Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100620

Financial Crisis
»Cr, Italy Against Introduction of New Bank Tax in EU
»IMF: Spain’s Debt Level Better Than Germany’s
»Madrid is Not Athens (Yet)
»Merkel Refutes Obama on G20 Fiscal Policy
»Spain: Default of Financial System Grows, 5.49% in April
»Kroger Pulls Weekly ‘Rutherford Reader’ Over ‘Hate Rhetoric’
»Napolitano: Internet Monitoring Needed to Fight Homegrown Terrorism
»SI Residents Fight Conversion of Convent to Mosque
Europe and the EU
»Are Dutch Police Going Undercover as Haredi Jews?
»Bluefin Tuna: Brussels Stops 2010 Fishing Campaign
»Denmark: Safer Vehicles for Afghan Force?
»EU: Big Rail Lines in Med Northern Shore by 2025
»Flemish-Nationalists Want Belgium to “Evaporate” Into EU
»France: Montmartre Cemetery at Risk
»France: Anti-Violence Chinese Protest in Paris Ends in Tear Gassing
»Italy: Ex-Priest Charged With Sex Abuse
»Italy: War Hero Remembered by Frattini
»Netherlands: Lower Achievements at Mixed Schools
»Netherlands: VVD Does Not Want ‘Purple Plus’ Cabinet
»Slovenia: Training on EU Standards Next Week
»UK: HMV Forced to Take Down ‘Anyone But England’ World Cup Display After Racism Complaints
»UK: Inside the Muslim Eton: 20 Hour Days Starting at 3.45am With the Aim of Producing Muslim Elite of Leaders
»Croatia: Council of Europe, Resolve Post-Conflict Issues
»Kosovo: Patriarch Calls for Harmony With Serbs
North Africa
»Libya PM Liberated, Country’s Deficit Attains 50 Billion USD
Israel and the Palestinians
»Did Obama Deal Blackmail Israel?
»Flash: Israel Revises Gaza Policy; World Gets What it Wants: Terrorist, Genocidal, Antisemitic, Revolutionary Islamist Statelet on the Mediterranean
»Orthodox Against High Court, 22 Mothers Escape
Middle East
»Emirates Orders 32 Airbus A380s for USD 11.5 Bln
»Food: Algida Ice-Cream Celebrates 20th Year in Turkey
»Iraqi Son Kills Father Who Translated for U.S.
»Mustafa Ismail Under Trial in a Military Court in Syria
»Turkey: Marriages Dropped and Divorces Rose in 2009
»US, Israel Warships in Suez May be Prelude to Faceoff With Iran
»Yemen: Several Killed in Rebel Attack in Aden
»Yemen: Eleven Killed as ‘Al Qaeda Gunmen Stage Daring Prison Break’
»Medvedev Shows Off Sample Coin of New ‘World Currency’ At G-8
»Russia-France: Leaders to Endorse New Oil and Gas Accords
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Troops Foil Plot to Murder Children
»India: Some Muslim Practices Cause Poverty, Muslim Religious Leader Says
»The Plight of the Ahmadi Community in Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Far East
»Uighurs Flee China After Riots
»EU: Italy Among Countries to Grant Most Asylum
»Finland: Foreign-Born Residents to Set Up “Immigrant Parliament”
»Harvard Student Won’t be Deported
Culture Wars
»Berlin Celebrates Gay Pride Parade

Financial Crisis

Cr, Italy Against Introduction of New Bank Tax in EU

Brussels, June 17 (CTK) — The Czech Republic and Italy took a stance against the introduction of a new bank tax in the EU at a summit in Brussels Thursday, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer told journalists Thursday.

Other EU states want to introduce it, although its form has not been specified yet.

The Czech Republic reserved the right not to introduce such an instrument given the circumstances, Fischer said.

Fischer said the Czech Republic obtained exemption as there were many questions which remained unanswered. He said banks’ reaction is not certain and the tax may affect prices for clients. It is also not clear if it is going to be a tax or rather a special fee. Its timing also not known, nor its impacts.

In the European Commission (EC)’s view, the levied tax should be used for banks’ rescue.

However, the negative stance of the Czech and Italian governments does not mean the proposal is blocked at an all EU level as the text is not legally binding yet.

Contrary to the original proposal, according to which the entire EU-27 would have to adopt the tax, it is now clear that the Czech Republic will be able to decide whether to introduce it or not.

Most European leaders want to introduce new fees for financial institutions in order to avoid the situation which occurred during the financial crisis when they had to save banks from taxpayers’ money. Many (leaders) believe citizens should not be responsible for costs of the crisis they had not caused.

A decision on the bank tax has been taken. This will lead towards a fair sharing of the costs of the financial crisis and towards a bigger stability of the financial system, EU president Herman Van Rompuy told journalists at the end of the EU summit Thursday.

The EC has not yet set up the specific amount of the tax to be levied but its height can be estimated on the basis of similar systems which are already in place in some EU member states, such as in Sweden, where all bank loans are taxed at 0.036 percent.

In the entire EU adopts the same tax, it would receive around EUR15bn (around Kc390bn) every year into a reserve fund to bail-out banks.

However, economists say the existence of such a fund could mean that states will not longer let a bank fail.

This could also mean that banks will not be forced to do business cautiously and differences between banks in terms of their trustworthiness and quality will disappear.

Banks say a similar solution can cut their revenues notably.

“It sounds like a simple idea, but in practice it would be horrendously expensive and complex to implement. For example, what type of bureaucracy would be necessary to manage it? Who would determine whether the fund is an adequate amount? Given the scale of the last financial crisis, what would be an adequate amount?,” Rob McIvor, spokesman for the Association for Financial Markets in Europe, told the Financial Times earlier.

According to the Czech Banking Association (CBA), similar restrictive measures act against the economic recovery and will slow economic growth.

“If only some countries adopt the tax, they will put their markets at an advantage over others, and this is especially valid for the EU and other financial markets,” Jan Matousek of the CBA said.

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

IMF: Spain’s Debt Level Better Than Germany’s

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 18 — “There are countries with an average debt coefficient like Germany and France, and others with a very good ratio, like Spain. This observation was made by IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn after his meeting with Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. In fact he suggested that Spain’s public debt ratio is better than the German rate. The chairman of the IMF pointed out however that all European countries must reduce their deficit and that the Spanish deficit is one of the highest in Europe. He underlined that the Germany and France have a higher tax margin. The deficit of public accounts in Spain in 2009 reached 11.2% of GDP, while the German deficit was 3.3% and the French deficit 7.5%. Comparing the public debt coefficients: in 2009 it reached 53.2% of GDP in Spain, 77.6% in France and 73.2% in Germany. Regarding the situation of the Greek and Portuguese economy, Strauss-Kahn said that “they cannot be compared” to the situation in Spain, where “the level of the public debt and the private debt is much lower”. He underlined that “Europe’s growth will become stronger” only if all countries “balance their public accounts”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Madrid is Not Athens (Yet)

Rumours has been spreading all week: Spain might soon ask its partners for a helping hand in fighting its debt and fighting off speculators. The government is doing everything possible to dispel doubts, but the pressure is still mounting.

Carlos Segovia

When it first started sliding down the slippery slope in December 2009, the risk premium for investing in Greece — i.e. the spread between Greek and German bonds — hit 226 basis points. The markets grew increasingly wary of the Greek economy as its sovereign credit rating underwent one downgrade after another.

Now, six months later, that risk premium has been outstripped by the spread on Spain’s sovereign debt [233 points on 17 June], which has hit record levels these past few days. The Spanish government’s response is deemed insufficient to keep public accounts on an even keel and ensure a vigorous recovery from the recession. So “speculators”, as [vice-president] María Teresa Fernández de la Vega labelled them yesterday, are betting on a rehash of the Greek scenario in Spain: that Zapatero will end up asking for a bailout and agreeing to fall back on the European Stabilisation Fund set up by eurozone leaders along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to guarantee debt repayments. De la Vega and economy minister Elena Salgado denied any such prospect yesterday and assured the markets that Spain is “doing its homework”.

‘Homework’ complete

This is how the Spanish president himself terms the austerity package he’s bringing to the European summit today. It entails an accelerated reduction of the budget deficit, involving civil service pay cuts and a pension freeze; a labour market reform which, though considered “light” by employers and markets, puts the [socialist] president in a serious ideological spot; and an overhaul of the pension system. To add the finishing touch to those efforts, Spanish central bank director Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez gave the final remaining signal yesterday, just in time for the summit: that the Bank of Spain deems the financial restructuring complete. In addition — in line with the script Zapatero had already laid out on Thursday — he confirmed that the so-called “stress tests” would bear that out.

All that “homework” would have been unthinkable only six weeks ago, but the markets didn’t trust any of Zapatero’s tactics, such as his decision to legislate the labour reform [approved by the council of ministers on 16 June]. Nor did the eurozone leaders, for that matter. The European Commission itself — which would like nothing better than to throw flowers at the government’s feet to get the markets to back off from Spain (and the euro) — was compelled to keep the pressure on Zapatero, demanding additional economic adjustments.

Meanwhile, some bankers are wondering whether they wouldn’t be better off requesting a bailout of their own accord, however harsh the changes exacted in return, in order to get the markets to open back up. And IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn himself is flying into Madrid tomorrow on a “business call” to find out atfirst-hand what the government has in mind. Spain is not Greece, to be sure, but the pressure is mounting to keep it that way.


Is Germany out to undermine Spain?

“The paralysis is back,” observes Xavier Vidal-Folch in El País, and “the credit crunch is spreading from the banks to businesses”. “The international markets are closed for most Spanish businesses and institutions,” the editorialist quotes the president of BBVA [Spain’s second-biggest bank] as saying. “Where are the serious newspapers?”, wonders Vidal-Folch in the wake of “rumours” spread by the Financial Times Deutschland and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about a hypothetical financial bailout of Spain by the European Stabilisation Fund — just the sort of buzz that undermines Spain. But it isn’t just the papers: “The Deutsche Bank is managing €500 million in bear speculations against five Spanish companies,” accuses the editorialist. But Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann is opposed to publishing the results of solvency tests for European banks on the pretext that that would be “very dangerous”. Meanwhile, however, Bank of Spain governor Miguel Angel Fernández Ordóñez announced on 16 June that the stress tests for Spanish banks will be disclosed so as to demonstrate their solvency [on 17 June the German government agreed to have the German banks’ test results published as well]. For Xavier Vidal-Folch, “the assessment of Spanish bank assets will be one of the most rigorous in Europe because it is to be carried out by the issuing bank, while the assessments in countries like Germany are done by the banks themselves.”

