the previous Red Brigades assassination of a Catholic judge Vittorio Bachelet.

Speaking at the presentation of his book, co-authored with journalist Saverio Gaeta, Oder said there was no certainty over when John Paul would be beatified.

He said the process was “well under way” but warned that the Congregation of the Saints, in charge of the canonization process, still needed to recognize a miracle by John Paul. “There are still various stages to undergo and we don’t yet know when the process will conclude,” he said.

Last month, Benedict announced that John Paul had been proclaimed ‘Venerable’, the second in the four-stage process towards canonization.

Beatification is the final stage on the way to being declared a saint. It means someone can be called ‘Blessed’ and can be venerated by Catholics in the place where he or she lived. A saint is venerated by the entire Church.

During John Paul’s funeral in 2005, crowds held up placards saying ‘Santo Subito!’, calling for the Polish pope to be declared a saint without going through the normal procedures.

Pope Benedict XVI has already accelerated procedures for his predecessor, waiving a rule that says the process cannot begin until at least five years have passed after the candidate’s death.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Sarkozy Calls for Tolerance With Muslims

France: French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Tuesday for tolerance with French Muslims and highlighted the need to remain aloof from fratricidal fights due to old state anti-clericalism.

In a speech at the national cemetery Notre Dame de Lorette in Pas-de-Calais, in northern France, Sarkozy also expressed his opposition to the the burqa, the piece of clothing that covers a woman from head to foot.

“We could not bear practices that insult the French converted to the Islam”, pointed out the President in the cemetery, where the graves of Muslim soldiers were outraged three times in 2007.

He stressed that the principle of laicism in France does not mean rejecting religious beliefs and practices, but the opposite, it means tolerance and respect in concordance with civic-mindedness and peace. Sarkozy paid tribute to French Muslims soldiers dead in military missions, among them Marshal Harouna Dio, who died in Afghanistan last January 13.

           — Hat tip: Logan’s Warning[Return to headlines]


Should the UK Ban the Muslim Face Veil?

A French parliamentary committee has recommended a partial ban on women wearing Islamic face veils. So should there be a similar ban in the UK — and would it work?

Just across the English Channel, allowing a woman to veil her face in public places such as hospitals, government offices and on public transport could soon be called into question.

In a country where the separation of state and religion is enshrined in law, a parliamentary committee report ruled the veil was “contrary to the values of the republic” and called on parliament to adopt a formal resolution proclaiming “all of France is saying ‘no’ to the full veil”.

France — which is home to five million Muslims — has a history of debating the full veil, with President Nicolas Sarkozy declaring it “not welcome” in 2010.

The country banned Muslim headscarves and other “conspicuous” religious symbols at state schools in 2004.

Despite calls from some groups for a full or partial ban on veils, there is currently no ban on Islamic dress in the UK — although schools were allowed to set out their own dress code in 2007 after several high-profile court cases.

‘Not British’

But could a ban by Britain’s nearest continental neighbours influence policy back home?

In January 2010, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street.

But writing in the Independent, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who chairs the group British Muslims for Secular Democracy, said she supported restrictions on wearing the face veil in key public spaces.

“This covering makes women invisible, invalidates their participatory rights and confirms them as evil temptresses.

“I feel the same fury when I see Orthodox Jewish women in wigs, with their many children, living tightly proscribed lives,” she writes.

She said progressive Muslims came out “daily” against the burka, which was an “un-Islamic custom”.

“During the Hajj pilgrimage no woman covers her face. The burka makes women more, not less, conspicuous, and communication is unequal because one party hides all expression,” she claimed.

‘Mutual respect’

However, Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who converted to Islam after she was captured by the Taleban in Afghanistan in 2001, said the French decision was “driven by Islamophobia — not the freedom or liberties of women”.

She said she did not know anyone who had been forced to wear the niqab (which covers the face apart from the eyes) or the body-covering burka.

Some Muslims chose to wear the niqab for religious reasons — because they believed it brought them closer to their faith — she said.

She said the UK “would not tolerate” a move like the one in France.

“Muslim women in Britain are more empowered than their sisters on the continent, largely because of the amazing anti-war movement which brought secular women alongside Muslim women.”

She said she understood why some people found the veil “unnerving”, but insisted “everyone should have a choice”.

Only a “tiny minority” of Muslims — a couple of thousand — wore the niqab in the UK, and “most of them were white Western converts who you could not say were quiet, suppressed women,” she said.

“We can’t allow legislation against the niqab. If we let it go the hijab will be next. Everyone should have choice. Where would it stop, hair dye, face piercing?”, she said.

‘Election tool’

Muslims are obviously in the spotlight. The BNP and UKIP are playing on an anti-Muslim sentiment; there is a real concern the face veil and other issues will be used as an election tool

Shaista Gohir, executive director at Muslim Women’s Network UK, agreed the face veil should not be banned in the UK, but said there needed to be a “internal debate amongst the Muslim community”.

“There needs to be more research on why some women choose to wear the veil and how they think they are perceived. Muslim communities need to instigate, be proactive, rather than wait for politicians like Jack Straw to say something and respond,” she said.

In 2006, Jack Straw angered Muslim groups after he said face veils were a “visible statement of separation and of difference” and suggested they could make community relations harder.

Ms Gohir said she could understand people might have reservations about the impact the veil had on integration — and it might prevent women from gaining employment — but a minority of Muslims felt the interpretation of Islam meant wearing a veil was part of their religion.

She said veils needed to be looked at “properly” in a “non-racist way”.

But she expressed concern that politicians might use “issues like this” in the lead-up to the elections.

Last week ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who leads UKIP’s 13 MEPs in Brussels, said the veils were a symbol of an “increasingly divided Britain”, that they “oppressed” women, and were a potential security threat — and called for a total ban.

The BNP has already called for the veil to be banned in schools.

“Muslims are obviously in the spotlight. The BNP and UKIP are playing on an anti-Muslim sentiment; there is a real concern the face veil and issues like it will be used as an election tool”, said Ms Gohir.

“Just because France are doing something, Britain does not have to follow suit.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Soccer: Materazzi Rapped for Berlusconi Mask

Defender escapes fine for ‘Carnival gag’

(ANSA) — Milan, January 26 — Inter Milan defender Marco Materazzi was rapped Tuesday for wearing a Carnival mask of Italian Premier and AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi in an on-field celebration of Inter’s 2-0 win against Milan Sunday.

Materazzi escaped a fine or a ban but was given a formal warning not to repeat such pranks.

On Monday the defender said there was “no political meaning” in his jape and “no intention of offending anyone”.

He said he was sure Berlusconi, noted for his sense of humour, hadn’t taken offence.

“Berlusconi is a person who loves making fun of himself and I’m certain he smiled when he saw me”.

“I reckon he liked the gag,” said the defender, who stressed he had celebrated under the Inter stand and not where Milan players and fans were.

Interior Minister and AC fan Roberto Maroni, who has led a crackdown on hooliganism, made light of the stunt Monday but Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, an Inter fan, said Materazzi should apologise to Berlusconi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: Cinema Protest Lockout Against Films in Catalan

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 26 — A lockout has been scheduled for February 1 in 74 cinemas in Catalonia, in protest against a new regional law which calls for dubbing or subtitles in Catalan for 50% of films being shown. According to the Association of Cinema Producers and Managers in Catalan, if the new law is passed, it will mean the death of cinema in Catalan: “There will be no cinema in Catalan because there will be no cinemas”, say the managers, who consider the measure provided by the Generalitat anti-economic. They have already complained about losses of 25 million euros due to piracy and changes in the habits of cinema-goers. 528 big screens will be in the dark on February 1, to coincide with the awarding of the Gaudì prize. There are 175 cinemas in Catalonia in total, 74 of them belong to the Association of Cinema Producers and Managers.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Swiss Minaret Ban Was a “Symbolic Gesture”

Voters who supported a people’s initiative to ban minarets last November wanted to make a symbolic gesture against the spread of Islam in Switzerland.

