Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100522

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Papandreou Calls From Beirut on Arab Investments
»Gwinnett County Workers Asked to Repay Bonsuses [Sic], 16 Years Later
»Markets: Europe Draws Breath After Week’s Losses
»Netherlands: MPs Call for ‘Naked Short Selling’ Ban
»Swedes Back Centre-Right Government in a Crisis
»Washington ‘Whitewash Gang’ Strikes Again
»Whatever Germany Does, The Euro as We Know it is Dead
»At West Point, Obama Talks Up National Security Strategy
»Calif. Pol Touts ‘Pedophile Island’ For Sex Offenders
»Global Governance is Here!
»Muslim Group Targets Tea Party Congressional Candidate
»Padded Pensions Add to New York Fiscal Woes
»Popular Local Muslim Figure Arrested on Federal Charges
»Rand Paul’s Libertarian Achilles Heel
»The Left’s War on Free Speech
»Unions to Spend $100 Million to Save Dem Majorities
Europe and the EU
»Cars: First 2 Pumps for Electric Cars in Madrid
»Corsica: A Summer Brimming With Culture
»Dutch JSF Participation Uncertain
»Excessively Loud Music Violates Human Rights
»Italy: Rome Far-Right Group Raided
»Italy: Venetian Mourners Brave Perils to Visit Departed
»Italy: Berlusconi Ally Denies Mafia Link
»Jürgen Habermas Gives German Political Elites a Sharp Dressing-Down
»Pipeline Between Greece and Italy Running From 2016
»Planes: Airbus Delivers First A380 to Lufthansa
»Portugal: Socrates Government Survives Motion
»Spain-Portugal: Favour Grows for Union, Within Europe
»Swedish Police Suspects Sabotage of KLM Aircraft
»Switzerland: Prostitutes Should be at Least 18, Agree Feds
»Transplants: Europe Adopts Spanish Model
»UK: Police Keep Secret Files on 1,900 Protesters
»Vatican: Legion Leaders Absolve Themselves Before They Sink
»EU Agency: Balkans Will Pay Membership Dearly
»Italy-Albania: Berisha, Superb Relations Between the Countries
»Kosovo: NATO: KFOR Cuts Planned to 5,000 Strong in 2010
Mediterranean Union
»Italy-Egypt: Partnership Revived With 15 Agreements
»UFM: Idea of Mediterranean Bank Regains Popularity
North Africa
»Tunisia: First Islamic Finance Bank Opening Soon
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Infiltrators Killed, Attack on Israel Foiled
»Italian Toy Watch Brand Arrives on Market
»Pagan Altar Found at Israel Construction Site
»The Nation Reads Jonathan Israel’s History of Radical Enlightenment.
Middle East
»Italy: Desalination: Saudi Arabia’s Leading Sector
»Lebanon: Leisure Boat Demand to Double in Next 12 Months
»Turkey: Istanbul’s Population to Exceed 15 Mln in 2023
»The Increasing Criticism of Stalin in Russia
South Asia
»English is a Dalit Goddess, Standing on a Computer, Tehelka Says, And There’s Nothing You Can Do About it
»Pakistanis Shout ‘Death to Facebook’, Burn US Flags
»Pakistan: After a Court Ruled Two Terror Suspects Could Not be Deported to Pakistan Over Torture Fears — Their Co-Conspirator Enjoys a Trouble-Free Life
Far East
»China: Beijing Launches New Crackdown on NGOs
Sub-Saharan Africa
»South Africa: Reflecting With…”Sowetan” On the ‘Colonialist Ball’
»Two South African Directors Discuss the Effects of Apartheid on Theatre Audiences, 16 Years After it Ended
»Felipe Calderon’s Blatant Hypocrisy
»How Much Do Illegal Immigrants Really Cost?
»Police Knew Time Square Bomb Accomplice Was Illegal Alien
»Switzerland: Deportation Flights to Start Again
»Tom Tancredo: Obama’s Assault on Our Sovereignty
Culture Wars
»Portugal: President Ratifies Gay Marriage Law
»Got an Itunes Account? That’s Music to a Cyber Fraudster’s Ears

Financial Crisis

Greece: Papandreou Calls From Beirut on Arab Investments

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 21 — Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou called from Beirut on Arab countries to invest in Greece, plunged into menacing financial crisis. “We invite you to visit Greece, to invest in Greece,” Papandreou said at the opening of the Arab Economic Forum which Beirut is hosting for the 18th consecutive year and is attended by 25 countries. “Greece today is an opportunity for new business,” said the Greek Premier. He said that despite the world economic crisis, “commercial transactions have risen by almost 35 percent last year and the volume of trade between Greece and the 18 countries of Gulf, the Middle East and Northern Africa amounted to 5 billion euros”. “In the same year, Greece’s exports to these countries represented 9 percent of its exports, while imports from these countries accounted for 10 percent of Greece’s total imports,” he added.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gwinnett County Workers Asked to Repay Bonsuses [Sic], 16 Years Later

Aaron Bovos, Gwinnett County’s chief financial officer, angered a lot of Georgia employees earlier this week when he initiated a project to “clean up receivables and to eliminate outstanding obligations,” by asking 180 employees to return bonuses that were overpaid back in September of 1994. Isn’t there a statute of limitations for asking for a gift back?

According to reports from Bovos, his office is attempting to “better manage assets and resources, including collecting outstanding advances made to employees.”

A Glitch In The System

In September of 1994 a new employee pay cycle was instituted in Gwinnett County where there was a shortening of one pay period from 14 to 12 days. The purpose of the shortened pay cycle was to ensure that those employees working reduced hours would receive less pay, but to counteract what might have been a bad financial shortfall for employees back in 1994, paychecks were increased, leading to the overpayment of 509 county employees to the tune of $114,876.55.

Why did this generous act of bonus benevolence on the part of the county become a hot button issue all of sudden? Bovos said that the county has been carrying this past due account for 16 years and that it needed to be settled. Since he initiated work on collecting these over payments, 329 employees have already seen the overpayment debts taken out of their paychecks at retirement.

Current employees who still need to return the money have various options for paying back this debt. They can apply it towards vacation leave or a floating holiday or they can make a cash payment on their own.

Next up on Bovos’ reconciliation list: state and federal agencies that worked on transportation projects and grants with the county.

Maybe Uncle Sam is not as generous as government employees once thought, but struggling to keep his finances in order like so many other Americans.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Markets: Europe Draws Breath After Week’s Losses

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 21 — Having lost dozens of billions of euros over the past week, Europe’s stock markets have spent the day licking their wounds. Following a shaky start to the day’s trading — which opened in Europe under the dark shadow of heavy losses in Tokyo — there was a general loss of ground, taking some markets back to last November’s low. But a rally started in the afternoon, driven by buying of raw commodities. Madrid closed up by 1.48 on good performances by banking stocks (especially those of Santander and BBVA). There was also a positive finish in Milan, which had also started the day on a more sprightly note. It closed up 1.32 with banks faring well, as did Fiat and Exor. Paris closed almost flat on the day (-0.05%), after making up for heavy losses in the morning session, which had taken the Cac 40 index down by 2.37%. Athens also had a good day: after opening badly, it turned around in the afternoon.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: MPs Call for ‘Naked Short Selling’ Ban

A majority of MPs has called on the government to follow Germany and introduce a ban on the form of speculative share trading known as ‘naked short selling’.

Naked short selling is the practice of selling shares without owning them, borrowing them, or ensuring that they can be borrowed in the future.

Earlier this week, the Dutch financial services regulator AFM said it did not support a ban. Nor does acting finance minister Jan Kees de Jager.

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

Swedes Back Centre-Right Government in a Crisis

The Swedish electorate have significantly more faith in the centre-right government to handle an economic crisis than the centre-left opposition, a new Sifo survey shows.

When asked “who do you think is best at dealing with severe financial crises?”, 54 percent backed the government, while only 29 percent opted for a left-green government. 16 percent replied “don’t know”.

“The government has an advantage in a crisis, it feels safer than when it is new,” said Toivo Sjörén to news agency TT, who commissioned the survey.

He believes that the conservative government could benefit if the election campaign plays out amid economic concerns.

Among centre-right voters, 94 percent backed centre-right government to manage the crisis best, while only 72 percent of centre-left voters backed a centre-left coalition government to handle a financial crisis best.

Among Moderate Party voters, 95 percent trust the Alliance government coalition, while only 77 percent of Democratic voters believe in a left-green government’s ability to handle a crisis.

A preference for a centre-right government in a crisis was expressed by a majority of voters of both sexes, with 58 percent of men and 51 percent of women backing them respectively.

The corresponding figures for those favouring a centre-left government in a crisis, were 29 percent of men and 30 percent of women.

The Alliance government was even backed by a greater number of blue-collar workers, with 41 percent favouring them in a crisis, and 40 percent for the centre-left.

This is the first time Sifo has conducted a survey on this particular issue.

“It is the first time we have tightened up the question,” Toivo Sjörén confirmed.

Sjörén pointed out that the survey shows that left-green coalition voters appear to have less confidence in their own favoured parties than the centre-right voters have for theirs. If the election comes to be dominated by economic crisis, it is mainly the Green Party voters who might be expected to switch sides, Sjören said.

Toivo Sjörén warns though that while the survey indicates that the government is supported for its management of the financial crisis, it does not mean that it will be rewarded in the election, especially if other issues dominate — such as the environment.

“Voters look ahead, presuming that the the government has not mismanaged (its time in power),” he said.

Sifo interviewed 1000 people between May 17th to 20th and asked the question : Who do you think is better at dealing with severe economic crises? A centre-right government or a centre-left government?

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Washington ‘Whitewash Gang’ Strikes Again

Financial reform package compared to Tom Sawyer’s ‘work’

Like Tom Sawyer in his iconic fence-painting episode, Washington now is only pretending to clean up the abuses of Wall Street, according to Floyd Brown and Lee Troxler, authors of the new blockbuster “Killing Wealth, Freeing Wealth.”

“It’s a lot of whitewash,” said Brown, referring to the “reform” legislation adopted by the Senate Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Ariz., said “the joyride on Wall Street will come to a screeching halt.” But will it? Troxler asks.


But Troxler said while the bill has some good intentions and a number of reform issues are addressed, the two biggest problems were ignored. The “Killing Wealth, Freeing Wealth” co-author says those problems are political game-playing and computerized point-shaving.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Whatever Germany Does, The Euro as We Know it is Dead

Angela Merkel’s ban on short-selling is just a distraction from the horror to come

“Money can’t buy you friends, but it does get you a better class of enemy” — Spike Milligan

For Angela Merkel, leader of the eurozone’s richest country, a queue is forming of high-quality adversaries. As she tips German Geld und Gut into the furnace of a rescue package for the euro, while going it alone in a misguided ban on market “manipulators”, the brass-neck Chancellor has infuriated domestic voters, angered her EU partners (in particular the French) and invited the so-called wolf pack of global traders to do its worst.

