Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110210

Financial Crisis
»3.9 Million Americans Ran Out of Unemployment Benefits in 2010: Report
»Congress Warned Over States’ Bankruptcies
»Fed’s Warsh Resigns; Bernanke Adviser Questioned Stimulus
»Greece: SMEs Risk to Shut Down
»Portugal: Pressure on Bonds Stirs Fears of Default Risk
»Spain: BBVA Says Unemployment to Remain at 20% in 2012
»Spain: Zapatero: Regions Will be Able to Refinance Debt
»The Wall Street Pentagon Papers: Biggest Scam in World History Exposed: Are the Federal Reserve’s Crimes Too Big to Comprehend?
»Lettuce is Sucking California’s Fruit Basket Dry
»Obama Energy Secretary Promises “Massive” Coal Plant Closures
»President Obama Invited Muslim Brotherhood; What About Coptic Christians?
»The Blond Jihadist: Daniel Boyd Admits Aiding Terror Plots
Europe and the EU
»Beer Found in Sunken Ship to be Analysed and Possibly Brewed Again
»Belgium Fears Invasion of ‘Lazy Dutch Students’
»Euroseptic: Mary Ellen Synon in Brussels
»Germany Will ‘Contribute to an Arms Race,’ Charges Opposition
»Germany: Former Assange Cohort Says WikiLeaks is Broken
»Italy: ‘Save Pachino Tomato From Speculation’ In Mafia Row
»Italy: No Decision on Fiat HQ Before 2014, Says Marchionne
»Italy: Prosecutors Request Berlusconi Sex and Abuse of Office Trial
»Italy: Berlusconi Vows to Sue State Over ‘Subversive’ Sex Allegations
»Italy: Tommasi and the Rubygate Parties — Milan and Naples Magistrates to Meet
»Paris and Berlin Play it for Brussels
»Sarkozy is Latest to Say Multiculturalism Has Failed
»Spain: Ceuta: Local Official Resigns for Offending Muslims
»Sweden: UPS Sued for Demanding Muslim Shave Beard
»Sweden: No Sign Stockholm Bomber Had Help: Säpo
»Sweden Pledges More Aid for ‘Web Activists’
»UK: Bagehot: Muscle v Multiculturalism
»UK: Boy, Seven, Mauled by Pitbull is Lucky to be Alive After Stranger Broke Into Flat to Save Him
»UK: Daily Star Champions the English Defence League
»UK: Don’t Dare Ignore EDL
»UK: EDL to Go Political
»UK: Has the Daily Star Decided to Back the English Defence League?
»UK: MPs’ Expenses: Eric Illsley Jailed for a Year and Jim Devine Found Guilty
»UK: MPs Finally Take a Stand Against Europe: Massive Commons Majority Blocks Unelected Judges Giving Prisoners the Vote
»UK: Muslim Pupils Learn to Cut Off Hands of Thieves
»UK: Police Arrested Two Men Yesterday for Allegedly Publishing a Catalogue of Vile and Racially Inflammatory Material on the Internet.
»Bosnia: Karadzic Accuses UN Peacekeepers of Siding With Muslim Army
»EU-Croatia: Talks at Decisive Stage, Agreement in April
North Africa
»DNI Clapper: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood ‘Largely Secular’
»Egypt: ‘Rules Needed’, Frattini Agrees With Clinton
»Egypt: Saudi King Tells Obama, Don’t Humiliate Mubarak
»Egypt’s Army Signals Steps to Take Power
»Egypt: Mubarak Leaves for Sharm El Sheikh, Al Arabiya
»Egypt: Obama: History is Being Made
»Egypt: Army Against Shift of Power to Suleiman
»Egypt: Mubarak Stays in Office, But Transfers Power
»Egypt Brotherhood Talks of Coup, But Retracts Comment
»Egypt: What’s Really Happening?
»Egypt’s Mubarak vs. The NGOs
»Jordan: Tribal Leaders Attack Queen Rania
»Libya: Amnesty: Activist Arrested After Protest Call
»Libya: Opposition Platform, Intifada on February 17
»Libya-Switzerland: Arbitration Tribunal President Appointed
»More Disturbing Associations Coming From Movements.Org
»Morocco: Kingdom to Face Its First Street Demonstration
»Morocco Pressured to Step Up Reforms
»Mubarak: “Brothers, Would You Have Me Crawl Away at the Command of Obama?”
»Muslim Brotherhood Says Fears Egypt Military Coup
»Why Egypt’s Christians Are Hopeful But Nervous
»Why Glenn Beck is Right on Egypt Chaos
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Tensions Rising After Facebook Protest Messages
Middle East
»Bahrein: Heir to the Throne; Priority to Political Liberties
»Gulf: Appeal to Ruling Families, Democracy and Freedom
»Iran Accuses the Netherlands of Supporting Terrorism
»Islamic Fundamentalism in Turkey, Egypt Subject of Latest WikiLeaks
»Jordan: First Trial for Prostitution Over the Internet
»Jordan’s King Swears in New Cabinet After Protests
»Muslim Brotherhood in Talks With Turkey?
»Saudi Arabia: 52 Women Arrested for Protesting Released
»Russia Hands Over ‘Lost’ Archive of US Film History
South Asia
»Bangladesh: Teenage Girl Dies From Lashing, Four People Arrested for Murder
»Himalayan Glaciers Not Melting, But Stable, Even Advancing
»Indonesia: Head of Bishops Said Govt Leaves Minority Groups ‘Unprotected’
»Indonesia: Religion Run Amok
»Video: Twelve-Year-Old Suicide Bomber Kills 31 in Pakistan
Far East
»China Hackers Break Into Five Oil Companies
Australia — Pacific
»Cronulla Beach Bashing Not Race-Related
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Soldiers on Ships Would Help With Piracy, Says NATO
»EU Immigration Boosts Dutch Population to 16.7 Million
»UK: Judge’s Disgust at Failure to Deport Chinese Sex Criminal Who Was Refused Asylum Here in 2002
»Anger Over Prince Charles’s Climate Change Blast

Financial Crisis

3.9 Million Americans Ran Out of Unemployment Benefits in 2010: Report

Last year, 3.9 million Americans ran out of unemployment insurance benefits, according to a new analysis provided to HuffPost by the National Employment Law Project.

Those 3.9 million are not necessarily still unemployed, and not all of them are necessarily “99ers” — people who exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of benefits currently available in 25 states — but the number offers a dramatic reminder that the longest-ever unemployment lifeline is still not long enough for some Americans to climb out of the deepest jobs hole since the Great Depression.

“These numbers demonstrate the grave nature of the long-term unemployment crisis and should lead all lawmakers to realize that it is imperative to put partisan fights aside and concentrate on job-creation efforts that are targeted to the longest of the long-term unemployed,” NELP lobbyist Judy Conti said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Congress Warned Over States’ Bankruptcies

US lawmakers were warned yesterday that allowing states to declare bankruptcy would upend the $2.8 trillion (£1.7 trillion) municipal bond market, making it much harder and more expensive to fund local government, and potentially destablising the economic recovery.

A House of Representatives committee was examining the extent of the financial distress in state and local governments, which has become a major topic of concern on Wall Street and among individual investors, and examining ways to prevent the need for a federal bailout of any of the lower rungs of government.

“The perfect storm is brewing; already state and municipal governments are coming to Washington, hat-in-hand, expecting a federal bailout like everybody else,” Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry said. “But the era of the bailout is over.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Fed’s Warsh Resigns; Bernanke Adviser Questioned Stimulus

Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh, who was one of Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s closest financial-crisis advisers before becoming the only governor to question the expansion of record monetary stimulus in November, resigned after five years at the central bank.

Warsh, 40, a former investment banker who was the youngest- ever Fed governor when then-President George W. Bush appointed him in 2006, will leave “on or around March 31,” he said in a letter today to President Barack Obama that was released by the Fed in Washington.

His departure may give Bernanke a stronger hand to complete or potentially expand $600 billion in Treasury purchases through June. At the same time, Bernanke loses a link to Wall Street executives and Republican politicians as he carries out Congress’s overhaul of financial regulation and faces criticism from a political party that in the midterm election gained control of the U.S. House.

“You lose a forceful internal advocate for ending QE and trying to renormalize policy quicker,” said Vincent Reinhart, the Fed’s director of monetary affairs from 2001 to 2007, referring to the stimulus program known as quantitative easing [aka printing more money].

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece: SMEs Risk to Shut Down

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 10 — The vast majority of Greek small and medium-sized enterprises have suffered heavy repercussions from the economic crisis. By the end of the fist six months of 2012, over 225,000 SMEs may have to close down due to worsening finances. So reveals a study conducted by the Institute for Small and Medium Sized enterprises (IME) of the Greek Confederation for entrepreneurs and retailers which showed that by the end of 2012 jobs lost could total as many as 300,000. According to the previous survey in July 2010, the number of enterprises at risk stood at 175,000, which showed the worsening of the situation. Moreover, the recession and the lack of liquidity favour the creation of a new movement of “non-payment” to the State. According to the IME survey, 35.3% of SME entrepreneurs say they will stop paying their debts not only because they are no longer able to do so but in reaction to the current situation. Meanwhile, retailers across the country have announced they will be holding a number of strikes over the three days of February 21-23, ending with the closing of all shops in protest against the government’s fiscal decisions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Pressure on Bonds Stirs Fears of Default Risk

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 10 — After a couple of weeks of peace, the pressure on Portugal’s sovereign debt returned to record levels again today, stirring fears of a possible rescue by the IMF and EU.

The interest rate on 10-year bonds for Portugal jumped above the record level of 7.6% on secondary debt markets. Experts cited by Spanish daily El Economista assured that if rates stay over 7%, aid will be inevitable, as was the case with Greece and Ireland. The increase on the returns on Portuguese bonds caused the spread with the German Bund to jump back to November levels seen prior to the Ireland bailout, which was unable to slow the spread of the crisis.

The pressure on Portuguese bonds reflects investors’ doubts about the actual state of the country’s finances, despite attempts by the government of Jose’ Socrates to restore confidence to the markets with harsh austerity measures approved in this year’s budget.

Last October, Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos acknowledged that if pressure on the debt exceeded the psychological threshold of 7%, Portugal would risk having to ask for help from the EU and IMF. But yesterday the socialist premier denied thinking about turning to external aid and confirmed his commitment to reducing the public deficit from 7.3% to 4.6% this year. He announced that fiscal revenue increased in January by 15.7% compared to the same month last year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: BBVA Says Unemployment to Remain at 20% in 2012

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 9 — Spain’s economy will grow by 0.9% in 2011 and the recovery will start to generate new jobs in the second half of the year, although the unemployment rate is set to remain at 20% in 2012. These are the forecasts made in a report issued by the BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) study centre, which has been presented in Madrid today.

According to the study, the reforms put in place by the Socialist government “go in the right direction, but it is necessary to continue with ambitious measures to increase growth”. Analysts at the Basque bank say that the country’s administration will meet its target of reducing deficit, while Spain’s financial system will require capital of between 13 and 17 billion euros to recapitalise itself.

A sustained, job-creating recovery “could start to be produced in the second half of 2011” and in 2012 the economy will recommence to grow at a rhythm of 2%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero: Regions Will be Able to Refinance Debt

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 9 — Catalonia as well as all of Spain’s autonomous communities will be able to run debts if they meet the goal of reducing the deficit to 1.3% in 2011, said Spanish Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero today. “There has not been any favourable treatment, nor any retraction,” said the socialist leader, referring to the accusations made by the nine regions about the government authorising Catalonia’s new President Artur Mas of the CiU Party to refinance the region’s debt through new bond issues despite the ironclad restrictions on regional debts in the anti-deficit programme. “All of the communities must meet the objective of reducing the deficit to 1.3% in 2011,” confirmed Zapatero, speaking to state-owned television broadcaster TVE. Nonetheless, the government has prohibited some regions, like Murcia and Castile-La Mancha, from running up any more debt because they did not meet the 2010 deficit reduction objective. Catalonia, which was part of this group, had received approval on Monday for a new bond auction after a meeting between Zapatero and Mas at Moncloa Palace. The premier justified his decision with the fact the Generalitat, like other regional governments, presented a fiscal consolidation plan to the Economy and Finance Ministry, “which it must now achieve, and, based on its contents, may or may not have authorised other refinancing operations”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Wall Street Pentagon Papers: Biggest Scam in World History Exposed: Are the Federal Reserve’s Crimes Too Big to Comprehend?

I’ve written many reports detailing the crimes of Wall Street during this crisis. The level of fraud, from top to bottom, has been staggering. The lack of accountability and the complete disregard for the rule of law have made me and many of my colleagues extremely cynical and jaded when it comes to new evidence to pile on top of the mountain that we have already gathered. But we must not let our cynicism cloud our vision on the details within this new information.

Just when I thought the banksters couldn’t possibly shock me anymore… they did.

We were finally granted the honor and privilege of finding out the specifics, a limited one-time Federal Reserve view, of a secret taxpayer funded “backdoor bailout” by a small group of unelected bankers. This data release reveals “emergency lending programs” that doled out $12.3 TRILLION in taxpayer money — $3.3 trillion in liquidity, $9 trillion in “other financial arrangements.”

Wait, what? Did you say $12.3 TRILLION tax dollars were thrown around in secrecy by unelected bankers… and Congress didn’t know any of the details?

Yes. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves. The original copy of the Constitution spontaneously burst into flames. The ghost of Tom Paine went running, stark raving mad screaming through the halls of Congress.

The Federal Reserve was secretly throwing around our money in unprecedented fashion, and it wasn’t just to the usual suspects like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, etc.; it was to the entire Global Banking Cartel. To central banks throughout the world: Australia, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, England… To the Fed’s foreign primary dealers like Credit Suisse (Switzerland), Deutsche Bank (Germany), Royal Bank of Scotland (U.K.), Barclays (U.K.), BNP Paribas (France)… All their Ponzi players were “gifted.” All the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations got their cut.

Talk about the ransacking and burning of Rome! Sayonara American middle class…

If you still had any question as to whether or not the United States is now the world’s preeminent banana republic, the final verdict was just delivered and the decision was unanimous. The ayes have it.

[Return to headlines]


Lettuce is Sucking California’s Fruit Basket Dry

IT MAY be a land of milk and honey, but California’s Central valley — the most productive farmland in the US — is being sucked dry. The culprits? Lettuce and other green vegetables.

James Famiglietti at the University of California, Irvine, used the twin GRACE satellites to find that 20 cubic kilometres of groundwater had disappeared from beneath the valley between October 2003 and March 2010. Between 1998 and 2003, 28.5 km3 were lost, according to the US Geological Survey, meaning that about 50 km3 of groundwater had disappeared in 12 years (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2010GL046442).

That’s unsustainable, says Famiglietti, and bad news for local farmers. “There is a foreseeable end to groundwater availability in California,” he says. Estimates of the total reserves are rough, so the end is difficult to predict, but Famiglietti says the valley could run dry by 2100.

Growing green vegetables is profitable, but they need copious water. The problem is that water use is not regulated. “Anyone who wants to can drill a well and pump it up,” says Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, a think tank based in Oakland, California.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Obama Energy Secretary Promises “Massive” Coal Plant Closures

Obama Energy Secretary Steven Chu has launched the next phase of the White House’s publicly stated agenda to bankrupt the coal industry via EPA regulations after announcing the prospect of “massive” coal plant closures even as Texas and other states suffer rolling blackouts as a result of maxed-out power plants that cannot cope with demand.

The Obama administration’s strict enforcement of draconian EPA regulations has led to new clean-burning coal-fired plants being mothballed and other existing ones being shut down, which has in turn led to Texas and other states becoming energy-dependent, leading to shortages and blackouts exacerbated by freezing temperatures.

Despite White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer’s brazen lie in claiming that the blackouts are solely a result of “mechanical failures,” the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the agency that oversees the state’s power, confirmed this morning that the threat of blackouts was ongoing as a result of a “maxed out grid”.

