Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100412

Financial Crisis
»EU Bail-Out of Greece’s Sinking Economy ‘Just Postpones Day of Reckoning’ (and Will Cost British Taxpayers £600m)
»Greece: Stock Exchange Rising Sharply After EU-16 Aid Plan
»Greece: Economists Uncertain
»CNN Article Equates Confederate Soldiers to Terrorists
»FBI Destroyed File on Obama’s Grandfather
»Frank Gaffney: Obama, Unilateral Denuclearizer-in-Chief
»Health Care Reform Bill Violates the First and Fifth Amendments
»JD Gordon: Re-Examining Guantanamo
»Obama Tries to Eradicate Radical Islam — Not From America, But From America’s Mindset
»Obamacare’s Disastrous Preview
»U.S. Shouldn’t Play Nice on Nukes
»Zazi, Al Qaeda Pals Planned Rush-Hour Attack on Grand Central, Times Square Subway Stations
Europe and the EU
»Afganistan: ‘Emergency’ To Demand Release
»EU: Albania: Frattini, Candidate’s Status by 2010
»Fashion: Greek Girls Buy Their Wedding Dresses From Turkey
»Italy: Flood of Support for Aid Workers
»Real IRA Claims Responsibility for MI5 Explosion
»Spain: Fraud Uncovered, Solar Plants Working at Night
»Sweden: Consumer Group Rejects Israel Boycott Call
»UK: English-Speaking Pupils Now the Minority in 1,500 British Schools
»UK: Nurse Who Gave Patient Mop and Bucket to Mop Up His Urine Free to Continue Working
»UK: Schoolboy, 17, Stabbed to Death in Front of Aunt and Uncle by Masked Raiders During Lunchtime Raid on Home
»UK: Teenager Who Blinded Man With Her Stiletto Heel in Drunken Brawl is Jailed for 18 Months
»Vatican Posts New Paedophile Priest Rules
»Albania: Frattini, Hopefully Visa-Free Travels in Autumn
»Italy Backs Bosnia in EU and NATO, Frattini
»Serbia-Croatia: Towards Deal on Mutual Genocide Charges
Israel and the Palestinians
»Kadima’s Number 2 Criticises Netanyahu in Le Figaro
»PNA: Donor Countries Meeting in Madrid
Middle East
»Defence: Activation of BLACKSEAFOR in 2010 Begins in Turkey
»Good Days Ahead for Hezbollah
»Increasing Steps Towards Equality for Arab Women
»Listen to the Two Best Arab Journalists Warning What a Nuclear-Armed Iran Means
»Saudi Arabia: Government Warns of Al Qaeda Elements Disguising Themselves as Journalists
»Turkish TV Giant Looks to Conquer Europe
»‘Russia Engineered Air Crash That Killed President Kaczynski, ‘ Claims Polish MP
South Asia
»Afghanistan: No Aid Worker ‘Qaeda Link’
»Afghanistan: Italian Minister Says Aid Workers Could be Guilty
»Afghanistan: Hunt for Taliban Sniper Who Has Shot Dead Seven British Troops in 5-Month Killing Spree
»Italy: Microcredit Project for Moroccan Women
»UK: Teachers Fight Off Three Armed Illegal Migrants Who Tried to Sneak Aboard British School Bus in Calais
Culture Wars
»Homeschoolers Win Round Against United Nations
»UK: 1930s Textbook Fills in the Gaps Left by PC Teaching
»UK: Thank God for the One Man Who Has the Courage to Stand Up to Our Ruling Elite’s Assault on Christianity
»Energy Saving Light Bulbs Can Interfere With Television Sets

Financial Crisis

EU Bail-Out of Greece’s Sinking Economy ‘Just Postpones Day of Reckoning’ (and Will Cost British Taxpayers £600m)

The 30billion euros due to be leant to the stricken country this year alone are buying nothing but time, some said, arguing that the Greek economy will be struggling for years to come.

Markets were rising this morning on the news of the bailout, as was the price of oil. Greek bank shares also rose as analysts said the bailout was ‘above expectations’.

But all was not as it seemed, argued Neil Mackinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

‘So far the market reaction has been positive because the ‘deal’ is seen as providing the Greek government a reprieve on its near-term funding and liquidity issues and has pushed forward the day of reckoning,’ he said.

However he doubted that it was anything other than a short-term reprieve.

This was especially as the backstop agreement does nothing to resolve Greece’s long-term economic prospects — it faces years of falling output — or address the risks of a similar crisis exploding in other eurozone countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy.

‘Though the pressure of a near-term default has diminished, it doesn’t resolve the solvency issue facing Greece,’ he added.

Germany and France agreed that Athens should receive preferential cut-price loans to stave off a financial crisis.

But another cash injection from the International Monetary Fund means Britain will have to pay part of a further £13billion bill to prop up Greece in the money markets.

Because the UK contributes 5 per cent of the IMF annual budget, this would equate to a £650million bill for the taxpayer.

Mats Persson, research director of Open Europe — an independent think-tank that promotes reform of the EU — said: ‘This move will take Europe into uncharted territory and no doubt cause outrage amongst British taxpayers.

‘Britain didn’t want to be in the eurozone for this very reason as it is now paying for the economic mistakes of another government. This should be a eurozone problem, but I guess it is seen in Britain’s interests economically for Greece not to go bankrupt.’

Billionaire currency speculator George Soros had earlier warned that the eurozone faced ‘disintegration’ unless Germany guaranteed a multi-billion euro bail-out. Until yesterday, Berlin had strongly resisted a deal.

According to the tycoon, who ‘broke the Bank of England’ in 1992, the 11-year-old single currency would topple if Greece were allowed to renege on its £260billion debt mountain.

Mr Soros said: ‘The damage that break up would cause is so great that people will realise it, they will pull back from the brink.

‘Is there the political will to keep Europe together? If there’s not, I think there will be a process of disintegration.’

Under last night’s arrangement, eurozone members have promised to lend Greece at a discounted rate of 5 per cent if it cannot borrow money on international markets.

Following the recent plunge in the price of its debt, Greece’s borrowing rate soared to above 7 per cent.

The emergency deal could see Greece receive tens of billions of pounds more in loans over the next three years from the eurozone countries and the IMF.

Currently, it has to find £10billion by May to avoid defaulting on its loans.

Although Athens last night insisted it did not need to turn to its partners, experts believe it is only a matter of time before it taps the emergency fund.

Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said the country had not asked for the plan to be activated, and still hoped to borrow on markets rather than seeking a rescue.

‘The Greek government has not asked for the activation of the mechanism, even though this is already immediately available,’ Papaconstantinou said in Athens. ‘The aim is, and we believe we will continue to borrow unhindered on the markets.’

The value of Greek debt suffered a record plunge last week, driving up the price of borrowing money and leaving it in acute danger of being frozen out by international investors entirely.

Adding to the febrile mood were reports that depositors are withdrawing their savings from Greek banks and moving them offshore.

Critics like Soros, who made more than £650million nearly 20 years ago when the pound was ejected from the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday in 1992, have long argued that the structure of the single currency is flawed.

Without sweeping powers over taxation and spending, the eurozone will always be susceptible to financial turbulence in individual states, critics say.

But closer political union would go down badly in countries such as Germany, which pride themselves on their fiscal rectitude.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly questioned why her voters should be forced to bail out a profligate Greek government that spent years hiding the true extent of its borrowings.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the pledge of cash for Greece showed the 16 euro-zone nations will defend Europe’s single currency and help a partner in trouble.

‘It shows that the euro area is serious in doing what is necessary to secure financial stability,’ Barroso said in a statement.

‘I am convinced that it will help Greece to continue vigorously correct public finances imbalances and to deliver the necessary structural reforms.’

Even though the proposed emergency loans are more competitive than Greece could achieve on international money markets, it will still be paying more to borrow than many of its eurozone partners.

Some experts believe this mismatch could leave Athens mired in a continued fiscal crisis.

In a joint statement last night, the eurozone countries said: ‘The Eurogroup is confident that the determined efforts of the Greek authorities and its eurozone partners will allow it to overcome the fiscal and structural challenges of the Greek economy.’

