Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100414

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Rates Rise Again, Athens Agrees Tax Reform
Europe and the EU
»Catholic Abuse Scandal Spreads to Sweden
»‘Hungary Has Turned Into a Grubby Hive of Nationalism’
»Individuals With Rare Disorder Have No Racial Biases
»Italy: Berlusconi and Wife to ‘Return to Court Over Divorce’
»Italy: Fiat and Unions Discuss Doomed Sicilian Plant
»Italy: Indian Priest Charged With Sex Abuse of Girl
»Italy: Same-Sex Marriage Suits Rejected
»Italy: Indian Priest ‘Confesses to Sexual Abuse of Child’
»Italy: Jailed Indian Priest ‘Should Face Justice’ Over Sex Claims
»Italy: Alleged Mafia Killer Goes on Trial for German Massacre
»Made in Italy: Export to Promote ‘Accessible Luxury’
»Netherlands: Rich Getting Richer, Study Finds
»Netherlands: Forcing a Party to Accept Women Easier Said Than Done
»Netherlands: Minister Urges Provinces to Open Hunting Season
»Spain-Italy: Accord for Secondary-School Language Teaching
»Spain: Franco-Era Crimes, Garzon Charges Split Country
»UK: Council Refuses to Collect Recycling Bin… Because it Contained Six Melon Pips
»UK: Eight Boys Molest Girl, 14, In Street But Not One Faces Charges
»UK: Labour Minister Shahid Malik in New Expenses Row Over Claim for Insurance on Wife’s £8,000 Engagement Ring
»UK: The Vandals of History: Britain’s Education System Has Left Generations Without an Understanding of Who They Are
»UK: The Innocents Branded Yobs and Perverts in Crime Record Blunders
»Vatican: Bishops, Rise of Secularisation & Materialism
»Vatican No.2 ‘Didn’t Mean Gays Outside Church’
»Albania-EU: Berisha, Great Progress and Membership Certain
»Bosnia-Croatia: Josipopvic Recognises Errors of the Past
»Britain: Ex-Bosnian Muslim Leader’s Extradition Delayed
Mediterranean Union
»Med Water Conference Ends in Failure Due to Israel-Arab Row
North Africa
»Football: Tunisia, 27 Supporters in Jail After Incident
Israel and the Palestinians
»Arab League: Israel Violates International Law
»Corruption: Former Mayor of Jerusalem Arrested
»Israel — Palestine: About 67 Per Cent of Israelis Want Peace With the Palestinians
»Sinai Alert: Hamas Closes Gaza Tunnel Egypt Pressure
»West Bank: Graffiti on Mosque, Cars Burned
Middle East
»Business With Israel Pays Off for Jordan’s Investors
»Cinema: After the Hurt Locker, Jordan Ready to Host New Sets
»Cinema: Turkey Seeking to Attract Bollywood Production
»How Has President Obama Been Weak and Lost Credibility Over Iran: Answering a Reader’s Question
»Racism in Europe Goes Mainstream, Says Turkish Expert
»Syria: US Nuclear Summit Not Serious Without Israeli Issue
»Turkey: Two-Thirds of Textile Employees Are Unregistered
»US-Syria: Republicans Against Damascus Ambassador Appointment
»Russia: Jehovah’s Witnesses Treated as “Terrorists”
South Asia
»Indonesia: Terrorist Involved in the Beheading of Three Christian Female Students Killed in Aceh
»Kyrgyzstan “On the Verge of Civil War”, Vulnerable to Islamist Infiltration
Far East
»Hundreds Dead in Earthquake in Northwest China
»Philippines: Explosions, Two Killed, A Church Damaged in Isabela (Basilan)
»Stefania Craxi Meets Tunisian Authorities
»UK: Asylum Seeker Travels 50 Miles to Britain Strapped Under School Trip Coach… And Emerges With a Grin and Thumbs-Up
Culture Wars
»A Christian Now? No Promotion for You!
»Army Report Says Christians Threaten US Foreign Policy
»The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
»The Unexpected Snake

Financial Crisis

Greece: Rates Rise Again, Athens Agrees Tax Reform

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 14 — Despite the launch of an austerity tax reform, Greek bonds are again falling with yields, as a result, on the rise. After the brief respite brought about by the details of an EU-IMF aid package worth 45 billion euros, Greece again finds itself under pressure from financial markets. This is due to fears over a potential refusal by one of the national parliaments of the Euroland’s member states, concerning a measure that of which Athens is in desperate need. The fears have cast shade over an ambitious tax reform, approved today with the votes of the socialist majority alone, which aims to reduce deficit through a new system of rates, the fight against huge tax evasion, the elimination of rebates afforded to professionals such as doctors, lawyers and taxi drivers, who together with public employees have announced a new wave of strikes. According to Chris Pryce, an analyst from ratings agency Fitch responsible for Greece, the country will very soon — within one or two weeks — have to activate the loan which until now has been simply made available by Eurozone members. The European Union today distanced itself from the reports published in the German daily Handelsblatt, which said that aid to save Athens could reach 90 billion euros over the next three years. The markets, however, which until now have been content with Europe’s commitment, are now demanding to see how individual states will make their respective citizens and parliaments swallow this bitter pill. For Germany, which has promised 8.4 billion euros, the Bundestag’s vote will be activated if Greece asks to draw the funds. As a result, in Berlin as in other capitals, a stalemate is feared, given that the aid measures have not found favour with the majority of citizens in EU countries. Athens today ruled out the possibility of countries backing out of the deal, with the Spanish Presidency of the EU saying of the aid that “a political decision has been unanimously taken and nobody can now say no”. Investors, however, are well aware that international agreements are not the same as parliamentary votes. This is enough to have sent tension through the markets, while Moody’s, the agency with the highest rating on Greek debt, saying that the chances of a rejection in the next 12-18 months is above 50%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Catholic Abuse Scandal Spreads to Sweden

The Catholic Church in Sweden has received two reports of child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests, according to a statement from the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.

The alleged victims both contacted Bishop Anders Arborelius on Tuesday to report incidents of child sex abuse that took place decades ago.

“It is with deep sadness that I receive these reports,” said the bishop in a statement.

“At the same time, it is important that the victims dare to step forward with their stories, enabling us to get to the bottom of these terrible crimes once and for all.”

“We know it is incredibly difficult for victims to dare to talk about this but if there are more people who have been exposed to this by priests here in Sweden, I hope and pray that they have the strength to contact me. We can then look into what happened and they can get redress, while the guilty priests — if they are still alive — can receive just punishment for the crimes they have committed.”

One of the reported cases dates back to the 1940s, while the second victim was abused in the 1960s. The Stockholm Diocese said it intended to investigate the cases and enter into a dialogue with the victims.

Arborelius said none of the priests involved remained in service, and one was now dead.

Only one previous case of child sexual abuse has emerged in Sweden. Three years ago the victim requested, and received, an apology, for abuses perpetrated by a priest 50 years ago.

In a recent interview with news agency TT, Bishop Arborelius refused to ruled out the possibility that further victims would feel the urge to come forward in the wake of similar scandals in other countries.

The embattled Catholic Church has been slammed for doing too little to prevent abuses in a string of countries, with the recent Murphy report commissioned by the Irish government concluding that the church systematically covered up cases of abuse until the mid-1990s.

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

‘Hungary Has Turned Into a Grubby Hive of Nationalism’

A member of the controversial Hungarian Guard, wearing a paramilitary-style uniform, looks on while listening to the election results in the election center of Jobbik, Hungary’s far-right wing party, in Budapest.

Media commentators in Germany are alarmed at the emergence of the far-right Jobbik party as the third-strongest force in the Hungarian parliament. Europe should pay more attention to the vicious xenophobia and political polarization wracking the country 20 years after it gained its freedom, editorials say.

The people of Hungary shifted to the right in their general election on Sunday, evicting the Socialists from government after eight years, handing the center-right Fidesz party of Viktor Orban a strong mandate to form a government and making the far-right Jobbik party the third-strongest force in parliament.

The Socialist government, led by technocrat Gordon Bajnai since April 2009, was punished for making painful budget cuts to rein in the deficit under a bailout led by the International Monetary Fund. Orban too will need to implement reforms to keep the country on track for growth.

Fidesz won 206 of the 386 parliamentary seats in Sunday’s election and stands a good chance of reaching the two-thirds threshold in a second round of voting slated for April 25.

German media commentators are worried about the resurgence of nationalism in Hungary and wonder whether its political system is strong enough to cope with the hate-filled polarization that has swept the country. The Jobbik party got some 17 percent after campaigning on a deeply xenophobic platform. Commentators said Jobbik makes the Freedom Party of the late Jörg Haider, the Austrian populist, and Dutch right-winger Geert Wilders seem moderate.

Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:

“Twenty years after the end of the collectivist dictatorship, Hungary has turned into a grubby hive of nationalism in which far-right blood and soil ideologies are flourishing, pseudo-democrats are hailing the glorious history of the Magyars and militant racists are fighting against an allegedly ‘overflowing’ number of foreigners and ethnic minorities living in the country by parading around the streets with machetes and Molotov cocktails.”

“The sentiment first expressed after 1990 in poisonous graffiti such as ‘Don’t Elect Jews’ has become a veritable storm tide 20 years on. The right-wing extremists of the Jobbik party and their militant followers from the New Hungarian Guard have been engaging in unabashed badgering of homosexuals, Roma and Jews. They raid districts where Roma people live and are campaigning for the restoration of Greater Hungary by demanding the incorporation of all the provinces of Romania, Slovakia, the Ukraine and Serbia in which Hungarian ethnic minorities live.”

“The nationalist-populist Fidesz party has maintained a discreet silence about all this and thereby boosted the rise of the far-right hate preachers. In their missionary zeal to force the Socialists from government after eight years they did nothing to counter the nationalist rhetoric of the Jobbik party.”

“On the contrary: The incoming prime minister, Viktor Orban, and his Fidesz party themselves espoused nationalist populism and gave the right-wing extremists the feeling of being secret allies in the fight against the post-communist Socialists, and the sense that they may even one day be allowed to join government.”

“When Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party joined the government in Austria there was an uproar in Europe. The Hungarian Fidesz party is even more right-wing than Haider’s people in many respects. Europe has ignored this development far too long. It’s time to take off the blinkers.”

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“The former model country Hungary is a prime example of what can go wrong if reforms are carried out too late. The good news is that the new government leader, Viktor Orban of the conservative Fidesz party, has a strong majority which gives him ample room for maneuver to lead the economy out of the crisis with unpopular measures. But he must at the same time resist some dangerous temptations, especially about what to do about the far-right Jobbik party which makes right-wing populists like Jörg Haider or the Dutchman Geert Wilders seem moderate. Orban has been susceptible to populism in the past. That’s the bad news.”

Conservative Die Welt writes:

“Hungary has been unable to escape the clutches of a difficult history that has been laced with defeat and has therefore fuelled national resentments. It’s worrying that more than two-thirds of Hungarians have opted for parties that either toy with right-wing populism or are openly reactionary. The crisis, which is not just economic, has brought the ghosts of the past back onto the political stage. The propaganda of aggressive self-pity has worked, and last Sunday was a black day for minorities such as the Roma. Europe can only hope that the electoral success of the right-wing extremists will serve as a warning to the new prime minister, Viktor Orban. He must now clearly distance himself from the ghosts that he himself has helped to awaken.”

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Hungary hasn’t developed a sense of democracy or any enthusiasm for the parliamentary system. The biting hatred with which the opposing parties have fought each other in recent years testifies to this. Even the great financial crisis didn’t push Hungary’s political forces to act together.”

Berlin daily Tagesspiegel writes:

“The victory of the national conservative Viktor Orban and the entry of the far-right protest party Jobbik into the Budapest parliamrent are a desperate and resigned reaction to a miserable economic situation, a rapid rise in debt and increasing social dislocation in the country. They are of course also a punishment for the Socialists, who ruled for eight years and destroyed themselves as a serious political force, and who were blamed for the necessary rigorous policy of cutbacks in recent years. It’s also the consequence of years of political confrontations and polarization of the parties and camps that ruined the political climate in the country.”

