Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100407

Financial Crisis
»Beware the Value-Added Tax
»Cyprus Broadens Officials’ Pay Cuts to Battle Deficit
»G.M. Reports $4.3 Billion Loss in Second Half of 2009 After Bankruptcy
»Greece: Eurostat’s Deficit-GDP Figure Weighs on Market
»Greece: Press: Eurostat Raises 2009 Deficit Figure
»Greece: Lawyers on Strike Again
»Greece: New Strikes on the Way Against Government Policy
»Italy: Food and Clothing Consumption Levels in Decline
»Recovery in Italy Slowest in G7
»Spain: Unemployment Still Up, +15.5% in March on Year
»Volcker: Taxes Likely to Rise Eventually to Tame Deficit
»17-Minute Answer Justified: ‘There Are Complex Issues’
»Black Conservative Tea Party Backers Take Heat
»Communist Leader Hails Health Care as ‘Historic Victory’
»Obama Bans Islam, Jihad From National Security Strategy Document
»Tea Partiers vs. Reid Supporters: 10,000 to 100
»Team Obama Bans “Islamic Radicalism” & “Jihad” From National Security Documents
»The Socialist Revolution Begins
»US Airways Said to be in Talks to Buy United
Europe and the EU
»Czech Cardinal: Europe Will Soon Fall
»Earthquake: Cialente, Spanish Failed to Deliver Aid Promise
»France: No More Commercials on Public Channels as of 2011
»Germany’s Turks Don’t Need Papa Erdogan or Mutti Merkel
»Iconic Moka Express Leaves Italy
»Italy: Mafia Attack Blamed for Halting Easter Procession
»Italy: France to Talk Nuclear Power
»Italy-France: Frattini to Paris, Immigration and Summit
»Italy: Thirty Arrested for ‘Human Trafficking’
»‘Mon Pays, L’Europe.’ Not Likely, Mate.
»Netherlands: Language Tests for Toddlers in VVD Manifesto
»Norway: Bishop ‘Resigned After Admitting Sex Abuse’
»Renault: Allied With Daimler, Aims for Top Rating
»Spain: Polemics on Plans to Convert Lighthouses to Hotels
»Spain: Supreme Court Puts Garzon in the Dock
»Spain: Ex President of Balearics Pays 3 Mln to Avoid Jail
»Vatican: Church No.2 ‘Delayed’ Child Sex Abuse Trial
»Vatican: Top Cardinal Defends Pope Over Sex Scandal
»Bosnia: Sarajevo, Forum of Investors From Islamic Countries
»Kosovo — Serb Deputy-Minister: EU Has Created a New Cyprus
Israel and the Palestinians
»Cities: Paris-Tel Aviv Friendship, Cooperation Pact
»Erdogan: Israel Main Threat to Peace
»‘Gross Propaganda’, Israel Responds to Erdogan
»Israel Police Uncovers Organ Trafficking Ring in North
Middle East
»Bangladesh: Catholic Worker Centre Open to Protestants and Muslims
»Grand Canal Resort, Abu Dhabi Inspired by Venice
»Iran: Obama ‘Can’t Do a Damn Thing’
»Syria: EU, New Shelter for Women Victims of Trafficking Opens
»Turkey: 2009 Sees 50% Rise in Software Piracy Complaints
»Turkey: Erdogan, Sarkozy Can Change His Mind on EU Membership
»United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia: The Poetry of Courage: Hissa Hilal Challenges Islamic Extremism
»Yemen: Amnesty Deplores Air Raids in North
South Asia
»India: Maoist Rebels ‘Kill at Least 73 Police’
»Kyrgyzstan: People Take to the Streets Demanding the Resignation of Bakiyev
»Nepal: Threats and Hindu Extremism Do Not Stop Conversions to Catholicism
»Protests Appear to Have Toppled Kyrgyz Government
Australia — Pacific
»Boys Blamed for Attack on Tourist
»NSW Police Appeal for Witnesses After 25-Year-Old Man Seriously Assaulted — Rockdale
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Dutch Sidestep EU Red Tape to Rescue German Ship
»Korean Warship Reaches Oil Tanker in the Hands of Somali Pirates
»Somali Pirates Hijack Turkish Ship
»Britain Reviewing Visa Waiver for Eastern Carribean Nationals
»Denmark: Fighting Breaks Out at Refugee Centre
»Netherlands: ‘Non-Western Immigration Costs Up to €10bn a Year’: Update
»Netherlands: Immigration Costs Six Billion Euros
»USA: Illegals Bilk Taxpayers in $13 Million Fraud Ring

Financial Crisis

Beware the Value-Added Tax

America is one of the few nations without a value-added tax (VAT), but there is growing presÂsure to impose the levy. In simple terms, a VAT is a type of national sales tax. However, instead of being collected at the cash register, it is imposed on the “value added” at each stage of the production process.

Some like the VAT because it offers a new way to finance bigger government. Others like the VAT because—at least compared to the income tax—it does not impose as much damage on the economy. Some want to use the revenues from a VAT to facilitate tax reform and/or Social Security reform. There are even some people who believe that a VAT will someÂhow reduce the trade deficit.

However, many people dislike the VAT, often for some of the reasons listed above. Supporters of limÂited government oppose the tax because it makes it easier for politicians to expand the size of governÂment. By contrast, some on the left oppose the VAT because of its one redeeming feature—it is a con sumption-based levy and therefore not as easy to use for economically destructive income redistribution.

Although it is a relatively non-destructive way to collect revenue, a VAT would be a serious mistake for the United States. The only condition that would make a VAT acceptable is complete repeal of all income taxes and a constitutional amendment that prohibits Congress from re-imposing taxes on any type of income. But this is not a realistic option, which is why the VAT should be stopped.

If history is any guide, a VAT will have several adverse effects. Specifically, a VAT will:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Cyprus Broadens Officials’ Pay Cuts to Battle Deficit

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, APRIL 7 — Cyprus’s finance ministry wants dozens of senior state officials to accept a 10% pay cut as the island state battles a widening deficit, daily Financial Mirror reports. Cyprus is trying to cut its fiscal deficit, which is seen spiking to around 7% of gross domestic product this year after poorly performing tourism and real estate market sectors tipped the island into recession in 2009. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and 12 members of his cabinet agreed to a 10% pay cut last month. Finance minister Charilaos Stavrakis has asked state officials ranging from Supreme Court judges to the auditor-general to accept a 10% pay cut for 24 months, as daily Politis reported. The move would save the state one million euros a year. Authorities still need to get powerful labour unions on board in their attempt to broaden savings in the public sector. Collective working agreements are up for renewal this year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

G.M. Reports $4.3 Billion Loss in Second Half of 2009 After Bankruptcy

General Motors said Wednesday that it lost $4.3 billion in the six months after emerging from bankruptcy protection but that it had positive cash flow of $1 billion in that period.

In its first earnings report since the bankruptcy, the automaker said it had $22.8 billion in cash reserves as of Dec. 31.

The new company said $3.9 billion of the $4.3 billion it lost between July 10 and Dec. 31 was attributable to a settlement with the United Automobile Workers union over retiree health care liabilities and to a “foreign currency re-measurement loss.”

[Return to headlines]

Greece: Eurostat’s Deficit-GDP Figure Weighs on Market

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — What is the true ratio between Greece’s state deficit and its GDP? Is it at 12.7%, as the country’s government is stating, or is it higher, as some official’s at Europe’s statistical agency Eurostat are alleged to have said? This is one of the questions being posed by analysts of the Greek situation following reports in financial daily Naftemporiki put the ratio at 14%. Further, Sky TV has added that the government under Giorgios Papandreou is making efforts to try and persuade Eurostat of the validity of its own estimate and therefore that they must have slipped up somewhere. According to daily paper Ta Nea, the difference between the sums done in Athens and those done by Eurostat may be due to the accumulated debts of Greece’s state hospitals. The Athens Stock Market soon reacted negatively to the news, dropping to a 2.21% fall on close, with bank stocks especially under the hammer, losing 4.9%. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Press: Eurostat Raises 2009 Deficit Figure

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 6 — According to the Greek media, the European statistics office Eurostat has reached the conclusion that Greece’s deficit for 2009 is greater than the 12.7% of GDP calculated by the government. Daily Naftemporiki reports that the shortage is over 14%. Television station Skai, which reported the same story, said that Giorgios Papandreou’s government is thought to be trying to convince European officials, who reached their conclusion after a recent visit to Athens, that the government’s figures are in fact correct. The news, which has not been officially confirmed, seems to have frightened the Athens stock market, which has dropped by 1.8% after the festive break. The socialist newspaper Ta Nea online reports that the discrepancy between Eurostat calculations and government figures regards public hospital deficits. The paper says that if European numbers were correct, the gap would grow to 14.2% of GDP. Eurostat is due to publish figures for other European countries in the middle of April. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Lawyers on Strike Again

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 7 — A new three-day strike has been called by the Coordinating Committee of the Greek Bar Association for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week, days on which Parliament will be discussing the new tax law. Lawyers are opposed to the law since it would bring in the application of VAT to their professions. According to a statement issued by the lawyers’ association, “the justice system has always been dealt with by the State as a ‘poor relative’. If what is wanted is justice of this sort, we are willing neither to collaborate nor to struggle against other types of professional classes.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: New Strikes on the Way Against Government Policy

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 7 — Greek trade unions are weighing up new protests against the new policy adopted by the government to tackle the economic crisis. The two main private sector unions, GSEE and ADEDY, will propose mobilisations in the workplace and a 24-hour general strike, probably on Arpril 21 or 22, to its respective executives. The federations, who belong to PAME, the Greek union organisation close to the country’s communist party, expressed themselves in favour of a 48-hour general strike, also on April 21 and 22. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Food and Clothing Consumption Levels in Decline

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Italian household consumption of food, beverages and tobacco is still in decline: in February the figure dropped by 2.5% for the volume purchased compared with the same month in 2009 (-1.9% in value). This is the estimate made by Confcommercio (General Federation of Italian Commerce, Tourism, Services and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) in its monthly survey on consumption patterns. Also doing poorly was the clothing and footwear sector which, also in February, dropped on the year in terms of volumes purchased by 1.5% (-2.2% in value). “This figure, combined with the 1.3% drop in January, is confirmation of the difficulties the sector is experiencing in recovering demand levels even during the sales period,” it was noted. In contrast, cars, TLC and recreational services remained stable. Also in February the most dynamic component of household demand was that of goods and services for mobility, with an increase on the previous month of 14.3%. This trend continues to be determined “by a rise in demand” for cars by physical persons — “even though,” noted the Confcommercio survey, “ the short term outlook seems very negative” — and by the progressive recovery in spending on air transport. February’s figure also showed improvement in the demand for goods and services for communications, as well as for home ICT (+1.2% on the year), Demand for recreational goods and services in the period in question rose by 1.1%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Recovery in Italy Slowest in G7

OECD says long-term problems need to be tackled

(ANSA) — Paris, April 7 — In order to boost economic growth Italy needs to tackle long-term problems like its massive debt and high public spending, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the presentation here of its latest report on the world’s leading economies, OECD economist Pier Carlo Padoan observed that “Italy is a country with problems that go way back, which existed even before the economic crisis began and this makes it difficult to draw up any economic remedy”.

The measures the Italian government adopted to deal with the recession were necessarily ‘cautious’, Padoan said, given the size of Italy’s debt, the third biggest in the world after the United States and Japan.

Because Italy found itself in a difficult situation, with both a high deficit and slow growth, its options were limited and “for the moment the markets have not punished the country,” the economist said.

“When conditions return to normal, the markets will be much more meticulous in establishing the cost of debt and in Italy’s case even a small variation would set off a dangerous chain reaction and create a vicious cycle which increases its debt,” Padoan warned.

