Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100517

Financial Crisis
»East Europe Faces Euro Risk From the West
»Euro Falls to Lowest Since Lehman as Breakup Concern Increases
»Greece May Take Legal Action Against US Banks
»Merkel: Rescue Package is a Temporary Fix
»Spain: Treasury Expect to Place 6.5 Bln Euros in Bonds
»Stock Market: Milan Gains, Paris Down
»Frank Gaffney: The President’s New Clothes
Europe and the EU
»Germany: Government to Sidestep Bundesrat on Nuclear Power Plant Extension
»Italians Say Priests Should Marry as Confidence in Pope Falls
»Italy: ‘Yalla Shebab’ Festival to Open in Italy on June 4
»Slovenia-Croatia: Referendum, Political Fight Fiercens
»Bosnia: EU Pushes for Law on Census of Population
»Croatia: Protesters Block Works in Zagreb Pedestrian Area
»Lowest Salaries in Macedonia and Serbia
Mediterranean Union
»EU: Exhibition on Morocco and Spain Common Landscapes
»Lebanon-EU: 150 Mln Euros From ENPI for Development
»UFM: Euromed Forum Calls to Stop Occupation by Israel
North Africa
»Egypt: Forum on Human Rights Held for First Time in Prison
Israel and the Palestinians
»Chomsky Denied Entry at Border, ‘Israel Stalinist’
Middle East
»Following in Poland’s EU Footsteps Raises Problems for Turkey
»Hizbullah on the Homefront
»Lebanon: Hariri Murder; Cassese, Charges This Autumn
»Why Dubai’s Islamic Austerity is a Sham — Sex is for Sale in Every Bar
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Berlusconi Reaffirms Italian Commitment
»Afghanistan: Italian Soldiers Killed in Bomb Attack in Herat
»Danish Military to Investigate Film Claims
»Indonesia: The Plot to Kill Obama
»Two Italian Soldiers Killed and Two Wounded in Afghanistan
»US Soldiers Get German Medal of Honor
Australia — Pacific
»Drivers Face Fines for Unlocked Cars
»Man Arrested Over Sudanese Student Stabbing
»Finland: Parliament Wants Report on Benefits for Immigrants and Asylum Seekers
»Finland: Police Investigate Smuggling of Afghanis
»Finland: Pay Rules for Foreigners Poorly Enforced in Construction
»Italy-Greece: ‘High Impact ‘ Operation Start-Up
»Lawyer: US Grants Asylum to Obama’s African Aunt
Culture Wars
»Italy: Historic Gay Meeting With President
»Now Independent Thinkers Are Considered Diseased by Psychiatry
»Being Bad at Relationships is Good for Survival

Financial Crisis

East Europe Faces Euro Risk From the West

The Greek debt crisis that is threatening to break up the euro zone may spill over to Eastern Europe and spoil the region’s fragile recovery, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or EBRD, said.

The London-based EBRD, a development bank that helps former Warsaw Pact nations in eastern Europe and central Asia transform their economies, raised its 2010 economic growth forecast for the 30 countries it invests in to 3.7 percent on average from 3.3 percent predicted in January. Still, it warned that the struggle to contain a debt crisis in western Europe may stall the region’s growth, especially in the Balkan peninsula.

“We have the Greek crisis and it poses a risk in particular to southeastern Europe,” said EBRD Chief Economist Erik Berglof on Saturday in Zagreb, where the bank’s shareholders held their annual meeting. “But there is a broader risk for the region. Clearly this is something we are very concerned about.”

The former Warsaw Pact countries in Europe and former Soviet central Asia are recovering from the deepest recession since switching to free-market policies two decades ago. Challenges for the 30 economies the EBRD invests in include adjusting to a slower pace of growth as the European Union, the largest export market for most of the region, grapples with mounting fiscal problems.

The euro fell 3.1 percent to $1.2358 last week, from $1.2755 on May 7. It traded as low as $1.2354 on Friday, the weakest since October 2008.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe is in a “very, very serious situation” despite a rescue package for the region’s most indebted nations. Meantime, El Pais newspaper reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to withdraw his country from the euro.

Defending the eurozone:

EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told participants at the Zagreb conference that “it is important that markets read our package and see that we are serious about our defense of the euro area.”

The euro region’s tensions may affect eastern Europe through “a disruption of capital markets” as well as “a decrease in import demand from countries like Germany or France

to which most countries are important exporters,” EBRD President Thomas Mirow said. “There are potential risks that can be channeled through the subsidiaries of Greek banks. Up until now we haven’t seen this materializing. We have to watch and encourage policy makers to bear this risk in mind.”

The EBRD raised the forecast for Russia to 4.4 percent from 3.9 percent. It also revised higher outlooks for Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and Ukraine, while it lowered earlier expectations for Romania and Bulgaria. Even so, countries in the east need to monitor statements and actions by western European leaders.

“The outlook remains very uncertain because of a shift in risks from the domestic to the external,” said Berglof. “External risks have risen dramatically.”

Protracted rebound:

While the EBRD now expects most countries where it operates to recover, the rebound will be protracted, it said. Growth rates will remain below pre-crisis levels and former drivers of expansion, such as investment from abroad and consumer spending, will remain subdued. The region was growing at an average 5 percent a year before 2008.

The EBRD’s shareholders at their meeting also increased the bank’s resources for the next five years. They approved increasing the bank’s capital 50 percent to 30 billion euros ($37.2 billion) enabling it to invest about 52 billion euros until 2015, more than the bank’s combined investments since its 1991 inception.

It also announced a plan to limit foreign-currencies by Eastern Europe banks, after they brought some countries to verge of default during the global credit crisis.

The bank stepped up efforts to wean the region off foreign-currency financing and encourage banks to lend in local currency.

Underdeveloped financial markets, low saving rates and high local interest rates contributed to a surge in foreign currency loans during the boom years, the EBRD said.

East European banks and their parents in Austria, Italy, Germany and Sweden struggled to refinance foreign-currency mortgages, car and consumer loans.

The bank’s 63 shareholders then pledged to support an EBRD program focused on helping companies as well as enabling countries with excessive reliance on raw-material exports, such as Russia, or few manufactured goods, such as central Europe, to diversify production and become more competitive.

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

Euro Falls to Lowest Since Lehman as Breakup Concern Increases

May 15 (Bloomberg) — The euro fell to its lowest level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. on concern that the 16-nation currency may be headed for disintegration.

The shared currency fell for a fourth week versus the dollar and a third week versus the yen, the longest losing streaks since February, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe is in a “very, very serious situation” despite a rescue package for the region’s most indebted nations. European Central Bank Governing Council member Axel Weber speaks on financial-market regulation next week in Berlin.

“We went through a massive liquidation trade in Europe and risk-taking positions were wiped out across the board,” said Sebastien Galy, a currency strategist at BN Paribas SA in New York. “The markets are trying to figure out what the consequences are for growth. There are massive uncertainties and that will keep the downward pressure on the euro.”

The euro fell 3.1 percent to $1.2358 this week, from $1.2755 on May 7. It traded as low as $1.2354 yesterday, the weakest since October 2008. The common currency dropped 2.1 percent to 114.38 yen, from 116.81 last week. The dollar traded at 92.47 yen after gaining 1 percent last week, the first weekly gain since the five days ended April 23.

‘A Sham, A Chimera’

European policy makers last week unveiled a loan package worth almost $1 trillion and a program of bond purchases in an effort to contain a sovereign-debt crisis that has threatened to shatter confidence in the euro. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said the move wasn’t supported by all 22 of the bank’s Governing Council members.

The ECB said it will intervene in government and private bond markets “to ensure depth and liquidity in those market segments which are dysfunctional,” and central banks in Germany, Italy and France began buying government bonds yesterday. The ECB restarted a dollar-swap line with the Federal Reserve.

By resorting to what some economists have called the “nuclear option,” the ECB may open itself to the charge it’s undermining its independence by helping governments plug budget holes.

“The ECB’s supposed ‘independence’ has now been shown to be nothing more than a sham, a chimera, a will-o’-the-wisp,” Dennis Gartman, a Suffolk, Virginia-based economist and hedge- fund manager, said in his daily Gartman Letter on May 10. “In the end the ECB and the euro will be punished for this decision to stand down from what had previously been considered sacred.”

Success Not Guaranteed

The greenback rose against Australia’s dollar and Norway’s krone, as oil and commodities retreated, damping demand for currencies linked to growth.

The Aussie fell 0.2 percent to 88.64 U.S. cents and the krone declined 0.4 percent to 6.2465 per dollar on speculation investors reversed carry trades that had profited from Australia’s 4.5 percent central bank rate and Norway’s 2.115 one-month deposit rate.

The benchmark rate of zero to 0.25 percent in the U.S. makes the dollar a popular funding currency for such trades. Such strategies lose money as the funding currency gains because it costs more to repay the loan.