“Central Europe is part of the whole of Europe once again. But its political structures aren’t stable enough to withstand the severest political quakes. Hungary is in the process of putting the new era of freedom and self-determination to a dangerous test.”

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

Individuals With Rare Disorder Have No Racial Biases

By Robin Nixon, LiveScience Staff Writer

Never has a human population been found that has no racial stereotypes. Not in other cultures or far-flung countries. Nor among tiny tots or people with various psychological conditions.

Until now.

Children with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that makes them lack normal social anxiety, have no racial biases. They do, however, traffic in gender stereotypes, said study researcher Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Normally, children show clear preferences for their own ethnic group by the age of three, if not sooner, other research has shown.

And, indeed, the children in this study without Williams syndrome reliably assigned good traits, such as friendliness, to pictures of people the same race as themselves. When asked something negative, such as “which is the naughty boy,” they overwhelmingly pointed to the other race.

Children with Williams syndrome, however, were equally likely to point to the white or black child as naughty or friendly.

While this study was done with white children, other research has shown that blacks and people of other races also think more highly of their own, Meyer-Lindenberg told LiveScience.

Williams syndrome is caused by a gene deletion known to affect the brain as well as other organs. As a result, people with Williams syndrome are “hypersocial,” Meyer-Lindenberg told . They do not experience the jitters and inhibitions the rest of us feel.

“The whole concept [of social anxiety] would be foreign to them,” he said.

They will put themselves at great peril to help someone and despite their skills at empathy, are unable to process social danger signals. As a result, they are at increased risk for rape and physical attack.

Nature or nurture?

While the first human population to demonstrate race-neutrality is missing critical genes, “we are not saying that this is all biologically-based and you can’t do anything about it,” Meyer-Lindenberg said.

“Just because there is a genetic way to knock the system out, does not mean the system itself is 100 percent genetic,” he said.

The study does show, however, that racism requires social fear. “If social fear was culturally reduced, racial stereotypes could also be reduced,” Meyer-Lindenberg said.

Despite their lack of racial bias, children with Williams syndrome hold gender stereotypes just as strongly as normal children, the study found. That is, 99 percent of the 40 children studied pointed to pictures of girls when asked who played with dolls and chose boys when asked, say, who likes toy cars.

The fact that Williams syndrome kids think of men and women differently, but not blacks and whites, shows that sex stereotypes are not caused by social anxiety, Meyer-Lindenberg said.

This may be because we learn about gender within “safe” home environments, while a different race is usually a sign of someone outside our immediate kin. (Studies to test this explanation, such as with racially-mixed families, have not yet been done.)

Racial biases are likely rooted in a general fear of others, while gender stereotypes may arise from sweeping generalizations, Meyer-Lindenberg said. “You watch mother make the meals, so you generalize this to everyone female.”

In their heads

Due to the present study, we now know that “gender and race are processed by different brain mechanisms,” Meyer-Lindenberg said, although those involved in gender are less understood.

Previous work has shown that in the brains of people with Williams syndrome, the amygdala — the emotional seat of the brain — fails to respond to social threats. While the amygdala itself is functionally normal, it is misguided by the pre-frontal cortex — the executive of the brain — to block all social anxiety.

This system is now thought to underlie racism, but it seems uninvolved in the formation of sex stereotypes.

Meyer-Lindenberg and colleagues are now using brain imaging to get a clearer picture of how racism and sexism are differentiated in the brain. The present study was published in the journal Current Biology.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi and Wife to ‘Return to Court Over Divorce’

Milan, 13 April (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his estranged wife Veronica Lario have so far been unable to reach agreement over their multimillion-euro divorce settlement. According to a report published in the Italian daily, La Repubblica, on Tuesday, a new court hearing is expected to be held in Milan before the end of April in a bid to resolve differences over the financial arrangements.

Lario filed for divorce last May after revelations that the media tycoon had attended the 18th birthday party of an aspiring model who said she called him “Daddy”.

A former actress Lario is reportedly demanding 43 million euros a year in maintenance, or just over 3.5 million euros a month.

Berlusconi’s lawyers have argued that this is too high and have proposed between 200,000 and 300,000 euros a month. or 3.6 million euros a year.

According to La Repubblica, details of a pending court hearing were contained in a document filed by Berlusconi’s lawyer Nicolo Ghedini on Monday during the prime minister’s tax fraud trial in Milan.

The document was reportedly signed by secretary-general of the prime minister’s office, Manlio Strano.

“In the current month of April a civil hearing of a very personal nature will be held at time to be established,” the document said, according to La Repubblica.

Berlusconi in late January met his estranged wife face to face for the first time since she demanded the divorce over his alleged relationships with showgirls and “escorts”.

In February Berlusconi held a meeting with four of his five children — all apart from his youngest son Luigi — to reassure them that none of them would be penalised in the divorce settlement.

Berlusconi’s fortune is estimated to be around 6.6 billion euros.

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

Italy: Fiat and Unions Discuss Doomed Sicilian Plant

Roma, 13 April (AKI) — Senior managers from Fiat and key trade unions met in Rome on Tuesday for a fresh round of talks on the future of a Sicilian production plant slated for closure. A total 1,400 people are employed making Lancia’s Ypsilon brand at the Termini Imerese plant, which the company plans to close by the end of next year.

But total job cuts being considered by the Italian car giant could affect 5,000 workers in Italy, according to media reports.

Italy’s industry minister Claudio Scajola has chaired several previous rounds of talks on the future of the tiny Termini Imerese plant — Fiat’s smallest.

Although the plant is losing money, political and union leaders want it to remain open, given its importance to the under-developed Sicilian economy.

Tuesday’s talks were to focus on plans for redeveloping the Termini Imerese site.

The talks were attended by Fiat’s industrial relations chef Paolo Rebaudengo and head of institutional relations, Ernesto Auci, officials from Italy’s FIOM, UILM and UGL unions and Sicily’s industry counselor, Marco Venturi.

Ahead of the talks in Rome, workers at the Termini Imerese plant held a four-hour stoppage to protest its planned closure.

Six car manufacturers including one based in Hong Kong are among 21 firms that have submitted redevelopment proposals, unnamed sources told Adnkronos.

Fiat is not expected to produce a shortlist for several months and is first likely to hold talks with the various contenders, the sources said.

Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne is due to present the company’s 2010-2014 business plan to financial analysts on 21 April.

Fiat last last month dismissed as “conjecture” a report in La Repubblica claiming that the company plans to slash 5,000 jobs.

It said it had authorised 30 million hours of temporary layoffs for its workers on reduced pay in 2009 amid a downturn in car sales during the global recession

But Marchionne rejected suggestions that Italy’s largest carmaker was abandoning local production through its alliances with Chrysler (in which it holds a controlling 20 percent stake) and other with foreign partners.

The company reported a 800 million euro loss for 2009.

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

Italy: Indian Priest Charged With Sex Abuse of Girl

Teramo, 13 April (AKI) — An Indian priest was charged with sexual violence in the central Italian city of Teramo on Tuesday. The priest, who has not been identified, is alleged to have sexually abused a 10-year-old girl after her parents reported the incident to police.

The 40-year-old priest was arrested on Monday, the same day that the Vatican published rules requiring Catholic dioceses to report suspected child sexual abuse by priests to police.

The priest appeared in a local court to face formal charges over the abuse which is alleged to have occurred last Christmas. He was then returned to Teramo prison, where he remains in custody.

“The priest is accused of sexual violence, which in this case means taking the victim’s hand and guiding it close to his private parts,” Bruno Auriemma, the prosecutor told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a telephone interview.

But the priest’s defence lawyer Giovanni Gebbia said widespread allegations of sexual abuse sweeping the Catholic Church had soured the environment for his client who had “briefly placed the child’s hand on his genital area during moment of weakness.”

Gebbia told AKI on Tuesday the arrest and imprisonment of his client was “a very serious move”.

The priest speaks very little Italian and had difficulty communicating in court, Gebbia said.

“He is demoralised. He feels like he is completely alone,” Gebbia said. “He is very depressed, he is crying constantly and praying continually.”

Gebbia said his client would remain in prison for the next few days and then may be given house arrest in a convent or another location.

The Catholic Diocese of Teramo was not available for comment on Tuesday.

The Vatican has come under fire in the media for allegedly transferring paedophile priests in order to shield the Catholic Church which is facing hundreds of sex abuse claims in the United States, Ireland, Germany, and most recently Malta.

“It’s a very difficult moment for these kinds of issues,” said Gebbia.

The priest had already been suspended from pastoral duties at the time of his arrest. His lawyer said he has been studying at a Catholic college in Rome for two years and visiting the region of Abruzzo at weekends to celebrate mass.

In a television interview, the bishop of Teramo on Monday said the incident had left the Catholic Church with a sense of humiliation and shame and expressed its solidarity with the alleged victim and her family.

“We were the first to insist that this case be revealed and resolved according to church and civil law because we are in a state where laws must be respected,” Bishop Michele Seccia said.

The unnamed priest comes from southern India, said his lawyer, and had just returned to Italy from a visit home where he was visiting his ailing mother.

“It’s a mystery why he returned,”said Gebbia.

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

Italy: Same-Sex Marriage Suits Rejected

Issue up to parliament, Constitutional Court says

(ANSA) — Rome, April 14 — Italy’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected suits by several northern Italian gay couples who had challenged Italian law preventing gay marriages.

Sources said the written ruling, which will be made public in the next few weeks, will stress the court is not competent in the issue and parliament alone can lift Italy’s gay-marriage ban.

In the meantime a statement from the court said the suits which gave rise to the case were “inadmissible and unfounded”. The issue was brought to the attention of the Constitutional Court through a suit filed by a number of gay couples in Venice and Trento who were not allowed to post the banns of their upcoming ‘marriage’.

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

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

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

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

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

Gay marriage is legal in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal while several European countries including France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Hungary recognise civil unions.

Canada and five eastern US states alsom authorise gays to wed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Indian Priest ‘Confesses to Sexual Abuse of Child’

Teramo, 14 April (AKI) — A jailed Indian priest on Wednesday confessed to sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl in central Italy after offering her a Santa Claus doll as a gift. Prosecutor Bruno Auriemma told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the priest, identified only as ‘David’, confessed to offering her the doll before placing her hand on his genital area on a visit to her home on 19 December last year.

“He gave a full and clear confession,” Auriemma told AKI in a telephone interview. “He said ‘I did it.’“

He made the confession in the Teramo prosecutors’ office in front of Auriemma, his defence lawyer Giovanni Gebbia, and local priest Davide Pagnottella.

“He was really gutted and confused,” Pagnotella told AKI by telephone. He said he was there to offer “spiritual support” to the priest who communicated through an English interpreter.

The 40-year-old priest who comes from southern India was charged with sexual violence in Teramo, 175 kilometres northeast of Rome in the region of Abruzzo on Tuesday.

He was studying at Pontifical Gregorian University and used to spend weekends celebrating mass and carrying out other duties in the Teramo diocese, said Pagnotella.

He allegedly visited the girl at her house while her parents were both working. Auriemma said the girl’s six-year-old sister was allegedly in another room of the house at the time.

“Being a little girl he brought her a present,” said Pagnotella, who recounted Wednesday’s confession.

“He went to the house knowing there were no parents there. Without the parents at home, he temporarily lost control. He took her hand and moved it down from his chest to his genital area before taking it away.”

The priest’s lawyer, Giovanni Gebbia, was not available for comment late on Wednesday.

The priest was arrested on Monday soon after he returned from India where he was visiting his ailing mother.

He is the first priest to be arrested in Italy since the Vatican published revised guidelines stating that priests suspected of molesting children must be reported to police.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said the priest should be prosecuted under Italian law.

Babu Karakombil, spokesman for the CBCI, told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a telephone interview from New Delhi that Italian law should prevail over the church’s canonical law.

“We allow (Italy’s) civil law to take its place. We say it should intervene,” Babu Karakombil, spokesman for the CBCI, told Adnkronos International (AKI), by telephone from New Delhi.

“If someone is guilty they must face the law. We won’t protect them.”

The head of the local diocese, Bishop Michele Seccia, also visited him on Wednesday.

