Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100708

Financial Crisis
»‘American Power Act’: Borders on Being an Act of Treason Against All Americans
»British Economy Dealt Fresh Blow as IMF Downgrades UK Growth Forecast
»EMU Break-Up Risks Global Deflation Shock That Would Dwarf Lehman Collapse, Warns Ing
»The Biggest Market Crash Since the 1720?
»UK: Workers Pay the Penalty for Recession as Average Annual Salary Drops £2,600 in Just Six Months
»Relief Payments Get Slashed if Fishermen Refuse to Work for BP
»Russia to Release 4 in Swap Over Spies
»Stakelbeck: U.S. Group Aims for Islamic Domination
»Suspect in Mosque Arson Could be in Country Illegally
»U.S. Plans Cyber Shield for Utilities, Companies
»Video: ‘Want Freedom? Kill Some Crackers!’
»Video: How Obama Used an Army of Thugs to Steal the 2008 Democratic Party Nomination
»Why Do Muslims Murder Americans?
»‘Worst Thing I’Ve Ever Seen’: Queen Tells Widow of Her Horror on 9/11 as She Visits Ground Zero
Europe and the EU
»Belgium’s Plan to Wash Its Dead Down the Drain: Bodies Would be Dissolved in Caustic Solution… And Flushed Into the Sewer
»China’s New Silk Road Into Europe
»EU: Now Brussels Threatens Final Salary Pension as EU Plans to Force Firms to Cover Liabilities
»France: Bettencourt; Witness Retracts, Chaos in the Inquiry
»Italy: Legendary Suitmaker Appoints Interim CEO
»Italy: Berlusconi Defends ‘Sacrosanct’ Wiretap Bill
»More Europe? No Thanks.
»Norway: Three Suspects Arrested Over Al-Qaeda Bomb Plots
»Norway Bomb Arrests Linked to US, British Plots
»Obama Says Turkey Should be Full Member of Europe
»Rich Europe, Poor Europe
»UK: ‘Live in a £1m Mansion for £130 a Week? Only if You Throw in a New Kitchen…’
»UK: ‘Female Fagin’ Facing Jail for Sending Children to Beg on Street
»UK: Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmad, Can’t be Sent to US Prisons Because Human Rights Would be Violated
»UK: Brussels Fines US £150m for Failing to Fly the EU Flag at Funded Projects
»UK: Carousel Fraudsters Must Pay Back £92m
»UK: Climategate Investigations Are Arrogant Insults
»UK: European Human Rights Court Halts Extradition of Race-Hate Preacher Abu Hamza to U.S.
»UK: Is This Britain’s Most Lucrative Speed Camera? Trap to Net £1.3m a Year (On Road With Just One Serious Injury in 10 Years)
»UK: Killer of Headmaster Philip Lawrence Will Walk Free Within Days as Parole Board Rubber Stamp Just 14 Years Behind Bars
»UK: NHS Medics Told Jane, 30, She Was Suffering From a ‘Bad Migraine’… Two Days Later She Died of a Brain Virus
»UK: Terror Arrest Threat for Rail Passenger Who Took Photos on Train to Prove Overcrowding
»Srdja Trifkovic: The Genocide Myth
North Africa
»New Ally Against Al Qaeda
»Pilgrims to Cairo to Honour Prophet’s Granddaughter
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel’s Stalemate
»Mother of Baby Saved by Israelis Wants Him to Murder Them
»Obama ‘Guarantees’ No New Jewish Construction
Middle East
»IDF Reveals Hizbullah Positions
»Iran to Open Nuke Plant in Sept.
»Iran Halts Woman’s Death by Stoning
»Iran: Bahai Minority Targeted by the Iranian Regime
»Lebanon: Israel, Hezbollah Strong in Southern Villages
»Turkey — Erdogan’s Ways and Contradictions
»U.A.E. Diplomat Mulls Hit on Iran’s Nukes
»Rostov: Pentecostal Church Denied Building Permit Because of Orthodox Pressure
South Asia
»Malaysia: Three Young Muslim Men on Trial for Attack on Kuala Lumpur Church
Far East
»Chinese Outsourcer Seeks U.S. Workers With IQ of 125 and Up
»Google Caves to China
»Ariz. Sheriff Gets Death Threats Over New Law
»Immigrants Are Germany’s Future, Says Integration Commissioner
»Lawyer Who Defended ‘American Taliban’ Now Heads DOJ Suit Against Arizona
Culture Wars
»Belgian Bishops Ignored Parents on Grossly Sexually Explicit Catholic ‘Catechism’

Financial Crisis

‘American Power Act’: Borders on Being an Act of Treason Against All Americans

Cap-and-Trade is a Nation Killer

There are many reasons why the Cap-and-Trade Act will harm the future of the nation, but among the worst is that it is entirely based on a lie. The very worst, however, is that it is a nation killer.

Cap-and-Trade is intended to set up a trade scheme in “carbon credits” that is estimated to be worth a trillion dollars if enacted. The rationale is the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), to avoid global warming. There is no global warming and no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

The vast bulk of CO2 is natural. The Earth produces 97% of the CO2 in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is essentially and overwhelmingly water vapor. CO2 plays no role in climate change.

Cap-and-Trade is a tax on energy use and Americans are constantly told that energy use in any form—-coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear—-is bad. That’s not just a lie, it is insane.

Americans are told that “renewable” or “clean” energy can replace the energy generated by the use of coal, natural gas, and by nuclear plants. Solar and wind energy can never achieve this. They depend on totally unpredictable sources, the sun and wind. All such “green energy” must have existing plants as backup.

Green energy produces electricity. Oil is not used for this purpose, but one of the primary “reasons” offered for Cap-and-Trade is a reduction in the importation of oil. There is literally no connection between the two.

Cap-and-Trade authorizes the government to set a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that can be produced. It then gives existing industries credits for the amount they are already producing. Those industries can then use the credits or trade them on exchanges set up for that purpose. “American Power Act”: Borders on being an act of treason against all Americans

Renamed the “American Power Act”, the bill put forth by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) borders on being an act of treason against all Americans.

The Institute for Energy Research commissioned Chamberlain Economics to do an economic and distributional analysis. Here are some of their findings:

* The American Power Act would reduce U.S. employment by roughly 522,000 jobs by 2015, rising to more than 5.1 million jobs by 2050.

* U.S. households would face a gross annual burden of $125.9 billion per year or $1,042 per household. The costs would be disproportionately borne by low-income households and senior citizens


Utilities and investment banks in the U.S. and Europe see carbon trading, a wholly fictitious new financial instrument, as a huge new profit center. Carbon trading could top $1 trillion a year by 2020.

This totally artificial “market” will create a “bubble” that, when it bursts, will dwarf the losses that have occurred in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown that caused the current financial crisis.

Meanwhile, hidden within the Cap-and-Trade bill is a provision prohibiting homeowners from selling their homes unless they completely retrofit their homes to comply with energy and water efficiency standards. The costs will, for many, make it impossible to sell their home.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

British Economy Dealt Fresh Blow as IMF Downgrades UK Growth Forecast

Chancellor George Osborne has been dealt a fresh blow today after a respected international economic thinktank downgraded its forecasts for the British economy.

In one of the biggest downgrades it has made to any developed economy, the International Monetary Fund lowered its 2011 growth forecast for Britain from 2.5 per cent to 2.1 per cent.

The prediction is also below forecasts for the Treasury from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) of 2.3 per cent growth next year.

It comes after the head of the OBR Sir Alan Budd quit this week after just three months in the job.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EMU Break-Up Risks Global Deflation Shock That Would Dwarf Lehman Collapse, Warns Ing

A full-fledged disintegration of the eurozone would trigger the worst economic crisis in modern history, devastate every country in Europe including Germany, and inflict a deflationary shock on the US. There would be no winners, warns the Dutch bank ING in a new report “Quantifying the Unthinkable”.

The new Greek drachma would crash by 80pc against the new Deutschemark. The currencies of Spain, Portugal, and Ireland would fall by 50pc or more, causing inflation to soar into double-digits. “The impact is dramatic and traumatic,” it said.

ING has attempted to unpick the complex consequences of break-up scenarios, concluding that even a surgical exit by Greece alone would hurt everybody, and be suicidal for Greece. Both weak and strong states would suffer violent downturns if EMU unravelled altogether, though each in very different ways. “In the first year, output falls by between 5pc and 9pc across the various former member states,” it said.

The German sphere would face a “deflationary shock”. The US dollar would rocket to 85 cents against the euro equivalent, with a “temporary overshoot” to near 75 cents. This would tip the US into acute deflation, threatening North America with a double-dip recession. East Europe would contract 5pc in 2011 alone.

Safe-haven flows to core debt markets would drive down yields on 10-year US, German, and Dutch bonds to near 0.5pc, by far the lowest ever. Club Med yields would decouple brutally, rising to between 7pc and 12pc, “capital controls, notwithstanding.”

This is the picture of a world falling apart. It is an outcome that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, now seems determined to avoid, after dragging her feet over the Spring. The Bundestag has backed Germany’s share of the €110bn rescue for Greece, and the €750bn EU-IMF bail-out for future casualties should they need it. The Bundesbank has lifted its de facto veto on purchases of Club Med bonds by the European Central Bank.

Yet markets have failed to stabilise. Spreads on 10-year Greek bonds are still 750 basis points over Bunds. Investors clearly doubt whether the Greek austerity policy of wage deflation can ever work, or whether EU states will back their words with money, or both. The spreads are 285 for Portgual, 272 for Ireland, and 213 for Spain.

The markets perhaps sense that the bail-out battles in Germany are not yet over. There are four complaints lodged at the German constitutional court arguing that the rescues breach EU treaty law and therefore German basic law. While the court has refused an immediate injunction to block aid, it has not yet ruled on the cases.

A group of five professors has just expanded its original complaint against the Greek rescue to cover the EU’s €440bn Stability Facility, describing the methods used to ram through the measures as “putschist” and anti-democratic. “This course is leading Germany to ruin,” they said.

Germany’s Centre for European Politics in Freiburg has joined the fray with a report arguing that the use of €60bn of EU money under Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty to support the rescue package is illegal. “It is a complete violation of our constitutional law and the judges at the court will have to say so if a case reaches them, even though they are afraid of the economic consequences,” said the author, Dr Thiemo Jeck. Bavarian politician Peter Gauweiler aims to file a fresh case along these lines.

ING’s global strategist Mark Cliffe said any Anglo-Saxon Schadenfreude at a euro break-up would be short-lived. The UK economy would shrink by 4.5pc from 2011-2012. “It would be a very unpleasant experience,” he said.

Safe-haven flows pouring into Britain would drive sterling through the roof. Eurozone demand for UK exports would contract viciously. Pension funds would suffer fat losses on eurozone assets. UK lenders would face havoc again though a web of cross-border linkages.

The Dutch bank does not make any judgement on the merits of EMU, or on whether it is an ‘optimal currency area’, nor does it explore half-way options such as a split into a hard Teutonic euro and a weak Latin euro.

The report said break-up talk is “no longer just a figment of fevered Anglo-Saxon imaginations”. It has spread into top policy-making circles in the eurozone and must now be analysed as a serious tail-risk. A survey of 440 heads of global banks and companies by RBC Capital Markets found that 50pc expect at least one country to leave EMU by 2013, and a quarter expect a complete collapse.

ING said heavily indebted states such as Greece would not gain relief by escaping EMU and devaluing since their debt burden would remain, even if government bonds are switched into the new currency. This is a controversial point. If Greece devalues and defaults as well, the calculus is different. Many big bust-ups entail both, such as the Argentine crisis in 2001. Some Argentines argue that their trauma proved cathartic, pulling the country out of a destructive downward spiral.

If Greek, Portuguese or Spanish leaders ever start to ask their own Argentine questions as austerity grinds on, and unemployment grinds higher, events will run their ineluctable political course regardless of the greater risks.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

The Biggest Market Crash Since the 1720?

One prominent market forecaster says the U.S. is on the precipice of the worst market crash in its history — ending in a three-digit Dow. Time to sell?

Market forecaster Robert Prechter says we’re on the verge of the biggest market crash since the 1720 collapse of Britain’s South Sea Bubble, with the Dow nosediving to below 1,000 in the next five to six years, from around 10,000 now. Prechter, regarded as a powerful market “guru” in the late 1980s, relies on an esoteric technical-analysis tool that uses past market movements to predict future ones. “If I’m right, it will be such a shock that people will be telling their grandkids many years from now, ‘Don’t touch stocks,’“ he says. How seriously should we take the warning?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Workers Pay the Penalty for Recession as Average Annual Salary Drops £2,600 in Just Six Months

The average annual salary has dropped by more than £2,600 in the last six months, it emerged today.

New figures reveal employers are still exercising caution, with wages falling across the board from £28,207 to £25,543 — a difference of £2,664.

Salaries in the financial sector appear to have suffered the most — those offered at the point of entry have dropped by almost £12,000.

The figures show that where young bankers could have expected to start on £52,174.43 six months ago, they will probably earn closer to £30,127.60 now.

Staff in the legal sector are also feeling the pinch with pay for new recruits averaging out at £42,583.27-a-year compared with £53,841.50 six months ago — a fall of £11,258.22.

By contrast, the management sector has seen a healthy rise in wages of £6,223.01, despite the current financial climate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Relief Payments Get Slashed if Fishermen Refuse to Work for BP

Any relief payment plan established in the wake of the worst environmental accident ever was bound to have its flaws, but this goes to a whole new level of wrong.

According to Gulf resident Kindra Arnesen, who turned whistleblower and full-time activist when she saw how many people were put out of work by the spill, BP will deduct money from individual payments on claims for lost income if the claimant refuses to work in assisting the spill response.

Reading from a letter she’d received from BP, Arnesen quoted the company’s line:

“BP will continue its efforts to pay legitimate claims for losses incurred due to the Deepwater Horizon incident. However, federal law clearly provides for adjustments for all income resulting from the incident, all income from alternative employment or businesses undertaken […] and potential income from alternative employment or businesses not undertaken but reasonably available.”

In other words, if you are a fisherman who was put out of work by BP and you do not elect to work in their employ, but you still file a claim for losses over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, that claim could be significantly less than the actual damages incurred.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Russia to Release 4 in Swap Over Spies

NEW YORK — The largest spy swap between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War unfolded Thursday as 10 people accused of spying in suburban America pleaded guilty to conspiracy and were ordered deported to Russia in exchange for the release of four Russian spies.

The defendants pleaded guilty in a Manhattan courtroom, were immediately sentenced to time served and were ordered deported. They were expected to be sent to Russia within hours, and U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood announced that the Russian government would release four people to the United States in exchange.

“The United States has agreed to transfer these individuals to the custody of the Russian Federation,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “In exchange, the Russian Federation has agreed to release four individuals who are incarcerated in Russia for alleged contact with Western intelligence agencies.”

