Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110119

Financial Crisis
»Greece: 650 Mln in Bonds Issued at Rate of 4.1%
»Man vs. Bank
»Merkel Rules Out Return to Deutsche Mark
»Spain: 5.54 Bln Bond Auction Goes Well, Rates Fall
»UK Facing £1bn Fines Over Use of EU Money
»UK: Unemployment Soars to 2.5m as Record Fifth of Young People Out of Work
»UK: Youth Unemployment Jumps to Record High
»Barack Obama Welcomes Hu Jintao With Human Rights Rebuke
»CAIR: Christina Abraham Meets With AAUW to Discuss Women in Islam
»House Republicans Overturn ‘Obamacare’ In Symbolic Move
»Muslim Girl Maheen Haq, 12, Pulled From Basketball Game for Headscarf ‘Safety Risk’
»Pa. Abortion Doc Charged With 8 Counts of Murder
»WikiLeaks Cables Caused Only Limited Damage: US Government Reviews
»Heritage Minister Orders Library and Archives Canada to Show Controversial Film
Europe and the EU
»Controversial US Pastor Who Threatened to Burn the Koran on 9/11 Anniversary is Banned From Entering UK
»Defending the English Defense League
»Denmark Tries Somali Accused of Cartoonist Attack
»France: Nicolas Sarkozy in Alsace Gaffe
»Germany: Galileo Satellite Boss Suspended Over WikiLeaks Cable
»Italy: Fiat Ready to Raise Italian Wages to German Levels
»Italy: Media Hunt for Berlusconi’s Girlfriend
»Italy: Ruby Case Wiretaps in Parliament
»Italy: Berlusconi Provided Young Women With Apartments Says Court as Probe Widens
»Italy: Ruby Says She Asked Berlusconi for Five Million Euros,
»Italy: Berlusconi Teen Makes Shocking New Revelations
»Rising French Nationalism Portends Shift for Sarkozy
»Sahlin’s Final Plea: Isolate the Sweden Democrats
»UK: Plans to Remove Governors at Failing Muslim School
»UK: Row Brewing Over Halal Meat Regulation
»UK: Secret Tony Blair and George Bush Iraq Letters Were Kept Out of Official Records
»UK: Tory Chief Baroness Warsi Attacks ‘Bigotry’ Against Muslims
»US Pastor Terry Jones Banned From Entering UK
»Bosnia at European Bottom for Purchasing Power
»Kosovans Turn Blind Eye to Fake Foreign Marriages
North Africa
»Egypt: Arab League Ministers Discuss Foreign Non-Interference
»Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Demands Parliament be Dissolved, Calls for New Elections
»Islamist Leader Seeks Return to Tunisia
»Obama Advisor in Algiers
»Tunisia: Events for Anniversary of Craxi’s Death Cancelled
»Tunisia Orders Investigation Into £5bn Fortune of Ben Ali
Middle East
»Iraq: Fraud: Insecurity, Ethnic Clashes and Oil Hamper Census
»Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Tenders His Resignation to the Pope
»St Valentine Arrives Early in Dubai to Elude Alcohol Ban
»Syria: Gov’t to Increase Home Heating Subsidies
»Syria: Social Fund for Poor Families Set Up
South Asia
»Indonesia: Blackberry Maker and Govt Discuss Porn Filters
»Pakistan: Bomb Attack on School in Peshawar, Two Killed and 14 Wounded, Seven Children
»Pakistan: Punjab: Asia Bibi to Move to a Women’s Prison in Multan
»Soldier Killed by Man in Afghan Uniform
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Iran: A Good Ally for Many African Countries
»Italy: Government Deports Convicted Algerian Terrorist
»Migrants Sit First Compulsory Italian Tests
»Norway Gripped as ‘Citizen of the Year’ Faces Deportation to Russia
»UK: Foreigners Take 2 Out of 3 New Jobs: 200k Vacancies Filled by Those Born Overseas
Culture Wars
»Faux Feminist Naomi Wolf Joins Assange in Crusade to Bring Down America
»UK: Two Mothers and Their Toddler Children Banned From Council-Funded Playgroup — for Being British
»Losing the War of Ideas to Radical Islam

Financial Crisis

Greece: 650 Mln in Bonds Issued at Rate of 4.1%

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 18 — Greece has issued 650 million euros of 13-week state bonds with a yield of 4.1%. This is according to the agency of public debt in Athens, which said that demand was 4.98 times the supply.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Man vs. Bank

Utah courts are taking it to the banks

Inquiring minds are watching the fallout in Utah where a man just beat the banks in court by agruing that the bank had no right to foreclose…and he got his house given to him with clear title. This means Mr. Walter Keane does not even have to pay his loan of $132,000. All because of the way MERS handled his documents…or that MERS handled the documents:

A Utah court case in which the owner of a Draper townhouse got clear title to the property, even though he still owed $132,000 on it, raises new legal and financial questions about a property-records database created by mortgage bankers.

The award of a title free of liens means that whoever owns the promissory note on the Draper property — likely a group of faraway investors — no longer has the right to foreclose to collect on a delinquent loan. Indeed, the townhouse owner has sold the property and kept the money. Those who own the promissory note probably don’t even know what occurred.

This is now the second state which has decided against the banks. Remember this post on Massachuetts Supreme Court’s similar decision last month.

This case in Utah may have even more importance:…

[Return to headlines]

Merkel Rules Out Return to Deutsche Mark

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has snuffed out speculation about reintroducing the deutsche mark in Germany as a response to the current euro crisis. In a magazine interview, she renewed her support for the common currency and rejected the idea of splitting the euro zone in two.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has categorically stated that Germany will not abandon the euro and reintroduce the deutsche mark. Her comments are intended to quell speculation that Germany’s love of the common currency is flagging in the wake of expensive bailouts of troubled euro-zone members Greece and Ireland.

In an interview to be published in Germany’s weekly Stern magazine on Thursday, Merkel also rejected the idea of splitting the euro zone into north and south zones, reaffirming Germany’s commitment to an economically united Europe.

“There can be no return to the deutsche mark,” she said, adding that Germany would “continue to do everything necessary to guarantee a stable euro.” She told the magazine that, while she took citizens’ concerns very seriously, she was convinced that “we in Germany can handle everything.”

She expressed strong support for the common European currency and dismissed talk of splitting the euro zone into economically stronger northern countries and weaker southern countries. “Not on my watch. On behalf of Germany I say a clear ‘no’.” She explained her adamant opposition to a north-south division, saying that the situation within Europe “is not so black-and-white anyway.”

Ironing Out Discrepancies

On the subject of France’s demands for a so-called European economic government, Merkel said that the leaders of the EU’s 27 member states had already said in February 2010 that they saw themselves as an economic government. “Now we are facing the question of whether the 17 euro countries should work more intensively together. To that I say: Yes, they should, but not exclusively,” she said. “Whatever we agree on should also remain open to other countries who want to take part.”

She stressed that each country should work towards the same goal: “Each EU country should become more financially stable and economically competitive for itself and for Europe as a whole.” However, a European economic government should look at harmonizing “social and tax policy, employment rights and wage trends in the public sector … to reduce the discrepancies” in these areas.

The chancellor used the differing pension ages across the bloc to illustrate her point. She said that the retirement age should be linked to life expectancy within individual countries, “otherwise a country’s finances may be eaten up by pension payments, leaving nothing left for important investments in the future.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: 5.54 Bln Bond Auction Goes Well, Rates Fall

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 18 — Spain has successfully issued 12- and 18-month state bonds for a total of 5.54 billion euros, managing to secure lower yields.

It is the first time since the bail-out of Ireland in October that Madrid’s bonds have registered a fall in rates.

Some 4.5 billion euros in 12-month bonds were issued at an average rate of 2.947%, compared to the figure of 3.449% in the previous auction in December. Demand was 2.15 times the request, against 2.23 at the last auction. Some 1.0377 billion euros in 18-month bonds were issued, meanwhile, with an average rate of 3.367% against December’s 3.721%. Demand was 4.11 times higher than supply (4.54 previously).

Despite the fall in interest during this auction, Spain is paying 3.5 times as much as it did a year ago.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK Facing £1bn Fines Over Use of EU Money

Roughly £398m of “financial corrections” have already been imposed by the European Commission (EC), and the Treasury has set aside a further £601m to cover additional penalties.

The money is stopped when the EC feels that countries have failed to meet its rules and regulations on the allocation of cash. Most of the problems relate to agricultural payments.

The National Audit Office figures were contained in a report Britain’s use of EU funds.

Auditor general Amyas Morse said of the 2008/9 accounts that there was “a number of significant accounting and other issues” which the Government needed to address.

“The confirmed losses totalling £398 million set out in this report and the provisions for further losses of £601m… represent huge past costs and potential future costs to the taxpayer of implementing EU schemes in the UK,” Mr Morse said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Unemployment Soars to 2.5m as Record Fifth of Young People Out of Work

A record one in five 16 to 24 year olds are out of work, according to grim new unemployment figures.

The number of jobless jumped 32,000 in the quarter to November to reach 951,000, the highest since records began in 1992.

Overall unemployment has now soared to 2.5million — up by 49,000, the data from the Office for National Statistics shows.

The level of unemployment is expected to keep on rising in the near future as the cuts in the public sector take hold.

The unemployment rate is now 7.9 per cent, but for 16 to 24-year-olds it is 20.3 per cent.

Martina Milburn, chief executive of youth charity The Prince’s Trust, said: ‘Britain is now perilously close to seeing one million young people struggling to find work.

‘At this time when there is huge pressure on the public purse, Government, charities and employers must work together to help young people into jobs and save the state billions.’

The only bright news was a 4,100 fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance last month to 1.46million.

Reacting to the figures, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘We face a real danger of losing another generation of young people to unemployment and wasted ambition.


‘By abolishing EMA, pricing young people out of university and cutting support to get them back into work, the Government is punishing youngsters for a mess they didn’t cause.

‘Employment is now falling at its fastest rate since the recession and many of those finding work are settling for insecure temporary work.

‘With the worst of the cuts still to come, this government risks making high joblessness a permanent feature of our economy. It must change course before it’s too late.’

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, added: ‘It’s no surprise that the job loss totals are creeping up. The coalition’s policies are poisonous for our recovery, and risk a downward spiral for our economy.

‘Drastic cuts have hit the public sector, which is shedding jobs. These cuts dampen demand and hit private firms dependent on public sector contracts. The private sector is no knight on a white chariot waiting to come to our rescue.

‘It’s misery for families, hit with a toxic cocktail of high inflation which is pricing them out of everyday living, and dwindling job opportunities.

‘Meanwhile it’s easy street for the bankers who caused this crisis, and are still making off with billions in bonuses.’

There were 157,000 redundancies in the latest quarter, up by 14,000 on the previous three months.

Employment levels are down, redundancies up and the number of people classed as economically inactive is now at 9.3million.

The inactivity rate is now 23.4 per cent after an 89,000 increase in the number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those looking after a sick relative and people who have given up looking for a job…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Youth Unemployment Jumps to Record High

Data from the Office for National Statistics indicates that the number of unemployed individuals aged between 16 and 24 reached 951,000 in the three months to November, up 32,000 on the previous quarter It comes in a week which saw the total number of unemployed Britons rise to 2.5 million, up 49,000 on the previous quarter. It is the latest sign that the private sector is struggling to create enough jobs to offset the number of people being made redundant in the public sector.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: “These grim jobless figures show that rising unemployment is more than an Autumn blip, and that it could get much worse in 2011. With more than a fifth of young people out of work, we face a real danger of losing another generation of young people to unemployment and wasted ambition.” Paul Brown, director, youth charity The Prince’s Trust said: “Youth unemployment is like a dripping tap, costing tens of millions of pounds a week through benefits and lost productivity. And, just like a dripping tap, if we don’t do something to fix it, it’s likely to get much worse.

“It’s now crucial to give young people the support they need to prevent them from falling into the downward spiral of long-term joblessness. Transforming these young lives will have a huge impact on their families, communities as well as on Britain’s economy.” The figures also showed a rise in average weekly pay in November to £455, up by 2.1 per cent on a year earlier.

Prime Minister David Cameron said any increase in unemployment was a matter for “huge concern”, but he pointed out that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance had fallen…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Barack Obama Welcomes Hu Jintao With Human Rights Rebuke

In comments that risk infuriating Beijing, the US president also raised the thorny issue of Tibet and said that the key to a nation’s success is to uphold “the universal rights of every human being”. Although Mr Obama’s message was couched in diplomatic language, it was a clear rebuke to Mr Hu and marked a toughening of America’s stance towards China.

The four-day visit is seen as crucial to improving relations between the two countries.

In a rare joint press conference, Mr Obama delivered a frank message to Mr Hu on human rights. “We have some core views, as Americans, about the universality of certain rights — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly — that we think are very important and that transcend cultures.

“I have been very candid with President Hu about these issues.” He also made clear his dissatisfaction over Chinese business practices. “I did also stress to President Hu that there has to be a level playing for American companies competing in China, that trade has to be fair,” he said.