This “maxed out grid” is a consequence of federally enforced EPA restrictions that have led to the delay, mothballing and closing down of coal-fired plants. In Texas, approval for the much-needed Las Brisas Energy Center has been delayed for 3 years as a result of EPA meddling in Texas’ energy policy.

A federal court ruling last month gave the EPA permission to proceed with greenhouse gas regulation in Texas, temporarily superseding Texas’ non-compliance with the new regulations which came into force on January 2. The White House’s claim that EPA regulations are not currently affecting Texas is a complete fabrication.

Now White House Energy Secretary Steven Chu has made it clear that “massive” amounts of coal-fired plants in the United States will be closed down over the next five to eight years.

[Return to headlines]

President Obama Invited Muslim Brotherhood; What About Coptic Christians?

Coptic Christians in America, with the support of other Americans, are concerned for their counterparts living in Egypt. Also in danger could be people of other faiths, including Muslims of unpopular sects. A Coptic Christian is an Egyptian, living in Egypt or abroad, who believes in Jesus Christ. “Coptic” means Egyptian. Coptic Christians follow either the Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant form of Christianity. Coptics are concerned that while President Barack Obama invited the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in forming a new Egyptian government, neither he nor others in his administration specifically invited Egypt’s Christian population or other religious groups to the table. Although White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’ Jan. 31 speech called for “nonsecular” participation in discussion of a new Egyptian government, the only religious group invited by name was the Muslim Brotherhood. Voice of the Copts is a representative body of Coptic Christians in the USA. Its website criticizes Obama’s refusal to admit the Muslim Brotherhood is not a threat while he himself states the Brotherhood is well-organized with anti-American ideas. Voice of the Copts informs that there are many kinds of people in Egypt and all must be considered. By various reports, there are ten to twelve million Coptic Christians in Egypt. This is 15 percent to 20 percent of the population. The fear is, that if the Muslim Brotherhood turns out to want Sharia law (Islamic religious law) to become state government law, what will become of these Christians?

And what will become of Muslims who are the “wrong” sect of Islam? In countries currently governed by Sharia law, a Muslim can be an unpopular type of Muslim, depending whether leaders in the regime are Shia or Sunni. They can be shunned from employment, dispossessed of their homes, persecuted, tortured or killed just like any other religious minority. Severe persecution of Christianity and other faiths already happens under Islamic law in Iraq and Iran. Victor Davis Hanson, American military historian and Middle East commentator, warned in a National Review article that with this call for a new government in Egypt, we could see a repeat of 1979 when the Shah of Iran was overthrown. Just when we thought there would be a “democratic” regime in Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini took over and made Iran into an Islam-governed state. President Mubarak never declared Sharia law as the government law of Egypt, but there are some aspects of Sharia law in Egypt’s constitution. According to the National American Coptic Assembly, these laws are regularly used to allow the persecution of Coptic Christians. The website explains Mubarak avoided fostering Christian/Muslim relations during his 30 year dictatorial reign.

Over the American New Year’s holiday, more than 20 Coptic Christians were murdered during a raid on their church. Mubarak’s regime had evidence this was committed by al-Qaida. But his government has proven inefficient or unwilling to punishing perpetrators of such events…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Blond Jihadist: Daniel Boyd Admits Aiding Terror Plots

A devout Muslim, whose arrest on terrorism-related charges stunned his neighbours in rural North Carolina, faces the prospect of a life sentence after pleading guilty to conspiring to assist violent jihadists and to participate in attacks in foreign countries.

Daniel Patrick Boyd, 40, and six other men, including two of his sons, were first charged in July 2009 with participating and supporting a jihad overseas.

A superseding indictment two months later contained further charges, including one accusing Mr. Boyd and another man of plotting an attack on the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia.

He did not enter a plea on that charge when he appeared at the Federal District Court in New Bern, North Carolina, on Wednesday, the New York Times reports.

Boyd, who is due to be sentenced in May, could face up to 15 years in prison on one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and a life sentence for conspiring to ‘murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country,’ Justice Department officials said.

Mr Boyd’s neighbours in sleepy Willow Spring, about 15 miles south of Raleigh, were in disbelief when he was initially arrested.

While most of them knew he was a Muslim, they were all unaware that Boyd was known by the alias Saifullah and that he had been in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992, training and supporting fighters who were trying to overthrow the Afghan government.

The charges also said that he had taken his sons Zakariya and Dylan to Gaza to introduce them to jihadists, that Mr. Boyd had been stockpiling assault weapons and that he had participated in paramilitary exercises with other Islamic radicals in the North Carolina countryside.

According to the indictments, during of 2006 to 2009, Boyd plotted with other radical Muslims to recruit jihadists and send material support to fighters overseas. Among those arrested with Boyd in 2009 were Ziyad Yaghi, Mohammad, Omar Aly Hassan and Hysen Sherifi.

Prosecutors said Boyd, who worked for a company that installs interior walls, had literature in his home and in emails discussing the need for a holy war, including some from the increasingly prominent figure Anwar al-Awlaki.

‘This case proves how our world is changing,’ the U.S. attorney George Holding said in a statement on Wednesday. ‘Terrorists are no longer only from foreign countries, but also citizens who live within our own borders.

‘The radicalization of Muslims here in our country is a very serious threat.’

Boyd, who grew up in the Washington DC area, along with his brother, was convicted of robbing a bank in Pakistan in 1991, but a sentence that included amputations of a hand and foot was overturned…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Beer Found in Sunken Ship to be Analysed and Possibly Brewed Again

Scientists examining chemical structure, and searching for live yeast

Beer that was raised by divers from a sunken ship in the waters of the Åland Islands is to be analysed by experts of the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT).

The semi-autonomous province of Åland is anxiously awaiting the findings of the analysis, and a number of breweries in different countries have expressed interest in starting production if a working recipe can be reconstructed on the basis of biochemical analysis.

The provincial government of Åland, which has claimed ownership of the vessel, has brought a bottle to VTT for analysis. In addition to beer, some of the world’s oldest known champagne was found in the sunken ship.

Briefing journalists on the matter at VTT in Espoo, Rainer Juslin, an official of the provincial government, pondered how well a brand name like “wreck beer” might sell.

On Monday, a bottle of the salvaged beer was ceremonially opened, using a set of sterilised instruments, creating the air of intricate surgery.

The precautions proved unnecessary, as the cork opened unexpectedly easily. However, it is feared that the content of the bottle might have been affected by the sea water.

Research engineer and taster Arvo Wilpola, has used his taste buds professionally for 30 years, but sampling centuries-old beer was clearly a stunning experience for him.

At first the panel had sniffed the beverage intensely. The first whiff was that of hydrogen sulphide — the odour of rotten eggs.

However, it dissipated quickly. Wilpola believes that the smell was probably caused by broken yeast cells.

There was also an odour reminiscent of French cheese.

Journalists gathered at the event were allowed to sniff the beverage, and it was agreed that it still had the unmistakable aroma of beer.

The researchers were surprised by the strong acid taste, which made it difficult to evaluate the possible alcohol content. The taste of salt was a strange experience.

Good news was that intact yeast cells were found.

If the yeast is still alive, the cells will gradually start to multiply in cultures taken from the sediment on the bottom of the bottles.

The original yeast would give a special character to the beer, says yeast expert John Londesborough.

The colour of the beer is golden yellow, and it is clear, even though Londesborough would have considered it more likely that the beer in the sunken treasure would have been a darker porter-type beverage, like that which was found off the British coast in a ship that sank in 1825.

The date of the sinking of the vessel found off Åland remains unknown, although estimates are that it may have gone down in the early 19th century.

Those sampling the beer treasure said that it was most reminiscent of a Belgian Lambic.

The yeast and other microbes will be analysed for DNA to ascertain their structure.

There are hundreds of different kinds of beer yeast, but the significance of yeast was not known very well in centuries past. Lambic beers also use lactic acid bacteria in the brewing process.

The researchers are trying to ascertain if hops were used in the brewing; the expert tasters could not detect any.

Other questions are whether or not the grain that was used was barley or wheat, and where the salt came from.

About 200 years ago the water was not always up to today’s purity standards for tap water.

The laboratory tests are expected to take about four months.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Belgium Fears Invasion of ‘Lazy Dutch Students’

Universities in Flemish-speaking parts of Belgium fear an influx of Dutch students once tuition fees in the Netherlands increase for slow learners, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

The paper says Dutch students in Flanders already have a bad reputation: at the University of Antwerp Dutch students are twice as likely as Belgians to drop out and the failure rate at the University of Ghent is also very high.

The Dutch government wants to charge students who take at least a year too long to get a degree €5,000 a year in tuition fees. In Belgium, students pay just €557 a year to study.

Under European law, universities are not allowed to discriminate against students from other member states.

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

Euroseptic: Mary Ellen Synon in Brussels

Yeah, yeah, yeah, rhubarb, rhubarb, order in the House, ‘physically ill’ and the rest of it. All I can say to the Commons over this votes for prisoners dispute is: just shut up and pull the trigger and get out of the Council of Europe. Or admit you are too timid to pull the trigger, so shut up anyway and submit in the manner that suits men who are cowards.

This noise about how Britain may now stand against to the council’s European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is at best naive and in most cases (yes, you, David Cameron) is synthetic. What Cameron has done on this one is pretend this is the crucial line he won’t cross. Meanwhile, very much more quietly and apparently without a moment of squeamishness (odd that, how selective the prime minister’s stomach is on parliamentary sovereignty), his Government hands over more and more power to the European Union.

What he has done by stirring up this prisoners’ votes business is simply give the euro-anxious Tories a different kind of ‘European’ bone on which to chew. Yet this issue is not the meat. The ECHR and its decisions are not the things most endangering Britain’s sovereignty now.

Still, if MPs are really so determined to stop this so-called ‘encroachment’ by Strasbourg, maybe a technical note first. Britain freely (and foolishly) agreed long ago to give the court at Strasbourg all the powers that the ECHR has since been using. This so-called ‘court’ at has never invaded Britain — the supine British opened the gates to all these European ‘justices’ and their powers to decide Britain’s laws.

The angry cries, even among my colleagues, that there has been ‘remorseless undermining’ of Britain’s parliament and courts implies that the ECHR has been tunnelling away under the stone walls of Britain, rather in the manner of medieval seige warfare. It hasn’t. The ECHR has done only and exactly what decades of euro-supine British politicians have allowed it to do. The drawbridge has been down all along, with ‘We are all Europeans now’ written on cloth-of-gold and slung from the battlements.

All parliament has to do if it really does want to stop the powers of this ‘court’ is just vote to pull out of the Council of Europe, ECHR and all. Then this absurdity of votes for prisoners, and every other ECHR so-called ‘human rights’ absurdity, goes away; or at least — and this is what Cameron is hiding in this debate — until Brussels reminds the United Kingdom that by signing up to Lisbon Treaty and the rest, powers across the Channel can go on imposing these ‘human rights’ on Britain whether the UK tries to derogate from the ECHR decisions or leaves the Council of Europe altogether…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany Will ‘Contribute to an Arms Race,’ Charges Opposition

Selling fighter jets to India would violate weapons-export guidelines, say members of the German opposition, who are criticizing a trip by Defense Minister Guttenberg to India this week. New Delhi has dangled a fat contract for a fleet of jets, but critics say Berlin should not export weapons to a crisis zone.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has been criticized by opponents for making a trip this week to India, where he attended an air show in Bangalore Thursday and tried to drum up business for a European-made fighter jet.

On Wednesday he met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose government is weighing a purchase of 126 Eurofighters, built by the German-French aerospace consortium EADS. The deal is reportedly worth €7.3 billion ($9.9 billion).

India’s long-simmering border conflict with neighboring Pakistan has made Guttenberg’s two-day trip something of a controversy. Both countries have nuclear arsenals, and German Green Party chief Claudia Roth told SPIEGEL ONLINE that a sale of military gear to any crisis region was “an open departure from the principles of German weapons-export policy.”

German export guidelines from 2000 say weapons should not be sold to nations at imminent risk of armed conflict. “India not only falls into this category as a nuclear power,” Roth said, “it also lies in a highly unstable conflict zone.”

By stumping for the Eurofighter in New Delhi, “the dashing Guttenberg will contribute to an arms race,” said Roth. “That contradicts, in an irresponsible way, important efforts for peace and stability in this very tense region.”

A prominent Social Democrat, Gernot Erler — who served in the Foreign Ministry between 2005 and 2009 — told SPIEGEL ONLINE that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s current government behaves “frivolously” with German export guidelines.

‘There Will Not Be Any Irresponsible Exports’

Guttenberg is a member of the Christian Socialist Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). They’ve ruled since 2009 in a coalition with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and before that were in government with the Social Democrats from 2005-2009.

Guttenberg’s office countered Thursday by saying the export guidelines were drawn up by a previous government, namely the Green-Social Democrat coalition under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who left office in 2005. In 2008, Guttenberg’s staff argues, Berlin agreed in principle to a sale of jets to India — with the tacit participation of Gernot Erler, among others.

“Some of those now being critical took part in this decision,” the defense minister told reporters at the Aero India air show in Bangalore.

The Federal Security Council — a parliamentary committee on defense issues — makes final decisions on German weapons sales, and in 2008 the council did not object to a potential deal with India.

“There cannot and will not be any irresponsible weapons exports,” Guttenberg added. “We have clear guidelines. We have decisions that must go through the Federal Security Council, and that is the basis for our negotiations.”

But the question of whether to loosen the Schröder-era guidelines has been a political football for months. The Eurofighter sale is also not a sure thing — India’s massive contract to modernize its air force has a number of international suitors. The American F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Russian MiG-35 Fulcrum are also in competition.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Pakistan announced a successful test launch of a new cruise missile, the Hatf VII, which reportedly has a range of 600 kilometers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Former Assange Cohort Says WikiLeaks is Broken

Julian Assange’s estranged former collaborator at WikiLeaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, said on Thursday the whistleblower website was effectively shut down and unable to accept any more sensitive information.

Presenting his new book in Berlin about his time working with Assange, the German programmer said WikiLeaks now lacked the infrastructure to handle data that could lead to new earthshaking revelations.

“WikiLeaks is no longer functioning, you cannot submit anything and there’s no mail server,” he said at a press conference. “It’s definitely not dead, but where is it headed?”

Domscheit-Berg also admitted he and others took with him essential parts of the WikiLeaks platform software along with a small trove of information because he did not feel Assange could protect it or its sources from potential harm.

Though he has since offered to return should WikiLeaks prove it can ensure proper security measures, the website’s lawyers are now threatening to sue him.

His book, “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website,” offers a personal account of his experiences with the charismatic Australian at the head of the organization responsible for leaking US diplomatic cables and secret Pentagon files on the war in Iraq.

Styling himself as the anti-Assange — a buttoned-down Teuton versus an anarchic Aussie — Domscheit-Berg said he hoped to set the record straight after falling out with Assange and leaving WikiLeaks last autumn, along with others.

“Assange is distorting our departure,” he said. “Anyone who criticizes him is discredited and receives a letter from a lawyer.”

Often going into trivial detail about his time with Assange, Domscheit-Berg paints an ultimately unflattering portrait of the WikiLeaks mastermind. He even claims Assange tormented his pet cat.

But Domscheit-Berg denied the book was about getting “payback” against his former friend and colleague: “Julian started this mudslinging.”

While admitting Assange was “courageous” and “brilliant,” Domscheit-Berg said he and other former WikiLeaks collaborators were disturbed by his need for secrecy and lack of transparency.

Domscheit-Berg also said Assange had worrying ties to people of dubious character, such as the Sweden-based Holocaust denier Israel Shamir, whom Assange allegedly wanted to let work with WikiLeaks under a false name so as to not attract unwanted attention.

He said he eventually decided he could not go along with Assange’s credo of “preaching transparency for others but disguising yourself.” Domscheit-Berg said though he still believed in WikiLeaks’ aims, there was no reason “to make everything like a James Bond film” like Assange tended to do.

Domscheit-Berg said Assange frequently showed megalomaniac tendencies and attempted to concentrate all power at WikiLeaks with himself. He also resisted making the group’s finances transparent and accountable.