The swap carries significant consequences for efforts between Washington and Moscow to repair ties chilled by a deepening atmosphere of suspicion.

The defendants each announced their pleas to conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign country. Some spoke with heavy Russian accents, sometimes in broken English, despite having spent years living in the U.S. posing as American and Canadian citizens.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: U.S. Group Aims for Islamic Domination

For most Americans, July is a time to celebrate their country’s freedom and independence. But one radical Islamic group will do the opposite this month at a conference on U.S. soil.

In fact, Hzib-ut Tahrir America believes in the abolishment of the U.S. Constitution by way of a worldwide Islamic state, or caliphate.

You can watch my new report on Hizb ut-Tahrir America by clicking the link at the top.

[Return to headlines]

Suspect in Mosque Arson Could be in Country Illegally

A Muslim man charged with setting fire to a Marietta mosque may be in the country illegally, law enforcement officials confirmed Thursday.

Tamsir Mendy, 26, a native of Gambia, has been charged with first-degree arson and is being held without bail at the Cobb County detention center, said Scott Tucker, Marietta assistant fire chief.

Federal authorities have placed an “ICE detainer” on Mendy — meaning he will be handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation after his case is adjudicated, said Cobb sheriff’s department spokeswoman Nancy Bodiford.

While Mendy sat in jail Thursday, his wife’s cousin, Momodou Njie, was proclaiming his innocence.

“[Mendy] is not a criminal. It makes no sense for a Muslim to set fire to a mosque where he goes to pray everyday,” Njie told the AJC. “I think the authorities are looking for a quick answer and there he was. I still think this was a hate crime.”

Njie also insisted that Mendy was in the country legally.

“He has been staying with me for the past two weeks and I have known him for six or seven years, he is not that kind of guy,” Njie said. “I would like to see the evidence against him.”

Firefighters got the call about 11:30 p.m. Monday that the Masjid Al-Hedaya (Islamic Center of Marietta) was on fire. When they arrived at 968 Powder Springs St., flames were coming from the front and back of the converted house. Firefighters saved the structure, but damage is estimated at $100,000, Tucker said.

Mendy emerged as a suspect during an investigation by the Marietta Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials, Tucker said. He was taken into custody at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Marietta Fire Department headquarters. There are currently no other suspects, Tucker said.

Officials said accelerants were used in the fire, but they would not elaborate on any of the evidence found during the investigation, or on any possible motives.

Investigators have ruled out the possibility that the arson was a hate crime.

The mosque’s leader, Imam Hafiz Inayatullah, said members had ended a prayer service at the mosque at about 10:25 Monday night. After locking the doors, a member noticed Mendy sitting a short ways off, Inayatullah said.

Inayatullah has known Mendy for just two weeks. He was not a regular member of the mosque, praying there only a few times a week, the imam said.

During the time Mendy had been at the mosque, Inayatullah had only asked him his name.

“It’s obviously quite disturbing to hear that a member of the Muslim community is accused of this crime,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Earlier this week, the council — noting other acts of violence against Muslims nationwide — had asked the FBI to investigate the fire.

“You never know these things going in. You have to use the information you have at the time. We want to see justice done no matter who committed the crime,” Hooper said.

In addition to questioning members of the mosque, investigators were also questioning members of an adjacent mosque nearby. A land disagreement almost three years ago divided the members into two factions.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

U.S. Plans Cyber Shield for Utilities, Companies

The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed “Perfect Citizen” to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government’s chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video: ‘Want Freedom? Kill Some Crackers!’

New Black Panther Obama DOJ refused to prosecute: ‘I hate white people — all of them!’

“You want freedom? You’re gonna have to kill some crackers! You’re gonna have to kill some of their babies!”

Those were the words of Minister King Samir Shabazz, also known as Maurice Heath, the New Black Panther Party’s Philadelphia leader.

Shabazz is the same man the Obama administration Department of Justice refused to prosecute after he was filmed on Election Day 2008 with Jerry Jackson wearing paramilitary uniforms, carrying a nightstick and blocking a doorway to a polling location to intimidate voters.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video: How Obama Used an Army of Thugs to Steal the 2008 Democratic Party Nomination

Documentary video online exposes 2008 electoral fraud.

Think those billy club armed New Black Panther thugs in Philadelphia were the first time Obama used Stalinist tactics to intimidate voters and disenfranchise the American people?

Think again.

In testimony this week before Congress, former Justice Department Official J. Christian Anderson revealed that not only were similar claims “pervasive”, but Obama activists committed the “same” crimes during the 2008 Democratic primary to help then Sen. Obama defeat Democratic heir apparent Hillary Clinton.

Obama gamed the system in 2008 by not only allowing an army of young men station themselves outside polling locations in African American communities to prevent elderly women and others from voting for their chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton, but he also trained thousands of willing accomplices—while I do not have confirmation, I do sense the presence of ACORN here—spread throughout the Democratic caucuses to commit voter fraud on a massive scale.


During the election the Hillary campaign issued multiple press releases in an attempt to publicize these events and bring them to the voter’s attention, but to no avail. The main stream media, like the Democrat Party leadership, had already chosen their candidate.

They willfully ignored the worst election abuses in a generation and allowed an immoral and unworthy man take control of this great nation. I highly recommend you watch the entire video; it will only take about 35 minutes and is well worth the time. Be sure to forward it on to others, because everyone should know the true story about how Obama became President.

A link to the We Will Not Be Silenced website.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Do Muslims Murder Americans?

The latest talking point in the Western terrorism apologist camp is that Islamic terrorism against Americans began in 1968 when a PLO supporter named Siran Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy.

Thaddeus Russel, a radical professor and author of something called, “A Renegade History of the United States”, circulated the latest version of this meme when he wrote;

“Not one American died at the hands of a politically motivated Arab or Muslim until June 5, 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy was shot to death by Sirhan Sirhan. The killing came shortly after President Lyndon Johnson declared that the U.S. would become Israel’s major sponsor

Of course there’s one problem with this claim. History.

The difference between History and Radical History, is that the former is a record of events that actually took place, and the latter is a distortion of history based on a political agenda. The idea that Muslim terrorists began murdering and trying to murder Americans, after an LBJ announcement isn’t history. It’s radical history. So let’s take a look at history instead.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Worst Thing I’Ve Ever Seen’: Queen Tells Widow of Her Horror on 9/11 as She Visits Ground Zero

The Queen last night paid her respects to those who died in the 9/11 attacks.

During a visit to New York, she told one bereaved woman who lost her firefighter husband in the atrocity that she had never seen anything so shocking in her life.

In a visit to Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center, the monarch laid a wreath before opening a garden to honour the 67 Britons killed in the 2001 attack.

Debbie Palmer, whose husband battalion fire chief died and was at the ceremony, said: ‘The Queen was just asking me about that day and how awful it must have been

‘She said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything in my life as bad as that”. And I said “Let’s hope we never do again”.’

The Queen’s comments about 9/11 are given added resonance by the fact that she survived the horror of the Blitz in World War II.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium’s Plan to Wash Its Dead Down the Drain: Bodies Would be Dissolved in Caustic Solution… And Flushed Into the Sewer

It could hardly be said to be the most dignified of send-offs.

Undertakers in Belgium plan to eschew traditional burials and cremations and start dissolving corpses instead.

The move is intended to tackle a lack of burial space and environmental concerns as 573lbs of carbon dioxide are released by each cremated corpse.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

China’s New Silk Road Into Europe

A bold bid for Greece’s premier port of Piraeus by state-owned Cosco has given Beijing a foothold on the doorstep of the Continent.

By Harriet Alexander in Athens

Golfis Yiannis stands on the dock of the Athenian port of Piraeus, unflinching among the dust clouds stirred by the thundering lorries and clattering forklift trucks unloading the vast container ships.

“That’s Europe’s new China Town over there,” he says, pointing to the pier adjacent to where he is standing. “The only thing that is certain is that we’ve sold our soul to the Chinese.”

Pier Two of the container port, where Mr Yiannis, 48, has worked for the last 22 years, may seem exactly the same as Pier One — certainly larger, but similarly flanked by gigantic ships and stacked with huge Lego brick-style containers.

But where as Pier One is Greek, Pier Two is now Chinese.

China’s state-owned shipping giant Cosco last month took control of Pier Two in a £2.8 billion deal to lease the pier for the next 35 years, investing £470 million in upgrading the port facilities, building a new Pier Three and almost tripling the volume of cargo it can handle.

The container port, just next door to the Piraeus ferry harbour that is the tourist gateway to the Greek islands, can currently load and unload 1.8 million containers a year — meaning 5,000 come and go each day.

While many investors flee from the struggling European nation, which last month only avoided bankruptcy by accepting a 110 billion euro (£90 billion) bailout from the European Union and the IMF, China seen an opportunity to make strides into Europe, buying key assets at enticing prices and gaining access its valuable markets.

The Chinese envisage creating a network of ports, logistics centres and railways to distribute their products across Europe — in essence a modern Silk Road — hastening the speed of East-West trade and creating a valuable economic foothold on the continent. They aim to make the container port a hub to rival Rotterdam — Europe’s largest port.

“The Chinese want a gateway into Europe,” said Theodoros Pangalos, deputy prime minister. “They are not like these Wall St ****s, pushing financial investments on paper. The Chinese deal in real things, in merchandise. And they will help the real economy in Greece.”

It is not the first time China has seen opportunity where others see adversity. With their economy booming and their currency strong, the Chinese have made a series of controversial investments in mining and infrastructure in Africa, which critics say allow them to remove valuable raw materials with little benefit to the local economy.

Workers at the port, like others in Greece, are uneasy the long-term implications of allowing China to take advantage of the country’s economic weakness to take such an important stake in a strategically crucial part of its economy.

From his union’s office overlooking the port and the jumble of high-rise blocks that crowd Piraeus’s hills, George Nouhoutides, president of the Union of Dockworkers, told The Sunday Telegraph that the decision to sign the contract was “catastrophic”.

“When you discuss a deal with one wealthy country and one which has a lot of debt, who dictates the terms?” he asked. “China wants a ‘Made in Europe’ label with tax exemptions, favourable terms and to hell with Greek interests.”

Mr Nouhoutides — who was born two block from the port and has worked there for 34 years — added: “They are playing a clever game. They have 1.5 billion slaves and money to burn, so of course they want to access our markets. It is catastrophic for all workers — not just for the Greeks.”

But Katinka Barysch, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform, says that it was unlikely the Chinese investment in Greece will be of such a “vulture” nature.

“The danger that Cosco will behave like some of the Chinese mining and oil companies in Africa is pretty remote,” she said.

“Greece is a member of the EU, so it has a much more solid legal framework. There are clear constraints about what foreign investors can and cannot do in our markets.

“The risk is more that these sovereign companies invest too quickly in trophy assets and then manage them badly or don’t manage to make a profit out of them.

“But cash is very short in Europe now. So my guess is that the Chinese investment will not encounter too much political opposition. Where else would the money come from?”

Indeed, many see the Chinese investment in Piraeus as just the beginning of a far broader scheme to access European markets.

As countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland struggle with their financial burdens, China is eyeing up potentially irresistible investment opportunities.

This month a group of Chinese manufacturers hope to be given approval to develop a £40 milion plot in Athlone, central Ireland, and begin construction of a hub of schools, apartments, railways and factories to create Chinese products. The Chinese plan to ship in 2,000 Chinese workers to construct the site, and eventually employ 8,000 Irish staff in what has been dubbed “Beijing-on-Shannon”.

And Chinese investment is something the cash-strapped Greek government has welcomed with open arms.

Last month Zhang Dejiang, China’s vice premier, lead a delegation of 30 of the country’s leading businessmen to Athens to sign hundreds of millions of euros worth of investments in Greek shipping, logistics and infrastructure projects.

Greek officials said that the 14 deals amounted to the biggest single investment that China had ever made in Europe.

“I am convinced that Greece can overcome its current economic difficulties,” said Mr Dejiang. “The Chinese government will encourage Chinese businesses to come to Greece to seek investment opportunities.”

Yet China hungrily eyeing up Greek assets has not been met with universal approval. Dock workers have repeatedly gome on strike to protest against the deal since it was first mooted in 2006 — and were further infuriated when it was signed with great fanfare and a personal visit by President Hu Jinato in November 2008.

They say that the port was making a profit so did not need to be taken over, and claim that the Chinese pay their workers just 50 euros a day, which in the face of unemployment the Greek dock hands have to accept. Cosco refused to discuss pay rates or other aspects of the project with The Sunday Telegraph.

“They want desperate people who will work for one bowl of rice a day,” said Charalambos Giakoumelos, 53, who has worked at the docks for 22 years.

“This was to be the lungs of the Greek recovery — and yet the government has given it away for the price of a piece of bread.” “Cosco came here, and the nice Greek government gave everything away,” agreed Nick Vithoulkas, 55.

“It’s not only the port they are after. My son is 26 and I have told him he should leave Greece. There is no future here.”

As Cosco took control of Pier Two, the Greek state-owned Pireaus Port Authority was left with Pier One — which is smaller and shallower, thus unable to accommodate the larger ships.

“It is as if they have created a supermarket right next to our minimarket,” said Mr Nouhoutides. “How can we ever compete with that?”

Yet many in Greece believe that the arrival of China in the form of Cosco is exactly what its ailing economy needs.

“This is the locomotive for our development,” said Nikolaos Arvanitis, president of the International Maritime Union — the organisation that represents the world’s largest shipping companies — including Cosco. “Greece needs investment. The Chinese came with good will and we are open to other people who want to come and invest here.

“Our old ways of working were very primitive. Now we can really drive forwards and improve Greece’s economy. There is nothing to be afraid of — the Chinese are here to develop our infrastructure, and we will benefit. It is a win-win project.”

The port may prove just the beginning of China’s ambition in Greece. By the end of the year China is expected to make a joint bid with a Greek company to create a 200 million euro (£165 million) logistics hub at Attica, near the port, to distribute goods from China into the Balkans and the rest of the continent. The Chinese are also in talks to buy a share in the struggling state-owned railway.

With the strategic position of Piraeus as being near the Bosphorus, the port also provides a way into the Black Sea region, central Asia and Russia.

Yet although the Chinese are undeniably involved in Athenian affairs, their physical presence is decidedly limited. In the slightly down-at-heel immigrant quarter of Omonia, where tacky Chinese hypermarkets sell cheap plastic jewellery, household goods and nylon clothes, the few Chinese on the streets claimed never to have heard of Cosco, and hurried away quickly. Chinese noodle bars are yet to replace the Greek tavernas lining the streets.

Staff in the offices of Cosco’s shipping company, in an unprepossessing office block overlooking the cruise ships of the passenger terminal, said that of their 45 members of staff, only the director and financial director were Chinese. In the port terminal offices, of 250 members of staff only 10 administrative and managerial staff were Chinese.