However, many experts warned the Greek budgetary crisis has thrown an unforgiving light on other single currency nations labouring under massive debt burdens.

Spain, Portugal and Ireland are mired in deep recessions and, like Greece, are having to borrow heavily to pay for essential services like health and education.

Fears that the crisis would spread to other member countries led to heavy selling of the euro.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Greece: Stock Exchange Rising Sharply After EU-16 Aid Plan

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — The Athens stock exchange is rising sharply this morning after the Eurogroup’s announcement of its support mechanism yesterday. In early trading the general index rose by 4.2%. During an extraordinary teleconference, Finance Ministers from the 16 countries which have adopted the euro opted to put up 30 billion euros at an approximately 5% interest rate in the form of bilateral loans to help Greece exit the crisis. The agreement, which is the tangible result of the accord reached by the EU summit on March 25-26, was announced yesterday by Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn. The latter noted that to the 30 billion euros from the EU an additional 12-15 (according to valuations by experts) would be granted by the International Monetary Fund, which will bring the figure meant as “ammunition” against speculation to 42-45 billion euros. “In March we made a decision on the principles to be followed,” noted Juncker, and “now we have established the practical details” of the support mechanism for Greece. The mechanism is therefore ready to “become operational” whenever Athens requests it. Yesterday’s agreement establishes that all 16 Eurozone countries will take part, if necessary, in the granting of bilateral loans to Greece in proportion to their share of capital in the European Central Bank (ECB). Therefore, Italy may be called on to contribute an approximately 3.7 billion euros, since the country holds 12.49% of ECB capital. “No country will suffer from lending money to Greece,” underscored Juncker in noting that the interest rate on the loans, on the basis of the mechanism identified (which uses the one drawn up by the IMF as a sort of blueprint), will be around 5% (fixed rate for three years) and therefore “will not be a sort of subsidy”, though it will allow Greece to bring in better conditions that those on the markets to finance its enormous debt. Beginning today, technical experts from the European Commission, the IMF, the ECB and the Greek government will get down to work to draw up a joint action plan including “the conditional nature” to which the support mechanism for Greece is linked. At the same time, Eurozone countries will take the necessary measures to be ready, even at the national level, to help Greece out. The EU-IMF programme will cover a three-year period, and the 30 billion euros — which the IMF funds will be added — are to over only financial requirements for the first year, after which time a joint decision will be made on how to proceed. Yesterday’s decision was “an important one” commented Greek Finance Minister Giorgio Papaconstantinou. According to the EU Commission president, “it showed clear and strong support” which — in the eyes of the Permanent President of the EU Council, Herman Van Rompuy — “will contribute to stability”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Economists Uncertain

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 12 — The day after 16 countries of the European Union approved a 30 billion euros support package Greece may use to get out of its crisis, reactions on the Italian newspapers vary between optimism for the show of stability and dissatisfaction for the applied interest rates and the slowness of the political response. According to Jean Paul Fitoussi, Paris and Rome’s Luiss professor, in an interview to La Repubblica, “it looks like a punishment more than a rescue intervention.” Fitoussi claims that “it’s been a German power play, they want to show that whoever doesn’t follow their fiscal model, their balance control model, their finance austerity model, doesn’t deserve to stay in the European Union.” The economist then attacks the International Monetary Fund (FMI)’s intervention, adding that “Europe must be aware of its own strength and learn and resolve its own internal crisis”. Mild optimism comes, on the other side, from Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, member of the European Central Bank’s executive committee, who, interviewed by Il Corriere della Sera, mentions a “breakthrough”. “We managed to avoid in Europe what happened in the United States with Lehman”, Bini Smaghi states, but “a stronger control and cautionary constraint mechanism” is necessary, in order to prevent “such deep differences between countries before they happen”. Saying that the issue of finance strictness raised by Germany is “legitimate”, Bini Smaghi reaffirms that “in this phase bringing a country’s difficulties to their extreme consequences would have had a domino effect on all financial markets, Germany included.” Robert Solomon, economist for Washington’s ‘Brookings Institution’ , says it’s a “good news” in an interview to La Stampa, claiming “the financial markets will benefit from it, but the European Union would be wrong in thinking this resolves all its stability problems.” The economist suggests “Europe must not be lightly optimistic” and mentions the Maastricht Treaty: “to rule out new possible similar scenarios, the EU countries should implement the Brussels agreement on Greek aid looking forward, that is to say by starting working on a Treaty reform in order to give flexibility back to the Eurozone economy.”(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


CNN Article Equates Confederate Soldiers to Terrorists

In a remarkably addlepated story about the Confederacy, Roland Martin of CNN tells us Confederate soldiers defending their homes against invasion by the North were no different than Osama bin Laden and the supposed 9/11 hijackers.

According to CNN, Confederate soldiers were domestic terrorists and no different than Osama bin Laden.

“Even if you’re a relative of one of the 9/11 hijackers, that man was an out-and-out terrorist, and nothing you can say will change that. And if your great-great-great-granddaddy was a Confederate who stood up for Southern ideals, he too was a terrorist,” writes Martin. “They are the same” as Muslim terrorists.

Martin also feeds into the ongoing corporate media effort to demonize a large number of Americans as “extremists.” He does not mention the Hutaree or other exaggerated scapegoats, but his historical revisionist argument hints that opposition to federal power over the states is domestic terrorism.

Martin made his comments after Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell decided to honor Confederates for their involvement in the so-called Civil War, actually a war against Northern aggression.

Since McDonnell issued his proclamation — and modified it to include a reference to slavery in response to intense pressure by the race-baiting crowd — the corporate media has gone into overdrive to characterize the North’s invasion as a heroic effort to end slavery.

As noted last week, the so-called Civil War was not about ending slavery. It was about the North imposing economic policies on the South. The South seceded from the Union because the North had imposed punitive tariffs upon it. In 1828 the North began imposing agricultural tariffs on the Southern states to subsidize its industrial policies and this ultimately led to secession.

In 1860, Lincoln promised not to interfere with slavery, although he did pledge to “collect the duties and imposts” the government claimed.

Lincoln admitted to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase that his Emancipation Proclamation was not designed to free the slaves but was a brazen piece of war propaganda.

McDonnell’s effort to honor Confederate soldiers arrives at precisely the right time for advocates of state power over the individual. Millions of Americans stand in opposition to Obama and the federal government in response to Obamacare, cap and tax, and additional authoritarian power vested in the Federal Reserve and the IRS at the expense of the states and in direct violation of the Constitution.

It is also a response to a number of states talking about secession and nullifiction.

[Return to headlines]

FBI Destroyed File on Obama’s Grandfather

Dunham befriended communist Frank Marshall Davis, mentor of future president

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the FBI has formally acknowledged a file existed on President Barack Obama’s grandfather, Stanley Armour Dunham, that was destroyed May 1, 1997.

The FBI previously released some 600 pages of the FBI file of Frank Marshall Davis, the Chicago-based journalist and poet who as a member of the Communist Party USA retired in Hawaii and befriended Dunham.

Obama frequently sought advice from Davis during the future president’s elementary and high school years.

Until the FBI’s response to the FOIA request, there was no public disclosure of the existence of a file on Obama’s grandfather.

The file raises the question whether the FBI considered Dunham to be a national security risk, possibly because of his association with Davis.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Obama, Unilateral Denuclearizer-in-Chief

Sarah Palin has clearly gotten under President Obama’s skin with her sharp critique of his wooly-headed pursuit of U.S. denuclearization. In response, Mr. Obama felt compelled to note that he wasn’t acting on his own. He told ABC News last week, “If the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.”

