Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100424

Financial Crisis
»A Thousand More Days of Damage
»America: Do You Feel Violated Yet?
»China — United States — Japan: IMF Joins the World to Ask Beijing to Revalue Its Currency
»Germany: Merkel Talks Tough on Aid for Greece
»Germany: Conservatives Suggest Greece Leave Euro Currency Union
»Goldman Sachs Messages Show it Thrived as Economy Fell
»Goldman Sachs’ ‘Conflict of Interest Inflated Lloyds Bail-Out Costs’
»Japan’s Economy Recovering
»Portugal: Crisis Growing, All Indicators Negative
»Spain to Loan Greece 3.67 Billion Euros, Profit 330 Million
»Government Releases New Numbers on Obamacare Showing Costs Will Skyrocket
»Lawsuit: Fla. Hotel Agreed to Guests’ Racist Requests
»NY Man Pleads Guilty in Plot to Bomb NYC Subway
»Obama’s Eligibility: Here’s Your Sign!
»Road to Radicalism: The Man Behind the ‘South Park’ Threats
»Sex Abuse ‘Victim’ To Sue the Pope
»Shocking Report: Police Find Tea Parties More Peaceful Than Anti-War Protests
»White Supremacist ‘Stabbed and Beaten to Death by His Black Neighbour’ In Mississippi Town
Europe and the EU
»And You Thought This Eruption Was Nasty! When an Icelandic Volcano Erupted in 1783, Many Feared it Was the End of the World…
»Belgium: Bishop Resigns Over Child Sex Abuse
»Cabinet Finds No Sharia Courts in Netherlands
»Finland: Sharp Increase in Non-Nordic Immigration to Åland
»France: Olivier Roy Distances Himself From the Term “Islamophobia”
»France: Woman Fined for Driving in Niqab
»Germany: City Invasion of ‘Wallpeckers’ A Boon for Tradesmen
»Italy: Emergency Sues Papers Over ‘Confessions’
»Italy: Bossi Says Govt Bound to Fall
»Italy: Berlusconi’s British Lawyer ‘Covered for Him’
»Italy: Premier Tells Fini: “Fall in Line or Fall Out”
»Netherlands May Break Ties With Goldman Sachs
»Netherlands: PVV Election Programme Full of Obstacles
»Netherlands: Court Allows Holocaust Cartoon as Free Speech
»Spain Celebrates Books With La Diada De San Jordi
»Sweden: Extreme-Right Paper Granted Press Subsidies
»UK: Agents Hunting Pyongyang Hit Squads
»UK: In Hiding, The Mother Accused of Abuse for Cuddling Her Child
»UK: The Fake “Conservatives” In Britain
»Vatican: German Bishop Offers to Resign
»Vatican Newspaper Answers Swiss Theologian Kung
Israel and the Palestinians
»Bill Clinton Explains How Middle East Utopia is Just Around the Corner, Just Tell Israel and Palestinians How to Make Peace
»Israeli Athletes to Run in Bethlehem for First Time
»Tel Aviv Airport Checks, 110,000 Suspected Per Year
Middle East
»Lebanon: Sfeir: Everyone, Including Hezbollah, Must Obey the Rules
»Press Ban Issued for Siirt Rape Case in Turkey
»Reproduction of Rio’s Christ Redeemer in Iraq
»Turkey: Mediterranean Seal Attacked, Killed Near Bodrum
»TV Mystic Lingers in Saudi Jail
South Asia
»Netherlands: Police Chiefs Back Afghan Training Mission
»Pakistan: Hostage Says He Was a ‘CIA Mole’
Far East
»China Builds World’s Highest Dam, India Fears Water Theft
»China to Sterilise 10,000 to Curb Births
Culture Wars
»Germany: Muslim Minister-Designate Calls for State School Crucifix Ban
»UK: Atheist Given Asbo for Leaflets Mocking Jesus

Financial Crisis

A Thousand More Days of Damage

On Saturday, April 24, President Barack Hussein Obama, will have one thousand days left in which to ruin America.

As we know from his first fifteen months in office, he is capable of doing a lot of damage. This is rather extraordinary insofar as he only had 142 days as a U.S. Senator before he was inaugurated.

He has had the support of a majority of Democrats in the House and Senate, but he has set the agenda. The result is trillions of dollars of debt, despite the fact that the banks and investment houses, as well as General Motors, have all paid back the TARP funds they received.

We know the “stimulus” billions had little or no effect on the economy because the rate of unemployment has risen continually since he took office and is like to exceed Depression era rates by the time he leaves.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

America: Do You Feel Violated Yet?

“Then I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and encumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.” — Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:455, Papers 15:393

As I write this column, the national debt created by the U.S. Congress without the consent of we the people is $12.7 TRILLION dollars. The people’s treasury is bankrupt with current obligations running into numbers most people can’t even grasp — Social security and Medicare have $99 TRILLION dollars in unfunded mandates:

“Let’s say you and I and Bruce Ericson and every U.S. citizen who is alive today decided to fully address this unfunded liability through lump-sum payments from our own pocketbooks, so that all of us and all future generations could be secure in the knowledge that we and they would receive promised benefits in perpetuity. How much would we have to pay if we split the tab? Again, the math is painful. With a total population of 304 million, from infants to the elderly, the per-person payment to the federal treasury would come to $330,000. This comes to $1.3 million per family of four—over 25 times the average household’s income.” [1]

The actual unemployment rate is 26.2%. The number of Americans on food stamps is 39.4 million — an increase of 5.9 million since last November. While Americans have nothing left after their paychecks are pinched for federal taxes and “entitlement” programs, usurper Hillary Clinton brokered a deal with Pakistan to steal more of the fruits of our labor:

US to Give $125 Million to Upgrade Pakistan’s Power Sector. October 29, 2009. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seeking to bolster Islamabad’s fight against Islamic extremists US corporaterrorists’ profits, initiated a crash U.S. assistance program for Pakistan’s power sector aimed at rolling back electricity shortages that threaten to cripple the South Asian nation’s economy. Mrs. Clinton, on the first of a three-day diplomatic mission to Pakistan, said that Washington will disburse $125 million to Islamabad for the upgrading of key power stations and transmission lines. U.S. experts are also beginning to work with Pakistani utility companies to reduce power outages and lost revenue caused by outmoded technologies and systemic non-payment by customers, which costs Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”[2]

That $125 MILLION dollars has to be borrowed from the private banking cabal deceptively called the Federal Reserve. With interest, it will be $250 MILLION dollars. That is OUR money being stolen from us against the law. Every week, you and I are obligated to send commie China $800 MILLION dollars to pay just the interest on the bad paper of ours being held by China. Congress has become world class beggars with you, me, our children and grand children as the payment machine.

Hope and change was a marketing slogan to usher in the final collapse of our republic. Obama/Soetoro is in full charge towards the utter and complete destruction of America. Right along with the same incumbents who were voted back into Congress in November, 2008. The Sovietization of the U.S. is almost complete.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

China — United States — Japan: IMF Joins the World to Ask Beijing to Revalue Its Currency

In its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund says only a new Chinese monetary policy can guarantee a global economic recovery. It also warns Japan to invest more. The United States prepares to hit China’s aluminium export to send Beijing a strong signal.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China should allow market forces to set the value of the yuan, whereas Japan should enhance its economic stimulus measures, said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its semi-annual World Economic Outlook, which was released on Wednesday. In the meantime, the US Commerce Department said that it was close to deciding what to do in relation to China’s currency, a major thorn in US-China relations.

For the IMF, Japan’s “tentative” economic recovery is an exception in a region that is leading the global rebound, fuelled by consumer spending and investment in China and India.

For the Washington-based fund, policy makers in several countries should embrace stronger exchange rates. “Currencies of a number of emerging Asian economies remain undervalued, substantially in the case of the renminbi,” the IMF report said.

The Group of 20 emerging and developed nations, whose finance chiefs meet tomorrow in Washington, should also discuss coordinating policies to strengthen the global recovery, the IMF said. Equally, it’s “essential” for China to respond positively to the demands of the rest of the world for a new currency policy.

Currently, the yuan is pegged at 6.83 against the US dollar, and this since July 2008. For Western economists and analysts, such a fixed rate has allowed China to remain highly competitive.

It has also allowed China to accumulate huge holdings in US securities that have been steadily growing in value; any change in the exchange rate, as envisaged by US president Barack Obama, could reduce their value by as much as a third.

However, the situation has also led to a long-standing row between Beijing and Washington. Although both sides can harness good arguments, a solution still seems far away. In any event, the United States remains China’s main export market, whilst Washington needs Beijing’s support at the United Nations to stop Iran.

In the meantime, the US Commerce Department could decide this week whether to launch a groundbreaking investigation into charges that China is subsidising exports of moulded aluminium extrusions, a material that is used in the automobile and construction industries, by undervaluing its currency.

US producers filed a petition recently calling for an investigation into whether Beijing subsidises exports of aluminium extrusions by undervaluing the yuan. If the department finds in favour of the petitioners, it could impose countervailing duties to offset losses by US companies.

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

Germany: Merkel Talks Tough on Aid for Greece

Greece must forward a “credible” savings programme before eurozone nations provide aid, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.

“Greece must play its part in ensuring that Greece’s finances return to a solid path,” Merkel said. “The stability of our currency is the first priority .. and the savings plans absolutely have to be credible.”

She was responding to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s announcement earlier on Friday admitting defeat in his attempts to turn around his country’s massive debt and deficits.

In a dramatic televised statement, he described an EU-IMF rescue as “a national need.”

But Merkel said European authorities must weigh up whether the stability of the euro area is threatened by the debt crisis in Greece before deciding on aid.

“The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund would have to determine whether there is a situation whereby the stability of the euro as a whole makes it necessary to provide an aid programme for Greece,” Merkel said.

Meanwhile, Germany’s central banker, Axel Weber, warned that the risks of contagion from the Greek debt crisis had increased in recent weeks with many countries running “excessive budget deficits.”

“The risk of contagion has increased over the last weeks,” Weber told reporters. “Many countries are running excessive budget deficits.”

The EU said immediately that it would give “rapid” and “efficient” treatment to Greece’s request, and International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the fund would “move expeditiously.”

Germany however is furious that Greece has been able to borrow for years at rates close to German rates by virtue of being in the eurozone, but on misstated data which EU authorities let pass.

Germany remains central to the rescue, since it is reluctant to give Greece steeply concessionary interest rates of around 5 percent. Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure from hostile public opinion and a risk of action before the constitutional court.

For the European Union and the eurozone, the entire Greek crisis is an enormous blow in terms of immediate stability and prestige, but also clears away some of the damaging uncertainty.

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

Germany: Conservatives Suggest Greece Leave Euro Currency Union

Bavaria’s conservative party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has suggested the Greek government consider leaving the Euro currency union in the light of the country’s enormous financial difficulties.

“Greece has not only a liquidity problem but also a fundamental growth and structural problem,” Hans-Peter Friedrich, MP for the CSU told Der Spiegel magazine on Saturday.

He said this should prompt Greek politicians to “seriously consider leaving the Euro-zone.”

Such a step should “not be declared a taboo,” he added.

His thoughts were echoed by Werner Langen, head of the Christian Democratic Union/CSU group in the European parliament.

“I am extremely sceptical as to whether the aid package conforms with European Union law and the German constitution,” he said.

“The real alternative,” he said, would be for Greece “to leave the currency union and become competitive again via hard structural reforms.”

The Greek government appealed on Friday for tens of billions of euros in help from the EU and the International Monetary Fund to shore up its economy. More than €8 billion of that would come from Germany.

Chancellor Merkel has said she would be reluctant to help unless the stability of the euro was to be threatened and the Greek government implemented tough reforms.

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

Goldman Sachs Messages Show it Thrived as Economy Fell

In late 2007 as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they were making “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.

The e-mails, released Saturday morning by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict some of Goldman’s previous statements that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.

