Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100621

Financial Crisis
»Jordan: Opposition Protests Price Hike
»Squatters Take Over Homes, Causing 2nd Housing Crisis
»Tax Breaks Americans Savor Are Costing Uncle Sam Big
»Audio: ‘Ground Zero’ Imam Makes Stunning Terror Comments
»Barack Obama’s Surrogate Father
»Billions for Green Energy Will Mean Millions of New Jobs… In China
»Faisal Shahzad Pleads Guilty in Times Square Bomb Plot
»Frank Gaffney: Courting Shariah
»NYC Car Bomb Suspect Pleads Guilty, Calls it ‘War’
»Radicals, Islamists and Longshoremen Blockade Israeli Ship in Oakland
»Supreme Court Upholds Law Banning Support of Terror-Linked Groups
»Times Square Suspect to Appear in Court
Europe and the EU
»Dutch Writer Geert Mak Blames Provincialism for the Election Results in the Netherlands
»France: The Mosques and Bank Robbers of Paris
»Israelis Flock ‘Back’ To Germany
»Italy: Workers Strike at Fiat’s Sicilian Plant Over ‘Slur’
»Italy: No Toxins Found in ‘Blue’ Mozzarella
»Italy: Archbishop of Naples Denies Wrongdoing
»Italy: Education to Fight Fundamentalism, Cardinal Scola
»Necla Kelek Presents a New Study Which Links Religious Belief in Young Muslims With a Reluctance to Integrate
»Pope Receives Dossier on Contracts and Favours — Vatican-Owned Houses to be Monitored More Closely
»Prospect of Joining Euro Next Year Raises Hopes and Fears in Estonia
»Sweden: Oil Firm War Crimes Probe Could Draw in Bildt
»The Slovak Elections, Says Michael Hvorecky, Were a Triumph Against Populism
»UK: Father Leaps Into Pool to Rescue Drowning Son While Lifeguards ‘Stand and Watch’
»UK: Police Attacked During Anti-Racist March
»UK: The ‘Conservative Muslim Forum’ Has Some Explaining to Do
»UK: Theresa May Bans Zakir Naik
»UK: Taxpayers Millions Funding Britons Abroad Who Are ‘Too Sick to Work’
»UK: Wind Farm Owners Get Fee to Switch Off Turbines in Heavy Winds
»UK: Zakir Naik Exclusion Order a Serious Error of Judgement
»Vatican Cardinal Faces Corruption Inquiry Over Rome Property Deals
Mediterranean Union
»Italy: Rai Med News: Arab Current Affairs Shows From Tomorrow
North Africa
»Mixed Feelings Define Mubarak’s Children in Egypt
»Morocco: Security Forces Uncover Jihadist Terror Cell
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel and the Surrender of the West
»Italy: Thursday Colosseum Lights Out for Shalit Release
Middle East
»Gaza: Departure Iranian Ship Postponed to Later Date
»Iran: Dwindling Public Support for the Regime
»Syria: Italian Hospital in Damascus for Refugees and Elite
»Turkey Still Uses Israeli-Made Drones, Haaretz Reports
»Turkey Not Blameless Over Flotilla, Says Fini
»US Ready to Offer Turkey More Help to Fight PKK
»Armenia: Azerbaijan Clashes Kill at Least Four
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Death Toll Reaches 300 for English Military
»Indonesia: Iranians Country’s Biggest Drug Smugglers
»Terrorists Crossing AZ Border Into U.S.?

Financial Crisis

Jordan: Opposition Protests Price Hike

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JUNE 21 — Leaders of the opposition in Jordan held a demonstration today against a government decision to hike taxation to trim the budget deficit saying citizens are made to pay for ill-fated economic policies. The protest was held at the headquarters of the professional association in Amman and included leaders of top opposition figures including the Islamic Acton Front (IAF) the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and leftist parties. Protestors held banners that condemn governments economic policy which they said caused massive burdens on the limited income citizens. Ali Abul Sukkar, president of the IAF shura council said the government managed to pass its taxation in the absence of the parliament and without any regard to well being of citizens. The government has marginalized the parliament and other political institutions to cover for corruption of politicians over the past decades, he told ANSA on the sideline of the protest. No security forces were visible in the area, as demonstrators ended the event chanting anti-government slogans. The government raised taxation on a number of key items including fuel and raised price of water in an attempt to reduce budget deficit to 6.3 percent of the GDP. Jordan’s economy, which depends heavily on foreign aid, has been suffering greatly in light of the world wide economic meltdown. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Squatters Take Over Homes, Causing 2nd Housing Crisis

Happening across country through abuse of centuries-old ‘adverse-possession’ law

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Imagine going to a house or condo you own and finding a stranger living there who claims the property no longer belongs to you.

It’s happening across Florida and other parts of the country through what authorities say is abuse of a centuries-old concept known as adverse possession.

Dating back to Renaissance England, adverse possession allowed people to take over abandoned cottages and farmland, provided they were willing to live there and pay the taxes. These days, officials say, the legal doctrine is being misused by squatters, trespassers and swindlers to claim ownership of vacant or foreclosed homes.

In Broward and Palm Beach counties alone, adverse possession claims have been filed on some 200 homes in recent months. Three of the four people behind the claims have been arrested, and police are investigating the fourth man, who along with his father, a convicted mobster, tried to take over properties in Hollywood.

“We look at this as another con job, another get-rich-quick scheme,” said Don TenBrook, a Broward state prosecutor of economic crimes. “You’re starting to see them pop up all over the place. It’s been spawned by the real estate crisis.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tax Breaks Americans Savor Are Costing Uncle Sam Big

By Dave Michaels

Dallas physician Steven Davidoff doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone who needs a housing subsidy: raised in Plano, educated at Tulane University Medical School, working as a pulmonary critical care physician.

But Davidoff, 35, is like tens of millions of other Americans who benefit from tax policies that reduce the cost of buying a home. Most of them are like him — affluent enough to buy a home without help, but happy to use a tax deduction for mortgage interest, even though it will cost the federal treasury about $103 billion in lost revenue this year.

“I honestly view it as a bonus, not something that I [considered] when we were looking at homes,” said Davidoff, who works at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. “The larger the home, the larger your deduction can be. That certainly is an added benefit.”

Almost all lawmakers support the mortgage interest deduction, which has been called “America’s favorite tax shelter,” and homebuilders and real estate agents say it’s critical for promoting homeownership. But widespread concern about the federal indebtedness has focused attention on tax breaks that cost so much that some critics question whether America can afford them.

The mortgage interest deduction is the third-most- expensive tax break, estimated to cost only slightly less than the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health care ($110 billion) and 401(k) retirement plans ($106 billion), according to figures from the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Added together, the more than 200 tax breaks will cost the federal government about $1.1 trillion this year — about $200 billion less than the budget deficit. They are also known as tax expenditures, because they work just like other government expenditures.

Congress has created tax breaks to encourage health coverage and retirement plans, boost the incomes of lower-income families and subsidize an ever-growing list of domestic industries. But for many Americans, their primary experience with tax breaks comes with homeownership.

“This country needs to come to grips with the reality that we have limited resources,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff to the Joint Committee on Taxation, which computes the cost of tax legislation for Congress.

“We have to make hard choices, and tax expenditures are getting close to a free pass compared to explicit spending,” Kleinbard said.

Yet tax expenditures are rarely mentioned when Congress discusses the path to fiscal discipline. Lawmakers from both parties regularly refer to tax expenditures as “tax relief,” meaning attempts to repeal or change them can be painted as a tax increase.

Spending cuts are most likely to be front and center as lawmakers consider ways to shrink record budget deficits and curb U.S. borrowing. But experts who scrutinize the federal budget insist that Congress can’t solve the problem with spending cuts alone — not when the $1.1 trillion in tax expenditures is double what the government will spend on Medicare in 2010.

“If you exclude half of your expenditures from review, you are unlikely to get that debt under control,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

How it all began

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]


Audio: ‘Ground Zero’ Imam Makes Stunning Terror Comments

Claims to support peace but refuses to condemn violent jihad groups

NEW YORK — The imam behind a proposal to build a 13-story Islamic cultural center near the site of the 9-11 attacks refuses to condemn violent jihad groups as terrorists.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, head of the Cordoba Initiative, which seeks to construct the massive center, repeatedly refused on-air to affirm the U.S. designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization or call the Muslim Brotherhood extremists.

The Brotherhood openly seeks to spread Islam around the world, while Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction and is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilian population centers.

Rauf was speaking in a live interview with WND senior reporter Aaron Klein, who hosts a show on New York’s WABC Radio.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama’s Surrogate Father

In a Father’s Day column attacking Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, Colbert King of the Washington Post presents President Obama as a good family man who has been married to one woman and whose mother raised him to believe in “hard work and education.” Since King has brought up the topic of Obama’s upbringing, it is important to set the record straight. Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis was a sex pervert who mentored Obama during his growing-up years in Hawaii and became his substitute father.


Trevor Loudon, who exposed Van Jones before Glenn Beck picked up the story, has been busy breaking all kinds of stories about the influence of Marxists over Obama. These are stories, of course, that are routinely ignored by the liberal media.

In addition to his New Zeal blog, Loudon recently unveiled a new project and website called KeyWiki, offering this critical information to those who are interested.

Here’s the link to Frank Marshall Davis. It will give you everything you need to know about Davis and Obama that our major media have done their best to carefully conceal. It is a sad commentary on the state of the U.S. media that a blogger in New Zealand has to take the lead in breaking stories about the Marxist background and political agenda of a U.S. president.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Billions for Green Energy Will Mean Millions of New Jobs… In China

When will Democrats ever learn? You just can’t throw billions of dollars at green technology and expect to produce any new self-sustaining jobs, well at least not in America.