Now, based on the acquiescence of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and JCS Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen with respect to the President’s other radical assault on the U.S. military — namely, his determination to repeal the law barring avowed homosexuals from serving in the armed forces, one would have reason to doubt the ability, or at least the willingness, of these two men to give the Commander-in-Chief “advice” he did not want to receive…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Health Care Reform Bill Violates the First and Fifth Amendments

The health care bill passed into law on March 21 violates the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The bill mandates that almost all Americans acquire health insurance, thus divesting millions of Americans of money against their will and providing it as an enormous government mandated windfall to the nation’s insurance companies. Thirty-eight states attorneys general are preparing to file suit against the federal government to challenge the new law. This is the first time in American history that the federal government has compelled the citizens of this country to buy a specific product, health insurance. That mandate violates our basic right to liberty which includes not only the freedom to purchase goods and services lawfully available in the market, but also the freedom not to purchase those goods and services, and the right to associate and not associate with institutions of our choice.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

JD Gordon: Re-Examining Guantanamo

Guantanamo has been at the center of intense political and security debates for the past decade, yet many commonly held perceptions of its detention operations and interrogations are not based upon the facts.

From the outset, Department of Defense officials characterized Guantanamo as the “least worst place” for holding al Qaeda and Taliban suspects picked up in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. It was far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, where the fighting raged. It was outside the United States, making it less prone to terrorist attacks.As foreign enemy combatants held outside the country, detainees were not entitled to the same legal protections granted to American citizens. These fundamental conditions have not changed…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Obama Tries to Eradicate Radical Islam — Not From America, But From America’s Mindset

by Raymond Ibrahim

The Obama administration has just announced its intent to ban all words that allude to Islam from important national security documents. Put differently, the Obama administration has just announced its intent to ban all knowledge and context necessary to confront and defeat radical Islam (news much welcomed by Islamist organizations like CAIR). While this move may reflect a naively therapeutic administration — an Obama advisor once suggested that Winnie the Pooh should inform U.S foreign policy — that Obama, the one U.S. president who best knows that politically correct niceties will have no effect on the Muslim world is enforcing this ban, is further troubling.

An Associated Press report has the disturbing details:

President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say.

First off, how, exactly, does the use of terms such as “Islamic radicalism” indicate that the U.S. views “Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism”? It is the height of oversensitivity to think that the so-called “Muslim street” can be antagonized by accurate words in technical U.S. documents — documents they don’t know or care about — especially since the Arabic media itself often employs such terms. Surely we can use “Islamic radicalism” to define, well, Islamic radicals, without simultaneously viewing all Muslims “through the lens of terrorism”? Just as surely as we can use words like “Nazism” to define white supremacists, without viewing all white nations through the lens of racism?

The AP report continues:…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Obamacare’s Disastrous Preview

Pres. Barack Obama has an unsettling defense of his health-care reform — it’s merely a version of the plan implemented by Massachusetts.

Obama wants to associate his reform with the one championed by Mitt Romney in 2006 when he was governor of the Bay State. If the liberal Democrat Obama and the conservative Republican Romney passed similar plans, what can be so radical about Obama’s reform?

This is superficially clever. It not only gives Obama’s plan a centrist patina, it shines a light on a significant obstacle to Romney’s likely repeat bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Except for the fact that the Massachusetts reform is spiraling out of control.

If the states are the laboratories of democracy, Obamacare’s Menlo Park is about to blow up. Unsustainably high costs and high insurance premiums are leading inexorably toward price controls and rationing. Obama might as well boast that he’s adopted a version of the California fiscal plan, or the Michigan economic-recovery plan.

Obama is correct that his plan and Romney’s share essential features: a mandate that individuals buy insurance, fines on businesses for not offering coverage, heavily regulated insurance exchanges, and large-scale insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion. They share something else — utterly fanciful notions of cost control.

Romney believed — and still maintains to this day — that emergency-room visits by the uninsured shifted costs onto everyone else. Never mind that in post-reform Massachusetts there are just as many non-emergency visits to the emergency room as previously, even though only 3 percent of people are uninsured. Many of these patients simply have trouble finding a doctor, a shortage the Massachusetts reform only exacerbates.

[Return to headlines]

U.S. Shouldn’t Play Nice on Nukes

WASHINGTON — Nuclear doctrine consists of thinking the unthinkable. It involves making threats and promising retaliation that is cruel and destructive beyond imagining. But it has its purpose: to prevent war in the first place.

During the Cold War, we let the Russians know that if they dared use their huge conventional military advantage and invaded Western Europe, they risked massive U.S. nuclear retaliation. Goodbye Moscow.

Was this credible? Would we have done it? Who knows? No one’s ever been there. A nuclear posture is just that — a declaratory policy designed to make the other guy think twice.

Our policies did. The result was called deterrence. For half a century, it held. The Soviets never invaded. We never used nukes. That’s why nuclear doctrine is important.

The Obama administration has just issued a new one that “includes significant changes to the U.S. nuclear posture,” said Defense Secretary Bob Gates. First among these involves the U.S. response to being attacked with biological or chemical weapons.

Under the old doctrine, supported by every president of both parties for decades, any aggressor ran the risk of a cataclysmic U.S. nuclear response that would leave the attacking nation a cinder and a memory.

Again: Credible? Doable? No one knows. But the threat was very effective.

Under President Obama’s new policy, however, if the state that has just attacked us with biological or chemical weapons is “in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” explained Gates, then “the U.S. pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against it.”

Imagine the scenario: Hundreds of thousands are lying dead in the streets of Boston after a massive anthrax or nerve gas attack. The president immediately calls in the lawyers to determine whether the attacking state is in compliance with the NPT. If it turns out that the attacker is up-to-date with its latest IAEA inspections, well, it gets immunity from nuclear retaliation. (Our response is then restricted to bullets, bombs and other conventional munitions.)

However, if the lawyers tell the president that the attacking state is NPT noncompliant, we are free to blow the bastards to nuclear kingdom come.

This is quite insane. It’s like saying that if a terrorist deliberately uses his car to mow down a hundred people waiting at a bus stop, the decision as to whether he gets (a) hanged or (b) 100 hours of community service hinges entirely on whether his car had passed emissions inspections.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Zazi, Al Qaeda Pals Planned Rush-Hour Attack on Grand Central, Times Square Subway Stations

Chilling new details about the foiled Al Qaeda plot to blow up the city’s busiest subways have emerged as a fourth suspect was quietly arrested in Pakistan, the Daily News has learned.

The unidentified man, who helped plan the plot, is expected to be extradited to the U.S. to betried in Brooklyn Federal Court with Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay of Flushing, Queens, sources said.

The cooperation of would-be lead bomber Najibullah Zazi has helped law enforcement officials piece together a fuller picture of the evil plan to kill innocent straphangers around the 9/11 anniversary last year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Afganistan: ‘Emergency’ To Demand Release

Three in Afghan ‘plot’ case ‘probably held illegally’

(ANSA) — Rome, April 12 — Italian medical charity Emergency said Monday it will demand the “immediate” release of three of its workers arrested on Saturday in connection with an alleged plot to kill a southern Afghanistan provincial governor.

“We’re going to ask for the immediate release of our guys,” said the communications chief of the Italian NGO, Maso Notarianni.

Notarianni said Afghan law requires suspects to be released within 24 hours unless charges are pressed.

“We think they’re probably being held illegally,” he said.

“Rather than (their) detention, we should be talking about abduction”.

He added that the Italian foreign ministry was “moving” on the case.

Emergency is organising protest rallies in support of the three detainees, including one in Rome’s Piazza Navona on Saturday at 13:00 GMT.

So far, the three — surgeon Marco Garatti, 40, nurse Matteo Dell’Aira, 30, and logistical technician Matteo Pagani Bonaiuti, 18 — have only been placed under investigation after arms and explosives were found in their field hospital in the capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah.

Afghan officials say the find was linked to a plot to kill the governor of the war-torn province, Goulab Mangal.

Emergency says the three were “framed” to get rid of the relief organisation because it is an unwanted witness to the scale of civilian casualties.

The Emergency spokesman said the idea of shutting down its operations in Afghanistan in protest at the arrests was “for now premature”.

“We aren’t thinking about it,” Notarianni said.

Meanwhile Rome prosecutors said they were following the case.

A probe has not yet started because the alleged involvement of the Emergency men “is not very clear”, judicial sources said.

