Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100714

Financial Crisis
»Financial Takeover Bill Seems Poised for Passage
»Italy: ‘Austerity a Necessity’ Says Tremonti
»Portugal: Austerity Necessary After Moody’s Cut
»Amil Imani: Islam Must be Stopped in America
»Arlington GM Plant Closes for a Day Due to Parts Shortage
»Felonious Assault on U.S. Elections
»Meditation Boosts Attention Span
»Muslim Outreach Isn’t NASA Chief’s Duty, White House Says
»New Start and Obama’s Mysterious Trip to Russia
»Obama’s Erosion Among White Voters Continues
»Obama Student-Loan Mystery Shrouded by ‘Politics’
»Pawlenty: ‘Credible Evidence’ Of Fraud in 2008 Coleman-Franken Race
»President Obama, White House: Al Qaeda is Racist
»Synthetic Biology: Great Promise and Potential Peril
»The Gut’s ‘Friendly’ Viruses Revealed
»The Wrong Way to Fight Jihad
»Watchdog: Feds Were Asleep at the Switch When Minnesota Felons Went to the Polls
Europe and the EU
»BA-Iberia Merger, New Giant of the Skies
»Calls Grow for Burka Ban in Britain as French Outlaw Islamic ‘Walking Coffins’
»EU Proposes GMO Policy Overhaul
»European Union: When Ex-Commissioners Land Lobby Jobs
»France: Troops From African Ex-Colonies in National Parade
»Germany: Catholic Abbot Returns to Office Despite Abuse Scandal
»Germany: Anti-Semitic Alliance: The Shared Extremism of Neo-Nazis and Migrant Youth
»Greece: Italian Ships Held in Corinth Depart
»Italy: Police ‘Strike at the Heart’ Of Mafia in Milan
»Italy: Rotting Refuse Torched Around Palermo
»Italy: Minister ‘Surprised’ By UN Criticism of Wiretap Bill
»Italy: No Confidence Motion Poised in ‘P3’ Case
»Italy: Calabrian Mafia No.1 Caught
»Italy: Villages in Geese Flap
»Italy: ‘P3’ Official’s No-Confidence Vote Next Week
»Netherlands: Medical Specialists Face Salary Cuts to Head Off Massive Overspend
»Romanian Passports for Moldovans
»Skydiver Plans Record-Breaking Supersonic Space Jump
»Swedish Soldiers Will be Forced to Serve Abroad
»Swedish Women Equate Jogging With Sex: Survey
»UK: Swedish Male Model ‘Attacked Arabian Princess Ex-Lover’s Chauffeur After She Caught Him Having Threesome in Her Flat’
»UK: Sterilise the Poor and Bring Back the Workhouse: Public’s Bizarre Suggestions for Spending Cuts
»XXX-Ray Calendar Titillates German Radiologists
»Bosnia: 3:000 Militants ‘Pose Grave Security Threat’
»Western Decrepitude: The Meaning of the Srebrenica Myth
North Africa
»Tunisia: National Football Team in Underage Sex Charges
Middle East
»Confusion Mounts on Turkey’s Iran Nuke Diplomacy
»Flotilla Affect on Turkey’s Eco-Tourism
»Holy Land: More Pilgrimages to the Holy Land “Due to Pilgrims From Asia, “ Says Fr Pizzaballa
»Lebanon: UN Denies “Confidence Crisis” In Hezbollah, But Concerns Persist
»Lebanon: Spy Working for Israel Sentenced to Death
»Palestinian Entrepreneurs Plan to Sell Arab Snacks in Turkey
»Why Israel Shouldn’t Attack Iranian Nuclear Installations — Unless it Has to Do So
»Yemen: Attack on Security Headquarters in South, 5 Killed
»The Gazprom Gamble
South Asia
»Sri Lanka: UN Office in Colombo Closed, Minister Leading Protests, A “Clown”
»U.S. Soldiers Can be Court-Martialed for Protecting Selves
Far East
»Beijing Starts Gating, Locking Migrant Villages
»China: Property Speculation Leaves 64.5 Million Vacant Homes in China
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Canada Aids Search for the African Einstein
»Brussels Go-Ahead for New Wave of Migrants
Culture Wars
»UK: Shopping Centre Bosses Approve ‘Asian Squat Toilets’ Following Cultural Awareness Course

Financial Crisis

Financial Takeover Bill Seems Poised for Passage

WASHINGTON — Thanks to three aisle-jumping Republicans, it looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have the votes needed to push the Conference Report of the financial regulatory bill towards a final passage this week.

Officially titled the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, after its chief sponsors, opponents are calling it the Frank-Dodd Financial Takeover Act because of its threatened overreach into all segments of the economy and pending control of businesses from Main Street to Wall Street.


This is the bill that Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., warned last December was “even worse” than the healthcare bill, the climate control bill and other contentious measures on the president’s priority list, NewsWithViews reported.

“I know that’s hard to believe, but it is worse in the sense that every American makes financial transactions,” said Bachmann during a TV interview just hours before the House approved the measure. “We all use credit cards, we all write checks. This will all now be controlled by government, and government will ration credit. You can’t have capitalism without capital, and government will decide who gets capital and who doesn’t.”

“The entirety of this bill — all pinned together like this — hasn’t even gone through committees,” Bachmann exclaimed. “It just went on the floor for three hours of debate. It’s a complete government control of the financial services industry and no one knows about it!”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Austerity a Necessity’ Says Tremonti

‘Turning point in history’ says economy chief

(ANSA) — Rome, July 14 — Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti on Wednesday reaffirmed the importance of the government’s 25-billion-euro austerity package as part of moves to protect the eurozone.

“I don’t know if it’s an ideology but austerity is certainly a necessity and a responsibility,” Tremonti told the association of Italian business cooperatives Confcooperative.

“We are at a turning point in history, not only for us but for all countries,” said the economy chief, whose budget received the OK from European economic and financial ministers Tuesday.

The two-year budget package, aimed at cutting Italy’s deficit to meet eurozone rules, is expected to be approved by parliament in confidence votes before the August recess.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano stressed it was everyone’s job to help cut Italy’s debt, one of the highest in the world.

“No political party can duck the collective responsibility of decisively easing the public debt which we have accumulated and which is a heavy burden on our backs,” Napolitano said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Austerity Necessary After Moody’s Cut

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 13 — The program of fiscal consolidation in Portugal is a “necessary condition” for the economic recovery and today Moody’s restated its “faith in the strategy of the Portuguese government”. This was the comment of the Portuguese Finance Ministry about Moody’s decision to cut Portugal’s rating (from ‘A1’ to ‘A2’) but to keep the country’s outlook stable.

The Minister — in a statement quoted by Bloomberg’s agency- also underlines that Moody’s decision “has to do with the international financial crisis which hit the economy for more than two years” and adds that the will “to keep the outlook stable shows Moody’s trust in the present strategy of the Portuguese government with respect to the economic policy”.


           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Amil Imani: Islam Must be Stopped in America

Warning: Islam is not a religion but a political ideology which incites hate, violence, intolerance and terror. Islamists are terminators. You cannot bargain with them. You cannot reason with them. They do not feel pity or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until all the infidels are dead or have submitted to Islam. The only language the Islamists understand is the language of force.

A constitutional amendment must be passed quickly defining Islam as a hostile political force with a global totalitarian agenda, and as such is totally inimical to our constitution and our national security, and that further to this definition, all practicing Muslims must either renounce this cult or be deported to their countries of origin, and all mosques must be demolished, since their goal is to propagate political propaganda, which has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘religion’ — let alone one of ‘peace’. That’s going to be the final ‘solution’ for Islam in America.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

Arlington GM Plant Closes for a Day Due to Parts Shortage

The General Motors Assembly Plant in Arlington closed Wednesday because it lacks parts from an unspecified supplier.

The 2,400 employees at the factory — which builds full-size SUVs — were told to report to work as usual on Thursday.

“From all indications at this moment, everything should be back to normal by then,” said plant spokeswoman Donna McLallen. “All employees are expected to show back up at the normal hour.

She declined to name the supplier or the part that caused the plant to close for the day — an expensive situation for a factory that builds more than 700 Chevrolet Tahoes and Suburbans, GMC Yukons and Cadillac Escalades daily.

The unexpected break should give workers at the plant a well-deserved break. The factory — GM’s only full-size SUV plant — has been working heavy overtime since January, putting in at least 50 hours a week.

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

Felonious Assault on U.S. Elections

Convicts, ACORN pet project may determine country’s leadership

A federal bill that seeks to restore voting rights in national elections to felons released from prison previously was a pet project of the radical Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was briefed on state laws governing voting-rights restoration for former felons encountered during general voter-registration drives.

The information comes as a study released this week by Minnesota Majority, a watchdog group, found the six-month election recount that determined Al Franken won the Minnesota Senate seat may have been decided by convicted felons who voted illegally.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Meditation Boosts Attention Span

The life of a Buddhist monk may seem far-removed from the busy, gadget-packed daily buzz most of us experience. But new research suggests daily meditation can give us a piece of the peaceful life, as the focused practice boosts attention spans.

“You wonder if the mental skills, the calmness, the peace that [Buddhist monks] express, if those things are a result of their very intensive training, or if they were just very special people to begin with,” said Katherine MacLean, who worked on the study as a graduate student at the University of California — Davis. [10 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp]

To find out, MacLean and colleagues had a group of 30 people with an average age of about 49 go on a three-month meditation retreat in Colorado, while a second group of 30 waited their turn (and were used as a reference with which to compare results from the first meditation group). The second group went on the retreat three months after the end of the first retreat.

All participants had been on at least three five-to-10 day meditation retreats before, and on this occasion they studied with B. Alan Wallace, one of the study’s co-authors and a meditation teacher and Buddhist scholar.

The participants completed various tests. For instance, at three points during the retreat, participants took a 30-minute computer test in which they watched the screen as lines flashed on it. Most lines were the same length, but every now and then a shorter one would appear, and the volunteer had to respond by clicking the computer mouse when this happened. The task was meant to measure visual attention span and the ability to make fine visual distinctions.

As meditation training progressed, participants got better at discriminating the short lines, which in turn made it easier to sustain attention. The result meant improved performance on the task over a long period of time. The performance improvement lasted five months after the retreat (the length of the follow-up period), particularly for those who continued to meditate every day.

“Because this task is so boring and yet is also very neutral, it’s kind of a perfect index of meditation training,” MacLean said. “People may think meditation is something that makes you feel good and going on a meditation retreat is like going on vacation, and you get to be at peace with yourself. That’s what people think until they try it. Then you realize how challenging it is to just sit and observe something without being distracted.”

The set of experiments done by MacLean and a team of nearly 30 researchers with the same group of participants is the most comprehensive study of intensive meditation to date, the scientists say. Some of the results are published in the June issue of the journal Psychological Science.

Future analyses of these same volunteers will look at other mental abilities, such as how well people who meditate can regulate their emotions and their general well-being.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Outreach Isn’t NASA Chief’s Duty, White House Says

Reaching out to the Muslim world is not part of NASA chief Charlie Bolden’s job, the White House said Monday.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Bolden probably misspoke in recent remarks in which the NASA chief and former astronaut said one of his foremost tasks in leading NASA is to engage with Muslim nations about science.

“That was not his task, and that’s not the task of NASA,” Gibbs said during Monday’s daily briefing.

NASA confirmed that Bolden misspoke.

“NASA’s core mission remains one of space exploration, science and aeronautics,” NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage told “Administrator Bolden regrets that a statement he made during a recent interview mischaracterized that core mission. The success of NASA’s efforts is increasingly enhanced by mutual cooperation with dozens of other countries around the world that are also committed to these efforts.”

Bolden made the comments in an interview while visiting Egypt two weeks ago. It aired June 30 on the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera.

Bolden said President Barack Obama had charged him with three things upon becoming NASA administrator.

“One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering,” Bolden said.

The comments have ignited a flurry of controversy — particularly over the omission of space exploration as one of the three goals.

Michael Griffin, whom Bolden replaced as NASA administrator, told the Washington Examiner, “It is a perversion of NASA’s purpose to conduct activities in order to make the Muslim world feel good about its contributions to science and mathematics.”

Gibbs said the president has not spoken to Bolden directly about his statements, though members of the administration have probably conferred with NASA over the issue.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Start and Obama’s Mysterious Trip to Russia

When 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney attacked President Obama’s new arms treaty with Russia as a dangerous trap, Republican Senator Richard Lugar came to the defense of the Democratic president and attacked Romney as “misinformed.” But Lugar’s desperate effort to save Obama’s controversial treaty, whose passage has been badly damaged by revelations of Russian spying, doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Lugar, one of the leading globalists in the Senate, was a mentor for then-Senator Barack Obama during a controversial three-day visit they made to Russia and Eastern Europe in 2005.

During the visit, Russian authorities detained Obama and Lugar, threatened to search their plane, and examined their passports. Strangely, an official report from Lugar’s office about the trip ignored the incident.

