Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100328

Financial Crisis
»It’s Time to End the Federal Reserve
»A Black Man, The Progressive’s Perfect Trojan Horse
»Appropriations Chair Threatens to De-Fund Attorney General Over Health Care Suit
»Chicago Cab Driver Accused of Funding Al-Qaeda for Weapons ‘Planned to Funnel the Cash Via England’
»Couple Arrested for Keeping Sick Child at Home on a School Day
»Democratic Senator: Health Care Law to Address ‘Mal-Distribution of Income’
»Dems Threaten Congressional Show Trials After US Companies Leak Real Economic Damage of Obamacare
»FBI Agents Raid Hammond Location
»Harry Reid Supporters Attack Tea Party Bus!… Update: Breitbart Attacked!
»John Bolton: Obama’s Treatment of Netanyahu Should be a Sign for Israel
»Massive Federal Raid in Michigan
»Obama Makes Labor Board Appointment During Recess Over GOP Objections
»Our War on Government
»Police, Federal Agents in Raids in Sandusky, Huron
»Seven Arrested in FBI Raids Linked to Christian Militia Group
Europe and the EU
»European Union and Libya End Visa Row by Lifting Bans
»Germans Lose Fear of Climate Change After Long, Hard Winter
»Italy: Fiat CEO Says Local Production to Stay
»Italy: Minister Pledges New Probe Into Pasolini Murder
»Italy: DNA ‘To Identify 12 WW2 Massacre Victims’
»Italy: Regional Elections
»Italy: Regional Election Candidates
»Muslim-Jewish Tensions Roil Swedish City
»Norway: Expelled Criminals Return
»OIC Islamophobia Observatory Spokesman Expresses Concern on the Holding of the “Anti-Minaret Conference” In Germany
»Romanian Immigrants in the EU Number 2.3 Million
»Sweden: Rabbit Abuser Reprimanded for Animal Welfare Violations
»Swiss Snubbed as Libya and EU Patch Up Dispute
»Switzerland: Further Calls to Blacklist Paedophile Priests
»UK: Ambulance Service Gets £38 for Every Patient They Don’t Take to Hospital
»UK: It’s Over: MPs Say the Special Relationship With US is Dead
»UK: New EU Gestapo Spies on Britons
»UK: Schoolboy Stabbed at Victoria Station in ‘Pre-Arranged Fight’ Had Been Watched by Chelsea Scouts
»UK: Unite Grass Roots Snub Brown: Union Members Say Stop Funding Labour… And We Prefer Cameron
»UK: We’re Selling Our Hotel, Say Christian Couple in Row With Muslim Guest
»Vatican: Benedict ‘Knew More’ About German Sex Abuse, Report Claims
North Africa
»Egypt Antiquities Chief: I Gave the Zionist Enemy a Slap in the Face
Israel and the Palestinians
»Jonathan Spyer: Re-Packaging Illusion
»Obama is Going After Regime Change in… Israel
»Steinitz Says Israel Will Have to End Hamas Regime
Middle East
»Child Marriage Appears on Turkish Parliamentary Agenda
»Iraq: Maliki’s Forces Move Against Winning Sunni Candidates
»Young Saudis Join Hands to Repair Negative Image
»Russia: Deemed Extremists and Hostile, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Assets Seized, Places of Worship Burnt
»Russia May Unveil New ‘Super-Tank’ In Summer 2010
South Asia
»Afghanistan: British Soldier’s Miracle Escape After Taliban Grenade Bounces Off His Head
»CIA Leak Shows Plans to Market Afghan War to Europeans
»Indonesia: Java, Conference of Gays and Lesbians Blocked by Islamic Extremists
»Royal Marine Guilty of Boot Attack on Afghan Prisoner
Far East
»Laos — United States: Washington Looks to Laos to Contain China’s Expansion
Australia — Pacific
»Radical Islamic Elder Preaching Jihad in Perth’s Suburbs
»Women Tell Stories About Love Between Different Cultures
Culture Wars
»UK: Senior Bishops Call for End to Persecution of Christians in Britain

Financial Crisis

It’s Time to End the Federal Reserve

Last week, the Federal Reserve was ordered to disclose documents that specifically identify financial institutions that might have collapsed without aid from the 2008 bailout program.

The order, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan, marks a new development in the ongoing legal battle between Bloomberg and the Federal Reserve. This ruling upheld a previous order from August 2009 that ordered that the information be released.

This unusual legal struggle began on November 7, 2008 when Bloomberg filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information act against the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, demanding that the Fed release the names of private financial institutions that received public bailout money.

Of course, the Federal Reserve has long claimed that is a transparent agency and that it has nothing to hide. However, when confronted with this request for information regarding the recipients of the financial aid, the Federal Reserve immediately recoiled and began making statements about how such disclosure would do “irreparable harm” to the financial institutions that needed the Fed’s emergency loans during the biggest government bailout in U.S. history.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


A Black Man, The Progressive’s Perfect Trojan Horse

The mainstream liberal media has been relentlessly badgering the Tea Party movement with accusations of racism. Because I am a black tea party patriot, I am bombarded with interviewers asking me the same veiled question. “Why are you siding with these white racists against America’s first African American president?” I defend my fellow patriots who are white stating, “These patriots do not give a hoot about Obama’s skin color. They simply love their country and oppose his radical agenda. Obama’s race is not an issue.”

Recently, I have come to believe that perhaps I am wrong about Obama’s race not being an issue. In reality, Obama’s presidency has everything to do with racism, but not from the Tea Party movement. Progressives and Obama have exploited his race from the rookie senator’s virtually unchallenged presidential campaign to his unprecedented bullying of America into Obamacare. Obama’s race trumped all normal media scrutiny of him as a presidential candidate and most recently even the Constitution of the United States. Obamacare forces all Americans to purchase health care which is clearly unconstitutional.

No white president could get away with boldly and arrogantly thwarting the will of the American people and ignoring laws. President Clinton tried universal health care. Bush tried social security reform. The American people said “no” to both president’s proposals and it was the end of it. So how can Obama get away with giving the American people the finger? The answer. He is black.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Appropriations Chair Threatens to De-Fund Attorney General Over Health Care Suit

In a response to Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett’s decision to join 13 other states in filing a lawsuit against the federal health care legislation, PA House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans threatened to “do whatever it takes” to thwart the AG’s efforts. Incensed, Evans even went so far as to say he would be willing to cut off all state appropriations to the Office of the Attorney General to prevent Corbett from fighting this legislation. Here is the key quote from Evans:…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Chicago Cab Driver Accused of Funding Al-Qaeda for Weapons ‘Planned to Funnel the Cash Via England’

A Chicago cab driver has been charged with trying to provide funds to al-Qaeda, it has been revealed.

Raja Lahrasib Khan planned to send money via England to a terrorist leader in Pakistan who had said he needed cash to buy explosives, federal prosecutors said.

The 56-year-old is a naturalised US citizen of Pakistani origin, was charged yesterday with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Couple Arrested for Keeping Sick Child at Home on a School Day

Anderson soon realized she had been arrested in connection with her dispute with the Orland Unified School District over her youngest son’s attendance record. Eight-year-old Logan suffers from asthma, the cause of most of his 24 absences this school year. Anderson has been able to persuade the school to excuse only 14 of the absences, even though she says that in some of those cases the district nurse agreed Logan should go home.

The charges filed against her were serious and distressing. There was a felony forgery charge based on the allegation she had altered a doctor’s note. There was a charge she had violated the education code by failing to get her child to school. And the same charges were filed against her husband, Jamie, who was arrested and jailed the following day.

Another Orland couple, Anthony and Cherrie Hazlett, face the same charges; arrest warrants for both the Andersons and Hazletts were issued Feb. 18, according to court records. The Andersons and Anthony Hazlett were released on bail, while Cherrie Hazlett was released on her own recognizance. All four Orland parents deny altering or forging doctors’ notes in an effort to get their children excused from school.

Their harsh treatment has caused a stir in this town. Attorneys argue that the charges don’t fit the alleged crimes. The Andersons contend the Orland school district made little effort to work with them over the perceived truancy problems. And the Glenn County District Attorney’s Office isn’t talking.

Glenn County District Attorney Robert Holzapfel and Assistant District Attorney Dwayne Stewart didn’t return a phone call to this reporter earlier this week.

Some parents believe a truancy crackdown is under way driven by worry over state funding tied to student attendance.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Democratic Senator: Health Care Law to Address ‘Mal-Distribution of Income’

As Democrats tout the moral underpinnings of the federal health care system overhaul — ensuring health care coverage for nearly all Americans — one senator appeared to go off message when he said the legislation would address the “mal-distribution of income in America.”

After the Senate passed a “fix-it” bill Thursday to make changes to the new health care law, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the influential Finance Committee, said the overhaul was an “income shift” to help the poor.

“Too often, much of late, the last couple three years, the mal-distribution of income in American is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy and the middle income class is left behind,” he said. “Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America. This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dems Threaten Congressional Show Trials After US Companies Leak Real Economic Damage of Obamacare

Late last week several US corporations leaked how the democrat’s health care bill will kill their businesses. The radicals in Congress were not pleased that these corporations would go public with this devastating information. In response, democrats threatened to call for Congressional show trials to publicly humiliate these corporations.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

It’s been a banner week for Democrats: ObamaCare passed Congress in its final form on Thursday night, and the returns are already rolling in. Yesterday AT&T announced that it will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health bill, in what has become a wave of such corporate losses.

This wholesale destruction of wealth and capital came with more than ample warning. Turning over every couch cushion to make their new entitlement look affordable under Beltway accounting rules, Democrats decided to raise taxes on companies that do the public service of offering prescription drug benefits to their retirees instead of dumping them into Medicare. We and others warned this would lead to AT&T-like results, but like so many other ObamaCare objections Democrats waved them off as self-serving or “political.”

Henry Waxman and House Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing because their judgment “appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.”

In other words, shoot the messenger. Black-letter financial accounting rules require that corporations immediately restate their earnings to reflect the present value of their long-term health liabilities, including a higher tax burden. Should these companies have played chicken with the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid this politically inconvenient reality? Democrats don’t like what their bill is doing in the real world, so they now want to intimidate CEOs into keeping quiet.

On top of AT&T’s $1 billion, the writedown wave so far includes Deere & Co., $150 million; Caterpillar, $100 million; AK Steel, $31 million; 3M, $90 million; and Valero Energy, up to $20 million. Verizon has also warned its employees about its new higher health-care costs, and there will be many more in the coming days and weeks.


The Democratic political calculation with ObamaCare is the proverbial boiling frog: Gradually introduce a health-care entitlement by hiding the true costs, hook the middle class on new subsidies until they become unrepealable, but try to delay the adverse consequences and major new tax hikes so voters don’t make the connection between their policy and the economic wreckage. But their bill was such a shoddy, jerry-rigged piece of work that the damage is coming sooner than even some critics expected.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

FBI Agents Raid Hammond Location

Hammond police assisted with an FBI raid Saturday evening in the Indiana city, but federal officials would not release any details.

Hammond officials did not know the circumstances surrounding the raid, which began about 7 p.m. and lasted two hours, said a police dispatcher.

The raid occurred on the 1900 block of Calumet Avenue, the dispatcher said. There were no injuries reported.

He said police were not notified ahead of time and only provided traffic control.

“We didn’t even know about it until they said, ‘hey we need your guys,’“ he said.