“He claimed I was in a ‘Germanic bubble’ and that I need too much structure and organization,” Domscheit-Berg said. “I was told (finances) were none of my business.”

The programmer said his new project OpenLeaks intended to learn from WikiLeaks’ mistakes.

Besides working with established media partners, the new website plans to cooperate with non-governmental organizations.

“We’re just going to be a service provider,” he said, promising the 12-person group would not be shrouded in secrecy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Save Pachino Tomato From Speculation’ In Mafia Row

‘Honest producers have an ally in government’ says farm minister

(ANSA) — Rome, February 9 — Sicily’s famous Pachino cherry tomato needs protection from “speculation” after a state TV presenter called for a boycott because of suspected mafia infiltration in its distribution, Agriculture Minister Giancarlo Galan said Wednesday.

“The Pachino tomato is an extraordinary product that represents the best quality of ‘Made in Italy’ abroad,” Galan said on a visit to an agricultural fair in Berlin.

“It is our duty to defend this excellent product from all forms of speculation,” the minister stressed.

He said he would visit the town of Pachino next week with Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, a Sicilian, who on Sunday called on state TV RAI presenter Alessandro Di Pietro to retract his “absurd and damaging accusation” that the Sicilian, Calabrian and Naples mafia had taken over the trade and driven up prices.

She said the threat of a boycott would jeopardise the livelihoods of the 5,000 or so farmers who produce Pachino tomatoes. “Honest producers will always find a convinced ally in the government,” Galan said Wednesday.

Di Pietro, who fronts a daytime consumer show, urged viewers to boycott the Pachino because of investigations that allegedly showed mafia-backed haulage companies sent crates up and down Italy before delivery to up costs.

Raids last year at Fondi, between Rome and Naples, showed evidence of mafia infiltration in the local fruit and vegetables market, one of the biggest in Europe.

Police asked the government to dissolve Fondi’s town council in 2008.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni did not immediately do so and the council stepped down of its own accord, allowing a government-appointed commissioner to take over ahead of elections next month.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: No Decision on Fiat HQ Before 2014, Says Marchionne

Berlusconi to meet CEO Saturday after shift to U.S. mooted

(ANSA) — Rome, February 9 — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said Wednesday that nothing will be decided on the carmaker’s future headquarters until 2014, after he caused a stir last week by mooting a possible move outside Italy.

Marchionne has been summoned to meet Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other ministers on Saturday to discuss Fiat’s plans after suggesting the company’s headquarters could be moved to the United States following a merger with Chrysler.

“No decision has been taken on (Fiat’s corporate governance) or on the headquarters,” Marchionne was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. He added that the issue would not be addressed before 2014 and described the controversy his comments had raised in Italy as an “exaggerated reaction”.

The government has backed Marchionne in his controversial recent drive to introduce revolutionary factory-specific production deals at Fiat’s Italian plants, outside the country’s long-established system of nationally negotiated collective contracts.

But the prospect of the nation’s biggest private employer shifting headquarters has sparked alarm and the CEO was swiftly called to talks with Berlusconi, Industry Minister Paolo Romani, Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi and Cabinet Undersecretary Gianni Letta.

“I will ask Marchionne to commit to investing in our country and to stay here in heart and mind,” Romani said this week. Marchionne aims to merge Fiat and Chrysler in the next few years.

The Italian company took a controlling stake in the American carmaker in 2009 under a US government rescue plan and has turned its fortunes around since.

Last month Fiat raised its stake in Chrysler from 20 to 25% and Marchionne said this could go up to 51% by the end of this year.

The FIOM, the only mayor engineering workers’ trade union to oppose Fiat’s new factory deals, said Wednesday it feared the carmaker is looking for an excuse to move its headquarters outside the country.

FIOM chief Maurizio Landini suspects this is why Fiat is playing hardball to push through these deals, which he says are an attack on labour rights. “Fiat wants to impose its conditions with a total lack of any real mediation between the parties,” said FIOM chief Maurizio Landini.

“The danger is that this whole operation is aimed at moving the group’s headquarters to Detroit and reducing Italian plants to the status of minor production sites that aim to compete with each other with fewer rights and worse working conditions”. Fiat has struck factory agreements with moderate unions for its Mirafiori plant in Turin and its Pomigliano d’Arco plant, near Naples.

It intends to introduce similar deals, which feature reductions in break times, increases in shifts, measures to cut absenteeism and limits on the ability to strike, at other Italian factories. Marchionne said these deals are needed to boost productivity at Italian plants in order to press ahead with Fiat’s Fabbrica Italia plan to invest some 20 billion euros in Italy over the next five years. But FIOM, the engineering workers’ arm of Italy’s biggest and most left-wing union CGIL, says they breach constitutionally guaranteed labour rights. It claims workers were effectively blackmailed into approving the deals in votes at Mirafiori and Pomigliano because Fiat had threatened to abandon the factories if they were rejected. It also argues that Fiat has been too vague about its Fabbrica Italia project.

European Union antitrust regulators, meanwhile, opened a probe on Wednesday into whether aid Polish authorities gave to a project by Fiat’s Powertrain division to make engines there breached EU state-aid rules.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prosecutors Request Berlusconi Sex and Abuse of Office Trial

Milan, 9 Feb. (AK) — Prosecutors on Wednesday requested a fast-track trial for Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for using an underage prostitute and abusing his office to secure her release from police custody on a theft charge.

A judge in the northern city of Milan will now have five days in which to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

Prosecutors said “there was evident proof” against Berlusconi that he had paid for sex with a Moroccan teenage nightclub dancer nicknamed ‘Ruby’ who was 17 at the time and that he abused his office to pressure police to release her from custody on an unrelated theft charge.

Milan chief prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said Wednesday that ‘Ruby’ whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, was being investigated by a juvenile court for making untrue statements after police detained her on 1 May 2010 for allegedly stealing cash and jewellery from a female acquaintance.

She was released by police following a phone call from Berlusconi, who told them El Mahroug was the niece of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Prosecutors believe Berlusconi acted to conceal the true nature of his relationship with the teen rather than to “help someone in trouble,” as he claimed.

El Mahroug, whose stage name is ‘Ruby the Heartstealer’ denies having sex with Berlusconi. But she has admitted receiving 7,000 euros from Berlusconi after a party at his villa near Milan, am Audio car and other gifts.

Berlusconi denies the sex allegations, insisting the charges are politically motivated by ‘left-wing’ judges. He said on Wednesday he would “sue the Italian state” over the sex allegations.

The premier’s lawyer, Nicolo Ghedini has accused Milan prosecutors of “violating the Italian constitution” in requesting an immediate trial for Berlusconi over the allegations.

Although having sex with prostitutes is not an offence in Italy, using an underage prostitute is a crime which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

Berlusconi’s legal defence is asking Morocco’s authorities to send proof of El Mahroug’s date of birth and is expected to argue that she was actually born in 1991 and so was 18 at the time of her alleged sexual relations with the premier, rendering the accusation of no criminal relevance.

Abuse of office is a more serious offence which is punishable by up to 12 years in jail.

Prosecutors have now submitted 782 pages of wiretap transcripts and other documents backing their claims that Berlusconi paid “numerous” young women for sex.

The prosecutors said Monday they were considering widening the prostitution probe to include another suspected underage prostitute who may have spent the night with Berlusconi at his villa in Arcore, near Milan, a Brazilian named Iris Berardi.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Vows to Sue State Over ‘Subversive’ Sex Allegations

(AKI) — Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday vowed to sue the state over ‘“unfounded” and “shameful” allegations by “subversive” prosecutors who want to put him on trial for allegedly using an underage prostitute and abuse of office.

“In the end, the state will pay, as usual. I will sue the state, given that there is no responsibility on behalf of the magistrates,” said the 74-year-old premier.

“But the magistrates will have to take responsibility. We are going to make changes to ensure they do,” he told reporters in Rome.

His fury followed a formal request by Milan prosecutors on Wednesday to try him immediately for paying teenage Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug for sex when she was 17 and pressuring police to release her from custody in May 2010 in May.

“Such trials are farcical and are based on completely unfounded accusations,” he said. “These prosecutors have a subversive aim.”

“This is disgusting and shameful,” Berlusconi added.

The prosecutors have submitted to a judge 782 pages of wiretap transcripts and other documents backing their claims that Berlusconi paid El Mahroug and “numerous” young women for sex. It is the seventh sex scandal to hit him.

Although having sex with prostitutes is not an offence in Italy, using an underage prostitute is a crime which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

Abuse of office is a more serious offence which is punishable by up to 12 years in jail.

“Such dossiers violate the law and undermine the parliament and the Milan prosecutors’ office has no authority in the case.

“There was no abuse of office and such a claim is laughable,” he said.

“These are spurious claims which regrettably sully Italy and offend its dignity,” he fumed. “But I’m not worried about me. I am here to serve the country,” he claimed.

Berlusconi was reported to be planning a summit with his ruling People of Freedom party’s leadership to ponder a line of defence. Berlusconi denies having paid El Mahroug for sex and denies wrongdoing in the case.

The Milan judge has five days to decide if is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

If the judge decides to commit Berlusconi to trial, it will be the fourth the premier is currently facing after Italy’s constitutional court last month overturned a law granting him and senior government members immunity from prosecution.

The court ruled that individual judges should be allowed to decide if a prime minister should be tried while in office. Soon after the ruling, a Milan court announced that Berlusconi’s trial for tax fraud and false accounting would resume in Milan on 28 February.

Two other trials could also re-start against the billionaire tycoon — for bribery and for tax fraud and embezzlement involving his Mediaset film and broadcasting empire.

Berlusconi denies all wrongdoing and claims he is being persecuted by a cabal of leftist judges.

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

Italy: Tommasi and the Rubygate Parties — Milan and Naples Magistrates to Meet

Contact with Paolo Berlusconi and Ignazio La Russa. Ronzulli’s role

NAPLES — The web of contacts and meetings uncovered by phone taps, ordered by Naples public prosecutors investigating a prostitution ring, overlaps with inquiries into the prime minister’s parties. Linking the two cases is Sara Tommasi, the starlet who took part in evenings at Silvio Berlusconi’s residences and also had paid encounters in various Naples hotels. Phone calls reveal Ms Tommasi’s contacts with politicians, television executives and managers in her relentless pursuit of money and success. Above all, they highlight a trail leading to Lele Mora’s stable of starlets, to which Ms Tommasi has belonged for years, and to Fabrizio Corona. V.S., known as “Bartolo” and under investigation for passing off counterfeit euros as well as inducement to prostitution, is the man who managed the girls in the city, for a commission of a thousand euros a time. Bartolo works in advertising and had frequent contacts with Fabrizio Corona, discussing the counterfeit banknotes with him, among other things. In her calls to Bartolo and other friends, Ms Tommasi describes what went on at Arcore and talks about “Lele”, revealing that “he gets us woozy, he puts something in our glasses”. This corroborates what is already in the file forwarded by Milan magistrates. Significantly, public prosecutors from both cities will meet in a couple of days to exchange files and draw up a common strategy for the upcoming questioning of Ms Tommasi, which should be fixed very soon.

Requests to minister and TV executives

Sara Tommasi, who was at Arcore with Ruby when Vladimir Putin visited on 25 April last year, sent text messages to Silvio Berlusconi but transcripts reveal no trace of any replies from the prime minister. Ms Tommasi was more insistent with the defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, whom she called several times. She also called the PM’s brother, businessman Paolo Berlusconi. Electronic eavesdropping shows that Ms Tommasi was also in contact with People of Freedom (PDL) MEP Licia Ronzulli, who was such a regular attender at the Arcore parties that she was indicated as one of the organisers, partly because of her links with Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti. Ms Tommasi also sought to secure television appearances by phoning Fabrizio del Noce and Massimo Giletti. And she asked Bartolo to set up appointments in Campania. In a phone call to a friend, she confesses: “I don’t want to be in the prime minister’s circle any more. I want to be independent”.

Lele’s substances “that make you woozy”

The accounts of Berlusconi’s parties merge with tales of other evenings that Ms Tommasi took part in. When her friends asked what she got up to at Milano Marittima, she says almost defensively: “You never know what Lele is going to put in your glass but afterwards you feel woozy”. The habit of dissolving substances in drinks had already emerged from the inquiry launched by magistrates in Bari into the recruitment of girls by businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini. Tapped conversations told how Eva Cavalli, wife of fashion designer Roberto, was reported to have felt ill when she was a guest of Mr Tarantini in Sardinia. He attempted to refute the episode at one questioning session. Mr Tarantini said: “It is not true that I poured the drug MD into Eva Duringer’s glass without her knowledge. I admit to speaking to a person called Pietrino but I exclude that from the tenor of the conversation any admission on my part can be inferred. I can also add that Eva Cavalli jokingly asked me some time later whether I had put a narcotic substance in her glass. But I replied that I would never permit myself to do any such thing”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Paris and Berlin Play it for Brussels

9 February 2011 The Times London

Vladimir Kazanevsky

The “pact for competitiveness” is not so much a Franco-German takeover of the EU but a step towards a federal Europe, argues Times columnist Anatole Kaletsky. Which is why its outline for an ‘economic government’ in the eurozone won’t ease the effects of the financial crisis.

Anatole Kaletsky

The Sarkozy/Merkel pact for competitiveness aims to harmonise national economic and social policy for the eurozone countries: corporate taxes, pension systems, wage bargaining, educational qualifications, public debt limits and the management regimes for troubled banks. Although essentially a plan for a federal Europe, British PM David Cameron remains “relaxed about this enormous step in the EU’s journey”, writes the Times columnist. “The hope in Whitehall is that this centralisation programme will be quietly abandoned, or even reversed, once the crisis is over; but the likelihood is the opposite.”

Worse, however, is that this proposed harmonisation of tax, labour and pension policies will do little to help Europe out of its economic crisis. “On the contrary, Ireland would suffer outflows of capital and employment if forced to harmonise its tax rates up to German and French levels. Centralising wage bargaining across Europe, far from allowing poor countries to become more competitive by taking advantage of their cheap labour, would create a mechanism to protect high German and French wages and social charges.”

Britain is apparently untroubled by such developments because Germany insists that the EU harmonisation should be monitored by national leaders at summits, rather than by EU commissioners in Brussels. However, “The Commission provides the only mechanism for implementing intergovernmental decisions and everything in EU history suggests that it will soon gain complete control. Moreover, the other members of the eurozone are all determined not to be governed by Germany, or even by a Franco-German directorate. They will ensure that the main responsibilities for “economic government” move rapidly to the Commission, once Germany signs up to irrevocable guarantees for the euro’s financial stability and thereby loses its veto power.”

As this momentum towards a Federal Europe becomes ineluctable, non-euro countries like Britain “will then have to face up to the reality of a multi-speed Europe, with a fully integrated federal core, and a much looser coalition of trading partners on the outside. This vision of a looser Europe has much to commend it, but is one that successive British governments have struggled for decades to avoid. It is now a fact of life.” Read full article at The Times (paywall) or in Presseurop’s nine other languages…

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

Sarkozy is Latest to Say Multiculturalism Has Failed

French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared multiculturalism a failed concept and called for a renewed focus on France’s “identity” when he appeared on TV Thursday evening to answer questions from French citizens. By News Wires (text) AFP — French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday declared that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or ex-leaders who have condemned it.

“We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him,” he said in a television interview in which he declared the concept a “failure.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron last month pronounced his country’s long-standing policy of multiculturalism a failure, calling for better integration of young Muslims to combat home-grown extremism.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia’s former prime minister John Howard and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar have also in recent months said multicultural policies have not successfully integrated immigrants.

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]

Spain: Ceuta: Local Official Resigns for Offending Muslims

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 9 — After accusing Muslim of “not getting out of bed and going to work” and following the heated controversy created by her statements, today, Social Affairs Councilwoman in the town council of Ceuta, Carolina Perez (PP) stepped down from her position.