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

Merkel Refutes Obama on G20 Fiscal Policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel directly contradicted US President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying spending cutbacks were now needed following the spate of throwing money at the global economic crisis.

Referring to the G20 summit in Canada next weekend, Merkel said in a videotaped message that “we are going to discuss when to quit the phase of short-term measures and go on to lasting budget consolidation.”

Such a move was “urgently necessary, in the view of the Europeans and particularly of Germany,” she said.

Obama urged the world’s leading economies Friday to avoid scaling back government spending too quickly or risk derailing the global recovery.

“We worked exceptionally hard to restore growth; we cannot falter or lose strength now,” Obama said in a letter to G20 leaders ahead of a June 26-27 summit in Toronto.

“Our highest priority in Toronto must be to safeguard and strengthen the recovery,” Obama said in the letter dated June 16, but released Friday amid concerns about the pace of the global recovery.

The warning — a clear shot at European governments reining in budget deficits — comes after months of worry about the health of the eurozone, fuelled by huge public debts in Greece and Spain.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is working on a multi-billion-euro package of spending cuts worth designed to bolster government finances and recoup market confidence.

But those moves have led to US concerns that the global recovery — from the worst slowdown in decades — might be stopped in its tracks by withdrawing

government stimulus.

Obama also expressed concern about “weak private sector demand and continued heavy reliance on exports” by some nations within the G20, in a clear reference to Germany.

Merkel retorted Saturday, “We know of course that the European Union must make its contribution to ensure lasting world economic growth,” but added, “We believe we have put the stresses on the right spot.”

“Europe will make its point of view clear at the G20,” she warned.

She also said that the European Union would “pledge at the G20 to develop a worldwide tax on financial transactions,” even though there were doubts about

its feasibility.

“There will certainly be controversy,” she added.

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

Spain: Default of Financial System Grows, 5.49% in April

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 18 — The rate of default of the Spanish financial system reached 5.49% in April, compared to 5.33% the previous month and 4.5% in April 2009, according to figures circulated today by Spain’s central bank. The volume of credits of uncertain solvency in the entire financial sector in April was around the 100 billion euro mark, compared to 83.644 billion the previous year. The financial institutions registering the greatest struggles are the savings banks, with a rate of default credits of 5.51%, half a point above the figure for April 2009. Credits of uncertain collection for savings banks hit 48.105 billion euros, only 3.5 billion more than in April last year. For banks, default was at 5.4%, with 42.760 billion in problematic credits, a figure significantly higher than the 3.81!ì% registered in April 2009, when there was 30.777 billion in credits at risk of insolvency. The situation is less gloomy for agricultural banks, with a default rate of 4.08% in April, compared to the 3.78% figure posted last year. For financial companies, however, default rate shot up to 10.7%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kroger Pulls Weekly ‘Rutherford Reader’ Over ‘Hate Rhetoric’

Anthony Mijares is a retired international cargo expediter and the kind of man who worked so hard that he sometimes brought a sleeping bag to the office.

So, the most political thing he has had time to do is vote. But in April, all that changed.

Complaints Mijares and others made about the content of The Rutherford Reader — a free Murfreesboro-based weekly distributed at grocery stores, restaurants and other locations in and around Rutherford County — led Kroger officials to launch a five-week review of the publication, according to the company.

By May, Kroger and the company that manages its free publication racks found what they consider a pattern of “hate rhetoric” in the paper. Kroger barred The Rutherford Reader from its eight Rutherford County stores. A Smyrna Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce did the same.

The Rutherford Reader‘s owners say the paper is not a venue for hate speech.

Now, two months after Mijares lodged his complaint, he and The Rutherford Reader are at the center of a debate about the meaning of free speech, censorship and responsible journalism.

Mijares, who lives in Smyrna, fears that what the paper has written about him since May makes him a marked man. He even called Murfreesboro police but was told to call Smyrna police if he wished to report physical harm, a clear threat or property damage.

Pete Doughtie, The Rutherford Reader‘s co-owner and publisher, says he isn’t trying to intimidate anyone. His business has been the victim of corporate censorship, Doughtie said.

Mijares has read The Rutherford Reader off and on for five years. In the paper’s pages, opinions and facts have always been commingled in a not-so-clear fashion, he said.

Over the past two years, the paper has become more extreme, Mijares said. Just after the federal health-care bill passed in March, he saw a story indicating Muslims are exempt from the law’s health insurance mandates.

“It started with a question: ‘Do you know that Muslims can now do something that Christians can’t?’ “ Mijares said

The law does not exempt any specific religious group. Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, says it does allow religious groups to apply to be exempt.

“Just like Medicare and Social Security, the Affordable Care Act includes a process by which groups may apply for an exemption on the basis of their religious beliefs,” Lehrich said.

Islam condemned

In April, Mijares walked into a Smyrna Kroger and saw something in The Rutherford Reader that really troubled him. The paper ran a column that said, “Islam is evil” and a “defiling” and “dehumanizing” religion. It also said “Muslim immigration should be halted.”

Mijares brought the paper’s content to the store manager’s attention.

“When The Rutherford Reader publishes the statement that Islam is evil, defiling and dehumanizing, all you have to do is substitute the word Judaism (in place of Islam) and you know what that kind of commentary is without question.

“People would get it immediately. That is hate speech.”

The Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and the manager of Lowry Street Kentucky Fried Chicken did not respond to requests for comment. But Kroger did.

“We saw a consistent pattern of what we believed to be hate rhetoric,” said Melissa Eads, a Kroger spokeswoman. “We can’t and don’t promote hate speech against anyone.”

Store’s move defended

Legally, Kroger was well within its rights to remove the paper from its racks, said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. The center is a nonpartisan nonprofit that educates the public about the First Amendment.

Real censorship involves government efforts to prevent ideas or information from being made public, Policinski said. Kroger’s decision is really no different from Wal-Mart’s choice not to sell CDs that require parental warning labels, he said.

“In terms of the spirit of the First Amendment though, I think it is true that more voices are always better than fewer voices,” Policinski said.

The Rutherford Reader is a 10,000 print circulation weekly with no staff reporters and almost 45,000 online subscribers, Doughtie said. Until mid-May, the paper generally placed about 1,000 copies at Kroger stores. Doughtie said he has found new distribution points that together move about that many papers.

Questions asked

The Rutherford Reader generates content with the help of unpaid columnists who have approached the paper and a small group of paid freelance reporters not identified by name.

“We just ask the questions that the big corporate-owned papers aren’t going to ask but (that) need to be asked,” Doughtie said.

“We’re American patriots. Don’t you think someone needs to ask what may be going on here when this country is at war with Islamic fascists?”

Last week, The Rutherford Reader included a story outlining how the paper got booted from Kroger stores. It also details Mijares’ role.

There also was a story about Rutherford County planners approving a new Islamic center and what the paper saw as insufficient notice given to the public.

“Is Sharia (Islamic religious) law going to replace common law in civil cases between Muslims or is it already accepted by our judicial system?” Doughtie wrote in a column.

“Will polygamous marriages for Muslims be OK? Will Muslim men be allowed to receive welfare and social benefits for each of their spouses?”

Questions not answered

That’s the problem with The Rutherford Reader, said Abdou Kattih, a pharmacist who is vice president of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. The paper raises questions it doesn’t try to answer.

If the paper had contacted the mosque or a religion expert, the paper would have learned that Islam calls on Muslims to abide by the law of the land in which they live, Kattih said.

Failing to answer these questions foments suspicion, he said. The mosque gets four to five calls a week from people concerned about The Rutherford Reader, he said.

“Still, you know, I don’t support the idea of removing The Rutherford Reader from Kroger stores,” Kattih said. “I tell our members, in a free society people have the right to criticize you. And, this is where we live.

Not everyone objects to the paper’s stance..

Mike Wilson is a mechanic who lives in Murfreesboro. He typically picks up a copy of the Reader at a restaurant where he eats lunch. He likes the ads and the content. “It kind of gives you something to think about every time you pick it up,” Wilson said.

“For instance, I didn’t know anything about that mosque until I read about it in there.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Napolitano: Internet Monitoring Needed to Fight Homegrown Terrorism

WASHINGTON — Fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security, the nation’s homeland security chief said Friday.

As terrorists increasingly recruit U.S. citizens, the government needs to constantly balance Americans’ civil rights and privacy with the need to keep people safe, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

SI Residents Fight Conversion of Convent to Mosque

[Video report]

The battle is heating up on Staten Island as residents in Midland Beach fight to keep a a mosque from coming to their neighborhood. On Sunday, they took their emotional plea to the streets.

It was a heated protest under the hot summer sun on Staten Island.

“We just want to leave our neighborhood the way it is — Christian, Catholic,” one resident said.

About 150 people were standing strong outside an abandoned convent in Midland Beach, trying to prevent the sale of the building to a Muslim group that plans to turn it into a mosque.

“Mosques breed terrorism, I’m sorry,” said one resident.

“The community is just up in arms,” another resident said.. “It was done so underhandedly.”

The pastor from St. Margaret Mary Church who negotiated selling the convent to the Muslim American Society has since written a letter to Archbishop Timothy Dolan withdrawing his support for the deal. The archdiocese, though, says four other parish board trustees must weigh in before a decision is made.

Residents are hoping to have an influence.

“The city has had enough terrorism and everything else,” resident Debbie Benson said. “We just don’t want to take the chance, and they can’t prove to us otherwise.”

Members of the Muslim American Society did not show up to counter the protest Sunday, but they continue to reach out to the Catholic community to go through with the sale of the convent.

“The community of Midland Beach has been hijacked by Islamaphobes,” the Muslim American Society’s Ayman Hammous said.

Residents, though, say it isn’t just a religious issue.

“To put a mosque in this area, on this corner? It’s just not big enough,” resident Robert Dennis said.

“It is a tremendous parking issue,” another resident said.

“Why is a mosque coming here? [Are there] that many Muslims?” resident Ed Ruriane said. “It’s just everything, and to unravel it, gee wiz, it’s gonna take a miracle.”

CBS 2 reached out to the Muslim American Society on Sunday, but they did not return calls for comment.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Are Dutch Police Going Undercover as Haredi Jews?

Initiative for undercover cops to dress as ultra-Orthodox comes in wake of frequent attacks against Jews by Moroccan immigrants.

By Cnaan Liphshiz Tags: Israel news Jewish world

Dutch police may employ undercover agents disguised as religious Jews to expose and arrest violent anti-Semites, a police spokesperson said last week.

The initiative was first proposed by a Dutch Muslim legislator in response to reports of frequent attacks against Jews by Moroccan immigrants. Prominent figures from the country’s Jewish community said they supported the plan.

