Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100413

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Bond Auctions Soar, All 1.2 Bn Sold
»The EU is Subsidising Greece
»A Manageable People
»Is ‘Green Goon Squad’ At Your Front Door?
»Jews Confront the Abyss. “The Absence of Outrage is Outrageous.”
»Officer to Army: Bring it on!
»Radical Muslim Infiltrates ABC Newsroom
»SEIU’s Stern Resigning
»Something in the Air
»The Founders’ View on National Health Care
»The Left-Wing Propaganda Machine, Part 1
»Will America Break Up?
»The Cost of the H1N1 Scare Tactics
Europe and the EU
»Belgium: Filip Dewinter’s Candid Camera
»Court Condemns Italy for Expelled Ex Imam
»Euro Off Highs After Greek Sale, Stocks Down
»France: Train Strike Enters Sixth Day, Talks Stalled
»France: Le Pen: I Will Leave Front National Presidency in 2011
»French Bid to Extradite Briton for Irish Death
»Germany: a Difficult Friendship With Obama
»Greece:80 Euros Per Spaniard to Greece, 92 Euros Per Italian
»Italy: Fiat’s Market Share Down at 31.3% in March
»Italy: Industrial Output Again Rising, +2.7% in February
»Italy-France Environmental Accord, Bonifacio Park Created
»Italy: Berlusconi Files Trial-Suspension Request
»Italy: Issue of New American Express Cards Suspended
»Italy: Gay Ire at Church Paedophilia ‘Link’
»Pope to See Abuse Victims in Private
»Portugal: Carrefour Prepares to Leave Country
»‘Sod the Lot!’: UKIP Launches Campaign But Pledges Not to Fight Eurosceptic Candidates
»Spain: Unions Organise Demonstration in Defence of Garzon
»Sweden: Landskrona Suspect Claims Accidental Death
»Switzerland: Catholics Wait for “More Good News”
»UK Conservative Government Would ‘Never’ Join Euro
»UK: Acid Attack Victim ‘Targeted Over Affair With Woman He Met on Facebook’
»UK: Mother of All Defeats! Huge Blow to Army as it Faces £100,000 Payout After Tribunal Backs Single Mother Who Went Awol Over Childcare
»UK: Police Shot Man With 50,000-Volt Taser After He Suffered Epileptic Fit in Gym by Jaya Narain
»UK: Sister’s Tears for a ‘Precious Boy’ Knifed to Death on His Doorstep
»UK: Why Work When I Can Get £42,000 in Benefits a Year and Drive a Mercedes?
»Vatican: Malta ‘Sex Abuse Victims’ Want Papal Apology
Mediterranean Union
»Libya-Italy: 100 Student Grants for Libyan Students
North Africa
»Sahel: Military Leaders Meet in Algiers
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: We Will Slit Abbas’ Throat Says Islamic Militia
»Gaza: Israeli Army-Jihad Clash, At Least One Dead
»Hamas Threatens to Sue Israel for Damages at Port
»Palestinian Leaders Do it Again! Throw Away Opportunity Obama is Giving Them and Poke Him in the Eye
»Terrorists: Israeli Nuke Plant Within Rocket Range
Middle East
»“There is No Islamic Terrorism”, Turkish PM Erdogan Says
»Armenia-Turkey: Obama Urges More Efforts for Normalisation
»Iraq-Turkey Trade Up 50% in Past Year, Says Consul
»Kuwait “Deports Supporters of Mohamed Elbaradei”
»Peres: Syria Supplies Arms to Hezbollah
»Powerful Tale About Iranian Stoning Victim Comes to Turkey
»Turkey Under the AKP-II: The Rise of Authoritarian Democracy and Orthopraxy
»Turkish PM Raises Misgivings With Ongoing Criticism
»Turkish Gun Shops Go From Back Alley to Mall
»Yemen: Four Tried for ‘Spying for Iran’
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Taliban Boosted by Foreign Help
»Afghanistan: Emergency “Plot” Fuelled by Revenge and Neglect
»Facing Reality in Afghanistan
»India Caste Councils Back Men Over ‘Honour Killings’
Far East
»Photos: Obama Bows Again to Communist China, America Hangs Head in Shame
Latin America
»Priest Pedophilia Not Linked to Celibacy: Pope’s No.2
»France Sets Up Measures to Reduce Illegal Flows
»Greece: Hunger Strike by Irregular Immigrants in Samos
»Greece: Hammarberg, Progress in Obedience
»Majority of Dutch Support Halving EU Budget Contribution
»Switzerland: Task Force to Crack Down on Nigerian Criminals
»Turkey to Launch 10 New Centers for Refugees
»USA: How Many More Tears? How Many More Funerals?
»Muslims’ Entrapment by Islam

Financial Crisis

Greece: Bond Auctions Soar, All 1.2 Bn Sold

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 13 — Greece has successfully pulled off today’s auctions for State bonds at 26 and 52 weeks, selling both for the entire amount on offer equal to 1.2 billion Euros following a demand in excess of the offer. The national public debt agency reported that Greece was able to sell a greater amount than initially offered in the auction: in fact, 780 million bonds at 26 weeks were sold (with a demand for 4.6 billion) and the same amount of one year bonds (with a demand for 3.9 billion), thereby netting an overall 1.56 billion Euros in bonds. Yields equaled 4.55% for bonds at 26 weeks and 4.85% for one year bonds. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The EU is Subsidising Greece

The agreement between the EU and Athens makes it easy for other EU countries to play the same game.

The EU bailout of Greece has laid bare important truths about the eurozone. When the chips were down, it was Berlin that blinked, not Athens. The strong proved not so strong, and the weak not so weak.

Why did Germany cave in? Because Athens’ insistent demand for a bailout called Germany’s bluff that the benefits from eurozone membership are a one-way street from north to south; that it was tired of being Europe’s ‘paymaster’; and that Greece risked being kicked out of the euro if itcouldn’t get its act together without a default.

By agreeing to the bailout, Germany has been forced to admit a great deal of this was nonsense — that it could no more tolerate a Greek default, or expulsion, than the Greeks could, and that being Europe’s paymaster does indeed have its benefits.

Real money, real subsidy

Germany benefits handsomely from having Greece in the eurozone, though you couldn’t tell from listening to the Germans. Tiny Greece has called the German bluff — and the eurozone will never be the same.

Don’t let the EU and European Central Bank authorities fool you that the bailout is not really a bailout because it will not cost the taxpayers out of pocket.

The EU is offering Greece loans at below market interest rates — that’s a subsidy. The loss to the taxpayers is the difference between the interest rate the EU could get for its loans on the market and the interest rate that Greece pays. If Greece pays 5 percent and the EU can loan the same funds out at 8 percent in the market for equivalent risk, the cost to the taxpayers (an opportunity cost) is 3 percent. That’s real money!

Expect a lot of deceit from the EU (and ECB) authorities on this one in the coming days. They will argue the subsidy is not a bailout because they got conditionality in return. But the promises to reform (which often aren’t kept, by the way) don’t make the subsidy any less of a bailout.

The genie is out of the bottle

An important reason the EU authorities buckled in the face of Greek demands is their fear of contagion — that the problems of Greece will spread to Spain, Portugal, Italy, and so on. But by showing their weakness to Greece, the EU authorities are inviting these countries to play the same game Greece has played with apparent success.

It has worked for Greece, Athens got the bailout, why shouldn’t it work for them?

The genie is out of the bottle and it won’t be easy to get it back in again. The Greek bailout removes the incentives for others in the eurozone to make fiscal consolidation reforms.

It will also increase the pressure on Berlin to capitulate in other areas, such as rebalancing, where critics demand Germany pump up its domestic demand so that its partners with out-sized fiscal deficits could achieve fiscal consolidation without sending Europe headlong into the economic drink.

Frau Nein Angela Merkel has demonstrated to all that with enough pressure she can be turned into Frau Ja — and that will surely have consequences.

Melvyn Krauss is emeritus professor of economics at New York University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a think-tank at Stanford University.

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


A Manageable People

But since “manageable” is not a terribly democratic or appealing world, “equality” was instead re-purposed to mean the same thing. Where equality had once meant equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it instead became the euphemism for creating an average society, one in which people would be forced to live like everyone else, to think like everyone else, to have the same jobs, the same wages and the same lives. Only then would the big government plans finally work, because the people they were meant to work on would be interchangeable, cogs in a machine, even numbers without fractions that add up very nicely.

Where the Old America had been based around the revolutionary notion that people should define their own lives by their own decisions, the New America had reverted to the medieval notion that everything would run best if people lived the way they were supposed to, did what they were told, and shut up when their betters (with the appropriate degrees and government positions) were talking. The Town Halls and the Tea Party movement represented an explosive clash between the Old America, that actually took the Constitution seriously, and the New America, that viewed it as a framework for imposing their solutions on an ignorant public.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is ‘Green Goon Squad’ At Your Front Door?

‘Climategate’ warns of privacy invasion that could be coming

Just when you thought the government couldn’t get any more invasive than the 2010 Census and requirements under “Obamacare” that your medical records be posted on the Internet, a coming book called “Climategate” by veteran meteorologist Brian Sussman warns that soon there could be a “green goon squad” visiting at your door.

Sussman’s book, the newest title by WND books and scheduled for release April 22 “Earth Day,” has been charting for several weeks already among Amazon’s top 10 preordered titles. It arrives just as people who thought the campaign over global warming was being dropped over revelations of apparent manipulation by researchers in the field are becoming concerned that Washington still has it on the fast-track.

Sussman writes in “Climategate” that not only are promoters of the belief that starting a car in Texas or heating a home in North Dakota contributes to a cataclysmic environmental warping are continuing their campaign, Washington already has parts of it in writing.

In Chapter 10 of his book, he cites the 2009 America Clean Energy and Security Act which already has passed the U.S. House.


“The plan is modeled on building code enforcement in California. Each time a home is built, remodeled, or — in the case of the federal plan — preparing to be sold, a G-man wearing a federal badge and armed with a clipboard will show up at your house to make sure … all of your appliances have been updated with the most recent Energy Star-approved internal communication devices, and that the Home Area Network has been properly installed and connected to your new SmartMeter, whether you like it or not,”…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jews Confront the Abyss. “The Absence of Outrage is Outrageous.”

By Phyllis Chesler

What more can be said? Are mere words sufficient? By now we know that Jew haters are never deterred by facts—only by force. We also know that the Arab-Muslim world has brainwashed its citizens and the world with a steady stream of blood libels against Jews and Israel. The United Nations, international human rights organizations, the world media, and the world’s so-called intelligentsia have all piled on, as have President Obama and his carefully chosen advisors. Obama, who bowed to the Saudi King, and who publicly shamed the Israeli Prime Minister, has also, for the first time, decided to sell no bunker buster bombs to Israel; to deny Israeli scientists who work at Dimona visas to study in the United States; to manufacture a sham crisis over Israel building apartments in north Jerusalem—all in order to “impose” a Solution (hopefully not another Final Solution) on Jewish Israel.

The Man wants to show the world he’s “tough” where the Jews are concerned so that it will not notice how “weak” he is in terms of confronting Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir, etc. But many see that Obama is “weak,” beginning with the very Arab and Muslim countries he most wishes to impress.

If this were not sorrow enough, our cup runneth over because we also know that some Jew-haters and Israel demonizers are themselves Jews. Their names are legion. We also know that most American Jewish leaders have left a great deal to be desired.

America is rapidly changing in terms of its relationship to Israel and to Islamism. My passport is ready, near my bedside. Others are worried, just as I am…

[Return to headlines]

Officer to Army: Bring it on!

Refusing to deploy without eligibility answers, misses due date at Fort Campbell

A decorated Army surgeon who is refusing to follow orders because of the president’s decision to conceal documents that could show his eligibility to be commander in chief is telling the military to bring it on — by missing a deployment due date yesterday at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Lt. Col. Terry Lakin is facing imminent court-martial charges in the wake of the Army’s demand he report for a Middle East deployment, and his decision to refuse orders until there are answers to questions about President Obama’s eligibility.

“He has been informed through official challenges that he will be charged soon with missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer,” according to a statement released last night to WND.

The information was from Margaret Calhoun Hemenway, who is acting as a spokeswoman in the case involving Lakin.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Radical Muslim Infiltrates ABC Newsroom

Part of ‘Muslim Mafia’ plan to plant agents as journalists

Executing a plan to infiltrate America’s newsrooms, a U.S. front for the radical Muslim Brotherhood has planted an agent inside ABC News.

A former official employed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations helped ABC News produce a story questioning the FBI in what CAIR has complained is a wrongful police shooting. FBI agents last October shot and killed a radical Detroit imam who was closely allied with CAIR board members.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

SEIU’s Stern Resigning

According to The Politico, Andy Stern, the President of the Service Employees International Union, is resigning his post.

The news come to Politico from the President of an SEIU local based in Seattle, Diane Sosne. Politico is taking her word as true.

No reason for the resignation is known and Stern has yet to actually make an official announcement.

I expect that Stern is moving to some position in the Obama Administration. Remember that Stern was the number one most frequent visitor to the White House.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Something in the Air

Some people are saying that this is the most perilous period in recent memory. I’m a fair student of history, and I would say that to find America’s population so deeply, and acrimoniously, at odds with one another, you’d have to go back to the Civil War.

As I write this, in some states, both the Governor and the Attorney General oppose the latest massive federal legislation (Obama-Care); in other states the Governor opposes it, and the Attorney General supports it, or the Attorney General opposes it, and the Governor supports it. In some states both the Governor and Attorney General support it, while the Lt. Governor opposes it. And on it goes, in myriad variations.

There are, of course, many other issues besides just Obama-Care, dividing Americans — abortion, redistribution of wealth, social justice, welfare, illegal aliens, and on, and on, and on. The U.S. southern border is a powder keg primed to explode. The divisions separating liberals and conservatives are deep, wide, profound — and perhaps irreconcilable.

And it’s hardly just conservatives who are angry. The battle lines are still shifting, and a gratifyingly large number of liberals are discovering that they aren’t thrilled with the idea of a fascist-style NWO, run by a cabal of banks, big corporations, and a Global Elite. Extremists at both ends of the political spectrum are, as always, ready to explode at the slightest excuse — or no excuse — and the Far Left is increasingly of the opinion that our current government isn’t Marxist enough, or isn’t practicing the “right type” of Marxism.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Founders’ View on National Health Care

Precisely why, as a matter of constitutional law, can Congress “make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society”? Because part of “the genius of the whole system” and “the nature of just and constitutional laws” require equality in all legislation that is capable of equal application. The Preamble sets as one of the Constitution’s goals “to * * * promote the general Welfare”—which, because every power of Congress must be interpreted and applied in conformity with the Preamble, entails that no law that can be written so as to reach Americans in general can be tricked out with “legal discriminations in favor of [Members of Congress] and [any other] particular class of the society”. The Constitution deems the ruling criterion of “the general Welfare” so important that it repeats that requirement in Article I, Section 8, Clause 1, which delegates to Congress the “Power to lay and collect Taxes * * * to pay the Debts and provide for the * * * general Welfare of the United States”. So, any legislation which involves taxation, spending, or both must be equally applicable to all similarly situated Americans.

Now, as is self-evident, a scheme for “national health care”—involving taxation, spending, or both—can be written so as to apply to everyone, on precisely equal terms, designed to provide precisely equal benefits for and to impose precisely equal burdens upon Members of Congress, the President, and public officials and employees of the General Government, as well as “Joe Doaks”, “Ma and Pa Kettle”, and every other ordinary American. Yet the national health-care bills before Congress do not provide for universal and equal benefits for and burdens upon all Americans. No, indeed. Members of Congress—”and their friends”, as Madison so delicately put it—are excluded from these bills, and allowed to retain for themselves especially favorable health-care coverage unavailable at any price to average citizens.

On the face of it, then, the present national-health care bills, being (in Madison’s formulation) “[proposed] laws not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people”, are the products and the making of nothing less than tyranny. As the English political philosopher John Locke defined it,

“Tyranny is the exercise of Power beyond Right, which no Body can have a Right to. And this is making use of the Power any one has in his hands; not for the good of those, who are under it, but for his own private separate Advantage.