Crude oil for June delivery fell 4.1 percent last week and the Reuters/Jeffries CRB Index of 19 commodities fell 2.8 percent yesterday. Norway is the world’s sixth largest oil exporter. Australia is the world’s biggest iron ore exporter.

Gold for immediate delivery yesterday reached an all-time high of $1,249.40 an ounce in New York as investors sought to hedge against Europe’s debt crisis.

Merkel, speaking yesterday at a panel discussion by Phoenix television, said that success is not yet guaranteed. Asked about disagreements with European Union partners, she said that “some arguments are worth it,” without elaborating.

‘The Euro Is Doomed’

The German chancellor’s comments followed a report from El Pais that French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to pull out of the euro unless Merkel agreed to back the European Union’s bailout plan at a meeting last weekend in Brussels, citing comments Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero made at a meeting of socialist politicians. The Madrid- based newspaper didn’t say how it obtained the information. Aides to Sarkozy, Merkel and Zapatero all denied the report.

“The euro is doomed,” said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers Group LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut. “It’s like a clown without its makeup. The strains among the partners are becoming clear and it’s becoming harder to see global growth not being threatened by this.”

‘Head Through Parity’

The euro has lost 9 percent this year, according to Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indices. The dollar has gained 7.2 percent and the yen has advanced 7.9 percent.

The euro “can easily head through parity” with the U.S. dollar under a “hard landing” recovery scenario from the European deficit crisis, according to Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

The forecast for the shared currency was reduced to $1.14 for the middle of next year, Alan Ruskin, head of foreign- exchange strategy at RBS Securities in Stamford, Connecticut, wrote in a note on May 13. The euro could test the key level of $1.1650 by year-end, he said.

The pound slid 1.8 percent to $1.4536, its third weekly decline versus the dollar, amid speculation that the U.K.’s governing coalition may collapse by year-end.

The U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, will “have a major problem keeping the left wing of the Liberal Democrats and the right wing” of the Conservatives in line, and a new election may be called before year-end, former Bank of England member David Blanchflower wrote in a Bloomberg News column on May 13.

The pound has dropped 2.8 percent against the dollar since May 11, when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government five days after elections failed to provide a clear winner.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Greece May Take Legal Action Against US Banks

Greece is considering taking legal action against U.S. investment banks that might have contributed to the country’s debt crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou said.

“I wouldn’t rule out that this may be a recourse,” Papandreou said, in response to questions about the role of U.S. banks in the crisis, in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” The program, scheduled for broadcast on Sunday, was taped on May 13. U.S. stocks fell and the euro slumped on concern that Europe wouldn’t be able to contain the debt crisis stemming from Greece. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 1.9 percent on May 14, while the euro fell below $1.24 for the first time since November 2008.

Papandreou said the decision on whether to go after U.S. banks will be made after a Greek parliamentary investigation into the cause of the crisis.

“Greece will look into the past and see how things went,” Papandreou said. “There are similar investigations going on in other countries and in the United States. This is where I think, yes, the financial sector, I hear the words fraud and lack of transparency. So yes, yes, there is great responsibility here.”

In the days leading up to the May 10 announcement of a loan package worth almost $1 trillion to halt the spread of Greece’s fiscal woes, European Union regulators were examining whether speculators manipulated the prices of bonds and equities and contributed to the crisis.

The Committee of European Securities Regulators said on May 7 it was investigating “exceptional volatility” in the markets and would work with other regulators, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as part of a coordinated clampdown.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said on May 6 that he was concerned about speculation in bond markets using credit default swaps. “By first buying the CDS and then trying to affect market sentiment by going short on the underlying bond, investors can make large profits,” he said.

Credit-default swaps are derivatives that pay the buyer face value if a borrower — a country or a company — defaults. In exchange, the swap seller gets the underlying securities or the cash equivalent. Traders in naked credit-default swaps buy insurance on bonds they do not own.

In the CNN interview, Papandreou said many in the international community have engaged in “Greek bashing” and find it easy “to scapegoat Greece.” He said Greeks “are a hard-working people. We are a proud people.”

“We have made our mistakes,” Papandreou said. “We are living up to this responsibility. But at the same time, give us a chance. We’ll show you.”

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

Merkel: Rescue Package is a Temporary Fix

A trillion-dollar package to shore up ailing eurozone economies merely buys time until the deficits of certain members of the 16-member zone are cleaned up, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday.

Speaking at a conference of the Confederation of German Trade Unions in Berlin, Merkel said that recent speculation against the euro “is only possible because of huge differences in the economic strengths and debt levels of member states.”

With the rescue package, “we have done nothing more than to buy time until we have brought order to these competitive differences and to the budget deficits of individual euro countries,” she said.

The giant fund of loan guarantees, for which Germany will have to make available up to around €150 billion ($186 billion), was agreed in emergency talks in Brussels last Sunday.

Dubbed “shock and awe,” the package briefly cheered markets and offered some respite to the plunging euro, but doubts quickly resurfaced about the ability of governments to push through crippling cuts to conquer their deficits.

Speaking a day after the joint agreement between the European Union and the International Monetary Fund was clinched, Merkel said it served to “strengthen and protect the common currency.”

The wider package followed a €110-billion bailout deal for debt-wracked Greece, which was hugely unpopular in Germany and contributed to a shattering defeat for Merkel last Sunday in a key regional election.

“What happened in Greece, that is to say the year-on-year falsification of statistics, is completely unacceptable,” Merkel said.

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

Spain: Treasury Expect to Place 6.5 Bln Euros in Bonds

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 17 — The Spanish Treasury expects to place up to 7.5 million euros in 12-month and 18-month bonds this week, and up to 3 billion in 10-year bonds. The issue of 6.5 to 7.5 billion euro in bonds has been scheduled tomorrow. The Treasury faces the auction at a moment of market tension, also due to fears caused by the refinancing of the Spanish debt. In an attempt to bring the public deficit back to 3% in 2013, the Spanish government has announced extra measures to cut 15 billion euros in one and a half year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stock Market: Milan Gains, Paris Down

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 17 — Fears for the reopening of the financial markets, after the billions of euros that went up in smoke by the end of last week, have been partially confirmed: the most important European stock markets reported a loss, but no heavy loss. The only exception is the Milan stock market, which recorded the best result with a +0.23%, followed by Frankfurt with +0.17%. Stocks in Spain lost again however. After rising up to + 0.65% in the morning, Madrid fell back to -0.31% and closed at an acceptable -0.08. The Portuguese stock market closed at +0.10% and the Paris Cac 40, after a nervous session, fell 0.47%. The euro closed at 1.2311 USD. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: The President’s New Clothes

On Tuesday, May 18th, President Obama will formally begin one of the greatest bait-and-switch operations since the fabled “Emperor’s New Clothes.” With high-profile appearances before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by his Secretaries of State and Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he will try to persuade Senators to vote for the defective New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

The real agenda is different, and worse, however: It is about getting buy-in from legislators for the President’s policy of global denuclearization — for which New START is said to be an important building block.

Mr. Obama has good reason to try to obfuscate his true purposes. A debate I had last week with two of the premier champions of the President’s pursuit of a “world without nuclear weapons” made clear how ill-advised and actually counterproductive is the effort now being made by the United States to advance this objective…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Germany: Government to Sidestep Bundesrat on Nuclear Power Plant Extension

The centre-right coalition government is looking to bypass the Bundesrat upper house to push through one of its more controversial policy plans — extending the lifetime of atomic power plants — according to a chancellery official.

“Regarding the extension of run times, we’ll have a constitutional law that does not require [Bundesrat] consent,” Chancellery Chief of Staff Ronald Pofalla, a member of Merkel’s conservatives, told the WAZ newspaper group on Saturday.

The announcement comes after a devastating electoral defeat for her Christian Democrats and their junior coalition partners the pro-business Free Democrats last weekend in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. As a result, the parties in Merkel’s governing coalition have lost their majority in the Bundesrat, the parliamentary chamber where the German states are represented.

Pofalla said the SPD government under former chancellor Gerhard Schröder also excluded the Bundesrat from big decisions on nuclear power.

Green party parliamentary group leader Jürgen Trittin criticized Pofalla’s suggestion as “legal manoeuvring.”

“Instead of legal trickery, the government should finally realize: There’s neither a public nor a Bundesrat majority that supports more nuclear waste and the higher risks posed by old nuclear reactors,” he said Saturday in a party statement.

The atomic power debate has been reignited in recent months; the country’s biggest anti-nuclear demonstration in years took place on April 24. Some 120,000 people joined a 120-kilometre human chain between nuclear power stations Krümmel in Schleswig-Holstein and Brünsbuttel in Hamburg to protest the government’s policy on atomic power stations.

Pofalla’s statement puts Merkel’s chancellery at odds with Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, who had been operating under the assumption that the Bundesrat decides the atomic power debate, a point opposition politicians vehemently required.