Over the past few years, Dutch politicians have been debating the use of undercover police officers posing as gay couples as a means to draw out serial perpetrators of attacks against gays, from the Muslim community and from the general population.

In a radio interview on Wednesday for Radio BNR, Ahmed Marcouch — a Moroccan-born member of Labor who immigrated to Holland when he was 10 — said: “I say send fake Jews to arrest the attackers. Everything must be done to keep this phenomenon from growing. It seems like small incidents, but this is serious.”

The Center for Information and Documentation Israel, an influential nongovernmental watchdog on anti-Semitism, announced on Thursday that it supported the initiative. “It has become common for Jews to hide their skull-caps on the street,” said Ronny Naftaniel, who heads the center, known in Holland by its initials, CIDI. He added that Marchouch’s “liberal views have cost him in the past the support of voters from the Moroccan community.”

During the first month of 2009, the center documented 98 anti-Semitic incidents, which almost equaled the total of such attacks in 2008. Holland’s chief rabbi, Binyamin Jacobs, told Haaretz he recently witnessed unidentified persons who tried to disrupt a memorial service for Jews murdered in the Holocaust by shouting Nazi slogans.

“The new initiative is the expression of desperation about the failure of Dutch police to make progress with regard to the widespread and aggressive anti-Semitism among Muslims in Amsterdam — a heritage left behind by Amsterdam’s former mayor, Job Cohen,” said Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, a Dutch-Israeli researcher of anti-Semitism and chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Marcouch entered parliament as candidate 15 on Labor’s list under the party’s chairman, Job Cohen. Marcouch told Haaretz that he believed the best way to fight anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants was by putting greater emphasis on Holocaust studies in schools with many immigrant pupils.

“Hate and anti-Semitism is sometimes can be addressed together through education,” explained Marcouch, a leading member in the Jewish-Moroccan Network of Amsterdam — a forum which CIDI and Cohen helped create in 2006 to promote dialog between the two communities.

“It is in the family that one needs to be alert, and to eliminate anti-Semitism,” Marcouch added. “And the way to do this is through education about what hatred of the other can lead to. Strong police intervention is important because no one must suffer violence, but in parallel we need to inform children so they don’t harbor anti-Semitic feelings.”

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

Bluefin Tuna: Brussels Stops 2010 Fishing Campaign

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki today decided to impose an early stop of the catch on bluefin tuna by large fishing boats, in order to respect the European fishing quotas that were established within the framework of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The measure regards France, Greece and Spain. Italy decided to stop fishing bluefin tuna by large ships for one year in February of this year. In fact Italy has “frozen” more than 70% of its 2010 fishing quotas, around 1,500 tonnes, which had been assigned to ring net fishing, the system with the highest environmental impact. Traditional bluefin fishing can still continue. The bluefin tuna fishing campaign in the EU, which started on May 15, was scheduled to end on June 15 in France, Spain and Greece. Based on the data collected by ANSA, in these weeks French trawlers caught — from May 15 to today — 1,699 tonnes of bluefin tuna, Spain caught 803.9 tonnes and Greece 60 tonnes. The European Commission, which has decided to implement a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding bluefin fishing, stated today that “the early closing of fishing is needed to protect the fragile stock of this species. It is part of the recovery plan developed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Safer Vehicles for Afghan Force?

Politicians waiting for military on personnel carriers issue.

Danish politicians agree that if the armed forces believe the aging Danish personnel carriers in Afghanistan need changing to a safer model, the swap should be carried out, but within current budgetary schedules.

The discussion about the current model comes following the death of another Danish soldier last Sunday as a result of a roadside bomb.

According to Ekstra Bladet, both the military and politicians have been aware of the fact that the chassis armour of the current armoured personnel carriers is not good enough, but politicians say moves to change the vehicles should come from the military.

Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, although better armoured, are also susceptible to roadside bombs. Here ammunition is being unloaded from an upturned MRAP in August 2009. Archive.

“This is not a question of political delays. We leave it to the defence forces to determine whether the vehicles are good enough. I they aren’t, then the military should come back and tell us. Safety comes first,” says Social Democratic Defence Spokesman John Dyrby Poulsen.

But Copenhagen University Military Expert Peter Viggo Jakobsen says that politicians have been turning a blind eye to the problem.

“This is an issue that is with the politicians. They’ve known for a long time that the chassis armour is not good enough. The fact that they will not take responsibility for changing the priorities of the armed forces budget to provide better safety for the soldiers, is a result of political delays,” Jakobsen tells Ekstra Bladet.

Dyrby says that the most recent political Defence Agreement appropriated DKK 100 million each year in efforts to increase safety for soldiers. The funds can be used for better vehicles, and if the defence force needs more money, then it must realign its priorities.

Defence Minister Gitte Lillelund Bech (Lib) says that it is up to the military to determine whether vehicle armour is good enough.

The Danish military’s materiel service is investigating whether it can buy or borrow Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles from the US.

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

EU: Big Rail Lines in Med Northern Shore by 2025

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 17 — Europe is investing in large railway routes that will allow easy access between Berlin and Palermo, or between Lyon and Ljubljana. The numerous works currently ongoing concern Spain and Portugal in particular, with the aim of connecting the Iberian peninsula to the rest of Europe. The deadline for all works is 2020, with the exception of the Lyon-Trieste-Ljubljana-Budapest-Ukrainian border stretch, the deadline for which is 2025. Updates on the projects come in the latest EU report on trans-European networks, co-financed by Brussels, which are not only due to link urban areas, but also increase the transport capacity of goods, carrying by rail loads that currently travel by road, especially in mountainous regions. The most expensive of all planned lines is the one that goes from Lyon to the Ukrainian border, which will see over 55 million euros invested, almost 10 million of which were spent before 2009. The 1,638-kilometren line will pass through France, Italy, Slovenia and Hungary but progress is currently slow, both because of difficulties in agreements on the route through Italy and because the final costs, which are to be divided between participating countries, cannot be accurately calculated as a result. France has already completed two of its three explorative tunnels. On the Turin-Lyon line, the first exploratory digs only began in early 2010, but time is of the essence: the European Commission has allocated 672 million euros for study and work on the basic tunnel with a deadline of 2013. An agreement was struck in February between Italy and Slovenia over the northern stretch, following earlier environmental obstacles. Meanwhile, in the internal areas, the stretch between Venice and Trieste is still lagging behind. The Berlin-Verona/Milan-Bologna-Naples-Messina-Palermo route, on the other hand, costs more than 51 million euros, of which 27 million were invested before 2009. The construction of the 2,386-kilometre line is progressing well, with over half of the route established, though the plan is now “in a crucial phase”, particularly for the section between Munich and Verona. Works on the main tunnel were due to begin in January 2010, in line with the financial decision of the EU Commission, but national discussions on financing mean that the start has been delayed. Another huge project is the railway line for south-western Europe, divided between three lines at a cost of more than 45 million euros, that will link Portugal, Spain and France. Works are going well in Spain, while important decisions on how to proceed have been taken in Portugal and France. In general, there are some delays on borders and greater coordination is hoped for between member states. Madrid and Lisbon also share plans for a “multimodal line”, including railways, road links between cities, ports and airports, with an investment of almost 41 million euros. The big works also include the construction of a new airport in the Portuguese capital, which should open in 2017, though debate is still ongoing as to its location. Another railway line will connect the ports of Algeciras, in Spain, and Sines, in Portugal, with Madrid and then France, for a total investment of 8.69 million euros. On the other side of the Mediterranean, Greece’s Ionic-Adriatic axis project, which has a predicted cost of 4.33 million euros, would see easier exchanges at sea and by rail, connecting the country’s major ports to one another. Total financing, however, appears to be difficult. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flemish-Nationalists Want Belgium to “Evaporate” Into EU

by Paul Belien

Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force last December, the European Union (EU) has the status of a genuine state. This new state now threatens the existence of multinational states such as Belgium, the United Kingdom and Spain. Peoples such as the Flemings in Belgium, the Scots in the UK, the Catalans in Spain, would rather be provinces of the federal EU than of the federal or devolved states to which they currently belong.

That is the main lesson to be drawn from Belgium’s general elections on June 13. The Belgian elections showed an unprecedented 44% of the electorate in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern half of Belgium, voting for Flemish independence. The Flemings expressed their support for the two Flemish-nationalist parties. 31.7% of the Flemings voted for the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (New Flemish Alliance, N-VA) and 12.3% for Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest, VB).

The Flemings constitute a 60% majority in Belgium, a country which since its establishment in 1830 has been dominated by its French-speaking minority. Belgium is a state with two different peoples under one roof. The country has two separate sets of political parties: one set for the Dutch-speaking Flemings, the other for the French-speaking Walloons in the south of the country. The Walloons vote predominantly socialist because they favor an expansion of the welfare state; the Flemings are more conservative and favor a limited state with fewer taxes.

[Return to headlines]

France: Montmartre Cemetery at Risk

((ANSAmed) — PARIS — The famous Montmartre cemetery in Paris where celebrities such as writer Emile Zola, singer Dalida, composer Hector Berlioz, painters Edgar Degas and Gustave Moreau, director Francois Truffaut are buried is at risk. Various tombs and family chapels, now rather old, are falling to pieces in a state of abandon. The warning was raised by the councillor for the Environment of the XVIII arrondissement, Pascal Julien, who is worried that the “exceptional funerary assets comprising 20,000 concessions could disappear from this historic site established in 1825”. The maintenance of the tombs lies in the hands of the descendants of the deceased, who however are often hard to trace, as is the case for a 19th Century chapel that has been closed to the public because in very poor conditions, with a repair bill that amounts to approximately 10,000 euros. Julien commented that “It will probably be demolished”, but he believes that what is really being lost is the very soul of the cemetery. “It is always a dilemma to tear down these chapels that embody the funerary art of the 19th Century”, stated Pascal-Herve’ Daniel, the person in charge of Paris’ funerary services, explaining that however it may be inevitable. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Anti-Violence Chinese Protest in Paris Ends in Tear Gassing

PARIS — Paris police tear-gassed demonstrators from the city’s Chinese community Sunday when a march to protest a spate of violent robberies descended into scuffles after a demonstrator’s bag was stolen.

Police said some 8,500 demonstrators turned out onto the streets of city’s eastern Belleville district, where they called for “coordinated and concerted” action by the authorities against the growing number of attacks.

Trouble broke out as the demonstration was breaking up with scuffles erupting between a group of around a dozen youths and 50 young demonstrators, police sources told AFP.

According to multiple witnesses, the trouble started when a bag belonging to one of the demonstrators was stolen. Police were forced to intervene and three people were arrested, said the police source.

