Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100713

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Acropolis Closed Due to Strike
»Italy Budget Gets ECOFIN OK
»Union Pension Funds, The States, And Financial Ruin
»American Airlines’ Alliance May Win Antitrust OK This Week
»Barack Obama and His Glory Days Are Past
»Black Activists Condemn NAACP Resolution Against Tea Party Movement
»Dell to Aid Microsoft on ‘Cloud Computing’
»Michelle Obama Rouses NAACP Before Vote Condemning ‘Racist’ Elements of Tea Party
»Middle-Age Women Sexually Adventurous as Fertility Dwindles
»Missing Iranian Scientist Surfaces in Washington
»NY Muslims Want ‘Eid’ On School Calendar
»The Black Conservative Coalition
»Video: Democrat Congressman ‘Unaware’ Of the New Black Panther Voter Intimidation Case
»Woman on Plane Offered 14-Year-Old Boy Sex, Drugs
Europe and the EU
»EU-Turkey: Ashton and Fule, Europe Confirms Commitments
»France: General Assembly Prohibits Burqa
»French Back Burka Ban as Only One MP Votes Against Move to Outlaw Islamic ‘Walking Coffins’
»Italy: Grimaldi: The State Has Abandoned Ship Owners
»Italy: Appeals in Google Video Case
»Italy: X300 Held in ‘Biggest Ever’ ‘Ndrangheta Sweep
»Italy: UN Official Says Wiretap Bill Should be Scrapped or Revised
»Southern Europe Dealing With Gas Pipeline “Puzzle”
»Spain Faced With ‘Catalan Syndrome’
»UK: Boy, Four, Denied Place at School 300 Yards Away Because He Lives on Wrong Side of the Road
»UK: Islam-to-Christian Conversion Allowed
»UK: Somali Asylum Seeker Laughing Over £2,000-a-Week Kensington Home Paid for by Benefits
Mediterranean Union
»Egypt, Italy Agree to Boost Health Cooperation
»Southern Shore: Key Role in Energy
Israel and the Palestinians
»Football and Politics in the Holy City
»Jerusalem: City Resumes Demolition of Arab Homes
»Shalit: Press, Talks Shin Bet-Hamas Prisoners
»Survey Shows Palestinians Increasingly Frustrated With US and Israel, Backing Hamas
Middle East
»Caroline Glick: A War on Whose Terms?
»Diana West: The Fox & Camel
»Iran is Ready for Nuclear Power: Now Even Russia Says So
»Kingdom Top Terror Finance Fighter
»Meshaal Meets Nasrallah in Lebanon
»Scientists at NASA to Coach UAE Students
»Stakelbeck on Terror: Interview With Nadim Gemayel
»Turkey to Open Trade Fair of Palestinian Goods
»Turkey to Build Industry Zone in West Bank
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Gunned Down as They Slept: Rogue Afghan Soldier Shoots Dead Three British Troops Inside Military Compound
»Afghanistan: Hero British Soldier Shot in Face by Taliban Spits Out the Bullet
»India: Sr Marie Stella, Sister of Blasphemous Professor Who Had Hand Chopped Off, Talks About Forgiveness
»Pakistan: ‘Al-Qaeda Linked’ Group Vows Moderation After Arrests
Far East
»Chinese Toys Tainted by Lead or Made by Child Labour
»Japanese Solar Sail Successfully Rides Sunlight
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Italy: Muslim Brotherhood and Its Current Challenges
»Uganda: Suspects Held After World Cup Bomb Attacks
Latin America
»‘Queen of Entitlement’ Fading Into History of Greed
»UK: One in Five Britons ‘Will be From an Ethnic Minority by 2051’
Culture Wars
»It Begins… Four Christians Charged With Disturbing the Peace for Preaching About Jesus
»Obama Administration Approves First Taxpayer-Funded Abortions Under Obamacare
»UK: Paralysed Man Blinked to Stay Alive as Life Support Machine Was About to be Turned Off

Financial Crisis

Greece: Acropolis Closed Due to Strike

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Today the Acropolis, the main Greek archaeological site, will remain closed for four hours, until midday, following the protest of the Ministry of Culture’s employees who ask for their salary arrears to be paid. Today also the employees of local administrations are on strike against the pension reform. They will symbolically all the country’s municipalities for three hours. For the same reason, in the afternoon judges and prosecutors will stop working for four hours, while tomorrow the Police, the Fire Brigade and the Coast Guard will demonstrate.

A national strike against the pension reform and the reform of the job market has been called for July 15 by the trade union of the civil servants, Adedy. Flight assistants will also take part in it, from 11 am (10 am in Italy) to 3 pm, bringing in this way national and international air traffic to a standstill.

Ferry boat service should be working regularly. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Budget Gets ECOFIN OK

‘No giving way on numbers or norms’ says Tremonti

(ANSA) — Brussels, July 13 — Italy’s two-year 25-billion-euro austerity budget secured the approval of European financial and economy ministers Tuesday.

The ECOFIN meeting agreed that the budget “met the recommendations” recently issued by the European Commission, Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said after the meeting.

“It was concluded that Italy has adopted effective and adequate measures, perfectly in line with the commitments taken,” Tremonti said.

The austerity package, including a public sector pay freeze and broad spending cuts which have sparked widespread protests, is still being fine-tuned but is expected to be passed in upcoming confidence votes as Italy follows other countries in shoring up euro zone finances against speculation. The budget aims to bring Italy’s budget deficit, which was 5.3% of GDP in 2009, down to 5% in 2010, 3.9% in 2011 and 2.7% in 2012.

The eurozone’s stability pact sets a deficit limit of 3%.

Tremonti stressed how the 24.9 billion figure had not changed during recent debate on the budget and a head-on clash with regional governors who said they would have to return a raft of spending powers to the State.

“There’s been no giving way, either on the numbers or on the norms,” Tremonti said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Union Pension Funds, The States, And Financial Ruin

Too many Americans are paying little or zero attention to what’s happened in Greece, Italy, Spain and other socialist countries. Many don’t realize Greece has unions and now that decades of bloated government spending (like the U.S.) and massive “entitlements” have driven Greece into financial ruin, there’s no more money to pay the bills, just like here in American both at the federal and state levels. The rioting has been going on for months over there and if you think it’s not possible here, think again.

Who pays the taxes for these union workers?

June 23, 2010. New York. “Man Earns $300,000 Public Pension. One of the critical problems facing the state and local governments are pension funds that are way under funded. Fox 5 News first reported on James Hunderfund in May. The retired superintendent of the Commack School System on Long Island earns a pension of about $316,000 a year. On top of that, Hunderfund is now the superintendent of the Malverne School District. Fox 5 obtained his contract, which shows he makes about $225,000 annually plus he gets 18 paid sick days and 23 paid vacation days a year. His wife is the superintendent of the Locust Valley Central School District on Long Island. Her contract shows she makes $250,000 a year. When she retires she’ll get a pension. All of this is perfectly legal and paid for by taxpayers.

“Fred Gorman, the founder of a watchdog group called Long Islanders for Educational Reform, says the state employee pension system is bleeding taxpayers dry and that the state Legislature needs to step up and change the system. The web site lists some state pension earners. It shows a retiree from the New York Public Library earning a pension of more than $188,000 year.


May 24, 2010. The Next Bailout: $165B for Unions. “A Democratic senator is introducing legislation for a bailout of troubled union pension funds. If passed, the bill could put another $165 billion in liabilities on the shoulders of American taxpayers. The bill, which would put the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation behind struggling pensions for union workers, is being introduced by Senator Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), who says it will save jobs and help people. As FOX Business Network’s Gerri Willis reported Monday, these pensions are in bad shape; as of 2006, well before the market dropped and recession began, only 6% of these funds were doing well. Although right now taxpayers could possibly be on the hook for $165 billion, the liability could essentially be unlimited because these pensions have to be paid out until the workers die.


Make no mistake about it: Unions hold lawmakers hostage after they buy their favors with campaign donations. They are powerful, but now, well, the rooster is coming home to croak.

Of course, one must pay attention to the ‘International’ in SEIU. That union is just another communist front operation promising workers utopia, social justice and all the other communist claptrap while mother government drowns them in more and more taxes. If you think I’m just blowing smoke, you haven’t studied communism as I have for more than a decade. But, don’t listen to me, listen to William Z. Foster who wrote, Toward Soviet America. Foster was a useful fool, a Marxist labor organizer. He served as Secretary General of the Communist party USA (very active here in the USA) and promoted the destruction of free markets and capitalism — the very systems that made America the greatest debt free nation every on this earth. You can read Toward Soviet America on line here. Learn how important unions are to the communists towards Sovietizing this republic.

In no way am I saying that every American who belongs to any union is a communist or has communist sympathies. What I am saying is that the goal of world communism is to replace our free enterprise system by drumming into people’s heads — especially union members — that capitalism is evil. Tear down the classes! Raise up the toiling masses to their place of social and economic justice! Unionize workers so the working class can rise up for justice! Very dangerous propaganda and Foster gives it to you in plain language:

“The final aim of the Communist International is to overthrow world capitalism and replace it by world Communism, “the basis for which has been laid by the whole course of historical development.”


It’s staring you right in the face America. Obama/Soetoro’s “czars” are a collection of dedicated socialists to hard core Marxists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


American Airlines’ Alliance May Win Antitrust OK This Week

American Airlines Inc. and its allies may finally win approval this week to form a closer partnership with exemption from antitrust laws.

American and four of its partners in the Oneworld global airline alliance — British Airways PLC, Iberia, Finnair Oyj and Royal Jordanian Airlines — are seeking antitrust immunity to work together more closely on operations and marketing.

In addition, American, British Airways and Iberia are seeking permission to form a joint business arrangement that would allow them to jointly coordinate schedules, set pricing, market flights, offer frequent-flier benefits and otherwise collaborate.

Reuters reported Friday that the European Commission was expected to take up the application today. The Wall Street Journal also reported that in its own story posted on its website Monday.

An insider has told The Dallas Morning News that a decision is more likely to come Wednesday. An American Airlines spokesman declined to comment Monday afternoon.

A decision on their separate application with the U.S. Department of Transportation is expected this month,, perhaps also this week.

Since the parties filed their application with the Department of Transportation in August 2008, British Airways and Iberia have agreed to merge. That proposal is still before regulators.

The applicants have argued that they need the ability to work together to put them on par with the other two major alliances — SkyTeam, led by Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air France KLM, and the Star Alliance, led by United Airlines Inc. and Lufthansa German Airlines.

Both SkyTeam and Star have had antitrust immunity across the North Atlantic for years, and the Star Alliance recently added Continental Airlines Inc. to its lineup.

But Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., which is not a member of any of the three alliances, has vigorously fought the latest proposal, as it had two previous applications filed by American and British Airways.

Virgin has warned that American and British Airways already control too much of London Heathrow Airport, the world’s busiest airport for international passengers. Approving the alliance would increase their concentration and be anti-competitive, Virgin has argued in its filings on the case.

In a preliminary decision Feb. 13, the DOT said the applicants would have to give up a few landing and takeoff slots at Heathrow to win final approval.

Separately, the applicants had proposed some concessions on trans-Atlantic routes to the European Commission.

