Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100512

Financial Crisis
»Bankers Jailed, Sued as Iceland Seeks Culprits for Crisis
»Berlin Backs EU Aid Fund After Obama Prodding
»Canaries in Coalmine: China, Asia, Not Participating in Euro Bailout Lovefest; Beginnings of China Credit, Real Estate Bust
»Crisis Coerces EU Members Into Ever Closer Union
»Greece: Another General Strike on May 19
»Greece: Central Bank, First IMF Tranche by End of Day
»Herculean Task Ahead: Is it Already Too Late to Save Greece?
»JPMorgan Chase Warns Investors About Underwater Homeowners Walking Away
»Spain: Zapatero Announces Clampdown
»The Latest Greek Tragedy and Sovereign Defaults Pose a Great Threat
»U.S. Posts 19th Straight Monthly Budget Deficit
»You Are Being Lied to by the Entire Financial System
»AP Sources: US to Join Advisory Group Once Shunned
»Bill Clinton Offers Himself as Lottery Prize to Pay Off Hillary’s Debts
»Deepwater Horizon Well Failed Key Test
»Facebook Group Opposes Mosque at Ground Zero
»Kagan Shielded Saudis From 9/11 Lawsuit
»Myths of Cap-and-Trade and Clean Energy Policies
»Reuters, Politico Line Up for Newsweek
»Soros Idol: Suppress Disagreement by Force
»Supreme Court to Face Mecca
»The Beach House Bailout
»The Toothless Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
»White House Decides to Slash New York Anti-Terrorism Funds 11 Days After Times Square Bomb Try
Europe and the EU
»Dutch Football Club Bans Non-Native Children
»France: Premier, 10% Reduction in Social Spending in 3 Years
»Germany: Turks Found Worst Integrated Group Amid Widespread Bigotry
»Italy: Berlusconi to Pay Estranged Wife €300,000 a Month
»Italy: Businesswoman Named in Anti-Mafia Probe
»Italy: Bangladeshi Migrant Arrested in ‘Child Porn’ Raid
»Italy: Pentagon Denies Closing of Naples Base
»Italy: Berlusconi Seeks ‘Truce’ With Key Ally
»Netherlands Most Optimistic Western Country on Islam
»Netherlands: Labour Calls for Clarity on Gay Teacher Ban at Christian Schools
»Netherlands: Up to 100:000 People Are Too Lazy to Work: Rita Verdonk
»Orso Problemo: Dino the Bear Divides the Italians
»Portugal: Pope Says Sex Scandal ‘Church Persecution’
»Spain: Rendition, CIA Agents’ Arrest Demanded
»Spain: Supreme Court Puts Garzon on the Dock
»UK: Parents’ Outrage as Catholic School Children Told ‘Dress as a Muslim for Mosque Trip — or You Will be Branded a Truant’ By Daily Mail Reporter
»Vatican: Pope Argues Against EU’s Outright Secularism
»Bosnia: Karadzic Blames ‘Muslims’ For Fatal Attack
»Serbia: Nine Arrested for ‘Human Trafficking’
North Africa
»Egypt: EU: Anti-Terrorism Law That Respects Rights is Needed
»In Egypt Muslims Who Kill Christians Often Claim ‘Insanity’
Israel and the Palestinians
»EU Commission: Ready for New Status With PNA & Israel
»Israel: No to Russia’s Appeal for Hamas in Talks
»Jerusalem: Netanyahu Repeats, We’ll Continue to Build
Middle East
»Arms Dealers Find in Security Agencies New Market
»For the First Time Non-Muslims May Live in Medina
»Turkey: New Draft to End Alcohol Sponsorship of Sports Teams
»Yemen: Italy Offers to Back Fight Against Terrorism
»Russia to Import 150,000 Tonnes of Chicken From Turkey
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Gas Attack Targets Third Girls’ School
Far East
»Nine Killed in Latest China School Rampage
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Somaliland Press: Russian Soldiers Stormed Ship & Executed All of Our Men
Latin America
»John R. Thomson: Introducing Colombia’s Own Obama
»L.A. Becomes Largest City to Boycott Arizona
»Study Shows Broad Support for Arizona Law
Culture Wars
»Morocco: Gays Lobby for Elton John Concert
»Islam, Nazism and Anti-Semitism

Financial Crisis

Bankers Jailed, Sued as Iceland Seeks Culprits for Crisis

More than a year and a half after Iceland’s major banks failed, all but sinking the country’s economy, police have begun rounding up a number of top bankers while other former executives and owners face a two-billion-dollar lawsuit.

Since Iceland’s three largest banks — Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir — collapsed in late 2008, their former executives and owners have largely been living untroubled lives abroad.

But the publication last month of a parliamentary inquiry into the island nation’s profound financial and economic crisis signaled a turning of the tide, laying much of the blame for the downfall on the former bank heads who had taken “inappropriate loans from the banks” they worked for.

[Return to headlines]

Berlin Backs EU Aid Fund After Obama Prodding

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Tuesday approved Germany’s share of a trillion-dollar rescue package of loan guarantees for crisis-hit European countries amid reports she had been prodded by US President Barack Obama to take action.

“The measures send a clear signal that the markets can rely on the financial stability of the euro area and that speculating against the eurozone doesn’t pay,” deputy government spokesman Christoph Steegmans told a regular briefing.

Berlin is expected to provide at least €123 billion ($157 billion), but officials have warned that Germany’s slice is likely to be higher — up to €150 billion — because countries for which the fund is designed will not be contributing.

The fund — the eurozone stabilisation mechanism — which was unveiled in the early hours of Monday after marathon talks in Brussels, has been dubbed “Shock and Awe” for its size and it was immediately cheered by markets.

But the New York Times reported on Tuesday that it took a phone call from Obama to convince Merkel that dramatic action was required. He stressed in the conversation late on Sunday that without “an overwhelming financial rescue” the future of the euro and the entire European Union was at stake.

“He was trying to convey that he knew these were politically difficult steps that the leaders there had to take, that he had gone through them as well,” one senior US administration official familiar with the call to Merkel told the Times. “And that, from his experience, trying to get out ahead as much as possible was the right way to go.”

Merkel has faced criticism both at home and abroad in recent weeks for apparently dithering on the bailout of Greece, possibly aggravating the chaos on the financial markets the new EU rescue package intends to quell.

The unprecedented intervention worth more than €750 billion was backed by the International Monetary Fund and central banks worldwide, and Merkel said on Monday that the package would “strengthen and protect the common currency.”

But following the unpopular Greek bailout, for which Germany is stumping up €22.4 billion over three years, this latest dip into the coffers provoked outrage in some quarters.

The populist daily Bild screamed on its front page: “Yet again, we are

the idiots of Europe.”

“Germany is providing the lion’s share of the loans. If they are not paid back, it is the taxpayer who will have to fork out,” the paper added.

Also provoking anger was the fact that the cabinet’s decision came a day after Merkel announced there was no money for tax cuts and any relief would come only after 2012.

“It’s unbelievable. With a gigantic €750 billion, the EU and the IMF want to save the euro. Germany’s contribution alone for our bankrupt neighbours is €123 billion. Yet there is no money for us to cut taxes,” said Bild.

Broadsheets were also sceptical about the package, with right-wing daily Die Welt saying: “All that has been won is a little time — how much is unclear at present.”

Berlin’s participation in the EU rescue package requires parliamentary approval, and the first reading of the draft law is scheduled at the next regular week-long session.

AFP/DDP/The Local (

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

Canaries in Coalmine: China, Asia, Not Participating in Euro Bailout Lovefest; Beginnings of China Credit, Real Estate Bust

Is China a canary in the coalmine of an impending global slowdown, or is China simply overloved as a beacon of growth as it was in 2008? I think it’s both.

China’s property and infrastructure bubbles are massive; that is for certain. Moreover, China’s biggest export trading partner is Europe, just as Europe is headed for numerous austerity programs.

While it’s doubtful the European austerity programs bring deficits down to where they are supposed to be, those programs will for a while cause a decline in European spending along with much social unrest.

Can China take a double whammy like this without overheating? I think not. And China will have to show things down, whether it wants to or not.

China Overheating, Tightening Coming…

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Crisis Coerces EU Members Into Ever Closer Union

By extending Brussels’ supervision over states’ budgets and expanding the central bank’s charter, the EU has made an historical step towards a centralised budgetary policy.

By pledging a gargantuan amount of financial support last weekend, the European Union prevented financial markets from digging an even deeper hole for the euro.

The European currency wasn’t the only thing at stake, though. Recent weeks’ events came close to setting off a new financial crisis. Little has really changed since those fateful days in October of 2008. The financial system remains so densely and globally intertwined that a crisis in a small and relatively insignificant country like Greece can easily set off another economic powder keg.

The over 700 billion euros in credit and guarantees that were trotted out last weekend will be supported by far-reaching monetary measures. The European Central Bank (ECB) will, again, provide the banking sector with unlimited liquidity. It has also announced it will, if necessary, buy up treasury bonds to shore up prices and ensure that effective interest rates paid by governments remain low.

Judging by the reaction from financial markets on Monday morning, the bailout seemed to be successful. But last weekend will cast a longer shadow. The constitutional consequences can be very extensive indeed. By announcing its decision to begin purchasing eurozone treasury bonds, the ECB has effectively strayed from the domain of monetary policy into the budgetary arena.

EU countries have agreed financial sureties will be accompanied by an extension of centralised EU supervision over member states’ budgets. The European Commission’s decision to raise funds on capital markets to provide troubled countries with credit is the beginning of a centralised and relatively autonomous EU budgetary policy. Also, the Maastricht Treaty clause that precludes eurozone countries from supporting each other financially, has been violated — in spirit if not in letter.

It has been a longstanding rule governing European integration: the process needs an occasional jolt to help speed it along. Many already had doubts a common currency could exist without a joint, centralised, budgetary policy, back when the euro was introduced. The creation of a monetary union without a corresponding political one was considered equally risky.

If the euro is to have a future, euro countries need to start coordinating their economic and budgetary policies, effectively rescinding a significant part of their national sovereignty in these areas. Last weekend was a first step in that direction.

Whether this should be cause for contentment is a question that remains to be answered. European publics, particularly those in Germany and the Netherlands, were largely sold on the euro by politicians’ promises that their national sovereignty would remain intact. We are now seeing the fallout of the inexorable mechanism behind European integration: one measure inevitably begets the next. European unification has come to lead a life of its own. Those who oppose it would be wise to take action fast, because by the end of the current process, an extensive loss of sovereignty will have become reality.

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

Greece: Another General Strike on May 19

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 12 — Civil servant union Adedy and private sector union Gsee, have announced another general strike in Greece against the austerity plan and the pension reform. The strike has been announced for May 19. The announcement was made after a joint meeting of the two unions, which earlier called a strike for this afternoon. The radical left has also organised protests (tomorrow and the day after tomorrow) against the wage and pension cuts. The general strike of May 19, to which the union that is associated with the communist party — Pame — will probably also adhere, will be the fourth since the start of the crisis and the second after the approval of the austerity plan, agreed by EU and IMF. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Central Bank, First IMF Tranche by End of Day

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 12 — By the end of today, the first tranche of 5.5 billion euros of assistance from the IMF will be paid. The money is part of the rescue package put together with the EU. The news was confirmed to ANSA by sources at the Bank of Greece where the funds are set to arrive. The first payment by the EU is also expected over the coming days in order for Greece to deal with the 9 billion euros that the state must pay by May 19.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Herculean Task Ahead: Is it Already Too Late to Save Greece?

The International Monetary Fund and the European Union are coming to Greece’s aid with a financial commitment worth billions. But is it already too late to rescue the cash-strapped country? By SPIEGEL staff.

One of Greece’s purported saviors is a short, rotund, 72-year-old man named Leandros Rakintzis. He was once a respected constitutional judge on the country’s highest court, the Areopagus. Since 2004, he has been the head of a government agency that is the first of its kind for Greece. Rakintzis is Greece’s general inspector of public administration.

His body twitches and shakes with delight as he talks about his successes and discoveries. For example, he discovered that on weekends, hospitals admit elderly people who require nursing care or are confused, because their children bring them there so that they can take a few days of vacation. This, of course, drives up healthcare costs.

He also discusses an administrative office called Kopais, named after the lake of the same name near Thebes, which was established in 1957. The purpose of the office was to prepare for the draining of the lake so that roads could then be built in the lakebed.