But they said a probe will be formally opened “in the next few days” whether the charges prove to have some basis or not.

The parliamentary secret service commission, COPASIR, will hear Italian intelligence agency AISE on the case Wednesday.

According to Italian media Monday, Italian intelligence suspects there is something “strange” about the case. Earlier, Helmand province spokesman Daud Ahmadi told ANSA the three had not confessed to being linked to al-Qaeda, as erroneously reported by The Sunday Times.

Ahmadi said the British newspaper had already “apologised” to him.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called the Sunday Times’ report a serious case of “misinformation”.

But The Times correspondent in Afghanistan, Jerome Starkey, denied the spokesman’s claim, saying Ahmadi had spoken of a confession on two occasions.

When he announced the arrest of nine people including the three Italians on Saturday, Ahmadi said the arms were intended for use against Helmand Governor Mangal.

Helmand has been the stage of some of the fiercest fighting in the Afghan war since NATO launched a huge offensive against the Taliban in February. Italian Ambassador Claudio Glaentzer has met with Governor Mangal and reaffirmed Italy’s confidence in the Afghan justice system, the spokesman said.

Glaentzer asked the Afghan investigators to bring their probe to a speedy conclusion “so that we know the results as soon as possible,” Ahmadi said.

Any decision on keeping the three in Helmand or sending them to Kabul would be up to the central government, the spokesman said.

The Afghan interior ministry said Monday the probe into the weapons was ongoing and speculation as to how it might turn out was premature. The head of Emergency, Gino Strada, has called the allegations against the three “a set-up” and suggested NATO wants Emergency out of the way because it is releasing undesired details about the civilian cost of the war.

NATO has denied taking part in the raid on the hospital but Strada says soldiers wearing NATO gear were caught on video there. Frattini has said if the allegations against the three turn out to be true it would be a “disgrace for Italy”.

On Monday NATO troops fired on a bus near Kandahar killing at least four civilians and wounding another 18. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and NATO admitted it had madea mistake, voicing “deep regret”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU: Albania: Frattini, Candidate’s Status by 2010

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, APRIL 11 — “Italy will strongly advocate for Albania’s European Union membership candidate country procedure to be activated within this year,” reaffirmed Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini, visiting Tirana today, during a joint press conference held with his colleague Ilir Meta. Frattini remarked the Italian government is “absolutely sure” that “the Balkans’ European vocation must be encouraged and supported.” He explained “‘the Balkans are an area with no other prospective other than the integration in the EU. Each country must be evaluated for its own merits and Albania made an incredible progress.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Fashion: Greek Girls Buy Their Wedding Dresses From Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 12 — A number of young girls from Greece come to Turkey to buy their wedding dresses. In an interview with the Anatolia news agency, Mehmet Tuncel, owner of a fashion house in the north-western province of Edirne, said, “Greek girls show great interest in our designs since our dresses are of more quality and cheaper than those in Greece. Each year, we sell more than 100 wedding dresses to Greek girls.” ‘They come to Turkey from especially Orestiada, Alexandroupoli, Xanthi and Komotini. Sometimes they choose from our designs and sometimes they pick a model from catalogs. There is great demand for strapless wedding dresses embellished with crystal beads,” he said. Tuncel said that Bulgarian people also prefer Turkey to buy their wedding dresses and cocktail dresses. He added that the prices ranged from 110 euro up to 1,850 euro. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Flood of Support for Aid Workers

Arrest of aid workers prompts flood of support in Italy

(See related item: Emergency to demand release) (ANSA) — Rome, April 12 — The arrest of three Italian aid workers in Afghanistan on Monday prompted an outpouring of support in Italy for the medical charity involved. Italian politicians and members of the public expressed overwhelming encouragement for the aid organization Emergency, whose three employees were among nine arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill an Afghan regional commander. A petition backing the trio launched on Emergency’s website on Sunday evening, 24 hours after news of their arrest broke, has already been signed by nearly 70,000 people, despite difficulties accessing the site due to constant traffic. “Since yesterday evening the website site has been under siege and we have had nearly 100,000 hits,” said the charity’s humanitarian project coordinator Rossella Miccio. Several showbiz celebrities have signed up to the petition, as well as leading Italian politicians and journalists. A similar support group has also been launched on social networking site Facebook, and thousands of comments have been left on Emergency’s own Facebook page expressing their support for the organization. Meanwhile, a mass demonstration calling for the release of the three aid workers will be staged in the centre of Rome this Saturday.

News of the arrest also met with outcry among Italian politicians, particularly members of the opposition.

Rosy Bindi, a former health minister and chair of the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD), called for the government to take “urgent and determined action” in support of Emergency and its workers. “Clarity is needed on this issue and it is not enough simply to blame poor information,” she said. PD House Deputy Whip Rosa Villecco Calipari said the Italian government should intervene, pointing out that Emergency has “treated over 2.5 million Afghan citizens since 1999 free of charge, built three hospitals, a maternity centre and a network of 28 first-aid points”.

Deputy Senate Speaker Vannino Chiti said Italy should “feel proud of Emergency’s interventions in war zones”.

“Emergency and [its founder] Gino Strada have worked for years assisting victims of war and violence. They deserve our faith and support,” he said. However, there were also calls for a more cautious response. The deputy chair of the NATO Assembly Defence and Security Committee, Francesco Bosi of Italy’s centrist UDC party, said he hoped the reports were “unfounded”. “However, everyone should remember that an extremely difficult war against terrorism is being waged in Afghanistan and no one is allowed to betray Italy’s NATO commitments,” he said.

The former Italian commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, PD Senator Mauro Del Vecchio, said reports of the aid workers’ involvement in the alleged plot sounded “incredible”. “But while Emergency’s valuable and precious work in favour of the Afghan people should in no way be questioned, at the same time the Afghan police are entitled to carry out their investigations in order to clarify who is involved in the affair”.

Founded in 1994 by the surgeon and activist Gino Strada, Emergency is today one of Italy’s best-known medical aid organizations. Last year, it received the second highest number of donations under a system allowing Italians to allocate a percentage of their income tax to charities.

In addition to its Afghan mission, it operates in Irag, the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, Cambodia Iraq and Sierra Leone.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Real IRA Claims Responsibility for MI5 Explosion

The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the explosion outside MI5’s headquarters in Northern Ireland in its latest bid to secure its place as the leading Irish republican organisation seeking to force British withdrawal from Ireland.

The blast at Palace Barracks, just outside Belfast, was timed to coincide with the transferral of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.

Later today the Stormont Assembly will elect a justice minister, the first in Northern Ireland in 38 years.

The explosion happened shortly after midnight. The bomb went off as the surrounding area was being evacuated. An elderly man was treated for minor injuries.

[Return to headlines]

Spain: Fraud Uncovered, Solar Plants Working at Night

(ANSAmed) — MADRD, APRIL 12 — ‘The Ministry for Industry uncovers a serious fraud on solar energy’ , El Mundo reveals today with the newspaper’s main feature story, quoting government data on photovoltaic energy production, according to which several solar plants were actually working at night. It is suspected the solar panels are plugged into power generators or electricity-producing apparel at night, to simulate production and obtain the public grants allowed for the photovoltaic sector. According to the newspaper’s sources, solar plants in Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha, Andalusia and the Canary Islands are supposedly producing energy at night-time, without the sun. Between November and January in particular, more than 4,500 megawatt per hour would have been produced at night, and the amount of State-granted frauded funds would be about 2,6 million euros. Until last year’s November the energy production in Spanish photovoltaic plants didn’t undergo today’s severe controls, which are regulated by the National Energy Commission (CNE, where all data from authonomous communities and energy distribution companies are processed.) The responsible Minister, Miguel Sebastian, pushed CNE to further inspections and open an inquiry to investigate “fraudulent practices.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Consumer Group Rejects Israel Boycott Call

The Swedish Cooperative Union (Kooperativa förbundet — KF) has ruled out calls from a regional member group to stop selling goods from Israel in Coop stores.

