Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100505

Financial Crisis
»Bourse: Europe Cuts Losses With Wall Street, Athens -3.9%
»California: Plunge in State Revenue Dashes Hopes of an Easy Budget Fix
»Effort to Expand Audits of Fed Picks Up Steam in Senate
»Greece: Communists Occupy Acropolis, Europe Rise Up
»Greece: Central Bank Governor, Madness to Leave Euro
»Greece: Protests and Clashes Against Austerity Plan
»Greece Paralysed by General Strike
»Greece: Reform Starts With Civil Servant Census
»Italy Must Continue Reforms, OECD Says
»Merkel’s Coalition Calls for EU ‘Orderly’ Defaults
»Portugal: Possible Downgrading, Moody’s
»Rehn: In Spain: Only Speculation Must be Eliminated
»Southern Euro Countries Should Limit State Spending
»Spain Rescue Rumours ‘Complete Madness’, Zapatero
»Spain: Tax Consolidation Plan at EU Summit
»The Fed Must be Audited: The Fraudulent Practices of the Federal Reserve
»UK Budget Deficit ‘To Surpass Greece’s as Worst in EU’
»Change! NATO Commanders Want New “Courageous Restraint” Award to Honor Those Who Avoid Using Their Weapons
»Christian Question: ‘Interfaith Dialogue’ Or ‘Useful Idiots’?
»Illinois Senator Wants to Imprison Gun Owners
»New Campaign to Mobilize Turkish-American Community
»Obama National Security Policy: Hope Their Bombs Don’t Work
»Taliban on Jihad Inside U.S.
»The Constitution and the Times Square Car Bomber
»Wake Up, America: Democrats Aren’t Democrats Anymore, They’re Communists
»Was the Time Square Bomb Only a Test?
Europe and the EU
»Citing Turkey Threat, Greece Still Spending Billions on Defense
»Clashes in Greece, 3 Dead at a Bank in Athens
»Culture: Trevor-Roper and Gibbon
»France: Farmers’ Protest, Oyster Shells Dumped on Bridge
»Germany: Berlin Exhibition Explores Jewish Roots of Comics
»Greece: Merkel: No Decision Without Germany
»Greece: Deaths: Premier, Appeal for National Unity
»Hungary: Jobbik is Much Harder to Control Than Its Predecessors
»Ireland: Dreaming of an Islamist Ireland
»Italy: Andreotti Convicted of Slandering Judge
»Italy: PM Ally Resigns Over Corruption Claims
»Italy: Sisters Who Sold Flat to Scajola Hand Over Proof of 80 Banker’s Drafts
»Italy: Ministers Clash Over House Arrest Plan
»Muslim Scholars on Voting — (From the Allah.EU Web Site)
»Muslims in CR Seek Complaint Against Zeman
»Netherlands: Prosecutor to Appeal Against Holocaust Cartoon Verdict
»Spain: 445 Bln Property Lending Hanging Over Banks
»Star Alliance Increases Presence in Italy
»Swedes Recruited by Somali Terror Group
»UK: £20,000 Benefits So This Father of Seven Can Keep His Children in Video Games… And Pay His Huge Booze Bill
»UK: Grandmother Killed by Schizophrenic in Random Stabbing as She Went to Play Skittles
»UK: Gipsies Can Ignore Green Belt Laws: Rules Put Their Human Rights Above Local Residents
»UK: How Voting Tactically Can Save US From a Hung Parliament
»UK: Smoking Bag Removed From US Flight
»UK: The EU Migration Lie: Official Statistics Expose Huge Gap Between PM’s Figures and Truth
»UK: The Uppingham Revolt: Pupils Stage Mass Mutiny Over Sixth-Form Expulsions
»UK: Tory Peer Launches Bizarre Attack on Muslim MPs.
»UK: Woman Drink-Driver Nearly Four Times Over the Limit Left £45,000 Trail of Destruction (But Escapes Jail)
»UK: Young Father Has Face Sliced Open in Race Attack as His Terrified Son, 5, Looks on
»Serbia: 720.000 People Below Poverty Line, Figures
North Africa
»Algeria: Protests in France for Women in Hassi Messaoud
»Sahara: 15 Countries in Africom Manoeuvres
Israel and the Palestinians
»UNRWA: Funds Sufficient Until September 2010
Middle East
»Iran President Backs Brazil Plan for Nuclear Fuel Swap
»Is the U.S. Diplomatic and Intelligence Community Being Brainwashed in Dealing With Islamism?
»Jordan: Riots in Amman Over Killing of Civilian by Police
»Sanction-Busting Secret Deal Reveals Iran’s Nuclear Weakness and Ambition
»Saudi Arabia: In the Battle for Women’s Rights, King Abdullah is Photographed With 40 Women
»Syria-USA: Renewed Sanctions, Press in Damascus Against Obama
»Turkish Leaders Continue Debate Over Inönü-Hitler Comparison
»Turkish FM Opens New Tirade Against Israel
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Somalia: Islamists Advance on Pirate Stronghold
Latin America
»“Cuba Si! — Arizona No!” Says Mexican President Felipe Calderon (Among Many Others)
»Illegal Immigrants Cost Feds More Than $10 Billion a Year
»Italy Gives Egypt Two Motorboats to Stop Migrants
»Italy: Only 52 Arrivals in 1st 3 Months 2010
Culture Wars
»UK: Gays Abandoned by Left’s Appeasement
»Overpopulation is a Myth
»Scientists Create Molecular Computer

Financial Crisis

Bourse: Europe Cuts Losses With Wall Street, Athens -3.9%

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MAY 5 — European stock markets remained negative today but made up some ground on the session minimums, partly thanks to the strength of Wall Street. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600, despite pressure over fears that other Euro-zone countries could be affected by the Greek crisis, reduced its losses to less than one percentage point. Frankfurt cut its losses to 0.5%, while Paris and London yielded about 1.3%. Milan dropped 1.2%. The worst exchange lists remain those in Madrid, Portugal and Ireland (-2%), naturally excluding Greece, which did however rise from its lowest levels and is now easing at 3.9%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

California: Plunge in State Revenue Dashes Hopes of an Easy Budget Fix

Legislators were hoping revenue would continue to exceed projections, forestalling deeper cuts and further tax hikes. But April’s total was 30% below what was expected, leaving them with few options.

State tax collections plummeted unexpectedly in April, wiping out months of steady gains that legislators hoped would ease their budget troubles and restore California’s economy faster than experts predicted.

Such hope is now fading fast.

Revenue for April, the biggest revenue month because it is when most Californians pay their taxes, lagged projections by nearly 30% — roughly $3 billion, according to state officials. The drop was steep enough to erase improvements recorded in each of the four previous months.

Economists and finance officials are scurrying to analyze the data to determine what caused the April swoon. Some suspect it sprang from new laws that changed the rhythm of tax payments. It could also reflect the growth in unemployed residents eligible for refunds.

The April collections came almost entirely from personal income taxes. Most corporate and sales taxes have not yet been reported. If they, too, come in below projections, the state’s budget problem would grow worse.

The decline sets Sacramento back as next month’s deadline for passing a budget approaches. Lawmakers face a deficit of $18.6 billion — about 20% of general fund spending — with no easy options left for addressing it, as they have already cut state services severely and temporarily raised income, sales and vehicle taxes.

“One pillar of the budget solution just got destroyed, and there’s nothing that can happen between now and June that can get back the $3 billion,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

The retraction could mean even deeper cuts in government services — schools, healthcare for the poor and services for the elderly. Lawmakers may also be forced to consider more reductions in funds for public universities, as well as tax hikes.

“It’s hard to imagine how we’re going to [balance the budget] without doing more severe damage to the economy,” said state Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), who chairs the Senate’s budget committee.

For months, the Democrats who dominate the Legislature have hoped they would be able to balance the state’s books with the help of an upswing in revenue, delaying any substantial budget cuts.

“Folks were starting to be pretty optimistic that we were going to be able to bounce our way back from a big chunk of the problem,” said Michael Cohen, a deputy in the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Taxes came in above expectations each month from December through March.

“April basically wiped out those” gains, Cohen said.

He said the state’s economy, though on the mend, has been sending “all sorts of mixed messages.” Corporations announced higher profits, but the state’s stubborn unemployment rate reached a new high in March, 12.6%. Without jobs, Californians are paying fewer taxes and buying fewer goods, which depresses sales taxes.

To balance last year’s budget, lawmakers tinkered heavily with the state tax code, speeding up the collection of taxes on businesses and individuals. One theory about the April revenue plunge is that those accelerated collections meant some taxes rolled into the Treasury months earlier.

“The more changes that you make, the more unpredictable it is,” said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills).

Another possibility, economists said, is that many Californians were owed larger-than-expected income tax refunds after losing their jobs in 2009.

Whether the revenue drop augurs an especially sluggish recovery is unclear. Fred Silva, a budget analyst with the good-government group California Forward, said the woeful April returns may reflect taxpayer income from the previous year’s recession — not an up-to-date snapshot of the economy.

Ted Gibson, a former state economist, said this was not the first time rising revenue has been followed by a plunge. The flow of state tax revenue, he said, is notoriously hard to predict.

He said the jolt earlier in the year merely “gave everybody an excuse to take a timeout on dealing with the budget. Now they are pretty much back to where they were. And unfortunately, very little has been done in the meantime.”

Senate budget committee Vice Chairman Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who has been critical of Democrats’ approach, said, “It’s creating a lot of pain the longer you wait to make the necessary changes.”

The Legislature’s top two Democrats, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), spent Monday in Washington, pleading for aid from congressional and Obama administration officials. Steinberg said before leaving that their goal was to gather federal commitments for $3 billion to $4 billion.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to update his proposed budget on May 14. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Effort to Expand Audits of Fed Picks Up Steam in Senate

A contentious effort to expand audits of the Federal Reserve that sailed through the House despite heavy criticism appears to be picking up steam as the Senate considers broad new financial regulations.

Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) is pushing an amendment to the financial overhaul bill before the Senate that would broaden the Government Accountability Office’s power to audit the Fed and compel the central bank to disclose details about the firms that received emergency federal aid during the financial crisis.

“The American people have a right to know who has received $2 trillion of their money, and they have a right to have the GAO do an audit about potential conflicts of interest,” Sanders said Tuesday. The Fed has “operated in secrecy forever, and they are now playing a role significantly different than they have in the past. I think the American people want to know what is going on,” he added.

Sanders’s measure reflects legislation introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) — who has harshly criticized the Fed for decades — and approved overwhelmingly by the House last year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece: Communists Occupy Acropolis, Europe Rise Up

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Around 100 militants from the communist union PAME have today symbolically occupied the Acropolis in Athens on which they have hung a huge banner that reads “Peoples of Europe, rise up”. The action coincides with the start today of 48 hours of strikes (which PAME is taking part in) by public employees against the new austerity plan approved by the Government under George Papandreou. Workers from the private sector will join the strikes tomorrow bringing planes, trains, urban transport, schools, hospitals, banks and public offices grinding to a halt in the third general strike this year.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Central Bank Governor, Madness to Leave Euro

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 4 — The rumours of a potential exit by Greece from the European single currency are “pure madness” and the restructuring of Greek debt would be a “criminal” act because it would push other countries not to trust Athens for years to come, the governor of the Central Bank of Greece, George Provopoulos, has said in an interview with the Greek channel Skai, quoted by Bloomberg. The governor added that the Greek banks are stable and safe with capitals greater than the European average.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Protests and Clashes Against Austerity Plan

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 5 — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets today in Athens, Thessaloniki and other Greek cities for a general strike against the austerity plan, paralysing the country. Clashes took place between small groups of demonstrators, who threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and police, who responded with tear gas, in Athens, in front of the Parliament building, and in Thessaloniki and Patras. No injuries have been reported. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Paralysed by General Strike

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 5 — Today Greece is paralysed by a general strike against the austerity measures that will be voted tomorrow in Parliament, and to ask for those responsible for the crisis to be punished. After the demonstration and strike called yesterday by the union of civil servants Adedy and communist union Pame, today the protest becomes a general one as the private sector union Gsee joins the strike. The strike, the third since the start of the crisis and the first since the announcement of new austerity measures, causes an information black-out due to the journalist strike, and blocks air, train, sea and urban transport (though some urban transport continues for the benefit of arriving demonstrators). Hospitals, schools, banks, public offices and shops (except in Athens) also remain closed. Not only the union, but also the political opposition criticizes the austerity plan, starting with New Democracy (ND, centre-right). The opposition will vote against the plan in Parliament, with the exception of small far-right party Laos. However the plan is guaranteed to be approved due to the majority of 160 seats on a total of 300 of government party Pasok. The plan that has been agreed with EU-IMF in exchange for 110 billion euros in three years, includes budget cuts of 30 billion euros over three years through wage freezes, pension cuts and tax reforms, including a VAT increase and higher taxes on fuel, alcohol, cigarettes and luxury goods. It is also made easier to dismiss employees in the private sector thanks to the reduction of severance pay. Workers, employees, farmers, students, teachers and pensioners protest today against the plan, together with the entire political left and the anarchist movement, with marches and demonstrations across the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Reform Starts With Civil Servant Census

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 5 — The chronic disorganisation of Greek’s civil service is one of the biggest and most urgent problems which Premier Giorgio Papandreu has to resolve in the draconic and unpopular reconstruction plan issued to rescue Greece from bankruptcy. On Monday night, the Premier announced that a census of all civil servants will have to be concluded this year because, as Finance Minister Giorgio Papacostantinou admitted, “we don’t know how many civil servants we are paying”. Each public sector worker has to fill out a digital form with his or her data and send it per e-mail to the personnel department. If the employee fails to do this, Papandreou promised, “they will not be paid”. Disorganisation and apathy are not the only problems however. Mid-January, Papandreou proposed an ambitious plan for structural reforms of local administrations, with the title ‘Kallikrates’ (after the name of one of the Parthenon’s architects). But the project was seriously criticised by most of the directly interested. The mayor of the Ellinikò district in the southern outskirts of Athens, Christos Kortzidis, even called a hunger strike five days ago to protest against the plan. ‘Kallikrates’ aims to redraw the country’s administrative borders and cut bureaucracy on local level through the elimination of 76 prefectures (provinces) in which Greece is divided today, replacing them with 13 larger administrative regions led by a governor. In line with this reorganisation, the 1,034 existing municipalities will be reduced to fewer than 370. In the context of the same plan Citizens’ Service Centres (KEP) will be instituted in rural areas to carry out bureaucratic procedures with the use of a Smart Card. But ‘Kallikrates’, which will be examined in Parliament by the end of this month and will have to be enforced before the general elections on November 14, was also criticised by six Ministers in the Papandreou government. They fear that the politicians who will be chosen to lead the 13 new regions will be more powerful than the local deputies. The new governor of Attica (which includes Athens) for example, will be responsible for more than 4 million inhabitants, which will make him or her politically very influential. Despite the fact that ‘Kallikrates’ has not been designed to cut public spending, it is estimated that it will save almost 2 billion euros, though the merger of some local administrations will inevitably lead to job losses. Nikitas Kaklamanis, the popular mayor of Athens and chairman of the central union of Greek municipalities and districts (KEDKE) yesterday spoke out against this prospect, saying that the expected savings are exaggerated. He guaranteed that “no employee will be dismissed by any municipality”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Must Continue Reforms, OECD Says

Important progress made in cutting red tape

(ANSA) — Paris, May 4 — Although Italy has made progress in modernising its economy, it must continue with reforms, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) presented here on Tuesday.