In that same year — which is now over half a century ago — the lake disappeared forever. But there are still 30 employees working at Kopais today. When employees retire or are let go, their positions are filled with new employees, who are paid monthly salaries of up to €2,500 ($3,175). They supposedly work on drainage issues, but no one knows exactly what those issues are or who benefits from their work.

Unbelievable Stories

Rakintzis has stories to tell that take place throughout Greece, and some are downright unbelievable. For example, the government agency that was created to manage a bid to make Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, a European cultural capital in 1997 is still humming away. Its employees are supposedly working on winding down the major event and settling up the accounts — 13 years later.

How many people work there? “I don’t know. Not even the government knows that,” says Rakintzis. He adds, in an almost threatening tone: “Not yet.” Rakintzis and his staff are now in the process of investigating about 4,000 government offices and agencies in similar situations.

In addition to Rakintzis, the IMF, officials with the European statistical office Eurostat and economists from many countries are hard at work to bring order to Greece’s ramshackle finances. Rakintzis and the others are painstakingly searching for the holes into which Greek government funds have been seeping.

It is a Sisyphean task for Rakintzis, who has a staff of only 30 people to assist him. There is probably no other government agency in Greece that faces such a massive task with so few employees.

Bloated Public Sector

Greece has more than five times as many civil servants per capital than the United Kingdom. The country’s inflated government apparatus consumes tens of billions of euros a year. It’s money the Greek state doesn’t have — and actually never did. Greece’s gross domestic product is only slighter higher than that of the German state of Hesse and is just one-tenth the size of Germany’s total economic output.

For this reason, the government has been borrowing fresh funds on the international capital markets for years, generously and cheerfully spreading the wealth among its citizens. The introduction of the euro made it even easier to incur debts, because by joining the common currency, Greece qualified for lower interest rates than anyone would ever have thought possible.

But now the bubble has burst. Greece threatens to turn into another Lehman Brothers — except on a whole new scale. The €300 billion in debt that the country has accumulated poses a threat to the entire European community.

If Greece falls, other shaky economies like Portugal, Spain and Italy could be next. As a result, the philosophical ideal of a politically and culturally united EU family is gradually crumbling.

Many people in Europe are asking themselves the following question: How many more countries will be affected?

Lost Confidence

The financial markets, at any rate, have lost their confidence in the erstwhile cradle of democracy. Without the promised loans of €110 billion from other countries in the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Greece would have been bankrupt by no later than May 19, when it will be required to repay a 10-year bond worth €8.1 billion. And that is only the first of many tranches that will mature in the coming months and years.

In approving the Greek bailout plan, the international community is more intent on saving its own banks than rescuing Greece itself. The Greek government owes €162 billion to foreign banks and private industry worldwide. German banks hold €33 billion in Greek government bonds.

Creditors must surely realize that the loans are no longer collectable, says Ulrich Blum, the president of the Halle Institute for Economic Research in eastern Germany. “The verdict on Greece is already in.”

In return for the loans, the Greek government is expected to cut costs and finally reduce its massive budget deficit, introduce sound budget management practices and pay off its debts. But is this even possible anymore? Is the Greek economy even capable of withstanding such kill-or-cure remedies?

Harsh Measures

In specific terms, the donor nations and the IMF are requiring additional wage cuts for public employees and a further increase in the retirement age from 63 to 65.

In addition, only one-fifth of civil servant positions that become available are to be filled, and the value-added tax will be raised a second time this year, to 23 percent.

Finally, the government will be required to take decisive action against tax evasion, which is practically a national sport in Greece, as well as tackle rampant corruption.

These are drastic measures, and they will deprive the Greeks of the last of their money — money that will then be unavailable for consumption, which will only hamper the economy even further.

Tragic Deaths

Thousands are now protesting against the austerity in Athens each week. Last week, the protests turned violent when three bank employees, including a pregnant woman, died when demonstrators torched their bank on Wednesday. Protestors had thrown a Molotov cocktail through the window of the building.

The images of terror, fire and anger in the streets have unsettled the world. There are growing doubts that the radical cuts into the established rights of citizens are politically enforceable. At the same time, hopes are waning that Greece will ever be able to repay its debts.

The doubts are justified. After the end of the bailout program, the Greek deficit will still comprise at least 125 percent of GDP. And no one has a clue as to how the country will ever pay off its mountain of debt…

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

JPMorgan Chase Warns Investors About Underwater Homeowners Walking Away

The nation’s second-biggest bank is warning investors that underwater homeowners may walk away from their mortgages.

In a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, JPMorgan Chase told investors and regulators that homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth may not continue to make their payments — even when they’re able to.

“Declining home prices have had a significant impact on the collateral value underlying the firm’s residential real estate loan portfolio,” the bank stated. “In general, the delinquency rate for loans with high LTV [loan-to-value] ratios is greater than the delinquency rate for loans in which the borrower has equity in the collateral.

“While a large portion of the loans with estimated LTV ratios greater than 100% continue to pay and are current, the continued willingness and ability of these borrowers to pay is currently uncertain.”

Because of its size and reach, the bank, with more than $2 trillion in assets, is a bellwether for the industry, as well as for the broader economy. If the financial services giant can’t reassure investors that underwater homeowners will continue to be willing to make their payments, it’s a sign of how much the recent phenomenon of “strategic defaults” has grown.

About one in eight defaults in February were strategic, according to an April 29 research note by a team of Morgan Stanley analysts led by Vishwanath Tirupattur. Strategic defaults are those in which the homeowner could have continued to make payments but chose not to. The rate of strategic defaults has tripled since mid-2007, notes Tirupattur.

Underwater homeowners, those whose homes are worth less than the mortgage, now comprise about a quarter of all homeowners with a mortgage, or about 11.3 million homeowners, according to CoreLogic, a real estate research firm. Another 2.3 million have less than five percent equity in their homes (for example, a homeowner who owes more than $285,000 on a $300,000 house). All told, about 29 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage are either underwater or very close to it

These are the homeowners most likely to strategically default, research shows. In fact, the deeper underwater homeowners are, the more likely they’ll walk away from their mortgage, according to findings by a team of academics at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

“Such so-called strategic defaults, once rare, are now common enough to jeopardize the already-weak housing and mortgage markets,” wrote economists Celia Chen and Cristian deRitis of Moody’s in an April 13 note. “If the trend continues, strategic defaults could both accelerate the pace of home foreclosures and also make it harder for new borrowers to obtain mortgages. Both factors would in turn worsen the decline in house prices.”

For JPMorgan Chase, the problem is getting worse…

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero Announces Clampdown

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — Spanish Premier Jose’ Luis Rodriguez Zapatero today announced a hard clampdown on public spending during a special hearing in Congress. The measures include cuts or freezes of civil servant wages and pensions. The announcement was made after heavy pressure from the European Commission, and later also US President Barack Obama, who has asked for “resolute action” to resolve the crisis and build up market confidence. Obama reportedly made his request in a telephone call, quoted today on the front pages of all Spanish newspapers. According to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, the call was made “because some of their problems make it necessary for Spain to undertake reforms that the Prime Minister is starting to work through.” In the special Congress hearing, scheduled in the past days, Zapatero announced a new clampdown on public spending, which will be made part of the programme to reduce the deficit to 3% by 2013, which includes a cut of public sector salaries, as well a freeze of pensions. In detail, the government will cut public sector salaries by 5% this year, and freeze them in 2011. The wage cut will be proportional to revenues. Salaries of cabinet members will be cut by 15%. In 2011 the government will freeze pensions, with the exception of minimum pensions. The provisional regime for partial retirement will be cancelled, and, on January 2011, the payment of 2,500 euros for each baby that is born or adopted is also cancelled. The cuts also regard public investments in 2010 and 2011, which will be lowered by 6,045 billion euros. Development subsidies will be reduced by 600 million euros. The move also regards the autonomous communities and local governments, which have to cut their spending by 1.2 billion euros. At the same time the retroactivity of the dependence law, which includes contributions to households with handicapped family members, will be cancelled. A reform will set the maximum time needed to resolve subsidy requests to six months. The government’s axe will also come down on medicine costs, limiting the consumption of medicines to “the real needs of the patient” and introducing single-dose distribution to adjust consumption to need. In the hearing Zapatero justified the new measures by saying that “an exceptional, special and unique effort” is needed at this moment when “signs” of economic recovery are felt. These signs include the figures released today by the national statistics institute which show a 0.1% growth of GDP in the first quarter, the official end of the Spanish economy’s recession. The Premier added that the new clampdown on public spending is “unavoidable” to boost confidence in the Spanish economy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Latest Greek Tragedy and Sovereign Defaults Pose a Great Threat

The latest Greek tragedy continues to leave carnage in its wake, crime compounds the debt problems, Problems everyone knew about nobody did anything about, the Sovereign debt bubble is now upon us, and could bring the world financial system down, a situation like the French Revolution in Greece, food stamps at a record high, unemployment and problems of poverty in the US.

It was 7 years ago we said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bankrupt. Most everyone within the beltway knew it, but no one would say anything about it. This as it now turns out they were the poster companies which led to sovereign debt problems, but also showed that they were involved in massive fraud over several years and many in Washington knew it. Earnings were fabricated in order to create conditions so that the officers could collect millions of dollars in bonuses. Part of this scam was engineered by Goldman Sachs, which pushed more than $100 million in earnings into future years. Earnings were structured so that they justified larger payouts for executives.

These two GSE’s were later joined with Ginnie Mae and FHA, not for fraud as far as we know, but in making and insuring loans, that were not worth the paper they were written on. They were the entities, and they still are, that were at the heart of the mortgage crisis. They were responsible for the distortions in the housing market as essentially the lenders of last resort. Remember, everyone had to have a house whether they qualified for it or not. We should also add that the Fed created and controlled the housing boom, aided and abetted by these GSE’s and, of course, the lenders and raters.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Posts 19th Straight Monthly Budget Deficit

The United States posted an $82.69 billion deficit in April, nearly four times the $20.91 billion shortfall registered in April 2009 and the largest on record for that month…

It was more than twice the $40-billion deficit that Wall Street economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast and was striking since April marks the filing deadline for individual income taxes that are the main source of government revenue.

Department officials said that in prior years, there was a surplus during April in 43 out of the past 56 years.

The government has now posted 19 consecutive monthly budget deficits, the longest string of shortfalls on record…

[Return to headlines]

You Are Being Lied to by the Entire Financial System

Almost every US Corporation will do and say anything to keep us spending money, regardless of what they know about the fragility of our entire financial system. Bankster’s are now using world governments as patsies to commit the largest heist in world history. Stealing a trillion dollars from US citizens proved to be too difficult, as they had to receive congressional approval to bail themselves out. They’re recent scam involves using central banks to bypass democracy & funnel money to offshore entities without oversight.

So-called financial experts and analysts in the U.S. who never warned us about the financial/debt crisis are now putting out propaganda regarding our risk and exposure to the EU bailout. If you don’t see what’s happening, let me reveal it to you: Banksters are skirting US regulation & the US Constitution to ship money offshore to foreign central banks. The US Treasury is the pawn Bankster’s have chosen to filter $50 billion to the IMF —— like a thief in the night. Bankster’s will never tell you the truth about our economic outlook because if they did, we’d all default on our mortgage loans and stop spending money altogether.


Ladies and Gentleman, the entire criminal Banking system has bought-and-paid-for laws that allow them to skirt regulation & oversight, and they’ve built one of the largest powder kegs that’ll destroy the entire global economy; the $700 trillion derivative’s scam.

You see, derivative’s are ticking time bombs that should actually be called “insurance”, but by calling them something else (like derivative’s), Bankster’s are able to get around the regulatory system set up for the insurance industry to minimize risk. Now, we have a $700 trillion ticking time bomb that was built without oversight, regulation, and accountability. (If you don’t know how much $700 trillion dollars is, Google “GDP of the global economy” — the entire world GDP is estimated at $70 trillion). As these risky insurance policies (called derivatives) have to be paid out, Bankster’s are losing their shirts, and now they’re extorting trillions more in bailout funds to cover what they knew all along were bad, risky bets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


AP Sources: US to Join Advisory Group Once Shunned

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say the Obama administration is preparing to join an international advisory group that the United States has largely shunned over fears it would adopt anti-Israeli and anti-Western stances.

The officials say the administration plans to announce soon it will begin a formal relationship with the Alliance of Civilizations.