In one respect, Mrs Merkel is right: “The euro is in danger… if the euro fails, then Europe fails.” What she has not yet admitted publicly is that the main cause of the single currency’s peril appears beyond her control and therefore her impetuous response to its crisis of confidence is doomed to fail.

The euro has many flaws, but its weakest link is Greece, whose fundamental problem is that for years it spent too much, earned too little and plugged the gap by borrowing in order to enjoy a rich man’s lifestyle. It flouted EU rules on the limits to budget deficits; its national accounts were a moussaka of minced statistics, topped with a cheesy sauce of jiggery-pokery.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


At West Point, Obama Talks Up National Security Strategy

WEST POINT, N.Y. — President Obama on Saturday pledged to shape a new “international order” as part of a national security strategy that emphasizes his belief in global institutions and America’s role in promoting democratic values around the world.


“The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times,’“ he said in prepared remarks. “Countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing its wounds.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Calif. Pol Touts ‘Pedophile Island’ For Sex Offenders

California gubernatorial candidate Douglas Hughes has made quite a name for himself in recent weeks — not so much by surging ahead in the polls, but rather by promising, if elected, to create a “Pedophile Island” for convicted sex offenders.

“I read the newspapers, and always somewhere buried in the paper somebody has [been] raped, tortured, kidnapped and so forth,” Hughes told AOL News. “We are not getting anywhere [by] putting them back in the neighborhood. … It’s like any alcoholic, sex or drug addict — have it around you, and it’s just a matter of time before you do it again.”


If elected governor, Hughes says, he will give all convicted pedophiles a choice: remain in prison for life, leave California permanently or live on Pedophile Island — a self-supporting, downright Utopian community he has envisioned.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Global Governance is Here!

Glenn Beck is helping people realize that global governance is not an event. Global governance did not occur as the result of an invasion of blue-helmeted U.N. troops delivered in black helicopters. Instead, global governance is:

… the framework of rules, institutions, and practices that set limits on behavior of individuals, organizations, and companies. (U.N. Development Report, 1999, p. 34)

Few people realized that when the United States agreed to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), March 3, 1973, that by Dec. 28, 1973, there would be a federal law — the Endangered Species Act — “limiting the behavior of individuals, organizations, and companies” to comply with the “framework of rules” created by the institution called the United Nations.

Few people recognized it to be global governance when the United States endorsed the report of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in 1976, which said:

Private land ownership is a principal instrument of accumulating wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable.

By 1996, however, the recommendations in this report were being implemented through the President’s Council on Sustainable Development and were imposing comprehensive land-use plans, which mandate “… limits on behavior of individuals, organizations, and companies,” as prescribed by the institution called the United Nations.


Global governance has grown up around us. Except for the Reagan administration, both Democratic and Republican administrations have supported this push toward global governance. The current global economic crises are fueling the construction of the new global economic system that will swallow the U.S. economic system and make it subservient to the new global system. This new international institution, working in conjunction with a strengthened WTO, IMF and World Bank, will result in de facto global governance.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslim Group Targets Tea Party Congressional Candidate

The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CT) has called on state Republican leaders to repudiate what they termed “intolerant statements” made by Bridgeport Republican Town Committee Chairman Rick Torres.

During a recent debate among candidates seeking the GOP nomination for Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District, Torres is reported to have said: “It turns out, folks, they [Muslims] are here, they’re among us. We are at war with Islam. I don’t tolerate people who are not tolerant.” It was also reported that Torres said that he “wants America’s mosques and Imams to openly condemn terrorists’ actions.”

“Rick Torres is completely out of touch with reality and contradicts statements made by his party’s own leaders,” said CAIR-CT Executive Director Mongi Dhaoudi. “Presidents Bush and Obama have both said America is not at war with Islam, and local and national media outlets have frequently reported on the strong American Muslim repudiation of terror.”

However, many conservatives and Tea Party participants are supporting Torres and applaud his straight-talking style and aversion to the current politically-correct orthodoxy.

The Latino conservative said he prides himself in being a student of the Constitution, and is running to be the kind of a citizen legislator envisioned by this nation’s Founders as apposed to the career politicians who’ve never worked a “real job” or had to meet a payroll.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Padded Pensions Add to New York Fiscal Woes

In Yonkers, more than 100 retired police officers and firefighters are collecting pensions greater than their pay when they were working. One of the youngest, Hugo Tassone, retired at 44 with a base pay of about $74,000 a year. His pension is now $101,333 a year.

It’s what the system promised, said Mr. Tassone, now 47, adding that he did nothing wrong by adding lots of overtime to his base pay shortly before retiring. “I don’t understand how the working guy that held up their end of the bargain became the problem,” he said.

Despite a pension investigation by the New York attorney general, an audit concluding that some police officers in the city broke overtime rules to increase their payouts and the mayor’s statements that future pensions should be based on regular pay, not overtime, these practices persist in Yonkers.


In fact, the cost of public pensions has been systemically underestimated nationwide for more than two decades, say some analysts. By these estimates, state and local officials have promised $5 trillion worth of benefits while thinking they were committing taxpayers to roughly half that amount.

The use of public money for outsize retirement pay really stings when budgets don’t balance, teachers are being laid off, furloughs are being planned and everything from poison-control centers to Alzheimer’s day care is being cut, as is happening in New York.

According to pension data collected by The New York Times from the city and state, about 3,700 retired public workers in New York are now getting pensions of more than $100,000 a year, exempt from state and local taxes. The data belie official reports that the average state pension is a modest $18,000, or $38,000 for retired police officers and firefighters. (The average is low, in part, because it includes people who worked in government only part time, or just a few years, as well as surviving spouses getting partial benefits.)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Popular Local Muslim Figure Arrested on Federal Charges

RALEIGH — A prominent member of the Muslim community who worked to better relations with law enforcement agencies was arrested Wednesday and charged with exporting computer equipment to Libya without a license.

Mohammed “Moe” El-Gamal of Raleigh, the president of the Muslim American Public Affairs Council, appeared today before a federal judge who agreed to release him on $1 million bail before his trial.

El-Gamal’s lawyer, Dan Boyce said his client would plead not guilty.

More than 40 members of the Triangle Muslim community crowded into U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge James Gates’ courtroom, dismayed by the charges against El-Gamal, an Egyptian native who immigrated to Canada in 1978.

“It’s not fair,” said Burhan Ghanayem, a retired pharmacologist from Durham. “Are they trying to make a point that we in the Muslim community are targeted?”


The charges date back to 2006 and 2007 and involve the shipment of less than $50,000 worth of Cisco routers and Dell storage devices, including encryption data cards.

Richard Jereski, an agent with the Office of Export Enforcement in the Department of Commerce, testified that El-Gamal lied about having a license to sell the equipment to Libya, which at that time was considered a state sponsor of terrorism.

“He explained he understood the licensing restrictions and said he had the appropriate licenses,” said Jereski. “We researched our database and found no license ever issued to the defendant.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Rand Paul’s Libertarian Achilles Heel

Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky, is claiming that the “loony left” is attacking him, after being questioned by MSNBC talk-show host Rachel Maddow about his views on civil rights. It turns out that Paul had announced his bid for the Senate seat on the same Rachel Maddow show and had returned in order to bask in the glow of his victory on Tuesday over Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. It backfired in a big way.


In practical terms, libertarianism usually means open borders, legal dope and prostitution, abortion and gay rights, and an American military withdrawal from the rest of the world. The conservative aspect of libertarianism is an emphasis on limited government in economic affairs and termination of funding for global institutions such as the United Nations.

The danger for Paul is that, in the end, when his views are finally known, he may not please many conservatives or liberals. Libertarians are well-represented in Washington, D.C., in the activities of the Cato Institute, but the philosophy represents a very small segment of the voting population.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Left’s War on Free Speech

The arguments of the left are always specious, The left is utterly wedded to thought control.

The left pretends to be the biggest champion of free speech. When the New York Times writes articles about how our government was tracking the activities of terrorists, an action which directly endangered the lives of Americans by providing intelligence information to those terrorists who are at war with us, the sanctimonious left insisted that this newspaper was simply exercising its constitutional right of free speech and free press.


All this devotion which the left pretends to have for free speech is just like every other profession of values by the left: it is pure fraud, smirking lies, and measured injustice. Consider the position that Elena Kagan has taken toward free speech. She wrote in 1996 that free speech could be restricted if it directly or indirectly incited people to do harm, and Kagan noted the famous example of someone yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. She equates that with the notorious “hate speech” invented by the left.


What this deformed interpretation of the First Amendment means, in fact, is that Americans are forced into silence, or worse, into lying about their beliefs. The channeling of expression into politically correct ravines means that the entire purpose of the First Amendment, which is to have speak which is the product of free minds and consciences, is lost.


The left is utterly wedded to thought control. Like all sibling totalitarianisms, the left in America is addicted to power and repelled by truth. The creation of officially defined oppressors and officially defined victims determines who has rights and who does not.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Unions to Spend $100 Million to Save Dem Majorities

‘Those tea-baggers are out there. There is an anti-incumbency mood out there’

At least two influential unions will spend close to $100 million on the 2010 election, with most of those funds going to protect incumbents.

Union officials told The Hill they plan to help endangered members — particularly freshmen — who made politically difficult votes in a year during which an anti-incumbent mood has filled the country.