A survey of voters carried out by Swiss universities found, however, that the majority in favour of a ban was not equivalent to overall rejection of Muslims in Switzerland.

On November 29, 57.5% of votes cast were in favour of the people’s initiative, much to general surprise. Switzerland is the first European country to forbid the construction of minarets.

According to the Vox Analysis survey of more than 1,000 voters, released on Monday, the initiative was marked by a strong political Left-Right divide — the Left rejected the ban by more than 80 per cent, and the Right was in favour by almost as much. The political midway held the balance, voting two to one for the ban.

The most common reason for voting in favour of the initiative was to make a gesture against the spread of Islam and its model for society. Around one in six voters said their decision was a reaction against the discrimination of Christian churches in countries where Islam is strong.

Only 15 per cent were critical of Muslims living in Switzerland, leading the study’s authors to conclude that the vote could not be seen as a general rejection of Muslims in the country. Almost two thirds of those polled said that Swiss and Islamic ways of life were compatible.

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


UK: ‘Nazi’ Remark Presenter Wins Right to Challenge Ofcom

Radio host Jon Gaunt has won permission to take High Court action against Ofcom for its decision to uphold complaints against him.

Mr Gaunt called a councillor “a Nazi” live on his Talksport radio show in November 2008, and was later sacked.

Ofcom censured the presenter under its rules on offensive material, after receiving complaints from the public.

Mr Gaunt’s lawyers argued that his fundamental right to free speech had been infringed by the decision.

After a high court hearing lasting over two hours, Mr Justice Stadlen said the case had sufficient merit to go to judicial review.

In a statement, Mr Gaunt said protecting the right to speak your mind was “a right that we must all protect and preserve”.

His lawyers described the case as “ground breaking”.

Ofcom received 53 complaints over Mr Gaunt’s interview with Redbridge councillor Michael Stark about foster care, which took place in November 2008.

The presenter apologised on-air following the exchange, but Talksport sacked the presenter after its own investigation.

Ofcom said it found the language used and overall conduct of the interview had the potential to cause offence to many listeners and that there was insufficient editorial justification for the offensive material.

The pair had been debating Redbridge Council’s decision to ban smokers from fostering children when Mr Gaunt called Mr Stark a “health Nazi” and an “ignorant pig”.

Mr Gaunt is a former BBC radio presenter, winning three Sony Radio Academy Awards in 2001 while at BBC Three Counties Radio. He now hosts SunTalk, the Sun’s online radio show.

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


UK: Children of Better-Off Parents Banned From Attending School Trips at Half-Term

Children from better-off families have been banned from school trips with their less privileged classmates.

Only pupils eligible for free school meals because their parents are on benefits are able to take part in the holiday activities.

The government-funded scheme, operating in 22 schools in Trafford, Greater Manchester, pays for ‘economically disadvantaged’ school children only.

Parents of pupils unable to take part are outraged after being told their children cannot take part, even if they offer to pay.

The activities, due to take place in the February half-term, include a trip to Knowsley Safari Park, football sessions with Manchester United Foundation and a day at the indoor snow centre, Chill Factore.

Sarah Rumney, whose five-year-old son goes to Partington Primary, in Trafford, said some children had been left in tears because they did not understand why they could not go on the trips with their friends.

‘I’m really angry,’ she said.

‘I’m being penalised for working and wanting to do better for myself and my children.’ Rumney, 29, a self-employed cleaner from Partington, added she would be willing to pay for her son to take part but has been told she was not allowed to do so due to restricted places.

She said: ‘It’s a nightmare. What sort of incentive does it give to these kids to want to go out and work if all their friends are allowed to go on fantastic trips but they aren’t?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Munir Hussain ‘Wrongly Targeted by Burglars for Affair With Jealous Man’s Wife’

The knifemen who attacked Munir Hussain were hired by a jealous man who wrongly suspected the millionaire was having an affair with his wife, it was claimed today.

The innocent wife of the businessman who allegedly hired the burglars said her husband had accused her of having an affair.

The information sheds new light on the case, which sparked a nationwide debate about a householder’s right to defend himself against intruders.

This could suggest the motive for the attack in High Wycombe was for personal reasons and not a burglary, as was originally thought.

She said he was convinced she had ‘dishonoured’ him by having a relationship with Mr Hussain and had threatened her.

The unnamed businessman then apparently hired the three knifemen who tied up and terrorised Mr Hussain, 53, and his family.

Police have now taken the woman to a safehouse as they fear for her safety.

Speaking to the Sun yesterday, the wife, who has not been named, said today: ‘I do know Mr Hussain, but I have no relationship with him, no affair, nothing.

‘My husband used to threaten me, saying he has got people who can do things for him.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Scientists Exaggerated Impact of Climate Change, Says Government’s Chief Adviser

Scientists have exaggerated the impact of climate change and need to be more honest about how difficult it is to predict, the Government’s chief scientific adviser said today.

Professor John Beddington added that experts should be less hostile to sceptics who question man-made global warming.

And he condemned those who refuse to publish full report data, adding that public confidence in climate science would be boosted by greater honesty about its uncertainties.

Professor Beddington was speaking in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) admission that it had made a mistake by claiming that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035.

That followed the ‘Climategate’ row over whether researchers at East Anglia University manipulated evidence to support a theory of man-made global warming.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Voters Used Minaret Ban to Halt Spread of Islam

November’s vote against minaret construction in Switzerland can be seen as a signal by voters against the spread of Islam, according to analysis of the result.

Vox Analysis, a study regularly done after nationwide referendums to understand voter choices, found that the vote was not against Muslims or foreigners in principle.

The authors said Swiss xenophobia was not the main reason why the ban on the construction of minarets was passed by 57.5 per cent of voters on November 29. About 40 per cent of citizens who favoured equal opportunities between Swiss and foreigners also backed the minaret ban.

“For many voters it wasn’t against Muslims in Switzerland,” said political scientist Hans Hirter from Bern University at a presentation of the results on Monday.

He said the survey showed that about two-thirds of voters considered Swiss and Muslim lifestyles to be compatible.

This might appear contradictory but it becomes clearer when those who voted “yes” were asked about their motives.

“The minaret is a symbol of Islamic supremacy,” was by far the most popular argument (24 per cent) for backing a ban on future minarets. For the ban’s supporters, it was about making a “symbolic gesture” against the spread of Islam in Switzerland. A closer look by the vote analysis showed that even people who voted against the initiative agreed with this stance.

The argument that the initiative violated human rights — often heard before the vote — did not convince, the survey found. Even those who turned down the minaret ban did not agree with the argument.

Around one in six voters said their decision was a reaction against the discrimination of Christian churches in countries where Islam is strong.

Switzerland was heavily criticised abroad for the vote, with many observers saying that minority rights weren’t an appropriate subject for such a ballot.

Unequal treatment of minorities

In a separate analysis of Swiss voting patterns over the past 50 years, political scientist Adrian Vatter from Bern University said the foreigners and religious minorities suffered at the ballot box.

A study of 300 national and cantonal votes since 1960 found that foreigners and religious minorities were disadvantaged more than any other minority as issues aimed at improving their position were rejected.

Issues concerning a minority were more likely to be rejected when that minority is publicly perceived to be badly integrated and supportive of different moral concepts.

Vatter said Muslims were affected in two ways — firstly because they are a religious minority and secondly because 90 per cent of Muslims are foreigners.

Swiss voters are more tolerant when it comes to language minorities and disabled people. Issues affecting them were often approved at the ballot box over the past 50 years, the study found.

