Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110108

Financial Crisis
»Press: Swiss Central Bank, No to Portuguese Bonds
»South — Sardinia Excepted — Loses Out as North Makes Fiscal Federalism Gains
»NPR Executive Who Fired Juan Williams Resigns
»MNA Voices Her Opposition to Subsidizing a MAC School at the Québec National Assembly
Europe and the EU
»Al-Qaeda Plotting UK Terror Campaign
»Archbishop: Church Must Proselytize Germany
»Frattini: Colleagues Write to Ashton on Christian Attacks
»Italy: Deer and Wild Boars Shot. “We’ll Pay for the Damage With Salami.”
»Italy: Pompeii Workers Allegedly Swindle Govt Out of €700,000
»Italy: Dozens of Businessmen Expelled From Sicilian Private Employers’ Association
»Netherlands: Cabinet Backs Sending 545-Strong Training Mission to Afghanistan
»Sarkozy: Mideast Christians Victims of ‘Cleansing’
»UK: Councils That Won’t Collect Rubbish, Power Giants That Couldn’t Care Less if You’ve No Electricity… Why the People Who Serve Us Just Don’t Give a Damn
»UK: Jack Straw Criticised for ‘Easy Meat’ Comments on Abuse
»UK: Why Should the PM Let Terrorists Walk Our Streets Just to Appease Clegg’s Mutinous Backbenchers?
»UK: Wind Farms Don’t Work in the Cold: Why It’s No Use Waiting for Turbines to Keep US Warm as the Snow Returns
»Urgent: The Lights Are Going Out in Denmark
»Vatican Teams Up With Discovery Channel for Exorcism Series
North Africa
»Morocco: EU: 70 Mln to Green Agriculture Plan
»Religious Coercion Threatens Tunisian Women
»Tunisia: Highest Quality of Life in Arab World, Irish Magazine
Israel and the Palestinians
»EU: Strong and Solid Partnership With Israel
»Hamas, Winner of Pa Elections, Teaches: Destroy Israel
Middle East
»A Camel With Two Heads and Seven Legs Was Born Dead After a Caesarian Operation, Sharq Newspaper Said on Saturday.
»Mining: Northwestern Turkey Rich of Lignite Coal
»Turkey’s Poverty Rate Up to 18.08% in 2009
»UAE: Women Could Retire From Work After Only 15 Years
»The First Oil Pipeline Between Russia and China Now Operating
South Asia
»Afghan Rules of Engagement Won’t Change After Fatal Clash
»India Worst for Stomach Ailments for Swedes
Australia — Pacific
»Clergy Piggyback Rides Banned
Latin America
»Brazil Supreme Court Rejects Battisti Release
»Greece Also Acts on Behalf of EU, Minister
Culture Wars
»Islamic Fundamentalism Has Replaced Communism as Greatest Threat to Christians
»Father Raymond J. De Souza: Christians May Need to Start Fighting Back
»Will the New World Order be Catholic?
»World’s Future Hinges on Peace Between Faiths, Islamic Scholars Tell Pope

Financial Crisis

Press: Swiss Central Bank, No to Portuguese Bonds

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 7 — The Central Bank of Switzerland has reportedly decided not to accept Portuguese treasury bonds any longer as guarantee in cash operations. According to the Portuguese Jornal de Negcios, which brings the news, Portugal’s sovereign rating no longer satisfies the requirements of the Swiss bank to accept treasury bonds as guarantee.

Last month Fitch cut Portugal’s rating to A+ from AA-. Two other agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, put the country’s rating under observation for a possible downgrade.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South — Sardinia Excepted — Loses Out as North Makes Fiscal Federalism Gains

L’Aquila and Naples (-60%) biggest losers. Milano +34% and Parma +105% but Genoa -22% Turin -9%

MILAN — Provincial capitals will lose more than €445 million as a result of fiscal federalism but there will be wide discrepancies between northern and southern Italy. The south — but not Sardinia — will lose out whereas regions in the north will benefit, albeit with one or two exceptions. The cities that will see resources shrink most will be Naples and L’Aquila.

DATA — These are the conclusions that emerge from a study for the Democratic Party (PD) by Senator Marco Stradiotto based on figures from the joint committee for the implementation of fiscal federalism (COPAFF). The total resources lost for essential services will be €445,455,051 across 92 provincial capitals as central funding is replaced by local tax autonomy. Calculations are based on a comparison of funds transferred in 2010 and the total income from devolved taxes, in compliance with the implementation decree on municipal taxation (registration duty, mortgage duties, tax on income from buildings and presumed income from the fixed-rate tax on rents). Fifty-two of the municipalities examined will benefit while 40 will lose out.

L’AQUILA AND NAPLES — The municipality of L’Aquila will lose €26,294,732, or 66% of resources, and Naples will see €392,969,715 evaporate, some 61% of funds transferred. Currently, Naples is the municipality that receives the largest quota of state resources per resident, €668 in comparison with a national average of €387. From 2014, everyone in L’Aquila will pay €188 in IMU municipal tax whereas at present the town hall receives €548 in central funds for each resident. The whole of southern Italy will be penalised: Messina will lose 59%, Potenza -56%, Palermo and Cosenza 55%, Taranto 50% and Rome 10%.

WINNERS — The provincial capital with most to gain is Olbia with its many second homes occupied for only a few months — often only one — each year. The Sardinian municipality should see income leap by 180%. Overall, the north of Italy comes off well: Imperia (home of former minister Claudio Scajola) racks up +122%, Parma +105%, Padua +76%, Siena +68% and Treviso +58%. Milan will have 34% more resources and Bologna will gain 40% while northern provincial capitals set to lose out include Turin (-9%) and Genoa (-22%).

English translation by Giles Watson

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


NPR Executive Who Fired Juan Williams Resigns

Ellen Weiss, the NPR executive who fired senior news analyst Juan Williams for a comment about Muslims, resigned Thursday.

Mr. Williams praised the move and took a swipe at NPR during an appearance on Fox News, which after the firing expanded his role there beyond his regular participation on Fox News Sunday.

“I think it’s good news for NPR and people who care about news in America,” Mr. Williams said, commenting that NPR still seemed to be mired in the 1970s and in the style of a college radio station of the era.

“The idea was to demean me, to show me as a loose cannon,” he said, adding, “You can’t go around treating people like trash and pretending that people with a different point of view are illegitimate.”

Ms. Weiss, a 29-year veteran of the news organization, dismissed Mr. Williams after he admitted to Fox News in October that he felt uneasy when he saw someone in “Muslim garb” on a commercial aircraft.

Ms. Weiss claimed the remark was inconsistent with NPR’s editorial standards and immediately terminated the veteran newsman’s contract.

The NPR Board of Directors announced Thursday that it had completed an internal review of Mr. WIlliams’ termination, essentially deeming the process legal but ethically challenged.

“The Board has adopted recommendations and remedial measures designed to address issues that surfaced with the review,” the group said…

[Return to headlines]


MNA Voices Her Opposition to Subsidizing a MAC School at the Québec National Assembly

Where Does MAC’s Endorsement of Youssef Al-Qaradawi Lead?

At the Québec National Assembly, on December 2nd and 3rd, MNA Monique Richard opposed the public funding of Montreal based Dar al- Iman school because of its ties with the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC). The MNA described MAC’s ideology as being “against Western civilization (…) anti-Semitic, antigay and anti-women”.

Since then, two Muslim Brotherhood leaders have attempted to obscure the relationship between MAC and the school. In this article, Point de Bascule (PdeB) substantiates this relationship and quotes MAC’s own mentor, Youssef al-Qaradawi, in order to confirm what Monique Richard was saying about the agenda being pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood in Canada…

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al-Qaeda Plotting UK Terror Campaign

Al-Qaeda is plotting car bomb, suicide and Mumbai-style attacks on crowds at British airports and train stations, a secret government memorandum discloses.

An alert issued by the security services warns of plots against transport hubs by al-Qaeda’s “international operations wing” designed to cause “a large number of casualties”.

The “restricted” document, seen by The Daily Telegraph, details plans for “one or more attacks against Europe, including the UK”, aimed at “high-profile Western targets”.

It warns of attacks against British airports and the London transport network — including the Underground — with the aim of inflicting “political, economic and psychological” damage.

Terrorists, it says, could use “vehicle-borne” or “hand-delivered” bombs and firearms.

The memo, dated on Thursday and sent to airlines, airports and cargo carriers by the Department for Transport, said the threat was “credible”. It originated at the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, part of MI5, sources said. “No announcement about the aviation or London transport sector threat level changes will be made to the media,” it adds…

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

Archbishop: Church Must Proselytize Germany

Rocked by scandal and seeing its flock shrink, the Catholic Church should actively begin proselytizing in Germany, according to the Archbishop of Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

In his traditional New Year’s sermon, Marx said the Church needed to spread the Christian faith by actively attempting to convert Germans.

“A new evangelization is the mission of the coming age,” he said on Friday in the Munich Cathedral.