And the number will be even higher since the AFL-CIO declined to give its figures.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cars: First 2 Pumps for Electric Cars in Madrid

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 20 — The City of Madrid has today opened its first two charging points for electric cars, which marks the opening in the capital of the international fair for ecological cars and sustainable mobility, which is being held between today and Sunday in the Spanish capital. The two recharging stops for electric cars were opened by the mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, who along with representatives from the companies Endesa, ACS-Cobre, Iberdrola and Gas Natural-Union Fenosa, announced the approval of a standard protocol for 500 electro-pumps that are expected to be installed in the city by the end of the year. “The collaboration between the Administrations and private enterprise make the ecological alternative a reality,” Gallardon told the media. The standard protocol, the first to be approved in Spain, determines the location of the electric recharge points so that future demand can be satisfied in any area of the capital. The model of electro-pumps comes with three types of connection: a “safe” connection to the electrical network; the chance to “count the energy consumed and the duration of connection”; and the capacity to identify the user by a card or a key-ring, which will be handed out to the owners of electric vehicles who request it. Gallardon anticipates that “the recharging of electric cars in Madrid will be free until the end of 2011,” so as to promote the use of this type of vehicle in the capital. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Corsica: A Summer Brimming With Culture

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 21 — The lively cultural scene on the French island of Corsica is being highlighted this summer with the re-opening of museums, the organisation of some ambitions exhibitions and the upgrading of some of its sites. The Fiesch Palace in Ajaccio is set to re-open at the end of June following extensive modernisation works. The museum holds the largest collection of Italian painting after that of the Louvre. The re-opening will be accompanied by three exhibitions: one dedicated to Napoleon’s kid brother, “Lucien Bonaparte, a man of talent”. Titian’s “Strange gloved man”, is at the centre of a painting hanging in the Fiesch Palace, with a further six portraits by the master, including that of the “Young Englishman” from the Pitti Palace and the two “Gloved Men” from the Louvre. “Drawing in Florence at the time of Michelangelo” gathers together works by Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Salviati. Planned for the start of July is the re-opening of the Bastia Museum, the Governors’ Palace, dedicated to the history of the ancient capital of Corsica under Genovese rule, its political, social and economic might and its intellectual and artistic richness. The exhibition “Visions of Bastia, Images of a Corsican City 1770-1939” is a visual journey using the eyes of painters, graphic artists and photographers of the island, both French and foreign, whether famed or anonymous. On June 26 the exhibition “The Confraternity of Corsica, an Ideal Society in the Mediterranean” will open at the Corsica di Corte Museum. It will be dedicated to the Penitents, a movement whose development in Corsica was favoured by the Franciscans. After its suppression under the Revolution and rehabilitation under the Empire, it has continued up to the present, as the exhibition shows through 240 works and objects stemming from Corsica and many European countries. The Summer of Culture is also being graced by the upgrading and renovation of some archaeological sites such as the megalithic one at Sartene, the Bronze Age township of Levie and the pre-Roman necropolis of Aleria. To round off this review, there is the exhibition in the church of the convent of Morsiglia: “Naufrage avec spectateur” an installation by Corsican artist Claudio Parmiggiani, with a 14.80 metre-long boat brought from Sardinia to Marseilles. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Dutch JSF Participation Uncertain

Dutch parliament has accepted a motion calling for Dutch withdrawal from the Joint Strike Fighter development programme’s testing phase.

And just like that, Dutch support for participating in the ambitious JSF-project vanished. On Thursday, during this parliament’s last official session, a slim majority voted in favour of a motion introduced by the Labour party that called upon the cabinet to end Dutch participation in the ‘operational test phase’ of Lockheed Martin’s JSF-project. The US plane manufacturer is seeking to develop a new generation fighter jet that can replace the F-16s currently used by the Dutch armed forces.

The motion fell short of a definitive refusal to invest billions, but it is the latest step in a long political march in that direction which began in 2002. Labour has played a key role in this process along the way, as it did last Thursday.

During Thursday’s debate Labour member of parliament Angeline Eijsink said continued participation “is no longer financially responsible”. She called upon the government to stop spending money on its first test aircraft “effective immediately”.

Parties that had always opposed the JSF, hailing from both sides of the political spectrum, rejoiced. The projects biggest proponents, Christian Democratic CDA and right-wing liberal VVD, were disappointed. The two parties were reduced to supporting extras in a drama written and directed by Labour for the benefit of its electoral campaign in the run-up to the June 9 election. VVD member of parliament Han ten Broeke called the move “yet another [Labour] flip-flop”.

A year ago, after a turbulent debate that was preceded by extensive persuasive efforts by Labour’s coalition partners — CDA and the orthodox Christian ChristenUnie — Labour grudgingly agreed to purchase a single JSF test aircraft. A decision regarding a second one would be postponed to a later date. Last Thursday, Labour withdrew its support for this compromise because, the party claimed, the conditions for purchase of the test aircraft had not been met. Labour left the governing coalition over another military issue in February.

Technical setbacks have delayed the first test flights in the US and the project has been plagued by incessant budget overruns. The US congress has already decided to increase its oversight of the project for those same reasons. For Labour, this offered sufficient grounds to end Dutch participation in the test phase.

According to CDA and VVD, a decision in the matter should not be taken until the summer, when the next progress report is due. They fear Labour’s move is a prelude to a full withdrawal from the JSF project. These fears are fuelled by the new austerity measures the party proposed earlier this week. Labour’s has listed scrapping the JSF project as a potential 500 million euro cost reduction.

Is Labour really looking to pull the plug on the project? On Thursday, Eijsink refused to get ahead of matters, but she did point to a recent defence ministry study outlining fundamental choices for the future of the armed forces. A debate over those choices would call the need for the JSF into question. If Labour has anything to say about it anyway. New elections will determine if it will.

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

Excessively Loud Music Violates Human Rights

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG — Excessively loud music from a bar violates the right to live serenely in one’s own home. This has been established by the European Court of Human Rights which has condemned the Croatian authorities for not having promptly taken action to bring to tolerable levels the music being played in a bar at Rijeka (Fiume). Marina Oluic, the complainant, lives in a building in which, in 1999, one of the owners opened a bar. In 2001, the woman appealed to the local health authorities complaining about the excessive noise coming from the bar which opened every day from 7 in the morning to midnight. Several measurements made in the Oluic family home confirmed that the noise-level was way beyond allowed limits, even 15 decibels. Moreover, the complainant’s daughter has a certified hearing problem so that the noise is a counter-indicated factor. The Authorities invited the bar’s owner several times to introduce the necessary measures to reduce the disturbance caused, but 9 years passed before the noise produced was brought within the allowed limits of the law. The Strasbourg judges have established that the complainant must receive compensation for 15 thousand Euros in moral damages. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Far-Right Group Raided

‘Militia’ threatened Jewish leader, city mayor

(ANSA) — Rome, May 21 — Italian police on Friday raided offices, discos and gyms used by a far-right group called Militia which has threatened Rome’s Jewish community and the city’s right-wing mayor, Gianni Alemanno.

Police said the group was planning “violent action” against the head of Rome’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici.

Four members of Militia have been placed under investigation for vandalising a Rome monument commemorating victims of the Nazis and for daubing slogans against Alemanno including one that called him a “traitor” for attending events marking the WWII Resistance.

In the late 1980s Alemanno was head of the youth section of the now-defunct neo-Fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), which has long since moved into the conservative mainstream as National Alliance, a rightwing party that merged with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party two years ago. One Militia slogan read Praise and Glory for the Fascists, Death to Partisans, police said.

Another said the mayor should get get A One-Way Ticket To Auschwitz.

Far-right literature was confiscated in the raids as well as machetes, baseball bats and clubs.

Police said one of the four placed under investigation is a former member of the now-defunct far-right militant group Ordine Nuovo (New Order), several of whose members were implicated in bomb attacks during Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’, a term used for 1970s and 1980s leftist and rightist terrorist attacks.

Alemanno hailed the operation, saying: “This police intervention was absolutely right because these threats, this kind of dark shadow over the city, were very negative and upsetting”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Venetian Mourners Brave Perils to Visit Departed

Hard hats required at Stravinsky’s place of eternal rest

(ANSA) — Rome, May 21 — After over a year of not being able to pay their respects, mourners will now be able to visit their loved ones in a decaying part of a historic Venetian cemetery although they will have to brave the danger of falling debris to do so.

On Thursday management reopened a section housing the tombs of around 300 people on the Venetian lagoon island of San Michele that had been closed for safety reasons.

But the area is still not totally secure, so friends and relatives must wear hard hats and be accompanied by staff members on visits.

The agency that runs the cemetery, the final resting place of numerous famous figures including Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Sergei Diaghilev, Ezra Pound and Luigi Nono, said it does not have the funds needed to fully restore the affected area.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Ally Denies Mafia Link

Palermo, 21 May (AKI) — A conservative Italian senator and close political associate of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday denied the political party they founded in the 1990s resulted from negotiations between the Italian state and the Sicilian mafia. Marcello Dell’Utri is currently appealing a nine-year jail term for mafia association handed to him in 2004.

“There was no pact between the mafia and Forza Italia,” said one of Dell’Utri’s lawyers, Antonino Mormino.

Forza Italia was the party founded by Berlusconi and Dell’Utri in 1994.

In sensational evidence given earlier this year, the son of late mafia member and mayor of Palermo, Vito Cianciamino, Massimo Ciancimino, claimed Forza Italia resulted from a deal between the Italian state and the Sicilian mafia or Cosa Nostra.

Ciancimino also said that Dell’Utri had direct links with jailed Sicilian boss Bernardo Provenzano and was involved in secret negotiations with the Sicilian mob after it murdered a top anti-mafia judge in 1992.

These claims were also rejected by Mormino. “Senator Marcello Dell’Utri has never been an intermediary and has never abetted the mafia,” he said.

Dell’Utri’s relationship with Berlusconi was one of longstanding friendship dating back to their university days and their shared love of football, Mormino claimed.

Mafia informant Gaspare Spatuzza testified in 2009 that jailed Sicilian mafia boss Giuseppe Graviano told him in 1994 Berlusconi was helping the mafia.

In his testimony, Spatuzza also made accusations about Dell’Utri.

“The person from whom we obtained everything was Berlusconi and also one of our countrymen, Dell’Utri,” said Spatuzza, who was Graviano’s assistant.

Prosecutors in the Sicilian regional capital, Palermo, in April asked for Dell’Utri to be sentenced to 11 years in prison for mafia association.

Dell’Utri had repeatedly tried to tamper with new evidence against him to ensure the approval of two pieces of legislation that favoured the Sicilian mafia, prosecutors said.

Dell’Utri is due to be sentenced later this year, possibly as soon as in June.

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

Jürgen Habermas Gives German Political Elites a Sharp Dressing-Down

Die Zeit 20.05.2010

Jürgen Habermas gives Germany’s “flabby political elites” a sharp dressing-down, for the way they move from one rescue packet to the next with such alarming indifference to the state of the European landscape. “The solipsistic and ethically apathetic mentality of a self-preoccupied Colossus at the centre of Europe is not sufficient even to ensure that the European Union maintains its unstable status quo.” Far and wide, Habermas sighs, no one seems to recognise that we have come to the end of an era. “This is not about about ‘Greek cheating’ or Spanish ‘delusions of affluence’ any more, it’s about creating an economic-political alignment of development levels within a monetary zone of heterogeneous national economies.”