But the Chinese are certainly making their mark in Europe, keen to flex their muscles. And with their deep pockets and seemingly limitless ambition, they look likely to succeed.

Wei Jiafu, Cosco’s chief executive, said in a recent television interview with Greece’s Skai Television: “I came here to help bring the port of Piraeus back to its original position. I hope that within a year’s time it will be the number one container port in the Mediterranean.

“We have a saying in China, ‘Construct the eagle’s nest, and the eagle will come’. We have constructed such a nest in your country to attract such Chinese eagles.

“This is our contribution to you.”

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

EU: Now Brussels Threatens Final Salary Pension as EU Plans to Force Firms to Cover Liabilities

Final salary pension schemes in the private sector could be wiped out by controversial rules drawn up by Europe.

Under new proposals published yesterday, firms will be forced to plough even more money into schemes to cover future liabilities.

They will also have to invest more in the ultra-safe bonds and gilts markets, rather than shares and equities, which carry a greater risk but can give a better return.

The collapse of final salary pension schemes in the last decade has been partly due to the British Government ordering private firms to plough more assets into their occupational schemes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

France: Bettencourt; Witness Retracts, Chaos in the Inquiry

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JULY 8 — “Panic-stricken”, Claire Thibout has fled to relatives in the south of France. When the police came to visit her, the former accountant of Liliane Bettencourt, at the centre of the alleged illicit financing to the party of Nicolas Sarkozy, came back on her claims and withdrew many of them: this is the reconstruction sketched by French newspaper Le Monde of the latest developments in the affair that has shaken France. Yesterday the police found evidence of the withdrawal of 50,000 euros in cash, indicated by Claire Thibout in her testimony and in her interview with website Mediapart. However, there is no evidence — apart from the woman’s testimony — that the money has really been paid to the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy, passing through the hands of BettEncourt’s treasurer Patrice de Maistre and later those of UMP treasurer Eric Woerth. It has also been impossible to verify the existence of another tranche of the bribe, 100,000 euros which were allegedly withdrawn in Switzerland. Thibout has confirmed that she has handed the money to the family, but she is uncertain about the date of March 26 2007 which she mentioned in her interview with Mediapart. When checking the woman’s statements, the police found that in an earlier hearing, she mentioned a date “between March and April”, without being more specific. The former accountant also did not confirm that Sarkozy frequently visited the Bettencourt house, where he was said to go regularly to cash “gifts” since the time he was mayor of Neuilly: “Mediapart” she told Le Monde, “quotes me saying something about the electoral campaign of Balladur (the interview also included claims regarding funds to the former Premier, editor’s note). This is absolutely not true. Mediapart has made that up. Also I have never said that Sarkozy regularly received envelopes”. Thibout will return to Paris today, where the police has organised a confrontation with de Maistre to find out the truth. The newsroom of Mediapart, which was always the first to report on the affair in the past weeks, announces that the statements made by Claire Thibout were meticulously written out during the two interviews, in the presence of an independent witness during each session. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Legendary Suitmaker Appoints Interim CEO

Rome, 7 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italian suitmaker to the stars, Brioni said its general manager Antonio Bianchini will handle the day-to-day running of the company until it appoints a new chief executive officer.

Andrea Perrone, the 40 year-old grandson of Brioni co- founder Gaetano Savini, resigned as CEO of the company, a spokeswoman said.

Perrone resigned on 5 July for personal reasons, Brioni said in a statement.

Brioni outfitted several James Bond actors, and it real-life customers have included Cary Grant , John Gotti and Donald Trump.

The company ran into debt after is was forced to borrow about 100 million dollars in 2006 to pay off former CEO Umberto Angeloni, who left in a storm of acrimony after a 17-year stint.

Sources say Brioni’s three controlling families may be forced to surrender their majority stake to turn around the company’s finances which have also been battered by slack demand for the pricey suits.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Defends ‘Sacrosanct’ Wiretap Bill

Rome, 8 July (AKI) — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday defended his government’s controversial wiretapping bill restricting pretrial reporting and the use of police intercepts and bugging devices.

Speaking ahead of a media strike against the bill on Friday, Berlusconi said the draft law was “sacrosanct” in its defence of the privacy of individuals.

In an interview with Italian TV chat show ‘Studio Aperto’ on one of his own channels, billonaire politician Berlusconi said a similar law had been “overwhelmingly” approved by the opposition centre left during its previous term in power from 2006 to 2008.

“That law also forbade the publication of all pretrial material until the end of investigations, imposed sanctions on journalists and public officials who leaked information.

“It also imposed a maximum limit of 90 days for phone intercepts.

“Yet, no one then talked about a gagging law or of outrages to liberty and democracy. For the Left, democracy and freedom only exist when they’re in power,” he said.

Intercepted phone conversations involving Berlusconi allies have reportedly been cited in several recent criminal probes. The government has sought to accelerate the bill’s passage before the Italian parliament’s summer recess in August.

The premier also denied centre-left opposition claims the bill would hinder Italian authorities’ fight against the mafia.

“The exact opposite is true. The bill does makes no changes to investigations. Not one crime has been removed from the wiretapping list. Indeed, we’ve even added one, stalking.”

Under the bill, investigators must get a wiretap warrant from a three-judge panel, instead of one judge previously.

Electronic eavesdropping would be limited to 75 days from as much as 18 months currently. Journalists would risk prison and publishers could be fined as much as 465,000 euros for reporting the content of wiretaps before suspects had been charged and committed to trial.

Police, prosecutors, journalists, publishers and opposition parties say the law goes too far and would hinder investigations and the media’s freedom to report on issues of public interest.

The bill, dubbed the “gag law” by its critics, was passed in the Senate on 10 June . It is due to be debated in Italy’s lower house of parliament or Chamber of Deputies on 29 July.

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

More Europe? No Thanks.

To stave off the risk of overindebted member states going bust, the EU 27 have taken steps — e.g. euro stabilisation plan, outline of economic governance — tending towards tighter integration. But once again they’ve done it without asking the European public’s opinion, bemoans Público.

José Manuel Fernandes

The European Union is currently undergoing an anti-democratic coup and nobody seems to object, whether in Portugal or in most other European countries. Only the United Kingdom, which has the oldest and most deeply rooted democracy, is protesting and resisting. Am I exaggerating? I don’t think so. What I call — and I weigh my words — a trans-European coup d’Etat consists in an attempt to violate national sovereignty that is bound to encroach on the checks and balances of the Lisbon Treaty and humiliate national parliaments. The measures in question are sold to the public as crucial progress towards “more Europe” and as a first stab at pan-European “economic governance”. But at no time have the electorates been asked to vote on them — or displayed any desire to do so.

Proceeding on the notion that you never stop on a straight-line trajectory, we’re gearing up now for an outsized leap — that could well cause Europe to collapse, undermined by the irreconcilable disconnect between federalist elites and voters who can hardly relate to the space and rules of the diverse national democracies.

Union fails most vital test of a democracy

There is no overlap between the space in which people believe they have something to say (which, like it or not, is and will remain the space of nation-states) and the space in which more and more decisions are being made, decisions that are increasingly unpopular.

The European Union is failing the most vital test of a democracy: it doesn’t know how to replace its own government by peaceful means. The European Parliament can, of course, dismiss the Commission, but it can’t dismiss the Council, nor does anyone think about who will be the next president of the Commission whilst voting for members of the European Parliament.

Impossibility of increasing European budget

And this mustn’t be mistaken for a minor obstacle, to be overcome with the “boldness”, “courage” and “vision” of supposed European leaders — who, it is said, don’t exist. It’s a central problem, seeing as there is no way to have more political union without more sovereignty transfers, just as there can be no “economic governance” worthy of the name without a genuine European budget.

Now, although we can still hesitate in the face of the symbolic significance of requiring each state to submit its budget first to Brussels (though to whom in Brussels nobody knows) rather than to its national parliament; although we can still live under the illusion that the true heads of the Union are the organs of the Community and not the more powerful ones of its member states (first and foremost Germany); although we wish to ignore the risk that the preponderance of the big states might set off nationalist reactions, what we cannot ignore, on the other hand, is the impossibility of increasing the European budget, because most if not all the states, and their public, will refuse to do so in the short term.

Will European leaders swallow their pride?

The basic problem this crisis has revealed is that, when states lose control over monetary policy, they find they have no way to recover rapidly from a loss of economic competitiveness. Within a monetary union, that can only be done through internal transfers of resources towards regions or countries hit by so-called “asymmetrical shocks”. But for internal transfers to help a region or country out of a crisis, the EU needs to have a far bigger budget at its disposal than the current 1.23% of EU-wide GDP.

Were European leaders to swallow their overweening pride, they’d see that calling in the IMF (or an equivalent institution) has an advantage for the health of European democracies: the interference with national sovereignty involved in an intervention of this sort will always be temporary, in contrast to such definitive sovereignty transfers as are now envisaged.

Crisis is an opportunity

It is true that certain countries (including Greece, Portugal and Spain) have drifted into their present predicament owing to mistakes they made themselves. We might go so far as to say they deserve to be saddled with a watchdog (or more than that) inside their ministry of finance. But the damage caused by the sovereign debt crisis should not have been allowed to trigger such rash reactions, which, contrary to what their advocates claim, are more likely to put off the citizens of the Union than contribute to its consolidation. The EU’s great achievements have always been those of economic integration, and its worst failures have attended its dreams of metamorphosing into a new political power.

We should do well to recall that crises are not only an opportunity to step up the pace on the stretch we have left to go: they are also opportunities to change course.

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

Norway: Three Suspects Arrested Over Al-Qaeda Bomb Plots

Oslo, 8 July (AKI) — A Norwegian of Chinese Uighur origins, an Iraqi and a Uzbek have been arrested in connection with an Al-Qaeda linked plot to bomb targets in Norway, police in Oslo said on Thursday. Two of the plotters were arrested in Norway and one in Germany, Norwegian security police chief Janne Kristiansen told a media conference. She said it was a “serious case”.

The three men are residents of the Norwegian capital. They are believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda and to be linked to bomb plots in the US and UK as well as in Norway, Kristiansen said.

“This is a serious case. We believe this group has had links to people abroad who can be linked to Al-Qaeda, and to people who are involved in investigations in other countries, among others the United States and Britain,” Kristiansen said, cited by the Norway Post.

She gave no details of where the men were arrested, nor any information about locations which may have been targeted for attacks.

The Norway Post said two of the suspects were arrested in Oslo and one in Germany. They are all in their 30s.

The three, all Norwegian residents, had been under surveillance “for some time”, Kristiansen told journalists.

She said one of the men was a 39-year-old Norwegian citizen, a Muslim Uighur from China, who had lived in Norway since 1999.

The Iraqi citizen, 37, was granted Norwegian residency on humanitarian grounds.

The 31-year-old Uzbek citizen was granted permanent residence in Norway on family reunification grounds.

US prosecutors say the alleged Norwegian case is linked to foiled bomb plots in New York and Manchester in the UK.

Kristiansen said the three men’s arrests had been brought forward because news of the probe was about to appear in the international media.

“Such an exposure of the case, without a foregoing arrest, could have proved destructive to the investigation, and with great danger of destruction of evidence,” she told a news conference in Oslo.

Norway may have been targeted by the alleged plotters because it has troops in Afghanistan, according to some observers.

The arrests came a day after US prosecutors unveiled charges on Wednesday against four men wanted over a plot to bomb the underground system in New York.

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, has described the New York conspiracy as one of the most serious terrorist plots since the Al-Qaeda’s attacks against US cities on 11 September, 2001.

“The charges reveal that the plot… was directed by senior al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” the US justice department said in a statement.

It continues: “[The plot] was also directly related to a scheme by Al-Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United Kingdom.”

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

Norway Bomb Arrests Linked to US, British Plots

OSLO — Three suspected al-Qaida members were arrested Thursday in a Norwegian bomb plot linked to the same terrorist planners behind thwarted schemes to blow up New York’s subway and a British shopping mall.

The alleged Norwegian plot, underscoring changing al-Qaida tactics in the decade since the 9/11 attacks, was said to involve powerful peroxide bombs similar to ones aimed for detonation in New York and Manchester, England.

All three plans were organized by Saleh al-Somali, al-Qaida’s former chief of external operations, who had been in charge of plotting attacks worldwide, Norwegian and U.S. officials believe. Al-Somali was killed in a CIA drone airstrike last year, but officials say the three plots had already been set in motion by the time of his death.

Thursday’s arrests suggested how decentralized and nimble al-Qaida has become since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The terror group has recently focused on smaller-level attacks that don’t require the intricate planning that it took to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings in New York and Washington.

Last year, when the FBI and CIA thwarted the suicide attack in the New York subway, officials called it the most dangerous plot since 9/11. And in the past two days, revelations about the related plots in England and now in Norway have illustrated the terror group’s multi-country scope.

Al-Qaida keeps its plots compartmentalized, and officials do not believe the suspects in Norway knew about the other cells involved. The Norwegian and U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

The officials said it was unclear whether the men in Norway had perfected the bomb-making recipe, but Janne Kristiansen, head of the country’s Police Security Service, said, “According to our evaluation, the public has never been at risk.”

Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, has called in the past for attacks on Norway. Magnus Norell, a terrorism expert at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, said Norway’s 500 troops in Afghanistan could have been a factor, as could a 2006 controversy that arose after a Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that enraged Muslims.

It was unclear whether the trio had selected a specific target in Norway, but the alleged plot already had played a role in Norway’s decision to raise its terror alert level last year.

“The threat of terrorism in Norway was generally low in 2009. However, certain groups are engaged in activities that could quickly change the threat level in 2010,” Norway’s Police Security Service wrote in February. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged Thursday that statement was referring, at least in part, to the al-Qaida plot.

The three captured men, whose names were not released, had been under surveillance for more than a year as the FBI and CIA worked with Norwegian authorities.

“The FBI worked closely with our law enforcement partners in England and Norway throughout the investigation,” FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said.

The U.S. also turned over financial data that terrorist financing experts had collected, said Stuart Levy, the Treasury Department’s top counterterrorism official.

Two suspects were arrested in Norway. A third was captured in Germany, where he was vacationing, the Frankfurt general prosecutor’s office said. Norway’s Police Security Service said the arrests made in Norway took place in the Oslo area. Kristiansen said all three men “had connections to Oslo.”

Those arrested in Norway included a 39-year-old Norwegian of Uighur origin who has lived in the country since 1999 and a 31-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan who had a permanent Norwegian residency permit, Kristiansen said. The man arrested in Germany was a 37-year-old Iraqi with a Norwegian residency permit, he said. German authorities were preparing to extradite him to Norway.

The Uighur traveled to Pakistan’s lawless tribal region of Waziristan around the same time as Najibullah Zazi, one of the would-be New York bombers, but the two did not attend the same training camp or meet, a U.S. official said.

