Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100321

Financial Crisis
»China: Beijing Thinking About Revaluing the Yuan
»Democrat Healthcare Reform Will Push Unemployment Over the Ledge
»Greece’s Papandreou Says WWII Reparations Issue Still Open
»Greece Says Berlin Putting EU at Risk
»Greek PM Calls on EU to Make a Move
»Southeastern Europe’s Chinese Endeavors
»Speaker Pelosi Urged Americans Today to Judge Democrats on Their Success…
»America Denounces ‘Obamacare’ Threat
»Attorney General Holder and His Non-Transparency
»Barack Obama, Former CIA Agent
»House Opts Against ‘Deeming’ Health Care Bill Passed
»If Barack Forces Passage of Health Care “Reform” — Should He be Impeached?
»Media Lying About Racist Attacks on Black Reps by Tea Party Protesters… Video Proof
»Texting Teen Faces Surgery on Both Wrists After Sending 100 Messages a Day
»The Empire of the Out of Touch
»The Suicide Voyeur Nurse Who ‘Encouraged People to Kill Themselves Online’
Europe and the EU
»“Don’t Let This Become a Witch Hunt”
»Catholic Child Sex Abuse Scandal Grips Europe
»EU: Italy Top Med Country in Recycling and Composting
»France: Regional Elections, Possible New Abstention Record
»Georges Frêche: The Le Pen of the Left
»Germany: Leftist Accuses Official of Blocking Citizenship
»Germany: Child Abuse by the Catholic Church
»Greece: Full Steam Ahead for Frigates Buy
»Italy: Premier Urges Supporters to Join Rally
»Italy: Future Looking Bright for Alitalia, Berlusconi Says
»Italy: Pompeian Snack Bar Opens Sunday
»Italy: Ex-Politician Was Paid ‘€12,000 a Month’ In Bribes
»Italy: Regulator ‘May Look at Derivatives Probe’
»Italy: Berlusconi Praises Bossi ‘Man of the People’
»Italy: Northern League Leader Praises Berlusconi
»Italy: Berlusconi Envisages Direct Election of PM
»Netherlands: Private Sex Shows Not European Court
»Netherlands: Anger Over US General’s Gay Dutch Army Slur
»Nicolas Sarkozy’s Right-Wing UMP Thrashed in French Elections
»The Legion Awaits a New General. And Trembles
»UK: Builders and Driving Instructors Among One in Five Workers Caught in Frenzy of Paedophile Vetting
»UK: Feeble Wind Farms Fail to Hit Full Power
»UK: Paint Potty! Council Zealots Close Down Under-Fives’ Art Club Because Children Are ‘Too Middle-Class’
»UK: Phillip Lawrence Killer Chindamo ‘To be Released on Parole Within Weeks’
»UK: Rise in Marriages Between Cousins ‘Is Putting Children’s Health at Risk’
»UK: The Boy Whose Blue-Tinted Glasses Have Allowed Him to Read Properly for the First Time
»Vatican: Pope: Decry Sin But be Compassionate
»Albania: EU: Political Stalemate Hinders Accession, Fule
»Kosovo: KFOR Grants Local Police Security of Serbian Memorial
»Kosovo: EU Commissioner Calls to Fight Crime and Corruption
»Serbia: Work in Fiat Too Hard, 20 Workers Head Back to Zastava
»TV Series About Josip Broz Tito Airs Tonight
Israel and the Palestinians
»Middle East Quartet Call on Israel to Freeze Settlements on Second Day of Rocket Attacks From Gaza
»Son of Hamas Chief, Ex-Israeli Spy Now Exposes ‘Muhammad’s Lie’
»Spiegel Interview With Avigdor Lieberman
Middle East
»Arab Channels to Show Turkish Series Protested by Israel
»Assad: Pro-Peace, Israel Must Leave Golan in 6 Mths
»Bin Laden Son Slams Qaeda, Says Family Doing Well in Iran
»Other Than Apartments in Jerusalem, What Else is Going on in the Middle East?
»Report: Saudi Arabia Seeks Strike on Iran
»Saudi Arabia: Appeal to King Abdullah to Stop Execution of Person for “Sorcery”
»Soldiers Commit Double Suicide in Lebanon
»Syria: Bin Laden’s Teenage Daughter ‘Returns’
»Turkey Willing to Increase Trade With Iran
»Turkey: Failed Coup; 33 Suspects Tried Within 2 Months
»Turkey: A Threat, Yet Again
»Turkish PM: Statement in London on Deportation of Illegal Armenians From Turkey Intended to Attract International Community’s Attention 20.03.2010 16:01
»U.S. Department of State Warns Americans Against Traveling to Turkey
»Mosques Not Faring So Well in Azerbaijan: Eurasianet
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Iranians Train Taliban to Use Roadside Bombs
»Bangladesh — Myanmar: Dhaka: No Mistreatment Rohingya. But “Non Registered” Risk Starvation
»Crude Bomb on Passenger Aircraft Shocks Indian Authorities
»Indonesia: Radical Islamists Unappeased by Delayed Obama Visit
»Kyrgyzstan: OSCE Tells Kyrgyzstan to Stop Censoring Online News
Far East
»Academic Paper in China Sets Off Alarms in U.S.
Sub-Saharan Africa
»China — Africa: African Stories: Where the Chinese Put Their Life at Risk to Enrich Beijing
Latin America
»The Great Italian Passport Scam
»Greece Says Turkish F-16s Harass EU Immigration Patrols
»Switzerland: Deportations Stopped After Nigerian Death
Culture Wars
»Girl Scouts Hiding Secret Sex Agenda?
»Message of the OIC Secretary General on the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Financial Crisis

China: Beijing Thinking About Revaluing the Yuan

In response to repeated US pressures, the Chinese government has started stress tests for 12 industries to see the possible effects of revaluing its currency. Results will be especially crucial for export-oriented sectors, which are crucial to the country’s economic recovery. Chinese vice commerce minister is set to visit the United States to find a diplomatic solution.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China is conducting yuan stress tests for 12 industries to gauge the possible effect of appreciation on the economy, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade said. Test results should be made public next 27 April.

Washington has been putting pressure on Beijing to change its monetary policy and re-value its currency. In one year, the yuan has in fact climbed a mere 0.1 per cent against the US dollar to reach 6.6651 yuan per dollar. China has retorted that US pressures are designed to reduce part of US debt held by Beijing.

At the end of the annual session of the National People’s Congress last week, Premier Wen Jiabao said that the yuan was not undervalued and that it would not budge. However, a number of economic analysts believe that the current tests mean that the Chinese government is at least considering that possibility.

“It’s only a matter of time,” said Emmanuel Ng, a currency strategist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp in Singapore. “We expect the yuan to rise around the middle of this year.”

The tests “could be a sign they are looking into the option of renminbi appreciation, but whether this will indicate an imminent appreciation is not yet certain,” said Liu Li-Gang, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

The stress tests, organised by the business group, covers more than 1,000 companies, large and small, said Zhang Wei, vice chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Electronics and machinery companies would be the most affected because they have signed contracts to supply products and would post losses if the yuan appreciated.

The United States are not prepared to wait and see. “I suspect there will be many important negotiations in the weeks ahead,” US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said. “This isn’t just an American issue,” he explained. “There are many countries that feel the same way.”

In any event, China appears to be trying every avenue before a direct confrontation. A top Chinese envoy is expected in the United States next week to discuss both the revaluation of its currency and China’s trade surplus with the United States.

“Channels of communication between our two sides are open. All issues of concern to either side can be discussed through these channels,” He Ning, head of the North American division at China’s Commerce Ministry, said at a media briefing this morning in Beijing.

He announced that Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan will visit the United States on 24-26 March for discussions focused on the “Sino-US trade balance and trade frictions”.

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

Democrat Healthcare Reform Will Push Unemployment Over the Ledge

Healthcare bill is going to cost them another $100 million in the first year as Illinois based Caterpillar announced on Friday

Unemployment is approximately 10% in the United States with the “actual unemployed” rate at approximately 16%. The Democrats, as usual, fail to recognize the unintended consequences of their policies.

What happens on Monday when business owners return to work to learn that this healthcare bill is going to cost them another $100 million in the first year as Illinois based Caterpillar announced on Friday? Businesses have been hit hard over the past couple years and are standing on the fence that has failure and success on either side of it. Which side do you suppose businesses are going to be forced to choose come Monday? Lose their business by trying to absorb the astronomical costs mandated by the federal government at a time they are barely “swimming”, and at times close to drowning, or lay off more employees and try to get by with less workers?

It is becoming very clear after speaking to business owners that we are about to see unemployment rise as a result of this “healthcare” bill. With that being said, what do the Democrats believe is going to be the result of this…a historic healthcare bill? I agree that it will be historic in the sense that if unemployment were to rise another 3-5% and the actual unemployed percentage were to rise another 3-5%, we would be as close to the great depression as ever before. There is even the possibility that we could reach the numbers of unemployed individuals we experienced during the great depression. Do the Democrats not know this? or do they not care?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece’s Papandreou Says WWII Reparations Issue Still Open

Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou said the issue of German reparations for World War II was still “open,” potentially putting Athens on a collision course with Berlin as it contends with a crippling debt crisis.

“That’s an open issue,” Papandreou said on Thursday in Brussels while attempting to shore up EU support for Greece’s efforts to stay solvent. “But it’s not advisable to put it on the table right now.”

He admitted dredging up the past would send the wrong signal at a time Greece needed backing from fellow eurozone members to contend with its crushing mountain of debt, which was a problem of its own making.

“We’re not looking for a scapegoat,” Papandreou said.

Though several other Greek politicians have suggested Germany still owes Greece compensation for the Nazi occupation during World War II, it is the first time Papandreou has suggested the issue is unresolved.

His deputy Theodoros Pangalos has said Germany never repaid Greece for gold stolen by the Nazis, but Germany says it has already paid millions of euros worth of reparations on several occasions over the decades.

Relations between Athens and Berlin have been burdened by nasty insults hurled in the media in recent weeks. While the Greeks have labelled Germany “fiscal Nazis” for demanding that Greece get its financial house in order, the Germans have suggested Greece sell a few islands and accused them of threatening the euro by doctoring their books to get into the single currency.

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

Greece Says Berlin Putting EU at Risk

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou implicitly criticised Germany on Saturday for allegedly opposing efforts to help his country out of its fiscal crisis, warning Berlin risked destabilising the European Union.

“We have struggled for years to build a strong Europe, economically stable and with social solidarity,” Papandreou said at a meeting of the national council of his socialist PASOK party.

But “many forces forget the political importance of the euro, and are withdrawing the substance of the political vision of the European project, which is a joint effort to develop our economy in a calm and stable climate,” he added.

“In the end this could destablise the EU, lead it in the opposite direction to that of those who inspired and created a united Europe and its common currency,” warned the prime minister.

Papandreou’s comments came a day after a German official indicated that Berlin was open to the possibility of the International Monetary Fund helping Greece, throwing into doubt a plan for the other 15 countries which use the euro to help Athens meet its borrowing needs.

After taking office last year Papandreou’s government revealed the country’s finances were in a much worse state than had been publicly disclosed, forcing it to make painful spending cuts and tax hikes to fix its public finances — triggering strikes and violent protests on the streets of Athens.

This has raised concerns whether investors will buy the Greek government’s bonds, and at what price, as Athens must roll over this year some €50 billion of its more than €300 billion in debt.

“Greece will not default” and it has “the capacity to get the country out of the current crisis,” Papandreou told party leaders.

European Union officials on Saturday said the bloc was ready to provide urgent help to Greece, putting extra pressure on Germany.

“The European Union has the means (to put in place) rapid and co-ordinated assistance,” the European Union’s financial affairs chief Olli Rehn told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“The European Commission is ready to make a concrete proposal in this sense. The financial aid could come into effect quickly but would be linked to drastic obligations” on Greece, he added.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday urged member states to approve the creation of a financial aid mechanism for Greece to use if necessary.

Barroso was making an thinly veiled appeal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been reticent to offer help, to approve a mechanism for offering aid to Athens when the 27 heads of state and government meet in Brussels next Thursday and Friday.

The help Barroso has in mind would be “a system of coordinated bilateral loans,” and as such would be compatible with EU law which bans bailout loans to any of the 16 nations, including Greece, that use the euro currency.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Saturday that Berlin will agree to European countries providing bilateral assistance to Athens.

“For EU aid to Greece, there is no collective instrument. In case of extreme necessity there could be coordinated bilateral aid on a voluntary basis,” Schäuble told Bild am Sonntag weekly in comments to be published on Sunday.

Schäuble did not indicate if Germany would be willing to help Greece bilaterally or if it would merely not try to stand in the way of other EU nations providing aid.

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

Greek PM Calls on EU to Make a Move

Papandreou leaves possibility of IMF appeal open in bid to elicit concrete rescue plan from Brussels

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday warned officials in Brussels that Greece will be forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund if European leaders fail to offer it a concrete rescue package at an EU summit next week.

In what was interpreted by some as an ultimatum to EU member states, whose finance ministers offered only a vague plan for standby support for Greece earlier this week, Papandreou told the European Parliament that his government had made the requested sacrifices sought by the EU and was now expecting something in return.

“We have taken measures that the IMF would have asked us to take. In fact, we are virtually under an IMF program. But we don’t have the facilities that the IMF could give,” Papandreou said. He added that Greece did not want to find itself “in a situation where we have the worst of the IMF and none of the advantages of the eurozone.”

The premier said that a failure by the EU to present some kind of safety net, such as an offer of standby loans, could result in his government’s austerity measures — which include holiday pay cuts for civil servants and tax increases — not having the necessary impact.

“If we keep borrowing at very high rates, and this is the challenge we have, we cannot sustain the deficit reduction that these hard measures aim to achieve,” Papandreou said.

“We are asking our people — salaried workers and pensioners — to take a cut so that we can cut the deficit but that could be eaten up… in a few moments in speculation on the world markets,” the premier added.

Later in Athens, Papandreou reiterated, during a Cabinet meeting, that Greeks are determined “to make it on our own.” “And we will make it, provided that our country can borrow on reasonable terms,” he said. The premier sought to douse feverish speculation suggesting that Greece is edging closer to an appeal to the IMF. “Based on those conditions, our country is not seeking and will not seek financial aid, either from our European partners or from the IMF, which would be our last resort,” he said.

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

Southeastern Europe’s Chinese Endeavors

Ioannis Michaletos | Over the past two years, the economic crisis has badly affected most states in the world and has caused quite a few financial hurdles for economies in transition, such as the ones in Southeastern Europe.

In parallel, a notable development that is being formatted is the importation of Chinese capital through bilateral loans, investments and share placements into these countries through a long-term strategy of Beijing to gain a considerable foothold in one of the most strategic placements of the European Continent.

Recently, Chinese construction companies have agreed with Belgrade under a 200 million USD contract to built a bridge in Danube, a deal that was further strengthen under a 150 million USD ,loan from China to Serbia with an incredibly low interest rate of 3% and repayment period of 15 years. That is one third of what Serbia currently pays as an interest when borrowing from European or American banks and for a significant less period of time.

Moreover, Chinese corporations were procured by the Serbian state, to modernize electricity power stations, under a one billion USD contract and in parallel a substantial investment for a Chinese shopping center is being developed in the capital of the country.

Further, Chinese automobile companies are in talks with Serbian firms in order to create joint ventures for the creation of factories that will assemble trucks and tractors for agricultural use.

According to a Serbian businessman, the relations between the two states “Becomes stronger day by day in the economic field and Belgrade is seriously considering of requesting for greater amounts of loans from China, something that is feasible judging by the fact that bilateral agreements go ahead as envisaged”. Moreover, “There is increased interest by Chinese companies relating to land and real estate ventures and tourism projects”. Last year the Serbian government announced that its foreign policy has four main pillars “EU, USA, Russia and China”, certainly a statement that reveals the dynamic entrance of China into the heart oft he Balkans.

Greece is another country that has recently experienced a significant entrance of Chinese capital. Piraeus port, the Country’s main sea gateway has formed a strategic partnership with the Chinese commercial-shipping giant COSCO that took the management of a significant portion of the port and has agreed to invest 400 million Euros as well as pay 2.5 billion Euros as a lease for the next 30 years.

Tourism from China increases by 20% per annum, reaching some 300,000 high-income tourists for 2009, whilst brands such as Huawei have made a dynamic entrance in the telecommunication market and supply with equipment major Greek companies in that sector. Athens was also considering of requesting loans up to 25 billion Euros from the Chinese state, a plan that has been abandoned to an extent and in the midst of the country’s financial crisis, although local pundits are more than certain that a lesser amount will be made available from China to Greece by mid-2010.

In addition a vibrant Chinese community has been established in Athens that has opened more than 1,500 commercial outlets and Chinese merchants invest heavily in real estate in tourist regions of the city. Lastly Chinese state power companies were recently in talks with the Greek power company in order to acquire the modernization scheme of an electricity factor that could be worth more than 500 million Euros.

In Moldavia, China lent 1 billion Euros, almost a quarter of the country’s GDP that will be used in order to create infrastructure programs. This is by far the largest investment this small country has ever received from abroad.

In Bulgaria, Albania, Montenegro, Chinese officials have held talks and signed lesser deals regarding shipping and industrial projects, whilst in Turkey, Chinese commercial businesses have grown especially strong and the bilateral trade between China and Turkey is booming.

In all of Southeastern Europe, it is becoming clearer that Chinese capital is available in certain investment opportunities and most countries have begun sending trade missions to Hong-Kong and Shanghai in order to hold negotiations with their Chinese counterparts.

Further, it can be said that the decrease of the value of most companies in the region due to the low stock market performance and depreciation of capital value as a consequent of the economic crisis, has raised the interest of the Chinese that seek to maximize returns on investments by placing their capital in a high-potential and strategically located region of Europe, in between the Continent, Middle East and Russia.

Lastly, all the above, will most certainly result in an increased interest of China in European affairs, a sector that has been ignored by the mainstream media, but it will become more evident in the years ahead.

In short a reconstructing of the established economic order is taking place, and the recent developments in Southeastern Europe are just a manifestation of a wider global trend, that will certainly result in political upturns as well.

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

Speaker Pelosi Urged Americans Today to Judge Democrats on Their Success…

Since 2009 Democrats have tripled the national deficit, nearly doubled unemployment, destroyed the economy, added $2 Trillion in new debt, nationalized car companies and health care and ran the most corrupt government in decades. Let’s pray to St. Joseph the Worker that her wish comes true and that Americans judge democrats honestly this November.

What a horrible woman.

Nancy Pelosi today:

“We are on the verge of making great history for the American people and in doing so we will make great progress for them as well. The president has said over and over we will measure our own success on the progress that has been made by America’s working families. That is our responsibility and we will honor it when we vote on health care reform.”

[Return to headlines]


America Denounces ‘Obamacare’ Threat

‘His bullying and his arrogance can’t stop’

Will it soon be the U.S.S.A. — the United Socialist States of America?

Tens of thousands of people descended on Washington today, lining up in circles around the Capitol, in protest of a pending vote Sunday on President Obama’s trillion dollar plan that would take over health care across America. That’s some $500 billion in cuts from funding for U.S. seniors and another nearly like amount in new taxes.