“KF’s and Coop’s criteria in selecting suppliers pays no heed to nationality. According to KF policy a boycott of trade with individual countries is determined by Sweden’s government and parliament or the EU and/or the UN,” KF wrote in a statement on Sunday.

Three resolutions urging a ban on Israeli products were approved by a majority of the 425 members in attendance at Saturday’s annual meeting in Gothenburg of the consumer cooperative society for western Sweden, Konsumentföreningen Väst (KF Väst). The resolutions cited Israel’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as grounds for a boycott.

“The board will now push the issue of a boycott to the other Swedish consumer cooperatives,” said chairperson Carina Malmer in a statement.

KF Väst is one of the largest of the 47 consumer cooperative societies that make up the Swedish Cooperative Union, which has more than 3 million members.

The Swedish Cooperative Union owns the Coop chain of supermarkets. According to the union’s own figures, the retail consumer cooperative societies and Coop together account for 21.4 percent of the grocery retail sector in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

UK: English-Speaking Pupils Now the Minority in 1,500 British Schools

Children who speak English as their first language are a minority in more than 1,500 schools, official figures have revealed.

They show there has been a sharp rise in the number of schools in England where more than half of pupils have a foreign language as their mother tongue.

The statistics released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families show that in 1997, the year Labour came to power, half the pupils in 866 schools spoke English as a second language.

By last year, this figure had jumped to1,545 — a rise of 78 per cent. It means that more than half the pupils in 1,284 primary schools, 210 secondary schools and 51 special schools across England now come from a non-English speaking background.

Around one in seven — almost 500,000 — primary pupils and just over one in ten, or 364,000, secondary students do not speak English as their first language.

Critics said last night that the figures were another sign of the impact of Labour’s open door on immigration and that they risked hampering integration.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Nurse Who Gave Patient Mop and Bucket to Mop Up His Urine Free to Continue Working

A nurse who gave a bed-ridden patient a mop and bucket to clean up his own urine was told she is still fit to work in the profession.

Isabella Michaels, 38, told a 73-year-old bed-bound patient to clean up after himself while he was being treated at St Barts Hospital in central London.

The patient told the Nursing and Midwifery Council he was ‘taken aback and shocked’ at her request.

He said he thought she was ‘having a laugh’ but when he saw the look on her face he realised she was being serious.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Schoolboy, 17, Stabbed to Death in Front of Aunt and Uncle by Masked Raiders During Lunchtime Raid on Home

A schoolboy who was stabbed to death in front of his parents was the victim of mistaken identity, neighbours said today.

A-level pupil Aamir Siddiqi, 17, answered the door to two masked men yesterday and was stabbed in the neck.

His parents are understood to have heard his screams and rushed out to find him lying in a pool of blood in their front garden.

As they desperately tried to help him, the couple were also attacked.

Armed police today launched a manhunt for two Asian men in their 20s who fled the scene in Roath, Cardiff.

One shocked neighbour said: ‘We’ve heard the men were looking for another Asian family living nearby and Aamir was the victim of mistaken identity.’

Another, Michael Price, 20, said: ‘We are all so shocked — you would not expect Aamir to be caught up in anything like this.

‘He would never get involved in any sort of gang violence — he wasn’t the type. He just loved his family.’

Those living nearby said they had heard screams as the 17-year-old Cardiff City fan was stabbed in the chest and fell to the ground.

Emergency services were at the smart Edwardian end-of-terrace house in a leafy Cardiff street but Aamir was already dead.

His parents were taken to hospital with stab wounds which are not believed to be life-threatening.

Tributes were today paid to the schoolboy who was studying for his A-levels and hoped to start at Cardiff University later this year.

Family friend Anim Ali, 26, laid flowers at the scene and said: ‘They are really nice people, very quiet, polite and charitable. Aamir was a really sweet boy and I can’t believe this has happened.’

One of his school friends said: ‘Aamir was a great guy — he was never in any trouble and was focused on his education and doing well.

‘No one can understand what has happened — it seems he was targeted but no one has any idea why.’

The teenager was stabbed at 1.40pm on Sunday afternoon just 100 yards from where dozens of families were sitting in Roath Park enjoying the April sunshine.

Gun-toting officers and dog handlers joined 30 officers to swarm residential roads following a 999 call.

People in neighbouring houses were ordered to stay indoors and keep away from windows for their own safety.

The family home in Ninian Road, Roath, Cardiff, was still cordoned off today while forensic officers examined the scene.

But neighbours said there was no apparent motive for the attack on Aamir who was looking forward to his 18th birthday in June.

South Wales Police confirmed they were hunting two men who were seen leaving the area.

One was Asian, in his late 20s, of average height, stocky build. He had dark hair and was wearing dark clothing.

The second was also Asian in his early 20s, slim and about 5ft 11ins in height. He was wearing a white jacket with a grey stripe down the sleeves.

A major incident room has been set up at Cardiff Central Police Station.

Chief Superintendent Bob Tooby, Divisional Commander of Cardiff Police, said: ‘This is a very serious incident and I wish to reassure the local community that a full investigation is underway in order to trace and arrest those responsible.

‘Our thoughts are with the family of the victim, who will be supported by a trained family liaison officer at this most difficult time.

‘I would urge anyone with information about this incident to come forward and speak to the police immediately.’

Mourners today laid flowers outside Aamir’s home while police carried out house-to-house inquiries.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Teenager Who Blinded Man With Her Stiletto Heel in Drunken Brawl is Jailed for 18 Months

A drunken teenage girl celebrating her 19th birthday blinded a man when she attacked him with her stiletto shoe, a court heard.

Chelsea Holman has been jailed for 18 months after she used her long-heeled shoe as a weapon in a street brawl.

Holman wept as she was locked up — just feet from her victim Keith Hutchings who sat in court with a black patch over his eye and with a stick in his hands.

Exeter Crown Court heard that 40-year-old Mr Hutchings is likely to be left blind in both eyes as a result of the attack and an eye condition.

Mr Hutchings had been on a family night out in Exeter when a dispute began when two young men jumped a queue for takeaway food at a burger bar in the city centre.

A 17-year-old girl jumped on the back of Mr Hutchings as he remonstrated with the queue jumpers and the victim flailed at the person on his back not knowing who it was.

Barefoot Holman, who was carrying her shoes in her hands in the street, saw what happened to her younger friend and approached Mr Hutchings and swung her shoe at him — catching him full in the right eye.

The whole scene was caught on CCTV cameras and was shown to the judge.


The single blow ruptured his eyeball and he has needed several operations but the court heard he will be left blind in both eyes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican Posts New Paedophile Priest Rules

Benedict ‘will defrock directly’ in most serious cases

(ANSA) — Vatican City, April 12 — The Vatican on Monday posted new instructions on dealing with paedophile priests, making it mandatory for cases to be reported to the police.

In the most serious cases, Pope Benedict XVI will defrock priests without going through a Church trial, the norms say.

The Church has been rocked by widening scandals with the pope personally coming under fire for allegedly stalling, for the good of the Church when he was doctrinal watchdog, on a self-confessed US predator’s request to be defrocked in 1985.

Oakland priest Father Steven Kiesle, who was convicted of tying up and molesting two boys in 1978, returned to Church work and was defrocked two years later in 1987.

In 2004 he was convicted of a second offence and got six years in jail.

The new rules have been operative since 2003 when the pope’s old department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued them but did not make them known, the Vatican said.

The Vatican’s move in posting the guidelines has been seen as a change in strategy as the abuse scandals have moved ever closer to Benedict, head of the Congregation from 1981 until his election in 2005.

For weeks Church officials have claimed the allegations of cover-ups and inaction by Benedict’s former self Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger were a media campaign to smear him.

In the 1990s, US reports have claimed, Ratzinger did not respond to Milwaukee bishops’ pleas to defrock a priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, who abused some 200 deaf boys between 1950 and 1974.

The Vatican says the Congregation was only informed of the case a few months before Murphy died.