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

Pipeline Between Greece and Italy Running From 2016

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — The pipeline at the centre of the project due to link Greece with the Brindisi coast in Italy, crossing Albania and the Adriatic sea, could be operation by 2016-2017. The news emerged today in Brussels in a deal that the German group E.on Ruhrga signed with Swiss company EGL and Norwegian group Statoil, the two leading groups in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project. The German company therefore becomes a part of the TAP group with a 15% share, while EGL and Statoil each continue to hold a 42.5% share. Estimated total investment for the project, which is due to run 520 kilometres, is of roughly a billion and a half euros. The new corridor is expected to connect producers in the Caspian and Middle East regions with EU consumers, particularly in Italy. “In Italy, we have a deal with SNAM,” said Kjetil Tungland, director of TAP, “and we are a partner of the government agreement between Italy and Albania for the supply of electricity and gas. We are talking to the Italian government and local authorities: we have not yet sealed an agreement, but we have a good level of cooperation at all levels. At any rate, there will be a need for all three governments involved (Italian, Albanian and Greek) to agree on the fundamental principles of the project”. Tungland believes that the first gas supply could arrive in Italy “in 2016-2017”. The project is still being defined but it is thought that the transport capacity could be expanded from 10 billion cubic metres per year to 20 million cubic metres, depending on the supply. “This is central and southern Europe’s most promising plan,” said Jochen Weis, a member of the executive committee of E.on Ruhrgas,”and it will be important for Italy because it will be able to diversify its sources, becoming Europe’s main hub. We are able to resupply the peninsula at competitive prices”. Despite the impact of the crisis, “we are confident that energy demand will rise in Europe and we are sure that there is a market for gas”. TAP is also planning to develop storing facilities for natural gas in Albania, to ensure supply inn case of interruption of gasflow. As for the suppliers, Azerbaijan has been mooted as a possibility, but turning to Iran has not been ruled out. “At the moment,” said Hans Schulz, chairman of EGL, “there are no rules forbidding the purchase of gas from Iran”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Planes: Airbus Delivers First A380 to Lufthansa

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 20 — Airbus delivered to Lufthansa the first of the 15 A380 aircrafts commissioned. Three more, according to a release from the constructor company, will be delivered during 2010. Lufthansa announced that its new aircraft will be used on the Tokyo, Beijing and Johannesburg routes. Since the beginning of the A380 programme Lufthansa and Airbus, a release explains, worked together in a tight collaboration, starting from the aircraft’s design to its certification. Between 2005 and 2010 the A380 underwent several air traffic compatibility tests in Frankfurt’s Lufthansa branch. Lufthansa and Airbus have a longtime collaboration. In 1976 Lufthansa operated the first Airbus A300B4. With 274 orders to date, the German company is at the moment Airbus’ main client. Almost all the company’s models are present in the present Airbus fleet of the airline, which owns more than 180 aircrafts. So Lufthansa becomes the fifth airline ever to introduce the A380 in service. Today’s aircraft is the 28th A380 aircraft to become operative inside a leader airlines’ worldwide route network.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Socrates Government Survives Motion

(ANSAmed) — LISBON, MAY 21 — Portugal’s socialist minority government of Premier José Socrates today survived a motion of censure thanks to the abstention of the centre-right. The motion was presented by the leftwing opposition against the latest austerity measures decided by Lisbon. The motion was signed by the Portuguese communist party (Pcp) and backed by the greens and former Trotskyists. It obtained 39 votes in favour and 92 against (the socialists), and 89 abstentions (Ps and Cds, centre-right). The two centre-right parties decided to support — to “fight the attacks of speculation” — the readjustment of public finances issued by Socrates, which includes a freeze of wages and turnover, cuts to social expenditure and public investments, an increase of the VAT rate and of income tax. The clampdown was introduced by Socrates to bring the public deficit back down below 3%, after it rose to 9.4% in 2009. In Parliament the Premier used the word “irresponsible” to describe the attempt of the left to “add a political crisis to the financial crisis”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain-Portugal: Favour Grows for Union, Within Europe

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — It is not just a matter of getting their clocks to tell the same time by doing away with the old time-zone difference: Portugal’s citizens are becoming increasingly favourable to the idea of an integrated Iberian state with Spain, as there is strength in unity, especially with Europe. This is the message coming from the latest annual survey conducted by the University of Salamanca, which has been presented today. While, in 2009, 39.9% of Portuguese supported the idea of a federation of Iberian states and 30.3% of Spain’s citizens shared their opinions, these percentages have risen in 2010 to 45.6% and 31% respectively. Conducted in collaboration with Lisbon’s Centre of Sociological Investigative Studies, the report is based on around 2,000 individual interviews. Presenting the survey to the media, the heads of the study, Salvador Santiuste and Mariano Fernandez, explained that the barometer proposed four different formulas of integration, which attract great consensus as they become more flexible. By these measures, on a scale from 1 to 10, neither the Portuguese nor the Spanish are in favour of a model along the lines of the French republic, which got on 3.82 among the former and 3.30 among the latter. The different notion of a federal state attracted a higher average mark: 4.08 from the Portuguese and 4.63 from the Spanish. But this was still below the support given to the idea of a confederation along Swiss lines, which got a mark of 4.74 from the Portuguese and one of 4.12 from their Iberian cousins. The model of integration with the greatest appeal was one according full rights to citizens of each of the neighbouring countries. The Portuguese gave this a warm 6.61 points and the Spanish 6.20; this was similar to the result attained by the proposal for creating a stable alliance within the European Union and ahead of Latin America (6.14 from the Portuguese; 6.20 from their neighbours). Overall, there has been growth in the number of citizens considering relations between the two countries to be “good or very good” (74.4 of Portuguese and 74.3% of Spaniards). The more than one thousand kilometres of shared borders are not considered to be a problem, although, following the arrests of ETA members in Portugal, there was a rise in the number of Portuguese who considered the closeness of the two countries to be “very, or quite problematic”: up at 39.1% compared to the 25.3% from 2009. As for collaboration in various fields, close cooperation in policing, in the courts and in military matters was considered a priority, given that 94% of Portuguese interviewees and 92.8% of Spanish interviewees were of this opinion.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedish Police Suspects Sabotage of KLM Aircraft

Swedish police are investigating a case of suspected sabotage on a KLM passenger aircraft at Linkoping City Airport. Police spokesman Roland Carlson says a bomb squad is on its way to the airport, but would not give more details Saturday.

The Fokker 70 airliner was scheduled to leave for Amsterdam on Saturday morning, but was canceled. Airport CEO Torbjorn Mortensen says staff alerted police early Saturday after discovering there had been a break-in over night. (AP)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Prostitutes Should be at Least 18, Agree Feds

The cabinet has endorsed a proposal by parliament to raise the legal age of prostitution from 16 to 18.

The motion urges the government to sign the Council of Europe accord to protect children under 18 from sexual exploitation and abuse.

The motion was filed by a representative of the Christian Democratic Party. It argues that allowing prostitution at 16 can result in young women — immigrants in particular — being taken unfair advantage of.

Prostitution is legal in Switzerland but prostitutes have to register with city and health authorities as well as get regular health checks.

On May 1 a new prostitution law, with an article banning prostitutes under 18, came into effect in Geneva; St Gallen’s cantonal parliament passed a similar vote last April.

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

Transplants: Europe Adopts Spanish Model

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 19 — Europe has adopted the Spanish system for organ transplants, introducing a coordination system for donations that will help save at least 20,000 lives per year. The directive on “quality and safety regulations for human organs to be used in transplants”, with the plan of action on donations and transplants was approved today by a wide majority in European Parliament. European MP Andres Perellò, speaking to ANSAmed about the plan of action underlined that “with this vote, Europe has given hope to those who suffer from the anxiety of not being able to survive while waiting for an organ that they need.” In addition to providing greater guarantees to organ recipients, the programme promotes donations among living people, which will be voluntary and unpaid. It also introduces measures to track organs, namely with an inspection that begins with the donor, follows its path and arrives to the recipient, still with guaranteed anonymity. The objective is to manage reconstructing the path an organ takes at any time in case health problems arise and in such a way that its origin does not bring about any added risk for the recipient. Spain, which is the top country in the world for donations, in the past two years has negotiated to coordinate European organ donation policies and now the approval of the directive represents a success for the country’s EU presidency term. One of the arguments in favour is that if Europe is able to arrive at a similar rate of donation to that of Spain, 34 donors per million people, compared to the current EU average (18 per million), it would be possible to save over 20,000 lives on the continent. Differences from country to country are enormous, if one imagines that the rate of donors in Bulgaria is 1.1 per million people. In Europe, each year there are 40,000 organ transplants, but at least 56,000 people are on waiting lists and each day 15 people die because the organ they need is not available, but also due to a lack of efficient coordination and trained personnel in the IC units locating possible donors and speaking with their families. With this objective in mind, the plan of action will create national authorities and coordinators in hospitals in each of the 27 EU-members, to identify possible recipients at a central level and to not lose any organs that are available and compatible. The directive also consolidates the system of organ donation among living people, where the donors will not receive compensation for their organ, just as blood, egg and sperm donors, except for the losses brought about by their donation involving travel and missed days at work. The amendments approved by Parliament emphasised the value of altruism as the cornerstone of organ donations, with the elimination of any type of organ selling. From the start of the approval of the directive, states have two years to adapt their national regulations. The implementation of the directive should benefit 500 million people residing in the EU, a much greater pool of donors than in the United States.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Keep Secret Files on 1,900 Protesters

The police are keeping secret intelligence files and photographs of nearly 1,900 so-called domestic extremists, it can be revealed.

Details of the intelligence and pictures gathered at marches and other demonstrations comes as the new Government questions whether civil liberties and the right to peaceful protest have been eroded by New Labour’s extension of police and anti-terrorist legislation.

The information has been built up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Britain’s most powerful national policing body, whose future is in doubt after it was revealed that it was being run as a private company.

After taking over MI5’s covert role watching groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, trade union activists and Left-wing journalists six years ago, ACPO’s National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism (NCDE) has now given a detailed description of its work for the first time.

It says it is targeting domestic extremism ‘most commonly associated with “single-issue” protests, such as animal rights, environmentalism, anti-globalisation or anti-GM crops’.

It is also combating ‘crime and public disorder linked to extreme Left or Right-wing political campaigns’.

The details of the NCDE’s role have been posted on ACPO’s website. It states: ‘Clearly, the majority of people involved in animal rights, environmentalism and other campaigns are peaceful protesters and never considered “extremist’’.

The term only applies to individuals or groups whose activities go outside the normal democratic process and engage in crime and disorder in order to further their campaign.’

It says those targeted are behind public disorder offences, malicious letters and emails, blackmail, product contamination, damage to property and the use of improvised explosive devices.

The £9million-a-year unit, which has a staff of 100 including around 70 police, holds photos and other background details on 1,822 individuals.

It says: ‘Considering this is a national database…this is a very small number of people.’