“Italy has made significant progress in reducing regulatory costs, liberalizing product markets and modernizing its public administration, but more needs to be done to bolster short-term growth, the OECD said.

The report was presented by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria together with Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti and Roberto Calderoli, the minister for administrative simplification.

According to Gurria, Rome’s commitment to reform has achieved good results but “further reforms are needed both to strengthen Italy’s short-term recovery from the crisis and to support long-term sustainable growth.” The OECD chief complimented Italy for slashing a large number of unnecessary laws and making it easier to start up new businesses. By cutting red tape, he added, Italy has created annual cost-savings of over four billion euros for businesses, especiall small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).

Calderoli said he was grateful for the appreciation the OECD had shown for his efforts and, joking, added “I was afraid you were unaware there existed a minister for administrative simplification”. Despite the progress it has made, the OECD report observed, Italy continues to face major challenges and still needs to achieve important goals. In order to grow faster, “Italy needs to boost productivity and it can do this by further reducing regulatory costs, especially in the electricity and gas, retail and professional services sectors. This could boost productivity by nearly 14% over ten years,” the OECD said. Aside from boosting productivity, Italy can become more competitive by, among other ways, giving its antitrust watchdog “the power to sanction associations more effectively, extending the timeline for merger investigations, and increasing resources for the Italian competition authority”.

According to the OECD, Italy should facilitate competition in and for local transport “through the creation of a national transport regulatory authority and adopt market-based regulations in all parts of the energy sector”.

Speaking at the presentation, Tremonti said that “when rules and regulations are effective they can help development, but if there are too many of them they will be an obstacle to development”.

Looking at the recent global economic downturn, Gurria praised Tremonti for resisting pressure to excessively boost public spending as a means to stimulate the economy. The OECD report also looked at immigration and said that foreign workers have contributed to Italy’s economic growth and their integration into the nation’s labor force was a “success story” for the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Merkel’s Coalition Calls for EU ‘Orderly’ Defaults

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition stepped up calls for allowing the “orderly” default of euro-region member states burdened with debt to avoid a repeat of the Greek fiscal crisis.

Floor leaders of the three coalition parties agreed in Berlin today to put a resolution to parliament alongside the bill on Greek aid calling for the European Union to revise rules for the euro to put pressure on countries that run deficits.

Merkel, who faces elections in Germany’s most populous state on May 9, is seeking to shift focus from the Greek bailout to drawing lessons from the euro’s biggest crisis. An “orderly insolvency” process would ensure that creditors participate in any future rescue, she said on ARD television yesterday.

“We quite urgently need something for the members of European Monetary Union that we also didn’t have during the banking crisis two years ago,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters yesterday. “Namely the possibility of a restructuring procedure in the event of looming insolvency that helps prevent systemic contagion risks.”

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Possible Downgrading, Moody’s

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 5 — Moody’s rating agency has decided to put Portugal’s merit credit rating under observation, with a view to a possible downgrading in the light of the country’s difficulties in reducing its budget deficit and in sustaining its economic recovery. The current rating of ‘Aa2’ corresponds to the third step in the classification of investment levels. “Today’s decision”, writes Moody’s in a note quoted by the Bloomberg agency, “reflects the recent deterioration in Portugal’s public finances and also the challenges for long-term economic growth”. The rating agency “considers that the greater risk assessment on the financial markets could produce an increase in the costs of financing Portugal in the near future”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Rehn: In Spain: Only Speculation Must be Eliminated

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Spain does not need financial assistance, but is the victim of speculation “which is limitless and which we must immediately extinguish,” said European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, commenting about “false” rumours yesterday about a possible mission of the IMF to Spain. Rehn said that speculation is reaching incredibly high levels: “No one can deny that there is tension, but it is also being exaggerated,” said Rehn. “Greece is a single and unique case in the EU,” he added. Today, the European Commission upwardly revised its forecasts for the Spanish GDP, which will end 2010 with a 0.4% decline compared to the previously forecasted 0.8% decrease, and will return to 0.8% growth in 2011, according to reports from Europa Press. Positive news in the middle of turbulent times on Europe’s stock markets. According to the Commission, the Spanish economy, although the only big economy in the Eurozone that will continue to be in a recession this year, will register zero growth in the first quarter of 2011 and will begin to grow again in the second quarter of next year.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Southern Euro Countries Should Limit State Spending

Countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain have grown complacent on cheap credit. They should try to ensure their private sector remains competitive.

With all the recent bad news on Europe, the careful signs of economic recovery on the continent are easily ignored. Last week, Germany showed its unemployment rate declined. A severe winter explains part of the drop, but so do the underlying economic fundamentals of the country. German competitiveness has improved considerably over the past decade and has boosted the results of German companies.

Across the eurozone, the mood on the economy seems to have improved. But the single figure for business and consumer confidence in the 16-nation currency block hides a dichotomy between, roughly, the north and the south. The same division can be seen in economic forecasts for this year and the next.

The difference between north and south is not caused by the negative effects of budget austerity measures proposed in Greece, Portugal and Spain alone. The separation took place a long time ago.

When joining the euro, countries such as Germany and the Netherlands realised they would be forced into a monetary straitjacke that would limit their options for improving their competitive position to structural measures. At the same time, many of the southern countries saw their interest rates fall to German levels. They took full advantage of this effect, but neglected to tend to their competitive edge. This resulted in a toxic cocktail of soaring labour costs, declining corporate profitability and a growing deficit on their trade and payment balance. The budget crisis now afflicting the eurozone has become critical because of the global credit crisis and the economic recession that followed. The basis for this disaster, however, was laid much earlier.

This has repercussions for the financial restructuring of the troubled countries now being conducted under pressure from financial markets. Increasing state income from taxes and other sources is a fairly easy way to balance the inflow and outflow of money. But it does little to address the main underlying problem: the loss of competitiveness. Measures aimed at drastically reducing the expenditure pattern of the state and local governments would be a much better option.

Doing so would be more painful for the citizens and therefore a harder political nut to crack. Yet a clean up of public spending is crucial. Over the last decade, an era of war, growth of public spending in most Western countries has outpaced that of the economy as a whole. A powerful economy, however, should be based on a thriving private sector, not on a big a role of the state. This should be the message to the southern euro countries that need to structurally improve their position in relation to their northern neighbours to prevent a recurrence of the current crisis.


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

Spain Rescue Rumours ‘Complete Madness’, Zapatero

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 4 — Spanish Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has called the market rumours of a 280 billion euro rescue plan for Spain, similar to the aid plan for Greece, “complete madness” and “strange nonsense”. These speculations caused the Spanish stock market and the Ibex index to nosedive in the afternoon, falling 5% to less than 10,000 points. In a press conference in Brussels after the meetings with the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompury, and of the European Commission, José Manuel Durao Barroso, Zapatero — quoted by Europa Press — denounced the speculations. He said that he has “faith” in the “solidity and solvency of Spain’s public finances” and in the country’s capacity of economic recovery. The socialist leader, president of the EU, also asked Greek citizens to have faith in the rescue plan agreed with EU and IMF. He underlined that at this moment “shared responsibility and solidarity” are called for. Zapatero pointed out that Europe “is a decisive point of reference”, helping Greece despite the fact that it is not responsible for the start of the crisis, which was caused by mistakes of the financial markets, by a lack of regulation and by “excessive ambition”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Tax Consolidation Plan at EU Summit

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 5 — To mark the occasion of the meeting between the heads of state and of government of the Eurogroup on Friday, during which the aid plan for Greece will be confirmed, Spain “will ratify its commitment and determination” for the euro and “with the stability and growth agreement”, through the tax consolidation plan approved by the European Commission. So announced today the Spanish Prime Minister and current EU President, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in a press conference at Moncloa Palace. The restructuring of the financial system, the reduction of public deficit and the reform of the employment market were the three priorities insisted on by the leader of the People’s Party, Mariano Rajoy, during the two-and-a-quarter hour meeting with the head of the government, at the end of which the two leaders held separate press conferences. Zapatero reasserted that the government “will reach with determination” the objective of reducing deficit to 3% in 2013, as it is already doing this year, and ensured said “there are reasons for confidence”. “Real figures and not rumours,” he emphasised, in reference to those spread yesterday that dragged the European stock markets down. Among “the facts”, the Prime Minister mentioned the increase in industrial output, consumption and state income and though, “very weakly”, of employment. These signs could be added to in the next few days by a recovery in economic growth. Mariano Rajoy said that a “coherent plan” is needed to avoid a similar situation to that of Greece and repeated that the three priorities mentioned — cuts on spending and public deficit, restructuring of the financial system and the reform of the employment market — must be carried out “immediately”, “because time has run out”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Fed Must be Audited: The Fraudulent Practices of the Federal Reserve

In March 2004, when Alan Greenspan was Fed chairman, he suppressed the opinions of those Fed officials who knew that there was a housing bubble.

Congressman Alan Grayson points out that — because the Fed unilaterally decided to hand out half a trillion to foreigners without any Congressional oversight, and that Bernanke testified that he didn’t know who got the loot — the Fed must be subject to an audit.

Yves Smith and Tom Adams — in analyzing the Fed’s lack of full disclosures regarding its extraordinary rescue operations — conclude:

Even a cursory inspection of the Fed’s disclosures of its extraordinary rescue operations shows them to have been made only under duress, and then to be incomplete and deliberately unhelpful.

The reason this matters, is that, contrary to the Fed’s claims of independence, it has been operating as an extra-legal off balance sheet entity of the Treasury, circumventing normal Constitutionally-stipulated budget processes. And rather than make adjustments in its practices to reflect its enlarged and now overtly political role, the Fed has instead been engaging in cynical, blatant misrepresentation, giving lip service to the idea of greater transparency in public, while fighting disclosure tooth and nail.

Since the Fed has entered into an openly political stance (and this dates back to Greenspan) and cannot be relied upon to make truthful and complete disclosures, the only recourse is to put it on a much shorter leash, which includes greater scrutiny, including third party validation. The Fed has brought on the audit demands via the unabashed and repeated abuse of its privileged role.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK Budget Deficit ‘To Surpass Greece’s as Worst in EU’

European commission’s spring forecasts put UK budget deficit this year at 12% of GDP — the highest in the European Union and worse than Treasury estimates

The UK budget deficit will swell this year to overtake Greece, becoming the worst in the European Union, the European commission said today in a stark warning on the eve of the election.

The commission’s spring economic forecasts put the UK deficit for this calendar year at 12% of GDP, the highest of all 27 EU nations and worse than the Treasury’s own forecasts.

The country’s budget shortfall was the third largest in the EU last year but will overtake both Greece and Ireland this year, according to the forecasts. Greece’s measures to tackle its public finances problems are seen cutting the deficit there to 9.3% of GDP.

Worries about Britain’s public finances — in their worst state since the end of the second world war — continue to unnerve financial markets and analysts are divided over whether a hung parliament will have the clout to rapidly reduce the deficit.

“The first thing for the new government to do is to agree on a convincing, ambitious programme of fiscal consolidation in order to start to reduce the very high deficit and stabilise the high debt level of the UK,” said European economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn.

“That’s by far the first and foremost challenge of the new government. I trust whatever the colour of the government, I hope it will take this measure.”

The deficit forecasts are an improvement on the commission’s last outlook for the UK but they still paint a gloomier picture than the government itself.

In financial year terms, the commission’s forecasts are for a worse deficit than predicted by Alistair Darling at his March budget. In 2010/11 the commission puts the deficit at 11.5% of GDP, compared with Darling’s forecast for an 11.1% ratio of public sector net borrowing — the gap between tax and spending — to GDP.

The EU’s executive did double its forecast for UK growth this year to 1.2% from 0.6%, in line with a March budget forecast for 1-1.5%. But in 2011 it warns growth will only pick up to 2.1%, significantly below a Treasury forecast of 3-3.5%.

It described a “a slow start to a protracted recovery”, highlighting pressures on private consumption, a key growth driver, from employment worries and stagnant wages.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Change! NATO Commanders Want New “Courageous Restraint” Award to Honor Those Who Avoid Using Their Weapons

NATO Commanders are pushing for a new “courageous restraint” award to recognize and celebrate the troops who exhibit extraordinary courage and self-control by not using their weapons even when their lives are at risk.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Christian Question: ‘Interfaith Dialogue’ Or ‘Useful Idiots’?

Growing trend to meet with Muslims rings alarm bells for some

The effort among some Christian churches to meet with Muslims and dialogue about faith is a betrayal of the basic foundations of Christianity, asserts a critic of the developing trend.

“Useful idiots,” is how Christian talk show host and Muslim analyst Ingrid Schlueter assessed the participants in a recent interfaith dialogue session between the Acts 29 Network-affiliated Harambee Church and MAPS, the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, a group that has connections to the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.


I just couldn’t believe that a church would actually serve as a propaganda base in effect for this Muslim group [CAIR], what many call a Hamas front group in an evangelical church,” Schlueter said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Illinois Senator Wants to Imprison Gun Owners

The Illinois General Assembly has passed HB 5832 a Bill that makes carrying a firearm in Illinois without a valid FOID card a mandatory 1-3 years in prison.

Under current law, carrying a weapon without a valid FOID card allowed for probation but once enacted the new law removes any and all chances of probation even for a first time offense. The Bill has yet to be signed by the Governor but it appears to be a done deal unless a grassroots effort is made to stop it.

The new law was sponsored in the Illinois Senate by Kirk Dillard, who was recently endorsed by the ISRA for Governor on the republican ticket.

HB5832 sounds like a strong tool to fight crime until you actually read the “Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon” Law in Illinois. Under section 24-1.6 the mere carrying of a firearm is considered an Aggravated offense. This includes carries on or about ones person or in any vehicle.

It is a victimless, damage-less, non-violent crime that will put a lot of Illinois gun owners in prison and may jeopardize over the road truckers and neighboring state friends for transporting their gun in violation of Illinois law, which in most states is only a ticketing offense.

Illinois is financially broke, Governor Quinn has already suggested that upwards of 10,000 prisoners be released from Illinois prisons.

The new law will add to the Illinois prison population thus incurring additional expense that the people of Illinois can not afford.

These types of laws ruin lives, yet the Daley machine is applauding the change.

