Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100904

Financial Crisis
»EU Austerity Policies Risk Civil War in Greece, Warns Top German Economist Dr Sinn
»Gov’t Now Pays 30 Cents of Every $1 in Income
»USA: Barack Obama is Locked in a Lose-Lose Situation
»Battle-Scarred Judge Says Lakin Decision Ignores Constitution
»Black Civil Rights Mafia Betrays Black America
»Buckeyball Google Doodle: 25th Anniversary and History of Fullerene
»Muslims Take to Minn. State Fair to Repair Image
»Ryanair Chief Wants Only One Pilot on Flights
»USA: Firebrand Televangelist Sets Up Christian Centre to ‘Combat Evil Ground Zero Mosque Proposal’
Europe and the EU
»Austria: FPÖ Behind Muezzin-Shooter Game
»Jewish Teacher Suspended in France for Teaching ‘Too Much’ About Holocaust
»Rugby: Italians Want to be More Than Celtic Cinderellas
»UK: Fundamentalist-Linked Politician Using Sham Labour Members to Take Control of £1 Billion Council
»UK: Two Police Officers Stop Suspected Drink-Driver Then ‘Crash His High-Powered Sports Car After Taking it for Joyride’
»Serbia: Privatisations; Belgrade Shoe Factory for Sale
North Africa
»Archaeology: Egypt, Marina El Alamein Open to Public
»Copts Protest Persecution in Egypt Ahead of Mubarak’s DC Visit
Israel and the Palestinians
»Does Obama Really Think These Talks Can Succeed?
»Garden Tomb Threatened by Muslim Construction
»Hezbollah Leader Praises Hamas for West Bank Shooting Attacks
»Nasrallah: ‘Jerusalem Cannot be the Capital of State Called Israel’
Far East
»North Korea in Bull’s-Eye of New U.S. Effort
Australia — Pacific
»Assyrian Genocide Scholar in New Zealand

Financial Crisis

EU Austerity Policies Risk Civil War in Greece, Warns Top German Economist Dr Sinn

Greece’s austerity measures cannot prevent default and will lead to a breakdown of the political order if continued for long, a leading German economist has warned.

“This tragedy does not have a solution,” said Hans-Werner Sinn, head of the prestigious IFO Institute in Munich.

“The policy of forced ‘internal devaluation’, deflation, and depression could risk driving Greece to the edge of a civil war. It is impossible to cut wages and prices by 30pc without major riots,” he said, speaking at the elite European House Ambrosetti forum at Lake Como.

“Greece would have been bankrupt without the rescue measures. All the alternatives are terrible but the least terrible is for the country to get out of the eurozone, even if this kills the Greek banks,” he said.

Dr Sinn said Greece is an entirely different case from Spain and Portugal, which still have manageable public debts and can bring their public finances back into line with higher taxes.

“Greece would have defaulted in the period between April 28 and May 7, had the money not been promised by the European Union,” he said, describing the failure of the EU’s bail-out strategy to include a haircut for the banks as an invitation to moral hazard.

“There should be a quasi-insolvency procedure for countries. Creditors have to accept a haircut before any money flows for rescue plans, otherwise we’ll never have debt discipline in the eurozone,” he said.

Greek society has so far held together well, despite a wave of strikes and street violence in the early months of the crisis. However, unemployment is rising fast and political fatigue with such austerity policies typically sets in the second year.

Under the rescue deal, the eurozone pledged €80bn of new loans at 5pc interest and the International Monetary Fund offered a further €30bn.

The joint bail-out was hoped to safeguard Greece against the pressure from global capital markets for two and half years, but the relief rally proved short. Spreads on longer-term Greek government debt have surged back to crisis levels of about 800 basis points, implying a high risk of default.

“We are in the second Greek crisis right now, today,” said Dr Sinn.

Greece is undergoing what amounts to an IMF austerity package but without the IMF cure of debt restructuring or devaluation that usual for a country with a spiralling public debt and a chronic loss of competitiveness.

The IMF says Greece’s debt will rise to 150pc by 2013-2014 even if Athens complies fully, a strategy viewed as self-defeating by several ex-IMF officials. There is a strong suspicion that the real objective is to bail-out North European banks with heavy exposure to Southern Europe, rather help Greece.

Dr Sinn said the Germany is now was super-competitive after clawing back 18pc in competitiveness during its long slump. “We’re in a new phase of history. The toggle switch has turned and we are going to see a mirror image of the last 15 years. This time it is Germany that will have an internal boom,” he said.

Germans will not recyle their savings in the Club Med region. They will invest at home.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Gov’t Now Pays 30 Cents of Every $1 in Income

By Jed Graham

By at least one measure, government is playing an unprecedented role in the economy: In recent months, more than 30 cents of every dollar in personal income came directly from the government, new Commerce Department data show.

That’s equal to about $3.8 trillion of $12.5 trillion in total personal income on an annualized basis.

Transfer payments (income support and health insurance benefits) ticked up to a record 18.4% of personal income last month. Another roughly 12% of income came from wages and benefits to current government employees at the federal, state and local levels.

Transfer payments as a share of personal income are up by nearly half from 12.7% in 2000 and more than a quarter from 14.4% in 2007. The growth is a combination of the inexorable rise of spending on Social Security and health care entitlement programs, as well as a spike in unemployment compensation, food stamps and Medicaid due to weak labor markets.

USA Today reported this week that 1 in 6 Americans are being served by anti-poverty programs.

However, unemployment outlays are down sharply since the start of the year as much more than a million workers have exhausted extended benefits of up to 99 weeks.