In the e-mails, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November of 2007 that the firm indeed had lost money initially. But it later recovered from those losses by making negative bets, known as short positions, enabling it to profit as housing prices fell and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

[Return to headlines]

Goldman Sachs’ ‘Conflict of Interest Inflated Lloyds Bail-Out Costs’

Goldman Sachs apparently failed to declare a potential conflict of interest which resulted in pushing up the cost of a £23.5billion bail-out of Lloyds Banking Group, City sources claimed last night.

The allegation that the Wall Street bank may have put its own interests ahead of its British clients comes just a week after it was accused of fraud in the U.S.

Earlier this week the bank, already notorious for its huge staff bonuses, revealed a £3.6billion pay and bonus pool for its bankers for three months’ work.

Yesterday it emerged that Goldman acted on two sides of the £23.5billion fund-raising deal to put Lloyds on a sounder financial footing last autumn. The bank apparently did not know this.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Japan’s Economy Recovering

Exports rise for the fourth month, by 43.5 per cent in March, because of Asian markets. Unemployment drops whilst domestic consumption rises. Observers are now waiting to see if national companies invest to stimulate further consumption.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Japanese exports jumped 43.5 per cent from a year earlier last month, fuelling the country’s economic recovery. Inflation is now the danger, but many expect Japan’s central bank to ease the protectionist policy of the past two years.

Exports grew for a fourth month in March, prompted by big companies like Mitsubishi Electric Corp. Just a year ago, Japan’s exports had hit rock bottom following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, in September 2008.

Last month, Japan posted a trade surplus of 948.9 billion yen (US$ 10.2 billion), whilst imports rose 20.7 per cent, a sign of recovery and greater domestic consumer demand.

The value of shipments abroad totalled 6 trillion yen (US$ 64.8 billion) last month, lower than their peak of 7.7 trillion yen in March 2008.

The International Monetary Fund expects Japan to grow by 1.9 per cent this year, far below the growth forecast for India (8.8 per cent) and China (10 per cent). Still, it suggests that the Japanese economy is on the mend. In fact, in February the unemployment rate held at its lowest level since March 2009.

Observers expect the recovery to continue, prodded by exports towards emerging markets. Exports to Asia rose 52.9 percent, with those to China climbing 47.7 per cent; shipments to the United States grew 29.5 per cent in March from a year earlier, whilst sales to Europe increased by 26.7 per cent.

The Bank of Japan is optimistic. Its governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, said that the risk of another recession has “pretty much gone.”

To boost expansion, Japanese companies are planning to set up new plants in growth markets, like India, Taiwan and China.

The recovery is being shored up by the central bank’s policy board, which expanded a credit programme for lenders to 20 trillion yen last month and next meets April 30. The bank has kept the benchmark interest rate at 0.1 percent since December 2008.

Now financial markets and the International Monetary Fund want the Bank of Japan to inject more stimuli should the rebound fail to stem deflation. Otherwise, recovery could be weak, tip Japan’s economy back into deflation in case of changes in the foreign-exchange rate or oil price conditions. This could be prevented by increasing domestic consumer demand.

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

Portugal: Crisis Growing, All Indicators Negative

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — A warning shot for the situation in Portugal has been fired by International Monetary Fund (IMF) predictions, which include higher unemployment and an anaemic economy, which in 2010 is due to grow by only a third of the 1% figure predicted for the Euro zone. Contaminated by the crisis in Greece, censured by markets and targeted by investors, Portugal risks being the next country placed on the list of countries on the brink on bankruptcy. This is the danger warned of by economists and experts quoted today by Jornal de Noticias and the Portuguese press, which is calling for drastic measures to reduce public deficit and fall in line with the Plan for stability and growth (PEC) presented to Brussels by Jose’ Socrates’ exectutive. The IMF says that such measures will not be introduced if Portugal’s GDP grows by only 0.3% in 2010 — compared to the 0.7% estimated by the government — and by 0.7% in 2011. The news is no more encouraging on the employment front, the IMF report says, given that the country will be unable to create more than 30,000 jobs in the two year period from 2010 to 2011, a drop in the ocean that is set to anchor the unemployment rate between 10.3% and 11%. There are also pessimistic forecasts for the attempted reduction of the serious public deficit (from 9.3% to 8.3%), which is set to remain at 8.7% at the end of the year — with a public debt of 86% of GDP — while it will not go below 7.5% in 2011, despite the Socialist government’s prediction of 6.6%. The time-discounting of the IMF’s predictions coincides with strong pressure from markets on state bonds, which yesterday had a 10-yearly rate of 4.77%, compared to the 1.7 points requested for German debt, while the figure for Greek bonds has surged to 8%. The situation is worrying, though not comparable to the state of play in Greece, and many economists have moved to calm fears of bankruptcy. “Nobody with an ounce of responsibility can hypothesise such a scenario, which has been expressly ruled out by measures approved by the European Union , the economist and chairman of Cotec Portugal, Daniel Bessa told the press. Joao Duque, chairman of the Superior Institute of Economy and Management, also says that “the risk of not fulfilling the stability plan is remote”. However, everyone agrees on the urgent need to send a strong message to markets, while the government and the opposition struggle with the debate on reduction of public spending or an increase in tax to reduce deficit. The alternative to the Plan for stability and growth, which has been forward by the main opposition party, the PSD, includes a 1.7 billion cut on public spending, compared to the 1.1 billion mooted by the government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain to Loan Greece 3.67 Billion Euros, Profit 330 Million

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 22 — Spain will give Greece 3.672 billion euros for the country’s crisis support plan, its contribution being 12.2% of the 30 billion euros coming from the Eurogroup countries, with a 110 million euros profit per year, during the loan’s three year duration, confirms today, Spanisn Prime Minister José Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero confirmed today, the media say, while informing Congress about the Eurogroup and the International Monetary Fund’s action to stop the Greek economy from defaulting. In order to allow the loan the Spanish Finance Minister will have to increase its debt emission, but “in moderate measure”, Zapatero explained, for the 4.78% of 2010’s 78 billion euros planned emission, which “doesn’t imply a net debt increase or generates deficit.” The Spanish Prime Minister used the Finance Minister’s last three-year bond tender, with a 2% interest rate, to calculate that the Greek loan will bring an additional cost of 73 million euros per year, but he also remarked that, according to the agreement with the Eurozone countries, the loan will generate an almost 5% interest rate, giving Spain a yearly 183 million euros revenue, and a 110 million euros profit. Zapatero added that “obviously this comes with the implied risk of Greece not being able to pay back the received loan”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Government Releases New Numbers on Obamacare Showing Costs Will Skyrocket

This really is criminal— Now that Obamacare has been rammed into law we get to see just how much we were lied to by the radical left and the state-run media.

The federal government released a new report on the cost of Obamacare and the results are troubling. The report comes from actuaries from Medicare and Medicaid. Medical costs will skyrocket rising $389 billion 10 years. 14 million will lose employer-based coverage. Millions will be left without insurance. And millions more will be may be dumped into the already overwhelmed Medicaid system. 4 million American families will be hit with tax penalties under this new law.

Of course, these were ALL things that democrats and President Obama assured us would not happen.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lawsuit: Fla. Hotel Agreed to Guests’ Racist Requests

AOL News LONDON (April 23) — The five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Naples, Fla., boasts on its website that it offers “impeccable service.” Now the glitzy hotel has been accused of being too eager to please, after it allegedly kowtowed to its guests’ racist demands.

According to a lawsuit filed by hotel waiter Wadner Tranchant, 40, the Ritz-Carlton honored a British family’s request not to be served by “people of color” or with “foreign accents.” Naples News reported that the head of the family, Rodney Morgan, made the request during his check-in around Feb. 28. His requests were apparently logged on a computer at the demand of managing director Edward Staros, and accompanied by a note stating that the Rodney Morgan family were “very, very prejudice[d].”

David Alexander, Getty Images

The Naples Ritz-Carlton, shown here in 2004, has been slapped with a lawsuit by a waiter who alleges it acceded to a British family’s request not to be served by “people of color” or with “foreign accents.”

Tranchant — a black Haitian who has been working at the hotel for 15 years — claims that two weeks into the Morgans’ stay, his supervisors stopped him from serving them at the beachside hotel’s Grill restaurant. That left him feeling humiliated and intimidated, his lawyers argue, causing stress that eventually resulted in medical and psychological treatment. He is seeking at least $75,000 in damages from the Ritz-Carlton Co. for alleged violation of the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

“My client was prevented from waiting on this couple because he was black,” said attorney Michael McDonnell. He added that he had nine witnesses willing to testify about the racist request. And the lawsuit claims that this wasn’t the first discriminatory demand made by a guest, and honored by the hotel. “Other employees of defendant Ritz also encountered similar treatment on multiple occasions,” the complaint reads.

In a statement, the hotel chain said, “The Ritz-Carlton cannot comment on pending litigation but can say the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company does not allow discriminatory actions by employees or guests.”…

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

NY Man Pleads Guilty in Plot to Bomb NYC Subway

NEW YORK — A New York man said Friday that a plan to attack the city subway system was ordered by al-Qaida leaders two years ago while he was in Pakistan with a friend, a former airport shuttle driver who has since admitted to the plot.

Zarein Ahmedzay, 25, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to charges including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the foiled New York City subway bomb plot from fall 2009.

He said he, admitted plotter Najibullah Zazi and a third, unidentified man met with the leaders in Pakistan in 2008, where they offered to join the Taliban and fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan.


He quoted heavily from the Quran during his plea and urged Americans to “stop supporting the war against Islam.”

“I’m thankful for myself that I didn’t harm anyone, but I feel someone else will do the same thing,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Eligibility: Here’s Your Sign!

In a recent article written by JB Williams entitled, “DC Knows that Obama is Ineligible for Office,”[1] Williams highlights some facts signaling that the federal government, the main-stream media and those closely related to both know that Barak Obama is ineligible to be the President of the United States of America under the U.S. Constitution.

Williams cites these facts in support of his assertion:

  • Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party did not certify that Obama qualified to run as a candidate for President of the U.S., but only that Obama was the Democratic Party candidate;
  • the news media previously and numerously referred to Obama as “Kenya-born” before he ran for President. Afterwards, “Kenya-born” was dropped;
  • Obama has spent over 2 billion dollars in hiding what they say exists (his birth certificate) and supposedly have in hand;
  • the Justice Department is doing everything they possibly can to keep Americans from pursing Obama’s eligibility in court;
  • federal judges have dismissed over 400 hundred court cases on Obama’s eligibility, ruling that these citizens do not have standing to know who is acting as President of the U.S.;
  • Michelle Obama has described Barak’s home as being the country of Kenya;

Williams is not alone, of course, in the conclusion that Obama is an illegitimate President and that his illegitimacy is being covered up by Congress, the federal courts, those in the Republican and Democratic national parties and others. Ever since Obama campaigned for U.S. President, millions in America have raised his eligibility as a fundamental concern for the integrity of the U.S. Constitution and rule of law, all to no avail.


How can the people have any confidence, trust or loyalty whatsoever to a federal system of government that is covering up and perpetuating one of the most audacious and bold lies concerning one of the most simple and clear of constitutional matters? How can the people put any hope in restoring freedom by voting for any person associated with the two major parties that are intrinsically linked to the cover up of Obama’s eligibility? How can the people believe one word coming from any main-stream news source, which are in bed with both political parties? How can the states submit to any federal laws coming from such a government? How can the states remain in such a union under such a regime?

Do not be deceived: if Obama is an illegitimate President because he was born in Kenya or some other foreign country, it is not his dirty little secret alone. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who know and are in positions of the so-called highest power.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Road to Radicalism: The Man Behind the ‘South Park’ Threats

By Joshua Rhett Miller

By all appearances, Zachary Adam Chesser was the boy next door. He played football and was on the crew team at one of the best high schools in the country. He even studied Japanese. He was hardly the sort of boy you’d expect would suggest on a radical Islamic website that the creators of the edgy cartoon series “South Park” will be targeted for death.