In its Interim Assessment report, the OECD forecast that Italy’s GDP in the first quarter of this year will rise by 1.2% over the last three months of 2009, when GDP fell by 1.3%, but will rise by only 0.5% in the second quarter.

According to Padoan, the slowdown in economic growth in the second quarter will “in part” be caused by lower new car sales, which no longer benefit from the cash-for-clunkers’ incentives the government adopted in 2009 but did not renew this year.

“Automobile sales are an important factor in the Italian economy. Their growth helped push GDP in the first quarter but this will not be the case in the second one,” Padoan explained.

Although the initiatives expired at the end of last year, buyers who placed their orders for new cars before December 31 were still able to benefit from the discounts until the end of March.

Italy’s 0.5% GDP growth in the second quarter will be the lowest and the only one below 1% in the Group of Seven (G7) major economies where the average increase will be 2.3%.

France will have the second lowest growth with a rise of 1.7% while Germany will have the highest with an increase of 2.8%.

Looking at the general picture, Padoan said “today we can say we are moderately optimistic. The news is good: a recovery is underway although not everywhere at the same pace. And we currently do not see a risk of a ‘W’ effect in the crisis”.

The ‘W’ effect is when a crisis situation falls only to bounce back again.

“However, the recovery is still fragile and problems in the labor market and other factors lead us to urge caution in phasing out economic stimulus packages,” he added. Conditions have improved in the finance market even despite the crises in Greece and Dubai, the OECD said, but banks remain vulnerable to losses should there be any significant shift in interest rates.

Despite a surge in the cost of prime resources like oil, inflation appears to be moderately in check, the OECD observed.

In regard to unemployment, the OECD said it would appear to have peaked in the United States, while in Europe the jump has been generally less dramatic.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Unemployment Still Up, +15.5% in March on Year

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 6 — Unemployment continues to rise in Spain with a further 35,988 people registering as unemployed in March. This is equal to a 0.87% increase on the previous month with a total of 4,166,613 people without work. However, the increase in unemployment marks a slowing compared to the same month of 2009, when there was an increase of 123,543 newly unemployed people, according to data released today by the Public Employment Service. On an annualised basis, the number of unemployed people went up by over half a million people (561,211), equal to a 15.5% increase. By economic sector, unemployment went down for the first time in six months in construction, which in March registered 1,103 newly unemployed people (-0.1%). On the other hand, the number of unemployed people went up in the sector of services (+0.4%), agriculture (+6.2%) and industry (+0.5%). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Volcker: Taxes Likely to Rise Eventually to Tame Deficit

Volcker, answering a question from the audience at a New York Historical Society event, said the value-added tax “was not as toxic an idea” as it has been in the past and also said a carbon or other energy-related tax may become necessary.

Though he acknowledged that both were still unpopular ideas, he said getting entitlement costs and the U.S. budget deficit under control may require such moves. “If at the end of the day we need to raise taxes, we should raise taxes,” he said.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


17-Minute Answer Justified: ‘There Are Complex Issues’

Spokesman says president takes ‘several minutes’ to clear his throat’

A 17-minute, many-thousand word answer to a question about the growing tax burden on Americans is reasonable from President Obama, since the issues he’s dealing with are so complex, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today.

Gibbs responded at the White House news briefing today to a question from Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, who has been covering presidents since the days of Richard Nixon.


“I think I’m largely the one who coined the phrase that it used to take the president several minutes to clear his throat giving answers, so — I hope he’s not watching,” Gibbs said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Black Conservative Tea Party Backers Take Heat

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — They’ve been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement—and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation’s first black president.

“I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Communist Leader Hails Health Care as ‘Historic Victory’

Hopeful Obama’s new legislation will lead to socialist medicine as basic right

President Obama’s new health-care law is a “historic victory” that can lead to socialized medicine and “single-payer” health-care legislation, boasted Juan Lopez, chairman of the Communist Party USA in Northern California.

“The signing into law of the new health care reform package has all the earmarks of a historic victory in more ways than one,” wrote Lopez in a recent article in People’s World, the official publication of the Communist Party USA.

Lopez called the new law “the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since President Reagan 30 years ago began the offensive to redistribute wealth in favor of the large corporations and the rich.”

Continued Lopez: “Big chunks of the money to pay for the law come from payroll taxes of households earning more that a quarter of a million dollars and from cutting medical subsidies for private insurers.”

The communist activist stated Obama deserves “a big hand for a job well done under heavy political fire.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Bans Islam, Jihad From National Security Strategy Document

The change is a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s advisers will remove religious terms such as “Islamic extremism” from the central document outlining the U.S. national security strategy and will use the rewritten document to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, counterterrorism officials said.

The change is a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war and currently states: “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.”

The officials described the changes on condition of anonymity because the document still was being written, and the White House would not discuss it. But rewriting the strategy document will be the latest example of Obama putting his stamp on U.S. foreign policy, like his promises to dismantle nuclear weapons and limit the situations in which they can be used.

The revisions are part of a larger effort about which the White House talks openly, one that seeks to change not just how the United States talks to Muslim nations, but also what it talks to them about, from health care and science to business startups and education.

That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo, Egypt, and promised a “new beginning” in the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terror and winning the war of ideas.

“You take a country where the overwhelming majority are not going to become terrorists, and you go in and say, ‘We’re building you a hospital so you don’t become terrorists.’ That doesn’t make much sense,” said National Security Council staffer Pradeep Ramamurthy.

Ramamurthy runs the administration’s Global Engagement Directorate, a four-person National Security Council team that Obama launched last May with little fanfare and a vague mission to use diplomacy and outreach “in pursuit of a host of national security objectives.”

Since then, the division has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terror but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio.

Before diplomats go abroad, they hear from the Ramamurthy or his deputy, Jenny Urizar. When officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned from Indonesia, the NSC got a rundown about research opportunities on global warming.

Ramamurthy maintains a database of interviews conducted by 50 U.S. embassies worldwide. And business leaders from more than 40 countries head to Washington this month for an “entrepreneurship summit” for Muslim businesses.

“Do you want to think about the U.S. as the nation that fights terrorism or the nation you want to do business with?” Ramamurthy said.

To deliver that message, Obama’s speechwriters have taken inspiration from an unlikely source: former President Ronald Reagan. Visiting communist China in 1984, Reagan spoke to Fudan University in Shanghai about education, space exploration and scientific research.

He discussed freedom and liberty. He never mentioned communism or democracy.

“They didn’t look up to the U.S. because we hated communism,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, Obama’s foreign policy speechwriter.

Like Reagan in China, Obama in Cairo made only passing references to terrorism. Instead he focused on cooperation. He announced the United States would team up to fight polio with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, a multinational body based in Saudi Arabia.

The United States and the OIC had worked together before, but never with that focus.

“President Obama saw it as an opportunity to say, ‘We work on things far beyond the war on terrorism,”’ said World Health Organization spokeswoman Sona Bari.

Polio is endemic in three Muslim countries — Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan — but some Muslim leaders have been suspicious of vaccination efforts, which they believed to be part of a CIA sterilization campaign. Last year, the OIC and religious scholars at the International Islamic Fiqh Academy issued a fatwa, or religious decree, that parents should have their children vaccinated.

“We’re probably entering into a whole new level of engagement between the OIC and the polio program because of the stimulus coming from the U.S. government,” said Michael Galway, who works on polio eradication for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Centers for Disease Control also began working more closely with local Islamic leaders in northern Nigeria, a network that had been overlooked for years, said John Fitzsimmons, the deputy director of the CDC’s immunization division.

Though health officials are reluctant to assign credit to any one action, new polio cases in Nigeria fell from 83 during the first quarter of last year to just one so far this year, Fitzsimmons said.

Public opinion polls also showed consistent improvement in U.S. sentiment within the Muslim world last year, although the viewpoints are still overwhelmingly negative, however.

Obama did not invent Muslim outreach. President George W. Bush gave the White House its first Quran, hosted its first Iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan, and loudly stated support for Muslim democracies like Turkey.

But the Bush administration struggled with its rhetoric. Muslims criticized him for describing the war against terror as a “crusade” and labeling the invasion of Afghanistan “Operation Infinite Justice” — words that were seen as religious. He regularly identified America’s enemy as “Islamic extremists” and “radical jihadists.”

Karen Hughes, a Bush confidant who served as his top diplomat to the Muslim world in his second term, urged the White House to stop.

“I did recommend that, in my judgment, it’s unfortunate because of the way it’s heard. We ought to avoid the language of religion,” Hughes said. “Whenever they hear ‘Islamic extremism, Islamic jihad, Islamic fundamentalism,’ they perceive it as a sort of an attack on their faith. That’s the world view Osama bin Laden wants them to have.”

Hughes and Juan Zarate, Bush’s former deputy national security adviser, said Obama’s efforts build on groundwork from Bush’s second term, when some of the rhetoric softened. But by then, Zarate said, it was overshadowed by the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and a prolonged Iraq war.

“In some ways, it didn’t matter what the president did or said. People weren’t going to be listening to him in the way we wanted them to,” Zarate said. “The difference is, President Obama had a fresh start.”

Obama’s foreign policy posture is not without political risk. Even as Obama steps up airstrikes on terrorists abroad, he has proven vulnerable to Republican criticism on security issues at home, such as the failed Christmas Day airline bombing and the announced-then-withdrawn plan to prosecute 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York.

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and former Bush adviser, is skeptical of Obama’s engagement effort. It “doesn’t appear to have created much in the way of strategic benefit” in the Middle East peace process or in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he said.

Obama runs the political risk of seeming to adopt politically correct rhetoric abroad while appearing tone deaf on national security issues at home, Feaver said.

The White House dismisses such criticism. In June, Obama will travel to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, and is expected to revisit many of the themes of his Cairo speech.

“This is the long-range direction we need to go in,” Ramamurthy said.

           — Hat tip: Frontinus[Return to headlines]

Tea Partiers vs. Reid Supporters: 10,000 to 100

Senate majority leader’s crowd can’t match multitude calling for his ‘retirement’

After more than 10,000 tea partiers descended on Sen. Harry Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, Nev., to demand an end to the Senate majority leader’s term in one of the largest political events in town history, Reid launched his re-election campaign — in front of a paltry crowd of 100 supporters.

On March 27, tea partiers flocked from cities all over the nation to the small town of Searchlight, with a population of only 800. Crowd estimates at the “Conservative Woodstock” ranged from 10,000 to 30,000.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Team Obama Bans “Islamic Radicalism” & “Jihad” From National Security Documents

Yesterday, he removed nukes from the equation — Today he removed “Islamic radicalism” and “jihad.” The Obama Administration will remove the terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from national security documents in a new effort to win over Islamic countries. FOX News reported:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Socialist Revolution Begins

The passage of the health-care bill is “historic” for Marxists because it signals the beginning of the socialist revolution in the United States.

Marxism is not a mere economic system. Rather, it is a belief in a comprehensive historical theory of the world. In other words, according to Marxism, everything that has happened in the past, is happening now and will happen in the future is part of a predetermined and unstoppable “historical process.”

The historical process is one of constant class struggle. Marxism theorizes that in each time period there has been an oppressor class and an oppressed class. In Roman times, for instance, there were freemen and slaves. In the Middle Ages, there were lords and serfs. This oppression was based purely upon economics, meaning that the class in charge of the means of production oppressed the class that was not.


The moment the proletariat is able to pass these socialist laws is pivotal under Marxism, as it signals the ascendance of the proletariat to the ruling class. When the proletariat becomes the ruling class, the socialist revolution begins.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US Airways Said to be in Talks to Buy United

The UAL Corporation, the parent of United Airlines, and US Airways are in talks to merge, in a potential deal that would create one of the world’s largest airlines, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

The negotiations mark the latest efforts to consolidate the struggling airline industry. Both companies have been vocal in calling for greater consolidation within the industry to help prop up falling revenues, with United’s chief executive, Glenn F. Tilton, among the leading proponents for more mergers.