Although government spending is on an unsustainable path, the surge in spending has helped to offset weakness in the private economy. Inflation-adjusted personal income less government transfer payments remains 5.5% below its December 2007 peak, yet personal income is down just 1.8% in real terms.

Because transfer payments are up and tax payments are down, real disposable income is up 2.7% since the start of the recession.

Private wages and salaries remain down 8.4% in real terms since December 2007. Private wages are now just 1.3% off the bottom hit in February, which, sad to say, was the same level first reached in March 2001.

By contrast, government wages are up 3.8% since December 2007.

Meanwhile, real non-salary compensation (both private and government) is up 4.1%, likely reflecting rising health care costs and perhaps some catch-up pension contributions.

Government wasn’t exactly small before the recession started. Government paid more than 25 cents of every dollar in personal income in December 2007, up from about 23.5 cents in 2000. The level topped 27 cents per dollar in the wake of the 1991 recession and reached a prior record of 28 cents in 1975.

During the Great Depression, when fiscal stabilizers and safety nets were in their infancy, the government share of personal income peaked at just over 16%. Even during World War II, when the government payroll ballooned, its share of personal income only briefly approached 25%, falling back below 20% until the 1960s.

The government share of personal income is an incomplete measure of the size of government’s role in the economy because it doesn’t include direct spending. A better, though imperfect, measure would be the combined size of federal, state and local government budgets as a share of GDP.

By this measure, government was much bigger during World War II, when the federal budget topped 43% of GDP. While state and local spending information is out of date, combined government budgets probably will be in the neighborhood of 40% of GDP this year.

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

USA: Barack Obama is Locked in a Lose-Lose Situation

Barack Obama promised a new beginning when he became president in 2008. After the ideologically driven incompetence of the Bush years, we were mainly prepared to believe him. Yet politicians that promise root and branch change will nearly always disappoint and, with Mr Obama, disillusionment has been swift to arrive. Judged by his legislative output, the new president has been extraordinarily successful. From healthcare reform to financial services, he’s already up there with Lyndon Johnson and Franklin D Roosevelt. And, of course, this week, he’s managed to deliver on his campaign pledge to end the war in Iraq; believe it if you will.

Yet on the most important issue facing ordinary Americans — the economy — Mr Obama is shaping up to be one almighty let down. As mid-term elections loom, there is visible panic among Democrats at the administration’s failure to get to grips with deep-seated economic problems. Tony Blair, who came to power on a similarly intoxicating wave of public euphoria, at least had the following wind of “The Great Moderation” — a virtually unprecedented period of economic stability and growth — to disguise the disappointments and repeated policy mistakes of his premiership. There was no such golden windfall to act as a prop for Mr Obama: the economy he inherited was toxic from top to bottom. The country was on the brink of a potentially severe depression; it was fighting two, essentially unaffordable wars; the budget deficit was spiralling out of control; jobs were being shed at the rate of nearly one million a month; public debt was on a catastrophically unsustainable trajectory.

Nobody could have expected Mr Obama to fix all these problems in the 20 months he has been in the job, but they might by now reasonably have expected at least a glimpse of the promised sunlit uplands.There is no such vision on the horizon. Joblessness remains stubbornly high and, far from becoming self-sustaining, the recovery shows signs of stalling. In short, Mr Obama’s economic policies have failed, or at least that is the growing public perception.

For me, it is still too early to make that judgment; as it happens there was modest encouragement from yesterday’s US employment data. But many investors have made up their minds. Rightly or wrongly, yields on Treasury bonds are at levels that discount a depression. Rarely have Americans felt so down in the dumps; collectively, they seem to have lost their innate sense of self-belief and optimism. Not since the 1930s has the American dream looked so forlorn. What’s gone wrong, and why has the patient proved so unwilling to respond to the extraordinary fiscal and monetary medicine applied?

To supporters of deficit spending, it’s not that the fiscal stimulus isn’t working, but that it was always insufficient to do the trick. To them, Mr Obama should have done much more in his early months when he still had the political credit to take bold steps. Most of us have something of a problem with this argument. The near $1 trillion fiscal stimulus Mr Obama applied could hardly be described as underwhelming. Indeed, it was without precedent in terms of size; very probably it was the most that was politically feasible at the time, too.

How much good it has done is anyone’s guess. Supportive economists claim it averted a depression, but it doesn’t seem to have done much for jobs. Beyond the ever widening deficit, there has been little discernible effect.

You can argue until the cows come home on the merits of further deficit spending, but even if Mr Obama were to take the view that he has to do more — as the White House’s departing chief economist, Christina Romer, said he should this week — he almost certainly won’t get that chance. Mr Obama is not just down in the polls; on present voting intentions, the Democrats will lose the House in the coming mid-terms, and possibly the Senate, too. Even if he wanted to spend more, he’s not going to be allowed to. Anxiety about the deficit is stymieing the White House’s jobs agenda.

Even Democrats shrink from overt support for more spending, and beyond some targeted measures which would carry no net costs, the president seems to have accepted there’s virtually no room for manoeuvre. Already evident political stalemate will turn into gridlock after the mid-terms. Mr Obama won’t be allowed more fiscal stimulus, and nor, despite their demands for deficit reduction, will his Republican opponents allow him to raise taxes to put public debt on a sustainable footing.

Now it may well be that the severity of the economic headwinds renders almost any further policy response ineffective, but politicians are not forgiven for impotence. On the main challenges facing his administration, Mr Obama falls between two stalls — he seems incapable of tackling either unemployment or the deficit. Whatever his other achievements, Mr Obama will go down in history as the worst president since Jimmy Carter if he cannot make headway on either of these issues. It’s hard to be optimistic. Mr Obama looks like a beached whale. As Tony Blair observes in his new autobiography, there is nothing quite so painful as high expectations dashed by harsh political and economic realities.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Battle-Scarred Judge Says Lakin Decision Ignores Constitution

‘Highest law in this country is not Supreme Court, not commander in chief’

FORT MEADE, Md. — The military judge who curiously noted without explanation that uncovering evidence about President Obama’s birth records could prove “embarrassing” and denied an officer the right to obtain potentially exculpatory evidence in a court-martial simply has forgotten the Constitution, the supreme rule of the United States.