Promoters of the bill have touted the millions who will be added to health-care rolls and claimed it will lead to deficit “reduction,” although opponents say supporters have used accounting tricks to keep hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses out of the fine print of the bill.

Critics of the reform bill cite the abortion financing the government would require, massive fines, especially against married couples, for whatever a government health czar would decide is unsatisfactory, and the general principle that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution — which sets limits on the federal government’s powers — is there an authorization to force people to buy the health-insurance program a federal bureaucrat picks out.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Attorney General Holder and His Non-Transparency

“From the start, Holder seemed more interested in pursuing American patriots who oppose abortion, big government program and gun control, than in capturing illegal alien gangs, terrorists and Marxist radicals who are open about their willingness to destroy the United States,” said political strategist Mike Baker.

According to Baker, the Attorney General and the President of the United States view conservatives and Libertarians as the real enemy instead of the radicals who seek the destruction of America and its Constitution.

“In all my 60 years living in this once great nation, I’ve never seen so many Marxists, Maoists, socialists and anti-American activists working in the White House, Congress and the judicial system. These are people who view the U.S. Constitution as a hindrance and a document that prevents the change they seek. These are people who firmly believe in globalism and a One World Government,” warns Baker.


“My read of Holder and his boss Obama is that they are perfectly comfortable befriending and defending terrorists. Obama’s close friend — and ghostwriter — William Ayers was a bomb-maker for the fanatical Weather Underground. And Holder possesses a history of beneficence to terror organizations such as when he brokered a deal for releasing FALN bombers in New York just as Hillary Clinton began her campaign for that state’s US Senate seat,” claims former NYPD detective and US Marine Sidney Frances.

[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama, Former CIA Agent

[Note from BB — I offer no opinion about the reliability of the information below.]

According to Dr. Manning, Obama (born in 1961) enrolled at the very pricey Occidental College in Los Angeles, California in 1979 and was recruited there in 1980 by the CIA which has made it a practice since its inception to recruit college students. He was, by his own admission, a “C” student, a dope smoker and a member of the Marxist Club at Occidental, a co-educational liberal arts college. In 1981, Obama allegedly transferred from Occidental to Columbia University. It is atypical for a student to begin their education in one four-year school and then transfer to another school. Columbia University requires that incoming students pass certain academic requirements which Obama apparently lacked. However, Columbia had a foreign student program and the CIA has major connections and influence with Columbia and the nation’s other educational facilities.

The CIA needed Muslims or others who could easily blend into the Muslim environment in the Middle East. The CIA persuaded Columbia University to extend their foreign student program to Obama, now a Columbia student, so that he might travel to Pakistan and enroll in the universities around Karachi in addition to the Patrice Lumumba School in Moscow.[1] The school, one of Russia’s most prestigious universities was founded on February 5, 1960 as The Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (PFUR). It was renamed the Patrice Lumumba School on February 22, 1961. On February 5, 1992 the university re-adopted its former name. According to their web site, “The main aim was to give young people from Asia, Africa and Latin America, especially from poor families, an opportunity to get University education and to become highly qualified specialists. The students were admitted through non-governmental organizations, governmental establishments, and the USSR embassies and consulates.”[2]

Obama, as an undercover agent, was allegedly the lead agent in the arms and money supply for the CIA-trained Taliban Army against the Soviet Army war machine. His actions were integral to the Taliban’s success in their opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Obama, it is publicly acknowledged, went to Pakistan in 1981. There is no way of knowing how often Obama traveled between Pakistan and Russia. According to Dr. Manning, Obama was an interpreter for the CIA during the war in Afghanistan. When Obama completed his CIA operations in the mid 1980s and returned to the U.S. he persuaded the State Department to maneuver his entrance into Harvard Law School; since the CIA, the U.S. president’s personal agency for black operations throughout the world, also has connections to federal and state politicians, they managed to arrange Obama’s entrance to yet another elite school in 1988.

[Return to headlines]

House Opts Against ‘Deeming’ Health Care Bill Passed

House Democrats on Saturday decided against using a controversial tactic to pass the Senate’s version of the health care bill, a senior House source confirmed to Fox News.

House Democrats on Saturday decided against using a controversial tactic to pass the Senate’s version of the health care bill without an actual vote.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD., said he believes Democrats have enough votes to pass the legislation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

If Barack Forces Passage of Health Care “Reform” — Should He be Impeached?

Would a straightforward, unbiased analysis of the presidential actions of Barack Obama through March 2010, lead to a demand for his immediate impeachment and removal from office? Yes, for a most transparent reason: Obama is purposely undermining the US Constitution. In doing so, his actions make unstable every institution and office below the presidency, since the Constitution is the foundation of every government power and official decision. In fomenting institutional unrest across the US, he threatens the safety of every American man, woman and child, and all our citizens abroad.

The malign deeds of Barack include issues with: Honesty: Obama’s campaign was based upon a mass tissue of lies, undermining his legitimacy by deriving election results based on sheer falsehoods; Loyalty: When Obama flies around the world and criticizes America, or bows down to kings and despots, who is he actually representing? Fiscal Integrity: Deficit spending appears Barack’s only theory of government economic growth, eventually necessitating US insolvency. Knowledge & Competence: Obama repeatedly appears disinterested or ill-informed about important issues; Constitutional Fealty: Obama reveals contempt for the US Constitution; World-view: Barack often seems to identify more with socialists, or other radicals, than typical Americans; America’s Future: What possible strong tomorrow can America hope for if Obama’s ideas become default public policy?

I. A Natural Law Constitution

The preeminent American political document is the Constitution. Its chief drafter was James Madison, the most gifted political theoretician of his day. 1 He and other Founders would claim the Constitution could not be changed without debasing the natural law theory behind it. 2 It offers the classic model of virtuous self-rule government, proposing an enlightened concept of law and the public good. It propounds wholesome truths regarding human nature and revealed religion. Because the Constitution rests upon a natural law foundation 3, being an appeal to immutable principles, it must not be quickly re-molded for a mere superficial switch in public opinion. Yet, Obama’s inane tinkering with our written foundation reveals a shocking lack of acceptance or understanding of the concepts that underlie our system.


Paine eloquently summed up in Rights of Man, Book II, what a constitution really is:

Here we see a regular process- a government issuing out of a constitution, formed by the people in their original character; and that constitution serving, not only as an authority, but as a law of control to the government. It was the political bible of the state. Scarcely a family was without it. Every member of the government had a copy; and nothing was more common, when any debate arose on the principle of a bill, or on the extent of any species of authority, than for the members to take the printed constitution out of their pocket, and read the chapter with which such matter in debate was connected.”

Barack Obama What is Obama’s attitude towards our Constitution? Even before Obama went to law school he had a serious disagreement with America’s secular bible. In his undergraduate college thesis, according to Liberal columnist Joe Klein, Barack complained:

“The Constitution allows for many things, but what it does not allow is the most revealing. The so-called Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy.” 7

Obama is not a fan of the Constitution. But why not? As good a guess as any, based upon a background soaked in socialism and communist influence, and his many comments to this effect, is that the main flaw of the document is it does not focus upon Barack’s chief aim—”justice” via redistribution of wealth.


III. Communist Strategy of Forced Crisis

A main tool for fomenting Socialist Revolution, and then keeping power in Marxist countries is the production of government-developed crises. Both Stalin and Mao realized a communist tyranny needed a doctrine of “permanent crisis.” For example, Mao precipitated a peasant war when these poor farmers did not deliver his utterly fantastic expectations for food production. So he took all their food by force, allowing upwards of 40 million Chinese to starve to death during the Great Leap Forward campaign. Of course, the Chairman claimed the problem a natural “famine,” as described in Jasper Becker’s Hungry Ghosts. Both Stalin and Lenin did the same exact thing to Russian peasants, causing tens of million more to die.


So, why did Obama choose health care as his raison d’etre? First, Ronald Reagan answers this question astutely in his 1961 “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine.” 13 He said:

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project, most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it. Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it.” (audio:

Obviously, fifty years ago, Ronald Reagan nailed the entire logic behind the insatiable desire for leftists demanding socialized medicine.


Second, if Obama can break the Constitution on the health care reform battle, he knows he will be too hard to stop his Machiavellian machinations to develop a junior tyranny. He will then use the same method to relentlessly drive his entire agenda.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Media Lying About Racist Attacks on Black Reps by Tea Party Protesters… Video Proof

It’s come to this…

The state-run media is now pushing their anti-tea party propaganda from sources at the anti-military Jew-hating conservative-hating Huffington Post. And, they’re reporting this propaganda without a single piece of evidence.

On Saturday the media reported without a shred of evidence that tea party protesters were shouting obscenities and “n***er” at black Representatives on Capitol Hill. The representatives said it happened as they walked from the Longworth office building to the Rayburn office building.

But, look at this… Here’s video proof that these horrible leftists are liars:

No one screamed “n***er.” No one screamed “f*ggot.” No one was spit on.

Do you suppose the state-run media will correct their propaganda piece now?

[Return to headlines]

Texting Teen Faces Surgery on Both Wrists After Sending 100 Messages a Day

A schoolgirl is facing surgery on both wrists after sending more than 100 text messages a day from her mobile phone.

Annie Levitz, 16, who has lost the feeling in her hands and is unable to pick up some objects, has to wear braces on both wrists and also needs pain-killing injections.

Doctors say she is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, whereby nerves in the wrist become trapped. The condition is usually associated with frequent computer keyboard use.

Annie, from Chicago in the U.S., insisted she has cut down on her texting habit — but only to 50 a day. ‘I know it’s not good enough, but I am trying,’ she said. ‘It’s not even good texts. It’s things like, “Hey, hey, what’s up?”.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Empire of the Out of Touch

By pushing health care as their number one priority, the Democrats were very clearly ignoring the number one concern of the public—the economy. And selling an expensive health care boondoggle was going to be much more of a challenge at a time when people were being much more budget conscious, both in their budgets which would be strained by such provisions as mandatory health insurance, and the national budget, which was already unworkable to most people. But if government health care couldn’t be sold in tough economic times, Cap and Trade which would kill uncounted numbers of jobs, and immigration, which would wreck an already tight job market, certainly couldn’t be sold.

And that is why Obama refuses to back down from his big health care push. It isn’t simply Rahm Emanuel’s borrowed testosterone at work, though obviously the collapse of health care would be a severe blow to his credibility. But if Obama folds on health care, he folds on everything. Where Bill Clinton could deftly retreat from an unpopular program and do whatever he had to do to stay in office, Obama is a manufactured candidate, elevated for a specific purpose. He has never fought his own battles. His agenda is being set by the people who got him this far, and they didn’t get him this far just to keep him in office. They did it to radically change America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Suicide Voyeur Nurse Who ‘Encouraged People to Kill Themselves Online’

William Francis Melchert-Dinkel, a 46-year-old American nurse, is to be charged by Minnesota police with encouraging Mr Drybrough and others to commit suicide.

Mr Melchert-Dinkel, a married father of two, allegedly spent years posing as a young woman who may have contacted more than 100 desperate people across the world.

‘Most important is the placement of the noose on the neck,’ he allegedly wrote in one web chat. He then went on to detail where to place the knot ‘for instant unconsciousness and death.’

He has allegedly admitted to U.S police that he was involved in at least four deaths, including that of an 18-year-old Canadian student Nadia Kajouji.

Mr Drybrough’s mother Elaine said that she believed that Melchert-Dinkel appointed himself as her son’s ‘executioner’. Mark Drybrough killed himself at his home in Coventry in June 2005

Mark Drybrough killed himself at his home in Coventry in June 2005

‘Mark had had a nervous breakdown and he was depressed and incredibly susceptible,’ she said.

‘This person was there whispering in his ear every time he logged on. In the last email, this person claimed to be a nurse, saying he had medical training, and proposed a suicide pact.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

“Don’t Let This Become a Witch Hunt”

Austrian writer Josef Haslinger, who was sexually abused by paedophile priests in his youth, argues for a more nuanced and prudent approach to the problem.

In Austria, every time it emerges that another Catholic priest has been unable to restrain his sexual urges, my phone rings. It has almost become a tradition. It’s as if I were an expert on all matters relating to paedophilia or paedosexuality. As a child, I did indeed have a number of experiences in this area, and I did indeed write about them. But I can’t be an expert because I wrote about them differently before than I do now.

I was twelve years old when a priest, my then religious studies teacher, first showed interest in my small penis and was obviously aroused. A state that will be unfamiliar to most twelve-year-olds, unless they have the sort of parents who don’t bother to keep their sexuality to themselves. It took a while before my religious studies teacher dared to get more intimate. Having observed my lack of protest, he soon began to seek out opportunities to repeat our little game, and take things a bit further. I played along for several rounds. It never even occurred to me to do anything serious about the matter. Which is why I was in no position to end it.

The incidents upset me, as they say, I did not know what to think of them, I talked to no one about them for a long time. Others, though, did talk about them. And so I lost my first sacred erotic partner, if I can call him that, while still in boarding school. He was packed off to another monastery that had no pupils.

I thought my fellow pupils were very brave to tell their parents about these experiences. In a way, though, it also felt like betrayal. But from that point on, I knew that I would be able to use these incidents to blackmail the people who had initiated them; I had my defence in my hand. And I also saw how easy it could be. You only had to talk, and the man would get the short straw. As a child, and particularly as a child in a boarding school, you develop a sense of strategy. You learn how to be cruel. I knew about this sort of thing, I had used it often enough. But never against priests who played sex games with me.

No huge scandal ensued. One priest was sent to another monastery. Why, the community never discovered. There was no mention of it in the media. And as for my slowly developing sexuality, others soon came along to fill the vacant position. I was the perfect choice for them. I held my tongue.

Fifteen years later, in the early eighties, I published a short story called “Die plötzlichen Geschenke des Himmels” (heaven’s sudden gifts). In it, the first-person narrator describes how, as a pupil in a monastery school, he was raped by his religious teacher, a certain Father G. The words I used were these: “He laid his bulging piece of meat on my tongue like a holy communion wafer, smiling at me, he said, right, come on, you know you can do it. A stale, insipid taste, slight disgust. Then he shoved it into my mouth, twitching, I couldn’t get away from him now. My head was being pressed from behind against the bush of hair, my religious studies teacher thrust against the roof of my mouth, stretching me, trying to push his way into my oesophagus.”

When I wrote these words, I was already familiar with porn films. This particular scene bore the least resemblance to reality. In the story, the first-person narrator then ran away from his Catholic boarding school, without being able to make anyone understand why he didn’t want to return. Morally irreproachable fiction. It would fit perfectly into today’s debate. And this is precisely why it is wrong.

Father G. was a hybrid of three people with whom I had sexual contact between the ages of 12 and 14. Then there was a fourth mentor who did not fit the picture because he had showed me that a wife and an astonishingly large number of children was still not enough to keep a family man from indulging his interest in little erotic games with young boys. Unlike the protagonist in my short story, however, I never ran away from my monastery school, I only dreamed of doing so. But this had nothing to do with the sexual incidents.

The short story was a moral denunciation, no, an offloading. By that time I had left the church and wanted to take my revenge, in as drastic a way as possible. Looking back, I think that it was primarily the constant humiliation and the ubiquitous corporal punishment that triggered my feelings of hatred. At a time when people outside the monastery walls were talking about anti-authoritarian education, we were being beaten with sticks by the protagonists of the religion of love. In this sphere of monastic violence, the paedophiles were an oasis of tenderness. The monastery was excessive in both directions.

I have to admit that there were plenty of opportunities at the time to ward off these sexual encounters, and indeed to end them. I did not take them. I didn’t exactly offer myself up, I was too shy for that, but after the initial unexpected advances, I soon saw who, due to certain leanings, was on the look out. And I did not avoid the advances, in a certain way I felt honoured.

I was being initiated into the secret, thrilling world of sexuality. A penis, that ejaculates. By the time you reach twelve, you are dying to see one. It might be unusual that it was Catholic priests who opened this world to me. But they were not the only ones. I had just as much contact with boys my age and older as others did. I was not some socially disturbed child at the mercy of holy paedophile sex drives. I was upset because at the time I was deeply religious and wanted to become a priest myself. The moral distress was much worse than the erotic confusion.

Now, when all the world is suddenly up in arms about such matters, as if there were no tradition for them, I feel obliged to tell people not only about the distress, but about the whole spectrum of feelings. Feelings that were there should not just be shaken off in retrospect, in the interests of moral outrage, as if they never existed. It was not only a burden to have a secret like this, it was also something special.

Recently, while going through old photos, I discovered a letter from the monastery, a shy love letter which I had been sent at the age of twelve by an ordained priest. And he had included a photo of himself. It seems astonishing today, but not so then. I boasted to my mother that an ordained priest was so intimate with me, and I showed her the photo. She was not suspicious in any way. And when the importunate priest invited me back to the monastery during the holidays, I went.

I understand that society cannot give carte blanche to paedophiles. But I also know that these people are gentle, caring, loving and much less egotistical than everyone imagines. And they don’t need to be, because there are enough children curious enough to get involved. I was certainly exploited by these adults, but I felt I was being taken seriously. We didn’t just talk about sexuality. One of the three men wrote poetry. I still know one of his poems by heart. And once we talked about the topic of an essay which I had been given to write. And the next time we met, he gave me a piece of paper on which he had typed his thoughts on the subject. They were the thoughts of an adult. I used them in my essay and, suddenly, they became my thoughts. They sharpened my thinking. The man later married and had children. Of my first partner, the one who was sent off to another monastery, I can confidently say that he would not have been capable of marriage and family.

After talking about my experiences in the monastery on Austrian TV in the wake of the recent child abuse discussions, I received an email from a woman telling me that a relative of hers, a teacher, had just committed suicide. He had (rightly) been found guilty of indecently touching a pupil.

We mustn’t allow this to turn into a witch hunt. Of course we must protect the children. And the victims have the right to be heard. But what should we do with the perpetrators? It is not for no reason that the law has a statute of limitations. This was born of a one-time sensitivity for justice. We cannot simply focus on perpetrators whose crimes come under the statute of limitations. Everyone should be given a chance to learn to keep their behaviour within legal limits. And if they have learned this, it means they have made considerably more effort than many of those who are feigning moral outrage although they know nothing of the pitfalls of such leanings.

The key aim of the current focus on paedophilia and paedosexuality has to be to uncover cases that are happening now and avoid ones in the future. It is important for the victims to work through the past. They have an unlimited right to do so. But society? Let’s not forget that this touches on people’s most private parts. This goes for victims and perpetrators alike. However people are made, they are protected by the constitution. I do not want to see these people pilloried.

The best way to protect the children is to help the paedophiles cope with their socially-unacceptable inclinations in a way that doesn’t break the law. But the current criminalisation campaign goes in a very different direction and is not helpful in any way. It must be possible to offer a person, who obviously cannot manage it alone, some form of help to keep their behaviour under control — which does not immediately deny them their human rights.

Media-obsessed politicians are falling over themselves to make suggestions of how to step up legislation and lift the statutory period of limitation. If we equate paedophiles with child molesters and sex offenders we will inflate the media spectacle but we will have lost a yardstick for sensible action. To my eyes, which have no training in such matters, these come under different legal paragraphs.