United and US Airways are deep in their merger discussions, though a transaction is not expected to be announced for at least several weeks, these people said, cautioning that talks may still collapse. One potential hurdle could be union opposition.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Cardinal: Europe Will Soon Fall

( The Cardinal of the Czech Republic, Miloslav Vick, is concerned about the fate of Christianity in Europe. He argues that Europe must return to its roots, if not the fate of the continent will be to become Islamic.

“Medieval Muslims tried to conquer Europe but Christians expelled them,” he said. “Today there is a similar war but with spiritual weapons. However, Europe lacks the tools and ability for a spiritual struggle while Muslims are well equipped,” he says, adding that ‘the fall of Europe is close at hand.”

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

Earthquake: Cialente, Spanish Failed to Deliver Aid Promise

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 6 — Marking the first anniversary of the Abruzzo earthquake, the Mayor of l’Aquila, Massimo Cialente, has today spoken out in relation reports in the Spanish daily El Periodico de Catalunya, of the failure to send aid for the reconstruction of the Spanish fortress, as had been promised by the government led by José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. “Spain undertook to pay for the reconstruction of the Spanish Fort”, Cialente affirmed, he went on to point out that Spanish solidarity “was quick to arrive, but was short-lived”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: No More Commercials on Public Channels as of 2011

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 7 — The spokesman of the French government, Luc Chatel, has confirmed that commercials will disappear from all French public networks of France Televisions by the end of 2011, in line with the law “that was approved in March 2009”. The first stage of the reform was implemented early in 2009, when commercials were banned from French public television before 8pm. An official assessment of the impact of the move has been scheduled in May 2011.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany’s Turks Don’t Need Papa Erdogan or Mutti Merkel

The current debate about Turkish schools in Germany exposes how politicians in both Berlin and Ankara like to treat German Turks as if they were children caught in a nasty custody battle, writes Deniz Baspinar from Zeit Online.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent suggestion that Germany should support setting up Turkish high schools across the country sparked indignant reactions ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s official visit to Turkey this week. The proposal thoroughly riled the Germans, and led to a heated debate that had very little to do with the actual issue. How else to explain why Germany runs schools all over the world and yet wants to dispute the right of the Turks to do the same here?

Yet Erdogan’s move is paternalistic — he wants to signal that Turkey’s government also represents Turks living in Germany. Ankara is even in the process of setting up an official government authority for Turks living abroad.

As a Turkish German citizen, such arguments make me feel like the child from a broken home in the middle of a custody battle, with parents pulling at me from both sides. On the surface, everyone talks about the interests of the child, but in reality it’s all about the insults, the hurt feelings and the power struggles between the two parents.

The father is far away, but still wants a say, especially when it comes to educating the children. The children live with the mother, who sees the relationship with the father as her one big mistake in life. And because the children resemble the father a bit too much, she has slightly ambivalent feelings towards them.

What the two sides have in common is that they treat German Turks (or is it Turkish Germans?) as helpless and slightly backward charges unable to fend for themselves. The fatherly Erdogan moans that the kids should not be given up to “the crime of assimilation,” while at the same time mothering Merkel warns in her weekly video messages that they should “learn the German language and abide by German law.”

This is all that Merkel has to say to her citizens with Turkish roots. It implies that Turkish Germans do not follow the nation’s laws in some way, while of course everyone else does.

Neither Mrs. Merkel nor Mr. Erdogan have the slightest idea about the multifaceted reality faced by Turkish immigrants in Germany. To them, we are simply objects in their political machinations.

But it’s up to us to develop our own voice — whether it is in politics, in the media, or in the sciences. This is the only way we can free ourselves of the stifling parenthood on both sides.

Dear Mr. Erdogan, you are not my prime minister. You presume to speak for me, but I can represent my own interests, and I can do it just as well in Turkish as I can in German, by the way. Dear Mrs. Merkel, I am a citizen of this nation, and not just an “integration problem.” It would be nice if Mum and Dad realised this.

This commentary was published with the kind permission of Zeit Online, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Iconic Moka Express Leaves Italy

Bialetti closes original Piedmont plant and heads to E.Europe

(ANSA) — Verbania, April 7 — Bialetti, the company which for 77 years has been producing the Moka EXpress, Italy’s most recognisable coffee-maker, is closing up shop in Italy and heading to Eastern Europe.

The company made the announcement on Wednesday but did not set a precise date for ending production at its original plant in near Omegna, which is in Piedmont but just northwest of Milan.

Unions are opposed to the move and have asked that the provincial and regional government step in. The Bialetti plant, which currently employs 120 people, had a turnover last year of 194.2 million euros and although this was a 7.6% decline over 2008, it allowed the company to reduce its debt from 109 million euros to 96 million euros. The factory began making aluminum products in 1919 but rose to fame after founder Alfonso Bialetti in 1933 designed the simple Moka Express, a percolator which by the 1950s was in practically every Italian kitchen.

The product was immediately recognisable among similar products thanks to its mascot-logo, a caricature of its inventor: a little man with a big nose and a moustache, dressed in a dark jacket, striped pants and wearing a bow tie.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Mafia Attack Blamed for Halting Easter Procession

Vibo Valentia, 6 April (AKI) — Prosecutors in the southern Italian town of Vibo Valentia are investigating the alleged intimidation of a local priest by Calabrian mafia gunmen which led to the cancellation of a traditional Easter vigil procession.

Last Saturday’s traditional ‘Affruntata’ procession in the Calabrian village of Sant’Onofrio was cancelled after suspected mafia gunmen fired rounds of bullets outside the home of the procession’s organiser, local priest Michele Virdo.

The attack drew condemnation from across the political spectrum.

“This serious act of intimidation must not discourage those who are fighting the ‘Ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia),” said historic anti-mafia campaigner Leoluca Orlando, now a member of the centre-left Italy of Values opposition party.

The gun attack against Virdo’s residence followed the exclusion of local mafia members from the ‘Affruntata’ on orders of the bishop of the surrounding Vibo-Mileto-Tropea diocese, Monsignor Luigi Renzo.

The attack was condemned by far-right party La Destra founder Francesco Storace.

“Our solidarity is with the church which does not tolerate mafia bosses,” he said.

In a longstanding tradition, young members of the local Calabrian mafia carry statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and various saints during the ‘Affruntata’ procession.

Taking part in the ‘Affruntata’ is reportedly considered a rite of passage for many young people aligned with the mafia.

Paramilitary ‘Carabinieri’ police from Vibo Valentia and the surrounding province collected around 30 bullets and cartridges from outside Virdo’s home, which were due to be analysed by ballistics experts.

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

Italy: France to Talk Nuclear Power

Immigration, transport, defence also on summit agenda

(ANSA) — Rome, April 7 — Rome’s deal with France to bring back nuclear power to Italy will be high on the agenda of the annual Franco-Italian summit in Paris Friday, the Italian foreign ministry said Wednesday. A year ago, Italy struck an accord with France for the joint construction of four nuclear plants in Italy and five in France.

The deal, the foreign ministry said, will be expanded at the summit to include the training of engineers and technicians, collaboration on plant security and waste disposal, and finding foreign markets interested in the new technology.

Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said recently that the government will start building nuclear plants, rejected by referendum a year after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, by 2013 with completion scheduled in 2020.

Opinion polls indicate between 50% and 60% of Italians oppose nuclear power, rising to over 80% at the idea of a plant being built near where they live.

But Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government has repeatedly vowed since it took power in 2008 to revive the country’s nuclear programme and lower Italy’s heavy reliance on foreign energy sources. Following the deal with France in August 2009, in September Rome forged a five-year agreement with Washington for the development of 12 nuclear power plants in Italy, with the option to extend the accord another five years.

Other topics at the Franco-German summit will include transport, defence and immigration while some 20 governmental and business deals will be signed.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and French counterpart Bernard Kouchner will discuss international issues like Middle East peace, Iran, Greece, European security and NATO’s new strategic thinking.

The summit will also produce a joint declaration on relaunching the Mediterranean Union project, which is strongly backed by the two countries. Friday’s is the 28th intergovernmental summit between the two countries.

Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will also be joined by EU policy ministers Andrea Ronchi and Pierre Lellouche; defence ministers Ignazio La Russa and Hervé Morin; industry minister Scajola and Energy and Sustainable Development Minister Jean Louis Borloo; culture chiefs Sandro Bondi and Frederic Mitterrand; and transport ministers Altero Matteoli and Dominique Bussereau.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni will have separate talks with French Immigration Minister Eric Besson.

On the sidelines of the summit, French banker Antoine Bernheim and Fiat Deputy Chairman John Elkann will lead the fifth Italo-French business forum.

Diplomatic chief Frattini will be in the French capital from Thursday, addressing a round table organised by Besson on “national and European identities” and a dinner hosted by Economy Minister Christine Lagarde for the business leaders.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-France: Frattini to Paris, Immigration and Summit

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 7 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini will leave tomorrow for a 2-day visit to Paris, where he will participate in the 28th Italian-French government summit on Friday. Tomorrow afternoon Frattini will close a meeting on “National identity, European identity”, an initiative of the French Minister for Immigration, Eric Besson. In the evening the Italian FM will represent the Italian government at the dinner offered by Economy Minister Christine Lagarde for the participants of the fifth Forum of Italian-French dialogue, which unites many entrepreneurs and people from the financial world of both countries. On Friday April 9 the Minister will be part of the broad government delegation led by Premier Silvio Berlusconi, at the Italian-French summit. Frattini — spokesman of the Italian Foreign Office Maurizio Massari said today while presenting the summit to the press — will also have a meeting with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner on International topics, from the Middle East peace process to the Iran’s nuclear programme, from European security to the NATO’s new strategic plan. During the summit, Massari added, “a joint statement on the re-launch of the Union for the Mediterranean initiative will be distributed to the press”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Thirty Arrested for ‘Human Trafficking’

Brindisi, 7 April(AKI) — Thirty people were arrested in Italy and other parts of Europe on Wednesday in an alleged human trafficking ring that police say transferred Iraqi Kurds to western Europe for fees of up to 3000 euros.

The operation, dubbed “Human Carriers”, was carried out by police as well as investigators from the Central Operation Service in the southern city of Brindisi.

Police arrested suspects in Rome, Venice other cities, according to a statement by Italian police.

“The investigation uncovered a criminal association that illegally smuggled hundreds of Kurdish-Iraqi immigrants, giving them the logistical support they needed for successfully transporting them to numerous European countries, including France, England, Germany and Greece,” the statement said.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government has pledged to crack down on illegal immigration and last year made it a crime punishable with deportation and stiff fines.

Brindisi is one of Europe’s busiest entry points for illegal immigrants arriving from African and the Middle East.

Italian police last June made dozens of arrests throughout the country in an effort to interrupt a human trafficking ring believed to be based in Iraqi Kurdistan with links to Greece and Italy.

The European Union has estimated that there are eight million illegal immigrants in the 27-country bloc.

Investigators on Wednesday said the immigrants paid “millions of euros” to the traffickers and entered Europe through Greece before arriving in Italy.

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

‘Mon Pays, L’Europe.’ Not Likely, Mate.

Arrive back at Brussels airport any time, and one thing is certain: there will be at least one suitcase on the baggage carousel with a sticker announcing, ‘Mon pays, l’Europe.’ My country is Europe.

Yes, in Brussels you need to keep your in-flight sick-bag handy even in the arrivals hall.

More, the European Commission have been giving this ‘citizen of Europe’ propaganda a particular push in the last few days. They have announced they now want to trigger the clause in the Lisbon Treaty which will allow signatures from a million ‘EU citizens’ to oblige the commission to consider some proposal or other as EU legislation.

Now, of course, the commissioner in charge of this new piece of mass propaganda — — Maros Sefcovic, a Slovak socialist and no, you’ve never heard of him — has been saying that this will be ‘a real step forward in the democratic life of Europe.’