So says Judge Roy Moore, who battled the politically correct climate as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court a decade ago and ultimately was removed from office by a state panel that refused to review the constitutionality of a federal court order.

His comments came today in an interview with WND about Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, who yesterday was denied permission by Army Col. Denise R. Lind to obtain evidence that could document Obama is not eligible to occupy the Oval Office.


Moore said the ruling is a symptom of a judiciary across the nation that now believes in following “blindly.”

“The highest law in this country is not the order of the Supreme Court of the U.S., not the order of the commander in chief, or any subordinate officer,” he said.

Instead, it is the Constitution, which in this particular case demands that the president be a “natural born citizen,” a requirement not imposed on other officers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Black Civil Rights Mafia Betrays Black America

I am a black man alerting my fellow Americans about a tremendous evil which is going on in our great country. Despite the wonderful racial gains we have made in terms of coming together, not as hyphenated Americans, but as Americans, black civil rights dinosaurs and their liberal white guilt ridden sycophants campaign to “Keep Hate Alive.”

The Black Civil Rights Mafia has long ago abandoned MLK’s dream of a day when all Americans would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. America’s “Black Mob” makes everything about skin color to “get paid” and gain political power.

What is so evil about the Black Mob is their willingness to sacrifice national race relations and the best interest of their fellow blacks for personal gain and to further a socialist agenda.


Due to tremendous rejection of Obama’s policies, re-election is not looking good for democrats in November. Rushing to the aid of the democrats, the Black Mob and the liberal media have launched a “Hate America and White Tea Partiers” campaign. Their hope is to fire up misinformed blacks and brain dead white libs to run to the polls in November.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Buckeyball Google Doodle: 25th Anniversary and History of Fullerene

It’s not often we see an interactive Google Doodle, and today we see just that with Google’s celebration of the Buckyball, which was first discovered in 1985 and today marks the 25th anniversary of the Bucky Ball.

You can see the Buckyball doodle via, and those that want a little history into the Buckyball will need to look for “fullerene”. Wikipedia has a nice article all about fullerene (aka Buckminsterfullerine molecule) and the Buckyball here.

The discovery was named after Richard Buckminster Fuller, which had been discovered in Rice University, Texas. The group of scientists involved included Richard Smalley, Robert Curl, Sean O’Brien, James Heath, and Harold Kroto.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslims Take to Minn. State Fair to Repair Image

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — Despite the smells of fried dough and roasted meat wafting from the Minnesota State Fair, Salim and Zuleyha Ozonder were focused on the people who were leaving, not the food or festivities beckoning from across the street.

Each time a new wave of people exited, the young Minneapolis residents — who hadn’t eaten all day — tried to press into their hands a small, glossy card that read “Islam Explained” on one side. On the other, it had about 180 words of background on a religion whose adherents fear is being misunderstood by too many Americans as violent and depraved.

“You just want people to take the card, spend a minute reading it and say, ‘Oh. They’re not terrorists,’“ said 27-year-old Zuleyha. She and her husband, like other Muslims, were fasting during daylight hours for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

For most fairgoers, the last thing on their mind is religion — particularly the renewed controversy over Islam in America amid tension over plans for an Islamic center and mosque a few blocks from New York City’s ground zero. But volunteers with the Minnesota chapter of Islamic Circle of North America saw the mostly white, Christian fair crowd as just the type of audience that might benefit from greater understanding.

The “Great Minnesota Get-Together” is one of the largest and best-attended state fairs in the country. Every day for 12 days through Labor Day, hundreds of thousands of people stream onto the fairgrounds north of St. Paul to scarf highly caloric food, stare at farm animals, clamber onto carnival rides and enjoy concerts by country singers and classic rock dinosaurs.

“What are they doing here?” said Paulette Kahlstorf of Zimmerman, who declined a card from Zuleyha as she left the fairgrounds with her husband. “I didn’t come here for that.”

A minute later, Kahlstorf elaborated that she didn’t have a problem with all Muslims: “Just the radical ones.” And she said she didn’t mind their decision to hand out the cards, which include a toll-free number that anyone can call to request a free copy of the Quran.

“You know, I guess we let all the politicians come out here and schmooze, so we might as well let these folks as well,” said Kahlstorf. “Doesn’t mean I need to listen to them.”

A poll released last week showed many Americans have the same mixed feelings about the Muslim faith. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that most Americans doubt that Islam is likelier than other faiths to encourage violence and believe Muslims should have equal rights to build houses of worship. But more people have an unfavorable than favorable view of Islam by 38 to 30 percent — nearly a reversal of findings on the same poll question in 2005, when 41 percent had favorable views compared with 36 percent unfavorable.

Najam Qureshi, a member of the Islamic Circle of North America’s Minnesota chapter and a database administrator at Carlson Companies in Plymouth, said his group planned the state fair outreach effort — which includes radio commercials — long before the New York mosque controversy.

But he said that controversy has been another reminder of the work American Muslims need to do to fill what he called “the void of understanding about our faith.”

Various state-based Muslim groups estimate Minnesota has about 150,000 Muslim residents, and the state has had its share of incidents in recent years. Some Muslim students reported being harassed at schools in St. Cloud and Owatonna, and some anti-Islamic posters were hung around St. Cloud.

