Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100704

Financial Crisis
»Analyst: Obama Has U.S. Economy in ‘Death Spiral’
»Cyprus: Unions Accept Zero Increase in Pay of Public Servants
»Finance: 7.9 Million Jobs Lost, Many Never to Return
»Spain: Rise in VAT to 18% in Effect From Today
»Corrupt Pols, Labor Unions, Illegal Aliens and Muslim Terrorists Must be Banished From Our Country
»Court Tosses Planned Parenthood to Legal ‘Bounty Hunter’
»First Amendment Suspended in the Gulf of Mexico as Spill Cover-Up Goes Orwellian
»UPS Offers ‘Luggage Boxes’ As Alternative to Checking Bags
Europe and the EU
»Europe in Twilight
»France’s Top Muslim Leader Seeks Doubling of Country’s Mosques to 4,000
»Greece: Compensate Tourists for Strikes, Disasters, Minister
»In a Sacred Italian Race, Some Bristle at the Prize
»Italy: Halal is Born: Islamically-Correct Products Made in Italy
»Italy: Agusta Upbeat on Helicopter for Obama
»Pope Takes Austria’s Top Bishop to Task
»Spain: 3 Years in Prison for Kurd Who Threw Shoe at Erdogan
»Thomas Jefferson and Mohammed Ali Jinnah: Dreams From Two Founding Fathers
»UK: Blaze Inside Nuclear Power Station Takes Firemen Seven Hours to Bring Under Control
»UK: Passenger Tasered as Police Storm Train With Knife Maniac Holding Three Hostage
»EU-Croatia: Final Chapters Opened, Enlargement to Proceed
»Greece Favorite Destination of Serbian Tourists
»Inland Croatia Focuses on Spa and Conferences
Mediterranean Union
»France-Morocco: Nuclear Cooperation Agreement Signed
North Africa
»Fury as Lockerbie Bomber’s Doctor Admits Terrorist Could Live for Ten Years — Despite Earlier Three-Month Diagnosis
»Libya: 250 Deported to South Over Revolt
»Maghreb: Joint Energy Market for Future EU Integration
»New Oil Finding in Gulf of Suez
»Tunisia OKs UN Treaty Against Nuclear Terrorism
Israel and the Palestinians
»US Jews: In Europe Italy Solid Ally of Israel
Middle East
»Beirut: Moslems and Christians Talk About Education
»Iran-Syria: Tehran Invests Near Occupied Golan, Press
»Italy-Syria: S.Craxi in Damascus, Economic Ties and Mideast
»Lebanon: Strong Growth of Wine Sector
»‘Saudi King Says Israel, Iran Don’t Deserve to Exist’
»Saudi Clerics Battle Over Adult-Breastfeeding, Music Fatwas
»Souren-2, The First Iranian Humanoid Robot
»Turkish Author Challenges ‘Pseudo-Islamic’ Beliefs
»Villagers Attack, Disarm U.N. Patrol in South Lebanon
South Asia
»Boeing Puts Investment in Pakistan on Hold
Far East
»Tibetans’ Genes Have Quickly Adapted to High Altitude
»Spain: Citizenship Exam for Foreigners Too Hard, Polemics
»UK: Ukrainian Illegal Immigrants Lived Life of Luxury After Conning Hmrc Into Paying Out £4.5million in Tax Rebate Scam
»Origin of Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered
»The Case for Calling Them Nitwits

Financial Crisis

Analyst: Obama Has U.S. Economy in ‘Death Spiral’

‘Simple math’ confirms unemployment won’t by solved by government hiring

A new analysis of the U.S. economy shows that since 2007, the private sector has lost 10.5 million jobs while the public sector has added 720,000 jobs, creating a “death spiral” for the nation’s economy.

The study comes from The Free Enterprise Nation, a nonpartisan national membership/advocacy organization for individuals and businesses that make up the private sector.

The analysis was done using statistics about employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Unions Accept Zero Increase in Pay of Public Servants

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JULY 1 — Cyprus’ trade unions, representing the wider public sector, have accepted to renew the collective agreements of their members without any salary increase, CNA reports. At the trade unions’ meeting, which took place Wednesday, General Secretary of the Cyprus Workers’ Confederation (SEK), Nikos Moiseos, said that employees in the public sector are making a great sacrifice by accepting no increase in their salaries. “Employees in the public sector are making a great sacrifice by accepting zero increase and they expect similar sacrifices from others”, he added, noting that they will monitor the economic situation. General Secretary of the Pancyprian Federation of Labor (PEO), Pambis Kyritsis, said that the trade unions expect from the Parliament and the political parties to accept and ratify the necessary bills regarding tax evasion and the increase of corporate tax for a more balanced policy in order to address the economic crisis. In his statements, General Secretary of the Pancyprian Public Employees Trade Union (PASYDY), Glafkos Hadjipetrou, said that PASYDY will not accept unilateral measures from the government. “We will not accept unilateral measures”, he said, adding “the crisis concerns and affects us all and we should all make a contribution”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Finance: 7.9 Million Jobs Lost, Many Never to Return

‘The U.S. will see more frequent recessions than anyone is used to’

The recession killed off 7.9 million jobs. It’s increasingly likely that many will never come back.

The government jobs report issued Friday shows that businesses have slowed their pace of hiring to a relative trickle.

“The job losses during the Great Recession were so off the chart, that even though we’ve gained about 600,000 private sector jobs back, we’ve got nearly 8 million jobs to go,” said Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of Economic Cycle Research Institute.

Excluding temporary Census workers, the economy has added fewer than 100,000 jobs a month this year — a much faster and stronger jobs recovery than occurred following the last two recessions in 2001 and 1991.

But even if that pace of hiring were to double immediately, it would take until 2013 to recapture the lost jobs. And the labor market very likely doesn’t have years before it gets hit with the shock of the inevitable next economic downturn.

“It’s virtually certain that the next recession will come before the job market has healed from the last recession,” said Achuthan. (Read ‘Stimulus: The big bang is over’)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: Rise in VAT to 18% in Effect From Today

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 11 — A rise in VAT from 16% to 18% comes into force in Spain today, with the government hoping to collect an extra 117 euros a year from every Spaniard, a projected total of 5.1 billion euros per year. Leading chains such as Carrefour, Ikea, Decathlon and Inditext (Zara, Mango) have announced that they will not implement the rise in prices for now in order to prevent a fall in demand, but will do so from September. Sales begin today in a number of shops with discounts of up to 70%, while a study by the Spanish federation of consumers predicts that spending during the summer period will fall by 27%. The rise in tax desired by the state has been criticised because it comes at a time of serious crisis and could have the unwanted effect of slowing an already struggling consumerism, cancelling out part of the estimated increase in income. In view of the increase in VAT, car sales increased by 40% in the first six months of the year (thanks also to state incentives), while requests for the next few months have fallen sharply, according to sector representatives. VAT will remain unchanged at 4% for all basic foodstuffs (bread, eggs, vegetables and cereals) but will rise by between 7 and 8% for water, transport and bars and restaurants, among others. The rise in VAT is part of a strategy by the Spanish government to bring deficit back to 3% of GDP in 2013 from the 2009 figure of 11.4% of GDP. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Corrupt Pols, Labor Unions, Illegal Aliens and Muslim Terrorists Must be Banished From Our Country

Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs recently told of New York City Muslims and their highly suspect motives for building a mosque on the site of the 9/11 massacre that their people inflicted on nearly 3,000 Americans. She provided photos of a large group of Muslims disrupting New York City traffic on Madison Avenue, an extremely busy street, by stopping vehicles that were trying to conduct their daily business rounds.

The Muslims took their little “prayer” rugs out onto the street and kneeled down in prayer from curb to curb, totally stopping all traffic on that Avenue. These people who have protested and complained over very simple actions as being offensive had not one iota of shame or compassion for the thousands of other citizens they inconvenienced with their totally unnecessary display of arrogance and disobedience at blocking downtown city traffic.

That terribly OFFENDS me and I can just imagine how offended the drivers of all those vehicles must have felt not being able to continue with their missions and workdays.

We can’t change the Muslims; but we can change the people that allow them to disrupt our way of life just to placate their desires; VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE in November. Elect nothing but conservatives, almost all of whom can be found under the Republican label, not that they want to be Republicans but this is just not the time for a third party.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Court Tosses Planned Parenthood to Legal ‘Bounty Hunter’

Whistleblower OK’d to pursue case to win portion of $180-million defrauded from taxpayers

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco has stopped Planned Parenthood of California’s attempt at silencing a whistleblower who alleges the abortion provider has billed taxpayers $180 million in fraudulent birth-control charges.

Victor Gonzalez, the former chief financial officer of Planned Parenthood’s Los Angeles branch, exposed through a federal lawsuit California clinics purchasing birth-control pills at discount prices, then billing both self-pay clients and federally funded state programs inflated prices.

Through its dozens of affiliated “health centers” over several years, Gonzalez estimates, Planned Parenthood had profited over $180 million from overbilling.