“ ‘Tis a Mistake to think this Fault is proper only to Monarchies; other Forms of Government are liable to it, as well as that. For where-ever the Power that is put in any hands for the Government of the People, and the Preservation of their Properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the Arbitrary and Irregular Commands of those that have it: There is presently becomes Tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many. “

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Left-Wing Propaganda Machine, Part 1

When leftist politicians are in trouble, politically, there is one thing you can count on: they will do anything to divert attention away from themselves.

The hugely unpopular health-care vote is a case in point.

On the particular day of the vote, black Congressmen made a point of walking through “kill the bill” protestors on their way to chambers. They could have used the tunnel to arrive at their destination but they didn’t. Not that walking through the protestors wasn’t their right, they had every right, but their doing so makes their reasons for doing so suspect.

And sure enough, that very night, the leftist lamestream media headlined the claims that black Congressmen had been called the “n” word by protestors and how one Congressman had been “spit on.” The insinuation: the protestors were racists.


The tactic is typical Saul Alinsky agitprop (short for agitation for propaganda), Alinsky being a self-avowed Marxist well versed in agitprop.

Clearly, the intent of the black Congressmen, in walking through the crowd of protestors, was to incite racial slurs. When it didn’t happen, they made it up with the full cooperation of the leftist lamestream media who made it front and center on their nightly propaganda stream called the “nightly news.”

And true to nature, when no proof was presented of the authenticity of the claims of the black Congressman, the leftist lamestream media, who required no proof in the first place, didn’t recant their obviously bogus claims.


And because the American people, by and large, have been the product, for too many years, of the government schools where the Constitution and Bill of Rights have been spit on as the product of “lecherous old men”; the students graduating those government schools have no clue the foundations of America or why the Constitution and Bill of Rights are their guarantee of freedom only so long as they protect those same documents.

The people who voted for AKA are testament to the ignorance that government schools are producing; of people who believe it the job of government to 1) give them what they don’t want to work for; 2) give them rights; and 3) take care of them.

These are the people who listened to AKA and believed him when he said, “I’m going to give you … I’m going to provide you with … I’m going to spread the wealth around.” They didn’t stop to ask what that would cost them; all they heard was “He’s gonna gimme …”

It was Thomas Jefferson who stated, so long ago, “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”


The purpose in all this?

Those who truly believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights must be painted as some kind of right-wing nut, extremist, whack job, etc., if by association only; they must be made to appear violent even though violence is more the modus operandi of left-wing groups such as those to which AKA’s good friends and associates, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, belonged — the Weather Underground, part of the Students for a Democratic Society, with ties to Saul Alinsky.


It’s the oldest trick in the book — smear those who truly believe in freedom, who truly know what is wrong with the Marxist ideology of the likes of AKA, who truly know why we must protect the Constitution and Bill of Rights at all cost, so people won’t realize they are being led down the path to their own enslavement.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Will America Break Up?

The bitter debate over Obamacare has exposed the country’s profound divisions. We are no longer one nation or one people. Rather, there are now two Americas: one conservative, the other liberal. Increasingly, we no longer just disagree but we despise each other.

Our disagreements encompass everything — politics, morality, culture and history. We no longer share a unifying essence or common values. One half of America believes abortion is an abomination; the other half considers any attempt to repeal it as oppressive and sexist. One half opposes homosexual unions because it elevates immoral and unnatural behavior to the sacred status of marriage; the other half supports it as an extension of civil rights. One half reviles Mr. Obama’s socialist agenda, viewing it as the destruction of capitalism and our constitutional government; the other half embraces it as the culmination of social justice and economic equality. One half reveres America’s heroes — Christopher Columbus, George Washington, James Madison, Davy Crockett — and its glorious history; the other half is ashamed of its past, seeing it as characterized by racism, imperialism and chauvinism.

Ultimately, a country is not simply its geographical borders with the people inside of it. It is something more — and deeper. A nation must share a common heritage, language, culture, faith and myths. Once upon a time, Americans celebrated the same heroes, sang the same patriotic songs, read the same history and literature, and gloried in its exceptional nature: a city upon a hill, with liberty and freedom for all. It was understood that, for all of our different ethnic and religious backgrounds, America is a product of English and Christian civilization. Those days are long gone.

Instead, we are going the way our Founding Fathers warned us against: increasing balkanization and sectionalism. A constitutional republic — unlike an empire — is only as strong as its national cohesion. It is based not on imperial coercion but civic consent. Mr. Obama is recklessly pulling at the strings of unity, further polarizing us.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Cost of the H1N1 Scare Tactics

Governments at all levels and of all stripes, with the help of a compliant media just love to scare ordinary people

Figures have recently been released that show how much money the government of Canada spent on the H1N1 flu pandemic. The feds spent $37 million on advertising and communications. This was more than was spent on anti- virals ($14 million), preparing emergency responses ($8.6 million) and outbreak management ($21 million).

After the figures were released, Dr. Richard Schabas, a former Ontario medical officer of health, renewed his criticism that the government spent too much money after the flu outbreak had finished. In the end, although the H1N1 did qualify as a worldwide pandemic, its effect on the vast majority of those who caught it was mild. Many people had this particular strain of flu and didn’t even know it. The number of people who died from H1N1 was about one tenth of the number of Canadians who die each year from ordinary flu.

There is nothing unusual in the fact that the government spent so much money advertising in order to tell people where they should go and get their flu shots. It was perfectly consistent with the way democratic governments operate in the 21st century.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Filip Dewinter’s Candid Camera

A Belgian politician has posted video of an alleged break-in online. It’s a step towards vigilantism

I’m beginning to suspect that Filip Dewinter, one of the faltering far-right Vlaams Belang’s leading lights, sees Antwerp, where he has long been the mayor-in-waiting, as some kind of comic strip Gotham City, casting himself as its very own Batman.

The Joker in this scenario is Mo and his evil army of bearded minions, with their hijabbed parodies of Catwoman whom Dewinter is battling to unmask. Not only is he on a crusade to foil their designs to make his beloved Flanders and the rest of Europe part of a caliphate, he is also single-handedly keeping the streets safe for decent (white) citizens by fighting (brown) crime. To that end, he is one of the brains behind his party’s controversial anti-crime website which critics fear will fuel vigilantism.

One of Dewinter’s latest stunts was to post CCTV footage of an apparent attempted break-in — carried out unsuccessfully with comical incompetence by a young man who appeared to be an immigrant — on his website.

According to Belgium’s privacy commission, this falls foul of privacy laws and only the police and the ministry of justice have the right to release video footage and images of alleged criminals and their crimes. The commission is now investigating whether to take legal action, especially as Dewinter enjoys parliamentary immunity.

Dewinter reacted in predictable fashion, saying that “criminals are clearly better protected than the victims of crime”. And judging by online reactions, many ordinary Belgians seem to approve of Dewinter’s actions. “Now criminals enjoy a sort of parliamentary immunity, too,” commented one enraged reader. So, is this a case of “privacy gone mad”, or are there valid reasons for such legal protections, especially in our increasingly surveillance-oriented societies?

Well, in short, by releasing this video into the public domain, Filip Dewinter is effectively taking the law into his own hands. If Dewinter truly believes in the rule of law, as he claims, and wishes to make society safer for law-abiding citizens, then the responsible thing to have done, rather than this grandstanding, would’ve been to report the incident to the police, who can then decide whether to go public or not. Any information made public about the identity of an alleged criminal should be weighed up carefully against the severity of the crime, the chances of it leading to an arrest, and the risk posed to the public.

In the case of a gruesome murder, rape or an armed robbery, for instance, there is a strong imperative for the authorities to release information about the identity of the perpetrators. Also, when massive abuses of power, corruption or miscarriages of justice occur, the media can play a role in bringing them to light, as long as there is sufficient evidence. However, a young lad apparently trying and failing to jemmy open the window of a travel agent is not the same. Moreover, the release of such footage can do the young man in question — who may never have done anything illegal before — harm that is not proportional to the crime he has allegedly committed by stigmatising him in public.

Besides, when they deem it necessary, the authorities routinely release footage or photofits of criminals and make public appeals for information, and so these amateurish efforts are, at best, pointless, at worst, harmful and even dangerous.

If some citizens start usurping the role of the police, how much longer will it be before others appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner? What if a furious citizen takes the next logical step and decides to execute some summary justice by, say, attacking alleged criminals?

More fundamentally, even criminals have rights. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty by a competent authority, and no one should be allowed to prejudice the course of the legal process. But even convicted criminals — who have, in effect, paid their dues to society — have, and should enjoy, a right to have their privacy protected and respected, unless this puts others at great risk.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Court Condemns Italy for Expelled Ex Imam

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, APRIL 13 — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today condemned Italy for its deportation of Mourad Trabelsi, former imam of Cremona, to his native country Tunisia. By sending Trabelsi to Tunisia, the judges in Strasbourg sustain, the Italian authorities violated article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states that no-one may be subjected to torture or abusive treatment. The Italian and Tunisian authorities, says the Court, have not been able to demonstrate that the man did not undergo abusive treatment since his incarceration in Tunisia. The ECHR judges highlight how neither the signing of bilateral agreements by Tunisia, nor the country’s laws are sufficient to ascertain effectively that Trabelsi, condemned for belonging to a terrorist organisation in peace-time, was not subjected to abuse. Moreover, the Court underlines that statements by the Tunisian authorities on Trabelsi’s conditions of health are not corroborated by medical evidence, and therefore it is not demonstrated that the man did not undergo abusive treatment contrary to article 3 of the Convention. The judges in Strasbourg have established that Italy, which expelled Trabelsi despite the Court’s contrary decision, will have to give the man 15 thousand euros in moral damages and 6 thousand for expenses sustained. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Euro Off Highs After Greek Sale, Stocks Down

LONDON (Reuters) — The euro erased short-lived gains while German government bonds drew support on Tuesday after a debt sale by Greece that, while successful, reminded investors the country’s borrowing costs remain very high.

World stocks fell from the previous day’s 18-1/2 month high as investors awaited a slew of key corporate earnings to help gauge the strength of the economy. The yen wiped earlier gains after lawmakers from Japan’s ruling party said the domestic currency should fall to around 120 per dollar.

Greece easily sold a total of 1.2 billion euros ($1.63 billion) of 6-month and one-year T-bills, passing its first borrowing test since the euro zone reached a deal on a standby rescue package for the debt-laden country.

But analysts said the yields on the bills — 4.55 percent and 4.85 percent respectively — were still high, reminding investors that borrowing remained costly and the budget under pressure.

“Clearly the yields are still very high and longer-term bond yields remain very high even by recent standards,” said Ben May, economist at Capital Economics.

“So it does not really change the underlying position that Greece has very tough times ahead. It’s going through a deep recession and that’s going to lead the debt to GDP ratio to surge higher.”

The euro rose around 20 ticks after the sale, but then fell back to stand steady on the day at $1.3590.

The Greek/German 10-year government bond yield spread reached a session low of 356 basis points, about 5 basis points tighter on the day. The German bund future was up 4 ticks.

“The outright yield on the bills is still some way above the rates implied by (the weekend’s) package and as such reflects a degree of skepticism about the facility,” said Adam Cole, head of currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

In Japan, a group of lawmakers from the ruling party said efforts should be made to maintain “appropriate” currency levels of around 120 yen per dollar.

The yen fell as low as 93.42 per dollar after the comments, erasing earlier gains.

The draft proposal also called for the government and the Bank of Japan to use all monetary and fiscal policy tools available to erase deflation.

The dollar .DXY was down 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies.

STOCKS AND EARNINGS The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS fell 0.2 percent after reaching its highest level since September 2008 on Monday.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 fell 0.1 percent while emerging stocks .MSCIEF lost half a percent. U.S. stock futures pointed to a weaker open on Wall Street later.

U.S. companies reporting results this week include JP Morgan (JPM.N), Google (GOOG.O), Bank of America (BAC.N) and General Electric (GE.N). After the U.S. market close on Monday, Alcoa (AA.N) kicked off the earnings season, matching Wall Street estimates.

According to Thomson Reuters data, firms on the S&P 500 index are expected to report a 37.1 percent rise in quarterly earnings growth. Double-digit growth is expected to extend into the first quarter of 2011.

U.S. crude oil fell 0.5 percent to $83.95 a barrel.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

France: Train Strike Enters Sixth Day, Talks Stalled

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 12 — Train strike in France enters sixth day, and negotiations between the French train service company (SNCF) management and unions stalled before they even began. The strike, in effect since last Tuesday’s 8 pm, was called by the sector’s two main unions, CGE and Sud Rail, to protest against methods and effects of SNCF’s internal restructure. The company offered the unions a meeting for April 21, when they’re going to discuss employment, professional training possibilities and the chance to open regional routes to competition, but it also asked for strike suspension and a return to normal rail traffic as a necessary condition. “We need to negotiate immediately, as in all companies where’s a social conflict,” CGT and Sud Rail replied. Traffic disruptions are limited anyway, thanks to the moderate strike participation (28,6% among drivers and 26,6% among ticket inspectors). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Le Pen: I Will Leave Front National Presidency in 2011

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 12 — French ultra-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, 81 years old, will leave his position as president of the Front National (FN), founded by him, in 2011. Le Pen announced this himself during a party meeting in Nanterre, near Paris. His successor will be chosen during the next FN congress on January 15 and 16 2011. So far there are two candidates: his daughter Marine and member of the European Parliament Bruno Gollnisch. Jean-Marie Le Pen has led the xenophobe and anti-European party Front National since he founded it in 1972. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

French Bid to Extradite Briton for Irish Death

Judge seeks to set legal precedent in 13-year-old murder mystery

A French judge is trying to break new legal ground in Europe by issuing a warrant for the arrest of a British suspect in an unsolved murder in Ireland in 1996.

The judge, Patrick Gachon, wants to extradite a former journalist, Ian Bailey, to France to face questions about the murder of a French cinema executive, Sophie Toscan du Plantier, 39, near Schull, County Cork more than 13 years ago. Mr Bailey, 53, now training to be a lawyer, has twice been arrested and questioned by Irish police about the murder of his French neighbour on a remote peninsula just before Christmas 1996. No charge has ever been brought against him.

The French magistrate believes that sufficient prima facie evidence exists to continue investigation of Mr Bailey under the different approach used by the French judicial system. He has issued a European arrest warrant to which the Irish authorities have one month to respond.

There is no precedent in the European Union for a murder suspect being extradited from the country where the crime was committed to the victim’s home country. Mr Bailey’s lawyer insists that such a move would be contrary to Irish law and will be contested as far as the Irish Supreme Court if necessary.

Ms Toscan du Plantier, a cinema executive and wife of a celebrated French film producer, was found battered to death near her holiday home in west Cork on 23 December 1996. She had apparently opened her door to her assailant. Mr Bailey, then a local freelance journalist, wrote articles about the murder. He was arrested by police in February 1997 but denied any involvement. His wife insisted that he had not left their home, a couple of miles from the murder scene.

He was arrested again in February 1998 when new evidence emerged but he was once again released without charge. In 2003, Mr Bailey brought — and lost — a case for defamation against several British and Irish newspapers which had suggested that there was evidence of his guilt.

Witnesses at this trial said they had heard Mr Bailey boasting that he had murdered Ms Toscan du Plantier — something that he strenuously denied. An investigation by Irish police into the alleged bungling of the case by local officers came to nothing last year.

French judicial authorities mounted the parallel inquiry under pressure from the dead woman’s parents. French law allows the investigation by a French examining magistrate of the murder of a French person abroad.

Judge Gachon ordered the victim’s body to be exhumed from its grave in west Cork for DNA tests in the summer of 2008. The tests produced nothing new. Last year, he and a fellow judge visited the crime scene and spoke to witnesses. The Irish police, the Gardai, agreed to hand over their files, both on the original investigation and the inquiry into alleged police bungling. Two Irish officers travelled to Paris last October to testify.

Judge Gachon has now issued a European warrant for Mr Bailey’s arrest. According to French judicial sources, he hopes to hold a hearing behind closed doors in Paris in which Mr Bailey will be “confronted” with witnesses.

