Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100324

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Orthodox Church Summit Called on 20% Tax
»Greece: Italy Insists on Unified Proposal From EU
»Italy: Tremonti Favors EU-IMF Option for Greece
»Spain: Alimentaria Challenges Crisis With Fizzy Gold Wine
»Spain: Tarrassa, Sabadell, Manlleu Bank Merger Passes
»Banks to Lose Billions in Student Loan Revamp
»CAIR Attacks Book Series on Islam; Unable to Find Anything “Wrong” It Fabricates Complaints
»Forget Amnesty, Look Where Democrats Now Stoop for Votes!
»Wilders Pulls Out, Film Premiere Scrapped
Europe and the EU
»America is Blocking Free Minister
»British Airways Strips Striking Cabin Crew of Travel Perks
»Cinema: EU Oks 12 Mln in Assistance for Dubbing Into Catalan
»Demo for Geert Wilders on April 17 in Berlin
»EU: Google Wins Luxury Goods Trademark Case
»Finland: Defining the Line Between Internet Racism and Free Speech
»France: Sarkozy, We Will Present Law to Ban Full Veil
»France: Sarkozy; Carbon Tax Only if There’s Equivalent in EU
»Greece: Gov’t Launches Development Projects for Crete
»Greece: Hospital Doctors Still on Strike
»Italy: Bellucci Poses Pregnant Again
»Italy: Soccer: FIFPro Raps Blasphemy Norm
»Italy: Fiat Denies Plan Leak
»Italy: Fiat to ‘Cut 5,000 Jobs’ In New Plan
»Pope Accepts Resignation of Irish Bishop
»Spain: EU Supercomputer Project in Barcelona in 2012
»Spain: El Pais: Wire Taps in Gurtel Case Not Usable
»Strictly Star Mourns Thames Victim in ‘Race Attack’
»UK: Anti-Semitism Creeps Back on to English Lawns
»UK: BA Militants and a Plot to Control Damning Emails From Strike Union Chief Reveal Secret Agenda
»UK: Devoted Couple Separated by Illness After 75 Years Transferred to Same Hospital So They Could Hold Hands in Final Moments
»UK: Minister Announces Israeli Diplomat’s Expulsion
»UK: Radicals’ Deadly ‘Booby Trap’
»UK: Teachers Leave Boy, 5, Stranded in Tree Because of Health and Safety (Then Report Passer-by Who Helped Him Down to Police)
»UK: Tories ‘To Toughen Up School Exams’ With Return to Old A-Levels and GCSE Reforms
»EU-Croatia: Presidency, Open All Chapters by June
»Italy-Serbia: Trayal Expects to Sign Deal With Fiat in June
»Serbia: 11 Years After NATO Bombs, Sirens Sound in Belgrade
North Africa
»Egyptian State Security Demolishes Anglican Church, Assaults Pastor
»Tunisia: Alarm Over Violence in Schools
»Tunisia: First Olive Oil Shipment to China
Israel and the Palestinians
»Jewish Settlements in East Jerusalem
»Obama Asks Netanyahu for ‘Gestures’ To Palestinians
Middle East
»Erdogan Accuses Armenians of ‘Exterminating’ Turks
»Kuwait to Import Natural Liquid Gas From April 1
»Saudis Arrest Over 100 ‘Al-Qaeda Linked Militants’
»Syria: 12 Mln Euro From Germany for Economic Reforms
»Turkey-EU: Babacan, Customs Union Problem Needs to be Solved
»Yemenis Take to the Streets Against Law Fixing the Minimum Age for Marriage
South Asia
»Bangladesh: Boldipukur: A 500-Strong Mob of Muslim Extremists Attack Catholic Church
»Indonesia: President Urges Main Muslim Group to Fight Extremism
»Pakistan: Quereshi Signals New Approach to Washington
»Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Burned Alive Dies, Christian Community Calls for Justice
Far East
»China: Beijing Angry With Google for Stopping Censorship
»Church Growing Stronger in Korea
»North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il ‘Suffering From Chronic Kidney Failure’
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Africa: Private Guards Kill Somali Pirate for First Time
»Over a Million Tunisians Abroad
Culture Wars
»Gay-Hate Imam to Speak at Swedish Conference
»Italy: Pro-Life Election Call by Bishop
»Italy: Top Court Looks at Same-Sex Unions
»Italy: Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Put Off
»Mother Furious After in-School Clinic Sets Up Teen’s Abortion
»Video: Son of Hamas Founder: Biggest Terrorist in This World is the God of Islam

Financial Crisis

Greece: Orthodox Church Summit Called on 20% Tax

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 24 — Friday’s summit meeting of the Greek Orthodox Church has been called to discuss the government law to bring in a 20% tax on Church revenues. The archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, Ieronymos, who a few days ago had called the tax “unconstitutional and immoral”, in responding to journalists said that “the Church is not against the government’s decision. We want the tax to be applied to net revenues and not gross ones. On Friday we will be addressing this specific issue.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Italy Insists on Unified Proposal From EU

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 24 — Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti is in favour of European management of the Greek situation, making use of the International Monetary Fund’s know-how. The minister said: “There are three ideas: the first is that Greece be left alone and at that point, it could ask for aid from the IMF; the second is for the EU to intervene; the third is an intermediate hypothesis and involves the EU organising intervention also using the IMF as a bank and for its know-how, but under political management.” In the second case, explained Tremonti, Europe would define how the Greek crisis would be managed and would also provide the capital. In the third case, Europe would manage the crisis, but would also accept capital from the IMF, which receives EU funds. “Indeed, Europe,” observed Tremonti, “supplies 30% of the funds to the IMF and this increased after the G20 in London.” “It would be ideal,” said the minister, “to make use of a Europe-Europe plan, with European debt and a European agency, and we have expressed the maximum possible consensus on this as a group and in ECOFIN. Italy is in favour of this idea.” If it does not pass, he continued, “Italy’s idea provides an European and orthodox idea”. The issue of the Greek financial crisis will be discussed by European leaders at the summit tomorrow and Friday, even if it is not on the formal agenda. “It will be a test for European leaders and their commitment to European monetary union,” said European Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso, while speaking at European Parliament in a debate marked by unanimous support for EU intervention for Greece. Barroso insisted on the belief of the European Commission that “it is appropriate to create a mechanism of coordinated action that can be used to provide assistance in case of necessity”. “The fundamental financial stability of the euro is in play,” he added. Spokesperson for the Greek government George Petalotis said that Greece has not asked for financial help because they need political support and expect solidarity from their European partners in the coming days. Meanwhile strikes continue in Greece: doctors in Athenian and Piraeus hospitals and notary publics, who will stop working for two days, are currently involved in work stoppages. Greece risks being without maritime transport over the Easter holiday due to a series of strikes to protest against the government’s decision to increase the tax rate by 1% to 6% for crews and to 9% from 6% for officers. The Greek Orthodox Church is ready to protest a government draft law that will establish a 20% tax on its revenue. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Tremonti Favors EU-IMF Option for Greece

Concerted action would avoid IMF from entering a ‘wasteland’

(ANSA) — Rome, March 24 — The best solution to Greece’s budget crisis would be concerted action by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said on Wednesday.

“Right now there are three options on the table: that Greece be left on its own in order to act alone in seeking help from the IMF; that the EU steps in to help; and that the EU orchestrate an intervention which involves the IMF as a bank and for its know-how,” Tremonti explained.

“This third option would avoid the IMF entering a wasteland and is the one I prefer,” he added.

The option of turning to the IMF for help in Greece, as proposed by Germany, was rejected on Wednesday by Italy’s Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, a member of the executive board at the European Central Bank.

In an interview published in the German daily Die Zeit, Bini Smaghi argued that “turning to the IMF would hurt the image of the euro, making it appear as a currency which can only survive through the help of an international organization, one in which Europe does not have a majority and where the Americans and Asians are increasingly enhancing their influence”.

Speaking on Tuesday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said it was in Germany’s interest, as the EU’s largest economy, to back a rescue package for Greece. “There is no other country with a greater stake in the stability and credibility of the euro area than Germany,” Frattini said.

He added that the “volume and capacity” of the German economy ought to persuade it of the necessity for a European “support mechanism” to help struggling members.

“I hope that we can find an agreement that doesn’t mean writing Greece a check, but setting up a support mechanism that can be activated when and if it’s needed,” Frattini said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Alimentaria Challenges Crisis With Fizzy Gold Wine

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 23 — Chocolate cheese, soya-based desserts and corn beer are among the new products on display at Alimentaria, the biennial international food and drink exhibition in Barcelona, which industry businesses hope will help beat the crisis and ever-increasing brand competition. Sources close to the organisers say that over 4,000 companies from 75 countries are displaying their products at the show, which goes on until March 26 and seems to be feeling the effects of the recession, with exhibitors at the 25,000 square metre event down 20% on the 2008 edition. And the big names are also there, including 3 Michelin star gurus of Spanish nouvelle cuisine Ferran Adrià, Carmen Ruscalleda, Juan Mari Arzak and Juan Roca, who welcomed the Princes of Asturia during the inauguration of the event. The show also features food companies from countries such as Iran, South Africa, Nicaragua and Venezuela, who are making their first appearance at the 18th edition of the Barcelona exhibition. Alimentaria has become a byword for business and generates value for about 90% of Spain’s food industry present at the event. Driving internationalisation for industry businesses and mixing tradition and innovation, the show displays the most avant-garde of products to attract the media. Sometimes there is a real temptation of the senses, not only taste but also sight. like in the case of the sparkling grape and apple wine, with or without alcohol, which, to cheat the financial crisis, comes with edible 18-carat gold. The product is marketed by Amber Rouge, who highlight its beneficial effects on health, if not on finances. The Girona-based company Mas Pares sought inspiration from ancient Egypt in coming up with a majestuous foie gras pyramid, which contains a hidden treasure: a piece of the famous Jijona turron, which can be eaten as a starter or as a dessert. For more refined palates, the Barcelona-based Erre di Vic company is using Alimentaria to launch products combining cooked ham and either apples or figs, to be spread on toast; while the Colombian group Dona Milagro has created a new type of relish for meat, the coffee sauce, whose flavour of Antioquia can tame even the most radical. Given that aesthetics are ever more important, stylists of the calibre of Agata Ruiz de la Prada, Angel Schelser, Modesto Lomba and Roberto Torretta have got involved to design the labels for bottles of the new wine ‘El Madrileno’, from the wineries of Ricardo Nebito, Laguna Jeromin and Orusco. Meanwhile, Catalan designer Custo Dalmau has created a limited edition original bottle — only 5,000 of which have been produced — for the Torrello winery’s new cava, the famous sparkling Catalan wine, which comes in the shape of coloured sperm cells. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Tarrassa, Sabadell, Manlleu Bank Merger Passes

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 24 — The Catalan Terrassa, Sabadell and Manlleu savings banks have approved an integration plan with a request for 380 million euros in aid from FROB, allocated by the government for the restructuring of financial institutes. Sources from the three institutes were quoted in today’s media. The merger from which the future savings bank UNNIM will be formed will have to be approved by the assemblies of the three financial entities which will be meeting in May. The UNNIM integration plan will tomorrow be subjected to approval by the Bank of pain. The new savings bank, which will not integrate Caixa Girona, as had initially been provided for, will come into being in July and will preserve 30 billion in assets after the restructuring which calls for 530 jobs to be cut and the shutting down of 150 branches. The boards of directors of the Catalunya, Manresa and Tarragona savings banks will meet today to approve the merger. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Banks to Lose Billions in Student Loan Revamp

Measure linked to health ‘fix it’ bill would shift lending to U.S. government

Banks and other private lenders are about to lose a $70 billion-a-year student loan business, part of a massive overhaul of college assistance programs that has received an unexpected boost from President Barack Obama’s health care success.

Industry lobbyists have watched helplessly as Democrats and the Obama administration appear on the verge of shifting student lending from private banks to the federal government.

Under the measure, private banks would no longer get fees from the government for acting as middlemen in loans to low- and middle-income students. With those savings, the government would increase Pell Grants to needy students and make it easier for workers burdened by student loans to pay them back.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

CAIR Attacks Book Series on Islam; Unable to Find Anything “Wrong” It Fabricates Complaints

by Barry Rubin

I’ve heard a lot about the methods of CAIR, and of course we are all familiar with the incredible intimidation (combined with clever strategy) used against anyone who writes about Islam in any way other than simpering reverence. But experiencing it is another matter, showing the intense dishonesty with which such campaigns are conducted. On the positive side, though, there may be some signs that media gullibility on this matter may be declining.

Offered an opportunity to write and edit some books for the Mason Crest series on Islam, I welcomed the challenge of producing materials that combined proper scholarship, due respect, and honest inquiry on the subject, the same approach taken to any other subject. What we wanted to do was in sharp contrast to the fawning narratives that do things like-an actual case-omit any mention of Muslim-ruled states involvement in the African slave trade while praising them for introducing the clock into the area. Equally, though, we were careful not to put in anything unfairly derogatory about Islam as a religion or about its adherents.