Most files and photographs are ‘only retained for a short period’, although some are held for ‘several years’.

The information comes from police forces and is collated from other sources, including the media, to build up a picture of ‘extremist’ activity.

The unit, headed by Assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell, denies allegations that it is stifling lawful protest.

It says: ‘Thousands of people take part in protests across the country each year and NCDE fully supports people’s rights to democratically express their views on issues they feel strongly about.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Legion Leaders Absolve Themselves Before They Sink

In an internal memo, published here, they say they never knew anything about the double life of their founder, Maciel. But the judgment of the Vatican authorities says otherwise. The imminent appointment of the papal delegate

ROME, May 17, 2010 — Back from Portugal, Benedict XVI finds on his agenda once again the arduous case of the Legionaries of Christ.

Soon the pope will have to implement the three decisions announced in the statement of the Holy See on May 1: the appointment of a papal delegate with full powers over the Legion; the appointment of a commission to study the constitutions of the congregation; the appointment of an apostolic visitor for its lay movement, Regnum Christi.


As for the delegate, the only candidacy taken under consideration at the Vatican meeting on April 30 and May 1, that of Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, 77, the outgoing archbishop of Guadalajara, has had no follow-up. The cardinal has said that he was not approached and does not consider himself to be the right person, while saying that in any case he is at the disposal of the Holy Father, bound to him by the oath of obedience.

But there is an interesting passage in the note concerning this published on May 7 on the website of the Mexican bishops’ conference: the one in which Cardinal Sandoval expresses his hope that the delegate will be one of the five bishops who recently concluded the apostolic visitation of the Legion.

Among these, the two most likely candidates seem to be Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, the Salesian bishop of Concepción, 68, Chilean but Italian by birth, and Giuseppe Versaldi, bishop of Alessandria, 67, an expert canonist. Both enjoy the complete trust of cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone. And both are rising stars in their respective episcopates, the former rumored to be the next archbishop of Santiago, Chile, the latter of Turin: one of these appointments would have to be set aside if the nod went to either of them, for an undertaking that will demand a great deal of time and energy.


In addition to the appointment of the delegate, the anticipation also concerns the powers that will be attributed to him, and his future working agenda.

There are also interesting passages on this, in another note that appeared on May 6 on the website of the episcopal conference of Mexico, the country in which the Legionaries of Christ were founded and have their greatest following.

In it, the current leaders of the Legion are criticized in no uncertain terms. They are accused of “pressuring the pope to act in favor of their interests.” It is taken for granted, as a result, that the papal delegate “will remove en bloc the current governing council of the Legionaries and the regional directors.” And it is predicted that the Legion, in order to “refound itself” on the basis of a new charism, and to make a clean break with its unworthy founder Marcial Maciel, will also have to give up its current name, perhaps returning to its original name of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady of Sorrows.


Both at the Vatican, therefore, given the extremely severe statement of May 1, and in a bishops’ conference as pivotal as the Mexican one is, the views of the trustworthiness of the current heads of the Legionaries are entirely negative.

And yet, these same leaders, and in particular their two highest representatives, director general Álvaro Corcuera and vicar general Luís Garza Medina, both Mexican, continue to present themselves as the men best suited to stay in the saddle, even during the transition phase.

Publicly, the two of them, and Garza in particular, have done this with statements and interviews, before the Vatican statement on May 1.

But it is above all on the inside that they are trying to convince. With constant talks, meetings, letters, they are pressing for the allegiance of the hundreds of priests and religious of the Legion who are most disoriented after the revelations of the unworthy life of the founder.

The longer it takes for the papal delegate to arrive, the more Corcuera and Garza are counting on fortifying the internal consensus around them, making their removal — they hope — more difficult, if not impossible.

One clear sign of their intentions is in the internal memo that the territorial heads of the Legion sent to their subordinates on May 5.

The complete text of this memo — made public on May 6 by the Italian blog “Settimo cielo,” linked to www.chiesa — is reproduced further below.

In it, the current leaders of the Legion not only minimize the damaging force of the Vatican statement on May 1, but they also deny the accusation that they knew for many years about the double life of founder Marcial Maciel, and covered it up.

In fact, they write in the memo that when the Vatican statement says that “most of the Legionaries were unaware of this life,” this “means that the majority knew nothing, including those who are currently in command of the Legion.”

But then who made up the “system of power” that — as the Vatican statement affirms — built around Maciel a “mechanism of defense” of his unworthy life, with the “silence of the entourage” and with the “deplorable discrediting and ostracism of those who doubted his upright behavior”? Of whom was it composed, if not the leaders of today and yesterday?

Implausibly, after absolving themselves this way, the authors of the memo add that “it remains to be examined whether there was culpability on the part of those whom the Vatican statement mentions.” As if, in addition to the double life of Maciel, there was also a double leadership at the head of the Legion, the second of them also kept concealed.


As for the agenda of the delegate whom the pope will appoint, a hypothetical game plan has been sketched out by Catholic American intellectual George Weigel, in an extensive commentary on the website of the magazine “First Things.”

According to Weigel, a first imperative must be the total repudiation of the “grand narrative” linking the history of the Legion to the figure of its founder, Maciel, whose merits many continue to praise even though they recognize his offenses.

One glaring example of how well this “grand narrative” has worked, even outside of the Legion, is given by a homily addressed to the Legionaries by Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Vatican congregation for religious, on July 29, 2007, more than a year after the papal condemnation of their founder:

“What brings admiration in the Legion of Christ is the fruit of the genius of Fr. Maciel. The Lord has blessed you in recent years with many vocations, and will continue to bless you if you remain faithful to the charism he left to you. Where must the origin, the source of Fr. Maciel’s wisdom be sought? In his love for Christ, in his love for the Church. That is where the secret of his life and the secret of his work lies. It is this that permitted him to build an outreach of global dimensions.”

Once this “grand narrative” has been eliminated, the steps suggested by Weigel are the following:

— removing the current central and territorial leaders en bloc, and expelling the ones tainted by complicity with Maciel;

— suspending the acceptance of new vocations;

— identifying the inspirational charism on which to rebuild the Legion from scratch;

— convening a general chapter to dissolve the Legion and reconstitute a new religious congregation, with a new statute, with a new name and with carefully screened members.

Realistic or not, the agenda suggested by Weigel will be a long time coming.

To which it must be added that Benedict XVI will meet with some of the victims of Maciel’s abuse. This was confirmed by one of the five visitors, Mexican bishop Ricardo Watti Urquidi, in an interview on Televisa.

The following is the memo that the territorial heads of the Legion sent to their subordinates on May 5, 2010.

The statement to which the memo refers is the one released by the Holy See last May 1, at the end of the meeting between the Vatican authorities and the five apostolic visitors charged with inspecting the Legion, reproduced with commentary in this article from www.chiesa:

> The Big “Wager.” How to Remake the Legion from Scratch



1. The Holy See has asked us that this be a time of reflection and prayer, so it is not appropriate for us to make comments or declarations about the Statement. This is the reason why we have not made any further public statements.

This does not imply that we are not helping and communicating the essential elements to foster peace, unity, and the acceptance of the Statement. On the contrary, within the contents of the Statement and with due prudence, we must communicate and offer accompaniment across various channels, above all personal and group. As for the precise details, we must at every moment adhere to the fact that we have no official information beyond that of the Statement itself. As soon as we receive further information, we will communicate it to you. In the meantime, we must not allow ourselves to draw conclusions or interpretations in this regard.

2. Nonetheless, it is necessary that you help all (Legionaries, consecrated members, members and friends of Regnum Christi, benefactors, employees) to:

a. Accept the dispositions of the Holy See with profound faith in God and with filial obedience to the Holy Father.

b. Exert ourselves to build unity among all, and in a special way with the Holy Father. One must come away from every meeting with a meek and humble heart.

c. Strengthen trust in the Providence of God and face the future with great serenity and with a positive spirit.

d. Concentrate on the greatness and urgency of the mission of evangelization that obligates the Church, and us within it. It is there, on the proclamation of the Gospel, on the salvation of souls and on the extension of the Kingdom of Christ, that we keep our eyes focused.

3. So also, help the positive parts of the Statement on the Legion to be understood as well. Many communication outlets are spreading only the corrections and the negative aspects, which tends to distort many of the messages.

4. In personal attention, in the meetings and conferences that are held in the communities, in groups, in the sections and activities, it is necessary to clarify some mistaken messages that certain media are spreading:

a. The Statement does not speak of “refounding,” but rather of “profound revision” and “purification.”

b. It does not speak of changing the charism, instead it speaks of the “core charism that belongs to the Legionaries of Christ and is proper to them,” of the “need to redefine the charism . . . while preserving the true core,” of “an authentic gift from God, a treasure for the Church”; the pope “urges them not to lose sight of the fact that their vocation, sprung from the call of Christ and inspired by the ideal of being witnesses of his love to the world, is an authentic gift from God, a treasure for the Church, the indestructible foundation on which to build their personal future and that of the Legion.”

c. It is not a rejection of the Legion of Christ by the pope. Rather it says that “the pope renews to all the Legionaries of Christ, to their families, to the laypeople involved in the movement Regnum Christi, his encouragement, at this difficult moment, for the congregation and for each one of them.” And “the Holy Father intends to reassure all the Legionaries and members of the movement Regnum Christi that they will not be left alone: the Church has the firm intention of accompanying and assisting them in the journey of purification that is waiting for them.”

d. When it says that “most of the Legionaries were unaware of this life [of Marcial Maciel],” this means that the majority knew nothing, including those who are currently in command of the Legion. It remains to be examined whether there was culpability on the part of those whom the Statement mentions.

e. Regarding the Delegate, the Holy Father has not specified the name of the person, his faculties, or the dates. Nor has there been any further information about the apostolic visitation to the consecrated members of Regnum Christi, although this has been confirmed.

Divine Providence has permitted us to experience this path of purification. Living it with faith, hope, and charity is an opportunity that God offers us to give witness to his love. Let us see it as an opportunity for evangelization.