The State has a history of dragging its feet on FOID card renewals. With the new law you better NOT be caught with a firearm and an expired FOID card or it’s a mandatory 1-3 years in an Illinois prison.

Chicago has always had a crime problem but after the passage of the FOID card in 1967 the Chicago homicide and crime rate steadily increased with a slight respite in 2004 when only 448 murders were committed, the lowest since 1965.

Currently the City of Chicago is being sued by residents wanting their second amendment right to be recognized. The case McDonald v. Chicago is before the Supreme Court with a decision expected to come later this summer.

Thanks to the new law if the Court does rule in favor of the people, gun ownership in Illinois will be with the expressed permission of the State.

[Return to headlines]

New Campaign to Mobilize Turkish-American Community

The ‘Ten Thousand Turks’ campaign will create an important force in US politics on issues that impact Turkey while opening a new chapter of Turkish American activism. Turkish Coalition USA’s Lincoln McCurdy says: ‘Greek Americans, Armenian Americans and other ethnic groups have the same rights. Only Turkish Americans have not taken advantage of them’

Long considered a voiceless minority, Turkish-Americans and U.S. sympathizers of the country have launched a “Ten Thousand Turks” campaign as a grassroots initiative committed to changing the political dialogue on Turkish-U.S. relations.

“In reality the burden of maintaining stability in the U.S.-Turkish relationship is through Turkish American political activism and the ‘Ten Thousand Turks’ campaign will be the catalyst in launching the mobilization of the Turkish American community,” Lincoln McCurdy, treasurer of Turkish Coalition USA Political Action Committee, or TC-USA PAC, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a Wednesday interview.

The group is hoping to build a community of 10,000 Turkish Americans and American friends of Turkey by Oct. 29, Turkish Republic Day.

Since its inception in 2007, the TC-USA PAC has raised over $270,000 from Turkish Americans and friends of Turkey to distribute as political contributions to candidates who understand the importance of U.S.-Turkish relations.

“By supporting the ‘Ten Thousand Turks’ campaign, Turkish Americans are utilizing their rights as citizens to participate in the U.S. political system,” McCurdy said. “Greek Americans, Armenian Americans and other ethnic groups have the same rights. Only Turkish Americans have not taken advantage of them.”

Before 2007 there were no Turkish American political action committees, or PACs, in the U.S, but there are now two, the TC-USA PAC in Washington D.C. and the Turkish PAC in Houston, Texas.

McCurdy said U.S. law forbids nonprofit organizations, which include many Turkish-American organizations, from participating in political activities.

“These organizations are not permitted to endorse or oppose candidates and cannot raise money for political contributions. PACs, on the other hand, are permitted to do such activities,” he said.

While explaining one of the purposes of the campaign, McCurdy said it would demonstrate to U.S. politicians on local, state and federal levels that there is a dynamic group in the Turkish American community engaged in political activism.

The campaign is expected to become an important force in political matters that impact Turkey.

“By supporting the ‘Ten Thousand Turks’ campaign, Turkish Americans will no longer need to be on the defensive but can be instrumental in ensuring that there is balanced dialogue concerning issues of importance to them,” said McCurdy. “By being politically involved Turkish Americans can play a constructive role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.”

McCurdy said the campaign would also be a network of support for Turkish Americans who decide to run for public office.

“Currently, there have been only two Turkish Americans ever elected to public office, both on the local level. No Turkish American has ever been elected to state or federal office. We want to change that,” he said.

The campaign is open to all Turkish Americans and American friends of Turkey.

“Though only Turkish Americans and other American friends of Turkey can become one of 10,000, everyone who supports Turkish Americans, including all Turks, can help spread awareness about the campaign,” said McCurdy.

In addition to the Turkish PAC, the TC-USA PAC joins pre-existing nonprofit Turkish-American organization such as the Turkish Coalition of America, or TCA, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, or ATAA, the Federation of Turkish American Associations, or FTAA, the American Turkish Society, or ATS, the American Turkish Council and other local Turkish American associations in advocating for Turkey in the U.S.

About the TC-USA PAC

TC-USA PAC was established in February 2007 by citizens of both Turkish and non-Turkish heritage to support political candidates who are committed to engaging in a meaningful dialogue with Turkish Americans on major issues affecting their lives; maintaining a strong U.S.-Turkish relationship; and advocating a balanced discussion on the global and regional issues that impact Turkey and U.S.-Turkish relations.

The TC-USA PAC is also active in encouraging Turkish Americans to participate in the U.S. political process, including running for public office.

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

Obama National Security Policy: Hope Their Bombs Don’t Work

It took Faisal Shahzad trying to set a car bomb in Times Square to get President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to finally use the word “terrorism.” (And not to refer to Tea Party activists!)

This is a major policy shift for a president who spent a month telling Americans not to “jump to conclusions” after Army doctor Nidal Malik Hasan reportedly jumped on a desk, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and began shooting up Fort Hood.

After last weekend, now Obama is even threatening to pronounce it “Pack-i-stan” instead of “Pahk-i-stahn.” We know Obama is taking terrorism seriously because he took a break from his “Hope, Change & Chuckles” tour on the comedy circuit to denounce terrorists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Taliban on Jihad Inside U.S.

N.Y. bombing attempt reveals decision to launch attacks on America

In 1998, the International Islamic Front declared a fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, of war against the U.S, and now the weekend attempt to detonate a car bomb in the heart of Times Square in New York has been linked to a group that claims membership in the IIF, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Revelations that the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP, may be linked to the car bombing attempt suggest strongly that Pakistani terror groups have decided to launch physical attacks in the U.S., even as they increase attacks in Pakistan

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Constitution and the Times Square Car Bomber

Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Car Bombing suspect, has been caught and will predictably enough be routed through all the formal legalities reserved for Islamic terrorists trying to kill Americans. He will get a criminal trial, a lawyer and a jail sentence after which he, like so many of his compatriots will be released to try and kill again. And quite possibly sooner than anyone might think.

Meanwhile, on FOX, Glenn Beck protested the idea of denying a Miranda Warning to Shahzad because he is a US citizen and “you don’t shred the constitution.” Obviously Beck isn’t very familiar with the Constitution, because at no point in time does it mandate a Miranda warning, or compel civil trials for armed insurgents. Instead Beck has confused the Miranda Warning, one of the Warren court’s judicial innovations, with the Constitution. This is a mistake commonly made by liberals and those who have not educated themselves regarding what the Constitution actually says.

The Warren court pursued its radical agenda of judicial activism by creating an entire spectrum of “rights” based on spurious readings of the Constitution. Warren’s technique was simple enough. He would take the actual Constitution and reinterpret the text to suit his political agenda. The actual ruling was not anything that the Framers had ever intended, and had nothing to do with the actual purpose the text was meant to serve. It was just a convenient hook to hang his ruling on.


In his dissent Justice Harlan warned quite accurately that; “I believe the decision of the Court represents poor constitutional law and entails harmful consequences for the country at large. How serious these consequences may prove to be, only time can tell” and pointed out that this was not a ruling meant to prevent abuse, but to protect abusers; “The new rules are not designed to guard against police brutality or other unmistakably banned forms of coercion… Rather, the thrust of the new rules is to negate all pressures, to reinforce the nervous or ignorant suspect, and ultimately to discourage any confession at all.”

And Harlan pointed out the risks of treating such a criminal rights agenda as Constitutional. “To incorporate this notion into the Constitution requires a strained reading of history and precedent and a disregard of the very pragmatic concerns that alone may on occasion justify such strains.”


During WW2, Nazi Germany sent a number of saboteurs into the United States, one of whom was a US Citizen. They were not given Miranda Warnings, obviously. They were not treated with kid gloves. They were tried by a military tribunal and executed less than two months after they arrived in the United States. Read that again. Less than 2 months. If you want to understand why we won WW2 and are losing the war now, consider the implications of what you just read.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wake Up, America: Democrats Aren’t Democrats Anymore, They’re Communists

And the so-called “moderate Democrats” are merely socialists.

It wasn’t so long ago that much loved Democrat President John F. Kennedy told the nation in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”, implying a sense of self sacrifice was needed by all Americans to keep the torch of freedom burning bright in a world filled with tyranny.

An idea most could relate to regardless of political affiliation.

But times have changed and modern liberal philosophy has become almost unrecognizable to previous generations. It can be more accurately described as: “Forget personal sacrifice, keep sitting on your behind, and let the government rob your neighbor for you.”

Democrat political aims no longer share the fundamental ideals that have served this nation so well for so long. Rather than put their trust in the righteousness of the American individual, their intention is to transfer as much power as possible to the collective, as represented by the federal government.


Centralized government control of vital national resources, which pretty much means everything when you break it all down, is practically the definition of communism.

For those who would parse words and say that Obama and his Democrat cohorts are socialist, let me remind you, the Soviet Union was a constitutionally socialist nation, and look what happened to them.

The only difference between socialism and communism … is time.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Was the Time Square Bomb Only a Test?

Doesn’t it seem odd that Shahzad was trying to get back to Pakistan, instead of staying with the bomb and making sure it detonated?

If we have learned anything since 9/11/2001, it’s that an Islamic terrorist intent on blowing something up will stick around and make damn sure the job gets done — or die trying.

Unfortunately, in this case, for the citizens of this country, every federal, state and local terrorist safeguard failed miserably — and no one is talking about that. In spite of the fact that the terrorists just proved that our city streets may be no safer today then they were before the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.

Fact: An Islamic terrorist bomb was just successfully planted in New York City!

The Islamic terrorists got most of what they needed from this test. The rest they can get by watching our 24/7 news cycles for all the “confidential” leaked information regarding the attempted bombing and exactly how it was carried out.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Citing Turkey Threat, Greece Still Spending Billions on Defense

Greece, one of Europe’s biggest arms purchaser, is justifying its defense expenses with security concerns about Turkey, saying spending could only be cut simultaneously with its Aegean neighbor. The arms issue may could Turkish PM Erdogan’s planned Athens visit, which aims to underscore progress made in bilateral ties

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou (L) shakes hands with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan during their meeting in Athens on Friday. AP photo

Greece is one of Europe’s biggest weapons purchasers but despite its economic crisis cannot cut the multi-billion dollar bill without securing full peace with Turkey, analysts said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to visit Greece next week underscoring progress made in bilateral relations, but Greece is still buying warplanes, submarines and weapons even as it accepts a 110 billion euro international rescue.

A warning to the Greeks to reconsider their priorities came from International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who noted Sunday that military spending would be “clearly reduced” under the bailout.

In February, the defense ministry said that because of the “urgency” of the debt crisis it hoped to cut about 700 million euros of arms spending this year.

Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos has said the defense budget, including armed forces wages, would be 6 billion euros this year, or 2.8 percent of national output.

Athens spent the same amount on arms purchases in 2008 according to NATO, a higher percentage of output than France and Britain.

“It would be ideal to be able to drastically cut military spending but this is something that can only be done simultaneously with Turkey,” said a Greek government source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Greece is burdened by the cost of armaments stemming from the threat of Turkey,” Venizelos said recently.

“The layout of our forces is based on a threat evaluation with only one name,” he said. “No matter how fast things move, for the next years, we have to live with [this] situation.”

Greece and Turkey have been fighting wars since the days of the Byzantine Empire and nearly came to blows as recently as 1996 over an uninhabited string of islets in the Aegean Sea.

But under pressure from international markets, the IMF and the European Union, the government has shown that it is ready to cast taboos aside if it can save a penny in the process.

In March, the country held a scaled-back Independence Day parade without tanks, planes and missiles for the first time in over three decades to save around 2 million euros in operational costs.

Each warplane overflight costs 35,000 euros, a defense ministry source said at the time.

The defense ministry is struggling to cut losses on 2 billion euros spent on German-built submarines, one of which proved to be faulty, but is still going ahead with negotiations for French frigates.

Analysts still doubt that the neighbors will be able to reach an agreement soon.

“Military spending will fall by 10 to 15 percent this year, that much is sure, but I don’t see a spectacular reduction in the order of 20 percent,” said Thanos Dokos, an expert on Greek-Turkish relations at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, or ELIAMEP, think-tank.

“Nothing has really changed fundamentally,” he told AFP.

“Turkish warplanes continue their incursions in Greece’s Aegean Sea airspace, and I am not optimistic on the prospects of a Greek-Turkish accord as Turkey has other fronts besides Greece,” Dokos said.

Officially, both sides are willing to talk.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Greek daily Ta Nea in December that Athens and Ankara were “enslaved” by their history and would have to “free [themselves] from this misunderstanding.”

Last month the two NATO members agreed to hold meetings between their prime ministers and 10 ministers from each country at least once a year.

The Turkish prime minister’s visit on May 14-15 will inaugurate the consultation platform.

As foreign minister in 1999, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his late Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem led a rapprochement drive, drawing on unprecedented solidarity the two nations displayed after deadly quakes hit them a few weeks apart.

The thaw was followed by a boom in trade and tourism, but the two countries also remain at loggerheads over the divided island of Cyprus — a major stumbling block in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

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

Clashes in Greece, 3 Dead at a Bank in Athens

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Three people — two women and one man — have died in Athens at the building where a branch of Egnatia Bank is located, during the incidents that have been taking place since this morning. About 20 people were on the premises of the bank, according to reports from fire-fighters. The bank was attacked with petrol bombs, while protests against the austerity plan which will be discussed in Parliament tomorrow were taking place. In the centre of Athens other buildings are on fire. Fire-fighters say that fires were also started in a building of the provincial government and another where tax offices are located.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture: Trevor-Roper and Gibbon

Who was the greatest English historian of the mid-20th century? Was it that flamboyant ancestor of our current rash of teledons, A. J. P. Taylor? That severe technician, Lewis Namier? That progenitor of endless dullness, E. P. Thompson? Confronted by such contenders, judgment is baffled. However, if you narrow the question to “who was the greatest historical stylist”, there is no competition. Hugh Trevor-Roper suddenly emerges at the head of the field. How did he do it? It’s clear that Trevor-Roper’s élan as an historian was partly derived from his great 18th-century counterpart on whom he wrote so often and so well, Edward Gibbon. But why did Trevor-Roper make such a close study of this great predecessor? What sustenance did he draw from him?

It seems to have been that Chelsea boulevardier, Logan Pearsall Smith, who first encouraged Trevor-Roper to make a study of Gibbon — perhaps along the lines of that heroine of Trollope’s, who was advised to take “two hours of Gibbon daily”. In Trevor-Roper’s case, the prescription worked. In a notebook entry dated May 1944, and headed “The Solution”, he confided: “To write a book that someone, one day, will mention in the same breath as Gibbon — this is my fond ambition.” In 1951, he wrote to Smith’s brother-in-law, Bernard Berenson, and gave exuberant expression to the delight he was taking in the Decline and Fall:

I am now re-reading, for the nth time, that greatest of historians, as I continually find myself declaring — Gibbon. What a splendid writer he is! If only historians could write like him now! How has the art of footnotes altogether perished and the gift of irony disappeared! I took a volume of Gibbon to Greece and read it on Mount Hymettus and the island of Crete; I read it furtively even at I Tatti, where 40,000 other volumes clamoured insistently around me to be read; and I cannot stop reading him even now.”

