Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100319

Financial Crisis
»Greece Staying in Eurozone, Insists PM
»Greece: Waiting for Decision EU Summit, Papandreou
»Merkel: ‘Expel Dealbreakers From Euro’
»The Best and Worst Job in Town
»VAT: EU Commission Refers Greece to Court Over Refunds
»Vatican: Pope: Politics Must Not be Subordinated to Finance
»Beware of Infiltration by “Controlled” Opposition
»Census is for Counting Not Prying
»Everyday Terror at ‘Intifada’ HS
»Gitmo Suspects Allowed Laptops While in Custody
»Health Bill Extends Wage Tax to Investments
»It’s All About Control
»Obama Helped Fund ‘Alinsky Academy’
»Synagogue Bomb Suspects: The Feds Put Us Up to it!
»Taxation Without Representation
»The Heat is on: Congressman’s Office Says Constituent Calls Are ‘Harassment’
»The Powers of Congress
Europe and the EU
»Cyprus Enterprises Sign Charter Against Climate Change
»Denmark: Catholic Bishop in Abuse Controversy
»Dutch MPs Reject Greece Rescue Plan
»European Human Rights Bodies Call for Decisive Action Against Racism
»Italian in Cancer Advance
»Italy: Puglia Ex-No.2 Arrested in Health Graft Probe
»Italy Firms Suing Amnesty International
»Italy: Ex-Politician Arrested Over Sex and Health Scandal
»Italy: RU486 Pill Administered in Hospitals Only
»Italy: Soccer Team That Mourned Mobster Banned
»Italy: Pastry, Potato Stretch Italy’s Food Lead
»NATO R.I.P.? Well, Hopefully
»Netherlands: Abuse Was Not Common, Says Cardinal
»Netherlands: CDA Buries Kilometer Tax, For Now at Least
»Netherlands: Wilders’ PVV in Opposition in Almere
»Netherlands: Online Islamic Sex-Shop Opens for Business
»Shipowners: Italy Mediterranean Hub
»Sweden: High Demand for Muhammad Cartoons
»Swiss Offer Firms Haven From British Tax Hikes
»Switzerland: Priest Resigns After Confessing Sex Abuse
»Switzerland: Senate Defines Plan to Expel Foreign Criminals
»UK: Blatantly Biased Against Conservatives
»UK: Headmistress Wrongly Accused of Racism by Muslim Governors Wins £400,000 Payout
»Vatican: Date Set for Pastoral Letter on Irish Child Abuse
»Bosnian Genocide: Former US General: ‘Gays Make Dutch Military Weak’
»‘Gays in Dutch Army Responsible for Bosnian Genocide, ‘ Claims Former NATO Commander at U.S. Senate Hearing
Mediterranean Union
»Durable House Goods: Italian Indesit Hopeful About Turkey
»Research Mission to Set Up Mediterranean Bank
»Stop Violence Against Women, Priority of EU Program
North Africa
»Algeria: 2010-2014 Growth, +6% Excluding Hydrocarbons
»Egypt: New Radio Program for S.Mubarak Women Peace Mouvement
»Egypt: Mubarak Will be the Next President, Intellectual Heggy
»Libya: EU Commission, Against Sidestepping Schengen
»Libya: EU Urges Bern on Visas, Act Quickly
»Sahel: Medelci, Cooperation Necessary
Israel and the Palestinians
»Abbas Presses EU on Settlement End, Lieberman: ‘No’
»Building in Jerusalem for 40 Years, Peres to Ashton
»Gaza: Ban: Israeli Policy is Counterproductive
»Gaza: Shadow of Pro-Al Qaida Salafis is Back
»H. Clinton: Israelis-Palestinians Must Commit to Peace
»Hamas Fans Flames of Islamic Anger Following “Day of Rage”
»Israel Should Return Golan to Syria, Napolitano
»No Crisis of Relations With Israel, Obama Says
Middle East
»Rampant Turks Still in Denial
»Turkey: Ergenekon: More Military Personnel Detained
»Turkey: New EU Plan Affirms Commitment in Membership Bid, Ankara
»Turkey: 17 Women Killed, 26 Commit Suicide in 2 Months
»Turkey: Proposed Amendments Would Allow Trials for 1980 Coup
»Turkey-Russian Meeting Scheduled in Istanbul
South Asia
»Ignore Indian Events at Our Own Peril
»Special Guest: Paul Bremer on Afghanistan and the Future of Europe
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Italian Navy Frees Iranian Trawler
»An Exhausted Illegal Immigrant Spent Hours Trying to Cross Into the UK Before Abandoning the Attempt — Because Brits “Are Too Racist”.
»Greece: Messinia Drive to Feed Immigrants
»Italy Slammed After Siding With Libya
»Obama Backs Immigration Overhaul Outline
»USA: Injured Illegal Immigrant Ends Challenge to Transfer Back to Homeland
Culture Wars
»“Social Justice” Is Not Christian Charity
»Liberals Push Gay Blood in Risky Policy Change
»Study Gives More Proof That Intelligence is Largely Inherited

Financial Crisis

Greece Staying in Eurozone, Insists PM

Papandreou counters Merkel argument

There is “zero chance” of Greece leaving the eurozone, Prime Minister George Papndreou said yesterday after suggestions by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that members should face expulsion if they do not comply with the euro’s fiscal criteria.

Papandreou made his comment after meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, where the Greek premier refused to rule out the possibility of Athens turning to the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance in what is becoming an increasingly tense game of cat-and-mouse between the PASOK government and the other eurozone members, Germany in particular, who are unwilling to yet commit to the idea of lending Greece money.

“Certainly, I would say there is zero possibility of [Greece] leaving the eurozone,” said Papandreou.

Earlier, Merkel said that Greece “has shown a lot of courage” in adopting austerity measures to trim its public deficit but suggested that countries should be kicked out of the eurozone “as a last resort” if they flout its financial rules “again and again.”

Germany has resisted efforts to conclude an agreement for Greece to receive financial assistance from some of the other eurozone members, probably in some form of bilateral loan. Merkel insisted that she would not make any “rash” decisions to give Greece help. However, the issue is expected to dominate discussions when EU leaders meet on March 25 and 26.

“The European Commission has been actively working with euro-area member states on designing a mechanism of coordinated assistance,” Barroso said after his meeting with Papandreou.

The Greek prime minister, however, refused to rule out the possibility of the government turning to the IMF for help if the Europeans do not offer any. “We have to keep all options over for whatever possibility,” he said. “We would certainly prefer a European solution.”

Papandreou added that if EU leaders manage to reach an agreement on providing Greece with financial assistance if needed, it would encourage markets to lower the “unreasonably high interest rate, which is over 6 percent” that they are charging to take on Greek debt.

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

Greece: Waiting for Decision EU Summit, Papandreou

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 18 — “The European Commission is ready to use the necessary instruments to accommodate Greece. And the European Council has to take a decision on this issue next week. This is what we are waiting for”, said Greek Premier Giorgio Papandreou. He underlined that the summit of State and government leaders on March 25 and 26 is “an opportunity we should not miss”. “Either Greece receives from the European Union what the International Monetary Fund could give or it will have to turn to the IMF, though I hope that will not be necessary”: this is the message that Papandreou launched to the EU during today’s European Parliament hearing in Brussels. The Greek Prime Minister — after a meeting with the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek — stressed that “Greece has taken all necessary measures to obtain assistance from the IMF. I don’t think they will ask for more”. Greece hopes for the help of the EU therefore. “Greece must have the possibility to have access to loans at a normal rate, like the other countries in the Europzone” Papandreou continued. He underlined that high interest rates could frustrate all efforts of financial reconstruction in Greece. “We need strong political support from the EU” he added, “in order to carry out reforms and to be certain that we do not continue to pay much more for loans”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Merkel: ‘Expel Dealbreakers From Euro’

Will Europe come to Greece’s aid? The Dutch parliament will debate the matter this Thursday night.

Merkel made her statement in the German parliament yesterday in a debate over the German state budget. According to the chancellor, current EU regulations are insufficient to tackle Greece’s current problems. Expulsion from the euro should be a possible “measure of last resort,” Merkel said.

Germany had already suggested the creation of a European Monetary Fund which could come to the rescue of countries that found themselves in budgetary problems.

The Greek prime minister Papandreou said there was “no chance at all” his country would be leaving the euro. On Thursday morning, Papandreou insisted on a substantial European aid plan for his country to appease financial markets. “We are not asking for money” Papandreou said. “What we are saying is we need strong political support in order to make these necessary reforms.” The prime minister said the existence of a plan would, in itself, put a stop to speculative investors exploiting his country’s plight. If European countries fail to reach an agreement over emergency aid to Greece, his country would be forced to call on the IMF for assistance, Papandreou said. This would lead to more speculation, which would raise the costs of Greece’s state debt even further, making it practically impossible to fight the budget deficit.

Next week, the government leaders of the 27 EU countries will decide whether or not to extend aid to Greece. Germany, the driving force behind the common currency, has made it abundantly clear in recent weeks it does not have a stockpile of cash ready and waiting for the Greeks. The Greek issue is a sensitive one in Germany. Opinion polls have shown that Germans oppose extending financial aid to any country running high budget deficits, be it Portugal, Greece or Ireland. The Netherlands is also not inclined to directly support these countries. The acting Dutch finance minister, Jan Kees de Jager, has said, “none of the Dutch tax payers’ money will go to Greece.” Earlier this week after meeting with European colleagues, however, he insinuated that he might be left with few other options if Greece was in danger of facing financial “doom”. This remark did not go over well with parliament, which has requested a debate with the minister, which will be held this Thursday evening.

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

The Best and Worst Job in Town

Let me define for you a very interesting job. Suppose you were offered a position in which you had no limits on the amount of money you could spend, and you also had no limits on the kinds of things you could acquire with that money. What a wonderful position that would be, right?

Now you may think the position not of this world, but it is. The position is that of a United States Congressman or Senator. I suspect that your skepticism comes from your view that money does not go on trees and that sooner or later someone will have to pay for all the lavish spending. You are right. To quote Margaret Thatcher, “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to get Thatcher’s message these days. They spend as if there is no tomorrow and, at current rates, there will be no tomorrow — at least not a tomorrow resembling anything like today. It will be an impoverished world in which the American dollar is not the reserve currency, in which the American standard of living plummets, in which the dollar is largely worthless, and in which the United States defaults on its debt obligations and sends world markets into a tail spin. It will be a world of deflation and depression the likes of which we have never seen.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

VAT: EU Commission Refers Greece to Court Over Refunds

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 18 — The European Commission has decided to refer Greece to the European Court of Justice for its incomplete application of the verdict on taxes that were paid unjustly, including VAT. According to European legislation, taxpayers have the right to get the taxes paid to the State back if EU regulations have been violated. Greece, a statement issued by the European Commission reads, has not offered this possibility, even after the sending of two judgements in February 2008 and October 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Pope: Politics Must Not be Subordinated to Finance

(AGI) — Vatican City, 18 March — Pope Benedict XVI, listing the principles of his social encyclical, the ‘Caritas in veritate’, to a group of industrialists in Lazio, said that “Politics is not to be subordinated to financial mechanisms.” In the context of the current economic crisis the Pope again asked for “reform and the creation of international legal and political structures proportionate to the global economic and financial structures, so as to more effectively promote the common good and the human family.” He recalled “that in a market devastated by a string of bankruptcies, the companies that have survived are those that adhere to a moral code and attend to the needs of their local area.” .

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


Beware of Infiltration by “Controlled” Opposition

I wondered how long it would be before the tea parties and grass roots’ efforts were infiltrated. It didn’t even take a year. By now all of you know about the Tea Party convention in Nashville,TN last month at the Grand Ole’ Opry Hotel. Tennessee’s own Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn backed out, as did Minnesota’s Michelle Bachmann along with the American Liberty Alliance and National Precinct Alliance. Why? Because when word of profiteering by Nashville attorney Judson Phillips hit the news, and he decided to form a FOR PROFIT organization rather than a grassroots non-profit event, the rest of the speakers backed out. Left holding the bag was their lone top guest Sarah Palin. Ticket prices were $550 and the leftover ones were sold at the last minute for $350. Needless to say, that in itself eliminated most grassroots patriots and left the event to those with money.

CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) is headed by none other than long time secretive Council for National Policy (CNP) member, Grover Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform is a major sponsor of the Tea Party launch event, and Tea Party Patriots’ manifesto. Tea party patriots would run away from Norquist if they truly abhor anti-Semitism, anti-Israel activism, and Muslim extremism. But they aren’t running the other way. Even key Tea Party leaders, organizers, and activists in every state, whom he’s traveled to meet and who also embrace him and are asking him for guidance. Norquist is founder and board member of the Islamic Institute (which operated out of his offices for ATR), was on the take from Gulf state emirates and laundered money for his Council for National Policy buddy Jack Abramoff. He employed Khalid Saffuri, an admitted funder of “the martyrs” — he adopted HAMAS homicide bombers’ families and funded them. And he and Islamic Institute accepted cash from several “charities” which laundered money for the Saudi government to Al-Qaeda. Norquist married a Muslim woman in 2005 and has since converted. His involvement is anathema to the tea party grassroots movement, and he is an obvious infiltrator and “controlled” opposition. Norquist has his fingers in many pies, but we’ll discuss his other involvements in another article.


Even in the small tea party group in Knoxville, TN, a man named Doug McCormick is pushing for a constitutional convention by telling his people that the federal government can be controlled by having a con-con. He has been told and warned of what can happen should 34 states agree to call a convention, and claims our warnings, including those of Chief Justice Warren Burger and James Madison are purely “scare tactics.” When a constitutional convention was suggested just one year after the adoption of our constitution, James Madison said, “Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention, I would tremble for the result of the second.” Once the constitution is taken down for a con-con, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to hold it to one subject as the proponents tell us. Imagine this happening today without the type of great statesmen our founders were!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Census is for Counting Not Prying

The constitutional requirement for the Census is found in Article. I. Section. 2. Paragraph. 3. “The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

The purpose of the Census is that of counting the US population in order to apportion among the states the number of representatives in the US House of Representatives. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

There is nothing in the Constitution requiring or even suggesting questions regarding race, ethnicity, whether one owns or rents his or her home, income status, disability status, education, or anything of the sort. The only purpose of the Census is to count the US population. Anything beyond that is nothing more than an intrusive government prying and snooping into our lives: something the federal government is doing with greater and greater frequency and intensity these days.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Everyday Terror at ‘Intifada’ HS

The Muslim principal who cried “bomb!” in a crowded school has left chaos and violence in the classrooms she created. And now, she’s moved a step closer to returning.

It is against this tumultuous backdrop that we learn Brooklyn’s Khalil Gibran International Academy — founded in 2007 by firebrand ex-Principal Debbie Almontaser as the city’s first public Arabic-themed school — this year has suspended more than one-third of its student body for infractions ranging from hitting to weapons.


Almontaser was tossed after she proclaimed, in a detailed interview with this newspaper, that the term “intifada” — which has led to mass murder, both downtown and in the Middle East — does not equal bloody uprising. She defined the hot-button word as a benign “shaking off” of oppression. Particularly against girls. As if American girls are worse off than those in, say, her native Yemen.


A bad idea has morphed into an abysmal failure. You don’t get peace by segregating kids. You get weapons, pandemonium. And expensive lawsuits.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gitmo Suspects Allowed Laptops While in Custody

The Pentagon allowed five captured al Qaeda members currently held at the Guantanamo Bay prison to use laptop computers in detention, raising concerns among security officials that the terrorism suspects could pass sensitive data to terrorists in the future, according to U.S. officials.

The computers, without Internet access, were provided to Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other suspected 9/11 conspirators at the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba after approval by senior Pentagon officials in September 2008.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Health Bill Extends Wage Tax to Investments

High-income families would be hit with a tax increase on wages and a new levy on investments under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul bill.

For the first time, the Medicare payroll tax would be applied to investment income, beginning in 2013. A new 3.8 percent tax would be imposed on interest, dividends, capital gains and other investment income for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000.

The bill also would increase the Medicare payroll tax by 0.9 percentage point to 2.35 percent on wages above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

It’s All About Control

A January 4, 1996 guest opinion in our local paper by Ralph M. Bell, a retired physician of Salem, Oregon was entitled “Health-care cost is not the issue.” He uses the analogy of buying a tire for your car. The consumer can purchase a tire at $50 if he can afford it. If he can’t, then he may have to buy one for less money but when the federal government got involved in health care, we had to buy the entire car to get a tire because it cannot be sold separately. “Why can’t it?” he asks and then answers, “Because that’s the law. The high cost, unaffordable cost is not our making nor under our control.”

“Whose fault is it? Well, that’s a lot easier to determine,” he writes. Congress and its bureaucratic administration, which adds so much to the cost of the service we want that it is all but unreachable. We want a tire, not an automobile. Why can’t we have it that way? He explains, “Because as an individual we have little power against a huge self-serving bureaucracy.” He says if we could apply the same market forces to our health-care that we could apply to a tire, we could again find a satisfactory choice and suggests we demand and should take back our consumer rights to make our own decisions. In other words, pay for an occasional office call out -of — pocket like we used to do 40+ years ago and buy a high-deductible, lower-cost catastrophic insurance from a free unregulated market to cover the bigger health problems. You’ll recall this doctor’s letter was written during the time the GOP was trying to “reform” Medicare and Medicaid and the Democrats kept stopping it.