The bishop was not available for comment and a spokesman for the Teramo diocese, where the crime allegedly took place, endorsed the CBCI’s call for justice.

The priest’s defence lawyer, Giovanni Gebbia, said on Tuesday that the priest was arrested because he “briefly placed the child’s hand on his genital area during moment of weakness”.

Karakombil said the incidence of alleged sex abuse by Catholic priests was rare in India, but noted two Indian priests had been arrested in the United States on sex abuse allegations.

As the Vatican faces a wave of sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests, it is now strongly urging bishops to report abuse cases to civil authorities if required by local law.

Karakombil said Indian bishops plan to meet in Bangalore on 25 April to discuss papal guidelines on the issue.

The unnamed priest had already been suspended from pastoral duties at the time of his arrest.

His lawyer said he has been studying at a Catholic college in Rome for two years and visiting the region of Abruzzo at weekends to celebrate mass and carry out other duties.

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

Italy: Jailed Indian Priest ‘Should Face Justice’ Over Sex Claims

Teramo, 14 April (AKI) — As a jailed Indian priest faces accusations of child sex abuse in the central region of Abruzzo, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on Wednesday called for justice under Italian law. Babu Karakombil, spokesman for the CBCI, told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a telephone interview from New Delhi that Italian law should prevail over the church’s canonical law.

“We allow (Italy’s) civil law to take its place. We say it should intervene,” Babu Karakombil, spokesman for the CBCI, told Adnkronos International (AKI), by telephone from New Delhi.

“If someone is guilty they must face the law. We won’t protect them.”

The Catholic priest, who has not been named, is alleged to have sexually abused a 10-year-old girl on 19 December last year and was charged with sexual violence in the town of Teramo on Tuesday.

He was arrested on Monday after returning from a trip to India to see his ailing mother.

The priest remains in custody in Teramo prison where the head of the local diocese, Bishop Michele Seccia, was due to visit him on Wednesday.

The bishop was not available for comment and a spokesman for the Teramo diocese, where the crime allegedly took place, echoed the CBCI’s call for justice.

The spokesman Gino Mecca told Andkronos International (AKI) that the 40-year-old priest from southern India should be punished if he is found guilty.

He said the bishop’s meeting with the priest was of a “personal nature”.

“He is rather worried and he is hardly talking,” Mecca told AKI.

The priest’s defence lawyer, Giovanni Gebbia, said on Tuesday that the priest was arrested because he “briefly placed the child’s hand on his genital area during moment of weakness”.

Karakombil said the incidence of alleged sex abuse by Catholic priests was rare in India, but noted two Indian priests had been arrested in the United States on sex abuse allegations.

The Vatican for the first time on Monday published guidelines requiring church authorities to report priests suspected of sexually molesting children to police after a wave of sexual allegations from the United States, Germany, Ireland, Italy and several other countries.

The Vatican now strongly urges bishops to report abuse cases to civil authorities if required by local law.

Karakombil said Indian bishops plan to meet in Bangalore on 25 April to discuss papal guidelines on the issue.

The unnamed priest had already been suspended from pastoral duties at the time of his arrest.

His lawyer said he has been studying at a Catholic college in Rome for two years and visiting the region of Abruzzo at weekends to celebrate mass and carry out other duties.

In a television interview, Seccia said on Monday that the incident had left the Catholic Church with a sense of humiliation and shame.

“We were the first to insist that this case be revealed and resolved according to church and civil law because we are in a state where laws must be respected,” Seccia said.

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

Italy: Alleged Mafia Killer Goes on Trial for German Massacre

Locri, Italy (AKI) — An alleged Calabrian mafia boss, Giovanni Strangio went on trial in southern Italy Wednesday for planning and taking part in the killings of six people in western Germany in 2007. Strangio, 31, followed the hearing, held in Locri in Italy’s southern Calabrian region, via video link to his prison cell in Rome.

He is accused of multiple homicide and membership of the Nirta-Strangio clan of the Calabrian mafia, known as the ‘Ndrangheta.

Officials say the killings stemmed from a feud between two rival ‘Ndrangheta clans and that Strangio wanted to avenge the 2006 Christmas Day killing of his cousin Maria Strangio, allegedly carried out by members of the rival Pelle-Vottari crime family.

The families of the six victims of the massacre are forming the plaintiff in the trial.

The six men were shot dead in an ambush outside a pizzeria Duisburg, Germany on 15 August 2007. The massacre drew international attention to the ‘Ndrangheta, which many now considered Italy’s most powerful criminal organisation.

Strangio is believed to have carried out the massacre with at least two suspected accomplices. Police in February arrested two men suspected of being Strangio’s accomplices in the Duisburg killings, on the basis of DNA evidence recovered from the crime scene.

Police have arrested a dozen suspected ‘Ndrangheta members connection with the Duisburg murders.

Strangio was arrested in the Dutch city of Amsterdam in March last year, extradited to Italy last May and detained in Rome’s Rebibbia jail.

Strangio was arrested with his brother-in-law Francesco Romeo, another of Italy’s 30 most wanted criminals.

All the suspects arrested are alleged members of the Nirta-Strangio clan, which has operations in Duisburg and in the German city of Kaarst.

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

Made in Italy: Export to Promote ‘Accessible Luxury’

(ANSAmed) — ROME — There are up-market luxury goods, of which the acquisition hardly makes a dent in the budget of their rich buyers, and then there is “accessible luxury”, which tries to offer quality for a reasonable price. Italy is a world power in this second category. But, in times of crisis, Italy has to find new ways for its exports of “accessible luxury”, in the light of products “made in Italy” that represent “la dolce vita” and are still very attractive for foreign markets. The hypothetical saturation that has set in on the so-called “mature markets” (USA, Western Europe, Japan), though they have some margin for further penetration, forces a shift towards those economies that have finally removed their label of “emerging” countries. These economies have now become huge “basins of demand” for products in the medium-high market segment: “accessible luxury”. Italy’s exports are of course important for its economy, and could become even more important when companies start to propose an original model, “la dolce vita”. According to Luca Paolazzi of the think tank of the Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria), “dolce vita” doesn’t mean that it is no “dura vita” (hard life), because there are many and complicated problems. According to the report, in 2015 global imports of “accessible luxury” goods will reach 113 billion euros. In 2009 they totalled 77 billion, that means a 46% increase in just six years. The countries that are most receptive for imports of these goods are thought to be Russia, United Arab Emirates, China, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Poland. But — and this could be a surprise — the countries where imports will see the sharpest increase are India, Vietnam and Malaysia. Italian exports to the 30 countries that have been taken into consideration by the report could reach 13 billion euros by 2015 (7.2 billion today). The debate that followed the presentation of the report made clear that Italy should not only export goods, but also a concept, a culture, an Italian quality of life. This is a difficult operation (therefore it has been suggested to involve the Italian Cultural Institutes) that must take the dynamics of the new markets into account. Women will play an increasingly important role in these markets, as well as young people (difficult to foster loyalty because of the fact that they are always looking for something new). In 2015 there will be 123 million nouveaux riches; 75% of these will live in countries that are no longer emerging, but have a consolidated economy; a third of them will be Chinese. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Rich Getting Richer, Study Finds

Income inequality is growing in the Netherlands, a recent study shows. The income of the best paid has exploded since 1998.

By Menno Tamminga

Growing income inequality was long the Loch Ness monster of the Netherlands. Some claimed to have seen it, but nobody could prove it really existed.

But the claim has now been substantiated. Since 1998, the financial compensation (including both fixed salaries and bonuses) paid to a small sliver of employees has been outpacing the income of the remainder of the Dutch workforce, a study by the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) found. Between 1998 and 2006, the fraction of national income that ended up in this financial elite’s pockets grew from 1.3 to 2 percent. On average, the members of this select crowd earned a salary of 347,000 euros before taxes in 2006, the report released last month found.

Only 0.1 percent of the Netherlands’ workforce belongs to this subset of lucky few, the CPB said in its most detailed foray into Dutch income inequality so far. The bureau was unable to obtain data for the years since 2006, thus leaving it uncertain whether the trend has continued.

“The CPB study makes it clear that, by and large, income distribution has not changed a lot,” said Paul de Beer, a professor of labour relations at the University of Amsterdam. “Only a very small fraction has profited greatly in recent years. The Netherlands is experiencing a trend similar to the one in the US, described by Philip Cook and Robert Frank in their 1996 book The Winner-Take-All Society.”

Data provided by public companies in their annual results suggest that bonuses continued to rise throughout 2007 and 2008, but a more ambiguous pattern arose over 2009. The first 50 companies that have published their results paid 55 executives higher bonuses decreasing those of 45. About ten corporate executives will only receive their bonuses if their companies’ profits or dividends recover.

Good or bad for the economy?

Growing inequality could be good for the economy, said Jaap Koelewijn, a professor of finance at the University of Nyenrode, if it led to the more effective use of capital and human resources. “But no relationship exists between companies’ profitability and their highest rewards,” he said. “Do they lead to better performance? Not at the top of the labour market they don’t. At that level people only compare their income to whomever they consider peers in relative terms. The absolute figure becomes pretty much irrelevant.”

Bas Straathof of the CPB echoed Koelewijn’s conclusions. “Our research shows the relationship between performance and rewards at public companies is weak,” he said.

Professor Kees Koedijk, the long-time chairman of an economic policy think tank that advises Dutch parliament, said that income inequality in the Netherlands remained fairly limited. “But once people start earning a million euros a year, it becomes hard to explain.”

De Beer said excessive compensation at the top could lead people less suitable for executive positions to seek them anyway. “Rather than trying to excel at their work, people begin to behave in a way that creates the best chances for promotion,” he said.

By now, the negative effects high bonuses had on risk-assessment in finance are well known among politicians and regulators. But Koelewijn said he thought the phenomenon was more pervasive. “Bonuses encourage risk-seeking behaviour in general,” he said. “They also contribute to an ‘if it isn’t expensive it can’t be good’ attitude.”

The professor recalled a dinner party where salaries were discussed. The last to share his income was a partner in a major consultancy firm. He earned as much as all others at the table combined, times three.

Societal effects: an ivory tower

What does growing income inequality mean for society? Koedijk said he feared it could undermine social cohesion. Those on top, particularly in finance, can do as they please for the rest of their life after landing a top position. This leaves them free from entering into any long-term commitments.

“Income inequality is something you have to live with,” Koelewijn said. “But take professional football players for instance. Should they be paid a bonus, even if they fail to deliver? That would be socially undesirable.” Koelewijn said remuneration proved harder to correct in other realms of society. “Only supervisory boards can move to correct compensation, but these people are drawn from the same pool the executives are.”

De Beer added that the growing inequality showed a small elite feels increasingly detached from the rest of the working population. “Earning 30 to 40 times more than others has nothing to do with actual performance,” he said.

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

Netherlands: Forcing a Party to Accept Women Easier Said Than Done

The Dutch fundamentalist Calvinist SGP party may no longer ban women from seeking political office. The question now is whether the SGP can be forced to put women on the ballot, and whether any even want to run.

By Emilie van Outeren

Ridderkerk is one of those Dutch towns where the fundamentalist Christian party SGP is omnipresent. In the March local elections, the party garnered 18 percent of the votes in this municipality of 45,000 near Rotterdam. Mrs. K. Leenheer is one of the firm supporters of the Calvinist party here, but she can never represent it. The party is firmly rooted in the Bible and believes a woman’s duties are in the home, rather than in leadership positions outside the house. Only men appear on its ballots. Not that the 53-year-old would ever want to run for political office. “The Lord gave us women our place in the family,” she explained.

Last week, the Dutch high court confirmed earlier rulings that the SGP’s policy regarding women is unconstitutional and at odds with international civil rights treaties. The case dates back to 2003, when a number of advocacy organisations challenged the party’s all-male ballots. In a final verdict, the high court ruled that the Dutch government has to abide by the UN convention on discrimination against women and therefore can’t condone the discriminatory practice by the SGP. The court stated that citizens who want to exercise their religion or beliefs in a democratic state should always do so within the limitations of the law. Everyone’s right to vote or run for office “without discrimination because of their sex” is “essential to democracy”, the court stated.