A publication released in late April by the German parliament’s scientific service seemed to support that point: “The continued operation of atomic power for civilian purposes depends on the decision of the Bundesrat,” the paper read.

The German government plans to finalize its energy agenda through 2050 in October, which will involve examining how long individual reactors can remain online. Current law stipulates that plants must be shut down after they have provided 32 years of service, which would put the final closure of the country’s reactors at around 2022.

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

Italians Say Priests Should Marry as Confidence in Pope Falls

A majority of Italians believe priests should be allowed to marry and under half have confidence in Pope Benedict XVI, according to an opinion poll today.

The survey, carried out by the polling organisation Demos and published in La Repubblica, came as Catholic bishops in Austria called on the Vatican to open up the issue of priestly celibacy for discussion.

On Sunday 200,000 Italians with banners and balloons filled St. Peter’s Square in a major show of support for Pope Benedict over the clerical sex abuse scandal.

At the rally, organised by Italian bishops and Catholic lay organisations, Pope Benedict said he was comforted by this “beautiful and spontaneous show of faith and solidarity”. “The true enemy to fear and to fight against is sin, the spiritual evil that unfortunately sometimes infects even members of the church,” he said to prolonged applause and shouts of encouragement.

However, today’s survey showed that in Italy as a whole confidence in the Pope had dropped from 53.7 per cent in 2007 to 46.6 per cent today, compared to 77.2 per cent for Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict’s predecessor, in 2003.

Confidence in the Catholic Church had also dropped, from 59.2 per cent ten years ago to 47.2 per cent today. Asked if they favoured allowing priests to marry, only 22 per cent of those questioned said No. 42.5 per cent said they were “very much” in favour of abolishing the celibacy rule while 23.4 per cent said they were “fairly” in favour, a total of 65.9 per cent.

A total of 62 per cent said they believed the Church had sought either to minimise or to cover up clerical sex abuse scandals. Only 18 per cent said the attacks on the Church over sex abuse were “unjustified” and only 13 per cent said the Church had dealt with the problem “adequately”.

Ilvo Diamanti, an Italian sociologist, said the drop in support for the Church and the papacy partly stemmed from the Vatican’s slow, divided and confused response to the paedophile crisis at a time of fast moving global media. It was also linked to the decline of the priesthood in Italian society, with the Church increasingly seen as out of touch with modern social attitudes and mores.

The poll followed the conclusion at the weekend of a congress at Mariazell south of Vienna at which Austrian bishops called on the Vatican to discuss the issue of celibacy and whether to ordain married priests.

Bishop Alois Schwarz of the Carinthia diocese told the meeting: “We hear this question as bishops, and we are telling Rome that we have this problem.”

He said the role of women in the Church was also among the “many open topics which we need to discuss with sensitivity and from different viewpoints”. The bishops ended their meeting with a call for “broad reforms”.

Last week the Bishop of Eisenstadt, Paul Iby, said in a newspaper interview: ‘It should be left up to every priest whether he wants to live a life of voluntary celibacy or in a family.”

“Rome is too timid in such questions,” Bishop Iby told the daily Die Presse, adding that priests should be allowed to choose whether they would like to marry to counteract the falling number of vocations. “But nothing is moving ahead in Rome,” he said.

Celibacy has been required of Catholic clergy since the early Middle Ages. However, it was not imposed in the early Church, and, according to Gospel accounts, St Peter was a married man.

Some senior Catholics, including Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, have linked paedophile priest scandals to the issue of celibacy. The Vatican has denied any such link, pointing out that in secular society paedophilia is often committed by married men.

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

Italy: ‘Yalla Shebab’ Festival to Open in Italy on June 4

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 17 — Introducing and understanding life in the Middle East through the eyes of youngsters is the objective of “Yalla Shebab” (Come on guys), the Italian version of the International Film Festival of Beirut, dedicated to young talent, which is set to take place on June 4-6 at the Casa del Cinema in Rome. Short and full-length films, documentaries and animated films realised entirely by Palestinians and Lebanese young talent and never presented before in Italy will be part of the film festival, which is being promoted by the group, “Un ponte per…”. In its entirety, say the organisers, more than 30 original language and Italian subtitled films will be screened, including a never-before-seen work by “Caramel” director Nadine Labari, called “11 Rue Pasteur”. In addition to the screening of a feature length film — candidate for the 2009 Cannes Film Festival — “The Time that Remains”, by multiple award winning director Elia Suleiman, the Roman public will witness the presentation of “Fatenah” by Ahmad Habbash, the first Palestinian animated film, which was screened in Italy for the first time at Middle East Now in Florence, the first festival dedicated to the Middle East, which took place in February in the Tuscan capital. The Yalla Shebab project got started in September of 2009 with the objective of promoting awareness of the situation of youngsters in the Arab world and in Lebanon in particular by involving 400 Italian students and 32 teachers, reintroducing a format already successfully experimented with at the Beirut International Film Festival, dedicated to youngsters, which Al-Jana the partner association of “Un ponte per…” realised in 2000. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Slovenia-Croatia: Referendum, Political Fight Fiercens

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA — The ongoing political campaigning in Slovenia ahead of the referendum on the deal with Croatia over the maritime border in the northern Adriatic, which is scheduled for June 6, is getting increasingly feisty and seems more similar to a pre-electoral clash between political leaders than to a campaign over a single question. The main issue seems to have become who, out of the Prime Minister, Borut Pahor, the leader of the centre-left coalition, and Janez Jansa, the former Prime Minister and and leader of the centre-right, is the more accomplished negotiator with Croatia and able to guarantee one of Slovenia’s national interests: a border that ensure it remains in contact with the international waters of the Gulf of Trieste. Pahor has obtained excellent results in negotiations, making use of the position of Croatia, which is urgently seeking membership of the European Union, and has as a result had to accept an agreement guaranteeing Slovenian contact with the open sea, according to Vecer Matevz Krivic, a former constitutional court judge who is politically close to the government. On the other side, some radical right-wing parties have accused the Prime Minister of giving up too much ground and of collaborating with Croatian occupation of the Slovenian sea. This ultra-radical position derives from the common interpretation in nationalistic Slovenian circles that when Italy gave up Istria to federal Yugoslavia after 1945, Slovenia was hugely and historically wronged over the subdivision of its attached territories, being stripped of both Trieste and a part of the Istrian coast, which today is part of Croatia. Exponents of Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) believe that the formula of “guaranteeing Slovenia a link with international waters” does not ensure a border with the open sea, which, the SDS argues, would compromise the country’s geo-strategical position and the economy of the port of Koper. Analysts believe that Jansa is trying to use the referendum and accusations against Pahor of having given in in an argument of fundamental national interest, to destabilise the government, and to force it to resign if the referendum were not to be approved, which in turn would lead to early elections. The latest surveys show that approval of the deal is not yet certain, with those in favour oscillating between 45% and 55%, but a large proportion of the electorate, around 20-25%, is yet to make up its mind. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: EU Pushes for Law on Census of Population

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, MAY 12 — The European Commission has asked Bosnia to adopt a law on taking a census of the population before Parliament goes on summer holiday, otherwise organising a census in 2011 will be “an impossible mission”. The pressing request was contained in a letter sent to Bosnian Prime Minister Nikola Spiric, published by the daily Oslobodjenje, signed by European Commissioners for Enlargement and Economic Affairs, Stefan Fuele and Olli Rehn. The fact that the letter was sent was confirmed by the head of the EU Commission’s delegation in Bosnia, Dimitris Kourkoulas. Without a census, said Kourkoulas, it will be difficult for the European Commission to continue adequately with the process of bringing Bosnia closer to the EU. Bosnian officials — Serbs, Croats and Muslims — have difficulty coming to an agreement on the census procedures: the Serbs insist that there should also be questions on ethnicity, religious and linguistic background, but the Muslims are opposed. Bosnia, defined in the Dayton agreement, which in 1995 put an end to three years of war, is divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (with a Croat-Muslim majority) and the Republika Srpska (RS, Serbian majority). RS Premier Milorad Dodik announced that the RS will perform a census in 2011. This is not a problem to be resolved at the level of the single entities or on a regional scale, said Kourkoulas, who added that the European Commission has no use for a partial census. The most recent census in Bosnia was carried out in 1991, one year prior to the war (1992-1995). Of the approximately 4.4 million residents, 43.47% said they were Muslims, 31.21% Serbs and 17.38% Croats.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Protesters Block Works in Zagreb Pedestrian Area

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, MAY 17 — Around a hundred activists campaigning for the protection of the environment and of public spaces have today prevented the start of building works on a large luxury residential building in the historic centre of Zagreb which, they claim, would occupy part of the pedestrian area, and therefore be in breach of the law. Activists from Zelena Akcija (Green Action) and Pravo na grad (Rights for the city) were joined by many citizens, around 200 in total, who together knocked down a metal protection barrier set up around the building site on which works were due to begin today. The activists claim that the licence given by the City of Zagreb to the investing company Hoto, one of Croatia’s biggest construction firms, is illegal. City authorities, they say, have no right to give away part of the pedestrian area to a private firm. The issue has seen a rift develop over the last few months between the mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic, who supports the project and the city assembly, which has expressed its reservations. Protesters have occupied the building site, preventing work from getting underway. Riot police are present in the area, but no arrests have so far been made. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lowest Salaries in Macedonia and Serbia