Have you ever seen anything repealed in Washington once it is passed?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Helped Fund ‘Alinsky Academy’

Teaches tactics of direct action, confrontation and intimidation

A Chicago nonprofit on which President Obama served as paid director provided startup capital and later funding to Midwest Academy, an activist organization described as teaching tactics of direct action, confrontation and intimidation, WND has learned.

Also, in 1998, Obama participated on a panel discussion alongside Midwest Academy founder Heather Booth, an extremist organizer and dedicated disciple of radical community organizer Saul Alinsky.

The Woods Fund, a nonprofit on which Obama served as paid director from 1999 to December 2002, provided startup funding and later capital to the Midwest Academy. WND first reported Obama sat on the Woods Fund board alongside William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground domestic terrorist organization.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Synagogue Bomb Suspects: The Feds Put Us Up to it!

Defense attorneys say an alleged plot to bomb New York synagogues was hatched and directed by a federal informant.

Lawyers for four men from Newburgh have filed a motion to dismiss the terror indictment against them.

They said the informant badgered the defendants until they got involved in the plot.

They said the informant chose the targets, supplied fake bombs for the synagogues and a fake missile to shoot down planes. The motion said he also offered to pay the defendants, who attorneys alleged weren’t inclined toward any crime until the informant began recruiting them.

“The government well knew that their case had been a government-inspired creation from day one and that the defendants had not been independently seeking weapons or targets,” the motion said.

Ffederal court spokesman Herb Hadad said the government would file its response next month.

The four men, who were arrested last May, face up to life in prison if convicted. They have been previously identified as James Cromitie, 55, David Williams, 28, Onta Williams, 32, and Laguerre Payen, 27, all of Newburgh in upstate New York, where authorities were conducting raids at their homes, sources said.

Authorities have said they had the plotters under surveillance since June of 2008 and there was “no chance” the alleged scheme could succeed. They credited the work of a long time informant with keeping tabs on the group.

The FBI has said the Muslim suspects were angry and full of hate for America.

Read the full complaint

According to the criminal complaint, Cromitie said “I hate those f-ing Jewish bastards.” He bragged that it would be a “piece of cake” to bomb a Jewish Center in Riverdale, according to the complaint.

He said his father lives in Afghanistan and he was upset about U.S. military presence there.

“The fact that this type of hatred exists means that we all have to be vigilant all of the time,” city councilman Jeffrey Dinowitz said Thursday.

Cromitie was the first to approach the informant, authorities said. He told the informant he has ties to the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad. Authorities said Cromitie had 27 past arrests and had recently been working at a nation- wide discount retailer, authorities said.

Several of the suspects have previously been arrested on drug charges and may have converted to Islam in prison, authorities said.

The four men allegedly would meet in a safe house in Newburgh, which authorities said they had bugged with audio and video equipment.

The suspects said they wanted to get their hands on stinger missiles to shoot down planes at the nearby Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport, according to a criminal complaint unsealed late Wednesday. The suspects also received what they believed were two stinger missiles which they intended to use to shoot down military planes, the complaint said. They also bought cell phones to allegedly use in the plot.

Officials said they moved in when they did so the alleged plot could not progress any further.

In a separate motion, defense attorneys demanded more information on inducements that the informant may have offered the defendants.

The dismissal motion identified the government’s agent as Shaheed Hussain, a “professional informant” for the FBI. The defense claimed he was directed to visit suburban mosques, find members with anti-American leanings and recruit them to join a fake terror plot supposedly funded by a Pakistan-based group.

He suggested there could be as much as $250,000 available and the government provided him with a BMW, a Hummer and other cars to make him appear well- funded, the defense filings said.

The defense alleged that Hussain tried to incite the defendants by blaming Jews for the world’s evil and telling them that attacks against non-Muslims were endorsed by Islam.

Nevertheless, they said, he failed to motivate the defendants to any action on their own. Months went by between meetings, and the filings quote Cromitie as saying, “I’m not gonna hurt anybody” and “The plane thing … is out of the question.”

Hussain suggested the targets, paid for the defendants’ groceries, bought a gun, provided the fake bombs and missile, assembled the explosive devices and acted as chauffeur, the defense said. Since the 9/11 attacks, authorities have arrested suspects in a number of alleged plots against area targets, including the Fort Dix New Jersey military base, John F. Kennedy Airport, the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

[Return to headlines]

Taxation Without Representation

Typically, after a measure passes in the House, it goes to the Senate for consideration. A bill must pass both bodies in the same form before it can be presented to the President for signature into law. This rule is not spelled out in a single brief clause, but in a series of constitutional rules that in the past were considered inviolate, that is until the progressives began whittling away at what our founding fathers built with their own blood.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving to merely “deem” that the House has passed the Senate health-care bill and then send it to President Obama to sign anyway.

Louise Slaughter, A New York Democrat and chair of the House Rules Committee, under orders from the Speaker, is working on crafting a “self-executing rule,” also known as a “hereby rule.” This rule will side step the constitution and allow the House to vote only once on the reconciliation corrections, but not on the actual Senate bill. Here is where it gets sticky, constitutionally speaking, if the reconciliation corrections pass, the Slaughter rule would call the Senate bill presumptively approved by the House. There would be no up or down vote by the House, not even debate on the Senate bill. The President would be sent a bill to sign into law that did not pass both houses in direct violation of the US Constitution.


So what do we do about this? It is obvious to anyone except the mushy-brained that the Obama administration is fully intent on turning the United States into a version of its preferred society, the old Soviet Union. Any who doubt that assertion should take a closer look at what Obama’s assorted “reforms” would do.

The Education Reform language inserted into the Healthcare Bill would make it illegal for an education to be privately funded. In the Healthcare Bill proper is language that would imprison a citizen daring to opt out of buying into ObamaCare. Actually the prison time is for not paying the massive fines attached to acting as a free person, but you’ll be behind bars just the same.

What really is happening is an assault on the very fabric of American Culture. If you boil down every complaint the left has against this country, it comes down to one essential phrase, and that phrase is this, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. The liberal left cannot stand the fact of true individual freedom. They cannot handle the idea of a man or a woman being able to pursue the career of their choice. They cannot stomach the idea of you being able to express your opinion without fear of retribution.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Heat is on: Congressman’s Office Says Constituent Calls Are ‘Harassment’

Yesterday, I decided to call Rep. John Garamendi’s (CA-10) office in Washington, D.C. He’s my representative and I wanted to voice my opposition to the Senate Health Care Bill. I spoke with a female staffer and politely told her that, while I support health care reform, I oppose the Senate Bill because it wasn’t true “reform.” She said the Congressman thinks it’s a good bill and that he campaigned on health care reform. I told her I knew that. I also mentioned that I voted for him. When I tried to give her specific reasons why the Senate Bill would harm our system rather than reform it, she refused to listen. She said she was very busy and hung up on me. Being the persistent person that I am, I kept calling back. Each time I tried to finish my point, she hung up.

I called one more time. This time she said, “If you call one more time, we will notify Capital Police.” I asked why my conduct warranted involving federal law enforcement agents. She said I was “harassing” her. I tried to explain that trying to convince a representative to change his or her vote didn’t constitute “harassment.” Before I could fully explain, she hung up again.

I called back. This time, I asked to speak to her supervisor in order to report her repeated hanging up as well as the threat she made. I was placed on hold. Thinking I was holding for her supervisor, I was shocked when a Federal Agent with the Capital Police picked-up the telephone.


While I’m fortunate enough to be able to legally challenge what happened today, others aren’t. The sad part is the democrats know this. They know that Americans unfamiliar with federal jurisprudence can easily be silenced when threats to involve federal agents are made. They know that most Americans don’t want trouble and they’ll go away rather than face the possibility of having to explain themselves to federal agents. That’s why I found this tactic appalling, as a Marine, as an attorney and as a proud American.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Powers of Congress

What are the powers of Congress? Can they do anything they want or are they supposed to be constrained in what they do?

We have all aware of the oaths that our legislators take to support and defend the Constitution. And logic would tell us that if the federal government was created by a Constitution and that constitution establishes powers and limitations on that government then that is what they should be guided by. But is that really happening?

Let’s take a look at one specific area of the constitution that most of you know as the interstate commerce clause. It is found in Article 1, Section 8, clause 4: “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes; “

If you notice there is not one mention of “interstate commerce” that we hear bandied about by politicians today. The term interstate commerce is a contrivance used as an expanded definition of the term to “regulate commerce… among the several states.” This begs the question — Did the founders, when writing the Constitution, mean “interstate commerce” or something totally different?

Let’s start with the plain language of the paragraph: “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States…” It states that Congress has the power to regulate Commerce first in the list with foreign Nations and also among the several states. Can Congress establish a minimum wage for foreign nations? Can Congress establish work conditions for foreign nations? Can Congress establish minimum age restrictions on foreign nations? Can Congress pass any law on a foreign Nation?

Obviously the answer is no. The framers never imagined that this clause ever intended Congress to make regulations to govern the work ethic within the several states, or establish labor standards across state lines.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus Enterprises Sign Charter Against Climate Change

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MARCH 18 — The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched on Wednesday an initiative on Corporate Responsibility during a ceremony in the presence of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias. Fifty one businesses signed the Charter Against Climate Change which commits them to working to fulfill Cyprus’ national goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15% by 2020. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Catholic Bishop in Abuse Controversy

Experts say Denmark’s Catholic bishop is endangering his church’s credibility with his attitudes to cases of sexual abuse.

Legal, theological and children’s rights experts say the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church in Lutheran Denmark is suffering as a result of the attitudes of the country’s bishop, Czeslaw Kozon, according to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Criticism of Bishop Kozon comes following his reported statements that the Church is neither obliged to investigate old cases of sexual abuse or report new cases to the police.

Kozon has said that he knows of 4-5 cases in the 1980s or before of the abuse of children and young people within the Catholic Church in Denmark. The abuse has never been reported to the authorities.

“A major institution such as the Catholic Church is legally responsible to make sure that cases of abuse are investigated and stopped,” Prof. Kirsten Ketscher of the Copenhagen University Law Faculty tells Kristeligt Dagblad. She adds that the bishop may have broken the law.

Assistant Professor Peter Lodberg of Aarhus University Theology Faculty says the Church risks serious repercussions if it does not thoroughly investigate cases.

“If the Church does nothing, these cases will become like a snowball that rolls downhill and becomes so big that it will destroy the Catholic Church’s backing and credibility in Denmark,” he says.

Prof. Per Schultz Jørgensen, Ph.D in paediatric psychology and a member of the Children’s Council says that it is not up to the bishop or the Catholic Church to determine whether a case should be reported to the authorities.

Edited by Julian Isherwood

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

Dutch MPs Reject Greece Rescue Plan

A majority of Dutch MPs are opposed to giving emergency bilateral loans to Greece should the need arise, the Financieele Dagblad reports on Thursday.

MPs and caretaker finance minister Jan Kees de Jager are to discuss the loan proposal on Thursday evening.

A month ago MPs voted in favour of a motion stating that the Netherlands should not be faced with any costs for getting the Greek debt-laden economy back to rights.

Germany is also reluctant to bail out Greece and chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she wants the eurozone to be able to exclude one of its members if it is necessary to avert a crisis.

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

European Human Rights Bodies Call for Decisive Action Against Racism

In a joint statement ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) strongly condemn manifestations of racism and xenophobia, with a particular focus on the Internet:

“We must remain vigilant in the face of racist behaviour and incidents, including hate crimes and malicious expressions of hate and racist sentiments on the Internet. “Our organizations are alarmed by patterns and manifestations of racism such as the ever-increasing use of the Internet by racist groups for recruitment, radicalisation, command and control, as well as for the intimidation and harassment of opponents. The Internet has become an important communications channel that links people in ‘cyberspace’, who then meet and take action in the physical world. “Social networking sites are now prime locations for the spread of racist and xenophobic views, especially among young people. We must challenge such views, while being careful not to undermine freedom of expression.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian in Cancer Advance

Researcher at UCSF finds cell defect in ‘90% of tumours’

(ANSA) — Rome, March 18 — An Italian scientist working in the United States has made an advance in human cell research he believes may help 90% of cancer sufferers worldwide.

Davide Ruggero of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) has led a team which found that a cellular defect in the production of protein can lead to cancer.

Ruggero’s team, whose work earned the cover of the current edition of the Cancer Cell journal, also found that a new generation of drugs offers promise in treating the defect.

The research focused on a multi-protein unit called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), which controls cell survival and proliferation.

When it is “hyperactivated,” the study found, cells start to “proliferate without limit and simultaneously become immortal,” leading to tumour formation.

Ruggero told ANSA that mTOR alteration was “found in 90% of tumours” and so experimental drugs could target it to treat most cancer cases.

According to the study, the discovery could affect treatment of lymphoma, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, brain cancer and multiple myeloma.

A new drug called PP242 could become “a potent cancer treatment,” the authors said.

“We are extremely excited about our findings and the potential of targeting aberrant protein synthesis and mTOR in cancer as we should be able to block cancer’s main source of growth,” Ruggero said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Puglia Ex-No.2 Arrested in Health Graft Probe

Sandro Frisullo suspected of rigging tenders for Tarantini

(ANSA) — Bari, March 18 — The former deputy governor of Puglia was arrested Thursday in a probe into graft in the southern Italian region’s healthcare system.

Sandro Frisullo of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) was taken into custody on suspicion of conspiracy, corruption and rigging public tenders in favour of a rising local medical equipment producer, Gianpaolo Tarantini.

Tarantini came to national attention last year when it emerged he had paid escorts to attend parties given by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Two health officials and a neurosurgeon were arrested Thursday in Lecce while three other members of the city’s health board were placed under investigation.

The probe concerns the supply of beds and medical equipment to Lecce hospitals and clinics in 2007 and 2008, judicial sources said.

Tarantini and his brother Claudio are also under investigation but they have not been arrested because they have been providing information useful to the probe, police said.

Frisullo, 54, was reportedly trapped by wiretaps suggesting he exchanged favours for sex and other inducements.

A judge ordered his arrest because of the danger of his tampering with evidence or committing other crimes, judicial sources said.

In one wiretap that has been released, Tarantini is allegedly heard to say “I want to focus my business on Lecce” while Frisullo allegedly provides him with the names of people he can approach to do so.

Frisullo was removed from his posts as deputy governor and regional economic development chief in June when Governor Nichi Vendola, currently running for re-election on a PD ticket, sacked the regional government because of the rising healthcare scandal.

Vendola also ordered the suspension of Lea Cosentino, the head of the health board in Bari, the region’s capital, after she was placed under house arrest. The ex-deputy governor has always protested his innocence.

In a long letter to the PD leadership in September he apologised for “mistakes and missteps but insisted “I do not intend to be subjected to a fierce media lynching”.

Puglia is one of 13 of Italy’s 20 regions going to the polls on March 28-29.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Firms Suing Amnesty International

Companies accused of selling illegal torture tools

(ANSA) — Rome, March 18 — Italian firms cited in an Amnesty International report as exporting illegal torture devices have said they will sue the group for defamation, though the government says it is taking the report seriously.

“We sell none of the items listed in that report,” said the owner of Defense System Srl, Marc Busin.

The police equipment wholesaler is one of five Italian companies accused by Amnesty International of selling illegal police equipment to countries known to practice torture.

But Busin said his company was an “importer only and deals exclusively in products made in Germany and certified for sale in the European Union”.

He denied that his businesses sold the electric shock ‘cuffs’ and chemical sprays the human rights campaigners alleged were being manufactured by Italian companies.

The owner of Rome-based arms wholesaler, Armeria Frinchillucci, also said he would take legal action.

“I couldn’t believe it. This is a family-run enterprise.

We’ve been in this business for five generations and have never sold anything that wasn’t 100% legal,” Massimo Moroni Frinchillucci said.

“All of our products are registered with the authorities who check up on us regularly and know that we only deal in certified self-defence equipment”.

Frinchillucci said there were upwards of 30 other wholesalers in the EU with a near identical catalogue of products that were not mentioned on Amnesty International’s list.

Junior Industry Minister Adolfo Urso also expressed surprise, saying the Italian government had “no knowledge” of any businesses trading in the banned equipment but that customs officials were at work to make sure.

He added that any firms caught dealing in torture tools would “face legal consequences”.

“Italy prohibits the exportation of any and all torture devices. In fact, all arms must have the industry ministry’s approval before they can be sold abroad,” he said. According to the report by Amnesty International, five Italian companies were involved in selling the electrified restraints, which are listed as a torture device by the European Union.

Defence System Srl, Access Group Srl, Joseph Stifter Sas, Armeria Frinchillucci Srl and PSA Srl were accused of selling the cuffs to at least nine foreign governments suspected of human rights abuses.

The devices have been banned for trade since 2006, but Amnesty International said firms in Italy and several other EU countries used “legal loopholes” to continue selling them.

Italy was among five countries documented in the report who stated they were unaware of any producers of torture devices.

However, the report said that companies in Italy and two other EU members “have stated openly that they supply items banned by (EU) regulations, often manufactured in third countries”.

Germany and the Czech Republic were two other EU members cited as manufacturing outlawed wall restraints and metal thumb cuffs.

Hungary was also mentioned for declaring in 2005 that it would use electric stun belts in its prisons, despite their prohibition in the EU.