The Church must also keep more Germans from turning away from Christianity, Marx said.

“We aren’t dreaming of bygone times, we want to have an impact on this society,” he said, adding he was “disturbed as a bishop” by the growing number of people deciding to leave the Church.

Marx called 2010 an extremely difficult year for the German Catholic Church following revelations of widespread child abuse at Church institutions.

“We will have to continue to address such sexual abuse in the future,” the archbishop said. “We will have to look the truth in the eye, but we must not allow that there is an air of general suspicion.”

Though the Church had to face up to its responsibility, Marx said German society as a whole needed to be aware of the suffering of children.


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

Frattini: Colleagues Write to Ashton on Christian Attacks

‘Concrete measures’ from Jan 31 EU foreign ministers’ meeting

(ANSA) — Rome, January 7 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and his French, Polish and Hungarian counterparts on Friday sent a joint letter to European Union foreign chief Catherine Ashton asking her to table the issue of the persecution of Christians at an EU diplomatic summit at the end of the month.

Frattini, Michele Alliot-Marie of France, Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland and Hungary’s Janos Martonyi said “concrete measures” should be considered by foreign ministers on January 31 to protect communities and promote the freedom of religious expression.

“The EU cannot be indifferent to what has happened in recent months,” they said, referring to a series of attacks in the Middle East that culminated in a New Year’s church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt that killed 23 Copts.

The EU also has a responsibility to protect Christians outside the Middle East area, they said, calling violence or threats against religious minorities “unacceptable”.

EU sources said later that, after the letter, Ashton was “bound” to put the issue on the agenda.

After the Alexandria bombing, Frattini said EU aid should be tied to respect for human rights in countries where Christian minorities are under attack.

Aid “should be reduced if not eliminated” for “those countries that do not collaborate” in protecting Christians, he said.

“We have to move from monitoring to action,” said the foreign minister, stressing that Italy could not remain “isolated” in the battle for Christians’ rights around the world.

The EU “should work with those countries that collaborate and encourage them,” he said.

Italy has been saying for months that more should be done to help embattled Christian communities around the world.

On December 22 Frattini blasted the EU for not doing more to combat the persecution of Christians in Iraq and other Middle Eastern Countries.

He said United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also worried about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, who are leaving the region in increasing numbers, especially from Iraq, where they have been the victims of a series of bomb attacks.

“Frankly, it is a little sad that Europe isn’t reacting on this issue as it should”, he said.

Italy is set to present a resolution to the United Nations on religious freedom which aims to stop this persecution and it has the backing of the EU, while several non-EU countries have expressed “great interest”.

Pope Benedict, who condemned the New Year’s Day attack in Alexandria as a “cowardly attack against God”, has said Christians are the religious group that suffer most persecution around the world.

Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Zimbabwe and Nigeria are among the other countries where there have been anti-Christian campaigns and attacks.

More than 80 people were killed in bombings in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Christmas Eve, sparking clashes between Muslim and Christian youths.

Ethnic and religious violence in central Nigeria left hundreds of people dead last year.

A bomb in a Baghdad church on October 31 killed 50 Christians and wounded more than 300.

It was followed by a string of attacks on Christians’ homes in the Iraqi capital in which at least six people died.

Italy told Egypt this week it would continue joint action against terrorism.

Security was raised around Coptic Churches in Rome Friday as the community celebrated Christmas in the Coptic calendar, which comes later in eastern Churches than it does for Western ones.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Deer and Wild Boars Shot. “We’ll Pay for the Damage With Salami.”

Councillor Specchiarelli’s secret plan to sell the meat of animals that are victims of road accidents or are selectively killed, to reimburse farmers.

An idea has emerged to transform deer that end up under the wheels of a car into a resource for the area. After road accidents, the animals are collected by the Varese Province animal service, analysed, and then sent to the abattoir where the meat that is still edible is treated and packaged, and then sent to non-profit organisations and charities to feed the poor. The amounts are not negligible. If we then add the meat obtained from the selective hunting of wild boars, the quantity is quite significant; during the year, 12 tons of ungulate meat has been collected and served up on tables in Varese Province.

The occurrence is becoming so common that, in the province, another idea has been suggested by the Councillor for Agriculture, Bruno Specchiarelli. “Next year, the meat from ungulates will no longer be given away; we’re looking for a legal and organisational solution that would enable us to sell it, and with the profit, set up a fund to help farmers who have suffered damage by animals.

The solution is innovative. The deer and wild boars that end up under the wheels of cars constitute a danger; it is certainly sad that they should end up that way, but for the experts, they are also a surplus of animal population that causes damage.

This year alone, the province estimates that about €100,000 of damage has been caused to crops by abnormal overpopulations of wild boars, but also other animals, like the miniature hares of Origgio, which gather in a quarry near the new construction site of the Pedemontana motorway, and which come out at night, and ravenously munch their way through the cereal crops around Saronno. Another suggestion, which still has to be confirmed, is to make salami from the deer and wild boar meat, and then sell it; over the next few days, Specchiarelli will explain his plan. Meanwhile, there were another two cases of deer hit by cars, in the last few days, one of which was in Venegono Inferiore, in an area far away from the valleys.

Roberto Rotondo

Translated by Federica Testa (Reviewed by Prof. Rolf Cook)

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

Italy: Pompeii Workers Allegedly Swindle Govt Out of €700,000

(AKI) — Italian tax police say they have uncovered a fraud that allowed 265 workers at the Pompeii archeological site to claim 700,000 euros in back pay for non-existent work.

Members of the site’s security-guard force charged the governmental agency responsible running Pompeii for attending training courses that never existed.

Investigating prosecutors from the town of Torree Nunziata who are responsible for for the case have seized assets worth 700,000 euros -a corresponding value of the fraud — belonging to the person responsible for the fraud.

Pompeii was recently in the news when a series of collapses of 2,000 year old buildings sparked accusations of mismanagement by the Italian Culture Ministry.

A volcanic eruption in 79 AD buried Pompeii under 6 metres of volcanic ash, preserving much of the city. The archaeological site extends over 76 hectares.

Pompeii is the largest archaeological site in the world. It received 2.2 million visitors in the first 10 months of 2010.

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

Italy: Dozens of Businessmen Expelled From Sicilian Private Employers’ Association

Palermo, 4 Jan. (AKI) — More than 30 businessmen have been kicked out of the Sicilian chapter of Confindustria — Italy’s main private employers’ association — for failing to report mafia extortionists, according to chapter president, Ivan Lo Bello.

“Expulsion is mandatory for businessmen colluding with the mafia, and we are trying to encourage those business people who report extortionists trying to make them pay protection money,” Lo Bello said in Palermo on Tuesday.

“Protection payments” is a euphemism for paying to not be harmed.

In the Sicilian capital Palermo, three business people have already been expelled from Confindustria and are now being ‘helped’ to report extortionists to police in future, Lo Bello said.

Palermo-based company Aedila Venusta has been expelled from Confindustria and 30 business people have been reported to police out of a total of 150 throughout Sicily, according to Lo Bello.

Confindustiria only takes such action against firms and individuals when it is certain they are conniving with the mafia’s protection racket or with organised crime generally, Lo Bello said.

“We want to expel all those who are colluding, but at the same time to convince business people who have paid protection money to make a complaint to police.”

Confindustria in 2007 revised its statute to make it obligatory for the association to expel members found to be paying mafia protection money.

It is estimated that Italian organised crime syndicates — the Sicilian mafia, the Naples mafia or Camorra and the ‘Ndrangeta in Calabria earn over 75 billion euros annually from forced payments and from loan sharking.

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

Netherlands: Cabinet Backs Sending 545-Strong Training Mission to Afghanistan

The cabinet has voted in favour of sending a new 545-man mission to Afghanistan, just six months after pulling out of the military efforts there.

The aim of the new mission is to ‘strengthen the civilian police and legal system to boost the functioning of the Afghan constitution,’ according to a cabinet statement.

Soldiers will only be part of the team as ‘trainers, support staff, doctors, technicians and logistical support’, the statement said. The training mission’s security will be largely in the hands of German troops.

Fighter jets

In addition, four Dutch F16 fighter jets will remain in the country, the statement said.

They will be used in tracking down bombs and will take part in military action in ‘acute emergencies to protect Afghan and international units if they are threatened directly’.

The cost of the mission is put at €470m between now and 2015 when it will wind down.

Prime minister Mark Rutte and foreign affairs minister Uri Rosenthal are due to hold a news conference on the decision later on Friday.


The anti-Islam PVV, which supports the government on economic policy, has already said it opposes the new mission, forcing the cabinet to look for support elsewhere to get the proposal through parliament.

The Labour party has also said it does not support the project because of the involvement of combat troops.

The previous government collapsed after Labour insisted the withdrawal of Dutch soldiers from Uruzgan went ahead in August as planned.

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

Sarkozy: Mideast Christians Victims of ‘Cleansing’

French President makes damning comments following church attacks in Egypt, Iraq.