Under Irish law — broadly similar to British law — a charge cannot be brought against a suspect unless an overwhelming case has been established against him. Under French law, an investigating magistrate, like Mr Gachon, need only be satisfied that a prima facie case exists. He can then place a suspect under formal investigation — a step short of an actual charge — and assemble all the evidence which points to guilt or innocence.

The Irish authorities — and ultimately the Irish courts — must now decide whether it is possible under Irish law to allow Mr Bailey to be taken under arrest to France.

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

Germany: a Difficult Friendship With Obama

A Wall Separates Merkel and the Land of Her Dreams

A wall exists in relations between US President Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. Merkel constantly calls out across the wall. The response, if she’s lucky enough to get one, isn’t encouraging: Oh, I see ….

Angela Merkel is traveling across America this week. It’s a country she loves, but the German chancellor is still having trouble connecting with Barack Obama. Her political style couldn’t be any more different from that of the US president. She’s fighting to prevent the US from disregarding or dominating the Europeans.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is traveling around the United States this week. She loves the country, but she has a few problems with its president, Barack Obama. Her political style is vastly different from that of the US president, but she also has something else to contend with: Washington’s disregard for and attempts to dominate Europeans.

When Merkel is no longer Germany’s chancellor, she will fly to America. She will land in California, rent a car, drive to the beach and gaze out at the Pacific Ocean. That, at least, was her plan in 1990, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and she still clings to that vision: America, the Pacific and a long road trip across the entire country.

Merkel is in the United States this week, as chancellor, and she will hardly be in a position to satisfy her wanderlust. But at least she’ll see the Pacific, when she visits Los Angeles and San Francisco after spending time in Washington.

She is traveling to a country whose stunningly beautiful aspects hold an almost childlike fascination for Merkel, but whose political realities represent a cause for concern. During her visit, she will encounter representatives of opposing camps in the country’s deeply divided political landscape. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, Merkel will meet with protagonists of the American dream, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, filmmakers at Warner Brothers and some of the Silicon Valley’s best and brightest.

Tensions with Obama, But No Open Quarrels

But first she’ll be in Washington, where Obama runs the show. She will see him at a nuclear summit attended by 40 other heads of state. The two years in which Merkel has interacted with Obama have been filled with tension, even if there has never been an open quarrel between the two leaders. He is precisely the president she didn’t want to see in office, because he is the antithesis of her. This sentiment has been palpable from the very beginning, and it hasn’t gone away.

But Obama isn’t the only source of Merkel’s concerns about America. She is also vexed over Washington’s policy, which fluctuates between disregard for and dominance of the Germans. This isn’t just the result of the president’s personal characteristics, but of the respective roles of the two countries: the United States, a superpower being challenged by China, and Germany, which wants to be a medium power, but only plays this role economically, not politically. Merkel is confronted with this underlying conflict again and again.

The chancellor was last in Washington on Nov. 3, 2009. She was there to give a speech to the US Congress, a rare honor for a foreign leader, and when she was responding to a journalist’s questions shortly before the speech, something happened that almost never happens to her: she swallowed. She had a lump in her throat, and it rendered her speechless for a few moments.

‘Nothing Inspires Me More Than the Power of Freedom’

She was excited, because this speech meant a lot to her. Then she stood up in front of the assembled US representatives and senators and said that because of the Berlin Wall, America had long been “the land of unlimited opportunity” for her. “I had to create my own picture of the United States from films and books, some of which were smuggled in from the West by relatives,” she said. “I was passionate about the American dream — the opportunity for everyone to be successful, to make it in life through their own personal effort.”

At the time, she wore Levi’s jeans that an aunt had sent her from the West, and because she longed for freedom, she also longed to see the country that had come to embody freedom, the United States. Before the joint session of the US Congress, she said: “There is still nothing that inspires me more, nothing that spurns me on more, nothing that fills me more with positive feelings than the power of freedom.”

When Merkel lived in ossified, ailing East Germany, she imagined the West as a realm of efficiency and fantasy, imbued with a spirit of optimism. After the fall of the wall, she was disappointed by the Federal Republic of Germany, by its bureaucracy, sedateness and fearfulness. She sees the United States as a country that corresponds more closely to notions she once had of the West.

This is partly because she perceives her own life as a typically American, rags-to-riches story. She too has succeeded in making the unlikely journey from East German citizen to German chancellor, partly as a result of luck and partly through her “own hard work.”

She would take a vacation there now if she could. But as chancellor, Merkel has to be readily available at all times, and given the time difference of six to nine hours, she feels that that is something she cannot guarantee. Instead, she experiences the country vicariously by barraging anyone who has just spent some time in the United States with questions.

Part 2: Merkel Favored Clinton out of ‘Female Solidarity’

Ironically, this country she has always yearned for often gives her the cold shoulder. Although her speech before the US Congress was met with enthusiastic applause, what she couldn’t see was that a number of very young people were clapping at the back of the room. Members of Congress had instructed their staffs to fill the back rows, because there had been relatively little interest in attending the chancellor’s speech.

Shortly before her departure, she was snubbed when General Motors announced that it preferred not to sell its subsidiary, German automaker Opel. In the preceding months, Merkel had spent countless hours trying to organize a sale.

But for Merkel, the hardest pill to swallow is that America, her paradise, has brought her President Barack Obama. In the election, she favored his opponent Hillary Clinton, out of “female solidarity.” Besides, Obama poses a threat to the view, so useful to Merkel, that politics cannot be fun and inspiring.

Her approach to politics, at any rate, isn’t. Merkel, who can be very entertaining privately, runs her country with a calculated blandness — a deliberate effort not to upset anyone or rock the boat. This too is based on a well thought out script, but it is not one that would be of any interest to Hollywood, which she will also visit this week. Her script is more suitable for the kind of late-night television program likely to put its audience to sleep.

When Obama conducted his election campaign in 2008, the sedate Germans were flabbergasted. This was politics? A man speaking with passion and convincing half of the world that change was imminent? He offered American voters a vision that included groundbreaking healthcare reforms and a world without nuclear weapons. It was perfectly staged, and instead of calculated blandness Obama showed calculated charisma. Almost three-quarters of Germans wanted him to become president.

Merkel sensed that some of the praise for Obama reflected criticism of her. Her fellow conservative Christian Democrat Norbert Röttgen, the current environment minister, said at the time: “He has created a mood that makes it possible to have faith in politics. That’s worth a lot more than a tax concept or a plan to reform health insurance, because it creates a context and politicizes in the best sense of the word.”

A Testy Reaction When Asked about Obama

At the time, she revealed a rarely seen trait: irritability. Whenever she was asked about Obama, her reaction was usually testy. She said that he had been all talk and no action, and she developed a position that seemed advantageous to her at the time, portraying Obama as a glib speaker and herself as a practitioner of power politics who was at least getting a few things done.

When Merkel watched Obama’s inauguration on television, she was so transfixed that she kept a helicopter waiting. She has a soft spot for historic moments, and she didn’t want to miss seeing the first black man being sworn in as president of the United States. She too is a member of this club of “firsts,” being both the first East German and the first woman to become Germany’s chancellor. She doesn’t have the feeling that she has to look up to the president.

Merkel met with Obama several times after his inauguration, and it was soon clear that the two leaders weren’t exactly hitting it off. Most of the world was pleased to see former President George W. Bush go, but Merkel is one of the few to miss him a little.

Merkel has a way of quietly sweet-talking many of her counterparts around the world. This is particularly effective with older men, who like to use their charm on Merkel but fail to notice as she gently reels them in.

This strategy was very effective with Bush. Merkel put up with the indignity of Bush massaging her neck or putting his arm around her. She invited him to attend a barbecue in Trinwillershagen, a town in her electoral district in northeastern Germany, and the two politicians were always ready to play the game of an older gentleman courting a younger woman.

When Merkel’s advisers list her best foreign policy moments today, they include the 2007 G-8 summit in Heiligendamm and the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest. In Heiligendamm, she wheedled a small concession on climate change out of Bush, and in Bucharest she resisted his pressure to promptly approve NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.

Obama Wastes No Time on Small Talk

Her approach doesn’t work with Obama. He isn’t part of the generation of charming older men, and he has a very direct, almost brusque, way of making policy. He doesn’t waste much time on small talk, his day is tightly scheduled, and he makes sure that his counterparts know this. He also has little concern for protocol. During a meeting in Dresden, he surprised Merkel by asking her why she was opposed to Turkey being admitted to the European Union. The topic was not on the agenda.

When asked about Obama at the beginning of the year, Merkel replied as she had in the past, noting that he hadn’t actually achieved anything yet. But now Obama has pushed healthcare reform through the House of Representatives and signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. He has disappointed on other fronts, but it can hardly be said that Obama the gifted speaker has failed in the arena of power politics.

This invalidates Merkel’s position, now that Obama has demonstrated that power politics and inspiring speeches are compatible. So why shouldn’t the same thing work for her, particularly as she hasn’t moved any mountains as a practitioner of power politics?

Obama has set an example of how successful personal commitment and a strong sense of self can be. All it takes is the courage to commit to an issue, even it means running the risk of it becoming a major defeat.

American politics is a little like the film “High Noon.” It requires a protagonist, a few decent shootouts and, finally, a showdown on Main Street, one in which there is a winner and a loser. Although Obama spent a long time negotiating and making compromises to get his healthcare reform bill passed, he was still on pins and needles in the end, when it came down to the vote and he had no idea how it would turn out. He also accepted the fact that some would hate him for his policies.

A similar situation is inconceivable for Merkel. She would negotiate Main Street to death, and the combatants would eventually lay down their arms, half satisfied and half dazed. Not even during the election campaign, the classic dueling scenario in politics, did she step into the streets with her guns loaded. Instead, she continued to pursue her program to promote a general feeling of fatigue — which, unfortunately, also includes political fatigue.

An Individualist vs. a Collectivist

Obama’s approach to politics is more individualistic. He too is dependent on an army of advisers, but when push comes to shove, his will and charisma are crucial to making decisions happen. Merkel takes a collectivist approach. She identifies the goals of other participants, blends them with her own needs and turns the whole thing into a fail-safe policy that allows her to remain popular.

This week, Merkel would like to have been able to tell Obama that Germany was willing to accept three presumably innocent detainees from Guantanamo. But now she is wavering in the face of resistance from governors and her party’s parliamentary group.

Once again, she will presumably show up in Washington empty-handed. It wasn’t much different in January, when she called the president to tell him that Germany was going to send an additional 500 soldiers to Afghanistan, possibly as many as 850, but no more than that. Her pledge wasn’t met with great enthusiasm from Obama who, after announcing Washington’s deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, would have liked to see a stronger commitment from the Germans.

Mutual Disappointment

At the moment, the partners on both sides of the Atlantic are disappointed with each other. Whenever the Americans want something from the Germans, they are guaranteed to be turned down: on prisoners from Guantanamo, on sending significantly more soldiers to Afghanistan and on new economic stimulus programs.

Merkel, on the other hand, was repeatedly appalled last year at how inconsiderate the Americans were of German or European interests. Whenever she spoke to Obama about climate protection, he was only concerned with the consequences for the United States. When the Americans settled on a new strategy for Afghanistan, they didn’t ask their allies first. Merkel also suspects that the United States is not interested in reining in the financial industry.

She is forced to look on as America becomes more and more enmeshed in a duel with China. Nothing is done that could impair Washington’s position toward China, which is why the United States doesn’t want to take on the burdens of a strict climate policy or a more tightly controlled financial market. German interests are of little importance, because Germany has little left to offer the Americans.

Oddly enough, a wall separates Merkel and the land of her dreams once again, a wall that isn’t quite as high and has been shifted somewhat farther to the West. Hello, we’re still here, Merkel is constantly calling out across the wall. The response, if she’s lucky enough to get one, isn’t encouraging: Oh, I see …

At least Obama has promised to come to one of her barbecues. Perhaps they’ll get into a nice conversation over a plate of barbecued pork.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Greece:80 Euros Per Spaniard to Greece, 92 Euros Per Italian

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, APRIL 12 — Spain will contribute around 3.675 billion euros to the financial rescue of Greece agreed on by the leaders of the Euro Group, if Greece decides to ask for help. The announcement was made by Secretary of State for the European Union Diego Lopez Garrido in a press meeting. The figure corresponds with the 12.25% quota attributed to Spain in the division of the 30 billion euro loan to Greece between the 15 countries of the Eurozone. In practice, each Spaniard will contribute with 80 euros to Greece’s financial reconstruction. The crisis in Greece will cost each Italian up to 92 euros: 5.5 billion euros of the 30 billion euro loan, spread out over 60 million inhabitants. The Portuguese will pay 77 euros each (10.6 million inhabitants and a total of 775 million euros). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat’s Market Share Down at 31.3% in March

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The Italian market share of Fiat Group Automobiles fell slightly in March to 31.27%, down from the 32.58% held this time last year. The February 2010 figure had been 31%. Breaking the figures down under single brands, 64,192 Fiat vehicles were registered in March (up 17.23% on the 54,756 booked in March 2009), Alfa Romeo registered 4,715 cars (a drop of 21.76% on the 6,026 on a year before) and Lancia’s figure was 11,668 (up 24.33% on the 9,385 of March 2009). In the same period, Fiat Group Automobiles registered 80,575 new vehicles in Italy during March. The figure was 14.83% higher than the 70,167 delivered in March last year. Market shares for the individual brands saw Fiat at 24.91% of the Italian market (it had been at 25.42% a year earlier), Lancia attained a share of 4.53% (from 4.36%) and Alfa Romeo was at 1.83% (2.80% in March 2009). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Industrial Output Again Rising, +2.7% in February

(ANSAmed) — ROME — For the first time since the beginning of 2008 industrial output is once again rising in Italy: according to the Italian institute for statistics ISTAT, in February it rose by 2.7% compared with the same month in 2009. The increase in February was seen both for the raw index for industrial production and for the index corrected for number of working days (working days were 20, the same as in February 2009). The raw figures are positive for the first figure for the first time since July 2008, while for the corrected figure they are for the first time since April 2008. As concerns a sector breakdown, the highest increases were seen for chemical products (+15.7%), the manufacture of computers and electronic and optical products (+9.9%) and transport vehicles (+9.1%). In decline, on the other hand, was output in the timber, paper and printing industry (-4.7%), in extraction activities (-1.8%) and in the machinery and equipment sector (-1.3%). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-France Environmental Accord, Bonifacio Park Created

(ANSAmed) — ROME — During 2010, International Year for Biodiversity, Italy and France have signed an agreement to set in motion the procedure for the creation of a new protected area: the Bocche di Bonifacio Transnational Marine Park. Ministers for the Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo and Jean Louis Borloo also pledged to set up a European group for territorial cooperation between the Maddelena Archipelago National Park and the Bocche di Bonifacio Natural Reserve, which are the two main areas of the new marine park. The Maddalena Archipelago Natural Park, located in northern Sardinia, is near an important inhabited area on the main island of La Maddalena. Few houses remain on Stagnali (Caprera), while a small area of Santa Maria is visited only in the summer. Nature therefore reigns supreme, especially on the smaller islands (Spargi, Budelli, Razzoli, Spargiotto, Barrettini, Mortorio and Nibani). The archipelago, made up of over 60 islands and isles, is considered one of the most evocative landscapes the world over. In the Mediterranean there are no other island systems of this type, characterised by the proximity between the different islands separated by deep marine channels, where the land is characterised by granite. The park ranges over a surface area — including both the land and sea — measuring 18,000 hectares (5,038 hectares of land and 13,000 hectares of marine surface area), with 221 kilometres of coastline. The Bocche di Bonifacio natural reserves is the main French side of the new protected area, between Corsica and Sardinia. The reserve, located at the southern edge of Corsica, has a perimetre of 80,000 hectares and looks onto the Maddalena Archipelago National Park. In addition to protecting the coastline, it conserves exceptional environments and landscapes: the Lavezzi, Cerbicali and Monaci islands, the cliffs of Bonifacio, the Bruzzi peninsula, and the lakes of Ventilegne, including the waters and seabeds surrounding them. As part of the project for the new transnational park there is also the Tre Padule de Suartone natural reserve, the latest created in Corsica to preserve an original habitat and for this reason of international importance, made up of temporary European wetzones, bona fide biodiversity reserves which play host to endangered, endemic and rare species.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Files Trial-Suspension Request

Milan 12 April (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday for the first time sought to take advantage of a new law shielding him from appearing at tax fraud and corruption trials because of conflicting engagements.