A couple of weeks ago the Labor Department asked the public for assistance in defining the term “green jobs”. In my opinion it should be defined as the employment created in China as a direct result of stupid American politicians wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on “green energy”.

In order for Congress to hand out money to green businesses, they must first take it from successful, job creating ones. Already burdened by some of the highest tax rates in the world, American businesses become even less internationally competitive for every dollar politicians take from them to waste on green technology.

In addition, President Obama’s plan to burden an already struggling nation with across the board energy costs that must “necessarily skyrocket” in an absurd attempt to save a world from global warming that does not exist, will also serve to damage the American economy.

A Harvard University study of Obama’s global warming legislation estimates it will cause the price of gas will increase to $7-a-gallon.

Because of higher energy costs, whatever is left of our manufacturing sector will be transferred to China where energy is cheaper and they aren’t so concerned about carbon emissions.

The folly of a green energy economy can be fully appreciated by considering Spain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Faisal Shahzad Pleads Guilty in Times Square Bomb Plot

MYFOXNY.COM/AP — Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen from Connecticut, has pleaded guilty to the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in the failed Times Square bomb plot, the AP reported.

Shahzad told the federal judge during his arraignment in court in Manhattan that he intended to “plead guilty and 100 times more” to all charges, the AP reported. He also warned that unless the U.S. leaves Muslim lands, “We will be attacking U.S.”

A federal grand jury had indicted him on 10 charges in connection with the May 1 plot. He has admitted to federal agents the he drove a gasoline-and-propane bomb-laden SUV into the heart of Times Square.

The bomb failed to detonate, and Shahzad was arrested two days later. A relative has called Shahzad’s arrest “a conspiracy.”

Authorities said he cooperated with investigators for two weeks before requesting a lawyer.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Pakistani Taliban helped train and facilitate Shahzad’s mission.

“The facts alleged in this indictment show that the Pakistani Taliban facilitated Faisal Shahzad’s attempted attack on American soil,” said Holder said last week. “Our nation averted serious loss of life in this attempted bombing, but it is a reminder that we face an evolving threat that we must continue to fight with every tool available to the government.”

Shahzad, 30, received explosives training in Waziristan, Pakistan, from explosive trainers affiliated with Tehrik-e-Taliban, a militant extremist group based in Pakistan, according to the indictment and criminal complaint. He also received money at least twice from people in Paksitan, prosecutors alleged, but it is not clear if he had direct accomplices in the United States.

Federal and NYPD authorities are continuing their investigation into the failed bombing. Authorities detained several men in the Unites States who apparently had contact with Shahzad.

[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Courting Shariah

Hats off to Senator Jeff Sessions! The top Republican on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee has opened up an important new front in the debate over Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court: Her attitude towards the repressive legal code authoritative Islam calls Shariah and her enabling of efforts to insinuate it into this country.

By so doing, the Alabama legislator has given his colleagues and the country an opportunity not only to flesh out and evaluate the thin public record of President Obama’s second nominee to a lifetime appointment on the nation’s highest court. The Senator has also afforded us all what Mr. Obama might call a “teachable moment.”

Specifically, this Supreme Court nomination offers a prism for examining the concerted and ominous campaign underway to bring Shariah to America, thanks to the troubling role Ms. Kagan played during her tenure as dean of Harvard’s Law School. In a speech on the Senate floor on June 16, Sen. Sessions reflected on that role in noting a seemingly astonishing inconsistency in the nominee’s much-touted support of homosexual rights…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

NYC Car Bomb Suspect Pleads Guilty, Calls it ‘War’

[Can it be any more clear? — Z]

NEW YORK -Calling himself a Muslim soldier, a defiant Pakistan-born U.S. citizen pleaded guilty Monday to carrying out the failed Times Square car bombing and left a sinister warning that unless the U.S. leaves Muslim lands alone, “we will be attacking U.S.”

Wearing a white skull cap, prison smocks and a dark beard, Faisal Shahzad entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan just days after a federal grand jury indicted him on 10 terrorism and weapons counts, some of which carried mandatory life prison sentences. He pleaded guilty to them all.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum challenged Shahzad repeatedly with questions such as whether he had worried about killing children in Times Square.

“One has to understand where I’m coming from,” Shahzad calmly replied. “I consider myself … a Muslim soldier.”

The 30-year-old described his effort to set off a bomb in an SUV he parked in Times Square on May 1, saying he chose the warm Saturday night because it would be crowded with people he could injure or kill. He said he conspired with the Pakistan Taliban, which provided more than $15,000 to fund his operation.

He explained that he packed his vehicle with three separate bomb components, hoping to set off a fertilizer-fueled bomb packed in a gun cabinet, a set of propane tanks and gas canisters rigged with fireworks to explode into a fireball. He also revealed he was carrying a folding assault rifle for “self-defense.”

Shahzad said he lit a fuse and waited 2 1/2 to five minutes for the bomb to erupt.

“I was waiting to hear a sound but I didn’t hear a sound. … So I walked to Grand Central and went home,” he said.

Shahzad dismissed the judge’s question about the children by saying the U.S. didn’t care when children were killed in Muslim countries.

“It’s a war. I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people,” he said. “On behalf of that, I’m revenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”

Cedarbaum also asked Shahzad if he understood that the people in Times Square might not have anything to do with what happened overseas.

“The people select the government. We consider them all the same,” Shahzad said during the hour-long hearing.

Shahzad made the plea and an accompanying statement as Cedarbaum began asking him a lengthy series of questions to ensure he understood his rights.

She asked him if he understood some charges carried mandatory life sentences and that he might spend the rest of his life in prison. He said he did.

At one point, she asked him if he was sure he wanted to plead guilty.

He said he wanted “to plead guilty and 100 times more” to let the U.S. know that if it did not get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, halt drone attacks and stop meddling in Muslim lands, “we will be attacking U.S.”

Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 5.

The Bridgeport, Conn., resident was arrested trying to leave the country May 3, two days after the bomb failed to ignite near a Broadway theater.

Authorities said Shahzad immediately cooperated, delaying his initial court appearance for two weeks as he spilled details of a plot meant to sow terror in the world-famous Times Square on a warm Saturday night when it was packed with thousands of potential victims.

The bomb apparently sputtered, emitting smoke that attracted the attention of an alert street vendor, who notified police, setting in motion a rapid evacuation of blocks of a city still healing from the shock of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

According to the indictment issued last week, Shahzad received a total of $12,000 prior to the attack from the Pakistani Taliban through cash drop-offs in Massachusetts and Long Island.

Attorney General Eric Holder said after the plea: “Faisal Shahzad plotted and launched an attack that could have led to serious loss of life, and today the American criminal justice system ensured that he will pay the price for his actions.” [emphasis added]

[In other late breaking news, medics were rushed to the scene of Attorney General Holder’s news conference when he began to choke violently during an unsuccessful attempt to pronounce the words “Radical Islam”. A Heimlich maneuver was performed on his skull but only succeeded in getting him to spit out accusations of racism and terrorist activity against tea party members. — Z]

FBI New York Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos called the plea “right on the mark” and praised the work of “ordinary citizens who alerted law enforcement of suspicious activity.”

Shahzad was accused in the indictment of receiving explosives training in Waziristan, Pakistan, during a five-week trip to that country. He returned to the United States in February.

The indictment said he received $5,000 in cash on Feb. 25 from a co-conspirator in Pakistan and $7,000 more on April 10, allegedly sent at the co-conspirator’s direction. Shahzad said in court Monday that the Pakistan Taliban gave him more than $4,000 when he left training camp.

Shahzad, born in Pakistan, moved to the United States when he was 18.

Pakistan has arrested at least 11 people since the attempted attack. An intelligence official has alleged two of them played a role in the plot. No one has been charged.

Three men in Massachusetts and Maine suspected of supplying money to Shahzad have been detained on immigration charges; one was recently transferred to New York.

Federal authorities have said they believe money was channeled through an underground money transfer network known as “hawala,” but they have said they doubt anyone in the U.S. who provided money knew what it was for.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Radicals, Islamists and Longshoremen Blockade Israeli Ship in Oakland

An Israeli cargo ship arriving in Oakland today was forced to sit idle and not offload its containers when longshoremen joined forces with a coalition of communist and Islamist groups who picketed the port in protest against the recent violent incident off the coast of Gaza.

The ship, owned by Zim Lines, was not carrying any controversial cargo, nor is Zim involved in politics in any way; it was targeted simply because the shipping company is based in Israel.

The planned protest and blockade were organized by The Free Palestine Movement (one of the same groups which organized the Gaza “flotilla” in the first place) as well as a rogues’ gallery of nearly every communist, anti-Israel and radical Islamist group in the Bay Area:…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Supreme Court Upholds Law Banning Support of Terror-Linked Groups

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law that bars “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations, rejecting a free speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups.

The 6-3 ruling said that the government may prohibit all forms of aid to designated terrorist groups, even if the support consists of training and advice about entirely peaceful and legal activities.

[Return to headlines]

Times Square Suspect to Appear in Court

New York, 21 July (AKI/DAWN) — A Pakistan-born US citizen faces arraignment in New York on terrorism charges accusing him of using money and training from the Pakistani Taliban to plot the failed bombing in New York’s Times Square on 1 May.

Faisal Shahzad was on Monday due to enter a plea to a 10-count indictment including conspiring with the Pakistani Taliban. He is accused of attempting to detonate a home-made bomb hidden inside a sports utility vehicle parked near a Broadway theatre.

The former budget analyst was arrested two days later. Authorities say he cooperated with investigators for two weeks before requesting a lawyer.

A federal Grand Jury indicted Shahzad last week in a Manhattan federal court. The most serious counts against the 30-year-old carry mandatory penalties of life in prison.

Shahzad’s father’s cousin calls his arrest “a conspiracy.”

Pakistani-born Shahzad faces life in prison if convicted and has been cooperating with authorities since he was arrested, officials said.