Other countries accused of selling banned police instruments were Belgium, Cyprus, Finland and Malta.

According to Amnesty International, the report will be addressed at a meeting on Thursday of the EU Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Human Rights.

The group is urging the EU to close the loopholes used by producers to export torture devices.

“We want to ensure that at Thursday’s meeting (MEPs) apply the utmost commitment to ensure the EU has a robust set of controls on the trade of this equipment,” said spokesman Oliver Sprague.

“EU members must impose truly effective controls on European trade in policing and security equipment and ensure that such goods do not become part of the torturer’s tool kit,” he said.

“The EU cannot apply double standards when it comes to torture. It cannot say that it abhors torture in all circumstances and then silently permit the transfer of weapons that are used in acts of torture”.

Italy is one of 105 nations which have signed the UN’s Convention against Torture, though it has been rapped by Amnesty International because it has no independent body to monitor and take action against police officers accused of ill-treatment of prisoners.

However, it moved one step closer last November when a bill introducing torture as a separate felony in the Italian penal code, instead of an aggravating factor to assault, received the green light from the Senate justice committee.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ex-Politician Arrested Over Sex and Health Scandal

Bari, 18 March (AKI) — A former politician linked to a sex and health scandal in the southern Italian region of Puglia was arrested on Thursday after he and three others were accused of criminal activities and other charges. Sandro Frisullo, former vice-president of Puglia, was councillor for economic development for the region.

Prosecutors in the city of Bari (photo) authorised police to arrest Frisullo who is now facing several charges related to criminal activity and corruption.

Administrator of the health authority in nearby Lecce, Vincenzo Valente, and two other health officials Antonio Montinaro and Roberto Andrioli, were also arrested.

The men were arrested by local tax police from Bari after investigators gathered evidence of criminal activity from telephone taps and other recordings, as well as documents gathered from local health authorities and evidence gained from businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini and others.

Tarantini was the businessman at the centre of the sex scandal linked to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi last year. He is also under investigation for abetting prostitution, suspected corruption and for allegedly supplying cocaine to parties held at Berlusconi’s luxurious Sardinian villa.

He told the Puglia inquiry that Frisullo accepted bribes and escorts in exchange for releasing payments from the local health authority Asl for the purchase of medical prostheses and other medical products from Tarantini’s company.

Last year Tarantini was placed under house arrest in Bari after being detained by Italian tax police at Bari airport for alleged drug trafficking.

Alleged taps of Tarantini’s telephone conversations revealed him offering money to prostitutes to spend the night at Berlusconi’s residences in Rome and Sardinia.

Tarantini previously told prosecutors in Bari he supplied more than 30 women — many of them prostitutes — for 18 parties organised by the premier in Rome and at his villa in Sardinia.

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

Italy: RU486 Pill Administered in Hospitals Only

(AGI) — Rome, 18 Mar. — While reporting the opinion of the Consiglio Superiore della Sanita’, the Health governing body, Italy’s Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio announced that the abortion pill Ru486 will be administered only to patients “hospitalized from the very prescription of it to the expulsion. This is to preserve the woman’s physical and mental health and to comply with Act 194”. The Minister also signed a request for Italian Regions to comply with the modalities indicated. .

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Soccer Team That Mourned Mobster Banned

Players wore black arm-bands for ‘Ndrangheta boss

(ANSA) — San Luca, March 18 — The Italian Soccer Federation on Thursday banned a team in a Calabrian mafia fief who played with black arm-bands after the death of a boss.

San Luca is a small town which gained international headlines in August 2007 when an 18-year feud sparked by egg-throwing at a wedding culminated in a hit on six gangsters in the German town of Duisburg.

The San Luca team staged their mourning tribute after the death of a leader of one of the warring families, Antonio Pelle.

All 16 of the players who took the field in November were banned for two matches Thursday while three of the club’s executives, Giuseppe Nirta, Giuseppe Strangio and Giuseppe Trimboli, received bans ranging from one month and five days to five months.

‘Ndrangheta, which once lived in the shadow of its Neapolitan and Sicilian cousins Camorra and Cosa Nostra, has emerged as Italy’s strongest mafia thanks to its dominance of the European cocaine trade and its unbreakable family ties.

Soccer homages to mafia bosses are not unusual in southern Italy and in October a Sicilian soccer club chairman who dedicated a victory to a Cosa Nostra suspect was banned for five years.

The club, Akragas Calcio from Agrigento, was docked a point in the ‘Eccellenza’ division.

On Thursday San Luca was docked three points in the Prima Categoria division.

The two categories are the lowest in Italian professional soccer, after Serie D.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Pastry, Potato Stretch Italy’s Food Lead

‘Ricciarelli’ from Siena, ‘Patata di Bologna’ get EU laurels

(ANSA) — Rome, March 18 — A traditional pastry from Siena and a potato grown around Bologna have become the latest recipients of European Union quality seals, extending Italy’s lead in the EU’s protected food rankings.

Siena’s famed Ricciarelli biscuits, a slim lozenge-shaped dainty that morphed from an original curly creation by a Crusading knight impressed by an Arab sweetmeat, won a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label.

The ‘Patata di Bologna’ won an even more prestigious Protection Designation of Origin (PDO) certificate to keep it safe from inferior pretenders.

Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said the new entries “add value to the Made in Italy brand” and revealed that another traditional product, chestnuts from the Val di Susa in Piedmont, were set to join them as a PGI.

The agriculture ministry said “the ‘Ricciarelli di Siena’, born as a Christmas treat, “have extended their appeal to the other months of the year, mainly because tourists from all over the world love them”.

It went on to exalt the Bologna Potato as having “a high dry-matter content and good consistency that make it especially suited to myriad culinary uses”.

Coldiretti, a farmers union, said the accolade for the Bologna spud “shows Italy has no need of the genetically modified potato recently authorised by the European Commission”.


Italy’s special foods, which already top the charts for the EU’s three quality-food seals, have recently put in a spurt.

Powering past France and Spain, Italy now has over 900 laurels.

On Wednesday a fragrant white celery from Sperlonga received a PGI label aimed at keeping other celeries from posing as the aromatic product from the marshlands near the ancient town which have for centuries produced the unique vegetable.

The ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’, experts said, is sweet enough to be munched raw but also adds a distinctive flavour to a range of culinary specialties.

Earlier this month a northern Italian apple, the ‘Mela di Valtellina’, won a PGI label aimed at keeping other apples from posing as the strongly scented, firm-fleshed product from the sub-Alpine valley.

In January that Italian food glory, Neapolitan pizza, got a long-awaited Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) label.

In December a ‘prosciutto crudo’ from Cuneo claimed a PDO.

It was the third product to get a PDO in less than a week, following a chestnut from the Tuscan village of Caprese Michelangelo and the Piennolo tomato from the slopes of Mt Vesuvius.

In October, a traditional sour cherry jam produced near Modena, ‘Amarene Brusche di Modena’ was awarded a PGI, while ‘Ciauscolo’, a large soft spreadable sausage from the Marche region, got the same recognition in August.

Other recent additions have included Sicily’s ‘Pagnotta del Dittaino’ bread, with a PDO label; Roman suckling lamb, abbacchio romano, which earned a PGI label; and Modena’s balsamic vinegar, another PGI.

Italian culinary glories like Parmigiano, buffalo mozzarella, mortadella, lardo di Colonnata, Ascoli olives, pesto sauce and Pachino plum tomatos have been protected for some time.

Lesser-known munchies like Mt Etna prickly pears and Paestum artichokes swelled the ranks last year along with two kinds of saffron, from San Gimignano and L’Aquila.

A range of salamis, rices, honeys and nuts are also on the protected list.

Several up-and-coming regional wines have earned TGIs.

PDO identifies a product whose characteristics are exclusively dependant on a geographical origin and whose productive phases all take place in the specified area.

PGI defines a product whose characteristics can be connected with its geographical origin and that has at least one productive phase located in the specified area.

TSG distinguishes a product whose raw materials, composition or recipe, production method or transformation, are of a traditional type.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

NATO R.I.P.? Well, Hopefully

By Srdja Trifkovic

Ukraine’s announcement that it will pass a law that will bar the country from joining NATO has been greeted with barely concealed relief in Moscow, Paris, Berlin and Rome. It is also good news for the security interests of the United States. The time has come not only to give up on NATO expansion, but also to abolish the Alliance altogether.

Encouraging an impoverished, practically defenseless nation such as Ukraine to join a military alliance directed against the superpower next door, thereby stretching a nuclear tripwire between them, had never been a sound strategy. Article V of the NATO Charter states that an attack on one is an attack on all, and offers automatic guarantee of aid to an ally in distress. The U.S. would supposedly provide its protective cover to a new client, right in Russia’s geopolitical backyard, in an area that had never been deemed vital to America’s security interests.

From the realist perspective, accepting Ukraine into NATO would mean one of two things: either the United States is serious that it would risk a thermonuclear war for the sake of, say, the status of Sebastopol, which is insane; or the United States is not serious, which would be frivolous and dangerous.

President Clinton tried to evade the issue, over a decade ago, by questioning the meaning of words and asserting that Article V “does not define what actions constitute ‘an attack’ or prejudge what Alliance decisions might then be made in such circumstances.” He claimed the right of the United States “to exercise individual and collective judgment over this question.”

Such fudge cannot be the basis of serious policy. It evokes previous Western experiments with security guarantees in the region — leading to Czechoslovakia’s carve-up in 1938, and to Poland’s destruction in September 1939 — which warn us that promises nonchalantly given today may turn into bounced checks or smoldering cities tomorrow. After more than seven decades, the lesson of is clear: security guarantees not based on the provider’s resolve to fight a fully blown war to fulfill them, are worse than no guarantees at all. It would be dangerously naïve to assume that the United States, financially and militarily overextended, would indeed honor the guarantee under Article V, or assume responsibility for open-ended maintenance of potentially disputed frontiers (say in the Crimea) that were drawn arbitrarily by the likes of Khrushchev and bear little relation to ethnicity or history,

A necessary and successful alliance during the Cold War, NATO is obsolete and harmful today. It no longer provides collective security — an attack against one is an attack against all — of limited geographic scope (Europe) against a predatory totalitarian power (the USSR). Instead, NATO has morphed into a vehicle for the attainment of misguided American strategic objectives on a global scale. Further expansion would merely cement and perpetuate its new, U.S.-invented “mission” as a self-appointed promoter of democracy, protector of human rights, and guardian against instability outside its original area. It was on those grounds, rather than in response to any supposed threat, that the Clinton administration pushed for the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in 1996, and President Bush brought in the Baltic republics, Bulgaria, and Rumania in 2004.

Bill Clinton’s air war against the Serbs, which started 11 years ago (March 24, 1999), marked a decisive shift in NATO’s mutation from a defensive alliance into a supranational security force based on the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention.” The trusty keeper of the gate of 1949 had morphed into a roaming vigilante five decades later.

The limits of American power became obvious in August 2008. Saakashvili’s attack on South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, was an audacious challenge to Russia, to which she responded forcefully. Moscow soon maneuvered Washington into a position of weakness unseen since the final days of the Carter presidency three decades ago. The Europeans promptly brokered a truce that was pleasing to Moscow and NATO’s expansion along the Black Sea was effectively stalled, with no major Continental power willing to risk further complications with Russia. They understood the need for a sane relationship with Moscow that acknowledges that Russia has legitimate interests in her “near-abroad.”

America, Russia and NATO — The Soviet Union came into being as a revolutionary state that challenged any given status quo in principle, starting with the Comintern and ending three generations later with Afghanistan. Some of its aggressive actions and hostile impulses could be explained in light of “traditional” Russian need for security; at root, however, there was always an ideology unlimited in ambition and global in scope.

At first, the United States tried to appease and accommodate the Soviets (1943-46), then moved to containment in 1947, and spent the next four decades building and maintaining essentially defensive mechanisms — such as NATO — designed to prevent any major change in the global balance.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been trying to articulate her goals and define her policies in terms of “traditional” national interests. The old Soviet dual-track policy of having “normal” relations with America, on the one hand, while seeking to subvert her, on the other, gave way to naïve attempts by Boris Yeltsin’s foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev to forge a “partnership” with the United States.

By contrast, the early 1990s witnessed the beginning of America’s futile attempt to assert her status as the only global “hyperpower.” The justification for their project was as ideological, and the implications were as revolutionary as anything concocted by Zinoviev or Trotsky in their heyday. In essence, the United States adopted her own dual-track approach. When Mikhail Gorbachev’s agreement was needed for German reunification, President George H.W. Bush gave a firm and public promise that NATO wound not move eastward. Within years, however, Bill Clinton expanded NATO to include all the former Warsaw Pact countries of Central Europe. On a visit to Moscow in 1996, Clinton even wondered if he had gone too far, confiding to Strobe Talbott, “We keep telling Ol’ Boris, ‘Okay, now here’s what you’ve got to do next — here’s some more [sh-t] for your face.’“

Instead of declaring victory and disbanding the alliance in the early 1990s, the Clinton administration successfully redesigned it as a mechanism for open-ended out-of-area interventions at a time when every rationale for its existence had disappeared. Following the air war against Serbia almost a decade ago, NATO’s area of operations became unlimited, and its “mandate” entirely self-generated. The Clinton administration agreed that NATO faced “no imminent threat of attack,” yet asserted that a larger NATO would be “better able to prevent conflict from arising in the first place” and — presumably alluding to the Balkans — better able to address “rogue states, the poisoned appeal of extreme nationalism, and ethnic, racial, and religious hatreds.” How exactly an expanded NATO could have prevented conflicts in Bosnia or Chechnya or Nagorno Karabakh had remained unexplained.

Another round of NATO expansion came under George W. Bush, when three former Soviet Baltic republics were admitted. In April 2007, he signed the Orwellian-sounding NATO Freedom Consolidation Act, which extended U.S. military assistance to aspiring NATO members, specifically Georgia and Ukraine. Further expansion, according to former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, was “historically mandatory, geopolitically desirable.” A decade earlier, Brzezinski readily admitted that NATO’s enlargement was not about U.S. security in any conventional sense, but “about America’s role in Europe — whether America will remain a European power and whether a larger democratic Europe will remain organically linked to America.” Such attitude is the source of endless problems for America and Europe alike.

President Obama and his foreign policy team have failed to grasp that a problem exists, let alone to act to rectify it. There has been a change of officials, but the regime is still the same — and America is still in need of a new grand strategy. Limited in objectives and indirect in approach, it should seek security and freedom for the United States without maintaining, let alone expanding, unnecessary foreign commitments.

The threat to Europe’s security does not come from Russia or from a fresh bout of instability in the Balkans. The real threat to Europe’s security and to her survival comes from Islam, from the deluge of inassimilable Third World immigrants, and from collapsing birthrates. All three are due to the moral decrepitude and cultural degeneracy, not to any shortage of soldiers and weaponry. The continued presence of a U.S. contingent of any size can do nothing to alleviate these problems, because they are cultural, moral and spiritual.

NATO: unnecessary and harmful — In terms of a realist grand strategy, NATO is detrimental to U.S. security. It forces America to assume at least nominal responsibility for open-ended maintenance of a host of disputed frontiers that were drawn, often arbitrarily, by Communist dictators, long-dead Versailles diplomats, and assorted local tyrants, and which bear little relation to ethnicity, geography, or history. With an ever-expanding NATO, eventual adjustments — which are inevitable — will be more potentially violent for the countries concerned and more risky for the United States. America does not and should not have any interest in preserving an indefinite status quo in the region.

Clinton’s 1999 war against Serbia was based on the his own doctrine of “humanitarian intervention,” which claimed the right of the United States to use military force to prevent or stop alleged human rights abuses as defined by Washington. This doctrine explicitly denied the validity of long-established norms — harking back to 1648 Westphalia — in favor of a supposedly higher objective. It paved the way for the pernicious Bush Doctrine of preventive war and “regime change” codified in the 2002 National Security Strategy.

The Clinton-Bush Doctrine represented the global extension of the Soviet model of relations with Moscow’s satellites applied in the occupation of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Ideological justification was provided by the Brezhnev Doctrine, defined by its author as the supposed obligation of the socialist countries to ensure that their actions should not “damage either socialism in their country or the fundamental interests of other socialist countries.” “The norms of law cannot be interpreted narrowly, formally, in isolation from the general context of the modern world,” Brezhnev further claimed. By belonging to the “socialist community of nations,” its members had to accept that the USSR — the leader of the “socialist camp” — was not only the enforcer of the rules but also the judge of whether and when an intervention was warranted. No country could leave the Warsaw Pact or change its communist party’s monopoly on power.

More than three decades after Prague 1968 the USSR was gone and the Warsaw Pact dismantled, but the principles of the Brezhnev Doctrine are not defunct. They survive in the neoliberal guise.

In 1991 the Maastricht Treaty speeded up the erosion of EU member countries’ sovereignty by transferring their prerogatives to the Brussels regime of unelected bureaucrats. The passage of NAFTA was followed by the 1995 Uruguay round of GATT that produced the WTO. The nineties thus laid the foundation for the new, post-national order. By early 1999 the process was sufficiently far advanced for President Bill Clinton to claim in The New York Times in May 1999 that, had it not bombed Serbia, “NATO itself would have been discredited for failing to defend the very values that give it meaning.” This was but one way of restating Brezhnev’s dictum that “the norms of law cannot be interpreted narrowly, formally, in isolation from the general context of the modern world.”