Kjell T. Dahl, a lawyer for the Uzbek man, would not identify his client but described him as an acquaintance of the Uighur. Dahl said his client was shocked to be arrested Thursday morning.

“He’s a family man,” Dahl said. “From what I can see and the way he behaves, he’s an ordinary family man, a self-employed, moderate Muslim with no connection to any special mosques or groups of a religious or political character.”

The Associated Press learned of the investigation in recent weeks and approached U.S. and Norwegian officials. Authorities told the AP that reporting on the case could jeopardize public safety and allow dangerous suspects to go free. The AP agreed not to report on the investigation until arrests were made.

“AP’s knowledge of the case was only one of several factors that was taken into consideration when deciding on the timing of the arrests,” Police Security Service spokesman Trond Hugubakken said. “It was not the decisive factor.”

U.S. and Norwegian counterterrorism officials worked together to unravel the Norwegian plot, officials said. Kristiansen traveled to the U.S. this spring to discuss closely held intelligence gathered in the case.

The arrests brought strong media attention in Norway, and Stoltenberg urged Norwegians not to racially profile.

“These are separate individuals that are responsible for criminal acts,” Stoltenberg said. “It is always bad to judge a whole group of people from what individuals are doing and that is independently of what group these people belong to.”

In an indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn, prosecutors added several al-Qaida figures to the New York case, including Adnan Shukrijumah, a most-wanted terrorist. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Shukrijumah, one of the al-Qaida leaders in charge of plotting attacks worldwide, was directly involved in recruiting and plotting the New York attack, prosecutors said.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Obama Says Turkey Should be Full Member of Europe

Strong relationship with Napolitano and Berlusconi. Italy outstanding in Afghanistan

“Italy is part of me” said Barack Obama as he welcomed me to the Oval Office. The president of the United States looked comfortable and relaxed at the start of this exclusive interview with the Corriere della Sera. Obama tackled big issues, like the war in Afghanistan, calling Italy’s contribution to the alliance effort “outstanding”. He pointed out that summer 2011 will not be the start of a hurried American withdrawal. It will be the moment when “we begin to see Afghan troops and police taking over from us”. He discussed the risk of losing Turkey, noting that Europe’s reluctance to include Ankara as a full member could push the Turkish people to “look elsewhere”. He praised Berlusconi and Napolitano, saying Italy was “lucky to have an excellent premier and an excellent president”. But he also talked about less serious matters, admitting to a passion for Dante, the films of Fellini, Antonioni and De Sica, and the light of Tuscany.

The president of the United States is standing when he greets me in the Oval Office antechamber. He has just concluded a meeting with his vice-president, Joseph Biden. I have been waiting my turn in the room outside the office of James Jones, the national security adviser. On the sofa opposite, waiting to see Mr Jones, is Senator George Mitchell, the White House’s special envoy for the Middle East. What is most striking about the West Wing, the inner sanctum of America’s power, is how small it is. Everything is squeezed into just a few square metres. President Obama is wearing a blue suit and a sky blue shirt. His tie is pale green with a pattern of small dark triangles. His shoes and socks are black. He invites me to sit on the sofa and takes the chair on the left of the fireplace. Behind him are the two bronze busts of Lincoln and Luther King that replaced the bust of Churchill, returned to the United Kingdom in January 2009 after being on extended loan throughout the Bush era. In the middle of the wall hangs a portrait of George Washington. Obama speaks in his trademark soft baritone. Also present at the interview are Ben Rhodes, Obama’s foreign policy adviser and speechwriter, and Mike Hammer, spokesman for the Security Council.

With more than a hint of emotion in my voice, I begin: “Mr President, the United States and its allies are fighting a hard and bloody war in Afghanistan. Italy has contributed 3,000 troops. Can we still win and get out in a year? What message do you have for people in Europe watching their young men and women die alongside America’s young men and women, with no tangible results for now?” Obama reflects: “First of all, I want to say how personally grateful I am for the Italian contribution in Afghanistan. The sacrifices of Italian men and women in uniform have been outstanding. Prime Minister Berlusconi has been a constant, strong ally. Italy is helping us with training as well as on the battlefield where the Carabinieri, for example, have been very useful. I hold the sacrifices of the Italian people in the highest consideration. Having said that, this is a difficult issue in a difficult region. There are no easy solutions. If there were, we wouldn’t be out there. The fact is that Afghanistan was used as a base for terrorist activities directed against all of us. The region on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border continues to be a launchpad for terror groups. Our presence there has crippled Al Qaeda, so that it is no longer capable of launching large-scale attacks the way it used to. We have still got a lot of work to do to stabilise the country and through that, let me add, to stabilise Pakistan. There’s work to be done. What I have told the American people, and the peoples of our allied countries, is that we are implementing a strategy that involves a surge of troops in the field to weaken the return of the Taliban, and greater commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan’s military and security structure. We will review the situation at the end of the year to establish whether the strategy has been effective. By the middle of next year, we will start the drawdown but that does not mean our presence will suddenly disappear. We will start to see Afghan troops and police taking our place so there will be a gradual reduction of our presence, offset by greater commitment from the Afghans. It will be hard, it will be difficult, but I think it is possible. Especially if we consider that the Taliban do not have the support of the Afghan people. This is not an insurrection that has popular support. People over there still remember when the Taliban were in power and they don’t like it. But the terrain is hard. The country is poor. The government still has a limited, but growing, reach. That’s why we have to win not just on the military level. We also need to accompany progress in the field with training, economic development and the kind of effort where the Italian contribution is very important and for which we are grateful”.

The next topic is Turkey, where recent foreign policy developments, above all the UN vote against sanctions for Iran and the cooling of relations with Israel, have caused concern in the United States and Europe. There has even been talk of “losing Turkey”. Do you, Mr President, think that the refusal or reluctance of the European Union to give Ankara full membership of its institutions has had an impact? What could the United States and Europe do to recommit Turkey to a more pro-Western stance? Obama starts with a broad view, saying that Turkey is a “county of enormous strategic importance that has always been a crossroads of East and West. Turkey is a NATO ally and its economy is booming. The fact that it is both a democracy and a country with a Muslim majority makes it a critically important model for other Muslim countries in the region. For these reasons, we believe it is important to cultivate strong relations with Ankara. And it is also why, even though we are not members of the EU, we have always expressed the opinion that it would be wise to accept Turkey into the Union. I realise that this raises strong feelings in Europe, nor do I think that Europe’s slow pace or reluctance is the only or the principal factor behind some of the changes we have observed recently in Turkey’s orientation. In my view, what we are seeing is democratic confrontation inside Turkey. But it is inevitably destined to impact on the way Turkish people see Europe. If they do not feel part of the European family, then obviously they’re going to look elsewhere for alliances and affiliations. Some of the things we have seen, such as the attempt to mediate an agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue, have been unfortunate. I believe they were motivated by the fact that Turkey has a long border with Iran and does not want any conflicts in the area. Muscle-flexing may also have come into it, as it does with Brazil, which sees itself as an emerging power. What we can do with Ankara is to continue to engage, and to point out the benefits of integration with the West while respecting, not acting out of fear of, Turkey’s specific nature as a great Muslim democracy. It is potentially very good for us if they embody a kind of Islam that respects universal rights and the secularity of the state, and can have a positive influence on the Muslim world”.

My fifteen minutes are running out…

Paolo Valentino

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

Rich Europe, Poor Europe

Numerous national and European programmes have yet to succeed in eradicating major disparities between the rich and poor regions of the continent — a situation that may lead to funding cuts in the context of the current economic crisis.

Maciej Domagala

Even in countries where schemes to reduce regional disparities have been in operation for several decades, the results are less than spectacular. Now, the findings of a recent Eurostat study have quantified the scope of the wealth-gap that remains between richer and poorer areas of the European Union. The City of London rests at the high end of the scale, with a per capita GDP in the City of London is 334% of the EU average—more than a dozen times greater than per capita GDP in north western Bulgaria, which is just 26% of the EU average.

Peculiar parallels and unexpected variations

The statistics bring to light some peculiar parallels and some unexpected variations. In Germany, for example, per capita purchasing power in the state of Saxony-Anhalt is more or less on par with Estonia or richer regions of Greece. However, a huge disparity emerges if we compare the city of Chemnitz in Saxony, where per capita GDP stands at 82% of the European average, and Hamburg, where it is more than twice as high, at 192%.

A similar situation prevails in Spain, where residents in Andalusia and Murcia in the south of the country produce 82% of the average per capita GDP, while their fellow citizens in Madrid and Catalonia can expect to generate 136% and 123% of the European average.

Germany leads way

However, these numbers appear moderate when compared with the figures for Italy, where regional differences are even more polarised. Per capita GDP falls as you travel south along the Italian peninsula. In Piedmont and Lombardy (Milan and Turin), this indicator stands 134% and 119% of the EU average, respectively, while in Campania (Naples), it remains only slightly higher than 65%.

Without a doubt, the German federal government has done more than any other national administration to address the problem of regional disparities. Over the last 20 years within the framework of the “German Unity Fund” and Solidarity Pacts, the East German Länder have received almost 1.5 billion euros. Under the Aufbau Ost programme for the economic reconstruction of the former DDR, the federal government has financed retirement payments, welfare benefits and the construction of new roads and urban infrastructure, all in the hopes of facilitating further investment.

Federal government’s job policy an unmitigated failure??

This transformation becomes apparent when you take the motorway from the East to the West of the country. And it has been on such a scale that some western regions and major industrial centres have begun to worry about lagging behind more dynamic states in the East.

Yet average GDP in the East German Länder only amounts to 71% of West-German GDP, and the same disparity is reflected in average incomes. At the same time, the federal government’s job creation policy has been an unmitigated failure, as the rate of unemployment in the East remains twice as high as it is in the West.

Andalusia provides interesting illustration

Politicians in Germany’s CDU-CSU and FDP ruling coalition are growing weary of the endless promotion of the country’s eastern provinces. Matthias Platzeck, the social-democrat Minister President of the state of Brandenburg, has warned that there is no majority support for plans to continue the Solidarity Pact beyond 2019.

In Spain, Andalusia provides an interesting illustration of the impact of EU structural funds, which have been heavily tapped by the regional government in Seville, just as they have been in Poland. However, the development programmes in this part of Spain, which were undertaken between 1980 and 2000, have done relatively little to boost the local economy. Studies conducted by economists in Malaga Cadiz have shown that funds from both the national government and from Europe have yet to result in development on a scale comparable with the north of the country.

Sharper north-south divide in Italy

In recent years, the drive to improve conditions for small and medium-sized companies has become the main priority for Andalusian development, which has historically been oriented primarily toward the tourist industry (11% of GDP). For the period 2007-2013, Andalusia will benefit from 15 billion euros of European funding — just part of the 41% EU funding allocated for Spain that is spent on the south of the country. The results, however, have yet to measure up to Brussels’ bold objective of a 2.4 % increase in Andalusian GDP.

An even sharper north-south divide exists in Italy, where the beautiful motorways in the country’s economic heartland centred on Turin and Milan are in marked contrast to the dilapidated roads around Naples. This situation, moreover, has persisted in spite of the 140 billion euros spent by the Italian government’s Fund for the South (Cassa per il Mezzogiorno) initiative in effect from 1951 to 1992. The programme was so catastrophic, it even attracted the attention of the International Monetary Fund, which expressed concern over its impact on Italy’s public finances and eventually pressured the Italian government to withdraw it.

Brussels wary of another Mezzogiorno

The European programmes, which to some extent have replaced the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno, have not been marked by any great advances in efficiency. As Francesco Aiello of the University of Calabria explains, they had a small effect on per capita GDP, but their impact remains very weak.

Not surprisingly, Brussels has always been wary of the possibility of another “Mezzogiorno,” which could turn into a black hole for public funds. Now, with the recent economic crisis having made debt reduction a priority for most EU member states, even more credible programmes to reduce regional disparities may see their funding cut.

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

UK: ‘Live in a £1m Mansion for £130 a Week? Only if You Throw in a New Kitchen…’

Whistleblower exposes chancers and cheats who abuse social housing

Recently the Mail published a devastating account by a whistleblower who revealed a culture of absenteeism, rampant inefficiency and ‘unsackable’ staff at the London council where he works as a senior planning officer.

The article struck a chord with another official employed by a housing association in the capital. The system is designed to help the destitute, but he says it is abused by undeserving chancers and cheats.

The Mail knows his identity, but to protect his job, ‘Chris’ tells his story to EUGENE COSTELLO…

Not long ago, I had to do a field visit to one of our sites to show some properties to a family. The houses are new-builds in a really good, central location — I’d love to live in one myself. Three storeys, with three or four bedrooms, really nice — they were so new that the paint was still wet.

The family had just arrived in London from Somalia. It didn’t take long for them to decide they’d seen enough. They didn’t speak much English but they made it clear they weren’t happy with the bedrooms on the top floor — apparently they didn’t like the sloping eaves.

But the deal-breaker came with their next questions. First, they wanted to know if the property came with an automatic right-to-buy with a discount, which it didn’t.

They are thinking of council-owned properties, but we are a housing association — a not-for-profit organisation that is funded by government grants, bank loans and rental income — so we hold on to our stock and simply let it out.

I thought that question was a bit odd, considering the family supposedly didn’t have a penny to their name, which was why they were throwing themselves on the mercy of the good old British taxpayer. Where would they get the funds to buy a townhouse in central London?

This ‘penniless’ family also wanted to know whether they got a residents’ parking space with the property. I had to tell them ‘No’ to that as well. They shrugged and spread their arms, as if to say: ‘How on earth do you expect us to live here? Why are you wasting our time dragging us here?’ And off they went.

They could afford to be so sniffy because we have Choice-Based Letting (CBL). Once, there was pressure on applicants to accept properties when they came up or risk dropping back down the list. Now that’s gone, so they can just keep saying No till we deliver exactly what they want — they’re actually more demanding than tenants in the private sector.

Our problem as a housing association is that we are subcontracted to local authorities and have no say over the lists of people for whom we have to find a house — we are simply given the list and if someone is on it, they have the right to take one of our properties (with their rent heavily subsidised by taxpayers).

Even if it would be overwhelmingly obvious to a five-year-old that the applicants were chancers, we have to smile and say, ‘Yes, sir’ or ‘No, madam’. In fact, we can’t even describe them as ‘tenants’ any more — we’ve been told we must call them ‘customers’.

he legal position is that local authorities have a statutory duty to house those in need and will determine whether they need emergency housing (such as immediate B&B accommodation) until a long-term property is found.

That’s where I come in. I’ve been doing this sort of work for 15 years and we see a massively disproportionate number of people arriving from overseas.