Not only is Lugar very close to Obama, one of his key congressional staffers is Carl Meacham, who used to work for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

The push for ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which requires 67 votes for passage, has been complicated by the recent arrests—and quick release—of 10 Russian agents acting on behalf of the SVR, the Russian foreign intelligence service which serves as the successor to the old Soviet KGB. The Hill newspaper noted that court documents in the case demonstrated that agents “were asked by Moscow to collect information about the treaty” in advance of a 2009 trip by Obama to Russia, during which the new President “called on Moscow to stop viewing America as an adversary,” as the British publication the Guardian put it.


The treaty, signed on April 8 by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, would obligate both nations to cap their strategic nuclear weapons at 1,550 warheads, a one-third reduction, but it would not inhibit the development or deployment of tactical or shorter range nuclear weapons.

What’s more, in statements in the preamble to the pact, the two sides recognize “the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defense arms” and how “this interrelationship will become more important as strategic arms are reduced.” Romney says—and the National Review agrees—that this linkage is a major concession to the Russians that could limit U.S. missile defenses.

Romney declared, “New START impedes missile defense, our protection from nuclear-proliferating rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. Its preamble links strategic defense with strategic arsenal. It explicitly forbids the United States from converting intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos into missile defense sites. And Russia has expressly reserved the right to walk away from the treaty if it believes that the United States has significantly increased its missile defense capability.”


In fact, the trip by Lugar and Obama to Russia in 2005 was designed to promote the scandal-ridden “Cooperative Threat Reduction Program” (CTR), also known as the Nunn-Lugar program for its original Senate sponsors. Lugar and Obama co-sponsored a follow-up program.

However, reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveal that some of the funds, which now total over $6 billion, have been used to destroy obsolete weapons that Moscow was going to replace with high-tech arms and provide salaries for Russian scientists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Erosion Among White Voters Continues

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows President Obama’s standing among white voters continuing to slip, a potentially ominous sign for his party with the midterm elections fast approaching.

Just 40 percent of whites in the Post/ABC survey approve of the job Obama is doing, his lowest rating among this key demographic since the start of his presidency and well below the 50 percent approval number that he carries nationwide. Forty-three percent of white voters strongly disapprove of the job Obama is doing, while just 19 percent strongly approve.

Among the other lowlights with whites in this poll for Obama: 54 percent of college-educated whites now disapprove of the job he is doing, and, among white college-educated women, Obama’s approval numbers has dipped below 50 percent for the first time in his presidency in Post/ABC polling.

Much of Obama’s struggles with white voters seems directly attributable to the public’s deep pessimism about the economy. (Ninety-four percent of whites polled rated the economy either not so good or poor.) Just over one in three whites (37 percent) approve of Obama’s handling of the economy — his worst rating among that demographic group ever. Forty-eight percent of white voters strongly disapprove of Obama’s stewardship of the economy, while 13 percent strongly approve.

It’s interesting that Obama’s flagging numbers on the economy have been driven not by white Republicans or white Independents but rather by white Democrats.

Since April, white Democratic approval of Obama’s handling of the economy is down 20 points, from 80 percent to 60 percent. And, nearly as many white Democrats now strongly disapprove of how he’s dealing with the issue as those who strongly approve (25 strongly disapprove; 28 strongly approve).

(Huge thank you to Post polling director Jon Cohen for crunching the numbers!)

Why does this crush of data matter — particularly for the 2010 election?

As we wrote in an earlier column, recent historical trends suggest that white voters will comprise a larger chunk of the coming midterm electorate than they did in 2008 — making the erosion of Obama’s numbers a major concern for House strategists.

White voters made up 79 percent of the 2006 midterm electorate and comprised 74 percent of the 2008 vote. If the 2010 electoral composition mirrors that of 2006, one Democratic official who closely monitors House race predicted “massive losses” for House and Senate Democrats in November.

The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein has written extensively — and smartly — about Obama’s struggles with white voters both during and after the 2008 election. (Worth noting: Obama outperformed the party’s last two presidential nominees among all white voters in 2008.)…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Obama Student-Loan Mystery Shrouded by ‘Politics’

Attorney representing 9 federal employees slams Justice Department

A defense attorney representing one of the nine individuals indicted in federal court for looking up President Obama’s student loan records characterized the Department of Justice’s actions as a political prosecution.

“The only reason my client was prosecuted by the federal government was that he happened to look up the student loan records of Barack Obama,” attorney David R. Treimer of Davenport, Iowa, told WND.

Treimer represents John Phommivong, a 29-year-old who is the son of parents who fled Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.


“There was no criminal intent on the part of my client,” Treimer insists. “He was just bored and to pass the time he used the National Student Loan Data System to look up the student-loan records of celebrities.”

Treimer insisted that looking up Barack Obama’s student loan records was what triggered his prosecution.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pawlenty: ‘Credible Evidence’ Of Fraud in 2008 Coleman-Franken Race

Allegations of fraud in the 2008 Senate race between Al Franken (D) and Norm Coleman (R) are “credible,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) said Wednesday.

Pawlenty seemed to back allegations leveled by a conservative group in Minnesota that a sizable number of convicted felons, who were ineligible to vote, cast ballots in the extremely close Senate election, possibly tipping the race to Franken, who was sworn in last year as senator.

“There’s a serious allegation to that effect and if it turns out to be true, it’s quite possible,” Pawlenty said during an appearance on Fox News when asked if felons might have handed Franken victory.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

President Obama, White House: Al Qaeda is Racist

In an interview earlier today with the South African Broadcasting Corporation to air in a few hours, President Obama disparaged al Qaeda and affiliated groups’ willingness to kill Africans in a manner that White House aides say was an argument that the terrorist groups are racist.

Speaking about the Uganda bombings, the president said, “What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself. They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Synthetic Biology: Great Promise and Potential Peril

Washington, D.C. — Designer organisms created from scratch in genomics labs won’t run amok anytime soon, according to scientists speaking at the first public meeting of President Obama’s bioethics commission held here in the nation’s capital last week.

But everyone agreed that now is the best time to shape synthetic biology in a way that boosts innovation and hedges against future risks related to biosecurity and biosafety. The uncertain power and perils of synthetic biology still present the greatest challenges, along with the future spread of such technology in the hands of so-called garage biologists.

The commission convened in response to last month’s announcement of the first synthetic genome transplantation into a living cell, when molecular biologist J. Craig Venter and other researchers at his institute essentially replaced the genome of a Mycoplasma capricolum cell with an artificially built genome based on the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides.

That does not mean scientists have successfully created an artificial organism from the bottom-up. The synthetic genome was largely based on the natural design of the one bacterium, and it required the living cell machinery of the second bacterium to function. Yet it hints at a future level of human control over DNA that could create and harness living organisms to create biofuels and personalized medicine tailored to each individual.

Here is my limited opinion: I believe that the capacity to synthesize and construct DNA is currently the number one most important technology of the 21st century,” said Drew Endy, a bioengineer at Stanford University and director of BIOFAB International. “The only thing I can imagine that would trump this would be some source of clean, renewable fuel.”

Much of the discussion also touched on risks of harm as well as possible benefits. Endy acknowledged that accidents and misuses of biology would occur, and pointed to past research cases such as the genetic therapy-related death of Jesse Gelsinger at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999, and the anthrax mail attacks of 2001. Other experts pointed to the risk of uncontrolled releases of synthetic organisms into the environment.

Members of the bioethics commission each questioned experts after each session panel last Thursday and Friday, and also invited questions from the public. The experts ranged from leading molecular biologists and bioengineers to policy researchers, bioethicists and a special agent from the FBI…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Gut’s ‘Friendly’ Viruses Revealed

DNA sequencing reveals a new world of bacterial viruses in our intestines.

In the latest exploration into the universe of organisms inhabiting our bodies, microbiologists have discovered new viral genes in faeces. They find that the composition of virus populations inhabiting the tail ends of healthy intestines (as represented in our stools) is unique to each individual and stable over time. Even identical twins — who share many of the same intestinal bacteria — differed in their gut’s viral make-up.

More than 80% of the viral genetic sequences found, which included sequences characteristic of both animal and bacterial viruses, have never been reported previously. “This is a largely unexplored world,” says Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and an author on the paper, which is published in Nature today1. “We are truly distinct lifeforms — sums of microbial and human parts.”

More than 10 trillion bacteria normally inhabit the gastrointestinal tract, where they synthesize essential amino acids and vitamins, produce anti-inflammatory factors and help break down starches, sugars and proteins that people could not otherwise digest. Within and among these bacteria live bacterial viruses, or bacteriophages, which affect bacterial numbers and behaviour as they either prey on bacteria or co-exist with them, shuttling genes from one bacterium to another.

This microscopic dynamic ecosystem affects our lives in ways we still do not fully understand. Indeed, the rise in the incidence of food allergies in Western societies has led to hypotheses that extreme hygiene disrupts the ability of microbes to colonize human guts, resulting in a lack of tolerance to usually harmless foods…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Wrong Way to Fight Jihad

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Vijay Kumar, who is currently running for the U.S. Congress as a Republican candidate for Tennessee 5th Congressional District. The Primary vote comes on August 5 of this year, and the General Election is on November 4. When he ran before, in 2008, he received about 30% of the vote in Republican Primary. His website is [1]. Visit his blog at [2].

FP: Vijay Kumar, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

You are one of the rare individuals running for office in America who is actually making the issue of Islamic Jihad a significant part of your campaign. Tell us your view of Islamic Jihad and the background you have to make you see it the way you do.

Kumar: I am a native of Hyderabad, India, which is where I first encountered the Muslim culture. We have a substantial number of Muslims there, a higher percentage than most other parts of India, and I began to observe things that troubled me. Later, I traveled a number of Islamic nations, and I lived in Iran from 1976 to 1979, during the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini. I immigrated to the United States in 1979. All my life, I have been interested in political thought. During my travels, I came to realize that Islam is unlike any of the other world religions for a variety of reasons, and they summate to the Islamic ideology behind Jihad.

First, Islam was conceived as a world empire to govern all mankind. It teaches that all the world, and everyone and everything in it, already belongs to Islam—some people just haven’t been made to understand that. Until they have, according to Islam, they are considered “infidels” and inferiors. Put another way, the Islamic view is that all of us in the world are subjects of the Islamic Empire, and those of us who do not acknowledge our subjugation to it must be overcome and brought to submission, through conversion or force. No other religion in the world has such a purpose of world conquest and domination.

Second, Islam does not allow any introspection or self-criticism. It calls for total acceptance, total submission. The very word “Islam” means “submission,” and the word “Muslim” means “one who submits.” The other side of submission, of course, is domination. Islam seeks to dominate every individual and every nation into submission. In that, it shares a key element of slavery, which the civilized world has properly decried and abolished. Such submission is a political act. I am a freeman, and I refuse to submit to Islamic hegemony.

Third, Islam does not have any exit policy for its believers. The act of submission required to become a Muslim is held to be final, irrevocable, and permanent. So criticizing or questioning Islam or its teachings or leaders, or attempting to leave Islam, all are considered severe crimes against Islam, punishable by death.

In contrast, non-Islamic religions allow for dissenting views, introspection, and reasoned debate. In non-Islamic religions, if you so choose, you can leave the faith you were born into without being threatened with physical violence or death. In Islam, both criticism of the faith and apostasy are capital offenses.

All of that is what drives Jihad: Jihad is a permanent war against the unbeliever and his land to bring about his submission. It has been going on for fourteen centuries all over the world, which is why I coined the term “Universal Jihad.” Islam’s Universal Jihad is the single greatest threat to Western civilization and to the entire non-Islamic world in general. It is more dangerous than Nazism and Communism combined.

FP: More dangerous than Nazism and Communism combined? Please explain this perspective.

Kumar: Nazism was in power for 15 years or so. Communism was in power for about 70 years. Today, Germany, Japan, and Russia, our former adversaries, are now our allies. Also, they are liberal democracies.

Nazism, Communism, and Islam are all three totalitarian ideologies. Communism and Nazism, though, lack a system of transcendental metaphysics, which Islam has. Nazism and Communism do not claim to be religions, and there is no threat of hell-fire to hold over its adherents. By contrast, Islam is a totalitarian form of governance that also claims to be a religion, and so has proved to be far more sustainable than any other form of aggressive totalitarianism.

The doctrine and politics of Universal Jihad have been assaulting the world for 1,400 years. It is exactly what launched the Christian Crusades, which were an attempt to save European civilization from the relentless onslaught and wholesale murder of invading Muslim forces…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Watchdog: Feds Were Asleep at the Switch When Minnesota Felons Went to the Polls

The group that uncovered evidence of large-scale illegal voting by felons in Minnesota’s contested 2008 Senate race says the whole mess might have been prevented if the federal government had just done its job.

The federal government is required under the Civil Rights Act and the Help America Vote Act to make sure that states purge their voter rolls of ineligible voters — the dead, those who have moved, felons, undocumented immigrants, etc. — and to ensure that elections are administered and conducted fairly, said Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority.