PARIS — French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that Christian minorities in the Middle East are victims of “religious cleansing”, following deadly attacks on churches in the region.

“We cannot accept and thereby facilitate what looks more and more like a particularly wicked programme of cleansing in the Middle East, religious cleansing,” he said in an annual New Year’s address to religious leaders.

An attack on a Coptic church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on January 1 killed 21 people.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for that attack, which came after threats published online against Egypt’s Copts from an Al-Qaeda-linked group in Iraq which had said it was behind a deadly assault on a church in Baghdad in October.

Forty-four worshippers and two priests died in the attack on a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad in October, the worst of a series of attacks against Christians in Iraq.

French security sources said this week they had launched an investigation on terrorism-related charges after a priest filed a complaint over threats made online against a Coptic church in France.

Police in France and several other European countries have boosted security at Coptic churches which were due to celebrate Christmas on Friday, according to the eastern Orthodox church calendar.

           — Hat tip: Vic[Return to headlines]

UK: Councils That Won’t Collect Rubbish, Power Giants That Couldn’t Care Less if You’ve No Electricity… Why the People Who Serve Us Just Don’t Give a Damn

The milkman managed it. So did the postman. A delivery man brought a new tumble-drier and we even had an old-fashioned rag-and-bone man, complete with Steptoe-like cart and horse, to take away the old one.

The only people to go missing over the Christmas period, deterred by a relatively modest amount of snow, were the dustmen.

We in Bradford were comparatively lucky — we went only two weeks without collections. That was no big deal, even if the rubbish did overflow into the streets.

But in Birmingham, North London, Exeter and dozens of other council areas, they were obliged to store their rubbish for more than a month.

What was so infuriating was the complacent attitude of the councils, typified by Exeter’s Councillor Pete Edwards.

While his officials were telling residents to take their own rubbish to the tips, he was airily suggesting that the local authorities had done everything possible. They were not to blame.

That, at least, prompted a letter of rebuke from Local Government Minister Bob Neill. ‘Families who have been told to stockpile rotting refuse in their own homes by councils are entitled to wonder if their council views rubbish collection as just a favour, not a right,’ he said. I very much agree.

But even the Minister is looking down the wrong end of a telescope. Rubbish collection is a statutory duty. It is a service that councils are obliged by law to deliver. They not only messed up, they broke the law.

Beyond that, it is vital that our dustmen get it right. When I joined local government as a young official more than 40 years ago, my first ‘chief’ told me: ‘Get the rubbish collection

right and you will have no problems…local government IS rubbish collection.’

My old boss was right. The basic services of rubbish collection, sanitation, clean drinking water etc, etc, are what the great municipal councils were created for.

Not everyone remembers this, but they started off their lives as public health or ‘sanitary’ authorities. Britain was one of the pioneers of clean, healthy cities — innovations that allowed us to become a successful industrialised country.

Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago that even European cities were smelly and unhygienic by comparison. Some — such as Naples — still are.

Then and now, the basic inability to collect the rubbish is the hallmark of a Third World country, which Britain seems to have become. We no longer need a ‘winter of discontent’ to see piles of rubbish in the streets. It is becoming an everyday occurrence.

So how did we get to a position where the water authorities in Ulster can’t fix the pipes,

a bit of snow over Christmas leaves a month’s worth of rubbish in the streets, and poor maintenance of sewers means our urban rat population is higher than ever before?

Why are our schools — once the envy of the world — now second-rate? Why are our social services shambolic?

Why do we get the impression that even a convivial meeting in a brewery would be beyond the capability of our councils to organise?

It is my belief that the rot starts at the top. But for answers, you need to go back to the great Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

He saw how the people and their governments should relate, declaring: ‘When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.’

There lies my conclusion, gained from a lifetime of experience at all levels of -government. Our ‘rulers’ have lost their fear.

You have only to go down to the Houses of Parliament or Downing Street to see this. Our masters have retreated behind concrete barricades, blastproof windows, policemen with machine guns, armoured limousines and riot police.

The political classes are now a gated community. They feel safe. They are not afraid of us.

Jefferson supported the right of citizens to bear arms, not in self-defence but as the final resort.

The arms gave the people the means to overthrow tyranny. Unsurprisingly, from a position before the First World War when any citizen could freely buy arms over the counter, the British government has disarmed its population.

Yet the State itself relies on violence. Try not paying your council tax and you will quickly see what I mean. The police will come to get you. Attempt to resist and you will be forcibly removed from your home.

You will be jailed… by force if need be. The whole State apparatus is underpinned by force — or the threat of force — applied against its own citizens.

As you go down the pecking order, the same dynamic applies. ‘They’ can hurt us, they can damage us, destroy individual lives, or even wreck entire communities. We cannot strike back — we cannot hurt them.

Take the police. You may think that if they act wrongly there will be some redress. Not a bit of it.

Try complaining and you will find that they investigate themselves. Complain about the poor standard of the investigation, and it is the police who are asked to investigate their own investigation.

Go to the ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission? They rely on the very police against whom you are complaining. The police have nothing to fear.

It is not just the public authorities. Over Christmas, our electricity cut out just before the dinner went in the oven; we had no power or heating for six hours in the bitter cold. The call centre had never heard of Bradford and seemed indifferent.

We talked to the workmen and discovered there were only two for the whole of Bradford, vastly outnumbered by the highly paid ‘suits’ comfortably at home -eating their Christmas dinners. Those workmen were no better off than us. THEY reported to a call centre as well.

Afterwards, there were no apologies — no compensation unless you follow ‘the procedure’ and fill in the forms for the pittance they will grudgingly pay. But how do you value a spoiled Christmas? They neither know nor care.

Even if it is a major failure, such as the one in Northern Ireland, there are never proper investigations. Instead, we get vacuous ‘lessons learnt’ exercises. How many more children will die in care before ‘lessons learnt’ are actually absorbed?

Few ever lose their jobs. If they do, look at Laurence MacKenzie, the boss of Northern Ireland Water.

After he was forced to resign, there was talk of him walking away with £500,000 in ‘compensation’. From failed bankers to hospital bosses who mess up, departure is the passport to fabulous riches — and no barrier to future lucrative employment.

The commercial world is no different. Key businesses are now so huge that customers are only numbers.

Take the mass-produced service you are given or go elsewhere. But ‘elsewhere’ you’ll get the same service. These ‘corporates’ have long ceased to treat customers as individuals.

Do the likes of O2 or Vodafone, with their billion-pound businesses and millions of customers, care what you think? Would they be upset if you changed provider? Would they even notice?

They have been called the ‘new utilities’. For them, it is cheaper to have dissatisfied customers than get the service right.

The small percentage of customers who leave have nowhere to go except to competitors with exactly the same outlook. Sooner or later, they will end up back where they started — a process known as ‘churning’.

There is the problem. Failure no longer matters, so no one at the top cares. Whether as voters, taxpayers or consumers, we have become powerless.

You can see it in Ministers, in public officials, in the police, throughout the public services, in fact, and in commerce. You can see the ‘insolence of office’ in their eyes. They know you cannot harm them, cannot damage them. They have lost their fear.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Jack Straw Criticised for ‘Easy Meat’ Comments on Abuse

Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has been accused of “stereotyping” after suggesting some men of Pakistani origin see white girls as “easy meat”.

The Blackburn Labour MP spoke out after two Asian men who abused girls in Derby were given indeterminate jail terms.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said it was wrong to “stereotype an entire community” and a proper inquiry was needed.

A Barnados spokesman said vulnerable children of all races were at risk.

On Friday, Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed at Nottingham Crown Court for raping and sexually abusing several girls aged between 12 and 18.

The judge in the case said the race of the victims and their abusers was “coincidental”.

But, in an interview for the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Mr Straw said there was a “specific problem” in some areas where Pakistani men “target vulnerable white girls”.

He called on the Pakistani community to be “more open” about the abuse.

Mr Straw said: “Pakistanis, let’s be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders’ wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.

“But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls.

“We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way.”

Mr Straw added: “These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they’re fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically.

“So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care… who they think are easy meat.”

Helen Brayley, from University College London’s Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, said people should not draw hasty conclusions.

Ms Brayley, who wrote the first independent academic analysis of child sex trafficking, said: “When you jump in with thinking about race too quickly, you can miss a whole load of other things that are happening in other areas.

“So by racially stereotyping this early on without a national scoping project… we don’t know what the situation is in other areas around the country… you might be leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy of if people are looking for Asian offenders, they will only find Asian offenders.”…

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Should the PM Let Terrorists Walk Our Streets Just to Appease Clegg’s Mutinous Backbenchers?

One such saga is playing out now over control orders, the system under which ­terror suspects can be placed under a form of house arrest to protect the public.

The Lib Dems — under intense pressure to justify their role in the Coalition to the party’s rank-and-file — are desperate for these orders to be scrapped on the grounds that they infringe civil liberties.