The goal was to create balanced books that were easily accessible to American students.

The results were quite pleasing. Ten books were produced totaling 640 pages and with lavish illustrations, well-received and ordered by many schools.

Then CAIR sought to attack this book series. CAIR seems to be, according to legal documents and documented reports, a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood and a group many of whose officials have been prosecuted and convicted for involvement with terrorist groups. CAIR, then, is not a defense organization for Muslims but an advocacy organization for revolutionary Islamist groups.

That’s important to note because its real agenda is to prevent any critique of Islamism, the ideology of those trying to overthrow every regime in the Arabic-speaking world and many more as well.

CAIR’s approach makes clear its lack of understanding the fact that there exists a set of professional scholarly ethics and principles. And that those who have been trained in this system make a really sincere effort to be fair, accurate, and make arguments based on facts that can be documented. If errors are shown, they are fixed.

The idea that not everyone is a propagandist without a conscience is beyond the grasp of all too many people nowadays.

Once it decided to attack the publications, CAIR had to find something wrong with them. It claimed the books promote anti-Islamic sentiment among U.S. school children and encourage them to believe Muslims are terrorists who seek to undermine U.S. society.

And how proud I am to announce that they couldn’t find anything that was really defamatory or inaccurate. That’s a really good achievement for the authors and editors!

Of course, they didn’t give up. So they came up with a tiny number of points from 640 pages of text. And guess what? They are all based on demonstrable lies. CAIR couldn’t come up with a single factual error or derogatory phrase.

In other words, they had to distort even these few cases. Here they are:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Forget Amnesty, Look Where Democrats Now Stoop for Votes!

Proposed law would grant Obama’s party deluge of new supporters

Democrats in Congress are pushing for a new law that would allow nearly 4 million people currently banned from voting to cast their ballot, and most of those millions, studies show, will vote Democrat.

And where will these new voters come from?

From the ranks of convicted felons.

Last week, a House subcommittee heard testimony on H.R. 3335, the “Democracy Restoration Act.” The bill seeks to override state laws, which vary in how they restrict when convicted felons released from prison can vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., states, “The right of an individual who is a citizen of the United States to vote in any election for federal office shall not be denied or abridged because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense unless such individual is serving a felony sentence in a correctional institution or facility at the time of the election.”


Hans von Spakovsky, a former Commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, explained in a blog statement, “What is particularly revealing about this bill is that it does not say anything about the other civil rights that a felon loses, such as the right to own a gun or serve on a jury or in some states, to work as a public employee.

“That is an interesting comment given that the ‘findings’ in the bill claim that such state felon laws ‘serve no compelling State interest,’“ he concluded. “I guess this legislation would serve one compelling interest for the sponsors — it might get them votes they need to win in close elections.”

Multiple studies have backed up van Spokovsky’s claim, showing that convicted and former felons consistently lean Democrat.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wilders Pulls Out, Film Premiere Scrapped

Geert Wilders has pulled out of attending the premiere of an American film about his anti-islam campaign because of anti-gay comments made by one of the film’s backers.

Martin Mawyer, founder of the conservative Christian Action Network, has said in the past that homosexuals are ‘perverse’ and spread disease.

‘I am not ready to give this great nation over to one-world government extremists … radical, disease-carrying homosexuals … anti-family lesbian feminists,’ he is quoted as saying on one website.

Wilders says in Wednesday’s Telegraaf he is pulling out of the May 1 premiereto avoid giving the impression that he agrees with Mawyer.

Political issue

On Monday, Wilders said he was aware that CAN was opposed to gay marriage but did not consider that an obstacle to working together because it was a political standpoint.

‘I totally disagree with them about this [gay marriage],’ Wilders was quoted as saying by the Pers. ‘But they can make a film about me.’

The PVV party leader has always made gay rights a central part of his anti-Islam stand.

The film premier’s organisers have now cancelled the event to ‘avoid creating any false impressions about our agenda and goals, or those of Geert Wilders’, they said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

America is Blocking Free Minister

Talks on lowering and removing trade barriers are in trouble largely because of the position of the United States, economic affairs minister Maria van der Hoeven is quoted as saying by the Financieele Dagblad on Tuesday.

The delay is disadvantaging Dutch flower growers, dredging firms and meat and dairy product processing industries, the minister said. However, bilateral agreements between the European Union and other countries are picking up some of the slack.

‘The United States is the land of free markets and free trade. But there are two sides to this,’ she is quoted as saying. ‘You cannot only take without giving… the Americans can erect a fence around their country but at a certain point other countries will do it too.’

Van der Hoeven is due to discuss trade agreements with MPs on Wednesday.

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

British Airways Strips Striking Cabin Crew of Travel Perks

British Airways today cracked down on its cabin crew by telling any staff members who took part in last weekend’s strike will now lose their travel perks.

Staff receive discounts on travel and free flights and were warned by BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh that the perks would be withdrawn if they joined the strike.

Members of Unite who took industrial action for three days from last weekend have now received letters telling them they are losing the perks.

The move will be seen as warning for BA staff who may be considering taking part in this weekend’s planned strikes.

A BA spokesman said: ‘Our cabin crew knew that if they took part in the strike they would lose their staff travel permanently.

‘Staff travel offers heavily discounted travel to employees. This is a non-contractual perk that the company can withdraw at its discretion.

‘The industrial action impacted on our operation and our customers and we will undoubtedly suffer additional costs and further losses as a result.’

At present a 90 per cent discount on flight tickets is given to all BA staff and a selected group of family and friends whenever free seats are available.

Staff who have worked at BA for more than five years also get free tickets to destinations covered by the airline’s fleet.

A Unite spokesman said: ‘This is the clearest possible example of BA’s bullying and contemptuous approach to its employees. Cabin crew showed last weekend that they will not be intimidated.

‘Unite will challenge this vindictive move in whatever way seems appropriate.’

Unite’s joint leader Tony Woodley told a rally of striking cabin crew workers on Monday that he believed the discounted travel arrangements were now ‘custom and practice’, not a perk.

The row over the perks comes as BA announced that it will operate an increased number of flights during the next strikes, which are due to start on Saturday.

The firm said 55per cent of short-haul and 70per cent of long-haul flights would operate from Heathrow during the four-day walkout from this Saturday.

Publication of the flight schedule dashed any hopes of an early breakthrough to the bitter dispute over cost-cutting and jobs.

The airline said it would continue to supplement its short-haul schedule by leasing up to 11 aircraft with pilots and crews each day of the action from six different airlines based in the UK and Europe.

Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, claimed the schedule had ‘more holes than a Swiss cheese’.

But BA chief executive Willie Walsh pledged the company’s ‘flag will continue to fly’.

‘The biggest contingency plan in our history went extremely well last weekend, with large numbers of cabin crew reporting for work as normal,’ said Mr Walsh.

‘This second strike is the work of a trade union that — despite its promises — seems determined to try to ruin the Easter holiday plans of thousands of families.

‘Once again the union has misjudged the public mood. Our flag will continue to fly.

‘We will do all we can to rebook affected customers on to other British Airways’ flights, offer seats on alternative airlines or give a full refund.

‘I stress again that our door remains open to Unite, day or night, if it wants to find a sensible settlement.’

BA said its flight programme involved 230 aircraft operating up to 650 services every day to or from 140 cities in more than 70 countries.

Customers were advised to check to see if their flight was still operating before departing for the airport.

Mr Woodley branded the schedule as ‘fantasy’.

‘Passengers will take one look at next weekend’s strike schedule and rightly ask what on earth is going on. This schedule has more holes than a Swiss cheese,’ he said.

‘Is BA really saying that it would rather hit the travel plans of tens of thousands of people for another weekend than negotiate a settlement?

‘Passengers are paying for management machismo.

‘BA management should spend more time on addressing their employees’ concerns and less on fantasy schedules sending empty planes to unknown destinations.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Cinema: EU Oks 12 Mln in Assistance for Dubbing Into Catalan

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 24 — The European Commission has given the go ahead to Spanish assistance that totals 12 million euros to promote dubbing and subtitling of films in Catalan. The Commission explains that the initiative is in line with community rules that allow state subsidies for cultural objectives and to promote multilingualism. The Catalan language is the most widespread in Catalonia, where it is understood by 95% of the population, spoken by 78% and read by 82%. A further 62% of inhabitants of the region fluently writes in the language. But few film distributors spend money on dubbing or subtitling films into Catalan, when they have the version in Spanish, the language understood by most of the inhabitants of the region. The result is that of the 800 or so films that come out in Spain every year are dubbed into Spanish, whilst only 20-25 films are dubbed into Catalan and 10-15 are subtitled in Catalan. The 12 million euros of funds to promote Catalan in movie theatres will be made available by the region of Catalonia until December 31, 2015. (ANSAMed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Demo for Geert Wilders on April 17 in Berlin

Since January 20, 2010, the trial against the Dutch Islam critic and president of the “Party for Freedom,” Geert Wilders has been in prograss at the Amsterdam Court Building. The accusation against him is “sedition” because he dared to call Islam a dangerous and violent religion, compared the Quran with “Mein Kampf” and produced the Islam-critical film “Fitna” in which terror attacks from the Islamists are juxtaposed with Quran passages that call for these very things to be done.

He is called a “right-wing populist” because of his warning about the dangers of Islam against Western values, especially that of free expression. The derogatory term “racist” is given to him, even though Wilders consistently distinguishes between individuals and ideology, and even though he clearly separates himself from true right-wing radicals and racists — that like to work with the Islamists in stirring up hate against the Jews — and he advocates for a liberal order in society and universal recognition of human rights.

What is being led against Geert Wilders is a political process, which is being carried on against the will of the District Attorney by Islamic organizations and so-called anti-racist groups who are afraid of the truth that is clearly evident for any person having eyes and ears.

Geert Wilders has had the courage to address these truths, and that is the first step to changing something. Therefore, we are placing our solidarity with him.

Germany is having the same problems with islamization as the Netherlands. Germany also needs a Geert Wilders!

In light of this, the Pax Europa Citizen Initiative and the Berlin PI Group are calling for a demonstration to be held in front of the Dutch Embassy on April 17, 2010, at 2 o’clock PM under the slogan: “Solidarity with Geert Wilders — against the islamization of Western Europe!”.

           — Hat tip: Politically Incorrect[Return to headlines]

EU: Google Wins Luxury Goods Trademark Case

Luxembourg, 23 March (AKI) — Google has won a landmark case after the European Union’s top court ruled the popular search engine did not infringe on trademarks by enabling counterfeiters to drive customers to their sites. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday said the California-based company could not be held liable in a case led by French luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton and two other firms.

But the court said the French companies who mounted the case could still claim for compensation in a French court if it ruled that trademark misuse damaged their brands.

“Google has not infringed trademark law by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords corresponding to their competitors’ trademarks,” the court said in a statement released on Tuesday.

“Advertisers themselves, however, cannot, by using such keywords, arrange for Google to display ads which do not allow Internet users easily to establish from which undertaking the goods or services covered by the ad in question originate,” the court said.

The case is the first time the EU court has ruled on the rights of companies such as Louis Vuitton parent, LVMH, to prevent search engines in the 27-nation region from distributing protected names as keywords.

Google and LVMH have been fighting for seven years in France over Internet searches linked to trademarks.

Google is currently appealing a Paris court ruling in favour of LVMH claims that the US search engine provider breached its trademarks.

“This decision is a very important step in clarifying the rules covering online advertising where LVMH is one of the major customers,” said LVMH vice president Pierre Code.

“We want to work with all the players, including Google, to eradicate illegal practices online.”

Google makes most of its revenue by selling advertising linked to keywords. The company’s 2009 revenue totalled almost 6.7 billion dollars.

Google used to block advertisers from buying others’ brand names as keywords but changed its policy in North America in 2004 and four years later extended that to Britain and Ireland.

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

Finland: Defining the Line Between Internet Racism and Free Speech

With the government considering proposals to fine-tune legislation on hate crimes and Internet racism, experts are debating how much you can criminalize and restrict Internet commentary without infringing on free speech. Laws are also trying to clarify who can be held accountable for criminally racist content on websites and chat rooms.

At the moment, one of the few clear-cut rules is that people who create web content intended to incite violence against a group of people can be charged under criminal legislation.

The debate gets much more complicated when lawmakers try to define who’s responsible for racist comments on chat rooms, or whether service providers and bloggers can be charged with distributing racist content if they did not create it, or even if they did not know it existed on their sites.

“At the moment, the service provider could theoretically get charged with incitement to racial hatred if they are not taking away racist material. But it’s very unclear and we don’t have any cases on this topic,” says Senior Officer Yrsa Nyman, from the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities.

Can Government Legislate Away Racism?

This year, a working group at the Ministry of Justice wrote up a proposal to tighten and clarify laws on racism and particularly hate crimes on the Internet. The deadline has passed for the government to give its official feedback on the report.