A representative at the Chicago office of the FBI had no comment Saturday night, saying details might be available Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Harry Reid Supporters Attack Tea Party Bus!… Update: Breitbart Attacked!

Supporters of Democratic Senator Harry Reid attacked the Tea Party Express bus today in Nevada. This statement was just released:

Supporters of Senator Harry Reid have just thrown eggs at the Tea Party Express bus caravan — striking at least one of the three buses (the red Tea Party Express bus) with multiple eggs. About 35 Reid supporters had lined Highway 95 in front of the Nugget Casino in Searchlight where they were attempting a counter-demonstration the tens of thousands of tea party supporters who are gathering for the “Showdown in Searchlight.” More details to follow…

Do you suppose the state-run media will be as outraged about this as they were about the bogus hate crimes or coffingate story? Don’t count on it.

UPDATE: Andrew Breitbart was also attacked by the Harry Reid supporters. Founding Bloggers has details.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

John Bolton: Obama’s Treatment of Netanyahu Should be a Sign for Israel

Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton expressed concern Sunday that Washington was coming to terms with a nuclear Iran.

“I very much worry the Obama administration is willing to accept a nuclear Iran, that’s why there’s this extraordinary pressure on Israel not to attack in Iran,” Bolton told Army Radio.


Bolton said that the treatment Netanyahu received during his visit “should tell the people of Israel how difficult it’s going to be dealing with Washington for the next couple of years.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Massive Federal Raid in Michigan

ADRIAN, Mich. (WXYZ) — The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are all involved in raids around Adrian that may be connected to a militia group.

The FBI conducted multiple raids throughout Saturday and into Sunday, with one of them centered on a property where known members of a militia live. The land is owned by a man who lives in a house on the property. His sons live in two mobile homes that are also on the property. Saturday’s raids were concentrated on those mobile homes.

Helicopters were spotted in the sky for much of the night, and agents set up checkpoints throughout the area, including in Sand Creek and Clayton in Lenawee County. Witnesses tell Action News that it was like a small army had descended on the area.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Makes Labor Board Appointment During Recess Over GOP Objections

Despite intense Republican objections, President Obama on Saturday used recess appointments to fill 15 administration posts without Senate confirmation, including Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board.

By filling the jobs while Congress is in recess, Obama gets around Senate confirmation. Obama justified the move by charging Republicans with playing politics with his administration nominees.


All 41 Senate Republicans wrote Obama this week urging him not to use a recess appointment for Becker, a former top lawyer with Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, whose nomination was rejected by the Senate last month, 52-43.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also wrote Obama on behalf of 20 business groups that opposed Becker’s nomination and decried the recess appointment.

“This recess appointment disregards the Senate’s bipartisan rejection of Craig Becker’s nomination to the NLRB,” Chamber Vice President Randel Johnson said in a written statement.

“Overriding the will of the Senate and providing this special interest payback contradicts the president’s claim to change the tone in Washington,” he said. “The business community should be on red alert for radical changes that could significantly impair the ability of America’s job creators to compete.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Our War on Government

I never thought that my own government would be at war with its own people. The federal government has shown its true agenda and is transforming America into a socialist utopia with the government controlling the governed in all facets. Now the battlefield is taken to the states, where the power of the federal government comes from.

For some of us, we planted the tree of socialism via liberal programs and policies. Now the tree needs to be chopped down. Take this battle to your state government and force governors and state attorney general’s to file suit in federal court against this cancerous spread. Here are some resources that you can use to fit your needs. Now get to it!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Police, Federal Agents in Raids in Sandusky, Huron

A battalion of local officers and federal agents flooded the Bayshore Estates neighborhood Saturday afternoon.

A second raid was conducted in Huron. An FBI agent at the scene of the Bayshore Estates raid said a second, related raid was taking place at “another location.” Huron police confirmed late Saturday a raid had taken place in that city, but would say nothing more.

Likewise, FBI agents at the scene and at the Cleveland field office are staying mum on the cause of the commotion.

“We did make some arrests,” said special agent Scott Wilson of the FBI’s Cleveland office.

He said the warrants were sealed in federal court and he could not release any information until after the suspects appear in court Monday.

Sandusky Police, Erie County Sheriff’s deputies, agents from Toledo Police Bomb Squad and Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s K9 Unit assisted at the scene.

Capt. Paul Sigsworth of the Erie County Sheriff’s office said he could not talk about the investigation.

Agents at Bayshore Estates yelled at residents to stay back at least a block from where they conducted the arrest on East Cedarwood Drive. Agents placed a handcuffed white male wearing a black shirt into a silver car.

Some officers in green uniforms carried large automatic rifles.

“We’re definitely in the dark,” said Terry Mills, who manages the trailer park with his wife, Barb.

A resident who asked her name not be used said she was reading in her living room when she heard sounds “like a semi” and a police radio, and looked outside to see two agents in FBI jackets crouching behind her car and more armed officers in her lawn.

She said an armored vehicle at the scene was one she’d seen earlier in the day on West Perkins Avenue.

The quiet east side neighborhood has seen its share of disturbances this year. It’s been the site of three total-loss trailer fires, one of which killed veteran John C. O’Reilly, 66, on New Year’s Day.

“It’s getting to be too much now,” Mills said.

He said he didn’t know who was arrested or why.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Seven Arrested in FBI Raids Linked to Christian Militia Group

At least seven people, including some from Michigan, have been arrested in raids by a FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana as part of an investigation into an Adrian-based Christian militia group, a person familiar with the matter said.

The suspects are expected to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Monday.

On Sunday, the FBI confirmed that federal law enforcement agents were conducting activities in Washtenaw and Lenawee counties over the weekend in connection to Hutaree, a Christian militia group. FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold told The Detroit News the federal warrants in the case are under court seal and declined further comment.

Sources have said the FBI was in the second day of raids around the southeastern Michigan city of Adrian that are connected to a militia group, known as the Hutaree, an Adrian-based group whose members describe themselves as Christian soldiers preparing for the arrival and battle with the anti-Christ.

WXYZ-TV reports that helicopters were spotted in the sky for much of Saturday night, and agents set up checkpoints throughout the area. Witnesses told the station that it was like a small army had descended on the area. The Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are also involved in the raids.

Mike Lackomar, of, said both The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and the were not a part of the raid.

Lackomar said he heard from other militia members that the FBI targeted the Hutaree after its members made threats of violence against Islamic organizations.

“Last night and into today the FBI conducted a raid against homes belonging to the Hutaree. They are a religious cult. They are not part of our militia community,” he said.

Lackomar said he was told there were five arrests Saturday and another five early Sunday. The FBI declined to comment.

One of the Hutaree members called a Michigan militia leader for assistance Saturday after federal agents had already began their raid, Lackomar said, but the militia member — who is of Islamic decent and had heard about the threats — declined to offer help. That Michigan militia leader is now working with federal officials to provide information on the Hutaree member for the investigation, Lackomar said Sunday.

“They are more of survivalist group and in an emergency they withdraw and stand their ground. They are actively training to be alongside Jesus,” he said.

Sources from the Michigan militia community said one of the FBI raids took place Saturday during a wake for a Hutaree member who had died of natural causes. A Hutaree leader was arrested during the wake while at the same time agents were conducting raids at other locations.

The Associated Press is reporting that FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland said agents arrested two people Saturday in northwest Ohio. A third arrest was made in Illinois on Sunday, a day after raids in northwest Indiana.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations of Michigan, made an announcement Sunday during the group’s 10th anniversary banquet about receiving a call from a network journalist about the alleged threat against Muslims.

“Don’t allow this news to scare you away from practicing your faith,” said Walid.

Audible gaps were heard throughout the banquet hall when the news was announced. Walid said he will call local authorities about more information on the allegations. He urged local Muslims to recommitt themselves to their faith in light of the accusations.

           — Hat tip: Frontinus[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

European Union and Libya End Visa Row by Lifting Bans

The European Union and Libya have lifted bans on granting visas to each others’ citizens.

Spain — which holds the EU presidency — said the names of Libyans had been removed from a list barring them from the 25-state Schengen visa-free area

The Libyans responded by dropping a reciprocal retaliatory measure.

The European ban was imposed on the initiative of Switzerland, which has been embroiled in a long-standing diplomatic row with Libya.

Switzerland is a member of the Schengen area, but not part of the EU.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “regretted” the Libyans had been placed on the blacklist.

“All the names of the Libyan citizens included in the list of the Schengen information system have been removed,” the statement said.

“We regret and deplore the trouble and inconvenience caused to those Libyan citizens. We hope that this move will not be repeated in the future.”

Talks held

Libya said it was also lifting its restrictions “in the interests of strengthening co-operation with the European Union”, according to a statement reported by the official Jana news agency.

Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos is currently visiting Libya to try to resolve the dispute with Switzerland.

On Saturday he held talks in the city of Sirte, where Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi is hosting a summit of the Arab League.

The row began two years ago when a son of Col Gaddafi, Hannibal Gaddafi, was arrested in Geneva on charges of mistreating two domestic employees.

The charges were swiftly dropped and Hannibal Gaddafi was released, but Libya stopped oil exports to Switzerland, withdrew millions of dollars from Swiss banks and refused visas to Swiss citizens.

Libya also detained two Swiss businessmen, accusing them of tax evasion and operating a business without a licence.

The Schengen area is a borderless travel zone grouping of 22 EU nations plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

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

Germans Lose Fear of Climate Change After Long, Hard Winter

Germans are losing their fear of climate change, according to a survey, with just 42 percent worried about global warming.

It seems the long and chilly winter has taken its toll on climate change sensibilities despite the fact that weather has nothing to do with climate.

The latest figure is a clear drop from the 62 percent of Germans who said they were scared of such changes just last autumn.

The new survey, carried out by polling company Infratest for Der Spiegel magazine, showed a quarter of those questioned thought Germany would profit from climate change rather than be badly affected by it.

Many people have little faith in the information and prognosis of climate researchers with a third questioned in the survey not giving them much credence. This is thought to be largely due to mistakes and exaggerations recently discovered in a report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, the IPCC.

Germany’s Leibniz Community, an umbrella organisation including many climate research institutes, broke ranks by calling for the resignation of IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri.

Climate research has been put, “in a difficult situation,” said Ernst Rietschel president of the Leibniz Community. He said sceptics have been given an easy target by the IPCC and said Pachauri should take on the responsibility and resign.

Last summer the glacier on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitz in Bavaria, was covered over with plastic sheeting to try to protect it from warm rain which threatened to accelerate its melting.

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

Italy: Fiat CEO Says Local Production to Stay

Turin, 26 March (AKI) — Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne on Friday rejected suggestions that Italy’s largest carmaker was abandoning local production through its alliances with Chrysler and other foreign partners.

“Fiat did not go abroad on a whim, and certainly did not go to forget Italy. We are there to make the company stronger,” Marchionne told shareholders at Fiat’s annual meeting in Turin. He said he found such criticism “unjust.”

“Fiat has been a target of criticism not only by newspapers, but by politicians, unions and even businessmen that don’t take into consideration the company’s great results over the last few years,” Marchionne said.

Marchionne wants to make Fiat an international player strong enough to survive a shrinking vehicle market.

Last year Fiat took a controlling 20-percent share in American car maker Chrysler in exchange for small car technology and management.

Fiat also signed strategic agreements with carmakers in China and Russia to give it access to expanding markets.

Fiat’s ambitions have created concerns in Italy that it plans to move more of its production outside Italy — something Marchionne has strongly denied.