Today she presented her resignation to the President of the government of the Spanish enclave in Morocco, Juan Jesus Vivas. According to reports in Europa Press, Carolina Perez called her statements made to the Senate “inappropriate”, when commenting on studies and official data on social exclusion and unemployment in Ceuta, which referred to factors such as the low qualifications and high drop-out rates of people who are unemployed. I made a mistake speaking in general terms,” said the official, who apologised if her statements “may have hurt someone”, as it was not her intention to offend anyone and “even less so the Muslim community”. Perez underlined her 20 years of work in the PP and said that she is certain that “she has demonstrated that she has worked for social cohesion and integration” during her most recent social services role in Ceuta.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: UPS Sued for Demanding Muslim Shave Beard

Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, DO) has filed a lawsuit against parcel delivery company United Parcel Service (UPS) after the company dismissed a Muslim driver who refused to shave his beard.

In a lawsuit filed with Sweden’s Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen) on Monday, the ombudsman argued that the company should pay the man, a resident of Spånga northest of Stockholm, 150,000 kronor ($23,000) in compensation plus 42,000 kronor in lost income, as well as interest on both amounts.

“The rule has no legitimate purpose and is not appropriate and necessary,” wrote Anders Wilhelmsson, the ombudsman office lawyer representing the man, in the filing.

The man was employed in June 2010 by the Uniflex staffing company, which intended to subcontract him to UPS as a driver. The contract was to last through the summer until August 31st, but the stated aim was a permanent position with UPS if all went well, according to DO.

During the recruitment process, the man was informed that UPS had a uniform policy under which drivers were not allowed to have beards. During the recruitment process, no one asked if he was prepared to shave his beard.

In addition, his beard growth was very minimal. As such, he believed his beard would not be a problem.

The man began his employment at UPS on June 7th, 2010. The first week was devoted to training. During that time, no one remarked about his beard, according to the lawsuit.

However, the following Monday just before his first run, his immediate supervisor told him he had to shave the beard the next day.

Since there were other colleagues around, the man waited until the afternoon to speak to his supervisor again, but he was unable to contact reach his boss until the following morning.

The man told his supervisor that he was a Muslim and it was against his religious convictions to shave his beard.

The supervisor said it sounded strange to him because there were other Muslims at UPS who had shaved their beards, reiterating the policy was in place so that drivers would look clean and neat and that a beard was unacceptable.

According to the lawsuit, the man explained that there are different interpretations of Islam. He asked if it was possible to grant him an exemption since he had religious reasons and it was not a large beard.

The supervisor said he would discuss the issue with human resources and get back to him. At the end of the workday, the man was told by another manager that UPS stood by its policy and the company could not make any exceptions.

The man emphasised that it was a difficult decision for him because he wanted to remain at UPS, but that he had thought through the whole situation carefully and stood behind his stance.

The manager then informed the man that his contract would be terminated and asked him to return his uniform. Since the man’s position at Uniflex was dependent on the contract, he also lost his job at Uniflex the following day.

The ombudsman argued in its lawsuit that the company’s ban on beards was difficult to fulfill as it touched on decisions based on one’s religion or beliefs.

As such, the man was disadvantaged by the application of an ostensibly neutral rule that could specifically discriminate against people with religious beliefs.

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

Sweden: No Sign Stockholm Bomber Had Help: Säpo

Sweden’s intelligence agency announced on Thursday that there are no indications that the man behind Sweden’s first suicide bombing had any accomplices.

The Swedish Security Service (Säkerhetspolisen, Säpo) summed up its probe on Thursday, two months after the attack.

“There is nothing for the time being indicating he had accomplices,” Säpo spokeswoman Sirpa Franzen told AFP, adding that the agency was still “not ruling out the possibility.”

During the 60 days since Taimour Abdulwahab, a 29-year-old sports therapist, blew up his car and then himself near a busy Stockholm shopping street on December 11th, Säpo said it had received nearly 1,000 tips from the public, conducted around 700 interrogations and examined several hundred items.

The agency had never officially identified Abdulwahab as the bomber, who was the only one to die in the twin blasts, but on Thursday, Franzen confirmed his identity.

“We have determined who he was. It is who everyone is saying it is,” she said.

Abdulwahab, a Swedish citizen who lived in the British town of Luton with his wife and three children, narrowly missed wreaking carnage among Christmas shoppers when he blew himself up next to Stockholm’s busiest pedestrian street a day before his 29th birthday.

He was carrying a cocktail of explosives and is believed to have mistakenly set off a small explosion that killed him before he could carry out what appears to have been a mission to kill “as many people as possible,” a Swedish prosecutor said days after the attack.

An Islamist website, Shumukh al-Islam, posted a purported will by Abdulwahab which said he was fulfilling a threat by Al-Qaeda in Iraq to attack Sweden.

Shortly before the explosions, Säpo and the TT news agency received an email with audio files in which Abdulwahab is heard telling “all hidden mujahedeen in Europe, and especially in Sweden, it is now the time to fight back.”

Säpo would not comment on media reports claiming a second person can be heard breathing in the background on the files, indicating Abdulwahab had help organising the attack.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Pledges More Aid for ‘Web Activists’

Sweden’s minister for development cooperation has pledged to increase aid for social media and technical systems to prevent repressive regimes from shutting off the internet, such as the Egyptian government’s measures last week.

Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson has already allotted 150 million kronor ($23.12 million) for democracy and freedom of speech this year.

Having taken note of the events in Tunisia and Egypt in the last month, she wants to further invest in achieving these aims, newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) reported on Thursday.

Carlsson calls internet activists the “new democracy fighters.” She will host a meeting on March 10th to hear about new project ideas and has invited individuals to submit their ideas by email by February 24th.

“It is about supporting people’s efforts to build democracy from the inside in unfree countries. I will take the best ideas from the meeting in March with me to work for developing Swedish aid for democracy, as well as in the discussions taking place within the EU,” Carlsson said in a statement on Thursday.

“The knowledge and the commitment of internet activists, entrepreneurs and bloggers are needed in modern aid that takes freedom seriously,” she added.

Carlsson will invite a number of high-profile experts to contribute to the conversation. The invitation list will be made up of individuals with ideas about social media on their websites and the 10 most creative will be chosen, according to DN.

Among the most eagerly anticipated invitees is Swedish live video streaming site Bambuser’s founder Måns Adler. The site was among those blocked in Egypt two weeks ago. Last Wednesday, it created a new site dedicated to videos from Egypt after access to Bambuser from the country was restored.

Swedish aid allocation for democracy and freedom of speech began in 2009 at a significantly smaller scale.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Styrelsen för Internationellt Utvecklingssamarbete, Sida) has so far provided assistance through anonymising networks that help struggling democracy activists in dictatorships and to an international nonprofit organization that trains journalists, DN reported.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Bagehot: Muscle v Multiculturalism

ON FEBRUARY 5th David Cameron gave a speech about Islamism and British values at a conference in Munich. Back home, the rows have not stopped since. Much of the fuss has a distinctly synthetic tang. Absurdly, Sadiq Khan, the Labour shadow justice secretary, accused the prime minister of “writing propaganda” for a far-right group that held a rally on the same day. Conservatives chortled that Mr Cameron had hailed the end of multiculturalism. What he actually said was that a doctrine of “state multiculturalism” had encouraged Britons to live segregated lives. In its stead, he proposed a “muscular liberalism” that confronts extremism and promotes a British identity open to all.

In short, Mr Cameron’s big speech was not as ferocious as his critics charge or some of his fans hope. The bad news is, large parts were an unconvincing muddle.

Much of it was not new. A year after the London bombings of July 2005 Ruth Kelly, then the Labour minister in charge of community policies, asked whether — in its anxiety to avoid imposing a single British identity on diverse communities — multiculturalism had encouraged “separateness”. In December 2006 Tony Blair gave a speech on multiculturalism that reads like a list of Mr Cameron’s talking points. Both prime ministers called for tighter controls on Muslim groups receiving public funds, an entry ban on foreign preachers with sulphurous views, a tougher line on forced marriages and an expectation that all British citizens support common values, from the rule of law to a rejection of discrimination. As for identity, under Mr Blair and his successor Gordon Brown the government was obsessed with “Britishness” (Mr Brown briefly floated plans for an annual “Britain Day”).

Why, then, did Mr Cameron bother to give a speech that was greeted by one weary official with the lament, “here we go again”? Politics, partly. Few prime ministers can resist denouncing what Mr Cameron dubbed the “failed policies of the past”. But mostly, Mr Cameron’s intention was to weigh in on one side of a debate that has gripped Whitehall for a decade: should the government fight terrorism by working with ideological extremists who claim to oppose violent acts in Britain (if not elsewhere)?

In its final counter-terrorist strategy in office, Labour plumped for challenging such “non-violent extremists”. Mr Cameron is intervening because he thinks that decision has not been followed through, says a Whitehall source. The prime minister, says the source, has been persuaded by the “conveyor belt” theory — the belief that non-violent extremism is often a “way point” on the road to lethal radicalism. Mr Cameron thinks multiculturalism has drifted from a tolerance of other cultures towards a tolerance of other value systems, some of them hostile to Britain.

That stress on values raises some daunting problems. First, there is a tension between values and tactics. The most coherent critics of dangerous preachers are often imams who hold “pretty unpleasant views” themselves, argues a senior official. Groups beloved by ministers — such as the Quilliam Foundation, which backs calls for sweeping curbs on radical preachers — have “no credibility” among ordinary Muslims, another official says. Mr Cameron calls it “nonsense” that extremists help keep vulnerable Muslims away from violence. But he cannot wish away the trade-off between liberal values and street credibility…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Boy, Seven, Mauled by Pitbull is Lucky to be Alive After Stranger Broke Into Flat to Save Him

A stranger broke into a flat to save a seven-year-old boy who was being mauled by a pitbull.

Jack Wellstead was today said to be ‘lucky to be alive’ after he was dragged unconscious and covered in blood from the home by Lawal Alhadi.

The boy suffered terrible bites to his head, feet and legs after he got trapped in the hallway of the flat with the animal while playing with friends.

Mr Alhadi, 27, heard Jack’s screams as he passed the property in West Ham, east London, and smashed down the door.

He said the hallway of the home was a horrific ‘bloodbath’ as he dragged the pitbull away from Jack and carried him to safety.

‘I whacked the dog so hard on its head but he jumped on me and ripped my trousers apart,’ he told the Evening Standard.

‘I eventually managed to grab hold of the boy but his injuries were horrific and he was unconscious. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’

[Comments: Mr. Lawal Alhadi showed real bravery and by his quick actions he saved this young boys life.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Daily Star Champions the English Defence League

Yesterday’s Daily Star broke new ground by publishing a political splash. Over a picture of flag-waving marchers was the headline English Defence League to become political party.

As this reproduction of its front page shows, it was anything but a neutral presentation. It is a clear piece of propaganda on behalf of the EDL, a group that opposes the supposed spread of Islamic extremism in Britain.

The story cannot be read as anything other than a cheer-leading, uncritical piece on behalf of the EDL. Triumphalist in tone throughout, it required no between-the-lines deconstruction to grasp its intention — to build support for the group among its readers.

Mind you, the final line of the story suggests it may be preaching to the converted:

“In the Daily Star phone poll yesterday, 98% of readers said they agreed with the EDL’s policies.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Don’t Dare Ignore EDL

CRITICS say the English Defence League is a racist, extremist organisation that’s filled with hate.

The group’s leader Tommy Robinson strongly denies this. He says members have no problems with race.

But he admits he is against “barbaric” Islam and the way it affects Britain.

Whatever side of the fence you fall, one thing’s for sure.

There is a visibly growing support for the EDL. It is attracting people across Britain to its ranks who feel the same way.

This should be a warning to the major political parties.

Key voters are so fed up with them that they are looking elsewhere.

And there are real underlying issues here with Brits who feel abandoned by their leaders.

The EDL are now planning to field election candidates. If the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems don’t heed this and address key issues they could soon become a political force.

Then, whether you like them or not, Tommy and his followers will have to be taken very seriously…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL to Go Political

THE English Defence League is set to break into mainstream politics with a bid to get MPs in Parliament.

It wants to field official EDL candidates in national and council elections.

The move is an attempt to increase the organisation’s political influence, just like the BNP under Nick Griffin.

The party’s boss Tommy Robinson said: “We aren’t ruling it out. I think this country needs a party that’s not afraid to say things some would consider unpopular.

“My hope is still that the Tories will take a tougher stance.

“We are a single issue group and at the moment we would rather have a dialogue with the other political parties — but that could change.”

Mr Robinson, 28, real name Stephen Lennon, whose group now has 74,000 Facebook followers, predicted the EDL would have more online supporters than the Tories, Labour and the Lib-Dems by the end of the year.

He said the organisation’s main aim was to outlaw the Koran then adapt it to fit in with British society.

He said the only way to do this would be to force Muslims to realise the words of their holy scriptures are outdated.

He said: “They have got a responsibility to sort out their religion. They have to reform their religion so it fits in.”

Mr Robinson also revealed that he wants to appear on BBC1’s Question Time. And the EDL boss said that, unlike bumbling BNP leader Nick Griffin, 51, he would be a surefire hit on the show…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Has the Daily Star Decided to Back the English Defence League?

“Front page”, boasted the Facebook page of the right-wing English Defence League yesterday as it triumphantly linked its followers to a headline in Richard Desmond’s Daily Star that noted that the anti-Islamic organisation was to become a “political party”.

It’s a rare thing for the Star to “splash” on politics. And although the coverage referred to the EDL as being a “far-right group”, it reported its activities in an uncritical manner and noted that, in a phone poll of readers the previous day, 98 per cent of respondents had “said they agreed with the EDL’s policies”.

The media website Engage immediately asked “Is the EDL the Daily Star’s New Friend?” A day earlier the newspaper had run a story saying that the EDL would “fight for heroes” and claiming that two Muslim councillors had “snubbed” a soldier by not rising to their feet when he was being given a standing ovation for winning a George Cross.

Yesterday’s story carried the headline “EDL Chief: Vote Us Into Parliament!” It reported the wish of the group’s leader — who uses the pseudonym Tommy Robinson — to appear on the BBC’s Question Time.

“The EDL boss said that, unlike bumbling BNP leader Nick Griffin, 51, he would be a surefire hit on the show,” the paper said. The article appeared alongside the Star’s coverage of upheaval in Egypt, a piece that began: “Thousands of illegal immigrants will flee riot-torn Egypt and flood to Britain.”

The paper’s report that the EDL was preparing to field MPs was accompanied by Mr Robinson’s observation that the group’s 74,000 following on Facebook would exceed the online support of the three main political parties by the end of the year.

Among those Facebook followers yesterday, the Daily Star’s apparent warmth to the group and a lead editorial headlined “Don’t dare ignore EDL”, was a source of pride and exhilaration.

Stephen Martin, who uses the slogan “British by Birth, English by the Grace of God”, described his morning commute. “TODAY i sat there with my daily star with PRIDE, the pictures and banners were fair, the write up was fair, the Star comment was fair and 98 per cent back us (including everybody sat with me),” he wrote. “We have a voice now, 25p a day, if they have 74,000 new readers, we have a BIGGER voice.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: MPs’ Expenses: Eric Illsley Jailed for a Year and Jim Devine Found Guilty

Two MPs were forced to accept the consequences of cheating the expenses system today as they faced their day of judgement in court.

Disgraced Labour MP Eric Illsley was jailed for a year for fiddling his parliamentary expenses until the rules were changed to require more detailed receipts, a court heard today.

A second former Labour MP Jim Devine was found guilty of making false expense claims at Southwark Crown Court today.

Both looked like broken men as they left court today, with Divine in particular wearing his anguish on his face.

Illsley, 55, dishonestly received about £14,500 of public money by inflating or inventing claims relating to his second home in London, the hearing was told.

The fraud came to an end only when the Commons authorities varied their regulations in April 2008 to require MPs to submit receipts for all claims over £25.

Prosecutor Peter Wright QC said there was a ‘dramatic reduction’ in the amount Illsley claimed after this time.

The former MP for Barnsley Central was paid £39,204.25 in expenses between May 2005 and April 2008 but the costs he actually incurred amounted to only £25,000.

Until April 2008, MPs had to provide receipts only for expenses claims over £250, the hearing was told.