Mr Obama also called for talks between China and the Dalai Lama “to resolve differences in preserving the religious identity of the Tibetan people.”

In his welcoming address: “History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being.” Mr Hu said he hoped to “increase mutual trust” between China and the United States and to build a “comprehensive” friendship for the 21st century. He also conceded that “a lot still needs to be done” in China on improving human rights…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

CAIR: Christina Abraham Meets With AAUW to Discuss Women in Islam

CAIR-Chicago’s Civil Rights Director Christina Abraham presented to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to discuss women in Islam on Saturday, January 8, 2011.

The AAUW put together the conference at DePaul University in order to achieve more knowledge on the role of women in Islam. The presentation, which drew around thirty audience members, allowed Abraham to bring up present day issues and misconceptions regarding Muslim women.

“Most people do not know the Islamic perspective on women’s role in society,” said Abraham. Abraham spoke out against the misapprehension that was brought up during the presentation. The audience, who were mainly all women, asked multiple questions on Islam and women in other countries besides the United States.

Many questions arose regarding the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, and whether it is a tool of oppression, and whether Muslim women have personal freedoms and equal rights. Countries brought into questioning were primarily Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran.

“There are many general misinterpretations made by the public,” said Abraham “these social problems attributed to Islam, are in reality rooted in culture and politics,”

Abraham said that it is necessary to understand the Islamic context in any situation and to realize that Islam does not support the oppression of Muslim women, in fact “Islam is revolutionary with regards to rights given to women,” she added.

Christina Abraham and CAIR-Chicago members are always dedicated to educating the public on civil rights and Muslim issues, and also work year-round to resolve incidents of discrimination.

           — Hat tip: Freyja’s Cats[Return to headlines]

House Republicans Overturn ‘Obamacare’ In Symbolic Move

WASHINGTON — The newly muscular House Republicans voted Wednesday to overturn President Obama’s health care overhaul — a move that is largely symbolic because the Democratic-controlled Senate is poised to ignore it while Obama is certain to veto it should it somehow pass through Congress.

The House passed the bill 245-189 with three Democrats — Reps. Mike Ross, Dan Boren and Mike McIntyre —joining the Republican effort.

Even though Democrats are certain to block the bill in the Senate, Republicans are determined to chisel away at the law through attempts to deny funding for parts of the legislation as they go into effect in the coming years.

“The Congress can do better in terms of replacing Obamacare with common-sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance and expand access for more Americans,” House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took aim at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has said he won’t even take up the repeal measure in his chamber.

“I’ve got a problem with the assumption here that somehow the Senate can be a place for a legislation to go into a cul-de-sac or a dead end,” he said. “The American people deserve a full hearing. They deserve to see this legislation go to the Senate for a full vote.”…

[Return to headlines]

Muslim Girl Maheen Haq, 12, Pulled From Basketball Game for Headscarf ‘Safety Risk’

A 12-year-old Muslim girl in Maryland was in tears after she was forced to sit out the first half of a basketball game by a referee who said her headscarf posed a safety risk.

The referee cited possible choking as the risk.

Seventh-grader Maheen Haq of Hagerstown was allowed to play the second half wearing the hijab after a league administrator granted her a religious exemption.

Dr. Mohammad and Anina Haq, her parents, said their daughter was in tears after she was called out.

Daphnie V. Campbell, the league coordinator, says the girl’s parents will have to provide a letter stating that the headscarf is part of their daughter’s religion and accept liability for any injuries.

She defended the referee’s action…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pa. Abortion Doc Charged With 8 Counts of Murder

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia abortion doctor has been charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a woman patient and seven babies who prosecutors say were born alive and then killed with scissors. The charges against Dr. Kermit Gosnell follow a long grand jury investigation.

District Attorney Seth Williams says state regulators ignored complaints and failed to visit the clinic since 1993. Williams says the women were subjected to squalid and barbaric conditions at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society, which was shut down last year. Gosnell has been named in at least 10 malpractice suits, including one over the death of a woman who died of sepsis and a perforated uterus.


A doctor who gave abortions to minorities, immigrants and poor women in a “house of horrors” clinic was charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, made millions of dollars over 30 years, performing as many illegal, late-term abortions as he could, prosecutors said. State regulators ignored complaints about him and failed to inspect his clinic since 1993, but no charges were warranted against them given time limits and existing law, District Attorney Seth Williams said. Nine of Gosnell’s employees also were charged.

Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord,” Williams said.

Patients were subjected to squalid and barbaric conditions at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society, where Gosnell performed dozens of abortions a day, prosecutors said. He mostly worked overnight hours after his untrained staff administered drugs to induce labor during the day, they said.

Early last year, authorities went to investigate drug-related complaints at the clinic and stumbled on what Williams called a “house of horrors.” Bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses “were scattered throughout the building,” Williams said. “There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose.”

The clinic was shut down and Gosnell’s medical license was suspended after the raid.

Gosnell and four workers were charged with murder, while five others were charged with controlled drug violations and other crimes. None of the employees had any medical training, and one, a high school student, performed intravenous anesthesia with potentially lethal narcotics, Williams said.

All 10 defendants were taken into custody, authorities said…

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cables Caused Only Limited Damage: US Government Reviews

Despite the Obama administration’s public statements to the contrary, the State Department has privately told Congress that over all, long-term damage to US foreign policy should be containable. According to an official briefed on the detail of the reviews, the administration had felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.

“I think they just want to present the toughest front they can muster,” said a congressional aide familiar with a State Department briefing on the issue.

“We were told [the impact of WikiLeaks revelations] was embarrassing but not damaging,” said the aide.

The State Department had warned hundreds of human rights activists, businessmen and foreign government officials in the belief that the release of thousands of US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks may have placed them in danger.

An administration official said the cables had caused some short-term damage in countries where the WikiLeaks revelations have publicised closer ties with Washington than local officials publicly admit, such as Yemen and Pakistan…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Heritage Minister Orders Library and Archives Canada to Show Controversial Film

OTTAWA — Heritage Minister James Moore has instructed Library and Archives Canada to show the documentary film Iranium after “threats of violence” caused a screening of the film Tuesday to be cancelled, the minister’s office has announced.

Both Mr. Moore and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had earlier criticized Library and Archives, a federal Crown agency, for cancelling the screening.

“The principle of free speech is one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” MR. Moore’s office said in a prepared statement. “Minister Moore took action as soon as he heard that the film was cancelled. The minister has instructed the Library and Archives to honour their commitment to show the film, while taking all appropriate steps to ensure security. Canada does not accept attempts from the Iranian Embassy to dictate what films will, and will not be shown in Canada.”

Pauline Portelance, a spokeswoman for Library and Archives Canada, said the Iranian embassy had sent a letter to the federal institution on the weekend asking that the film be cancelled. The request was denied.

Then, people — whom Ms. Portelance described as “members of the public” — started phoning Library and Archives complaining about the planned screening and threatening to protest. “The threats were getting too serious,” Ms. Portelance said.

A decision was then made to cancel the screening.

Asked about the issue during a press conference on Wednesday morning, Liberal house leader David McGuinty said he supports a “free and open society.”

Officials from both Library and Archives and from the film event’s sponsor, the Free Thinking Society, told iPolitics Wednesday they are prepared to discuss showing the film at a future date.

Fred Litwin, president of the society, said he believed the original cancellation was “ludicrous” but that he believed nevertheless the Library and Archives auditorium remains a good place to show the film.

A website about the film, says:” Iranium powerfully reports on the many aspects of the threat America and the world now faces using rarely before seen footage of Iranian leaders, and interviews with 25 leading politicians, Iranian dissidents and experts on Middle East policy, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation.”

Iranium has only had a few screenings so far in the United States. Its premiere was scheduled to take place Feb. 8 simultaneously at several American cities.

The cancellation angered ministers Moore and Kenney who both twittered their concern.

“I am disappointed that Library & Archives Canada chose not to show the film tonight due to threats of violence,” Mr. Moore said Tuesday. “The Iranian Embassy will not dictate to the Government of Canada which films will or will not be shown in Canada.”

Kenney tweeted similar remarks.

“The cancellation of tonight’s screening of Iranium is outrageous,” Mr. Kenney said Tuesday.

This is not the first time Library and Archives, Iran and freedom of speech have clashed.

An Iranian journalist and author Ali Dehbashi was scheduled to appear at the 2003 Ottawa International Writers Festival at Library and Archives Canada. Mr. Dehbashi had a reputation of being out of favour with the Iranian government.

At the last minute, Mr. Dehbashi mysteriously disappeared and was a no-show at the scheduled event. The Iranian embassy in Ottawa claimed the Canadian embassy in Tehran had refused to grant Mr. Dehbashi a visa. The Canadian government denied such claims. Meanwhile, Mr. Dehbashi’s email account stopped working and his website disappeared.

The Iranian ambassador at the time had actually helped launch the writers festival that year at Library and Archives before the news came of Mr. Dehbashi’s disappearance.

Ambassador Mohammad A. Mousavi delivered an opening-night speech in which he characterized his country as one that has, for thousands of years, allowed writers to flourish.

A few days later, came the news of Mr. Dehbashi’s disappearance.

A quick check of Iranian-interest websites reveals that Mr. Dehbashi eventually resurfaced and continues to write as a journalist and author.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Controversial US Pastor Who Threatened to Burn the Koran on 9/11 Anniversary is Banned From Entering UK

The US preacher who sparked outrage by saying he was going to burn copies of the Koran has been banned from entering the UK.

Pastor Terry Jones had threatened to burn copies of the Islamic book at his Florida-based church to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America last year.

He had been invited to England by a group called England Is Ours, next month.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.

‘Numerous comments made by Pastor Jones are evidence of his unacceptable behaviour.

‘Coming to the UK is a privilege, not a right, and we are not willing to allow entry to those whose presence is not conducive to the public good.

‘The use of exclusion powers is very serious and no decision is taken lightly or as a method of stopping open debate.’

Pastor Jones was to speak at a series of demonstrations against the expansion of Islam and the construction of mosques in the UK.

A spokesman for England Is Ours said he hoped other members of Pastor Jones’s outreach centre would be able to visit and speak to the group if the controversial preacher was unable to get the decision overturned.

Barry Taylor, secretary of the activists’ group based in Milton Keynes, said Pastor Jones had planned to visit in mid-February to attend a number of meetings with other similar organisations.

He said: ‘I’m very disappointed. The whole object of the exercise is to have a discussion about the Islamification of the UK and just have dialogue about the problems.

‘The idea isn’t to cause trouble or kick up a stink. These things do need addressing and people do need to speak about them. We shouldn’t be frightened about them.’

Mr Taylor added he had expected around 100 people to attend events organised for Pastor Jones including around 30 members of England Is Ours.

‘It’s quite possible that other members of his outreach may be able to come,’ he added.

‘I understand Pastor Jones is planning some visits to nearby European countries and we will be able to go and visit him there.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Defending the English Defense League

The EDL, or English Defense League, which vigorously opposes the advance of Islam into the cultural nexus of Western democracies, finds itself on the receiving end of the customary hysteria that greets every such attempt to defend a way of life we have too long taken for granted. Originating in the city of Luton in England, where a substantial, radicalized Muslim population has been linked to various terror plots and fomented demonstrations against British troops returning from Iraq, the EDL has taken its premonitory message to Europe and North America. A rally was held on January 11, 2011 in Toronto, hosted by the Jewish Defense League (JDL). Predictably, it was met by “pacifist” protesters, associated with several anti-Zionist and ostensibly anti-racist groups, chanting such peaceable slogans as “EDL—go to Hell” and “Smash, Smash, Smash EDL”—and, yes, initiating pockets of violence requiring police intervention. So it goes.

Although defamed as a “neo-fascist organization” responsible for targeting “all Muslim people simply for being who they are,” nothing could be further from the case. The EDL warns of a dark and troubling future in which Shari’a courts become part of Western legal systems, no-go zones spread through our cities, and Islamic violence increasingly becomes a norm of daily life. In effect, the EDL sees Luton as the potential face of 21rst century Europe and a harbinger of the destabilization of Canada and the United States. This is a message that does not sit well with militant left-wing organizations, such as Unite Against Fascism in the U.K., so-called Human Rights groups such as the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and the ridiculously named Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in Canada, and even the TSA in the U.S. In defiance of the luridly obvious, no reference is made to the pro-Islamic slant of the campaign to discredit the EDL’s judicious sounding of the alarm. The EDL, as we have seen, has been castigated as “part of an alarming rise in fascist, racist and neo-Nazi organizing in Europe” which targets Muslims and immigrants. It is denounced for street rumbles, for sponsoring hate fests against Muslims and for lighting the fires of social unrest. The evidence to the contrary is considered inadmissible.