Eva Hermann, swissinfo.ch (Adapted from German by Robert Brookes)

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

North Africa

Fisheries: Tunisia Conforms to EU Regulations

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 26 — Tunisia has developed a new system, in keeping with EU regulations on seafood products coming from non-EU countries. The “catch certificate” required by the European Union regards the producer, exporter and the sector’s protection agency. The annual value of Tunisian exports of seafood products has risen from 150 million dinars (around 77.4 million euros) in 2004 to 250 million dinars (around 129 million euros) in 2008. The global economic crisis last year caused revenues to fall to 205 million dinars (around 105.8 million euros). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Football: African Cup, Egypt-Algeria, Tension Skyrockets

ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 25 — Excitement has been assured at least for this semi-final match African Cup: after tension and violence surrounding their football World Cup qualifier, Algeria and Egypt will meet again on the field on Thursday in what is shaping up to be an explosive match. A highly anticipated and desired match — at least that is what they are saying — by millions of Algerians who cannot wait to “confirm the superiority of les fennecs (desert foxes)” and to stress “their deserved qualification for the World Cup”, but certainly also desired even more so by Egypt, which hopes to “rectify the offence” suffered in November in Khartoum, in the tie-breaker to qualify for the World Cup. A decisive encounter, stressed the Algerian press, to “put an end to the tension, which went beyond sports, resulting in an all-out diplomatic crisis” which has been ongoing for two months. After the Algerian National Team’s bus was attacked in Cairo, resulting in the injury of three players, violent clashes exploded in both countries. With media hype sky high, various Egyptian businesses in Algeria were attacked. Even today the ambassadors of both countries, who were called back during the ‘crisis’, have not returned to their post. In Algeria anticipation for the match is high, and as expected, the government announced a plan to send fans to Benguela, in Angola, to watch the semi-final match. “There is a plan,” announced Foreign Minister Mouard Medelci just after last night’s 3-1 win by Egypt over Cameroon, “to allow hundreds of fans to go to the match”. However, “Angola is not hostile terrain like Khartoum, there is no need to send a massive group of supporters,” said the general manager of Air Algerie Abdelwahid Bouabdallah to national radio, specifying that “1000 fans, 1500 at the most and no more, can be transported”. “Tickets will cost 60,000 dinars (about 600 euros), instead of 250,000 dinars. The difference will be paid for by the state” and “given the minimal capacity of the Benguela airport, small aircrafts will be used”. In November for the decisive qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup, Algiers organised flights also with military aircrafts that brought over 20,000 fans to Sudan. After their surprising victory over the Ivory Coast, Algeria now dreams of conquering its second African Cup (its first since 1990) before leaving for South Africa after a 24-year absence for a new adventure. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Tunisia: UN Criticises Use of Torture

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 26 — Every state has the obligation of protecting life and the integrity of its citizens, but the rights of individuals suspected of terrorism must also be respected. Today, Martin Scheinin, the UN Human Rights envoy in Tunisia, began his report at the end of a 5-day mission to Tunisia with this critical statement. Scheinin, a Finnish professor of international law at the European University Institute in Florence and the UN envoy since 2005, stressed Tunisia’s formal commitment in the ratification of most of the international terrorism and human rights conventions. However, he expressed numerous reservations about legal loopholes and the conduct of Tunisian officials. Starting with the lack of a definition for terrorist crimes, which can be interpreted very broadly, said Scheinin during a press conference held today in Tunis, several people have been accused of terrorism for sending documents over the internet, while others were accused based on a simple intention. Scheinin expressed reservations also about several penal procedures, such as the frequent use of confessions as an element of proof in court in the absence of investigations into torture accusations against which there are no appropriate guarantees such as independent medical examinations or the presence of lawyers on the day when arrests take place, rather than after an initial court appearance. He also stressed the excessively scarce number of penal proceedings against torture compared to the frequency of the complaints. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Egyptian Minister Admits That Steel is Used

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 27 — Egypt is not building a separation wall on its border with Gaza, but is installing “underground steel barriers” to close the tunnels spread over a large area inside the Egyptian territories. Some of these tunnels “are highly sophisticated and big enough to pass motor vehicles”, said Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly in a television interview, reported today by the pro-government newspaper Al Akhbar. It is the first time that an Egyptian official makes an explicit statement on the nature of the border project. The fact that work was in progress on the Egyptian border had already been recognised, and three days ago President Mubarak underlined the sovereign right of Egypt to defend its borders and its national security. El Adly said that he does not believe that the people of Gaza possess the technology needed to dig such tunnels adding that the technology applied is definitely alien to the strip’s people and that its objectives “are well known to us”. The Egyptian Minister continued that the few people that cast doubt on Egypt’s historic role in defending the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause “are being paid by certain powers”, pointing out that Egypt is playing a “vital role to solve the Palestinian problem” because this will have a positive impact on Egypt’s national security. Meanwhile the Rafah border crossing will stay open today and tomorrow to let in humanitarian aid from Egypt.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel: New Al-Qaida ‘Center of Activity’

Intel official says Iran coordinating with group in Holy Land

Iranian Revolutionary Guard units are actively working to train Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip, a senior Egyptian intelligence official told WND.

The official also said Egypt is concerned that neighboring Gaza could become a major center of al-Qaida activity in the region.

The Egyptian official said those factors were central in his country’s decision to build a steel wall under the Egypt-Gaza border as part of efforts to isolate Hamas and stem weapons smuggling into Gaza.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Knesset Rejects Bill to Outlaw Islamic Movement

(IsraelNN.com) The Knesset plenum rejected Wednesday a bill to outlaw the Islamic Movement which operates inside Israel. The bill was proposed by MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union, who said that the Islamic Movement works openly for the destruction of Israel.

“It is no coincidence that the bill comes up on International Holocaust Day,” MK Ben-Ari said in presenting the bill. “As part of the process of drawing lessons from the Holocaust, we have realized that it is imperative that we stop the Holocaust in its initial stages — at the stage of incitement and anti-Semitic ideology which is the foundation upon which the industry of death is built.”

Ben-Ari quoted incendiary statements made by leaders of the Islamic Movement and told the Knesset that they called Jews “bugs, lice, parasites and used other imagery that reminds one of Goebbels’ propaganda.”

Ben Ari reminded the MKs of Israel Our Home and the Likud that they promised, before the elections, to outlaw the Islamic Movement.

Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman opposed the bill, however, saying that it was too far-reaching. Coalition MKs, including some from Israel Our Home, opposed the bill and it was voted down.

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

Middle East

Iranian Forces Clash With Kurdish Separatist Group

Iranian forces have clashed with Kurdish fighters in Iran’s north eastern border region and arrested a suspect in the killing of a prosecutor.

Vali Hajgholizadeh, state prosecutor for Khoy city in west Iran was shot dead outside his home on 18 January.

Regional officials said the The Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) claimed to have carried out the attack.

Several PJAK fighters were killed in the clashes and one man was arrested, semi-official news agency Mehr said.

Local officials have lauded Mr Hajgholizadeh as tough prosecutor.

Mehr quoted the province’s governor as saying “the person behind the assassination was arrested”.

Four men had already been arrested last week in connection with the attack.

The region has been the scene of frequent clashes with Kurdish groups who want to establish their own state.

PJAK was formed in 2004 and is affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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


Iraq: Young Man Wounded in New Anti-Christian Attack in Mosul

Sources tell AsiaNews that the anti-Christian “persecution continues amid general indifference”. They say, “Christians live in panic” and want to leave the city, convinced that the attackers “are not ordinary criminals”. For them, the attacks hide “clear political plans”.

Mosul (AsiaNews) — Christians continue to be the target of attacks in Mosul. This afternoon, two stores, one owned by a Christian, the other by a Yazidi, were attacked. Raghid Sabah Tobia, the young Christian storeowner, was badly wounded and is now in hospital.