At a seminar on net racism in Helsinki on Monday, the chairman of the steering group, Illari Hannula, outlined some of the basic changes they proposed.

“There would be the criminalisation of a public incitement to violence as well as the distribution of material that was racist or spread hatred of foreigners,” says Hannula. He specified that this would mean that simply posting a link to racist material would be a criminal act.

“But criminalisation cannot infringe on the constitutional right of free speech,” he notes.

Critics say anti-racism laws are already undermining free speech, and that their ambiguity means that people don’t even know if they are breaking the law.

Helsinki city councilman Jussi Halla-Aho, who’s drawn ire for his strong criticism of immigration, feels the discussion of net racism is absurd.

“Incitement to violence and libel are already criminalised in Finnish law. They are criminalised in the Internet and outside the Internet,” says Halla-Aho.

“We have a very lax definition of racist crime, which is not good. Anything can be criminal. No one knows in advance if what he’s about to do is criminal, and this is a very big problem.”

Legislation is Half the Solution

Ali Qasim, who is the Chairman of anti-racism organisation Enar-Finland, says the solution to Internet racism is both legislative and social.

“Legislative answer a little bit helps. You have a border which you cannot cross. And once you cross that border, you know that you face a problem,” he says “But the social answer is important too. A successful integration policy will help.”

Qasim himself has been the frequent target of racist hatred. He says he regularly receives threatening phone calls and emails when he publicly speaks out against racism.

“Racism has always been an issue, but you have to face it and tell the truth.”

Fighting Fire with Fire

Police say they treat Internet racism just like any other Internet crime. If it exceeds the threshold of a crime, they investigate. But the problem is the global scope of the Internet. If one racist site is kicked off a Finnish server, it may open up on a foreign one. When this happens, the police have to get the co-operation of foreign officials to pursue the matter.

Another option is to prevent, or at least mitigate, the spread of racist web content by combating it with equally powerful anti-racist content.

Racist groups abound on social media like Facebook, IRC Gallery and Habbo Hotel, where many youth spend time. But these are also excellent opportunities for anti-racist messages to gain a following.

“It’s important to note that anti-racists groups are also very popular on Facebook and IRC Galleria,” notes Satu Kanninen, from NoRa, the No Racism project run by Save the Children Finland.

NoRa runs successful monthly Internet chat sessions where youth can talk, under the direction of a moderator, about racism and prejudice.

Qasim also points to countries like Denmark, where there are strong anti-racists communities online.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

France: Sarkozy, We Will Present Law to Ban Full Veil

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 24 — The French Government will file a bill against the wearing of the full veil in France, said President Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the Council of Ministers in Paris. “The full veil is contrary to the dignity of women,” Sarkozy stated, adding: “The response is its ban.” “The Government will file a legislative bill to ban it in line with the general principles of our law,” continued the head of state, without specifying a date. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Sarkozy; Carbon Tax Only if There’s Equivalent in EU

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 24 — The French Government remains convinced of the need to introduce an “ecological taxation system”, but the introduction of the carbon tax will be postponed until an equivalent tax is created at European level, stated French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking at the end of the weekly reunion of the Council of Ministers. Sarkozy also confirmed the Government’s determination, despite the defeat of his UPM party at the regional elections, to go ahead with reforms, with the first being pension reform. He announced that the reform of the pension system “will not be imposed by force. All the necessary time will be taken to discuss the changes with the trade unions, but I promise you that in the next six months, the necessary measures will be taken.” In a speech broadcast live on radio and television from the Elysee Palace, Sarkozy addressed the French people directly, confirming the Government’s intention to go ahead with the reforms. “It is my duty to listen to the message launched by the electorate, but we must continue the reforms,” said Sarkozy. “Nothing would be worse than changing direction. Stopping now would be to waste the efforts made.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Gov’t Launches Development Projects for Crete

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 24 — Greek Infrastructure and Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas has officially presented the government’s project for balanced developed of the island of Crete. The project aims to make up for a lack seen in many sectors, thereby making the island of Crete a model of development, said the Minister in outlining the 20 projects concerning 108 kilometres in road axes. Reppas added that the intervention planned would be carried out over 5 years (2010-2015) at a cost of about 750-800 million euros. The Minister noted that along with these works, 2.9-billion-euros in others would be carried out for all the island’s structures. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Hospital Doctors Still on Strike

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 24 — Despite reassurances from Health Minister Marilisa Xenogiannakopoulou, hospital doctors in Athens and Piraeus have decided to continue protesting by refrain from their jobs today as well. At the same time, notaries “as an inseparable part of Greek society” according to a statement released by their association, “share the economic difficulties from which Greek citizens are suffering and declare they will be striking for two days, March 24 and 26”. Meanwhile, Greeks may end up without maritime transport over the Easter holiday following the decision by the National Maritime Federation to call a number of strikes to protest against the government’s decision to increase the tax rate to 6% (from 1%) for crew members and to 9% (from 6%) for officers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bellucci Poses Pregnant Again

Italian actress still angry at fertility law

(ANSA) — Rome, March 23 — Italian actress Monica Bellucci is appearing pregnant on the cover of an Italian magazine for the second time in six years to protest the strict assisted fertility laws in heavily Catholic Italy.

Once again, Bellucci has chosen the Italian edition of Vanity Fair Magazine to advertise her opposition to a 2004 law that bans the use of donor sperm.

“We’re still back at the drawing board, in 2010,” she said in an excerpt of an interview that will appear in Friday’s edition.

“(Italian) women are going to clinics abroad, but only if they can afford it. It’s an injustice. It’s a political problem, or rather a problem of the exploitation of religion by politics”.

“Above all, in the end, it’s a problem of lack of information. Not enough people voted in the referendum”.

A 2005 referendum to revoke the Catholic Church-backed law failed because the quorum was not reached. Bellucci posed nude on the first Vanity Fair cover a few months before her first daughter, Deva, by 43-year-old French actor husband Vincent Cassel, was born in September 2004.

This time round she’s more heavily pregnant and wearing lingerie plus a black nightgown.

She recalled that Deva’s birth had been “natural like the countrywomen in Umbria where I come from” and the second pregnancy “has been plain sailing so far”.

The actress, known for her parts in the Passion of the Christ and The Matrix sequels, said she’d had to “try a little” to get pregnant second time round “because it isn’t something you just set up with a producer and director”, but would have gone for help if she’d been told she was too old to conceive.

“All you have to do is call fertility clinics, or even surrogate mothers if you have to”.

Asked about having a child at at an age that used to be considered “late in life,” she replied: “I’ll be in my sixties when my daughter’s 20, but so what? Today’s 60-year-old women are splendid. The world has changed and if you’re careful you can have a kid at 40 and see it mature with you”.

Bellucci’s marriage, which dates to 1999, is seen as one of the most solid in the film world.

She has appeared in several films with the charismatic Cassel, who is one of France’s biggest stars and has had hard-hitting villain roles in English-language films ranging from Ocean’s Twelve to David Cronenberg’s Russian gangster pic Eastern Promises.

Bellucci, whose other credits include Malena and The Brothers Grimm, was previously married to Italian fashion photographer Claudio Carlos Basso but the brief marriage, dating to 1990, produced no children.

After giving birth to Deva she described the experience as “carnal and divine”.

Deva means ‘divine’ in Sanskrit.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Soccer: FIFPro Raps Blasphemy Norm

‘Against freedom of expression,’ world players’ body says

(ANSA) — Rome, March 23 — The world association of professional soccer players FIFPro on Tuesday came out against the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC)’s new crackdown on blasphemy.

“Like anyone else, soccer players have a fundamental right to freedom of expression,” FIFPro lawyer Wil van Megen explained on the association’s website, contesting FIGC orders that refs should send off players who use irreligious oaths.

“Anyone has the right to say what he wants, no matter how unpleasant that might be,” he said, adding that according to all national laws and international treaties, “freedom of expression can only be revised by an act of parliament”. “The power of a sporting federation cannot be extended to basic rights. If the FIGC wants to punish this, it can only do so with the support of the justice ministry”.

“But I would like to point out that no government has done anything of the kind in the last 100 years,” van Wegen said.

The lawyer recalled that he had won an appeal in favour of a Dutch player who was sent off for blasphemous language.

Since then, he noted, no Dutch ref has pulled out a red card for religious swearwords. The head of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), Gianni Petrucci, who pushed for the crackdown, reacted by saying “FIFPro has missed a good chance to hold its peace” on the issue.

FIGC Deputy President Demetrio Albertini, well known for professing his Catholic faith on and off the field, said he “firmly defend(ed) the federation’s new policy”.

“I believe players should comport themselves on the field without vulgar and offensive acts like oaths, a belief I always tried to express in my career,” said the former AC Milan and Italy midfielder.

Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni, another well-known believer who is famous for sprinkling his bench with Holy Water, said he was surprised at FIFPro’s stance.

Noting that blasphemy was still illegal in Italy, he said: “I don’t think you can talk about freedom of expression regarding an oath. We ban smoking on the bench, to educate youngsters, and then we should allow that kind of expression? It seems strange to me”.

In the face of recent mutterings about the anti-blasphemy code, CONI head Petrucci said last week it should be applied “with common sense”.

He, too, recalled that blasphemy is a crime and said he was glad to have suggested the campaign to FIGC President Giancarlo Abete.

Petrucci, whose organisation oversees all Italian sport, vowed that the campaign to give offending players red cards would go ahead.

“Blasphemy is not at all a secondary thing,” he insisted, “but we have to handle it with care”.

The drive to stamp out irreligious oaths has claimed international headlines and spurred protests from coaches including Juventus’s Alberto Zaccheroni who said “championships could be altered by this overzealous campaign”.

Also contentious is the use of TV replays and lip readers to determine if an oath was actually uttered.

A player was recently acquitted after it was established that he said ‘Porco Diaz’, an alleged northern Italian dialect expression, instead of a well-known expletive against God.

A Serie A coach, Chievo’s Domenico Di Carlo, a Serie A player, Parma’s David Lanzafame, and four Serie B players have received one-match blasphemy bans since the initiative kicked off at the start of the month.

In an amateur match, three red cards were handed out for sacrilegious language, leaving one team with ten men and the other with nine.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat Denies Plan Leak

Daily reports 15% cut in jobs and reduction in models produced

(ANSA) — Rome, March 24 — Fiat on Wednesday denied a press report that over the next five years it planned to cut its labor force in Italy by some 15% and reduce the number of models it produces by a quarter, while boosting automobile production 50%.

“At present the group is involved in preparing its 2010-2014 business plan and any journalistic ‘scoop’ on its content is absolutely premature and without foundation,” a company statement said.

“Any report concerning hypothetical operations and related timetables, parameters and costs are the fruit of pure conjecture made outside the group,” the statement added.

In a report published on Wednesday, the Rome daily La Repbblica claimed to have seen a draft of a five-year business plan Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is set to unveil to shareholders on April 21.

The daily also reported that plans were in motion to spin off Fiat’s automobile division, Fiat Group Automobiles, which would continue to he run by Marchionne, who now also heads Chrysler, and be listed on the stock market.

Aside from the job and model cuts, La Repubblica wrote, the plan also included shifting most production of motors and transmissions to Poland, producing Chrysler models in Italy and Fiat group models in America.

The reduction in employment, the daily’s report said, included 1,500 jobs at the Sicilian plant in Termini Imerese, set to shut down at the end of next year; perhaps halving the 5,000 assembly line jobs at the Mirafiori plant in Turin; cutting 500 positions at the Fiat factory in Pomigliano near Naples; and another 500 jobs at the plant in Cassino, between Rome and Naples.

Given the five-year time period, La Repubblica observed, almost all the job cuts will involve not replacing workers who qualify for retirement.

Models set to be discontinued include the Fiat Idea, Lancia Musa, Fiat Multipla, Fiat Croma and Lancia Y, while remaining in production will be the Alfa Romeo MiTo, Lancia Delta, a new version of the Bravo and Fiat Punto.

Added to these will be the Fiat Panda, the production of which will be moved down from Poland; a new crossover car; a future 5-7 seat passenger van, code-named L1; and the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which has already begun production and will hit showrooms later this year.

This means Fiat will produce a total of eight models in Italy compared to its current 12.

By bringing the Panda, its best-selling model, to Italy Fiat expects to boost domestic car production from 600,000 to 900,00 vehicles a year.

Fiat last year took control of Detroit No.3 Chrysler and, according to La Repubblica, over the next five years will produce three Chrysler models for sale in Europe. These will be one based on a Lancia 300c platform, the Grand Voyager passenger van and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The latter two are currently being made in Austria.

Fiat currently holds 20% of Chrysler, as well as management control, and can up its stake to 35% once it begins producing its own models in America.

In order to do this, La Repubblica said, the five-year business plan calls for producing in America two Fiat marque models, including the 500 city car, also in an electric version; three Alfa Romeo models; and two Lancia models.

Through Chrysler, Fiat has production facilities in the US, Canada and Mexico.

Despite the fact that the job reductions in Italy will not involve layoffs, the plan received a negative reaction from unions which complained that it was worse than they had expected.