But the conservative watchdog group’s review of Minnesota’s voting records found that the government apparently did not fulfill that obligation in the state in 2008, which in turn affected the number of voters whose ballots were counted — and possibly the outcome of the dead-heat election.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

BA-Iberia Merger, New Giant of the Skies

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 14 — The new company is destined to become a new giant on the world airline scene and will have a fleet of 408 aircraft that will fly to 200 destinations, with 58 million passengers and income in excess of 15 billion euros.

The merger will allow British Airways and Iberia, who will both maintain their brands and their operations, to form synergies for cutting costs by over 400 million, beginning in the fifth year. British Airways shareholders will receive a new ordinary International Airlines Group share for every ordinary share in BA, while Iberia shareholders will receive 1.0205 new ordinary shares in the new holding company for every ordinary Iberia share.

The exchange does not include crossed involvement and self-investment portfolios will be cancelled. By the end of the operation, BA shareholders will own 55% and Iberia shareholders 45% of the new company, which will be based in London.

Caja Madrid will be the main shareholder in the new holding company, which will be chaired by Antonio Vazquez, the Iberia president. The managing director will be Willie Walsh, who has the same role at BA.

As scheduled in the initial agreement, Iberia will maintain the right to terminate the merger contract if it sees as not “reasonably satisfactory” the cover plan drawn up by BA with administrators of its own pension funds, in that this may bring “a significant deterioration of the economic premises of the projected merger”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Calls Grow for Burka Ban in Britain as French Outlaw Islamic ‘Walking Coffins’

Britain faced growing calls to ban the burka today after French MPs voted overwhelmingly to outlaw full-face veils in public.

Politicians in France united yesterday to ban Islamic veils that cover a woman’s face, which some described as ‘walking coffins’.

Deputies in the country’s 557-seat lower house, the National Assembly, voted in favour of the ban by 335 votes to one.

Support for a ban in Britain has come from Tory backbencher Philip Hollobone and the UK Independence Party.

Mr Hollobone has tabled a private members’ bill which would make it illegal for anyone to cover their face in public.

The Kettering MP, who has previously likened full face veils to ‘going round with a paper bag over your head’, said: ‘It is unnatural for someone to cover their face and it not a religious requirement.

‘We are never going to have a fully integrated society if an increasing proportion of the population cover their faces’.

His Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill is the first of its kind in Britain, and is one of only 20 private members’ bills drawn in a ballot for the chance to make it into the statute books.

The bill, which had its first reading in June, stands little chance of becoming law due to limited Parliamentary time and a lack of support from the main political parties.

Mr Hollobone has insisted that his bill has widespread public support: ‘People feel that something should be done about burkas, but so many are afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled a racist.

‘Part of the British way of life is walking down the street, smiling at people and saying hello, whether you know them or not. You cannot have this everyday human interaction if you cover your face.

‘These people are saying that they don’t want to be part of our way of society.’

Far-Left groups such as the Communists joined president Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party in voting for it, although Socialists and Greens abstained.

Communist MP Andre Gerin said yesterday: ‘Talking about liberty to defend the wearing of the full veil is totally cynical — for me, the full veil is a walking coffin, a muzzle.

‘The result follows months of heated debate during which immigration minister Eric Besson also described the burka as a ‘walking coffin’, while prime minister Francois Fillon accused wearers of ‘hijacking Islam’ and displaying a ‘dark sectarian image’.

Recent polls suggested that more than 80 per cent of French people wanted the burka banned, including some of the country’s five million Muslims.

Under the terms of the bill, anyone caught wearing a burka, which covers the entire face and body with just a mesh screen for the eyes, or a niqab, which has a slit for the wearers’ eyes, will face a £117 fine.

Men caught forcing a woman to wear a burka or a niqab will face a year in prison or a £25,000 fine.

The garments are seen as undermining women’s rights and a threat to France’s secular status.

The proposed legislation, which is colloquially referred to as the ‘anti-burka law’, is officially called ‘the bill to forbid concealing one’s face in public’.

The draft bill backed by Mr Sarkozy’s government will now pass to the Senate upper house where it could be ratified in September to become law.

But it could be shot down by the European Court of Human Rights and France’s constitutional watchdog, the Council of State, which has warned that the bill may be illegal because it does not allow freedom of expression.

This would be a humiliation for Mr Sarkozy, whose government has devoted much attention to a bill that only affects around 2,000 women in France.

It could also dampen efforts in other European countries to outlaw veils. Belgium and Spain have begun the initial stages of burka bans.

The main body representing French Muslims fears the ban will stigmatise the religion, which it says does not require women to cover their faces anyway.

A French tycoon is setting up a fund to help Muslim women pay ‘burka fines’.

Muslim businessman Rachid Nekkaz has pledged to sell property worth 1million euros to finance the fund.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

EU Proposes GMO Policy Overhaul

Italian farmers and consumer groups divided on proposal

(ANSA) — Rome, July 13 — A proposed overhaul of the European Union’s approach to genetically modified (GM) crops on Tuesday met with a mixed response in Italy. The package unveiled by European Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli aims to give member states far greater freedom in making decisions about whether to allow, restrict or ban GM crops. Each of the European Union’s 27 governments would have the power to decide what, if any, restrictions should be imposed on whether, where and how such crops are grown. However, states would not be able to prohibit the sale of GM seeds on safety grounds and the current procedure for assessing the risks and authorizing the sale of GM products would remain in place.

News of the proposed changes met with conflicting responses in Italy, where the issue of GM crops is particularly explosive.

As the second-largest producer of organic crops in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, there is widespread fear that accidental GM contamination could have major commercial repercussions.

Two of Italy’s largest farm unions voiced their support for the proposal, which they said reflected public opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Coldiretti, one of the most vocal opponents of GM crops, hailed the guidelines as “a historic step”. They said the increased flexibility envisioned by the proposal, which would give states the opportunity to opt for a complete bar on GMOs, was a “fitting response to the increasing doubts in Europe over GM crops”.

Coldiretti pointed out that currently only six of the EU’s members permit the unfettered cultivation of GM crops in their countries.

The head of the Italian Farmers Confederation (CIA) Giuseppe Politi said the new approach offered “a clear response to the old problem of GMOs in agriculture”.

Allowing member states to reach their own decisions on this issue, he said, was “an attitude that shows good sense, great sensitivity to the European public and full respect for national sovereignty”.

He said the move would give Italy greater powers to prosecute those who plant GMOs “in violation of Italian law”, where lengthy delays in drawing up regulations to prevent cross-contamination between GM and traditional crops have effectively blocked farmers keen to cultivate biotech seed. But he urged Italy to remember it “has no need of GM crops” in deciding whether to allow their cultivation.

The consumer group Citizen Defence Movement (MDC) expressed similar views, stating: “Europe has decided to respect the national sovereignty of member states on GMOs; it’s now up to Italy to say ‘no’“.

But another consumer group voicing support for the proposed changes had different views on the path Italy should take. “Experimentation in this area must be consolidated and Italy must avoid falling so far behind that it is unable to regain lost ground in the crucial area of agriculture research technology,” said Confeuro President Rocco Tiso. And those opposed to the European Commission’s decision gave similarly diverse views for their reasoning. One of Italy’s most powerful agricultural associations, Confagricoltura, warned the GMO decision would “increase confusion, create inequalities in the treatment of farmers in different states and leave consumers disoriented”.

MEP Giommaria Uggias, a member of the domestic opposition Italy of Values party, criticized the move for “abandoning the goal of banning the cultivation of GMOs throughout Europe”. The Italian section of international conservation group Greenpeace expressed anger over the Commission’s failure to tighten up existing assessment procedures for testing risks posed by new GM seeds. “National bans on GMO cultivation can never substitute scientifically valid security procedures at an EU level because contamination does not stop at national borders,” pointed out the group’s GMO spokesperson Federica Ferrario. She said Greenpeace was also unhappy over the fact member state governments had no power to ban the sale of GM seeds for reasons of public or environmental health.

The Commission’s proposal to change the rules on GMOs must still be approved by the EU governments and the European Parliament before it will come into force.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

European Union: When Ex-Commissioners Land Lobby Jobs

Transparency campaigners fear that a public relations (PR) firm that lobbies the EU on maritime issues has “bought up the top of the EU’s maritime department lock, stock and barrel”, leads the EUObserver. This follows the recent appointment of Joe Borg to PR consultancy Fipra. Until 2009, the Brussels website reports, Maltese Mr Borg was the commissioner responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries. He joins former Commission colleague John Richardson, already working for Fipra as “maritime policy and diplomacy special advisor.”

Corporate Europe Observatory, the EU transparency watchdog, is critical of these developments. Pointing out that Fipra has failed to sign up to the Commission’s lobbyist registry, Erik Wesselius of the group declared — “These two unacceptable revolving doors cases show that the commission’s narrow interpretation makes the rules applying to former commissioners and commission staff totally irrelevant.”

Despite Borg and Richardson’s claims that there is no overlap between their activities new and old, the EUobserver strikes a sceptical note regarding ex-commissioners moving into industries related to their former briefs. “A total so far of six of the 13 EU commissioners who retired this year have now gone on to work for banks, lobbying firms, insurance companies and airlines,” it writes. Ex-transport Commissioner Charlie McCreevy’s recent appointment to the board of Ryanair being one of the more highly publicised.

Indeed, regarding the maritime industry, “Mr Borg’s old Maltese connections could certainly prove helpful”, the website notes. One of Fipra’s clients is Royal Caribbean Cruises. Cruise ships have moved their registration from the Caribbean to Europe in large numbers in recent years. Royal Caribbean for its part once registered many of its ships under “flags of convenience” in Liberia to avoid European and US regulation, but has begun to register in Malta. As Mr Borg declared during a speech at a Fipra dinner on 7 May in Malta, “Fipra and the European Commission have more in common than one might think.”

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

France: Troops From African Ex-Colonies in National Parade

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — Soldiers from 13 African countries that were once French colonies were special guests in today’s traditional military parade on the Champs Elysees to mark France’s national holiday. The soldiers celebrated 50 years of their countries’ independence.

The battalion, each made up of 30 men, paraded in front of the Presidential gallery, where the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his African counterparts and their first ladies had taken their seats. The countries represented, in alphabetical order (according to the country’s name in French), were Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo.

“It is the blood link that we are celebrating, a link born of the contribution of African troops to the defence and the liberation of France,” Sarkozy wrote in a message to the soldiers invited to the ceremony, adding that “thousands of soldiers from Africa died for France in the two world wars”.

The decision to invite African military representatives drew heavy criticism from human rights groups, who fear that “war criminals” may have been among the guests of honour. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Catholic Abbot Returns to Office Despite Abuse Scandal

A German Benedictine Abbot who resigned in February amid the Catholic child abuse scandal for failing to properly report abuse accusations is already set to return to his former post, media reported Tuesday.

Barnabas Bögle, 53, has been elected by the 45 voting monks of the Ettal Abbey in Bavaria, which was rocked by allegations of abuse, to return, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. The decision must still be approved by the Vatican.

In recent weeks, Church authorities in Rome decreed there was no reason not to hold a re-election for Bögle, as well as for the head of the Ettal school and priory, Maurus Kraß, who also resigned in February.

A Vatican committee had come to the conclusion that the former leaders of the abbey had done nothing wrong in their statements regarding the abuse scandal, the paper reported.

The abbey is seeking approval from the Bavarian Education Ministry to have Kraß reinstated as head of the school.

The two men resigned under pressure from the Archbishop of Munich and Freising after it emerged that there had been sexual, physical and psychological abuse happening at the abbey’s boarding school for decades.

At the time, both admitted that regulations on reporting accusations of abuse had not been followed. At least 20 former and current students at Ettal made accusations of abuse.

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

Germany: Anti-Semitic Alliance: The Shared Extremism of Neo-Nazis and Migrant Youth

Following an anti-Semitic attack in Hanover, German authorities have identified a new source of anti-Semitic hatred in Germany: young migrants from Muslim families. The ideological alliance has officials concerned.

It was supposed to be a carefree festival in Sahlkamp on the outskirts of the northern German city of Hanover. Billed as an “International Day” to celebrate social diversity and togetherness, the June celebration included performances by a multicultural children’s choir called “Happy Rainbow” and the German-Turkish rap duo 3-K. Music from Afghanistan was also on the program.

But then the mood suddenly shifted.

When Hajo Arnds, the organizer of the neighborhood festival, stepped onto the stage at about 6:45 p.m. to announce the next performance, by the Jewish dance group Chaverim, he was greeted with catcalls. “Jews out!” some of the roughly 30 young people standing in front of the stage began shouting. “Gone with the Jews!”

The voices were those of children — voices full of hate, shouted in unison and amplified by a toy megaphone. Arnds, the organizer, was shocked. He knew many of the children, most of them from Arab immigrant families in the neighborhood.