Planned Parenthood, however, had won a dismissal of the fraud case in district court by arguing that a state audit had also found the overbilling, and, therefore, Gonzalez didn’t really qualify as a whistleblower.

And since the state opted not to take punitive action following the revelation of wrongdoing, it may have appeared Planned Parenthood had gotten away with decades of profiting off overbilling taxpayers.

But the unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit’s court of appeals this week has brought the scandal back to light.

“This is a tremendous victory,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Gonzalez. “While this case is by no means over, winning this appeal means we have gotten the federal claim over the threshold hurdles and can now get down to the heart of this case: the alleged fraud.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

First Amendment Suspended in the Gulf of Mexico as Spill Cover-Up Goes Orwellian

(NaturalNews) As CNN is now reporting, the U.S. government has issued a new rule that would make it a felony crime for any journalist, reporter, blogger or photographer to approach any oil cleanup operation, equipment or vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone caught is subject to arrest, a $40,000 fine and prosecution for a federal felony crime.

CNN reporter Anderson Cooper says, “A new law passed today, and back by the force of law and the threat of fines and felony charges, … will prevent reporters and photographers from getting anywhere close to booms and oil-soaked wildlife just about any place we need to be. By now you’re probably familiar with cleanup crews stiff-arming the media, private security blocking cameras, ordinary workers clamming up, some not even saying who they’re working for because they’re afraid of losing their jobs.”

Watch the video clip yourself at NaturalNews.TV:

The rule, of course, is designed to restrict the media’s access to cleanup operations in order to keep images of oil-covered seabirds off the nation’s televisions. With this, the Gulf Coast cleanup operation has now entered a weird Orwellian reality where the news is shaped, censored and controlled by the government in order to prevent the public from learning the truth about what’s really happening in the Gulf.

Now the same Big Brother approach is being used in the Gulf of Mexico: Criminalize journalists, censor the story and try to keep the American people ignorant of what’s really happening. It’s just the latest tactic from a government that no longer even recognizes the U.S. Constitution or its Bill of Rights. Because the very first right is Freedom of Speech, which absolutely includes the right to walk onto a public beach and take photographs of something happening out in the open, on public waters. It is one of the most basic rights of our citizens and our press.

But now the Obama administration has stripped away those rights, transforming journalists into criminals. Now, we might expect something like this from Chavez, or Castro or even the communist leaders of China, but here in the United States, we’ve all been promised we lived in “the land of the free.” Obama apparently does not subscribe to that philosophy anymore (if he ever did).

So how does criminalizing journalists equate to “land of the free?” It doesn’t, obviously. Forget freedom. (Your government already has.) This is about controlling your mind to make sure you don’t visually see the truth of what the oil industry has done to your oceans, your shorelines and your beaches. This is all about keeping you ignorant with a total media blackout of the real story of what’s happening in the Gulf.

The real story, you see, is just too ugly. And the government has fracked up the cleanup effort to such a ridiculous extent that instead of the “transparency” they once promised, they’re now resorting to the threat of arrest for all journalists who try to get close enough to cover the story.

[Return to headlines]

UPS Offers ‘Luggage Boxes’ As Alternative to Checking Bags

Only days after federal officials announced that the nation’s airlines had collected 33% more revenue this year from checked luggage fees, UPS offered its alternative to the hassle and expense of lugging a suitcase through an airport.

The world’s largest package delivery service announced last week that it was selling specially designed boxes that resemble suitcases. Passengers can ship the “luggage boxes” to their final destination to avoid the airlines’ check-in lines and luggage fees.

The new UPS boxes include carrying handles and come in two sizes…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Europe in Twilight

Europe’s leaders surrendered their national identities and cultures bit by bit

It is not too incredible to imagine that within a century, German, the language of Goethe, Schiller and Mann, may become a dead language. That is already the almost certain fate of the Swedish and Norwegian languages. French, Spanish and English will survive as the pidgin languages of distant colonies, but in their own capital cities, these languages are swiftly becoming transformed into dialects, crossbred with Middle Eastern and African intonations and jargon to become increasingly alien to their own origins.

In hardly two generations we have moved from a world dominated by Europe, to one in which the peoples that not too long ago formed its ruling civilization may become extinct. The nations of Europe are caught between the economic unsustainability of socialism and the political fortunes of its overlords, who have built entire economic castles of cards on government entitlements and guest workers. The European Union has been proven to be unworkable, even as an authoritarian organization. It may survive, but like all overly enthusiastic parasites, its survival would only serve to quicken its host’s doom.


Europe’s leaders surrendered their national identities and cultures bit by bit, expecting to find some new Utopian society on the other end. Instead all they found was debt and savagery. Socialism slashed the birth rate and hiked the budget. The immigrants and guest workers who were brought in to compensate for both, only inflated the budget further and fixed the birth rate in their own direction. England and France left behind their colonies, only to have those colonies follow them home, like ownerless dogs turned feral. And Europe’s governments pretended that this was the best of all worlds. After all European culture and national sovereignty were being stamped out, but it was being replaced with a new identity. Not European, not post-National, but Islamic.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

France’s Top Muslim Leader Seeks Doubling of Country’s Mosques to 4,000

Colin Randall, Foreign Correspondent

PARIS // France’s most prominent Muslim leader has called for the number of mosques in the country to be doubled to 4,000, sparking fresh debate on the secular status established in French law a century ago.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grande Mosque of Paris and formerly president of the French Council for Muslims, believes a sharp increase in facilities for worship is necessary to give Europe’s largest Muslim population a chance to pray in dignity and comfort.

In a revealing interview in the daily newspaper France-Soir, the contents of which were confirmed by his office, the Algerian-born cardiologist stressed the social benefits of easing the “pressure, frustration and the sense of injustice” felt by many French Muslims.

“Open a mosque and you close a prison,” I agree they get to preach the same violent hatred in each, and the take it to the streets! said Dr Boubakeur. If this seems a colourful way of justifying a major programme of mosque-building, he can point to a powerful ally: the president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

France jealously guards the principle of separation of religion and state set down in the 1905 law. This legislation, the bedrock of French secular society, expressly forbids the official recognition or state funding any faith.

But in 2004, when he was the finance minister, Mr Sarkozy argued in a book entitled The Republic, Religions, Hope for an updating of the law to meet modern challenges.

He said the provision of a mosque in every sizeable town would help counter the extremism fostered by self-styled, usually untrained imams holding prayer meetings in tower block basements and garages.

France is estimated to have at least five million Muslims among a population of 63 million, and Islam is the most commonly practised faith after Roman Catholicism.

Since becoming president, Mr Sarkozy has maintained his theme that “negative” secularism should make way for a positive brand. In 2008, while visiting Riyadh, he hailed Islam as “one of the greatest and most beautiful civilisations the world has known”.

For French groups such as Riposte Laïque (Secular Response), which fiercely defends the church-state separation, Mr Sarkozy has defeated the spirit of the 1905 law by allowing it to be circumvented.

There are now various ways, from tax advantages to the leasing of land or property at peppercorn rents, in which the public purse can contribute to the cost of building mosques.

Riposte Laïque claims loopholes in the law mean a new mosque for Barbe’s-Rochechouart, a Muslim quarter on the fringe of central Paris, will receive subsidies of up to €20 million (Dh90m) from taxpayers.

This is because authorities have the freedom to give direct aid to Muslim groups if the new buildings are designated, as in Barbe’s-Rochechouart, as cultural centres or Islamic institutes, which qualify for funding even if they also contain prayer rooms.

This week, opponents of any dilution of secular law were dismayed when François Fillon became the first French prime minister of the Fifth Republic, created in 1958, to officiate at the inauguration of a new mosque — a building for up to 2,500 worshippers at Argenteuil, on the outskirts of Paris.

Secular and anti-Islam lobby groups strongly criticised his presence. Writers at more than one website, including that of Riposte Laïque, expressed “shame” that Mr Fillon was photographed cutting the tape while standing alongside a small girl wearing a veil.

However, the child’s face was not fully covered and would therefore be entirely legal under France’s intended ban on the head-to-toe burqa, a form of dress described by Mr Fillonas a “caricature of Islam” to which he remained implacably opposed.

In his France-Soir interview, Dr Boubakeur said secular principles represented a “safeguard against abuse” but should not prevent a fair response to Islam’s need to express itself.

He pointed out that the law had not prevented the Grand Mosque of Paris being built in 1922 with substantial financial state aid given with parliament’s blessing. The gesture was made in recognition of North African Muslims who fought and died for France in the First World War.

In one glaring contradiction of opposition to public funds being used towards the building of mosques, such criticism is often accompanied by anger at the closure of city streets — in areas lacking proper facilities for worship — for Friday prayers.

Nabila Ramdani, a French writer and academic of Algerian background, believes it would be hypocritical to deny funding for mosques.

“Other faiths, including Christians and Jews, all infringe the 1905 law, as they receive funding from the state,” she said. “So there’s no reason whatsoever why Muslims shouldn’t enjoy the same kind of funding, even if the money is passed off as cultural money. They should have the same opportunities as other faiths.”