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

Barack Obama and His Glory Days Are Past

Americans are not quitters. Barack Obama and all of his thugs shall be ousted from the seat of government, because there is a meeting underfoot somewhere which will be sure to put them out of office.

Even though the mention of the name, Barack Hussein Obama, brought along shouts of jubilee everywhere he went and sent shivers down the leg of Chris Matthews (MSNBC-TV) during the 2008 Presidential Election Campaign, now that same shiver is the result of a serious cooling off period all across this nation. Over time, this has become a nation running over with back stabbers, ingrates, and mindless takers who have no regard for anyone but themselves.

In many corners of this nation and of the world, also, America’s darling child, Obama, has already worn down his phony welcoming smile and rambunctious swagger. The world has had a chance to take a good long hard look at our man in the White House and many do not much like what they see looking back. For, if ever there was a shyster in the marketplace branding and packaging his wares after the likes of Superman and all of his imagined power, it was Barack Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Black Activists Condemn NAACP Resolution Against Tea Party Movement

Washington, DC — As the NAACP plans to use their group’s prestige to bash the tea party movement, members of the Project 21 black leadership network are urging delegates at the NAACP’s national convention not to turn the NAACP into a pawn for progressive political bosses.

“As a frequent speaker at tea party rallies around the country, I can assure the NAACP that the tea party movement’s concerns are about President Obama’s policies and not his race,” said Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli. “I’m deeply concerned that the NAACP is being used as a political tool to do the dirty work of the progressive movement. Instead of criticizing tea parties, the NAACP would be better served denouncing the racist comments made by a member of the New Black Panther Party and their voter intimidation outside a Philadelphia polling place in the last presidential election.”


“Progressives have hijacked the NAACP to the extent that the group stands silent as conservative blacks suffer indignities for their beliefs. Some NAACP even egg on this appalling behavior — providing political cover and lapdog services for these elitists,” said Project 21 member Kevin Martin. “As a conservative black man, I have felt more welcomed and at home within the tea party movement than among those of my own who side with the this new NAACP. If a few random signs of President Obama looking like the Joker is indeed racist, then where was the NAACP when conservative blacks are depicted as lawn jockeys, Oreos and Uncle Toms?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dell to Aid Microsoft on ‘Cloud Computing’

Dell Inc. said Monday that it is partnering with Microsoft Corp. to support the software giant’s “Azure” online operating system for corporate customers.

The technology, known as “cloud computing,” essentially lets users access programs over the Internet rather than having to install applications on individual machines. Microsoft is betting that cloud computing is its next big growth opportunity.

Dell Services, composed mostly of the former Plano-based Perot Systems Corp., which Dell bought last year, will build and sell the Windows Azure platform appliance hardware.

Previously, Microsoft allowed Azure systems to be installed only in its own data centers, but the new servers will be available for customers to install in their own data centers.

In addition to Dell, Microsoft announced partnerships with eBay Inc., Fujitsu Ltd. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

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

Michelle Obama Rouses NAACP Before Vote Condemning ‘Racist’ Elements of Tea Party

Tea Party Leaders Say Political Motivation Driving NAACP Agenda

First Lady Michelle Obama brought renewed energy to the NAACP today, delivering the keynote speech at the annual convention one day before the nation’s largest civil rights group is expected to condemn what it calls racist elements in the Tea Party movement.

The nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization will vote on the resolution Tuesday during its annual convention in Kansas City, Mo.

In her speech, the first lady focused on the issue of childhood obesity and her “Let’s Move” initiative, but outside of her remarks, anti-Tea Party activism has been a key focus of the gathering, which conservative leaders say is driven solely by a political agenda.

Tea Party members have used “racial epithets,” have verbally abused black members of Congress and threatened them, and protestors have engaged in “explicitly racist behavior” and “displayed signs and posters intended to degrade people of color generally and President Barack Obama specifically,” according to the proposed resolution.

“We’re deeply concerned about elements that are trying to move the country back, trying to reverse progress that we’ve made,” NAACP spokeswoman Leila McDowell told ABC News. “We are asking that the law-abiding members of the Tea Party repudiate those racist elements, that they recognize the historic and present racist elements that are within the Tea Party movement.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in coordination with 170 other groups, including labor unions, is planning a protest march in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2 as the next step in building momentum against the Tea Party.

The “One Nation” march is designed as an antithesis to the Tea Party, and it’s about “pulling America together and back to work,” McDowell said.

“We see it as a threat to democracy. We see it as a threat to human rights. We certainly see it as a threat to civil rights,” McDowell said, adding that the resolution will likely pass when it’s voted upon Tuesday.

Supporters of the Tea Party movement have frequently faced charges of racism.

The most notable case is that of Kentucky GOP Senate hopeful Rand Paul, who came under fire in May for criticizing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Paul said he supports the act and opposes discrimination, but added that the government doesn’t have a right to tell private restaurant owners who they can and cannot serve.

“If we want to harbor in on private businesses and their policies, then you have to have the discussion about, ‘Do you want to abridge the First Amendment as well,’“ Paul said on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show. “If you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into the restaurant, even though the owner of the restaurant says, well, no, we don’t want to have guns in here.”

In March, Tea Party protesters opposing the health care bill were alleged to have shouted racial slurs at black House members in the halls of Congress, a charge that Tea Party supporters say has not been proven. Liberal blogs have also seized on signs that have appeared in Tea Party protests, comparing President Obama to a monkey.

Tea Party leaders say the charges are misguided and are being fertilized by the left for the sole purpose of gaining political ground.

The Rev. C.L. Bryant, a former president of NAACP’s Garland, Texas, chapter who is now a leading Tea Party activist said the idea that the Tea Party is racist or is trying to instigate a racist climate is “simply a lie.”

“I have seen posters … where every president from Reagan to Obama has been called a fascist,” Bryant, who serves as a contributor to FreedomWorks, which organizes Tea Party groups, told ABC News. “Why is it that just because we have a black president, we are hyper-sensitive to posters at rallies?”

The NAACP wants to “create a climate where they can say that those on the right are in fact racist and those on the left are their saviors,” he added. “This is very much what the liberal agenda is about.”

Dale Robertson, a Tea Party activist who runs and has himself been at the center of a race-related controversy, said the NAACP is merely pandering to the Democratic party.

“I find that the NAACP should be standing against the new Black Panther and their stance and yet instead of doing the right thing, they’re doing the wrong thing by attacking people who feel government should be held accountable,” Robertson said…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle-Age Women Sexually Adventurous as Fertility Dwindles

Women in their 30s and 40s are more willing to engage in a variety of sexual activities to capitalize on their remaining childbearing years, according to a new study.

The results show women ages 27 to 45 have a heightened sex drive in response to their dwindling fertility.

Such “reproduction expediting” includes one-night stands and adventurous bedroom behavior, the research shows.

“Our findings suggest that women don’t need to necessarily go ‘baby crazy’ in their 30s or go around thinking they’re supposed to be having a ‘sexual peak,’“ said study researcher Judith Easton, a psychology graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Our results suggest there is nothing special about the 30s, but that instead these behaviors manifest in all women with declining fertility,” Easton said. “It may be more difficult to conceive past the age of 35, but our research suggests women’s psychology will continue to motivate them to try until menopause.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Missing Iranian Scientist Surfaces in Washington

Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who claims he was kidnapped by U.S. spies, surfaced at Tehran’s interest section Washington on Tuesday to declare Americans “losers” in the long-running saga.

State television said Amiri had taken refuge at the interest section, which is overseen by the Pakistani embassy, and said he had asked “for a quick return to Tehran.”

Amiri soon afterwards told the New York reporter of the channel by telephone that the Americans had wanted to try to resolve the affair quietly but had failed.

“After the release of my interview on the Internet and the disgrace for the American government over this abduction, they wanted to quietly return me to Iran by some country’s airline, so that while denying the whole thing they can put a cap on the abduction,” Amiri said.

“But in the end they couldn’t. Since the day of the release of my remarks on the Internet, the Americans have seen themselves as losers in this saga.”

Confirmed by Iran and Pakistan

“We contacted the Pakistani embassy and they confirmed that Shahram Amiri has taken refuge there,” Iran’s IRNA state news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying on Tuesday.

A Pakistani foreign ministry official in Islamabad also confirmed to Reuters that the scientist was in the Iranian section of Pakistan’s embassy, not in the embassy itself.

Iran’s state radio said earlier on Tuesday that Amiri, a university researcher who disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year ago, was at the mission. “He wants to be returned to Iran immediately,” state radio said in its report.

Iran and the United States severed diplomatic ties shortly after the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution. The Pakistani embassy looks after Iran’s interests in the United States.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said Amiri was handed over to the embassy by U.S. agents, calling it a defeat for “America’s intelligence services”.

“Because of Iran’s media and intelligence activities, the American government had to back down and hand over Amiri to the embassy on Monday night,” Fars said.

Officials at the State Department and at the Pakistan embassy in Washington were not available for comment.

Iran accuses the United States and Saudi Arabia of abducting Amiri, who worked for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. U.S. and Saudi officials have denied the accusation.

Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran earlier this month and handed over documents which it said showed Amiri had been kidnapped by the United States. U.S. interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss embassy.

Conflicting videos

Confusing video footage of Amiri was aired in the past weeks. In one video, a man identified as Amiri, said he was taken to the United States and tortured.

In another video on the Internet, a man also said to be the scientist said he was studying in the United States.

In a third video aired on June 29, a man describing himself as Amiri said he had fled from U.S. “agents” and was in hiding, urging human rights groups to help him to return to Iran.

On June 29, Iranian television screened a video of a man claiming to be Amiri and saying that he had managed to escape from the hands of U.S. intelligence agents in Virginia.

“I could be re-arrested at any time by U.S. agents… I am not free and I’m not allowed to contact my family. If something happens and I do not return home alive, the U.S. government will be responsible,” he said.

“I ask Iranian officials and organizations that defend human rights to raise pressure on the US government for my release and return to my country,” the man said, adding he has not “betrayed” Iran.

U.S. officials have dismissed the allegations in the Iranian broadcast.

Working with the CIA

Amiri disappeared in June 2009 after arriving in Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage. Iran accused U.S. agents of abducting him with the help of Saudi intelligence services.

U.S. television network ABC reported in March that Amiri, in his early 30s, had defected and was working with the Central Intelligence Agency.

The ABC report said that U.S. agents described the defection as “an intelligence coup” in efforts to undermine Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Amiri’s disappearance “was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect,” ABC reported. US officials have rejected these allegations.

Tehran initially refused to acknowledge Amiri’s involvement in Iran’s nuclear program, which the West fears is being used to develop nuclear weapons and which Iran says is designed to generate electricity.

Three months after Amiri’s disappearance, Iran disclosed the existence of its second uranium enrichment site, near the central holy Shiite city of Qom, further heightening tension over the Islamic state’s atomic activities.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused the United States of kidnapping and illegally detaining Iranians, including a former deputy defense minister who disappeared in 2007.

Some Iranian media have linked the fate of three U.S. citizens, arrested near the Iraqi border a year ago where they said they were hiking and held on suspicion of spying, to the case of alleged Iranian detainees in the United States.

But Iranian authorities ruled out the possibility of any prisoner exchange.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

NY Muslims Want ‘Eid’ On School Calendar

Muslim students, parents, and activists are calling upon lawmakers in the state of New York to add two of their holidays to school calendars.