For the truth is very much the antithesis of the largely unsubstantiated claims and accusations being hurled against the League. The truth, as Rochelle Michaels points out in a recent article on the subject, is that “corrupt EU governments and politicians” have become advocates for Islam, that “Marxists in the mainstream press…continually whitewash the truth about Islamic Fascism,” as do academics in our universities, and that “roving gangs of Islamic thugs are wreaking havoc…in every EU country.” And indeed, the street clashes laid at the door of the EDL, as Michaels indicates, are generally ignited by leftists and Islamists attacking EDL demonstrators, often with the complicity of the police who “turn a blind eye” to what is actually taking place—a frequent occurrence in Britain. There can be little doubt that the agencies of political correctness have given these disruptive elements a free pass…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Denmark Tries Somali Accused of Cartoonist Attack

A Somali man went on trial in a Danish court Wednesday charged with attempted manslaughter and terrorism after attacking the home of the cartoonist whose 2005 drawing of the Prophet Mohammad stirred global Muslim outrage.

The 29-year-old man is accused of breaking into the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard with an axe on New Year’s day last year, which prosecutors said was an attempted act of terrorism — a charge that could bring a life sentence.

The man is also charged with trying to kill a police officer by throwing the axe at him when police rushed to Westergaard’s home to detain the attacker, a police official said.

The man pleaded not guilty to the terrorism and attempted manslaughter charges but admitted to breaking into the house and assaulting a police officer, officials said.

He told the court he was only trying to frighten Westergaard, 75, who escaped to a safe room in his home and was unhurt. A verdict is expected around February 4.

Prosecutors at the opening session of the trial in the town of Arhus played recordings of Westergaard’s calls to police from his panic room and surveillance footage showing the man smashing through the patio door of the house with his axe…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France: Nicolas Sarkozy in Alsace Gaffe

Mr Sarkozy made the slip during a speech in the Alsatian town of Truchtersheim, less than 20 miles from the German border. Speaking to representatives of the agricultural industry, Mr Sarkozy said he could accepted unfair competition between China and India, but not between Germany and France.

“I’m not saying that simply because I’m in Germany,” he said, before correcting himself to say: “I’m in Alsace.”

The crowd immediately began jeering and then booing Mr Sarkozy, who appeared shocked by what he had said, putting his hands up in the air as if surrender.

Alsace, historically one of the most strategically crucial regions in France, was contested constantly between France and Germany during the 19th and 20th Century.

It became part of Germany following the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 before being handed back to France at the end of the First World War as part of the Treaty of Versailles.

This caused great bitterness among the Germans, resulting in the Nazis annexing the region in 1940.

Thousands of young Alsatians were then drafted into the Waffen SS — many against their will — and were involved in some of the worst atrocities against French people during the war…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: Galileo Satellite Boss Suspended Over WikiLeaks Cable

The head of a German firm working on Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system has been suspended after a WikiLeaks cable cited him as describing it as a “stupid idea,” the company said on Tuesday.

Satellite firm OHB Technology suspended Berry Smutny indefinitely and “with immediate effect,” spokesman Steffen Leuthold said.

According to an October 2009 cable from the US embassy in Berlin obtained by WikiLeaks and released by Norwegian daily Aftenposten, Smutny said: “I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests.”

Smutny, whose firm won a €566 million ($759 million) contract to develop 14 satellites for the system, also said the project was “a waste of EU taxpayers’ money championed by French interests,” according to the cable.

The supervisory board of OHB “disapproves of these conversations and the quotes attributed to Mr. Smutny,” said Leuthold.

Smutny has denied making the comments.

“We believe him, but the damage to our reputation was too big,” Leuthold told news agency AFP.

Galileo aims to challenge the dominance of the US-built Global Positioning System (GPS) set up by the Pentagon in the 1980s, which is widely used in a huge variety of navigation devices.

Plagued by delays and cost over-runs, Galileo has an official price tag of €3.4 billion but reports have said the final cost of the system could exceed €20 billion. It is scheduled to be operational in 2014.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat Ready to Raise Italian Wages to German Levels

CEO upbeat after Mirafiori voted Yes to contested plan

(ANSA) — Rome, January 18 — Fiat is ready to raise the salaries of its Italian workers to German levels and share profits if they help reduce production costs, CEO Sergio Marchionne said after a key production plan for a Turin plant was approved.

Workers at the historic Mirafiori’s plant at the weekend narrowly backed a hotly contested deal the carmaker had struck with moderate unions outside Italy’s long-established system of nationally negotiated collective contracts.

Marchionne says factory-specific deals like it and a previous one for the Pomigliano d’Arco plant, near Naples, are needed to boost productivity at Italian plants in order to press ahead with plans to invest some 20 billion euros in Italy over the next five years. “Let me improve the costs of using the plants and I’ll raise the salaries,” Marchionne said in an interview published in Tuesday’s edition of Rome-based daily La Repubblica after 54% of Mirafiori workers backed the plan.

“We can go up to the level of Germany and France. I’m ready”.

He added that he would also like to introduce profit-sharing schemes for Fiat’s Italian workers while stressing that “we have to make profits (at the plants), before we can share them”.

The vote at the loss-making and traditionally militant Mirafiori factory was seen as a decisive test of Fiat’s bid to revamp industrial relations in its homeland.

Marchionne had threatened to drop plans to invest one billion euros in Mirafiori to produce new models there if the deal were rejected.

The carmaker met fierce opposition from the left-wing CGIL union and its engineering workers’ arm FIOM to both the Pomigliano and Mirafiori deals.

They see these agreements, which feature reductions in break times, increases in shifts, measures to cut absenteeism and limits on the ability to strike, as an attack on labour rights. Indeed CGIL chief Susanna Camusso had said the union is considering taking Fiat to court to have agreements nullified, while FIOM will stage a one-day strike on January 28 in protest.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Media Hunt for Berlusconi’s Girlfriend

Ex models, party members touted as possible companions

(ANSA) — Rome, January 18 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s assertion that he has a steady girlfriend as he sought to fend off allegations he paid to have sex with an underage belly dancer has sparked off a media hunt for the mystery woman.

Berlusconi said at the weekend his companion would never allow him to frequent prostitutes, after prosecutors said they were investigating suspicions he paid for sex with several young women, including a Moroccan called Ruby when she was 17.

The premier, whose second wife Veronica Lario filed for divorce in 2009, said he did not want to name his girlfriend because of the media attention this would expose her to.

Speculation that the girlfriend is Darina Pavlova, a Bulgarian former model and the widow of Iliya Pavlov, a billionaire businessman murdered in Sofia in 2003, was boosted by claims made by a Rome hairdresser Tuesday.

VIP hairdresser Massimo Topo told the Italian media his client and friend Pavlova had been with Berlusconi for about three years and was “very much in love”. Among the other women touted as possible sweethearts is Nicole Minetti, Berlusconi’s former dental hygienist and a Lombardy regional councillor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party who is under investigation for procuring prostitutes as part of the Ruby probe.

Another is a 26-year-old nurse and former Miss Turin beauty queen Roberta Bonasia.

Indeed, Minetti is transcribed as telling a friend in a telephone wiretap leaked to the media that Berlusconi had “lost his head” for Bonasia and was spending a lot of time with her.

The name of Federica Gagliardi, a 28-year-old who is part of the staff of the PdL’s governor for Lazio and accompanied the premier on an official mission abroad in June last year, has featured in the guessing game too.

Francesca Pascale, a 25-year-old PdL councillor for the province of Naples, refused to deny rumours she was the girlfriend in an interview in Tuesday’s Corriere della Sera, adding that she “adored” Berlusconi.

Italian bookmakers are giving shortest odds on the likelihood that the companion is an MP, ahead of the hypothesis of a model or showgirl, while the daughter of a foreign head of state is pitched as a long shot.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ruby Case Wiretaps in Parliament

(AGI) Rome — Milan’s chief prosecutor sent to the House a number of wiretaps in which Ruby allegedly asks Berlusconi for 5 million to vanish from the affair she is involved in. The wiretaps are included in the prosecutor’s request to proceed.

Transcripts of the wiretap allegedly read, “I spoke to Silvio and told him I want to get something out of all this…5 million…5 million.”

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

Italy: Berlusconi Provided Young Women With Apartments Says Court as Probe Widens

Milan, 17 Jan. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy’s flamboyant prime minister Silvio Berlusconi provided some young women who frequented his villa outside Milan with apartments in the city, according to prosecutors investigating him in a prostitution probe.

In a request to carry out searches, prosecutors said they identified some women who were provided apartments in Milano 2, a housing complex developed by Berlusconi, and “also received other funds” through intermediaries targeted in the case for abetting prostitution.

The document was posted on the website of the lower house of the Italian parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, which must decide whether to allow the searches.

Prostitution isn’t a crime in Italy, but exploiting or aiding prostitution with minors is.

Friends of the premier who are also targeted in the probe “identified, selected and accompanied a relevant number of young women, who prostituted themselves with Silvio Berlusconi in his residence and were paid money by him,” even though the funds were distributed by intermediaries, Milan prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberti wrote in the document.

Berlusconi, 74, said in a video posted on his party’s website on Sunday and aired on his Mediaset TV network that he had never paid for sex and that he currently was in a stable relationship, although he did not say with whom.

Bruti Liberati said on Jan. 14 that Berlusconi is an official suspect in the probe into his use of under-age prostitutes and abuse of office by helping to free her from police custody on an unrelated theft charge. In the video, Berlusconi called the allegations “unfounded and laughable” and said prosecutors were out to destroy him politically.

Karima El Mahroug, the young woman at the center of the probe, denied having sex with Berlusconi in an interview yesterday on Sky TG24. Berlusconi gave her 7,000 euros after she attended a party at his Milan mansion to help her in a tough economic situation, she said.

Ruby, as the woman is known, was 17 when she said she attended the party. She told Berlusconi and others she was 24 as she didn’t want anyone to know she was a minor, she said.

The allegations have made the prime minister more determined to push ahead with an overhaul of the justice system to limit the power of prosecutors, he said.

“We can’t go on like this,” he said in the video. “It’s not a free country when you pick up the phone and you aren’t sure about the inviolability of your own conversations. It’s not a free country when some judges carry out political battles and use their power illegitimately to work against people who were democratically elected.”

Berlusconi, acquitted in eight corruption trials since entering politics in 1994, has called himself history’s most- persecuted man. He’s been the target in 105 investigations and faced 28 trials, spending 300 million euros on legal and consultant fees to defend himself, he said on 14 Jan.

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

Italy: Ruby Says She Asked Berlusconi for Five Million Euros,

Claims to Have Been Seeing PM Since She Was 16

Tapped telephone conversations in file now before Chamber of Deputies

MILAN — “I’ve been going to his home since I was 16 but I’ve always denied everything” to “protect him”. A witness who has seen the file report that the words appear in an electronic eavesdropping transcript sent by the Milan public prosecutor’s office to the competent Chamber of Deputies’ committee, requesting authorisation to take legal proceedings. The conversation is between “Ru” and “Poliana”. One of the two women says: “I denied everything and said no, I had been at his house, but he thought I was over age. He thought I was 24, partly because I don’t look it. Then, when he found out I was a minor, he threw me out” because, she adds, “I’m trying to protect him, so I can get something out of this”.

FIVE MILLION — “My case is the one that scares them all. It’s getting bigger than D’Addario or Letizia. I spoke to Silvio and told him I wanted something out of this: five million. Five million for having my name dragged through the mud”. According to the witness, this is what Ruby told Sergio Corsaro’s mother in a tapped phone call published in the public prosecutor’s request. According to celebrity gossip reports, Sergio Corsaro is a hairdresser who used to go out with Ruby. “We’re not worrying about anything because Silvio keeps calling me up. He told me to pretend to be insane and tell them any old bullshit”, Ruby is alleged to have told Sergio Corsaro over the phone. She said, again to Sergio Corsaro: “He called me and said ‘Ruby, I’ll give you whatever amount you want. I’ll pay you. I’ll cover you in gold, but the important thing is to keep everything under wraps. Don’t say a thing to anyone”. Investigators say that the phone call took place between 26 and 28 October. “My lawyer said ‘Ruby, we have to find a solution’. This case is bigger than D’Addario or Letizia”. Ruby was speaking on the phone to Poliana on 26 October. But in an interview with il Giornale newspaper, Luca Giuliante, the lawyer who took charge of the application for Ruby’s custody, denies what has emerged from the Milan investigators’ phone taps, in which Ruby claims she — and her lawyer — demanded five million euros from Silvio Berlusconi in return for silence: “It must be the projection of a desire elaborated by her imagination. When I play Superenalotto, I imagine what it would be like to win serious money, too. Ruby, and I say this benevolently, is a young girl, with no points of reference, including the value of words”.

FEDE — Oral sex “at €300. All night for €300. Maristelle had to send her away. She was working with men who threw up in the car. They found her in a car with drugs and a knife”. This time the telephone conversation is between Emilio Fede and Nicole Minetti, according to those who have read the file. [Tg4 news director] Emilio Fede is also reported to have told Lombardy regional councillor Ms Minetti that he paid “€10,000” out of his own pocket to one girl because “she had photos taken with her camera phone” and “needed the money”.