A social worker, Arnds tried using the tools of his profession — words — to save the situation. But his words were met with stones, thrown at the stage by people taking cover in the crowd. One of the stones hit a female Chaverim dancer in the leg, resulting in an angry bruise.

Inflammatory Propaganda and Criminal Violence

Arnds immediately cancelled the dance performance. Still speaking through the microphone, he said that he wasn’t sure whether the festival could even continue after this incident. When adults walked to the front of the crowd to confront and talk to the children, they were verbally abused, and some of the teenagers ran away. The Jewish dance group was taken to a safe place, and the festival was allowed to continue. The last performance of the evening was by a duo singing Russian songs. “They’re not Jews,” one of the young people in front of the stage shouted, “so they can perform here.” A criminal complaint was not filed with the police until several days later.

Until now, attacks on Jews, Jewish institutions and Jewish symbols have almost always been committed by right-wing extremist groups. In the first quarter of 2010 alone, the German Interior Ministry documented 183 anti-Semitic offences committed by right-wing radicals, including graffiti, inflammatory propaganda and physical violence.

The stone-throwing incident in Hanover, however, has finally forced the authorities to take a closer look at a group of offenders that, though largely overlooked until now, is no less motivated by anti-Zionist sentiments: adolescents and young adults from an immigrant community who are influenced by Islamist ideas and are prepared to commit acts of violence.

An informal and accidental alliance has been developing for some time between neo-Nazis and some members of a group they would normally despise: Muslim immigrants. The two groups seem to share vaguely similar anti-Semitic ideologies.

Right-wing extremists and Islamists, says Heinz Fromm, the president of the German domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), are united by “a common bogeyman: Israel and the Jews as a whole.” While German right-wing extremists cultivate a “more or less obvious racist anti-Semitism,” says Fromm, the Islamists are “oriented toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and support “anti-Zionist ideological positions, which can also have anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic overtones.” Both extremist movements, says Fromm, “ascribe extraordinary political power to Israel and the Jews, and their goal is to fight this power.”…

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

Greece: Italian Ships Held in Corinth Depart

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 1 — Two Adriatic Lines ships blocked for over three weeks in Corinth by Greek maritime union PNO departed today for Ravenna. The departure of the two ferries, which was announced by the Harbour Office of the Port of Corinth, follows a decision by the PNO to suspend the block imposed due to a union dispute before a definitive ruling by the Court of Piraeus. The PNO, which is calling for Greek crewmen to be hired in place of Romanian workers, communicated that it decided to “temporarily interrupt” the action against the ships, which are registered in England, before the “court’s decision” regarding the dispute. Twice a court in Piraeus ordered the unionists to vacate the quay and to allow the ships-ferries to depart, but the government, through its officials in Athens and the Greek Ambassador in Rome, indicated that they were not capable of enforcing the court’s decision. The Italian government, through the embassy in Athens, continued to put pressure on Greece to reach a solution to the matter, which was also discussed in two parliamentary questions, in Rome and Athens and a speech at the European level. (ANSAmed).

2010-07-01 18:05

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Police ‘Strike at the Heart’ Of Mafia in Milan

Milan, 13 July (AKI) — Italy moved on Tuesday to break the grip of Italy’s most powerful crime organisation on the country’s business capital of Milan. In a series of raids, thousands of police rounded up hundreds of suspected mafia members for crimes that ranged from murder to drug trafficking.

Around 3,000 paramilitary and regular police spread out through Italy’s Lombardy region where Milan is located, and the Calabria region in the south to arrest around 300 suspected members of the ‘Ndrangheta.

The ‘Ndrangheta is now considered by anti-mafia investigators to be the most powerful mafia network.

Among those arrested was Domenico Oppedisano, described by police as the top “Ndrangheta boss, and Pino Neri, allegedly the clan’s highest-ranking member in Lombardy.

“Striking at its very heart, this is the most important operation against the “Ndrangheta in recent years,” said interior minister Roberto Maroni.

Anti-mafia investigators in Reggio Calabria and Milan say they uncovered evidence that the ‘Ndrangheta has a organisational hierarchy similar to the Sicilian mafia with branches throughout Italy, and abroad taking orders from a command centre, in this case based in Reggio Calabria, the regional capital of Calabria.

Police during Tuesday’s operation seized suspected mafia assets valued at tens of millions of euros.

The suspects faces charges including murder, drug and arms trafficking, extortion and usury.

On 1 July Maroni announced the arrest of more than a dozen alleged “Ndrangheta members for infiltrating Milan’s Expo 2015. Milan mayor Letizia Moratti says the event will draw 29 million visitors, create 70,000 jobs and generate almost 4 billion euros billions in revenue.

The ‘Ndrangheta’s historical power base is in the Calabrian region, located in the toe of the Italian boot-shaped peninsula. The organisation gained international notoriety in August 2007 when six men were shot dead in an ambush outside a pizzeria in Duisburg, Germany as part of a feud between two rival clans.

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

Italy: Rotting Refuse Torched Around Palermo

Palermo, 13 July (AKI) — Firemen in Italy’s southern city of Palermo and surrounding areas rushed on Tuesday to put out blazes after residents torched uncollected rubbish piled on the streets. A refuse emergency has been declared in the surrounding Sicily region, which is plagued by chronic mismanagement of waste disposal. The sector has long been in the grip of the mafia.

Firemen had to extinguish burning rubbish bins and improvised dumps and were also called fight flames in other cities in the province of Palermo.

Furious residents say rotting rubbish is not being collected or is being collected too slowly, creating an unbearable stench in the searing summer temperatures as well as a health hazard.

Desperate locals regularly burn bins and improvised dumps full of uncollected garbage, further increasing the health risks posed by the chronic mismanagement of waste disposal in the region.

One metric tonne of waste burned by local residents leaves up to 1,000 microgrammes of cancer-inducing dioxins in the atmosphere, according to Italian opposition member of parliament and environmental campaigner Ermete Realacci.

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

Italy: Minister ‘Surprised’ By UN Criticism of Wiretap Bill

Milan, 13 July (AKI) — Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday brushed off criticism from the United Nations of a controversial bill to curb the use of wiretaps.

“I am extremely surprised and dismayed at the comments made by a representative of the UN,” said Frattini.

“In all liberal and democratic countries in the world, it is illegal for prosecutors to disclose confidential information,” he said.

He was speaking at the two-day Euromed conference in Milan.

Frattini decried publication of phone intercepts as “barbarous” and “trial by the media”.

“In a free democracy like Italy, parliament alone has sovereign authority to debate bills and pass laws. No other body may in interfere in this process.

He was referring to comments made earlier on Tuesday by the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue saying the current bill would limit freedom of expression and hinder criminal investigations.

The draft law imposes jail terms of up to 30 days and a 10,000 euro fine for journalists for reporting the content of wiretaps before suspects were charged. Publishers could be fined as much as 465,000 euros.

The bill also curbs criminal investigators’ electronic eavesdropping powers.

Many Italian journalists last Friday went on strike in protest at the bill, dubbed the “gag law” by its critics.

It was passed in the Italian upper house of parliament or Senate on 10 June. It is due to be debated in Italy’s lower house of parliament or Chamber of Deputies on 29 July.

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

Italy: No Confidence Motion Poised in ‘P3’ Case

Undersecretary Cosentino also accused of Camorra ties

(ANSA) — Rome, July 13 — The opposition Italy of Values (IdV) party on Tuesday said it was set to file a no confidence motion in Economy Undersecretary Nicola Cosentino after his alleged involvement in what the media have dubbed the ‘P3’ case.

Cosentino and others are accused of setting up a secret society allegedly modelled on the Propaganda Due (P2) subversive masonic lodge disbanded in the 1980s.

The undersecretary also faces charges he helped the Neapolitan Camorra mafia in return for help in his career in the 1990s.

Filing the petition, IdV leader and ex-Milan graftbuster Antonio Di Pietro said the motion would be presented at 17:00 (15:00 GMT).

“We urge the government to consider asking Cosentino to resign,” he said.

“We’d like to see if MPs still want someone with these shadows hanging over him”.

Cosentino, the head of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party in Campania, the region around Naples, was named in the P3 probe Monday along with Marcello Dell’Utri, an allegedly Mafia-linked former Berlusconi employee who masterminded the media magnate’s entry into politics in 1993-1994.

Dell’Utri had a mafia sentence reduced from nine to seven years last month by a court that found he only had dealings with Cosa Nostra until 1992.

Dell’Utri and Cosentino are suspected of conspiracy and breaking rules set up after the P2 ‘state within a state’ scandal outlawing secret associations.

In the probe, prosecutors have already named PdL national coordinator Denis Verdini and ex-P2 wheeler dealer Flavio Carboni, acquitted two months ago of involvement in the 1982 murder of ‘God’s Banker’ Roberto Calvi.

Carboni has been arrested along with businessman and former Socialist politician Arcangelo Martino and tax judge Pasquale Lombardi in the probe, which stems from investigations into the alleged rigging of tenders for wind farms in Carboni’s native Sardinia.

Three other judges — justice ministry undersecretary Giacomo Caliendo, Antonio Martone and Arciboldi Miller — were placed under investigation on Friday and Saturday.

Prosecutors claim the ‘P3’ tried to get close to high court judges to gain a favourable ruling in a key verdict on an immunity law struck down by the Constitutional Court, and also to tamper with a sentence regarding Berlusconi’s Mondadori publishing house, Italy’s biggest.

The alleged involvement of Verdini has prompted calls for him to resign or be sacked as one of the PdL’s three national coordinators.

The PdL heavyweight, who like the other suspects denies wrongdoing, has been defended by most of his party but not by loyalists of House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, who has been at odds with Berlusconi over a string of issues for months.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, another PdL heavyweight, said the party would back Verdini “pending the decisions of magistrates” and recalled Berlusconi’s recent statement that any rotten apples would be thrown out of the party. The spokesman for Fini’s unofficial faction, Italo Bocchino, said it might consider backing the no confidence motion against Cosentino, “although we don’t want to vote against the (PdL) party”. Wiretaps from the P3 probe were splashed across Italian dailies Tuesday, increasing tension ahead of a looming House vote on a bill that would restrict their use and ban their publication.

In May, Economy Minister Claudio Scajola was forced to resign after wiretaps helped reveal he owned an apartment overlooking the Colosseum which turned out to have been mostly bought by a scandal-hit construction entrepreneur. In December, in the separate case involving Campania PdL chief Cosentino, the Italian parliament rejected an arrest warrant issued by Naples prosecutors who say he worked with the region’s Camorra mafia. photo: Cosentino

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Calabrian Mafia No.1 Caught

Senate applauds capture of ‘Ndrangheta ‘capocrimine’ Oppedisano

(ANSA) — Rome, July 13 — Italy captured the reputed No.1 of Calabrian mafia ‘Ndrangheta in a huge sweep Tuesday, judicial sources said.

Domenico Oppedisano, 80, the equivalent of the ‘boss of bosses’ in the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, had been serving as so-called ‘capocrimine’ of the organisation for a year, police said.

The Italian Senate rose to its feet and applauded the news of the arrest.

Oppedisano was reportedly appointed head of ‘Ndrangheta, now Italy’s most powerful mafia, at a wedding on August 19, 2009, and assumed his powers at a feast at a shrine to the Madonna on September 1.

Police have already caught his alleged No.2, Antonio Latella, as operations against ‘Ndrangheta were stepped up this year. Oppedisano was “the reference point for the entire organisation” and brokered peace among rival factions in southern Italy and abroad as well as among offshoots vying for public contracts in the north, police said.

The elderly ‘Ndrangheta chieftain was caught in his fief at Rosarno in the south of the southern Italian region, the scene of reputedly Mob-related racial unrest involving immigrant workers earlier this year. Some 300 people were arrested in Calabria and the north of Italy in Tuesday’s sweep, which deployed 3,000 police officers.

‘Ndrangheta, with its dominance of the European cocaine trade, is now considered Italy’s most powerful and impenetrable mafia, having overtaken Cosa Nostra in Sicily.

Cosa Nostra’s boss of bosses, Bernardo Provenzano, 77, was caught outside Corleone after 43 years on the run in April 2006.

The Italian government has intensified its fight against the mafia in recent years and key arrests have also been made against the Naples mafia, the Camorra.

The government is targeting Mob assets and has set up a new seizures agency in Reggio Calabria.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Villages in Geese Flap

Lakeside towns squabble over ‘dumped’ animals

(ANSA) — Scanno, July 13 — A small Italian town has accused a neighbouring village of dumping a flock of geese on it and is threatening to move them back where they belong.

Residents of Scanno, a mountain town in Abruzzo, got fed up with the animals’ constant hooting and the droppings they left at a local lakeside beauty spot.

So last week they packed them off to another lake near the neighbouring village of Villalago.

The geese soon settled in but have have carried on bothering tourists in their new location and have even forced motorists to swerve to avoid them, according to local reports.