Several people have been arrested in Pakistan in the case and US authorities carried out raids in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maine, detaining several people on immigration charges.

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

Europe and the EU

Dutch Writer Geert Mak Blames Provincialism for the Election Results in the Netherlands

Frankfurter Rundschau 16.06.2010

In an interview, writer Geert Mak tells Michael Hess that the Dutch election results stem less from a swing to the right than from an increase in provincialism. “Our problems and their solutions are European, but our democratic theatre is still very national. Democracy still has a national dimension for the voters. It has not found its way onto the European stage. A public European debate is still not underway. We all pay a high price for this because it means debates are getting more provincial all the time. Frustration about Europe forces people to take refuge in provincialism because they feel unable to make themselves heard on a European level. And yet our opportunities and hopes lie in Europe.”

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

France: The Mosques and Bank Robbers of Paris

While Jews are fleeing Paris due to Muslim violence and harassment, Robert Haroush, an Israeli businessman, decided to fund the reconstruction of a mosque in order to build a “bridge of peace”. The shortage of mosques in Paris, is of course almost as grave as the surplus of intact cars that need burning. And the City of Lights needs more dark mosques, the way Baghdad needs more IED’s.


Robert isn’t the first gullible infidel to try and build bridges of peace. But the problem is that when you build a bridge, you had better have a good idea of what you will find on the other side. Building bridges with people whose sole use for bridges is to cross them in order to kill you, is nothing but an elaborate form of suicide.

Turkey’s Thug in Chief, Erdogan, was quite explicit about the role of the mosque in Islam, saying; “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.” At the time the poem landed Erdogan in a Turkish prison. But time and enough faithful mustered from the barracks of mosques helped propel him to power. Where he has wasted little time pushing an Islamist agenda, which includes the persecution of non-Muslims and the growing escalation of hostilities with Israel.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israelis Flock ‘Back’ To Germany

Decades after World War II and with a dwindling number of Holocaust survivors, the scars are slowly healing and Germany is becoming an attractive place to live for many Israelis. ‘More and more Israelis are coming in order to escape the constant threat of violence in the Middle East,’ says one of the Jews who moved from Israel

For Jewish people, Germany is not the “Land der Taeter” (country of the perpetrators) anymore; now, the country is becoming “a haven of peace” for many Jews who are moving from Israel decades after World War II.

“My grandmother was three when she had to escape Nazi Germany with her family,” says Shiri Rosen, one of thousands of Israelis to have moved “back” to Germany in recent years. “My great-grandfather was a lawyer, his office was right near here,” the 24-year-old said in a cafe in central Berlin, pointing over her shoulder to a parallel street. “When I was a kid, in Israel, she (her grandmother) bounced me on her knee, singing a song in German … They were the only words in German I ever heard from her.”

Before Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, Berlin had a thriving Jewish population numbering around 170,000, many of them professionals such as doctors and lawyers, or intellectuals and artists. But this vibrant community was decimated in the 12 years of terror that followed as the Nazis murdered six million men, women and children across Europe in their attempt to destroy the Jewish race.

Unsurprisingly, once World War II was over and the Israel founded in 1948, the few Jews who had miraculously survived were loath to stay in Germany, in the “Land der Taeter” (“country of the perpetrators.”) But today, decades later, with an ever-dwindling number of Holocaust survivors still around, the scars are slowly healing and Germany is becoming an attractive place to live for many Israelis.

A steady trickle has been returning to make use of a law allowing descendants to claim German citizenship. “Germany today is a haven of peace for the descendants of those who, one day, fled the country because they were in danger,” says Ilan Weiss, who moved from Israel 20 years ago. “The fact that Jews are coming here again constitutes for Germany a certificate that it is acceptable again.”

In 2008, the last year for which figures are available, almost 2,000 Israelis became naturalised German citizens. Two years earlier, more than 4,300 did so. According to the Israeli embassy, around 13,000 Israelis now live in Berlin alone.

Mostly, they are the descendants of German Jews stripped of their citizenship as the Nazis sought to “Aryanise” the Third Reich, and who now have the right to obtain German nationality.

Sitting in his well-worn Berlin apartment, Weiss, who is in his 60s, said he has noticed in recent years more and more Israelis coming in order, he believes, to escape the constant threat of violence in the Middle East.

And it is particularly the young who are doing so, attracted not only by a feeling of going back to their roots, but also by the vibrant, modern metropolis that the German capital is today. Many come to make the most of Berlin’s nightlife and its bohemian lifestyle, attending techno nights in disused industrial warehouses or sampling the gay scene, where “Meshuga nights” with only Israeli music are big crowd-pullers. “In Tel Aviv all people talk about is Berlin. It is very much the city en vogue,” says Shiri Rosen enthusiastically.

Avi Efroni-Levi, who has launched a website for the Israeli community in Germany offering tips on everything from apartments to exhibitions, very much agrees. “The planes from Tel Aviv to Berlin are packed. For Israelis, the city offers so many possibilities because it’s so international and life is quite cheap,” the 53-year-old said.

Weiss said that for many young Israelis, coming to Germany is much easier than for their parents’ generation. “Very few of them are influenced by the Holocaust,” he says. “Obviously most of them studied it at school but it’s something very remote for them.”

“You can’t concentrate on the violence all the time, it’s negative,” says Avi Efroni-Levi. “I’ve got other things to think about than the past. I want to achieve something here. The wounds of the past are still there. They never go away,” he said. “But we have to heal them.”

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

Italy: Workers Strike at Fiat’s Sicilian Plant Over ‘Slur’

(AKI) — Workers at Italian car giant Fiat’s doomed plant in the southern city of Palermo on Monday went on strike for an hour to protest comments by Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne (photo) that they timed a strike last week to be able to watch the Italy-Paraguay World Cup clash.

“Marchionne only just stopped short of calling us idlers and that is unacceptable,” an official from the FIOM-CGIL union, Roberto Mastrosimone, told Adnkronos.

“Perhaps he has forgotten that he is the person who has said our plant will close.

“We want to work but Fiat is not giving us that option,” he added.

“More than 2,200 people are going to be left on the scrapheap, causing the economic ruin of thousands of families.”

Fiat has announced it plans to close the Termini Imerese plant outside Palermo, which is losing money.

The plant manufactures Lancia’s Ypsilon brand.

Although cars cost 1,000 euros more to make at the plant than at factories on the Italian mainland, political and union leaders want it to remain open, given its importance to the under-developed Sicilian economy.

Unions at have held a series of strikes at Termini Imerese to protest Fiat’s plans to close the Sicilian plant.

Fiat plans to close Termini Imerese in 2011 but expand output at Pomigliano D’Arco near Naples by transferring production of the Panda model from Poland.

Fiat car workers at the Pomigliano plant are due to vote in a ballot on Tuesday on management proposals for dramatic changes in work practices and labour rights in what is widely considered to be a test case for Italian industrial relations.

The workers are are under intense pressure to back the management’s plans, FIOM, the largest metalworkers union, refused to sign the deal or back the employee ballot.

Four car unions have endorsed Fiat’s proposals — a precondition for investing 700 million euros in the Pomigliano plant.

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

Italy: No Toxins Found in ‘Blue’ Mozzarella

Probes opened in Italy and EU on German-made cheese

(ANSA) — Trento, June 21 — Clinical tests on ‘blue’ mozzarella imported from Germany which shocked Italian consumers have not revealed any toxic substances or harmful bacteria, the prosecutor’s office here said on Monday.

The ‘blue’ mozzarella was first discovered last week by a housewife in Turin who bought the German-made product at a supermarket.

Within minutes after being opened the cheese turned an unsightly color blue.

The discovery led to an order from health officials to seize some 70,000 similar packages of the German version of the famed Italian cheese, made by Milchwerk Jaeger GmbH and distributed by two discount chains.

A probe was opened here in Trento after another batch of ‘blue’ mozzarella was discovered over the weekend.

On Monday the European Union, working in conjunction with Italian and Germany authorities, also opened an investigation.

“The situation is under control. We are following developments very closely and will soon decide on whether to send a health inspector to Germany to verify the origin of the contamination and under stand how this happened,” a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive, said.

‘Blue’ mozzarella has also been found in Slovenia, the spokesman added.

According to the tests carried out here in northeast Italy, the phenomenon appears to be caused by pseudomonas, a natural, non-toxic bacteria which was found in the water used to preserve the cheese.

Separate tests in Bologna and Padua have produced similar results. “We can exclude the presence of any toxins, even if we cannot say for sure whether the cheese is edible. But then this is not a problem because no one would eat a blue-tinted mozzarella,” Trento chief Prosecutor said.

“This latest food incident, underscores the importance of food security and the growing and constant need for a political and institutional commitment to protecting Italy’s food heritage,” Copari, a federation of Italian food producers, said on Monday.

“Once again a falsified, foreign product has arrived on Italian tables presenting a potentially serious health risk which will certainly hurt the national economy,” Copagri added.

Hermann Jaeger, the owner of Milchwerk Jaeger GmbH, admitted to the German press agency DPA on Monday that there had been a ‘blue’ mozzarella problem but that it had been resolved “three weeks ago”.

Jaeger confirmed that it had been caused by the pseudomonas bacteria and said that the water used for packaging may have been contaminated by a factory near one of his plants. He also said that the proper authorities had been informed of this.

According to microbiologist Michele La Placa, pseudomonas bacteria is a problem for hospitals because it can multiply in the stagnant water where flowers brought to patients sit.

It poses the greatest threat to the elderly who had respiratory problems or weak immune systems, La Placa added.

The bacteria was first identified in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War when injured soldiers began turning blue after their wounds were washed with stagnant water.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Archbishop of Naples Denies Wrongdoing

Cardinal Sepe says he has Vatican support over corruption probe

(ANSA) — Rome, June 21 — A top Italian cardinal whom prosecutors have linked to a corruption probe that has already hit the government denied any wrongdoing on Monday and said he had the support of the Vatican.