The Ozonders handed out 400 cards during one two-hour shift this week across the street from one of the fair’s main entrances, and were taking their second shift on Wednesday. The chapter is handing out the cards throughout the fair’s run, which ends on Labor Day.

The couple said they volunteered out of a desire to “do something together” for their faith. Zuleyha moved to Minneapolis in July from New York’s Westchester County after she married Salim, 28, a graduate student in physics at the University of Minnesota the last two years; both are of Turkish descent.

Both said their exchanges with fairgoers were mostly pleasant, though Zuleyha said one man cursed at her. Most people either decline the cards or quietly take them and keep moving.

Occasionally, someone will stop and talk for a few minutes, often to ask a question or two about Islam.

“More than one person said to me, ‘You look normal,’“ Salim Ozonder said. “So if we can even break down a few misconceptions, that is great. Too many people in this debate are no longer interested in a middle ground.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Ryanair Chief Wants Only One Pilot on Flights

Says standing room flights will happen

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary says one pilot rather than two could suffice for many passenger flights.

He says a cabin crew member could be trained to land a plane in case the captain was suddenly incapacitated.

“Really, you only need one pilot,” he continues. “Let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.

“If the pilot has an emergency, he rings the bell, he calls her in,” Mr O’Leary said. “She could take over.”

Interviewed in Business Week magazine, O’Leary also stated that passengers could get a 25 percent discount if they stood rather than sat down for the duration of a flight.

He envisages some of the plane being like a New York subway car with people able to hang on to overhead straps or rails.

“Yes, somebody could get injured,” said O’Leary. “I don’t say that lightly. But we’d do exactly what we do in every other case: ‘Ladies and gentlemen — bing bong! — we’re going to have some slight turbulence. Hold on to the rail tightly.’“

He also told the magazine that the customer is not always righjt.

“One of the great MBA-speak ideas is that the customer is always right,” he says. “The customer is usually wrong. The only time you hear from a customer is when they’re usually complaining because they want to break our rules. Why can’t I get a refund for my non-refundable ticket? Bugger off.”

“He insults the dignity of the flying public every time he opens his mouth,” Kate Hanni, the founder of, a non-profit passenger advocacy group, told BusinessWeek.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

USA: Firebrand Televangelist Sets Up Christian Centre to ‘Combat Evil Ground Zero Mosque Proposal’

An outspoken preacher with a history of anti-Islamic rhetoric has launched a Christian centre next to the former World Trade Center — as a direct response to plans for a mosque nearby. In a statement that brands Islam as a religion of ‘violence and hatred’, televangelist Bill Keller has launch his so-called ‘9/11 Christian Centre’ in a hotel conference room directly opposite the Ground Zero site.

The move is certain to inflame the already intense debate over the Park Place mosque scheme, which has divided the nation. In a statement on the centre’s website, Keller dramatic says: ‘How do you battle the darkness? With the light!’ Projects leaders of the mosque proposal — a 15-storey facility called Cordoba House — say it will promote tolerance and improve Muslim-West relations.

But, as many Americans are angry at the location of the mosque — and even New Yorkers who have backed the proposal are now calling for it to be moved — Keller says he wants to take ‘an ongoing stand’ against the mosque in a meaningful way. He says the Christian center will serve to ‘combat this new evil being constructed near Ground Zero’ and ‘bring people the Truth of God’s Word and the love and hope of Jesus Christ’.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: FPÖ Behind Muezzin-Shooter Game

The Styrian Greens have reported the Freedom Party (FPÖ) for agitation over a computer game in which the player must shoot at mosques and kill muezzins.

The FPÖ’s Styrian branch is identified as creator of the online game called “Moschee ba ba” (Bye, bye mosque). After the gamer has demolished a sufficient number of mosques a statement appears saying: “Styria is full of minarets and mosques. So that this doesn’t happen (in reality): Vote Gerhard Kurzmann and the FPÖ!”

Provincial Greens chief Werner Kogler is outraged by the PC game which was launched on before it was taken offline following the criticism.

“The FPÖ chases minarets which don’t exist but doesn’t care about the 40,000 Styrians who currently have no job,” he said, adding that his party reported the FPÖ for agitation to local prosecutors.

The online game urges the player to stop green and red muezzins — a possible hint to the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPÖ) which comes just days after federal FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache called the SPÖ an “Islamist party”.

FPÖ Styria boss Gerhard Kurzmann defended the controversial PC competition by claiming it was making people aware of a situation “existing in Europe for a long time.”

Kurzmann is considered to be a representative of the FPÖ’s far-right branch. He has been campaigning against the introduction of English words into everyday German and infuriated political opponents by calling members of the infamous Third Reich Waffen-SS “decent people”.

The FPÖ Styria boss has spoken out against “gypsy beggars” on the streets of Graz and a multicultural society since it “can only be a “criminal society”, while Graz FPÖ boss Susanne Winter claimed in 2008 Mohammed would be considered a “child molester” nowadays. She also asserted that the prophet who founded Islam had written the Koran during epileptic fits.

The right-wing party narrowly missed entering the provincial parliament five years ago in elections being held around half a year after late FPÖ boss Jörg Haider founded the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ). All FPÖ minister followed the ex-FPÖ chief, leaving behind a quarrelling party. But while the FPÖ won 4.6 per cent in the 2005 Styria vote, the BZÖ came only sixth with just 1.7 per cent.

Both right-wing parties are tipped to increase their share in the 26 September election which is expected to have a massive impact on the 10 October Vienna vote.

Hermann Schützenhofer’s People’s Party (ÖVP) and the SPÖ of Provincial Governor Franz Voves are seen neck-and-neck. Voves made clear he will retire if the SPÖ failed to remain on top. The former ice-hockey national team ace became the province’s first ever Social Democratic governor five years ago.