For, as Gibbon had acutely noted:

“…the loss of one mystery was amply compensated by the stupendous doctrines of original sin, redemption, faith, grace, and predestination, which have been strained from the epistles of St Paul. These subtle questions had most assuredly been prepared by the fathers and schoolmen; but the final improvement and popular use may be attributed to the first reformers, who enforced them as the absolute and essential terms of salvation. Hitherto the weight of supernatural belief inclines against the Protestants; and many a sober Christian would rather admit that a wafer is God, than that God is a cruel and capricious tyrant.”

Trevor-Roper’s commentary on this passage is to be found on a single sheet amongst his papers headed “Gibbon’s deism”. Before quoting from the conclusion of chapter 54, he explained his view of the direction and nature of Gibbon’s confessional inclinations: “He was a protestant by conformity, and because established protestantism, in the C18, was more liberal, more rational, more tolerant than established Catholicism. But it was not necessarily so, and if Gibbon recognised the social necessity of Reform…he would also admit that the protestant reformers enforced… ‘the absolute and essential terms of salvation…”‘ It was passages such as these, and the reflections they prompted, which nourished Trevor-Roper’s attractive view that “Gibbon’s criterion is always social or humanitarian or intellectual: it is never doctrinal.

So far we have considered only the companionable Gibbon, who echoed so many of Trevor-Roper’s own preferences and convictions, and who beckoned him down the intellectual paths he was perhaps in any case inclined to follow. But now we must turn briefly to that other Gibbon, the man of consummate historical achievement, under whom Trevor-Roper’s genius was to some degree rebuked. For Trevor-Roper also recognised that Gibbon’s career exhibited an unusual perfection of both life and work. The years of intellectual maturity had been devoted to the work, and the work had filled the years of maturity. The Decline and Fall was a massive achievement, a triumphant example of a project of the first magnitude identified, defined and completed by the unaided efforts of its historian. Gibbon did not then go on to fritter away his energies in opuscula.. After 1788, he “never contemplated another major work”, as Trevor-Roper often pointed out. Gibbon had brought about “a radical reinterpretation of the process of European history” and with that, having solved “the great historical problem of his time”, he stopped.

Such was not to be the shape of Trevor-Roper’s own career. Although in 1944 he may have nursed the hope that he might one day write a work which posterity would place alongside the Decline and Fall, that major and defining work was never written. And even if the monograph on the Civil War over which he laboured for so many years had been completed to Trevor-Roper’s satisfaction, could it ever truly have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Decline and Fall, on the terms which Trevor-Roper himself used to capture the greatness of Gibbon’s book? When Hume had said of his own day that “this is the historical age”, he had seen that the advanced social thought of the time had thrown up problems that demanded the arbitration of the historian, and of the historian alone. Well might Trevor-Roper wryly agree that Gibbon had drawn a high prize in the lottery of life. He had been a supremely gifted historian whose powers were at their peak when history, of all the intellectual disciplines, had the most important work to do.

But the second half of the 20th century was not such a time. Whatever the modern equivalent was to the Enlightenment problem of progress, it was unlikely to be answered by a book on the English Civil War, no matter how accomplished. Indeed, whatever it was, it was very possibly not a problem for historians at all. Perhaps it was a problem for physicists, or biologists. The moment of history’s intellectual hegemony had passed, perhaps never to return. Truly to emulate Gibbon was now impossible, and those who attempted it, such as Toynbee, succeeded in producing only gassy, shapeless, unhistorical monsters, as Trevor-Roper himself had reported in a letter to Berenson, in which superficial amusement at Toynbee’s folly was chilled by an undercurrent of dismay at its significance for the writing of history.

Trevor-Roper was too wise to fall into the gulf of uncritical complacency into which Toynbee had rushed headlong. But the price of such wisdom was to suffer a version of the last pain which Tertullian had devised for the damned — the pain of seeing, but not sharing, the pleasures of the historians’ Paradise. It was for this reason that the greatest English historian of the 20th century was most at home in the form of the essay.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

France: Farmers’ Protest, Oyster Shells Dumped on Bridge

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 5 — In a strange protest this morning in Paris, French oyster farmers dumped hundreds of oyster shells on the Alma Bridge, in front of the Eiffel Tower, to denounce the indifference of government and local administrations regarding the fact that young molluscs are dying from a bacterium. “We can’t handle it any longer” said Renan Henry, chairman of the Committee for oyster survival, to France Presse. “We have suffered storms, the crisis, closings (due to the risk of intoxication, editor’s note) and now this widespread mortality”. The bacteria that cause the death of the baby oysters, according to a French marine research institute, has hit around half of the 4,200 oyster farms on the French coast since 2008. In some cases 100% of colonies were affected. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Berlin Exhibition Explores Jewish Roots of Comics

A major new exhibition at Berlin’s Jewish Museum, argues it was no coincidence that the biggest superheroes including Superman, Spiderman, Batman and the Hulk were all created by Jewish comic artists.

If Superman had had his way, Hitler would have wound up begging for mercy before the League of Nations in Geneva in 1940, and there would never have been an Auschwitz.

“Heroes, Freaks and Superrabbis — the Jewish Colour of Comics” looks at 45 of the most successful comic creators, overwhelmingly children of European Jewish families who had immigrated to New York. As comic books entered their golden age in the 1930s and 1940s, the most iconic superheroes were products of those troubled times, even taking on Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen before the Americans did.

“The point of the exhibition isn’t to say comics are a Jewish speciality,” said Anne Helene Hoog, one of the curators. “Rather, it looks at the question why so many Jews became comic artists, and what issues preoccupied them.”

In February 1940, nearly two years before Pearl Harbor, “How Superman Would End the War” by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster has the Man of Steel making quick work of the diminutive Nazi leader.

“I’d like to land a strictly non-Aryan sock on your jaw, but there’s no time for that!” Superman tells a grovelling Hitler as he dispatches him to Switzerland to face justice, along with Stalin to boot. A month later, Captain America by Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) and Joe Simon thwarts a Nazi plot to invade America with a wallop to the Führer’s nose in a legendary cover sketch.

Hoog said the superheroes were often depicted, like their artists, as outsiders who, with an immigrant’s deep patriotism, battle to save their adopted home country from an outside threat.

That image resonated powerfully at a time when the world appeared to be falling apart, Hoog said.

“In light of the failure of democracy in Europe, it was clear that young people -particularly the children of immigrants, poor people, refugees — confronted with misery, fear, violence, injustice and finally extermination, were alarmed by what was happening in the world,” she said. “In the 1930s, there was a deep need for superheroes,” she added, and Jewish artists were happy to oblige.

Although none of the major superheroes were overtly Jewish, their heroic journeys were often steeped in Old Testament imagery, noted Jewish Museum programme director Cilly Kugelmann.

“Like Moses, Superman was discovered as an apparently abandoned baby and raised by the people who found him,” she said, adding that the character also had roots in Greek mythology, Germanic tales and the story of Jesus Christ. Even “Shazam!”, the magic word that turns young Billy Batson into 1970s-era Captain Marvel, had quasi-Jewish roots. The word is an acronym for the legendary heroes who inspire him and the first letter, “S”, stands for wise King Solomon of Israel.

Many of the comic artists worked as paperboys when they were young in the 1920s, selling newspapers amid the tenements on New York’s Lower East Side, where their love for the “funnies” was born.

After the war, with time Jewish graphic novelists began confronting the Holocaust tentatively at first, culminating in the harrowing Pulitzer-prize-winning Maus series by Art Spiegelman. In the two volumes published in 1986 and 1991, Spiegelman tells the story of his Shoah-survivor father, a Polish-born Jew, and the author’s own feelings of guilt and rage toward him as he was growing up. With his literary ambition, Spiegelman revolutionised the genre.

Comics also accompanied the counterculture movement of the 1960s, with Mad magazine and subversive “comix” by Jewish women such as Trina Roberts and Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

Hoog said a current of irony runs through many of the works, highlighting Steve Sheinkin’s “The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey” and “Rabbi Harvey Rides Again” about a Jewish cleric superhero in the Wild West. Punctuating the point, a caped Superman statue outside the museum shows him crashed into the pavement, with Krypton blood trickling from his head. The sculpture is called “Even Superheroes Have Bad Days.”

The Berlin exhibition was conceived in cooperation with the Museum of Art and History of Judaism in Paris and the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, each of which had previous shows that have been adapted and expanded here. It features more than 200 original comics, including rare sketches signed by the artists, and runs until August 8.

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

Greece: Merkel: No Decision Without Germany

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 5 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has guaranteed, talking to MPs in the Bundestag, that no decision on aid to Greece will be taken without Germany or against Germany. She added that “all Europe is watching Germany”, AFP writes. The Chancellor also underlined that a lesson can be learned from the Greek financial crisis: the EU Stability Pact has to be changed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Deaths: Premier, Appeal for National Unity

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 5 — Greek Premier Giorgio Papandreou called for national unity in the aftermath of the dramatic situation arising from the death of three people in an incendiary attack in Athens, repeating the plea at a summit of all political leaders so that “everyone may assume their own responsibilities”. The premier also stated that today’s “unjustified deaths” are the consequence of “uncontrolled violence and political irresponsibility”. On his part, a representative of the Greek private-sector trade union (GSEE), Filippos Thomas, defined the three deaths “a tragic event, which we hope will remain isolated”. But the protest, he added, on the sidelines of the XVI Congress of the CGIL Italian trade union in Rome, goes on, because the package and bail-out plan to save Greece will have further depressive effects on the country’s economy. “Another protest march is planned for tomorrow afternoon at 06:00 pm”, he said. Meanwhile, following the three deaths in the incendiary attack, the journalists have suspended their 24-hour strike. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Jobbik is Much Harder to Control Than Its Predecessors

Süddeutsche Zeitung 30.04.2010

Although Hungary, which has just taken a dramatic swing to the right, is still firmly anchored in the European Union, East Europe expert Richard Swartz does see the potential for dangerous developments: “Orban’s victory seems to signal a return to an un-worked though past in Hungary. The political spectrum is now entirely dominated by the right, with an even more extreme right at its side. Yet this new extreme right is different from earlier extremist groups: it is no longer in the hands of bizarre poets, obscure fanatic and old fogies. Jobbik has a small well-educated elite of students, intellectuals who are at home in the modern world. This type of enemy is much harder to control than its predecessors.”

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

Ireland: Dreaming of an Islamist Ireland

It is a dispiriting business trying to convince the Republic of Ireland’s politicians or liberal elite that trouble lies ahead if they fail to avoid the mistakes made in Britain regarding Islamism. Due to my well-known track record as a virulent critic of Sinn Fein/IRA, I am typecast as unhelpful. In most debates in Ireland, I am Cassandra to my opponents’ Pangloss. “Why do you always have to be so negative?” they say when I speak of dodgy mosques, hidden agendas, dangerous fundamentalists and worrying precedents with headgear. “There’s no problem. Our Muslims aren’t like those Muslims you have in England. Our Muslims are lovely.”

This blithe belief is based on a vague assumption that homicidal Muslims in the UK are all illiterate unassimilated Pakistanis who have been understandably radicalised by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The perception has been that all our nice educated diverse domestic Muslims would understand that the Irish people as a whole were fervently anti-war and therefore remain content and anxious to integrate.

Radical Islam is producing a variation on Ireland’s long history of being an unwitting pawn in Continental wars. Over the centuries, French, Italians, Spaniards and Germans have been dispatched for wholly cynical reasons to aid uprisings against English rule. Now Islamic jihadists are using the Republic as a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the West. Dublin is a centre of Muslim Brotherhood activity, zealots are pushing the familiar policy of exceptionalism to encourage the separation between Muslim and kuffar (non-believing heretics) that is a vital stage in Islamification. There is plenty of Arab money to finance Sunnis and promote Wahhabism, and niqabs and burqas are beginning to appear in public places. Shias number only about 5,000, and whereas a decade ago they were stressing a common faith with Sunnis, since an influx of Iraqis in the past decade there is a sectarian divide emerging which is reminiscent of the Irish Catholic versus Protestant past.

In March, the Irish media were entranced by the story of Colleen LaRose from Pennsylvania, who on the net under the alias Jihad Jane had allegedly recruited several Irish-based Muslims to assist in murdering Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who had sketched Muhammad as a roundabout dog (a form of street installation). The seven arrested in Ireland included another convert, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez of Colorado, who was later released and charged in the US with conspiracy.

Shia Imam Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been warning of Sunni radicalism for years, gave “I-told-you-so” interviews about the increase in Ireland of the number of Muslims who resist integration and the rise of extremism and the indoctrination of Irish youth. The radical preachers operate largely in secret and, as in Britain, the majority of Muslims are mostly inhibited by loyalty or intimidated into silence.

Consider all this against the background of a country where the economy has imploded and the Roman Catholic Church is mired in scandal. There is a spiritual craving in Ireland, some of which is being met by Christian evangelists, but there are plenty of Islamic evangelists at work on further radicalising young Irish Muslims.

Qaradawi has called for the conquest of Rome and Liam Egan is carrying the standard. “As the long-awaited demise continues unabated,” he told his readers, “it is upon us as Muslims to rise to the occasion and present Islam as the only religion worthy in the eyes of Allah. It would be a shame to miss such an opportunity to assert the rightful place of Islam in this land. It truly is time to put the green back in Eire.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Andreotti Convicted of Slandering Judge

Life Senator called witness in mafia trials ‘mad’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 4 — Italy’s highest court on Tuesday upheld the conviction of seven-time premier Giulio Andreotti for slandering a judge who gave evidence in one of his mafia trials.

During the marathon trials, which ended with the ex-Christian Democrat’s acquittal in 2004, Andreotti gave several interviews in which he described Rome judge Mario Almerighi as “mad” because he linked Andreotti with a high-court judge who became famous for quashing sentences on technicalities.

The Court of Cassation on Tuesday ordered Andreotti, 91, to pay Almerighi an as-yet-undetermined sum in damages because he “never denied” his statements against the judge, “assertions which went far beyond the bounds of freedom of expression”.

Andreotti was cleared of mafia association but judges ruled he helped Cosa Nostra until the watershed murder of a top party member in 1980.

Judge Almerighi filed his suit against Life Senator Andreotti in 2000, accusing him of continued and aggravated slander through the press, radio and television.

Almerighi had testified during Andreotti’s trials that he was convinced the ex-premier protected supreme court justice Corrado Carnevale, dubbed the ‘sentence killer’ by the press for his consistent overturning of mafia sentences on minor technicalities.