This mainly because of the definitive closing down of the Termini Imerese plant and the reduction in the overall number of jobs.

The stock market, on the other hand, welcomed the plan and the prospect of a spinoff and Fiat shares jumped by more than 4% in morning and were still up by 2.6% at mid-session.

According to La Repubblica, the rest of Fiat — which includes the production of trucks, buses, farm and construction machinery — would be headed by John Elkann, the heir to the founding Agnelli family and chairman of the company which controls Fiat, Exor.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat to ‘Cut 5,000 Jobs’ In New Plan

Turin, 24 March(AKI) — Car giant Fiat plans to cut 5,000 jobs and reduce the number of models it produces in Italy under a new business plan, an Italian newspaper claimed on Wednesday. According to La Repubblica, 15 percent of the 30,000 Italian workers employed on the company’s assembly lines are expected to lose their jobs.

The job cuts are expected to be announced by Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne when he presents the company’s 2010-2014 business plan to financial analysts on 21 April, the newspaper said.

While Fiat intends to cut the number of models from 12 to 8, it plans to raise the number of vehicles it produces in Italy from 600,000 to 900,000 — an increase of 50 percent.

Under the plan, Marchionne is expected to foreshadow job cuts of 2,000 to 2,500 at its largest manufacturing site, the Mirafiori plant in the northern city of Turin, the daily said, citing an unnamed source.

The job cuts seem certain to provoke further conflict with local trade unions already fighting plant restructuring and plans to close the Termini Imerese plant in Sicily.

Giorgio Airaudo, secretary of the FIOM metal workers’ union in the Piedmont region, attacked the plan on Wednesday.

“We defended the [Mirafiori] plant in 2002 before Marchionne and we are ready to defend it today with Marchionne,” Airaudo told reporters.

In January Fiat said it had to restructure its Italian factories in order to save money and become more competitive.

The Turin-based company said it would close its Termini Imerese plant which employs 1,400 people by the end of 2010 or early 2011.

It also shut down the plant’s assembly lines for two weeks in February to save money after the company reported a 800 million euro loss for 2009.

A Fiat spokesman declined to comment on the news report when contacted by Adnkronos International (AKI) on Wednesday.

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

Pope Accepts Resignation of Irish Bishop

John Magee was personal secretary to three popes

(ANSA) — Vatican City, March 24 — An Irish bishop who served as secretary to three popes on Wednesday had his resignation accepted over one of the child sex abuse cases that have rocked Ireland.

He is the second Irish bishop to see his resignation accepted.

The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had agreed that Msgr John Magee, bishop of the southern diocese of Cloyne, should step down.

Magee presented his resignation in March 2009, before two reports, in May and November, detailed decades of abuse and cover-ups in Church-run schools and the Dublin diocese.

Magee, 73, served as personal secretary to Paul VI, John Paul I and Benedict’s predecessor John Paul II and is thus the only man to hold the position three times.

The bishop has been accused of mishandling reports of child sex abuse by clergy in his diocese in County Cork.

In the wake of the Vatican’s announcement Wednesday, the former bishop reiterated an apology to victims and said he was ready to work “fully” with civil authorities.

Four Irish bishops offered to resign in the wake of the Ryan and Murphy reports. So far the pope has only accepted that of Limerick Bishop Donald Brendan Murray.

The head of the Irish church, Cardinal Sean Brady, recently said he is considering his future after it emerged he had overseen a case in which two boys, aged 10 and 14, were sworn to secrecy.

In a long-awaited letter to the Irish faithful at the weekend, the pope apologised for the abuse cases and ordered a clerical inspection of Irish dioceses but but took no action against bishops.

The pope’s letter met with a mixed reception and many victims’ groups said it did not go far enough.

Some called for a personal ‘mea culpa’ from Benedict, who headed the Vatican’s watchdog before becoming pope and in 2001 issued guidelines stressing that initial investigations should be kept in-house. The letter did not address widening scandals in the Netherlands, Austria and the pope’s native Germany.

On Wednesday fresh allegations were levelled against a priest in Benedict’s former diocese of Munich who was re-assigned to Church work after abusing children.

The pope’s then No.2 took responsibility for that decision.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: EU Supercomputer Project in Barcelona in 2012

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 23 — In 2012 Barcelona will host one of the supercomputers of the Prace project, one of the 44 major high performance IT infrastructures that in the future will be located in Europe. The news was confirmed today by minister of Science and Innovation Cristina Garmendia while inaugurating the European Conference on Research Infrastructures (Ecri 2010) that is being held today and tomorrow in Barcelona, in the context of the Spanish presidency of the EU. Quoted by the EP press agency, Garmendia explained that the Prace project is a permanent processor system with four main nuclei (aside from the Spanish one, another three are planned in Italy, Germany and France) that will be activated in time and that in the near future will allow Europe to always have at least one supercomputer that is competitive at world level. The Barcelona Prace that will be set up in the National super-processor centre (BSC-CNS) will come into operation after the German one in Julich, which will be inaugurated in coming months; the French one in Gif-sur-Yvette and the Italian one in Bologna. The Spanish government will allocate an investment worth 100 million euros to the project, 60 of which for the super computer in Barcelona, that will be 100 times more powerful than its brother named MareNostrum, to date the largest in Europe, which was installed in the BSC-CNS centre in 2004. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: El Pais: Wire Taps in Gurtel Case Not Usable

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 24 — The Spanish Superior Court of Justice in Madrid has decided that the use of most of the wire taps on the defendants and their defence layers while they were in prison as part of the Gurtel investigation into the alleged corruption of members of the People’s Party will not be admitted, reports El Pais today. Most of the wire taps ordered by Audiencia Nacional judge Baltazar Garzon on the authorisation of the public prosecutor’s office, involve conversations between the main individuals accused of being part of a corruption network: Francisco Correa, Antonine Sanchez and Pablo Crespo. The investigation, which has indicted over 100 people, also involves former People’s Party treasurer Luis Barcenas, who is accused of having taken money and gifts in exchange for awarding contracts to companies headed by Francisco Correa, the alleged leader of the Gurtel network. The only wire taps that will be admitted into the hearings, according to the daily, are those in which former secretary of organisation for the PP in Galicia, Pablo Crespo, reportedly negotiated with his attorney on how to protect the money hidden in tax havens. The Superior Court reportedly made the decision yesterday in a two-to-one vote during the fourth session on the matter, according to sources cited by El Pais. But the judges’ resolution, which is now being kept secret, will only officially be made public when the court issues a writ in the coming days. The investigating magistrate for the case in the Superior Court of Justice, Antonio Pedreira, had considered the wire taps ordered by Garzon as legal. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Strictly Star Mourns Thames Victim in ‘Race Attack’

A cousin of Strictly Come Dancing’s Laila Rouass who drowned in the Thames may have been killed in a racist attack, his family claimed today.

The body of Ibrahim Gharib, 20, was pulled from the Shadwell Basin, near Garnet Street in east London, on Friday morning.

Relatives today alleged that the plumber was attacked by a group of men the previous night while walking with his 17-year-old girlfriend.

His family, who are Moroccan, today described him as an “incredibly loving man” and claimed he was attacked by a group of Bengali men because of his relationship with the girl, who is said to be of Bengali descent.

The girl suffered a head injury during the attack but a Scotland Yard spokesman said it was not yet clear how she sustained it.

Actress Rouass, 36, who starred in Footballers’ Wives and Primeval, said her family were “devastated”. She added: “It’s a terrible waste of life.”

Emergency services including police, paramedics and a marine unit were called to the scene on Thursday night after several people dialled 999 to say a man had fallen in.

Detectives have been focusing on whether the victim suffered any injuries, and whether he fell in the water or was pushed. They are treating the death as suspicious and have appealed for witnesses.

A 20-year-old man has been arrested and bailed. Mr Gharib’s nephew Imad Souma, 18, said he had met the girl he was with two weeks ago and claimed a group of Bengali men from Poplar attacked him.

He added: “There is no way this was a random attack. We think they did it because he was with a Bengali girl. They wanted him dead. They were jealous and angry that a Moroccan was with the girl.

“There is a postcode war going on between gangs in this area. What happened to Ibrahim might have been something to do with that. We need to know who did this.

“He was a fantastic person and he’s never been in trouble in his life.” Mr Souma said his uncle was an accomplished boxer who trained at Repton Gym in Bethnal Green. He lived in Shadwell with his parents. They were too upset to speak today.

Mr Gharib’s older sister Fatima said: “We are all devastated and in total shock. Ibrahim was a fantastic person. We can’t understand how anyone could have done this to him.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Anti-Semitism Creeps Back on to English Lawns

Charles Moore reviews ‘Trials of the Diaspora’ by Anthony Julius and finds the author’s vigilance justified.

England can make the dubious boast of being the first country to have expelled the Jews en masse, in 1290. It also invented one of the strangest types of anti-Semitism, the blood libel. In the Middle Ages, Jews were massacred in York, Lincoln and elsewhere because of claims that they had kidnapped and killed Christian children for the blood of ritual sacrifice. This image of horror is still used against Jews. Modern newspaper cartoons — it is often in cartoons that the underlying visceral feeling appears most clearly — quite often depict Israeli leaders as deliberately killing children, and sometimes as vampiric. By a peculiar twist in our politics, such cartoons are now much more likely to appear in grand Leftish papers — such as the Guardian and the Independent — than in Right-wing popular ones.

There never was any evidence for the blood libel. But total lies can be surprisingly effective. In our time, the more important anti-Semitic lie is the denial of the Holocaust. You would think that its blatant untruth would kill it, but it turns out that the sheer scale of the lie has a curious power. Holocaust denial is a frequent feature of modern Muslim anti-Semitism, assiduously promoted by President Ahmedinejad of Iran. In this country, the Muslim Council of Britain, while not actually denying the events of the Second World War, objects to what it sees as the privileged status the words “the Holocaust” confer on Jews. It will only mark the Holocaust if other genocides are commemorated too, and many extreme Muslims pretend that Israel is itself genocidal.

Holocaust denial helps resolve a dilemma in the minds of anti-Semites. They believe that Jews secretly rule the world. But if this is true, how can it be that they allowed six million of their number to be murdered? Answer: it didn’t happen! The Jews pretended they had been killed in order to win unique sympathy, set up their own state, and advance their power. The same mind-warp is applied to more recent events. Polls suggest that large minorities of Muslims believe that “the Jews” blew up the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Such madness is not confined to ignorant Muslim masses stirred up by fanatics: I have heard it seriously advanced by non-Muslims at a respectable dinner party.

What is distinctive about English anti-Semitism today? Anthony Julius says that it is different from Continental anti-Semitism, because it is based more on contempt than on fear. This makes it less virulent. There is no widespread English theory of Jewish world domination, and no persecution. Some will argue, therefore, that Julius makes heavy weather of the subject.

Occasionally, he does. In his introduction, he gives the example of his father’s Gentile business associate, “Arthur”. Arthur told Julius’s father that his young daughter had just had a “special little friend”, who was Jewish, round to tea: “I must say the child has the most beautiful manners.” Julius bristles at this, because of its ingratiating quality and its implication that it was surprising that a Jewish child would have good manners. But Julius does not imagine the situation from the Gentile point of view. Even today, let alone 40 years ago when the conversation described took place, there are many people in England who have very little close experience of Jews, or of other ethnic or religious minorities. They want to be nice, but they do not quite know how to be. They are aware that many Jews feel a strong identity, but they are vague about what that identity is, and they fear they might say the wrong thing. All they can do is try, rather uneasily, to be pleasant. As a child in rural England, I remember that if a black person turned up (a rare event), people tended to refer to him as “that nice black person”. Silly, in a way — he might or might not have been nice — but well-intentioned. Julius’s father’s associate may well have been creepy and maladroit, but he was not necessarily anti-Semitic.

On the whole, however, Julius’s vigilance is justified. He meticulously shows how anti-Semitism, as well as being what he well describes as “a false alarm”, is also a permanent temptation. Like Jews in its own fevered imaginings, it is sly. It knows how to reinforce a feeling of superiority, or relieve a feeling of inferiority, or seem to provide an explanation for what is puzzling. It endlessly reinvents what it sees as a “problem”, for which it can offer a “solution” — even a Final Solution.

And because we English see ourselves as tolerant, we may be too lazy to notice when the mood changes. Julius establishes that it has changed greatly from when the critic John Gross, in 1963, felt able to write that anti-Semitism was now “little more than a minor nuisance”. In the psycho-drama of Muslim dispossession, Israel fills a central role. In a weird ideological alliance with Islamism, the secular Left now tries to argue that Israel is an “apartheid” state. There are many criticisms that can justly be made of Israeli policy, but criticism of Israel is often quite different from that of other countries involved in violent political conflict. It is existential criticism. It is against the Jews — seeing them, yet again, as the problem. This is anti-Semitic, and it is growing here, like litter, as Julius puts it, on our English lawns.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: BA Militants and a Plot to Control Damning Emails From Strike Union Chief Reveal Secret Agenda

Militants behind the British Airways strike have a secret agenda to take control of the Labour Party, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The hard-Left clique which runs the giant Unite union plans to ‘reclaim or refound’ Labour, dumping Blairite policies in favour of old-style socialism.