The law was changed in 2000 to say that asylum seekers would not be eligible for social housing but it doesn’t seem to have hugely affected the types of people that we are seeing. I suppose that’s partly because once asylum is granted, they do become eligible — and those who go on to get British citizenship can invite members of their family to come over and join them.

Overall, the system is a joke. It rewards those family members who have just stepped off a plane by giving them a wonderful property in a central location, while Britons who have been here for years or even generations have got no chance of getting to the top of the list.

This is because British applicants tend to be already living with family — parents, etc — so technically qualify as being housed. Recent arrivals with kids in tow do not and are given priority. That said, single mothers as a group are hugely over-represented among social housing tenants; the perception of girls becoming pregnant to get a council flat isn’t completely without foundation.

My particular bugbear, odd as it may sound, is satellite dishes. These pose a huge problem for us, especially with our Turkish ‘customers’ (for some reason a lot of the families we are asked to house are Turkish).

The first thing they want to know — well, after the free parking and the right to buy, of course — is whether they are allowed to put a satellite dish the size of a small helipad on the front of the property. Some of them need to put up two dishes so they can guarantee getting all the channels they want.

As a result, some of our properties end up looking like GCHQ. I’m told the problem is something to do with the signal for Turkish TV not being strong enough.

We always say No. If they think we really mean it — because the house is a new-build or period property — they will turn the place down, no matter how nice it is.

Properties with open-plan kitchens can be a problem too, as Somalian or other Muslim ‘customers’ often don’t want a kitchen that opens straight on to a reception room, and these type of houses are always turned down. I was given the reason by one man: If he wanted to invite other men around to play cards or whatever, he didn’t want them to see his wife making food in the kitchen.

I really have no idea how some of the people who come to us become eligible for such heavily subsidised properties, although I have my theories.

One of our ‘customers’ is a musician of west African descent who is doing really well and often appears on TV. Certainly, tributes on his website as well as comments from his agent are effusive about just how successful he is. Yet he and his family recently rang us to arrange some property viewings — they were on the council list and wanted rehousing in a more central location.

He was very fussy: it had to be a period, character property and it had to be in London Underground’s Zone 1 — ie, central London.

We showed him a beautiful, four-storey Georgian property in a central London square with a park in the middle. He seemed delighted, as well he should be — this is a house worth well over £1 million and a normal rental would be £1,000 a week. He’s getting it subsidised for £130 a week.

My personal view is that this house should be sold and the money invested in new-builds — we could have a dozen flats for the same money, and so help lots of families, not just one.

But no one else in the department seems to agree. I can’t understand it: surely we are supposed to provide a safety net for as many people as possible, not the keys to the palace for just one family?

Anyway, this family didn’t seem to appreciate their good fortune. As soon as they moved in, they bombarded us with a litany of complaints. Nothing was ever right.

For example, we had just installed a new fitted kitchen, leaving space for white goods — we don’t supply those, that’s down to the tenants. Sorry, customers!

Anyway, this family had brought with them a ‘slim fit’ dishwasher. But the space we’d left was for a standard-sized unit. Believe it or not, they wanted us to come back, take the kitchen out and refit it with units that matched their dishwasher.

In any case, I don’t know how that family qualified for social housing. If I were being charitable, I would guess that they had got on the list before they had a better income and managed to stay on it.

The truth is that once you’re on the list, you seem to be there for life: the system isn’t continuously means-tested. What should happen is that tenants — customers — should be retested periodically to ensure that they still qualify for this enormous subsidy from the taxpayer. As I say, it should be a safety net, not a state-sponsored bonanza for a lucky few.

It really rankles that someone who is clearly earning a lot more money than me gets to live in Millionaire’s Row at taxpayers’ expense, while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet. I commute into work from a small flat outside of London as I can’t afford to buy anything more central.

A less charitable explanation for why this musician and his family got the star treatment (and one that a lot of my colleagues believe to be the case) is that there are cliques in local authority departments — be they West African, Indian, Pakistani, whatever — who ‘look after their own’.

These cliques bump friends and relatives to the top of the list, even if they don’t fulfil any of the criteria for social housing. This is done either as a favour or in return for a backhander.

I know it happens. One area I deal with is in South London. There is a large Portuguese community there and I would often get a call from one local lady, a Portuguese grandmother who seemed to act as an agent for new arrivals. She’d ring me regularly and say: ‘Chrees, you have nice flat? I have lovely family who just come from Portugal, need nice three-bed flat.’

The first few times I’d say: ‘Luisa, you know I can’t do anything unless they’re on the list.’ She’d reply: ‘Don’t worry, Chrees, they will be on list tomorrow, please just show them some nice flats.’

And sure enough, the family would be on the next version of the list we’d get.

She clearly knew someone in the housing department who would put her families on the list in exchange for cash — which she could afford to pay as she was charging these families a lot of money in return for her securing a council flat for them. Of course, the family was happy to pay a big one-off fee because once they were in the system they were in for good, and they would get a centrally located flat for a peppercorn rent for life.

I’m speaking out now because I find the whole system corrupt and unfair — and, above all, a monstrous waste of taxpayers’ money. Our houses often go to those who have been in the country for less than a month and have no intention of ever contributing anything to Britain through taxes. Meanwhile, those who have been here for years paying tax have got little or no chance of getting a flat.

I went to see a woman recently in her lovely three-bed flat to arrange a follow-up visit. When I got my diary out, she said: ‘Can’t do July or August — I’m abroad twice this summer.’ Then she winked at me and said: ‘Not bad for someone on the social, eh, Chris?’ and laughed. But I don’t find it funny.

Just a few decades ago, if you lived in social housing, people would come and look at your property, and the rules dictated that if you had possessions that were worth anything, the authorities would force you to sell them to contribute towards your rent.

Of course, no one is saying we should return to such harsh attitudes, but the system does seem to have swung far too far the other way.

My colleagues and I go on field visits to see families who are supposedly on the breadline and cannot subsist except by the largesse of the British taxpayer. Yet they have nice cars, top-end plasma TV screens, the latest games consoles for the kids, Sky TV and all the rest of it. How on earth are they paying for it?

I’d love all those luxuries, but I can’t afford them — because I work for a living.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Female Fagin’ Facing Jail for Sending Children to Beg on Street

A mother-of-seven who became a real-life Fagin by forcing five of her children to beg on the streets faces jail for child cruelty.

Speranta Mihai, 33, would troop off with her horde of ‘scruffy and dirty’ children aged between three and 17 from their taxpayer-funded home each day to scrounge from strangers — only returning late at night.

Despite being repeatedly arrested and warned to stop begging nothing would stop her plying her trade around London and the home counties.

On several occasions she was stopped twice at the same place in the same day.

Police even took her to Paddington station from London’s Edgware Road and put her on a train out of the capital, only to encounter her back in the city a couple of hours later.

An Anti-Social Behaviour Order in 2007 also did nothing to stop her persistent two-year begging campaign.

Once in Harrow she was found carrying a sign which said: ‘I am a refugee’ — when in fact she was an EU citizen — as Romania has been a member state since 2007.

Mrs Mihai first came to the attention of police three years ago when she was filmed by CCTV cameras with her brood aggressively pestering passer-bys for cash.

She became so notorious that officers from the Metropolitan Police Serious Organised Crime squad — were drafted in to deal with her — and police raided the couple’s squalid home in Slough, Berkshire, on April 24 this year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmad, Can’t be Sent to US Prisons Because Human Rights Would be Violated

A court in Europe has prevented several terror suspects from being extradited to the United States because it claims their human rights would be violated in its”supermax” prison.

Abu Hamza, currently serving a 7-year sentence in Great Britain for inciting his followers to kill, and Babar Ahmad, also serving time in a U.K. prison, along with two others were temporarily spared a trip to Colorado’s high security prison.

The U.S. wants Hamza extradited for his alleged attempt to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999. Ahmad is wanted for his suspected role in raising money online for terror activities.

The European court of human rights said it needed more time to consider whether the conditions at the ADX Florence prison are inhumane. Each inmate there lives in solitary confinement.

Critics say the 22-23 hour-a-day isolation causes mental damage.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Brussels Fines US £150m for Failing to Fly the EU Flag at Funded Projects

Needless: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles condemned the ‘over-bureaucratic rules’ surrounding ERDF money

Brussels has fined Britain more than £150million for failing to display the EU flag on a string of projects part-funded by Europe.

Several schemes were also penalised for failing to use the flag on their letterheads.

The fines relate to £3.8billion given to the UK by the European Regional Development Fund over a seven-year period.

The fund has contributed to dozens of projects including the Eden Project, in Cornwall, the Millennium Bridge, in Gateshead, and the redevelopment of Liverpool’s King’s Dock.

Funding from the ERDF usually has to be matched pound for pound by Government cash.

Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget and critics have long complained that ERDF funding is essentially recycled taxpayers’ money.

This year the UK will contribute £6.4billion more to Brussels than it receives back.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Carousel Fraudsters Must Pay Back £92m

Rev’s biggest ever confiscation

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is demanding two convicted carousel fraudsters pay back £92m in cash, cars and properties or face an extra ten years in prison.

The gang of 21 were sentenced to a total of 74 years in May. They ran a massive missing trader or carousel fraud importing computer chips from Ireland VAT-free and selling them on, with tax added, through a chain of companies before disappearing without paying the tax. One of the chain of linked companies was called Shivani — an anagram of I vanish.

The fraud netted the gang £37.5m, which was invested in property and flash cars.

Officers have already seized a £4.5m flat in Knightsbridge, a house in Harrow worth £2m and two tower blocks in Dubai worth £80m. A Ferrari 360 Modena convertible and a Mercedes 500CL were also seized.

Syed Mubarak Ahmed, 37, formerly of Slough, Berkshire and Shakeel Ahmad, 38, formerly of Astons Northwood, Middlesex must jointly repay £92.3m within eight weeks or see another ten years added to their seven-year prison sentences.

Stephen Farrel, 51, formerly of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, has failed to pay £127,000 and so has had another 30 months added to his sentence.

Mark Frederick Sheasby, 48, formerly of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, paid £285,283 in full, as demanded by the Revenue.

The case, dubbed Operation Devout, was one of the most complex ever brought by Customs. It has involved seven trials and retrials and investigations began in 2002.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Climategate Investigations Are Arrogant Insults

Most transparent, manipulated brazen cover up possible

There were two British investigations into the behavior of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA) exposed in leaked emails. Both reports provide no answers, no explanations and are only telling for what they did not ask or do and how they were manipulated. The blatant level of cover up is frightening. These are acts by people who believe they are unaccountable because they have carried out the greatest scam in history with impunity. The degree of cover up in both cases is an arrogant in-your-face statement that we are the power and are not answerable to anyone. Their cover up almost belittles the ones they are investigating.

Lord Oxburgh, a member of the House of Lords, chaired the first investigation. His bias and self-interest is barefaced and makes his appointment shameless in its temerity. He is chairman of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, which believes carbon capture is potentially a trillion dollar industry. As James Delingpole reports “Oxburgh has paid directorships of two renewable energy companies, and is a paid advisor to Climate Change Capital, the Low Carbon Initiative, Evo-Electric, Fujitsu, and an environmental advisor to Deutsche Bank. Last month we revealed that Oxburgh had failed to declare his directorship of GLOBE, an international network of legislators with ties to the Club of Rome.” It’s as if they said who stands to gain the most by whitewashing what happened. The Club of Rome connection is most telling, because I have documented their role in initiating, identifying, and pursuing CO2 as the basis of capitalist destruction of the planet.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: European Human Rights Court Halts Extradition of Race-Hate Preacher Abu Hamza to U.S.

Hate preacher Abu Hamza could escape extradition to the US because he faces a lengthy jail term if convicted, it emerged today.

In an astonishing ruling, European judges said sentences of up to 50 years for Hamza and three other alleged terrorists could breach their human rights.

The judgment is likely to send the cost of their already expensive legal battle spiralling with many more months of wrangling.

It will also raise further concerns about the European Court of Human Rights’ interference in the British justice system.

The hook-handed radical, 52, and his trusted lieutenant Haroon Aswat, 30, are wanted by the US authorities for plotting to set up a jihadi training camp in Oregon.

Two other men, Baba Ahmad and Seyla Ahsan, are accused of conspiracy to commit terrorist atrocities overseas and supporting terrorist groups.

All have exhausted their rights of appeal in the UK courts and are being held in high security detention.

Their lawyers claimed that if extradited to the US the men faced trial by a military commission and a possible death sentence as well as the risk of ‘extraordinary rendition’ to another country.

But the court rejected these arguments, pointing to assurances from the US government that they would be prosecuted in the normal way.

However, the judges said they would consider whether jail terms of up to 50 years without parole breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’.

For all the defendants except Hamza, they also agreed to examine whether their potential detention in so-called ‘Supermax’ high security prisons was also a breach of human rights.

So far Hamza’s case has cost the public purse £1.1million in legal aid, but the case will now rumble on for many more months, at further cost to taxpayers.

Tory MP Patrick Mercer said: ‘Mr Hamza ought to face justice. In the meantime he continues to live off the fat of the British taxpayer — despite the fact that he clearly wishes those very same taxpayers ill.’

Hamza — who know asks to be known as Mustafa Kamal Mustafa — is currently being held in Belmarsh high security prison.

As well as fighting extradition, he is also engaged in a separate legal battle against attempts by the Home Secretary to strip him of his British passport.

Last year it emerged prison bosses spent £650 on new sink taps in his prison cell. He was also accused of preaching extremist sermons to other prisoner through the water pipes in his cell.

He was jailed for seven years in February 2006 for preaching hate and inciting murder at Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. He would be eligible for release but remains inside while his extradition case continues.

Ahmad, 36, made headlines last year when he won £60,000 in damages from Scotland Yard after police admitted ‘grave abuse tantamount to torture’ when they arrested him in December 2003. He was held for six days then released without charge.

Senior members of the judiciary have raised concerns in recent months over the extent of interference by the ECHR in British justice.

The head of judiciary, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, said in April that the ECHR was threatening to ‘assume an unspoken priority’ over English common law.

Then last month Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger urged Strasbourg judges to show ‘more acute appreciation’ of the independence of English law.

The ruling gives the UK Government until September 2 to submit its case.

The judges stated: ‘The Human Rights Court decided to prolong, until further notice, the interim measures it had adopted indicating to the UK Government that it was in the interests of the proper conduct of the proceedings that the applicants should not be extradited while the cases were being examined by the court’.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: ‘We note that the European Court of Human Rights has decided that all the applications are partly admissible.

‘We await the Court’s judgment on the case. In the meantime these individuals will remain in custody.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Is This Britain’s Most Lucrative Speed Camera? Trap to Net £1.3m a Year (On Road With Just One Serious Injury in 10 Years)

A community is furious after it emerged a new speed camera put up on a road where there has been just one serious injury since 1999 is to net £1.3million a year.

The controversial camera — one of the most lucrative in Britain — has caught an average of 1,843 motorists a month.

