Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100314

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Union Leader, Strikes Will Continue
»Premier: China’s Yuan to Remain ‘Basically Stable’
»The Video That Will Put Geithner Behind Bars
»Tide of Protest Engulfs More Russian Cities
»California Man Refuses to Take Smart Meter, Locks Up Old Meter
»DOJ: CAIR’s Unindicted Co-Conspirator Status Legit
»Florida on Guard Against Giant Snails
»IRS Visits Sacramento Carwash in Pursuit of 4 Cents
»Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules 2nd Amendment Does Not Apply to States
»Mystery Substance Found in Chinese Fluoride Added to Massachusetts Water
»National Coffee Party Day Flops
»The Doctrine of the Catholic Kennedy? Worthless
»Thomas Jefferson Dropped From Texas School Textbooks
»We Simply Can’t Afford Another Entitlement Program
»Wind Farms Could Raise Temperatures
»Muslim Child Brides on Rise
Europe and the EU
»An Enemy Within Irish Society?
»Cardinal Biffi Really Doesn’t Like That Book
»Dutch Author Hans Maarten Van Der Brink Lists a Number of Contradictory Reasons Why His Compatriots Might Give Geert Wilders Their Vote in June
»Dwarfgate: 5ft 5in Sarkozy’s Fury as 6ft Cameron and 5ft 11in Osborne ‘Mock His Size’
»Economy: France, Number of Export Companies in Decline
»Hirsi Ali: How to Beat Wilders
»If the Swiss Want Mediocrity Today, They Cannot Expect the Superman Tomorrow
»Ireland: Ahern Proposes a Referendum on Scrapping Blasphemy Law
»Italian ‘Ku Klux Klan’ Man Cited
»Italy: Four Regions Up for Grabs in March Vote
»Italy: Latest Polls Show Four Regions on Knife Edge
»OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Foreign Secretary David Miliband
»Pope Helped Priest Accused of Child Abuse
»Portugal: Ikea to Invest 1.1 Bln by 2015
»Reaction to the Inaugural British Tea Party Event
»Spain: Women Reports Lleida Mosque Imam for Polygamy
»Spain: Seven Charged Over Sharia Court Released
»Swiss Muslims Want Islamic Cemeteries in Every Canton
»Switzerland: Sixty People Report Abuses by Priests
»The First Ever Critical Edition of the Koran, Coming to You From Potsdam
»UK: Backlash at the Mosque
»UK: Gordon Brown’s Four-Letter Rant at Baroness Ashton for ‘Letting UK Down’
»UK: Jack Straw to Publish Plans to Abolish House of Lords ‘Very Shortly’
»UK: No Job Unless You’re Polish: Biggest Asda Meat Supplier Excludes English Speakers as ‘All Instructions Are in Polish’
»UK: The Snake Oil Salesmen Who Hijacked My Party: After 25 Years as an MP, Peter Kilfoyle Hits Out at Hypocrisy of New Labour
»US Woman Freed Over ‘Plot to Kill’ Swedish Cartoonist
»Vatican: German Church Leader Apologises for Abuse
»Robotics: Italo-Bosnian Centre Set Up in Sarajevo
Mediterranean Union
»Morocco-Spain: New Barcelona-Tangiers Ferry Link
North Africa
»Egypt: 45 Muslim Brotherhood Members Arrested
»Egypt: Calls for Return of Statue of Great Pyramid Architect
»Muslim Teacher Sexually Abuses Christian Children in an Upper Egyptian School
»Tunisia: Sex at Younger Ages, Without Considering Marriage
Israel and the Palestinians
»‘EU May Push Israel Into Peace Talks’
»How Quick They Forget: A Short History of U.S. Policy and Israeli Construction in East Jerusalem
»‘No-Compromise’ Generation Arises
»Twal: No People Would Accept Such an Occupation
Middle East
»Anti Swedish Protests Continue in Turkey
»EU-Turkey: Enlargement Commissioner Fule Due in Ankara
»Tehran: US Planned Cyber War Against Iran, Spies Arrested
»Turkey: Armenian Massacres; Swedish Ambassador Reassures
»Turkey: Armenian Massacres; Diplomatic Crisis With Sweden
»Turkey: Swedish Parliament’s Decision ‘Inequitable’, Erdogan
»Turkey: Ambassador, Italy Not Acknowledging Armenian Genocide
»Turkey-France Trade Relations to be Improved, Minister Says
»Turkey Supports Palestine as Arab World Comatose, Says Druze Leader
»Bogus TV Report of Russian Invasion Panics Georgia
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Nearly Half of Recruits for Afghan Police Fail Drugs Test
»‘It Just Doesn’t Add Up’: Serious Concerns Over Evidence Given by Father of British Boy Kidnapped in Pakistan
»Malaysia Slams Sweden Over Cartoons
»U.S. Defense Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants
Far East
»Kyrgyzstan — Uzbekistan: Tensions Rising Between Bishkek and Tashkent, Border Sector Closed
Sub-Saharan Africa
»French Hostages ‘Freed in Darfur’
»Italy: Vicenza is Municipality With Most Foreigners
Culture Wars
»Phony Christian Outrage: NYT Panics Over Slaying of Sacred Cow
»Climate Scientists Get Hot Under the Collar
»Exposing the Myth of Moderate Islam

Financial Crisis

Greece: Union Leader, Strikes Will Continue

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 12 — Yanni Panagopoulos, leader of the large Greek union for the private sector, has today stated that, after yesterday’s general strike, protests against the austerity plan approved by Athens “will continue” in order to attain the government’s withdrawal of “unfair and antisocial measures that are contrary to development.” In an interview with Greek TV Skai, Panagopoulos explained that the workers’ situation will continue to worsen both this year and in 2011 and that it is thus necessary to have a constant strategy of combat. “The protests are not over,” he stated. Yesterday over two million people took part in the strike announced by GSEE, by the civil service union ADEDY and the communist PAME union. Violent clashes between anarchists and police took place on the fringes of demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki, which saw the participation of tens of thousands of people. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Premier: China’s Yuan to Remain ‘Basically Stable’

BEIJING -China’s premier rejected foreign pressure over its exchange rate controls and said Sunday the Chinese currency will be kept “basically stable.”

Premier Wen Jiabao promised to reform currency controls, but gave no indication when that might happen. Washington and other trading partners are pressing Beijing to ease controls that they say keep the yuan — also called the renminbi — undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair price advantage and swelling its trade surplus.

“First of all, I don’t think the renminbi is undervalued,” Wen said at a news conference. “We oppose all countries engaging in mutual finger-pointing or taking strong measures to force other nations to appreciate their currencies.”

Some American lawmakers and trade groups want Congress to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing fails to act. Critics say the yuan is undervalued by up to 40 percent against the dollar.

“We will continue to reform the renminbi exchange rate regime and will keep the renminbi basically stable at an appropriate and balanced level,” Wen said…

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

The Video That Will Put Geithner Behind Bars

If this doesn’t convince you that the Timothy Geithner knew about the securities shenanigans that were going on at Lehman, than I don’t know what will.

Keep in mind, that Geithner ran Lehman through 3 “stress tests” prior to bankruptcy; all of which Lehman failed, and yet, nothing was done. Anton R. Valukas—the examiner who wrote the 2,200 page investigative-report which was released on Thursday— has provided plenty of information detailing Lehman’s “materially misleading” accounting and “actionable balance sheet manipulation.”

In other words, they cooked the books.

[Return to headlines]

Tide of Protest Engulfs More Russian Cities

Russia is being rocked by street demonstrations organized by citizens upset by low pay, unemployment, and corruption, the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on Wednesday.

Like millions of Russians, Tatyana had been bracing for the annual hike in utility tariffs that comes with the New Year.

But her bill for January exceeded her worst nightmares. It had jumped 25 percent from the previous month, eating up as much as two-thirds of her salary.

“I have great difficulties in paying for my flat,” she said. “Salaries here are low and tariffs for utilities are very high. I grew up in Soviet times, and we didn’t have such problems. I’m really scared for my children.”

Tatyana, a 50-year-old preschool teacher in the central Russian city of Penza, must now spend 5,000 rubles ($168) per month on water, gas, and electricity. This leaves her with just 2,300 rubles ($77) to feed her two teenage children and her husband, an invalid whose health problems prevent him from working.

Panicked, Tatyana decided to take to the street. She joined a rally in Penza organized by the opposition this past weekend to protest worsening living conditions and call for the ouster of local leaders.

“I’m in a hopeless situation,” said Tatyana, who was afraid to give her last name. “I can’t bear it anymore. I need to do something about it and that’s why I went to the protest. I saw that people had already been driven to despair.”

Nervous authorities in Penza did their best to deter residents from attending the rally, offering free entrance to the local zoo, free city excursions, and public lectures on how to cut utility costs.

But to no avail. An estimated 2,000 protesters massed on March 7 in Penza’s city center. The demonstration was peaceful but pointed: local residents are fed up with their sinking living standards, and ready to speak out about it.

Nationwide Rallies

The Penza rally was the latest in a string of street demonstrations that have rocked Russia in recent weeks. In places as varied as Samara, Irkutsk, and Archangelsk, disgruntled residents have been joining forces to protest low pay, mounting unemployment, police abuse, and what increasing numbers of Russians see as a corrupt government on both the local and federal level.

The largest demonstration, held last month in the Baltic city of Kaliningrad, drew as many as 10,000 people.

The demonstration will be repeated on a nationwide scale when Kaliningrad becomes one of at least 15 cities to stage coordinated protests on March 20.

And the protest is not limited to banners and slogans shouted on cold city squares; some prominent Russians, too, are voicing their resentment at the regime built by Vladimir Putin over the past decade.

“The rich are becoming even richer, the poor even poorer. Corruption is total, everyone is stealing,” veteran rock star Yury Shevchuk told his fans at a March 7 concert in Moscow. “The system has built a brutal, cruel, and inhumane government in our country. People are suffering, not only in prisons and camps, but in orphanages and hospitals as well.”

The recent protests are a notable shift from the public passivity of the early and mid-2000s, when the country was enjoying an unprecedented wave of stability and economic prosperity.

Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said much of the roiling discontent now is due to the economic crisis, which has hit Russia particularly hard after almost a decade of oil-fueled growth.

“Unemployment is on the rise, prices are soaring, livings standards are worsening,” he said. “Television tells us tales that we are rising from our knees, but this no longer reassures people.”

Nervous Kremlin?

Curiously, authorities are allowing the opposition rallies and police so far have largely refrained from arresting or beating protesters.

Oreshkin said Russia’s political leaders understand that using force to stem such a wave of discontent could turn against them.

“Authorities are rational enough not to follow the Chinese path,” he said. “They would happily break the arms of protesters, but when these protesters number 1,500 or even 10,000, it’s better to find a compromise with them. This signals an evolution of society’s political culture, a very slow evolution that is taking place with the change in generation.”

The Kremlin’s reaction to the season of protests has been muted, but betrays concern.

President Dmitry Medvedev sent his envoy to Kaliningrad following the February rally, and a Kremlin advisor for the region, Oleg Matveychev, resigned under pressure following the protests.

Medvedev also fired the chief of police in Tomsk following a public outcry over the murder of a local journalist by police.

The demonstrations are also notable for uniting the country’s usually fractious political opposition.

Communists and other marginal political parties have been responsible for organizing many of the rallies, and the sight of Russia’s opposition forces standing side by side after years of infighting likely adds to the Kremlin’s uneasiness.

‘Authorities Need Not Worry’

Despite the angry citizens, the protests bear no real threat to the political system, analysts said.

“It has been able to quench the protests,” said sociologist Aleksei Grazhdankin, the deputy head of Russia’s independent Levada polling center. “Besides, there is currently no political force that could lead these rallies and transform them from separate local outbursts into a massive protest. So authorities need not worry.”

In fact, despite growing coverage of the rallies in the Russian and international press, studies by the Levada center has shown that the number of political protests have not increased significantly since the mid-2000s.

Grazhdankin said Medvedev and his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, remain hugely popular despite a slump in polls following the economic crisis. The current wave of protests, he said, is nothing more than a seasonal phenomenon.

“People always display their discontent more actively in spring,” he said. “But if we compare the current situation with data from previous years, there is no real increase.”

There is no doubt that anger is mounting in Russia over enduring hardship and corruption. Many are desperate for change. But even among the thousands of Russians who took to the streets in recent months, far from all believe the protests will lead to genuine improvements.

“Keep the local government or change it? I think someone else will arrive and nothing will change,” said Tatyana in Penza. “I’ve long given up hope that things will get better.”

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


California Man Refuses to Take Smart Meter, Locks Up Old Meter

When Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced it was installing smart meters, they weren’t exactly giving customers the option of turning down the device. But one Bay Area man demanding his constitutional rights told CBS5 that he doesn’t want a new meter. Period.

“To me it’s unconstitutional, it’s an invasion of my privacy,” said Mark Dieteman.

The smart meter allows PG&E to watch energy usage remotely and lets customers monitor how much electricity they use. However, residents have blamed the devices for a dramatic increase in their bills, prompting calls for an investigation. A Bakersfield man also filed a class-action lawsuit, which claims customers were overcharged and should get a refund.

But Dieteman’s beef isn’t with his bill. It’s with issues of privacy and Big Brother. And to show PG&E he’s serious, he locked up his old meter. So what can PG&E do? An expert interviewed by CBS5 suggests the company can either shut down Dieteman’s service or simply go ahead and install the device anyway, in which case, Dieteman says he’s willing to put up a fight.

[Return to headlines]

DOJ: CAIR’s Unindicted Co-Conspirator Status Legit

There’s another letter circulating on Capitol Hill affirming federal law enforcement’s belief that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the product of a Hamas-support network in the United States.

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sent the letter last month to four members of Congress who asked for details last fall on how CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror-finance trial against the Holy Land Foundation and its former officials.

He included trial transcripts and exhibits “which demonstrated a relationship among CAIR, individual CAIR founders, and the Palestine Committee. Evidence was also introduced that demonstrated a relationship between the Palestine Committee and HAMAS, which was designated as a terrorist organization in 1995.”

Read the full DOJ letter here.

[Comments from JD: Link to letter at end of article at the url above]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Florida on Guard Against Giant Snails

They’re not as menacing as Burmese pythons proliferating in the Everglades, but giant African snails are targets of the government too.

The invasive mollusks are considered a major plant pest and a potential public health threat because they can spread diseases, including meningitis. Now federal and state authorities are seeking to prevent the large, slimy, shell- toting snails from reestablishing themselves in Florida.

Once established, agricultural officials said, the mollusks “can create a giant swath of destruction.”

“The idea is that these are prolific breeders,” said Mark Fagan, spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Our primary concern is the potential harm it can do to agricultural crops, as well as [public] health concerns.”

The Florida department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are leading the mollusk-prevention effort.

Known as Achatina fulica, the species is one of the world’s largest land snails. They can grow to 8 inches long and 4.5 inches in diameter. It is illegal to import the snails into the United States without a permit.

The snail has not been an issue in Florida for several decades. In 1966, a child smuggled three snails into the Miami area as pets. His grandmother later released them into a garden, and by 1973, the population had grown to more than 18,000, officials said.

Over the next decade, officials spent more than $1 million to eradicate them. That effort is considered the only successful giant African snail eradication on record.

Scientists say the snails consume at least 500 kinds of plants, including citrus crops, Fagan said.

They also can damage buildings by consuming plaster, stucco and other materials they need to grow their shells.

[Return to headlines]

IRS Visits Sacramento Carwash in Pursuit of 4 Cents

It was every businessperson’s nightmare.