The alliance is a United Nations-backed organization that seeks to ease strains between societies and cultures, particularly the West and Islam, and promote better ties. However, the U.S. boycotted the group when it was founded in 2005 over concerns it would become a forum for bashing Israel and the United States.

The officials say those concerns have now been addressed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the move publicly.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Bill Clinton Offers Himself as Lottery Prize to Pay Off Hillary’s Debts

By 2007, seven years after leaving the White House, the Clintons had earned a combined $109 million (£73 million) through speaking engagements and bestselling memoirs. Even so, apparently they would prefer American voters to settle Mrs Clinton’s remaining $771,000 debt rather than paying it themselves.

He is raffling himself. In an e-mail sent to millions of people who supported Hillary Clinton’s White House campaign, the former President asks: “How would you like the chance to come up to New York and spend the day with me?” For those who would like the One-Day-With-Bill prize, an online donation of as little as $5 (£3) will buy them the chance.

[Return to headlines]

Deepwater Horizon Well Failed Key Test


WASHINGTON—House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said Wednesday that BP PLC officials told House investigators that the Deepwater Horizon well did not pass a key pressure test the morning of the April 20 explosion.

Mr. Waxman, a California Democrat, said that James Dupree, BP’s senior vice president for the Gulf of Mexico, told House investigators that the test was “not satisfactory” and “inconclusive.”

The tests indicated uneven buildups of pressure in different lengths of the pipe. The results, Mr. Dupree told investigators, signaled a potential influx of gas into the wellbore. It is now thought that a sudden surge of gas into the wellbore caused the well to blow.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) separately said that a preliminary House investigation has uncovered “four significant problems” with the blowout preventer. The preventer, he said, “apparently had a significant leak in a key hydraulic system.”

The committee’s investigation has found that Transocean Ltd. had made “extensive” modifications to the blowout preventer before the explosion. A key shear ram, which is meant to cut through and seal off the main pipe in the event of a blowout, was also found to be “not powerful enough to cut through joints in the drill pipe.”

The investigation also found that “the emergency controls on the blowout preventer may have failed.” One finding was that a battery meant to activate a “deadman switch” when all other steps had failed was itself dead at the time of the disaster.

At the hearing, Mr. Waxman outlined a series of events leading up to the explosion. He said his committee has collected more than 100,000 pages of documents from the companies and agencies involved in the rig accident…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Facebook Group Opposes Mosque at Ground Zero

Controversial new neighbor at Ground Zero: A mosque

Construction continues in and around Ground Zero more than eight years after the events of September Eleventh. And one of the newest construction projects could be a mosque two blocks away.

A former Burlington Coat Factory building on Park Place is being eyed as the future home of the Cordoba House, sponsored by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, in partnership with the Cordoba Initiative. Community Board 1 has reportedly already passed a resolution in favor of the proposal.

In addition to a mosque, the Cordoba House would have rooms for community events, a performance space, fitness facilities and classrooms. It would cost about $100 million to build, and fundraising efforts are just now underway. The mosque could be open in three years.

But before construction even begins, there’s already opposition from a group on Facebook. The page is called “1,000,000+ people who disapprove of building a mosque at Ground Zero!” and just days after launching, there are already over 20,000 members.

The page’s administrator spoke with NBCNewYork by telephone from his home upstate. He asked that we not name him, because of “security concerns.”

He said the idea behind the page is “not to bash Muslims or tell them they can’t practice their faith”, but to express his belief that the location is an “inappropriate place”. He added that the page is “growing at a rate of 200 people an hour.”

Supporters though say the mosque’s location is ideal because it would address the growing number of Muslims downtown.

Nooh Al-Arcon, who lives in Brooklyn but works near Ground Zero, told us, “there’s a very small amount of mosques throughout New York”, and added, “I think it’s better to definitely have more mosques in more places because this is the best way to integrate into society.”

As for opponents of the planned mosque, Al-Arcon says “I would hope that people would have an open heart and mind to the dignity and respect that Islam portrays.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Kagan Shielded Saudis From 9/11 Lawsuit

Sided with kingdom in case brought by victims of terror attacks

NEW YORK — President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, helped shield Saudi Arabia from lawsuits filed by families of 9/11 victims seeking to target countries and leaders who helped finance al-Qaida.

“I’m very concerned about her views on executive power and her views with respect to the separation of power,” Stephen A. Cozen, the lead attorney in the case for 9/11 victims, told WND.

“I believe she must be asked questions about whether or not citizens who are attacked inside the U.S. have the right to file suits domestically against terrorism financiers,” said Cozen, the founder and chairman of Cozen O’Connor, a Philadelphia-based law firm with 24 offices throughout the country.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Myths of Cap-and-Trade and Clean Energy Policies

Tomorrow, with the support of the White House, Senators Kerry and Lieberman are introducing a bill to regulate energy. The Obama administration and Congress are trying to make the American public believe that cap-and-trade and other “clean energy” policies will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while not significantly increasing consumer prices. These Senators and the President point to Europe as providing a model the U.S. should follow.

The problem is that the European community has already tried such approaches, and the results have been poor. Clean energy policies in the generating sector have increased electricity prices, indeed often doubling them. Cap-and-trade policies have enriched the companies that were granted free allowances by giving them a commodity to sell that they paid nothing to obtain. European carbon-dioxide emissions were rising, until the global recession lowered them—lowered them, in many cases, below targets set by cap-and-trade, so that companies did not have to take further actions to reduce emissions. And, as studies have shown, European clean-energy policies have resulted in job losses, often in economies already hurting.


Further, the Europeans found misuses and abuses in the system, because all parties have an incentive to manipulate it. Many companies got free permits, and because those permits were based on future estimates of emissions levels, there were too many free permits. As a result, companies made large profits by selling unneeded permits and not passing their savings on to their customers. As a result, consumers were paying higher energy and commodity costs, and taxpayers paid for the program’s implementation, which created a new middleman to run the carbon-permit trading program.[v]

Europe found the costs of the program to be large. In 2006, individual businesses and sectors had to pay â‚24.9 billion ($31.6 billion) for permits totaling over one billion tons. The WorldWatch Institute estimates the costs of running a trading system designed to meet the European Union’s Kyoto obligations at about $5 billion. The costs of a trading system designed to meet the European Union’s commitments of a 20 percent reduction by 2020 (against a 1990 baseline) are estimated to be about $80 billion annually.[vi]


A Spanish study found that Spain’s “green jobs” agenda resulted in job losses elsewhere in the country’s economy. For each “green” megawatt installed, 5.28 jobs on average were lost in the Spanish economy as an opportunity cost; for each megawatt of wind energy installed, 4.27 jobs were lost; and for each megawatt of solar installed, 12.7 jobs were lost. Although solar energy may appear to employ many workers in the plant’s construction, in reality it consumes a great amount of capital that would have created many more jobs in other parts of the economy. The study also found that 9 out of 10 jobs in the renewable industry were temporary.[ix] Based on Spain’s experience, the United States can expect to lose 2.2 jobs for every “green” job created, and each of those “green” jobs will cost about $803,000 in government subsidies. [x]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Reuters, Politico Line Up for Newsweek

It has been only a week since Washington Post Co.’s chairman, Donald Graham, announced that Newsweek was on the block, but already a few big media players are taking an early look at the newsweekly.

Thomson Reuters and Politico owner Allbritton Communications have expressed interest out of the gate, according to people familiar with the situation. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has also taken a look, though a spokeswoman said, “Not us” when asked about being on the short list. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham also said he would consider trying to pull together an offer with investors.

People involved with the Newsweek sale cautioned that it’s incredibly early and that rich folks tend to congregate around big media properties, but that doesn’t mean they’re close to drawing up an offer sheet.

[Return to headlines]

Soros Idol: Suppress Disagreement by Force

Obama denounced the curse of free flowing information

Addressing the graduates of Hampton University in Virginia, the President of the United States denounced the curse of free flowing information:

The ‘24/7 media environment,’ he told the students, ‘bombards us with all kinds of comments and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter.’

Circumventing the courts, the FCC’s latest ploy is to reclassify broadband internet service as a utility, allowing the net to be regulated like telephone service. Free of government intrusion, the internet has been an engine of conspicuous economic growth and the last citadel for entrepreneurs. Thus, the Obama administration now finds it abhorrent and needs to crush the life out of it with onerous regulations.


The economic havoc that will be wrought by a government takeover of the internet is but one lagniappe for the administration.

The job of the press is supposed to be to follow politicians around and write down what they say and do. Our Founding Fathers thought the right of the press to perform that specific job was important enough to address it in the very first amendment to our Constitution. Under English common law, wrongful statements against government officials could result in jail or fines. Our founders understood the essential service provided by a free press in protecting a fledgling democracy. If the system was working as it should, politicians and reporters would be natural enemies.

The American mainstream media was hijacked by the Left some time ago, but not until Barack Obama came along did the press become a true ministry of propaganda. No politician has exploited the media to the degree that Obama has.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Supreme Court to Face Mecca

Americans can thank the Supreme Court for the attempted car bombing of Times Square, as well as any future terrorist attacks that might be less “amateurish” and which our commander in chief will be unable to thwart unless the bomb fizzles.

Over blistering dissents by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, five Supreme Court justices have repeatedly voted to treat jihadists like turnstile jumpers. (Thanks, Justice Kennedy!)

That’s worked so well that Obama’s own attorney general is now talking about making massive exceptions to the Miranda warnings — exceptions that will apply to all criminal suspects, by the way — in order to deal with terrorists having to be read their rights as a bomb is about to go off.

Let’s be clear: When Eric Holder thinks we’re being too easy on terrorists, we are being too easy on terrorists.


When six Germans and two Americans were suspected of plotting an attack on U.S. munitions plants during World War II, FDR immediately ordered them arrested and tried in a secret military tribunal held behind closed doors at the Department of Justice.

Within weeks, all were found guilty. Six of the eight, including one U.S. citizen, were given the electric chair. One German was sentenced to life in prison and the other American citizen — who had turned himself in and revealed the plot to the FBI — got 30 years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Beach House Bailout

Another terrible idea from the folks who brought you Obamacare.

By Eli Lehrer

Those who think the federal government needs even more debt and more responsibilities will love Florida Democrat Ron Klein’s Homeowners’ Defense Act. Everyone else should treat the bill?—currently moving forward in the House of Representatives—with a great deal of skepticism. The proposal, intended to reduce homeowners’ insurance premiums, turns the federal government into the insurer of last resort for many of the most disaster-prone homes in the country. Since the great bulk of the bill’s potential beneficiaries and current advocates live on or near hurricane-prone beaches, it’s quite fair to think of the bill as a bailout for them—a beach house bailout.

The Homeowners’ Defense Act sets up a Fannie Mae-style “private” consortium, with a board made up of government officials, to underwrite catastrophic natural disaster losses for private homeowners’ insurers, requires Treasury to lend money to states that suffer natural catastrophes, and provides loan guarantees to a Florida hurricane catastrophe fund and to California’s government-mandated earthquake insurer. According to the bill’s supporters—Klein, an assortment of other politicians, and a small handful of big insurance companies?—all of this would cost taxpayers nothing, as the legislation requires the consortium to break even and states to pay back loans they receive.

Attractive as it may seem on paper, the idea cannot possibly work, because it violates the risk-pooling principles at the heart of insurance. “Primary” insurance companies like Allstate, Nationwide, and CNA buy insurance of their own, called reinsurance, to manage and pool risk. The reinsurers that sell this type of coverage invariably operate around the globe. A large reinsurer like Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway might simultaneously underwrite the risk of an industrial accident in Japan, a flood in the U.K., a hurricane in Florida, and a cyclone in Australia. Since there’s almost no chance that all of these events will happen at the same time, the reinsurer can profit from the premiums it earns on one type of coverage even when it pays out mammoth claims on another.

All other things being equal, a broader, more diversified pool results in lower premiums. Klein’s bill actually narrows down the pool by encouraging states to concentrate risk here in the United States under the aegis of federal guarantees. Thus, to break even, the government would have to charge higher premiums and interest rates than the private sector for any coverage or guarantee it provides. This means that if it hopes to sell any coverage at all, the government will have to under-price it and thus leave taxpayers with nearly limit-less liabilities.

The federal government’s one similar existing effort—the National Flood Insurance Program—shows how Klein’s proposal would probably work in practice. Since it began selling homeowners’ flood coverage in 1968, the flood program has repeatedly violated the statutory mandates that it break even on most coverage it sells. It has run up debts of around $19 billion and, even after a four-year run of very mild flood seasons, has made almost no progress in paying them back. Congress has always lifted debt caps and spending limits attached to the flood program since they get exceeded following major disasters, when the only other choice would be to let the program run out of cash. As a result, nearly everyone who has taken a look at the program agrees that the federal government will eventually have to forgive the debt.