Dr Boubakeur said it was “not normal for our faithful to have to pray in the streets or in the gutter”.

He acknowledged the unease caused in some areas when plans for new mosques included minarets. But while a minaret in the French countryside may “stick out like the nose on a face”, he had heard nothing but praise for the minaret of the Grand Mosque of Paris.

“The French are no more racist and no less welcoming than any others,” he said.

“There are no people in Europe more welcoming of Muslims. But because of extremists, people have a poor perception of these buildings.”

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Greece: Compensate Tourists for Strikes, Disasters, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 22 — Greece is to compensate tourists who have been stranded in the country because of strikes or natural disasters, the Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos announced today. In a press conference, Geroulanos said that hotel rooms and free plane tickets will be made available to those who are delayed by strikes or natural disasters, such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions such as the one in Iceland that paralysed flights throughout the world in April. Geroulanos’s plan is part of the government’s attempt to revive the collapsing tourism trade. Greece’s number one industry, representing 16% of GDP, tourism gas fallen by at least 10% compared to 2009, when it was hit by the global crisis, and in the last few weeks has suffered a wave of cancellations following protests and strikes that ended with three deaths. The minister’s comments come ahead of a new wave of strikes that will considerably slow down trains, boats and planes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

In a Sacred Italian Race, Some Bristle at the Prize

By Gaia Pianigiani

SIENA, Italy — No horse race is more sacred in Italy than the Palio, which traces its lineage back 700 years. This year, however, the hotly contested chase has taken an unexpectedly ecumenical — and disputed — twist.

Jockeys raced in the Palio in Siena, Italy, on Friday. This year, the banner the winner receives has generated controversy.

The Palio is conducted two days every year in Siena.

For the first time, a Muslim painter was asked to design the Palio, or banner, that the winner takes home at the end of the race, which is conducted two days every year around Siena’s distinctive shell-shaped square.

Not everyone was pleased with the choice, though that was not evident Friday evening, when residents of the winning district, or contrada, as Siena’s 17 neighborhoods within the city walls are known, jumped over fencing that lined the square to grab the Palio, crying and shouting with joy.

The horse representing their contrada had won the race, and they did not seem particularly bothered that the banner has generated controversy in the local and national media during the past weeks over what some have called “a profanation” of the Sienese tradition.

The artist Alì Hassoun, 46, who was born in Lebanon but moved in 1982 to Italy, where he gained citizenship, painted St. George as a knight wearing a black-and-white kaffiyeh. Above the Virgin Mary’s face, in Arabic, is the title of the 19th chapter of the Koran, which is dedicated to the Madonna. In her crown, an Arab crescent, the symbol of Islam, is placed on one side of the cross; a Star of David, the symbol of Judaism, is on the other side.

“My Palio talks about spirituality in general, about religions, about the possible encounter among the three monotheistic religions that allows us to transcend our own faith,” Mr. Hassoun said in a telephone interview.

The local administration, which commissioned the banner, chose Mr. Hassoun because his art is traditional, highly figurative and easy to enjoy, Mayor Maurizio Cenni of Siena said at a news conference a few hours before Friday’s race.

Traditionally, the rectangular silk Palio honors the Virgin Mary. Palio rules passed by the local administration say that the design requires the Madonna’s image at the top, the date of the race, Siena’s black-and-white shield, and possibly the symbols of the 10 contradas chosen to compete in each race.

The tradition of having the banner painted by a non-Sienese artist began in the 1970s. Since then, national and international artists like Renato Guttuso of Italy and Fernando Botero of Colombia have done the honors. Some of these banners were criticized as too secular.

When the banner was presented at City Hall on June 26, more than six months after its design was commissioned by the local administration, the archbishop of Siena, Colle Val d’Elsa and Montalcino, Msgr. Antonio Buoncristiani, noted that the representation had to resemble the face of the Madonna of Provenzano, to whom this July’s race is dedicated.

Monsignor Buoncristiani said he appreciated Mr. Hassoun’s banner in its entirety, but asked that in the future his office be shown the preliminary sketch so it could give an opinion on its religious aspects because it is blessed and shown in church.

Then newspapers began weighing in, starting with the daily newspaper La Padania, the house organ of the anti-immigrant Northern League. A headline on one of its articles read, “The hands of Islam on Siena’s Palio.”

La Nazione, the largest local daily newspaper, published a letter by two citizens pleading with the archbishop not to allow “an image that is not Christian” to be blessed in the Church of St. Mary of Provenzano, part of a tradition the evening before the race.

And the Vatican expert Antonio Socci, writing in the conservative newspaper Libero, said “something serious” was happening in Siena “from the spiritual and symbolic point of view.”

The archbishop’s office responded to the heated debate with a statement acknowledging that placing symbols of the three monotheistic religions on the Virgin’s crown was “problematic” and that using a quote from the Koran “lends itself to debate.” The statement said the archbishop would make an official comment on the issue after the race, possibly on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Northern Italy and the historically left-wing Tuscany are not new to such religious clashes, often orchestrated by political parties. For years, in Colle Val d’Elsa, northwest of Siena, the construction of a mosque has pitted the left-wing administration against a group of citizens who formed an antimosque committee that helped elect two local council members who brought pressure that delayed the building. On various occasions, pigs’ heads were found on the building site. The mosque has been completed, but it is waiting for interior furnishings and permits before it is used for prayer services.

In May, the Northern League, saying it was honoring the memory of the Tuscan writer Oriana Fallaci, who vehemently opposed Islam in the final days of her life, began a new campaign against the construction of a mosque in Greve in Chianti. But Greve’s mayor, Alberto Bencistà, said the league was overreacting. A local association had offered local Muslims only a room to meet in, he said; there were no plans to build a mosque. Nonetheless, the Northern League held an unofficial referendum against a mosque in the small town.

The Palio is a medieval feast dedicated to the Virgin Mary with deep religious roots, particularly in Siena, where the Virgin is especially venerated. It allows for breaches of church decorum: the horses, for example, are brought into churches where they, and the jockeys, are blessed by the priests of the local districts. The banner, or “rag,” as it is known in Siena, is an object of devotion not only for the two days of the race, July 2 and Aug. 16, but also throughout the year.

“We don’t really care about the painting,” said Francesco Bartali, 25. “For a contrada person, all that matters is to win the rag. Even if it was blank, we’d still cry over it.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Halal is Born: Islamically-Correct Products Made in Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 30 -Islamically-correct ‘Made in Italy’ products that can be exported to Muslim countries and follow Italian gastronomic excellence — including tortelloni and lasagne — but also the most advanced drugs and the best cosmetic specialist products. And in order to respect, also in Italy, the Koranic laws. This is the sense of the ‘halal’ brand, sponsored by the Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economic Development, Health and Agricultural Policy, which today at the Foreign Ministry in Rome, have signed an inter-ministerial agreement to support the Coreis initiative. The Islamic religious community has asked the patents office to register the quality brand as ‘halal’ (allowed, according to the precepts of the Koran), valid for the whole of the national territory, which certifies conformity to the Koranic laws on food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products that are produced in Italy. “For example,” observed the Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio, “during the butchering of meat, a Muslim person must recite preset prayers, whilst no solvents containing alcohol can be used, and the whole chain must be halal and there can be no contaminations.” The aim is twofold: the expansion on markets of Muslim countries — halal products have a turnover of 500 billion euros worldwide, 54 billion in Europe, 5 billion in Italy with 120,000 firms managed by Muslims — but also, explained Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, “the progressive integration of Muslim communities resident in Italy into the social fabric.” With the initiative approved today, and to which companies will adhere voluntarily, Frattini added that “the seriousness of the certification” verified by the Ethical Committee was guaranteed, always respecting the Italian and European legal system, and “reassurance is given to consumers and authorities of those countries where these products will be promoted.” It is also, underlined the Minister for Agricultural Policy Giancarlo Galan, “a tribute to all the Muslim women and men who work in our country and to whom we owe a great deal.” Pointing out the “historical and solid friendship between Italy and countries of the Arab world,” Frattini underlined the importance of “a sign of attention and respect for the values of which the Muslim countries are the carriers.” And in response to journalists who asked if this will be a problem for relations with Israel, Frattini answered that he “didn’t believe so” because “we have respected and we respect the Jewish rules in the same sector.” He concluded that “we want to build bridges, not barriers.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Agusta Upbeat on Helicopter for Obama

Alliance with Boeing to build new ‘Marine One’

(ANSA) — Moscow, June 22 — Thanks to its new alliance with American aeronautics giant Boeing, Italy’s AgustaWestland is more confident it will win a contract to build a helicopter for use by United States President Barack Obama, the company’s CEO said on Tuesday.

“With our accord with Boeing we’re in a better position to bid for this contract. At least on paper we have a better chance than last time, but only time will tell,” Pier Francesco Guargaglini, who is also company chairman, said. AgustaWestland, which is part of the Italian state engineering conglomerate Finmeccanica, was allied with Lockheed in 2005 when they initially won a contract to build a new ‘Marine One’ helicopter.