They believe that, because Labour needs union cash to stay afloat, Unite can control its political direction.

The plot is revealed in a series of astonishing emails from Graham Stevenson, a senior Unite official who is also on the executive of the British Communist Party.

Crucially, they show Unite is taking ‘strategic’ direction from the communists on both the BA strike and the overthrow of New Labour.

One email proclaims: ‘The Labour Party is simply broke. As millionaires desert, it has been forced to go back to the unions for funding. We will have a huge number of MPs who are members [of Unite].

‘In the past unions had large parliamentary groups but few MPs actually bothered to take account of our policies. This will change!’

Since Gordon Brown became leader, Unite has given Labour £11million — 25 per cent of its income — and saved it from bankruptcy. Unite is funding 148 Labour seats at the General election at a cost of £460,000.Thirteen members of the Cabinet — half of the total and including Mr Brown — have received a total of £33,000 from the union. Some 167 Labour MPs and candidates are members of Unite, prompting accusations from the Tories that Mr Brown is in danger of relinquishing power to a ‘militant tendency’.

As national organiser of the transport section of Unite, Mr Stevenson is a central figure in the union, alongside the equally Left-wing assistant general secretary Len McCluskey who is personally co-ordinating the BA strikes.

The Stevenson emails, sent over the past 12 days to London-based political historian Pavel Stroilov who is writing a book about Labour’s links with Communism, show that after the next election Unite plans to exert ‘vigorous control’ over its sponsored MPs.

Mr Stevenson says: ‘Unions will have to make a judgment decision about Labour — whether to give up on the reclaiming approach or simply refound it.’

He makes clear his support for Mr McCluskey in the contest for the leadership of Unite — the most powerful post in British trade unionism — which will be held later this year.

Mr McCluskey, who is tipped to win, has promised: ‘I will set out a clear strategy designed to reconstruct the Labour Party so that it speaks with our voice and is committed to our values.’

Unite’s determination to achieve this is shown in the emails. One from the seasoned communist Mr Stevenson — noting that the Prime Minister stayed silent for three days in the run-up to the BA strike — says cheerfully:’

‘Left-leaning union officials once thought that getting Gordon Brown’s ear was useful. It’s now going way beyond that — more akin to “do they have a chance of getting our ear?”.’

The extraordinary correspondence began on March 12 with a routine question from Mr Stroilov to Mr Stevenson about his personal website, which gives a history of the Communist Party in this country.

Mr Stroilov asked: ‘How is the class struggle going? Observing it from some distance, it looks like the spectre of Communism is rising again in the British Labour Movement, isn’t it?’

This unleashed a flurry of emails from the Unite official, who wrote: ‘Yes, things are very busy — the struggle goes on! And yes, the [ Communist] Party is very much in the thick of a great deal.’

‘A wave of strikes across Britain’Last Thursday, Mr Stevenson explained: ‘It is the case that most of the trade union leadership looks to the Party for strategic direction and most of the Left is prepared to accept the Party’s proposals for policy, so things are moving that way.

‘The unions have accepted almost all of our own [communist] policies, but enacting them is another matter. As a new generation of activists and union members emerges, the mood becomes more militant….’

The following day, Mr Stevenson wrote: ‘The fighting back stance of Unite is wakening up a previously quiescent working class. We are seeing extraordinarily high voting levels for strike action. The most obvious sign is the current furore over the British Airways dispute. But the bus industry has seen a wave of strikes across Britain, largely un-noticed due to the local character of them.’

He adds: ‘The official machine around Brown has latched on to the fact that a sharper class struggle is polarising the country. Class has become a feature of mainstream politics once again. To some extent this is as a result of growing pressure from the unions…

‘The Labour Party is simply broke (it was 30 days away from bankruptcy 18 months ago). As millionaires desert, it has been forced to go back to the unions for funding. Our view is that a coalescence of mass support for progressive politics can be mobilised during the course of this changing mood.’

Last night a Unite spokesman said the emails from Mr Stevenson were a ‘private correspondence’ which represented his own personal views.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: Devoted Couple Separated by Illness After 75 Years Transferred to Same Hospital So They Could Hold Hands in Final Moments

They fell in love as teenagers and had been inseparable during nearly 70 years of happily married life.

And despite being taken to different hospitals as their days drew to a close, the bonds of devotion between Ted and Mary Williams were to bring them together for one last, poignant goodbye.

Mrs Williams, 87, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, wrote a final love letter from her hospital bed to the man she had wed in 1941.

‘Ted, I’d love to see you,’ she said. ‘Why haven’t you come to see me, my darling?’

The letter touched nursing staff so much they devised a plan to bring 90-year-old Mr Williams from the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where he was being treated for a heart condition, to Southmead Hospital in the city where his wife was being cared for.

And they were just in time. Mr Williams was put in the next bed to his wife, who was also suffering from pneumonia, and they held hands as she passed away just three hours later.

Three days afterwards, Mr Williams, a former engineer, died of heart failure.

Yesterday their son Tony, 67, thanked the hospitals involved and paid tribute to his parents, whose joint funeral will be held today.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Minister Announces Israeli Diplomat’s Expulsion

London, 23 March (AKI) — The United Kingdom has announced its intention to expel an Israeli diplomat in protest over the use of fake British passports used by the killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai. Foreign secretary David Miliband told Parliament on Tuesday there were “compelling reasons” to believe Israel was responsible for the “misuse” of the passports.

“Such misuse is intolerable and a hazard for the safety of British nationals,” Miliband said.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that its agents were behind the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a founding member of the Islamist Hamas group, who was murdered in a Dubai hotel room on 19 January, but foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has said there was no proof the Mossad spy agency was responsible.

Dubai police have blamed the killing on a Mossad hit squad whose 26 members used cloned European and Australian passports. Twelve members of the group were allegedly travelling on forged British passports.

Miliband has demanded that Tel Aviv co-operate fully with the investigation.

Al-Mabhouh was found dead in a room of the luxurious Al Bustan Rotana hotel near Dubai’s airport. He had been drugged and then suffocated.

Interpol issued an international alert for those suspecting of committing the assassination.

Al-Mabhouh was one of the founders of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic organisation that seized control of the Gaza strip in 2007.

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

UK: Radicals’ Deadly ‘Booby Trap’

FEMALE suicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.

The shocking new al-Qaeda tactic involves radical doctors inserting the explosives in women’s breasts during plastic surgery — making them “virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines”.

It is believed the doctors have been trained at some of Britain’s leading teaching hospitals before returning to their own countries to perform the surgical procedures.

MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male suicide bombers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Teachers Leave Boy, 5, Stranded in Tree Because of Health and Safety (Then Report Passer-by Who Helped Him Down to Police)

A boy of five was left stranded in a tree at school because of a bizarre health and safety policy — which banned teachers from helping him down.

The mischievous pupil climbed the 20ft tree at the end of morning break and refused to come down.

But instead of helping him, staff followed guidelines and retreated inside the school building to ‘observe from a distance’ so the child would not get ‘distracted and fall’.

The boy was only rescued after 45 minutes in the tree when passer-by Kim Barrett, 38, noticed the child and helped him down herself.

But instead of being thanked for her actions by the head teacher of the Manor School in Melksham, Wiltshire, she was reported to the police for trespassing.

Miss Barrett, who lives in Melksham with her six-year-old daughter who attends a different school, said she is ‘surprised’ and ‘shocked’ by the school’s policy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Tories ‘To Toughen Up School Exams’ With Return to Old A-Levels and GCSE Reforms

The Conservatives yesterday pledged a return to traditional A-levels with exams at the end of two years.

AS-levels currently taken halfway through A-level courses would be scrapped.

Sixth-formers could also face a U.S.-style university entrance test covering language, maths and reasoning to give admissions staff more information with which to rank applicants.


Tory spokesman Michael Gove said the move to ‘modular’ A-levels, with pupils repeatedly resitting bite-size exams, had dented the credibility of the ‘gold standard’ exam.

He added: ‘The problem has been that A-levels have increasingly become nationalised — used by the Government to flatter their own performance.

‘As a result they become less good at doing what they should.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


EU-Croatia: Presidency, Open All Chapters by June

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 23 — According to the Spanish presidency of the EU, the objective regarding Croatia’s path for EU membership is to open all chapters of the accession treaty and to close them as soon as possible, by the end of the Spanish EU presidency, said Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Angel Lossada, after a meeting of the association council of the EU and Croatia today in Brussels. Currently 30 of the 35 chapters of the treaty are open. According to European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, Croatia is close to the conclusion of the process, but similar to all long distance runners, the final 100 metres are the most difficult. After mentioning the significant progress on this front and having entered into the final stage of the process, the association council pointed out the need for further efforts regarding public administration and judicial reforms, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the respect and protection of minorities, including the return of refugees, legal action regarding war crimes and economic reforms. Achieving these objectives within the deadline imposed by the EU on these issues will be essential as Zagreb could complete negotiations within 2010 and enter the EU in 2012. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Serbia: Trayal Expects to Sign Deal With Fiat in June

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 24 — Rubber corporation Trayal in Krusevac expects to sign a deal with Italian automotive group Fiat in early June on supplying tires for Fiat’s Punto cars made in Serbia, said Trayal sales manager Nebojsa Djenadic, reports VIP Daily News Report. Tire testing is underway and is to be completed by mid-May, Djenadic said. Trayal plans to supply 40,000 of its T-400 tires a year for Punto cars made by Fiat Automobili Srbija, Fiat’s 67%-33% joint venture with Serbia, he added, noting that the company will seek to include other tires in the supply deal. According to company officials, Trayal exported over 60,000 passenger vehicle tires in the first two months of 2010 and generated some 900,000 euro in export revenues, with the bulk of the shipments going to Germany, France, and the UK. According to earlier reports, Trayal said in February it hoped to supply one million car tires for Fiat a year, noting that the deal would not apply to Fiat cars made in Serbia only, but to the entire Fiat group. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: 11 Years After NATO Bombs, Sirens Sound in Belgrade

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 24 — To mark the 11th anniversary of the start of the NATO bombing against the Federation of Serbia and Montenegro, the sirens once again sounded in Belgrade today at midday. Public ceremonies are planned in the capital and in other Serbian cities to commemorate the approximate 3,500 people killed (civilians and military personnel) and the over 12,000 people injured by the bombings decided by NATO against the Slobodan Milosevic’s regime and his policy of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. In 78 days of bombing, 2,500 civilians were killed (including 89 children) and 1,031 servicemen and policemen were killed. The injured numbered around 6,000 amongst the civilians (2,700 children) and over 5,000 amongst servicemen and policemen. Material damage was enormous, in particular the destruction of bridges, roads, railways, military installations and public buildings. In the centre of Belgrade, one can still see some buildings — which at the time hosted the Ministry of Defence and the headquarters — completely disembowelled and semi-destroyed by the bombs. The bombing ceased with the agreement signed in Kumanovo (Macedonia) on June 9, 1999, and three days later the Yugoslav forces began to withdraw from Kosovo where, on the basis of UN Resolution 1244 , a contingent of NATO troops (KFOR) were sent, with a total of 37,000 men. This multinational force is being reduced over time and today totals some 10,000 soldiers. On February 17, 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, so far recognised by 65 countries (including Italy) but not by Belgrade or Russia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian State Security Demolishes Anglican Church, Assaults Pastor

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — An Anglican Church pastor and his wife were assaulted by Security agents in Luxor on March 18, 2010, in order to evacuate them by force from their home and demolish Church property. Out of the nearly 3000 sq. meters of buildings attached to the Church, only the 400 sq. meter prayer hall was left standing.

Pastor Mahrous Karam of the Anglican Church in Luxor, 721 km from Cairo, said that the Church was still in negotiations with the Luxor authorities the day before regarding a replacement for the community center building which lies within the Church’s compound, and was told the authorities were still considering their options. Early next morning, a 500-man force of Central Security and State Security blocked all roads leading to the Church compound, forced their way in and broke into the pastor’s residence, dragging the family out by force.

In an effort to save the buildings from demolition, the Pastor sat on the fence of the Church compound, to prevent the demolition work, but was beaten and dragged away, reported Katiba Tibia News.

The Pastor’s wife, Sabah, said that two men went into her flat and evacuated her by force, by slapping her face, pulling her by her clothes and dragging her by her hair. “They threatened that if I do not leave the place they would take my 3-year-old boy and throw him under the bulldozers which came for the demolition work,” she told Sherif Ramzy of Freecopts. “Twenty traumatized children were dragged out of the attached nursery and thrown into the church hall,” Sabah said.

She added that all their belongings were left in the street, and they have nowhere to live. “I believe they wanted to give us an Easter present, the way they gave the Copts of Nag Hammadi the Christmas Eve Massacre,” she added bitterly.