At the time, Andreotti described Almerighi as a “false witness who told infamous lies for which I think we should send him before the CSM”, the Supreme Council of magistrates, the judiciary’s self-governing body.

Andreotti also said at the time that not taking legal action against the judge “would be like leaving a lighted fuse in the hand of a child”.

These statements represented a “serious affront” to the judge’s personal honor, Almerighi argued in his 14-page suit.

The judge went on to recall that in the ruling clearing Andreotti “no mention was made of the need to take action against me for committing perjury. This would gave been obligatory had the court any reasons to suspect that I gave false testimony under oath”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: PM Ally Resigns Over Corruption Claims

Rome, 4 May (AKI) — Claudio Scajola, Italy’s industry minister and a key ally of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, resigned on Tuesday after he was linked to a public works kickback inquiry. Scajola had been under pressure since the end of April when he was named in a probe by Perugia prosecutors in relation to a 1.5 million euro apartment he bought for his daughter near the Roman Colosseum in 2004.

“In order to defend myself I cannot continue to act as a minister as I have done in the past two years,” Scajola told reporters at a media conference after his resignation.

The minister tendered his resignation after he returned from an official trip to Tunisia. He met Berlusconi to inform him of his decision before launching an attack on the media.

“For the past ten days I have been a victim of an unprecedented media campaign,” he said. “I have suffered a great deal.”

Questions have been raised about why more than half the purchase price of the Rome apartment was paid by an architect who is being investigated for public works corruption.

Berlusconi last week rejected Scajola’s resignation when they met at the prime minister’s official residence in Rome.

“A minister of the republic (of Italy) cannot be suspected of living in an apartment paid by others,” he said.

“This is the principal motivation, the strongest, that forced me to resign. I have absolutely nothing to do with this investigation.”

Berlusconi, who is currently on trial for bribery and tax fraud and false accounting, has long claimed he is being persecuted by “left wing” Italian prosecutors and judges.

“In a week you will see it will all blow over and you should hold firm until the wave passes over,” he reportedly told Scajola at their meeting on Thursday.

Berlusconi in February rejected a similar resignation offer from civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso after he was linked to a corruption inquiry into 327 million euros worth of public contracts from last year’s Group of Eight summit.

Six people have so far been arrested in the Perugia-based corruption probe, which was broadened beyond the G8 summit to include other public works projects.

The suspects include Italy’s former civil protection deputy, Angelo Balducci, and Rome businessman, Diego Anemone, who allegedly organised “sex parties” for Bertolaso.

Prosecutors allege that Anemone’s architect Angelo Zampolini, purchased 80 bank drafts from a Rome branch of Deutsche Bank, paying 900,000 euros for them.

The bank drafts were made out to and cashed by the two sellers of the apartment.

Scajola declared that he paid 600,000 million euros for the apartment but has denied any wrongdoing.

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

Italy: Sisters Who Sold Flat to Scajola Hand Over Proof of 80 Banker’s Drafts

Thirty accounts in name of Anemone’s secretary investigated. Prosecutors believe they were a smokescreen for other operations

ROME — New bank documents have come to light contradicting minister Claudio Scajola’s version of events. Sisters Beatrice and Barbara Papa, who sold him the flat at the Colosseum on 6 July 2004, have given the financial police bank statements and other documents proving that they were telling the truth about the selling price and about how the money was delivered. The sisters’ statements tally with those of architect Angelo Zampolini, closely linked to construction entrepreneur Diego Anemone and the man who revealed he had personally handed over to Mr Scajola 80 banker’s drafts for a total of 900,000 euros. Mr Zampolini added: “I was present when the agreement was signed and saw the drafts being given to the owners”. Investigators now want to know why the notary opted not to register the deed of sale in Rome, preferring to deposit it with the tax registry at Civitavecchia. Searches are focusing on the banks and the new accounts that Mr Anemone, who has received substantial public contracts including works for the major events unit, is believed to have opened in the name of one of his employees. According to prosecutors, the 30 accounts, 23 of which are still active, were used by Mr Anemone to channel backhanders to politicians and officials who could give him a fast track to the allocation of public works.

Deposit slips

On 25 April, Beatrice Papa was called in for questioning by the financial police. Ms Papa confirmed she had sold a 180-square metre flat near the Colosseum to government minister Claudio Scajola and gave officers a copy of the deed of sale. The figure indicated was 610,000 euros. Ms Papa admitted at once that this was not the actual price, saying that she could provide documentary proof. What she did not know was that a “suspicious operation report” from the Bank of Italy had already highlighted unusual movements in one of Mr Zampolini’s accounts at branch 582 of the Deutsche Bank. On 6 July, Mr Zampolini requested the issue of 80 banker’s drafts, “40 in the name of Beatrice Papa and 40 for Barbara Papa for 450,000 euros each”. As prosecutors point out, “searches of financial databases have failed to reveal any relationship in law between him and the beneficiaries of the drafts”. Ms Papa was then forced to reveal what lay behind the operation, which she duly did. One week later, on 30 March, she gave officers bank documents proving that the drafts had been paid in, and that a deposit of 100,000 euros in cash had been made some time earlier. She added: “My sister also received 100,000 euros. It was the minister’s down payment”. Mr Scajola strenuously denies this, claiming that “there was no preliminary agreement”.

Deeds at Civitavecchia

However, Ms Papa’s sister Beatrice confirmed the story. She, too, produced her bank statements, adding a detail that was significant for subsequent investigations. “There were several people present when the deed of sale was drawn up, including an official from Deutsche Bank”. Mr Zampolini provided details: “I was in the room at the ministry in Via della Mercede the whole time and bank official Luca Trentini was in fact with me. I gave the drafts to the minister, who in turn handed them over to the owners as agreed”. The deed was drafted by notary Gianluca Napoleone, who decided not to register it in Rome. This is shown by a note sent by the financial police to public prosecutors Sergio Sottani and Alessia Tavarnesi: “Searches at the tax registry show that the sale was registered on 13 July 2004 at the Civitavecchia tax agency for a declared value of 610,000 euros”. Mr Scajola will probably clarify this decision next week when he is questioned by prosecutors as a material witness. On 18 May, the review court will have to rule on whether jurisdiction over this part of the investigation should go to Perugia, as prosecuting magistrates maintain. Otherwise, the case will go to Rome, as the preliminary investigating magistrate decided, ruling that it fell outside his jurisdiction and rejecting the application for the arrest of Mr Zampolini, the former world swimming championships committee member Claudio Rinaldi, and Mr Anemone’s accountant, Stefano Gazzani. Mr Gazzani is believed to hold the key to a full reconstruction of Mr Anemone’s movements of money, particularly in the light of what the financial police have uncovered in the past few weeks.

Secretary’s accounts

The report forwarded on 1 April describes the bank searches carried out on all the members of Mr Anemone’s family, and on others whom investigators believe might have acted as his nominees. These are trusted individuals in whose name Mr Anemone is alleged to have opened accounts for money that had to remain untraceable, such as the sums given to Mr Zampolini to purchase flats. In this context, there is a report regarding Alida Lucci who, as tapped phone conversations reveal, was one of Mr Anemone’s closest collaborators. Financial police officers note: “Some 30 accounts were opened in this woman’s name, and 23 are currently active. This does not appear consistent with the income Ms Lucci declared to the tax authorities or with her position as an employee of ‘Impresa Anemone Costruzioni srl’. In 2006, Ms Lucci declared a taxable income of 33,150 euros, which rose in 2007 to 56,353 and in 2008 reached 58,825 euros”. Hardly enough to require dozens of bank accounts. The same is true of Mr Zampolini. He earns more than Ms Lucci but he has already admitted, when confronted with detailed evidence from the public prosecutors, that the money in the many accounts in his name was actually paid in by Mr Anemone. So far, it has emerged that he used the money to buy four flats (Mr Scajola’s, two for General Francesco Pittoru and one for Angelo Balducci’s son). Investigators suspect that many other property purchases will come to light when they are in possession of all the documents they have requested.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Ministers Clash Over House Arrest Plan

Maroni criticises Alfano’s proposal to ease prison overcrowding

(ANSA) — Rome, May 5 — Interior Minister Roberto Maroni on Wednesday criticised Justice Minister Angelino Alfano’s proposal to ease prison overcrowding by placing more inmates under house arrest.

Speaking during a visit to Egypt, Maroni said the measure would be “worse than an amnesty because it would not be a one-off measure but become standard operating procedure”.

“There is no way we could control the some 10,000 people who would be placed under house arrest should this measure be approved. Plus half of these people are foreigners, people without homes and so where are they supposed to be under house arrest?” the interior minister asked.

“The only way it would be possible to control such a high number of people would be to use high-tech electronic bracelets, which still do not offer sufficient guarantees,” Maroni added.

In his proposal, contained in a bill currently being examined by a parliamentary commission, Alfano said house arrest should be granted to people whose sentences do not exceed three years and those inmates who have only a year left to serve of their sentences.

Alfano later issued a statement to say that “we do not want to empty prisons and no inmate will be set free. What we want to do is create room for 21,500 more because we do not want new amnesties or general pardons”.

He went on to recall that his plan called for building new cellblocks at existing prisons, renovating old penitentiaries and building new country jails to double current capacity levels. The justice minister is a member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, while Maroni belongs to the Northern League, the junior member in the coalition government.

Italy’s prison population is over 65,000, the highest since World War II, in a system designed to accomodate 43,000. It has been estimate it could hit 70,000 this year and 100,000 by 2012 unless action is taken soon.

Overcrowding is believed to be at least partly responsible for last year’s record number of prison suicides, 71, which last month already numbered 22, the same number as for the first four months of 2009 and half as many as for all of 2008.

Maroni’s criticism sparked reactions in the opposition, among magistrates, prison guard unions and inmate rights groups.

The leading member of the opposition Democratic Party (PD) in the House justice committee, Donatella Ferranti, formally requested that the committee invite Maroni and Alfano for a joint audience to clarify the situation. “We knew the Northern League was not happy with the proposal but today’s attack by the interior minister threw us off guard. Thus before we continue to examine this bill I think the government should get its position straight,” she added.

According to Italy’s National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Piero Grasso, Berlusconi needs to step in and “decide” which minister expresses the government’s position. In regard to the merit of Alfano’s proposal, Grasso in part agreed with Maroni that “we need to make sure that those who will qualify for house actually have a home, because one third of inmates are homeless foreigners. And we have to make sure that those under house arrest are not prone to committing other crimes”.

The National Association of Magistrates (ANM) took note of the “different views” between the two ministers but said that it was a political question.

However, the ANM added that it, too, felt Alfano’s bill needed correcting and urged the government to make adequate adjustments.

ANM put the number of inmates who could qualify for house arrest under Alfano’s plan at 12-13,000.

The prison guards’ union SAPPE issued a statement saying “Minister Maroni’s views did not surprise us all that much because for some time we have become accustomed to the total lack of sensitivity by the institutions towards the problems in our prison system”. According to SAPPE, Alfano’s proposal “should not be viewed as a pardon but as an alternative way to complete sentences.

Statistics have shown that 80% of inmates who complete their sentences in prison become repeat offenders as opposed to those who benefit from alternatives to imprisonment”.

Antigone, a prisoner rights group, branded Maroni’s opposition to Alfano’s plan as “grave and irresponsible”.

photo; Maroni (L) and Alfano (R)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslim Scholars on Voting — (From the Allah.EU Web Site)

“I consider Muslim political participation, especially in a non-Muslim country, as a form of jihad, [emphasis added — Z]

This is our country and it would be foolish not to participate in the political processes which eventually shape our future and that of Islam. I support marching in the streets to raise awareness about certain issues. However, if we really want to change the status-quo then we have to influence those who walk the corridors of power. Muslims need not only to vote but put forward Muslim candidates in all the mainstream and serious independent parties. We need to be represented or be present at the tables around which policies are discussed, made and agreed.”

Sayyiduna Yusuf (as) put himself forward in the political process of Egypt ….

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Muslims in CR Seek Complaint Against Zeman

Brno, May 4 (CTK) — The Brno-based Muslim association Libertas Independent Agency will file a complaint against recent statements by Milos Zeman, chairman of the Party of Citizens’ Rights of Milos Zeman (SPOZ), that it considers venomous and xenophobic, the association says in a press release for CTK.

The Muslims were angered by Zeman’s statement quoted in an article posted on the server.

According to the server, Zeman said the spreading Islam is a threat to Europe.

“The fundamental conflict of the 21st century will be a conflict between Euro-American and Islamic civilisations, between the religion of love and the religion of hatred,” Zeman said allegedly.

“We think the statement by Milos Zeman has the characteristic features of the criminal offence of instigating hatred of a group of inhabitants, scare-mongering and defamation of a nation, ethnic group, race and conviction,” says the press release.

It is signed by two association deputy chairmen, Lukas Lhotan and Ondrej Adamik.

The Brno Muslims fear that if the SPOZ succeeded in the May 28-29 elections, the Czech Republic would attract negative attention abroad.

“Due to the policy Milos Zeman has preached for a long time, our country could get into international isolation and it would probably lost the image of a tolerant and plurality country in the eyes of the foreign public,” the association writes.

The party of Milos Zeman, former prime minister and former chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD), is an extra-parliamentary party that was founded last year. It does not have a great chance of getting into parliament according to public opinion polls.

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

Netherlands: Prosecutor to Appeal Against Holocaust Cartoon Verdict

The public prosecution department is appealing against a court ruling which found a Muslim group not guilty of insulting Jews by publishing a cartoon which implied Jews invented the Holocaust.

The court ruled in April the cartoon was in extreme bad taste and was offensive but acquitted the group because of the circumstances surrounding the publication.

The European Arab League, which placed the cartoon on its website, said it was meant to highlight double standards in free speech, following the publication of cartoons featuring Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

The public prosecution department said it was appealing against the ruling because it wanted to establish what constitutes being ‘unnecessarily offensive’ and whether or not the cartoon contributed to the debate about free speech.