However, the Pentagon scotched the project last year because of cost overruns, in part due to requests from the previous administration of president George Bush for greater and more sophisticated electronic safety devices.

The alliance between AgustaWestland and Lockheed ended in April. The American firm has since joined forces with Sikorsky, which has provided presidential helicopters since 1957, in order to present a rival ‘Marine One’ bid.

Speaking on the sidelines of a groundbreaking ceremony for a new factory to build helicopters for a Italian-Russian joint venture, in which AgustaWestland is partnered with Russia Helicopters of the state holding company JSC UIC Oboronprom, Guargaglini said his company was ready to also build a helicopter for Russian Prime Minister Vldimir Putin “if he asks us to”.

“We are ready to offer him our full range, which is very vast, if he wants,” he added. The Italian-Russian joint company Helivert, in which each have an equal share, will assembly AW139 medium twin helicopters at a new plant in Tomilino, some 40km from Moscow, for civilian use.

The Italian helicopter can carry up to 15 passengers. It is generally used as a corporate transport helicopter but is also employed for offshore disaster relief operations and firefighting.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pope Takes Austria’s Top Bishop to Task

Schoenborn rebuked for criticising fellow cardinal

(ANSA) — Vatican City, June 28 — Pope Benedict XVI took Austria’s top bishop Christoph Schoenborn to task on Monday, reminding him that as head of the Catholic Church only he has the right to criticise or reprimand cardinals.

The admonishment was contained in an unprecedented statement released by the Vatican giving details of a meeting between the pope and Schoenborn.

The Viennese cardinal, a former student of Benedict’s, is under fire for criticising former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, for blocking a probe into a paedophile scandal in the Viennese church 15 years ago.

Speaking to Catholic reporters in April, Schoenborn said Sodano had defended his predecessor in Vienna, cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, later forced to resign in 1995 over alleged paedophile charges.

Groer — archbishop of Vienna from 1986 — denied the accusations which surfaced in 1995 but stepped down shortly afterwards. He died in 2003 without ever being formally charged.

Schoenborn has also accused Sodano, number 2 to late Pope John Paul II, of harming the victims of sex abuse by dismissing peodophile charges against prelates as “small talk”. After a one-on-one meeting, discussion was widened to include Sodano and the current secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the statement, stressing that Schoenborn had voiced regret “for the interpretations” given to his statements.

The Vatican statement noted that “in particular, in the church only the pope has the authority to accuse a cardinal”.

Other members of the Church “can give counsel but always with the necessary respect for the people involved,” it added. The statement said that Sodano shared the “same feelings of compassion for the victims of the scandals and condemnation of evil, expressed by the Holy Father on several occasions”. The Catholic Church has this year been rocked by a series of sex abuse scandals and has had to fend off allegations that the Vatican covered up a number of cases.

Paedophile scandals have hit the Church in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and Italy.

Benedict has repeatedly pledged to root out abuse but some victims groups have said they want to see “more concrete” steps.

In March Schoenborn called for an “unflinching” examination of the possible roots of the (paedophile) scandals, saying “it also includes the issue of priestly celibacy”.

Later, the archbishop was forced to clarify that he had not meant “to call into question celibacy in any way”.

Schoenborn has however staunchly defended Benedict from charges that he has not done enough. During his previous service as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict “always had a clear line against covering up” abuse, Schoenborn said recently.

“I have known him for 37 years and he has always been in favour of shedding light (on these cases), something that was not always to the Vatican’s liking,” Schoenborn said after his first meeting with the head of Austria’s new abuse commission.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: 3 Years in Prison for Kurd Who Threw Shoe at Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 30 — A court in Seville (south) has today sentenced Hokman Joma to three years in prison. Joma, a young Kurd with Syrian nationality, threw a shoe at the Turkish PM Recip Tayyip Erdogan in February when Erdogan was on a visit to the capital of Andalusia. The judge found him guilty of an attack “against the international community”, whilst he absolved him of the charge of having resisted a public official during his arrest. The sentence also denies the punishment from being served in expulsion from the country, as was requested by the public prosecutor, as Joma has repeatedly stated that his return to Syria would equate to death. The Syrian citizen, who has been in prison since February 22, has said that his intention was not to hit the Turkish premier but “to attract attention” to the situation in which the Kurdish minority in Turkey finds itself. The sentence will also oblige the 27-year-old to pay a fine of some 400 euros. The public prosecutor announced that no appeal will be made as it judged the penalty to be “reasonable.” Joma’s gesture was reminiscent of that of the Iraqi journalist who in December 2008 threw his shoe at the US President George W. Bush who was on a visit to the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Thomas Jefferson and Mohammed Ali Jinnah: Dreams From Two Founding Fathers

By Akbar Ahmed

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship. . . . We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.”

These are the words of a founding father — but not one of the founders that America will be celebrating this Fourth of July weekend. They were uttered by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of the state of Pakistan in 1947 and the Muslim world’s answer to Thomas Jefferson.

When Americans think of famous leaders from the Muslim world, many picture only those figures who have become archetypes of evil (such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden) or corruption (such as Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf). Meanwhile, many in the Muslim world remember American leaders such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, whom they regard as arrogant warriors against Islam, or Bill Clinton, whom they see as flawed and weak. Even President Obama, despite his rhetoric of outreach, has seen his standing plummet in Muslim nations over the past year.

Blinded by anger, ignorance or mistrust, people on both sides see only what they wish to see, what they expect to see.

Despite the continents, centuries and cultures separating them, Jefferson and Jinnah, the founding fathers of two nations born from revolution, can help break this impasse. In the years following Sept. 11, 2001, their worlds collided, but the things the two men share far outweigh that which divides them.

Each founding father, inspired by his own traditions but also drawing from the other’s, concluded that society is best organized on principles of individual liberty, religious freedom and universal education. With their parallel lives, they offer a useful corrective to the misguided notion of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West.

Jefferson is at the core of the American political ideal. As one biographer wrote, “If Jefferson was wrong, America is wrong. If America is right, Jefferson was right.” Similarly, Jinnah is Pakistan. For most Pakistanis, he is “The Modern Moses,” as one biography of him is titled.

The two were born subjects of the British Empire, yet both led successful revolts against the British and made indelible contributions to the identities of their young nations. Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence makes him the preeminent interpreter of the American vision; Jinnah’s first speeches to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947, from which his statement on freedom of religion is drawn, are equally memorable and eloquent testimonies. As lawyers first and foremost, Jefferson and Jinnah revered the rule of law and the guarantee of key citizens’ rights, embodied in the founding documents they shaped, reflecting the finest of human reason.

Particularly revealing is the overlap in the two men’s intellectual influences. Jefferson’s ideas flowed from the European Enlightenment, and he was inspired by Aristotle and Plato. But he also owned a copy of the Koran, with which he taught himself Arabic, and he hosted the first White House iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy days of Ramadan.

And while Jinnah looked to the origins of Islam for political inspiration — for him, Islam above all emphasized compassion, justice and tolerance — he was steeped in European thought. He studied law in London, admired Prime Minister William Gladstone and Abraham Lincoln, and led the creation of Pakistan without advocating violence of any kind.

No one in public life is free of controversy, of course, not even a founding father. Both were involved in personal relationships that would later raise eyebrows (Jefferson with his slave mistress, Jinnah with a bride half his age). In political life, the two suffered accusations of inconsistency: Jefferson for not being robust in defending Virginia from an invading British fleet with Benedict Arnold in command; Jinnah for abandoning his role as ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity and becoming the champion of Pakistan.

The controversies did not end with their deaths. Jefferson’s views on the separation of church and state generated animosity in his own time and as recently as this year, when the Texas Board of Education dropped him from a list of notable political thinkers. Meanwhile, hard-line Islamic groups have long condemned Jinnah as a kafir, or nonbeliever; “Jinnah Defies Allah” was the subtitle of an exposé in the December 1996 issue of the London magazine Khilafah, a publication of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, one of Britain’s leading Muslim radical groups. (Jinnah’s sin, according to the author, was his insistence that Islam stood for democracy and supported women’s and minority rights.)

But today such opinions are marginal ones, and the founders’ many contributions are commemorated with must-see national monuments — the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, Jinnah’s mausoleum in Karachi — that affirm their standing as national heroes.

If anything, it is Jefferson and Jinnah who might be critical. If they could contemplate their respective nations today, they would share distress over the acceptance of torture and suspension of certain civil liberties in the former; and the collapse of law and order, resurgence of religious intolerance and widespread corruption in the latter. Their visions are more relevant than ever as a challenge and inspiration for their compatriots and admirers in both nations.

Jefferson and Jinnah do not divide civilizations; they bridge them.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Blaze Inside Nuclear Power Station Takes Firemen Seven Hours to Bring Under Control

A fire inside a nuclear power station took firefighters seven hours to extinguish yesterday.

Emergency plans were put into effect as more than 45 firemen tackled the blaze at the Sizewell B station near Leiston, Suffolk.

The blaze in a building which is used to control fuel started at 8.45pm on Friday and was not fully extinguished until 3.40am yesterday.