Like the flood program, furthermore, the catastrophe insurance programs Klein favors would lower insurance costs and decrease credit risk for developers and real estate agents interested in building in currently wild coastal and floodplain areas. (Building in these areas both puts more people in harm’s way and, since wetlands absorb storm surge from hurricanes, potentially increases inland damage.) As a result, real estate agents and homebuilders have joined some insurers in support of the bill, while environmental groups like the National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club have joined forces with small-government bedfellows, including Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, as well as a larger number of insurers and a variety of insurance industry groups, to oppose it…

[Return to headlines]

The Toothless Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is ineffective, yet the treaty appears to be a centerpiece of President Obama’s nuclear disarmament policy.

Every five years or so the United Nations hosts a foreign minister level conference to review the implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This year, Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to join the party. He delivered, on the first morning of the review conference last week, his customary condemnation of Israel and of the United States while defending his country’s nuclear program.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke later the same day, accusing Iran of being the only country attending the UN review conference that is acting with impunity when held to account by the International Atomic Energy Agency and Security Council. Iran, she said, is consistently violating its obligations under the NPT. That was a good start, but then she rhetorically crouched into a defensive position.

Clinton said that President Obama had come to office with “an open hand” extended to the Iranian regime. We “reached out” in many ways, she said, without elaborating and without acknowledging the fact that we have wasted over a year in this futile exercise while Iran marches on towards developing a nuclear arms capability.

Then, in order to show how transparent the United States really is, Clinton announced that the Obama administration had decided to unilaterally reveal the number of nuclear arms in our arsenal. She reiterated Obama’s unilateral pledge to develop no new nuclear weapons. And, in an implied threat to Israel, Clinton said that the United States was “prepared to support practical measures” towards the objective of a nuclear-free Middle East — a stalking horse pushed by Egypt and other Islamic countries in the region to force Israel to give up its suspected nuclear arsenal without any means of assuring that Iran or the other Islamic countries would desist from pursuing their own nuclear arms ambitions. This was not just feel-good rhetoric. U.S. officials are reportedly in talks with Egypt over a plan to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

White House Decides to Slash New York Anti-Terrorism Funds 11 Days After Times Square Bomb Try

WASHINGTON — Eleven days after the botched plot to bomb Times Square, the Obama administration on Wednesday slashed some $53 million from the city’s terror-fighting budget.

“For the administration to announce these cuts two weeks after the attempted Times Square bombing shows they just don’t get it and are not doing right by New York City,” fumed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

To top it off, the news comes as President Obama comes to town today to tap the city’s deep pockets for the Democratic Party.

“The President seems more interested in raising money for political campaigns than providing New York the money it needs to defend itself against Islamic terrorism,” said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

The cuts, to be announced Thursday, target the annual allocations for transit security and port security, legislators said.

The New York City area will get $111million for transit security in the final 2010 budget — a 27% chop from last year’s $153 million. The port security program is getting chopped from $45 million to $33.8million — a cut of 25%.

“The fact that the Obama administration would cut New York’s homeland security funding just 11 days after the Times Square car bomb attempt is dangerous and unconscionable,” King said.

The Department of Homeland Security had forecast the cuts in December, but local leaders thought the administration would change its mind after a car packed with fireworks, propane tanks and fertilizer nearly detonated in the Crossroads of the World on May 1.

Another terror plot busted up last September targeted the city’s subways.

“Just when we thought they finally realized a war on terror is going on, they do something like this,” raged City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens), head of the Council’s Public Safety Committee.

“This leaves us more vulnerable to ‘man-caused disasters,’“ he said sarcastically, referring to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s term for terror attacks.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Matthew Chandler begged to differ with New York’s interpretation, insisting his agency is “actively engaged in supporting New York City’s first responders and overall preparedness.”

He argued that in 2009, the administration gave the area more than $457million for “terrorism and other threats.” He blamed Congress for appropriating less money for 2010, and an administration official said if New York includes the cash it got from the economic stimulus bill passed in 2009, it’s actually getting $47.3 million more than last year for ports and transit protection.

King was unimpressed by that math, arguing the stimulus cash is a one-time payout that won’t be repeated.

“That’s a story they’re coming up with at the last minute, because an hour ago they were saying they couldn’t give us the money because Congress only allocated $300 million,” he said. “Actually Obama only asked for $250 million.”

King noted there is nothing stopping the administration from giving the city a bigger slice. “New York should get first shot, because we’re the No. 1 target,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch Football Club Bans Non-Native Children

A Dutch football club has announced it will no longer accept new junior members of foreign descent. It is not the only amateur club struggling with immigrant parents, who organisations claim do less than their share to keep their clubs running.

Sports bags were cast onto the pitch, quickly followed by two boys who wriggled their way through the fence surrounding it. It was 6:15 on a Thursday evening: practice time for the youngest members of amateur football club GLZ, located amidst Rotterdam’s multiethnic neighbourhoods.

Junior coach Hatip Ersoy, on his way to the pitch with a net full of footballs, said he had been left aghast by the decision announced by Quick 1888 last week. This amateur football club in Nijmegen will be putting children of foreign descent who apply for membership on a waiting list, while allowing native Dutch youth members. “The stupidest thing they could do,” Ersoy said. “Isn’t a club supposed to be a reflection of its neighbourhood?”

Foreign parents don’t help out

The main motivation for Quick 1888’s decision is that immigrant parents are generally less willing to spend time helping out at the club, either by staffing the cafeteria or by arranging for transport to away games. This is considered a sin at Dutch amateur football clubs, which are largely kept afloat by the goodwill and dedicated efforts of their members. Currently, over 80 percent of Quick 1888’s juniors are of foreign descent, and it is suffering logistically as a result. Native Dutch are said to feel less and less at home at the club. Members of Nijmegen’s’ city council have already expressed their misgivings over Quick 1888’s new policy. Five mothers sitting in GLZ’s canteen on Thursday night were also astounded by the move. “Not involved? Us?” said mother Dilek, who hardly missed any of her son’s practice sessions in the last five years.

According to most football clubs, the issue is not new at all. A decade ago, the Utrecht club, VSO, set off the debate when it decided to study the lack of involvement in the club of immigrant parents. “It is a well known pattern,” said Shams Raza, who led the inquiry. “Traditionally, Dutch clubs become less white as their neighbourhoods change colour. Then comes the clash. The board and the senior teams are often still made up of white people, but the younger players’ ranks are increasingly non-native. The board often finds the resulting culture shift hard to swallow. Post-match beers are replaced by glasses of mint tea and board members are left to wonder when new volunteers will come forward.”

André Bellekom, a junior coach at the The Hague football club, Quick Steps, said he vetted new juniors’ parents as soon as they registered. “The first question I ask is: ‘do you have a means of transport available on Saturdays?’“ Bellekom said. “Parents often respond byasking, ‘Isn’t that your responsibility?’ But we are not a taxi-service.” Lack of transport to away games is one of the biggest problems Quick Steps has to deal with, as is the case at many other teams.

Annass Eddini, a specialised ‘club organiser’, charged with getting parents involved at Roodenburg Leiden football club, said the main problem was that non-native Dutch parents did not know what was expected of them in Dutch community life. “In the Netherlands, it goes without saying that children join a sports club. In Morocco, this is not the case. There, children just play out on the street.”

No car, working weekends

Others ventured that the problem was mainly a matter of resources. “Parents either have to work on Saturdays or they don’t have a car,” said Gerard Houterman of the Utrecht club, Sporting ‘70. In 2008, he helped another Utrecht Club, VVOO, get its volunteer policy in order. Three out of four of VVOO’s members were poor enough to qualify for special financial assistance, Houterman recalled. Government subsidies went a long way towards paying for the costs associated with membership. “It is a good thing that people with lower incomes are compensated for a lot of expenses, but it also does little to stimulate their sense of responsibility,” Houterman said.

A lack of volunteers can spell the end for amateur football clubs. This is why clubs have tried their hardest to get immigrant parents involved in recent years. In 2002, VVOO closed down its entire junior division, only to reopen it immediately afterwards. All of its members’ parents had to reapply for membership of the new organisation, this time promising in advance to volunteer. VVOO squads are now only allowed to participate in competitions if transport, a coach and a supervisor have all been provided for in advance. The board is of mixed ethnicity, coaches are Moroccan, the cafeteria serves halal meats and the board tries to instil club spirit in parents through sideline chats.

Last month, Quick Steps of The Hague organised a pitch-side breakfast of Turkish snacks in an attempt to engage junior players’ parents. “Of our 130 juniors, about ten of their parents proved willing to help the club out,” junior coach André Bellekom said.

‘Everybody is welcome here’

Clubs surveyed said they thought turning down prospective members of foreign descent was a bridge too far. They all stressed that everyone was welcome at their clubs. Still, Quick 1888’s new policy is by no means unique, said Agnes Elling, a scientiss with the Mulier Institute for the social science of sports. “But it is mainly implicit. When Mohammed calls to register, the football club has no place left, but when Jeroen [a native Dutch name] does the same, suddenly, a spot has opened up. Clubs that used to actively recruit members of foreign descent through multicultural programmes have become reluctant now that other members are starting to leave,” she said.

Appointing parents as coaches, holding parent-child tournaments, halal barbeques and organising seminars can all help to get parents acquainted with club life. “Often, communication is the problem,” Elling said. “Parents think: ‘why should I volunteer if I’ve already paid my dues?’“

The members are the club, added club organiser Eddini, but many foreign parents don’t know it. “This is particularly an issue with first generation immigrants, who often don’t speak Dutch well,” he said. According to social scientist Elling, a football club needs more than communication alone to successfully incorporate its foreign members. Boards also need to seat members of foreign descent.

GLZ, which had no shortage of — predominantly Turkish-Dutch — parents on its sidelines on a recent Thursday, already boasts an all-Turkish board. While the club, founded in 1930, may be “Dutch to the bone”, as coach Bekir Akyayci put it, since the 1990s its board gradually became less so. Akyayci did not make much of the issue. “We are all Dutch, aren’t we?” he said.

“In Turkey, community life is an even bigger deal than it is in the Netherlands,” a father standing on the sidelines said. He leafed through a booklet outlining a Muslim code of conduct. “Helping each other out is important, as is physical exercise. That is what Mohammed says,” the father said..

How come GLZ has plenty of parents willing to drive children around on match days? Simple, coach Akyayci said. “When parents register, we simply explain to them we need their help. But we don’t boss them around by saying things like: ‘you have to volunteer now’.”

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

France: Premier, 10% Reduction in Social Spending in 3 Years

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 12 — The French state is aiming to reduce its social spending, namely payouts for the various forms of social benefits like family allowances, aid for people on low incomes looking for work or housing and disabled grants. “The breadth of the effort to reset the balance,” wrote French PM Francois Fillon in a message to other components of the government, “demands that spending of this type be systemically revised.” The revisions, specifies the PM, will affect in particular “the instruments linked to regulations of automatic identification or acquired rights,” which “will see their spending contained through specific reforms.” The French Government’s aim, writes Fillon, is to implement a programme to cut public spending by 5 billion in two years. The French state’s social spending in 2009 amounted to 67.6 billion euros.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Turks Found Worst Integrated Group Amid Widespread Bigotry

A new survey of immigrants in Germany has revealed that residents with Turkish roots, who make up the largest group of foreigners in the country, are the most alienated — but German prejudices are also at fault.

More than 50 years after the first Turkish “guest worker” was invited to West Germany to fill a labour shortage during its post-war economic boom, the Turkish community remains the worst integrated, according to new research conducted by Institut Info.

Cited on Wednesday by daily Die Welt, the report surveyed 2,000 Germans and immigrants from 86 countries about their values and attitudes about life.

Raising concerns about their failed integration, 40 percent of the country’s more than 2.7 million Turks said they felt unwanted in Germany.

While 90 percent of immigrants from other countries said they desired “to belong to the society without exception,” the number was only 60 percent for those of Turkish background, the paper said.

Integration challenges for Turks don’t stop there. While the average high school graduation rate for immigrants coming from other countries is around 25 percent, only 10 percent of Turkish students get that far, the survey found.