Villalago Mayor Cesidio Grosso has written to his Scanno counterpart, Patrizio Giammarco, urging him to come and get ‘his’ geese back.

But so far there’s been no word from Scanno and Grosso is mulling an ordinance making clear the geese don’t belong in his back yard.

Villagers are reportedly poised to send the pesky birds packing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘P3’ Official’s No-Confidence Vote Next Week

Opposition say Nicola Cosentino should quit

(ANSA) — Rome, July 14 — An opposition no confidence motion has been scheduled for next week against Economy Undersecretary Nicola Cosentino after his alleged involvement in what the Italian media have dubbed the ‘P3’ case.

Cosentino and others are accused of setting up a secret society allegedly modelled on the Propaganda Due (P2) subversive masonic lodge disbanded in the 1980s.

The undersecretary also faces claims of alleged links with the Neapolitan Camorra mafia for steering waste management business in return for help in his career in the 1990s.

House Speaker Gianfranco Fini on Wednesday set the debate on the motion for next Wednesday night and Thursday morning, angering colleagues in Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party.

PdL House whip Fabrizio Cicchitto voiced “clear dissent” from the scheduling by Fini, who has had several run-ins with Berlusconi in recent months.

Berlusconi on Tuesday night dismissed the so-called P3 affair as “a matter of four hapless pensioners, hyped by the media” and vowed to make sure alleged disinformation on the case and purported judicial persecution were stopped.

The no confidence motion was filed by the three main opposition parties: the Democratic Party (PD), Italy of Values (IdV), who are allies; and the centrist Catholic UDC, which earlier this week called for a national unity government with the PdL.

Filing the petition, they said Cosentino should “take a step back” to “restore credibility” in Italian institutions.

Critics have compared Cosentino to another PdL member, Aldo Brancher, who was named as a minister with an uncertain brief, allegedly to benefit from a law allowing ministers to duck trials, and was forced to resign after 17 days in office earlier this month.

The Cosentino motion claimed that the ‘P3’ had been shown by wiretaps leaked to the press to have sought to “build relationships and contacts with the declared aim of swaying decisions by constitutional and political bodies”. Separately Wednesday, the prosecutors and judges union ANM urged magistrates named in the case to step down.

Cosentino, who is also the PdL head in Campania, the region around Naples, was named in the P3 probe Monday along with Marcello Dell’Utri, an allegedly Mafia-linked former Berlusconi employee who masterminded the media magnate’s entry into politics in 1993-1994.

Dell’Utri had a mafia sentence reduced from nine to seven years last month by a court that found he only had dealings with Cosa Nostra until 1992.

Dell’Utri and Cosentino are suspected of conspiracy and breaking rules set up after the P2 ‘state within a state’ scandal outlawing secret associations.


In the probe, prosecutors have also named PdL national coordinator Denis Verdini and ex-P2 wheeler dealer Flavio Carboni, acquitted two months ago of involvement in the 1982 murder of Roberto Calvi, a Mafia-linked banker who earned the nickname ‘God’s Banker’ for his ties with the Vatican Bank.

Carboni has been arrested along with businessman and former Socialist politician Arcangelo Martino and tax judge Pasquale Lombardi in the probe, which stems from investigations into the alleged rigging of tenders for wind farms in Carboni’s native Sardinia.

Three other judges — justice ministry undersecretary Giacomo Caliendo, Antonio Martone and Arciboldi Miller — were placed under investigation on Friday and Saturday.

Prosecutors claim the ‘P3’ tried to get close to high court judges to gain a favourable ruling in a key verdict on an immunity law struck down by the Constitutional Court, and also to tamper with a sentence regarding Berlusconi’s Mondadori publishing house, Italy’s biggest.

The alleged involvement of Verdini has prompted calls for him to resign or be sacked as one of the PdL’s three national coordinators.

The PdL heavyweight, who like the other suspects denies wrongdoing, has been defended by most of his party but not by loyalists of Fini.

Verdini, like Cosentino, has also received muted support from the PdL’s chief ally, the Northern League.

Wiretaps from the P3 probe have been splashed across Italian dailies, increasing tension ahead of a looming House vote on a bill that would restrict their use and ban their publication.

In May, Economy Minister Claudio Scajola was forced to resign after wiretaps helped reveal he owned an apartment overlooking the Colosseum which turned out to have been mostly bought by a scandal-hit construction entrepreneur.

In December, in the separate case involving Campania PdL chief Cosentino, the Italian parliament rejected an arrest warrant issued by Naples prosecutors who say he worked with the region’s Camorra mafia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Medical Specialists Face Salary Cuts to Head Off Massive Overspend

Independent medical specialists face an annual salary ceiling of €285,000 from next year, well below the €400,000 which some currently earn, the Volkskrant reports on Tuesday.

The proposal is one of a string of cash-saving measures which caretaker health minister Ab Klink wants to introduce. He plans to reduce the budget for spending on specialists from €2.7bn to €1.8bn.


Klink also wants to make sure all specialists bills are processed through hospitals and that hospitals themselves become responsible for any overspend. Last year, the total bill for specialist help was €700m above budget.

Some of this was due to a loophole in the current fee structure, which ensures specialists get paid whether or not they were involved in an individual’s treatment.

The Netherlands has some 6,000 medical specialists on fixed contracts and 6,700 independents.

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

Romanian Passports for Moldovans

Entering the EU Through the Back Door

By Benjamin Bidder in Chisinau, Moldova

Romania’s president wants to increase his country’s population and is using an odd means to do so. The country is generously bestowing hundreds of thousands of Romanian passports on impoverished Moldovans. They are gratefully accepting the offer from the EU member state and are streaming into Western Europe to work as cheap laborers.

The latest would-be European Union citizens get up early in the morning. Before dawn hundreds of Moldovans, most of them young, are gathered in front of the Romanian consulate in Chisinau, capital of the Republic of Moldova, which is often labeled the “poorest country in Europe.”

It is love that has brought Denis Rotari, a trained tiler in a light blue T-shirt, with a dragon tattoo on his elbow, here. “I need money for the wedding,” the 21-year-old explains. Like everyone else in this queue, he is applying for a Romanian passport. The passport means potential employment as a day laborer somewhere between Rome and Lisbon.

Almost 1 million Moldovans have already turned their backs on their homeland, where the per capita economic output has only just matched that of Sudan’s. They hire themselves out as immigrant labor, mostly illegally. Around 120,000 of the 3.6 million inhabitants have passports that originate from the neighboring nation, and the Romanian government says that another 800,000 are waiting to have their applications for passports granted. In order to cope with the rush, Romania’s foreign minister opened two new consulates in the provincial cities of Balti in the north and Cahul in the south on Friday — at the EU’s expense.

Creeping Expansion from the East

The calculation behind the move: Romania’s patriotically minded President Traian Basescu wants to increase the number of his subjects and agreed to increase the number of naturalizations that take place each month to 10,000 this year.

In this manner, the EU, which is already suffering from enlargement fatigue, is stealthily being expanded from the east — without a referendum or any agreements from Brussels, Berlin or Paris. The Moldovans are voting with their feet and marching into the EU’s economic paradise — through the back door.

Since the Alliance for European Integration — a coalition formed by four political parties — pushed the pro-Russian Communist Party out of power in Chisinau in 2009, Romania has accelerated its naturalization offensive in its small neighboring country. Bucharest has sponsored officials from Moldova’s Foreign Ministry on courses on Euro-Atlantic integration and it pays for the translations of EU laws. Even though Romania itself has been hard hit by the financial crisis, the nation has granted generous loans to its neighbor in the past year. The barbed wire along the border has been taken down and, since autumn, Moldovans living within a 30-kilometer radius of the border have been able to visit Romania without a visa.

‘A Future Together’

Romanians and Moldovans may live in two separate countries but, as Basescu says, “We are one people and this people has a right to unity and a future together.” He dreams of “Romania Mare” — which, translated into English, means the ressurection of “Greater Romania” with the borderes that existed in 1940, which also included Moldova. At the time, the smaller country, formerly known as Bessarabia, was ceded to the Soviet Union as part of a German-Russian Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Romania became the first country to recognize Moldova’s independence in 1991 — even though Romania remains reluctant to accept “the border that Hitler and Stalin drew” along the Prut River even today.

Moldova’s new government is not averse to these Romanian advances, either. Of the 53 members of the governing coalition, nine have a second passport that is Romanian and 11 others have applied for one. And with Mihai Ghimpu as acting president of Moldova presently, there is a “Unionist” — as the advocates of reuniting Romania and Moldova are known — as head of state.

Chisinau Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, who is also Ghimpu’s nephew, has also stated that, “Romania and Moldova are closely linked, like Germany and Bavaria.” He says the idea that the two states were independent of each other was “an illusion of the Soviet powers.”

Moldovans Want Europe, not Romania

However, the majority of Moldovans aren’t attracted by the prospect of reunification with Romania, which, after Bulgaria, is the second-poorest EU member state. According to polls, two-thirds want to be part of the EU, but only 2 percent self-identify as Romanian.

As the tiler Denis Rotari, who is waiting in front of the Romanian consulate, puts it: “I want to go further West with this passport. I don’t care about Romania.” His cousin works in an abattoir in Madrid. And when Romania joins the Schengen zone, an area without border controls incorporating 25 European countries, in March 2011, hundreds of thousands of Moldovans with Romanian passports will finally get free entry to the EU.

In the meantime, Brussels has also become aware of the stream of Moldovan migration. Right-wing populist politicians are exploiting the situation. Andreas Mölzer, a member of the European Parliament from the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) has already asked the European Commission, the EU’s executive, to state what it could do to stop the Romanian drive.

Politicians in Germany have also been considering the development. “Germany has no cause for concern yet,” explained Manfred Grund, a member of parliament with Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Party and also an authority on Moldova. “Most are moving to Italy and Spain.”

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

Skydiver Plans Record-Breaking Supersonic Space Jump

A skydiver is making progress with plans to leap from near the edge of space in a dive that would break world records and the sound barrier.

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner is a step closer to attempting the feat after a series of recent high-altitude test jumps. He plans to make his ambitious jump attempt later this year.

Starting in the stratosphere at 120,000 feet above the ground, Baumgartner will leap from a capsule suspended by a helium balloon near the boundary of space.

Sponsored by the energy drink company Red Bull, Baumgartner’s mission — called Red Bull Stratos — seeks to extend the “safety zone” of human atmospheric bailout last set in 1960 by diver Joe Kittinger. This limit defines the uppermost altitude a human being can safely jump from.

“Right now, the space shuttle escape system is certified to 100,000 feet,” said the mission’s medical director Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon. “Why is that? Because Joe Kittinger went there. You’ve got a lot of companies that are vying for the role of being the commercial space transport provider for tourism, for upper atmospheric science, and so on. These systems, particularly during the test and development phase, need a potential escape system, which we may be able to help them provide with the knowledge we gain.” [Graphic: Earth’s Atmosphere From Top to Bottom]

Taking the leap

A team of aeronautics experts recently led Baumgartner through a week of testing meant to illuminate any possible weaknesses in his equipment and to familiarize him with the skills needed to navigate the conditions expected to assail him as soon as he opens his vessel door…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Soldiers Will be Forced to Serve Abroad

All Swedish soldiers will in future be liable to be sent abroad on missions against their will. Any soldiers who refuse could lose their jobs, according to SVT.

Swedish Armed Forces rejects ad films criticism (15 Jun 10)

Until now, overseas service in the Swedish military has been on a voluntary basis. But with the abolition of conscription this month, army chiefs now want to ensure that all soldiers can be deployed to places such as Afghanistan.

“This is a further element of the transformation currently taking place, in which our staff play an important part. We will increase the Armed Forces’ availability to carry our our new duties,” said the military’s supreme commander, Sverker Göransson, in a statement.

All four unions representing military personnel — Seko, Saco, the Pilots’ Union and the Officers Union — are opposed to the new rules, according to SVT.

Military employees have until 20th September to accept their new terms of employment. If they refuse they could be made redundant.

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

Swedish Women Equate Jogging With Sex: Survey

Jogging is more important than a slew of other social activities, and is as important as sex and time with the family, according to a new survey of Swedish women by iFORM lifestyle magazine.

Shopping, having coffee with friends, watching television and calling your mum are all willingly sacrificed for a trot around the block, the magazine writes.

iFORM editor-in-chief Karen Lyager Horve explains that the popularity of jogging can be explained in the activity’s rapid results.

“Jogging is something of a panacea, in a relatively short period of time you can boost your well-being by running yourself to a healthy weight, less stress and more happiness,” she said.

Indeed, according to the survey of 1,774 women between the ages of 15-60, jogging is equal only to sex and time spent with the family. A third of the women replied that pounding the streets was in fact preferable to exercise between the sheets.

The survey shows that the only task unquestioningly more important than jogging is work.

The majority of women in the survey responded that they run three times per week, with an average distance of around 5 kilometres, although many are becoming more ambitious with almost a third dreaming of running a half-marathon.