Meanwhile, Strache revealed plans to hold referendums over the construction of further minarets if he wins the Vienna election. The FPÖ got 14.8 per cent of the overall vote in the 2005 Vienna election and has the potential to improve by five to eight per cent in the upcoming ballot, according to polls.

There are hundreds of houses of prayers and Muslim community centres in Austria, but just three mosques with minarets (Vienna, Bad Vöslau in Lower Austria and Telfs in Tyrol) feature minarets.

Anas Schakfeh, president of the Austrian Islamic Denomination (IGGiÖ), angered right-wingers but also many Muslims by suggesting all nine provincial capitals should get “visible” mosques and minarets.

Some IGGiÖ members and political analysts said Schakfeh’s recent announcement will only boost the FPÖ’s campaigns in Styria and Vienna.

Around half a million Muslims live in Austria which has an overall population of 8.5 millions. Results of the Islamic community’s current census will be presented in autumn.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

Jewish Teacher Suspended in France for Teaching ‘Too Much’ About Holocaust

A high school history teacher is accused of ‘brainwashing’ her students, says French news agency AFP.

A French history teacher in Nancy, France, has been suspended for breaching the principle of secularism and neutrality after the French education ministry concluded that she was teaching “too much” about the Holocaust and spending too much time organizing trips for her students to Nazi death camps in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Catherine Pederzoli, 58, was investigated by officials at the education ministry, who released a report about the matter in July. The report accused the teacher of “lacking distance, neutrality and secularism” in teaching the Holocaust, and of manipulating her charges through a process of “brain-washing,” according to the French news agency AFP.

In December, when the French Minister of Education Luc Chatel was visiting Pederzoli’s high school, several of her students staged a protest over the decision to cut in half the number of students traveling to Poland on an upcoming trip, meant to acquaint the students with Nazi camps in the region. Pederzoli was accused of inciting the protest.

The principle of secularism and neutrality in France is meant to protect the separation of church and state. The ministry’s report cites that in meeting with investigators, the teacher used the word “Holocaust” 14 times while using the more neutral term “massacre” only twice.

Pederzoli’s lawyer, Christine Tadic, said Tuesday that Pederzoli had been organizing trips to concentration camps for the past 15 years, but that a change in the school’s administration in 2007 had led to a witch hunt against her.

Tadic claimed that “had the teacher been Christian, no one would have accused her of brainwashing.” Furthermore, she asked whether Pederzoli is in fact being blamed for being Jewish.

Also on Tuesday, Tadic filed for an injunction over the teacher’s suspension. According to AFP, the court has 15 days to rule on the matter.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Rugby: Italians Want to be More Than Celtic Cinderellas

Aironi and Treviso face Munster and Scarlets in Magners debuts

(By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) — Rome, September 1 — Italian sides Benetton Treviso and Aironi are vowing to keep their heads high and spring some surprises in their historic debut season in the Magners League, which kicks off this weekend.

The Italian Rugby Federation managed to negotiate the teams’ entry into the tournament for Welsh, Irish and Scottish clubs — formerly known as the Celtic League — from this season in a bid to raise the standard of club rugby that the nations’ best players face.

The hope is that in time this will boost the Azzurri’s competitiveness after a tough first decade in the Six Nations when wins have been scarce.

“We don’t want to be the tournament’s Cinderella. We want to be a surprise for the other teams,” Treviso Chairman Amerino Zatta said Wednesday ahead of his men’s debut at home against Welsh outfit Scarlets on Saturday.

“Events will show that we are right in believing that we have a good group of lads and a good organisation behind them”.

Treviso have a number of Azzurri regulars in their ranks but will need to make a big leap forward on their performances in the Heineken Cup in recent years to pull off the surprises Zatta wants.

The signing of New Zealand-born wing-fullback Joe Maddock from Bath should help their chances.

“Everything is new and it will be a battle every week,” said coach Franco Smith. “We shouldn’t think too much about who we are up against, because we’ll always have to give our all”. Aironi, who visit two-time European champions Munster Saturday, have an even bigger challenge as they are starting from scratch as a new franchise, of which Viadana and Parma will provide the backbone.

Former Italy captain Marco Bortolami is one of several seasoned Azzurri campaigners they have lured back from outside the country, along with hooker Fabio Ongaro and props Matias Aguero and Salvatore Perugini.

They have also signed some quality foreign players in loose forward New Zealander Nick Williams, French back Julien Laharrague and South African wing Danwel Demas.

“We have to take one match at a time,” Italy lock and Aironi captain Quintin Geldenhuys told the team’s website.

“We’ll have to make our home ground a fortress and always keep our heads up, even after the defeats.

“It’ll be a special occasion against Munster and I’m sure my team mates will be fired up nicely for this debut”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Fundamentalist-Linked Politician Using Sham Labour Members to Take Control of £1 Billion Council

Lutfur Rahman, the fundamentalist-linked Labour councillor running for the top job in Tower Hamlets, has signed up entire families of sham “paper” Labour members — some of whom are explicitly opposed to the party — in order to provide him with a “vote bank” for tomorrow’s selection contest. Some of the paper members say that Mr Rahman also gave them money.

The paper members were filmed making their statements. The evidence will be passed to the Labour Party should it request it. Amid deep concerns about Mr Rahman’s links with the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), and a group of powerful local businessmen, Labour has already tried three times to remove him from the contest. It was only forced to include him after he took legal action against them. In his court case, and in previous legal threats to Labour, Mr Rahman used a solicitor closely connected to the banned pro-terrorist group, al-Muhajiroun.