Berlusconi (photo), who is accused of tax fraud and false accounting linked to the sale of television rights for his broadcasting and movie production company Mediaset, had been due to appear in a Milan courthouse on 21st and 28th of April. But his lawyer Niccolo Ghedini filed a petition claiming the prime minister couldn’t attend court until 21st and 28th of July.

Berlusconi faces charges that Mediaset bought TV rights at inflated prices from two offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi resulting in the misappropriation of 35 million euros and tax fraud amounting to 8 million euros.

The future of the TV rights and another case against Berlusconi were put in doubt after president Giorgio Napolitano signed into law new rules that have the effect of excusing Berlusconi from attending them.

Napolitano signed the “legitimate impediment” law covering the prime minister and other government ministers on 7 April, sparking a fierce political debate.

Milan prosecutor Fabio De Pasquale Monday said the legitimate impediment law was in part “unconstitutional,” asserting that it permits a trial to be suspended for too long and limits a judge’s power to evaluate requests.

Judges on 19 April will decide whether to grant Berlusconi’s request.

The conservative billionaire-prime minister has said he is the target of political persecution of a “Communist” magistrate, while critics of the law say it will postpone the trial until the statue of limitations expires.

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

Italy: Issue of New American Express Cards Suspended

Bankitalia responds to failure to comply with laws on interest and money laundering. Diners Club also hit

ROME— As from Monday American Express will not be allowed to issue new credit cards in Italy. The decision from Bankitalia, Italy’s central bank, punishes the company for failing to comply with legislation on usury, money laundering and transparency. The serious charges do not however affect Amex’s day-to-day business or cards already in circulation. In other words, holders of American Express cards can continue to use them as if nothing had happened.

It all started with the proceedings initiated at the State Prosecutor’s Office in Trani, following complaints that usury-level interest rates were being applied to payment instalments for those cards that allow them, such as revolving credit cards. This led to an inspection by Bankitalia’s supervisory committee, resulting in the issue of cards being suspended. Bankitalia explained that this was a “necessary measure”, since the company had broken the law.

The inspection revealed three violations. The first regarded exorbitant interest rates and default interest applied to late payments or when credit limits were exceeded. Interest was calculated not only on unpaid instalments but also on the remaining credit. Moreover, the interest was then recalculated over the following three months, with the resulting surcharge exceeding the legal usury threshold. The second offence violated the law against money laundering: failings in the company’s centralised computer archive meant limited character space for registering customers, with the consequent use of abbreviated names and reduced card holder identifiability. Thirdly, the company had not complied with transparency regulations, by failing to inform customers when predefined credit limits were in place and what they were. This led card holders to unconsciously exceed their credit limits. The suspension on the issue of credit cards will last until Amex Italia comes into line by addressing their shortcomings and correcting their calculation procedures. At present, Amex has 702,000 cards in circulation with monthly billing, plus 224,000 revolving credit cards, which allow card purchases to be paid in instalments. According to Bankitalia, the total credit involved amounts to €224 million for the former and €276 million for the latter. 70% of revolving credit card holders, however, settle their bills monthly rather than in instalments.

The inspections and measures taken against American Express are part of wider Bankitalia checks on revolving credit cards, whose interest rates are generally higher than those of bank loans. As part of the operation the supervisory committee also examined Diners Club, ending in its suspension seven months ago. The company has been unable to issue new cards since 19 September 2009, having fallen foul of money-laundering legislation, insofar as its computer archive does not permit clear identification of card holders, who are not registered as the law requires. However, the company yesterday pointed out that the Bankitalia ban “regards a situation that the present owners of Diners Club Italia inherited upon takeover”. They added that it was “a technical issue that has been resolved”; moreover, unlike the Amex case, it was unrelated to a lack of transparency or usury.

Stefania Tamburello

English translation by Simon Tanner

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

Italy: Gay Ire at Church Paedophilia ‘Link’

Activists blast Vatican No.2

(ANSA) — Rome, April 13 — Italian gay groups on Tuesday slammed Vatican No.2 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone for claiming there was a link between homosexuality and paedophilia.

In a Monday press conference in Chile on sex abuse scandals, Secretary of State (interior minister) Bertone reaffirmed the Vatican’s stance there was no link between paedophilia and celibacy but “many experts” had demonstrated a link with homosexuality.

Italy’s oldest gay group, Arcigay, called Bertone’s statement “false, ignoble and anti-scientific”.

Bertone had “confirmed the cynicism, lack of scruples and cruelty of the very same Catholic hierarchy which for years covered up sex crimes perpetrated on thousands of innocent children by Church members all over the world,” said Arcigay chief Paolo Patane’.

“The Church shouldn’t try to shift the blame onto innocent people but ask itself about its lack of humanity,” he said.

A former Arcigay president, Aurelio Mancuso, urged the Church, “instead of covering up decades of abuse, to toss out all homosexual priests and nuns, starting with the Vatican Curia”.

“But perhaps there would be too many cardinals, bishops, heads of religious orders and parish priests who would have to leave their cozy jobs,” he added.

Centre-right group Gaylib said the Vatican should “ask for the world’s forgiveness” at the UN General Assembly and said Bertone’s claim was “out of date, even in the Third World”.

“Since they speak the same language, it might be a good idea to move the Vatican to Tehran”.

A criminologist for activist group La Caramella Buona (The Good Sweet), Roberta Bruzzone, accused Bertone of perpetuating homophobic notions at a time when gay hate crimes were on the rise.

A gay theological study centre in Milan said Bertone should spend more time trying to find out why Italian and foreign parishes allegedly no longer send candidates to a prestigious ‘pre-seminary’ in the Vatican that produces altar boys for St Peter’s. photo: Bertone photo: Bertone

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pope to See Abuse Victims in Private

Insults daubed on pontiff’s Bavaria home

(ANSA) — Vatican City, April 13 — Pope Benedict XVI will meet with victims of sexual abuse by priests, but away from the media spotlight, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Illustrating the pope’s trip to Malta next weekend, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said he would see victims “in a climate of prayer and reflection, not under media pressure”.

Benedict has announced a new strategy to weed out paedophile priests, report cases straight to the police, defrock the most serious abusers immediately and provide more support for victims.

The pope has come under increasing pressure amid allegations of cover-ups, which the Vatican denies.

But some Vatican observers say the pope, in his previous role as doctrinal enforcer, did more than anyone to stem rising paedophile scandals in the face of resistance inside the Vatican.

Shortly before his election in 2005, Benedict vowed to rid the Catholic Church of what he called “filth”.

But as previous head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, the pope has been accused of failing to defrock in the late 1990s a priest who abused 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin from 1950-74 and not responding, for the good of the Church, to an admitted Oakland paedophile’s own request to leave the Church.

In an editorial earlier this week in the New York Times, which has broken several alleged cover-up stories, conservative commentator Ross Douthat said Ratzinger was prevented from taking action against Legionaries of Christ founder and “sexually voracious sociopath” Marcial Maciel until the death of pope John Paul II, a friend and sponsor of the charismatic Mexican priest.

Maciel died in 2008 in disgrace after decades of abuse in which he also fathered several children. The scandals which have most recently hit Ireland, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Italy have spurred criticism of the Church and raised questions about priestly sexuality.

In the latest blast, responding to Vatican No.2 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who linked paedophilia to homosexuality, Italian gay group Arcigay urged Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, to remove “all the gay priests and nuns in the Church including those in the Roman Curia.

Also on Tuesday, a Bavarian paper reported that obscene phrases were found daubed on the house in Bavaria where the pope was born.

The paper, Augsburger Allgemeine, said the insults, of a sexual nature, were “so offensive” that it viewed them as unpublishable.

Benedict was born in the small town of Marktl am Inn on April 16, 1927.

The Vatican, which before switching to a more proactive strategy had claimed a media ‘smear’ campaign, has raised concerns about a backlash from the scandal coverage.

Vatican Radio last week said “there are “those who fear that the media campaign of anti-Catholic hate may degenerate,” citing among “the first worrying signs” an attack by a mentally unstable man on a German bishop; anti-Catholic slogans daubed on a church near Viterbo north of Rome; and attempts by “several groups and individuals” to disrupt Easter services across Europe.

The broadcaster recalled that the first Christians were accused of terrible crimes and lynched.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Carrefour Prepares to Leave Country

(ANSAmed) — LISBON, APRIL 13 — Carrefour is preparing to leave Portugal. With the sale of its 524 Minipreco shops, the second largest retail group in the world is leaving the country. The Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Lisbon points out that in 2007 Carrefour had already sold its hypermarkets to Sonae for 662 million euros. The purchase of the 524 sales points should cost some 800 million euros and potential candidates include Sonae, Jeronimo Martins and Auchan. Amongst the most likely purchasers, concludes the note, could be Auchan which already has the Jumbo hypermarkets and the Pao de Acucar supermarkets, and which, not having a strong offer in discount retail sector, could target the purchase of the Minipreco sales points. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Sod the Lot!’: UKIP Launches Campaign But Pledges Not to Fight Eurosceptic Candidates

UKIP today unveiled the campaign slogan ‘Sod The Lot’ as it urged voters to ditch the three main parties.

But, at the same time, the party said it would stand aside to let a string of Eurosceptic Tory and Labour candidates have a clear-run in marginal seats.

So far UKIP has identified six Tories, one Labour MP and at least one independent who it will not field candidates against because they are ‘committed’ opponents of the European Union.

At the launch of its election campaign, UKIP leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch said the party could deliberately stand aside in as many as 15 constituencies.

The staunchly anti-EU party has taken the decision because it does not want its votes to potentially cost a Eurosceptic candidate — including sitting MPs — a marginal seat.

UKIP will actively campaign to elect these candidates but Lord Pearson was at pains to say they had not asked for his help.

The party’s new poster features the faces of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg alongside the slogan ‘Sod The Lot’.

UKIP leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch said it was time for a new politics and argued that leaving the EU would save up to £120 billion a year — with no jobs or trade lost from Britain.

After securing the election of 13 MEPs in the last European elections, UKIP is hoping to make a breakthrough with the election of its first MP in a Westminster election, and is standing 550 candidates — including Lord Pearson’s wife, Caroline.

In particular, it is targeting the Buckingham constituency of Commons Speaker John Bercow, where the party’s former leader Nigel Farage is standing.

Mr Farage said the election campaign so far had been a ‘piddling irrelevance’ and the mainstream parties had not addressed the reality of the UK’s economic problems.

He added: ‘It really is time for some straight talking. We are skint. We need some massive cutbacks in the public sector.

‘We can’t have our own immigration and asylum policy if we remain members of this European Union.’

In its manifesto, Ukip promises an ‘end to uncontrolled mass immigration’. Britain would leave the EU, and workers from within the Union would require work permits to enter the UK.

There would be an immediate five-year immigration freeze followed by a new stricter points-based system.

It reaffirms a plan to ban Muslim face coverings such as the burkha and pledges to ‘scrap political correctness in public affairs’. The prison population — currently 84,000 — would be doubled.

Lord Pearson named the Conservative candidates Ukip would not run against as Philip Davies (Shipley), Douglas Carswell (Clacton), Janice Small (Batley and Spen), Alex Story (Wakefield), and Philip Hollobone (Kettering).

It will also not run against Labour’s David Drew in Stroud and independent Bob Spink in Castle Point.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Spain: Unions Organise Demonstration in Defence of Garzon

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 13 — Hundreds of people participated today in the demonstration that was organised by trade unions in the auditorium of the Complutense University of Madrid, in support of the judge of the Audiencia Nacional, Baltazar Garzon, against whom three trials have been opened. “I hope we will not go through the same of seeing Garzon sentenced for his prosecution of Francoism, corruption and for being a just judge”, said State anti-corruption prosecutor Carlos Jimenez Villarejos in his speech, quoted by EP. “Admitting these lawsuits” started by the Falange and the Manos Limpias association, according to Villarejo “is a lack of respect for the victims of Francoism and a way to encourage fascism in Spain”. The magistrate underlined that some stipendiary magistrates of the Supreme Court “have been” high up in the Francoist regime and have been, in his words, “accessory” to the regime’s tortures. Present at the demonstration in defence of Garzon were the leaders of the Union General de Trabajadores and Comisiones Obreras, Candido Mendez and Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, as well as many politicians and intellectuals and representatives of the Young Socialists. According to the secretary-general of the People’s Party, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, the demonstration is “an attack on democracy”. De Cospedal, has said in statements to the press that the protest is meant to “put pressure” on judge Varela of the supreme court, who has committed Garzon for trial. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Landskrona Suspect Claims Accidental Death

The 23-year-old man suspected of the fatal beating of a 78-year-old woman in a Landskrona car park in March has admitted being at the scene but has claimed that the woman’s death was an accident.

“It is all an accident. My client never had the intention to harm, let alone kill anyone. This is a huge blow for those affected but also for my client,” said Leif Silbersky, who has taken over from Urban Jansson as counsel for the defence, to the Nyhetskanalen website.

The man was remanded into custody last week on charges of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

The case, where a 78-year-old woman was punched and later died as she intervened on behalf of her 71-year-old husband after a parking dispute, has attracted a lot of attention in the Swedish media and in the southern town.

The woman lost consciousness in the affray and died after undergoing an operation at the Skåne University Hospital in Lund on March 31st while her husband escaped the incident with minor injuries.

The 23-year-old man was arrested on Good Friday. A further man has been arrested on charges of aiding and abetting the 23-year-old suspect.

The suspect’s immigrant background has become a source of major debate on internet forums and major demonstrations have been held in Landskrona with neo-Nazi and anti-fascist groups in attendance.

Police warned of trouble ahead of the demonstrations against violence in the town and have sought to pour cold water on suggestions that the death had any connection to integration problems long evident in the southern town.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Catholics Wait for “More Good News”

Switzerland’s Catholic Church will postpone an image boosting campaign in the wake of the European Church’s sexual abuse scandal.

The “More Good News” campaign will begin one week later than planned and would be “slightly adjusted”, said Walter Müller, a spokesman for the Swiss Bishops Conference.

The Church will in the introduction of its document add several sentences explaining why it makes sense to become — or remain — one of the faithful despite allegations of abuse.

The over 5,000 posters proclaiming “More Good News” have already been printed and were sent unchanged to the country’s approximately 2,000 parishes.

The media campaign will begin on May 16.

“More Good News” is an allusion to the Christian gospel. There is also a website.

“More space for the good news — now more than ever!” the Church announced on the website. At the same time it acknowledges the campaign will be launched at a tough time.

“It is difficult in the current situation to speak of good news. But the Catholic Church in the past committed serious errors, which are now being mercilessly exposed.”

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

UK Conservative Government Would ‘Never’ Join Euro

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The British Conservatives have pledged never to the take the UK into the euro and re-iterated a series of promises on shoring up the country’s sovereignty in a 130-page election manifesto published Tuesday (13 May).

In a section entitled ‘An open and democratic Europe’ towards the end of the booklet, it says a “Conservative government would never take the UK into the euro. Our amendment to the 1972 act will prevent any future government from doing so without a referendum.”

In keeping with the Tories’ traditional intergovernmental approach to Europe, the text says: “We believe Britain’s interests are best served by membership of a European Union that is an association of its member states.”

It also serves up the same set of guarantees on stopping further federalisation of the EU made last November after it became clear that the Lisbon Treaty — strongly disliked by the Conservatives for removing most of the remaining national vetoes — would come into place.

If they are elected into government on 6 May, the Conservatives will make sure the “shameful” episode of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty without a referendum “can never happen again.”

Any further transfer of powers will be subject to a referendum while a “sovereignty bill” will be introduced to make it clear that “ultimate authority” rests with the UK parliament.

It will not agree to the UK’s participation in the setting up of a European public prosecutor’s office while use of a clause allowing for amendment of the Lisbon Treaty without going through normal ratification procedures would have to be approved by parliament or, if it concerned a “major” issue, by referendum.