Like his Soviet predecessor, Clinton used an abstract and ideologically loaded notion as the pretext to act as he deemed fit, but no “interests of world socialism” could beat “universal human rights” when it came to determining where and when to intervene. The key difference between Brezhnev and Clinton was in the limited scope of the Soviet leader’s self-awarded outreach. His doctrine applied only to the “socialist community,” as opposed to the unlimited, potentially world-wide scope of “defending the values that give NATO meaning.” The “socialist community” led by Moscow stopped on the Elbe, after all. It was replaced by the “International Community” led by Washington, which stops nowhere.

The subsequent Bush Doctrine still stands as the ideological pillar and self-referential framework for the policy of permanent global interventionism. It precludes any meaningful debate about the correlation between ends and means of American power: we are not only wise but virtuous; our policies are shaped by “core values” which are axiomatic, and not by prejudices.

The Axis of Instability — The mantra’s neocon-neolib upholders are blind to the fact that, after a brief period of American mono-polar dominance (1991-2008), the world’s distribution of power is now characterized by asymmetric multipolarity. It is the most unstable model of international relations, which — as history teaches us — may lead to a major war.

As I wrote in a year ago, during the Cold War the world system was based on the model of bipolarity based on the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). The awareness of both superpowers that they would inflict severe and unavoidable reciprocal damage on each other was coupled with the acceptance that each had a sphere of dominance or vital interest that should not be infringed upon. Proxy wars were fought in the grey zone all over the Third World, most notably in the Middle East, but they were kept localized even when a superpower was directly involved. Potentially lethal crises (Berlin 1949, Korea 1950, Cuba 1963) were de-escalated due to the implicit rationality of both sides’ decision-making calculus. The bipolar model was the product of unique circumstances without an adequate historical precedent, however, which are unlikely to be repeated.

The most stable model of international relations that is both historically recurrent and structurally repeatable in the future is the balance of power system in which no single great power is either physically able or politically willing to seek hegemony. This model was prevalent from the Peace of Westphalia (1648) until Napoleon, and again from Waterloo until around 1900. It is based on a relative equilibrium between the key powers that hold each other in check and function within a recognized set of rules. Wars do occur, but they are limited in scope and intensity because the warring parties tacitly accept the fundamental legitimacy and continued existence of their opponent(s).

If one of the powers becomes markedly stronger than others and if its decision-making elite internalizes an ideology that demands or at least justifies hegemony, the inherently unstable system of asymmetrical multipolarity will develop. In all three known instances — Napoleonic France after 1799, the Kaiserreich in 1914, and the Third Reich after 1933 — the challenge could not be resolved without a major war. Fore the past two decades, the U.S. has been acting in a similar manner. Having proclaimed itself the leader of an imaginary “international community,” it goes further than any previous would-be hegemon in treating the entire world as the American sphere of interest. Bush II is gone, but we are still stuck with the doctrine that allows open-ended political, military, and economic domination by the United States acting unilaterally and pledged “to keep military strength beyond challenge.”

Any attempt by a single power to keep its military strength beyond challenge is inherently destabilizing. Neither Napoleon nor Hitler knew any “natural” limits, but their ambition was confined to Europe. With the United States today, the novelty is that this ambition is extended literally to the whole world. Not only the Western Hemisphere, not just the “Old Europe,” Japan, or Israel, but also unlikely places like Kosovo or the Caucasus, are considered vitally important. The globe itself is now effectively claimed as America’s sphere of influence

The U.S. became the agent of revolutionary dynamism with global ambitions, in the name of ideological norms of “democracy, human rights and open markets,” and NATO is the enforcement mechanism of choice. That neurotic dynamism is resisted by the emerging coalition of weaker powers, acting on behalf of the essentially “conservative” principles of state sovereignty, national interest, and reaffirmation of the right to their own spheres of geopolitical dominance. The doctrine of global interventionism is bound to produce an effective counter-coalition. The neoliberal-neoconservative duopoly still refuses to grasp this fact. Ukraine’s decision to give up its NATO candidacy makes a modest but welcome contribution to the long-overdue return of sanity inside the Beltway “foreign policy community.”

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Abuse Was Not Common, Says Cardinal

Child abuse was not at all common during his 38 years as a catholic bishop, Dutch cardinal Ad Simonis told the Volkskrant on Thursday.

‘If there were 10 cases, then that is a lot,’ the paper quoted Simonis as saying.

Although he declined to say how many cases he was aware of, the cardinal did say one priest had been sacked.

‘If a priest was involved, I was responsible. If it was a member of a religious order, it was up to the order itself,’ he said.

Some 80% of the cases which have now been registered with the church authorities involve religious orders rather than priests, Simonis told the paper. ‘That is a world that was far from mine, and one I had never anything to do with,’ the cardinal said.

600 claims

Over 600 claims of sexual abuse by priests, monks and nuns have been registered with the church since the scandal broke in the Netherlands last month.

Former parliamentary chairman and CDA member Wim Deetman is to chair an independent investigation into the reports of sexual abuse at a number of Catholic boarding schools.

The far-ranging investigation was ordered by Catholic bishops following mounting reports of abuse by priests at schools and seminaries in the 1960s and 1970s.

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

Netherlands: CDA Buries Kilometer Tax, For Now at Least

The Christian Democrats have abandoned their support for the kilometer tax on motoring as proposed by transport minister Camiel Eurlings but will include a revised proposal in their election manifesto, the Volkskrant reports on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Eurlings told MPs he had stopped all preparations for the introduction of the controversial tax and was setting aside no more cash to fund the start-up.

CDA transport spokesman Ger Koopmans said he had ‘great doubts’ about the proposal as it now stands and that there is ‘great unhappiness’ about the plan in society at large.

Nevertheless, Koopmans said, he is not opposed to a tax on motoring in principle — and that it will be unavoidable in the years to come.


Therefore the CDA election programme will include some form of road pricing, the Volkskrant said.

During the debate, Eurlings said he would continue to defend the concept of a kilometer tax. ‘But I wanted it to be introduced fairly and with wide support,’ he said.

The system proposed by Eurlings involved fitting every car with a small gps transmitter which would register car movements. Drivers would be billed every month for the distance they had driven. Extra charges would be levied on rush-hour motoring.


Left-wing green MP Ineke van Gent accused the CDA of paying lip service to the tax over the past three years. And she warned that the government may be faced with damages claims from all the private sector companies which have been involved in developing the systems.

The project had an estimated start-up cost of €4bn.

The NRC points out that the transport ministers have been trying for the past 22 years to introduce some form of road pricing in the Netherlands but the plans have always failed because of a lack of popular support.

An experiment with a kilometer tax system had been due to start around Amsterdam shortly. It is not clear what the status of that project now is.

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

Netherlands: Wilders’ PVV in Opposition in Almere

The anti-Islam party PVV has not been able to find enough parties prepared to form a coalition administration in Almere, local party leader Raymond de Roon said on Wednesday evening.

The PVV emerged as the largest party in the new town following the local elections.

‘In the meetings I have held with the other eight parties it has emerged that they are unwilling to make concesions to PVV voters,’ De Roon was reported as saying.

Among issues the party considers crucial are the introduction of urban commandos on the streets, a headscarf ban in public buildings and local tax cuts.

De Roon said the right-wing Liberals VVD, seen by many as the most likely partner for the PVV, wanted a broad coalition of PVV, VVD and Labour, which was second in the local vote. ‘This is an illusion, given Labour’s position,’ De Roon said.

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

Netherlands: Online Islamic Sex-Shop Opens for Business

The sex products Dutch Muslims used to bring back from the Middle East are now available online.

Illustration HajoAbdelaziz Aouragh is a Muslim, lives in Amsterdam, and deals in sex articles. His webshop El Asira, which is for Muslims, will soon be selling Pure Power capsules which “heighten male performance, desire and pleasure”, Desire capsules for women, sensual stimulators for him and her and lubricants based on cocoa butter, water or silicon. El Asira calls itself “the first Islamic online webshop for sex articles and care products”. Its webshop should be open for business starting this weekend.

The combination of Islam and sex products is not an obvious one. When Aouragh’s business partner Stefan Delsink suggested selling sex items, Aouragh was dubious. A day later he agreed. “I knew that Muslims do have a need for sex products. People bring them back from the Middle East and give them to young couples,” he said.

Not knowing whether his religion would allow the trade in sex products, Aouragh visited an imam, who in turn consulted a Saudi sheik. It was allowed, he learned, as long as the products are halal and are meant to improve sex within marriage. “There is even a fatwa on the subject.” That just left the problem of how to tell his parents. “It’s a forbidden subject for the first generation here,” he said. Whenever his parents bring the matter up, Aouragh tries to quickly change the subject. “I tell them: yes, um, could I have some more tea?”

Abdelaziz Aouragh (29) is an orthodox Muslim with a Dutch trading instinct. He was born in the east of Amsterdam to a Moroccan carpenter. He has a pointed nose, a tuft of hair on his chin and thin oval glasses. He works at Schiphol airport assisting disabled transit passengers. His wife was born in Morocco and they have a three-year-old daughter. Last year they went on their first hadj, a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Changing the image of Islam

As well as making money, Aouragh wants his sex shop to change the image of Islam as hostile to women. “The image of women in the kitchen, submissive, dressed in a burkah isn’t true. There is a lot of love. Islam has a lot of respect for women. Our shop puts the woman at the centre of things.” The webshop also offers information and people can find answers to their questions there.

The imam who advised El Asira is Boularia Houari, a 35-year-old glass fibre cable technician who gives Koran lessons and preaches on request at various mosques. He is with Aouragh for our second meeting. He has a beard, speaks poor Dutch and wears a black cap. He says he gives sexual advice to many married people. “People are afraid of Viagra; it’s a medicine. In Islam there are herbs which help. Poppy seed oil, pure honey. Scholars recommend these too.”

According to Islam, sex is simple: outside marriage it’s forbidden, within marriage it’s encouraged. With condoms?

Aouragh confers with Houari in Arabic. Then he says: “Yes, that is accepted. The contraceptive pill too, although it’s better not to use this. Some women’s physiology is such that the pill still has an effect after they stop taking it.”

He asks Houari something, then explains coitus interruptus is allowed but that condoms are preferred. “A condom is better for maximum sexual pleasure because the penis is not withdrawn when orgasm is reached. It’s important in Islam that both men and women reach orgasm. If a woman is not satisfied, she will use impure methods like masturbation or vibrators.”

Web design

Stefan Delsink (29) designed the website for El Asira, which means something like society, tribe, or village. The Surinamese-Dutch Delsink works in a care home and runs a graphic design agency with his brother. Aouragh says his partner respects Muslims. “About everything, he asks if it is permitted. For instance, you won’t find pictures of men and women on the website. That’s not allowed.”

“I’m always deleting these. I had to build a site with an erotic and exclusive look. Try doing that without pictures,” Delsink said.

Neither Delsink nor Aouragh had much knowledge of sex products. Aouragh searched the net for a supplier in halal products for sexual health without animal fats. He spoke first to a Dutchman but that fell through. “His products contained chemicals and he had some misleading photos on his packaging,” Aouragh explained.

El Asira’s products are halal. But what if a single person buys Pure Power capsules? Or a couple uses the lubricant in an un-Islamic way, for instance for sex during menstruation? “That was my question to the scholar,” says Aouragh. “He said to forget that. It’s not my responsibility. Sinful behaviour will be punished after death.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Shipowners: Italy Mediterranean Hub

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Italy has an old shipping tradition, and has consolidated it over the last few years with massive aid, leaving the country with a well-run, technologically advanced and “young” fleet. This has been a gamble, but also a challenge, one that naturally looks towards the Mediterranean but also beyond it. In Rome today, as part of the annual meeting of the Italian Confederation of Shipowners (Confitarma), the presidency changed hands from the outgoing Nicola Coccia to the incoming Paolo d’Amico. Their speeches — Coccia’s marking the end of his term, d’Amico’s revolving more around the upcoming programme — concentrated on the problems of Italian shipowners who, like the other components of Italy’s economy, have felt the consequences of the crisis (which in hitting consumers has also hit transport) though there has been no decline in commitment nor in investment. Italian shipowners, as d’Amico pointed out, look towards the Mediterranean, and not only because it is the sea that their country overlooks. “In the last few months, the Mediterranean has been much talked about,” he said. “Italy’s revival as a strategic hub in the Mediterranean basin is among the government’s top priorities”. This is, he added, a position that can only be shared “even if I must say that our historic leadership in the Mediterranean is now strongly questioned, especially with regard to the maritime and port sectors”. The new Confitarma president explicitly named France and Spain as Italy’s main competitors in the Mediterranean. France, on account of its promotion of the Union for the Mediterranean, and Spain because of the strengthening of its port network, the result of significant investment in infrastructure. As well as this, d’Amico said, Italy has strong links with countries in the south of the basin, which translate to 25 million euros in export and 39 in imports. Finally d’Amico sent out an appeal to the government, in which he said that “we must re-establish our role in the area, through a concrete appreciation of development factors.” The president of Confitarma also asked the government to remember the role played by Sea Highways and, especially, of the sea travel’s contribution to the containment of harmful CO2 emissions. This commitment, though, seems to have been wiped out by a new law. Ecological incentives seem to have been transferred to rail transport, making maritime and railway transport seem “alternatives to one another, though from an environmental point of view, they are not,” he commented bitterly. Nicola Coccia also had a dig at the machinery of the State, and particularly the tortuous route needed to escape from the swamp of red tape that Italian bureaucracy creates. He added that administrative burdens in the sector were also high. Each new ship costs 100,000 euros in delivery and 30,000 euros a year. The figure is too high, and efforts to get the maritime sector on a more even footing — with the proposal of two new bills — have had no effect, despite the approval of the appropriate parliamentary commissions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: High Demand for Muhammad Cartoons

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has confirmed that he has sold around 20 copies of his cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog to private collectors, according to the Helsingborgs Dagbladet daily.

“The interest for the drawings is pretty high. I have so far sold around 20 pieces. It is a scanned version on better quality paper and signed,” the controversial artist confirmed to the newspaper.

Vilks said that the interest has come from private buyers and added that he experiences no moral dilemma selling a work that many consider deeply insulting.

“To sell a provocative and offensive picture is not something that I see as problematic. So far it has also only concerned private purchases. If an institution would buy it in, it would most certainly be regarded in a different way,” Vilks said.

In a new turn to the controversy which returned to the spotlight this month after the discovery of an alleged plot to murder the unrepentant artist, a colleague Kent Viberg has created a similar piece featuring Vilks in place of the prophet Muhammad.

When the alleged plot became known on March 9th, several major Swedish newspapers re-printed the cartoons as a gesture of support for Vilks and freedom of expression, but Viberg has instead accused his colleague of being interested only in marketing himself.

“I do not feel sorry for Lars Vilks,” Viberg told local Karlshamn newspaper Östran arguing that the Muhammad cartoons contribute neither to art nor the public debate.

Kent Viberg unveiled his work at a roundabout in the southern Swedish city of Karlshamn on Thursday featuring a French bull dog with a photograph of Lars Vilks at its head.

Vilks responded by arguing that he considers the debate over freedom of expression to be an important one and that there remain problems to be discussed.

Lars Vilks’ Muhammad cartoons were first published in local Örebro newspaper Nerikes Allehanda in 2007 to accompany an editorial on freedom of expression. Vilks confirmed to Helsingborgs Dagblad that customer demand to buy the cartoons was fairly non-existent at the time.

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

Swiss Offer Firms Haven From British Tax Hikes

Over the past few months prime British companies and high earners have reportedly threatened to pick up sticks and relocate to Switzerland to avoid rising taxes.

From April, a 50 per cent tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 (SFr242,000) comes into force. Britain, which for years appeared to encourage personal wealth, is now being described as a “hostile environment” for the rich.

Banks and hedge fund firms have been the main focus of reports about potential company relocations. But at the beginning of March, the chemical manufacturer Ineos announced it was thinking about shifting its global headquarters from England to Switzerland for tax purposes.

Britain’s largest privately held company believes the potential saving for the business would be quite significant.

“We estimate a saving of €450 million (SFr650 million) on tax charges between now and 2014 by relocating,” Ineos spokesman Richard Longden told “This would enable us to reinvest within the business and improve our long-term competitiveness.”

However, the giant chemical maker remains committed to its 3,700 workforce in Britain and only around 20 of the 170 employees at the company’s current headquarters in Lyndhurst would initially make the move to Switzerland.

Mass exodus?

Switzerland’s low corporate tax rates have for some years persuaded foreign firms, principally from the United States, to set up or move European headquarters and administrative holding companies inside Swiss borders.

This trend to set up low maintenance satellite offices in Switzerland seems to be mirrored in the financial sector. Banks and hedge funds have been shouting loudest in recent months about a mass migration out of London’s square mile.

Yet, the idea that wealthy city traders would quit the City in their droves for an alpine tax haven has not as yet materialised.

Some complain that this threat from companies to relocate en masse was always intended to be no more than a move of name and a ruse to dodge taxes.

“They are using legal mechanisms to evade paying tax in the countries where the profits are actually generated,” said John Christensen, director of the London-based Tax Justice Network, a tax reform lobbying group. “Very often it’s just some sort of caretaker dressed up as a secretary who actually resides in these places.”