“I did everything with the upmost transparency,” said Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, referring to his work as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a department that finances the work of missions abroad.

Sepe and Pietro Lunardi, former infrastructure minister in the previous Silvio Berlusconi-led government, are being probed by prosecutors in Perugia who are investigating a net of alleged corruption involving public works contracts, including the construction of venues for last year’s G8 summit.

The cardinal, who ran the department until he was sent to head the Naples diocese in 2006, is under investigation for alleged corruption with Lunardi over a real estate deal.

Judicial sources have told the media that Lunardi bought a building in central Rome — in Via dei Prefetti, a stone’s throw from parliament — from Sepe’s department in 2004 at a price four times lower than the estimated market value.

In an alleged swap for favours, the following year Lunardi allocated state funds for the restoration of historic church buildings, including the 16th century Congregation headquarters facing the Spanish Steps.

Speaking at a news conference in Naples, Sepe said he had always “acted with a clear conscience, my only aim being the good of the Church”.

His lawyer, Bruno Von Arx, said the Via dei Prefetti building bought by Lunardi was “crumbling” and the department decided to sell it as it would have been far too expensive to restore it.

The cardinal rejected the idea of a swap deal with Lunardi, saying that experts had ascertained that the Congregation’s building in Piazza di Spagna had suffered structural damage “due to the underground infiltration of water and continuous vibrations from the passage of the nearby subway”.

“It was decided that it was the Italian state’s responsibility, and restructuring and renovation costs were in part funded by the public administration”.

Sepe said the department’s budget had always been vetted and approved by the appropriate Vatican authorities.

He stressed that at the end of his mandata the Vatican had sent him a formal letter of thanks and appreciation for his work.

The prelate said that in 2006 Pope Benedict XVI had urged him to stay on, saying he still had work to do at the Roman Curia.

Sepe said he was willing to cooperate with prosecutors but Vatican press spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said on Sunday that prosecutors would have to take account of “procedural and jurisdictional aspects implicit in proper relations between the Holy See and Italy”.

Lombardy also voiced “solidarity and esteem” for Sepe.

The prelate told reporters he felt the strong support of the Vatican and had received scores of phone calls and messages from the Italian church hierarchy and from “bishops and cardinals from all over the world”.

Judicial sources in Perugia said on Monday that prosecutors would seek rogatory procedures to be able to investigate the activity of the Congregation from 2004 to 2006. But their request will have to be approved by Italian authorities before it is can be forwarded to the Vatican for consideration.

Reporting on the news conference, Vatican radio said the cardinal had rebutted all the allegations “accurately and in detail”.

News of the probe broke in February when prosecutors ordered the arrest of the head of the state public works office, Angelo Balducci, 54; the Tuscany region’s public works contractor Fabio De Santis, 61; and state official Mauro Della Giovampaola, 44 and Rome businessman Diego Anemone . They are suspected of masterminding a web of corruption and kickbacks among constructors, architects and civil servants who managed tens of millions of euros of public works contracts.

Anemone has also been named in a probe into a shady Rome real estate deal over which industry minister Claudio Scajola resigned last month.

Media reports have claimed Anemone paid most of the price, off the books, of the ex-minister’s Rome flat overlooking the Colosseum.

Scajola, who is not under investigation, has also denied wrongdoing. Anemone is also linked to Civil Protection Chief Guido Bertolaso, whom prosecutors suspect may have taken bribes and struck sex-for-favours arrangements after the businessman won a tender for the restructuring of the original venue of the G8 in the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.

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

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Education to Fight Fundamentalism, Cardinal Scola

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 21 — “Here in Beirut today we have listened to Moslems and Christians speaking of education as a decisive medium- and long-term factor in the fight against fundamentalism. And it is education indeed that teaches the essential balance between truth and freedom of thought,” which is what religious extremism, on the other hand, denies. Speaking on the telephone from Beirut, the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinale Angelo Scola, is in the Lebanese capital for a meeting of the Scientific Committee of the Oasis Foundation: an organization promoted by him as a meeting between Christians and Moslems. To speak of this subject in Lebanon, he continued, comes as “an extraordinary opportunity for Oasis, because this is a country that has chosen to place its own fate in the hands of its educators”. In a country which boasts a number of Christian communities and a variety, too, in its various Moslem creeds, a university such as La Sagesse, which is linked to the Law Faculty of Rome’s Lateranense University, has up to 80% of Moslem graduates. “It is in the schools that cultural cross-linking turns into effective integration. And education is the main instrument for overcoming extremism, in which political ideology utilises fear to exploit religion as its instrument. But in order to attain this objective,” the Cardinal concluded, “patient progress on a long road is required”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Necla Kelek Presents a New Study Which Links Religious Belief in Young Muslims With a Reluctance to Integrate

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.06.2010

The sociologist Necla Kelek presents a study (pdf document in German) carried out under the supervision of criminologist Christian Pfeiffer on the readiness of young Muslims to integrate. The results show a correlation between strength of religious belief and a refusal to integrate. Kelek blames the Imams primarily, or rather the organisations which bring in conservative Imams from Muslim countries. The state should intervene and educate, Kelek says. More importantly: “Instead of promoting religious group identities and the interests of organisations, attention must be focussed on strengthening individual personalities, particularly among children. If Imams want to be part of German civil society, they will have to learn to reflect on religion and daily life with critical reasoning and to participate in public debate about civil rights.”

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

Pope Receives Dossier on Contracts and Favours — Vatican-Owned Houses to be Monitored More Closely

Vatican secretary of state Bertone steps in. Leadership change looms at Propaganda Fide

VATICAN CITY — The storm that has engulfed Propaganda Fide and its property portfolio can’t be said to have taken the Vatican hierarchy by surprise. Serenity is the order of the day with invitations for “civil justice to run its course”. Obviously, “you read a lot of things that are not true” said several sources on the day when the newspapers carried Guido Bertolaso’s statement to magistrates in Perugia. That the head of the civil protection agency was a guest in the Via Giulia apartment while no one paid rent to the congregation for the evangelisation of peoples “should be ruled out”, say Vatican sources. “Someone must have been paying”. Yet it was clear that something was going wrong well before phone taps and investigations uncovered the unsavoury business of property sales and allocations to favoured insiders. The harsh term being bandied about the Vatican is: “Removal”. Four years ago in 2006, the then prefect of Propaganda Fide, Crescenzio Sepe, was removed by Benedict XVI at the end of his five-year term. This was “unusual”, say sources, since his predecessor had remained in office for 16 years and other 20th-century prefects had served well beyond their first term, except for one who died prematurely. It is equally odd for the head of a congregation, no less than the influential “red pope” in charge of Propaganda Fide, to move to a diocese, even a prestigious one like Naples. Generally, the reverse is the case.

“LESS THAN IMPECCABLE MANAGEMENT” — No, something was not quite right. “Management was less than impeccable” is the ecclesiastical euphemism used. A low-key reform of the Curia initiated by Benedict XVI in 2005 — gradual, unflustered — had already started to remedy the situation and in recent months, papal interest has quite understandably grown. It has already been decided to strike the name of “consultor” and “Gentleman of the Holy See” Angelo Balducci from the 2011 Pontifical Yearbook. The Vatican secretary of state’s office has acquired all relevant documentation on the affair and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has conferred with Benedict XVI “as [he would] on any issue”. New developments are now expected. Vatican sources deny that a special commissioner will be appointed for the congregation, despite rumours to the contrary.

IMMENSE PORTFOLIO — Things look set to change. Propaganda Fide’s assets, a huge portfolio estimated to be worth nine billion euros, comprise property and donations acquired over the centuries by the congregation in complete autonomy. Their purpose is to support missionary work abroad, especially Africa and Asia, which is why the prefect is known as the red pope, and the portfolio is run independently of APSA, the body chaired by Cardinal Attilio Nicora that administers the Holy See’s assets. The problem is that this division is too strict, in the sense that the two managements operate without liaising in any way. Sources at the secretary of state’s office say that is why it is to be hoped that “better co-ordination and greater vigilance” over the congregation’s operations can be achieved. It is not a question of transferring competences or property but of “ensuring more internal transparency”, if only to stop the Holy See, apart from members of the congregation, from being left in the dark about deeds and sales of property, as happened under the former regime.

TRANSPARENCY — The present prefect of Propaganda Fide, Cardinal Ivan Dias, was appointed in 2006 specifically to “set up more transparent management”. A very spiritual Indian and former archbishop of Bombay, he was to, and does, guarantee a serene arm’s length distance from groups of friends in Rome. According to Vatican sources, Cardinal Dias has applied to Benedict XVI to be relieved of the post. It has been know for some time that the cardinal has health problems, although the intention is believed to be to keep him in the post until the end of his term in spring 2011. Whatever the decision, it is a problem that must be faced in the next few months. Cardinal Dias’ successor will be a very high-level prelate trusted by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bertone. One name going the rounds is that of Archbishop Fernando Filoni, a skilled diplomat and substitute for general affairs. In this case, the problem will be finding someone else to step into his shoes in the upper echelons of the secretary of state’s office, where he is the number two, in tandem with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Prospect of Joining Euro Next Year Raises Hopes and Fears in Estonia

Five-euro banknotes will become available at Estonian cash machines in January, when Estonia moves over to the common European currency, the euro. Portugal is the only other country where such small denominations can be withdrawn from ATMs.

The largest banks in the country, SEB, Swedbank, Nordea Eesti and Sampo, made the announcement after the EU summit had decided to endorse Estonia as a new euro country.

A final decision on accepting Estonia into the euro zone, and the rate at which the present Estonian currency, the kroon, will be exchanged for the euro, will be decided on July 13th by Ecofin, the meeting of EU ministers of finance.

The kroon was introduced soon after Estonian independence in 1992.