Pastor Karam said that the community center lies within the archaeological excavation for the “Rams Road” project. “We are not against giving the community center up, we just want a replacement building,” he told Luxor-based Coptic activist Samir Rafaat. “We want equal treatment in our own country. The city council replaced the Islamic Association with a building of 20 flats, before demolishing their building. We want the same treatment.”

Dr. Samir Farag, Governor of Luxor, told the media that his forces seized only “one room” from the Anglican Church, and denied any bodily assault on the pastor’s family. According to the Anglican Church approximately 2600 sq. meters were seized including the pastors 2-story high residence, and the community center, which included a nursery, guests quarters and club The Anglican Church School, which was also demolished, was not included in the negotiations between the Anglican Church and the Governorate as it does not lie within the Ram Road excavation project.

An Anglican witness said: “The Governor is lying, that is why the forces blocked the road leading to the Church before their attack, so that nobody would witness their doings. But he forgot there is the Internet and cell phone videos to show the whole world the uncivilized way Egypt deals with Christians and their places of worship.”

The Anglican Church in Egypt, which has a congregation of nearly 750,000 issued a statement on March 19, condemning the behavior of the Luxor authorities for demolishing Church property without adequate negotiations. It also condemned the assault on the pastor, his wife and the threats made to harm their child, which it characterized as a flagrant violation of human rights and the sanctity of churches as places of worship.

Pastor Karam told Samir Raafat “We want a replacement plot of land for the one seized, as previously promised by the Governor, to build a community center on. Secondly, I was beaten and dragged on the ground in front of everyone, so I need my honor to be restored, because I represent the Anglican Church.” He said he would stage a sit-in in front of the church until matters have been rectified. “Meanwhile I will not carry out any Church services.”

The governor of Luxor has been criticized on several occasions for his execution of projects in Luxor. According to writer Safwat Samaan Yassa, UNESCO recommended that the excavation work for the Ram Road should be executed in stages in the next 20 years, but the Governor of Luxor shortened it to three years, demolishing in the process hundred of houses, hotels, restaurants, bazaars, and ancient palaces and thereby destroying Luxor’s economy. Furthermore, according to Yassa, historical sites were demolished to make way for a hotel complex financed by Arab investors.

[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Alarm Over Violence in Schools

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 24 — Twenty cases of violence in schools, most of which against teachers, were recorded in Tunisia in February, reported today’s French-language Tunisian daily Le Temps — according to which the trend was not seen as particularly serious by the Education Ministry. The opposite stance was taken by the General Union for Secondary School Education which, in a recent meeting, called the situation “alarming” and in constant deterioration. Naima Hammami, union leader and member of the office in charge of issues pertaining to Women, Youth and Associations, reported Le Temps, underscored that “violence in the schools is not longer simply an isolated case or act. There is a need to acknowledge that it has become a trend.” According to the union leader, “students and their family members are the ones who commit acts of violence against teachers and those working in the administration.” This is why, from Le Temps, she has launched an appeal: “the time has come for the Education Ministry to deal with the dossier in a serious manner. We need to stop saying that violence in schools is limited to a few isolated cases.” And, in view of a meeting with the ministry, the union is putting the finishing touches on a detailed general report, as well as preparing a national awareness campaign. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: First Olive Oil Shipment to China

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 24 — The first shipment of Tunisian olive oil, produced by the Poulina company, has left for China. In the Asian country, the oil will be measured out into 135,000 bottles to be put onto the market as soon as the necessary authorisation has been granted (expected by the end of the current month). The Tunisian olive oil will compete with its Italian and Spanish counterparts, which for quite some time have already been present on the market. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Jewish Settlements in East Jerusalem

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MARCH 24 — There are roughly 200,000 Israelis living in about ten Jewish areas built in East Jerusalem, the mainly Arab part of the city home to some 270,000 Palestinians. In the last few weeks, Israel’s announcement that it intends to build 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, an orthodox Jewish area in East Jerusalem, has caused serious tension between Israel and Barack Obama’s US administration. The international community does not recognise the annexing of East Jerusalem and considers the new settlements springing up there “illegal”. The settlements and the Jewish colonization of the eastern part of the city represent a key issue in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the latter claiming East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In July 1980, however, the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) passed a law declaring that Jerusalem in its entirety, including the occupied areas in the east of the city, is “the eternal and indivisible capital” of Israel. Israel has occupied the east of Jerusalem since the Six-Day War of 1967. Since 1968, successive Israeli governments have built Jewish settlements there. The following is a list of the existing Jewish areas complete with the date of their creation and the number of inhabitants, with figures provided by the city of Jerusalem: — Givat Shapira (French Hill), 1968, 7,000 inhabitants. — Ramat Eshkol, 1969, 9,400 inhabitants. — Talpiot Mizrah, 1971, 15,000 inhabitants. — Ghilo, 1972, 32,000 inhabitants. — Nevé Yaakov, 1972, 22,000 inhabitants. — Ramot Allon, 1974, 47,000 inhabitants. — Pisgat Zeev, 1984, 41,000 inhabitants. — Ramat Shlomo, 1994, 17,000 inhabitants. — Har Homa, 1997, 10,000 inhabitants. The presence of Jewish communities and building projects in other mainly Arab areas of the city should also be noted. These include the Old City, which is home to 5,000 Jews. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Asks Netanyahu for ‘Gestures’ To Palestinians

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 24 — During a two-hour meeting yesterday at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to make “gestures” towards the Palestinians. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reported the request, specifying that there are differences between the U.S. and Israel on the matter. Gibbs also reported that the U.S. intends to ask for “clarification” on Israel’s plans for new settlements in East Jerusalem. Obama’s request to Netanyahu came during an “honest” and “direct” meeting, said Gibbs, who added that Obama urged Netanyahu to work to re-establish “trust” in the peace process in the Middle East. Today the Israeli premier met with U.S. envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell, while Obama held meetings over the phone with the European leaders Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. New reasons for tension came up during Obama and Netanyahu’s meeting with the announcement by the City of Jerusalem of definitive authorisation for the construction of 20 new Jewish homes in the Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrak, part of a plan for 100 new homes. The announcement came while the Israeli premier arrived at the White House. The U.S. clearly expressed their opposition to Jewish building plans in East Jerusalem, not recognising the Israeli annexation of this part of the city. While travelling to Washington, Netanyahu hoped to end the crisis that erupted two weeks ago with the announcement of a new Jewish building plan in East Jerusalem, which coincided with a visit to Israel and the PNA by Vice-President Joe Biden. Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged both Israelis and Palestinians to begin the “indirect talks” proposed by the U.S. Ban Ki-moon also announced that he will urge countries of the Arab League in the same way, which he will see on Saturday at the summit in Libya. “It is essential,” he said, “for Arab nations to contribute to creating an atmosphere that is favourable for negotiations to be successful”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Erdogan Accuses Armenians of ‘Exterminating’ Turks

ANKARA (RFE/RL)—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday claimed that Armenians in the Ottoman Empire never faced genocide and, on the contrary, themselves plotted to exterminate Turks.

Erdogan was reported to angrily deny the historical record of Genocide as he marked the 95th anniversary of a rare Turkish military victory during World War One.

“In 1915 and before that, it was the Armenian side that pursued a policy aimed at exterminating our people which led to hunger, misery and death,” he said in a speech delivered in the city of Canakkale. “Forgetting all that is unfair and heartless. Our warriors always respected ancestral laws and did not kill innocent people even on the battlefield.”

“I should underline that this country’s soldier is bigger than history and that this country’s history is as clean and clear as the sun. No country’s parliament can tarnish it,” Erdogan said, in a clear reference to U.S. and Swedish lawmakers’ latest resolutions recognizing the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

“There is no genocide in our civilization. Our civilization is the civilization of love, tolerance and brotherhood,” he added, according to “Today’s Zaman” daily.

Erdogan followed a similar line of reasoning last November when he stated that the universally condemned massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Darfur, Sudan were not a genocide. “Muslims don’t commit genocide,” he said.

The Turkish premier did use the word “genocide,” however, when he condemned the deaths of several dozen Turkic-speaking and Muslim Uighurs during unrest in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region last July. “The killings of Uighur Turks by the Chinese police during demonstrations constitute genocide,” he said at the time. “I use this term intentionally.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Kuwait to Import Natural Liquid Gas From April 1

(ANSAmed) — KUWAIT, MARCH 24 — From the April 1 until October 31, Kuwait will import natural liquefied gas, with an average of 160,000 cubic metres per day. The aim of the gas import is to satisfy the needs of the country’s electrical power stations, and generate electricity, consumption of which is at its highest in the summer months (between June and September). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudis Arrest Over 100 ‘Al-Qaeda Linked Militants’

Riyadh, 24 March(AKI) — Saudi Arabian security forces arrested 113 suspected militants linked to Al-Qaeda, interior minister Mansour al-Turky, told Arabic satellite TV channel al-Arabiya on Wednesday.

Two suicide bomber cells operating independently of each other were planning to target Saudi oil facilities and anti-terrorist security forces, al-Turky said.

“The network and the two cells were targeting the oil facilities in the Eastern Province and they had plans that were about to be implemented,” he said.

Of those arrested 47 were from Saudi Arabia, with 51 from Yemen and other foreigners from Somalia, Eritrea and Bangladesh.

The groups were directed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, according to al-Turky.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was formed in January 2009 by a merger between two regional offshoots of the Islamist militant network in neighbouring Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Led by a former aide to Osama Bin Laden, the group has vowed to attack oil facilities, foreigners and security forces as it seeks to topple the Saudi monarchy and Yemeni government, and establish an Islamic caliphatein in the region.

In 2003, suicide bombers suspected of having links with Al-Qaeda killed 35 people in the capital, Riyadh. They included a number of foreigners.

Saudi Arabian security forces have arrested over 20 suspected militants suspects since then.

In 2007, officials said 172 terror suspects had been arrested; and in August 2009 44 suspects with alleged links to Al-Qaeda were detained.

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

Syria: 12 Mln Euro From Germany for Economic Reforms

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, MARCH 24 — Germany has granted 12 million euros of aid to finance programmes of economic reform and development in Syria. The Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Damascus reports that the deal was signed by the Syrian State Planning Commission, the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR). The aid will be used not only for the carrying out of technical projects in the financial sector, but also to set up new programmes of sustainable development, to develop the activities of the Syrian Institute for the management of water resources and to start up new studies. The ICE office points out that only two weeks ago the KFW (the German development bank) announced the granting of 50 million euros to finance the construction of the water network of the Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeynab. In recent years, Germany has been one of the main financers of development projects in Syria. The areas of greatest intervention include urban development, management of water resources and assistance for financial reforms. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey-EU: Babacan, Customs Union Problem Needs to be Solved

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 23 — The EU-Turkey Customs Union, which went into effect in 1995, at this point has become a big problem that we must solve soon, said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali and Economy Minister Babacan during a briefing in Brussels organized by the European Policy Center. According to Babacan, the agreement in question was signed with the prospect of EU membership that has not yet occurred and in reality today decisions on this front are made by the European capitals and Turkey suffers from the effects. We are a kind of insider, but we are influenced like outsiders: this is starting to become a problem for us. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemenis Take to the Streets Against Law Fixing the Minimum Age for Marriage

The rule prohibits marriage for girls under 17 and boys under 18. In the country the magnitude of “child brides”, girls of 8 or 9 given in marriage, usually for economic reasons, to old men.

Sanaa (AsiaNews) — Strictly covered by black niqabs, thousands of Yemeni women protested (pictured) against the law setting the minimum age for marriage: 17 years for women and 18 for men.

The women held banners with slogans such as “Do not prohibit what God has made possible.” One of them, commenting on the support for the law by groups of human rights, said: “Many women who are part of these groups are 40 and are not married”

In the country the tradition of “child brides” children of 8 or 9 given in marriage to much older men is widespread, especially in rural areas. The reasons are often economic ones. The tradition came to the attention of international public opinion for a few sensational cases, particularly those of a girl of 12 who died in childbirth with her son and another of 8 who requested and obtained a divorce.

The opposition Al-Islah Islamic party has been opposed to the bitterly debated law from the outset and received some of the demonstrators. In February last year there was also the fatwa of 17 religious leaders, for whom the law has no basis and violates Shariah, Islamic law.

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

South Asia

Bangladesh: Boldipukur: A 500-Strong Mob of Muslim Extremists Attack Catholic Church

Several people are injured during the attack, five seriously. Ownership over land held by the parish church is at the heart of the dispute. A local priest insists the conflict is not about religion, but that religion was used as a pretext in the case. Police are after 17 Muslims who fled following the incident.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — A mob of more than 500 Muslim extremists attacked Christ the Saviour Catholic Church in Boldipukur, Mithapukur Upazila (subdistrict), in Rangpur Division, some 335 kilometres from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The incident, which occurred last Sunday, was triggered by a dispute over land. According to an initial account, five indigenous tribal Christians were seriously injured.