An Italian daily this week reported that Fiat planned to cut 5,000 jobs in Italy and the number of car models it produces. The company dismissed the report as “conjecture.”

Marchionne will present Fiat’s five-year business plan on 21 April and he said no final decisions had been made about the longer term plans yet.

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

Italy: Minister Pledges New Probe Into Pasolini Murder

Rome, 26 March (AKI) — Italian justice minister Angelino Alfano said he would reopen an investigation into the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini more than 35 years after the controversial homosexual poet and filmmaker was brutally killed on a beach near Rome.

In an letter published in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Friday, Alfano responded to a letter sent to the paper by former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni who said there was evidence that the convicted murder did not act alone

Veltroni, a former leader of the centre left Democratic Party, called on authorities to reopen the case.

“…as minister of justice I willingly and without reserve accept your request,” Alfano said.

On the night of 1 November 1975, Pasolini (photo) died after being beaten and run over by his car at Ostia, south of the Italian capital.

Giuseppe Pelosi, a prostitute who was 17 years old at the time of the murder, confessed to the crime and was sentenced to almost 10 years in prison. He was released after serving less than three years.

In 2005, Pelosi retracted his confession saying the crime was committed by three people “with a southern accent.”

Pelosi said criminals had pressured him to take responsibility for the murder because of threats made to his family.

After briefly reopening the case, Italian authorities found there was not enough evidence to launch a new investigation.

In his letter, Alfano said advances in technology would aid the case and that it “deserves more attention, with the aim of clearing up if the male prostitute acted alone or together with accomplices.”

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

Italy: DNA ‘To Identify 12 WW2 Massacre Victims’

Rome, 24 March (AKI) — Italy’s defence minister Ignazio La Russa has ordered DNA tests to be conducted in a bid to identify 12 victims of one of the country’s most harrowing World War II massacres. They were among 335 Italians killed by Nazi troops in the notorious Ardeatine Caves massacre on 24 March 1944, but unlike the others, they have never been identified.

La Russa has ordered the Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police’s forensic branch to carry out the tests, unnamed sources close to the defence ministry told Adnkronos on Wednesday — the 66th anniversary of the massacre.

La Russa, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno and other officials attended a ceremony to mark the anniversary.

Napolitano deposited a wreath at the massacre site in southern Rome’s Ardeatine district and those present observed a one-minute silence to commemorate the victims.

All the massacre victims’ names are known, but 12 have until now remained in unmarked graves at a mausoleum on the nearby Via Ardeatina.

In the 24 March 1944 massacre at the Ardeatine Caves, German troops were ordered to kill 10 Italians in retaliation for each of 33 German soldiers killed in a partisan attack in Rome.

The Nazi soldiers also killed five extra Italians kidnapped by mistake at the Ardeatine Caves to ensure there were no surviving witnesses to the grisly reprisal.

The victims’ bodies remained hidden in the Ardeatine caves for over a year after the massacre.

They were recovered and given a proper burial after the Italian capital was liberated by the Allies on 4 June 1944.

Italy’s Supreme Court in November 1998 confirmed a life sentence for two former SS commanders, Erich Priebke and Karl Hass, for their role in the massacre.

Hass died aged 92 in a nursing home at Castel Gandolfo near Rome in April, 2004. Priebke, now 96 is serving his sentence under house arrest in Rome.

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

Italy: Regional Elections

Over 44 million Italians called to vote Sunday and Monday

(ANSA) — Rome, March 25 — Elections in 13 Italian regions out of 20 will take place on March 28 and 29, as well as in a number of cities and provinces around the country.

Polls will be open from 08.00-22.00 (CET) on Sunday, March 28 and from 07.00-15.00 (CET) on Monday, March 29.

Here are some key facts about the elections:


* The regions holding elections are: Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria.

* All of the regions except for Lombardy and Veneto are currently governed by center-left coalitions allied with the parliamentary opposition.

* Lombardy and Veneto are governed by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.


* Over 44 million Italians or roughly 87% of the electorate will be called to vote for the president and councillors of their region.


2005 Regional Elections — 71.4%

2006 Parliamentary Elections — 83.6%

2008 Parliamentary Elections — 80.5%

2009 European Parliament and partial local elections — 65.1%


These are the main parties involved in the elections:


* The center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party has 11 candidates for regional governor in Lombardy, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria.

* The devolutionist Northern League has two candidates for regional governor in Piedmont and Veneto, where it is backed by the PdL.


* The center-left Democratic Party (PD) has 12 candidates in Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Calabria. * The small Left, Ecology and Freedom party has one candidate in Puglia where it is backed by the PD.


* The Catholic-Centrist UDC party is backing center-right candidates in Lazio, Campania and Calabria.

* It is backing center-left candidates in Piedmont, Marche, Liguria and Basilicata.

* It is running six of its own candidates in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto and Puglia.


* As a result of a missed filing deadline, the PdL will not appear on ballots in the province of Rome. * Their candidate for regional governor, Renata Polverini, will still appear on her own ticket in the province and PdL voters can vote for her slate. * PdL supporters in the rest of Lazio will be able to vote for her on the PdL’s slate rather than on her list.


* Elections will also be held in 11 of Italy’s 110 provinces.

* All but three of the provincial elections, L’Aquila (Abruzzo), Viterbo (Lazio) and Caserta (Campania), are in Sardinia.

* Voters in all eight of Sardinia’s provinces will be voting for their provincial councils and presidents: Cagliari, Carbonia Iglesias, Medio Campidano, Ogliastra, Olbia Tempio, Oristano, Nuoro, Sassari.


* Over 1,033 towns and cities around Italy will be holding mayoral and city council elections.

* All but 90 of the elections are in towns with a population under 15,000.

* The most important cities holding elections are: Aosta (Val d’Aosta), Mantua (Lombardy), Lecco (Lombardy), Lodi (Lombardy), Bolzano (Trentino-Alto Adige), Venice (Veneto), Macerata (Marche), Chieti (Abruzzo), Andria (Puglia), Matera (Basilicata), Vibo Valentia (Calabria), Enna (Sicily), Nuoro (Sardinia), Sassari (Sardinia), Iglesias (Sardinia).

* Eventual run-off elections for provincial and city elections will be on April 11 and 12.


Candidates may not hold political rallies or hang new posters after March 26. No new polls or surveys have been allowed since March 13.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Regional Election Candidates

Voting in 13 Italian regions out of 20

(ANSA) — Rome, March 25 — These are the main candidates running for regional president in the March 28-29 elections.

For more about the parties see Factbox: Regional Elections.


* Center left — Mercedes Bresso (Democratic Party, incumbent). President of the region since 2005. She is also supported by the centrist Catholic opposition UDC.

* Center right — Roberto Cota (Northern League). Currently his party’s House whip, he is backed by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party.


* Center left — Filippo Penati (PD). Former mayor of Sesto San Giovanni and Milan provincial president.

* Center right — Roberto Formigoni (PdL, incumbent). President of the Lombardy region since 1995, he is running for his fourth term in office also backed the Northern League.

* Catholic centrist UDC — Savino Pezzotta. Former leader of the CISL, Italy’s second biggest trade union, and now an MP.


* Center left — Giuseppe Bortolussi (PD). AVenice city councillor.

* Center right — Luca Zaia (Northern League). Current agriculture minister, former Veneto region vice president and longtime party heavyweight, he is also backed by the PdL.

* UDC — Antonio De Poli. Now an MP, formerly a Veneto regional councillor.


* Center left — Claudio Burlando (PD, incumbent). President of the region since 2005 and former transport minister. He is also supported by the UDC.

* Center right — Sandro Biasotti (PdL). Former president of the region and now an MP.


* Center left — Vasco Errani (PD, incumbent). President of the region since 2000, he is running for his third term.

* Center right — Anna Maria Bernini (PdL). An MP and well-known lawyer who represented tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

* UDC — Gian Luca Galletti. Former Bologna city councillor for commerce and his party’s economic pointman.


* Center left — Gian Mario Spacca (PD, incumbent). President of the region since 2005, he is also backed by UDC.

* Center right — Erminio Marinelli (PdL). Deputy mayor and city councillor for culture in the town of Civitanova Marche.


* Center left — Enrico Rossi (PD). Tuscany’s current regional health councillor.

* Center right — Monica Faenzi (PdL). Former Grosseto city councillor for culture and now an MP.

* UDC — Francesco Bosi. Former defense undersecretary and now an MP.


* Center left — Catiuscia Marini (PD). Mayor of Todi.

* Center right — Fiammetta Modena (PdL). Former regional vice president.

* UDC — Paola Binetti. An MP and former member of the PD party before joining the UDC in mid-February.


* Center left — Emma Bonino (PD). A Deputy Senate speaker, former European commissioner, two-time former minister of commerce and European affairs and a Radical Party heavyweight.

* Center right — Renata Polverini (PdL). First woman in Italy to lead a trade union, the center-right UGL. She is also backed in by the UDC.


* Center left — Vincenzo De Luca (PD). Long-time mayor of Salerno.

* Center right — Stefano Caldoro (PdL). Former government programmes minister, he is also supported by the UDC.


* Center left — Nichi Vendola (Ecology, Left and Freedom party, incumbent). President of the region since 2005, he is running with the support of the PD.

* Center right — Rocco Palese (PdL). The opposition whip on Puglia’s regional council.

* UDC — Adriana Poli Bortone. Currently an MEP.


* Center left — Vito De Filippo (PD, incumbent). President of the region since 2005, he is also backed by the UDC.

* Center right — Nicola Pagliuca (PdL). Former mayor of Melfi.


* Center left — Agazio Loiero (PD, incumbent). President of the region since 2005 and former parliamentary affairs minister.

* Center right — Giuseppe Scopelliti (PdL). Current mayor of Reggio Calabria, he is also backed by the UDC.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim-Jewish Tensions Roil Swedish City

Malmo’s Jewish community worried about rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes, which has prompted several families to leave

Marcus Eilenberg is a Swedish Jew whose family roots in Malmo go back to the 19th century. His paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors who found shelter in this southern Swedish city in 1945. His wife’s parents fled to Sweden from communist Poland in the 1960s.

Now the 32-year-old law firm associate feels the welcome for Jews is running out, and he is moving to Israel with his wife and two children in May. He says he knows at least 15 other Jews who are leaving for a similar reason.

That reason, he says, is a rise in hate crimes against Jews in Malmo, and a sense that local authorities have little desire to deal with a problem that has exposed a crack in Sweden’s image as a bastion of tolerance and a haven for distressed ethnic groups.

Anti-Semitic crimes in Sweden have usually been associated with the far right, but Shneur Kesselman, an Orthodox rabbi, says the threat comes from Muslims. “In the past five years I’ve been here, I think you can count on your hand how many incidents there have been from the extreme right,” he said. “In my personal experience it’s 99% Muslims.”

Sweden prides itself on having taken in tens of thousands of the world’s war refugees, and Malmo, its third largest city, should be a showcase: 7 percent of its 285,000 people were born in the Middle East, according to city statistics, and it has large numbers of from the Balkans, including the Macedonian who heads the city’s largest mosque.

After the Holocaust, it took in many Jews who survived the World War II Nazi genocide.

Bejzat Becirov, the mosque head, said he feels “great sympathy for the Jewish community” and knows what it’s going through because “the Muslim community, too, is exposed to Islamophobia.”