Raghid’s shop is not far from a Chaldean church, in the Dawassa neighbourhood. The other shop is in the same neighbourhood, but near the Syro-Catholic chapel of Qasr al Mutran.

Sources that wanted their identity protected for security reasons told AsiaNews that the anti-Christian “persecution continues amid general indifference.”

They noted that “Christians live in panic” and want to leave the city, and are convinced that the attackers “are not ordinary criminals”.

In their view, the attacks hide “clear political plans” that the government is not countering.

In Baghdad, no one is saying, “who might be behind the attacks against churches and Christians.”

One source is actually certain that the central government, the Mosul Governatorate and Kurdish leaders are aware of a plan against the Christian community.

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


Israel-Turkey: Report, Erdogan Encourages Anti-Semitism

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JANUARY 26 — Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan “indirectly incites and encourages anti-Semitism” in his country, according to a report drafted by the research department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and published today by Israeli Haaretz daily. According to the report, which has been sent to the country’s main ministers, “ever since his party took power, Erdogan has conducted an ongoing process of fashioning a negative view of Israel in Turkish public opinion.” Moreover, “for Erdogan and some of those around him there is no distinction between ‘Israeli’ and ‘Jewish’“. The Turkish Premier Erdogan also “turns a blind eye” and “grants legitimacy” to anti-Israeli television programs of an inflammatory, anti-Semitic nature. The recent humiliation of the Turkish ambassador to Israel, for which Deputy Foreign Minister was forced to apologise in public, has made it clear to the Turkish government that the country has crossed lines in its attacks on Israel and in the limits of the Israeli government’s patience. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his deputy Ayalon, both of the ultra-nationalist Beitenu party, are the leaders of the hard line against Turkey. Defence Minister and leader of the Labour party, Ehud Barak, on the other hand favours a softer approach. He wants to continue to have friendly relations with the country, which he believes to be of strategic importance. The report ends with the pessimistic conclusion that “Turkey today, under the leadership of the AKP (Erdogan’s party), is different from the Turkey with which Israel forged a strategic relationship in the early 1990s.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italians Attach Great Interest in Turkish Defense Industry

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 26 — An Italian defense industry company’s chairman has said Turkey had an advanced defense industry, as Anatolia news agency reports. Italy’s Finmeccanica, a leading defense and security company, considers Turkey a strategic business partner. Speaking to magazine Defence Turkey, Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, chairman and CEO of Finmeccanica, said Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Foundation had a sound and advanced defense industry system. Italian defense companies have been working with Turkish companies for a long time, Guarguaglini said. Guarguaglini said Finmeccanica would search for new opportunities in Turkey which had excellent political and economic relations with Italy. Finmeccanica was ready to contribute to programs of TSK and to establish partnership with Turkish defense industry, he said. Finmeccanica is the main Italian industrial group operating globally in the aerospace, defence and security sectors, and is one of the world’s leading groups in the fields of helicopters and defence electronics. It is also the European leader for satellite and space services as well as having considerable know-how and production capacity in the energy and transport fields. Headquartered in Italy and with a vast industrial base in the UK as well as important production facilities in the rest of Europe and in the USA, Finmeccanica has a workforce of more than 74,239 people. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Jordan Hit by Bad Weather, Water Supply Increases

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JANUARY 26 — The wave of bad weather that has hit Jordan over recent days is easing. The weather has caused flooding and serious damage to agriculture. For now, reports the press agency Petra, no-one has been injured, but the country’s main road networks have been blocked, whilst many homes in the capital have been flooded. 27 citizens were evacuated in the area of Tafileh, in the south of the country, due to strong winds. According to the authorities, the extraordinary wave of rain has allowed an increase in the capacity of rainwater storage in the kingdom, which has risen to 48%. To satisfy the increasing water demand of its 5.6 million inhabitants, Jordan has mainly relied on precipitation. Meteorologists have forecast another wave of bad weather over the coming days.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey: Twins Commit Suicide Together

Hediye and Kadriye Demirel, 21-year-old twin sisters, apparently jumped together from their brother’s seventh-floor apartment Sunday morning at 5:00 a.m.

Neighbors who realized what had happened called for an ambulance, but Hediye died at the scene and Kadriye lost her life after being rushed to the hospital.

Hediye Demirel was to marry the son of the sisters’ uncle Sunday evening at a ceremony to be held among family members. Though police are suspicious that young girl was being forced to marry her cousin, and are investigating that possibility, relatives claim that the cousins were in love with each other.

Another possibility being looked at is that Hediye was going to jump from the window and Kadriye fell while trying to save her twin.

Zinnur Demirel, the twins’ brother, and his wife, Helime Demirel, said they were asleep when the incident happened and there was no reason for the twins to commit suicide. The police are investigating all possibilities related to the incident.

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


Turkey: Kurds: Teen Sentenced to 8 Yrs for Chanting Slogans

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 27 — A court in southeast Turkey has ruled to put a fifteen-year-old girl behind bars for chanting slogans and hurling stones at police, as daily Sabah reports today. The criminal court in Diyarbakir passed the verdict in the first hearing and sentenced the teenager to eight years for committing crime “in the name of a terrorist organization”. Berivan S. has been under arrest for three months for throwing stones and chanting slogans in illegal pro-kurdish protests in Batman. In the first hearing the girl has been given 13.5 years in jail. Taking into account the age of the girl, the court reduced her penalty to seven years and nine months in jail. Berivan says that she did not participate in the protests and that she was caught in the middle of a skirmish between the police and the demonstrators while she was going to the house of her aunt. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Russia

Russia: Teaching Religion in School Distances Russians From Orthodoxy

A poll published by the Ministry of Education shows that more than 58% of parents chose secular ethics for their children, while only 19.1% opt for the foundations of Orthodox culture. Unprepared teachers and unsuitable texts root cause of problem.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The compulsory teaching of religion in Russian schools is not bringing the results expected from the Patriarchate of Moscow. Many, instead of choosing a course of “Fundamentals of Orthodox culture” have chosen the more generic “religious cultures” and “secular ethics”. Orthodox courses are also assigned to novice teachers and textbooks written too fast to be valid, thus, Russian observers note, instead of bringing children and their families to religion, the effect is to distance them.

According to a poll made public by the Ministry of Education of the Krasnoyarsk region, 14,646 households, that is 58.2% of the total included in the experimental program of religious instruction, chose secular ethic lessons for their children. However, 5,417 (27%) parents chose the foundations of religious culture and a little less opted for the foundations of Orthodox culture (4,804, 19.1%). Only 1% of respondents instead spoke in favour of the remaining three modules: 231 families (0.9%) for the foundations of Islamic culture, 26 families (0.1%) for the foundations of Buddhist culture and 22 families (0 , 08%) for the foundations of Jewish culture.

Krasnoyarsk is the third territory of the Federation, after Stavropol and Sverdlovsk, to confirm this trend in society. Analysts note that while maintaining a stable position, the Orthodox religion (which the Moscow Patriarchate claims to be the faith of about 80% of the Russian population) is still viewed with distrust after 70 years of state atheism.

According to observers interviewed by the internet site portal-credo.ru,, these figures are proof that “instead of attracting people to religion, teaching at school pushes them away.” For Lyudmila Aleksey, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, “There’s no better way to turn people off than classes taught by unprepared teachers and unfit to texts”.

While both the Orthodox faith and the others that are considered “traditional” in Russia (Judaism, Buddhism and Islam) had a basis of texts written in the past on which to structure the new school textbooks, “religious cultures” and “secular ethics” started from zero and the books were written in a quick and summary way by unprepared people, complains Svetlana Solodovnik on Ezhednevniy Zhurnal. In a recent article she speaks of the “intrusion” of the Russian Orthodox Church in the drafting of these texts. “The Patriarchate of Moscow — she recalls — has always argued that the foundations of secular ethics reflect the value system of religious ethics” (ie, Christian Orthodox values).