EXCLUSIVE: By all appearances, Zachary Adam Chesser was the boy next door. He played football and was on the crew team at one of the best high schools in the country. He even studied Japanese. He was hardly the sort of boy you’d expect would suggest on a radical Islamic website that the creators of the edgy cartoon series “South Park” will be targeted for death.

But Chesser also had a dark side. He was a “loner,” a former classmate said, one who frequently drew pictures of Satanic figures in his notebooks and had just a few friends, most of them male.

“He was definitely sort of weird,” the classmate told “He was very into violent industrial music, borderline Satanic bands and stuff like that. He had dark undertones in his interests.”

Two years later, Chesser is literally a changed man. He now uses an alias and has a new set of hobbies. He now likes to be called Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, and his primary interest in this world appears to be Islamic radicalism.

Last week, Chesser, 20, posted a warning on the website following the 200th episode of “South Park,” which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit. The young man, who just two years ago was studying foreign languages at George Mason University, wrote on the site that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the cartoon’s creators, “will probably end up” like Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a film critical of Islamic society.

“It’s not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome,” Chesser told from his home in Centreville, Va. “They’re going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It’s just the reality.”

Comedy Central declined to comment for this story.

However, in a June 22, 2009, interview, Doug Herzog, the president of MTV Networks, admitted that Comedy Central caved to political and commercial pressure when the channel censored a 2006 episode of South Park featuring Mohammed — and he said if given a chance to do it over again he’d do it differently.

“The real story was the story you know, which is that the guys wanted to depict Mohammed and the network wouldn’t let them. And that was the whole story,” Herzog told conservative writer Ben Shapiro, who posted excerpts of the interview Friday on “And while I think if we had to do it all over again we would do it differently, that was the decision we made at the time. And I regret it somewhat but I’ve made worse decisions in my life.”

What seems to bend reality is what has happened to Chesser. The school he attended, Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Va., was ranked the 103rd best high school in the country by Newsweek in his graduating year and was ranked 88th by US News & World Report the year before. Among the schools alumnae is 1984 graduate Michaele (Holt) Salahi, better known as the White House dinner party crasher.

Chesser’s background offers nothing to suggest that he would recently have eloped and married a Muslim woman he met in college, a woman who has given birth to their baby boy, according to neighbors. While there is no evidence that Chesser became radicalized while at George Mason, there were “dark overtones in his interests” for years, dating back to his years in middle school and high school…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Sex Abuse ‘Victim’ To Sue the Pope

St Paul, 22 April (AKI) — Pope Benedict XVI and other senior Vatican officials are facing legal action from an alleged victim of a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing hundreds of children in the United States over several decades. A lawyer for the victim said he was taking legal action against the pope, his second-in-command Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, for failing to defrock the priest.

At a news conference in St Paul in the mid-west state of Minnesota on Thursday, lawyer Jeff Anderson said the plaintiff was filing a federal lawsuit against the three men for failing to defrock Father Lawrence Murphy.

Murphy, a Wisconsin priest, is alleged to have molested as many as 200 deaf children at a renowned Wisconsin school from 1950 to 1974, when he was sacked after begin accused of sex offences against minors. He has since died.

Anderson said the alleged victim sent certified letters to the Vatican in 1995 asking for Murphy to be defrocked but that he received no response.

News of the lawsuit came as the Catholic Church in Ireland was shaken by the resignation of James Moriarty, the third Irish bishop to stand down over the clerical child abuse there.

Moriarty, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, follows former bishop of Cloyne John Magee and former bishop of Limerick Donal Murray.

The Vatican is seeking to contain the damage caused by the alleged sexual abuse of thousands of children by paedophile clerics and lay brothers over the past 60 years in Europe and North America.

Elsewhere on Thursday, the head of Britain’s Catholics, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols apologised for the abuse saying it was a “profound scandal” that “brings deep shame to the whole church.”

Benedict at a general audience at St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday said he told abuse victims on his two-day visit to Malta last weekend that he “shared their suffering”.

During the visit, the pope met eight Maltese victims who claim they were abused by priests as children.

Last month, the New York Times alleged that Benedict, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s disciplinary body from 1981-2005, prevented Murphy being tried within a Catholic Church court.

Bertone, who was Ratzinger’s deputy at the Vatican’s disciplinary body, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith halted the planned canonical trial after Murphy wrote a pleading letter Ratzinger asking for his “assistance in this matter”.

German newspaper Die Zeit reported earlier this month it was in possession of documents showing that correspondence over Murphy’s case had been handled by Bertone, who raised numerous obstacles to the planned trial.

The Vatican claims it was only informed of Murphy’s abuse 20 years after it happened.

US bishops only began moves to have Murphy tried in 1996, by which time the elderly Murphy was ailing.

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

Shocking Report: Police Find Tea Parties More Peaceful Than Anti-War Protests

On Monday, the Christian Science Monitor bucked its mainstream peers by reporting something truthful about the TEA party movement: police officials have begun to relax security requirements at conservative rallies because of the remarkable absence of violence.

Yes, you read that right: despite nonstop media warnings about hateful protests, violence from TEA party attendants is so nonexistent that police feel safe allowing them to bring large items and sometimes even guns.

The Monitor was compelled to check things out when a TEA party in Raleigh, North Carolina, persuaded officials to overturn a ban on flag poles. Such items are typically banned because a flag pole is really just a very big stick that could be used as a weapon. The Monitor’s research led the paper to admit that conservative protests are far less threatening than many past demonstrations.

Patrik Jonsson’s article drew a refreshing contrast between violent rallies of the Vietnam era versus the new model of peaceful civil uprising:…

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

White Supremacist ‘Stabbed and Beaten to Death by His Black Neighbour’ In Mississippi Town

A white supremacist lawyer was stabbed and beaten to death by a black neighbour who had done yard work for him at his home in Pearl, Mississippi.

A preliminary post mortem showed Richard Barrett, 67, was stabbed multiple times in the neck and bashed in the head, Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said.

He had burns over 35 per cent of his body, though investigators believe he was killed on Wednesday night and his house set on fire Thursday to cover up his death.

Pennington did not disclose a motive but said neighbour Vincent McGee, 22, was charged with murder on Thursday and deputies charged three other people in the case on Friday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

And You Thought This Eruption Was Nasty! When an Icelandic Volcano Erupted in 1783, Many Feared it Was the End of the World…

Gradually, in the fields, hills and valleys of Britain once healthy men and women quite literally choked on the air around them, falling to their knees where they stood, before finally crumpling completely.

Before the year was out some 23,000 people would die of respiratory failure and related conditions in what was to become the greatest natural disaster to hit modern Britain.

Yet at the time, in the summer of 1783, no one knew why so many farm labourers and outdoor workers were succumbing to fever and dying. Nor could they explain the strange, nauseating fog that had descended on the island, or the peculiar pall it cast over the sun.

In fact the deadly cloud that shrouded Britain was a toxic mix of volcanic gases and particles sweeping south from the eruptions of the Laki Craters in southern Iceland.

The sulphur dioxide and sulphuric rain it contained was destroying the lungs of its human and animal victims. Just as devastatingly, crops withered and died leading to famine, corruption and ugly riots.

This week we have seen the crippling effects of another volcanic eruption in Iceland. But air-traffic chaos, stranded passengers and economic fallout pale into insignificance when compared with the catastrophic events of 1783.

The series of eruptions then — which were severe for five months and lasted eight months in total — were 100 times stronger than those we have seen this month. They propelled 120 million tonnes of toxic gases into the atmosphere.

Without the benefits of modern science and accurate meteorological predictions our ancestors had no comprehension of what was happening to them.

In some parts of eastern and central England entire families of farm workers (and it was typically the rural workers who toiled each day outdoors, breathing in great lungfuls of polluted air) were virtually wiped out.

Families lost their father figures, their breadwinners and their fit young men, as the shortage of manpower left vast swathes of produce unpicked.

Farmers had not enough hands to gather their harvest as the sight of grown men being carried out of the field — many of whom would die where they were lain — became commonplace. Towns and villages used to burying only a handful of people each season, suddenly had to deal with four times the usual number of deaths.

As quickly as the grave- diggers could excavate the plots, men fell to fill them. Little wonder then that many assumed the apocalypse was fast approaching.

Although today we can at least console ourselves that 24-hour news bulletins will keep us informed of all developments, it is worth noting that Laki is in the same line of volcanoes as Mt Eyjafjallajokull (which is causing all the current trouble). Worryingly, scientists warn that worse eruptions could still be to come.

AT 9am on Sunday, June 8, 1783, a long fissure opened up on Laki in southern Iceland and began spewing lava and volcanic ash from 130 small craters. It was not the type of dramatic explosion the word ‘volcano’ is typically associated with, but it was just as significant.

Laki may not have been a cone propelling white hot magma thousands of metres into the sky, but its reach was astonishing. For while the lava flow caused comparatively little damage, the clouds of sulphur dioxide and fluorine it emitted were lethal.

It erupted ten times between June and October and the noxious cloud was continually replenished throughout that time. The 120 million tonnes of toxic dust pumped into the atmosphere engulfed the whole of Europe and amounted to three times the average annual industrial pollution of the entire Continent in 2006.

It was this that created the choking haze and nauseous, sulphurous stench. And in the lower atmosphere the sulphur dioxide dissolved in water vapour to produce sulphurous acid, which then fell as acid rain.

Of course, the greatest impact was on Iceland itself, then a young country which had been inhabited for fewer than 1,000 years. When the catastrophe began it had a population of 50,000, before it ended almost a quarter of those people had died.

The impact on flora and fauna was vast. The gases poisoned the plants and vegetation, which in turn killed the livestock. Eight out of every ten sheep are thought to have died while half of all horses and cattle perished.

‘People died not because of the eruption, but because of starvation. It affected the whole country,’ said Gunnar Gudmundsson of the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

The tragic period is etched into the Icelandic psyche and it has become the yardstick against which all painful periods in the country’s history are measured.

There is even a word for it — Moduhardindin — meaning ‘the hardship of the fog’, and it is widely accepted that had it not been for plentiful fish stocks the disaster would have been even more acute.

To compound matters the summer of 1783 was the hottest on record and a rare pressure zone over Iceland caused the winds to blow to the south-east, which in turn propelled the poisonous cloud first to Bergen in Norway, then Prague, Berlin and Paris.

By June 22 it was above Le Havre in Normandy, and a day later arrived in Britain.

Reports at the time stated that the fog was so thick boats stayed in port, unable to navigate. The skies became unrecognisable, with ‘the sun at noon as blank as a clouded moon, but lurid and blood- coloured at rising and setting’.

According to an article in Gentleman’s Magazine in July 1783, a visitor to Lincoln reported: ‘A thick hot vapour had for several days before filled up the valley, so that both the Sun and Moon appeared like heated brick-bars.’

Another account, by Gilbert White in his Naturalist’s Journal, spoke of: ‘The peculiar haze or smoky fog that prevailed in this island and even beyond its limits was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.’

But it was perhaps the observations of the travelling evangelist and founder of Methodism, the Reverend John Wesley, which put the drama in its most illuminating context.

When he visited Witney in Oxfordshire in 1783 he witnessed a combination of summer thunderstorms and thick fog which left inhabitants convinced the end of the world was nigh.

Describing the unrelenting thunder and lightning, he wrote that: ‘Those that were asleep in the town were waked and many thought the day of judgment had come.’

Throughout the day the panic intensified. ‘Men, women and children flocked out of their houses and kneeled down together in the streets.’ At Sunday service Wesley reported a full church, ‘a sight never seen before’.

Such was the mounting anxiety that many became afraid even to go to bed — convinced an earthquake or worse would befall them. Others begged their clergy to carry out exorcisms to rid the land of this evil.

The poet William Cowper told his friend the fog was wreaking havoc. ‘We never see the sun but shorn of his beams, the trees are scarce discernable at a mile’s distance, he sets with the face of a hot salamander and rises with the same complexion.’