Mr Wright said: ‘Over the period in question a pattern emerges in which Mr Illsley submitted claims in which figures up to but never over £250 were claimed for various expenses that had not been claimed at all or in respect of legitimate expenses that were much smaller and bore little resemblance to the actual sum claimed.’

He added: ‘Some of the claims were false. They included alleged expenses that he had not, in fact, incurred.’

Meanwhile, former Labour MP Jim Devine was also found guilty of fiddling his expenses today.

Devine, 57, who held the Livingston seat, submitted false invoices for cleaning and printing work totalling £8,385.

He was found guilty by a jury at Southwark Crown Court of two charges of false accounting. He was cleared of one other count relating £360 for cleaning work.

The former backbencher, of Bathgate, West Lothian, was the first MP to stand trial in the wake of the expenses scandal.

The jury of six men and six women took two hours and 45 minutes to agree with the prosecution that on the two counts Devine showed a ‘woeful inadequacy’ in abiding by the core principles expected of MPs.

Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said the case against Devine was ‘very straightforward’.

The former MP made the fraudulent claims ‘with a view to gain for himself, or with an intent to cause loss to another — the public purse’.

The prosecutor said a guide known as the Green Book was readily available to MPs and clearly set out the rules and regulations on submitting expenses that must relate to parliamentary duties.

It lists the fundamental principles MPs should adhere to when making expenses claims, Mr Wright told the court.

‘These are based on concepts of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership,’ he said.

‘We say these are qualities of which Mr Devine demonstrated a woeful inadequacy.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: MPs Finally Take a Stand Against Europe: Massive Commons Majority Blocks Unelected Judges Giving Prisoners the Vote

MPs tonight overwhelmingly backed a Commons motion to continue denying prisoners the right to vote in defiance of the European Court of Human Rights.

The House of Commons voted by 234 to 22, majority 212 in favour of the motion tabled by senior Tory David Davis and Labour former justice secretary Jack Straw.

Mr Davis said convicted prisoners had ‘broken their contract with society’ and Mr Straw accused the ECHR of going beyond its remit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Pupils Learn to Cut Off Hands of Thieves

Muslim children are being taught how to chop off thieves’ hands and that Jews are plotting to take over the world at a network of Islamic schools, it has been disclosed.

Up to 5,000 pupils attending weekend schools across Britain are being exposed to textbooks claiming that some Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and that some offences could be punished with stoning. One book for six year-olds warns that those who do not believe in Islam will be condemned to “hellfire” in death.

Another text for 15 year-olds teaches that thieves who break Sharia law should have their hands cut off for a first offence and their feet amputated for a subsequent crime. Teenagers are presented with diagrams showing where the cuts should be made.

Tonight’s Panorama on BBC One will claim that the books were discovered at a network of 40 private schools teaching the Saudi Arabian national curriculum. The programme claims to have uncovered evidence apparently linking the schools to the Saudi embassy. Officials at the embassy deny any link.

Panorama also found examples of private Muslim schools using extremist sentiments on their websites.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Arrested Two Men Yesterday for Allegedly Publishing a Catalogue of Vile and Racially Inflammatory Material on the Internet.

Police arrested two men yesterday for allegedly publishing a catalogue of vile and racially inflammatory material on the internet.

One of the men, from Paignton, is thought to be responsible for a series of anti-Muslims videos.

He was one of two men arrested by Devon and Cornwall police on suspicion of publishing racially inflammatory material at 8.30am yesterday.

He and a 41-year-old unnamed male, also from Paignton, were yesterday bailed by Police until May.

Material was confiscated from an address in South Devon and a banner was removed from the boot of a car.

One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: “I saw five uniformed officers outside this morning and one female officer in plain clothes.

“I don’t know the man in question very well myself, he lives alone and keeps himself to himself a lot of the time.”

A police spokesman said: “We have investigated a number of incidents across the internet after they were brought to our attention last year. ‘We have yet to analyse what has been seized and will then be in a better to look at what, if any, offences have been committed.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Karadzic Accuses UN Peacekeepers of Siding With Muslim Army

Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Thursday accused United Nations peacekeepers in Bosnia of siding with the Muslim army during the 1992-1995 war.

Cross examining prosecution witness, former British general Rupert Smith, who was commander of the UN peacekeeping force in 1995, Karadzic told the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that the peacekeepers under Rupert’s command had become “an ally of Muslim army against Serbs”.

“You had consciously and deliberately become an ally of our enemy and worked to change the situation in the field to improve Muslims’ negotiating position,” Karadzic said.

Smith, who had ordered NATO strikes on Serbian positions, said the purpose was to stop shelling the capital Sarajevo and protected Muslim enclaves by Bosnian Serb forces. But he conceded that the air strikes “certainly did change the balance of power on the battlefield”. Smith said he ordered air strikes after Serbs shelled Sarajevo Markale market in May and August 1995, killing and wounding more than one hundred people. Karadzic repeated his earlier claims that the attacks on Markale were staged by Muslim forces exactly to provoke NATO intervention.

Smith said he had ordered the attacks based on two investigations and the information he had. “It was up to me to decide and I did so,” he said. He said he even ordered the bombing of native village of Bosnian military commander Ratko Mladic, where his parents were buried, to show that Mladic couldn’t protect even his loved ones. Asked by Karadzic who “gave him the mandate to humiliate Mladic”, Smith replied that “if general Mladic felt humiliated, all he had to do was to stop his army”. He conceded, however, that among peacekeepers were specialists for guiding NATO planes.

Karadzic and Mladic have been indicted by the UN tribunal on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008, but Mladic is still in hiding…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

EU-Croatia: Talks at Decisive Stage, Agreement in April

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, FEBRUARY 9 — Croatia could gain the date of the end of EU membership negotiations in April, and end them in June. The statement was made yesterday in Zagreb by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. Hungary is the current president of the Union.

After the meeting with Croatian premier Jadranka Kosor, Orban stated that “The next two months are decisive for the end of the negotiations: March should be the time for a range of positive news, and in April Croatia could learn the exact date”. However the Hungarian premier commented that should such steps not be followed as expected, membership could be further delayed. The Zagreb government hopes to gain the ratification of all 27 member Countries before the middle of 2012, and to join in the second half of 2012 or in 2013. To achieve this objective Croatia must be believable in the fight against corruption and organised crime and in reforming the justice system, topics of chapter 23 of the negotiations, one of the most delicate ones concerning the fundamental rights of citizens and the magistracy. Still unresolved is the fate of shipyards, once the pride of Yugoslavia’s industrial exports, and today an almost broken down sector that only survives thanks to State subsidies. Prime minister Kosor announced that before the week is over a report on the plan to reorganise shipyards will be submitted in Brussels. By March an official position of the European Commission is expected relatively to Croatia’s progress in reforming the justice system, as well as a report on the privatisation of shipyards.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

DNI Clapper: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood ‘Largely Secular’

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is backing away from comments he made Thursday calling Egypt’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement “largely secular.”

“To clarify Director Clapper’s point — in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation — he is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization,” a spokesman for Clapper, Jamie Smith, said Thursday afternoon

At a House Intelligence Committee hearing earlier in the day, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) questioned Clapper about the threat posed by the group. Clapper replied by suggesting that the Egyptian part of the Brotherhood is not particularly extreme and that the broader international movement is hard to generalize about.


Clapper said later in the hearing that the Brotherhood in Egypt runs 29 hospitals “not under the guise of an extremist agenda.” He said the group fills a vacuum caused by the absence of government services, but added, “It is not necessarily with a view to promoting violence or overthrow of the state.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: ‘Rules Needed’, Frattini Agrees With Clinton

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — Rules are needed to make sure that the transition in Egypt is swift but free of the risk of “chaos”, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday after conferring at length with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the phone Tuesday night.

The US and Italy think there must be constant consultation with new Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, Frattini said at a press conference here with visiting Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubaker Abdullah Al Qirbi.

“Not only Clinton but all of us are worried about the risk of Islamic fundamentalism,” Frattini said.

He said he had informed Clinton of his phone conversation Tuesday with Egyptian diplomat and Arab league chief Amr Moussa, in which Moussa stressed the need for a “detailed” timeframe to present a modified Egyptian Constitution by the beginning of March and stage a popular referendum ahead of September elections in which President Hosni Mubarak has said he or his sons will not stand.

Frattini also noted that an “indirect casualty” of the Egyptian crisis was the Middle East peace process which “unfortunately is completely stalled,” partly because one of its protagonists, Suleiman, is now otherwise engaged.

This is one of the key reasons why “Egyptian stability is a priority issue to be addressed immediately,” the Italian foreign minister said.

Al Qirbi, who has witnessed protests in Yemen too, told reporters that “the more interference there is from abroad, the more complicated the situation becomes”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Saudi King Tells Obama, Don’t Humiliate Mubarak

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, FEBRUARY 10 — The USA “must not humiliate” Hosni Mubarak, was what Saudi King Abdullah said on the phone to American President Barak Obama, according to London daily The Times. Obama had called Abdullah to reiterate the importance that the U.S. gives to an “orderly, meaningful, long-term and legitimate transition” in Egypt. During the conversation, Abdullah underlined that Riyadh would guarantee economic support to Cairo if Washington were to stop its aid programme to the country, writes the British daily. On January 28 the White House announced that it would review its 1.5 billion-dollar aid programme, specifying that currently a revision is not on the agenda. The ‘friendly (Saudi) advice to the US president’ reportedly came in a tense conversation on the phone on January 29. Abdullah reportedly told Obama not to force a rapid regime change in Egypt, warning that his country would provide funds to Egypt if Washington ended its aid programme to Cairo.

“Mubarak and Abdullah are not only allies, but they are good friends and the king does not want to see his friend humiliated,” said a source in the Saudi capital, speaking to The Times. The phone conversation reportedly took place four days after the start of the protests. According to the daily, the story sheds light on the apparent paralysis of Washington and has uncovered the most serious diplomatic tension between the White House and Riyadh since the times of the oil crisis in 1973. Egypt receives 1.5 billion dollars in aid per year, mostly destined for the army.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Army Signals Steps to Take Power

Egypt’s armed forces said on Thursday that they were taking “necessary measures to protect the nation and support the legitimate demands of the people,” a signal that the military intends to take a commanding role in governing the country.

There was no immediate confirmation that the army intended to replace the government named by President Hosni Mubarak, but protesters in Cairo roared approval at the news that the military was moving to supplant the government they have steadfastly opposed.

Jubilant chants of “The Army and the people in one hand!” could be heard on broadcasts from Tahrir Square.

There was no information about what role Mr. Mubarak or his new vice president, Omar Suleiman, would play in a military government. The announcement came on the 17th day of unrest in Egypt, bolstered by strikes and protests among professional groups in Cairo and workers across the country.

[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak Leaves for Sharm El Sheikh, Al Arabiya

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 10 — Television network al Arabiya reports with a banner headline that President Hosni Mubarak is headed for Sharm el Sheikh together with the chief of staff General Sami Anan.

Egyptian press sources confirmed to ANSA that sources close to the army have said that President Hosni Mubarak has left Cairo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Obama: History is Being Made

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 10 — The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has said that “history is being made” in Egypt: “a new generation is raising its voice to be heard”.

The United States, Obama continued, will do “everything in its power” to guarantee “an orderly transition” toward “democracy” aiming to guarantee “free elections”.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Army Against Shift of Power to Suleiman

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 10 — Sources of Al Jazeera tv have said that the army is against the broadcasting of an address in which President Hosni Mubarak is expected to announce the transfer of all his responsibilities to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Mubarak, State television reports, is having a meeting with Suleiman “at this moment”.

A high officials of the Muslim Brotherhood has said that he fears the Egyptian armed forces are preparing a coup. “It looks like a military coup”, said Essam al-Erian. “I am concerned and nervous. The problem is not the President, it is the regime”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak Stays in Office, But Transfers Power

(AGI) Cairo — Mubarak said he is transferring power to Suleiman, but will remain in office until next elections in September. Mubarak said he would hand over power to vice president Suleiman, according to the procedures laid down in the Egyptian Constitution. TV network Al Jazeera showed pictures of angry protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir square outraged at Mubarak’s speech .

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

Egypt Brotherhood Talks of Coup, But Retracts Comment

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood said on Thursday he feared the army was staging a military coup, but later said any official comment from Egypt’s biggest opposition group would depend on the final outcome.

“It looks like a military coup … I feel worry and anxiety. The problem is not with the president it is with the regime,” Essam al-Erian, a senior member of the group, had told Reuters.

But he later said: “We will not comment until the situation clears.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: What’s Really Happening?

The International Crisis Group, of which protest leader Mohamed ElBaradei is a trustee, verbatim repeats the need for an interim national unity government, lifting the state of emergency, and amendments to the constitution especially in regards to elections.

The Council on Foreign Relations’ “Foreign Policy” magazine features an article by Zalmay Khalilzad, of the globalist Center for Strategic and International Studies calling for the same “reforms,” including Mubarak’s immediate departure, a constitutional convention for amendments, and a “transitional government.”

The Carnegie Middle East Center’s piece “Egypt’s Path Ahead: Agree to the People’s Demands” by Amr Hamzawy also repeats these demands verbatim and insists Egypt bow to a 50,000 strong ochlocracy. Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy at the globalist Brookings Institute, Martin Indyk, wrote an article with the self-explanatory title “In Egypt, the Time Has Come for Mubarak To Go.”

Fellow Brookings Institute member Shadi Hamid also weighs in. His prolific propagandizing should be of no surprise to anyone, as he had served on the globalists’ National Endowment for Democracy funded NGO Project on Middle Eastern Democracy mentioned above. It should be noted that NGOs play a vital role in shaping and manipulating public opinion in regards to the globalist agenda.

In USA Today Hamid authored “Why You Should Care About Egypt,” in which he displays complete contempt for his readers by simplistically begging, “Should Americans care? Only if they care about 80 million people who yearn for freedom.” He argues that President Obama’s initial support for Mubarak was folly and that now is the time to support the Egyptian people.

This push comes from the same think-tanks that suggested as early as March 2010 that the US initially feign support for Mubarak so as to avoid bringing anti-American sentiment upon the protest leaders. Hamid’s clever “plea” was meant to give Obama a bridge to make the crossover to supporting “democracy.”

By now, it should be abundantly clear what the globalists amongst their think-tanks desire for Egypt. Their consensus should come as no surprise as prominent US policy makers like Zbigniew Brzezinski and George Soros have seats on boards in nearly all of them. The fact that the protesters on the street and the mainstream media reflect this desire verbatim tells us exactly what is going on in Egypt.

[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Mubarak vs. The NGOs

Say what you will about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but he knows his way around a Western intelligence operation, no doubt owed to his 30 year involvement facilitating them. Despite the initial chaos, by the time the Egyptian protesters began their “million man march” the momentum already had begun to dissipate.

AlJazeera’s cartoonish “two million” and still ridiculous “over a million” claim did not match the photographs they showed of Tahrir Square, where it appeared between 50,000 and 100,000 protesters had gathered. BBC and CNN, while still following the script, scaled back their claims to “hundreds of thousands” and “tens of thousands” respectively. BBC’s Jon Leyne claimed it was as if all of Egypt was there, hoping no one would do the math. However, by doing the math, if even half-a-million showed up it reveals 99.4% of Egypt was still not there. It is no surprise then that Mubarak refused to step down.

The violence that transpired in the streets afterward was decidedly blamed on Mubarak by the foreign media. Mubarak would have gained little from stirring more violence considering the protest’s weak showing and its inevitable ebbing. With little evidence and US National Endowment for Democracy funded NGOs being deferred to as “credible sources,” it is by far too early to tell. What is certain is that Mubarak’s security forces did begin moving against foreign media and NGO organizations.

While some may be puzzled by this move or find it indicative of brutal tyranny, the fact of the matter is that many of these NGOs are funded by the United States. What’s more is that they are funded not by philanthropic organizations, but by mainly America’s banking, political and business elite. The foreign media, like wise, is funded, owned and consorts openly amongst the ranks of these elite and their exclusive organizations.