Josef Haslinger was born 1955 in Zwettl, Lower Austria and is one of Austria’s most prominent writers. His novel “Opernball” was a 1995 bestseller. His most recent book, “Phi Phi Island” (2007), describes his experience of the 26 December tsunami in 2004. Josef Haslinger teaches literary aesthetics at the Literary Institute in Leipzig.

This article was originally published in German in Die Welt on 13 March, 2010.

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

Catholic Child Sex Abuse Scandal Grips Europe

As the child sex abuse scandal in Europe widens, doubts have been raised over whether an expected statement from Pope Benedict XVI will help heal the wounds.

After Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland, 70 new cases of abuse are reportedly under investigation in Switzerland. In addition, this week a priest in the eastern Chur diocese resigned after admitting to abusing children.

The “deeply concerned” pope is due to publish an unprecedented pastoral letter to Irish Catholics on Saturday which he hopes will help “repentance, healing and renewal”.

This follows an escalating child abuse crisis in Ireland involving more than 15,000 children and cover-ups by church leaders from the 1930s to 1990s.

While some Vatican-watchers say the pope’s letter will mark a turning point and break the official silence over cases of paedophilia and abuse involving clergy and staff, Edmund Arens, professor of theology at Lucerne University, feels it is unlikely to go far enough.

“I think the pope should issue a mea culpa on behalf of the church,” he told

“It’s high time the church admitted its guilt in such crimes, in covering them up and in preventing victims from going to court.”

But Arens doubted the pontiff would do so, as he has a “supernatural, idealistic” view of the Church, he said.

“The Church is losing its credibility,” he added. “There is a significant contradiction between what it teaches — love, solidarity and compassion — and what it practices.”

German crisis

Arens’s criticism echoes an attack on the church leadership by dissident Swiss theologian Hans Küng.

In an interview published in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday, Küng said the pope should apologise personally, as “no other person within the church had seen so many cases of abuse pass through their office”.

Joseph Ratzinger [the pope] was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 24 years — an office that has authority over church doctrine and jurisdiction for various matters including sexual misconduct of clergy.

“Protecting their priests seems to have counted more for the bishops than protecting children,” said Küng.

After the scandals in Ireland last month, more reports have emerged over recent months of abuse at church-run schools and institutions in Germany, including one linked to the Regensburg choir run by the pope’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, from 1964 to 1994. Some 300 victims have come forward since January.

In a letter to the German Die Welt newspaper on Thursday the head of Germany’s Catholic Church, Robert Zollitsch, insisted the pope had repeatedly made clear how deeply appalled he was by the sexual abuse scandals.

And last weekend the Vatican too defended the pontiff vigorously. A spokesman denounced “aggressive” efforts by the media to personally implicate the pope in the unfolding crisis in his homeland and in cover-ups.

Tip of the iceberg?

Switzerland has also been hit by the widening scandal.

On Friday the curate for the Chur diocese announced that it was looking into ten possible sex abuse cases. These are in addition to 60 reports of sexual abuse by priests reported by a Swiss Catholic Church official last weekend.

Those allegations were reported to the Swiss Bishops Conference, which is investigating them. The Church will not press charges but will advise victims to do so.

On Wednesday a priest from the Chur diocese resigned after confessing to sexually abusing children in the 1970s. He also admitted abuses in parts of neighbouring Austria and Germany that belong to the same diocese, and reported himself to local police.

Andrea Hauri, a child protection officer with the Swiss Foundation for the Protection of the Child, believed this number was just the tip of the iceberg.

“The real figures are likely to be much higher as abuse of children is frequent, not only in religious circles but also in school environments,” she noted, adding that the current debate in the media could encourage more people to come forward.

Germans, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have been particularly vocal about the scandal in their homeland. This contrasts with Switzerland, where the response has been muted with religious leaders seemingly still trying to come to terms with the scandal.

“The Swiss are very hesitant, moderate and calm,” said Arens. “They treat all things with great secrecy.”

Hauri agreed: “We don’t know what goes on inside the Church.”

But Walter Müller, spokesman for the Swiss Bishops Conference, defended the Swiss Catholic Church’s transparent victim-centred strategy towards child abuse cases.

“As shown by the recent [Chur] incident, as soon as it occurs the matter is immediately made public, the victim is listened to, helped and encouraged to file a police report,” he told Swiss public television, adding that each diocese has contact points for victims and witnesses to come forward.

Swiss People’s Party parliamentarian Natalie Rickli felt it was a step in the right direction, but not enough.

“It’s not enough when you post a notice on the internet and start an advisory group but then leave it up to the victims to decide whether they want to file charges.”

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

EU: Italy Top Med Country in Recycling and Composting

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 19 — Italy is the queen of Mediterranean EU countries in recycling and composting (45% in total). Cyprus is in the European top ten of waste producers, with an annual average of 770 kg per person, after Denmark and Ireland. These figures were issued by European statistical office Eurostat. The office specifies that in 2008 an average of 524 kg of urban waste per person was produced in the EU. In the European Union, 40% of waste ends up in dumping grounds, but another 40% is recycled (23%) or composted (17%); 20% is incinerated. Cyprus is followed by Malta on the list of major producers, with 696kg, after that Spain (575), Italy (561), France (543), Spain (459), Slovenia (459) and Portugal (477). According to the figures, Italy recycled 11% and composted 34%, reaching a total of 45%. Another 11% ended up in incinerators in Italy. France recycled 18%, composted 15%, incinerated 32% and dumped 36%. Slovenia is the country that recycles most of all Mediterranean countries (31%), but 66% is dumped, only 2% composted and 1% burned. Spain dumps 57%, but recycles 14%, composts 20% and incinerates 9%. Greece recycles 21% of its urban waste but dumps most of it (77%). The country doesn’t use incinerators and composts only 2%. Portugal recycles 9%, composts 8%, incinerates 19% and dumps 65%. Malta’s waste ends up for 97% on the dumping ground, and recycles just 3%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Regional Elections, Possible New Abstention Record

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 19 — Already at a record level in the first round of French regional elections, the abstention rate could hit another new record in the second round next Sunday. According to a CSA survey published by the daily newspaper, Le Parisien, 55% of French people could abstain from the second ballot, against the record of 53.5% last Sunday. According to the survey, the left would obtain 56% of the votes, the right 36%, the National Front (far-right) 7%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Georges Frêche: The Le Pen of the Left

His big mouth threatens to create a new schism among the ever-squabbling French Socialists

Georges Frêche, 71, is living proof that French Socialists do not have to be dull. Three years after being thrown out of the party for making racist remarks, he has provoked a blistering quarrel which threatens to split France’s main opposition party, not on ideological lines, but between Paris and the provinces, North v South.

Mr Frêche, president of Languedoc-Roussillon, has been called the “Le Pen of the left”. He is a virulently pro-Israeli politician who makes seemingly anti-Semitic remarks. He is a pro-business ex-Maoist who attacks the “anti-market” tendencies of the French Socialist Party but wants to erect a statue of Lenin in his home city of Montpellier.

As a young man, he fought the police on the streets of France in the cause of Algerian independence. He has since become a political Godfather of the expelled white Algerian ex-colonists or “Pieds-Noirs”.

He is a university professor and expert on Roman law who likes to present himself — and talk — like a grumpy old man drinking a pastis on a shaded bar terrace in the South of France. He is also given credit, in his 27 years as Mayor of Montpellier, up to 2004, for developing the city into one of the most attractive and commercially thriving in France.

Outside his home region of Languedoc-Roussillon, stretching along the Mediterranean coast from the Rhône delta to Spain, Mr Frêche is a figure of fun or hatred or incomprehension. Within his region, he remains the dominant political figure and odds-on favourite to be re-elected regional president at the head of a rag-tag, centre-left coalition next month.

That coalition contains almost all the local chieftains of the Parti Socialiste (PS), despite the fact that the national party expelled Mr Frêche in 2007 for suggesting, inter alia, that there were too many black faces in the France football team. On Tuesday night, the national bureau of the Socialist Party, meeting in Paris, expelled all these local party dignitaries — 59 in all. They include the secretaries (bosses) of all five local Socialist Party branches in the region; two presidents of départment (county) councils; a senator and a score of mayors. In other words, almost all the leaders of one of the strongest Socialist regions in France have been kicked out of the Socialist Party — temporarily at least — for supporting Mr Frêche.

The family argument could not come at a worse time for the Parti Socialists and its national leader, Martine Aubry. The main French centre-left party seemed to have begun to lay aside its perennial internal struggles. It could, with its allies, sweep the board, and deeply embarrass President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the regional elections on 14 and 21 March. Sweep the board, that is, in all 21 regions of metropolitan France, save Mr Frêche’s Languedoc-Roussillon.

Originally, the Socialist Party, at national level, had agreed reluctantly to back Mr Frêche’s centre-left coalition, or “list”. Last month, Mr Frêche once again outraged the leadership of the national party — and many other people in France — by making what appeared to be an anti-Semitic remark about the former Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius.

Mr Fabius is from a Catholic family of Jewish origin. After he had criticised Mr Frêche during a radio interview, the president of Languedoc-Roussillon retaliated by saying that the former prime minister had a “tronche pas tre’s Catholique” — literally a “not very Catholic mug or hooter”.

This may seem a trivial insult. Mr Frêche says that it was a version of a well-known phrase in the French south, “pas tre’s Catholique”, meaning not entirely straightforward. This is disingenuous. By referring to the “tronche”, the face or nose, of Mr Fabius, Mr Frêche was indulging in just the kind of insidious, nudge-nudge anti-Semitism which still thrives in bourgeois, Catholic France, north and south.

This was far from Mr Frêche’s first lapse. He has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks before, despite being a strong supporter of Israel. He once referred to two ex-”Harkis” — Algerians who fought on the French side in the colonial civil war — as “sub-humans”. In 2007, he repeated a complaint once voiced by the far-right leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, that there were too many black players on the France football team.

Both supporters and enemies of Mr Frêche in Languedoc say that creative inconsistency — being left-wing in his policies and right-wing in his language — is the secret of his political longevity. There is anti-Paris feeling in all French provinces but none more so than Languedoc. Mr Frêche has skilfully exploited this resentment over the years. His status as a martyr for southern plain-speaking against Parisian political correctness has brought him many votes from the centre and further right.

In a book published this week — with quite coincidental timing of course — Mr Frêche attacked what he sees as the sterile moralising of the national leadership of the PS. “The party has erected itself into a vehicle for universal values: anti-bigot, anti-alcoholic, anti-smoking, anti-racist, pro-homosexual, pro-black, pro-white, pro-yellow, pro-red, pro-Jewish, pro-Muslim, pro-orthodox, pro-Japanese, pro-garden gnome, anti-pitbull, anti-unhappiness, anti-anger, anti-vulgar…”

“I am from the South and I will stay a man of the South… My angry tone of voice, and my accent itself, get up the nose of [the Parisians] but I don’t give a stuff. I have other business to take care of.”

Mr Frêche also accused “little” Martine Aubry of attacking him to promote her own hopes of becoming the Socialist presidential candidate in 2012. Ms Aubry, who was elected national party leader in a disputed (and rather doubtful) poll a year ago, has been left in a very difficult position. She decided three weeks ago to put her increasing authority on the line and order all Socialists in Mr Frêche’s campaign to switch to a hastily organised official Socialist “list”. Almost all of them refused. Opinion polls show Mr Frêche’s list far ahead of the pack and the official Socialist list trailing in seventh place.

On Tuesday night, the national bureau of the Parti Socialiste reluctantly agreed to support Ms Aubry — and its own rules — and hurl its disobedient southern chieftains into outer darkness for at least two years. It was announced, however, that the party would investigate, or reconsider, the whole affair once the elections are over.

A judgement of Solomon? That was the intention but ex-Socialists in Languedoc were still spitting blood at the national leadership and threatening counter legal action yesterday.

The wit and wisdom of the Languedoc man

On football

“In this team [the France football team], there are nine blacks out of 11. The normal would be three or four. That would reflect our society. I’m ashamed of this country. Soon, there will be 11 blacks. When I see some football teams, it upsets me.”

On colonialism

Replying to two Harkis (Algerians who fought on the French side in the 1950s and 1960s colonial war) who heckled him: “They massacred your people in Algeria and you are going to lick their boots. You are nothing. You are sub-humans. Nothing at all.”

On the electorate

“I have always been elected by a majority of cons [arseholes] and that is not going to change.”

On Laurent Fabius

“If I was in upper Normandy, I don’t know if I would vote for Fabius. I would have to think about it. This bloke worries me. He has a not very Catholic hooter [tronche].”

On Toulouse

“I should really stand for election in Toulouse. When I was a student in that city, I screwed 40 per cent of the women.”

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

Germany: Leftist Accuses Official of Blocking Citizenship

Weeks after a member of the socialist Left party accused Lower Saxony’s Interior Ministry of blocking her citizenship application for her political leanings, Jannine Menger-Hamilton told The Local on Friday she would now receive a German passport.

“If I hadn’t gone public in February I still wouldn’t have an answer,” the 31-year-old said, three days after the naturalisation office informed her she would receive her citizenship in April.

Menger-Hamilton, who works as the press spokesperson for the Left party’s Schleswig-Holstein parliamentary group, inadvertently became an enemy of the state when she applied for citizenship in Lower Saxony in October 2007.

Born in Germany to a Scottish father and an Italian mother, the resident of Laatzen, near Hannover, said that while she feels “completely European” and connected to all three countries, Germany is her home.

She said her main reason for wanting citizenship was to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic inconveniences when marrying a German man.

But it turned out that the naturalisation application she submitted in Hannover was only the beginning of her paperwork problems. Standard processing time for a request is between three and six months, but after nine months with no word, Menger-Hamilton began wondering what was holding things up.

“Only after several inquiries did an official reveal that someone from the domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz) had gotten involved in my case,” she told The Local.

When she went to the Hannover naturalisation office to view her files, Menger-Hamilton was stunned to find that the state Interior Ministry — led by conservative Christian Democrat Uwe Schünemann — had also given orders to block her application.

Documents show that the state interior minister himself was involved, she said.

Schünemann told news magazine Der Spiegel this week that he played no role in Menger-Hamilton’s case, saying he was only informed of its existence and blaming Hannover authorities for the delays.

But a statement from the Hannover district office on Wednesday pushed back, outlining a chronology of at least eight occasions on which Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, which reports to the Interior Ministry, intervened in the process.

“The Interior Ministry engaged in this procedure several times and made it clear that naturalisation should be denied,” Hannover’s district president Hauke Jagau said.

The documentation details statements from the Verfassungsschutz, which specifically cited Menger-Hamilton’s Left party affiliation as problematic because the organisation — though it is legal and the country’s fourth largest political party — was “against free democratic order.”

“The political components of this situation are problematic,” Menger-Hamilton told The Local. “That a ministry can harass an individual for political ends is a scandal. There were no accusations; everything was construed with the aim of defaming the Left party.”

Despite media criticism, Schünemann said he will continue to monitor the Left party’s activities in the “defence of democracy,” Der Spiegel reported, citing a similar case in the state involving a young Syrian man.

Menger-Hamilton told The Local that while she may act against having a file with the domestic intelligence agency, she does not plan to take legal action against the Interior Ministry for blocking her application, and is simply relieved that the struggle is over.

“It’s hard for me to just spontaneously be happy about it,” she said. “It’s hard because it was such a difficult fight.”

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

Germany: Child Abuse by the Catholic Church

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.03.2010 dedicates its entire feuilleton section to child abuse in Catholic boarding schools, churches and choirs. Eleonore Büning looks at the connection between music and violence. “The sweet, androgynous fusion of boys voices has always has a sexual component as poets and composers from Bach to Goethe, Benjamin Britten to Thomas Mann were all too aware. Thousands of children were subjected to violence in the name of music, so that a few of them could raise their angelic voices in praise of God. Yes, it used to be acceptable to castrate boys, just like only a few decades ago, it was considered normal and acceptable to box the ears of young choir boys.”

In Die Welt 16.03.2010, Gerhard Amendt expresses his outrage at Josef Haslinger’s recollections (see our feature “Don’t let it turn into a witch hunt”) of his encounters with tender paedophile priests, discrediting entirely his ability to assess the events. “He is stuck in a state of childlike impotence with regards to the past. His arguments are a clear indication of the immense cruelty of the institution and the mental shackles that were placed on its wards. This did not just ensure that the victims held their tongues and fell into a conflict of loyalty, it also left them so confused that they could no longer distinguish clearly between right and wrong, between the childish need for tenderness and the sexual desires of adults, particularly the perverse ones.”

“Men abused boys, men covered it up,” writes Susanne Mayer in Die Zeit 18.03.2010. “The question remains as to why a society that has so successfully sustained its patriarchal status, with closed circles of men in all positions of power, seems to be so helpless in this matter, in protecting the male child of all things, from paedophile aggressors. Perhaps it can only be understood as the defence of a homophile element, which can be found in any group of men, flocking together according to the narcissistic principle of similarity, as any board-meeting photograph blantantly flaunts.”

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

Greece: Full Steam Ahead for Frigates Buy

Greece will go ahead with the purchase of six Fremm frigates from France despite its economic woes, Deputy Defence Minister Panos Beglitis said on February 10. France’s La Tribune newspaper had reported earlier that the acquisition was likely to be raised at a meeting between Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“We will carry out the previous government’s deal to purchase six Fremm frigates,” Panos Beglitis said in a statement to Reuters, without confirming whether the issue would be discussed. Greek officials said talks over a possible deal were held with French naval shipyard DCNS, a quarter owned by defence electronics group Thales.

Historic tensions with neighbour and fellow Nato member Turkey have kept Greece’s defence spending perennially high, but news of any major arms deal could raise eyebrows at a time when Europe may be forced to salvage Greece from a debt crisis. Greece’s 2010 budget foresees 2 billion euros in spending on arms purchases, down from 2.2 billion euros a year earlier.

Greece started bilateral talks with France to buy six Fremm-type frigates in 2009, built by state-owned shipyards, and the potential deal is worth 2.5 billion euros ($3.45 billion), La Tribune said. La Tribune quoted an unnamed source as saying the negotiations were going well and added the contract could be signed this year.

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

Italy: Premier Urges Supporters to Join Rally

Berlusconi accuses judiciary of undermining democracy

(ANSA) — Rome, March 19 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi is hoping to draw at least half a million supporters to a rally in Rome on Saturday, ahead of regional elections in which he says voters must choose between his “can-do government” and the “small-talking Left” and the judiciary out to nail him.

The March 28-29 regional elections in 13 of Italy’s 20 regions are seen as a crucial test for Berlusconi amid signs that his popularity is slipping.

A poll published by the left-leaning daily La Repubblica last week showed his popularity has dropped to 44%, its lowest level since his government swept to power in the spring of 2008 and far below its peak of 62% in October 2008. But the media magnate-turned politician claims that privately commissioned polls show that his People of Freedom (PdL) party has regained momentum despite what he claims are attempts by alleged left-leaning magistrates to discredit him through politically motivated probes. “Our candidates will teach the Left a lesson. With our reasoning and our programmes we’ll show that we can prevail over the evil, unfair and anti-democratic attitude of the Left”.