For his part, the Prime Minister is being forced to spend a huge amount of time ­trying to find a compromise acceptable to Nick Clegg and the fractious, ­increasingly truculent Liberal backbenchers.

If David Cameron accepts the advice of the security services and his Home ­Secretary, and refuses to budge over ­keeping the orders, he risks the Lib Dems flouncing out of government.

On the other hand, if he goes too far the other way, by making the orders toothless, he knows he risks leaving Britain in much greater danger of a terrorist atrocity.

This mess — which Mr Cameron has ­privately called a ‘f*****g car crash’ — has been a long time in the making.

In the wake of 9/11, the Labour ­government had to decide what to do with terror suspects who, because the ­evidence against them was too sensitive, could neither be prosecuted nor deported.

Initially, Labour ministers ordered that the most dangerous Islamic fanatics, including Abu Qatada, Osama bin Laden’s ambassador in Europe, should be held in Belmarsh maximum-security jail.

Then, when this policy was ruled a breach of human rights law, ­ministers produced the controversial compromise of control orders. These allow a ­suspect to be tagged, placed under curfew for 16 hours each day and banned from having a mobile phone or a laptop.

Not surprisingly, the civil liberties lobby was enraged on the grounds that these restrictions were applied to people who had never been convicted by the courts of a criminal offence.

Throughout this period, the Lib Dems called for the orders to be abolished.

For their part, the ­Opposition Tories said the policy should be urgently reviewed — mostly out of a concern that it was not working properly. After the Coalition was formed, it appeared the new ­Government would have no problem in ditching the ­control orders as part of a root-and-branch review of Labour’s anti-terror laws.

However, by the autumn, the Tories had changed their minds.

As a result of intelligence ­briefings from security officials about the threat posed by those subject to control orders — confidential ­information that was not available to Tories when in Opposition — the Home Secretary, Theresa May, decided they must be retained.

In any case, the alternative to the orders — round-the-clock surveillance of a suspect by MI5 officers — was considered ­impractical, hugely expensive and would hardly constitute a victory for civil liberties. Mr Cameron was inclined to agree and tried to persuade his deputy, Mr Clegg, to concede that however imperfect the ­arrangement may be, his Lib Dems would have to ­swallow their pride and keep the security measures in place for the sake of national security.

However, Mr Cameron has been unable to get his Coalition partner to agree — to the dismay of the Home Office, security officials and Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws who himself is a Lib Dem but who argues there is no better way of foiling an attack.

And so, the Government’s ­counter-terrorism review — which was meant to have been completed months ago — has been repeatedly delayed.

Yesterday, Mr Clegg, while edging slightly closer towards accepting a deal on the issue, was still speaking in contortions, saying: ‘One thing I can predict safely is that — for ­people who think control orders, as they are, are perfect — they will be disappointed. For people who think they should be scrapped altogether, they will be disappointed as well.

‘It’s clear that there are some very hard measures in the existing ­control orders. I am going to change it. What I am not prepared now to say is what aspect of the regime is going to change.’ ­Supporters of the Lib Dem leader say he is trying to stick to his ­principles — as a ­conviction ­politician — with his belief that ­justice can only be served with decisions about terror suspects made in open court.

But, as Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, remarked in a rare ­public speech recently: ‘It is a sad fact that, for all sorts of good reasons, terrorist threats can still exist which the English criminal justice system cannot reach.

‘The Government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to ­protect its citizens just because the criminal law cannot, in the particular ­circumstances, serve the purpose.’

As for Nick Clegg, rather than ­acting out of principle, it is more likely that his obduracy is the result of a fear that if he rolls over on ­control orders he will be widely scorned because it would be a ­second embarrassing policy U-turn following his decision to agree to an increase in university tuition fees.

Of course, Mr Clegg vehemently denies such suggestions. But ­having abandoned one solemn election ­promise and seen his ­critics hang an effigy of him in the streets of Whitehall, he has little political capital left to spend with his increasingly restless backbenchers.

Thus, in order to address their worries — in a week that an opinion poll saw the Lib Dems plummet to 7 per cent — and convince them he is capable of imposing Lib Dem policies on to his Tory Coalition ­colleagues, he is demanding that the curfew element of control orders should be significantly watered down.

The truth is that Mr Clegg would not be in this difficult position if it were for his own inadequacies in allowing the Lib Dems to be viewed solely in the context of what they fail to achieve, rather than what they do.

A more seasoned operator would have focused on the fact that the terrorism review will lead to the scrapping of draconian powers to stop and search the public without any reasonable grounds for ­suspicion. The rampant abuse of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act by Town Halls will also end.

without charge.

But all the Lib Dems have decided to focus on is the one battle that the electorate — and even the Lib Dems’ own supporters, two-thirds of whom support control orders — would wish for Mr Clegg to lose, in order to keep them safe.

Little wonder support for the party is now in single-digits.

In addition to being foolish, the control orders row is deeply ­dangerous. The eight men ­currently under restrictions (and isn’t it ­astonishing that a row over just eight ­people should be causing such chaos at the top of Government?) are hardly typical ‘innocents’.

Each has been accepted by a judge, albeit on the basis of secret evidence, to be a grave threat to national security.

They include a terror suspect linked to a ­liquid-bomb plot who is considered ‘the most dangerous and important Al Qaeda operative in Britain’. Past recipients of the orders include Al Qaeda fixers, British Muslims hellbent on joining the Jihad overseas, and Abu Rideh, a Palestinian linked to terrorists who, on being released from his order, was ‘martyred’ ­fighting in Afghanistan.

Are these really the sort of people we want walking the streets in order to appease the 25 or so Lib Dem backbenchers who are yet to recover from the student fees humiliation?

At some point next week, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg must decide: appease Lib Dem ­backbenchers or ­maintain strict ­curfews on those who wish this country harm. The devil will be in the detail, and whether the ­security services can work with whatever deal is being devised.

But Tories will worry that there are already concrete examples of the Prime Minister agreeing to Lib Dem demands, even when it is not in the interests of public safety.

In line with Mr Clegg’s manifesto commitments, the prison ­population is to be reduced, the replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent has been delayed and plans to abolish the Human Rights Act — which has saved countless ­terrorists and criminals from deportation — have been shelved.

However, to agree to the ­dismantling of the control order regime, without any adequate alternative, would be the greatest gamble of them all.

Mr Cameron is playing not just with the reputation of his ­Government. Lives are at stake — and the country will not forgive him or Mr Clegg for making the wrong choice.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Wind Farms Don’t Work in the Cold: Why It’s No Use Waiting for Turbines to Keep US Warm as the Snow Returns

Britain’s wind farms almost ground to a halt during the coldest spells in December, it has emerged.

As temperatures plunged below zero and demand for electricity soared, figures reveal that most of the country’s 3,000 wind turbines were virtually still, energy experts say.

During some of the chilliest weather, they were working at less than one-hundredth of capacity, producing electricity for fewer than 30,000 homes.

The National Grid was forced to compensate for the still, cold conditions by cranking up conventional coal and gas-fired power stations.

December was the coldest month in more than a century — and yesterday, as some in northern England, the Midlands and Wales were hit with more snow, residents will have been switching on the heating again. But critics have warned that the UK is becoming too dependent on wind for power.

There are 3,153 working turbines in 283 wind farms across the UK, capable of generating more than 5.2 gigawatts of electricity — enough to power almost three million homes, the wind industry says.

Over the next decade, another 10,000 turbines will go up to meet Europe’s climate change targets. By 2020, the Government says 30 per cent of all Britain’s electricity will be generated by wind.

But at best, turbines work at just 30 to 40 per cent of their capacity. And in cold winter snaps, often caused by vast, slow-moving high-pressure systems over Northern Europe, winds drop to almost nothing.

Helen Chivers, of the Met Office, said cold spells were often accompanied by low winds. ‘It is fairly common in winter to have these high pressure systems that bring cold, still conditions over Britain.’

On the coldest day, December 20, the average temperature was minus 5.6C. But just as demand for electricity to heat homes was rising, the winds failed.

That evening the recorded output from the UK’s wind farms dipped to 59 megawatts.

Wind experts say the National Grid only detects half the output of wind farms and that the real figure was 120MW — still only one-fiftieth of maximum capacity.

The following day, when the average temperature was minus 5.2C, turbines were recorded as generating just 20MW. The real figure was probably around 40MW — the equivalent of just 20 turbines at full capacity — powering fewer than 30,000 homes.

Winds dropped again after Christmas. On December 30, the recorded output from wind turbines fell to 25MW at 6.30pm.

John Constable, of the Renewable Energy Foundation, which argues against wind farm expansion, said: ‘When you get a high pressure system at this time of year it can cover most of the UK.

‘The whole of the UK is becalmed just when it gets really cold and when demand for electricity goes up. Regardless of how much wind you have installed you need to have the same amount of conventional stations ready to switch on if the wind fails.’ The wind industry insisted wind was reliable — and that still spells are rare. Nick Medic, of Renewables UK, said if the wind does drop, we can import energy from overseas, or use energy stored in dams.