The National Endowment for Democracy funds NGOs in nearly every country on earth. A quick look at their Board of Directors reveals a myriad of high-level Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings Institute, RAND Corporation, and Carnegie Institute for International Peace members. Many of these high level business, political and financial leaders share multiple memberships across various US policy think-tanks.

While NGOs are generally associated with causes of the “progressive left” their funding is coming from mainly big business associated with the “right.” This diabolical dichotomy serves to garner divided myopic support from the masses who would otherwise reject the overall agenda, if only they could look past their left/right paradigms. For the overall agenda is to meddle in foreign nations under the guise of humanitarian causes in order to expand business, financial and political power overseas. This is globalization.

With this understanding it is then perfectly clear why Hosni Mubarak moved against not only these NGOs, but the foreign media using the NGOs’ spin and meddling to disseminate disinformation. It is also clear why he moved against the local opposition that partnered with them. This opposition included many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who claimed on their official website that Mubarak’s security forces raided their headquarters, arresting party members, foreign journalists, and NGO members all conveniently present at the same time.

[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Tribal Leaders Attack Queen Rania

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAMed) — AMMAN, FEBRUARY 9 — The royal family in Jordan has been rocked by demands of conservative tribal figures who unleashed unprecedented accusations of corruption against the Palestinian-origin Queen Rania, in what has been seen as an attempt to undermine rule of king Abdullah in this country.

While the 40 year old queen was singled out for the smear campaign, analysts and observes said the tribal figures were directing their spears at king Abdullah through his wife.

Abdullah, who is immune to prosecution and criticism in accordance with the law is being pressured by east banker tribes to trim growing influence of Queen Rania and to give-in state concessions in the form of senior jobs in the civil sector and other privileges, say observers.

In a letter, signed by some three dozens tribal figures from tribal figures, Queen Raia was accused of using state funds to polish her image in the kingdom and abroad.

The letter also said that Jordan faces similar scenarios as Tunisia and Egypt in light of dereference from the first ladies of the two countries, Suzan Mubarak and Layla Trabulsi, warning of similar scenario in the kingdom unless immunity is lifted from the queen.

Analysts questioned motifs of the letter by the east bankers, who make up the backbone of the monarchy arguing the right wing group’s action is provoked by political and financial interest and personnel vendetta against the monarch.

Former MP and political analyst Hamadeh Faraneh warned that such accusations are counter productive to a country that prides itself for being a melting pot for citizens from different races and religions. He said the royal family is a safety valve for minority groups and less powerfull ones and must remain aloof from manipulations.

“We grew to respect the royalty for moral and legal reasons.

So, touching on the royalty harms such values and an infringement on the law. It is not acceptable to manipulate and criticize the king through tarnishing image of those close to him,” said Hamarneh.

The signatories hail from influential Jordanian tribes including al Fayes, Abadi, Rusan, Rawashdeh, Kharabsheh, Shobaki and other tribes that make the backbone of the Hashemite monarchy. One of the signatories of the letter is former MP Ahmed Owidi Abadi, a conservative Jordanian who previously called for stripping hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their passports and deporting them. In 2007 Abadi, who is known of his open criticism to the king, was arrested and made to spend nearly a year behind bars for insulting the monarch. Many consider him the architect of this letter, along with disgruntled east bankers who failed to make it to senior posts in successive governments.

Analysts say the unprecedented move to accuse Queen Rania of corruption is motivated by the Palestinian origin of Queen Rania. “Criticism of corruption is usually against executive governments that control state assets, but having the queen makes an easy target due to her activities and origin,” said a senior Islamist figure who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Amnesty: Activist Arrested After Protest Call

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — Jamal al-Hajji, a Libyan writer and activist, was arrested by the authorities because he posted an invite on the internet to protest in favour of greater freedom in the Country. The report was made by Amnesty International in a statement that emphasised that the man was officially arrested on February 1 under the charge of a hit and run accident with his car, an event which the writer denied.

Amnesty’s Malcolm Smart stated that “There are two reasons in particular for which we believe that the accident was simply an excuse. The witnesses reported that the man who submitted the report did not look like the victim of a car accident, and furthermore al-Hajji was arrested by plainclothes agents working for Isa, the internal security agency that usually takes care of political crimes”.

The man was arrested in a parking lot in Tripoli by approximately 10 plainclothes agents. On the third his arrest was extended by the authorities and al-Hajji was moved the prison in Jdaida.

In the statement Smart added that “The Libyan authorities must clear up the legal status of al-Hajji, and they must release him immediately if the reason of his arrest is related to the peaceful exercise of freedom of speech rights”.

Al-Hajji wrote a series of articles on the progress of political events and human rights in Libya, most of which were posted on a website based abroad.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Opposition Platform, Intifada on February 17

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 9 — The National Conference of Libyan Opposition, a platform that gathers together the main groupings critical of the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, has convened a “mass demonstration” across Libya against the regime for Thursday, February 17. Gaddafi’s occupation of power goes back to 1969, making his reign the longest lived one of its kind in the Arab world. So reports Arab daily newspaper Asharq al Awsat, which is financed by the Saudis and published in London. The report cites a communiqué from the National Opposition Conference.

According to the paper, the opposition groups have chosen February 17 “to commemorate the victims of the Intifada which rose up in Bengasi” in February 2006, to protest against the publication in Europe of cartoons considered offensive to the image of the Prophet Mohammed. The demonstration degenerated into a violent anti-regime protest in the vicinity of the Italian Consulate.

“We call on all forces inside and outside Libya,” the communiqué says, “to commemorate that event with activities and demonstrations at various levels. We hope to have learned the lesson of the victory of the Tunisian Intifada,” the message concludes.

According to sources cited by Libyan daily Al-Youm, Colonel Gaddafi is apprehensive about this arrangement and is even, the newspaper says “warning” journalists, bloggers and activists of the risks involved should such a protest degenerate.

“The consequences of any sabotage or offences shall fall upon your tribe,” is how Gaddafi is alleged to have expressed this warning, the same sources say.

Gaddafi is also reported to have spoken about the revolt in Egypt, laying the blame entirely on the work of agents of Mossad (Israeli secret service), and on broadcaster Al Jazeera, accused of fomenting the rebellion. “It is a mistake to blame Mubarak, who is a poor man who cannot even afford to pay for the clothes he wears,” Gaddafi is quoted as saying.

The Libyan leader went on to defend former Tunisian president Ben Ali, who was forced to flee the street protests: “The people hated him because his wife is from Tripoli,” the Colonel is alleged to have said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya-Switzerland: Arbitration Tribunal President Appointed

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 9 — In an official statement the Libyan government announced that they have appointed the president of the arbitration tribunal that will make a decision on the procedures used in the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi in Geneva in July of 2008 and which will be binding for Switzerland. In a statement issued last night by the Libyan government, it was explained that “the representatives of Libya and Switzerland, after meeting with the appointed arbitrators, have agreed to appoint Canadian international law expert Philippe Kirsch president of the arbitration tribunal, stationed in Berlin, which will decide on the dispute between the two sides, which accepted to bring the case to arbitration as decided in article 2 of the agreement of August 20 2009 and as specified in the statement made on June 14 2010”. The diplomatic controversy between Libya and Switzerland will get on its way to being resolved with the appointment of Kirsch.

The dispute started on July 15 2008 with the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi after a report was filed by two servants for mistreatment, which led to a long series of consequences, including the visa crisis between Libya and the EU and the arrest of two Swiss citizens in Libya.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

More Disturbing Associations Coming From Movements.Org

The unrest in Egypt has brought out many troubling associations in the past few weeks, followed by many unanswered questions. As outlined earlier this week in a piece by Judi McLeod, the State Dept. along with Google, Twitter and many corporate sponsors, have been backing, where overseas radicals have been trained in using social networking to organize revolution. Following the continued activities of, I have been disturbed to find further associations with anarchists, socialist groups and others whose main goal is the destruction of capitalism.

Just this week on, writer Brannon Cullum, formerly a teacher at Trinity Episcopal School in Austin, TX, suggests in her post that radicals start using some alternate online sources for networking that are more secretive and secure:


We had already learned about the involvement of in the current Egyptian unrest, sponsored by our own State Dept. and sponsors like MSNBC, Twitter, Facebook and many more. We were already aware that was founded by former State Dept. employee Jared Cohen, now with Google, as well as Howcast’s Jason Liebman and Gen Next’s Roman Tsunder. What we didn’t know is that they are actually referring young activists from around the globe to a radical, anarchist site advocating the end of capitalism and offering secret, secure online networking to work towards this goal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Kingdom to Face Its First Street Demonstration

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 8 — Almost unscathed by the protests that in recent weeks involved Tunisia and Egypt — even though some people set fire to themselves and some analysts consider the November uprising in the Saharawi camp in Laayoune (El Ayun) as the first spark of protest — Morocco is expecting its first street demonstration, the one scheduled to take place on February 20 set up by a group of youth on Facebook.

The invitation that appeared on the social network is to hold a peaceful demonstration for the “dignity of the people and for democratic reforms”, in addition to a request for a reform of the Constitution and the government’s resignation. Their initiative was joined by the one carried out by the Islamist movement ‘Justice et bienfaisance’, which is banned but tolerated by authorities, which posted an appeal on its website for an “urgent fundamental democratic change” to “establish a true separation of powers”.

The movement — which is separate to the Islamic party named Justice and Development, a Moroccan offshoot of the Muslim Brothers that has seats in Parliament — can rely according to the authorities on no more than 30,000-40,000 supporters, but stated that it has approximately 200,000 members, as specified to Afp by political expert Maohamed Darif.

On the internet the movement emphasised that “Millions of Moroccans are in poverty, it is unfair that the Country’s wealth is hoarded by a minority”. The movement, led by 83-year-old Abdessalamn Yassine, is also asking for an end to ‘Ben Ali-sation’ (made out of the Tunisian former president’s name) known by Morocco”. But of course points of view on the matter are not in harmony. In recent days the minister for Communication Khalid Naciri stated, in reference to the February 20 demonstration, that for a long time Morocco has been engaged in an “irreversible process towards democracy and increasing space for liberties”.

In an article posted on Fox, analyst Ahmed Charai, president of Moroccan network Med Radio and editor of the magazine ‘L’Observateur’ and the French version of ‘Foreign Policy’, spoke about the “Moroccan exception to the disorder in the Middle East”. To explain the stability to date shown by the kingdom of Mohammed VI, Charai mentioned among others the popularity of the king and his inclination towards reforms, unlike the dictatorial traits of his father Hassan II; transparency in the latest parliamentary elections; freedom of speech and press that allows young people to express their dissent; the collaborative approach of the civil society promoted by authorities in wanting to deal with the problem of poverty; the major infrastructural works to deal with unemployment and rural poverty.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco Pressured to Step Up Reforms

Emboldened by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, demands for political reforms are now mounting in Morocco, touching even the country’s monarchy.

“Many believe that a constitutional reform, allowing Morocco to benefit from more modern institutions, is necessary,” economist and analyst Driss Benali said of a phenomenon that might ultimately decrease the monarch’s power.

The voices include those from one of Morocco’s leading Islamist movements, Justice and Charity, which has called for “urgent democratic change.”

“It is unjust that the country’s riches should be monopolised by a minority,” the movement, which is banned but tolerated here, wrote on its website.

Morocco is a country of stark economic inequalities, sharing some of the ingredients that exploded into massive revolts in nearby Tunisia; “A young, largely idle population facing problems of lack of training, employment and prospects and a fairly closed political horizon,” said economist Najib Akesbi.

“Corruption and nepotism” are two other realities, Akesbi said, noting Morocco ranks 85th in the corruption perceptions index of watchdog Transparency International — well below Tunisia’s ranking of 59th. So far, this country of 32 million has yet to experience the massive demonstrations now convulsing some Arab countries. But Moroccans in major cities have closely followed the popular uprisings of fellow north Africans in Tunisia and Egypt via Al Jazeera. More recently, a group of young Moroccans have issued a call via Facebook to stage peaceful protests for “a major political reform” on February 20. The movement, which claims several thousand followers, is only part of a mushrooming Cybernet debate here on chances of change. Morocco “will probably not be an exception” to the protest movements now afoot in the Arab world, Prince Moulay Hicham, cousin of King Mohammed VI, told foreign media in interviews.

The 46-year-old, third in line to the throne, is nicknamed the “red prince” because of his criticism of Morocco’s monarchy…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mubarak: “Brothers, Would You Have Me Crawl Away at the Command of Obama?”

This is what you call a failed foreign policy—

A defiant Egyptian President slammed Barack Obama today.

Andrea Shea King reported on his speech today to the Egyptian people via a trusted source from Israel:

“Iran has put its opposition leader under house arrest. Some Israeli forces are mobilizing. You can bet the leaders in the other Middle Eastern Countries are also moving to a higher level of alert. God save and protect them all!

“The Supreme Military Council met with Mubarak and as I have said time and time again it is NOT going to pan out the way Obama wants it. There was false rumors stating Mubarak was going to resign, it’s not true, the truth is Mubarak is very ill, his health has been stressed and the Army is fed up. (They leaked the false report to the media to see who they carried the message to in the mob’s hierarchy. They are going to declare Martial Law, it’s going to get ugly.

The Supreme Military council during a meeting yesterday stated in one voice, “We will not be ordered around by the Obama regime and we will not hand over Egypt to the bastards he supports. If they think Mubarak is a tyrant they have seen nothing.”

The Military has surrounded the Presidential palace to protect President Hosni Mubarak. The military is scheduled to give an order to disburse, then if the order is ignored then the military will declare Martial Law and take back the streets at all cost.

During the meeting with the Military Council Mubarak made the following statement:

“We are brothers, soldiers, we have bled together for Egypt, we have shed blood together. Today, we are faced by an enemy who demands we hand Egypt over to our enemies. The people of Egypt have been silenced by these insurgents and we have been more than patient. Will we all sit here and obey the Obama regime? Will we not once again, with honor stand up to our enemies? Will we not continue to stand for Egypt with honor?

Brothers, would you have me crawl away at the command of Obama? Would any of you crawl away like a dog that has been kicked? Would any of you bow down to the fools he has chosen to take our nation from us?

I leave to you, men of honor, the fate of Egypt, the honor of Egypt and in so doing, I know you will decide that which is right and honorable. We have known each other all our lives, we grew to be men together, we have eaten bread in each others houses and honored each others families. Will we now throw all that away for political expediency? “

THANK YOU BARACK OBAMA— For alienating every last one of our allies in the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood Says Fears Egypt Military Coup

A senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest opposition group, said on Thursday he feared the Egyptian army was staging a military coup.

“It looks like a military coup … I feel worry and anxiety. The problem is not with the president it is with the regime,” Essam al-Erian told Reuters…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Egypt’s Christians Are Hopeful But Nervous

Photos from Cairo show triumphant hands in the air — some raising up Coptic Christian crosses, others holding up Qurans.

Egyptian Christians and Muslims gathered together this week to pray for those who’ve died in the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

Muslims formed a protective circle around Christians as they prayed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Monday, just as Christian protesters had done for Muslims during last Friday’s prayers.

As the daughter of a Coptic-American immigrant to the United States, I’m astonished by such sights. In the many summers I’ve spent between Cairo and Alexandria, I’ve never seen Christian prayers in a public square. I’ve never seen a cross anywhere near a Quran.

Most Egyptian Christians are Coptic, a group of orthodox Christians who trace their lineage to St. Mark, the apostle who evangelized Alexandria in the first century. The majority of Egyptians were Coptic by the seventh century, when Arab Muslims brought Islam to Egypt.

Today, Copts constitute around 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt have been contentious, particularly in recent months. On New Year’s Eve, 23 Copts died in a church bombing in Alexandria. On New Year’s Day, Coptic protesters threw stones at a nearby mosque, clashing with local Muslims and riot police.

The Egyptian government blames the Alexandria church bombing on a foreign terrorist group linked to al Qaeda. The government continues to investigate the bombing.

But from Washington to Cairo, Copts are venting doubts about the integrity of the probe. It’s the talk of the Coptic town.

And it’s one reason for a new solidarity between Egyptian Christians and Muslims.