Berlusconi has decided to hold the gathering in the historic San Giovanni square, the traditional meeting ground of the centre-left opposition which held its own pre-election rally in a smaller piazza last Saturday.

Berlusconi says that his will not be a protest rally but a positive show of the PdL’s plans for the Italian regions, the majority of which are governed by the centre left.

He says he will ask PdL candidates running as regional presidents to commit themselves to a pact with voters to improve local bureaucracy, to build more houses and to plant millions of trees.

On Friday, he accused allegedly left-leaning magistrates of undermining Italian democracy, and pledged a wide-ranging overhaul of the judicial system over the next three years.

Leftist prosecutors, he claimed, have whipped up a new case for political ends in a bid to help the centre-left opposition’s election campaign. At present, the judiciary “endangers our democracy,” said the premier, stressing that “this is something we’ll deal with over the next three years, with a major and radical reform of the judicial system”.

Referring to a new probe against him by prosecutors in the southern city of Trani, he said his government “continues to work despite the fact that newspapers and TV shows are full of the issues that leftist magistrates have skilfully put in the spotlight”.

The premier was placed under investigation this week for allegedly putting media watchdog Agcom under pressure to shut down a popular talk show on state broadcaster RAI hosted by left-leaning journalist Michele Santoro, whom Berlusconi had blackballed during his previous 2001-2005 centre-right government.

Berlusconi, who has called the probe “grotesque”, denied placing undue pressure on the watchdog, saying he had simply asked it to apply the rules but that an Agcom member appointed by the opposition UDC party had vetoed his request.

“These watchdogs don’t use common sense, they rule on the basis of party affiliation”. According to the premier, RAI and the watchdog allow Santoro’s Annozero show to get away with not giving equal-time opportunity to anyone it places on ‘trial’ in the programme.

“This is a disgrace that a civilised country can’t put up with”. Earlier this week, Berlusconi said judicial cases against him are whipped up “like clockwork” at election time and “blown up by obliging dailies”.

On Friday he reiterated accusations that the judiciary and the Left had prevented PdL officials from registering Rome province candidates for the regional elections in Lazio and attempting to foil the registration of incumbent Lombardy region president Roberto Formigoni.

He said it was “absurd” that current election-filing procedures allow the judiciary to vet party documents, charging that left-leaning magistrates had “applied the rules to suit themselves”. The head of the National Association of Magistrates (ANM), Luca Palamara, reacted swiftly to Berlusconi’s accusations, saying the judiciary would “not let itself be intimidated by this recurrent litany”.

“Magistrates apply the law, which is the basis of democracy everywhere”. The House Whip for the opposition Italy of Values party, Massimo Donadi, said Berluscon’s claims were “very serious”.

“Trying to get Agcom to shut down an unfavourable television show is an act of a totalitarian regime which is unheard-of in any other European country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Future Looking Bright for Alitalia, Berlusconi Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 19 — The future is looking bright for Alitalia, the national airline that was privatized at the beginning of 2009, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday. “Alitalia’s figures are looking very positive and its prospects for the next three years are excellent,” he said. The airline was reborn as a private carrier after its state-managed forerunner declared bankruptcy in 2008. It was reformed by a private consortium of investors under the guidance of the Berlusconi government, whose center-right coalition had resisted a planned takeover by Air France-KLM before it came to office in 2008. “We didn’t want to lose our flagship airline,” the premier said Friday. Air France-KLM was later chosen as a strategic partner and was allowed to buy 25% of the new company. Last month, Alitalia estimated an operating loss of 270 million euros in its first year as a private carrier. It said its aim was to break even in 2010 and start turning a profit in 2011. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Pompeian Snack Bar Opens Sunday

2,000-year-old shop offers visitors taste of past

(ANSA) — Pompeii, March 18 — A 2,000-year-old snack-bar in the Ancient Roman city of Pompeii will ‘open for business’ once more this Sunday, with a special one-off event marking its restoration. A limited number of visitors to the Campanian archaeological site will be taken on a 45-minute guided tour of the Thermopolium (snack-bar) of Vetutius Placidus, which was previously closed to members of the public. Once inside the thermopolium, participants will also be treated to a typical Roman snack of the type once served to customers. The shop takes its name from electoral graffiti engraved on the outside of the shop, calling on passersby to vote for the candidate Vetutius Placidus, and on three amphorae found inside the premises.

Prior to the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, the thermopolium opened directly on to a main street, the Via dell’Abbondanza. One of the best preserved sites in Pompeii, it has been closed to the public for years in order to protect it from damage. But months of detailed excavation and preservation work have now finished and all visitors will soon be able to enter the thermopolium and get an idea of what a typical Ancient Roman snack-bar was like. Inside, visitors are greeted with a typical, decorated counter, just as in modern cafes and bars, where customers stood to enjoy a quick lunch. Cylindrical holes in the bar once contained glass dolia, or jars, which were used to hold food. However, archaeologists working at this site also discovered a large quantity of coins in one of these.

They believe the owner left them there in a last-ditch attempt to save his wealth as he fled the city, presumably hoping he might one day return. The thermopolium also boasted a triclinium (dining area) with couches, for those of its customers who wanted to eat in the reclining Greek style.

This is decorated with a beautiful painting showing the Rape of Europa with Jupiter as a bull. An internal garden, viridarium, included an outdoor triclinium, which excavations have revealed was once shaded by a grapevine pergola and featured flowerbeds growing herbs used in the kitchen. Premises adjoining the snack bar were the home of the owner and his family.

The Larario, or household shrine, is decorated with beautiful Corinthian columns. Wall paintings depict the household gods and personal companion spirit, or ‘genius’, carrying out a sacrifice at an altar. Mercury, god of trade, and Dionysius, god of wine, appear to the sides with protective snake divinities painted overhead, slithering towards a central altar. The thermopolium will shortly open permanently to all visitors but 300 names selected at random will be given the chance for an advance taste this Sunday. Those interested should email before 4pm on Friday March 19 for a chance to be included on the list.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ex-Politician Was Paid ‘€12,000 a Month’ In Bribes

Bari, 19 March (AKI) — A former Italian politician in the southern region of Puglia is alleged to have received 12,000 euros a month in bribes and other gifts “of a sexual nature” in exchange for helping a local businessman win healthcare contracts. Sandro Frisullo, the former vice president of the region, was one of four people arrested by police on Thursday in a widening sex and corruption scandal in the region.

Gianpaolo Tarantini, the businessman at the centre of the sex scandal involving Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi last year, has told prosecutors he paid Frisullo 12,000 euros a month for 11 months in 2008.

He also claimed to have given the politician expensive clothes, fuel coupons, and gifts “of a sexual nature” with prostitutes, according to Italian media reports.

“With Frisullo I had an arrangement for a kind of ‘political protection’ at a fixed cost of 12,000 euros a month, a sum that was paid from January/February 2008 until November 2008,” Tarantini said in a deposition lodged with prosecutors.

“For the contract I won for Lecce Asl (local health authorities) I paid Frisullo in two or three instalments of 50,000 euros, After that I began the monthly payments,”Tarantini said, cited by Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Frisullo and three other officials were arrested by local tax police from Bari after investigators gathered evidence of criminal activity from telephone taps and other recordings, and documents gathered from local health authorities, as well as Tarantini’s testimony.

Tarantini was recorded offering Frisullo an escort and money in exchange for favouring his company in contract bids in the city of Lecce, according to prosecutors.

“I gave Frisullo the money at his regional government office or in his car. Sometimes it was in an envelope. Nobody knew about these bribes,” Tarantini reportedly said.

“We would often meet at a Q8 petrol station…He would arrive in his car and make the driver who worked for the region get out. Then I would get in the car and give him the money.”

Frisullo 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.

Tarantini is also under investigation for abetting prostitution, suspected corruption and for allegedly supplying cocaine to parties held at Berlusconi’s official Rome residence Palazzo Grazioli and his luxurious Sardinian villa.

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: Regulator ‘May Look at Derivatives Probe’

Rome, 19 March (AKI) — The head of Italy’s securities market regulator said it may conduct its own investigation into an alleged 1.7 billion euro derivatives fraud. “We are looking into the case in order to know something more,” Consob chairman Lamberto Cardia told reporters in Rome on Friday.

“These financial instruments have to be used in a correct and ethical way.”

Four foreign banks and 13 people were ordered by a Milan judge to stand trial for the allegedly fraudulent derivatives deal on Wednesday.

Judge Simone Luerti said Deutsche Bank, UBS, Depfa and JPMorgan Chase & Co will be tried after being accused of earning about 100 million euros in “illicit profits” from irregularities in a derivatives sale linked to a bond issue by the city of Milan, conducted between 2005 and 2007.

In separate statements issued on Wednesday, the banks denied any wrongdoing.

“We are…confident that the strength of our legal position will be demonstrated through the judicial process,” JPMorgan said.

“The JP Morgan employees involved in the transactions acted with the highest degree of professionalism and entirely appropriately.”

UBS also denied committing any fraud. “No illicit profit was earned by the banks, since the intermediation costs applied were fully legitimate and were not hidden from the city,” it said.

Deutsche Bank said it was confident its employees involved in the transactions acted with integrity.

The trial is scheduled to begin 6 May.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Praises Bossi ‘Man of the People’

(AGI) — Rome, 20 Mar. — Inviting Northern League leader Umberto Bossi to join him on the podium at the PDL rally in Rome, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said “He is a loyal and strong ally and a friend who is more than a brother to me. Our alliance is strong because Umberto is a very balanced and loyal man; he is one of us, not familiar with chic drawing rooms, he is a man of the people.” .

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Northern League Leader Praises Berlusconi

(AGI) — Rome 20 Mar. — Northern League Leader, Umberto Bossi went on the podium in the demonstration in Rome’s Piazza San Giovanni, alongside Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who called him “a loyal ally and a great friend.” Bossi answered saying, “I am one of the few who has not taken any money or help from Berlusconi. I know that Berlusconi is one of the people, one of us. When they wanted him to sign something in Brussels about the ‘Transversal Family’, he said, ‘explain it to me’, from then I understood that he was one of the people.” Boss also talked about the prime minister’s immigration policy praising the fight against illegal immigration. ..

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Envisages Direct Election of PM

(AGI) — Rome, 20 Mar. — Silvio Berlusconi is now thinking about the post-election period and said “After these elections we will have three years during which, once the economic crisis is over, we will approve great reforms. Among them the direct election of the Prime Minister or the President of the Republic and a vast reform of the justice system.” ..

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Private Sex Shows Not European Court

Live sex shows viewed from a private booth must be taxed at the 19% rate of value added tax, according to a European court ruling, quoted in Friday’s Volkskrant.

In 2008, the Dutch high court ruled so-called peep shows, in which women are paid by the minute to perform sex shows behind glass, are cultural and should be taxed at 6%.

The European court ruling was made in a Belgian case but has implications for the Netherlands.

A Dutch finance ministry spokesman told the paper sex industry bosses who operate private booths must now start paying higher taxes.

The court ruling shows that the lower tax rate of 6% only applies to ‘forms of art’ which people watch or participate in together, not on an individual basis, he said.

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

Netherlands: Anger Over US General’s Gay Dutch Army Slur

A US general’s assertion that the massacre of Serb Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 was partly due to gay soldiers in the Dutch military has caused a storm of protest in the Netherlands.

Former US army general John Sheehan made the allegations during a senate hearing into plans to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the US armed forces.

The comments are ‘scandalous’, ‘outrageous’ and as ‘low as you can go’, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende was quoted as saying after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Some 7,000 men and boys were killed in Srebrenica when it was over-run by Serb forces, despite being under the protection of Dutch soldiers.


‘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. That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II, Sheehan told the hearing.

One senator asked him: ‘And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?’

‘It was a combination,’ Sheehan answered. ‘Did they tell you that? That’s my question,’ the senator replied. ‘Yes,’ stated Sheehan.’They included that as part of the problem… the net effect of basically social engineering.’


The comments have been greated with disbelief by the Dutch defence ministry. ‘It is complete nonsence and unbelievable that a man of his stature could say this,’ a spokesman told Nos tv.

‘No other military mission has been so widely analysed as the fall of Srebrenica and there has never been a link made with homosexuality.’

The Dutch ambassador to the US Renée Jones-Bos made a statement. ‘I am proud of the fact that gay men and women have openly served in the Dutch armed forces for decades, as they are doing now in Afghanistan,’ she said.

Military unions said the former general was speaking ‘nonsense’ and that his comments are ‘outrageous’.

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

Nicolas Sarkozy’s Right-Wing UMP Thrashed in French Elections

Nicolas Sarkozy will seek to relaunch his embattled presidency on Monday after his Right-wing party suffered a crushing defeat in France’s regional elections, seen as a test of his popularity.

A coalition between the opposition Socialists and Greens, whose party is called Europe Ecologie, swept the floor in the second round vote marked by a low turnout — 51 per cent — and the lowest score for the Right in more than three decades.

As polling stations closed, exit polls gave the Socialists and Greens 54 per cent of the vote, the UMP 36 percent and the far-Right National Front just under nine per cent.

Despite pushing hard-line policies on immigration and security, the president’s allies were weakened by a strong showing for the National Front, which won no regions but was in 12 run-offs.

[Return to headlines]

The Legion Awaits a New General. And Trembles

A commissioner appointed by the Vatican will take command of the Legionaries of Christ, orphans of their founder Marcial Maciel, disgraced by scandals. This is the likely outcome of eight months of investigation. Many things should be changed, including the current leaders

ROME, March 16, 2010 — In the thick of the storm rocking the Catholic Church on account of the sexual abuse committed against minors by priests, an end has come to the apostolic visit ordered by the Holy See among the Legionaries of Christ, the congregation founded by Marcial Maciel.

The Maciel case is extreme in every way. It pushes the contrast between image and reality to exaggerated limits. Between the beatified image of the priest founder of an ultra-orthodox, ascetical, devout religious congregation, flourishing with vocations, some of them exemplary, and the reality of a dissolute second life, made up of incessant violations not only of the vows but of the commandments, of continual sinful affairs with women, men, and minors of every age and condition, with children and lovers all over the world, their number still unknown.

A second life that even at the moment of death appeared to sink deeper into the sulfurous fumes. Morbid stories have leaked out about Maciel’s last days in Houston, at the end of January 2008, before his burial in Cotija, his birthplace, in Mexico.

The apostolic visit began on July 15, 2009. And the five bishop visitors fulfilled their mandate halfway through this month of March, with the delivery of their report to the Vatican authorities. They were Ricardo Watti Urquidi, bishop of Tepic in Mexico; Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Denver; Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of Alessandria; Ricardo Ezzato Andrello, archbishop of Concepción in Chile; and Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, archbishop of Valladolid.

It will be the Vatican authorities who decide what to do. The three cardinals charged with the case are Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, William J. Levada, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and Franc Rodé, prefect of the congregation for institutes of consecrated life.

But the last word will belong to Benedict XVI, the most prescient of all. Even before he was elected pope and when Maciel still had very powerful protectors in the Vatican, Joseph Ratzinger ordered an extensive investigation of the accusations against the founder of the Legionaries. And as pope, on May 19, 2006, he sentenced him to “a retired life of prayer and penance.”

After this sentence, the congregation of the Legionaries bowed to the papal command. But it continued to show veneration to its founding “father,” as an “innocent victim” of false accusations.

It was only after his death and the revelation of other scandals that the directors of the congregation acknowledged some of their founder’s sins, but without denying the goodness of his work.

Still today, after the eight-month apostolic visit, Maciel’s successor as director general of the congregation, Fr. Álvaro Corcuera, and vicar general Luis Garza Medina — who were also for decades, especially the latter of them, very close collaborators of the founder — show no intention of leaving their command. And neither do any of the other high and mid-level directors, central or peripheral.

Their defense is that they were always unaware of Maciel’s second life, and that their fidelity to the Church and to the pope, in addition to their leadership experience, are the best guarantees for the congregation’s continuity.

Last February 5, in “L’Osservatore Romano,” Fr. Luis Garza Medina, unruffled, published an article describing the “virtuous life” of the ideal priest. He who more than anyone else lived side by side with Maciel, knowing all his secrets and managing his money, and who always held him up as a model.

But that the current leaders of the Legionaries should be left at the head of the congregation is entirely unlikely. The more probable decision is that the Holy See will appoint a fully empowered commissioner of its own, and will set the guidelines for a thorough reform, including the replacement of the current leaders.

But rebuilding from the ground up a congregation still deeply influenced by its disgraced founder will be an arduous enterprise.

Priests and seminarians who until very recently were steeped in the writings attributed to Maciel will have difficulty finding new sources of inspiration, not generic but specific to their order. The current leaders of the congregation aren’t helping, either. On the contrary. One of Maciel’s former personal secretaries, Fr. Felipe Castro, together with other priests of the Legion, has worked in recent months to select from among the founder’s many letters a group of letters to be “saved” for the future, to keep a positive image of Maciel alive.

The dependence of the Legionaries on Maciel was — and for many still is — absolute. There wasn’t a shred of daily life that escaped the rules he dictated. Absurdly exacting rules. Which prescribed, for example, how to sit at the table, how to use a napkin, how to swallow, how to eat chicken without using one’s hands, how to debone a fish.

But this was nothing compared to the control exercised over consciences. The handbook for the examination of conscience at the end of the day was 332 pages long, with thousands of questions.

And then there were — and are — the statutes properly speaking. Much more extensive and detailed than those provided to the bishops of the dioceses in which the Legionaries have their houses. The five visitors went through a lot of trouble to obtain the statutes in their entirety.

From the statutes one gathers that in addition to the three classical vows of religious orders, of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Legionaries were bound by two other vows — plus a third called “of fidelity and charity” for the select members of the congregation — which prohibited any kind of criticism and at the same time required telling the superiors about confreres seen violating the ban.

These extra vows were supposed to have been removed by order of the Holy See, in 2007. But the rank and file of the Legionaries do not seem to have been notified of this revocation.

The boundary between the spirit of obedience and the spirit of subjection is not always clear in the congregation founded by Maciel.

Among the Legionaries, the competition encouraged by the rules is to see who can make the most proselytes. And the novice immediately enters a collective machine that completely absorbs his individuality. Everything is meticulously overseen and regulated, in a thicket of limitations. From personal mail to reading material, from visits to travel.

Over the eight months of the apostolic visit, this control was relaxed only in part. Some priests told the visitors about the things they believed were wrong. Others have left the congregation and been incardinated into the diocesan clergy. Others have continued to defend Maciel’s legacy. Others feel lost. Still others, finally, have faith in the rebuilding on new foundations of a religious congregation that is part of their lives and that they continue to love.


For a more detailed, insider analysis of the current drama of the Legionaries of Christ, see the article from www.chiesa with an interview with Fr. Thomas Berg, a member of the Legion until one year ago, now incardinated in the archdiocese of New York:

> The Legionaries’ Last Stand. An Exclusive Interview with Fr. Thomas Berg (13.7.2009)


The article from www.chiesa on the events leading up to the apostolic visit:

> The Legion Is in Disarray. Betrayed by its Founder (16.2.2009)

After it was revealed at the beginning of 2009 that Maciel had a daughter in her early twenties living in Spain, others have come forward saying that he was their father.