Arriving at Harv’s Metro Car Wash in midtown Wednesday afternoon were two dark-suited IRS agents demanding payment of delinquent taxes. “They were deadly serious, very aggressive, very condescending,” says Harv’s owner, Aaron Zeff.

The really odd part of this: The letter that was hand-delivered to Zeff’s on-site manager showed the amount of money owed to the feds was … 4 cents.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules 2nd Amendment Does Not Apply to States

The right to bear arms as defined in the Second Amendment does not apply to the states, so Massachusetts can regulate who can have firearms and how those weapons are to be stored, the state’s high court ruled Wednesday.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously dismissed two challenges to the state’s gun laws that require citizens to register with police departments before acquiring a firearm, as well as keeping guns stored in a locked container or equipped with a trigger lock.

The court upheld the conviction of Nathaniel DePina, a New Bedford man who is serving a two-year jail sentence for carrying an illegal firearm. His lawyer, Paul Patten of Fall River, challenged the conviction on the grounds that the state’s gun licensing laws were unconstitutional.

Patten said the Supreme Judicial Court missed an opportunity to contribute to the debate surrounding the Second Amendment.

“I think they could have at least given some guidance on the issue,” Patten said. “This leaves all the main questions unanswered.”

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials and gun control advocates praised the ruling.

[Return to headlines]

Mystery Substance Found in Chinese Fluoride Added to Massachusetts Water

Fluoride is added to the water most of us drink because the government believes it’s a safe and inexpensive way to prevent tooth decay.

However, Team 5 Investigates found the Amesbury Water Department pulled fluoride from its system amid concerns about its supply from China.

Department of Public Works Director Rob Desmarais said after he mixes the white powder with water, 40 percent of it will not dissolve.

“I don’t know what it is,” Desmarais said. “It’s not soluble, and it doesn’t appear to be sodium fluoride. So we are not quite sure what it is.”

[Return to headlines]

National Coffee Party Day Flops

Anti-tea movement kicks off with miniscule crowds

Leading up to today’s “National Coffee Party Day” — the countrywide launch of a leftwing movement meant as an answer to the tea parties — a CNN article asked, “Will the Coffee Party rise to the scale of the Tea Party movement? Saturday is the first big test.”

If “scale” is indeed the measure by which the Coffee Party will be graded, however, today’s cup-o’-Joe kickoff has earned a resounding “F.”

Despite a news media buildup over the past few weeks from CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, National Public Radio, Washington Post, Seattle Times and dozens of other outlets, the estimated 350 coffee houses hosting events around the country today welcomed mostly miniscule crowds.

Last year, the fledgling tea party movement scheduled nearly 2,000 gatherings on April 15, Tax Day. Over the summer, tea partiers packed health-care town halls by the hundreds, overflowing venues and leading to lines running around the block. On Sept. 12, the crowd of tea partiers that flooded Washington, D.C., was estimated into the hundreds of thousands, possibly topping 1 million.

By contrast, Alex Pappas of the Daily Caller reports showing up to a Washington, D.C., coffee party at Peregrine Espresso in the Eastern Market area today, “only to find a small gathering of five activists huddled at a small table.”


They will make an effort to project this as the voice of a new ‘grassroots’ and ‘bipartisan’ political coalition,“ commented Barry Willoughby, one of the leaders of a loose confederation in Florida calling itself the Naples Tea Party, in a Naples News opinion piece. “Does one really think the coffee party will receive a grassroots/bipartisan mantel that has forever eluded the left?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Doctrine of the Catholic Kennedy? Worthless

In 1960, he theorized the most rigid separation between Church and state, in order to be acceptable as president. Half a century later, Archbishop Chaput is accusing him of causing serious damage. An essay by Professor Diotallevi on the limits and shortcomings of secularism

by Sandro Magister

ROME, March 2, 2010 — Precisely fifty years after the memorable speech, preserved in the anthologies, that John F. Kennedy gave to the Protestant pastors of Houston in order to convince them and the entire nation that as a Catholic he could be a good president (see photo), the archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, has returned to the scene of the crime, in Houston, for a Baptist conference on the role of Christians in public life.

The “crime” was precisely the one committed by Kennedy with that speech, Chaput maintained in his talk, given yesterday evening at Houston Baptist University and reproduced in its entirety further below.

“Today, half a century later, we’re paying for the damage,” said Chaput, who of all the bishops of the United States is the one most active in the area of relations between the Church and political leadership. He has also written a book on this topic, “Render Unto Caesar,” the central thesis of which is that Caesar must be given his due, but that a Christian serves his nation by living his faith in political life in complete consistency and visibility, without hiding or diluting it.

In Chaput’s view, the rigid separation between Church and state exalted by Kennedy has nothing to do with the origin and history of the United States. It is a concept introduced only in the middle of the twentieth century by a secularist current. Kennedy submitted to this current, opening the way to the privatization of religious belief in the individual conscience and to its definitive collapse, even among Catholics…

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Thomas Jefferson Dropped From Texas School Textbooks

Widely regarded as one of the most important of all the founding fathers of the United States, Thomas Jefferson received a demotion of sorts Friday thanks to the Texas Board of Education.

The board voted to enact new teaching standards for history and social studies that will alter which material gets included in school textbooks. It decided to drop Jefferson from a world history section devoted to great political thinkers.

According to Texas Freedom Network, a group that opposes many of the changes put in place by the Board of Education, the original curriculum asked students to “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.”

[Return to headlines]

We Simply Can’t Afford Another Entitlement Program

Congressional Progressives are arm-twisting, threatening, promising and cajoling each and every member of the Legislative Branch in an effort to advance proposed healthcare insurance reform legislation. They are setting the stage to use the reconciliation process to advance the legislation in the Senate, even though the process was created to address budgetary financial issues, exclusively. And one House member, Louise Slaughter (P-NY), is even concocting procedure that would literally bypass any need for the House to vote on the Senate proposal. The effort that is going into circumventing the will of the American people is wickedly stunning.

But in the end, there is only one question that lawmakers of every political persuasion must ask themselves when it comes time to cast their votes: can we, as a nation, really afford to add another behemoth entitlement program onto the backs of the American taxpayers?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wind Farms Could Raise Temperatures

Opponents of land-based wind farms have a new ally in the form of MIT. Researchers there say that, far from mitigating global warming, land-based wind turbines actually increase the temperature around them.


The team found that wind turbines on land reduced wind speed, particularly on the downwind side of the wind farms. This in turn reduced the strength of the turbulent motion and horizontal heat transport processes that move heat away from the Earth’s surface.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Muslim Child Brides on Rise

Federal immigration officials say there’s little they can do to stop “child brides” from being sponsored into Canada by much older husbands who wed them in arranged marriages abroad.

Top immigration officials in Canada and Pakistan say all they can do is reject the sponsorships of husbands trying to bring their child-brides to Canada. The men have to reapply when the bride turns 16. The marriages are permitted under Sharia Law.

Muslim men, who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents return to their homeland to wed a “child bride” in an arranged marriage in which a dowry is given to the girl’s parents. Officials said some of the brides can be 14 years old or younger and are “forced” to marry. The practice occurs in a host of countries including: Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Lebanon.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

An Enemy Within Irish Society?

Early last Tuesday morning, 60 gardai swooped on three homes in Cork and Waterford in scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster. Seven people — four men and three women — were arrested on suspicion of being involved in an Islamic fundamentalist plot to assassinate Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist.

An eyewitness tweeted that a raid on the house in the Coolroe estate in Ballincollig, Cork, was “unreal”. It was “like something from Spooks and the Jason Bourne films” with blacked-out BMWs and Audis being used by the garda’s Special Detective Unit (SDU). They were acting on information provided by the FBI in America where Colleen LaRose, 46 — the supposed mastermind of the alleged plot, has been under arrest since returning from Ireland last October.

While the raids may have resembled something from the Bourne thrillers, LaRose appears to have more in common with the bumbling Sharon Collins, the “lying eyes” Clare woman, who is appealing against her conviction for hiring an assassin through the internet. LaRose, from Pennsylvania, is charged with “recruiting men online to wage violent jihad” in Asia and Europe. Amazingly, she used the alias “Jihad Jane” on YouTube, where her inflammatory comments and videos were soon spotted and reported to the FBI.

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

Cardinal Biffi Really Doesn’t Like That Book

It is the new lectionary for Masses in the Ambrosian rite. The archbishop emeritus of Bologna and scholar of Saint Ambrose again radically criticizes both the book and its authors. As the discontent grows among clergy and faithful

by Sandro Magister

ROME, March 11, 2010 — The argument for and against the new Ambrosian liturgical lectionary is far from being over.

It was begun by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi with an initial barrage of “Critical Observations” on the new lectionary, delivered to Vatican authorities in early January and made public on February 1 by www.chiesa.

It continued with an extensive reply to Biffi from Professor Cesare Alzati, the liturgist who was the book’s main compiler. This reply was also entrusted to www.chiesa and published on February 15.

It extended further on February 23, with the statements to “” by the secretary for the congregation of the Ambrosian rite, Monsignor Claudio Magnoli, who in referring to Biffi’s criticisms said in part:

“These are criticisms that have a lot on the surface, but fail to grasp the true reality of the lectionary. Furthermore, some of them are clearly unfounded. Above all, the tone and style in which they are written is mocking and derisory.”

“” is the online newspaper of the archdiocese of Milan, whose archbishop, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, is also the head of the Ambrosian rite and therefore the ultimate authority over the controversial lectionary.

At this point, it’s Cardinal Biffi’s turn again, with the two texts published further below.


The Ambrosian rite is in use in the archdiocese of Milan and in some areas of the surrounding dioceses of Bergamo, Novara, Lodi, and Lugano, the latter of these in Italian Switzerland, for a total of almost 5 million baptized.

It is one of the most noble and ancient rites of the Catholic Church, the father of which — even in terms of music — is identified in the great fourth-century bishop of Milan, Ambrose.

Shortly after Vatican Council II, the Ambrosian rite was in danger of disappearing. But Paul VI, who before being pope had been archbishop of Milan, ordered that it be preserved.

And Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, a Milanese, a scholar of Saint Ambrose, and in those years the auxiliary bishop of Milan, was among those who adapted the liturgical books according to the guidelines of the council.

Biffi was the secretary of the congregation of the Ambrosian rite from 1974 to 1984. Various experts worked with him, including the theologian Inos Biffi — same last name, but no relation — who is still a member of the congregation, but is in strong disagreement with the authors of the new lectionary that came into use in 2008 with the approval of the Vatican authorities.

In the meantime, Giacomo Biffi moved to Bologna, where he was the archbishop from 1984 to 2003. But even from there, he continues to watch over the Ambrosian rite in which he was born and raised.

About the new lectionary, he wrote, “it’s got everything: empty and sometimes misleading archaisms, adventurous ceremonial innovations, unfounded and mistaken theological perspectives, wrongheaded pastoral proposals, and even a few strange linguistic gaffes.”

The “Critical Observations” with which he opened fire are summarized here:…

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Dutch Author Hans Maarten Van Der Brink Lists a Number of Contradictory Reasons Why His Compatriots Might Give Geert Wilders Their Vote in June

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 12.03.2010

The writer Hans Maarten van den Brink attempts to explain the Geert Wilders phenomenon, the Dutch “demagogue with the bleached and back-combed Mozart hairdo”, whose ongoing battle against “Islamisation” has the Netherlands on tenterhooks: “His standpoints do not follow the usual left/right guidelines. A self-proclaimed admirer of Ariel Sharon and Margaret Thatcher, Wilders is also taking on the world banks, the liberalisation of the job market and the rising retirement age. He wants to close borders, he disputes EU jurisdictions, and believes (like the Social Democrats) that the Netherlands has done enough in Afghanistan. At the same time, he tirelessly beats a drum for universal human rights, particularly for women and homosexuals. He thinks Dutch culture should be protected from foreign influences and that cultural and social subsides should be cut, and more state money handed out to pensioners, animals, the disabled and the police.”

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

Dwarfgate: 5ft 5in Sarkozy’s Fury as 6ft Cameron and 5ft 11in Osborne ‘Mock His Size’

David Cameron is caught up in an extraordinary ‘dwarfgate’ row with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The dispute centres on a claim that Mr Cameron made a remark about ‘hidden dwarfs’ while discussing a photograph showing himself with Mr Sarkozy — who is seven inches shorter than the Tory leader.

The French government was reportedly furious about the comment.

And Shadow Chancellor George Osborne allegedly fuelled the Franco-Tory war by describing a box placed beneath a speaker’s lectern as a ‘Sarkozy box’, before bursting into a fit of giggles.

The jibes, made over a period of three days, led to French officials remonstrating with British counterparts, according to BBC2’s Newsnight.

Are claims that Carla Bruni and Nicolas Sarkozy have both had affairs just a Twitter hoax?

The Tories last night dismissed the dwarfgate report as ‘nonsense’ and claimed it was a ‘Labour Party plant’. A senior Conservative source claimed that Gordon Brown was angry that Mr Sarkozy had agreed to meet Mr Cameron — and had even tried to stop the meeting taking place.

The dispute, which took place last September, emerged after Mr Sarkozy visited London on Friday and showered praise on Mr Brown as a ‘great European and very good friend of mine’.

Mr Sarkozy has criticised Mr Cameron’s Eurosceptic stance in recent months. But Conservative officials insisted they got on so well when they met at the French Ambassador’s residence in London on Friday that Mr Sarkozy even offered the Tory leader tips on how to beat Mr Brown in the televised election debates.

The dwarfgate row erupted when Mr Cameron gave a newspaper interview in his Commons office, in which he appeared to mock Mr Sarkozy.

An article described framed photographs on Mr Cameron’s desk, two featuring him with Barack Obama and several with Baroness Thatcher. It continued: ‘…and one with Nicolas Sarkozy that prompts a joke about “hidden dwarfs”.’

It went on to state that Mr Cameron boasted how he liked a photograph of himself with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, ‘because I’m taller than the Terminator’.

It is not clear what was meant by ‘hidden dwarfs’, though the implication is that the phrase was uttered by Mr Cameron and aimed at Mr Sarkozy. The French were not amused.

Mr Sarkozy, who is 5ft 5in, is famously sensitive about his height — or lack of it. Photographs of him with Mr Cameron on Friday show how, at 6ft tall, the Conservative leader towers over the Frenchman.

Mr Sarkozy wears Cuban heels to give him extra inches, while his statuesque wife Carla Bruni wears flat shoes to bring her closer to her husband’s level.

Three days after the ‘hidden dwarfs’ interview, Mr Osborne added insult to injury by publicly taunting Mr Sarkozy at a business conference in Church House, Westminster, organised by the Right-wing magazine The Spectator.

As Mr Osborne, 5ft 11in, approached the lectern to make his speech, he stumbled on a box placed there for a previous speaker. Mr Osborne called it a ‘Sarkozy box’ and burst into giggles.

According to the BBC, French officials lodged a protest with their UK counterparts on the grounds that Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne had ‘failed to show sufficient respect’ for the French head of state.

The protest was echoed in an article by leading French political commentator Marc Roche in the Left-wing Le Monde newspaper, which called Mr Osborne an ‘intellectual lightweight’ and accused him of a ‘lack of courtesy’.

A diplomatic source in Paris said last night that Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne’s comments had caused ‘a fair amount of consternation, to say the least,’ adding: ‘Yes, it was discussed with the French and, yes, they weren’t happy about it.’

It is not the first time Mr Sarkozy and Mr Cameron have clashed. Diplomatic sources say Mr Sarkozy ‘gave a stern lecture’ to Mr Cameron at a meeting in Paris shortly after he became Conservative leader in 2005.