For the modern Swedish woman a pair of worn-in trainers and an old t-shirt is not sufficient attire to launch forth, with MP3 players, pulse meters and mobile phones typical accompaniments on their quest for better health, the survey shows.

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

UK: Swedish Male Model ‘Attacked Arabian Princess Ex-Lover’s Chauffeur After She Caught Him Having Threesome in Her Flat’

A ‘gold-digging’ male model dumped by a Saudi Arabian princess after she caught him with two other women attacked her chauffeur in a rage, a court heard yesterday.

The fracas unfolded at the princess’s London flat after a night of drink and drugs, jurors were told.

Swedish model Patrick Ribbsaeter had met Sara Al-Amoudi on holiday in Thailand and the pair became lovers.

The relationship offered the promise of unimaginable wealth to Ribbsaeter, 30, who has modelled for a host of household names, including Calvin Klein, Armani, Gucci and Christian Dior.

But his hopes of a gilded future promptly disappeared when she caught him with the other women in her flat in Victoria, Central London, the court heard.

And after she dumped him, Ribbsaeter, 30, is alleged to have lunged at Miss Al-Amoudi as she slept. At this point her driver Sarkis Tokatlian stepped in to stop him, giving him a bloody nose but Ribbsaeter smashed a wine glass and stabbed the driver six times in his face before beginning to strangle him, a jury was told.

Prosecutor Martin Whitehouse said the trial showed a world that was a far cry from the ‘idyllic, perhaps artificial’ image painted of the rich by Hello! magazine.

It was a life of ‘drinks, drugs and clubs’, he said, that was ‘in some respects, rather seedy and, of course, there’s violence’.

Pony-tailed Ribbsaeter sat in the dock at Southwark Crown Court wearing an open white shirt exposing his chest as the case against him was outlined.

Mr Whitehouse called him a ‘gold-digger’ and said that while he may appear charming and good-looking, there was another side to him.

‘He’s violent, he’s vain, he’s egocentric,’ the prosecutor said. ‘He’s also, I suggest, a liar and prone to exaggeration.’

The alleged assaults happened after Miss Al-Amoudi and Ribbsaeter went to dinner on a Saturday in September last year following her discovery of the two women.

Mr Tokatlian then drove Miss Al-Amoudi and Ribbsaeter in a Rolls-Royce to dinner, then on to a series of nightclubs, including the Ministry of Sound, before the couple returned to her flat in the early hours of Sunday. It was then that she talked about her future with Ribbsaeter and ‘realised that Patrick was, after all, not the man for her’, the prosecutor said.

Mr Tokatlian returned to the flat after dropping off the car and it became apparent that Ribbsaeter and Miss Al-Amoudi had split up.

The trio talked until Miss Al-Amoudi fell asleep. But Ribbsaeter is then said to have lunged at her, prompting the chauffeur to respond.

After the alleged glass attack, the pair struggled on the floor by the dining table until Ribbsaeter climbed on top of the victim. He grabbed his throat with both hands, and began to strangle him, stopping only when Mr Tokatlian pushed his thumbs into his attacker’s eyes, the court heard.

Mr Whitehouse said: ‘Ribbsaeter intended to cause him really serious harm and he was not acting in self-defence.

‘By the time it had got round to the strangling, Patrick Ribbsaeter had lost it. He wasn’t thinking about her. He was thinking about his future prosperity.

‘When he was found out, and realised he could not charm his way out, he reverted to his other character type — violence.’

The jury was told Ribbsaeter has a previous conviction in Sweden for strangling a different ex-girlfriend.

Ribbsaeter told the jury that Mr Tokatlian was the aggressor and that he had only defended himself.

He said he had been drinking and had taken a tiny quantity of ketamine and an ecstasy tablet while the two others had taken much more.

In interview, Ribbsaeter told police he had seen red, had ‘the strength of ten men’ and added it was a case of ‘kill or be killed’.

Ribbsaeter, of no fixed address, denies causing Mr Tokatlian grievous bodily harm with intent, the alternative charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm, and unlawfully wounding Miss Al-Amoudi during the struggle.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Sterilise the Poor and Bring Back the Workhouse: Public’s Bizarre Suggestions for Spending Cuts

It is yet another brainchild of the new open Coalition: A website that allows the public to suggest where public spending cuts can be made.

But once again the idea has fallen victim to a string of outlandish suggestions — just like the scheme asking which bad laws should be scrapped.

The Spending Challenge website has been bombarded with possibilities for savings but some are offensive and others simply bizarre — such as the proposal to limit the amount civil servants drink to stop them going to the toilet.

The writer suggested tea cups over 150ml should be banned and ‘fluid monitors’ brought in to impose fines for transgressions, claiming it could save £11billion a year.

Other suggestions include forcing the poor to be sterilised, calling for a return of the workhouse and forcing benefits claimants to work in sweatshops.

One poster, infuriated about the prospect of swingeing cuts, claimed the Office for Budget Responsibility should be renamed the Waffen SS.

And another demanded the Government ‘stop spending our money on illegal wars and false accusations to justify stealing other countries’ resources.

The website was opened to the public last week to engage voters in how to make savings.

It is aimed at involving people in the move to save billions in public spending to help reduce the vast deficit.

The website is similar to the Your Freedom site that asks for ideas about which laws introduced by Labour should be axed. It crashed after dozens of bizarre ideas were suggested, including lifting the ban on marrying a horse.

[Return to headlines]

XXX-Ray Calendar Titillates German Radiologists

A German advertising agency is pushing the “beauty is skin deep” adage to the limit with a promotional calendar for radiologists featuring 12 “bone bunnies” — X-ray images of skeletal pin-up girls.

From the splay-legged Miss January to the high-kicking Miss December, the calendar offers a year’s worth of erotic pictures designed to tickle medical specialists accustomed to getting a penetrating view of their patients.

The calendar was conceived by a German ad agency as a promotion to German radiologists for the Japanese electronics maker EIZO, which recently released a new monitor offering high resolution greys that are particularly helpful in illustrating diseased tissue.

The firm hired Düsseldorf-based advertising firm Butter to design a marketing campaign to sell the equipment to German radiologists.

In fact the pictures are not real models, but rather computer-generated images based on “Playboy” model poses.


“Obviously we didn’t want to expose models to dangerous radiation,” Butter art director Nadine Schlichte told German daily Financial Times Deutschland.

With the help of a few issues of “Playboy”, the artists analysed “what poses look erotic if you’re not actually seeing anything,” she said. They then had a computer generate skeletal versions of the poses.

Nevertheless, the creators strove for authenticity, she added.

“Anyone taking a close look at Miss April can see two silicon bags floating in front of her thorax.”

The finished calendar was sent out to 200 selected medical specialists, which sparked a sensation.

“One doctor who missed out was so thrilled by the idea, that he even offered us a kidney,” said Schlichte.

Amid all the fuss, the actual genesis of the idea has been forgotten, according to Butter’s Reinhard Henke, who said they couldn’t remember how they actually came up with the concept.

“In the shower — or staring at the wall,” he said.

The advertising industry has been as delighted as the doctors. The Art Directors Club, the leading industry body, gave the calendar the gold prize at its annual awards. It also won silver at the New York Festival and gold at the One Show — one of the annual awards of industry group the One Club.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: 3:000 Militants ‘Pose Grave Security Threat’

Sarajevo, 13 July (AKI) — There are some 3,000 well equipped radical Islamist militants in Bosnia, who pose a serious terror threat to the country, according to top security officials quoted by Bosnian media on Tuesday.

Bosnia state security agency OSA director Almir Dzuvo, said most of the potential terrorists were local people known to police, while only three percent were foreigners.

“They are much better equipped than the police,” Bosnian daily, Dnevni avaz cited Dzuvo as telling a joint commission on defence and security.

“Most potential terrorists have been on police registers for several years,” he added, waving a list of 3,000 terrorism suspects in his hand.

Reporting to the commission on the bombing of a police station in the western town of Bugojno in June in which one policeman was killed and six were wounded, Dzuvo warned worse attacks would follow.

“I see a potential danger from 3,000 persons who can at any moment, for psychological or other reasons, commit terrorist acts much worse that this one (in Bugojno),”Dzuvo said.

“Police can’t do anything to them until they commit a terrorist act like the one in Bugojno or something on a similar scale,” Dzuvo said.

He appealed to politicians to enact tough security legislation to help foil terror plots.

Dzuvo said most potential terrorists were followers of the fundamentalist Salafite Islamic movement, also known as Wahabism, which originated in Saudi Arabia.

A lax attitude to Wahabism by Bosnian authorities has allowed it to take root in the country and for Wahabi cells to radicalise supporters and plot violence, according to a number of terrorism experts.

Wahabi ideology is relatively new in Europe and was brought to Bosnia by foreign Muslim fighters or mujahadeen who fought on the side of local Muslims in the country’s bloody 1992-1995 war.

Many mujahadeen acquired Bosnian citizenship and remained in the country after the war, operating terrorist training camps in Bosnia and indoctrinating local youths.

The police was doing its work, but there was “no political will to do more,” the director of Bosnia’s federal police, Zlatko Miletic told the commission, quoted by Dnevni avaz.

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

Western Decrepitude: The Meaning of the Srebrenica Myth

by Srdja Trifkovic

Srebrenica, Islam & Western Decadence (AltRight)

Like Communism, Islam relies on a domestic fifth column — the carpet-kissing Rosenbergs, Philbys, Blunts, and Hisses — to subvert the civilized world.. It also relies on an army of fellow-travelers, the latter-day Sartres and Shaws in the ivory towers, on “liberal academics and opinion-makers” (as per Sam Francis) who “sympathize with Islam partly because it is a leading historical rival of the Western civilization they hate” and partly because they long for a romanticized and sanitized Muslim past that substitutes for the authentic Western and Christian roots they have rejected. Those roots must be defended, in the full knowledge that those who subscribe to Islam and its civilization are aliens, regardless of their clothes, their professions or their places of residence. They sense Western weakness and expect that if Islam supplies the only old religious tradition left standing 50 years hence, it may attract mass conversion. That would indeed be the end of the West, its final surrender to the spirit masterfully depicted by Jean Raspail in the preface to the 1985 French edition of his Camp of Saints:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Tunisia: National Football Team in Underage Sex Charges

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 14 — At least five members of Tunisia’s National football team are said to have been reported to police by the parents of underage girls, whom the footballers are said to have involved in a “steamy” evening the night before match against Botswana in Tunis.

According to Tunisia’s French-language daily “Le Quotidien”, the footballers are said to have involved the girls, all minors, in an evening reserved for adults in public venues forbidding the presence of anyone under eighteen. The same paper reports that “the charges, if followed up, would confirm talk on the streets of Tunis according to which the girls were ‘not left in one piece’ by the end of the evening”.

The match played the following day, an African Nations Cup qualifier, resulted in a 1-0 victory for Tunisia over Botswana. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Confusion Mounts on Turkey’s Iran Nuke Diplomacy

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has denied claims by a U.S. official who said Ankara had agreed to distance itself from the Iranian nuclear issue, saying it remains open to participating if the parties seek its help.

“The participation of Turkey [in the Iran negotiations] is not necessary, but it is true that Iran wants us in the process. If Turkey is called to participate, we will consider it,” one diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday. “However, no one should expect Turkey to stay indifferent to the developments in its region.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Associated Press had quoted an anonymous U.S. official as saying that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had agreed during a phone conversation late Monday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Turkey would no longer be involved in the Iranian issue.

That claim was denied by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which said Turkey was not part of earlier talks between the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, known as the P5+1, and Iran.

“We have appreciated Turkey’s diplomacy regarding the Iran issue. However, the message given by Clinton during the phone conversation was that it was now time for Iran to contact the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and the P5+1 as relevant channels at this point; moreover, everybody should encourage Iran to establish such contact,” the anonymous U.S. official was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

The conversation between Clinton and Davutoglu reportedly covered important international issues, including the Iranian nuclear program.

The P5+1 and the IAEA are pressing Iran to start a new round of talks over Tehran’s nuclear program following the adoption of sanctions at the U.N. Security Council. Turkey and Brazil both voted against the measure and Iran is demanding their participation in any future talks.

The venue and date for such talks remains unknown, as Tehran has introduced a number of pre-conditions to any discussion.

Turkey’s “no” vote on sanctions caused deep frustration in Washington, its NATO ally, which believed that the move further encouraged the Iranian regime in its nuclear ambitions. Turkey, however, said the vote simply aimed to keep Iran at the table for future negotiations.

Brazil and Turkey had brokered a deal May 17, in which Iran would ship its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged with enriched nuclear fuel rods to power the Tehran research reactor. “Now they will also talk about the enrichment of Iran’s uranium together with the swap issue,” the same diplomatic source that commented on Turkey’s participation told the Daily News.

Iran and the Vienna Group, which includes the U.S., Russia and France, have issued clashing statements over who should participate in the new round of talks.