The availability of fivers at bank ATMs can be seen as the result of public pressure.

On the Internet, more than 3,000 members quickly joined the Facebook group “I want to withdraw five euros from a bank machine”.

The press also lent its voice to the demands.

At present, the smallest denomination that can be taken out of an Estonian ATM is a 25-kroon banknote, which is worth EUR 1.6. The largest denomination is 500 kroon, worth 32 euros.

Estonians expect that the euro will bring greater demand for coin purses.

One reason for this is that the minimum wage in Estonia is among the smallest in the EU — EUR 278 a month. Average monthly gross earnings are EUR 787.

In Tallinn, and in Narva on the Russian border, the euro is already unofficially in use, especially in tourist centres, even though the kroon is still Estonia’s only legal tender for cash transactions.

About a third of tourists are offering euros as payment, estimates Geete Heikkinen, who works at a restaurant in Tallinn’s Old Town.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) said in Brussels on Thursday that Estonia’s acceptance of the euro will significantly ease the lives of Finnish and Estonian companies, and those of private citizens.

Finnish tourists gathered spontaneously in the Old Town of Tallinn on Thursday to discuss the implications of the emergence of the euro in Estonia. The greatest concern involved the effect on prices.

“All small purchases between 10 and 20 euros will become more expensive”, predicted Veijo Kiviniemi.

“I don’t think that they can afford very large price increases”, countered Pirjo Ziprus from Valkeakoski.

The Estonian government hopes to prevent price gouging by requiring that prices be rounded down when the euro is introduced.

Estonia does not have a mint of its own. The country’s euro coins will be minted in Finland.

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

Sweden: Oil Firm War Crimes Probe Could Draw in Bildt

[Comment: One of Europe’s major critics of Israel, Swedish FM Carl Bildt has been linked to War Crimes in the Sudan. — FF]

Sweden’s international prosecutor has said it will investigate Lundin Oil over whether it had any role in war crimes committed in Sudan. The probe threatens to draw in Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was on the board of the company during the period that the alleged war crimes took place.

The preliminary investigation will involve the years 1997 to 2003 regarding crimes against humanitarian law in Sudan, the office of international prosector Magnus Elving said in a statement.

“There is reason to believe that crimes have been committed and that there may be a Swedish connection with those crimes,” said Elving, adding that these types of investigation are extensive and usually take a long time.

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who started his role in 2006, was on Lundin’s board at the time.

During the time period the investigation will cover, 10,000 people were killed and nearly 200,000 fled to southern Sudan.

Sweden’s national police will assist with the investigation into allegations made in a recent report — “Unpaid Debt” — by the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS), an umbrella group of European organisationsm, including about 50 NGOs “working for peace and justice in Sudan.”

The report, published this month, claimed Sweden’s Lundin Petroleum, previously Lundin Oil, and its partners Petronas Carigali Overseas of Malaysia and OMV Exploration from Austria “may have been complicit in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Sudan.

Sudanese troops, in collaboration with militias, attacked and displaced civilians so that Lundin Petroleum, now Lundin Oil, in consortium with Petronas and OMV, could extract oil, the report alleged.

By launching oil exploration in such an unstable region, the consortium set the wheels in motion for a power struggle that had led to numerous crimes, including widespread “killing of civilians, rape of women, abduction of children, torture and forced displacements,” the report claimed.

The Swedish prosecutor’s office said “the aim with the preliminary investigation is to examine whether there are individuals with links to Sweden who can be suspected of involvement in crimes.”

Although not mentioned in the prosecutor’s statement, Foreign Minister Bildt will likely be drawn into the inquiry.

Bildt refused through spokeswoman Irena Busic to comment on Monday regarding the launch of the investigation.

Following the publication of the ECOS report, he defended Lundin in an interview with Swedish public radio, insisting the company’s actions in Sudan had “opened the way for a peace deal” in the area.

On June 11th, Bildt said that he did not see anything new in the ECOS report. He also refused to comment on the prosecutor’s plans for a possible criminal investigation.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt commented on the prosecutor’s investigation to Lundin Petroleum during a visit to Västerås on Monday.

“It is important to always let the justice system do its work so that we can see what it leads to before we comment,” said Reinfeldt.

Former Justice Minister Thomas Bodström demanded in a statement that Bildt take “time out.” However, the foreign minister will not resign, according to the Social Democrats’ spokesman.

“Since the rule of law should also apply to a minister, it is reasonable that Carl Bildt need not resign until further notice,” said Bodström.

“However, it is obvious he cannot continue to represent Sweden in matters with other countries given the current situation, when he himself was on the board of a company that is now being investigated for crimes under international law.”

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

The Slovak Elections, Says Michael Hvorecky, Were a Triumph Against Populism

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.06.2010

In the Slovak elections, the left-wing populist incumbent Prime Minister Robert Fico and the extreme right were dealt devastating blows by the electorate, and younger voters in particular, author Michael Hvorecky comments gleefully: “Twenty years after the end of communism, Slovakia just might see a woman in charge at last. As the leader of the conservative democrats, sociologist Iveta Radiova plans to continue the cost-cutting and stability programme. She won with her plan for sustainable restructuring of the ramshackle state budget and effective steps to combat corruption. And two new, liberal-leaning parties have made it into the National Assembly with a sensational slew of votes. Bela Bugar’s ‘Most-Hid’ (bridge) party is focussed on multicultural co-existence and is popular with Slovaks who are sick to the teeth of the pseudo conflicts with neighbouring states.”

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

UK: Father Leaps Into Pool to Rescue Drowning Son While Lifeguards ‘Stand and Watch’

A father saved his drowning son by leaping into a public swimming pool from the spectator gallery as lifeguards watched cluelessly from the side.

Gary Jowett jumped fully clothed into the deep end when he realised no one was taking action to save four-year-old Daniel, who was struggling and going under water during a swimming lesson.

The boy’s instructor set off an emergency alarm when he realised Daniel was in serious trouble, but the two lifeguards failed to jump in to save him. Seconds later Mr Jowett climbed over a balcony and dropped eight feet to the poolside before diving into the water to grab his son.

Daniel was taken to hospital, where he was treated for shock and discharged.

Two members of staff at Spenborough pool near Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, have been suspended. The instructor tried to help Daniel with a pole and threw him a float, but did not get in the water, the boy’s parents said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Attacked During Anti-Racist March

A man was being questioned today after gangs of youths attacked police officers following an anti-racist march, Scotland Yard said.

Cordons were set up to stop people going up Whitechapel Road, in east London, because officers feared random attacks on members of the public.

The scenes followed a rally, organised by Unite Against Fascism, that attracted several thousand people.

It was organised in response to another rally planned by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) which was called off earlier this week.

A police spokesman said yesterday’s UAF rally was “well organised and well stewarded” but a group of young men gathered outside the nearby East London Mosque in response to rumours the EDL were planning a protest.

He said: “The group numbered up to 300, who were very volatile. Despite continued excellent attempts by stewards and representatives from the East London Mosque to control the crowds, even placing themselves in danger, there was the risk of serious disorder.

“Police officers were attacked by the crowd at points throughout the afternoon. One member of the public was attacked at random by members of the crowd as those gathered surged up and down the Whitechapel Road.

“In order to prevent injuries to the public and officers, and serious disorder, police withdrew from the immediate area and a series of filter cordons were put in place. The cordons were used to prevent access to parts of Whitechapel Road due to concerted efforts by the crowd to attack people at random.”

The cordon was in place for two hours.

One person was arrested for assault and was being held for questioning.

A spokesman for Unite Against Fascism said around 5,000 took part in the march from Stepney to Whitechapel.

He said: “I heard there were a few nasty scuffles between local youths and police but certainly the demo was very positive and a really good vibe.”

           — Hat tip: bewick[Return to headlines]

UK: The ‘Conservative Muslim Forum’ Has Some Explaining to Do

This week Theresa May announced that she was keeping extremist cleric Zakir Naik out of Britain. But something interesting has come to my attention. One of the charities which was planning to host Naik at a “peace convention” is Al-Khair. They were hosting it with Peace TV and IQRA TV. Interestingly, here is a photo of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, the Conservative party’s Muslim group, at an event last year where they handed over a cheque for £5,000 to Al-Khair and praised the foundation’s work. They did this at the launch of IQRA TV, another of the hosts of the now-banned Naik.

So, do the Conservative Muslim Forum approve of the decision of the Home Secretary? Or do they think the invitation to this now-banned extremist from a charity they praised and financed should have gone ahead? If there is to be agreement within the Conservative Party I think we should probably be told. And isn’t this yet another reminder that groups like the Conservative Muslim Forum within political parties are not merely an embarassment, but a liability?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Theresa May Bans Zakir Naik

The government has banned Dr Zakir Naik, an Indian Muslim preacher, from entering the UK where has was due to arrive today to begin a lecture tour that would see him appear at the Sheffield Arena, London’s Wembley Arena and Birmingham’s LG Arena in the NEC.

>From the Telegraph:

‘The Home Secretary can exclude or deport an individual if she thinks that their presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good.

‘There had been speculation that Dr Naik would be allowed into the UK. However Mrs May said she was excluding him because of the “numerous comments” he made were evidence of his “unacceptable behaviour”.

‘This behaviour applies to anyone who writes or publishes material which can “foment justify or glorify terrorist violence” or “seek to provoke others to terrorist acts”.

‘Mrs May told The Daily Telegraph: “I have excluded Dr Naik from the UK. Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour.

‘“Coming to the UK is a privilege not a right and I am not wiling to allow those who might not be conducive to the public good to enter the UK.

‘“Exclusion powers are very serious and no decision is taken lightly or as a method of stopping open debate on issues.”

‘Home Office sources said Dr Naik had been filmed on a website making inflammatory comments such as “every Muslim should be a terrorist”.