Yesterday, up to 4in (10cm) of snow fell in some upland areas, Leeds Bradford Airport was closed for several hours and dozens of schools in Yorkshire were shut.

However, a band of rain followed the snow and the Met Office said it was expected to have disappeared by morning. A relatively dry weekend was forecast.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Urgent: The Lights Are Going Out in Denmark

by Diana West

I am posting (below) a letter from the Danish Free Press Society, the parent organization of the International Free Press Society, of which I am vice president. It is of urgent importance. It tells of the terrible turn of events in Denmark, which for years now has bravely spearheaded the West’s fights to save free speech, now and seemingly in perpetuity under assault from both the Marxian Left and the press of sharia (Islamic law) — and with zero support from diplomatic, governmental, or professional institutions in the United States, home and caretaker of the First Amendment. This appalling lack of support, which translates into a lack of courage and vision, is the main reason the assault of free speech continues to be successful.

But et tu, Denmark?

There have been signs: for example, former Prime MInister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s gratuitous slap at Pastor Terry Jones’ stated intention to burn Korans to mark the jihad attacks of 9/11 in September of this year; and the Danish paper Politiken’ s February 2010 apology for reprinting Kurt Westergaard’s Mohammed cartoon, which Westergaard, wonderful man, one month past the nearest-miss assassination attempt yet that sent him and his five-year-old granddaughter into his “safe” room (a reinforced bathroom with an alarm button), declared the newspaper’s apology a “setback for free speech.”

And so it was. But such events are more than “setbacks.” They fit into a terrible and even totalitarian climate of assault in which the Danish government, via its public prosecutor, as the letter states, is “waging a lawfare offensive against outspoken critics of Islam and Muslim practices.”

Last month, Danish MP Jesper Langballe was convicted of “hate speech” — “racial discrimination,” for having highlighted the pattern of “honor killings” in Muslim families. (Here is his “confession.”) Now in the crosshairs is my very dear friend and colleague, Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Press Society and the International Free Press Society. (A historian as well as a journalist and author, Lars took me on a special tour of Copenhagen, which I wrote about here.) On January 24 he goes on trial. His crime? Discussing the high incidence of family rape within Islamic cultures, which the prosecutor is attempting to outlaw as “racism.”

In fact, the Danish prosecutor is attempting to enforce Islamic “blasphemy” laws, which outlaw all criticism of Islam.

Jesper Langballe and now Lars Hedegaard have been targeted because they are Danes of courage and principle who refuse to lie down and shut up and let the “multicultural” Big Lies wash in and inundate their mental and moral capacities to that endpoint of totalitarian triumph where citizens become subjects, minions who no longer articulate or even recognize truth and morality. In a world where mandarins of Left and mullahs of sharia so conspire, we risk a kind of double-dhimmification in acquiesence, rendering civilization incapable of self-defense.

Please read the Danish Free Press Soctety’s letter and realize it is in fact an SOS. Save Our Speech. If you are so moved, there is an email address below to which you may address comments in support of Lars Hedegaard’s freedom of speech, which will be reprinted in the DFPS newsletter.

From the Danish Free Press Society:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Vatican Teams Up With Discovery Channel for Exorcism Series

Holy See to give access to its case files

(ANSA) — Rome, January 7 — Demons are set to take centre stage on television as the Vatican joins forces with the Discovery Channel for an unprecedented new series on exorcism. “The Exorcist Files” aims to recreate stories of real-life demonic possession and will be based on cases investigated by the Catholic Church over the years. For the ten-part series, the Vatican will give access to its archives as well as allowing its religious experts on exorcism to participate in the programme. These specialists do not usually comment on their work about fighting back demons and are rarely seen on television. The rite of exorcism involves a series of gestures and prayers to invoke the power of God and stop the ‘demon’ influencing its possessed victim. “The Vatican is an extraordinarily hard place to get access to, but we explained we’re not going to try to tell people what to think”, said Discovery Channel president Clark Bunting. The series, set to make its debut this spring on the Discovery Channel, will explain among other things how a demon can inhabit not only a human being but also an inanimate object.

According to Bunting, “the work these folks do, and their conviction in their beliefs, makes for fascinating stories”. If the series’ first season is successful, the network hopes the Vatican will continue the partnership project, said the network executive. In the Catholic Church, all priests can in theory perform exorcisms but, in reality, only a select few are assigned the task. They have to be given an authorization to perform techniques and rites by their local bishop.

Exorcists say that contact with the occult is one of the ways the Devil can gain access to a person’s mind, sometimes exploiting the situation to ‘possess’ that individual. While there are no official numbers for Italy, it is believed that over 300 priests practise the Vatican-approved procedures for casting out the Devil. In recent years, a sharp rise in people’s requests for priests to fight back the Devil led to the creation of ad-hoc courses aimed at trainee exorcists. For instance, each year priests can attend a week-long course called “Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation” at Rome’s Ateneo Pontifico Regina Apostolorum, one of the top Vatican universities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Morocco: EU: 70 Mln to Green Agriculture Plan

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 6 — Eu has signed a 70 million euros (780 million dirham) financing agreement for a programme to support moroccan agricultural sector policy, in particular the implementation of the Green Morocco Plan. According to the Enpi website (, this new programme will support reforms introduced by the moroccan government to benefit rural areas.

Solidarity agriculture, the second pillar of the reform, targets some 800,000 farmers, about 3 million rural people and affects approximately 10% of the agricultural area of the country.

This three-year 70 million euros programme will target in particular the Draa regions, the Oriental regions, and Boulemane as well as Tafilalet. In addition to general actions to accompany the implementation of the Green Morocco Plan, the programme aims to gradually improve the ovine meat, date palm and olive grove sectors, along with other products including local truffles. The expected results are an increase in production, income and employment, along with better quality processed products and environmental resilience.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Religious Coercion Threatens Tunisian Women

A number of Tunisian women feel forced to adopt religious practices in attire and behaviour. Experts, however, question the legality and Islamic authenticity of the phenomena.

By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis — 07/01/11

Rima, a student, breathed a sigh of relief when her mother allowed her to remove the hijab.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for six months,” she says, adding that the experience felt like “long decades”. “My mother forced me to abandon what she considered to be indecent clothes when I returned home at a late hour after attending a friend’s birthday party.”

Like many other Tunisian girls and married women, she was made to obey her family, while facing alienation at school.

“I’ve lived through difficult times at my college. I may be wrong about it, but I felt that my male and female colleagues’ looks were tearing me apart. This made me avoid going to the college for several days, and I could have failed that year if it hadn’t been for the assistance of a female colleague,” she adds.

Even though freedom of conscience is enshrined in Article 5 of the Tunisian constitution, which “protects the free exercise of beliefs with reservation that they do not disturb the public order”, a growing number of women experience coercion in religious practices.

Rabiaa, in her 30s, is one of them. She admits to wearing Islamic garments out of fear of her husband’s violence.

“He threatened to divorce me and to prevent me from seeing my kids if I insisted on my rejection of the veil and cloak,” she tells Magharebia.

“When he came to propose to me four years ago, he didn’t show any objections to my lifestyle or the clothes that I was wearing. He even said he was not praying. However, one year after marriage, he changed abruptly and changed his clothes. Even the topics he was talking about at home differed, and he prevented me from watching certain TV channels. He eventually forced me to follow his new lifestyle in terms of clothes and even the way of eating,” she says.

Rabiaa is not alone: she confesses to having met several women like her who complained about “their husbands’ change, and how they [women] started to suffer in silence as a result”.

[Reuters/Rafael Marchante] Despite the secularisation efforts in Tunisia, the tide is turning toward religious conservatism.

A friend of hers was abused for objecting to her husband forcing their 10-year old daughter to wear the hijab.

Hadia faced a similar situation. Even though she received education at a prestigious university, she was forced to quit her job as a doctor after marriage and stay at one of her husband’s private farms.

“He told me that I could leave the house only with him or the driver. I reluctantly accepted. However, I eventually had to flee my matrimonial residence after life became impossible with him, especially as he turned his farm into a meeting place for people like him who are religiously intolerant,” she says.

Not only women, however, are witnessing the changes. Khalid Zeytouni says that he was surprised to see one day his wife covered in black, with “a thick veil” on her head.

“I asked her to remove these strange clothes that would attract the eyes of intruders at work and among her neighbours,” he says. “She knows that I’m a believer and that I don’t do anything that would displease God. However, she insisted on her position and told me that she would be an infidel if she removed her veil, saying that the verse was clear.”

Zeytouni even thought of divorcing his wife and left his home.

“However, I returned one month later and told her that I’ve come back only because of my children, that she has to forget forever about going out with me to any public place, and that she can’t impose her lifestyle on us at home,” he says.

“We’ve agreed on these things, and here we are until now, living together as if we’re divorced,” Zeytouni adds.

Still, not everyone agrees that resurging religious practices stem from coercion.