And Gilbert White, who lived in the Hampshire village of Selborne, noted: ‘There was reason for the most enlightened person to be apprehensive.’

The effects of the choking ash cloud were compounded by the abnormally hot summer, combining to frighten even the most rational of inhabitants.

At some points the heat was so intense that butchers’ meat was rendered inedible just a day after it had been killed and the flies it attracted irritated the horses, making them treacherous to ride.

As time wore on, the masking of the sun led to a severe drop in temperature and frost and ice were reported in many places in late summer. All vegetation was affected.

Leaves withered, crops failed, insects died in their millions, preventing the pollination of fruit and flowers. Fruit simply fell from the trees for lack of nourishment.

Then the effect spread to animals. The first impact was on their food supply, as reported in a Cambridge newspaper. ‘The grazing land, which only the day before was full of juice and had upon it the most delightful verdure, did, immediately after this uncommon event, look as if it had dried up by the sun, and was to walk on like hay.

‘The beans were turned to a whitish colour, the leaf and blade appearing as if dead.’

At the same time sores and bare patches began appearing on the skin of the livestock. Little wonder then that this rural chaos led to disruption of food supplies and prices.

By the autumn of 1783 shortages meant grain was being sold at 30 per cent more than its pre-fog price, sparking protests and riots.

At Halifax market, men gathered from the surrounding weaving villages and formed into a mob to force merchants to sell their wheat and oats at the old prices.

All across the country similar scenes were being played out, and at ports many even formed blockades to stop producers exporting grain in order to achieve higher prices.

At the same time the fog was continuing to claim thousands of human lives. Tragically, it was often the younger and fitter members of the community as they were typically the agricultural workers who spent most of their time outdoors in the fields, breathing in the deadly particles falling from the sky.

Recent analysis of climate detail and burial records shows eastern and central England saw their death tolls rise most. And even when the fog finally began to dissipate, the gases in the atmosphere continued to divert the sun’s rays, precipitating a period of global cooling and the abnormally cold winter of 1783/4 which saw temperatures hit their lowest level for centuries.

Mercury levels were typically two degrees celsius below the norm and Selborne in Hampshire experienced 28 continuous days of frost.

For many, the twin catastrophes of the extremely hot then extremely cold weather coupled with the choking dry fog were attributed to God, but as this was the age of the European Enlightenment, other theories, not dependent on religion, began to emerge.

The explosion of scientific and philosophical inquiry, blowing away superstition, began to look to other causes. It was Benjamin Franklin, an experimental scientist as well as one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence (and his country’s representative in France) who first mooted the link to volcanoes in Iceland.

Initially he thought the fog might be due to the ‘vast quantity of smoke, long continuing to issue during the summer from Hecla in Iceland’.

In the days before global communication and mass media, it was several months before word of the Laki explosions filtered through to the rest of the world.

Even with that knowledge no one could prove the connection (a feat achieved only relatively recently). Anyway, by that time the effects of the fog were beginning to decline and Britain had new worries to contend with.

The last quarter of the 18th century was dominated by the aftermath of American Independence and the looming French Revolution. Consumed by these events, historians lost interest in the dry fog.

It is only now, as we once again face the cataclysmic effects of Mother Nature, that the true significance of those distant events can be put into perspective.

After all, while the current crisis at Eyjafjallajokull appears to be subsiding scientists fear that the tremors could cause an even greater eruption at neighbouring crater, Katla.

The last three times the former has erupted, Katla has followed. (It typically awakens every 80 years and having last erupted in 1918, an explosion is long overdue.) If it were to blast it would be ten times stronger than the eruption we have already seen and shoot higher and larger plumes of ash into the air.

In such an event — as the horrors of 1783 remind us — an aviation standstill would be just one of the many catastrophes it could bring in its wake.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Bishop Resigns Over Child Sex Abuse

Brussels, 23 April (AKI) — A Belgian bishop has resigned in relation to a case of child sex abuse, the latest element in a wave of paedophile accusations to impact the Catholic Church. The bishop’s name has not been released but the head of the Belgian Catholic Church, Andre-Joseph Leonard and other church officials have called a media conference on Friday to discuss the case.

While the Belgian bishops’ conference has not named the bishop or outlined the precise reasons for his resignation, the Belga news agency said he was the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe.

The news came a day after the Catholic Church in Ireland was shaken by the resignation of James Moriarty, the third Irish bishop to stand down over the clerical child abuse there.

Moriarty, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, follows former bishop of Cloyne John Magee and former bishop of Limerick Donal Murray.

The Vatican is seeking to contain the damage caused by the alleged sexual abuse of thousands of children by paedophile clerics and lay brothers over the past 60 years in Europe and North America.

Pope Benedict XVI and other senior Vatican officials are facing legal action from an alleged victim of a Catholic priest accused of child sexual abuse in the United States.

A lawyer for the victim said he was taking legal action against the pope, his second-in-command Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, for failing to defrock the priest.

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

Cabinet Finds No Sharia Courts in Netherlands

THE HAGUE, 24/04/10 — In the Netherlands, arbitration of disputes takes place based on the sharia. But there are no sharia courts, according to a study commissioned by the government.

The researchers said that 6 out of 11 mosque imams interviewed confirmed they performed sharia marriages. They said they usually did so in order to “ensure the rights of the woman” in couples married before the real (Dutch) law. But apparently the researchers do not consider this to be cases of sharia jurisprudence.

“The Netherlands has no sharia courts. Due to the ethnic and religious diversity among Dutch Muslim groups, the existence of an official lawgiving institute for all Muslims in the Netherlands is equally unlikely,” Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told the Lower House Friday.

“There are however advisory and disputes arbitration practices on the basis of sharia in the Netherlands,” the minister acknowledged. “Many Muslims in the Netherlands ask within a small circle or among Islam experts about questions in which Islamic views and living in Dutch society make choices necessary. Together they seek the best solution under the given circumstances: How can an individual Muslim live according to Islamic rules in a non-Islamic country? Here it is therefore more a matter of mediation than of settlement of disputes.”

The research was carried out by the Radboud University of Nijmegen for the Scientific Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) of the justice ministry. The study was sent to the Lower House with the cabinet reaction by Hirsch Ballin and Integration Minister Eimert van Middelkoop on Friday.

The researchers did not specify how great support for sharia jurisprudence might be among Dutch Muslims. It did however suggest that most would welcome it, but that the different movements within Islam divide them.

“The introduction of an official sharia body would not be unqualifiedly seen as a desirable or even a good idea (by the Muslims in the Netherlands). Muslims in the Netherlands are ethnically and religiously diverse and it would be a difficult undertaking to find persons which could be accepted by all the different groups as the highest authority at national level,” says the report.

According to Hirsch Ballin, “the most important conclusion from the study may be the removal of concerns about the possible existence of sharia courts in the Netherlands, but the cabinet continues to see it as its task to ensure that no parallel society arises where people take the law into their own hands or maintain their own system of law existing outside the framework of our legal system.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Finland: Sharp Increase in Non-Nordic Immigration to Åland

Immigration to the semi-autonomous Åland Islands is on the increase. In recent years. Immigrants from outside the Nordic region have exceeded those moving to the province from either Finland or Sweden.

Swedish is the official language of Åland; in the capital Mariehamn residents speaking Finnish as their mother tongue are now outnumbered by immigrants whose first language is neither Swedish nor Finnish.

Immigration to Åland from outside the Nordic region has been on the rise in the past ten years.

Many of the newcomers are from new member states of the European Union, such as Romania, Estonia, and Latvia, says Kenth Häggblom, a reasearcher at Åsub, the province’s statistics institute. Others have come from as far away as Iran or Thailand.

Häggblom says that the greatest number of newcomers arrive in Åland from Sweden or mainland Finland, but emigration to both places is also great. “Net immigration is greatest from countries outside the Nordic region”, he says.

Population growth in Åland has been faster in recent years than in Finland or Sweden. The trend is mainly attributed to immigration.

“Statistically the change has been very significant. Let’s see if it will continue.”

Those coming from outside the Nordic region are fairly young, Häggblom says. Many children are among those moving to Åland, which is reflected in the schools and day care centres in the province.

A key factor behind the trend is Åland’s fairly good employment situation. In march the unemployment rate in Åland was just 3.3 per cent.

Some of the newcomers to Åland are refugees taken in by Finland, who have not found work on the mainland.

Kenth Häggblom notes that they are not listed in statistics as foreign immigrants, but rather as migrants from Finland.

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

France: Olivier Roy Distances Himself From the Term “Islamophobia”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 21.04.2010

In a fascinating interview with Eren Güvercin, the French political scientist Olivier Roy discusses Islam in Europe. He is quick to distance himself from the term “Islamophobia”: “Is Islamophobia just another form of racism that specifically targets people with Muslim names — with no regard to their concept of faith? Or is it the rejection of a religion? There are militant anti-racists who are against the veil — among the feminists for example, and there are racists who think the veil is irrelevant because they regard Muslims as quintessentially other. What makes this so untenable is the lack of dintinction between ethnicity and religion. Of course the great majority of European Muslims originally stem from other cultures but the connection between ethnic background and religion is dissolving — with Europeans converting to Islam and Muslims converting to Christianity.”

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

France: Woman Fined for Driving in Niqab

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 23 — A 31-year-old woman who was driving whilst wearing the niqab, the Islamic veil which covers the whole face except the eyes, was fined 22 euros by the traffic police for “driving in uncomfortable conditions”. The incident, said the woman, took place at the beginning of month in Nantes, in the west of France. The French woman has been wearing the niqab for nine years and was arrested by the police in a street of Nantes while at the wheel of her car: “two policemen pulled me over,” said the woman, saying that she uncovered her face for identification purposes. “At that point, the policeman,” continues the report, “told me that he was making a report because of my clothing. I told him that he couldn’t, that it was pure and simple discrimination.” The policeman said that the woman’s field of vision had been limited by the niqab. President Nicolas Sarkozy decided on Wednesday in a Council of Ministers meeting that the government will proceed with a bill for the total ban of the full veil and the burkha in France by May, despite reservations expressed by the Council of State and criticism that the law would appear to be difficult to apply. Meanwhile, daily newspaper Le Parisien has reported that one of the authors of the bill, chief whip of the majority party (UMP), Jean-Francois Copé, has been under escort since January following repeated threats. His closest collaborators say that the threats and the decision to provide him with protection were “more or less linked to the burkha”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: City Invasion of ‘Wallpeckers’ A Boon for Tradesmen

Berlin is suffering a rash of damage to housing walls, though not from the usual grafitti artists but from a handsome, and protected, bird — the woodpecker.

The problem has become so common in Germany’s capital that tradesman Holm Draber has set up the country’s first hotline fur woodpecker damage, as the normally shy forest birds invade the city and leave behind holes in the insulated wall material from which many houses are built.

Draber, 42, a painter by trade, said he had been hearing a growing chorus of complaints from landlords about damage wrought by the protected birds.

“I’m getting three or four jobs a week now to patch up holes,” said Draber, whose Berlin firm Colour Clean Berlin has begun specialising in fixing this damage.

Experts say the Great Spotted Woodpecker is drawn to the Styropor-covered walls because of the acoustic quality of the building material.

“The insulation feels like soft wood to the birds,” said Johannes Schwarz from the Berlin Nature Conservation Authority.

Between 2,200 and 3,200 mating pairs live in the forests, larger parks and cemeteries of Berlin.

“It is a growing trend,” Schwarz said of the tendency for the birds to peck holes in walls.

In comparison to other major German cities, such as Hamburg or Munich, Berlin’s great spotted woodpeckers are much more likely to leave their mark on the facades and walls of people’s homes.

“To some extent, the birds prefer the capital, although they don’t in most cases use the holes themselves,” said Schwarz. “Observations show that for example starlings or sparrows live in the holes.”

The pecking of walls has long been observed not only around the edges of the city but even in the centre of town.