He listed a range of incidents, including an anthrax letter sent to him after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York, and several arson attacks against his mosque.

But Jews are feeling the heat disproportionately. Malmo police say that of 115 hate crimes reported in 2009, 52 were anti-Semitic. Becirov estimated there are about 60,000 Muslims in Malmo, while the number of Jews is about 700 and shrinking — it was twice as big two decades ago, according to Fredrik Sieradzki, a spokesman for the Jewish community.

Last year at least 10 of the hate crime complaints were filed by Kesselman, from the Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch movement, whose black fedora and long beard single him out as he moves around the city.

Walking home from the Jewish community center on Malmo’s snow-flecked streets, the 31-year-old rabbi recalls some of the worst incidents: a young man who shouted “Heil Hitler” and chased him off a city bus; a car that suddenly reversed and almost hit him on the crosswalk by the opera house.

“A typical situation is I’m walking in the streets and a car with Muslim youth between 18 and 30 will roll down the window and yell ‘(expletive) Jew,’ give me the finger and shout something in Arabic,” he said.

Malmo’s Jewish community is mostly secular and long felt safe because few display Jewish symbols that would distinguish them from other Swedes.

But things changed after a series of fierce anti-Israel protests and a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes following Israel’s offensive in Gaza last year, which deeply angered Malmo’s Arab immigrants.

Tempers flared when Jews held a peaceful pro-Israel rally outside City Hall a week after the offensive ended. A bigger crowd waving Palestinian flags threw bottles, eggs and firecrackers.

‘Degree of hate never experienced before’

Tensions rose again two months later when Malmo authorities, saying they couldn’t guarantee security, forced Sweden and Israel to play their Davis Cup tennis matches in a near-empty stadium as police held off rock-throwing anti-Israel activists outside who wanted to stop the competition completely.

Eilenberg said it was a wake-up call — “a degree of hate that none of us — except those who survived the Holocaust — had experienced before.”

Jewish groups say anti-Semitic attacks increased in several European countries following the Gaza war, notably the Netherlands and France.

Across the narrow Oresund Strait, Jews in Copenhagen say they have also felt a rise in Muslim anti-Semitism but are less worried, said Yitzchok Loewenthal of the Jewish International Organization in the Danish capital.

“The fundamental difference is that here in Copenhagen, Jews feel that the police, state and authorities take the issue very seriously and are on top of the situation, while in Malmo the Jewish community feel unsafe because the political will is not there,” he said.

Malmo’s Jews say they feel little support from Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, a left-winger who told a Swedish newspaper in January he thought the anti-Semitism was coming from extreme-right groups. He also drew criticism for suggesting the Malmo Jews should distance themselves from Israeli violence against civilians in Gaza.

“Instead they choose to hold a demonstration …. which can send the wrong signals,” Reepalu was quoted as saying by Skanska Dagbladet.

Jewish leaders sensed a blame-the-victim attitude. Reepalu has since spoken out against anti-Semitism and claims the media twisted his comments.

In an interview aired by Danish broadcaster TV2 this month, Reepalu said he was being misrepresented by “the Israeli lobby who aren’t interested in what I say and believe.”

Reepalu didn’t respond to repeated requests for an interview with The Associated Press.

The city recently appointed an anti-hate crimes coordinator, Bjorn Lagerback, who said Reepalu has sent a letter to the city’s 20,000 employees denouncing all attacks against minorities in Malmo, though without specifically mentioning Jews.

Asked whether Jews were particularly targeted by hate crimes in Malmo, Lagerback said anti-Semitism had become “more explicit.” He added that “we also have discrimination against women who wear a hijab. They are also exposed to various kinds of insults.”

Susanne Gosenius, a hate crimes investigator at Malmo’s police department, said the rise in anti-Semitic incidents was linked to the Middle East conflict, and immigrants who are “having a hard time distinguishing between Israel and Jews.”

Muslims: Put politics aside

Malmo is one of several examples of how conflicts related to the Middle East and Islam have been carried into Sweden’s streets. There was an alleged plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks for his caricature of the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body, and an article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet last year that caused Jewish and Israeli outrage by claiming, without any evidence, that Israeli soldiers harvested organs from dead Palestinians.

Daniel Levin said he has felt stronger animosity toward Jews since moving from Stockholm to Malmo to study real estate.

“It’s not recommended to walk around with a Star of David. That’s how bad it is,” he said, referring to the symbol many Jews wear on necklaces.

Levin was warming up for practice on a frozen dirt field with SK Hakoah, a low-ranking Malmo soccer team with a Jewish history and a few Jews among its players.

Hakoah Coach Daniel Krook said that in matches against teams with players and fans from Muslim countries his players have been subjected to anti-Jewish slurs and even pitch invasions. The team asked to be moved to a league outside the city, but local soccer officials refused.

This year, Hakoah is in the same league as Palestinska, which plays in the colors of the Palestinian flag. Krook said he expected police protection when the two teams play.

But Ali Kabalan, a representative of Palestinska, didn’t foresee any trouble and said spectators would be urged to refrain from violence.

“Put politics aside,” Kabalan said. “It’s best for everybody.”

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Norway: Expelled Criminals Return

The number of break-ins and aggravated theft from Norwegian homes have increased by more than 30 per cent over the last five years. Many of the crriminals have been expelled from Norway, but have returned several times.

Most of these criminals come from Albania, Lithuania and Romania, according to the police.

- A deportation from Norway is not very effective. No sooner are they transported out of the country, before they are back again, says attorney Morten Reppen.

The Norwegian government this week announced that it will now speed up the work with transferring East European criminals to their homeland to serve their sentence there.

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

OIC Islamophobia Observatory Spokesman Expresses Concern on the Holding of the “Anti-Minaret Conference” In Germany

The spokesman of the OIC General Secretariat Islamophobia Observatory expressed deep concern on the news report, released by SPIEGEL ONLINE, that right wing political parties of a number of European countries would hold an “Anti Minaret Conference” at the Horst Palace in the city of Gelsenkirchen in Germany today, March 27, 2010. It said that the conference would, interalia, discuss “…whether a provision in the new Lisbon Treaty allowing for citizens’ initiatives [through collecting 1 million signatures] could be used to push through a Europe-wide ban on the construction of minarets”.

The spokesman stated that the holding of “Anti-Minaret Conference” vindicated the OIC’s concern of the spill-over effect of the Swiss ban on minarets to other parts of Europe. He added that the action of the right wing political parties would exacerbate the ongoing spread of hatred and intolerance of Islam and Muslims in Europe. The spokesman expressed hope that the concerned Government authorities in Germany and other European countries particularly Spain which is holding the current EU Presidency, as well as the European Commission and the European Parliament, would take into consideration the gravity and seriousness of the issue and take explicit positions and measures against the move undertaken by the right wing parties in accordance with the provisions of national and international laws and covenants, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Romanian Immigrants in the EU Number 2.3 Million

Romanian immigrants in EU members states are soon going to surpass the number of Turkish immigrants, a report by Catholic charity Caritas in Italy claimed today (Thurs).

The number of Romanian immigrants in EU member states is estimated to be 2.3 million, with most of them — 80 per cent — in Italy and Spain. In comparison, Turkish immigrants number 2.4 million.

Romanians are the second-largest immigrant group in EU member states, followed by Italians (1.3 million), Poles (1.2 million) and Albanians (1.1 million).

The number of Romanians in Italy is estimated to be 1,165 millions, according to the Caritas report.

Some 100,000 Romanians go to Italy annually, of whom half intend to stay a long time and half intend to remain one-to-two years.

A total of 680,000 Romanians are working with proper documentation in Italy and contribute two billion Euros to the Italian social-security system annually.

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

Sweden: Rabbit Abuser Reprimanded for Animal Welfare Violations

A farmer in southern Sweden has been reprimanded by animal welfare authorities for the severe neglect of more than 100 animals.

Animal welfare inspectors discovered more than 100 neglected rabbits, several horses and livestock on a farm in Sjöbo in southern Sweden, reported the news site.

Authorities found overcrowded and dirty rabbit cages with insufficient hay and water. Horses and cows were confined in dirty and wet stalls. Several dead rabbits were found on the dungheap and the remains of two horses were left out in the open.

“This was a case of extreme neglect,” animal welfare inspector Sverker Olsson told

The farmer has been ordered to rectify the violations. If he doesn’t address the situation, he faces another injunction with the penalty of a fine.

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

Swiss Snubbed as Libya and EU Patch Up Dispute

Libya has lifted a visa ban on citizens of 25 European countries after Switzerland agreed to drop a visa blacklist against top-level Libyans.

Libya hailed the agreement with the European Union as a victory over Switzerland, which no longer has any means of exerting pressure on Tripoli to release a Swiss businessman jailed there.

The Swiss foreign ministry dismissed allegations its visa blacklist had violated the rules of the borderless travel zone grouping 22 EU countries, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

The end to the visa ban and the so called Schengen zone blacklist will likely defuse a crisis that has threatened to damage growing business ties between Europe and oil exporter Libya.

“In the interests of strengthening its cooperation with the European Union, Libya is lifting the restrictions it earlier imposed on the citizens of the Schengen zone,” said Libya’s foreign ministry in statement on Saturday.

Spain — which holds the EU presidency — had earlier announced the visa blacklist had been torn up and expressed its regret at its imposition, as part of a diplomatic drive by EU leaders.

“Libya expresses its appreciation towards the European Union for this move. This is a defeat for Switzerland by means of collective European action,” Tripoli said.

Libya stopped issuing visas to citizens from the Schengen zone in retaliation for Switzerland barring entry to 188 Libyan citizens, including the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi and members of his family.

The Swiss move prevented the blacklisted Libyans from entering any of the other Schengen states because the terms of the Schengen agreement obligate all members to refuse visas to citizens of countries blacklisted by fellow Schengen nations.

Swiss insist

The Swiss foreign ministry on Saturday said the blacklist, imposed last November was in line with Schengen regulations and the aim was to secure the release of two Swiss businessmen held in Tripoli in a long-standing diplomatic row.

The ministry added that the visa restrictions were imposed for “reasons of public and national security” and in a move “confirmed by the EU Commission”.

“The top priority for the government is to obtain the release of the Swiss citizen Max Göldi from prison so he can leave Libya,” the statement added.

Göldi, along with another Swiss businessman, was barred from leaving Libya following the temporary arrest in Geneva of a son of the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi in July 2008 on charges he mistreated his household staff.

Switzerland has been locked in a diplomatic dispute with oil exporter Libya ever since.

In February Gaddafi urged jihad against Switzerland and earlier this month Libya slapped a trade embargo on Switzerland.


The Spanish statement was issued after Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos arrived for talks in the Libyan town of Sirte, where Gaddafi is this weekend hosting a summit of the Arab League.

“We regret and deplore the trouble and inconvenience caused to those Libyan citizens. We hope that this move will not be repeated in the future.”

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — whose country has some of Europe’s closest business ties to Libya and who has criticised the Swiss visa blacklist — was also in Sirte on Saturday as Gaddafi’s guest.

Göldi is serving a four-month sentence for breaking immigration rules.

Libyan officials deny any connection between Göldi’s prosecution and Hannibal Gaddafi’s arrest in Geneva.

A senior Libyan official, who did not want to be identified, was quoted as saying on Friday that Göldi would be freed “very soon.”

For his part Göldi’s lawyer said if his client was to be released early it would happen after the summit ends on Sunday. But he later said the release was unlikely over the next week.