The two notes posted on the website of the episcopal conference of Mexico, cited in this article:

> El pulso del Papa: “Intervención a la Legión”

> El Cardenal Sandoval y Los Legionarios de Cristo


Extensive citations from the homily addressed to the Legionaries of Christ on July 29, 2007, by Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Vatican congregation for religious, in an article in “Famiglia Cristiana” on May 5, 2010:

> Dossier. I Legionari traditi


George Weigel’s commentary in “First Things”:

> Next Acts in the Legionary Drama


The official website of the Legionaries:

> Legionaries of Christ


A list of all the articles from www.chiesa on the Legionaries of Christ:



English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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


EU Agency: Balkans Will Pay Membership Dearly

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 19 — The western Balkan countries will have to pay dearly their EU membership on the environmental front, so as to have water and waste services in line with European directive standards. It is one of the items emerging from the latest report by the European Environmental Agency, “Trend in the western Balkans”. The paper, taking into consideration Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia, speaks clearly of high costs to be sustained over the next years for the supply of drinking water and effluent water treatment, as well as big gaps in waste disposal systems, which today mostly ends up in pits. According to the EU agency, various drinking water networks in the western Balkan region suffer from scarce maintenance, whereas in some countries access to drinking water is still limited. The cost of initiatives required to adhere to the European parameters, just for Albania, is estimated at about 1.7 billion US dollars, whereas for Croatia, at the photo-finish in its membership negotiations, the National water management strategy marks a required 4.5 billion Euro investment. The experience of the 12 new EU Member States, which already had water infrastructures before joining the European Union, is highly significant as to costs, as they still have to spend 35 billion Euros just for effluent water treatment. “Even if the cost for the western Balkans,” reports the document, “is not e yet accurately defined, it is clear that this work will require great investments in the next decades”. As concerns waste disposal, the preferred destination in the Balkans is still the pit, whilst illegal dumping remains a big issue to be solved. In rapid growth is the quantity of packaging, electronic waste and old cars, not tackled by suitable recycling programmes. It is a cause for concern that certain sanitary, industrial and dangerous wastes end up alongside common waste, instead of being treated separately. In general, the European agency speaks of “insufficient” urban waste collection services in various countries of the region, especially in rural areas. Various management structures are obsolete, whereas pits are abandoned, illegal or lacking the necessary maintenance. Even if the region’s countries have been equipped with new laws and management programmes, the EU environment agency considers it necessary to exercise a better control over their effective implementation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Albania: Berisha, Superb Relations Between the Countries

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, MAY 19 — “Our relationship with Italy is extraordinary, and Albania is depending greatly on the support and help that Italy has demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate to achieve the objective of European integration,” said Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha. The Premier was speaking at the conference, “Italian support for Albanian integration into the EU: a strategic partnership between Albania, Italy and the European Commission,” which is taking place in Tirana. “I would like to underline that for Albania and Albanian citizens, integration is our most essential and serious process, but it is also the most difficult process that the nation has faced until now,” he continued. “But the process must be based on merit, and this means that Albanians must meet the precise and concrete standards that the EU requires. In the last 20 years, Albania has transformed from one of the poorest countries in the world into a nation that has separated from that group. Italian solidarity has been extraordinary, and crucial investments have come from Italian businesses, which in recent years have invested five billion euros into Albania.” “Today, thanks to the assistance of the Italians,” he explained, “Albania has achieved standards that are superior compared to those of other European nations: a few years ago crime was a widespread problem, today the cooperation between the two shores provides organised crime with less space to operate. Albania continues to fight against corruption and also from this perspective, we are below European standards. Regarding infrastructure, we were in great difficulty, but today we are doing much better thanks to cooperation, with Italy in particular.” Berisha made note of the fact that there are 22,000 young Albanians who study in Italy and that there are 20,000 Albanian entrepreneurs working in Italy and investing, also in Albania. “No one knows Albania better than the Italians, who have always supported us, not only regarding standards: it was a leading country for our entrance into NATO, Minister Frattini made an extraordinary effort. In the next month we will be on the table for the agenda in Barcelona.” Berisha also spoke about Corridor 8, “among the most feasible, since it connects the continents and it restores the unstoppable path of the market”. The Albanian Prime Minister thanked Premier Berlusconi, Minister Raffaele Fitto, who was also present at the event in Tirana, and the Italian Ambassador in Albania, Saba D’Elia “with whom we have the same task, assisting Italian businesses”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: NATO: KFOR Cuts Planned to 5,000 Strong in 2010

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 20 — NATO may step up the pace of reducing its presence in Kosovo, taking the number of KFOR (Nato forces in Kosovo) troops down to 5,000. The news comes from the commander of allied forces, US Admiral James Stavridis, cited by the Tanjug agency today. Speaking in Washington, Stavridis confirmed that the situation in the Balkans “is not perfect, but is heading in the right direction”. “And I’m counting on reducing troop numbers in Kosovo from 15,000 to 10,000 and probably down to 5,000 by the end of this year” the admiral said. Over the past few months, the NATO General Secretary, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has announced a gradual cut-back in the 15,000-strong KFOR troops starting from the beginning of 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy-Egypt: Partnership Revived With 15 Agreements

(ANSAmed) — ROME — From research into farming production, to the opening of an Italian-Egyptian university in Cairo or Italy’s support for better exploitation of water networks in Egypt, cooperation between Rome and Cairo has been broadened by a series of agreements which, according to the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, make “exceptional” the “already excellent” collaboration between the two countries. The third intergovernmental summit was held in Villa Madama today. Here are the areas concerned by the 15 agreements that have revived the partnership. * AGRICULTURE — Cooperation will involve the respective research institutes in a number of fields, from farming production to rural development and better exploitation of Egypt’s water networks. * CULTURE — The agreements have paved the way for the creation of an Italian university in Cairo (“in record time”, hopes Berlusconi), while exchange programmes for teachers and students in Italian and Egyptian universities will be intensified, with a strengthening of Italian language teaching and the creation of an “Italy space” in the Cairo university of Ain Shams. * IMMIGRATION — Regulation will be introduced on the seasonal migration of workers from Egypt, aiding their integration into the Italian work market. At the same time, to discourage the migration of unaccompanied minors, Italy and Egypt will boost youth employment in some areas of the country. * ENVIRONMENT — Both sides are committed to consolidating the collaboration that began in 2003, especially in terms of sustainable development and the management of protected areas. * MINORS — Italy will put up 1.5 million euros to promote the protection of minors in certain key sectors, including female genital mutilation. * TRADE — As part of the 2009-2012 Action Plan, Italian-Egyptian businesses will cooperate in technological centres, logistics, transport and commodities, and Italian investments in certain productive regions of Egypt will be encouraged.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UFM: Idea of Mediterranean Bank Regains Popularity

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 18 — Ahead of the June summit in Barcelona of government and State leaders of the 43 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM), the idea to create a special bank to support of investments in the region is on the rise again. This became clear in Brussels, on the sidelines of the meeting of Economy Ministers of the FEMIP, the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership, the financial branch for the Mediterranean of the European Investment Bank. The idea is particularly backed by Italy and France. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who took the initiative of the 2008 summit in Paris in which the UFM was founded, has constituted a task force of experts to investigate the question, ahead of the Barcelona summit. The idea reportedly includes the hypothesis that 51% of the new financial institute is controlled by the FEMIP and 49% by the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Tunisia: First Islamic Finance Bank Opening Soon

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 21 — Banque Zitouna, the leading Tunisian bank specialising in Islamic finance for the marketing of financial products that respect sharia (Islamic law), will open counters in Tunis by the end of this month. Founded in 2009 by the Tunisian Mohamed Sakr El Materi, the son-in-law of the country’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, tha bank has an initital capital of 30 million dinars (around 15.5 million euros). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Infiltrators Killed, Attack on Israel Foiled

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 21 — After months of continuous attempts to infiltrate from the Gaza Strip, today two armed Palestinian militiamen managed for the first time to penetrate Israeli territory. They were killed by a military unit close to the Nirim kibbutz. At the moment the Israeli authorities found out about the presence of hostile elements, they ordered the people of several villages close to the Gaza Strip to take shelter; car traffic on a nearby road was blocked. The Palestinians (presumably associated with the Islamic Jihad) reportedly started from the city of Khan Yunes, in the south of the Gaza Strip. They succeeded in crossing the border fences thanks to a diversion created by their companions, who fired mortar salvos. Once the alarm had been sounded, armed vehicles and combat helicopters entered the scene. Israeli military leaders believe that the Palestinians were trying to enter the kibbutz of Nirim to carry out an attack. The two militiamen were intercepted and killed near the kibbutz of Kissufim. The Israeli forces suffered no losses in the operation. Tensions remained high after the two had been killed, because the firing of mortar salvos from Gaza was resumed. Yesterday afternoon a rocket was fired from Gaza in the direction of the Israeli city of Ashqelon, without making victims. Last night the Israeli air force replied with three raids against Palestinian tunnels, also without making victims. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Toy Watch Brand Arrives on Market

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 21 — Watches made by the Italian brand Toy Watch and created by the designer Marco Mavilla, have landed on the Israeli market. Among the plans of Toy Watch Israel is the opening of seven new outlets by the end of 2012. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pagan Altar Found at Israel Construction Site

Israel announced the discovery of a 2,000-year-old pagan altar at the site where plans for a new hospital wing have come under fire from ultra-Orthodox Jews who fear bones found there might be of Jews.

The find of what the Israel Antiquities Authority calls a “magnificent” altar gives a boost to the authorities at a time when ultra-orthodox Jews condemned the removal of bones from ancient graves at the site in the southern city of Ashkelon.

“The find further corroborates the assertion that this place is a pagan cemetery,” the IAA said in a statement late on Thursday. The altar is about 60 centimeters tall and is decorated with a bull’s head from which dangle laurel wreaths. Such altars usually stood in Roman temples, the statement said.

It was discovered as the IAA was overseeing development of a hospital wing designed to withstand rockets fired from the nearby Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants.

Angry protest

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in black suits and wide-brimmed hats on Thursday staged the latest of several demonstrations against the project in their Jerusalem stronghold of Mea Shearim.

They marched to the spot where the bones found at the Ashkelon site are to be reburied, waving banners saying: “We ask forgiveness from the dead whose graves have been desecrated.”

“The bones have been given to the (religious) undertaker to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, since there is a possibility they are Jewish,” a spokesman for the religious affairs ministry told AFP.

The planned relocation has provoked the fury of the ultra-Orthodox community for whom the removal of Jewish remains is forbidden under religious law. However, archaeologists say there are no ancient Jewish graves at the site.

Two months ago, the government decided to shelve its construction plans following huge pressure from the ultra-Orthodox, among them Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman whose United Torah Judaism party holds five seats in parliament.

The decision, which would have meant relocating the new wing elsewhere at a cost to taxpayers of at least 100 million shekels ($26 million), caused public fury.

The government was then forced into a U-turn and gave the go-ahead for construction at the contested site.

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

The Nation Reads Jonathan Israel’s History of Radical Enlightenment.