“The case with the veil in Tunisia is a matter of fashion and is the result of influence from certain groups; it’s the herd mentality, where girls just imitate each other without understanding the meaning of veil. Even women up to a certain age are influenced by satellite channels,” writer Rach Tounsi explains.

For lawyer and women’s rights activist Monia El Abdi, the most disturbing trend is that young girls are obliged to wear the veil and follow a certain pattern of behaviour “without any regard for the needs of their childhood”.

“The matter is primarily related to underage girls or female students at primary schools. We now see this phenomenon in some popular areas. We really need to pay attention to this issue, especially after we found out that the veil has become prevalent among all classes. It used to be found among adult women and female employees at workplaces or universities. We considered it to be related to the freedom of wearing clothes, at a time when veiled women were making their choices to wear the veil absolutely freely without any external pressures. This was why the women’s movement addressed this issue very cautiously in order not to be accused of disrespecting personal choices,” she says.

For her part, women’s rights activist Mariam Zghidi says that the worst thing that a woman can be subjected to is the obligation to hide her body.

“I know the story of a girl who is not more than 19 years old and who suffered a lot from a husband who is over 50 years old,” Zghidi said. “She was forced to marry him because he was wealthier than her family that was living in poverty. Her brothers were trying to convince her that she married a pious, God-fearing man. However, after he asked her to wear the niqab, the pious, devoted person turned into a monster.”

According to lawyer and feminist Saida Garrach, “some husbands’ use of the so-called obedience involves a lot of excess. It’s even contrary to the rules of constitution and personal status code, especially article 23 as amended in 1993, which replaced the phrases ‘obedience and care for men’ with ‘partnership and co-operation inside the family’.”…

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

Tunisia: Highest Quality of Life in Arab World, Irish Magazine

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 4 — Tunisia is first in the Arab world regarding quality of life, together with Morocco, and second in Africa after Mauritius. The figures were calculated by the Irish magazine International Living, as it does at the beginning of each new year, and assesses the quality-of-life index in 2011.

The most important data, according to the survey, regard security (86 on 100 points) and climate (85/100). The ranking is led by the United States, followed by New Zealand and Malta.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU: Strong and Solid Partnership With Israel

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 6 — “Our partnership with Israel is strong and solid”, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton during her visit to the Middle East. She continued: “I have discussed the situation of our relations with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The next association council with Israel will be a good opportunity to make further progress”. Israel is in fact an EU partner, but has not yet obtained a strengthening of ties, the so-called “advanced status”, which so far has only been granted in the Mediterranean to Morocco and Jordan. Ashton also confirms in her message a package of funds with a total value of 100 million euros, allocated by the EU to support the Palestinian Territories in 2011, as part of the budget that was approved for this year. This sum “will help the Palestinian Authority”, Ashton concluded, “to continue to supply essential public services in all Palestinian Territories and will help the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, editor’s note) continue its crucial work”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hamas, Winner of Pa Elections, Teaches: Destroy Israel

by Hillel Fendel

Education in a Khan Yunis high school in Gaza: At a recent assembly marking the 2nd anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas rockets and missiles, a Hamas member of the PA parliament visited and emphasized his organization’s commitment to liberate all of Palestine.

The speaker, Yihye Mussa, said, “[Israel’s] war against Gaza was designed to liquidate the nation” — referring to the “Palestinian” nation which has taken on form only in the past five or six decades. (In fact, histories of the 1948 war, such as O Jerusalem by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, use the term Palestinian when referring to the Jews of the land.)

Mussa acknowledged that Israel’s purpose in launching the war was also to “liquidate the resistance” — the term Arabs use to refer to their self-justified terrorism against Israel. Israel did indeed announce that the military campaign was to put an end to the thousands of rockets and missiles Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza had rained down upon Israeli areas such as the Negev in the previous years and months.

“We emphasize before our compatriots in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria],” Mussa said, “that we are marching towards the liberation of Palestine, from its sea [Mediterranean] to the Jordan River, with its capital — Jerusalem.”

One of the teachers who also addressed the students requested that they study well, because “this is the best weapon on the way to victory and liberation.”

Hamas, recognized as a terrorist entity by the United States and other countries, received a boost recently when former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark visited the area. Clark has long been known as a strong detractor of Israel, and even represented the Palestinian Authority in American courts against law suits filed by American-Israeli terror victims.

Clark met with Gaza-Hamas chief Ismail Haniye, who said at a joint press conference, “Clark’s visit expresses true recognition of the legal Palestinian government… The Palestinian nation will continue its strong stand and struggle until it returns to the land that was conquered in 1948 and releases its prisoners from Israeli prisons.” (

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Camel With Two Heads and Seven Legs Was Born Dead After a Caesarian Operation, Sharq Newspaper Said on Saturday.

The dead baby was delivered in a farm in the western Red Sea province of Al-Qunfudah after the mother went into difficult labour for two days, prompting its owner to call a veterinarian, the paper said.

“The baby was born dead…it had two heads and seven legs…this is the strangest case I have ever seen in camels,” its owner Hassan Fahmi said.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Mining: Northwestern Turkey Rich of Lignite Coal

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 6 — Reserves of lignite coal in northwestern Turkey have increased to 1.5 billion tons after discovery of new coalbeds, Anatolia news agency reports. Kemal Degirmendereli, secretary-general of the Trakya Miners’ Solidarity Association, said Thursday that the reserves took place in Uzunkopru, Kesan and Meric towns of Edirne and in Malkara and Saray towns of Tekirdag in northwestern Turkey. “Lignite coal reserves in the region have increased to 1.5 billion tonnes after discovery of new coalbeds. Those reserves are enough to meet energy demands of the region for the next 50 years. The value of the reserves is about 50 billion USD,” he said. “Development of the mining sector is of vital importance for employment in the region. There are 4,000 miners and 60 mining engineers working in the lignite coal mines in the region. Number of miners can increase to 15,000 as a result of new investments,” he said. “Our annual production of lignite coal is about 800,000 tons. Our aim is to increase this amount up to 3 million tons,” Degirmendereli added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s Poverty Rate Up to 18.08% in 2009

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 6 — The poverty rate in Turkey rose up to 18.08% in 2009, as Anatolia news agency reports.

According to “Poverty Study” in 2009 of Turkish statistics authority, TurkStat, Turkey’s poverty rate had been 17.11% in 2008. The survey said 0.48% of the population or approximately 339,000 people lived below the food poverty line in 2009, while 18.08% of the population or nearly 12.75 million individuals lived below the complete poverty line that covered both food and non-food expenditures. TurkStat said there were no individuals whose daily expenditure per capita was below 1 USD, however, the ratio of those living below the poverty line, which was set as 2.15 USD for daily expenditure per capita based on purchasing power parity, was around 0.22%. In 2009, the monthly food poverty line was estimated as 287 Turkish Liras (TL, 143 euros), whereas the monthly complete poverty line was 825 TL (412 euros)for a 4-person household, TurkStat said. The ratio of individuals living in rural areas below the complete poverty line increased to 38.69% in 2009, while the ratio of individuals living in urban areas below the complete poverty line decreased to 8.86% in 2009, the authority added. The survey also pointed out to the fact that the more education level increased, the lower poverty rate became. In 2009, poverty rate was 29.84% among the illiterate or literate without a diploma, 15.34% among elementary school graduates, 5.34% among high school and vocational school graduates, and 0.71% among graduates of two-year faculties, faculties and or universities, the study said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UAE: Women Could Retire From Work After Only 15 Years

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JANUARY 3 — The proposal has not yet been put forward for debate in Parliament, but the prospect of allowing women in the Emirates to retire after just 15 years of service has triggered lively debate both for and against the potential solution considered to be a double-edged sword both for women themselves and for the economy of the United Arab Emirates.

“It is in no way an attempt to marginalise women, but rather to respond to the demands raised by the women themselves,” commented the president of the Parliamentary Commission for Labour and Social Services, Sultan Al Muazzin, explaining that the proposal has derived as a response to the discontent and the requests from women in the UAE who are finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile the demands of work with those of their families.

Equal opportunities are a favourite piece of the UAE’s social policies and in the seven states of the Federation, women have seen the doors open to all professions: not just teachers, doctors and nurses but increasingly more night-time taxi drivers, mechanics, pilots, diplomats, MPs and even astronauts.

The current law sets out that it is possible for women to withdraw a pension after 25 years of work with a remuneration equal to the next level of their last paid salary.

“Encouraging” the cut of 10 years of social and economic participation however presents implications that are “frankly counterproductive” said Najla al Awadi, a pioneering female member of theFederal National Council, thelegislature of the United Arab Emirates, made up of 40 members, of which almost a quarter are women. If it is a matter of meeting women halfway, then it is necessary to concentrate on the different labour policies, she explains. “Flexible hours, crèches, jobs, equal benefits and solutions that take into account the needs of mothers, these,” saysNajla al Awadi, “are the solutions that can help women find a healthy balance between home and work.” Meanwhile, in the long term, working for such a short period could lead to several disadvantages: the difficulty to reach management roles that require more years of experience, less push towards roles of responsibility and also a not indifferent cost on the federal budget in having to provide pensions for many more years than in any other country that intends to be competitive on the global market.