“LELE MORA KNEW” — In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Ruby said that Mr Mora was unaware she was a minor only until her alleged first visit to Arcore on 14 February 2010. “I’d told him I was 18”, she said. “He found out the truth after 14 February. I told the prime minister I was 24, Lele heard about it and called me to find out the real story. I told him I’d lied about my age. He said I had disappointed him. He lost his temper and sent me away”. But a few weeks later during an air-clearing encounter in Corso Como, the agent and the young woman made their peace. “Lele told me that he had thought it over and he felt sick at the thought that a 17-year-old should be with all those pigs. As he said it, he gestured at the people round about, meaning those circles. Then he said he would apply for my custody, which he actually did by putting the proposition to his daughter. A better future opened up before me. I would be part of a family. I said OK”.

“UNBELIEVABLE” — Also among the transcripts are reported to be excerpts from other phone calls between girls referred to as “T.M. and B.V.” in the summons issued by the Milan public prosecutor’s office to Silvio Berlusconi: “It’s unbelievable. You don’t know. All of them call him “love” or “darling”. You can’t begin to imagine what goes on there. The papers don’t tell the half of it even when they’re massacring him”. One of the phrases reported is: “You’re either ready to do anything or you take a taxi and leave”.

“WE WALKED IN WITHOUT ANY CHECKS” — “We walked in without any kind of check. It’s dead easy. You say your name into the entryphone and in you go”. Another woman uses the term “desolation” in connection with the parties at Mr Berlusconi’s residence. She continues: “Yes, yes, I got to know him really well. He introduced me to everyone and even dedicated a song to me”.

THE TWINS — Phone taps sent to the Chamber of Deputies authorisation committee include a conversation between Imma and Eleonora De Vivo in which the twins discuss Silvio Berlusconi. “I thought he’d put on weight, he looked uglier”, said Imma to her sister in a phone call on 25 September 2010 after an invitation from the prime minister, it is reported. “I thought he’d put on weight. He looked uglier. Last year, he was looking fitter”, adding “Now he’s looking over the hill. And he’s ugly with it. He’s just got to cough up. Let’s hope he’s more generous. I’m not giving him s… for nothing”.

MARIA ROSARIA ROSSI AND BUNGA BUNGA — The request for a warrant to search the office of Mr Berlusconi’s accountant, Giuseppe Spinelli, contains the transcript of a phone call between People of Freedom parliamentarian Maria Rosaria Rossi and Emilio Fede, in which they talk about bunga bunga. Here is what the file is reported to contain. Maria Rosaria Rossi asks Emilio Fede: “But are you coming here?” The Tg4 news director replies that he will not be at the appointment before 9-9.15 pm, adding, “I’ve got two girlfriends with me”. Ms Rossi responds: “What a bore you are. So it’s bunga bunga, two in the morning and bye bye”.

FERRIGNO — “There were orgies in there, not with drugs as far as I know. But they were all drinking half undressed. Berlusconi started singing and telling jokes. Three of them (Berlusconi, Mora and Fede) and 28 girls. All girls who by the end had no bra on and were wearing only tight knickers”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Berlusconi Teen Makes Shocking New Revelations

Rome, 19 Jan. (AKI) — The Moroccan teenage nightclub dancer at the centre of a prostitution probe involving Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday she’d been raped as a child by two uncles and had boiling oil poured over her.

“When I was nine years old, I was raped by two of my uncles — my father’s brothers,” Karima El Mahgroug said in an interview on one of Berlusconi’s TV channels.

“The only person who I dared to talk to about what happened, my mother, said — keep quiet, because if your dad finds out you’re not a virgin, he’ll kill you,” said El Mahroug, who is more often known by her stagename Ruby.

After she was raped, she invented a ‘parallel world’ to shut out the horror. “I told my schoolmates I had a marvellous family, and I pretended I was Wonderwoman.”

But her immigrant father was violent towards her and when she was 12, he threw a pan of boiling oil over her after she said she wanted to become a Catholic, El Mahroug claimed.

After that incident, El Mahroug said she first ran away from the family home in the eastern Sicilian coastal town of Letojanni, and stole a woman’s handbag before being found by police.

But she denied she had become a prostitute. “I tried but I didn’t succeed. Like my mother told me, you’re born a hooker, you don’t become one,” El Mahroug claimed.

El Mahroug, who is now 18, also denied allegations that she had slept with Berlusconi when she was 17, in exchange for money and gifts.

“He never touched me, not even with a finger,” she claimed.

Transcripts of tapped phone conversations published in Italian media on Wednesday quoted El Mahroug as saying she had being going to Berlusconi’s home since she was sixteen.

Over 100 phone calls were recorded between them and a friend told investigators she had bragged they had sex, the reports said, citing the 385-page dossier detailing the investigation into the billionaire media mogul.

“I esteem him as a person and for helping me without anything in return,” said El Mahroug, although she earlier told prosecutors Berlusconi had given her 7,000 euros, jewellery and an Audio car.

She also denied having asked the 74-year-old Italian premier for five million euros to keep quiet, as she had reportedly her ex-boyfriend’s mother in an intercepted phone-call.

Also on Wednesday, a panel of the lower house of the Italian parliament said it would defer until next Tuesday at the earliest any decision on whether to allow Milan magistates to search the offices of Berlusconi’s financial administrator Giuseppe Spinelli.

The prosecutors want to carry out the searches as part of a widening prostitution probe allegedly involving a number of other young women besides El Mahroug and three Berlusconi associates who are suspected of abetting prostitution.

Prosecutors say they have wiretap evidence that Spinelli paid young women, many of them aspiring showgirls, 5,000 euros each time they attended one of the premier’s alleged sex parties at his villa in Arcore near Milan.

Berlusconi has refused calls from the opposition to resign over the case, dubbed Rubygate, in which he is also alleged to have abused his power in pressuring police to let Ruby out of custody after she was accused of theft.

“Are you mad?” the sex-scandal mired premier replied to reporters late on Tuesday.

He denies having sex with Ruby and other young women and said it would be “illogical” for him to appear before prosecutors to answer allegations that he used an underage prostitute.

Using underage prostitutes carries a jail term of up to three years in Italy while abuse of office can be punished by a term of up to 12 years.

Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano said on Tuesday the country was “in turmoil” over prostitution accusations against Berlusconi.

After a meeting with the premier, he urged “clarity” and said he hoped Berlusconi would respond to Milan prosecutors as soon as possible.

The Vatican has not commented on the case, but the Italian bishops have called the investigation a “devastating tornado” and their newspaper Avvenire said the implication of Italy’s head of government in the probe was “hurtful and upsetting”.

Berlusconi’s centre-right government is senstive to losing Catholic support.

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

Rising French Nationalism Portends Shift for Sarkozy

France hosted the sequel to the Battle of Tours last weekend. The sequel, though, was not a re-enactment along the lines of our annual Battle of Gettysburg. Instead, for the participants, it was a real battle against the same foe, Islam.

The first battle took place outside the city walls in October 732, when the Frankish infantry led by Charles Martel defeated the Muslim cavalry led by Abd al-Raman. The historical consequences of this battle are still debated. In the 18th century, Edward Gibbon famously suggested that, had it not been for Martel’s victory, “the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught at Oxford.” Contemporary scholars instead consider the Muslim invasion a raid for booty, not an effort to conquer France.

The rank-and-file of the extreme right wing National Front, gathered for their annual conference in Tours, plumped for Gibbon’s interpretation. On Sunday, they voted for Marine Le Pen to succeed her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s octogenarian founder. The contest pitted Le Pen against her father’s second in command, Bruno Gollnisch. The contest was frequently framed as generational: Gollnisch is a gray-haired veteran, while Le Pen is young and media-savvy. Yet there is good reason to think that, issues of personality aside, Le Pen’s victory exemplifies the old French adage: Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Since the late 19th century, populist parties in France have been as common as they have been ephemeral. The FN, though, is different. Created in 1972, it has moved from the margins to the center of French politics. In 2002, Le Pen won 17 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections. Though Jacques Chirac’s Gaullist party eventually trounced the FN, the party’s breakthrough made it clear that it was around to stay.

A street brawler and paratrooper accused of torture during the Algerian war, Le Pen’s history of violence extends to his language. His so-called “dérapages,” or verbal “skids,” have long been an item in the media and courts. Le Pen has variously asserted that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were a “detail of history,” denied Vichy’s complicity in the Final Solution and rhymed the name of a Jewish politician, Michel Durafour (who subsequently committed suicide), with crématoire, or crematorium. His daughter seeks to repackage the FN. Like Gianfranco Fini, the former neo-fascist politician who has pulled his followers to the center of Italy’s ideological spectrum, Le Pen styles herself as the harbinger of a nicer and gentler French nationalism. She has thus disassociated herself from her father’s forays into Holocaust denial, declaring that she has “a different vision of the past.”

Whatever that vision happens to be, Marine Le Pen turns out to skid with the same aplomb as her father. Instead of Jews, though, her targets are Muslims. A few weeks ago, she questioned the Friday prayers of Muslims. In certain neighborhoods, she complained, there are so many Muslims that prayers spill onto the sidewalks. Rather than concluding this is a sign of too few mosques — a persistent (and legitimate) complaint of French Muslim leaders — Le Pen announced it was evidence of too many Muslims. Instead raking over the war years, she asked, why not talk about this “new occupation”?…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sahlin’s Final Plea: Isolate the Sweden Democrats

The first party leader debate of the year was the last for the Social Democrats’ Sahlin, who called for more cross-coalition cooperation to squeeze out the Sweden Democrats.

“Sweden is too small for major conflicts. Our framework has grown through cooperation. That which is built across coalition boundaries remains strong and endures,” she said.

Sahlin ended her speech with a call to end partisan politics in order to reduce the influence of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, who entered the Riksdag for the first time following Sweden’s 2010 general elections.

“It’s the only way to isolate a xenophobic party,” she said.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson brought neither a present nor warm words for Sahlin. Instead, he stated that she served as an inspiration for for the Sweden Democrats “as a symbol of the failed multicultural project.”

Sahlin thanked her parliamentary colleagues for the fun and tedious debates she has engaged in over the last 30 years and was thanked in turn from the right to left.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt thanked Sahlin for a “solid and genuine political performance.”

“Mona Sahlin has the power to arouse feelings far beyond the boundaries of one’s own political party,” he stated in tribute.

He also presented her with a farewell gift: an iPhone with Mahatma Gandhi’s book “The art of turning the world upside down” to listen to during her power walks.

Sahlin and outgoing Green Party spokeswoman Wetterstrand admitted that they will miss each other.

“However, now we can go out and have a drink together,” said Sahlin.

After Wetterstrand’s speech, the speeches of thanks continued, with the exception of Åkesson’s, for Wetterstrand and Green co-leader Peter Eriksson, both of whom, according to party rules, must step down this year.

In her closing speech, Wetterstrand chose to go on a frontal attack against the xenophobic policies of Denmark and expressed the hope that the government will cooperate to prevent Sweden from becoming is what Denmark is today.

“The Green Party stands for openness, freedom, diversity and responsibility for future generations. I cannot imagine a worse restriction than to have what is in place now in Denmark, where one cannot marry whoever one wants,” she said.

Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund commended Sahlin for her courage and regeneration.

“It is not my business to replace the Social Democrats’ party leader, but I think the party has made a mistake,” he said.

Björklund also praised Sahlin for the speech she gave after her departure.

“If you had made this speech earlier, even I would have voted for you,” he joked.

Centre Party leader Maud Olofsson recalled the tough battles she had with Sahlin and expressed the hope that the next Social Democratic leader will be a woman.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Plans to Remove Governors at Failing Muslim School

EDUCATION bosses in Slough are proposing to remove the governorship at a failing Muslim school in a bid to oversee its ‘necessary’ turnaround. The board of governors at Iqra Islamic Primary School, the town’s first Muslim state school which received £8m funding from the government, has said it will resist the ‘unjustified’ move by Slough Borough Council. The primary in Grasmere Avenue was placed in ‘special measures’ in March following an Ofsted Inspection which rated the school overall, as well as it capacity to improve, as ‘inadequate’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Row Brewing Over Halal Meat Regulation

An organisation which licenses companies dealing in halal meat has been accused of bullying the firms it regulates.

The Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) was set up in 2003 in Leicester, with the aim of carrying out inspections in abattoirs and meat wholesalers and to monitor butchers. In return the businesses would be given a HMC licence — and pay a monthly fee.

Some retailers have complained the HMC is too heavy-handed, uses bullying tactics to get them to join the scheme and are just in it to make money.

But the HMC said it existed to give people peace of mind over quality of food, that it wanted to protect high standards and was not bullying anyone.

Mehboob Ayub, who has a butcher’s shop in Huddersfield, alleged that HMC inspectors threatened him, tried to damage his property and told people in the local mosque not buy his meat.

“They tried to push me in my shop and argue with me, they tried to take my posters down and have been telling people in the local mosque not to buy meat from my shop,” Mr Ayub said.

“I buy my meat from a HMC-registered slaughterhouse, my wholesaler has a HMC licence, so why should I pay them £30 a week to sell the meat? They just want money.”

The HMC denies his claims, saying it does not go into mosques and “shame” retailers.