Two of these, Raúl and Christian González Lara, were allegedly born from a relationship between Maciel and a Mexican woman, Blanca Esthela Lara Gutierrez, who says that she met him for the first time in Tijuana in 1976, and that he always told her that his name was José Rivas and that he was a CIA agent.

Raúl is 31 years old now, and Christian 17. Raúl said on a Mexican radio broadcast that his father had abused him sexually since he was 8 years old.

In Mexico City, the lawyer for the two alleged children of Maciel, José Bonilla Sada, recently stepped down from representing them, after finding out that they would ask the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ for 26 million dollars in exchange for their silence.


To find the other previous articles from ww.chiesa on the Legionaries of Christ:



The multilingual website of the Legionaries of Christ:

> Legionaries of Christ


The statutes, regulations, and other documents of the Legionaries of Christ can be purchased from the following site:

> wikileaks

An extensive chronology of the first apostolic visit conducted by the Holy See among the Legionaries of Christ from 1956 to 1959, which ended with the exoneration of Maciel, is on this other site published under a pseudonym:

> cassandrajones

One of the five visitors of the Legionaries of Christ, bishop of Alessandria Giuseppe Versaldi, published this article on the scandal of sexual abuse against minors on March 14, 2010, in “L’Osservatore Romano”:

> Il rigore di Benedetto XVI contro la sporcizia nella Chiesa

And the promoter of justice at the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Charles J. Scicluna, recalled in a March 13 interview with “Avvenire” that when he was still a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger had shown “great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, ‘sine acceptione personarum’:”

> “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck…”

One of these “difficult and thorny cases” was the case of Marcial Maciel. But other charges are still pending against other Legionaries, for acts similar to those committed by their founder. It is clear that the congregation will have no future if it does not purify itself of this “filth.”


POSTSCRIPT — The end of the apostolic visit among the Legionaries of Christ has been reported in a semi-hidden, imprecise way by the congregation’s media.

As of today, March 18, the only place the news has been released is on a page of the Spanish-language version of the website of Regnum Christi, the lay branch of the Legion:

> Inicia nueva etapa de la visita apostólica

In this note, however, one reads something that corresponds more to wishful thinking than to the reality of things.

According to Regnum Christi, it would seem that the apostolic visit did not end on March 15, as in fact it did, but still requires more time. The reason given is that the five visitors still need “several months” and “further consultations” with the Holy See to draw up their reports.

But that’s not true. The visitors delivered their final reports on March 15. And on April 30, they will be in Rome to present them to the Vatican authorities, who will make the resulting decisions.

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

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Builders and Driving Instructors Among One in Five Workers Caught in Frenzy of Paedophile Vetting

Driving instructors, home helps, speech therapists, builders and Sunday school teachers will all have to register with the state under new child protection laws, it was revealed yesterday.

Cleaners, prison officers, children’s football referees, weight loss instructors, opera singers and St John Ambulance volunteers are also among the nine million who must pass a new vetting procedure — because their work may bring them into contact with children or vulnerable adults.

The full breakdown of workers and volunteers who must be given licences by the Government prompted a flood of protests and mockery.


In all, more than one in five of the adult population will have to undergo checks to work in ‘regulated activity’ for a ‘regulated activity provider’ — the official phrase for any organisation which has dealings with children or vulnerable adults, from Scout troops to hospitals.


Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘You just have to ask where all of this is going to stop.

‘Of course we should check those who work closely with children and vulnerable adults, but the scale of what the Government is doing seems to be abandoning all common sense.

‘We will scale back all of this, and make sure we have the simple, common sense vetting system that we need and not the over-the-top approach that the Government has adopted.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Feeble Wind Farms Fail to Hit Full Power

THE first detailed study of Britain’s onshore wind farms suggests some treasured landscapes may have been blighted for only small gains in green energy.

The analysis reveals that more than 20 wind farms produce less than a fifth of their potential maximum power output.

One site, at Blyth Harbour in Northumberland, is thought to be the worst in Britain, operating at just 7.9% of its maximum capacity. Another at Chelker reservoir in North Yorkshire operates at only 8.7% of capacity.

Both are relatively small and old, but larger and newer sites fared badly, too, according to analyses of data released by Ofgem, the energy regulator, for 2008.


Michael Jefferson, professor of international business and sustainability at London Metropolitan Business School, who is also a former lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has cited the efficiency figures in peer-reviewed papers. He says the subsidy encourages the construction of wind farms.

“Too many developments are underperforming,” he said. “It’s because developers grossly exaggerate the potential. The subsidies make it viable for developers to put turbines on sites they would not touch if the money was not available.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Paint Potty! Council Zealots Close Down Under-Fives’ Art Club Because Children Are ‘Too Middle-Class’

A children’s centre set up by Labour to provide care for local youngsters has been forced to close… because the families using it were judged too middle-class.

Paint Pots Arts Club was established in 2000 under the Government’s flagship £7billion Sure Start scheme, with the aim of teaching under-fives to paint, draw and sing.

It is one of the busiest of Britain’s 3,500 Sure Start centres and caters for 500 children of all backgrounds who live within a two-mile radius. But despite its popularity, council bosses withdrew the club’s funding after deciding its users were too affluent.


But in January this year, Mrs Ritches was called to a meeting with officials from the Ann Tayler Children’s Centre, a larger Sure Start programme which the Learning Trust used to fund Paint Pots.

She discovered that the Learning Trust had scanned the postcodes of all parents using the centre and decided the home addresses indicated users were not sufficiently ‘vulnerable’.

She said: ‘Sure Start services are supposed to be available to everyone. Middle-class mothers struggle with work, sleep deprivation and post-natal depression just like any other mother.

‘But the Learning Trust officials concluded that 68 per cent of all users were white. I told them that just because they are white does not mean they are middle-class. But they said you could work out their properties’ value from the postcodes.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Phillip Lawrence Killer Chindamo ‘To be Released on Parole Within Weeks’

The killer of headmaster Philip Lawrence may be freed within the next few weeks, it was revealed today.

Learco Chindamo, now 29, has served 14 years of a life sentence for stabbing the 48-year-old father of four outside St George’s Roman Catholic School in Maida Vale in 1995.

Chindamo, who hopes to start a new life, was only 15 when he murdered Mr Lawrence and is now facing a parole hearing which could see him released within weeks.

Chindamo’s life sentence ‘tariff ‘ expired on January 5 last year but it was felt by the authorities that he should undergo a staged release.


The tribunal ruled that Italian-born Chindamo could not be deported after being freed because this would breach his right to family life.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Rise in Marriages Between Cousins ‘Is Putting Children’s Health at Risk’

The dangers of marriage between first cousins are to be highlighted by a leading professor, with a warning that their children are at risk of genetic defects.

Baroness Deech, a family law professor and crossbencher, will call next week for a “vigorous” public campaign to deter the practice, which is prevalent in Muslim and immigrant communities and on the rise. She will reignite a debate started five years ago when Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley, drew attention to the number of disabled babies being born in the town and called for cousin marriage to be stopped.

Fifty-five per cent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins and in Bradford the figure is 75 per cent. British Pakistanis represent 3 per cent of all births in Britain but one third of children with recessive disorders.

Lady Deech will also warn that marriage between first cousins can be a barrier to the integration of minority communities. In a lecture she will call for testing for genetic defects where such marriages are arranged and the keeping of a register of people who carry genetic diseases, so that two carriers are not introduced. “Some variant of this could be possible in cities such as Bradford with a high density of immigrant population,” she will say.

Lady Deech, who chaired the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for eight years, will also suggest that married first cousins use invitro fertilisation so that embryos can be tested for recessive diseases.

“Human rights and religious and cultural practices are respected by not banning cousin marriage,” she will argue. “But those involved must be made aware of the consequences.” Her comments will be made at the Museum of London in the last of a series of family law lectures that she has given under the auspices of Gresham College. Other topics have included marriage, divorce law, cohabitation and gay partnerships; last week she argued that children do better in two-parent families of different genders.

“The local estimate was that 75 per cent of Bradford disabled children had cousin parents and the rate of cousin marriage in the UK Pakistani community is increasing,” Lady Deech will say.

In Birmingham, another city with a substantial immigrant community, Lady Deech notes that 10 per cent of the children of first cousins die in infancy or have a disability.

She will note that the practice has always been associated with immigrants and the poor and is “at odds with freedom of choice, romantic love and integration”. But factors linked to cousin marriage in the British immigrant community are working against what she calls its “otherwise inevitable decline”.

One is finance: such marriages can be arranged to settle debts. Another is financial support of relatives abroad. A third is that it provides a “ready-made framework of supportive family members for a new immigrant spouse”; and a fourth is that it enables relatives to migrate to Britain as a fiancé or spouse.

In the Middle East, it is also said to underpin clan loyalty and to accompany nepotism, she argues.

But cousin marriage can be a barrier to integration of immigrant communities and “arguably to democracy as we know it abroad”. It also carries genetic problems that can be “replicated generation after generation, with accumulated suffering in an extended family”. But Lady Deech does not favour a ban on first-cousin marriages such as one that exists in US states.

“The State would have to show that it had compelling reasons to limit the right to marry and that the means are related to the goal.” But there are compelling arguments to act on health grounds. Personal health is the “fetish of the late 20th century” and people are targeted over food safety, drink, smoking, alcohol and exercise.

Yet there are cultural differences or ignorance about disabled children, she says. Women may be blamed in some minority cultures for being childless or having disabled children; while the “Muslim view . . . is that it is a consequence of Allah’s will, and they may therefore approach it with fatalism”.

Lady Deech calls for measures short of a ban to prevent the genetic problems arising from cousin marriage.

She says: “There is no reason, one could argue, why there should not be a campaign to highlight the risks and the preventative measures, every bit as vigorous as those centring on smoking, obesity and Aids.” While there was reluctance to “target or upset Muslims over cousin-marriage issues” the practice was not mandated by religion, only permitted, so it is not at heart a religious issue, she argues.

A campaign of education needs to start in schools so they understand about genetics and what it means to carry a mutant gene, Lady Deech says.

“Where marriages are arranged, it is possible to test for carrier status and record the results, without stigmatising individuals.” In the Orthodox Jewish community young people are screened for Tay-Sachs disease, a recessive genetic disorder that prevents mental and physical development, but not given the result. When a match is proposed, a register is checked to ensure two young people who are carriers are not introduced. “Some variant of this could be possible in cities such as Bradford, with a high density of immigrant population”, she argues. Finally she suggests in-vitro embryo testing: ethical objections about this being a slippery slope to eugenics are met by current guidelines under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, she says.

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, welcomed Lady Deech’s comments. He said that cousin marriage was popular even though Islamic teaching encouraged wedlock outside the immediate family.

“Certainly education has an important role to play in this area. There are clear dangers in marrying a close relative, which need to be better understood. Professor Deech’s recommendation appear to be sensible,” he said.

Mrs Cryer said: “It is essential that we discuss this issue. We have been told to be careful, as discussing it could cause deep offence. Blow that, it does not matter. If people wish to be offended, they will be offended.”

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

UK: The Boy Whose Blue-Tinted Glasses Have Allowed Him to Read Properly for the First Time

Tom Heaffey is a bright 18-year-old with a string of good GCSEs who wants to be an architect. Yet just three years ago, he was virtually illiterate and predicted to fail his exams.

Remarkably, his life has been transformed by a pair of blue-tinted glasses, which have enabled him to read properly for the first time.

Tom, who lives near Norwich and is a BTech art and design student, suffers from a neurological condition called Meares-Irlen syndrome, also known as visual stress.

Without glasses, when he looks at a printed page, the text appears to jump about, blur and distort. Other symptoms include headaches and migraines.

Some degree of visual stress may affect up to 20 per cent of the population. When Tom was a child, his mother Sarah, 50, knew he was underperforming at school.

‘He used to say the words were “fizzing”. Eye tests showed his sight was normal, so his teachers concluded he was a slow learner.’

‘Trying to read was exhausting and gave me headaches, so I couldn’t concentrate for long,’ recalls Tom.

It was not until three years ago, just months before his GCSEs, that he was diagnosed with Meares-Irlen.

According to Arnold Wilkins, professor of visual perception at Essex University, the condition is a result of the neurons in the visual part of the brain firing too strongly.

‘Different neurons in the brain react to different colours,’ explains ProfWilkins. ‘We discovered that using tinted lenses and overlays reduces the overactivity of these neurons.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Pope: Decry Sin But be Compassionate

(AGI) — Vatican City, 21 Mar. — The Pope says that we must learn from Jesus not to judge and not to decry our neighbours.

During his short address before the Angelus, he explained to the crowd of 50 thousand faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square that we must be intransigent over sin, starting with ourselves, and compassionate with others. Citing the Gospel story of the woman taken in adultery, saved from stoning by Jesus, Benedict XVI reminded his followers that Jesus knows what there is in every person’s heart, wanting to decry the sin but save the sinner, and unmask hypocrisy: his words are full of the disarming power of truth, which breaks down the walls of hypocrisy and opens consciences to a greater justice”. ..

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


Albania: EU: Political Stalemate Hinders Accession, Fule

(ANSAMED) — TIRANA, MARCH 19 — “The continuation of the political stalemate could seriously hinder Albania in meeting the political standards expected of a country that has applied for accession to the European Union”: such is the warning delivered by the European Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, on his ahead-of-schedule meetings in Tirana this evening. The European Commissioner arrives at a time of high political tension. Yesterday evening, Albania’s Parliament started debating opposition motions to set up a commission of inquiry into the June 2009 elections, which should also be empowered to open the ballot boxes. These motions have been labelled “anti-constitutional” by the majority under Premier Sali Berisha. Three days ago, Fule called for “a quick solution”, expressing the hope that an agreement might be found before his arrival in Tirana. However, majority and opposition continue at loggerheads. A stalemate that practically dictates the agenda for the European Commissioner. His meeting with the Premier, planned to last just 30 minutes, dragged on for 75. Soon after, a talk with opposition leader Edi Rama. In a press release, Fule repeated that “Parliament is a place for dialogue and the resolution of controversies”. For the European Commissioner, the answer has to be found “in full accordance with the constitution and in complete transparency”. His appeal to the political leaders is to “tackle this challenge in a constructive way in the spirit of the EU, in the country’s interest and of its future European outlook”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: KFOR Grants Local Police Security of Serbian Memorial

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA- KFOR, the NATO-led international force in Kosovo, has handed over the task of guaranteeing the security of Gazimestan to the local Kosovar police. Gazimestan is a memorial of great historical importance to the Serbians as it marks the site of their 1389 battle against the Turks. The passing of the security of this important monument to the Kosovar police is an “excellent example of the ability of the Kosovar police to take on responsibilities,” said the Finnish general of KFOR, Seppo Toivonen, during an official ceremony. Situated just a few kilometres west of the capital Pristina, Gazimestan is a memorial to the battle in which the Serbian forces took on the Ottoman empire in 1389, resulting in the defeat of the former. It thus remains symbolic of the history of the Serbian people, and in recent days the authorities in Belgrade have criticised KFOR’s decision to hand over control of Gazimestan to the Kosovar police, who the Serbians believe are not capable of ensuring its security.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: EU Commissioner Calls to Fight Crime and Corruption

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, MARCH 19 — The EU has pledged a European outlook for Kosovo, but awaits concrete action from the Pristina authorities to promote the rule of law, the fight against organised crime and against corruption. This was the message delivered in Pristina today by the European Union Enlargement Commissioner, Czech-born Stefan Fuele, who is currently on a tour of the western Balkans. “We want more than just fine words: we want concrete deeds”, Fuele said. The Commissioner met Kosovo’s President, Fatmir Sejdiu, Premier Hashim Thaci, international representative Pieter Feith and the head of the office of connection with the European Commission in Pristina, Renzo Daviddi. The EU representative called on the Kosovo authorities for a commitment to guarantee political stability, security and the rights of minorities, especially those of the Serb minority, as well as continued reforms to comply with accession to the European Union. For his part, President Sejdiu reaffirmed Kosovo’s unwavering commitment to integration with Europe and the Euro-Atlantic structures. Apart from Kosovo, Stefan Fuele has also visited Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. His tour of the western Balkans concludes with the Albania visit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Work in Fiat Too Hard, 20 Workers Head Back to Zastava

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 19 — Twenty workers from Fiat’s Kragujevac plant have found working conditions too hard and arduous and have decided to leave the factory to return to the Zastava plant where they had been previously employed. According to daily paper Danas, forty or so more workers for the Italian company are considering following in their tracks. The paper says the workers are unhappy about the fact that wages are not much higher than what they were getting at Zastava, where they didn’t have to work so hard. In fact, according to reports, all twenty of the workers who left are over 50 years of age. According to their contracts of employment, they were free to decide about a return to Zastava (a plant being closed down) after a two-month trial period. There they would receive pension-related incentives. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

TV Series About Josip Broz Tito Airs Tonight

A highly-anticipated TV series about former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz “Tito” beginning this evening (Fri) was almost canceled because of disagreements between Croatian national television (HTV) and series director Antun Vrdoljak.

Vrdoljak made 12 episodes instead of the six that were specified in the agreement between the director and HTV, and uncertainty over finances called the project into question.

It cost around one million Euros and took three years to complete. It is partly a feature and partly a documentary series based on interviews of historians and people who knew Tito during their public lives.

The 78-year old director said that he had found inspiration in politics and history throughout his life. “There is also a big interest in those areas on the part of the public,” he added.

Tito headed the former Yugoslavia from the end of World War II until his death in 1980.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Middle East Quartet Call on Israel to Freeze Settlements on Second Day of Rocket Attacks From Gaza

As violence escalated on the ground, in Moscow, the Middle East Quartet of nations condemned the Palestinian rocket attacks and called on Israel to freeze all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to help re-start stalled peace talks.

A rocket fired across the border from Gaza landed in open fields around 12pm on Friday, the fifth rocket fired in a 48-hour period.

A sixth rocket apparently exploded inside the Hamas-controlled area as it was being launched.

In the early hours of Friday morning, Israeli jets struck at six sites in the Gaza Strip that the Israeli army said were used by Palestinians to smuggle, manufacture and deploy weapons against Israel.

Two Palestinians were slightly injured.

The targets included three smuggling tunnels underneath the Gaza-Egypt border, a weapons manufacturing workshop near Gaza City and two ‘terror tunnels’ underneath the northern Gaza border leading into Israel.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Son of Hamas Chief, Ex-Israeli Spy Now Exposes ‘Muhammad’s Lie’

‘I am not here to fight Muslims. I am fighting their god’

In a telephone conference call Thursday with WND and several Christian publications, Yousef explained that, along with Hamas, secular media and members of some mainline Christian denominations are trying to discredit the story he tells in the new book “Son of Hamas,” which is No. 10 on the New York Times best-seller list this week.

It’s a story many find hard to believe, he acknowledged.

But the “secret is very simple,” said the 32-year-old Yousef. “When the love of our Lord is in a man’s heart, this man acts totally different.”

“They don’t want to admit that,” he said of his detractors. “If they admit that what changed my life was Jesus Christ, this will open lots of questions, and they don’t want to go there.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spiegel Interview With Avigdor Lieberman

‘It Is a Clash of Civilizations’

By Martin Doerry and Christoph Schult

In a SPIEGEL interview, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, 51, discusses his country’s controversial settlement policies, the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and the seeming hopelessness of the conflict with the Palestinians.