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

Switzerland: Further Calls to Blacklist Paedophile Priests

President Doris Leuthard has called for a central register of paedophile priests, to prevent them from having further contact with children.

Her statement came as a sexual abuse scandal sweeps the Catholic Church worldwide, with Swiss police too investigating allegations that children were harmed by priests.

“Whether perpetrators come from the civil or clerical world makes no difference. Both are subject to Swiss criminal law, with no ifs or buts,” Leuthard told the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers.

She said it was important to ensure that paedophiles had no further contact with children and the possibility of a register for paedophile priests should be considered, on the lines of one for teachers.

Swiss bishops have made reservations about such a list, but have not ruled it out. Reports say they are considering holding an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

The Swiss Catholic church is apparently set to counter the negative publicity from the sex abuse scandal with an advertising campaign in each of the country’s 2,000 parishes.

A survey found an overwhelming majority of respondents coming out in favour of blacklisting paedophile priests.

Nine out of ten people taking part in the survey also want the church to report cases of sexual abuse by priests to the justice authorities.

About 41 per cent of Swiss residents are Catholics.

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

UK: Ambulance Service Gets £38 for Every Patient They Don’t Take to Hospital

The Ambulance service is being paid bonuses for not taking patients to hospital in a bid to help the NHS hit controversial targets.

Patients’ groups expressed horror at the “sick experiment” in which NHS managers have agreed to pay £38 for every casualty that ambulance staff “keep out of Accident and Emergency” (A&E) departments after a 999 call has been made.

The tactic is part of an attempt to manage increasing demand for emergency care amid failings in the GP out-of-hours system.


Another plan uncovered would see thousands of 999 calls currently classed as urgent downgraded so that callers receive telephone advice instead of an ambulance response.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: It’s Over: MPs Say the Special Relationship With US is Dead

BRITAIN’S special relationship with the US — forged by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war — no longer exists, says a committee of influential MPs.

Instead, America’s relationship with Britain is no more special than with its other main allies, according to a report by the Commons foreign affairs committee published today.

The report also warns that the perception of the UK after the Iraq war as America’s “subservient poodle” has been highly damaging to Britain’s reputation and interests around the world. The MPs conclude that British prime ministers have to learn to be less deferential to US presidents and be “willing to say no” to America.

The report, entitled Global Security: UK-US Relations, says Britain’s relationship with America is “extremely close and valuable” in a number of areas, particularly intelligence co-operation. However, it adds that the use of the phrase special relationship, in its historical sense, “is potentially misleading and we recommend that its use should be avoided”.

It does not reflect the “ever-evolving” relationship between the two countries and raises unrealistic expectations, the MPs say.

“Over the longer term, the UK is unlikely to be able to influence the US to the extent it has in the past,” the committee adds.

In an apparent rebuke to Tony Blair and his relationship with President George W Bush, the report says there are “many lessons” to be learnt from Britain’s political approach towards the US over Iraq.

“The perception that the British government was a subservient poodle to the US administration is widespread both among the British public and overseas,” the MPs say. “This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the UK.”

While the relationship between the American president and the British prime minister was an important part of dealings between the two countries, the cabinet and parliament also had a role to play. “The UK needs to be less deferential and more willing to say no to the US on those issues where the two countries’ interests and values diverge,” the MPs say.

They are also critical of the US use of extraordinary rendition and torture. The report calls for a comprehensive review of the use by the CIA of British bases, such as that on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to carry out extraordinary rendition.

“The issues relating to rendition through Diego Garcia to which we have previously drawn attention raise disturbing questions about the uses to which US bases on British territory are put”, the MPs say.

They express regret at “considerable restraints” on the ability of both the government and parliament to scrutinise US activities carried out on British territory.

“We recommend that the government should establish a comprehensive review of the current arrangements governing US military use of facilities within the UK and in British overseas territories.” The review should “identify shortcomings in the current system of scrutiny and oversight … and report to parliament on proposals to remedy these”.

The report also demands a statement from the government on the implications of the Court of Appeal judgment regarding the alleged collusion of MI5 in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident.

Last month the court ordered the government to release evidence from American intelligence reports which showed that MI5 was aware of the torture.

Senior US officials subsequently suggested that releasing such evidence might prevent the US from sharing some intelligence with Britain.

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

UK: New EU Gestapo Spies on Britons

Millions of Britons face being snooped on by a new European intelligence agency which has been handed frightening powers to pry into our lives.

Europol can access personal information on anyone — including their political opinions and sexual preferences — if it suspects, rightly or wrongly, that they may be involved in any “preparatory act” which could lead to criminal activity.

The vagueness of the Hague-based force’s remit sparked furious protests yesterday with critics warning that the EU snoopers threaten our right to free speech.

It is understood the agency will concentrate on anyone thought “xenophobic” or likely to commit a crime involving the environment, computers or motor vehicles.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Schoolboy Stabbed at Victoria Station in ‘Pre-Arranged Fight’ Had Been Watched by Chelsea Scouts

A schoolboy stabbed to death at one of Britain’s busiest railway stations was a promising footballer who had been watched by scouts from Chelsea FC.

Last night the family of 15-year-old Sofyen Belamouadden spoke of their grief, saying he was a devout Muslim and condemning the attackers as ‘cowards with no respect for life or the people they leave behind’.

Police said the killers had planned the attack, with up to 20 assailants travelling to the scene on buses.

Many were wearing school uniform and carrying weapons.

Friends of Sofyen, who was of Moroccan origin, said the fight could have been arranged on social networking sites such as Facebook.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Unite Grass Roots Snub Brown: Union Members Say Stop Funding Labour… And We Prefer Cameron

Members of the far-left Unite union behind the British Airways strike want their bosses to stop giving money to the Labour Party.

In a stunning affront to the hard-liners running the union, a poll has revealed that grass-roots members would also prefer David Cameron to Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.

A staggering 81 per cent believe it is ‘time for a change’ — an endorsement of the Tory election slogan.

Unite is Labour’s biggest single donor, having handed over more than £11million to the party since Mr Brown got the keys to No 10.

But three out of four Unite members say the union would be better off spending its money helping them rather than propping up the Prime Minister.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: We’re Selling Our Hotel, Say Christian Couple in Row With Muslim Guest

The two Christian hoteliers cleared last year of insulting a Muslim guest are being forced to sell up because their business has collapsed.

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are putting their nine-bedroom hotel up for auction in May because they can no longer pay the mortgage.

Despite donations sent to them by Christian supporters from around the world, they still have debts of well over £400,000.

They are also considering a civil action against the police who brought the prosecution.

Mrs Vogelenzang, 54, said last night it was ‘devastating’ that they could be left with nothing as the result of a case that should never have come to court.

‘Where do we go from here?’ she said. ‘How do we start all over again?’

The couple saw their Liverpool business brought to its knees after an investigation into what was deemed a religiously aggravated hate crime against Ericka Tazi. The 60-year-old white British convert complained that the couple had called the prophet Mohammed a ‘warlord’ and told her that Muslim women were oppressed.

The case against them was thrown out after a judge at Liverpool magistrates’ court said it flew in the face of their right to freedom of religious expression.

After the victory, the couple hoped they would be able to revive the Bounty House Hotel near Aintree racecourse, which they had built up over ten years.

Four months later, however, they have failed to attract enough customers and are losing about £8,000 a month.

One of their main sources of income before the case was the National Health Service, which used Bounty House for doctors attending conferences and groups of patients on pain-relief courses at the Walton Centre, part of Aintree Hospital. But the centre stopped sending guests to the hotel after the complaint by Mrs Tazi, one of its patients.

‘Before the complaint, we were their first choice,’ said Mrs Vogelenzang. ‘But they seem to have lost interest in us. Despite the excellent feedback we received at the end of every course, our reputation hasn’t counted for anything. That is upsetting.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Benedict ‘Knew More’ About German Sex Abuse, Report Claims

Vatican City, 26 March (AKI) — Pope Benedict XVI had more knowledge of a sexual abuse case in Germany than previous church statements have claimed, according to a report published in The New York Times on Friday. As fresh questions were raised about the pope’s response to a widening sexual abuse scandal, the Vatican hit back at what it considers to be a media smear campaign against the pontiff.

The latest New York Times report focused on claims concerning a priest in the Munich diocese where then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

According to the US daily, Ratzinger had been copied on a memo informing him that the priest — now identified as Peter Hullerman — who had been sent for therapy to overcome his paedophilia, was about to return to pastoral work.

It has been alleged that the priest, apparently without Ratzinger’s knowledge, then proceeded to commit other acts of abuse for which he was convicted in 1986.

The latest report was published as the Vatican strongly rejected claims that the Catholic Church had not taken enough action to respond to sex abuse claims and stop paedophilia in the church.

In an editorial, the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, denounced what it called “an ignoble attempt to strike at Benedict XVI and his closest aides at all costs”.

The editorial, headlined “No Cover-Up” stressed the pope’s “transparency, firmness and severity” in response to cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

On Thursday Benedict was accused of failing to act on complaints from two archbishops in the United States about a priest who allegedly abused 200 deaf boys in the state of Wisconsin.

Church correspondence sent from bishops in Wisconsin to Ratzinger, the future pope, suggest their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

Father Lawrence Murphy, worked at a school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974.

On Thursday the Vatican described it as a “tragic case”. But the Pope’s official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi said it did not learn about the alleged sexual abuse until 20 years after it occurred and did not take action because of Murphy’s ill health. He died in 1998.

As a cardinal, Pope Benedict was in charge of the Vatican office that dealt with sex abuse cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, from 1981 to 2005.

Murphy, who worked at the St John’s School for the Deaf in St Francis, Wisconsin, from 1950 to 1974, starting as a teacher and rising to director, allegedly molested scores of pupils, preying on his victims in their dormitories and on class trips.

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

North Africa

Egypt Antiquities Chief: I Gave the Zionist Enemy a Slap in the Face

The head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said that “he gave the Zionist enemy a slap in the face,” when he canceled the inauguration of a restored Cairo synagogue two weeks ago, Army Radio reported on Sunday.

“Israel is the Zionist enemy, and I gave this enemy a strong slap in the face,” said Doctor Zahi Hawass.

Hawass, dubbed the “Egyptian Indiana Jones,” is known worldwide as responsible for all the ancient sites in Egypt including the pyramids and the pharaohs’ treasures.


Throughout the years, Zahi Hawass has expressed his stance against normalization of ties with Israel, but has yet to refer to Israel as “the enemy.”

Two weeks ago, Egypt has canceled the inauguration of a restored synagogue citing the Israeli oppression of Muslims in the occupied territories as well as excesses by Jews during an earlier ceremony at the synagogue

Egypt’s SCA restored the ruined Ben Maimon synagogue in Cairo’s ancient Jewish quarter and was set to unveil it to the press following its rededication a week earlier in a private ceremony.

Hawass said in a statement that the cancellation of ceremony came following “provocative” activities by Jews at rededication, including drinking alcoholic beverages, as well as “aggression by Israeli authorities against Muslim sanctuaries.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Jonathan Spyer: Re-Packaging Illusion

The Obama administration’s approach to the Middle East is characterized by an apparent desire to revive the sunny illusions of the 1990s peace process — in an era that is far more uncertain and dangerous. This is particularly noticeable in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, in which the United States, the dominant world power, sets the parameters of debate. As a result, international discussion of the conflict is now more detached from reality than at any time in the past 40 years.