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

Spain: 445 Bln Property Lending Hanging Over Banks

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 4 — A substantial part of the Spanish financial sector is threatened by the property lending, a total of 445 billion euros, by banks to construction companies and real-estate agents, according to the estimates revealed in a report issued by the Esade business school in Barcelona. Of this total, only 4 billion euros by the financial institutes as bankrupt, but, according to the report, the loans that may be difficult to retrieve may total as much as 165.5 billion euros. According to a press statement of the report’s editor, Francesc Xavier Mena, “the banks are closing their eyes, not yet recognising these latent losses”. According to the estimates, the credit sector can absorb losses up to 35% of problem credits granted to agents and constructors, thanks to the fund constituted from the general provisions in times of good economy, as required by the Bank of Spain. According to the report, “the total financial system”, in particular the large banks, “could amortise the property losses”, though many financial institutes “may go bankrupt if nothing is done”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Star Alliance Increases Presence in Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 5 — Star Alliance is continuing its growth strategy in Italy and has further expanded its offer compared to its summer 2009 schedule. With the new summer 2010 schedule, a statement reads, the alliance adds about 140 new flights, increasing to 1,642 per week from Italy, serving 18 airports compared to 16 in the summer 2009 schedule. Therefore Star Alliance confirms itself as “a point of reference for Milan Malpensa Airport where the group operates 540 weekly flights and in Florence where they offer another 112. The Star Alliance is also increasing its presence in Bologna where Turkish Airlines recently established a new route to Istanbul, increasing the number of flights for the group to 120 and the carriers present at the airport to 6. With the entrance into the alliance of Tam and Aegean Airlines planned to take place by the beginning of the summer, the presence of Star Alliance at Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa and Venice will increase further, with about another 40 weekly flights offered”. Today, Star Alliance directly serves 18 Italian airports and provides passengers in departure with a network of flights to 1,077 destinations in 175 countries worldwide. Milan Malpensa represents 33% of the overall flights operated by Star Alliance in Italy, while Rome Fiumicino has 19%, Venice 10%, and Bologna and Florence 7% each. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedes Recruited by Somali Terror Group

An al-Qaeda linked extremist group in Somalia has recruited more than twenty young people from Sweden to fight in the war-torn African country, the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) fear.

Somali Islamic insurgency group Harakat al-Shabab Mujahideen (“Movement of Warrior Youth”), better known as Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, is thought to have recruited dozens of Swedish youngsters to engage in terrorist acts, according to Göteborgs-Tidningen.

Gothenburg was identified by several sources as the largest recruitment base in the country, the report said. Sweden is also a fundraising hub for the group, according to Svenska Dagbladet editorial writer Per Gudmundson, who has written extensively about the issue.

“I think it’s a very serious threat because it’s not only a threat to Somalis in Somalia, it’s also a threat to Swedish security,” Gudmundson told The Local.

“People who go through wars and conflicts in war zones come back as trained operatives. We’ve had in Sweden people who’ve been trained in Afghanistan and come back as seasoned veterans. They are regarded with high esteem in jihadist terms and can motivate young people to fight. Also, when it comes to Swedish security, we are not immune to this. The Mohammed caricatures have shown places in northern Europe can be targets.”

At a mosque — a converted food hall — in Gothenburg’s Gamlestan quarter, a Danish-Somali man who tried to assassinate Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who drew the controversial Mohammed cartoon published in Jyllands-Posten, tried to recruit followers, according to a Danish newspaper.

“There are no supporters of al-Shabab here,” mosque spokesman Abdi Fatah Shidane told Göteborgs-Tidningen.

Young men in Sweden are brainwashed, trained and recruited by terrorists on Somali terrorist movement al-Shabab, according to an informant who spoke to the paper. One recruit was arrested in connection with death threats against Danish People’s Party leader Pia Kjærsgaard.

According to Säpo, al-Shabab sympathisers across the country are concentrated in big cities.

Here recruited young people for war and terrorist acts here and collected the money for the movement.

Inspector Per-Olof Hellqvist of Säpo in Gothenburg confirmed to Göteborgs-Tidningen that young men from the Gothenburg area have traveled to Somalia.

“However, we do not know what they are doing there,” he told the paper.

According to Gudmundson, the UN’s special group on Horn of Africa made a report on recruitment and financing which singled out Sweden as hub for both recruitment and financing.

“The jihadist problem is worse in Denmark, I don’t know why, but the Somali hub is bigger in Sweden,” he told The Local.

Swedish Integration and Gender Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni of the Liberal Party recently order Säpo to conduct a report on the scale of violence-prone religious radicalism in the country because the numbers are unclear. Gudmundson estimates about 1500 people in Sweden would be labelled Islamists with hardcore tendencies, while about 100 to 200 would have possibly engaged in violence.

“These are not big figures, not many, but as we sadly know, just a handful is enough,” he told The Local. “To many, it’s a nationalistic thing. Young males are always prone. They have a different view of life.”

About 400,000 to 500,000 people in Sweden have roots in Muslim countries, he said.

“Mainly, Al-Shabab is a Somali phenomenon, but they attract young guys who are sympathetic to the global jihadist movement,” Gudmundson told the Local. “However, few want to travel to Somalia. It’s the armpit of the world.”

As for why Gothenburg is the hub for Al-Shabab in Sweden, Gudmundson believes it is related to Somali clan immigration patterns, which are also evident in other Somali communities across the country. In addition, Gothenburg is home to Al-Shabab’s largest online community,, which was established by a former Nazi who converted to Islam, with information mostly in Somali as well as Arabic and one sub-forum in English that picks up the newest translations, Gudmundson told The Local.

“Sweden isn’t good at integrating Somalis compared to the UK and US,” he said.

“We make a better living and it’s expensive to hire people in Sweden. Somalis are often not well educated and are not easy to hire. It’s very hard for the Somali community to get into workforce.”

Gudmundson added he believes the situation is worsening in Somalia. “I know it sounds silly to say about a country that’s gone 18 years without a functional government, but now it’s even worse because now, not only does the small weak transitional government fight against one Islamic militia, it has to fight another and they also fight against each other. It’s everyone against everyone.”

Vivian Tse (

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

UK: £20,000 Benefits So This Father of Seven Can Keep His Children in Video Games… And Pay His Huge Booze Bill

Their loud and drunken behaviour makes the lives of their neighbours a misery — and it is all being funded by state handouts of £20,000 a year.

Residents are petitioning to have Jane and Lee Houghton, their five youngest children and a grandson evicted.

But with a new bathroom and kitchen on its way, paid for by the council, and a house filled with numerous games consoles, computers and TVs they have no intention of moving.

And Mr Houghton yesterday insisted they need more money.

The 42-year-old is paid £150 a month disability allowance because he has a ‘personality disorder’ which makes him ‘kick off in crowds’. He has not worked since 1999 and says drinking alcohol helps him cope with his condition.

He has been threatened with an Asbo for violent behaviour as well as being drunk and disorderly and has 24 previous convictions.

The comfortable lifestyle of the Houghton family is funded by benefits including £640 income support, £212 carer’s allowance a month as well as Mr Houghton’s £150 disability allowance.

Their four-bedroom semi- detached house in Crawley, West Sussex, is paid for by housing benefit.

The Houghtons boast about spending £1,000 on each of their children at Christmas. They have seven children and their eldest daughter, Emma, has her own council home.


‘We use our money to spoil our kids — they’ve got everything,’ said Mrs Houghton. ‘We’ve got a computer and a laptop, four TVs, two Xboxes, three DVD players and we’ve all got mobile phones.’

The Houghtons moved to their current home in 2001 after being evicted from their previous house for failing to pay the rent, despite receiving housing benefit which covered it.

They freely admit they ‘did it on purpose’ as they wanted a new home.

Mrs Houghton said: ‘We made up some b******t about Lee chucking me out as we knew if we played the game I’d get another house.’ Since

moving in, the family has made the lives of their neighbours hell, blasting out loud music from their home, while Mr Houghton drunkenly falls over in the street and rides his motorbike on the pavement.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Grandmother Killed by Schizophrenic in Random Stabbing as She Went to Play Skittles

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A paranoid schizophrenic who stabbed a grandmother to death at random as she went to play skittles has been locked up indefinitely.

Gwen Poole, 66, was waiting for a lift on a quiet village street when she was knifed by Martin Davies.

Davies, 23, had been released from a psychiatric hospital just four months before the killing and was being treated at home by a community care team.

On the day he stabbed Mrs Poole, he had been assessed by health workers who also gave him his prescribed medication.

But a court heard that Davies was hearing voices in his head which were telling him to attack a complete stranger.

With a knife concealed under his clothes he walked around the tiny Welsh village of Llanbradach before selecting his victim and, after checking for possible witnesses, approached Mrs Poole and plunged the knife into her chest.

Mrs Poole, a retired factory worker, tried to fend off her attacker and ran bleeding to her son’s nearby home, where she banged on the window, crying for help.

Ian Poole then tried to treat her wounds as they waited for an ambulance, but she died later in hospital.

Yesterday as Davies was sent to a psychiatric hospital indefinitely, it was announced that an inquiry has been launched into why he was allowed him to wander the streets of the village near Caerphilly, South Wales, where Mrs Poole and her husband of 50 years had lived all their lives.


In a statement to the court, Mrs Poole’s son Ian said: ‘To see my mother on the doorstep holding her side saying she had been stabbed will live with me forever.

‘A son should never have to go through this and see a mother’s life ebbing away in front of them.

‘My mum was dying on the floor in front of me.’

He added: ‘The repercussions of one man’s actions have totally devastated this family. We pray someone so evil who can take our mother’s life will not be allowed to walk the streets again.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Gipsies Can Ignore Green Belt Laws: Rules Put Their Human Rights Above Local Residents

Gipsies’ human rights are more important than the concerns of local residents, according to new planning rules.

Guidelines made public yesterday mean planning inspectors will favour letting them set up sites and stay on existing ones, while complaints will be largely ignored.

Travellers will even be allowed to build sites in the countryside, on legally protected land and on the green belt.

Gipsies need caravan sites, the rules said, because many suffer ‘aversion to bricks and mortar’ and ‘the sense of enclosure can be distressing to people who have been used to outdoor living’.

They qualify for special favours under human rights and race relations law, meaning the fears of those who worry that a traveller site will bring an increase in crime should be given ‘little weight’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: How Voting Tactically Can Save US From a Hung Parliament

This exceptionally volatile election offers tactical voters a real chance to make their vote count.

For most, the priority will be to vote out Labour but, according to opinion polls, many others fear a hung parliament — where no one party has overall control.

This outcome would deliver weak government, unstable coalitions and financial turbulence. Crucially, if there is no clear winner, Labour could be returned to government in a back-room deal, even if the party finishes third in terms of its share of the vote.

All the polls suggest that only the Conservatives can win an outright majority, so it is in the interests of all voters who are sick of Labour and do not want a hung parliament to vote Tory, especially in the marginals.

In constituencies where the Conservatives can’t possibly win, voters should back the candidate best placed to beat Labour, whether Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru or SNP.

Here, the Mail identifies 65 seats in which tactical voting will do most to prevent a hung parliament and ensure Labour’s demise.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Smoking Bag Removed From US Flight

A baggage handler in Houston discovered a smoking suitcase

An airport baggage handler in the United States discovered a ruptured, smoking suitcase while loading luggage onto an outgoing international flight.

The baggage handler in Houston reported hearing a “pop” and seeing vapour coming from inside the bag as luggage was being loaded onto KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 662 from George Bush Intercontinental Airport to Amsterdam, airport spokeswoman Marlene McClinton said.

The handler carried the bag away from the plane and terminal and called authorities.

Bomb crews hit the suitcase with a water gun and were examining it, assistant fire Chief Jack Williams said. He said there was no explosion and no injuries.

Ms McClinton said authorities quickly determined the bag posed no threat and airport operations weren’t affected. Neither she nor Anthony Black, a spokesman for KLM partner Delta Air Lines, knew whether the suitcase had been matched to an owner.

KLM is co-operating with the investigation, Black said. The Boeing 747-400 was set to depart about five hours late, with 221 scheduled passengers and 13 crew members aboard, he said.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

UK: The EU Migration Lie: Official Statistics Expose Huge Gap Between PM’s Figures and Truth

Labour was rocked yesterday by explosive new claims about its ‘disastrous’ policy on EU workers.

Figures showed almost four times more EU citizens working here than Britons taking jobs on the continent.

Opposition parties said the figures destroyed the claim by Gordon Brown — who promised ‘British jobs for British workers’ — that there had been equal numbers travelling in each direction. Gordon Brown Woolas

The Prime Minister made the claim only last week, during his encounter with Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy.

But the EU’s own statistics authority, Eurostat, says there were just 287,600 UK nationals filling jobs elsewhere in the European Union in autumn 2008.

Some 1,020,000 citizens from other Euro countries are taking posts in the economy here — more than 500,000 from Poland and other Eastern European nations granted ‘open door’ access by the Government.


UKIP spokesman Nigel Farage, who produced the Eurostat figures, said: ‘These figures destroy the argument that we have a mutually beneficial open door with the EU’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Uppingham Revolt: Pupils Stage Mass Mutiny Over Sixth-Form Expulsions

Hundreds of pupils staged a mutiny at an elite public school yesterday in protest at a mass expulsion.

In scenes reminiscent of the notorious film If… — in which a boarding school rises in violent rebellion against oppressive teachers — a mob of angry youngsters abandoned lessons and marched into the Uppingham School quad, chanting for the headmaster, Richard Harman.

When he emerged to face the horde he was met with a hail of abuse.

To quell the mounting revolt he later held an emergency assembly for the entire school in the chapel.

He told the mutinous youngsters — whose parents pay £27,500 a year for them to study at the 400-year-old school — that he had no option but to expel six lower sixth-formers and one upper sixth former for bullying a 17-year-old schoolmate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Tory Peer Launches Bizarre Attack on Muslim MPs.

The Conservatives’ Sayeeda Warsi is under fire this morning after declaring that she didn’t want to see more Muslim MPs, because “Muslims that go to parliament don’t have any morals or principles”.

Next Left, which broke the story, reports that Warsi’s comments were included in an unpublished Times story by the reporters Andrew Norfolk, Tom Baldwin and Richard Ford.

Whether the Times, which has amended headlines to suit the Conservatives in recent weeks, runs the story remains to be seen.

The full comments by Warsi, which were made in a speech at a Yorkshire dinner in honour of the president of Kashmir, were:

[He] says we need more Muslim MPs, more Muslims in the House of Lords. I would actually disagree with that, because one of the lessons we have learnt in the last five years in politics is that Muslims that go to parliament don’t have any morals or principles.

It would seem that the Tory peer, who is a practising Muslim and the shadow minister for community cohesion, has rather a lot of explaining to do. The Times report notes that there are more than 80 Muslim candidates standing in tomorrow’s election, including several Tories in winnable seats.

Baroness Warsi is quoted as saying that her original remarks were mistranslated and taken “completely out of context”, which seems a rather insufficient defence.

Let’s hope we get a response from the Times and David Cameron later today.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Drink-Driver Nearly Four Times Over the Limit Left £45,000 Trail of Destruction (But Escapes Jail)

A drink-driver caused more than £45,000 damage after getting behind the wheel when nearly four times over the limit .

Deborah Hastings damaged eight cars including her own, during two drink-fuelled trips, one in her tiny Smart car.

Driving on one occasion without her car’s lights on she smashed into other vehicles, damaging bodywork and wing mirrors.


She has now escaped a jail sentence after admitting the string of offences at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

The ten charges included driving with excess alcohol, without due care and attention and failing to stop after an accident.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Young Father Has Face Sliced Open in Race Attack as His Terrified Son, 5, Looks on

A young father was slashed across the face as his five-year-old son looked on in what claimed was a random ‘anti-white’ revenge attack sparked by the murder of an Asian teenager.