In the course of researching our Channel 4/ Telegraph documentary about the IFE, we noticed some highly suspicious patterns in Labour Party membership. Between 2006 and 2008, leaked membership lists show, membership of Bethnal Green and Bow constituency rose by 110 per cent, at a time when Labour membership nationally was falling.

Ninety per cent of the new members were Asian, though the constituency is only about half Asian. Dozens of them joined on the same day, including improbably large numbers who appeared to live in the same small flats. We decided to investigate some of the new members and went knocking on doors. We found, and filmed, a number of new members who told us that they had no interest in joining the Labour Party, and in some cases did not even support it, but had been signed up — and in some cases paid for — by Mr Rahman.

We investigated, for instance, the case of six people supposedly living in the same small flat in Collingwood House, Darling Row, all with different surnames and most of whom joined on the same day.

The occupant of the flat, Abdul Malique, told us that Mr Rahman turned up on his doorstep one day with a set of Labour membership forms. “Lutfur Rahman gave me the form and he gave me the money to pay the subscription as well,” he said. “We were all in the house and we all signed at the same time.” Only two of the six members at this address actually live there, Mr Malique said. The other four signed up by Mr Rahman were people who were only visiting at the time. Mr Malique said he had thought about joining the Labour Party “four or five years” ago, but not now.

We looked at an entire family of five, apparently living at an address in Old Montague Street, who all supposedly joined on the same day. One of the family, Syed Arif Ali, told us: “I’ll speak for everyone. We don’t want nothing to do with the Labour Party. I don’t want no part of them. Somebody just put my name down. One of my neighbours is part of the Labour Party, I think he’s a councillor or whatever, asked me if he could put my name down. I did not pay any money.” Lutfur Rahman lives three doors down from this address and is the only Labour councillor who is a neighbour of the Alis.

Not all the new members were signed up by Mr Rahman, of course. However, a number of them — not those named — do have the same names as people we can link to the IFE. The IFE believes, in the words of one of its leaflets, in transforming “the very infrastructure of society of society, its institutions, its political order and its creed… from ignorance to Islam.” The local Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, says that the IFE has infiltrated the Tower Hamlets Labour Party in the same way as the Militant Tendency took over the city of Liverpool in the 1980s. In an interview with me in March, Mr Rahman refused to deny this.

Mr Rahman’s links with fundamentalism and extremism have been well documented by this blog. He was previously council leader of Tower Hamlets, a position which seven serving and former Labour councillors tell us he achieved with the help of the IFE. A senior IFE official, Hira Islam, helped run his campaign and canvassed councillors on his behalf. In his interview with me, Mr Rahman refused to deny this — though he did deny the councillors’ further claims that Mr Islam threatened them. Mr Islam has refused to comment on the allegations.

Under Mr Rahman’s leadership of the council, large and growing sums of public money were passed to community organisations controlled by the IFE. Extremist literature was stocked in the council’s libraries. The council’s schools were ordered to close for Eid, even if they did not have a majority of Muslim pupils. A project was launched to “Islamically brand” the multicultural neighbourhood of Brick Lane with so-called “hijab arches.” The key post of cabinet member for employment and skills was given to Alibor Choudhury, another councillor with strong IFE connections. A man with close links to the IFE, Lutfur Ali, was appointed as the council’s assistant chief executive, despite a chequered employment history and council-appointed headhunters saying he was unsuitable for the job.

After our expose, Mr Rahman was replaced as council leader. Lutfur Ali also lost his job. Now, however, Tower Hamlets is moving from a council leader system to having a directly-elected executive mayor. Mr Rahman is seeking a comeback — to a post which would be far more powerful, and far less subject to scrutiny, than his previous position.. It would give him complete control of the council’s £1 billion budget..

Mr Rahman is backed not just by the IFE, but by a number of powerful local businessmen, including Shiraj Haque, owner of the Clifton group of restaurants. Mr Haque told me today: “The campaign for a directly elected mayor was my initiative. Whatever expenses were required, I had to pay for it. Tower Hamlets politics was corrupt. I needed someone to fix it, so I thought let’s try him [Lutfur].”

Mr Haque denied bankrolling Lutfur’s personal campaign — which has been notably better-resourced than that of any of the other candidates — even though Lutfur’s election leaflets are exactly identical in design and typeface to those produced by the campaign for a directly-elected mayor. “Many things look the same in the world,” said Mr Haque. “It’s the computer age.”

The horror Mr Rahman’s candidacy has caused in many parts of the local Labour Party cannot be overstated. But thanks to his “paper members” and other backers, he stands a realistic chance of winning the nomination tomorrow. That would instantly make him the frontrunner for the election itself, which is in October.

Mr Rahman did not respond to repeated telephone calls and text messages asking for comment tonight.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Two Police Officers Stop Suspected Drink-Driver Then ‘Crash His High-Powered Sports Car After Taking it for Joyride’

Two police officers have been suspended from driving duties after they stopped a suspected drink driver then wrote-off his sports car by crashing through a garden wall.

The pair climbed into the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in Hale, Greater Manchester, while waiting for a recovery truck.

But the officers ended up ploughing the turbo-charged, four-wheel drive car into the gardens of two luxury homes, rolling it on to its side.

The officers were found inside the 54-registered car early this morning. One suffered minor injuries and the other was left severely shaken. No-one else was hurt.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: ‘It is my understanding is they shouldn’t have been in the car.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Privatisations; Belgrade Shoe Factory for Sale

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 1 — As part of Serbia’s privatisation plan, ownership of the shoe factory Beograd is to be put up for auction. The basic price fixed by the Serbian privatisation agency is 7 million euros.