“Even in the inner city, the birds go wild for the walls — there only has to be plenty of greenery in the area. Two or three mating pairs live in each of the bigger parks.”

Even on the busy shopping strip of Kurfürstendamm, “wallpeckers” have been tapping away.

According to the Nature Protection Federation of Gemany (NABU), the population of the birds is not actually growing. All up, there is a stable population of between 550,000 and 740,000 mating pairs across the country, NABU bird expert Markus Nipkow said.

With spring having arrived, the birds are highly active — which means tradesman Draber’s phone has been ringing regularly and he’s been learning a lot about the woodpecker’s habits.

In 2009, his firm fixed more than 300 holes of diameters ranging from two to 10 centimetres, and he expects this number to rise even higher this year.

Not all customers end up satisfied, though.

“There are cases when the ‘woodpecker walls’ can’t be closed up because some animal renters have already moved in,” said Draber.

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

Italy: Emergency Sues Papers Over ‘Confessions’

Medical NGO chief Strada blasts ‘trash’ in Afghan case coverage

(ANSA) — Rome, April 23 — War-zone medical charity Emergency on Friday said it was suing two conservative newspapers in Italy over reports claiming three of its staffers confessed to a plot to kill the governor of a southern Afghan province.

The three returned to Italy this week after being held for nine days by Afghan security police on suspicion of links to an alleged plot to blow up Helmand Governor Goulab Mangal. “This is trash,” Emergency head Gino Strada told a press conference, holding up two front pages of the Il Giornale daily, owned by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s brother, which said the three had confessed.

“We now expect them to run a banner headline saying ‘They Are Innocent’,” Strada told a press conference, the first given by the NGO since the three’s return Wednesday.

“But they won’t do it, they’ll go on with their dirty work,” Strada said.

He said Emergency is suing another conservative daily, Libero, over similar reports.

Prosecutors in Rome have opened a defamation probe, welcomed by Strada, against “person or persons unknown”.

The ‘confession’ report first appeared in the Sunday Times which quoted Governor Mangal’s spokesman Daoud Ahmadi as saying surgeon Marco Garatti, nurse Matteo Dell’Aira and technician Matteo Pagani had admitted links to al-Qaeda.

Ahmadi later retracted the claim but the Sunday Times correspondent in Afghanistan, Jerome Starkey, stood by his report, saying the spokesman had spoken of a confession twice.

Throughout the affair, Strada consistently claimed that bombs found in Emergency’s hospital in Helmand capital Lashkar Gah had been planted there as a pretext to shut down the NGO’s operations because it was reporting the scale of civilian casualties.

Garatti and Dell’Aira echoed this view at the press conference.

The surgeon said: “They tried to sling mud at us and Emergency” “What was written was more painful than being in jail. They said defamatory things about us”.

Dell’Aira said the three, along with six Afghans, were arrested “because we told people about the war”.

“We told everyone about the wounded in our hospital, 40% of them children”.

Pagani, on a video link from Milan, said: “Let’s not forget that what was done to us was also done to the citizens of Afghanistan and the (most) serious thing is that the hospital has been closed. Patients aren’t being treated any more and they have no one to help them”.

Strada said Emergency’s priority was to reopen the Lashkar Gah hospital, which has also come under fire for treating Taliban fighters.

He said the NGO’s representative in Afghanistan had met with Afghan authorities Thursday and had received assurances on this count.

Strada stressed the importance of boosting security around the hospital but noted that Italian troops could not be stationed there “because it would become a target”.

“But in any case we are weighing all security issues, also as a way of finding out who organised this dirty set-up”.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, on a visit to Estonia, said he saw “no obstacles” in principle to the hospital being allowed to resume operations.

Frattini noted that Strada had publicly thanked him for Italy’s diplomatic push to get the three released.

The foreign minister also stressed that the Italian government had always insisted on the rights of all NGOs to treat casualties from both sides of conflicts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bossi Says Govt Bound to Fall

Northern League leader says pact with premier’s party over

(ANSA) — Rome, April 23 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government is bound to fall after his public shouting match with House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, his key Northern League ally Umberto Bossi said on Friday.

In an interview in the League’s party daily, Bossi said Fini, the right-wing politician who helped found Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, should have been thrown out by the premier a long time ago.

“We’re facing a a vertical collapse of the government and probably the end of the alliance between the PDL and the Northern League”.

Speaking in front of nearly 500 delegates and with TV cameras rolling, on Thursday the premier gave Fini an ultimatum, telling him he should resign as Speaker if he wanted to set up his own faction in parliament and take a more active role in politics.

At that point, Fini got up and shouted: “What are you saying? Otherwise, what will you do? Throw me out?” The PdL was officially founded last year by the merging of Fini’s right-wing National Alliance (AN) and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI), after the two parties ran on a single ticket to win the April 2008 general elections.

The Speaker is fuming over the clout that the Northern League, which snatched two governorships in last month’s regional elections, now wields on the government’s agenda.

He has repeatedly distanced himself from the League and Berlusconi on a number of issues since the centre-right coalition swept to power two years ago.

His recent and more centrist stances on these issues, including voting rights for immigrants and criticism of the government’s reliance on confidence votes to push its bills through parliament, have placed him at loggerheads with many ex-FI MPs as well as the League.

He has also accused Berlusconi of running the PdL as if it were a “barracks”.

Bossi told La Padania daily that Fini was “jealous and resentful of the League’s repeated successes” while doing “nothing except to attempt to wreck what we have created,” by reneging on pre-electoral agreements between the PdL and the League.

“Berlusconi should have thrown him out without pussyfooting around instead of letting him go on television and giving him space and importance,” referring to their tit-for-tat exchange on Thursday.

Bossi likened Fini to Italy’s post-war “leopard-spotted Christian Democrat politicians” because he was undermining the coalition and working for the centre-left opposition by “pretending to create while actually demolishing” the government’s programme.

“Thanks to him the centre left will win the next elections”.

Fini is against the League’s pet project of fiscal federalism and is “clearly against the north and for the south” where he has popular support, said the outspoken Northern League leader.

Bossi, who is one of Berlusconi’s closest friends, said it was obvious that the coalition could no longer guarantee its pledges to work for federalist and constitutional reforms in the last three years of the legislature.

“It’s pointless to talk about federalism to our electors who might feel betrayed by what we haven’t been able to deliver. A new road awaits us …we’ll have to go it alone, without Berlusconi”.

Speaking to ANSA on Friday Bossi said he was patient and in favour of mediating but his supporters were “very angry” and would not stand for it.

“I’ve been bombarded with phone calls by people who can no longer put up with these soap operas, this shilly-shallying and these delays”.

“We want reforms, my people want them and I have to do what the grass roots wants. People are fed up,” he added.

Bossi said he didn’t want to “stoke the fire but people in the north are totally fed up. All you have to do is hear what people say on the street”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi’s British Lawyer ‘Covered for Him’

Rome, 21 April (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s British lawyer David Mills covered for the billionaire politician during two tax fraud trials in the late 1990, Italy’s top appeals court said on Wednesday.

The Court of Cassation issued a written explanation of its verdict in February which said a corruption case against Mills (photo) should be dropped under Italy’s statute of limitations because too much time had elapsed since Berlusconi allegedly paid him a 390,000 pound (436,900 euro) bribe.

The court explained it had accepted the findings of a Milan appeals court verdict last October that confirmed a lower court’s jail term of four and a half years for the lawyer for giving false testimony in exchange for the bribe.

The court said Mills testified that offshore slush companies could be traced back “generically” to the prime minister’s holding company Fininvest and not to Berlusconi personally.

“The key point of David Mills’ reticence consists of the fact that he only traced the ownership of the offshore companies to Fininvest generically, and not to Silvio Berlusconi personally, thus favouring him,” the court wrote.

“This was necessary to personally distance Silvio Berlusconi from the companies in order to dodge taxes and anti-trust norms, also permitting (Fininvest) companies to hold on to huge profits illegally obtained abroad”.

Part of the profits went to Berlusconi’s eldest children, Marina — now Fininvest chairman — and Pier Silvio Berlusconi — now vice-president of his Mediaset TV empire.

The court said Berlusconi was the source of the bribe paid to Mills, which had gone through an account held by Renault’s disgraced former Formula 1 boss Flavio Briatore, a friend of Berlusconi’s.

Berlusconi and his children have consistently denied wrongdoing.

The court said the Milan appeals court was right to fine Mills 250,000 euros last October ‘for damaging the image of Italy’s government and judicial system.

Berlusconi is currently on trial in Milan for bribing Mills and in a second case in which he is charged with tax fraud and false accounting related to Mediaset’s purchase of television rights in the United States.

Milan prosecutors earlier this month filed a request for Berlusconi to stand trial on tax fraud and embezzlement charges involving his Mediaset media company’s Mediatrade unit.

In this third case, prosecutors are also seeking the indictment of Pier Silvio Berlusconi, Fininvest chief executive Fedele Confalonieri and nine other people.

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

Italy: Premier Tells Fini: “Fall in Line or Fall Out”

PM waiting for wrong move from Fini or his supporters to step in. “We’re carrying on. The numbers are in place”. Election still an option

ROME — All that’s missing is the final move: the announcement of a political divorce. It’s there in substance but not in form. Mr Fini says he is not going but the prime minister is confident he can find a way to force him to leave either the party or the leadership of the Chamber of Deputies. When the dust settled after their emotion-charged encounter, Mr Berlusconi claimed to happy because Mr Fini had been left “with egg on his face”. For the PM, approval of the final document “is no longer my problem”. It is up to Mr Fini to solve the question once and for all: “Fall in line or fall out”. The mechanism is contained in the final document read out by Maurizio Lupi and overwhelmingly approved on a show of hands by the People of Freedom’s (PDL) leadership.

It lies in the passage that “gives a mandate” to the party chairman, Mr Berlusconi, and secondarily to the three co-ordinators, Bondi, Verdini and La Russa, to impose all possible sanctions, including expulsion from the party, in cases where rulings that are “binding for all”, because they were taken by PDL organs, have been flouted. The language of the final document is open to interpretation, leaving a broad margin of discretion to Mr Berlusconi and the co-ordinators. In other words, Mr Berlusconi is now waiting for a false move from Mr Fini or his supporters in Parliament, or even on TV, to take formal measures and send in the party’s disciplinary committee.

“Be off with you!” Yesterday, the cameras failed to capture the words and gesture that Mr Berlusconi directed at Mr Fini after their exchange. As the leader of the lower house approached, the prime minister shouted out a rhetorical question that all those present were able to hear: “What are you up to? Are you chasing me out?” “Someone who has six per cent of the party with him can’t be leader of the Chamber of Deputies. How can he stay on?” Later, Mr Berlusconi’s entourage circulated further reflections on the encounter. The phrase speaks volumes, although it and other soundbites were bluntly denied by the Prime Minister’s Office spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti. “Six per cent” refers to Mr Fini’s vote in the final ballot.

An outline agenda for the next few days seems to be coming together: destabilising and undermining the authority of the leader of the Chamber of Deputies until a breaking-point is reached. It is not known whether there will also be a formal move, in other words an albeit unprecedented political vote of no confidence, but the prime minister’s staff is discussing the topic.

There is also another line of thinking: Mr Fini’s six per cent in the party is, from the PM’s point of view, “a devastating number” that denotes a lack of representation. It should now be reflected by not acceding to Mr Fini’s demands but by instead assessing whether he has been given too much, starting with the institutional role for which he is now deemed to have lost legitimacy. Mr Berlusconi is thought to be aware of the consequences of this strategy and to have done his parliamentary sums in view of a possible divorce. He said: “We’ve got the numbers to go on”. But there is also an awareness that numbers can change. Forecasts may not correspond to reality. Hence a possible election, however undesirable it may be, is also under consideration. According to Mr Berlusconi, if an election were on the cards, Mr Fini would have fewer followers than have declared themselves over the past few days.

