Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100516

Financial Crisis
»Madrid Stock Exchange Record Fall, -6.64
»More Socialism Will Not Save Greece
»A Few Questions for Climate Alarmists
»A German Beer Garden at Auschwitz?
»Editorial: Sheboygan Mosque Permit Should be Approved
»Mosque Madness at Ground Zero
»Ten Mental Mistakes of Obamatons
»US: Video: The Great Muslim President
»What is Sovereignty and Who Has it
»Ontario Appeal Court Hearing Set for Khawaja, Appealing Terrorism Convictions
Europe and the EU
»Belgium: Veils Banned in Response to Muslim Immigrants
»Environmental Policy Unimportant to Dutch Voters
»EU-Turkey: Moratinos, Membership Talks Forward by June
»Italy: More Than 400 Linked to Corruption Inquiry
»Italy: Thousands of ‘Mafia Members’ Arrested Since 2008
»Italy: Loan Sharks Pose Greatest Risk in South
»Italy: Sardinia Regional President Probed for ‘Corruption’
»Italy: Business Debt Doubled in Ten Years
»Italy to Ordain the First Woman Priest Near Vatican
»Italy: Ryanair Fined €3 Mln for Poor Passenger Assistance
»Italy: Earthquake Documentary Sparks Furore
»Italy: Minister Proposes 5% Pay Cut for MPs
»Italy: Graft Probe Builder ‘Didn’t Talk’
»Italy: No Mercy for Wrongdoers, Says Premier
»Merkel Warns of Europe’s Collapse
»More Belgians Have Foreign Roots
»Spain: Majority Wants Investigation Into Francoist Crimes
»Spain: Veil: Islamic Community Protests for Sacked Official
»Spain: Garzon Transfer to Penal Court Only Provisional
»UK: Eurosceptics in Plot to Force Vote on Lisbon Treaty
»UK: Public ‘At Risk’ As Civilian Police Staff Doubles in Just Ten Years
»UK: Radical Muslims Lose Grip on London Council
»UK: Sayeeda Warsi Slammed by Islamic Fundamentalists
»Verhofstadt: ‘Speculators Are Doing Europe a Favour’
»Serbia and China to Buld Bulgarian Nuclear Plant
Mediterranean Union
»Cooperation: Italy Grants Credit to Tunisian SMEs
»EU-Tunisia: Advanced Status in 2010 is a Challenge
»Italy: Berlusconi-Mubarak Summit Confirms Italo-Egyptian Friendship
»Jordan: EU Provides Amman With 80 Million Euros
Israel and the Palestinians
»Arab Bank Troubles Stem From Hamas, Economists Say
Middle East
»Moratinos Refers Israeli Assurances to Lebanon, Syria
»Turkey: A War Between the Pious and the Less Pious
»Turkey Gives Guarantee to Russia to Buy 70% of Nuclear Power
»Turkey: Chief EU Negotiator, Europe Faces Crisis Without Us
»Italy Welcomes Deal Between Turkey and Russia
»Turkey-Russia: Accord to Build Nuclear Plant
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Bundeswehr to Boost Air Power With US Attack Helicopters
»Kyrgyzstan: Bakiyev’s “Counter-Revolution”
»Pakistan: PHC Starts Releasing Terror Suspects for Lack of Evidence
Culture Wars
»Germany: Käßmann Stirs Catholics With Pill Speech
»Morocco: Mithly, The Arab World’s First Gay Site
»Thousands Join Gay Pride Parade in Brussels
»Long Conversations on Mobile Phones Can Increase Risk of Cancer, Suggests 10-Year Study

Financial Crisis

Madrid Stock Exchange Record Fall, -6.64

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 14 — The IBEX index for the Spanish stock exchange registered a collapse of 6.64% at the close of markets today, the worst fall of the year, in another session marked by uncertainty and extreme volatility of the European markets. The fear of aggravation of the euro crisis has accelerated the flight of investors towards shelter values. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

More Socialism Will Not Save Greece

Greece, our dear neighbor, is in the middle of a tragic economic crisis these days. The doom was impending for a long time, but the real blow came when the government, in order to deal with the jaw-dropping amounts of debt, took some “austerity measures.” In a country where one out of three people is employed in the civil service, this meant less money for millions of people.

Enraged with their losses, thousands of Greeks hit the streets, angrily protesting the government, the EU and “global capitalism.” The protests soon turned violent, with petrol bombs thrown at police, and banks and cars set on fire. Three people even died.

Turkey’s chance:

What I feel, in return, is first pity. No one wants its neighbor to be down this badly. But I also wonder why the Greeks simply “don’t get it,” as a recent New York Times story was putting it well:

“[The Greeks] have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford. No mass rally and no bailout fund will change that. Only benefit cuts or tax increases can.”

The core problem seems to be the delusion that most socialists seem to believe: that governments have unlimited wealth, and the only matter is how hard can you press them to distribute it.

In the real world, though, governments don’t have unlimited wealth. They don’t even create wealth. Only people do that. And if people don’t do that — by being lazy, un-creative and unproductive — then there is not much that anybody can do.

Unfortunately, the Greek society got used to ignoring this most fundamental fact of economics. The national spirit has been to work as little as possible, and get as much government benefits as you could.

This socialist order prolonged until today, because Greece enjoyed the generous funding of the EU. But there is always an unhappy ending to such dolce vita. “The problem with socialism,” as Margaret Thatcher once put it, “is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” *

In Turkey, thank God, we have a less widespread belief in the socialist delusion. This is true especially since the ‘80s, when Turkey entered into a great transformation under Turgut Özal, who was, in my view, the best Turkish leader of the 20th century. Özal abandoned decades-long corrupt policies of protection, “statism,” and “planned economy,” and brought the country into the brave new world of free markets. Soon, a new entrepreneurial class emerged, whose dynamism and creativity made Turkey recently the world’s 17th largest economy.

A recent comment I read in the Turkish media was underlining this contrast between leading ideas in Greece and Turkey. But the writer, Hursit Günes of daily Milliyet, a socialist, was admiring the Greek side simply for that they reacted more angrily to the crisis in their country. “Of course, the Greek society has important differences from us,” Mr. Günes nicely explained.

“First, Greece does not have a dull neo-liberal intelligentsia like Turkey has. If the Greek intellectuals had taken the role of the neo-liberals that have dominated Turkish intellectual life, the Greek people would be silent today. Since the 80’s, these Turkish neo-liberals have vigorously defended the minimization of state, the flexibility of the labor market and the advance of globalization. Let’s remember: The minister who opposed agriculture policies in (the crisis of) 2001 was excommunicated right away and forced to resign.”

In other words, the “dull neo-liberals” of Turkey were responsible for the fast recovery of Turkey from the crisis of 2001.

On the Greek side, there is not just a lack of a similar free-market movement, but also an excess of its rival. Mr. Günes explained this succinctly, too:

“There is a strong communist and lefty tradition in Greece. That’s why the left is not humiliated there as it is in Turkey. In other words, the reason why Greek people rebel this much today is not just that it is suffering more. There, the left is not defined as ‘dinosaurs who support old, archaic, statist policies’.”

For sustainable prosperity:

So, the picture seems clear to me: Turkey, whose economic policies are guided by free-market liberals, have done quite well. When it faced a crisis, it took rational measures and moved on quickly.

Greece, which has a “strong communist and lefty tradition,” has failed tragically. And when it faced a crisis, its society gave the most irrational response and seems to be stuck in that mood.

If you have a love affair with “rebellion,” as Mr. Günes seems to have, than fine. Go for the Greek way. But if you rather prefer peace and sustainable prosperity, I would say socialism is the wrong way.

And more of that wrong way will only further shipwreck our dear neighbor.

*For my Greek friends, and others, who might wish to explore some Thatcherite wisdom, I would strongly suggest Claire Berlinski’s excellent book: “There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.” (Basic Books, 2008)

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


A Few Questions for Climate Alarmists

The new Kerry-Lieberman climate bill mandates a 17% reduction in US carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. It first targets power plants that provide reliable, affordable electricity for American homes, schools, hospitals, offices and factories. Six years later, it further hobbles the manufacturing sector itself.

Like the House-passed climate bill, Kerry-Lieberman also requires an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Once population growth and transportation, communication and electrification technologies are taken into account, this translates into requiring US emission levels last seen around 1870!


Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is implementing its own draconian energy restrictions, in case Congress does not enact punitive legislation. It’s time to ask these politicians some fundamental questions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

A German Beer Garden at Auschwitz?

Friends and family members of those killed during the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center were stunned to learn that construction on a 13-story Islamic center and mosque was underway just two blocks from ground zero. In fact, the site, which was home to the former Burlington Coat Factory damaged during that attack, is located on Park Place and the project is sponsored by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, in collaboration of the Cordoba Initiative.

The American Society for Muslim Advancement, headed by Executive Director Daisy Khan, is an organization whose name explains its existence. Regardless of the group’s claim that the Islamic center would be “a wonderful asset to the community” the plan is cheeky, to say the least.

More interesting is the Cordoba Initiative, headed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a well-educated, silver-tongued Egyptian American, who claims that the Islamic Center would help to foster better relations between Muslims and the West. The name Cordoba is significant, as the Spanish city of Cordoba represented the high point of the Islamic Empire, which dominated the world for nearly 500 years until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ejected the Muslim occupiers from Spain in what Osama bin Laden calls “the tragedy of Andalusia.” If nothing else, this shows that Islamic fundamentalists have long memories and never forget a slight.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Editorial: Sheboygan Mosque Permit Should be Approved

A proposal to convert a former health food store into Sheboygan County’s first mosque is creating a firestorm of controversy.

Mansoor Mirza, a Pakistani-born physician at Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc, owns the building and said he wants to provide a worship home to Muslims in this area. The nearest mosques are in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Madison.

The town board in Wilson on Monday is expected to vote on a conditional use permit approved last week by the town’s Plan Commission.

Many are hoping final approval is denied because they say a mosque could prove disruptive to the community and be a breeding ground of Islamic fundamentalism and potential terrorism.

Mosque proponents say that idea is preposterous fear-mongering and that Muslims, who have lived peacefully in the area for generations, finally should have their own place to worship.

The clergy exemplifies the public divide on the issue.

“This country was founded on religious freedom,” said Richard Edwards, teaching pastor at Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Oostburg. “These people have a right to worship as they choose and I want to worship the way I choose. Freedom of religion is the American way.”

But in an e-mail to town officials, the Rev. Wayne DeVrou, senior pastor of First Reformed Church in Oostburg, wrote: “I have reasons to be skeptical of what the true intentions of the (Islamic Society of Sheboygan County) are in relation to the future use of the facility, what will be taught in the mosque and their affiliations with terrorist groups. I believe that they are misrepresenting themselves to you and the surrounding community.”

Terrorism is a legitimate and widely shared concern in this country. However, we believe the voice of reason in the current debate comes from Lakeland College religious studies professor Karl Kuhn.

“The very idea that a gathering of Muslims poses a threat to a community shows a misperception that Islam is inherently connected to violence,” he told a meeting of 150 people at Sheboygan’s Mead Public Library recently. “Muslims everywhere, especially in Western nations, find the actions of terrorists reprehensible.”

It is true, as opponents point out, that what is taught in the mosque likely won’t be closely scrutinized.

We cannot, however, allow fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar blind us to the fact that the freedom to worship as we choose is one of the key rights all Americans enjoy under the Constitution.

Those rights are guaranteed, no matter how uncomfortable they make some of us feel. We believe that Mirza’s intentions are as stated — nothing more and nothing less.

The Wilson town board should grant the mosque permit and those attending the facility should be made to feel welcome in the community.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Mosque Madness at Ground Zero

by Andrea Peyser

A mosque rises over Ground Zero. And fed-up New Yorkers are crying, “No!”

A chorus of critics — from neighbors to those who lost loved ones on 9/11 to me — feel as if they’ve received a swift kick in the teeth.

Plans are under way for a Muslim house of worship, topped by a 13-story cultural center with a swimming pool, in a building damaged by the fuselage of a jet flown by extremists into the World Trade Center.

The opening date shall live in infamy: Sept. 11, 2011. The 10th anniversary of the day a hole was punched in the city’s heart.

How the devil did this happen?