After failing to convince New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of adding the two major Muslim holidays, the Lesser and Greater Bairams, to the list of official holidays in public schools, hundreds of Muslims launched a campaign hoping the state Senate and Assembly would supersede the mayor’s decision.

Bloomberg rejected the proposal citing the impracticality of adding more days off in schools while supporters argued that a total of five days wouldn’t be a hindrance to the educational process, especially that in many cases the two Muslim Bairams fall in already existing holidays or in weekends.

“Everybody would like to be recognized but the truth of the matter is we need more school days, not less,” he said.

“The city will do everything it can to protect Muslims’ rights to get together and practice their religion. We just cannot have any more school holidays.”

According to supporters, Muslims students deserve to have their holidays institutionalized like their Christian and Jewish counterparts since there are more than 100,000 of them in public schools alone, that is around 12% of the total enrollment.

The public school calendar currently has 13 religious holidays, including Jewish ones such as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and Christian ones such as Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. Out of the 11 holidays observed by Muslims, none is on school calendars.

Making Muslim holidays official, campaigners argue, would also help promote equality and peaceful co-existence as well as reduce anti-Muslim sentiments that have been on the rise since the September 11 bombings in 2001.

Choice between school and religion

The controversy started in 2006 when the Greater Bairam holiday fell on the same day as a state-wide exam. Students were left with the choice of either missing an important exam to celebrate with their families or sitting for the exam and breaking one of the most important Muslim traditions.

“There is a large group of people who feel like they have to choose between religion and school,” said Faiza Ali, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Bloomberg’s decision added to a series of disappointments suffered by Muslims in New York City, amongst them opposition to the construction of several mosques and the dismissal of an Arabic school principal based on neighbors’ accusations that the school breeds militants.

Parents are also frustrated because their kids ask them why they are treated differently.

“Our kids know other holidays but then they see that their holidays are not recognized. It sends a mixed message,” said Isabel Bucaram, a Muslim mother. “My daughter says to me, ‘They do it for others. Why not us?’“

For Ayman Hammous, an Egyptian physical therapist whose four children attend city schools, it is the message delivered through the acceptance or rejection of making Muslim holidays official that matters.

“Putting the holidays on the calendar will send a positive message to the Muslim community that you are welcome here,” he said.

New York City Council issued last year a resolution that calls upon the Department of Education to include the two main Muslim holidays in the public school calendar. However, Bloomberg’s consent is needed to turn the bill into a law. The resolution is supported by the Teachers’ Union and the city’s borough presidents.

The two holidays whose institutionalization campaigners demand are the most important in the entire Muslim world. The Lesser Bairam, also called Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the breaking of the 30-day fast while the Greater Bairan, called Eid al-Adha, celebrates the start of the pilgrimage ritual in Mecca and commemorates Abraham’s sacrifice.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

The Black Conservative Coalition

A new organization has been formed that aims to be a counter-weight and alternative to the NAACP. Formed by Kevin Jackson and Chris Arps of in early May, they have an ambitious aim to take on the black establishment at their own game. Its called the The Black Conservative Coalition.

“Our intention is to show just how large the black Conservative population is in America,” Chris Arps, founder of notes, “which is a much more powerful political voice than the media estimates. Black Conservatives are not usually a vocal group, but by bringing them together in a safe landing zone, we can become as powerful a political voice as the NAACP.”

Then again with the NAACP using its power to bully huge threats to African Community like Hallmark the card company it’s no wonder Jackson and others feel the need to speak out. It seems the last affront to African Americans is a matter of pronunciation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video: Democrat Congressman ‘Unaware’ Of the New Black Panther Voter Intimidation Case

A town hall meeting erupts when Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman claims to be unfamiliar with the New Black Panther Party case being dismissed by the Department of Justice.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Woman on Plane Offered 14-Year-Old Boy Sex, Drugs

A Chicago area father is suing Southwest Airlines, alleging his 14-year-old son was forced to sit next to a woman who allegedly made sexual advances toward the boy and offered him illegal drugs during a flight to Florida.

The suit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, claims that the flight attendants didn’t protect the boy during the July 13th, 2008 flight from Chicago to Orlando.

My client was a 14-year-old little boy when he was aggressively, sexually pursued by an older passenger who offered him drugs, who wanted sex from him, said Chicago attorney Jeffrey S. Deutschman.

He went to the bathroom four times, he asked to move and he was told to take his seat, Deutschman said.

The boy was so shaken he refused to take the return flight home alone, the suit states.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU-Turkey: Ashton and Fule, Europe Confirms Commitments

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 12 — The EU confirms the commitments it has undertaken in regards to the chance for Turkey to enter the EU, and hopes that new chapters for negotiations can be opened this year, said the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule before an encounter between high-ranking officials of the EU and Turkey tomorrow in Istanbul, in the presence of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and head negotiator Egemen Bagis. “The dialogue provides an opportunity to confirm the chance for Turkey’s EU membership and the continuation of the enlargement process,” said Fule. “I hope that more chapters can be opened this year if Turkey satisfies the necessary conditions. Naturally, the engine that drives the entire process is represented by the reforms made in Turkey. The commission will continue to provide support so that the process continues.” Ashton pointed out that recently, Turkey became more assertive in its foreign policy and welcomes “this more important role in the region”.

“In this context,” said the head of EU diplomacy, “we will look at the way in which cooperation between the EU and Turkey can develop in the region.” Political dialogue between the EU and Turkey takes place twice a year at a ministerial level, as part of the regular meetings to proceed with membership negotiations. In addition to the state of negotiations, tomorrow the two sides will discuss how to increase collaboration in the region and in the fight against terrorism. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: General Assembly Prohibits Burqa

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JULY 13 — Today France’s national assembly approved, during the first reading, the bill to prohibit the full Islamic veil in all of the Country.

The bill, which was much wanted by president Nicolas Sarkozy, was approved by an overwhelming majority of deputies, with 355 votes for and only 1 against. The socialists and communists decided not to join the vote.

France, which holds Europe’s largest Muslim community (5 to 6 million), aims to have a general ban on the burqa and niqab in all public areas, streets and squares included. While the national Assembly was voting, the majority right-wing group (Ump) and centre party Nouveau supported the ban of the Islamic veil. In addition to the socialists (Ps) and communists (Pcf), the Green party also failed to vote after initially stating that it would have voted against. The only communist MP that voted was Andre Gerin, president of the investigation committee on the full veil, who voted for the law. The French Senate will examine the bill to prohibit the burqa and niqab in September, when the summer pause is over.


           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

French Back Burka Ban as Only One MP Votes Against Move to Outlaw Islamic ‘Walking Coffins’

French MPs today overwhelmingly voted to ban the burka after a senior minister described it as a ‘walking coffin’ and a ‘muzzle’.

Only one deputy opposed the bill in the National Assembly as 335 other politicians united to show their opposition to Islamic veils which cover a woman’s entire face.

The draft bill, proposed by President Nicholas Sarkozy’s government, will now pass to the Senate where it could be ratified as early as September.


But the ban could be shot down by France’s constitutional watchdog or the European Court of Human Rights.

In March, France’s highest administrative body, the Council of State, warned that it could be illegal because it does not allow freedom of expression.

This could dampen efforts under way in other European countries, including Britain, to ban the veil.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Grimaldi: The State Has Abandoned Ship Owners

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 12 — The only way to make up for the lack of State investments in conveyance by sea — and by land — is to continue alone, trying to avoid that Italy will be crushed by the tough competition from ports on the southern side of the Mediterranean and from other European ports. Italian ship owners are angry however, because they feel completely abandoned by the institutions. “We as ship owners feel abandoned by the State. We do what we are doing using our own forces” said Paul Kyprianou, head of foreign relations of the Grimaldi Group, speaking during a conference on mobility in the Mediterranean organised by the National Council for Economy and Labour (CNEL) in Rome.

“Also during the worst period of the crisis, with ships carrying half loads, we never heard from the State”. Sea transport in Italy, he explained, is slackening and shipping companies like the Neapolitan group — with earnings falling from 2.5 billion euros to 2.1 billion between 2008 and 2009, the black period of the economic crisis — continue to invest. Since more than ten years, Grimaldi has been active in the “sea highways” and in the transport of goods and passengers.

In the past days the Group has consolidated its services between Italy and Tunisia and on July 14 a new route will be opened between Livorno and Valencia (the first offering only roll-on roll-off service. The shipping company from Naples has also set its eyes on logistics, building terminals in Alexandria (Egypt), Valencia (Spain), Antwerp (Belgium), Hamburg (Germany), Cork (Ireland), Eisberg (Denmark) and Lagos (West Africa). “We are participating in a tender for the construction of a terminal in Barcelona”, Kyprianou told ANSAmed. The group is present in most of the Mediterranean area, apart from the main Italian routes (and in the Baltic Sea and the north of Europe): Malta, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco and, since at least two years, also in Libya. “We have opened a ro-ro line” Kyprianou explained, “between Italy and the ports of Tripoli, Al Homs and Misurata”.

But on a political level, both Rome and Brussels remain silent, and that is the real problem. “We have asked for many interventions”, he explained, “but nothing has been done of what we have asked, from concessional rates in the Italian ports to a ban on access in European ports for ships that are older than 30 years”. Italian transport and logistics feels the negative impact of the lack of investments, the multiplication of ports and the cost differential between the north and the south of the country. “Venice, Genoa and Livorno, for example, are very expensive”, Kyprianou underlines. The only possibility in Italy, he stresses, is doing things on your own. “We have invested in new ships and port infrastructures. Other shipping companies should do the same”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Appeals in Google Video Case

Prosecutors, Google execs to appeal video bullying verdict

(ANSA) — Milan, July 12 — Milanese prosecutors on Monday said they would appeal part of a landmark ruling earlier this year in which three Google executives were convicted of privacy violations over an online video of bullying. The judge in the case, which centred on a clip showing a teenager with Down’s syndrome being bullied at school, dismissed a count of defamation brought at the same time as the invasion of privacy allegations. Prosecutors Alfredo Robledo and Francesco Cajani have now said they will appeal this part of the decision, which drew worldwide attention in February.

If successful, a fourth Google employee who was charged only with defamation and not invasion of privacy could find himself back in the dock. Responding to the prosecutors’ announcement, the lawyers representing the executives issued a statement warning they would be cross-appealing.

“We have lodged an appeal against the conviction for invasion of privacy, which we believe had no merit either in fact or in law,” said Giuliano Pisapia and Giuseppe Vaciago. They recalled that the judge had said there was no legal basis for bringing the defamation charge. In the detailed version of his decision, published in April, Justice Oscar Magi ruled that internet providers were under no obligation to view every single video uploaded by users prior to allowing them to appear online. At the time, prosecutors said the ruling meant “privacy rights trump business logic” while Google called it “an attack on the fundamental principles of freedom on which the Internet was built”.

The first trial anywhere against executives of the Internet search engine company, the Milan case was seen as having implications for the way Google operates in Italy and for the wider debate over freedom of speech and legal responsibility for online postings.

Former Google Italy president David Carl Drummond, now senior vice president, was given a six-month suspended jail term along with George De Los Reyes, a retired former Google Italy board member, and Peter Fleitcher, Google Europe’s privacy strategy chief.