The question is what the courts and the government can do to make sure the SGP abides by this ruling. It seems unlikely that the party will soon start opening up its ballots to women. If only because few women will want to run for the party. The party has only allowed women as full members since 2006.

Who is being discriminated?

Although the Netherlands is known as a secular country, it has long given (orthodox) religious groups the freedom to maintain their own public schools and political parties based on a very strict reading of their scriptures. The SGP was founded in 1918 as the political body of the strict Reformist Protestants who mostly live in the so-called Bible belt, a string of villages that stretches from the tip of Zeeland in the southwest to northern parts of the province Overijssel. Its small but reliable electoral base is only sufficient to earn it two of parliament’s 150 seats, but it is a force to be reckoned with in several municipalities.

Women such as Mrs. Leenheer feel anything but subordinated. “Women all want an equal place, but from a biblical perspective, the man has been put above us. I don’t feel discriminated against at all. I feel privileged the Lord gave me this place in the family.”

The mother of six called her husband over to stress her point. Mr. T. Leenheer (55) doesn’t reckon the high court ruling will change the party. “I think this will remain a matter of principle. We should not let the government or a judge make us disregard heavenly justice,” he said. “We have to try to explain the way we see this, in light of the Bible. If that isn’t respected, we are the ones being discriminated against.”

The party has said it may take its case to the European Court of Human Rights, but Tom Barkhuysen, the lawyer for one of the organisations that challenged the SGP, believes its chances there are slim. “The high court ruling is based on the UN women’s rights treaty. The court in Strasbourg is unlikely to distance itself from that,” he said. “The Netherlands is behind in Europe when it comes to women’s emancipation in politics. In Belgium and France, parties are only allowed to participate in elections if they have an equal number of men and women on the ballot. In France, they even have to alternate.”

Changing electoral law

In order to really force the SGP to put women on their ballot, the Dutch government will have to change the electoral law, said constitutional rights specialist Alex Geert Castermans. “The ruling says the state has the obligation to make sure women can exercise their right,” he said. The government has three options to ensure that. It can either change the law to correspond with those of its southern neighbours. An alternative could be to end subsidies for parties that discriminate against women. The most radical option would be to ban these parties from participating in elections at all.

The issue has been a hot topic within the party’s rank and file for some time now. A 2003 survey showed only 28 percent of the older members want women to become elected representatives, but 60 percent of the younger members are in favour.

Cornelis van Pelt, another Ridderkerk resident who votes for SGP, applauds the high court ruling. “Great. I think women should be allowed in parliament,” the 74-year-old said. “The older members are against this, but anyone born after the [Second World] War feels differently. The party has to be pragmatic, or it may disappear completely.”

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

Netherlands: Minister Urges Provinces to Open Hunting Season

The provincial governments should open the hunting season on deer, wild boar and geese to reduce the damage being caused to property and risk of accidents, farm minister Gerda Verburg said on Tuesday.

Verburg was speaking at a meeting of dairy farmers, Nos tv reports.

The minister said local councils pay too much attention to protecting boar in the Veluwe heathland region and deer in the dunes west of Amsterdam. Instead they should be looking at ways of limiting animal numbers, the minister said.


Verburg has already written to Amsterdam city council which runs the Kennemer dune region, saying it must reduce the number of deer because there are now so many they form a danger to traffic.

Last year Noord-Holland province also urged Amsterdam to shoot some of the 1,000 deer roaming the dune area between the seaside resorts of Zandvoort and Noordwijk.

The national park is used as a water catchment area for the capital and is home to a large population of fallow and roe deer.


The Veluwe heathland region is also home to 6,000 wild boar but some experts say the area can only safely manage 800. For the past two years, hunters have shot 5,000 boar each hunting season without having a permanent affect on numbers.

Geese are also considered a nuisance in many parts of the country. In February Friesland provincial council gave the green light to the cull some 10,000 Greylag geese which, it says, are causing serious damage to crops.

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

Spain-Italy: Accord for Secondary-School Language Teaching

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 14 — Demand in Spain for the teaching of Italian language and culture has doubled during the past decade, and the same can be said for Spanish language and culture in Italy. The two countries are the major recipients of Erasmus university exchanges from each other’s shores. Starting today, Italy and Spain will also be promoting reciprocal Italian and Spanish language teaching in secondary schools, by introducing bilingual sections and mother-tongue teacher exchanges. In fact, this is a major item of the accord signed today in Madrid by Italian Education Undersecretary, Guido Viceconte, and Spanish Education counterpart, Mercedes Lopez Revilla. It is the first step taken to implement the Italy-Spain protocol for cultural and scientific collaboration signed at last September’s bilateral summit on the Italian island of Maddalena. The paper identifies a series of secondary schools in Italy, from Turin and Rome to Palermo, in which Spanish will be taught, and involves a commitment to send mother-tongue teachers to ensure language course quality, report diplomatic sources. Moreover, the accord also provides for a series of joint activities and projects between the two countries’ schools, with a commitment from Spanish Education Minister to invite the competent Spanish autonomous regions to sign the implementation agreements for Italian language teaching and bilingual sections in secondary schools. The accord’s implementation at regional level will satisfy the demand for Italian teaching in a large number of Spanish Regions. It is an important jump ahead in cultural and scientific cooperation between the two countries. Spanish is currently the second most spoken language in the world after English, with approximately 300 million Spanish speakers. However, there is data to show there is a growing number of students attending Italian language courses at the Italian Cultural Institutes in Madrid and Barcelona, with respectively about 2000 and 800 students, marking a growing Spanish interest for Italian language and culture. Also there is the record level of Erasmus exchanges on both shores of the Mediterranean, with 6350 Italian university students choosing Spain in 2008 and 5124 Spanish students choosing to study in Italy. There are currently 18 Italian mother-tongue readers currently engaged in primary Spanish universities; on the private academic side, there are five Dante Alighieri Society committees currently active in Spain. The strengthening of the offering in secondary schools will therefore cover an escalating demand. However, it is not such a novelty as the Italian schools of Madrid and Barcelona for primary and secondary education, which have respectively 847 and 616 students ranging from infant to high-school level, have for decades provided a reference quality bilingual teaching in Spain. In this case also, there is a growing demand which makes it impossible to satisfy the long waiting lists. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Franco-Era Crimes, Garzon Charges Split Country

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 14 — The Supreme Court’s charging of Audiencia Nacinoal judge Baltazar Garzon for abuse of office in the case he opened concerning Franco-era crimes is producing an ever-wider split within Spanish public opinion. A large group of intellectuals and artists, led by the director Pedro Almodovar, has promoted a symbolic occupation of Madrid’s Complutense University, a marathon of Historic Memory, with the showing of documentaries and debates on the Remembrance Law in solidarity for the magistrate after yesterday’s mobilisation of union leaders, politicians, magistrates and university staff in the university’s assembly hall. In a statement quoted in today’s media, the CSPJ (the Spanish magistrates governing council) expressed its “sadness and concern” over the “attacks” on the Supreme Court and, especially, on the judge Luciano Varela, who committed the judge Garzon to trial on the basis of the legal actions submitted by the Falange and the extreme rightwing association Manos Limpias. “The Supreme Court accused of torture amid applause from the left” was the full-page headline on El Mundo, echoed by the conservative ABC, which cited the magistrates governing council statement: “Undermining of the State’s credibility is no longer tolerable”. The daily El Pais, with Socialist leanings, instead carried the headline: “Supreme Court and magistrates governing council launch offensive against those backing Garzon”. Meanwhile — according to sources from the Association for the Recovery of the Historic Memory, which alongside the Contaminame Foundation is taking part in the symbolic occupation of the university — the protest will continue until April 22, when the CSPJ meeting is due to meet and decide on Garzon’s suspension from judicial activities. For the charges of aggravated abuse of office, the magistrate risks up to a 20-year disqualification. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Council Refuses to Collect Recycling Bin… Because it Contained Six Melon Pips

Dustmen refused to collect a full recycling bin from a couple’s house because it was ‘contaminated’ by six food pips.

Melvyn Sylvester was amazed to discover his bin had been left untouched outside his home in Andover, Hampshire, at the weekend.

Binmen had left a sticker on it stating they could not accept the bin as it contained food and was therefore contaminated.

Mr Sylvester, 54, said the bin contained no food except for six small pips sitting on a pizza box.

‘I was outraged they refused to make our recycled rubbish because of six pips, it was pathetic,’ he said.

The window fitter said the pips must have been put in the bin by a passerby.

‘I think they must have come from a melon or grapefruit. We do no eat that. Anybody can go by and put things in your bins.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Eight Boys Molest Girl, 14, In Street But Not One Faces Charges

A gang of boys who molested a girl of 14 have escaped prosecution because it is ‘not in the public interest’.

The eight, aged from eight to 12, sexually assaulted the teenager as she walked to a friend’s house during the day.

For five minutes they ‘mauled her like animals’, before she escaped.

Officers arrested the five boys aged over ten — the legal age of responsibility — and recommended charges.

But they are said to be furious after the Crown Prosecution Service refused to press charges, saying insufficient evidence meant it was not in the public interest.

It is thought it could prove hard to establish which of the boys, from Slovakian gipsy families, carried out different parts of the attack.

Last night the girl’s 34-year-old mother condemned the authorities for failing to protect her daughter.

The mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said: ‘These dangerous little thugs are allowed to walk the streets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Minister Shahid Malik in New Expenses Row Over Claim for Insurance on Wife’s £8,000 Engagement Ring

Communities minister Shahid Malik is being investigated by Parliament’s sleaze watchdog after using his taxpayer-funded expenses to insure his wife’s £8,000 diamond engagement ring.

The Dewsbury MP has already been forced to pay back some of his expenses after being found guilty of wrongdoing in earlier inquiries.

Now the Commissioner for Standards John Lyon has confirmed that an investigation is underway into Mr Malik’s claims for the ring under the contents insurance policy for his second home.

Mr Lyon has suspended his probe into the Labour MP for the duration of the General Election campaign, but will resume it after May 6.

The cost of insuring the engagement ring added £97.97 to his contents insurance premium in 2008 and £136.87 last year.

Mr Malik’s claims for his wife’s £8,000 engagement ring originally appeared in December when details of MPs’ expenses were published on Parliament’s website.

However, the Labour MP demanded that the sections mentioning the diamond ring were quickly blacked out or ‘redacted’ for ‘security reasons’.

Mr Malik, who was Britain’s first Muslim minister, proposed to trainee lawyer Sundus Sheikh — a former parliamentary aide — in a Chinese restaurant in Osterley, West London.

The couple were married in February 2008 with guests including Tony and Cherie Blair.

A spokesman for Mr Lyon said: ‘I can confirm that Mr Malik is still under investigation over his additional cost allowance. This will resume, irrespective of whether the Member has been returned, once Parliament reconvenes on 18 May.’

The timing of the inquiry is damaging for Mr Malik, who is one of a number of MPs fighting the election under the cloud of the expenses scandal.

The Labour MP stepped down as Justice minister in May 2009 while he was investigated by the Prime Minister’s own independent adviser Sir Philip Mawyer over allegations that he breached the ministerial code by paying cut-price rent.

Mr Brown brought him back as Communities minister just a month later when he was cleared by the inquiry — although he was criticised for failing to produce receipts to back up his rental arrangements on his constituency home in Dewsbury.

A separate investigation by Mr Lyon also cleared Mr Malik over his claims for office expenses at two constituency addresses.

Mr Malik was told to repay £1,300 after a review of his expenses by Sir Thomas Legg.

That included cash for a massage chair and plasma TV. The Labour MP appealed against that decision, but his appeal was rejected last month.

The Communities minister has already repaid the total of £234.84 to the Commons authorities for the cost of insuring the engagement ring.

Mr Malik today insisted that it was a ‘trivial’ matter and that he had shown ‘leadership’ by repaying the money.

The Dewsbury MP told his local paper, the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I have spoken to them (the Department of Resources) and their view is that it is has gone through the Legg audit.

‘They are content with everything I have done according to the rules that existed. My view is this is a trivial matter. If Parliament was in session this would have been dealt with in a week and a half.