Plans to bring what one critic calls a “monster mosque” to the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory building, at a cost expected to top $100 million, moved along for months without a peep. All of a sudden, even members of the community board that stupidly green-lighted the mosque this month are tearing their hair out.

Paul Sipos, member of Community Board 1, said a mosque is a fine idea — someplace else.

“If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive,” Sipos told me. “If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: Why there?”

Why, indeed.

A rally against the mosque is planned for June 6, D-Day, by the human-rights group Stop Islamicization of America. Executive director Pamela Geller said, “What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Center buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack? Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn’t dream of such an insult. It’s a stab in the eye of America.”

Called Cordoba House, the mosque and center is the brainchild of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Executive director Daisy Khan insists it’s staying put.

“For us, it’s a symbol, a platform that will give voice to the silent majority of Muslims who suffer at the hands of extremists. A center will show that Muslims will be part of rebuilding lower Manhattan,” said Khan, adding that Cordoba will be open to everyone.

“We were pleased to see that the community welcomed us as an asset to lower Manhattan,” she added. “The community board approved it.”

Not so fast.

The Financial District Committee of Community Board 1 seems to have gotten ensnared in a public-relations ploy by mosque-makers. At a May 5 meeting, the committee gave the project an enthusiastic thumbs-up. But boards have zero say over religious institutions.

But the damage is done.

Wounds that have yet to heal are now opening, as mosque opponents are branded, unfairly, as bigots.

“The worst tendency is the knee-jerk, emotional, angry, hateful response to acts of violence and war,” said Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost daughter Vanessa on 9/11 and supports the mosque. “I think it’s racist tendencies.”

Many more feel like Bill Doyle — doubly maimed as he’s forced to defend himself against charges of prejudice.

“I’m not a bigot. What I’m frightful about is, it’s almost going to be another protest zone. A meeting place for radicals,” said Doyle, whose son, Joseph, was murdered on 9/11.

“It’s a slap in our face!” said Nelly Braginsky, who lost son Alexander.

Unclear is how the mosque will raise the $100 million-plus it needs…

           — Hat tip: UL[Return to headlines]

Ten Mental Mistakes of Obamatons

We live in times of rank, unchallenged errors of thought forcefully expressed in print and spoken word. Political movements, in particular, traffic in purposeful verbal trickery. In fact, some especially depend upon fallacies to drive their message since their essential convictions are defective or even diseased. Such groups as the Nazis, Fascists and Communists immediately spring to mind here.

Barack Obama peppers his rhetoric with a veritable buffet of verbal trickery. But why? If Obamatons are correct, and Barack is one of history’s great speakers, why must he use cheap rhetorical tricks to win support? The answer is Obama offers ideas which, on their face, are either counter-intuitive, or false to the average listener. Speakers do not mislead unless they sense an inability to otherwise persuade their audience. Therefore, Barack needs extra help to persuade. What other explanation can there be for such incongruent methods?

Obama supporters, aka Obamatons, have created a human ocean of fallacies to buoy their leader, threatening to engulf the globe in a terrifying flood of logical errors. The following is a short list of some of the most persistent members of this false-argument tsunami.

A. What is a Fallacy?

A fallacy is generally an error in reasoning. Fallacies are common, yet fraudulent arguments. The most popular are mistakes that occur when people don’t think clearly. The most typically used have given names to aid in their detection. Certainly, we all tend to use fallacious thinking daily. But for important topics, such as politics, religion, and law it is imperative we do not employ these flawed logical structures as we will end up with unacceptable results.

B. Top Ten Liberal Fallacies

The following fallacies are employed by Obama, his administration and his rabble of fervent and often intellectually challenged fans…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US: Video: The Great Muslim President

Will America wake up in time to elect a Christian?

We all get e-mails of all shapes and sizes. It is often difficult to edit the smorgasboard of information. Though loaded with important and stupendous information coming from all angles, it is seldom that any one slug of ultra-pertinent information stands out against the rest.

That is until yesterday when I received an email bearing a youtube video of our current president. What the film maker has done is to search what probably amounted to hundreds of speeches and interviews. Out of these the film was edited down to specific statements made by our president about the muslim faith. The film is ten minutes long and I urge you at this point to access it on your computer. Make up your own mind about what the message is here.

This is “supposedly” the video that FOX NEWS has been trying to show that is constantly blocked by the administration.

I can only say that I found the video profoundly disturbing. It started an uproar in my gizzard and when that happens I have to talk about it. I am having to face something that I didn’t actually realize: My president is deeply loyal, reverent, affectionate and promoting of the Muslim faith. I was somewhat aware of this before, but did not realize the extent of his devotion. I was aware that he had some background, etc. — but didn’t think that he was at all serious about it. After watching this film I am agape, agog and flabbergasted. I fear for my country!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What is Sovereignty and Who Has it

Today the Progressives and their two headed government party seek to make the exaltation of the central government.

Sovereignty is accepted as absolute uncontested authority. This definition of the concept of sovereignty emerged along with the nation-state. The nation-state hasn’t always existed. Everyone tends to see the circumstances of their own times as the static normality of history. And contrary to the endless lectures of History teachers tied to politically correct text books and standardized tests, History is not static it’s dynamic, it changes every day. The concept of the nation-state emerged in the sixteenth century evolving from countries as the private property of monarchs, and however hard to envision the nation-state will someday be replaced by something else.

If that’s what sovereignty is who has it? In England it’s vested in Parliament. In China it’s vested in the Central Committee of the Communist Party. But in America sovereignty isn’t vested in any one place, which means there really isn’t any. No sovereignty? How can that be? Since sovereignty is an absolute, it either exists or it doesn’t and it’s a misapplied concept when striving to understand the American government.

This does not mean that the United States is not a sovereign nation. The Federal Government represents the United Sates on the world stage. To the other countries of the world the Federal Government is the sovereign power with which they must deal. However, domestically we face a different situation. In some areas the Federal Government is sovereign, in some areas the States are sovereign, and in some areas the people are sovereign. Since sovereignty by definition is an absolutist concept and not one of degrees, either something is sovereign or it is not. In the United States there is no one legitimate source or center of sovereignty. The revolutionary theory the Framers advanced into practice is that several centers of power prevents the formation of an authority vortex swallowing all legitimate authority and paralyzing decision making, thus establishing the world’s first viable system of disassociated sovereignty.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ontario Appeal Court Hearing Set for Khawaja, Appealing Terrorism Convictions

By: Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Convicted terrorist Momin Khawaja is such a danger to society that anything less than a life sentence is too lenient, Crown lawyers will argue before Ontario’s highest court as Khawaja asks to be set free.

Ontario’s Court of Appeal is set to hear three days of arguments, starting Tuesday, on both Khawaja’s appeal and the government’s cross-appeal.

Khawaja was convicted of five charges under Canada’s anti-terror laws of financing and facilitating terrorism for training at a remote camp in Pakistan and providing cash to the British terrorists, as well as offering them use of a house and other assistance.

He was also found guilty of two Criminal Code offences related to building a remote-control device to set off explosions.

Khawaja was sentenced to 10 1/2 years with increased parole ineligibility.

In documents filed with the court the Crown paints a chilling picture of Khawaja as a ticking time bomb, a man from whom society can only be protected if he is under supervision for life.

“(Khawaja) is a self-proclaimed activist who espouses the downfall and destruction of western democracy and its lifestyle by any means, including violence and insurrection,” Crown lawyers write.

“Khawaja is a zealot whose terrorist philosophy demonstrates that he is prepared to engage in acts of intimidation and destruction.”

The Canadian-born software developer will be eligible for parole in three years and 10 months if his present sentence stands, the Crown notes.

The judge found Khawaja was a “willing and eager participant” in the British group’s jihadist schemes. But the Crown failed to prove Khawaja knew the detonator, called the HiFi Digimonster, was to be used to detonate a 600-kilogram fertilizer bomb in downtown London.

In court documents, Khawaja’s lawyers advance several reasons why they believe Khawaja’s convictions should be overturned. Failing that, they are asking for a new trial, and if a new trial isn’t granted they are asking for Khawaja’s sentence to be reduced to time served.

They argue the terrorism charges should not have gone to trial after the court found a key element of the legal definition of terrorism violated a person’s right to freedom of expression, religion and association.

Further, the only activities Khawaja knew he was facilitating were “militaristic acts” within armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, which don’t meet the legal definition of terrorist activity, the lawyers argue.

However, the armed conflict exception does not apply in this case, Crown lawyers write.

“There was no air of reality to the suggestion that his actions supported lawful armed combat in compliance with international law,” they say.

“This is a narrow, technical exception, not a licence for disaffected individuals to support and facilitate killings in foreign lands.”

As for sentence, Khawaja’s lawyers criticize the trial judge for not saying how much credit he gave Khawaja for pretrial custody, only that it was somewhere between two-for-one and one-for-one. That means Khawaja’s total sentence was anywhere between 15 1/2 and 20 1/2 years, the lawyers write.

But the Crown argues Khawaja never showed any remorse and the sentence doesn’t “reflect the extreme gravity of the terrorism offences committed.”

“The evidence at trial paints a picture of a man so devoted to jihad that the idea of killing innocent people and committing violent acts is not only a goal, but a pleasure,” the lawyers say.

“The sentence imposed by the trial judge does not reflect the seriousness of the offences, nor the viciousness of the offender in this case.”

Khawaja should be sentenced to life, they argue, and his period of parole ineligibility set at 10 years.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Veils Banned in Response to Muslim Immigrants

Brussels, 15 May (Washington Post) — Since she started wearing a full Islamic veil six weeks ago, Selma said, she has been stared at, frowned at, muttered to, mocked as a “ghost” and forced by a policeman to lift her veil to show her face.”

In Belgium, it is forbidden to carry your religious convictions to their logical conclusion,” the 22-year-old Brussels woman said, speaking on the condition that her full name not be used to avoid trouble for her family.

These are uneasy times for the estimated 15 million Muslims of Western Europe, not only for fundamentalists such as Selma, but also for the vast majority who want to find their place as Muslims without confronting the Christian and secular traditions of the continent they have adopted as home.

Responding to a wave of resentment unfurling across European societies, several governments have begun to legislate restrictions on the most readily visible of Islamic ways, the full-face veil.

Outside the gilded halls of parliaments and ministries, meanwhile, anti-Islamic sentiments have risen to the surface in a surge of Internet insults and physical attacks against Muslim symbols.

In Belgium, the Chamber of Representatives voted 29 April to impose a nationwide ban on full-face veils in public, making the country the first in Western Europe to pass such a measure. (The legislation, which needs Senate approval, has yet to take effect.)

Some municipalities, including Brussels, have local anti-veil regulations. But legislators explained that they wanted to “send a signal” to fundamentalist Muslims and preserve the dignity and rights of women.

Citing the same goals, the National Assembly in neighbouring France voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to declare full-face veils “contrary to the values of the republic,” which legislators described as the first step toward enacting legislation similar to Belgium’s.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative government has vowed to pass a nationwide ban by fall. He has persisted in his resolve, despite two opinions from France’s constitutional court that such a law would be unconstitutional and could run afoul of European Union human rights regulations.

The people of France, which with an estimated 5 million Muslims has the largest such population in Western Europe, by and large have expressed support for Sarkozy’s move.

Recent polls found two-thirds of those questioned want a full or partial ban against the full-face veil.Public sentiment has gone further, though.

Proposals for anti-veil legislation also have been introduced in the parliaments of Italy and the Netherlands, although passage is less certain.

Some cities in those countries have imposed local bans; a Tunisian immigrant was fined 500 euros two weeks ago in Novara, in northern Italy, for walking down the street on the way to a mosque with her face covered.

In Switzerland, where construction of minarets was banned in November, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said this week that the government plans to use similar administrative powers to forbid full-face veils. But the rules, she noted, will exempt Persian Gulf tourists, who spend lavishly in Swiss hotels and luxury shops.

Isabel Soumaya, vice president of the government-backed Association of Belgian Muslims, noted that only a few dozen women — among the country’s estimated 600,000 Muslims — wear the full-face veil.

Soumaya, who converted to Islam 20 years ago, wears the Islamic scarf, which covers her hair, but does not wear a full-face veil. In focusing on those who do, she said, Belgian legislators were “preying on voters’ fears.”