Crews wearing breathing equipment entered a charcoal absorber used to filter gas and flooded it with water to cool the surrounding area.


As engineers remained on-site, a British Energy spokesman said the cause of the fire had still not been established and a full investigation was taking place.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Passenger Tasered as Police Storm Train With Knife Maniac Holding Three Hostage

Officers were called to the scene when the Docklands Light Railway train came to an emergency stop between Shadwell and Limehouse stations in East London after the man began threatening people.

Around 30 passengers, including many tourists, were aboard the train during the incident, but many managed to escape and walked along the tracks to reach safety at the next station.

Three remaining passengers were left on board with the knifeman for about an hour during his stand-off with police.

One of the hostages was then apparently shot by mistake with a Taser by officers as they attempted to storm the carriage and end the deadlock. He was hit with a 50,000-volt shock after being wrongly identified as the man brandishing the knife.

The victim, who has not yet been identified, was later treated by ambulance crews who had been called to the scene. He was described by police as suffering ‘minor injuries’.

Scotland Yard confirmed the mistake, claiming that it occurred because the man did not immediately respond to instructions shouted by its armed officers. A spokesman added that an internal review of the incident would now be carried out.

A team of ten armed police, including a sniper and officers from British Transport Police, were called to the scene at just after 7am yesterday after reports that a man was waving a knife on the packed DLR train.

The service, which is remotely operated, was stopped between stations while armed police surrounded the carriage.

Most of those on board managed to escape and walk down the tracks towards the next station after the doors were opened but a further three were held captive.

Eventually the knifeman gave himself up at 8.20am and he was last night being held in custody at a London police station. He is described as an Asian man, aged 19, and he faces charges of kidnap and a knife-related offence.

A British Transport Police spokesman said: ‘A man has been arrested for kidnapping and possessing an offensive weapon.’

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Met Officers did respond to an incident on the Docklands Light Railway during which a Taser was discharged by a Metropolitan Police Service officer at a man in a DLR carriage.

‘He was in the carriage where we knew the suspect to be and when challenged by CO19 armed officers, he was not immediately compliant.

‘We understand this member of the public was not badly injured. This man was not the man detained for the incident.’

Docklands Light Railway trains do not have drivers. Instead, they are operated through a computerised system at a control centre manned around the clock.

A staff member is on board every train to provide information and assistance, according to the Transport for London website. All DLR stations and trains have passenger alarms and CCTV and are patrolled by staff.

Witnesses said some of the passengers were tourists and about 20 police cars and an ambulance were at the scene.

Antar Saidi, 35, manager of the station cafe at Shadwell, described seeing a police sniper on the roof of a block of flats overlooking the train.

He said: ‘The man took some passengers hostage between Limehouse and here, including a group of tourists.

‘A special team of about ten armed officers and about 20 police cars and an ambulance came. The sniper climbed on to a roof opposite the station so he had a clear view of the platform.’

Taser guns are now used by some British forces as a ‘less lethal’ weapon after they were introduced by the Home Secretary in 2008.

Officers are equipped with the X26 version, which can come with accessories such as a laser sight and digital video camera.

The weapon fires two dart-like electrodes into the victim, which stay connected to the main unit by conductive wire and have a range of approximately 35ft.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


EU-Croatia: Final Chapters Opened, Enlargement to Proceed

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 30 — The last three negotiation chapters for Croatia’s EU membership were opened today in Brussels, coinciding with the end of the Spanish term as EU President. Zagreb’s step forward represents “a clear message: the EU is continuing to open itself up to new member states, because there are many future members,” underlined Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angelo Moratinos. Despite speculation on an agreement between the 27 EU countries to close the doors to the union for some time to new countries after Croatia’s membership, Moratinos reiterated the commitment to enlargement, and to the Western Balkans in particular. “There is no doubt or ambiguity,” said the Spanish minister, “and what was said at the recent conference in Sarajevo is a commitment for the Balkans to become part of the EU”. Thus, “the message is clear for the region: as in all negotiations processes, pre-defined deadlines and criteria are followed, but the strategic decision,” said Moratinos, “has already been made. The sooner that Croatia enters, the better it will be for the Western Balkans. It does not have anything to do with granting membership to Croatia and then shutting the doors. We will allow Croatia to enter to open the door for the rest of the region.” According to European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule, if Croatia respects the necessary requirements, on a procedural level, for Zagreb “a signature for membership in 2011 is a possibility”. Today Croatia closed two negotiations chapters and opened the last three: foreign policy, defence and security; human rights and justice; competition. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Favorite Destination of Serbian Tourists

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JUNE 22 — Greece is still the favourite summer destination of Serbian tourists, followed by Egypt and Turkey. Despite the fact that Serbs don’t need visas to travel to the EU countries this year, the economic situation still forces the majority of them to choose a low-budget destination, reports radio B92. Serbia’s travel agencies state that they record a 20% increase in the sale of arrangement compared to the same period last year. Those who make last minute travel arrangement for the seaside usually opt for Montenegro, whereas the number of those who travel to the Croatian Adriatic is still low. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Inland Croatia Focuses on Spa and Conferences

(ANSAmed) — TUHELJSKE TOPLICE (CROATIA) — Gaining an advantage over the Adriatic coast at any cost, focussing on spa and conference tourism and on the natural patrimony that inland Croatia has to offer. This is the path that has been embarked upon by businessmen and the local institutions of the Croatian hinterland, also with a large-scale support of the Croatian Tourism Office. For the last five years in the area, there have been efforts to attract more visitors to a part of the country that is almost untouched by tourism, also due to the wars that have left deep scars. A veritable challenge, considering that until today, 90% of tourists choose to visit the beautiful coasts of Istria and Dalmatia over the unexplored marvels found inland. But there are strong points to be found: lower prices (20-25% less) compared to nearby countries such as Slovenia, Italy and Austria, not to mention the Spas built with cutting edge materials, excellent offers and hospitality and fantastic food. About 40 km from Zagreb, in the Zagorje region, blanketed by hills is the largest Spa centre in the entire country, the Tuhelj thermal baths, owned by a Slovenian group. It is not only the centre, explained the structure’s marketing manager Robert Kolaric, speaking to ANSAmed. “In the area there are six spas in all, but it is certainly the most important one.” In addition to indoor and outdoor pools, a sports centre, a three-star hotel with 138 rooms and two conference halls, there is an ultramodern spa offering 18 different types of massages. The structure is mainly visited by the residents of Zagreb, but also Bosnian, Serbian, German and Austrian tourists. The objective, however, it to attack the Italian market. “We know that in order to attract Italian clients,” said Kolaric, “who are among the most demanding in terms of design, it is necessary to improve our structures, which were built 20 years ago.” Already starting in September, he continued, restructuring work will begin on a wing of the hotel that will become a four-star hotel within a year, with 100 new rooms and several suites for a total of 550 beds.” A necessary investment of 12 million euros has been predicted. “In the last five years, Spa tourism in Croatia has grown by 15% per year,” added Kolaric. And yet presently there are few Croatian businesspeople that make large-scale investments of this type. One example of this is a group of five partners from Zagreb who decided to buy a spa centre — the second most important on mainland Croatia — in the Medjemurje region, about one and a half hours from the capital, where the Spa & Golf Resort Sveti Martin is located. The source, says Foreign Sales Manager of the structure, Dregec Del Duca, was discovered in 1911 by the London Budapest company during oil surveys. “Since 2003, the current owners have been in control of the structure, expanding it and slowly but surely increasing its offer.” Today it includes a hotel, 120 apartments for a total of 600 beds, two restaurants, but also a bar and minimarket and a water park. The wellness centre was opened in 2009 and since then, both a four-star hotel and the spa have not yet been at full capacity. “Things,” admitted Del Duca, “are not going so well yet.” The ambition in Sveti Martin is also to attract Italian tourists by improving their offer. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

France-Morocco: Nuclear Cooperation Agreement Signed

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JUL 2 — France and Morocco have signed a cooperation agreement for the development of nuclear energy for civilian use. The deed was signed today in Paris on the occasion of the Moroccan Premier Abbas El Fassi’s visit to France. In Paris, El Fassi met, among others with president Nicolas Sarkozy and premier Francois Fillon. Contrary to Algeria, Morocco has no gas or oil deposits, but it is rich in phosphate, which contains uranium. The Country means to inaugurate its first nuclear plant between 2022 and 2024. Call for tenders shall start between 2011 and 2014. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Fury as Lockerbie Bomber’s Doctor Admits Terrorist Could Live for Ten Years — Despite Earlier Three-Month Diagnosis

There was outrage after it emerged Professor Karol Sikora had admitted Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi could live for another ten years or more despite diagnosing him with terminal cancer.

Campaigners reacted with fury to his comments which they said raised new questions about the decision to send him back to Libya.

Tory MP Ben Wallace, a former member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said: ‘The doctor that carried out this diagnosis owes his regret to the families of the victims.

‘He should apologise to the victims for contributing to the release of a mass murderer, who is clearly alive and well in Libya.

‘Throughout this whole sorry affair the victim has been put last behind trade deals, Scotish Nationalist posturing and dubious medical diagnosis.’