It is now operating in about 40 towns and cities in the UK with a sizeable Muslim population, employing more than 100 inspectors and monitors.

Some people have said they have no issues with the HMC. Rahail Tariq owns an Asian supermarket in Bradford and has an HMC licence.

He said: “I’ve never had a problem with them, their monitors come three times a week to inspect what I am selling and check to see if all my stock has HMC labels on them.

“If they’re not happy they will tell me why and I will put it right.”

‘Affected our business’

But another Bradford supermarket owner told a different story. Omar Younas said he had his licence taken away over a small error which he was not allowed to resolve.

“I told the HMC inspector that a mistake had been made with my suppliers and not me and that I would sort out the problem,” he said.

“They were not interested and said I would be reported to head office, who would decide.

“I spent a day trying to sort things out with the HMC but all they did was take away my licence and then demanded I pay one year’s fees up front if I wanted it back…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Secret Tony Blair and George Bush Iraq Letters Were Kept Out of Official Records

A request by the Iraq Inquiry to publish the correspondence was rejected this week — even though both leaders have discussed their contents extensively in their recent memoirs.

A transcript of evidence given behind closed doors by Matthew Rycroft, the former prime minister’s private secretary, and released by the inquiry yesterday shows that references to the notes, sent in the year running up to the March 2003 invasion, were removed from official records.

He told the inquiry that Mr Blair considered the letters to be part of a “personal dialogue” and so he deleted references to them from minutes of phone calls between the leaders.

Sir John Chilcot, the Inquiry chairman, has expressed his “disappointment” that his request to declassify the letters, along with notes taken of meetings between the two, was rejected. He pointed out that both leaders, and former Downing Street aides Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, had referred to them in recent memoirs and diaries.

Analysis by the Telegraph of the four books shows that there are least 20 references to the letters and meetings, including four each by Mr Blair and President Bush.

At one point, President Bush even quotes from one of the letters which Sir Gus has refused to make public.

While Sir John and the inquiry panel have seen the documents, they are unable to refer to them in detail in their final report or use them to question Mr Blair when he gives evidence for a second time tomorrow…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Tory Chief Baroness Warsi Attacks ‘Bigotry’ Against Muslims

Prejudice against Muslims has become widespread and socially acceptable in Britain, the Conservative chairman will claim.

Islamophobia has “passed the dinner-table test” and is seen by many as normal and uncontroversial, Baroness Warsi will say in a speech on Thursday.

The minister without portfolio will also warn that describing Muslims as either “moderate” or “extremist” fosters growing prejudice.

Lady Warsi, the first Muslim woman to attend Cabinet, has pledged to use her position to wage an “ongoing battle against bigotry”.

Her comments are the most high-profile intervention in Britain’s religious debate by any member of David Cameron’s government.

They also confirm the Coalition’s determination to depart from its Labour predecessor’s policy of keeping out of issues of faith.

Lady Warsi will use a speech at the University of Leicester to attack what she sees as growing religious intolerance in the country, especially towards followers of Islam.

A recent study estimated there are now around 2.9 million Muslims in Britain, up from 1.6 million in 2001.

Some religious and social commentators have suggested that growth in numbers gives rise to legitimate concerns, asking whether strict adherence to the faith is compatible with the values of Western democracies.

Some Christian leaders have also said that Britain has become less tolerant of their faith during the same period.

In response, Lady Warsi will blame “the patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media”. The peer will describe how prejudice against Muslims has grown along with their numbers, partly because of the way they are often portrayed.

The notion that all followers of Islam can be described either as “moderate” or “extremist” can fuel misunderstanding and intolerance, she will say.

“It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of ‘moderate’ Muslims leads; in the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: ‘Not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim’.

“In the school, the kids say: ‘The family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad’.

“And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: ‘That woman’s either oppressed or is making a political statement’.”

A decade of growth in the British Muslim population also saw the first al-Qaeda attacks on British soil and Lady Warsi will address the issue of terrorism and extremism.

Terrorist offences committed by a small number of Muslims must not be used to condemn all who follow the faith, she will insist.

But she will also suggest that some Muslim communities must do more to make clear to extremists that their beliefs and actions are not acceptable.

“Those who commit criminal acts of terrorism in our country need to be dealt with not just by the full force of the law,” she will say.

“They also should face social rejection and alienation across society and their acts must not be used as an opportunity to tar all Muslims.”

Her call echoes Mr Cameron’s New Year message, in which the Prime Minister asked why the country was “allowing” the continuing radicalisation of young British Muslims.

Lady Warsi will also reveal that she raised the issue of Islamophobia with the Pope when he visited Britain last year, urging him to “create a better understanding between Europe and its Muslim citizens.”

Despite her warnings, she will recognise that Britain has a long history of tolerance and diversity…

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

US Pastor Terry Jones Banned From Entering UK

Controversial US pastor Terry Jones has been barred from entering the UK for the public good, the Home Office says.

The pastor had been invited to address right-wing group England Is Ours in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

Mr Jones gained international attention last year for threatening to burn a copy of the Koran outside his church on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

His son, Pastor Luke Jones, said the family was “shocked” and the decision did not “benefit England”.

The Home Office said Mr Jones could not enter the UK as the government “opposes extremism in all its forms”.

A spokesman said: “Numerous comments made by Pastor Jones are evidence of his unacceptable behaviour.

“Coming to the UK is a privilege not a right and we are not willing to allow entry to those whose presence is not conducive to the public good.

“The use of exclusion powers is very serious and no decision is taken lightly or as a method of stopping open debate.”

Mr Jones — who is pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, which has fewer than 50 members — came to prominence in September after he announced plans for his “International Burn a Koran Day”.

His plan was internationally condemned and sparked many demonstrations around the world. He eventually called off his protest.


Mr Jones had accepted an invitation to speak to England Is Ours in February and was due to speak at a series of demonstrations against the expansion of Islam and the construction of mosques in the UK…

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

In England you have got radical Muslims demonstrating in the streets, and calling for the death of British soldiers, and nobody really does anything about that”

End Quote

Pastor Luke Jones

Son of Terry Jones

Barry Taylor, secretary of England Is Ours, said he was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“The whole object of the exercise is to have a discussion about the Islamification of the UK and just have dialogue about the problems,” he said.

“The idea isn’t to cause trouble or kick up a stink. These things do need addressing and people do need to speak about them. We shouldn’t be frightened about them.”

He said he had expected about 100 people to attend events organised for Mr Jones, including about 30 members of England Is Ours.

“It’s quite possible that other members of his outreach may be able to come,” Mr Taylor said.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]


Bosnia at European Bottom for Purchasing Power

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, JANUARY 14 — Based on a research conducted in 42 countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks 37th by purchasing power per capita with 2,435 euros. The European average is 11,945 euros, and Lichtenstein is a convincing leader with 49,014 euros, reports daily San.

Among other countries in the region, Serbia ranks 34th, Macedonia 37th, Romania 33rd, Montenegro 32nd, Croatia 29th, Hungary 27th.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovans Turn Blind Eye to Fake Foreign Marriages

Each time she goes to sleep, Valbona (35), from Peja, western Kosovo, looks at her wedding photograph taken 13 years ago. Beside her, she sees her smiling husband.

Today, that moment is just a memory. Two years ago, her husband remarried a German woman. Not only did Valbona, mother of their four children aged four to 11, know of his plan, she approved it.

This is because Valbona is not really divorced in the eyes of her family or the wider community.

Many Kosovar Albanian men divorce their first wives by mutual consent, departing for western Europe where they find new spouses who enable them to obtain residency papers.

They leave their children behind in Kosovo so that they can pose as single men and remarry fast. Once they have permanent residency in Germany, or other EU states, they divorce their second wives, go back to their first ones and bring the family to the West.

Germany is a popular destination for Kosovars seeking foreign wives, and eventually an EU passport, because there is already a large Albanian expatriate population living there.

The women that these Kosovar Albanians marry in the West believe they have found ideal, attentive husbands.

However, once the men have gained permanent residency in their host country — after five years of marriage to a citizen in Germany — they often demand a divorce.

Valbona is confident that her husband will do the same: leave his new wife after three more years and return to Kosovo to take her, and the children, to a new life in the affluent West.

“The ‘divorce’ was difficult, but as both of us knew its purpose, it was somewhat easier,” explains Valbona who — in the absence of her husband — lives with her children next door to her husband’s brothers. “It’s a big sacrifice but I’m doing it for the sake of a better future for me and the children,” she adds.

Unknown to his German wife, Valbona has already spent one summer holiday with her ex-husband back in Kosovo.

Benefits override taboo

In the past, Albanian families did not accept divorce so easily. But the taboo has been forgotten now that Kosovar Albanians have discovered the usefulness of divorcing and remarrying foreigners in order to gain papers to live in western Europe.

Not all foreign wives are equally acceptable, of course.

A second marriage to a non-Albanian is seen as worthless unless the new wife has citizenship of the European Union. But if men divorce their Kosovar wives for that reason, society turns a blind eye.

Each month, Valbona’s ex-husband sends back money for her to spend on their four children. Such money counts for a lot in a country as poor as Kosovo, where 40 per cent of the population is unemployed and the average monthly salary of those in work is only about 200 euro.

Kosovars who have moved to western European countries send home 530 million euro each year. These remittances account for around 13 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to the Kosovo Central Bank.

Sokol Havolli, a senior official at the bank, says that 30 per cent of Kosovar households regularly receive money from relatives working abroad.

Against a background of such economic hardship, many people feel desperate to obtain the right to live and work in western Europe.

But obtaining a visa to enter the EU is difficult. Unlike their Balkan neighbours, Kosovars do not enjoy visa-free travel within the EU Schengen zone. Nor is a relaxation of visa requirements imminent.

It is almost impossible for Kosovars to gain German citizenship unless they are born there, or enter the country as an infant and go to school there.

But adult Kosovars, like other non-EU foreigners, can request permanent resident status in Germany, or Niederlassungserlaubnis, if they have legally resided in Germany for more than five years — the grounds for which are normally either higher educational studies or marriage to a German national…

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Arab League Ministers Discuss Foreign Non-Interference

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 18 — Foreign Ministers of the Arab League in Sharm El Sheikh for tomorrow’s Arab leaders’ socio-economic summit will discuss the Egypt’s proposal to adopt a common policy to reject “the external instrumentalisation of acts of terrorism occurring in Arab countries”. This is according to the spokesperson for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, the agency Mena reports.

The spokesperson explained that Egypt has recently identified “some foreign attempts” to “interfere in the internal affairs” of Arab countries hit by acts of terrorism, adding that some appeals by “foreign elements” concerning the protection of minorities had been “rejected”.

Egypt wants an Arab-wide stance on the matter, the spokesperson concluded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Demands Parliament be Dissolved, Calls for New Elections

Egypt’s largest opposition movement demanded Wednesday that President Hosni Mubark dissolve the newly elected parliament and hold new elections, in a move that appeared to be an attempt to capitalize on the hopes for change sparked by Tunisia’s popular uprising. The Muslim Brotherhood also called for an end to Egypt’s 30-year-old emergency law that bans political rallies, and demanded sweeping constitutional amendments to allow free and fair presidential elections. The Brotherhood’s list of grievances is not new, but the demands appeared to be aimed at seizing on the momentum triggered by the revolt in Tunisia that toppled the country’s authoritarian president and galvanized opposition movements throughout the Arab world. “The events in Tunisia are a cornerstone for the rest of the people of the Arab and Islamic world,” the Brotherhood said in a statement posted on its website. “It is a message to all the despotic leaders and the corrupt regimes that they are not safe and they are living on the tip of a volcano of people’s anger and God’s wrath.” The group also urged Egypt’s government to fight graft and put corrupt officials on trial, and warned that if it “does not move fast and shoulder responsibility to start a serious reform process, stability might not last for long.”

The Brotherhood failed to win even a single seat in last year’s parliamentary elections — after taking home a fifth of parliament’s seats five years earlier. The movement, which is banned but runs candidates as independents, and other opposition parties say the vote was rigged.

The escalation in the group’s demands come as Egyptian activists — galvanized by the Tunisia uprising — have held small street protests in solidarity with the Tunisians.

This week, four Egyptian men attempted to set themselves on fire. One of the men died Tuesday from severe burns.

The desperate act of protest appeared to be attempts to copycat the fatal self-immolation of a 26-year-old Tunisian last month — an act that helped spark the protests that toppled Tunisia’s authoritarian president…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Islamist Leader Seeks Return to Tunisia

The leader in exile of Tunisia’s Islamic movement Ennahdha wants to return home but is waiting for the new government to declare a full amnesty on sentences passed during the rule of recently ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Ennahdha officials said Tuesday.

Ennahdha’s founder Rachid Ghannouchi “is an ordinary Tunisian citizen who must be allowed to come in and out of Tunisia without restrictions,” said Samir Dilou, a lawyer and a senior leader of the movement in Tunisia.

Created in 1981 and formally known as the Movement of the Islamic Trend, Ennahdha was never formally authorized in its three-decade existence.