Police tear-gassed the crowd after objects were thrown at them, prompting demonstrators to overturn cars and block traffic in the area for several hours.

Belleville is an ethnically diverse district of the French capital that has seen an influx of Asian immigrants in the last 10 years.

According to organisers from French-Chinese organisations, who distributed 5,000 T-shirts and stickers saying “Security For All”, it was the largest demonstration by the Chinese community on record in France.

“French-Asian associations are marching for the first time against the lack of security,” said the president of the organisers, Chan Sing Mo. “If the problem continues, we’ll come out again in larger numbers.”

In the last few months, Chinese in the French capital have been subjected to attacks and violent robberies by youths in Belleville and other parts of eastern Paris, and many feel at a disadvantage as immigrants.

“Those who can’t speak French or don’t have proper papers are not able to complain,” a florist in Belleville told AFP.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ex-Priest Charged With Sex Abuse

Rome, 19 June (AKI) — A former priest has been indicted in Italy on charges he sexually abused 12 young men who were being treated a drug rehabilitation centre he founded. Pierino Gelmini, 85, has denied the charges and left the priesthood two years ago to defend himself.

The investigation into Gelmini was one of the first to make headlines in Italy.

While more cases have emerged during the recent abuse scandal, Italy still has seen fewer cases than other European countries or the United States.

The Comunita Incontro, which he founded, now has drug rehabilitation centres worldwide and has enjoyed the support of powerful figures in Italian politics.

In 2005, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi gave the organisation 6 million dollars according to media reports.

The Gelmini case is particularly explosive because he was one of Italy’s most recognised and well-connected priests when the accusations were made against him in 2007.

Nine men said he had sexually abused them while they were residents at his Comunita Incontro centre based in the central Umbrian town of Amelia. The number of accusers now stands at 12.

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

Italy: War Hero Remembered by Frattini

Rome, 19 June (AKI) — Italian foreign affairs minister Franco Frattini has paid tribute to one of the country’s military heroes who died this week at the age of 101. Amedeo Guillet, was a decorated officer of the Iralian army who once commanded cavalry in war.

Guillet was nicknamed ‘Devil Commander’ and distinguished himself as a courageous leader during Italy’s war in Ethiopia in 1942.

“They called him the Italian Lawrence of Arabia, a well-deserved definition which recognises his many adventures and experiences,” Frattini said.

“He was untamed by the military or his noble heritage.”

Guillet was born in Piacenza and came from a noble family from Piedmont.

He graduated from the Academy of Infantry and Cavalry of Modena in 1930 and began a distinguished career in the Italian army. After the war he had a diplomatic career in the Middle East and served as ambassador in Jordon, Morocco and India.

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

Netherlands: Lower Achievements at Mixed Schools

For years and years, the ‘perfect school’ was defined by having the right ratio of black to white, native to migrant and rich to poor. However, recent Dutch research has exposed this myth. Children at mixed schools consistently score lower grades than their peers at predominantly white or black schools.

Dutch sociology professor Jaap Dronkers has carried out research into the pros and cons of ethnic diversity in secondary education. He compared student achievement in language, math and physics of 15-year-old children in 15 Western countries. Much to his surprise, students’ grades were inversely proportional to ethnic diversity.

“I interpret lower student achievement at ethnically diverse schools to mean that a great deal of energy is spent on bridging the various cultural gaps between students. As a result, teachers are unable to focus on teaching. They keep hopping from one culture to the next. It uses up time and energy not spent on teaching.”


No data were available for the Netherlands, but Professor Dronkers believes his findings are also applicable to this country as education in surrounding countries like Denmark, Belgium and Germany is in his opinion comparable to the Netherlands.

The ethnic make-up of Dutch schools is a highly sensitive issue. The existence of separate ‘black’ and ‘white’ schools is generally regarded as undesirable. However, as long as the segregation leads to a homogenous student body, the effects are not necessarily negative. On the contrary, a ‘black’ school where 80 percent of the children were of Turkish descent outperformed a school of much greater ethnic diversity.


Another noteworthy finding from his research are the generally below-average achievements of students with an Islamic background.

“This cannot be explained by their socio-economic backgrounds or the characteristics of schools or educational systems. So what is the reason? It is very well possible that they are being discriminated against, but this also holds true for non-Islamic children. People will say: they are the children of migrant workers, but so were the Italians. The remaining factor is religion.”

Poor families

Not everybody agrees with Professor Dronkers’ conclusions. Dutch writer and educational expert Anja Vink says the professor places too much emphasis on culture and religion. She argues that socio-economical circumstances are widely accepted as determining factors for the educational achievement of children.

“We are focussing on colour, culture and religion, but what is being left out is that these children are from poor families. This could also apply to poor native children. If you attend a ‘white trash school’ you would get the same results. You will see this in the provinces of Friesland, Groningen en Limburg.”

Highly educated parents

Ms Vink, who wrote a book on black schools in the Netherlands, says that the conclusion that Islamic students are falling behind also merits further explanation.

“This may be true of Moroccan and Turkish children, but children of Afghan, Iranian and Iraqi descent often do better in school than even some native children. The explanation lies in the fact that they are children of highly-educated parents.”

Professor Dronkers agrees that ethnic diversity can have a positive effect on children of highly educated parents. “In that case there is an added value.” The scientist says that migrant children from non-Islamic countries like China, South Korea and India are also a positive exception to the rule.

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

Netherlands: VVD Does Not Want ‘Purple Plus’ Cabinet

THE HAGUE, 19/06/10 — Labour (PvdA), centre-left D66 and the leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) want to form a cabinet together with the conservatives (VVD). But the VVD does not want to join the three leftwing parties.

Uri Rosenthal, who is leading the cabinet formation negotiations as ‘informateur’, received the leaders of five parties on Friday. On the basis of these talks, he decided that the next stage is to investigate the feasibility of a ‘Purple Plus’ cabinet.

PvdA, D66 and GroenLinks on Friday expressed their preference for Purple Plus (a coalition of VVD, PvdA, D66 and GroenLinks). But it remains for them to persuade VVD leader Mark Rutte, who is unenthusiastic about a partnership with three leftwing parties — as are his voters.

VVD leader Mark Rutte asked Rosenthal to investigate a broad coalition of VVD, PvdA and CDA. The VVD leader told the informateur Friday that he sees big if not insurmountable obstacles to the formation of a Purple Plus cabinet.

Following the 9 June general elections, Rosenthal, given the task of forming a stable majority coalition, began with an investigation of the feasibility of a coalition of VVD, Party for Freedom (PVV) and the Christian democrats (CDA). Rosenthal concluded on Thursday that this coalition was “impossible” because CDA would not negotiate.

As a result, there are now two remaining options: Purple Plus, and a broad centrist coalition of VVD, PVV and CDA. If both fail, insiders believe a minority coalition of VVD and CDA with the support of PVV from the opposition could enter the picture.

PvdA party leader Job Cohen is going with “full force” for Purple Plus. Following his meeting with Rosenthan on Friday, he was clear about the possibility of a coalition of VVD, PvdA and CDA: “ I do not want it.”

D66 and GroenLinks are even more enthusiastic on Purple Plus. During the election campaign, D66 leader Alexander Pechtold was already regularly going around in a purple shirt or tie to indicate his ambitions. For GroenLinks, Purple Plus offers the opportunity to make its debut in a government.

Under Purple Plus, in the socio-economic area it is particularly PvdA that will have to adapt itself to VVD, D66 and GroenLinks, who are much more prepared to carry out reforms. The VVD would have to let up on its rightwing agenda in areas such as restricting immigration and crime-fighting.

Cohen acknowledges that the differences with the VVD are extremely substantial, but considers them solvable. “Otherwise, I would not have advised Purple Plus.”

But Rutte was very pessimistic. He repeated Friday that he had a preference for a coalition with PVV and CDA. A VVD-PvdA-CDA coalition would be his second choice. Rutte noted he would be willing to consider VVD-PvdA-CDA plus D66 as well. But Purple Plus is very unlikely, in his view.

As well as Rutte, Cohen, Pechtold and the leader of GroenLinks, Femke Halsema, Rosenthal also met with CDA parliamentary leader Maxime Verhagen on Friday. Again individually, Rosenthal will meet again with all of them except Verhagen on Monday to find out if Purple Plus is worth exploring.

In VVD circles, polls show the preference is for Geert Wilders’ PVV. When the negotiations with the PVV were still underway, 57 percent of the VVD voters were in favour of this coalition, while 21 percent preferred Purple Plus and 18 percent a coalition with PvdA and CDA, according to TV programme EenVandaag.

Rutte is positive on the role that the PVV has played in recent days. “Geert Wilders is not, absolutely not to blame. The PVV has been constructive. On the basis of the election programmes, we have concluded that VVD and PVV could quickly reach agreement on the points of immigration, a kilometre levy (road pricing), mortgage interest deductibility, security and heavier sentences. And we have concluded that there were sufficient points in common to talk further.”

CDA’s Verhagen still does not want to express any preference as to how to proceed further with the cabinet formation. He declined to comment on questions as to whether the CDA is prepared to sit in a cabinet with VVD and PvdA. “I am not ruling anything out.”

According to Verhagen, the ball is in the VVD’s court. “Being the biggest party on the evening of the elections is not just nice but also brings responsibilities with it,” he said Friday after his meeting with Rosenthal.

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

Slovenia: Training on EU Standards Next Week

(ANSAmed) — BRUXELLES, 18 GIU — A training session on “Citizenship and prevention of statelessness: international and european standards” will take place between 22 and 24 June in the slovenian capital, Ljubljana. The three days, according to the Enpi website (, is organized by the Eu funded Euromed Migration II project and will provide an overview on the concept of european citizenship. The seminar will facilitate experience exchange on policies and practices of the countries of trainees, enabling trainees to identify best practices in this field. The workshop will also develop awareness on current trends and methods regarding dual or multiple nationality and on the importance of enacting gender-neutral legislation. The project Euromed Migration II aims at strengthening cooperation in the management of migration in the Euromed area, to provide an effective, targeted and comprehensive solution to the various forms of migration. The project, from 2008 to 2011 with a budget of 5 million euros, involves the Eu partner in the Mediterranean region: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: HMV Forced to Take Down ‘Anyone But England’ World Cup Display After Racism Complaints

HMV have withdrawn ‘Anyone But England’ banners from its Scottish stores after complaints to police that they were inciting racial hatred.

The high street chain put up large window displays and stocked T-shirts featuring the slogan ‘ABE’ in the run-up to the World Cup.

However, they were besieged by calls from angry members of the public and the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) made a complaint to police in Fife that the company were inciting racial hatred.