A Conservative government would also negotiate “guarantees” on the Charter of Fundamental Rights (the UK has opted out of the rights charter but the Conservatives have previously said they do not believe the opt-out is watertight), on criminal justice and on social and employment legislation.

In these three areas, the Conservatives want to negotiate with European partners “to return powers that we believe should reside with the UK, not the EU.”

“We seek a mandate to negotiate the return of these powers from the EU to the UK.”

However, the Conservatives also say they will work to ensure the EU fights global poverty and climate change and boosts global economic growth. The importance of a “strong transatlantic relationship” is also underlined.

Although the general EU ground covered by the manifesto remains the same as statements made by Mr Cameron in November, the manifesto is less detailed.

“We want to restore national control over those parts of social and employment legislation that have proved most damaging to our businesses and public services,” the Conservative website says on its Europe policy, referring to the EU’s rules on the working time and its application to the country’s health system.

Back in the EPP?

In Brussels, meanwhile, there is much interest in UK election with the prospect of a Conservative-led British government leading to some fears that London will pursue a more obstructionist policy when it comes to the EU.

In addition, Mr Cameron is something of an unknown entity in the EU capital, most associated with having withdrawn his Conservative MEPs from the centre-right EPP grouping in the European Parliament — home to Germany and France’s ruling parties — in favour of setting up an anti-federalist party with smaller political groups.

The move was widely seen as having marginalised the Tories in Europe, something likely to be highlighted should Mr Cameron be elected into office next month.

The EPP has said it expects Mr Cameron to be “pragmatic” and seek to rejoin the group if he becomes prime minister. However, according to the Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, secretary-general of the party, the party would only accept the Conservatives under strict conditions.

“There will be no negotiations. If the [Tories] come back, it will be under [our] terms,” he said, according to the Independent.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

UK: Acid Attack Victim ‘Targeted Over Affair With Woman He Met on Facebook’

A Facebook user was disfigured in a revenge-fuelled acid attack over his intimate relationship with a married woman he met online, a court heard today.

Awais Akram, 25, looked like a ‘cross between a zombie from a horror movie and the Incredible Hulk’ after the assault in July last year, jurors were told.

Mr Akram was left burned and bleeding from his nose and eyes and with flesh hanging off his body, prosecutor David Markham said.

A ‘high pitched scream rang out’ as he was set upon by a group of men in the early hours of the morning in Leytonstone, east London, the Old Bailey heard.

Danish-born Mr Akram was allegedly targeted after his liaison with Sadia Khatoon was discovered by her husband and family.

It was she who helped to lay a ‘deadly trap’, said Mr Markham, luring him to the scene of the attack ‘whether willingly or under some pressure from those who discovered the relationship’.

Mr Akram was stabbed and beaten as well as having sulphuric acid poured on him during the ‘pre-meditated and murderous assault’, the court heard.

The victim was left with 47 per cent burns and jurors were shown graphics of the extent of his injuries.

‘Those are injuries which transformed his appearance,’ Mr Markham said.

It is alleged that Khatoon’s brother Mohammed Vakas, 26, and her cousin Mohammed Adeel, 20, planned to kill him ‘as an act of revenge’ for his relationship with her, and a 17-year-old youth was also recruited to the plot.

Adeel and Vakas, both of Walthamstow, north east London, and the teenager, who cannot be named, deny conspiring with Khatoon and her husband Shakeel Abassi to murder Mr Akram.

Vakas has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, a charge his two co-defendants deny, jurors were told.

Khatoon and Abassi were last known to be in Pakistan, Mr Markham said.

The court heard that Mr Akram formed an online relationship with British-born Khatoon in March or April last year and they would later meet at her home in Walthamstow while her husband was out.

‘The friendship was not platonic,’ said Mr Markham. ‘There was a degree of physical intimacy between the couple.

‘It appears that he and Sadia in particular took some risks in terms of where they met and the amount of calls between them, that the relationship would become known to her husband and her wider family.’

The court heard Mr Akram travelled to Pakistan and got married in May 2009 and said it was not until shortly before that when he learned Khatoon was married.

He later returned to Britain without his wife, who had no visa, and told Khatoon he wanted to go back to Denmark, but she said she wanted to meet up with him in Pakistan and would buy him a ticket, the court heard.

It was arranged that he would stay in a room in Leytonstone for a week before the trip, jurors were told.

In the early hours of July 2 she called him and told him to go to an internet cafe and print out an electronic flight ticket to Pakistan, the court heard, which he did even though a friend who was with him said none were open.

‘That proved to be a fateful decision,’ said Mr Markham.

She claimed that she was with her mother in Watford but in fact was at a hotel near Heathrow Airport with her husband Abassi at the time, it is alleged.

Mr Akram was on the phone providing a ‘running commentary’ to her on where he was walking before he ‘walked into a trap’ and was subjected to a ‘savage attack’ by a group of men, the court heard.

He saw a man with a mask and thought he was being robbed, and dropped his mobile phone before being struck to the floor and beaten, jurors were told, and he then saw a bottle.

Mr Markham said: ‘His attackers tried to pour sulphuric acid down his throat as Mr Akram covered his mouth.

‘This was no robbery or attempted robbery. It was a very different order of crime indeed, conducted with an intention to kill.’

A witness had seen four men encircle the victim and one nearby resident heard a ‘high-pitched scream’. Another looked out of her window and shouted at them to leave him alone before they ran off, and the victim shuffled away, jurors heard.

Mr Markham said: ‘Mr Akram was to be seen by witnesses in the area immediately after the attack seeking help and in a terrible physical state, bleeding and burned with flesh hanging off his upper torso.

‘Another witness was to see the victim as he begged for help, with his clothes in tatters and literally falling off him from the acid and blood coming from his nose and eyes and covering his bare chest.

‘The witness told police the figure looked like a cross between a zombie from a horror movie and the Incredible Hulk.”

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother of All Defeats! Huge Blow to Army as it Faces £100,000 Payout After Tribunal Backs Single Mother Who Went Awol Over Childcare

Army chiefs face the nightmare prospect of having to consider their soldiers’ childcare problems before giving them orders.

The devastating blow follows a successful sex discrimination claim brought by a single mother.

Tilern DeBique, 28, says she was forced to leave the Army because she was expected to be available for duty around the clock.

She was formally disciplined when she failed to appear on parade because she had to look after her daughter.

She was told the Army was a ‘war-fighting machine’ and ‘unsuitable for a single mother who couldn’t sort out her childcare arrangements’.

Now she is in line for a payout of at least £100,000 for loss of earnings, injury to feelings and aggravated damages.

The case could have massive implications if other recruits argue that their childcare rights must be considered.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Shot Man With 50,000-Volt Taser After He Suffered Epileptic Fit in Gym by Jaya Narain

A police officer used a 50,000-volt Taser gun on a man suffering an epileptic fit, it has been revealed.

A major investigation is under way after the 40-year-old complained that he had been the victim of excessive force.

He had collapsed as he suffered a seizure at a gym and paramedics had been called to deal with the incident.

But they asked for police back-up after the man allegedly started biting and punching them.

When police arrived at the gym — which is in a secondary school in south Manchester — one officer discharged a Taser at least once into the man.

The man, who was physically restrained by officers, was transferred to hospital an hour after he first collapsed.

His condition was so bad he had to stay there for two weeks before being discharged.

He complained to Greater Manchester Police who referred the case to the Independent Police Complaint Commission.

The IPCC has launched a full investigation into the incident at the Powerleague Gym in Whalley Range, Manchester, in November.

Tasers were introduced in police forces in England and Wales in 2003 to deal with violent offenders.

Figures released last August showed they have been used 4,818 times. But forces have been criticised for using the Tasers irresponsibly.

In 2006, Brian Loan, 47, died several days after being shot with a Taser in County Durham.

A coroner attributed his death to heart disease but his sister Barbara Hodgson refused to accept that the Taser was not to blame.

Records show police fired or threatened to fire Tasers against at least 142 under-18s in the 20 months to the end of August 2009.

The youngest person involved was a 12-year-old boy who had threatened school staff with scissors.

Last year an 89-year-old war veteran, apparently suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, was Tasered because an officer feared he might harm himself.

Police have also turned their Tasers on stray dogs, runaway sheep and even, accidentally, on themselves.

Oliver Sprague, director of Amnesty International, said last night: ‘Amnesty has always insisted that Tasers should only be used in instances where there’s a threat of serious injury or loss of life.

‘We’ve also insisted that police officers take extreme caution when using this weapon against vulnerable groups — such as those with medical illnesses, children and the elderly.

‘We are certainly concerned to hear that a person in apparent medical and emotional distress was subjected to the Taser.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Sister’s Tears for a ‘Precious Boy’ Knifed to Death on His Doorstep

The sisters of a public schoolboy stabbed to death at their family home have made a tearful plea for help to catch his masked killers.

Aamir Siddiqi, 17, was killed when he opened the door to two masked men who attacked him with a knife, plunging the blade into his chest and neck.

The teenager, who was due to study law at university, was left to die in front of his parents who had tried to fend off the two men.

Yesterday they were recovering from knife wounds as their three daughters spoke of the ‘devastation’ felt by the family.

Nishat, 34, Umbareen, 30, and Miriam Siddiqi, 28, said they had no idea why their brother was killed. Nishat, a doctor, said: ‘We are worried in our grief that the people who have committed this crime may do this again.

‘If anyone has any information, please take it to police — please help so the perpetrators are found before they hurt some other family.’

As her sister Miriam failed to keep back her tears, Nishat added: ‘My parents, sisters and I are devastated by the departure of our beloved Aamir. He was dearly loved and a loving brother, son and friend.

‘Aamir was committed, listened to advice and was anxious to learn. God commands that we are good to our parents — Aamir always wanted to be with his parents. He was a genuine and sincere person.’

Aamir was stabbed after answering the door at the family home on Sunday afternoon.

His parents, Iqbal, 68, and Parveen, 55, heard his screams and were also attacked when they tried to help him.

The couple suffered serious knife wounds but were released from hospital on Monday.

Aamir’s father, a retired civil servant, and mother, who worked in education, were unable to attend the press conference because of their injuries.

Yesterday, police admitted they have not yet discovered a motive but believe mistaken identity is possible.

An officer confirmed Aamir — who attended £9,000-a-year Cardiff Academy — may have opened the door to two men who believed he was someone else.

Neighbours of the £500,000 Siddiqi home in the Roath area of Cardiff have also suggested the attack may have been carried out by an Asian gang targeting a different teenager.

Nishat said the family was taking comfort from their Muslim faith and a family friend made a special appeal in Urdu to the local Islamic community.

Cardiff Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent Bob Tooby asked the Asian community in Cardiff to ‘stay calm’ and support the police investigation.

‘It’s a dreadful incident. We need the younger community to work with us,’ he said.

Sixty officers were investigating yesterday as forensic teams continued to examine the scene at the Siddiqis’ home.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Work When I Can Get £42,000 in Benefits a Year and Drive a Mercedes?

The Davey family’s £815-a-week state handouts pay for a four-bedroom home, top-of-the-range mod cons and two vehicles including a Mercedes people carrier.

Father-of-seven Peter gave up work because he could make more living on benefits.

Yet he and his wife Claire are still not happy with their lot.

With an eighth child on the way, they are demanding a bigger house, courtesy of the taxpayer.

‘It’s really hard,’ said Mrs Davey, 29, who is seven months pregnant. ‘We can’t afford holidays and I don’t want my kids living on a council estate and struggling like I have.

‘The price of living is going up but benefits are going down. My carer’s allowance is only going up by 80p this year and petrol is so expensive now, I’m worried how we’ll cope. How it adds up.jpg

‘We’re still waiting for somewhere bigger.’

Mrs Davey has never had a full-time job while her 35-year-old husband gave up his post in administration nine years ago after realising they would be better off living off the state.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Malta ‘Sex Abuse Victims’ Want Papal Apology

Vatican City, 12 April (AKI) — Victims of alleged sex abuse by Catholic clergy in Malta are demanding an apology from Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the island on a two-day visit this weekend. Ten men, who began legal action against three priests and a lay Christian brother in 2003, held a media conference in Malta on Monday to detail their complaints and demand justice.

Six of the alleged victims faced journalists as the Vatican posted details of the process instructions on how to deal with paedophile priests, including mandatory reporting.

Lawrence Grech, a 37-year-old father of two, told Adnkronos International (AKI) he was abused by two priests and a Christian brother while attending St Joseph’s Catholic orphanage in Santa Venera between 1984 and 1987.

“It has had a serious impact on me,” he told AKI by telephone. “I want justice to be done so I can forget it.”

Grech said he wrote a letter to the pope a month ago but had received no response.

“He should recognise that these things happened in Malta, reflect on the victims’ suffering and issue a formal apology,” he said. “The Vatican and the Catholic Church knew about all the problems and have tried to keep silent.”

Benedict’s planned trip to Malta this week is the first he has undertaken since a wave of sex abuse allegations surfaced in the United States, Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

According to the diocesan authorities in Malta, 45 of its 850 priests have been accused of abuse and the Maltese Catholic Church is conducting investigations into several sex abuse claims.

The ten alleged victims began legal action against the clergymen involved. They also claimed that a fourth man has since transferred to Rome without penalty.

Another man Joseph Magro, 38, claimed that he too was abused by a priest at the same home when he was aged between 16 and 18. “I can never forget, I remember everything,” he said. “It’s difficult to speak about it, and it’s hard to take action against priests in Malta. They help each other, they protect each other. We want justice.”

The head of the Catholic Church in Malta Archbishop Paul Cremona on Monday agreed to meet the victims as allegations of sexual abuse are heard in the civil courts as well as by a special response team set up by the church.

In a statement the church said of the 45 allegations, 13 are pending while the response team found “no basis” for such allegations in 19 cases.

“In line with standard procedure, four of these cases were referred to the Holy See and judgment was delivered accordingly; the priests were found guilty and were sentenced,” the church said in a statement.

“Sentences varied from being defrocked to restrictions placed upon his pastoral activity, in such a way that the priest involved would not be permitted to work with minors and be subject to supervision. The cases of three other priests are still being heard by the tribunal instituted by the Holy See.”

At the weekend large billboards promoting the papal visit to Malta on 17-18 April were quickly replaced after vandals who added a Hitler moustache to the pope’s photograph and scrawled the word paedophile next to his image.

The pope will mark the fifth anniversary since his election next Monday.