The Nation 31.05.2010 (USA)

Jonathan Israel’s monumental history of the Enlightenment in three volumes revolves around the celestial body of Baruch Spinoza. The first two weighty tomes have just been joined by the publication of the third, which provides more of an essayistic overview: “A Revolution of the Mind”. Samuel Moyn describes the British historian’s view of the Enlightenment which is as enthusiastic as it is radical: “Israel insists that only a small coterie of ‘radical’ figures really cared about the core values. Meanwhile, those typically considered the luminaries of the age — from John Locke through Voltaire, and from Jean-Jacques Rousseau through Immanuel Kant — sought only ‘marginal reform’ and cravenly sacrificed the core values to their misbegotten flattery of existing clerical and political authorities. For Israel, Spinoza’s true heirs have enemies everywhere, including those whose lesser version of Enlightenment betrays the principles it purports to advance. Don’t pretend that there wasn’t a fundamental choice to be made about the very meaning of Enlightenment and modernity, Israel insists repeatedly. You could choose some halfway house that left the old order standing — notably the romance of American liberty (twinned with black slavery) or English liberties (which fell in with social and religious conservatism). Or you could embrace Enlightenment freedom in its unadulterated form, even if that entailed demolishing the corrupt old order and starting anew. Allegiance to the true gospel of Spinoza left no other viable choice, either intellectually or politically.”

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

Middle East

Italy: Desalination: Saudi Arabia’s Leading Sector

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 20 — Water treatments, drainage systems, purification techniques, waste water management are only some of the topics that will be addressed during the Saudi Water Technology 2010, the eighth International Fair of Water Technology and Desalination Plants opening its doors on May 24 in Riyadh for a non-stop three-day event of discussions and seminars on the subject. The issue is central to the future of the Saudi kingdom, and that is proved by the investment plan for more than 53 billion dollars that in the next 15 years will be reserved to water supply projects. An increase of desalinated water production is also expected, reaching in 2010 1,127 billion of cubic meters, while efforts to increase sector efficiency continue, thanks also to restructuring of the old plants. First world-wide producer of desalinated water, with a market share of more than 18% and an internal consumption that matches the 70% of the territory’s supply, the Saudi kingdom leads the sector in the research of cost cutting of energy waste that the desalination process involves. Both adopted strategies, both through the thermal technology and the reverse osmosis process, need the use of great amounts of energy for a current price of about one and half dollar per cubic meter. That is why the agreement between the Saudi National Water Company, the “King Abdulaziz Science and Technology City” research center (KACST) and IBM was signed, and recently presented by Ryhad’s authorities, for the creation of the first solar energy-fed desalination plant. This plant will be provided with a nano-membrane technology that filters salts and toxins in the water, using a smaller amount of energy. The plant that will be built in the Northern-Eastern city of Al Khafji, will provide 100,000 people with 30,000 cubic meters of water daily, with an estimated production cost decrease of 40%, down to less than 30 dollar cents. It is a first step towards the use of renewable sources, the sun in the first place, to offset the lack of saltless water, but also with other methods, mainly recycling waste waters, that is cheaper than desalination, that should allow Riyhadh’s authorities to quench the thirst of the 60% of Saudi population in the coming years. Attention is also paid to the use of civilian nuclear energy, a sector where a project for the realization of a research center in function in 2017 was approved, while the beginning of the construction works for four new reverse osmosis plants 150 kilometers from Jedda is expected next year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Leisure Boat Demand to Double in Next 12 Months

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 21 — “The leisure yachting sector in Lebanon will double in the next 12 months,” Francesco Pitea, general manager of luxury-yacht makers Sunseeker Middle East, told The Daily Star at the opening of the Beirut Boat Show on Wednesday. “It is a key market for the Middle East with tremendous potential.” The five-day Beirut Boat Show exhibition at La Marina north of Beirut is considered the leading leisure marine event in the Middle East and has attracted over 100 exhibitors and 60 moored boats. “Marine tourism and private boats have become key components of the Lebanese tourism sector,” Lebanese Minister of Tourism Fadi Abbud said. Lebanon attracted a record 2 million tourists in 2009, with the World Trade and Tourism Council forecasting a further 11.3 percent growth in 2010. As part of this tourism boom it is estimated that Yacht sales grew by 14.5 percent in 2009 and will grow by at least a further 20 percent in 2010. But the ever-present possibility of conflict, which forced the show to close for three years following the 2006 devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah, continues to scare away large-scale financier, said the Daily Star.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Istanbul’s Population to Exceed 15 Mln in 2023

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 20 — The population of north-western province of Istanbul will exceed 15 million people in 2023, as Anatolia news agency reports. Turkey’s Statistical Institute, TurkStat, and Hacettepe University prepared a projection on population figures for Turkey for the year 2023. According to the projection, in 2023, Ankara’s population will be 5.5 million, Izmir’s 4.5 million and Bursa’s 3.4 million. The whole population of Turkey will reach almost 83 million people in 2023, which is currently 72 million. In 2023, almost 10 percent of the Turkish population will consist of individuals who would be over the age of 65. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


The Increasing Criticism of Stalin in Russia

Przekroj 11.05.2010 (Poland)

The 65th anniversary of the end of WWII prompts Anna Labuszewska to examine the increasing criticism of Stalin in Russia. “It seems that the Kremlin has learnt that glorification and relativisation of its role in the outbreak of war brings more trouble than it’s worth. For purely pragmatic reasons, the father of the nation has been toppled from his pedestal.” Labuszewska views Russia’s numerous conciliatory gestures aimed at Poland in a similar light: “We will reach out our hand in symbolic issues such as history, but in exchange we want concrete economic and security benefits.” The Russian re-evaluation of history also has a social dimension, whereby the praise is shifted away from military leaders and on to the simple soldier. The official Kremlin youth organisation for example, has been handing out stickers saying: “Spasibo diedu za pobiedu” (Thanks for victory, Grandpa).

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

South Asia

English is a Dalit Goddess, Standing on a Computer, Tehelka Says, And There’s Nothing You Can Do About it

Tehelka 03.04.2010 (India)

India is being overrun by a push towards the English language, Rish Majumder reports. There are more Anglophones in India now than in the USA and Britain together. Many intellectuals regard the development with suspicion, Majumder writes — but there is nothing they can do about it. “Dalit activist Chandrabhan Prasad enters the debate with a seemingly whimsical gesture. In 2006, he celebrated Lord Macaulay’s birthday and unveiled the portrait of English as a ‘Dalit Goddess’ — a Statue of Liberty like figure holding up a pen, standing on a computer, and wearing a straw hat. While others are worrying about the loss of culture, Prasad is hoping English will help Dalits shed an oppressive culture. More importantly, he believes the language can lead to employment for Dalits, and so can campaigning to teach Dalits English. Soon, he anticipates a time when no job will be available without basic English.”

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

Pakistanis Shout ‘Death to Facebook’, Burn US Flags

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani protesters shouted “Death to Facebook”, “Death to America” and burnt US flags on Friday, venting growing anger over “sacrilegious” caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on the Internet.

A Facebook user organised an “Everyone Draw Mohammed Day” competition to promote “freedom of expression”, inspired by an American woman cartoonist, but sparked a major backlash in the conservative Muslim country of 170 million.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the row has sparked comparison with protests across the Muslim world over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) banned access to Facebook, YouTube and more than 450 links, including restricted access to Wikipedia in view of what it called “growing sacrilegious content”.

PTA released a toll-free telephone number and email address, and has acted on complaints received by the regulator.

Up to 3,000 people rallied in the eastern city of Lahore at the behest of a coalition of Islamic groups, including Jamaat-ud Dawa, regarded as a front for the militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“This is a war and we have to show unity,” Farid Ahmed Paracha, a central leader of hardline Sunni Muslim political party Jamaat-e-Islami told the crowd.

“We should tell America that this the final match,” he added.

Shouting anti America and anti Facebook slogans with chanting “Death to America,” the participants burnt US, Norway, Sweden and Denmark flags.

In Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, religious parties mobilised hundreds of protesters on to the streets shouting “Death to Facebook”, “Death to America” and branded the United States the “root cause of all mischief.”

In Multan, a shrine city in Punjab province, hundreds of people rallied, burning US flags and tyres to block traffic before dispersing peacefully.

About 250 people demonstrated in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, as well as in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where they chanted “Death to Facebook, death to Youtube,” an AFP reporter said.

But despite general anger over the caricatures, the ban on websites has sparked some criticism, particularly among the largely Western-educated elite living and working in the relatively moderate Lahore and Karachi.

The offending Facebook page has attracted 105,000 fans — and five pages of crude manipulated pictures and caricatures. Pages denouncing the competition and calling for a boycott of the May 20 competition attracted far more fans.

Facebook expressed disappointment at being blocked and said it was considering whether to make the offending page inaccessible in Pakistan.

YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing site, said it was “working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible”.

The controversy has yet to incite a mass outpouring on to the streets in Pakistan, where there are an estimated 2.5 million Facebook users, and it remains to be seen how far protests will spread to other Muslim countries.

Sweden said it has closed its embassy in Islamabad for more than two weeks due to the security situation, refusing to say whether any direct threats had been issued against the mission.

An Al-Qaeda front organisation has offered 100,000 dollars to anyone who kills Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has angered many Muslims by drawing highly blasphemous caricature of the Prophet.

Pakistan condemned the caricatures on Facebook and said that “such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the feelings of Muslims around the world”.

The PTA asked Facebook and YouTube, which are wildly popular in Pakistan and set up in the United States, to resolve the matter as soon as possible in a manner that “ensures religious harmony and respect.”

The purported creator of the Facebook page told a US television channel in a voice-only interview that he had meant to stand up for “freedom of expression.”

A rival Facebook page called “Against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” which was started to oppose the caricature page, had drawn some 106,300 fans.

Molly Norris, the American cartoonist whose work inspired the controversial page, condemned the Facebook spin-off and apologised to Muslims.

She drew a cartoon in April to protest against the cancellation of an episode of popular show “South Park.” Norris satirically proposed May 20 as an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: After a Court Ruled Two Terror Suspects Could Not be Deported to Pakistan Over Torture Fears — Their Co-Conspirator Enjoys a Trouble-Free Life

Strolling along a bustling Peshawar street, terror suspect Tariqur Rehman hardly looks like a man who is living under the threat of torture and persecution.

The 39-year-old runs his own travel agency in the city, the capital of Pakistan’s troubled North West Frontier Province where he lives quietly with his family.

It is a life in marked contrast to his two former associates and fellow students, Abid Naseer and Ahmad Faraz Khan, whose case sparked outrage this week.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Beijing Launches New Crackdown on NGOs

The Chinese government greatly fears the work of NGOs, considering them “infiltrators”, and tries in every way to stop them. A centre for legal assistance to women is closed and the founder of an anti-AIDS group risks arrest. A source tells AsiaNews: “They fear a job well done, highlighting their inefficiency.”