Nick Allan, press secretary at the British Embassy in Paris at the time, said: ‘Cameron was on the receiving end of a tsunami of criticism. It was a 30-minute meeting, 28 of which was a monologue from Sarkozy that made No 10’s “forces of hell” look like a teddy bears’ picnic.’

A spokesman for Mr Sarkozy said: ‘We have no comment to make.’

A romantic reunion with Carla? Er, not exactly…As reunions go, it was far from passionate. Nicolas Sarkozy returned to Paris yesterday to be greeted by his wife Carla Bruni with a pat on the arm, writes James Tapper.

Mr Sarkozy’s visit to Britain last week was blighted by rumours that he and his model wife have both been having affairs.

When he arrived back in Paris, the 55-year-old French president smiled at his wife and touched her lightly on the small of her back. Ms Bruni reciprocated by placing her hand — apparently unencumbered by a wedding ring — on his arm.

Internet rumours claimed Mr Sarkozy was involved with his ecology minister Chantal Jouanno, while Ms Bruni, 43, was said to be romancing musician Benjamin Biolay.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Economy: France, Number of Export Companies in Decline

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 12 — The number of French companies that are exporting has been in constant decline for the last 10 years, despite the number of missions organised in 2009 by UbiFrance, the national agency for the internationalisation of enterprises. UbiFrance Director General Christophe Lecourtier, said that in 2009 the agency carried out 20,000 missions abroad and in 2010 they have planned 21,800. Three new offices have been opened up in Russia by the agency (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Ekaterinenburg). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hirsi Ali: How to Beat Wilders

Hirsi Ali does give the established political parties advice on how to beat Wilders, but that advice amounts to forcing all immigrants to assimilate. I’m not sure Wilders would mind.

           — Hat tip: Paul Belien[Return to headlines]

If the Swiss Want Mediocrity Today, They Cannot Expect the Superman Tomorrow

Das Magazin 06.03.2010 (Switzerland)

The Swiss philosopher Ludwig Hasler wonders why the elites are constantly failing. One reason, he believes, is their unpopularity in Switzerland, a country which values mediocrity in its leaders — until crisis strikes, that is. “Basically, we want ordinary people at the helm, but as soon as we hit a storm, we expect the superman. Magistrates who keep an eye on everything, who can smell anything fishy from a mile off, who can cut their way of every Gordian knot, and who resolutely make the superpowers see reason: at the same time they should court the high priest “People”. The mixture is perhaps interesting as a literary creation but you can forget about it in reality.”

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

Ireland: Ahern Proposes a Referendum on Scrapping Blasphemy Law

Sunday Times March 14, 2010

Dermot Ahern, the justice minister, is proposing that a vote to remove the criminal offence of blasphemy be held as part of a planned series of referendums this autumn, writes Stephen O’Brien.

Ahern, who was criticised for increasing the fine for blasphemy to €25,000 last year, said he never regarded the provision in the new Defamation Bill as anything more than a short-term solution.

“There was a lot of nonsense about that blasphemy issue and people making me out to be a complete right-winger at the time,” he said. “There was an incredibly sophisticated campaign [against me], mainly on the internet. I was only doing my duty in relation to it, because clearly it is in the constitution. The attorney general said ‘there is this absolute, mandatory thing… it is an offence, punishable by law.”

A final decision on a blasphemy referendum rests with the cabinet, but if Ahern remains justice minister after this month’s reshuffle, he is likely to propose that it be added to the autumn list. The government is already committed to referendums on children’s rights and establishing a permanent court of civil appeal.

The plebiscites are expected to take place in October, on the same day as the a vote for a new directly elected mayor of Dublin, and three Dail by-elections in Donegal South-West, Dublin South and Waterford.

“I said [last year] that I didn’t want a wasteful standalone referendum on blasphemy in the middle of an economic crisis,” said Ahern. “My preference was to reform [the blasphemy provision] in the short term and to have a referendum in the medium term when it could be bundled with a number of others.”

A defamation bill was already in preparation when Ahern became justice minister in May 2008.

Ahern then said he had three options: to abandon the bill; to hold a single-issue referendum to remove the constitutional reference to blasphemy; or to update the references in the 1961 Defamation Act.

Opting for reform, he said he had removed the seven-year jail sentence from the old legislation.

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

Italian ‘Ku Klux Klan’ Man Cited

White supremacist membership drive ‘a flop’, say police

(ANSA) — Rome, March 12 — A man accused of trying to import the Ku Klux Klan to Italy was cited by police on Friday for inciting racial hate and violence.

The 33-year-old from Modena was responsible for the Italian section of the web site of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, judicial sources said. Though the man has a clean criminal record, he was already on the police radar for being close to skinhead groups.

“We don’t think his attempt to recruit new members was going very well,” said Rome prosecutor Andrea Rossi.

“We’ve had a look at his computer and taken a number of files for further examination, but it doesn’t look like the website was generating much of a response,” he said.

Rossi estimated that the Italian page, hosted on the Michigan-based hate group’s website, received fewer than six requests for membership.

“We suspect that a number of those were made by users trying to gather information to give to the police,” he added.

Rossi added that investigators had a difficult time tracking down the website’s creator, who is unemployed and lives with his parents, due to his own attempts to remain anonymous.

He said that while the man was “basically cooperative”, he was evasive when asked about his involvement with the American white supremacist movement.

His webpage ad seeking “good, Christian people ready to join our cause” caught the attention of Italy’s racism watchdog UNAR last fall, who flagged it for the police.

The web page invited prospective members in Italy to send an application and color photo ID in order to receive a provisional one-year membership.

“We’re looking for white patriots willing to defend our race and heritage, and take back what’s been stolen from us,” the website read.

Another section lamented the “sad and inexplicable lack of white pride” among Italians, described as the “fathers of white civilization”. According to coverage by Rome daily La Repubblica, the KKK made its Italian debut in 2005 with groups in Italy and Germany that consolidated into “realms”, local groups at the bottom level of Klan hierarchy.

In 2008, the Italian group obtained recognition from the Northern and Southern Knights, one of the largest white supremacist organizations in the US with chapters in 27 out of 50 American states. Hate crimes are a growing concern in Italy, where a string of attacks and unrest have highlighted growing racial tension.

In early January, the issue came to a head when African field hands rioted in the Calabrian town of Rosarno after they were shot at by local youths.

Some 50 people were injured in clashes with town residents, which lasted for two days and saw immigrants run over in cars and beaten with metal clubs.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded in the southern United States in the years following the Civil War to terrorize freed black slaves and speculators from the victorious north.

The first groups were broken up within a few decades, all but disappearing by the turn of the 20th century to re-emerge in the 1920s, reaching over 4 million members around the US.

Membership in the US has fallen steadily to an estimated 6,000 members in 2008 divided between dozens of groups scattered across the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Four Regions Up for Grabs in March Vote

Candidate list mix-up may convince many to stay home

(ANSA) — Rome, March 12 — Four of the 13 regions where elections will be held later this month are still up for grabs while six should be won by the center left and three by the center right, according to a poll published on Friday.

Carried out two weeks before the vote by the ISPO research agency of pollster Renato Mannheimmer, the survey found that the mix-up by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) center right party in presenting its lists of candidates had convinced 17% of the electorate to change the way the voted in the 2008 political elections with most opting not to go to the polls at all.

However, 74% of those quizzed said the mix-up and the polemics which followed had not influenced their decisions.

According to the poll, undecided voters will play a significant role in the the March 28 and 29 vote. At present 19% of voters said that while they intend to vote they have not decided for whom, while 63% have already decided who to cast their ballots for, 10% are certain they will not vote and 8% are unsure whether they will vote or not.

The four regions where the outcome still appears to be up for grabs are: Liguria, Piedmont, Lazio and Campania.

The six where the center left is expected to win are: Emilia Romagna, Puglia, Tuscany, Marche, Umbria and Basilicata.

The three regions likely to be won by the center right are: Lombardy, Veneto and Calabria.

The ISPO poll was taken March 10 on a cross section of 800 eligible voters.

There will be no polls published in the two weeks before the elections.

A total of 44 million Italians will be casting their ballots in the vote which aside from the 13 regions will also include elections for 11 provincial administrations and mayoral races in 18 provincial capitals.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Latest Polls Show Four Regions on Knife Edge

More abstentions possible; 17% to switch vote after list chaos

In about a fortnight’s time, voters in thirteen regions will be heading for the polling stations to elect the new regional councils and their presidents. As all the commentators have pointed out, the vote is highly significant in terms of the balance of power among political groups nationally, as well as at local level. The results will orient policies in key sectors where the regions have competence, such as healthcare. To a large extent, the vote on 28-29 March will verify the current mood of the electorate towards the various parties. It will therefore also be an important indication of the approval enjoyed by Silvio Berlusconi’s executive.

Obviously, no one is in a position to say precisely what the outcome will be, above all because many voters say they are still in two minds. A survey carried out last Wednesday in the thirteen regions involved in elections shows that just under one voter in five (19%) intends to vote but has not yet decided who to vote for. It is also worth noting that in recent years, more and more voters make their minds up in the last few days before the election. At the last European elections, as many as 13% said they decided on the day of the vote and a further 13% made their minds up in the week leading up to the vote. The fortnight still remaining of the election campaign could steer the decisions of the ditherers in one direction or another, and even prompt those who have decided how to vote to change their minds. One factor will be party communication, which is set to intensify in the next few days after a quiet start, or rather after a start focused more on procedural issues than regional problems.

Yet even with all the above caveats, picking a winner for the presidency is relatively straightforward in many regions. For instance, there seems little doubt that Lombardy, Veneto and Calabria will see the Centre-right triumph. Similarly, Centre-left victories are all but guaranteed in Emilia Romagna, Toscana, Umbria, Marche, Puglia and Basilicata. But in several other contests, the situation is much less clear-cut. In Piedmont, Mercedes Bressa has a slight edge on her opponent, Roberto Cota, but the margin is only about one percentage point, which makes it impossible to forecast the result with any certainty. The gap between the contenders is a tad wider in Liguria but still tiny. Polls put the Centre-left’s Claudio Burlando ahead by about two per cent. The outlook in Lazio is even more uncertain. According to the most recent surveys, the Radical Party’s Emma Bonino is ahead of her rival, Renata Polverini but here, too, the advantage is slight.

Ms Polverini’s campaign, which was ahead in the polls until a few weeks ago, was seriously affected by the chaos that accompanied presentation of the election lists. Potentially, the absence of the People of Freedom’s (PDL) symbol is very damaging. Approval for the Centre-right thus far has been more substantial than for the Centre-left, which would have been a big boost for Ms Polverini’s campaign. The absence of a list as important as the PDL’s undermines her advantage. Finally, the Centre-right’s Roberto Caldoro had been looking a winner in Campania but the latest IPSOS poll suggests an inversion of that tendency. The Centre-left’s Vincenzo De Luca is now set to win. Overall at the last regional elections five years ago, the Centre-left managed to secure eleven of the thirteen regions that will be going to the polls. This time round, they might win seven, eight or nine. Needless to say, it’s a result that lends itself to all sorts of interpretations. On the one hand, it could be viewed as progress for the Centre-right since they are likely to wrest a few regions from their opponents’ grasp. Yet on the other, it will be pointed out that Centre-left has, as seems highly likely, held onto the majority of the regions going to the polls.

In reality, any analysis based on the number of regions won, which is the most common approach, fails to tell the whole story. Some regions are much more important, and populous, than others. It follows that they count for much more in terms of votes. A more meaningful figure is the total number of votes obtained overall by each party in the thirteen regions as a whole, although this is not easy to calculate because of the various local groups and “president’s lists”. A global analysis enables us to gauge the actual impact of each of the political forces, revealing whether, and to what extent, the majority parties (especially the PDL) have held onto the popular vote or if, as polls published recently by various bodies suggest, they have fallen back.

In this context, recent events, and in particular the list presentation affair, appear to have influenced voters’ intentions. According to one recent poll, more than 17% of the electorate claim to have changed their voting decision in the aftermath of the list presentation shambles. This does not, of course, mean that all of those interviewed will behave as they said they would but it does offer an indication of the disquiet among the electorate which, as we have noted, has already been picked up by recent surveys of voting intentions. Today, although the figures refer to the country as a whole and not just to the regions that are voting, the PDL is weaker than it was a month ago, having shed about two percentage points. If the findings of the surveys are confirmed on election day (and here we have to remember that there are still fifteen days of the election campaign to go, which could substantially alter the situation), Silvio Berlusconi’s party would lose ground with respect to the last general election but remain ahead of its result in last year’s European poll.

In contrast, the Northern League seems to be holding firm, thanks in part to effective communications. On the other side of the fence, the PD appears to have consolidated, although not in proportion to the fall in the PDL’s vote. Pierluigi Bersani’s group looks to have recovered from the poor result of the European vote but has not recovered its position at the general election. As expected, very few voters have moved directly from one of the two largest parties to the other. Instead, there are complex movements among the various political groups and, especially, to and from abstention. For abstention is the big question mark hanging over the upcoming regional elections. Today, an increasing number of voters feel deluded or repelled by politics in the wake of the events over the past three months, suggesting that the turn-out could be lower. Around 18% of those interviewed said they were moderately or very likely not to vote but the chances are that levels of abstention will be even higher. However, what promises to be a tense climate in the last few days of the election campaign could prompt some voters to turn out, albeit “holding their noses”, which would alter the current balance of power among the parties and, in some regions, affect the election of the president.

Renato Mannheimer

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Foreign Secretary David Miliband

Transcript of the Statements to the Media following Bilateral Meeting at the British Foreign Office

David Miliband: I want to recognise the way that the Secretary General during his term of office has been a voice for engagement, a voice for moderation, again a voice for cooperation, and I think it’s a testimony to the work that he’s doing that we, that he has such a full programme in the United Kingdom. He’s meeting a range of Government organisations but also engaging in civil society. And the theme of building inter faith and cross cultural understanding has been at the heart of our talks over the last forty five minutes or so.

I think it’s fair to say that in this country we are proud of many of the ways in which Britain stands up for the rights of all its citizens, whatever their race or their religion. We have some of the strongest laws against religious hatred anywhere in the world. But we know that there is always more work to do to build understanding within our own country and also to take that internationally. And one of the commitments we make is that we know that in order to tackle many of the problems of the modern world, problems of conflict, problems of poverty, problems of climate change, problems of economic instability, we need much greater cooperation between countries like my own and Muslim majority countries around the world.

We have committed first of all to promote greater understanding of the Islamic world, or Islamic worlds, plural, by, as a way of promoting greater respect. We know that there are serious debates about reform inside the Muslim majority countries and we support the promotion of universal values of human rights and free speech and democratic governance.

We also know that there are substantial grievances that many people in the Muslim majority countries feel. Some of them are real and those that are real need to be addressed in a serious way. In our discussions today, ranging from the Middle East to Africa to Europe we’ve talked about how those grievances can be addressed, and I’m very grateful for the open and frank and honest and positive way in which the Secretary General has tried to engage in those debates.

We know that the OIC has a diverse membership and the, the Secretary General has a job to do to balance the different parts of his membership. I think it’s very important that countries like Britain, which have a substantial Muslim population, are able to engage with organisations like the OIC. The OIC made an important contribution to our Afghan Conference in January and I very much look forward to more meetings like we had today to further cooperation in the months ahead.

Thank you very much indeed.

Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu: Thank you. Today we had very fruitful talks and have exchanged views on ways and means to enhance bilateral cooperation between OIC and the United Kingdom of all issues of mutual concern as well as for more cooperation between OIC and EU.