It will be no such thing. It is merely part of the relentless EU efforts to dissolve the links between each citizen of each sovereign state and his true democratic voice, which is his national parliament. You already know it, but here it is again: democracy is rule of the state by the ‘demos,’ the people of the nation. Hundreds of millions of people of 27 different nationalities who happen to live on part of the vast geographical lump called Europe do not make up a ‘demos.’ A million signatures from an arbitrary selection of 27 countries are just a skull-count, not the voice of a nation.

If a citizen of Finland or Portugal or any other country wants a change in the laws under which he must live, the only democratic way he can do this is through his national parliament. Asking a supranational, undemocratic body such as the European Commission to impose a new law on the citizens of sovereign states has nothing to do with legitimate government.

But as I say, it is all part of this relentless drive to destroy the relationship between the citizen of a nation and the parliament of his nation. This is where we get to the EU’s regional policy, which has been back in the news lately with the disclosure that the Government is supporting plans by eurocrats to erase the name ‘English Channel’ from the maps used in schools and by bureaucrats. It is part of long-standing EU plans to break up the British Isles into European regions, taking the fragments of what was once Britain and turning them into segments of eurocrat-invented regions that are tied to the Continent.

Above is an example. It is map of the new euro-region to be known as the Arc Manche. This policy will wipe out national borders and replace them with ‘regions’ which will have direct ties to (and payments from) the EU institutions — bypassing the national parliaments.

Since the ‘Mon pays, l’Europe’ propagandists fear that the fact of an ‘English Channel’ will be too strong a reminder of the historic independence of Britain from the Continent, its name will be reduced to the French version of ‘the Anglo-French pond.’ The idea is that it will be reduced in importance to ‘a shared space, a small Anglo-French internal sea.’ Tell that to Dame Vera Lynn.

Meanwhile, Scotland will break away into a region with links to parts of Norway (which isn’t even in the EU), Iceland (ditto), and Finland. The west of Britain will be tied to, among other Catholic Continental countries, Spain.

Yes, thanks to Brussels it looks like the Spanish Armada is going to make it in the end.

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

Netherlands: Language Tests for Toddlers in VVD Manifesto

A compulsory language test for all three-year-olds and and end to the ‘subsidised integration industry’ will be central to the Liberal party (VVD) election manifesto due to be published later this week, the Telegraaf reports on Tuesday.

The language test would be carried out to make sure children who need help can have extra lessons before they start school, the paper said. And parents who refuse to cooperate will have their child benefits cut.

The party also plans to stop local councils subsidising separate activities and services for particular immigrant groups such as swimming lessons, the paper says.


And the cost of the compulsory integration course which new arrivals from outside the EU have to take by law will be passed on to immigrants themselves. Loans will be available for those who cannot pay for the course, the paper says.

The party also wants to include the integration portfolio in the social security ministry after the election. ‘Integration is predominantly a question of participation in the labour market,’ Jan Anthonie Bruijn, chairman of the VVD manifesto committee, told the Telegraaf.

The party also plans to make it a criminal offence for people and organisations to help illegal immigrants and rejected asylum seekers stay in the Netherlands.

The VVD is currently doing well in the opinion polls and has outstripped Geert Wilders’ PVV in popularity.

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

Norway: Bishop ‘Resigned After Admitting Sex Abuse’

Oslo, 7 April (AKI) — As the Vatican is trying to contain a widening sex abuse scandal, Norway’s Catholic Church has revealed that a bishop who resigned last year confirmed allegations of child sex abuse. The former bishop of Trondheim, Georg Mueller, admitted to sexual abuse involving an underage altar boy several years ago, the English-language daily, The Norway Post, said on Wednesday.

It was previously unclear why Mueller had stepped down as bishop in the western city of Trondheim in June 2009.

His successor, Bernt Eidsvig, the bishop of Oslo and Trondheim, said in a statement on Wednesday that the 58-year-old German had been removed from all pastoral duties and undergone therapy after he admitted to the abuse.

Mueller admitted to only one case and no other allegations have come to light, Eidsvig added.

The news broke after the victim, who is now in his thirties, told his story to a Catholic priest after having kept it a secret for around 20 years. Mueller, originally from Trevi in Germany, was a priest in Trondheim at the time of the abuse.

According to the local Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen, the man received a year’s salary, around NOK 500,000 ( 84,000 dollars) in compensation.

Eidsvig told the Trondheim paper that the victim did not want publicity while expressing the church’s “shame” over the incident.

Earlier this week, Eidsvig said that the Church was aware of four other cases of sexual misconduct in Norway.

He said two of the cases are very old, and date back to the beginning of the 1950s. The victims were a boy and a girl, and two different priests were involved. The priests have both died.

There are an estimated 50,000 Catholics in Norway, while 80 percent of the country’s faithful are members of the Lutheran church.

A senior cardinal at the Vatican, Angelo Sodano, on Tuesday defended Pope Benedict XVI and his role in a widening child sex abuse scandal that threatens to tarnish the papacy itself.

Sodano, dean of the college of cardinals, repeated remarks he made on Sunday claiming all Catholics felt love and solidarity with the pope in the face of “unjust attacks” against him.

Benedict himself has come under fire for failing to defrock priests accused of child sex abuse during his tenure as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the archdiocese of Munich and as head of the body responsible for disciplining priests, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Before becoming pope, Ratzinger led the organisation from 1982 to 1995.

Sodano said that the Christian community was wounded by the unfolding sex abuse scandal involving thousands of alleged victims in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and other European countries as well as the US and Brazil.

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

Renault: Allied With Daimler, Aims for Top Rating

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — At a time of crisis and slumping sales in the car sector, with the pressure on for green mobility necessitating investments, the response to the crisis from Renault-Nissan and German manufacturer Daimler is a strategic alliance worth 4 billion euros: “On our own we cannnot, but together we can conquer the market and all its segments,” is what the two manufacturers are saying (plus Japanese Nissan, already controlled by Renault); today they are putting a spanner in the works of the big manufacturers and their development strategies. “Let’s be clear”, sais Renault-Nissan CEO, Carlos Ghosn, “our companies in order to survive must be present everywhere in the market, from the low cost sector in India to the luxury car sector in Europa. But they just can’t make it on their own”. The only way to survive in the market,” he explains, “is to proceed to share technology so as to consolidate production”. Their strengths, said Ghosn together with Daimler’s CEO, Dieter Zetsche, in a press conference in Brussels, are complementary and a synergy can immediately be directed at two specific sectors: compact cars and green technologies. Renault-Nissan is interested in the Daimler engines and, in future, also in its experience in luxury brands. The Germans, instead, want to acquire the know-how on economy cars from the producers of Clio and Twingo. Renault and Nissan are partners since 1999; the French have 44 per cent of the Japanese company. With 6.09 million vehicles sold in 2009, the group rates fourth in the world. But Renault was aiming at a third rating and Daimler, which in 2009 sold 1.6 million cars, came to its aid: “Production will increase, our portfolios will grow and we will strengthen our position in the market”, the two CEOs said. The alliance, they stated, will not anticipate a fusion nor will it confuse products and brands associated with the two car makers. Shares will remain symbolically at 3.1 per cent — barring any future decisions to change this, said Ghosn, and each will be independent. “But it will be a strategic long-term alliance”, said Zetsche, “and not one of the many failed attempts at partnership, like the Daimler-Chrysler one which ended in 2007. Not only: today’s agreement “does not exclude other possible alliances”, said Ghosn, increasingly convinced that synergies are the sector’s future. The new joint operation, which will give the two car makers 2 billion euros each for the next five years, will be directed by a 12-member committee, headed by the two CEOs. There are also plans to develop new Smart and Twingo models. And from 2013, all the new models produced jointly will be available in the electric version too. The French government will support the operation: it will acquire 0.55 per cent of Renault capital to maintain its total share at 15.01 per cent, as a consequence of the reduction caused by the agreement with Daimler.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Polemics on Plans to Convert Lighthouses to Hotels

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 6 — Lighthouses, rendered unnecessary by modern satellite navigation systems such as GPS, are now at risk of dying out: less than 25% of the 187 existing lighthouses in Spain still have a public use. Now, in order to “save the architectural heritage” that lighthouses represent, and prevent them from being destroyed by acts of vandalism, the government is finishing a reform of the 2003 law on State Ports, which will allow old lighthouses to be converted into hotels, guestrooms, restaurants and museums. But the proposal has gone down badly with environmentalist groups and lighthouse keepers. In waters with limited visibility, such as access channels, navigation still relies on luminous buoys or lights on land that signal the position of obstacles or dangers in surrounding waters. But in most cases, the old lanterns on top of the towers are the legacy that remains from a pre-technological past. To save them from being abandoned, an amendment to the the 2003 law, introduced by the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and put to Congress, has given flexibility to “the current ban on hotel installations and other installations that could favour the development of cultural activities” in lighthouses. The amendment was quoted by El Pais. The State Ports maritime signals department, which is promoting the reform, explains that the law currently enforced is very restrictive, allowing the Council of Ministers alone to authorise the building of hotels in lighthouses situated between 20 and 100 metres from the sea. The reform means that the Infrastructure Ministry will now be able to give the green light for the conversion of lighthouses, also authorising “works that include an increase in volume of existing buildings”. Of the 45 lighthouses still publically used, only six house a restaurant, while there are no authorised hotels, the current law stating that installations must not “condition nor limit the light of the lighthouse”. The automation of signal lights in the 1990s has left most lighthouses in a state of abandon, and further eroded by the sea itself. The suspension of many lighthouses in 1993 means that only 40 keepers of the surviving structures remain. Port authorities, who under the new reform would have the last word on the fate of the old towers, are taking measures, and have suggested that “priority should be given to agreements with Cities and Regions in order to create cultural spaces, museums, exhibition rooms, and even hotels”. The latter idea is opposed by lighthouse keepers such as Mario Santa Cruz, the last “farero” of Cabo de Gata, in Almeria, from where he controls the signals of Mesa Roldan, La Polacra and Garrucha. But resistance has also come from the Environment Ministry’s coastal management, who have not taken kindly to the confidence given to private enterprise, and fear the speculative effect on the environment. The WWF maintains that the potential reform of the State Ports law “seriously jeopardises the natural coastal environment” and constitutes “ the latest step in the denaturalisation and privatisation of the coastline”. Speaking on behalf of the environmental organisation, secretary Juan Carlos del Olmo has demanded that the proposal be shelved, as “it reveals a lack of understanding of the environmental value of these enclaves”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Supreme Court Puts Garzon in the Dock

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 7 — Spain’s Supreme Court judge Luciano Varela has given the final go-ahead to bring the Audiencia Nacional magistrate Baltasar Garzon to trial. Varela has called for a shortened trial in the legal proceedings in which Garzon has been charged for an alleged abuse of power in bringing forward cases regarding crimes committed during Franco’s rule without it being within his jurisdiction to do so. With the resolution, which was reported in advance by the online edition of El Pais, the preparatory phase for the trial of Garzon has begun. The latter will appear in court as defendant if the parties involved — the extreme rightist associations Manos Limpias, the Falange and Libertad y Identitad, which have sued the magistrate — file charges within the next 10 days. Varela’s decision brings to an end the preliminary phase of one of the three active cases against Garzon. The other two involve alleged payments received by the magistrate during the organisation of courses in New York and wire taps in jail between those charged in the “Gurtel case” and their defence lawyers. Two weeks ago the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court rejected Garzon’s appeal against Varela’s issuing of a committal to trial. The latter in turn rejected the evidence in defence of Garzon, including statements from international jurists and Audiencia Nacional magistrates and prosecutors. The trial, if it does go forward, will also lead to Garzon’s temporary suspension from the Audiencia Nacional, which will have to be officially adopted by the plenary assembly of the CGPJ, Spain’s magistrates governing council. In October 2008, the Audiencia Nacional magistrate had declared it within his jurisdiction to investigate the disappearance of 133,000 victims of Franco’s rule, to then relinquish the case to lower courts. Garzon could be sentenced to a fine and disqualified from his post. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Ex President of Balearics Pays 3 Mln to Avoid Jail

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 7 — The former President of the Balearic Islands and ex-Environment Minister for the People’s Party, Jaume Matas, has paid three million euros in bail to avoid a prison sentenced imposed by the magistrate investigating the “Palma Arenas” case, in which Matas was accused of 12 counts of corruption. The news was released by judiciary sources in a statement. Matas will provisionally remain free, but will have to appear on the first and fifteenth of every month at the public prosecutor’s office and is banned from leaving Spanish soil. Charges against the PP politician include forgery, abuse of power, administration fraud, embezzlement, money-laundering and violation of electoral law. He also risks being sentenced to 24 years in prison in a case concerning the alleged misuse of public funds for the building of a velodrome. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Church No.2 ‘Delayed’ Child Sex Abuse Trial

Rome, 6 April (AKI) — Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone hampered attempts to try an elderly American priest accused of child sex abuse in a court within the Catholic church, according to German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. Amid a worsening sex scandal that has engulfed the church on both sides of the Atlantic, Pope Benedict XVI was last month accused by The New York Times of delaying efforts to punish Father Lawrence Murphy, who is alleged to have sexually abused as many as 200 deaf children at a Wisconsin school from 1950 to 1974.