Even before he became Israel’s foreign minister just under a year ago, Avigdor Lieberman had already established a reputation for his abrasive approach. For example, the former club bouncer, who was born in Moldova and emigrated to Israel in 1978, threatened to bomb the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and publicly stated that he wished President Hosni Mubarek would “go to Hell.”

The popularity of Lieberman, with his thick Russian accent, is fueled by two sources: the more than 1 million Israeli immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who support a largely hardline course against the Palestinians; and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, where Lieberman himself lives.

When it comes to the settlements in the West Bank, Lieberman’s line is flexible. But he refuses to make any compromises when it comes to preserving the Jewish residential areas that have been constructed in eastern Jerusalem since Israeli victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. Around 200,000 Jews live in this annexed part of the city, and the destruction of Arab homes and new construction projects could soon transform Arab residents into a minority.

In the conflict over East Jerusalem, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is even willing to irritate its most important ally, the United States. Following the announcement by the Interior Ministry — during a visit to Israel by US Vice President Joseph Biden, of all times — that the Israelis would build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, relations with Washington have fallen to an historic low point. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders have sharply condemned Israel’s settlement policies, especially in light of the fact that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Autonomous Authority, had just agreed to new peace talks.

Angered by the announcement, the radical Palestinian organization Hamas called for a “day of rage,” which saw skirmishing on the streets of Jerusalem last week between Israeli security forces and Palestinians.

Fearing a further escalation, the so-called Middle East Quartet on Friday emphatically called on the Israelis and the Palestinians to launch proximity talks. The quartet, which includes US Secretary of State, the foreign ministers of Russia and the European Union and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also called on Israel to immediately freeze all settlement activity. In order to prevent the rift between Washington and Jerusalem from growing, US Mideast envoy George Mitchell announced that he would travel to Israel at the beginning of the week — a trip he had previously cancelled.

In a SPIEGEL interview, Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman explains why his country is not ready to negotiate over the status of Jerusalem, why he believes peace cannot be imposed in the Middle East and how tougher Western sanctions could be enough to “suffocate” the Iranian nuclear program.


SPIEGEL: Mr. Foreign Minister, the week the Palestinians finally agreed to hold new peace negotiations, your government announced plans to build 1,600 more housing units in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. You have provoked not only the Palestinians, but also your most important ally. Why?

Lieberman: We didn’t provoke anybody. I hear all the condemnations of Israel regarding so-called East Jerusalem. In the same week 60 people were killed in Pakistan in terror attacks. In every country around us there is bloodshed and tension. But everybody prefers to criticize Israel. I am waiting for the day when the German Bundestag debates the violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia.

SPIEGEL: But we are speaking to the Israeli foreign minister, not the Saudi one.

Lieberman: To put all the blame on Israel is hypocrisy. We are the only democracy in the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict represent maybe 3 percent of all the conflicts in the region. Members of the United States Congress and US Senators tell us that, in their visits to the Gulf countries, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Jordan, their Arab counterparts only very briefly mention the Palestinians, and that it is pure lip service. Ninety-five percent of the time they warn about the Iranian threat.

SPIEGEL: But at the moment everybody is speaking about Israel. The US is blaming your government for undermining the peace process and cancelled a visit of its special envoy George Mitchell.

Lieberman: Even between the best of friends mistakes and misunderstandings can happen. We never promised to stop building in Jerusalem. But the announcement during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden was a mistake — a bureaucratic mistake of the building committee in charge.

SPIEGEL: So you are only criticizing the timing but not the plan to expand existing settlements?

Lieberman: You must understand: It is not settlements. Sixty-five percent of the Jewish population of Jerusalem live in new neighborhoods that we started to build after the Six-Day War in 1967.

SPIEGEL: Even the Americans regard them as settlements. They lie beyond the ‘67 borders and that is a problem.

Lieberman: They lie beyond the ‘67 borders, but they are not small villages, but municipal neighbourhoods with tens of thousands of residents.

SPIEGEL: So your problem is even bigger!

Lieberman: It’s not a problem, it’s an integral part of our capital. We are not ready to negotiate about Jerusalem.

Part 2: ‘We Expect the Americans To Put Pressure on the Palestinians’

SPIEGEL: On the one hand you are criticizing the Palestinians for setting pre-conditions, on the other hand you yourself refuse to talk about such a controversial core issue like Jerusalem.

Lieberman: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University, in which he recognized for the first time the two-state solution. That was a difficult decision for us; don’t forget, this is a right-wing government. Secondly, we diminished the number of roadblocks and improved the access and movement for the Palestinians. By doing so, we created economic growth in the Palestinian cities of 8 percent. Thirdly, we undertook a moratorium in the settlements …

SPIEGEL: … to which you don’t adhere: Just recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given permission for 112 new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit.

Lieberman: Within one year we made many concessions in advance, but despite that the whole world says: “OK, that’s good, but you must deliver more.”

SPIEGEL: The US is now demanding further gestures from Israel following the crisis over the Jerusalem settlements. Will you deliver?

Lieberman: Within one year we have made many gestures towards the Palestinians. We expect the Americans to put pressure on the Palestinians to stop anti-Israeli activities in the international arena. The Palestinians have to withdraw their law suits against Israeli officers, stop the boycott of Israeli goods and all incitement. What incentives do we have for agreeing to further compromises?

SPIEGEL: Does the prospect of signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians mean nothing?

Lieberman: First of all we want security. The international community is making a strategic mistake. You cannot impose peace. First you have to provide security and prosperity, then you can bring about a comprehensive solution.

SPIEGEL: So in your view the negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are useless?

Lieberman: No. We have to keep the political process alive. Talks are better than nothing. The problem is that we don’t know whom Abbas represents. His Fatah party lost the elections in 2006. In 2007, Hamas took over power by force in the Gaza Strip.

SPIEGEL: Nineteen years after the peace process started in Madrid with indirect talks, you are again leading “proximity talks.” US Special Envoy Mitchell wants to commute the five kilometers between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Why does this have to be so complicated?

Lieberman: We were for direct talks from the beginning, whether in Jerusalem or Ramallah. It is the Palestinians who object to it. And they feel strengthened because the West constantly speaks about the settlements.

SPIEGEL: Do you think the Americans are naïve?

Lieberman: I don’t know whether they are naïve. I believe in facts, and they are: Despite the settlements, we signed two peace agreements — one with Egypt and one with Jordan. And although both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were ready to evacuate most of the settlements and withdraw to the ‘67 border, the Palestinians refused to sign. With the Oslo agreements we gave up half of the West Bank …

SPIEGEL: … It wasn’t you, but rather the leftist government of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Lieberman: Yes, I was against it and I am sorry to say that I was right. For 16 years we made concessions, but the Palestinians have only rejected them. And this despite the fact that on the Israeli side there were all these nice guys: Rabin, Peres, Barak, Olmert, Sharon. Not such bad guys like me …

SPIEGEL: Sharon, a nice guy?

Lieberman: He vacated the settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Part 3: ‘A National Conflict …. Developed into a Religious Conflict’

SPIEGEL: Why do you need the settlements at all?

Lieberman: First of all, Judea and Samaria are the birthplace of our nation since the days of the Bible. But the settlements are also important for our security.

SPIEGEL: The settlements? Do they not actually endanger your security?

Lieberman: No, the settlements around Jerusalem, for example, serve like a fence for us.

SPIEGEL: But you have already built a wall that separates Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Lieberman: The settlements are like a second security ring, we need them. But we are ready to negotiate about parts of them.

SPIEGEL: You live in a settlement yourself: Nokdim, south of Bethlehem.

Lieberman: And I said I am ready to give it up. But I have to be sure that there is a partner on the other side who is able to deliver. From our experience there is no partner and no results.

SPIEGEL: Perhaps Israel has simply not offered enough?

Lieberman: There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of this conflict. It started as a national conflict between two people over one piece of land. But it developed into a religious conflict. It is a clash of civilizations which you cannot solve with a territorial compromise.

SPIEGEL: Israel’s motives are also partly religious, recently your government declared the tomb of the biblical patriarch Abraham in Hebron a “Zionist heritage”. However, it is also a holy site for Muslims.

Lieberman: Hebron was the first Jewish city, King David started our nation from there. We have not altered the status quo of the tomb of Abraham, Muslims have free access to the mosque. This kind of tolerance does not exist on the Muslim side. Last week Hamas called for a “day of rage,” because we opened the Hurva synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 1948.

SPIEGEL: So what is your solution?

Lieberman: I do not see a solution at the moment. We should concentrate on managing the conflict. Do you see a solution in Afghanistan? In Iraq?

SPIEGEL: In Afghanistan less, in Iraq more.

Lieberman: If the West failed in so many parts of the world, you cannot expect that the conflict in our corner, of all things, is solvable. You cannot stop an Islamist tsunami by building a small island somewhere in the ocean. The biggest problem is the aggressive influence of Iran.

SPIEGEL: The United Nations Security Council is currently debating new punitive measures against Iran. China and Russia have already announced that they oppose “crippling sanctions”. Without them, is it still possible to prevent Iran from building the nuclear bomb?

Lieberman: The problem is not only Russia or China, but also India, Turkey and others. But it would be enough to have tough sanctions from the West like the EU and the US and also Japan, Australia and Canada. That would suffocate the Iranian nuclear program.

SPIEGEL: Is Germany doing enough in your view?

Lieberman: Germany is playing a very positive role. During my last visit, I felt for the first time that the German government understands that tough sanctions are necessary. But I am afraid that disagreements and a lack of political will within the international community could prevent real sanctions.

SPIEGEL: Will there be a military strike then?

Lieberman: I don’t think that Israel should take responsibility for this issue. But we are not taking any options of the table.

Part 4: ‘Iran Is Threatening the Whole World’

SPIEGEL: What is the bigger danger for Israel: a nuclear Iran or Teheran’s support for Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah?

Lieberman: The biggest danger is the indecisiveness of the international community. Iran is threatening the whole world. It is not coincidental that they do not celebrate an “Independence Day,” but the “Day of the Islamic Revolution.” Revolutionaries always try to export their revolution, that was the case with the Bolsheviks and also with Che Guevara. Therefore, we see Iranian activities in the whole world: in Africa, in South America and of course in the Middle East: with Hamas, Hezbollah or Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. They are all proxies of Iran.

SPIEGEL: And that’s why Hamas weapons dealer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had to be killed by the Mossad in Dubai?

Lieberman: You must have seen too many James Bond movies. I also saw the video of the Dubai police on TV, but there are is no proof whatsoever.

SPIEGEL: All the evidence points to Israel: The agents used identities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from Britain and Australia.

Lieberman: We are cooperating with Britain and Australia in the investigations. They sent police inspectors to Israel.

SPIEGEL: So you are saying it was not the Mossad?

Lieberman: We are fighting the terror every day. We try, despite everything, to remain a democracy with clear rules. I expect more understanding about our problems in the world.

SPIEGEL: One of the alleged killers used a German passport which he received on the claim that his parents were Holocaust survivors. The German Federal Prosecutor opened an investigation on charges of murder and spy activity. Will Israel answer a German request for help in this investigation positively?

Lieberman: We will assist as much as we can. We have very close cooperation between Germany and Israel, on all levels.

SPIEGEL: There is irritation within the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, because Israel killed a Hamas guy while the BND was negotiating on Israel’s request with Hamas over the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Lieberman: We appreciate all your efforts in the case of Gilad Shalit.

SPIEGEL: Within the BND it is said that the Israeli governent backtracked from an agreed prisoner exchange at the last minute.

Lieberman: I am not commenting on that. We will do everything we can to close this highly sensitive chapter.

SPIEGEL: There seems to be a good chemistry between you and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. You smoked a cigar together in Jerusalem.

Lieberman: Westerwelle is a very serious politician. I think he represents Germany with dignity.

SPIEGEL: Most of the Germans have a different opinion. They think, Westerwelle behaves more like the leader of the opposition than a foreign minister. Why are you always perceived as the bad guy?

Lieberman: People can choose between the sweet lie or the bitter truth. I say the bitter truth, but many people don’t want to hear it.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Foreign Minister, we thank you for this interview.

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

Middle East

Arab Channels to Show Turkish Series Protested by Israel

Two Arab channels will soon start airing a Turkish television series on the plight of Palestinians that angered Israel, an official from the production company told AFP Friday.

The 13-episode “Separation: Palestine in Love and In War” has been sold to MBC, a Saudi-run pan-Arabic news and entertainment channel, and to a Dubai channel, said Zafer Kayaokay, art director at the Istanbul-based Çagla Productions.

MBC plans to begin the series on Saturday, he said, while the Dubai channel would follow suit in the near future.

The series was first broadcast by Turkey’s state television in October, infuriating Israel, which said the program incited “hatred against Israel” and was “not worthy of being broadcast even in an enemy state.”

The first episode showed Israeli forces shooting innocent Palestinian civilians. Israeli soldiers were shown killing a newborn baby girl and an elderly man on his way to pilgrimage in Mecca.

Turkey has been a military ally of Israel since 1996, but relations between the two have been tense since Israel’s war on Gaza in early 2009, which Turkey vehemently criticized.

In January this year, bilateral ties became tense again over another television series depicting the adventures of a Turkish secret agent that Israel said depicted Jews as “baby-snatchers and war criminals.”

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gave the Turkish ambassador a public dressing down over the series, prompting Ankara to threaten to recall the envoy. Tensions were resolved after Israel issued a formal apology.

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

Assad: Pro-Peace, Israel Must Leave Golan in 6 Mths

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 19 — “I can guarantee that we are ready for peace today and not tomorrow. We want the talks to reach an agreement. On the basis of this agreement, a plan for the withdrawal of the Israelis from the Golan Heights will be set out, and hopefully it will happen within 6 months.” Syrian President Bashar al Assad was speaking in an interview with the news broadcast on Italian state television channel RAI 2 after talks yesterday with the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. “In the meeting with the Italian President,” added Assad, “we discussed how to start doing something for peace. The US has not proposed any solution as yet. They are a fundamental country in the peace process but we can’t wait around. Europe,” he underlined, “can be very important, just like other countries in the region,” starting with Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bin Laden Son Slams Qaeda, Says Family Doing Well in Iran

Osama bin Laden’s son Omar said on Saturday that Al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch should keep out of his family’s affairs, after it accused Iran of mistreating his siblings stranded in Tehran.

The Al-Qaeda chief’s fourth son also confirmed that his sister Iman bin Laden together with their mother Najwa al-Ghanem had been allowed to leave Iran […]

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Other Than Apartments in Jerusalem, What Else is Going on in the Middle East?

by Barry Rubin

While the Obama Administration is fiddling over the construction of apartments in Jerusalem, the Middle East is burning. Yet these other issues don’t attract the attention-and certainly not the action-required.

1. Iran is now allied with al-Qaida: General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, revealed a bombshell story that has been ignored: Iran is helping al-Qaida attack Americans.

Iran, he said in military-speak, provides “a key facilitation hub, where facilitators connect al Qaida’s senior leadership to regional affiliates.” Translation: Tehran is letting al-Qaida leaders travel freely back and forth to Pakistan and Afghanistan, using its territory as a safe haven, while permitting them to hold meetings to plan terrorist attacks for attacking U.S. targets and killing Americans. While nominally Iran sometimes takes these people into custody, that seems, Petraeus says, a fiction to fool foreigners.

Oh, and Petraeus added that Iran also helps the Taliban fight America in Afghanistan. Regarding Iraq, the general explains, “The Qods Force [an elite Iranian military group within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] also maintains its lethal support to Shia Iraqi militia groups, providing them with weapons, funding and training,”

So, Petraeus pointed out that Iran is helping al-Qaida against the United States and also, at times, Shia groups intended to be Iran’s proxies for spreading its influence in Iraq. In effect, the Tehran regime is at war with the United States. Yet this point is not being highlighted, nor does it stir rage in the hearts of White House officials or strenuous attempts to counter this threat.

Meanwhile, Iran isn’t just building apartments but nuclear weapons’ facilities.

2. Lebanon being further integrated into Iran-Syria alliance

In an interview with al-Jazira television, Walid Jumblatt, formerly the roaring lion of the opposition, turns into a mouse and apologizes to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad:

“I said, at a moment of anger, what is improper and illogical against President Bashar Assad.” And now he is begging for an invitation to Damascus where he can kiss the ring of the man whose father (Hafiz al-Asad) murdered his father (Kemal Jumblatt).

One cannot blame Walid Jumblatt nor Sa’d al-Hariri, leader of the March 14 coalition, whose father was murdered by Bashar himself and has already gone to Damascus to beg forgiveness.

But Jumblatt, leader of the main Druze community in Lebanon, was a man who not long ago denied comparing Bashar al-Asad to a dog by saying that to do so would be an insult to canines. Jumblatt was also the man who bragged about being a friend of the United States during his rebellious phase. No more.

Meanwhile, Hizballah, which enjoys veto power in Lebanon’s government, isn’t just building apartments, its building fortifications and importing record amounts of weapons.

3. It is now clear that Russia and China won’t support sanctions on Iran. The administration’s plan is in major trouble and there’s no way out, except to do the most minimal possible sanctions and claim victory…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Report: Saudi Arabia Seeks Strike on Iran

The German news magazine Der Spiegel has reported that Saudi Arabia is hoping Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, and is even prepared to open its skies to Israeli warplanes to allow such an operation to take place. Similar reports were published in 2009, and denied by both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Der Spiegel report stated that officials in Riyadh had spoken to United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the importance of stopping Iran’s nuclear program, even if doing so requires the use of military force.

The London Sunday Times claimed in 2009 that Saudi Arabia would allow Israel to use its airspace to attack Iran. The paper quoted a former Israeli intelligence officer as saying, “The Saudis are very concerned about an Iranian nuclear bomb, even more than the Israelis.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Appeal to King Abdullah to Stop Execution of Person for “Sorcery”

The man, a Lebanese, he held an advice program with “predictions” on satellite TV in his country. Arrested during a pilgrimage and condemned for practicing sorcery before millions of people.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) — An last minute appeal to the Saudi King Abdullah to stop the execution of a man sentenced to death for “sorcery” after the appeals court upheld the ruling last week.

The man, Ali Hussain Sibat (pictured), is Lebanese and a former television presenter for a satellite TV station, Sheherazade TV, who gave advice and predictions about the future. He was arrested by the Mutawa’een (religious police) on charges of “sorcery” in May 2008 while he was in Saudi Arabia to perform a Muslim pilgrimage.

According to Amnesty International after he was arrested, ‘Ali Hussain Sibat’s interrogators told him to write down what he did for a living, reassuring him that, if he did so, he would be allowed to go home after a few weeks. This document was presented in court as a “confession” and used to convict him. He was sentenced to death by a court in Madina on 9 November 2009 after secret court hearings where he had no legal representation or assistance.