I conveyed to the Foreign Secretary the deep concern of OIC over the recent worrying developments in the Occupied Territories of Palestine particularly East Jerusalem. In our view the recent procedures by Israel related to the settlements would not only jeopardise the chances of the resumption of peace negotiation but also create an atmosphere of confrontation. I would like to take this opportunity to once again call upon the international community to put serious pressure on Israel. I also had the opportunity to brief the Foreign Secretary on the OIC’s efforts has to maintain peace and security and to address the humanitarian needs, especially in OIC member states such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia. The situation in, in, Yemen and Nigeria also came up in our discussion.

I have discussed also OIC’s endeavours in promoting innovation, modernisation and economic development in the Muslim world as well as fighting extremism and terrorism. We emphasised the need to promote understanding and tolerance and the potential in defusing tension and removing mispresentations which have recently affected the relations between the Muslim world and the West. It is my conviction that with its respect of the Muslim world and its experience in cherishing understanding and tolerance, the UK, United Kingdom, can play a crucial role in the better understanding of the positions and concerns of the Muslim world.

We expressed our satisfaction over recently established ties of cooperation between OIC and DfID in the field of international development of relief and humanitarian assistance. I’m happy to be meeting after this meeting with Mr Mike Foster, Minister of International Development.

The Foreign Secretary and I have agreed to continue our mutual relationship, engagement and consultations in all the issues and I have extended an invitation to him now again to visit OIC headquarters.

David Miliband: Thank you very much.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu: Thank you.

David Miliband: Thank you.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Pope Helped Priest Accused of Child Abuse

The Pope has become embroiled in Germany’s Catholic child sex abuse scandal after his former diocese confirmed he approved a decision to give church accommodation to a priest accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex.

The child sex abuse scandal currently rocking Germany has affected 19 of the country’s 27 Catholic dioceses, with new accusations almost daily from former school pupils and choir members.

Pope Benedict XVI, who spent much of his early church career in his home country of Germany, has actively spoken against paedophilia and made promises that accusations would be investigated wherever they arose. After a meeting on Friday with Germany’s top Catholic cleric, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, he also approved moves to appoint a watchdog to prevent child sex abuse.

A large part of the scandal involves the protection of those accused of abuse, and their continued employment by the church.

Yet it emerged on Saturday that as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich and Friesing, the Pope supported an attempt to rehabilitate a priest within his own diocese.

Identified only as H., he had been accused of the sex abuse while in Essen, but moved to Munich for help.

“It was decided in 1980 to give H. accommodation in a rectory so that he could receive therapy. The archbishop [now Pope Benedict XVI] took part in this decision,” a statement from the Munich and Friesing diocese said.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that H. was given spiritual duties to perform and no further wrongdoing was reported between 1980 and 1982, when Ratzinger moved to the Vatican.

But further sex abuse claims were made against the priest in 1985 — allegations so severe he was relieved of his duties and the secular authorities became involved.

A year later he was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence, later extended to five years, and fined 4,000 deutschmarks for sexually abusing minors. He was instructed to undergo therapy.

Yet he remained in the church and worked in a retirement home between 1986 and 1987 before becoming a curate and later a church administrator.

Although no further allegations have been made against him, in 2008 he was relieved of his duties in Garching and five months later was given different responsibilities, and was not allowed to work with young people.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said he still works in the diocese today.

In a statement from the diocese, former vicar general Gerhard Gruber said, “The repeated employment of H. in priestly spiritual duties was a bad mistake. I assume all responsibility.”

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

Portugal: Ikea to Invest 1.1 Bln by 2015

(ANSAmed) — LISBON, MARCH 12 — By 2015, Ikea plans to double its investments in Portugal, thus bringing them up to 1.1 billion euros. Thanks to this new strategy, writes the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Lisbon, Ikea will create 10,000 jobs directly or in the allied industries. After the sales points in Alfragide, opened in 2004, and in Matosinhos (2007), the group plans to open a third store in Loures by this summer. Ikea, the note continues, will open a further three shopping centres in Matosinhos, Gaia and Algarve, whilst by the end of this year, the three Swedwood factories — the company in the group that produces furniture — will be fully operational (the first is already operating, the second has started production this year and the third will start at the end of 2010). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Reaction to the Inaugural British Tea Party Event

They drank real tea (and imbibed some stronger drink as well). But their concerns mirrored their American cousins’ cause from across the pond.

On February 28, an extraordinary meeting took place in a crowded room in Brighton on the south coast of England. The tea party movement, scoffed at by much of the British establishment, quietly arrived in the UK. With little publicity, and certainly none of it positive except on the blogs, Kenny Irvine arranged a successful event for the Freedom Association in two days time.

So successful was the tea party gathering that the 300-person capacity of the room was reached quickly and people had to be away. This was a British event, so the tea was consumed and not tossed anywhere. There was a cash bar as well for those wishing to have something a bit stronger — another British tradition.

The main speaker for the event, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, did some pre-event publicity. Oddly enough, it was through U.S. media outlets like Neil Cavuto’s Fox News show and Hot Tea Radio.

In both of these interviews, Hannan was keen to assure people that no tea would be harmed in any way. American observers found the fact that a tea party event in the UK was being planned both ironic and amusing. However, the problems discussed were as serious as the ones with which American tea party attendees are concerned: high taxes, bloated government, and fiscal irresponsibility.

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

Spain: Women Reports Lleida Mosque Imam for Polygamy

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 12 — A Spanish woman reported the imam of the main mosque in Lleida (Catalonia) to the Guardia Civil for polygamy and abuse. The woman, reports Spanish daily Segre, is named Aicha Lopez and she filed a report against the imam Abdelwahab Houz for marrying her when he was already married to another woman and for having abused and abandoned her during a trip to Morocco. The imam denies both accusations. Based on the report, Aicha Lopez suffered the abuse a month ago in Rabat, where the couple went on vacation. The imam, according to Aicha Lopez, reportedly received a phone call from his previous wife, and when the husband learned that he was discovered, he allegedly became violent, forcing his Spanish wife to get out of their car and return to Spain alone. Afterwards, she reported her husband for polygamy and abuse; accusations that the Guardia Civil of Lleida is currently investigating. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Seven Charged Over Sharia Court Released

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 12 — The seven Moroccans charged with having set up a court of Sharia law in Valls (Catalonia) and of having passed a death sentence on a women accused of adultery, have today been released. The committal judge at Tarragona Court was forced to overturn their imprisonment after the woman who had brought the charges failed to appear in court to identify them for the third time, say court sources, cited by the EP agency. The woman, of Moroccan citizenship, disappeared without trace last November and is thought to have returned to live in Morocco, although the police in that country have not been able to trace her. The charge brought against the seven men, who were facing the prospect of 23 years’ imprisonment for kidnapping, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit a crime, is entirely based on the inquiry conducted by the Catalan police force, the ‘Mossos d’Esquadrà, who had corroborated the ‘probable’ existence of a Sharia court at Valls. The court has, however, left the case open, as well as the accusations against the seven men, who are now free to leave custody. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swiss Muslims Want Islamic Cemeteries in Every Canton

An umbrella group for Swiss Muslims says they should be able to be buried “with dignity” and is therefore calling for Islamic cemeteries in every Swiss canton.

Farhad Afshar, president of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, told the Sunday newspaper Sonntag he was preparing a legal case concerning freedom of religion.

He said that following the Bernese commune of Köniz’s recent rejection of a separate burial ground for Muslims, a legal ruling was necessary so that “the next time someone says no [to an Islamic cemetery] they are violating freedom of religion”.

Islamic law says Muslims should not be buried with those of a different faith — something already possible in Some Swiss cities, for example Zurich, Bern, Basel and Geneva.

The Muslim community in Switzerland accounts for about 4.5 per cent of the population. Most Muslim immigrants came from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey. The community includes up to 100 nationalities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Sixty People Report Abuses by Priests

A Swiss abbot says 60 people have reported being victims of abuse by Catholic priests in Switzerland.

Abbot Martin Werlen of the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln told Swiss daily Aargauer Zeitung that the allegations were reported to the Swiss Bishops Conference, which is investigating them.

Werlen did not say in the interview published on Saturday where or when the alleged cases occurred.

Werlen and the bishops conference could not immediately be reached for comment.

His statement was the latest report of abuse by Catholic clergy or church employees in Europe, which has recently seen fresh allegations of sexual and physical abuse in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The First Ever Critical Edition of the Koran, Coming to You From Potsdam

Die Welt 11.03.2010

Lucas Wiegelmann writes an instructive report on the early mashup of Jewish and Christian motifs, ancient Arabic poetry and inspired pieces of original writing that is the Koran. In Potsdam outside Berlin, a team of researchers from the Academy of Sciences is working on a project knows as the “Corpus Coranicum” to produce the first-ever critical edition of the holy book. Wiegelmann talked to a number of the scholars involved, including the prominent Arabist Michael Marx. He serves Mocca, while “next door his assistants and helpers sit in front of their computers typing up ancient manuscripts. The walls are lined with photocopies of ancient codices in the Arabic script. The researchers are analysing around 12,000 photos of the most important Koran manuscripts dating from the 7th to the 12th centuries, copying out the different versions of the verses for comparison before putting them online. A Sisyphean but important task; only when this has been completed can phase two of the project begin, in which the authentic version of the Koran is reconstructed.”

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

UK: Backlash at the Mosque

The influence of Muslim fundamentalists in east London is being challenged, says Andrew Gilligan .

In the two weeks since the Islamic Forum of Europe were exposed by The Sunday Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches as hardline fundamentalists secretly infiltrating the political system, they have been furiously protesting their “proven track record of community cohesion”. Last week, however, the organisation showed its true face.

“We’ve tracked you down,” said the IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator, Azad Ali, in a webcast targeting the Channel 4 reporter “Atif”, who went undercover at the IFE’s headquarters, the East London Mosque, filming the group’s true views — and its boasts that it controlled the local Tower Hamlets council. “Yes, Atif, we’ve got a picture of you and a lot more than you thought we had. We’ve tracked you down to different places. And if people are gonna turn what I’ve just said into a threat, that’s their fault, innit?”

Mr Ali’s words sit strangely with his role as an official advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, and to the police, but perhaps his annoyance is understandable. The undercover reporters filmed him saying: “Democracy, if it means not implementing the sharia, no one’s going to agree with that.”

The reporters found that, far from its protestations of being merely a “social welfare organisation”, the IFE is an organised political movement dedicated to creating an “Islamic social and political order” through “entryism” into mainstream democratic institutions.

Today, though, as the dust settles after this month’s revelations, there are indications that that sort of influence may have peaked. One of the most visible signs of the Islamists’ growing hold over Tower Hamlets council was the highly controversial proposal to erect so-called “hijab gates” — huge arches in the shape of the Muslim veil — at either end of the area’s famous Brick Lane. Local critics, including many Muslims, said it was “Islamic triumphalism” and an attempt to “religiously brand” an area that is home to many different cultures. Last week, the council withdrew the plans.

Last week, too, several local schools, which had been due to send pupils to an event called the “Big Read” at the East London Mosque, announced they were pulling out. The event organisers were forced to send frantic texts appealing for more children. Many local Muslim headteachers have privately told The Sunday Telegraph of their worry about the brand of Islam being preached at the mosque.

And yesterday it looked as if pressure was mounting on the second-most important officer at Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Ali — a man with a controversial employment history and close links to the IFE. Mr Ali, the assistant chief executive, has responsibility for council grants. Under him, increasing sums of council money have been channelled to IFE-controlled organisations.

Tower Hamlets’ chief executive, Kevan Collins, confirmed that a complaint had been received about Mr Ali from another government agency called the National College for Leadership of Schools.

Council sources said the allegation was that Mr Ali had been moonlighting, in council time, with the college. “Any allegations of that nature will be fully investigated,” Mr Collins said. “Every member of staff is under a contractual obligation to work full-time for the council unless explicitly stated otherwise.” A formal investigation into Mr Ali is likely to be launched tomorrow.

Approached yesterday, Mr Ali did not deny the allegation, saying only: “I cannot make a comment on that because I need to check out exactly what the college have said.”

“These are very important signs,” said Badrul Islam, chief executive of a local voluntary organisation, the Ethnic Minority Enterprise Project, and a leading Muslim campaigner against the Islamists. “The IFE have definitely taken a hit and they are into damage limitation. This story has done two things: it has given them notice that what they are doing will not be allowed, and it has made local people realise that the IFE are challengable.”

Mr Islam, who featured in The Sunday Telegraph reports and the Channel 4 film, said the story had created a “huge frenzy” in the community and he had been congratulated by dozens of people for taking part. “But,” he added, “they all said one other thing, ‘Take care of yourself’, or ‘Are you going to be all right?’?”

So far, apart from a couple of anonymous telephone threats, nothing has happened. But the IFE’s opponents in Tower Hamlets know that the battle is far from over.

The hijab gates may have gone, or be on hold, but the increasing march of the hijab itself — and its all-enveloping cousin, the niqab — through the ranks of local women shows the growth of Islamist influence in the area. In Bangladesh, where nearly all the local Muslims originate, it is almost unknown to see covered women. But in supposedly liberal, secular east London, the streets are filled with them. This month, Shiria Khatun, a Tower Hamlets councillor, called in the police after receiving anonymous death threats because of her “Western” dress.

Other disturbing trends have been seen in the East End. Several churches have been attacked, though the area’s churchmen try to play down the religious nature of the incidents. There has been a large rise in attacks on gay people. Jewish history tours of the area have twice been subject to attacks by gangs of local youths. A local Hindu group, the Sanaton Association, had to move its events after they were repeatedly attacked by Muslim youths. And, although there are still many racist attacks on Muslims, the fastest-rising group of victims of race attacks has been whites.

There is nothing to suggest that the IFE and the mosque are behind any of this. But, rather as racial violence in an area tends to rise when the BNP becomes active there, a similar effect is being seen in the East End. At least 18 hate and extremist preachers hosted at the mosque over the past year, including many anti-gay preachers, have probably, for instance, helped encourage the growing climate of intolerance towards homosexuals.

The IFE has taken considerable control over this Bangladeshi area, even though it is the descendant of a party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which opposed and fought against the very creation of Bangladesh. War crimes were allegedly committed by some JI members during the country’s 1971 war of independence. Some of those people fled to London — and played important roles in the foundation of the IFE.

Ansar Ahmed Ullah, another local opponent of the IFE, says that local people are frustrated with the way in which the white political establishment has endorsed and legitimised a mosque whose true nature they do not appear to understand. “We have told them many times about these people,” he says. “But you still get people like Boris Johnson, government ministers and Prince Charles going down there. People see that, and it gives them credibility.”

It is easy to understand why the politicians make a bee-line for the East London Mosque. Many of the area’s other mosques are small, scruffy converted buildings, with peeling paint and a clientele of older men. The East London Mosque is large, shiny and modern, with an air of youth, purpose and a persuasive PR machine. Nor, of course, are the majority at the mosque extremist. But there are, at the very least, inconsistencies between the message tailored for outside consumption and what actually goes on there.

The IFE’s power is about to be subjected to two key tests. In six weeks, there will be local elections, with several IFE councillors up for re-election, and a referendum on having an elected mayor for Tower Hamlets, a post into which the IFE wants to place one of its people. “That will be crucial,” says Badrul Islam. “We think we have the numbers to organise against that.”

But perhaps the organisation’s most serious challenge comes from Bangladesh. Jamaat-e-Islami has never been as powerful there as it is in east London, and Bangladesh’s government is organising to have several JI members indicted for their alleged war crimes during the 1971 liberation struggle. Among them is likely to be a man who plays a leading role in the East London Mosque.

The fundamentalists remain deeply embedded in east London. But in the “Islamic Republic” of Tower Hamlets, the backlash has started.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Gordon Brown’s Four-Letter Rant at Baroness Ashton for ‘Letting UK Down’

Gordon Brown hurled a torrent of abuse at EU Foreign Minister Baroness Ashton in a row over the way she is doing her job, it was disclosed last night.