(ANSAmed) — SKOPJE, MAY 17 — Macedonia and Serbia are the countries of the former Yugoslavia with the lowest average monthly salaries, while the highest wages are earned in Slovenia and Croatia. As reported in Skopje by the national statistics office, Macedonian workers an average monthly salary, which amounts to an equivalent of 330.83 euros. Only Serbia has a lower average monthly salary, equivalent to 320 euros. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the average monthly pay is 394.50 euros, in Montenegro it is 456 euros, Croatia reports 724.13 euros and the average monthly wage for Slovenian workers is 935.11 euros. Also in terms of inflation, Macedonia — at 8.3% — has the highest rate among the countries of the Western Balkans. The rate of inflation is 7.5% in Bosnia Herzegovina, compared to 7.5% in Serbia, 6.6% in Montenegro, 3.4% in Croatia and just 1% in Slovenia. Of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is the only nation that is an EU-member and to have adopted the euro as their currency. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU: Exhibition on Morocco and Spain Common Landscapes

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 17 — “Yusur-Puentes” exhibition, showcasing photographs and videos in which the architectural and urban similarities between Morocco and Spain, as well as their similar landscapes, is currently showing in Madrid, before travelling to Malaga and Rabat. The show — according to the Enpi website ( — has been organized by the spanish ministry of Housing and the Western Mediterranean cultural association (MEDOCC), under the spanish presidency of the Eu. The exhibition is structured into six contrasting pairs of scenes, arranged into the following sections: coastal, inland, city, neighbourhood, large-scale urban and communication. Each pair is made up of one Spanish scene and another Moroccan one, which, when viewed opposite each other, reveal to the visitor the aesthetic and cultural affinities which unite them. In this way, the exhibition introduces the visitor to the landscape and architecture of two neighbouring countries and emphasises important architectural projects which have substantially modified their landscapes. At the same time, the show contributes to the effort to restore the prominence of the Mediterranean basin and continue the cultural dialogue with Morocco. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon-EU: 150 Mln Euros From ENPI for Development

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 17 — The funds allocated by the EU for bilateral assistance to Lebanon have been increased. >From 2011 to 2013, under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), the EU has allocated 150 million euros in aid, an average of 50 million euros per year, which amounts to a 7% increase compared to 2007-2010. According to the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Beirut, 60.7% of the financial will be earmarked for social and economic reforms, 22.7% for economic recovery and 16.7% for political reforms. As part of the country’s social and economic reforms, 73 million euros will be dedicated to sector reforms and 18 million will be dedicated to technical assistance and to twinning programmes. In particular, the investments will be used for objectives that include the growth of the economy, commercial assistance-better access to the market for industrial products and an improvement to the business climate, support for human capital, modernisation to the country’s infrastructure, strengthening ties between research and development and innovative strategies, modernisation of the legislative system, development of the Environmental Ministry’s management capabilities regarding environmental strategies and monitoring their implementation.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UFM: Euromed Forum Calls to Stop Occupation by Israel

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 17 — The Euro-Mediterranean Civil Forum, which ended yesterday in Alicante, has agreed to ask the leaders of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) to demand that Israel “respect international resolutions to put an end to the occupation and colonisation of Palestine”. According to the Enpi website (, the Forum final document represents the recommendations of 250 independent organisations and civil society representatives from various countries within the Mediterranean Basin, and will be presented to the UfM summit, which is taking place on 7 June in Barcelona. The Forum states that the progress of democracy, in particular in the Southern Mediterranean, “requires an end to the conflicts which hinder the region¿s stability”, most especially the Middle East conflict and is asking to promote “equality between men and women in all of the European Union¿s foreign policy, as well as in the action plans of the European Neighbourhood Policy, the review and suspension clauses of the Association Agreements and in the UfM’s programmes and projects”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Forum on Human Rights Held for First Time in Prison

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, 17 MAY — A cultural forum on human rights opened for the first time ever at a Marg general prison under the auspices of Minister of Interior Habib el Adli. The three-day forum is attended by a host of public figures, experts and professors in various fields together with the prison’s inmates, released prisoners and their families. The prisoners and released prisoners thanked the prison department for efforts to rehabilitate them, help them overcome the trauma of imprisonment and re-assimilate them into the society. Addressing the forum, Assistant Minister of Interior for Prison Affairs Atef Sherif said the ministry was keen on holding this gathering on human rights for the first time inside the prison to spread the culture of human rights among the prison officers, soldiers and employees. It is also to get prisoners to know their rights and boost their interaction with prison employees on the basis of mutual respect that is to last even after their release, he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Chomsky Denied Entry at Border, ‘Israel Stalinist’

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 17 — If it really was a misunderstanding, as the Israeli authorities claim, a way should be found to fix the situation. If it was an attempt to boycott a critical voice, as the person in question believes, there may be a boomerang effect. The fact that yesterday Noam Chomsky was stopped at the border between Jordan and Israel has led to a heated debate today. Chomsky is a famous Jewish-American intellectual and an icon of the international far-left. Always a contentious public figure, known for his harsh opinions on Israeli (and American) policies, Chomsky, 82 years old, wanted to cross Israel yesterday to reach the West Bank. Today he was scheduled to participate in a conference at the Palestinian Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah. But he was denied access to Israel at the Allenby bridge crossing, by an mid-level official of the Interior Ministry. At first the official started the procedures to allow access to the group, but then decided to send the whole group back when he found out that the conference would not take place at the University of Tel Aviv, but at a Palestinian university. “I find it hard to think of a similar case, in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps only in Stalinist regimes,” Chomsky told liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz today. The Interior Ministry, in an attempt to talk down the negative publicity (for Israel) to the issue, justified the incident by calling it “a misunderstanding”, claiming that its official wanted to allow access to the Californian scholar to Israel, but that he needed a permit of the military authorities to enter the West Bank. This permit was not available at the moment for unknown reasons. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Following in Poland’s EU Footsteps Raises Problems for Turkey

Polish people often tell visiting Turkish delegations a story that they are taught in history classes, a tale that serves as the historical bedrock on which Poles today base their support for Turkey’s European Union accession.

When Poland lost sovereignty in the late 18th century to Austria, Prussia and Russia, the story goes, Ottoman officials continued to include the Polish ambassador in their roll call at diplomatic gatherings. The symbolic gesture was largely a sleight toward Russia, with which the Ottoman Empire had uneasy relations.

Turkey and Poland have many commonalities that may shed light on Turkey’s EU accession process. Poland has a large population, roughly 38 million to Turkey’s 72 million. Like in Turkey, its eastern provinces are very underdeveloped and unemployment runs high.

Given these similarities, it is unclear to many in Poland why Turkey has not managed to progress on the path to joining the European Union. Some of the deputy editors of Gazete Wyborca, a prestigious domestic paper with the highest circulation among non-tabloid newspapers, told a visiting delegation of Turkish journalists last week that they believe Turkey will join the bloc.

Grzegorz Cydejko, who works for Forbes Poland and is the head of the Warsaw Chapter of the Polish Journalists Association, said he sees Turkey’s human-rights issues and still-developing democratic institutions as the main barriers to EU membership.

Adam Balcer, a senior fellow at demosEUROPA and project leader of the EU Enlargement and Neighborhood Project, said he believes the issue is about religion. “The thing that separates [Turkey and Poland] is religion,” said Balcer. “Whatever Turkey does, a group of people will always say no to Turkey.”

Generous aid from EU

Poland is currently the largest recipient of EU aid for member states. During the period from 2007 to 2013, it will receive more than 67 billion euros in development funds. EU project banners can be seen everywhere in the country, signaling new construction and restoration projects, particularly in the poor Podlaskie, Lubelskie and Podkarpackie provinces.

In Podlaskie, EU funds have significantly helped develop infrastructure, according to provincial secretary Andrezej Kurpiewski.

“Infrastructure has completely changed,” said Kurpiewski. “We used to go to Warsaw for shopping. Now people from Warsaw are coming here.”

In addition to expanding and improving roads, EU funds are helping the region develop universities, techno-parks and research institutions. The funds also help foster tourism in this verdant region with four national parks.

EU membership has also had negative effects, however. Poland effectively joined the Schengen Area, comprised of 25 countries that operate virtually under a single border, in December 2007. This required stricter border controls that have taken their toll on tourism to the eastern provinces by Belarussian, Russian and Ukrainian nationals — and raised questions about how EU membership might impact Turkey’s ties with its neighbors

Turkey shares borders with five countries that are not members of the European Union and has no visa requirements for visitors coming from Syria and Iraq. Future attempts to comply with EU border and security requirements may thus force a recalibration of Turkey’s foreign policy.