She added, “It is racism and a form of Islamophobia.”The friction has grown more acute, Soumaya said, because the immigrants, many from North Africa, who came to Belgium in the 1960s and 1970s now have children and, sometimes, grandchildren who grew up here.

The second- and third-generation Muslims, she said, have no intention of returning to North Africa and feel no need to “keep their heads” down, as their forebears did on arrival.

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

Environmental Policy Unimportant to Dutch Voters

THE HAGUE, 15/05/10 — About half of Dutch voters consider that the Netherlands should be at the forefront in the EU on efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. But the environment is a priority for practically nobody in deciding whom to vote for in the parliamentary elections on 9 June.

The caretaker cabinet wants emissions of carbon dioxide to be cut by 30 percent in 2020 from the level in 1990. This is more than the 20 percent that the European Commission had proposed for the EU. Some 52 percent of the Dutch consider the next cabinet should stick to this target, it emerges from a poll by TNS Nipo commissioned by De Volkskrant.

Four out of ten voters believe politicians underestimate the role played by humans in global warming. How many people think this role is overestimated was not reported yesterday by the pro-environment newspaper. It does however emerge from the research that almost nobody wants to pay for the costs of environmental policy and also almost nobody gives the theme top priority.

Only 3 percent of the voters consider the environment important enough as a theme to base their voting decisions on it. For the leftwing Green (GroenLinks) voters, the environment does play a big role, but even for them, it does not come top.

Forty percent of respondents consider that the money spent on environmental policy would be better spent on other things. Only 22 percent are prepared to make other goals subordinate to CO2 reduction.

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

EU-Turkey: Moratinos, Membership Talks Forward by June

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 11 — Negotiations for the Turkey’s EU membership will be able to advance before the end of the Spanish presidency of the EU in June. This is what Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said at the end of an extraordinary session of the EU-Turkey Association Council in Brussels, which marked 50 years since the beginning of bilateral meetings for Ankara’s entry into the EU. “By the end of Spanish presidency of the EU,” said the Spanish Minister, “new chapters in the Turkey’s EU membership negotiations will undoubtedly have been opened, but I can’t say which ones.” “This year it will be possible to open two new chapters,” added European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule. There are many sectors on the negotiating table still to be discussed, ranging from competition to social security, and from energy to education. The Turkish Foreign Minster, Ahmet Davutoglu, repeated Ankara’s determination for EU membership and the need to respect commitments made. “Pacta sunt servanda (‘agreements must be kept’): we don’t want political obstacles that have nothing to do with membership,” said Davutoglu. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: More Than 400 Linked to Corruption Inquiry

Perugia, 14 May (AKI) — At least 400 top Italian officials including ministers, senior police and members of the secret service have been linked to a businessman at the centre of an alleged public works corruption scandal worth hundreds of millions of euros. Former industry minister Claudio Scajola and head of the civil protection agency, Guido Bertolaso, who have both been named by prosecutors in their corruption investigation, are included on a list of people found on the computer of Diego Anemone.

Anemone was among four people arrested in February in connection with alleged graft in the allocation of construction contracts for last July’s Group of Eight summit that totalled 327 million euros.

Investigators have not determined precisely if all those on the list benefited from their connections with Anemone.

Former Italian minister and ex-president of the Italian Senate, Nicola Mancino was also on the list.

He strongly dismissed any suggestion that he was a beneficiary of his relationship with Anemone on Thursday.

“Mr Anemone did not give me any gifts,” Mancino said in response to Italian media reports.

“Following my nomination as minister of the interior, officials from SISDE (the Italian intelligence service) carried our work on the security of the apartment where I lived at 11 Corso Rinascimento,” he said.

“In 2004-2005, once I moved to Via Arno, some small carpentry jobs were done at my expense, on two bookcases and a large wall cupboard: naturally I turned to a company which was trusted by prestigious institutions and who gave a reliable guarantees,” he said.

“I reaffirm that the businessman, Anemone, gave me no form of protection and I took no “gifts”, as it has been written.”

Scajola has refused to be questioned on Friday by prosecutors who are probing hundreds of millions of euros in public works kickbacks.

His lawyers said Scajola should only appear before a special court for ministers and was not a formal suspect although he had been named in the inquiry.

Prosecutors last week widened their corruption investigation into public works corruption to include the purchase of 15 apartments.

These include a 1.5 million euro flat Scajola bought for his daughter near the Colosseum in Rome in 2004.

More than half the purchase price of the Rome apartment was allegedly paid by Angelo Zampolini, an architect who worked with Anemone. Zampolini is also being investigated for public works corruption.

Anti-graft prosecutors are also probing other public works projects including reconstruction projects in the central Italian city of L’Aquila and the surrounding area after the devastating earthquake in April 2009.

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

Italy: Thousands of ‘Mafia Members’ Arrested Since 2008

Rome, 14 May (AKI) — Italian police have arrested 5,300 mafia members and seized 22,000 properties in the fight against organised crime over the last two years, said Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni on Friday during an address to police in Rome. He said defeating the mafia remained the government’s top priority.

“The fight against organised crime is the number one priority of the government,” said Maroni.

“There have been many successes. We’ve been working on two fronts: mafia assets and the hunt for fugitives.”

Maroni said that since prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government was elected two years ago, authorities have seized 11 billion euros worth of mafia assets and arrested 360 mafia fugitives, including 24 of the 30 “most dangerous”

Italy’s primary crime groups increased their profit by 12 percent to more than 78 billion euros between 2008 and 2009, according to Rome-based anti-racketeering group SOS Impresa’s annual report.

Italian think tank Eurispes social studies estimates that the Calabrian mafia or ‘Ndrangheta’s turnover from trafficking in drugs and arms, prostitution and extortion in 2007 at 44 billion euros, the equivalent of 2.9 per cent of Italy’s entire economy.

The country’s top mafia syndicates are the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the ‘Ndrangheta from the southern region of Calabria, the Camorra concentrated in Naples and its surrounding area and the Sacra Corona Unita from the region of Puglia in the south.

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

Italy: Loan Sharks Pose Greatest Risk in South

Rome, 14 May (AKI) — Italians in their country’s southern regions have been particularly vulnerable to usury during the financial crisis that caused the economy of Europe’s fourth richest country to shrink 5.1 percent last year, Rome-based think tank Eurispes said in a report published Friday.

Citizens in Calabria located in the country’s deep south are most likely to turn to loan sharks for credit, followed by the Campania and Sicily regions, according to the report.

“In the context of socio-economic difficulty, such as now, the phenomenon of “suffering” of the Italian family tends to increase,” the report said.

According to Eurispes, 29 percent of Italian families don’t have enough income to get them through the month with 43 percent being forced to use savings to buy necessities like food.

Twenty-three percent of the country has difficulty paying mortgages and 18 percent struggle to pay rent, the report said.

Italians are more likely to take out illegal high-interest illegal loans in areas with high crime rates, with few banks, difficult access to credit and low economic growth, according to Eurispes.

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

Italy: Sardinia Regional President Probed for ‘Corruption’

Rome, 15 May (AKI) — The president of the Sardinia region Ugo Cappellacci is under investigation for corruption in the awarding of permits to construct wind farms power plants, according to Saturday reports in Italian newspapers, including La Repubblica.

Ugo Cappellacci, an ally of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling People of Liberty party is part of the probe by Rome investigators into awarding construction permits in Sardinia. Investigators are also probing alleged wind-farm-permit corruption in the southern Italian regions of Sicily, Basilicata and Campania, the Saturday La Repubblica report said.

Before being place under investigation, Cappellacci said he had done nothing wrong, according to the report.

Berlusconi made an effort to stump in favour of Cappellacci during the February 2009 election, travelling to Sardinia and appearing on television.

Cappellacci is accused of corruption abuse of office following telephone intercepts and a search of the regional environmental protection office, which has the power to award construction permits for wind farms, La Repubblica said.

Among others under investigation in the probe is People of Liberty national coordinator Denis Verdini.

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

Italy: Business Debt Doubled in Ten Years

Venezia Mestre, 15 May(AKI) — Debts of Italian businesses almost doubled over the past ten years, according to Cgia di Mestre, a trade association for artisans and small businesses. Between 1999 and 2009 business debts in Europe’s fourth-largest economy grew by an average of 94 percent, according to the Venezia Mestre, Italy-based group’s report.

The growth of debt is about four times Italy’s 23 percent inflation rate during the same period, according to the report.

Italian businesses on average owe 176,596 euros, Cgia said.

The economic crisis has prompted banks to tighten lines of credit causing a reversal in the trend, according to the head of Cgia, Giuseppe Bortolussi, in the report.

“Between 2008 and 2009 (Italian business debts) fell 2 percent because of the effect of tighter credit and a fall in the number of (loan) requests,” he said in the report.

Companies in the northern city of Milan, the centre of Italian business and finance, held the highest rate of debt with an average of 418,000 euros, Cgia said.

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

Italy to Ordain the First Woman Priest Near Vatican

Richard Owen in Fatima

Italy’s first woman priest is to be ordained a stone’s throw from the Vatican later this month.

Maria Vittoria Longhitano, 35, a member of the Italian Old Catholic Church, a breakaway group not recognised by the Vatican, will be ordained at All Saints Church, near the Spanish Steps in Rome, on 22 May.

A spokeswoman for All Saints Church said Ms Longhitano, who is married, was not being ordained as an Anglican. “We are offering our church as the venue because the Old Catholics have no venue of their own in Rome,” she said. “They use our facilities for their regular worship.”

The Old Catholics, founded in the early 19th century in an attempt to set up a national Italian denomination separate from Rome, do not accept a number of central Catholic doctrines including papal infallibility and the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

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Ms Longhitano, a teacher in Miian with a degree in philosophy and theology, became a deacon last year. She will be ordained by Bishop Fritz-René Müller of the Union of Utrecht, to which the Italian Old Catholics are affiliated.

She said that she had dreamed of being a priest since childhood, and her ordination “represents a great opportunity for women of faith”. She hoped that it would “stimulate a debate among Catholics” on female ordination, which has been definitively ruled out by successive Popes, including Pope Benedict XVI.

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

Italy: Ryanair Fined €3 Mln for Poor Passenger Assistance

Rome, 15 May (AKI) — Italy’s national civil aviation authority on Saturday announced it fined Irish airline Ryanair 3 million euros for not providing assistance to passengers stranded in Rome’s Ciampino airport last month because of flights cancelled due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

The lowcost Dublin-based carrier was fined for 178 cases of violating regulations requiring the company to provide food, drink and overnight lodging from 17-22 April.

Enac, Italy’s civil defense agency and the company that manages Ciampino airport — the Italian capital’s second-largest airport after Fiumicino — had to step in and provide passenger support while almost all other carriers provided services to their customers stuck in Rome’s airports, Enac said.

Thousands of flights were cancelled late April after much of Europe’s airspace was closed because of volcanic ash.

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

Italy: Earthquake Documentary Sparks Furore

Minister blasts film as “propaganda” before Cannes presentation

(ANSA) — Rome, May 13 — A documentary on the Italian government’s and Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s response to the Abruzzo earthquake continued to spark strong reactions on the day of its presentation at the Cannes film festival Thursday.

Sabina Guzzanti’s Draquila takes a critical view of the handling of reconstruction projects after the April 6 2009 disaster, which killed 308 people, highlighting the political connections of entrepreneurs who won contracts.

Prosecutors have opened a probe into alleged corruption in the allocation of some post-quake contracts. The left-leaning comic’s film also focuses on her favourite target, Berlusconi, whom she also took aim at with her 2005 picture Viva Zapatero!, suggesting he used the quake to promote himself.

Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, however, argues that the film gives a distorted view and that Berlusconi is not the one taking advantage of the tragedy that devastated the city of L’Aquila and it surrounding area.

“It’s a propaganda product that exploits the suffering of the people of L’Aquila and transforms it into a tool of political combat,” Bondi, who turned down an invitation to attend Cannes because the film was being screened there, said on Thursday.

Berlusconi rejected Guzzanti’s depiction of him at a dinner on Wednesday, according to those attending, saying the way he is spoofed and poked fun of on many TV shows proves he is no tyrant.

The Italian premier transferred last July’s G8 summit from the Sardinian island of La Maddalena to L’Aquila to draw attention to the area’s plight in a high-profile move.

He said his administration had pulled off a “miraculous” achievement in getting many of the estimated 60,000 people left homeless by the quake into new or renovated homes before Christmas.