‘But I have shown leadership on this issue and paid the money to the Department of Resources, not because I have done anything wrong but better to avoid doubt.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: The Vandals of History: Britain’s Education System Has Left Generations Without an Understanding of Who They Are

For more than half a century, most intelligent children in Britain have grown up to live in the half-darkness of historical ignorance.

The result is generations of adults who, having left school, mourn their lack of knowledge about the past but don’t know how to remedy it and are soon busy with children of their own.

Their hunger for greater knowledge is evident in the popularity of historical television series, such as we have lately enjoyed with David Dimbleby’s cheerful Seven Ages Of Britain, or more substantial offerings from the likes of David Starkey, Simon Schama, Andrew Marr or Niall Ferguson.

For a few evenings we have been gratefully enlightened, and a few important questions have been addressed about our collective island story: what should we hang on to from the past? How do events all link up in sequence . . . and across borders? Is there wisdom to be drawn from past experience that would help us through contemporary crises?

Such questions once formed a cornerstone of our education system, but now lie sadly cast aside.

Personally, I have witnessed this ignorance creeping up on three generations of descendants — my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. I count their loss an incalculable deprivation, but they are hardly unique in their lack of historical knowledge.

For over the past half-century, the educational establishment has systematically devalued or vandalised the teaching of history to the point where it is little more than an afterthought.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Innocents Branded Yobs and Perverts in Crime Record Blunders

Seven innocent people a day are falsely branded criminals because of bungled records checks.

They are wrongly accused of being paedophiles, thugs, fraudsters or drug addicts, potentially ruining their reputations and their careers.

In many cases, misleading information has been disclosed to schools, hospitals, nurseries or charities.

Over the past six years, the Criminal Records Bureau has been forced to admit making mistakes in almost 15,000 cases. It is now paying compensation at a rate of £290,000 a year.

Last night campaigners said the scale of the errors was typical of the ‘lackadaisical’ approach ministers have to personal data.

They warned that problems will worsen when the controversial Independent Safeguarding Authority begins vetting up to nine million people who come into contact with children, including parents who want to help out at schools, sports clubs or youth groups.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Bishops, Rise of Secularisation & Materialism

(AGI) — Vatican, 13 April — The Italian Bishops Conference in its ‘Letter to the communities, presbyteries, and chatechisers’, comments that Italy today ‘is marked by a process of secularisation. A conception of life excluding any idea of the Transcendent is spreading’. The bishops identify ‘multiple cultural inputs’ that have contributed to the spread of ‘religious indifference’ and these are: ‘rationalism, which absolutises reason to the detriment of faith; relativism, which radicalises an individual freedom and unconditional autonomy that rejects any ethical imperative founded on the truth; and consumerist materialism, which exalts having and material wellbeing’.

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

Vatican No.2 ‘Didn’t Mean Gays Outside Church’

Religious officials not competent in medical sphere

(ANSA) — Vatican City, April 14 — Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone was not referring to gays outside the Church when he said homosexuality was linked to paedophilia, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Responding to growing condemnation of the remark, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it had statistics indicating some 60% of cases of clerical abuse of minors were committed by gays.

Lombardi recalled that the head of the Vatican’s investigating office, Msgr Charles Scicluna, recently said 10% of the cases involved paedophilia “in the strict sense” and 90% involving attraction to adolescents.

Of the latter, Scicluna said some 60% were same-sex and 30% attraction to the opposite sex.

“We are obviously referring here to the problem of abuse by priests and not the general population,” Lombardi said.

The spokesman underlined that Church officials should not be considered competent in psychological or medical matters and the question of paedophilia was the terrain of “specialists and ongoing research”.

On Monday Bertone, who is No.2 to Pope Benedict XVI unleashed a firestorm by saying “several experts” had told him there was a link between paedophilia and homosexuality.

Gay groups in Italy and around the world were outraged.

On Wednesday the French foreign ministry condemned Bertone’s “unacceptable” linkage. photo: Bertone

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Albania-EU: Berisha, Great Progress and Membership Certain

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — After years of large-scale transformations, for Albania, EU membership is not a pipedream, but a “future certainty”. Premier Sali Berisha, who at a conference in Brussels on the future of Albania in the EU — organised at European Parliament by the Schuman Foundation — is convinced of this, and took stock of the achievements in the last five years which have changed the face of the country. “I do not have a membership date yet,” said the prime minister while speaking to journalists, “but it will happen before I might suppose”. The strong points of the government presented in Brussels by Berisha are currently the systematic fight against corruption and crime, fiscal reform and salary increases, in addition to the growth of the social budget and privatisations. All factors that have contributed to maintaining Albania’s economic growth faced with the global crisis. “Today — said the prime minister — exports are recovering, as are profits and bank loans”. “In the EU membership process,” explained Berisha, “reforms for Albanian citizens have been started that provide the chance for people to have services and prospects equal to those of European citizens.” According to Berisha “now Albania is one of the safest countries, with the crime rate that is lower than the EU average”. In terms of corruption “the results are enormous”, with a net gain in the state balance of 5.2 billion dollars more compared to the previous government. “Those who report corruption,” explained Berisha, “are protected and compensated with 6% of the value of the situation.” The operating expenses for public administration have been cut by 33%, starting with vehicles for civil servants. “Each automobile,” said the Albanian premier, “cost taxpayers 19,000 dollars per year.” As for tax burdens, “now there is a flat tax of 10%, the lowest in Europe”. The only setback in the implementation of democracy, was the opposition’s boycott after the most recent elections, “which according to the OSCE and foreign observers, met the principal international standards”. “The opposition then acknowledged the election results and the Court of Appeals,” he added, “said that they could not recount the contested votes. We cannot overtake a decision of the Court, it is an essential law of a free society.” Berisha also spoke about how Albania is ready to implement the liberalisation of Schengen area visas, because “I believe,” he said, “that we have satisfied all of the EU requirements”. Future EU integration, “our path in the coming years,” he added, “has been difficult, demanding, and full of sacrifices, but will be a unique success in time”. The Albanian prime minister is on a two-day visit to the Belgian capital, where he will meet with Enlargement Commissioner Stafan Fule, then permanent EU President Herman Van Rompuy, and EP President Jerzy Buzek. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bosnia-Croatia: Josipopvic Recognises Errors of the Past

(ANSAmed) SARAJEVO. APRIL 14 New times are upon us in which we must decisively recognise the errors of the past and courageously follow a new road, which will lead to lasting peace, stability and prosperity for the whole region . These are the words of Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, who was speaking today in Sarajevo s parliament as part of a two-day official visit to Bosnia, his first since being elected in early 2010. “Policies which, in the nineties, believed that solution for Bosnia was its division sowed a bad seed not just in the country, but within its own states, said Josipovic, referring to factors that led to war, death and destruction, and Bosnia s particular social and cultural make-up, based on a multi-ethnicity and multi-faith identity, was smashed . It saddens me profoundly , he added, that Croatian politics of the 1990s contributed to the suffering of the people and to the divisions that still afflict us . New times call for new politics, the President told Bosnian MPs, instead of conflicts and comparisons with the past, you will have the full assistance and support of Croatia on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration . Josipovic also met the tripartite Bosnian Presidency, confirming to them that it is in Zagreb s strategic interests for Bosnia to be a stable and functioning state, and equally as important for the country s Croatian community. With regard to Bosnia s journey towards EU and NATO membership, the President offered the partnership of Croatia, which is already a member of the Atlantic Alliance and is close to EU membership. Tomorrow Josipovic will travel to Vitez, a mainly Croat town in Central Bosnia and will later be in Herzegovina to visit two sites in which war crimes were committed during the conflict between Croats and Muslims (1993-1994): Ahmici, where Croat soldiers massacred 116 Muslim civilians, and Krizancevo Selo, where 15 Croat civilians were massacred by Muslims. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Britain: Ex-Bosnian Muslim Leader’s Extradition Delayed

London, 13 April (AKI) — A London court has postponed a ruling on the extradition of former Bosnian Muslim wartime vice-president Ejup Ganic, who has been accused by Serbia of war crimes, until 20 April, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The Serb arrest warrant accuses Ganic of killing wounded Bosnian Serb soldiers in 1992 during the Balkan wars and personally ordered attacks on a military hospital and a column of medical vehicles.

He is accused of ordering an attack on a Yugoslav Army column as it withdrew from Sarajevo in May 1992.

Forty-two soldiers were killed, 71 others were wounded and about 200 others were taken prisoner during the attack.

Ganic, aged 64, was the vice-president of Bosnia during its 1992-1995 war and was twice president of the Bosnian-Croat Federation in the years following the Dayton peace agreement in 1995.

He was arrested on a business trip to London on last month but was later released on 300,000 pounds bail posted by a wealthy Bosnian woman living in London.

Serbia has issued a request for Ganic’s extradition and he has been ordered to stay in Britain pending the court ruling.

Ganic’s lawyer Damir Arnaut told the media that the Serbian evidence submitted to the British court was weak.

“We are sure that Serbia has no chance of securing the extradition,” Arnaut said.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has already thrown out the charges against Ganic, Arnaut noted.

Serbian president Boris Tadic said Ganic should stand trial in either Serbia or Bosnia.

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

Mediterranean Union

Med Water Conference Ends in Failure Due to Israel-Arab Row

(BARCELONA) — Talks aimed at adopting a water management strategy for the Mediterranean failed Tuesday due to a row between Israel and Arab countries over a reference to the Palestinian territories, participants said.

The stalemate was seen as a strong blow against the nascent 43-nation Mediterranean Union, which was set up two years ago to foster cooperation in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

“Unfortunately we can not reach an agreement,” French secretary of state for European affairs Pierre Lellouche said at the end of the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Water in Barcelona where the body is based.

The conference aimed to reach an agreement on a strategy for managing fresh water in the Mediterranean to ensure equal access to the non-renewable resource and prevent the issue from becoming a source of conflict in the future.

But a reference to “occupied territories” in a proposed draft text prevented the approval of a final accord even though delegates were in agreement on 99 percent of the technical issues related to water management”, said Lellouche.

Israel disagreed with this wording while Arab nations opposed to the alternative formulation of “territories under occupation” proposed by European participants, he added.

The head of the body, Jordan’s Ahmad Masa’deh, said he was saddened by the failure to reach an agreement at the conference because it “casts doubt on the future of the Mediterranean Union.”

The union groups all 27 EU member states with countries in North Africa, the Balkans, the Arab world as well as Israel in a bid to foster cooperation in the region.

It was established in 2008 in Paris by France and Egypt but was temporarily mothballed in early 2009 because of tensions caused by Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“My disappointment is matched only by my hope, this structure is irreversible,” said Lellouche, adding the body is a “fundamental project for peace in this region and it has not lost any validity”.

Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau rejected responsibility for the failure of the talks and blamed Arab nations instead.

“We wanted to concentrate solely on the problems of water and avoid entering into political themes. But Arab League nations lapsed into pure propaganda and made political declarations against the state of Israel,” he said.

“They decided to obstruct the meeting,” he added.

The issue of access to water is of crucial importance for the inhabitants of the Mediterranean basin.

Some 290 million people in the region could lack water by 2025 due to the combined effects of population growth, rising needs of agriculture, industry and tourism and global warming, according to the United Nations.

Over 180 million people in the region already lack water and over 60 million people face chronic shortages, according to Mediterranean Union experts.

Water management is a major source of tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel largely controls joint water resources and supplies most of the water consumed in the West Bank.