The sale includes the production areas (2,756 square metres), a warehouse and industrial wash-house(2,865 square metres), an administrative building (582 square metres), a warehouse with fuel storage and an electricity transformation substation.

Demands will have to be presented by September 16 and the deposit has been fixed at 700,000 euros. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Archaeology: Egypt, Marina El Alamein Open to Public

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 3 — The Egyptian High Council for Archaeology wants to open the site of Marina El Alamein to the public on September 15. The news was reported on the website of satellite television network Al Jazeera, which specifies that the archaeological area will be open to the public day and night.

The Marina El Alamein site includes Roman villas and baths, an ancient market, the remains of a temple, a Roman amphitheatre and cemeteries from the Greek and Roman era. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Copts Protest Persecution in Egypt Ahead of Mubarak’s DC Visit

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — On the occasion of Egyptian President Mubarak’s visit to Washington this week to attend the Mideast talks, Coptic Christians in the US and Canada staged a peaceful rally on September 2nd outside the White House to protest the persecution of Copts in Egypt. The Motto of the rally was “President Mubarak Make Peace in Your Country First.”

According to a press release by the rally organizer Coptic Solidarity, based in North America, the Egyptian regime, represented by Mubarak, is a key partner in the persecution of the Copts. President Mubarak comes Washington to market his regime and his family’s through the Palestinian issue, and we must tell him “stop persecuting the Copts…make peace in your country first.”

“Mubarak brought back Coptic persecution to the level experienced under the Mameluke era (1250-1517) in Egypt,” says Coptic Solidarity, “Under the rule of President Mubarak , more than 1500 of assault on Copts have occurred, without any appropriate punishment given to criminals or compensation to the victims.”

“We want the whole world to know the oppression, violence and attacks on churches and property of the Copts under Mubarak’s rule,” said one rally participant. “They are targeting the Coptic family.”

US-based Coptic activist Magdy Khalil told Coptic Hope-Sat in an interview that Mubarak gets his importance from being a peace broker, and he is coming to Washington to make a deal for his son’s Gamal “inheritance” of the Presidency of Egypt. “He needs to get the green light from USA and Israel on one side and the Muslim brotherhood inside Egypt on the other.” He added that Copts are not important for the regime to take into account.

Commenting on the White House rally, Magdy Khalil told the Egyptian daily Al Dostor that the intensive media presence for the Mideast talks “helped us to deliver a message to the whole world that Christians of Egypt have a problem. While the Palestinian issue is that of territorial dispute, the Copts are suffering from persecution.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Does Obama Really Think These Talks Can Succeed?

Twice in the past year, Netanyahu has forced Obama into humiliating come-downs, writes LARA MARLOWE

ONE OF Barack Obama’s first pledges as president was to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Listening to the American leader in the Rose Garden on Wednesday evening, you wondered if he still believes it’s possible. “I know these talks have been greeted in some quarters with scepticism,” Obama said. “We are under no illusions.” An hour and a half later, in the East Room of the White House, Obama read over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s shoulder as Netanyahu delivered his speech. “One thing there’s no shortage of, Mr President, are sceptics,” Netanyahu said, turning to look up into Obama’s face. The president flashed a guilty grin.

Twice in the past year, Netanyahu has forced Obama into humiliating come-downs. In September 2009, the president dropped his demand that Israel freeze colonisation of the West Bank completely before negotiations.

Obama snubbed Netanyahu in Washington on March 22th, to show anger over the construction of 1,600 new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem. But four months later, Obama gushed over Netanyahu at the White House, the settlements forgotten.

You could almost hear Obama’s top advisors, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, saying: “Don’t you want to get re-elected? You have to make up with him or AIPAC [America’s pro-Israel lobby] will destroy you”. At dinner in the White House with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair, on Wednesday evening, Obama was the Middle East novice.

“I have gone through wars and hostilities,” Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak said in his pre-dinner remarks. Mr Mubarak (82) was recently hospitalised in Germany and is grieving over the death of a grandson. His dyed hair and pale face accentuated his frailty, as did the presence of Mr Mubarak’s son and chosen heir Gamal. Egyptian-Americans held a press conference to denounce his pharaonic ways.

Egypt’s president-for-life for the past 29 years, noted that: “Settlement activities on the Palestinian Territory are contrary to international law.”

Mubarak promised Mahmoud Abbas that “Egypt will continue its faithful support to the patient Palestinian people and their just cause . . . We will stand by you”. During Israel’s last assault on the Gaza Strip, Egypt closed its border with Gaza. Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan left Washington immediately after Obama’s dinner. So much for standing by Abbas during Thursday’s negotiations with Netanyahu. With his suntan and the watery blue eyes he inherited from his English mother, Abdullah looked like he’d just stepped from the pages of a celebrity magazine. He didn’t mention settlements in his perfunctory speech.

Netanyahu was the smoothest, most telegenic customer, punctuating his speech with the word “peace” 32 times in three languages. But if the Israeli leader wants peace so badly, one couldn’t help wondering, why doesn’t he stop taking Palestinian land? Netanyahu reverted to the Palestinians-as-terrorists-in-waiting mindset for just two paragraphs. “We want the skyline of the West Bank to be dominated by apartment towers — not missiles. We want the roads of the West Bank to flow with commerce — not terrorists . . . We want to ensure that territory we’ll concede will not be turned into a third Iranian-sponsored terror enclave aimed at the heart of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

In his previous term as prime minister, Netanyahu did his utmost to scupper the Oslo Accords. He’s back to his old habits, forcing the Palestinians to jump through more hoops, piling new demands onto the already long list of concessions demanded of them. At the State Department on Thursday morning, Netanyahu told Abbas, “We expect you to be prepared to recognise Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.” Netanyahu’s other demand, couched in the language of “achieving security”, is that any future Palestinian state be demilitarised.