Guzzanti’s film shows that parts of central L’Aquila are still off-limits because they are littered with rubble and buildings are unsafe.

Bondi has come under heavy fire for his response to Draquila, with resignation calls coming from a group of filmmakers and screenwriters.

“If minister Bondi devoted the same time and passion to the crisis of the cinema, opera and theatre as he is doing to Sabina Guzzanti’s film, all of Italy’s culture industry problems could be solved in a few hours,” said Beppe Giulietti of the Articolo 21 media liberties association.

“We can’t understand why they are so worried about this film. Evidently, it has touched a raw nerve.” The minister, however, is unrepentant.

“The filmmakers are free to call for my resignation and I’m free not to go to Cannes to pay homage to a film whose only artistic quality is to mock Italy and Italian people,” he said.

The documentary will be officially presented out of competition on Thursday evening at the festival, having opened to Italian cinema-goers last week.

It won a warm reception from an audience of 400 journalists who saw a screening earlier on Friday at Cannes. Guzzanti said she had considered sending Bondi a bottle of champagne for inadvertently publicising the film by not going to Cannes, while blasting his reasons for doing so.

“I read that he hasn’t even seen the film,” Guzzanti told reporters. “This makes me feel even more shame for the terrible impression our country makes abroad because of our government”.

Bondi replied that he had seen the work, adding that the real test of its merit will be how it does at the box office.

His criticism of the film was echoed by other Berlusconi supporters.

“In the part of the Cannes catalogue regarding Draquila it says Italian ‘democracy has been subjugated’. This representation of a totally free country is crazy,” Fabrizio Cicchitto, the House whip of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party, said Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Minister Proposes 5% Pay Cut for MPs

Calderoli says govt ministers should also ‘set a good example’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 14 — Italy’s minister for administrative simplification, Roberto Calderoli, said on Friday he intends to propose that salaries for MPs and government ministers be cut by at least 5% “to set a good example”.

Speaking by phone to ANSA, he said he would make his proposal “during a government meeting” and suggested it be part of a budget adjustment being drawn up to deal with the effects of the international financial crisis. Calderoli, a member of the Northern League, allied in government with Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, observed that “we will soon have to tackle a budget adjustment which will entail spending cuts in order to pay for tools to boost the economy”.

“Spending cuts should involve sacrifices for everyone, first of all government ministers and MPs. A 5% cut like the one being proposed by other countries, such as Britain and Portugal, would be just for some sectors, while for others it should be even higher,” Calderoli said.

Earlier this week a PdL MP, Giorgio Stacquadanio, suggested that MP salaries be increased, a proposal that was shot down not only by the opposition Democratic Party but also by other members of the PdL and Northern League.

Italian Mps are already among the highest paid in Europe. Last week a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) praised Calderoli for slashing a large number of unnecessary laws and making it easier to start up new businesses.

By cutting red tape, the report said, Italy had created annual cost-savings of over four billion euros for businesses, especially small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Graft Probe Builder ‘Didn’t Talk’

Lawyer denies Diego Anemone made ‘admission’ about general

(ANSA) — Perugia, May 14 — A Rome constructor at the centre of probes into suspected public tender graft on Friday denied press reports that he had started talking to police about one of several deals under investigation.

Friday’s dailies reported that Anemone, on being released from preventive detention on Sunday after his arrest in February, admitted an allegedly shady arrangement with secret service General Francesco Pittorru over two Rome flats.

But Anemone’s lawyers told ANSA he had never made such an admission.

The 38-year-old builder, under investigation in connection with tenders including work for the original site of last year’s Group of Eight summit, “did not answer questions, did not make spontaneous statements and above all did not make any admissions,” the lawyers said.

The probe into Anemone’s affairs sparked fresh polemics Thursday after a list of hundreds of names found on his computer was leaked to the media.

The list included politicians, top civil servants, police officials and entertainment personalities.

According to media reports, investigators suspect that Anemone’s firm may have performed work free of charge in the homes of the 350 listed people — and perhaps some 50 more not on the list, according to some reports.

Many of those cited in the reports have already denied wrongdoing or said they have proof of payment for the services performed by Anemone’s company in their homes.

The company reportedly also worked for a number of ministries, police and army barracks and at Palazzo Chigi, Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s office.

The eight-page-long list was found by prosecutors in Anemone’s computer during a graft probe connected to the construction of public venues for the 2009 world swimming championships in Rome.

As well as for the planned G8 venue in Sardinia, Anemone is at the centre of other probes for construction work done at state venues and a police academy in Florence.

News of the probes first broke in February when prosecutors ordered the arrest of the head of the state public works office, Angelo Balducci, 54; the Tuscany region’s public works contractor Fabio De Santis, 61; and state official Mauro Della Giovampaola, 44.

Anemone was also arrested but he and Della Giovanpaola were released from preventive custody on Sunday.

He claims his company always “worked honestly”.

The businessman has also been linked to former industry minister Claudio Scajola, who was forced to resign last week amid reports Anemone partly paid for the purchase of his Rome apartment in 2004.

Scajola denies wrongdoing and says he never dealt with Anemone but only with Angelo Zampolini, an architect who worked for the construction company and renovated the former minister’s flat near the Colosseum.

Anemone is also linked to Civil Protection Chief Guido Bertolaso, whom prosecutors suspect may have taken bribes and struck sex-for-favours arrangements after the businessman won a tender for the restructuring of the original venue of the G8 in the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.

Bertolaso, who has offered to step down, said at a news conference last week he had “never lied to Italians” and had “a clear conscience”.


As well as Pittorru, others whose names featured in the list published Thursday are Nicola Mancino, vice-president of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM), who promptly denied wrongdoing; the Deputy General Manager of state broadcaster RAI Giancarlo Leone; intelligence chief Gianni De Gennaro; film director Pupi Avati; and former transport and infrastructure minister Pietro Lunardi.

The centre-left opposition has voiced concern the latest reports indicated that the country was facing a revival of the 1990s Tangentopoli scandals which swept away the once dominant Christian Democrat and Socialist parties.

Opposition leader Pier Luigi Bersani claimed a “mechanism” was emerging “to broaden (public) tenders to include reserved and non-tendered bids in a distorted application of European Union directives”.

Berlusconi reportedly told businessmen earlier this week he did not believe the probes would lead to anything similar to Tangentopoli but pledged to oust anyone found guilty from the government and from his People of Freedom (PdL) party.

The premier said the probes would not damage the government in any way.

Coalition ally, Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, told reporters that as long as he, his party and Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti “were around” there would be “no risk for the government; they’re not going to topple it”.

The PdL’s House Whip, Fabrizio Cicchitto, complained that prosecutors should not have allowed the list to be leaked, saying investigations should have been completed before any people who may be cleared of any misdoing were “dished up”.

He said the papers had published what amounted to “a proscription list”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: No Mercy for Wrongdoers, Says Premier

But Berlusconi urges stop to ‘proscription lists’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 14 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised on Friday his government would show no mercy to politicians or state officials guilty of wrongdoing but slammed the press for publishing what he called ‘proscription lists’ of individuals who likely are not even remotely involved in a series of corruption probes.

The publication of a list on Thursday and Friday of some 350 high-profile personalities found on the computer of a Rome constructor at the centre of the probes was “unacceptable”, said the premier.

The list on Diego Anemone’s computer included politicians, top civil servants and police officials.

Anemone’s company reportedly also worked for a number of ministries, police and army barracks and at Palazzo Chigi, Berlusconi’s office. According to media reports, investigators suspect that Anemone’s construction firm may have performed work free of charge in the homes of some 350 people — perhaps as many as 412- in a bid to win lucrative state contracts.

Many of those cited in the reports have denied wrongdoing or said they had proof they paid the constructor for his services.

“It’s unacceptable that the list of a company’s clients is held up by the press as a list of wrongdoers. It is up to the judiciary to see if there are one, two or three cases of wrongdoing,” said a statement released by the premier’s office.

The premier stressed that any elected or state official truly implicated in wrongdoing would come under “severe judgement”.

“No indulgence or impunity will be shown to those at fault”.

“But please, let’s call an end to these absurd hysterics, these proscription lists which a priori and indiscriminately throw dirt on innocent people”.

News of the probes first broke in February when prosecutors ordered the arrest of the head of the state public works office, Angelo Balducci, 54; the Tuscany region’s public works contractor Fabio De Santis, 61; and state official Mauro Della Giovampaola, 44.

Anemone was also arrested but he and Della Giovampaola were released from preventive custody on Sunday.

The constructor claims his company always “worked honestly”.

He has also been linked to former industry minister Claudio Scajola, who was forced to resign last week amid reports Anemone partly paid for the purchase of his Rome apartment in 2004.

Scajola denies wrongdoing and says he never dealt with Anemone but only with Angelo Zampolini, an architect who worked for the construction company and renovated the former minister’s flat near the Colosseum.

According to media reports, Berlusconi told aides earlier this week he was “disappointed” with Scajola. Anemone is also linked to Civil Protection Chief Guido Bertolaso, whom prosecutors suspect may have taken bribes and struck sex-for-favours arrangements after the businessman won a tender for the restructuring of the original venue of the G8 in the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.

Bertolaso, who has offered to step down, said at a news conference last week he had “never lied to Italians” and had “a clear conscience”.


Reacting to the premier’s statement, the opposition Italy of Values (IdV) party said the situation was “really serious if even Premier Silvio Berlusconi has finally acknowledged what the IdV has been saying for quite some time: that is, that ministers involved in judicial probes should not be in the government”. Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani was much more outspoken.

Campaigning in the northern city of Bolzano, the leader of the opposition biggest party criticised the Northern League, using its ‘Roma Ladrona’ (Thieving Rome) slogan to say it was keeping the government afloat.

The catchphrase was coined by League leader Umberto Bossi in the 1990s to gripe about the concentration of power in the capital and the misuse of taxes mainly paid by the affluent north to cater to the needs of the south.

“It’s not Rome that’s thieving but there are thieves in Rome and the League is on their side”.

“They’re keeping Berlusconi going. Without the League, there would be no Berlusconi,” said Bersani, referring also to the northern party’s strong gains in the March 28-29 regional elections.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday after fresh revelations on the probes, Bossi said that as long as he, his party and Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti “were around” there was “no risk for the government; they’re not going to topple it”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Merkel Warns of Europe’s Collapse

‘If Euro Fails, So Will the Idea of European Union’

In a dramatic appeal for Europeans to come together to address the common currency crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that if the euro collapses, so will the idea of European unity. She also described the current euro crisis as Europe’s greatest test since the collapse of communism.

During a speech given during the awarding of the prestigious Charlemagne Prize for furthering European unity in Aachen on Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel used strong words to address the current euro zone crisis. If the euro collapses, Merkel warned, “then Europe and the idea of European union will fail.” In her speech to guests gathered to honor this year’s recipient of the award, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Merkel called on Europeans to come together, saying that deeper coordination of economic and finance policies is needed.

“We have a common currency, but no common political and economic union,” she said. “And this is exactly what we must change. To achieve this — therein lies the opportunity of the crisis.”

European governments, she said, promised their citizens stability for the common currency, the euro, “and we must keep that promise.” Merkel described the current crisis as the “greatest test for the EU since the collapse of communism.” If we do not succeed in mastering this crisis, she warned, it will have “unforeseeable consequences” for Europe. “But if we succeed, then we will have a stronger Europe than ever before.”

Polish Prime Minister Tusk added that the debt crisis didn’t mean the beginning of Europe’s twilight. “Paradoxically, I see an opportunity in the crisis,” he said during his acceptance speech, “to strengthen and further develop Europe. The bell is tolling for Europe, and overcoming this crisis will be the best proof.”

Fifty-three-year-old Tusk was bestowed with the honor, among other things, for his efforts to see through the ratification of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty and for his recognition of the importance of good neighbourly relations between Poland and Germany. Merkel noted that the signing of the Lisbon Treaty by Tusk had created a “renewed treaty-based foundation” for the EU. But she also said that problems with EU regulations also needed to be addressed.

Division Between Merkel and Her Foreign Minister

On Wednesday, the European Commission introduced a proposal it hopes to add to the €750 billion euro rescue package approved earlier this week. Beginning in 2011, the Commission wants to impose stronger controls on the national budgets of member states as well as tougher sanctions against countries with less-than-solid budget planning and more effective mechanisms for fighting similar crises if they emerge in the future.