Iran believes Turkey and Brazil should participate in talks with the Vienna Group within the framework of the May 17 “Tehran Declaration.” Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki told reporters Sunday “the Vienna Group has also accepted their presence.”

World powers, however, have not formally agreed that Brazil and Turkey can sit in on talks over a nuclear-fuel supply deal with Iran, but neither have they explicitly ruled out such an arrangement, Agence France-Presse reported.

Although Turkey and Brazil offered the May swap deal as an alternative to sanctions, the Security Council proposed a new round of sanctions against Iran the next day. The U.N. sanctions passed in June despite Turkey and Brazil’s “no” votes.

Moscow, Paris and Washington have also expressed reservations about the Turkey-Brazil-brokered deal, asking Iran to clarify a number of questions about the terms. Western powers now hope to negotiate on these issues with Iran in a joint meeting.

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

Flotilla Affect on Turkey’s Eco-Tourism

While media attention has been focused on the drop in Israeli tourist coming to coastal Turkish resorts since diplomatic tensions between the countries erupted last month, the crisis is also affecting Anatolia’s eco-tourism.

Usually, the eastern Black Sea province of Artvin attracts thousands of Israeli tourists to its Yusufeli district every year, but two-thirds of all bookings were reportedly canceled this year. The Yaylalar village of Yusufeli is among tourist regions suffering from cancellations.

Hoteliers at Yusufeli said 70 percent of all tourists visiting the region were from Israel, adding that the region had been attracting almost 5,000 Israeli tourists a year, but that the figures had plummeted this year.

The crisis over the Israeli commando raid against an aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip has had a significant effect on Turkish tourism, but officials say the loss of Israeli travelers will be offset by a rise in numbers coming from other countries.

Israel’s Travel Agents Association recently announced that 100,000 of all the 150,000 bookings in Turkey this year were cancelled after the bloody raid, which killed eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin.

Indispensable source of revenue

Hoteliers in Yaylalar village, an important center for ecotourism in the Kaçkar Mountains, are afraid to lose a significant portion of their revenues. Osman Alkan, who runs the Olgunlar Pension, a frequented spot which has recently become a hub for mountaineering and skiing, said that if the tension continues, fewer people would be able to afford to live in the village.

“The Prime Minister’s ‘One minute’ outburst [in Davos, Switzerland] cut the tourist numbers in half. And the flotilla crisis finished off the rest,” Alkan said.

Although locals regard Israeli tourists as “tight-pursed,” they are indispensable for Alkan, since they spend an average of 100 or 150 Turkish Liras per person. “The Czechs come and they do not even eat. Only the French leave good revenue, but unfortunately they rarely come.”

Alkan said reservation cancellations have also affected mule breeders and transport operators negatively. “There are 30 families who live by mule breeding,” he told the business daily Referans. “Almost all of them were making ends meet thanks to Israelis. Now, almost a total of 250 people are devoid of that revenue.”

In contrast, however, there are others who are content with the absence of Israeli tourists. Naim Altunay, owner of Çamyuva Pension in Yaylalar village, said the village’s quality would “increase as long as Israelis do not come.”

Europeans avoid the spots frequented by Israelis, he said. “Israelis erode the prices, they are never content with anything and worst of all, they damage the places they stay.”

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

Holy Land: More Pilgrimages to the Holy Land “Due to Pilgrims From Asia, “ Says Fr Pizzaballa

The first half of 2010 sets a new record. More than a million pilgrims or 39 per cent more than a year before come to the Holy Land. For the Custodian of the Holy land, the increase strengthens local Christian communities.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) — Religious tourism to the Holy Land has hit a record level. In the first half of 2010, more than a million people have visited holy sites in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. In June alone, 259,000 pilgrims made it the Holy Land; that is 24 per cent more than in 2009, this according to Travelujah, a Protestant social network that monitors travel to the Holy land. It recently reported that tourism to Israel has reached an all-time high with 1.6 million tourists; two-thirds of them are Christian, a 39 per cent jump over the same period last year.

“I confirm the data and expect the numbers to rise in the coming months,” Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land, told AsiaNews. “Interest in the Holy Land is rising again,” said the Franciscan, and “the rise is due to pilgrims coming from Asia, in particular India.”

“This is very important to [local] Christian families and communities,” he explained. “One of the most serious problems for us is the lack of jobs. There are so many Christians employed in tourism that more pilgrims means more jobs. In Bethlehem, five new hotels are under construction.”

This also means a lot for the Church in the Holy Land. “Today, pilgrims do not visit only the holy sites. They want to know Christian communities, which are fragile and weak. This way, they have an opportunity to develop relations that strengthen them.”

There are different reasons for the increase in pilgrimages, Fr Pizzaballa said. “I am no prophet, but there have been no reports of attacks and violence in Israel. The Pope’s visit and support by national bishops’ conferences have been important in encouraging visits. Finally, the government has adopted some measures that have reduced costs and made travel more accessible despite the economic crisis.”

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

Lebanon: UN Denies “Confidence Crisis” In Hezbollah, But Concerns Persist

The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon talks about “positive role” played by the Party of God, but blue helmet officers show that the attacks were prepared and could happen again in an area controlled by the Shiite group. Analyst: Hezbollah wants to reduce UNIFIL to “hostages under its control” to manipulate future confrontations with Israel.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The UN has thrown water on the fire and denied a “crisis of confidence” with Hezbollah because of attacks against UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), but this positive attitude is countered by the proliferation of rumours that in fact the Party of God wants to put a halt to the UN role, one of the steps in preparations for a new armed confrontation against Israel.

“Hezbollah has played a positive role in reducing tension,” Michael Williams, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon said yesterday, adding that “there is no crisis of confidence” with the Party of God. UNIFIL Officers explain that friction with local residents is understandable, because of the more than 350 fixed and mobile checkpoints. On the other hand, they observe that the ambush appeared to have been prepared, and recent Hezbollah criticism of the blue helmets have raised fears that new accidents can “happen” again in an area heavily controlled by the Shiite group.

Which, according to an analysis published on Middle East Online, seems to have a common objective, with its “masters” Iran and Syria, “ cripple and castrate “ UNIFIL troops and replicate its ongoing scheme that crippled the Lebanese army since 2005. Hezbollah wants UNIFIL to be something like a boy scout contingent, only assigned to prepare reports and having no military teeth, power, or authority, as well as no freedom of movement. Hezbollah is planning to make the UNIFIL troops mere hostages and pawns under its control that it can manipulate and use in any future confrontation with Israel or between Iran and Syria on one side and the Free World on the other.”

In this regard according to An Nahar, the Syrian representative to the UN, Ambassador Bashar Jaafari, warned the United Nations from taking positions in Lebanon, because “ this could threaten the painstaking achievements that have been made by various sides, including Syria”. Jaafari has also argued against what his government considers “interference” by “the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in bilateral relations between Lebanon and Syria.” (PD)

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

Lebanon: Spy Working for Israel Sentenced to Death

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JULY 14 — Four years after the explosion of the war between Israel and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, a Lebanese spy who helped Israel by passing on information during the bombings in the 2006 conflict has been sentenced to death. The news was revealed by the local press.

Beirut’s military court yesterday condemned 53-year old Ali Mantash to death. Mantash, a butcher, was arrested in 2009, after being accused of “collaboration with the enemy” and supplying them with “sensitive information about military and civilian targets”.

This is the second death penalty pronounced by the Lebanese judicial authorities to spies working on Israel’s behalf. The first case dates back to last February, when Beirut’s military court found Mahmoud Rafeh, a 63-year old former police official, guilty of collaboration.

Since the beginning of 2009, the Lebanese authorities have arrested over 70 spies presumed to have been working for Israel.

The same charge was levelled only yesterday to Sharbil Qazzi, a public official working for one of the two local mobile phone companies.

Qazzi also risks being sentenced to death, though the measure can only be carried out after a special warrant has been signed by the country’s President. Although capital punishment is in force in Lebanon, the punishment has not been used for many years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Entrepreneurs Plan to Sell Arab Snacks in Turkey

Alaaddin Salah (L) and Sultan Yunus plan to sell traditional Arab snacks in Turkey’s west.

Two Palestinian entrepreneurs from the West Bank have decided to introduce Arabian fast food specialties to western Turkey.

Alaaddin Salah and Sultan Yunus, two investors in the fast food business, told Anatolia news agency that they plan to sell “falafel” and “humus” in Turkey’s Aegean region.

The investors said they would launch their business in the town of Tavsanli in the western Kütahya province, from where they have been importing roasted chickpeas to Palestine for five years.

Felafel is a fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas. Humus, another chickpea-based traditional dish, is a wide spread snack in Arab countries. Both dishes, popular among vegetarians, are also consumed widely in Turkey’s southern provinces Hatay and Mersin.

Salah says Tavsanli residents admired the products they served at reduced prices.

Tavsanli Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice Chairman Mustafa Göktekin said the chamber was supporting Salah’s enterprise who had already been importing to Palestine dried nuts and fruits from Tavsanli. “This is cultural exchange between our town and Palestinian people,” said Göktekin, noting that Gaza and Tavsani are sister cities.

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

Why Israel Shouldn’t Attack Iranian Nuclear Installations — Unless it Has to Do So

by Barry Rubin

An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations for the purpose of trying to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons at all would be a mistake. Instead, Israel should plan—and indeed is planning—for a multi-layer campaign of airstrikes, missile defenses, and other measures in the event of Iran ever posing a specific threat of attacking Israel.

Before going into the details of why I’m saying this, however, let me stress that this is not something likely to be a central issue in the near-term future. That is precisely why we should discuss it now.

Let me also emphasize that Israeli plans should be in place such that if there ever would be an imminent threat of an Iranian attack, it should be preempted. What should be avoided, however, is an Israeli attack based merely on the goal of stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons at all. It is far better to risk setting of a major regional war only if there is a need to do so, as happened, for example, regarding the 1967 war, when a serious threat required a preemptive attack to defend the country.

Of course, Iran’s having nuclear weapons is an overall danger for Israeli interests, wider regional stability, and U.S. interests. Such a situation would in theory open Israel daily to the possibility of an Iranian nuclear attack. Yet history shows that Israelis would adjust to this situation, if remote as it would likely be, without panic or paralysis. Given a calm analysis, however, and the alternatives, a preemptive attack on Iran possessing a few nuclear weapons and long-range missiles would make matters worse, not better.

Here’s why:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Attack on Security Headquarters in South, 5 Killed

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JULY 14 — Five dead — including three policemen — and over 10 injured have been reported so far in a double attack this morning in southern Yemen against the headquarters of government security services. Authorities have attributed the attack to the Al Qaeda network.

About 20 hooded and armed men on motorcycles attacked the local general security and political security headquarters — two of the four control agencies of the pro-Western Yemenite regime — in Zijibar, the largest city in the southern province Abyan.

Eyewitnesses quoted by the local press claimed to have seen violent shootouts between government officers and attackers, with the latter armed with machine guns, hand bombs and rocket launchers. In addition to the three policemen, two militants were killed. A security source said that “it is very likely that the attacks were carried out by Al Qaeda”. According to recent reports by US intelligence, the terrorist network has two important strongholds in Yemen: in the western part of the country and in the Abyan province, which is also racked by fighting with separatists from the south. On Sunday the Yemenite branch of Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bloody attack carried out in June against the political security offices in the Aden port in which 11 people were killed. Yemen’s Al Qaeda-inspired schools also produced the terrorist who tried to blow himself up on a Delta Airlines flight headed for the US city of Detroit in December. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


The Gazprom Gamble

Handelsblatt, 13 July 2010

“An immoral offer,” announces an indignant Handelsblatt in its report on Russian gas giant Gazprom’s attempt to enlist RWE in the South Stream pipeline project. RWE is already involved in the rival Nabucco pipeline project, which aims to transport gas from the Caspian Sea to southern Europe. Official sources at RWE have also described the offer as “indecent,” although the company still plans to evaluate it. Handelsblatt is concerned that Nabucco will not survive without the full support of RWE which may now be doubt. The business daily notes that Gazprom lobbyist and former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder is a good friend of RWE chairman Jürgen Großmann.

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

South Asia

Sri Lanka: UN Office in Colombo Closed, Minister Leading Protests, A “Clown”

Ban Ki-Moon recalls UN Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne to New York. Demonstrations began last Tuesday. For opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe, “The protest outside the UN office in Colombo has brought shame and disrepute to the country”.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has ordered the closure of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Colombo and recalled to New York, Neil Buhne, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Sri Lanka. The decision was taken yesterday in response to ongoing protests backed by the Sri Lankan government against a UN probe into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

A commission of inquiry was set up last month to probe allegations that during the final phase of the country’s civil war, human rights were violated. The conflict between government forces and Tamil Tigers (LTTE) ended in May 2009. According to the United Nations, more than 7,000 civilians died in the last five months of the war.

Protests began last Tuesday in front of the UN headquarters in Sri Lanka. They were led by Infrastructure Minister Wimal Weerawansa, who yesterday began a hunger strike and stopped drinking to stop the investigation.