The local parish priest, Fr Leo Desai, told AsiaNews that some local Muslims have been trying to get the land in question for some years. Recently however, “a court ruled that it was owned by Catholics.”

Violence broke out when construction for a boundary wall began. The parish, which owns the land, donated it to two nearby educational institutions, the Adabashi Catholic Primary School and the Shah Abul Kasher High School. By verbal agreement, the church had already conceded the land for school use as far back as 1973.

The extremist mob attacked everyone present at the construction site. A number of people were injured during the violent incident, five seriously. Initially, they were taken to a hospital but were eventually moved to private homes to provide them with greater security.

The attackers also struck a Catholic clergyman, Fr Silas Kurju, who visiting the site at the time of the attack.

“On 19 March, a group of Muslims got together for Friday prayers and began protesting against Christians. The next day, violence broke out,” Father Leo said.

However, he is also very disappointed by the “silence” of local police who stood idly by when the extremists struck. Still, he insisted that the incident “is not a conflict between Christians and Muslims, but a dispute over land” in which religion was “only a pretext” to stir up tensions.

Law enforcement eventually began an inquiry against 17 Muslims, who fled the village. “We are tracking them and doing all we can to arrest them,” said Mithapukur Police Chief Mohammed Altaf Hossain. “We shall protect Christians if they are attacked again,” he said.

Christ the Saviour Catholic Church in Boldipukur was built in 1951. It has a congregation of some 3,600 people, mostly from tribal communities.

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

Indonesia: President Urges Main Muslim Group to Fight Extremism

Makassar, 23 March (AKI/Jakarta Post)- Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday called on Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organisation to continue to reject violence and extremism.

Speaking in his speech at the opening of the Nahdlatul Ulama congress in Makassar, Yudhoyono praised the NU as an organisation that has promoted peace, moderation and pluralism since its birth in the Dutch colonial era.

“Since the colonial era, NU has become a pioneer of the development of civilization that embraces both Islamic and Indonesian values,” he said.

Yudhoyono said NU leaders would continue to enlighten and educate NU members and followers and promote Islam as a positive force in the world.

The NU congress will mark a change of guard after current chairman Hasyim Muzadi said he was standing down.

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

Pakistan: Quereshi Signals New Approach to Washington

Islamabad, 23 March (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — On the eve of Pakistan’s key talks with the United States, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Quereshi has signalled an important shift in Islamabad’s approach. “Gone are the days when the US used to press Pakistan to do more. Now we are going to demand of the US to do more”, Quereshi told the media at a briefing.

Some would say that the need for a “strategic dialogue” between the two countries appears to indicate relations remain troubled.

Quereshi signalled Pakistan’s plans to table issues from the economy to defence, counterterrorism, and non-proliferation.

He also said that Pakistan’s leadership ‘troika’, president Asif Ali Zardari, prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, had recently met in Islamabad and unanimously approved the topics they want to raise at the talks which begin in Washington on Wednesday.

Sources have told Adnkronos International that while there has been strategic dialogue between the US and Pakistan since the era of former president Pervez Musharraf, it has become more significant since Islamabad arrested one of the Taliban’s top commanders in Afghanistan, Mullah Bradar, and gave US access to him for interrogation.

It is believed that this arrest may provide the basis for reconciliation with a moderate Taliban and a joint Pakistan-US strategy to fight Al-Qaeda and other extremists.

“Americans have finally appreciated the reality on the ground, that the Afghan problem cannot be solved without Pakistan’s active role,” said ex-army general and former head of the ISI intelligence service, General Hamid Gul.

“The American media and decisionmakers kept cursing Pakistan’s strategic bodies like the army and the ISI — Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, but finally they are being forced to sit down with them to sort out an honourable exit strategy from Afghanistan.”

While Quereshi expressed appreciation for the 15 billion dollar funding recently approved by the United States, the impression he conveyed was that this was not enough to cover the bill.

CIA director, Leon Panetta, has said he believed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri were hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas — albeit so deep in hiding as to “leave the organisation rudderless”.

For Pakistan this means that the US may press for Pakistan’s already overstretched military to open another front, or seek permission for a US task force to hunt down the Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders on Pakistani soil.

Pakistan’s agenda will be driven in Washington by Kayani.

The Pakistani military has effectively sidelined the civilian government.

Last week, for the first time, Kayani chaired a meeting of federal ministers at general headquarters Rawalpindi.

Zardari was not invited. In the past few months, Zardari has given up his powers as chairman of the Nuclear Command Authority, which were handed to the prime minister, on the advice of the military, and he has agreed to give up his presidential power as supreme commander of the armed forces.

He has also said he would give up his power to dissolve parliament.

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

Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Burned Alive Dies, Christian Community Calls for Justice

Arshed Masih, a 38 year-old Pakistani Christian, died yesterday evening at 7.45 from his very serious injuries. The family requests that an autopsy is performed before the funeral. Christian associations and human rights activists demonstrate outside the hospital. Catholic leaders: the federal and provincial government do not punish the guilty.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Arshed Masih died last night in hospital from the serious injuries — burns covering 80% of his body — which the 38 year old Pakistani Christian suffered when he was set on fire because he refused to convert to Islam. The funeral of man, who died after three days of agony, should take place in the late afternoon, but the family has asked that “before an autopsy is performed.” The Christian community of Pakistan condemns “with firmness” the latest episode of violence and denounces the “slowness” of the federal and provincial government to punish those responsible.

On March 19 a group of Islamic extremists burned alive Arshed Masih, a driver employed by a wealthy Muslim businessman in Rawalpindi. His wife worked as a maid in the same estate, situated in front of a police station. Recently disagreements had arisen between the employer, Sheikh Mohammad Sultan, and the couple because of their Christian faith. The couple had suffered threats and intimidation to force them to convert to Islam.

Arshed Masih (pictured) died last night at 7.45 local time after three days of agony and suffering at the Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, Punjab province. His wife Martha Arshed was raped by police en she sought to denounce the violence inflicted on her husband. The couple’s three children — ages 7 to 12 years — were forced “to witness the torture inflicted on their parents.

Since 2005 Arshed Masih and his wife had worked and lived on the estate of the late Sheikh Mohammad Sultan. The pressure on them to renounce Christianity had lately become incessant. The owner had come so far as to threaten “dire consequences”, to persuade them to embrace Islam. The couple were also accused of a recent theft by the owner who has promised to drop the complaint for their conversion.

Arshed Masih’s funeral should be held in the late afternoon, although tension remains high in the area. Local witnesses tell AsiaNews that “the whole family is in shock and I s demanding an autopsy is carried out before burial.” Several Christian associations and human rights activists — including Life for All, Christian Progressive Movement, Pakistan Christian Congress and Protect Foundation Pakistan — “protests are being stepped up outside the hospital.”

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church of Pakistan (NCJP), expresses to AsiaNews his “strongest condemnation” for the crime against the man and the rape of women perpetrated by police who should protect law and order . The Catholic organization has been active to ensure protection to the woman and children, of whom there are no immediate reports.

The Catholic activist notes with regret the silence of the Federal Minister for Minorities, the Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti, and denounces “the slow pace and the inaction of the federal and provincial government. “The executive — said Peter Jacob — has not yet taken concrete steps to prevent violence and abuse on minorities and punish the guilty.”

The site adds that yesterday the provincial government of Punjab blocked a protest march of Christians, under the pretext of “terrorist threat”. The local community wanted to demonstrate against the “refusal” of the police to arrest the perpetrators of the crime.

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

Far East

China: Beijing Angry With Google for Stopping Censorship

At 3 am, Google removed censorship filters on its Chinese operations, redirecting traffic to Hong Kong. China accuses the company of breaking its promise. The future is uncertain since Google cannot afford to lose the huge Chinese market, and Chinese authorities cannot afford uncensored information. Chinese net users want the government to say what content it wants censored; they also want Google to say how much censorship it practiced after it entered the Chinese market.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — Early this morning shortly after Google announced it would stop censoring search results in mainland China, Beijing issued a press statement, saying that the internet giant’s decision was “totally wrong.” By removing censorship filters on its search engines and blaming China for alleged hacker attacks, “Google has violated the written promise it made on entering the Chinese market”.

At about 3 am Tuesday (Beijing Time), Google said it would stop censoring its Chinese-language search engine, redirecting all Chinese mainland users to a site in Hong Kong.

Now, users can search information about democracy, the Tiananmen massacre, the Dalai Lama, religious freedom, and more.

On the company’s official blog, Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said, ““[W]e are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese. Specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong”, this “is a sensible solution” that is “entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China.”

China’s row with Google began on 12 January when the US-based company announced it had been the victim of a cyber attack that originated inside China aimed at the Gmail accounts of human rights activists. Since then, it has threatened to remove filters on its search engines that the Chinese government had imposed when it entered the Chinese market in 2006.

Now everyone’s attention is turning to the future. In China, many are certain that Beijing will never accept uncensored information to flow freely within the country and that sooner or later it will block Google.

As for Google, its short-term prospects will not be dented by shutting down its Chinese operations, which are responsible, at most, for 2 per cent of its revenues. However, because of the size and growth rate of China’s internet population, any loss of business there is likely to harm Google’s future growth prospects.

Within China, some netizens are really put off by the idea of losing Google forever; others, more nationalistic, think the US company should just obey Chinese laws.

Nevertheless, pressures from foreign and local companies might yet shake up Beijing’s sophisticated web monitoring and censoring system.

In fact, despite their official anti-Google stance, Chinese authorities are still wary about upsetting the business world too much. This morning, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that the controversy would not affect China-US relations.

At the same time, “An Open Letter to the Chinese Government and Google Inc” began circulating online on Sunday, expressing the frustration many internet users feel about being left in the dark on the matter.

The open letter raises several questions about what content the Chinese government required Google to self-censor. It also wants to know more about Google’s business operations in China, in particular concerning the company’s “tacit understanding” with Beijing in censoring Chinese cyberspace.

Quickly, the letter was re-posted more than a thousand times on blog and micro-blogging platforms before it was censored.

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

Church Growing Stronger in Korea

According to the South Korean Bishops’ Conference, the number of Catholics has increased over the last year: at the moment, they are about 10% of the population. Vocations also on the rise and interest of non-Christians in the Church. Professor of the Science of religions: “merit of virtue expressed by the faithful.”

Seoul (AsiaNews) — The number of Catholics are growing in South Korea, as well as religious vocations and the local clergy. It is the result of the daily commitment of Catholics to the life of the country, increasingly exposed to the social problems that afflict it. This has been revealed by statistics presented by the Korean Bishops Conference, which shows an increase of 2.7% in the number of baptized believers.

According to the data, the total number of Catholics in the country is 5,004,115: This is 9.9% of the population, an increase of 130 thousand units compared to previous data. The local clergy, moreover, is equal to 4204 units, compared to 4026 previously reviewed: of these, 3477 are diocesan priests, 726 are missionaries or religious. The number of seminarians remains essentially the same, with 1413 compared with 1445: however of these, many become priests. The number of women religious has grown by 186, reaching 10,401.

Compared with the results of the general census of 2005, which the government makes every ten years, Catholics have grown by 74% against an 18% increase in Buddhists and a 16% decrease in Protestants. The data reflected the Christian denominations, which were questioned about their way of doing mission in the Asian country.

The professor Kim Jong-seo, who teaches science of religion at the Seoul National University, analyzed the reasons for the success of Catholic evangelization in Korea. According to the teacher, there are six key points that have enabled this result:

Unity and hierarchical organization. The South Korean Catholic Church is organized into sixteen dioceses led by ordinary bishops, which all respond to the Conference of Bishops. This, in turn, is divided into six commissions and 20 committees. The Whole Church functions as an organic body under hieratical leadership, which has made a favourable impression on the Korean people.

Integrity living a life of integrity is important for Korean clergy and consecrated persons. Administration of financial affairs of the dioceses and parishes is conducted in a transparent way at all levels, which has given good image of Catholic Church to Korean people.

The commitment to justice and peace The Korean Catholic Church has played an important and prophetic role during almost three decades of democratization, under the persecution of the military regime since 1960s. Numerous priests, religious and lay faithful including the late bishop Daniel Ji Hak-sun were imprisoned and tortured for fighting against injustice and siding with the weak in society. Nowadays, the whole Church including the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice (CPAJ) and other Catholic NGOs are very much involved in environmental, ethical and social issues and the promotion of the human rights.

Tolerance towards ancestral rites. In 1742, Pope Benedict XIV prohibited devotion to ancestral rites condemning them as superstition, thus providing China and Korea an excuse to persecute Christians. But in 1939 pope Pius XI decided to allow the Confucian ancestral rite under the condition all superstitious elements were removed. Something the Protestant Church does not allow.

An open attitude toward the other religions. While some religions are unfriendly to other religions the open attitude of Catholic Church to other religions gives favourable impression to non-Catholics. This is the result of Vatican II which opened the Korean Chuch to others. During the military different religions collaborated for the democratisation of the nation.