Merkel and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle both said the measures are a step in the right direction. However, Westerwelle expressed reservations over the proposal that national budgets would first have to be presented to the European Commission before they are approved by national parliaments. Merkel, for her part, considers that to be less problematic, saying one shouldn’t automatically interpret the proposal as one that snatches power away from parliaments. EU finance ministers and a newly created working group of EU states are currently considering the proposals.

Overtures to the Opposition

In Berlin, the government coalition of Merkel’s conservatives and Westerwelle’s business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) are currently making overtures to the opposition party the center-left Social Democrats on the divisive issue of a financial transaction tax in the hope of ensuring the broadest possible support for the euro rescue package in the German parliament, the Bundestag. In Merkel’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), support appears to be growing for a Tobin-style tax on financial market transactions, which has long been the issue of global debate. “All agree that we need a fee for the banks and a new tax,” Merkel’s chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla of the CDU, told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. He said the dispute over a financial market tax had been exaggerated.

Wolfgang Bosbach of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s CDU, who is also the head of the parties’ joint group in parliament, even openly pleaded in an interview with Cologne’s Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper for an international financial transaction tax. But he warned that if the levy wasn’t implemented at an international level by multiple countries that companies would simply relocate to places where the tax isn’t imposed.

Bosbach also said he understood criticism, especially within his party, the CSU, of deficiencies in Merkel’s communication regarding the current crisis.

The German government was one of the initial supporters of a global financial transaction tax. But after the Obama administration opted for a plan to tax banks, the government coalition in Berlin switched to supporting that approach. Berlin has also expressed approval for a proposal by the International Monetary Fund to tax banks’ profits and executive bonuses as well. Many politicians have called for the businesses that caused the current economic crisis to contribute to the expensive bailout.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

More Belgians Have Foreign Roots

Fri 14/05/2010 — 12:09 According to a new survey by the Catholic University of Leuven, one in five of the people living in Belgium is of foreign descent. The figures include the around ten percent of the population that is made up of foreign nationals and naturalised Belgians that have foreign roots.

The Leuven University researchers’ definition of someone having foreign roots goes back three generations.

This means that if one of somebody’s great grandparent were born abroad they are considered to have foreign roots.

Using this definition, the researchers come to the conclusion that within ten years three out of ten people living in Belgium will have foreign roots.

In the big cities the number of people with foreign roots is higher.

In Brussels, where a third of the population is a foreign national, more than half of the Belgian nationals have/had at least one parent, grandparent or great grandparent from abroad.

In some Greater Brussels municipalities less than ten percent of the population had eight Belgian great grandparents.

For example, in Sint-Joost-ten-Node this is just 3.8% and in Sint-Gillis just 8.3%.

Meanwhile, in Antwerp almost one in four of the population is either a foreign national or has foreign roots.

In Mechelen (Antwerp province) this is 27.3%, while 26.3% of the people in Leuven (Flemish Brabant) and Ghent (East Flanders) are foreigners or have family ties abroad.

The researchers say that within ten years foreign nationals and those with foreign roots will be in the majority in all our big towns and cities.

People with roots in the Netherlands and Morocco form the largest groups of people with foreign roots in Flanders.

Moroccans and people of Moroccan descent are also the biggest group in Brussels.

Meanwhile in Wallonia, Italians and people of Italian descent form the largest group of those with roots abroad.

Famous Belgians with foreign roots

Among the well-known Belgians with foreign roots are the Manchester City footballer Vincent Kompany (bottom photo), whose father is Congolese.

Queen Paola of the Belgians was born in Italy, as was the well-known singer Salvatore Adamo (middle photo).

Two of the Flemish Members of the European Parliament: Derk Jan Eppink (LDD) and Said El Khadraoui (socialist) have roots in the Netherlands and Morocco respectively.

The leader of the Francophone socialist party Elio Di Rupo is the son of Italian immigrants.

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

Spain: Majority Wants Investigation Into Francoist Crimes

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 11 — The majority of Spaniards want Francoist crimes to be investigated and three out of five do not want impunity for the dictatorship. This is the conclusion of a survey carried out by progressive daily newspaper Publico on the basis of 800 interviews conducted between May 3 and 5. A week after the large-scale demonstration in Madrid against the crimes of the dictatorship and in defence of Judge Baltazar Garzon, 59.2% of people interviewed say they “agreed” with the opening of an investigation into the political crimes of the Francoist regime, whilst 26.9% said they were against it and 14% chose not to answer either way. 75% of socialist voters said they were in favour of opening a trial, but only 34% of the Popular Party, whilst 53% considered it inappropriate. Young people between 18 and 29 were most in favour of Francoism going to trial with 70% in agreement, whilst the percentage in favour falls to 45% amongst the over 60s. From Publiscopio, it emerges that the majority of Spaniards support Garzon, on trial for alleged abuse of office, for opening an investigation into Francoist crimes. 58.1% of people interviewed said they disagreed with the Supreme Court, which has opened a preliminary inquest against Garzon on the basis of actions presented by the Spanish Falange and by the far right associations Manos Limpias and Libertad e Identidad; whilst 21.9% believe it is right that the magistrate has been charged. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Veil: Islamic Community Protests for Sacked Official

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 11 — The removal of the sub-director general for the coordination and promotion of religious freedom of the Justice Ministry, Juan Ferreiro Galguera, who said that he was in favour of people being allowed to wear Muslim veils in schools, provoked “profound unrest and protests in the Islamic community”. This was said today by the President of the Islamic Council of Spain, Mansur Escudero, announcing the numerous messages protesting the move that were sent to the Council’s e-mail address. Escudero underlined that the official had always distinguished himself for his particular attention to citizens who practice minority religions, in his role as leader of relations with Spanish Muslim communities. According to Escudero, the firing of the Justice Ministry official “will damage the credibility of the government in the eyes of Muslims and democrats in general”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Garzon Transfer to Penal Court Only Provisional

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 11 — The transfer to the International penal court requested by the judge Baltazar Garzon is temporary, relative to an initial period of seven months and would not see the magistrate lose his position in the examining section number 5 of the Audiencia Nacional. This was pointed out by legal sources quoted by the agency Europa Press. The possible transfer will not see the interruption of other trials for which he is standing. The chairman of the Audiencia Nacional, Angel Juanes, has reacted favourably to the transfer request. The role of external consultant for the public prosecutor of the International penal court had been offered to Garzon by the President of the penal court, the Argentine Luis Moreno Ocampo, in a letter sent to the magistrate on May 6. Ocampo made it clear in the letter that he wanted to benefit “from Garzon’s experience in investigations into organised and mass crime”. In a subsequent interview with Spanish national television, the President of the International penal court underlined that “Garzon is an example, in Spain and abroad, for many magistrates. The world needs judges like him who stand up to power by applying the laws”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Eurosceptics in Plot to Force Vote on Lisbon Treaty

Tory MPs are plotting to force a referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty within months, setting up the first test of the coalition Government’s uneasy truce on Europe.

Backbencher Douglas Carswell revealed that he and other Eurosceptic Conservatives hope to take advantage of a technical change to the treaty to force a public vote.

The Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that plans for a minor increase in the number of MEPs would require a change in the law in this country.

Mr Carswell said this might provide a chance to revive a Tory pledge to hold a referendum on the controversial treaty which handed a raft of fresh powers to Brussels.

Any move to force a referendum would place huge strain on the relationship between pro-European Liberal Democrats and their largely Eurosceptic Tory coalition partners.

It would also create a headache for David Cameron, who attempted to play down Europe as an issue during the election campaign after dropping his ‘cast-iron’ pledge to hold a referendum after the treaty was ratified last year.

Mr Cameron claimed then that the treaty was a done deal thanks to Labour, and the British Parliament could not stop it.

But the Prime Minister’s coalition agreement with the Lib Dems committed the new government to a ‘referendum lock’ requiring public approval for any proposed future treaty which transferred new powers to Brussels.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Public ‘At Risk’ As Civilian Police Staff Doubles in Just Ten Years

Public safety is at risk because the number of civilian police staff has nearly doubled over the last decade, it was claimed last night.

The growth in police community support officers (PCSOs) and other civilian staff has outstripped the rise in fully sworn officers, according to a report by the Police Federation.

It showed the average ratio of police officers to staff was 1.4 to 1 last year — compared to 2.3 to 1 in 2000.

One force, Surrey, has more civilian staff — taking statements, interviewing people and gathering data — than warranted officers. The same force has the worst detection rate in the country, says the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers.

It claimed politicians had put ‘short-term cost savings ahead of public safety’. The federation demanded a reversal of the trend which, it said, could threaten the ability of the police to ‘deal with unexpected and unplanned circumstances’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Radical Muslims Lose Grip on London Council

Radical Muslims’ control of an east London council has been dramatically weakened following an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph.

The Labour leader of Tower Hamlets council, Lutfur Rahman, was last week replaced in his job after this newspaper revealed that he had been elected to the post with the help of a fundamentalist Islamic group, the Islamic Forum of Europe.

Mr Rahman was replaced as leader by Helal Abbas, who has condemned the IFE’s influence in Tower Hamlets, east London, and publicly accused the organisation of running the council. All Mr Rahman’s allies in the council’s ruling cabinet have left their jobs and have returned, with Mr Rahman, to the backbenches.

The IFE, based at the East London Mosque, seeks, in its own words, to change the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam”.

The mosque and IFE have hosted a number of hate and extremist preachers, including Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to a number of terrorist attacks, including the recent attempted Times Square bombing. A leading IFE official, Azad Ali, has justified the killing of British troops in Iraq.

In the investigation, by the The Sunday Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches, seven serving and former Tower Hamlets councillors told how a senior official of the IFE helped run Mr Rahman’s leadership campaign and canvassed councillors, making threats and offers of council jobs, on Mr Rahman’s behalf. Mr Rahman refused to deny that the IFE official had canvassed for him, though he did deny that threats or inducements were made.

Also in the investigation, Labour officials and one of the area’s Labour MPs, Jim Fitzpatrick, accused the IFE of “corrupting” and infiltrating the local Labour Party in the same way as the Militant Tendency in the 1980s. The number of Labour Party members in the area has more than doubled, even as Labour membership elsewhere has fallen sharply. Ninety per cent of the new members are Asian.

At the recent election, Mr Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, was heavily targeted by the IFE, which said his involvement in The Sunday Telegraph investigation and his condemnation of the group proved he was “Islamophobic” and should be defeated.

However, Mr Fitzpatrick was re-elected with a substantially increased majority. “It is a body blow to the credibility of the IFE and their claim that no one can get elected in Tower Hamlets without their sanction,” he said. “If I hadn’t had the row with the IFE, they would have been in a much stronger position to influence the election. Normal politics, as much as possible, are now breaking out in Tower Hamlets.”

Mr Fitzpatrick’s Respect opponent, George Galloway, came third with 17.5 per cent of the vote, not even turning up to the count to hear the result. His defeat came after The Sunday Telegraph obtained a secret recording of Mr Galloway saying that his victory at the 2005 general election in neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow owed “more than I can say, more than it would be wise for me to say, to the IFE”.

The Respect candidate in Mr Galloway’s former seat, Abjol Miah, also came third with 17 per cent of the vote.

The Labour candidate, Rushanara Ali, became one of Britain’s first three Muslim women MPs. The result came after Mr Miah, a Tower Hamlets councillor and leading activist in the IFE, was secretly filmed by Channel 4 saying: “We’ve consolidated ourselves now. We’ve got a lot of influence and power in the council, councillors, politicians.”

Another IFE activist, Abu Talha, said: “Our brothers have gone into positions of influence, council positions.” Mr Miah, who insists that he is not a “member” of the IFE, says that when he referred to “we” in this conversation he merely meant Muslims.

At the elections Mr Miah stepped down from the council and Respect was all but wiped out in Tower Hamlets, losing 11 of the 12 seats it won in 2006.

Mr Rahman’s leadership ended at the Labour group meeting on Monday after a number of moderate Muslim Labour councillors were elected.

Sources close to the Labour group said that he withdrew his candidacy just before the vote, after speeches proposing and seconding him had already been made at the meeting, when it became clear that he would lose.