In January 2010, the Court of Appeal in Makkah accepted an appeal against ‘Ali Hussain Sibat’s death sentence, on grounds that it was a premature verdict. The Court of Appeal said that all allegations made against ‘Ali Hussain Sibat had to be verified, and that if he had really committed the crime he should be asked to repent. But on March 10, a court in Madina upheld the death sentence. The judges said that he deserved to be sentenced to death because he had practised “sorcery” publicly for several years before millions of viewers and that his actions “made him an infidel”. The court said also that there would be no way to verify that his repentance, if he should repent, would be sincere and that imposing the death sentence would deter other people from engaging in “sorcery” at a time when, the court said, there is an increase in the number of “foreign magicians” entering Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International says the crime of “sorcery” is not defined in Saudi Arabian law but is used to punish people for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, including the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, belief and expression.

The last known execution for sorcery in Saudi Arabia was carried out November 2, 2007 against a Egyptian pharmacist, Mustafa Ibrahim.

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

Soldiers Commit Double Suicide in Lebanon

Two Lebanese soldiers took their lives in a double suicide in the same military barracks near the northern coastal town of Batroun on Saturday, an army spokesman said.

“Two soldiers committed suicide separately in their barracks at dawn this morning, around 15 minutes apart,” he told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

The spokesman identified the soldiers as Tanios Yammine and Shaheen Bashir, both of whom hail from northern Lebanon, but would give no further details or speculate on a motive.

Lebanon’s army, which is no longer a conscript force, has launched an investigation into the rare suicides but ruled out homicide as a cause of either death.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Syria: Bin Laden’s Teenage Daughter ‘Returns’

Damascus, 19 March (AKI) — The daughter of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has returned to Syria after being held for eight years in Iran against her will, according to pan-Arab daily ‘al-Sharq al-Awsat’. Nineteen-year-old Iman Bin Laden and her Syrian-born mother Najwa Ghanem, Bin Laden’s first wife, arrived in Damascus on Thursday on a flight from Tehran, the daily said.

She is now in the port city of al-Ladhaqiya, near the Turkish border, where she has been reunited with members her family, including siblings living in Saudi Arabia.

Iman Bin Laden spent the past three months inside the Saudi embassy in Tehran, where she had sought refuge. She was detained in Iran in 2002.

Iman reportedly managed to reach the Saudi embassy after escaping from her guards and phoning her brother Omar in Syria to let him know she was still alive.

She was arrested in Iran in 2002 as she tried to reach the Afghan border, together with another of her father’s wives, Umm Hamza.

Six of her siblings and 11 of of Bin Laden’s nephews and nieces are still being detained in Iran and have suffered physical and mental health problems, Iman has told the media.

Last November, Iman’s brother Omar started a campaign in the Arab media to free her. Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faysa reportedly played a key role in Iman’s release.

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

Turkey Willing to Increase Trade With Iran

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 19 — Turkey aims to increase trade volume with Iran to USD 20 billion in 2011, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Turkish State Minister Hayati Yazici as saying. Yazici, who met with Iranian assistant first vice-president and the spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Agha Mohammadi, said that trade volume between the two countries was USD 10 billion in 2008, however it dropped to USD 5.5 billion in 2009. “Nevertheless, we have a large trade activity. So, we want to modernize customs gates jointly, and increase trade volume to $20 billion in 2011,” Hayati Yazici told the meeting. Two customs gates, Gurbulak and Esendere, are now operating between Turkey and Iran, Yazici said, adding that officials of the two countries had agreed to open two more. On his part, Mohammadi said that Iran was eager to set up joint customs gates which he said could make trade easier for Turkish and Iranian businessmen. Iran wants to take tangible steps on the matter, he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Failed Coup; 33 Suspects Tried Within 2 Months

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 19 — On June 15 the trial will start of the 33 people, most of them Navy officers, who have been charged with planning attacks against Turkey’s religious minorities in an attempt to discredit the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and pave the way for a military coup. The news was announced by news agency Anadolu. The agency points out that all accused, three of them have been imprisoned, have been charged with “membership of an armed organisation”. If they are found guilty, they could be sentenced to 15 years in prison. The plan in which the 33 were allegedly involved was called “Kafes” (Cage), one of the many plans discovered in Turkey in the past two years in the context of the inquiry into the Ergenekon case. Ergenekon is thought to be a secret national organisation which reportedly attempted to overthrow the government of Premier Tayyip Erdogan a few months after it took office. According to the prosecution, the Kafes plan included attacks on Armenian, Greek and Jewish religious minorities, trying to blame “Muslim fundamentalists” close to the AKP for the attacks, that way discrediting the party and the Erdogan government. The court that will try the 33 suspects may decide to join the trial with the one already in progress on the Ergenekon case. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: A Threat, Yet Again

By Srdja Trifkovic

Inside the Beltway, the fact that Turkey is no longer a U.S. “ally” in any meaningful sense is still strenuously denied. But as I note on Alternativeright we were reminded of the true score on March 9, when Saudi King Abdullah presented Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the Wahhabist kingdom’s most prestigious prize for his “services to Islam.” Erdogan earned the King Faisal Prize for having “rendered outstanding service to Islam by defending the causes of the Islamic nation.”

Services to the Ummah — Turkey under Erdogan’s neo-Islamist AKP has rendered a host of other services to “the Islamic nation.” In August 2008 Ankara welcomed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a formal state visit, and last year it announced that it would not join any sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In the same spirit the AKP government repeatedly played host to Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir — a nasty piece of jihadist work if there ever was one — who stands accused of genocide against non-Muslims. Erdogan has barred Israel from annual military exercises on Turkey’s soil, but his government signed a military pact with Syria last October and has been conducting joint military exercises with the regime of Bashir al-Assad. Turkey’s strident apologia of Hamas is more vehement than anything coming out of Cairo or Amman. (Talking of terrorists, Erdogan has stated, repeatedly, “I do not want to see the word ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamist’ in connection with the word ‘terrorism’!”) imultaneous pressure to conform to Islam at home has gathered pace over the past seven years, and is now relentless. Turkish businessmen will tell you privately that sipping a glass of raki in public may hurt their chances of landing government contracts; but it helps if their wives and daughters wear the hijab.

Map of the Turkish-Islamic Union (

Ankara’s continuing bid to join the European Union is running parallel with its openly neo-Ottoman policy of re-establishing an autonomous sphere of influence in the Balkans and in the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Turkey’s EU candidacy is still on the agenda, but the character of the issue has evolved since Erdogan’s AKP came to power in 2002.

When the government in Ankara started the process by signing an Association agreement with the EEC (as it was then) in 1963, its goal was to make Turkey more “European.” This had been the objective of subsequent attempts at Euro-integration by other neo-Kemalist governments prior to Erdogan’s election victory eight years ago, notably those of Turgut Ozal and Tansu Ciller in the 1990s. The secularists hoped to present Turkey’s “European vocation” as an attractive domestic alternative to the growing influence of political Islam, and at the same time to use the threat of Islamism as a means of obtaining political and economic concessions and specific timetables from Brussels. Erdogan and his personal friend and political ally Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s president, still want the membership, but their motives are vastly different. Far from seeking to make Turkey more European, they want to make Europe more Turkish — many German cities are well on the way — and more Islamic, thus reversing the setback of 1683 without firing a shot.

The neo-Ottoman strategy was clearly indicated by the appointment of Ahmet Davutoglu as foreign minister almost a year ago. As Erdogan’s long-term foreign policy advisor, he advocated diversifying Turkey’s geopolitical options by creating exclusively Turkish zones of influence in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East… including links with Khaled al-Mashal of Hamas. On the day of his appointment in May Davutoglu asserted that Turkey’s influence in “its region” will continue to grow: Turkey had an “order-instituting role” in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus, he declared, quite apart from its links with the West. In his words, Turkish foreign policy has evolved from being “crisis-oriented” to being based on “vision”: “Turkey is no longer a country which only reacts to crises, but notices the crises before their emergence and intervenes in the crises effectively, and gives shape to the order of its surrounding region.” He openly asserted that Turkey had a “responsibility to help stability towards the countries and peoples of the regions which once had links with Turkey” — thus explicitly referring to the Ottoman era, in a manner unimaginable only a decade ago: “Beyond representing the 70 million people of Turkey, we have a historic debt to those lands where there are Turks or which was related to our land in the past. We have to repay this debt in the best way.”

This strategy is based on the assumption that growing Turkish clout in the old Ottoman lands — a region in which the EU has vital energy and political interests — may prompt President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to drop their objections to Turkey’s EU membership. If on the other hand the EU insists on Turkey’s fulfillment of all 35 chapters of the acquis communautaire — which Turkey cannot and does not want to complete — then its huge autonomous sphere of influence in the old Ottoman domain can be developed into a major and potentially hostile counter-bloc to Brussels. Obama approved this strategy when he visited Ankara in April of last year, shortly after that notorious address to the Muslim world in Cairo.

Erdogan is no longer eager to minimize or deny his Islamic roots, but his old assurances to the contrary — long belied by his actions — are still being recycled in Washington, and treated as reality. This reflects the propensity of this ddministration, just like its predecessors, to cherish illusions about the nature and ambitions of our regional “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The implicit assumption in Washington — that Turkey would remain “secular” and “pro-Western,” come what may — should have been reassessed already after the Army intervened to remove the previous pro-Islamic government in 1997. Since then the Army has been neutered, confirming the top brass old warning that “democratization” would mean Islamization. Dozens of generals and other senior ranks — traditionally the guardians of Ataturk’s legacy — are being called one by one for questioning in a government-instigated political trial. To the dismay of its small Westernized secular elite, Turkey has reasserted its Asian and Muslim character with a vengeance.

Neo-Ottomanism — Washington’s stubborn denial of Turkey’s political, cultural and social reality goes hand in hand with an ongoing Western attempt to rehabilitate the Ottoman Empire, and to present it as almost a precursor of Europe’s contemporary multiethnic, multicultural tolerance, diversity, etc, etc. In reality, four salient features of the Ottoman state were institutionalized discrimination against non-Muslims, total personal insecurity of all its subjects, an unfriendly coexistence of its many races and creeds, and the absence of unifying state ideology. It was a sordid Hobbesian borderland with mosques. An “Ottoman culture,” defined by Constantinople and largely limited to its walls, did eventually emerge through the reluctant mixing of Turkish, Greek, Slavic, Jewish and other Levantine lifestyles and practices, each at its worst. The mix was impermanent, unattractive, and unable to forge identities or to command loyalties.

The Roman Empire could survive a string of cruel, inept or insane emperors because its bureaucratic and military machines were well developed and capable of functioning even when there was confusion at the core. The Ottoman state lacked such mechanisms. Devoid of administrative flair, the Turks used the services of educated Greeks and Jews and awarded them certain privileges. Their safety and long-term status were nevertheless not guaranteed, as witnessed by the hanging of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch on Easter Day 1822.

The Ottoman Empire gave up the ghost right after World War I, but long before that it had little interesting to say, or do, at least measured against the enormous cultural melting pot it had inherited and the splendid opportunities of sitting between the East and West. Not even a prime location at the crossroads of the world could prompt creativity. The degeneracy of the ruling class, blended with Islam’s inherent tendency to the closing of the mind, proved insurmountable. A century later the Turkish Republic is a populous, self-assertive nation-state of over 70 million. Ataturk hoped to impose a strictly secular concept of nationhood, but political Islam has reasserted itself. In any event the Kemalist dream of secularism had never penetrated beyond the military and a narrow stratum of the urban elite.

The near-impossible task facing Turkey’s Westernized intelligentsia before Erdogan had been to break away from the lure of irredentism abroad, and at home to reform Islam into a matter of personal choice separated from the State and distinct from the society. Now we know that it could not be done. The Kemalist edifice, uneasily perched atop the simmering Islamic volcano, is by now an empty shell.

A new “Turkish” policy is long overdue in Washington. Turkey is not an “indispensable ally,” as Paul Wolfowitz called her shortly before the war in Iraq, and as Obama repeated last April. It is no longer an ally at all. It may have been an ally in the darkest Cold War days, when it accommodated U.S. missiles aimed at Russia’s heartland. Today it is just another Islamic country, a regional power of considerable importance to be sure, with interests and aspirations that no longer coincide with those of the United States.

Both Turkey and the rest of the Middle East matter far less to American interests than we are led to believe, and it is high time to demythologize America’s special relationships throughout the region. Accepting that Mustafa Kemal’s legacy is undone is the long-overdue first step.

Tags: Srdja Trifkovic

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Turkish PM: Statement in London on Deportation of Illegal Armenians From Turkey Intended to Attract International Community’s Attention 20.03.2010 16:01

The statement in London was made in order to attract the attention of the international community to Armenians illegally residing in Turkey and the Turkish Government’s human approach to this fact, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul during a meeting with Turkish art workers, CNN TV Turk reported.

Turkish Prime Minister once again […]

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

U.S. Department of State Warns Americans Against Traveling to Turkey

The U.S. Department of State released the following Travel Alert on March 19, 2010:

“The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to evolving security concerns in Turkey, and reminds them of the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests. This Travel Alert dated March 19, 2010, expires on April 30, 2010.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Mosques Not Faring So Well in Azerbaijan: Eurasianet

Among the many construction projects that now seem to define downtown Baku, it’s notable that one type of building, the mosque, isn’t faring so well, writes Jonathan Makiri in EurasiaNet.

Officials in Baku in the past few years have closed, or issued demolition orders for numerous mosques in the capital city. The mosque closings have inconvenienced perhaps thousands of pious Azeris, who have been forced to travel greater distances to attend Friday prayers and engage in other organized religious activities.

Officials have justified the closings by saying some of the buildings were structurally unsafe and needed repairs. Others were alleged to have been built illegally, or had faulty paperwork. Some critics contend that such explanations mask the government’s underlying motivation — a desire to keep free speech and freedom of conscience under close supervision.

“The government gives us many different reasons for closing these mosques,” says Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, head of the Center for Protection of Freedom of Conscience and Religion (DEVAMM). “They won’t give us one clear message, but ultimately this is about government control.”

Ibrahimoglu offers a number of possible motivations for closures, including government concern over growing Islamist groups. The Abu-Bakr Mosque, for example, was closed in 2008 following a bombing that killed two worshippers. In 2009, Azerbaijan introduced new laws limiting the ability of religious groups to organize and distribute religious texts.

Ibrahimoglu also believes the state’s motives stretch beyond religion. “This is the same government that won’t allow the BBC in Azerbaijan,” said Ibrahimoglu, referring to the 2009 ban on international broadcasts on the country’s national frequencies.

“This government has jailed bloggers for dressing in costume. They are denying Muslims the right to pray collectively. These are basic freedom of speech issues. These are basic human rights.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Iranians Train Taliban to Use Roadside Bombs

TALIBAN commanders have revealed that hundreds of insurgents have been trained in Iran to kill Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The commanders said they had learnt to mount complex ambushes and lay improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have been responsible for most of the deaths of British troops in Helmand province.

The accounts of two commanders, in interviews with The Sunday Times, are the first descriptions of training of the Taliban in Iran.

According to the commanders, Iranian officials paid them to attend three-month courses during the winter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bangladesh — Myanmar: Dhaka: No Mistreatment Rohingya. But “Non Registered” Risk Starvation

The government denies harassment or bullying towards the Burmese Muslim minority. Bangladesh Minister: media slander, we help them. AsiaNews sources: compared to 25 thousand with the status of refugees, “non registered” can not receive aid and risk dying of hunger.”

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Food Minister Abdur Razzaque has returned to the controversy concerning the mistreatment to the Burmese Rohingya refugees arguing that “there is no” harassment or bullying, as reported by international media. AsiaNews sources in Bangladesh, who work with refugees, however, explain that “there are two different categories” and the second, non-registered, “suffers from hunger and can not receive assistance” from international organizations.

“Despite being a poor country — says the minister — Bangladesh provides aid and assistance to the Rohingya for humanitarian reasons”. Abdur Razzaque denies that there is “repression, although the international media use that despicable word.” He also adds a regularization of illegal refugees, would be an invitation to all to illegally enter the country with the illusion of receiving support from international organizations or on transit to other nations.

The Rohingya are one of several ethnic minorities that make up the Union of Myanmar. Of Muslim religion, they live in Rakhine State, north-west of the country and the military regime does not recognize their right to citizenship, ownership of land, freedom to travel or wed without a “special permit” issued by the authorities. Tens of thousands seek refuge abroad, mainly in Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Dhaka has granted approximately 28 thousand Rohingya refugee status, who live in a United Nations refugee camp in Kutupalong. However, different estimates speak of 200 thousand — or maybe 300 thousand — other members of the minority who live illegally in Bangladesh.

A local source — anonymous for security reasons — who works closely with the refugees, confirms to AsiaNews that the humanitarian emergency involves the “unregistered”. Against 28 thousand “officially registered” Rohingya who live in camps set up by the government, there are many more left on their own. “The first — says the source — may receive aid from the UN World Food Program and other organizations, with the approval of the government.” The “unregistered” by contrast, are considered “undocumented” or illegal, they do not have the status of refugees and “international agencies are not allowed to help them.”

The illegal Rohingya “do not receive food or medicine” and are likely to die of starvation, the source confirmed to AsiaNews. They also “do not have freedom of movement” even if a party “is working and has a minimum wage.” “They have very limited opportunities to receive a salary — he concludes — and this is also why they are at risk from hunger.”

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

Crude Bomb on Passenger Aircraft Shocks Indian Authorities

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a serious security lapse, an explosive, suspected to be a crude bomb, was found on board a private airline’s flight arrived at the international airport here Sunday.

The crude bomb in a size of a cricket ball wrapped in a Malayalam newspaper and Board exam question papers was recovered from the rear of cargo hold of the aircraft arrived from Bangalore in the neighboring Karnataka state at 8 a.m.

The flight was about to take off from here on the return flight and all the 31 passengers who de-boarded the Kingfisher aircraft had a narrow escape. A security alarm was triggered nationally following the incident and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), the regulatory authority for civil aviation security in India, has launched a probe.

“It’s a serious and shocking lapse of security that could not have taken place. We are viewing it very seriously and a high-level inquiry by the state police has already begun,” said M Vijaya Kumar, state’s minister in charge of airports who rushed to the airport.

Airports across India have been on high alert since January after reports that Al-Qaeda-linked militants planned to hijack a plane.

Police are still clueless about whether the explosives, containing 100 gm gunpowder and other substances were planted before the takeoff from Bangalore or after arriving at the airport here. The possibility of the packet being thrown in through small openings either side of the cargo compartment cannot be ruled out, they said.

“The crude bomb was inside a ball-shaped package found in the cargo compartment of Kingfisher flight IT 4731 which arrived from Bangalore. Airlines staff spotted the explosive during a routine security checkup and cleaning,” City Police Commissioner MR Ajit Kumar, who is heading the probe team, said.

He said the aircraft was immediately moved to the isolation bay and the bomb disposal squad was called in to defuse the crude bomb by putting it in water. Investigators suspect it could be an attempt by terrorists to test the security level at the airport.

A statement from Kingfisher Airlines said the unclaimed package was found during a routine security check and the matter was immediately reported to the authorities who removed the package from the aircraft.

The airport authorities have handed over the “bomb” to the local police who have registered an FIR and questioned a few suspects. Police have also called in forensic experts to ascertain the nature of the explosives.