The Prime Minister swore repeatedly at the Baroness over the telephone, leaving her shaken, according to well-placed sources.

Details of Mr Brown’s latest bullying outburst prompted claims that Baroness Ashton, 53, is losing the confidence of her own Government, as well as Brussels. According to one source, he accused her of ‘letting Britain down’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Jack Straw to Publish Plans to Abolish House of Lords ‘Very Shortly’

Labour’s election manifesto will include plans to replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber, a minister confirmed today.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said Justice Secretary Jack Straw will set out proposals ‘very shortly’.

Mr Straw is understood to have been consulting Cabinet colleagues on the shake-up which would see the Lords become a wholly elected, 300-seat chamber.

Lord Adonis said this morning that Labour’s plans for the Lords had ‘moved on a stage’.


A proportional representation system would be used to select members, with voting taking place at the same time as General Elections.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: No Job Unless You’re Polish: Biggest Asda Meat Supplier Excludes English Speakers as ‘All Instructions Are in Polish’

British workers have been turned away from jobs in a local factory — for not speaking Polish.

Cooked meat manufacturer Forza AW effectively barred anyone but Poles for applying for jobs on its production line in East Anglia by insisting all staff speak the language fluently.

The company claimed it was necessary as all health and safety training was conducted in Polish.

But Forza — a major supplier of Asda supermarkets — was last night accused of anti-British discrimination because of the adverts, which came after an official report detailed how unscrupulous employers prefer to hire migrants because they are cheap and less inclined to answer back.

Forza’s insistence on Polish speakers may be illegal, as a spokesman for the Government Equalities Office said last night: ‘Under the 1976 Race Relations Act, unless there is a genuine need for a worker to speak a particular language it is against the law to require that they should do so as a condition of employing them.’

‘I couldn’t believe it — are we in England or in Poland?’Forza’s advertisement came as the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report condemned the ‘mistreatment and exploitation’ of foreign workers, who are often too afraid to raise concerns for fear of being sacked.

The commission said it uncovered ‘widespread evidence’ of physical and verbal abuse and lack of proper health and safety protection, while workers often have little knowledge of their rights.

It is also reported that British workers had spoken of difficulty in registering with employment agencies that supply mainly East European workers.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said the advert exposed the hollowness of Gordon Brown’s pledge to create ‘British jobs for British workers’.

He added: ‘He must regret ever saying that because it has proved a cruel deception for millions of the unemployed.’

Forza’s advert was sent out via email by East Anglia-based employment agency OSR Recruitment earlier this month.

Headed ‘Immediate factory work available!!!!’ it continued: ‘If you are available or have any friends available, work is starting tomorrow for induction training.

‘Ongoing factory work (meat production) for 4-5 months, shifts are 7am-5pm or 9am-7pm.

‘Transport provided. Applicants must speak Polish. Please call asap!!!!!!’

The advert was signed Katrina Massingham, the company’s ‘industrial team leader’ and it was dispatched to hundreds of potential applicants on the firm’s books.

One job seeker, who contacted The Mail on Sunday after receiving the email, said: ‘I couldn’t believe it when I first read it — are we in England or Poland, for goodness sake?

‘It was weird. I thought it must be a mistake’’If it was a job where you were flying back and forth to Warsaw, I could understand it, but you wouldn’t think language ability would be high on the list of requirements for someone packing sausages all day long.’

A reporter listened in as the 31-year-old man called OSR to ask about the jobs last Tuesday.

The first question he was asked was: ‘Are you Polish?’ When he said no, but could speak the language ‘a little’, he was told: ‘Actually, you have to be fluent because the health and safety training is all done in Polish.’

By Friday, however, after The Mail on Sunday rang again several times and got the same response, the company appeared to have second thoughts about the wisdom of the advert.

An OSR employee gave a different version to a Polish-speaking reporter saying: ‘Actually, you don’t have to be Polish, but it helps.’

When another reporter posed as an English applicant, Ms Massingham told him that all the jobs had been filled but that the language requirement was ‘not too important now’.

She added: ‘For some reason the training was in Polish but we’re trying to get them to change it, because it’s a bit silly, really’.

Earlier, OSR also posted the advert in Polish in several of the Eastern European shops in East Anglia.

In one, the manageress took the ad over the phone, and — when asked to translate it from English — was surprised to hear the line about needing to speak Polish.

‘It was weird, and I assumed it was a mistake,’ she said. ‘After all, we’re in England. So I translated that part as “English not necessary” instead. There have been quite a few people following up the advert since it went up.’

The advert, as she had translated it and posted in her shop, read: ‘Work for Poles. Urgent! Production line work starting March 5, 2010, Full-time (5 days a week). Transport from Norwich city centre and uniforms provided. English not necessary. OSR Agency, Katrina or David.’

Last night, Forza AW claimed the advert was ‘a mistake due to a breakdown in communications and should never have gone out’.

Forza is a leading supplier to supermarkets, and holds a multi-million- pound contract to supply the majority of Asda’s cooked meat range.

Led by £780,000-a-year Max Hilliard, once described as the most powerful man in the British pig industry, it has a £140million turnover and 600 employees. It is normally based in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, but about a third of its plant was destroyed in a blaze last month.

As a temporary measure, the company leased factory space and machinery at Bernard Matthews Farms’ huge plant in Great Witchingham, just outside Norwich.

The turkey producer was able to offer spare capacity as its busiest time is some months away.

‘This advert should never have happened’There is no other connection between the two firms. As dawn broke over a rainswept Norwich on Friday, Mail on Sunday reporters watched as ten Eastern Europeans who had been hired after answering the advert gathered outside a John Lewis store waiting for the 6am bus to take them to their long shift.

Stopping three times elsewhere in the city to pick up more workers, the vehicle made its way ten miles north to Great Witchingham.

Once out of the bus, virtually every one of the workers took the chance for a last cigarette before entering the plant for the start of the 7am shift. At the same time, workers in other buses arrived from all over Norfolk and Suffolk, some to work for Bernard Matthews, others for Forza.

Yesterday, Mr Hilliard, claimed the advert’s wording was a mistake and due to a ‘breakdown in communications’ between his firm and OSR Recruitment. He said he was unaware of the ‘Must speak Polish’ clause until The Mail on Sunday alerted him to it.

‘In normal circumstances, this ad would have been vetted and the error removed,’ said the 51-year-old, who is Forza’s chief executive and principal shareholder, owning 60 per cent of the company.

‘But following the chaos of the fire, and the necessity to quickly set up production with 400 workers in another part of the country, the mistake was made but wasn’t spotted.

‘We employ many English workers as well as Poles and Lithuanians, though I can’t give you exact figures, and I assure you categorically that all our training and health and safety briefings are conducted in English, Polish or whatever the employee speaks.

‘I cannot say how this error came about, perhaps a glib comment was made about the difficulty of operating in several different languages, I don’t know, but we would never turn down an English person for a job on the basis that they didn’t speak Polish or any other language.

‘When we moved production down to Norfolk, we contacted the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority to be put in touch with a reputable agency, and were directed towards OSR Recruitment.

‘I did speak to them in person about our requirements, but I didn’t see the finished advert. It should never have happened and I apologise to anyone who was put off applying for jobs as a result of this email.’

Asked whether the firm would be using OSR for recruitment in the future, he declined to comment.

Forza has become a giant in the processed meat industry in just two years. It specialises in pre-packed and pre-sliced deli-counter style products. Mario Bardwell, a director of OSR Recruitment, refused to discuss the email when approached by The Mail on Sunday. He asked us to put the questions to him in an email — but still did not respond to the written enquiry.

Forza recently announced plans to double its payroll to 1,200 staff, after winning a new contract, and has been considering plans to move to larger premises.

However, the fire at the existing West Yorkshire factory has affected migrant workers there.

‘I’m sure that this happens all the time’Some of the plant’s 600 staff, many of them migrants supplied by local recruitment company Red Rock On Site Services, were sent home. And if they have worked in Britain for less than a year, they are unable to claim benefits.

Helena Danielczuk, who works for Bradford mental health charity Sharing Voices, said she had been approached by more than a dozen Eastern European workers who lost their jobs at Forza.

She said: ‘They have to work for an unbroken 12 months otherwise they are unable to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. Some of them are destitute.’ The charity has called for financial support for migrant workers left without work because of the fire.

In the late Nineties Mr Hilliard was boss of Malton Foods, then owned by dairy giants Unigate, which bought about a third of the pigs processed for meat in Britain.

He was at the centre of protests from pig farmers when he was awarded the industry’s top prize despite being behind cuts to farmers’ prices three times in a year. National Farmers’ Union members said that it was ‘like giving Saddam Hussein the Nobel Peace Prize’.

The new row will reopen the fierce debate touched off by the recent BBC documentary The Day The Immigrants Left, in which Britons took over migrant workers’ low-paid jobs.

In the film, presented by Evan Davis, some of the featured locals from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, complained they were routinely turned down for factory work as they were English, an assertion denied by one boss of a potato-packing factory who said: ‘Where British workers are, I don’t know, but they’re not applying for jobs.’

But when two of the participants, jobless Paul North and Terry Garner, did apply for jobs after a successful stint on the shop floor, they were told ‘no suitable vacancies were available’.

Mr Garner said he was ‘not surprised in the least’ to hear that such as discriminatory advert had been issued on behalf of Forza.

He said: ‘I don’t know what the story is with this firm, but I am sure this kind of thing goes on all the time, only the employers are less obvious and just sift through the applications to find the foreign workers.

‘I’ve got nothing against foreigners — they do work hard, but they do it for less money, because they often don’t bring their families and they’ll share accommodation to bring down their overheads.

‘They might pay tax, but at the end of the day, most of the money they’re paid goes back to their own country and not into our economy.’

Mr Garner and Mr North are both currently working as temporary cable layers.

Bosses at Bernard Matthews were said to be upset that the offending advert might — however unfairly — tarnish the firm’s reputation. The company was recently praised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in its report into migrant workers in the meat and poultry industry.

While the body uncovered widespread abuse of migrant and agency workers, including a lack of proper health and safety protection, Europe’s largest turkey producer was singled out for special praise.

The report stated: ‘One firm that was frequently mentioned as an employer of choice for agency workers was Bernard Matthews.

‘This was because of the respect for, and lack of differentiation between, agency staff and directly employed workers, and the steps taken to promote good relations between different nationalities.’

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said last night: ‘Forza are leasing spare capacity at our plant while they get over the fire at their factory in Yorkshire, but there’s no other link between the two companies.’

The company stepped in less than a week after the blaze, leasing its facilities for Forza for six months.

Meanwhile, an Asda spokesman added: ‘While we recognise that these were extraordinary circumstances for Forza, we’re pleased that they’ve quickly recognised the advert was a mistake.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: The Snake Oil Salesmen Who Hijacked My Party: After 25 Years as an MP, Peter Kilfoyle Hits Out at Hypocrisy of New Labour

Before he retires, the Labour supporter of 46 years fires this broadside at the dire lack of talent and potential in a Cabinet of makeweights.

By the Eighties, Thatcherism was the order of the day in public life. The economic landscape had shifted, and with it the industrial profile of the nation.

Unions were under the cosh and in rapid retreat from their power and numbers of the Seventies. The stresses spread from wider society into the Labour Party, complicating Labour’s internal battles, first between Right and Left and then with Militant.

Along came New Labour, in a last-ditch attempt to win power before the Labour Party splintered after a feared defeat in 1997.

It worked — at least, for while. What it also did, however, was to emasculate Labour ideologically.

New Labour became a brand, devoid of substance but sold successfully to a bedazzled electorate who were tired of the Tory brand and its painful remedies to our national ills.

No one can deny the marketing success that was New Labour. Unfortunately, snake oil salesmen are always found out eventually — and New Labour’s day of reckoning is nigh.

What, therefore, will be at the core of the Labour Party after the Election?

Not a great deal, I fear. One only has to look at the way in which the party has recruited its front line troops to fight in 2010.


The choice for the Labour Party is between the social democratic urges of New Labour — complete with deregulation, devotion to markets and privatisation — and the democratic socialist model which calls for regulation, appropriate intervention and a thriving public sector.

There can be no compromise between the two.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US Woman Freed Over ‘Plot to Kill’ Swedish Cartoonist

Police in the Irish Republic have released a fourth person, an American woman, who was detained over an alleged plot to murder a Swedish cartoonist.

The woman, who has not been officially named, was among seven people arrested. Three were freed without charge on Friday. Three men are still being held.

They were suspected of planning to kill Lars Vilks over a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad’s head on the body of a dog.

It was used in a 2007 Swedish newspaper editorial on freedom of expression.

Those originally detained included nationals from Algeria, Libya, the Palestinian territories, Croatia and the US.


The American woman arrested in the Irish Republic has been named by US media as Jamie Paulin-Ramirez.

Christine Mott, from Colorado, identified Mrs Paulin-Ramirez as her daughter, whom she described as a “very insecure, unhappy person that just was looking for something to hang on to”.

Irish police have refused to confirm whether Mrs Paulin-Ramirez is the woman involved, and have declined to release the identities of any of those arrested.

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

Vatican: German Church Leader Apologises for Abuse

Vatican City, 12 March(AKI) — The leader of Germany’s 26-million member Roman Catholic church apologised to victims of sexual abuse by priests after a Friday meeting with Pope Benedict VXI, who encouraged him to deal with the problem.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops’ Conference, said the German Church was moving to investigate accusations of abuse in Catholic institutions and implementing measures to prevent a repeat of the occurrences.

“The German bishops are dismayed by what has happened and the acts of violence against children,” Zollitsch said after the 45-minute private audience.

“A few weeks ago I asked forgiveness from the victims, something which I must repeat today in Rome.”

German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has criticised the Vatican for what she called a “wall of silence” over widening sex abuse allegations at 18 of the country’s 27 Roman Catholic dioceses.

Georg Ratzinger, pope’s brother, on Tuesday asked for forgiveness from the victims of an unfolding sex abuse scandal in the Regensburg boys’ choir which he directed for 30 years that has rocked the Catholic church in Germany.

Zollitsch said he had briefed Benedict about the situation in the pope’s native Germany, where more than 100 reports have emerged of abuse at Catholic institutions. He said the Regensburg choir case was not discussed.

“With great shock, keen interest and deep sadness, the Holy Father took note of what I had to say,” Zollitsch told a press conference, adding that he had not specifically discussed the Regensburg choir with the pope.

“I informed the Holy Father of the measures which we are adopting and I am grateful to him for encouraging me to continue with the adoption of these measures in a decisive and courageous manner,” he said. “We want to bring the truth to light.”