Arvind Desikan, head of the Google Video for Europe project, was acquitted because he faced only the defamation charge. The unidentified teenager who filed suit against the Google executives withdrew it in February but Milan city hall and the Italian Down’s association Vividown stood as plaintiffs.

In the smartphone footage, posted on Google Video on September 8, 2006 and removed on November 7, 2006, the boy was seen being taunted, insulted and kicked by one student in particular as others looked on.

The location appeared to be a classroom and the people visible appeared to be about 16 years of age.

The video was posted in Google Italy’s ‘Most Fun Videos’ section and got 5,500 hits in its two months on the Web.

Google said the video was pulled as soon it was drawn to the company’s attention and said it took prompt action to identify the four bullies, who were expelled as a result.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: X300 Held in ‘Biggest Ever’ ‘Ndrangheta Sweep

‘Hit in the heart’ says interior minister

(ANSA) — Rome, July 13 — Some 300 people were arrested Tuesday in what police said was the biggest ever operation against the Calabrian mafia or ‘Ndrangheta and its branches in northern Italy.

More than 3,000 officers raided premises in Calabria and northern Italy, arresting top mobsters in the southern Italian region and their reputed head in Lombardy, the region around Italy’s business capital Milan, Pino Neri.

Also arrested in Pavia near Milan was the head of the local health authority, Carlo Antonio Chiriaco, accused of involvement in vote-buying with Neri.

The alleged beneficiary was an MP, Giancarlo Abelli of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Sabelli is not under investigation.

Also under investigation for electoral corruption was a Pavia city councillor, Pietro Trivi, and, for corruption and bankruptcy, former Milanese provincial councillor Antonio Oliviero.

Four Carabinieri police officers working out of Rho north of Milan were also placed under investigation, one of them for mafia association.

Back in Calabria, police said they had “destructured” the top clans in Reggio Calabria and along both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts, including one responsible for a headline-grabbing massacre in Duisburg, Germany that cast the international spotlight on ‘Ndrangheta almost exactly three years ago. Six men were killed in a blood feud in the sleepy German town on August 15, 2007.

Tens of millions of euros in assets were confiscated Monday, police said.

Charges ranged from murder to drug and arms trafficking, extortion and loan sharking “and other serious crimes,” police said.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni hailed the op as “absolutely the most important operation against ‘Ndrangheta in recent years”.

The Calabrian Mob, he said, had been “hit in the heart of its organisational and financial structure”.

Ndrangheta’ (from a Greek word meaning ‘heroism’ or ‘virtue’) once lived in the twin shadow of its Sicilian cousin Cosa Nostra and the Camorra in Naples.

Now regarded as the strongest and most impenetrable of Italy’s mafias, its power base has been consolidated by its domination of the European cocaine market.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: UN Official Says Wiretap Bill Should be Scrapped or Revised

Measure undermines freedom of expression, says Frank La Rue

(ANSA) — Rome, July 13 — The Italian government’s controversial bill restricting pretrial reporting and the use of police wiretaps should be scrapped or revised because it would limit press freedom, a top United Nations official said Tuesday.

“If adopted in its current form, it (the wiretap bill) may undermine the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in Italy,” Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a statement. La Rue’s comments came after similar criticism from journalists, opposition politicians and the head of Italy’s privacy watchdog, as well as from the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association. The wiretapping bill would curb reporting of cases before they reach the trial stage, a process that takes years in Italy, ban the publication of wiretaps and bring in stiff fines for journalists and publishers.

The government says it is necessary to safeguard privacy by preventing wiretapped conversations of people not under investigation being published.

But Italian journalists, who staged a news black-out in protest on Friday, say it is a ‘gag’ on press freedom, arguing the publication of wiretaps has been key in exposing scandals and is in the public interest.

“These provisions may hamper the work of journalists to undertake investigative journalism on matters of public interest, such as corruption, given the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy,” La Rue said.

Law enforcement agencies and magistrates have also spoken out against the measure, which is expected to become law before parliament goes on holiday, as it would make it harder to obtain authorisation for wiretaps and restrict their duration.

Terrorism and mafia probes are excluded but prosecutors argue that many mafia cases stem from the investigation of lesser crimes.

La Rue said a section of the bill ruling that anyone who is not a registered professional journalist can be sentenced to up to four years in jail for recording conversations without the consent of the person involved and publicising the content violates an international treaty guaranteeing civil and political rights.

The official, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, added that he hoped to visit Italy next year to examine the state of press freedom in the nation more deeply.

The centre-right government says the law will bring Italy into line with other Western countries.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi defended it as “sacrosanct” in its aim of defending privacy last week and denied opposition claims it would hurt the fight on the Mafia.

“The exact opposite is true. The bill does not change investigations. Not one crime has been removed from the wiretapping list,” he said. “Indeed, we’ve even added one, stalking”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Southern Europe Dealing With Gas Pipeline “Puzzle”

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 12 — South Stream, the 50-50 joint venture between Eni and Russia’s Gazprom — which should bring gas from the former USSR from Berogaieva in Russia to Varna in Bulgaria, in part by way of the 900 km of pipes laid across the bottom of the Black Sea (in Turkish territory, thereby avoiding the territory of Ukraine, which has previously been the source of disputes and hostility) — is reportedly not as profitable as is thought. Speaking out against the profitability of this pipeline which is to bring 63 billion cubic metres of gas per year to Europe is Ukraine, which is currently the main country for the transit of Russian gas to Europe. As reported by the UNIAN agency, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishtshenko recently reiterated what he had said to his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini on June 23, that “Ukraine does not consider the South Stream project indispensable.

It will entail excessive expenditure without adding value since it is not linked to any source of supplementary gas.

Ukrainian pipelines are perfectly able to ensure reliable supply of the ‘blue fuel’ to Europe. The South Stream project is connected with an irrational waste of resources, both economic and political ones.” The cost of South Stream — which aims to diversify transit routes for Russian gas headed for Europe (while avoiding Ukraine, whose energy dispute with Moscow every winter puts energy supplies to Western countries at risk) — is expected to be between 20 and 25 billion euros. As counterpart (“competitor” according to some, “complementary” according to others) is Nabucco, a gas pipeline sponsored by the EU and supported by the US with the aim of reducing dependency on Russian gas imports. Nabucco, beginning from the Caspian Sea and transiting Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and bringing to Europe gas from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, as well as from Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Iran (with which, however, the West does not enjoy the greatest of relations by any means).

In order to lower operating costs and investment for supply diversification and to increase profits, ENI managing director Paolo Scaroni has proposed interconnecting South Stream and Nabucco in the Balkans, with their sharing the section between Bulgaria and Austria. Moscow’s initial reaction was negative, though some analysts noted that Scaroni’s proposal came only two months after pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich’s win in Ukrainian elections. Kiev’s attitude is now much more amenable and less hostile to Moscow than when Ukraine was governed by the turbulent and instable pro-Western “Orange Revolution” governments. This desirable rapprochement between Russian and Ukraine, according to several observers, could have repercussions also on the chessboard of European energy. Less conflict between Kiev and Moscow may induce Gazprom to re-examine its priorities as concerns gas transit and continue to use the Bratstvo pipeline to supply its European customers.

Such a scenario would make the building of South Stream less urgent, and cause it to be put on hold at least for the short term. Ukraine is transited by 80% of Russian gas headed for Europe, and it is entirely in Kiev’s interests for South Stream to fall through and for Moscow to give up on the plan.

This is partially why Ukraine has proposed a joint venture with Russia and the EU to build a new pipeline on its territory able to transport 50 billion cubic metres of gas per year, almost as much as the 63 billion cubic metres expected with South Stream, 35% of Europe’s energy requirements. For the time being, however, neither Russia nor the EU have replied to Kiev’s proposal, in part because for the Eni-Gazprom project Moscow has already signed bilateral accords with Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Hungary. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain Faced With ‘Catalan Syndrome’

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Spain is reckoning with the ‘Catalan syndrome’. The ruling with which the Constitutional Court defeated 14 of the 139 articles of the Statute of Catalonia from a legal point of view brings order to a matter that remains controversial. On the other hand it certainly does not dissolve the crux of relations between Madrid — capital and therefore symbol of central power — and Barcelona — the cradle of autonomism or the Catalan independence movement.

The ruling by the Constitutional Court has essentially struck the articles of the Statute on which the promoters of real autonomy of Catalonia had founded a large part of their hopes of reaching their goal. In fact the Court declared the reference, in the preamble of the Statute, to “Catalonia as a nation” as lacking in legal effectiveness and thus has thwarted the effectiveness of the “preferential” expression relating to the Catalan language. Articles relating to the creation of an autonomous judicial power and the extension of fiscal competences were also wiped out. All in all, for the Spanish Supreme Court, Catalonia has its founded aspiration for full autonomy but without this invading the sacred terrain of the singleness of the State and, thus, of the intangibility of the elements that ratify its unity: language, the carrying out of justice, central position of fiscal power. The protest by the promoters of Catalan autonomy, just as the press allied to them, was expected, just as it appears expected that the upcoming regional elections, scheduled this autumn, will have as the main theme the reaffirmation of the full aspiration of Catalonia to have that which the ruling took away from it. But the game is much more complex as waiting for the ruling — after four years of remaining on standby in front of the Constitutional Court, and in its seventh version of appeal, at the time presented against the State by the People’s Party — there were not just Catalan people, but also other Spaniards who, in a centralist and Castilian State, are not recognised. Or rather, a ruling that, had it given the “green light” to the ambitions of “hard-line” supporters of a Catalonia if not exactly free, at least more independent, would have rekindled the ambitions of other portions of the Spanish State that are sensitive to issues of autonomy. In a book published some years ago, Tom Clancy maintained that Spain was, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the European country most at risk of breaking up. This is a theory that made some people turn up their noses at the time, but which today remains to be assessed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Boy, Four, Denied Place at School 300 Yards Away Because He Lives on Wrong Side of the Road

A four-year-old boy has been told he cannot join his friends at the primary school 300 yards away from his front door because he lives on the wrong side of the road.

Education chiefs have told Charlie Cooper that instead of crossing the street from his house to start classes he will have to go to another school 35 minutes’ walk away.

His parents Andrew and Louise, from Aylestone, Leicester, applied for him to go to nearby Montrose Primary School where he is already at nursery.

But in June they were told he had been rejected because of the council’s catchment area policy and would have to go to Marriott Primary School instead.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Islam-to-Christian Conversion Allowed

Court determines failing to stop teen is not neglect

A woman working in a government foster care system has won a court determination that she should be reinstated months after she was suspended for failing to prevent a Muslim girl from converting to Christianity.

According to the Christian Institute, which worked on behalf of the woman whose name was withheld to prevent the teen from being identified, the case erupted in November 2008 when the Gateshead Council in the United Kingdom discovered the girl, 16 at the time and of age to make her own faith choices, converted.

The government agency simply “deregistered” the foster mother, preventing her from participating in her work: service to needy children.

Now, however, a High Court ruling has reversed the council’s actions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Somali Asylum Seeker Laughing Over £2,000-a-Week Kensington Home Paid for by Benefits

An unemployed Somali bus conductor living with his family in a luxury Kensington home has defended their right to live in the posh suburb at taxpayers’ expense.