“It was explosive material which is commonly used in firecrackers, but can also be used to make a crude bomb. We expect that by Monday, we will know what kind of explosive it is,” the police commissioner said. “We are investigating how this happened. Certainly this is a security lapse. The explosive is now with experts.”

Security at Indian airports and on airliners has been high since a December 1999 hijack of state-run Indian Airlines plane by militants who forced the pilot to fly the plane to Taleban-controlled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and freed the 167 passengers and crew only after releasing four militants.

The Kingfisher flight returned to Bangalore in the afternoon after a thorough security check. Airport authorities said all flights from the Kerala capital, including those bound for the Gulf destinations, are operating on schedule.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Radical Islamists Unappeased by Delayed Obama Visit

Jakarta, 19 March (AKI) — Indonesia’s radical Islamic groups have vowed to keep up their protests against the United States despite US president Barack Obama’s decision late on Thursday to postpone his trip to Indonesia until June.

Obama was expected in Indonesia next week on a three-day visit, but has delayed the trip to focus on a crucial vote in Washington this weekend on his healthcare reform plan.

He was also due to visit Australia and Guam. Both Indonesia and Australia have expressed understanding over Obama’s delayed visit to Asia.

“[Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono understands the healthcare bill is very important to Obama’s administration,” the presidential spokesman Dino Pattu Djalal said on Friday.

“We know that this visit is important to President Obama, that Indonesia is an important country, that there’s a strong commitment to launch a comprehensive partnership,” Djalal added.

Obama’s visit was being hailed by both sides as a momentous opportunity to cement their relationship on security, trade and military issues.

The visit’s postponement has not satisfied the Islamic radical groups that have been opposing Obama visit to Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia’s spokesperson Muhammad Ismail Yusanto told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Friday that the protests would continue.

“It is just a delay. Obama may still come. In addition, the postponement does not change America’s foreign policy, which is bent on invading Muslim countries. I do not see any reason why we should stop our protests,” he said.

However, Yusanto, whose organisation wants an Islamic ‘caliphate’, conceded that the anti-Obama demonstration planned to coincide with the arrival of the US president may no take place.

“We may stop for a while but we will for sure start again closer to June, when Obama is meant to visit”, he said.

Yusanto claimed Obama has so far failed to build bridges between the Islamic world and the Christian West.

“His speech at Il Cairo was just a load of nonsense and empty rhetoric. There was no connection to reality at all,” he said.

He was referring to Obama’s ‘A New Beginning’ speech delivered on 4 June last year at Egypt’s Cairo University.

The speech was hailed as an attempt by the new Obama administration’s effort to reach out to the Muslim world.

It called for improved mutual understanding and relations between the Islamic world and the West and said both should do more to tackle violent extremism

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

Kyrgyzstan: OSCE Tells Kyrgyzstan to Stop Censoring Online News

The OSCE sends an official letter to the Kyrgyz foreign minister. In March, censorship gets worse. Online media are blocked, print newspapers are seized, and reporters are threatened and arrested. Meanwhile, the opposition tries to organise protest actions.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In an official letter, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has urged the Kyrgyz government to stop censoring online media. As the fifth anniversary of the country’s March 2005 ‘orange’ revolution approaches, Kyrgyz authorities are putting unprecedented pressure on independent media. Ordinary Kyrgyz are also outraged by fee hikes of essential services, encouraging the opposition.

In its letter, the OSCE has called on the Kyrgyz government to respect its international obligations to protect freedom of speech and to restore access to a number of online media sources and to Azattyk Radio (the Kyrgyz Service of RFE/RL).

Similarly, “Press freedom violations seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity,” Reporters Without Borders and other groups have lamented.

Since 10 March, agencies like, and (whose editor Gennady Pavlyuk was murdered last December) have been blocked.

Local sources report that independent media have been pressured not to report certain news or lose their licence. Consequently, many have refrained from publishing articles critical of the government.

The opposition press has also been targeted. All 7,000 copies of the newspaper Forum were seized by the police in Bishkek on 15 March without any explanation, whilst its editor, Ryskeldi Mombekov, and five other journalists were detained.

President Kurmanbek Bakiev appears eager to prevent news from reaching Kyrgyz that a businessman close to his inner circle was arrested in Italy on suspicion of mafia links. Mr Yevgeny Gurevich is a financial consultant to the Central Agency for Development, Investments and Innovation, which is run by the president’s son, Maksim Bakiev.

The government also wants to stop news about public protest in Naryn. On 10 March, this region located in the high mountains, saw mass demonstration against higher electricity and heating prices. Two days ago, thousands of people demonstrated in the capital (pictured) for the same reason.

The opposition has also held an assembly (kurultai) and drafted a list of demands to make to the government; they include cancelling the recent price increases, the renationalisation of key firms like Kyrgyztelecome and Severelectro as well as the release of political prisoners and government opponents. They also want an inquiry into Gurevich’s arrest, his activities, and an end to media censorship. If these requests are not met, the opposition plans to organise a kurultai in each region.

For many experts, the recent turn of events suggests that Kyrgyzstan is falling into line with its autocratic central Asian neighbours.

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

Far East

Academic Paper in China Sets Off Alarms in U.S.

It came as a surprise this month to Wang Jianwei, a graduate engineering student in Liaoning, China, that he had been described as a potential cyberwarrior before the United States Congress.

Larry M. Wortzel, a military strategist and China specialist, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 10 that it should be concerned because “Chinese researchers at the Institute of Systems Engineering of Dalian University of Technology published a paper on how to attack a small U.S. power grid sub-network in a way that would cause a cascading failure of the entire U.S.”

When reached by telephone, Mr. Wang said he and his professor had indeed published “Cascade-Based Attack Vulnerability on the U.S. Power Grid” in an international journal called Safety Science last spring. But Mr. Wang said he had simply been trying to find ways to enhance the stability of power grids by exploring potential vulnerabilities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

China — Africa: African Stories: Where the Chinese Put Their Life at Risk to Enrich Beijing

Two men convicted of murdering Chinese workers are executed in Sudan. Seven Chinese fishermen are released after they were abducted in Cameroon. Through its companies, China is increasingly raising its profile in Africa, to exploit the continent’s natural and human resources. However, more and more, the local population views this presence as a “foreign invasion” and turning against it.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Sudan executed two people convicted of killing four oil workers, two of them Chinese. Seven Chinese fishermen who were abducted off Cameroon’s resource-rich Bakassi peninsula on 12 March were freed on Wednesday.

The two men who were executed were found guilty in 2004 of killing the workers and taking their vehicle in Heglig in Sudan’s South Kordofan state. News agencies reporting the execution did not give further details about the incident; they only said the workers had been employed by a Chinese oil company.

China is one of the main partners of oil-rich Sudan, but in recent years, violence against Chinese workers has escalated. In October 2008, gunmen abducted nine Chinese oil workers, killing four.

In Cameroon, the seven fishermen taken hostage were freed last night, Chinese state-owned Xinhua news agency reported. The men, abducted on March 12 from two fishing boats, were travelling to Limbe. Their kidnappers were from a group calling itself the Africa Marine Commando and had demanded a ransom of US$ 15,000 to US$ 25,000. Their release was secured after days of negotiations.

Beijing is heavily involved in Africa. Its huge demand for raw materials means that it is willing to spend, no questions asked of how local governments use the money. Hence, it is prepared to do business with corrupt governments, willing selling off their nation’s resources so that its leaders can get rich quick.

When Western governments have to deal with questionable governments, they ask for guarantees that the money will be spent to benefit the population and refuse to deal with governments accused of crimes against their own people, like that of Sudan, which buys weapons from China to use against its own population.

China is gaining a bigger foothold in the African continent, but it is also causing greater resentment against its own people, increasingly seen as the new colonisers.

In Zambia’s Chambeshi region, Chinese firms have been accused of union busting and forcing their employees to work in unsafe conditions. In 2005, 51 miners died in a mining explosion. In 2006, Chinese supervisors and police shot at miners who were demanding better working conditions and better wages. In March 2008, miners staged a violent protest with police barely saving Chinese company officials from lynching.

In February 2007, rebels abducted 14 Chinese employees of the Chinese National Petroleum Company (and later released them) after they accused the company of helping a corrupt government steal local resources. In March 2007, two other Chinese employees were abducted. That same year, a Chinese engineer was killed in Kenya, and another wounded.

Anger is so widespread that in some countries like Zambia visiting Chinese dignitaries have had to curtail their public engagements to avoid popular protest.

In various countries, Beijing funds large-scale infrastructural development in exchange of natural resources; however, it usually requires that much of the construction be contracted out to Chinese companies, which bring in their own technical staff and workers, relying on local manpower only for the most menial and underpaid work.

China is also flooding many countries with its low-cost goods, undermining local manufacturing. In places like South Africa, the textile sector is reeling under the burden of Chinese competition.

More importantly, resource development is often indiscriminate. In January 2008, Sierra Leone had to ban lumber exports because of the “indiscriminate plunder of the forests” by foreign companies, chiefly those from China.

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

Latin America

The Great Italian Passport Scam

How to make an Italian citizen — stamps from embassy in Brazil and residence in Apennines

RIO DE JANEIRO — A long-lost, or non-existent, Italian great-grandfather, an address in Italy or an Italian surname are all available. At a price. It’s not hard to become Italian, if you have the right contacts, a bit of money and not too many scruples. You don’t actually require any Italian ancestors if you start from Brazil. But you do have to spend a few weeks in a remote village in the Apennines. Your prize will be a shiny maroon passport with the magic words “European Union” on the cover, words that open the doors to any country on the planet, whether for business or other reasons. Research in Brazil, London and various municipalities in Italy has enabled the Corriere della Sera to unearth a criminal network for jumping the years-long queues, or even inventing Italian citizenship out of thin air, by exploiting loopholes in the 1992 law and subsequent directives. Documents in our possession expose large-scale conniving. There are false genealogies legalised at the Italian embassy in Brasilia and forwarded to a municipality in the province of Savona, where the network arranges lodgings and fictitious resident status for the aspiring Italians. Even more worrying is a secondary phenomenon described by one source, as in the interview below. Extremist organisations are alleged to be using Brazil as a channel for “Italianising” individuals who would otherwise be unable to enter the United States, for example. It’s a very sophisticated form of identity laundering and Italian law is the weak link in the chain.

Grandfather hunting

The first appointment, with a middle man, is at an office in San Paolo or Porto Alegre. But if the applicant is already in Europe, perhaps illegally, everything can be done from London. The rate for the job depends on the difficulty of the procedure. Let’s take the most glaring example, when the Brazilian client has no Italian ancestors at all. For a modest fee of around 10,000 euros, the network will sort things out. Accomplices order from Italy the genuine birth certificate of someone who emigrated to Brazil in the late 19th or early 20th century, and turn him into the applicant’s great-grandfather, forging the related documents. That’s how Antonio Bordon, born in Rovigo in 1909, became the ancestor of a certain Maria Helena de Abreu, 38. The network commissioned an unlicensed printer to run off a forged birth certificate for the woman’s mother but the Corriere della Sera traced the original document to the registry office of Patos de Minas, a small town in Brazil. Ms de Abreu never had a Veneto-born grandfather. Or rather, he was someone else’s grandfather. The entire fictitious family tree, which is needed to obtain citizenship, bears the stamp of approval of the consular section at the Italian embassy in Brasilia. Currently, Ms de Abreu is in Savona, awaiting her new identity card but hers is not the only case. There are dozens of others with the same stamps and the same signatures. “No sweat. We’ll go and see some friends at the office”, said a middle man to a Brazilian woman posing as a passport seeker, who had mentioned that she lived in a city in the south, not in Brasilia. For Brazil’s capital is the scam’s nerve centre. Hundreds of applications may have been stamped there in the past few years without any checks while the consulates in Sao Paolo, Porto Alegre or Curitiba, where there are tens of millions of Italian Brazilians, are snowed under with applications and the waiting list is up to 20 years long. In order to get the forged application onto a friendly desk, the network has to forge another document and make it seem that the applicant is resident in Brasilia. In the vast majority of cases, this is not true.

Passport tourism

A 2002 circular laid down that anyone of Italian descent can, with the right documents, apply for citizenship in any municipality in Italy where he or she has acquired residency. The ruling prompted the creation of a network of mainly internet-based agencies and intermediaries. In fact, the thousands of applicants flocking to Italy from Brazil have generated a flourishing passport tourism industry. A number of municipalities have specialised in the mass production of Italian nationals. In Savona and its province, in Garfagnana and in the provinces of Ancona and Reggio Calabria, there are one or more agencies run by Italian Brazilians, many of them perfectly legal. The network that handles papers from accomplices in Brasilia focuses mainly on Savona and various municipalities in the province, including Millesimo and Cairo Montenotte. This is where Maria Teresa Cropanise lives. Ms Cropanise is the Brazilian who set up the Spazio Brasil agency and who over the past two years has assisted at the birth, as her web site puts it, of at least 80 new Italians, with a little help from the local registry office. The future Italians live in two nearby flats until their citizenship comes through. Many actually are descendants of Italian emigrants but several are clearly not. In the Cairo Montenotte town hall, we examined the documents of Jean Carlos Batista da Silva, one of the false Italians. He got his citizenship because the network created a grandfather called Pasquale Castelluccio for him. Signor Castelluccio actually existed but he was the ancestor of another, legitimate, Spazio Brazil client, Carlos Henrique Castelluccio. In other words, Pasquale was recycled. Confronted with the evidence, the mayor of Cairo Montenotte, Fulvio Briano, said he was “shocked”. Mr Briano claimed that he had no authority over the registry office in his own town hall and said he would be presenting the case to the public prosecutor in Savona today. Over the past two and a half years, Cairo Montenotte has created 40 new Italians. Almost all had documents stamped and legalised by the Italian embassy in Brasilia.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece Says Turkish F-16s Harass EU Immigration Patrols

Greece on Friday accused Turkey of interfering with European Union immigration patrols by sending fighter jets to intercept aircraft monitoring the bloc’s southeastern sea borders.

Two Turkish F-16s flew alongside the aircraft from the Frontex force on Friday morning after it refused to leave its flight zone despite 16 Turkish radar warnings for it do so, the Greek defense ministry said in a statement.

The Turkish planes left when two Greek fighters arrived, the ministry said, adding that the incident took place over the Greek island of Farmakonisi, which lies about 10 kilometers off the Turkish coast.

Thousands of would-be migrants and asylum seekers from war-torn regions in Africa, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent land on Greek shores every year after sailing from the neighboring Turkish coast.

Greece says Turkey is refusing to honor a migrant readmittance protocol signed a decade ago and has in the past accused Ankara of harassing aircraft belonging to EU border agency Frontex.

Athens and Ankara normalized their relations in 1999 but continue to disagree on sovereignty in some areas of the Aegean.

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

Switzerland: Deportations Stopped After Nigerian Death

Zurich, 19 March (AKI) — Switzerland has reportedly ended special flights to deport asylum seekers after a Nigerian man on a hunger strike died at Zurich airport on Wednesday. According to the news site, Swiss Info, the federal migration office in Bern ordered a halt to the flights and said it regretted the man’s death.

Swiss police said they had shackled the 29-year-old man, who was being forcibly deported with 15 other Nigerians whose asylum bids had been rejected.

The man who has not been named was reportedly on a hunger strike. According to the report, he fell ill on Wednesday and a doctor tried in vain to revive him.

Swiss authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.

Immediate attempts to resuscitate him failed and he died on the tarmac, the Swiss news site said.

The office of the Zurich public prosecutor is to investigate the death and an autopsy has been ordered.

The Nigerian, a convicted drug dealer who had been in Switzerland since 2005, was due to board the flight to Lagos late Wednesday with 15 others who had reportedly refused to leave the country despite expulsion orders.

Swiss police said such passengers were restrained on the special flights for security reasons. In a statement, Zurich police said the man had resisted deportation and could only be restrained by force.

Two Nigerian witnesses cited by Swiss police accused Zurich police of inhumane treatment.

“They treated us like animals,” Emmanuel said.

They explained how “more than 60 police” had been waiting for the 16 detainees at Zurich airport.

“They shackled our feet, knees, hands, hips, arms and torso and made us wear a helmet like those worn by boxers. It was simply impossible to move.”

It is the third such death in Switzerland since 1999.

Last year there were 43 special repatriation flights from Switzerland, deporting some 360 people, mostly to the Balkans or Africa, Swissinfo reports.

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

Culture Wars

Girl Scouts Hiding Secret Sex Agenda?

Accusations fly over U.N. meeting, Planned Parenthood ‘hot’ girl handout

A witness who attended the 54th session of United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women has unleashed a firestorm of controversy after reporting copies of Planned Parenthood’s teen-sex promoting guide, “Healthy, Happy and Hot,” were provided for Girl Scouts in attendance.

The Girl Scouts organization, in turn, has issued a denial statement, distancing itself from any involvement in “family planning,” despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Sharon Slater of Family Watch International and Stand for the Family was at the New York City event when organizers ushered all adults — save for one from each of seven sponsoring organizations — out of the room for a “girls only workshop” that the Girl Scouts of the USA reports 30-35 teenage girls attended.


And despite claiming to “not take a position on family planning,” national Girl Scouts leaders have admitted in the past to widespread partnerships with organizations like Planned Parenthood.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Message of the OIC Secretary General on the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The international community is commemorating today, 21 March 2010, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On this important occasion I would like to underline and recall, on behalf of the OIC, the universal virtues of brotherhood, mutual respect and tolerance, which are indispensable to preserve stability, peace and security in our globe.

Today’s celebration should aim to remind everybody the negative and dangerous consequences of racial discrimination. It should also be a good opportunity to sensitize and encourage governments, political leaders, the media and ordinary people on the crucial necessity to uphold their obligations as well as their determination to combat all forms and manifestations of racial discrimination.

The OIC, as a major intergovernmental organization, would like to reiterate its commitment to cooperate and to interact closely with the UN, particularly the Human Rights Mechanisms and Bodies, to strongly and firmly combat all forms of racism and racial discrimination. The theme of this year celebration “disqualify racism” is timely and pertinent, as it became all the more urgent to mobilize all our efforts to eradicate this scourge, which constitutes a serious threat not only to victims of racism, but also for international stability, peace, security and orderly conduct of relations between societies and countries.

We all need to enhance our engagement collectively and individually to combat the scourge of racism and to act for justice for victims of racial discrimination. It is high time to display our solidarity with and accountability to millions of people, who are continuously physically aggressed, psychologically oppressed stigmatized and marginalized as a result of racist discourse, policies, attitudes and practices.

On this important and meaningful day, the OIC calls upon the international community to vigorously express its deep concern and rejection of the systematic and negative stereotyping of Muslims and Islam, as well as other religions and their followers, by denouncing categorically all forms and manifestations of hate, intolerance and discrimination against any human being.

The OIC also calls for the reinforcement of the existing legal provisions and mechanisms to combat discrimination based on race or religion or any other pretext.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

"Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou said the issue of German reparations for World War II was still open."

I think it's here I wrote that the pro-EU argument about preventing wars between its members has lost any validity long ago.

This astonishing outburst of the Greek PM is one more proof that the EU is now, on the contrary, fostering conflict between its members.