The group also claims the highest percentage of those who have never attended school — nine percent. Many of the uneducated Turks, and those among the 24 percent who are also unemployed and not seeking work, are women. This fact seems to reflect another statistic that almost one-third of Turkish-Germans believe “housework and raising children are women’s work,” Die Welt reported.

Barbara John, who served as Berlin’s integration commissioner until from 1981 to 2003 said the situation was worst in big cities.

“Turks who are poorly integrated retreat into their community,” she told the paper. “They find security in the traditions they’ve brought along and stew in their own juices.”

But Holger Liljeberg, leader of the poll for Institut Info, warned that a big part of integration challenges occur because of widespread German stereotypes about immigrants.

“The attempts at integration by immigrants are accompanied by many real and mental exclusions,” he told the paper.

According to the study, 40 percent of the Germans polled said integration efforts in their country had been unsuccessful, meanwhile another 20 percent said they would find it uncomfortable to have foreign neighbours.

Some 20 percent of native Germans also blamed immigrants for unemployment in the country, the paper said.

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

Italy: Berlusconi to Pay Estranged Wife €300,000 a Month

Milan, 11 May (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has agreed to give his estranged wife Veronica Lario 300,000 euros a month and grant her the use of the Macherio villa outside Milan in a legal settlement to end their 19-year marriage, Italian media said Tuesday. “I am ready to do everything necessary to reach this agreement for the best for both of us,” Berlusconi said, according to Italian daily Il Messaggero.

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

A former actress, Lario had demanded 3.5 million euros a month from her husband, who owns Italy’s three biggest private television stations, as well as other media assets. Berlusconi had reportedly been willing to pay up to 300,000 a month.

“Look Silvio, getting over this, with time we will be able to see each other,” Lario was quoted as saying in Il Messaggero.

A draft of the agreement was reportedly signed by the parties late Saturday after months of difficult negotiations.

Italian media described the accord as a victory for Berlusconi and his legal team.

“This agreement satisfies both of them and respects the law,” said Nicolo Ghedini, Berlusconi’s lawyer.

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

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

Italy: Businesswoman Named in Anti-Mafia Probe

Cosenza, 11 May (AKI) — An Italian businesswoman and a director of a private employers’ association, Iolanda Zambon, has been named as a suspect in an anti-mafia extortion probe. Police on Tuesday arrested eight people in the southern Italian city of Catanzaro in connection with the probe and said they were investigating seven other suspects besides Zambon.

She is a director of Confindustria’s branch in the Tuscan city of Lucca.

The other individuals under investigation include suspects linked to Calabrian criminal organisations in Cosenza allegedly involved in extortion through threats and intimidation, police said.

Zambon had unspecified dealings with an unnamed businessman from the Calabrian town of Amantea near Cosenza.

At the end of the business dealings she allegedly demanded 33,000 euros from him, according to investigators

Zambon sought assistance from members of unspecified local crime groups who threatened the businessman and punched and kicked him, investigators said.

In a series of raids, police on Tuesday arrested six suspects in Cosenza suspected of extortion, mafia association and carrying illegal weapons on the orders of anti-mafia magistrates.

Seven people were also arrested in the port city of Brindisi in the Puglia region on suspicion of extortion, drug dealing and carrying illegal weapons.

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

Italy: Bangladeshi Migrant Arrested in ‘Child Porn’ Raid

Rome, 11 May (AKI) — Police in the Italian capital Rome on Tuesday arrested a Bangladeshi immigrant whom they suspect of making a shocking pornographic video featuring a small boy having sexual relations with a woman.

The man was arrested after police searched his apartment in the southern suburb of Garbatella.

Police also searched four other apartments at undisclosed locations in Rome and reportedly seized other child and adult pornography.

Police officers said they went to search the man’s apartment after receiving information from another Bangladeshi immigrant arrested last month on suspicion of possessing child pornography videos and burglary.

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

Italy: Pentagon Denies Closing of Naples Base

US to restructure network of bases abroad, CNN reports

(ANSA) — Naples, May 11 — The United States Defense Department has denied reports that it may close down the American base in Naples as part of a cost-saving budget measure.

“The US Navy is not involved in any discussion regarding the closure of its base in Naples,” a statement from the Pentagon released here said.

“We are in possession of no information which confirms such an hypothesis. The closing down of US military bases abroad is a decision made at the highest level of the American government and takes into account the opinions of the host nation and existing accords,” the statement added.

“We would like to reiterate that no discussions are ongoing in regard to the base in Naples,” the Defense Department said. The statement from the Pentagon was in response to reports by CNN that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had announced plans to rationalise spending for American bases abroad which may include closing several of them, possibly even the one in Naples.

According to the American all-news channel, the base in Naples dates back to the end of World War II and many Pentagon experts consider it ‘obsolete’ in regard to Washington’s current defense policies.

The plan to restructure American bases abroad should be ready in time for the presentation of next year’s budget and Pentagon sources cited by CNN said it was aimed at responding to a demand from the White House to optimise spending and eliminate waste.

When interviewed by CNN anchor John King, Gates spoke in general on the restructurization plan for bases abroad but did not specifically mention Naples.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Seeks ‘Truce’ With Key Ally

Rome, 12 May (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly wants to end a bitter feud with his coalition partner Gianfranco Fini, considered by many to be his most likely successor. Fini is the speaker of the lower house of parliament and co-founder of the ruling People of Liberty (PdL) party.

Relations between the two leaders have been tense for months and Berlusconi called on Fini to resign at the end of April as their rivalry exploded in an embarrassing public row at a party conference in Rome.

Italian media reports said the two political leaders were expected to meet in Rome on Tuesday, but Fini cancelled his appointment at the last minute.

According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, Berlusconi wanted the men to put their differences behind them and “remain united” particularly because of the challenging international economic situation.

Late on Tuesday, Berlusconi held top-level talks with party leaders and allies including defence minister Ignazio La Russa and national co-ordinator of the PdL, Denis Verdini, at his official residence Palazzo Grazioli.

Fini merged his National Alliance party with the premier’s Forza Italia in 2008 to form the People of Freedom coalition.

In recent months, Fini has distanced himself from Berlusconi and founded a new political movement called Generation Italy in March.

While it is not a new party the move is seen as providing Fini, who has adopted more liberal positions on issues such as immigration, with a potential vehicle for a leadership bid.

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

Netherlands Most Optimistic Western Country on Islam

THE HAGUE, 22/01/08 — The Netherlands is the Western country scoring highest on the Muslim-West Dialogue Index. Overall, the Dutch came third after Bangladesh and Saudi-Arabia.

The survey, published yesterday, was carried out by Gallup among respondents in 21 Western and Muslim countries for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Gallup Muslim-West Dialogue Index ranked countries in terms of their citizens’ optimism about the state of dialogue based on responses to nine questions about the state of Muslim- West relations. The overall score was 37 points.

Bangladesh scored 50, Saudi Arabia 46 and the Netherlands 44. Next came Canada, Singapore, Iran, Israel, Belgium, Indonesia, the US, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Malaysia, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Turkey, Spain, Pakistan, Brazil and Russia.

“Roughly 1 in 3 residents of the Netherlands believe the relationship between Muslim and Western communities is getting better, second only to Bangladesh,” the researchers commented. “The Dutch are the most likely to believe the Western world is committed to improved relations with Muslim societies (72%) and among the most likely to say they are personally concerned with this issue, though less than half (46%) believes the West respects the Muslim world.”

“Like Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands is the most likely Western country to trust in the other community’s good will; 2 in 5 say the Muslim world is committed to better relations and 1 in 3 say it respects the West. Like the other European countries surveyed, the majority of the Dutch see greater interaction between Western and Muslim worlds as a threat, but their relative optimism in other dimensions pushed them into third place.”

On the question, ‘Do you think the Muslim World is committed to improving the interaction between the Western and Muslim World’, the Netherlands scored 40 percent, the highest figure among Western countries after Sweden. On the question, ‘Do you believe the Western World respects the Muslim World’, the Netherlands (46 percent) had the highest score of all countries after Italy.

Greater interaction between Muslim and Western Worlds is a benefit, says 22 percent of the Dutch, while 67 percent says it is a threat. In all European countries, the threat-score is higher than the benefit-score however, while the reverse applies to the US and the Arab world.

Gallup considers the score for the Netherlands surprising. “Unlike Bangladesh, some might expect Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands to be among the most pessimistic about Muslim-West dialogue”, as “they were both directly affected either by military or cultural conflicts between Muslim and Western communities.”

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

Netherlands: Labour Calls for Clarity on Gay Teacher Ban at Christian Schools

The scrapping of a legal provision allowing religious schools to refuse to employ homosexual teachers should be part of discussions on forming a new government, the Telegraaf reports on Tuesday.

At the moment religious schools are allowed to refuse gay teachers and pupils on the grounds that homosexuality conflicts with their religious principles.

The outgoing cabinet had proposed making changes to the legislation but would not have fundamentally altered the current situation.

‘The law has to be changed so no school can refuse a pupil or teacher on grounds of their sexuality,’ the paper quoted Labour candidate Ronald Plasterk as saying.

The Netherlands has dozens of fundamentalist Christian schools which oppose homosexuality on Biblical principles. While funded by the government, they are run independently. Such schools may not discriminate but are free under European rules to determine their own ‘professional demands’ for teachers.

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

Netherlands: Up to 100:000 People Are Too Lazy to Work: Rita Verdonk

Between 50,000 and 100,000 people living in the Netherlands are too lazy to work, Rita Verdonk, leader of political party Trots op Nederland (proud of the Netherlands), says in an interview with website on Wednesday.

The refuseniks are ‘always the brownest you see walking past because they sit in the sun on all that money they get,’ quoted the former Liberal minister as saying.

‘It must again be come normal to work for your money,’ Verdonk said.

Meanwhile, a TON party political broadcast featuring an old lady getting mugged, ambulance workers being harassed and a cheering crowd of fans, has been criticised for its amateurish approach.

‘The film makes such an exaggerated link between Moroccans and crime that many people will find it not credible. They will see straight through it,’ VU university profession Jan Kleinnijenhuis, told the Volkskrant.

Nevertheless, the film has been viewed over 130,000 times on YouTube and is fast becoming a viral hit. The film is ‘toe-curling’ and an ‘all-time low in party political propaganda’ according to some viewers.

Over 3,000 people have even joined a special Facebook page devoted to it.

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

Orso Problemo: Dino the Bear Divides the Italians

Dino, a large bear with a voracious appetite, is wreaking havoc in the Alps of northeastern Italy. But while angry cattle owners want to shoot the beast, Dino has attracted an avid group of online supporters who want him kept alive.

A bear-sighting in the Italian Alps isn’t that much of a big deal. The beasts frequently wander over the border from neighboring Slovenia. And, for the last few years, the European Union has even been promoting the re-introduction of bears into parts of this mountainous region.

But a bear named Dino, who is sending shivers through cattle-farming community between northeastern Italian cities of Belluno and Vicenza, arrived of his own volition. And he is a force to be reckoned with — not least because of his hearty appetite.

Ravenous after months of hibernation, the bear has been fearless in his quest for food. This spring, he has feasted on local livestock, ranging from chickens to larger four-legged animals, including even horses. It’s little surprise that farmers in the Veneto region are less than enthusiastic about their new visitor.

Dino, as he was christened by the Italian media, is thought to have crossed the border into Italy last October. Scientists, who identify him with the somewhat drier name of “M-5,” estimate that the bear is five years old and weighs around 175 kilograms (385 pounds). Thanks to a chip implanted in his skin, they can track the roaming bear by satellite around the clock.

Facebook Fan Club

Locals are used to the occasional bear, though most animals steer clear of settlements. People living in the region have even been instructed on how to act should they encounter a bear: Stay calm. Don’t run away. Don’t shout.

Still, these rules don’t help them deal with Dino, who has no qualms about popping onto a farm for supper. Now, irate farmers and animal researchers alike hope that Dino will wander off and find a new home somewhere else. But, thus far, he has shown no sign of wanting to move on, which has prompted cattle ranchers to be even more strident in their calls for ending Dino’s prolonged feast to end with a bullet.

But while his enemies are arguing that Dino poses a danger to people, a swelling crowd of fans are supporting him online. In fact, more than 10,000 people have signed up as members of the “Dino the bear must live!” fan page on the social networking site Facebook. The site is littered with upbeat messages like: “The forest is his home; keep your hands off Dino!” and “Long live Dino!”