In 1992, Mr. Ghannouchi was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment on charges that he had plotted to overthrow Mr. Ben Ali. Many local activists were also imprisoned. Mr. Ghannouchi, who lives in London, has denied that he or his party tried to topple Mr. Ben Ali.

Mr. Dilou said that, while waiting for the return of its founder, Ennahdha was considering ways to reshape itself into a political force that could help create a multi-party system in Tunisia.

He said that although Mr. Ben Ali had tried to portray Ennahdha as an extremist group and an offshoot of al Qaeda, the movement rejects violence and promotes the values of “a moderate Islam.”

“We don’t need to import solutions from Tora Bora,” Mr. Dilou said, in reference to the one-time hide-out of Taliban and al Qaeda militants in eastern Afghanistan.

Current and former diplomats in Tunisia say Mr. Ghannouchi represents a moderate Islamic voice, and say he has long espoused democracy and pluralism.

Mr. Dilou, who spent 10 years in prison in the 1990s on charges that he was close to Ennahdha, said it was too early to say whether the movement would participate in the next presidential elections because the group had to first reorganize itself…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama Advisor in Algiers

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 17 — U.S. President Barack Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, arrived yesterday in Algiers for an official visit. According to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, the visit is part of the “strong ties between Washington and Algiers, especially regarding military and security cooperation”. Brennan will meet with several officials and yesterday he had a meeting with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The United States, he said at the end of the meeting, “value Algeria’s position in the fight against terrorism.” “We appreciate everything that you do” for the fight against terrorism, he added, reports APS.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Events for Anniversary of Craxi’s Death Cancelled

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 14- The commemorative events for the anniversary of the death of former Italian Premier Bettino Craxi, who passed away on January 19 2000 in Hammamet where he is also buried, has been affected by the unrest that has flared in Tunisia. The opening of a photography exhibit, ‘Craxi, a history’, has been called off, as well as the screening of a documentary on the government of the former socialist leader, which were supposed to take place tomorrow in the Tunisian city. About 50 people were expected to arrive from Italy along with the Craxi Foundation and 10 other organisations, but the trip has been cancelled. The former premier’s daughter, Stefania Craxi, will make a private trip to Tunisia on Sunday to visit the Christian cemetery in the city where Bettino Craxi is buried.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia Orders Investigation Into £5bn Fortune of Ben Ali

Members of ‘The Family’ exerted total dominance of the Tunisian economy, owning banks, commercial enterprises, factories, tourist resorts and vast land holdings.

By conservative estimates Mr Ben Ali’s immediate family had a £5 billion fortune, while brothers and sisters of his hated wife Leila Trabelsis accumulated even greater wealth.

The official TAP news agency said a judge had accepted a petition by prosecutors to investigate bank accounts, real estate and other assets. The hasty departure of 30 or more Ben Ali and Trabelsis family members has brought the Tunisian economy to its knees — 43 banks, 66 shops and 11 industrial plants have been destroyed since Mr Ben Ali fled. Demonstrators mobbing central Tunis have demanded swift action to seize Ben Ali assets inside the country and cash stashed abroad. Few believe the interim government led by Mr Ben Ali’s former acolytes has the stomach for the task.

Michele Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister, said the assets of known Ben Ali associates would be frozen for three years to prevent the misuse of Tunisian public funds.

“We know that members of Ben Ali’s entourage, which held an important position in the country’s economic and financial industry, travelled to Switzerland several times over the last months,” Mrs Calmy-Rey said. “According to our experience, trips like these could be used for financial transactions.” Leila, a former hairdresser and alleged low-level informant for Tunisia’s secret police, married Mr Ben Ali in 1992. A French expose dubbed her the Queen of Carthage for her imperious and greedy behaviour…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq: Fraud: Insecurity, Ethnic Clashes and Oil Hamper Census

The population fears a political manipulation of ethnic groups by the strongest. In Kirkuk, Arabs and Turkmen suspect Kurdish officials of rigging outcome for control of the oil deposits. They could change the census to their advantage by putting Kurdish community in majority.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Iraq is still waiting its census. Twice announced and twice postponed, the first general census in the country since 1997 seemed possible after the formation of new government following the elections of March 2010. Yet, so far, a date has not even been announced.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, before being re-elected prime minister, had ensured compliance with October 24 in all 18 Iraqi provinces, despite the risks ventilated by many that the count of the population can be politically exploited in a country deeply divided on ethnic lines.

Some provinces immediately announced a boycott of the census. The province of Diyala, one of the most turbulent of Iraq with its capital Baquba, accepted the date. This area is home to a substantial Kurdish minority.

Kirkuk and Nineveh, however, of which Mosul is the capital, said they were favourable to the census if the government forces have full control of the area. Kirkuk and Nineveh are currently largely controlled by Kurdish peshmerga militias and the Arab peoples are concerned that the Kurds can use them to influence the outcome of the census.

According to Mahdi al-Allak, head of National Statistics Bureau, the continuous postponement of the census “is not a technical problem, but a political one.” The same al-Allak said that provincial officials will not agree to the census if the peshmerga are not first replaced by the national army.

There are also disagreements on the forms to fill out. Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk, strongly opposed to the presence of Kurdish militias, want the form completed so as not to facilitate fraud. What worries most is the column of nationality that the peshmerga and Kurdish officials could amended in their favour to create a majority Kurdish community.

The most tense situation remains that of Kirkuk. The multi-ethnic and oil rich province has always been fought over by Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. The census is a crucial step to reach the Kurdish goal of annexation. The enumeration of the population is provided for in Article 140 of the Constitution as a prelude to the referendum that will decide the status of Kirkuk , whether the city will be annexed to Kurdistan or will be part of a province under the administration of the Baghdad government. The stakes, however, are high and so for four years the popular vote has been continually postponed. The problem is related to energy resources. The second largest oil field in Iraq is located in Kirkuk, which also owns 70% of natural gas deposits in the nation. The risk is that if the referendum gives the city administration over to the Kurds, they would gain a vital resource, enough to ensure their eventual independence from the rest of the country.

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

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Tenders His Resignation to the Pope

Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, 90, told the Pope he wanted to be relieved of his duties. Benedict XVI has not yet decided. Various factors explain the decision, the “psychological barrier” of his age, the hostility of some political parties, and issues within the Maronite Church, the most powerful in Lebanon.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir has asked to be relieved of his duties, this according to an authorised source close to the patriarch. The requested was submitted to the Holy Father a few weeks ago but has not yet elicited a response. In the meantime, the Patriarch will continue to perform the functions associated with his charge. Professional and regional delegations visited the Patriarch’s residence in Bkerké to ask him to continue to fulfil his role. “You don’t change a horse when you are fording a river,” said members of the country’s parliamentary majority, currently involved in a tug-of-war with the opposition.

Lebanese public opinion and Maronite Church circles have reacted negatively to the double resignation of the government and the Maronite Patriarch, especially since the latter was supposed to be confidential.

This is why the Patriarchate and Maronite Bishop of Batroun (Lebanon) Boulos Émile Saadé initially denied the information. The latter personally issued a statement denying the news, saying that “its publication by some media aims at sowing confusion between religion and politics.”

It is well known that some opposition leaders are hostile to the head of the Maronite Church because of the latter’s views on national politics, which are different from theirs. Hizbollah, which at some point had contacts with the Maronite patriarch, suspended the visits that some of its officials regularly had with the patriarch.

According to an authorised source close to the Maronite Patriarchate, during his recent visit to Rome, Patriarch Sfeir told Pope Benedict XVI of his wish to be relieved of his duties. Unfortunately, he also told the members of the Synod of Maronite Bishops, which meets each month in Bkerké. That is where the leak to the media occurred, even though no one could predict that it would coincide with the fall of the government.

“The Patriarch’s decision is similar to a formal statement of intent,” the authorised source said. “It will not become final until the Pope accepts it. The Pope can temporarily defer it.”

“The Vatican had nothing to do with the patriarch’s decision,” the source said to rebut rumours to the contrary.

The election of a new patriarch could occur before the summer if overall political circumstances allowed it.

Privately, sources close to the patriarch are saying that whilst the head of the Maronite Church is extraordinarily fit and intellectually lucid for a man of 90, his age constitutes a “psychological barrier” that he must take into account.

The same sources noted that the patriarch is disturbed by the careerism of some bishops who in the past, whilst praising him, also tried to nudge him out to let someone else take on his role. This is why he was unpleasantly surprised and flattered to find out that a priestly, Episcopal and patriarchal jubilee in his honour was being prepared for his birthday this May.

Card Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, 90, heads the Maronite Church, the most influential church in Lebanon, since 1986. He is 76th Maronite patriarch since the arrival of the first disciples of Saint Maroun, more than 1,500 years ago.

In addition to his religious leadership, he has played a substantial role in Lebanon’s political life. His appeal in 2000 against Syria’s three decade-old hegemony in the country led to the rise of a movement that eventually saw Syrian troops withdraw from the country in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

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

St Valentine Arrives Early in Dubai to Elude Alcohol Ban

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 17 — St Valentine’s Day looks like it might be at risk in the United Arab Emirates. The lovers’ festival falls this year on the eve of Milad an Nabi, the day celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, during which the ban on the sale of alcohol is extended to international hotels. Dubai’s Tourism and Trade Department has already made it known that the sale and serving of alcoholic drinks will be banned from 6pm on February 14 for the following twenty-four hours. This creates a problem for those tourism enterprises that count on the extra income that is traditionally generated by St Valentine’s Day related events. A good example of the kind of thing they have in mind was last year’s launch by the super-luxurious five-star Emirates Palace hotel with its “One Million Valentine Dream Holiday”.

For its modest price tag of 1 million dollars, you could buy a one-week-long dream holiday with all (first-class) flights included from any international airport, with champagne-drenched gourmet suppers and days spent languishing in the hotel’s spa, experiencing the desert, cruising, or taking a spin in your private helicopter — not forgetting the golf and falconry with 24-7 butler service of course. In order to preserve such delights, the country’s hotels have come up with some creative solutions: for example, bringing St Valentine’s Day forward to February 13 and offering promotional packages for the entire week-end. According to a report in Arabian Business, the area’s foremost hotels “will be adapting their St Valentine’s offers with alcohol-free beverages”. The latter is the strategy being adopted by the Jumeirah Group — which includes the famed Burj Al Arab, the famed Dubai Vela — while a spokesperson for Renaissance Hotel said “these developments mean that our celebrations will be held on February 13, so that we can offer both alcoholic and alcohol-free beverages, while only the latter will be available on February 14”.

So while Dubai is preparing to “push” the calendar forward, Abu Dhabi is keeping its cards close to its chest. There have not yet been any official announcements by the authorities in charge, and tour operators are waiting to hear what fate awaits St Valentine in this city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Gov’t to Increase Home Heating Subsidies

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, JANUARY 17 — The subsidies granted by the Syrian government for heating are on the rise. According to a legislative decree issued yesterday by President Bashar al-Assad, the planned increase will bring subsidies from 630 SYP (about 13 dollars) to 1500 SYP (30 dollars). According to the Syrian Finance Minister, Mohammad al-Hussein, 2 million people, including state workers and pensioners will benefit from the measure. The subsidies will be effective on February 1 and will be tax free, according to the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Damascus. The increase in heating subsidies, concluded the Italian Trade Commission (ICE), brings the total cost for the state to 15 billion SYP per year (about 300 million dollars).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Social Fund for Poor Families Set Up

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 17 — Syria has set up a national fund to provide social assistance to about 420,000 poor families with about 12 billion Syrian lira, the equivalent of 250 million dollars. Speaking with Sana news agency, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Diala Haj Aref said that the fund is part of a social protection network activated after the publication of the results of a poll conducted last year on needy families. One of the essential conditions to receive state aid, according to the minister, is for the children of the families to attend school.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Blackberry Maker and Govt Discuss Porn Filters

Jakarta, 17 Jan. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Discussions on the filtering of pornographic content topped the agenda during a meeting between BlackBerry smartphone manufacturer, Research in Motion (RIM), and Indonesian government representatives on Monday.

According to communications and information technology spokesman, Gatot S. Dewabroto, content filtering was “the most critical” issue during the meeting.

“Filtering is the issue that must be responded to [by RIM] with a yes or no by compliance,” he said after the meeting.

RIM and Indonesian government officials held a meeting after communications and information technology Mmnister Tifatul Sembiring threatened to block several services available on BlackBerry smartphones if RIM failed to comply with the government’s requirements by the end of January.

Sembiring also demanded that RIM create a data centre in Indonesia, thus opening access for law enforcement officers to track down law breakers using BlackBerry smartphones.

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

Pakistan: Bomb Attack on School in Peshawar, Two Killed and 14 Wounded, Seven Children

The radical Islamists target education institutions, especially female ones. The Diocese of Peshawar to AsiaNews: “Our society is heading towards darkness, education is a ray of hope. We urge the government to ensure that the ray of hope spreads across Pakistan. “

Peshawar (AsiaNews) — An attack by Islamic militants on a Pakistani school today caused two deaths and 14 wounded, including seven children, provoking the strong condemnation of the Diocese of Peshawar. Father Francis Sohail told AsiaNews: “This is a brutal act, innocent children have been targeted. These children were going to school, some of them were already inside the school. No religion can justify the killing of innocent children. These extremists are against education for women. They can not frighten us, we support women’s education. Our society is heading towards darkness, education is a ray of hope. We urge the government to ensure that this ray of hope spreads across Pakistan”.