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

Mediterranean Union

Libya-Italy: 100 Student Grants for Libyan Students

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, ARIL 13 — The General Council of the People of Libya has chosen one hundred students who will be coming to Italy with student grants for undergraduate and post-graduate courses as part of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership ratified between the two countries last year. The young people include descendents of “mujahidin” fighters of the Libyan resistance under Italian occupation, of deportees and of victims of fascism colonialism in general, as well as of casualties of the anti-personnel mines left behind in the wake of the Second World War. The granting of one hundred scholarships to Libyan students is one of the “special initiatives” foreseen by the document that was signed on August 30 2008 by Silvio Berlusconi and Muhammar Gaddafi aimed at closing “a painful chapter in our history”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Sahel: Military Leaders Meet in Algiers

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, APRIL 13 — The creation of an information network and the idea of a joint air force will be discussed today in Algiers by the military leaders of seven countries in the Sahel-Sahara region. The goal of the proposals is to put up a more effective fight against the new threats of terrorism. The chiefs of staff of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger today will take a decision on the goals and the instruments to use against terrorism, following the guidelines on which the Foreign Ministers agreed on March 16 in Algiers. For some years now terrorism has taken on a new dimension with its closer links to the trafficking of arms and drugs. Broad cooperation is needed in a large region like Europe. Fundamentalist groups that have declared to be part of Al Qaida for the Islamic Maghreb have claimed responsibility for kidnapping several foreigners in the past 12 months. Sergio Cicala, 65 years old, and his wife Filomena Kaboure, 39 years from Burkina Faso are still in the hand of these groups. They were kidnapped on December 18, two Spanish aid-workers were kidnapped one month earlier. The Spanish Alicia Gamez was released on March 10, following the Frenchman Pierre Camatte after Mali released four terrorism suspects (two Algerians, a man from Mauritania and a citizen of Burkina Faso). Algeria and Mauritania protested against Mali’s decision and recalled their ambassadors for consultations. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: We Will Slit Abbas’ Throat Says Islamic Militia

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, APRIL 13 — In an interview from his hiding place in Gaza, the leader of a small Islamic group that openly identifies with Al Qaeda has threatened to “slit the throat” of the President of the PNA, Mahmoud Abbas, if it is possible to prove that he “is helping the Jews.” In order to launch his warnings, the commander of the Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam) group, Abu Abdallah Ghazzi, met with a journalist from the Arab daily al-Hayat in a secret place in the Gaza Strip, as he is wanted by the Hamas secret services. He admitted that his army currently numbers just 200 militiamen but in Gaza, he specified, it has thousands of supporters. Abu Abdallah Ghazzi then revealed that his men are capable of attacking Israel from Lebanese territory as well but on the condition, he underlined, that they are not impeded by Hezbollah or by the UNIFIL forces. “Our aim,” he announced, “is to liberate Jerusalem and to impose Sharia law throughout the world.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Israeli Army-Jihad Clash, At Least One Dead

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, APRIL 13 — At least one Palestinian has been killed and another has been seriously injured during clashes this morning between the Israeli army and members of the Islamic Jihad in the border area at the centre of the Gaza Strip. The news was reported by Palestinian medics, according to whom at least two other Palestinians were injured. The area of the clashes, in the sector of Kissufim near the border between Israel and the Strip, has been closed. According to sources of the Al Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the Jihad, the gunfight was “intense”. According to the Palestinian reconstruction of events, the incident began when an Israeli special unit was seen by Palestinian militia, who tried to block it. Israel tanks and helicopters then intervened. A spokesman in Israel explained that the Israeli forces spotted a group of Palestinians laying explosives near Gaza’s perimeter fence. The soldiers, added the spokesman, opened fire “hitting” their targets. In the zone of el-Bureij where the clash took place, tensions remain high. Local sources report that the Israeli tanks are still inside the Gaza Strip, and that Israeli helicopters and drones can be seen in the sky above. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hamas Threatens to Sue Israel for Damages at Port

The ruling Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza is threatening to sue Israel for damage to merchandise held up at Israeli ports. The damage, says Hamas, is estimated to be in the millions of shekels.

The threat came following an Israeli gesture to improve the quality of life in Gaza through approval of deliveries of containers of clothing and shoes. The items, according to Hamas officials, arrived damaged and worn after having been held at the port in Ashdod for an extended period.

According to the website Port-to-Port, a member of the Hamas parliament estimated the overall damage to be approximately NIS 100 million ($27 million). He said those whose goods were destroyed can seek recourse in Israel’s court system by suing for compensation as well as punitive damages over the excessive waiting time at the port.

The Hamas member added that approximately 1,000 containers have been held up at the port since the Gaza crossings were sealed off, preventing the transfer of the goods into the region.

Earlier in the week, Hamas reported the IDF approved the transfer of containers carrying aluminum, which until now had been banned due to fears the material would be used to produce more weapons to be fired at Israeli civilians.

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

Palestinian Leaders Do it Again! Throw Away Opportunity Obama is Giving Them and Poke Him in the Eye

by Barry Rubin

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With their unerring skill at erring, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders are throwing away still another opportunity President Barack Obama is giving them. If Obama is the most pro-Palestinian president in history, his counterparts don’t seem to appreciate it very much. It is the Palestinian leadership, not Israel, that will ultimately make Obama look like and be a failure in all of his peace process efforts.

Brief history:

  • Last spring, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in his first visit to Washington made it clear he wasn’t interested in a negotiated solution but just planned to wait for the West to force Israel to give him everything he wanted.
  • In September, Abbas stood nearby as Obama said he wanted serious final negotiations within two months, then refused while Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was ready to talk right away.
  • Shortly thereafter, Obama asked Abbas not to push the Goldstone report as a sponsor in the UN. Abbas agreed, then broke his word within 48 hours under internal pressure.
  • At the end of last October, Obama’s Administration made a deal in which Israel would stop all construction on West Bank settlements though it could continue in east Jerusalem. While Obama hoped this would get talks going, Abbas demanded an end to construction in Jerusalem, too, which he knew Israel would not accept. Indeed, he demanded it precisely because he knew Israel wouldn’t accept it.
  • Finally, Abbas agreed to indirect talks but was “saved” when suddenly the U.S. government accepted the PA’s position on Jerusalem construction. Yet even that has not been enough to make the PA support Obama’s policy despite the fact that it was so slanted in their favor.

Of course, the U.S. criticism of Israel and the crisis following the announcement of some future Jerusalem construction have been the main news. But that’s because the Obama Administration is ready (sometimes it seems, eager) to criticize Israel but did ot ever criticize the PA during its own fifteen months in office. This last point—which I have repeatedly pointed out—has become so embarassingly obvious that finally the State Department made a small peep. [See note at end of article.]

So it is easy to miss the fact that by their behavior the Palestinian leadership has lost any possible material gain from the administration’s attitude.

Now, here we are in the biggest crisis of U.S.-Israel relations in more than a quarter-century, arguably the biggest crisis in a half-century, since the Eisenhower Administration pressured Israel to withdraw from Sinai in 1957. Not only is the administration really angry at Israel, but it is considering a plan—though this might never happen—to try to impose a solution.

So what’s the PA stance? To denounce the idea of an imposed solution!…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Terrorists: Israeli Nuke Plant Within Rocket Range

Technical advance would mark dangerous escalation of jihadi capabilities

JERUSALEM — Terrorists in the Gaza Strip claimed to WND they test-fired a rocket two weeks ago capable of traveling 31 miles, putting Israel’s nuclear plant within reach.

If their claim is correct, it would mark a major and dangerous escalation of Palestinian rocketing capabilities.

Members of the Islamic Jihad group told WND they launched a rocket two weeks ago from the northern Gaza Strip into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the Israeli town of Ashdod. The jihadists said they fired the rocket into the sea intentionally to test its range.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

“There is No Islamic Terrorism”, Turkish PM Erdogan Says

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 12 — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that there was no Islamic terrorism, as Anatolia news agency reports. Erdogan attended opening of Ali Vural Ak Global Islam Studies Center established at the George Mason University in Washington, D.C. and deliver a speech on “the Alliance of Civilizations as Vision of Global Peace”. ‘Islam and terrorism cannot be mentioned together, because they are contradictory to each other,” he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Armenia-Turkey: Obama Urges More Efforts for Normalisation

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, APRIL 13 — The American President, Barack Obama, has urged Turkey and Armenia “to do everything possible” to advance the normalisation of the relations between the two countries. During a bilateral meeting between Obama and the President of Armenia Serzh Sarksyan, Obama encouraged Sarksyan to “do everything possible to complete his promise of normalisation” to the benefit of the Armenian people, said a White House official present at the meeting. At the same time, Obama praised Sarksyan for “brave efforts” already made to reach the goal of normalisation of relations with Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraq-Turkey Trade Up 50% in Past Year, Says Consul

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 13 — Trade between Turkey and Iraq increased by 50% to $9 billion in 2009, daily Hurriyet reports quoting an Ankara official as saying to reporters in Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous northern region. “The volume of commercial exchange between Iraq and Turkey in 2009 was $9 billion, and in the same year Turkish companies signed investment deals worth 8 billion,” said the Turkish consul general to Arbil, Aydin Selcen. In 2008, trade between the two countries reached $6 billion, up from 3.7 billion the previous year. Excluding the oil sector, Turkey is the largest commercial investor in Iraq. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kuwait “Deports Supporters of Mohamed Elbaradei”

Kuwait has deported at least 21 followers of Egypt’s high-profile opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, human rights groups say.

Another 20 or so are still being held in Kuwait, according to colleagues of Mr ElBaradei in Egypt.

Mr ElBaradei, a former chief of the International Atomic Energy Association, is an emerging contender to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Mubarak has been in power for almost three decades.

According to Human Rights Watch, Kuwait’s interior minister Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah said the Egyptians had assembled without permission and had criticised the Egyptian president.

It is rare for Kuwait to deport expatriates for political activities.

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

Peres: Syria Supplies Arms to Hezbollah

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 13 — There is strong feeling over new military supplies from Syria to the Lebanese Hezbollah, remarked Israel’s Head of State Shimon Peres, beginning an official visit to France today, hosted by President Nicola Sarkozy. “If Damascus wants peace why should they be supplying the Hezbollah with arms that can directly menace Israel?”, he said also in reference to local press headlines, claiming that at the core is the supply of Scud missiles able to strike anywhere in Israel from Lebanon. The local press adds that Israel has asked the United States to dissuade Syria from persevering in such supplies, say analysts, as they may increase military tension in the region. Peres also intends to discuss Iran’s nuclear projects with France’s President Sarkozy. Following this, Peres will attend the State funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, if they are not held on the Sabbath, it is said, during which day Peres may not use the car so as to not offend Jewish followers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Powerful Tale About Iranian Stoning Victim Comes to Turkey

The true story of Soraya, who was stoned to death in Iran nearly 30 years ago, is now hitting theaters around the world. ‘The Stoning of Soraya,’ however, could trigger a backlash. ‘It is inevitable in this society that one becomes a target when you touch on the values that are regarded as holy by some subcultures,’ said psychology expert Nizam Eren

Aiming to rescue one Iranian woman’s tragic end from the injustice of anonymity, “The Stoning of Soraya,” a powerful film about patriarchal authority and violence against women, will hit Turkish theaters next month.

The film, which is likely to be a source of controversy, depicts the true story of Soraya M., a woman stoned to death on fabricated charges of adultery in a small Iranian village nearly 30 years ago.

Irfan Film, which holds the film’s copyright in Turkey, is worried about a violent backlash given the graphic depiction of the stoning and has continued to analyze public opinion in the run-up to the film’s release.

Psychology expert Nizam Eren, who has worked in the public relations industry for over 20 years, said screening the film without the support of the media represented a great risk for everyone involved in “Stoning.”

“Some may claim that the film is opposed to Iran. It is inevitable in this society that one becomes a target when you touch on the values that are regarded as holy by some subcultures,” he said.

Eren said the film was released in the United States and Europe last year. “Viewers left the cinema because of the violent stoning scene.”

He said, however, that Turkish viewers are unlikely to be as surprised by the final scene as Westerners, since the public is already conscious of “honor killings” against women in the country.

“Women have become victims of honor killing in Turkey even because of an SMS sent by a GSM operator on Valentine’s Day. Our society’s view on truth is subjective and ideological,” he said.

Death warrant for author

In accordance with their interpretation of the shariah, locals in a small Iranian town stoned Soraya to death in 1986 after falsely accusing her of cheating on her husband

The punishment, in which people are buried up to their waste before being stoned, has been meted out to countless women in Iran, many whose names have were quickly erased from memory after the act. The suppression of such stories led Iranian-French journalist Freidone Sahebjam to share Soraya M.’s true story with the world.

While conducting research in Iran in 1986, Sahebjam became stranded in the small Iranian town in which Soraya M. was killed. While waiting, the victim’s aunt, Zahra, approached him, telling of the woman’s tragic tale. The encounter later compelled him to write “The Stoning of Soraya,” which became a best-selling book.

Eren, however, said: “Sahebjam’s biggest wish was that Iranian directors and actors make a film based on the novel. This wish was also his legacy. Sahebjam’s wish was not realized until 2008 but he learned a few weeks before his death that his novel would turn into a film.”

Speaking about the life of Sahebjam, Eren said: “Since he was a journalist at the time of Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iranian Islamic revolution, Sahebjam was tortured for the reason that he leaked information. He revealed that little children were being forced to join the Iran-Iraq war and he was detained. Later, a death warrant was issued against him for writing Soraya’s story.”

First stone from father

Those played a major a role in the making of the film, including director Cyrus Nowrasteh, Mozhan Marno, who plays Soraya, and Shorhreh Aghdashlo, who plays Zahra, are all Iranians now in exile in the United States.

The star of the film is Hollywood actor James Cavizel, best known for his performance as Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.” Cavizel, who occasionally speaks Persian in the film, portrays Sahebjam, who is waiting for someone to help fix his broken-down car when Zahra comes to tell Soraya’s story.

The film depicts not only Soraya’s gruesome final moments, but also the daily ordeals she had to endure at the hands of her husband and young sons.

Ali, whom Soraya was forced to marry, is an abusive husband with a lust for power. Having decided to marry 14-year-old Mehri, Ali looks for a way to abandon Soraya since he does not want to support two women nor return his wife’s dowry.

When Soraya refuses to end the marriage, Ali and the local religious authorities collude to accuse the woman of cheating on her husband, thereby warranting her death.

In final scenes that make for difficult viewing, the white-clad Soraya is taken out and buried up to her waist; her father throws the first stone, then her husband and then her two sons.

“Stoning” will be shown at 45 theaters across Turkey, starting May 13.

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

Turkey Under the AKP-II: The Rise of Authoritarian Democracy and Orthopraxy

The effective elimination of military and court pressure against the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has hastened the party’s return to its core values. The AKP has begun abandoning its displays of pluralism, dismissing dissent, ignoring checks and balances and condemning the media for daring to criticize them.

In due course, Turkey’s media has been transformed for the worse. The government used legal loopholes to confiscate the ownership of independent media and subsequently sell them to AKP supporters. In 2002, pro-AKP businesses owned less than 20 percent of the Turkish media; today, pro-government people own around 50 percent.

In the meantime, the relationship between the AKP and Turkey’s secular business lobby, organized through the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, TÜSIAD, also changed. TÜSIAD support for the AKP had been a crucial source of support for the AKP.

The pro-business, pro-EU group provided the party with domestic and international legitimacy, and armed it with the means to fight off accusations that it was an Islamist party. But in 2007, the relationship between TÜSIAD and the AKP, always an uneasy one, faltered when ErDogan targeted TÜSIAD, a key node of secular power in Turkey. The AKP attacked Aydin Dogan — whose family holds the presidency of TÜSIAD and owns roughly half the Turkish media in a group of companies known as Dogan Yayin — characterizing Dogan as a rich and corrupt businessman. In two waves in 2009, the AKP slapped Dogan Yayin, a conglomerate whose media outlets have published corruption allegations against the AKP, with a record 3.2 billion tax fine, forcing the media mogul to come to terms with him and stop criticism of the AKP in Dogan media outlets.

Together with the punitive use of taxes and audits, the party’s use of wiretaps, especially as part of the Ergenekon case in an alleged coup plot against the government, has been its other vehicle for cracking down on the opposition. When the case opened in 2007, AKP watchers saw it as an opportunity for Turkey to clean up corruption, such as security officials’ involvement in the criminal underworld. But the case is much more than that. It is a tool for the AKP to curb freedoms. Hundreds have been detained in over a dozen waves of arrests. Legally, the case is unfitting of a country in accession talks with the EU: some people arrested in relation to Ergenekon have waited 18 months in jail before being taken to a court or seeing an indictment.

These arrests, alongside fears of illegal wiretaps to build evidence for Ergenekon, have left Turkish liberals paralyzed, and the country has dangerously shut off frank political conversations. As a sage once said, “Countries become police states not when the police listens to all its citizens, but when all citizens fear that the police listens to them.”

That the AKP has effectively outsmarted the internal checks, which had hitherto imposed moderation on its policies, has not been without consequences: the AKP has become Turkey’s new elite in charge politically, economically, and socially. The party is supported by a growing business community, which it nurtures through government contracts that are awarded by using orthopraxy as a yard stick.

The AKP has sway over the media, and exerts power over the Turkish military through the Ergenekon case and proven ability to force the political opposition into submission through its control of domestic intelligence. Last but not least, the AKP controls the executive and legislative branches. Former AKP member Abdullah Gül is now the Turkish president with the power to appoint judges to the high courts.

As the new elite, the proverbial “wind over the Anatolian landscape,” the AKP is shaping Turkish society in its own image, promoting orthopraxy through administrative acts.

Accordingly, it is not religiosity that is on the rise in Turkey — i.e., the number of people attending mosque services or praying — but rather government-infused social conservatism. Indications of social conservatism, such as wives wearing turbans, are used as benchmarks to obtain government appointments, promotions and contracts.