Andrei Sebentsov, who has long worked in the government committee for religious affairs, explains the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church was the only promoter of teaching religion in school, it claimed to lead”. And there are now those who complain that the secular nature of this type of lesson is being lost in favour of a real catechism in schools. “It seems — says Marianna Shakhovic, head of the department of philosophy and religion at the University of St. Petersburg — that instead of teaching fundamentals of religion, religion itself is being taught: it is one thing to explain who Christ was or what his Gospel was, it is another thing to make children learn prayers which is what has already been suggested by the Patriarchate of Moscow to do. “ (MA)

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Italian Expert Warns Kabul Cannot ‘Sustain Stability’

Rome, 26 Jan. (AKI) — On the eve of a crucial international conference on the future of Afghanistan, a leading Italian military analyst has warned that the country’s social structure is not strong enough to sustain stability. Carlo Jean, a former army general and presidential adviser, is now a lecturer in strategic studies at Luiss University in Rome.

In an article published in Italy’s ‘Military Magazine’, Jean said that Afghanistan was not like Iraq and did not have a solid ‘borghesia’ or professional class to support security.

“In Iraq the technical executives and foreign administrators who came from abroad were able to be employed once minimal security conditions were created,” said Jean (photo).

“Those conditions do not exist in Afghanistan. The army and the national Afghan police are not in position to take the place of western forces, because of both their weakness and the hatred that exists in Afghanistan between various ethnic groups and clans.”

The military expert said that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is the most challenging in the history of the alliance.

He also warned that the entire exercise in Afghanistan had been characterised by “increasing confusion” accentuated by a lack of unity between various contingents and coherent political objectives.

The security situation could become “explosive” in Afghanistan after US president Barack Obama’s decision to increase the number of US troops by 30,000 and plans to intensify attacks in Pakistani tribal areas.

Jean warned that bombing suspected bases of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Pakistani tribal areas also risked increasing the “Talibanisation” of Pakistan.

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


Afghanistan: Germany to Send 850 Extra Troops

Lashkargah, 26 Jan. (AKI) — Germany will send an extra 850 extra troops to help stabilise war-wracked Afghanistan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that 500 troops would be deployed in Afghanistan to join the around 4,300 already stationed there.

A further 350 troop would be deployed as a “flexible reserve” to provide extra security for elections and other events.

Merkel said the troop increase was part of a “completely new” approach to cooperating with the Afghan government which aimed to see Kabul take responsibility for the country’s security.

Germany is the third largest supplier of troops in the country, with some 4,500 of the 110,000 troops currently deployed there.

The extra deployment which comes ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan in London later this week will need parliamentary approval.

German MPs were due to debate the issue on Wednesday.

An extra 37,000 US and NATO troops are to be deployed in Afghanistan by June in a bid to ease the transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces.

In a sign of escalating violence, five policemen and a civilian were shot dead in two separate attacks in the restive southern province of Helmand on Tuesday, according to officials.

At Thursday’s London conference, Afghan president Hamid Karzai is expected to seek international support for a new initiative to bring Taliban-led insurgents in to the political mainstream.

Karzai has also proposed removing the names of some Taliban leaders from the terrorist blacklist.

Last year was the deadliest in the nearly-nine-year-long conflict for foreign troops and Afghan civilians.

The Red Cross has voiced concern over the rising civilian casualties and urged Afghan and international military forces as well as insurgents to prevent them.

At Mirwais Hospital in the volatile southern province of Kandahar, between 500 and 700 war-related operations are now being performed each month by Red Cross and local surgeons, it said.

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


Bangladesh: Netrokona: Armed Gang Attacks Catholic Activist and His Wife

Sanjeeb Drong, an advocate for the rights of indigenous communities, and his wife Mitali Chisim have been injured. The attack is linked to the centennial celebrations of Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. Human rights organisations and Christian leader slam the violence and demand security.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — A group of thugs attacked a Catholic activist who heads an association that defends the rights of indigenous communities. The incident occurred on 22 January in Netrokona, a district in central Bangladesh, some 173 kilometres from the capital Dhaka. Sanjeeb Drong and his wife Mitali Chisim were coming home when eight people attacked them. Only the intervention of the bishop and other worshippers stopped the attack, which appears linked to the centennial celebrations of the local Catholic community.

“Our Lady saved my life,” Sanjeeb Drong (pictured) said, “but my wife and I have been badly injured. I am scared.”

Originally from the north, the Catholic activist is the secretary general of the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, a national organisation that includes 45 indigenous communities.

“A group of seven or eight hoodlums attacked us when we were on our way home after taking part in a meeting in Birishiri, where we discussed preparations for the 100 years of Saint Joseph’s Church.” Celebrations are planned for 12-14 February.

He still remembers vividly the dramatic moments of the attack, the group causing them to fall from their motorcycle, starting to beat them wildly, with sticks and bare hands.

“They beat me like a dog, but my wife and I were able to escape, finding refuge in a nearby house,” he said.

The thugs followed the couple but fled after a group of residents accompanied by the bishop and a local priest got involved.

Mgr Paul Ponen Kubi, bishop of Mymensingh, said that he intervened to help the Catholic activist, but did not comment the incident.

Fr Simon Hacha, parish priest at Saint Joseph’s, said he saw the man “bleeding” and “brought him to the parish church to have his wounds tended.”

“Worshipers are shocked,” the priest said, that such an attack could come right on the eve of the centennial celebrations of the local Catholic community. “We are very much confused,” he added, “and fear more attacks during the celebrations. We want security.”

Sanjeeb Drong has filed charges and police has begun an investigation. However, nothing is known about the attackers.

In the meantime, human rights organisations, student activists and Christian leaders have condemned in no uncertain terms the attack and have called for exemplary punishment of the culprits. Above all, they have called for “security ahead of the jubilee of Saint Joseph’s Church.”

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


India: Two Churches Attacked in the State of Karnataka

Hindu extremists are blamed for this morning’s attacks in the dioceses of Mysore and Karwar. The Holy Family Parish Church was attacked in Inkal (Mysore diocese); it had been also attacked by a group of 70 Hindus in 2002. Christians are increasingly worried.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The Indian State of Karnataka was the scene of new anti-Christian attacks when two churches were desecrated and damaged. The first incident occurred after midnight in the village of Thernamakki (diocese of Karwar). Unidentified people vandalised the grotto of the local church, and broke its windows. The second incident took place in Inkal, a village in Mysore diocese, where someone desecrated the statue of the Virgin located in the compound attached to the Holy Family Parish Church. Another attack occurred on 22 January when members of the Sri Rama Sene, a rightwing Hindu party, tried to desecrate the cross of a church in Mundalli (diocese of Karwar), but were chased away by members of the congregation. Police arrested eight of them the next day.

According to Mgr Derek Fernandes, bishop of Karwart, this morning’s attack was the work of Hindu activists. Recently, a local Hindu leader made threats against Christian buildings in retaliation for the mistreatment of Indians in Australia.

“Attacks against religious minorities are up,” said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christian (GCIC). “We are very concerned about the continued attacks against Christian communities in Karnataka.”

“The greatest tragedy caused by such attacks against innocent Christians is the lack of justice,” he said. “This happens in Orissa, Karnataka and other Indian States.”

So far, no Hindu leader has ever been jailed for the violence. In both Orissa and Karnataka, local authorities have refused to stop Hindu groups that continue to incite violence against Christians, George said.

The Holy Family Parish Church had suffered another attack, on 27 February 2002.

At that time, some 70 Hindu activists armed with blades, knives and iron rods stormed the building during Mass and attacked women and children. They accused the local Christian community of forcibly converting local people.

Police arrested the attackers but later released them on bail. (N.C.)