Reece Johnson told how he and his son, Tyrel, were walking with Mr Johnson’s girlfriend when a mob of 20 Asian youths surrounded him.

He claims one of the youths said, ‘Your lot killed one of ours’, before he was set upon.

The attack ended when one of the gang sliced open his left cheek with a craft knife.

As Tyrel screamed in horror, his father was left reeling with a giant gaping wound in his face which later needed 68 stitches.

Police are investigating whether the attack was sparked by the murder of student Saffer Khan, 19, by two white youths in the same area more than two years ago.

Mr Johnson, a labourer from Great Lever, near Bolton, today said: ‘My face is a mess but the fact is I’m very lucky to be alive.

‘The doctors told me if the blade had continued another few millimetres then it would have hit my jugular vein. The nurse said it must have been a very sharp blade, like a razor.

‘She said another finger tip across my neck and that would have been it, I would have died. These guys picked on me for no other reason than because I was a white and killers of that young lad were white.

‘It’s just unbelievable. Obviously I had nothing to do with what happened to Mr Khan yet I was tarred with the same brush as the killers simply because of the colour of my skin.

‘I’m scarred for life now and people might look at me and think I?m a violent thug.’

Mr Johnson had been for a day out with the friends in Blackpool and was walking past the entrance of Bobby Heywood Park in Great Lever where Mr Khan was beaten to death by two teenagers in November 2007.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I was with my son and a girlfriend when this mob of 20 Asian youths came up to us. They were saying “Your lot killed one of ours” — meaning white people killed an Asian lad.

‘One of the guys was acting aggressively and the group was swearing and hurling racist abuse. They attacked me because of the colour of my skin. They were very racist.

‘I saw one of them in front of me with a small hand knife and I was watching him. But then another lad came at the side of me and punched me and that’s when I was slashed.

‘I was scared for my life. The lads who attacked me have no respect. My little son was with me — he’s five years old and he was traumatised.

‘He was screaming, clinging on to one of my friend’s legs.’

Mr Johnson was taken to a specialist facial unit at the Royal Blackburn Hospital on Saturday night. He was given 20 stitches inside his face and another 48 on the outside.

He left hospital at 6.30am on Sunday and is now recovering at his parents’ home.

The father-of-three said he and his girlfriend will now move home because they are scared to return to the area.

He said his son has been badly affected by the attack.

Mr Johnson added: ‘Tyrel was very upset, he was hysterical. He woke up the other night crying. That is not normal for him. There are people in the community that know who has done it but it is whether they are brave enough to admit it.’

A Greater Manchester police spokesman said: ‘The 23-year-old man had been out with his girlfriend when he was confronted by a group of up to 20 youths.

‘An argument broke out and during this, the man was slashed across the left cheek, suffering a six-inch wound. Inquiries are ongoing.’ A 16-year-old was arrested but later released without charge.

Mr Khan was kicked to death by 18-year old Joseph Booth who ripped off an electronic tag he had been ordered to wear as a condition of his early release from jail.

Manchester Crown Court was told in the hours before the killing Booth had been on a boozing spree and after downing cheap cider simply broke open the tag and threw it away.

As the authorities alerted by a fault on the tag began a search for Booth, the teenager and a 15-year old boy began prowling the park looking for a victim to mug and ambushed Mr Khan who was punched kicked and and had his head stamped on.

Booth and the 15-year old were later jailed for life for murder.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Serbia: 720.000 People Below Poverty Line, Figures

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 5 — Roughly 720,000 people in Serbia live below the poverty line, while the number of indigent persons has begun to grow for the first time since 2000, reports radio B92. Ljubomir Pejakovic, advisor to Serbia’s minister for labor and social policy, said that those without jobs, particularly people above the age of 50, disabled people and families with developmentally challenged children, faced the greatest threats from poverty. According to the records of the Labor and Social Policy Ministry, Serbia has around 720,000 unemployed citizens, 55% of whom are women. More than 480,000 have been without jobs for more than one year. The highest number of unemployed persons is in the 25 to 29 age group. Zoran Stojiljkovic, vice president of the Nezavisnost (Independence) Trade Union, said unemployment would not go down in Serbia this year, even at the expected economic growth of one or 1.5%. He listed poor education which is not adjusted to the needs of the market, privatization lapses and corruption as obstacles to reducing poverty. Gordana Matkovic of the Economics Institute said the crisis had reduced the number of seasonal jobs and wages globally and in Serbia. She pointed out particularly the regional differences in poverty in Serbia.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Protests in France for Women in Hassi Messaoud

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 4 — Protests in France against the daily aggression against women working in Hassi Messaoud, the oil city in the heart of Algeria, continue. These women are considered to be prostitutes by fundamentalist imams, only because they live on their own. The imams set people against them in fiery sermons, which are always followed by punitive expeditions in which the women are robbed, beaten, tortured and raped. Today France’s Grand Lodge for women in a statement denounced “the silence that reigns on this extreme violence, aggression, the rapes and even murders” and deplores “the indifference of the media regarding these dramatic and barbaric events”. The violence has also been denounced by other French associations, particularly that tragic night in 2001 when around a hundred women ended up in hospital after an expedition of men armed with clubs, steel bars, knives. The story was recently told in a book by Algerian writer Nadia Kaci, unveiling the drama to France. But the drama still continues according to articles in Algerian dailies in the oil city, which denounced the impunity of the aggressors, the silence of the institutions and local authorities, the laxity of the community regarding the general condition of women in Algeria. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sahara: 15 Countries in Africom Manoeuvres

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 5 — Approximately 1,200 soldiers from 15 countries guided by the United States African Command (AFRICOM) are carrying out a series of military manoeuvres until May 22 in the Sahara, with the objective of reinforcing the response capacity in the fight against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Denominated ‘Flintlock 10’, the manoeuvres began on Monday at Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, and over the next few weeks will move on to Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Nigeria and Morocco. The manoeuvres, which take place every year since 2005, involve the participation of 600 U.S. soldiers from special forces, and 400 African and 150 European soldiers “to facilitate regional cooperation on matters of security and the fight against terrorist organisation,” said Anthony Holmes, Deputy to the Commander for civil-military activities of AFRICOM. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

UNRWA: Funds Sufficient Until September 2010

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 5 — With its current resources, the UN agency responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, will be able to adequately carry out its work only until September of this year. The news came from Brussels from new UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi. “The budget,” explained Grandi, “is about 428 million euros and we have a financial gap of 130 million euros. If we do not find at least 70 million euros, we will have money that will only last until September and not beyond. We should reduce the agency’s activity to a point that will have a political and social impact on the community of Palestinian refugees, which are important in this context of resuming dialogue for the peace process”. According to Grandi, this “will send a poor message to half of the Palestinian communities, since we want to have them on our side to discuss peace”. This has led to him scheduling a series of meetings in the coming days in Brussels, first with EP President Jerzy Buzek, then with various European commissioners. In particular, Grandi will meet with European Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, then with the European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs, and finally European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran President Backs Brazil Plan for Nuclear Fuel Swap

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has welcomed the mediation efforts by Brazil in a nuclear deal with the West, saying he may agree to a Brazilian plan that will give Iran nuclear fuel for a reactor in return for its low-enriched uranium.

World powers and Iran have been at loggerheads for months over the deal, which envisages supplying nuclear fuel for a Tehran research reactor in exchange for low-enriched uranium from Iran.

More on Turkey-Brazil

Turkey, Brazil in contact over nuke row

The deal stalled after Iran insisted that the two materials be exchanged simultaneously within its borders — a condition rejected by world powers who accuse Iran of masking a weapons drive under the guise of what Tehran says is a purely civilian atomic program. In April, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said during a visit to Tehran that his country could “examine” hosting the fuel swap if requested by Iran.

According to the Iranian presidential website,, Ahmadinejad discussed a Brazilian proposal in a telephone conversation with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday.

“The main issue of talks between Ahmadinejad and Chavez was the Brazilian president’s proposal regarding the nuclear fuel swap, and Ahmadinejad declared his basic approval to this proposal,” the website said.

It did not give details about what the Brazilian proposal was, but Amorim told Iran’s official news agency IRNA on April 27 that Brazil could host a fuel swap deal if asked by Tehran. “As of now there is no proposal, but if we receive such a proposal, it could be examined,” he said.

Political guarantors

Before insisting on the condition that the fuel be exchanged in Iran, Tehran had previously said it could consider whether the fuel could be swapped in Japan, Brazil, Turkey or on the Iranian Kish island.

Amorim had also said in Tehran that Brazil was “interested in having a role in settling Iran’s nuclear issue.” He had taken a serious exception to the presence of Western countries in the P5+1 group negotiating with Iran. The group consists of permanent Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

He said Brazil and Turkey could be possible “political guarantors” to help resolve the issue, adding that Ankara could also be the host to exchange nuclear fuel.

The fuel deal deadlock has led Washington to step up global efforts for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran.

Brazil and Turkey, two temporary members of the 15-strong U.N. Security Council, have consistently defended Iran’s nuclear program, which the West suspects masks a weapons drive. Tehran denies the charge.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has said it can’t confirm that Iran’s atomic intentions are peaceful because the government isn’t cooperating with the agency. The U.S. is pushing for further United Nations sanctions to stop what it says are Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

Washington said Tuesday it was growing “increasingly skeptical” that dialogue will end the nuclear standoff with Iran, even as Brazil, Turkey and other countries pursued mediation efforts. “We do recognize the value and importance of a variety of countries engaging Iran,” State Department Philip Crowley told reporters.

“There is a two-track process here, engagement and pressure, and the foreign minister told the secretary that Brazil continues to see… what can be achieved on this engagement process,” Crowley said.

He was alluding to the talks Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had Monday with Amorim on the sidelines of the ongoing nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York.

“As the secretary said yesterday, I think we’re increasingly skeptical that the Iranians are going to change their course absent… a real significant, powerful statement by the international community,” the spokesman said. But Crowley stressed that “we hope that these efforts by Turkey, Brazil and others might be successful.”

“I think we are all sending the same message: that Iran has to answer the questions that the international community has,” Crowley said. “It needs to respond in a formal and meaningful way to the offer that was put on the table last fall. There may still be a difference of opinion as to where we are in this process,” he said.

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

Is the U.S. Diplomatic and Intelligence Community Being Brainwashed in Dealing With Islamism?

by Barry Rubin

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When I first heard the story that President Barack Obama was barring from national security documents the use of terms like “Islamism,” “Islamic fundamentalist,” “Islamic radicalism,” or any reference of any connection between Islam and terrorist or revolutionary groups; al-Qaida, Hamas, and Hizballah; Iran’s regime or al-Qaida, I said to myself, oh that’s nothing new. That kind of policy started under Bush.

But then I realized—and this isn’t obvious in the coverage but is the most important aspect of all!—that this policy applies to internal government documents not just public statements. That’s both scary and shocking. Because the implication won’t be lost on career officials that along with not using these words it isn’t going to help their future prospects to use these concepts.

I don’t want to overstate the situation. In internal government discussions, people do refer to “Islamic radicals,” for example. It is the written work that is more likely to suffer. And are things going to tighten up under this administration in the years to come?

Suppose I’m an intelligence analyst in the State Department, Defense Department, armed forces, or CIA, and I’m writing about one of these groups or this ideology. How can one possibly analyze the power and appeal of this ideology, the way that ideas set its strategy and tactics, why it is such a huge menace if any reference to the Islamic religion and its texts or doctrines isn’t permitted?

Indeed, it is worse. Can you refer to the claims of these groups about Islam, even while insisting that they are wrong? Remember it isn’t just a matter of forbidding officials from doing something, they are going to get the signal that it is better for their careers not to do so.

And if one cannot talk about “Islamist” groups can you identify them as a huge threat or is the analyst tempted to suggest that they can be won over and moderated rather than they need to be combatted?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Riots in Amman Over Killing of Civilian by Police

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 5 — Police officials said today they are investigating the death of a civilian at the hand of a policeman after the incident triggered riots in the capital between relatives of the victim and security forces. Angry protesters torched a police booth in west Amman neighbourhood after anti-narcotics department shot a man from close range following a scuffle, according to eye witnesses. Relatives of the victim rushed him to hospital but he was declared dead upon arrival. Several people were injured after anti-riots were called to contain the situation. In a statement carried by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, public Security Department (PSD) Spokesperson Major Mohammad Khatib said police had a warrant signed to search the house of the victim. A group of the mans relatives attacked police with sharp objects and prevented them from leaving the house, he claimed. Anti-riot police fired tear gas canisters to control the crowd, and gunfire was exchanged between police and protesters, according to witnesses said who also said that police attacked protesters with batons and arrested at least six. One demonstrator was beaten brutally. “I dont think he survived”, said an eye witness. Police in Jordan, often accused of ignoring human rights, has faced several confrontations with tribes across the kingdom over the past two months. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sanction-Busting Secret Deal Reveals Iran’s Nuclear Weakness and Ambition

Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran.

According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.

Though Zimbabwe has officially denied that any deal took place, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe last week on his way to the nuclear conference in New York.

During the visit Mugabe publicly supported Iran’s “just cause” in seeking to develop nuclear power. If the report of the deal, published in England’s Sunday Telegraph, is true, it would violate U.N. sanctions against Iran and give a compelling reason for the U.N. to tighten the sanctions even more.

The UN is currently holding a conference aimed at reigning in Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons by blocking other countries from supplying the Islamic Republic with any material that might be used in its nuclear program. [emphasis added]

[Note the priceless Freudian slip. Instead of “reining”, the writer relied upon spell check and ended up with “reigning”. Not that the UN wouldn’t like to be a “reigning” power “in Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons”. The better to deal with Israel all the sooner — Z]

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: In the Battle for Women’s Rights, King Abdullah is Photographed With 40 Women

The picture with King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan, surrounded by women almost all with bare faces who took part in the National Dialogue Forum, is worth a thousand words. Gender segregation is become the battleground between modernisers and conservatives.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) — As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, which is what the Khaleej Times, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, tried to explain to its readers as it analysed the impact on Saudi public opinion of a photo showing Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan surrounded by a group of some 40 women, most showing their faces.

The significance of the picture lies less in the fact that female faces were bared than in the break with the kingdom’s traditionally rigid separation of the sexes. Since it was published, the picture has become a talking point on blogs, Internet forums, shisha cafes, newsrooms and the corridors of power.

The women surrounding king and prince took part last month in the National Dialogue Forum where they were invited to express their views. They later travelled to the Royal Court in Riyadh to meet the king and the crown prince to brief them about the discussions. At the end of the meeting, a group picture was taken by the royal photographer, with each participant eventually getting a copy.

“Many people are saying the photo has a symbolic message for the nation,” suggesting “that the time has come for women to be recognised,” wrote Siraj Wahab, a senior editor with Arab News.