For the United Nations, it is unacceptable that the Sri Lankan authorities have failed to prevent the disruption of the normal functioning of the United Nations offices in Colombo.

“I am concerned,” said Geetha Lakmini Fernando, executive administrator of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO). Speaking to AsiaNews, she asked, “Who is going to feed the IDPs in the camps once UN agencies are gone from Sri Lanka? The government is not worried that these people are suffering. We are all victims and the UNDP is essential for a country like ours.”

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe also spoke out. “The protest outside the UN office in Colombo has brought shame and disrepute to the country,” he said.

In another statement, the Communist-leaning Nava Sama Samaja Party, called “Minister Weerawansa, a clown, and the entire situation, absurd.”

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

U.S. Soldiers Can be Court-Martialed for Protecting Selves

American fighters endangered by violations of ‘rules of engagement’

Violating the U.S. military’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan could guarantee a soldier a court martial, according to sources, even though there are significant concerns the rules actually hinder the ability of soldiers to protect themselves in the heat of combat with the Taliban, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

U.S. soldiers are being told to consider an Article 15 investigation “as part of the AAR process,” or After Action Review, one informed source said.

“This is simply incredible. It’s like saying ‘court martials (sic) will happen, just consider that to be part of your counseling process,’“ the military source said.

G2 Bulletin reported in December that the new rules of engagement ostensibly designed to protect Afghan civilians were putting the lives of U.S. forces in jeopardy as the Taliban began to learn how to game the imposed limits.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

Beijing Starts Gating, Locking Migrant Villages

BEIJING — The government calls it “sealed management.” China’s capital has started gating and locking some of its lower-income neighborhoods overnight, with police or security checking identification papers around the clock, in a throwback to an older style of control.

It’s Beijing’s latest effort to reduce rising crime often blamed on the millions of rural Chinese migrating to cities for work. The capital’s Communist Party secretary wants the approach promoted citywide. But some state media and experts say the move not only looks bad but imposes another layer of control on the already stigmatized, vulnerable migrants.

So far, gates have sealed off 16 villages in the sprawling southern suburbs, where migrants are attracted to cheaper rents and in some villages outnumber permanent residents 10 to one.

“In some ways, this is like the conflict between Americans and illegal immigrants in the States. The local residents feel threatened by the influx of migrants,” Huang Youqin, an associate professor of geography at the University at Albany in New York who has studied gating and political control in China, said in an e-mail. “The risk is that the government can control people’s private life if it wants to.”

The gated villages are the latest indignity for China’s migrant workers, who already face limited access to schooling and government services and are routinely blamed by city folk for rising crime. Used to the hardship of the farm and the lack of privilege, migrants seem to be taking the new controls in their stride.

Jia Yangui said he accepts the new system as a trade-off for escaping farm work in the northern province of Shanxi. He arrived in Beijing less than two months ago and lives with a relative in one of the gated villages, Dashengzhuang. He sells oily pancakes just inside one of the gates.

“Anyway, it’s not as strict as before, when we migrants would be detained on the way to the toilet,” said Jia’s relative, a middle-aged woman who gave her family name as Zheng.

“Sealed management” looks like this: Gates are placed at the street and alley entrances to the villages, which are collections of walled compounds sprinkled with shops and outdoor vendors. The gates are locked between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for one main entrance manned by security guards or police, there to check identification papers. Security guards roam the villages by day.

“Closing up the village benefits everyone,” read one banner which was put up when the first, permanent gated village was introduced in April.

But some Chinese question whether problems arising from growing gap between the country’s rich and poor can be fixed with locks and surveillance cameras.

“It’s a ridiculous idea!” said Li Wenhua, who does private welfare work with migrant workers in Beijing. “This is definitely not a good long-term strategy. The government should dig up the in-depth causes of crime and improve basic public services such as education and health care to these people.”

Crime has been rising steadily over the past two decades, as China moved from state planning to free markets and Chinese once locked into set jobs began moving around the country for work. Violent crime in China jumped 10 percent last year, with 5.3 million reported cases of homicide, robbery, and rape, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported in February.

“Sealed management” was born in the village of Laosanyu during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when the government was eager to control its migrant population. The village used it again during the sensitive 60th anniversary of Communist China last year. Officials then reported the idea to township officials, who decided to make the practice permanent this year.

“Eighty percent of the permanent residents applauded the practice,” said Guo Ruifeng, deputy director of Laosanyu’s village committee. He didn’t say how many migrants approved, though they outnumber the locals by 7,000 to 700.

“Anyway, they should understand that it is all for their safety,” he said. Guards only check papers if they see anything suspicious, he said.

Gating has been an easy and effective way to control population throughout Chinese history, said Huang, the geography professor. In past centuries, some walled cities would impose curfews and close their gates overnight. In the first decades of communist rule, the desire for top-down organization and control showed in work-unit compounds, usually guarded and enclosed.

As the economy has grown, privately run gated communities with their own security have emerged in the biggest cities, catering to well-to-do Chinese and expatriates, offering upscale houses and facilities like pools and gyms.

The new gated villages in Beijing are very different.

“To put it crudely, gated communities in the city are a way for the upper middle-class and urban rich to keep out trespassers, whereas gated villages represent a way for the state to ‘keep in’ or contain the problem of ‘migrant workers’ who live in these villages,” Pow Choon-Pieu, an assistant professor of geography at the National University of Singapore who has studied the issue, said in an e-mail.

Jiang Zhengqing, a supermarket owner in the gated compound of Laosanyu, told the China Daily newspaper in May that he doesn’t even know if he’ll be in business next year because of the drop in customers.

“Before, the streets were crowded with people in the afternoon but now the village is deserted,” he said. “I can’t understand why the government has invested such a large amount of money into putting up these useless fences, rather than repair our dirty public restrooms and bumpy roads.”

[Return to headlines]

China: Property Speculation Leaves 64.5 Million Vacant Homes in China

Speculation in the real estate market has generated such a high rate of housing vacancy that it could lead to social disorder and financial problems, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says. The government, meanwhile, crosses its fingers.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — At least 64.5 million houses are lying vacant in China. This is sign that the property market is in for a tough time in the not so distant future. Indeed, the mainland’s real estate sector is dangerously overheated, and could threaten the country’s financial and social stability, a prominent economist wrote in an official newspaper today.

Yi Xianrong, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that estimates from electricity meter readings show that 64.5 million apartments and houses stand empty in China’s urban areas, many of them bought by people counting on a constantly rising property market.

Writing in the People’s Daily, Yi said the level of empty housing was “shocking”.

“If this outsized property bubble does not burst, it will hurt residents’ well-being, and also affect national financial security and co-ordinated national economic development,” Yi wrote. In his opinion, the overheated property market was misallocating resources, distorting prices and squandering the wealth created by economic growth.

Even though the article was published in the newspaper’s overseas edition, that it was published at all shows how much the government is afraid of the bubble and the instability it might generate.

Indeed, Beijing has already adopted a number of measures over the past few months to cool the property market, including raising down payments and mortgage rates. However, they do not seem to have had the desired effect yet.

Property prices continue to rise nationwide, 0.2 per cent last May. This is especially hard for the weakest segments of the population.

“The problem now is that investment in the domestic property market has completely overturned China’s traditional concepts of wealth management,” Yi explained.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Canada Aids Search for the African Einstein

The Canadian government has pledged C$20 million to help develop a network of specialized science and technology centres across Africa. Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, made the announcement on Tuesday during a special visit to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo.

The money will be used to expand the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), which exists to recruit and train African researchers and to promote mathematics and science across the continent.

“Just as ideas and innovation are the foundation of Canada’s new economy, they will be the basis of Africa’s future economic, educational, scientific and governance self-sufficiency,” said cosmologist Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute, speaking yesterday.

Looking for the next Einstein

Turok, who was born in South Africa, founded the original AIMS in 2003 — a small postgraduate centre in Cape Town. In 2008 he went on to instigate the Next Einstein Initiative, which led to the opening of a second institute in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The initiative seeks to create a network of 15 centres across the African continent by 2020, enabling 750 extra African scientists to complete courses each year at postgraduate level.

The money donated by the Canadian government will support a planned network of five postgraduate schools across Africa, including new centres in Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal. In his presentation yesterday, the Canadian Prime Minister explained the motivation behind the investment.

“Humanity’s ascent from ignorance and barbarism to enlightenment and equality has been a fitful and uneven process. If there is, however, a universal constant in human affairs, it is that the expansion of knowledge and technology has continuously made life better for more people. That’s why our government is supporting scientific and technological research, as well as development at home and abroad.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Brussels Go-Ahead for New Wave of Migrants

BUREAUCRATS are planning to encourage more new migrants to come to the EU despite ­rising ­levels of unemployment, it emerged last night.

Brussels officials are to simplify entry rules for workers heading to Europe to take up temporary ­seasonal jobs in farming, tourism and other industries.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said: “We need immigrant workers in order to secure our economic survival.”

She claimed more were needed to fill “labour shortages”.

But her remarks are bound to provoke new concerns that Eurocrats are determined to press for ever higher levels of immigration.

Last night, Home Office ­insiders insisted Britain would refuse to sign up to the latest overhaul of EU border controls.

Mrs Malmstrom said: “We know unemployment rates are still very high in Europe. Paradoxically, at the same time there are labour shortages.” She plans to speed up procedures for hiring managers, specialists and seasonal workers from outside the 27 EU member states.

The EU lacks workers in ­certain sectors even though average unemployment is at 10 per cent, up from seven per cent before the crisis, commission ­officials said. Mrs Malmstrom — ­responsible for migration policies — has said the EU will continue to need extra workers in the next few years even though slower ­economic growth is putting pressure on some EU governments to curb the number of immigrants.

An ageing population and low birth rates mean that migrant labour will be necessary to help EU growth in the long term.

Mrs Malmstrom said: “In light of the ­demographic challenge the EU is facing, where our active population is forecasted to start falling already in 2013, we need immigrant workers in order to secure our economic survival.

“I will continue to take more steps towards a more inclusive labour migration policy for the EU in the coming years.”

Under the proposals, which have to be approved by EU ­governments and the European P­arliament, companies will be able to bring seasonal workers into the EU more quickly to address changing needs.

Officials insist the measures are aimed at tackling the growing problem of illegal migrants working in a black economy. Thousands, many from Africa, are hired each year to do jobs such as harvesting tomatoes in Italy.

But critics of mass immigration insist that unemployed native workers should be encouraged — or forced through benefit cuts — to take up the work. The new rules would force employers to prove they provide accommodation and set up a complaints mechanism.

And companies would benefit from simplified application procedures when bringing managers and specialists into EU branches of international corporations.

A spokesman for Mrs Malmstrom said last night: “It is up to each member state to decide whether they need more seasonal workers and how many they should take. If they don’t need more seasonal workers, of course that is their choice.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Shopping Centre Bosses Approve ‘Asian Squat Toilets’ Following Cultural Awareness Course

Middle Eastern-style ‘squat’ toilets are to be fitted in a shopping centre after bosses attended a cultural awareness course.

WCs at Rochdale’s Exchange shopping centre will include two Nile pans alongside traditional western toilets when they reopen following a refurbishment.

The pans differ from western toilets as the user is able to squat over them, rather than sitting.

They are preferred by some members of the Asian community for cultural reasons and were installed to give staff and customers the option of using them.

The decision to install pans in the ladies and gents toilets came about after centre management attended a cultural training course with community activist Ghulam Rasul Shahzad.

The retired Rochdale Council training officer runs courses for the police and other organisations about cultural understanding and community cohesion.

Mr Shahzad took the centre manager Lorenzo O’Reilly and his team on a tour around Central Mosque, including a look at its toilets, as part of the course.

He said: ‘The management at the centre were very committed to improving the service they offered to the community and were very responsive.

‘We always work together to understand each other from both sides and find a balance.

‘That is the beauty of Rochdale. That is why I am proud to be a Rochdalian.’

A spokeswoman for the centre said: ‘We regularly receive cultural awareness training from Ghulam and when we were planning the toilets this was something that cropped up.’

The toilets will open next Monday.

Nile Pan toilets can be bought from a limited number of UK plumbing retailers, priced about £200.

Rochdale hit the headlines during this year’s General Election campaign when pensioner Gillian Duffy was dismissed by Gordon Brown as a ‘bigoted woman’ when she voiced concern about immigration.

Government research last year showed more than a quarter of primary school pupils in Rochdale spoke English as a foreign language — and named one school, Heybrook Primary, where every single one of the 453 pupils spoke English as a second language.

The town’s council recently produced a special ‘Black and Minority Ethnic’ housing strategy for the town ‘in recognition of the increasing ethnic diversity in Rochdale’ and the minorities’ ‘level of housing need’.

In the aftermath of the 2001 Oldham race riots, Rochdale was placed on an ‘at risk’ list by the Home Office whichwas monitoring possible spread of such violence.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]