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — The Chinese government continues to impede in very possible way the work of NGOs operating within their territory. In fact, not even the disastrous earthquake that struck the western province of Qinghai, has softened Beijing’s line, which sees in the NGOs as dangerous “infiltration cells” that put the exclusive management (of the Party) of all human and economic resources at risk.

The most recent complaint in order of time comes from Guo Jianmei — a renowned lawyer and founder of the Women’s Legal Research & Services Centre —who in a public document writes: “Our work is hampered by a deficient legal environment, flawed enforcement systems, administrative interference, local protectionist policies, industry protectionism, and even corruptive practices within the judicial system”.

Guo’s group, a legal aid group representing China’s poorest women, had its official ties to prestigious Beijing University cut. According to an anonymous representative of the very University that gave the group political protection, “the move is part of the “metabolic processes” of an academic institution”. But a professor, speaking on condition of anonymity, adds: “The truth is that the group was asked to no longer accept external legal cases, but did not.”

Foreign NGOs in China are freer than local ones. The government does not fear because them because their commitment to the territory is temporary and in a crisis, they can be easily expelled. On the other hand local NGOs are greatly feared because, they reveal the flaws of the social system, and are considered a “potential factor of social disharmony and therefore destabilizing”. Despite the serious humanitarian and environmental crises that have hit the country, Beijing prefers not to allow volunteers to work on the field at the peril of life of survivors.

Moreover from March 1 this year, a new regulation has imposed tight restrictions on official Chinese NGOs that receive donations from abroad: among them, strict agreements signed before a notary, complicated and very detailed documents explaining the origin and destination of funds. Some experts, however, the new rules only apply to independent organizations, leaving government sponsored bodies free to operate (and receive money).

These new laws are retroactive, meaning that everyone is at risk. Wan Yanhai, founder of the famous Aizhixing Institute (which is seeking to contrast the spread of AIDS in the country) fears the closure of the centre over a series of tax investigations launched by the Beijing exchequer. The authorities have asked Wan — who left China recently — to produce “all documents relating to the receipt of funds from 2002 until now, on pain of arrest.” The activist believes this request “simply impossible to fulfil.”

A source for AsiaNews in China working in the field of the disabled explains the difference between NGOs from abroad and those born in Chinese, which are more closely monitored because they are considered to be dangerous: “The foreign groups are the branch of a body that is based abroad: they come here, invest their money and leave. Of course they need the government authorisation, but this tends to concede an increasing number of permits with fewer restrictions”.

To register a Chinese NGO, he goes on to explain, “you must have a background in banking, real estate, legal representation and many other things, required in all countries. However, what is required only here in China — an entirely unique phenomenon — is the requirement of finding a government sponsor as a go between who will also vet for the organizations with the government. He or she is a kind of guarantor and broker, very hard to find in government: they fear that a job well done by a NGOs will highlight the terrible inadequacies of the official institutions”.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa: Reflecting With…”Sowetan” On the ‘Colonialist Ball’

“SOUTH Africa is a modern colony. This means that our democracy doesn’t serve the majority, in fact it perpetuates the exclusion of the majority it proclaims to serve. I have been looking at how our leaders have surrendered our sovereignty to Fifa for a very expensive World Cup we don’t need. Every Friday people wear their national soccer colours. That’s fine, but have we paused to think what is going on? Our country has been sold to the Fifa gang in exchange for a very expensive party that will last only a month. We know now that 20,000 poor people have been evicted from the city of Cape Town and thrown into a massive squatter camp. This was done to make sure visitors from Europe and America don’t see our poverty.The Jo’burg and Durban metros have already cleaned the cities of hawkers and the poor. You must see how poor black people have to run from the police with the apples and oranges they sell! We have criminalised the poor to satisfy Fifa and the white world. This is a colonial mentality.


[From the “Bolekaja!” page (“come and Fighti”) of the “Sowetan” daily, the newspaper of the Soweto township (Johannesburg territory) written by Andile Mngxitana, on May 18]


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

Two South African Directors Discuss the Effects of Apartheid on Theatre Audiences, 16 Years After it Ended

Frankfurter Rundschau 18.05.2010

The South African theatre directors Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom (more) and Brett Bailey (more) talk in an interview about the state of the theatre in South Africa and the after effects of apartheid. When asked whether whites also go to his performances, Grootboom replies: “We only have mixed race audiences at the premieres. Normally audiences are divided according to the skin colour of the director. I don’t like it but it’s a fact. It’s a problem that people never discuss. And if you address the problem publicly, you will soon be accused of racism.”

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


Felipe Calderon’s Blatant Hypocrisy

But amazingly, the Mexican president, after a congratulatory visit to the White House, granted one in-person TV interview, with Wolf Blitzer of CNN.

He probably deeply regrets doing that now.

To his great credit, Blitzer really pinned Calderon down on his own country’s immigration policies and enforcement of its laws. Blitzer had actually read Mexico’s laws — which have been, and are, far tougher on illegals entering their country than America’s are on illegals here!


And so it goes. Wolf Blitzer questioned Calderon about these things, even quoting the Washington Times: “Under the Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Immigrants who are deported and attempt to re-enter can be imprisoned for 10 years. Visa violators can be sentenced to six year terms. Mexicans who help illegal immigrants are considered criminals.”

Wolf asked Calderon directly, “Is that true?”

Calderon answered, “It was true, but it is not anymore — since one year ago.”

But when Blitzer went on to ask if people from Central America could just walk in, Calderon answered, “No. They need to fulfill a form. They need to establish their right name. We analyze if they have a criminal precedent.”

Then Blitzer asked, “Do Mexican police go around asking for papers of people they suspect are illegal immigrants?”

And Calderon responded, “Of course. Of course, in the border, we are asking the people, who are you?” And when Blitzer pressed further — asking if people who had “sneaked in” from a southern country can get a job and go to work — Calderon answered “No, no. If … if somebody do that without permission, we send back … we send them back.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

How Much Do Illegal Immigrants Really Cost?

Policy makers and pundits who want tougher policies against illegal immigrants argue that they cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. Those on the other side of the debate counter that illegal immigrants create demand and jobs that promote economic growth.

So which one is it?

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a conservative advocacy group that favors tighter immigration laws, argues that the answer is clear: illegal aliens cost U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion each year.

Jack Martin, director of special projects for FAIR, says the group is still working on its estimate, but believes undocumented workers leave taxpayers with a fat bill, considering that the government spends money on the workers, and they almost never pay income taxes.

“The study of the fiscal effects of illegal immigration clearly demonstrates that it is a burden on the American taxpayer,” says Martin. More forceful implementation of immigration laws could save each U.S. household “in the neighborhood of a couple of thousand dollars a year.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Police Knew Time Square Bomb Accomplice Was Illegal Alien

In an alarming example of how sanctuary cities can protect terrorists, a Pakistani man arrested for the Time Square bombing admitted on a city license application that he entered the U.S. illegally and authorities took no action.

That’s because he applied for the cabbie license in a state (Massachusetts) that openly protects illegal immigrants from deportation. Local law enforcement agencies throughout Massachusetts have don’t-ask-don’t-tell policies regarding illegal aliens and in this case the Boston Police Department has for years known that the terrorist, So Pir Khan, was in the country illegally.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Deportation Flights to Start Again

The Federal Migration Office has decided to resume the use of special flights to deport rejected asylum seekers.

The controversial deportations were suspended two months ago after a Nigerian died shortly before such a flight.

The 29-year-old man, a convicted drug dealer, had refused to leave the country and was on hunger strike.

A medical team, including a doctor and paramedic, would supervise the deportations, the Migration Office said on Friday.

As a second measure, the cantonal authorities responsible for the person being flown out of the country have to hand over to the police the individual’s medical files.

Flights to Nigeria will not resume before the cause of death of the Nigerian asylum seeker is known, the Migration Office said.

His death in March was the third such in Switzerland. In 1999 a 27-year-old Palestinian suffocated in a lift at Zurich airport. He had been accompanied by three police officers. In 2001 a Nigerian suffocated in his cell after a show of police force.

There were 43 deportation flights last year, which returned 360 people to their home countries, mostly towards the Balkans and Africa.

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

Tom Tancredo: Obama’s Assault on Our Sovereignty

This week President Obama hosted a visit to the White House by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and the following day, Calderon spoke to a joint session of Congress. Seldom in our history has the cynical exploitation of ethnic “identity politics” reached such heights — or should we say, such lows.

President Obama has declared war on our borders, and Congress has declared war on Arizona. The Constitution and the president’s oath to defend it have been left in the trash dumpster.

In both his White House remarks and his speech to Congress, Calderon attacked Arizona’s new law aimed at illegal immigration. Obama then endorsed Calderon’s attack with his misrepresentation of that law as un-American and “potentially encouraging racial profiling.” Indeed, the most striking thing about Calderon at the White House was that Obama’s remarks and Calderons’ remarks were interchangeable. If they had gotten their teleprompters mixed up, no one would have noticed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Portugal: President Ratifies Gay Marriage Law

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 18 — Today the President of Portugal, Anibal Cavaco Silva, announced the approval of a law that allows for civil marriages between homosexual couples. In a statement from the president, cited by Publico, Cavaco Silva underlined that he signed the law to “avoid increasing tension on the dramatic situation” regarding the economy, “that the country is undergoing”. The reform, approved in February, was awaiting the ratification of the president before taking effect. Cavaco Silva already said that he was against civil unions between homosexual couples being designated as marriage. In the statement issued today, he underlined that “only seven countries in the world call this type of union marriage including only four of the 27 members of the European Union”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Got an Itunes Account? That’s Music to a Cyber Fraudster’s Ears

Millions of customers who use the online music store iTunes are at risk of hackers stealing money from their accounts, experts warn.

They say the website’s security is so poor that fraudsters can easily break into users’ profiles which store their bank and credit card details.

The iTunes store, owned by computer giant Apple, is the largest music retailer in the world, selling music and films that users download for their iPods or iPhones.

Up to 125million people worldwide have accounts set up on the site.

But computer security experts say hackers are easily hijacking accounts by pretending they are a customer who has forgotten their password.

As with many websites, iTunes tells users to select a socalled ‘security question’ from a list of options when they first set up their account.

These are fairly basic and include ‘what is your mother’s maiden name?’ and ‘where did you spend your honeymoon?’.

Customers who have forgotten their passwords are prompted with the question they first selected when they set up their profile — as long as they give the correct answer, they can access the account.

Security analysts claim this is leaving the website wide open to fraud.

Hackers simply pretend they are a customer who has forgotten their password and can easily work out the answer to the personal question using information that users have posted on social-networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]