An officer from Fife Constabulary visited an HMV store in former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s constituency of Kirkcaldy earlier this week and bosses quickly agreed to remove the banners from all their stores north of the border.

Yesterday, HMV said they were no longer ‘actively promoting’ the ‘ABE’ stock through banners and displays but said it would continue to sell a limited number of T-shirts.

Stuart Parr, a National Council member for the CEP, said: ‘The Campaign for an English Parliament will challenge any company that incites racial hatred towards the English.

‘Racism is unacceptable no matter who it is directed against, including English people.

Mr Parr said HMV’s decision to stock the ABE shirts and make window displays during the World Cup was ‘criminally irresponsible’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Inside the Muslim Eton: 20 Hour Days Starting at 3.45am With the Aim of Producing Muslim Elite of Leaders

The clock strikes 11am and boys spill out of classrooms into the corridor to move on to their next lesson.

There is no noise and no jostling. Instead they walk in an orderly manner, heads bowed respectfully and eyes downcast to avoid my gaze. The boys, all aged between 13 and 19, are dressed in ankle-length white salwar kameez and white skullcaps.

Their feet are bare. For this is no ordinary school. This is Darul Uloom, a Muslim madrassa or religious school, set in the pretty Kent village of Chislehurst. It is one of 166 Muslim schools in Britain today.

Of those, 26 are Darul Ulooms, religious seminaries rooted in the Islamic orthodoxy of sharia. According to an ICM poll, almost half of British Muslims wish to send their children to Muslim-only schools.

‘Our parents represent the cross-section of British Muslim society,’ the mufti — an Islamic scholar — of one leading school in northern England told me. These parents include teachers, doctors and shopkeepers.

Secretive and protective, Darul Uloom schools have been operating in Britain for 25 years. But since 9/11 they have faced closer scrutiny by police who fear they may be academies of radicalism — something the headmasters deny.

Now, for the first time, a Darul Uloom has opened its doors to a British newspaper and allowed The Mail on Sunday exclusive access. Most Britons may have never heard of such schools. But their significance in the Islamic world is paramount and it is shaping young Muslims in Britain today.

Islamic experts regard Darul Uloom as the second most important Islamic academic institution in the world after Cairo’s Al Azhar university. The schools aim to create new leaders of the Islamic world.

In terms of its significance, Darul Uloom is no less than the Eton of Islam. The first Darul Uloom or ‘House of Knowledge’ was set up in Deoband, northern India, in 1866.


In 2009, think-tank Civitas conducted the first major analysis of Islamic schools in Britain. Report author Dr Denis MacEoin said that younger British Muslims were more hardline than their elders, partly because such schools encouraged a separatist mentality.

‘These schools are about producing more imams, more muftis. Their teaching is based on a 17th Century system. Very few secular subjects are taught and the aim is to prepare them not for life in the wider world, but to give them an existence inside the Muslim world.’

His research showed many of the Darul Uloom schools in Britain resisted cultural integration. Instead, sharia values on issues such as women’s rights, homosexuality, segregation of men and women, and capital punishment were being inculcated in children from a young age.

‘It means no child attending a Muslim school of this kind will ever visit a gallery, attend a concert of classical or non-classical music, pass an evening mesmerised by Romeo and Juliet performed by the National Ballet. No Muslim girl will become a ballerina,’ wrote Dr MacEoin.

I looked up a couple of the Darul Uloom alumni to see where they have ended up. One of Chislehurst’s finest scholars now runs a website called, which he describes as ‘one of the fruits of Darul Uloom’. Darul Uloom teachers are cited on the site for their support.

The advice given is far from the tolerant ethos espoused by Mufti Mustafa. One Muslim asked if it would be acceptable to attend a wedding in a church, synagogue or temple. ‘Such places are the gathering places of devils,’ was the answer.

In another exchange, a student of aeronautical engineering asked if it would be OK to work for a Western defence company to ‘gain knowledge that would be useful for the defence needs of the Ummah’.

The answer from MuftiSays was: ‘This is permissible.’

These are not the most extreme views given by Deobandi alumni. The leading voice in Britain is Riyadh ul Haq, a graduate of the Darul Uloom school in Bury. Aged 36, ul Haq is seen as the dominant influence on Deobandi mosques in Britain, which account for 600 of Britain’s 1,400 mosques.

His sermons are often inflammatory. On Jews, he has said: ‘They’re all the same. They’ve monopolised everything: the Holocaust, God, money, interest, usury, the world economy, the media, political institutions . . . they monopolised tyranny and oppression as well. And injustice.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Croatia: Council of Europe, Resolve Post-Conflict Issues

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, JUNE 17 — It is time for Croatia to resolve all the issues that are still pending that were generated by the 1991-1995 conflict. This is what the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, has urged the Croatian authorities to do in his report on the Balkan country, which has been published today. Croatia has made a great deal of progress since it became an independent state. However, greater determination is required to resolve the serious situations caused by the war concerning the respect of human rights, said Hammarberg. In the report, based on a visit conducted in April, the Commissioner concentrated in particular on three issues: the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers, trials for war crimes, and finally the situation of the Roma community. Amongst the recommendations that Hammarberg has made to Croatia is to immediately and quickly carry out mine clearing in large agricultural and forested areas. This is one of the steps that is required in order to guarantee a safe return for the people who fled and to give them the chance to work. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Patriarch Calls for Harmony With Serbs

Belgrade, 19 June (AKI) — The patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej has called on Kosovo Albanians and Serbs to live in harmony, Serbian media reported on Saturday. Irinej was elected in April as a spiritual leader of some 10 million Serbs worldwide, replacing the late patriarch Pavle.

On his first visit to Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia two years ago, Irinej said he was glad to step on the “holy Serbian land” again, but saddened that much of Serbia’s religious and cultural heritage had been destroyed.

Irinej visited Pec patriarchate, the medieval seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is now being guarded by Italian soldiers, stationed in Kosovo with the NATO contingent (KFOR).

“Serbs and Albanians have lived here for centuries, side by side,” Irinej said. Recalling that he had served for 28 years in Kosovo, Irinej said he looked back with nostalgia to those years.

“I remember that period and wish that the two peoples may live in harmony and love, a life acceptable to both, today, tomorrow and always,” Irinej said.

Serbia opposes Kosovo independence, declared by majority ethnic Albanians and recognised by 70 countries, including the United States and 22 members of the European Union.

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

North Africa

Libya PM Liberated, Country’s Deficit Attains 50 Billion USD

June 7 — A few hours after revealing the arrest of Libyan prime minister, Mr. Baghdadi al Mahmoudi , and two of his subordinates three days ago, our sources in Tripoli informed Shaffaf that the PM has been liberated but is still being investigated.

According to the same sources, the government of Mr. Mahmoudi has spent the astronomous sum of 140 billion USD on corruption tainted infrastructure projects. “Libya is now a bankrupt country, with a huge current deficit of 50 billion USD”, according to one source.


Libya’s Prime Minister behind bars

Shaffaf Exclusive

The Prime Minister of Libya, Mr. Baghdadi Al Mahmoudi was arrested in Tripoli two days ago.His arrest was kept secret by the Libyan authorities. Have also arrested the governor of the Libyan central bank, Mr. Farhat Ben Qdara and number 2 of the Ministry of Planning, Mr. Ashour Tribil.

Mr. Baghdadi Al Mahmoudi and his accomplices are accused of abuse of public property and mishandling of public funds.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Did Obama Deal Blackmail Israel?

Concessions extracted amid fears Iranian weapons headed for Gaza

NEW YORK — The U.S. extracted concessions from Israel in exchange for American opposition to the establishment of a United Nations commission to investigate Israel’s commando raid of a flotilla earlier this month that resulted in the deaths of nine violent activists, WND has learned.

Separately, an official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told WND the Obama administration pressed hard on Israel to ease a blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Israel says the blockade is intended to stop the shipment of weapons into Gaza.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Flash: Israel Revises Gaza Policy; World Gets What it Wants: Terrorist, Genocidal, Antisemitic, Revolutionary Islamist Statelet on the Mediterranean

by Barry Rubin

Israel has looked for a policy that preserves its security to the maximum extent, undermines Hamas as much as possible, and reduces international criticism, in that order of priority. Thus, the cabinet has approved an altered strategy on the Gaza Strip.

The main principle can be summarized as placing the emphasis on anything that can be used for military purposes against Israel but easing up on the destabilizing effort. This makes sense since the international community’s protection of the Hamas regime—despite the fact that it is a revolutionary Islamist, terrorist, genocide-intending, anti-Western client of Iran that will fight Israel and subvert Egypt in future—makes its overthrow impossible any way.

The June 20 cabinet decision states:

“Israel’s policy is to protect its citizens against terror, rocket and other attacks from Gaza. In seeking to keep weapons and war materiel out of Gaza while liberalizing the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza….”

Thus, the first principle is:

1. Publish a list of items not permitted into Gaza that is limited to weapons and war materiel, including problematic dual-use items. All items not on this list will be permitted to enter Gaza.

This is a great contraction of previous lists. A range of construction materials—cement, which can also be used for military bunkers; pipes that can be used for making rockets—must be watched closely. Hence, point 2:

2. Enable and expand the inflow of dual-use construction materials for approved PA-authorized projects (schools, health facilities, water, sanitation, etc.) that are under international supervision and for housing projects such as the U.N. housing development being completed at Khan Yunis. Israel intends to accelerate the approval of such projects in accordance with accepted mechanisms and procedures.

The theory is that international agencies will make sure the materiels are used for building nice things, not pillboxes and reinforced bunkers. No doubt Israel will report on whether this promise is kept (though reports to the contrary will probably be ignored)

The land crossings will be expanded to admit more materials at a faster rate for sending into the Gaza Strip, and procedures for letting people leave to get medical treatment or other purposes will be streamlined..