Die Zeit said it had obtained from lawyers representing the deaf men the correspondence and the minutes of a 1998 meeting chaired by Bertone at the Vatican with US bishops, less than three months before Murphy died, aged 72.

The correspondence was formally addressed to the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now pope who was head of the Vatican body which disciplines the clergy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at that time.

But the correspondence had actually been conducted with Bertone (photo), who was CDF secretary at the time, Die Zeit said.

During the 1998 meeting, Bertone is accused of raising numerous obstacles to a possible canonical trial of Murphy, according to the meeting minutes, cited by Die Zeit.

The New York Times had claimed a secret canonical trial authorised by Bertone did not go ahead after Murphy wrote a pleading letter to the future pope.

Bertone warned the US bishops of the difficulty of conducting the trial “in strict secrecy” and of presenting proof and testimony “without increasing the scandal”, Die Zeit said, citing the meeting minutes.

US bishops only began moves in 1996 to have Murphy tried in a church court, by which time Murphy was already ill.

The correspondence showed Murphy had been sacked in 1974 after being accused of sex offences against minors.

The head of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, on Monday claimed Die Zeit had not disclosed anything new.

“They are late. The documents they cite were already part of dossier published by the New York Times, to which we have already provided an adequate response,” Lombardi said.

Given Murphy’s age and his poor health, the CDF had suggested restricting Murphy’s public functions and wanted him to accept responsibility for his acts, a statement released by Lombardi said on 25 March.

Allegations have been levelled against Pope Benedict XVI himself that he failed to stop a suspected paedophile priest being reinstated in the early 1980s while he was archbishop of the Munich diocese. The priest, Peter Hullermann, was later convicted of sex offences against children.

Lombardi in a statement in late March said that when he was archbishop of Munich the pope “had no knowledge” of Hullerman’s reinstatement. Lombardi was rebutting claims by the New York Times that Ratzinger was copied on a memo, which it could not be ruled out he had read.

The pope has made no direct reference to the paedophile priest scandal in Germany or in other European countries.

But in an historic pastoral letter he issued last month on child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland, he expressed “shame and remorse” to victims and their families for “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy.

The Catholic Church for many decades systematically covered up alleged sexual abuse against 15,000 Irish people who attended church-run schools and institutions from 1975 to 2004, according to two shocking reports published in Ireland last year.

The Vatican has however moved to counter major damage over the paedophile priest scandal that has swept across Europe, the United States and now reached Brazil.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Conference of Bishops, said in March the church was being unfairly criticised over the “tragically widespread” sexual abuse of children and would not tolerate any type of campaign to discredit it.

In an unprecedented move, before the pope celebrated mass at St Peter’s Square in Rome on Easter Sunday, top Catholic churchman Angelo Sodano, expressed the church’s solidarity with the pontiff.

“The people of God is behind you and does not let itself be influenced by the idle chatter of the moment,” said Sodano, who is dean of the college of cardinals.

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

Vatican: Top Cardinal Defends Pope Over Sex Scandal

Vatican City, 6 April (AKI) — A senior cardinal, Angelo Sodano, has once again defended Pope Benedict XVI and his role in a widening child sex abuse scandal that threatens to tarnish the papacy itself. Sodano, dean of the college of cardinals, repeated remarks he made on Sunday claiming all Catholics felt love and solidarity with the pope in the face of “unjust attacks” against him.

“The pope embodies moral truths that are unpalatable to some, who use the mistakes made by priests as weapons against the church,” Sodano said in an interview with the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Benedict himself has come under attack for allegedly failing to prevent priests accused of child sex abuse from being defrocked during his tenure as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the archdiocese of Munich and as head of the body responsible for disciplining priests, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Before becoming pope, Ratzinger led the organisation from 1982 to 1995.

The Vatican has emphatically denied these claims.

“Against these unjust attacks against the pope lie visions of the family and of life which go against the teachings of the Gospel,” said Sodano.

In an unpredecented move before the pope celebrated mass at St Peter’s Square in Rome on Easter Sunday, Sodano, expressed the church’s solidarity with the pontiff.

“The people of God is behind you and does not let itself be influenced by the idle chatter of the moment,” he said.

He told L’Osservatore Romano that the Christian community was wounded by the unfolding sex abuse scandal involving thousands of alleged victims in several European countries as well as America and Brazil in cases stretching back 60 years.

“It feels rightly injured by an attempt to blame it for the grave and painful cases attributable to individual priests, thus tranforming personal guilt and responsibility into collective guilt.”

“Of course we suffer from this and Benedict XVI has apologised several times,” Sodano said.

“It’s not a bishop’s fault if one of his priests has sullied himself with grave crimes. And it is certainly not the pope’s responsibility.”

The pope has so far made no direct reference to the paedophile priest scandal in his native Germany or in other European countries.

But in an historic pastoral letter he issued last month on child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland, he expressed “shame and remorse” to victims and their families for “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy.

He also accepted the resignation last month of John Magee, an Irish bishop found to have mishandled allegations of clerical sex abuse in his diocese in southern Ireland.

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


Bosnia: Sarajevo, Forum of Investors From Islamic Countries

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, APRIL 7 — A business forum organised by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Bosna Bank International has kicked off in Sarajevo, with 600 potential investors taking part from numerous countries with an Islamic-based culture, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, Jordan, and Kuwait, as well as China. In the conference, which comes to an end today, 157 projects will be presented for an overall 11.5 billion euros. The president of the Bosnian tripartite presidency Haris Silajdzic underscored the development potential in agriculture and tourism, and especially in the energy sector, since only 39% of the water resources in the country are currently exploited. Among those taking part — in addition to IDB president Ahmad Muhamed Ali — are Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and the secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. Also in attendance are US Undersecretary of State James Steinberg and the High Representative for the International Community in Bosnia Valentin Inzko. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo — Serb Deputy-Minister: EU Has Created a New Cyprus

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 6 — Through its Kosovo policies, the European Union has created in Serbia a situation analogous to that in Cyprus: which it now has to come to terms with. This is the view of Serbia’s Deputy Minister for Kosovo Affairs, Oliver Ivanovic. In an interview given to daily Dnevnik di Novi Sad, Ivanovic made his views clear: that the EU is aiming at integrating Serbia without Kosovo, just as it did with Cyprus without its northern Turkish-occupied part. “If Brussels really wants to see the whole region integrated into the EU, there is no other solution. Apart from which, it was they (Brussels, ed.) who turned Kosovo into another Cyprus”. In Ivanovic’s opinion, the countries that recognised Kosovo’s independence state that it is neither possible to return to the previous state of affairs nor to freeze the conflict, nor to negotiate over the status of Kosovo. Of the 27 EU countries, five have not acknowledged the independence proclaimed by Pristina on February 17 2008: Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus. According to Ivanovic, who represents a moderate when it comes to Kosovo in the Serb government, dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will only be able to succeed if it comes on EU and US initiative, both of who are able to sway decisions made by the Kosovar authorities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Cities: Paris-Tel Aviv Friendship, Cooperation Pact

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 7 — The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, and the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, today signed a “pact of friendship and cooperation” focused on developing the links between the two cities, intensifying exchanges between their citizens, elected representatives, cultural structures and city administrations. The document mentions, in particular, transport and city planning, information technologies and communication, cultural heritage, public housing, design, cinema and architecture. The pact between Paris and the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, is somewhat similar to a twinning, but as Paris since 1951 is twinned exclusively with Rome, so far the Mayors of Paris have signed cooperation agreements with the other great capitals. Delanoe inaugurated a Film Festival in Paris on Tuesday evening, at the Cineteque of Tel Aviv, within the framework of the “Forum des Images”, which last November organised in Paris a Portrait of Tel Aviv for the centenary of the Israeli city. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Erdogan: Israel Main Threat to Peace

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 7 — Israel currently represents “the main threat to regional peace” in the Middle East, according to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was speaking during his visit to Paris which began last night. “If a country uses disproportionate force in Palestine, in Gaza, using phosphorous bombs, we do not congratulate them on their actions. Instead we ask them why they have acted in such a way,” he said. “An attack killed 1,500 people and the reasons given for it were lies,” continued Erdogan, referring to Israel’s Molten Lead operation carried out by Israel in Gaza between December 27 2008 and January 18 2009. “Goldstone is Jewish and his report is clear,” he continued, evoking the UN-commissioned report by South African judge Richard Goldstone, who accused Israel, as well as some Palestinian groups, of committing war crimes during the Israeli army’s Molten Lead operation in Gaza. “It is not because we are Muslims that we have this attitude,” Erdogan continued, “our attitude is a humanitarian one”. The Turkish PM reiterated his hostility towards the threat of international sanctions against Iran. Speaking of Israel’s nuclear capabilities (which have never been officially recognised by the Israeli state), Erdogan pointed out that Tel Aviv’s failure to adhere to the non-proliferation treaty should not make the country exempt from accountability towards the international community: “Is it logical that not being part of the NPT should allow you to behave as you want every day?” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Gross Propaganda’, Israel Responds to Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 7 — Israel’s Foreign Minister has called the statement made today in Paris by Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan — according to whom Israel is the “main threat to peace” in the Middle East — “gross propaganda”. This was the reply given from Jerusalem by spokesman Yigal Palmor to ANSA. Palmor underscored that “ it is inappropriate that Prime Minister Erdogan tries to volunteer for position as leader of the Islamic world by making use of such pieces of grossly anti-Israeli propaganda”. The exchange of words has come against a backdrop of persistent tension between Israel and Turkey and the risk of serious rifts in the relationship of strategic partnership — including in the military sector — that the two countries had established over the past few decades. It is a relationship which had gradually begun to show cracks since the beginning of Erdogan’s government — the first Islamic leader in power in modern Turkey — and which deteriorated further after Turkey harshly criticised Operation Cast Lead, initiated 15 months ago, which was brought to an end by Israel in the Gaza Strip (the Palestinian enclave under the control of Hamas radicals) following three weeks of strikes and bombings which left almost 1,400 Palestinians killed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel Police Uncovers Organ Trafficking Ring in North

Police on Tuesday arrested six men suspected of being involved in an organ trafficking ring in northern Israel. Among the suspects are an IDF reserves brigadier-general and two lawyers.

The department for fraud and misappropriation in northern Israel has been conducting an undercover investigation which began following a complaint by a 50-year-old woman from Nazareth, who replied to an advertisement in Arabic offering 100,000 dollars for a kidney.