There are two layers to the edifice of unreality in which mainstream debate on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is now taking place. The first and most obvious one concerns the Hamas enclave in Gaza. It is now over four years since the movement’s victory in elections to the Palestine Legislative Council, and nearly three years since the Hamas coup in Gaza. It is therefore past time to acknowledge that a single, united Palestinian national movement no longer exists.

Since this is, apparently, a reality too terrible to be admitted, the U.S. and the Europeans have chosen, in public at least, to ignore it. The fiction that the West Bank Palestinian Authority speaks in the name of all Palestinians is politely maintained. Behind the scenes, however, the reality is widely acknowledged. The intended means for coping with it constitutes the second layer of illusion.

The inability of even mainstream Fatah-style Palestinian nationalism to accept partition as the final outcome of the conflict has prevented its resolution twice — in 2000 and 2008. This type of nationalism understands the conflict as one that pits a colonial project against a native, authentic nationalism.

From such a perspective, partition of the land means admitting defeat. But Palestinian nationalism does not feel defeated. It is characterized, rather, by a deep strategic optimism. From its point of view, it is therefore not imperative to immediately conclude the struggle — but it is forbidden to end it. Hence the endless reasons why the partition deal somehow can never be inked.

The solution to this obstacle, the West has now decided, is that a new Palestinian leadership, unburdened by this outlook, must be created and defended. The manifestation of this approach is the meteoric career of Salam Fayyad, who was first imposed upon Palestinian politics as finance minister in 2002 by then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, and is today PA prime minister.

Fayyad is working closely with Western representatives to build up the institutions and the economic prosperity that are supposedly going to transform Palestinian political culture from the all-or-nothing logjam that has prevented conflict resolution until now, into something with which the world can do business.

The essential logic of this is the same wishful thinking that doomed the 1990s peace process: namely, the idea that institution-building and economic advancement will — and must — eventually have a transformative effect on political outlook. This idea, experience has shown, is fundamentally flawed.

Some liken Fayyad to Konrad Adenauer, the German chancellor who presided over the transformation of political culture and the emergence of democracy in his country after 1945. But Adenauer operated in an era in which the anti-modern, anti-Western element in German political culture had just experienced a final, crushing Gotterdammerung, and Germany was living under a massive and permanent occupation.

In the Palestinian territories, by contrast, the anti-Western and anti-modern element is flourishing, and has state backers in Iran and Syria. It would probably quickly consume Fayyad, were he to cease to be cradled in the arms of the West.

Like the pleasant, well-dressed leaders of the March 14 movement in Lebanon — who have now been devoured by Syria and Hezbollah — Fayyad and company are the product of Western wishful thinking. And like those of March 14, they will survive for precisely as long as the West is willing to underwrite them. And no longer…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Obama is Going After Regime Change in… Israel

President Obama wants to see a Palestinian state stretching across all the territory Israel captured in 1967 including Jerusalem (forget the UN resolution promising Israel secure, defensible borders), the siege lifted on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, a territorial link between the two Palestinian territories (across a chunk of southern Israel) and a large number of the 1948 Palestinian refugees, most of whom are concentrated in Syria and Lebanon, returned — some to their former homes in Israel, some resettled on the West Bank.

But before getting to that point, the president wants a guarantee that Israel will not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and docilely swallow his acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran as a fact of Middle East life. This is obviously what Obama has been pushing for all along, notwithstanding his speeches against Iran’s nuclear bomb drive. How else to explain why his administration has never lifted a finger against Iran — not even in the form of sanctions? President Obama brooks no recalcitrance and therefore the showdown he staged with the Israeli prime minister at the White House this week was inevitable; Jerusalem was a convenient trigger, but he might have grabbed any other handy issue as a device for a confrontation designed to bring about the fall of Netanyahu and his government. He therefore has no qualms about seeking regime change in Jerusalem — even ahead of Tehran.


What matters now is that Netanyahu’s options have narrowed to three:

1. He can resign and call a snap election, running on the Iran and Jerusalem tickets. In any case, Washington and his political rivals at home are intent on forcing him out. 2. He can order…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Steinitz Says Israel Will Have to End Hamas Regime

March 28 (Bloomberg) — Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel will “sooner or later” have to destroy the Islamic Hamas regime that controls the Gaza Strip, after two Israeli soldiers were killed in the coastal enclave.

Two Palestinians were also killed in the Gaza clash on March 26 that was the worst outbreak of violence there since the end of an Israeli military operation in January 2009.

“At some stage, and I am not saying if it will be in a month, a year, or two years, Israel will not be able to accept the arming with rockets that are growing more lethal and longer in range, and the establishment of an Iranian Hamas military in the heart of the Negev,” Steinitz said on Israel Radio.

Israel tonight will impose a 10-day closure on the West Bank restricting Palestinian entrance for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which marks the exodus of Jews from ancient Egypt. The closure comes as Israel seeks a way out of a crisis with the U.S. over plans to build in east Jerusalem, which have stalled efforts to restart peace talks.

About 40 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at southern Israel from Gaza since the beginning of the year, according to the army. Iran backs Hamas and Israel has said that the Persian Gulf state is the main weapons supplier of the Islamic movement.

“Israel’s policy of retaliation is forceful and decisive and it will respond decisively to any injury to our civilians and soldiers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in comments ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “Hamas and other terrorist groups need to know that they will be held responsible for their actions.”

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, ending a partnership government with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. Hamas does not recognize Israel or any agreements signed with the Jewish state.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Child Marriage Appears on Turkish Parliamentary Agenda

Nearly 700 students in several parts of Turkey fail to attend classes because of “early marriage or engagement,” according to a report by the Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.

Child marriage and early engagement were most widespread in the eastern province of Agri, followed by the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir, Gaziantep and Mus, the committee said.

“[Under the] rules, students of primary schools are allowed to be absent without excuse for 15 days. According to National Education Ministry data for March 2009, the number of students who failed to attend classes for 20 days or more is 92,953. Some 58,402 of them are female,” the report said.

“Some 675 female and 18 male students also failed to attend classes because of early marriage and engagement,” the report added. “Some 116 of them live in Agri while 57 live in Diyarbakir, 40 in Gaziantep and 40 in Mus.”

The committee described child marriage as a problem that prevents people from enjoying full human rights, diminishes women’s status in society and destroys children’s fundamental rights, especially the right to an education. According to the report, population studies indicate that child marriage between the ages of 15 and 19 decreased from 15.2 percent in 1998 to 11.9 percent in 2003 and then to 9.6 percent in 2008.

According to the report, ignorance, domestic violence, social pressure and poverty are the main factors contributing to child marriage. The report urged local authorities to identify “parents who failed to send their children to primary schools and implement deterrent punishment.”

It also suggested that the problems and disadvantages stemming from early marriages should be included in lessons at schools. “In addition, an informative campaign about heath problems due to child marriage and life risks caused by early pregnancy, as well as birth control, should be carried out to enlighten the parents,” the report said.

“We should attach higher importance to vocational education and courses and provide opportunities for those girls to establish their own jobs,” the report added, saying that this would increase options for young women.

Turkey’s civil code allows people above 17 years of age to marry.

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

Iraq: Maliki’s Forces Move Against Winning Sunni Candidates

BAGHDAD — At least four Sunni Muslim candidates who appear to have won parliamentary seats on the winning ticket of secular leader Ayad Allawi have become targets of investigation by security forces reporting to the narrowly defeated Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, according to interviews Saturday with relatives, Iraqi security forces and the U.S. military.

All four candidates ran in Diyala province, a restive mainly Sunni area north of Baghdad. One candidate who won more than 28,000 votes is being held incommunicado in a Baghdad jail, two other winners are on the run and the whereabouts of the fourth, a woman, are unknown.

Maliki alluded to the cases in his televised refusal Friday to accept a loss in the March 7 parliamentary elections, saying of unnamed rival candidates: “What would happen if some of them are in prison now on terror accusations and they participated in the elections and might win?”

Maliki’s critics say the Shiite prime minister is using state security forces and the courts to remove political rivals — especially prominent Sunnis — in a last-ditch effort to disqualify candidates from Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition, which holds only a two-seat lead ahead of Maliki’s State of Law bloc.

The government’s action, coupled with appeals by Maliki’s bloc for the votes to be thrown out in these cases, appeared to be a long shot maneuver to strip Allawi of his margin of victory. In the end, Iraq’s high court will have to settle this and other disputes and certify the final results, a process that could take another two weeks

One of the fugitive candidates said security forces had staged two raids on his home this week, including one Saturday morning. “I’m confused as to how I can make it to parliament to be sworn in when I can’t even go home,” said Raad Dahlaki, the chairman of the Baqouba City Council. McClatchy reached him by telephone at an undisclosed location.

“Will I be stripped of my right to fill the seat I won through hard work? Will I be able to keep the promises I made to people, to improve their lives? I have no clue why there are all these attempts to arrest me,” he said.

The prime minister’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment. An aide, Sadiq al Husseini, laughed and called the allegations “silly,” but did not make officials available.

A senior Iraqi security official in Diyala confirmed investigations against the four, but did not provide any details of possible evidence against them.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to address the cases publicly, the official identified the four candidates as: Dahlaki, the Baquba council chairman who won nearly 12,000 votes, according to official results; Najm Abdullah al Harbi, a Diyala provincial council member with more than 28,000 votes; Mohammed Othman, former mayor of the town of Saadiya with nearly 10,000 votes; and Ghydaa Saeed, a political newcomer who’s said to be under scrutiny because she’s related to a cabinet member from Saddam Hussein’s former regime. She won nearly 6,800 votes.

The security official said arrest warrants have been issued for the first three and that a fourth, for Saeed, is expected any day. He added that all the cases hinged on accusations related to terrorism.

“These warrants have nothing to do with elections. They were issued even before the elections,” the security official said.

Harbi’s case is the most talked-about in Diyala because of his stature in the province, where he’s served in several city and provincial positions since 2004. Al Qaida in Iraq has targeted him and his family, and last month Iraqi security forces arrested him.

The 41-year-old farmer with two wives and seven children left behind the family citrus orchards to enter politics, said his brother, Ammar Abdullah, 31.

It was a risky move for a Sunni in Diyala, for which his extended family paid dearly. The province is one of the last bastions for Sunni extremists who have been pushed out of Baghdad and areas to the west, and nearly two dozen of his relatives who joined him as bodyguards were killed in well-documented bombings and assassinations in 2007 and 2008.

These were some of the worst years for attacks by al Qaida in Iraq, the mostly homegrown extremist group that targets fellow Sunnis they deem “collaborators” for joining the political process supported by the U.S. government.

In September, Harbi’s 9-year-old son Qutaiba was kidnapped and killed, his body dumped in a local stream, said Abdullah, who accompanied his brother to the morgue to identify the boy. U.S. forces confirmed the incident, and also said they knew of a bomb attack on Harbi’s home.

“Even after that, we just intensified security and tried to live with these facts,” Abdullah said. “We didn’t move our families until the raid by Iraqi forces.”

Iraqi forces detained Harbi in a Feb.7 raid on his house in the city of Muqdadiya, Abdullah said. Initially held on suspicion of involvement with a homicide, Harbi retained an attorney and was ordered released by a judge for lack of evidence, Abdullah said.