Megrahi’s release from his Scottish prison cell last August — on the orders of Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill — was mired in controversy.

Some relatives of victims of the 1988 bombing claimed Megrahi was never as sick as he claimed to be, and criticised the release on so-called ‘compassionate grounds’ as an unforgiveable mistake.

The Scottish Government claimed there was a ‘firm consensus’ among medical experts that he would die within twelve weeks.

But there was widespread speculation the move was in fact part of an Anglo-Libyan trade deal — and unrelated to his terminal prostate cancer — after it emerged UK government ministers had pushed for his release.

Cancer specialist Prof Sikora, who assessed the 58-year-old, admitted in comments published yesterday it was ‘embarrassing’ he has lived much longer than expected.

He told The Sunday Times: ‘There was always a chance he could live for 10 years, 20 years… But it’s very unusual.’

And he admitted: ‘It was clear that three months was what they were aiming for. Three months was the critical point.’

‘On the balance of probabilities, I felt I could sort of justify (that).’

He denied he came any under pressure to deliver the diagnosis, but admitted: ‘It is embarrassing that he’s gone on for so long.’

‘There was a 50 percent chance that he would die in three months, but there was also a 50 percent chance that he would live longer.’

He later clarified his comments, saying there was an ‘enormous variation’ in how cancer progressed.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘I really thought he would die much sooner than he has. All indications were that the disease was progressing rapidly.’

‘It would have been very convenient if he had died within three months but he hasn’t and I will have to live with that.’

The suggestion that Megrahi, the only person convicted over the deaths of 270 people in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, could live another decade, was rubbished in Tripoli.

Sources said he was now relying on alternative medicine to battle prostate cancer, and would be unlikely to be alive next month to mark the one year anniversary of his release.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his 23-year-old daughter Flora in the attack, said Sikora was wrong to issue a second prediction that Megrahi would die within four weeks.

He accepted Megrahi’s condition may have improved markedly from expensive treatment paid for by Libyan government

‘I would imagine the world’s best experts on prostate cancer were called in by Tripoli to advise on this case.

‘My personal criticism of Karol Sikora would be that he was unwise when he said Megrahi might have only four weeks to live. I thought it was very unwise for anyone to put themselves in the same situation the second time, particularly something that was very difficult to predict.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Libya: 250 Deported to South Over Revolt

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, JUNE 30 — Most likely following a revolt, some 250 Eritreans, who were locked in a detention centre for immigrants in Misurata, in Libya, have this morning been loaded by the public security forces onto a container truck which has transported towards the south of the country. The news was leaked from the community of Eritreans who live between Tripoli and Misurata. The 250 people, explain the co-nationals in contact with them, “fear they will be repatriated and have launched an appeal to the international community not to abandon them.” The reason for their deportation is said to be a revolt that erupted yesterday evening in the detention centre in Misurata, a coastal city some 210 km east of Tripoli, where for some weeks now the Eritreans have been showing signs of restlessness due, explains their spokesman from Tripoli, “to the closure of the city’s UNHCR office, whose officials periodically visited the Misurata centre and gave them information and reassurance.” The group is said to have reached Sebha to be transferred to a local detention centre. During the night numerous text messages were sent with requests for help, reports one Eritrean contacted in Tripoli: they fear “they will be returned to Eritrea where their lives will be at risk.” According to officials from NGOs in Libya who deal with refugees, IOPCR and CIR, there is the possibility that they are being deported to Sudan given that today (as was discovered on Monday) is the last day that the border between Sudan and Libya will be open as it will be closed tomorrow by the Khartoum government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maghreb: Joint Energy Market for Future EU Integration

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 21 — Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have pledged to integrate their power grids, in the prospect of linking it to the European energy market. They took the decision in today’s meeting in Algiers with European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. Present at the meeting were Algeria’s Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi, his Moroccan counterpart Amina Benkhedra and Tunisian Minister of Industry, Affif Chelbi. Oettingher has underlined the importance of the wish of the three countries to “create a North African energy market, which could be linked to the European electricity market”. Yousfi guaranteed that “Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have already started the construction of high-voltage power lines, the first step towards the future North African power market. Libya and Mauritania have been invited to join the energy plan. The meeting ended with the adoption of a final statement and an action plan for the 2010-2015 period. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Oil Finding in Gulf of Suez

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JULY 1 — The state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) found two oil wells in Amer region, in the Gulf of Suez. Tests show that Amer 1 and 2 wells will produce 2, 000 barrels per day in the first stage and this number is expected to rise to 10,000 barrels per day by the end of the first stage. So said a report by Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmi received today from EFPC Chairman Sherif Shousha. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia OKs UN Treaty Against Nuclear Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JUNE 22 — Tunisia has approved its adhesion to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear. The Convention, approved in 2005 by the United Nations general assembly, qualifies acts of nuclear terrorism as “the most dangerous form of terrorism carried out against international peace and the safety of all peoples”. This new treaty joins the twelve existing international agreements on the fight against terrorism, though recognising States the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

US Jews: In Europe Italy Solid Ally of Israel

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 2 — Italy as a solid ally in Europe. A “friendly” country that showed “its values and its courage” in Geneva by voting against the setting up of an international investigation commission over the Israeli blitz on the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla. This is according to David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, the largest Jewish organisation in the United States, who during a press conference described Italy’s current role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Harris, whose visit to Rome ends today, held talks yesterday with the Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini and the President of the Chamber, Gianfranco Fini. “We talked about the difficult security situation that the Israeli state is experiencing today, the role of Iran and its nuclear programme and the position of the European Union, in the context of which Italy is a strong ally of ours,” Harris explained, pointing out that, recently, there has been a “tendency to demonise Israel. A sort of “moral fog” that characterises public opinion and the media in its reporting of every action by the Tel Aviv government. This tendency is becoming more and more dangerous every day”. “Despite the difficult context, at any rate, the “good relations” between Rome and Tel Aviv are giving “strong support” to the Israeli state, and “what happened in Geneva is an example of this,” Harris said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Beirut: Moslems and Christians Talk About Education

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 21 — The challenge of education should see the convergence of efforts both on the part of politicians and of religious authorities, because “it is reciprocal ignorance that germinates the buds of extremisms”. This point was stressed by Lebanon’s Minister of Communication, Tareq Mitri, in his speech to the congress “Education between Faith and Culture, Christian and Moslem Experiences in Dialogue” being held in Beirut by the Oasis Foundation and promoted by the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola. In Lebanon, Mitri points out as reported in a press release issued by the event’s organisers, a commission for national dialogue has been set up whose efforts led to a significant step forward in 2009: the proclamation of the feast day of the Annunciation as a national holiday. It is a feast day dear to both Christians and to Moslems. More pessimistic was the contribution from one of the experts invited to the congress, Sheikh Ridwan Al-Sayed, according to whom the Lebanese model of education, which is based on practicing co-habitation between creeds, is facing difficulties. As for the teaching of Islam, he said, by now this is taking place outside the premises of institutions such as mosques and has moved to new forums, such as those managed by media preachers who operate via satellite TV. This has led, he said, to the temptations of an Islam which is closed, although not necessarily violent. Meanwhile in Europe, Sheikh Ridwan Al-Sayed continued, the younger generation is tempted by fundamentalism. The press release continues to report how Sheikh Hani Fahs, a member of the Lebanese Supreme Shiite Committee, for his part stressed how the true experience of faith “is killed” by the religious state religious policies, while it is protected by a lay State and national policies. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran-Syria: Tehran Invests Near Occupied Golan, Press

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JULY 2 — Iran and Syria have agreed to begin a series of economic investments from the Islamic Republic in the Syrian region of Quneitra, at the foot of the Golan Heights, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967. So announced the Damascus-based newspaper Al-Watan, which is close to the government. ‘Iran wants to invest on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, and is beginning with ten projects,” says the paper’s headline, reporting comments from Syria’s deputy Economy Minister, Abdullah Dardari, and the assistant to Iran’s Vice-President and head of Economic Affairs, Ali Agha Mohammadi. On June 30, the two men travelled to the region of Quneitra, known as “capital of resistance”, in order to evaluate the feasibility of the “first ten Iranian investment projects” in the tourism and hotel, agricultural, micro-industrial sectors, as well as in the exploitation of wind energy. “We have come here because in the near future, we will invest in the coast of the Sea of Galilee,” said the Iranian Agha Mohammadi during the visit, adding that the two countries plan to strengthen their cooperation as part of the “economy of [anti-Israeli] resistance”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Syria: S.Craxi in Damascus, Economic Ties and Mideast