International organisations say Israel’s water supplies fall short of Palestinian needs, but also that the Palestinians have failed to set up the infrastructure and institutions needed in the water sector.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Football: Tunisia, 27 Supporters in Jail After Incident

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 14 — Twenty-two of the football fans arrested following incidents on Thursday during the football match between the Esperance Sportif de Tunis and the Club Sportif Hammam-Lif have appeared before the Republic of Tunis prosecutor, who authorised the restrictive measures. The fans (all Esperance supporters) have been charged with having shouted slogans “contrary to good manners” and damage to property. More serious is the situation of the five others going before the preliminary investigations judge in the same court: in addition to the same charges, they will also have to answer to ones of serious violence against a policeman involved in the clashes. Esperance, after what happened in the El Menzah stadium, will be playing the next three home matches behind closed doors. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arab League: Israel Violates International Law

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 14 — In a statement issued after an extraordinary session held yesterday of the permanent delegates of the Arab League, Secretary General Amr Moussa said that “the recent Israeli measure directed at deporting thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank violates international law”. “Direct or indirect meetings make no sense in light of these actions,” he said while underlining the Arab position. “An independent Palestinian state cannot be established under these conditions,” said Moussa. “Israel will be accused for the failure of all of the efforts to overcome the stalled peace process”. The secretary of the Arab League confirmed the need for Israel to stop these actions to be able to achieve peace and stability in the region. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Corruption: Former Mayor of Jerusalem Arrested

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 14 — Former Mayor of Jerusalem (from 2003 to 2008), Uri Lupoliansky, was arrested today by police in relation to an ongoing inquiry into a real estate scandal in the city in which so far several people have been arrested. The former mayor faces accusations of corruption, fraud, recycling of illicit funds, conspiracy to commit a crime and tax fraud. The inquiry also implicates former premier Ehud Olmert, mayor of Jerusalem before Lupoliansky. Suddenly today, Olmert broke off his holiday in Spain and anticipated his return home, where he is expected to arrive tonight. Olmert’s spokesperson, Amir Dan, emphasised that the former premier denies any involvement in the scandal and corruption charges. Olmert also expressed his willingness to fully collaborate with investigators should they decide to interrogate him. Police suspect that tens of million shekels (1 Euro equals 5 shekels) were paid under the counter by businessmen to obtain building licences, both for a large real estate complex called Holyland, in Jerusalem, and for other projects in other parts of the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel — Palestine: About 67 Per Cent of Israelis Want Peace With the Palestinians

Survey indicates that most Israelis want peace and that public opinion is less intransigent than members of the Knesset. Respondents are polled on an agreement based on the Geneva initiative and a two-state solution. Israeli force raid Gaza, two dead.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Two Israelis in three (67 per cent) are in favour of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, this according to a recent survey conducted by the Dahaf Institute on behalf of the the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, directed by Danny Abraham. In the meantime, the two sides are still fighting each. Two Palestinians died in a gunfight between Israeli soldiers and Islamic extremists in Gaza.

Released by Peace Now, the poll titled ‘Positions of the Israeli Public and the Political Leadership (MKs) Regarding a Possible Peace Agreement’ looked at various scenarios for peace based on principles similar the Ayalon-Nusseibeh agreement and the Geneva Initiative of two states for two peoples.

People were asked whether they agreed to a solution based on the following principles: a two-state solution (Israeli — Jewish State + Palestinian State); return of refugees to Palestine only; a demilitarised Palestinian state, the 1967 lines with an exchange of territory; Jerusalem with- Jewish neighbourhoods to be in Israel, Arab Neighbourhoods to be in Palestine; and finally the Old City under a joint management-sovereignty for both sides and the US.

About 67 per cent of Israelis (63 per cent of Israeli Jews) said they were in favour of such an agreement. Among people who voted for Likud and Lieberman in 2009, 50 per cent were in favour of the agreement. Voters of the ultraorthodox Shas party rejected the agreement by 55 to 42 per cent.

The main factor that led some to reject the agreement was lack of trust that the Palestinian side would live up to its obligations. A second factor, but on a much smaller level, was outright opposition to the principle of a Palestinian state. Opposition to sharing sovereignty over Jerusalem was even lower as a reason for opposing the proposed solution.

The survey also showed that members of the Knesset are much more rightwing then public opinion in general.

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

Sinai Alert: Hamas Closes Gaza Tunnel Egypt Pressure

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, APRIL 14 — The de facto Hamas government, in power in the Gaza strip, today ordered the temporary closure of all tunnels used for smuggling goods from Egypt, and the border post at Rafah, according to sources from the Palestinian border police. The move, which according to Gaza sources, comes from a request from Egypt, is apparently linked to suspicions of an imminent terrorist attack in Sinai, with the aim of kidnapping Israeli citizens and taking them to Gaza as hostages. The Israeli press says that hundreds of Israelis have been invited to return home after Israeli authorities triggered the alarm yesterday, talking of “concrete information” regarding an imminent terrorist attack. The border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is at the northern tip of the Sinai peninsula, whose Red Sea coast, 300 km south, is a popular holiday spot for thousands of Israelis. In the meantime, work continues on the building of an underground iron wall along the border, designed to block the tunnels. A stretch of about 6 km, or about half of the border, has already been completed. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

West Bank: Graffiti on Mosque, Cars Burned

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 14 — Graffiti of an offensive nature was last night drawn on the external walls of the Hawara mosque near Nablus (the West Bank). Nearby three Palestinian cars were also found burnt. The news — reported by local sources — has been confirmed by the military radio, which said that the Israeli army had opened an inquiry. According to area inhabitants, unidentified individuals drew Stars of David on the mosque as well as Mohamed’s name in Hebrew letters. They added that the profanation was likely to have been carried out by settlers of the zone. The military radio added that yesterday, near Ramallah, unidentified individuals had uprooted hundreds of trees near a Palestinian village. According to the broadcaster, also the latter incident may have been the work of settlers. Faced with mounting tension, Israeli military chiefs in the West Bank have called for calm. While they have assured that they will seek to identify those behind the attacks, they also have asked the Palestinian Authority to try and contain the “White Intifada”, meaning the increase in protests against the security barrier. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Business With Israel Pays Off for Jordan’s Investors

In this Dec. 28, 2009 photo, people work at a factory in Irbid, north of Amman, one of Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones, areas that are the product of the Arab kingdom striking a rare peace with Israel. AP photo

Manager Rami Kurdi snapped off a quick celebratory salute to his workers as the factory’s bell rang, marking the completion of the day’s 1,000th tracksuit in record time.

For Kurdi and the employees at the Century Standard Textile plant, one of several that manufacture clothing for top brands like Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret, Nike and Reebok, the new record was a source of personal pride.

It’s also the sign of the success of a key economic prize from Jordan’s peace with Israel. The factory is one of dozens in Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones, where companies that use a percentage of Israeli inputs can export duty-free to the United States. The QIZs, as they are known, have become the strongest engine for Jordan’s economic growth.

“Peace with Israel has paid off,” Kurdi said. “It made us so busy getting clothing to Americans that it’s hard to keep up with the demand.”

But more than 10 years after the QIZs’ creation, Jordan is struggling to ensure that the general public feels the benefit.

The QIZs have generated 36,000 jobs, but 75 percent have gone to Asian workers, mainly from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and China, because Jordanians lack the necessary experience, said Abdalla Jahmani, the director of the QIZ in the northern city of Irbid. While 109 companies and subcontractors have opened in the 13 QIZs around the country, 80 percent of them are owned by non-Jordanians, mainly Arab and Asian investors using the QIZs to gain access to the U.S. market.

“We asked the government to shut them down because they’re not providing bread and butter for Jordanian families,” said Jamil Abu Bakr, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, Jordan’s largest opposition group.

Creating new jobs:

Government officials, however, maintain that QIZ firms — mainly textile factories — provided jobs for 9,000 Jordanians so far, a significant number considering that many lacked the professional skills for the fledging industry. Thousands more are being trained and will take over from Asian workers this year, said Elias Farraj, an adviser at the Jordan Investment Board.

Farhan Ifram, chairman of Jordan’s textile exporters’ association, said the QIZs have also boosted Jordan’s hard currency reserves through exports.

“Workers and factory owners are also spending their money in Jordan on utilities, rent, services, transportation and shipping, and customs, which is benefiting many economic sectors,” he said.

Spreading the wealth from the QIZs is important, since the United States and other proponents of the program have touted such economic benefits as a potential enticement for other Arab states to follow Jordan’s path in a Mideast peace. Egypt is the only other Arab country that has signed a peace agreement with Israel, in 1979.

The QIZs began to develop just two years after Jordan signed its historic treaty with Israel in 1994. The U.S. Congress backed the establishment of the zones in the country to boost Mideast stability through economic integration.

The agreement was aimed at alleviating Jordan’s economic difficulties that in part stemmed, at the time, from $7.3 billion in foreign debts and rampant unemployment.

In the zones, factories manufacture products with 8 percent contribution from Israel, along with a 35-percent value added content from Jordan, giving them duty free status in the U.S. Egypt concluded its own QIZ deal with the United States in 2005.

Exports from the Jordanian QIZs to the U.S. have shot up 100-fold, from $15 million in 1997 to peak at $1.5 billion in 2006, or roughly 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The zones have also brought Jordan and Israel closer economically, even if tensions remain stumbling blocks because of the faltering peace process.

Flourishing trade amid global crisis:

Over the past decade, Israel — which previously was the main Mideast textile exporter to the U.S. — has helped its Arab neighbor develop greater skills and access in the textile industry. Ten Israeli factories opened shops in the QIZs. Exports from the QIZs go through Israel’s Mediterranean port of Haifa to reduce shipping costs from Jordan, which has only one sea outlet via the Red Sea.

The Israeli training has helped Jordan’s new garment industry take hold. Arab, Chinese and other Asian manufacturers, eager to export to the world’s largest consumer market, have also entered the QIZs with millions of dollars in investments, helping it weather the global downturn.

“I have 20 percent more orders than in 2007, which means I’m fully booked until October,” said Eric Tang, chief executive officer of a joint Hong Hong-Indian venture with a factory in Al Tajamouat Industrial City.

Now Jordanian industry is hoping for an even greater boost from new, wider free-trade deal with the United States which went into effect Jan. 1. The agreement lifts U.S. duties from all products manufactured in Jordan, even outside the QIZs, though the zones still offer an advantage in infrastructure and ease of working through bureaucracy.

Jordan has also struck similar trade deals with Canada and Turkey, said Ifram, the chairman of the textile exporters’ association, adding that a planned 2011 accord with Turkey will push Jordanian products to Europe’s lucrative and diverse market.

The QIZs were also advantageous to Israel, hiking its exports to Jordan 2.5 times from $66 million in 2001 to nearly $160 million last year — even during heightened political tension over the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“It’s a success story, which other Arabs should learn from,” said Gabby Bar, an Israeli trade ministry official who co-chairs Jordan’s QIZs.

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

Cinema: After the Hurt Locker, Jordan Ready to Host New Sets

(By Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 14 — When The Hurt Locker was announced as a winner of six Oscars earlier this year, cheers were made not only among film crew in Los Angeles, but also in Jordan, where the film was shot. The film tells a story of a bomb squad in Iraq and the tragedies that unfolded in the aftermath of the American invasion to Iraq. Nabeel Kone, a local actor who played the role of an Iraqi professor, said he stayed until five in the morning waiting to watch the award ceremony. His waiting was worthwhile after the film bagged six Oscars, including best picture. “People next morning were congratulating me for the victory of the film,” Kone told ANSAmed, as he recalls days of hardworking with the film crew from dawn to late night. “Now I can say I took part in a film that won so many Oscars. I even put it I my CV” said the 60 years old Kone. For Jordanian officials, the victory of the Hurt Locker represents a major leap in their attempts to lure more film makers from Hollywood into this small desert kingdom. During the ceremony, Kathryn Bigelow, director of the film, gave credit to Jordan and its people on the success of her picture, and Ray Becket, the sound mixer of the film, gave credit to his Jordanian crew, Baha Othman whose name was mentioned on stage. Next morning, officials from the Royal Film Commission held a small party to celebrate the victory of the film, as it is a victory for the kingdom. “As with any other film that manages to become the center point of the industry, but most importantly in The Hurt Locker’s case where the location was a pivotal factor in the film’s success, all eyes will turn to Jordan now,” said Nada Domani, spokesman of the Royal film commission. Bigelow’s unusual gesture to thank the kingdom did not come out of the blue. The film crew did have unusual help from the commission, supported by members of the royal family, who are often at the front of the queue to welcome major film makers into the kingdom. The Hurt Locker was not an easy shoot and involved a lot of logistics and military equipment. It all went well and smoothly, said Domani. For years, Jordan attracted an array of films that made headlines around the world, starting from Laurence of Arabia to Indiana Johns and as recently as the Transformers II. In the latter, giant robots are seen fighting against the backdrop of the breathtaking Petra, one of the jewels of the kingdom’s tourism industry. During 2009, six feature-length films were shot in Jordan: a Canadian narrative, an Indian narrative, a Brazilian TV series, and an American production in addition to two locally produced feature-length films (one narrative and one documentary). Officials from the RFC hope international film crews, previously not aware of the added value of filming in Jordan, would start considering Jordan as a possible filming location, bringing in skilled professionals and job opportunities to the country. The recent war on Iraq has helped inspire film makers from the US to make films about the war as access to the war-torn country remains difficult. But officials from the commission say Jordan is attracting more films from Europe to its unique nature. “Jordan, for its part, is extremely rich in contrasting landscapes despite its small size. It boasts locations that are unique in the region and in the world, such as Petra and Wadi Rum, as well as a host of other locations that can easily emulate locations in different parts of our planet,” said Domani. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Cinema: Turkey Seeking to Attract Bollywood Production