The woman underwent medical examinations to ensure a match, and she was then flown a country in Eastern Europe where they extracted her kidney. The woman said that when she returned to Israel, she did not receive the money promised to her. Police say they have since received similar complaints.


Police also said that during the investigation they uncovered a large, very well-organized industry of organ trafficking. The ring includes organ traffickers, agents, and lawyers.

“The ring is operating throughout Israel and not only in the north, and appeals to the public through local media and internet,” a police official said. “The organ traffickers somehow receive details about potential transplant candidates and they offer them their services,” he said.

The investigators said that the traffickers usually demand around 120,000 dollars for a kidney transplant. While the donors, the majority of which are in serious financial troubles, are taken advantage of and receive around 10,000 dollars. Some of them get even smaller sums, and some do not receive any money at all.

The donors sign a contract and fill out fraudulent affidavits claiming a family connection between the donor and the recipient — a requirement in the countries where the surgeries take place.

Afterwards, the donors undergo medical examinations where they are categorized by blood types and other medical conditions, and are then flown to countries in Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and Ecuador.

There, the donors undergo surgery to extract their kidney, and shortly afterwards return to Israel without any medical documentation, many times suffering from medical complications.

During the investigation, police found out that a number of transplant candidates were on their way abroad to undergo surgery. Police located the donors and informed them that they were victims of fraud. Some of the donors were located at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport, right before their departure.

Investigators said that there are several more fraud victims located abroad who are due to return to Israel after they were notified that some of the traffickers were under arrest

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bangladesh: Catholic Worker Centre Open to Protestants and Muslims

The Jesus Worker Centre was set up in 1995 in an industrial district about 100 kilometres from the capital through the initiative of PIME missionaries. Hundreds of faithful meet there to pray and share their experiences. The centre’s long-term plans include serving as “ecumenical place”, with a church, a school, a medical dispensary and a technical centre.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — More than 300 Bangladeshi Christians observed Good Friday at the Jesus Worker Centre, which is located inside the Jirani Export processing zone (EPZ), in Savar Upazile (district), about 100 kilometres from Dhaka. Young Christian workers from different dioceses, including those of Dinajpur, Mymensingh, Chittagong and Rajshahi, meet at the centre to pray and share their experiences.

Edward Hazda, a young Catholic worker from Dinajpur, told AsiaNews that he moved to Dhaka for a better life, but found himself “isolated among Muslims,” feeling “helpless”. However, the presence of missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and the centre’s activities helped him realise that he was “not alone”.

The priests celebrate Mass every Friday, the Muslim day of rest according to the Muslim calendar.

Paulus Marandi, who works for the Atomic Energy Commission, said that he is preparing his “three-month-old daughter’s baptism”, a step made possible by the centre, because he cannot “go to the parish in the capital after working hard all day.”

Father Dominic, a diocesan priest, created the Jesus Worker Centre with the help of Fr Carlo Dotti, a PIME missionary, said Ft Luca Galimberti, himself a PIME missionary from Como (Italy).

Both Frs Dominic and Carlo decided to dedicate some of their time to EPZ workers. Since its inception, the local Catholic community has grown. “This past Christmas, more than 600 people came together for the various functions.”

Now Catholic workers meet for open-air prayers because the centre’s headquarters cannot fit them all.

“We are working on building a church but need about 150,000 taka (US$ 2,300) for the first floor. So far we have raised about half that amount,” Fr Luca said.

The final plans for the centre include a school, which would be open to Muslim children. The centre itself would operate as an “ecumenical place” for Catholics, Protestants and Muslims, based on love, sharing and mutual respect.

A medical dispensary would also be built beside the school, and a technical centre is planned to help people learn about new technologies and get a job.

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

Grand Canal Resort, Abu Dhabi Inspired by Venice

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, APRIL 7 — To recreate the romace and the magic of Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, canals, lights and water are just a few of the ingredients chosen by Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) to realise its first beach resort in the coasts of the Emirati capital. The colossal work is to be named “Grand Canal” and will be completed by the end of the year by the Emirate-based company and managed by a well-known luxury brand, JW Marriott. With 595 rooms and 29 suites — each complete with its own spa — the new resort will be located near Abu Dhabi’s imposing Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan mosque, between the Maqtaa and Mussafah bridges. Richard Riley, general manager of the company, says that ADNH has invested 1.5 billion dirhams (305.8 million euros) in the Grand Canal, according to the website of the newspaper Gulf News. Four bridges evoking the Italian city will link the central body of the hotel to the resort’s other attractions: a residence made up of 169 flats with first-class service, 85 detached villas and for the more demanding clients, 10 villas built directly on the sea, with a private jetty for mooring yachts of up to 30 metres long. Grand Canal will have its own seafront, and there will be a host of food and shopping outlets, with 17 restaurants and 20 shops. For sports lovers, says the ADNH, there will be a huge fitness centre and one of the most modern and innovative swimming pools of recent times, while a ballroom with a capacity of 1000 people will be available to guests. According to Riley, “we are expect millions of visitors every year” to the new resort, the second biggest in all of the Emirates. The ADNH’s main clients are often visitors from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “Around 60% of bookings are made by institutions and 40% by families or individuals”. During the launch period, the Grand Canal, the design of which has been entrusted to the American architecture company OTAK, will offer promotional rates, Riley concluded. Abu Dhabi National Hotels, however, has even bigger plans, with the opening — scheduled for March 2011 — of the Park Hyatt Hotel on the artificial island of Saadiyat. In total, the company says, up to 2.8 billion dirhams (569.6 million euros) will be invested for the construction of new hotels in Abu Dhabi alone. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran: Obama ‘Can’t Do a Damn Thing’

Ahmadinejad mocks new U.S. nuclear strategy

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s hard-line president on Wednesday ridiculed President Barack Obama’s new nuclear strategy, which turns the U.S. focus away from the Cold War threats and instead aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons to rogue states or terrorists.

Obama on Tuesday announced the new strategy, including a vow not to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them. Iran, however, was a notable exception to that pledge, along with North Korea, because Washington accuses them of not cooperating with the international community on nonproliferation standards.

Concerns over Iran’s nuclear program figure prominently in the new U.S. strategy. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the focus would now be on terror groups such as al-Qaida as well as North Korea’s nuclear buildup and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided Obama over the plan in a speech Wednesday to a crowd of thousands in the country’s northwest.

“American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately put their finger on the trigger like cowboys,” he said.

“Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended,” Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV. “(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn’t do a damn thing, let alone you.”

The United States and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Iran, which says its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity.

Washington is heading a push for the United Nations to impose new sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspect uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or the material for a warhead. Iran says it has a right to enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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

Syria: EU, New Shelter for Women Victims of Trafficking Opens

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APR 7 — A second shelter for women victims of human trafficking, funded by the Eu, is now open in Syria, in the city of Aleppo. This centre — according to the Enpi website ( — is one of the “instruments” designed to accompany the new law against human trafficking in the country. The shelter, financed by the Eu with 1.5 million euros, is the second of its type in Syria, the first having opened in December 2008, to be set up in the framework of an Eu-funded programme to support Iraqi refugees in Syria, a community of 1.5 million people. The centre, which is not exclusively for Iraqi women, will host up to 30 residents who will benefit from medical, psychological and legal help. It will also provide them with professional training to help them increase their financial autonomy. The shelter will also help the women set up immigration files if they wish to be resettled in a third country, or return to Iraq if they wish. Children will also be admitted until the age of 14. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: 2009 Sees 50% Rise in Software Piracy Complaints

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 7 — Complaints of software piracy in Turkey increased by 50% in 2009 over the preceding year while the number of legal proceedings carried out by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) Turkey saw a 30% increase in the same period, Today’s Zaman reports quoting data from the company. According to a report released by the firm, following complaints and denouncements made during the year, the BSA contributed to the seizure of pirated software programs worth $1 million last year in Turkey. The company has commenced legal proceedings against 2,256 firms following around 4,000 reports in Europe. The lawsuits followed by the BSA have cost firms in Europe $16 million. BSA Turkey Manager Elcim Berkay said their findings had shown that the company’s services in Turkey have proven to be successful in detecting and minimizing software piracy in the country. She said a 10 percentage point decline in the current level of software piracy could bring an extra $80 million in tax revenues along with $624 million in gross domestic product (GDP). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Erdogan, Sarkozy Can Change His Mind on EU Membership

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 7 — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today during his visit to Paris that he “hopes” French President Nicolas Sarkozy will change his mind on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. “I haven’t given up hope” Erdogan told reporters before his meeting with Sarkozy. “I think Nicolas Sarkozy can still revise his position”. Sarkozy has been one of the main opponents of Turkey’s accession, since he took office in 2007. Paris, like Berlin, has proposed a form of “privileged partnership” for Turkey, instead of a real EU membership. Erdogan also mentioned the debate on the full Muslim veil in France, saying that he finds it “difficult” to understand why such a debate takes place. “In a laic system” the Turkish Premier said, “everybody must be able to live his or her own religion”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia: The Poetry of Courage: Hissa Hilal Challenges Islamic Extremism

The final round of ‘Million’s Poet’ is scheduled for tonight in Abu Dhabi. For the first time, a woman could win the Arab world’s foremost poetry competition. A homemaker and mother of four, the Saudi woman has received death threats. In her poems, she slams suicide bombers and the segregation of the sexes.

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Five Arab poets will compete tonight in Abu Dhabi in the fourth edition of the Million’s Poet, a competition for the most talented poet in Arabic poetry. This year’s finalist has three Kuwaitis and two Saudis competing, including Hissa Hilal, a woman whose presence has focused the international spotlight, especially since she has received death threats for her poems.

Originally scheduled for 31 March, the show was postponed by a week because of the death of Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al Nahyan, 41, who lost his life in an airplane accident in Morocco. The competition is organised and sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH).

Broadcast live from Al Raha Beach Theater on Abu Dhabi TV, the weekly show (on Wednesday) presented 48 poets, carefully selected by a panel of experts from thousands of applicants after a six-week tour of Gulf countries and Jordan.

Much of the Middle East will grind to a halt tonight as an estimated audience of more than 20 million is expected to gather round television sets across the Arab world for the final.

The five finalists are Hissa Hilal and Jazaa Al Boqami from Saudi Arabia, who will contend for the five million dirham (US$ 1.3 million) prize with Sultan Al Asaimar, Fallah Al Moragi and Nasser Al Ajmi from Kuwait. However, most spectators will keep their eye less on the prize than on Hissa Hilal, a Saudi homemaker and mother of four, whose participation has become a cause celebre in the Arab world.

Wearing a niqab with only her eyes visible behind her full-length black gown, Hilal is the first woman to have reached the final. More importantly, it is the manner in which she got there that has captivated the judges and the public.

Three weeks ago, she stormed into the penultimate round with a blistering attack on extremist Muslim clerics. Her poem, The Chaos of Fatwas, denounced those who issue hard-line religious decrees, comparing them to suicide bombers as “monsters wearing belts”. She attacked the segregation of the sexes maintained by preachers who “prey like a wolf” on those who seek progress and peace.

Her poems were met by open hostility from the most radical and conservative segments of Saudi society.

In the blogosphere, some have come to her defence full of admiration for her courage. Others have called for death. Her family has received death threats, whilst on Islamist websites she has been denounced as un-Islamic.

“Like anyone who receives a threat to scare him or her, I take it seriously but only slightly,” she said recently, adding, “I want peace for everyone, Muslims and others. We are all living in a global village, so we cannot live without each other.”

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

Yemen: Amnesty Deplores Air Raids in North

London, 6 April (AKI) — Yemeni and Saudi Arabian forces have breached international humanitarian law by relentlessly pounding civilian targets in northern Yemen in air raids between last August and February this year, according to Amnesty International. The rights group said it obtained hundreds of images showing the “true scale and ferocity” of the bombings which took place during a conflict with Shia al-Houthi rebels which ended in a shaky truce on 11 February.