As leader, Mr Rahman promoted a number of controversial policies, including plans to erect ceremonial arches in the shape of a hijab, the Muslim headscarf, at either end of the area’s famous Brick Lane. Critics condemned the scheme as “religious branding” of a multiracial community and it has now been shelved. Extremist literature, including taped sermons by Mr al-Awlaki, was stocked at Tower Hamlets public libraries.

Under Mr Rahman large amounts of council money were also paid to the East London Mosque and a number of other community organisations linked to the IFE. Tower Hamlets appointed an assistant chief executive, Lutfur Ali, to oversee the grants programme despite a chequered employment history, misleading CV and a negative headhunters’ report. Mr Ali was forced to resign after The Sunday Telegraph investigation revealed that he was linked to the IFE.

Ansar Ahmed Ullah, a local opponent of the IFE, said: “This was a victory against extremism. We were really fearful, both for Jim and Rushanara. The IFE and its allies fought a very divisive campaign, just focusing on the Muslim community as if no one else lived in the borough. But people wised up.”

Badrul Islam, director of a local training project and another anti-IFE activist, said: “It is a very good result, thanks to your investigation. They tried to pull out all the stops, and they failed.”

However, the IFE did score one success, achieving a ‘Yes’ vote in a referendum to establish a powerful directly-elected mayor for the borough. Mr Miah, the IFE activist, organised the petition to the council which triggered the vote and in secret filming by Channel 4, IFE activists expressed confidence about “getting one of our brothers in” to the post.

The election for the mayor will be held in October and Labour sources said it was “imperative” to ensure that Mr Rahman or another figure with IFE links did not become the party’s candidate for the position. Mr Galloway also this week refused to rule out running for the job.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Sayeeda Warsi Slammed by Islamic Fundamentalists

NEW Tory chairman Sayeeda Warsi has been slammed by Islamic fundamentalists who warned she could be in physical danger if she visits Muslim communities.

The 39-year-old baroness is the first female Muslim to be given a full Cabinet position.

But controversial preacher Anjem Choudary accused her of “betraying” her religion.

He told the Daily Star Sunday: “Sayeeda Warsi is not a Muslim in my eyes.

“She may look like a Muslim and have a Muslim-sounding name but she does not represent Islam or anyone in this country who is a Muslim.

“She is a ‘coconut’, brown on the outside but white on the inside.

“In fact, she is whiter than most of the other white people in government.

“How can she be a Muslim and support the military involvement of the British Army in Islamic countries?

“She is somebody who pretends to be a practising Muslim but, from her views and statements, she is clearly against Sharia.

“She is a disgrace and many true Muslims are angry that she claims to stand for Islam despite betraying Allah.”

Choudary — whose group Islam4UK was banned by the last government — predicted that Baroness Warsi would become the focus of hate.

He said: “She will be attacked by eggs every time she goes near a Muslim community.

“Some more extreme protesters may take the attacks further. There is no doubt she is in danger.”

Meanwhile, Choudary and his supporters will head to Brussels on Saturday to join a mass protest against Belgium’s bid to ban the burka. He stormed: “There will be hundreds of Muslims from Britain heading to Belgium to join with thousands of our brethren to fight against this tyranny.

“We will fight all attempts to destroy Islam.

“There will be blood on the streets.”

Baroness Warsi, who was born in Yorkshire of Pakistani parents, has already ­experienced hostility.

She was pelted with eggs by Muslim protesters when she visited Luton, Bedfordshire, last year.

Married with one daughter, she describes herself as a “northern, working-class-roots mum”.

She gave up her job as a solicitor in 2004 to stand for parliament in her home town of Dewsbury, losing out to Labour’s Shahid Malik.

She was also a special adviser on community relations to then Tory leader Michael Howard before becoming the party’s vice-chairman.

She says her admiration for Conservative principles was inspired by her father, who rose from mill worker to running a £2million-a-year bed manufacturing firm.

In 2005, she had to apologise after gay rights group Stonewall slammed her campaign leaflets for being anti-gay.

The controversial pamphlets said: “Labour has scrapped Section 28, which was ­introduced by the Conservatives to stop schools promoting alternative sexual lifestyles such as homosexuality to children as young as seven years old.

“Labour reduced the age of consent for homosexuality from 18 to 16, allowing schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Verhofstadt: ‘Speculators Are Doing Europe a Favour’

Former Belgian prime minister Verhofstadt, now a MEP, believes the 500 billion worth of eurobonds bear the seed of structural reform within the EU.

“Until now, no real means existed to force euro countries to observe fiscal discipline. Those days are over,” said a satisfied Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and current leader of the liberal group in the European parliament. He believes last weekend’s pledges by European leaders of 500 billion euros worth of loans, mainly guarantees, to weak eurozone countries sent “a strong signal” in defence of the stability of the currency. Together with the 250 billion added by the IMF, the package also bears the seed of structural reform that is absolutely essential, said Verhofstadt. “Since these loans can only be granted to member states that make dramatic cuts and restructure, the system will reinforce the Stability Pact.”

After months of bickering over which national instruments would be used to put an end to the Greek crisis, the euro countries have finally chosen a strong European method in the form of eurobonds, Verhofstadt said. “For months, I had warned that bilateral loans would not solve the problem. Eurobonds, which are collectively guaranteed, were the only answer.”

Only 60 of the 500 billion came out of the European budget. Aren’t you making this more European than it really is?

“No. The European Commission can borrow 60 billion on financial markets using the EU budget as collateral, and the other 440 billion with guarantees from the euro countries. The Netherlands and Germany kept pushing for bilateral loans, but we got guarantees. And the Commission will oversee the entire process. Of course, as with all European decisions, the countries and parliament will have to approve it. This system is European, because everyone is putting in his weight. Collectively.”

The term ‘eurobonds’ is controversial, but Verhofstadt uses it adamantly. “Here, look at the agreement: ‘The Commission shall be empowered to contract borrowings on the capital markets’.”

The agreement outlines a temporary system that will remain in place for three years and will only be used if necessary?

“That is what the text says. In fact, this was a concession to Germany and the Netherlands late Sunday night to make them rescind their demand for bilateral loans. But I don’t think it will be temporary. And maybe it will have to be used. The Greek issue proves that the eurozone needs a crisis mechanism. We need a backup plan that allows us to act forcefully if the euro is weakened. Everybody agrees on that, but until recently some countries thought we didn’t have to organise this at the European level because we had the bilateral option. It took five months of squabbling, while at the same time, modern global financial markets respond in a heartbeat. We could see the problem growing out of control. Only after the stability of the euro came under threat and an international bond crisis loomed, did the euro countries opt for a European system. With their backs against the wall.”

How does this system reinforce the Stability Pact? Considering the reaction of the markets, investors also want an answer to this question.

“Because the conditions are so strict. Euro countries need to make incredible cuts and structural reforms to obtain credit. They have no choice.”

Stability and Growth Pact

The two key rules of the Stability and Growth Pact are that signatories must have an annual budget deficit no higher than 3 percent of GDP and a national debt lower than 60 percent of GDP. Most countries have broken these rules in the current economic crisis.

The pact already stipulates harsh conditions, doesn’t it? What makes you think this will suddenly do the trick?

“Because it is backed by loans. Euro countries have a direct interest in everyone respecting the rules. This system ensures credibility and liquidity. Credibility, because institutions like the Commission, the ECB and the IMF control the system; liquidity because it is backed by collective financial power. Bilateral loans achieve neither. It will also prove a great instrument for the future, though it cannot be used alone. “

What else do you have in mind?

“A European Monetary Fund and permanent eurobonds, for instance. Ideas along those lines are emerging everywhere. Belgian Economist Paul de Grauwe has made a proposal. The Bruegel think-tank in Brussels has proposed a ‘blue bond’ that divides member states’ debt in two parts, keeping pressure on the countries to clean up their act. If the eurozone imposes stricter conditions, those will benefit all. The IMF always has the same demands: make budget cuts now, or there will be no loans. You have to take a tough stand, and Europe can do that. Madrid and Lisbon announced further austerity measures this week. We have learned our lesson.”

Some say this doesn’t mean politicians have seen the European light all of a sudden.

“I agree. Sometimes you need crises to force a breakthrough. Something similar happened with the European arrest warrant. It was discussed for 20 years, then came 9/11 and it was pushed through in no time.”

Europe has become more intergovernmental over the last years. Was last weekend a turnaround?

“One swallow does not make a summer. The Commission, member states and parliament are fighting over three major issues, with the main point of contention for all three being whether they should be dealt with in an intergovernmental or communal way. The first is financial supervision. The European parliament fears countries want to have leave too much power with their national supervisors. For pan-European banks and institutions especially, we argue one European supervisor should have more power. The second case on the table is ‘Europe 2020’, the long term strategy for the European economy. Member states want to monitor progress in this department themselves, but we tell them: ‘sorry, that is up to the Commission’. Just look at the economic gap between Germany and Greece, this alone proves countries can’t go it alone. Issue number three is the European diplomatic service. Today, it falls under the Commission. There is a proposal on the table that would give the European Council [which is the members states] authority over it as well. But if 90 percent of the service’s funding comes from the Commission, why would we want to take it away from them? It could set a precedent. What else can we take from the Commission?”

You seem to be more European than the Commission itself.


Guy Verhofstadt (1953) was the prime minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008. After last year’s European elections he became the leader of the liberal group in European parliament. In the 1980s, Verhofstadt was known as ‘Baby Thatcher’ for the neo-liberal reforms he implemented as budget minister to get Belgium into the European Monetary Union. His book, The Way out of the Crisis: How Europe Can Save the World, was published last year.

“I keep telling [Commission president José Manuel] Barroso: take the initiative, change your attitude! It is his duty to draft proposals that are in the European interest, even if he doesn’t always get the desired results. Do you think [former Commission president] Jacques Delors always got his way? Even when he proposed the common market and the EMU [monetary union that preceded the euro], there wasn’t a single country that said ‘okay’. You have to ask a lot to get a little.”

Barroso was the only one who brought a proposal for a crisis mechanism to the table last weekend.

“Exactly, and this is how it should be. There were only a few alterations. The commission has to be the engine that drives European integration. If it doesn’t, the member states end up making all the decisions.”

Do governments put their national interests first in a time of crisis?

“That has been the trend in the past ten years: politics are national. The crisis has reinforced that. Everybody retreats. Protectionism rears its head. Some are abusing the Greek crisis for national political objectives.

“Few ministers and government leaders told their citizens what was really at stake during the Greek crisis. It was something Delors had pointed out when the euro was first introduced: a monetary union alone is not enough. A stable currency also needs a political union. That never materialised for a number of reasons and we are now suffering for it. The markets picked up on that and attacked. They are testing Europe’s willingness to create an effective union. In a way, speculators are doing Europe a huge favour. By putting pressure on the euro, they have accomplished more in a couple of days that politicians have accomplished in years.”

What happens next?

“We have to make the union tighter to prevent this from happening again. We need more economic cooperation, more coercion and better means of verification.”

The Dutch are saying: ‘we have been very careful, we refuse to adjust because of the Mediterranean countries.’

“Some countries are in better shape than others, both economically and in budgetary terms. If others don’t comply with what you want, you have two options: either you break away or you devise new mechanisms to get others in check. I advocate the latter. We need a closer economic union, a strategy for 2020, with sanctions to boot, with sticks and carrots. Some countries will need those more than others, like my own country. To join the [monetary] union, we had to cut back for years. Our national debt had to be reduced from 130 to 80 percent [of GDP]. Without European pressure, we would not have gotten the budget in order as fast as we did.”