“This, for us, is a sign of a massively broken financial architecture.” he told

“ People in the UK are afraid of what might be coming, be it Gordon Brown as prime minister, or David Cameron. “

Marc Rudolf, Greater Zurich Area business promotion agency

London remains financial hub

London is still considered the principal powerhouse of finance in Europe. Eighty per cent of Europe’s hedge funds are currently based in the British capital and there is compelling logic for companies to be situated near other institutions, banks and legal services.

A Swiss government report late last year admitted the country could not “match the force of attraction and integration of international centres like London for hiring talent from all over the world”.

There is also a worry that proposed European Union reforms of the alternative investment industry may impede hedge funds working from Switzerland.

However, such concerns have not stopped relocation specialists investing time and money to promote opportunities for finance managers in Switzerland.

Last month, dozens of executives attended a Switzerland for Hedge Funds briefing in London’s Mayfair, the affluent heart of London’s alternative investment industry. Marc Rudolf from the Greater Zurich Area business promotion agency offered advice for those interested in moving.

“We were there holding up the flag and saying: ‘Hi, if you are thinking about moving away from the UK don’t just think of Ireland, Singapore and Malta, think of Switzerland’,” Rudolf told

Uncertainty fuels doubt

Some of the German-speaking cantons around Zurich can offer tax rates that never exceed 20 per cent.

By contrast, a recent report by tax specialists KPMG found that high earners in London will be the most taxed of any other financial centre when the 50 per cent top rate comes into force. London will leapfrog Geneva as a more expensive place for high flyers to work, while Zurich will remain towards the bottom of the list.

While Rudolf admits that most attending the Mayfair meeting were simply curious about relocating to Switzerland, he was aware of a continuing sense of unease in Britain’s financial sector.

“The whole issue is not only about taxes, it is also about insecurity — not being able to plan ahead,” he said.

“People in the UK are afraid of what might be coming, be it Gordon Brown as prime minister, or David Cameron. Debt in the UK and the budget deficit all point in the direction that taxes, if anything, will not decrease.”

Many British-based companies will be keeping a close eye on the impending British General Election. The outcome of that contest and the statements later issued from Downing Street, particularly on tax, may yet be the difference between some firms staying in Britain or moving to Switzerland.

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

Switzerland: Priest Resigns After Confessing Sex Abuse

An eastern Swiss diocese said on Wednesday a priest has resigned after admitting to sexually abusing children in the 1970s.

The Chur diocese says it approached the priest after being contacted by a victim on Monday.

It said the priest also acknowledged abuses in parts of neighbouring Austria and Germany that belong to the same diocese, and has reported himself to local police.

The statement didn’t specify how many cases of abuse were involved.

The Swiss Bishops Conference says there have been 60 alleged victims of abuse by Catholic priests in Switzerland in the last 15 years.

The admission comes amid numerous reports of abuse by Catholic clergy or church employees in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Senate Defines Plan to Expel Foreign Criminals

The Senate has come out against a proposal to automatically expel any foreign criminal, including those convicted of cheating welfare payments.

A majority clearly rejected on Thursday the initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. The Senate instead recommended approval of a counter-proposal which wants to limit expulsions to felonies.

“The initiative has serious shortcomings and makes false promises,” said Rolf Büttiker from the centre-right Radical Party.

He added however that the counter-proposal presented realistic measures to tackle a real concern of the population: crimes committed by foreigners.

A proposal mainly by the centre-left and some centre-right senators to declare the initiative null and void was dismissed by 28 to 13 votes.

The debate focused on issues including compatibility of the proposal with fundamental principles of international law and basic rights as well as respect of democratic decisions.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said she saw many reasons to back the counter-proposal, but not to back the initiative.

The Senate last December postponed the debate following a ballot on a ban on the construction of minarets which voters approved in defiance of the government and a majority of parliament.

The other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, still has to discuss the initiative before it is put to a nationwide vote.

Supporters collected 211,000 signatures for their initiative, which came in for international criticism over a controversial poster showing white sheep kicking out a black sheep.

The People’s Party ran a successful campaign with the poster ahead of the 2007 parliamentary election.

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

UK: Blatantly Biased Against Conservatives

SUN investigation has unearthed an alarming BBC bias against the Tories in the run up to the Election

Covert smears on David Cameron’s Conservatives are being made right across the state-owned network — sparking hundreds of viewers’ complaints. News coverage, chat shows and even kids’ TV are guilty.

We found:

BBC News gave disproportionate coverage to the row over Tory donor Lord Ashcroft’s tax status;

LABOUR panellists were given more time to speak on flagship political show Question Time;

A POLL on The One Show ignored issues with Gordon Brown to ask only, Is David Cameron too much of a toff to be PM?

THE Tory leader was stitched up when footage of him adjusting his hair was sneakily fed to all broadcasters;

THE Basil Brush Show featured a school election with a cheat called Dave wearing a blue rosette.

Critics claim the BBC may want to undermine the Tories for pledging to curb Corporation excesses.

Tory backbencher Douglas Carswell said: “The BBC is in the hands of a left-wing elite. They’re a privileged organisation run for the interests of the few not the many — which is why their views are closer to a broadcast version of the Guardian rather than a popular paper.”

Watchdog Mediawatch-UK director Vivienne Pattison stressed: “Under the BBC charter they are required to be neutral. It’s important — after all, we fund them.”

The BBC’s Lord Ashcroft coverage alone triggered 104 complaints. When the row over his “non-dom” status broke three weeks ago it led the Beeb’s TV and radio bulletins for up to six days — long after commercial broadcasters dropped it. But controversy over the similar status of up to eight Labour donors got just a fraction of the coverage. One listener to Radio Four’s Feedback programme emailed: “You have fallen for Mandelson’s spin again.”

A total of 219 viewers complained about The One Show poll, which followed a five-minute piece about Mr Cameron’s “posh” upbringing. Dozens more wrote on the show’s blog. One said: “The BBC should be ashamed of its blatant electioneering.”

The Sun’s analysis showed Labour politicians on Question Time were allowed to speak for a full minute longer than Tory counterparts.

On March 11 ex-Labour minister Caroline Flint got SIX minutes more than Tory Justine Greenings. And on February 18 Labour veteran Roy Hattersley spoke for nearly three minutes longer than Tory Rory Stewart.

Last week bosses tried to make Mr Cameron look a laughing stock by putting out footage of him checking his hair in the wind before making a serious statement on Northern Ireland. Party chiefs complained.

Then last Sunday BBC2’s Basil Brush Show featured nasty “Dave” — complete with blue rosette. He beat nice Rosie, with a purple rosette, by promising free ice cream but was arrested because it was out of date.

Last night the BBC admitted the One Show slot was “not as good as it should have been”. But a spokeswoman insisted: “The notion that the BBC is biased in is palpably not true. Our news coverage scrutinises all parties with rigour and impartiality.”


US: Barack Obama treats Britain and Israel with sneering contempt

Perhaps only one thing is certain about the course of the Obama administration’s ham-fisted foreign policy — there is no depth to which it will not stoop to kick America’s allies in the teeth while cuddling up to her enemies. In the past month we’ve seen ample evidence of this with the State Department’s appalling decision to openly side with Argentina against Great Britain over the Falklands, and the White House’s bullying of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Obama team swiftly issued a groveling apology to terrorist sponsor Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, for earlier casting aspersions over the Butcher of Tripoli’s call for a jihad against Switzerland. A barbaric Islamist tyrant with American blood on his hands is, incredibly, treated better than the leaders of both Britain and Israel.

The president declared in an interview with Fox News last night that “Israel’s one of our closest allies, and we and the Israeli people have a special bond that’s not going away.” Why then has he and his Secretary of State tried to humiliate the Israeli people and their government with a very public dressing down as well as petty retaliation for the decision to approve the building of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem? There was no need for this kind of very public spat, which has led to the gravest crisis in US-Israeli relations for 35 years. There will always be disagreements between friends, but they should be settled behind closed doors in private discussions, rather than the unforgiving amphitheatre of world opinion.

Israel is an independent country, not a satellite province ruled by imperial viceroy Rahm Emanuel. It is free to make its own decisions, some of which might upset the current occupants of the White House. Israel has survived for over 60 years in the face of insurmountable odds and an array of hostile regimes and bloodthirsty terrorist organizations backed by Iran and Syria. Like the United States and Great Britain, Israel possesses a tremendous warrior spirit that should be widely admired. It is under constant threat and has to literally fight for its survival on a daily basis. Israel deserves the Obama administration’s full support, not its contempt.

Contrast President Obama’s softly, softly treatment of the Iranian theocracy led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map — with that of his distinctly aggressive stance towards Israel. Every effort has been made to engage Tehran, and appease its leaders, from remaining silent over its brutal beating and murder of protestors to turning a blind eye to Tehran’s military and financial support for both the Taliban in Afghanistan and terrorist groups in Iraq. At the same time, the Iranians continue to bankroll and arm Hamas and Hizbollah, whose sole aim is the destruction of Israel.

In the space of just over a year, Barack Obama has managed to significantly damage relations with America’s two closest friends, while currying favour with practically every monstrous dictatorship on the face of the earth. The doctrine of “smart power” has evolved into the shameless appeasement of America’s enemies at the expense of existing alliances. There is nothing clever about this approach — it will ultimately weaken US global power and strengthen the hand of America’s enemies, who have become significantly emboldened and empowered by Barack Obama’s naïve approach since he took office.

The Obama presidency is causing immense damage to America’s standing in the free world, while projecting an image of weakness in front of hostile regimes. Its treatment of both Israel and Britain is an insult and a disgrace, and a grim reflection of an unbelievably crass and insensitive foreign policy that significantly undermines the US national interest.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Headmistress Wrongly Accused of Racism by Muslim Governors Wins £400,000 Payout

A headmistress hounded out of her job after being falsely accused of racism by two Muslim governors is entitled to £400,000 damages, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

Erica Connor, 57, had run a ‘happy and successful’ primary school but was driven to a breakdown by the allegations.

She left the New Monument primary school in Woking, Surrey, after Paul Martin — a Muslim convert — and Mumtaz Saleem began monopolising meetings with the aim of turning New Monument in Woking into an Islamic faith school.

The Surrey town is home to the first purpose-built mosque in the country — the Shah Jahan Mosque — which dates from 1889.

A deputy High Court judge ruled in March last year that Surrey County Council had failed in its duty to protect her and to intervene when the actions of the governors created problems. He awarded her £407,700 damages.

The council had appealed against the ruling, claiming it was not liable in law and had not acted negligently in dealing with the problem.

Lord Justice Laws, giving a ruling today, said Mrs Connor, who was promoted to head of the school in 1998, had suffered psychiatric damage and had to stop work in 2005 and retired a year later on ill-health grounds.

The school had a 80-85% Muslim intake and problems began in 2003 when Martin was elected a parent governor and Saleem was appointed as a local education authority governor.

Martin started making allegations about anti-Muslim comments by members of staff which led to an investigation by Mrs Connor.

She found that all the staff denied the allegations which she said had demoralised them.

An official review also found no evidence of deliberate racism or religious bias but said the governing body had become dysfunctional.

The High Court had been told Martin tried to stir up disaffection in the community against the school and Mr Saleem was verbally abusive in school meetings.

Although during the first five years that Mrs Connor was in charge of the school there had been good relations with the local Muslim community and improved results, the situation changed when the two men were elected as governors.

Judge John Leighton Williams ruled in the High Court that the men had an agenda to increase the role of the Muslim religion in the school and that this, combined with the authority’s failure to protect Mrs Connor, had led her to suffer serious depression.

When Martin was removed from the board of governors in June 2005, he wrote a letter of complaint saying it was because he had been raising complaints of institutional racism within the school.

A few days later a petition was circulated calling for Mrs Connor’s removal from the school and containing “defamatory and offensive remarks”, the appeal judges were told.

Lord Justice Laws said the High Court judge was right to find there had been negligence on the part of the council.

He said it was an unusual case — “partly because of the council’s lamentable capitulation to aggression”.

Lord Justice Sedley said: “Surrey County Council found itself faced with the unenviable task of responding in an equitable fashion to an inequitable campaign designed to capture a secular state school for a particular faith which happened to be that of a majority of the families whose children attended the school.”

He said the council had gone wrong by trying to compromise rather than protecting the head, the staff and the school.

“The picture that emerges from the careful and thorough (High Court) judgment is of a local education authority which had allowed itself to be intimidated by an aggressively conducted campaign to subvert the school’s legal status, a campaign which was plainly destabilising the school and placing the headteacher under intolerable pressure.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Date Set for Pastoral Letter on Irish Child Abuse

Vatican City, 18 March (AKI) — Pope Benedict XVI will on Saturday issue an historic pastoral letter on the damaging child sex abuse scandal in Ireland. The Vatican announced on Thursday that the letter will be published in English and Italian and will be the first Vatican document entirely devoted to paedophilia.

The Pope announced the letter during a special weekly general audience on Wednesday that coincided with celebrations for Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick.

“I ask all of you to read it for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith,” the pontiff said.

“My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal,” he added.

He described the Irish child sex abuse scandal as a “painful situation” which had “severely shaken” the Catholic Church.

Benedict spoke as the head of Ireland’s Catholic Church, Cardinal Sean Brady, apologised for mishandling a case of a notorious paedophile priest who allegedly abused hundreds of children in Ireland and elsewhere over several decades, before being finally jailed in the 1990s.

The Pope’s pastoral letter comes as hundreds of allegations, many going back decades, of systematic child abuse by Catholic clergy, have emerged this year in several European countries including Benedict’s native Germany, where it has caused outrage.

Earlier this week the Vatican sought to contain damage over reports in Germany linking the Pope himself to clerical abuse that occurred when he was an archbishop there.

Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, the now-Pope Benedict, had been involved in a decision to allow a priest accused in the town of Essen in 1979 of sex offences to stay at a rectory in his Munich archdiocese and undergo therapy, the Munich-based daily Suddeutsche Zeitung reported last Friday.

But the abuse scandal has had the widest ramifications in Ireland, where two government reports uncovered widespread abuse in schools and seminaries shocked the Catholic country.

In an unprecedented move, the Pope earlier this year summoned all 24 Irish bishops to the Vatican for a meeting to discuss the sex abuse scandal.

The Murphy Report, published last November, said the church in Ireland had “obsessively” concealed child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 to 2004.

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


Bosnian Genocide: Former US General: ‘Gays Make Dutch Military Weak’

A former American general has blamed homosexuals serving in the Dutch military for the fall of Srebrenica.

Fifteen years after the safe area of Srebrenica fell to Serb militias, an American general has found the cause: homosexuals had weakened the Dutch UN battalion charged with protecting the enclave. John Sheehan, a former high-ranking Nato official, said this on Thursday when he publicly addressed the American president Barack Obama’s plans to allow gays to serve in the military.

According to the charges brought against the Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic at the special tribunal in The Hague, 9,210 Muslim men were killed in Srebrenica and its surrounding area in 1995. A Dutch UN battalion had been charged with the task of protecting the valley against the Serbs. A study by the Dutch research institute NIOD has found that the soldiers did not have an adequate mandate to act and the battalion was insufficiently prepared.

Speaking in the American Senate, Sheehan said European countries tried to “socialise” their armed forces by letting people serve in the army too easily, which left them weakened.

The former general claimed his opinion was shared by the leadership of the Dutch armed forces. Carl Levin, chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee, asked: “Did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?”

Sheehan answered in the affirmative, mentioning the name "Hankman Berman”, most probably referring to the then chief of defence staff, Henk van den Breemen.

The Dutch minister of Defence, Eimert van Middelkoop, issued a statement to distance himself from Sheehan’s remarks, which he called “outrageous and unworthy of a soldier”. “I do not want to waste any more words on the matter,” Van Middelkoop said.

President Obama wants to put an end to the American ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, which bars gay soldiers from expressing their sexuality openly while simultaneously forbidding their superiors from asking about it. If a soldier comes out, he is sacked. It is uncertain whether Republicans will support Obama’s plan.

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

‘Gays in Dutch Army Responsible for Bosnian Genocide, ‘ Claims Former NATO Commander at U.S. Senate Hearing

Dutch officials have furiously rejected a claim by a U.S. general that Dutch troops were unable to defend against genocide in the Bosnian war because openly gay soldiers were allowed to serve in the military.

John Sheehan, a former Nato commander, said decisions to ‘socialise’ European armies to include ‘openly homosexual’ men meant battalions were ‘ill-equipped’ for war.

Critics said Sheehan, who spoke at the Senate Armed Service Committee in opposition to proposals to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. army, was ‘totally off-target’.

Sheehan, who retired from the military 1997, said the end of the Cold War made Europeans even lazier than they already were, and that they let the Serbs walk all over them in Srebrenica in 1995.

‘The battalion was under-strength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims off, and executed them,’ Sheehan said.

‘That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War Two,’ he said of the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men after Serbian forces captured the town.

He added European militaries deteriorated after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Carl Levin, a Senate Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was incredulous at the general’s remarks.

‘Did the Dutch leaders tell you it [the fall of Srebrenica] was because there were gay soldiers there?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ Sheehan replied.

‘They included that as part of the problem.’

He said the former chief of staff of the Dutch army had made the claim to him.

Levin said it may be the case that some militaries have focused on peacekeeping to the detriment of their war-fighting skills.