“This is a largely invisible conflict that has been waged behind closed doors. These images reveal the true scale and ferocity of the bombing and the impact it had on the civilians caught up in it,” said Philip Luther, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme.

The photos show damaged or destroyed market places, mosques, petrol stations, small businesses, a primary school, a power plant, a health centre and dozens of houses and residential buildings.

“This information has only now come to light through Yemenis who fled the conflict and have reached other parts of the country,” said Luther.

Amnesty said the photos were taken in March in the town of al-Nadir in the northern region of Sadah and passed to International by an unnamed source.

So-called Houthis — armed followers of a Hussain Badr al-Din al-Houthi, a Shia cleric from the Zaidi sect — waged a six-year insurgency after al-Houthi was killed in September, 2004. The Houthis claim to suffer social and economic discrimination.

Saudi Arabia deployed its army and air force inside Sadah last November after the al-Houthi rebels conducted cross-border raids.

Many witnesses interviewed separately by Amnesty said the Saudi Arabian air strikes, which began in November were much more intense and powerful than earlier Yemeni military attacks.

But the photographs in Amnesty’s are consistent with testimony given by many witnesses who fled Sadah to Amnesty International delegates in Yemen earlier this month.

Witnesses said the Saudi air raids went on around the clock in the days leading up the ceasefire signed between the Yemeni government and the al-Houthi rebels in February.

The subsequent rounds of fighting in Sadah have resulted in hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilian casualties, Amnesty said. Residents interviewed by the group have claimed that indiscriminate attacks have killed dozens of unarmed men, women and children.

Government restrictions on access to the the region and security concerns have made it difficult for independent observers to visit and verify claims made by residents.

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

South Asia

India: Maoist Rebels ‘Kill at Least 73 Police’

Raipur, 6 April (AKI/IANS) — Maoist militants killed at least 73 paramilitary police and other personnel in the jungles of central India on Tuesday in one of the insurgency’s worst militant attacks, Indian media said on Tuesday. A group from the Central Reserve Police Force was attacked at dawn on Tuesday in thick forest in the state of Chhattisgarh.

When reinforcements rushed to the scene they were surrounded by hundreds of Maoists and attacked, police said.

According to the Indian news agency, Ians, the dead included a deputy and an assistant commandant.

The troopers were cut down in a hail of automatic gunfire and landmine explosions and a heavily armoured anti-mine vehicle was blown up when it was sent to retrieve the wounded, police said.

“ It is very tragic and sad,” police director General Vikram Srivastava told the country’s daily, The Times of India.

Home minister P Chidambaram was shocked at the attack and said something must have gone “drastically wrong.”

“The casualty is very high and I am deeply shocked at the loss of lives….This shows the savage nature of CPI (Maoist) and the brutality and the savagery of which they are capable,” he said.

Police said that two subsequent rescue missions were ambushed by rebels and clashes were continuing.

Thousands have died during the Maoist rebels’ 20-year fight for communist rule.

The Indian government recently began a major offensive against the rebels in several states.

The Maoists have told the government they would agree to talks for a truce if four of their imprisoned senior leaders were released from jail and the current offensive was halted.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India’s “greatest internal security challenge”.

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

Kyrgyzstan: People Take to the Streets Demanding the Resignation of Bakiyev

Thousands demonstrate in Bishkek and other cities, exacerbated by poverty and widespread corruption. Protesters clash with police but do not leave the square. The authorities arrest opposition leaders. The parliament debates whether to call in the army.

Bishkek (AsiaNews / Agencies) — People have taken to the streets in many cities in protest, exacerbated by the rising cost of living and widespread corruption, with calls for the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Today in Bishkek thousands marched on government buildings (the so-called “White House”), clashing with police and torching several police cars and a cafe.

Yesterday in northwestern Talas, thousands of people invaded the government palace and surrounded the police headquarters in a mass demonstration very similar to that in 2005 that brought down the government and forced President Askar Akayev to flee the country, paving the way for the emergence of Bakiyev.

The reaction of the government has been determined and overnight night in the capital many opposition leaders were arrested, leaving the protesters without any real leaders. Among those arrested was Almazbek Atambayev, the main opposition leader, Isa Omurkulov and Omuerbek Tekebayev. The parliament is debating whether to declare a curfew and call in the army. The fear is that this will unleash a bloodbath and an uncontrollable reaction from the crowd, which could extend to all northern regions. Bishkek protesters are determined, some are armed and violently attacked the police, who used tear gas and smoke. Premier Danivar Usenov says at least 85 people have been wounded, including several policemen. Residents say that the internet has been blocked in many areas, television broadcasts are down and telephone contacts are difficult.

The people, exasperated by the rising cost of living and widespread unemployment, have lost faith in government, accused of corruption. Images of Bakyiev are burned in the square. In the parliamentary elections of 2009, European observers spoke of widespread fraud. In recent weeks the authorities have implemented a growing censorship and pressure on media and websites, fomenting protest.

In Naryn, in the center of the country, thousands of people have occupied the government building and set up a “government of the people.” The main road from Bishkek to Talas is controlled by a large police cordon.

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

Nepal: Threats and Hindu Extremism Do Not Stop Conversions to Catholicism

On the Octave of Easter, 24 catechumens will be baptised at Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral. Attacked on 23 May 2009 by Hindu extremists from the Nepal Defence Army, the church sees about 200 non-Catholics attend Mass every Sunday.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — On the Octave of Easter, 24 catechumens will be baptised at Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral after following a two-year programme. The event falls almost a year after Hindu extremists attacked the church on 23 May 2009, killing three people.

Hindu-born Rajani Chetri is one of the 24 catechumens. “I came to Catholicism,” she said, “when I saw a group of Catholics take care of an elderly woman who had fallen sick. A doctor refused to treat her, but the Catholics cared for her. Now she is healthy again.”

Nepal is home to about 150,000 Christians, 8,000 of whom are Catholic. Before the monarchy was abolished, Hinduism was the state religion, and touched the life of every Nepali.

When the republic was proclaimed, the state was secularised and religious freedom was guaranteed, at least in principle. In fact, Christians are still the target of threats and abuse by Hindus. Nevertheless, a certain number of non-Catholics show interest in the religion despite the difficulty in abandoning the superstitions and beliefs of their old faith. About 200 of them regularly attend Sunday Mass in the cathedral.

“Each year, about 30 to 35 people convert,” said Fr George Kalapurackal, the cathedral’s parish priest. “People who want to convert must follow a two-year programme, designed to help catechumens to gradually come to new faith. They learn about Christianity and its precepts and their own behaviour is monitored.”

The education of catechumens is fundamental for the clergyman because it shows how well the new faith is actually blossoming. It also enables educators to help future Catholics along their path of conversion before they are baptised.

Fr George has been the cathedral’s parish priest since 1994. During this period, he has been threatened on several occasions by the Nepal Defence Army (NDA), which is responsible for last year’s terror attack that left three people dead, and scores injured.

“Despite the risks, the number of Nepali Catholics has not dropped. In fact, people were not afraid of coming to church after the blast,” he said. “If we die in this place of peace, we could go straight to heaven,” he added.

In January, NDA leader Ram Prasad Mainali, who was masterminded last year’s attack, wrote a letter to Nepali Christians, asking for forgiveness.

“We have already forgiven him,” Father George said, “but it is up to the government to decide what to do in such cases.”

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

Protests Appear to Have Toppled Kyrgyz Government

Large-scale protests appear to have overthrown the government of Kyrgyzstan, an important American ally in Central Asia, after violence between riot police officers and opposition demonstrators on Thursday killed at least 17 people.

The country’s president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, fled the capital, Bishkek, on his plane, and the opposition declared that it was forming its own government.

Earlier in the day, the police used bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against a crowd of thousands massing in front of the presidential office in Bishkek, according to witness accounts. At least 17 people were killed and others were wounded, officials said.

The upheaval raised questions about the future of an important American air base that operates in Kyrgyzstan in support of the NATO mission in nearby Afghanistan. American officials said that as of Wednesday evening the base was functioning normally.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Boys Blamed for Attack on Tourist

Four boys as young as 10 are believed to be responsible for a Sydney attack that left a Scottish tourist in a critical condition with head injuries.

Mark Willis, 25, and his girlfriend Jane McLean, also in her 20s, were heading home in Sydney’s south after a night out when Mr Willis was assaulted.

A verbal argument became physical when he was punched by one of the gang of youths and fell, hitting his head on the footpath.

He’s now in a critical condition after undergoing emergency surgery.

Police say they’re worried about the age of the attackers, urging them to come forward and also calling for any witnesses to contact them.

The couple had caught a bus from the city to Rockdale railway station in the early hours of Wednesday when a row ensued with the four boys.

But the dispute escalated into violence after the couple, who have been in Sydney since December on working visas, got off the bus and were walking in Geeves Avenue.

“There was a verbal exchange between the two parties and shortly after there was a physical fight between Mark and the four males,” Detective Superintendent Helen Begg told reporters on Wednesday.

“Mark has fallen and hit his head on the footpath.”

A passer-by confronted the attackers and called an ambulance from a nearby public phone.

Mr Willis was rushed to St George Hospital.

His family in Scotland has been notified and is believed to be preparing to travel to Sydney.

The attack ended the couple’s plans to travel around Australia in coming months.

Supt Begg urged the boys involved or their parents to contact police.

“The ages of these people who have committed this offence are very young. I am very concerned,” Supt Begg said.

“It was the early hours of the morning. I would seek any assistance from the children or their parents in bringing closure to this matter.”

Each boy is described as being aged between 10 and 15 years, up to about 175cm tall, with dark hair.

Two of the boys wore hooded jackets, while another wore a beanie.

Police want to speak with the dark-haired man who called the ambulance. He was wearing a red hooded jumper with a white H logo, and dark trousers.

Investigators also hope to get information from a woman who was on the bus and who spoke with the boys.

She is described as aged between 20 and 25 with long black hair and was wearing a long-sleeved pink jacket and blue jeans.

Wednesday’s attack comes less than a month after the brutal bashing of a wheelchair-bound Canadian man at Mt Druitt railway station.

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, have since been charged with robbery and assault offences and are before the courts.

Anyone with information on Wednesday’s assault is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

NSW Police Appeal for Witnesses After 25-Year-Old Man Seriously Assaulted — Rockdale

A 25-year-old Scottish National is undergoing emergency neurosurgery after being assaulted near a southern Sydney railway station overnight.

About 3.25am today, Mark Willis and his girlfriend Jane McLean were alighting from a bus at Rockdale Railway Station when they were approached by a group of four teenagers.

The males and the couple became involved in a verbal argument which became physical.

The 25-year-old man has been assaulted by one of the males, falling to the ground and hitting his head on the footpath. He has been taken to St George Hospital.

The males were last seen running north along Geeves Street. They are described as:

Offender 1 — Aged between 10 and 14, about 150cm to 160cm tall, dark complexion, dark coloured hair which is cut into a mullet. He was wearing grey long sleeve hooded jumper, black long pants

Offender 2 — Aged between 12 and 15, about 170cm tall, medium complexion, black coloured hair, a bit shaggy and partially covering ears, long side burns. He was wearing a light grey zip up jacket and black trousers.

Offender 3 — Aged between 10 and 14, about 150cm to 160cm, dark complexion. When he was last seen he was wearing green hooded long sleeve jumper, grey beanie, black shorts, white shoes.

Offender 4 — Aged between 12 and 15, about 175 cm tall, medium complexions. Wearing white long sleeve hooded ‘Henleys’ brand jumper and black coloured jeans.

Jane, who is also in her mid-twenties and from Scotland, was not injured. She is working with police to identify the males in the group.

Police are appealing for any of the passengers who were on the bus to contact them. In particular, they would like to speak to:

A woman aged between 20 to 25 years with long black hair. She was last seen wearing a long sleeved pink jacket and blue jeans.