With each driver fined £60, that equates to a staggering £1,327,140 a year.

The camera was initially erected at a set of lights at a 30mph stretch of a dual carriageway in Poole, Dorset, to catch motorists jumping red lights.

But in November last year it became the first in the country to be converted to catch drivers going too fast through green lights.

This was done despite official figures showing there has been no fatalities there in at least 11 years and just one serious injury in that time.


As a result thousands of drivers have been fined for driving through the green lights at a few miles over the 30mph limit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Killer of Headmaster Philip Lawrence Will Walk Free Within Days as Parole Board Rubber Stamp Just 14 Years Behind Bars

The killer of headteacher Philip Lawrence was granted parole yesterday after serving just 14 years behind bars.

Learco Chindamo, who as a boy of 15 carried out one of Britain’s most notorious murders, will be freed from jail in the next few days.

The decision follows a parole board hearing last week when Chindamo’s lawyers argued it was safe for him to once again walk the streets.

Sources at Hollesley Bay open prison in Suffolk, where Chindamo is an inmate, said there were no grounds to block his release on licence.

The move will horrify detectives who investigated the fatal stabbing of married father-of-four Mr Lawrence outside his West London school in December 1995.

A senior police source said: ‘Nobody will ever forget the way Chindamo bragged about his crime in an amusement arcade a few hours later.

‘Despite overwhelming evidence, he insisted on pleading not guilty. Fourteen years does not seem ample punishment for such a horrific murder.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Medics Told Jane, 30, She Was Suffering From a ‘Bad Migraine’… Two Days Later She Died of a Brain Virus

When Jane Harrop was admitted to hospital with severe pains in her head and neck, staff told her she was merely suffering a migraine.

Two days later she had died of a rare brain virus.

Her family have now called for answers after the 30-year-old carer was ‘dosed up on morphine and left in a corner to die’ by nurses at the hospital, according to her husband.

He said doctors failed again and again to spot the fatal virus which was killing her and did not transfer her to a specialist brain ward at a nearby hospital because no beds were available.


Hospital records show that hours before her death she had been screaming out in pain, but ward sisters did not call a doctor.

Instead, she was prescribed morphine and nurses put bars around her bed to stop her climbing out.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Terror Arrest Threat for Rail Passenger Who Took Photos on Train to Prove Overcrowding

A rail passenger who took photographs of an overcrowded train carriage was threatened with arrest under anti-terror laws.

Nigel Roberts, 41, was so appalled by the cramped conditions commuters have to endure he warned a ticket inspector that dangerous overcrowding could cost lives.

But when the IT worker showed his mobile phone photos of luggage-crammed aisles and exits he was told it is ‘illegal’ to take such pictures and threatened with prosecution.

The inspector then demanded Mr Roberts’ personal details.


Mr Roberts added: ‘But when I told him I had taken some photos he said it was illegal under the Terrorism Act and that I could be arrested and demanded my name and address.

‘He said there were police officers on the train and I may be arrested for taking the photographs.

‘He said he had powers given to him under the Railways Act to ask me for the information and it was an even more serious offence for me not to comply.

‘I felt as if I was in a police state. He explained that for some reason it was for my own protection but my argument was that every passenger on the train would have needed protection in the event of an emergency.

‘He told me he would make a note of our conversation so that they could be used in the event of a prosecution. He was pleasant enough but it was a frightening and chilling experience for me.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Srdja Trifkovic: The Genocide Myth

The Uses and Abuses of “Srebrenica”

On July 11, the constituent nations of Bosnia-Herzegovina — no longer warring, but far from reconciled — will mark the 15th anniversary of “Srebrenica.” The name of the eastern Bosnian town will evoke different responses from different communities, however. The difference goes beyond semantics. The complexities of the issue remain reduced to a simple morality play devoid of nuance and context.

That is exactly how the sponsors of the “Srebrenica Remembrance Day” — currently before the Canadian House of Commons — want it to be:

Whereas the Srebrenica Massacre, also known as the Srebrenica Genocide, was the killing in July of 1995 of an estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Bosnian Serb forces;

Whereas the Srebrenica Massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II and the largest massacre carried out by Serb forces during the Bosnian war;

Whereas the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, located in The Hague, unanimously decided in the case of Prosecutor v. Krstić that the Srebrenica Massacre was genocide…

The trouble is that the event known to the bill’s sponsors as the “Srebernica genocide” was no such thing. The contention that as many as 8,000 Muslims were killed has no basis in available evidence; it is not an “estimate” but a political construct. The magnitude of casualties at Srebrenica and the context of events have been routinely misrepresented in official reports by the pro-Muslim governments, quasi-non-governmental institutions, and the media.Â

As for The Hague Tribunal, an Orwellian institution with which I am well acquainted, its “unanimous decisions” are as drearily predictable as those in Moscow in 1936. It is not known to the public, however, that those “decisions” are now disputed by a host of senior Western military and civilian officials, NATO intelligence officers and independent intelligence analysts who dispute the official portrayal of the capture of Srebrenica as a unique atrocity in the Bosnian conflict.Â

The Facts — During the Bosnian war between May 1992 and July 1995, several thousand Muslim men lost their lives in Srebrenica and its surroundings. Most of them died in July of 1995 when the enclave fell unexpectedly to the Bosnian Serb Army and the Muslim garrison attempted a breakthrough. Some escaped to the Muslim-held town of Tuzla, 38 miles to the north. Many were killed while fighting their way through; and many others were taken prisoner and executed by the Bosnian Serb army.

The exact numbers remain unknown, disputed, and misrepresented. With 8,000 executed and thousands killed in the fighting, there should have been huge gravesites and satellite evidence of both executions, burials, and any body removals. The UN searches in the Srebrenica vicinity, breathlessly frantic at times, produced two thousand bodies. They included those of soldiers killed in action — both Muslim and Serb — both before and during July 1995.

The Numbers Game — In the documents of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague (ICTY) there is no conclusive breakdown of casualties. That a war crime did take place, that hundreds of Muslim prisoners were killed, is undeniable. The number of its victims remains forensically and demographically unverified, however. According to the former BBC reporter Jonathan Rooper, “from the outset the numbers were used and abused” for political purposes:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

North Africa

New Ally Against Al Qaeda

by Andrea Loquenzi Holzer

With the formation of a new provisional government of the Algerian region of Kabylie, the Western world might have gained a precious ally to fight al-Qaeda in one of its most strategic hideouts. If only someone noticed that this government was established in the first place.

What the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie [MKA] has been protesting is the Islamization of their society that the Algerian government was imposing, and particularly the introduction of Arabic as the official language of the country.

As the President of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Ali Belhadj, stated in the 19990s: “There is no democracy because the only source of power is Allah through the Koran, and not the people. If the people vote against the law of God, this is nothing other than blasphemy. In this case, it is necessary to kill the non-believers for the good reason that they wish to substitute their authority for that of God.”

The official Algerian government seemed not to have problems with such statements, at least up until the FIS and other radical Islamist movements started to gain ground to the detriment of the National Liberation Front Party (FNL), at the general elections that were subsequently shut down by the authorities for fear of loosing control over the country (1991). The rivalry between the Algerian army (which took control of the government) and the Islamist movements, not only lead up to an eleven year-long bloody civil war, but also to an unsustainable situation for normal citizens and especially for Kabyles, who were already being discriminated by the authorities for their “different”(Berber) identity.

After changing the Algerian constitution to grant himself more power, and eliminating presidential term limits through a much debated referendum, on April 9, 2009, the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was confirmed in office for the third time on April 9, 2009, in what many called a “disputed election.” Although for the OECD this election was “fair,” many Algerian parties boycotted it.

The independent government of Kabylie, a mountainous region situated in the north of Algeria, was therefore formed in Paris on June 1st, in an attempt to contravene the influence of the Algerian national government. The formation of the new Kabyle cabinet did not get much attention across the media, but it could mark a defining moment in the struggle against radical Islam, given the fact that the MKA is certainly far more pro-Western than its official counterpart.

As the movement leader, Ferhat Mehenni, explained, “We are setting up our provisional government so that we no longer undergo the injustice, contempt, domination, frustration and discrimination that we have endured since 1962.” The Kabyles have in fact begun demanding autonomy since the end of the Algerian War of Independence against France, 48 years ago.

Even though, at least on the surface, the actual Algerian government does not seem to care much — Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on June 2nd dismissed Mehenni’s announcement as “nothing but din”— this small cabinet-in-exile could end up causing more problems than expected. It is no coincidence that the Algerian authorities have already issued an arrest warrant for leader of the MAK.

Mehenni set-up a cabinet of nine ministers for his new government that should now represent five to seven million of Berbers (the numbers are disputed). His gesture was regarded by many as a provocation against the Algerian authorities, but apparently the 59 year-old political activist (and singer) has a lot of support from his people. As one Kabyle student, Idir, told the press, “national unity has not existed since the events in Kabylie in 2001. People seem to forget that 126 young Kabyle people were assassinated [then] by a corrupt government that has no legitimacy, and that no responsibility has been established for these crimes against humanity.”

The creation of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie dates back to 2001, during the so-called “Black Spring.” At that time, the Algerian government tried (and partially succeeded) to suffocate the protests of the Berber activists who were demanding autonomy for the region. During the riots that ensued, hundreds of Kabylies were killed and many others injured.

Tensions between the Kabyle leaders and the central government started to erupt during the early sixties, but the real fight began in 1980, when the government tried to ban Berber poetry from universities to prevent new generations from speaking their ancestors’ language. Later, during the civil War of the 1990s, many Algerian authorities found themselves fighting against the very Islamist movements that they previously supported and endorsed.

Given their natural resilience, the Kabyles (who first resisted the Roman and the Ottoman invasions, and have been fighting for their independence throughout the last century) could be most helpful against al Qaeda in North Africa. As Walid Phares, of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies in Washington DC, noted, “[the Kabyles] are mostly secular and believe in democracy, and could become an efficient ally against the Jihadists.” Phares added, however: “al Qaeda and the Salafists have strong bases in Algeria, and the Kabyles resist them fiercely so we have a strategic interest in helping them, but without crumbling our good relations with the Algerian secular Government”.

This is the problem: the diplomatic relations between US and Algeria are better now than ever; Washington and Algeria have started what is considered a “fruitful collaboration” on issues such as counterterrorism and law enforcement. And even if Mehenni’s move is certainly provocative, it still lacks what counts most for any form of democracy: support from the masses.

Mehenni is very popular among youngsters in Kabylie, that is for sure, but there are no polls to support him and his new government-in-exile will likely have to knock on many doors before someone opens them. The international community, however, might benefit from collaborating with Kabylie’s new provisional cabinet: al Qaeda’s linked groups are still strong in Europe, and the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa are still committed to destroying Western targets and building up an Islamist state within Algeria — especially after the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) joined forces with al Qaeda. This is why an ally that knows the turf and — most of all — is totally committed to fighting radical Islam, would probably be more valuable than a stronger and bigger ally with no such background .

The US State Department does not even mention the MKA, Mehenni or his new government on its website, where instead there is an interesting contest taking place: participants are asked to send a video clip regarding democracy that begins with the sentence “Democracy is.…” About Algeria, though, the very first thing that is made clear is:

“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to Algeria to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety. Terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, ambushes, and assassinations occur regularly, particularly in the Kabylie region of the country…Therefore, make sure to practice sound personal security measures and have a safe and happy holiday season….”

Despite what the USSD says, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika did not do much to oppose terrorism during his two terms: in 2005, for example, a referendum was passed in Algeria allowing certain terrorist combatants to be pardoned. After that, approximately 2,500 Islamist fighters returned to their safe havens and got back to fighting.

During WWI, Woodrow Wilson’s principle of self-determination helped the Allies against the Central Powers when the Bolsheviks came to power and declared independence, but the same principle caused many problems used to give power to certain nationalities over their minorities.

The region of Kabylie, inhabited by a majority of Berbers, only asks for freedom, not power. Perhaps someone might start paying attention before it is too late?

           — Hat tip: A. Millar[Return to headlines]

Pilgrims to Cairo to Honour Prophet’s Granddaughter

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 8 — She was the granddaughter of the Prophet and a visit to her tomb has become a tradition for many Egyptians. She was called Sayyeda Zainab and, according to tradition, she was named by her grandfather. A very important woman for Muslims — Muslim women in particular — who commemorate her by a visit to her mausoleum in Cairo, venerating her like a saint. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel’s Stalemate

Seyla Benhabib

“I was in Israel as a visiting professor at the Meitar Center of Advanced Legal Studies — writes Seyla Benhabib, philosopher and professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University — and I watched in disbelief and pain as Turkey, the country of my birth threatened at one point to go to war against Israel — a country I feel deep affection for, whose politics I have followed since the 1968 War, where many members of my family, including one sister, lives and where my Father is buried. Israeli social and political forces are at a stalemate: whether one advocates a one-state or a two-state solution certainly matters but there are deeper cultural, economic, and theological forces at work which make it highly unlikely that a viable solution can be found soon to the quagmire in Israel-Palestine.”…

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

Mother of Baby Saved by Israelis Wants Him to Murder Them

Ha’aretz reports on a documentary by Channel 10 reporter Shlomi Eldar about a Palestinian Arab baby with a rare disease being treated in Israel: In Sheba’s pediatric hemato-oncology department was Mohammed Abu Mustafa, a four-and-a-half-month-old Palestinian infant. Protruding from his tiny body were pipes attached to big machines. His breathing was labored.

“His days may be numbered. He is suffering from a genetic defect that is causing the failure of his immune system,” said the baby’s mother, Raida, from the Gaza Strip, when she emerged from the isolation room. “I had two daughters in Gaza,” she continued, her black eyes shimmering. “Both died because of immune deficiency. In Gaza I was told all the time that there is no treatment for this and that he is doomed to die. The problem now is how to pay for the [bone marrow] transplant. There is no funding.”

“I got to her after all the attempts to find a donation for the transplant had failed,” [Eldar] relates. “I understood that I was the baby’s last hope, but I didn’t give it much of a chance. At the time, Qassam rockets falling on Sderot opened every newscast. In that situation, I didn’t believe that anyone would be willing to give a shekel for a Palestinian infant.”

He was wrong. Hours after the news item about Mohammed was broadcast, the hospital switchboard was jammed with callers. An Israeli Jew whose son died during his military service donated $55,000, and for the first time the Abu Mustafa family began to feel hopeful. Only then did Eldar grasp the full dramatic potential of the story. He told his editor, Tali Ben Ovadia, that he wanted to continue accompanying the family.

…Nevertheless, this idyllic situation developed into a deep crisis that led to the severance of the relations and what appeared to be the end of the filming. From an innocent conversation about religious holidays, Raida Abu Mustafa launched into a painful monologue about the culture of the shahids — the martyrs — and admitted, during the complex transplant process, that she would like to see her son perpetrate a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is ours,” she declared. “We are all for Jerusalem, the whole nation, not just a million, all of us. Do you understand what that means — all of us?”