Social conservatism, however, is not in itself the problem, and a conservative Turkey can certainly be European. The problem is that a government-led project of this type is incompatible with the idea of a liberal democracy. And given Turkey’s nature as an elite project, AKP-led social conservatism is reshaping Turkish society.

Last year in Istanbul, I came across a young Muslim-Greek Orthodox Turkish woman who had applied for a job with an AKP-controlled Istanbul city government branch. In her job interview, she was told the government would hire her if she agreed to wear a headscarf. When she responded that she was Greek Orthodox, the woman was told “you don’t need to convert; all you have to do is cover your head.”

* This four part series originally appeared in Majalla on Nov. 26, 2009.

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

Turkish PM Raises Misgivings With Ongoing Criticism

With bruising criticism of Israel and defense of Iran, and onslaughts against Turkey’s military and secularists, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stoked questions on where he is steering his country.

During a visit to Paris last week, Erdogan branded Israel — once Turkey’s top regional ally — “the principal threat to peace” in the Middle East, and objected to fresh sanctions against Iran — a newfound friend — over its nuclear activities.

Such outbursts have become an Erdogan hallmark since Israel’s devastating war on the Gaza Strip last year, feeding doubts — both at home and abroad — on what vision he is nourishing for Turkey, NATO’s only mainly Muslim member and a candidate to join the European Union.

The rupture in ties with Israel has been accompanied by an unprecedented drive by Erdogan’s government for closer links with the Arab world, notably Syria.

Much to the bewilderment of Western allies, Erdogan has also jumped to the defense of Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, indicted for war crimes in Darfur, arguing that “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide.”

Is Erdogan turning his back on the West?

Not quite, according to Deniz Zeyrek, a foreign policy analyst at daily Radikal, who sees in Ankara’s new attitudes a desire to act as a weighty mediator in conflicts in the Middle East and the Balkans, while keeping close ties with both East and West.

Despite some ostensible differences, Turkey continues to share many common interests with the United States and the pillars of its foreign policy remain unchanged, he said.

“Each time Washington has a disagreement with Israel — like last time over the issue of settlements — Erdogan rushes to criticize Israel,” he said.

And when the moment of truth comes over Iran, Zeyrek believes, Turkey — a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council — will join the Western block in voting for new sanctions against the Islamic republic.

“The Turkish emancipation has limits. Erdogan is a pragmatist,” he said.

Ankara’s policy is based on the logic that “turning our face to the West does not mean we are turning our back to the East” — a historic Ottoman area of influence.

Could diplomatic choices displeasing the West reflect Turkey’s frustration with its struggling EU membership bid and vocal opposition to its accession by some bloc members?

“It is not that simple,” said Sedat Laçiner, head of the Ankara-based USAK think-tank. “The multi-dimensional ambitions of Turkish diplomacy are marked first of all by a desire for trade.”

Revived contacts with Muslim nations have served to boost economic exchanges and Turkey has secured visa-free travel regimes with a series of regional countries.

Erdogan’s domestic policies have also raised concern and sparked accusations that his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is aiming to build an authoritarian regime with an increased profile for Islam.

The party is currently pushing in Parliament a package of constitutional amendments aimed primarily at curbing the powers of key judicial bodies, dominated by strict secularists and seen as hostile by the government.

“If these amendments are adopted, an important part of the positions still occupied by the secularist establishment will be destroyed,” said Jean Marcou, an Istanbul-based French analyst.

The most dramatic blow on the secularist camp came in February when dozens of soldiers, among them senior figures, were rounded up in a probe into an alleged 2003 plan to overthrow the AKP.

Prosecutors have yet to prove that the controversial plan existed, but the staunchly secularist Turkish military, which has unseated four governments in as many decades, has seen its traditional political clout and reputation wane.

“It is logical for a government to want to control the military,” said Laçiner, asking how any government could carry on under the threat of coups.

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

Turkish Gun Shops Go From Back Alley to Mall

A glitzy gun shop visible from the mall food court would have been a rare sight in Turkey until recently, as guns were mostly sold at small establishments tucked away in back alleys or industrial neighborhoods.

The vast Silah Dünyasi (Gun World) stores, however, are designed to attract attention.

The first chain store in Turkey to specialize in guns, security devices and hunting and hobby equipment, Gun World was founded in 2003. It currently has two locations in Istanbul, but also plans to expand into Ankara, Bursa and Izmir.

“It takes two years for us to open a new store,” said Ebru R. Tekin, the company’s executive director, adding that the time is needed to find a location, establish the concept and train the personnel.

According to Tekin, company founder Okan Arsan saw a gap in the sector that was forcing higher-class shoppers to go abroad in order to buy guns. Gun World sees it as its mission to better the image of gun use in Turkey, the firm’s executive director said.

“Instead of shooting outdoors irresponsibly, our customers can use our shooting range and benefit from the training we offer in a secure environment without hurting anybody,” Tekin added.

Wide range of products

Gun World has 14 different departments and 200 employees; its centers are five-story buildings selling 17,000 different products. In addition to guns, rifles and ammunition, the stores sell vests and trekking clothing the company produces itself, as well as gun sleeves, security systems, personal defense products, fishing equipment, air guns and computerized shooting games. The company’s branch in Altunizade, on Istanbul’s Asian side, even features a cafeteria that serves meat from game animals.

The firm’s customer base covers a variety of age ranges and includes musicians, actors, football players, businesspeople and politicians, according to Tekin. “Unfortunately, the hobby products are expensive,” she said, but added that Gun World has three classes of products for customers with different budgets.

Gun laws in Turkey

In general, Turkish law divides firearms into two categories. Rifles and handguns have spiral grooves in their barrels, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis. This spin serves to stabilize the projectile gyroscopically, improving its aerodynamic stability and accuracy. Shotguns, however, are simpler; they are generally smoothbore firearms, meaning that the inside of the barrels are not rifled, so there is a shorter range and less accuracy.

Because of all the complexities of gun ownership, Gun World employs two lawyers on staff simply to offer advice to customers, the company said.

All Turkish citizens over the age of 25 have the right to buy and possess firearms, though criteria vary; regulations are different, for example, depending on whether the prospective buyer is working, retired or an active civil servant and what he or she intends to do with the weapon.

Foreigners with residence or work permits in Turkey also have the right to buy rifles and handguns if they fit certain criteria.

A shotgun is the easiest type of gun to obtain; Turkish citizens must be over 18 and have no criminal record, while foreigners simply need a valid passport.

According to Tekin, 80 percent to 90 percent of gun crimes in Turkey are committed with unregistered firearms. She criticized the bureaucratic process required to legally acquire a gun license, saying that the red tape encourages people to obtain unlicensed guns that are cheaper and faster to purchase.

“If they would loosen the gun regulations a little bit, they would have people under record and a serious amount of tax income would be earned by the government,” she said, adding that the penalties in Turkey for owning unlicensed guns are also insufficient.

Weapons such as pepper sprays, tasers or crossbows do not require licenses to purchase, and the legal regulations on such products are unclear and require adjustments, Tekin said.

The purchase of hunting knives does not require a license, although records are kept about the buyers. Blank firing guns, which only make noise and do not shoot a bullet, fall under the toy category. Crossbows and huge hunting knives notwithstanding, all of the above can be carried on one’s person as long as they are not displayed in public.

When asked if her company cooperates with security forces in the event that a product purchased from Gun World is employed in a criminal act, Tekin said that situation has not yet arisen, but that the firm would provide the needed information to authorities.

It is a man’s world, but…

On the subject of women and guns, Tekin said Gun World also has female customers, but “women like to arm themselves more for the aim of defense.”

Women generally come to the store and the shooting range with their husbands; few visit on their own, she added, noting that she herself had little involvement with weaponry before she was hired for the job, although she occasionally hunted with her father.

“[Women] come alone when they are buying a Valentine’s Day or birthday gift for their husbands or boyfriends, but we are a bit of a men’s store; to tell you the truth,” she said. “Eighty percent of the customer profile consists of men.”

The sector as a whole is dominated by men, she added. “I attended a dealers’ meeting recently and was the only woman among 15 men,” Tekin said, noting that people are sometimes surprised to see a woman in her position.

“Actually, I can feel that they perceive me in a ‘what is a woman doing here?’ kind of way; I can feel that,” she said. “However, Turkey is changing, one must get used to that. Women are everywhere now.”

Personally, Tekin added, she occasionally visits the shooting range but prefers computerized simulations.

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

Yemen: Four Tried for ‘Spying for Iran’

Sanaa, 12 April (AKI) — Four Yemeni citizens have gone on trial in Yemen’s capital Sanaa for allegedly spying for Iran, the state news agancy Saba reported on Monday. Prosecutors have asked for the dealth penalty for all four defendants.

The defendants are charged with supplying unauthorised information to a foreign country and plotting attacks against several Yemeni military targets and the Yemeni interior ministry, Saba said.

Prosecutors claim the defendants were recruited between 1994 and 2009 by two diplomats from the Iranian embassy in Yemen named as Ali Biza and Ali Asghar, who have since left Yemen.

The state prosecutor has accused the defendants of handing to Iran photos and classified information on Yemeni military sites, for which they were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The trial judge set the next hearing for 26 April.

The four defendants were arrested last year

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taliban Boosted by Foreign Help

German Soldiers Face New Enemy in Kunduz

Taliban insurgents pose in front of a burning German military vehicle in Char Dara district, on the day after three German soldiers were killed in an ambush.

The militants who killed three German soldiers in Kunduz on Good Friday were equipped with much more modern weapons that is usual for the Taliban. Members of the feared Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are providing arms and training to their fellow fighters in Afghanistan, but Germany is struggling to find an adequate response.

The children in the photo, who look like they are aged between 10 and 12 and are wearing traditional bright white shirts, are standing there as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They are here because they are Muslims, because they are Uzbeks and because they admire the men in the middle of the photo. They, too, want to grow up to become fighters.

The photo was taken on July 11 of last year in the courtyard of their Koran school in the village of Aynul Majer, which is located west of Kunduz in the notorious Chahar Dara district, as a summit of sorts was taking place. The village is inhabited almost exclusively by Afghans of Uzbek origin. At precisely 6 p.m. on that warm summer evening, the men gathered here who would later kill Master Sergeant Nils Bruns, 35, Staff Corporal Robert Hartert, 25, and Senior Corporal Martin Augustyniak, 28 — the three German soldiers who died in an ambush on Good Friday near the village of Isa Khel, not far from Kunduz.

This was a photo op for the terrorist leaders of the Kunduz region, who stood in a row in front of dozens of masked and heavily armed fighters. The photographs were intended to be propaganda shots, a demonstration of their newfound strength — images designed to show that these men should be feared.

The photo was later sent to newspapers and news agencies, where it was printed and served its intended purpose, but today it tells an entirely different story: It reveals the face of the enemy of the Germans in Kunduz.

Highly Trained Killers

This enemy does not resemble most of the Taliban who, across the country, are predominantly Pashtuns. The fighters of Chahar Dara are backed and trained by non-Afghan religious warriors from former Soviet republics who provide them with top-notch military training and state-of-the-art weaponry.

The foreigners are primarily extremists from the neighboring country of Uzbekistan, but some also come from Tajikistan and Chechnya — and they are highly trained professional killers. These men belong to the network of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is feared throughout Central Asia and supported by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.

Roughly at the center of the photo stands a man who calls himself Maulvi Ahmed. That’s his nom de guerre — his real name is Asadullah and he comes from the region of Kanam. Ahmed has short brown hair and a receding hairline. The 35-year-old is the new militia leader in Kunduz, having inherited his current position from the former shadow governor of the Taliban, Mullah Salam, who was arrested in Pakistan last February. Salam is thought to be behind nearly all of the deadly attacks launched against the Bundeswehr over the past few years — and Ahmed was his loyal deputy.

The Taliban leader is holding a piece of cloth in front of his mouth and nose. He wants to avoid recognition — the intelligence services are looking for him. The fourth man to his right in the photo is the prominent Taliban commander Shamsuddin from Chahar Dara, who is holding a cell phone in his hand.

To the left of Ahmed is a totally masked fighter who has slung his ammunition belt over his shoulder. Everyone in the photo surely knows the identity of this mysterious warrior: He is the highest-ranking Uzbek commander in the region. He leads the foreign fighters, teaches the local troops the military expertise that they lack and delivers money and weapons.

Equipped with the Latest Weapons

His soldiers are carrying short-barreled Kalashnikovs with modern plastic magazines — the type of assault rifles that are normally only used by special forces. Their antitank rocket launchers are comparatively new, in contrast to the weapons that are normally fired in Afghanistan. For example, the TBG-7V thermobaric grenade — a device that ruptures the enemy’s lungs after detonation — has only been on the market for about 10 years.

This type of high-tech weaponry can only be acquired with good international contacts and links to criminal networks abroad. Local Taliban normally don’t have enough money to purchase such expensive armaments. But money doesn’t appear to be an issue for the Uzbek forces, who are unwaveringly continuing to fight even though their supreme commander was killed last August by an American drone attack in the Pakistani region of South Waziristan. They receive generous donations from the Gulf States, who also supply them with the latest military equipment from army arsenals.

The German government has long been aware of the threat to their soldiers posed by this particularly powerful Taliban group. Nearly a year ago, in May 2009, high-ranking NATO representatives informed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign affairs adviser Christoph Heusgen, along with the Chancellery’s Group 22 task force which is responsible for military issues, of a “new quality” to the threat in Kunduz. They explicitly warned that Uzbek and Chechen extremists had joined local Taliban in order to intensify attacks against the Germans.

Part 2: Posing for the Cameras

But to this day the German Defense Ministry has failed to find an adequate response to this challenge. Time and again, the Bundeswehr has said that it could control the situation. Even on the morning of April 3, the day after the deadly attack on its soldiers, the Bundeswehr Web site read: “A large number of the German forces are still securing and patrolling the area of operations.” In actual fact, the Taliban had long since forced the Germans to retreat from the village of Isa Khel following an eight-hour firefight.

By contrast, on that morning Taliban militants were standing proudly in front of a burning Dingo, the Bundeswehr’s most modern transport vehicle. One of the insurgents held up his new thermobaric antitank grenade for the camera. It was the same weapon brandished by the fighters in front of the Koran school in the Uzbek village of Aynul Majer. In fact, it was the same fighters.

The cause of the death of the German soldiers tragically resembles the circumstances under which up to 142 Afghans died on a bend in a river only a few kilometers south of Isa Khel on Sept. 4, 2009 in a controversial air strike that had been requested by German Colonel Georg Klein. Then, the main problem was a lack of sufficient reconnaissance systems, an issue that persists today. With additional drones and helicopter gunships equipped with high-tech sensors, officers at operation headquarters would have been able to extensively monitor the patrol area.

Apparently, the Taliban hastily organized their April 2 ambush and only deployed their men after they were informed by local spies of the Germans’ presence. “We arrived in Isa Khel just as the soldiers were preparing their return trip,” Taliban representative Qari Zabihullah from Chahar Dara told SPIEGEL.

Patchy Presence

The death of the three soldiers provides good reasons to fundamentally question the German mission in Afghanistan. Their orders on Good Friday were merely to clear explosive devices from the access roads to two checkpoints manned by German and Afghan troops, thereby ensuring that reinforcements could arrive there and retreat at any time. With their patchy presence in the crisis district of Chahar Dara, the Germans want to maintain at least the appearance of being in control. According to their mandate, Germany’s soldiers are not responsible for the larger strategic objective, such as fighting the Taliban and their powerful allies from Uzbekistan.

The situation of all Western troops is made even more difficult by the fact that it is no longer clear whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai is still even a reliable partner. Relations between the Afghan leader and his Western allies recently reached a new low when Karzai reportedly threatened to join the Taliban if his allies continued to put pressure on him.

The Americans leading the mission in Afghanistan are apparently not willing to wait until Berlin’s politicians finally decide what their soldiers are actually supposed to achieve there. By this summer, the US will have deployed one of their brigade combat teams with up to 5,000 soldiers in the north of the country, and a second elite brigade could soon follow.