Other online jokesters have set up another Dino-related Facebook page, though this one is aimed more at taking political potshots at the Northern League, the right-wing and anti-immigrant party that is powerful in the region. This group’s Facebook page shows a picture of a mauled jackass with the caption: “Dino the bear eats jackasses. Be careful, friends of the league!”

Echoes of Bruno

Meanwhile, Italy’s experience with Dino recalls the doomed rampage of Bruno, a bear who was once the bane of livestock farmers in the Bavarian Alps. Despite enthusiastic public support, authorities deemed Bruno a threat to public safety and had him shot by hunters in late June 2006.

Right now, Dino’s fate remains open. But it is clear where the sympathy of the Italian online community lies: The tongue-in-cheek Facebook group “Let’s slaughter Dino the bear” only has 46 members.

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

Portugal: Pope Says Sex Scandal ‘Church Persecution’

Lisbon, 11 May (AKI) — Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday described the clerical sexual abuse scandal as “the greatest persecution of the church,” while acknowledging it arose from sins inside the church. He called for profound purification and penance within the church as well as pardon and justice.

Benedict made his comments in response to a question from a reporter on the clerical child abuse scandal as he travelled to Portugal.

The Vatican has been at the centre of a widening sex scandal in which the clergy have been accused of child sex abuse in the United States, Ireland, Germany, Italy and many other countries.

The church has been criticised for attempting to blame the media and church opponents for the escalation of the scandal which has led to the recent resignation of bishops in Ireland , Belgium and Germany.

In some of his strongest comments to date, Benedict on Tuesday said the Catholic Church had always suffered from internal problems but that “today we see it in a truly terrifying way.”

The pope arrived in Portugal where he was also expected to address Europe’s economic crisis.

During the four-day trip, Benedict is scheduled to celebrate open-air masses in the country’s capital, Lisbon, and at the Catholic shrine of Fatima.

On Tuesday, the pontiff was to due to celebrate an open-air mass for 80,000 people at a 16th-century square in Lisbon.

Portugal’s economic growth averaged less than one percent between 2001-2008, and the global downturn caused a serious contraction of 2.7 percent last year.

It is western Europe’s poorest country and has become one of the main casualties of the continent’s economic troubles.

Fatima is one of the main sites for Christian pilgrims in Europe.

The pope will be marking the anniversary of the day in 1917 when three Portuguese children reportedly had visions of the Virgin Mary in Fatima.

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

Spain: Rendition, CIA Agents’ Arrest Demanded

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 12 — The Audiencia Nacional prosecutor’s office has asked judge Ismael Moreno for the arrest of 13 CIA agents, accused in alleged cases of ‘rendition’, that is, the kidnapping of individuals and their illegal transfer by plane carried out against foreign citizens suspected of terrorist activities. It is reported today by El Pais. Among the cases under inquiry, the accusation of kidnapping, made in October 2006 by German citizen of Lebanese origin, Jaled el Masri, who was stopped on January 23 2004 in the Republic of Macedonia and transferred by plane to Afghanistan, where he is said to have been tortured. The plane made a stop at the Spanish airport at Palma, where the real identity of the crew, made up of agents from U.S. intelligence, was hidden. The prosecutor accuses the 13 CIA agents of the crime of falsification of official documents, considering that the flight by which El Masri was kidnapped, and his passage through Spain, has been “circumstantially corroborated”. The CIA agents whose arrest is being demanded by the prosecution, and whose names figure in a report by the Guardia Civil are: James Fairing, Jason Franklin, Michael Grady, Lyle Edgar Lumsen III, Eric Mattew Fain, Charles Goldman Bryson, Kirk James Bird, Walter Richard Greensbore, Patricia O’Riley, Jane Payne, James O’Hale, John Richard Deckard and Hector Lorenzo. The agents overnighted in a luxury hotel in Majorca the night before the one in which the plane on which they were travelling, a Boeing 737 marked N3139, flew from Skopje for the alleged kidnapping of El Masri and his forced transfer to Afghanistan. The prosecution underlines that it does not ensue that the alleged U.S. spies “had any type of authorisation from the Spanish authorities to operate on Spanish territory under false identity and in the exercise of official missions”. The kidnapping and alleged torture of El Masri are the subject of an inquiry in Germany, where there is a trial under way against CIA agents for these crimes. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Supreme Court Puts Garzon on the Dock

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 12 — Supreme Court magistrate, Luciano Varela, today opened proceedings in the hearing for the trial against judge Baltazar Garzon, who will be in the dock for an alleged crime of abuse of authority, relating to the probe he initiated on crimes of the Franco regime. High Court sources, cited by the Pais on-line edition, confirm that Varela will today send the indictment for Garzon to the General Council for the Judiciary (CGPI), the Spanish Governing Council of the Judiciary, which will have to meet in a plenary session to decide on the suspension of the Audiencia Nacional judge from his functions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Parents’ Outrage as Catholic School Children Told ‘Dress as a Muslim for Mosque Trip — or You Will be Branded a Truant’ By Daily Mail Reporter

Staff had ordered 14-year-old Amy Owen and her classmates to dress in headscarf, wear trousers or leggings and keep her arms covered for the compulsory visit to the mosque after it was arranged to promote ‘community cohesion.’

Parents at the 1,100 pupil Ellesmere Port Catholic High School in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire were also told they were each required to make a £3 contribution towards the trip for all Year Nine students.

But when Amy refused to dress in Muslim attire for the visit to Al Rahma Mosque in Toxteth, Liverpool, staff warned her about rules and said refusal would mean non attendance which would then be marked down as an ‘unauthorised absence.’

In a stern letter to her family with words in block capitals and underlined, the school’s headmaster Peter Lee said the visit was ‘as compulsory as a geography field trip.’

He added: ‘There are two reasons for these visits. One is that the scheme of work in religious studies REQUIRES children to have knowledge and understanding of other world religions.

‘The second is that the school is REQUIRED to promote tolerance respect and understanding. This is known as community cohesion. A failure to do this could result in an unwelcome inspection judgement. None of us would relish that.

‘Whilst I may not require you to pay for this I must require your child to participate.’

It is believed up to ten other families from Amy’s Year 9 classes also refused to dress as Muslims and were marked down in the truanting register.

But Amy’s mother Michelle Davies, 34, a home help said: ‘It’s like they’re putting a gun to your head — either you go to a mosque, or you’re marked down as an unauthorised absence on your record — that’s it no two ways about it.

‘It’s like they are saying she is playing truant for not wearing a head scarf. If the trip had been without the leggings and the headscarf, that would have been fine but I wasn’t having my daughter dressed in the Muslim way.

‘There are some parts of RE lessons that children who are Jehovahs Witnesses don’t have to attend because that’s part of their religion and the fact is Amy is Catholic and not a Muslim.

‘She’s proud of her school uniform and what it represents and she should be able to wear it like she would on any normal school trip.

‘She likes to learn, she takes history and she is really interested in it, she wants to learn, but she can do that her classroom without changing the way she dresses.

‘I even did some research on the internet about non-Muslims attending mosques and it says you don’t have to adhere to the dress code.

‘I also fail to see how a three-hour trip to a mosque is of any educational value to a Catholic when she can learn about the Muslim faith in the classroom.

‘I can guarantee that if there were ten Muslim girls coming to our school it would adhere to what they wanted, because that’s their faith, their religion, their dress code.’

The school claimed it had arranged the trip in accordance with diktats sent down by Oftsted and the Roman Catholic diocese and said it to abide by a ‘strict dress code.’

Mrs Davies who has two other children said: ‘No sooner had I objected to the dress code, I got a phone call from her head of year saying I don’t see what the problem is, it teaches them respect. I said to her, is that not my job and your job as a school?

‘Then she asked it was a problem with the cost, and I told her not to patronize me. I said it was for religious reasons. I’m not a devout Catholic, I’ve never claimed to be but my daughter is a white, British Catholic girl — not a Muslim girl, therefore she is not adhering to a Muslim dress code.

‘The next thing Amy was in Mr Lee’s office with three other kids being told it was a compulsory trip. He gave me a parent consent form, but I didn’t give my consent and I was told it would be an unauthorised absence.

‘I’m so angry — in particular with the letter Mr Lee sent with bits underlined and words in block capitals. And also, you can’t tell me that by making some year nine kids attend a trip to a mosque is going to make his his OfSTED report look better.

‘I had to send a letter in to the school explaining why Amy was absent, and I explained exactly why Amy wasn’t there.

‘What really infuriates me is that if she wore leggings to school, she would be told to take them off because they’re not school uniform.

‘If Muslim girls came to Amy’s school, the school would probably allow them to wear their leggings and head scarf because it is respectful. If they were told to remove them, there would be uproar.’

Another parent Kirsty Ashworth, of Ellesmere Port, whose daughter Charlie Sheen was due to attend the trip said: ‘I didn’t see the educational benefit of it and I can’t see how it would help her get a job or anything like that.

‘I’m not racist or anything but I send my daughter to an English speaking catholic school, so I don’t see why she should dress as a Muslim.’

A spokesman for the school said: ‘In keeping with accepted good practice we are pleased to provide students with an experience of a visit to a Mosque and the chance to talk and question a representative of the community which it serves.

‘This is an exciting and for many, a unique opportunity to learn at first hand how Islamic practices and beliefs map against their own.

‘We hope to provide other experiences to further our students’ appreciation and tolerance for faiths and culture as opportunities present themselves, as all good schools will do in the name of education.’

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Pope Argues Against EU’s Outright Secularism

(AGI) — Lisbon, 11 May — Speaking to the press on his way to Lisbon, the pope addressed what he perceives to be a clash between Europe’s secular and religious cultures, submitting “a European culture devoid of religion and transcendence will fail to engage the world’s other great cultures.” Whilst conceding that secularism “is normal”, Ratzinger objected that “secularism and religion need not be kept separate or pitted against each other.” .

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


Bosnia: Karadzic Blames ‘Muslims’ For Fatal Attack

The Hague, 11 May (AKI) — Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is being tried for war crimes and genocide, on Tuesday said that Muslims killed 68 people in an attack on Sarajevo’s market in 1994 and blamed the Serbs. Karadzic is conducting his own defence at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

During cross examination of prosecution witness David Harland, Karadzic showed the court footage of the Markale market, before and after the bombing, saying Muslims planted toys, prostheses and dead bodies of soldiers killed in battle before the explosion.

The footage showed an empty market, without people and goods, with only a few people around.

One man carried an artificial limb and put in on the ground. “You can clearly see the preparations, it was a primitive set-up,” Karadzic said.

After the bombing, Karadzic pointed to the same prosthesis and a “stiff, dehydrated corpse” being taken to the truck.

Asked by Harland for the source of the footage, Karadzic said it was raw material aired by Bosnian television and picked up by a Serbian channel.

“No-one who was at the scene suggested that the whole thing was a set up,” Harland said.

Karadzic has been indicted on two counts of genocide and nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The indictment focuses on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which over 8,000 Muslims were killed and the shelling of Sarajevo, including two bombings of Markale market.

Serbs have denied the bombing of Markale market, saying it was staged by Muslims to blame the Serbs and to provoke foreign intervention in the war.

Karadzic quoted a report to the UN Security Council by former secretary-general Boutros Boutros Ghali, saying that “there is not enough physical evidence to prove that either one or the other side had fired the grenade” at Markale.

Harland was a civilian officer with international peacekeepers in Bosnia from 1993 to 1995, was the sixth of 410 witnesses to be presented by the prosecution.

Karadzic trial resumes next week with the testimony of a new witness.

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

Serbia: Nine Arrested for ‘Human Trafficking’

Belgrade, 11 May (AKI) — Serbian police on Tuesday arrested nine people believed to be behind an international human trafficking ring that smuggling illegal immigrants into the European Union. Among those arrested were four ethnic Albanians, four Serbs and an ethnic Hungarian, police said.

The group, lead by ethnic Albanians Sadat Uka and Sabehudin Arifi, are alleged to have smuggled about 100 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, from Serbia into European Union countries through Hungary since October last year .

According to police, Uka and Arifi were recruiting illegal migrants among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and in southern Serbia, while others were involved in transporting them across the Hungarian border.

Serbian police minister Ivica Dacic said the smuggling ring was smashed in cooperation with police of neighbouring countries.

Last October, 18 ethnic Albanians drowned in the Tisa River while trying to cross into Hungary. Five people were arrested.