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


India Announces First Manned Space Mission

India’s space agency has said it will launch its first manned mission to space in 2016.

A senior official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) in Bangalore said that two astronauts would take part.

“We are preparing for the manned space flight,” Isro Chairman K Radhakrishnan told reporters.

“We will design and develop the space module for the manned mission in the next four years,” he said.

Observers say India is emerging as a major player in the multi-billion dollar space market.

In September it launched seven satellites in a single mission, nearly a month after the country’s inaugural Moon mission was aborted.

Key architect

Isro says that it will soon shortlist two astronauts to train for the space flight.

The manned mission will cost 124 billion rupees ($2,676,740,597).

Delhi has given its approval for the mission, space officials told the BBC.

India’s space agency is also setting up a full-fledged training facility in Bangalore to train the astronauts.

The country’s first unmanned Moon mission, Chandrayaan, was launched last year.

The second unmanned project, Chandrayaan-II, will be launched in the first quarter of 2013 — a prelude to the manned space mission.

India’s first Moon mission had to be terminated because of a failure of critical communication components, but Isro officials termed the mission a success because 95% of the scientific objectives were completed.

India also plans a mission to Mars in 2030.

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


Indonesia: Police Hunt for Sumatra Church Attackers

Medan, 26 Jan. (AKI/Jakarta Post ) — Police are stepping up their hunt for suspects following attacks against two Protestant churches and a pastor’s home in North Sumatra three days ago. Hundreds of Christians have fled the area since the attacks.

But South Tapanuli police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Subandriya said police needed to proceed carefully and avoid action that could further stoke tensions between Muslims and Christians in the area.

“Police want to deal with this matter properly to ensure it does not get out of hand,” he said.

“Our job is to ensure this case does not develop into a serious racial or religious conflict,” Subandriya told The Jakarta Post.

About 1,000 Muslims set fire to the two churches in Sibuhuan, in North Sumatra’s Padang Lawas district late last Friday night in an incident that was blamed as a culmination of tension between Muslims and Christians over the presence of unregistered churches in the area.

The Friday attack, the first in the history of North Sumatra where both Muslim and Christian communities live together, caused no serious injury or fatalities, but forced hundreds of Christians to flee the scene.

According to the police, the churches were built in Sibuhuan in 1982. The construction was reportedly opposed by Muslim residents because they were constructed without building permits.

In 1992, the Muslim and Christian communities reached an agreement to stop construction, but the agreement was violated. The churches maintained activity and worship.

The churches’ management said it had stopped church construction in December last year following a meeting with local officials, Christians and the Indonesian Ulema Council. It had also begun dismantling the church on 13 January.

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


Malaysia Arrests Foreigners on Terror Charges

The authorities in Malaysia say 10 people, including nine foreigners, have been arrested on terror charges.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the group, thought to be linked to international terror organisations, posed “a very serious threat”.

International intelligence services had co-operated over the arrests, he added.

The suspects are being held under the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

The government has faced calls for the ISA to be repealed, from groups who say there is too much potential for it be abused.

The act has previously been used to detain opponents of the government and members of the regional militant Islamist terror group, Jemaah Islamiyah.

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


Pakistan: Zardari Slaughters Goats to Ward Off Evil: Report

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has a black goat slaughtered at his house almost every day to ward off “evil eyes” and protect him from “black magic”, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the president told the Dawn newspaper the goats were slaughtered as an act of Sadaqah — meaning “voluntary charity” in Islam whereby one gives out money or the meat of a slaughtered animal to the poor to win Allah’s blessing and stave off misfortune.

“It has been an old practice of Zardari to offer Sadaqah. He has been doing this for a long time,” the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the paper.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country where many of the well-off offer Sadaqah. Though Muslim, many people also follow certain superstitious practices.

Hundreds of goats had been sacrificed at Zardari’s house since he was sworn in September 2008, the Dawn newspaper reported.

It said Zardari’s detractors would see in his “new-found religiosity” a sign of nervousness in the face of growing woes.

Zardari, who rose to power after the assassination of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in late 2007, has become increasingly unpopular and faces a range of problems from Islamist militancy to a stagnant economy and political rivalry.

A Supreme Court ruling last month throwing out an amnesty for Zardari, several top aides and thousands of political activists and government figures triggered a political storm and expectation that Zardari was on his way out.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Far East

China — Hong Kong: Matteo Ricci Maps Did Not Put China at Centre of the World

Father Ricci drew many maps. Well-known scholar Father Criveller speaks to AsiaNews about the incorrect but widespread belief that the Jesuit put China’s at the centre, making it larger to please the Chinese. Cartography as an instrument of mission and to learn about God’s creation

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — “It is not correct” to say that the map made by the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci in the late 16th early-17th century puts China at the centre of the world, the noted scholar Gianni Criveller of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions tells AsiaNews, , an expert on the work of Ricci in China.

“It’s an undying legend — observes the scholar — that Ricci placed China at the centre of his map and also that he represented it as being larger than the rest of the world.” In contrast, the centre of the map is the Pacific Ocean and the central meridian falls with Japan to the east, leaving Europe, Africa and Asia to the left (of the observer), and the Americas on the right.

Fr. Criveller stresses that “you only need to look at Ricci’s map to understand that this is not true” and he illustrates the reproduction of various editions of the map, taken from the “ Ricciane Sources” of the Jesuit Father Pasquale D’Elia. He refers people to what Father Ricci himself wrote in his diary: “On the entrance in China of the Society of Jesus and Christianity,” which notes that some “scholars” were unhappy to see that China was not placed in the centre of the world and that it seemed small”.

“But we continue to read, even in prestigious publications edited by trained people, that Ricci has put China at the centre of the world, to please the Chinese, as sign of respect to China and compliance with its customs.” The priest recalled that, during a symposium held in November 2009 in the Macau Ricci Institute, the cartographer Angelo Cattaneo rejected once and for all this inaccurate view.

Even the Fr. D’ Elia, in his book, expressed the hope that this “tenacious legend will finally die out and he recalled the origin found in the writings of the Jesuit Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who in 1651 wrote that, indeed, Father Ricci put China at the centre of the world and made it larger than other countries, not to offend the Chinese. Riccioli misinterpreted a Latin translation of the story by the same Ricci on his mission in China. Father Criveller insists that in Ricci’s original diary, written in 1609 and 1610, there is no trace of this version.

Also the report written by the Jesuit Daniello Bartoli in the late 17th century appears to confirm this legend, even if Bartoli only wrote that Ricci placed China “towards” the centre of the map. Other scholars, such as Cordier, Gemini-Carelli and Latourette, speak of the “tenacious legend” that father D’Elia has tried unsuccessfully to deny. Certainly none of them could see the current map. “This legend is tenacious, and I do not know if, after these honest explanations, it will now be abandoned permanently” (D’Elia, Fonti Ricciane, I, 1211).

The first edition of Ricci’s map of the world, titled Yudi Shanhai quantu (full map of mountains and seas of the world), was published in Zhaoqing, Guangdong, in 1584. Ricci himself supervised the subsequent revised editions of Nanjing in 1600 and Beijing in 1602, 1603, 1608 and 1609. In all, the map has had 16 editions. Two authentic copies of the 3rd edition (1602) still exist and are the source of the maps reproduced today. This edition was compiled with Li Zhizao, entitled Kunyu Quantu Wangui (full map of the myriad of countries in the world).

Fr. Criveller adds that, according to Ricci, the map was “the best and most useful work that could then be done, to persuade China to give confidence to what we stated in our faith.” “Making the maps was not only an instrument of missionary strategy, but it involved a religious worldview.” He says that, in general, for the Jesuit cartographer maps are not just a visual representation of geography, but a way to know and understand the work of Creation. Understanding the universe precisely scientifically means to know God and Creation. For the Jesuits astronomy was a science that speaks of heaven, the road that leads to knowledge of God Similarly, knowing the earth and illustrating it on a map, is to participate in the work of Creation. Ricci — concludes the academic — made the maps not for political purposes, but to fulfil a religious experience”.