Abdi Nur laughed yesterday after answering his door to howls of protest about the £2,000-a-week home he shares with his wife Sayruq and their seven children.

‘I am in my rights to live here,’ he told The Sun. ‘You are fussing about nothing.’

Neighbours have called for the family to be evicted.

They said it was a ‘disgrace’ that a family on benefits is given a home that most working families would be unable to afford.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Egypt, Italy Agree to Boost Health Cooperation

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JULY 12 — Egypt and Italy signed on Monday an agreement to further cooperation in health researches and hematology treatment.

The agreement, signed between Cairo University School of Medicine and Italy’s Mediterranean Institute of Hematology, aims at exchanging technical expertise between the two countries’ hematologists and conducting researches on blood diseases.

Higher Education Minister Hani Hilal, Cairo University President Hossam Kamel and Italian Ambassador in Cairo Claudio Pacifico attended the signing ceremony.

As per the agreement, valid for five years, renewable, the Mediterranean institute will train Egyptian physicians and nurses in Italy in the fields of diagnosis, bone marrow transplant and Thalassemia (Mediterranean anemia).

The agreement provides for updating bone marrow transplant department at Children Hospital at Cairo School of Medicine (Abul Rish) and conducting research projects in the health and educational domains.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Southern Shore: Key Role in Energy

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, JULY 13 — The “key role” played by the southern shore of the Mediterranean, much used by a gas- and oil-hungry Italy, in Italy’s and Europe’s energy policies is clear. As a consequence, the goal is to work towards closer integration in the energy sector. The Euromed Forum, which has dedicated a special section to the discussion on this issue, raises awareness of the importance of North African countries for our ‘energy welfare’. Take Eni as an example: “Of course”, said the company’s managing director Paolo Scaroni, “North Africa is a key area in our strategy. The North African oil countries (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt) represent almost 35% of our production, despite the fact that they represent less than 5% of global oil output”.

Eni has invested 50 billion USD in the area in the past 10 years, and has scheduled to invest another 20 billion in Libya alone in the coming decade. The Italian company has good ties with Libya, along the path traced by Enrico Mattei. These ties continue to be enriched by “substantial agreements”, like the one Eni is preparing to sign with the Egyptian company EGPC, in which the group “is involved in our projects in Iraq”, Scaroni announced.

The African Mediterranean is not only rich in oil and gas, but also in sun and wind. “Renewable energy is the new black gold”, explained Enel chairman Piero Gnudi, and the ideal place to invest “is the southern shore of the Mediterranean. We as Enel want to be there, we want to participate in all initiatives”.

But Undersecretary for Economic Development Stefano Saglia underlined that “the energy sector must be integrated and regulations need to converge in order to make use of all the market’s benefits”. Alessandro Ortis, president of the electricity and gas authority, added that the development of energy infrastructures (gas pipelines, power lines, regas plants) in Italy “would give more value to Italy’s central location in the Mediterranean, giving it a role of energy hub to everyone’s advantage”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Football and Politics in the Holy City

Beitar Jerusalem may be top of the Israeli football league but the behaviour of its hard core fans is casting a shadow over their success.

It is half-time in an Israeli cup match between Ahi Nazareth and Beitar Jerusalem.

The atmosphere at the game is tense and the police presence is huge and heavily armed.

The former is the team of the largest Arab town in Israel. The latter has been the standard bearer of the political right in Israeli football for 70 years.

Once, when Israel was ruled by the Labor party and the trade unions, Beitar Jerusalem was the small team of the marginal and excluded. Now it is the most powerful club in the country, with the most volatile and extreme fans…

           — Hat tip: ICLA[Return to headlines]

Jerusalem: City Resumes Demolition of Arab Homes

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JULY 13 — Tensions are rising again in East Jerusalem where city bulldozers this morning razed three Palestinian buildings to the ground. In the Issawia area, two houses still being built were destroyed, while an inhabited building in Beit Hanina was also demolished.

In all cases, according to city authorities, the buildings did not have the necessary construction permits.

The activity of the bulldozers has been protected by significant security forces and no disorder has so far been reported.

The City of Jerusalem is thought to have tacitly ended the demolition of illegal buildings in Palestinian areas of the city at the end of 2009, following heavy diplomatic pressure exercised in particular by the United States.

Today’s bulldozer activity has therefore been seen as a significant development that risks reigniting tensions between Israel and the Obama administration which, so far, has shown itself to be particularly sensitive to the issue of East Jerusalem. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Shalit: Press, Talks Shin Bet-Hamas Prisoners

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JULY 13 — In the attempt to break the deadlock in the indirect negotiations on an exchange of prisoners, which should lead to the release of corporal Ghilad Shalit, who has been held prisoner in Gaza for 4 years now, Shin Bet (Israel’s security agency) has taken up direct contact with the informal leaders of Hamas prisoners. The news was announced today by newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

Some Shin Bet officials, according to the newspaper, have had at least three long meetings in a prison in Israel with a delegation of Palestinian prisoners, among whom Yihya Sinwar (one of the founders of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who is serving a life sentence) and Hussam Badran, another Hamas militiaman who has been convicted to 12 life sentences for organising terrorist attacks.

The goal of these talks, according to the newspaper, is to convince the most dangerous Palestinian prisoners, in the eyes of Israel, to accept expulsion from the country as part of an exchange of prisoners that guarantees Shalit’s release.

The newspaper adds that the meetings took place “in a positive atmosphere” and that they will continue. Shin Bet has not commented the news.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Survey Shows Palestinians Increasingly Frustrated With US and Israel, Backing Hamas

More and more Palestinians do not trust Israel, seen as opponent to peace. Many believe Obama is backing away from the two-state solution. Support for Hamas rises 18 per cent in three months in West Bank, but in its Gaza stronghold, support for Islamist movement remains low.

Beit Sahour (AsiaNews) — More than 50 per cent of Palestinians believe that Israel has no interest in peace with them. Almost 50 per cent thinks US-sponsored indirect talks will fail. About 80 per cent of Palestinians view Washington and Barack Obama as closely aligned with Israeli policies, and more than 30 per cent support Hamas, up by 18 per cent in just a few months. This is the picture that emerges from the latest survey conducted between 17 June and 2 July among a random sample of about a thousand respondents in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The period in which the survey was conducted was full of reports about the consequences of the Israeli attack against a flotilla of activists trying to break the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, but also stories about Obama’s promises and Netanyahu’s pledges regarding upcoming direct talks and a “freeze” Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In reality, the Israeli press reported that settlements continued their expansion. Only yesterday, the Municipality of Jerusalem authorised the construction of 32 new flats in Pisgat Ze’ev area.

A few days ago, B’Tsalem, an Israeli human rights association, said that Israeli settlements in the West Bank cover 1 per cent, but legally incorporate 42 per cent of the territory, making the notion of a future Palestinian state a moot possibility.

This explains why 52.5 per cent of Palestinian respondents believe indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks are doomed to failure. A slightly higher proportion (53.3 per cent) believes that Israel is not concerned about making peace with the Palestinians.

If trust in Israel is down, trust in Hamas leaders is up 18.7 per cent since the previous survey (in April). According to Nabil Kukali, director general of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, greater trust in Hamas is the result of popular solidarity against the Israeli assault on the humanitarian aid flotilla for Gaza as well as to the opening of the border crossings between Gaza Strip and Egypt by the Egyptian government, and last, but not least, to the blockade easing measures announced, and partly applied by Israel.

Surprisingly, the Islamist movement gained support in the West Bank, where it reached 41.3 per cent, but not in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, where it was stable around 19.8 per cent.

Conversely, support for Fatah remained stable in both the West Bank (48.2 per cent) and Gaza (42.1 per cent), with an average of 46 per cent in the combined territories. In Gaza, Fatah was twice as popular as Hamas.

Increasingly, Palestinians are growing frustrated with the United States and its policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In June, US President Barack Obama put all his weight behind a settlement freeze in order to get peace process between the two sides going.

Now, 76.5 per cent of Palestinians believe that Obama is not behind a two-state solution; a similar proportion (73.6 per cent) thinks that the United States strongly backs Israel. An additional 19.5 believes it somewhat supports Israel. Only 2.6 per cent thinks the United States does not support Israel.

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

Middle East

Caroline Glick: A War on Whose Terms?

We are entering troubling times. The conviction that war is upon us grows with each passing day. What remains to be determined is who will dictate the terms of that war — Iran or Israel.

Iran has good reason to go to war today. The regime is teetering on the brink of collapse. Last week, the bellwether of Iranian politics and the commercial center of the country — the bazaar — abandoned the regime. In 1979, it was only after the bazaar merchants abandoned the shah that the ayatollahs gained the necessary momentum to overthrow the regime.

Last Tuesday the merchants at the all-important Teheran bazaar closed their shops to protest the government’s plan to raise their taxes by 70 percent. Merchants in Tabriz and Isfahan quickly joined the protest. According to the Associated Press, the regime caved in to the merchants demands and cancelled the tax hike. And yet the strike continued…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Diana West: The Fox & Camel

No, it’s not a new pub serving non-alchololic beer, it’s a new media venture between Rupert Murchoch and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose business relationship grows ever cosier (see here and here, for example, to catch up on the whole affair).

From Canada’s CBC News, with thanks to Fjordman:


This (above) is true as far as it goes but the implication that Khashoggi is a proto-classical liberal in manjammies is false. That is, Khashoggi’s initial “clash” with “Saudi authorities” in 2003 as editor of al-Watan seems to have resolved itself nicely in a choice appointment as media advisor to Saudi Prince Turki — one of the more authoritative Saudi authorities — when Turki was ambassador to the UK. When in 2005 Turki became Saudi ambassador to the US, media advisor Khashoggi accompanied him to DC. In 2007 Khashoggi returned to his newspaper job at al Watan until his resignation as editor in May (he remains on the editorial board) over an editorial “questioning Salafism” — because he thought it shouldn’t have appeared in the paper in the first place.

From the BBC:…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran is Ready for Nuclear Power: Now Even Russia Says So

By Fiamma Nirenstein

Il Giornale, 13 July 2010

Medvedev gets rid of its former ally, guilty of having protested against Moscow, who supported decisive UN sanctions

Now, according to the perverse principle that says that if one who until now has lied or was mistaken, then it is true, nobody will pull out in front of the blazing red light that flashes from Iran. Because now Medvedev, the Russian president, has also said it, and certainly not without Putin’s permission: Iran is arriving at the conclusion of its race towards the atomic bomb. It is, he says, “moving closer to possessing the capability that could in principle be used to build nuclear weapons”. This rhetoric is a bit more diplomatic, but clear. And Russia, together with China, who — before the Turkish and Brazilian Pasdaran rose against the sanctions at the Security Council — had always been the main enemy of those sanctions and Iran’s best friend, as well as the one who put the spoke in the wheel of the United States in order to never arrive at a clear definition of the problem.

For example, at the Council in December 2006, the sanctions were eased on account of pressure by the Russians, and it was just the first of four rounds supported by Putin in Iran’s favor. Due to the fact that Russia’s friendship with Iran is one strategically linked to the ancient division between the world’s great powers, and even older: the Cold War still exists and implies that the Middle East sees Russia always deployed where before it could find the Soviet Union or in a relationship, certainly less evident today, with anti-Western powers against Israel, which is seen as America’s long arm.