Marco Galluzzo

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Netherlands May Break Ties With Goldman Sachs

THE HAGUE, 22/04/10 — Labour (PvdA) and the Socialist Party (SP) want the business relationship between the finance ministry and US investment bank Goldman Sachs to be broken off.

“The government must be socially responsible in the conduct of business. In this case, we just have to turn the business around; just let the bank demonstrate that it conducts business in a socially responsible way. We can do without Goldman Sachs,” said PvdA MP Paul Tang yesterday in De Volkskrant newspaper.

Ewout Irrgang of the SP also considers it sensible to reconsider the relationship. “They have shown they can be ruthless. There are enough reasons not to support this anymore as a client.”

The US Securities & Exchange Commission has charged Goldman Sachs with fraud. Goldman is one of the banks that maintains a market in Dutch debt paper.

The conservatives (VVD) want caretaker Finance Minister Jan Kees De Jager (CDA) to make contact with the US and UK supervisory bodies, the SEC and FSA. MP Frans Weekers does not want to run ahead of matters. “But if what I now read is right, there is every reason to reconsider the relationship between the government and Goldman Sachs,” he agreed.

ABN Amro appears to be the biggest victim of the alleged Goldman Sachs swindle, though the damages devolve on the arm that was sold to Royal Bank of Scotland. Nonetheless, CDA MP Frans de Neree wants to know from De Jager whether ABN Amro can claim the damages — estimated at over 600 million euros.

“We are awaiting the results of the court cases in the US, and the investigation in the UK into Goldman’s method of operating,” according to a spokesman for De Jager. “After that, we will assess whether the rulings are relevant to the activities that Goldman carries out for us.”

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

Netherlands: PVV Election Programme Full of Obstacles

THE HAGUE, 24/04/10 — In its election programme for the 9 June elections presented Friday, the Party for Freedom (PVV) opts for its familiar hard-right course in the socio-cultural area. But also in the financial and economic area, the choices it makes include many obstacles to its eligibility for participation in government.

As far as the PVV is concerned, mortgage interest deductibility should be fully maintained. The state pension (AOW) age should remain at 65, and dismissal law would not be relaxed. The PVV is also against raising own-risk payments in healthcare. On all four points, a parliamentary majority may emerge that has a different view.

Then there is the confrontational path that the party of Geert Wilders choses regarding Islam. Not a single mosque should be built any more, and existing mosques where violence is propagated would have to close down, as would all Islamic schools.

Headscarves would be banned in all government buildings and at subsidised organisations, and those wearing a headscarf on the street would have to pay a tax for this. The Koran would be banned.

The PVV also calls for a complete halt to immigration for people from Islamic countries and for a quota of asylum-seekers — a maximum of 1,000 persons per year. Immigrants would only be able to obtain Dutch nationality after 10 years of legal residence in the Netherlands, providing they do not have a criminal record.

The party wants ethnic registration for everyone. Non-Dutch who commit a crime must then leave the Netherlands. The Dutch nationality of criminals with dual nationality would lapse.

For all young criminals, there would be re-education camps. Police officers, their numbers augmented by an extra 10,000 (plus 20 percent), must spend at least 80 percent of their working hours visibly on the street. There should be a single national police force. The traffic-fine quota should disappear.

After three serious crimes, a life sentence would follow automatically. Community service would disappear and minimum prison sentences would be introduced. Early release on good behaviour would no longer be possible. The PVV also wants it to be possible to sack judges that fail.

Internationally, Wilders says European cooperation should be restricted to economic and monetary policy. The Netherlands would have to leave the EU if Turkey joined it. The European Parliament should be abolished. Treaties that conflict with Dutch interests should be abrogated.

Development aid should be restricted to emergency aid, and trade barriers dismantled. The opening up of the labour market for Poles should be reversed. The PVV is against purchasing JSF aircraft.

The premier should be directly elected, as should judges. The King or Queen may not be part of the government any more. The Upper House should be abolished. The salaries of MPs and ministers should be cut by 20 percent, as should the number of civil servants. For each law or rule introduced, two must disappear.

The PVV also wants to prune “the propaganda department for multicultural Netherlands: public broadcasting.” It also calls for a ban on cannabis cafe’s (‘coffee-shops’) within a radius of one kilometre of schools. Positive discrimination in favour of women for all kinds of positions should stop. Binding referendums should be introduced.

The PVV wants to have nuclear plants built and to halt all climate subsidies. “You can influence the environment, but not the climate.” More roads should be constructed and there must not be a tax on cars per kilometre driven.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Court Allows Holocaust Cartoon as Free Speech

A cartoon mocking the Holocaust that was published by the Arab European League (AEL) can not be qualified as racist slander, a Dutch court ruled on Thursday. The AEL was acquitted of inciting hatred by posting a cartoon that questioned the Holocaust on its website.

The sketch was published last year in response to the infamous Danish cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The AEL, a Pan-Arab organisation active in Belgium and the Netherlands, hoped its counter cartoon would demonstrate the “hypocrisy” that it felt was commonplace in public debate.

The cartoon shows two figures standing beside a stack of corpses marked with a sign that says ‘Auswitch’ [sic]. “We have to get to 6,000,000 somehow,” one character exclaims. The other responds by saying: “I don’t think they are Jews”.

The AEL wanted to prove that, while cartoons offensive to Muslims are accepted in the Christian West, drawings depicting religious themes that are deemed controversial are not.

In its ruling, the court called the AEL drawing grievous, insulting and bad taste. The context in which the cartoon was created however, convinced the judge that its publication punishable.

In its ruling, the court took into account that the AEL believes the genocide of the Jewish people is an historical fact. The AEL pointed this out in both a press release and a disclaimer it printed beside the cartoon.

The public prosecutor had proposed a plea bargain that required the AEL to take the cartoon off its website. After the AEL failed to comply, charges were brought against it. The prosecutor sought only minor fines.

In his ruling, the judge took into account that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights also guarantees the right to shock, offend or insult others through public expression. Governments are only allowed to prohibit this type of expression if specific laws exist to govern it and as long as the restriction is “necessary for a democratic society” to function. The context of an expression as well as the proportionality of censorship are important considerations in this respect.

The judge found that the AEL drawing was part of a “cartoon campaign” conducted by the AEL against the perceived double standard prevalent in the West. “In this case, freedom of speech weighs more heavily than the right of others not to be discriminated against,” the court stated. The AEL’s right to publish an offensive cartoon “should be guaranteed” in light of the specific context and the AEL’s intent, the court ruled.

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

Spain Celebrates Books With La Diada De San Jordi

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 23 — Hundreds of thousands of books and six million red roses will invade today Las Ramblas and all of Catalonia for the La Diada de San Jordi, El Dia del Llibre, which is also a chance to take stock of the state of the publishing industry in Spain, 55% of which comes from Catalonia, which accounts for 95% of the country’s comics. A crucial event for the sector, which in just one day plans to invoice 20 million euros, 7.6% of the total turnover for the year for booksellers, estimated at 263 million euros by sector association Gremi de Libreters. Forecasts indicate a reduction of between 1% and 1.5% in sales in the first quarter of 2010, which is still a positive trend: despite the serious crisis for consumption, Catalonians and Spaniards in general are continuing to read. In all of Catalonia 700 sales points have been set up in the streets, where readers will receive a rose along with the books that they buy. The event will also have a virtual component, because this year for the first time, El Diada de San Jordi will also have two platforms for the sale of digital books in Catalan:, already present at last year’s edition, which reports that downloads of books have increased by 300% in one year; and Leqtor, which reports that in its debut it has already sold 6,000 books. But in June, when the platform formed by Planeta, Random House and Santillana is launched on the Spanish market — according to reports from El Pais — probably followed by the platform launched by Anagrama, Tusquets and Salamandra, virtual books will receive a powerful boost on the market. Among the top selling bestseller, this year readers will not find world leaders in the ranking like last year’s “Men Who Hate Women” by Stieg Larson, but also books from small emerging publishers, such as Blackie Books or Alpha Decay. The former is proposing American counterculture author Richard Brautigan’s “Trout fishing in America”; Pola Oloixarac’s “Wild theories”, a dark novel compared to a war treatise on seduction in the weblog era. Clear signs of fatigue, or better, saturation are coming from the black novel and thriller genre despite the an increase in Spain by 117% in a year: the only black novel author in the ranking of the top 10 books sold is Lorenzo Silva, with his “The Strategy of Water”. No signs of crisis for historic and adventure novels of the Spanish conquerors of the world top ten, such as Arturo Perez Reverte (The Siege), Matilde Asensi (Venganza en Sevilla) or Julia Navarro (Tell Me Who I Am). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Extreme-Right Paper Granted Press Subsidies

A newspaper run by Sweden’s right-wing extremist National Democrat party has been granted 2.3 million kronor ($319,000) in state press subsidies.

The decision was taken on Wednesday by the Press Subsidies Council (Presstödsnämnden), which does not take a newspaper’s political views into account when making decisions on state support.

The council ruled that the National Democrats’ weekly newspaper, Nationell Idag (National Today’), fulfilled the criteria necessary to qualify for operational press subsidies. For example, the council found that the newspaper publishes more than 1,500 copies, is primarily sold to subscribers, and publishes at least 1,000 column metres of editorial material per year.

Nationell Idag was granted 699,583 kronor for August to December last year, as well as 1.679 million kronor for 2010.

The decision was not not unanimous, with one of the nine council representatives present calling for a further examination of whether Nationell Idag can be considered a “general newspaper that has the publication of regular general news as its primary function.”

On its website the Press Subsidies council explains that it is “a governmental organisation whose task is to safeguard the diversity of the daily newspaper market. It carries out its function by distributing the state’s subsidy to the daily press.”

The council disburses operational subsidies totalling 483 million kronor a year to a total of around 80 newspapers.

The National Democrat party, which enjoys very little support among the electorate, blames the majority of Sweden’s modern day problems on immigration, as it explains on its website:

“Nordic virtues as honesty, helpfulness, willingness to work, a good attitude toward women and respectful treatment of animals, are constantly being replaced by criminality and oppression of women, hostility against Swedes, abuse of social welfare, gang rapes and cruelty to animals. All as a consequence of the imposed multi-cultural society.”

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

UK: Agents Hunting Pyongyang Hit Squads

Defectors targeted in West by regime of Kim Jong-il

Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, has established that under cover of the Icelandic volcanic ash crisis which paralyzed global air travel, North Korea has dispatched at least one assassination team to hunt down defectors from the regime of Kim Jong-il, and it is feared there are more teams already en route to their targets, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

There have been an estimated 300 defectors in the past year who have fled to Europe, North America and Canada. Some North Koreans have applied for asylum in Britain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: In Hiding, The Mother Accused of Abuse for Cuddling Her Child

A mother alleged to have ‘emotionally abused’ her daughter by telling her she was born by caesarean has fled to Ireland with the child.

Fearing that social workers would take her daughter away, Shahnaz Malik smuggled five-year-old Amaani out of the country.

After allegations that included Mrs Malik cuddling Amaani for too long while dropping her off at nursery, social services placed the little girl on a ‘child protection plan’ and scheduled a child mental health assessment.

But using tickets booked under assumed names, Mrs Malik and her daughter caught a ferry to Ireland from a Welsh port.

Police arrested her husband for obstructing their investigation, and raided their Birmingham home in the hunt for Amaani.

Detectives even removed toothbrushes from their home to obtain DNA, in case the pair had been murdered.

Mrs Malik, who has a masters degree in social policy and has lived in Britain all her life, plans to stay in Ireland with her daughter until the family can raise enough money to start a new life in Dubai, out of the reach of the UK social services.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Fake “Conservatives” In Britain

Guess which political party is dedicated to funding “the training of an army of independent community organizers to help people establish and run neighborhood groups?” It’s the British Conservative Party.

This “conservative” movement has actually adopted the idea of creating a “Big Society” as an alternative to Big Government.