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


Robotics: Italo-Bosnian Centre Set Up in Sarajevo

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, MARCH 12 — A centre for new robotics technologies has been set up in Sarajevo following an technical and trade agreement between two companies in the sector: Bosnia’s Grizelj and Italy’s Evolut. According to the Italian Trade Commission in Sarajevo, the project will have an overall value of 6 million Bosnian marks (around 3 million euros), of which 80% is to be invested in the Bosnian company and 20% will go to the Italian partner. One million euros have so far been invested. The Centre is situated in the Stup zone and covers a total area of 3,200 square metres. It employs all the workforce of Grizelj and 5 new engineers in addition. The first robotised modules should be ready by the fourth quarter of this year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Morocco-Spain: New Barcelona-Tangiers Ferry Link

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MARCH 12 — A new maritime link between Barcelona and Tangiers has opened today thanks to Spanish company Acciona Transmediterranea. The news was reported by the press agency MAP, which quoted Spanish sources. The new line was launched yesterday at Barcelona’s Ferry Terminal by the company’s president Jorge Vega-Penichet, in front of representatives of the regional Catalan government. This is Transmediterranea’s first link from northern Spain, with other departure points towards Tangiers in the south of the country, in particular Algesiras. The ship Albayzin, which will leave twice a week, from Barcelona on Mondays and Fridays, and from Tangiers on Tuesdays and Saturdays, is able to carry 575 passengers, 200 vehicles and 2,230 linear metres of goods. In 2009, the volume of traffic with Morocco was of 848,000 passengers, 226,000 vehicles and 767,000 linear metres of goods. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: 45 Muslim Brotherhood Members Arrested

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 12 — Today Egyptian police arrested 45 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the group’s website, the individuals were arrested in the governorates of Giza, Charkiya, Menufiya and Dakahleya. The website also reports that the arrests were carried out as a precautionary measure before the demonstrations and sit-ins organised by the group after Friday prayer to support the al Aqsa mosque. Commentators underlined that this clampdown by police against the Muslim Brotherhood comes after statements by several members who recently announced their intention to run for the upcoming elections to the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Calls for Return of Statue of Great Pyramid Architect

(ANSAmed) — ALEXANDRIA, MARCH 12 — Nearly 9,000 Egyptian and European youth launched a campaign for the return of the statue of Hemiunu, the architect of the Great Pyramid of Giza, from Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim, Germany. In statements to MENA Friday, Bassam el-Shama’a, a member of the Egyptian Historical Studies Association, said Hemiunu is son of Prince Nefermaat and his wife Itet and is believed to be the grandson of Seneferu and Hetepheres I. Impressively, the live-size statue of Hemiunu is 1.55m high. It represents Hemiunu, seated on a block throne, his right hand decisively clenched, his left hand resting on his knee, he added. The national campaign for the restitution of Hemiunu was launched on the internet and attracted around 9,000 supporters from around the world, he added. The list of Hemiunu’s achievements is recorded on his statue, he added. They include member of the elite, high official, vizier, kings seal bearer, attendant of Nekhen, and spokesman of every resident of Pe, priest of Bastet, priest of Shesmetet, priest of the Ram of Mendes, Keeper of the Apis Bull, Keeper of the White Bull, elder of the palace, high priest of Thoth, courtier, Overseer of Royal Scribes, priest of the Panther Goddess, Director of Music of the South and North, Overseer of All Construction Projects of the King. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim Teacher Sexually Abuses Christian Children in an Upper Egyptian School

by Mary Abdelmassih

A scandal was uncovered this week at an Upper Egyptian elementary girl’s school, where a Muslim teacher has been sexually assaulting Christian Coptic children. Copts are enraged due to the impunity with which the State Security authorities have dealt with these crimes.

The last incident took place on Tuesday 3/3/2010 in the Helwa Girl’s Elementary School, when Arabic teacher Hany Taha, lured 11-years-old Hanan Adel Aziz to the school’s lower ground floor and dragged her into the washroom. She was later rescued by another Muslim teacher when he heard her distressed screams. The village of Helwa lies in the district of Matai, 200 km south of Cairo, in the Minya Governorate.

“Hany Taha has been targeting only the school’s Christian minor girls and has five ‘known rape precedents’ in the same school. However, the guardians of the children were put under pressure to accept a reconciliation using both coercion and threats not to report the incidents, according to activist Mariam Ragy of Katiba Tibia advocacy after interviewing Adel Aziz, the victim’s father. Aziz said that the Muslim teacher lured his daughter from the classroom under the pretext that her aunt who works mornings in the same school is waiting for her. Ragy said that the accused Muslim teacher used to work in a private school before being sacked due to the same pervert behavior. “Also two transfer resolutions from this school were issued against him but were waived due to the “the existence of a family relationship between the headmistress and the brother of the accused, said Ragy. “

“Ironically, only 3 months ago did teacher Taha rape the Coptic minor Magda Bochra Shaker from the same school. Her family was forced into reconciliation with the intervention of the school headmistress,” said activist Medhat Klada of Copts United advocacy.

The education department at the school has investigated the last incident. and posed a few sanctions on the teacher, but no action was taken concerning the criminal side of this case. Attorney Naguib Gabrail who heads the Egyptian Union for Human Rights said that what happened to the Matay girl is sexual abuse of a minor girl, which is a criminal act. “We are about to present an official communication to the Attorney-General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, to investigate the incident and bring the offender to a speedy trial,” he said.

Adel Aziz told Mariam Ragy that he is being put under pressure to reconcile with the perpetrator. “But I flatly refuse any kind of reconciliation. This is a matter touching on my honor, Taha ought to get the full brunt of the law.”

Copts all over the Minya Governorate, are angered over the double standards used by the Security authorities in handling rape cases of Muslims and Christian girls.

End November 2009, provoked by a rumor of an alleged rape of of Muslim minor by a Coptic man, villagers in Farshout ,carried out collective punishment against the whole Coptic community in the area, burning and looting their homes and property, with Muslims asking for the death penalty to be carried out on the alleged molester Girguis Baroumi. In all these incidents, State Security forces were colluding with the Muslim vigilantes.

Activist Wagih Yacoub poses the question, “Did the Copts go out and collectively punish the Muslims of Matai by burning and looting their property, just for the action of that Muslim teacher, similar to what the Farshout Muslims did to the Coptic community.?” He adds “The constant State Security interference, coercion of Coptic parents into reconciliation and withdrawal of their police report against the Muslim Taha, makes one wonder if they are not there just to protect the abuser? Is the State Security there to protect all citizens or just the Muslims?”

[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Sex at Younger Ages, Without Considering Marriage

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 12 — Discussions on sexuality among youngsters remain taboo, even in Tunisia, the Arab country that is most open to change, both in educational institutions and in most families. And yet experts agree that data should make officials seriously consider the opportunity of offering sexual education courses in schools. Supporting this idea are the results of a study conducted last year by the National Family and Population Office (ONFP) and the Tunisian Association against sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS (ATLMST/SIDA), which reported that 13.5% of girls and 52.5% of youngsters between the age of 15 and 24 have had sex at least once, and in 60% of the cases, without the use of contraceptives. A factor that has led to a substantial increase in the number of abortions among single women. The official annual number of abortions according to statistics varies between 2,400 and 2,500. However, experts say that these figures in reality are at least three times higher due to illegal abortions. Another sign that supports calls for a targeted sexual education policy comes from official data (still from ONFP), which reports that medical visits due to fears of sexually transmitted diseases account for 65% of all medical visits to centres specialising in reproductive health services and divisions in these offices that are reserved for youngsters. Initial sexual relations, which are taking place at an average age for women of 16.4, and for men at 17.4. The increase in early sexual activity is mainly attributed to the fact that people are getting married in Tunisia at an increasingly later age: 85% of the population between the ages of 15 and 29 is currently unmarried, 5% more than six years ago. The trend is similar for Tunisians between the ages of 30 and 49: 20% of the population is unmarried compared to 16% in 2001. Forecasts do not indicate any reverse in these trends according to the National Youth Office (ONJ). Half of the younger population is against marriage, due to elevated costs of weddings (25.2%), due to the responsibility involved (19.7%) and others due to pure lack of interest. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

‘EU May Push Israel Into Peace Talks’

EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton: We may use trade ties as leverage.

The European Union might use its trade ties with Israel as leverage to pressure it into renewing peace talks with the Palestinians, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the EU said on Saturday.

Ashton was speaking at an EU foreign minister conference held in Spain. Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, said that Israel’s announcement on building in east Jerusalem during United States Vice President Joe Biden’s visit last week was intentional and not coincidental.

Bildt said there were “no guarantees” that Israel was committed to peace.

Ashton is on the verge of a Middle East tour where she will visit Egypt, Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Earlier Saturday, the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has promised the Palestinians that Israel will not construct new homes in east Jerusalem during peace negotiations.

According to the paper, Mitchell told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the phone that Washington would provide the PA with guarantees that Israel would halt construction in the east of the city.

On Tuesday it was announced that 1,600 new apartments would be constructed in the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. The announcement came during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden and embarrassed Washinton, leading to harsh condemnations from Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and to Palestinians threatening to cancel planned indirect talks with Israel. Israeli government officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have apologized for the timing of the announcement, although not for the building permits themselves.

The Arab report stated that Mitchell’s promise of guarantees was given after the Palestinians refused to accept Netanyahu’s apology as a signal that construction would not move forward.

Clinton sharply admonished Netanyahu over the Interior Ministry’s approval of the new building in east Jerusalem in a phone conversation Friday.

Her call came hours ahead of a condemnation of the housing plan issued by the Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia.

“The Quartet has agreed to closely monitor developments in Jerusalem and to keep under consideration additional steps that may be required to address the situation on the ground,” read its statement, which also called for the resumption of peace talks. The Quartet said it would “take full stock” of the situation at its meeting in Moscow on March 19.

In her call to Netanyahu, Clinton labeled the east Jerusalem announcement “a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship,” one that went against the spirit of Biden’s trip to Israel this past week and “undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America’s interests,” according to State Department spokesman PJ Crowley.

He said that Clinton also stressed that “the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words, but through specific actions, that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.”

Biden wrapped up a four-day visit to Israel Thursday in which he repeatedly stressed the strength of the alliance and the US commitment to Israel’s security. When news broke Tuesday about the plans for building in Ramat Shlomo, he drafted a response in consultation with US President Barack Obama using the harshest diplomatic language to condemn the move.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

How Quick They Forget: A Short History of U.S. Policy and Israeli Construction in East Jerusalem

by Barry Rubin

For more than four months the U.S. government has been celebrating Israel agreeing to stop construction on settlements in the West Bank while continuing building in east Jerusalem as a great step forward and Israeli concession deserving a reward. Suddenly, all of this is forgotten to say that Israel building in east Jerusalem is some kind of terrible deed which deserves punishment.

Israelis are used to this pattern: give a big concession and a few months later that step is forgotten as Israel is portrayed as intransigent and more concessions are demanded with nothing in return. Here is a short history of this round:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

‘No-Compromise’ Generation Arises

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MARCH 11 — A generation has arisen in Israel which feels less unease than previous ones at episodes such as the recent settlement expansion programme in East Jerusalem, greeting with a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders the umpteenth appeal for moderation, coming this time, with feelings of “friendship” by US Vice President, Joe Biden in his address this morning at Tel Aviv University. This is the new “no-compromise” generation revealed by a brand-new survey, which paints a frightening portrait of a generation an Israeli academic has no hesitation in describing as “a combination of religious fundamentalism…and racism”. Figures from the survey reveal deep-seated anti-Arab sentiment, which is sometimes overt and aggressive, among nearly half of a representative sample of Israeli students aged between 15 and 18. They are completely in favour of the settlers’ outlook and they reveal genuine xenophobia towards the “new immigrants” to Israel, whether from the former USSR or the Falasha from the Horn of Africa. The study, which was conducted by the Maagar Mochot Institute, shows that 46% of the students questioned were against the notion that Israelis of Arab origins should be able to enjoy the same rights as Hebrews. This ratio rises to 82% among those who practise their religion, but is as high as 36% among those who label themselves non-religious. Meanwhile, 16% of those interviewed where unashamed at saying that the slogan ‘death to the Arabs’ was a legitimate one. These figures find their mirror-image on the other side of the Barrier. And they make a paradoxical mix with professions of belief in democratic principles. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Twal: No People Would Accept Such an Occupation

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY — “The military occupation of Palestinian territory is hard, arrogant, show fear of others and of oneself, is devoid of freedom and of rights. It feeds violence and pursues humiliation. No people would accept such an occupation”. Speaking in an interview given to the Italian weekly, Vita, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Msg. Fouad Twal, was giving his opinion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Twal, the present leaders of Israel and Palestine “are only managing the conflict’. “They are moderate to the point of being weak. This war is the offspring of a military occupation, but nobody has the courage to say whose offspring”. “We have to work for peace and security for all. Either the Holy Land sees peace on all sides or nobody will be able to live in peace”. The main obstacles in Twal’s view are to be found in fundamentalisms: “On one side there is Hamas, and on the other side there is Shas (Israel’s ultra-orthodox party). Neither of these two is helping us to find a solution to the conflict. But if the politics of moderation brings no fruit, people will turn elsewhere, look for new pathways and even try out the wrong ones. Unfortunately the moderates have brought us nothing and people have turned to the extremists. Even among the Catholics. We are all guilty of this”. “The international community has to intervene,” the Patriarch of Jerusalem said, “but Europe, above all, has to act: not just with aid, it has to have the courage of its convictions and dare to speak the truth”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Anti Swedish Protests Continue in Turkey

Diplomatic efforts are underway to mend a rift between Sweden and Turkey, caused by the Swedish parliament’s decision to recognize the mass killing of Armenians and other ethnic groups in 1915 as genocide.

The Swedish ambassador to Turkey, Christer Asp, said protests were still underway on Saturday in some cities, following large demonstrations outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul on Friday.

He added that his post box was over flowing with hate mail and letters indicating Swedish business interests have been affected by the dispute.

“Some of the letters are formulated in such a way that I could not repeat them in public. They are not threats but they’re not saying anything nice about Sweden, if you know what I mean,” he told the news agency TT.

Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, has condemned the parliament’s vote.

“These kinds of decisions tend to increase tensions rather than reduce them,” he told news agency Reuters.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has also assured his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he did not agree with the paliament’s decision — which was supported by four parliamentarians who are members of his governing centre right coalition.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

EU-Turkey: Enlargement Commissioner Fule Due in Ankara

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 11 — European Commissioner for enlargement Stefan Fule would pay a visit to Turkey on March 14 and 16, Anatolia news agency reports quoting a statement by Turkish Foreign Ministry. The ministry said this would be the first visit of Fule to Turkey since he has taken office on February 1 adding that Fule would be received by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as well as State Minister & Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis. Fule would also meet with the chairman and members of Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission and EU Adjustment Commission, the statement added. The issues included in the agenda of Turkey-EU relations and developments recorded in negotiation process would be assessed during the visit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tehran: US Planned Cyber War Against Iran, Spies Arrested

( Iran has accused the United States of trying to conduct a cyber war against the Islamic Republic and has arrested a group of 30 alleged spies.

Officials added the alleged cyber spies “waged psychological war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, organized and encouraged people to take part in illegal gatherings, collected information on nuclear scientists and gave information to spy agencies.”

According to a report published Saturday by the state-run Fars news agency, the charges included creating an intelligence-gathering network, “including identification of the country’s nuclear scientists and staging illegal demonstrations and encouraging the public to take part in them after the presidential elections.”

The government claimed the alleged spies were members from the “exiled People’s Mujahedeen and monarchists” and were funded by the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush “to launch a cyber war against Iran.” “The Interpol has been informed to take action against some who live in the United States,” the news agency said.

A mass opposition movement has swelled in Iran over the past year in response to the lopsided election results that showed a “landslide victory” for the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June. Nearly daily protests spread throughout the country, led by members of 68-year-old former Iranian Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s Green Movement.

Moussavi, who served in office from 1981 through 1989. Hundreds of Green Movement members and other demonstrators were arrested by government forces during and after the protests. Many were injured during the demonstrations, and some were killed. There have also been numerous accounts of people being tortured in prison and “disappearing.”

Iran has sought ways to minimize the media coverage of the violence perpetrated against demonstrators by Basiji government security forces by blaming “foreign agents” who it says have infiltrated the country and have led its youth astray.