What does Israel get in exchange?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Orthodox Against High Court, 22 Mothers Escape

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 18 — No punches are being pulled in the continuing feud between orthodox Jews and Israel’s secular institutions, which began after an end was requested to the segregation of students of different ethnic origin in a girl’s school in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel. Yesterday, over 100,000 orthodox Jews began a mass demonstration in support of the dozens of parents condemned to two weeks in prison for ignoring the injunction by the Supreme Court putting an end to the discrimination. 35 orthodox Jews, fathers of Ashkenazi students (of European descent) at the school in Emmanuel, have been held since last night in a prison just outside Tel Aviv, where they have been able to recreate a religious environment. The authorities have allowed them to take study books and food prepared according to strict orthodox traditions. However, authorities noticed last night that 22 women and 3 men who were also supposed to have been arrested were missing. According to the orthodox press, the women decided to escape arrest, partly so that they could protect their numerous families. As a result, the women fled to other orthodox locations. One of these women, the press says, gave birth to her twelfth child this morning. Her husband, who is also being pursued by the police, was by her side during the birth in a secret location. The police now find themselves disorientated by such a situation. The Supreme Court has announced that the issue of the women’s arrest can wait until Sunday. In the mean time, many sides are seeking an end to the crisis, and are hoping for the arrests of the fathers to be cancelled. An appeal to this end was launched today by an association of Sephardi Jews (of Arab extraction), which was the first to bring to light the case of the “segregated” school in Emmanuel. According to the daily newspaper Haaretz, the chief prosecutor, Yehuda Weinstein, now intends to demand the release of the Orthodox prisoners, believing that the move is not helping to resolve the crisis. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Emirates Orders 32 Airbus A380s for USD 11.5 Bln

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, JUNE 8 — The Dubai-based airline, Emirates, has ordered 32 A380 superjumbo aircraft from Airbus, for a value of 11.5 billion dollars (around 9.6 billion euros at the current rate of exchange). The announcement was made in Berlin today by the chief executive of the holding company FADS, Tom Enders, during a press conference marking the first day of the international aeronautical show(ILA). The European aeronautical group has therefore been given the first order for a new passenger aircraft in around a year, with a deal signed today at the ILA by Enders and sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum. The German chancellor Angela Merkel also attended. The 32 new superjumbos follow the 58 A380 already ordered by the Emirati company and provide further proof of “Emirates’ strategy to become a world leading carrier and to further strengthen Dubai’s role as a world air traffic hub,” said sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum. (ANSAmed).

2010-06-08 19:17

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Food: Algida Ice-Cream Celebrates 20th Year in Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 18 — Algida ice-cream of Unilever Food Marketing is celebrating its 20th year in Turkey, as Anatolia news agency reports. Mustafa Seckin from Unilever Food Marketing held a press conference in Istanbul on Thursday and said that Turkey’s ice-cream consumption per capita was 0.3 liters in 1990s, adding that this rate increased to 2.8 liters today, however, Algida’s target was to double this figure within the next five years. Noting that Unilever’s ice-cream had an annual turnover more than five billion Euro all over the world, Seckin said that today, they reached millions of people in 115 countries of the world. He added that Unilever sold 2.3 billion liters of ice-cream in the whole world today. Seckin said that Algida entered Turkish market by opening Corlu Factory in 1990. Noting that the factory had 10 million liters of production capacity in 1990, Seckin said that its capacity increased to 200 million liters today, adding that the factory became Europe’s second and world’s sixth biggest one. Seckin said that they provided employment for 3,200 people in Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Son Kills Father Who Translated for U.S.

BAGHDAD (AP) — An al Qaeda-linked insurgent shot and killed his own father as he slept in his bed Friday for refusing to quit his job as an Iraqi interpreter for the U.S. military, police said, a rare deadly attack on a close family member over allegations of collaborating with the enemy.

The attack happened on a particularly bloody day in Iraq, with at least 27 people killed nationwide in bombings and ambushes largely targeting the houses of government officials, Iraqi security forces and those seen as allied with them.

Hameed al-Daraji, 50, worked as a contractor and translator for the U.S. military for seven years since shortly after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

He was shot in the chest about 3 a.m. while sleeping in his house in Samarra, a former insurgent stronghold 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Baghdad, police Lt. Emad Muhsin said.

Authorities arrested the son and his cousin, saying the young men apparently were trying to prove their loyalty after rejoining the insurgency. Police were also looking for another son who allegedly took part in the attack.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mustafa Ismail Under Trial in a Military Court in Syria

Mutafa Ismael covered turkish affairs for Middle East Transparent. A summary of his case

The Second Military Prosecutor in Military Court in Aleppo has charged Mustafa Ismail of making plans and actions aimed at offending Syrian relationships with foreign countries and being member of an illegal organization aiming to divide Syria and join a new country. The case is number 394-2010, 13 may 2010

As a result of this decision Ismail will stand trial in the Military Court in Aleppo. The charges could be punished with one to five years in prison.

The Second Military Prosecutor in Military Court had rejected all the bail request submitted by Ismail’s lawyers.

Ismail was summoned for interrogation on 10 December already by the air force department of the Syrian secret service in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani (Arab: Ain al-Arab). He was then told to report to the head-office of the same security department in the north Syrian city of Aleppo. He followed this directive, but did not return. Where the Syrian security forces are holding the Kurdish human right worker at present is unknown.

On 16 November Mustafa Ismail informed the STP (Society for Threatened Peoples) that the State Security Service had interrogated him two days previously in Aleppo. This was for him the third interrogation within one year after 13 March and 3 October. Every time he was accused of making public statements on the situation of the Kurds in Syria. But he was neither tortured nor treated badly.

Mustafa Ismail was first arrested by Syrian Political Intelligence in 2000. Because he was participated in a TV program on Kurdish channel ‘‘MedyaTV’’ and he was jailed for weeks in Aleppo. As he was called many times by Syrian intelligence, in October 2009 he was called by Military Intelligent Department and called by State Intelligent Department. Ismail now in Central Aleppo Prison after resulting disappeared for three months during which he is believed to have been in the hands of Syrian intelligence.

Ismail lives and works in the town of Ain al-Arab, 440 km from Damascus in the north of Syria. In his capacity as lawyer he represents many Kurds and Arabs who have been arrested on account of their activities of political opposition.

Mustafa Ismail was born in 1973 in Kobani (Ain Al-Arab), is married and father of three children. He is well known journalist, intellectual, poem, lawyer and human defender. Ismail has dozens of political articles and research and legal studies. Also he translated a lot of research and articles from and into Arabic. So many Kurdish and Arabic websites, newspapers and magazines published him articles and research which is characterized by political criticism, human rights violations in Syria and is interested in public affairs. Mustafa Ismail participated as guest in one of documentary films dealing with the social situation in the Syrian Kurdish countryside. Also Ismail was participated in many TV programs as reviewer political analyst and human rights on several Kurdish satellite channels, Mustafa Ismail, served as a correspondent for Kurdish newspaper “Azadiya Welat” that is published in Diyarbakir City the largest Kurdish city southeast Turkey. Ismail served as correspondent for Radio “Sydney 2000” Australia.

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

Turkey: Marriages Dropped and Divorces Rose in 2009

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 18 — Over 591,000 marriages were registered and more than 114,000 divorces were granted in Turkey in 2009, according to figures released today by the Turkish statistics authority, TurkStat, an quoted by Anatolia news agency. Registered marriages had been 641,973 in 2008 and they dropped to 591,742 in 2009 while the number of divorces rose from 99,663 in 2008 to 114,162 in 2009. In 2009, the median age for first-time marriage was 26.3 years for men and 23 years for women. Turkey’s Aegean region had the highest crude divorce rate (divorces per 1,000 people) with 2.27 while the lowest crude divorce rate was in northeast Anatolia with 0.58 in 2009. In 2009, 40% of divorces were granted in the first five years of marriage. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US, Israel Warships in Suez May be Prelude to Faceoff With Iran

Egypt allowed at least one Israeli and 11 American warships to pass through the Suez Canal as an Iranian flotilla approaches Gaza. Egypt closed the canal to protect the ships with thousands of soldiers, according to the British-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds al-Arabi.

One day prior to the report on Saturday, Voice of Israel government radio reported that the Egyptian government denied an Israeli request not to allow the Iranian flotilla to use the Suez Canal to reach Gaza, in violation of the Israeli sea embargo on the Hamas-controlled area.

International agreements require Egypt to keep the Suez open even for warships, but the armada, led by the USS Truman with 5,000 sailors and marines, was the largest in years. Egypt closed the canal to fishing and other boats as the armada moved through the strategic passageway that connects the Red and Mediterranean Seas.

Despite Egypt’s reported refusal to block the canal to Iranian boats, the clearance for the American-Israeli fleet may be a warning to Iran it may face military opposition if the Iranian Red Crescent ship continues on course to Gaza.

The warships may exercise the right to inspect the Iranian boat for the illegal transport or weapons. Newsweek reported that Egyptian authorities could stop the ship for weeks, using technicalities such as requiring that any official documents be translated from Farsi into Arabic.

The magazine’s website also reported that the Iranian navy is the weakest part of its armed forces. Tehran has already backed down from announced intentions to escort the Iranian ships with “volunteer marines” from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The Iranian news site reported, “The move might be in connection to U.S. self-inflicted embargo against Iran aimed at inspecting Iran bound ships for suspected goods related to the country’s nuclear program.”

Another battle on the high seas may involve one, and possibly two, Lebanese vessels that are aimed at challenging Israel’s sovereignty over the Gaza coastal waters. Hizbullah, gearing up for a reaction to a possible clash between the Israeli Navy (pictured) and the Lebanese boats, has delayed rocket units near Lebanese ports, according to unofficial military sources.

Israel has warned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Israel will use force, if necessary, to stop the boats, one of which is carrying approximately 70 women passengers and crew organized by Hizbullah support Samar al-Hajj. Her husband is one of several jailed suspects involved in the assassination for former Lebanese anti-Syrian Prime Rafik Hariri.

Hizbullah has denied it is connected with the Lebanese flotilla, but it has been reported that Al Hajj met with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah last month.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Several Killed in Rebel Attack in Aden

Aden, 19 June (AKI) — A group of armed men attacked a building housing Yemen’s intelligence services in the southern port city of Aden on Saturday, provoking a violent clash with security forces in which 12 people were reported to have been killed.

Security officials said heavily armed men entered the facility after attacking the building’s guards.

At least two members of the security forces have been killed. Unconfirmed reports said another 10 people, including six security personnel, were also dead.

The gunman, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, exchanged fire with the guards at the intelligence headquarters in the Tawahi District, officials said.

The attackers were reported to have freed a number of people detained at the facility.

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

Yemen: Eleven Killed as ‘Al Qaeda Gunmen Stage Daring Prison Break’

At least 11 people were killed today when heavily-armed militants dressed in military uniforms stormed the Yemeni intelligence service’s headquarters, security officials confirmed.

Seven security men, three women and a seven-year old child were killed in the exchange of fire.

Yemeni security officials said nine others were injured, while hospital officials said at least 15 wounded people had been brought to the local hospital.

Though no group has claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, Yemen’s government said it bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda, according to the initial investigation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Medvedev Shows Off Sample Coin of New ‘World Currency’ At G-8

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev illustrated his call for a supranational currency to replace the dollar by pulling from his pocket a sample coin of a “united future world currency.”

“Here it is,” Medvedev told reporters today in L’Aquila, Italy, after a summit of the Group of Eight nations. “You can see it and touch it.”