Making a complete mockery of the term “conservative,” the British Conservative Party also wants:

* A new “Big Society Bank,” * A “National Citizen Service,” * An annual “Big Society Day” to celebrate the work of neighborhood groups and encourage more people to take part in social action.

In reports on the upcoming May 6 British election, our media are referring to the dwindling prospects for victory of the “center-right” British Conservative Party. But this party is on the left, in terms of many domestic, social, and foreign policy issues, and is not “conservative” in any traditional sense. It offers voters very little alternative to the competing leftist parties.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: German Bishop Offers to Resign

Vatican City, 22 April (AKI) — Walter Mixa, the bishop of the southern Germany city of Augsburg, has tendered his resignation after being accused of hitting children. The Augsburg diocese said Thursday that Mixa wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI offering to quit to allow a “new start” for his diocese.

He initially denied having hit children before saying that he may have slapped them. On Tuesday he issued a statement of apology saying “it hurts my heart that so many people have been caused grief. I ask for forgiveness.”

The Catholic Church has recently come under fire for failing to protect children by turning paedophile priests over to police. According to news reports, the trail has led Benedict who failed to take he was pope and worked as a high-ranking cardinal who had the power to defrock priests.

Mixa was accused hitting the victims at a Catholic children’s home in the 1970s and 1980s and has not been accused of any sexual abuse.

The Vatican has not immediately said if it has accepted Mixa’s resignation.

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

Vatican Newspaper Answers Swiss Theologian Kung

(AGI) — Vatican City, 22 Apr. — In an open letter to Swiss theologian Hans Kung, published on the front page as an editorial, the Osservatore Romano says that in his attacks against the Pontiff “there is a question of style, which betrays the substance, hence the lack of acknowledgement of the primacy of charity, or of charity in truthfulness. If one has no charity one is an echoing bronze,” says the Holy See’s newspaper quoting the First Letter to the Corinthians.

According to the Osservatore, “truthfulness is necessary, but the greatest truth of all is charity, generously acknowledging the work of others, work that does not oppose or divide, that does not increase guilt, that is aware that all prophecies are imperfect.”

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Bill Clinton Explains How Middle East Utopia is Just Around the Corner, Just Tell Israel and Palestinians How to Make Peace

by Barry Rubin

We depend on your tax-deductible contributions. To make one, please send a check to: American Friends of IDC, 116 East 16th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10003. The check should be made out to “American Friends of IDC,” with “for GLORIA Center” in the memo line.

It’s truly amazing what some people say about the Middle East without anyone noticing the inaccuracies and contradictions. An interview former President Bill Clinton gave to the ABC news’ program “This Week” is a wonderful example of this situation.

As a friend of mine who’s a policy analyst just put it in evaluating another, roughly similar article: “Everyone should have views that approximate reality. There’s still plenty of room for argument within that space.”

I will now show, point by point, how almost everything Clinton said, however, is outside that space. Still, Clinton-who was an okay president-is savvy enough to make one terrific argument which shows he really does understand the shortcomings of Obama Administration policy.

Of course, as a fellow former president, a Democrat, and husband of a certain secretary of state, Clinton isn’t going to trash the current government’s stances. But his statements force him into saying some very silly things. I will give you one point for each of them you spot. Read each paragraph, think of one or more major problems with it, and then read my analysis.

“If [Obama] decides to [issue his own peace plan], I will support it,” said Clinton, suggesting that such an action would be like what he did at the Camp David meeting and later in the Clinton peace plan, both in 2000.

What’s wrong with this?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Israeli Athletes to Run in Bethlehem for First Time

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 23 — On April 25, for the first time, Israeli athletes will enter Bethlehem for the start, together with Palestinian and Italian athletes, of a marathon to Jerusalem. On that day, the check point that has divided the two cities — Israelis cannot enter Bethlehem, in the Palestinian Territories, for security reasons — for two decades will be opened. Three women’s volleyball teams — one Israeli, one Palestinian and one Italian team — will play a tournament on the city’s square. These are the main novelties of the 2010 Peace Games. The Games have been organised since 2003 by ‘Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP)’ and by the Italian Sports Centre. In the seventh year of the event new sports have been added (running, swimming, cycling, volleyball), the number of participants is higher (more than 700) and new walls are ‘torn down’. “We are making a dream come true” explained Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, vice president of ORP, in an unusual press conference at the gate of Fiumicino Airport, in the presence of the athletes and pilgrims ready to leave for the Holy Land. One thing is still missing in this dream, he added: this year Israel was asked to allow 50 young Palestinian athletes to leave the Gaza Strip to join the other athletes in Bethlehem. “We are still waiting for Israel’s approval”, said Andreatta, asking Israel’s leaders again to make this gesture of pacification. The event started quietly seven years ago but more and more sponsors have jointed the event: many ministries of the Vatican, the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, the Italian Foreign Office and many Italian ministries, RAI, the Israeli and Palestinian Ministries of Tourism and of Arts and Culture. The revenues of the event will be allocated to Palestinian hospitals and welfare centres in the Holy Land. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tel Aviv Airport Checks, 110,000 Suspected Per Year

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 23 — 300 cases per day, i.e. 110,000 per year. This is the total number of people undergoing in-depth questioning in 2009 by the Israeli security services at the Ben Gurion airport of Tel Aviv because they resulted as potentially suspect. The news was reported by daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot on the basis of a report produced by the office of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Ministry, which denounces the scope of controls as excessive and which urges reform. The newspaper reports that in 2009, 2.2 million people transited through the airport, amongst which 1,600 were rejected by Israel as undesirable. But for the others, the newspaper says, the experience was often so negative that it forced them to declare that they would never return to Israel. In particular, the newspaper highlights the case of Vittorio Sgarbi, mayor of Salemi and art critic, who recently described his tribulations with the security services at Tel Aviv airport to the Italian press. In the report quoted by the newspaper, it is admitted that the treatment that visitors are subjected to is often unreasonable and that an exhaustive reform is required. According to Yediot Ahronot, part of the confusion is to be attributed to the multiplicity of bodies that request in-depth reports: these include Shin Bet (internal security), the police and the Interior Ministry which tries to fight the phenomenon of illegal workers. In an attempt to improve the situation, the authors of the report propose the setting up of a special privileged passage for diplomats, guests of Israel and prestigious businessmen. The setting up of an operations room is proposed where the various Israeli organs in charge of identifying people entering the country would be represented. The conditions of the rooms used for questioning should also be improved says the report. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanon: Sfeir: Everyone, Including Hezbollah, Must Obey the Rules

The Maronite Patriarch has left Beirut to meet the Pope and participate in the preparatory work of the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East. “If we are talking about abolishing confessional politics, why not abolish all confessionalism?”

Beirut (AsiaNews) — There certainly is a need for coordination “among all the living forces of Lebanon” and also between the army and Hezbollah, but, according to the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, “these forces must obey the rules. We must respect the rules that the government and public opinion consider mandatory. “

Before his departure from Beirut for Rome yesterday to attend the preparatory work of the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East and meet with Benedict XVI, Cardinal. Sfeir met with journalists who made a series of questions on topics of current national interest, including, with respect to coordination of “living forces”, his opinion on the inclusion of the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons in national dialogue. “I have no intention — was his response — of allowing you to force me into commenting on certain details”.

The patriarch instead commented on the repeated request by Speaker of the House, Nabih Berry for the abolition of the confessional political system according to which votes and government offices are divided on the basis of religious confessions (for example the President of the Republic is a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni and the Speaker of Parliament a Shiite.) “Some — the opinion of the cardinal — contend that since we are talking about abolishing confessional politics, we should completely abolish confessionalim.” And “if everyone agrees on abolition, we will not be an obstacle.”

To a certain degree the upcoming local elections are linked to this theme, for which the Patriarch expressed the hope that “they will be conducted in an atmosphere of calm,” because “the contrasts in municipalities may be worse than on a national level.”

Card. Sfeir concluded by pointing to the absence of a representative of the Patriarchate at the meeting organized by the embassy earlier this week in Syria. An invitation “probably was sent to us, but is was impossible to appoint a bishop” to represent Bkerke.

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

Press Ban Issued for Siirt Rape Case in Turkey

A local court in the southeastern Anatolian province of Siirt has imposed a ban on media coverage of an alleged rape case involving the sexual abuse of children, the Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday evening.

Media coverage of the case is compromising confidentiality during the ongoing investigation, the court said, adding that press reports have made it seem as if some suspects were already convicted of the crimes they are accused of committing.

Siirt Gov. Necati Sentürk meanwhile announced that two inspectors from the Education Ministry and the Police Department have been called in to investigate the incident, in which four underage girls were allegedly raped over a period of two years by various local residents, including the deputy principal of the girls’ school.

Daily Hürriyet led with the story Wednesday and reported that local men in the city had been cooperating with the suspects for two years to cover up the alleged rapists’ actions.

Two of the girls have been taken under state protection and 16 people have been arrested in connection with the alleged crime. The number of suspects arrested may reportedly reach 100.

Çetin Soysal, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has also applied to the parliamentary commission on human rights to ask for an investigation of the alleged events in Siirt.

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

Reproduction of Rio’s Christ Redeemer in Iraq

The statue to launch a message of “peace and hope” for the entire country. The sculpture erected in Baghdeda and one-tenth the height of the original. Made by two of the city’s security guards for a cost of 130 dollars the result of donations of the faithful.

Hamdaniya (AsiaNews) — To send a message of “peace and hope” to the whole country, Christians in northern Iraq have erected a statue of Jesus, which recalls the statue of Christ Redeemer on Mount Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro. The sculpture is one-tenth the height of the original- 40 meters high — which dominates the Brazilian metropolis, but has become more destination for faithful and pilgrims.

On 10 April, Fr. Louis Kassab, chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs, unveiled the statue of the Iraqi Christ Redeemer (pictured). It has been placed at Baghdeda’s check point number 1,at the entrance to the municipal town of al-Hamdaniya in Nineveh governorate. Najib Attallah, head of the checkpoint where the statue stands, says that the idea came from his security guards. “In the past we have set up the crib at Christmas — says the man -. The guards wanted to build a statue for the celebration of Easter, along the lines of Christ Redeemer in Brazil. “

The construction lasted about a month and a half, the men devoting 18 hours of work per week. The work was carried out by two checkpoint guards, Alaa Nasir Kithya and Amaar Anaya, thanks to numerous donations and support from colleagues and faithful of the city. The final cost was 150 thousand dinars, slightly less than 130 dollars.

Bashar Jarjees Habash, coordinator of the Committee for Religious Affairs, stressed that the construction of the statue is a “message of peace for all.” “The statue is of stone — he says — and can be removed at any time, but the story of Iraqi Christians can not be erased.” We have a long history behind us, claims the man, and we “show our loyalty to Iraq.” Alaa Naser Matti, one of the volunteers who helped build the statue, adds that it “should last for 30 years. We wanted to colour it white, because it is the colour of peace, and we will repaint paint it every year. “

Last February in just 10 days eight Christians were killed in Mosul, capital of the governorate of Nineveh. Human rights activists have asked the central government and local government to increase security and protection for the faithful who are victims of a struggle for dominance in the area that involves Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, about 200 Christians have been killed in attacks or as a result of the attacks. A carnage that Pope Benedict XVI recalled at Easter, urging the Iraqi authorities to “do more” to protect the minority.

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

Turkey: Mediterranean Seal Attacked, Killed Near Bodrum

In the popular resort town of Yalikavak, near the Bodrum district, a Mediterranean seal in protected breeding waters was found beaten and shot to death.

An autopsy performed on Thursday revealed the seal, which was found dead at 5 p.m. Wednesday, was shot in the head and chest with a hunting rifle and slashed with a sharp object.

The 1.8-meter, 170-kilogram female seal was found on the beach by Sporkent-1 housing complex manager Muammer Asan and captain Üstün Mavi.

Asan and Mavi informed municipal officials and the body of the seal was taken by municipal patrols.