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, JUNE 21 — Italy’s undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Stefania Craxi, will use a series of institutional meetings in Damascus to discuss Syria’s double role as a stabilising factor in the Middle East area and an important economic partner for Italy. Craxi, who has been in Damascus since yesterday, will also discuss Italy’s expectations of Syria during the mission, which ends on Wednesday. Syria’s potential influence on inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the revival of direct peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians will be among the issues that Craxi will discuss with Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Al Moallem, and his deputy, Abdel Fattah Ammoura. However, talks with Syrian authorities will not revolve solely around the Middle East. Italy is supporting the Association Agreement with the European Union which, among other things, would favour a more structured western and Mediterranean link for Syria, with economic as well as political benefits. Economic talks will also feature heavily, with Craxi meeting the deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic affairs, Abdullah Al Dardari, the Transport Minister, Yarub Suleiman Badr, as well as senior figures from the Syrian-Italian Business Council, which was launched last March in “support” of economic initiatives between the two countries. Italy is in fourth place in Syria’s list of suppliers, with a market share of 5.9%, behind Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates. It is also fourth in the rankings of Syrian exports, with 6.1%, after Iraq, Germany and Lebanon. The figures underline the importance of Syria’s participation in the forthcoming Mediterranean Economic and Financial Forum, on July 12 and 13, in Milan, which will give another chance for Stefania Craxi to meet Damascus officials. Craxi, who is also due to meet the deputy Culture Minister Turky Mohammad Al Sayed, will reassert Rome’s commitment to optimising Damascus’ archaeological and cultural heritage and to continuing development cooperation, covered by the 2008-2012 Agreement Memorandum, which includes a pledge of 87.45 million euros in particular for the north-east of the country and coastal hillside areas. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Strong Growth of Wine Sector

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 21 — The Lebanese wine industry is undergoing serious expansion, thanks to an annual production of around 7 million bottles (last year’s figure), of which half are exported. According to a recent study published by the Lebanese Wine Union, which is quoted by the Italian Trade Commission in Beirut, half of all production is carried out by the two main producers, Kefraya and Ksara. Production is constantly on the rise: 6 million bottles were produced in 2005, and 5 million in 2000. The number of vineyards is also growing; there are now 30 compared to 18 in 2005, and just 5 in 1998. The main areas in which grapes are grown are in the south of the Bekaa valley, but also in other areas such as Batroun, in the north, and Jezzine, in the south, which are attracting ever more wine growers. In 2000, vines covered over 11,400 hectares, of which 40% were dedicated to wine production. The average local grape production has evened out to around 105,000 tonnes per year. According to a study by The Lebanon Brief, which was also quoted by the Italian Trade Commission, the local wine market has begun attracting new investors. Other local sources say that internal annual wine consumption is of 8 million bottles, for a total value of 30 million dollars. Imports represented a third of this value in 2009, at 10.7 million dollars, against 8.6 million in 2009 and 4.7 million in 2006. On the other hand, exports totalled 11.5 million dollars or 3.5 million bottles (almost 50% of production), recording a positive result for commercial balance. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Saudi King Says Israel, Iran Don’t Deserve to Exist’

Le Figaro says King Abdullah told French defense minister days after Gaza flotilla raid, ‘Two states in region do not deserve to exist: Israel and Iran’. Kingdom denies report

Saudi Arabia on Friday denied a report in French daily Le Figaro, according to which Kind Abdullah told the French Defense minister that “two states in the region do not deserve to exist: Israel and Iran”.

A Saudi official told the government-controlled Saudi Press, “This is untrue altogether”, and expressed bewilderment at the French paper’s willingness to make such charges without verifying the details.

The official added that Saudi Arabia’s position was “clear”.

According to the Le Figaro report, King Abdullah made the comment during a June 5 meeting with French Defense Minister Herve Morin, just days after Israel’s deadly takeover of a Gaza-bound flotilla.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Clerics Battle Over Adult-Breastfeeding, Music Fatwas

One cleric’s endorsement of breastfeeding for grown men and another’s saying music is not un-Islamic have opened up a pitched battle in Saudi Arabia over who can issue fatwas, or Islamic religious edicts.

Hard-line and progressive religious scholars, judges and clerics have taken the fight public in what some describe as outright “chaos” in the once ivory-tower world of setting the rules that govern much of life in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

Much of the fight in the past week has focused on a fatwa endorsing music issued by Adel al-Kalbani, a Riyadh cleric famed as the first black imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.

Kalbani, popular for his soulful baritone delivery of Koranic readings, said he found nothing in Islamic scripture that makes music haram, or forbidden. But, aside from some folk music, public music performance is banned in Saudi Arabia, and conservatives say it is haram even in the home. “There is no clear text or ruling in Islam that singing and music are haram,” Kalbani said.

Also in recent weeks, a much more senior cleric, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al-Obeikan, raised hackles with two of his opinions, both of which could be considered fatwas.

First, he endorsed the idea that a grown man could be considered as a son of a woman if she breast-feeds him. The issue, based on an ancient story from Islamic texts and source of a furore last year in Egypt, is seen by some as a way of getting around the Saudi religious ban on mixing by unrelated men and women. It brought ridicule and condemnation from women activists and Saudi critics around the world.

But Obeikan, a top advisor in the court of King Abdullah, who is believed to be supportive of a less severe Islam in his kingdom, also angered conservatives when he said the compulsory midday and mid-afternoon prayer sessions could be combined to help worshippers skirt the intense heat of summer.

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

Souren-2, The First Iranian Humanoid Robot

TEHRAN — Iran has unveiled its first humanoid robot, called Souren-2, reported Sunday the government daily Iran.

Souren-2, named after a warrior of ancient Persia, was shown to the public Saturday at a ceremony attended by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It measures 1, 45 m and weighs 45 kilos.

“Walk slowly, like a human being with regular movements of the arms and legs, are characteristic of this robot,” the newspaper said.

“This kind of robot is made to perform difficult and sensitive tasks,” the newspaper said, without giving further details.

Iran has conducted in recent years a series of scientific projects, especially in the field of cloning, the fundamental cells and satellites despite international sanctions against its nuclear program.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Turkish Author Challenges ‘Pseudo-Islamic’ Beliefs

Women write down their wishes on pieces of paper at a tomb in Gaziantep and believe that those wishes will come true.

An Ankara theologian has harsh words in his new book for Muslims who misuse religious marriages, make wishes at “pagan” shrines or believe simply following the “five pillars” of Islam is enough to be a good believer.

“I believe there are many convictions that need to be shaken in Islam,” Professor Hayri Kirbasoglu, a member of the academic staff at Ankara University’s Theology Faculty, told daily Hürriyet in an interview published last week.

Kirbasoglu, the author of “Ahir Zaman Ilmihali,” said he had read all the religious texts available in bookstores and claimed that most of them take the “five conditions of Islam” as their centerpiece, something he called a false conviction based on misunderstanding and mistaken translation.

“There is a belief that it is enough to fulfill those five conditions in order to be a Muslim,” Kirbasoglu said. “[But the Hadith] does not say ‘condition.’ It says Islam is based on five principles. Praying is a principle of Islam; does that mean that not drinking, not stealing and not killing are not conditions of Islam?”

Muslims in Turkey mix their religion with paganism, Kirbasoglu said, adding that the culture of expecting miracles and visiting shrines is in stark contradiction to Islamic tenets. “There is a place called the ‘Devil’s Table’ near the Aegean town of Ayvalik. They circled it with an iron fence. Religious women go there to make a wish. To whom do they make that wish? To the devil’s footprint,” he said. “We need new generations of Muslims who take the Quran and the life of the Prophet as the centerpiece.”

The professor also criticized what he called “malpractice” of Islam pertaining to relationships, saying that cheating on one’s spouse has become so glamorized that “the pious try to do the same under the name of religious marriage.”

In Turkey, marriages are performed by the state and religious ceremonies conducted by an imam are considered invalid officially, but couples prefer to have both kinds of ceremonies. Others have used religious ceremonies to “marry” someone they want to be involved with when they already have a wife.

“There is no Islamic explanation for betrayal. No one forces you to marry. If you can’t make the marriage work, there is divorce,” Kirbasoglu said. “I believe religious marriage should be abolished.”

The professor said the civil servant who marries couples should provide them with a prayer after the end of the official ceremony, saying that the mentioning of religious values during the official ceremony would be enough and would therefore help avoid the exploitation of religious marriages.

Noting that Islam attributes a positive value to sex between married couples, Kirbasoglu said, “The fact that sexuality is perceived as a taboo does not stem from Islam, but from tradition,” adding that the religion offers some advise “to show the necessary attention to have mutual sexual satisfaction.”

The professor complained, however, about over-sexualization in the media, which he said uses sex to gain ratings. “Even on the Islamic TV channels, women are seen as objects,” he said, adding that he solicited the views of female religious scholars for his book.

Kirbasoglu also spoke out against religious communities that he said “aspire to become a separate religion,” with adherents only reading books written by their leaders.

“Each has a holy book, separate from the Quran. When a brotherhood prepares a book, they print 40,000 or 50,000 copies,” he said. “Because all the members of the brotherhood have to buy it. These groups make people slaves. They do not liberate them.”

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

Villagers Attack, Disarm U.N. Patrol in South Lebanon

Peacekeepers patrolling Hezbollah zone surrender guns after hit with eggs, stones, sticks

Villagers disarmed a French patrol of UN peacekeepers Saturday and attacked them with sticks, rocks and eggs in south Lebanon, in the latest in a string of such incidents, the Lebanese army said.