Fight against smuggling

The Polish-Belarussian border crossing at Kuznicy is “the most contemporary border in Poland,” according to Major Anatol Kalinowski, deputy head of the border crossing. A total of 43 million euros went into developing the monitored area, which expanded from covering two to 19 hectares after Poland joined the European Union.

“Before that, we just had a couple of fences,” said Maciej Czarnecki, a spokesman for the Regional Customs Office in Bialystok.

Problems still arise at the borders of poorer, less-developed nations, with smuggling, especially of cigarettes, and human trafficking among the most problematic issues.

“In 2009, Poland seized 29 million cigarettes from the [Belarussian] border,” Maciej said. Every truck that goes across the border is X-rayed, and some are randomly subjected to a machine that tests if there is a heartbeat on board. “They put people like ants into the corners of the trucks,” Maciej added.

Poland’s experience poses a serious question to Turkey: What logistical challenges would arise if Turkey had to patrol the EU’s border with Iraq, Iran and Syria?

Poland faces an even larger problem in its own population emigrating to Western Europe. Many Polish laborers, generally unskilled, work in Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland. According to Izabela Grabowska-Lusinka, the head of the research unit of the Center of Migration Research, many people with good degrees left Poland thinking there were no opportunities at home. Others left because they did not have adequate English skills to operate in their fields. Many of these people started working as unskilled laborers in the West; if they returned to Poland, they could not work in the sectors for which they were trained.

The problem of emigration after EU accession was, however, exaggerated by the Polish media, Grabowska-Lusinka added: “There was a lot of scare-mongering scenarios that Poland would experience a kind of brain drain.”

Many Poles who were working abroad in the U.K. and Ireland came back after the global crisis severely hit those countries’ economies. Other Polish workers now travel freely back and forth with no set plan and move depending on economic opportunities. These people have become an entirely new category of workers deemed “global vagabonds.”

“There is not that much planning, recruiting and organizing for all of these things in the pre-accession period. Migration is more spontaneous,” said Grabowska-Lusinka. “Free movement of labor brought this about.”

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

Hizbullah on the Homefront

by Caroline Glick

Last week Lebanese commentator Tony Badran published an article on the Now Lebanon Web site discussing the Iranian way of war. In “The shape of things to come,” he discussed the significance of the breakup of a Hizbullah cell in Kuwait and the deportation of Hizbullah agents from Bahrain. Badran explained that like the Hizbullah ring arrested last year in Egypt, the Hizbullah cells in Persian Gulf states demonstrate how Iran uses Hizbullah to extend its regional power.

Badran noted that Iran’s cultivation of fifth columnists in target countries through Hizbullah puts paid to the notion that it will be possible to contain a nuclear Iran. Armed with both nuclear weapons and armed agents in states throughout the region, Iran will be well positioned to bend all regional states to its will.

US security guarantees will be worthless. Living under the threat of the Iranian bomb, neighboring states will be unable to take steps to curb Iranian agents subverting their governments from within their sovereign territory.

For Israel, the threat is obviously more acute. Whereas states like Kuwait and Bahrain will be able to suffer through an Iranian Middle Eastern hegemony, Israel will have no such luxury. Iran has made clear that in an Iranian-ruled Middle East, there will be no room for Israel. And so Israel must act soon to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But then there is the homefront.

With each passing day, it becomes more and more apparent that as is the case in Kuwait, Bahrain and Egypt, through Hizbullah, Iran has established cells of sympathizers among Israeli Arabs. This means that as Israel prepares to strike Iran, it must minimize Iran’s ability to retaliate from fifth column bases inside the country…

[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Hariri Murder; Cassese, Charges This Autumn

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 17 — Italian judge Antonio Cassese, president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, has said that general prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, who has been asked to investigate the murder of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, will file charges this autumn. “Prosecutor Bellemare announced that he is likely to issue an indictment between and September and December of this year”, said Cassese in an interview with the Beirut newspaper Daily Star. Cassese added that he doesn’t have any more details on the investigation. “I have no idea, the prosecutor does not tell anything (about the investigation) to anybody within the tribunal”, said Cassese from Beirut. The Tribunal, which has its headquarters in The Hague, was created by the UN Security Council to judge those responsible for the attack on February 14 2005 in which Hariri and 22 others were killed in Beirut. The Tribunal is also authorised to judge the people who are responsible for the wave of political violence in Lebanon between October 2004 and January 2007. Hariri’s murder, for which Syria is generally blamed, caused a series of large demonstrations which forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, which had been stationed there for 29 years. Damascus has always denied any involvement in the death of Hariri. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Why Dubai’s Islamic Austerity is a Sham — Sex is for Sale in Every Bar

Couples who publicly kiss are jailed, yet the state turns a blind eye to 30,000 imported prostitutes, says William Butler

The bosomy blonde in a tight, low-cut evening dress slid on to a barstool next to me and began the chat: Where are you from? How long are you here? Where are you staying? I asked her what she did for a living. “You know what I do,” she replied. “I’m a whore.”

As I looked around the designer bar on the second floor of the glitzy five-star hotel, it was obvious that every woman in the place was a prostitute. And the men were all potential punters, or at least window-shoppers.

While we talked, Jenny, from Minsk in Belarus, offered me “everything, what you like, all night” for the equivalent of about £500. It was better if I was staying in the luxurious hotel where we were drinking, she said, but if not she knew another one, cheaper but “friendly”. I turned down the offer.

This was not Amsterdam’s red-light district or the Reeperbahn in Hamburg or a bar on Shanghai’s Bund. This was in the city centre of Dubai, the Gulf emirate where western women get a month in prison for a peck on the cheek; the Islamic city on Muhammad’s peninsula where the muezzin’s call rings out five times a day drawing believers to prayer; where public consumption of alcohol prompts immediate arrest; where adultery is an imprisonable offence; and where mall shoppers are advised against “overt displays of affection”, such as kissing.

Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams, the couple recently banged up in Al Awir desert prison for a brief public snog, must have been very unlucky indeed, because in reality Dubai is a heaving maelstrom of sexual activity that would make the hair stand up on even the most worldly westerner’s head. It is known by some residents as “Sodom-sur-Mer”.

Beach life, cafe society, glamorous lifestyles, fast cars and deep tans are all things associated with “romance” in the fog-chilled minds of Europeans and North Americans. And there is a fair amount of legitimate “romance” in Dubai. Western girls fall for handsome, flash Lebanese men; male visitors go for the dusky charms of women from virtually anywhere. Office and beach affairs are common.

But most of the “romance” in Dubai is paid-for sex, accepted by expatriates as the norm, and to which a blind eye is turned — at the very least — by the authorities. The bar where “Jenny” approached me was top-of-the-range, where expensively dressed and coiffured girls can demand top dollar from wealthy businessmen or tourists.

There are lots of these establishments. Virtually every five-star hotel has a bar where “working girls” are tolerated, even encouraged, to help pull in the punters with cash to blow. But it goes downhill from there. At sports and music bars, Fillipinas vie with the Russians and women from the former Soviet republics for custom at lower prices. In the older parts of the city, Deira and Bur Dubai, Chinese women undercut them all in the lobbies of three-star hotels or even on the streets (although outside soliciting is still rare).

It is impossible to estimate accurately the prostitute population of Dubai. The authorities would never give out such figures, and it would be hard to take into account the “casual” or “part-time” sex trade. One recent estimate put the figure at about 30,000 out of a population of about 1.5 million. A similar ratio in Britain would mean a city the size of Glasgow and Leeds combined entirely populated by prostitutes.

Of course, there are other cities in the world where the “oldest profession” is flourishing. But what makes Dubai prostitution different is the level of acceptance it has by the clients and, apparently, the city’s Islamic authorities. Although strictly illegal under United Arab Emirates’ and Islamic law, it is virtually a national pastime.

I have seen a six-inch-high stack of application forms in the offices of a visa agent, each piece of paper representing a hopeful “tourist” from Russia, Armenia or Uzbekistan. The passport-sized photographs are all of women in their 20s seeking one-month visas for a holiday in the emirate.

Maybe young Aida from Tashkent — oval-eyed and pouting — will find a few days’ paid work as a maid or shop assistant while she’s in Dubai, and maybe she will even get an afternoon or two on the beach as her holiday. But most nights she will be selling herself in the bars and hotels and the immigration authorities know that. So must the visa agent, who gets his cut out of each £300 visa fee.

The higher you go up the Emirati food chain, the bigger the awards. All UAE nationals are entitled to a number of residence visas, which they routinely use to hire imported domestics, drivers or gardeners. But they will sell the surplus to middlemen who trade them on to women who want to go full-time and permanent in the city. The higher the social and financial status of the Emirati, the more visas he has to “farm”.