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


Serbia and China to Buld Bulgarian Nuclear Plant

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 12 — Serbia and China might join forces to build the nuclear power plant Belen in Bulgaria, said Serbia’s Minister of Mining and Energy, Petar Skundric, reports FONET news agency. According to Skundric, if Serbia and China reach an agreement on the reconstruction of thermal power plan Kostolac, the two countries could cooperate on other energy projects in the region. China is content that a third party joined the talks on the construction of the nuclear plant, since they are open to cooperation in the area. During the recent visit of Bulgarian PM Bojko Borisov to Belgrade, Serbia confirmed its interest in the building of the nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Cooperation: Italy Grants Credit to Tunisian SMEs

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, MAY 10 — As part of the framework of cooperation between Italy and Tunisia, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted Tunisia credit amounting to 250 million euros to purchase goods and services from Italy. In the first months of 2010, after using up an initial line of credit (equal to 36.5 million euros for Tunisian SMEs), Italy will grant Tunisia a second line of credit totalling 73 million euros. This surfaced today during a round table discussion on partnership between Sicily and Tunisia, organised by the Sicily region. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU-Tunisia: Advanced Status in 2010 is a Challenge

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 11 — Achieving an advanced status in relations with the European Union by the end of 2010 is Tunisia’s next challenge, after gaining the support today of the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule and the Spanish presidency of the EU, represented by Secretary of State Diego Lopez Garrido. The message came at the end of the meeting of the EU-Tunisia Association Council in Brussels. “Today’s meeting,” explained Fule, “yielded several concrete results, such as starting a work group as soon as possible, even in June, that can establish a road map for an advanced statute.” Among the issues faced in the meeting was human rights. On this front “we agreed,” added Fule, “that the advanced status must also entail an advanced commitment”. “My personal ambition,” said the European Commission, “is that Tunisia achieve the objective in 2010, although I do know that time is needed.” “Today, in a certain sense, was the launching of a process,” said Tunisian Foreign Minister, Kamel Morjane, “and is evidence of Tunisia’s commitment to the path of political reforms. Tunisia will work with the European Commission and the member states to realise this strategic objective for the country as soon as possible. Obtaining this within a year would be extraordinary, it is a great challenge.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi-Mubarak Summit Confirms Italo-Egyptian Friendship

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 14 — The third summit held between Italy and Egypt, to be held at Rome’s Villa Madama on May 19, includes an agenda packed with International and regional bilateral issues and the signing of fifteen accords, protocols of understanding and declarations by Premier Silvio Berlusconi and President Hosni Mubarak. The summit will also be attended by the respective ministers for the sectors affected. “We are honoured and happy to greet President Mubarak on his first foreign visit in a long while,” said Luigi Marras, General Director for Mediterranean Countries of Italy’s Foreign Office, in presenting the contents of the bilateral summit to the press today. Alongside him was Egypt’s Ambassador to Italy, Ashraf Rashed. The summit “comes at a special moment for the peace process in the Middle East, following talks held between Mubarak and leaders from the area”, Marras added, while Rashed stressed how Italy and Egypt enjoyed “extremely close relations” and “share their strategy for peace in the region”. “Relations with Egypt are intimate, very deep and extremely wide-ranging”, whether on a political level, with collaboration ranging “from the global arena to the European and regional one” — but also in the economic level, Marras continued, pointing out that “trade exchange amounts to just under five billion euros” and that around “600 Italian companies have regular contacts with Egypt”. Of particular significance in this sense, both Marras and Rashed said, is the Alessandria-Venice sea route for passenger and goods transport, due to be opened on May 20 as part of the ‘green corridor’ which will enable Egyptian agricultural produce to reach European markets”. Among the 15 planned accords, Egypt is putting especial emphasis on the value of Italy’s commitment to the social and economic development of the El Alamein zone on the country’s north coast. “We hope that other European countries will follow the example set by Italy”, Rashed said, stressing that Italy had signed a strategic partnership at the first summit in 2008 , making it the country’s “main European partner”. Other accords range across various subjects and touch on other issues: regional cooperation for the development of Ethiopia and southern Sudan, scientific collaboration in the farming sector, a protocol of activation for the Italian University in Cairo, strengthening of teaching of the Italian language, protection of minors, modernization of public administration, a declaration on seasonal workers, the creation of an ‘Italian space’ in the universities, cooperation on the environments and prevention of thalassaemia. The summit will start at 10am, before a working breakfast, and the final press conference by the two leaders. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: EU Provides Amman With 80 Million Euros

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 10 — The European Union (EU) signed an agreement with Jordan to provide the cash-strapped kingdom with 80 million euros to support the state budget, an official said today. Officials from the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation said the cash is part of a total amount of 138 million euros the EU agreed to provide Jordan with in a bid to help remedy the struggling economy. Jordan told the EU it will use the cash to support development in key sectors including local development, energy, financial reform and good governance, according to a statement from the ministry of planning. Jordanian officials said they received promise from EU members to increase assistance to the kingdom by 13 percent to help deal with the ramifications of a high budget deficit. According to the statement, both sides are currently in talks over the National Indicative Programme 2011-2013, an assistance programme worth 223 million euros.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arab Bank Troubles Stem From Hamas, Economists Say

Officials from the Palestinian Monetary Authority, or PMA, tried to assuage fears of a collapse of the banking sector in Gaza, stating on Thursday, that its strong relationship with the Arab Bank was in good shape, Ma’an News Agency reported.

Since Arab Bank let off three quarters of its Gaza staff in April, then closed two out of its three branches in May, word spread through the Strip that the banking sector was at risk of failure, prompting a flurry of rumors narrating a slow decline of the bank, and its immanent departure from the coastal area.

Palestinian Economist Muhsen Abu Ramadan told Ma’an that the recent upsets were caused by a lawsuit that is filed against the bank in a New York court, accusing it of dealing with militant factions in Gaza.

“The bank wanted to distance itself from an area the world connecting it with the label of terrorism…it wanted to keep itself clean according to the ideas of the world financial market,” he said.

Abu Ramadan did not share the positive outlook of expressed by PMA and Arab Bank officials, saying “there is a real crisis the sector could face if Hamas insists on imposing high taxes on banks operating in the Strip.”

The caution came as Palestinians in Gaza report increasingly harsh taxation penalties on some business owners, with reports of the seizure of homes based on un-tried accusations of embezzlement.

“Hamas should understand the nature of the complications stemming from its policies,” Abu Ramadan said.

PMA support

In a show of support for the bank, and an attempt to stifle fears, Head of the PMA Jihad al-Wazir said the PMA remains “proud of the strong relationship with the Arab Bank, [which remains] the main financial institution in Palestine and a pillar in the Palestinian banking system.”

It remains unclear, however, whether al-Wazir’s words will quell fears in Gaza, after a series of reported events remain unconfirmed, and Gaza residents increasingly pulling funds from accounts.

Sources within the Arab Bank told Ma’an that closures were due to the “work environment in Gaza,” and had nothing to do with an impending failure of the bank system.

They confirmed al-Wazir’s statements to Ma’an, saying the relationship with the PMA remained strong, and adding that officials at the bank were “totally committed to the laws to restore the Palestinian banking system.”

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

Middle East

Moratinos Refers Israeli Assurances to Lebanon, Syria

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 14 — Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, has informed Beirut and Damascus of Israel’s will for a “pacification” with Lebanon and Syria, following weeks of tension after Isral’s accusations against Syria of having supplied SCUD ballistic missiles to the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah. “The Israeli authorities have requested me to forward to Syria and Lebanon the message that they are trying to loosen the tension”, said Moratinos, cited today by the Beirut press, at the end of a meeting late yesterday evening with top Lebanese authorities. “The Israeli authorities have no desire to feed the tension”, said the Spanish Minister who, prior to reaching Beirut, had visited the Palestinian territories, Israel and Syria. He also stated that Damascus “has a strong desire for peace and for a constant search by negotiation for a diplomatic solution to the dispute with Israel”. “I return to Spain with a clear and positive sensation that all parties wish to move forward to peace”, added the Head of Spanish diplomacy, whose country currently detains the European Union rotating presidency.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: A War Between the Pious and the Less Pious

“First we trust in Allah, then in Tayyip!” The young man proudly told the TV interviewer while a dozen others heartily applauded him. That was a scene from a program featuring common people’s political views broadcast on one of the many Islamist TV stations.

Then the chorus of commons took turns praising Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and cursing rival politicians. A lady boasting her Islamic headscarf got her turn after pushing and shoving the small, mostly male crowd: “If Deniz Baykal becomes the prime minister — may Allah forbid — he will force every woman to go out naked!” That was several days before the main opposition leader, Mr. Baykal, had to resign after an embarrassing sex scandal.

In a similar mindset a lady in a miniskirt could tell any interviewing TV crew that Mr. Erdogan has a secret agenda to force every woman to wear the chador. But why are the Turks at each other’s throat in what the Wall Street Journal recently called “a bloodless civil war?”

In a separate article (“What Is Happening to Turkey?” WSJ, May 11) the Journal asked Bernard Lewis where he thought Turkey might be going. Mr. Lewis answered that in a decade the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk might more closely resemble the Islamic Republic of Iran — even as Iran transformed itself into a secular republic.

I do not agree with Mr. Lewis about his Iranian prophesy. A better resemblance could have been something that is halfway between what is today Turkey and Egypt. But the Journal’s “bloodless civil war” analogy is more than accurate. So, why are the Turks at war with each other?

This is a war of religion. Not between two religions. Not between the faithful and the atheists. It is largely a war between people of the same faith but with different grades of observance.

Last week, a suspect in the Erzincan leg of the infamous Ergenekon case, a young gendarmerie intelligence officer, testified before the court which was trying him on charges of toppling the elected government by use of violence. The lieutenant’s defense at the court was unusual but probably realistic: “… Ninety percent of my family are pious people… I even have a sister, a nurse, who wears the Islamic turban.”

It wasn’t a coincidence that a suspect chose to defend himself at court by telling the judges how pious his family is, or that he has a sister who wears the headscarf. On an individual level, we can call this pragmatism. On a broader analysis the lieutenant’s defense strategy could be the answer to the Journal’s headline.

Anyone recall what Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç, then Parliament speaker, said in the run-up to the presidential election in 2007? Allow me to remind you: “They [secularists] don’t want a Muslim president.”

But who is a “Muslim” president? Were, for instance, Presidents Turgut Özal, Süleyman Demirel and Ahmet Necdet Sezer non-Muslim? Is Turkey not “99 percent Muslim” as the ruling Islamist elite often boasts? Are Turkey’s generals Jewish? Are the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, deputies Catholic? Are the politicians other than the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, members atheists? When Mr. Arinç proudly says that Turkey is 99 percent Muslim, but insist on the election of a “Muslim” president he must be implying something else.

And that something else is at the heart of Turkey’s bloodless civil war. When Mr. Arinç mentioned a “Muslim president” he actually meant a “pious Muslim president.”

For Mr. Arinç and his party “pious” means “pious like us,” and non-Muslim means “officially Muslim but not sufficiently pious,” or “not pious like us.” >From that perspective, the war is between “us the pious” and “them not so pious.” Similarly, for the seculars/secularists the war is between “us secular Muslims” and “them pious Muslims.”

Sadly, both camps view each other as “the enemy” although they belong to the same faith. But same-faith wars, in any of the monotheistic religions, have never been too few throughout the history. We have seen wars between religions, wars between different sects of the same religion, and today what we see in Turkey is a war between different understandings of practicing the same religion.

A piercing question remains: How could those who are at a savage war with less or more pious people of their own faith be at peace with other faiths, or with agnostics or atheists?