A man at Rockdale who is aged between 20 to 25 years and was last seen wearing a red hooded jumper with a white “h” logo on front, dark trousers and dark hair.

St George Police are investigating the circumstances leading up to the assault and appeal to anyone who might have witnessed the attack to contact them via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. All information will be treated in strict confidence.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Dutch Sidestep EU Red Tape to Rescue German Ship

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Gaining fast on the pirates who had seized a German freighter, Dutch naval captain Col. Hans Lodder had no time to waste on bureaucracy.

Sidestepping the command of the European Union’s anti-piracy task force, he went instead to his own government for authorization to recapture the ship by force.

Lodder first ascertained that the Taipan’s crew had locked itself in a bulletproof room. Then he launched his ship’s Lynx helicopter with a team of six special forces marines.

With troops providing cover fire from the helicopter, the marines rappelled onto the ship’s deck of the MV Taipan to shoot it out, if need be, with the pirates. But they met no resistance. The 15-man crew was rescued, and 10 Somali pirates were captured.

“The pirates surrendered the moment they saw the marines,” Lodder said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the Dutch frigate Tromp. No one was injured.

Monday’s successful rescue showed that, when swift decisions are needed, it can be quicker to work around the European Union’s command.

It was the first time a Dutch ship involved in the EU mission had used force to recapture a hijacked ship. An EU spokesman could not immediately recall any incident when troops under EU command had boarded a seized ship under the threat of fire.

Lodder said he decided to seek permission from his own command for an “opposed boarding” — one where pirates may resist — rather than act under procedures laid down by Brussels.

“We just told my force commander we would operate under national command until after the boarding,” Lodder told The Associated Press. “We kept everyone in the EU informed of everything we did.”

A spokesman for the EU mission acknowledged the Dutch action avoided a delay and was legitimate.

“For speed of reaction, if you’re on the spot … (and) dispatched at haste to react to something immediately, the best thing to do is to go under national command,” said Cmdr. John Harbour, U.K.-based spokesman for the European Union Naval Force Somalia.

“If we were about to conduct an operation with a bit more time on our hands then we may well have gone through the standard EU process with a view to consulting,” he added. “That consultation just takes a bit longer.”

Harbour also said the Taipan was sailing outside the zone covered by the EU mission when it was rescued, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Somalia.

Dutch Defense Ministry spokesman Robin Middel said EU authorization was sidestepped to speed up the rescue.

Bibi van Ginkel, a senior research fellow at the Clingendael think tank’s Security and Conflict Program in the Netherlands, said opting out of a multinational mission was possible at sea because ships are sailing under their national flags anyway.

It would be more difficult in land-based peacekeeping missions because the nations involved operate under the jurisdiction of the country they are deployed to, she said.

The Tromp may turn over the 10 captured Monday to German or Dutch prosecutors for what would be a rare European piracy trial.

Pottengal Mukundan, director of the Commercial Crimes Services of the International Maritime Bureau in London, which monitors pirate attacks, praised the Dutch rescue operation.

“It is unusual and very welcome” that a navy recaptures a ship from pirates, he said. “That is absolutely the right thing to do. By denying the pirates their prize it does deter them from taking these actions.”

Harbour, of the EU naval force, said the Dutch mission highlighted not the EU’s laborious decision-making processes, but rather its ability to navigate a way quickly through them.

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

Korean Warship Reaches Oil Tanker in the Hands of Somali Pirates

The Samho Dream was attacked by pirates in the waters of the Indian Ocean. The vessel can carry up to 300 thousand tons, has 24 crew members and contains 1.5 million of crude oil. The ship was directed towards Somalia. Currently no ransom is demand.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A South Korean warship has tracked down and is following at a safe distance the super-tanker seized by Somali pirates in Indian Ocean waters. The Samho Dream can carry up to 300 thousand tons, has 24 crew members and is packed with crude oil. The vessel left Iraq and was heading towards the United States, the pirates have not yet made any ransom demand.

When the crew of the tanker — sailing under the South Korean flag — first launched the alarm, the warship stationed in the Gulf of Aden, was about 1500 km southeast of the area where the seizure occurred. The South Korean Foreign Ministry reports that the cruiser is following the tanker at a distance, which the pirates have directed toward the coast of Somalia.

On board there are about 1.5 million barrels of oil: a load of great value, but equally volatile and at a fire hazard in the event of an armed intervention. At the risk not only the 24 crew members — including 19 Filipinos and 5 South Koreans, — but there is also a well founded fear of environmental damage in the event of a crude oil spill.

Last year Somali pirates obtained tens of millions of dollars in ransom. South Korea is one of many Asian nations that have committed warships in the struggle of Western countries against piracy in the waters off Somalia. In recent years, at least four freighters with the flag of Seoul ended up in the hands of pirates, who released the vessels and their crew only after the payment of multi million dollar ransoms.

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

Somali Pirates Hijack Turkish Ship

Somali pirates have hijacked a Turkish cargo vessel off the coast of Kenya, the EU’s naval force has said.

The Yasin C is reported to have come under attack some 250 nautical miles (460km) east of its destination, the port of Mombasa.

Cdr John Harbour said that the carrier had a crew of 25 people on board, all of whom are believed to be Turkish.

“The MV Yasin C was taken around midday, 250 nautical miles off the Kenyan coast,” Cdr Harbour said.

The pirates have expanded the reach of their attacks, recently seizing a vessel closer to India than Africa.

The EU’s naval force, which patrols the waters off the coast of east Africa, says it believes its new strategy has pushed the pirate gangs further afield.

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


Britain Reviewing Visa Waiver for Eastern Carribean Nationals

LONDON, England (CMC) — Britain says it has written to five Caribbean governments indicating that while their nationals will continue to enter the country without a visa, the matter is now under review.

The affected countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson, in a statement published on the British government website, said London had written to the five governments “to advise that, while they will maintain their visa-free status for the time being, the decision will be subject to a further review”.

Johnson said that in addition to those five countries, London has also written to the Dominica and St Lucia governments, highlighting a number of concerns and giving them a six-month period to deal with them.

Britain said that the review of the Eastern Caribbean countries represents the final stage of the United Kingdom’s first global review of visa regimes in relation to the seven countries.

“A visa regime is a very effective immigration, crime and security control measure. As part of our overseas defences, our Visa Waiver Test helps us determine whether our visa regimes are in the right places. Travellers from every country beyond the European Economic Area and Switzerland were measured against a range of criteria, including illegal immigration, crime and security concerns,” he said.

The Home Secretary noted the close historic, economic and political ties with Dominica and St Lucia and said London was aware that the introduction of a visa regime would be a significant step.

“It is a decision we do not take lightly,” he stressed.

“As a result, we will now enter a six-month period of detailed dialogue with the governments concerned to examine what actions will be taken to address our concerns and mitigate the need for a visa regime to be introduced,” Johnson said.

He explained that during that time, Dominica and St Lucia “will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to put into effect credible and realistic plans, with clear timetables, to reduce the risks to the UK, and begin implementing these plans by the end of the dialogue period”.

The Home Secretary said that the United Kingdom government remains committed to operating a firm but fair immigration policy.

“It gives a high priority to treating all foreign nationals coming to or present in the UK with dignity and respect, and the highest legal standards. However, it expects all visitors to the UK to play by the rules.

“The UK will always welcome genuine visitors, whether business, tourist, student or family, but will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the security of the UK,” he added.

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

Denmark: Fighting Breaks Out at Refugee Centre

Fighting has broken out at the Sandholm refugee and asylum centre — some 100 involved, one reported dead.

A large force of police officers has been sent to the Sandholm refugee and asylum centre where fighting has broken out among some 100 people, some of whom have been using knives.

“We are currently trying to get things under control and get an overview of the situation,” says North Zealand Police Spokesman Henrik Suhr, adding that those involved in the fighting are refugees and asylum seekers.

According to, at least one person has been killed in the fighting, but it is not yet clear what started the incident.

Although Suhr has declined to confirm or deny any deaths, he says that several people have been seriously injured.

At least four people have been arrested.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ‘Non-Western Immigration Costs Up to €10bn a Year’: Update

Immigration from non-western countries costs Dutch society between €6bn and €10bn a year, according to a preliminary report by private research institute Nyfer for the anti-Islam party PVV, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

The research is based on ‘conservative’ estimates of the cost of 20,000 non-western migrants, the paper says. ‘That is the number of foreigners who come here every year in order to reunite with their families. So the real cost is much higher,’ PVV leader Geert Wilders told the paper.

According to Nos tv, Nyfer officials are angry the preliminary findings have been publicised and say the final report is due to be published at the end of the month. Wilders himself has come up with the rough estimates used in the Telegraaf, Nos quotes Nyfer as saying.


The price tage shows that the Netherlands must put an end to non-western immigration, particularly in the light of the spending cuts which need to be made, Wilders said.

‘Academic research shows we can save billions if we stop or limit immigration,’ Wilders said. He commissioned the research after integration minister Eberhard van de Laan said last year the figures were not available.

The Telegraaf says the research shows non-western immigrants cost society more because they are more likely to claim welfare benefits and long-term nursing care, and are over-represented in the criminal justice system.

By contrast, they are less likely to use state-funded childcare and get student grants.


A stop on non-western immigration is likely to be part of the PVV’s political manifesto ahead of the June 9 general election.

According to Trouw, it is still unclear when the manifesto will be published. Instead, the party appears to be releasing its standpoints bit by bit to generate maximum publicity, the paper says.

On Tuesday, for example, the PVV said it wanted to reduce the number of public tv channels from three to one and close down Dutch worldservice radio.

The party’s popularity has been declining steadily in the polls since the local elections at the beginning of March.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Immigration Costs Six Billion Euros

[Translated by VH]

THE HAGUE — The influx of non-western immigrants costs society annually between six and ten billion euros. Because of these migrants, the Dutch taxpayer themselves each lose a few hundreds of thousands euros a person.

This follows from the preliminary results of research commissioned by the PVV by the scientific research bureau Nyfer. This is a conservative estimate based on a research on twenty thousand non-Western immigrants. “That many immigrants aleady are heading this way every year alone, in the context of family reunification. The actual amount will therefore be much higher,” said PVV leader Geert Wilders.


The party sees this as a confirmation of the desire for an immigration stop from non-Western countries, especially now there have to be budget cuts. “Now scientific research shows that we could save billions if we stop or restrict immigration,” Wilders said. He decided to commission the renowned institute himself after the then Labour Minister Van der Laan (Integration) with great reluctance only offered a very limited insight [and refused to offer any more information].

Wilders: “This should be at the top the political agenda. Instead of the government taking on the citizens [with higher taxes, etc.], they should stop the immigration. This does not hurt the citizens, you don’t need to send anyone away.”

Non-western immigrants cost the society more than the average Dutch, because this group has more often income support, an above average use of the awbz [special health care] and is a larger cost factor with crime and law enforcement.

Against the high cost is that non-westerners for instance receive less study financing and make less use of childcare.

Wilders earlier had received much criticism when he announced the research. “Immigrants, Western and non-Western, are members of our society. Their presence can not be reduced to a simple addition and subtraction sum, along the measuring rule of the euro,” said Minister Van der Laan. The “cold” calculation would be raising the question of how the Freedom Party [PVV} was intending to deal with other groups of people who are economically “non-efficient,” such as disabled people.

Wilders: “They did not have a choice for that themselves.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

USA: Illegals Bilk Taxpayers in $13 Million Fraud Ring

‘This is an extraordinarily serious, large case’

Twelve illegal aliens have pleaded guilty to swindling taxpayers out of more than $13 million in a major, four-year scheme in which tax firms catering to Hispanics claimed more than $22 million in fraudulent tax credits or deductions.

Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin F. McDonald for the District of South Carolina told the Greenville News, “This is the largest tax fraud case that I’m aware of ever occurring in the district of South Carolina. This is an extraordinarily serious, large case.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]