“Residents of the village of Tuline as well as some villagers from nearby Kabrikha attacked a patrol with sticks and threw stones and eggs,” a military spokesman told AFP.

“The citizens disarmed the soldiers and briefly took control of their vehicle before the army intervened and made them move away from the patrol,” the spokesman said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Boeing Puts Investment in Pakistan on Hold

ISLAMABAD: The Boeing Company, which was to invest over $5 billion in Pakistan in avionics, has put on hold its investment due to what it said unfavorable policies of the present government.

An official concerned with the project said, “We have not scrapped the project completely but are waiting for a congenial investment environment to launch it.”

Boeing was planning to set up a plant in Attock, Punjab, to manufacture spare parts for civil as well as military aircraft.

The official told Arab News Boeing Company had acquired over 5,000 acres of land in Attock for the plant. “The decision to go ahead with the project or scrap it rests with the authorities in Seattle,” said the official.

In 2006, Boeing had signed agreements with the government of Pakistan to set up the project.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

Tibetans’ Genes Have Quickly Adapted to High Altitude

Within 3,000 years, Tibetans have developed a unique form of a gene that has allowed them to thrive at altitudes above 14,000 feet.

Over a mere 3,000 years, a blink of an evolutionary eye, Tibetan highlanders have developed a unique version of a gene that apparently helps them cope with life at extremely high altitudes, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science.

The research group, led by UC Berkeley biologist Rasmus Nielsen, found the gene by comparing DNA from 50 Tibetans and 40 neighboring Han Chinese. The two ethnic groups are closely related, with one important difference: The Tibetans live at elevations of 14,000 feet and higher, while the Han population generally lives relatively close to sea level. The genetic variant was found in 87% of the Tibetans and 9% of the Han Chinese.

“The change at this particular position in Tibetan highlanders represents one of the most dramatic examples of genetic change in recent human history,” said University of Nebraska evolutionary geneticist Jay Storz, who was not involved in the study. “It really is a great story about how the human gene pool is still being shaped by the forces of natural selection.”

The researchers calculated that the Tibetan and Chinese populations separated about 3,000 years ago.

“This is not the distant past,” said John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin. “This is stuff that’s happened in 40 human generations.”

It makes sense that the harsh environment of the Himalayas promotes fast evolutionary adaptation. High altitude, with its lower levels of oxygen, is associated with reproductive difficulties such as miscarriages, low birth weight and increased infant mortality. In response, Tibetans have adapted in a way that may seem counterintuitive but is remarkably effective: their blood hemoglobin levels do not rise too high.

Scientists still don’t know exactly how the low hemoglobin levels help the Tibetans, but they do know that too much hemoglobin makes the blood too viscous, making oxygen distribution more difficult. By maintaining hemoglobin levels about the same as those seen in people at sea level, the Tibetans have avoided this damaging effect.

Still, they must have other adaptations that allow them to thrive at an elevation where each breath of air has 40% less oxygen than at sea level.

Researchers also don’t know exactly how the EPAS1 gene (also known as HIF2- alpha) is involved in this picture. However, the gene is known to be involved in the body’s reaction when a normal person goes to high elevations, so it seems likely that the Tibetan variant somehow results in a blunted response.

The report follows on the heels of two similar studies that also identified EPAS1 as playing an important role in Tibetan evolution.

Lactose tolerance, which spread across Europe over the last 7,500 years, is another example of relatively fast evolution in the modern human population, but the Tibetan study shows that such changes can occur in less than half that time.

“It’s likely that there are many more examples of genes evolving this fast,” Nielsen said. “It’s just that we managed to catch this one in the act.”

Such studies are becoming increasingly common because of the massive amounts of human genetic data now being collected and the complex statistical methods that allow researchers to plumb the depths of the genome.

In years past, researchers had to limit themselves to looking for differences in genes with known functions related to the trait in question. Now that this limitation has been removed, the doors have been flung wide open.

“This genomic approach holds the promise of allowing us to identify genes involved in adaptation that we would never have expected,” Storz said.

[Return to headlines]


Spain: Citizenship Exam for Foreigners Too Hard, Polemics

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 30 — It’s not only questions about general culture that you’re going to find, but also questions that would make candidates for admission to university tremble and which leave immigrants with multiple degrees and years of specialisations at a loss for words. The ‘Spanish’ exam, conducted by a Getafe (Madrid) judge to grant approval to immigrants who are seeking Spanish citizenship has sparked a heated debate in Spain. And many newspapers, from Cordoba to the Basque Country, are writing about the particular zeal of Judge Jose’ Maria Celemin of the civil register in Getafe in his examination of the candidates, criticised by NGOs and lawyers’ associations. The historical-cultural-gastronomic test, written by the judge himself, is given to immigrants with Trivial Pursuit-style questions that determine their chances to obtain citizenship. What are the ingredients in a potato tortilla, Cocido Madrileno or Valencia’s famous paella are some of the questions that the test-takers have a reasonable chance at answering. But other questions about “the absolute values of the Constitution”, “what happened in 1868”, or “the names of three poets of the Generation of ‘27” are asked, which is what happened to a Bolivian who has been residing in Spain for four years and has a degree in medicine and is specialising hospitals. Questions that the man could not answer, reports El Pais. Also, the name of a sculpture created at the end of the 19th century, or who were Salvador Dali’, Pablo Picasso, Bartolome’, Esteban Murillo, Antonio Machado, or Lope de Vega. “If Spaniards had to take this sort of a test, 95% would end up without a state,” commented Cordoba daily El Diario. In recent days, NGOs and lawyers’ associations have discussed if current law allows giving this type of a test to foreigners who are seeking citizenship. Article 221 of the Civil Register states that the judge of that particular body “will personally listen to the individual requesting citizenship, mainly to prove their degree of adjustment to the Spanish culture and lifestyle.” Juan Carlos Rois, the President of AESCO, an NGO that is assembling those who have been ‘shot down by the Getafe judge’, currently approximately twenty people, says that the official “is not applying the law, and has created a new one instead”. Also according to the General Council of Spanish Bar associations, Judge Celemin “is overstepping his authority with questions that exceed the realm of general culture”. On the other hand, the Superior Court of Justice in Madrid is backing the judge, saying that the oral exam aims to “avoid fraud when acquiring citizenship”. The group has denied that the questions have “xenophobic overtones”. At the same time, judges of the court pointed out that it is not the Civil Register’s task to grant citizenship, but only to compile ‘integration reports’ that are submitted to the Justice Ministry, which then decides whether or not to grant the individual a passport. And they assured that no citizenship request has been rejected as a result of the exam conducted by the Getafe judge. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Ukrainian Illegal Immigrants Lived Life of Luxury After Conning Hmrc Into Paying Out £4.5million in Tax Rebate Scam

A gang of Ukrainian illegal immigrants enjoyed a lavish lifestyle of expensive cars and luxury apartments after swindling £4.5million from the tax office by using false identities to claim tax rebates.

A court was told the fraudsters found the streets of London were ‘paved with gold’ after successfully claiming back millions of pounds through false applications.

A judge criticised the ease at which the gang was able to dupe HM Revenue and Customs by using ‘flawless’ identity documents and setting up bogus bogus firms to appear as employers on the doctored self assessment forms.

In each case, the gang made it appear as if the applicants had paid too much tax, and were owed a rebate.

The fraud was so convincing that Revenue officials were duped into paying out more than £4.5million, out of total applications for more than £8million.

Eleven members of the gang were sentenced to a total of 42 years and 10 months at Southwark Crown Court on Friday for conspiracy to cheat the Revenue.

By the time the con was uncovered last year the gang had spent a fortune on top-of-the-range cars, luxury apartments, weapons and lavish parties.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Origin of Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 2 — The origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been discovered thanks to a particle accelerator. According to the research carried out by the National Laboratories of the South (LNS) of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Catania, the scrolls that contain the oldest biblical texts in the world (which date back to one to two centuries B.C. to a few decades A.D.) have been made in Qumran, in the same area on the Dead Sea coast where the documents were found half a century ago. The results were presented in the UK, in Surrey, during a conference on particle physics ‘Pixe’, by research coordinator Giuseppe Pappalardo. The mystery of these very old documents (around 900 in total) was partly resolved by the joint use of a new analysis system called Xpixe, patented by the National Laboratories of the South of INFN, and the particle accelerator of the Laboratories. Seven fragments of about one square centimetre have been analysed in collaboration with researchers of the Institute for Archaeological and Monumental Heritage (IBAM-CNR). Not all fragments belong to biblical texts. Some belong to the Temple Scroll, which describes the construction and life of a temple and establishes how to transmit the law to the people.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Case for Calling Them Nitwits

They blow each other up by mistake. They bungle even simple schemes. They get intimate with cows and donkeys. Our terrorist enemies trade on the perception that they’re well trained and religiously devout, but in fact, many are fools and perverts who are far less organized and sophisticated than we imagine. Can being more realistic about who our foes actually are help us stop the truly dangerous ones?…

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]