This means that an American will soon become deputy to the German general at Regional Command North in Masar-e-Sharif, which is also responsible for the reconstruction team in Kunduz. The American will, of course, take the lead.

Enayat Najafizada contributed to this report.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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

Afghanistan: Emergency “Plot” Fuelled by Revenge and Neglect

For three Italians from the humanitarian organization, the charges of collusion with the Taliban seems artfully constructed to remove them from an area where soon there will be a new military campaign. Emergency denounces the many civilian casualties. Experts conclude that the organization has been too superficial in its hospital security.

Kabul (AsiaNews) — Afghan newspapers headlined today with the story of the three Italian Volunteers of Emergency arrested on charges of collusion with terrorists. AsiaNews sources in the country instead suspect a local government and British vendetta against the humanitarian organization, well known for its criticism of Karzai and the multinational force.

The three Italians — Marco Garatti, a surgeon, Matteo Dell’Aira, nurse, Matteo Pagani Guazzugli Bonaiuti, economist, all three managers at various levels of the hospital in Lashkar Gah, in southern Helmand province — were arrested two days ago along with six Afghans accused of preparing an attack against the provincial governor, Gulab Mangal (see photo).

The local newspapers give ample space to the arrest and charges. They do not speak of the “confession” which according to some sources Italians they made, admitting to being in collusion with the Taliban terrorists. The newspapers emphasize instead the hundreds of residents in area who yesterday shouted “Death to Emergency,” “No to the Taliban hospital.”

An inspection by Afghan police, aided by British soldiers of the multinational force (ISAF), led to the discovery of explosives, guns, grenades and explosive belts for suicide bombings. According to government spokesman Daud Ahmadi, the Emergency hospital in an area of “heavily Talibanization”, was under surveillance for over a month.

According to many observers — who asked to remain anonymous — these statements reveal spurious aspects of the arrest and charges. “The hospital inspection was planned: they came and the found. Bull’s-eye. And why with all this surveillance did they not raid the hospital before? And were there British soldiers, whose presence was at first denied only to be admitted later on?”.

In fact the hospital in Lashkar Gah is a humanitarian centre that offers free medical services to the entire population caught up in a brutal war. In this effort, especially the Italian staff and the founder of Emergency, Gino Strada, are known for their criticism — sometimes ideological — of Karzai, the multinational troops, etc. … at the risk of the humanitarian organization becoming involved in political issues.

“It is also true — our sources say — that as a humanitarian organization that it is entitled to report the deaths of civilians in this war, there are many more than those mentioned in the official bulletins of the government and ISAF, and perhaps this puts them in a bad light. “ For this very reason perhaps a “trap” was sprung to force their removal, just as a second wave of attacks against the Taliban begin.

Among experts there is also another hypothesis: that perhaps the hospital was too superficial in evaluating staff. In a “heavily Talibanized” area it is possible that groups of guerrillas have been able to use hospitals to hide their weapons.

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

Facing Reality in Afghanistan

It’s Time for Germans to Talk About War

A Commentary by Gerhard Spörl

A funeral service was held Friday for three German soldiers killed in Afghanistan: Germany needs to face up to the reality of the war.

Germans have a difficult relationship with war, for obvious reasons. But the current government’s attempts to play down the war in Afghanistan are cowardly. It’s time for Germany to face reality and initiate an open debate about the purpose of its mission.

The point when the war in Afghanistan began for the Germans can be identified fairly accurately: It was three years ago, when the Taliban infiltrated the region around Kunduz. There were not many of them back then, and they are still not numerous today — roughly 300 men who could be driven out by a resolute armed force. But the German soldiers have no mandate to do so, which explains why the Americans will soon come to the north and undertake the fight against the Taliban there as well.

For quite some time, the key question has been what the Germans actually can and want to do to help change things for the better in Afghanistan. The answer is that militarily they can do practically nothing. The reason for this is not that their soldiers are poorly trained or that their equipment leaves something to be desired. Germany’s military restraint reflects a conscious policy — one that aims to keep the war in Afghanistan from becoming a political problem back home.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is keeping her distance from the war, even though last Friday she bowed to public pressure and traveled to the northern German town of Selsingen to attend the funeral of three soldiers who died in an ambush in Kunduz on Good Friday. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is conspicuous by his deafening silence. Thus, when the German defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, said that there is a situation in Afghanistan that would colloquially be called war, his choice of words was perceived as an act of liberation.

Yes, there is a state of war in Afghanistan, that poor and mistreated country in the world’s most dangerous region. War is terrible. War kills civilians, including women and children. War also often changes the soldiers that fight it. There is no such thing as a just war because unjust things always happen, often accompanied by atrocities and barbarity. Yet asymmetrical wars against terrorists and insurgents are clearly an integral part of the 21st century. And sometimes, despite all reservations, fighting a war is the right thing to do.

Peripheral Role

America’s war in Afghanistan was at least understandable in the wake of 9/11, and it was also right for NATO to invoke the principle of collective defense. Since the United Nations had issued a mandate for Afghanistan, Germany took part in the mission, which was intended to secure the country’s reconstruction, with a clear conscience.

Now war has broken out again and the Germans are playing a peripheral role in the conflict. They are not consulted by the US when the strategy changes. They are presented with a fait accompli because they don’t carry political weight, neither in the confrontation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai nor in negotiations with the Taliban. That is rather meager for a country that would like to see itself as an important mid-sized power. It is a good thing that Germany, mindful of its 20th century past, has a difficult relationship with war. Its governments, however, tend either towards dramatic exaggeration — as with former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who used Auschwitz as an argument for the Kosovo war — or towards dramatic downplaying, as Merkel and Westerwelle are currently doing.

The alternative is a middle course, one that is pragmatic and cool-headed, exactly as Merkel normally likes to do things. That would necessarily involve a public debate about the purpose and benefits of a war in Afghanistan — the kind of thing that is good for democracy and can also act to calm the political waters. And despite what the chancellor appears to believe, the Germans are perfectly capable of conducting this debate.

No More Fleeing from Reality

Today it is simultaneously more difficult and easier to justify the war in Afghanistan. It is more difficult because many illusions concerning democracy and stability in the country have been shattered. At the same time, it is easier because there is general agreement that Afghanistan should not fall again into the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaida. An even worse scenario would be if Pakistan, a nuclear power, were to be left at the mercy of extremists.

The fact that Germany’s participation will always have limits is unavoidable. But there is an alternative to the half-heartedness practiced at home. It is not enough for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to attend a funeral now and then, when it is unavoidable. She has to take political responsibility. This starts with the simple acknowledgment that Germany is conducting a war in Afghanistan that the chancellor feels is right.

The long phase of understatement is over. The distant war has come home to Germany, and, after the period of fleeing from reality, it is now high time that Germans talk openly about war and death.

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

India Caste Councils Back Men Over ‘Honour Killings’

Hindu caste leaders in the northern Indian state of Haryana have given their backing to six people convicted last month in an “honour killing” case.

The heads of 20 caste councils also demanded legislation to ban marriages between members of the same sub-caste.

Five men were sentenced to death and one jailed for life over the 2007 murder of a young couple who married against the wishes of village elders.

Elders said they violated local customs by marrying within the same sub-caste.


Caste leaders and protesters held a meeting in the town of Kurukshetra in Haryana state.

“We will appeal to the government to amend the Hindu Marriage Act,” the Times of India website quoted Bhalle Ram, head of Bainiwal village caste council in the state, as saying.

“We are giving the Indian government an ultimatum to effect these changes,” he said.

Protesters are threatening to block the road between the Indian capital, Delhi, and major cities like Chandigarh and Ambala.

They say they will appeal against the sentence handed to the six men.

Caste leaders say that by local tradition people within the same sub-caste are considered to be siblings.

The young couple — Manoj and Babli — apparently fell into this category.

They were kidnapped and killed a month after they eloped while they were travelling on a bus in Haryana in 2007. Their bodies were discovered later.

Those sentenced to death by the Haryana court last month were all relatives of the girl, Babli, and included her brother, two uncles and two cousins.

The head of the village council in Haryana’s Kaithal district, which ruled against the couple’s marriage, was given life imprisonment.

The case was brought to the attention of the village council by the family of Manoj, Babli’s husband.

Campaigners hailed the court verdict as a blow against “honour killings”, which are quite common in parts of northern India.

Correspondents say such killings have often not been reported or widely discussed in the past because families usually accept the verdicts.

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

Far East

Photos: Obama Bows Again to Communist China, America Hangs Head in Shame

America’s first morally bankrupt President …more empirical evidence

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Priest Pedophilia Not Linked to Celibacy: Pope’s No.2

On a visit to Chile, Bertone, dubbed the Deputy Pope, also said Pope Benedict would soon take more surprising initiatives regarding the sex abuse scandal but did not elaborate.

“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia,” he told a news conference in Santiago.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


France Sets Up Measures to Reduce Illegal Flows

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 13 — France has announced the creation of a mechanism to counteract the illegal immigration networks. Promoted by Immigration Minister Eric Besson, the mechanism foresees surveillance and interception in the Mediterranean as well as technical and operative cooperation on migratory routes (Africa, Middle East, central Asia, the Far East, the Caucuses, eastern Europe), as well as strengthening of the networks of officers responsible for immigration and a diplomatic and consular network. In particular, Besson — who is also in favour of a strengthening of Frontex, the EU’s frontier patrol agency — has called on his services to “take fresh action to combat international illegal immigration networks and to cooperate with the main countries of origin and transit”, according to a memo issued in Paris. During the G6 meeting of Interior Ministers, (Germany, Spain, the USA, France, United Kingdom and Italy) in Varese on May 28, Besson intends to propose that attendees collaborate in drafting a joint plan to combat illegal networks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Hunger Strike by Irregular Immigrants in Samos

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS APRIL 13 — 170 irregular immigrants are on hunger strike at the detention centre where they are being held on the island of Samos in the eastern Aegean whilst awaiting deportation. The refugees are asking to remain in Greece, and are protesting for the squalid conditions in which hundreds oF people are being held at the centre. Last week 60 immigrants were taken to the border between Greece and Bulgaria and expelled. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Hammarberg, Progress in Obedience

(ANSAmed) — STRASBURG, APRIL 13 — “I welcome the first steps taken by the Greek government to implement a just, accessible and fast protection system for refugees; these changes to guarantee the rights of immigrants and refugees in particular are particularly urgent”, said Thomas Hammarberg, human rights commissioner of the European Council. He made his remark on the occasion of today’s publication of the exchange of letters with the Greek authority following his visit to Greece in February. In the letters to the Minister for Citizen Protection, to the Justice Minister and the Vice Interior Minister, the commissioner invited the Greek authorities to take immediate steps against the serious deficiencies in the policies for asylum seekers and to deal with the situation of unaccompanied minors. Hammarberg also asked for full respect for the verdict of the European Court for Human Rights regarding freedom of assembly for minority groups, advising Greece to ratify the European Council convention for the protection of minorities. Today the commissioner also congratulated the Greek authorities with their commitment to create an office that deals with reports of maltreatment by the police. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Majority of Dutch Support Halving EU Budget Contribution

A majority of Dutch voters support halving Dutch contributions to the European Union and development aid budgets, a new opinion poll showed on Sunday (11 April) ahead of a general election in June.

The Maurice de Hond poll found a whopping 63% of voters support halving the Dutch contribution to the EU budget.

54% said they supported cutting development aid and restricting immigrants’ benefits. A majority also supported scrapping immigrants’ integration subsidies and banning them from public benefits for their first 10 years in the country.

The results, from of a survey of public attitudes to proposals for budget cuts ahead of the 9 June election, showed Dutch people are sceptical about their country’s famed multicultural attitude and its role in Europe.

All four measures are part of the liberal VVD party’s budget programme for the 9 June parliamentary elections, which it unveiled on Friday. Recent opinion polls put the VVD as high as second place.

In the European Parliament, the VDD is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), a federalist party headed by former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

The clear election favourite in all polls is the Labour Party, which also unveiled its programme last week. The poll found 57% support for Labour’s plan to shrink the army.

The next government is expected to cut the budget by up to 20 billion euros to rein in a budget deficit that is twice the EU limit of 3% of GDP.

The anti-immigrant Freedom Party is expected to be another big winner in the election, with a platform of stopping non-Western immigration and blocking the growing Muslim influence on Dutch society.

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

Switzerland: Task Force to Crack Down on Nigerian Criminals

The top official at the Federal Migration Office has said he will establish a task force to stop abuse of the asylum system by Nigerian criminals.

In an interview with the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper published on Sunday, director Alard du Bois-Reymond said 99.5 per cent of asylum-seekers from the West African country had no chance of asylum in Switzerland.

“They do not come as refugees but to do business,” he said, referring to petty crime and drug trafficking.

The task force, which will include federal and cantonal officials, will try to figure out how to more quickly return rejected asylum seekers to Nigeria. It intends to present a package of measures in the summer.

A 29-year-old Nigerian died in March shortly before a deportation flight. The man, a convicted drug dealer, had refused to leave the country and was on a hunger strike.

Du Bois-Reymond also weighed in on the integration of Muslims. Of the 350,000 Muslims in Switzerland, some 10,000 are considered orthodox believers. “Above all we must make clear that in Switzerland, we have our values and our laws.”

He made no promises of success in integrating Islamic converts in Switzerland. Some, he said, wanted a radically different society “comparable with the former Red Army Faction terrorists”.

Those individuals posed a security risk for the country, he said.

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

Turkey to Launch 10 New Centers for Refugees

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 13 — Turkey is set to build centers for refugees and asylum seekers under an efficient system for refuge and migration management as part of a European Union-backed project, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Union’s representatives in Turkey as saying today. Two centers will be opened in Ankara and Erzurum for acceptance and deportation, and two centers each in Izmir, Van, Gaziantep and Kayseri. The project is expected to be completed in 2012 and it costs 80 million euros. The centers will have each a capacity to shelter 750 people. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

USA: How Many More Tears? How Many More Funerals?

Another murder while the Outlaw Congress goes home for two weeks:

Arizona Rancher’s Killing Sparks Calls to Beef Up Border Security

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is under pressure to beef up border security in the Southwest in the wake of Saturday’s killing of a rancher in southeastern Arizona.

“Three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have asked for an increase in the Border Patrol’s presence in the Boot Heel of New Mexico, about 10 miles from where the rancher was shot to death over the weekend. U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, along with Rep. Harry Teague, say Napolitano’s agency needs to take more security steps.

“And former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, called on Napolitano to “reject politics and do the right thing” by dispatching the National Guard to the Arizona border…..

“As governor of Arizona, Napolitano deployed the National Guard to help the Border Patrol do its job… Three days ago, Napolitano told an audience at Arizona State University that the border is more secure than ever,” Tancredo said Sunday through his Rocky Mountain Foundation. “I challenge her — no, I dare her — to come to this community and try to sell that lie.”

Corrupt judges and the Outlaw Congress have turned this country into a nation of lawlessness instead of upholding the laws of our country. It isn’t just judges. It’s employees of the FDIC, state lawmakers, the Director of the Census and employees of the Department of Labor:

Federal government to day laborers: We’re here to help

CONCORD — A crew of federal officials wandering into a day labor hiring zone used to mean one thing: time to leave. Not the case Thursday morning on Monument Boulevard. Armed with coffee, not handcuffs, investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor chatted warmly with Latino immigrant workers about how to find jobs without being exploited.

“We’re the feds, but the good ones,” said Paul Ramirez, speaking in Spanish inside the Michael Chavez Center, a gathering spot for day laborers. “We’re here to help workers.”

With 26 MILLION Americans out of work, the worthless Dept of Labor is now helping criminals steal jobs that belong to Americans and naturalized citizens! How many of those day laborers will drive drunk and kill you or your loved one? Or rape your grand daughter? There is no background, history or criminal checks on those leeches, but employees of OUR government are helping them steal OUR jobs. Where is your outrage America? Do you or your family have to be a victim before you raise hell with Congress?

[Return to headlines]


Muslims’ Entrapment by Islam

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property — either as a child, a wife, or a concubine — must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.” Sir Winston Churchill- The River War 1899

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]