Copts can’t trust the government to protect them. Some discern a pattern of Mubarak provoking Muslim-Christian strife to distract Egyptians from government corruption. When militant Islamists become scapegoats for violence, the Mubarak regime gains brownie points from U.S. supporters for helping the fight against terrorism.

At the same time, Copts really do feel vulnerable to Islamist attacks. Coptic churches received threatening letters not long before the Alexandria church bombing. Simply put, Copts don’t know who to trust.

Too often, I’ve seen that feeling of vulnerability morph into anti-Islamic sentiment. I’ve often found myself defending Muslims in conversations with Coptic-Americans.

It’s true that Copts have long been persecuted in Egypt, often at Muslim hands. Some Egyptian Christians have been killed by Muslims in recent years.

But I haven’t seen the Coptic Church do much in the way of reconciliation. I’m grateful for my Coptic heritage, especially for the beautiful litanies — ancient Coptic prayers — that I often recite on my own. But I can’t wholeheartedly be part of a church whose theology is too orthodox to engage in interfaith dialogue.

Many Copts are ambivalent about the uprising against the Mubarak regime. Though the official church remains silent on the demonstrations at Tahrir Square, Copts have participated in large numbers.

Egyptian Christians are excited and afraid: Excited to rally with the secular youth who began the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, largely through Facebook and Twitter. Afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will swoop in and take the reigns…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Glenn Beck is Right on Egypt Chaos

A conflict has erupted between conservative pundit William Kristol and Fox News host Glenn Beck over the chaos in Egypt, with a number of right-leaning authors taking sides, and a few even hurling insults. In my job as a Mideast-based, boots-on-the-ground reporter who has lived and breathed these issues for the past six years, in constant communication with all sides of the Mideast conflict — including near-daily interviews with Arab officials, jihadist leaders (such as those from the Muslim Brotherhood), as well as average citizens — I feel compelled to join Glenn Beck’s side.

Chastising Beck from his position as editor of the influential Weekly Standard, Kristol criticizes the talk-show host for his “rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and [he] lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left.” Kristol then evinces a highly optimistic view of the upheaval now roiling Egypt and hails the protests there as a precursor for democracy, while urging the United States to support “the Egyptian awakening.”

Besides excoriating Beck, Kristol takes issue with Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who warns the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood may come to power as result of the revolution, but quotes approvingly of Krauthammer’s view that the “Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and of course merits our support.” Krauthammer also asserts that “our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time.” And to top it off, Kristol compares the Egyptian revolution to America’s own founding. “The Egyptian people want to exercise their capacity for self-government. American conservatives, heirs to our own bold and far-sighted revolutionaries, should help them,” he writes. Unfortunately, the Egypt Kristol wishes for does not reflect reality on the ground. Glenn Beck’s vision of an emerging Islamic caliphate — with the radical American left aiding and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood — is far closer to the truth and supported by abundant evidence. (Beck is not the only nationally syndicated commentator to make this argument. Popular talker Michael Savage devoted an entire broadcast last Friday to showing that leftist American figures had their hands in the Egyptian revolt, which, he said, will favor Islamists.)

Muslim Brotherhood to gain

Today, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized and popular opposition party in Egypt — and in much of the greater Middle East — and is poised to gain the most from any drive for democratic elections in the region. Some commentators have wrongly stated the Brotherhood has a popularity rating of “only” about 20 percent in Egypt. This figure is based on 2005 “elections” in which Brotherhood allies took about that percentage of the parliament. The Brotherhood then lost some of those seats in parliamentary “elections” held again last year. But both those elections were held amid widespread allegations of vote rigging and opposition intimidation in favor of President Hosni Mubarak, whose tightly controlled security forces reportedly rounded up and arrested Brotherhood leaders and key sympathizers in the run up to the ballots. It is simply unknown how well the Brotherhood would have scored if free and fair elections had been held.

Like its Hamas offshoot in the Palestinian territories, the Muslim Brotherhood has been endearing itself to the Egyptian population over the past several decades by building a civilian infrastructure of social services to make up for what Mubarak’s regime is lacking. Even a pedestrian reading of the situation in Egypt sees that the Brotherhood stands to gain the most from a truly democratic vote. Indeed, the Brotherhood has already scored a major victory by being invited to consult with Mubarak’s regime over reforms that will allow it more representation in any future government. Even if the Brotherhood did represent less than a quarter of the Egyptian population, in my Mideast neighborhood we have already seen that this kind of base may be enough to hijack an entire government. In Lebanon, Hezbollah — also a minority party — received veto power in the parliament last year. This year, the Iranian-backed extremist group just toppled the Lebanese government and seems poised to form a new one with a Hezbollah-allied prime minister…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Tensions Rising After Facebook Protest Messages

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, FEBRUARY 10 — Hamas security services have interrogated several bloggers in Gaza in an attempt to find out who has sent the messages — also spread on Facebook — which were meant to organise anti-Hamas demonstrations tomorrow in the Gaza Strip, after the Friday prayer. Several bloggers have been arrested, local sources say.

A webpage in the Arabic language appeared by the end of January on Facebook with the title Thawrat al-Karameh (the dignified revolution). The webpage invites young people in Gaza to “follow the example of people in Egypt and Tunisia” and to demonstrate their discontent with the Hamas regime on February 11. Last week the former head of PNA intelligence services in the West Bank, Tawfik Tirawi, praised the initiative.

In an interview with the Palestinian press agency JMCC, an anonymous organiser of ‘al-Karameh’ said today that the Facebook page has already been signed by 30,000 people, in Gaza and elsewhere. “Our goal is the reconstitution of Palestinian national unity (between Hamas and al-Fatah, editor’s note), with the helping hand of a popular uprising”, he said. A member of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ihab al-Ghusein, has called the initiative “pure propaganda” and predicted that there will be no demonstration tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrein: Heir to the Throne; Priority to Political Liberties

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — While ruling out the spread of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt to other Arab countries, Bahrain’s Prince and heir to the throne, Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa, asked leaders in the Middle East to make political liberties their priority, reports Al Jazeera’s website. In a speech broadcast on television, Al-Khalifa said the people want respect, a life of dignity and to participate in the decision-making process. Such requests have to become the priorities of the governments in the Arab world. The statements by the prince came immediately after his meeting with the Turkish prime minister, who did not conceal his solidarity with the protestors, according to Al Jazeera’s website. What took place in Tunisia is different from what is happening in Egypt, said the prince. The protests will not necessarily spread to other countries, concluded Al-Khalifa.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gulf: Appeal to Ruling Families, Democracy and Freedom

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 9 — Following the anti-regime protests in Tunisia and Egypt, dozens of scholars and civil society representatives in the Arab countries of the Gulf Region signed a petition addressed to their respective governments, calling for them to “guarantee freedom of expression”, “to promote democracy” and to “free political prisoners”.

“We hope that the ruling families in the Gulf Region understand the importance of the democratic transformation to which our people aspire,” said the petition from the Forum of Civil Societies of the six countries of the Gulf Region: Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Oman. “The time has come to free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and to establish Constitutions that meet the needs of the modern world,” continued the manifesto signed by journalists, lawyers, “independent” politicians and professionals. In particular, the petition calls for the authorities in the UAE to free an activist who was arrested last week after having read an appeal in support of the “Egyptian revolution” in public. The manifesto also contains a request to the government of Bahrain to allow for the “peaceful demonstrations” to take place scheduled for Monday by an opposition group who are calling for the premier to step down and for the release of political prisoners. The signees of the petition also made a similar appeal to Saudi authorities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran Accuses the Netherlands of Supporting Terrorism

Iran on Tuesday accused the Netherlands of backing terrorists as the row over the execution and speedy burial of Iranian-Dutch national Zahra Bahrami intensified.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference the Netherlands is ‘claiming to be civilised’ but at the same time defends the interests of criminals, drugs dealers and terrorists, according to media reports.

The Netherlands is making ‘a human rights issue out of an indefensible drug case and applying political pressure’, AFP quoted him as saying.

Terrorist groups

‘We can see an example of the wrong path of western countries, especially the Netherlands, in supporting terrorist groups… who have over 12,000 killings in their records,’ Mehmanparast said. He was referring to Iran’s armed opposition, the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran, some of whom live in western Europe as refugees.

According to ANP, the EU scrapped the organisation from its list of terrorist organisations in 2009.

The Netherlands on Monday recalled its ambassador from Tehran, following the surprise burial of Bahrami before her family had arrived.


She was convicted of drugs smuggling but was initally arrested in the aftermath of widespread anti-government protests in 2009.

Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal said earlier that Iran’s ambassador to the Netherlands had been invited twice to explain the execution and burial.

In addition, the Volkskrant reports that the Dutch ambassador in Tehran ‘found a closed door’ when he went to attend a meeting at the Iranian foreign ministry.

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

Islamic Fundamentalism in Turkey, Egypt Subject of Latest WikiLeaks

Fears of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt have been used by the regime in an attempt to bolster Western support while similar concerns in Turkey have the military “running scared,” separate leaks of U.S. diplomatic cables have revealed.

WikiLeaks cables: Egyptian gov’t stokes fears of Muslim Brotherhood

The Egyptian government’s scare tactics regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed opposition group, have largely fallen on deaf ears among U.S. diplomats, according a set of confidential memos acquired by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

“The Egyptians have a long history of threatening us with the Muslim Brotherhood bogeyman,” then-Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone, the new U.S. envoy in Ankara, wrote to the FBI director in 2005, adding that the group’s rise actually “signals the need for greater democracy and transparency in [the Egyptian] government.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, a key part of the opposition in Egypt, has long argued that the Egyptian government exaggerates the outlawed group’s positions and its likelihood of attaining power in democratic elections as a scare tactic.

American diplomats, as it turns out, agree with these claims, according to a report by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica based on leaked diplomatic cables.

“The Egyptians have a long history of threatening us with the Muslim Brotherhood bogeyman,” then-Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone, who is now the new U.S. envoy in Ankara, wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller in 2005.

“Your counterparts may try to suggest that the president’s insistence on greater democracy in Egypt is somehow responsible for the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral success,” Ricciardone added in the confidential U.S. diplomatic cable newly released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. “You should push back that, on the contrary, the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise signals the need for greater democracy and transparency in government.”

Another cable from 2006 stated, “We do not accept the proposition that Egypt’s only choices are a slow-to-reform authoritarian regime or an Islamist extremist one; nor do we see greater democracy in Egypt as leading necessarily to a government under the Muslim Brotherhood.”

A third cable describes current Vice President Omar Suleiman, then Egypt’s intelligence chief, slamming the Muslim Brotherhood as a “dangerous” movement that has spawned “11 different Islamist extremist organizations.”

Suleiman held a meeting yesterday with opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the talks, a Muslim Brotherhood official reiterated to ABC News that the group is not seeking a religious revolution or the presidency, and supports maintaining Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, which he called “of value to the people of Egypt.”

The official, Dr. Khalil el-Gazar, also spoke of his astonishment at widespread Islamophobia in the Western world, ProPublica reported. “We have good feelings toward Western countries,” he said.

The website Slate also reported last week that the Muslim Brotherhood, which was technically banned by Mubarak’s government, would likely prioritize freedom to expand its social and educational activities.

UK fears Islamization of Turkish military, cable says

A different memo shows concern within the British government that the Turkish ruling party has been able to “slip fundamentalists” into various ministries. British officials said their Turkish contacts are reporting that the military in Turkey is “running scared” over the development, fearing it is next on the target list, a 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable shows.

“The U.K. government is very concerned that … the threat from the fundamentalists is sparking self-doubt within the [Turkish] military,” the cable said.

The British government is concerned that the Turkish military is “scared” of the “insidious” way its government has been able to “slip fundamentalists” into various ministries, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

The Brits’ contacts also said the military feared it would be targeted next by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government, the 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable seen by the Daily Telegraph indicates.

“If this were to occur, the British government believes the military would face an internal power struggle with unknown consequences for NATO and the [European Union], but it would almost definitely lead to a hard-line position on Cyprus,” the cable said.

According to the cable, British officials were tired of “hitting their heads against the brick wall” of Turkey’s refusal to separate the Cypriot question from Turkey’s NATO role.

The United Kingdom said the Cyprus situation was the “only” sticking point on the matter, but added that it was becoming much more pessimistic about a resolution to the Cypriot question given developments in both Nicosia and Ankara.

The cable said the U.K. government believed the U.S. government was the “only power” that possessed sufficient “leverage” with Turkey to obtain any movement on the NATO and EU issue. The U.K., however, also believed that the leverage was predicated on a confident Turkish military.

“The U.K. government is very concerned that the Turkish military is not as confident as it used to be, the threat from the fundamentalists is sparking self-doubt within the military, and the fallout from the Ergenekon investigations have tainted the military’s reputation,” said the memo.

“Without its traditional confidence, and weakened by both of these related developments, the Turkish military’s ability to respond positively to the U.S. government ‘leverage’ is weakened,” it said.

Turkish prosecutors have accused members of the alleged Ergenekon group, including military officers, of planning a coup against the ruling AKP.

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

Jordan: First Trial for Prostitution Over the Internet

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — The public prosecutor of Amman has accused three brothers, one of whom is currently on the run, of aiding and abetting prostitution and prostitution over the internet. The three accused men used the internet to promote their illegal activities, according to Jordanian daily Al Ghad.

According to the newspaper, the case is the first involving prostitution with the use of the internet in the country. The three brothers were promoting prostitution by publishing pornographic pictures in collaboration with the prostitutes and receiving a fixed percentage of the profits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan’s King Swears in New Cabinet After Protests

King Abdullah of Jordan has sworn in a new cabinet after nationwide protests inspired by those in Tunisia and Egypt.

Last week, the king sacked PM Samir Rifai over the slow pace of reform and appointed Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general and ambassador to Israel.

The new 26-member cabinet includes an Islamist and five leftists.

Opposition Muslim Brotherhood members have refused to take cabinet posts, but said they would wait to see if real reform results.

Thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets over the past five weeks, demanding better employment prospects and cuts in foods and fuel costs.

The protesters also demand more say in the political process and to be able to elect their prime minister. At present, King Abdullah appoints and dismisses them…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood in Talks With Turkey?

Although there has been no official dialogue between Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a senior Turkish diplomat indicated Thursday that discussions were likely occurring at the party level.

“[There might be dialogue] between political parties,” the diplomat told a group of journalists in Istanbul on condition of anonymity, noting that a key Brotherhood figure, Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar, had been in Turkey recently.

Ghaffar, however, denied that his group had contacted any Turkish political parties in any way, officially or unofficially. “We did not contact any party; we are currently concentrated on the media,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday.

The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt but remains an important force in the opposition movement calling for the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Political forces other than the Muslim Brotherhood, which have until now been invisible due to the country’s chaotic state, seem to have emerged in Egypt recently, the Turkish diplomat said. “It is still difficult to weigh the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said, adding that the groups’ presence would start to be more visible in the coming days.

Ghaffar confirmed the emergence of new groups in Egypt, which he said were cooperating closely with the Brotherhood under the “Coalition of the Revolution of Anger.”

“New groups have started to appear, which is useful,” he told Daily News, adding that the past few days have seen the important emergence of union-affiliated workers from large companies as participants in the ongoing demonstrations. “Maybe this will lead to a paralysis in the country and make the [present] regime resign,” Ghaffar said, emphasizing the importance of workers in revolutions in other countries.

The new groups emerging in Egypt are serving the revolution in a positive way and will continue to do so in the future in order to ensure democratic elections in the country in the event that Mubarak’s government steps down, Ghaffar said. Numerous political groups are involved, including the “Front of Democrats” and the “Sixth of April [Party],” he added.

Ghaffar came to Turkey recently and said in a press conference Feb. 8 that he would stay in Turkey until the demonstrations in Egypt — which he said would continue until Mubarak steps down — produced results in order to inform the Turkish people about the developments in his country. He said he couldn’t return to Egypt at the present time due to security concerns.