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 14 — Turkey aims to become one of the movie sets for Bollywood, Indian film industry, which produces nearly 1,400 movies a year, as Anatolia news agency reports. A group of officials from Turkey’s culture ministry are currently in talks with Bollywood producers to convince them to make their films in Turkey. “Indian film industry makes three films a day. Around 300 films are made outside India in a year. Our goal is to have a 10% of these 300 films in Turkey. Because cost of a movie is nearly 5 million USD,” Abdurrahman Celik, a senior official of the ministry, said. India has a population of 1.2 billion and 4 billion movie tickets are sold annually in India, Celik said, adding that Bollywood outpaced American movie industry Hollywood in number. A Bollywood film, “Tell Me Oh Khudaa”, was shot in Turkey two years ago starring Turkish actors and actresses. Another Indian production crew is expected to come to Turkey in May to start shootings of a new film. Celik said, however, Turkey must make some arrangements, especially tax cuts on movie production, to attract foreign filmmakers. Bollywood is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai, former Bombay, India. Bollywood is the largest film producer in India and one of the largest centers of film production in the world. The name is a combination of Bombay and Hollywood, the center of the American film industry. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

How Has President Obama Been Weak and Lost Credibility Over Iran: Answering a Reader’s Question

by Barry Rubin

A reader asks [my summary]: Why do you and so many people in the Arabic-speaking world view President Barack Obama as weak regarding Iran. After all, he doesn’t want to go to war with Iran or support an Israeli attack. And isn’t the fault due mainly to the Europeans, Russia and China?

My response: There are a number of reasons for this but let me focus on three, which makes one think that the president is doing a Titanic job (not titanic, Titanic, see note below).

First, Obama’s total failure to implement increased sanctions on Iran—whether or not they were effective-after 15 months in office is a huge failure. If the media would be treating Obama as a normal president he would be criticized and ridiculed for this on a daily basis.

Remember, the president first said he would increase sanctions last September and failed to do so. He then set a December deadline and again did not act. Now in April 2010 the prospects for sanctions still seem poor.

Indeed, the administration has not even announced its plan. What we do know is that the administration has announced in advance that it will not propose sanctions that might hurt Iran’s economy which means they-that is, targeted sanctions on a small number of rulers and regime institutions—will be a joke.

Aside from this, congressional proposals for reasonable sanctions on Iranian energy imports were ignored by the administration. The White House discouraged Congress from acting, too.

True, traditionally the Europeans have been very wimpy about such actions. But in this particular case, Britain, France, and Germany are ahead of the United States. Obama is holding them back rather than vice-versa. The EU as a whole is a problem since a country like Sweden can paralyze action. But it was Obama’s choice to seek backing from the entire EU rather than take the lead along with the three main European allies.

This problem arises partly from Obama’s philosophy of refusing to be a world leader but just “one of the guys” going along with a sanction. While the world doesn’t want the United States to be too unilateral-their criticism of George W. Bush-Obama has gone too far in the opposite direction, which is equally bad…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Racism in Europe Goes Mainstream, Says Turkish Expert

The rise of racist language in European political rhetoric is a reality and is causing a real-life increase in individual racism, according to a leading academic who has worked on anti-racism committees in Europe and for the UN for more than 10 years. If racism is institutionalized at the state level, then personal rights and freedoms could be at risk, he says

Racism is becoming normalized in Europe as politicians on the continent increasingly use racist rhetoric to capture votes from the political fringes of society, according to a top Turkish academic.

“With ideological differences becoming less important, political parties are having more trouble differentiating themselves from each other. As the number of undecided voters has increased, differentiation has started to manifest itself in marginal issues,” Professor Gün Kut from Boðaziçi University told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview last week. Kut was recently elected to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“Across present-day Europe, we see that the constituencies of central-left and central-right parties have taken on equal weight and so to steal the votes of the extreme right, and thus get ahead of the left, central-right parties have started to use the rhetoric of the extreme right,” according to Kut, who worked for the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, or ECRI, for 12 years before joining the U.N.’s committee.

Kut said the recent trend in the rhetoric began with anti-immigration statements, continued with xenophobia and has been drifting toward racism. He said that for Turkish workers who immigrated to Europe many years ago, however, they were first subject to xenophobia and then later became targets of anti-immigration rhetoric. For Turks in Europe since Sept. 11 though, he said they have increasingly become victims of Islamophobia because they are perceived as representatives of cultural Islam.

Racist electioneering

While the latest racist rhetoric has been an effective electioneering strategy, winning an additional to 3 to 5 percent of national votes for mainstream rightist parties, it has ramifications far beyond simple ballot-box politics; instead, it results in bringing the racist message to the mainstream, Kut said.

Leftist parties, meanwhile, who used to be vocal in their condemnation of racism, are increasingly silent toward the center right’s increasingly xenophobic rhetoric out of fear of losing their own constituency, which, although originally left-leaning, now tilts more toward the center right, according to Kut.

“Racism becomes normal when the center right uses racist messages while the center left remains silent in opposing those messages,” he said.

Individuals can be racist, said Kut, but when political organizations assume power, then racism can become a policy.

Raising awareness through education and the free flow of information is the main tool in fighting racism among individuals, he said. “Racism often stems from ignorance. The more you know other people, the more you will see that they are not that different than you and thus have less reason to hate them.”

When it comes to organized racism, one has to look at whether state mechanisms protect citizens from racism, punish racists and compensate victims of racism, he said.

Turkey has mixed record on racism

When it comes to Turkey, Kut believes the country has a mixed record on racism. “There is not ideological racism in Turkey. No one says I am racist in Turkey. Racism has a negative connotation whereas in some countries some can proudly say they are racist.”

There remains, however, a distinct undertow of racism within the country, Kut said. “Beneath a thin surface, there is always discrimination in Turkey, and anti-Semitism is the one manifestation of discrimination that surfaces the fastest.”

This notwithstanding, Turkey has not been labeled as discriminatory or racist by international organizations on the Kurdish question, he said.

“Turkey was never [reprimanded] for discrimination by the European Court of Human Rights on Kurdish applications. The court has condemned Turkey for torture, for instance, but it has never accepted the claims by the applicants that torture took place because they are Kurds,” Kut said.

In Turkey there is heavy intolerance, Kut said, adding that ECRI has never given a clear example of racism in its reports on Turkey, but has only criticized it for intolerance.

Through its education system, Turkey must foster a sense that “tolerance” is not merely something belongs to the past, but also to the present and the future, according to Kut.

Recalling that Turks always proudly say Jews escaping the Inquisition in 1492 found a safe haven in Ottoman Turkey, Kut said it was not enough to be proud of what the state did in the past but more important to be proud of what it is doing at present.

Furthermore, Turkey must reinforce its legal structure to fight racism and discrimination, especially in the civil code, because the mechanisms for lodging complaints in Turkey are weak, he said, suggesting also that the establishment of an ombudsman could help raise awareness of the problem.

           — Hat tip: The Pundit[Return to headlines]

Syria: US Nuclear Summit Not Serious Without Israeli Issue

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, APRIL 14 — In Syria’s eyes, the summit on nuclear security in Washington is entirely worthless if the issue of the Israeli nuclear arsenal does not appear on the agenda. Two of the three Syrian government-run dailies, Al Baath and Al Thawra, have this morning published editorials on the Washington summit, called “not serious” since it “does not take into account the very serious threat Israel’s nuclear arsenal poses for the entire Middle East and the Arab world.” “The discussions and documents drawn up by the 46 leaders of the countries invited to the US summit have no other aim than that of reinforcing the US policy against Iran and Democratic Korea (North Korea),” wrote Muhammad Khodr in Al Baath, the mouthpiece of the party going by the same name which has been in power in Syria for 47 years. “The Washington summit shows that President Barack Obama has good intentions but does not pursue them seriously,” reads the article by Assaad Abbud in Al Thawra, “since if we really want to eliminate the factors giving rise to tension in the Middle East and if we really want to see compliance with international accords and treaties, we cannot just ignore the issue of Israeli nuclear energy, which for Arabs is an extremely serious threat.” In the words of Al Baath, “it is no coincidence that Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu deserted the Washington summit: he did so to avoid drawing the attention of those taking part to his country and in order to avoid embarrassing Obama, who is critical of the Israeli policy to make Jerusalem Jewish.” The Syrian newspaper noted that Israel has “at least 200 nuclear warheads”, which for the Middle East pose “a constant threat to the lives of its inhabitants.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Two-Thirds of Textile Employees Are Unregistered

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 14 — Two out of three workers in Turkey’s textile industry are not registered with the social security system, Today’s Zaman has learned from Social Security Institution (SGK) data. The striking figures come on the heels of a recent statement by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who accused some employers in the textile sector of abusing the rights of their workers. Erdogan called the employers’ actions “labor exploitation.” Some of the sector’s representatives rejected Erdogan’s remarks; however, labor unions said they supported the prime minister’s statement, adding that the issue needs to be addressed. Erdogan said companies should contribute to efforts to fight the unregistered economy, stressing that the government also needs the support of labor unions. The SGK data revealed that of the 2 million textile workers in Turkey, only 689,000 are registered with the SGK, while textile firms avoid paying social security premiums for the remaining workers, meaning a huge loss for the institution. Around 250,000 of the 689,000 registered textile workers in Turkey are women, while the percentage of women among unregistered textile workers is higher. The average number of workers in each of Turkey’s 40,961 textile companies stands at 16. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US-Syria: Republicans Against Damascus Ambassador Appointment

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, APRIL 14 — The appointment of the new American ambassador to Syria has met growing opposition in the U.S senate, with recent reports of Damascus supplying Scud missiles to Hezbollah doing nothing to improve the situation. Republicans today reasserted their plans to oppose the nomination of the diplomat Robert Ford to the post of new U.S ambassador to Syria. The United States recalled their ambassador in Damascus five years ago following the deadly attack on the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. However, the Obama administration has chosen a policy of dialogue with Syria and the return of an American ambassador to Damascus is part of this strategy. The news that Syria reportedly supplied Lebanon’s Hezbollah group with “D” Scud Missiles with a range of 650 kilometres (with Tel Aviv and Jerusalem within range) has ignited fresh attacks by U.S Republicans, against both the initiative by Damascus and the political line conducted by the Obama administration. The White House nevertheless plans to continue its dialogue with Syria and has repeated its full backing of Ford’s appointment, which has been approved by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (with the dissent of three Republicans) and will now be subject to a vote in the Senate. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Russia: Jehovah’s Witnesses Treated as “Terrorists”

Investigations and searches from house to house, seizing religious material “extremist” allegations. A Kingdom hall in Budennovsk set on fire. Just like under Stalin?

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) — “You are extremist terrorists” is how a woman rebuked some Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW), her work colleagues, after a campaign launched by police in Kasimov and other cities of the province of Ryazan (southwest of Moscow). In recent days, groups of police officers have visited house to house, and stopped people in the streets and markets asking them if they have never bothered by JW, if they have given them publications if they could identify them. Police have also visited schools and talked to principals asking them if they had complaints against parents and students who belong to the group.

In conversations the police report that TDG “in search of single people and pensioners, win their trust and take their property.”