The powerful bomb exploded this morning outside a school in the centre of Peshawar, in the crowded Notia Jadded neighbourhood. Two people were killed and another 14 injured. According to chief of rescue operations, Muhammad Ejaz Khan, it was “a remote-controlled bomb in a cart, which were used five kilograms of explosives.” The victims, Azizur Rehman and another man, not yet identified, were passers-by.

Among the wounded there are seven children. The death toll could have been much higher if the bomb had exploded half an hour later, many students had not yet reached the school. Police have arrested two suspects, currently being interrogated. The building has been damaged, and the whole area is closed by a cordon of officers. Peshawar is the capital of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the militants often target military and civilian targets of the government, particularly schools.

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

Pakistan: Punjab: Asia Bibi to Move to a Women’s Prison in Multan

The transfer should occur within seven days. The step has become necessary to protect the life of the 45-year-old Christian mother of five because of death threats from Muslim fundamentalists. A Pakistani priest hopes the transfer will be done secretly to ensure maximum security. AsiaNews’ campaign on Bibi’s behalf has reached 8,700 signatures.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, may be moved to Multan Prison, an all-women facility, due to security concerns. The Christian community expressed their concern to the authorities that the 45-year-old mother of five may not be safe in Sheikhupura Prison (Punjab) because of constant death threats from extremists around the country.

Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih also appealed to the authorities to improve her security, who explicitly said her life was in danger.

Similarly, Ministry of Interior asked the Punjab government to increase security for Asia Bibi in Sheikhupura Jail.

An official report released on 11 January by the provincial intelligence agency said, “The severity of threat to the life of Asia Bibi spiked after the assassination of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer”. The late governor had expressed his support for the Christian woman and had called for changes to the blasphemy law.

The report also noted that “the provincial government is yet to take effective security measures. [. . .] Just one lady warden has been assigned to her inside the jail and five police constables deputed to secure the jail’s perimeter, along with two motorcycle squads assigned to patrol the jail periphery.” What is more, the guards assigned to her “are not vigilant and most of the times [. . .] are absent”.

In fact, Sheikhpura Prison superintendent Khalid Sheikh is aware of the situation. “I have received directives from the Punjab Home Department to shift Asia from Sheikhupura district jail to an all-women jail in Multan, as her life is in danger in Sheikhpura jail,” he said.

Her transfer is expected to take place under heavy security within the next seven days.

If she is moved to the Multan All-Women’s Prison, the Christian woman will wait out for her appeal case in Lahore High Court. So far, she has spent much of her time talking to female prison guards, catching up with the news from a television and reading an Urdu Bible.

She is not a fluent reader, said Father Obed Robert, a local priest who regularly visits her and supports her family, but during her months of incarceration she had taken particular comfort from the words of John, Chapter 14, Verse 1, which says: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

Fr Andrew Nisari, a senior spokesman for the Catholic archdiocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews, “It is good that Asia is being shifted, but the transfer should be kept confidential as the extremists are vigilantly looking for an opportunity to kill Asia Bibi, she should be flown in a helicopter as the matter is extremely serious.”

In the meantime, the AsiaNews campaign in favour of Asia Bibi’s release has reached 8,700 signatures. Anyone who wants to sign up can write to

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

Soldier Killed by Man in Afghan Uniform

Second victim ‘more serious than first thought’

(ANSA) — Rome, January 18 — An Italian soldier was killed Tuesday by a “terrorist” wearing an Afghan army uniform, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said, clarifying earlier reports that the incident might have been friendly fire.

The victim, Corporal Luca Sanna from the Alpine regiment, was shot in the head in an outpost in western Afghanistan and another soldier was seriously wounded in the shoulder.

The murderer “got close to them with a ruse, perhaps by claiming he had problems with his weapon”.

La Russa said there was also a possibility, “less likely”, that the insurgent had infiltrated the Afghan army in order to carry out such attacks.

Since the assailant had managed to get away “there was no way” to say for certain which case it had been.

“But in either case, you can’t talk about friendly fire. It was enemy fire,” the minister told a press conference, adding that security would be heightened in Italian bases.

Sanna’s murder took Italy’s death toll in Afghanistan to 36 since its mission began in 2004.

The second soldier was initially thought to have sustained a non-serious wound but it was later learned his condition was “much more serious than first thought,” sources said in Rome.

He is in a military hospital in western Afghanistan.

“The initial assessment of his condition was too optimistic,” the sources said.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini reacted to the death by reiterating that staying the course in Afghanistan was the best way to honour Italian casualties. “Today’s tragic episode gives another reason to continue in the effort to bring as soon as possible the transition and ‘Afghanisation’ which will enable us to hand over to the Afghan police and army the control of their country,” Frattini said.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano noted that the soldier “fell in a peace mission”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Iran: A Good Ally for Many African Countries

Tehran is building factories in and exporting technologies to Africa, establishing good relations with many African nations. It offers scholarships to African students and nurtures ties to African Muslim groups, ostensibly for a brighter future for humanity.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Boycotted by many countries for its nuclear programme and alleged support for Islamic terrorism, Iran is busy in Africa in terms of trade and aid. Iran’s African push is favoured by the presence of many predominantly Muslim nations in the African continent and Tehran’s willingness to chart its own course in line with the ideals of the Non-Aligned Movement, which still resonated among many Africans.

Iran’s actions are telling. In February 2008, Tehran offered to mediate a solution to the border dispute between Chad and Sudan, its closest ally in Africa.

In April 2009, an Iranian delegation attended the Somalia donor conference in Brussels hosted by the European Union and co-sponsored by the United Nations and the African Union.

Iranian religious foundations have established close ties with Shia minorities in countries such as Senegal and Nigeria, whilst Iranian Shia groups have maintained friendly contacts with their Sunni counterparts, who comprise the majority of African Muslims. Similarly, Tehran has hosted African students to study Islam.

Trade is also in rapid expansion. In 2007, for example, Iran’s largest automobile manufacturer Khodro inaugurated a production plant in Senegal. In that same year, Khodro agreed to a US$ 2 billion deal to furnish Gambia with buses and heavy commercial vehicles.

In 2008, Iran committed to share nuclear technology with Nigeria to expand the latter’s capacity to generate electricity.

In 2010, it inked a number of agreements with the Central African Republic and Tanzania to support local agriculture and critical infrastructure projects.

Iran and Kenya also broached the possibility of establishing a free-trade agreement following talks in October 2010.

On 14-15 September last year, the Islamic Republic hosted a two-day Iran-Africa summit in Tehran. The event brought heads of state, diplomats, business leaders and cultural representatives from over 40 African nations (pictured) to Iran to discuss a range of issues.

On that occasion, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised ties with Africa, hoping for a world order based on “respect for nations’ rights and dignity” and greater cooperation that would bring “a bright future for humankind”.

Ahmadinejad’s travel schedule has taken him to Senegal, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mali, Nigeria, Djibouti, Comoros, Kenya, Sudan, Algeria and Gambia.

Iran has also dispatched ministerial-level delegations to cement ties with other key countries on the continent, including South Africa, Angola and Ghana.

Africa is in great need for aid and investments, something that Iran can provide. However, Tehran has made a number of faux pas, for example, when Nigerian customs authorities announced on 26 October 2010 that they had impounded weapons from an Iranian ship valued at around US$ 20 million.

Nigeria charged two Iranian men they accuse of belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Islamic Republic’s pre-eminent military and intelligence force, with trying to ship the weapons to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

When then Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki acknowledged the delivery, but said they “were destined for another West African country”, observers immediately thought he was referring to the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MDFC), a rebel group fighting for independence from Senegal, and that the weapons might travel through The Gambia to reach their destination.

Although both Senegal and The Gambia are predominantly Muslim countries, neither was pleased at the turn of events. Gambia reacted by cutting relations with Iran in November. Senegal followed suit by recalling its ambassador to Tehran in December. For its part, Iran accused hostile intelligence services of trying to frame it.

Despite such irritants and Tehran’s inability to compete with giants like China or the United States, Iran can still carve for itself a space in Africa to get around international sanctions.

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


Italy: Government Deports Convicted Algerian Terrorist

Rome, 19 Jan. (AKI) — The Italian government on Wednesday repatriated convicted Algerian terrorist Lerbi Mohamed aboard a flight to Algiers from Rome’s Fiumicino airport, the interior minister said in a statement.

An appeals court in the southern city of Naples in October 2009 convicted Mohamed of association with and abetting international terrorism, illegal immigration, receiving stolen goods and other crimes, the interior ministry said. He was sentenced to six years in jail.

Mohamed, a skilled forger, had with other Muslim extremists formed a terrorism cell that operated in Naples and other areas of Italy. The cell had links to Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, the Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb, according to the Italian interior ministry.

Mohamed’s repatriation followed cooperation between Italy’s central immigration directorate, border police and the Algerian embassy in Italy, the interior ministry said.

Two Moroccan terrorist suspects deported from Italy in April 2010 were allegedly plotting to kill Pope Benedict XVI, according to Italian weekly Panorama. Mohammed Hlal and Errahmouni Ahmed were students at the University of Perugia until their repatriation to Morocco on 29 April last year.

Hlal and Ahmed’s deportation followed a probe begun by anti-terrorism police in October 2009 into a group of radical Muslim foreign students in Italy, most of whom came from the Moroccan city of Fez. Several were studying at the University of Perugia in central Italy.

The interior ministry said Hlal and Ahmed belonged to this group. The pair deny wrongdoing.

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

Migrants Sit First Compulsory Italian Tests

Applicants need to pass for long-term residence permits

(ANSA) — Florence, January 17 — A group of 17 migrants here on Monday became the first applicants to sit a new Italian language test compulsory for people wanting long-term residence permits and all but one made the grade.

“It was easy, I expected a much harder test,” said Elton Ebro, a 30-year-old Albanian driver with a local refuse-collection company. “It seemed to me more of a psychological test than a language test. It went well though”.

The test was made compulsory by a decree last June and the government says it will help integration.

Some critics have branded it discriminatory, while others have said it creates too much of an additional burden on the civil service, but Ebro thought it was a fair move.

“It’s right that people who live here should know the language,” he said.

“This is important to be able to have relations with other people, settle in and find a job”.

The three-part exam features tests of listening and reading comprehension and the composition of a short text, which on Monday was a brief letter to a friend. Non-European Union migrants must get 80% of their answers right to be able to proceed with their long-term permit application, while those who fail can re-sit. The majority of the group Ebro was part of at a Florence middle school were Albanian, although there were also Peruvians, a Siberian woman and a Somali housewife whose four-year-old son fell asleep in the arms of an examiner. “They were all extremely nervous at first,” said an examiner, Italian teacher Patrizia Margiacchi. “But when they realized what it was about, they calmed down”.

Another group of nine migrants took the test in the northern city of Asti, although they will have to wait a week to know the results.

The Association of Italian Christian Workers (ACLI) reiterated its concern on Monday that the test could make the permit process even longer, with migrants already frequently complaining about the waits they have to endure.

“Each year as many as 400,000 to 450,000 foreigners may have the requisites for the long-term residence permit, and the test could mean it takes longer for their documents to be issued,” said Pino Gulia of the ACLI.

ACLI added that a large-scale programme of Italian teaching for foreigners should accompany the test.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway Gripped as ‘Citizen of the Year’ Faces Deportation to Russia

Norwegian authorities say residing in their country for as long as Maria Amelie did is a serious offense.

She’s young, bright, well educated, and she loves her adoptive country, Norway.

She recently published a successful book and was even named “2010 Citizen of the Year” by a Norwegian magazine.

Yet the Russian-born Maria Amelie remains an illegal migrant after almost a decade in Norway and faces imminent deportation.

Her story, which she recounted in her book “Illegal Norwegian” published in September, has moved many in Norway.

Rights groups, politicians, and celebrities have thrown their weight behind the 25-year-old Amelie. Some 1,000 supporters rallied for her release in Oslo this week, and some 90,000 people have joined her support group on Facebook.

Amelie, who was released on January 18 after being briefly placed in a detention center for migrants near Oslo, insists her home is in Norway, not Russia.

“I live in constant fear,” she told NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, shortly after her release. “As soon as I pause for a few minutes, it becomes difficult to breathe, which is the way I felt at the detention center. I’ve come a long way, I’ve fought for myself. My friends and the whole country supported me in this fight. Where am I supposed to go now? My home is here, in Norway.”

Norwegian authorities, however, have refused to bow to pressure. Amelie was detained by eight police officers on January 12 and placed in a detention center for migrants near Oslo where she said she was treated like “a criminal.”

Uphill Climb

Amelie was released from the center on January 18, but her close friend and lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, says she will probably be deported to Russia in the coming days.