The Russian friendship with Iran has always been very pragmatic, made so by the construction of the indispensable Bushehr nuclear power plant, that will be active by this September, by sending a stream of experts on nuclear facilities, by weapons agreements such as the S-300 system, whose outcome is still uncertain, but that is nevertheless a ground air defense system intended to cover Iran with an invincible shield against possible attacks on its precious nuclear plants.

Russia had also, along with China and some Islamic countries, recognized the legitimacy of the new Iranian government in June 2009, when the whole world was seething with indignation at the suppression of the crowds in the streets, with assassinations and kidnappings: but the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov had proclaimed that the Iranian elections were only an internal matter. And in order to thank him shortly after, Ahmadinejad went to Moscow and various treaties and agreements were signed. Only a few months ago, in December 2009, the Russian representative to the IAEA took a more cautious position than usual towards “secret documents” that showed the construction of a nuclear weapon.

Putin’s Russia has begun to seriously take offense vis-a-vis Ahmadinejad, especially when he dared to protest and even threaten the all-time ally at the moment in which Putin had decided in favor of the sanctions at the last round of the Security Council on June the 9th: the logic of Russian pride took over, Iran cannot dream of managing Great Mother Russia against new Islamic powers, which includes numerous Russian conflicts with Islam, for example in Chechnya, which is a very painful subject. Moreover, even Putin and Medvedev, like Obama, especially after the latest findings by intelligence services (Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA, announced a week ago that Iran is already able to build two bombs) have grasped the risk — no longer postponable — of an Iran, which hasn’t given the slightest sign of appreciating the soft line in all these months and years of Western pressure and Russian kindness. Obama has evidently changed his mind based on definitive information and even Russia has understood accordingly — and a bit perhaps in competition with respect to the world’s leadership — that with friends like Iran it is much better to rely on the enemies.?

Israel, faced with a situation like this, might think more serenely in a global policy of serious sanctions that blocks Iran’s international trade and its acquisition of gasoline, which it is incapable of producing alone and which is supplied mainly by Russia and China. Or instead, one can read in this global pressure that consolidates itself, the announcement that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear plants are by now not such a imaginative and solitary hypothesis, and that perhaps Israel is not the only country thinking of it.

Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal

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

Kingdom Top Terror Finance Fighter

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has won the first position among Arab countries and 10th among G20 countries in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) report on its compliance with international resolutions on combating money laundering and terror financing.

“We are happy over the international recognition of the Kingdom’s efforts in fighting money laundering and terror financing,” said a statement issued by the Council of Ministers following its weekly meeting here.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, emphasized the danger posed by the two types of crimes to national and international financial systems.

The FATF and Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force have endorsed the report citing a high degree of Saudi Arabia’s compliance to 40 anti-money laundering (AML) resolutions and nine anti-terror funding resolutions.

“The legal AML framework in Saudi Arabia is composed of Shariah law and the Anti Money Laundering Statute. This framework effectively criminalizes money laundering as required by the FATF recommendations and international conventions,” the report said.

“Regarding terrorist financing, it is clear that Saudi Arabia is committed to prosecute terrorist financiers as terrorists,” FATF said. The Kingdom’s Financial Intelligence Unit is a well-equipped and well-resourced organization that receives and disseminates relatively few suspicious transactions, it added.

There are two agencies that supervise and regulate financial entities in the Kingdom. Both have adequate powers and financial resources to conduct their activities. “While the assessment team welcomes the authorities’ efforts in enhancing the current supervisory regime, it also noticed low levels of corrective measures applied by both supervisory agencies,” it said.

Monday’s Cabinet meeting denounced terrorist explosions in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Uganda, killing hundreds of innocent people. “These terrorist attacks undermine the security and stability of these countries,” Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja said quoting the Cabinet.

The Cabinet urged the Iraqis to form a unity government as quickly as possible to reinforce their country’s stability.

Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince Naif presented a report on the resolutions taken by the Supreme Haj Committee during a recent meeting in Jeddah in order to improve services to the guests of God and ensure their safety and security.

The Cabinet approved an agreement with Egypt on transfer of prisoners to help them serve their sentence terms in their home country. It also endorsed another accord signed with Egypt on combating drugs and narcotics trafficking. Both agreements were signed in Sharm El-Sheikh on Oct. 14, 2009.

The meeting authorized Education Minister Prince Faisal bin Abdullah to hold talks with UNESCO to reach an agreement on establishing a program for the culture of dialogue and peace named after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

The Cabinet allowed clubs to establish sports academies using their own funds on the basis of certain rules and conditions to be set out by the Presidency of Youth Welfare. Revenues from such institutions should be used for the development of clubs. It also agreed to Saudi Arabia joining the International Sugar Agreement (1992) that facilitates the global sugar trade.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Meshaal Meets Nasrallah in Lebanon

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JULY 13 — The leader of the Hamas political office in exile, Khaled Meshaal, has had a meeting in Lebanon with the head of the Shia movement Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah. This was reported this morning by the pan-Arab daily al Hayat.

The newspaper specifies that the meeting, which took place yesterday on a secret location for security reasons, was organised on the sidelines of Meshaal’s visit to the family of the late Lebanese Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who died on July 4.

Hezbollah announced in a statement that Meshaal has offered his condolences to Nasrallah for the death of Fadlallah, who was one of the movement’s inspirers in the ‘80s. Nasrallah and Meshaal have discussed “the latest political developments in Lebanon, Palestine and the region”. The radical Palestinian movement Hamas and Hezbollah have both formed alliances with Iran and Syria in an anti-Israeli perspective.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Scientists at NASA to Coach UAE Students

ABU DHABI // Emirati students will soon join teams running Nasa space missions in a sign of increased co-operation in science and education between the US and the Muslim world, according to the UAE-based organisation that secured the arrangement.

The US space agency has signed a deal with the Arab Youth Venture Foundation, a non-profit group based in Ras al Khaimah that promotes science, technology, literacy and arts education, agreeing to take up to 12 Emirati university students to work alongside some of its non-astronaut experts.

“High-potential Emirati college students are going to be working in a real Nasa team of engineers, scientists, researchers, along with their US peers,” said Lisa LaBonté, the chief executive of the foundation. “Our initial programme is geared towards UAE nationals, predominantly engineering or aviation students, whose experience represents a fit for qualifying Nasa missions.”

Applications will open on January 1, with the shortlist later vetted by the space agency in time for the programme to start in May.

Students who are selected will take part in Nasa projects at Ames Research Centre in California for between two and 10 months.

Research will involve the space shuttle and the International Space Station, solar system exploration, deep space programmes, research aircraft and remote sensing.

The foundation is seeking sponsors to cover the cost of the programme, expected to be at least $30,000 (Dh110,000) per student per semester, including cost-of-living expenses and accommodation. Students cannot apply directly to Nasa.

US officials welcomed the deal. “This is a superb initiative,” said Richard Olson, the US ambassador to the UAE. “It is an opportunity to realise President Obama’s call for expanded science and technology partnership with Arab and Muslim communities.”

In a joint statement with the foundation, Nasa said the programme would “provide both Arab and US students valuable cultural exposure and experience working with their international counterparts in a team environment”.

Michael O’Brien, the agency’s assistant administrator for external affairs, said the effort would “provide a unique opportunity for US engineering students to work with their peers from the UAE on a variety of programmes”.

Ms LaBonté, whose foundation has worked with 20,000 young people in the UAE, said that despite the “keen intuition, extreme creativity and high energy” of Emirati students, many still seemed in need of stimulating projects.

“The students we’ve seen in the engineering communities and colleges and especially in the younger kids aged six and up, there’s a strong talent base that really needs to be cultivated and given opportunities that are hands-on and very dynamic,” she said.

“We want the programme to be selective so that we can showcase the UAE’s best of the best.”

But academic qualifications were not the only measure of excellence.

“Just as vital as the educational focus for us would be the level of enthusiasm, the ability to communicate in English, their work experience to date and their desire to be a part of something this dynamic,” she said.

Ms LaBonté hopes the programme will result in a “reverse brain drain, or brain gain” for the Middle East, allowing students to nurture potential careers before returning to the country and contributing to its development.

Such educational initiatives also had the potential to improve perceptions of the US in the Muslim world, she said.

“President Obama has certainly made it a mandate of his to support science and technological development in the Muslim world, and I do hope this opens the door to relationships that are more positive than they have been in the recent past.”

Abdulaziz Sager, the chairman and founder of the UAE-based Gulf Research Centre, praised the easing of restrictions on students seeking to study in the US as a “positive step” to improve perceptions of the US in the Muslim world.

“But this alone will not change the perception and mindset,” he said.

Mr Sager said the US should consider setting up educational centres similar to those of the British Council in Arab countries as a way of reaching out to more people.

In addition to the political implications of the venture, professionals in the industry said, the collaboration would bring huge practical benefits to the students.

“I believe the proposed collaboration with Nasa is a truly historic moment,” said Joseph Fowler, a spacecraft engineer based in the UAE. “They are at the very pinnacle of space exploration. There is no question in my mind that the students who go to Nasa will firstly be broadened by the experience of working with experienced space professionals, but secondly they will be immersed in the Nasa way of doing things.

“The Emirati students will be able to see how important teamwork is. The training they receive at Nasa could easily be applied to any career back in the UAE. The emphasis on teamwork, process, policy and procedure should see to that.”

Dr Mohammad al Jarrah, professor and head of mechanical engineering at the American University of Sharjah and the founding director of its mechatronics graduate programme, said he hoped the venture was a precursor to more ambitious scientific efforts in the Arab world.

“It is time to establish a research and development institution similar in scope to Nasa to lead the Arab world to the aerospace world of science and technology,” said Dr al Jarrah, who earned his PhD in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University in California. “I know that this is a dream at the moment, but sooner or later we need to make the start.”

Collaboration with Nasa would allow the development of human resources and expertise to help sustain a burgeoning aerospace industry, he said.

“Genuine Nasa involvement will bring about an accelerated development in the region in the growing regional aerospace industry,” he said. “It will make the task of the scientists and engineers working in the region much easier by communicating and sharing their problems and problem solving with experienced Nasa partners.

“We need not reinvent the wheel. Getting the appropriate know-how is critical and is invaluable in the long term for the country and the region.”

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror: Interview With Nadim Gemayel

On this week’s edition, we kick off with an exclusive interview with Nadim Gemayel, a Christian member of Lebanon’s parliament who says the terror group Hezbollah has hijacked his country — and he aims to take it back.

Gemayel, whose father and cousin were both murdered by Syrian thugs, also addresses the destructive influence both Syria and Iran are having inside Lebanon.

We then take an exclusive look at how Iran’s regime is targeting Iranian dissidents inside the U.S.: with international help.

The War Council segment features mega-selling Left Behind author Tim LaHaye talking about his new bestselling fiction novel and the Obama administration’s turn against Israel.

The Sharia Flaw segment looks at the Iranian regime’s death sentence—by stoning—against an Iranian woman over trumped up allegations of adultery.