Poor Mahmoud Abbas, unloved at home, bullied by all and sundry. A year ago, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Abbas was seen to clutch Obama’s hands and plead with him before they met with Netanyahu. Palestinian sources say Senator George Mitchell, the Middle East envoy, had to telephone Abbas three times to inveigle him to attend this week’s meetings. As Obama stood over Abbas in the East Room, his face seemed to express beneficence and pity.

The Palestinians recognised Israel when they signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, Abbas reminded Netanyahu. “Our intentions are good, our intentions with respect to recognising the state of Israel,” he said. Abbas also made a pathetic attempt to satisfy Israel’s demand for security, by vaunting his government’s role as policemen for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. His security forces “are doing everything that is expected of them”, Abbas said. “We condemned the [Hamas] operations . . . We also followed the perpetrators and we were able to find the car that was used and to arrest those who sold and bought the car. And we will continue all our effort . . . in order to find the perpetrators . . .”

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Garden Tomb Threatened by Muslim Construction

JERUSALEM — More than a quarter of a million Christians visit Jerusalem’s Garden Tomb every year. The holy site is believed by many to be the place where Jesus rose from the dead.

But now, the sacred ground is in danger of being damaged by a Muslim construction project. Garden Tomb Director Richard Meryon showed CBN News the 15-foot wall being built above the tomb.

“In the last few weeks the cemetery above has built this wooden construction into which they are now ready to pour hundreds of tons of concrete on top of our wall,” he explained.

Jerusalem’s Islamic waqf is building the wall to enlarge a Muslim cemetery. However, Meryon fears the construction could bring a catastrophe.

“Just beneath (the wall) we have three or four areas where Christians are worshipping every day. So we have the potential here in heavy rain or in snow, or even in one of those earth tremors that Jerusalem is famous for — you only need one of those events to happen and this new wall could collapse,” he said. “It could kill 200 visitors, pilgrims, and tourists in the garden worshipping.”

The new wall also violates three local building codes and does not have a city permit. The structure is supposed to be built three feet away from any existing structure and permission is required.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hezbollah Leader Praises Hamas for West Bank Shooting Attacks

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah praised Hamas on Friday for the West Bank shooting attacks which left four Israelis dead and two injured on two consecutive days, saying “this is the way to free Jerusalem and Palestine.”

Four Israelis were killed and two injured this past week in separate shooting attacks in the West Bank. The armed wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, took responsibly for both attacks and vowed that there would be more, just as U.S.-sponsored direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were officially launched in Washington.


“These negotiations were born to die,” Nasrallah said.

“Palestine from the sea to the river is the property of the Palestinian nation, of the Arab and the Muslim, and no one has the right to relinquish that land, not even a drop of its water,” Nasrallah said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nasrallah: ‘Jerusalem Cannot be the Capital of State Called Israel’

The current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will not succeed, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said during a “Jerusalem Day” commemoration speech on Friday.

Nasrallah characterized the talks as “stillborn” and said, “Jerusalem, and not even one of its streets, can not be the capital of the state called Israel.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

North Korea in Bull’s-Eye of New U.S. Effort

Treasury going after ‘arms sales, luxury goods, counterfeiting’

As the Obama administration moves to increase pressure on North Korea over issues including its aggressive international positions and human rights violations, the campaign against Pyongyang will fall on a little known official in the Treasury Department.

A holdover from the Bush administration, Stuart Levey, the under-secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, coordinates the U.S. efforts to contain the reclusive government of Kim Jung-Il on the world’s financial markets.

Earlier this week, the White House announced a new round of economic sanctions against North Korea.


FBI sources in New York told WND North Korea’s counterfeit $100 bills have surfaced in their city.

The bills are considered of “high quality” and hard to detect.

Just how much “funny money” Pyongyang has printed is a guarded secret, but sources inside Treasury claim $100 million is not an “inaccurate” figure and may be a low estimate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Assyrian Genocide Scholar in New Zealand

Auckland (AINA) — Assyrian genocide scholar Sabri Atman, director of the Seyfo Genocide Research Center, presented a lecture on August 26 at the Assyrian Nineveh Association. In his lecture Mr. Atman outlined the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One, in which 750,000 Assyrians (75%) were killed by Turks and Kurds between 1915 and 1918. He also discussed other genocides and pogroms of Assyrians.

The lecture also included a documentary film on the Genocide which included interviews with individuals that lived during 1915 and onwards and their experience and the horror they went through during events carried out against them by the Ottoman Turks, Kurds and Persians in WWI.

The Assyrian Youth Group, along with the Assyrian Nineveh Association and the Assyrian community in Auckland, joined Sabri Atman at One Tree Hill on Saturday, September 4. At this prominent location in Auckland, Assyrian and New Zealand flags were raised. Signs reading “Never Again 1915,” “We Will Never Forget Simele 1933” and “Hands Off Mor Gabriel” were held by the participants.

There are about three thousand Assyrians living in New Zealand, based in Auckland.

Mr. Atman began his genocide awareness tour in early July in the United States of America, then he came to Australia for the unveiling of the Assyrian Genocide Monument in Fairfield (AINA 8-7-2010, 8-30-2010). From Australia he came to New Zealand will continue his tour in Greece, Israel, Syria, Sweden, Switzerland, and Armenia for the remaining of the year. Mr Atman’s aim is to travel to many countries to educate Assyrians and raise awareness for the recognition of the Assyrian Genocide.

The next stop in Mr. Atman’s tour is Athens, where he will demand the recognition of the Assyrian Genocide from the Greek government.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]