‘But I think that any effort to connect that failure on the part of the Dutch to the fact that they have homosexuals, or did allow homosexuals, I think is totally off-target,’ he added.

Dutch Defence Ministry spokesman, Roger Van de Wetering, dismissed the retired general’s claims.

‘For us it is unbelievable that a man of this rank is stating this nonsense, because that is what it is,’ he said.

‘The whole operation in Srebrenica and the drama that took place over there was thoroughly investigated by Dutch and international authorities and none of these investigations has ever concluded or suggested a link between homosexual military personnel and the things that happened over there.

‘I do not know on what facts this is based, but for us it is total nonsense.’

On the Dutch attitude to gays in the military, he said: ‘For us it is very simple: Every man or woman that meets the criteria physically and mentally is welcome to serve in our armed forces regardless of (religious) belief, sexual preference or whatever.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Durable House Goods: Italian Indesit Hopeful About Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 18 — A CEO of Italian durable house goods producer, Indesit, said the company had confidence in Turkey, and expressed pleasure with the Turkish market. “Our turnover was 2.6 billion euros last year, and we are very pleased with the Turkish market and we are pleased about what we have done in Turkey,” CEO Marco Milani told a meeting of Hotpoint-Ariston dealers in the Mediterranean city of Antalya. Milani said Turkey would be one of the most advantageous markets in coming years, and defined Turkey as one of the best markets in Europe. The CEO, as Anatolia news agency reports, said the company had raised its market share in Turkey to 8% despite global crisis in 2009. Milani forecast a bright future for Turkey, and Indesit wanted to make Turkey be a base for the Balkans, Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. The CEO defined Turkey as a developed, modern, big, European, efficient and effective country with a significant geographical location. “Also, Turkey is an ideal country for investments, and Turkey has a young and growing population,” Milani said adding that Turkey was also important country as a door opening to the Middle East and other eastern countries. The Indesit CEO said the company was producing refrigerators in its factory in the Aegean province of Manisa, and planning to increase its refrigerator production. Milani said the company would invest 10 million euros in the factory, and planned to produce 1.3 million refrigerators in this factory. The factory was exporting 80% of its products particularly to European countries, Milani said adding that Indesit aimed to earn some 200 million euros from its exports. Indesit Company is Europe’s second largest manufacturer of home appliances by market share. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Research Mission to Set Up Mediterranean Bank

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 16 — French president Nicolas Sarkozy, co-president with Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak of the Union for the Mediterranean, entrusted to Charles Milhaud, former President of the Caisse d’Epargne, a research mission on the possibility of creating a bank dedicated to financing co-development in the Mediterranean. Milhaud will preside a commission comprising ten members, including Attijariwafa Bank president/general director Mohamed el Kettani, European Investment Bank vice president Philippe de Fontaine Vive-Curtaz, Im Bank director Abderahman Hadjnacer, and the advisor of Bnp Paribas president, Jean Lemierre. The commission, which met for the first time in the presence of Henri Guaino, Sarkozy’s special advisor, will have to submit a first report to the head of State by this May. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stop Violence Against Women, Priority of EU Program

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — To stop the violence against women: this is the priority issue to be dealt with in all countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, according to what has emerged from analysis carried out by the EuroMed Gender Equality Programme (EGEP), which has focused on the condition of women of the area in a roundtable organised in Brussels. The ‘Programme to enhance quality between men and women in the EuroMed Region’, financed by the EU as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, involves nine partner countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Tunisia). “There are national strategies,” explains Judith Neisse, team leader of EGEP, “like the case of Morocco, where studies have already been carried out, or else countries where studies are underway such as in Tunisia. Several countries have laws on sexual harassment in its penal code, for example Israel and Morocco. The EGEP programme will specifically help the conducting of a national study in Jordan and in Lebanon, because they are the two countries that have still not carried it out.” There are states that have inserted violence against women into their penal code and not into private law: “for example,” Neisse continues, “Jordan and Morocco: this is already a step in the direction of the criminalisation of violence, independently of who commits it. Family law in fact often does not allow the charging of husbands who commit violent acts: it is said that they are family disputes, tensions, there is a certain trivialisation of the phenomenon.” Another key issue for Mediterranean countries is the role of women in the decision-making process, in public and in private. “We talk about the presence of women,” explains Neisse, “in the economic and political world, but also of their role in the family. In several countries, women have a lower status, because legislation, private law and family law, is still based on religion. In several cases, the approach is archaic, especially for marriage or divorce. Also in the case of Israel, due to the attachment to the law of Moses’ time.” To make family law lay is one of the aims to be reached for women in the Mediterranean region. According to Neisse, a case where it would be absolutely necessary is Lebanon “with its multiconfessionalism, where ever religious community has its rules, from Orthodox Christians to Shia and Sunni Muslim, with action differing from one community to the other. A solution would be to have a single family code, based on non-religious considerations.” Several countries “have begun to work on the better interpretation of the Islamic law,” states Neisse, “with respect to the international conventions, such as Morocco and Algeria.” Whilst Tunisia boasts women’s status and a family code that is very advanced. The idea of EGEP is to create subgroups of EU Partner Countries at regional level in order to work on training at sub-regional level. “After gathering data and the priorities,” Neisse concluded, “for the final phase we have a series of regional seminars to work with other figures involved. We will identify a series of priorities of groups of countries, on the basis of which we will carry out training, between the second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 2010-2014 Growth, +6% Excluding Hydrocarbons

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MARCH 16 — The growth rate of Algeria’s economy (excluding hydrocarbons) from 2010 to 2014 will be stable at 6%. The statement was made by the Minster of Labour and Social Security Tayeb during the third Maghreb workshop on the employment market for more vulnerable fringes. The Minister stated that “In the economic plan up to 2014 the growth rate will stabilise at approximately 6%, excluding hydrocarbons”, and added that “this will lower the unemployment rate below 10% before the end of the five-year period”. Both agriculture and industry are sectors that will guarantee more growth aside from services, construction and public works. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: New Radio Program for S.Mubarak Women Peace Mouvement

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 17- Nagwa Shoeib, the Director-General of the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Mouvement (SMWIPM), said that as of Saturday a new radio program will be launched under the auspices of the mouvement, reports Egyptian news agency MENA . The new program entitled “Peace Egypt!” will be aired on Masr Radio station at 8 pm, Shoeib said. In statements Wednesday, Shoeib said that the two-hour program comes as a result of various workshops held by the SMWIPM’s movement. The new program will provide an opportunity for Egyptian youth to hold dialogue with the aim of opening new channels of communication with youth from other countries, she said. The Movement works to eradicate violence in all its forms by activating the power of women and youth to participate as key influencers, change agents and active partners in peace processes. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak Will be the Next President, Intellectual Heggy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 16 — If the current president of the Egyptian Republic were to have the necessary strength and still be up and about at the beginning of 2011, then he will be the next Egyptian Head of State. The Egyptian liberal and intellectual Tarek Heggy has no doubts on the matter of who will be the one to win the upcoming presidential elections in the Land of the Pharaohs. Names such as Mohamed ElBaradei — former IAEA Director General and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2005 — or Ahmad Zewail, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1999, are not solid alternatives despite the international renown they enjoy. “At a theoretical level, names like these are of large-scale impact, but at a practical one the country is not ready for such figures. If Hosni Mubarak does not take on the role, then it will be a candidate representing the military to lead Egypt,” Heggy told ANSAmed yesterday in Rome. The occasion was the presentation organised by the Averroe Centre of his latest work, ‘The Prisons of the Arab Mind’ (‘Le Prigioni della Mente Arab’, published by Marietti). Son of the 1950s of a modern, secular Egypt, Tarek Heggy — currently considered one of the most important liberal intellectuals of the Arab cultural panorama — has today gone back to living in his home country after 20 years abroad. It is a country difficult for him to live in and, as he pointed out, is one torn by inter-religious conflict. He said that “the government continues to claim it wants to arrest those who kill members of the Christian community. However, Copts continue to be discriminated against and be subjected to violence.” It all depends on the political will of the government, noted Heggy, “and this government has immense power.” The way to achieve peace between the country’s various religious groups is not yet clear to this managerial class, said Heggy: “what is not clear to the managerial class is that either we begin with education and the media, expressing a determined, strong political will to say that wéve had enough, or crimes like those in Nagaa Hammadi will continue to repeat themselves for eternity.” With a degree in Jurisprudence from Cairo’s Ain Shams University and a specialisation from the University of Geneva, Heggy is the author of numerous writings on the Arab world and Islam. In a context like Egypt — in which radical Islam seems to be spreading gradually and organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood seem to be gaining ever more political weight — following the death of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, the designation of the latter’s successor takes on an essential role. On the religious leader who was also his friend, Heggy said that “two names have been going round: one is that of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, while the other is the current president of the university, Ahmad El Tayyeb.” Heggy said that both are moderates, “but I think and hope that President Mubarak will indicate Ahmad El Tayyeb, since I consider him to be a true liberal.” Today the role of Cairo’s oldest religious academic institute in the Islamic world has been reduced to a considerable extent, noted Heggy, with a large part of the funding now coming from Saudi Arabia. “Thanks to the funding,” he said, “the Saudi kingdom is spreading its medieval vision of the Koran throughout the entire world. Al Azhar may be able to regain an important role in the Sunni world, but only if the Egyptian government, through the designation of a new, moderate religious leader, manages to bring in a new direction for the university.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU Commission, Against Sidestepping Schengen

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 17 — EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has “always” pointed out that the EU Commission is “contrary to proposals or initiatives that aim to not take a warning made by a Schengen country into consideration” because this “would re-open the debate on the solidarity between the countries” that are part of the Schengen, said Malmstrom’s spokesman, Michele Cercone. Cercone was responding to questions from journalists on a proposal made yesterday by Malta on issuing visas with territorial limits extending to other Schengen countries to sidestep the Swiss blacklist that includes 188 Libyan nationals including Colonel Gaddafi. Cercone then reiterated that the new rules for issuing Schengen visas with territorial limits go into effect on April 5 and are “very clear”. A proposal similar to what was advanced by Malta was also made by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during his recent visit to Tripoli. The head of Italian diplomacy explained that he wants to advance the proposal at the next meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on March 22.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU Urges Bern on Visas, Act Quickly

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom spoke on the phone today with Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer Schlumpf on the visa dispute between Bern and Tripoli. During the conversation Malmstrom confirmed that the European Commission “expects the two sides to find a solution as soon as possible”, and asked Switzerland “with urgency to act rapidly and efficiently to put an end to the bilateral dispute, which risks jeopardising the coherence of the entire Schengen system”. Berna — sources in Bruxelles suggest — could start removing some of the names of Libyan officials from the black list of 186 Libyans, including the leader Colonel Gaddafi and many of his family members, who are not to be allowed into the Schengen area. Cecilia Malmstrom has “always” pointed out that the EU Commission is “contrary to proposals or initiatives that aim to not take a warning made by a Schengen country into consideration” because this “would re-open the debate on the solidarity between the countries” that are part of the Schengen area said Malmstrom’s spokesman, Michele Cercone. He was responding to questions from journalists on a proposal made yesterday by Malta on issuing visas with territorial limits extending to other Schengen countries to sidestep the Swiss blacklist. Cercone then reiterated that the new rules for issuing Schengen visas with territorial limits go into effect on April 5 and are “very clear”. A proposal similar to what was advanced by Malta was also made by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini during his recent visit to Tripoli. The head of Italian diplomacy explained that he wants to advance the proposal at the next meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on March 22. While European diplomacy is acting to resolve the diplomatic crisis between Libya and Switzerland, the resulting ‘visa crisis’ for Schengen citizens arriving to Tripoli continues to create problems. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sahel: Medelci, Cooperation Necessary

(ANSA) — ALGIERS, MARCH 16 — “Security is an unalienable condition for development which is now being threatened by terrorism and its links to organised crime”. The statement was made today in Algiers by Mourad Medelci, the Algerian Foreign Minister during the opening of the conference against terrorism. The meeting is being attended by the Foreign Ministers of seven Countries of the Sahel-Sahara region (Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, aside from Algeria) with the objective of “assessing the terrorist threats that see a dangerous increase and a new dimension with their growing links to weapons and drugs trafficking”. Medelci told the Aps agency that “The meeting bears witness to our acknowledgement, both individually and collectively, of the importance of this threat”, and added that “the instauration of border cooperation between our Countries is crucial to deal with it”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Abbas Presses EU on Settlement End, Lieberman: ‘No’

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH/JERUSALEM, MARCH 17 — The President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, today handed an appeal o the EU Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, who in the last few hours has visited Ramallah and Jerusalem, the key stage in her tour of the Middle East. The document requests that the EU put pressure on Israel to stop the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The appeal was handed in during a meeting at the end of which Ashton did not comment. Straight afterwards, the EU Representative moved on to Jersusalem, where for the first time she met Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who again made clear his government’s refusal to put an end to construction. Lieberman said that Israel was ready not only to begin proximity talks with the PNA, as trumpeted in the last few months by the US, but also “immediate direct negotiations”. However, he labelled as “unreasonable” the request to freeze the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem (the mainly Arab section of the city whose annexing by Israel is not recognised by the international community). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Building in Jerusalem for 40 Years, Peres to Ashton

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 18 — Israeli President Shimon Peres says that Israel has been building in Jerusalem for 40 years, since the occupation of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 conflict, without objections from the International community or from the Palestinians. Peres’s words came during a meeting this morning with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton. “For over 40 years, a certain model has been followed: Israel builds in the suburban Jewish areas and not in areas that are mainly Arab. This line has been followed by all governments and has been accepted by everyone; indeed, even by the Palestinians,” Peres said. The Prime Minister was referring to fierce criticism by Palestinians and the international community, relating to new expansion plans for Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, over which the Palestinians claim sovereignty. Ashton said that she had travelled to Israel in order to express the EU’s support and active participation in the peace process, as well as to strengthen bilateral economic ties between Israel and the EU. The EU representative then moved on to the Gaza Strip to visit humanitarian projects financed by the EU and will head to Ramallah this afternoon for talks with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Salam Fayyad. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Ban: Israeli Policy is Counterproductive

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, MARCH 16 — The Israeli policy towards the Gaza Strip is “counterproductive” and “it is time to change direction”. The statement was made by UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon only days ahead of his visit to Gaza. Opening a press conference in the UN building, the general secretary emphasised that “the overall situation has not made any progress, and that is the reason why the Quartet (UN, EU, USA and Russia) will meet in Moscow in the next days, debating all the hang-ups and pushing for the reopening of negotiations between the parties”. The UN’s general secretary also made an appeal to “hold on to calm and moderation” in Jerusalem, where violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians have been reported. Opening a press conference in the UN building, the general secretary stated that “To move towards a fair resolution of this conflict we need for all parties to hold on to calm and moderation”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Shadow of Pro-Al Qaida Salafis is Back

(ANSAmed) — GAZA/TEL AVIV, MARCH 18 — The presence of Salafite fundamentalist groups and fringe groups, which claim to be based on Al Qaida, was felt again today in the Gaza Strip when a Qassam rocket was launched. The rocket came down in the south of Israel and killed a Thai farm labourer. A few hours before this attack, two more rocket were fired without causing damage. Responsibility for the attack has been claimed, through a text message, by a hardly known organisation in the Palestinian Territories, Ansar al-Sunni (Sunni Partisans), the same name used in the past by a Sunni terrorist movement active in Iraq and an extreme fundamentalist movement banned in the UK. Ansar al-Sunni, whose claim has to be verified, refers to the tensions caused by the Israeli activities in the old city of Jerusalem and the eastern part of the city (with an Arab majority). The movement states that the attack is a “Jihadist response to the Zionist aggression against the Al Aqsa mosque”. Authentic or not, the message brings back the ghost of that seems to be expanding in the Territories: the ghost of a nucleus of Salafite militia, fanatically devoted to the international Jihad and to competing with the Islam fundamentalism of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. These fanatics consider Hamas fundamentalism to be too weak in its application of the Sharia (law based on the Koran), and too far removed from the idea of “Global Caliphate” preached by Osama Bin Laden. It is not easy to make an analysis of these factions. Local analysts agree that they form a minority compared with Hamas, which has at least 25,000 armed troops, controls the Gaza Strip and seems to be widely supported by the people. But some of the new groups already have hundreds of followers dedicated to death (their own death and the death of others). Some former Hamas militiamen have left the movement, disappointed in the ‘compromises’ allegedly made by its political branch. In the past Hamas apparently has tried to establish a modus vivendi with these fringe groups: for example with Jaysh al-Islam, liked to the powerful Doghmush family clan and involved in joint operations like the capture of Israeli soldier Ghilad Shalit. With the more rebellious groups however, an open conflict has broken out, for example with Jaysh al-Umma, whose leader, Abu Hafs, has been arrested. Another group, Jund Ansar Allah (Allah’s warriors), staged a real rebellion in June 2009, with tens of armed ‘mujahidin’ in the mosque-bunker of Rafah (southern part of the Gaza Strip). The revolt was crushed by Hamas after a violent battle that lasted several hours. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

H. Clinton: Israelis-Palestinians Must Commit to Peace

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, MARCH 16 — The United States wants a complete commitment from Israelis and Palestinians in favour of the peace process, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today in Washington while speaking with the press after a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin. Clinton confirmed the absolute commitment of the U.S. for the defence of Israeli security, a country with which it has “strong and solid” ties. “We are involved in very active discussions with the Israelis on measures (to be taken) in order to demonstrate their commitment towards the peace process,” said Clinton. The Secretary of State added that Washington has “an absolute commitment to defend Israel’s security. There are close and indestructible ties between the U.S. and Israel”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hamas Fans Flames of Islamic Anger Following “Day of Rage”

by Jonathan Spyer

Hamas leaders are seeking to escalate Palestinian unrest over the supposed Israeli threat to Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. In addition to reflecting the movement’s ideological goals, this effort makes good political sense.