She also explained to Eldar exactly what she had in mind. “For us, death is a natural thing. We are not frightened of death. From the smallest infant, even smaller than Mohammed, to the oldest person, we will all sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Jerusalem. We feel we have the right to it. You’re free to be angry, so be angry.”

And Eldar was angry. “Then why are you fighting to save your son’s life, if you say that death is a usual thing for your people?” he lashes out in one of the most dramatic moments in the film.

“It is a regular thing,” she smiles at him. “Life is not precious. Life is precious, but not for us. For us, life is nothing, not worth a thing. That is why we have so many suicide bombers. They are not afraid of death. None of us, not even the children, are afraid of death. It is natural for us. After Mohammed gets well, I will certainly want him to be a shahid. If it’s for Jerusalem, then there’s no problem. For you it is hard, I know; with us, there are cries of rejoicing and happiness when someone falls as a shahid. For us a shahid is a tremendous thing.”

That was enough to drain Eldar’s motivation and dissolve all the compassion he had felt for Raida and Mohammed.

“It was an absolutely terrible rift,” he recalls. “After I saw how intensely she fought for her son’s life, I could not accept what she said. I had seen her standing for hours, caressing him, warming him up, kissing him. At the time I also had an infant of Mohammed’s age at home. I couldn’t understand where it came from in her. I was devastated. It was all so paradoxical, too, because just as she was talking about the shahids, two Jewish women entered the room and brought her toys and a stroller as presents.”

Raida’s confession was totally at odds with Eldar’s perception of her until then: “The whole time I accompanied her, I saw a caring mother who was at her baby’s bedside night and day. She didn’t eat, she lost weight and she cried. I myself saw to it that she ate. I saw her faint when she was informed there was a small chance her son would get well. I saw her when she was told there was no longer a chance, and she stood there and caressed Mohammed, with tears, as though parting from him.

“So I was unable to explain how on the one hand, she fought for her child’s life, but at the same time told me that his life is not precious. I never believed I would hear that from her. That’s why I decided to stop shooting. I had come to tell a lovely story, not a story about a mother who destines her son to be a shahid.”

What did you feel when she said that to you?

“That I had been betrayed, that it was a knife in the back. I didn’t want to see Raida any more. It also drove me to greater despair. I asked myself, ‘Well, is that the conclusion that comes from this story?’ But in the end I started filming again. Why? I don’t have a good answer; I think it was from curiosity. I wanted to solve the mystery for myself.”

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Obama ‘Guarantees’ No New Jewish Construction

Palestinians satisfied with behind-the-scenes results of White House meeting

TEL AVIV — President Obama extracted a guarantee from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jewish construction in most of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem will be frozen for months to come, according to a senior Palestinian Authority negotiator.

Last November, under intense U.S. pressure, Netanyahu agreed to a temporary halt to new Jewish construction in the West Bank. The prime minister claimed at the time he would not extend the freeze beyond its 10-month deadline, which is set to expire in September.

Following his White House meeting with Obama Tuesday, Netanyahu sidestepped questions about whether he was prepared to extend the West Bank construction moratorium beyond the September deadline.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

IDF Reveals Hizbullah Positions

Hizbullah will likely fire close to 800 rockets into Israel every day during a future war, senior IDF officers said on Wednesday, as the Northern Command declassified for the first time evidence of Hizbullah’s growing presence inside close to 160 villages throughout southern Lebanon.

Using the village of el-Khiam — located about 4 km. north of the border — as an example, the IDF showed extensive footage, videos and maps of homes that Hizbullah has taken over and used to store weapons caches and establish command-and-control centers.


Hizbullah has an estimated 40,000 short-, medium- and long-range missiles.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran to Open Nuke Plant in Sept.

Iran will open its first nuclear power plant by September, according to Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

The plant in the southern city of Bushehr passed one of its “most important and final tests, the hot water test, before its inauguration,” Salehi said, according to an Iranian news report cited by AFP on Wednesday.

“Grounds are prepared for the final opening of the reactor. After 37 years, the grounds have been prepared for the opening,” he said.

“We have reached the point of no return,” Salehi said of the power plant.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran Halts Woman’s Death by Stoning

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani could still face death penalty, despite reprieve that follows international campaign led by her children

A 43-year-old Iranian woman will not be stoned to death after an international campaign launched by her children.

It is unclear whether the authorities have lifted the death sentence for alleged adultery against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani or if she faces execution by another means.

Mohammadi Ashtiani endured a sentence of 99 lashes after being convicted in May 2006 of conducting an “illicit relationship outside marriage”. But her case was reopened when a court in Tabriz suspected her of murdering her husband.

She was acquitted, but the adultery charge was reviewed and a death penalty handed down on the basis of “judge’s knowledge” — a loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present.

Her case has highlighted the growing use of the death penalty in a country that has executed more than 100 people this year.

Her son Sajad, 22, and daughter Farideh, 17, told the Guardian their mother had been unjustly accused and punished for something she did not do, prompting international appeals for the death sentence to be lifted.

Under Iranian sharia law, the sentenced individual is buried up to the neck (or to the waist in the case of men), and those attending the public execution are called upon to throw stones. If the convicted person manages to free themselves from the hole, the death sentence is commuted.

Iran, embarrassed by the international attention over stonings, has rarely practised it in public in recent years. The country executed 388 people last year — more than any other country apart from China, according to Amnesty International. Most are hanged.

Mina Ahadi, a human rights activist in Germany who helped Mohammadi Ashtiani’s children launch their campaign internationally, says she is aware of 12 other women in Iran who face death by stoning

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran: Bahai Minority Targeted by the Iranian Regime

On June 26, at Ivel, a village in Mazandaran province, 50 houses of the Bahai faithful were demolished, amid the indifference of local authorities. The incident is not the first that strikes the largest religious minority in Iran. The community, considered heretical by the Iranian Shiites, has been persecuted since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Iran’s Islamic regime’s repression affects not only dissenters and political opponents. Often religious minorities also end up in the crosshairs of the authorities, such as Baha’is. On June 26, in Ivel — a village in Mazandaran province — about 50 houses of the Baha’i faithful were demolished.

Natoly Derakshan, witnessed the demolition and told Radio Farda that the homes were first burned and destroyed by four bulldozers. “We immediately informed the governor of the province, but no one intervened to stop the demolition,” denounced the man who is also Baha’i.

The June episode is not the first to target Iran’s largest religious minority, which counts about 300 thousand faithful. Some Baha’i cemeteries were desecrated last May 29 in the city of Mashhad. Derakhshan said that the Baha’is had been driven from their Ivel homes in 1983 and since then have been unable to take up regular residence. “ Baha’i were asked to convert to Islam — he recalls — they refused and were beaten and thrown out of their homes”. Since that incident, according to Radio Farda reports, Baha’i must obtain an annual permit from the Justice Department to return to their homes during the period of harvest. The provincial deputy governor has repeatedly said that Baha’i farmers are a tumour for Iranian society and as such must be removed.

The Bahai religion was founded around 1860 by the Persian nobleman Baha’u’llah, new self-appointed prophet and continuer of the work of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. In contrast then with the Islamic statement of the last prophet Muhammad. The community is considered heretical by Iran’s Shiite authorities and has been persecuted since the Islamic revolution of 1979. The government continues to claim that all Iranians can profess their faith and enjoy the same rights in the country. The reality, however, is that in over 30 years of repression, hundreds of Baha’i faithful have been executed or murdered, with just as many ending up in prison, tens of thousands have been deprived of employment, pensions and denied the right to set up commercial activities. All their institutions are prohibited and their sacred places, cemeteries and properties have been confiscated or destroyed by the government. Young people can not go to university, if they do not declare themselves “Islamic”.

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

Lebanon: Israel, Hezbollah Strong in Southern Villages

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JULY 8 — On the fourth anniversary of the war against Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon, the Israeli army today revealed part of the information it possesses on the military deployment of this Shia Muslim militia in the south Lebanese villages, and on its military arsenal. The military spokesman said that since the end of the conflict, Hezbollah has transferred its ammunition dumps from open areas in the south of Lebanon to around 160 densely populated villages, next to schools, mosques and clinics, using “the strategy of human shields” on a large scale. According to Israel, Hezbollah has moved at least 40 thousand rockets, with different ranges and calibres, to these villages. The rockets are able to hit the north of Israel, as well as Tel Aviv. Hundreds of Iranian military advisors have helped Hezbollah set up a vast communication network, dig tunnels and build arms and explosives depots. Hezbollah can count on a force of 20 thousand militias in the south of Lebanon, divided into groups of a few dozen men in each village. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey — Erdogan’s Ways and Contradictions

Turkey’s prime minister is having to manage a major crisis with Israel, something of great concern to the United States and Syria. At the same time, his government is unable to find a political solution to Turkey’s Kurdish question.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — The Obama administration is behind the secret meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Israeli Trade Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer. The Americans are eager to end the rift between Ankara and Jerusalem, which began in the spring and climaxed in the 31 May incident that saw the death of eight Turks on board of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara after it was stormed by Israeli Special Forces sent in to stop it from reaching Gaza. In Israel, the meeting has also caused a rift between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who represent the extreme right in the Israeli cabinet.

In the end, it was Mr Davutoglu who rocked the Turkish-Israeli relationship. On his way back from a visit to Kyrgyzstan, an energy-rich, Turkic-speaking Muslim nation in Central Asia, he threatened to bar Israeli planes from Turkish airspace and cut off diplomatic relations. For Davutoglu, relations between the two countries can get back to normal only if Israel apologises for killing Turkish citizens, accepts an international commission of inquiry, and pays compensation.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has become pro-Turkey since current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan came to power, is very concerned about the situation. “If the relationship between Turkey and Israel is not renewed, it will be very difficult for Turkey to play a role in negotiations” and revive the Middle East peace process. This, “without a doubt [would] affect the stability in the region,” the Syrian leader said, who put the blame for the situation created by the 31 May incident squarely on Israel.

Al-Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper, and Milliyet, a Turkish newspaper, reported that on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Toronto, US President Obama asked Prime Minister Erdogan to drop his demand for an international commission into the flotilla incident, because it could have negative repercussions for Turkey itself.

In Ankara’s diplomatic circles, Obama’s words are seen as especially important. The current US administration is well known for its pro-Turkish stance, best illustrated by the president’s visit a year ago to Ankara. His address to the Turkish parliament gave a boost to the current Turkish leadership and acknowledged Turkey’s role in the Muslim world, ending the rift caused by Ankara’s decision not to allow the United States to use its bases on Turkish soil against Iraq under the previous Bush administration. What’s more, Obama is known for his less than enthusiastic relations with the current Israeli government, which he views as inflexible if not outright extremist, and a danger to US regional interests. For Israel, Turkey’s enhanced role and renewed place in the Muslim world are irritants.

In Turkey though, the Kurdish question remains THE major issue in Turkish politics, a sore point at least since the founding of the modern Turkish state. In recent months, Turkish media have had their fill of stories about violence, deaths and funerals caused by the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), the main Kurdish nationalist movement. There is not a day that goes by without reports about clashes between the Turkish military and the PKK or terrorist attacks in Turkish cities. For a number of media observers, the current situation is a throwback to the nineties, when the Kurdish insurgency was at its height. Many are wondering how things got out of hand, especially since just a year ago, the Justice and Development (AKP) government, which elected 70 MPs in Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey, had announced a new, more open approach to solve the Kurdish question. Since then, the Kurdish language has been allowed on the airwaves, Kurdish name places have been re-introduced and even controls have been eased.

However, Turkey’s old establishment, centred around the main opposition parties (the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP), have reacted negatively to the government’s more liberal policies. At the same time, most Kurds and the PKK have regarded the government’s actions as inadequate. In fact, Kurds want their identity to be recognised in the constitution. They also want autonomy in southeast Turkey as well as a general amnesty for their fighters, including the release of PKK chief Abdullah Öcalan. Even so, some media have reported that the latter’s role has been questioned by elements in the current government, who accuse him of opportunism if not outright complicity with groups in the old establishment.

In the end, Turkey’s Supreme Court intervened as it does from time to time to dissolve the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), quickly replaced by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which has 20 members of parliament.

In liberal circles, Erdogan has been rapped for not doing enough, bowing to pressures from the CHP and the MHP. However, undeniably he has pushed Turkish society further down the path of democratisation, to the point that the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD) has called on the government to change the constitution to recognise Turkey as a nation founded by Kurds and Turks and to grant a autonomy to southeast region. Just five years ago, this would have been unimaginable. Even Erdogan told MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, who called for the return of martial law in Kurdish areas, that the process of democratisation would not stop.

For some Turkish analysts like Asli Aydintasbas, Turkey’s activism and greater geopolitical role is not going down well in Israel, concerned that a pro-active Turkey is changing the region’s balance of power, especially in relation to the current government.

Many in Turkey believe that Israel is involved in PKK attacks, including conspiracy theorists like Erdogan and his allies. However, for Asli Aydintasbas, there is no evidence that Israel is behind the PKK.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that the PKK is getting aid from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iranian-Kurdish nationalist party, whose activists are trained by Israel.

This is enough to fuel the belief in Turkey that Israel is involved with the Kurds, and that there is a connection between attacks in Turkey and the 31 May flotilla affair, especially after Turkey expressed its support for Hamas. AKP Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik is among the believers; for him, the PKK bombing in Iskenderun and Mavi Marmara incident are linked.

According to some analysts, Turkey’s Islamists and nationalists would push for an end to relations with Israel because of the latter’s involvement with the Kurds. They also note that Israel has been involved with Kurds in Iraq and Iran for a decade.

Turkey is also entering a new, more intense political phase. The Supreme Court has begun deliberations to determine whether the constitution can be amended through a popular vote, possibly shelving the Kemalist state, this a year before the next parliamentary elections.

Ultimately, as Russian Orientalist Vasily Vladimirovich Bartold put it, a great deal of knowledge is needed to understand Turkey because of the country’s great capacity to shift and move irrespective of who is in power.

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

U.A.E. Diplomat Mulls Hit on Iran’s Nukes

The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that the benefits of bombing Iran’s nuclear program outweigh the short-term costs such an attack would impose.

In unusually blunt remarks, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba publicly endorsed the use of the military option for countering Iran’s nuclear program, if sanctions fail to stop the country’s quest for nuclear weapons.

“I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Mr. al-Otaiba said. “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.”

“If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,’ my answer is still the same: ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.’ I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Rostov: Pentecostal Church Denied Building Permit Because of Orthodox Pressure

The Christ the Saviour Pentecostal Church was planning to build a place of worship in the Cossack village of Veshenskaia. A petition with only 20 signatures (out of a population of 10,000) was enough to get the Protestant Church labelled “morally corrupt”.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Minorities continue to suffer from discrimination and have limits put on their right to religious freedom in Russia. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical Pentecostals are now having a rough time because of the rising influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the country.