Thousands of women buy entitlement to full-time residence, and lucrative employment, in this way. Three years in Dubai — the normal duration of a residence visa — can be the difference between lifelong destitution and survival in Yerevan, Omsk or Bishkek.

With a residence visa changing hands at upwards of £5,000 a time, it is a nice sideline, even for a wealthy national. And it also ensures a convenient supply of sex for Emiratis, who form a large proportion of the punters at the kind of bar where I met “Jenny”. Arabs from other countries are high up the “johns” list, with Saudis in particular looking for distraction from life in their austere Wahabist homes with booze and sex-fuelled weekends in Dubai’s hotels.

The other big category of punters is Europeans and Americans, and it is remarkable how quickly it all seems normal. A few drinks with the lads on a Thursday night, maybe a curry, some semi-intoxicated ribaldry, and then off to a bar where you know “that” kind of girl will be waiting. In the west, peer group morality might frown on such leisure activities, but in Dubai it’s as normal as watching the late-night movie.

Male residents whose families are also in Dubai might be a little constrained most of the year — you could not really introduce Ludmilla from Lvov, all cleavage and stilettos, as a work colleague with whom you wanted to “run over a few things on the laptop”. But in the long, hot summer it is different. Wives and families escape the heat by going to Europe or the US, and the change that comes over the male expat population is astounding. Middle-aged men in responsible jobs — accountants, marketeers, bankers — who for 10 months of the year are devoted husbands, transform in July and August into priapic stallions roaming the bars of Sheikh Zayed Road.

Tales are swapped over a few beers the next night, positions described, prices compared, nationalities ranked according to performance. It could be the Champions League we are discussing, not paid-for sex.

I’ve heard financial types justifying it as part of the process of globalisation, another manifestation of the west-east “tilt” by which world economic power is gravitating eastwards.

In my experience, many men will be unfaithful if they have the opportunity and a reasonable expectation that they will not be found out. For expats in Dubai, the summer months provide virtual laboratory conditions for infidelity.

Above all, there is opportunity. There is the Indonesian maid who makes it apparent that she has no objection to extending her duties, for a price; the central Asian shop assistant in one of the glittering malls who writes her mobile number on the back of your credit card receipt “in case you need anything else”; the Filipina manicurist at the hairdresser’s who suggests you might also want a pedicure in the private room.

Even though selling sex is haram (forbidden) under Islamic law, the authorities rarely do anything about it. Occasionally, an establishment will break some unwritten rule. Cyclone, a notorious whorehouse near the airport, was closed down a few years back, but then it really did go too far — a special area of the vast sex supermarket was dedicated to in-house oral sex. When the authorities ordered it to be closed, the girls simply moved elsewhere.

There are occasional stories in the local papers of human trafficking rings being broken up and the exploiters arrested, but it is low-level stuff, usually involving Asian or Chinese gangs and Indian or Nepalese girls. The real problem is the high-end business, with official sanction. Even with the emirate’s financial problems, Sodom-sur-Mer is flourishing. But would-be snoggers beware — your decadent behaviour will not be tolerated.

William Butler is a pseudonym for a writer who lived in Dubai for four years and recently returned to Britain

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Berlusconi Reaffirms Italian Commitment

Rome, 17 May (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has reaffirmed his country’s commitment to remain in Afghanistan after a tragic attack that killed two Italian soldiers on Monday.The two Italian soldiers were killed and two others were injured in a roadside bombing on a NATO military convoy in western Herat province.

“The mission in Afghanistan is of fundamental importance to stability and peacemaking in a strategic area,” Berlusconi said in a statement released by his Rome office.

Berlusconi expressed the government’s condolences to the families of the victims and his support for the two injured soldiers, one of whom is a woman.

Major Mario Renna, spokesman for the NATO International Security Assistance Force’s western command, said the convoy struck a roadside bomb at 9.15 am local time about 25 kilometres south of Bala Murghab on the border with Turkmenistan.

The injured were immediately evacuated by helicopter to a military hospital in Herat. They were not seriously injured.

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

Afghanistan: Italian Soldiers Killed in Bomb Attack in Herat

Herat, 17 May (AKI) — Two Italian soldiers were killed and two others were seriously injured on Monday in a bomb attack on a NATO military convoy in northwestern Afghanistan. Major Mario Renna, spokesman for the NATO International Security Assistance Force’s western command, said the convoy struck a roadside bomb at 9.15 am local time about 25 kilometres south of Bala Murghab on the border with Turkmenistan.

The injured were immediately evacuated by helicopter to a military hospital in Herat.

Military sources told Adnkronos that one of the two injured Italian soldiers was a woman and neither of them was seriously wounded.

Italy has 3,300 troops in Afghanistan as part of ISAF and heads the western regional command headquartered in the city of Herat.

Twenty-two Italians have been killed in Afghanistan and the latest casualties took the total number of foreign casualties to 200 this year.

The Taliban were removed from government in Afghanistan a US-led invasion in 2001.

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

Danish Military to Investigate Film Claims

Real battle scenes between Danish soldiers and the Taleban have raised ethical questions on the actions of at least one unit

[movie trailer:]

A documentary that shows Danish soldiers possibly participating in systematic executions of their Taleban enemies in Afghanistan will now be looked into by military investigators, reports public broadcaster D

Scenes from ‘Armadillo’, which was shown this weekend at the Cannes Film Festival, show Danish soldiers in a heated exchange against Taleban fighters in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. In one scene, the soldiers toss a grenade into a nearby Taleban installation as cover and then descend on the Afghans, shooting them dead.

That scene in particular had some critics of Denmark’s military participation in Afghanistan suggesting the soldiers were crossing the accepted lines of war conduct.

Chief of Danish Defence Knud Bartels has now requested military investigators to examine the incident and determine whether the action violated international war conventions.

The documentary follows young Danish soldiers who are facing live battle situations for the first time and how war changes them and their views on life and death.

Henrik Sommer, head of the army’s Operational Command, said he did not believe the soldiers’ actions was out of the ordinary for a combat situation. Neither did the film’s director, Janus Metz.

‘Afghanistan is a crazy and complicated place and I’m no military expert,’ he told Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

‘So I don’t want to make any comments on it for political debate. But I think that most of our resources are going toward military efforts and we instead ought to focus more on foreign aid than on combat.’

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: The Plot to Kill Obama

The recently uncovered Indonesian jihadist plot to kill the President of the United States upon his next visit to the country, as a precursor to the establishment there of an Islamic state, is yet another reminder of the reality of the threat and the motivations of global terrorists.

Last week, on May 12 and 13, Indonesian security forces conducted a number of raids in Jakarta and other parts of the island of Java between, killing five militants and arresting around twenty — the latest in a number of such operations since the discovery of a new Jemaah Islaamiya (JI) offshoot, dubbed “the al-Qaeda Aceh,” based on the Island of Aceh. Intelligence gathered from the raids uncovered the group’s plan to stage an attempted coup on August 17, Indonesia’s Independence Day. The plan involved assassinating a number of high ranking Indonesian officials, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and declaring the establishment of an Islamic state. According to national Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Two Italian Soldiers Killed and Two Wounded in Afghanistan

Improvised explosive device goes off as patrol vehicle passes. Injuries of wounded not thought to be life-threatening

MILAN — Italian troops have come under attack again in Afghanistan. Two soldiers were killed and two others suffered serious, although not life-threatening, leg injuries in an ambush in the north east of the country, in the area around Herat controlled by Italian forces attached to ISAF. ISAF helicopters immediately took the wounded to the Herat field hospital. The wounded male soldier is Gianfranco Scirè, 28, from Casteldaccia, a small municipality near Palermo.

THE ATTACK — The troops were travelling in a Lince armoured vehicle in the group leading a convoy of dozens of vehicles heading from Herat to Bala Murghab. According to Italian military headquarters in Herat, the Lince took the full force of the blast, which occurred at 9.15 am local time. The Lince armoured vehicle carrying the four was in the group leading a mixed-nationality convoy going north from Herat for Bala Murghab. Early reconstructions indicate that the vehicle hit was the fourth in the convoy. It was moving at the time of the explosio, which took place about 25 kilometres south of Bala Murghab.

THE ITALIAN MISSION — About 2,800 Italian troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan. In June, a further 1,000 soldiers will start to move in with the aim of reaching the final figure of 3,227 troops announced in December by the minister for defence, Ignazio La Russa. The increase in Italy’s military presence in Afghanistan was requested by NATO general secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the insistence of the USA. Italian soldiers are responsible for an extensive area of western Afghanistan that includes the provinces of Herat, Badghis, Ghowr and Farah. Most of the troops are serving with NATO’s ISAF mission while the Carabinieri officers are part of EUPOL, the European Union mission to rebuild the local civilian police. Withdrawal of Italy’s military presence in Afghanistan is due to begin in July 2011.