In the mid-1980s, as archbishop of Munich, Ratzinger was allegedly aware that a paedophile priest had been moved back to Church work, although in that case his then No.2 took responsibility.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Albania: Frattini, Hopefully Visa-Free Travels in Autumn

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, APRIL 11 — “Our political target is getting a positive proposal from the European Commission before the end of May” as far as visa deregulation for Albanian nationals is concerned, said Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini visiting Tirana at the end of a meeting with Albanian colleague Ilir Meta. The second phase of this process, the Foreign Affairs Minister explained, will be “the deregulation announcement for Albania and Bosnia at the Sarajevo summit on June 2.” Frattini added that “the Foreign Affairs Minister Council will be able to decide before the summer holidays, so that Albanian citizens may first travel visa-free before autumn.” (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Backs Bosnia in EU and NATO, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, APRIL 12 — Italy “firmly and fully” backs Bosnia-Herzegovina’s bid to join both the European Union and NATO, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Monday. In an interview published here by three Bosnian dailies ahead of his visit on Tuesday, Frattini said “as with the other Western Balkan countries, Italy is convinced that Bosnia’s destiny lies in Europe”. “Bosnia is a fundamental aspect in our regional policy. Without the integration of Bosnia-Hervegovina in Europe the entire Balkan puzzle cannot be composed in a stable and lasting framework,” he added. However, the Italian diplomatic chief also voiced his disappointment over the slow pace Bosnia has shown in adopting those reforms necessary to join the EU and NATO. Frattini reiterated Italy’s support of Bosnia within the EU, starting with the lifting of visa requirements for its citizens travelling in Europe. “I am confident that we can achieve this initial goal if Bosnia, on its part, can create all the requirements necessary,” he said. In regard to bilateral relations, Frattini observed that energy was one of the most promising sectors to bolster economic collaboration between Italy and Bosnia. The Italian foreign minister will arrive here from Tirana, after his visit to Albania on Monday. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia-Croatia: Towards Deal on Mutual Genocide Charges

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 12 — Serbia’s President Boris Tadic has said that he is optimistic about the possibility of an agreement with Croatia which will allow the countries to reach an out-of-court solution to the problem of mutual accusations of genocide and the appeals presented on the issues to the International Court of Justice. “I have discussed this with Croatian President Ivo Josipovic during our recent meeting, and we are studying ways to resolve the issue, only bringing the people who are responsible for the crimes that have been committed to trial”, Tadic said, quoted by the press. In the past months, Serbia decided to sue Croatia for genocide in the Balkan war that raged in the ‘90s, after Croatia had taken the same step against Serbia. Croatia’s new President Ivo Josipovic has showed himself willing to settle the conflict with Serbia. In the past week the first meeting with Tadic took place in Opatija, in Istria. Josipovic pay his first official visit to Serbia this Friday, to Sombor (in the north), after a meeting in Hungary with the Presidents of Serbia and Hungary. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Kadima’s Number 2 Criticises Netanyahu in Le Figaro

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 12 — The former Chief of Staff of Tsahal and former Israeli Defence Minister, currently number two of the Kadima party, the party created by Ariel Sharon, has reproached the Netanyahu government for not having a plan for negotiations with the Palestinians. In an interview with Le Figaro in Paris, where he participated in the ‘Forum de Paris’ on the Mediterranean area, Shaul Mofaz said that the government has made “terrible mistakes in one year”. In particular, “after announcing its vision of a two-State solution, we haven’t seen any plan to reach that goal. Today there is a window of opportunity because it is the first time that all parties in Israel, the Palestinians, the USA and Europe agree on this goal. And it is the first time that a rightwing government in Israel speaks out in favour of a Palestinian State”. According to Mofaz there are two red lines on which everybody in Israel agrees: no return of Palestinian refugees of 1948, and no return to the 1967 borders: “54% of Jerusalem’s Jewish people live in the quarters that were built after 1967”. Mofaz agrees with Netanyahu’s decision to continue building in East Jerusalem. And he doesn’t fear a third Intifada: “the Palestinians have obtain many diplomatic successes and have become more influential thanks to the mistakes of the Netanyahu government. I don’t think they want to start a new conflict”. But, he adds, “Israel must urgently develop a plan to retake the initiative”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

PNA: Donor Countries Meeting in Madrid

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 12 — The main donor countries for the Palestinian National Authority are meeting today and tomorrow in Madrid to coordinate aid, in view of the institutional formation of the future Palestinian State, reported Foreign and Cooperation Ministry sources in a statement. It is an ad hoc meeting of the Liaison Committee (AHLC), in which about twenty delegations are taking part, including ones from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the main donor countries. In addition to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, those taking part will include Tony Blair, representative of the Quartet for the Middle East, and the Foreign Ministers of Spain and Norway, Miguel Angel Moratinos and Jonas Store. Norway chairs the forum, which meets periodically. Spain joined the AHLC in 2009, after in the previous year having been the largest contributor to the EU’s Pegase programme for direct aid to the Palestinian Authority with 20 million euros. To this sum are added the 25 million euros announced in 2009 as part of joint action with Sweden for the payment of salaries and pensions for almost 80,000 Palestinian civil servants and pensioners. In Madrid the committee will be dealing with the construction of a future Palestinian State and the necessary financial support, in search of a global, just and lasting solution to conflict in the Middle East. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Defence: Activation of BLACKSEAFOR in 2010 Begins in Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 12 — The first activation of the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group (BLACKSEAFOR) in 2010 began in the Turkish northern port town of Eregli on Friday, as Anatolia news agency reports. Frigates from Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and the Russian Federation anchored at the Black Sea Regional Command’s port in Eregli. The first activation of BLACKSEAFOR in 2010 will last on April 27. Bulgarian Naval Forces will command the first activation. After staying four days at the Eregli port, the frigates will visit Bulgarian port of Varna and Romanian port of Constanza. The frigates will perform air defense, and maritime war exercises. The April activation of BLACKSEAFOR will take place in five stages, including 13 days at Turkish port of Eregli, Bulgarian port of Varna and Constanza port of Romania, and six days on sail. Bulgaria will hand over the command to Romania in August. Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russian Federation and Ukraine set up the BLACKSEAFOR in 2001 to ensure peace and stability in the Black Sea, boost regional cooperation and good neighborly relations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Good Days Ahead for Hezbollah

By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS — The Arab World is going through tremendous and very unexpected — yet positive — upheaval. A few years ago, nobody would have imagined that a secular former Ba’athist such as Iyad Allawi could win elections in Iraq, while Iran-backed religious parties like the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council would be defeated within their strongholds.

Nobody would have imagined a Turkish prime minister, in this case Recep Tayyip Erdogan, championing the rights of Palestinians and standing at dagger’s end with both the United States and Israel.

In Lebanon — given all the tension that erupted between the ruling March 14 coalition, backed by the West, and the Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Syria, after the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri — nobody would have imagined such an harmonious outcome.

This month, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri gave verbal instructions to media officials at his Future TV that they should refrain from criticizing Syria in any of their broadcasts — a far cry from what was has been said on the television network over the past five years. He also stressed that Syria should receive the same respect accorded to his traditional patron, Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, youth elements in his Future Movement were instructed to refrain from criticizing Syria either in private or in public, in light of the prime minister’s December 2009 visit to Damascus, which by all accounts was a thundering success.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a ranking member of March 14 who regularly fired insults against Syria in 2005-2008, has since repeatedly apologized to the Syrian leadership and people and he was this month allowed to visit Damascus for a high-profile meeting with the Syrian president.

Jumblatt was only pardoned after he patched up his relationship with Hezbollah, meeting with its chief Hassan Nasrallah last summer, and effectively revoking all earlier remarks that called for disarmament of the Lebanese party. He is now championing its arms, claiming that they should be protected and embraced by the Lebanese government.