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

North Africa

Egypt: EU: Anti-Terrorism Law That Respects Rights is Needed

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 12 — After its adoption of a new state of emergency, the EU has asked Egypt to take the necessary steps so that an anti-terrorism law that respects human rights can be approved as soon as possible. The message came in a note written by Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Policy Chief. “I take note,” writes Ashton, “of Egypt’s decision to limit the new state of emergency to the fight against terrorism and its financing, as well as crimes linked to drugs. Despite this, I strongly urge the government to accelerate the steps required for the adoption of an anti-terrorism law that respects the international standards of human rights to be approved as soon as possible, bearing in mind the government’s commitment in this direction that was taken in the EU-Egypt action plan in other forums.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

In Egypt Muslims Who Kill Christians Often Claim ‘Insanity’

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — In Egypt an often used defense by Muslims accused of killing Christians is insanity. According to said Coptic activist Maged Bishay, “Islamist investigators, judges and psychiatrists are only too willing to go with this pretext, to allow their fellow Muslims to ‘get away with murder’ based on the Islamic law ‘Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.’“

One of the latest examples if the insanity defense was the murder of the Coptic Christian deacon George Fathi, who was killed in Alexandria on October 6, 2009, deliberately and with premeditation, by two fundamentalist brothers, 21-year-old Mohamed Abdel-Moneim and his 17-year-old brother Ahmed.

The two brothers visited George in his flat at mid-day, strangled and electrocuted him until his intestines burst out. His father, who was sitting in a coffee house facing their flat, saw smoke coming out and when he opened the door he found his son dead and disfigured. The killers opened a butane cylinder and made a fire to cause an explosion but this was averted by the father and neighbors, who testified having seen three bearded men enter the flat earlier.

When the Abdel-Moneim brothers were arrested, they said the victim tried to sexually assault them, so they killed him in self-defense. The 17-year old brother was released for being under-age and handed over to his family.

The media, orchestrated by statements issued by the Egyptian State Security, immediately propagated the claim of sexual assault and, as expected, it found support and empathy for the killer from the Muslim public.

“The accused tried to take us down this path but the investigation found no evidence that deacon George practiced homosexuality,” said Mokbel Sobhy, the victim’s family attorney. “I will file lawsuits against those newspapers for defamation of character.”

Friends of George Fathi said that he was known all over Alexandria for proselytizing Christianity, and the reason behind his killing was that he helped the sister of the Abdel-Moneim brothers convert to Christianity, and they killed him in retaliation.

During a court session on January 24, 2010, the lawyer for the defendant argued that the defendant Mohamed is suffering from mental illness and was not responsible for his actions, and asked for his client to be referred to psychiatric assessment to determine whether he was competent. The court accepted this request and adjourned the hearing until 4/24/2010.

On April 24, 2010 the presiding judge stated the psychiatric assessment of Mohamed Abdel-Moneim confirmed that he was suffering from insanity. The lawyers of the victim requested to question the doctor who issued the report and to refer the defendant to a psychiatric committee. The judge said they could choose on of the two requests, so they chose the latter.

On September 16, 2009, 35-year-old car painter Osama Araban (El-Bohyagi) went to the village of Bahgour, stabbed 63-year old Coptic Christian Abdo George Younan nine times until his intestines fell out, then severed his head from his body — an Islamic ritual beheading. He washed his bloody bayonet with the water hose which the victim was previously using, before setting off on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, to stab with intention to kill, two other Copts in two different villages, at least 10 km apart. When arrested, he confessed fully to his crime (AINA 9-21-2009).

Renowned attorney and activist Dr.Naguib Ghoraeel, head of Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization, issued a press release on September 17, accusing the Interior Ministry of lying by suggesting the incident “is a mere quarrel,” and warned them that no one will believe that the murderer is “mentally unstable,” should they use this defense.

In November 2009, Osama was referred to a psychiatric hospital for assessment, Mr. Ahmed Kelany, lawyer of the family of the beheaded victim, in an interview with The Freecopts said that “the assailant resorting to mental disorder is an attempt to escape the penalty for his crime, which is premeditated murder. This was confirmed by all the circumstances and the eyewitness testimonies.”

Another high-profile case which had the same ending, took place in Alexandria on April 14, 2006, during the last day of the Holy Lent. A series of knife attacks at three Alexandria churches resulted in the death of a 63-year-old Christian man, Noshi Girgis, and injuries to several other Christians. An attack on a fourth church was foiled. Witnesses said that the assailant called out Jihad chants during the attacks. The interior ministry claimed that only one man was responsible for the attacks and named Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-Raziq, 25, and described him as “psychologically disturbed”, even before his arrest. “This was a way to close the case file before investigations have started,” commented activist Mark Naguib at the time.

Christians were enraged by the government’s scenario that Abdel-Raziq had attacked alone three churches, miles away from each other, by walking and using public transport, all in the same morning. This version of events contradicted earlier police reports which told of three simultaneous attacks and that three men who were involved in these attacks had been arrested.. Most Copts believed that it was an Islamist pre-planned attack, carried out by more than one person.

During the funeral of the murdered Copt Noshi, clashes between Muslims who were hurling stones and Christians took place, leading to arrests on both sides. The way the government dealt with this case sparked global condemnation and Coptic rallies worldwide.

Freecopts reported on Al Jazeera News report aired on April 14th, detailing the attacks on the churches and naming four different Muslim perpetrators, which corresponded with the description of the assailants given by witnesses in the different churches.

On June 29, 2006 Egypt’s prosecutor-general ordered Mahmoud Abdel-Raziq to be committed to a mental hospital after a medical evaluation and without trial, the duration of his incarceration was not specified. No news was ever heard of him after that.

Rasha Nour, head of Egypt4Christ advocacy, believes there are many “insanity” incidents which are not reported by the police; on presentation of a medical certificate, sometimes supplied by the police, the assailant is then released after the Coptic victim is forced by them to sign a reconciliation note.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU Commission: Ready for New Status With PNA & Israel

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 12 — The European Commission is ready to support the “advanced status” of relations with both Israel and the PNA, once the consensus has been reached by EU member states, according to the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule, who spoke during a press conference in Brussels today. “We have close relations with Israel and a very ambitious action plan,” Fule commented. “It is a partner country that is ready to step up to a new level of relations and the European Commission is ready to accept this, once consensus has been reached between member states. We are ready to do the same with regard to the Palestinian National Authority, but in this case a debate is currently ongoing between member states.” The opportunity to tackle the problem is expected shortly. “I will visit the region in the coming weeks,” said the Commissioner, “and will tackle the issue.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel: No to Russia’s Appeal for Hamas in Talks

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 12 — Israel has sharply rejected today the appeal by the presidents of Russia and Turkey for the inclusion of Hamas in the peace process and has expressed “profound disappointment over the meeting between Russian President Medvedev with Khaled Meshaal (head of the Hamas political office, Ed.) in Damascus. Israel’s position is expressed in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry in which it is stated that “Hamas is to all effects a terrorist organisation which has the destruction of the state of Israel as its declared goal.” According to the statement, Hamas members were responsible for killing innocent citizens, also from different states, including Russia. “It is unacceptable that civil states distinguish between good and bad terrorists, according to their geographical position. Terrorists are terrorists and Israel does not find that there is any difference between the terrorism of Hamas which works against Israel and that of Chechnya which works against Russia. There is no difference between Khaled Meshaal and Shamil Basaiev (a Chechen leader accused of terrorism).” “Israel,” concludes the statement, “has always been at Russia’s side in the fight against Chechen terrorism. We would have expected a similar attitude when it is about Hamas terrorism against Israel.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jerusalem: Netanyahu Repeats, We’ll Continue to Build

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 12 — Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has today repeated for the umpteenth time the will of his government to continue to build in Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, the annexation of which has never been recognised by the international community and which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future independent state. Netanyahu talked about the matter during a public ceremony to mark the day when Israel celebrates the “reunification of Jerusalem” under its control, following the six day war in 1967 and the claim as its “eternal and undividable capital”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arms Dealers Find in Security Agencies New Market

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 12 — Arms dealers have shifted their priority from catering for traditional armed forces in the Middle East to security agencies that provide protection to key economic and political locations, traders said on Wednesday. At the eighth edition of the Special Operations Forces Exhibition (SOFEX) 2010 in Amman, around 350 leading manufacturers arrived to show case their latest invention in border control and counter terrorism. According to Tim Johnson, assistant director of the Middle East and Pakistan division at the UK defence and security organisation, there is an important niche in providing solution to security companies that tend to oil and gas fields across the Middle East. We are targeting homeland security more than ever. The industry has been moving away from supporting conventional armed forces to provide solutions to ministries of interior, organisations that are responsible for critical national infrastructure protection, police forces, coast guards to protect countries against the illegal movement of people and goods across borders,” he told ANSA at the sideline of the three day exhibition. Experts say the economic meltdown has deterred many states from making significant defence deals as they play wait and see situation. According to Saudi arms dealer Faisal ben Humeid many Middle Eastern countries have shelved plans to buy new weapons. Strategic goals of countries in the gulf shifted from homeland security to economic safety with defence contracts put on the back burner,” he added. Experts at SOFEX believe the industry will soon pick up in light of political tension in the region, particularly the stance with Iran and the Arab Israeli conflict remain unsolved. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

For the First Time Non-Muslims May Live in Medina

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MAY 12 — The Knowledge Economic City (KEC), in Medina, the first quarter in Saudi Arabia to have all of its buildings linked by data, voice and video connections, will also bring a cultural revolution: part of the citadel may be inhabited by non-Muslims, an absolute first in the history of the petroleum monarchy. People who do not profess Islam are, in fact, prohibited from living in the two cities which are sacred to the Saudi Reign and to the Islamic world in general: Mecca and Medina. The KEC, to extend just beyond the perimeter of the prohibited zone called al-Haram, has many ambitions: as well as being proposed as a window on Islam for the faithful and not, it intends to develop as a centre of excellence for research and activities in biomedical and technical information sectors, to serve as a tool to finance residential quarters for the most disadvantaged and to propose itself as a tourist services area, especially on the occasion of the Haj, the annual pilgrimage every Muslim is called upon to carry out once in a lifetime. Built on land donated by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, the first phase of the KEC will be completed in the next five years, whereas its total completion, with an investment of 6.5 billion euros, will take 15 years. All revenues from the sale of real estate will be channelled into the Charity Fund bearing the King’s name, and used to build houses for the most indigent Saudi citizens. Once completed, the citadel will have 150,000 inhabitants who may use the vast commercial facilities, and also a high velocity train connecting Medina, Mecca and Jeddah. The citadel will also host biomedical and IT industries, with the declared intent of inviting “brains” and regional professionalism to the Middle East and further diversifying the Saudi economy, detaching it from petroleum production. KEC residents may also use a theme park and an Islamic museum. A centre for Islamic studies will promote intellectual activities linked to Islamic values and arts, but will also deal with more pragmatically economic issues: in fact, it will be the site for a study of specific bank and financial products which adhere to the dictates of Islam.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: New Draft to End Alcohol Sponsorship of Sports Teams

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 12 — Producers of alcoholic beverages in Turkey will no longer be able to lend their names to sports teams under new regulations concerning tobacco and alcoholic products. The new draft, ad daily Hurriyet reports, will affect the Efes Pilsen basketball team the most, a leading Turkish club which takes its name from the country’s largest beer producer. The draft also includes principles on sales locations, wholesale and retail sales, commercial ads, inspections and sanctions. The Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Agency, or TAPDK, prepared the draft and sent it for evaluation to the related government foundations, commerce unions and sector representatives. The draft will later be presented to the Prime Ministry. Under the regulations, the dispensing of tobacco and alcohol products from vending machines would no longer be permitted. Apart from convenience shops, stores would not be permitted to advertise the products near ads that could attract the attention of children, such as candy or toys. Presenting the products as an indispensable part of certain social occasions will also no longer be permitted. Last February, Tugrul Agirbas, managing director of Efes Turkey, speaking to reporters complained that in the past four years, nearly 17,000 Efes beer sales points have either shut down or stopped selling beer. Agirbas said the company aims to expand the beer market in Turkey, but the number of sales points has diminished to around 83,000 from nearly 100,000 four years ago. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Italy Offers to Back Fight Against Terrorism

Rome, 11 May (AKI) — Italy on Tuesday offered greater support to Yemen in its struggle to fight terrorism. Foreign affairs minister Franco Frattini made the announcement at a media conference after meeting his Yemeni counterpart, Abubaker al-Qirbi, in Rome.