Also, don’t miss retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin as he takes on the proposed Ground Zero mosque. Boykin, a founding member of Delta Force, says the mosque will embolden Islamic radicals and ultimately endanger American lives.

[Return to headlines]

Turkey to Open Trade Fair of Palestinian Goods

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 13 — Turkey is planning to open a trade fair for goods manufactured in Palestine, Turkish foreign trade minister said on Tuesday, as reported by Anatolia news agency. “I have given an order to launch a trade fair for goods that are produced in Palestine and will be exported to Turkey.

We will continue to extend support to the Palestinians”, Zafer Caglayan told a business forum meeting between Turkish and Palestinian businesspeople in Istanbul. Caglayan said the main goal of the Turkish-Palestinian business forum was to improve trade relations in all aspects, adding that the visiting Palestinian business delegation would hold important talks in Istanbul and Ankara, including a meeting between the Turkish premier’s wife, Emine Erdogan, and the Palestinian businesswomen. Also speaking at the forum meeting, Palestinian National Economy Minister Hassan Abu-Libdeh invited Turkish companies to Palestine for the renovation and the rebuilding of the infrastructure. Abu-Libdeh said Palestine might also give certain privileges to Turkish companies. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey to Build Industry Zone in West Bank

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 13 — Turkey would definitely build an industrial zone in West Bank despite all the obstructions by Israel, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Turkey’s foreign trade minister Zafer Caglayan as saying Tuesday. “Such a project in Erez had been hindered by Israel in the past. Now, the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) is carrying out a project to set up an industrial zone in West Bank. It has to be built despite all the obstructions by Israel,” Caglayan told a press conference in Istanbul where he met Palestinian Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh during the Turkey-Palestine Business Forum. Caglayan also said that a significant part of Turkish exports to Israel was sent to Palestine. “Last year, our exports to Israel was worth 1.5 billion USD. Some 350 million USD of it was exports to Palestine through Israel. However, we can ship those products directly to Palestine,” Caglayan said. Palestinian authorities asked Turkish government for help for direct trade between Turkish and Palestinian firms, Caglayan said. He also said that a large group of Turkish businessmen from several business associations would soon accompany him during a trip to Palestine. “We will encourage Turkish firms for investments in Palestine. During our visit, we will exert efforts to turn Palestine into an area of investment and enhance the level of economic development there,” he stated. Caglayan added that Turkish and Palestinian governments would work together to organize trade fairs in Turkey in a bid to promote Palestinian products and increase the trade volume of 29.5 million USD. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Gunned Down as They Slept: Rogue Afghan Soldier Shoots Dead Three British Troops Inside Military Compound

A renegade Afghan soldier is on the run today after killing three British soldiers in southern Helmand while they slept.

Another four British soldiers were wounded in the attack inside a joint patrol base near Nahr-e Saraj early this morning.

One of the three who died was killed in his bed as he slept at around 2am. The other two were apparently on guard duty at a tower overlooking the base when were hit when the attacker fired a rocket-propelled grenade.

He managed to escape and is now being hunted. The British soldiers were in 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles. Their families are being informed.

Two are described as UK nationals and the third is believed to be Nepalese.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: Hero British Soldier Shot in Face by Taliban Spits Out the Bullet

A brave British soldier who was shot in the face by the Taliban spat out the bullet — then walked nearly two miles for treatment before being rushed home for an emergency operation.

Lance Corporal Luke Reeson, 22, was on patrol in Nad-e-Ali in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan when the insurgent’s bullet hit his Osprey body armour.

But the bullet ricocheted off , smashing into his lower cheek and back out through his mouth.

Despite the bullet shattering his jaw, Lance Corporal Reeson from Torquay in Devon, managed to walk three kilometres with his injury to get medical aid.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: Sr Marie Stella, Sister of Blasphemous Professor Who Had Hand Chopped Off, Talks About Forgiveness

Prof TJ Joseph is “a martyr for Islamic-Christian dialogue”. Many Muslims donate blood for him. The nun thanks Benedict XVI for his work in favour of dialogue with Islam.

Ernakulam (AsiaNews) — Prof TJ Joseph is “a martyr for Islamic-Christian dialogue, in Kerala and around the world,” said Sister Marie Stella Thenganakunnel. The nun, who is also the elder sister of the Catholic college lecturer, spoke to AsiaNews about the attack in which her brother had his right hand, and part of the right arm, chopped off. On behalf of her brother, sisters and 81-year-old mother, she said, “We forgive everyone”. She said she hoped that last Sunday’s attack might “bear fruit and open channels of communication between Christianity and Islam”. For this reason, she “was grateful to our beloved Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church” for “a series of initiatives designed to increase understanding and dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

In an interview with AsiaNews, Sister Marie Stella, 59, talked about her brother’s attack, about the difficulties Kerala’s Christian minority faces, about dialogue with Muslims and the value of forgiveness, which alone can “alleviate suffering” and “bear fruit”.

Prof TJ Joseph (pictured, a ‘Wanted’ poster calling for his capture) has been a college lecturer since 1985. For the last six years he has worked in Idukki District—for the past two, he has been the head of the Malayalam (language) Department at the Newman College in Thodupuzha, in charge of Value Education, organising retreats, seminars and other holistic education programmes.

After Mass last Sunday, he was attacked in Muvattupuzha, in Kerala’s Ernakulam District, by a group of unknown assailants who chopped off his right hand and part of the arm. He had been accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad a few months earlier in an exam question.

As Sister Marie Stella can attest, he loved his work very much. “For his class lessons, he would prepare a series of arguments because he could not use textbooks,” she said.

He tried to teach his students humanist values, encouraging rational thinking, objective assessment and modernity in them. “His writings on Ahimsa, non violence, are not only recognised for their literary excellence but also for their value-based principles,” she said.

After coming back from the Cook Islands, in New Zealand, the nun plans to stay in India even after her brother heals. A member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny, she stressed that right after the attack many Muslims expressed their solidarity towards her brother.

“We live in a Muslim environment,” she explained. “Muslims are good people. Many have donated blood for him. Unfortunately, a small fringe carried out this attack. My brother however has only talked about forgiveness, forgiveness and forgiveness.”

Her 81-year-old mother and sisters have joined him in forgiving. “We forgive everyone,” she said. “We bear no grudge or resentment. All we want is for our brother’s suffering to bear fruit, and open channels of dialogue between Christianity and Islam.”

At a personal level, she wants “to tell Muslims and the whole world that we are all brothers and sisters. [. . ..] We all come from the one God and to Him we shall return. We are pilgrims on this earth. Let us live in peace, love, harmony, friendship and brotherhood.”

Sister Marie Stella’s final thoughts and those of her family go to “our beloved Holy Father, Benedict XVI, and to the Catholic Church for their initiatives towards the Muslim world, initiatives geared towards a serious dialogue and mutual understanding with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

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

Pakistan: ‘Al-Qaeda Linked’ Group Vows Moderation After Arrests

Lahore, 13 July (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — The leader of banned Islamist group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat has vowed to exercise moderation despite the arrest of 170 of its members in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province.

“We enjoyed very good relations with the government of Punjab, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s leader in Punjab, Shamshur Rahman Mawiya, told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone interview.

“But all of a sudden we have faced this abrupt crackdown against our party workers and we are stunned,” said Mawiya.

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat is the new name for the outlawed Sepah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which the Pakistani government alleges to have links to Al-Qaeda.

The two groups were banned in 2002 during former president Pervez Musharraf’s rule.

None of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat members arrested were initially charged with any crime , Mawiya noted. They were detained under a public safety law which dates from the time of British rule and is used against political activists, he said.

“We have not decided any protest and we’ll try our level best to resolve the issue amicably,” Muwiya said.

Pakistani security forces on Monday arrested 178 people, mostly members of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. The raids began late on Sunday across Punjab, targeting areas were militants have found widespread support.

Police said they had closed 22 Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat branch as part of the ongoing operation.

The police operation was part of an ongoing crackdown and came a week after a double suicide blast targeting moderate Muslims killed over 40 people in Punjab’s provincial capital, Lahore on 1 July.

“Some people have been arrested for one month and some have been arrested for three months. While some of the workers were arrested from Lahore, the majority workers were picked up from the southern districts of Punjab,” Mawiya told AKI.

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat backed the provincial election campaign of Punjab’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) group, aiding the victory of many PML-N candidates in May polls.

Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi addressed public meetings together

The PML-N acknowledged Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s support and publicly asserted that it could not ignore such a huge source of votes, even if these came from a banned organisation.

The country’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’s spokesperson Fauzia Wahab criticised the PML-N’s reliance on extremist votes to obtain victory in Punjab.

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

Far East

Chinese Toys Tainted by Lead or Made by Child Labour

China makes 80 per cent of the world’s toys, but it has come under attack for its poor safety record (toxic materials and unsafe working conditions). Even standards body has been criticised for corruption. Exports drop.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Rampant corruption is undermining safety standards in mainland China’s toy factories, which meet 80 per cent of global demand but that could be slapped with an embargo.

According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese toy manufacturers blame quality control auditors employed to enforce standards for receiving bribes in order to turn a blind eye to the increasingly stringent safety standards demanded by foreign retailers.

Corruption between manufacturers and auditors is so bad that the International Council of Toy Industries’ Care Foundation (ICTI)—a worldwide industry programme to promote ethical manufacturing—has sacked about 20 of the 145 mainland auditors so far this year, or 14 per cent of the total.

“Bribery and wages are not the only problems,” said Ian Anderson, vice-president of the foundation’s Asian operations, who spoke yesterday at a seminar. “We have found child labour cases every month.”

The problem is not new. In 2007, the United States banned the sale of toys made in China for toy multinational Mattel because of excess lead in paint used in products for toddlers. At least, two million toys were recalled.

On 31 October 2007, Guangdong authorities stripped or suspended the manufacturing licence of 764 plants because of safety concerns. They also set a deadline for 690 plants to improve manufacturing and product quality.

In the last few years, accusations of child labour have also surfaced. In some plants, children are often hired, ostensibly enrolled in early school vocational training in which they are underpaid and forced to work in unsafe conditions.

About 2,300 factories employing 1.7 million workers worldwide have enrolled in the ICTI programme, a set of best practices that are recognised in the US and in several European countries.

However, the increasingly tough standards are causing problems of their own.

Lawrence Chan Wing-luen, chairman of toymaker Wynnewood Corp, who has been in the industry for 37 years, said some manufacturers have been tempted to save money by ensuring positive reports by bribing auditors rather than improving conditions in their factories.

He is critical of the excessive power such officials exerts, and would like to see greater control exerted on them.

Chinese manufacturers are afraid that new scandals might negatively impact exports, already reeling from the worldwide crisis. Last year, the mainland exported US$7.78 billion worth of toys, 10 per cent less than in 2008.

About 3,000 manufacturers export toys, down from a peak of about 8,500 in 2007 as the industry grappled with toy recalls and safety issues.

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

Japanese Solar Sail Successfully Rides Sunlight

By Tariq Malik

An unmanned probe riding a solar sail through space has felt its first accelerating push from sunlight in a successful test of its novel propulsion system, Japan’s space agency has announced.

Observations of the Ikaros solar sail built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that the spacecraft has received a growing speed boost from light radiated by the sun, the space agency said.