Under Saudi law, a woman cannot leave home without a male “guardian” (father, husband or brother) to whom she is legally subordinated. Women cannot drive a car, nor can they have any contacts with unrelated men. She cannot even pray in a mosque.

The situation has important economic repercussions on female employment and foreign investments because gender segregation applies to the workplace and foreign companies.

Cautiously, King Abdullah has been moving things along. Recently, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, director of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia) in Makkah, said that men and women could pray together and meet freely albeit only in public.

The conservatives’ reaction was immediate (one even called for al-Ghamdi’s death). The Commission fired its Makkah chief, a move that it was eventually forced to cancel, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA reported, because of the alleged intervention by the government.

Justice Minister Muhammad Al-Eissa said that people should not confuse situations in which unrelated men and women mingle in public, which is allowed in Islam, and gender mixing in private (ikhtilat), which is banned.

This photo “sent a message to the people that it is OK to work with women and be side by side with women, and that there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Maha Muneef, a prominent physician and advisor to the governmental Shura council in Riyadh.

Basmah Al Omair, who runs a centre that lobbies for greater rights for women, agrees. “The whole point of (Abdullah’s) taking photos with women is to get people comfortable with the idea of men and women mixing,” she said.

Indeed, gender segregation is becoming “the” battleground for Saudi Arabia’s various factions of Islamic scholars to fight over the country’s future.

Against those who have lined up behind the king, there is a large and strong contingent of conservatives who have support with the royal family.

One conservative scholar, Abdul Rahman Al-Barrak, wrote to Justice Minister Al-Eissa, urging him not to support “modernists.”

In his letter, he said, “Don’t be the keys for evil” to pervade “among the Ummah (the Islamic community) by belittling and underestimating that which the enemies of God . . . want in terms of changing the condition of this beloved Kingdom.”

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

Syria-USA: Renewed Sanctions, Press in Damascus Against Obama

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, MAY 5 — Syria’s state-run press agency attacked the White House this morning after a decision by President Barack Obama to renew economic sanctions for one year, decided in 2004 by his predecessor George W. Bush, with accusations against Syria of supporting “terrorist” organisations and undermining stability in the region. “In doing this, Obama openly supports aggressive Israeli policies,” stated an editorial in al Baath, the official newspaper of Baath party which has been in power in Syria for almost 50 years. “The announcement of the renewal of sanctions, which as it is known are against international law, is contrary to the need for dialogue announced by Obama since the beginning of his presidency,” continued the newspaper, which confirmed that this decision “goes against the efforts for dialogue carried out by the U.S. State Department with Syrian officials”. After years of frozen diplomatic relations, Washington has recently opened up to Syria, deciding to appoint a new ambassador to Damascus, a position that has been left vacant since 2005. “The American threat continues?”, asked al Thawra, the other official Syrian daily. “Is it really Syria that threatens that national security of the United States?”, continued the daily, referring to the reasons stated by Obama in his message sent to Congress to renew sanctions. “Perhaps the United States wants Syria to forget that it is a victim of (Israeli) occupation and the repeated crimes committed by Israel? Is it Syria that represents a threat to the security of the region?”, asked the Syrian state-run daily rhetorically. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkish Leaders Continue Debate Over Inönü-Hitler Comparison

The Turkish prime minister defended his recent speech comparing Turkey’s second president, Ismet Inönü, to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler at his party’s group meeting Tuesday, as the main opposition party leader continued to criticize the comparison.

“Erdogan thinks he insults Inönü, but he insults Turkish people instead,” Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Baykal had compared him with Hitler, the Anatolia news agency reported. “We tell them to look at their history. But they raise hell,” he said.

Erdogan said the country’s politicians and prime ministers would be remembered with honor, adding that this does not mean that they cannot be criticized. “None of the parties can make their history taboo or divine,” he added.

Following the death in 1938 of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, his picture was removed from Turkish Liras, Erdogan said. He questioned who did this, implying that it was Inönü. He also blamed the former leader, without naming him, for removing Atatürk’s pictures from public institutions at the time. Erdogan said there are more cases like these examples, and they would come to light in the future.

He also blamed Inönü for returning to the Soviet government 195 refugee Turks who had fled World War II in 1945, citing a book by Professor Ahat Andican.

“The end of those Turkish refugees given back to Soviets by the national chief [a term used for Inönü] was not different from those submitted to Germany by the allies,” said Erdogan, citing Andican.

Baykal, on the other hand, blamed Erdogan for insulting the Turkish people with his comparison while speaking at his party’s group meeting on Tuesday.

“If Inönü was Hitler, who was Atatürk? Was he president of Hitler and who are the Turkish people then?” asked Baykal. He also called on Erdogan to withdraw his hands from Inönü’s mustache, adding, “If you have any problem with Inönü, leave him alone, come and settle this account with me.”

CHP to support the amendment with condition

Baykal also mentioned the dropping of Article 8, which would have made the closure of political parties more difficult. He said his party would support the constitutional amendments altogether if two other articles they oppose are also dropped. The three articles in the amendments CHP object to include Article 8 and the two articles about restructuring the HSYK and the Constitutional Court.

“We will make efforts to pass this amendment before it goes to a referendum in its last tour only if the other two articles are dropped,” said Baykal.

Meanwhile, Erdogan criticized the oppositional parties for not supporting Article 8.

“The CHP denied it and the authorization the people gave it. The MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] breached the trust of its voters by not supporting this amendment,” Erdogan said, adding, “The BDP [Peace and Democracy Party], a victim of party closures, has denied it and passed to the side of the status quo supporters who have applauded unfair treatments against them.”

He said the voting results of Article 8 would be criticized by the roots of opposition parties other than the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. “History and people will judge CHP, MHP and BDP,” Erdogan said, adding that his group will continue its work without any intervention.

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

Turkish FM Opens New Tirade Against Israel

Turkey’s foreign minister lashed out at Israeli policy in the Middle East in comments published Tuesday in the latest tirade of the deteriorating relationship between the longtime regional allies.

“If it [Israel] adopts aggressive policies, then Turkey will respond to this,” the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted Ahmet Davutoglu as saying.

“We will not remain silent on Israel’s attacks on innocent Palestinian people,” he said.

“What counts for us is the motive and not the relationship itself. If the aim is peace, then we will preserve good relations with any side,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Last month during a visit in France, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded Israel the “principal threat to peace” in the region.

Davutoglu said, “When Israel’s policies were based on diplomatic dialogue and peace we had good relations in 2008,” but this changed after the “Israelis attacked Gaza.”

Turkey is against military tensions in the region. Five years ago, we witnessed a war in Lebanon, then in Gaza and we do not want the scenario repeated, he said.

Davutoglu also urged Israel to restart peace talks with Syria, which Israel has recently accused of supplying Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement with scud missiles. Syria, however, denying the allegations, described the claim as part of an effort to instigate tensions in the region.

“Unfortunately, our region is going through a very turbulent period. In 2008, negotiations were taking place on the Israeli-Palestinian track and on the Syrian-Israeli track. But currently, no talks are being held which makes this period uncertain and dangerous,” Davutoglu said, according to a translation by Mideastwire.

The Israelis have to stop violating Lebanese airspace and Lebanese waters, he said, according to Mideastwire. If Israel chooses to follow the “path of peace and negotiations, and has a concrete vision… and a will to start indirect peace talks… with Syria, then Turkey will be glad to help in achieving this, as it has done before,” the minister told the Saudi-owned London-based daily.

Turkey brokered preliminary peace talks between Israel and Syria in 2008, which were broken off when Israel launched a devastating 22-day offensive against the Gaza Strip in December 2008.

In a memorable outburst, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009, after telling Israeli President Shimon Peres, “You know well how to kill people.”

Relations were further strained after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Turkish Ambassador Oguz Çelikkol in January to protest a TV series for provoking anti-Semitism, seating him on a lower sofa without shaking his hand.

After the Turkish government threatened to recall its ambassador over the public dressing down, the Israeli government sent a letter of apology that was deemed satisfactory by the Turkish side.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalia: Islamists Advance on Pirate Stronghold

Mudug, 5 May (AKI) — Tensions are running high in the central Somali town of Haradhere, where Islamist fighters have begun driving residents from their homes, the Somali website Mareeg reported. The town had become stronghold for Somali pirates.

Militiamen from the moderate Islamist group ‘Ahlusunna wa al-Jama’a’ were reported to be advancing on the town as part of a struggle between rival Islamist groups for control of the surrounding Mudug region.

Women and children residents in particular were reported to be fleeing from Haradhere to villages to the north of the town.

The regional governor has called for rival Islamist groups to hold talks on the situation in Haradhere.

Islamist militants now control large areas of Somalia, with the UN-backed interim government limited to sections of the capital.

A prominent Somali journalist Sheikh Nur Abkey was abducted on Tuesday and his body was found dumped in the street later that evening.

He worked at the state-run radio station in the capital, Radio Mogadishu which is critical of Islamist militants.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991, is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for members of the media.

Reporters Without Borders says nine journalists were killed in Somalia in 2009.

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

Latin America

“Cuba Si! — Arizona No!” Says Mexican President Felipe Calderon (Among Many Others)

Mexican President Felipe Calderon can hardly contain his revulsion and rage against Arizona’s SB 1070. He’s “deeply troubled” reports the Associated Press over a law he denounces as “discriminatory and racist,” not to mention: “a dire threat to the whole Hispanic-American population.”


At a European summit last year Mexican president Calderon explained his fastidious “no sanctions” policy towards Stalinist, Cuba. “Respect for the decisions of the Cuban people should mark the political future of the Caribbean nation,” he declared to loud applause.

Yes, Senor Calderon but as you undoubtedly realize, the “decisions of the Cuban people” are not precisely those of the Stalinist regime that enslaves them and prevents them under penalty of firing squad and/or torture from expressing their decisions in the manner of Arizonans, who who freely decided upon SB 1070 by a margin of almost 70%.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Illegal Immigrants Cost Feds More Than $10 Billion a Year

A report that found that illegal immigrants in the United States cost the federal government more than $10 billion a year — a sum it estimated would almost triple if they were given amnesty — has drawn criticism from immigration advocacy groups.

For its report, the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that advocates tougher immigration policies, used Census Bureau figures to compare the revenue that illegal immigrants contribute through taxes with the cost of government services they use.

“Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household,” said Steven A. Camarota, author of the study.

[Comments from JD: article is from 2004, the costs are sure to be higher today.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy Gives Egypt Two Motorboats to Stop Migrants

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 5 — Italy on Wednesday delivered two motorboats to Egypt to help the North African country stop migrants leaving its shores. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni met with Egyptian counterpart Habib Ibrahim el Adly and praised Egypt for being one of the few African countries, along with Libya, to accept the forced repatriation of its citizens found to have entered Italy illegally. Maroni said he would soon visit Senegal and Gambia, after recent trips to Ghana and Niger, to firm up similar accords. The minister added that only 52 illegal immigrants reached Italy by sea in the first quarter of 2010 compared to 4,450 in the same period last year. He said Italy’s accord with Libya last May to stop human trafficking and block departures had been “the turning point” in the battle against illegal migration by sea. A controversial ‘push-back’ policy, intercepting boats and turning them back, had no longer been necessary “since August”, he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Only 52 Arrivals in 1st 3 Months 2010

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 5 — In the first three months of 2010, only 52 illegal immigrants have arrived to Italy by sea, compared to 4,450 in the first quarter of 2009, said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, in Cairo for a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart. “We began to obtain good results against illegal immigrant arrivals via sea,” pointed out Maroni, “already in the beginning of May, when we refused entry to immigrants for the first time after the request for help from Libya. And the agreement with Tripoli,” underlined, “which blocked departures and arrested human traffickers, was a turning point which led to a sharp drop in the number of arrivals on our coasts.” The refused entries that have created so much controversy, specified Maroni, “are part of our course of action, but they are an exception, to the point that since last August it has no longer been necessary to resort to them”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Gays Abandoned by Left’s Appeasement

Consider this: an openly gay man works as a teacher in a state school in an area with a large Muslim population — say, Tower Hamlets in London’s East End. Most of his pupils are Muslims. Some of the parents of these children decide that they’re not keen on having their kids taught by a gay man. There is a stand-off. Should he stay or should he go? The Guardian’s leader-writers scratch their heads. Whom should they support in such a “sensitive” situation?

The scenario is my invention. It is, as far as I know, still hypothetical, but it has the ring of feasibility. It throws into sharp relief the dilemma which has petrified the Left and its fellow-travellers within the social, educational and cultural establishment. When two parts of your worldview collide, when your traditional support for gay rights conflicts with your staunch and uncritical support of ethnic minority cultures, what do you do? Relativism has tied your hands. You conjure the possible intellectual somersaults you could perform to justify your reasoning. And then you stay silent.

The growth of Islam in Europe has consequences for gay men. But you wouldn’t know it from a cursory perusal of the issues which preoccupy at any one time what is known as the “gay community”. Civil partnerships, gay adoption or problems with Christian bed-and-breakfast owners and the allegedly latent homophobia of the Conservatives are all up there on the list. But, with a few honorable exceptions, such as the consistently principled activist Peter Tatchell, few voices are raised about the possible future problems for gay men in a rapidly changing demographic landscape.

Multiculturalist white liberals, whose belief in the virtue of “celebrating diversity” has taken on the characteristics of some sort of fetish, could probably not bring themselves to point out the ridiculousness of that statement. And this in turn exposes the contradictions which were always there, bubbling away, in multiculturalism: how or why should you celebrate a culture which sees you as morally unacceptable? Why should you try to “understand” and adapt? Could we, quite soon, be in a position where certain areas of our cities are off-limits for gay men? And, hobbled by the requirement above all to be “sensitive”, will we simply go along with it? The last word goes to Bruce Bawer, who also wrote Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (Doubleday, 2009). “Open your eyes,” he says, “stop being cowed by political correctness, and speak up.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Overpopulation is a Myth

As the video below demonstrates, overpopulation is a myth. Globalists and their eugenic minions have misrepresented population statistics for decades in order to justify their agenda to wipe out large portions of the population. If this genocidal agenda continues, humanity will go the way of the Brontosaurus.

[Return to headlines]

Scientists Create Molecular Computer

A team of U.S. and Japanese researchers says it has created the first brain-like organic molecular layer that can solve complex problems.

The researchers from Michigan Technological University and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communication Technology said their achievement marks the first time an “evolutionary circuit” has been created.

The scientists said the world’s fastest supercomputer can only process bits one at a time in each of its channels. But they said the newly created organic molecular layer allows instantaneous processing of approximately 300 bits.

They said the processor not only can produce solutions to problems for which algorithms on computers are unknown, such as predictions of natural calamities and outbreaks of disease, but the molecular processor is capable of healing itself if there is a defect by using the self-organizing ability of the molecular monolayer.

The work that included Associate Professor Ranjit Pati of Michigan Technological University and Anirban Bandyopadhyay, the study’s lead author, at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan, appears in the journal Nature Physics.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]