The JW are worried about this campaign that increases hatred toward them. Between March and April at least three Kingdom Halls (JW places of assembly) in Ryazan suffered police raids that during assemblies, interrogations of those present seizures of books and leaflets.

Police have also searched the homes of 21 JWs, confiscating books, movies, personal letters, diaries, journals, computers, almost as if it were “extremist” material.

JW representative Anton Omelchenko, states that “committing this crime against the JW shows the degree of religious intolerance which in Russia today.”

On the night of March 20, at Budennovsk (Stavropol in southern Russia), a fire destroyed the local Kingdom Hall. Experts and technicians have determined that the fire was arson

According to JW, Russia is returning to the methods of Stalin in 1951, when they were suppressed and many of them deported. All the victims were later rehabilitated.

Currently the organization is accused of being an “extremist sect” of having an “unfriendly attitude towards other churches” and of “refusing military service”, although the constitution allows the alternative civilian service.

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

South Asia

Indonesia: Terrorist Involved in the Beheading of Three Christian Female Students Killed in Aceh

Enal Tao, 38, topped the country’s most wanted list. He is believed to have favoured recruiting and training Indonesian extremists in southern Philippines. Police arrest four more terrorists in Banda Aceh; seize documents and computers with information about the group’s activities.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Special units of Indonesia’s anti-terror squad killed Enal Tao, 38. Known also as Zaenal and Ridwan, he was at the top of list of the country’s most wanted criminals. Police sources in Aceh said he was a suspect in the decapitation of three Christian female students on 29 October 2005 in Poso, Central Sulawesi province.

After months on Tao’s trail, police last night stormed his safe house in a residential area of Cot Iri, Aceh Besar Regency, about 70 kilometres from Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh province.

His death comes two days after the arrest of six terror suspects allegedly involved in the Australian Embassy bombing and an attack against the J W Marriot Hotel.

Police spokesman Inspector General Edward Aritonang said that one of the arrested, Bayu Sena, had planned the attack against the private residence of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

On 29 October 2005, Theresia Morangke, 15, Alfita Poliwo and Yarni Sambe, both 17, were walking home when they were attacked in the Gebang Rejo area, in Poso. The three girls had their heads cut off with a machete; two were dumped near a police station, the third was left in front of a church. A fourth girl Noviana Malewa, survived but had deep wounds to the head and the face.

At the time, the crime shocked people both in Indonesia and abroad. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the triple murder; Benedict XVI called it a “barbaric murder”.

The investigation found that Islamic extremists were behind the attack. They were led by one Hassanudin (aka Hasan or Slamet Raharjo), now in prison with three other people for periods ranging from 14 to 20 years. Enal Tao was a member of the same group that carried out the slaughter. He is also believed to have recruited Indonesian extremists for training in Mindanao, southern Philippines.

Last night, police captured four terror suspects hiding in a store in Beurawe sub-district in Banda Aceh. Agents seized a computer and important documents about the group’s activities. A local police source said that the suspects were “involved in paramilitary training.”

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

Kyrgyzstan “On the Verge of Civil War”, Vulnerable to Islamist Infiltration

Russian President Medvedev warns about the danger of civil war, calls on ousted President Bakiyev to resign. The country is split and many fear civil strife might favour infiltration by Muslim extremists.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Kyrgyzstan is “on the verge of civil war” and could become a “second Afghanistan,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting of a Washington think-tank. Local sources are reporting that Moscow has offered assistance to the interim government of Roza Otunbayeva. Many are concerned that the poor central Asian nation is vulnerable to Islamic extremism. In light of the situation, the Russian leader has called on ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to step down.

Bakiyev, who fled to the southern Jalalabad region, his traditional stronghold, said he is willing to go into exile if he and his family could leave in safety. For some, this is an attempt to start a dialogue with the interim government, which took over last week and is in control of the northern part of the country.

Roza Otunbayeva, who is receiving statements of support from local leaders, said that the government’s offer of immunity is limited to Bakiyev and not his family, and even that is not going to last for long.

Many members of the ousted president’s family have been accused of serious crimes. They include a son and a brother, who were put in charge in key state institutions.

In the meantime, the interim government announced that it dissolved the Constitutional Court.

At present, the country is split in two. State TV is no longer reporting from the south. In Jalalabad, more than 5,000 supporters met in support of Bakiyev (pictured).

Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries of Central Asia and lacks domestic energy sources. However, it is strategically located, between Afghanistan, China and Kazakhstan.

It is also the only country to have both a Russian and a US military base (for operations in Afghanistan). The Americans are paying US$ 15 million per year to use the Manas airport as a transit centre because it is close to Afghanistan.

The landlocked, mountainous country is sparsely populated with many ethnic groups, some deported from other parts of the former Soviet Union during Stalin’s purges.

In the past few years, it has become a transit region for Islamic extremists and many are concerned that the current instability could be used by radical Islamic factions to infiltrate the country, especially if the current north-south split persists or leads to armed clashes.

A great question mark remains as to what the big powers will do. Moscow is ready to act and Washington is not likely to give up its only base in the region, crucial for its presence in Afghanistan, and proximity to Russia and China.

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

Far East

Hundreds Dead in Earthquake in Northwest China

A powerful earthquake in northwest China killed at least 300 people, injured 8,000 and left many others buried under debris on Wednesday, Chinese state media reported.

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Philippines: Explosions, Two Killed, A Church Damaged in Isabela (Basilan)

Two bombs were intended to hit a building in the Ministry of Education and a Catholic church. In gun battles between terrorists and security forces two people were killed.

Zamboanga (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Two bombs exploded in the capital of Basilan island, Isabela, targeting a government building and a church. In the shootout that followed, two people were killed.

The first bomb exploded at about 10.30 (local time) outside the Ministry of Education building. The second, fixed on a motorcycle, exploded a few minutes later near a Catholic church, causing damage but not causing any victims. Soon afterwards a gun fight ensued between the attackers and security forces, in which two people were killed.

The authorities are seeking to shed light on the identity of the group. In the islands of Basilan and Jolo various Islamist groups operate, including rebels of Abu Sayyaf, suspected of having links with al Qaeda and the Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiyah.

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


Stefania Craxi Meets Tunisian Authorities

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 14 — Legal immigration and the readmission of illegal immigrants were among topics discussed this morning in Tunis by Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister Stefania Craxi, who was meeting Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane and Saida Chtioui, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Stefania Craxi, who was accompanied by civil servants from the Interior and Employment Ministries, presented to her Tunisian colleagues a plan from the Italian government to reach an agreement updating the deal signed by the two countries in 1998, which was overseen by the then Interior Minister Giorgio Napolitano. “There is a shared political desire to overcome this emergency,” Stefania Craxi said, “we have found the Tunisian government to be completely receptive”. A mixed Italian-Tunisian commission to be installed next week will have to analyse the technical details relating to the readmission of illegal immigrants. The key aspect remains identification. “There are about 3,000 presumed Tunisians in the welcome centres,” Craxi explained, “but nobody declares their nationality, so in order to send them back, we have to find a way of establishing this with certainty”. The Italian government has given the Tunisian authorities an initial grant of 5 million euros “for Tunisian efforts against illegal immigration”, coastal patrols, checks and investigations. The commission will also reshape legal immigration agreements. The annual quota will remain at 4,000 but more efficient efforts will be made to tie in the arrival of Tunisians with the Italian job market. Along with the Minister Franco Frattini, Stefania Craxi will attend tomorro’s eighth conference for Foreign Ministers of the Western Mediterranean. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Asylum Seeker Travels 50 Miles to Britain Strapped Under School Trip Coach… And Emerges With a Grin and Thumbs-Up

Returning by coach from an enjoyable school trip abroad pupils and teachers had brought back some good memories.

But they had also brought back another foreign memento of their trip to France that came as a massive surprise.

For as they drove up the motorway they heard the sound of banging coming from the coach floor.

Then shortly afterwards they heard the unmistakable voice of a man shouting for help rising above the noise of the engine.

When they pulled over they were stunned when an asylum seeker crawled out from under the coach.

He had strapped himself to the bottom of a coach and travelled 50 miles strapped to the bottom of a coach as it returned from a school exchange trip to France.

Staff and pupils from St Paul’s Primary in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, were on their way home when they heard somebody banging and shouting ‘help’.

The coach, which had been travelling at up to 70mph, stopped at a toll booth at the M25 Dartford crossing.

Then a Sudanese man in his late teens slid out from underneath, gave pupils the ‘thumbs up’ and handed himself over to authorities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

A Christian Now? No Promotion for You!

Ex-atheist claims college denied him professorship after conversion

Dr. Mike Adams was on the academic fast track while serving the University of North Carolina-Wilmington as an atheist, but after the professor converted to Christianity in 2000, he alleges, the college put the clamps on his career.

In a lawsuit against the university, Adams claims he was subject to unmerited complaints and “invasive” investigations following his conversion. Furthermore, he believes his application for promotion from associate professor to a tenured full professor was denied because his nationally syndicated columns were deemed too politically conservative by his leftist peers.

“Christian professors should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs,” said David French, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Adams in the case. “Disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for refusing him promotion.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Army Report Says Christians Threaten US Foreign Policy

Last Friday, I told readers of this column that I had come across a very disturbing government report and that I would be exposing that report during my Sunday address this past Sunday morning. I did exactly that, and anyone wishing to see an archived video of that address can do so by using this link (the video should be uploaded by this weekend)

The report’s header reads, “Strategic Implications of American Millennialism, A Monograph by MAJOR Brian L. Stuckert, U.S. Army. This monograph was defended by the degree candidate on 01 May 2008 and approved by the monograph director and reader named below. Approved by: Timothy Challans, Ph.D., Monograph Director; Robert Taylor, COL, MI, Monograph Reader; Stefan J. Banach, COL, IN, Director, School of Advanced Military Studies; Robert F. Baumann, Ph.D., Director, Graduate Degree Programs.” The School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, produced the report.


Why Millennialism Matters The Role of Civil Religion and Culture Millennial Theologies in America Post-Millennialism and the Founding of America Civil War, World War and the Rise of Pre-Millennialism Israel, Nuclear War and the Last Days Contemporary Pre-Millennialism in the American Electorate Contemporary Pre-Millennialism and American Culture The Holy Land and Armageddon: U.S. Policy in the Middle East Anti-Christ, Gog, Magog, and Armies From the East Conclusions and Recommendations Bibliography

Remember, this is not a Christian university report or even a secular university’s religion department report, but rather a report written by an active duty Army major (who is now stationed in Afghanistan, I am told) for one of America’s war colleges. Before analyzing this report, here are some questions to ponder. Whose brainchild was this report? Did the major select the topic himself or did a superior assign it to him? To whom exactly was the report distributed? How was the report used? What are the interconnections between this report and the MIAC and Department of Homeland Security reports that draw similar conclusions? And perhaps the biggest question is, What does this report portend for government action in the future?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions

by David Berlinski

Product Description Militant atheism is on the rise. In recent years Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have produced a steady stream of best-selling books denigrating religious belief. These authors are merely the leading edge of a larger movement that includes much of the scientific community.

In response, mathematician David Berlinski, himself a secular Jew, delivers a biting defense of religious thought. The Devil’s Delusion is a brilliant, incisive, and funny book that explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it is the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world.

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The Unexpected Snake

The Farmer and the Snake

A Farmer walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a Snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The Farmer knew how deadly the Snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life.

The Snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the Farmer felt that he must die. “Oh,” cried the Farmer with his last breath, “I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.”

The Greatest Kindness Will Not Bind the Ungrateful.

The moral of this commonsense fable of Aesop’s from a mere 2500 years ago is that doing good to evil will only result in more evil. Aiding those who kill only brings more death, not life. It is human nature to think that people will return good for good and evil for evil. This kind of thinking perversely leads some to assume that if they are being treated evilly, then they must have done something evil to deserve it. This logic is routinely used by the left to argue that Islamic terrorists are simply paying us back in the same coin.

However the problem with assuming that good is repaid for good, and evil for evil, is that it presumes that all peoples, all cultures, all ideologies and religions are equivalent. That they all react in the same way and with the same motives, treating others as they are treated. It furthermore assumes that evil exists because evil has been done to someone else.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]