‘He said: “When a robber sees a policeman he’s terrified. So for a robber, a policeman is a terrorist. So in this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the robber.”‘

Dr Zakir Naik, considered among the top 100 most powerful men in India and the latest individual who has been excluded by the UK government from entering Britain, is yet another example of the creeping assault on freedom of expression and the effectiveness of malevolent campaigning run by lobbyists and sections of the media.

At the end of last month, numerous newspapers ran sensationalist headlines:

The Times: ‘Muslim preacher of hate is let into Britain’

The Daily Mail: ‘Allowed into UK, the preacher who backs Bin Laden’

The Daily Express: ‘Terror backer’ can enter UK…despite Tories’ ban pledge

The Daily Star: ‘Islamic extremist Zakir Naik to start tour preaching hate’

For his part, Zakir Naik has issued a press release in which he emphasises that his comments about Bin Laden were made in 1996, and that he ‘unequivocally condemns acts of violence including 9/11, 7/7 and 7/11 (Serial train bombing in Mumbai) which are completely and absolutely unjustifiable on any basis.’

Readers will recall that when an arrest warrant was issued for Tzipi Livni, the Jewish Leadership Council reportedly ‘warned the government that an inability to invite Israeli leaders to Britain was probably discriminatory against the Jewish community.’ Does it not follow that it is discriminatory against the Muslim community to ban Zakir Naik?

The issue of excluding speakers also raises the question of how arbitrarily we assess the good versus bad statements made by speakers. If we are to extend the same gesture to others who allegedly incite violence and are not conducive to the public good, then surely, the government should also be scrutinising whether Benny Morris (who described the Arab world as ‘barbarian‘ and Palestinians as wild animals who had to be locked up in ‘a cage‘), Avigdor Lieberman (who called for the execution of Arab Israeli Knesset members who were in contact with Hamas or marked the Nakba) and Geert Wilders, best known for his strident attacks on Islam, should gain entry into the UK.

Arguably, though we may not agree with speakers’ views, they should be able to visit the UK. If they are then thought to have broken any of our laws then a prosecution should be brought forth.

You can write to your local MP to press the home secretary, Theresa May, on why the government has selectively enforced its denial of entry into the UK:

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Taxpayers Millions Funding Britons Abroad Who Are ‘Too Sick to Work’

Taxpayers are paying millions of pounds to Britons living abroad who claim they are too sick to work.

Expats living in countries including Spain, France, Cyprus and Portugal are claiming incapacity benefits of nearly £46million a year.

Incredibly many of the 10,000 claimants have been receiving the payments for more than five years without having their cases reviewed.

A loophole allows them to simply send in a doctor’s note to keep the money flooding in.

Figures show almost £46million was paid to 9,660 claimants living abroad last year with a quarter from Spain alone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Wind Farm Owners Get Fee to Switch Off Turbines in Heavy Winds

Owners of wind farms will be paid to switch off their turbines and stop generating electricity if it gets too windy.

National Grid says the payments are essential to prevent the supply of electricity from overloading the network.

In a test run last month, Scottish Power was paid £13,000 for shutting down one wind farm for an hour and cutting the output of another.

Critics of wind farms described the payments — which are passed on to customers’ bills — as bizarre and said they highlighted the problems of relying on intermittent wind power.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Zakir Naik Exclusion Order a Serious Error of Judgement

The Muslim Council of Britain deplores Home Secretary Theresa May’s uncharacteristically intemperate move to ban the renowned Indian mainstream Islamic scholar Dr. Zakir Abdul-Karim Naik, from a speakers’ tour in the UK, reported in the media (Daily Telegraph, 18th June 2010), apparently because of his “unacceptable behaviour” and that his visit “would not be conducive to the public good”.

The Home Secretary’s action serves to demonise the very voices within the world ready for debate and discussion. The tour would have been a golden opportunity for young Muslims who are eager to hear the true messages of Islam which promote understanding between communities.

It appears that Government has responded to a recent campaign of vilification against the scholar, ignoring what Dr Naik stated on 11th June 2010: “the purpose of this statement is in response to the recent press reports about my intended tour to the UK in June 2010, including the things I am supposed to have previously said including their context and my views about terrorism and violent extremism in the light of the beautiful faith of Islam…as a student of comparative religion my work has involved engaging in constructive discussion with people of other major faiths, promoting similarities and converging values for a common platform of Peace using the commonalities that bind us all together….”

Expressing his grave concern at the decision, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari said today “this exclusion order demonstrates the double standards practised by the government concerning freedom of speech. While preachers of hate such as Geert Wilders are free to promote their bigotry in this country, respected Muslim scholars such as Dr Naik are refused entry to the UK under false pretences. It is deeply regrettable this is likely to cause serious damage to community cohesion in our country.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Vatican Cardinal Faces Corruption Inquiry Over Rome Property Deals

Catholic church dragged into public works scandal that has sent shockwaves through Italian government

A senior Vatican cardinal is under investigation for corruption, dragging the Catholic church into a public works scandal that has sent shockwaves through the Italian government.

Italian media reported today that Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, was suspected of striking cosy deals while head of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Vatican congregation that uses proceeds from a property empire including 2,000 Rome apartments to fund missionary efforts.

Sepe allegedly oversaw the sale in 2004 of a building in Rome to the then transport minister, Pietro Lunardi, for the suspiciously low price of €4.16m, newspapers reported, adding that magistrates wanted to know why Lunardi then freed up €2.5m in state funding the following year for the congregation to create a museum in its headquarters, and why that museum never opened.

Lunardi, who is also under investigation, said he would contact the magistrates looking into the deal “as soon as possible… to clear everything up”.

Sepe gave a fiery homily today in Naples, asking his congregation: “How many martyrs are there, even today, who in the name of the truth… are tortured, humiliated and disrespected?”

Magistrates are reportedly looking into Sepe’s links to builder Diego Anemone and former public works official Angelo Balducci, both suspected of being at the centre of a web of alleged kickbacks and corrupt state construction contracting.

Italy’s industry minister, Claudio Scajola, has already resigned after claims that Anemone paid €900,000 to subsidise the purchase of his luxury Rome flat.

Newspapers said magistrates suspected Sepe and Anemone were involved in furnishing accommodation on Rome’s Via Giulia to Guido Bertolaso, Italy’s powerful civil protection chief.

The case has shed light on the links between Roman politics and the Vatican.

Balducci was a papal usher but was dismissed when the corruption inquiry brought to light his suspected involvement with a Vatican chorister in a male prostitution ring. The Vatican said it hoped the investigation could be wrapped up fast “to eliminate any shadows, be they on the person [Sepe] or church institutions”.

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

Mediterranean Union

Italy: Rai Med News: Arab Current Affairs Shows From Tomorrow

(ANSAmed) — ROME JUNE 21 — For the first time, seven different Arab television current affairs programmes and two short films — “Others’ Opinions” — are to be broadcast by Rai Med in Italian and in Arab. The project has been rendered possible by collaboration between EuroMed News, whose partners are the international television bodies: ASBU, COPEAM and UER as well as eight national public TV broadcasters: EPTV (Algeria), ERTU (Egypt), France Télévisions (France), JRTV (Jordan), LJB (Libya), ORTAS(Syria), SNRT (Morocco) and Téléliban (Lebanon). The current affairs programmes under the “Mediterraneo” editorship from Palermo and run under the Testata Giornalistica Regionale, will be on air up until June 28 (at 9pm in Italian and at 11pm in Arab language on Rai Med and networked on as part of the Rai Med News specials offered by Giancarlo Licata. They deal with a variety of subjects: modernisation, rights, health-care, finance, exchanges between international broadcasters. This cycle of broadcasts will involve the participation of Jordanian, Algerian and Syrian television channels. The Euromed News project is financed by the European Commission — EuropeAid as part of the EU’s neighbourhood policy programmes. It supports the production and distribution of documentaries, current affairs and news programmes on Arab television networks on southern shores of the Mediterranean. Rai Med is broadcast as part of the free-to-air bouquet of satellite Rai and on Channel 804 on Sky. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Mixed Feelings Define Mubarak’s Children in Egypt

To the millions of Egyptians who have known no other president, Hosni Mubarak is the “Father of the Nation.” But as with many fathers, they also have deeply mixed feelings toward him.

Nearly half of Egypt’s population of 78 million were born or raised under Mubarak’s nearly 30-year authoritarian rule, and they have been hit hardest by the country’s growing poverty and corruption and faltering education system.

Yet, many cannot imagine any other viable leader, and they’re deeply worried about what could happen if he passes from the scene.

That possibility was thrown into sharp relief when the 82-year-old Mubarak underwent gall bladder surgery in Germany in March and was gone for three weeks, then spent weeks out of the public eye after returning home.

“I was terrified when he was in Germany. I was thinking ‘who will take charge of the country if he dies?’ Even with him around, you feel that we are a hair’s breadth away from chaos,” said 28-year-old Noha al-Shahed.

Al-Shahed is, in theory anyway, one of those who have benefited from the changes Mubarak has brought. She works as a stock trader in Cairo — a field that hardly existed in Egypt until the regime’s opening of the market economy over the past decade. Still, she’s embittered by what she says is the Mubarak government’s constant denial of democracy.

She fears, however, the unknown could be worse. “High rates of poverty and criminality already are with us, but with Mubarak gone there will be looting and killing on the streets,” she said.

Fear of the unknown is a safeguard the government has intentionally cultivated. Mubarak has long prevented any political figure from gaining enough prominence to stand as an alternative and has rejected calls to name a vice president who could be seen as a successor.

Moreover, his ruling party often pushes warnings that without Mubarak, the way is open to power for the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist movement that is the strongest opposition force but is deeply mistrusted by many Egyptians.

Mubarak told reporters during a visit to Italy in mid-May that “only God knows who will be my successor,” raising criticism at home from some who saw it as a rather flip dismissal of the idea that democracy would determine who comes after him.