“Immigration authorities consider that residing in Norway as long as she did without documents is a very serious offense,” Risnes says. “Although she has lived here for such a long time and has truly become a Norwegian woman, authorities insist that she must leave Norway and return to her native country. Judging from the way things look now, she is highly likely to be sent to Russia.”

Amelie’s supporters have appealed to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. But Stoltenberg made it clear last week that he would not intervene in her favor.

“We must treat everyone in the same way,” Stoltenberg said. “We cannot make an exception just because a person has drawn a lot of attention. If we start making exceptions from the rules, we will start receiving thousands of unfounded asylum requests.”

Rights groups say Amelie cannot be held responsible for violating immigration laws, since she was a minor when her family sought and was denied asylum in Norway.

Amelie, whose real name is reportedly Madina Salamova, was born in Vladikavkaz, in Russia’s republic of North Ossetia. Her parents fled the North Caucasus after receiving death threats over their refusal to hand over part of their wealthy business to local authorities.

The family moved to Ukraine, Moscow, and then Finland, where they were denied residency, before fleeing to Norway.

Rights groups say Amelie was never given the opportunity to explain herself to Norwegian immigration authorities. Like many in Norway, they believed she was singled out because of her book, in which she describes Norwegian migration officials as prejudiced and corrupt.

Changing Perceptions

Berit Lindeman, from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, says Amelie has touched the hearts of Norwegians for her courage and her exceptional efforts to integrate.

“She managed to learn fluent Norwegian within a year and a half, she graduated from high school with only top grades two years after arriving in Norway,” Lindeman says. “She managed to enter university, where she gained a master’s degree with top grades.”

Lindeman says Amelie has deeply challenged the perception of asylum seekers in Norway.

“In the [wider public], asylum seekers are seen as a group without resources,” Lindeman says. “It has been an eye-opener for Norwegians, to see a person with so many positive sides and such a great amount of resources.”

Rights groups say her case highlights the need to ease rules for illegal migrants, particularly for children, who have spent many years in the country and have successfully integrated into Norwegian society.

Amelie’s supporters are now worried about her fate once she is sent back to Russia.

Since her arrest, the young woman has been offered a job in Norway and can in principle return on a Norwegian work visa. But her deportation means she could be barred from returning to the country for several years. Another potential complication is that Amelie left Russia when she was only 12 and never held her own passport.

The Russian rights group Memorial has offered to assist Amelie, who has neither relatives nor friends in Russia.

Her parents, meanwhile, remain in hiding in Norway.

           — Hat tip: SS[Return to headlines]

UK: Foreigners Take 2 Out of 3 New Jobs: 200k Vacancies Filled by Those Born Overseas

Just a third of all jobs created last year went to British-born workers, official

figures indicate.

They show that only 100,000 of the 297,000 workers who began new posts between July and September 2010 were native Britons.

Of the rest, 90,000 were born in Poland and other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004, and the remainder were born elsewhere in the world.

The summer figures from the Office for National Statistics are the latest available and are understood to be representative of the whole year.

The analysis, published in the ONS journal Economic and Labour Market Review, also showed that while a million jobs have become available in Britain over the past six years, there are now a third of a million fewer British-born people in work.

Since the beginning of 2004, the number of British-born people in jobs has gone down by 334,000, while nearly 1.3million foreign-born individuals have found work in the UK.

Of these, 530,000 were from Eastern Europe and 770,000 from elsewhere in the world.

Sir Andrew Green, of the think-tank MigrationWatch, said: ‘These latest figures can only be described as spectacular. There are no fixed numbers of jobs in an economy but it is very hard to escape the conclusion that foreign-born workers are taking jobs that might be done by British workers.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Faux Feminist Naomi Wolf Joins Assange in Crusade to Bring Down America

Celebrity leftists such as filmmaker Michael Moore, British film and television director Ken Loach, Australian filmmaker John Pilger, and British human rights activist, Jemima Khan, have hailed Julian Assange as if he were Roman Polanski and Che Guevara rolled into one. They have pledged money for lawyers to defend him against rape allegations in Sweden. They view Assange as a revolutionary outlaw, an internet “artiste,” the new Daniel Ellsberg, a war-stopper, a show stopper, the people’s hero.

On the one hand, as I’ve written elsewhere, I think that we, the people (without the slightest accountability) have access to far too much non-stop, unfiltered information, without the requisite measured and trustworthy analysis, and that privacy rights have gone the way of the dodo bird. Contrary to those who are glamorizing Julian Assange’s WikliLeaks, I do not really need to know what diplomats privately say to and about each other; I am no more than a voyeur here and the collateral damage in terms of how such “transparency” endangers human lives and hampers diplomacy is more important than my access rights to gossip.

Yes, I was momentarily “happy” that the world media was put on notice about Saudi Arabia’s view that Iran, not Israel, was their main problem—but so what? If poor Jonathan Pollard has been locked away for more than 25 years for having disclosed some secrets that harmed no one but which may have saved Israeli lives—how many years should Assange be facing in each country where lives will be lost, not saved?

However, the pro-Assange celebrities have now been joined by an American Third Wave pro-sex “girls-just-wanna-have-fun” feminist, none other than my friend, junior colleague, and unexpected sparring partner in the Great Burqa Wars, Naomi Wolf, who has jumped on the Free Assange bandwagon. Wolf believes Assange is being pursued by the Furies and is about to be arrested by the “global dating police”; she wishes to inform Interpol that there are at least 1.3 million (no more, no less) other men who would equally qualify. Tongue in cheek, Wolf calls for a “global manhunt” for all of them.

What has become of the feminism I once knew? The feminism that once took incest, sexual harassment, rape, pornography, prostitution, and trafficking very seriously?


[NOTE: See link to read further on Naomi Wolfe’s other travesties — e.g., why she likes the burqa.]

[Return to headlines]

UK: Two Mothers and Their Toddler Children Banned From Council-Funded Playgroup — for Being British

‘They asked me what race I was and I said British. They said I couldn’t come in’

Two mothers who were kicked out of a council-funded playgroup spoke of their humiliation today after being told the group was for immigrant families only.

Emma Knightley, 25, and Kimberley Wildman, 27, turned up at the ‘Making Links’ playgroup with their children Imogen, 21 months, and Olivia, 18 months.

But they were stunned when organisers at the centre in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, ordered them to leave after demanding to know ‘what country are you from?’

The best friends were told that only foreign mothers and their children are welcome at the council-funded playgroup — which they have accused of discrimination.

Shop worker Emma, who lives in St Neots, booked a place at the playgroup six weeks ago after it was recommended by a mixed-race friend.

‘I said I knew it was trying to integrate people into the community but didn’t realise that meant British people and their children were banned.’

‘She said are you not aware this is for foreign people only?

‘I said I knew it was trying to integrate people into the community but didn’t realise that meant British people and their children were banned.

‘I felt humiliated. It shouldn’t matter what nationality you are we shouldn’t be discriminated against.

‘You wouldn’t get away with a British-only mum and children’s group.

‘We want to welcome other nations to the community but turning British people away is not the way to do this.’

Trainee midwife Kimberley, also from St Neots, chose the group because it was free — whereas other groups in the area charged £2.

She said: ‘They asked me what race I was and I said British. They said I couldn’t come in. It’s ridiculous.

‘Surely if this group is about making links in the community they should let all people in, regardless of race or nationality.

‘It’s a real shame. I want my children to play with children from other races and integrate in the community because that stops discrimination.

‘I can’t believe we were discriminated against because we are British.’

Making Links, which is based at the Priory Centre in the town, is funded by a £1,000 annual grant from St Neots Town Council.

The community group is staffed by church volunteers and also receives money from the Co-operative community development fund and the Open Door Church in St Neots.

According to Making Links’ website the group ‘seeks to operate in the spirit of the Commission for Racial Equality’.

Its targets include: ‘bringing communities together and facilitating interaction between them’.

The website claims about 50 women attend the weekly sessions every Thursday.

It adds: ‘Making Links frees them from feelings of isolation, helps them build multicultural friendships and empowers them with knowledge about the local community.

‘Thus Making Links presents a friendly St Neots face to people who might otherwise be outsiders.’

Roger Owen, administrator for Making Links, said that the group is not a ‘typical’ playgroup and is funded entirely for women from other nationalities.

He said: ‘We believe there are plenty of other alternatives for British mothers in the town.

‘We have had an issue with men turning up before and back then we told them the group is strictly for mothers so it’s nothing to do with racial discrimination.’

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission website, under the Equality Act 2010 it is not unlawful to set up a group especially for a particular ethnic or national group.

Under the act discrimination based on colour is unlawful.

No-one from St Neots Town Council was available for comment.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Losing the War of Ideas to Radical Islam

Imagine two lines on a graph — one zigs and zags, another rises rapidly. They could represent two current unsettling world currents. The first would chart U.S. efforts to eradicate Islamic terrorists, on Afghanistan and Iraq battlefields but also a wider intellectual war against political Islam from Casablanca to Zamboanga. The second would trace a rising tide of embittered frustration leading to seduction of young Muslims — not excluding their progeny in the West — by fanatics, and, ultimately terrorists.

The mid-January rioting in Tunisia [just over 10 million, the size of California] which overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country’s only second chief executive ruling since 1987, dramatizes the contest. Seen in the mid-50s at independence as one of the more progressive ex-colonial countries, and although maintaining a 5 percent domestic growth rate and higher rates of literacy than most Muslim states, the regime sank into a swamp of political repression and corruption. With more than half its population under 30, increasingly unemployed youth want more. It remains to be seen who will come out on top in Tunis. But across North Africa — from Egypt to Morocco — underground religious Muslim opposition festers. Alas! in Tunisia, as elsewhere, the Iranian mullahs’ total corruption and Saudi Arabian hypocritical lifestyle notwithstanding, the Islamicists’ appeal is growing. It promises puritanical reform and return to a nonexistent paradisiacal past under a Muslim caliphate [theocracy] as an alternative to bad copies of Western government.

Meanwhile, whether Vice President Joe Biden returns from his Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq survey — and cheerleading — with new solutions, there’s increasing skepticism of Gen. David Petraeus’ Afghanistan strategy. And with mounting U.S. domestic problems, it will be hard to keep building on the sacrifice of young lives and more than $1 trillion already spent since 9/11 on the worldwide war against terrorism.

The argument over how to win asymmetrical wars against fanatical opponents is raging again. The danger in COIN [counter-insurgency warfare] expounded by Gen. Petraeus is an old American intellectual heresy, scientism. The 19th century philosopher [founder of modern psychology] William James warned against overintellectualizing. Dr. James’ counsel applies to guerrilla warfare. For in the nature of things, insurgencies are particularistic. There’s little commonality among the Moros [whom Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing brutally crushed] in the southern Philippines at the turn of the 20th century, the Vietcong in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Tupamaros on the streets of Montevideo, Uruguay, in the 1970s, or Al Qaida in Afghanistan in 2011. These movements built on specific local conditions. Any formula for combating insurgencies must do likewise. Yes, vacuous “counterinsurgency” generalizations can be formulated: the army should not steal the peasants’ chickens. But learning the ins and outs of Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier Hatfields and McCoys is essential — taking time and patience, not handbooks trying to apply the scientific method to social issues.

For war is not only cruel and brutal but probably the most inefficient human activity since the first caveman hit the second caveman over the head with a club. The weapons are increasingly more sophisticated. But the human animus remains the same. For every sophisticated multidisciplined approach to villagers caught between intimidation by both sides, there have been exponents of brute force. [A cynical old Vietnam War saying: “Grab their ____, and their hearts and minds will come.”] That’s the rationale, perhaps, for U.S. drone attacks on terrorist leaders in Pakistan with grim fallout of civilian casualties, providing a political football for local politicians who hypocritically supply intelligence for the kills.

Almost 10 years ago — one wonders if current “politically correct” discussion of Islam would tolerate it now — a UN commission led by noted [if mostly exiled] Arab intellectuals searched for causes of Araby’s backwardness. Initiated before the 9/11 attacks, they predicted 280 million people in the 22 Arab countries would grow to as many as 459 million by 2020 but emphasized their isolation. Arab translations in the last thousand years, it noted, were only what Spain translates in just one year. Yet there are Arab bestsellers, often obscurantist screeds on the Koran, the word of Allah that no critic is permitted to challenge.

Emigrants from burgeoning North Africa [along with South Asians, Muslim and Hindu, West Indians and Africans] have drifted willy-nilly into Western Europe searching for livelihood in these last decades of its enormous prosperity. But daily incidents from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and even Scandinavia, demonstrate that counter intuitively, the second and third generations have failed to assimilate. Most European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel now admit “multiculturalism” — leaving migrants to fend for themselves in their own ghettoes off welfare state handouts — has not succeeded. But the gap of willful ignorance now is too often replaced by misplaced tolerance of premodern horrors — discrimination against women, “honor killings”, child marriage, etc., etc. Defensiveness about European traditions and posturing to understand “basic issues” is condescending and as useless as the former disregard…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]