Hamas seeks to supplant the West Bank Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. It knows that by returning the focus of the conflict to the explosive issue of Islamic pride and outrage over the loss of holy places, it can present itself as the natural leader of the Palestinians, and its opponents as irrelevancies or, worse, collaborators.

For this reason, Hamas spokesmen and leaders in the West Bank, Gaza and beyond have been busily fanning the flames of Arab and Muslim anger since the “Day of Rage” in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The main focus, notably, is the supposed threat to the Aksa Mosque represented by the rebuilding of the Hurva Synagogue, rather than that of construction in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood or broader Palestinian grievances.

Speaking at a conference organized by the Hamas authorities in Gaza City on Wednesday, Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told his audience that “what is happening now exposes the reality of Jerusalem’s future and the Jews’ plans.”

He urged Palestinians not to fear a “religious or nonreligious war” and declared that Jerusalem will “always remain Islamic.”

Haniyeh went on to call for an emergency session of the Islamic Conference Organization countries to support Palestinian protests in Jerusalem. He castigated the PA for preventing protesters from “defending their lands and holy sites.”

This basic message was repeated in statements by other senior Palestinian officials in the last days. In Damascus, Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mashaal announced the launching of an “open-ended campaign for Jerusalem and the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Palestine.”

Mashaal praised the role of ‘1948’ Palestinians (that is, Arab citizens of Israel) in the protests so far. He said that Israel was “playing with fire” and risked triggering a region-wide war…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Israel Should Return Golan to Syria, Napolitano

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, MARCH 18 — Israel should return the Golan Heights to Syria as part of the Middle East peace process, visiting Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said today. Speaking after his talks with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Napolitano also expressed his concern over the expansion of Israeli settlements in Arab East Jerusalem and the consequences this could have on the peace process. Napolitano also hoped for “the signing of an association accord between Eu and Syria that satisfys both Damascus and the European Union”. An accord — he stressed — “which fully respects the independence and the autonomy of Syria”, and that “reflects the mutual interest of the trade relations”. Furthermore, Napolitano said that “Italy supports the entry of Syria in the World Trade Organization and, turning his attention to relations between Italy and Syria, the Italian president said they were “excellent” although there were “ample margins to improve them on an economic and cultural level”. “Relations between the two countries, he added, “date back to a long time ago”. From his part, Assad criticized Israel and his settlement policy. “Israel cannot be chosen as a partner if it continues with the settlements and with the violation of sacred sites”, said the Syrian President also stressing the need for “Israel to stop the siege and the occupation of the territories occupied in 1967 (Golan heights)”. “We want a fair and global peace” which could be reached also “through Turkey’s mediation”, he added. He also told the press that “Italy and Syria have converging views on the peace process above all in regard to the conviction that peace in the Middle East is essential for global stability and security”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

No Crisis of Relations With Israel, Obama Says

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON — USA President Barack Obama said yesterday that relations between the U.S. and Israel “are not in a crisis”, but stressed that the recent announcement by Israel of the construction of new housing units in East Jerusalem “does not help” the peace process. “Israel is one of our closest allies,” said Obama. “We have a special relationship with the people of Israel which cannot change. However, even friends do not always agree.” “I had sent Vice President Joe Biden to Israel expressly to bring a message of support and reassurance on my conviction that Israel’s security is sacrosanct and that we have a range of interests that we share with Israel,” said Obama in an interview with the Fox television network. The Israeli announcement of its plan to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem has given rise to unusually harsh tones from the Obama administration against the initiatives taken by the Israeli government. “The actions announced by the Israeli Minister for Internal Affairs do not go towards helping out the peace process,” added Obama. “Premier Netanyahu admitted this and has apologised.” The fact that the announcement came during a visit to the region by Vice President, Joe Biden, meant to foster the revival of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority did not contribute towards an improvement in the situation. The disappointment of Americans was shown by the decision of special envoy, George Mitchell, to call off a visit to the region which had been planned before the Quartet meeting scheduled for Friday in Moscow. The Israeli premier apologised for the disastrous timing of the announcement, but the request made by the Obama administration for backpedalling on the sensitive issue of settlements and more housing units is one which has not yet been met. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Rampant Turks Still in Denial

The cavalcade of big black cars, blue lights flashing, little flags waving, sweeps down from Sofia airport, past the National Assembly and the watchful statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II, who helped liberate the country from the Ottoman Empire, to arrive at the administrative heart of Bulgaria — the Presidency, the Council of Ministers.

The latest VIP is none other than the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, on his two-day visit to Bulgaria. He is meeting the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, and holding discussions with Bulgaria’s FM, Nikolay Mladenov.

According to Turkish media, the purpose of the visit is to focus on “bilateral relations, but the recent situation in the Balkans will also be discussed”. Not much given away there, then!

While waiting to find out who actually discussed what during the two days, it may be interesting to consider what could and should be on the agenda.

Will the “bilateral relations” meetings — particularly between the two Foreign Ministers — be merely mutual congratulatory exchanges on increasing trade, on harmonizing cross-border cooperation, on the recently agreed details of international transport tariffs?

What is meant by the “recent situation in the Balkans”? What recent situation? Bulgaria’s recent offer to the EU to become a Balkan hub for encouraging the Western Balkan countries’ accession? The problems of EU accession that Turkey, uniquely, faces, and the declaration by PM Borisov that Bulgaria is supportive of its neighbor’s efforts to join the European club? In January, on a visit to Ankara, Borisov stated that “Bulgaria is going to support Turkey’s accession to the EU as Turkey meets all necessary criteria”, for example.

[Latest update: the Foreign Ministers’ joint press conference on Thursday afternoon has revealed that, in their discussions, the Nabucco pipeline project was the “first priority”, that they had discussed energy security and diversification, cooperation in the Black Sea and Balkans regions, and NATO coordination. All worthy topics, of course.]

Given this latest information, one is entitled to ask what should have been on the agenda, given the current number of diplomatic spats involving an ongoing issue in Turkey, and some of the recent inflammatory statements of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

The Bulgarian conservative Order, Law, and Justice (RZS) party hit the nail squarely on the head when, on Thursday morning, they tabled an official parliamentary declaration demanding that Bulgaria condemn the Armenian genocide committed by Turkey, and requesting an official answer from the Bulgarian Prime Minister about the policy of the cabinet regarding the Armenian genocide during World War I…

           — Hat tip: RB[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ergenekon: More Military Personnel Detained

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 18 — Turkish police detained 28 people, including retired and active-duty military personnel, Thursday in an operation against an alleged criminal organization. Detentions were made in eight provinces, the private NTV news channel reported. Police searched the suspects’ homes and found hand grenades and guns in at least one of them. The detainees are said to be connected to Ibrahim Sahin, a retired police chief, who was charged in the Ergenekon investigation in 2009. Non-commissioned army officers and a former commander of the military s special forces were among those taken into custody, it said. The operation was based in Izmir and carried out simultaneously in other provinces, including Manisa, Kahramanmaras, Kayseri, Istanbul, Kars, Ankara and Antalya. The raid was ordered by the Izmir 10th Court of Serious Crimes at the request of a public prosecutor with special authority. No official statement was made as to whether the operation was connected to the Ergenekon investigation or any other ongoing military coup allegations. The alleged Ergenekon gang is said to have aimed to topple the government by fomenting turmoil in society and is allegedly composed of famous journalists, politicians, academics, former soldiers and people with apparent mafia links. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: New EU Plan Affirms Commitment in Membership Bid, Ankara

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 18 — A newly adopted action plan in Turkey for European Union membership process affirms the country’s resolve for accession, Turkey’s EU affairs body said Thursday as reported by Anatolia news agency. The new action plan, approved by the Cabinet on Monday, aims to give a fresh momentum to the negotiations process as well as to create public awareness about and support for EU membership, Turkey’s EU Secretariat General said. The new strategy targets to align Turkey with the EU acquis as much as possible by 2013, doing necessary work in all policy areas in the negotiations “regardless of whether they were opened, suspended or blocked,” the secretariat said. The action plan has been put together in a three-month effort in cooperation with state bodies and civil society organizations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: 17 Women Killed, 26 Commit Suicide in 2 Months

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 18 — A total of 43 women lost their lives (17 murdered and 26 committed suicide) in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia alone in the opening two months of this year. These figures appear in the pro-government newspaper, Sabah, which cites as its source Birgul Kitay, the head of the Ka-Mer (Women’s Centre)Women’s Association in Bingol, in this Kurdish majority eastern part of Turkey. The area rose to prominence in news reports a few days ago when a man, who had been given a three-month sentence for beating his wife, six-months into pregnancy with her fifth child, cut off his wife’s nose and ears as a punishment for having reported him. According to the figures supplied by Ka-Mer, the first 59 days of this year saw nine women victims of domestic violence in the South-East of the country alone; five were killed for reasons unknown will another three were victims of “honour killings”: accused or suspected of having sullied the good name of the family. The same region saw a further 16 women and 10 girls take their own lives, almost all under family pressure, and almost all for “reasons of honour”. “Honour” killings remain a sore on the face of Turkish society despite recent efforts by the government in Ankara to stiffen penalties for those found guilty of them. According to a report presented last year in Istanbul by John Austin, a British MEP at the Council of Europe, there is at least one death every week in Turkey in connection with “honour”. More than one thousand one hundred women were killed in this way during the five-year period 2003-2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Proposed Amendments Would Allow Trials for 1980 Coup

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 18 — Constitutional changes proposed by the Turkish government would allow the leaders of the country’s 1980 military coup (ordered by former president Kenan Evren) to be tried, Ntv reported Thursday. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government finalized a constitutional amendment draft package Wednesday. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the reforms to the 1982 Constitution, drawn up under military rule, are aimed at complementing Turkey’s efforts to gain European Union membership. Erdogan announced he would visit opposition parties next week to gain support for the proposed reform. Another amendment would also allow for army personnel to be tried in civil courts for non-military related crimes, broadcaster NTV reported. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Turkey-Russian Meeting Scheduled in Istanbul

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 18 — A Turkish-Russian energy conference is set to be held on April 15-16 in Istanbul, DEIK, Anatolia news agency reports quoting a private Turkish business organization as saying on Thursday. The energy cooperation conference will be hosted by Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board’s (DEIK) Turkish-Russian Business Council. The conference is set to discuss issues under six headings on energy policies, natural gas, electricity, oil, nuclear and energy finance. Turkey’s energy minister as well as senior energy officials from Russia and Tatarstan are expected to participate in the conference. Turkey’s Sabanci Holding CEO Guler Sabanci and ENKA Holding Honorary President Sarik Tara are set to deliver speech at the event. Turkey and Russian signed mid-January a joint declaration on cooperation in construction of a nuclear power plant in Turkey. Turkey is major buyer of Russian natural gas. Turkey’s imports in 2009 from Russia totaled some $19.7 billion and its exports to Russia was $3.2 billion, according to figures of Turkey’s statistics authority, TurkStat. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Ignore Indian Events at Our Own Peril

Obama administration’s policies have led most anti-Islamists to conclude that his administration would sacrifice allies like Indian and Israel if it meant even a superficial friendship from America’s worst enemies

I was in India for just over two weeks in February, and during alone that time noted:

  • Relations with fellow nuclear power Pakistan deteriorated in a hail of harsh rhetoric and threats such that the Obama administration sent Senator John Kerry to try and “calm” tensions.
  • Pakistan first refused to join in scheduled talks with India about the former’s involvement in a 2008 terror attack that killed almost 200 Indians.
  • A few days later, they agreed to talks only if they focused on Kashmir — a territorial dispute between the countries that has sparked skirmishes, continued terror and counter-terror operations, and all out wars between the two. Like the Muslim players in the Middle East, Pakistan refused to budge on its unreasonable demands about scheduled talks, and the Indian government ultimately caved, resulting in talks that were fruitless even before they began. The Obama administration urged the Indians to acquiesce to the Pakistani demands.
  • While this was happening, Islamists launched another deadly Islamist terrorist attack, this time on Pune, a major Indian city of over 5,000,000 people, that at last count took 13 lives and left over five dozen injured.
  • Initial investigations identified the terrorists as Indian citizens, known as Indian Mujahedeen who are committed to replacing India with an Islamist state.
  • Subsequent investigations confirmed that fact and added that the operation likely was directed from Pakistan.
  • The Indian government announced that American Islamist David Headley gave his captors information about the “Karachi Project” that was carried out by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. He said the ISI brought sympathetic Indian Muslims to Pakistan, trained them in terrorist techniques, and returned them to India where they were to await further instructions to carry out terrorist attacks.
  • Communist insurgents, known as Naxalites, abducted a government official in the state of Bihar and refused to release him until the government caved into their demands, one of which was for the Indian government to end its, very effective, military crackdown on the Maoist revolutionaries.
  • Naxalites carried out a half dozen military operations against the government and people of India. Among the many terror operations were at least two of particular note. They launched a particularly gruesome attack on an unarmed paramilitary camp in which more than two dozen soldiers were shot or burned alive; and an unknown number of wounded were seized and taken to undisclosed locations as hostages. They also attacked an unarmed village in the Jamui district of Bihar because its inhabitants refused cooperate with their insurgency. They murdered several villagers, including some who were burned alive when the Maoists torched homes in the village.


More and more Indians — as well as anti-jihadi Muslims in places like Bangladesh — are questioning the United States’ reliability as an ally in the war against radical Islam

[Comments from JD: A lot more detail at url.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Special Guest: Paul Bremer on Afghanistan and the Future of Europe

Paul Bremer led the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. He previously served as chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism, ambassador-at-large for counterrorism, and ambassador to the Netherlands. He joins Bellum for an extended discussion on the war in Afghanistan, the clash of civilizations, and the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

1. Many policy experts, like Ralph Peters, Kori Schake, and others, are voicing grave concerns about continuing the project in Afghanistan. Some have called for a counterterrorism strategy—drones, special forces, etc.—instead of a counterinsurgency strategy—heavy footprint, long-term presence, etc. What are your views on this debate? On our prospects in Afghanistan? On President Obama’s Afghan policy thus far?

Afghanistan was always going to be a more difficult case than Iraq. On every important metric, the situation there is more challenging: In Iraq, 70% of the population is urban; in Afghanistan only 30%. Iraq has long had one of the region’s largest and best educated middle classes. Iraq’s literacy rate is above 75%; in Afghanistan it is only 30%. Iraq benefits from important natural resources—water, arable land, oil and gas. Afghanistan is still largely agricultural. The Afghans have no historic experience with centralized rule; Mesopotamia has been ruled from Baghdad for millennia.

The Obama administration, after considerable internal debate, has arrived at a reasonable policy for defeating the extremists in Afghanistan. The key to securing the country is securing the South, particularly the Southeast. And the key to securing the Southeast is defeating the Taliban. The President deserves credit for deciding to replicate President Bush’s Iraq strategy by sending more troops to the fight in Afghanistan. He has been less successful in persuading our NATO allies to contribute more troops to the effort. It was a mistake to tie the surge to a self-imposed deadline for the withdrawal of the additional troops. That only encourages our enemies to outwait us.

The struggle for a secure Afghanistan will be measured in years, not months. The US government needs continually to make the stakes and the difficulties clear to the American public.

2. It has become almost a cliche to speak of a Europe at the crossroads. On the one hand, some like Pope Benedict argue that Europeans have forgotten their heritage—Western Civilization , Christianity, etc. On the other, some like the late Samuel Huntington speak of Europe as a continent on the fault-lines of a great clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. As the former ambassador to the Netherlands, a country that has certainly been in the news in recent years with respect to its large Muslim population and the associated culture clash, and as a counterterrorism expert with a great deal of experience with radical Islam, what are your views on Europe today? What are the ramifications for the trans-Atlantic alliance?

Both the Pope and Huntington are correct. It is a fact of history that Europe is based on Judeo-Christian values. But Europe seems unwilling, or perhaps afraid, to acknowledge this reality. European bureaucrats omitted any reference to it in their draft “constitution,” reflecting a willful disregard for the continent’s intellectual, moral and spiritual roots.

Meanwhile, many Europeans are proud that they are evolving into a “post-sovereignty world,” one in which the nation state disappears and citizens are called upon to shift their allegiance to the ephemeral “Union.” Not surprisingly, almost all European nations have substantially reduced defense spending. If you don’t know what you stand for, you cannot easily figure out how to defend it.

European countries have a large, and in most places, growing Muslim population. The vast majority of these men and women are not terrorists. But as events have shown, there are among them extremists who reject everything the West and Europe stand for—the separation of Church and State, universal suffrage, women’s education, free trade unions, a free press. And especially democracy which the extremists such as Al Qaeda define as “a new religion that must be destroyed by war.”