In the few days it took before his release was processed, a special Iraqi counterterrorism force that’s said to answer directly to Maliki arrived from Baghdad, took Harbi into custody and has held him without access to an attorney or visitors ever since, his brother and the Diyala security official said. Abdullah said he’s called several security offices in hopes of finding out where his brother is being held and what charges he faces, but hasn’t received an answer.

“When they took him to Baghdad, all access to him was cut,” Abdullah said. “No one has seen him, spoken to him or even heard his voice.”

McClatchy also tried to pin down charges against Harbi, but to no avail. The Diyala security official said Harbi “confessed to facilitating a suicide-vest bombing this year and, consequently, we detained him, his driver and two bodyguards.”

U.S. forces, who worked closely with Harbi during his stint as the mayor of Muqdadiya and in his long campaign against Sunni insurgents, said they received a different story from Iraqi forces.

“He is currently arrested and is likely held in Baghdad. He was arrested for stealing money from government projects. Any speculation beyond that as to why this happened would be for the (government of Iraq),” said Maj. Lee Peters, spokesman for the U.S. military in northern Iraq.

Harbi’s family and friends were gathered around a TV set Friday in hopes of hearing his name announced as part of Allawi’s winning coalition, a victory made bittersweet because of his detention. Abdullah said he’s not even sure his brother knows he’s the second highest vote-getter in the entire province, with 28,273 votes, according to figures released by Iraq’s election commission.

Abdullah said the group’s excitement turned to fear when they heard Maliki mention the case in a roundabout way. To him, it signaled that his brother might never be freed to take the seat he won in parliament. He said he’s never heard of any corruption charges or bombing plots and is convinced the arrest is just another attempt to keep Harbi from giving his constituents a voice in government.

“He who chooses the path of politics, especially in these circumstances, knows he will pay a price,” Abdullah said. “He lost the dearest thing to him, his son, and the image is still in my mind of him standing over his son’s body and saying, ‘They’re doing these things to make me stop. I will never stop.’“

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

Young Saudis Join Hands to Repair Negative Image

JEDDAH: A group of young men in Riyadh have launched a campaign, entitled Layeg Aleek (It Suits You), to educate young men and women how to behave in public places such as malls.

The name of the campaign has been devised to convey the message that it suits people to behave in a civil fashion with each other.

The campaign, which was launched two months ago, aims to educate young men on how to behave in an acceptable fashion around young women, and to discourage them from flirting and harassing them.

“We try to repair the negative attitudes of some young men by speaking and informing them that this is not acceptable in our religion. We also try to convince them that changing their attitude will benefit them and everyone in the Kingdom,” said Mohammed Saud, the campaign’s spokesman.

“Young men and women don’t usually listen to older people and their parents when they advise them. We think that when young people talk to other young people like them, they will feel ashamed and listen,” he added.

The campaign is based online and has become the voice of young men who wish to express their thoughts on social issues, especially with regard to their right to enter shopping malls and “family-only” public areas. Shopping malls in the Kingdom prevent men from entering without the company of women during busy hours.

Coaching young men how to dress and telling them what is acceptable to wear in public is another one of the campaign’s goals.

“Those young men should know better than to follow Western fashion as it doesn’t suit our society in many ways. We stress the fact that the individual is representing their country everywhere they go,” said Saud.

Over 2,800 people are supporting the campaign, which began with 20 people. “We feel responsible for this large number of people who have joined our group. We want more people to join and support us,” said Saud.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is sponsoring the campaign and has given the organizers a large stand at Burj Al-Mamlaka mall in Riyadh from where T-shirts and caps carrying the campaign’s logo are distributed. The members wish to expand throughout the Kingdom.

The campaign has faced opposition from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which has accused members of mingling with girls inside malls. “We never walk to girls and talk to them. We simply stay next to our Layeg Aleek stand and they come and talk to us and ask us questions,” said Saud.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Russia: Deemed Extremists and Hostile, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Assets Seized, Places of Worship Burnt

Bibles, books and computers are seized in Tambov. Members of the community continue to suffer from acts of violence. The Kingdom Hall in Budennovsk (Stavropol) is set on fire.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Jehovah’s Witnesses have again become the target of Russian police and courts. On 17 March, police agents stormed early in the morning a number of private homes in the city of Tambov (western Russia). Backed by a court order, they searched the premises and seized about a hundred books, including copies of the New Testament, computers and other electronic equipment, as well as printed material on the religious group’s activities.

According to police sources, documents inciting religious hatred were found among the seized literature. Many of the books taken are on the federal list of extremist materials, which was recently expanded to include new Jehovah’s Witnesses publications.

The court issued the search warrant because of a recent case filed in accordance with Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on the “Incitement of National, Racial, or Religious Enmity”.

Whilst this is happening, the community itself and its members are also being attacked. On the night of 20 March, a fire broke out in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall in Budennovsk, Stavropol district. Members of the local community suspect arson.

All this is occurring because the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been accused sectarianism and hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Recently, their situation has further deteriorated following an order last September by a provincial court in Rostov to shut down the community’s organisation, seize its assets and ban all of its activities in Taganrog, Neklinov and Matveevo-Kurgan because of alleged extremist activities.

Members of the group have also been subjected to arrest and interrogation and have been dragged before the courts. In many Russian regions, the community has become the target of systematic accusations that it is a sect and that it is unfriendly to other Churches.

The authorities especially object to the group’s support for conscientious objection, opposition to compulsory military service, refusal to bear arms, rejection to blood transfusion and the demand that its members be completely involved in the community’s life.

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

Russia May Unveil New ‘Super-Tank’ In Summer 2010

Russia’s new main battle tank (MBT), the T-95, could be exhibited for the first time at an arms show in the Urals Region this summer, the developer and future manufacturer of the tank has said.

The development of the new tank dubbed “Item 195” began at the Uralvagonzavod design bureau in the early 1990s. Russia will become the first country in the world to have the 5th-generartion MBT if the military commissions the vehicle.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: British Soldier’s Miracle Escape After Taliban Grenade Bounces Off His Head

A soldier who dived for cover after a grenade bounced off his head escaped with just a few scratches, blurred vision, and a ringing in his ears.

At first when Lance Sergeant Richard French, 28, from Holsworthy in Devon, felt a thump on his helmet he thought his friends were playing a trick on him.

But the Coldstream Guard, who was manning the radio at a new command post in Babaji, Helmand, suddenly realised what had happened and hit the dirt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

CIA Leak Shows Plans to Market Afghan War to Europeans

A CIA expert has called for optimistic Afghans and their womenfolk to be recruited as flag-wavers for the NATO mission, to persuade sceptical Europeans to support the war, according to a document leaked on Friday.

“Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanising,” the mission for European audiences, according to the CIA analysis, posted on WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website.

The views of Afghan women would carry special weight as they could express “their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory,” it said.

German audiences might also respond to marketing efforts emphasising Afghan optimism about the mission, while the dangers of failure should also be played up to get them onside, the document read.

The Central Intelligence Agency declined to confirm or deny if the document was genuine. But WikiLeaks has previously posted government and corporate documents that were later verified.

The report also suggested taking advantage of President Barack Obama’s popularity in Germany and France, arguing that appeals from the US president on the importance of the allied role in the war could have a positive effect.

And scare tactics could be used on the German public in particular, it said.

“For example, messages that illustrate how a defeat in Afghanistan could heighten Germany’s exposure to terrorism, opium, and refugees might help to make the war more salient to sceptics,” it said.

The report by a CIA expert on “strategic communications” and State Department analysts of public opinion warned that popular support for the war in Europe was weak and could easily collapse, citing the recent fall of the Dutch government over the issue.

“The tone of previous debate suggests that a spike in French or German casualties or in Afghan civilian casualties could become a tipping point in converting passive opposition into active calls for immediate withdrawal,” it said.

The analysis, dated March 11, suggested public relations strategies to drum up support for the war in Germany and France, which maintain the third and fourth largest troop deployments in Afghanistan.

“Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive scepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission,” it said.

Public relations efforts could “tap into acute French concern for civilians and refugees,” the report said, suggesting highlighting polls that show most Afghans support the presence of coalition troops.

Such an approach could stress the potential dangers facing Afghan civilians if NATO-led troops were defeated and play on European guilt for abandoning them.

The memorandum is titled: “Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led Mission — Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough.”

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

Indonesia: Java, Conference of Gays and Lesbians Blocked by Islamic Extremists

A group of 60 Islamic extremists surrounded the hotel that hosted the event authorized by local authorities, demanding its cancellation. To ensure the safety of foreigners, the police asked the more than 200 participants to stay at the hotel until the end of disorder.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — An international conference of gays and lesbians, scheduled to run from 26 to 29 March in Surabaya (East Java) has been cancelled due to protests by a group of Muslim extremists, despite the approval of local authorities. The protest took place yesterday in front of the Grand Mercure Hotel in Surabaya hosting the meeting organized by the International Association of gay, lesbian and transgender (ILGA). The police have asked 200 participants to stay at the hotel until the conclusion of the unrest, especially to ensure the safety of foreigners. The conference should have been completed on 29 March. It is the first event for gays and lesbians to be held in Indonesia and the fourth in Asia.

“We are very sorry for the way things went — said Rafael Dakosta, Indonesian ILGA coordinator — we had already prepared everything when the police asked us to stop the conference for security reasons.” Dakosta says he had several discussions with the protesters in an attempt to stop the protest and ensure the safety of foreign participants.

The members of ILGA had chosen Surayaba as the site of the event because of its atmosphere of tolerance. For over 30 years the city hosts a number of appointment houses (Dolly Bordellos) in the suburbs, authorized by the local government. In recent days, even some democratic party leaders defended the right of gays and lesbians to organize the meeting, saying the country’s constitution allowed citizens to express their rights.

In recent days, the local Muslim community had already shown signs of discontent. Extremists of the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and the Islamic Communication Forum (FUI) had in fact put pressure on the police for the cancellation of the event, considered an offense to the Islamic religion. “Gays and lesbians are moral terrorists — said Aziz Abdulrrahman a member of FPI — these people should be banned from the East Java province”.

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

Royal Marine Guilty of Boot Attack on Afghan Prisoner

A Royal Marine has been found guilty at a court martial of attacking an Afghan prisoner with a Wellington boot.

The hearing at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, was told Mohammad Ekhlas was assaulted in Afghanistan after his Royal Military Police guard left him in a tent.

Sgt Mark Leader had denied assault causing actual bodily harm to Mr Ekhlas, 48, on 19 March 2009.

Colleague Capt Jody Wheelhouse admitted the same offence at an earlier hearing. They will be sentenced at a later date.

Injuries photographed

The court martial heard Mr Ekhlas was apprehended east of Sangin in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, on suspicion of planting an improvised explosive device.

He was subjected to violence — considered as being legitimate force — after his arrest, the court was told.

Mr Ekhlas was then transferred to a base just over a mile away where his injuries were photographed before he was taken to a tent usually used by sick service personnel.

A female Royal Military Police soldier guarding him had to leave the tent for a short time, putting the two Royal Marines in charge.

The court heard that Mr Ekhlas was then assaulted by Sgt Leader, of Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, Devon, and Capt Wheelhouse, of 45 Commando, Arbroath, Angus.

Handed over

The Afghan suffered injuries in addition to those shown in the previous photographs, and needed four stitches to his lip, had a cut on his forehead and two of his teeth were loose.

Sgt Leader had claimed he used lawful violence against Mr Ekhlas in self-defence.

But the court heard that the sergeant said of Mr Ekhlas: “I don’t know why they brought him back. They should have killed him.”