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

Turkey Gives Guarantee to Russia to Buy 70% of Nuclear Power

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 13 — The Turkish government gave guarantee to Russia to buy 70% of power to be generated from Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz as saying today. During Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to Ankara on Wednesday, Turkey and Russia inked a $20-billion deal for construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant. Yildiz, who attended the “Black Sea 2nd Oil and Gas Summit” in Istanbul, was asked about details of the agreement. Yildiz said Turkish government gave guarantee to purchase 70% of electricity to be generated from the first two reactors of the plant. “I can say it would be 30% for the remaining two reactors,” Yildiz said. Yildiz said the government would make public later all the details about the percentage of shares in the nuclear plant. Turkish government’s attempts to build country’s first nuclear power plant failed four times due to court rulings. Turkey has long been eager to build nuclear power plants and plans to build two nuclear plants, one in Sinop on the northern coast of Black Sea and the other in Mersin on the Mediterranean coast in the south. A Turkish-Russian consortium led by Russia’s Atomstroyexport had been the only bidder in a 2008 tender to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in Mersin. However, Turkey’s state-run electricity wholesaler TETAS canceled the tender following a court decision in November 2009. Yildiz also expressed government’s determination to build another plant in Sinop similar to the one planned in Mersin. He said the planned nuclear reactors to be built by Russia would have a capacity equal to 10-11% of Turkey’s current electricity generation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Chief EU Negotiator, Europe Faces Crisis Without Us

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 13 — The Turkish chief EU negotiator said on Wednesday that Europe was faced with a crisis economically, culturally and in terms of labor force due to Turkey’s absence. Turkish State Minister & Chief Negotiator for EU Talks Egemen Bagis commented on Turkey’s EU adhesion process during a meeting of the EU Harmonization Board in capital Ankara, as Anatolia news agency reports. Speaking at the gathering, Bagis said Turkey’s EU process concerned everybody living in the country. “I believe we cannot lead anywhere if we leave everything on this matter to the state,” Bagis said. Describing Turkey as the most important bridge for integration and unity, Bagis said, “Europeans also see and feel that Europe faces a serious crisis economically, culturally and in terms of labor force without the presence of Turkey”. Commenting on EU countries’ visa requirements for Turkish citizens as well, Bagis said the problems experienced by Turkish citizens while travelling to Europe were unacceptable. “We are displaying serious efforts for the free movement of Turkish citizens in Europe. We will take the necessary steps to achieve this goal,” Bagis said.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy Welcomes Deal Between Turkey and Russia

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 12 — Italy welcomed on Wednesday an energy agreement signed between Turkey and Russia during Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Ankara. Turkish and Russian energy ministers, Taner Yildiz and Sergey Shmatko, signed on Wednesday the agreement —on safe shipment of Black Sea crude oil through planned Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline— at a ceremony following the meeting between Medvedev and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. In a statement, the Italian Embassy in Ankara recalled that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had taken part at a ceremony in August 2009 for signing of an energy agreement between Turkey and Russia. Italy’s energy company ENI is involved in the planned Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline from Turkey’s north coast to the Mediterranean oil terminal in the south, Marsili reminded. “This projects overlaps with Italy’s energy policy toward diversification and security of energy supply resources, mainly the Caspian Sea, which will be Europe’s major natural gas and oil supply resources,” the statement said. “In this context, ENI, together with its Turkish and Russian partners, will continue to contribute to development of such strategic project in order to help take decisive steps for construction of infrastructure and protection of the environment,” it said. The statement added the energy agreement between Turkey and Russia has a strategic importance as it puts the need for protection of environment at the forefront regarding passage of crude oil tankers from Turkish straits and storage of energy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey-Russia: Accord to Build Nuclear Plant

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 12 — Today Turkey and Russia signed an accord to build and implement a nuclear plant on Turkish territory, a project with an estimated cost of about 16 billion euros. It is reported by the Anadolu agency, specifying that the accord was signed by Russian Deputy Premier, Igor Setchin, and Turkish Energy Minister, Taner Yildiz, within the ambit of a two-day visit by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to Ankara. The plant will be built in the locality of Alluyu, on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Bundeswehr to Boost Air Power With US Attack Helicopters

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said German troops stationed in Afghanistan will be provided with more than 50 US combat helicopters next month, he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“As of June thanks to US help, well above 50 helicopters will be available, but under German command,” Guttenberg told the paper.

Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan previously had only six to eight helicopters at their disposal.

Defence Minister Guttenberg requested help from the US military, Germany’s partner in the Afghanistan mission, in light of ongoing technical problems with the European attack helicopter “Tiger” — which has resulted in substantial delivery delays.

The issue of properly outfitting Bundeswehr troops for the mission in Afghanistan has been a hotly debated issue after three German soldiers were killed during a Taliban ambush in the Kunduz region of the country on April 2.

Guttenberg responded by announcing plans to provide the German mission in Afghanistan with 150 to 200 new vehicles in 2010.

He also recently promised to provide soldiers with two new PzH 2000 armed vehicles “as soon as possible” during a surprise visit with troops stationed at headquarters in northern Afghanistan.

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

Kyrgyzstan: Bakiyev’s “Counter-Revolution”

Government buildings attacked in Osh Jalalabad and Bakten. The interim government retakes control. But the division between north and south is becoming increasingly evident. Fears of a spill over to other Central Asian republics

Bishkek (AsiaNews) — The Russian newspapers are closely following developments in what they are terming a “counter-revolution”: a series of demonstrations yesterday in southern Kyrgyzstan have again shown the very real risk for the former Soviet republic falling into chaos after the bloody riots of April 7 that forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev into exile in Belarus.

A crowd of demonstrators stormed the palace of the governor of Osh, where there is a strong consensus for the former head of state, and installed the deposed governor Mamasadik Bakirov. Also in Jalalabad, capital of the province of origin of the Bakiyev clan, the government palace was attacked by “counterrevolutionaries.” The same happened in Batken. As of this morning the interim government has apparently re-taken control of government buildings, witnesses told Reuters. But the situation remains tense.

The same Rosa Otunbaiev, Prime Minister of the Provisional Government, admitted: “There is a real danger to the country, but we are doing everything to prevent any attempt by Bakiyev forces to destabilize the situation in Kyrgyzstan.”

According to the interim vice president, Omurbek Tekebayev, Bakiyev is behind the unrest in the south. Yesterday, a self-styled Committee in support of deposed president had threatened the formation of a veritable battalion of thousands of citizens ready to head north to “deal with” what they consider an illegal government.

All this happened while in the capital, Bishkek, the relatives of 85 victims of April 7 demonstrated in front of the Belarus embassy to seek the extradition of Bakiyev, which Belarusian leader Lukashenko has refused. In response, Minsk recalled its ambassador to Kyrgyzstan for “security reasons”.

Kyrgyzstan is increasingly taking the form of yet another country that is undergoing deep north-south lacerations along the same lines as Thailand. The risk of a bloody confrontation, such as the one currently taking place in the Southeast Asian nation is real as is the possibility that chaos will spread to other Central Asian republics, always poised on a precarious political balance, frightening many.

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

Pakistan: PHC Starts Releasing Terror Suspects for Lack of Evidence

* Legal experts say if govt fails to prove involvement of terrorists in attacks, court will grant them bail under Article 199 of constitution

By Akhtar Amin

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has started granting bail to terror suspects due to the government’s failure to provide any evidence against them.

The court has started releasing the suspects under Article 199 of the constitution. These suspected were arrested by law enforcement agencies from different conflict zones on charges of being involved in terrorist activities.

On May 7, the PHC division bench headed by Chief Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan had issued bail to four terror suspects after the prosecution had failed to produce even a single piece of evidence against them. They have filed their bail applications under Article 199 of the constitution in the PHC.

Police had arrested and charged Mohammad Ilyas and three other persons on October 13, 2009, for an attack on a police post situated in Badhaber Police Station precincts. The police post was completely destroyed in the attack. Afterwards, the law enforcement agencies arrested and charged them for plotting and carrying out the attack. The orders of the high court clearly showed that the changes made in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 by the government due to the prevailing law and order situation and fear of release of terror suspects from courts, had failed to address the concerns of the court.

The government had promulgated an ordinance in October 2009, through which drastic amendments were made in the ATA 1997. The government believed that amendments in the ATA would help in taking appropriate action against terrorists in different conflict zones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

The legal experts said that the high court would continue to hear writ petitions filed by the terror suspects and it was now up to the law enforcement agencies to provide sufficient evidence against the terror suspects, otherwise the high court would continue to grant them bail by using its constitutional jurisdiction under Article 199 of the constitution.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Käßmann Stirs Catholics With Pill Speech

Former Protestant leader Margot Käßmann caused a stir at Munich’s interfaith gathering Thursday night by describing the birth control pill as “God’s gift” — in a Catholic cathedral.

Speaking at the Cathedral of Our Dear Lady, which is the Munich Catholic Archbishop’s own cathedral and one of the most important Catholic churches in Germany, Käßmann warned against demonising birth control.

Contraception, including the pill, is forbidden under the Catholic Church’s strict moral code.

“We can however also see it as God’s gift, for it is about the preservation of life, of freedom, which doesn’t have to immediately degenerate into pornography, as much as the sexualisation of our society is, of course, a problem.

“It’s about love without fear and about responsible parenthood. And for women, in fact, it’s about concern for their own lives and those of their own children.”

It was also about the decision not to have children, “which our Churches should not always devalue,” she added.

Käßmann was speaking as part of the 2nd Ecumenical Church Congress, which is Europe’s biggest interfaith gathering. Hundreds of thousands of believers of all denominations are in Munich to put aside theological differences and find common ground.

Käßmann, herself a mother of four children, stepped down as leader of Germany’s Protestants in February after she was caught driving drunk.

The strict sexual code of the Catholic Church has been the subject of robust debate lately, owing to the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Church. Earlier this week, Alois Glück, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, which is the Church’s largest lay organisation, called for a complete review.

“We must openly grapple with, for example, the question that some 90 percent of Catholics deal with birth control other than the Church instructs,” he told daily Frankfurter Rundschau.

A recent poll found a massive 81 percent of Catholic thought celibacy for priests should be abolished.

In her speech, Käßmann went on to highlight the mortality rate for mothers and infants. Each year more than 300,000 women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, 99 percent of them in poor countries, she said.

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

Morocco: Mithly, The Arab World’s First Gay Site

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 14 — ‘Mithly’ is the name of the Arab world’s first gay website. The site was started up a few weeks ago in Morocco, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by sentences of between six months and three years in prison. The first edition of the monthly publication came out in paper form, with 200 copies printed secretly in Rabat, but the initiative will remain only a web site for the time being, and is still a danger for those who are considered “perverted and dangerous to society” and could even be pursued by the law. All contributors write using pseudonyms, with the exception of Samir Bargachi, 23, one of he founders of Mithly and who for six years has been in charge of Kif-Kif, the first association of Moroccan homosexuals. The Arab-language website, which is financed by the European Union, had a very fast circulation and within a few weeks had registered a million hits. But the site has also become a new target for fundamentalists, who have issued death threats to its creators. By chance, the launch of Mithly has coincided with the controversy caused in Morocco over Elton John’s participation in the Mazawine festival to be held in Rabat from May 21 to 29. The Islamic opposition Justice and Development Party has asked for the British singer’s appearance to be banned, “because it risks encouraging homosexuality in Morocco. The problem is not with him, but rather with the image he has in society,” said the member of parliament Lahcen Daoudi, one of the party’s leaders, “people have a negative perception of the singer and we have to take this into account”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Thousands Join Gay Pride Parade in Brussels

BRUSSELS — Agence France-Presse

People attend the Belgian Pride Parade -formerly called the Lesbian and Gay Pride- in Brussels on Saturday. AFP photo

Tens of thousands of people joined a gay pride march in Brussels on Saturday, calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals and lesbians in Europe.

Some 35,000 people marched through the streets of the historic centre of the Belgian capital, according to organizers cited by the Belga news agency.

The protesters addressed their calls for equality to the European Union’s new permanent president Herman Van Rompuy and to their country, as Belgium is to take over the rotating EU presidency in July. They are demanding swift adoption of an anti-discrimination EU directive currently under discussion.

Some protesters also spoke up for defending the rights of homosexuals and lesbians in other parts of the world, especially Africa and the Middle East.

With Belgian voters set to go to the polls to elect a new parliament on June 13, several political groups also took part in the gay pride event.

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


Long Conversations on Mobile Phones Can Increase Risk of Cancer, Suggests 10-Year Study

Prolonged use of mobile phones over many years could increase the risk of cancer, scientists have found.

However, a landmark study by the World Health Organisation into the safety of mobiles is expected to stop short of concluding that they definitely cause cancer — because the evidence is not conclusive enough.

And, despite spending £15million investigating handsets over the past decade, the authors will admit there is a need for further research into their health effects before definitive advice can be given.

The WHO’s report will not be released until later this week, but two national newspapers reported yesterday that it will quote evidence saying people who use mobile phones for at least 30 minutes a day for 10 years have a greater risk — perhaps as much as a third higher — of developing brain cancer.

The ‘Interphone’ research has been carried out over the past 10 years in 13 countries, and is the largest of its kind.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Mosque Madness at Ground Zero

The opening date shall live in infamy: Sept. 11, 2011.

If this is true − and all previous acts by Islam lend more than a little weight to such an assumption − the selection of such an obviously offensive opening date can only be a direct reflection of hostility and disregard for the tremendous loss of life which happened during the 9-11 atrocity as caused by pious Muslims.

Again, if true, just the selection of such an opening date should be adequate justification for prohibiting any such project.

There are no words available from the vocabulary of polite language that can sufficiently describe my personal reaction to this plan, both the opening date and the mosque itself.