The demonstrations in Egypt are increasing day by day, with the number of protesters expected to reach 12 million to 16 million, Ghaffar said, adding that no one would turn back. “There is no way back at this point. It is very clear that no government can [win over] the nation,” he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood figure said there had been little dialogue between the demonstrators and the government and that it had been impossible for the protesters to explain their demands. “We tell them we want Mubarak and his government to resign, and they tell us they will change something,” he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: 52 Women Arrested for Protesting Released

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — Saudi legal authorities released 52 women yesterday who were arrested after protesting in front of the Interior Ministry, reports Al Quds Al Arabi daily newspaper, citing sources which preferred to remain anonymous. The women were released after a meeting between Prince Naif ben Abdelaziz, the Interior Minister, and the relatives of the detainees who promised not to repeat their actions. The women were protesting to call on authorities to release their relatives, who have been held in Saudi jails for many years without ever facing trial. Amnesty International accuses the Saudi government of having imprisoned thousands of activists during the fight against Al Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Russia Hands Over ‘Lost’ Archive of US Film History

The first of 200 films thought to be lost from the early years of American film-making were returned to the United States after being carefully filed for decades by Russian archivists.

Digital copies of 10 silent movies, dating from 1919 to 1925, were returned last year; more are expected to follow as archivists try to track copies of the silent-era films.

The collection of almost 200 films held by Russian authorities includes those made by some of the industry’s best-known names, such as Cecil B De Mille. More than 80 per cent of US films from the silent era, between 1893 and 1930, no longer exist in the America because they were not stored properly and the old film decomposed. The Russians, and later the Soviets, were more careful.

More than 1,000 American films were shown in Russian cinemas. The films were digitally preserved by Gosfilmofond, the Russian state film archive, and handed back to the Library of Congress.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh: Teenage Girl Dies From Lashing, Four People Arrested for Murder

Hena Begum, who was unjustly convicted of adultery under Sharia by a village court, died from 200 lashes. A medical report initially said she died of natural causes. The phenomenon is widespread across the country, but there are no statistics.

Dakha (AsiaNews) — Four men, including an imam, were arrested for the murder of a 15-year-old girl, Hena Begum. Twelve additional people are under investigation for their possible role in the girl’s death. The teenager died from bleeding caused by 200 lashes. She had been unjustly accused of having an extra-marital affair with a married cousin, Mahbub Khan, who in fact had raped her. Sources told AsiaNews that Hena’s case illustrates a widespread phenomenon that rarely comes to the fore.

Hena’s case was not supposed to come out. She was convicted by a local village “court” and sentenced to death by lashing in accordance with Sharia, but not Bangladeshi law, for something she did not do. The punishment was carried out using a “gancha”, a piece of wet cloth used as a lash. The medical report said she died of “natural causes” and that her body did not show any sign of violence.

“It is a commonplace in rural areas and among the poorest sectors of society,” sources tell AsiaNews. “A conspiracy of silence covers the powerful and harms the weakest. Then, there is corruption. The death certificate was a fake because it was paid for. This is closely related to bigotry because the local imam issued a fatwa against the girl. There was no justice in this story.”

When the news was published in a newspaper, it provoked a wave of indignation against local police. Hena’s body was exhumed and a post-mortem examination carried out in a hospital in the capital where doctors found multiple injuries. Prosecutors eventually acted to find out what happened.

“This is an underground phenomenon that occurs frequently,” the sources told AsiaNews, but there are no statistics. “We hope the incident might force the authorities to get to the bottom of the matter at the national level.”

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

Himalayan Glaciers Not Melting, But Stable, Even Advancing

A new study published by “GeoScience” refutes statements made by a UN commission, that claims by 2035 at the latest, the Himalayan glaciers will have disappeared. The report was criticized by India’s top expert in the field, Vijay Raina.

New York (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A new study published in the scientific journal Nature GeoScience shows that the alleged melting of Himalayan glaciers, quoted by the United Nations as a “proof” of catastrophic global warming is not based on solid foundations. Instead, the researchers found that many glaciers in the Himalayas are stable, or growing. The authors stress that their study corrects “incorrect statements in the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Commission on Climate Change” and say their results show that “there is no uniform response of the Himalayan glaciers to climate change.”

The study, conducted by Dirk Scherler, Bodo Bookhagen, and Manfred R. Strecker of Potsdam University and Santa Barbara University, California indicates that there are “strong spatial variations in glacier behavior” in the Himalayas. “More than 65% of the monsoon-influenced glaciers that we observed are retreating, but heavily debris-covered glaciers with stagnant low-gradient terminus regions typically have stable fronts,” the authors write, adding that “In contrast, more than 50% of observed glaciers in the westerlies-influenced Karakoram region in the northwestern Himalaya are advancing or stable.”

In 2007, Rajendra K. Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Commission on Climate Change said that with “very high” probability, the Himalayan glaciers would have disappeared “by 2035, and possibly sooner.” At the time this statement was challenged by the best-known Indian expert in glaciers, Vijay Raina. Pachuari responded by calling Rajna a practitioner of voodoo science. “ In January 2010, the Commission admitted that the complaint about the state of the glaciers was not based on “peer reviewed” scientific research that is checked by other scientists. This theme, like that of global warming in general, is often linked to policies of birth control. Various groups and organizations have accused over-population of being the leading cause of pollution of the planet and thus demand drastic anti-birth campaigns, especially in developing countries.

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

Indonesia: Head of Bishops Said Govt Leaves Minority Groups ‘Unprotected’

Jakarata 9 Feb. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — The chairman of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) Interfaith Commission, Petrus Canisius Mandagi, said on Wednesday that minority groups had been left unprotected by the state in the violence in Temanggung, Central Jakarta, where three churches were vandalized by mobs.

“The state has started to leave minority groups unprotected. The government needs to reflect on why this violence is happening,” Mandagi said.

“The state must take a firm actions. If the state can be firm against terrorists, why couldn’t they be firm against perpetrators of violence?” he said.

Angry mobs vandalized three churches and one Catholic school on Tuesday in connection with a trial at Temanggung District Court involving Antonius Richmond Bawengan, who was sentenced to five years in jail for blasphemy.

Mandagi urged Christians and Catholics to remain calm.

“Christians, in places where you constitute the [religious] majority, please don’t take revenge,” Mandagi said.

“It would be better for us to forgive each other.”

The KWI has brushed aside rumours that a Catholic priest was beaten in the Temanggung violence.

Semarang archbishop Yohanes Pujasumarta confirmed on Tuesday evening that Temanggung parish priest Rev. Sadhana MSF, reportedly beaten during the attacks and taken to the military command post, was “now safe in the community of his congregation.”

Mandagi said he believed that the majority of Muslims loathed violence.

“I am positive these mobs were not religious groups, since all religions only teach peace,” he said.

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

Indonesia: Religion Run Amok

Indonesians have been shaken this week by some of the country’s most horrific episodes of sectarian violence in recent memory. On Sunday, hundreds of Muslims stabbed and clubbed to death three members of the minority Ahmadiyya sect in a village in Java. Mobs struck again on Tuesday after the sentencing of a Catholic man accused of blaspheming Islam. Believing the judge’s verdict to be too lenient, some 1,500 protestors stormed through the streets of Temanggung in Central Java province, torching churches and Christian schools.

Violence motivated by religious radicalism is hardly new in Indonesia, but it has the potential to hold the country back just as it is poised for a burst of development and globalization. Ratings agencies are upgrading the country’s risk profile, and foreign investment is flooding in. The government announced on Monday that GDP grew at 6.9% year on year in the last quarter of 2010, exceeding analysts’ expectations. The stakes for safeguarding the country’s tradition of secular pluralism are high.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promptly condemned this week’s bloodshed, denouncing the “anarchic” acts in Temanggung and directing police to move swiftly to find the perpetrators. At an address on Wednesday, the president went further, calling for authorities to disband all violent sectarian groups: “Even though a democratic country upholds freedom of expression and the right to assemble, we must not give any space and tolerance to public speech or calls to carry out violence or murder on anyone.”

These words carry extra weight coming from a leader who prides himself on caution and a cool political head. But on the whole his government’s efforts against Islamist creep still proceed in fits and starts. An over-reaching antipornography law continues to eat away at speech freedoms, nourishing the climate of oppression. And the judiciary frequently waffles when prosecuting the terrorists and radicals that police haul in. On Monday prosecutors recommended a mere six-month jail term for a member of an extremist group accused of assaulting two leaders of a Protestant church last September.

Another serious obstacle has to do with Indonesia’s police force itself, which, since being split from the armed forces after the fall of the Suharto regime, has become hobbled by pervasive corruption. Footage from Sunday’s assault shows police standing nearby, resisting the attackers only feebly.

Half-heartedness seems to afflict the force at higher levels, too: The chief of the Central Java police declared on Wednesday that the Temanggung riots were “purely an act of criminal vandalism” and not religiously motivated. Such evasiveness has long been seen as evidence that radical groups trade political favors in exchange for a lighter hand against their activities…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Video: Twelve-Year-Old Suicide Bomber Kills 31 in Pakistan

The suicide bombing in the town of Mardan, an area that had been relatively free from attack, undermines government claims that it has weakened the militant threat.

Witnesses said the boy detonated his explosives during morning exercises at an army recruiting centre. Dozens more cadets were wounded. Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, condemned the bombing. “Such cowardly attacks cannot affect the morale of the security agencies and the resolve of the nation to eradicate terrorism,” he said. It was the deadliest suicide bombing in Pakistan since a woman with a bomb strapped under her burqa killed 43 people at a United Nations food distribution point on Christmas Day in the tribal district of Bajaur. Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban, said his organisation was responsible.

“We proudly claim this suicide attack,” he told the AFP news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“We will continue such attacks on those people who are providing security to the Americans. These attacks are to avenge the drone attacks and military operations in the tribal areas.” Mardan is about 30 miles from Mohmand tribal district where Pakistan launched an offensive last month.

Some 25,000 people have fled in just a week from Mohmand, according to United Nations figures.

Thursday’s attack comes at a time of political and economic uncertainty in Pakistan.

A day earlier the country’s prime minister dissolved his bloated 50-plus member cabinet in order to replace it with a smaller group in response to demands for greater financial savings…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Hackers Break Into Five Oil Companies

Computer hackers based in China have infiltrated five multinational oil companies, according to a new report.

The “Night Dragon” attacks, as they have been dubbed, are now being investigated by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Starting as early as 2007, the attacks were “coordinated, covert and targeted”, according to a report by McAfee, the computer security company.

McAfee said the hackers targeted five large oil and gas companies, but did not identify them by name. The attacks successfully obtained information about oil and gas field operations, including the configuration of equipment, and financial documents relating to bids for oil and gas concessions and drilling rights.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Cronulla Beach Bashing Not Race-Related

Police believe race wasn’t a factor in the violent bashing of two teenagers at Sydney’s infamous Cronulla beach, saying it’s more a case of “boys being boys being stupid” over love.

Detective Superintendent Jenny Hayes hosed down speculation that ethnicity could be behind the bashing at the beach where 5000 people were involved in a drunken race riot in 2005.

She said the attack had “nothing to do with race and everything to do with girls”.

“I can’t confirm the ethnicity of the victim and I am certain it is not relevant in this investigation,” Supt Hayes told reporters.

Two mates, aged 18 and 17, were set upon by a group of up to 12 teenagers in the South Cronulla beach carpark about 8.30pm (AEDT) on Monday.

Baseball bats, metal pipes and an extendable baton were used during the attack in which the 18-year-old was struck a number of times, suffering suspected fractured eye sockets and a broken jaw.

He discharged himself from hospital on Tuesday and was seeking treatment from his family doctor. His friend was severely bruised but didn’t require hospital treatment.

Supt Hayes said the premeditated attack was over a girl.

“This is simply an altercation between young boys over the age-old question of females … boys being boys being stupid,” she said.

“There is no suggestion there is any gang involved in this at all.”

She said reports that ethnic slurs were heard during the attack could not be confirmed and that police would review CCTV footage in a bid to identify the attackers.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Soldiers on Ships Would Help With Piracy, Says NATO

Decision lies with individual states, Di Paola tells ANSA

(ANSA) — Brussels, February 9 — Having military personnel aboard ships would help combat piracy in the Indian Ocean, the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee said after an Italian oil tanker was seized by Somali pirates on Tuesday.

Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola added, however, that it was up to individual states, rather than the alliance as a whole, to decide whether to put soldiers on merchant vessels. “The presence of military units on board is one of the possibilities, which however must be decided by the individual nations and ship owners,” Di Paola told ANSA.

“NATO believes that this measure would be of help, should it be adopted”. The admiral said that the question of military personnel escorts raised “delicate” issues, such as those regarding possible casualties in clashes with pirates, “that make us think that each single nation should decide for itself”.

The Italian ship, the Savina Caylyn, continued to head towards Somalia on Wednesday after pirates attacked it some 670 miles east of the Yemeni island of Socotra, about 500 miles off the coast of India and 800 miles from the Somali coast.

The medium-sized ship, with an estimated cargo value of about $60 million, was sailing from Sudan to Malaysia.

None of the 22-strong crew of 17 Indians and five Italians was hurt in the attack on the tanker, which is owned by the Fratelli D’Amato shipping line, based in Naples.

Pirates based in Somalia, which has been without any real central government for two decades, have seized dozens of ships in the last few years and have added billions of dollars to the costs of shipping through the Indian Ocean.

Di Paola said combating piracy in the area was complicated by problems concerning international jurisdiction if, for example, Somali pirates use vessels registered in other countries for their attacks.

“Many parties are calling for a United Nations tribunal. A shared legal framework would be better for everybody,” he said.

“At the moment, everyone has to fend for themselves”.

There are also issues regarding the rules of engagement.

A NATO ship that is part of the Ocean Shield operation is motoring the Italian ship’s movements, but the mission’s rules of engagement do not provide any means to stop it.

“We are carrying out a strategic review to see whether we should keep on going as things are or change something (in the mission),” Di Paola commented.

The admiral pointed out that NATO confirmed its commitment to fighting piracy at the Lisbon summit last November and with good reason. “Piracy is one of the most serious threats to both local and international security,” he said.

“By now the phenomenon is spreading across the entire Indian Ocean, a fundamental crossroads for world traffic. “To counter it, we need action on various levels, both at sea and on the ground”. Among the measures needed, he said, are a major international effort to rebuild Somalia as a sovereign state and a task force to fight piracy at the regional level. At the moment though, there is only action at sea, with all the difficulties and limitations involved, given the size of the Indian Ocean and the number of ships the mission can count on. Nevertheless, the effort is still worthwhile, Di Paola said.

“If the EU, NATO and other countries did not act at sea, then we would be seeing at least 100-150 ships seized instead of 28”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU Immigration Boosts Dutch Population to 16.7 Million

A record 150,000 people moved to the Netherlands last year, while 118,000 left the country, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS.

The total of new arrivals was up 3,000 on 2009 and 6,000 more people left the country.

Most newcomers came from EU member states, the CBS said. Most people to leave the country are either Dutch or European nationals. The CBS did not give any further details.

The population, now some 16.7 million, grew in most provinces apart from Limburg.

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

UK: Judge’s Disgust at Failure to Deport Chinese Sex Criminal Who Was Refused Asylum Here in 2002

[Warning: Graphic content.]

A Crown Court judge expressed his disgust today that a Chinese man who had been found guilty of possessing extreme pornography had previously been refused permission to stay in the UK.

Judge Andrew Bright QC heard that Li Ding had failed in an asylum bid in 2002, yet had remained in the country, leading the judge to ask: ‘What has been going on for nine years?’

Commenting on his status in this country, Judge Bright said ‘It’s not a satisfactory state of affairs for either him or this country. He has no right to be here or to work here.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Anger Over Prince Charles’s Climate Change Blast

PRINCE Charles was accused of endangering his reputation yesterday after claiming climate change sceptics were “playing a reckless game of roulette” with the world’s future.


Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey Stick Illusion, which seeks to debunk climate change science, said: “It isn’t sceptics who have eroded public opinion — climate scientists have destroyed their own credibility by hyping global warming and cheating the scientific process. More hype from Prince Charles will merely turn people off further.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]