Hezbollah, needless to say, is happy with the results…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Increasing Steps Towards Equality for Arab Women

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 12 — Contrary to beliefs held in the western world, Arab women are continuing to make irreversible strides towards equality, marrying later, having fewer children, studying and working more and, in some cases, even reaching positions of political power. A study entitled ‘Women and family in current Arab societies’ reveals the profound transformations taking place, that are altering the traditional and patriarchal paradigms of the social structure of Arab countries, and favouring the emancipation of women. The development of urbanisation, greater access to women’s education, along with their integration in the work market, the later marrying age, the significant drop in births and the handover from patriarchal families to marital ones are bringing about strong changes in the modernisation of the family structure and in relationships between the sexes. The study has collected figures and statistics that substantiate the idea, as well as the views of dozens of experts. Algeria’s birth rate is 2.4 children per woman, compared to 8.1 in 1970, equal with Morocco, which had an average of 7 children per woman in the 1960s. In both countries, the birth rate is close to that of European women, as is the case in Tunisia and Libya, though not in Mauritania. A fall in births, unparalleled in any other region in the world, has also been registered over the last 30 years in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Palestine Territories, as the political commentator Alberto Veira Ramos explains in El Pais. One of the consequences is the reduction in the age difference between partners, which favours the emancipation of women. In Tunisia and Morocco, steps forward in the equality of marital relationships, the drop in polygamy and the replacement of repudiation with divorce are reflected in family behaviour, even though legal reforms are not always practically observed. In other countries such as Algeria, meanwhile, social transformations are not at all reflected in regulatory terms. Concubinage or the loss of virginity before marriage remain taboo subjects on a social level. Iraq, the Palestinian Territories and Yemen remain the three great exceptions to social transformations in the Arab world, as Ana Echague, researcher at the Fride Foundation, explains. In Iraq, where the fertility rate is of 4.1 children, backwards steps have been taken with regard to equality since the American invasion, with the 1959 clause of the family code, which recognised a certain number of rights for women, replaced by Koranic laws. In a Palestinian context, as Sophie Bessis explains, the Israeli occupation has boosted fertility as a weapon of resistance: Gaza’s birth rate is of 5.9 children per woman, compared to 4.4 in the West Bank. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Listen to the Two Best Arab Journalists Warning What a Nuclear-Armed Iran Means

by Barry Rubin

We depend on your tax-free contributions. To make one, please send a check to: American Friends of IDC 116 East 16th Street 11th Floor New York, NY 10003. The check should be made out to IDC and on the lower left you write: For GLORIA Center.

The two Arab journalists I most respect have written of the fear in Arabic-speaking countries about Iran’s having nuclear weapons. They explain persuasively why a U.S. containment policy of reassuring Arab states and Israel against direct nuclear attack is totally inadequate.

Listen to what they’re saying as it is much more accurate in warning about the coming strategic shift in the region than what’s being written in the West.

Both Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid and Ahmad al-Jarallah are close to elements in the Saudi regime yet also maintain personal independence and support liberal reform. Rashid (often transliterated, Rashed) is a Saudi who is former editor of al-Sharq al-Awsat, probably the best Arabic newspaper, and is now director-general of the al-Arabiya network, possibly the best satellite television network. Writing in al-Sharq al-Awsat on February 21 (translated by MEMRI) he explained:…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Government Warns of Al Qaeda Elements Disguising Themselves as Journalists

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Governmental warnings issued yesterday in Saudi Arabia opened the door to the possibility of Al Qaeda elements disguising themselves as journalists and disguising explosive devices as camera equipment in order to target government dignitaries and state guests. Such warnings are expected to lead to increased security procedures and rigorous inspection of journalists covering press events attended by senior state officials or official state visits undertaken by foreign delegations.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat the need for media figures to carry credentials identifying them as journalists whilst on duty, stressing the importance that all precautionary measures are taken in order to plug any holes that Al Qaeda could in order to achieve its objectives. In addition to this, media sources monitoring Al Qaeda activity have not ruled out the possibility of Al Qaeda utilizing the media in order to achieve its objectives under the Machiavellian precept of “the end justifies the means.” There have also been previous examples of such criminal acts, for example Afghan commander Ahmed Shah Massoud was killed by elements who posed as journalists claiming to want to interview him.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Turkish TV Giant Looks to Conquer Europe

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 12 — Vestel Elektronik, Turkey’s largest television maker, will grow the share of the LCD televisions produced for sale in Europe to 18% of sales this year, daily Hurriyet reports quoting the chairman of the company’s parent group. The company plans to increase the figure, which was 14% in 2009, by opening new outlets, said Ahmet Nazif Zorlu, chairman of the Zorlu Group. Vestel Elektronik and Vestel Beyaz Esya, which are both owned by the Istanbul-based group, will expand exports this year from $2.2 billion to as much as $3 billion, Zorlu said. Vestel sales grew 20% in the first quarter, he added. “We are opening direct sales shops in Italy, France, the Benelux countries and Britain for Vestel products,” Zorlu said. In televisions “we want to increase our market share to 20% in 2011,” he said. Zorlu’s companies make TVs and appliances, including washing machines and fridges for more than 300 international brands such as Hitachi and Sanyo. Vestel Elektronik is worth 440 million euro and Vestel Beyaz 417 million euro, according to the companies’ share price as of Friday. Zorlu, who sold Denizbank to Dexia for $2.4 billion in 2006, was the 11th richest man in Turkey last year, according to Forbes magazine. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘Russia Engineered Air Crash That Killed President Kaczynski, ‘ Claims Polish MP

The Russian government prevented the Polish president’s plane from landing four times to divert him from a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, according to an MP.

Artur Gorski said the Russians ‘came up with some dubious reasons’ that the aircraft couldn’t land because they feared President Leck Kaczynski’s presence would overshadow a similar event hosted by the Russian prime minister a few days before.

And their alleged plan ended in disaster when the Polish pilots made one final and disastrous attempt to land, killing Mr Kaczynski, his wife, and 94 others on board the plane.

‘One version of events says that the plane approached the airport four times, because every time the Russians refused it permission to land — they wanted to send the plane with the president to an airport in Moscow or Minsk,’ Mr Gorski claimed in an interview published in the newspaper Nasz Dziennik.

‘They came up with some dubious reasons: that there was fog over the airport, and that the navigation system didn’t work as it was under renovation, and that airport had a short landing strip.’

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: No Aid Worker ‘Qaeda Link’

Probe into Afghan governor ‘death plot’ proceeding

(ANSA) — Kabul, April 12 — Three Italian aid workers arrested in Afghanistan in connection with an alleged plot to kill a regional governor are not linked to al-Qaeda, Helmand province spokesman Daud Ahmadi told ANSA Monday.

Ahmadi said he had been misquoted by the Times of London which reported him as saying the three — Matteo Dell’Aira, Matteo Pagani Bonaiuti and Marco Garatti — had confessed to Qaeda links.

The Times had already “apologised” to him, he said.

When he announced the arrest of nine people including the three Italians on Saturday, Ahmadi said arms found in the field hospital of the Italian medical charity Emergency were going to be used in a pro-Taliban attack on the governor of the southern province, Goulab Mangal.

Helmand has been the stage of some of the fiercest fighting in the Afghan war since NATO launched a huge offensive against the Taliban in February. Italian Ambassador Claudio Glaentzer has met with Governor Mangal and reaffirmed Italy’s confidence in the Afghan justice system, the spokesman said.

Glaentzer asked the Afghan investigators to bring their probe to a speedy conclusion “so that we know the results as soon as possible,” Ahmadi said.

Any decision on keeping the three in Helmand or sending them to Kabul would be up to the central government, the spokesman said.

The Afghan interior ministry said Monday the probe into the weapons found at Emergency’s hospital in Helmand capital Lashkar-Gah was “proceeding” and speculation as to how it might turn out was premature. The head of Emergency, Gino Strada, has called the allegations against the three “a set-up” and suggested NATO wants Emergency out of the way because it is counting the civilian cost of the war.

NATO has denied taking part in the raid on the hospital but Strada says soldiers wearing NATO gear were caught on video there. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said if the allegations against the three — a doctor, a nurse and a logistics worker — turn out to be true it would be a “disgrace for Italy”.