The coin, which bears the words “unity in diversity,” was minted in Belgium and presented to the heads of G-8 delegations, Medvedev said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Russia-France: Leaders to Endorse New Oil and Gas Accords

St. Petersburg, 19 June (AKI) — Russia and France on Saturday were due to endorse a number of accords on cooperation in oil and gas, aerospace and transport industries. The signing was to take place after talks between Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Both leaders were to attend the ceremony after an agreement between Italian energy giant Eni and Russian gas company Gazprom on Friday enabled utility Electricite de France to be involved in a joint project to send Russian gas to Europe.

The deal was signed in the Russian city of St. Petersburg and will allow Electricite de France to buy a stake in the South Stream venture, which is building pipeline infrastructure across the Black Sea.

“In the presence of the leaders of Russia and France several bilateral documents are to be signed, including a memorandum between Gazprom, ENI, and EDF on the joint development of the offshore stretch of the South Stream gas pipeline project, “ a Kremlin source told news agency, Itar-Tass.

He also said the presidents were going to “discuss the prospects of relations between Russia and France, especially those in the sphere of trading and economic relations and partnership for the sake of modernisation.”

Russian aerospace agency Roscosmos planned to sign a contract with ArianSpace to buy an additional consignment of Soyuz booster rockets for the space centre in Guyana.

Eni said on Friday that it had signed a memorandum, clearing EDF to enter the South Stream project and that the agreement would be signed on Saturday.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Troops Foil Plot to Murder Children

BRITISH troops have foiled a sick Taliban plot to kill dozens of innocent Afghan children on their first day at school.

They found bombs which had been planted in the school by insurgents who knew eager kids would soon be flocking into its grounds to begin a new learning year.

The bombers hatched their plan after a tribal elder used the village mosque’s ­public address system to announce the school would re-open for the first time in three years after Taliban threats forced it to close.

As it opened, a six-year-old boy ran into the schoolyard and trod on a mine which blew off his right leg below the knee.

The mine was linked to a much larger bomb which would have killed every child and teacher in the school had it gone off. That’s when the gunners from II ­Squadron of the RAF Regiment swung into action.

Sqn Ldr Matt Carter said: “We mounted a squadron-level operation to clear the rest of the village, make the school safe and reassure the villagers.”

His men teamed up with locals to guard the school for three days until bomb ­disposal experts could arrive to scour the grounds for more devices. They soon found another mine which they defused.

Then RAF Regiment gunners patrolled the village for the next few days — and now the people of Molla Abdullah Kariz have turned against the Taliban.

Sqn Ldr Carter said: “The villagers saw immediately that the insurgents had ­targeted the future of the village by ­attacking the school and the next ­generation.

“This was a turning point. As a result, the vast ­majority of the locals now openly support the Afghan government and ­coalition forces.”

The change of mood has seen locals ­volunteering for a registration and ­identity card scheme. Other villages ­nearby are also clamouring for ID cards.

Sqn Ldr Carter explained: “ID cards help greatly because they give the insurgents fewer places to hide among a population moving towards acceptance of the Afghan government.”

Village leader Janaan (many Afghans use only one name) told the Daily Star Sunday: “The boy who was injured is now doing well and is back at the school.

“After that, the people here now hate the Taliban. We are happy that the British have helped us.”

It’s a clear victory for the RAF Regiment, the troops responsible for keeping ­Kandahar airbase secure.

Their men live and work outside the base, spending 15 days at a time among the Afghans.

They patrol the area with Jackal, Coyote, ­Panther and Vixen vehicles to stop rocket and mortar attacks on the base.

They recently caught a three-man ­bombing team who had a rocket with them and were trying to plant an improvised ­explosive device (IED).

A US helicopter crew spotted the gang and II Squadron raced in to arrest one man as the other two fled on a motorbike.

The gunners are also parachute-trained and have already launched helicopter ­patrols so the Taliban do not know where or when to expect them next.

The Daily Star Sunday was at Kandahar airbase when they halted a major ­Taliban attack, calling in helicopter gunships to lay down a barrage of fire before ­boarding their own choppers to chase down and capture the fleeing insurgents.

But they have suffered losses.

Senior Aircraftsman Luke Southgate, 20, was killed while on patrol in February when an IED blew up the ­machine ­gunner’s WMIK Land Rover.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

India: Some Muslim Practices Cause Poverty, Muslim Religious Leader Says

For Ibrahim Musliyar Bekal, the dowry system, the ban on married women working, and frequent desertion by husbands explain indigence in Muslim communities.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — For Ibrahim Musliyar Bekal, a Muslim religious leader in Karnataka’s Udupi District, the Muslim community is largely to blame for its poverty. After visiting ten families living in abject poverty, he said that some Muslim practices explain widespread underdevelopment.

Bekal, who is Qazi (Kadi, religious judge) in Udupi, said that it “is very important to eradicate the dowry system and other such evils prevailing in the Muslim community”, which undermine “its overall development”.

The dowry system forces families to pay millions of rupees to the groom’s family in order to take in their daughters in marriage. Even though the practice is illegal since the adoption of the Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961, it still shapes people’s mindset and culture.

Another evil that burdens Muslims is the status of women who, after marriage, are not allowed to work. To illustrate his point, Qazi Ibrahim Musliyar Bekal mentioned the moving case of a family who had two female members become mentally ill after they were deserted by their husbands many years ago. Sadly, he said there are many instances of various forms of abuse that are inflicted upon unfortunate women who end up languishing at home without support.

According to Indian government figures, some 251 people lived below the poverty line in 2005. Of these, 31 per cent was Muslim even though Muslims represent only 13.4 per cent of the population.

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

The Plight of the Ahmadi Community in Islamic Republic of Pakistan

by Amir Mir

LAHORE: “I am an Ahmadi, My name is Khan. There are four million of me in Pakistan. This Islamic Republic is the only state in the world which has officially declared me to be a non-Muslim. Why? It’s simple. I am an Ahmadi,” so writes Wajahat S. Khan, a Pakistani television journalist at his word press blog, hardly 24 hours after the appalling massacre of 95 Ahmadis on May 27, 2010 while they were offering Friday prayers in mosques located in two different localities of Lahore, the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Thousands of worshippers, including women and children, were at Friday prayers when the fidayeen style terror raids at the two mosques began. It was surreal to see the images unfolding on our television screens when the terrorists went inside the two houses of prayer and unleashed their terror on the innocent worshippers. Numerous explosions were heard at the crime scenes in Model Town and Garhi Shahu and gunfire continued for hours, with images of at least two gunmen firing at police from the roof of one of the mosques. The gunmen opened during Friday prayers and threw grenades at mosques in residential neighbourhoods in Lahore. Of the two mosques targeted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists, Baitul Noor is located in the upscale neighbourhood of Model Town while Darul Zikr is located in the heavily congested walled city area of Garhi Shahu.

At least one dozen heavily armed fidayeen attackers carrying hand grenades and automatic weapons, some of them wearing suicide jackets, stormed the mosques in two separate groups of seven and five respectively, hurling grenades and firing at worshippers. At the Garhi Shahu mosque, the attackers took hostage many of the Ahmadi worshipers and assumed control of the building. One of the attackers climbed atop the minaret of the mosque, started firing with an assault rifle and throwing hand grenades. The police force took almost three hours to kill the hostage takers and regain control of the mosque. As a result, 23 people were killed in Model Town and 72 in Garhi Shahu. The dead bodies were buried separately on Saturday after the Ahmadiya community cancelled a mass funeral because they were not satisfied with the security arrangements.

The Ahmadis had been shoved into quarters of isolation a long time ago by the Pakistani religio-political clergy. As Wajahat Khan puts it in his blog, “Ordinances have been passed against me. Acts and Constitutional Amendments have been drafted around me. Shortly after the heart and soul of our nation was ripped into two, a country reeling to define and defend its own identity unleashed itself upon me. In 1974, a parliament I had voted for adopted a law that outlawed me. You might have noted the affects of that today. As my attackers unleashed their wrath, television networks I watch and love got the location of the bloodshed all wrong. What I call a mosque, they called a “place of worship”. That’s alright though. It’s not their fault. I’m used to the special treatment. After all, I am an Ahmadi. But I wish things were different. I wish I was like you. I wish I was a Sunni, a Shia, a Punjabi, a Pakhtoon, a Baloch, a Sindhi, a Memon, a Gujrati, a Siraiki, or a Makrani. If I was any of those, or even anyone else, I would have been called a martyr or “shaheed” in the papers today.”

Interestingly, the heart wrenching blog did fetch a lot of comments from fellow bloggers but each one of them began by clarifying, “I am not an Ahmadi.” Naziha commented, “The Friday attack, the hatred, the growing extremism and palpable fear has become too much. Too much even for those who have always put Pakistan first, no matter what the threat; those who have always opted to contribute, no matter how severe the injustice, who have always considered themselves Pakistani, no matter how painful the identity.” Similarly, Sahar wrote, “I’m a Sunni. But today, we are all Ahmadis. We all grieve. And in our grief, we must all stand up as one and say no to this violence, and we must demand that the anti-Ahmadis laws be repealed immediately!”

The Ahmadis are a Muslim sect which was founded in Qadian, Punjab, in the 19th century. Its founder was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a Muslim who claimed prophetic status as the Mahdi or Messiah, in succession to Krishna, Jesus Christ and Mohammed. Many Muslims of the mainstream Sunni sect are opposed to the Ahmadis as they believe that the group recognizes a successor to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which contravenes conventional Islamic belief. However, the Ahmadi sect was formally declared non-Muslim in the Pakistani Constitution in 1974, by the then government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the face of a strong agitation launched by the country’s religio-political parties.

Since then, the Ahmadi sect has experienced state-sanctioned discrimination and occasional attacks by extremist Sunnis. Its four million-odd members have seen their religious rights in overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan curtailed by law with every passing day. Ahmadis have been barred from holding their religious meetings even in Rabwah (also called Chanab Nagar), a town in Punjab that is the headquarters of the Ahmadi sect. Almost 95 percent of the population of this town is Ahmadi. However, the entire population of the town was forbidden to elect or even vote for their local government councilors. They were told that they could vote only as non-Muslims, which was unacceptable to them. Consequently, a local council was imposed on Rabwah, which did not represent 95% of its population.