English translation by Giles Watson

17 maggio 2010

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

US Soldiers Get German Medal of Honor

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Germany’s top general in Afghanistan presented a bravery award on Wednesday to 14 US Soldiers who evacuated 11 German comrades injured in a Taliban attack.

General Bruno Kasdorf, chief of staff of NATO forces in Afghanistan, praised the “courage and professionalism” of the Americans during the April 2 helicopter rescue operation.

“Risking their own lives the crews conducted several attempts and landings under heavy fire to pick up the wounded German Soldiers,” the general said in presenting the Medal of Honour in Kunduz.

The Germans were in a convoy that came under attack in the Chardarah district of Kunduz by Taliban-led insurgents. Three US Black Hawk helicopters evacuated 11 wounded German Soldiers to safety, but three of them later succumbed to their injuries..

There are around 4,500 German troops stationed in northern region that includes Kunduz. Around 4,000 US Soldiers and 500 German forces are set to arrive in the region in the coming months.

Taliban-led attacks are on the rise in previously peaceful northern region. Seven German troops were killed and a dozen others were injured last month in Taliban attacks.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Drivers Face Fines for Unlocked Cars

Unlocked car doors and discarded cigarette butts could leave smokers and motorists lighter in the pocket thanks to tough new fines to be enforced from today.

Police will fine motorists in the Yarra Ranges up to $358 for leaving their car doors unlocked or windows down.

Meanwhile, roaming inspectors are on patrol in Melbourne enforcing fines up to $234 for unbinned butts.

From today, smokers face a $234 on-the-spot fine for throwing away a burning cigarette and $117 for littering an extinguished butt.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said cigarette butts were the city’s biggest source of litter, with up to 11,000 cleaned off the streets each day.

‘‘They go down into our drains, they finish up in our waterways, they’re just diabolical,’’ he told ABC Radio.

Sergeant John Morgan, officer in charge of the Yarra Ranges traffic management unit, said police had decided to enforce fines after a spike in theft of and theft from unsecured motor vehicles.

The ‘‘look, lock, leave’’ campaign will be ongoing and could extend to other areas of the state, he said.

Sergeant Morgan said motor vehicle theft affected the whole community.

‘‘It puts our crime stats up, it wastes police man hours in investigating the crimes in the first instance and ultimately it will put up insurance premiums,’’ he said.

Sergeant Morgan said he did not expect a negative community reaction to the fines.

‘‘I believe if the public are aware of it … I don’t think they will be agitated by it,’’ he said.

Theft of valuables from cars in the Yarra Ranges have increased 10.1 per cent in 2009-10.

Under the new Road Safety Road Rules 2009 legislation, motorists can be fined for leaving car doors unlocked, windows down, parking brakes unengaged or keys in the ignition.

Leading Senior Constable Graeme Rust said the campaign put motorists on notice to ensure their cars were properly secured.

‘‘Police keep telling people to lock their cars, yet we still find a large number of people do not heed these warnings,’’ he said.

The legislation applies when motorists are more than three metres away from the vehicle.

When the only people left in the vehicle are aged under 16, the motorist must remove the keys from the ignition.

If no one is left in the vehicle, windows can be left open up to two centimetres before it is classed unsecured.

The legislation applies to all motorists who leave their vehicles on roads, except those who have been granted exemption under the legislation.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Man Arrested Over Sudanese Student Stabbing

WEST Australian police have charged a 23-year-old man with murder and attempted murder after the stabbing death of a Sudanese student during a wild brawl last month.

Police were called after two groups of Sudanese and Afghan migrants were seen fighting with weapons in the northern Perth suburb of Mirrabooka at about 9.30pm on April 21.

Two men were found with serious stab wounds at the scene, near the corner of Australis Avenue and Northwood Drive, with about 20 other people involved.

Twenty-year-old Sudanese student Asama Manyang died of his injuries, while another Sudanese man, aged 27, was critically injured.

Police said the brawl was not gang related.

The charged man will appear in Perth’s Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court on May 26.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


Finland: Parliament Wants Report on Benefits for Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

The Finnish Parliament is asking the government for a broad clarification of matters related to family unification. The Parliament’s Administrative Committee is interested in how Finnish rules and benefits compare with those in other European Union countries and Nordic Countries.

The committee also wants to know if there is something about the Finnish rules which would make Finland a particularly attractive country for asylum seekers.

The request is seen as a jab at Minister of Migration Astrid Thors (Swed. People’s Party).

On the administrative committee, there was dissatisfaction with the fact that proposed amendments to legislation affecting foreigners in Finland had been brought to Parliament one at a time.

Members of the committee have also complained that debate over immigration involves confused concepts and conflicting information.

The request for clarification angered Thors. “The ministry is not a research institute. We do not have these kinds of resources. if someone wants something like this, it can be ordered from elsewhere”, Thors says.

The request for information is linked with a bill being debated in Parliament on determining the age of asylum seekers, and rules concerning family unification.

The proposal is to come before the full Parliament soon.

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

Finland: Police Investigate Smuggling of Afghanis

Police are investigating the activities of an organised group that has illegally brought dozens of Afghanis into the country. The daily Helsingin Sanomat reported on Monday that the Helsinki District Court has remanded four Latvian citizens into custody in connection with the investigation.

Finnish police have been working on several cases of organised illegal entry. In March, five Estonian men were convicted of illegally smuggling Afghanis into the country.

According to Inspector Marjut Kronlund of the Helsinki Police, the Latvians now in custody seem to have had a bigger role in the criminal organisation than the Estonians already convicted. In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat, she declined to speculate on a precise number of people that have been brought in by the gang. The number is, however, thought to be in the dozens.

Apparently the route used by the smugglers has run through Belarus and the Baltic countries. The final leg of the journey has involved smuggling the Afghanis by boat from Estonia to Helsinki where they have then filed for asylum.

According to police, the price paid to the smugglers for the trip from Afghanistan to Finland has been $10,000 per person.

Police Inspector Marjut Kronlund believes that the top-level operators in the gang are still at large. The same group is likely to have also smuggled Afghanis into other countries. Police in Estonia and Latvia are investigating similar cases.

Last year, 461 Afghanis applied for asylum in Finland. One year earlier, that number was 254, and in 2007 it was less than 100.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Finland: Pay Rules for Foreigners Poorly Enforced in Construction

Officials plan to clamp down on abuses in the use of foreign workers in the country, especially the sub-standard wages many receive. Since the law imposes relatively minor fine for violations, the plan is to use publicity as a deterrent.

Labour Minister Anni Sinnemäki has assured Parliament that the law will be used to deal with the problem of underpaid foreign labour in the construction sector.

The biggest burden for seeing that the law is enforced falls upon the work safety office for South Finland. And, according to its director, the prospects for enforcement are not very rosy.

“There are only 12 inspectors for the whole of the country to oversee all of the contracts in all of Finland, and not only in the construction industry. Indeed, the chances of getting caught are small. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” explains the office’s director Kaarina Myyri-Partanen.

No responsibility at the top

In theory the law ensures that building trade companies make background checks of their sub-contractors. Inspections have shown that over half do not. The penalty is a fine of only a few thousand euros, at most 15,000 — not much of a deterrent.

The law itself is flawed. The further down the chain of sub-contractors one goes, the less responsibility the primary constructing company has.

And, inspectors have a problem finding violations because many foreign workers are satisfied with their terms of employment, even though by Finnish standards they are flagrantly in violation of the law. If workers keep their mouths shut, it’s hard to find the real story from the paperwork.

Sanctions are fairly minimal and police have few resources to deal with this particular problem.

So officials are turning to a different deterrent — publicity. From now on, they say that they will name names.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy-Greece: ‘High Impact ‘ Operation Start-Up

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 17 — This morning began in the Greek ports of Patrassus and Igoumenitsa, and in the Italian ports of Bari and Brindisi, the operation to check irregular immigration, “High Impact 2010”, involving the employment of joint Italian and Greek patrols. The operation, in its second consecutive year, say Interpol sources in Greece, is carried out by means of spot checks on the transit of both passengers and goods, and aims to halt human trafficking toward Italy and Europe which occurs especially by transporting irregular immigrants in containers, trucks or other vehicles on the ferries departing from the Greek ports. On the Italian side, joint patrols are headed by the Immigration and Border Police central department, precisely by Interpol liaison officer for Greece, Giovanni Accardo, whereas on the Greek side it is headed by the Police Immigration division jointly with the Coastguard. Tens of thousands of irregular immigrants every year reach Greece especially from Turkey, with the objective of reaching the rest of Europe. Starting from Italy and arriving from the ports of Patrassus and Igoumenitsa which regularly link the two countries. The ships at the ports of Bari and Ancona are inspected throughout because often the irregular immigrants hide in the cavities and various gaps. At times they also hide among the wheels and tyres or under suitably organised spaces inside the trucks with the drivers’ complicity. In this case the driver is arrested for aiding irregular immigration. “For this reason these checks also concern papers” which either do not exist, or are falsified, and the irregular immigrants are accused and returned to their State of origin, but only after all official formalities have been carried out.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lawyer: US Grants Asylum to Obama’s African Aunt

CLEVELAND (AP) — Attorneys for President Barack Obama’s African aunt say an immigration court has granted her asylum, allowing her to stay in the United States.