Frattini also foreshadowed a ministerial conference which will gather member states that make up Friends of Yemen to be held in Riyadh in a few months.

Friends of Yemen emerged from an Italian government initiative reaffirmed that Yemen plays a “key role” in the region in the fight against terrorism, regional stabilisation and cooperation in the Persian Gulf.

“We will be working to bring concrete proposals on what to do,”Frattini said. “We want to help Yemen not on the basis of decisions made in Rome but in complete respect for its sovereignty and based on what Yemen requests itself.”

Yemen is the Middle East’s poorest country. In global terms its per capita income is ranked by the World Bank as 166th and more than half its people live in poverty.

Meanwhile, international aid groups have expressed concern about the ongoing conflict in northern Yemen and its impact on those displaced in the region.

The Red Cross and the Yemen Red Crescent said on Tuesday nearly three months after a ceasefire took effect, thousands of people were either hesitating or unable to return home in conflict-affected areas.

Around 22,000 internally displaced people remain in the six camps managed by the Yemen Red Crescent Society with ICRC support.

“Many people just want to return home, live in a safe environment, work their land and put their children in school,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of delegation in Yemen for the International Red Cross.

“Only last week, more than 850 people decided to leave the camps in Saada and return home. Many will probably not make it that far, however, and even if they do, they may well find that their homes, and also their schools and other public buildings, were damaged or even destroyed in the several rounds of fighting.”

In February, rebel leader Abdel-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi ordered his fighters to “cease combat” with government forces.

Sporadic clashes between the rebels and neighbouring tribes loyal to the government have been reported since the truce was introduced and there were renewed clashes with the army this week.

Yemen launched an all-out offensive against Houthi militants last August in a bid to end their five-year revolt.

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


Russia to Import 150,000 Tonnes of Chicken From Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 12 — Russia will import 150,000 tonnes of chicken from Turkey in 2011, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Russian Minister of Agriculture Yelena Borisovna Skrynnik as saying Tuesday. Russia currently imports 57,000 tonnes of chicken from Turkey per year. Minister Skrynnik, as part of the delegation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, visited the Turkish Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Mehdi Eker in Ankara yesterday. Speaking to reporters following her meeting with Eker, Skrynnik said that she was pleased to witness developing ties with Turkey. Thanks to the efforts of our ministries, Turkish exports of food to Russia increased by 14.70% in 2009, Skrynnik said. The relations between our ministries work as the engine of relations among other ministries. The agreements we will sign on today will promote our relations. We will continue to work with the same spirit, Skrynnik also said. Mehdi Eker, in his part, said that Turkish and Russian relations developed fast. Agriculture is the engine of relations between Turkey and Russia. Based on our talks today, we have decided to sign an agricultural cooperation framework agreement and four protocols, Eker said. We have done what governments could do for the export of chicken from Turkey. The rest is up to the efforts of the private sector, Eker also said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Gas Attack Targets Third Girls’ School

Kunduz, 11 May (AKI) — At least 30 schoolgirls were poisoned on Tuesday in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, the third such attack on a girls’ school in the city in less than a month, officials said. It is unclear who was behind the attacks.

“A masked man, dressed in black, came into the classroom and threw a small box at us. When we saw the box, we tried to run away, but I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I was in hospital,” said 13-year-old Nafeesa, quoted by Pajhwork Afghan News.

The girls who fell ill on Tuesday were taken to a local hospital. Some of them were unconscious and in a critical condition, head of the city hospital, Homayoon Khamosh, told Pajhwok.

He said the cause of their sickness was a poisonous gas, similar to the one that had been used at Khodeja-ul-Kubra and Fatima-tu-Zahara girls’ schools in Kunduz last month.

Pajhwok quoted provincial police chief, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Razaq Yaqubi blaming the attacks on reactionaries who opposed education for girls.

But Yaqubi said he did not think the Taliban was involved and no group has claimed responsibility.

The Taliban banned education for girls during their five-year rule of Afghanistan during the 1990s.

In many rural areas, there are still threats against female teachers and families who allow their daughters to attend school.

Blood tests taken from girls affected by the previous attacks have not yet yielded any results.

Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, has strongly condemned the incidents.

Last week, 22 schoolgirls and three teachers fell ill after their school was targeted.

In most cases the girls reported smelling something sweet, then fainting, dizziness and vomiting.

Kunduz is the capital of surrounding Kunduz province.

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

Far East

Nine Killed in Latest China School Rampage

HANZHONG, China (Reuters) — Seven children and the owners of a kindergarten were hacked to death in northwest China on Wednesday, the latest in a string of assaults on schools that has stoked public alarm about the government’s grip on order.

Eleven children were wounded in the attack soon after the school day started in Nanzheng county, a rural corner of Shaanxi province, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Two children were in serious condition.

A 48-year-old man, Wu Huanming, used a kitchen cleaver to kill five boys and two girls as well as the mother-son team who owned and ran the private kindergarten, Xinhua said.

Wu then returned home and committed suicide, Xinhua said, citing a statement from the province emergency office. “His motive for the attack was not immediately known,” it said.

One local man, Zheng Xiulan, said the attacker had rented out the rooms for the privately run kindergarten, located in a row of low houses with concrete yards.

“Only about two of the children in the kindergarten were not injured, but I don’t know how many died in the end. There was blood everywhere,” Zheng told Reuters by telephone.

“I don’t know why he did it … I hadn’t heard that he was mentally ill. He wasn’t poor either.”

Officials in Nanzheng would not comment on the attack.

The rampage is sure to stoke public disquiet and demands for stricter school security after five attacks on school children in recent weeks.

“We’re Scared”

Even before the latest bloodshed, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao had demanded action and the top law-and-order official, Zhou Yongkang, told officials to beef up school security. Police vowed to identify disturbed people who could pose a threat to children.

“Of course, we’re scared,” said a resident of a village several kilometres from the kindergarten where the latest attack happened. She gave only her surname, Li.

“We’ve all heard about it. I also have grandchildren, but they’re already at primary school,” Li said by telephone. “But everybody has to wonder why there are people who can do this.”

The deaths of children strike an especially deep chord in a country where most urban families are allowed to have only one child, said Yang Dongping, an expert on education at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

“I personally feel that media reports about these attacks have helped to create a copy-cat effect,” Yang told Reuters. “People who are mentally unstable or who nurse hatred towards society then feel that this is a way of exacting revenge, or of making their demands.”

While state media gave terse accounts of the killings, Internet comment reflected anger over the attacks, which have jarred with the government’s relentless focus on security.

“If security for the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai Expo can achieve a spotless record, why can’t school safety achieve a near spotless one?” said a commentator on the popular website. “The safety of leaders is important, but so is protecting the lives of children.”

In five school attacks since March, 18 people were murdered — all but three of them children — and more than 80 were injured. China bans nearly all citizens from owning handguns, and the attackers used knives, cleavers and, in one case, a hammer.

Yang said the latest attack would drive parents to demand even stricter security.

“But it would be unrealistic to mobilise all the police around schools,” he said.

“The real issues may be how the media report these incidents, as well as the broader social environment,” Yang said.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somaliland Press: Russian Soldiers Stormed Ship & Executed All of Our Men

A pirate spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted Somalilandpress today said at least ten of his men were executed by the Russian navy after the troopers stormed MV Moscow University.

“The Russians commandos stormed the ship before sunrise, starting a firefight with our men, onboard they injured three of them and one was killed,” he said. He dismissed the Russian navy statement that the men were released because of “the absence of a legal base to carry out prosecution procedures against pirates”. “The Russians never released the young men instead they shot them point-blank range then loaded their lifeless bodies back on the boat,” he added.

[Return to headlines]

Latin America

John R. Thomson: Introducing Colombia’s Own Obama

Six weeks ago, it seemed impossible. Today, it seems improbable but all too possible: Colombia could reject the Presidential candidate most in the mold of retiring President Alvaro Uribe Velez.

Arguably Colombia’s most popular President in its 200 year history — in nearly eight years, his approval rating has never fallen below 60 percent, peaked as recently as July 2008 in the low 80s and is currently hovering around 75 percent — Mr. Uribe’s hope to serve an unprecedented third term was quashed by the country’s Constitutional Court in February. This left the field wide open to candidates from right to extreme left, with none closer to the outgoing President than his former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate of Partido de la U [for unity], founded by Mr. Uribe.

Initial soundings showed Mr. Santos with 40 percent or more support, well ahead of his closest competitor, Noemi Sanin of the Partido Conservador, twice an unsuccessful presidential candidate. Running a very distant third, in single digits, was Antanas Mockus of the Partido Verde.

Following legislative elections on March 14, Mr. Santos’ situation looked even brighter, as U candidates won pluralities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Less than three weeks before the May 30 elections, Dr. Mockus has vaulted from nine to 34 percent support, while Mr. Santos has slipped to 35 percent [Ms. Sanin, previously second ranked, is now in third position, having tumbled from 17 to eight percent]…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


L.A. Becomes Largest City to Boycott Arizona

The City Council voted 13-1 to bar Los Angeles from conducting business with Arizona unless the law is repealed. The vote followed an emotional council discussion during which many members noted that their ancestors were U.S. immigrants.

“Los Angeles is the second-largest city in this country. An immigrant city, an international city needs to have its voice heard,” Councilman Ed Reyes said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa already has said he would approve the boycott.

[Return to headlines]

Study Shows Broad Support for Arizona Law

The controversial Arizona law passed last month requires state and local police, after making “lawful contact,” to check the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally, and arrest those who cannot prove it.

The report by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press ( found that 59 percent of adults polled in a national survey gave their overall approval to the law, which opponents charge is unconstitutional and a mandate for racial profiling.

Seventy-three percent said they backed a measure requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them, while 67 percent approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify that they are in the country legally.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Morocco: Gays Lobby for Elton John Concert

Rabat, 11 May (AKI) — Morocco’s embattled gay community have vowed to make sure Elton John’s landmark concert goes ahead later this month in Rabat. They say they are determined to meet the world-famous pop star there despite opposition to the concert from Islamists in the Muslim country.

“Neither Morocco’s authorities nor its Islamists can stop us holding a meeting with Elton John,” the head of the country’s gay association ‘Kif Kif’, Samir Barkashi, told the Hespress website.

Barkashi’s comments came after organisers of Rabat’s prestigious annual Mawazine festival confirmed that Elton John would give a concert there despite strenuous opposition from Moroccan Islamists.

“The Moroccan authorities will allow us speak to him because they are afraid that if they do not, this will damage their image abroad,” Barkashi said.

The festival, at which top Arab and western singers appear, is taking place this year from 21-29 May.

“Elton John coming to Rabat represents an important victory for Moroccan gays, who are fighting a tough battle for rights,” Barkashi said.

The star may meet members of Morocco’s gay community at a hotel in the capital or at the airport when he arrives.

Morocco’s Islamist Justice and Progress party campaigned to prevent Elton John performing at the Mawazine concert.

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


Islam, Nazism and Anti-Semitism

Andrew Bostom and Robert Spencer have both recently written pieces critical of the idea that Islamic Anti-Semitism was a product of Nazi propaganda. As any honest reader of the Koran already knows, Islamic Anti-Semitism, and general intolerance for non-Muslims originated with Mohammed himself.

While Mohammed had set out to replace the region’s existing religions, including Judaism and Christianity—he only succeeded in eradicating and replacing the majority of the local polytheistic religions. While sizable numbers of Jews and Christians were forcibly converted to Islam, during the more than millennium of occupation of the Middle East—the religions themselves survived.

This was something of a theological problem for Islam, which had shamelessly looted both Judaism and Christianity’s holy books for material, and claimed Mohammed as the successor to both religions. But in reality, Islam only succeeded in replacing the polytheistic religions that were its true core. So that while on the surface, Jews and Christians were supposed to hold a higher status than pagans, Muslim resentment toward them ran far deeper than toward religions that Islam did not consider to be part of its chain of succession. Muslim daily prayers to this day reference Jews and Christians.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


sharon said...

Dear Gates of Vienna,
You have to read this:

"A Hidden History of evil"

I quote:" There are other ways in which the story that Stroilov’s and Bukovsky’s papers tell isn’t over. They suggest, for example, that the architects of the European integration project, as well as many of today’s senior leaders in the European Union, were far too close to the USSR for comfort. This raises important questions about the nature of contemporary Europe—questions that might be asked when Americans consider Europe as a model for social policy, or when they seek European diplomatic cooperation on key issues of national security."

Read it all.