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


EU Presidency Reconsidering China Arms Embargo

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The Spanish EU presidency has indicated it is willing to reconsider the bloc’s arms embargo with China, implemented over 20 years ago following the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on Chinese pro-democracy protesters.

Following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday (26 January), Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said his country was “weighing the pros and cons” of lifting the ban.

“We are all aware of the new role which China is assuming in the world,” he added.

China considers an end to the ban to be long overdue. “The embargo is outdated, it does not go along with the partnership between China and the EU,” Wang Xining, spokesman for the Chinese mission to the EU, told EUobserver.

“Its a political principle on the definition of the relationship,” he added, indicating that China was not necessarily going to place a large military order should the embargo be lifted.

France has been a vocal supporter of ending the ban, a line Moratinos said Spain would now follow, but other member states have traditionally indicated China’s human rights record did not merit an end to the EU restriction.

Last October saw the EU lift an arms embargo against Uzbekistan however, despite continuing concerns about human rights in the central Asian nation, suggesting a reluctance to allow full Chinese access to EU military capabilities is also a factor.

European diplomats also queried whether the Spanish decision to visit the perennial issue would win the backing of all 27 member states this time round, with any decision requiring unanimity for a change of position.

The United States, which also maintains an arms embargo on China, is a further complicating factor, with the country likely to be reticent towards a unilateral European move.

The European Parliament has shown its support for the ban, voting in 2008 to maintain it as long as Beijing supports armed forces and groups involved in African conflicts in general.

News that Spain would revisit the thorny issue first hit the headlines last week following a China Daily interview with Spain’s ambassador in Beijing.

The issue has subsequently attracted considerable media attention in the Asian powerhouse.

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

Latin America

One Laptop Per Child in Haiti

At his blog, M Simon has a video for a program to help school children in Haiti, once the initial clean-up phase is finished.

We are doing what we can for the 60 schools that we have been working with in Haiti — primarily planning for the spring after the first phase of rebuilding is underway. We will be sending a group of OLPCorps volunteers to Haiti later this year, and are organizing a used XO drive to recover XOs in the US that can be refurbished and sent to Haiti. Luckily, our Haitian team (technical and in the government) was not hurt in the earthquake, and they are planning to help displaced students get back to school as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, around the US, people (including our own Adam Holt and Tim Falconer) have been gathering in CrisisCamps to brainstorm ways to better use collaborative technology to help groups on the ground. If you are technically-minded, there is a real demand for programmers and interface designers to help some of these projects thrive.

See website for links to information about CrisisCamps and donations.

[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Ethiopia to Benefit From U.S. H-2A and H-2B Visas — DHS

Secretary Napolitano Designates 11 New Countries as Eligible for H-2a and H-2b Nonimmigrant Visa Programs

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano this week designated 11 new countries as eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant visa programs, which allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary or seasonal jobs for which U.S. workers are not available.

The 11 newly designated countries—Croatia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ireland, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia and Uruguay—join 28 countries previously designated as eligible to participate in these programs.

The initial lists of participating countries for the H-2A and H-2B programs—published in December 2008—expired on Jan. 17 and 18, respectively. After consulting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary Napolitano determined that the 11 newly designated countries meet the standards required for participation in the H-2A and H-2B programs. The new combined list was published Monday in the Federal Register.

On a case-by-case basis, DHS may allow a worker from a country not on the participating country list to be eligible for the H-2A or H-2B program if such participation is in the interest of the United States.

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


Flight School Operator in Norfolk, Virgina Charged as Illegal Immigrant

An Eastern European man operating a flight school at Norfolk International Airport was arrested this morning on a federal charge of lying about his citizenship.

Peter Surina, 29, has been in the country illegally for 20 years yet managed to obtain a pilot’s license and open his school, called Norfolk Flight Center, based on airport grounds, according to court records and other public documents.

Surina, who lives in an Ocean View bayfront condominium and drives a Hummer, was arrested this morning, according to court records. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court at 2:30 p.m.

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


German Homeschoolers Granted Political Asylum

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A German couple who fled to Tennessee so they could homeschool their children was granted political asylum Tuesday by a U.S. immigration judge, according to the legal group that represented them.

The decision clears the way for Uwe Romeike (roh-MY-kee), his wife and five children to stay in Morristown, Tenn., where they have been living since 2008. Romeike says his family was persecuted for their evangelical Christian beliefs and for homeschooling their children in Germany, where school attendance is compulsory.

When the Romeikes wouldn’t comply with repeated orders to send the children to school, police came to their home one October morning in 2006 and took the children to school. German state constitutions require children to attend public or private schools and parents can face fines or prison time if they don’t comply.

In November 2007, Germany’s highest appellate court ruled that, in severe cases, social services officials could remove children from their parents.

After that decision, Romeike said, “We knew we had to leave the country.”

“During the last 10-20 years the curriculum in public schools has been more and more against Christian values,” he said of his decision to teach his children at home.

The U.S. government can appeal the asylum ruling. A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment in an e-mail.

The ruling was issued by Immigration Judge Lawrence Burman in Memphis, said Mike Donnelly, an attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association. The judge’s opinion was not immediately available.

Lutz Gorgens, German consul general for the Southeast U.S., did not directly address the ruling in a statement e-mailed after the ruling Tuesday, but said German parents have a wide range of educational options for their children. Gorgens said the mandatory school attendance policy ensures a high standard of learning for all children.

“Parents may choose between public, private and religious schools, including those with alternative curricula like Waldorf or Montessori schools,” said Gorgens, who’s based in Atlanta.

Donnelly said he hopes the ruling will influence public opinion in Germany, and that is part of the reason his group offered to represent the Romeikes.

Romeike said in an interview that when his oldest children were in public schools they had problems with violence, bullying and peer pressure.

“I think it’s important for parents to have the freedom to chose the way their children can be taught,” Romeike said.

The Romeikes took their three oldest children out of school in Bietigheim-Bissingen in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in 2006. Romeike said the couple was fined the equivalent of about $10,000 over a two-year period.

“We didn’t pay it all because we couldn’t,” he said. “We went to court and tried to fight against it — without success.”

[Return to headlines]


Homeschoolers on Run Win U.S. Asylum

Judge: Teaching children ‘basic right no country has right to violate’

In a decision bound to send a shock wave through the European Union, a federal immigration judge today granted political asylum in the United States to a German family whose members feared persecution if returned to their home country because of their decision to homeschool.

“We can’t expect every country to follow our Constitution,” said the opinion by Judge Lawrence O. Burman. “The world might be a better place if it did.

“However, the rights being violated here are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate,” he said.

The decision in the Memphis, Tenn., hearing grants permission to Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children to remain in the U.S., according to the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been working on the family’s case.

“This decision finally recognizes that German homeschoolers are a specific social group that is being persecuted by a Western democracy,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney and director of international relations for HSLDA.

“It is embarrassing for Germany since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children. This judge understood the case perfectly and he called Germany out. We hope this decision will cause Germany to stop persecuting homeschoolers,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Homeschooling German Family Granted US Asylum

A US court has granted asylum to an evangelical Christian family who fled Germany because they were not allowed to homeschool their children.

An immigration judge in Nashville, Tennessee ruled that parents Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, and their five children, are free to stay in the US, where they have been since 2008, news agency AP reported late on Tuesday.

The parents, who came from the state of Baden-Württemberg, allege they were persecuted for their faith and defiance of Germany’s compulsory school attendance since those who do not comply face fines and jail time.