“The small solar power sail demonstrator ‘Ikaros,’ which successfully deployed its solar sail, was confirmed to accelerate by [the] solar sail receiving solar pressure,” JAXA officials said in a July 9 update. “This proved that the Ikaros has generated the biggest acceleration through photon during interplanetary flight in history.”

The effect stems from the cumulative push of light photons striking the solar sail. When measured together, it adds up to a small continuous thrust that does not require fuel use by the Ikaros craft.

Sailing on light

JAXA engineers used Doppler radar measurements of the Ikaros craft to determine that sunlight is pressing on the probe’s solar sail with a force of about 1.12 millinewtons (0.0002 pounds of force).

“This is a significant milestone on their flight — probably the next-to-last step before complete controlled solar sail flight is achieved (turning the spacecraft to add or subtract velocity in a controlled manner),” wrote Louis Freidman, co-founder of the California-based Planetary Society, in a message chronicling Ikaros’ solar sailing success on the society’s website.

The Ikaros spacecraft weighs nearly 700 pounds (315 kg) has thin film solar cells built into its kite-like frame to generate electricity.

The square-shaped Ikaros sail measures 46 feet (14 meters) wide and 66 feet (20 meters) diagonally. It is the first solar sail to actual fly on an interstellar mission.

Solar sail milestone

JAXA launched the solar sail Ikaros, short for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun, in May along with the Venus-bound orbiter Akatsuki (Japanese for “Dawn”). The Akatsuki orbit is due to arrive at Venus in December.

The Planetary Society has been working to fly its own solar sail to demonstrate the space propulsion technology, as have NASA engineers. The Planetary Society is currently developing its next effort — the LightSail 1 mission — using a spare NASA solar sail. JAXA officials hope to follow Ikaros with an even more ambitious solar sailing mission, as well.

Friedman said scientists have long-known that photons of light can push on spacecraft, but Ikaros is the first to attempt a true solar sailing flight.

“The acceleration by sunlight pressure on spacecraft has been known about ever since the beginning of the space age. It is, however, a new proof of engineering — harnessing the force of light pressure force to modify a sailcraft’s path in a controlled way,” Friedman wrote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Italy: Muslim Brotherhood and Its Current Challenges

(ANSAmed) — ROME — “If we keep seeing all Muslims as fundamentalists, and all fundamentalists as actual or potential enemies of the West, it is most likely that they will in fact become our enemies, and we will become theirs”. And “the risk is that the logic of the ‘construction of an enemy’ will prevail on both sides of the Mediterranean”. These are fragments of the book “I Fratelli Musulmani nel mondo contemporaneo” (The Muslim Brotherhood in the modern world), by Massimo Campanini and Karim Mezram, published by Utet (254 pages, 22 euros). The book was edited by several experts, ranging from Egypt to Sudan, from Jordan to the Palestine of Hamas, from the Maghreb countries to the United States and Europe. They illustrate a phenomenon that is too often seen in a narrow and monolithic view. The risks of superficiality are also stressed in the first lines of the book: distinguishing between “moderate Islamism” and “radical Islamism”, in the words of Campanini (professor at the Orientale University in Naples, and Mezran (John Hopkins University), “means adopting a “Euro-centric, Western-centric” vision, in which the moderates are those who accept the political concept and international order established by the West, and the radicals contest these “putting their universality up for discussion”. “Despite this ambiguity”, the two scholars continued, “one can say that a ‘moderate’ Islamism, though conservative in many of its choices, particularly on a social level, does exist”. And one of the ways moderate Islamism has tried to legitimate itself has been the one chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood, with its “patient consensus building and political representativeness” in several Contries. With regard to Europe, now the movement must deal with a new, internal drive for change towards an Islam that no longer searches the debate “with” the West, but has become an European Islam “in” the West, and therefore can no longer be looked at with the categories used for Islamism in the past and the Islamism of Muslim countries.

On the other side, betweeen North Africa and the Middle East, the role that could be played by the Muslim Brotherhood from now on is yet unclear. “We believe”, the editors continue, “that the contrast between Green and Black, present in the Middle East for at least 40 years, must be left behind”. With ‘Black’ the editors mean the repression of authoritarian States and autocracies, which justify themselves as barriers to extremist and radical Islamism; with Green they mean Islamism, as a matter of fact the only real opposition to these systems for the time being. And on this junction, the Muslim Brotherhood — backed by the consensus it gained because the movement often tries to fill the gaps in State welfare — could now be put to the test. “Only by giving the Muslim parties a chance to democratise, one can hope that they will become more democratic” underline Campanini and Mezram. “Only by accepting their presence and role in contemporary political debate they will hopefully find their place in that context”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Uganda: Suspects Held After World Cup Bomb Attacks

Unexploded suicide vest discovered at nightclub, police say

KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan police have found an unexploded suicide vest and arrested six of the more than 20 Somalis and Ugandans suspected of planning twin bombings that killed 76 soccer fans on Sunday, officials said.

Somali al-Shabab Islamists linked to al-Qaida have claimed responsibility for the attacks on a crowded restaurant and a rugby club in the capital Uganda while fans watched the World Cup final on television.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

‘Queen of Entitlement’ Fading Into History of Greed

As they’re writing in Bogota Free Planet (BFP) today, Ingrid Betancourt, who would do most anything to keep her name before the public, has fallen victim to her own publicity.

As a Colombian presidential candidate, she passed out free condoms on the theme that her opponents were “corrupt”. As a freed hostage, living the good life in France, she wanted to sue not her captors, but the saviors of her life.

A wave of criticism in Colombia that reached Colombians living around the world, forced her haughty retreat from trying to chisel the Colombian government for $6.8 million for her time as a hostage.

You don’t have to read Out of Captivity: 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle, the compelling memoir of the three U.S. military contractors held hostage by FARC along with Betancourt, to know that Betancourt does nothing for anybody other than herself.

“In the book and in the authors’ interview this week with TIME, the men make it clear that it wasn’t just jungle fare that left a bad taste in their mouths. (Time, March 1, 2009). “Some of their more unpleasant memories are saved for fellow hostage Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian who was kindnapped (sic) while campaigning for the Colombian presidency and was rescued along with the Americans and 11 other hostages last summer. The authors describe the married Betancourt as carrying on an affair with a Colombian hostage, acting like a privileged blue-blood—”a frickin’ princess” in Stansell’s telling—bossing around the other prisoners and hoarding precious books, food and a transistor radio. They even claim that she told the guerrillas that the Americans were CIA agents.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: One in Five Britons ‘Will be From an Ethnic Minority by 2051’

One in five of the population will be from an ethnic minority by the middle of this century, according to a new report.

Researchers concluded that the figure will rocket from the current rate of eight per cent — and that people from minority backgrounds will be living in more affluent areas.

Just one in ten of the population was from an ethnic minority ten years ago.

Researchers at The University of Leeds also concluded that the population of the UK could reach nearly 80million by the middle of this century.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

It Begins… Four Christians Charged With Disturbing the Peace for Preaching About Jesus

Four Christian missionaries were arraigned today on misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace following their June 18 arrest at the Arab International Festival.

But Ann Arbor attorney Robert Muise, senior trial counsel with the Thomas More Law Center, said their constitutional rights were violated and they engaged in no illegal behaviors.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Administration Approves First Taxpayer-Funded Abortions Under Obamacare

The Obama administration has officially approved the first instance of taxpayer funded abortions under the new national government-run health care program. This is the kind of abortion funding the pro-life movement warned the kind of abortion funding the pro-life movement warned about when Congress considered the bill.

The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new “high-risk” insurance program under a provision of the federal health care legislation enacted in March.

It has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Paralysed Man Blinked to Stay Alive as Life Support Machine Was About to be Turned Off

It is a decision no parent ever wants to make. But as the Rudd family watched their 43-year-old son lying paralysed and comatose on a life support machine, they came to a terrible conclusion.

Recalling a conversation where Richard told them he wouldn’t want to be trapped in a useless body, his relatives agreed it was time to let him go.

Yet even as the Rudd family mentally prepared to say goodbye, his doctor made a startling discovery. Despite his devastating spinal injuries, Richard Rudd was still able to blink his eyes in response to simple questions. And when asked if he wanted to stay alive, the father of two’s answer was a categoric Yes.

The heart-wrenching plea for life was captured by a BBC crew making a documentary about patients with serious brain injuries.

The programme last night reignited the controversy over living wills,where people declare in advance how they wish to be treated if they are seriously ill and unable to communicate.

Anti-euthanasia organisations pointed out that Mr Rudd — who has a condition called locked-in syndrome, which leaves him unable to speak or move his limbs even though he can think, hear and feel — would probably not be alive now if he had written one.

Yesterday his father, also called Richard, admitted the family had been convinced there was ‘no way in a million years’ that he would want to live with his injuries.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Yorkshireminer said...

I find these debates about switching off life support systems rather pathetic, although the circumstances are usually tragic and full of drama and emotion every case is different and you cannot make a general case every case should be judged on its merits. Let me give you a very good example. Nearly 30 years ago I had just come back from spending several years in the middle East. I had a good English friend who I had know from my time in Denmark. He had been married a couple of times in Denmark both had ended disastrously. He was a brilliant antique dealer and restorer. He had bought an old boat and had fitted it out as a shop and a home. It was perfect for him as he specialized in Maritime antiques and he only sold too the trade, cheese and wine parties were the order of the day. It was moored in St, Katherine's Dock no more than a hundred meters from Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. He made a very good living, somewhere along the way when I was in the middle east he had meet and married a beautiful red haired Celt of an Australian whose father was the information officer at the Australian Embassy. I had got in touch with him through his parent when I had got back, and he had phoned me up inviting me down telling me he had married again, being a somewhat blunt Yorkshire man and knowing his choice in women, I passed a few derogative remarks, wait until you meet her was his reply. I was most certainly wrong. She was about 5 foot 6inches natural red hair halfway down her back exquisite figure, very intelligent and a sharp wit. She had a well paid job in the City working for a firm that arranged visits for foreign dignitaries. I knew her for about 4 months, I was enchanted by her. I was staying on his boat one weekend in July when he came too my cabin and got me out of bed , she was breathing funny and he couldn't wake here up. We called an Ambulance and they took her too the London hospital, and she went immediately onto life support. They did tests and told us that she had had a berry anurism, internal bleeding in the brain. They did an electroencephalograph the next day and told us that the results were not positive, polite speak for brain dead. We spent 48 hours in that hospital before here other organs weakened and she finally died. I do not ever want to go through that ever again and for my mate it must have been torture. I had had at the beginning a talk with the person in charge and asked the question if she was brain dead why didn't they just pull the plug, it seems that Panorama a well known television program in Britain at the time, had done a so called expose a few weeks before concerning some iffy so called pulling the plug. This guy was not going to get his manhood squeezed in the vice of public opinion. I certainly cannot blame him. It was one of the most horrific 48 hours I have ever spent. I knowing that she was going to die and my mate hoping that she would pull through. This is just my personal opinion concerning this case and this case alone. If they had pulled the plug my mate would not have to have gone through 48 hours of sleepless hopeless hope, her organs could have been used to help some other person in need, they had deteriorated so much that they couldn't be used. If they could have been, then I am sure that the thought would have been a comfort to my friend in his sorrow. She was 27.