Social commitment. Under the guidance of their bishops Korean Catholics are committed to the poor and this has given much impetus to evangelization. The fact that this commitment is open to all — irrespective of nationality, race or creed — shows the goodness of primary teaching that is the basis of Catholicism.

To these six points, concluded Professor Kim, “must be added the important influence of figures such as the Korean martyrs and the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, the undisputed star of his era.”

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

North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il ‘Suffering From Chronic Kidney Failure’

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is suffering from chronic kidney failure, South Korea has claimed.

The Communist dictator’s pale fingernails are proof of the disease, Nam Sung-Wook, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy, was reported as saying.

The 68-year-old is having dialysis every two weeks, it is claimed. He is also partially paralysed following a stroke in 2008.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa: Private Guards Kill Somali Pirate for First Time

NAIROBI, Kenya — In the first killing of its kind, private security contractors shot dead a Somali pirate in a clash that left two skiffs riddled with bullet holes, officials said Wednesday.

The killing raises questions over who has jurisdiction over a growing army of armed guards on merchant ships flying flags from many nations.

There’s currently no regulation of private security onboard ships, no guidelines about who is responsible in case of an attack, and no industrywide standards, said piracy expert Roger Middleton from the British think tank Chatham House.


“This will be scrutinized very closely,” said Arvinder Sambei, a legal consultant for the U.N.’s anti-piracy program. “There’s always been concern about these (private security) companies. Who are they responsible to? … The bottom line is somebody has been killed and someone has to give an accounting of that.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Over a Million Tunisians Abroad

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 24 — At the end of last year, over a million Tunisians were living abroad: most of them (83%) in Europe — especially in Italy, France and Germany. The figures were released and discussed in Tunis during a talk held by the Ministry for Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad as well as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Among the most noteworthy figures was the age of the migrants, 48.5% of whom under age 25. For quite some time, in Tunisia training programmes have been underway to foster the development of projects in the country to stem migratory trends. In two governorates (Mahdia and Kasserine), the IOM has invested 1.4 million euros for the purpose. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Gay-Hate Imam to Speak at Swedish Conference

An organisation for young Muslims in Sweden has outraged the country’s largest gay rights group by inviting an imam in favour of executing homosexuals to speak at its April conference.

US-born preacher Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, who has described Jews as “filthy” and advocates the execution of homosexuals, is scheduled to speak at the Sveriges Unga Muslimer (‘Sweden’s Young Muslims’) conference this Easter weekend.

The Muslim group has claimed it was unaware of Hakim Quick’s extreme views when the booking was made but said it would not remove him from the roster as this would disrupt the conference schedule.

“That’s no excuse, it just shows a complete lack of responsibility,” said Sören Juvas, chairperson of Swedish gay rights group RFSL.

Juvas expressed fury that the hateful preacher was to receive a platform in Sweden on which to air his extreme views.

“I was previously under the impression that this organisation respected principles of equal rights for everybody but now it seems they couldn’t care less about the values they claim to stand for,” he told The Local.

“If the roles were reversed and we had found out that one of our speakers was Islamophobic then we would have immediately retracted the invitation.”

Mohammed Kharraki, vice chairperson of Sveriges Unga Muslimer, did not return The Local’s calls on Wednesday.

In a statement released on its website on Wednesday afternoon, however, the organisation defended its decision to allow Hakim Quick to speak and claimed it was the victim of a smear campaign launched by Liberal Party politician Philip Wendahl.

Wendahl called last week, in an article published by opinion website Newsmill, for the Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs (Ungdomsstyrelsen) to withhold 1.5 million kronor ($200,000) in funding earmarked for Sweden’s largest Muslim youth group in 2010.

Dismissing Wendahl as a politician with an alleged anti-Muslim agenda, the group said its guest speaker had been widely misrepresented.

“When we made contact with the speaker himself he claimed not to possess these opinions and said he was the victim of hate propaganda from anti-Muslim forces,” said Sveriges Unga Muslimer.

But a 2004 decision by the Broadcasting Standards Authority of New Zealand tells a different story. Responding to a complaint from a viewer, the authority issued a reprimand to an Auckland television station for broadcasting hateful comments made by Hakim Quick in a lecture shown on the Voice of Islam programme.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority noted that Hakim Quick blamed the spread of AIDS on the “filthy practices” of homosexuals, whom he described as “sick” and “not natural”. He added that homosexuals were dropping dead from AIDS and “they want to take us all down with them”. He further stated that the Islamic position on homosexuality was “death”.

“Muslims are going to have to take a stand [against homosexuals] and it’s not enough to call names,” said the imam.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Italy: Pro-Life Election Call by Bishop

Italian politicians react ahead of regional vote

(ANSA) — Rome, March 23 — Italy’s highest bishop was at the centre of a political clamour on Tuesday, after spelling out policies, particularly on abortion, that Catholics should bear in mind during upcoming regional elections. After underscoring the importance of pro-life policies during a speech on Monday, Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) President Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco returned to the issue on Tuesday, releasing a document signed jointly with seven other Ligurian bishops. Published by the CEI press office, the document said the most important consideration for Catholics to bear in mind when casting their ballot was “the right to human life, from the point of conception until natural death”. Policies in favour of “protecting and supporting the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman” came next on the list, said the document. It also stressed the need for religious freedom, cultural freedom, education, the right to work, the right to accommodation, and the integration of immigrants. “These are not values that can merely be selected on the basis of personal sensitivities but must be followed in their entirety,” noted the statement. The document was released the day after Bagnasco urged voters to choose pro-life parties during the March 28-29 elections in 13 of the country’s 20 regions.

The CEI head said pro-life values were “non negotiable”.

He made no reference to any particular parties but Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party and the centrist opposition UDC party fought against the approval of the RU486 abortion pill.

Bagnasco’s interventions drew an immediate response from politicians on all sides although reactions were mixed. A cross-party group of Catholic senators staged a press conference in support of Bagnasco’s views, at which they issued a document underscoring the importance of “life, the family and the freedom of education”. Health Undersecretary Eugenia Roccella and Senate whip Maurizio Gasparri of the PdL, as well as the leader of the small opposition Catholic UDC party Rocco Buttiglione, were among the signatories. But other members of the PdL sought to distance the premier’s party from Bagnasco’s remarks. “It is neither necessary nor useful for centre-right candidates to align themselves with the legitimate positions expressed on abortion by the CEI president,” said PdL MP Bendetto Della Vedova. The Farefuturo web magazine of House Speaker Gianfranco Fini warned the PdL should not “hide behind the CEI”. “It would be neither fair, longsighted nor respectful of the complexities of the real Italy,” read an editorial, although it said there was nothing “scandalous” in Bagnasco’s interventions, which reflected Church doctrine. The leader of the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD), agreed that Bagnasco had a right “to clearly reiterate the Church’s positions on ethical and social issues”.

“It is now up to politics and the candidates to frame their answers,” said Pier Luigi Bersani. Catholic PD Senator Stefano Ceccanti urged the centre right not to “exploit” the abortion issue for electoral purposes, while PD House Deputy Whip Rosa Villecco Calipari pointed out that abortion law was not within the purview of regional authorities. The opposition candidate for the presidency of the Lazio regional government, Emma Bonino, similarly noted that “abortion and abortion law are not regional issues, which Bagnasco should be aware of”. She also recalled that “80% of the Italian public voted in favour of the law during a referendum”. Opposition Socialist Party leader Bobo Craxi suggested Bagnasco had failed to respect the separation between Church and state by his remarks. The rate of abortions in Italy has been falling over recent years and is now one of the lowest in the West.

According to health ministry figures released last summer, there were 121,406 abortions in 2008, a drop of 4.1% on 2007 and 48.3% on 1982 when the highest number of cases was recorded.

An estimated 15,000 illegal abortions are also carried out each year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Top Court Looks at Same-Sex Unions

Rome, 23 March (AKI) — Italy’s top court on Tuesday began considering whether the country’s constitution prohibits same-sex marriages in a landmark case. Three gay couples from the northern cities of Venice and Trento brought the case after their local councils refused to allow them to marry each other.

In Europe, same-sex civil marriages are legally recognised in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and traditionally Catholic Spain and Portugal.

Lawyers for the three Italian couples argue that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitutional principle of equality between all citizens and say it also breaches European norms.

“To deny marriage to couples of the same sex means denying people freedom of choice in their sexual orientation. Only the Constitutional Court can remove this irrational discrimination,” said Marilisa D’Amico, a lawyer for one of the gay couples.

In a number of other European countries, such as Britain and France, same-sex civil unions give similar rights to marriage.

In their forthcoming ruling, the Constitutional Court judges will scrutinise Article 29 of the Italian constitution, which states: “The (Italian) Republic recognises the rights of the family as a natural society founded on marriage.

“Marriage is based on moral and legal equality of the spouses within the limits laid down by law to guarantee the unity of the family.”

Gabriella Palmieri, counsel for the Italian state, is arguing that national parliaments must have sovereignty on such a socially sensitive issue as gay marriage, as stipulated by European legal treaties and the rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

But another lawyer for the gay couples, Vittorio Angiolini, disputed Palmieri’s line of argument.

“It is questionable whether only MPs should determine the the social evolution of the family,” he said.

“Today, marriage is no longer aimed at procreation, there are marriages without children and children born out of wedlock.

“Marriage today is based on the consent of both spouses and the concept of individual freedom.”

Gay marriage and the legalisation of cohabitation between unwed couples of the same or the opposite sex has become a hot political issue in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy.

An attempt by Italy’s previous centre-left government to obtain legal recognition of common-law partnerships between opposite sexes failed, mainly due to opposition from Catholic politicians.

Pope Benedict XVI, has condemned gay marriage saying it would “obscure the value and function of the legitimate family”.

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

Italy: Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Put Off

Activists relieved it won’t be ‘exploited’ in regional vote

(ANSA) — Rome, March 24 — A ruling on gay marriages was put off Wednesday to the relief of activists who feared it might be exploited in the last days of campaigning for regional elections.

Sources at Italy’s top court said it would decide whether to examine a suit about same-sex marriages after Easter.

The Constitutional Court had initially been expected to decide whether to review articles in Italy’s civil code which prohibit same-sex marriage on Tuesday, and some sources had suggested a decision might come as early as Tuesday night.

But the justices “have not even started looking at the issue,” sources said Wednesday.

“The subject will be addressed after the Easter break,” they said.

According to one source, a ruling whether to admit the suit may come on April 12. Campaigners for gay marriage welcomed the postponement. Two committees, ‘Yes I Want It’ and ‘Certain Rights’, said the justices had been “wise” because a ruling would likely have turned the issue into a political football in the run-up to the March 28-29 vote in 13 of Italy’s 20 regions.

“In this way it can’t be exploited in the electoral campaign,” the committees said.

The court “has shown a great sense of institutional responsibility”.

Earlier, Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s key ally, Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, praised the premier for “saving Italy from disaster” in rejecting a bill on civil unions.

“If he hadn’t done that we would have a country full of homosexual marriages,” said the populist leader. The issue was brought to the attention of the Constitutional Court through a suit filed by a number of gay couples in Venice and Trento who were not allowed to post the banns of their upcoming ‘marriage’.

According to the suit, there is nothing in Italy’s legal code which prohibits same-sex marriage because the diversity of gender is not established as a requisite for marriage.

The plaintiffs argued in their suit that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the constitutional principle of equality between citizens and ran counter to European Union law as well.

They also noted that an “unreasonable inequality in treatment” existed in regard to homosexuals and trans-sexuals given that the latter, once they have had a sex-change operation, are allowed to marry members of their original sex.

The office of the state attorney, acting on behalf of the government, has argued the suit is inadmissible because it seeks to establish a legal precedent “through the manipulation of the fabric of the law” whereas only parliament can create laws.

The attorney also said that European and international law clearly gave national legislatures jurisdiction in governing the rules of marriage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mother Furious After in-School Clinic Sets Up Teen’s Abortion

The mother of a Ballard High School student is fuming after the health center on campus helped facilitate her daughter’s abortion during school hours.

The mother, whom KOMO News has chosen to identify only as “Jill,” says the clinic kept the information “confidential.”

When she signed a consent form, Jill figured it meant her 15 year old could go to the Ballard Teen Health Center located inside the high school for an earache, a sports physical, even birth control, but not for help terminating a pregnancy.

“She took a pregnancy test at school at the teen health center,” she said. “Nowhere in this paperwork does it mention abortion or facilitating abortion.”

Jill says her daughter, a pro-life advocate, was given a pass, put in a taxi and sent off to have an abortion during school hours all without her family knowing.

“We had no idea this was being facilitated on campus,” said Jill. “They just told her that if she concealed it from her family, that it would be free of charge and no financial responsibility.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Video: Son of Hamas Founder: Biggest Terrorist in This World is the God of Islam

“Our biggest problem — which is bigger than Bin Laden, bigger than a bunch of terrorists in Afghanistan mountains — is the God of Islam who exists in here in America, who exists in every library, mosque, Islamic institution. He is free to travel all over the world and have influence on people.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]