Neither can such a high turnover of female professional been counted on as an alternative for female unemployment. The crucial issue is not the retirement itself — comment the teachers of the equal opportunities programme at the School of Government in Dubai — but understanding the changes that women believe are necessary in order for them to be able to remain at work.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


The First Oil Pipeline Between Russia and China Now Operating

The authorities of the two countries greet the event as a “new beginning” in their energy cooperation. The pipeline is expected to send 300,000 barrels of Siberian crude to refineries in Daqing. Moscow now wants to boost its energy exports to the Orient.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The first oil pipeline linking Siberian oil fields to refineries in the northeastern Chinese city of Daqing was inaugurated on 1 January. It is expected to carry 300,000 barrels a day over the next 20 years. Until last year, oil between the world’s biggest oil producer, Russia, and the world’s biggest consumer of energy, China, was transported by rail.

The US$ 25bn project was partly financed by Chinese loans in exchange of 20 years of oil supplies.

A second stage of construction on the pipeline is due to be finished by 2014. It will then span a distance of about 4,700 kilometres.

“The operation of the China-Russia crude oil pipeline is the start of a new phase in China-Russia energy co-operation,” said Yao Wei, general manager of Pipeline Branch of Petro China (for more on the topic, see also “Siberian oil for China”, in AsiaNews, 27 October 2008; “Medvedev goes to Beijing on his first trip abroad,” in ibid., 23 May 2008; “Hu in Moscow to strengthen political and economic ties,” in ibid., 23 March 2007; and “Moscow-Beijing axis emerging around weapons and oil, keeping US out,” in ibid., 26 February 2007).

For Russia, the oil pipeline as a way to diversify its exports (see “Medvedev in China, energy and economic co-operation at the top of the agenda,” in AsiaNews, 27 September 2010)

Until now, its 50,000-kilometre oil pipeline network was concentrated in Western Siberia and runs towards Europe.

In October 2009, Russian giant Gazprom and CNPC signed a framework agreement providing for deliveries of 70 billion cubic metres of Russian gas to China each year.

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

South Asia

Afghan Rules of Engagement Won’t Change After Fatal Clash

Italian troops needed US air support in firefight

(ANSA) — Milan, January 7 — Italy’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan will not change even though troops needed American assistance last week in a firefight in which an Italian soldier was killed, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said Friday.

Members of the Alpine Regiment had to call in United States forces to bomb insurgents to end the clash in the western Afghan district of Gulistan because Italy’s jets there are not armed with missiles.

Corporal Major Matteo Miotto lost his life in the half-hour firefight in an area called Box Tripoli, which Italy took over from US forces earlier this year, bringing to 35 the Italian death toll since it began its Afghan mission in 2004.

La Russa had suggested arming Italy’s warplanes after four soldiers were killed in an October attack, but subsequently said they would not be fitted with missiles because of opposition in Italy and Afghanistan linked to fears for the safety of civilians.

“We already talked about this (arming jets with missiles).

Not all of parliament was in agreement and I preferred to have the mission supported,” La Russa told reporters at an Italian air force facility in Milan.

The minister added that this did not put the Italian troops’ lives in greater danger because they can always “ask for American intervention, as they did on this occasion”.

The attack sparked renewed calls from some leftwing politicians for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, which the government rejected, saying the best way to honour the nation’s fallen was to stay the course alongside its NATO allies.

US Commander David Petraeus recently praised the “notable success” Italian forces have had since assuming command in the Box Tripoli area.

More Italian troops are being subjected to insurgent attacks as militants are driven out of southern Afghanistan.

Polls have suggested most Italians think their country’s mission has turned from a peacekeeping one into a war operation, overstepping the terms of its parliamentary mandate.

Italy committed to United States President Barack Obama’s surge and is set to push its troop strength up from 3,400 to 4,000 shortly.

Many of them will be military trainers.

La Russa added Friday that he was willing to report to parliament on the initial confusion that surrounded the circumstances of Miotto’s death.

The minister at first said he was killed by sniper, which was taken to mean an isolated insurgent.

But this week he added that the sniper fire had been part of an attack by a group of “terrorists”, saying military chiefs had not mentioned this before.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

India Worst for Stomach Ailments for Swedes

Sweden’s infectious disease control agency has determined that India is the worst country for stomach ailments for Swedish travellers.

The Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet, SMI) has list the countries where travellers are most likely to be affected by diarrhea and vomiting, according to newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Top of the list is India, followed by Indonesia. Other countries include Morocco, Thailand, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Bulgaria. In addition, there is also a risk of Swedish tourists getting sick in Greece, France, Portugal and Spain, although the odds are not as high.

The most common stomach bacteria are campylobacter in the water and those from chicken, pork and lamb meat, as well as shigella in vegetables and salmonella in eggs and chicken meat.

In India, the risk for campylobacter is high. Salmonella is also very common there, as well as in Indonesia, Thailand, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Bulgaria.

Shigella, which causes stomach pain, diarrhea and bloody stool, is most common in India and Egypt.

Other infections that tourists are at risk of contracting include hepatitis A and B in Egypt, the rest of Africa, Turkey and the Middle East, dengue fever in Thailand and South America and malaria, which is prevalent across large parts of the world.

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

Australia — Pacific

Clergy Piggyback Rides Banned

CATHOLIC clergy have been banned from giving children piggyback rides under child protection policies introduced by an outer Melbourne (Australia) parish.

The new policies, aimed at preventing abuse, include bans on inappropriate embracing, or contacting children through Facebook or SMS.

They are being introduced at parishes in Lilydale and Healesville this year.

Guidelines will apply to all priests, parish workers, staff and volunteers representing the church, including those at associated schools St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s Catholic primary schools. The policies, believed to be the first in Melbourne, were put into place after two allegedly abusive priests served in the district.

Conduct deemed acceptable includes “high fives”, pats on the shoulder or back, holding hands with small children, handshakes, and verbal praise.

The rules say any emails sent to minors should have parents or guardians copied in, and any phone calls should be made to the family home. Social networking is not considered an appropriate way for an adult to socialise with a child.

Inappropriate embraces, kisses on the lips, wrestling, holding minors over four on the lap, giving or receiving any type of massage, and tickling minors are all on the banned list.

Father Julian Langridge, who led the formation of the policies, based them on Catholic protocols followed Australia-wide, said Bishop Les Tomlinson, Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

“It is taking an ultra-cautious approach, but it is partly about rebuilding confidence by making clear exactly what boundaries in which the clergy will function,” Bishop Tomlinson said.

He said Fr Langridge decided the guidelines would be a positive thing for his parish.

“And I agree with that,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil Supreme Court Rejects Battisti Release

Italy fighting for extradition of ex-terrorist

(ANSA) — Brasilia, January 7 — The Brazilian supreme court has rejected ex-Italian terrorist Cesare Battisti’s appeal to be released, meaning he will stay in jail at least until February as Italy continues to fight for his extradition.

Chief Justice Cezar Peluso sent the dossier on the case to a predecessor as head of the court, Gilmar Mendes.

As the Brazilian press has noted, both men voted in favour of extradition a year ago.

According to the media here, the row with Italy has triggered a domestic institutional crisis between the executive and the judicial branches.

Brazil’s main opposition party called for a reversal of the extradition denial, which was issued by ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on his last day of office on December 31.

Italy has said it will use “all means” at its legal disposal to get Battisti back to serve out life terms for four murders committed in the 1970s.

It is preparing an appeal later this month to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, arguing that Brazil is in clear breach of its extradition treaty with Italy.

In rejecting Battisti’s appeal to be released, Chief Justice Peluso also noted that there was no evidence to support Battisti’s controversial claim that he would be in physical danger if returned to Italy.

Earlier this week the relatives of Battisti’s victims staged street protests outside the Brazilian embassy in Rome and consulates and offices elsewhere in Italy, while militants from Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s key government ally the Northern League called for a boycott of Brazilian goods.

Berlusconi has stressed the affair is purely judicial and will not prejudice ties with Brazil while Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has clarified the ratification of an important military accord will merely be held up, partly because of difficulties getting business through parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece Also Acts on Behalf of EU, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 6 — “The measures which Greece is adopting to deal with the problem of illegal immigration fall in the context of the European justice system”.

The statement was made by Greek Minister of National Defence Evangelos Venizelos, who made reference to the wall that the Greek government plans to build along the border with Turkey. The Minister added that Greece “acts on behalf of the EU and the other European Countries must have the feeling that we are handling, also on their behalf, a major European problem”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Islamic Fundamentalism Has Replaced Communism as Greatest Threat to Christians

It used to be the case that Christians suffered greatest in communist countries, but today Islamic fundamentalism has replaced communism as the number one cause of persecution against Christians, says International Christian Concern.