Zeituni Onyango (zay-TOO’-nee ohn-YAHN’-goh), the half-sister of Obama’s late father, is from Kenya.

Her attorneys made the announcement Monday in Cleveland.

Onyango moved to the United States in 2000. Her first asylum request was rejected, and she was ordered deported in 2004. But she didn’t leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston.

In February, she testified on her own behalf at closed proceedings in U.S. Immigration Court in Boston.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

CLEVELAND (AP)—Attorneys for President Barack Obama’s African aunt say a decision has been made in her bid for asylum in the United States.

Zeituni Onyango (zay-TOO’-nee ohn-YAHN’-goh), the half-sister of Obama’s late father, is from Kenya.

The decision from U.S. immigration officials hasn’t been announced. Onyango’s attorneys plan to make a statement Monday afternoon in Cleveland.

Onyango moved to the United States in 2000. Her first asylum request was rejected, and she was ordered deported in 2004. But she didn’t leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston.

In February, she testified on her own behalf at closed proceedings in U.S. Immigration Court in Boston.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Historic Gay Meeting With President

Napolitano welcomes LGBT leaders on anti-homophobia day

(ANSA) — Rome, May 17 — Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Monday hosted an event to mark anti-homophobia day, welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups to the presidential palace for the first time. International Day against Homophobia was launched in 2004 but this is the first time the date — or any gay-specific ceremony — has been staged at the Quirinale Palace. Representatives from ten LGBT organizations attended the event, during which President Napolitano urged parties in parliament to work together to bring anti-homophobia measures into law.

The president also highlighted the critical role of media outlets and schools in helping the public to understand and accept gays and lesbians. Other speakers at the event included Italy’s first openly lesbian MP, Paola Concia of the opposition Democratic Party (PD), and Rita De Santis, who heads the Parents of Gay and Lesbians Association.

Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna also delivered a warmly received speech, in which she thanked Concia for helping her overcome her own previous prejudices towards the LGBT community. “Her commitment and sensitivity helped me understand the richness of the world represented here today, with all its subtleties,” Carfagna said. “I am grateful to her for helping break down my personal wall of suspicion, which is now in the distant past”. The minister also thanked Napolitano for hosting the event in the palace.

“No one can miss the significance of this event being staged in the building that symbolizes the country’s unity,” she said. Carfagna, who launched Italy’s first institutional anti-homophobia week in schools last year, also revealed she had commissioned the national statistics institute ISTAT to carry out a nationwide survey of discrimination.

The report, based on 10,000 interviews, will be published in 2011 and is part of Carfagna’s efforts to introduce legislation designed to tackle homophobia. In the meanwhile, she urged judges to act with the “utmost severity” against those who commit crimes against gays and lesbians, saying tough penalties were the strongest deterrent. “Gay attacks are intolerable in our civilized and democratic country, which is founded on freedom of expression and thought,” the minister said. Speaking after the event, veteran lesbian campaigner Imma Battaglia voiced “particular appreciation” for Carfagana’s acknowledgment of her “earlier lack of understanding”, and highlighted the importance of the event’s location. “Today we received recognition for our years of battle on the gay issue, which has given us great strength,” she added. Gaylib, an association representing centre-right gays and lesbians, also praised Carfagna. “The government and the centre-right majority leading Italy should take heed of the virtuous and revolutionary humility demonstrated by Minister Carfagna,” said Gaylib President Enrico Oliari. Sergio Rovasio, secretary of the Certi Diritti LGBT association, which is linked to the opposition Radical party, said Napolitano and Carfagna’s comments were “cause for hope”. But he urged the government to support “the various proposals currently at a standstill in parliament”. MEP Debora Serracchiani of the PD also expressed caution, warning the struggle for gay rights remained “an uphill battle” in Italy. “Italy has not yet even managed to pass a law making homophobic offences a criminal act, leaving us the only country in Europe, along with Greece, that has failed to do so,” she said.

Transsexual Identity Movement Deputy-Director Porpora Marcasciano pointed out that “Italy continues to hold the worst record in Europe for attacks on and murders of transsexuals”.

A string of gay hate crimes in Italian cities last year prompted several protest demonstrations and a bill aimed at increasing penalties for acts of violence motivated by homophobia.

The single-article bill, presented by Concia, was thrown out by centre-right senators, who claimed it gave unequal protection to gays in violation of the constitution.

Despite this, several majority senators voted in favour of the bill and have promised to back any future legislation providing greater protection. After the vote, Carfagna vowed to present a new cabinet bill envisioning harsher penalties for all crimes motivated by discrimination, “including homophobia”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Now Independent Thinkers Are Considered Diseased by Psychiatry

(NaturalNews) Psychiatrists have been working on the fourth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and, in it, they hope to add a whole slew of new psychiatric disorders. Unfortunately, many of these disorders are merely differences in personality and behavior among people.

The new edition may include “disorders” like “oppositional defiant disorder”, which includes people who have a pattern of “negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures.” Some of the “symptoms” of this disorder including losing one’s temper, annoying people and being “touchy”.

Other “disorders” being considered include personality flaws like antisocial behavior, arrogance, cynicism or narcissism. There are even categories for people who binge eat and children who have temper tantrums.

Children are already over-diagnosed for allegedly being bipolar or having attention-deficit disorder (ADD), which results in their being prescribed dangerous antipsychotic drugs. To categorize even more childhood behaviors as psychiatric disorders will only further increase the number of children who will be needlessly prescribed antipsychotic drugs.

Each new revision of DSM has included controversial new additions, and this newest version is no exception. In fact, the manual has increased considerably in size over the years. What is most disturbing about the current proposed revisions is the blatantly brave, new way in which so-called medical professionals are viewing individual characteristics.

Children who exhibit unique eccentricities in accordance with their unique personalities, in general, would be categorized as having a mental illness. If this criteria had been used in past centuries to diagnose illness, there may have never been people like Mozart or Einstein who ventured outside the norm and came up with new or unique ideas.

A Washington Post article captured the essence of this concept perfectly in the following quote:

“If seven-year-old Mozart tried composing his concertos today, he might be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and medicated into barren normality.”

The perception that character differences are somehow a psychic illnesses not only absolves individuals of personal responsibility, but it takes away their unique personhood. It reduces people into subjects that cannot think for themselves, but rather have to be controlled through drugs.

[Return to headlines]


Being Bad at Relationships is Good for Survival

By JR Minkel, LiveScience Contributor

Evolution may have shaped us to consist of groups of emotionally secure and insecure individuals, researchers write in the March issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

When faced with threats to close personal relationships, people react in different ways according to their sense of whether the world is a secure place. The same reaction styles also cause people to be more or less attuned to dangers of all kinds.

Evolution would have favored a mix of these so-called attachment styles if mixed groups were more likely to survive than groups of only secure or only insecure individuals.

“Secure people have disadvantages,” experimental psychologist Tsachi Ein-Dor of the New School of Psychology in Herzliya, Israel, told LiveScience. “They react slowly and then act slowly because they need to first get organized.”

This notion would explain why almost half of all people in the world have insecure attachment styles, he said, despite the fact that people prefer secure types as romantic partners.

How we view the world

People who do well in relationships have what’s called a secure attachment style. They tend to view the world as a safe place, and their optimism allows them to focus on tasks without being bogged down with negative thoughts. They seek out groups and work well in them.

In contrast are those who exhibit insecure attachment styles. Some people are anxious types, always clinging to their significant other, and others are aloof, or avoidant, preferring to deal with problems on their own instead of relying on their partners.

Attachment behavior is a survival adaptation, said Ein-Dor. Because infants can’t survive on their own, they have to attach themselves to their parents. If an infant cries and is soothed by its parent, it learns that it can trust other people for love and support.

Those whose parents don’t have time or energy to respond may learn they have to fend for themselves.

Such traits can take on different meanings in a group setting. When in immediate danger, people shouldn’t necessarily take comfort in the sense of peace and safety a group can provide.

Benefits of being insecure

To test their idea that mixed groups would benefit survival, Ein-Dor and his colleagues put students in groups of threes alone in a room with a concealed smoke machine, which was switched on to simulate a fire. Groups were quicker to notice the smoke and to react to it if they contained individuals who scored high for insecure attachment.

Groups that had a member who rated high for the anxious attachment style tended to notice the smoke faster than other groups, and those that had a member rating high on attachment avoidance tended to react first, such as by leaving the room.

“This is the first [paper] I’ve read that has started to sway me toward the idea that insecure attachment styles are adaptations,” said Paul Eastwick, a psychologist at Texas A&M University, who was not involved in the current study. “I have always favored more of a ‘side effect’ explanation.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]