Since his surgery, Mubarak has not said whether he will run for a new, six-year term in presidential elections due next year — but top party officials said in late May that they want him to, making it very likely he will run.

Under Mubarak’s rule

The generation raised under Mubarak has had a tough time even entering the economy. Overall unemployment has hovered around nine percent in past years, but among those aged 20-25 it has been as high as 40 percent, according to official figures. Among college graduates, unemployment has risen from 12 percent in 1995 to 17 percent in 2005.

At the same time, democratic practices and freedoms have regressed. Opposition parties are little more than figureheads set up by the regime, elections are routinely rigged or fraught with irregularities and police brutality is common. Security agencies hold wide powers under the emergency law in place since Mubarak came to office and also have considerable political influence.

The result is a generation that is deeply frustrated, and while many will grumble about Mubarak, at the same time he is the only one they can turn to.

In recent months, a “popular” judgment of the regime has sprung up on the sidewalks outside parliament and the prime minister’s office in central Cairo, with hundreds of protesters camping out to press demands for better pay and jobs or to air personal grievances.

Among them on a recent day was 32-year-old Alaa Moharam, who was camping out along with dozens of fellow workers from a telephone equipment factory whose privatization in 2000, they claim, is placing their jobs in jeopardy.

“Mubarak is the only one who can save us from this predicament,” said 32-year-old Moharam. Then he added, “But he is isolated from the people. Honestly, maybe he can no longer make a difference.”

Isolation from their leaders is something Egyptians have complained more and more of in recent years. Mubarak never ruled by charisma. Instead, his image has been that of a Spartan military man and a paternal “common man” who wants the best for his children.

That image never won him Egyptians’ enthusiasm but it won him their reliance.

“Egyptians see in Mubarak a true ‘ibn balad’ who is all for the poor and the needy,” said analyst Amr Hamzawy, using the Arabic phrase for a man who knows the ins and outs of his country and its people.

Even if the reality doesn’t reflect it, “it remains a source of his legitimacy and a degree of popular support for his leadership,” said Hamzawy, head of Middle East research at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

But the growing sense of a government out of touch with people’s problems is eroding that image.

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

Morocco: Security Forces Uncover Jihadist Terror Cell

Rabata, 21 June (AKI) — Morocco’s security forces have smashed an Islamist terror cell that was planning attacks in the country, the official news agency MAP said on Monday. The jihadist cell was led by a Palestinian and had 11 members, MAP said, citing a statement from Morocco’s interior ministry.

Prosecutors in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, will send the 11 suspects for trial, according to the report.

The report did not name the suspects, nor did it state where they were arrested or the cell’s planned targets.

Authorities in Morocco stepped up security in 2003 after a spate of deadly suicide bomb attacks in Casablanca killed 45 people and injured hundreds in the economic capital Casablanca.

The security services say they have rounded up more than 60 radical cells since then and arrested thousands of suspected Islamist militants.

Many of the militants are held in Moroccan jails after trials slated by defence lawyers and judicial reform campaigners as unfair and based on flimsy evidence.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel and the Surrender of the West

One of the world’s oldest stories is playing out before our eyes: The Jews are being scapegoated again.

By Shelby Steele

The most interesting voice in all the fallout surrounding the Gaza flotilla incident is that sanctimonious and meddling voice known as “world opinion.” At every turn “world opinion,” like a school marm, takes offense and condemns Israel for yet another infraction of the world’s moral sensibility. And this voice has achieved an international political legitimacy so that even the silliest condemnation of Israel is an opportunity for self-congratulation.

Rock bands now find moral imprimatur in canceling their summer tour stops in Israel (Elvis Costello, the Pixies, the Gorillaz, the Klaxons). A demonstrator at an anti-Israel rally in New York carries a sign depicting the skull and crossbones drawn over the word “Israel.” White House correspondent Helen Thomas, in one of the ugliest incarnations of this voice, calls on Jews to move back to Poland. And of course the United Nations and other international organizations smugly pass one condemnatory resolution after another against Israel while the Obama administration either joins in or demurs with a wink.

This is something new in the world, this almost complete segregation of Israel in the community of nations. And if Helen Thomas’s remarks were pathetic and ugly, didn’t they also point to the end game of this isolation effort: the nullification of Israel’s legitimacy as a nation? There is a chilling familiarity in all this. One of the world’s oldest stories is playing out before our eyes: The Jews are being scapegoated again…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Italy: Thursday Colosseum Lights Out for Shalit Release

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 21 — This Thursday at midnight Israeli time — 11.00pm in Italy — the lights of the Colosseum will be turned off in an appeal for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held by Hamas since being kidnapped on June 25 2006. The announcement was made by the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, and the chairman of Rome’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici. The protest, which will be attended by the father of Gilad Shalit, is supported by the youth associations Bnei Brit Giovani and UGEI (Union of Young Italian Jews). “All citizens are invited to the event,” Alemanno and Pacifici explained. “The aim is to join forces and mobilise public opinion to bring Gilad home, as well as to revive the peace process in the Middle East”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Gaza: Departure Iranian Ship Postponed to Later Date

(ANSAmed) — TEHRAN, JUNE 21 — The departure of the first Iranian ship that will carry humanitarian aid to Gaza, defying the Israeli blockade, has been postponed to an unspecified date, the head of the juvenile organisation of the Iranian Red Crescent, Javad Jafarian, told press agency ISNA. Early in June, after the bloody Israeli raid on an international flotilla headed for the Gaza Strip, in which nine people were killed, the Iranian Red Crescent announced that it was ready to send two ship to the Palestinian territory. One ship with basic needs and one with volunteers, and the organisation also announced to send a hospital ship at some point in the future. On Monday last week, Iran said that this week one of its ships would weigh anchor, and that the country would send more aid to Turkey, to load it in Istanbul. The departure of the ship, according to Jafarian, has been postponed by “problems with international coordination and a change of the cargo to send” to Gaza. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran: Dwindling Public Support for the Regime

Die Welt 15.06.2010

A year after the disputed elections in Iran and the regime has imprisoned more bloggers and journalists than almost any other country in the world, Oliver M. Piecha reports. He also comments on the dwindling public support for the regime. “The pro-government media obviously felt obliged to report that millions of Iranians had taken to the streets in protest against Israel following events off the coast of Gaza, but they wisely refrained from featuring photographs.”

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

Syria: Italian Hospital in Damascus for Refugees and Elite

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, JUNE 21 — Beds and medicine are free for Palestinian, Iraqi and Sudanese refugees, while those who can afford it pay the equivalent of 50 euros a night. The Italian Hopsital of Damascus, set up in 1913, provides excellence for all, and bears its almost 100 years very well, not least thanks to donations from the Italian Cooperation. A large part of its success is also down to the passionate management of Doctor Joseph Fares, a Syrian surgeon and, as of a little over a month ago, an honourary Italian citizen. The hospital, founded and managed by the National Association for Assistance to Italian Missionaries (ANSMI) is private and non-profit, though Damascus’ Finance Ministry is now asking the hospital to pay taxes on property and activities. This is a “luxury” that the hospital cannot afford, says Dr. Fares, who has also put the problem to the undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Stefania Craxi, who arrived in the city yesterday. “We look to be subsidised by those with the most money so that we can help those who have none” is the ethos of the director, who proudly displays x-ray machines, operating theatres and advanced analysis laboratories. “The Italian Hospital means that people of any religion or nationality can come in and be treated,” says 76-year old Sister Elda, from Treviso, who has been in Damascus for 22 years after stints in Australia, the Philippines and Samoa. Sister Giovanna, 81, says that Asma, Syria’s First Lady and wife of President Assad, has also come here for treatment. She is speaking in the room visited a few months ago by President Giorgio Napolitano on his visit to Syria, and welcomes guests along with the other seventeen Salesian nuns (of whom six are Italian) who help carry the hospital forwards. Open-heart surgery, dialysis and ophthalmology are among the areas of excellence of the hospital, which is 3,200 square metres and has 55 beds. The building has been restructured and extended a number of times, with new wings in contrast to the oldest part of the building, which still has the white and grey brick flooring of 1913. However, there is no space left, and Dr. Fares says that “we hope soon to have the school opposite, which once was ours, to add studies and rooms and help us to do more”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Still Uses Israeli-Made Drones, Haaretz Reports

The Turkish military is continuing to use Israeli-made drones despite the recent political tensions between the two countries, daily Haaretz reported Sunday, citing unidentified “official Turkish sources.”

The army is using the drones in its fight against members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq in spite of reports that the government is weighing whether to cut defense ties with Israel, the paper said.

According to Haaretz, no decision has been made to formally freeze deals with Israel and a government committee that discussed the issue last week has decided to let the Turkish defense industry determine if it wants to limit or cut ties.

Many of these defense companies are either government-owned or co-owned with private firms, the paper added.

Turkey has an agreement with Israel to buy 10 medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles known as “Herons.”

After delays of more than two years, an Israeli partnership of Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit managed to formally deliver six Heron vehicles to the Turkish military in April. Four more are expected later this month or in July.

“Turkey does not want to lose what it gained on the international front from the flotilla incident,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed source in the Turkish Foreign Ministry as saying in reference to Israel’s deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla carrying many Turkish passengers.

“But it is important to remember that the prime minister is operating on the basis of internal political considerations, not only a cool analysis of Turkish interests on the international level,” the source reportedly said.

The Turkish military meanwhile pushed into northern Iraq on Sunday, hitting back at the hideouts of PKK members who killed 12 soldiers this week in the deadliest attacks in two years.

Iraq’s foreign minister criticized the Turkish strike Sunday, calling it “a violation of Iraqi independence, sovereignty and good neighborly relations,” Agence France-Presse reported.

“No country should resort to unilateral action. Unfortunately this has not been observed,” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told AFP.