The persecution watchdog released its ‘Hall of Shame’ list of the world’s worst countries for persecution in 2010 this week. New entries include Iraq and Egypt, both of which have seen a substantial increase in anti-Christian violence.

In Iraq, Christians have been murdered almost weekly since October, when Islamic militants killed more than 50 worshippers in a Baghdad church in October and Al-Qaeda announced the following day that Christians were legitimate targets for the Mujahedin.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, the attack on the Baghdad church and the random killing of Christians in the following weeks has triggered a “slow but steady exodus” of thousands of Christians out of the city.

ICC warned that Egypt, more than any country outside of Iraq, had suffered the most from the Al-Qaeda threat.

2010 got off to a bad start when Muslim gunmen shot and killed six Christians in a drive-by shooting in January. Then in November, two people were killed when Egyptian security forces opened fire on Christian protestors in Giza. The highest death toll came this week, however, when a suicide bomber murdered 21 Christians outside a church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

Writing in the forward to the report, ICC president Jeff King said that while forms of persecution such as harassment, imprisonment, torture and murder had “steadily declined” in communist and former communist countries — with the exception of North Korea and China — there continued to be a “significant increase” in incidents of persecution in Islamic countries.

In North Korea, ICC said the information it had received indicated that Christians were suffering harsher penalties than most criminals and that an estimated 100,000 Christians are believed to be in labour camps where they are “pushed to the point of being worked to death”.

Asia News reported that North Korean officials raided a house church in Pyungsung County last May and arrested 23 Christians. It reported that three pastors were executed, while the other 20 believers were sent to a labour camp.

The Chinese government came under criticism from ICC for listing Christianity as a cult — a move which could be used to justify government-backed persecution. The report said that house churches have become a target of the Chinese government, which continues to conduct raids, arrest believers, and send them to labour camps for ‘re-education’, often without a court hearing.

The report does not attempt to rank the 11 countries in the Hall of Shame in any particular order on the grounds that it is impossible to fully determine the severity of Christian suffering throughout the world.

Mr King said: “In compiling the report, it was striking to see the rate at which Christian persecution has accelerated around the globe, especially in the Islamic world.

“Anti-Christian hatred arising from Islam has flowed into 2011, as seen in the horrific attacks in Egypt, Pakistan and Iraq already this year.

“Constant vigilance is needed in the struggle to defend the fundamental human right of religious freedom.

“Those of us fortunate to live in countries that grant religious freedom must not forget nor neglect the plight of Christians who are condemned by extremist ideology or government tyranny to suffer — or die — for their faith.”

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]


Father Raymond J. De Souza: Christians May Need to Start Fighting Back

The new year was only a few hours old when the question of Islamist fanaticism and violence literally exploded anew, this time in Alexandria, Egypt. Violence by jihadist radicals has become the dominant issue of this young century. The massacre in Baghdad just 10 weeks ago reminded the world about the killing of Christians by Muslims — as catalogued by my colleague Michael Coren. What is to be done about it?

Jan. 1 is marked in the Catholic Church as the World Day of Peace, for which the pope issues an annual message. The theme Benedict XVI chose for this year was religious liberty. His words were made terribly relevant even before the sun rose on 2011.

“I wish to say a word to the Christian communities suffering from persecution, discrimination, violence and intolerance, particularly in Asia, in Africa, in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, a place chosen and blessed by God,” he wrote. “I ask all those in authority to act promptly to end every injustice against the Christians living in those lands. In the face of present difficulties, may Christ’s followers not lose heart.”

Quoting from Paul VI’s Message for the 1976 World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI declared: “We ourselves lay down the condition and the extent of the mercy we ask for when we say: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us’ (Mt 6:12).” And then: “Violence is not overcome by violence. May our cries of pain always be accompanied by faith, by hope and by the witness of our love of God.”

It is true that Christians, professing faith in the Crucified One, must pursue the path of mercy and reconciliation. But what if those who hate Christians are not interested in reconciliation? I can lay down my life in the face of such hatred, as the martyrs of every generation have done. Yet can I lay down the lives of others? Do the Christian leaders in such places have a duty to protect their communities — even by recourse to force? It is a terribly difficult question, especially because any resistance might provoke still further massacres.

In the Middle East, where Christians, even in Egypt, are a small, and sometimes tiny, minority, the consensus view has been that even robust rhetoric is too much of a risk. When living beside murderous Muslim fanatics, the path of least resistance can understandably appear to be the only path to survival.

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]

Will the New World Order be Catholic?

Like secular big powers, the Vatican aims at countering its decline in a rapidly changing world. The task is not easy. But the Church’s strategies look at the (very) long term.

1. Twenty years after 1989, the current crisis has finally made it apparent to all that the old international order must, sooner or later, give way to a new one. Thus, common sense joins the many scholars who have, over the course of the last years, and in some cases even earlier, analyzed the decline of the American economy and its possible and predictable consequences.

Nevertheless, the great powers that have sought to base themselves on this body of scholarship, in order to reconfigure their long-term policies, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. It is precisely those powers that have, traditionally, cast their policies in the form of a “manifest destiny” to which they have been called, where the sense of a universal mission and hegemonic ambitions march hand in hand: the United States, China, France and the Vatican.

The US, where studies upon the outcome of Yalta have probed deeper, has been yet trapped by the necessity of preserving, at any cost, their declining hegemony. France had already decided half a century ago to make up for its strategic weakness, relying on the project of the “third force”; however, the return of Germany after 1989 reduced its dreams of grandeur to a prosaic cohabitation, and constrained Paris to befuddled and faltering progress. China, for its part, has long-term strategies, but its calculations are largely undisclosed; and the more its possible hegemony is discussed, the more discreet it becomes.

Besides the sense of a universal mission, and of course, the conviction of incarnating a “manifest destiny”, the Vatican shares other characteristics with the aforementioned great powers…

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

World’s Future Hinges on Peace Between Faiths, Islamic Scholars Tell Pope

Inayat Bunglawala: The Challenge of Muhammad

The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians, Islamic scholars told the Pope today.

In a letter addressed directly to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, 138 prominent Muslim scholars said that finding common ground between the world’s biggest two religions was not “simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue”.

The letter, which is entitled A Common Word between Us and You, says: “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”

The 29-page document argues that the basis for this understanding can be found in the common principles of the religions: “Love of the one God, and love of the neighbour”.

Supporting their argument with quotations from both the Bible and the Qur’an, the signatories say that Mohammed was told the same truths that had already been revealed to previous Christian and Jewish prophets, including Jesus.

But the scholars also stress that there is more at stake than “polite ecumenical dialogue” between religious leaders.

“With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake,” the letter says.

It adds that the Qur’an entreats Muslims to treat Christians and Jews with particular friendship, though it also warns against aggression from Christians.

“We say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them — so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes,” the letter says.

Organised by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, a non-governmental organisation based in Amman, Jordan, the document comes a year after another open letter to the Pope following a controversial speech in which he quoted a medieval text linking Islam and violence.

The institute said: “This historic letter is intended by its 138 signatories as an open invitation to Christians to unite with Muslims over the most essential aspects of their respective faiths — the principles of love of one God and love of the neighbour.

“It is hoped that the recognition of this common ground will provide the followers of both faiths with a shared understanding that will serve to defuse tensions around the world.”

Many of the signatories are grand muftis who each have tens of millions of followers. There are four British supporters, including the Cambridge academic Shaykh Dr Abdul Hakim Murad Winter.

At the letter’s UK launch, Professor Dr Aref Ali Nayed, one of the British signatories, warned people not to get “too hung up” on expecting an answer from the pope.

Dr Nayed, a senior adviser to Cambridge University’s interfaith programme, said: “It has taken almost three years to build this momentum and consensus, it is unprecedented. Every person who extends his hand for a handshake would like something in return but we’re offering this as free love. It’s not a competition. It’s not about reciprocity.

“Islam calls upon us to do this.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, one of the recipients, welcomed the pledge to further dialogue between the two faiths.

“The theological basis of the letter and its call to respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another, are indicative of the kind of relationship for which we yearn in all parts of the world especially where Christians and Muslims live together.

“It is particularly important in underlining the need for respect towards minorities in contexts where either Islam or Christianity is the majority presence.”

The common scriptural foundations for Jews, Christians and Muslims would be the basis for justice and peace in the world, he said.

“The call should now be taken up by Christians and Muslims at all levels and in all countries and I shall endeavour in this country and internationally, to do my part in working for the righteousness which this letter proclaims as our common goal.”

A Common Word coincides with the end of Ramadan and comes just days after the Vatican’s official Eid message, which urged Muslims to respect people of all faiths and not exclude them on the ground of religion, race or any other personal characteristic.

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, the newly appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, has expressed concern about the treatment of Christians in Muslim-majority nations.

In his Eid statement, he called for a “culture of peace and solidarity” and for religious believers to spread a teaching “which honours all human creatures”.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]