On Monday NATO troops fired on a bus near Kandahar killing at least four civilians and wounding another 18. photo: from left, Garatti (surgeon), Pagani Bonaiuti (logistical director), Dell’Aira (nurse)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: Italian Minister Says Aid Workers Could be Guilty

Kabul, 12 April (AKI) — Italy’s defence minister Ignazio La Russa urged the founder of aid agency Emergency to not take for granted the innocence of three of his Italian workers arrested in Afghanistan who allegedly colluded with Taliban militants to assassinate a provincial governor, “just like it would be impossible to automatically assume they are guilty.”

“Strada should avoid accusing the Afghan government, to avoid yelling about a NATO plot, and to avoid dragging the Italian government into it,” La Russa (photo) said in an interview Monday with newspaper La Stampa.

He was referring to Emergency’s founder, Gino Strada.

“It’s always possible that they were infiltrated,” La Russa added.

Matteo Dell’Aria, the Milan-based charity’s medical director; Marco Garatti, a surgeon; and Matteo Pagani, the Emergency hospital’s logistics chief, were among nine people arrested on Saturday when Afghan security forces stormed the hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. The three are accused of being involved in a plot to kill local governor, Golab Mangal.

In another Monday interview with the same newspaper, Strada said his men “had never been involved in terrorist activity.”

Strada said the arrests are part of a “preventive act of war against Emergency…they want us to leave the country. Quite simply, they don’t want Emergency to be a witness that the war against terrorism is causing many defenceless civilian victims.”

A Taliban commander said the aid group was innocent of colluding with insurgents and that Emergency is neutral and willing to treat any sick and wounded victims, according to a Taliban representative.

“We don’t have any opinion for or against the Emergency hospital,” Abdul Khaliq Akhund, a prominent Taliban commander in Helmand province, told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Monday by telephone.

According to sources in Helmand province, the Emergency hospital struggled to treat the wounded people from all sides including the Talibanduring the recent operation in Helmand’s Marjah district conducted by NATO forces for.

The hospital administration has publicly stated that many of the victims of the Marjah offensive were women and children.

Previously the hospital risked being identified with terrorists when they played a role as intermediaries in the release of abducted Italian journalist Gabriele Torsello in 2006 and Daniele Mastrogiacomo in 2007.

Since 1999, Emergency says it has provided medical assistance to over 2,500,000 Afghan citizens, through its three surgical hospitals, a maternity centre and a network of 28 first aid posts.

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

Afghanistan: Hunt for Taliban Sniper Who Has Shot Dead Seven British Troops in 5-Month Killing Spree

It echoes the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, but the deaths of seven British troops at the hands of a highly-trained and highly-skilled Afghan sniper in Sangin is a very real problem.

During a five-month killing spree, the sniper has stalked the 3rd Battalion, the Rifles, picking off individuals including a British sniper who was on the lookout for the shooter himself.

Three of those killed were considered among the best in their field.

Now the SAS is hunting the sniper who is stalking them across the streets of the city considered the most dangerous in Afghanistan.

The scene is chillingly reminiscent to the storyline of the 2001 film Enemy at the Gates, in which Jude Law and Ed Harris play rival Soviet and German snipers stalking each other across Stalingrad during World War II.

It is thought the Taliban killer may have been trained in neighbouring Iran or by Al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. His youngest victim was just 19.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Italy: Microcredit Project for Moroccan Women

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 12 — “There are 180,000 Moroccan women in Italy, 86% of whom are completely analphabetic. This keeps them from developing themselves and from integrating in the community”, said Souad Sbai, President of the Association of Moroccan Women (ACMID) in Italy, who had a meeting with the leaders of the Italian national committee for microcredit to draft a letter of intent on specific projects. “Our association” Souad Sbai continued, “has been focusing for years on the fight against this phenomenon and therefore we have decided to collaborate with the national committee for microcredit”. The task of the committee, chaired by Mario Baccini, is to develop education projects for “these isolated groups”, said Baccini. “They must become a part of the country’s social, cultural and economic system”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Teachers Fight Off Three Armed Illegal Migrants Who Tried to Sneak Aboard British School Bus in Calais

Teachers fought off three armed illegal immigrants who tried to sneak aboard a British school bus in Calais.

The gang targeted the coach with 43 Scottish teenagers on board as it stopped for petrol outside the northern French port.

The migrants, wielding a knife, a wooden club and a fire extinguisher, were spotted by staff as they attempted to climb inside the luggage hold.

The Sudanese men, in their 20s, were arrested and detained after being found clinging to the chassis at the rear of the bus.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Homeschoolers Win Round Against United Nations

But officials warn crackdown on family rights expected to continue

Homeschoolers have won a round in the long fight against the crackdown on family rights contained to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, but experts say they need to keep up their guard.

The convention, which is not yet ratified in the United States but has been adopted by numerous other nations, orders that children can choose their own religion with parents only having the authority to advise them, the government can override a parent’s decision regarding a child if a social worker disagrees, a child has a right to a government review of every parental decision and Christian schools would violate the law if they refused to teach children “alternative worldviews.”

And all corporal punishment, such as spankings, would be banned by law.

The conflict had arisen over legislation that was proposed in the United Kingdom, called the Children, Schools and Families Bill, that would have set into law many of the provisions and issues demanded by the U.N. plan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: 1930s Textbook Fills in the Gaps Left by PC Teaching

Seventy years ago it was a best-selling history series and a firm favourite among youngsters for its fast-paced narratives and helpful maps.

But as politically-correct history lessons gained ground in schools, the books began to gather dust. Now the series — called A History of Britain — has been relaunched for a modern audience amid mounting concern over children’s ignorance of the past.

A ‘crisis’ in school history teaching has left up to three generations with gaps in their knowledge, warned Tom Stacey, the chairman of the books’ publishers, Stacey International.

Traditional narrative history has ‘all but vanished’ in schools, to be supplanted by a diet of ‘projects on slavery, Victorian slums, the labour movement or, again and again, the Second World War,’ Mr Stacey said. ‘For more than half a century, most intelligent youngsters in Britain have grown up to live in the half-darkness of historical ignorance.

‘I have seen this ignorance creeping up on three generations. I count their loss as incalculable deprivation. ‘There has been a parallel discarding of the fabric of biblical history and the Christian narrative.’

The original books date back to 1937 and covered British history from the Roman Invasion to the 1950s. They were written by EH Carter, who was chief inspector of schools in the 1930s, and RAF Mears, a history teacher at Warwick School.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Thank God for the One Man Who Has the Courage to Stand Up to Our Ruling Elite’s Assault on Christianity

The Church and the judiciary are two of the most venerable pillars of the establishment.

But in an explosive development, war has been declared between them over one of the most fundamental aspects of our society — freedom of religious conscience.

In an unprecedented move, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, and other church leaders are calling upon the Master of the Rolls and other senior judges to stand down from future Court of Appeal hearings involving cases of religious discrimination because of the judges’ perceived bias against Christianity.

The churchmen believe that because of these judges’ past rulings, there is no chance of a ‘fair’ judgment if they hear the latest such case, which has been scheduled for Thursday.


That’s because it has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with ideology. It is innately on the side of minorities on the basis that they are by definition vulnerable to the majority. So in the hands of the judiciary, it has turned into a fearsome weapon against Britain’s mainstream attitudes and faith.

The result is that Christianity is now in danger of being turned into a despised and marginalised creed practised only by consenting adults in private.

Christians are already being forced into renouncing their religious beliefs if they want to remain in certain jobs.

This is simply intolerable in a liberal society where freedom of religious conscience is a bedrock value.

Yet while Christians find themselves under the legal cosh, a double standard is employed towards certain minority faiths. Thus a Christian nurse is told she can’t work with patients unless she removes her cross while Muslim NHS staff have been exempted from hygiene rules stipulating that their forearms must remain uncovered.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Energy Saving Light Bulbs Can Interfere With Television Sets

Energy saving light bulbs can interfere with televisions causing them to randomly change channel and switch on and off, a leading manufacturer has admitted.

The problem is caused when the bulb is first switched on and flickers at a frequency which affects the infra-red sensors on remote control receivers.

According to technicians the problems are isolated to an early type of Philips bulb combining with certain brands of set top box.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]