The complaint comes from the Slavic Centre for Justice and Law (SCJL). In an interview, lawyer Inna Zabrebina told the SCJL that the administration of Sholokhov (Rostov Province) refused to grant Christ the Saviour Pentecostal Church a permit to build a house of worship in the Cossack village of Veshenskaia. The decision was taken after a group of local Orthodox Christians led by Archpriest Vladimir Poliakov objected to the construction arguing, “we do not need more churches.”

For lawyer Zabrebina, local authorities acted unlawfully. “No doubt, representatives of the local government should pay attention to the opinion of residents of the district and heed it.” However,” a “refusal must be legislatively based.” In this case, “It is not clear why the administration of the district heeded these 20 Orthodox citizens, while in the Cossack village of Veshenskaia there are around 10,000 residents.”

“There have never been any complaints against the ‘Christ the Saviour’ Pentecostal Church of Christians of the Evangelical faith,” Ms Zabrebina said. “The land has been prepared in the required form, the parcel of land is the legal property of the KhVE Church, and it was purchased for the construction of a house of worship.”

In this case,” the lawyer added, “the decision to refuse the Church permission to construct a house of worship was made in favour of another religious organisation” on the basis of an “appeal signed, inter alia, by an Orthodox priest,” using “a confrontational tone, offensive to the Protestant Pentecostal Church which allegedly ‘corrupts people morally’.”

This, she insisted, violates the constitution of the Russian Federation, which “guarantees the equality of rights without respect to religious affiliation.”

On such issues, Russian officials often violate the law or even ignore it, the lawyer said, not realising that they are breaking the law.

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

South Asia

Malaysia: Three Young Muslim Men on Trial for Attack on Kuala Lumpur Church

An explosion and subsequent fire destroyed the Metro Tabernacle Church. Other churches, including the Catholic Church of the Assumption affected. Episodes date to January, after the High Court decision allowing the use of the word “Allah” even to define the Christian God.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The trial of three young Muslim men accused of having bombed and set fire to of Metro Tabernacle Church in the capital in January is in its second day.

On the night between 7 and 8 January, an explosion damaged the administrative offices of Metro Tabernacle Church. Soon after, three other Christian places of worship, including the Catholic Church of the Assumption in Petaling Jaya, were attacked (see Malaysia: Four Christian churches attacked over controversy on the use of “Allah”)

Several other incidents against places of worship followed; 7 churches, a Sikh temple, two mosques and three Islamic places of worship. The incidents seem to have been provoked by the country’s High Court decision to allow a Catholic newspaper use of the word “Allah” to refer to the Christian God.

Two of the defendants, and Raja Muhd Faizal and Raja Muhd Idzham, are brothers and the third, Azuwan Sahah Ahmad is a friend. They were arrested after one of them turned up at the ER for treatment of some severe burns. Their lawyer claims they are innocent.

If convicted, the three face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The prosecutor has prepared 25 witnesses, including several policemen, a fireman and eyewitnesses, who saw a group of youths on a motorbike arriving at the Metro Tabernacle Church minutes before the explosion and fire. Two days ago, six witnesses were heard, yesterday three others, including the doctor who treated one of the accused.

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

Far East

Chinese Outsourcer Seeks U.S. Workers With IQ of 125 and Up

Bleum Inc. sets IQ threshold at 140 for its hires in China, however

Computerworld — A Chinese IT outsourcing company that has started hiring new U.S. computer science graduates to work in Shanghai requires prospective job candidates to demonstrate an IQ of 125 or above on a test it administers to sort out job applicants.

In doing so, Bleum Inc. is following a hiring practice it applies to college recruits in China. But a new Chinese college graduate must score an IQ of 140 on the company’s test.

An IQ test is the first screen for any U.S. or Chinese applicant.

The lower IQ threshold for new U.S. graduates reflects the fact that the pool of U.S. talent available to the company is smaller than the pool of Chinese talent, Bleum said.

In China, Bleum receives thousands of applications weekly, said CEO Eric Rongley. Rongley is a U.S. citizen who founded Bleum in 2001; his career prior to that included stints working in offshore development in India and later in China.

The company employs about 1,000 and hires about 1% or less of the people who apply for jobs there. “It is much harder to get into Bleum than it is to Harvard,” Rongly said.

Shanghai-based Bleum has been recruiting new computer engineering graduates in the Atlanta, Chicago and Denver areas. If a student meets the minimum requirement on an IQ test, he then take a skills test, similar to the hiring process Bleum follows in China.

Bleum has already hired its first U.S. recruits — a group of five people who left for Shanghai this month, said Rongley. They will work in China for year and then return to the U.S. to work.

Many employers do measure intelligence to cull candidates from pools of applicants, but they typically call the exams aptitude tests, said Dennis Garlick, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of an upcoming book called Intelligence and the Brain.

An IQ of 140 is extremely high, representing about the top 1% of the population, said Garlick. But he said that even though some studies have shown a correlation between IQ and job performance, IQ is a “crude assessment tool” when it comes to sorting out job applicants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Google Caves to China

[Here we have a Western company, nurtured by America’s free market economy actively contributing to the furtherance of a repressive totalitarian regime that seeks to strangle democratic reforms and continues to pose a direct threat to the United States. This is a slap in the face for all free Americans who have assisted with Google’s success. The unofficial motto of Google is “Don’t be evil”. Their actions demonstrate a distinct degree of hypocrisy. Cisco, Yahoo and Google all sprang from the same capitalistic cradle of Silicon Valley and, somehow, manage to overlook the duplicitous nature of their collaboration with Communist China. — Z]

For the past three months, Google has been automatically re-directing Chinese Internet users to a non-censored version of the search site based in Hong Kong. But now that the company is seeking to renew its license with the mainland, it is directing to the Chinese site (, which will include a link for users to navigate their way to the Hong Kong version (

Some don’t think this capitulation will appease Chinese authorities. “If the Chinese government isn’t happy with them running uncensored search results out of the Hong Kong site, I don’t see why they’ll be any happier just because it becomes one click away,” Danny Sullivan, a search-engine analyst, told Bloomberg News.

Chinese officials have yet to comment.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Ariz. Sheriff Gets Death Threats Over New Law

A high-profile Arizona law-enforcement officer who has been outspoken about his support for the state’s controversial new immigration law is receiving death threats, reported late Monday.

Some of the threats against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu were from the Mexican mafia and drug cartel members.

Outside law enforcement teams brought in to investigate the threats found them credible.

Babeu was very outspoken about the need to secure the state’s border with Mexico — a known entry point to the U.S. for drug smugglers and illegal immigrant traffickers — and supports law SB1070, which makes illegal immigration a state crime.

Despite the threats, Babeu declined a personal security detail because the county resources were already stretched.

“I understand this threat, yet I will not run in fear or change my support for SB1070 and my demands for President Obama to secure our border with 3,000 armed soldiers in Arizona and start building the fence again,” he said.

“I’m always armed, and as every law enforcement member knows, we always have to be aware of our surroundings and possible threats.”

Pinal County is nearly 5,400 square miles and much of the desert is known as a drug and human trafficking corridor.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Immigrants Are Germany’s Future, Says Integration Commissioner

With one in three young children born in Germany coming from an imimigrant background, Germany is quickly becoming even more diverse. There’s a lot of work ahead in solving the problem of Germany’s ethnic underclass.

Immigrants are Germany’s future, according to Maria Boehmer, the government’s commissioner for integration, and yet foreigners living in Germany still face immense hurdles to successful integration.

“We must make integration more compulsory during this session of parliament,” Boehmer urged Wednesday in Berlin during the government’s eighth public report on people with an immigrant background living in the country. Boehmer advocated better access to education for immigrants and an acceleration of the naturalization process.

Boehmer’s report indicated that integration had improved, with more migrants learning German, finishing school and gaining access to professional training. Yet she also reported that immigrants still had less access to education and work opportunities than their German counterparts, and were more often affected by poverty.

The Minister stressed that this decade would determine “if we are able to secure social cohesion long-term,” especially in light of the fact that one third of Germany’s children come from migrant backgrounds — making migrant children the only growing faction in Germany’s aging population.

The Germany of tomorrow

“Immigrants are the skilled labor force of tomorrow,” the Integration Commissioner said in her speech, which otherwise largely addressed impediments to successful integration.

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Marie Boehmer is pushing legislation to make education more accessible

Dr. Gunilla Fincke of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Immigration and Migration called Boehmer’s statement “very optimistic.”

Migrants are now more likely to attend university-preparatory high schools than in previous years, but as a whole they are still not on par with their German counterparts. Of immigrant youth, 43 percent only get as far as Germany’s basic school leaving certificate, compared with 31 percent of ethnic Germans. Thirteen percent of non-Germans aged 15-19 drop out of school altogether.

“That’s double the percentage of the native population,” said Fincke, who finds it alarming that “these people [without a qualification] will not be able to take part in the labor market,” becoming candidates for government aid.

“First and foremost we need more investment in the education sector,” Fincke said. “If you look at comparisons with other industrialized countries, Germany is investing much less in education, and that is wrong.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lawyer Who Defended ‘American Taliban’ Now Heads DOJ Suit Against Arizona

The federal prosecutor tasked with quarterbacking the Obama administration’s high-profile case against Arizona’s immigration law is no stranger to controversy or the limelight.

Justice Department attorney Tony West is a member of the so-called “Gitmo 9” — a group of lawyers who have represented terror suspects.

West, the assistant attorney general for the department’s Civil Division, once represented “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, a controversial move that West feared would derail his political ambitions and helped delay his nomination to the department for three months in 2009.

He helped negotiate a 20-year sentence for Lindh, an American citizen who was 21 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. Under the deal, Lindh avoided a life sentence by pleading guilty to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons, and the government dropped its most serious charges, including conspiracy to kill Americans and engaging in terrorism.

Now West will lead the U.S. effort to block Arizona’s immigration law from its July 29 implementation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Belgian Bishops Ignored Parents on Grossly Sexually Explicit Catholic ‘Catechism’

By Hilary White

BRUSSELS, July 6, 2010 ( — A possible cover-up by the Belgian Catholic hierarchy of a vast scandal of sex abuse of minors by priests and bishops is likely to be less shocking to a group of parents who spent years trying, with no success, to have a graphic, sexually explicit “catechism” textbook withdrawn from Catholic schools.

On June 24, the very day police were raiding the offices of the Archdiocese of Brussels and the home of Cardinal Godfreed Danneels, an article appeared in the Brussels Journal detailing the cardinal’s opposition to efforts to stop the catechism that had been written and approved by Belgian Catholic authorities.

Alexandra Colen, a Catholic member of the Belgian parliament, wrote that because of this “perverted little catechism,” “hundreds of children who were not raped physically were molested spiritually during the catechism lessons.”

Intended to be used for religious education classes in Catholic schools, the text, a portion of which has been obtained by (LSN), includes a drawing of a naked infant girl, captioned to show her saying she welcomed stroking of her genitals, “I like to take my knickers off with friends,” and “I want to be in the room when mum and dad have sex.” The illustration also shows a naked little boy and girl “playing doctor.” The little boy says, “Look, my willy is big.”

Colen told in an interview that apart from the section with the drawing, “a lot of the text itself was either ambiguous or subversive” on Catholic teaching. The text, she said, discusses the Ten Commandments, and uses them as a starting point to discuss masturbation and tell the children they “shouldn’t feel guilty.”

“It talks about oral sex, terms we never used with the children at home.” The worst of it, she said, is that the text “pretends to be Catholic teaching.”

“The lessons themselves are perverted. [The students] weren’t learning anything about the Catholic religion.”

In 1997, when Colen discovered the text among her 13-year-old daughter’s school books, she launched a campaign to have it removed from Catholic schools. She sent a letter to Cardinal Danneels insisting that the text be withdrawn, saying it “breeds pedophiles.”

“When I see this drawing and its message, I get the distinct impression that this catechism textbook is designed intentionally to make 13 and 14 year olds believe that toddlers enjoy genital stimulation,” she wrote.

After ignoring numerous letters and requests for meetings, Danneels refused to receive a delegation of parents who had resorted to demonstrating outside his residence, later telling press, “I shall not be pressured.” But the media coverage resulted in a flood of interest from concerned parents who had similar stories to tell of their children’s Catholic schools. Those parents told Colen that, “There were schools where children were taught to put condoms over artificial penises and where they had to watch videos showing techniques of masturbation and copulation,” she wrote in the Journal.

Colen said that it only then became clear to her and the other parents that the same corruption was to be found throughout the Belgian Catholic school system.

The group’s efforts to bring the catechism to the attention of other members of the Belgian hierarchy went nowhere. The Bishop of Antwerp, Paul Van den Berghe, the Episcopal supervisor for education, at first told a delegation that he would investigate, but five days later publicly retracted that promise. Efforts to reach the Papal Nuncio, the ambassador of the Vatican and a close friend of Danneels, were also rebuffed.

“When I had exhausted all possibilities and it was clear that the Belgian church did not want to hear the parents, I decided to sever all ties with the Catholic education system,” Colen wrote. She and other parents began homeschooling their children, and Colen sent letters detailing her experiences to cardinals around the world and at the Vatican.

The letters, which have been obtained by LSN, received much more favorable responses. Mgr. Clemens, Cardinal Ratzinger’s personal secretary at the Congregation of the Faith in Rome wrote, “Please be assured that this Dicastery will give your report all due consideration.” The Canadian Cardinal Gagnon said he appreciated “the just battle which you are conducting.” “The matter which you raised is very important,” wrote Cardinal Arinze from Rome.

Colen also received favorable responses from Cardinals Meisner of Cologne, Wamala of Uganda, Vidal of the Philippines, Williams of New Zealand, Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo, O’Connor of New York and Pio Laghi, Prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education. Many of these promised to write to Danneels or help in other ways.

Colen also points out that the disgraced Bishop Roger Vangheluwe was responsible for the Catholic University of Leuven and the Seminary of Bruges, where the catechism’s editors were professors. In April, Vangheluwe resigned as bishop of Bruges after admitting to having sexually abused his own nephew throughout his clerical career.

“Today,” Colen wrote, in light of the news of state-sponsored investigation into episcopal cover-ups of child abuse “this case, that dates from 12 years ago, assumes a new and ominous significance.”

She told LSN, “At the time, we said, how is it possible that the bishops allow this. But then we heard about Msgr. Vangheluwe and we realised they weren’t just ‘allowing.’ It is from the top down.”

Colen told LSN that although Belgium has both state-sponsored public and Catholic schools, about 80% of children attend the Church schools. The damage done to Belgium’s children and to society by such material in schools, she said, is “therefore enormous.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]