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

Turkey: Armenian Massacres; Swedish Ambassador Reassures

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 12 — “The good and friendly relations that exist between Turkey and Sweden are very solid and will remain so forever,” said the Swedish Ambassador to Ankara, Christer Asp, while leaving the Turkish Foreign Ministry today. The diplomat had been summoned there this morning following the diplomatic crisis which arose last night between Ankara and Stockholm, following the approval by the Swedish Parliament of a motion in which the massacres of Armenians are defined as “genocide”, reports private network Ntv. “And these good relations,” added Asp, “become increasingly important at times like these. Yesterday’s decision (by the Swedish Parliament) will have no effect on the Swedish government and Sweden, which will continue to provide its support Turkey’s European Union membership process”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Armenian Massacres; Diplomatic Crisis With Sweden

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 12 — The Swedish Ambassador in Ankara, Christer Asp, has been summoned this morning to the Turkish Foreign Ministry following a diplomatic crisis which yesterday exploded between Ankara and Stockholm after the Swedish Parliament approved a motion in which the Armenian massacres are recognised as “genocide.” The news was reported by private television broadcaster NTV, quoting sources at the Foreign Ministry. Yesterday Ankara decided to call its Ambassador to Sweden to return to Turkey for consultations. Exactly a week after the vote by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress which recognised the massacres of the Armenians at the time of the Ottoman Empire as “genocide”, the same vote of condemnation came from the Swedish Parliament yesterday, provoking an immediate and aggravated reaction from Ankara, which has cancelled the planned visit by Premier Tayyip Erdogan for the intergovernmental summit between the two countries scheduled for March 17. A few minutes after the Anadolu agency released the news of the Swedish MPs’ decision (131 votes in favour and 130 against, decisive were four MPs from the majority who ignored indications from the Government and voted with the left-wing opposition), a statement attributed to Premier Erdogan appeared on the Turkish Cabinet Office website which read: “We strongly condemn this decision which has been reached for political reasons and which does not correspond with the close friendship that links our two countries.” In addition, Ambassador Zergun Koruturk, who took up office in Sweden on November 1 last year, was immediately recalled. Ankara has always denied that the Armenian massacres were premeditated genocide and maintains that between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians (and not the one and a half million as maintained by Yerevan) were killed in a civil war which also caused the loss of Turkish lives. On Thursday, immediately after the approval of the resolution by the US Congress committee, Ankara recalled its Ambassador, Namik Tan, who took up office on February 25. Now Ankara, as Erdogan has recently said, is waiting to know what the administration in Washington intends to do, letting it be understood that the Turkish diplomat will only return to Washington when Turkey has guarantees that the resolution will not be brought to a vote of the Congress plenary assembly. But now the problem has also arisen with Sweden, despite Foreign Minister Carl Bildt hastening to describe “the politicisation of history” as an error and to say the line of the government, which is in favour of the Turkey’s entrance into the EU, “remains unchanged.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Swedish Parliament’s Decision ‘Inequitable’, Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 12 — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that The approval of Armenian resolution in the Swedish parliament was an “inconsiderate and inequitable” decision, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as saying on Friday. Commenting on the approval of the resolution on Armenian allegations regarding 1915 incidents in the Swedish parliament, Erdogan said, “an incident which had occurred 95 years ago and whose reasons, results and victims have not yet emerged into daylight, has been brought in front of Turkey just like a threat in many countries. I consider this as an inconsiderate and inequitable decision.” Erdogan said the decision cast shadow over extremely positive relations between Turkey and Sweden. “Parliaments convene, vote and rule on incidents that occurred 95 years ago. This approach lacks logic and commonsense. I am underlining that such decisions will have a negative impact on our efforts aiming to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia.” Swedish Parliament on Thursday approved a resolution on Armenian allegations regarding 1915 incidents with 131 votes against 130. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs last Thursday approved the resolution on Armenian allegations. Turkey strongly rejects the genocide allegations and regards the events as civil strife in wartime which claimed lives of many Turks and Armenians. Turkey and Armenia signed two protocols on October 10, 2009 to normalize relations between the two countries. The protocols envisage the two countries to establish diplomatic ties and open the border that has been close since 1993. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ambassador, Italy Not Acknowledging Armenian Genocide

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 12 — Italy is not joining those countries that acknowledge the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 as “genocide”. The announcement comes in a memo circulated today by the Italian Ambassador in Ankara, correcting reports on a Turkish television channel which had placed Italy on the list of countries that officially considered it an act of genocide. The communiqué went on to specify that what the TV station had said “did not correspond to the truth” and it pointed out that Italy’s Parliament, in a resolution passed on November 17 2000, committed the country’s government to “exerting its influence to completely overcoming any friction between peoples and minorities in the area in order to create the conditions for the respecting of the territorial integrity of the two states (Turkey and Armenia), for their peaceful coexistence and the safeguarding of human rights as part of a more rapid integration of Turkey into the European Union”. Turkish TV broadcast this denial immediately, thus closing the affair. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey-France Trade Relations to be Improved, Minister Says

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 25 — The economic relations between Turkey and France did not reflect the actual potential, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Turkish State Minister for foreign trade Zafer Caglayan as saying. “Bilateral relations should be further improved,” Caglayan said while speaking at Turkey-France 2nd Term Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting in Ankara. Caglayan and French Minister of State for foreign trade Anne-Marie Idrac, who is paying a visit to Ankara, addressed the JEC meeting. Caglayan said there was regression in foreign trade in 2009 because of global crisis, noting, “there is a 22% recession in Turkey’s foreign trade in 2009.” Caglayan said there was not increase in trade with France but at the same time was not affected as much as the general regression. Caglayan said total direct investments amounted to 60-65 billion USD in 2002-2009, and noted that investments of France in Turkey reached 4.4 billion USD. He said there were important French investments in Turkey like Renault and Carrefour. “Some sectors in Turkey and France are complementary. Automotive sector is an example to this. Turkey and France may cooperate in transportation and energy,” Caglayan said, noting that Turkey was a country that may make 120 billion USD investments in the next decade. Caglayan said Turkey has a very big potential in renewable energy, adding that Turkey and France could make cooperation in the third countries. French minister said trade volume between Turkey and France should be upgraded, urging shopping dynamics to be boosted. The guest minister said Turkey and France could work together in Africa, the Balkans and Central Asia. French Minister of State for foreign trade Anne-Marie Idrac said France was one of the most important investors in Turkey but Turkish companies did not undertake much investments in France.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Supports Palestine as Arab World Comatose, Says Druze Leader

‘At the time, the Ottoman Empire was the ‘sick man of Europe,’ and nowadays it’s the Arab world that is the sick man,’ says Druze leader Jumblatt. Photo: Rayya HADDAD

A powerful Druze leader in Lebanon has underlined the increasing influence of Turkey in the Middle East as the Arab world has been undergoing turmoil over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Turkey is playing an important role in its region, Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party, or PSP, said March 5 in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

At his residence in the heart of Beirut, decorated with a mix of Oriental- and Western-style furniture, with Buddha statues alongside his everyday working desk, Jumblatt said that while half of the Arab world has been in a coma, Turkey has been supporting the Arab world’s main cause, which is, he said, the Palestinian cause.

“At one time, some Turks rightly or wrongly have accused Arabs of betraying them during World War I, but now, with the new policy of Turkey and also of Syria, we have to admit that Turkish-Arab resentment is over,” Jumblatt said when asked whether Turkey is distancing itself from the West through the recent rapprochement with its eastern neighbors.

Though he praised U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo last year, Jumblatt also said the June 4, 2009, address lacked practical implications, whereas Turkey, with its active involvement as a mediator, is the major determining factor for the Middle East peace talks.

Citing Turkey’s Ottoman roots to define today’s Arab world, the Druze leader said, “At the time, the Ottoman Empire was the ‘sick man of Europe,’ and nowadays it’s the Arab world that is the sick man.”

The Arab League gave the green light to Palestinians on March 3 to enter indirect talks with Israel; the motion, however, was tabled after Israel announced its plan to expand Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.

Supporting limited negotiations with the Israeli government is giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a clear-cut victory after all, Jumblatt said. “Netanyahu will now say, ‘I’ve been colonizing the West Bank, I’ve been attacking the holy places like Haram al-Khalil and nobody is there challenging me now,’“ he said.

Praising initiatives

After his visit to Turkey in February, the Druze leader seemed impressed by the democratic initiatives started by the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. As a neighboring country to the Arab world, Turkey is now the only successful experiment of democracy in the region, the only one that respects the rules of democracy, he said.

Nevertheless, Jumblatt said he believes that the same levels of democracy and development fail to apply for the rest of the Middle East. Referring to the latest report by the United Nations Development Programme on human development in Arab states for 2009, he reiterated that the Arab world has long suffered due to low literacy rates and fundamentalism, which he said is becoming “more depressing every year than before.”

Apart from diplomatic relations, Turkey’s growing economic ties in the region are also very much appreciated by the Druze leader, who is a successful businessman as well.

Turkey has recently lifted visa requirements for Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, leading to the creation of a visa-free Middle East for the country. The direct involvement of Turkey aimed not only to increase diplomatic relations but also to augment trade capacity amongst the Middle Eastern states.

The visa-free zone should be further developed for the benefit of each actor in the region, Jumblatt said, using the European Union as an example of how more embedded trade relations in the Middle East could work. Disputes in the EU ended with the creation of a common market in Europe, he said.

“When the Germans and French in the ‘50s decided to build new relationships starting with the abolishment of the taxes and barriers on steel at that time… they stopped fighting after having the bloodshed of World War I and World War II,” Jumblatt said.

He added that the Arab world needs to develop economic ties, keeping the European common market in mind, in order to set up healthier and more peaceful relations in the Middle East.

In addition to regional developments, Jumblatt also stressed the growing trade capacity with Cyprus. In order to further strengthen economic development, he added, both Turkish and Greek Cypriots should create an “acceptable environment.”

He expressed his hope that this would not become as complicated as the Palestinian issue.

‘Lebanon must improve ties with Syria’

With his political maneuvering and ability to emerge on the winning side of Lebanon’s civil war and its aftermath, Jumblatt is seen by his critics as the country’s “political weathervane.”

Jumblatt, who heads the country’s Druze community, recently occupied headlines with his controversial decision to leave the pro-Western March 14 Alliance of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to ally himself with the opposition, the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance.

While Jumblatt’s critics say his alliance with the Hezbollah-led coalition has complicated already tense negotiations over the new Lebanese government, Jumblatt believes the close relations with Damascus on both political and economic issues must be maintained as stated in the 1989 Taif Accord.

The importance of such relations is even evidenced by the government, Jumblatt said, citing al-Hariri’s December meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

The two held “constructive” talks, ending five years of animosity between Syria and a broad political alliance led by al-Hariri that stemmed from the assassination of al-Hariri’s father, Rafiq al-Hariri, in a massive Beirut car-bombing in February 2005.

A United Nations inquiry in June said it had evidence that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were linked to the killing yet Damascus has consistently denied any involvement.

“After all we have to accept the fact that we are allies. We have only one enemy, which is Israel,” said Jumblatt, who was a vocal supporter of Syria following the civil war but campaigned against Syrian influence in Lebanon after the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

Jumblatt said there is a visible increase in Israeli aggression directed toward Lebanon in recent times. Ultimately, the Druze leader said the only chance for peace with Israel is if they give the Palestinians the rights they deserve.

“I’m proud that my father [Kamal Jumblatt] defended the Palestinian cause and died for the Palestinian cause.”

The senior Jumblatt was one of Lebanon’s most veteran political figures and was founder of the Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanon, or PSP, which united leftist parties with a secular pan-Arab ideology and supported the Palestinian nationalist movement.

Walid Jumblatt’s father was assassinated in 1977.

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


Bogus TV Report of Russian Invasion Panics Georgia

Panic was sparked in Georgia after a TV station broadcast news that Russian tanks had invaded the capital and the country’s president was dead.

The Imedi network report, which brought back memories of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, was false.

But mobile phone networks were overwhelmed with calls and many people rushed onto the streets.

Imedi said the aim had been to show how events might unfold if the president were killed. It later apologised.

The head of the holding company which owns Imedi TV, George Arveladze, said he was sorry for the distress that the TV report had caused.


For a brief moment on Saturday evening many Georgians thought history was repeating itself, the BBC’s Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi says.

It is only 18 months since Russian tanks came within 45km (28 miles) of the Georgian capital, our correspondent adds.

In its news report, pro-government Imedi TV showed archive footage of the war and imagined how opposition figures might seize power after an assassination of the country’s President, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Although the broadcast was introduced as a simulation of possible events, the warning was lost on many Georgians, our correspondent says.

One local news agency reported that emergency services had received an unusually high volume of calls in the ensuing minutes.

And once calm returned, the report was seen by some as a poorly disguised swipe at the Georgian opposition politicians who recently travelled to Moscow to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Mr Arveladze told Reuters that the aim was to show “the real threat” of how events might unfold.

That did not stop dozens of journalists and angry Georgians who gathered outside the Imedi TV studios to protest.

One opposition politician who was there labelled the report “disgusting”.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Nearly Half of Recruits for Afghan Police Fail Drugs Test

Britain’s attempts to bring law and order to Afghanistan have been hit by the news that up to 40 per cent of potential recruits to the country’s police force have failed drug tests.

Opium, the raw form of heroin, is by far the most common substance detected, according to British military sources.

The disclosure comes as British troops help try to recruit tens of thousands more officers to the Afghan National Police, in a move that is crucial to allowing our soldiers to withdraw.

But since compulsory drug tests were introduced last year, thousands of applicants have been turned away.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘It Just Doesn’t Add Up’: Serious Concerns Over Evidence Given by Father of British Boy Kidnapped in Pakistan

Police in Pakistan say they still have new questions about the evidence given to them by the father of kidnapped five-year-old Sahil Saeed before he left the country to return to Britain.

Detectives in his family’s home city of Jhelum say they want to speak again to Raja Naqqash Saeed — who flew to Manchester early last Tuesday — over key elements of the testimony he has given them.

A senior police source said investigators are troubled by the claim that the £100,000 ransom demand for Sahil was made in sterling — when previous kidnappers of British citizens have made their demands in Pakistani rupees.

Police, who believe someone ‘very close’ to the family may be involved in the plot, also want to ask Raja more about the second of two calls he says he received from the kidnappers which they believe may have been made from Britain.

‘Some of the things the father has told us just don’t seem to add up and we would like to speak to him about them in more detail,’ the source said. ‘We are not happy that he has left the country in this way.’

A Mail on Sunday investigation has meanwhile discovered that Raja, 28, and Sahil’s 31-year-old mother Akila lived apart for more than a year before his abduction and only reunited in Britain weeks before the kidnapping.

Family members said their relationship had deteriorated to the extent that Akila, who was raised in Britain, informed the Home Office they were estranged, dashing Raja’s hopes of getting a British passport.

Just five days after Sahil’s abduction in Jhelum, Raja stunned relatives in Pakistan by leaving his family’s home after telling his mother he was going to the local police station to check on the investigation.

Instead, he drove to the capital Islamabad where he caught a flight to Manchester early on Tuesday. He is understood to have been met by plain-clothes officers.

Greater Manchester Police have said that Mr Saeed is not being treated as a suspect. They have also stressed that he is co-operating fully with them.

Raja’s uncle Raja Bisharat told us: ‘We weren’t worried when he said he was going to the police station because officers had been questioning him on a regular basis since the kidnap and we thought it was just another appointment.

‘He took his car, drove away and never returned. The next morning, his car was returned to us by the police and he had gone to Britain.’

Raja booked his plane ticket a day after a harrowing one-to-one meeting with Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik, who made it clear to reporters afterwards that he believed someone ‘very close to the family’ was involved in the kidnap.

Raja’s departure from Pakistan was the latest twist in a kidnapping that took place against the background of feuding parents torn apart by cultural differences, money issues and jobless Raja’s failure to get a British passport.