According to Uwe Romeike, his family was fined the equivalent of some $10,000 over two years, but could not afford to make payments after their court appeals failed.

“I think it’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught,” Romeike told AP, later adding that German curriculum was increasingly “against Christian values.”

In October 2006, police forcefully took the family’s children to school in their home town of Bietigheim-Bissingen when they refused to do so themselves. One year later, the country’s high court ruled that in some similar cases the state could take children from their parents.

“We knew we had to leave the country,” Romeike, whose case was represented by the Home School Legal Defense Association, told the news agency.

The US government could appeal the court’s decision to allow the family to remain in Morristown, Tennessee. But advocates for the Romeikes on Wednesday celebrated their victory.

“This decision finally recognises that German homeschoolers are a specific social group that is being persecuted by a Western democracy,” Mike Donnelly, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said in a statement.

“It is embarrassing for Germany, since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children,” he said. “We hope this decision will cause Germany to stop persecuting homeschoolers.”

But German consul general for the southeastern US states Lutz Gorgens told AP in an email that German parents have a variety of choices, among them religious schools, which helps to maintain the country’s educational standards.

However, proponents of homeschooling have not been placated by the chance to have their children attend religious educational institutions.

In November 2009, another Christian couple was fined by a Kassel court for refusing to send their children to school.

The couple from the Hessian village of Archfeld bei Herleshausen has seven children between the ages of two and 17, who they told the court they had hoped to “give the Bible their unlimited trust” through lessons at home.

But after the trial concluded, the parents did not say whether they would obey the court’s orders.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Ireland: It Wasn’t Our TDs’ Plan to Make Deportation Almost Impossible

There’s a basic distinction in any democratic society between the legislature and the judiciary, and it’s all too often forgotten — especially by lawyers — as to which should prevail.

The lawmakers come first. As kings or barons or elected politicians, they establish the laws and they then give the judiciary the task of interpreting and applying them. The judiciary is not some entity sent down from heaven to co-govern. It is an employee of the state; and just as it can define laws in such a manner as to confound the intentions of the law-makers, so the law-makers can confound those definitions with fresh laws.

And if a supreme court consistently interprets the law in such a way as to obstruct the will of government, then it is properly within the power of modern government to appoint such judges to ensure that the will of the people remains paramount.

…But is it unreasonable to want the will of the Irish people to be allowed to decide upon the inward movement of migrants into this state?

This question is made all the more acute by the recent decision of the Supreme Court to elevate judicial consideration of deportation cases above our existing administrative processes. The issue was brought to the Supreme Court by a Nigerian “asylum seeker”, whose attempts to remain in this State had been rejected in two separate independent hearings. She maintained that were she to return to Nigeria she would be at risk of genital mutilation. Hokum, my dear, pure hokum.

In a majority ruling, the Supreme Court backed her legal contention that the administrative processes of deportation did not vindicate her constitutional rights. Two members of the Supreme Court dissented. Mr Justice Hardiman described the imposition of judicial proceedings on the administration of our immigration laws as a “major revolution in our immigration arrangements”. He said that courts were already “swamped with such cases”. Mr Justice Kearns said that the Supreme Court’s decision would render our courts “virtually inoperable”.

The actual law is for the wigged ones to ruminate upon. However, I can reasonably say that it was never the intention of the lawmakers of this State to create a system in which it would be almost impossible to expel an illegal immigrant — not because we wanted it that way, but because the deportation process had become paralysed by a rights-obsessed legal system.

[…]

The consequence of the Supreme Court ruling is very possibly that almost any illegally resident African woman can stay in Ireland by claiming — no matter how spuriously — that she will be genitally mutilated if she returns home. The legal obstacles to her being deported will probably be too complex and time-consuming for the State to undertake.

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


Netherlands: Immigration Drives Up Tuberculosis Figures

The number of people with tuberculosis in the Netherlands went up for the first time in years in 2009, due almost entirely to the increase in immigration from countries where TB is prevalent.

In total, over 1160 were diagnosed with the disease, two-thirds of whom were born abroad. For example, resistant strains of TB are common in Eastern Europe, the national TB foundation said.

But the number of infectious cases of TB was stable at around 210 cases and the death rate was also constant at around 20 cases a year, the foundation said.

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

General

Drug Firms ‘Drove Swine Flu Pandemic Warning to Recoup Billions Spent on Research’

Drug companies manipulated the World Health Organisation into downgrading its definition of a pandemic so they could cash in on a swine flu outbreak, it is claimed.

An inquiry heard yesterday that the WHO allegedly softened its criteria for declaring a H1N1 flu pandemic last spring — just weeks before announcing there was a worldwide outbreak.

Critics said the decision was driven by pharmaceutical companies desperate to recoup the billions of pounds they had invested in researching and developing pandemic vaccines after the bird flu scares in 2006 and 2007.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


IE Windows Vuln Coughs Up Local Files

One click bares entire C drive

If you use any version of Internet Explorer to surf Twitter or other Web 2.0 sites, Jorge Luis Alvarez Medina can probably read the entire contents of your primary hard drive.

The security consultant at Core Security said his attack works by clicking on a single link that exploits a chain of weaknesses in IE and Windows. Once an IE user visits the booby-trapped site, the webmaster has complete access to the machine’s C drive, including files, authentication cookies — even empty hashes of passwords.

This isn’t the first time security researchers at Core have identified security weaknesses in IE. The company issued this advisory in 2008 and this one in 2009, each identifying specific links in the chain that could potentially be abused by an attacker.

“Every time we reported this to Microsoft, they were fixing just one of the features,” Medina said in a telephone interview from Bueno Aires. “Every time they [fixed] it, we managed another way to build the attack again.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Terrorism Quiz

Who, really, is behind the epidemic of global terrorism against civilians? Whom should airport security personnel view carefully-respectfully-but very, very carefully?

One hopes that the folks screening us at airports are given this quiz and are guided accordingly. Perhaps passengers should carry it with them; as they say: “Don’t leave home without it.”

1. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, young Israeli athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:

a. Darth Vader

b. Sitting Bull

c. Arnold Schwarzenegger

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

2. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:

a. Lost Norwegians

b. Elvis

c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

3. During the 1980’s, about 96 Americans and Europeans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:

a. Michael Jackson

b. The King of Sweden

c. The Boy Scouts

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

4. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut were blown up by…

and there are ten more questions. Take the test and figure out your Jihad IQ…[ hint: #2 is a., “lost Norwegians”]

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3 comments:

Ron Russell said...

Just another campaign speech with the same old worn out lines. This guy hasn't gotten off the stump since he took office. No move to the center that I could detect---some loose overtures, but nothing concrete.

Robert Marchenoir said...

"One laptop per child in Haiti".

Holy smokes. Can we stop with that stupid belief that what people all over the world need, first and foremost, is technology ? Can we stop with that superstition that giving laptops or an Internet access to "poor" or "underprivileged" people will somehow transform their lives ?

These people in Haiti have not had a working government for decades, they have destroyed all their forests just to survive, and what they need is laptops ? With Linux, I suppose, to make it sound more happy-clappy left-wing ?

Listen to what the Haitians say, and you will hear them clamour for the re-colonisation of their country. Such is their predicament. It's got nothing to do with the earthquake. They have been so utterly incapable of organising themselves for two centuries now, so utterly incapable of pulling themselves by their bootstraps, that they are openly calling for an outside master to come and take control. All the historical posturing about "liberation" and "fight against slavery" notwithstanding.

Laptops !...

4Symbols said...

@UK: Munir Hussain ‘Wrongly Targeted by Burglars for Affair With Jealous Man’s Wife’.

This was a ready made story proberly to detract from the Geert Wilders' case. Everything about the case was extrajudicial the judge could not even give a reason in law as to why he released hussain from prison other than to excuse that hussain was an "honorable man".