By morning, the troops had advanced 10 kilometers into Iraqi territory in the Kandil Mountains where the PKK maintains a network of rear bases in its 26-year-old armed campaign, AFP reported, citing an Iraqi Kurdish security official.

Turkish troops were operating in the mountains north of the town of Sidikan in Arbil province, the official said.

Sunday’s cross-border operation was only the second since 2008 but it went far deeper than the previous one Wednesday when troops advanced just a few kilometers into Iraq before withdrawing.

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

Turkey Not Blameless Over Flotilla, Says Fini

House speaker says checks should have been ‘more meticulous’

(ANSA) — Tel Aviv, June 21 — Turkey is not totally blameless for the bloodshed of last month’s raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza aid flotilla, Italian Lower House Speaker Gianfranco Fini was quoted as saying Monday.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed when Israeli forces boarded a Turkish ship that was carrying supplies for Gaza in an attempt to breach a blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

Israel claimed its soldiers acted in self-defence in firing on activists armed with knives and bars, while activists said the commandoes attacked without provocation.

“The provocative characteristics of the flotilla should have led the Turkish authorities to carry out more meticulous checks,” Fini told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot during a three-day visit of Israel and the Occupied Territories. “(On the ship there were) pacifists in the true sense of the word and those who had an aggressive, hostile attitude towards Israel and a positive attitude towards terrorist organisations,” added Fini, Italy’s third highest institutional figure after President Giorgio Napolitano and Senate Speaker Renato Schifani.

Israel has run a blockage of Gaza for three years after anti-Israel militant group Hamas took control of the area following their election victory.

The May 31 raid, which took place in international waters, caused a major international outcry and a crisis in relations between Israel and Turkey, the state that had been its strongest ally in the Muslim world.

Last week Israel bowed to pressure to ease the blockade, which non-governmental organizations say has caused considerable hardship for the Strip’s 1.5 million inhabitants, to allow a greater number of goods through.

Israel also decided to set up a special commission to investigate the incident. It will be headed by former Israeli supreme court judge Jacob Turkel, while two foreign observers have been invited to participate: Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble of Northern Ireland and Ken Watkin, an ex-judge advocate general for Canada’s armed forces.

Fini added that Italy continued to support the “long difficult” process that Turkey hopes will enable it to join the European Union, despite the doubts of some member states.

“Europe should think ten times before closing the door on Turkey,” he said. CRAXI RUNS INTO SYRIAN PESSIMISM The Israeli raid was also one of the topics of talks in Damascus between Italian Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Stefania Craxi and Syria’s Assistant Foreign Minister Abdel Fattah Ammoura.

Craxi said after the meeting that the raid had made Syria more pessimistic about peace prospects in the Middle East, while stressing there were “differing sensibilities” within the administration.

She added that, according to Ammoura, “the peace process is going nowhere and Israel’s latest action has created a difficult climate”.

Craxi said Italy did not agree with the bleak view of one of the states most hostile to Israel.

“It is possible to reach agreement on certain points,” she said. “Far-sighted, responsible, courageous policy is needed to give young people a future of peace. The time is now”. photo: Italian Lower House Speaker Gianfranco Fini.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US Ready to Offer Turkey More Help to Fight PKK

The United States is ready to offer more assistance to Turkey in the fight against terrorism, an embassy spokeswoman said Sunday, denying allegations of a drop in actionable intelligence in response to Turkey’s stance on Iran.

“We stand ready to review urgently any new request from the Turkish military or government,” Deborah Guido, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Sunday.

Allegations that Washington has slowed its sharing of actionable intelligence with the Turkish military following Turkey’s U.N. Security Council vote against new sanctions on Iran were brought back to the country’s agenda with the weekend’s deadly attacks, which killed a total of 12 Turkish soldiers.

The Turkish press had speculated that the attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were carried out by a group of around 250 terrorists whose crossing of the border would surely have been noted by American intelligence. Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug corrected the news reports Sunday, saying the attacks were committed by 57 terrorists.

Guido made clear there has been no change in the level of intelligence sharing with Turkey, and noted that American troops have been facing similar attacks. “Despite our best intelligence efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of our forces there, we experienced similar attacks conducted against Turkish forces [Saturday],” she said, adding that the U.S. shares Turkey’s grief over the deaths.

Foreign Ministry sources told the Daily News on Sunday that they had not seen “any signal of a breakdown with the U.S. either in political or military terms.” Military officials publicly confirmed Friday that the cooperation with the United States remained the same.

A tripartite mechanism between Turkey, the U.S. and Iraq has been established in recent years with the aim of addressing the security issues in northern Iraq. A joint command center in the northern Iraqi province of Arbil was also formed to facilitate intelligence sharing for operational purposes against the PKK.

Diplomatic sources drew attention to the problems experienced in this sharing process, saying Turkish officials had complained several times to their American counterparts about long delays in delivering real-time intelligence regarding movements in the region and had requested more assistance.

Retired Gen. Necati Özgen said the recent tension with Israel and the U.S. could have played a part in the latest terrorist attacks. “Did the U.S. provide intelligence on this incident? No. It did not give the intelligence about this big group of terrorists,” the former corps commander said Saturday in an interview with NTV.

Security summit today

A security summit is expected to be convened in Ankara on Monday following the weekend’s bloody attacks. Under the chairmanship of President Abdullah Gül and with the participation of top civil and military officials, the summit will focus on ways to prevent such acts of terror in the country.

The fight against terror will also be on the agenda of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G-20 summit June 26 and 27.

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


Armenia: Azerbaijan Clashes Kill at Least Four

Armenian and Azerbaijani troops have clashed in the heaviest fighting in months over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, leaving at least four Armenian soldiers dead, officials said Saturday.

With tensions rising between the rival nations, Armenia’s defense ministry said in a statement that four soldiers had been killed and four wounded after Azerbaijani forces attacked late Friday. The ministry also claimed an Azerbaijani soldier had been killed.

Azerbaijani defense ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu confirmed the fighting had taken place but blamed Armenian forces for the attack and said Yerevan was understating its losses. “Armenian armed forces breached the cease-fire. They have lost even more soldiers than they admit,” he said, refusing to comment on casualties among Azerbaijani soldiers.

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian condemned the incident as a “cowardly provocation,” noting that it occurred almost immediately after he met Thursday with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for talks in St. Petersburg mediated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“Provocations are unacceptable, and the recent cowardly provocation is even more unacceptable as it came just hours after the meeting held under Russia’s mediation,” Sarkisian said in a statement.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave in Azerbaijan that has been under Armenian control since the end of a six-year conflict that left some 30,000 people dead and displaced approximately 1 million prior to a 1994 truce. The territory’s unilateral independence is not recognized by the international community.

International mediators have been pushing since 2007 for the two sides to agree to the Madrid principles, a deal that would see Armenian forces withdraw from areas surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, international peacekeepers deployed in the region, refugees granted the right to return and an eventual vote on the region’s status.

Aliyev earlier this month threatened to withdraw from foreign-backed peace talks after he accused Armenia of stalling the negotiations.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry accused Armenia of provoking the recent violence by delaying negotiations. “There is a fairly simple way to avoid armed conflict. It is to sit down at the negotiating table and continue working on the basis of the updated Madrid principles,” Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov said.

“Azerbaijan will never reconcile itself with the occupation of its territories,” Polukhov added. “The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is not frozen, as the Armenian side would like to think.”

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Death Toll Reaches 300 for English Military

London, 21 June (AKI) — The number of English soldiers killed as a result of fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 reached 300 after a man succumbed to his wounds on Sunday.

The marine died in an English hospital after he was wounded in a blast in Helmand province on 12 June.

The death prompted England’s prime minister David Cameron to lament the pain of families during wartime.

The marine’s death was “desperately sad news” and another family was suffering “grief, pain and loss”.

“Of course, the 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before,” he said.

“But it’s a moment for the whole country to reflect on the incredible service and sacrifice and dedication that the armed forces give on our behalf.”

About 10,000 English soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan as part of a 45-nation Nato-led force that currently numbers over 125,000 troops.

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

Indonesia: Iranians Country’s Biggest Drug Smugglers

Jakarta, 21 June (AKI/Jakarta Post) — The Indonesian government has said that Iranian nationals are the main smugglers of class-A drugs into the country as of January this year.

Malaysians were the next-highest group, with eight suspects arrested so far this year, followed by India with six suspects.

Indonesia’s Customs and Excise Office at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, has arrested 15 Iranian nationals this year linked to 22 cases.

It has also seized a total 115 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine (known locally as shabu-shabu), ketamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

“All of the evidence (drugs seized) together is worth 30.5 million dollars at market value,” the office’s head Baduri Wijayanta said late on Sunday.

All of the arrested Iranian smugglers were believed to be part of an Iran-based international drug mafia syndicate, he added.

The office’s head of prosecutions Gatot Sugeng Wibowo said the Iran-based drug syndicate might not have been aware that Indonesia enforced the death penalty for drug smuggling.

The 2009 Narcotics Law carries the death penalty and fines of up to 1.5 million dollars for anyone in possession of more than 5 grammes of drugs.

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


Terrorists Crossing AZ Border Into U.S.?

PINAL COUNTY, AZ — On a single day in April, in a special cell block deep inside the Pinal County Jail, nearly 400 inmates sat awaiting trial or extradition after being detained trying to cross the Arizona border from Mexico.

Only about half of them were actually from Mexico.

The cell block, owned by Pinal County, but contracted with the Department of Homeland Security, is a way station in the immigration process, where inmates are held after they are detained by the Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But it’s where the inmates are from that causes concern for some critics and lawmakers.

On that one day in April, according to records obtained by ABC 15, Homeland Security officials were holding inmates from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Sudan.

“They’re coming from all over,” Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said. “And one wonders whether some of them are coming in here to commit acts of terror.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]