Sahil was about to return home to Britain with his father 10 days ago after a three-week stay at his grandmother’s home in Jhelum when a gang of four gunmen burst into the family compound and, after a six-hour robbery, fled with Sahil.

Raja says he was phoned with a ransom demand for £100,000 after the kidnapping and received a further call on his mobile phone from the kidnappers using a Spanish number two days later telling him to await further instructions.

The drama unfolded after Raja and Akila had been separated for more than a year. Raja returned to Pakistan while Akila stayed in Oldham with their three children. They reunited briefly but fell out within weeks. Raja then took his son to his grandmother’s house in Jhelum in February.

Almost eight years after their May 2002 wedding, Raja still has a Pakistani passport and has indefinite stay status in Britain but not citizenship because of his lengthy trip to Pakistan and Akila’s contact with the Home Office, the relatives said.

Normally, a Pakistani who married a British passport holder can expect to have a British passport within five years.

The Mail on Sunday revealed last week how Raja took Sahil out of school in Oldham and to Pakistan after a bitter row, taking Akila’s passport with him so she could not follow them.

It was only when family elders intervened that he agreed to return to Britain with Sahil.

A close relative, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Raja pretended he had come back to Pakistan with Sahil because his mother was ill but that was just eyewash.

‘He came back as he simply couldn’t get on with his wife. The marriage had collapsed so he came back to Pakistan and only returned to the UK when family members stepped in.

‘Akila had written to the Home Office asking them to stop the naturalisation process and not to issue Raja with a passport because they were estranged.’

Divorcee Akila married Raja, a cousin, after the failure of her first marriage to another Pakistani man also from Jhelum. There were no children from that marriage.

Raja, whose late father and uncle ran a cement business in Jhelum, came from a poorer family than Akila’s.

But her family hoped he would find work in Britain and support Akila and the three children they had together — Sahil and daughters Anisha, four, and Hafsah, 21 months. However, Raja struggled to find work. They split up and Raja returned to Pakistan in 2008, leaving Akila and her three children alone in Oldham, according to family members. ‘When he was back in Pakistan he fell in with a bad crowd — bad Muslims who drink liquor and smoke hash,’ one of them said.

Other members of Raja’s family had been involved in local feuds. Two of his young cousins were killed last year in a feud between rival gangs.

When Sahil disappeared, police initially treated Raja as a potential suspect and officers said they still had concerns over two aspects of his story — the Pakistani kidnappers asking for the ransom money in pounds and the call from kidnappers reportedly made from a Spanish telephone number to Raja two days after the kidnapping.

A police source said they believed the call may in fact have come from Britain, suggesting a link to a criminal gang in the UK.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Raja Tahir Bashir said he would have preferred Raja to stay in Pakistan and would like to speak to him further.

For relatives, the past five days have been profoundly unsettling. ‘We could never imagine Raja would be involved in anything like this,’ one of them said. ‘We can’t understand why he ran away the way he did.’

Last week Raja denied that his family had any involvement in Sahil’s disappearance. He said: ‘That’s totally rubbish, I don’t know who [the kidnappers] are, I don’t know where they come from.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Malaysia Slams Sweden Over Cartoons

The Malaysian foreign minister has asked Sweden to take action against newspapers which reprinted a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog last week.

“Malaysia strongly denounces the reprinting of the caricature of Prophet Muhammad by three Swedish newspapers on 10 March 2010,” foreign minister Anifah Aman said in an unusually outspoken statement yesterday.

He said his country was concerned that such “despicable acts disregard the

sensitivity of the Muslim world in the name of freedom of expression.”

“Such irresponsible acts are provocative and offensive in nature and hence

it is totally unacceptable,” he added.

“Malaysia wishes to request the Swedish government to take measures against

such publications to prevent the recurrence of such irresponsible acts in the


The country’s conservative Islamic party, PAS, announced plans to organize a demonstration and submit a formal letter of protest to the Swedish embassy over the re-printing of the caricature.

Sweden’s ambassador to Malaysia told the news agency TT that the demonstration is expected to happen at the end of the week, following Friday prayers.

The Malaysian foreign minister’s comments came at the end of a week which saw the arrest of seven people over an alleged plot to assassinate cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew the caricature and who has a $100,000 bounty on his head from an Al-Qaeda-linked group. When the news of the plot broke, a number of Swedish newspapers reprinted the caricature, as a gesture of support for the cartoonist’s freedom of expression.

The original controversy started when a Swedish regional daily published Vilks’ satirical cartoon in 2007, prompting protests by local Muslims which later led to international protests. Egypt, Iran and Pakistan have all lodged formal complaints with the Swedish government.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

U.S. Defense Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants

Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

[Return to headlines]

Far East

Kyrgyzstan — Uzbekistan: Tensions Rising Between Bishkek and Tashkent, Border Sector Closed

Border incidents are on the rise with guards firing at each other. Uzbekistan wants to stop Kyrgyzstan from building a dam on the Naryn River, fearing it might reduce the volume of water flowing downstream.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The rising tensions between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are causing violent incidents along the countries’ shared border, especially in the Fergana Valley. Adding fuel, on 1 March Uzbekistan unilaterally closed one of the largest border crossings between the two countries.

Uzbek officials said the Kara-Suu-Avtodorozhnyy checkpoint was off-limits to all traffic because of needed repairs. Closure of the border crossing is hurting business on the Kyrgyz side in Kara-Suu, where local traders have become used to supplying Chinese goods to Uzbekistan.

The relationship between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan began deteriorating two years ago when Tashkent jacked up the price for its natural gas, leaving its Kyrgyz neighbour without enough fuel to face the cold winter.

Unlike other countries of the region, Kyrgyzstan lacks both oil and natural gas. However, it has many important rivers, and the government in Bishkek has recently begun the construction of a big hydroelectric plant named Kambarata-1on the Naryn River to generate electric power.

Uzbek leaders have objected to the project, saying it would reduce water flow to Uzbek territory, and negatively impact agriculture, potentially damaging the country’s cotton sector, especially in summer.

Disputes between the two countries have their roots in Soviet times, when Moscow encouraged integration of the various republics at the expense of their self-sufficiency. Back then, Kyrgyzstan could rely on other Soviet republics to meet its energy need.

Experts note that in the last few months incidents between the two countries have increased with border guards of both countries abusing the human rights of the citizens of the other.

On 17 January, in the Jalalabad District for example, Uzbek soldiers held a Kyrgyz frontier guard prisoner for six days after shooting at him.

On 1 March, Kyrgyz border guards detained four Uzbek shepherds, accusing them of crossing the border illegally.

Three days later, Kyrgyz frontier guards shot and killed an Uzbek citizen and wounded another in Batken Province.

Helping to fuel the confrontational mood is the fact that roughly 20 per cent of the 1,375 kilometre border has not been clearly defined.

Many fear that all this might be just the beginning of a wider conflict. Analyst Alexander Knyazev told Eurasianet that Tashkent is prepared to do anything to stop the Kambarata dam project, “including the use of military methods of intervention”.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

French Hostages ‘Freed in Darfur’

Two French hostages seized in the Central African Republic on 22 November have been freed in neighbouring Darfur, the French foreign minister says.

Bernard Kouchner was quoted by news agency AFP as saying the pair, who worked for the Triangle charity, had been released.

They were thought to have been taken by gunmen in the town of Birao, on the CAR border with Chad and Sudan.

A number of aid group staff have been abducted in the region recently.

Mr Kouchner said in a statement that the two had been freed and were heading to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, AFP reported.

They were working for the French aid group Triangle Generation Humanitaire when they were kidnapped.

The region is home to hundreds of thousands of displaced people, including many made homeless by conflicts in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

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


Italy: Vicenza is Municipality With Most Foreigners

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, MARCH 12 — With over 20% of the population made up of foreigners, Arzignano, a town in the province of Vicenza famous for its tanning and mechanical industries, has the highest resident immigrant population. According to data from ISMU, referring to January 1 2009, the city with the lowest number of resident foreigners is Taranto, with less than 1% of the population. In order followed Sassari (1%), Bari, Foggia and Salerno (2%), Naples, Catania, Palermo, Cagliari, Giugliano in Campania and Messina (3%). The largest city in the north with the lowest number of resident foreigners on January 1 2009 was Genoa with 7%, while the largest municipality in the South with the greatest number of resident foreigners on the same date was Reggio Calabria with 4%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Phony Christian Outrage: NYT Panics Over Slaying of Sacred Cow

In Obamanutz: A Cult Leader Takes the White House, I devoted an entire chapter to The Great American Dumb Down by way of explaining the variables that contributed to the installation of Barack Obama into the White House.

Not content to merely throw away billions of your hard-earned tax dollars on substandard schools that refuse to teach the most basic academic skills, the Left has also hijacked your children’s social development. Under the rubric of teaching “diversity” and “social justice”, public schools have become indoctrination centers, dedicated to teaching impressionable young people that America really ought to be ashamed of itself. The term “diversity” is liberal code that has nothing to do with the stated agenda of “multiculturalism,” which is supposed to be the study of different cultures. Diversity, as defined by liberal academics, means pushing extreme left wing values onto innocent schoolchildren with impunity.

Bill Ayers is a leading advocate of social justice teaching. Even young evangelicals—that is, the children of the religious Right—have been deluded into believing in “social justice;” eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old evangelicals voted for Obama, in spite of his record on abortion. Many of these young people claimed that it was the pursuit of social justice that put them in the Obama camp. “Social justice” is just more aged hippie jargon; it has no real meaning other than to disrupt the current social order. So effective was this inculcation that thirty-two percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old evangelicals voted for Obama, twice the number who voted for John Kerry in 2004. David Horowitz defines “social justice” as shorthand for opposition to the American traditions of individual justice and free markets. So pervasive is the Ayers social justice model that teachers weave radical ideology into core subjects; for example, using an Iraq body count to teach math.

Students have no frame of reference to see how absurd this is. Schools today emphasize America’s past mistakes and injustices, rather than her achievements.


David Horowitz told Sean Hannity on the Sean Hannity show March 9, 2009, that the current goal of public education is not to provide students with academic knowledge; it is to organize an anti-capitalist revolt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Climate Scientists Get Hot Under the Collar

An international group of national science bodies is to review the United Nations climate body in a bid to restore confidence in the beleaguered institution.

The InterAcademy Council (IAC), a Netherlands-based group of 15 national academies of science, will examine the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced earlier this week.

The IPCC acknowledged in January that several of its key warnings in a 3,000-page report published in 2007 were exaggerated.

The body’s defenders insist its problem is one of public relations, that its methodologies are fine and that the climate change science is sound.

Andreas Fischlin, head of Zurich University’s terrestrial systems ecology group and coordinating lead author of one of the chapters in the 2007 report, says criticism of the IPCC is “completely out of proportion”.

But he also has little confidence in the review proposed by the IPCC and says the body could have avoided much of the mess had it stuck to its own rules.

“I therefore rather emphasize measures to improve the current assessment procedures, such that the application of the existing IPCC rules is strengthened and more likely to be applied rigorously throughout,” Fischlin told by email.

Ban said “there were a very small number of errors” in the report, which cited more than 10,000 scientific papers and was the basis for the Nobel Prize which the IPCC shared the same year with Al Gore, the former US vice-president.

“Let me be clear. The threat posed by climate change is real,” Ban told reporters alongside panel chairman Rajendra Pachauri. “Nothing that has been alleged or revealed in the media recently alters the fundamental scientific consensus on climate change.”

India and China

Notwithstanding Ban’s confidence, the errors, which included an unsubstantiated projection of Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035 and a slip-up in rudimentary Dutch geography, undermined trust in the institution and exposed dissenting voices among global policymakers — and the public — over the soundness of climate science.

“ The press has done a lousy job. “

Andreas Fischlin

India’s environment and forests minister, Jairam Ramesh, recently told the Wall Street journal he was “a climate agnostic” and Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate negotiator, has said “there are still two different viewpoints in the scientific field” on the subject of man-made global warming.

A survey conducted in the United States released last month found that only 35 per cent of people there believe man-made global warming is real.

The IPCC defends the report and its reputation. “We believe the conclusions of that report are really beyond any reasonable doubt,” said Pachauri, an engineer by training, who has been resisting calls from critics for his resignation despite coming under sustained attack.

Robbert Dijkgraaf, a mathematical physicist and co-chair of the IAC, said the review would be entirely independent of the UN but would be funded by it. The panel will present its report by the end of August.

“We enter this process with no preconceived conclusions,” Dijkgraaf said but noted the while the panel would review the UN’s practices, it “will definitely not go over all the data, the vast amount of data in climate science”.

Following the rules

The IAC panel will be formed in the next few weeks and will try to answer questions about how the IPCC should deal with dissenting opinions within climate science, a field that includes a variety of disciplines.

The goal is to put in place quality control procedures for the next report, scheduled for 2014.

The IPCC has come under blistering criticism even from some of those who believe that it has “admirable objectives” and is worth sustaining.

One such is US climate scientist Roger Pielke Jr., who, in a scathing indictment of the UN body published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper last week, accused it of gross errors, cover-ups and “wrongheaded behaviour”.

Pielke also says the body also engages in policy advocacy, which is specifically outside its mandate.

In fairness, a month earlier, the paper published an opinion piece by a climate campaigner at Greenpeace, who defended the “gold-standard scientific reporting of the IPCC” from “a motley assortment of cranks, ideologues and special interest voices” in the US.

The New Scientist says it was too easy for some numbers “to find their way into public presentations of IPCC reports without sufficiently rigorous assessment”. The journal Nature says the problem is “only superficially about the science”.

Proponents of man-made global warming, who long dominated the debate on climate science, are now “scared shitless” about deniers gaining the upper hand, Nature quotes Stanford University ecologist Paul Ehrlich in a March 11 editorial. It recommends PR training for scientists.

In Zurich, Andreas Fischlin is exasperated with the media, arguing they consistently get the facts wrong. “The press has done a lousy job,” he says in reference to the way publications like Nature and the prestigious Neue Zürcher Zeitung have covered the IPCC’s foibles. “It’s out of touch with reality.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Exposing the Myth of Moderate Islam

I have always maintained that “moderate Muslim” is an oxymoron. We have two kinds of Muslims: Terrorist Muslims and ignorant Muslims. The former are those who know Islam well and live by its dictums. The latter have no clue about their religion and have an idealized image of Islam that has no bases in facts.

Mr. Tarek Fatah’s editorial published in National Post on March 12, 2010 confirms my view. Fatah attended a debate between Dr. Wafa Sultan, the courageous ex-Muslim woman that shook the Arab world when in an Aljazeera televised debate she pointed out that the problem with the Muslim world is Islam, and Dr. Daniel Pipes, a scholar of Islamic history and the director of the Middle East Forum.

In this debate Pipes argued that Islam is not essentially an intolerant religion and that there have been instances when Jews who were persecuted in Christian countries had sought refuge in Muslim lands. Sultan disagreed and reminded her audience that Muhammad had raided several Jewish tribes who lived in Arabia, massacred their unarmed men and allowed his marauding band to rape their women, while always reserving the prettiest for himself.

Upon hearing these comments, Fatah was “traumatized”. “Even a hardened secular Muslim such as myself was deeply hurt by what I heard that evening,” wrote Fatah.

While acknowledging the validity of Sultan’s criticism of Islam, Fatah repined that “instead of using her newfound fame to challenge the established theocracies and corrupt kingdoms of the Middle East, Sultan veered off the deep end and could not resist the temptation of becoming the poster child of Islam haters, joining their ranks with the fervour of a convert.”

Why should Sultan challenge the established theocracies and corrupt kingdoms when these are the rotten fruits of the poisonous tree of Islam? As a medical doctor she is trained to look at the cuase of the disease and not the symptoms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]