An autopsy performed by veterinarian Fulya Massozzi of the Underwater Research Society Mediterranean Seal Research Group, or SAD-AFAG, revealed that the seal was not only shot at but also beaten. “The seal has been hit on the head, neck and right shoulder with a sharp object; its blade bone and sternum are broken,” Massozzi told the Dogan news agency.

She said the seal did not have any markings that would reveal its identity, adding that there were three registered seals living off the Yalikavak shore. “We have never seen such a big seal around here, so we assume that it came to Yalikavak from Greece,” said Massozzi. “It is a very healthy and well fed animal, it is not possible to understand why someone wants to kill a seal.” She said the seal belonged to the “monacus monacus” family, a species that is very rare in Turkey and has an overall population of around 540.

Yalikavak Mayor Mustafa Saruhan, a member the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said the incident was unacceptable. “The seal must have been attacked in the sea, because Küdür Peninsula, the living and breeding area of the Mediterranean seal, is a protected zone and constantly observed both from the land and the sea,” said the mayor.

Mavi said the seal might have been attacked by the keepers of one of the fish farms located between Yalikavak and Didim. “Sometimes the seals try to eat the fish in the farms and are not welcomed by farm owners, as they damage the nets,” said Mavi. The seals are wild animals and approaching them with a boat to harm them would be very difficult, he added.

Gendarmerie forces in Yalikavak have launched an investigation on land for the incident while Bodrum Coast Guard performs a search operation on the sea.

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

TV Mystic Lingers in Saudi Jail

CAIRO — The sorcerer still has his head.

But for how long?

For more than two years, Ali Hussain Sibat of Lebanon has been held in a prison in Saudi Arabia, convicted of sorcery and sentenced to death. His head is to be chopped off by an executioner wielding a long, curved sword.

His crime: manipulating spirits, predicting the future, concocting potions and conjuring spells on a call-in television show called “The Hidden” on a Lebanese channel, Scheherazade. It was, in effect, a Middle Eastern psychic hot line.

“Sorcery is the ability to influence matters that affect people’s lives through the use of spirits,” said Abdulaziz AlGasim, a retired Saudi judge. “It is impossible to prove such an act except through confession, and confessions are suspect.”

The authorities say that Mr. Sibat confessed.

Several times in recent months, Mr. Sibat’s lawyer, his wife and his four children were told he would, any day, be escorted to a public square for his beheading. And several times, the execution was postponed after an outcry from international human rights groups and the Lebanese government.

Mr. Sibat’s odyssey through the Saudi justice system began in 2008, when he traveled to the kingdom to perform what is called an umra, or a minor pilgrimage, in the holy city of Mecca. He was arrested in a sting operation staged by the religious police, men with long beards and ankle-length gowns who technically have no authority to arrest but who wield tremendous power in the conservative kingdom. He was jailed after agreeing to give a woman a potion so that her husband would divorce a second wife.

The religious police said they recorded the transaction.

Shortly after his arrest Mr. Sibat appeared on a Saudi television talk show and confessed to sorcery. “Most of my treatments were with honey and seeds,” he said. “You would put the charm in the honey and drink from it.” Since then, he has remained in prison, and in 2009 he was sentenced to death. His Lebanese lawyer, May el-Khansa, said that he confessed only because he was assured that if he did so he would be released. There have been some indications he will be spared by King Abdullah and let go, she said, though that remains uncertain…

           — Hat tip: DC[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Netherlands: Police Chiefs Back Afghan Training Mission

Dutch police chiefs back a proposal to sent 50 trainers to Afghanistan to help train local police officers, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

Not only would this benefit the local population but would allow Dutch police officer to develop contacts in the world’s biggest source of heroin, a spokesman told the paper. Some 18 Dutch police trainers are already working in the country as part of a European initiative.

A slim majority of MPs backs a compromise proposal by the left wing greens GroenLinks and D66 Liberals to send a ‘sizeable’ police mission to Afghanistan to train local officers.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said the proposal should bring an end to the ‘deafening silence’ about Afghanistan since the cabinet fell over the issue in February.

Labour pulled out of the coalition because it opposed any continuation in the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan, despite US and Nato pressure on the Netherlands to stay. It also opposes the police training compromise.

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

Pakistan: Hostage Says He Was a ‘CIA Mole’

Islamabad, 23 April (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — A former Pakistani intelligence official kidnapped by a previously unknown militant group called the Asian Tigers last month has confessed to being a ‘CIA mole’. The group released five video clips in which Khalid Khawaja admits to involvement in both the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

“I am known to the media and the masses as a well-bred gentleman but in fact I was an ISI and CIA mole,” Khawaja said in one video clip recorded in Urdu.

Khawaja, now a human rights activist, and Asad Quereshi a British TV journalist of Pakistani origin, were kidnapped in the volatile Pakistani region of North Waziristan close to the Afghan border in March.

There are grave fears for their safety after militants threatened to kill both hostages.

The clips appear to have been heavily edited, with some of Khawaja’s sentences cut short. At times it appears that a frail Khawaja, in his early 60s, is under severe stress.

In the latest videos, Khawaja also confessed to being involved in a purported scheme with Maulana Fazlur Rahman, leader of the country’s largest Islamic party, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and the Grand Mufti of Pakistan Mufti Rafi Usmani and other scholars to eliminate the radical Islamist Lal Masjid movement in Islamabad.

Khawaja confesses to a scheme to bring down the radical movement that had become centered around Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the capital, Islamabad. By mid-2007, the movement had become increasingly aggressive.

The Red Mosque siege, in which up to 170 people were killed, provoked a fierce reaction among militants.

Khawaja confessed to luring Maulana Abdul Aziz, the prayer leader of the Lal Masjid mosque, to a trap through a phone call which led to his arrest.

“I remember the burnt bodies of the innocent boys and girls of the Lal Masjid…I called Maulana Abdul Aziz (the prayer leader of the mosque) and forced him to come out of the mosque wearing a woman’s veil and gown and that’s how I got him arrested.”

He also named top jihadist commanders including Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil (who founded the International Islamic Front with Osama Bin Laden in 1998) and others as ISI’s agents, who it has given a free hand to collect of funds and other activities inside Pakistan.

In an email message sent earlier, militants who called themselves the Asian Tigers sought the release of recently arrested Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Bradar and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah in exchange for the release of Khawaja and another hostage and former ISI official known as Colonel Imam, alias Sultan Amir Tarrar.

But the Afghan Taliban has completely distanced itself from the abduction and Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid openly attacked the unknown militant group, and called on members to identify themselves.

The Taliban said it was working for the release of both former ISI officers.

Khawaja recently filed a petition in the Lahore High Court challenging Bradar’s arrest and the court blocked his handover to the US and Afghan governments.

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

Far East

China Builds World’s Highest Dam, India Fears Water Theft

The dam will rise to 3,260 meters, on Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra, for Indians) using special materials and techniques. But India notes that the river is essential to the lives of millions of people and calls for assurances that Beijing does not seem to want to give. For that zone a war was fought that has never officially ended.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — China has admitted that it is building a dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River. The river originates in Tibet, but then flows into India where it is called Brahmaputra and is a major water source for millions of people. Moreover, the dam will be built in the area near the border disputed between the two countries.

China outlined the project this month, in a private meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna. The dam will be built in Zangmu at a height of 3,260 meters, in the Shannan Prefecture in Tibet and nearby four other dams will also be built in the valley between Jiacha and Sangro counties. Official sources said yesterday that the overall capacity of the dams will be “several times” more than the gigantic Three Gorges Dam. Because of its altitude, the area is often subjected to extreme weather conditions and special materials and technologies will be used, developed by the Chinese space agency. For example special cement made at the laboratories of the Xichang satellite launch Centre.

Beijing plans to draw from the Dangmu dam no less than 500 megawatts of electricity to meet the growing demand for Guangdong and Hong Kong and sell it to neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Laos and Cambodia.

India is however very worried about the plan, fearing a decrease in the flow of the river water in India and the destruction of the Himalayas ecosystem. Above all the agriculture and industry of the north-eastern states of India depend heavily on the Brahmaputra river.

In addition, with this project China will directly control more than 90 thousand square meters of land the sovereignty of which is disputed between India and China, who fought a war that has never formally ended and who still station armed forces in the area. China responds that the dam will allow it to develop clean energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions resulting from coal fired power plants.

Experts say that, however, Beijing has not responded to Indian concerns over the decline of the Brahmaputra river. Indian sources have observed that even if the dam is located in Chinese territory, however, international law provides that the work should not diminish the course of the river. Similarly, Beijing has never responded to the concerns of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia over the Chinese dams on the Mekong River in Yunnan.

India appears on the brink of raising its concerns at an international level.

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

China to Sterilise 10,000 to Curb Births

Health authorities are planning to sterilise nearly 10,000 people in southern China over the next four days as part of a population control programme.

Some of the people in Puning City will be forced to have the procedure carried out against their will.

Amnesty International says forced sterilisation “amounts to torture”.

Reports in the Chinese media say that Puning Health authorities in Guangdong Province have launched a special campaign to sterilise people who already have at least one child in order to ensure local birth control quotas are met.

Chinese newspaper reports say that those who refuse to be sterilised have seen their elderly mothers or fathers taken away and detained.

Hundreds of people in Puning are said to have been locked up.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Muslim Minister-Designate Calls for State School Crucifix Ban

The designated social minister in Lower Saxony — Germany’s first woman Muslim state minister — has called for crucifixes to be removed from state schools, saying they have as little place there as headscarves.

“Christian symbols do not belong in state schools. School should be a neutral place,” said Aygül Özkan, who is a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and will be made Lower Saxony’s social minister next week.

She also stressed her support for the ban on headscarves in such schools — as well as accepting that church schools would be an exception from a crucifix ban.

Özkan told Focus news magazine she had negotiated with Lower Saxony State Premier Christian Wulff, also from the CDU, to incorporate responsibility for integration into her new job, taking it from the interior ministry.

“I clearly said that I would like to take over the area of integration which was until now in the interior ministry,” she said.

The 38-year-old intends to shake things up in the state, and has also called for fellow Turkish-Germans to make more effort to integrate.

Last week she told Die Zeit newspaper she wanted to see migrants making more of an effort. “One has to approach people,” she said. “It’s important that one takes the first step especially when one is foreign or looks foreign. We isolate ourselves too much.”

She appealed to young immigrants in particular, saying, “I am not accusing anyone who does not know the German system, or themselves have not been to school. But I cannot accept it when young people do not take the chances that are offered to them. We must remember why our parents came to Germany — so that things are better for the children.”

She has received several threats since being picked to become social minister by the CDU, prompting the state police to provide her with protection, including body guards.

A successful manager, Özkan joined the CDU in 2004 and quickly rose through the regional ranks of the party to reach the Hamburg city council in 2008.

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

UK: Atheist Given Asbo for Leaflets Mocking Jesus

By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent

An atheist who left leaflets mocking Jesus Christ, Islam and the Pope in an airport’s prayer room has been given an Asbo.

Harry Taylor, 59, from Higher Broughton, Salford, left the anti-religious posters in prayer rooms at Liverpool John Lennon Airport in November and December 2008.

Taylor denied three counts of causing religiously aggravated harassment during his trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

But he was found guilty by a jury and given a suspended six-month sentence yesterday, as well as an Asbo forbidding him from carrying anti-religious leaflets in public.

One of the posters Taylor left at the airport depicted a smiling crucified Christ next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue. In another, a cartoon depicted two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: “Not for women or gays, obviously.” A third poster showed Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise being told: “Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins”.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, has been left angry over the conviction.

“The six month sentence may have been suspended, but it is still totally out of proportion for what Mr Taylor did. The professional ‘offence takers’ in religious communities will now feel that they have a strong weapon to use against anyone who is critical or disapproving of them. It is, in effect, a blasphemy law that covers all religions and is much more powerful than the one which was abolished two years ago.”

           — Hat tip: EscapeVelocity[Return to headlines]