Europe also faces a demographic time bomb. The population of every major European country is falling. This will place unsustainable burdens on the elaborate and expensive welfare programs built up over the decades. As the Muslim populations grow in proportion to overall populations, it is vital that Europe find a way to integrate peaceful Muslims while defeating extremists.

For all of these reasons, the Atlantic Alliance, so long the keystone to American and Western security, will find itself under significant strain in the years ahead.

3. Are there any big themes with respect to international security affairs that you see as important going forward—important issues that people aren’t talking about, angles that are unexplored?

The impact of demographics on the world power structure has been very lightly addressed. Yet it is perhaps the most significant world trend today and one that will largely determine the balance of power by mid-century.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Italian Navy Frees Iranian Trawler

Frigate forces Somali pirates to release boat and crew

(ANSA) — Rome, March 18 — The Italian navy on Thursday freed an Iranian trawler and crew held by Somali pirates since January 13.

The frigate Scirocco forced the pirates to abandon the trawler, which the pirates had been using as a base to launch attacks, the Italian navy said.

All 19 of the crew of the Saad 1 were taken on board the Scirocco, where they phoned home to say they were safe.

The Saad 1 was then sent on its way.

The Scirocco is part of a NATO-led European Union mission against Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


An Exhausted Illegal Immigrant Spent Hours Trying to Cross Into the UK Before Abandoning the Attempt — Because Brits “Are Too Racist”.

Amer Hassan walked for 16 miles through the Channel Tunnel from France before giving up and waiting to be picked up by security guards.

Egyptian Hassan then told them: “I don’t want to go to England anymore. They’re racist over there and always think I’m transporting a bomb.”

Hassan was returned to France, handed over to cops and almost immediately jailed for two years.


When he is released he has been told he will be deported.

The 23-year-old had been kicked out of the UK once before after falsely claiming asylum but had decided to try to return.

He got to within seven miles of Dover before changing his mind and abandoning the treacherous trek on Friday.

Trains had shot past him every ten minutes and he clung on to rails at the side of the Tunnel for safety.

He appeared at Boulogne Correctional Court yesterday where he said: “I’ll live as I want to live, which doesn’t mean spending time in England. I’m finished with that country.”

He is thought to have travelled through Libya and across the Mediterranean in a small boat to reach France.

Cameras in the tunnel picked him up by the side of the track used by Eurostar trains travelling towards Dover at up to 100mph.

Hassan said: “I walked from around 10.45pm until 8.00am in the morning. I saw trains rushing by every ten minutes.

“Each time I hung on to the metal bar which is at the side of the walkway which are no more than a meter wide. I ended up feeling fed up. I was tired and that’s when the police turned up.”

Defending him Daniel Fasquelle said he had simply been “lost” when he was found in the Tunnel.

She told the court: “On the fatal day in question he was disenchanted, tired by life, and only his religious beliefs held him together. Is Eurotunnel doing everything it can to stop these intrusions into the Tunnel?”

Channel Tunnel chiefs said 39 trains were disrupted as a result of his actions.

A spokesman said: “The problem is a recurrent one as far as migrants are concerned.

“He could have been killed and the security of the passengers could also have been put at risk.”

Eurotunnel claimed around £40,000 compensation but it was not clear how Hassan would be able to pay.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Greece: Messinia Drive to Feed Immigrants

Officials in the Peloponnesian prefecture of Messinia say they are struggling to feed and clothe hundreds of destitute immigrants drifting from village to village in search of work.

Locals in the municipalities of Filiatra and Gargalianoi have reported seeing migrants gathering dead cats and dogs from the sides of the road for food. Many African migrants — chiefly Somalians and Sudanese — have been spotted stealing meat, eggs and other food from stores, according to locals who say that it is chiefly Eastern European migrants believed to be behind a string of robberies and burglaries. Most of the African migrants pass through the region looking for work as farmhands in exchange for as little as 20 euros a day.

In Filiatra, authorities have been providing the migrants with food and clothes for months but are overwhelmed by the burgeoning population. “The situation is out of control,” the mayor of Filiatra, Alkis Xigas, told Kathimerini. “To begin with, we helped for humanitarian reasons but now there are too many of them and the system has blocked,” he said.

Xigas said local migrants, who are mostly homeless, sleep in derelict buildings, sheds or create makeshift homes out of cardboard boxes or plastic sheeting. “They live however they can and wherever they can,” Xigas said, adding: “We do what we can but it’s not enough.”

The municipality of Gargalianoi, which has a permanent population of around 6,000 including 1,000 legal migrants, has gone further in its attempts to support a few hundred undocumented immigrants. The mayor, Stavros Kalofolias, said that locals had long been contributing but that a daily soup kitchen would be set up soon to deal with the increased demand. “The provision of food will begin at around Easter and I believe it will be embraced by locals,” Kalofolias said.

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

Italy Slammed After Siding With Libya

A proposal by the Italian foreign minister that would undermine a Swiss travel ban on 150 high-ranking Libyans has come in for sharp criticism in Bern.

Franco Frattini said if the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Switzerland and Libya was not resolved by April 5, Italy would present a proposal to European Union foreign ministers to allow the Libyans to travel freely in Europe’s 25-state Schengen zone despite the Swiss blacklist.

Libya has stopped issuing entry visas to citizens of most European countries in retaliation for Switzerland barring entry to senior Libyans including leader Moammar Gaddafi and members of his family.

Italy has been the European nation most vociferous in calling on Switzerland to resolve the dispute by dropping its visa restrictions. In February Frattini said the Swiss decision was “taking hostage all the countries in the Schengen area”.

On Monday Christa Markwalder, president of the House of Representative’s foreign affairs committee, said Italy was “putting pressure on the wrong side”.

“It should be putting pressure on Libya — not Switzerland. It’s out of order, a neighbour behaving like that.”

She said Switzerland had conformed to Schengen rules, adding that as soon as Swiss businessman Max Göldi is released, Switzerland “would discuss” lifting the travel ban on the Libyan personae non gratae.

Göldi is currently serving a four-month jail sentence in Tripoli for violating visa regulations. Fellow Swiss Rachid Hamdani, also held since July 2008, was released last month.

Brussels reaction

Frattini, a former EU Commissioner for justice, freedom and security, made the statement on Monday after a meeting in the Libyan capital with government officials.

He said the proposal would be presented to EU foreign ministers on March 22.

However, an EU diplomat contacted by said he was unsure what Frattini was trying to achieve.

“If he wants to make a new law, new laws in Europe take months. And it’s not him who decides that — it’s the Commission that decides what proposals to put on the table. He can suggest a new legislative proposal, which the Commission might pick up and work on, but it’s a long-term project.”

He pointed out that all Schengen countries could override the Swiss ban for their own territory whenever they wanted. “Italy can do that today. No new law is necessary for that,” he said.

“Now what I could imagine Frattini is doing — but I’m speculating — is that he wants to propose to all the other Schengen countries that they, along with Italy, allow these people to travel to their particular country. But each country must do this individually. It would then be theoretically possible that these people could travel to every country but Switzerland.”

“ Italy should be putting pressure on Libya — not Switzerland. It’s out of order, a neighbour behaving like that. “

Christa Markwalder

Legal situation

For Astrid Epiney, professor of law at Fribourg University and a leading authority on European law, the legal situation is clear.

“[Frattini] can propose whatever he wants. But legally the principle is that if one Schengen state says it doesn’t want a person entering a Schengen state, this decision must in principle be respected by all Schengen states,” she told

“So legally speaking, Switzerland has a right to say it doesn’t want people in Switzerland and consequently in the Schengen states who are directly or indirectly responsible for the treatment of Mr Göldi and Mr Hamdani in Libya. This position can be defended very well from a legal point of view.”

Frattini also accused Bern of abusing the Schengen rules — intended for criminals and terrorists — for political purposes.

The Swiss foreign ministry told it was not commenting on Frattini’s proposal, but it pointed out that Cecilia Malmström, EU commissioner for home affairs, had recently judged Switzerland to have acted correctly.

Losing support?

A further twist in this diplomatic drama is that April 5 — the date mentioned by Frattini — also happens to be the date that a new Schengen visa code enters into force.

This was agreed last year and involves, among other things, a visa with “limited territorial validity”, i.e. it can be issued by one Schengen state but be valid in several.

Christa Markwalder said political contact was now required on multiple levels in order for Switzerland not to lose the support of other Schengen states.

On Tuesday, however, Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg called on Italy, Spain, France and Portugal to join Malta in issuing special temporary visas to Libyan travellers while the stand-off persists.

Borg explained how an “exception clause” in the new code would enable a member state to issue a limited territorial validity visa even if there was resistance from another member. This could then be extended to other countries, with their permission.


These Mediterranean countries are believed to be concerned about immigration. The fear is that the dispute could endanger a cooperation treaty signed last year between Libya and Italy, its former colonial power, under which illegal immigrants found by Italian patrol boats can be repatriated directly to Libya.

For its part, Spain reacted cautiously on Tuesday, saying it would continue its efforts to mediate between Switzerland and Libya.

Ultimately, it will depend on which side plays its political cards better. Switzerland’s visa trump could be reduced to a joker on April 5, while on Monday Libya played its powerful oil card, hinting that supplies of Libyan oil to Europe could be affected by the dispute.

“[Europe] should also think of these interests and investments in energy because good relations with Libya would help European companies run their businesses in Libya easily,” said Libya’s top energy official.

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

Obama Backs Immigration Overhaul Outline

President Barack Obama, facing criticism from advocates of immigration reform, pledged Thursday “to do everything in my power” to get immigration legislation moving in Congress this year.

Obama said work on an immigration bill should move forward based on an outline released Thursday by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“A critical next step will be to translate their framework into a legislative proposal, and for Congress to act at the earliest possible opportunity,” Obama said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA: Injured Illegal Immigrant Ends Challenge to Transfer Back to Homeland

Seven years after Martin Memorial Hospital returned illegal immigrant Luis Jimenez to his native Guatemala, his attorneys announced they will not pursue further legal action in his case, ending a protracted legal battle launched on his behalf in 2003.

According to a statement issued Wednesday by Martin Memorial officials, the move comes after a judge denied motions filed by lawyers representing Jimenez’s court-appointed guardian challenging a 2009 jury verdict that ruled in favor of the hospital.

Martin Memorial officials said once all legal proceedings are terminated, they’ll contribute $40,000 to help pay for Jimenez’s long-term medical needs “that otherwise would have been used for legal expenses.”

“Throughout this legal process,” said hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Robitaille, “both Martin Memorial and Mr. Jimenez’s family and representatives have sought the same result, to do what is best for Luis Jimenez.”

Following a month-long trial, a jury found the hospital should not be held liable for a claim of false imprisonment related to Jimenez’s international transfer in 2003. He racked up about $1.5 million in unpaid medical bills while living at the hospital for nearly three years after suffering a traumatic brain injury during a 2000 car crash.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

“Social Justice” Is Not Christian Charity

But you see, in my estimation, it is the contrived and duplicitous definition of “social justice” that is causing all the confusion.

“Social justice” is not “Christian charity.”

You will find the word “justice” in scripture, as you will the word “gospel” — but you won’t find the word “social” in front of either of them because “social justice,” like the “social gospel,” is the wily work of men, not the Will and Word of God. Jesus Christ did not suffer and die on a cross so we could repair, remodel and rehabilitate a wicked world for Him to rule over, but instead to redeem us from it for a “kingdom not of this world.”

If someone doesn’t speak up and point this out, the issue will be forever confusing, controversial and divisive and the Church will continue to be swayed off course by those with political ambitions.

Scriptures containing the words “justice,” “justly,” and “judgment” that progressives handily quote to try and validate “social justice” as a Christian concept and mandate for the Church are predominately from the Old Testament, which is ironic considering progressives by and large prefer to dismiss or discount much of the OT and its so called “legalism” because it inconveniently clashes with their no-absolutes and no-authority philosophies, theologies and lifestyles. Frankly, it is God’s justice and judgments throughout the Old Testament that confound and offend progressives the most about the Bible resulting in the sleazy greasy grace they preach and practice as “Christianity.”

But, the term “social justice” puts global change agents in the driver’s seat down at the church house allowing them, through carefully placed operatives, endless opportunities to enable, justify and even promote, via the humanist mantra of “tolerance, diversity and unity,” any number of unbiblical behaviors, theories, religions and causes from promoting promiscuity, to homosexuality, to syncretism, to abortion rights, to euthanasia, to birth control, to stem cell research, to Darwinism, to faith-based initiatives, to “no child left behind,” to global warming, to you name it — which fits in perfectly with the United Nation’s plan for a one-world government, one world economy and one world religion.


It has also been my observation that embracing “social justice,” more often than not, shifts the emphasis from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ to more earthly endeavors like environment, empowerment, employment, entitlements, equality and esteem-building programs promoted by global elites to benefit or punish selected people groups as needed for its “sustainable development” — an agenda more in keeping with that of a community organizer than a follower of Christ.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Liberals Push Gay Blood in Risky Policy Change

While the Obama Administration and its “progressive” supporters in Congress insist they want a federal health care bill to protect people from deadly diseases, liberal senators led by John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) have pressured the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into considering lifting the ban on male homosexuals donating blood. It’s a decision that could mean disease and death for many Americans, and billions of dollars in additional health care costs.

“John Kerry Supports Gay Blood” declared a column on a pro-homosexual website.

Kerry, Franken and 16 other liberal senators insist they want the blood supply to remain safe and that donated blood must undergo two “highly accurate” tests that make the risk of tainted blood entering the blood supply virtually or nearly zero.

But writer and researcher Dale O’Leary says that male homosexuals, or men who have sex with men (MSM), as the FDA describes them, “expose themselves to such a wide variety of pathogens that medical professionals can never be sure that they have a test to identify every one of them. There could even now be something lurking out there, hidden in the blood of apparently healthy men, waiting.”

O’Leary, the author of One Man, One Woman, and The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality, is writing a forthcoming report on the medical and health impact of admitting open and active homosexuals into the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Senator Kerry argues that this policy is now arcane because we have tests to determine if donated blood carries the HIV, but the problem is not the diseases we know of and have tests for but the diseases which we haven’t identified as sexually transmitted and blood borne and don’t have tests for,” O’Leary points out.

If the ban on gay blood is lifted, she warns, “The lives of all those who receive blood products are at risk. Hemophiliacs have every right to be worried, in the 1980’s they saw their community virtually destroyed by contaminated blood. We simply can’t be too careful. MSM are not at risk because they can’t donate blood. In fact, the prohibition may serve as a warning to them and others that certain behaviors carry an unacceptable risk.”


Kerry’s move has been praised by the media, especially the homosexual press, with even Fox News running a story failing to quote any critics of the proposed change in policy.

However, Cheryl Wetzstein of The Washington Times wrote a story about Kerry’s push for gay blood in which she quoted Mark Skinner, president of the World Federation of Hemophilia, as saying that “Blood-donor rules are discriminatory by design” but that the rules are grounded in science and intended to protect the end users, not target a group.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Study Gives More Proof That Intelligence is Largely Inherited

UCLA researchers find that genes determine brain’s processing speed

They say a picture tells a thousand stories, but can it also tell how smart you are? Actually, say UCLA researchers, it can.

In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Feb. 18, UCLA neurology professor Paul Thompson and colleagues used a new type of brain-imaging scanner to show that intelligence is strongly influenced by the quality of the brain’s axons, or wiring that sends signals throughout the brain. The faster the signaling, the faster the brain processes information. And since the integrity of the brain’s wiring is influenced by genes, the genes we inherit play a far greater role in intelligence than was previously thought.

Genes appear to influence intelligence by determining how well nerve axons are encased in myelin — the fatty sheath of “insulation” that coats our axons and allows for fast signaling bursts in our brains. The thicker the myelin, the faster the nerve impulses.

Thompson and his colleagues scanned the brains of 23 sets of identical twins and 23 sets of fraternal twins. Since identical twins share the same genes while fraternal twins share about half their genes, the researchers were able to compare each group to show that myelin integrity was determined genetically in many parts of the brain that are key for intelligence. These include the parietal lobes, which are responsible for spatial reasoning, visual processing and logic, and the corpus callosum, which pulls together information from both sides of the body.

The researchers used a faster version of a type of scanner called a HARDI (high-angular resolution diffusion imaging) — think of an MRI machine on steroids — that takes scans of the brain at a much higher resolution than a standard MRI. While an MRI scan shows the volume of different tissues in the brain by measuring the amount of water present, HARDI tracks how water diffuses through the brain’s white matter — a way to measure the quality of its myelin.

“HARDI measures water diffusion,” said Thompson, who is also a member of the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro-Imaging. “If the water diffuses rapidly in a specific direction, it tells us that the brain has very fast connections. If it diffuses more broadly, that’s an indication of slower signaling, and lower intelligence.”

“So it gives us a picture of one’s mental speed,” he said.

Because the myelination of brain circuits follows an inverted U-shaped trajectory, peaking in middle age and then slowly beginning to decline, Thompson believes identifying the genes that promote high-integrity myelin is critical to forestalling brain diseases like multiple sclerosis and autism, which have been linked to the breakdown of myelin.

“The whole point of this research,” Thompson said, “is to give us insight into brain diseases.”

He said his team has already narrowed down the number of gene candidates that may influence myelin growth.

And could this someday lead to a therapy that could make us smarter, enhancing our intelligence?

“It’s a long way off but within the realm of the possible,” Thompson said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]