With four million Ahmadis in Pakistan, persecution of Ahmadis has been quite systematic in this country whose founder had envisioned a liberal and secular state of Pakistan. But Pakistan is the only state to have officially declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. The Ahmadis of Pakistan are prohibited by law from self-identifying as Muslims, and their freedom of religion has been curtailed by a series of ordinances, acts and constitutional amendments. As a result, persecution and hate-related incidents are constantly reported from different parts of the country, and Ahmadis have been the target of many attacks led by various religious groups, mainly belonging to the sunni deobandi sectarian groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

It is not for the first time that the sunni deobandi Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has targeted some minority sect in the country. But in the past, Shias used to be the prime target of the Hakeemullah Mehsud-led terror outfit. As far as the Friday’s bloody episode is concerned, many in the security agencies believe that the TTP actually decided to target the Ahmadis with the hope that it may win the sympathies of those in the Pakistani society who consider it a right to kill them (wajib-ul-qatal). The fact, however, is that the ant-Shia TTP unleashed terror on the worshipers of a minority that is not even allowed to call their place of worship a mosque and is forbidden under the Constitution and the law not to pronounce themselves Muslim or call their kalma as kalma.

In the aftermath of the May 27, 2010 terror attacks, many here believe that Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan has become an intolerant nation where religious and sectarian minorities live in fear, they remain vulnerable and are awarded little or no protection by the state. This mindset is no more confined to the Pakistani Taliban who are in the habit of killing in the name of religion. Today, there is no shortage of sectarian and other militant outfits in Pakistan that feel justified in murdering Ahmadis, Shias, and Christians — or indeed anyone who doesn’t share their views.

In the words of Imtiaz Alam, the secretary general of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), we don’t have the right to protest against the transgression of a misguided cartoonist against our faith if we do not allow the same right to our minorities to protest the agony of not being allowed to practice what they believe. “Since the first anti-Ahmadiya movement, passage of the 4th Amendment and promulgation of the Qadiyani Ordinance by General Ziaul Haq, a witch-hunt of the Ahmadis continues unabated. If certain westerners are not sensitive to our feelings, and we rightly protest, we too are insensitive towards our minorities or those we do not agree with us and we do not even allow them the right to challenge the injustice done to them”.

Asma Jahangir, the chairperson of the human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) believed that the politics of fanning religious frenzy on the basis of sectarianism, blasphemy and fighting infidels is intrinsically linked to creating an environment for breeding nurseries of terrorism and promoting vigilantism. “It creates a culture of intolerance that is inimical to all democratic values. It is not a matter of an ideological battle between the liberals and the rightists; it is a matter of keeping democratic values above all considerations. If the scourge of terrorism is to be eliminated, it can only be done by defeating their fascist ideology and subscribing to undiluted democratic and civilised values”, she added.

Pakistan’s terror-stricken Ahmadi community says the gory attack on its two worship places has made them more vulnerable. “The religious hardliners want us to leave Pakistan,” Qamar Suleman, a Jammat-e-Ahamdiya Pakistan office-bearer said. “All Pakistani extremist religious organisations are against Ahmadis and their negative propaganda had paved the way for such attacks. “Some groups even endorse the idea to kill Ahmadis terming them infidels as a license to go to heaven. Since no government has ever come hard on the elements instigating violence, it cannot be absolved of Friday’s tragedy. After this attack, we are very scared. Some of us are thinking to leave the country for the safety of our lives. Unless the government eliminates such elements such incidents can never be stopped,” he added.

English daily The News said in an editorial after the attack that Pakistan’s Ahmadi community has been under attack since the 1950s. “With the decades that have passed since then, the severity of their persecution has increased, and has been enshrined in law. In the mid-1970s they were declared non-Muslim. A decade later a bar was placed on them preaching or professing their faith. Violence of all kinds against them — murder, kidnappings, and forced conversions — has taken place. The latest attack is a continuation of this. It fits too with the more organised terrorism we have been seeing recently”, it added.

English daily Dawn said in one such editorial that the gruesome attacks on the Ahmadi worshippers were a tragic reminder of the growing intolerance that is threatening to destroy our social fabric. “Bigotry in this country has been decades in the making and is expressed in a variety of ways. Violence by individuals or groups against those who hold divergent views may be the most despicable manifestation of such prejudice but it is by no means the only one. Religious minorities in Pakistan have not only been shunted to the margins of society but also face outright persecution on a regular basis”, it added.

But a Daily Times editorial was quite critical of the Punjab government being run by the Pakistan Msulim League (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif. “We have seen the Punjab government’s top minister hobnobbing with the leaders of banned terrorist groups, case in point being Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah mollycoddling a Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan leader in the Jhang district for electoral purposes. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif recently begging mercy from the Taliban to spare Punjab is another grim reminder that our leaders are playing a very dangerous game. It seems the PML-N is playing the role of a fifth column in this war against terrorism. Instead of owning up to the fact that there are terrorists in Punjab, the provincial government has shifted the blame to an obscure ‘foreign hand’. The provincial government should not try to fool the public with red herrings. The people of this country want answers and not flimsy excuses. The Friday attacks were not just an assault on the Ahmadis but an assault on every citizen of Pakistan”, the editorial concluded.

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

Far East

Uighurs Flee China After Riots


BEIJING (AP) — Police came looking for Vali days after bloody ethnic riots broke out in the far west last year, saying they had video footage of him among fleeing protesters and later shouting at an officer.

The 22-year-old man was not home, and his father called to tell him to stay away. Vali hid for weeks before escaping to the Netherlands to join an estimated 150 other Uighurs — a Muslim minority group from China’s Xinjiang region — seeking refugee status.

“Once I got off the plane, I told the police that I need political asylum,” Vali said in a phone interview. “I told them everything that I had been through and said I can no longer live in China. If I have to go back I am 100 percent sure that I will be dead.”

Nearly a year after the worst riots in China’s far west in more than a decade, his story and that of another asylum seeker interviewed by The Associated Press are among the few accounts to emerge of how some Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) got out amid a government crackdown.

At least 300 Uighurs are thought to have fled China since the July unrest, according to the World Uyghur Congress. Some slipped illegally into neighboring countries in Central Asia, which regularly extradite Uighurs back to China. Others with more money, such as Vali, paid thousands of dollars to criminal gangs and smugglers for plane tickets and visas.

China says some Uighurs are terrorists or criminals who pose a threat to the region’s safety, and has previously insisted that Uighur refugees be extradited back. Foreign governments weary of immigrants and wary of offending China are often unwelcoming or play down the presence of Uighurs.

Cambodia sent back 20 Uighur refugees to China in December despite international protests. Turkey, which has strong ethnic and linguistic ties to the group, has eased entry requirements, but its government is reluctant to talk about the influx of dozens of Uighurs.

The Netherlands is home to what is believed to be largest group in Europe, because many international flights pass through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The two Uighurs in Holland told the AP of the fear of being ensnared by a crackdown that has detained hundreds, often unaccounted for months later. Chinese media reports say at least 25 people, mostly Uighurs, have been tried and sentenced to death for crimes related to the riots.

The Uighurs told their stories on condition that only their last names be used, citing fears of retaliation against their families. Now they wait to see if they will be granted asylum — or sent home…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


EU: Italy Among Countries to Grant Most Asylum

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Italy is part of the group of European countries that in 2009 granted more asylum permits: this was announced by EU statistics office Eurostat. According to the data released today, in 2009 a total of 78,800 asylum permits were granted in the 27 EU countries, on 260,000 requests that were presented. Of these, most were granted by the UK (12,500), followed by Germany (12,100), France (10,400), Sweden (9,100), Italy (8,600) and the Netherlands (8,100). These countries together are responsible for three quarter of all permits that were granted in Europe. In 2009 most citizens who obtained the refugee status came from Somalia (13,400, 17% of the total), Iraq (13,100) and Afghanistan (7,100). Italy accepted 2,400 Somali, Sweden 4,000 and the Netherlands 3,600. Italy also welcomed 1,305 Eritrean citizens. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Finland: Foreign-Born Residents to Set Up “Immigrant Parliament”

Immigrants in Finland will soon be entitled to choose 50 representatives for a planned “Immigrant Parliament of Finland”. The first elections for the body will coincide with next year’s elections of the Finnish Parliament.

Founders of the Immigrant Parliament say that the planned body will be the first in the world. It has no official status in Finland, but organisers hope that it could influence public opinion.

The aim of the body is to give a voice to immigrants in the Finnish immigration debate.

The father of the idea, Alexis Kouros, sees the parliament as a politically and religiously independent body.

“So far, the debate has been a monologue of the dominant population. The Parliament will turn it into a dialogue. It is harder to bypass its opinion than that of an individual immigrant”, Kouros explains.

Those eligible to vote in the election of the Immigrant Parliament will be foreigners who have lived in Finland for at least two years, foreign-born Finnish citizens, and the adult children of immigrants.

Candidates for the body must also meet the same requirements.

If each group of immigrants were to vote for their own citizens, the largest national groups in the body would be the Russians and the Estonians. Other large groups include Somalis, Chinese, Iraqis, Thai, and Germans, numbering between 5,000 and 7,000 each.

Those behind the project believe, however, that matters other than ethnic background will affect how people vote.

“We don’t want the Immigrant Parliament to be a place where people only talk about female circumcision. The same things are important to us that are important to others, but we have new points of view”, says Professor Jeremy Gould, one of the founders of the idea.

The aim is not to set up a parallel system to the Finnish Parliament. The goal is to make it easier for immigrants to adapt to Finnish society.

“Immigrants are frustrated. The Parliament eases this frustration by offering a way to affect their own position”, Kouros says.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Harvard Student Won’t be Deported

BOSTON — An undocumented Harvard University student is no longer facing deportation to Mexico after being detained nearly two weeks ago by immigration authorities at a Texas airport, officials said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said late Friday that they would not pursue the deportation of Eric Balderas. The 19-year-old was detained in June after he tried to use a university ID card to board a plane from San Antonio to Boston.


According to a Facebook page set up to highlight his case, Balderas was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his family at age 4. He said he doesn’t remember living in Mexico.

He’s studying molecular and cellular biology at Harvard and hopes to become a cancer researcher. He said he qualified for Harvard’s privately funded scholarship package.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Berlin Celebrates Gay Pride Parade

Berlin’s Christopher Street Day parade drew thousands of people in Berlin on Saturday, as around 50 trucks and marchers round their way around the city to end up for the first time at the Brandenburg Gate.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who is openly gay, cut the ribbon to start the parade, which is overtly political as well as musical and with an emphasis on outrageous costumes.

The march takes its name from a street in New York where homosexuals first offered organised resistance to official repression after a gay bar was violently raided by police in 1969.

The message in Berlin is that gay people still face discrimination and violent attacks even in such nominally liberal countries as Germany.

“There is still daily discrimination against, and attacks upon, homosexuals,” said Wowereit. “We have to fight for equal rights for as long as that remains the case.”

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