A court martial panel found Sgt Leader guilty of the offence after deliberating for three and a half hours.

The court was told Mr Ekhlas was later handed over to the Afghan authorities and released, and cannot now be traced.

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

Far East

Laos — United States: Washington Looks to Laos to Contain China’s Expansion

The small Asian nation central to the interests of the two superpowers. The United States intends to strengthen development programs in environmental, humanitarian, commercial and military sectors. Chinese dams on the Mekong threaten the ecosystem of the entire South-East Asia.

Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The United States intends to strengthen cooperation with Laos to balance the expansion of China in South-East Asia. After decades of suspicions and misunderstandings a hangover from the war in Vietnam, Washington has started a bilateral program of economic development that will mark four key areas: environmental protection in the Mekong River and the strengthening of trade; targeted programs in the humanitarian field, including the reclamation of land were there are still millions of unexploded bombs, collaboration between the two armies, with targeted training that includes the teaching of English.

The government in Vientiane has shown an attitude of “cautious opening” to the American proposals. A necessary decision, according to a lengthy analysis published by Asia Times, “to counter the growing Chinese influence in the country”. Some Laotians welcome the ties between the small country and the Asian giant, which guarantees a greater movement of goods and capital. However the concrete threat of “Chinese domination” is increasing, exacerbated by the invasion of workers which “threaten Laotian national sovereignty”. Add to this is the impact of Chinese dams on the source of the Mekong River, which result in serious environmental consequences for the local climate and ecosystem.

Vietnam also supports improved relations between Washington and Vientiane, which has long been the Laos’ closest ally and is also increasingly concerned by encroaching domain of China. Indeed, after two decades of the Cold War in the 70s and 80s of last century, since the Asian crisis of 1997 Beijing has started programs “generous” assistance to Laos, including grants, loans at low interest rates and technical assistance. China, unlike other Western nations does not care about human rights issues under the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of another country. A more pressing issue for European Union and the United States, which has affected the trade between Laos and the West to the benefit of Beijing.

To help relaunch relations between Washington and Vientiane, this month Kurt Campbell, deputy U.S. Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, completed a two-day visit to Laos in the context of a wider tour of Asia. He emphasized the willingness of Obama to launch “a high-profile relationship with the country and to improve, in general, cooperation with the nations of Southeast Asia.

The U.S. government wants to initiate innovative projects including the Lower Mekong Initiative, to protect the environment and ecosystem that revolves around the Asian river. It also involves Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Added to this is the program of reclamation of land, beneath which millions of unexploded bombs are still hidden, which each year claim victims among the civilian population.

In the face of still insufficient trade compared to China and Vietnam, Washington has quadrupled in two years the volume of business, from $ 15 million in 2006 to 60 million in 2008. Humanitarian projects include specific programs to ensure livelihood and employment to ex-poppy farmers, health care and environmental protection. Finally, the resolution to broaden relations at a military level between the two countries, through the teaching of English and better training of the troops in Laos.

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

Australia — Pacific

Radical Islamic Elder Preaching Jihad in Perth’s Suburbs

A RADICAL Islamic elder who praises the Taliban and preaches violent jihad to a band of keen followers is being investigated in Perth by WA and Federal police.

Sources confirmed the joint-agency investigation after The Sunday Times revealed to police that the newspaper had infiltrated a group in which the sheik described armed jihad as the “top” ideal for Muslims and likened the Taliban to “angels”.

Muslim community members said they warned police weeks ago that the Middle Eastern man was recruiting disaffected young Muslim men at a Perth mosque and spreading dangerous messages — about armed jihad, or holy war, against those fighting Islam; and that he claimed to know, and have trained with, Osama bin Laden.

They stressed that mainstream WA Muslims did not share the views and were concerned police had not acted on their tip-offs.

They alerted The Sunday Times as a last resort “before something really bad happens . . . before this poison spreads”.

In an undercover investigation, The Sunday Times obtained information from meetings at the sheik’s northern suburbs home where, before a group of young men, he promoted armed jihad as the highest ideal for Muslims, praised the Taliban and said he had fought in Afghanistan against Soviet forces.

In other meetings, he praised bin Laden — and even Hitler, justified the actions of suicide bombers, claimed that US presidents were priests and said that Allah would “get” the US and Jews for their actions.

The man, an Australian citizen whom The Sunday Times has not named under police advice, also said that though Islam forbade killing, people who had tried to stop those bringing the religion to others in the past were killed so that people could receive the word of God.

Muslim community members said they feared police were waiting for the man and his followers to do something “terrible”, so they could make a dramatic arrest and then point to “home-grown terrorists” as justification for repressive police measures and surveillance of all Muslims.

But sources confirmed an investigation was under way because of earlier information received. It involved both the WA Police State Security Investigation Group and the Australian Federal Police.

Last Saturday, in front of five men and youths, the man said that jihad, at its “top” end, was to fight those who fought against Islam, and that going into battle and “putting your life on the line” for Islam was the highest ideal.

“I’m not afraid to say that if angels walk this earth, they are the Taliban,” he said.

In the same meeting he told one youth that he had fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet conflict.

On another occasion he said that people could say Osama bin Laden “is no good . . . but he helped a lot of people when they are needing help, he built hospitals, he built schools, he give food when people was hungry”.

He said Allah would punish Jews for their wrongdoings and of Hitler he said: “He enjoyed art, and he enjoyed music, that means he had some softnesses (sic) in him. He looked after his people”.

The man also said that suicide bombers were the result of bombing by the US and its allies.

“In Iraq, (a man) come home, he find his wife leg there, head there, his children (in) three pieces and his father (in) five pieces and the home is gone,” he said. “What do you expect from this person?

“I make myself pieces to at least kill (those) who killed my father, who killed my wife.”

When The Sunday Times contacted the elder yesterday, he denied encouraging jihad anywhere, or any wrongdoing, and said he was a loyal Australian, but that the Koran said “jihad is top of the worshipping because this is (a believer) risking his life”.

Asked about his views that Allah would punish the US and Jews, he said: “Allah (is) not punishing anyone doing the right thing.”

He said he had met bin Laden when working for a relief agency in Afghanistan in 1980-81 and had “asked him for some donation for some people” as part of that relief work. He denied claiming he had trained and fought alongside him.

Yesterday he agreed he had said the Taliban were like angels.

“Compared to what we are seeing from the other side when the killing coming (sic) or the bombarding happening, I said we can consider Taliban like angels for that, because they are not attempting to hurt the people, but the war is happening there,” he said.

WA Police would not reveal any details of its investigation, but a spokesman said officers worked collaboratively with Federal Police and the Australian intelligence community on such issues.

A Federal Police spokeswoman said the AFP did not “comment on who it may or may not be investigating”.

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


Women Tell Stories About Love Between Different Cultures

Queen Maud migrated from England to Norway in 1906 because she married the king of Norway, Haakon VII. Many women from all corners of the globe have since followed her footsteps in moving north to Scandinavia.

Dilek Carelius is not a Welsh princess but somebody who chose to follow the queen’s footsteps as a young woman from Istanbul. After receiving a degree in English Language and Literature from Bosphorus University in Istanbul, she moved to Norway to study theater.

The love for theater, however, was not the only thing that caught a hold of her there. It was in Oslo where she met her future husband in 1987; by default, he has become an intrinsic part of her upcoming theater performance in Istanbul.

The play titled “To Norway — where love awaits” is a play staged by the group Mother Theater. Initially part of an amateur project, it has been performed all over Norway. The idea of the project came from Mara Acantalicio, who is now also a member of the theater group.

The project caught Carelius’ attention in 2007, when she saw an announcement on a board in her local grocery shop. “We are looking for women from five continents who moved to Norway because they are married to Norwegian men,” read the announcement.

“The play would be produced from the stories we would tell and they wanted us to play ourselves in the play to be created,” she said.

When she considered responding to the casting call, Carelius was inspired by a play performed on the sidelines of the Oslo film festival from Pelin Esmer that follows women in a remote mountain village in the southern Turkish province of Antalya creating a play together despite never having seen a theater performance in their lives.

Carelius said, “I was still under the influence of that documentary thinking that if women have an urge to tell their stories, nothing can stop them. For this, theater is the perfect tool.”

After a performance at the Norwegian Amateur Theater Festival, Carelius’ group decided to continue as Mother Theater and the play was added to the repertoire of Det Norske Teatret, or the Norwegian Theater.

“We were joking about taking this play to our [home] countries. Then we started to consider it seriously,” she said.

When they were sponsored by Norwegian Arts Council and Free Word, their dreams of sharing their experiences with their native countries became true. “I think the subject matter of the play and the method makes the project exciting all around the world. We are talking about love, hope, frustrations, being women and being an immigrant woman,” Carelius said.

Artistic director Cliff Moustache, himself an immigrant from the Seychelles married to a Norwegian, said, “Love, which is the basic topic of the play, gives us an opportunity to show situations that help us understand the fragility, vulnerability and the intimate beauty in the relationship between two people from different cultures.”

Carelius said the beauty of the play was that it contains universal topics combined with genuine personal experiences. “Most of the immigrants in Norway complain about being taken as stereotypes rather than being seen as individuals. People can get blinded with certain generalizations about other cultures and the members of those cultures.”

One of the other stories in the play deals with the story of Mammadu from the Congo. She and her Norwegian boyfriend were students in Russia, but when she became pregnant, they had to quickly move to Norway, get married and secure their child’s citizenship.

Parts of the play are very political and deal with issues of citizenship and immigration. One scene is titled: “At immigration. The women’s passports are checked.”

In addition to Carelius, the other women in the play are from Armenia, Argentina, the Philippines and India.

When asked about her experiences as an expatriate, Carelius explained her impressions, “It can be quite demanding to live as ‘the other.’ But expatriate life broadens your horizons. You develop a critical distance to your culture in the sense that it helps you to become more conscious of the conditions which shaped your identity.”

Carelius now lives in Norway together with her husband and two children.

On a more personal note, she said she misses Istanbul. “Your heart could be divided into two but one can live with a divided heart. Tough luck! Paying Sunday visits to your parents, meeting your friends with whom you have common codes of communication — not least of which is the same language — walking in the streets of Istanbul and; those are some of the things which make my life outside my hometown difficult,” she said.

There are, however, many things she appreciates about living in Norway compared to Turkey.

“Women’s rights in Norway are quite developed. One of the most striking differences when it comes to women’s rights in Turkey and in Norway is in the political field. Around 40 percent of the representatives in the parliament are women. If you give birth you have at least 8 months full salary maternity leave. Nevertheless, there are still issues such as receiving equal payment for equal jobs and violence against woman.”

The theater play will be staged at Fatih Resat Nuri Sahnesi, Unkapani, Fatih, on Monday, March 29, at 8:30 p.m.

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

Culture Wars

UK: Senior Bishops Call for End to Persecution of Christians in Britain

Christians in Britain are being persecuted and “treated with disrespect”, senior bishops have said.

Six prominent bishops and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, describe the “discrimination” against churchgoers as “unacceptable in a civilised society”.

In a thinly-veiled attack on Labour, they claim that traditional beliefs on issues such as marriage are no longer being upheld and call on the major parties to address the issue in the run-up to the general election.

In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, the bishops express their deep disquiet at the double standards of public sector employers, claiming that Christians are punished while followers of other faiths are treated far more sensitively.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


darrinh said...

From the story of the FBI raid on the Christian militia group -

who is of Islamic decent